Sites that point to activities
A site called Artsopolis of the silicon valley lists all sorts of activities -- all the time. The Adventure Pages is an activity guidebook formatted like a Yellow Pages directory. They say "Using this layout allows us to organize & present huge amounts of information in a familiar & easy-to-use format." In particular, check out their Rainy Day Adventures page.
Board Game Central is apparently about all types of board games, so if you're working to stock up on your stash of them, check it out.
Sites that contain activities
As the mother of a 4 year old boy, I'd have to say that the coolest one is the Ooey Gooey lady. Here's their home page. And here's Lisa's blog, where on August 29 (check it out) she reviews and gives fun tips from a great book called Lotions, Potions, Slime Mudpies and MORE, by Nancy Blakey. Enchanted Learning has tons of activities, a wonderful picture dictionary, and more. Very nice. Consider joining for $20 a year. It's a wonderful option to tons of ads. Quia is Here is their activities page, with activities created by many teachers on all sorts of topics. Houghton Mifflin has a site filled with activities (and book recommendations for older kids) called Eduplace.com. The DMOZ Open Directory project has a page with craft links.. Wonderful stuff, especially if it's raining and you're stuck. Spoon puppet, anyone? KinderArt has lovely art lessons, all types of projects, and awesome links. Preschool Rainbow calls itself "activity central" and gives tons of ideas for pre-K and Kindergarten. Preschool Express has activities and ideas for teachers, parents, and grandparents. Nice stuff. Lots of games and so forth. I have to say that I find it really wonderful. It has all sorts of different "stations", like discovery station, or a story station, or a skill station, and every single station is packed with ideas. What a great way of organizing things! You can imagine your child walking around from station to station, and just go and ... find something for them to do. This site is put together by writer Jean Warren, and I commend her.
Computer sites for young children
Sites about reading
There is a pretty neat site called mightbook where you pay $9.00 and it reads books to you and highlights the words as it reads them. As mentioned on the site, it's awesome for non-english speakers. Alfy is a site that also contains stories, I guess. I'll have to check it out. I just clicked on it and it started talking to me (over my speakers) so I shut it off quickly since my son is asleep right next door. Maybe later.
Commercial sites with activities
These sites have more commercial content.
Family Fun contains categories like family fun, parties, activites and crafts, travel, raising kids, and so forth. Although the site says Disney, Family Fun is apparently a magazine, and liked by some of my friends. Nick Jr has a parenting site (kind of like those infant nutrition sites sponsored by Enfamil, huh?) with a function called activity finder. It contains crafts, ecards, cooking, games, and printables. Commercial, but viable.
Books about activities
I was just reading a book suggestion list on Amazon (I love those -- brilliant marketing) and saw this book recommended by a teacher:
This section contains links to local classes that I've heard of and which sound wonderful.
Art and music
Peninsula Youth Theatre sounds really neat also. (In Mountain View) Either for attending performances or participating in them.
Juguemos en espanol, or "Let's Play in Spanish" in Cupertino. This is run by an awesome, very well educated in preschool education (they have higher educational standards in South America apparently) lady named Suzy Dorn. She is compelling, funny, has the BEST things for kids to play with, has a lovely voice, etc. etc. etc. I took my 2 year old to one class and he learned the names of about 5 animals - and he's never forgotten. Problem is that I just don't want to drive to Cupertino. People in Palo Alto occasionally sign up en masse for classes in this area. Email Suzy and go to one of her free classes. Very neat stuff. You can call the Cupertino Community Center for information about the class - 650-777-3120.
Peninsula Gymnastics in San Mateo is very cool. Wonderful 15,000 square foot facility, trapezes, etc. etc. Trainers are "the real thing." Not great for a 2 year old boy, as it happens, but I'd highly recommend it. BTW, the train stops RIGHT next to the facility, so it might be possible to combine a train trip with a gymnastics class. Well, if you're better organized and motivated than I, that is.
Aitkens Swim School in Redwood City has an indoor (tented) pool and lots of lessons. They teach babies how to swim using the "submerge the head" technique, singing, and so forth.
Entertainment for Preschoolers
in Menlo Park
Menlo Park KinderGym
in Palo Alto
Palo Alto KinderGym at Lucie Stern
in Redwood City
Mel's Bowling on El Camino
in San Carlos
in San Francisco
in San Jose
Bamboola, a 28,000 square foot children's "edutainment" center
in San Mateo
General Locations (chain stuff)
People to hire for parties
I should have put in this section ages ago and I apologize.
I just went to a birthday party and listened to Andy Zamenes play for the kids. He's got a guitar, is a good, energetic, fun singer for the kids, and writes some of his own songs (will also do a cover, if your toddler's into, say, Led Zeppelin). Andy apparently leads the singing classes at the Playschool in Redwood City's Mommy and Me class, so he's got a lot of experience. Both parents and kids liked him a lot.
Booking info: 650-298-9530 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Stuff to do at home
Make bowls out of mommy and daddy's old records!
Okay, here's a wierd one. I just saw this and found it quite hilarious. Someone wrote about a bowl that someone had made from an old record album!
"Seems you put the album on top of an oven-safe bowl that sits on top of a cookie sheet. Pop it in the oven for a few minutes. It melts .. no, gets pliable .. and you can
shape it beautifully." courtesy of Jo: three websites that describe this new, um, art form.
Here's an entire list of things that you can do that are fun with
There are a lot of different types of clay to make. One of the neatest ones is baking soda, corn starch, and water. You dry it, then bake it, and it makes solid things. This url at armhammer.com has full directions.
1 C. Flour
1/2 C. Salt
2 tsp Cream of Tartar
1 C. Water
1 Tbsp Oil
a few drops of food coloring
Mix ingredients in skillet (low het). cook and stir until mixture is lumpy. Turn out onto wax paper. Knead when cool.
You can add spices for smell.
In a large bowl mix 2 C. Elmers glue with 1.5 C. of water and a few drops of watercolor food coloring or liquid watercolor. In a smaller bowl, mis 1 Tbsp Borax soap with 1C. hot water. Slowly add the soap and water mix to the large bowl and mix with hands. Take Flubber out of hte bowl and knead.
note: If Flubber gets stuck to clothing, soak in cold wtaer before washing it.
6 C. flour
2 C. salt
4 packs of unsweetened koolaid
2 tsp cream of tartar
6 C. boiling hot water
4 Tbsp oil
Mix all ingredients in a large bowl. Add oil and water and stir. When water is stireed completely into the mmix, take the playdough out of the bowl and knead it until it cools.
You can make candy or all kinds of things. Check this out. The exploratorium has a Science in cooking page. It's incredibly neat. Covers bread, poultry, meat, candy. Very very cool.
I just made meatballs with my three year old son tonight. He did ALL of it with me and it turned out perfectly! I got three 1/2-pound packages of meat: lamb, turkey, and beef, and put them into a big bowl with some minced onion, pepper, and worcestershire sauce. I had him mush it around, then I let him shake in just a bit (gasp!) of garlic powder. Then I let him beat an egg and dump it in, and finally, we tossed in some bread crumbs. More mushing, and then he made the balls. They were wonderful and boy was he proud! In my opinion, you can let kids do a lot more in the kitchen than you usually think of. Just read some of the Montessori books for details on it. And they have the coolest stuff in the Montessori catalogs, by the way. Check out the Montessori Catalog website.
[from my friend Mel in Canada. An email description of tie-dying!)
Yes, just ordinary dye for tie-dyeing is what is needed, as well as a good supply of elastics which I picked up at the pharmacy – the sort one would use for hair braiding as we are planning to dye child-size t-shirts. I used to hoard mail-bag elastics from the post – they are great. You can also use string for the ties, but you need to use a fair bit to keep the dye from penetrating. It has been a LONG time since I have done it but it’s pretty straightforward; trickier if you use multiple colours as of course over-dyeing one colour with another creates yet another colour, so it takes more planning. Basically you just lay the garment out and start bunching it together with the elastics until you have it all tied up, then you dye.
Where the elastics are the dye will not penetrate. You need to crumple it a fair bit to get the crinkly effect – takes a bit of experimentation but it’s a pretty free-form thing anyhow. You can also get some interesting effects from pleating the fabric, then tying it. If you start with a white shirt you might want to dye it all first – light blue or whatever, then work with other colours over that (purple, red, etc.). Black and white is also quite effective and less common, but black dye is very tricky to work with as it seldom turns out totally black and is very prone to fading. Probably I will
end up doing this as a group craft with my g/f’s sometime this summer when we can work outside! I used to do batik also which is much the same in practice but you use wax to create designs prior to whatever dyeing effect you choose – I just retired my electric frying pan to the craft room in preparation for that at some point (for the hot water bath for the wax).
There is an article in the most recent issue of FamilyFun magazine
(June/July 2003) for throwing a "Tie-Dye Party". Or go to the Family Fun site and look at several techniques for tie dye. I forgot to mention that there is a recipe for cake & ice cream for the tie
die party - "Groovy T-shirt Cake" and "Psychedelic Ice Cream" that sound like lots of fun! And.... tie dye invitations! It is a good article and I think a great magazine
Yes, you may do the entire tie-dye thing outside – that is what I will do with the g/f’s – use Dylon cold dye and I would get a bunch of dishpans (square Rubbermaid type) to work with (square pans are preferred as they offer more surface area than round) – one for each colour of dye. Make a work surface with a couple of sawhorses and some planks that you don’t care about; line up the pans and go nuts. Don’t forget rubber gloves. Remember to
wet the garment first – helps the dye to take evenly. 100% cotton is best.
For rinsing I would say all you need is a bucket and a hose to keep running cold water until it runs clear while soaking the shirts post-dye. Wring them out and dry in your wonderful California sun – get a bunch of fat plastic hangars and hang them up. Don’t forget the Kodak Moment at the end as guests model their creations! Ooh, it sounds like such fun.
Reading and Writing Activities
Making an ABC Book
I have to thank Stephanie for this idea. I was incredibly impressed. What a great way to empower your kid! When her son was four, she bought an inexpensive photo album and used it to make a book with him. She put the letters of the alphabet on the pages, and then spent about 45 minutes per day picking out stickers and photos and flat objects (like band-aids and leaves) to put on the pages. They talked about which letter each thing started with and wrote the word next to each thing.
It was both a great way for him to learn his letter sounds, and it was fun, too. Well, now her son is in first grade and he uses his ABC book every day when he does his homework. She writes "He has to draw pictures of words that start with different letters and I think he learns so much more by having to find the letter in his ABC book and examining all the pictures rather than having a parent suggesting things for him. Then he writes each word by copying from the book. The ABC book turned out to be much more useful than I had imagined when I started it."
Other types of Fun Activities
Playing with and Creating Robots
Robot Shows to Attend