Tuesday, March 22, 2016

The Rook: First Chess Games for Preschool and Kindergarten

Introduction to Chess for Kids

Many benefits of chess for kids remain unique and valuable. While playing hands-on, collaborating as a team, children exercise problem solving and planning, concentration and creativity, memory and willpower.

Chess can be an excellent introduction or a compliment to math and logic games, computers and programming, history, social studies, and more.

Chess Is Child's Play

"Chess Is Child's Play" by Laura Sherman is a great book for parents and teachers. Even if it is a parent like me who don't know or remember much about the game of chess, this book makes it possible to introduce kids to the game and have fun playing starting from the very first lessons.

The authors give age specific recommendations that make possible to discover chess as early as age 3.

The book is very easy to follow and provides helpful tips for playing chess with kids. It starts with describing many benefits of playing chess for kids and tips on how to choose a chess set. The explanations of the rules, descriptions of the little games, and tips for educators are provided in each chapter.

Did you know that Armenia was the first country to include Chess as a required class for elementary school in 2011?

Amazon affiliate link: Chess is Child's Play: Teaching Techniques That Work

First Chess Games: The Rook

We started our chess games with the rook. It's a simple and fun "character" that looks like a castle built in a corner of the "magic kingdom". The rook moves simply forward, backward, right, and left. That is easy for adults. For little kids, this is an opportunity to learn the directions through play, to recognize rows and horizontal and vertical lines, and a great introduction to a computer algorithm. What Is a Computer Algorithm from How Stuff Works.

 For our Rook games we used:
  • a spinner with arrows (DIY from the table game we had),
  • two rooks,
  • cards with the image of an arrow on each,
  • a die (dice),
  • a marker to write a number.

We positioned  the rooks in the opposite corners on the board. The goal is to provide the white rook with a set of commands to walk him through the maze and meet his friend, the black rook.

We followed these steps to build a maze for the  rook:
1. Rotate the spinner to determine the direction: forward, backward, right, or left.
2. Take a note card and position it with the arrow pointing in the desired direction.
3. Throw the dice to determine the number of steps, write the number on the card.
4. Place the card at the starting point on the board, let the rook follow the command written to proceed through the maze.
5. Fill next note cards the same.

When our maze started looking messy with several cards on the board, but the white rook was not getting to his friend yet, we started using the dice only, or the spinner only - filling the direction or the number of steps as we found better to finish building the maze.

The next step is to place all the cards in a correct order in a row under the board. Now we have our first algorithm:
The Maze to Black Rook Algorithm!

With all the fun, we didn't noticed that we practiced counting, problem solving, learned directions and following instructions. Love this!

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Sunday, March 20, 2016

Our Top 10 Princess Books for Preschoolers

A new princess book is always exciting for our four year olds. In this article, we are featuring our top ten princess books. This list does not include Disney princesses. Though beautiful and loved, Disney princesses are a different story. These books can be a new spin of an old story, or a beautiful retelling of a favorite classic.

Ella Bella Ballerina and Swan Lake by James Mayhew. We enjoyed reading this story about the princess swan again and again, danced to the music, and made Swan Lake art found here: Swan Lake Painting and Hand Print Art.
Amazon affiliate link: Ella Bella Ballerina and Swan lake (Ella Bella Ballerina Series)

The Princess and the Pig by Jonathan Emmett. This story and the book is pretty cute and has a  nice message for the kids.
Amazon affiliate link: The Princess and the Pig

The Princess and the Giant by Caryl Hart and Sarah Warburton. This princess has excellent social skills. She can make friends even with the scary giants. And being a friend means giving a helping hand when your friend needs it. Fun rhymes and engaging illustrations make this book a pleasure to read a story about this creative princess.

Amazon affiliate link: The Princess and the Giant

Cinderella by Sarah L. Thomson. There are many different versions of the Cinderella story. We liked this one for the beautiful water color illustrations. The text is easy to follow with many details from the traditional story. Well, Cinderella's Dad is kind of missing here.

Amazon affiliate link: Cinderella

Sleeping Beauty by Sarah Gibb. Amazon affiliate link: Sleeping Beauty: Based on the Original Story by the Brothers Grimm

Princess Sylvie by Elsa Beskow.  Sylvie and his father, the king, leave their castle to spend a beautiful and eventful day in the woods.

Amazon affiliate link: Princess Sylvie

Not All Princesses Dress in Pink by Jane Yolen and Heidi E. Y. Stemple.
"Some princesses wear their jewels
while fixing things with power tools."
Amazon affiliate link: Not All Princesses Dress in Pink

Princesses on the Run by Smiljana Coh. This book was recommended by the wonderful 3 Dinosaurs. Princesses can finally set aside all their responsibilities and everyday activities. They got together to spend some time with friends. So fun!

Amazon affiliate link: Princesses on the Run

Olivia and the Fairy Princesses by Ian Falconer. Amazon affiliate link: Olivia and the Fairy Princesses

That's Not My Princess by Fiona Watt and Rachel Wells. Amazon affiliate link: (That's Not My Princess) By Fiona Watt (Author) board_book on (Jun , 2006)

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Monday, March 7, 2016

Lacing Activities for Preschool and Kindergarten

Benefits of Lacing Activities for Preschoolers

Kids love playing with colorful ribbons, laces, and yarn - they can be pleasant to touch and explore. My daughter was like a little kitten when she got her hands on two balls of pretty yarn.

We tried some activities that are a step up from traditional lacing cards. Ideas featured here are combinations of lacing with art, craft, math, science, literacy.

Lacing is an excellent fine motor skills practice. These activities are wonderful for cognitive skills and math: planning the steps ahead and problem solving, colors, patterns, and measuring are used in a playful way here. Eyes and hands work together to create an amazing new pattern.

Fun with Lacing for Kids

Pictured above:

Matching Stickers Lacing Card from Teach Me Mommy. This beautiful activity is easy to set up and great for practicing visual discrimination skills.

Giant Lacing Spider Web from Fun at Home with Kids. Upcycle a box to make a nice home for a pet spider. This activity is great for Halloween and Earth Day, or just any fun rainy day.

Pretty Peacock Lacing from My Bright Firefly. We counted beads while lacing and learning about these interesting birds.

Llama Llama Red Pajama from 3 Dinosaurs. Any little Llama fan would love making this warm and cozy pajama for a friend.

Lacing a Dream Catcher from Happily Ever Mom. This cute little dream catcher is a simple lacing and beading activity.

Pictured above:

Happy Beaver Earth Day Craft from My Bright Firefly. This toy beaver can stand on his own and has movable paws. Lacing was done connecting numbers 1-25.

Discovering Designs and Patterns Using Ribbons from Kids Activities Blog. Lacing using ribbons and a kitchen supply is so creative!

Paper Plate Lacing Sea Shell Craft from Artsy Craftsy Mom. These simple and adorable sea shells will bring back the fun memories of the beach fun.

Designing and Lacing a Perfect Easter Bonnet from The Pinterested Parent. These adorable Easter bonnets are so easy to make.

Handprint Spider in a Lacing Card Web from Mom Endeavors. This craft is so much fun with lacing!

Pictured above:

Lacing Christmas Tree Ornament from Happy Hooligans. The choice of paper and yarn of different colors and textures is beautiful!

Lacing Card Play Basket from My Bright Firefly. This lovely little play basket is an easy paper plate craft for preschoolers.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar Lacing Card from Parenting Chaos. The colorful textured caterpillars eating a leaf are very engaging!

Rainbow Lacing from Coffee Cups and Crayons. A nice and simple craft that will keep them lacing.

Funny Face Lacing from Mama OT. Kids will love exploring feelings and emotions while lacing these funny faces.


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Thursday, March 3, 2016

Fun Ideas for Easter Basket Stuffers for Kids

Our Top 5 Cool and Inexpensive Ideas for the Easter Basket

Doc McStuffins themed Easter basket, colorful and smooth mess free sidewalk chalk, Pley gift card, the new favorite Easter book, and a cute Easter basket made together with love or personalized - these fun Easter Basket ideas are our favorite!

Doc McStuffins Easter Basket Stuffers

We made a trip to the dollar store, found some free printables, and laminated cute Lambie's hugs cards to add to our pretend play doctor's tools and supplies. That made this little Doc McStuffins happy: Doc McStuffins Doctor's Play Kit Easter Basket Stuffers from My Bright Firefly.


Colorful and Smooth Homemade Sidewalk Chalk

Only 3 ingredients are needed to make your own cute and lovable sidewalk chalk. These little chalks are smooth and mess free!

Pictured above:

Beautiful Chalk Hearts kids will love from Teaching Mama.

Easter Bunny Chalk Melts are so fun and engaging from Kids Activities Blog.

Colorful and Smooth Sidewalk Chalk from De Tout et de Rien. Kids will love the extra feature of the retractable chalk made in recycled deodorant containers.

Pley Gift Card

Sponsored Pley blog campaign: all views and opinions with regard to Pley or the products they feature are my own and were not reviewed by the company prior to publishing. You can find our full disclosure here: Disclosure and Privacy Policy.
Pley is online toy renting service found here: https://www.pley.com/ This service works in three easy steps:
  1. Choose your favorite toys,
  2. Free Delivery to your door,
  3. Play, Return, Repeat.
Pley is always on the hunt for the best toys, so their assortment reflects the latest and greatest toys. Their biggest collection is building toys. They have 400+ Lego sets!

I love the idea behind this service: "The coolest toys without the mess or expense". Oh, yes, those Legos are expensive; and My Firefly loves opening up a new play set.

That's why Pley made it to our Top 5 Easter Basket Stuffers ideas. They offer a gift card option: "the perfect gift that keeps on giving".

There are two gift options available:
  • Pay to provide ongoing toy rental
  • A choice of one-time gift card amount

Currently, Pley is running I Love My School contest. Nominate your school by telling them why you love your school. The elementary school with the most number of nominations will be announced as the winner and will receive $500 worth of fun educational toys.

Nominate your school on Facebook today: https://apps.facebook.com/my-contests/form/your-chance-to-win-500-for-your-school.

The deadline for entry is March 25, 2016.

New Favorite Easter Book

If to single out the one favorite, I'd put this sweet and colorful board book into the Easter basket (Amazon affiliate link): Quiet Bunny's Many Colors

Bunny Books and Sight Word Games from My Bright Firefly

15 Books for Your Easter Basket from Sunny Day Family

March Book Recommendations for Kids from Planet Smarty Pants

Personalize or DIY Your Perfect Easter Basket

30+ Beautiful Easter Baskets from My Bright Firefly

This collection of playful basket ideas - arts and crafts made by kids or for kids - show and share all the love with them!

More Pley Toy Renting Service Ideas from My Bright Firefly

Lego Table Ideas for the Living Room

Our Top 10 Ideas for Managing Toy Clutter and Keeping Kids Happy during Winter Months

Finding Spring ABC Letters Games. Pley.

(Click on the picture below to enlarge it.)

Amazon Easter finds (affiliate links):

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