Monday, December 20, 2010

SMMART ART: Ruth Asawa
and Salt Dough Christmas Creations
First weekday of Christmas vacation, so we played with Salt Dough! 
We talked about Ruth Asawa who is an American artist with Japanese ancestry.  During WWII her family was interned in a prison camp since The United States feared that Japanese Americans may not be loyal to the U.S.  At age 16, Ruth was one of the 40,000 United States citizen children who was interned.  Her family lived in tar-paper barracks by a swamp and in two horse stalls at a repurposed race track.  After 18 months, a charitable organization arranged for her to study art at a college in Wisconsin. 
(photo by Laurence Cuneo)
Asawa is known for her wire art sculptures, her fountains, panels and art activism.  She sometimes uses bakers clay to create her artwork.  Ruth suggests that as you add pieces of baker's clay together that you slightly wet or lick the end that you are adhering to keep the pieces together better.  She also suggests putting a paper clip or metal wire in between the pieces in back to hold them together better.
(photo by Allen Nomura)
Make yourself up a batch of Ruth Asawa's Baker's Clay (Salt Dough):
4 cups white flour
1 cup salt
1-2 cups water

Have your child help you measure out the ingredients.  Work the ingredients with your hands until you form a dough -add water until nice dough consistency.  (Not part of the recipe: You may wish to add 2Tb oil and I think this may create a more springy dough).  Cut dough into sections to work with.  Refrigerate left over pieces.  Bake artwork at 250-325 until hard. Time varies on thickness of pieces-you shouldn't see an indentation when you poke it with a spoon or your nail.  Ruth seals her artwork with varathane, but mod podge may work for your purposes if you wish to keep your artwork for a long period of time.
So we used this great recipe for creating Christmas sculptures.
We baked them for about an hour and let them cool for a little bit.
Then the girls painted their creations with tempura paints (the girls liked mixing the colors to create new colors).
Fun holiday activity on a wet snow day.

Sunday, December 12, 2010


Has your child noticed that sometimes there is salt sprinkled on the ground to melt the ice in the wintertime?  Well, salt plays a magical role in this great learning activity.

First, to establish a little background with your child, you might wish to set out two plates of crushed ice.  Let your child sprinkle salt on one plate of ice and observe together which plate of ice melts first.  Now your child will see that salt helps ice to melt.

This is because the sodium and chloride ions from the salt intermingle and dilute the water molecules.  This makes it harder for the water molecules to join together to form ice crystals.  Actually, it's still possible for the water molecules to form ice crystals, but now instead of freezing at 0°, it's freezing point drops to below 0°C.

Now, for the activity,  Fill a small glass with water and ice  cubes.  Give your child a piece of cotton string or yarn about a foot long.  Let your child hold both sides of the string and rest the remaining middle part of the string on top of the icecubes.  Take care to leave the ends of the string hanging over the edge of the glass.

Have your child count to 15.  Now instruct her to take both ends of the string and pick it up, while lifting up a piece of ice with the string.  The string is not attached to the ice and will not lift the ice.

Now, have your child lay the string back onto the ice with the ends of the string laying over the sides of the glass.  Have your child sprinkle salt all along the string laying on the ice.   Now count to 15 slowly.

Ask your child to pick up the ends of the string and try to pick up the pieces of ice now.                       
The salt caused the ice under the string to melt slightly.  Then the cold water aids that thin bit of melted ice to refreeze.  Since the string has soaked up water, it freezes to the ice cubes.  Ice crystals reform, trapping the string.  Now your child can pick up the ice cubes along the string like a necklace.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

SMMART ART: Snowman Crayons
This might be a fun holiday gift for your child's friends.  Stars, cupcake tin, snowmen...whatever mold you can find.  Drop a festive crayon into a celophane baggie tied with a ribbon and gift with a holiday coloring book.

As you remove the paper from the broken crayons, name the colors together.  You can sort the colors to create single-colored crayons or mix them up for this rainbow effect.
350 degrees...keep an eye on them...

Put them into the freezer, or...

Carefully remove them from your mold (we broke a few). 
SMMART SCIENCE application- Observe as crayons go from a solid to liquid and then back to a solid state.  This activity demonstrates a
physical change, where the form of matter is altered but one substance is not transformed into another.

Friday, December 3, 2010

SMMART Discount
to "The North Pole Express"
on the Heber Valley Railroad

Families can experience a magical holiday journey aboard  The Heber Valley Railroad's "The North Pole Express".  They are offering a discount to SMMARTideas readers: $5 off coach tickets on December 7, 8, 9, 14, 15 and 16. You will need to call the train directly at 435-654-5601 and ask for the “Utah Blogger” discount and be sure to tell them you saw this discount on the SMMARTideas blog.

Guests aboard the North Pole Express will enjoy singing carols, sipping hot chocolate and eating cookies while reading along or listening to the “The Night Before Christmas.” Children are encouraged to wear their pajamas for the ride. Upon arrival at the North Pole, Santa and his sleigh will greet the children and give each child a special Christmas gift.

Tickets are now on sale for this popular holiday train, which is a long-standing tradition for thousands of Utah families. First class service is available most weekends during the North Pole Express schedule. Due to the high demand for tickets, the Heber Valley Railroad is offering two matinee excursions on Thursday and Friday, Dec. 23-24, 2010.

The North Pole Express will depart every Monday through Saturday through December 24, 2010.
Nightly Excursions
Depart 5 p.m.; return 6:30 p.m.
Depart 7:30 p.m.; return 9 p.m.
Matinee Excursions (December 23-24 only)
Depart 2 p.m.; return 3:30 p.m.

Schedule and Fares
Family Night: December 1, 2, 6, 13
$29 adult, $26 senior (ages 60 and above), $18 child (ages 3-12)

Coach: December 3, 4, 7-11, 14-18, 20-23
$32 adult, $29 senior (ages 60 and above), $21 child (ages 3-12)

First Class: December 3, 4, 10, 11, 17, 18, 20-23
$47 adult, $44 senior (ages 60 and above), $36 child (ages 3-12)
Matinee: December 23, 24
$29 adult, $26 senior (ages 60 and above), $18 child (ages 3-12)
Tickets can be purchased by calling SmithsTix at 800-888-TIXX or by calling the railroad at 435-654-5601 
Order online at, or at the Heber Valley Depot, 450 South 600 West, Heber City.
For more information and directions, contact the Heber Valley Railroad at 435-654-5601

The Heber Valley Historic Railroad dates back to 1899, when trains served the pioneers who first settled the valley.  Experience a piece of history and a hearty helping of holiday spirit!

Our train departed at 7:30pm so we could see the holiday lights outlining the homes as the train pulled out from the station.

The girls were bundled up in two-layers of pajamas and their robes as we sang carols, sipped hot cocoa, ate a Chocolate cookie and answered Christmas trivia.

Mrs. Clause and Santa came on board to speak with each child, give them a special gift and take pictures with them. 

The "Polar Express" ride was about 45 minutes each way to the "North Pole" and back to the station.  The time went quickly with the cute MC on her microphone engaging families in singing and stories.

The train was decorated with Christmas garland and lights inside, the cocoa chefs wore their chef hats and the conductor even looked the part. 

We enjoyed our magical ride upon the "North Pole Express"!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

SMMART MATH: Cornucopia Catches

Another game for your kiddos to play while you are creaming the sweet potatoes and basting the turkey...

Help your child create his own cornucopia by forming a paper plate into a funnel shape and securing the edges with tape or staples.

Let your child experiment with tossing cottonballs, toy balls, or wads of paper.  You can even let your child experiment by seeing if one cottonball or a few taped together work better in this activity.

Just one person can flick the cottonball out of the cornucopia and up into the air.  Catch the cottonball inside the paper plate cornucopia.  Encourage your child to count out loud and declare each catch.  See how many catches he can complete in a row.  Two children can have a contest to see who catches the most in a row.

Two children can attempt to toss the cottonball back and forth between two cornucopias, counting out loud to keep track.

Advanced:  Each time you catch the cottonball, you can count by twos, fives, tens or hundreds.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

SMMART MATH: Cranberry Creations

"Fun Geometry?"you say..."Is that possible?"
Expose your children to 3D shapes AND use edible doesn't get much better!  Using the term "3D" when you discuss spheres, cubes and pyramids might remind them of the recent "Toy Story III" movie.  Show your child a 2D square made of toothpicks and cranberries and then build onto it to create its 3D counterpart, the cube!

We like to use grapes, and marshmallows as the "glue" for the toothpicks.  Recently I picked up a bag of cranberries and they worked GREAT!  They really held up through multiple pokes-most durable yet, but not so edible.

My girls really enjoyed creating with the cranberries...This would be a great activity for your kids on Thanksgiving Day when you're busy in the kitchen!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

SMMART MUSIC: Ukaleles-Lilo and Stitch Style

I had the wonderful opportunity to participate in a promotional event for Disney on Ice: Mickey and Minnie's Magical Adventure.  Their wonderful promotions manager invited children from Shriner's Hospital to come and experience the magical adventure up close! 

The room was creatively decorated to depict the four lands of Disney on Ice- The Sahara (Lion King), Under the Sea (Little Mermaid-complete with continual bubbles), Neverland (Peter Pan) and Hawaii(Lilo and Stitch). 

Jana, a Disney performer from Finland, helped me to show the children how to make Lilo and Stitch ukaleles.  They turned out super cute!  The kids were so darling and it was fun to meet their parents too!

You'll need:
An Empty Tissue Box
Paper bag, butcher paper or construction paper
Ruler or Stick (can even be a wooden spoon)
About 4-5 large rubber bands
Duct Tape
Markers, Stickers, Stamps to decorate

1) Wrap the empty tissue box with paper.  Leave the hole exposed.
2)Tape the stick onto the back of the tissue box.
3) Wrap the rubber bands around the box so that it stretches to cover the hole (like an ukalele)
4) Let your child decorate the tissue box with stickers, stamps and markers.

Simple, but the kids really liked playing with the ukaleles. Check out a video on how to make these at:

The best part was watching their eyes pop when Mickey and Minnie walked in!  They posed for pictures with their families and left with some fun Disney memories.  So glad I could be a part of this great event!

As for the actual Disny on Ice show...spectacular and magical fun!  My girls wouldn't take their eyes off the ice!  Even my 16 month old little girl was clapping her hands and dancing throughout the program.  My little 3 year old exclaimed "Look! Ariel waved at me!"  I loved how interactive the "Peter Pan" story was told.  The girls clapped to show that they believed in "make believe" and saved Tinkerbell, and "tick-tocked" along with Peter Pan to trick Captain Hook into thinking the crocadile was after him.  It was a wonderful show!

Monday, November 8, 2010

SMMART READING: Scholastic Newsletter and Resources

I've been receiving the Scholastic Newsletter for a while now.  It's nice to see topics that interest me coming to my inbox.  You can sign up for it here (scroll down and it's in the right column with a green header)
These were a few recent tips Scholastic shared with parents:

5 Ways to Pique Your Child’s Interest in Science
Explore the science that surrounds you—from the science programs in your community, to museums, to nature walks.

1.Follow his interests and encourage him to explore subjects he likes. If he's a sci-fi fan, give him materials about space exploration, or try a paleontology book on your dinosaur buff.

2.Make time for everyday experimentation, like observing changes in weather or the chemical reactions in cooking.

3.Put scientific concepts in real-world terms. If she's studying states of matter at school, for example, take some water and freeze, boil, and melt it so she can see the scientific processes at work.

4.Listen to his questions and try to find the answers together. Simply telling him the answer won't be as helpful or as empowering as conducting his own research.

5.Explore the science that surrounds you — from the science programs in your community, to museums, to nature walks. Take trips together that pique her curiosity and keep her asking "why?"

Sunday, October 31, 2010

You bet I voted!

Living in military surroundings and experiencing several other countries, has certainly instilled a sense of gratitude for the opportunity to live in a democratic nation.

Even though it's not the easiest task, I often take my children with me to vote so they can experience the process. (I must say that I do love early voting since the lines are much smaller!)

Here are a few resources to share with your child during the election period:

Women's Right to Vote - American history for kid coloring pagesPresident George Washington biography

Granddaddy's Gift (International Reading Association Teacher's Choice Award)Vote!With Courage and Cloth: Winning the Fight for a Woman's Right to Vote

I searched for a cartoon about elections, and found this Care Bear "Mayor for a Day" episode. This shows the voting process with ballots or might help you explain why sometimes the public wishes to impeach someone in office:

This Popeye "Popeye for President" episode (lots of cigars and pipes). This could help to explain how candidates each have a platform or how some candidates might not "play fair":

"You're not elected, Charlie Brown" teaches about the voting process on a school level, good sportsmanship, loss in faith in a candidate.

White House Site/Blog:
Info and coloring pages of all the US Presidents:

Monday, October 25, 2010

(with a cool science connection)

"My hand is bigger than your hand" or "My cookie is smaller than your cookie".  Try to incorporate "bigger than"/ "less than" vocabulary in your routine today.  Show your child the <> signs. 

Place an apple slice on a piece of paper, then place bigger slice beside it.  Draw a box between the slices.  Let your child draw the correct "bigger than or smaller than" sign in the box. You can talk about how one apple piece weighs "less than" the other, and one apple piece takes up less volume than the other.

Place 4 raisins on a piece of paper and then place 1 raisin beside it.  Draw a box between then and let your child decide which sign ("less than or greater than") should go inside the box.

Check out this site made by the UofU comparing the sizes of a coffee bean to a red blood cell and ultimately, to a water molecule!  This is a fun site to see size comparisons.  It even shows a graph box disected to emphasize the miniscule nature of these objects.


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