Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Go paint a rock!

A rock? Yep. If you haven't introduced painting to your kiddo yet, this is perfect! If your kids love to paint, this is still perfect!

Here's what you need: some rocks, or "stones", preferably smooth; water and a paintbrush. I'm not really sure where all these rocks have come from . . . I think I have picked them up here and there on trips and such. Aren't they pretty and smooth?
Here's why you should do it: This is a perfect introduction to using a paintbrush! It's not messy (unless the cup tips over and spills on your tax return) and is mesmerizing to see the rocks change colors. The water dries very quickly and you can do it all over again! A very "green" activity! :)

I don't really have to explain this one . . .

We even got a little creative - I wrote my name and he wrote the letter "L". I'll be honest, though. Despite all my efforts, Lawton does not like to do anything "artsy". sigh. I do. Maybe Carolina will indulge me - or maybe my efforts will one day pay off.

We still had a good time, though. :)

Saturday, February 21, 2009

I spy with my little eye . . .

This is another super fun game to play with your wee one . . . with a twist from the traditional "I Spy."

Here's what you need: five or six small objects (and a rug or towel to help "focus" where the lesson, ahem, "game" is.)

**Okay, if you really think that you will go along and do some of these fun things I'm writing about at home, then you must start a small objects collection! Let me tell you, you have so much already at home and you will start thinking in "small object" mode when you are out and about. Promise. There will be lots of future posts using these objects, so rummage around and see what you can find! (Here is an example of a place where you can buy them online, but in my opinion it is pricey and you can make your own collection alot cheaper. When I taught, I had some objects from this company and they are SOOO cute, but I had to leave them behind.)

This is how I have my objects organized. This drawer system is found in hardware stores or in the tool department at Wal-Mart and such. I used my handy dandy label maker (I heart the label maker!) to mark each drawer.** (Sadly, I have not gotten out most of my school stuff until now and Lawton is loving it! He was so excited when I pulled out all these objects the other day. Blogging this stuff is helping me to make sure I'm doing it with him!)
Here are shots of two different drawers to give you some ideas. This is L - lab, lantern, lizard, lotion, lady, etc.
This is the P drawer. Praying mantis, poodle, pacifier, pin(bowling and safety), pizza, etc.At Michael's/JoAnn's/Hobby Lobby they have TONS of little objects! There are small wooden pictures (about 25 cents each last time I looked) that you can glue on crafts that are great,doll house miniatures and all kinds of other crafty stuff that is fab. Polly Pocket/Barbie objects, and those tubes of miniature animals work great, too. (Ask a mom that has an elementary age girl if she has anything she wants to get rid of. Chances are she'll have tons to give you because she is tired of Susie not picking all those little bitty objects up.) You'll get addicted . . .

Here's why you should do it: This game helps your child with phonemic awareness. Translation- this will help them LISTEN to the sounds that make words. (I'll try not to get too jargon-y on you!) If they can hear the sounds, then later they will be able to spell the sounds/words and then read the sounds/words. And yep, spell before they can read! Keep tuning in . . .
Here's how you do it:Select five or six objects (or just two or three if they are really young) and name them all, much like this lesson.
Then say, "I spy with my little eye something that starts with the vvvvv sound." (Saying the sound, not the letter)

Vacuum! (Isn't that so cute and fun?) Continue on with the other objects. B, C, M, F, S, T, Z are some of the easier ones to start with and "listen" for.

Want to step it up another notch? "I spy something with my little eye something that ends with the sound llll." This is much harder - especially if they have been listening to the beginning sound for a long time.

Oh, and what does Carolina do while I am doing all this fun stuff with Lawton? Yeah. Having a ball pulling all the Kleenex out! :) Seriously though- most of the time she is napping!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Lawton Scissorhands

I actually have never seen the movie "Edward Scissorhands", so this might be a derogatory reference to my child. If so, I plead ignorance! (which may not be a stretch for most of you to think that about me. . . hee, hee!) But hey, I needed a catchy title and "Cutting" wasn't very fun, okay? But, that's what we're doing today. Cutting.

Here's what you need: scissors (surprise, surprise!) and paper. Oh, and a marker or some type of writing utensil.

Here's why you should do it: Everyone needs to know how to cut. Your child's preschool or kindergarten teacher will love you too, if your child is proficient at cutting before they get to the classroom and all other nine children want the teacher to "hold the paper" for them. Not that my child would do that, ahem. (I really have tried, Miss Donitta, to teach my child to cut for a long, long time. However, cutting and doing any type of art isn't at the top of his list and doesn't have much attention span for it. Please forgive me.) Seriously, though, this will help build concentration and work on those all important fine motor skills.

First, you need to cut strips of paper (I used my handy dandy paper cutter that I use for scrapbooking). I also used some scraps of cardstock because the stiffness is helpful for them to hold their own paper and cut. You can use whatever paper you have on hand, though. (of course!) Here I have the total progression of patterns from easiest to hardest. If your kiddo is just starting out, you might be cutting something like the first two strips for weeks. As they get more skills, they can start turning corners and curves.

Some of these can get tricky. . . I'm sure though that there is some little girl who is a year and a half younger than Lawton that loves to do art all day long that can breeze right through all these activities.
These shapes can be fun for the more proficient cutter.
Cutting straight lines takes some major concentration! :) And yes, he did hold his own paper today! Yes!
Oops! Missed that line a few times!
There! Got it!
Moving on . . .
Here's a shot of the fun shape - that I did. He probably can do it - but he got tuckered out today. Poor guy had to stay home from school with a fever and cough.
You can trash the scraps or you could keep them and make a neat collage or something. Too bad we didn't get around to making enough scraps . . .

Sunday, February 15, 2009

This is a . . . tarantula! eek!

On the last post, someone asked if I had any activities for 18 month olds. . . here you go! This can be used with someone as young or as old as you would like!

Children from birth to age six have what is termed "the absorbent mind". Because of their absorbent minds, they easily learn the world around them at exponential rates! This "game" is a quick and easy way to help them learn the world around them.

Here's what you need: any three objects that you would like for your kiddo to learn. (Children love and are fascinated by small objects! I will talk more about this in a later post.) If you are working with an 18 month old, you might choose three very basic items such as an apple, an orange and a lemon. I chose a tarantula, dragonfly, and grasshopper for Lawton. When I was taught this lesson during my training, the trainers used a knife, spoon, and fork, but taught us the words in another language! It was tricky! (You will understand once you view the video). You can (but don't have to) have a rug or towel to control the work area as well.

Here's why you should do it: What greater gift than to give your child the adequate words to communicate with you! Kids love playing this "game" and don't even realize they are learning!

Watch the video and then meet back up with me below.

Okay, did you get it all?

Here are a few highlights that I want to make sure you get.

  • First, name all objects to clarify what they are. Lawton wanted to call the tarantula a spider (which it is) and dragonfly could have been an insect and the grasshopper a bug. Decide what terminology you want them to learn.
  • I then had him point to the objects because that is easier than saying the name when learning new vocabulary.
  • He handed me the objects next, but you can get as silly as you want - put the tarantula on your head, put the grasshopper on your knee, give the dragonfly a kiss, etc.
  • If they exhibit that they can locate the objects correctly, then say, "This is a . . . " and see if they can respond with the correct name. If not, no big deal, just name it yourself and keep playing the game. This way, they might not realize they are supposed to know the right answer and stress that they don't yet.
  • If they choose the wrong item, no big deal. Don't say, "That's not right! Are you crazy? Haven't I taught you anything?" (I'm kidding people) But instead, just rename the objects and keep playing the game. (or until they make the dragonfly buzz away and the grasshopper jump into your hair!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Circles in the sand . . .

Can you name that 80's tune? Don't blame me if you are humming it the rest of the day! :)

Alrighty - this activity is an addendum to the previous post. (It doesn't have to be, of course, though!) I "made" my own homemade sand tray - check out an "official sand tray" used in Montessori classrooms here. They are beautiful, and larger than the one shown here, but pricier and - guess what - I'm sure you have the materials for this one in your kitchen!

Here's what you need: a shallow (this is important) container with a lid (notice my lovely always unmanicured hands to show you some perspective)

and some sand (or like substance)
Here's why you should do it: Kids are sensory little people! This activity provides many reps with (hopefully) little mess, and they can practice making letters, numbers, shapes, drawing pictures, or just have fun exploring! Once again, for all those "perfectionistic" kids - if they mess up and get in a wad, just shake the sand! Who knew that learning to write could be so much fun?!

First, if you are practicing letters (instead of just playing or making shapes), trace over the letter for some concrete muscle memory.
Then, you model the correct letter formation (starting at the top)

Then let your kiddo have a turn (yes, I know this can be fun for you, too!)

The finished letter. Shake to smooth out and repeat. Shake and repeat. Shake and repeat. Shake and repeat. I guess you can figure that out, though, huh? :)
Note: It doesn't take a lot of sand to make this work. You want just enough so that when a stroke is made, you can see the bottom of the dish easily. Oh, and did you wonder where I found such white, perfect sand? It's sugar!
Open up your spice/staples cabinet (don't judge mine! ;) and think outside the box. . .

These are just a few things that I pulled out that could be fun - and not harmful if ingested by the 15 month old who might want to get in on the action! Oats, sesame seeds, bread crumbs, dried parsley, cinnamon, cocoa, poppy seeds, salt - you name your spice - and talk about a sensory experience! How fun to smell some heavenly cinnamon while making letters!

Oh, and when I taught, I put colored sand (found at dollar stores) in my sand tray. Change your tray out with every holiday or season, or every spill, (hee hee), and have fun!

Friday, February 6, 2009

Do I need any white out for this? {Sandpaper letters}

Handwriting. When can kids start practicing? How many pieces of paper, markers, pens, pencils, carpet stains, and holes in the paper from rubbing the eraser too hard do you have to endure? In this next activity, even though it might take some preparation, it will help your child have the coveted handwriting in the first grade classroom one day and will appeal to their sensory sides as well!

Here's what you need: foam core board (red, blue, and green), a ruler (I happen to have a lipped ruler used for sewing which is FAB-U-LOUS!), fine grit sandpaper, glue of some sort, and access to an Ellison-Press machine (usually churches {with a great children's program} or schools have these) OR you can painstakingly trace and cut out your own letters yourself using this template! Or, you could buy your own set here (or many other places on the web).
Here's a close-up of the fine grit sandpaper I used. You don't want the heavy grit sandpaper . . . it will tear your sweet baby's fingers all to pieces!
Step by Step instructions:
Cut the foam core board into equal pieces - 21 blue (for consonants) and 5 red (for vowels - a,e,i,o,u) and 10 green (for numbers 0-9). Glue on the sandpaper letters on each square and let dry.
Here's why you should do it: In young children, they go through "sensitive periods" and at the age of two to three, their senses are especially heightened. Tracing these sandpaper letters create a "muscle memory" and help the child focus on correct letter formation rather than holding the pencil correctly, staying on the paper, making letters too big or too small, etc. The sandpaper letters provide an exact guide and the texture taps into their heightened senses.
Here is my proof that this really works: I taught in a Montessori classroom for three years before I had Lawton and decided to stay home. My three year olds (there were five in that group) were with me for all three years because Montessori classrooms are multi-aged. When they were in their "kindergarten year" (my third year) I realized that they ALL had excellent handwriting, much better than any of my other kindergartners had ever had! I attribute their skills to the repetitive use of sandpaper letters, because they were the only group that I taught that used these letters in their "sensitive period".

First, you model the correct letter formation. You can say the sound of the letter as you do it - notice I said sound, not name, of the letter. This is important - keep visiting this blog and you will see why later! ;) This makes the sound "a" (short a, as in apple). I am using two fingers because 1) it helps with control of the tracing and 2) is a prelude to correct pencil grip.Then let your little one have a turn . . .
Lawton insisted on laying out and tracing his name - which was okay because he has had these for a while and knows how to spell and write his name (in lowercase letters). If you are just starting out, I would pick only a few letters to even put out (like some letters in their name!)
Disclaimer!!! Do your child a favor (and their pre-school/kindergarten teacher a favor)! Teach your child to write their name in lowercase letters, not capital letters (even though they are easier to learn!) It will be such a hard habit for them to break! (I only have made a set of capital letters so far - if you can and really want to do this, I would make (or buy) lower case letters first!
Can't you see the concentration on his face? ;)
I made some numbers in green, too. You have to learn how to write these, too, you know!
Here's how I store ours - in a cheap photo box! It works and is "pretty".

Moms - be sure and slather on the lotion after this activity! Our hands aren't quite as soft and supple anymore! :)

Monday, February 2, 2009

Mr. Independent

Have you ever been on your way out the door with a diaper bag over your shoulder, a purse over your other shoulder, a lunchbox on your index finger, a backpack hanging by your middle finger, your keys dangling by your pinky and a few important papers in your mouth(of course ten minutes late with your baby screaming in the car seat carrier) and your three year old needs your help putting on their coat? Or, you might have that super-uber independent child (could be good independence {at times}, could be the pull-your-hair-out-I-can-do-it-all-by-myself independent. . .) who wants to put on their coat but doesn't have the coordination? Watch this video for a little "trick" to help make your life a teensy weensy bit easier!