Homeschool

Letter/Number Practice Pack – FREE Download!

The new school year is upon us! Whether you’re homeschoolers like us or your kids go off to school, there’s so much excitement wrapped up in the new school year! The teacher in me loves getting all the new supplies and curriculum. I’m kind of an eclectic homeschooler, in that we use a mix of a few things for our curriculum. This year my boys are in fourth, second, and first. Plus I have a preschooler and the baby (oy… he’s a whole post in itself!) We’re big fans of slow learning in the early years – I don’t push them to read before they’re ready, and we don’t do formal school until at least kindergarten. Because play IS learning for littles!! But sometimes my preschooler wants to “do school” like his big brothers, and my first grader could use some review. So I created this FREE download – a letter and number practice pack for preschoolers to first graders! Print it off and add a few materials that you already have on hand to give your kiddos some fun learning activities!

There are six activities in this Practice Pack, though you could easily use the pieces to create even more!

Here are the materials you’ll need to grab from your house:

  • Egg carton
  • Cardboard tubes (we used our Young Living tubes because we have exactly 13,000 of them)
  • Old magnets (the kind that people send you in the mail with calendars, business cards, etc.) – if you don’t have any on hand, you can buy magnet strips at craft stores or online here
  • Cheerios or other small manipulatives
  • Liquid glue and/or glue stick
  • Scissors
  • Download your free  Letter and Number Practice Pack
  • Optional: cardstock or laminator

We don’t use a lot of worksheets for school in our house, but we do like hands on learning activities. When kids are learning about letters and numbers, having something they can hold in their hand helps their brains to make connections. Cheerios is a perfect choice for this! We already have them in our house (Honey Nut Cheerios is literally the number one food my kids beg for at the store!), I don’t have to worry about the baby choking on them when they fall on the floor, and cleanup is easy … it all goes right into their mouths! ;)

I made a variety of letter and number activities at varying levels. Some of them can be used more than one way depending on your little one’s needs.

Here are the different counting activities:
Have your kiddo count out the correct number of Cheerios to match the number of stars on each number card.

Draw a number card (1-20 available). Your child will place the card next to a star and fill that star with the correct number of Cheerios.

With so many kids and homeschooling them all, it’s important for me to have some learning activities they can do without a lot of direction. After I told them the instructions, they were able to do it all on their own!

Of course, your child will need to have a snack mid-activity. This is crucial to their learning. ;)

For this circle activity, your child will count out the correct number of Cheerios to match the numerals around the circle.

Place number cards in each section of the egg carton. Have your little one count out the number of Cheerios to match the numeral. Cut the egg carton in half for kiddos who are just learning numbers, so that it’s not quite so overwhelming.

Here are the activities for Letter Recognition:

This craft has a bunch of different activities you could do with it! Put your magnet strips on the backs of your cardboard tubes. Glue upper or lowercase letter cards to the front of the tubes.

Put the letter tubes onto a magnetic surface like your fridge or a white board.

Have your kiddo say the letter sound as they slide a Cheerio down the tube!

If your little one doesn’t know letter sounds, focus on identifying letters. Ask them to slide a Cheerio down a certain letter tube. This is such a fun activity – ALL my kids liked it, even my almost ten year old! Because who doesn’t love shooting Cheerios down a tube?? ;) I love that I don’t have to worry about my 11 month old getting a hold of the Cheerios as they fall, unlike a marble or some other small manipulative.

You could also print out another set of number cards and glue those onto the tubes if you want to focus on numbers. Then have them slide the correct number of Cheerios down the tubes!

Within each letter strip, have your child find the lowercase letter that matches the uppercase letter at the beginning of the row.

Whether you homeschool or not, these are easy activities to whip out on a moment’s notice with your kiddos. If your littles need a little extra help learning their letters and numbers or if you just need a few fun activities for them to do when they’re begging for some screen time, these are easy to pull out without a lot of prep. If you want your activities to last and be able to use them over and over, make sure you print or glue onto cardstock or get them laminated.

I’m not even kidding when I say that my boys would eat cereal all day if I let them. Ha! I really appreciate that Cheerios has no High Fructose Corn Syrup (one of the biggest no-no’s in our house), and I love that they’ve removed the preservative BHT from their cereals.

When I was pregnant with my youngest, oh my goodness I craved Cheerios!! Unlike my kiddos, I’m not usually much of a cereal eater, but I think I have some childhood nostalgia around Cheerios, because I love a big bowl with bananas. So yummy! :) As we get back into our homeschool groove, having quick and easy breakfast options is important to me. We can toss them in a Ziplock bag for mornings when we need to leave the house early. Plus, can I get an Amen for Family Size boxes?? A total big family necessity!

So grab your FREE DOWNLOAD of the Practice Pack, grab some Cheerios from any local retailer, and have a smooth transition into the new school year!

Download your Letter and Number Practice Pack

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Hiking With Kids: How to get started and what to bring!

One of our family’s favorite things to do together is go hiking! It’s something we’ve done together long before we had kids, and it’s been such a consistent part of our family’s routine that our kiddos have grown up hiking regularly. A lot of people are overwhelmed with the idea of hiking with kids, but it’s not as difficult as it sounds! Getting kids out into nature is an incredibly important part of their development and health, so I have some tips for helping you get started, including what you should bring along with you!

This post contains affiliate links

If you’ve never taken your kids hiking, you probably want to start small. Find a small trail at a local park and give it a whirl. Work your way up to longer, more challenging hikes. If you’re headed out for a short time, you probably won’t need all these supplies. But let’s face it, when we go out with little kids, it’s better to be slightly over prepared. ;) Depending on the ages of your kiddos, you might decide to leave some of these items out of your pack. Or you may add some more in depending on the weather or particular place you’re hiking.

Comfy, sturdy shoes – since it’s summer, Keens are my favorite shoes for shorter hikes. Longer hikes or cooler weather obviously require different shoes.

Baby carrier – the Ergo works nicely for us for the length of our hikes and having a small baby. It’s also great to stuff into a backpack for a toddler/preschooler who suddenly decides they can’t walk another step. If you’re going to hike really long distances or big mountains, consider getting a camping backpack carrier that gives more support.

Diapers and wipes (I like the Seedlings wipes, which you can buy here) in a pouch for easy locating in your bag

Portable changing mat, in case the ground is wet or rocky.

A baby toy or two for babies who are being carried is a nice distraction when they get antsy.

Sunglasses to protect those precious eyes!

Water bottles for the whole family.

Extra change of clothes for baby (especially little ones who are prone to blow outs!) During colder weather, you might toss in hats or gloves, long sleeved shirts or sweatshirts, or other warm clothing.

Burp rags – these are obvious if you have a baby who spits up a lot, but I toss them in even after we’ve passed the baby stage. They’re great for wiping up messes or big scrapes. Baby wipes are great, but these are so nice and gentle!

Snacks… because kids want to eat eleventy billion snacks a day, so they’re obviously going to be starving the moment you hit the trail.

Insect repellent, sunscreen, itch spray (the Lavaderm after sun spray is perfect for this), waterless hand purifier – all of these can be found here

Band-aids for the inevitable scraped knee, tweezers for slivers or ticks, and all the oils! These are my must-haves when we’re out for a hike:

KidScents Owie oil (for all those bumps and owies on the trail)

KidScents TummyGize oil (in case someone’s tummy feels icky)

Purification/Geranium (great for helping to keep away the creepy crawlies – add some to hair or shoes)

Basil (for those nasty stings!)

Deep Relief (for any aches and pains that happen while you’re hiking)

Lavender (to help calm any irritated skin)

Valor (for the inevitable meltdown … from you or your littles!)

*All these oils can be purchased here

I have to give a shout out to my girl Beth who has an amazing shop. Weepereas sells amazing oil pouches, baby shoes, and toddler backpacks. They are incredibly well made, and I carry my oil pouch with me all the time. It holds more than just oils too!

Not pictured: hats (especially for babies), baby bottles or sippy cups. I bring ours in a small cooler that fits in the bottom of my backpack. I usually toss some cheese sticks or other small snacks in, depending on how long our hike is. Then I also have an ice pack in case we need one on hand.

Pack it all in a backpack that’s comfortable enough to wear for a long time:

Now go off and enjoy the adventure!

What do you take along when you hike with your family? Happy hiking, friends!

Want to learn more about essential oils? Join my private group on Facebook!

15 Minute Pencil or Make-Up Pouch Tutorial

With school starting again, your kiddos are probably in need of a place to keep all their school supplies. Even homeschoolers like us need a spot to stash our pencils and markers. Don’t have kids in school? This zipper pouch is perfect for make-up, your secret chocolate stash, or even carrying a couple diapers and wipes! And the best thing is that it only takes about 15 minutes to make!15 Minute Pencil or Make up Pouch

This project is so simple, all you need is a small scrap of fabric and a zipper. What size zipper? This depends on what you want to put in your pouch! If you want to put school supplies in it, make sure it’s long enough to fit your pencils. Just make-up? Use a shorter zipper!

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While you can make this with regular quilting cotton, I recommend a heavier weight fabric to give the pouch some stability. I used a home dec weight fabric (I’ve had both of these in my stash for awhile, so I’m not exactly sure what they are).

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The longer (blue/green) pouch: 12 x 14in. fabric, 11in. zipper (cut from a longer zipper)

The shorter (grey/white) pouch: 9 x 14in. fabric, 7in. zipper

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Ready to get started?

1. Cut the fabric to your desired size. Serge or zig-zag the edges to prevent fraying.

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2. If needed, cut your zipper to fit your pouch. Zig-zag a short stitch where you’d like the zipper to end.

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3. Press the short ends of the fabric over (wrong sides together).

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4. Pin one folded edge to one side of the zipper. Using your zipper foot, stitch the two together.

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5. Open the zipper and repeat with the other side.

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6. Turn the pouch inside out and fold it so the zipper is in the center.

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7. Push the zipper down a small amount. Beginning at the folded edge, zig-zag across the entire end of the pouch (making sure to backstitch at the beginning and end). Be sure to keep to the right of the metal zipper stop.

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8. Reinforce the zipper by sewing back and forth several times across the zipper.

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9. Open the zipper halfway and repeat step eight to sew the other end of the pouch closed.

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Turn the pouch right side out and fill with your favorite pens (affiliate link… because seriously, these are my favorite pens!)

Simple Pencil Bag Tutorial

How much would your kiddo love to take his or her school supplies in a custom made pencil bag? Plus, you can make this faster than you can drive to the store to buy one. ;)

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The possibilities for these pouches are endless! These would be perfect for a teacher gift, don’t you think?

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I’m going to fill one with our art supplies for when the kiddos and I go on nature walks. We can keep it with our art journals for a quick grab-and-go! And that grey one has already been claimed as my new make-up bag. ;)

DIY Pencil or Make up Pouch

What will you fill your pouches with??

Happy sewing!!

Keeping the Kids Busy This Summer

Summer has officially begun, and you may be thinking of ways to keep your kiddos busy. We use screens really sparingly around here, but sometimes I just want something quick to occupy my boys. And if I don’t have something on hand, it’s super easy to fall back on iPads and Netflix. That’s why I’m so glad to have this Boredom Buster Kit from Andrea’s Notebook.

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This post contains affiliate links.

There are SO many different activities in this kit! Some of the activities require some additional craft supplies, but many of them are just print and go. And there’s such a wide variety of choices!boredom-busters-sales-image

After scrolling through the activities, I chose the Fill-in-the-Blank stories from the Creative Kit. I knew that my oldest would love this one, because it’s done MadLibs style.

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There are several stories to choose from, and the instructions are clear enough that your kids can do them on their own. One page is just for the words, so they fill it out without looking at the story. Adjectives, people, emotions, etc.

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Then they transfer the words over to the corresponding spot in the story. Sidenote: I love how bold and colorful these pages are! Fun and bright, just like summer!

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The giggles have begun!

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Have your kiddos read the story aloud to you, and watch as they laugh at their silly story!! Seriously, we had SO much fun with these!

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And share it with siblings, of course. These two would not.stop.laughing! I remember how much I loved these things as a kid, and they haven’t lost their appeal even now! Each story also has an additional activity that goes along with it – this one has your kiddo draw the silly robot they wrote about in the story.

Check out all the different activities that come in the Boredom Buster Kit:

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Use code BUSTERS10 for 10% off through July 31st

Buy Now!

You can buy the entire Boredom Buster Kit
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or you can purchase only the Adventure Kit

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Or you can purchase just the Creative Kit.

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Personally, I’m glad to have both kits, because the Adventure Kit is more outdoor activities and the Creative is more indoor – so some are great for getting outside in the summer sun, others are perfect for some downtime inside when it’s hot or rainy. Plus, there’s a bonus Reading Kit you can add on. This is full of printable book review pages, reading logs, library lists, bookmarks to color, and more. My boys love to read, so we are definitely going to use these!

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Once he had completed the first fill-in-the-blank story, my son asked for another and wouldn’t stop until we had gone through them all! It will be super fun to print these out again to do another version of these silly stories. After we do some of the other activities in the kit, of course. I’ve already printed out the story cubes from the Creative Kit, and they’re ready to go when the boredom strikes!

Use code BUSTERS10 for 10% off through July 31st
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Buy Now!

FREE Train Valentine Printable

I’ve always loved the tradition of exchanging Valentines! And now that I have kids, I love it even more. :) Even as homeschoolers, we get together with other homeschooling families and exchange cards. This year I’m slightly ahead of the game, and I made a fun printable for my boys to use. This can be a candy or no-candy Valentine! Keep reading to download your free printable!FREE Train Valentine Printable a great non-candy valentine option

When it comes to the Valentines my boys are going to hand out to other kids, I like to go simple. I don’t want something they’re going to have spend all day making (unless they are going to do it all on their own… in that case, I’m all for it). These are perfect – you can print and go!

Choo Choo Valentine

Print them onto regular paper or cardstock, then if you want to add something special, tape on some candy or a Thomas the Train pencil (affiliate link) or some fun stickers!

Train Valentine Printable

We have these fun mini-trains that would be perfect non-candy option for a small group, like a preschool playgroup or even your own kids. Ours aren’t quite the same as these mini-trains, but they’re similar.

free train valentine printable

:::::: download and print out your FREE ::::::
:::::: Choo Choo Valentine ::::::

quick valentine printable

If you’re looking for more Valentine ideas, check out these posts:

       Free Dinosaur Valentine PrintablesEasy Last-minute Valentines

 DIY Heart Pencil Toppers for Valentine's Day

An Ordinary Day in the Life

Last week, I woke with a long day ahead of me. My husband was out of town and the dangerously cold temperatures were going to keep us cooped up inside all day. I was faced with a choice: I could watch the hours drag on or I could capture the moments of the day, monotonous and messy though they may be. Into my head popped my dear sister-in-law and how she captured her own family’s season of life.

Brooke is an incredibly talented photographer in Michigan (we’re not blood related, so I’m not biased, I swear ;). She prefers to shoot in a photojournalism style, where no one is posed and she’s more a fly on the wall in the midst of whatever it is that’s going on. Looking at her photos is like getting a peek into someone’s life. I love that they capture a moment in time, and she inspired me to capture the ordinary.

I chose to make this a day worth remembering. I carried my camera around throughout the morning and early afternoon, only intervening as I normally would. Nothing was staged or posed. We went about our day, and I watched through my lens, finding the beauty in the everyday. There will never be another today, and I want to remember it. My floors weren’t swept and there are boxes piled up for our impending move, and most of the boys stayed in their jammies longer than necessary. There were tantrums and frustrations and cuddles and silliness. But oh, the sweetness of these boys. Their little toes and their eyes and their Star Wars obsession… these are the things dreams are made of. The way my family is right now won’t be how it is in six months, six years, sixteen years. I want to remember this moment, this season, in all its messiness and beauty.

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15 Gifts for Crafty Kids

If your kids are anything like mine, gifts that encourage creativity are always a safe bet. They love anything that allows them to express themselves. And I never have a problem buying them sewing and crafting supplies, because we are all about raising creative kids over here. Here are 15 gifts for crafty kids, that you still have time to get!

15 Gifts for Crafty Kids

15 Gifts for Crafty Kids:

(this post contains affiliate links – purchases through these links cost you nothing extra, but I receive a small commission, helping me to run this site!)

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Crafty Chloe – this book is ADORABLE. My boys absolutely love how Chloe makes gifts and clothes and all sorts of fun things!41cRbnczNrL._SX450_

Janome Mini – I highly recommend this sewing machine for kids! It works really well (I’ve used it in a pinch ;) and it’s built for even young kids to use safely.

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My First Sewing Kit – this kit has all your kiddos need to hand sew crafts!71fIRkDbHPL._SL1500_

Self-healing Cutting Mat – protect your kitchen table from scissors and scratches

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Sewing Kit – a must for any kiddo learning how to machine or hand sew

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Yarn Craft Kit – your kiddo can learn to knit, crochet, and make super fun accessories!

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Easel Accessory Set – this art set is perfect for many ages. I love sets like this where everything comes all together. These paint cups are so great too and prevent a lot of messes!

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Double-sided Easel – every artist needs an easel!

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Drawing Set – I like how this set has different mediums for drawing, giving your littles the opportunity to use many drawing methods. Perfect for all ages!

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Sketchbook – this is the sketch book that I use to plan out new designs and ideas, and I get them for my boys as well. They like having their drawings all in one spot, and I like not having a thousand different papers lying all over the place. ;)

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Craft-A-Day – this book is FULL of ideas for your crafting kiddos!51+2PgDb4TL

Felt – this is a must for crafting! There are so many things you can do with felt: sewing, crafting, gluing, cutting…

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Stained Fabric Markers – my favorite fabric markers! Pair these with some plain t-shirts or aprons for hours of entertainment.

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Assorted Craft Supplies – pretty self-explanatory ;)

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Embroidery Floss paired with Embroidery Hoops for hours of stitching fun!

Happy crafting, friends! :)

Pumpkin Craft for Kids

This post was originally posted over at Craftaholics Anonymous. I’m sharing it here today, because although I originally posted this as a Halloween craft, it’s also perfect for any fall day. Can’t you picture little rows of pumpkins adorning your Thanksgiving table? So if you’re looking for a craft to keep the littles busy today, bust into your recycling bin for this one.

Kids’ Easy Pumpkin Craft

Pumpkin Craft for Kids

My kiddos love art, and raising creative kids is a high priority in our family. We tend toward free for all art, letting the kiddos have free reign of the craft supplies, creating whatever they wish. But occasionally we do a mom-directed craft, and I decided to add to our fall decor with a kid-crafted pumpkin patch!

Kids Halloween Pumpkin Craft using Egg Cartons Tutorial//assets.pinterest.com/js/pinit.js

Supplies

  • cardboard egg carton
  • orange and black paint and brushes (Can’t handle the mess of paint? Use orange markers instead!)
  • small pieces of green tissue paper or crepe paper
  • liquid school glue
  • scissors

1.Cut apart the bottom of the egg carton.

pumpkins 32. Trim down the sections of egg carton, so that they are flat all the way around.

 

pumpkins 43. Liberally apply glue along the edges.

 

pumpkins 54. Press the two sections of egg carton together. Hold them together tightly. I suggest setting it down on a table and putting something slightly heavy on top of it to hold it together while it dries. **If you’re doing this craft with really young kids, do these first few steps for them, as you may have to wait awhile for the glue to dry**

 

pumpkins 65. Once the glue has dried, paint your egg carton pieces pumpkin orange.

 

pumpkins 26. If you want to turn your pumpkin into a jack-o-lantern, use black paint to add a silly or scary face! It helps (especially for young kids) to use the thinest brush you have. You could also use a sharpie after the paint has dried.

 

pumpkins 87. Cut small tissue paper strips and glue them together onto the top of the pumpkin! You can also use a green curling ribbon if you have it on hand.

 

pumpkins 9Watch your kiddos be creative with their pumpkins! Because who said pumpkin vines can’t be pink??

 

pumpkins 10Once your pumpkins have dried, you’ll have your very own pumpkin patch! My boys love that they contributed to our fall decor. They’re so proud of their pumpkins!

 

pumpkinsAnd bonus for mom, you can use supplies you have on-hand! A free activity that keeps the kiddos busy and happy. Win for everyone!

 

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Happy crafting!

Preschool Color Wheel Matching Game

If you have little ones at home, you probably find yourself looking for things to keep them busy while you’re doing something else, like making dinner, folding laundry or helping other kids. It’s a bonus when those activities are educational and don’t involve a screen! I made this Color Wheel Matching Game for my preschooler and toddler, and I use it to occupy my littlest boys while I’m homeschooling the older ones. You can use it any time including in the car!Color Wheel Matching Game Tutorial

Supplies:

  • 8 clothespins
  • small pieces of cotton fabric in 8 different colors
  • double fold bias tape (about 37 inches)
  • cotton quilt batting
  • paint in 8 different colors
  • permanent marker
  • scissors
  • sewing machine and thread

**For a no-sew option, glue or mod podge the fabric pieces onto a paper plate or any other flat surface**

1. Cut out 8 triangles – the short sides should be 6 3/4in. long, then cut them at a 45 degree angle (which is also known as “on the bias”) to make the triangle.

DSC_09492. Sew pairs of triangles into squares unsung a 3/8in. seam allowance. Press the seam allowance to one side and trim off the “tails” that are leftover at the corners.

DSC_09553. Sew two sets of squares together – make sure the points come together. Then repeat by sewing the two rectangles together to form one large square, pressing the seam allowances on each piece as you sew.

DSC_09564. Cut a square of fabric and a square of quilting batting the same size as the square you just made. Sandwich the batting in between, with the wrong sides of the fabric against the batting. Pin or clip these pieces together.

DSC_09635. Sew lines to quilt the batting in place. I sewed on either side of the seams, but you can do this in whatever design you choose.

PicMonkey Collage6. Cut the square into a circle.

DSC_09687. Now you’re going to add the bias tape. Open up and lay the bias tape onto the back side of the circle. Begin sewing along the first crease — but make sure you leave the first 1/4in. of the bias tape NOT sewn down. DSC_0971

8. When you get almost to the point you began on the circle, pause your sewing to fold the ends of the bias tape back (toward the underside of the bias tape). Do this with both ends of the bias tape. This makes sure that the raw edge of the bias tape is enclosed. Trim off any extra bias tape you may have. Finish sewing the bias tape onto the circle, over your folded ends.

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 9. Trim the seam allowance to be about 1/4in. Do not cut through your stitching!

DSC_097810. Fold the other side of the bias tape over (the raw edge will be tucked inside) and topstitch it down from the top of the circle. The ends of your bias tape will be enclosed, as seen in the photo below.

DSC_098511.Take your clothespins and label one side with the color names. Then paint the corresponding colors on the opposite side.

Clothespins for Color Wheel Matching GameThen hand it off to your kiddos for color matching fun!  The color names are great for slightly older preschoolers or kindergarteners.

DSC_1009They can learn to recognize the color words, and they can use the painted side to check if they are correct.

DSC_1006The clothespins can be tricky for young toddlers – use your own judgement to know if your child is old enough to use these correctly, and carefully supervise them of course. If your child is too little for the clothespins, use it without them until they are. They can still have fun pointing out the different colors!

DSC_1078The painted side is great for toddlers and preschoolers who are learning their colors, and it can be played independently while you take care of other things around the house or even while you’re driving. If you’re in the car, have your child point at things out the windows that are the same colors!

DSC_1073 I love learning games that are fun, low-tech, build fine motor skills, and help share my love of fabric with my littles. :)

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Happy sewing, friends!

Color Wheel Matching Game