Saturday, May 30, 2015

Letter E Is for Engineering. Introduction to Engineering for Preschoolers: Building Blocks.

Fun with Building Blocks Preschool Activities

Our letter of the week - E is for Engineering - inspired us to explore the exciting field of engineering. My Firefly loves her free play with building blocks. This time I set down with her for more structured play to give her creativity a little boost. We explored several geometric solids and some new building ideas. This post is a part of our "Creative ABCs" series found here: Creative ABCs.

Geometric Solids: Engineering in Action

Our goal for these activities was to introduce the concept of engineering through play. Building blocks feel so familiar to the little hands, but there is so much yet to discover!

What can engineers make? "Engineering Elephants" by Emily Hunt and Michelle Pantoya is our book of the week. "Engineers make elephants with long, swinging trunks. Waite a minute... Do engineers really make elephants?" Amazon affiliate link: Engineering Elephants.

Nature vs. technology: fun silly questions in this book are so much fun! We discussed engineering a little. I found this article helpful for the points of this discussion: What is Engineering? | Types of Engineering from Live Science.

The geometric solids we worked with: cube, cylinder, prism, and sphere. We started with the simple sorting activity: Roll or Stack.

Based on our discoveries, we proceeded to "engineer" new structures.

Roll or Stack? Explore Geometric Solids Hands-on

What can be rolled? What can be stacked? My Firefly quickly found spheres (balls) so that we could roll them to each other for a while.

But what about a cube? Can it roll? She seriously tried to roll a cube! Can we stack cubes? Yes, and we can stack prisms too.

Sorting activity: the green tray is for shapes we can stack and the pink tray is for shapes we can roll. She filled the green tray with prisms, then added a cylinder.

Introduction to Engineering: Challenge 1 - Cylinders

We discovered that a cylinder is very special. It can be rolled or stacked. So it belongs to green and pink tray!

Pictured above:
Invitation to build a gate. The challenge was just right for My Firefly. The trick is to put the prism on top of cylinders. If the only shape to go on top was a cylinder - it would roll off. So here is a control for self correction!

Challenge 2: Shorter Cylinders and a Prism

The horse loves to jump. But the gate is too high for it to jump over. Can you build a playground structure for your horse so that it can jump over it? The invitation to create is pictured below.

The horse is so happy now!

Building Blocks Challenge 3: the New and Improved Castle with Cylinders

At the end of our explorations we built "a beautiful castle" using cylinders and any other shapes from the tray. The foam blocks we used are similar to this (Amazon affiliate link): Verdes Toys, Soft & Safe Foam Building Blocks, Set of 100, (77367)

Our letter E is for Engineering brought us some fun explorations. What were your family's favorite activities this week?

Visit our "Creative ABCs" series for more letter of the week fun and learning: Creative ABCs.

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Monday, May 25, 2015

Little Games with Colors, Shapes, and Tables for Kids. Caldecott Medal Books.

Make Fun Friends for Beekle Matching Colors and Shapes

My Firefly loves playing and building with shapes recently. Today she got a game of making friends for Beekle, a wonderful unimaginary friend! Caldecott Medal Books is a theme for May at Poppins Book Nook. You can find our previous Poppins Book Nook activities here: Farm Animals Dramatic Play with Ten Red Apples.

Caldecott Medal Books

"The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend" by Dan Santat was our book of the month. Amazon affiliate link: The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend.

Randolph J. Caldecott was the 19th century English illustrator. It was decided to make a medal in his honor. The medal is awarded to the best artist - illustrator of a children's book. Since 1937, one book a year is awarded the Caldecott medal.

2015 Medal winner is "The Adventures of Beekle", a wonderful book written and illustrated by Dan Santat. Beekle is a funny white creature with a tiny golden crown on his head. He is waiting patiently for his best friend to imagine and find him. But nobody could imagine him! Is he courageous enough to go looking for his best friend?

Colors, Shapes, and Tables Preschool Games

We made our own little games inspired by this beautiful book!

The rules are flexible and can be made together depending on the interests and the previous experience.

Matching and sorting colors and shapes

  • Make funny friends matching the same shape or color of the head and body.
  • Make funny friends matching the same shape and color.
  • Follow your partners description to make his friend. Ex, "My friend has a yellow circle for the body and a blue triangle for his head." Then switch turns.
  • Can you make a friend for the yellow creature out of the same shapes as he is?

Playing with vocabulary: colors and shapes

  • Describe a creature above/ below the purple friend.
  • Who is standing before/ after the brown friend?
  • Who is standing in between green and pink friends?

Playing with the table: colors and shapes

The activity is to practice finding rows and columns in the given table and finding the shapes and colors at the given location.
  • Which creatures live in the first row? Second? Third?
  • Name all the creatures in the first column. Second. Third.
  • Can you make all the orange friends living in the first column?
  • All the square friends want to live in the bottom row. Can you help them?
  • Who lives in the second column and the third row?
  • Where does the yellow friend live?

Caldecott Medal Books - the Theme for May at PBN

It's time for the Poppins Book Nook - a book club that goes live on the last Monday of each months.
You can find our previous Poppins Book Nook books and activities here: Poppins Book Nook.

Enchanted Homeschooling Mom - 3 Dinosaurs - ABC Creative Learning - As We Walk Along the Road - Brain Power Boy - Chestnut Grove Academy - Embracing Destiny - Every Bed of Roses - Farm Fresh Adventures - Growing in God's Grace - Kathys Cluttered Mind - My Bright Firefly - Peakle Pie - Preschool Powol Packets - Pray Species - SAHM I am - Stir The Wonder - Sunny Day Family - Sweet Silly Sara - Teach Beside Me - To the Moon and Back - Tots and Me - Tree Valley Academy - Witty Hoots

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Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Fun with Zoo Animals for Kids

Summer at the Zoo Preschool Activities. Welcome, Summer! Fun for Kids.

One of our favorite summer activities is our trips and adventures at the Zoo. Of course, that's where we are heading this summer! How to keep that awesome curiosity and imagination up? The #1 in our Fun Summer To-Do list is quick extension activities for a rainy day at home.

This post is a part of "Welcome, Summer!" series. Find lots of awesome summer fun ideas at the end of this article!

Pictured above:

Underwater I Spy Jars from Adventure in a Box. A jar, water, color and glitter, some extra ingredients... and lots of imagination at play here!

Fun with Zoo Animals: Visual Hands-on Math and Graphs from My Bright Firefly. Fun with Zoo animals and learning graphs through play.

Invitation to Create: Edible Zoo Small World from Fantastic Fun and Learning. Build a simple, but colorful zoo, learn the different habitats and their colors, then eat it! How very fun!

Animal Spots – Fingerprint Paint Fun for Toddlers from Powerful Mothering. Learn spots and stripes in a most simple and engaging way!

15 Amazing Paper Plate Animal Crafts from Artsy Craftsy Mom. Simple, amazing, and very creative animals. Just not very simple to choose which one to make first!


Zoo Animals: Create and Explore!

Pictured above:

Zoo Scavenger Hunt! from Still Playing School.  Zoo animal check list is available for free. Just print and enjoy!

Zoo Keeper Pretend Play from Teaching Mama. Easy to set up and some fun creative ideas here. How fun is that!

Small World Zoo with Everyday Items from Best Toys 4 Toddlers. Yes, absolutely adorable and creative! I love those cute trees!

An Animal Sound Song with Free Finger Puppets from The Measured Mom. Finger play and rhymes - the fun way on the go!

Cereal Box No Glue Kangaroo from My Bright Firefly. This adorable kangaroo is our favorite... and very helpful with pencils!

“If I Ran the Zoo” Crazy Animal Creation Activity from Mummy Crusader and Her Knights and Ladies. Creativity and imagination are in action!

Welcome, Summer!

Wet and Wonderful Summer Ideas for Kids | Powerful Mothering
Summer Flower Sensory Bin for Kids | Adventure in a Box
Summer nature art & craft ideas | Messy Little Monster
Summer acts of kindness for kids | Mum in the Mad House
Summer STEM Activities for Kids | Kitchen Counter Chronicles
Ultimate Guide to Summer Sidewalk Chalk  | Cutting Tiny Bites
Ideas for Summer drawings | Hodge Podge Craft
Summer Lego Ice Rescue  - Multicraftingmummy
Summer Fun Activities For Toddlers | Adventures of Adam
20 Ideas for Summer Fun with Preschool Kids | Bare Feet on the Dashboard
Planning a Summer Garden for Kids - Mama’s Happy Hive
Quick and Easy Frozen Summer Watermelon Pop  | Little Bins for Little Hands
Frozen Watermelon Cubes for Fruit Flavored Water | Little Bins for Little Hands
Summer Alphabet Activities- Growing Book by Book
Summer Bubble Fun For Kids - Just Another Mom
Epic Light Table Ice Legos & More for Summer! - The Natural Homeschool  
Summer Preschool Activities - Living Life and Learning
Free Summer Printables - Montessori Nature

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Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Hoppy Father's Day Frog on a Lily Pad Easy Origami

Easy Father's Day Craft Idea for Kids to Make

My Firefly loves getting creative with paper, folding and cutting. So we decided to make a frog on a lily pad for her Daddy's Hoppy Father's Day! This one is origami that is easy and quick to make. For more Father's Day ideas, visit 10 Fun Ways to Say "I Love You, Daddy!"

Frog on a Lily Pad Easy Origami

Folding the frog:
  1. To make a square out of the standard 9 by 12, fold the paper diagonally edge to edge, and draw a line along the side of the triangle. Cut along the line and discard. The triangle is ready for folding.
  2. Bring each of the 2 corners of the triangle to the third corner. Fold as shown on the picture below.
  3. Flip the square upside down and position so that the loose corners are on top.
  4. Fold the 2 free sides down. Notice that the folding line is drawn slightly above the corners of the square.

Decorating the frog:
  1. Draw the lines to round the corners: the bottom of the mouth and around the eyes.
  2. Cut along the lines. Draw a folding line above the bottom corner of the frog.
  3. Fold the little triangle back - it is a base for holding the frog up.
  4. Optional: Staple the little base triangle to a lily pad for more stability. We used a piece of craft foam for the lily pad. A stripe of red construction paper is used for the tongue. Make a cut into the folding line for the upper triangle. The cut is slightly wider then the tongue. Roll the tongue into a tube and thread the free end through the cut.

Hoppy Father's Day!

The frog is now able to stick his tongue out. Our Hoppy the frog has caught a heart (sticker).

And to complete My Firefly's present, I found this very fun book: "My Dad Is the Best Playground" by Luciana Navarro Powell. I thought this book would be enjoyable for them to read together. Well, I might get lucky and get a  cute picture of "Daddy and Me" reading time! Amazon affiliate link: My Dad Is the Best Playground.

Hoppy Father's Day Frog on a Lily Pad Easy Origami was fun to make and play. I hope our Dad will like it!

A Beautiful Lily Made Easily from a Paper Napkin

To make it even more fun for him, we made an origami lily and filled it with M&Ms! It is so easy and quick. All you need is a paper napkin and a cup. We found the tutorial here: Paper Napkin Lily.

You can also find our easy origami Lulu the Bookmark here: Parts of a Book with Lulu the Bookmark Preschool Activities.

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Sunday, May 17, 2015

Letter Z is for Zoo. Introduction to Graphing for Preschoolers.

Fun with Zoo Animals: Visual Hands-on Math and Graphs

Visual and hands-on math - yes, perfect for little kids to learn classification, counting, and comparing. Preschool graphing is all about manipulating real objects and discussing real life experiences. But even with that, is it as easy for preschoolers to use graphs as it seems to an adult?  This post is a part of our "Creative ABCs" series found here: Creative ABCs.

Our introduction to bar graphs was smooth and easy. The skills in use: good understanding of the terms "row" and/or "column", one-to-one correspondence, some previous experience with simple classifying.

Practicing Rows and the Order of Objects with Zoo Animals

We were lucky to come across Animal Search and Learn Puzzle by The Learning Journey. It is the best puzzle for 3 year olds I've ever seen (prove me wrong: what's the favorite puzzle in your family?). Amazon affiliate link: Animals Search and Learn Puzzle by The Learning Journey.

Kids love this puzzle! It is perfect to play together at the play date. There are smiley animals divided into 4 colored rows. Even though there are 28 pieces, our almost 3 year olds managed it with minimal assistance; and it was very cute to watch them at work!

First, kids sorted puzzle pieces by color into 4 piles. Then, they worked with the order of animals - one row at a time. The questions we asked:

  • What color is the first row? (The pile with yellow pieces is placed in front of a child. If there are several players, each child gets several pieces.)
  • Learning the words: first, next, last. What is the first animal?
  • What is the next animal? What is the last animal?
  • What color is the next row? Last row?

This is the best part: children learned to refer to the picture on the box for the clues! In order to find the next animal, they had to locate the previous one in the particular row, then follow the row to find the next animal. Kids were so excited to find their answers all by themselves!

Fast forward several months:

  • What color is the first row? Second, third, forth?
  • What is the first, second, third... animal? Last animal?
  • Which animal is in between the turtle and the octopus?
  • Which animal is next to the starfish?
  • Which animal is before the jellyfish? After the quail?

Introduction to Graphing for Preschoolers

We made play mats together. Green and yellow construction paper is cut in half lengthwise. We cut out white circles and counted them before gluing: there are 5 circles on each paper.

Pictured below:
  • Look at all these toys! Do I have more people or more animals?
  • One way to find out is to make a graph. Let's explore graphing!
  • The yellow row is for people, and the green row is for animals.
  • This gorilla is an animal. It belongs in the green row.
  • In which row should I place this zoo keeper? Can you help me? etc.

Pictured below: Our graph shows that there are more people than animals. Let's count! There are 4 people and 3 animals. 4 is more than 3!

This graph shows there are more people. Graphs help us to place our objects so they are easier to count or compare. Do you want to play again?

More Fun Math with Zoo Animals

My Firefly had more fun math games with the zoo animals: which one is different? what comes next? They can be found here:

My Firefly loved her graphing with Zoo Math! And it is all about developing the love of Math. You can find our previous Math activities here: Preschool Math Challenge with Pattern Blocks.

Visit our "Creative ABCs" series for more letter of the week fun and learning: Creative ABCs.

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Thursday, May 14, 2015

Invitation to Explore Land, Air, and Water

Land, Air, and Water Preschool Sensory Activities

It is so wonderful to watch little ones exploring their world. I invited My Firefly to play with air, water, and land on a tray. She created the layers of rocks, sand and clay, and soil in a tube; tried to find air in an empty tube; compared and learned to describe rocks; played with water. You can also find our land, air, and water sorting here: Letter G is for Globe.

Invitation to Explore the World on a Tray

Pictured below, the tools and materials we used. The test tubes with stands, a magnifying glass, a beaker, an eyedropper are from the preschool science lab set found here (Amazon affiliate links): Learning Resources Primary Science Lab Set. My Firefly collected some sand, soil, clay, and rocks in the backyard. We washed our rocks - so I served them in a play stainless steel colander from this set: Melissa & Doug Let's Play House! Pots Pans Set. The smallest paint brush we have is for painting rocks with water.

Finding Air

I asked My Firefly to find what's inside the empty container closed with the lead (pictured below). She didn't give me an answer "air" still. We had to review:
  • that air is all around us,
  • we cannot see air (even with the magnifying glass),
  • we could feel air moving during our walk the day before because it was very windy,
  • people and all living things need air.

Water Transfer Activity with the Eyedropper

Water is My Firefly's favorite. She finally learned how to use an eyedropper and currently loves these type of activities. She transferred water from the beaker to the test tube "without any spilling". We placed water next to the container with air and named both again.


The Layers of the Earth Sensory Exploration

  • What can we find under our feet? (Grass and soil)
  • What is under the soil? She followed instructions and placed some rocks, then clay and sand, than top soil.
  • Is there any water in the ground? (The answer was "no"). I had to explain that we can find water everywhere on Earth, and she added some water into her tube.

Rocks Playing and Exploration

We observed and compared our rocks. Tried to describe some rocks - an activity in progress.
  • color: we tried to name colors, then used a magnifying glass and a cell phone camera's zoom feature to discover that each rock has several different colors,
  • texture: rough or smooth, cool to touch,
  • size: we had small and big rocks,
  • weight: heavy.

The very fun activity My Firefly loved: painting rocks with a paint brush and water.

Imprints, layers and spots of different colors, cracks and interesting textures - we discovered the whole new world of rocks using the zoom feature on the cell phone!

Our invitation to explore land, air, and water was just in time for the bigger discoveries in the parks this summer! You can also find our land, air, and water sorting here: Letter G is for Globe.

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Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Pattern Blocks Math for Kids

Summer Preschool Math Challenge with Pattern Blocks

Preschool Math activities are so important for successful first years in school. Preschool Math can be so much fun! This summer I've decided to concentrate on Math activities more. We love outdoors and spend lots of hours exploring and playing outside. So our Math will last for 3 min a day with the extended free play if wanted.

What can be accomplished with only 3 minutes of Math a day? It is not about numbers and counting! The fun important things to consider are classification, analogies, vocabulary development, patters, comparison, inference, sequencing... These requires some intense brain work and concentration; and preschoolers can do only so much of that.

Pattern Blocks Challenge

Through our work so far I had to constantly remind myself that what seems like an easy activity for adults - is a real challenge for little ones. Manipulating with the pattern blocks benefit them on so many levels: beginning critical thinking, fine motor skills, memory, visual discrimination, applying the knowledge of basic shapes to the real life tasks.

We were lucky to find Animal Pattern Blocks by Melissa & Doug. My Firefly loved the set for toddlers, and was very happy to see this set for ages 3 and up. Amazon affiliate link: Melissa & Doug Animal Pattern Blocks Set.

The colored shapes can provide hours of fun with puzzles and games. We can easily just through them into the busy bag for travelling!

The first day: first we had some free play and exploration of the blocks. She completed all the animals included with correct shapes and any colors - not much of a challenge here. There are only 4 shapes in this set. She easily learned the name of the new one for her: trapezoid. Yes, I spent my 3 min saying "trapezoid" and asking her to repeat the word. Well, I find 3 minutes while I start on dinner, and she is at the counter busy playing with her game of the day.

The second day: a real challenge! She had to fill the blue dinosaur with the blue shapes only. It might be easy to sort by shapes only, or sort by colors only. It requires much higher level of critical thinking and problem solving to find and describe an object using two words: "blue triangle".

So our 3 min that day were spent for encouraging her to find a part of the given shape and color. Then she found a shortcut all by herself: she was picking all the parts of the same color first and after that working on finding the shape she needed.

The third day: some creativity with patterns.
  • The first row is easy. My Firefly created a pattern with the given shapes.
  • The task for the next row: create the same pattern, but use orange shapes only. The first two shapes were very difficult and placed with lots of assistance. She found the last two shapes, but the color was wrong (pictured above).
  • The last row: create the same pattern, but use diamonds instead of trapezoids.

Activities with pattern blocks (or colored shapes) are the best for developing critical thinking by matching, sorting, patterns, and so much more. There are lots of ideas for games with shapes included with the Animal pattern blocks.

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Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Farm Animals Preschool Theme: Books, Games, and Montessori Materials.

Adorable Hands-on Fun with Farm Animals from The Weekly Kids Co-Op

Kids would have fun this summer with the variety of farm animals activities and free resources listed here! The best farm animals books and book-inspired activities, an invitation to build a farm and play with letters, free printables and Montessori resources. The previous collection of ideas and activities can be found here: Flowers for Mother's Day.

I love this little collection of activities brought to you by The Weekly Kids Co-Op. Unfortunately, this is the last installment of this great linky party. The Weekly Kids Co-Op is closing its doors. Thanks, everybody, for all the wonderful reading, interacting, and sharing!


Farm Animals Pictured Above:

Big Red Barn Literacy Activity from Stir the Wonder. Kids will love playing with letters with this adorable DIY set of fenced yards!

10 Creative Farm Animals Preschool Activities and Books from My Bright Firefly. Top 10 farm animals books and the favorite book-inspired activities are listed all in one place.

Multi-age Farm Play Dough Activity from Playful Matters. This is a wonderful invitation to play with creative supplies at hand! Farm animals look happy in their newly created small world.

Montessori-Inspired Horse Unit from Living Montessori Now. Everything is about horses here: Montessori materials and printables are all about this awesome animal!

F is for Farm Animals from Eager Ed. The adorable farm animals puzzles are not the only ones there! You can also find a free Farm Animals Preschool Printable pack.

Which farm animal activity is your favorite?

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Monday, May 4, 2015

Letter S is for Seeds. Introduction to Plants and Gardening for Preschoolers.

Our Little Greenhouse Preschool Activities

Our letter of the week - S is for Seeds - was lots of joy of discovering and observing a new life right in front of our eyes! The goal was to explore the process of plants growing from seeds, parts of a plant, and the importance of sunlight and water for plants.  This post is a part of our "Creative ABCs" series found here: Creative ABCs.

Letter S is for Seeds. Growing Seeds in a Bag.

"The Little Red Hen" by Diane Muldrow is one of our favorite Farm Animals books. Find our Top 10 list and book inspired activities here: Farm Animals Preschool Activities and Books.
Amazon affiliate link: The Tiny Seed (The World of Eric Carle) This book and its wonderful illustrations help to uncover the miracle of a seed.

Pictured below, the plants in a quick DIY greenhouse are 10 days old. Kids were fascinated while watching the tiny sprouts appear from seeds and growing bigger every day.

This activity is all about playing and discovering the plants. We did not decorate the greenhouse - the kids' attention was on the bag so they were not interested in drawing/ coloring. We didn't fix it to the window or any permanent structure. The kids enjoyed carrying their plants around observing and comparing the greenhouses! The greenhouse proved to be pretty sturdy and withstood some heavy playing.


DIY Greenhouse for Preschoolers. Introduction to Plants and Gardening.

Supplies we used: seeds (we happened to have beans, cantaloupe, spinach, and pumpkin), zip lock bag, paper towel, construction paper, tape.

  • Place the paper towel on a tray, add water with the dropper until the paper is all wet. Explain that seeds need lots of water to grow into plants.
  • Sensory exploration of the seeds. We picked seeds straight out of the cantaloupe - our 3 year olds loved that experience! Beans looked familiar - explain that they can grow a new plant with more beans. We observed a picture on a package of spinach seeds and pulled out smaller seeds, compared the sizes.
  • Place the seeds onto the paper towel. Review that a wet towel has all the water needed for the seeds growth, the types of seeds and where they came from.
  • Place the paper towel into the bag. Add more water to keep the towel very wet if needed.
  • Tape closed bag onto the construction paper. Place in the dark space until notice the new sprouts coming (2 days for us). Then place the greenhouse in the sun light. Review that the sun light is very important for the plants.
  • Observe your sprouts growing.
Pictured below, the plants are fresh out of the bag (day 10).

Seek and Find the Seeds with a Magnifying Glass

Aw, the happy moment of seeing the seeds up close! My Firefly looked, and touched, and smelled. The plants lifted right up when out of the bag.

I asked My Firefly to find the seeds with the magnifying glass. It was confusing for her at first as the experience is all new for her. Some seeds stayed on paper, while the others got into the air stuck on top of the leaves.

I can highly recommend this magnifying glass! My Firefly loves it and usually keeps it in her tricycle for the outdoor explorations and playing. The glass went through some rough playing and is still in a great condition. Amazon affiliate link: Single Learning Resources Jumbo Magnifying Glass for Kids (One Magnifying Glass of Random Color Per Order)

Explore Parts of a Plant Using a Cell Phone Camera as a Microscope

That was an awesome exploration! My Firefly, a huge fan of technology, was double motivated to explore the parts of a plant under a "microscope". She found roots, stem, leaves, and seeds for different plants. I helped her by touching the plant with a tip of a pencil. She touched the parts with her fingers. We discussed the colors and sizes in a process too. Unfortunately, our plants were well played with and didn't get planted into the ground.

Little gardeners loved learning about plants. Our gardening exploration will continue, but this introduction to seeds and plants sparked lots of interest and understanding of living plants.

Visit our "Creative ABCs" series for more letter of the week fun and learning: Creative ABCs.

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