Monday, February 28, 2011

Monday Meanderings - Read Across America

On Wednesday, March 2nd we celebrate Read Across America. National Education Association's (NEA) Read Across America is an annual reading motivation and awareness program that calls for every child in every community to celebrate reading on March 2, the birthday of beloved children's author Dr. Seuss. NEA's Read Across America also provides NEA members, parents, caregivers, and children the resources and activities they need to keep reading on the calendar 365 days a year.

Here are some links to some great Dr. Seuss related activities that you can do with your kids.

First is A to Z Teacher Stuff with a large list of Seuss activities to do with kids of varying ages. They even have a lesson plan for my favorite Seuss book - "Horton Hatches an Egg".

Next we have Crafts and Art For Children with a recipe to make Oobleck. If you have not made this yet, I recommend it. It is so much fun and amazing that it goes from a solid to a liquid.

Another fun activity is to make cupcakes  with your kids to celebrate the day. Every birthday deserves cupcakes and Southern Plate has a very cute cupcake printable of a wocket.

In addition to enjoying these activities with your kids on March 2nd I hope you will take the time to read to your kids on a daily basis. There is no reason to limit the enjoyment of reading to just one day. Lots of parents read to their kids at bedtime and this is great but be sure to read to the kids at other times too. At bedtime they are tired and do not always absorb the great experiences that reading can do for them. When you talk to your kids and read to them they pick up on the language of the books and the form of conversation.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Family Game Night - Balloon Volleyball

This is one the least expensive games you can play and it will give you some exercise.

Chair or Tape

Begin by blowing up the balloon and tying it off. Now you will clear a good area to play in. Once you have cleared you area of breakables and you have space to move around in you will need something to be the center line. You can place a small chair to divide the areas, or we just put a line of tape down on the floor.

The point is to volley the balloon back and forth without letting it touch the ground and without catching the balloon. It is fun and exciting and will get your heart pumping.

Another twist on the game is to let one person play it alone. They start on one side and volley the balloon to the other side, then they must run to the other side and volley it back before the balloon touches the floor.

Have a great Family Game Night and feel free to leave comments telling us some of your favorite family games.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

B-I-N-G-O and Bingo was his Name-O

Okay, every time we play bingo in my house it takes at least 2 days to get that song out of my head! Now you can sing along with me.

In my house we like to make our own bingo cards so I thought I would supply you with the links we use to make ours. It is fun to make cards and since it is pretty easy, you can customize them to match themes you are talking to your kids about; holidays, numbers, letters, etc.

Some of the links I have used:
Print Bingo
DLTK - great site since you can easily follow themes they have on the website.
Tools For Educators - Another great site since they have lots of themes pre-listed on the website.

I have also made us personal cards in Microsoft Publisher. It is a bit time consuming to go that route but sometimes it is worth it. My favorite card made in publisher is the one we use to work on our colors. It is loosely based on bingo. I call out a letter and a color, like B red and then my son has to go find an item that is red and show me before he can put a marker on his B red spot. As he gets better with letters he will have to find an item that is Red and starts with a B. You can download that bingo card.

A good game of Bingo is a fun way to teach a child. The more fun, the more memorable. Life is not just about teaching our kids, it is also about creating great memories.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Gumball Math

Below is an attachment that you can print out that has the gumball machine on it. We took the gumball machine and ran it through the laminator so we can play the game over and over again.

Besides the printout the other items you will need are round color labels and dice. My son would roll the dice and then he would count the numbers and put that same number of stickers on the gumball machine.

We worked on a few things with this:
1) Counting skills
2)Treating each item as a separate item as I only wanted him to put stickers side by side, not on top of one another.
3) We also used a dry erase marker to mark on the paper how many rolls it took to fill up the gumball machine and then we kept track of that. This taught him that one activity can have numerous outcomes.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Monday Meanderings - Money Lessons

I frequently hear people on TV discussing money issues and how Americans do not save. We are a culture of spend, spend, spend. The only way to stop this vicious cycle is to teach our kids about money, saving and living within our means. These can be hard lessons for kids as they see us buying things and assume we can have anything we want.

With President's Day upon us, I can think of no better time to start teaching kids about money. To begin teaching about money, the kids have to learn how to recognize coins and the values of each coin.

First we have The Amazing Mess make a coin collection book with the kids. What a great idea.

After that great idea, The Amazing Mess comes back with a great coin sorting activity.

Next up is Me and Marie with a cute poem to tell the difference between coins.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Family Science Night - Static Electricity

Tonight we will be learning about static electricity. The first part of our evening consists of combing your hair. It is important to look good for your experiment, but it is also an essential part of the experiment. To start, you will want to turn on the water in a steady stream. Now use a plastic comb and run it through your hair 10-12 times. Now move the comb down near the water but not touching the water. You will see the water bending towards your comb. I could not get a picture of it but we were impressed. In fact, we were so impressed that my son combed his hair over adn over again. Double victory! When you use the comb on your hair that makes the comb "charged" and the water is uncharged. This proves the point, opposites really do attract.

We have all done the trick with the balloon where you rub it against your hair and it makes your hair stand on end. The other one is to rub the balloon against your hair and then put the balloon against your clothes and it will stick. This time we are going to do an activity where balloons refuse to touch.

You will need two balloons, yarn, tape and a wool scarf or sweater. Blow up the balloons and tie them off. Now cut two equal pieces of yarn and tape them to the top of a doorway. You will want the pieces of yarn about 1-2 inches apart. Tie the balloons to the bottom of the yarn. The balloons should now be resting side by side. Rub the sweater against one balloon to get it charged and then immediately rub the sweater against the other balloon. What happened to the two balloons right after you rubbed the first balloon? What happened to the two balloons after both had been rubbed with the sweater? What happens when you try to push the balloons together? What happens when you put your hand between the two balloons?

Our next experiment will turn you into a Snake Charmer with no danger of being bitten. You need a sheet of tissue paper, a plate, felt tip pen, scissors, plastic ruler and wool scarf or sweater. Lay the plate on the piece of tissue paper and trace around it. Now you will draw a spiral (snake shape) within the circle. To clarify that it is a snake, you can draw a zig zag shape on the snake and a set of eyes. Now following your drawn spiral, use the scissors to cut the snake out. Leave the snake lying on the table/floor in the spiral shape. Rub the scarf vigorously against the edge of the plastic ruler for about a minute or so. Touch the snake's head with your charged ruler and slowly lift the ruler. The snake will begin to come up also.

Have a great time at Family Science Night and leave a comment with any other experiments you tried.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Melting My Heart

I remember when we were in grade school the teacher would give us a piece of black construction paper. We would then proceed to cut out a butterfly. Once the butterfly was cut out, we would cut out sections of the wings that we would add color to later with crayon shavings melted by iron.

 I did this loosely with my son except we skipped the paper part. We used a hand held pencil sharpener to get crayon shavings. We used blue, red, pink and yellow crayons. This was a real workout for my son. I forgot how much your motor skills get a work out sharpening crayons!

Once we had our shavings ready, I tore off a big piece of wax paper and we randomly sprinkled the crayon shavings on the wax paper. Next, I put a few layers of newspaper on my ironing board, laid down the wax paper, covered it with another sheet of wax paper and a few more layers of newspapers. I had my iron set to low and then I just ironed over it all. Once it was melted, a few seconds to a minute, I took the iron off and set the whole thing aside to cool.

Next we used a marker and drew shapes on our wax paper and then cut them out. Once they were cut out we taped the shapes to our windows. They would also look great if you poked a hole in them and hung them from a curtain rod.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Tuesday Teachings - Fine Motor Practice

I read lots of Montessori material even though my son goes to a "traditional" school. I like many aspects of the Montessori methods, especially their Practical Life units.

Many of the blogs I read show sorting beads with tongs or chopsticks into shapes with suction cups on the back. The shapes were kind of expensive so I have looked high and low for a different solution. This week, while shopping in a big box store, I found some of those shapes! They were with the tub/sink stoppers and they are bath tub treads. I purchased blue fish and yellow duck shapes. Each package comes with 5 shapes in it.

When I got home I set it all up. I put smiley face beads that we already owned in a small dish and set them with one of each shape and our kid friendly chopsticks on the table. At first my son had no interest in the activity but finally he gave in. We practiced using the chopsticks and will continue to practice but he was able to move some of the beads to the suction cup shapes. This is not an easy activity with the chopsticks so I am now looking for a better tool to use. We eventually went to using his fingers which still worked his pincer grasp. We also worked on only doing one color at a time. I would call the color and he would pick up that color one at a time until they were all used then we moved on to another color.

This is by no means an activity for the really little ones and even my son had to be watched closely at 3.5 years of age. The beads are a swallow hazard and it is better safe than sorry.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Monday Meanderings - Valentine Snacks

Well, Valentine's Day is finally upon us and I hope your day is filled with love thus far.

I thought I would put together a few snacks and treats for everyone from the web today. Hope you enjoy them.

First is The Picky Apple with some adorable ideas. Not only are the oranges pictured very creative but I am definitely making her Valentine Snack Mix. My son loves all of the ingredients!

There is not a picture but the Healthy Kids Challenge lists a great snack on their blog. It is called Sweetheart Pinwheels and includes a tortilla, strawberry cream cheese and strawberry jam. I bet it would also be great with diced strawberries. Check it out.

Next we have Bakerella with an amazing collection of treats. Pictured is her Big Love Chocolate Chip Cookie but she also has mini cherry pies, cookies, cake pops and so much more all on this same post.

Don't want to be tempted by a dozen cupcakes in your house? Just have 10 minutes to whip up dessert? Then head on over to Paula Deen's website for a special treat.

Last but not least is Amanda's Cookin with her Play Doh Valentine Cookie Pops. These are so much fun and we did this on Kids Matter before we even knew it was cool! Remember our Letter L Lesson?

Have a great Valentine's Day!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Homemade Valentine Gift

Ask your kids to be your Valentine this year and spend some quality time together.

Feel free to download our Family Activity Coupons and give them to your kids to cash in whenever they want to spend some quality time together. There are several activities already made, but we also left some blank for you to fill in with some of the great things your family likes to do together.

Leave us a comment and let us know what activities you have added on. Happy Valentine's Day!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Cinnamon Applesauce Ornaments

Well, I finally did it. I had read about these ornaments for some time and my son was "rambunctious" this past weekend so we decided to make this craft. I was going to make it a Valentine's Day activity but could not find the heart cookie cutters so we improvised and made ornaments with other cutters.

To make the dough, everything I read said to use equal parts cinnamon to applesauce but I found that dough too sticky. I started off using 1 cup powdered cinnamon to one cup of applesauce, I ended up using at least another half cup of applesauce in order to be able to flatten the dough without it sticking.

We had tiny bear and elephant cutters, large butterflies, dragonflies and inchworm cutters. My son also decided that we needed to make a snowman and a snake. I free handed two hearts.

Once we cut out the shapes, I put them on a SILPAT on my cookie sheet and we baked the ornaments at 200F for 30 minutes and then flipped the ornaments. This was repeated 4 times. All in all, it was fun, the dough smells fabulous and I would probably do this again.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Tuesday Teachings - Alphabet Soup

Recently I was in a "big box" store and found some colored ping pong balls in the toy section. They are actually a game called Trick Pong Balls. I purchased two boxes since there are only 20 per box (they were about $5.00 each) with plans on using them for educational purposes. It is not necessary to but the sames ones I bought, plain white ping pong balls are probably cheaper but these come in bright colors. Once I got them home, I dug through my box of stickers and found the black foam alphabet stickers.

I put an uppercase sticker on one side of each ball and the matching lowercase letter on the other side. That obviously used up 26 of the 40 balls I had purchased. I took the next ten balls and put a number from 1-10 on each ball. On the

My son and I went through the alphabet balls. He would recite the ones he knew, along with the sound of the letter. The ones he did not know, I would tell him and we would recite the sound together. As we recited the letters, we would put each ball that we finished into my big pasta pot.

Once all of the letter balls had been added to the pot, I gave my son a soup spoon and he would scoop out one letter at a time and tell me the name of the letter and the sound of the letter. He enjoyed this tremendously for several reasons: 1) He LOVES to play with balls. 2) Each time he put the spoon in to scoop out a new letter, the spoon made great sounds for him. (Metal on metal).

After we learn all of the names and sounds of the letter I am planning on extending this game a bit. When he can name all of the letters and tell me the sounds, then he will also have to find an item in the house that begins with the letter of the ball he scooped out. We played this game for the first time on Saturday morning, since then we have played it at least twice a day. He loves it and sometimes he will even come to me with his chef hat on and ask to make letter soup.

Using things that interest your child (balls) to teach them skills they need give you your best chance for success.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Monday Meanderings - Stop Bullying

In honor of National Stop Bullying Day, I thought I would post some resources for kids, parents and teachers to use. National Stop Bullying Day is Wednesday, February 9, 2011.

First is the Stop Bullying Now website. There are numerous webisodes and games for the kids to play and tips for parents to use to protect their kids from bullies or talking to kids that may be bullying others.

The No Bully website has numerous links for teachers and school administrators.

My last link is for Teaching Tolerance. This is a great website and I am on their e-mail list. They send good information and is worth your time to look through.

Lend a hand to some one in need this week. Stand up beside your friends and be a unit of solidarity in the face of adversity.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Learning our Shapes - A felt board game

This is a felt board that I work on with my son. I cut this out at least 1.5 years ago so I do not remember the website I used as a model for my monster. If anyone knows, please comment so I can give proper credit. If you wanted to recreate this it would be easy to just cut out any style monster.

Once the monster was cut out, I then just cut out a variety of shapes in different colors of felt. The reason I used different colors was to also work on our color recognition. Since I took this picture though, I have also cut out all of the pictures in just yellow. This makes it a bit more difficult since I am not giving hints to my son by saying the monster wants to eat the green rectangle for lunch.

When we pull out this felt board set, I recite/sing this little song I made up to keep his attention:

"Yummy, Yummy put that green rectangle in Monster's tummy!" Once my son puts the rectangle on the monster's tummy, I remove it and say: "That was tasty but Monster is still hungry!" and then I pick the next shape and start the phrase over again. I have been considering cutting out all of the letters in capital and lowercase to use with the monster too. We really enjoy this felt board and hope you enjoy it too!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Gone Fishing Game

Another homemade game. This was quite easy also.


Fish Template
Sticky backed Felt in a variety of colors
Magnetic fishing pole (or dowel rod that has yarn/string on the end and a magnet glued to the end of the yarn)
Blue fabric for the water (optional)
Felt sticky backed numbers

I traced the fish template onto each color of felt twice. I then cut the shapes out. I peeled the paper off the back of one fish and laid a paperclip on the sticky side with 1/4 inch of the clip hanging over the side (see pic below). In order to make the same amount of paperclip stick out on all of my fish, I put the edge of the inside loop of the paperclip on the edge of the fish.

Once the paperclip is a adhered, peel the paper backing from the matching fish and stick them together. You will need to press them together well and be sure you stick them together well at the paperclip mouth section.
Repeat this process with all of your colors. Once I had all of mine completed, I decided to go back and put a number on one side of each fish. We could then catch the fish by colors or by number.

I already had a magnetic fishing pole from a puzzle that my son had but you can wrap and glue yarn to the end of a dowel rod or stick form the yard and then dangle the yarn down to floor length then hot glue the yarn between to circle magnets.

Next, you just go fishing!