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Theodore Bear and Cornel Blogging about fun and interesting things happening at our toy store

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Happy Canada Day: Celebrate with Patriotic Parfaits - Friday, July 01, 2011
Bears and Beavers! Today is Canada Day, and Canada is 144 years old.  Happy Birthday Canada!  We are so blessed to live and work where we do.  To celebrate, we created these beary easy, beary delicious patriotic parfaits.  Bon Appetit!

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Patriotic Parfaits

Here's What You Need:

Chopped strawberries
Plain Greek yogurt, sweetened with maple syrup if you would like, or vanilla yogurt.

Here's What You Need To Do:

Add a dollop of fresh strawberries to the bottom of a parfait glass.  Top with a spoonful of yogurt.  Continue to layer strawberries and yogurt until you are satisfied with your creation.

For our American friends, add layers of blueberries and you can have your own patriotic parfaits on July 4th. We just might join you in that celebration too.

Have a wonderful long weekend with your family and friends.

Beary Truly Yours,
Theodore Bear

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If You Give a Moose a Book... - Wednesday, June 22, 2011
Buddies and Books! We were inspired by the blog A Mommy's Adventures to try reading a book, and then doing a craft directly related to the book.  It was a wonderful way to to engage the kids in the story on a different level, and we will be trying it again soon. We might not always do a story and a craft.  I think it would be fun to do other sorts of activities like games and field trips related to what we have read too ("reading" + "activity" = "react"?), but we sure loved combining our story time with craft time today.

With Canada Day coming up, we wanted to choose a something related to our homeland.  Since the moose is an iconic animal associated with Canada, and Robert Munsch is one of our favourite and one of the most famous Canadian children's authors, "Moose" by Robert Munch was the perfect choice. 

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The book features a young boy who first has trouble convincing this family that there is a moose in the back yard, and then has trouble getting the moose to leave the yard. Like almost all Robert Munsch books, it has us all engaged and laughing right to the end. Just for fun, we read Laura Numeroff's "If You Give a Moose a Muffin" too.

After reading our moose stories we made our own moose using our handprints and footprints.

Want to make your own moose (it is much safer than having one in your backyard)?

Here's What You Need:

Brown construction paper
Tan construction paper
Green or other construction paper for the background
Googlie eyes
A button for a nose (you could also draw the nose on, or cut it out of construction paper)
Glue
Scissors

Here's What You Need to Do:

1. Trace your hands onto tan construction paper.  Cut hands out and glue them slightly apart, with thumbs facing inward, near the top of your background paper.

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2. Trace your foot onto brown construction paper. Cut out and glue, heel facing down, in between the handprints.

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3. Glue on googlie eyes and button nose, and cross your fingers that a moose doesn't come to your house for a carrot or a muffin tomorrow.

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Beary Truly Yours,

Theodore Bear 

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Celebrating the Start of Summer - Monday, June 20, 2011
Balloons and Beginnings! For many kids, this is the last week of school, and summer vacation will be starting soon.  This is an important event in our children's lives, as they mark the end of one year, and look forward to the relaxing days ahead.  Celebrating the end of school is a wonderful way to recognize all of the hard work and effort put in by the kids throughout the year, and to create new family memories, and it doesn't need to be complicated or expensive to be meaningful.  We've compiled our top ten ideas for creating a bonanza of fun on the last day of school, and if your kids have already finished school, or haven't started it yet, you can use many of them to celebrate the first official day of summer tomorrow too.  Congratulations kids AND parents on finishing another year!

1. Create a "Summer Vacation" banner out of a roll of paper.  Tape the paper across the front or back door, and allow kids to run through it to mark the end of school, and the beginning of vacation. 

2. Host a potluck ice cream sundae party for your kids and their friends.  You provide the ice cream, and each family brings a different topping.  Everyone can then create their own custom ice cream creations.

3. Use black masking tape or electrical tape to create frames, and form an art gallery on a wall in your home. Display some of your child's best pieces of school work in each of the frames.  If you'd like, make a sign like "Grade Two Gallery" to go along with the display.

4. Present kids with a box or bucket full of new art and craft supplies that they can enjoy throughout the summer.

5. Take a special last day of school photo.  A great way to do this is to make signs out of cardstock or construction paper saying things like "Grade Six Graduate", and then to have each child pose with the appropriate sign.  If you have them, dig out pictures from the beginning of the school year as well, and compare them to see how everyone has grown.

6.  Plan a celebration dinner.  Make pancakes shaped like the next school grade, or cut sandwiches into the appropriate number shapes.  If you are celebrating the beginning of summer, make sunshine shapes.  You could also decorate individual pizzas with happy faces, or the number of the next school year.

7. Weather permitting, pack a picnic dinner and head to a local park to celebrate.  Bring along balls, frisbees, books, and other fun activities, and stay out late.

8. Use sidewalk chalk to decorate the driveway with "Congratulations" and "Happy Summer Vacation" messages.  If you'd like, hang balloons on the door too.

9. Stop by the bookstore, and allow everyone to pick one new book to enjoy over the summer.  Alternately, host a summer reading swap with your child's friends. For no cost, everyone will leave with something new to them. 

10. Make a wish! Give every family member an unlit birthday candle, and have each person make a wish.  Wishes can be said out loud or kept private depending on your family's preference. Place the candles into a cake, light them, and have everyone blow them out together.  Candles can also be placed into pizza, a stack of pancakes, a plate of muffins, or other sturdy desserts.  If you don't have an appropriate food to stick the candles in you could use tea lights instead, and simply place them in the centre of the table to blow out.

Have a beary special summer, and be sure to share your traditions with us here or on facebook too.  We love hearing from you!

Beary Truly Yours,

Theodore Bear, on behalf of everyone at Ape To Zebra

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Fingerprint Printing - Friday, June 17, 2011
Bespoke Bits! There is something so special about a handmade gift, and the fingerprint of a loved one preserved on paper is a magical thing to look back on years later. With this in mind, we got to work creating one more Father's Day gift in the Ape To Zebra craftroom.  With just some paper, a few stamp pads, and our fingers and paws, we created "I love you" sentiments for the dads in our lives.  This kept us all busy for a while.  The little ones never seem to get tired of making of fingerprints, and forming the letters out of fingerprints actually helps reinforce letter recognition and early writing skills too.  What could be better? Maybe just the look on the dads' faces when they receive their gifts.  Happy Father's Day!

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Father's Day Fingerprint Fun

Here's What You Need

White paper
Coloured paper
Stamp pads in various colours
Small hands
A pencil (optional)
Adhesive (optional)

Here's What You Need to Do

1.  Give each person a sheet of white paper.  For young children, write a message on the paper with a pencil.  Older children can do this step themselves, or even just begin fingerprinting.

2. Have kids press a finger into the inkpad, and then onto the paper, following the pencil lines to create the letters.  Use a different finger for each colour of ink, or wash fingers between using different colours of ink.

3. Erase pencil lines.  If desired, trim paper, and adhere it to a larger sheet of brightly coloured paper using glue or double sided tape.  Frame if you would like.

4. Cherish these precious moments of childhood.

Beary Truly Yours,
Theodore Bear

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Sneaky Strawberry Pudding - Thursday, June 16, 2011
Berries and Bewilderment!   I love strawberries, especially at this time of year when fresh, local produce starts to appear.  I love pudding too.  Fresh strawberries and pudding sounds like perfection for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or an afternoon break.  I would eat strawberries and pudding ALL day if Cornel would let me.  The funny this is, with this strawberry pudding she did let me eat it for breakfast. Apparently it is healthy, but it was so beary good that I didn't hold that it against it.  As long as I get to eat strawberry pudding for breakfast, I'm a happy bear.  I believe I may actually be hungry for a bedtime snack too.

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Sneaky Strawberry Pudding (Shhhh, it has tofu, but only you need to know)

Here's What You Need:

1 package light silken tofu (we used Mori-Nu brand)
1.5 cups (325 mL) fresh stawberries, roughly chopped
1 tbsp (15 mL) lemon juice
Sugar to taste (approximately 1-3 tbsp, or 15 to 45 mL, depending on the sweetness of your berries and your family's taste preference)

Here's What You Need To Do:

1. Place tofu, strawberries, lemon juice, and 1 tablespoon of sugar into a food processor or blender, and process until smooth.  Taste, and add additional sugar if necessary.

2. Pour into bowls, and refriderate overnight if possible, or until chilled (note: leaving the pudding overnight will allow it to thicken up a bit more).

3. Enjoy, and don't tell anyone your secret!

Beary Truly Yours,
Theodore Bear

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Constructing a Better Snack: Building with Zucchini, Raisins and Toothpicks - Monday, June 13, 2011
Buildings and Bites! This weekend we had the chance to combine two activities that we all love: eating snacks and building things.  With just a few simple ingredients: toothpicks, zucchini cut into cubes, and raisins, we practised building cubes and pyramids, as well as two dimensional shapes like squares, triangles, and even some of the letters of the alphabet.  Darla says that this snacktivity is excellent because it teaches everyone from tots to teens about angles and geometry, and it can also be used to reinforce the letters of the alphabet, or even to practice basic spelling words.  Working with small objects like the toothpicks and food pieces is also a wonderful way to build fine motor skills. I think it is fantastic because I get to eat to the buildings we create.  Either way, we were all satisfied, and we think you and your crew will be too.

Here's What You Need:

Zucchini, as much as you would like, cut into cubes (note, we haven't tried it, but we think this would also work with other semi-firm fruits and vegetables as well.  Apples, melons or cucumbers would be perfect to try)
Raisins (other dried fruits such as apricots cut into cubes, or even dried fruit bars cut into cubes would also likely work)
Toothpicks, preferably the kind without the flat end, but that was the only sort we had and they were still okay

Here's What You Need To Do:

1. Cut your zucchini into cubes.  Save the rounded edges for another use. Set zucchini cubes, toothpicks and raisins out on a plate. 

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2. Show kids how to build simple shapes such as squares and triangles by connecting the zucchini cubes and raisins with the toothpicks.  Once they have mastered two dimensional building, encourage them to try building their structures up into three dimensional shapes, or just allow them to make the discovery on their own. Note that we found that the raisins were a bit difficult to use when building 3D shapes, but they worked great for everything flat. 

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3. Testing of the building materials is strongly encouraged. Feel free to eat the zucchini and raisins while you create! Make sure that you carefully supervise young children who may be working with the toothpicks, and ensure that all foods are cut into a size that does not pose a choking hazard.

Build (and eat) away!

Beary Truly Yours,

Theodore Bear

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Father's Day Part Two: An Interview About Dad - Thursday, June 09, 2011
Beyond the Basics! Yesterday we shared our first Fathers Day project, a watercolour handprint painting that would brilliantly bedeck the walls of Dad's office or favourite space.  Today, we worked on the second part of our gift, an interview with each kiddo about Dad.  This is an easy and free project that I predict will make Dad smile on Father's Day, and for many years to come.  It's easy to do: just get your questions ready, and have your little ones answer them.  Older kids can write the answers themselves.  You can answer the questions on one double-sized sheet of paper like we did, or you could make them separate pages on a mini-book complete with your artist's illustrations. You can ask the questions over a few days, or if you can ask them all at once if your tot is more talkative.  We think it would be great fun to do this every year, and see how the answers change.

Here is what our interview sheet looks like without answers. 

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To get you started on your own interviews, here are the questions we used:

How old is Dad?

What is Dad's favourite dinner?

What is Dad's job?

What makes Dad mad?

What does Dad do when he comes home from work?

What is your favourite thing to do with Dad?

What makes Dad laugh?

What does Dad do that makes you laugh?

Is Dad a good singer?

What is Dad's favourite song?

What would you like to do with Dad?

What is the best food that Dad makes?

What is something that Dad always says to you?

What do you think Dad does when you go to sleep?

How are you and Dad the same?

How are you and Dad different?

What do you love most about Dad?

We would love to hear the answers (and questions) your crew come up with!

Beary Truly Yours,
Theodore Bear

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Hand Print Painting for Father's Day - Wednesday, June 08, 2011
Boys and Blessings!   Father's Day is Sunday, June 19th, and we have been busy brainstorming ways to thank our wonderful Dads (the big boys).  We are lucky to have such wonderful men in our lives.  We wanted to come up with ways to let them know how much they mean to us, and to help them remember years from know what their babes were like today.  We created part one of our gift today: handprint watercolour paintings.  We will be back tomorrow with part two of our gift.

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Handprint Watercolour Paintings

Here's What You Need:

Watercolour paint
Black beeswax crayon
or oil pastel
White cardstock or watercolour paper
Paintbrush
Pencil
Frame, if desired

Here's What You Need to Do:

1. Trace child's hand several times onto watercolour paper with pencil. Allow handprints to overlap, and vary their orientation on the page.  Older children can trace each other's hands.  If you have a particularly young and squirmy babe, you could also just trace her hand once onto a scrap piece of paper, cut out, and use as a template to trace the remaining handprints.

2. Trace over pencil handprints with black beeswax crayon or oil pastel.

3. Paint handprints with watercolour paint, allowing colour to go beyond the handprint outlines.

4. Allow painting to dry.  If paper has curled, place a heavy book on top for a few hours to flatten it. Frame if desired once painting is dry, and be sure to write, or have your child write, his name and the date on the painting

5. Wish the fathers in your life a very Happy Father's Day!

What are you planning to do for Father's Day? We would love to share ideas with you either here or on Facebook.

Beary Truly Yours,

Theodore Bear


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Tissue Box Guitars and the Science of Sound - Monday, June 06, 2011
Blues and Beats! In honour of Darla's Pick of the Week, the Halalit Xylophone, we decided to make some musical instruments of our own.  This was a great craft for a rainy afternoon, and we snuck in a science lesson too.  It never fails to amaze me how much the traditional "school subjects" really blend together in practice.  Some might say this was arts and crafts, others would say it was musical education, while still others would slot the activity into science or even math.  However you classify it, they were fun to make, and they have been even more fun to play with.  We have loved rocking out with our guitars to some of our favourite Putumayo CDs.  Who needs a video game system and Rock Band when doing it yourself is so much fun!

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Tissue Box Guitar

Here's What You Need:

An empty tissue box
4-6 elastic bands, preferably of different widths
Scrap construction paper
Scrap cardstock or other heavy weight paper
Glue
Scissors
A craft knife (adults only!)
Tape (optional)
A Stapler (optional)

Here's What You Need To Do:

1. Start with an empty tissue box. Remove the plastic from the opening on top of the box where the tissues are dispensed.

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2. If desired, cut a piece of scrap construction paper to fit inside the tissue box.  Cut a circle out of scrap construction paper in a contrasting colour, and glue to the centre of the construction paper.  Glue the construction paper inside the box opening (note: we found it easiest to do this by lightly folding the sheet to insert it inside the box, and then unfolding it and smoothing it out once it is inside the box.

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3. Roll a sheet of cardstock into a tube shape.  Staple on both ends, and secure with tape.  Alternately, you could also use a empty paper towel roll if you had one. This will form the guitar's neck.

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4. Stand the tissue box up vertically.  Trace the shape of the guitar's neck onto the center of the top of the tissue box.  Cut out using a craft knife, or sharp scissors.  This is an adult's job!

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5. Insert guitar neck into the hole.  Secure with tape, if necessary.

6. Stretch elastics over the opening of the guitar, ordering them from thinnest to thickest.

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7. Pluck your guitar strings. This is where the science comes in :) Sound is produced by vibrations in the air. When you pluck the elastics, they vibrate, and that make the air around them vibrate too. These vibrations in the air make the sound that you hear.  Now, if you are using elastics of different thicknesses, try to guess whether they will make the same sounds, and then test your hypothesis (your scientific guess).  Thinner elastics produce higher notes than thicker elastics.  This is because the thinner elastics vibrate more quickly, and the faster something vibrates, the higher the sound note it produces.  Try to match the notes produced by your guitar to the notes produced by other musical instruments on your house such as the Halalit Xylophone too.

Rock on!

Beary Truly Yours,
Theodore Bear

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Make Your Own All Natural Bubble Solution - Friday, June 03, 2011
Bubble Bonanza!  One of our favourite things to do in the summer is to blow bubbles.  Even when you are "all grown up", there is something magical about watching them form and float away.  What is not always so magical is what might be in that bubble solution.  It's probably not always good for the environment, or for the little ones using it.  Our solution is to make our own bubble solution, using all natural, eco-friendly and kid friendly ingredients.  We think it works just as well as any commercial mix, and it's probably a lot cheaper too.  The recipe below is for a small batch, but you could easily double, triple, or even quadruple it if you wanted to have oodles of outdoor fun. Glycerine can be found in most pharmacies and health food stores, and many grocery stores too.  While it isn't absolutely necessary to include it, it helps to make your bubbles bigger, more stable, and longer lasting. Using more glycerin will make "stronger" bubbles.

Eco-Friendly, Natural Bubble Solution

Here's What You Need

1 cup (250 mL) water
2 tbsp (30 mL) liquid dish soap (we used Ecover)
1 to two tsp (5 mL to 10mL) glycerine

Here's What You Need to Do

1. Pour all ingredients into a jar or other container with a tight-fitting lid.  Shake gently to combine. If possible, allow to stand for a few hours before using.

Note: You can add a few drops of food colouring to the solution in order to create coloured bubbles, but be careful.  As with anything involving food colouring, it has the potential to stain clothing and hands (and most commercially available food colouring isn't all natural either).

Enjoy your bubble bonanza!  Try using different objects as bubble wands too.  Mason jar lids, cookie cutters, fly swatters, small strainers, and slotted spoons can all be fun. Use your imagination and bend hangers or other wires into new shapes too (this is an adult's job).  If you experiment with different bubble wands, let us know how it turns out.  We love hearing from you.

Beary Truly Yours,
Theodore Bear

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