We’ve Moved!

We’re starting fresh with a new website, new blog design and SO MUCH MORE! Please visit us at our new home… 

http://www.lightningbugliteracy.wordpress.com

Thanks so much for hanging with us during this transition! 

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Just for YOU!

We are so excited about how far we have come as an early literacy business in 2010, and want to say thank you many times over for your support! We have many hopes and dreams for 2011 and know that because of you, these dreams are within our grasp!

To show our appreciation for you, we are so excited to bring you a brand new series of “homeschooling” printables … FREE! Our passion is to bring early literacy into your home, giving you opportunities to bond with your child through play-based learning and rich communication. In 2011, we will begin to increase our give aways in order to provide our loyal readers with exciting learning activities, games and books to bring into your homes!

We would like to begin with our Arctic Animal Match Up Activity… it’s all yours! This is a visual discrimination activity with 4 different arctic animals… simply print and cut, or laminate and add velcro dots for repeated use! Though we will continue to sell it on our Etsy shop, if you send us an email or a facebook comment or message, we’d be happy to email it to you for free through January 3rd!

Our very first give away of 2011 will be from our Valentine’s Day Tot Pack … a fine motor skill development activity complete with toddler-friendly tongs, 15 pink (or white) pom-poms and a red (or pink) heart tray. Your preschooler will love to tweeze the pom poms into and out of the heart shaped trays, practice counting, and improve their fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination! We will randomly draw a winner on January 3, 2011!

How do you win? EASY PEASY!!!

1. Register for any of January’s Bible Bug, SASSY, or Cooking Club Parties

2. Suggest friends for us on Facebook. Send us a quick email letting us know who you suggested.

3. Leave a comment here on our blog or on our Facebook page!

4. Email us with a party idea or curriculum pack you would like to see!



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Right Before Your Eyes!

Via many of the facebook ramblings of my close friends and family, it seems that many of us have discovered that there is not a single toy that compares to the remote control, our cell phone (and what happens when it mixes with water), our keys, or the air conditioning vent blowing the curtains around. Yessirree, folks … we can buy the most expensive toy in the store, and yet daddy’s wallet will take the cake!

Of course we will continue to shower our kiddos with these wonderful new developmental toys with flashy labels and bright lights and obnoxious noises … but you can find some brand spankin’ new toys that your child just might fall in love with … right before your very own eyes! It just takes a different perspective and a little creativity to develop your very own “wow, I should sell this!” kinda toy! Here are a few of my own! Are you ready?!!!! Here we go!!!

Toy #1: The Parmesan Cheese Shaker Do-Hicky

All you need is an empty parmesan cheese shaker bottle (you know … the kind that you dump on top of your spaghetti … I don’t even know why they have the small shaker holes, I go right for the big one!) and some straws. I used colored bendy straws and cut the tops off right under the bendy part (more on that later).

This magical toy has many exciting features …

You can use it as a counting toy, focusing on one-to-one correspondence as your kiddo puts each straw in one. by. one. AND they even have a choice! They can put the straws into the big hole (shown above) or…

into the tiny holes that no one uses to shake the cheese out. AND … they have those choices to get the straws OUT, too! Tadah! Magic.

Now. What about those left over bendy parts of the straw? Throw them away? I dare not! No way! (wow, I’m the next Dr. Seuss!)

There is ALWAYS a use for everything. So much, so, in fact, that your husband accuses you of becoming a hoarder because you keep way to many toilet paper tubes, egg carton sections and, uh, left over bendy straw parts. Ready for this?

Easy peasy. Toy #2: Bendy Straw Lacing!

We love lacing. Lacing builds fine motor skills and practices hand-eye coordination. All you need is to cut up those left over bendy pieces into appropriate sizes for your kiddo and  a shoe lace! Please note, these little pieces are incredibly enticing for wee ones, so please keep a careful eye on your kids, no matter what their age.

Okay. I’m on a roll! Ready for toy #3? Well, actually. Because I’m a teacher, it’s not really a toy. But I’ll let my daughter think it is.

I love. love. love. Melissa and Doug play food sets. One of them I own (thanks to Christmas and Gramma!) is the beginning pattern block set. But I do have to say. I’m a bit disappointed in their packaging. Because it came with a bazillion pattern block pieces and absolutely NOTHING to contain them. They should know better. SO. I placed the entire set in a plastic shoebox and almost threw the box away. Almost. And then my husband rolled his eyes as the lightbulb shined above my head and I came up with this grand idea.

Toy #3: The Sorting Box-a-ma-jig

This is the box, which had 2 almost equal sections (and NO. LID.) … and from this “useless” piece of wood, I created my very own sorting chamber. The illustrations you see inside are from 1+1+1=1’s nativity tot pack, which sorts animals from people (um…as noted by the titles). But 2-3 is a great age to begin teaching our wee ones to distinguish differences between objects and categorize them into “like” groups.

These toys are far from magnificent, but it gives you an idea of how to look for items in your own home that will entertain and even teach your toddler without ever stepping outside of your home (into the snow that we Coloradans have been asking for and are now complaining about). Be creative and watch for the delightful expression that washes over your husband’s face as you pick up a piece of “trash” and say “I know JUST what to do with this!” It’s even more valuable than the “toy” you’re about to create, I promise!

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What I Love Wednesday: Cooking With Kids!

As the holiday season comes to a close, I’m sure many of us have heard “MMMMM! Cookies!” way to many times. Most of those delightful expressions may have escaped our own mouths, but if your little one is anything like mine, and what seems like every other toddler I know, that statement has come from them one too many times, as well! Well. I have to say this. As frustrating as it can be to have a child with a bigger sweet tooth than mine, her absolute delight in the cooking process (and the finished product) makes my heart smile. Whether it’s cookies or sliced carrots, my toddler LOVES to help in the kitchen. 10 years ago, I would have cringed at this thought, as my cooking abilities extended to grilled cheese and Campbell’s tomato soup (or should I call it paste?). But now? I’m far from gourmet, but cooking healthy and savory meals for my family has become one of my favorite parts of the day, and I am delighted to share that with her. In fact, sometimes we even sing. And dance. I know. Scary.

Now that I’m through sharing a tidbit of my personal life with you, let me refer you back to one of my very first blogs … Cooking in the Kitchen. I know … obvious, title, you say? I mean, where else do you cook? I must have been tired. Yes. I had a newborn baby. “Tired” doesn’t even come close, therefore “Cooking in the Kitchen” will suffice. Anywho … this blog is a short list of the many reasons why cooking is such a wonderful activity for children of any age. Though it takes a bit more patience than I often have at 4:30 (or, ahem, 6:30 … or 7:30…) I try to include my little one in any way I can as I prepare dinner.

And sometimes … just sometimes … I even plan a middle of the day cooking adventure … just to make sure that I’m encouraging this love for cooking and healthy eating from the very beginning. Maybe … just maybe … when she’s in college, her significant other will be served something other than Kraft macaroni.

And now? I share these cooking adventures with YOU! YES! YES YES! I’m so excited to begin 2011 with a brand spankin’ new cooking club! YES YES YES! Can you tell I’ve picked up my daughter’s enthusiasm? YES!

Once a month, we will be hosting a Creative Kids Cooking Club for 3 and 4 year olds! Space is very limited, as the size of my kitchen can only handle so many combinations of preschoolers and flour…

Let me share what we will be doing. Because I love, love, love to read … we will, of course, begin the Creative Kids Cooking Club with a couple of songs and a magnificent book … followed by a very hands-on cooking adventure … followed by an excited devouring of this delightful snack. During this each monthly cooking adventure we will explore healthy cooking and eating habits, even when making tasty desserts (substituting apple sauce for oil, for example). We will end with a creative craft that your child can use in your kitchen over and over again! Ready for the schedule for the first half of 2011? I’m excited!!!!!

January 14, 9:30-11:00 Pancakes for Breakfast by Tomie DePaola, we will make our very own pancake creations, complete with fruit and healthy syrup toppings, and end the Cooking Club with painting a ceramic plate to take home!

February 18, 9:30-11:00 … Strega Nona, by Tomie DePaola … we will make homemade macaroni and cheese and decorate our very own chef’s aprons!

March 18, 9:30-11:00 … If You Give a Mouse a Cookie by Laura Joffe Numeroff … you guessed it! We will be mixing, baking and tasting delicious cookies, and decorating their very own pot holders!

April 15, 9:30-11:00 … Cloudy with a Chance for Meatballs by Judi Barrett, we will make and enjoy homemade spaghetti and meatballs, and your child will leave with a uniquely decorated chef’s hat.

May 20, 9:30-11:00 … Growing Vegetable Soup, by Louis Ehlert … we will walk through the process of planting seeds and learning how vegetable soup is made from start to finish! We will make our very own batch of minestrone soup and decorate our very own soup bowls!

June 17, 9:30-11:00 … Blueberries for Sal, by Robert McClosky. We will make homemade blueberry bread and design a personalized placemat!!!!

Admission for each cooking club adventure is $15 per child and includes the story and song, hands on cooking project, and a chef’s artistic creation (apron, mug, etc).

If for one reason or another, you are unable to enjoy our Creative Kids Cooking Club, don’t despair! We will have our cooking adventures available for you via our Curriculum Kits … complete with the recipe and craft materials (ready to decorate apron, for example) … right after each Cooking Club adventure!
Would you like to host your own Creative Kids Cooking Club? We will have kits ready for you to purchase and provide for the little chef’s in your community! Details coming soon!

*** Dates, times, book selection, recipe/food, and/or craft are subject to change ***

 

 

 

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Food for Thought: Food Dyes and Children

Yum! Really? Let’s think about this.

We have all heard that we should “eat the rainbow”, meaning that daily we should have a variety of brightly colored delicious fruits, grains, veggies, etc. There is rarely a trip to the grocery store where my darling 2 year old doesn’t beg me for one of these (see above) food items that in it’s own special way, meets that rainbow requirement. What is reassuring to me is that during any given shopping trip, there is at least 4 other moms who also have a 2 year old who is being bribed with these said “food” items in order for those mommas to be able to grab the healthy essentials without leaving the store bald and deaf. We exchange the glance and the smile and know better than to judge the other’s shopping carts.

I am far, far, far from being the perfect parent, but nutrition, I feel, is one area I do fairly well (um, except … for the weeks between Halloween and New Year’s). What is great about these grocery trips with my kids is that I am that awful shopper who, once I am at the check out line, I whisper to the cashier that “I’ve changed my mind” on particular items that were once used to keep my child happy for the duration of the trip. I know. I know. It’s horrendous. But let me tell you why I do it.

Having taught elementary school for several years, I have had my fair share of exposure to children with ADD and ADHD. My first introduction to information about the role of food dyes in behavioral problems was when I was student teaching and one of my kiddos had a severe case of ADHD. By slowly but surely eliminating blue and red food dyes from his diet, his destructive behavior slowly diminished and his ability to focus and learn began to improve dramatically.  This raised many questions in my mind and to this day has an impact on my own diet.

I am not here to say that you should get rid of every single food dye in your kitchen … heaven knows my children have their fair share, as  do I, as it is nearly impossible to eliminate it completely due to how many foods you find it in (you’d be shocked….). I’m here to make you aware of what you are eating and bring your attention to the ingredients in some of the most popular food items for children.

Food dyes are synthetically engineered from coal and, now, also petroleum. Delicious. Because food dyes are often some of the last ingredients listed, we usually overlook them, thinking that they are insignificant in the grand scheme of things. But … take note next time you head to the supermarket … nearly EVERYTHING has at least one food dye. It adds up! Beyond that, and most important, these food dyes have been studied and shown to be carcinogens in lab animals and cause hyperactivity … take a look at the current studies and known results in the latest research.

Because we often overlook these food additives and sometimes even appreciate them for the rich colors they give our fruits and vegetables, they usually are forgotten when trying to diagnose food allergies or find triggers for problematic behavior. I encourage you, though it is more costly, to buy organic produce when you can, simply because the presence of these dyes in regular produce are used regularly and in large amounts to produce the best results.

Is it realistic to eliminate them all together? Not really. But if you’re aware of what you’re eating, then it can and will make an impact on your life!

http://www.naturalchild.org/research/food_dyes_rainbow_of_risks.pdf

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Merry Christmas!!!

Lightning Bug Literacy will be taking the week of Dec 20-26 off from blogging to travel and celebrate Christmas with family! We wish you the most wonderful of holiday seasons and will see you in 1 week!!!!!!

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Big News!

Lightning Bug Literacy is a brand new company, having just begun in July of 2010. In the past 6 months we have grown immensely, and would like to thank all of you for our success! We are ever-changing, constantly looking for ways to improve and meet the wants and needs of YOU! We always welcome your input and suggestions, so please keep it coming!

We have a few exciting new changes coming for 2011 that we are so excited to share! Are you ready?!

Western Colorado : We are heading your way!!! Be on the lookout for excellence in early childhood education coming soon … VERY VERY SOON!

S.A.S.S.Y. Parties : YES! Still the same 🙂 However … every month we are going to move it to a different day to accommodate those who have interest in the parties but can’t make it on a Tuesday (for example). We’d like all those who are interested to be able to attend! Do you have  a particular day and time you’d like to attend one? Host one of your own and we will come to you!

Super S.A.S.S.Y.! : To reach all you working mommas and daddies out there, we will host one weekend SASSY party a month, which will include SUPER special crafting projects (for example, a thematic I Spy tube), snack, sign language, song and of course giggles and new friendships, too!

Bible Bugs : We are going to make a change in scheduling and move this to the 2nd Thursday in each month … yes, just once a month! We will schedule one hour at a time, beginning at 9:00 – 9:45, and once that is full move on to 10:00-10:45, and continue if needed. We will also post “to-go kits” in our Etsy store as we create them for you to do at home! We are doing this because …

Cooking Club: is coming to town! This program is solely designed for 3-4 year olds who have a love for creating artistic masterpieces from food! This program will be held on the 4th Thursday of every month from 9:30-11:00. This will be a small group due to the nature of the activities and the space allotted for this program. We will explore cooking and baking in variety of cuisines and include a cultural lesson, as well!

and last but certainly not least…

Baby Sign Language : for ages 6 months – 2 years! Learn how to communicate with your child early on, reducing frustration and increasing the bond between parent and child! We will begin with a beginning play class and possibly move towards an intermediate and holiday signing class! Each play-based 8 week series is filled with songs, signs and guaranteed laughter! Upon complete payment, each child will be given 2 DVDs and a parent guidebook to continue your signing journey! Check out Signing Smart to learn more about the research behind our program! Coming in February of 2011.

Do you have an idea, suggestion, want or need? Please tell us about it! We’d love to integrate your ideas into our programming and curriculum!

Add an ImageTake a look at the Broomfield January 2011 event calendar!

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Tasty Tuesday: Reindeer Games

‘Tis the season to play with your food!!!!  There are a LOT of teeny tiny picky eaters out there … mine happens to be one of them! I have found that presenting food in a fun fun fun way makes it more enticing and is almost like a bribe for children! Though it can take a LOT of effort to make food look exciting and fun, it can also be super super easy!

I’d like to share our Reindeer Games snack with you … all you need is:

1 bagel or english muffin

peanut butter, hummus or cream cheese

pretzels

rainsins and/or dried cranberries

Simply spread the bagel or english muffin (or even toast!) with your choice of spread. We love hummus simply because of  low sodium and low fat factors (we make our own!). Add raisins or dried cranberries for the eyes and nose, and use the pretzels as antlers! Either break off the top part of a regular pretzel, or create your own antlers out of straight pretzels!!! Delicious and so fun and easy!


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Monday’s Magic : Sensory Tubs

I don’t know about you … but as a 28 year old adult, I still love to feel play dough (OR … cookie dough!!!!) squish through my fingers! The sound of running water, rain or the ocean is still very soothing to me. Just the smell of coffee, peppermint tea, lavender or vanilla is immediately calming. Our senses play a HUGE role in our day to day life, more than we often realize, and because of this we ought to pay more attention to them in the lives of our children.

A few weeks ago, I wrote a series on the power of smell and during a recent S.A.S.S.Y. party we made peppermint playdough, both of which I received a lot of wonderful feedback. Smell is HUGE … but what about the other senses?

You will see in our Learning Suites a month long set of add-ins for a sensory tub. Sensory tubs are an absolute MUST for any child 1-5! We have learned (we, meaning researchers and early childhood professionals) that young children learn best through their senses, especially in the first 2 years. Babies learn about their world through textures, visuals, auditory stimulation (song and music!), scent, and of course … TASTE! The pictures you can capture while little ones are trying pureed green beans … priceless!

Sensory tubs are simply that … a tub filled with materials that your child can safely explore. Any tub will do … a simple plastic shoebox, a mixing bowl, whatever you have laying around your house! Fill that guy up with a “filler ingredient” … we suggest a variety of fillers …. rice happens to be our favorite (just keep a close eye on children under 3, as choking is always a concern!). For different seasons, you can switch it up … water in the summer, soil or corn kernels in the spring (gardens!), the possibilities are endless… dry beans are an option, but can be toxic if eaten raw, so please please please supervise your children if this is your filler of choice.

So then what? What goes in that filler? ANYTHING! Pick a theme, or don’t pick a theme … throw anything you want in there …. here is a huge list of different themed sensory tubs and ideas for what you can toss into yours. You also need to include items that your kiddo can scoop, dump, or pick up items with.. spoons, ladles, cups, bowls, plastic tweezers or tongs, magnifying glasses, etc.

Why are sensory tubs wonderful? Well, for one … remember me mentioning that I still love the way play dough feels in my fingers? Kids love that, too! Let them explore the different filler ingredients and find what they love and don’t love! It’s another way they can explore the world without ever leaving the comfort and convenience of home! It also develops fine motor skills as they practice using tongs or tweezers to pick up individual items. If you put in 2-3 of each item (ex: 3 jingle bells, 3 plastic snowmen, etc) … once they pick them out, a great follow up activity is to sort them into like categories, which helps develop this in their little brains. The last benefit that I’ll mention today, but there are tons more, is that it helps them understand measuring. You can tell them that the short and wide glass holds the same amount as the tall skinny glass, but when they find that out on their own through their sensory tub, it becomes real and theirs … they OWN that learning and therefore it becomes more concrete in their brains.

Here’s a photograph of a small winter themed sensory tub … it’s filler is teeny tiny styrofoam balls and it includes jingle bells, sparkly pom poms, felt wreaths, chenille stem pieces, foam snowflakes and pieces of fake fur.

My last thought is this … don’t be afraid to let your child or your home get a little messy! Let them explore what happens when sand and water mix! Will your floor get wet? Probably … but look on the bright side, that’s one less step YOU have to do to mop it up, anyway! Will your child’s clothes get dirty? Probably! But you’re going to wash them, anyway, right? Will they get mud all over their face? Most likely … but they’ll take a bath or shower eventually, yes? YES! SO, hey … why not jump in and get messy with them. They’ll love the fact that you’re willing to get a little crazy from time to time and you’ll bond even more over those silly memories and giggles!

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Friday’s Freebie: Gumdrop Wreath

Oh, no! You say? Not another gumdrop wreath! Yeah. That’s what I said, too. Until I made this discovery. Yep! This is one hundred-percent original, as far as I know! And it’s cheap!

I’ve been trying REALLY hard to do an Activity Advent with my little girl … if you’ve never heard of that, it’s simply having a planned Christmas-related activity for every day of December leading up to Christmas instead of a small gift or candy. I saw that idea and loved it, as I feel the gift of time is so much more valuable than any material possession.

SO … I was on day 3 yesterday (it doesn’t add up, does it? Yep. That was Dec 8. I’m a slacker!) and started to do a gumdrop wreath with my girl. You know … the kind where you glue gumdrops all over it. It’s cute. We were going to send it to daddy’s office. But. We decided that he’d probably eat them, even if they had glue all over! HA! I would, too.

So, anyway … we started working on it, and realized that neither my daughter nor I had the patience to glue a bazillion gumdrops all over that wreath. Instead? We made a color match game!

We used colored toothpicks and stuck them into our $1 Dollar Tree wreath frame. D LOVED this! “Poke, poke, poke!” LOVED IT! Then, I simply asked to her to find a red, green, etc gumdrop from the bowl … she had a blast sorting them out and then poking them onto the skewers. When the wreath was done, she started putting more of each color on the toothpicks. For an extension, this would be great for making patterns!

It was so simple, yet, so so fun! We giggled about the smooshiness of the gumdrops … and what a ball to watch her realize that the “toys” she was playing with was actually candy! HA! But then it wasn’t so funny trying to get them away from her …

Take a peek!

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