Thursday, December 31, 2009

Our newest friend on the branch

I posted a picture of Q's forest animal branch. Look what we scored at our lifegroup Christmas ornament exchange!! He matches our theme exactly and we love him!!!
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Baked Apples and Carrots, for Lil chefs!

Cooking is one of the very best ways to teach science and math, even with little-bitties~!
Here's a recipe that is perfect for doing with kids, no matter the age. Just adapt so your sous-chef can be involved however appropriate! My 15 month old mostly watched, but wanted to hold the apples, touch the peel, stir, and know the names of everything I was using. It was close to naptime as we cooked, so she was not in a calm enough mood to actually help much, but that is okay too.

So here's the instructions:
-peel 2 apples
-cut into small chunks
-cut about 10 baby carrots in fourths lengthwise
-put all in a microwave-safe bowl that has a cover
-half an orange and squeeze the juice of one half into the bowl
-add a sprinkling of cinnamon (about 1/2 tsp)
-add some brown sugar to taste (about 4 Tablespoons) (we used less)
-cover loosely and microwave 4 min.
-check doneness--careful for hot steam!
-microwave longer if necessary
-stir again and enjoy!

-starting around 2 children can help with peeling and chopping. I will post some pictures soon of great choppers for little ones. Plastic knives that are sturdy are great options as well. And of course all little ones need a good cutting board!
-with older children bring out discussions of fractions as you talk about 1/4 cup and what this means. Compare the sizes of teaspoon and tablespoon. Use water to figure out how many teaspoons are in a tablespoon. How many tablespoons are in 1/4 cup?
-teach children that brown sugar is measured packed. Discuss why....
-talk about the changes that occur as the food is cooked. Where does the steam come from?
Bring out as many questions as possible and follow the child's lead!

Enjoy eating a healthy snack together!!!
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The placemat

Lil' Q uses a full table setting when she eats. Well, no knife or napkin yet, but she does eat off a plate (as opposed to the table or a high chair tray), does her best to use silverware, and uses a small shot glass for her water.

We definitely had to work on the plate thing.....there were MANY, MANY meals where she dumped it or threw it on the floor. Lots of training to get her to use it correctly. Even now, if she starts getting silly with it we say, "All done," and take it away and she's finished eating.

She is no expert with her fork and spoon, but she's getting better! Lots of times she needs our help stabbing or scooping up the food but puts it in her mouth herself.

We have a tiny metal espresso pitcher that we keep water in to pour into her cup. We just pour a tiny amout at a time. As she gets bigger we will add more and more. Right now she wants to drink all the water in the cup in one gulp, so limiting the amount helps teach her how to drink.

So back to the placemat....It's a piece of the plastic drawer liners found in home organization sections of any Target, Walmart, even grocery stores. I cut it to the size of a small placemat and drew on a plate, cup, spoon and fork. Under the fork I lightly drew an outline for a napkin so we can add that soon. The plastic of this placemat is great because it is "nonslip," so her plate or bowl stay relatively still while she is eating.

Q has a little cabinet with all her dishes neatly (most of the time) organized. We work with her on getting out her own dishes and help her to set the table. Having a placemat with the different pieces drawn in helps her to know where to put each item. It also helps build her vocabulary of the dishes.

As she gets older we will move to a much prettier fabric placemat with the details stitched in. For now this works great and is easy for clean up!

PS) I drew on it with a magic marker.
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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Simple Christmas toy tutorial

This Santa came out of our Christmas box. No idea where he came from, but Q loves him! He's very small, his head and body are both the size of golf balls. Perfect for a toddler's hand. He gets carried around the house pretty much all the time!

How to:
1) Cut very bottom off golfball-sized styrofoam ball.
2) Lay styrofoam ball onto fabric, wrap fabric up to gather at top of styrofoam ball. Cut excess.
3) String one small wooden bead onto a pipecleaner and move to middle. Fold pipecleaner into fourths, with the hand bead at the bottom. Cover with fabric. Make 2 of these and glue into styrofoam ball.
4)Glue styrofoam ball to golfball-sized wooden ball (from craft store). Wooden ball should cover where fabric was gathered.
5) Form hat with fabric and glue onto head. Cut hat band and beard and moustache from white felt. Glue small pompom for mose, draw eyes and use pink crayon to color cheeks. Attach small pompom to hat.

Older children could do this themselves and make as a ornament!
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Bringing in a plant

I love to have plants in my classroom. A toddler that eats everything and dumps everything else makes this a challenge. I recently found this hanging rooter outside in my plant shed. It was a gift from my Grandmommy and perfect for the playroom! It now hangs well out of Q's reach but still brings a little green to our learning space. This could be easily made with a jar or bottle and a bit of wire.....Give it a try!
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New book shelf

We had previously been using a basket to hold Q's books. In my ideal world books are displayed so the child can see the covers. This always makes books much more appealing and also helps to teach children which way print goes as they learn to put the books in the right way (as opposed to upside down). Hubby has promised to build a standing shelf, but I am hesitant to clutter the room with more furniture.
I have been in a "make due with what we have" mindset lately. When I've come to a situation where I've needed something I don't have (ie: a book-holder) I have really tried to scour the items we own (I've heard it called "shopping the house") to see if I can find something to work. I found this paper holder in a box in the garage from our grad school days. Perfect! Okay, it's not gorgeous maple wood, now THAT would be perfect, but it is the next best thing. It only holds 6 books so it naturally limits the selection to an ammount appropriate for a toddler, and it allows the covers to be seen when the child stands over it. We clean up and put the books from biggest to smallest, which reinforces seriation. Yea for repurposed garage junk!! Hope this inspires you to repurpose for your little learner. :)

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Holiday gift tag tutorial

Every year I make my own gift tags. I try to only use supplies I already have on hand. Yup, Martha would be so proud. (Don't tell her the real reason is because I am CHEAP!)

So here is this year's concoction....little pine tree tags. Easy peasy! Here's how:

1) Cut cardstock into fourths lengthwise (in the teaching world we call it "the hotdog way" as opposed to "the hamburger way"). So if a sheet of paper is 8.5 across, you will end up with 4 strips that are 2.25X11.
2) I crimped mine by running them through this little hand crimper, a dollar store find a few years back. If you wanted to accordian fold them, you could do that.
3) Using green paper, tear triangles that are roughly shaped like trees. (I keep all my scrap paper in a big accordian folder and sort it by color in the different slots. I raided my green compartment for this project. I just used solids, but patterened paper would look nice, too!
4) cut a little trunk out of brown cardstock (or you could draw with marker)
5) Embelish as desired. I used stick-on jewels. Buttons, sequins, rick-rack, markers, stickers, glitter....anything would work great!
6) Trim tag to fit tree.
7) I burnished the edges by rubbing them against an old brown stamp pad I keep expressely for this purpose. You could also use the edge of a brown marker or some paint.

I wrapped my presents in brown craft paper or red paisly paper. I also had a yard of brown burlap. I cut one-inch wide strips and used them to tie around the package (I actually hot glued the burlap and also the tag). to include your kiddos!!! Here are some modifications:
-preschoolers could cut tree shapes (you could draw lightly for them to cut on the line)
-for young children to do gluing, I suggest a small container (cut-apart egg carton, baby food lid, milk jug top, etc.) and a toothpick. They can dip the toothpick in the glue.
-This could make a cute teacher or grandparent christmas card
-you could turn this into an ornament to be given as a gift
-children could decorate all of the tree instead of just the top
-give older children the task of cutting the paper into four equal strips. Let them figure out the math with a sheet of scratch paper to practice on. Even first graders are up to a task like this! (suggest some folding if they get stuck....)

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Friday, December 11, 2009

Handprint reindeer

Found this tutorial online....But probably could figure it out without the tutorial....I love projects made with felt and even better--ones made with my babe's handprint! In the tutorial they appliqued this on a shirt. Not my cup of tea, but this would make a cute ornament backed with cardboard or look great on a Christmas card for grandparents, Bible class teachers, etc. To turn this into a science/math lesson:
*figure out the proper scientific names for each finger....
*trace each member of your family's handprints and compare them--label with terms smalles, medium, largest, etc. Also could do ordinal numbers--1st, 2nd, 3rd......
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Thursday, December 10, 2009

Forgot two.....

Here are two other pieces of the December curriculum I forgot....
This is a fishing tackle box (large size--about 7X10 inches?) and I snapped off the two latches for now. Inside are several different animals that fit into the compartments. Q has been feeding the animals to the dog, who is only too happy to oblige and chew them up, so they are steadily disappearing....argh. This work teaches opening and closing skills as well as one-to-one correspondance as the child can only fit one object into each compartment. Also teaches size, as some animals only fit in the larger slots. Additionally this introduces the concept of "zero" as some compartments don't have an animal in them. Could also be done with the ice cube tray, but I changed it up for some variety.

On our display shelf the tree photo changed to a winter tree. Although Q doesn't really understand this yet and may not even pay much attention, I am beginning to introduce her to the concept of cycles in nature (and science!) and seasons are one of the best ways for young children to understand this. For now the changes on her branch for each season and the tree photo serve to introduce her to the changing seasons (and of course observing changes on our daily walks!)
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Glitter management

Glitter.....a great way to make art projects "sparkle," but potentially a HUGE mess!
Try these tips....

Buy an old metal cake pan with high sides (9X13) at a thrift store for less than a dollar. Or the heavy foil ones from the dollar store.

All glittering takes place in this pan. I've called it the Glitter Box with my kiddos.

Glitter one color at a time. I love the glitters that have the holes in the top and can be sprinkled out. If not, kids can use a spoon or their fingers.

After that color is finished, shake excess off project and set aside. Tap all excess glitter to bottom corner of pan. Use heavy paper to make a funnel (roll into funnel shape with bottom small enough to fit inside glitter container) and use this funnel to pour remaining glitter back into the bottle. Adult help is probably necessary!

Any glitter spills can be cleaned up first with a small dustpan and broom (a MUST when you are doing any craft projects and all children need to know how to use this, in my opinion....$1 at the dollar store, BTW) and then dabbed up with a moist sponge.

PS) If you spill it, you clean it is my motto! (of course I sometimes helped, but the spiller had the main cleaning responsibility! It's amazing how many teachers and moms go around cleaning everything up after a craft project and the kids never learn also encourages them to be more careful as they work!)

Ta-da! Painless glittering.

Great idea on Design*Sponge

Came across the tutorial for making these adorable ornaments. What a fun project for any age!
-adult cuts out fabric and allow younger children to decorate
-use glue instead of the sewing elements
-dress up a cardboard gingerbread man with clothes
-make career outfits--fireman, astronaut, etc. Each child could make the attire of the career they think they'd like when they grow up....would be fun to look back on!
-use paper (magazine pages, construction paper, scrapbook paper, etc.) instead of fabric
-add fun embelishments--sequins, glitter, buttons, rick-rack, yarn, etc.
-I taught my first graders to use a low-temp hot glue gun. They did great and LOVED the world of gluing opportunities this opened up for them! We did have VERY serious rules--they had to ask first, we had a special "gluey mat" which was the only place they were allowed to glue (a sheet of posterboard), I plugged it in and took it out, and they had to tell me what they were gluing where and what their final project would look like. I have found if you just let them go after it with no plan the entire project ends up being covered in glue because it's just SO much fun squishing glue out of the gun!'s great to always have children sketch their "plan" ahead of time whenever they do a project. Helps to teach the scientific model and also requires a little more thought and "accountability" on their part.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

December Curriculum

The tree became a WINTER tree! White beads, snowflakes and some winter animal ornaments made out of natural materials (gift from a friend a couple years back)
Her own little Christmas tree with ornaments she can take on/off
Display shelf--Mr.Mrs. Claus, Santa, and of course THE CAT.
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On the window are some Christmas window clings (fine motor)
We have Christmas books and a Christmas baby that was put away since last Christmas.
Christmas board books (some are ours and some are library books....Dollar store always has books at holidays...I try to remain choosy and only purchase the ones that are quality books....even if they ARE cheap. Some of them are pretty terrible!)
Bulletin board has a few Christmas cards she's gotten in the mail. Will add some poems and songs soon.

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Advent Calendar....we are not counting the days yet, just practicing putting the little objects (fabric Christmas objects) in and out of the pockets.
Nails on a wooden block--putting discs on and off
Shape sorter--cylinder, triangular prism and cube
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Christmas tin (for opening/closing) filled with Christmas cookie cutters
Large snowman nutcracker
Wipes box filled with unbreakable Christmas balls for taking out/putting in (counting/motor skills/colors)
Flannel board with Christmas images
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Caterpillar has lots of extra pieces that fit onto the geometric solids, but I limited it to just these pieces for now.
Small nutcrackers...teaches vocabulary, fine-motor (pushing the lever to open the cracker) and seriation, as we always clean up and place the nutcrackers in order from smallest to largest.
The clothes rack has gotten a couple of scarves, a winter hat, and some silver beads, as well as a new purse sent from a friend in Taiwan!
On the display shelf are Q's spider (still fascinated with Eensy, Weensie Spider), a singing/dancing snowman and an iguana Mimi brought from vacation.
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