Saturday, July 31, 2010

Feather Fun

We had a picnic at a park. With more ducks running around than I've ever seen in my whole life! The kids LOVED it! We gathered some feathers to take home.
Each of the kids chose a color of paint and painted with a feather. This was a BIG hit!
S is 4, so he was ready for a little extension to the project. His momma taught him how to press the feather in paint and stamp it onto the paper.
Tiffany also drew each of the girls a duck picture and they glued the extra feathers onto their ducks.
We let the feathers dry and then put them in a little basket in the learning room so Q could revisit them.

Love how much fun the kids had with this easy, free project, and how we were able to extend our outing to a great learning experience. With younger ones you can talk about feathers and how they keep ducks warm/cool (the right temperature) and how they keep water off their bodies. Older ones can examine the parts of the feather--they can look at the hollow shaft and the downy parts and even the parts of the feather that "zip" together.
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Friday, July 30, 2010

Art Cabinet

We have a cabinet in our dining room that held some extra dishes and cookbooks. Today I cleaned it out, got rid of some things we don't even use, relocated some other items and repurposed it for an art cabinet for our kitchen school. I LOVE IT! It holds all of the materials we need on a daily basis--paint, glue, tape, stapler, paper, crayons, markers, gluesticks, scissors and paintbrushes. They are right next to the table where we'll use them and I loved how organized they are! This will make art projects so much easier!
Today I am challenging you to find a place to store all your child's art materials together in an organzied fashion. Be creative and try to see your space in a new light and maybe you'll find a new use for something you never thought about before! I also love that this cabinet is at Q's level, so when she has my permission, she can get out her own supplies. We may need to temporarily lock the doors shut until she's past the eating crayons and writing on the walls stage, but that won't last much longer!
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Marble work

I was at a baby shower last month and someone had brought some frozen mini quiche's. They came in this little plastic tray. I salvaged them. They made an appearance today with some flat marbles. I challenge Q to put one marble in each compartment. Fine motor, counting, one to one correspondance......Lots of great math skills! For pretend play we could even pretend they are muffins or cookies she is making!
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Smelling Work

Always save empty spice jars, and tell your child's grandparents, aunts and uncles, the mailman, pretty much everyone you know to do the same!

My loved ones have been saving them for me. When Q was smaller we filled them with different objects--cotton balls, beans, rice, confetti, water, small toys, etc.--to make shakers for her. Now she is finally able to take the lids off (great small muscle activity as well as practical life) and she has learned to smell things! (She learned at Mimi's house with one of Mimi's candles....) I put out 6 different smells (and also tried to vary the types of jars) and she loves to take each lid off and smell the spices. My mom did this for us as kids and I still remember how much I loved sticking my nose into those jars!

This activity promotes literacy through environmental print. For older kids you can even talk about the spice that was in the jar and talk about what foods it's used in.

If you have tiny kiddos, start saving now so you'll have them saved up when they're toddlers!

Also, the ones with shakers in the top can be filled with sand, dirt, etc. and your kids can shake out what's inside!
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Stamp puzzle

These foam stamps came packaged in the sheet from which they were cut. Instead of throwing it away, we saved it because it makes a terrific puzzle. It will also make a great stencil for tracing the shapes! Be sure to think before you throw anything away--can it be used for teaching something? You may end up with a huge drawer of "junk" like me, but believe me, that stuff proves useful more often than not. :)
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A few weeks back I found a scrap of molding in a neighborhood that was doing construction. I brought it home, knowing it would be good for something! It has two groves down it. I dug in my math supplies and found my plastic shapes fit in the grooves just perfectly! I put one of each shape. Putting the shapes in the groves will help teach Q about their properties--their sides--how many each has, the lengths of the sides, etc. I will name the shapes for her as we work together. Notice I included two types of triangles. As often as you can, expose your child to different types of triangles--eqilateral, right triangles, obtuse and acute....typically children just see equilateral and right triangles and don't identify any other types. I really work to teach my kiddos that any shape with 3 sides is a triangle!
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Pretty Pennants

I have decided lately our learning room window is boring. So I raided my fabric scraps and pulled out anything with flowers on it. I cut a piece of paper into the shape I wanted, used it as a pattern to cut out all the pieces of fabric, then I also cut a matching piece of felt for the back of each flag to stiffen it up. I sewed them together, used pinking shears to go around the edges, sewed them onto a piece of twine, and voila! Love how they brighten up our learning room.
You can see the mobile in the corner that I just posted about!
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Paper mobile

I checked out this great book and was inspired to make a paper mobile for the learning room! It was easy, took me about 3 evenings to complete while Matt and I caught up on our Netflix movies....I LOVE it! It's so simple yet beautiful. I had to make a couple as baby gifts, too, for sweet lil ones we know.
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Fab-O baby toy!

A baby toy we think is fabulous???? And best of all...easy-peasy?
Feed your lil' one a carton of Beech Nut baby cereal (not all at once, of course....ha!).
When it's empty, add a dozen pennies (or beans or dry pieces of pasta) to the carton, put a little glue (I use hotglue) around the inside of the lid and screw it on. There ya have it! A perfect rattly toy. Q loved looking at the photo of the baby on the back, shaking and turning and throwing her cereal tambourine when she was a lil' thing back in the day! We had a blue one with pennies and a yellow one (Beech Nut Oatmeal, I think...) with rice inside so she could listen to the different sounds. We sometimes shook our tambourines to the beat when we sang together!

Skills: fine and gross motor, pre-literacy skills with environmental print, sound awareness, cause and effect, music skills.
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Memory Verse Management

I had been trying to figure out a way to post Q's memory verse in a way everyone in the family could see it. Today it came to me! I dug out a pocket chart (originally purchased at a teacher supply store when I taught 1st grade). I folded it over to only show the number of lines needed for this week's verse (4). It has 8 rows in all, but I only wanted to display the number I needed. So I folded the extra 4 backwards. I used 4 really strong magnets under the flap created from folding, and it sticks to the fridge perfectly!
This week I found pictures of the signs for the main words in the verse and glued them next to the words: mouth, heart, happy, God, rock and redeemer. Quinn loves it and it is great reading skills because when we say the verse, I can point to the words and the pictures. I am starting to introduce her to the concept of one-to-one correspondance between spoken and written words by doing this. She is also relating the pictures to the words.

Older kids can have a little pointer (flyswatter, ruler, dowel rod, fairy wand, pencil, etc.) and point to each word themselves as the verse is read. Even older kids can have mom scramble the 4 lines and see if they can put it in order using the pictures or the words! Even OLDER kids can cut the words apart and put the verse in order word-by-word. If you do this, be sure to have an additional copy of the entire verse posted for reference!

It touches my heart so much to hear my little one repeating the words of God together with me! Hope you are finding a way to put scripture on your child's heart in your house!
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Day 3

We started Day 3 of creation!

Day 3, Day 3
God made flowers and plants and trees!
Day 3, Day 3
God made flowers and plants and trees!

Making the number 3 was a 2-day project--
Day 1 we painted the three green.
Day 2 we glued on silk leaves and flowers using a glue bottle. I actually scored these for free-we were walking a few weeks ago and someone had a whole box of assorted artificial flowers in the trash! You better believe I dug through that box with this project in mind!
Notice Q turned the 3 over and painted on the wrong side without me noticing, so we have an upside down 3 now. Oh well!
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Sign Language Online Picture Dictionary

We like to continue using signs to introduce familiar and new vocabulary with Quinn. She loves the "tactileness" (if that's a word) of signing. We especially use signs for the key words in her weekly scripture memory verses. I found this website that has great visuals of many signs in a dictionary form. A friend who is a sign language teacher has also loaned me a wealth of materials I want to start looking through and adding to my repoitoire! Anyhow, love this website and wanted to share!

Monday, July 26, 2010

After-dinner water play

We've used the time after dinner several times lately to provide some water play for Quinn. It is perfect timing for us because we can focus on getting the dishes finished and she is very engaged in her own project. We fill a metal bowl with a bit of water and then provide different containers for pouring and ladeling and spooning of the water. This also helps at mealtime--when she wants to play in her water in her cup--stick her fingers in, etc., we can remind her she can play with water AFTER dinner, but the water in her cup is for drinking.
Water play supports fine motor development, the concept of volume, science skills, and allows the child to practice cleaning up with a dry rag after they are finished!
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Animal Cracker Work

On a past roadtrip Matt and I stopped at Bucky's for a candy run. It's a tradition of our roadtrips.
I couldn't bring myself to feed my little one candy, but we compromised with a box of these animal crackers. My mom used to buy us these as a treat when we were kids, so they brought back fond memories and Quinn lucked out with a box due to my reminiscing. :)
I couldn't bear to throw the box away when the crackers were gone.
Of course you know I have to make Q some work from it.

So I got on Google Images and printed out pictures of animal crackers.

Then I found photos of the corresponding real animals.
I sit down with Q and we work on matching them--it's a matching game. Honestly this work is a little above her right now. Mostly because she won't sit still long enough. But occasionally she'll ask for this work (she can spot it up on the shelf where I keep work she needs to do with Mommy) and we take a spin at it. Each time she does a little better and works a little longer at it! I love scaffolding her learning in this way. Just stretching her slightly beyond what she was able to do last time. A little Vygotsky, for you child development graduates out there. :)
She is learning new vocabulary--she had never seen a camel before this! We also talk about the animal sounds and even what the animals eat. This is actually a wonderful early literacy activity. As she looks carefully at the animals it will teach her to attend to details that have meaning--such as the giraffe's long neck. Later on she will apply this visual discrimination to letters as she puts sounds and words together. Math knowledge of how shapes and lines and curves look also comes into play......Matching games are so valuable for preschool and toddler learning!!
For older kids this could be played like Memory.....Flip them all over and see if you can make matches.
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Straw work

Q has been very interested in working with straws lately. She keeps going to the pantry and pulling them out. I gave her a small jar full of straws to work with. She had fun dumping them out and then putting them back in the jar.
Today I expanded on this a little bit. In my junk bin I had an empty parm cheese shaker, and the holes were perfect for straws to fit into. She could even open and close the flap that covered the holes by herself.
I also found an empty syrup bottle. The straws fit all the way down inside this bottle, so she has to shake them out once they get in.
This simple, free activity teaches problem solving, fine motor skills, practical life skills, understanding of volume, and even colors!
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Pasta sensory work

Q's aunt watched her for me while I had a photo shoot last week. She introduced Q to working with some multi-colored dry pasta and said Q just loved it! I picked up a bag at the store and got it out for her today. I supplied her with three little nesting bowls, part of a cardboard egg carton, and a clear plastic measuring cup. This allowed opportunities for pouring, scooping, sorting, and one-to-one correspondance. Of course I won't expect all of that the first time she works with them, but over time she'll explore with the pasta in different ways and be open to suggestions from me. Today was simply open play where she could do whatever she wanted!
I also introduced her to a small pair of tongs (purchased at the Sal. Army for 25 cents). Tongs are the greatest fine-motor tool EVER! :) They help teach the skills necessary for both writing and scissoring. They are perfect for toddlers and preschoolers. In the Montessori classroom I worked in the children served themselves all of their food by using tongs. Even barely 2-year olds were adept with them! And we saw evidence of their practice as they quickly mastered the pencil grasp and scissoring.

We use the words "Open, shut" as she works with the tongs. Sometimes I supply hand-over-hand help when she wants it.
Our noodle experience only lasted 8 minutes, if anyone's wondering. :)

I have chatted with some toddler moms lately who are frustrated that they take the time to set up art and sensory projects and then their child is only interested in participating for 2-3 minutes. I would encourage you to take heart! The first few times may not go smoothly, but the more you practice and the more familiar your child becomes with the materials, the longer they will want to work with it. I'd also recommend just allowing free exploration of any materials the first time you introduce them. Or even the first few times....let them get used to the objects and explore them the way they want, and then after they aren't such novel objects anymore, you can supply a little direction as to what you want the child to do with them.
Also try limiting the number of objects/choices you give. The first time you paint give 1 brush and 1 color of paint. After your child has mastered this, try offering more choices.
Also, I try hard to keep materials together and in an easy spot so that setting up/cleaning up for these types of projects isn't super involved on my part.
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Cloud gluing

Since we have been talking about God's creation of the seas and the skies, today we glued "clouds" on blue paper. I didn't have any regular cotton balls, so I cut apart those little cotton pads that are squares. I gave Q a bottle of liquid Elmer's glue and she actually squeezed the dots of glue all over the paper. I sometimes made suggestions of where she should put the next glue dot (to help with spacing) and just pointed and said, "how about here!"

When writing labels or even names on children's work, I always try to start in the top left corner (the way print runs in a book) to begin to teach them to track left-right, top to bottom.
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Day 2!

Day 2, day 2
God made skies and seas so blue!
Day 2, day 2
God made skies and seas so blue!

This was a two day project. I used just a regular sheet of white paper. The first day Q painted the darker blue "water" on the paper. The next day I gave her another piece and she painted the lighter blue "water." When they were all dry, I cut a two out of posterboard. We applied gluestick to the back of the 2 and glued on the sky and water pieces, then I trimmed around the edges to get the shape of the 2. We hang it in our display area for our "school" items! We can use it to review the numbers we've covered so far, too!

With young children I really like to stretch projects out so they don't feel hurried and aren't overwhelmed by too much. This worked great to spread the painting and assembly out for multiple sessions!
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Jesus Loves Me

This is currently a Youtube video Q and I watch about 5 times a day. She LOVES it, and will try to do the signs along with the music!

Putting scripture in her heart....

We started three weeks ago teaching Quinn to memorize scripture. We've done a verse a week and it's been going great! Even better, Momma and Daddy are learning them right along with her.

We started out with Genesis 1:1: In the beginning God created the Heavens and the Earth.
I taught her this verse by repeating it to her over and over throughout our days--especially in the car and in the bath and other times she needed some entertainment! I said it with lots of enthusiasm and we even added some movements. I would lay on my back with her held over my stomach. When I said beginning I would lower her so our noses touched. When I said Heaven I would lift her up as high as I could, and for earth I would lower her down to my stomach. She loved it. Eventually I began pausing for her to fill in the bolded words. So I say part of the verse and she says the key words. I also have her repeat the location of the verse--Genesis. She loves saying that word!

Next we moved on to Ps. 95: Come let us sing with joy to the Lord! Let us shout aloud to the rock of our salvation. She loves for me to go "ahhhhh" after we say "shout aloud."

Last week's verse was John 14:6: I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. A friend gave me the link to this Youtube video that shows the signs for this verse! We use the signs for way, truth and life and father when we say the verse together.

I have been amazed how quickly Quinn picks up these verses! So much fun to hear her saying them, and even greater when she asks me to start them for her by saying, "Momma, beginning!" We try to keep practicing all the previous verses to keep them in her memory through the weeks!
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Sunday, July 25, 2010

Toddler Counting Books

Q is ready for some counting practice. I have been scanning the library shelves for some counting books that are appropriate for toddlers. Many of the counting books are written for preschoolers and have too many words and plots that are a little too complicated for the toddler attention span. Here are two I love: (and Quinn concurs!)
TEN, NINE, EIGHT by Molly Bang is a sweet story of a little girl getting ready for bed. Along the way different things are counted like her toes, the buttons on her nighty and even hugs from Daddy. The text is short and simple and the pictures are large and uncluttered and warm. Love that this book counts backward, a great concept to begin introducing to toddlers in a story.
TEN BLACK DOTS by Donald Crews was Q's favorite book for a couple of weeks. Each number is covered with the number of dots corresponding to that number (as you can see illustrated in the cover), and then there is a matching illustration with a certain number of objects--ie: six marbles. These pictures are simple forms and abstract in nature without too many details. Some of the objects being counted were new to Quinn--there was a very old-fashioned radio with buttons being counted. I love giving her new schemas for objects she already knows--this allows her to add to her knowledge of the concept of a "radio."

I will continue to add great counting books as I come across them.

To share the books with Q, we typically just read them. If we can tell she's in the mood for it, we may point to the objects and count them, or even use her finger to point and count. Sometimes I start the count: "one, two......" and then leave off for her to finish, providing as much help as she needs. We've found she will rarely start with "one," however, and usually begins with "two," since we usually say "one" to get her started. SO I have offered opportunities for her to use the word "one" by prompts such as "what number do we say first?" or even asking her to repeat it after I say it and point.
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