Sunday, February 12, 2017

Learning with Collections!

There are so many things your children can do with a collection of objects! It could be coins, shells, rocks, buttons! I can remember, as a child, being fascinated with a jar of multi-colored buttons that sat on a shelf at my grandmother's house. We would pick some, or pour some out, and  play with them, making up all sorts of games.

There are many simple things your children may choose to do ... many of them math and science related! Let them play with collections, and make decisions about what to do with them. Their ideas might surprise you! They may first choose to just examine up close and begin to notice differences between groups - colors, sizes, shapes ...  noticing is the first step to classifying and sorting!

Counting collections is another great next step, while they are doing some examining :) You can add in some math vocabulary such as more, greater, less, fewer and they will have concrete examples right in front of them.

Then, patterns! Your kiddos may choose to make a pattern, or, if not ready for that, to continue one laid out for them - red, white, red, white ... what comes next? Ours asked for pipe cleaners to thread buttons on - in patterns! Simple patterns can evolve into more complex - instead of red,white red, white (ABABAB), they may try ABBABB or ABCABC patterns, using more colors or sizes.

Sorting mats have proven to be LOTS of fun for my kiddos - and a great focusing tool. Simply take large paper, draw a grid and laminate them to hold up through multiple uses.

My kiddos have pulled them out to examine all sorts of things ... shells, coins, rocks ....

They even took the plastic animals and sorted them by habitat - ocean, farm, polar, etc. Have them choose an attribute to sort by - color, size, shape, shiny, flat, bumpy, etc. -  and then figure out what goes where. They may have to make subgroups and it could generate great discussion :)

Attention to detail is something my friends are really getting involved in - they want to examine with a magnifying glass and do some sketching to really try to be scientists :) We talk all the time about how scientists observe, sketch and write about what they see ... collections are a great way to put this into play!

Have fun!

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Seasons Felt Play

When learning about a topic, it's always fun to see where the children lead you ... they have great ideas and think out of the box!

To study the seasons, trees are a great focus. Start off learning all about trees ... talking, observing, looking all around your neighborhood, and then talking some more. Then, take out some felt and start cutting.

Make a felt background and hang it somewhere, at kiddo level, with velcro dots ... we used the back of a rolling organizer. Then, make a tree - or two! Discuss shapes and even make some sketches of what it might look like - great for conversation and problem solving. Trace the shapes on some brown felt pieces - even scraps would work - and begin to cut and form your trees. Cutting through felt offers a little more resistance than paper, so little friends may benefit from the cutting practice to strengthen those muscles.

Then, have children observe some branches and see that they are many different shapes. Start picking through the scraps that are left to find "branches." They come in all shapes and sizes! Pretty soon, your  friends will be asking about leaves ... one thing always leads to another!

As you cut, have the children take turns sticking the felt pieces up on the background, and get ready to be amazed at all the different ways the trees can be formed. Your kiddos will make lots of scientific observations and start to wonder about other trees - maybe the Christmas tree variety ... so you'll have to make those, too!

Let your children direct the action in a project like this! It gives them the power to ask questions, make suggestions, and there is no wrong way to do it! It's exciting for the littlest of friends, who cannot always make their drawings look like they want to - with this, they can make a representation of something that looks more accurate and real :)

We talked about all the seasons and they had ideas for each. As we go on, we will add to our felt set and revisit it for each turn in the weather - learning as we go!

Have fun!

Monday, January 30, 2017

Play Scientist with Ice and Snow!

In the winter months up north, we can sometimes see a lot of ice and snow! When it keeps us from going outside to play, we bring it inside - to play and experiment!

There are so many ways to explore:

Bring in a big bin of snow to play with! Put on some mittens and make some mini snow people, using buttons and small sticks for decoration. Your kiddos will have great ideas for what to add for even more fun! Observe how the snow changes over time and talk about the volume of the snow - it fills a container but then, when it turns into water, does it take up as much space?

Try some ice dissolving - get some ice chunks and have small cups of salt and spray bottles of warm water available - and see what your little ones decide to do with them. Sprinkling or spraying may produce cracks and fissures - drop a tiny bit of food coloring in to see it spread out through the ice cracks!

Float an "ice cap" in some cold water! Take a container and freeze some water into an ice shape and set it to float. Notice how big it is and check the container for a good visual. Have some small polar animal figures available to float and balance, and observe over time ... as it shrinks! The kiddos will have some fun keeping their animals afloat and will make some great observations :)

See what other ideas your little ones come up with - exploring, asking questions, and trying out experiments will give them practice with the scientific process!

Give them pencils, paper, and crayons to record what they see - scientists aways keep notes!

Have fun!

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Sight word fun!

Sight words are one of the first steps to early reading success - those common words we see when we read, that we need to know "in a snap" in order to read more fluently. Special practice for those sight words can be turned into FUN TIME for you and your child!

When your child starts learning these words in school, make practice FUN and varied, so they begin to enjoy reading right away!

Make a memory game: Grab some index cards, cut them in half, and have your child write each word twice. Use cool markers, lots of colors, whatever makes it more fun and interesting. Set up a game board by turning a few words at a time (2 cards for each) upside down in rows - make sure they're mixed up! Focusing on a few words at a time, looking for matches, will help your child get fluent in reading these words. When they're ready, add more to make it more challenging :) Sight word cards are also available as sets in many office or school supply stores.

Letter tiles: Use your old Scrabble letters or pick some up at an office supply or teacher supply store. The game BananaGrams also has the same sort of tiles. Play with them by making cards up (or using the ones from your Memory game), and challenging your child to find all the letters that make up that word, placing them in the correct order. After they get the visual matching, take away the cards … have one player read the word out loud and the other find the letters, without a visual guide. Great

Stamps and magnets: Use Playdoh to roll out letter shapes or look for letter stamps to press the words into the dough. Stamps and stamp pads would work the same way! Magnetic letters on the fridge or on a cookie tray are an easy, no-mess way to practice, as well.

Sensory options: Try some sensory play to get your child interested - tracing letters and words in shaving cream, pudding, salt, sand, etc. gives them a tactile experience that may help to solidify the learning. If messy is not your thing, put your choice in a Ziplock bag and trace through this squishy bag with a fun effect!

E-practice: There are also many apps available for iPads and iPhones to practice sight words. Just search for sight words and look at the variety that come up. I like a version called K-3 Sight Words, because it has an audio self-check, after your child reads what is basically an electronic flash card.

Try these posts for more ideas:

Most of all ... Have FUN!

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Moving and Shaking Outdoors

There is nothing that can take the place of good old-fashioned outdoor play!

Rolling in the grass, climbing in trees or on playground equipment, and balancing on low walls or curbs all help your children develop the balance and gross motor skills they need for so many daily activities. Movement of the body and development of those core muscles may even help with their stamina and ability to focus and attend to tasks. These actions can also give little ones the sensory experiences that they don't get enough of in today's plugged-in world :)

Allow your child to make choices and try things that push them a little out of your comfort zone. Explore new playgrounds or see opportunities for exploration in a daily walk through the neighborhood. Outdoor or active play gives your children areas to try out new skills. Choose a safe environment, but with room to explore and move freely, and let your children set the tone.

Let your kiddos strengthen their growing muscles by pulling up or hanging upside down on playground equipment or sturdy tree limbs. Let them try out some hanging ladder-style bars - even making it a little way across will seem like a great accomplishment ... and then help them set goals for how they will improve through the summer :) Balance on a curb, or sidewalk edging.

Even though your children may be great walkers or even runners, crawling is still great exercise for your little ones. Group or single play obstacle courses are fun to set up, change up, and explore! Crawl around or under some backyard chairs or tables, hop over some garden stones, walk along some patio blocks ... you get the picture!

Remember rolling down grassy hills? So much fun! Make sure your kiddos get to experience barrel rolling down hills and across grassy areas - it is good for their bodies to exercise and get the stimulation that occurs naturally through these simple activities.

When you're all worn out, lie out on some cool grass, look through some leafy trees - there are lots of moments that can be great for conversation with your little ones - unplugged, relaxed, and open ended :)

Have fun!

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Math with water!

One of the BEST things about summer is that you can get wet and messy ... and, then just clean up outside!

Playing with water as an open-ended activity can present your child with many different learning opportunities - and lots of fun! The math lessons and practice with language concepts will take place organically :) while fulfilling so many of the core learning concepts that we want kiddos to explore.

I like to have an inflatable baby pool on hand, but any kind of tub or container that holds water will do!

First, make sure you have different sized containers available for pouring and measuring. Model how to pour from one to another, or just let your kiddos figure it out. They will soon see that some containers can handle more water and some less ... and what happens when you pour from larger to smaller and vice versa. There is no better teacher for this type of measurement than hands on experience!

Next, play with a variety of objects to establish a sink and float lab. Provide some interesting household objects - plastic dishes, spoons, corks, colanders and funnels, etc. - and show how some will sink and some will float. Let your little ones try different things and put them in categories ... another math skill!

Float a few rubber duckies (or whatever small floaty toys you have handy!) in the water and count them out as you go. Matching objects with the numbers that represent them is an early skill to hone, and you can sing as well ...
"One little, two little, three little duckies ..."

Then, start to play a game that uses positional words - over, under, next to, etc. - and let your child take the lead, coming up with new ways to display the ducks (or balls, or boats, or whatever). This practice with verbalizing the positional concepts will help your child become more familiar with the words for each.

Let them come up with new ways to play - filling up and draining the containers, splashing and pouring, floating different toys - all will teach new lessons, and make for hours of fun! Don't forget to provide some clean paintbrushes to paint on hot sidewalks or decking, making shapes, lines, and even beginning to practice letters and numbers :)

A tub of water + lots of fun = tons of authentic math learning!

Have fun! 

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Math Games with Ladybug Wings!

Make a cute ladybug game to practice math with your little ones -  you can play it over and over! You'll be getting in lots of small motor work during the creation of the game, and then, math skill practice with such concepts as one-to-one correspondence counting, matching numerals and the objects they represent, odd and even, etc.

First get some black construction paper to make the body. Use something round, like a cereal bowl, as a stencil to trace around. Model holding the bowl and tracing around, then hand off for kiddo practice :) When that's done, add a small semi-circle at the top for the ladybug's head! Make sure your little guys add some eyes and antennae - whatever materials you all choose! (We did googly eyes and some mini pipe cleaner pieces!)

When you're all finished with the body, help your kiddos use the "stencil" again to cut a big round red circle for the ladybug wings. After tracing and cutting it out, help your little one fold or draw a line down the middle to cut it apart into two wings. Glue them on, overlapping a little bit, so they stick out a little - like real wings do!

Now, comes the game part! Cut out some round black dots to place on the wings. Roll one or two dice and count out how many dots are rolled.

Then, try to put them all on the wings, one on the left wing, one on the right, etc. ... but remember, ladybugs have the same number of dots on each wing! Does the number you rolled work out, or do you have a "leftover"?

Take the dots off and roll again. Each time, practice matching numbers to objects, for counting practice. For a change, use dice with numerals, or cards with numerals instead, to reinforce matching the number with objects that represent it.

Try to remember which numbers work and which don't ... when your kiddos are ready, introduce even and odd ("the odd one out"), as concepts to explain how sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't, in math!

Laminate your ladybug, or put it in a plastic sleeve, to use a Dry-Erase Marker for dotting - for replaying ease! Remove the eyes and antennae while you're laminating, or look for alternative decorations that will lie flat :)

Have fun!