Monday, December 31, 2012

Montessori Monday - Felt Board Fun {and learning}

I made a felt-board (also called a flannel board) for the twins when they were about 18 months old.  It was really easy to hot glue some flannel fabric to a large picture frame and then cut out various shapes from craft felt for them to play with (the pieces stick on without glue and are reusable).  I recently brought the felt board back out, and all three kids have been enjoyed it.  Other than just being generally creative with it, I also made some Montessori-inspired sensory activities out of felt for them to work on...

Friday, December 28, 2012

Venn Diagrams for Little Kids

Classification of data is a critical skill for life, and even infants and toddlers naturally organize things in the world around them.  You don't have to wait until the upper elementary years to introduce Venn Diagrams - it's a concept that even Preschoolers can understand.  Here's how I introduced Venn Diagrams to my 3-year-olds..

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Christmas 2012 Wrap-up

As you may have guessed from my lack of blog posts, we've been away on vacation for the past two weeks.  The kids had a wonderful Christmas, but we're all happy to have our own beds back.  Here's a little recap of some of the holiday activities we did..

Friday, December 14, 2012

Number Conservation / Conservation of Mass

L and E (40 months) are really good at counting, but I also want them to have number sense and know they can solve mathematical problems using logical reasoning and intuition as well as standard processes (counting).  We've been doing a lot of "magic tricks" with math lately to work on the concept of number conservation.  According to psychologist Jean Piaget, this ability doesn't develop in kids until 7-12 years, but I think my kids are already catching on to it, or at least asking questions and thinking about the problem.  Here are some of the exercises we've been doing...

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Homeschool Preschool - Weeks 13, 14, 15

If you think that we haven't been learning anything because I've been slacking on writing blog posts, you're wrong.  On the contrary, I think L and E (40 months) have hit a sweet spot for problem solving, so I've been setting up a lot of different types of thinking problems.  Here's what we've been up to...

Holiday Traditions

I've seen so many wonderful blog posts for Christmas and Hanukkah lately, and just wanted to share some of the holiday traditions that we have.  Honestly, I've been more focused on preparing math and logical reasoning activities for the kids lately than holiday crafts, but we use our little advent calendar (above) to include at least one holiday activity each day.  Here's some of what we have planned this year...

Monday, December 3, 2012

Montessori Monday - Painting and Washing Plastic Animals

One of my kids' favorite Montessori-inspired activities involves painting their plastic animals and subsequently giving them baths.  They've been doing this activity every once in a while since before they were 2 years old.  This morning I made the mistake of asking the kids what they wanted to do (I usually pick what we do for Preschool in the morning).  L said she wanted to paint, and E said she wanted to play with animals, so I was reminded of this animal painting/bathing activity, and both kids were happy...

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Bubbles in a Bowl and Other Water Experiments

My kids are always asking to blow bubbles, but now that the weather is colder, it's hard to get outside (and with the amount of bubble liquid that my kids spill I'm not going to attempt having them blow bubbles indoors).  Today after we did a sink/float experiment in the kitchen, I thought of a super-easy solution - put some water and dish soap in a bowl, hand each kid a straw, and voila - instant entertainment!  Just for fun, here's the train of thought that got us here...

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Homemade Checkers Game from Duct Tape!

I've been wanting to introduce my kids to the game of Checkers, so I created this homemade version with a mat made out of colored duct tape (Duck tape brand) which turned out totally cute!  When my husband went to the hardware store to buy some black duct tape to 'fix' our chairs, I asked him to also pick up a roll in a different color or pattern, and he came back with purple Duck tape.  (If you're wondering about the chairs - since the kids have been using them, all our leather chairs have ripped, and the black duct tape solution was the best we could think of without spending tons of money on new furniture for the kids to destroy - thank goodness we never have guests!)  Anyway, with my black and purple rolls of duct tape, I set off to make a checkerboard mat...

Monday, November 26, 2012

8 Montessori-Inspired Learning Activities with a Battleship Game

Games that are meant for older kids can be used for fantastic early learning activities for the younger set.  I recently found a travel-sized Battleship game for $5, and my 3-year-olds have been having a great time using it for all sorts of neat Montessori-inspired educational activities.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Baby School - In and Out / On and Off

Baby H is 14 months old.  He is now walking around unassisted (he's not a baby anymore!), and is constantly imitating sounds and trying to communicate.  He makes up his own funny games to play and has a wonderful sense of humor (constantly trying to play tricks on his mom and then laughing).  I didn't do a special theme this week, but tried to give him lots of opportunities for practicing "in and out" and "on and off".  He's definitely trying to say those words (although they all sound alike).  Here are just a few of the things he's been doing that I remembered to take pictures of..

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Homeschool Preschool - Week 12

L and E are 39 months old.  This was a great week for early learning - we're really clicking into a rhythm and my girls are eager to learn new things and work patiently on their projects.  Here are some of this week's highlights..

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Peek-a-boo Logic: Homemade Puzzle Game

If you've been reading my blog lately, you can tell that I've been a bit obsessed with homemade logic games this week.   I like to 'window shop' on Amazon and I always find neat brain puzzles for my kids that I can't afford right now, so I just let them inspire me to invent my own fun homemade activities.  This one was made for under $1..  I named it Peek-a-boo Logic, and it's a neat little game for a variety of ages (both my 3-year-old kids and my 30-something husband enjoyed it!).  If you want to find out more, read on...

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

IQ Blocks - Another Homemade Game for Visual Spatial Reasoning

If you liked my Find the Different Figure game, and my Homemade Tangram Design Cards, you'll probably enjoy this homemade IQ Blocks game as well.  I made it yesterday using second-hand building blocks we had around the house, some paint, and my photocopier-printer...

Monday, November 12, 2012

Montessori Monday: Pin Poking on Foil

My kids (3 years old) have never tried Montessori pin poking, which involves tracing a design onto paper and then cutting it out by making small pin holes close together along the outline of the image.  It's great practice for using the pincer-grip and a good exercise in concentration and precision.  I wasn't sure my kids were ready for it yet, so I thought we'd start out with a variation by poking pin holes into tin foil to make pretty patterns.  Here's how we did it...

Visual Spatial Brain Training for Preschoolers

I made up this game which L and E (3 years old) have been enjoying all week to test their visual / spatial reasoning skills.  I saw another parent in a forum talk about a $300 (!) game they were going to purchase for Christmas to teach their toddler how to take IQ Tests!  When I checked out the website, I saw a sample of the questions, and I thought "I could totally do that myself".  So I did.  Here's how it works..

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Homeschool Preschool - Week 11

L and E are 3 years old (39 months).  I was still battling a sinus infection this week (which is finally clearing up with antibiotics), so once again our Homeschool Preschool time involved more games, fine motor skills practice, dramatic play, and ad-hoc activities than the usual planned work-trays.  It was a great week for working on visual-spatial reasoning, problem solving, and creativity...

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Double the Ducks - Early Math Activities

My 3-year-olds adore the book Double the Ducks in the MathStart series by Stuart Murphy.  It inspired me to create an entire morning of activities for the kids around the concept of doubling numbers.  I included stickers, snacks, cooking, and painting activities and my children quickly caught on to this Math concept (so when we get around to teaching the multiplication table, x2 will be a piece of cake!)  Here's what we did...

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Type a Story - Reading, Spelling, and Creativity

I can't take credit for this activity, because my daughter L (3 years old) came up with it almost all on her own.  My girls typed up sentences (with some help), printed them out, cut out the words, glued the words back together in the correct order on another piece of paper and illustrated their stories.  If you want to see the final results, read on...

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Shiny Treasure Box Made From Chocolate Wrappers

I think my family ate a few too many Reese's peanut butter cups this Halloween!  I'm glad I saved all the colorful foil wrappers, because we used them today to turn a little shoebox into a shiny treasure chest..

Monday, November 5, 2012

Preschool Mini-unit on Whales

The twins are 3 years old (39 months).  Yesterday I found some science goggles for the girls in our costume basket and they pretended that they were diving masks and had an underwater adventure playing with the whales.  Today I decided to extend on their interest in whales and put together a mini-unit on whales for our morning Homeschool Preschool session.  We had a great time and learned a lot.  Here are the activities I included..

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Baby School - Helpers

I usually post updates on Baby H on Sundays, but this week I didn't have that many new activities for him and didn't take enough pictures.  His older sisters have finally taken an interest in their baby brother and have been teaching him lots of things - walking, building with blocks, rolling a ball, etc..  They love holding hands in a circle and singing "Ring Around the Rosies".  It melts my heart to see all of my children getting along. 

Saturday, November 3, 2012

8th Annual Homeschool Blog Awards

I've been nominated for the Best NEW Homeschool Blog in the 8th Annual Homeschool Blog Awards.  If you enjoy reading Learners in Bloom, I'd love your vote!  You can vote once per day from each device.  Thank you so much for your support!

Friday, November 2, 2012

Homeschool Preschool Week 10

L and E are 39 months old.  This week's preschool time was less organized than usual due to Halloween and the fact that I have a nasty head cold.  Rather than our typical math and reading lessons, we spent most of the week trying on different costumes and going on imaginary adventures, rediscovering games that have been sitting in the closet for a while, building things, and playing miscellaneous logic/memory games that I made up...

Super Easy Game to Improve Memory

I try to fit in logic puzzles and memory games in our Homeschool Preschool every day.  My 3-year-olds always have a good time with them and I've seen great improvements in these skills over the past couple months.  Here's a simple game we play to improve memory.  All you need is a set of small objects, magnets, or flashcards.  There are two ways to play...

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Homemade Tangram Puzzle Cards

I'm so proud of how neat these homemade Tangram puzzle cards turned out, that I just had to share.  They only took about half an hour to make (maybe less), and my girls (3 years old) absolutely LOVED playing with them all evening.  Can you guess how they were made?

Glitter Gourds Autumn Table Decoration

A little glitter goes a long way in making ordinary objects look more festive.  This autumn/Thanksgiving centerpiece is ridiculously easy to make, but really looks beautiful (I don't think the photos captured it well, so you'll have to take my word for it).  As a bonus, my 3-year-olds were able to create it pretty much by themselves.  Here's how it's done...

Monday, October 29, 2012

Montessori Monday - Visual Discrimination with Cans

One of the activities I set up for my girls (3 years old) last week was to sort various cylinder-shaped containers and cans from our pantry.  The challenge in this exercise lies in the fact that the containers vary in two different dimensions - height and base diameter, so they can actually be sorted in two different ways.  The kids had to focus on a single dimension to make their comparisons.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Baby School - Colors Theme

Baby H is 13 months old.  Although I try to always point out colors to H as we're playing, I thought I'd try a 'colors theme' for Baby School this week and focus on activities that will help him with color recognition.  I don't want my baby to learn things by staring at flashcards, but rather by touching, playing, and experiencing the world around him.  So that's what we did...

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Homeschool Preschool - Week 9

L and E are 39 months old.  This was a really good week for us, but not without its ups and downs.  There were some days when the girls were begging for more and more learning activities, and other days where they were whining and fighting so much that it didn't feel like we got anything done.  That's fine - they're only 3..  Here's our weekly summary...

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Flashcard Storytelling Game

I want to share a game that the girls have been asking for all week.  It reinforces both reading skills and creativity/imagination. All you need is a set of flashcards that have a word on one side and a picture of the object on the other side (I got ours for $1 at Target), or you could make your own with index cards.  Here's how we play..

Fun with... Toilet Paper?

We once bought toilet paper in bulk, and I don't mean 12 rolls at a time, I'm talking a linen-closet's worth of toilet paper.  It was a great deal.  And guess what - it was about as soft as sandpaper!  Now, 2 years later as we're getting through the last of our great purchase, I have no qualms about 'wasting' a roll on the kids.  One of the days last week we spent an entire afternoon playing with toilet paper.  I had a couple learning games in mind, but my kids (who were quite enthusiastic about playing with toilet paper) had their own ideas.  I'll share both...

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Log Cabin Out of Paper Bags (Little House on the Prairie Craft)

Remember the colorful paper beads we made two weeks ago from magazine paper?  Well today the girls (3 years old) and I turned brown paper lunch bags into a log cabin using a similar technique.  My Little House on the Prairie enthusiasts had a great time with this project (and Mom had quite a bit of fun too).  We worked on it all throughout the day, but the mechanics of it are fairly simple.  Here are the instructions..

Monday, October 22, 2012

Pumpkin Delivery Math Game {Learning Place Value}

There is no game my girls (3 years old) like more than feeding their 'babies'.  Every math manipulative we've ever played with has become food for stuffed animals.  My kids were delighted when they woke up one morning last week and discovered that all their favorite stuffed animals (as well as Mom and Dad) had placed breakfast orders for miniature pumpkins.  This Pumpkin Delivery math game that I made up was such a big hit at our house at we ended up playing it every day for the entire week.  My kids had so much fun that they didn't realize they were practicing fine motor skills, counting, one-to-one correspondence, number recognition, reading, and even discovering the meaning of place value!  Here's how to play...

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Welcome to Baby School

Baby H is 13 months old.  Most of H's day is spent observing his sisters playing, but I always try to fit in some new learning experiences that are geared just towards him (mostly sensory explorations and Montessori-inspired activities).  I figure that it's time for H to get his own Baby School weekly post showing all the neat things he has been discovering lately.  I didn't get a chance to capture all the cool activities we've been doing this week, but I'll share a handful of them..

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Apple Theme Mini-Unit

I was planning on making apple pie this week with the kids, but hadn't gotten around to it yet.  When I saw how many apples we had lying around, I thought that I'd bring them out for a little counting/addition/subtraction practice for the twins.  We ended up doing a little mini-unit on the theme of apples.  It took zero preparation, which was nice for me, and the girls enjoyed doing a couple different activities with the apples.  Here's what we did..

Friday, October 19, 2012

Homeschool Preschool - Week 8

L and E are 38 months old.  Homeschool Preschool this week went fairly smoothly.  It seems that we were able to fit in a good number of learning activities every day.  I set up a routine for myself where I wake up early in the morning and get 2 hours of computer time in for myself before the kids get up, and then get another 2 hours during 'quiet time' in the afternoon.  The rest of the time, I made an effort to close my laptop and focus on working with the kids (or playing alongside them), which was fun for all of us.  Here's a summary of some of the things we did this week..

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

CVC Word Flip Books: 10 Games for Beginning to Advanced Readers

These early reading word books that I made for the twins (3 years old) have been a big hit in our house.  The concept is simple, and I think I've seen something similar used for learning word families, but making all three letters 'moveable' really adds to fun.  I came up with a number of games that can be played with these CVC Flip Pads for a variety of reading levels (even kids who are already proficient readers can benefit from games that let them play with words.  My kids are too little to play a lot of the more advanced games I came up with, but I wanted to include them in this blog so I have something to refer to later as my kids' reading skills improve...

Monday, October 15, 2012

Magic Number Cups: Six Math Games With Paper Cups

I think I've mentioned before on this blog that I love math manipulatives.  Our homeschool closet is piled high with a gazillion things (plastic bears, blocks, coins, beads, pom-poms, you name it) that can be counted, sorted, and used for learning mathematical concepts.  It seems, however, that my kids are just as enthralled when I take out the homemade manipulatives as the store-bought ones, and that they can be as simple as a bunch of paper cups labeled with numbers.  Now of course I didn't introduce these as "look at what your Mom made for you in less than a minute out of cheap stuff that was lying around the house", but rather as Magic Number Cups.  I quickly came up with a variety of activities to do with them...

What's in the Castle? - Sound Identification Game

"What's in the Castle?" is a Montessori-inspired sound-matching game which my 3-year-olds absolutely LOVE!  It challenges them to isolate their sense of hearing to identify sounds of various animals, objects, and musical instruments...

Friday, October 12, 2012

Homeschool Preschool Week 7

We were on vacation last week, so this week involved recovering from the vacation (laundry, cleaning, getting back on a routine).  We ended up doing a lot of learning activities, but most of them were ad-hoc things I came up with or games that we hadn't played with in a while.  Here are some of the things we did..

Halloween Sun-catchers Craft

Yesterday, the girls (3 years old) made some Halloween decorations for our window using contact paper and colored tissue paper.  We've been using this technique over the past year to make everything from fall leaves to spring flowers, but this time we gave it a Halloween twist.  These decorations look gorgeous in the sunlight and the girls were very proud of their work.  Here are the steps..

Thursday, October 11, 2012

New Facebook Page for Learners in Bloom

Check out my new logo (designed by my husband).  I post all sorts of activities on this blog (art, music, dramatic play, science, etc..), but I have a soft spot in my heart for early math education, so I adore what he came up with.  I just created a new Facebook Page for Learners in Bloom, so be sure to "Like" it, if you haven't already.  I'll be posting a lot more fun things there. 

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Fibonacci Sequence for Preschoolers

I'm a math nerd (MS in Statistics) and have a love for patterns.  Today I set out to teach my 3-year-olds the Fibonacci sequence, not because I think they'll actually remember it, but because I want to open their eyes to the fun of playing with numbers and discovering patterns in the natural world.  I created a series of activities that are appropriate for Preschoolers (matching, counting, drawing, coloring, gluing) around the topic of the Fibonacci sequence...

Pumpkin Faces with Playdough

A Halloween-themed activity we did last year, which the girls could do much better this year as 3-year-olds, was decorating craft pumpkins with playdough.  This year we used black playdough and accessories such as googly eyes, yarn, feathers, and hats, and they turned out great!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Colorful Beads Made from Magazines

I remember making beads out of the Sunday comics in an art class at age 9 or 10.  I tried a similar activity with my own kids - making beads out of magazines (or catalogs in my case), and not only did the girls (3 years old) absolutely love creating them, but they also turned out beautiful...

Monday, October 8, 2012

Montessori Practical Life Snack: Banana Skewers

This Montessori-inspired snack takes no prep-time, and kids get great practice with fine-motor skills making it themselves.  Here are the steps..

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Rain-Themed Preschool Activities

We live in a state where it seems like we hardly get rain (it's either really sunny or snowing), so I took advantage of a rainy day to put together an impromptu rain theme for our Homeschool Preschool.  I'm surprised that I was able to come up with so many creative activities without any preparation, and the kids had a lot of fun.  Here are some of the things we did:

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Week in Review (On Vacation)

We were on vacation for a family wedding all last week, so our usual homeschool Preschool schedule didn't happen.  However, the kids did get lots of new and fun experiences and plenty of time outside.  Here are some of the things we did..

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Three Dimensional Art with Colored Paper

The kids have really been into cutting and pasting lately.  I wanted to show them that their creations don't always have to be two-dimensional, so one day when we were all working side-by-side, I started manipulating my scraps of paper to make them stand out from the page in different ways.  L and E were very interested and asked me to show them how to make these types of creations too...