Saturday, February 18, 2012

Linky Love

I want to thank all the wonderful blogs that have been linking to Learners In Bloom.  Starting a new blog is always a bit daunting, and although I would be perfectly content if the only people who read my blog were my parents, I'm glad that I can inspire others as well.

featured at hands on : as we grow

The hands on: as we grow blog featured my indoor obstacle course activity. Check out their blog for more fun ideas for playing with your kids.

My post on fine motor skill ideas with a $1 basket was  featured on the Messy Kids blog.  They're also a great source of inspiration that I follow.

Did you figure out the number?  It's 47.  The Math Teachers At Play Blog Carnival 47 at Math Hombre mentioned two projects from Learners in Bloom:  Sorting/Grouping Hearts Math Manipulative and the Blocks in Socks Early Math Game.

Also a big thank you to everyone who has been linking up to Learners in Bloom on Pinterest.

Thank you!

Friday, February 17, 2012

The Stuff In Between

This week was especially busy for me at work so there wasn't the usual plethora of new and exciting activities with the kids to post about.  I thought I'd put together a post of some of the typical activities we do in a day that may not be all that innovative and noteworthy, but get woven together in the tapestry of our daily lives.

I try to give the girls a new 'word of the day' every morning:

For some reason, they love the word 'dog'.  Whenever I put up a new word and ask them what the word of the day is, L says 'D-O-G Dog!' before I ask her to sound out the letters of the real word of the day.  We also sing the word to the tune of Bingo. 

A month ago, the girls' grandmother brought them a calendar with pictures that children drew about marine conservation.  They love to point to the pelican and tell me that he's sad because there is trash in the water.  We put a sticker on every day, sing the days of the week, talk about yesterday/today/tomorrow.  The girls are really getting it.  The other day, Barney (the Dinosaur) started singing the days of the week song, and E said "Mommy, look!" and pointed to our calendar.

We have a number of activity books for cutting & pasting, connect-the-dots, mazes, find-the-difference, etc.. which we try to do at least one of every day.  To add a little math-twist to the pasting activity (since I'm a math-geek), I labeled the pieces and their locations with numbers so the girls could match them up:

I love how the resulting pictures are so different and such a great reflection of the girls (L is a good rule-follower, and E is the free-spirit who does things her own way).  L is also getting pretty good at cutting on a straight line:

One of these days I'll have to set up some of those cutting strip activities that I've seen on so many other blogs.

The girls' grandfather (my dad) brought them a crystal garden.  You can see the crystals grow throughout the course of the day - almost right before your eyes.  I'm not sure the girls quite got a science lesson from it, but it was very cool to watch:

Finally, I wanted to share how creative the girls are.  Here is E making drums out of things in her junk drawer (the 'junk drawer' which has all the random objects I collect for the girls to play with is a constant source of entertainment throughout the day).

Notice the dog-food on the floor?  Well L decided that it would make a great manipulative for making letters.  It was actually pretty funny to watch - she'd carefully place the dog-food in a pattern only to have one of the dogs come along and eat it.

I'm not all that excited about having my kids play with dog-food, but who am I to stifle their creativity?

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Messy Mornings: Color mixing and handprints/footprints

We recently changed bathtime from nights to mornings, which not only means that I'm less exhausted at the end of the day, but also that we get to have Messy Mornings, where we do our messiest art and science explorations and then head straight for the bath.

This morning we read Mouse Paint by Ellen Walsh (super-cute book about mixing primary colors), and then experimented with color mixing.  I squirted two colors on a plastic disposable plate and asked the girls to predict the new color before mixing in up with their hands.

This was a neat sensory experience for them.  Then we made hand-prints and footprints all over a piece of butcher paper.  Yes, I actually let my kids walk through paint indoors and the house survived (the only rule was that they have to stay on the canvas tarp - I repeated this a couple times during the activity and they actually listened).  Here's more of the fun (my picture-taking ability was limited once they started the footprints, for obvious reasons).

Messy, but fun!

Twins and Emotional Development

I am incredibly blessed to have twins.  It was a lot of hard work when they were babies, but now I think it's actually making my life a lot easier.  I love that they have each other to play with - they are constantly coming up with such creative play ideas.  Whenever they are playing together in their room and I peek in, they are making up a new game to play - cooking food for their stuffed animals, putting their blankets on the floor and pretending they are splashing in a bathtub, picking apples off imaginary trees, making an obstacle course for themselves, etc..  Sometimes I try to join in and they give me a look and ask me to leave so they can play with each other.  Having a playmate their own age, 24-hours a day, allows me to keep my work-at-home job and be confident that they are far from being bored.

It's also amazing how much having a twin has escalated their emotional development.  From developmental milestone lists I've seen, children at this age (30 months) typically still play side-by-side rather than cooperatively like the twins do.  They've also developed deep empathy for each other.  If one girl is crying, her twin will come up to her and give her hugs and kisses, telling her not to cry.  Although they do often imitate what I do, I can tell that they are genuinely concerned for each other.  My husband told me that one time when he was watching them, one of the twins bumped her head and the other one started crying. 

Sharing and taking turns is also a skill that I think twins are forced to deal with much earlier than other children.  The girls are constantly bringing each other their stuffed animals, sharing food and toys, and taking turns at games.  If one girl takes a toy from the other and the first starts crying, she will give the toy back.  They tell each other "thank you" all the time, too.   Last night before E went to bed, she gave L's teddy bear a kiss and then gave it to her.  L told me "I love sharing with my sister!". 

I haven't taken the girls to their usual classes (Little Gym, Kindermusik, Storytime at the Library) this winter because Baby H is still little and I don't want them to bring colds home, so they haven't done a lot of socializing with kids their age for the last 5 or 6 months.  I'm very curious to see if their advanced sharing and empathy skills carry into interactions with other kids outside the family.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Math Game: Grouping Fish

This math game, based on an idea in the book Count on Math by Pam Schiller and Lynne Peterson, teaches grouping concepts (6 = 5+1, 4+2, 3+3, etc) in a very tactile way for young children.  All I did was put six plastic fish and some colored rice into a ziplock bag, seal the edges with duct tape, and put a line down the center with black electrical tape.  My original idea was to use hair gel and blue food coloring instead of the rice to make 'water' for the fish to swim in, but I didn't have any hair gel on hand, and when I combined blue dishwashing liquid with water it made a bubbly mess.

There's no right way to play the game, but here are some ideas:

1. Shake the bag and then lay it flat so you can see all the fish.   Count how many fish are on each side of the black line.  Note that regardless of the combination, you still have six fish.

2. Show the child two numbers that add up to 6, and challenge her to move the right amount of fish to each side of the black line.  This provides the added challenge of manipulating the fish to get them to move in the bag without being able to pick them up.

3.  Give verbal cues to describe how you want the fish to be placed, like "each side of the line must have fish that are different colors", "put all the blue fish on one side and all the other fish on the other", "put an even number of fish on each side" (for older kids, obviously), etc..

Another idea would be to fill the ziplock with a lot more colored rice and many smaller objects to make an "I-Spy Bag", which could also be used for math by shaking it up and counting the number of objects that appear (some will be hidden beneath) the rice.  The results could be tallied or graphed.

UPDATE: I was so inspired by how much my kids enjoyed playing "IQ games" that I created the La La Logic Critical Thinking Curriculum for 3-6 year olds, which includes online brain challenge games, printable worksheets, enrichment activities and more!

Mathstart Monster Musical Chairs Activity

Monster Musical Chairs is a book in Stuart Murphy's MathStart collection which teaches basic subtraction.  It has a great rhyming rhythm and is a lot of fun  - the girls love shouting "Bye Bye, Monster!" as each monster gets eliminated from the game.  I decided to add to the entertainment by making little pom-pom monsters so we can add a little dramatic play when we read the book.

The monsters were really easy to make using pom-poms, googly-eyes, and craft foam.  I tried to match the monsters to the ones in the book, and they came out really cute.  I also made chairs for them out of little paper cups, a paper towel roll, and more craft foam.

The girls eyes lit up when they woke up from their naps and discovered these little monsters.  As we read the story, we talked about how many monsters and chairs were left.  Then we played a bit of musical chairs as well so they'd understand the concept of the game.

After reading the story a couple times, E asked for her dollhouse furniture and everyone sat down for dinner:

The girls are starting to treat their toys a bit more delicately and I'm proud to say that all six monsters remained intact after a full evening of play.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Playing with Coins

L and E are 30 months old. 

I let the girls play with real coins this past weekend.  I could tell they enjoyed the heavier feel of the metal coins instead of their plastic play money.  First I gave them a mixture of water, lemon juice, and salt to wash the coins in, along with some cotton balls and paper towels for polishing them.  They didn't turn out as shiny as I expected (I think vinegar/salt is supposed to create a chemical reaction in copper pennies that will get them shiny), but it did get a layer of grime off.  The coin washing activity (like anything water-related) kept the girls occupied for quite a while.

After the coins got their baths, we explored some of the properties of coins.  I asked the girls to sort them, but they had a lot of trouble telling the difference between the various silver-colored coins:

So we compared their sizes to see the differences:
L enjoyed counting the coins and placing them on playing cards:
Putting them into a coin-bank and listening to the sound they make was a popular activity, too.  They wanted to do this over and over:
I showed the girls how to place coins underneath a piece of paper and make rubbings:
We also felt which coins were smooth around the edges, and which were grooved.  I tried stacking them to show the difference in thickness.  The girls could identify which pile was the tallest, but I'm not sure they quite understood how that's related to thickness.
Another day, we'll pull the coins back out again and weight them as well.  Sorting by the pictures on the quarters could be an interesting additional challenge for learning to look at small details. These types of explorations would be good for a President's Day activity for older kids too.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Tot School - Week in Review

L and E are 30 months old.

I wanted to recap some of the random activities we did this week that don't really belong in their own blog post.  This week was a good combination of structured activities and free play, as I tried out some new preschool curriculum ideas.

It was our first week of RightStart Math, Level A, lessons 1-4.  We did a lot of grouping, sorting, and playing with adding and subtracting quantities (up to five).  I tried to incorporate these skills into the various games we were playing.  The best part was when I was working on my computer and the girls were playing on their own and I heard L say to E: "If I have three apples, and Mommy takes one away, how many apples do I have? Two!"  Here are some pictures of the girls building geometric shapes from stir-sticks and using them to tally:

I showed them how to place the sticks to indicate a group of five, and both girls got the concept that they don't have to count them to know that there are five sticks in the group - just like they can show 5 fingers on their hand without counting, and the row of blue beads on the abacus is also five.  Yes, I introduced the AL Abacus (special abacus for learning with the RightStart program).  L got the concept right away that it represents numbers, while E was a bit more creative and used it to make letters and patterns.  I'm personally really excited about the abacus because I've always wanted to learn how to use one.  I'm hoping that if the girls become really good at arithmetic, it will come so naturally to them that they won't make stupid calculation errors once they get to more advanced mathematical concepts.

We also started KinderBach this week.  It is a beginning music program that teaches young children basics like rhythm and pitch, and some early piano skills.  The girls really love it, and I'm glad they get to do something musical while we're on a break from Kindermusik classes (I'm keeping the family home this winter until Baby H gets a bit older).  Here are all three kids (I tried to get a picture of them dancing, but it didn't work out):

Other physical activities we've been doing include jumping over brooms and mops.  I chant 'E be nimble, E be quick, E jump over the broomstick', and then she jumps over.  We even propped a broom up on cups for an extra challenge:

Then the girls decided to walk on the cups like stilts - they said they were ice-skating:

They constantly experiment with new ways to move their bodies:
 Stacking is popular around here too:
 We played some games.  L loves taking turns and being the game organizer (the one who hands out the cards, enforces whose turn it is, etc..).  And E is finally taking an interest in playing card and board games with us - she used to always do her own thing, but recently she's been cooperating a lot more.
 Of course, there is a lot of reading at our house:
 .. and a lot of playing with different art mediums too:

We definitely found a good daily rhythm this week and really had an enjoyable time.

Check out the Tot School link below to see what other tots are learning this week:

Circle Art Exploration

After breakfast yesterday, I asked the girls to go around the house and find as many circles as they could.  This ended up being a fun little scavenger hunt and they found a wide array of circles in different sizes:

Then I put some paint in shallow plastic dishes and showed them how to use these objects to make circle prints by pressing them first in the paint and then on a large piece of butcher-paper I had taped to their table:

Then we tried experimenting with using paintbrushes to paint inside the cookie cutters to make circles, use them to trace the outside of the circles, mix colors, and of course get some fingerpainting in as well.

This is the only picture I have of E (or rather, her hands), since she decided to do this activity without any clothes on.  That was probably a smart move, since it got very messy and the girls headed straight for the bath when they were done.  The final result was not the perfect masterpiece I had imagined, but it's the art experience that really counts.

Valentine's Mailboxes and Messages

L and E are 30 months old.

In preparation for Valentine's Day, the girls and I decorated mailboxes with heart stickers and dot paint.  L loves to peel the backs off the stickers all by herself, and E enjoyed putting the "Mommy hearts" and "Baby hearts" next to each other on her mailbox.  They also made some written love notes for their babies (Floppy Dog, Baby Duck, and Two Bears). 

L writing 'LOVE' by herself - she said the names of the letters as she wrote them.

 E drawing.  She was very focused on her work, and the final result was very pretty modern art.

L loves to trace, so I made her a heart and the word 'LOVE' to trace.  The problem is I told her to 'connect the dots', which confused her on certain letters.  We'll definitely do more tracing activities coming up, since it looks like she's ready for them.

We left the decorated mailboxes in the living room, and it's fun to see the girls go to them throughout the day and peek inside.