Water Paint

water paint

 

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:

  • letters
  • numbers
  • counting
  • patterns- use the fence pickets
  • math problems
  • sight words or spelling words
  • shapes
  • 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?

Paper Towel Writing

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What is even better than paper towel art?  Paper towel learning!  Just write with markers on a paper towel.  Then use an eye dropper filled with water to “explode” the words into art. I think this would be a great way to get reluctant writers to practice handwriting.  Watching water transform their words is built-in motivation.  And how easy would it be to set your kiddo up with a paper towel and marker to practice her spelling words at breakfast?

Use paper towel writing to practice:

  • letters
  • numbers
  • his own name
  • sight words
  • spelling words

Rooster’s Off to See the World- Activities

Rooster's off to see the world activitiesRooster’s Off to See the World by Eric Carle is a second-grade reading level book.  It is a wonderful read aloud to younger kids, especially when read with other Eric Carle favorites.  It tells the story of a rooster who wants to travel and asks several animals to come along with him.

(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.)

  • Practice math- Do verbal or written story problems following along with the story.  1 rooster + 2 cats+ 2 frogs+ 4 turtles+ 5 fish = how many animals in all?  When the animals leave, write the subtraction problems.  (first grade- Solve word problems that call for addition of three whole numbers whose sum is less than or equal to 20)
  • Read with voice- This book makes a great read aloud.  Try out different voices for each of the animals.  Pay attention to words the author uses such as purred, snapped, or complained.  (second grade-Acknowledge differences in the points of view of characters, including by speaking in a different voice for each character when reading dialogue aloud.)
  • Alternatives to said– This activity goes along with reading with voice.  Make a list of all the words used instead of “said.”  Talk about why the author used these different words.  See if your child can use some of the new words in her writing.
  • Act it out- Use puppets or yourself to act out the story.  Maybe you could be the rooster and your child play the part of the other animals.
  • Write the sequel– The story ends with rooster dreaming about a trip around the world.  Where would he go?  What would he do?  Have your child make up the rest of the story and you can write it down.
  • Text to self connection- Ask your child to explain when he has felt like the characters in the story- excited for a trip, lonely, or homesick.  (first grade- Describe people, places, things, and events with relevant details, expressing ideas and feelings clearly)

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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Cardboard Box Puppet Theater

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.

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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!

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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!

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Learning With Dinosaurs

What can you do with all those dinosaur figurines besides, you know, play dinosaurs?  I can only take so many “roars” before I’m ready to switch it up.   Next time you are forced into prehistoric play, pick one of these ideas to add into your game:

(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.)

  • Order the dinosaur toys from smallest to largest
  • Pick out dinosaurs to be in two groups (whichever dinos you want).  Which group has more?    (kindergarten- Identify whether the number of objects in one group is greater than, less than, or equal to the number of objects in another group, e.g., by using matching and counting strategies)
  • Categorize dinosaurs by an attribute and put them into groups.  Some examples are meat eaters vs. plant eaters, number of legs, color, or size.  (kindergarten- Classify objects into given categories; count the numbers of objects in each category and sort the categories by count)
  • Make a graph of your categories.  (first grade- Organize, represent, and interpret data with up to three categories; ask and answer questions about the total number of data points, how many in each category, and how many more or less are in one category than in another)
  • Do some math problems while playing dinosaurs.  There are three dinosaurs at the pond and then two more join them.  How many dinosaurs play in the pond together?  Or if your preschooler has some bloodlust…. How many dinosaurs are left after a T Rex eats two?  (kindergarten- Solve addition and subtraction word problems, and add and subtract within 10, e.g., by using objects or drawings to represent the problem)
  • Identify the names of your dino figurines by looking them up in a book.

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  • Draw a picture using a dinosaur figurine as the model.
  • Use the toy dinos to act out a dinosaur book that you have read together.  Or maybe use them to act out the Three Little Pigs.  Hilarious.
  • Play “Hide the T Rex.”  One person hides the dinosaur while the other close their eyes or face a wall.  Give clues if no one can find T Rex.
  • Measure the length of dinosaur toys (second grade- Measure the length of an object by selecting and using appropriate tools such as rulers, yardsticks, meter sticks, and measuring tapes)
  • Make a dinosaur “sculpture” by piling up dinos.  Estimate how tall it is, then measure to see if you were right.  (second grade- Estimate lengths using units of inches, feet, centimeters, and meters)

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  • After you are finished playing dinosaurs, write or draw pictures of what happened.  (kindergarten- Use a combination of drawing, dictating, and writing to narrate a single event or several loosely linked events, tell about the events in the order in which they occurred, and provide a reaction to what happened) (first grade- Write narratives in which they recount two or more appropriately sequenced events, include some details regarding what happened, use temporal words to signal event order, and provide some sense of closure )
  • Hide small dinosaur figurines in play-dough (or larger ones in a sandbox).  Then pretend you are a palentologist and dig them out!
  • Discuss imprint fossils and then make dinosaur imprints in play-dough.
  • Paint the dinosaurs’ feet (with washable paint) and make dino tracks on white paper.
  • Talk about how we don’t really know the colors of the dinosaurs.  Then paint them whatever colors you want with washable paint.

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Leaf Man Activity

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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.)

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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.

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Talk about symmetry and see if you can make designs with one or two lines of symmetry.

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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.

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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.

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 with Chalk

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Drawing with sidewalk chalk is a great summer activity.  It’s cheap, easily washable, and gets kids outside enjoying the sunshine.  Encourage your kids to do lots of free drawing, but also try out some of these ideas.  Don’t overload them….just one or two ideas per chalk session.

(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

  • Let them feel the chalk and try to make marks on different surfaces
  • Color in one spot so there is a lot of chalk dust.  Put baby’s hands in it and see if you can help them make hand prints on the pavement.  Messy, but fun!

Toddlers and Preschoolers

  • Draw different colored shapes a few feet apart.  Play a game and ask them to stand on the blue circle.  Then walk (or run, skip, hop, etc.) to the purple rectangle.  (kindergarten-Identify and describe shapes)
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  • Big sidewalk chalk is perfect beginning writers.  Draw dotted lines of shapes, letters, or numbers and see if they can trace it.  Or write a letter first and see if they can copy it. (kindergarten- Print many upper- and lowercase letters)
  • Write their name in REALLY big letters and have them walk the letters of their name.
  • Write numbers in order.  Let kids hop from number to number counting as they go.  (kindergarten- Know the number names and count sequence)IMG_6338
  • Draw a path for kiddos to use with their tricycle or bicycle.
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Elementary

  • Make a Twister board with chalk and call out directions if you don’t have a spinner.
  • Trace around your kiddo and then have him design and color the clothing.  Or he could draw the organs (heart, brain, lungs, etc.) in their proper spot.
  • Make a large grid.  Work together to make a different pattern in each square of the grid.
  • Tell addition stories and have your child draw to solve the problem.  For example, “I have 3 apples.  Then I buy 4 more.  How many apples do I have now?”   (grades 1 and 2- Represent and solve problems using addition and subtraction)
  • Write numbers in order, but leave some out and have your kiddo fill in the missing numbers.  Then have them skip count and hop to the different numbers.
  • Kids write out the alphabet in big letters.  Then say a word and they run from letter to letter to spell it.   (grades K-6- Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English capitalization, punctuation, and spelling when writing)
  • Write out a silly sentence incorrectly (no capitalization or punctuation) and have kids correct your mistakes.  (grades K-6- Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English capitalization, punctuation, and spelling when writing)
  • Ask kids to draw shapes and then divide them into equal parts to make fractions.  (grades 1,2,3- Reasons with shapes and their attributes)