Thursday, March 8, 2012

Jack the Builder - Building Block Activity

We have a number of the MathStart picture books by Stuart Murphy, and today we did an activity based on the book Jack the Builder.  This book teaches the American way of doing basic addition (start at the last number and then count by ones from that point), and since I'm trying to teach the kids the Japanese way (via the Rightstart Math curriculum, which teaches kids to view addition in terms of 5s and 10s), I focused more on the block-building than the math.

The book is about a boy who builds various things as he stacks up more and more blocks.  I think this is a terrific book, not necessarily for teaching addition, but for its message about using your imagination and the wonderful illustrations (we spent a lot of time examining each picture and pointing out different objects we found).

For this activity, I took out our wooden blocks and the girls tried to duplicate the creations the boy was making.  There are a number of skills involved:

1. Picking out the correct blocks by color, shape, and size
2. If the same color/shape/size block is not available, identifying what criteria to use to select an alternative
3. Using the correct number of blocks
4. Placing the blocks in the right orientation to replicate the formation in the picture.

Of course I let the girls discover these skills on their own as they worked on this task:

The towers crashed before they could build the spaceship at the end, so they used their problem solving skills to engineer their own spaceships:

We counted backwards from 10 and the girls screamed "Blast Off!"  Then, like in the book, the kids knocked the towers down and started again, building all sorts of creations from their imaginations.

We're Going on a Number Hunt

The other day, E was throwing something away and declared, "There's 'S' in the trash!".  The kids have been spotting letters and numbers everywhere we go.  Since the girls are already proficient in letter recognition, I decided that we would go on a Number Hunt.  I let the kids raid the pantry looking for numbers on packaging.  Some of the numbers were so small that I had to take out magnifying glasses, which added to the fun.  It was wonderful practice spotting the tiny numbers and learning to identify numbers larger than 10.  We also compared quantities - this box has 8, this one has 12, which one has more? 

I cut out some of the numbers from the packages we didn't need, and the kids played with them the rest of the night (excuse the dirty table in the picture, this was right after a painting activity).  We'll have to do a 'Word Hunt' next to practice reading. 

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

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Decorate a Container with Cotton Loops

We made these gorgeous fabric-wrapped containers today - they could be used as vases, pencil holders, or kick-nack desk accessories and would also make wonderful handmade gifts.

A while ago I bought a bag of cotton loops which are supposed to be refills for those kid potholder looms (I was going to use them on a geoboard but then ended up letting the kids use rubber bands instead, so they've been sitting in my craft closet for a while).  You could also cut your own rings out of any stretchy fabric.  The kids and I spent the morning putting them on various containers:

Putting the loops around the mouth of the container and then pushing them down one by one was a terrific fine-motor exercise for the kids.  Taking them off again was fun as well.  If we make these again as gifts, I'd probably glue the loops that go around the bottom and the top of the container and let the kids fill in the rest.  They turned out so whimsical and colorful:

Now we just need to craft some spring flowers to go inside to make a cheery centerpiece for the table!

Watercolor Textures with Salt and Plastic Wrap

Here are two simple watercolor 'texture' painting techniques I've seen all over the web, which I've wanted to try for some time.  So when the kids wanted to watercolor paint their coloring pages today, I thought I'd give it a try.

First wet your paper (learned that it's best to get it really wet by running water on both sides of the paper until it is almost translucent, but doesn't fall apart).  Then do some watercolor painting, covering the sheet:

We worked on the one above together.  I was originally planning on trying the plastic-wrap technique on this one, but the paper was too try when we were done, so we tried sprinkling salt on it instead (both E and L loved this part).  When the painting was (mostly) dry, the girls and I took a look at it in the sunlight:

I love the 'snow' effect the salt creates.  This would be wonderful for children's artwork with a winter/snow theme.

Then L helped me paint another piece of paper (this time making sure it was really wet before we started painting).  When we were done covering the paper, we put wrinkled plastic wrap on top:

You're supposed to wait until the paint is completely dry before removing the plastic wrap, but the kids (or Mommy), couldn't wait..  Here is the result:

What a neat texture!  These would be so beautiful for making greeting cards or backgrounds for unique art.  We'll be experimenting with these techniques again, for sure.

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Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Left Hand, Right Hand - Homemade Game

The kids helped me make this really easy homemade game for learning the difference between Right and Left.  I used L's hand and a large ink-pad to make stamps of her left and right hands on a large sheet of paper (you could use paint as well, although I imagine that will be messier).  Then I cut out little "L" and "R" cards out of an index card and asked her to figure out which hand she used to make each of the handprints (this wording is important, because if you look at the palm of someone's hand facing you, it will be the mirror image, i.e. opposite hand, from yours).  I wrote 'L' and 'R' on her hands in washable marker to help her remember which was which:

L did a great job with this activity, repeating it several times.  We also played a game where I asked her to touch her left/right ear, eye, knee, foot, etc.. or do different actions with her left/right hand, and she enjoyed this quite a bit too.  I'm not sure she could identify left from right without having the letters written on her hand, but we'll keep practicing.

Of course, I couldn't take out the ink-pad without letting the kids have some free exploration with some animal stamps:

I took out a marker and drew some smiling-faces on some of the fingerprints and handprints on their paper, and L wanted to try too:

Aren't these cute?  L (31 months) made the faces all by herself - she's been making 'realistic' drawings since she was younger than 2 years old.  E tried to make a face but when it didn't turn out, she gave up and decided to build a tower with the stamps instead:

I love how each twin has a different personality, different strengths, and different interests.

Tuesday Tots 

Monday, March 5, 2012

Fun with... Laundry!

Today (after throwing all the clean laundry from my bed to the floor) the kids helped me sort and fold the laundry.  It actually turned out to be quite a bit of fun, and used lots of good fine and gross motor skills. 

First we sorted the clothes into categories, and then I showed the girls how to fold different types of items:

The kids worked very carefully on this task and did a fantastic job.  If the folding was not quite right they kept trying until they got it.  Folding blankets was an extra challenge because it involved teamwork:

Finally we played a little game with matching socks (I confess - I pulled more clean socks out of the dresser for this).  We put all the socks into a pile and then had to run to the pile, find a pair of matching socks, run back to the other side of the room and put them down on the tray.  At first L didn't want to play, but after I offered to time her with the stopwatch, she suddenly became interested (a little competitive spirit in that girl).  She made me take a turn while she timed me, too (workout for the day - check!). 

E didn't want to play the sock game at all because she was sitting in Baby H's carseat pretending to be a baby.  It brought tears to my eyes to see what a big girl she looks like in the chair that we used to bring her home from the hospital as a 4-lbs preemie only 2.5 years ago.  How quickly they grow!

The good time we had with laundry reminded me that kids' activities don't always have to be complicated or pre-planned... there is fun (and learning) in even the simple everyday things. 

Oh, and I'd love to say this activity helped me get something done around the house.  But, alas, after the clothes were folded, the kids decided it would be fun to throw them back into the laundry basket and then engage in other miscellaneous mess-creating activities around my bedroom...

Sunday, March 4, 2012

What We Did This Week

L and E are 31 months old.

Here's a review of some of the fun activities the kids and I did this week as part of our Homeschool Preschool Curriculum (I don't really know what to call it because the twins are a bit younger than preschool age, but totally embracing the curriculum I've put together which mostly includes materials for Kindergarten age).

Sr. Seuss Week

This was the first time I've been able to stick to a single theme for (almost) an entire week.  The Dr. Seuss Activities we did this week included:

Art / Sensory

As always, we did lots of art projects.  The highlight of the week was Sensory Play with Tapioca:

It turned out really neat!


We've completed DVD 1 of the Kinderbach program.  The kids know the difference between quarter notes and half notes, can locate the groups of 2 black keys and 3 black keys on the keyboard, identify the difference between low/high notes and loud/quiet sounds, and also know whether three notes are being played on the same key or an increasing interval.

Overall it's been a lot of fun.  We like dancing to the music and shaking our rhythm instruments.  E doesn't like the 'teaching' parts and keeps asking for more music so she can dance.  Both the girls enjoy doing the activity worksheets, which I put into our Crayola Dry-Erase Activity Centers so we can re-use them.


We're still enjoying and learning with RightStart Math Level A, and the girls have really improved in their mathematical understanding.  I summarized the types of things we're doing in my post on Preschool Math Games and Activities, so there's not a lot to add without repeating myself.


We discovered Reading Eggs this week, and the kids absolutely love it!  It's an online program that, through fun activities and lots of repetition, teaches kids phonics skills and early reading skills.  The girls really know their letter sounds and a lot of sight words already, so the lessons have mostly been reinforcing the skills they already know, but they will touch more new concepts as we move along.  I was amazed at how easily both girls figured out how to use a computer mouse and can click as well as drag-and-drop with ease.  We've been doing a little bit every day, and so far we've gotten through Lessons 1-5.

We also recently started Hooked on Phonics Kindergarten 1.  We're currently working on the first unit which includes word families -AT, -AN, and -AP.  A couple times a week, I'll play the DVD for them (which is basically just flashcards on the screen), then we'll listen to a phonics song (on the Extras feature of the DVD).  I let the kids practice the words we just learned by making up various games for them using manipulatives like the Velco Phonics Game or this magnet board game:

We play 2 ways:  I start with the ending already put together (like -AT), and then say a word (like CAT).  Then one of the kids will select the correct letter (C) to put at the beginning of the word.  This is fairly easy for them since they've become pretty good with beginning letter sounds.  The second way we play is I put together the word and ask them to read it.  They can sound out each letter individually, but are still struggling with blending them together (for example, they will sound out H-A-T, but when I ask them what it says, they say 'MAT').  They're both getting better at this, though, especially with lots of repetition.

Another thing we do to practice the word families is through the Starfall website's free games and online books.  They seem to go right along with the same words that Hooked on Phonics is covering, so we can play games specifically for practicing -AT and -AN words, for example.  The girls really enjoy these, but I like Reading Eggs better in terms of keeping the kids' attention.  When I asked L if she wanted to read 'Zack the Rat' (from Starfall), she said 'We already did it.  Remember, Mommy?'  (we hadn't done it for a week, but these kids really crave variety). 

After we practice the words, the kids take turns reading from the Hooked on Phonics beginning reader books.  The biggest problem I have is that the girls already know their sight words ('the', 'in', 'a', etc...) and know how proper sentences should sound, so it frustrates them when the book says 'Cat sat' instead of 'The cat sat'.


We didn't do a formal science lesson this week because I was a bit too busy with work (and organizing other kid activities) to set anything up.  The plan is to keep going with Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding - I'd like to do the lessons on states of matter and also on materials, since the kids have shown an interest in those topics.  I'd also love to take a walk outside and investigate for signs of spring if the weather warms up this week.  I'll post what we end up doing in separate blogs.

That's the overview of this week - I'm not sure it's all that interesting to anyone else, but I like being able to use my blog as a way of keeping track of what we've been up to and how the kids are progressing.

Disclosure:  I loved Reading Eggs so much, that I joined their affiliate program.  If you click on any of the Reading Eggs links in this blog post and end up purchasing their product, I will get a commission.

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