Thanks Miss Julie!

I had been looking for a library story time for Max.  The problem was that most nearby programs began at 11 a.m. and I had to pick up Max’s sister Nora from preschool at 11:30.  Finally I found a time that worked great at the West Acres Branch of the West Bloomfield (MI) library, and they allowed residents from nearby communities to join in!   I loved having this special opportunity for Max, and I was very grateful and impressed by Miss Julie – the story hour teacher.

This story time was special because Miss Julie has really mastered the art of presenting to preschoolers.  She understands early childhood development, she is always well prepared, and her enthusiasm and attitude make it so much fun for the children.

Each week there are between 25-30 children who attend this free program, along with their respective adults!  The little ones range in age from small babies to 4 year old preschoolers, with an occasional older sibling visiting too!   One of the challenges Miss Julie takes in stride is that this room also contains dramatic play equipment, built in along three sides of the room.  There are some children actively playing throughout story time, going back and forth between the program and playing.  There are many other disruptions, such as parents calling their child’s name across the room, phone conversations taking place within a few feet of Julie reading a story, upset toddlers and babies… but Miss Julie just smiles and goes on with her program.

Because Julie understands that young children need consistency and feel secure when they know what to expect, she has a basic format that she uses each week.  She begins the program by encouraging the children to move around and stretch different parts of their body – that also helps them develop self and body awareness.  Then she sings/chants a simple tune:

Come on everybody clap your hands, come on everybody clap your hands

Come on everybody cause we’re gonna read a story, come on everybody clap your hands.

Then she changes it to stomp your feet, pat your knees, wiggle your body, etc. and the final verse is:

Come on everybody take a seat, come on everybody take a seat,

Come on everybody cause we’re gonna read a story, come on everybody take a seat.

Julie uses a wonderful combination of noticing individual children, acknowledging those who blurt out or come up very close to her, and ignoring disruptive behaviors.   Some parents sit on the floor with their kids, others sit in small chairs or stand next to tiny babies in strollers.  Some children are very attentive and follow every move and direction, some come and go, others seem oblivious of the fact that a program is going on in the room.  With so many children and adults in the room, what could be chaotic and unmanageable just seems to work out okay.

Each week Julie has a theme and choses an appropriate story, movement songs and a simple craft that all tie together.  She usually has at least two books that go along with the theme, but often only reads one with the group.  Sometimes she is able to sit down and read to the group, but occasionally she has to stand up to read, carefully holding the book so the children can enjoy the pictures.  Her voice is strong and loud enough for the children to hear without sounding like she is yelling over the crowd.  Her enthusiasm and inflection make listening to the story fun for the children.

What impressed me the most from the first time I brought Max to this story time is how well Julie manages transitions.  After releasing their wiggles, the introductory song ends with the children sitting down ready to hear the story.  She often follows the story by passing out finger puppets that encourage the children to interact in a thematic song.

Sometimes she uses recorded songs for the children to sing along and dance, other times she just plays and sings with them without music.  Her use of technology is seamless – she prepares a playlist on her phone or iPod and simply presses the button to play the next song on a reliable, small speaker.  I never saw her take any time away from the children to find the song or materials she needs – her preparation and organization are remarkable.

I also appreciated the wonderful materials the library made available for these preschool story hours.  I especially loved the amazing variety of finger puppets they shared; and they always had enough for every child.   She always has all the materials she plans to use organized and close at hand.  The first time I took Max I thought he would cry when it was time to give the finger puppet back, but she had the children trade in the puppets for scarves (or rhythm sticks, or another play prop).

Julie gives the children opportunities to follow directions with the materials she shares.  She uses concepts like fast and slow, quiet and loud, up high and down low, as she plays along with the children.  Sometimes she encourages them to make letters by holding the two rhythm sticks in the shape of a V or a T.  The music and songs she uses go along with the weekly theme.  Sometimes she adapts a familiar song to go along with her theme – like instead of 5 Little Monkeys swinging in a tree – 5 Little Fish swimming in the ocean, along came a shark… hungry as can be!

The last thing she passes out to the group every week is small bottles of spill proof bubbles that must need to be refilled often!

After a few minutes of enjoying the bubbles and songs she encourages the children to return the bubbles by singing their good bye song.

“We had some fun and now we’re done!  Good bye!  Good bye!”   Of course you could use any good bye song you like, but it is a clear, friendly signal that story time is over.   Following that the children go out into the main part of the library where materials are organized and available on tables to make a simple thematic craft.

Julie circulates around the room and stops to notice the colors or techniques children are using, and appreciating their effort.

Attending story time each week has been a highlight for Max!  He calls it Story School and always gets excited when Friday comes along.  I just wanted to tell Miss Julie thank you… Max loved it!

 

Birthday Time!

intro

Our twins and their big brother all have birthdays within a week,  The celebrations lasted about a month!  So much fun!  They included a Mermaid/Pirate pool party, an all out bash at a local indoor playground/arcade/crazy place, and finally a family party at home.  They had a lot of discussion trying to choose a theme for the at home party and decided to make it all about their favorite stuffed animals – Pink Bunny, Blue Dog, and Reglar Sheepy (the favorite among a slew of sheep, spelling of Regular is intentional!  Others are Flat Sheepy, Nana Sheepy, Lavender Sheepy… can’t remember them all!)

We started out by following animal footprints as our guests entered the house, and completed an obstacle course.

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I planned a game, a craft and a step by step drawing activity for each animal.  Here are the drawings:

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draw-a-dog

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The first game we played was Pet Shop Escape.  I used clipart to make necklaces, either a sheep, dog or bunny.  Each child chose one and sat on a colored foam square that were placed in a circle.  If any of you remember a very old game called Fruit Basket Tip Over – this game was a variation of that.  We called out 2 animals, for example “bunny and sheep.”  All the children wearing either of those necklaces got up and changed places.  Sometimes we called only one animal at a time.  When we said “Pet Shop Escape” all the kids got up and scrambled for a different colored square.

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The next game was Bunny and Carrot.  I cut out a felt carrot and glued a picture of a bunny (on cardstock) onto a popsicle stick.  The kids sat in a circle.  I chose Lily – my bunny lover – to go first.  She took the bunny and went around a corner where she couldn’t see.  I gave the carrot to one child and we all hid our hands in our laps so she wouldn’t see who was holding the carrot.  We called her back by this chant:

“Bunny, Bunny!  Come and see!  Who has the carrot?  Is it me?”

She came back and guessed one person.  We told her if she was hot (close to the person) or cold (far away.)  She had 3 guesses.  Then the person who had been hiding the carrot became the bunny and the previous bunny chose who would hide the carrot.  We did it again and again until everyone had a turn.

bunnny-carrot

The final game was “Who Let the Dogs Out?”

This was a take off on musical chairs.  I didn’t want anyone to get eliminated so everyone sat in a circle and passed a bag (decorated with a dog) around as we played the song Who Let the Dogs Out on an ipod.  When the music stopped the child holding the bag opened it and took out a candy kiss.  I planned to put small toys in the bag but realized it would take them a long time to reach in and choose – the same candy for everyone made it fast and simple.

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Here are the pictures I used for the Bunny/Carrot game and the dog on the bag.

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For the Sheep project the kids used a straw to blow bubbles into a small container of water, dish soap and a small amount of paint.  I put the container into a disposable pie pan to catch the overflow.

sheep-bubbles

Next they gently pressed a paper containing a large cloud shaped sheep body onto the bubbles.  They repeated blowing and pressing until the body was filled with bubble prints.

 

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Then they cut out the body and a pre-printed head, and cut 4 legs for their sheep; and glued it all together.  They added fiberfill for a tail and cottony top of the head.

sheep

 

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Here are the sheep heads we used.  At school I would have the kids cut and create their own heads but our group included several preschoolers so I printed them.

sheep-face

We used a melting tray for the Bunny project.  I got this warming tray as a wedding gift in 1972.  Never used it until I found out what a great tool it is for melting crayons when I started teaching Kindergarten.  Easily found at garage sales now!

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I guess it has seen better days but still works fine.  These trays are electric and meant to keep food warm at a buffet.  I always caution children not to touch the surface and use it with supervision, it gets quite warm but would not cause a serious burn – and they love it!

hot-tray

I peel crayons ahead of time (this goes fast if you slit the paper with an Exacto knife.)   I usually turn up a corner of the paper for the kids to hold onto so the paper doesn’t move while they are coloring.  They need to begin coloring a little slowly until the crayon starts to melt.  It makes a neat effect, looks like wet paint, but it hardens immediately when you remove it from the warming tray.  I printed off a selection of bunny pictures for them to color.  At school I sometimes covered the tray with foil and let the kids draw on the foil, then laid a paper onto the foil to make a print.

Here are the bunny picture choices:

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Our dog project was a puppet on a popsicle stick.

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I found the idea on Pinterest – they used a paper plate, but I know it can be tricky to glue stuff onto the ruffled edge of a paper plate so I cut out circles from cardstock instead.  I made a sample dog and they were free to create any kind and color of dog they liked.

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Of course every Birthday party needs cake so I made Dog and Sheep cupcakes and Bunny shaped brownies.  They were a hit!

cupcakes

bunnies

We went outside for a little parachute play – including bouncing and tossing stuffed dogs, bunnies and sheep!  Another fun day playing with my grandchildren!!

parachute

Nana Camp – Bear Week!


brown bear pics

Brown Bear, Brown Bear was a fun way to start our bear week.  I found these wonderful pictures on pinterest – check out the site to download them if you’d like!  I put magnets on the back and had Nora and Max put them up on the board as we read the story.  We reread it all week!

Brown Bear Strip copy

I reduced the pictures and printed them off in a strip.  The kids cut them apart and helped put a small magnet on the back of each of their pictures.

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Another fun idea from Pinterest – on the site they glued a strip of velcro along the length of a paint stir stick, I only had sew-on velcro so I used magnets instead.

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I think I will be able to reuse this stick to retell other stories too!  They loved having their own small version.

Memory bear

I copied these images onto cardstock and we played Memory.  I colored mine but if you want the children to concentrate more on the shapes than just colors you could use them in black and white.  Or it might be fun to ask the children to remember what color each animal was in the story.

Goldilocks and the 3 Bears!

3 Bears song magnets1

3 Bears song magnets2

I read a couple of versions of the 3 Bears story, and used these pictures to retell it on the magnet board.  I taught the children a simple song that told the highlights of the story too.

Song – 3 Bears – tune of 3 Blind Mice

3 Brown Bears

3 Brown Bears

See all the beds

See all the chairs

The mama cooked in a big round pot

The papa’s porridge was much too hot

The baby bear always cried a lot,

3 Brown Bears

After singing it all week I made a book for the children using this song and the pictures from the magnet board.

Bear song book1

Bear song book2

Bear song book3

Bear song book4

Because they had been singing it with the pictures they could turn the pages and “read” it too.  Nora was even pointing to some of the words.

Goldilocks copy

I made a Goldilocks pointer for each of them by gluing her onto a popsicle stick.

Bears Bed copy

We had fun playing 5 Bears in the Bed too.

smaller bears

I enlarged these a little for my magnet board, and copied these for the children to color.  Nora cut her own.

Bears in bed

You probably know this song (chant)

5 bears in the bed and the little one said

I’m crowded, roll over

So they all rolled over and one fell out

4 bears in the bed …

1 bear in the bed and the little one said

I’m lonely!

We sang it with hand motions and took the bears off the bed as we sang it every day too.

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Of course we had to do it with Teddy Grahams too!

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We used our new table for pudding paint.  The kids helped me mix up some instant chocolate pudding.  I put a few spoonfuls on the tray and let them play – and then lick their fingers!

pudding bear

When they had had enough fun we made a print of the pudding by laying this bear shape onto the pudding and gently pressing it down.

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I wanted to cut out the bear shape but decided I liked the words at the top too!

It was a Bear-y fun week!  (sorry)

Nana Camp – Learning about Shapes!

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I take care of my two youngest grandchildren, Nora and Max, while their parents work.  Nora will be 4 in August and Max is 2 1/2.   I decided it might be helpful to have a little structure for a small part of our day together, so last week I started Nana Camp.  So far they have been loving it – just the routines and songs and games make that time in the morning a little special.  For the first week our theme was shapes.  Nora was already pretty confident and Max knew a few but they both had fun with the activities.  I even made up lesson plans (guess who misses teaching a bit?)

Nana Camp ideas

We start each day with a special handshake – I shared all these in a previous post about greetings and celebrations if you are interested!  Then we have a visit from Rosco – again the details of Rosco are explained in a post under the Language Arts section.  Each day Rosco (a large dog puppet) brings an alphabet letter, and the children do something simple with him that begins with the letter – we ate apples for A, bounced a ball for B, played catch the cow for C, etc.  He gives them a big lick and a cut out letter to take home.

Next I brought out my little critter puppet – and named him Shape Monster.

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I cut out felt shapes and put them on the flannel board.  Each day we concentrated on one shape and learned a song about it.

Shape songs

Every day we chanted off the words to the Shape Monster book, this was something I did with my Kindergartners and just adapted for my little ones.

As we said the words “Shape Monster, shape monster, munch!  munch!  munch!  How about a red circle for your lunch?”  I chose one of the kids to come and take the red circle down from the flannelboard and “feed” it to Shape Monster.  This puppet does have a slit in the back of his mouth so he can “swallow.”  Each day Shape Monster ate each of the shapes, and Nora colored the page in the Shape Monster book.  The rest of each day’s activities emphasized one shape.

Shape Monster 1

Shape Monster 2

Shape Monster 3

We only spend about 10-15 minutes doing these things, but then I brought out some other activities during the day.  As you see in my ‘lesson plan’ we had a different shaped snack each day.  I also made a road in each of the shapes that I brought out one at a time because Max loves matchbox cars.

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I cut these out of black foam and used white-out to write the dotted lines.  I made another set out of the stiff kind of gray felt and used a marker for the lines.

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For circles I introduced Bingo markers, can’t believe I hadn’t let the kids play with those before!  They were a staple in Kindergarten.

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As I was scrolling through Pinterest ideas about shapes I came upon the idea of a Tuff Spot.  It came from England – basically a washable tray that you can use for everything from play-dough and shaving cream to sand, rice or paint.  I found a version on Amazon and my husband built a stand for it out of PVC pipe.

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Here the children are cutting play-dough circles.  The shiny surface is a piece of sparkly poster-board I cut to fit because we used this on the 4th of July and I wanted the stars they were cutting to look sparkly!  I also put glitter into the play-dough.  Most of the week we have used this outside but it is really easy to take in or out.  Of course you don’t need a special table for any art activities but it is fun.

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For squares the children put together a square man – I precut the squares but I am trying to find more opportunities to let them cut.  Nora handles scissors pretty well but Max is a novice!  They used a glue stick pretty independently.  I wondered how Max would put his together but he really took his cue from Nora.

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I wanted to emphasize the 3 sides of the triangle so they counted 3 tongue depressors and we glued them together.  Then they used a Sharpie (don’t tell their mom but they didn’t get it on their clothes) to draw shapes and then watercolor painted over them.

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For rectangles I gave each of them a clean sponge and took a tub with a small amount of water in it out onto our driveway.  I showed them how to squeeze it out a bit so when they made a print it was in the shape of a rectangle.  They loved this!

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Another day I drew shapes on the driveway and we played several games running around and stepping on the shapes while we yelled out the names.

Nora is interested in sight words so I put out the words ‘I, see, a” in a pocket chart.  This is one of those $1 pocket charts I bought at Target and again my handy husband made a frame from pvc pipe.  I set the words out to make a sentence by putting a different shape at the end.  I see a circle, etc.  She loved using the pointer to read it.

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I hope you are enjoying summer time and the little people in your life too!

 

Vacation Activities!

My Grandchildren were going on vacation, and traveling by car, so I decided to collect a few things to help keep them busy on the trip.  My first stop was a Dollar Tree store where I found these wonderful magnetic word, letter and picture cards.

Dollar Tree

I loved how there was a picture for each alphabet letter in the first set.  Color words, shape words, and images of shapes in the second set.  The third set contains many of the sight words the girls have been learning and the last set had compound words and pictures that matched.   I also bought a small metal rectangular cookie sheet for each of them.  They could use these cookie sheets for the magnets or as a small hard surface to draw and write on.

Along with these I also gave the children these logos and action pictures, as well as pictures of people in the family.  All of these were printed on cardstock and cut apart, then I put a small magnet on the back so they could create sentences on their cookie sheets.Logo:verbs

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Dollar Tree also had these very sturdy plastic pockets.  I made a few games for the children to play with wipe off markers, and I also gave them a blank page so they could just draw or write on the plastic and wipe it off with a small piece of felt or half a magic eraser sponge.

Build a man

This was one of the pages that would slip into the plastic pocket.  The game is really Hang Man but when I started playing with Owen he seemed so young I hated to have him drawing a hangman – so instead we just added body parts and built a man.  Guess it sounds a bit silly, but I liked this version better!  The kids could play this with each other as long as they stuck with the sight words or family names that they all know how to spell.

tic tac toe

I made tic tac toe boards that would go into the plastic sleeves.  I also printed off some pages that had a simple clipart picture that the children could practice stretching out the sounds to write the word.

ABC journal covers copy

These were the covers of alphabet journals I made for each child.  They had a half page for each letter of the alphabet.  I asked the girls to draw and label something that began with each letter.  I asked Owen to draw things and write a sentence about things he saw for each letter.

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I printed off this USA map for the children to color in as they saw license plates from different states.

Can you see hunt

I found a simple scavenger hunt for the children to check off as they saw things on their travels.  There are many choices on Pinterest.

My grandchildren love Mo Willems books and I found these step by step drawings of Pigeon, Piggy and Elephant.  They could use the wipe off sleeves or paper.

pigeon

elephant-piggie-drawing 2

elephant-piggie-drawing 3

 

They like these step by step drawing so I included a few more.

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My favorite thing that I included was a stamped envelope that I labeled with my own address, so the children could write me a note or send me pictures.  Later I heard that they wrote the notes and sealed the envelopes without even mentioning it to their parents – they just asked them to mail the letters!

They had a wonderful vacation!

Summer Celebration!

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My grandchildren and I decided we should begin their summer vacation from school with a special celebration.  I decided to create a clue hunt for them, mixed in with some of the fun things we always love to do together in the summer.   One of the first things the kids always do at my house is to check their mailboxes.  I have small plastic mailboxes in their bedrooms at my house, and I try to remember to put notes, candy or small toys inside that they can find when they come over.  (Sometimes I forget!)  Today they found a small bag of M & Ms and this alphabet chart.

Letter chart

When I started to make up the clues for the children to find I had to do some thinking about what they could all do successfully.  I didn’t want to overwhelm them, or make it too easy.  I know Owen – who just finished 1st grade, would be able to read the clues to the girls, but I wanted them to all be able to help solve them.  I started with this alphabet chart because I knew they could all do it, and then use it later to help solve clues.  I asked them to write a number next to each alphabet letter, starting with 1 for A through 26 for Z.  Then we talked about the rules of the clue hunt.

rules

I showed them a set of 6 envelopes – I decided that the order did not matter, so they could take turns choosing an envelope to open.  These contained the clues that led them to different places inside and outside our house.  When they solved the clue and went to that location they found a bag containing a small prize for each of them.

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The bags contained things like small bottles of bubbles, tattoos, bracelets, stickers, whistles, rings; any small toys would work fine.

In order to make our celebration last longer and to include some time to move around and play I told the children they would be choosing a summer activity to do in between solving each clue.

celebrations

They took turns choosing these fun activities.

Then they chose the first envelope they wanted to open.  Their job was to do the math problem, then match the answer with an alphabet letter.

Math

The answer to this clue was CAMPER.  They loved going out to our old camper to find the first prize bag!  I asked them to bring the prize bag back to our living room so they would all be together, and then ready to choose a fun activity before the next clue.  They chose to go outside and play bubbles.

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Next Anna opened a clue envelope.

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Puzzle

I printed this clipart picture on a piece of blue card stock, and on the reverse side I printed the clue.  Then I cut the pieces into puzzle shapes.  The children assembled the picture, we taped it together then they flipped it over to read the clue.

coffee table

The next clue they solved was simply to write the letters for each number.  This one sent them out to the upper level of Papa’s barn (Top of barn.)

Letter match

I didn’t even need to give them any help with the next clue.  Right away they got the idea of writing down the red letters to find the message.  I loved how the girls read off the letters while Owen wrote them on the bottom.  This sent them out to our Little Free Library in front of our house.

Library

This clue was fun for them to solve.  They wrote the first letter of the name of each animal to get the message.  We have a crawl space under a small part of our house that we use for storage – the kids love to go up there!

Animals

The last clue they solved was a very simple story I wrote about them.  All they had to do was look at the first letter of each row.

First letter of row

 

The hint at the bottom was enough to give them the idea.  I was ready to help if they needed it.

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It was a fun way to start our summer celebration!  Hope your summer is great too!

 

 

 

Mother’s Day Project

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Aren’t these adorable magnets?  Last year I made some refrigerator magnets using cute scrapbook paper and glass “gems” I bought at Michael’s Craft Store.

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These gems come in two sizes, but I only used the smaller ones.  I think these larger ones would work well too!  For my project I used a scrapbook circle punch and glued that picture on the flat side of the glass gem.  My creative daughter in law, Sheri, made this project much more adorable by using pictures that my grandchildren drew instead of the scrapbook paper!

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First she traced some circles and asked the children to draw a simple picture inside.

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Then she laid the pictures on her printer/scanner and reduced them to the size of the glass gems.

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She used Modge Podge to glue each picture onto the flat side of a glass gem.  These need to dry well before moving onto the next step.

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We both tried to hot glue the magnets onto the back of the pictures but found that this strong glue works much better.  An adult really needs to do this step, children should not use this glue.

You might want to set these on waxed paper or parchment paper to dry, just in case there is a drip of glue that might stick to other paper.  Also you have to space them apart to dry because these magnets tend to stick together!

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Sheri found the cute flowers at a craft store too, they came in different colors and sizes.  When she glued a flower behind each magnet they were even cuter!  They look so cute on my refrigerator!

Hope you all find ways to celebrate the mothers in your life, and have a wonderful Mother’s Day yourself!

 

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