Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Take Science Out for a Walk!

Sometimes you just have to pack your stuff and get outdoors! As Spring approaches, look for new ways to explore the backyard, playground, or sidewalk. Grab a basket or tote and throw in whatever "science" tools you have around ... Magnets, magnifiers, measuring tools, a sieve or colander, transparent colored or clear lids or containers. Grab a block and a car for even more fun! Somehow, making a Kit makes it more official - and fun!

Let your little ones take the lead - see what they're drawn to and slow down the pace to "notice" everything about it. It might be bugs or spiders, it might be plants or trees - lessons are all around you! If they need a little nudge, model your own observing style ... they'll want to know ... "What are you looking at?"

Prompt them to explore with "I wonder..." statements, and then let them go with it!

  • Take some little cars out to the playground or backyard and see which ones go faster down the slide. Build your own slide with a long piece of wood and change the angle to make the car go faster or slower.
  • Use your magnifier to get a close up look at all the different colors and parts of a bug (the non-stinging variety!) Your kiddos will be amazed at the details they see. Help them take a picture with your phone and enlarge it for viewing. Bring a sketch book with crayons or colored pencils, so your child can record like a scientist :)
  • Measure everything you see - with a ruler or against something familiar - sneakers or fingers make a great non-standard unit of measure. How many fingers tall is that flower? How many sneakers long is that bench?
  • Do a magnetic or non-magnetic study! Have your child see you try a magnet with something magnetic - it's magical! Then, something non-magnetic ... they will want to join in and find out for themselves!
  • Take samples of dirt from different areas and check them for differences ... are they the same color? Texture? Wet or dry? Sift some sand and see what different sizes those grains of sand really are - are there stones left behind?

Let your little ones play in the dirt and the mud - it will open their mind to scientific thinking and making conclusions.

Have fun!

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Word Problems and Graphing with Goldfish!

Learning math through playful word problems can be super fun - with the right props! Use whatever you want for counting ... reading books about fish inspired us to use pretzel goldfish ... which happened to be in the kitchen cabinet!

To get started, grab a pair of dice, some paper fishbowls, and some yummy goldfish and get ready to play! It doesn't matter which flavor you use - player's choice :)

Players take turns rolling a die and counting out the number of fish into their own bowls. Then, they each take a second turn as you state the problem - "Tommy has 4 fish and he gets 3 more. How many does he have all together now?" This use of typical word problem language, while your child can directly visualize the scene, eases your child into making those connections.

When you have played a few rounds this way and the kiddos are understanding, take it to a new level .... make some fish vanish! Roll again, but this time, it is to take away or subtract! "Sarah had 5 fish, but she ate 2 - how many are left?" Players can keep rolling until all their fish are gone :) Decide on your rules beforehand - ending on an exact roll was one of ours!

If you have rainbow goldfish, you can also practice some math skills by setting up some columns and sorting out the four different colors - then graphing them and using "most" and '" fewest" to describe the amounts. Proper math terms are good to know :)

All of these math skills are goals for any early childhood curriculum - but always, always make it fun - yum!

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Making Friends: Interview Chat

Little ones don't always know how to start making friends ... or conversation. Give them an assist with a brand new microphone for "interviewing" - home made or dollar store bought :) If you're going with home-made, invent your own from recycled materials around your home. We used a cardboard roll, some silver foil, and stickers.

If you're not looking to DIY, check around at the dollar stores to find one that is durable - I have a toy microphone that is all plastic, non-electronic, and echoes your voice, mimicking a real microphone for a fraction of the cost.

Now, help your child come up with some practice questions, such as "What's your favorite toy? What movies do you like? Do you have a favorite animal or pet?" Ask your child what they would like to know about a friend and practice setting up questions.

Model this behavior with your child by playing an "interview" game to help them know how it works, to prepare for when they are ready to try it themselves. Then, next time you are in a social situation with some other little ones, set them free to make new friends and find out all about them.

Have fun!

Friday, February 26, 2016

Fairy Tales: Jack and the Beanstalk

Jack and the Beanstalk is a favorite story with the little guys ... it has everything - magic, a giant bad guy, a castle - all their favorites in one fairy tale!

Make a playset to act out the story, including a castle in the clouds and a tall, tall beanstalk! A file folder, opened top to bottom, makes a great tall backdrop to situate your scenery on. Your children can set their castles near the top and make sure they add some cotton ball clouds. Next, have them use markers, chenille sticks, paper, or whatever you have around to make the tall, tall beanstalk that grew from the magic beans. Then, draw or color some characters and they will have their own "stage" to act out or retell the story.

Be sure to start out with "Once upon a time," and "far, far away" ... fairy tales help little ones sort out good and bad, and develop some sense of resolution, especially when the ending is "happily ever after."

Before reading the story, check for any background your audience has with this story or similar fairy tales.

Then, begin to relate the story in the style of an old-time storyteller, without the book ... just to spark their interest and get their attention.

Next, pull out the book, and launch into the story, pausing to have them participate physically whenever possible ... tossing beans, climbing up the stalk, peeking under the giant's door. They will love the movement, and it will help to imprint the story on their brains :)

When you're all finished, look for some short video clips - there are some great animated short clips of all the popular fairy tales - and compare and contrast with the story you read aloud! Your little ones will amaze you with their attention to detail :)

For more extension activities...
  • plant some bean seeds ... use either dirt or get really magical with seeds sealed up with damp paper towels in ziplocs and hung in the window - roots and sprouts to come!
  • sort all sorts of dry beans and count, pattern, etc. for math
  • have friends draw pictures for each of the story parts, or the giant's special things, and practice sequencing 
  • photograph your little ones in climbing poses, cut them out, and help them fashion a paper beanstalk to "climb" - they will get a big kick out it! 
Have fun!

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Fairy Tales: The Three Little Pigs

Once upon a time, we read "The Three Little Pigs." The best way to remember a story, or anything at all, is to immerse yourself in it. So, read it, watch a video clip of it, act it out, make crafts, etc. When reading "The Three Little Pigs," give your kiddos some materials and let them make one (or more!) of the pigs' houses from the fairy tale.

Work on scissor skills by having little ones cut strips of red paper for bricks to build the brick house. They will need something to glue them onto ... so search around for some cardboard or a small container of some sort to act as the structure. We used cardboard food containers, like those for Chinese food, sold in multiple packages at craft stores, and they worked great!!

If your crew is up for it, you can keep going, like we did, and make a whole RETELLING KIT!! One house was not enough for us, and we did have a whole container to fill, so we cut up some small cardboard house shapes and thought about what to decorate them with. We let our little friends add straw (yarn) and sticks (cut up lunch bags) to complete their set of three houses. (Thanks for the great ideas, Amy!!) Both  houses are now stored in our brick house container!

When all the houses are complete, add three little pigs and a wolf. We made ours from paper, but you can do it any way you want. Clay, small animal figures, counters, etc. would all be interesting and fun. Practice retelling the story using all your new props, and talk about the characters as you go along! 

When you're reading the story together, make sure you include some little actors from your group - all they have to master is the repeating lines "Little Pig, little pig, let me in" and "Not by the hair of your chinny-chin-chin!" Of course, "I'll huff and I'll puff, and I'll blow your house down!" is a pivotal line, as well!

Have fun with the story and make sure you end with ... and they lived happily ever after (the pigs that is...)!

Looking for other play ideas to go along with the theme? Try adding sticks, yarn, chenille sticks, and small building blocks to a playdough table to build the pigs' houses - or just play!  

Have fun!

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Playdough for the Win!

There are SO many things you can use playdough for - make all of them super fun!!

Small Motor Play
  • Roll it out and cut out shapes with cookie cutters
  • Pinch and pull to strengthen muscles
  • Cut thin ropes with scissors for resistance
Literacy Practice
  • Roll out "snakes" to make letters, numbers and shapes
  • Get letter or number stampers and make impressions in the play dough
  • Use as base for thematic play with sticks, blocks, yarn to recreate a story 
  • Mix up some playdough with your kiddos - make predictions, measure, add, see the ingredients come together
  • Take shells or other natural materials and make imprints like fossils
  • Use small figures of animals, dinosaurs, etc. to make tracks

Sensory Play 
  • Add dry jello to scent it 
  • Add salt to make it gritty
  • Add glitter to make it sparkly
  • Add all to make it super fun!
  • Introduce beads, buttons, or fake jewels to up the interest factor

  • Take a muffin tin, add tape with different numerals written on it to each cup and roll small balls to make the amount in each cup.
  • Make playdough pancakes and serve them up on different plates to give equal portions - one for you, one for me, etc.

Ask your little ones what THEY would like to do with the playdough - they will come up with even more ideas :)

Have fun!!

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Sharing and Caring

Extend Valentine's Day by talking about friendship, with explicit lessons about making and keeping friends, taught with storybooks. Sometimes our little friends need things spelled out for them ... and what better way than through a story?

Rainbow Fish, by Marcus Pfister, tells the story of a little fish who is beautiful to look at and sought after to play with, but when he snubs the other fish, they stop trying to be friends and he feels isolated. Through learning to share, the Rainbow Fish eventually makes friends, and plays happily with his new friends. (I always stress to my little ones that sharing friendship and experiences is really the best gift of all. )

Corduroy, by Don Freeman, is told from the viewpoint of a stuffed bear who just wants to belong to someone and have a home. This sweet book can be a stepping stone to great conversations about inclusion and making sure no one feels left out - and how good it feels to feel wanted!!

My kiddos always enjoy The Crayon Box That Talked, by Shane deRolf. It gives voice to all the different crayons, who eventually put aside their griping to see that if they all work together, the results can be amazing - a great lesson for those having trouble sharing and working as a team.

Of course, there are always some great on-their-level Clifford books to go with these friendship lessons. Clifford's Pals and Clifford's Best Friend, by Norman Bridwell, highlight friend relationships with characters that are known and loved!

Take some time to read through these titles and others before reading with your kiddos, so you know what discussion points you might want to steer them towards. Or ... let them do the talking and encourage them to share what they feel like after reading these books - and any connections they might have to the characters in the stories. Sit back and listen while you color a picture together of one of the characters - great coloring sheets and extension projects are available on the author's websites.

Or, search Pinterest - great ideas should pop up!

Have fun!