Saturday, March 3, 2012

Spring Sun-Catchers

The kids and I made flower sun-catchers this morning.  We've used this contact-paper / tissue technique for other projects before, but this is the first time I made hanging art this way.  They really turned out beautiful, especially in the light (the photos I got just didn't quite capture how cool these look).

First we tore up some colored tissue paper and stuck them to clear contact sheets (we use Avery self-laminating sheets):

Once the contact paper was completely covered, I cut out flower shapes from the tissue-covered sheet as well as another contact sheet that had not yet been peeled:

Next I took a piece of thread (I used dental floss, but a piece of sewing thread would look more professional), threaded some colorful beads on the end, and placed it down the center of the flowers:

Then I stuck the other pieces of contact paper on top, tied the end to a straw (you can use a crafts stick, dowel, clothes hanger, etc..).

The kids loved dancing with these and looking at all the colors in the sunlight:

There is still snow on the ground outside, so maybe this craft will bring springtime along with it....

Moments to Remember

Here are some of the special moments I want to remember for the week (at least the ones that don't seem to fit into any other category)...

Moment 1: When I danced with Baby H a little too much and he had massive projectile vomiting... all over one of our dogs!  It was especially hilarious because this is the dog that is constantly following me around and is also a bit afraid of the kids.  She freaked out and ran out the dog door.  When she finally came in, I had to wash her face, which was completely covered in baby spit-up.  I notice that now she keeps her distance when I'm holding the baby...

Moment 2: When I was trying to eat dinner while kids were playing, and every time I turned around I saw E at the bathroom sink, presumably washing her hands.  Only when I was done eating and got up to investigate did I find a trail of water running from the bathroom to the kids' table in the living room...  They were filling up bowls and other containers and giving their plastic toys a bath!

Moment 3: When I was helping the kids clean up their room, and E asked her sister where something goes.  L responded: "It's called problem solving.  You have to use your brain and figure it out."  (Do I really sound like that??)

Friday, March 2, 2012

One Fish, Two Fish - Goldfish Grouping Game

Happy Birthday, Dr. Seuss!  Our final Seuss Week activity was loosely based on One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish.  I say loosely-based, because the book is about imaginary creatures, not just fish, but a fish-themed math rhyme at least went along with the title.

I made up a quick rhyme last night (I seem to have my most creative thoughts when I'm nursing Baby H in the middle of the night) to teach the girls about grouping and skip-counting (and technically, factorization).

We counted out 12 goldfish crackers on a tray, and arranged them based on the following rhyme:

Goldfish Grouping
by Lilac @learnersinbloom

One-by-one and looking fine
The fish all swim in a straight line.

Mommy and Daddy fish pair up like this
The two loving fish give each other a kiss.

But Mommy and Daddy are lonely in the sea
So they have a little baby and now we have three.

Baby playing by himself gets to be such a bore
Soon comes Little Brother making a family of four!

Now Grandma and Grandpa want to join in the mix.
They come for a visit and now we have six.

Twelve little fish had so much fun
But now it's time to eat them, one by one

I knew the girls would love this because most of their play revolves around interpersonal relationships (Mommies, Daddies, babies):

It was such a great way to use fine motor skills and learn math concepts at the same time.  Plus an activity that involves all five senses is going to build all sorts of wonderful neural pathways.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Sensory Exploration with Tapioca

I wanted this morning's Messy Morning project to be a fun sensory experience.  I've seen tons of recipes online for sensory play using homemade playdough, moondough, slime, and water beads.  I didn't have all the ingredients for those in my pantry, but I did have a package of tapioca, so I thought I'd experiment (I figured it couldn't turn out any worse than yesterday's Art Gone Wrong).

I mixed the pre-cooked dry tapioca with various amounts of water and some food coloring:

The resulting tapioca mixture was a substance with a really neat texture.  With smaller amounts of water, the tapioca resembled rubber and could be formed into all sorts of shapes (great for building 'sand castles').  With more water, it began taking on the texture of jello or slime.  The girls dug right in and had a blast doing some sensory exploration:

I also gave them some paper to make creations on:

L liked to blend the different colors of the tapioca together, while E enjoyed pressing down different colored globs with her spoon.  The bottom picture is mine - I wanted to demonstrate how 3-dimensional this substance can be.  The girls and I played for a long time and it was very cool to see the ideas they came up with for manipulating this substance.  I'd love to re-try the activity with the larger tapioca beads, too.

UPDATE: I was so inspired by how much my kids enjoyed early learning 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!

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The Shape of Me and Other Stuff - Seuss Activity

Yesterday;s Seuss activity was fairly simple.  The original idea was to make sun-prints out of various household objects and construction paper (put objects on paper, lay in the sun until the paper around the objects fades and an impression of the objects is left).  However, I think our construction paper was already old and faded and after a couple hours in the sun with no change, I decided to go for Plan B.

I traced the outline of the objects on the paper, and gave it to the girls as a puzzle where they match up the objects with their outlines.  This was not too challenging for L and E (31 months), but since it was a new activity they were excited to try it.   Each girl took her turn sitting nicely at the table and concentrated on completing the task.

As much as kids need repetition to learn, they really want variety, so I'm glad we did an activity that was new to us.

Today the girls found the paper with the object outlines and wanted to do the activity again.  Since I had already put the objects away, it turned into a scavenger hunt, for a little extra challenge!

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Art Gone Wrong

I think I can start an entire series called Art Gone Wrong.  Today's brilliant idea was to create textured paint by adding some paper pulp (from a papermaking technique) to paint.

The plan was to soak pieces of construction paper in water, then stick them in the blender to make a texture that could be added to paint to give it a more interesting 3D effect.  Step 1 - check!:

When I was ready for the blender phase, I realized that our blender was broken (just in time for Baby H to start solid food next month, too!).  So I decided that instead of making paper pulp, I'd add a couple more interesting textures and move forward with the textured paint idea.  So I added a couple more things... and by a couple more textural elements I mean everything I could get my hands on from salt to rice to plastic straws to felt to ribbons... yeah.. I tend to overdo things...

Little did I realize that this was the prettiest it was going to get.  I added the blue paint and glue:

I was hoping that all the different colors and textures would peak through the paint and look really cool... we would make unique three-dimensional sculptures right on our paper - modern works of art...

First the girls and I learned that the 'textured paint' could only be applied with our hands.. and then we learned that it doesn't really stick to the paper unless you dollop the paper with more glue first (and by dollop, I mean pour out the entire bottle).  Finally we learned that it really doesn't end up looking that cool or interesting - even a last ditch effort to add glitter glue didn't save our sorry artwork.

The girls sure had fun with this activity, but unfortunately I don't have a beautiful masterpiece to show off on my blog (and be adored and admired for my ingenuity and creativity).  Instead, this was the result:

There are lots of things in this world that sound good in theory, but don't quite work out when you give them a try... The solution?  Keep trying!  Plus I'd choose messy hugs from my paint-covered kids over a perfect masterpiece any day...

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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Cat in the Hat - Balancing Game

Today's activity for Seuss Week was based on Cat in the Hat, a big favorite at our house.  I came up with a Cat in the Hat balancing game idea a couple days ago in the middle of the night when Baby H was having a hard time sleeping, and I'm so glad I didn't forget it in my sleep-deprived haze.  We have a version of the book that has both French and English, so I even integrated a bit of French terminology in the game.

I picked six objects from the book (cup, hat, fish, ship, ball, book) and five body parts (hand, foot, chin, head, elbows, legs) and put the names of the objects (in French) into two photo-cubes:

Then I gathered the appropriate objects.  We took turns choosing who would be the Balancer.  Then the other girl rolled the dice and helped put the correct object on the correct bodypart of the Balancer.  We kept rolling the dice until the Balancer couldn't balance the objects any longer:

It was a real challenge, and the girls laughed and laughed as the objects kept slipping.  We also played a variation where you only roll the dice once and then have to carry the object using the correct body part across the room.  You could also add a third die with actions (like jump, stand on one leg, etc..) for more challenge.

Once the girls had enough of the balancing game, we played "What's in the Hat" by hiding different objects in the Dr. Seuss hat and then trying to guess what's inside or putting multiple objects inside and trying to find something specific using sense of touch (this is a variation of a Montessori Mystery Bag game):

When we read The Cat in the Hat after playing the game, the girls had a new appreciation for the amazing balancing act the cat performs.  They also could recognize some of the objects by their French names.

Other Seuss activities we've done this week include:

Now I need to come up with some ideas for the rest of our week...

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Math Games and Activities for Preschoolers

L and E are 31 months old.  Here is an update on our preschool math curriculum...

We're still doing RightStart Math Level A.  We've gotten through lessons 1-9, with a lot of repetition.  The girls don't like practicing the same thing over and over so I always try to come up with creative ideas to bring in new math manipulatives or come up with different games and activities.  I'm probably going to stay on these lessons until I feel that the girls have mastered the concepts before moving forward.  Considering this is a Kindergarten math curriculum, we can definitely take our time.

The girls have become really good at identifying groups of objects to 5.  We practice this in lots of different ways:

The picture above is from the Number Lap Books we're creating.  I photocopied some of the pages from the appendix of the RightStart Math manual, and the girls choose the items that represent a specific number (two sticks, two fingers, number two, two abacus beads, etc..).  Then the girls practice drawing a certain number of lines and circles (see L's paper in blue above).

We also play a game with a deck of Uno cards, where we flip over one number and then demonstrate that number using objects, tally sticks, fingers, or the abacus:

(and then they eat the corresponding number of Goldfish Crackers!)

We sing 'Yellow is the Sun' almost every day.  It's a song that helps kids memorize how numbers from 6 to 10 are decomposed using 5 (6 is 5 and 1, etc..).  We often use manimulatives to illustrate the concepts as we sing the song:

I've also been demonstrating what addition really means by showing them how to add up various objects, and by using the Add It Math Game Free Printable from Confessions of a Homeschooler:

Patterns and blocks are really popular with the girls, as well.  Here is a photo of a game I made for them by cutting up non-stick shelf-liner into various shapes and letting them place blocks on them (blocks came from a game from older kids that we found for a clearance price.. great fine motor activity):

Since all the math activities we do are very hands-on, not just flashcards, the girls are really getting the concepts.  I know this, because they demonstrate the things that they know whenever they play (even when they're just playing with each other and I'm overhearing them) - I love that math is not reserved for a special 'class at school', but is integrated into the activities and games that we play every day.

Check out Part 2 of this blog:  Ten More Early Learning Math Games - Number Line and More

Some other math-related activities from Learners in Bloom:

Here are some links to other Mommy/Teacher Blogs with ideas for math activities and games appropriate for the preschool age-group:

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