We recently discovered water beads. You see, there is this thing called “Pinterest” that has all sorts of ideas for kids. You should really check it out. 🙂 So I ordered some from Amazon (a 2-oz pack of Jelly Beadz), but I hear you get them even cheaper at dollar stores or floral supply stores.
Water beads are awesome. They start out tiny and very hard, then you soak them in water for a few hours. They soak up the water and become large and gelatinous. That is a cool word. But not cooler than water beads. Seriously. As fun as it is to feel then between your toes (try it!), you can also LEARN with them. I know. Mind blown.
- Fine Motor Skills– They are SLIPPERY! It takes a steady hand and pincer grip to pick them up. Or try scooping them up one a time with a spoon. We even tried chopsticks. I think it is impossible.
- Colors– Sort by color into smaller containers.
- Language– Use adjectives to describe how water beads look, feel, etc.
- Letters- Use the water beads to “hide” plastic letters, then go on a letter hunt.
- Estimation– Choose a small container and estimate how many water beads will fill it up. Then find out!
- Counting- Take turns grabbing handfuls and counting how many you can hold.
- Addition and Subtraction- Math is more fun when you have wiggly water beads to add together or take away.
- Patterns- Make a pattern with the colors. It is difficult to make the beads line up, but that is part of the fun!
- Capacity– Kids will naturally want to fill up containers, so throw some measuring cups and let the kids explore. They can see firsthand how many 1/4 cups it takes to fill up a cup.
- Hypothesize and Experiment- Do water beads bounce? Can you squish them? What happens when you put them in salt?
And speaking of experiments, Creekside Learning offers a free printable science observation worksheet that is perfect for older kids.
*Disclaimer- Water beads look a lot like candy. I wouldn’t use them with babies or toddlers who like to put things in their mouths.
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…
Okay, so spring is almost over. Don’t worry. You can do this activity any time. Just take pictures of something growing and changing, then have your kids put the pictures in order. They get to witness the changes in person, then review it with the pictures. Try taking pictures of flowers, trees, bushes, plants, or grass in your yard. Or take it inside and plant a seed in a flower pot. If you want to get all science-y (I’m sure that is a word), take the pictures at the same time each day. Obviously, I am not a scientist.
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?
I was inspired by all the very cool paint chip color match games on Pinterest like this one from One Little Project at a Time. It is an easy and FREE way to teach colors and the clothes pin adds some fine motor practice, too. Only, I didn’t have clothes pins. And my paint chip samples had cut-out squares.
No problem. This makes it even easier to make. I just cut off the tops of the samples and then cut them apart. Done. Now to see if the pieces match, you just slide it behind the open square.
Without the clothes pins it is also easier to store. Just throw it all in a zip-lock bag and keep it in your purse for a waiting game at a restaurant. Or use at the table while you are making dinner.
So you’ve got a kid who likes a book. Awesome! Now go to the library and check out three (or five or ten) more books by the same author. BAM! You are doing an author study. That was easy.
Author studies are great because if you are choosing books by an author your child already likes, so he will probably discover MORE favorite books. You are encouraging a deeper connection attachment to reading. By discussing and comparing the books, you build critical thinking skills. At the very least you are reading and learning an author’s name. 🙂
We chose Eric Carle because we were going to a Very Hungry Caterpillar puppet show. Eric Carle is a familiar author, but I still found lots of books that I had never read before. I think it is a good idea to chose an author/illustrator for preschoolers since it is so easy to see how the pictures are all in the same style. Some other favorite preschool author/illustrators are Lois Ehlert, Donald Crews, David Shannon, and Sandra Boynton.
Obviously an author study for the under 5 set is going to look a little different than with school age kids. You won’t be discussing the author’s use of imagery in his writing style. Well, maybe you can. Here are some preschool-appropriate ideas to try with your author study:
- Talk about the jobs of author and illustrator. Point out the author and illustrator’s names on the cover and title page.
- Go to the author’s website to see a picture or video of the author.
- Talk, talk, talk about books. Which one is your favorite and why? How are the books alike? Are there any characters that appear in multiple books?
- Write a letter or draw a picture to send to the author. (Your preschooler can dictate the letter and you do the writing)
- Act out your favorite book with puppets.
- Write your own book in the author’s style. Use the same characters or setting, or continue the story of a favorite book. (Again, you’ll have to do the actual writing)
- Draw or paint or picture inspired by the illustrations.
- Make a chart to compare the books. We did an easy checklist that asked- Were there people in the story? Animals? Was there a problem in the story? Did you like the book?
The celery experiment. Do it. It’s easy and it’s fun and it’s SCIENCE! A million other people have done it (and taken better pictures), but here are the cliff notes:
- Go to the grocery store and buy celery. I hear they sell it there. What it is doing there among the normal people food? Do people actually eat it? I guess they don’t have a science experiment store.
- Fill a glass with water and a few drops of food coloring.
- Cut off a stalk of celery and put that bad boy in the cup.
And there you go. You’re officially a scientist. Now you get to use big words like “hypothesis” and “observation” and jot things down in your notebook. I’m sorry, I meant OBSERVATION journal!
The National Science Teachers Association website has a wonderful scientific explanation of the experiment and follow-up questions that you can discuss with your child.
Last year for Mother’s Day we made these kid-painted vases for the grandmothers and great-grandmothers. I was happy to find a use for the plethora of glass vases that take up residence in my kitchen cabinet. I swear, even though I rarely buy flowers, they just seem to multiply up there! Maybe it has something to do with the microwave beneath them. Hmmm… Where were we? Oh yeah. My girls are big fans of painting, so they loved it. Big Sis liked picking out “the perfect vase” for each grandmother and great-grandmother. And even if the painting looks like a mess (ahem, Little Sis’s small vase in front), it will still be a cherished modern art masterpiece by any grandma.