The girls decided it would be a fun game to cut up yarn. I’m not sure how the came up with idea or how they stayed interested in it for so long. It kept them occupied and it was great cutting practice for my three-year-old, so I was happy. I was slightly less enthusiastic when my living room was covered in bits of yarn. Hmmm… What to do? Well for starters we played my fun game of “Who can pick up the most yarn in her baggie?” Then we made some art.
Big Sis used some steady hands to make lines and shapes with the Elmer’s glue. Then she carefully found pieces of yarn to place on her glue lines.
Little Sis also had a great time plopping glue on a paper and then sticking yarn on. She wasn’t as concerned about getting it on the lines….
We also practiced some sight words. First I wrote the word with glue and Big Sis placed the yarn on the lines. Then we switched and she got to write with glue. You could do the same with letters, numbers, or shapes.
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.
We had a large box leftover from a recent online order. Boxes, are kid gold, right? You can do anything with a cardboard box! We decided on a puppet theater. I cut a rectangle in the top half. Then I took it to the garage and the girls painted it….pink, of course. Okay, no judgements. I know this is a far cry from the adorable homemade puppet theaters on Pinterest. But my kids are happy with it…so I’m happy with it. After all, this is a KID project.
After the pink dried, I reinforced the seam with some butterfly duct tape (come on- everyone has that around the house, right?) and also covered the edges of the rectangle. Then more painting…purple this time!
The girls love it because they made it themselves. I love it because it is cheap, easy, and I won’t feel bad about using it for a few weeks (or however long they are interested in it) and throwing it out.
And the learning? Oh, it’s there, too! Try acting out a book with puppets after you read it. It is a great way to go over the story for better comprehension. Making up your own puppet show is good exercise in creativity, storytelling skills (that will later be used in writing), and speaking skills.
As a bonus, the girls discovered their theater doubles as a playhouse with the cut-out becoming a door!
My oldest daughter is interested in learning to read. While I think the most important thing I can do is simply have lots of books around the house and READ, READ, READ to her…the teacher in me can’t help but do some other learning activities with her, too. So one day while she was busy with markers, I made some sight words.
How did I choose the words? Well, I looked at the pre-primer Dolch list. You can also get a list from your child’s teacher, or be your own Mr. Dolch and just write down a few words that you see over and over in kid books.
How did I make the words? I wrote with a black marker on lined paper, cut it out, then glued it onto colored construction paper and cut it out again. (Hello, my name is Megan and I love scissors.) I used bright construction paper so that it was easy to see the “shape” of the word. This is a big help to visual learners. Then I stuck a magnet on the back. Everything is better with a magnet.
Now what? Now the fun begins! Usually about once a week (or whenever my daughter asks me) I introduce a new sight word. We read a book that uses the word a lot. I show her the word I made. We spell it. Maybe she will write it. There are a bajillion activities you can do with sight words. I’ll share some in a post, I promise! One idea is using the sight word in a sentence from the book. Bonus: the words stick to the magnetic whiteboard!
We keep the sight words (that we have introduced) on the fridge. My kids see them and play with them every day. We refer to the sight words when we read. “Oh, U-P. You learned that word. Do you remember it?” Sometimes the answer is yes and sometimes no. That’s okay. Keep it light and fun. After all, I don’t want to do too much sight word work…then it would be like (gasp!) school.
(Common Core kindergarten standard: Read common high-frequency words by sight )
Here’s an easy Christmas craft…and a great way to practice shapes and colors, too! This would work great at a preschool/kindergarten holiday party. I did the first two steps myself because my girls aren’t great with scissors.
1. Cut out 5 green triangles. Start with a small one and get gradually bigger. My smallest is about 3 inches across the largest is about 8 inches.
2. Cut out shapes in different colors. I stuck with circle, triangle, square, and rectangle, but you could get all fancy with hexagons, ovals, and trapezoids for older kiddos.
3. Get your crafty kiddos and talk about how triangles could make a tree. Have them arrange the triangles from largest to smallest.
4. Glue the top couple inches of the biggest triangle and place the next biggest triangle on top of it. Continue until all triangles are glued together.
5. Glue on the shape ornaments. I found it is easier for kids to make a dot with the glue stick directly on the tree, then stick the ornament on the dot.
6. Have fun decorating the tree with shapes! Identify the shape and color of the ornament when they pick it up or ask them to identify. See if they want to make a pattern.
Here’s my four-year-old’s masterpiece glued on red paper. She is so proud that it is now part of our Christmas decorations!
- colored construction paper
- glue stick
Time investment: 10 minutes for adult cutting prep and 10-15 minutes for kids to glue craft
Difficulty: The only difficult part is cleaning up all those extra shapes that will scattered on the floor. 🙂
Big Sis has been BEGGING me to make holiday crafts. I pulled out the old tried and true handprint wreath. Gotta love it. First I cut a circle out of a cereal box for a sturdy backing.
Then I traced her hand on green paper. Meanwhile she was making this masterpiece with green markers and crayons.
When she was finished, I traced handprints on that paper, too. Hint: fold the paper so you only have to cut one time. I got four hands out of one sheet of paper. Then we glued the handprints to the cardboard and stuck on some red circles (berries) and ribbon for good measure. A four-year-old did the placement and gluing, so it isn’t quite Pinterest worthy but I like it.
You can vary your involvement depending on the age and abilities of your kiddo. Toddlers could do the scribbing, and you do the rest. Or an older kid would be able to the whole project by themselves.
- green, red, and white paper
- markers and crayons
- cereal box or other cardboard
Time investment: under 30 minutes
Difficulty: So easy your dog could do it. If he could cut paper.
Leaf Man by Lois Ehlert is a wonderful autumn book. The unique illustrations show people and animal shapes made out of leaves. What a perfect fall activity! We headed to the park to gather our materials. The girls loved picking out leaves, acorns, sticks, grass, pine needles and cones to take home. I made sure I got doubles of ones they liked so we could make symmetrical arms and legs. (TIP: The inside cover of the book provides a cheat sheet of the names of trees, in case you are nature-challenged like me.)
Start off by recreating designs in the book. It seems easy, but finding similar shapes and colors and copying a picture can be tricky for little ones. Elementary kids should be able to do it without help. Then see if they can make up their own shapes! Play a game and see if you can guess what animal they are trying to make.
Talk about symmetry and see if you can make designs with one or two lines of symmetry.
Play with the leaves and then put them back in nature when you are finished. I love easy clean-up! Or you can press the leaf design by putting books on top of it. Leave it (ha!) for a few days, then iron it between two sheets of wax paper, and you’ll have a longer-lasting shape.
Ask preschoolers questions about their Leaf Man. What is his name? Where would he go on his adventure? Who would he meet? What will happen to him in the wind? Elementary kids might be inspired to write their own Leaf Man story. They can use their own pressed leaves as illustrations or you can take pictures and print them off.
Okay, so this isn’t so much about learning. It’s more about beating boredom and having fun with your kids. When I realized we were playing the same handful of games over and over again, I had an idea….for a jar. Idea jar. Ha. I cut up some colored paper and then went around the house writing down every game, toy, and activity. Then I put them in a jar. Whenever the kids are bored, we pull one out and do whatever it says. It could also be used as a reward jar.
I made our jar with ideas that could all be done inside (in case of rainy days) and could be done as a family (some games that we have are too complicated for our two-year-old). What’s that you say? You don’t want to stay inside? How about an idea jar for things you can do in your backyard? Or field trips to places you would like to go on the weekend? Or how about activities older kids can do by themselves for 10 minutes so you can have some time to check Facebook in peace? You could even (gasp) make an idea jar for chores. Everything is more fun when you draw it randomly out of a jar, even doing the dishes, right? Well, it’s at least worth a shot.
- jar or container
Time investment: about 15 minutes
Difficulty: As easy as writing your name. Literally. It is just writing.
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.
- Get calendar or magazine pictures. It is best to use large pictures of familiar objects. I used animals.
- Glue pictures onto colored card stock. This is for durability and sort-ability (that’s a word, I swear).
- 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.
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!
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.
- calendar or magazine
- ruler (or freehand if you are really wild and crazy)
Time investment: about 30 minutes
Difficulty: Easier than baking cookies…and less calories, too!