Saturday, November 26, 2011

Get Ready for the Holiday Countdown!

It's so hard for the little ones to wait for the holidays, especially once it gets to be December! Help them out with a "Count-down Chain"!

Take construction paper in holiday colors and draw some lines for cutting - make them about two inches wide. You will need 25 strips if you're counting until Christmas, starting at the beginning of the month, or one strip for each day left. Choose what holiday and how many days you want to play! Have your children cut on the lines, giving them excellent cutting practice! Turn each strip into a loop with tape or staples, alternating colors, and add new strips by threading through the loop and fastening into another link.

When you are finished, hang your chain up and each morning or evening, take off a link and count "how many days left!" Lots of counting practice for your little ones!

While you're waiting for the holiday to get here, try this - pattern math with decorative bows! Fill a basket with colored bows and make some poster strips with color patterns. Your children can match the strips, see "what comes next" for sequencing practice and form their own patterns with these festive bows!

Have fun!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Turkey Time!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Here's a short list of things to do with your kids:

1. Give them jobs to do to help prepare for the holiday: teach responsibility through small chores and jobs. Setting the table, counting out silverware, greeting guests and taking coats are all small tasks that will help your child feel included in the festivities.

2. Make a centerpiece! Take some natural items that your child can scavenge from the great outdoors - pine cones, berries, small rocks - and add to a large vase or glass container. Set in a large pillar candle or some votives, making sure that nothing is near the flame. Your child will be thrilled to help!

3. Design some placecards! Grab some card stock or heavy paper and some art materials and have your children practice writing names! Give them a list of who will be gathering and let them design some stand-up cards to place around the table. Stickers or stamps and ink pads would be cool, too!

4. Play some old-fashioned games when the feasting is over! Simple games were played even by the Pilgrims - rolling hoops, tic-tac-toe, checkers - spend some time on something that's not plugged in and have a great conversation with your child!

5. Go for a walk! After your fantastic feast, while you're "making room" for dessert, get out and go for a walk around the block or down the street!  Get some exercise for the whole family :)

Have fun!

Monday, November 14, 2011

We Like Leaves!

Got leaves?? Try these activities!!

1. Leaf rubbings: This is magical! Children LOVE to see what will come through the paper and they want to do it again and again. You need an assortment of leaves, lightweight paper (copy paper works well!) and crayons with the paper peeled off. Put a leaf under the paper or in a piece of folded paper and use the side of the crayon (not the point) to rub firmly back and forth - and watch the magical process begin!

2. Leaf prints: Use your leaves as beautiful printing tools ... paint lightly and carefully all over a real leaf and then press in a folded piece of construction paper - it will make a work of art! Trim away the extra paper and frame or attach a hanger to it!

3. Suncatchers: Pick out your favorite leaf (it's hard!) and put it under a heavy book or object to flatten it out a bit. Then use a piece of clear contact paper to stick it to and another piece to cover it. Once it is all pressed out with no bubbles, trim around it, making a circular shape or following the edges and attach a bit of coordinating ribbon or yarn to hang it up with. The sun will shine right through it!

4. Patterns: Cut out some paper leaves to make patterns with - try different colors and different shapes - easy patterns and more complex ones. Let your children come up with as many patterns as they can think of!
Make a magnetic set by laminating or using clear contact paper and attaching magnets to the back. All you need is a magnetic surface (fridge?) and you're all set!

5. Sequencing strips: use your paper leaves to make sequences on long strips of paper. Math skill alert - leave room at the end to finish the sequence!

6. Tracing: Put a whole pile of leaf patterns cut from cardboard or cereal boxes with some paper and colored pencils and watch some cool art emerge! Children will begin with tracing (great for small motor practice) and then begin experimenting with overlapping and coloring in!

Have fun!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

The Mitten: Compare and Contrast

I am a huge fan of Jan Brett - her illustrations are amazing - their attention to detail and all the background research she does to make her designs authentic make her books unique and captivating! Jan leads her readers through her books with side panel illustrations that show what happened on the page before and what is coming next! Each page is extraordinary!

I have used many copies of her book, "The Mitten," over the years with all ages of children - from little ones in Preschool all the way to older students in primary grades.  There are so many lessons that can be planned and shared around this timeless story... you can focus on the parts of the story, beginning, middle and end, as well as on the use of descriptive, interesting language. Examining stories and discussing them helps children learn what makes a great story so that they can use these strategies down the road when they begin writing.

"The Mitten" is actually a retelling of an old Ukranian folk tale - I have another version by Alvin Tresselt that I like to use with my children to compare the different versions of the story. We chart how they are the same and how they are different, which animals appear in each story and in which order. They take so much interest in the story and get so involved in checking out all the details!

You can find lots of resources on the internet to use in retelling each of these stories - coloring cards and outlines to make all sorts of mitten projects. There are great black-line illustrations for the Jan Brett version at I couldn't find one for the other version but it would be fun to make!

Have your children work on a way of retelling each story and ordering the sequences of events - it helps them with comprehension! You could do a comparative sequencing with character cards or a Venn diagram to sort it all out - all have met with great success with my kids!

Have fun!