What's Left Behind - What We Can Learn From Tracks

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The world is full of activity. Some is easily seen: cars rushing through traffic, children coloring pictures on paper, a mama rocking her baby, buses stopping to pick up school children, and animals in a field.

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Other activity is less obvious. Sometimes it occurs when no one is paying attention. Other times it might occur in the dark of the night, when people are sleeping. If we take a close look at the world around us, however, we will find all sorts of clues that can tell us more about the activities that often go unnoticed and the creatures that create them. 

Deer tracks in the sand

Deer tracks in the sand

Tracks are a great way to start.

A simple walk on the beach or the woods might reveal footprints left behind by animals too shy to come out into the open where we can see them.

Raccoon tracks on the beach

Raccoon tracks on the beach

If you are lucky enough to leave in a snowy region, you are most likely very familiar with the tracks made by a sled,

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or boots,

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In a forest, you might find tracks left behind by a variety of animals.

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Scientist study tracks to learn more about the animals that make them. Police officers might use vehicle tracks to solve a mystery. Looking at tracks, not just animal tracks, can tell us several different things:

  • what is making the tracks,
  • how long ago the tracks were made,
  • where did it come from,
  • where is it going,
  • how fast they were going.

Studying tracks can be lots of fun and gives us a chance to feel more connected to the world around us and even very young children will enjoy learning about them. 

Bear tracks on Alaskan hike

Bear tracks on Alaskan hike

Our newest Connections Box is called Making Tracks. In it, you will find a great book and all the materials you need to complete a variety of different activities related to tracks. You child will not only learn, but they will have tons of fun playing and making their own tracks. I bet that you will find them on the lookout in your yard and neighborhood. You might even learn a little bit, too! 

Click on over to our SHOP or more information about how you can purchase this newest box of fun!

Making Tracks - A New Connections Box

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It is almost time to introduce our next Connections Box. Coming on January 1st is . . . Making Tracks !

Included in Making Tracks is a fun, winter-themed book and enough materials to complete 9 different activities. Knowing that some of you live in snow-filled climates, and others have barely even seen a flurry, the included activities are appropriate for all of you! There will be some that you can do outdoors and others that are perfect for when the weather is less than desirable.

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Research shows us again and agin that children learn best through play and these Connection boxes are designed for just that. The children will have fun while they are learning new skills, and you will find ways to connect with them and make memories that both of you will treasure. 

As always, there are various options available for purchasing these boxes, and we now even often a gift option as well.

If you want to be notified of updates or when new products are available, please sign up above. I promise not to fill your inbox with a bunch of spam and instead will send you a fun little activity to do with your child. 

 

 

It’s Giveaway Time!!!

Hey Hey!!! It’s time to offer our first every Instagram GIVEAWAY!!!  Just in time for Christmas giving, too!

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We’ll be giving away a brand new Indoor/Outdoor Road set to one lucky winner who follows our Instagram account. The set will include (4) straight pieces that are 24” long, (4) curves and (1) intersection and will be shipped out as soon as the winner is notified. To enter, hop on over to Instagram and look for @dottodotconnections. 

1) “Like” the giveaway post.

2) Follow @dottodotconnections

3) Tag a friend (1 friend = 1 entry; 2 friends = 2 entries etc.) 

The winner will be announced there on Thursday (12-7-17) so don’t waste any time!  

New Product!! Indoor/Outdoor Road Set

For months now, I’ve been pinning outdoor spaces that allow some kids to be kids—spaces that spark their imagination through building, playing and even getting dirty. Little by little it is beginning to come together and I want to share what I’ve done so far.

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My first step was creating a mud kitchen. After looking over lots of ideas, I settled upon this picture as my inspiration.

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We already had one old tire that we no longer needed, so I wheeled it over to our fire pit area one afternoon (which is where the kids like to play anyway) and measured the middle hole. Naturally, I forgot to write down that measurement before going to the store, but I found an oil drain pan in the auto supplies at Wal Mart that ended up being a perfect fit. AND, it was less than $3.  (similar from Amazon here)

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We had a few extra cinder blocks behind our storage building, so I used them to create a sturdy shelf with some old pallet wood left from a previous DIY project. A quick trip to Dollar Tree for a couple of baskets and I gathered a few large serving spoons from a pile that was destined for Goodwill. Here is the finished product:

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Next up was a place to build. Tree trimmers have been working in our neighborhood for weeks, clearing branches from power lines. We stood up some sycamore logs for stepping and have plans to cut up some of the smaller ones for building blocks.

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Lastly, I went on a search for some type of durable road that could be used and stored outdoors. I have some road tape that we use inside from time to time, but it wasn’t at all practical for outdoor use. Particularly over gravel. Finally, I was able to find one product on the market that was made of some sort of rubber sheeting and was designed for indoor or outdoor use, but it was insanely expensive and I quickly nixed that purchase. There just didn’t seem to be anything on the market that fit my needs, so I did what anyone in my shoes would do. I figured out a way to make my own. I keep it outside hanging on the fence and the kids have used it regularly for a month now without any signs of wear and tear at all, other than a little dirt on the back.

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This road set has been such a hit with the kids that I wanted to offer them to you as well. They will work both indoors and outdoors and can be arranged in a variety of ways. Another great thing about them is that they are 4.5" wide, which wider than your typical "road tape", allowing for vehicles of differing sizes. These should be available for purchase by tomorrow, so sign up for email updates if you'd like to be notified when they are live in the SHOP. 

 

Non-Traditional Gifts for Parents and Grandparents

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Do you have a few people on your list that are really difficult to buy for. You know the ones . . . they don't really need anything, yet you want to give them something special. Actually, I am one of those people. Being a grandmother with a house full of necessities and luxuries, I don't really need any more "things", but love experience-based gifts. Here is a short list of a few things that have either been on my list or are currently on my wish list.

A subscription to StoryWorth. My daughters and their families gift this to me for my birthday and I absolutely LOVE it! I did a whole blog post about it over on my personal blog, Mommy's Treasures, so check it out if you'd like. If you would like to purchase a subscription for yourself or someone you love, use this link to get a little discount.

A Gift Certificate to a park, museum or camping area. My husband love to go camping and sometimes even get to meet up with other members of our family while we are camping. A gift certificate to a state park or camping location would be a great gift. A membership to a local museum would also be a great gift, especially if it allows for family as well. 

A subscription to Dot To Dot Connections.  I know, I know, this is my own company. But, truthfully, this is exactly the type of gift I would have loved to receive! Grandparents often want to spend quality time with their grandchildren, but they no longer have all the materials on hand to complete a bunch of different activities and don't want to buy a bunch of excess stuff. Dot To Dot Connection Boxes contain everything you need to complete 8-10 different activities AND it all neatly fits inside a box! Right now, there are Holiday Gift Subscriptions available--buy now and you can receive a card that can be presented to the recipient before the first box arrives in January. For more information, click over to the FAQ or SHOP.

 

 

How To Make Miniature Traffic Signs

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With lots of little boys playing around this house on a regular basis, cars and trucks and trains are often the toys of choice both inside and outside. We have lots of little vehicles and even have small train tracks and animals, but none of the sets contain traffic signs. While sets are available online, some are pretty pricey. Locally, I have been unable to find any sets without purchasing additional vehicles or buildings, so I decided to make my own.  

Online, I was able to find a variety of printable traffic signs, but I settled on this set from Tripsavvy.com. (You can click HERE to take you to the download.)

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I printed them out on a sheet of cardstock and then laminated them before cutting them out. (I made 2 sets.)

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I turned to Pinterest to figure out how to make them stand. I just happened to have a bag full of water bottle caps and a handful of craft sticks. I used the blade of my scissors to poke a hole in each lid and stuck a craft stick in each one. Once I was sure it would stand, I reinforced its placement with a squirt of hot glue. 

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Lastly, I glued each sign to the other end of the sticks. 

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These sticks have already gotten a lot of use and I expect that will continue as long as there are children around to play with them!

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Christmas Gift Subscriptions

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Recently, I have had a few inquiries about the best way to handle Christmas gift subscriptions and I am now happy to report a new option in the SHOP. By purchasing through that option, you can delay the first shipment until January, when a new theme will be introduced. This is perfect for gift-giving and I will even mail you a card that is suitable for wrapping, that you can tuck under the tree for the recipient.. Don't forget that you can purchase an add-on pack of consumable materials if there is more than one child in the family that wants to join in the fun.

While a subscription is a great gift for kids, please don't forget adults that might enjoy one as well. As a grandmother, I have nearly every "thing" I need, and am finding myself yearning for gifts that keep on giving or have an experience attached to them. Grandparents, aunts and uncles who no longer have a house filled with toys and craft supplies will be thrilled to get a box in the mail that contains everything they need to have wonderful experiences with a special child. And they don't even have to go to the store!

My Favorite Thanksgiving Books

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Some people find that Thanksgiving is a difficult holiday to explain to young children. Their concept of time is not yet very sophisticated, so last week seems like years ago to them. And I guess, in view of their short lives thus far, it really is a long time ago. Below, I've pictured and described some of my favorite books for this time of year and have divided them into a few different categories. Of course, there are many more books out there, but these are the ones that I have in my personal library.

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The First Thanksgiving - Since I do want to at least introduce the story of the First Thanksgiving in America to them and I have found a few books that seem to do it pretty well: (Affiliate links to find these books on Amazon are included if you click on the name of the book.)

The Littlest Pilgrimby Brandi Doughtery  This books tells the story of a very young little Pilgrim girl as her family prepares for the big feast. 

The First Thanskgiving by Jean Craighead George    Beautiful illustrations tell of the first Thanksgiving are accompanied by a very detailed story. It is too long for most young children, but you can re-tell the story in your own words using the pictures.

Thanksgiving Day -  by Gail Gibbons   This is a very simply worded story of the first Thanksgiving that many young children can enjoy. The illustrations and brightly colored graphics.

Oh, What a Thanksgiving!   by Steven Kroll    This story is about a modern day boy can imagine what the first celebration must have been like from studying it in school. 

My First Thanksgiving   by Tomie dePaola  Tomie dePaola is a favorite of mine and this simple board book is perfect for the very young child. It simply describes some of our favorite Thanksgiving traditions.

The First Thanksgiving Pop-up Book - A Golden Pop-up Book illustrated by Robert Sauber. This small pop-up book that I bought off of a sale table years ago is always a favorite of every child I read it to. It simply tells the history of the Pilgrims alongside several beautiful pop-up illustrations.

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Because Native Americans were so instrumental in the formation of America so long ago, I often find this is a good time to share some of their culture although, only two of these books are actually Thanksgiving books.

The Legend of the Bluebonnet and The Legend of the Indian Paintbrush  by Tomie dePaola  Both of these books tell the legends of native wildflowers with wonderful illustrations.

Young Pocahontas and Young Squanto  - Troll First-Start Biographies    While both books are biographies, the book about Squanto also tells the story of the first Thanksgiving.

Giving Thanks - by Rita Walsh   A young native American boy learns that there are so many things to be thankful for in this sweet book.

Indian Bunny - This is the sweetest book about a little bunny who sneaks through the forest just like the Native Americans. It is an old book with simple drawings that we love!

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The historical aspect of the First Thanksgiving may be a difficult concept for very young children, so I generally stress the idea of feeling thankful for all the wonderful things that we have. Here are a few books that explain that concept easily:

Feeling Thankful- by Shelley Rotner and Shelia Kelly, Ed.D.   Actual photographs of children are used to illustrate this book filled with things to be thankful for. 

Thanksgiving Is For Giving Thanks - by Margaret Sutherland    Simple text talks about many different things that young children can be thankful for.

 

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And, of course, there are some books that are just for fun!

Milly and the Macy's Parade - by Shana Cory   Based loosely on fact, this beautifully illustrated book tells of the very first Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Five Silly Turkeys  - by Salina Yoon    The very youngest children will enjoy this silly book with bright colors and shiny tail feathers on each page.

Where is Turkey Lurking? - by Stephanie St. Pierre   A pilgrim boy goes in search of a Thanksgiving Day turkey. . . but not for the reason you might think. There is even a cookie recipe at the end of the book.

I Know An Old Lady Who Swallowed A Pie - by Alison Jackson   Based on the age-old rhyme, this old lady has a ferocious appetite, but she ends up the center of attention in a traditional celebration.

 

 

To introduce them to things that happened long ago is sometimes difficult, therefore, I generally focus more on the concept of being thankful in the here and now.

Pasta, Pasta and Even More Pasta

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In our latest Connections box, Fall Fun, there is a bag of shaped pasta for you to enjoy with your child, along with some suggestions of ways to use it. Of course, you can always cook it for fun meal, adding butter, cheese or meat but, there are many other fun ways to use uncooked pasta in ways that kids will enjoy. I’ve listed a few below.

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SORTING - At first glance, this seems pretty basic, but you can find so many different ways to sort things that it really is appropriate for all young children. You might try mixing together several different types of pasta for even more options. With very young children, first try sorting it by color or by shape. Depending on what type of pasta you are using, you might be able to sort it by length as well. Older kids can sort shaped pasta (fall leaves, vehicles, etc.) by function or by features.

Kids love it when they can be in charge from time to time, so try switching roles—Let THEM come up with ideas of how to sort it and YOU do the sorting.

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MOVING PASTA - Use a clothes pin or chip clip (which are sometimes easier for small hands) to grasp the pieces of pasta and move them to another location. Encourage your child to only use one hand for this activity, if possible. Not only is it fun, but it is also a great way to build up strength in those small muscles that are used for writing.

PATTERNS - As long as you have at least 2 different shapes/types/colors you can make patterns. (Remember that a pattern must repeat itself over and over.) With very young children, start with a simple AB pattern, saying it as you go. (Ex: leaf, pumpkin, leaf, pumpkin, leaf . . . ) Then ask “What comes next?” Now, try 2 in a row—AABB; Let your children come up with other patterns. You may be surprised to find that they come up with some you had never noticed.

BEADING - Many types of pasta have some sort of hole that you can use for beading. Using yarn, your child can thread the pasta to make necklaces, bracelets, etc. To make it easier, I always wrap a piece of tape around one end of the yard to make it stiff enough to pass through the holes. If you have any pipe cleaner/chenille stems on hand, young children might find it easier to thread the pasta onto it.

PLAY-DOH  - Set out a small bowl of uncooked pasta with your child’s play doh so that they can add it to their sculptures. Pasta is perfect for birthday candles on a play-doh cake, turrets on a play-doh castle, legs on a bird, etc.

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PICTURES - With just a bit of glue, pasta can be used to make all kinds of cool pictures. The
shaped pasta that is included in this Connections box, is perfect for gluing onto paper to create a fall scene or even just a collage. Other shapes can be used for other types of scenes and ANY pasta can be used to make something creative. Try making a kite from pieces of spaghetti, or how about a house.

NAMES - On a piece of stiff paper (card stock or construction paper) write your child’s name in large block letters. Let your child glue pieces of pasta on the lines to make their name.

3D SCULPTURES - This time, encourage your children to build a 3-D picture/sculpture with the
pasta, gluing the pieces in place. It is helpful to use a thicker paper or cardboard as the base,
but it doesn’t have to be anything fancy, especially since they will be covering it with glue and
pasta. Can they make a building? Or how about a tall tower? Let them experiment with ways to make sure it is stable.

Have fun with pasta that you have around the house and if you want some fun shaped pasta, check out our latest subscription box over in the SHOP. You can choose a 6- or 12-month subscription or just buy a single box!

It's Launch Time!

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It's officially launch time! The next box in our subscription series is full of fun and ready to be shipped! The theme this time is Fall Fun. Now, I know for some of you, fall has been in the air for quite some time, while others are just now getting the first touch of cooler temperatures. Regardless of your location, you are sure to enjoy this box with your child. 

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As promised, all the hard work has been done for you. In your box, you will find all the materials that you need, except for a few common household items (scissors, hole punch, etc.). This time, there are ten different activities included!! There are a few art activities, opportunities to get outdoors and explore and a couple of games that can be used by the whole family! We've even included a nice handmade element in this box.

Hop on over to our SHOP and take a look around and feel free to contact us at any time with questions.