One of our favorite car games is “I Spy.” The traditional game uses colors (at least the one I always played)…
- Player 1 chooses a color of an object in sight of all players and says “I spy with my little eye something (insert color of object here).”
- Other players take turns guessing objects that are the given color.
- Some people allow players to ask yes/no questions such as “Is it inside the car? Is it smaller than my hand? Is on the left side of the car?”
- A player wins when she guesses the object correctly. Then it is her turn to say “I spy….”
I Spy is a fun way to pass the time on a long car ride or in the waiting room of the doctor’s office. As a bonus, kids are also learning! What concepts could you work on using the game I Spy?
- colors- “I spy with my little eye something blue.”
- shapes– “I spy with my little eye something square.”
- numbers– “I spy with my little eye three of something.” This would work best if you are in a room where the kids could walk around and easily count objects.
- letters- “I spy with my little eye the letter B.” You could spy letters on billboards while you are driving, or letters on a page while you are reading.”
- words- “I spy with my little eye the word go.” Again, this could work on billboards on the road or in books in a waiting room.
- spelling- “I spy with my little eye something that begins with the letter C.” You could just give the first letter, spell out a whole word, or maybe even letter patterns inside the word like “ee.”
- phonics- “I spy with my little eye something that begins with the sound /s/.” Same playing with letters, but this time use letter sounds.
- rhymes- “I spy with my little eye something that rhymes with bee.”
- adjectives- “I spy with my little eye something smooth.” This is another game that would be best played in a room where kids could feel the different textures.
- measurement– “I spy with my little eye something about one inch tall.” Be sure to review unit measurements before you play. If you play this at your house, they could walk around and measure things with a ruler.
We have way too many stuffed animals. I’m not a fan. They take up a lot of room, and although they are occasionally snuggled at night…they rarely participate in play during the day. Until today. Today we made a stuffed animal zoo. It was a great indoor activity for a rainy day….and it was free! And, of course, there was a lot of conversation and learning about animals. Here’s what you do…
- Gather all stuffed animals and cages. If you don’t have that many (lucky you), use puppets, plastic animals, or even animals on the covers of books. We used baskets and boxes for cages. We also used a green blanket for the “grass” and a blue towel for the “water.”
- Sort out the ones that don’t belong in your zoo. You can ask questions like “What animal is this? Where does it live? Have we seen it in the zoo?” Big Sis had fun asking these questions to Little Sis. She decided stuffed animals like Care Bears, Thomas the Train, and dolls didn’t belong in the zoo. However, you can do whatever you want. It’s your zoo! You can make this a learning opportunity to discuss real zoo animals, or you can make it pure fantasy and have a unicorn section. Whatever is most interesting to your kiddos.
- Match up like animals. This is a great activity for toddlers and preschoolers. You can talk about what characteristics the stuffed animals share. What makes it an elephant and not a hippo? How did you know that it was a bear even though it was pink? If you are like us, you will end up with four elephants….and maybe you’ll realize you need to get rid of some stuffed animals. 🙂
- Decide how to organize your zoo. This is where it gets fun! Talk about how you could arrange the animals and plan out the space. Should all the African animals be together? What about animals that fly? Preschoolers and early elementary kids will enjoy thinking about different ways to categorize the animals. If they are stuck, suggest some of these…
- number of legs
- patterns- stripes/spots/plain
- Put the animals in cages…or not. It’s easier to see them if they are just loosely grouped. However, Big Sis is a stickler for “keeping it real.” Although I need to have a talk with her about animal rights and forcing four elephants into such small cage.
- Visit the zoo. This was my daughters’ favorite part. One pretended to be a visitor and pushed a baby doll in a stroller. The other was a zookeeper who took tickets and guided the visitor around the zoo. Then they switched. If your kids are too young, YOU be the zookeeper and give facts about the animals as you travel through the zoo.
Extension activities you might want to try-
- Reorganize the zoo a different way using the same animals.
- Read a book about zoo animals.
- Watch a live zoo cam feed online.
- Write the animals’ names on papers and place them outside the cages.
So over breakfast, I had an idea to make masks (or glasses or goggles or whatever you want to call them) out of an egg carton. It was fast, easy, and didn’t require a lot of supplies. Just the way I like it.
- Cut apart the egg carton in pairs.
- Cut out circles for eyes. We experimented with different sizes for the eye holes. Also, we found that it was helpful to cut a little triangle out for the nose, but it isn’t necessary. Please note my meticulous cutting job.
- Decorate! We used washable tempera paint (after first failing with markers). Stickers would also be a fun idea. And as you can see, stickers would be a lot less messy. How did she get paint on her chin?!
- Glue on a popsicle stick and you’re done! (In case you were wondering why our egg cartons don’t carry a dozen eggs…we lost a pair of glasses in a cutting mishap.)
This project was easy enough for Big Sis to do the cutting, gluing, and painting on her own. Both girls had so much fun that I wanted to try it out, too. Please say you can pick out the one that wasn’t painted by a preschooler.
- egg carton
- popsicle sticks
Time investment: 15 minutes to make them, then a couple hours to let the paint dry
Difficulty: Elementary kids could it all by themselves, little ones need help with cutting.
I am a little messophobic. That’s a word, right? I love to give my kids new experiences and it is fun to watch them get messy…but the clean-up. The clean up. Sometimes I don’t know if it is worth it. Sigh. Despite my messophobia, I got out the shaving cream one day. I remember playing with shaving cream on the table when I was little and I loved it. And of course, so did my girls. Although Little Sis did not like to get it on her hands, so she used stick. Maybe messophobia is genetic?
Shaving cream might be the “fun factor” your kid needs to practice writing letters, numbers, or words. Even toddlers can practice straight and curved lines that they will need to make letters. Little Sis made lots of lines, while Big Sis did some writing. She might need a little more practice on her numbers….
And the clean up was not as bad as I expected. Luckily no one started throwing shaving cream, so it was just the table to clean up. I could wipe most of it off the table with my hands and then wash it off in the sink. Then a wet towel did the rest. Shaving cream is officially approved for messophobes everywhere.
Here’s a round-up of 67 art and learning ideas for shaving cream from The Artful Parent.
How many ways can you write a number? I did this activity with my second grade students, but it would work for a wide range of ages. Kindergartners can practice writing math facts, words, and pictures to show a number. Older elementary kids can show off their math skills by doing multiplication, adding decimals, or fractions. How do you play? Just pick a number and then take turns writing different ways to show the number. All you need is a pen and paper, so it is easy to do while you are waiting at a restaurant or office.
See if you can write the number using…
- Roman numerals
This morning Big Sis was working on a project out of her Thomas magazine. It was a cutting activity with all the different pieces of Thomas and then you glued on all the pieces to make a train. Little Sis was feeling a little left out, but she isn’t proficient with scissors yet. Then I had an idea! Every magazine has a pull-out poster of Thomas and other trains, and we never do anything with it. So I cut it out and made my own puzzle pieces out of it. Then Little Sis could glue them together to make her own Thomas. (Don’t ask me why she is dressed as a zebra today.)
Here is the finished product. She couldn’t be convinced to turn the bottom piece around so that the tracks would be on the bottom. Long ago, I learned you can’t reason with a two-year-old, so I let it be.
Making your own puzzle pieces would be easy to do with any large magazine or calendar picture. In fact, I’ve already made puzzles with calendars but I used the traditional puzzle piece shapes. I think I like this way better.
Bowling is a fun indoor activity when it is too cold or hot outside. We found a local bowling alley with a weekly special for preschoolers ($3 that includes one game, shoes, and a drink). Though, even the smallest bowling balls are pretty heavy for little ones, so I recommend it for kids over 3. Big Sis has a great time bowling, and it is educational, too! Playing a sport is always a learning experience in my book. But the bowling alley is also a wonderful place to practice math in the real world. Old school bowling provided lots of math practice when you kept score with a pen and paper. Yet, even with today’s bowling alley computers keeping score, you can still ask your kiddo some math questions. Then just look up at the screen to check the answer!
You can ask about…
- Counting- Count how many pins are still standing. (kindergarten- Count to tell the number of objects)
- Make a ten- You started with 10 pins. Now there are 6 pins standing. How many did you knock down? What number plus 6 makes 10? (kindergarten- For any number from 1 to 9, find the number that makes 10 when added to the given number)
- Simple addition- You knocked down 2 pins last turn and 3 pins this time. How many did you get in all?
- Two-digit plus one-digit addition– Your score was 33, then you knocked 5 more down this turn. What is your score now? (first grade- Add within 100, including adding a two-digit number and a one-digit number…)
- Subtraction– There were 10 pins and you knocked down 5. What is 10-5? (kindergarten- Add and subtract within 10)
- Relationship between addition and subtraction- There were ten pins and I see 2 still standing. How many did you knock down? You can think about it as “what number plus 2 equals 10?” Or you can think “10-2=?” (first grade- Understand subtraction as an unknown-addend problem)
(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.)
And if you can’t go to a real bowling alley, maybe try some bowling on the computer with Starfall.com or bowl at home using this print out from whattheteacherwants.blogspot.com