Sunday, October 19, 2014

My Little Pumpkin You’re Gourd-geous!: Investigating Pumpkins and Gourds at the Science Center

Here's for your close-up gourd-geous!: Pumpkin and Gourd Science Center Ideas 
What's Inside Pumpkin Craft/Diagram 
Take a Peek Inside!
Parts of A Pumpkin Chart 

Plump and Juicy Non-Fiction Picks: Pick a Perfect Pumpkin: Learning about Pumpkin Harvests by Robin Koontz 
Pumpkin Circle: The Story of a Garden by George Levenson
Put a Lid on It: Create a Viewing Station With a Plastic Take-out Container.

What child wouldn’t be amazed over the alien-like and colorful appearance of gourds and miniature varieties of perfectly perky and plump pumpkins? You’ll find out if you let your little horticulturist discover autumn’s most whimsical produce at your science center.

Make sure to tell the children that some gourds can be eaten, such as squash, and others are just purely for looking cute as buttons in an autumn display when announcing the center to the class. The mini pumpkin varieties can not be eaten.

Here are some fun facts I found as I searched the Internet. Most of the information was gotten from the specialty foods  magazine website, The Nibble. Check out the site at

  • Many years ago people used gourds as instruments and dish-ware.
  • People in South America drink a special drink from their gourds called Yerba Mate.
  • Residents of the Caribbean and other parts of the world still use gourds for instruments such as drums.

Other uses for gourds include decorative arts such as painting and carving.

Make sure to place plastic tweezers, a scale and magnifying glasses on the table to entice the children to examine the gourds/pumpkins texture, shape, size and weight.

Simple ways to give children a better understanding of gourds and pumpkins are by:

  • Making a Parts of a Pumpkin Chart using blue construction paper, a green pipe cleaner that has been twisted around a pencil to create the pumpkin’s tendrils, a leaf shape and flower which can be hand-drawn or traced from a coloring page, and a simple stem shape. Make sure to label all the parts with a black marker after you have glued them onto the page.
  • Buy bagged varieties of gourds from your grocery store. If you would like to be able to use the gourds and pumpkins year after year consider buying some faux ones. These can be found at craft stores. 
  • Create a What’s Inside a Pumpkin Craft  by using the instructions found at the site: I used a pumpkin template I had found from one of my Mailbox Magazine Yearbooks. I cut out 2 pumpkin shapes. Dyed yellow yarn orange using craft paint and let the yarn dry. As I was waiting for the yarn to dry, I cut out and glued small white card-stock seed shapes onto one half of the pumpkin. After the dyed yarn was dry, I randomly glued the yarn around the seeds to mimic the stringy material found inside pumpkins. I then laminated this half from the destructiveness of chubby little fingers. Finally, I punched holes with a hole punch and used decorative brads to hold the two pumpkin halves together. Using pinking shears, I created the label What’s Inside? on the outside of the pumpkin.
  • I created the pumpkin sequencing activity using a Mailbox Magazine Yearbook worksheet. I cut out and colored the sequencing cards and then placed them in sequential order (1, 2, 3, ).
  • For a viewing station, I used an old take out container.

So go ahead and get gourd-geous with these gourd and pumpkin center ideas!

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Do You Love Vintage Tablecloths? Check Out My Vintage Tablecloth Heaven Blog Dedicated to My Mom's Tablecloth Collection

Visions of vintage linens await you at my other blog, Vintage Tablecloth Heaven, where you will find the loveliest collection of tablecloths! All of the tablecloths belong to my mom and have been used and loved by our family for several years.

My mom finds joy in collecting these fabulous fabric treasures and the thoughts of family memories created during the many meals and occasions they were used.



Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Home on the Prairie: Illinois Art and Lesson Plans for Preschoolers.

Clipart by Phillip Martin

Illinois is more than Chicago, corn and cows! Each mile is chock full of history and quirky charm as shown by this Roadside America page and great food such as deep dish pizza (need I say more!). From giant ketchup bottles, Olney's white squirrels to "The Bean, Illinois has enough pizazz to make even Mr. Lincoln smile.

Preschoolers will be squirming in their seats to get their hands on these ill-luminating Illinois crafts and lesson plans.

Illinois Puzzle Pieces 
Uncompleted Illinois State Puzzle 
Completed Illinois State Puzzle 
  • Create State Puzzles by tracing a template in the shape of Illinois onto heavy cardboard or craft foam.  Cut into 4 - 8 pieces depending on your preschooler's ability level. Skills: Math: Spacial concepts, parts of a whole, matching shapes. 
  • Mr. Lincoln's Hat Math Mat - Help children begin to identify and recognize numeric amounts and practice their counting/1 -1 correspondence skills by rolling a foam die and placeing the correct number of bingo markers on a cardboard cut-out of a stove pipe hat. 
  • Develop non-standard form of measurement concepts, by using plastic corn on the cobs. Hunt within your child's play food to find plastic corn on the cobs and "measure" household items. Popcorn is the state snack, so corn is a pretty important crop!
Getting Squirlley! Olney, Illinois White Squirrel Craft

  • Superman placemats (Superman was created by Illinois native) Find clipart of superman and glue to blue or red construction paper. 
  • Cardinal hand print bird (State Bird) 
  • White Squirrel Doily craft (Olney, Illinois is famous for their white squirrels) Use this link go to DLTK's Autumn Squirrel Wreath template . Print the Autumn Squirrel Wreath Template onto heavy white cardstock. Cut out head, hands feet and body from Autumn Squirrel Wreath Template and set aside. Trace a large paper doily around the body section of squirrel and cut out. Find a large heart-shaped doily and trace it around a piece of cardstock (this will be the tail). Cut out. Remember to also keep heart Shaped doily you used as tracing template. Glue previously cut doilies to both the body and tail. Glue the hands and feet to the body doily. Glue the heart tail doily under the body doily and glue face on top of heart doily. 
  • Route 66 Sign 
Social Studies/Geography 
  • See if you can locate Illinois on a U.S. Map (Geographical location of Illinois on a map)
  • Create a feely box with state symbols (cardinal, violet, popped popcorn in a bag, fake prairie grass etc.) (Investigating Illinois symbols and using sense of touch (science)) 
  • Locate famous people who shaped Illinois in a famous people scavenger hunt in your room. (Learning about important individuals who developed and brought publicity to the state). 
  • If you live in Illinois, research the town where you live. (State history, recognition of you towns social and civic properties) 
Water Table 
  • Fill laminated postcards of Chicago for the children to view using magnifying glasses
  • Grab the fast food! Illinois is the birthplace of McDonald's. 
  • Flower Power! Find flowers and plants that are native to Illinois. (Identifying and recognizing Illinois native flora) 
Language Arts 
  • Create a Land of Lincoln bingo game. (visual discrimination and naming of Illinois state objects) 
  • Have children describe (adjectives) famous landmarks in Chicago. Ex. Willis Tower: Big, tall etc.
  • Have children who have been to the state bring in photos of their vacation and ask them questions about their trip to create a written memory of their trip. (Language concepts: speaking and recording previous memories and math: logical thought accessed through previous experiences.)
  • Students can "send" a postcard to students in Illinois as pen pals.
  • Investigate the importance of wind power near farms. 
  • Learn about prairie ecosystems. 
Snacks (Allergy alert: Check to make sure your students are not allergic to any items found on the packaging of these foods. Always ask restaurants what ingredients they have uses to make their foods if you have any doubts.)

Now that's deep: Giordano's Deep Dish Pizza 
  • Order or make deep dish pizza. 
  • Sweet treat. Eat an ice cream cone.The ice cream cone was developed at the 1893 Chicago World Fair. 
  • Good to the last pop! Taste some yummy popcorn. 

I'm feeling Disney: Walt Disney 
  • Watch a Disney movie! Walt Disney was born in Hermosa, Chicago, Illinois.

Illinois Best Book Bets: See my post about fantastic Land of Lincoln literature at my book blog Pump Up the Volumes

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Make a Statement!: Create a What a Statement! Mouse Pad That Celebrates Your State Pride!

Show off your state pride by creating a state mouse pad. It's sure to make quite a statement about your state of mind!  If you would like your preschooler to create this mouse pad, make sure all the items are cut beforehand or have your child use children's safety scissors to cut items out. Laminators should be used by adults only. 

To Make What a Statement! State Mouse Pad 
  1. Select two color-coordinated scrapbook papers in different patterns. Cut 1st paper into a large square shape as desired by the surface area available for your mouse pad. Put other paper to the side. 
  2. Choose two pieces of colorful cardstock. Cut one a little smaller than the largest square you just cut for the bottom of your mouse pad and glue on top of bottom scrapbook paper. Place your other piece of cardstock to the side. 
  3. Find a large metallic piece of cardstock and cut slightly smaller than the piece of cardstock you had glued to the bottom piece of scrapbook paper. Glue the metallic piece of cardstock on top. 
  4. Cut the other piece of cardstock you placed to the side in a slightly smaller square than the metallic cardstock you had glued on. Glue the cardstock on top o the metallic piece of cardstock. 
  5. Use the other piece of color-coordinated scrapbook paper to create a top focal point. Cut the paper into a small square and turn on its side to create a diamond shape. Glue on top of metallic cardstock. 
  6. Find a map of your state. The one I found was on the Rand-McNally site and cut around the state’s shape to give it dimension with scissors. 
  7. Use antiquing medium to give your state a burnished, aged old-world look. 
  8. Go on the Internet and find some of your states symbols. I found mine by using clipart from 
  9. You can use stamp pads to create colorful embellishments on the state symbols you select, such as the peony (which is Indiana’s state flower) on the right-hand side of the mousepad. 
  10. Find out your state’s nickname. Indiana is the Hoosier State and those that reside in Indiana are nicknamed Hoosiers. I used stickers to spell out the word Hoosier and the state name. Other ideas for possible titles include using your state’s admission to the union, a quote made by a famous person who was born in the state or pictures of places you love in the state. 
  11. Laminate mousepad for durability. 
  12. Place a non-skid pad on the back of the mouse pad. 

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Preschool Pep Talk: Want the truth? Speak to a Preschooler

If you truly want to know the truth about something be sure to ask a preschooler. Preschoolers are known for their somewhat biting, less than complimentary, and ulterior-motive free viewpoint of the world. Their innocence and lack of  experience gives them an unskewed and natural look at life. 

Favorite Comments From Preschoolers 

Your name is not Miss Hatcher, your name is Miss “Beautiful” Hatcher. (Perfection, I tell you, perfection). 

I wish I were you. 

You have goofy sunglasses. I like them, but they are goofy. 

I like you, but I love my mom. (This is how it should be. Moms definitely rock.) 

Monday, June 16, 2014

Ponderings of a Preschool Teacher: Kiddie Kouture: Kid's Clothing that Screams Preschool Posh

As a preschool teacher, I often wonder why parents obsess over their children's clothing remaining pristine and utterly perfect after a long, hard day of preschool play. While I do feel smocks are adequate to reduce a great number of messy mistakes, I also feel that the childrens' worry over "keeping clean" limits their overall learning experience.

Getting down and dirty with play-doh, paint and glitter are just some of the wonderful things about childhood. These activities teach them about cause and effect, weight, measurement, spacial concepts, the bending of light within the color spectrum (glitter's prismatic effect), color mixing (creating tints, shades, primary, secondary and tertiary colors) and so on.

I say hooray to the Free Play Movement (Be sure to read Effort to Restore Children's Play Gains Momentum by Hilary Stout from The New York Times to learn more about this movement). Children deserve to smell the daisies, get a little dirty, and use their good old fashion imagination.

I've compiled a list of quality resale shops in the Chicagoland area that help dissuade the "Clean Clothing Epidemic" that is reaching monumental proportions.

These shops offer clean, slightly worn clothing, that are generally free of rips and tears. The majority of the items look brand new and the prices are so low that no one needs to worry if a dreaded grape juice or paint stain occurs.

I've also selected a few commercial department and discount stores that offer new, never worn merchandise.

Resale Shops

The Hope Chest La Grange, Illinois
See my review on my fashion blog: Inpurse-suit of Happiness

The Carousel Shop La Grange, Illinois

Saver's (Various Locations)

Small Change La Grange, Illinois

Goodwill  (Various location)

Salvation Army Stores  (Various Locations)

Department and Discount Stores 

Tuesday Morning (Various Locations)

T.J. Maxx (Various Locations)

Marshall's (Various Locations)

Target (Various Locations)

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Put on a Happy Face: It's National Smile Power Day

Image Source:

First off, Happy Father's Day! Dads everywhere are ripping open packages full of ugly ties and receiving lots of hugs and love on this very special day.

But guess what?.... there's another holiday that we can celebrate today. It's National Smile Power Day, a day when we show our pearly whites off to the world! A day of grinning solidarity. The best thing about smiling is that it is free and it is guaranteed to lift everyones' spirits!

Here are a few smile-worthy ways to make someone grin from ear to ear:

  • Pay someone a compliment
  • Give them a hug 
  • Tell a joke 
  • Make a funny face 

See below for more ways to have your family and friends grinning like the Cheshire Cat, including some fun crafts that kids can easily whip up in a flash!

Crafts and other smiley ideas from

Artsy Momma  Paper Plate Smiley Face Craft

All Kids Network Smile Button Greeting Card

Games and Activities

Read your little wiggleworms a snappy, happy book about the joys of a smile!

Bobo's Smile by Seymour Chwast 
Smile, Lily! by Candace Fleming 
Smile! by Leigh Hodgkinson 
I Love It When You Smile by Sam McBratney 

"Smile," says little Crocodile : a Book About Good Habits by Jane Belk Moncure 
Smile by John A. Rowe 
Grandma's Smile by Randy Siegel 
Because Amelia Smiled by David Ezra Stein 
How Do You Make a Baby Smile? by Philemon Sturges 

Learn about the health benefits of smiling from

Smiley Face Facts that will make you giddy from the Huffington Post 

Make sure to celebrate National Smile Power Day today and the whole year through!