Slush

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!

We made…

  • straight, curvy, and zig-zag lines and then walked on them
  • shapes
  • letters
  • numbers
  • words
  • and our favorite- “snow castles” or the if you want to be honest…piles of slush

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Letter Flashcard Path

Little Sis is learning her letters.  We have several packs of alphabet flashcards that people have given us, but going through flashcards is not her (or most kids’) idea of a fun time.  I don’t think flashcard memorization is the best way to learn letters.  However, I do like flashcards as a quick assessment tool.

I wanted to see which letters she knew, so I laid the flashcards down in a path for her to jump on.  We started with them in alphabetical order so she could sing the ABCs.  Then I made a new path with the letters out of order.  To jump to the next card, she had to say the letter name.  If she didn’t know it, I told her and then took the flashcard after she hopped to the next one.  We finished with a path of letters that she knew, and a stack in my hand of letters that she needed to work on.

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Other ideas to try:

  • making the path a zig-zag line, circle, or different shape
  • spreading the letters out to cover a whole level of your house…or even up the stairs!
  • jumping, hopping, skipping, tiptoeing, walking backwards to the next letter
  • building the path as you go (the kiddo says a letter and puts it on the floor to step on and builds her own path)

CANstruction- Learning with Cans

Our local food pantry, Harvesters, does a yearly competition where businesses build structures out of cans.  Then when the competition is over, all the cans are donated to Harvesters to feed those in need.  The designs are on display at the mall for about a month.

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IMG_4765We got inspired to make our own CANstruction at home!  Can you tell what we made?  (ha- unintentionally pun)

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Did you guess?  It was a giraffe, rainbow, and castle.  Constructing with cans was free, fun, and (bonus!) I had an organized pantry when we were all done.  It would be a great activity for the kids while you put away groceries.  And of course there is all sorts of learning that can be done with cans…

(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.)

  • Colors- Talk about the different colors on the cans, then divide them into groups or make a rainbow.
  • Size- Compare sizes of cans.  Find all the cans that are the same size.  What happens when you stack a large can on a small one?
  • Counting– How many cans in all?  Count how many you can stack in a tower.
  • Addition and Subtraction– How many bean cans plus tuna cans do we have? (first grade- Represent and solve problems involving addition and subtraction)
  • Geometry- Talk about 2D vs 3D.  Use the word cylinder.  Point out the circles on top and bottom of a cylinder.   (kindergarten- Identify shapes as two-dimensional or three-dimensional)
  • Measurement–  Measure things around the room with cans.  How many cans long is the couch?  (first grade- Express the length of an object as a whole number of length units, by laying multiple copies of a shorter object end to end)
  • Classification- Sort the cans into groups based on color, size, or type of food.   (kindergarten- Classify objects into given categories; count the numbers of objects in each category and sort the categories by count)
  • Reading– Beginning readers might be able to read some of the labels using the picture as a clue.  If they know it is a can of corn, see if they can pick out the word “corn” on the can.
  • Letters- Try to make letters or even words out of the cans.
  • Creative building– And the most fun, building!

Printmaking with Fingerpaint

During our recent packing paper fingerpainting extravaganza, we also made prints.  There was so much paint from the color mixing that Big Sis started making designs with her finger. I gently pressed white paper over it and… ta da!

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Multiple prints can be made from the same design (depending on how much paint you use and how hard you press).  We made our design on packing paper, but I’m sure it would also work on tin foil, wax paper, a cookie sheet, or the table itself.  It would be fun to experiment with writing letters or numbers and see how they come out backwards!  Let me know if you try it and how it works!

Learning with Snow Paint

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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!

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Learning with Scarves

Playing with scarves is a great tactile activity for kids of all ages!  If you don’t already have some on hand,  you can find them by searching for “movement scarves” or “juggling scarves.”  Here are some ideas:

(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

  • Play peek-a-boo.  A baby favorite.  Put the scarf on your head.  Put it on her head.  Either way = pure enjoyment.
  • Let him touch it and compare the texture to other things in the room.  Use lots of adjectives to describe how it feels.
  • Wrap up an object in the scarf like a present and see if Baby can “unwrap” it.
  • Play music and move the scarf to the beat.

Toddlers and Preschoolers

  • Teach colors by putting colored scarves on your head and seeing the world in that color!IMG_7724
  • Experiment with light and color by putting scarves over lamps or flashlights.
  • Dance with scarves.  This is a favorite activity in our house.  Try different music to make fast movements or slow ones.
  • Count the scarves.  (kindergarten- Count to tell the number of objects)
  • Make a letter with with scarf and see if your kiddo can name it.  (kindergarten- Recognize and name all upper and lower case letters of the alphabet)
  • Do the same with numbers.
  • Play a game of hide and seek by taking turns hiding the scarves around the room.
  • Practice throwing and catching with scarves.  WAY easier (and safer for your living room) than balls.
  • Throw the scarf into the air and see how many (jumping jacks, claps, etc.) they can do before it hits the ground.
  • Combine primary colors to show the secondary color.  This doesn’t work as well as paint, but it’s fun to try.

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Elementary

  • Get creative and make a picture with the scarves!

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  • Ask some math questions.  How many more blue scarves than red?  Will the scarves divide equally between two people?
  • Be a fashion designer.  Make dresses, skirts, shirts, and hats using the scarves.  Then have a fashion show.
  • Teach your kids to juggle!  Scarves are perfect for beginners.
  • Practice spelling and reading by making sight words out of scarves.  This is more difficult than it looks! IMG_7719

Learning Activities with Acorns

Kids love going on walks and picking up things from nature.  But what do you with your “nature pile” (as Big Sis calls it)?  On our most recent outing, the girls got obsessed with collecting acorns.  Choose one or two activities to make acorn collecting a teachable moment!

(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.)

Toddlers and Preschoolers

  • Count the acorns.  (kindergarten- Count to tell the number of objects)
  • Cut the acorn open and see what is inside.  Science!
  • Glue acorns on paper and make some art with crayons or markers.IMG_7423
  • Try using chopsticks to pick up acorns and put them in a bowl.  Tie the chopsticks together with a rubber band at one end to make it easier.  This improves fine motor skills for writing because holding chopsticks takes the same grip as holding a pencil.
  • Compare numbers by making two groups of acorns.  Have your child guess which one has more acorns.  Then count to see if he was right.
  • Write numbers on the flat surface of acorns without hats.  You do this, not the kids…well unless you have preschoolers with very advanced fine motor skills! 🙂  Mix up the acorns and have your kiddo line up the numbers in order. (kindergarten- Know the number names and count sequence)IMG_7428
  • Play a game with the number acorns.  Put them in a container.  Take turns drawing one out, reading the number, and making up a movement to do that number of times.  For example: Clap five times.  Jump eight times.
  • Write the letters of your child’s name on acorns without hats.  See if she can put the letters in order to spell her name.
  • Make a letter with acorns.  Write a large block letter on a piece of paper.  Then ask your kiddo to line up acorns to fill in the letter.  (kindergarten- Recognize and name all upper and lower case letters of the alphabet)

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Elementary

  • Paint with the acorn.  Dip it in paint and make some dots.  Bonus points if you show them pictures of Aboriginal dot paintings for inspiration.
  • Make acorn art by gluing it on a paper.  Fold the paper in half and make a symmetrical design.
  • Put the acorns into equal groups and skip count by twos, fives, or tens.  (second grade- Work with equal groups to gain foundations for multiplication)
  • Tell some math story problems using acorns.  Kids learn best when they are able to see and count the objects. For example, “You picked up 8 acorns and I picked up 6 acorns.  How many do we have in all?”  (first and second grade- Represent and solve problems involving addition and subtraction)
  • Use acorns as a unit of measurement.  How many acorns will fit across a paper?  How many acorns long is a pencil?  (first grade- Measure lengths indirectly and by iterating length units)
  • Take a large group of acorns (maybe 40?) and have your child divide it into two equal groups, then three, four, and so on.  Talk about when you can’t make equal groups.  (third grade- Represent and solve problems involving multiplication and division)
  • Make words with acorns.  Have your child write a sight word so large it fits across a paper.  Then cover the lines with acorns.
  • Spell with acorns.  Write letters on the flat surface of acorns without hats.  Kids might be able to do this by themselves.  Then arrange acorns to practice spelling words or other sight words.

Fun Ways to Practice Handwriting

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Ugh.  How can handwriting be fun?  Whether you are teaching little ones to write letters for the first time, or trying to get your elementary kiddo to practice his handwriting, here are some ideas to try out:

WRITING TOOLS- Don’t get stuck in the pencil and paper rut.  Get creative and try out some new tools!

  • colored pencils–  It’s more fun, but might lead to frustration when it won’t erase.
  • crayons- Same as colored pencils, but they come in more shapes (big, triangular, etc.) for little hands.
  • pens– Kids are usually very motivated to write with a pen.  Maybe it seems grown-up?  Let them pick out a cool pen with a character, feather, or other funny top.
  • markers– Save yourself some headache and only have washable markers in the house!
  • chalk– Use on paper or outside.  What could be better than enjoying some sunshine and practicing letters on the sidewalk?  Not the best for cursive, but great for teaching preschoolers.
  • dry erase markers– Very easy to erase, but watch out that they only mark on the board!
  • Magna Doodle– My girls love writing on them!  I love them because they are easy to keep in my purse or the car for on-the-go entertainment.
  • paintbrush- Try out different sizes of brushes to see how the letters look different.
  • Q-tips- Dip them in water or paint and start writing!

WRITING SURFACES- Instead of lined paper, give these a try…

  • sand– Making letters is a great activity for the sandbox.  Dig down to find some wet sand.
  • dirt– Use a twig or your finger.
  • sidewalk– Try out chalk or a paintbrush with water.
  • someone’s back– Play a game and write a letter on someone’s back and have them try to guess it!
  • iPad or other touch screen– There are LOTS of writing apps for teaching letters.
  • ziploc bag filled with paint– This is great fun for little ones!
  • flour (or rice or salt) on a cookie tray– This is a messier option to a ziploc bag.
  • shaving cream on a table– Another messy (but fun) option!

Remember to take some time to teach the proper way to write letters.  It is easier to teach the right way, than unlearn the wrong way!

Learning in the Car

Driving in the car is a chore we do every day.  It’s a great time to interact with your kiddo since they are a captive audience. 🙂  Of course, there is a lot to be said for a few minutes of silence.  But if you get bored of the quiet (or it is not quiet at all because the natives are getting restless), here are a few ideas…

Babies

  • Talk out loud about….anything!  Provide a running commentary about what is out the window, what streets you are on, where you are going, or what you’d like to eat for lunch.
  • Sing familiar songs: Mary Had a Little Lamb, ABCs, etc.
  • Talk out loud about….anything!  Provide a running commentary about what is out the window, what streets you are on, where you are going, or what you’d like to eat for lunch.
  • Call attention to when the car stops and when it moves.  Talk about red and green lights.

Toddlers and Preschoolers

  • Talk about….anything!  Ask them questions about their day or where you are going.  Try to ask them questions that will start a conversation and not just a “no” or “yes.”
  • Sing familiar songs, but change some words and see if they notice.  Mary Had a Little Lion.  Kids think this is hilarious!
  • Talk about driving rules and signs.  What does a yellow light mean?  Why are their lines on the road?  What does a red sign mean?
  • Play “I Spy a Color.”  See if they can find something red out the window or in the car.  Once they find something, change the color.
  • Play “I’m Thinking of an Animal.”  Traditionally you ask yes or no questions to figure out the animal.  (Does the animal live on a farm?  Does the animal fly?)  For this age, giving those clues first and then allowing guessing works best. (I’m thinking of an animal that has wings and lives on a farm.  Can you guess what it is?)
  • Ask some simple addition and subtraction math problems related to driving.  (There are 3 people in the car now.  After we pick up brother from school, how many will be in the car then?)
  • Count something together for the length of the (short) trip: the number of trucks you see, how many times you have to stop at a red light, the number of bicyclists on the road
  • Come up with as many rhymes as you can for a given word.  Teach them how to go through the alphabet and rhyme: at, bat, cat, dat (no, that’s not a word)

Elementary

  • Talk about…anything!  Driving is a great time to catch up and ask them about school, friends, sports, or hobbies.
  • Talk about driving.  Why are steering wheels on the left side of the car?  What does “miles per hour” mean?  Why are speed limits important?
  • Ask “If you could be a _____________ what would you be and why?”  Fill in the blank with animal, item in your classroom, food, plant, etc.  Make sure you play, too!
  • Create an addition and subtraction game related to driving.  Let the kids come up with rules.  Maybe for every truck you get 2 points for every green light you pass and subtract a point for every red light.  This is great mental math practice!  You can always make the game easier or more difficult by changing the objects or point values.
  • Play “I’m Thinking of an Animal” the traditional way by asking yes or no questions to figure out the animal.  Vary the game by playing “I’m Thinking of a Sport” or “I’m Thinking of a Number between 1 and 100” or “I’m Thinking of a Book.”
  • Play “I Spy something that starts with the letter _____”
  • Practice spelling words by taking turns saying the letters.
  • Take turns thinking of as many things that starts with a certain letter.
  • Choose a category of things (for example: food).  Name something in that category (pizza).  Then the next person has to name something that starts with the last letter of the item (a- apple…and then e- enchilada)

Learning Letters

When do you start teaching your child letters?   Ideally, whenever they show an interest.  Our oldest daughter would hold up magnetic letters and ask “Wat dis?”  But even if you don’t get a clear sign that your child is ready, go ahead and expose them to the alphabet.  Most children will start recognizing a few letters around the age 2-3.

“Expose” sounds dirty.  What do you mean?  Surround them with letters.  We have magnetic letters on the fridge, foam letters in the bathtub, letter puzzles on the toy shelf, letter stickers in the art cabinet, and a letter mat on the floor.  And of course the best way to see lots of letters is by reading!  There are lots of good alphabet books out there.  One of our family favorites is Chicka Chicka Boom Boom.

Okay, we have some letter toys.  Now what?  Just play with the stuff and casually point out letters.  I’d start with the first letter of your child’s name.  Then “M” for Mom, “D” for Dad, and the first letter of sibling names.  Once they are comfortable with those letters, then go back and introduce the other letters in your child’s name.  Use all capital letters at first for consistency.

What about alphabet flashcards?  Keep it fun and leave the letter flashcards in the box.  Unless you want to play a game with them (see below).

I’m bored pointing out letters.  What else can I do?  So glad you asked….

  • Sort letters into groups and see if your child can guess the groupings. Or have them do their own groupings.  Some ideas: capital/lower case, letters with curves/straight letters, letters in their name/not in their name, etc.
  • Go on a letter hunt at a store.  Count all the letter “T”s you can find on signs or products.
  • Trace around one of the letters and let your child decorate it.
  • Take alphabet flashcards and place them on things around the house that begin with that letter.
  • Play Go Fish with alphabet flashcards.  Match up a capital and a lower case letter to form a pair. (hint: If you want a shorter game, only play with half of the alphabet at a time)
  • Write the letters really big with chalk and let your child walk the lines.
  • Arrange objects into letter shapes.  Blocks work great for this.
  • Write out the alphabet and sing the ABC song as you point to them.  Or write them with chalk outside and hop on them.
  • Help your child make his body into a letter shape.  Take his picture so he can see it!
  • Play a find-it game while looking at your letter toys.  “I see a letter that looks like a circle.  Can you find it?”  “Can you find all the letters have lines across the top?”
  • “Write” letters on their back with your finger and see if they can guess the letter.
  • Stash letter toys or flashcards around the house and have your kiddos go on a letter hunt instead of an Easter egg hunt.
  • Put a letter toy in a container.  Have your child reach in and feel the letter without seeing it.  See if she can guess what she is holding.
  • If they are good with scissors, they can cut (big) letters out of magazines.

Remember recognizing and WRITING letters are two different skills.  Identifying letters comes months or years before being able to write the letters.

Common Core Standard:  (kindergarten- Recognize and name all upper- and lowercase letters of the alphabet)