As I think most of you have heard, our first caterpillar of the summer, "Ted" got out of our jar when we accidentally left the lid off...oops! :)  And, since we have had such a hot and dry summer, our caterpillar population has been almost wiped out.  We actually had to find a caterpillar from my in-laws' house in order to see the rest of the process!
    Well, over the weekend our second "Ted" made its chysalis so hopefully in about two weeks, we will have a beautiful Black Swallowtail butterfly to set free!
    We dove into a fun sensory tub experience this morning that consisted of a tub full of shaving cream and frozen cubes of paint.  We took the tub outside, so as the cubes melted and the kids swirled them around, they colored the shaving cream.  There were a lot of opportunities for exploration in this activity, and it was fun to hear the kids talk about how it felt (squishy, soft, cold when they found a paint cube), and how it looked, what colors they were finding, and so on.
    If you are interested in learning more about why we do sensory activities (besides just FUN!) there are a couple of great articles explaining the benefits of sensory activities for children by Amanda Morgan of NotJustCute, and Angie Dorrell of Early Childhood News.  Basically, children are designed to receive and process information from all around them by using all of their senses.  From before they can verbalize any of their thoughts, they are gathering information at an amazing pace by seeing, hearing, smelling, touching, and tasting things around them.  So, the more opportunities we give children to experience new sensory information, the more opportunities they have to learn.  In this way, sensory play promotes cognitive development, and also aides in things like language development (as we talk about what they are experiencing), social and emotional development, physical development, and creative development.
    We had a lot of fun getting messy and we were learning a lot, too! :)
    After three days of hard-working play, the kids have completed their goal of digging a river ALL the way around the sandbox!  They are pretty proud and have had a lot of fun with it.  Over the past few days, they have used their cooperation and teamwork skills, have done some great planning and predicting, and have learned a lot about water flow, too.
    It all started when they asked if we could get out our rain gutters and the hose on a hot morning.   They began by digging a "lake" right under where the water poured into the sand, and just kept expanding their own goals from there!
    This morning we got to head out to our garden to gather some snap peas for our lunch today and here is what we found!  A whole bowl full of peas, and our very first ripe cherry tomato!  (Don't those beautiful, mangled peas just look like they were excitedly picked by little hands?!)  :)  And, I am very happy to report that a couple of the kids ate more of the fresh peas as we were picking than they added to the bowl!
    Today we just brought the hose out to the sandbox and created a whole new play experience!  The kids loved the feel of the wet sand in their toes, and had a lot of fun making rivers, lakes, and castles, washing away their creations, and just jumping around in it all! 
    We have been anxiously watching the tiny caterpillars in the garden get bigger and bigger!  I told the kids we had to wait to catch one until they were almost big enough to make a cocoon (so we wouldn't have to try to keep giving them fresh leaves every day for weeks!).  So, when they all spotted a "really big one!" on their way into the house this morning, they knew today was the day! :) 
The kids have decided to name him "Ted."  :) Ted is a black swallowtail caterpillar and eats plants like Dill, Queen Anne's Lace, and Angelica (which is the plant we have).  Hopefully we will get to see the whole process of him turning into a beautiful black swallowtail butterfly!  Since we have watched a caterpillar up close for several summers in a row now and know what is coming, we are excited to watch what happens next!
    One of the kids also brought a different kind of caterpillar to show us today.  It was one I was not familiar with, but I have found an excellent website for identifying caterpillar species.  In case any of you ever need to identify a caterpillar for your little bug lover, here is the link:  It is so fun when they understand that the caterpillars are going to turn into something else, and it is really fun to be able to show them what it will look like.  I will add this link to the links on my Resources page, too so it will be easy to find when you need it.  ; )
    In case any of you are wondering how the kiddos made their fun fireworks paintings that went home on Tuesday, here are a couple of photos.  I had them gather up a few pipe-cleaner halves, and then wrap one around to hold them all together.  Then we bent down the ends and had ourselves some fireworks stampers!  The kids dipped them into their red, white, and blue paint and then covered the paint with some sparkly glitter.  It was a fun project to do while staying cool inside!