Preschoolers

Keep a Special Sick Day Toy

Sun Prints are pictures you make by creating shadows on photosensitive paper. By laying objects on a piece of sun print paper and then exposing it in a sunny windowsill, you create your own image. There's really something magical and poetic about it. When I was a kid, Sunlight Prints were the thing that my mom pulled out whenever I was sick and stayed home from school. I don't know what gave her the idea of reserving a special toy for sick days, but it was brilliant. Like a cheesy Campbell's soup commercial, I would be laying sick in bed, and when my mom walked in with the sun prints, my face would light up with a smile (Begin commercial montage of me spending quiet, but happy hours in front of a sunny window making prints).

Make a Beanbag Chair Reusing Packing Peanuts

I hate throwing things away that could be useful (even if I have no current use for them). And there are two things that I hate having to throw out maybe more than any other. One is styrofoam packing peanuts - first of all, it gets all over the place when you try to get it into a garbage bag, but mainly it just seems like such a waste. The other thing that irks my frugal, green side is CDs or DVRs that we've turned into MP3s or just don't need any more.

National Geographic Kids has a great site with lots of educational activities and games for kids. They also have a bunch of kid craft ideas, including directions for making a bean bag chair filled with styrofoam peanuts and a disco ball from old CDs. The perfect solution. You can reuse stuff you don't want to throw away, have a great kid craft activity and end up with some cool items for the kid's room.

I especially like the bean bag chair idea. It's so simple and clever. Just fill a laundry bag with styrofoam peanuts and tighten the draw string. Have your kids personalize their chair by drawing their name and decorating the laundry bag with puffy fabric paint for a little extra fun. (via AT:Nursery)

Find more great activities like this in our Indoor Activities Guide.

 

 

Spring is here. Let's watch it grow.

The crocuses are blooming in Central Park!

Get thee and thy kids to a park, zoo or botanical garden and catch the wonders of Spring first hand. Besides just enjoying some sunshine for the first time in months, early Spring is a great time to impress toddlers with the wonders of nature.

So take the kids to the park and check out all the different stages of development the plants are in. You'll see shoots just breaking through the earth, buds just forming on the daffodils, and crocuses in full bloom. Toddlers also like to see the leaf buds just forming on the trees. It brings the whole cycle of the seasons home.

When you get home let the kid plant their own seed in a little pot. Take a look at this earlier post to learn about planting a mango pit. Or you can buy some seeds at the hardware store.

If you don't care to play in the dirt at home, you can buy some potted bulbs at the Greenmarket or the florist and watch them grow up into flowers too.

Do you have a favorite nature craft or project you like to do? Share it in the comments.

Find More Teachable Moments With Your Kids

We've been talking about the best schools in NYC on this site all month, but many experts will tell you that what happens at home is much more important than what school a child goes to. You don't have to be a homeschooler to find teachable moments during the course of your regular day. But, where do you begin? How do you know what to do and how? What is appropriate and at what ages?

Even though we don't homeschool, I like to read a homeschool curriculum each year. I read the outline of what the course will be focusing on and copy down the reading list. Then I keep those themes in the back of my mind and look for opportunities to work them in to our everyday. I get the books on the reading list from the library and those become our bedtime or anytime books. I find that this helps me feel involved in my children's education and also makes me feel confident that they are on track by my standards, not slipping through the cracks.

Up until now I have mostly focused on the social sciences because I think the schools do a good job of teaching reading and math in the early grades. The book that I like to follow is called The Well-Trained Mind and it is based on a Classical Education. Click on the link for an in depth definition of a Classical Education, but it basically means that the early years are spent absorbing the basic facts that every well-educated person should know and only later do students focus on expressing themselves creatively.

5 Only-In-NYC Birthday Party Ideas

You don't have to be a hipster parent to not want to have your child's birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese. Do the kids love it? Yes, they do. Is it not exorbitantly expensive? No, it's not? But, you don't pay a gazzilion dollars a month in NYC rent to live in a dresser drawer so that your children can have their birthday parties in a mall. So, Mommy Poppins' elfin detectives have dug up some unique, educational, creative, decidedly New York ideas for kid birthday parties that won't cost a mint.

Family Activity: Create Your Own Holiday

How often do you wish you could just slow down and spend a quiet day together with your family? How about creating your own family holiday? You can do anything you want. It could be around a theme, you can exchange gifts, or just hang out together for a day with no distractions.

The Guiltless Pleasure of Educational Computer Games

Online computer games are so prolific now they are getting harder and harder to avoid, especially with the cult status of Club Penguin for elementary school students. If allowed, children seem able to spend countless hours zoned out in front of the computer. At first, you may think that it's better than watching tv, computers being the future and all, but the games can be so mindless and their glazed-over looks tell a different tale.

There are, however, some really great educational games online that are just as fun. Kids can learn math skills, reading and writing, science, history...pretty much anything.

Mommy Poppins has dug up the following sites as some of the best educational games online, so parents can have a couple minutes of peace without feeling too guilty.

Day Tripping: Explore Northern Central Park

Just in time for the weather to warm up a little this weekend, we're taking a recess from posting about schools just long enough to send you out on an exciting field trip to Central Park.

You and the kids have trammeled every inch of Manhattan's Central Park, or so you think. Bored of the zoo, outgrown the carousel. If you've never ventured to the northern extremes of Central Park, you are in for a surprise. Four trains (the B,D and 2/3) stop right on the border of the park making access easy, just exit the train and walk right in to the park. Inside you'll find rustic woods, rock formations, streams and ponds, formal gardens, historic military ruins, seasonal swimming, fishing or ice skating, plus ball fields and playgrounds - more than enough activities to keep you busy for a full day. It's like a cross between the Catskills and Chelsea Piers.

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