10 Ways to Play “I Spy”

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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?

  1. colors- “I spy with my little eye something blue.”
  2. shapes– “I spy with my little eye something square.”
  3. 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.
  4. 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.”
  5. 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.
  6. 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.”
  7. phonics- “I spy with my little eye something that begins with the sound /s/.”  Same playing with letters, but this time use letter sounds.
  8. rhymes- “I spy with my little eye something that rhymes with bee.”
  9. 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.
  10. 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.

Stuffed Animal Zoo

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…

  1. 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.”stuffed animals for zoo
  2. 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.water section of stuffed animal zoo
  3. 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. 🙂indoor activity stuffed animal zoo
  4. 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…
    • habitats
    • continents
    • carnivore/herbivore/omnivore
    • number of legs
    • color
    • patterns- stripes/spots/plain
    • land/water
    • alphabetical
    • mammals/reptiles/amphibians/fish/birds/invertebratesrainy day activity stuffed animal zoo
  5. 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.stuffed animal zoo
  6. 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.

 

Egg Carton Masks

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.

  1. Cut apart the egg carton in pairs.
  2. 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.egg carton glasses
  3. 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?!making egg carton glasses
  4. 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.)egg carton glasses or masks

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 masks or glasses

Materials:

  • egg carton
  • scissors
  • popsicle sticks
  • glue
  • paint

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.

egg carton mask

Writing in Shaving Cream

shaving cream writing

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?

learning with shaving cream

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….

writing numbers in shaving cream

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.

Make a Number Activity

how many ways can you write a number

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…

  • words
  • pictures
  • Roman numerals
  • addition
  • subtraction
  • multiplication
  • division
  • fractions
  • decimals
  • money
  • time

Make Your Own Puzzles

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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.)

make your own puzzle from magazines

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.

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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 Math

learning with bowling

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!

teaching math with bowling

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.)

bowling math

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

Shamrock Suncatcher

My friend invited us over for a St. Pat’s crafting playdate.  We made a shamrock suncatcher!  It is a great project for preschoolers or elementary students.  Younger kids might need help cutting or gluing, but they will definitely be able to do the confetti all by themselves!

shamrock suncatcher

Materials:

  • two pieces of green scrapbook paper (or green construction paper or cardstock)
  • glitter and/or confetti
  • wax paper
  • glue

Time investment: 15 minutes

Difficulty:  Easy to do….can be difficult to clean up.

st. pat's shamrock suncatcher

  1. Trace or freehand draw a shamrock on green scrapbook paper.
  2. Cut out INSIDE the shamrock and throw away.
  3. Use the shamrock outline to trace on another sheet of green paper and repeat step 2.
  4. Glue a piece of wax paper to the green paper with shamrock cut-out.
  5. Spread glue over the wax paper and sprinkle glitter or confetti on it.
  6. Glue another wax paper on top so the glitter is trapped between the two wax papers.
  7. Glue the other green paper on top (make sure the shamrocks line up!)

shamrock suncatcher in window

Great Day for Up- Activities

Great Day for Up activities

Great Day for Up by Dr. Seuss has a kindergarten reading level.  It has short sentences with lots of repeated words and picture cues.  Reading it to babies and toddlers will introduce lots of new vocabulary.  Preschoolers, kindergartners, and first-graders will appreciate the humor at the end of the book.  Here are some activities that go along with Great Day for Up

(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.)

  • Go on a sight word hunt–  Of course this book is a great way to introduce and practice the word “up,” but there are other sight words repeated in the book.  Find the words and, for, on, great, and day.  (kindergarten- Read common high-frequency words by sight)
  • Count the “up”s– Every time you read “up”, make a tally mark.  Then count them up by practicing skip counting by 5’s.
  • Make flashcards- Pick out the more difficult words in the story and make quick flashcards.  Go over these words before you read and hopefully, they will be able to read them in the story.  I wrote a word and a picture to illustrate it on a small piece of typing paper.  If I did this for my classroom, I would use cardstock and clipart.
  • Sort the words- Using the word flashcards, ask your kiddo to put them into groups.  What things go together?  Maybe there is a group of animals, sports, or people.  You’ll be surprised at kids’ creativity.
  • Explain exclamation points-  This book would be a good introduction to exclamation points since there is at least one on each page.  Point them out and talk about why the author would use them in this book.  Practice writing them.  (kindergarten- Recognize and name end punctuation)
  • Make plurals-  Show how adding -s  or -es to the end of a word means more than one.  Make a list of plurals in the book.  Make plurals out of singular words in the story like “wire” or “pup.”(kindergarten- Form regular plural nouns orally by adding /s/ or /es/)
  • Find the rhymes-  Can they identify the rhyming words on each page?  Take a close look at words that rhyme, but have different spellings like  “wire” and “higher” or “waiters” and “alligators.”  (kindergarten- Recognize and produce rhyming words)
  • Make your own “up” book–  Brainstorm things that go up.  Make a book together by writing a word on each page and illustrating it.  Depending on the age of your child, she can color the pictures, come up with the “up” words, or even write it all herself!

Five Free (Indoor) Field Trips

I go a little stir-crazy around the house in the winter.  We try to go outside for a little bit to get some fresh air.  But it’s so cold!!  The kids and I have to get out of the house, explore the world, and….see other people.  Oh yeah, I also don’t like to spend money.  Where can you go to entertain the kids that doesn’t cost anything?

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1.  pet store- It’s like going to the zoo…only free!  Oh yeah, it also has a little smaller animals.  No problem.  Small animals are great for small kids!  Hear birds squawking.  Watch fish swimming.   Maybe you’ll even get to touch a few rabbits.   The kids will love it!  Just don’t walk away with another pet.

2. library- Most libraries have a story time, but some go above and beyond with book chats, speakers, Mother Goose time and the list goes on.  We’ve even gone to a “preschool disco” at our library!  Check with your local library for a schedule of events.  Even if there isn’t a special program, a trip to the library is always worth it.  Grab some books, DVDs, and CDs to keep the kids entertained when you are stuck at home.

3.  toy store-  This can be tricky.  Only attempt it if you know there won’t be an ugly melt-down when the kids realize you aren’t buying anything  (i.e.- you don’t have a two-year-old).  However, some toy stores have LOTS of toys on display that the kids can try out.  We have successfully gone to toy stores, played, and walked out empty-handed.  Try giving older kids a pencil and paper to make a wishlist for their birthday.

4.  art museum- This is one of my personal favorite field trips.  Some art museums do charge admission, so try out free galleries or even local art displays in malls or civic centers.  Make up an art scavenger hunt before you go to have even more fun!

5. mall- Let’s go the mall, today!  Or just go to the mall indoor playground!  It’s a win-win.  You get to people watch.  The kids get to play and get infected with all sorts of germs.  Wait.  Make sure you have some hand sanitizer in your purse.  Also, never tell the kids that those ride-on machines take money.  My kids were not aware that they moved (and still happily sat, pushed buttons, and pretended)…until granny ruined my secret!

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If you are interested in more:  Five Free (Fall) Field Trips