Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Piano Bucks

I have been teaching the red and blue mermaids piano for a little over a year now, and they've had a healthy mixture of excitement and apathy towards the ordeal. To make piano practice more interesting for the summer I decided to introduce "Piano Bucks." (I got the bucks from this website.) Everytime they practice, and for every lesson, they earn a piano buck. They also earn piano bucks for performing in front of others and babysitting the gween mermaid while the other mermaid has her lesson. With their bucks they can "purchase" items from my store (the white cans). The cans are filled with fun little things like stickers and candy and dollar-store toys. However, if they have the self control to save their bucks they can get even better prizes! For ten piano bucks they can get a whole pack of gum of their very own, rent a video, have an hour on the computer or go on a mommy or daddy-daughter date with no other mermaids. For twenty piano bucks they can get a new pair of shoes or a notepad and new markers. The grand prize is a new Cloverleaf bunny play set which costs 50 piano bucks (about $19.99).
For the first two weeks they only wanted the immediate gratification of getting things out of the cans. But after they started saving --and combining--their piano bucks they found they found they could get more quality prizes.
This is so fun for them (and consequently for me) and they are wizzing through their piano exercise book. They practice whenever they get a chance...so much that we had to put a "cap" on the number of piano bucks they earned in a day (five). What is more fun than rewarding them with prizes is seeing their piano skills improve, and seeing how delighted they are that they are learning faster. An additional plus is that they are getting a good introduction to how money works.
We've being doing piano bucks for a little over three weeks now. I'll give you a report at the end of the summer on how it went over all.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Ice Treasures

I found this idea from Crumbs in My Couch. Freeze a bunch of small toys, coins, buttons, necklaces in water and then let the kids "discover" them. Freeze different layers at a time so that the heavy toys won't all be at the bottom and the light toys all at the top.
Before we started the activity, I told the mermaids a story about a beautiful land where there were princesses and animals and then along came Jack Frost who froze everything. I told them they were the good fairies and they had to sprinkle their fairy dust (salt) on the ice and free the toys with their wands (tooth brushes).

After a while the brushing got a little tedius so the mermaids used chizzles.

The hotter the afternoon, the better this works. The mermaids (pretending to be fairies) were very excited every time they "released" someone from their icy prison.

I used toys they already had but this would be really fun (and more motivational) if you bought new toys for them to discover and free from the ice.

Oh, I love happy faces!

Materials: old toothbrushes (free) ice (free) toys ($2.00 - $5.00 at dollar store) salt ($1.00) salt shakers (3 at $.89 each) Total Price: under $10.00

Friday, June 19, 2009

I Dream in Tie-Dye

I wanted to get the mermaids some fresh and bright summer dresses, and I've always loved Tie-dyed clothes, so I ordered some white dresses from dharmatrading.com which specializes in clothing ready-to-dye. Then I bought a tie-dye kit from the local craft store (and used my 40% off coupon). The whole project cost under fifty bucks. For three dresses, that isn't bad at all.

Step one: tie rubber bands around the clothing. The kit tells you how to create specific designs

Step two: apply the dye. Gloves are necessary if you want to keep your hands undyed. I am doing the Gween Mermaid's dress since she was taking her nap at the time.

Blue Mermaid and Red Mermaid starting with their favorite colors. They did all the dyeing on their dresses by themselves.

By the way, we are working on top of white garbage bags I cut apart.

On the box it says this particular kit can make 8 shirts. We barely had enough for these three dresses.

Step three: Wrap the dresses tightly in plastic wrap and let set for 6-8 hours. The waiting part was very painful for the mermaids.

Step four: wash each dress individually to remove excess dye.

The finished products:

Red Mermaid's happy rainbow
Right: Blue Mermaid's exotic blue lagoon.
Below: Gween Mermaid's carribean sunbursts

I took the mermaids on an outing the next day and they got compliments in every store we entered! It was fun for them to have me say, "...and they painted the dresses themselves!"
Materials: white cotton dresses from Dharma Trading (about $30.00 for three) tie dye kit $12.00. Total price: under $50.00