Puzzles

Puzzles are fun toys that help kids with spatial development and motor development.  Some studies have shown playing with puzzles at an early age helps kids mentally transform objects (a skill needed in science and math careers) when they are older.

  1. Get calendar or magazine pictures.  It is best to use large pictures of familiar objects.  I used animals.
  2. Glue pictures onto colored card stock.  This is for durability and sort-ability (that’s a word, I swear).
  3. Draw puzzles pieces with a ruler on the card stock and cut out.  That’s it!

Note:  I’d say a two-piece puzzle is good for a one-year old, 4 pieces for a two-year-old, 6 pieces for a three-year-old, and so on.  Of course it depends on the kid and the picture.

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If you use different colors of paper for the back, it doesn’t matter if the puzzles get mixed up.  They can be easily sorted by color….which is another great activity for little ones!

make your own puzzles

My favorite part is all six puzzles fit into a ziploc bag!  Now it is super easy to store at your house, or toss in your purse for a waiting-at-a-restaurant activity.IMG_5915

Materials:

  • calendar or magazine
  • scissors
  • pencil
  • ruler (or freehand if you are really wild and crazy)
  • baggie

Time investment:  about 30 minutes

Difficulty:  Easier than baking cookies…and less calories, too!

Three Easy Ways to Make Your Kid Smarter

A big part of “intelligence” is really just life experience.  As parents, it is our job to give kids those learning experiences that will enrich their cognitive development and boost their self-confidence.  The earlier the better!  The brain grows rapidly in a child’s first years.  Here are three ways you can make your kids smarter.

1.  Everyday routines inside the home

Household chores don’t seem like learning opportunities.  Yet, this is where learning begins.  Babies can learn by feeling textures and shapes.  Toddlers eager to imitate parents can practice gross and fine motor skills and feel “grown-up.”  Preschoolers learn how to follow multi-step directions, sort by size or color, and develop self-worth by being a helpful part of the family.  It is always easier and faster to do a household chore by yourself, but slow down and involve the kids.  Little ones can help sweep, cook, organize toys, sort laundry, put away dishes, and the list goes on.  Never do for them what they can do for themselves.  Even cleaning up a spill is a problem solving opportunity.

2.  Exposure to new things outside of the home

Taking kids on “field trips” outside the home is a little more difficult, but it is so worthwhile.  Again, involve them in every day errands: shopping for groceries, mailing letters at the post office, shopping for clothes.  These places seem mundane to adults, but they are all experiences that should be part of kids’ background knowledge.  When they hear the word “grocery store”, every kid should be able to mentally picture what it looks like and what people do inside.  But smart kids know how grocery stores differ from farmer markets or what their food looks like growing on a farm.  Make it a priority to explore a new place or try a new activity.  They don’t have to be expensive.  Try ethnic restaurants, farms, festivals, nature walks, museums, sporting events, and plays, just to name a few.  Then have conversations with the kids about what they liked and didn’t like or how it compared to another place.  Your kids will be learning new vocabulary as well as practicing higher level thinking skills.

3.  Read

Of course, you can make sure your kids have first-hand experiences with making cookies and going to a soccer game, but seeing the ocean might be a little tricky if you live in Kansas.  When you can’t see something yourself, you can still gain knowledge about it through books and videos.  Do you regularly use words like octopus, sea anemone, and submerge?  Reading a book about the ocean will expose kids to new vocabulary and ideas that they wouldn’t pick up in everyday conversations.  Reading will stimulate their imaginations.  Early exposure to print and reading will make them better readers in the future.

Learning with Laundry

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Sorting laundry is a boring task, but it is also be a great time to talk and catch up with your kids.  It can also provide valuable learning  experiences that don’t require anything but you, your kids, and some clean clothes.  Okay, you need a ruler for the last one.

(Common Core Standards appear in italics.  They correlate with specific standards in different grade levels.  These standards are used in almost every school in the country.  Click the Common Core tab above to learn more.)

Babies

* Learn about textures by letting her touch different materials.  Use adjectives like smooth, bumpy, soft, and fuzzy.

* Learn object permanence by playing peek-a-boo and hiding things under towels.

Toddlers and Preschoolers

* Sort clothing into piles according to color, type (socks, pants, shirts), or by person to which they belong.  (Kindergarten- Classify object and count the number of objects in each category)

* Compare Mama’s socks to kid socks or Dada’s pants to kid pants.  Talk about opposite words like big and small, large and tiny.

* Count the number of one type of clothing   (Kindergarten- Count to tell the number of objects)

* Make two groups of socks and ask if the amount of socks is greater than, lesser than, or equal to the other group.  (Kindergarten- Compare numbers)

Elementary Kids

* Use laundry to represent addition and subtraction problems.  Ask your child to solve problems like, “There are 4 Daddy shirts and 2 Mommy shirts.  How many shirts were in the laundry?”  You can also have the student model a given problem (ex.- Show me 4+2 using socks.)  (Grades 1 and 2- Represent and solve problems involving addition and subtraction)

* Represent multiplication and division problems.  This works very well with socks that already come in pairs (if your dryer didn’t eat any.)  Explain that there are two socks in each group and five groups of socks, so that is 2×5.  A good model for division is dividing the laundry by owner.  It works best if you arrange for equal groups beforehand.  For example, “There are 10 shirts.  Let’s divide them into two groups- your shirts and my shirts.  How many are in each group?  So 10 divided into 2 groups makes 5 in each group.” (Grade 3- Represent and solve problems involving multiplication and division)

* Practice fractions with parts of a group.  What fraction of the laundry are pants?  What fraction of the socks are white?  (Grade 3- Develop understanding of fractions as numbers)

* Estimate the length of clothing and then measure.  You’ll need a ruler or yard stick for this one. (Grade 2- Measure and estimate lengths in standard units)

Day 1

This is the day.  The day that would have been the first day of new school year.  The day when I would have rushed around getting little ones dressed and fed and dropped off (hoping they didn’t cry) at preschool.  The day when I would see all my teacher friends and answer the question “How was your summer?” twenty times.  The day when I would be making name tags and putting up bulletin boards.

But it wasn’t that day.  It was the day that my daughters crawled into bed with me and cuddled while watching Dada get ready for work.  It was the day while we ate a lazy breakfast, played with puzzles, cleaned the kitchen a bit, then went to see a magic show.

When I quit my job last spring I thought today would really bother me.  Packing up my classroom in May didn’t seem real.  But not coming back in August?  That would be weird.  I have been going “Back to School” as a student or teacher since I was five-years-old.  I love buying new school supplies and making a fresh start.

But now I am making a new fresh start being a stay-at-home mom.  It is pretty exciting doing something I never thought I would do.  Although the more I think about it…of course I should be a stay-at-home mom!  I love kids and my daughters’ ages (2 and 4) are especially fun.  I love doing silly kid stuff like magic shows.  Not going to school today didn’t seem nearly as strange as I thought it would.  Maybe it won’t really hit me until the fall.  Maybe I’m just so excited about my summer not ending on August 7 that it still hasn’t sunk in that I don’t have a classroom anymore.  I don’t have a desk anymore.  I don’t have a job anymore.

Okay.  It feels a little weird.