Friday, December 24, 2010

Counting Game Boards

I am always on the lookout for a fun way to teach math. I say this because math has never been my favorite subject. I find it boring and tedious. Having said this, I realize that math is a necessity so I try to make it more pleasant for me.

For Christmas, I made these little game boards. The board is 36 inches long and really thin and I purchased it at Hobby Lobby for less than $3.00. It is so thin that I was able to cut it into two 18 inch board games with nothing but my craft knife. Once it was cut in half, I painted both halves (I used Lush Foliage Crafters Acrylic from DecoArt and love the color).

Once the painted had dried completely, I stuck ten foam glittery stars to each board. I used a gold star at the top and bottom to signify the start and win sections. The other item that will accompany these boards is a foam cube that came in a package of foam cubes from the Target Dollar Spot. I used a permanent marker to put the dice numbers on the sides. My son is probably old enough to use a regular dice safely, but better safe than sorry.

I am not supplying any figures for the games because we will just use the abundance of dinosaur and other plastic critters that are around our home. The object is obvious, roll the die and move your figure that number of spaces.

We can also use the boards for teaching A-B patterns and color recognition. I am sure he will enjoy them.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Roll a Tree Math Game

I put together this game in about 5 minutes to work on our math skills. I cut 4 different sized triangles from green craft foam, one rectangle from brown craft foam and one crooked star from yellow craft foam.

The object is to roll the die and use the pieces that match the key card I drew up. We enjoyed playing this game. It reinforced the counting skills and worked on matching sizes since the triangles that form the tree get consistently smaller.

Have a great day!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Decorating the Tree Math Skills

Working on our math skills some more for the holidays. I cut out a large triangle to represent a tree and then I traced a penny all over the tree. Once that was complete, I pulled out lots of pom poms and we got playing.

Each time we rolled the die, that is the number of pom poms we would put on the tree. If your pom poms are smaller or larger than mine, just use another item to trace for your circles. We enjoyed this game lots as it was math but we could be creative with how we put the colors on. I did not restrict my son's color choices but you could turn this into a patterning game also by making all even numbers a certain color and all odd numbers another color. There are a variety of ways to do this. AB patterns, ABC patterns, AABB patterns, AAB patterns, etc.

Learning can be fun.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Monday Meanderings - Kwanzaa Crafts

This week we will be preparing for Kwanzaa, which begins on 12/26/2010.

Enchanted Learning has a great page full of crafts and worksheets. They also discuss the history of Kwanzaa. I love the Candles  with treats inside. Use them to decorate the kids and then as gifts for the kids.

I love these candle holders from Making Friends. They are made from baby food jars.

Have a great Monday!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Do you believe in Santa?

Picture courtesy of Science Blogs

When I was growing up, everyone that I knew believed in Santa Claus. That is not always the case these days. I am not here to tell you which is the "right" way to raise a child. I am just going to show you some different perspectives for both sides. Before I begin this I will preface it by saying that in my house we believe in Santa.

There is an article on Science Daily about a study done in 1896 and repeated in 1979. The study looked at 1,500 kids between the ages of 7 and 13 and whether they believed in Santa Claus or not. The study found that 46% of the kids in 1896 and 44% of the children in 1979 gradually found out on their own that Santa did not exist. The study went on to say that about half of each percent were disappointed that Santa was not real but very few (2% and 6% respectively) felt betrayed about the believe. Most of the children even continued to pretend for the sake of younger children that Santa did exist even though they knew it not to be true.

Last year, Parade Magazine ran an interesting article about a man and when he no longer believed in Santa. It makes for an interesting read about how when something significant happens in your life you can usually recall tiny details of that event forever. He recalls the moment that he stated aloud that he know longer believed, a shooting star shot across the sky. I was also 7 when I stopped believing. Nothing as dramatic as a shooting star for me. I was snooping under the tree one day after school (my parents told me not to but that just piqued my interest). My Mom had already wrapped my gifts from Santa and had stuck them in the very back under all of the family gifts. I found them and then I went to my older and wiser brother (he was 11) to inquire about how come Santa had already come to our house and if I still had to be good. My brother told me that there was no Santa and that Mom & Dad just did that for me. I was upset but not devastated and my parents still give me presents that say From: Santa on them and I am way past 7 years old now.

There is a blog I read called Teacher Tom's Blog. I like him as he lets the children in his care make the rules for their school. He had a great post recently about Santa. I hope you will click on the link to read it but basically in large circle they were talking and the subject of Santa was brought up. He played uninformed and pretended to have not heard of Santa. The children proceeded to tell him their take on Santa and how the whole magic process happens.

Many people do not want to teach their children about Santa because of the "lying". I do not want to lie to my child and I want to give him the best possible start in life. Santa is on every street corner and it is hard to explain to children that see him everywhere that he is not real. I have a friend who does not celebrate Santa in her house. There are no religious reasons or any "great reasons" (her words, not mine) that she decided to not teach about Santa. She just felt that there was enough misguidance in the average life that it was not her place to purposely mislead her children. They have never had their picture taken on Santa's lap and all of the gifts under their tree say who it is actually from instead of an imaginary person. I love my friend and I respect her right to bring her children up with any believe she wants. I never discuss Santa in front of her children but I am perplexed as to how to handle it when my child gets older. I spoke to her about it and she stated that she told her children that many people believe in Santa as a real person but in her heart it is more of a feeling than a person. When I asked her to explain she said that she felt that the best part of the "Santa" believe was the giving of gifts and the love. This is the part of Christmas she taught her children. She taught them to love one another and to show their love with words and sometimes with gifts. This is a believe that I can get behind but in my house we will still visit Santa every year.

What about in your house? Do you teach your kids about Santa?

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Is Creativity Alive and Well In Your Home?

Not long ago, Newsweek magazine published an article about how creativity in kids is declining each year. Kids today are used to playing with a toy based on its sole purpose. They no longer look at a toy and say “What else can it do?” Almost all toys come with batteries these days and they do not lend themselves to creative play. Without creativity in your life, how can you look at a problem and know how to solve it? How can you improve the world without creativity? The answer to both of these questions is that you can’t.

It is time to bring creativity back into your home. Below are some suggestions on how to go about this.

Have an electronic item/appliance that no longer works? Take it apart and let the kids play with the pieces; encourage them to create something with it. Your your best judgement on ages and size of pieces.

Give your child an empty cardboard box or paper towel tube and then ask them “What do you think you can make with this?” Once they bounce some ideas, encourage them to try making those things. Boxes can become boats, houses, cars or planes. Paper towel tubes can become binoculars, tunnels for cars or magic fairy wands.

Research shows that children learn lots through make believe. Encourage them to pick out a favorite story and act it out with them. They could even make some props to go along with the story if they would like.

Leave Halloween costumes and other dress up clothes accessible to your kids year round.

Have a fort building contest. Lay our some blankets and fabrics and see what they come up with.

Keep art supplies accessible for the kids. Set up a corner in a room where they have space to create a project.

Busy hands help the brain to form. Building blocks and Lego’s are great activities but they are not the only thing to build with. Give your child a deck of cards, or some miniature marshmallows and toothpicks, regular marshmallows and coffee stirrers or straws. The possibilities are endless.

Play lots of different types of music in your home. Ask your children how a piece of music makes them feel; happy, sad, excited. Every piece of music stimulates something in us.

Encourage your kids to be creative in their daily endeavors. Encourage them to look at all solutions before they pick one.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Monday Meanderings - Christmas Crafts

Last week was Hanukkah crafts, this week we move on to some Christmas crafts. Next week we will be covering some Kwanzaa crafts so be sure to come back for that.

A cute and simple snack for the kids. Love the marshmallow snowmen at Random Thoughts of a Super Mom.

Love these ornaments from Mumma Made It and if you used plastic ornaments it would be doable for most ages.

Homemade Mommas made a very cute gumdrop tree. For my son (3 years old), it would be hard to use a glue gun and let him participate so I would probably pre-stick toothpicks into the tree and let him stick the gumdrops on in any design he chose.

Have a great Monday!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Eye Exams

The Child Care Council has been notified recently that the Dr. Bizer offices in Lexington, KY are offering eye exams for only $1.00! This is a great oppurntunity to get all of the family's eyes checked. The state has a mandated eye exam that is required prior to January 1st. The offer experies 12/25/2010 so make your appointment now.

Coupon for $1.00 Eye Exam

If you have a Dr. Bizer's in your area, check to see if they are participating in this program.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Holiday Traditions

Each family has their own specific holiday traditions but sometimes it is fun to add some additional ones to your family. These traditions are what the kids will remember when they grow up and move out of your house. They may not remember a gift 10 years from now but they will remember your traditions.

Here are some traditions that I practice or I have heard of practicing every year.

1) Take the kids pictures in the same place every year.
2) Writing letters to Santa.
3) Using the same stockings every year.
4)Always put up the tree at the same time each year.
5) A day of cookie decorating.
6) A girls day - all the girls/women in the family spend the day together going out to a meal.
7) A boys day - all the boys/men in the family spend the day together going to a ballgame.
8) Open one gift on Christmas Eve. We open pajamas.
9) Having the same breakfast every year.
10) Reading of special holiday books.
11) Picking a charity to donate to.
12) Picking a person from an angel tree. We always pick one close in age to my son.
13) Sending out Holiday cards.
14) Sending out Thank You cards. If your child is too young to write, take their picture with the gift, print it out and let them draw a picture for the recipient.
15) Setting out cookies and milk for Santa and carrots for the reindeer.
16) Elf on the Shelf. We set our Elf (named Buddy) out on the shelf and he reports to Santa if my son is being good or bad.
17) Put the kids in pajamas and then go for a car ride to look at lights.
18) Buy one ornament for each child. When they move out, they will have ornaments for their first tree.
19) Make ornaments every year with the children.

Those are some good traditions to think about when you are trying to decide on some for your family. What other traditions do you do?

Monday, December 6, 2010

Monday Meanderings - Hanukkuh Crafts

With the Holidays upon is, this is a great time to learn about the variety of celebrations in December. We will start with Hanukkah.

First up is Amazing Moms with a very preschool friendly Menorah. Who knew plastic cups and wooden spoons could bring people together?

Next we have a homemade Dreidel made of a file folder from The Examiner. I love that they have the link to print this out and since you are using a file folder, you should be able to really play. She even includes the rules of the game.

Here is another Menorah, but this one is from Nick Jr. They want you to purchase stickers to decorate the Menorah, but it would be nice to have the kids draw or paint symbols for Hanukkah. You could turn it into a whole lesson on what the symbols mean.

Last but not least we have Creative Jewish Mom with some great party favors for the kids.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Homemade Gift - Memory Game

I was in Hobby Lobby recently and bought some stamps with a coupon I had. I decided to use the stamps to make my son a memory game for Christmas.

I stamped each picture on two different rounds discs. My discs are about 2 inches round. I just used black ink to keep them simple looking. It would also be easy to draw pictures in the discs. I drew on the sun and crescent moon.

I am pleased with how these turned out and they will make a very cute gift for my son. I went with a nature theme but it would be easy to make them with trucks or dolls. If you do not want to stamp the discs it would also be easy to put fabric or paper on one side of each disc. This game can be customized to match any interest your child may have.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Advent Calendar

As the holiday season is approaching I thought it would be a great time to show you an Advent Calendar that I made for my son this past weekend.

I sketched out a picture of Santa and on his beard I drew 24 circles and numbered them. Each day, we will glue on either a white pom pom or a white cotton ball. I have not decided which one yet.

This Santa is cute but he did not turn out exactly they way I had envisioned so I will give you some pointers on how I envisioned him working out. I wanted to make him magnetic to hang on the inside of our front door and each day we would use a magnet pom pom to fill in his beard. I had already even made the magnet pom poms by gluing magnets on to small white pom poms. However, I thought he would be sturdier if I drew him on craft foam so I traced my original sketch onto the white craft foam and then cut out red foam for his hat and glued that onto the white foam. I then glued on googly eyes and a large white pom pom for the hat.

Once that was dry, I put magnets on the bag and stuck him to the door. I have to admit, I was pretty proud of myself, until I tried to put a magnet pom pom on his beard and realized the craft foam was too thick for the magnets to be able to stick to the metal door. I was very disappointed but you can rectify this when you make one. Instead of using craft foam like I did, sketch the Santa onto card stock and then you can laminate him for durability and the magnets should still stick to a metal surface.

Feel free to print out a copy of the Santa for your use.

Happy Holidays! If you decide to make a Santa Advent Calendar, please send us a picture or a link to him!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Apple Pie Play Dough

Recently my son's class at daycare has been studying an Apple Theme. Since they started that he is obsessed with Apple Pie. I do not mean he wants to eat apple pie, he just likes to say apple pie. When he is leaving the room he even looks at me and says "Bye-bye, Apple Pie." It is adorable.

I tried to serve him some apple pie for dessert but he wanted nothing to do with it. I then decided that we would make a "pretend apple pie" with apple pie scented play dough.

 Dough recipe:
1 cup flour
1/2 cup salt
1 tbsp oil
1 tbsp cream of tarter
1 cup water
apple pie seasoning (I just shook it in until I liked the smell)
Red food coloring

Stir the ingredients well and then cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the dough forms a ball. Put the dough on the counter and fill your pan with water to soak. Now go back to your dough and you will knead it out until it is smooth and feels "right". Store it in a plastic bag that is zipped closed.

When I pulled out the dough, I also pulled out some rolling pins and some disposable "pot pie" pans. We rolled out a section of the dough and used it as the bottom crust. After we put that in the pan, we tore off small pieces of the dough and rolled them in our hands and dropped them into the crust. Once the pan was full, we rolled out another section to use as the top crust. I cut out a design on this to "vent" the pie.

My son loved this experience and we have played with the apple pie dough several more times since this first experience. I think I will be making pumpkin pie dough soon!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving

We are enjoying the day with our families and hope that you are doing the same! If you are looking to fit in some holiday shopping, please check our Kids Matter website for some great products. As always, the proceeds go towards raising awareness of issues affecting kids and families everywhere.

Happy Thanksgiving!!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Wordless Wednesday - Kids Matter goes Global!

After the devastation in Haiti, Kids Matter went to work and sold "Have a Heart, Lend a Hand" shirts. The proceeds from each shirt was sent to Haiti along with a youth size shirt. These are some of the many children we were able to assist with our campaign.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Monday Meanderings - Thanksgiving Snacks

Since this is Thanksgiving week, I thought it would be nice to post some snacks that the kids can make to "help" you out.

First we have these very cute Turkey Track Crackers from Family Fun Magazine. Chow mein noodles never looked so creative.

From Kids Cooking Activities we have several ideas, including the cute Fruit Loop Apple Turkeys picture above.

Last but not least, we have Nick Jr with the very cute pilgrim hats made with ice cream cones. They are adorable!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Weaving Place Mats

Here is an easy activity for the kids to do for Thanksgiving. The only supplies needed are 2 sheets of paper, a pair of scissors and glue. You can laminate it or use clear contact paper to make the place mat sturdier.

We took one sheet of paper and folded it in half. We then made cuts in the paper from the folded edge to 1 inch from the other end. We made those cuts all along the length of the paper fold.

Next we cut the other page of paper into strips and weaved the pieces through the slits on the other page. The only place we glued the strips were on each end.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Button Up Turkey!

Okay, is this turkey adorable or what? I got this amazing idea from My Montessori Journey. If you have not checked out her blog yet, she has some great ideas.

She sewed her turkey and he is very cute. I used fabric glue to put mine together. I cut out two circles of brown felt and sandwich some batting between them to make it a little sturdier. I also went a little cheaper with mine and just used craft felt. She used very nice wool felt for her classroom but my son will be the only one playing with this so it should hold up just fine.

The best part is that the tail feathers really can be buttoned on and off of the turkey so it is great practice.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Tuesday Teachings - The Letter U

As you can imagine, the letter U was a little harder to think of activities to go along with. Not to mention that my child brought home a cold last week so he was not in much of a mood for crafting or learning. Some weeks are easier than others.

You can download your letter U here.

Words that start with letter U: unload, unlock, umbrella, unicorn, unhappy, uncle & unicycle.

For our crafts this week we focused on Undersea and Umpire.

First up, we colored a background page and added fish and bubble stickers to is. This was then cut out and taped to the back of the letter U to resemble a fish tank. For those wondering about the texture of the colored U, I bought an inexpensive sheet of plastic canvas at the craft store and I use it for my son to do rubbings on. He enjoys the texture and the feel of the plastic canvas under the pressure of his crayons.

Next, we cut out a letter U and made black lines on it like an Umpire's shirt. For the face we cut a circle out of craft foam and used crayons draw the face.

Foods that start with U: Ugli Fruit, Udon Noodles, Unsalted butter & Upside down cake.

We did not make a snack this week due to the illness in our household but we were going to make Pineapple Upside Down Cupcakes from Family Fun Magazine.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Monday Meanderings - I Love to Write

In honor of I love to Write Day, we are going to cover some writing ideas for kids.

Before we get to the links though, let's talk about pre-writing. It can be very difficult for a child that does not have enough strength in her hands to try to hold a pencil for a long time. In addition, it can be difficult to old a full size pencil. Imagine if you as an adult tried to hold a long carnival style pencil and write for very long. Your hand would cramp up and the writing will probably be illegible. This also applies to a child. With my own child, we try to use golf pencils. They are smaller, about the size of a crayon and he is better able to control the pencil.

Demonstrate  to your child how to properly grip the pencil between the thumb and pointer finger, letting the pencil rest on the middle finger. This is called the Tripod Grip. This will take awhile to teach. Be patient and if your child seems uninterested, come back to it later. You want your child to enjoy writing and if they are pressured constantly they will never enjoy it. To help your child relax, have her shake her hands, make drawings in the air or in a salt box (see below), or roll a piece of clay between her hands.

Our first link is PB & J Preschool discussing how to set up a Preschool Writing Center. She has some great ideas. I really like the thought of doing a Journal with my child to track his improvements over time.

Next up is Mama Jenn with the directions on making a homemade salt box for the kids to practice writing in. I love this idea! It is very sensory aimed and will give the children an opportunity to feel the letters.

Have you seen Sandpaper Letters? I bought some and they set me back about $30.00. Wish I had found Beautiful Sun Montessori prior to my purchase. She has a step by step tutorial on making your own letters. These have been great for working with my son on the letter sounds.

So we have covered pre-writing activities, let's move to some thoughts on writing. Here are some things you could have your child write:

1) Thank you notes for all gifts. If the writing is illegible, you can write something to the recipient also to let them know about the thank you.
2) Grocery lists. Cut out pictures of items you need then let your child glue them to a page and then write the names beside them. Your child can then also do a scavenger hunt (see our blog post of 6/10/10).
3) Their name. I have a small chalkboard that I painted my child's name on and he practices writing his name below it. I made the chalkboard with a piece of cardboard and chalkboard contact paper. There will be a blog post soon for all of the uses of chalkboard contact paper.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Making a Suncatcher

When I was a girl in elementary and middle school, we would sometimes pour white glue on our hands and allow it to dry and then try to peel it off in one big piece. I recently did an activity that was very similar to this. By the way, I know I am not the only person that did the glue on my hand!

I used a plastic lid from a food container and poured out some glue on it. I covered the majority of the lid with the glue and then I set it aside for a few days to dry. Once it was completely dried, it peeled right off. I then used a nail to poke a hole in the top of the dried glue and proceeded to paint a design on it. I then thread some yarn through the hole after the paint dried.

It was easy and cheap and looks cute!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Pick an Apple for Math Lessons

Above you will see a very cute apple tree that I cut out with the Cricut machine. You could also have your child just draw and color a tree. Once the tree was ready I found some red pony beads and used those as apples.

The game is played with two people. Person one will roll a die and whichever number comes up (1-6) is the number of apples they will remove from the tree. Then the second person will go and they continue to alternate turns until all of the apples have been picked.

Once all of the apples have been picked the person with the most apples wins the game. This is lots of fun in our house and my son always wants to count my apples and his.

Have a great time playing and counting.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Tuesday Teachings - The Letter T

Another week, another letter. This week we are learning about the letter T.

You can download your letter T here.

Words that start with the letter T: Tell, Tale, Tip, Tongue, Toes, Top, Train, Track, Tree, Trip and Tumble.

For our crafts we focused on Tiger, Turkey and Time.

Our first craft was the Tiger. We colored the letter T with the orange marker then made black lines on it. Next we cut out a tiger tail and ears from orange craft foam and glued them on.

Our second craft was a Turkey. We colored the letter T with brown marker, drew on the face and glued feathers along the top of the T.

Since daylight savings time was this past weekend, I decided for our last craft we would focus on Time. I could then explain daylight savings to my son and teach him about the letter T. I found some clip art which you can print here.

Foods that start with T: Tuna, Toast, Taco, Tamale, Turnip, Tomatoes & Tangerines. For our snack, we focused on Turkey.

We made the cutest Turkey cookies. I am not sure who to credit these too as I have seen them all over the web. We used sugar cookies as the base/body and attached candy corn tail feathers and Reese Pieces eyes with chocolate icing. We then used red gel icing for the legs and black gel icing for the eye pupils.

We had lots of fun making these cookies and plan on making them again for an upcoming bake sale.

Have fun with the letter T.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Monday Meanderings - Turkey Roundup

Due to the fact that Thanksgiving will be upon us soon, I have suspended Monday Meanderings this week to bring you some great turkey crafts that we did in our house.

First up is the obligatory toilet paper roll turkey. We used an empty toilet paper roll and the body , beak and feathers cut from craft foam.

As I cut out the feathers and body for the toilet paper roll turkey, I went ahead and cut out doubles of everything and glued magnets to the back of everything for my son to play with the turkey on the door in our kitchen. We work on our colors as we put the feathers on the turkey.

Next we made the coffee filter turkey. We used markers to color the coffee filter then sprayed it down with water to get the colors to bleed. Once that dried we glued a construction paper body to the front.

We also made the hand print turkey, which is an oldie but goodie.

Since our hands were already a mess, we finger painted a piece of paper and then trimmed it down to be a turkey tail and added a construction paper body.

We painted another piece of paper with sponges and did the same thing.

The last turkey crafts we made this weekend were a craft foam body and Fall leaves for the tail feathers. We did one with Oak leaves and one with orange/brown leaves. My son said they did not need beaks. Not sure how they will eat but you never question an artist.

Hope you make some time to do some turkey crafts with your kids. Feel free to post more ideas in the comments. We love to hear from our friends.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Draw a Bird

This activity is more a way to check a child's attention to detail than to actually teach him how to draw. My theory on art is that is a personal creative experience and you can not copy a picture and call it a creative outlet. This activity teaches a child to pay attention though because they have to recreate what they see.

The theory is to give a child a piece of paper, 4 crayons and the picture cards. You can do the cards one of two ways. Give them to the child unattached and they can put them in order before beginning or you can give them to them in order and attached in the corner.

The child is to re-create each card on thier own paper until they have a bird completely drawn.