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.
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.
Paper towel art is a super easy. First, draw with markers on a paper towel. Then, drop water on it with an eye dropper. That’s it. Markers alone are enough to get my daughters excited about a project. Then the water really upped the “wow” factor! So just give your kids a paper towel, markers, and water and you are free to make dinner without anyone hanging on your legs.* And for clean-up, you’ve already got a paper towel handy. 🙂
My daughters might have inherited their marker love from me. I had make some paper towel art of my own:
*Results may vary. I’m not responsible for any burnt dinners or kids that get stepped on.
My girls love finding Easter eggs, so I had the idea of hiding puzzle pieces in them instead of candy. This might be a fun way to give kids a new puzzle on Easter. Or it can just be a fun non-treat egg hunt you can have around your house any day.
Confession: my original idea was to hide regular puzzle pieces in the eggs, but they didn’t fit. 😦 Never fear! This Melissa & Doug alphabet puzzle worked perfectly. Plus it had the added learning component of identifying the letter found in the egg and then finding its spot in the alphabet.
- Place puzzle pieces in eggs and hide around the room (or outside).
- Bring in the kids and let them look for eggs!
- After finding an egg, the kiddo needs to run over to the puzzle and put in her piece before she hunts for another egg.
- To make it fair for younger players, you might want to have kids take turns finding eggs and adding pieces to the puzzle. One kid can’t go find a second egg until everyone has found their first egg and so on.
One of our favorite car games is “I Spy.” The traditional game uses colors (at least the one I always played)…
- Player 1 chooses a color of an object in sight of all players and says “I spy with my little eye something (insert color of object here).”
- Other players take turns guessing objects that are the given color.
- Some people allow players to ask yes/no questions such as “Is it inside the car? Is it smaller than my hand? Is on the left side of the car?”
- A player wins when she guesses the object correctly. Then it is her turn to say “I spy….”
I Spy is a fun way to pass the time on a long car ride or in the waiting room of the doctor’s office. As a bonus, kids are also learning! What concepts could you work on using the game I Spy?
- colors- “I spy with my little eye something blue.”
- shapes– “I spy with my little eye something square.”
- numbers– “I spy with my little eye three of something.” This would work best if you are in a room where the kids could walk around and easily count objects.
- letters- “I spy with my little eye the letter B.” You could spy letters on billboards while you are driving, or letters on a page while you are reading.”
- words- “I spy with my little eye the word go.” Again, this could work on billboards on the road or in books in a waiting room.
- spelling- “I spy with my little eye something that begins with the letter C.” You could just give the first letter, spell out a whole word, or maybe even letter patterns inside the word like “ee.”
- phonics- “I spy with my little eye something that begins with the sound /s/.” Same playing with letters, but this time use letter sounds.
- rhymes- “I spy with my little eye something that rhymes with bee.”
- adjectives- “I spy with my little eye something smooth.” This is another game that would be best played in a room where kids could feel the different textures.
- measurement– “I spy with my little eye something about one inch tall.” Be sure to review unit measurements before you play. If you play this at your house, they could walk around and measure things with a ruler.
We have way too many stuffed animals. I’m not a fan. They take up a lot of room, and although they are occasionally snuggled at night…they rarely participate in play during the day. Until today. Today we made a stuffed animal zoo. It was a great indoor activity for a rainy day….and it was free! And, of course, there was a lot of conversation and learning about animals. Here’s what you do…
- Gather all stuffed animals and cages. If you don’t have that many (lucky you), use puppets, plastic animals, or even animals on the covers of books. We used baskets and boxes for cages. We also used a green blanket for the “grass” and a blue towel for the “water.”
- Sort out the ones that don’t belong in your zoo. You can ask questions like “What animal is this? Where does it live? Have we seen it in the zoo?” Big Sis had fun asking these questions to Little Sis. She decided stuffed animals like Care Bears, Thomas the Train, and dolls didn’t belong in the zoo. However, you can do whatever you want. It’s your zoo! You can make this a learning opportunity to discuss real zoo animals, or you can make it pure fantasy and have a unicorn section. Whatever is most interesting to your kiddos.
- Match up like animals. This is a great activity for toddlers and preschoolers. You can talk about what characteristics the stuffed animals share. What makes it an elephant and not a hippo? How did you know that it was a bear even though it was pink? If you are like us, you will end up with four elephants….and maybe you’ll realize you need to get rid of some stuffed animals. 🙂
- Decide how to organize your zoo. This is where it gets fun! Talk about how you could arrange the animals and plan out the space. Should all the African animals be together? What about animals that fly? Preschoolers and early elementary kids will enjoy thinking about different ways to categorize the animals. If they are stuck, suggest some of these…
- number of legs
- patterns- stripes/spots/plain
- Put the animals in cages…or not. It’s easier to see them if they are just loosely grouped. However, Big Sis is a stickler for “keeping it real.” Although I need to have a talk with her about animal rights and forcing four elephants into such small cage.
- Visit the zoo. This was my daughters’ favorite part. One pretended to be a visitor and pushed a baby doll in a stroller. The other was a zookeeper who took tickets and guided the visitor around the zoo. Then they switched. If your kids are too young, YOU be the zookeeper and give facts about the animals as you travel through the zoo.
Extension activities you might want to try-
- Reorganize the zoo a different way using the same animals.
- Read a book about zoo animals.
- Watch a live zoo cam feed online.
- Write the animals’ names on papers and place them outside the cages.
I am a little messophobic. That’s a word, right? I love to give my kids new experiences and it is fun to watch them get messy…but the clean-up. The clean up. Sometimes I don’t know if it is worth it. Sigh. Despite my messophobia, I got out the shaving cream one day. I remember playing with shaving cream on the table when I was little and I loved it. And of course, so did my girls. Although Little Sis did not like to get it on her hands, so she used stick. Maybe messophobia is genetic?
Shaving cream might be the “fun factor” your kid needs to practice writing letters, numbers, or words. Even toddlers can practice straight and curved lines that they will need to make letters. Little Sis made lots of lines, while Big Sis did some writing. She might need a little more practice on her numbers….
And the clean up was not as bad as I expected. Luckily no one started throwing shaving cream, so it was just the table to clean up. I could wipe most of it off the table with my hands and then wash it off in the sink. Then a wet towel did the rest. Shaving cream is officially approved for messophobes everywhere.
Here’s a round-up of 67 art and learning ideas for shaving cream from The Artful Parent.