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!

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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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 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)