Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Getting Ready for Math - Alike/Different

As children begin to work on their math skills many parents are eager to just teach them to count. Counting is a skill we all need but it is not necessarily the best place to start with our math skills.

The earliest math skills will begin with the concept of alike and different. Show your child two identical cups. Ask her how they are alike (size, shape, color, etc.)

Now show your child a cup and a mug. Discuss how they are alike and how they are different. For example, they may be the same color and size, they both hold liquids but the shape is different. During your daily activities there are many times to see the likeness and difference of items.

Set two oranges and one apple on a table. Ask your child if the items are alike. Which one is different? Why is it different? What makes it different from the other two items? Why doesn't this item belong with the other two items?

Go through your house and take pictures of 5-7 items, like the toy box, the kitchen table, the refrigerator, the sofa, the bed and a chair. Now set up the game. Set the toy box picture to the side, go to the toy box though and lay the picture of the kitchen table on the toy box, now go to the kitchen table and lay the picture of the refrigerator on the kitchen table, etc. To start the game, explain to the child that he will need to look for the exact same item in person as is in the picture. Give her the picture of the toy box, when she finds the toy box she will find the picture of the kitchen table and keep going this way until he gets to the last item (a chair) where she finds a book that you can sit down together and read.

These type of scavenger hunts are perfect for the 2-4 year old set. It teaches them to look closely at items and gives them independence to complete the task. The end result is that they are awarded with private time to read a book with you and they are learning math skills.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Monday Meanderings - Spring

Spring is in the air so I thought this would be a great time to list some Spring fun and activities for everyone. Hope you can find something fun and valuable in these plans.

My Mommy Makes It has a great tutorial on making a window greenhouse for the kids. She shows a couple of different types.

Busy Bee Kids Crafts has a very cute 3D caterpillar project using craft supplies that most people always have on hand.

Lastly, The Mama Dramalogues has a cute bug catcher for the kids to make. Every kid likes to catch bugs but the Mamas do not want the critters crawling all over the house!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Animal Tracks

Take some time this weekend and get outside with the kids. Teach them about the local wildlife in your area. Even if you just go to a local park there are probably going to be some animals that have left tracks. Below are some great links for animal track information. Find the animals in your area and see if you can find tracks for them.

If your kids are very young start with the basic art of making prints at home. Give them some paper, crayons, markers, paint, stamp pads and play dough. The kids can trace their hand and foot prints, make fingerprints with the paint or stamp pads. Make a round disc with the play dough and make an impression of their own hands and/or feet. Once they understand about their own hand and foot prints, hand them some small plastic animals and let them make impressions of the toy's feet in the play dough and look at it. You can also see our blog post of September 3, 2010 where we showed how to make homemade fossils.

The photo above is a dinosaur footprint, you will not find these but it is a good picture to show the kids.

Next, head outdoors to find some real animal tracks. If you find some good tracks in the mud or sand you can even make a cast of the impressions. To make plaster casts you will need: Plaster of Paris (inexpensive at home supply stores), bottle of water, plastic spoon and bowl, paper towels, small trowel and a bag to carry your supplies in. Once you find a suitable track, pour about 1/2 cup Plaster of Paris in the bowl and add enough water to make it pourable but not too runny. Use your spoon to mix it up. Once it is mixed, tap the sides of the bowl to get the air bubbles out. Next you will want to spoon the mixture into the impression and let it set up for about 30 minutes. Next, use a small trowel to dig under and around the impression. Take it home and allow it to dry overnight. The next day you can brush off the dirt or sand. To get a really good look at it, the kids may prefer to paint the impression. The paint will go into the little lines and really bring out the details of the impression.

Next, I looked around online and found some great animal track pictures at Bear Tracker's Animal Tracks Den. Above is a picture of the front and hind feet of a gray squirrel. You can just pick the type of animal and the animal's name and she shows you the tracks. This is a great resource to use to print out the tracks and compare them to any you may see near your home.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Saint Patrick's Day

How do you celebrate Saint Patrick's Day? Historically it is a holiday from Ireland when Saint Patrick went back to Ireland.
Saint Patrick's Day Facts:

The history of the shamrock and Saint Patrick's Day relates back to Saint Patrick using the shamrock, a three leaved plant,  to explain the holy trinity.

Saint Patrick's Day was originally a Catholic holiday but has gradually become a secular holiday to celebrate Irish heritage.

The color originally associated with Saint Patrick was blue but in the rebellion of 1798, Irish soldiers wore full green uniforms on March 17th to call public attention to their political statement.

Some of the ways Saint Patrick's Day is celebrated in the US:

The White House has dyed the fountain water on the North Lawn green.

Chicago dyes the river green and has done so since 1962. Originally they used over 100 lbs of vegetable dye and the river was green for a week, they currently use about 40 lbs of dye and it lasts for several hours.

Happy Saint Patrick's Day!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Catch a Leprechuan

In honor of St. Patrick's Day on Thursday, we are going to give you links to some great leprechaun traps. I am not sure what happens in your house every year but our house is watched over by some bad behaving leprechauns! They are always trying to wreak havoc in our household. I think they get excited and they dance around and move all of our shoes! It takes forever to find our shoes on Saint Patrick's Day. One year they even moved our shoes outside. They usually feel pretty guilty about their bad behaviour though and leave us some gold coins that contain chocolate. One year they even left the Sacagawea Golden Dollar Coin.

First we have samples of some great traps made by Ms. Poselli's Kindergarten Class. They were not able to trap any leprechauns but they did drops some gold in their rush to escape all of these great traps. Be sure to go to that link, there are lots of traps to try at your house.

Next is Roots and Wings with some great traps. They also used a very budget friendly way to make gold. They painted some small rocks with gold paint. Genius!

Steve Spangler has a great leprechaun trap made with PVC pipe. They tempted the leprechauns at their house with "liquid gold". They did not catch the rascals but they did fall in the liquid gold and turn it green.

I hope you have great success in catching those pesky leprechauns and bringing a little magic to your home.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Monday Meanderings - Give me some Pi

It may look like I may a spelling error in the headline but it is not incorrect. Today is March 14th or 3/14, Pi day. Pi is approximately equal to 3.14159265 in the usual decimal notation and one of the most important mathematical constants. Pi is used by mathematicians, scientists and engineers the world round. Celebrate Pi day with your family using some of the links and ideas shared below.

First, it is only right that we go to the website for the Pi Day Organization. This link takes you directly to some teacher ideas to discuss PI with kids.

Next we have Dr. Math with a great and easy explanation of Pi and what the value really means. There are also links to several other pages about teaching math to kids based on their age.

Now it is time to measure the circumference of some yummy treats! Have a whole meal made of nothing but round items.

First we have the Impossibly Easy Taco Pie from Betty Crocker. Make this for dinner and before slicing, let the kids measure it. Some suggestions for sides: pineapple slices, cherry tomatoes, sliced and sauteed squash or sliced carrots. The list of round foods is almost as infinite as PI.

For dessert I would recommend cookies or pie, both of which would be round again. Here is a recipe from Very Best Baking for Funny Face Cookie Pops.

The newest craze are cake balls and here is a good recipe from Bakerella for red velvet cake balls.

Enjoy Pi day!

Monday, March 7, 2011

Monday Meanderings - Mardi Gras Fun

In honor of tomorrow being Mardi Gras, we decided to do some links with Mardi Gras activities for your kids. Before we move on to the links, let's discuss some Mardi Gras history.

Mardi Gras is a French term that is translated to "Fat Tuesday", the term Fat Tuesday was chosen as this is the last day to eat rich, fatty foods before the season of Lent begins.

Historically, Mardi Gras is strictly the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday but modern society frequently refers to the entire Carnival season.

The colors of Mardi Gras are Purple for Justice, Green for Faith and Gold for Power.

First we have The Healthy Cooking Blog with an easy and lighter version of the traditional King Cake. If you decide to bake a toy baby in the cake and kids will be eating the cake, please be careful. Kids sometimes get excited about cake and stuff it in their mouths without regard to "extra" ingredients.

Next is an edible necklace by Kid's Crafty Creations. Celebrate and work on your fine motor skills at the same time, not to mention you get a little snack too.

Lastly, I found a great jester's hat craft made from foam on Making Friends.

Have a great Mardi Gras!

Friday, March 4, 2011

A Great Resource

I was looking around online one evening and just by chance I stumbled upon a very nice website. It is called Mrs. P's Magic Library. The idea is that the website is in interactive digital library. Mrs. P (played by the wonderful actress, Kathy Kinney) is sitting in her library/parlor and you choose books from her bookshelves and she will read them to you. The majority of the books are for ages 6+ but I did find some for 3+ also. In addition to the story books there are also games and currently there is a writing contest for kids also.

This is a great resource for your family. Don't let you child sit in front of the computer all day every day playing games and listening to stories, but it is a great treat occasionally and lets face it, many of our children already work a computer better than we do.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Making Memories

More and more often in the world you hear of families going on expensive vacations, buying the best toys, offering only the best of everything to their kids, no matter the personal price they must pay.

I strive to offer the best to my child also, but I try to go about it a bit differently. The best is not defined by the price tag in our house. It is defined by the memory made. My son has as much fun at a county fair as he ever would at an expensive theme park. There is no need to buy expensive concert tickets, I can download some songs onto my computer or Ipod and we can dance around for hours.

My son is not quite four yet, so I realize that there will come a time when he begs for the best items, based solely on the price tag and what his friends have. My only hope is that by this time we have been able to instill enough good sense and good morals in him to understand you can not always have everything. As we have all experienced recently, the economy is a fickle beast and there is no reason to go broke buying for your children.

When I was growing up we did not go on huge, expensive vacations. We went to lots of state parks (by the way, Kentucky is beautiful!) and those vacations helped to form me into the person I am today. I love to be outdoors. I am trying to instill that same interest in my child. We go for walks in the neighborhood. If we go to the local park, in addition to the swings and slides, we check out the area too. We look for birds, flowers, and trees. We pick up leaves and acorns to play with. He picks up rocks that he finds on the sidewalks.

I encourage this behavior in my child because it serves several purposes:

1) It teaches him about nature and the cycle of the seasons.
2) It teaches an appreciation for beautiful things.
3) It encourages him to use his imagination and to be creative.

Take some time to sit back and observe your children. Years from now, what do you want your kids to remember about their childhood? Do you want them to remember that one year you took a great trip to the beach or the theme park or wherever? You could not do it again for many years until you paid off that large debt. Or do you want them to remember that his parents always took time to be there for him and sometimes you made some fun little weekend trips to the lake?

If you can afford the extravagant vacations and fancy toys, that is great! If you can not afford them, that is also great! No matter where you are and what you are playing with, the time you spend with your kids is all about creating memories. When your kids speak to you, don't respond blankly while you are really trying to plan what is for dinner. Take the time to listen to your kids and respond thoughtfully. Sometimes let dinner be late while you take 10 minutes to put on some music and dance around the kitchen with your kids. Let the kids help you cook dinner. Do something special on a Saturday morning, it doesn't have to be expensive. We sometimes get up and while he is still in his pajamas we will load into the car and run to the local donut shop. It costs $2-$3 for this but he thinks it is the greatest time.

These are the things you and your kids will remember.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

March Calendar

Feel free to download a copy of our March calendar with great activities to do with your family.

Tuesday Teachings - Math Skills Roundup

Recently I was in the local Parent Teacher Store and they had some of the cutest notepads on sale. They were pre-cut into the best shapes. They had frogs, hearts, bears, suns, and just about any other shape you could want. You could pick a shape to go with a book or an interest of your child. There were literally 100 or more shapes to choose from.

I purchased a Cowboy shaped notepad and set to work making a Math Roundup activity for my son. It was easy. I just wrote the numbers 1-10 on the paper. Next I dug around in my son's activity box until I located the bug/insect counters that we have. My son loves those bug counters but anything could be used.

I had the cards laying face down and he would flip one over and then put the matching number of bugs on the cowboy.

When I did the game at home I just let him use the paper as is, but I do recommend laminating the pages if you want to use them more than one time.

As for the products I used: The company that makes the notepads is Shapes Etc and my bug counters came from one of the many orders I have made with Scholastic.