How do I keep the kids entertained while I mow the lawn? Water painting. All you need is a bucket of water, paintbrushes, and a fence. It’s free and it’s fun and it doesn’t make a mess. Plus kids can practice all kinds of things:
- patterns- use the fence pickets
- math problems
- sight words or spelling words
- and my daughters’ favorite: splattering
It isn’t the same as practicing handwriting with a pencil and paper, but that’s the point. Sometimes kids need a break from the routine. Novelty makes learning fun. Who wouldn’t want to practice their spelling words outside with a paintbrush in the sunshine instead of at the kitchen table?
So easy. Fold toilet paper tubes to make a triangle and square. Lucky you, the circle is already done. 🙂 Then dip the ends in paint, stamp on paper, and you have a shape masterpiece! This is a great craft for toddlers who haven’t mastered painting with a brush. You can talk about shapes and colors while you create.
You might want to give them one color at a time or else this happens…
I saw this idea for making popsicle stick shapes on Pinterest from A, Bee C, Preschool. So fun and easy! She wrote the shape names on the sticks and also made paper shapes that fit inside the stick shapes. Of course I had to make it even easier.
- Color the sticks with markers. This was my girls’ favorite part. I gave them a certain amount of sticks and a marker and let them do the rest.
- Put all the sticks together.
- Identify colors by saying “Find all the green sticks!”
- Make a shape with the sticks by connecting them end to end. Identify the shape. Count the sides and corners.
I liked leaving the sticks plain so the kids could play with them in other ways. We made symmetrical designs and played “continue the color pattern” with the sticks after we made shapes.
Some other ideas:
- Glue the sticks down on paper
- Draw around the sticks to make the shape
- Glue the ends of the sticks to make permanent shapes
- Use playdough or marshmallows to “glue” them together temporarily
I love super simple crafts that 1) don’t require me to go to the store to hunt down materials 2) can be completed by a preschooler with minimal help. Some might call it laziness. I call it….okay, laziness. Big Sis and I saw a paper bird in a book and we made some changes and came up with this:
Big Sis’s bird is in front and I like it better than mine. Humph. This is why preschoolers should be doing the crafts and not me.
So here’s how you make your very own symmetry shape bird:
- Cut out large circle and two small triangles from blue paper. Then one more small triangle from yellow paper. To make it easy (and teach symmetry), fold the paper and cut out half of the shape. Unfold to see that both sides are the same. Talk about the line of symmetry.
- Glue the yellow triangle and one blue triangle on top of the circle by lining up the fold lines. Triangles should point opposite ways. Talk about line of symmetry again.
- Turn over.
- Cut other blue triangle in half (on the fold line) to make two wings. Glue on wings (symmetrically of course).
- Draw eyes. Draw lines or marks on the wings and tail. Talk about symmetry and drawing the same thing on both sides.
- Re-fold on the line of symmetry and BAM you are finished! Now let your bird take flight!*
- blue and yellow paper
*Birds are made of paper and will not actually “fly.” But still a fun craft, right?
We want the girls to sit at the table until everyone is finished eating (or at least wait for each other). So after talking about the activities of the day, we get a little creative to keep them in their seats. And so “dinner math” was born. There are plenty of things around the table to show math “in the real world” plus they are a captive audience. 🙂 I realize it’s probably not the best table manners to turn dinner time into a math game, so feel free to ignore this if it doesn’t fit with your family.
- Count the pieces of food on her tray.
- Count the number of bites while you spoon-feed her.
- Talk about the shapes of the food.
- Use words to compare amounts such as “There are more banana slices than crackers on your plate.”
- Identify 2D and 3D shapes of the food, plates, cups, and even the table itself. “Can you find a circle? How about a cylinder?”
- Count items on the table. “How many plates are on the table? How many forks?”
- Use items on the table for simple addition problems. If they are stumped, help them count the items. “I see two forks and two spoons. How many pieces of silverware in all?”
- Compare numbers. “Do you have more apple slices or carrots on your plate?”
- Use table items or food for addition and subtraction problems. “How many forks + spoons + bowls are on the table?”
- Ask problems where you can’t count items on the table to find the answer. “I bought fifteen potatoes and cooked six of them for dinner. How many are still in the bag?”
- Skip count using table items. “Each person has a cup and a plate. Count by twos to find how many there are in all.”
- Estimate and count to find out how many. “How many green beans do you think are on your plate?”
- Eat in a pattern. Take a bite of one thing, then two bites of another food, and see if they can continue the pattern!
- Talk about fractions. “Please eat at least half of your dinner. ” 🙂
- Ask random addition, subtraction, or multiplication facts. But don’t stop there!*
*Some kids love getting quizzed on math facts. So, if your kids enjoy it- go ahead! Drill and practice of facts WILL make math easier for them. But don’t forget to talk about the “why” behind the answer. Talking about the process of solving a problem helps kids develop logical thinking and better number sense. They will use those skills as the math gets more complex. So after you ask “What’s 6 +7?” ask “How did you figure that out?” or How do you know that is the correct answer?” Usually kids will say, “I just knew it.” Talk through some ideas like “Well, 6+6=12 and 7 is one more than 6. So the answer to 6+7 is one more than 12.” Or maybe you know the fact 7+7=14 so 6+7 is one less. Or maybe you break apart the 7 into 3+4 and you know 6+4=10, then it is easy to add on 3 more to make 13. Explaining mathematical thinking will benefit kids even more than memorization. Besides, what else are you going to do while you wait for them to eat their peas?
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.
The snow is melting! The snow is melting! Can you see my smile through the interwebs? It’s big. We went outside to play and celebrate. And we got out hoes. Yes. I’ve never tried it before, but sidewalk scrapers and hoes easily pushed around the slushy snow on our driveway. And if you have similar driveways/weather conditions…give it a try!
- straight, curvy, and zig-zag lines and then walked on them
- and our favorite- “snow castles” or the if you want to be honest…piles of slush
We saw snow paint on Pinterest and had to try it out. It is just water with food coloring in a squirt bottle or spray bottle. We found the squirt bottle works best for little hands. Although you have more control with the spray bottle (with jet option).
Some ideas to try with snow paint:
- Let the kids see how colors are made by squirting in a couple drops of yellow and red food coloring to make orange
- Practice writing numbers or letters
- See if they can guess the word you write
- Make a pattern of shapes and ask them to do the next one
- Practice making different kinds of lines- straight, curvy, dotted, etc.
- Take turns making a design and then the other person has to recreate it
- Experiment with different body movements. Run while painting. Skip. Hop.
- Free draw!
What can you on a cold day? Go to a museum! Hopefully you have a free museum in your area. If you don’t, try local galleries, college campuses (especially the art department), or even local art displays in malls. You don’t need to go to a museum for your kids to see some art.
WARNING: Taking toddlers to a museum is not for the faint of heart. I’ve found museum outings work best with babies in carriers, toddlers in strollers, or preschoolers and older kids with good self-control. If they don’t have good self-control….it’s a great opportunity to PRACTICE! On our last outing I took my two-year-old, who was too big for the stroller (in her opinion) but a little too young to understand museum etiquette (in my opinion). But we managed. You can, too. Just go over a few basic museum rules before you get there. No touching or running. Keep it simple. And then leave if they can’t follow the rules. Don’t worry. You’ll be able to stay longer next time.
While my goal with Little Sis (the two-year-old) was just keeping her from licking sculptures, I aimed a little higher with Big Sis (my four-year-old). We made a museum scavenger hunt before we set off on our adventure. Some museums have their own pre-made scavenger hunts for kids and you can also find some online printable worksheets on Pinterest. I liked our DIY version because we could make it up together and tailor it to her age-level. I came up with categories (shapes, colors, materials, feelings), and she brainstormed the ideas. She also colored in the color boxes….
and made a little mistake. Notice the yellow and green boxes. No problem. It was good opportunity to do some problem solving to fix it.
While we walked around the museum, she marked off boxes on her paper. TIP: Use a pencil to mark off boxes since pens/markers aren’t allowed in most museums. The scavenger hunt helped her focus on one piece of art long enough to really look at it. We talked about how we could check off several boxes with one painting.
We chose a few different categories, but you could also focus on only one. Here are some ideas to make your own museum scavenger hunt:
- types of lines
- feelings you get when looking at the artwork
- particular works of art that are in the museum (look up names/pictures before you go)
- subject of the artwork- people, animals, houses, etc.
And a few ideas for older elementary kids:
- painting styles- impressionism, cubism, surrealism, etc.
- mediums- paint, pastel, pencil, etc.
- time periods
- country of origin