Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Fun Introduction to Sentence. Summer Learning Games for Kids.

Soup Can Word Towers on Sentence Street

Introduction to finger spaces between the words, capital letters at the beginning of the sentences, and punctuation at the end sounds boring and complicated for little ones.

We needed a great visual for playing with the sentence in a fun way. Of course, cut and paste words to build a sentence is a great practice. But our awesome soup can towers served us well:
  1. Vegetable and soup cans are so fun to build with!
  2. We were able to observe and create words that are big and small, short and tall. Spacing the words using a finger was our new "magic trick".
  3. The first and last cans on our Sentence Street were "special" color coded cans. They got to be great manipulatives for playing with the new concepts. You can also find our pretend play set up for a period and a question mark here: Zookeeper Dramatic Play: Introducing a Question and a Question Mark.

The idea for these activities came from a wonderful new book that was released yesterday!

"100 Fun and Easy Learning Games for Kids" by Amanda Boyarshinov and Kim Vij is a great resource for preschool and kindergarten this summer. The book was sent to us for a review free of charge. All opinions in this post are my own. This article is not sponsored in any other way.

100 Fun and Easy Learning Games for Kids from The Educator's Spin on It.

Stack a Word

This activity has been reprinted with the permission from the publisher from book "100 Fun & Easy Learning Games for Kids".

Materials: construction paper, scissors, 10 cans of similar size, black marker, tape.
Directions to make:
  1. Cut 10 papers to wrap around the cans.
  2. Write two vowels and two consonants on each paper. Vary letter combinations to include all letters.
  3. Attach a letter paper to each can with tape.
  4. Write down on a separate paper select consonant-vowel-consonant (CVC) words in focused word family.

Introduction to a Sentence Dramatic Play

For these activities we used:

We built the towers, noticed their sizes, spaced them out using a finger.

Finally, Captain Mac was able to drive a car down the street to check for the first and last cans on the street.

The cans are also color  coded for the type of vegetables inside. So that if I need to use one, I'll know to open consonants or vowels. Yes, we store our new game supplies in the pantry - fun!

We missed a word! (Pictured below.) Will Captain Mac be able to find a missing tower?

100 Fun and Easy Learning Games for Kids

"100 Fun and Easy Learning Games for Kids" by Amanda Boyarshinov and Kim Vij was our go-to resource for these activities. I love all the game ideas! They are fun, easy to set up, and just in time for the busy summer. 

My Firefly loved this book as much as I did. She paged through admiring the illustrations and exclaiming "I want to play this!" for each. I guess, we will be using this book A LOT during this summer. All the games are very easy to set up with the supplies that are readily available.

All the games are divided into six chapters: fantastic reading, amazing writing adventures, really cool math, super science, magical music and art, and going global.

"As the parents of children ages 2, 4, 5, and 8, we wanted to make sure that the skills our children worked so hard to learn would be remembered. We also wanted to extend our children's learning and challenge their thinking in fun ways." (From the authors of the book, p. 6)

Yes, we were able to enjoy the challenge in fun ways with their first game, and are looking forward to so much more!

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Friday, May 20, 2016

Fun STEM Challenges in the Block Center for Preschool and Kindergarten

Easy Engineering and Math Challenges for Preschoolers

Preschool engineering, math and art are at play here for some awesome STEM challenges and kids' creative solutions. The variety of materials to explore, including some environmental print, pretend play ideas, or a giant small world - these STEM challenges are fun for kids.

Creative Block Center

Pictured above:

Add Wooden Clothespins and Craft Sticks to the Block Center from Frugal Fun for Boys. I love the engineering challenges and fine motor aspects of these activities.

Cubes and Craft Sticks Engineering from My Bright Firefly. The challenges progress from the easiest with 3 cubes to the little more complex. Some free play at the end was very inspired and creative!

Mail Delivery Pretend Play Quick Set Up from My Bright Firefly. Craft sticks, triangles, and numbers helped us with our mail delivering services.

Add Traffic Signs for a Print Rich Environment from Pre-K Pages. A free printable set, craft sticks, and a pool noodle - kids will love having traffic signs at the block center.

Free Magnetic Tile Printables from Totschooling.

Pictured above:

The Power of Magnets in the Block Center from The Science Kiddo. Make a magnet powered card and explore the properties of magnets hands-on.

Dinosaurs, Rocks, and Numbers on the Mirror from My Bright Firefly. The mirror reflections of the objects and light enhances child's play and motivates to go through some fun engineering and math challenges.

Reggio Inspired: A Pet Store Dramatic Play Easy Set up from Twodaloo. A variety of materials at hand enhances experimenting and creativity.

Add a Structures Book to the Block Center from Fun-a-Day. This Book of Famous Structures is a wonderful idea for the block center!

An Oversized Cardboard Box for the Small World Set up from The Imagination Tree. Kids will love playing and improving their giant small world play scene!

Train Station Dramatic Play: Lego Duplo Counting Games from Inspiration Laboratories. Help kids with the planning stages - they will love creating this fun Train Station Dramatic Play Simple Set up.

Preschool Engineering

Pictured above:

Race down the Ramp Filled with Labyrinths and Tunnels from What Do We Do All Day. Kids will love setting up obstacle courses for their race cars (and exploring some physics hands-on).

Engineering a Colorful Creepy Castle Using Foam Blocks from My Bright Firefly. Engineering and Art come together for some fun castle play.

Construction Playing with Play Dough and Blocks from Learn with Play at Home. Play concrete (play dough colored grey) was used for some creative engineering and building.

Geometric Solids: Engineering in Action from My Bright Firefly. Explore the properties of geometric solids through several fun challenges.

Shapes and Bridges with Mini Cups and Craft Sticks from Handmade Kids Art. How high can you build your structure?... and other fun engineering challenges.

Ball and Magna Tiles Challenges: the Relative Position from Growing Book by Book. Describe and problem solve while learning prepositions.

Engineering and Math Games and Activities for Preschool and Kindergarten: Fun STEM challenges in the creative block center are beneficial to the little ones on so many levels. We are always on a hunt for some awesome play ideas!

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Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Sense of Time, Observation Skills, and Math with Cats Preschool Activities

Waiting Games and Cat's Lunch Dramatic Play

Waiting is not an easy task for preschoolers. How long can I wait if one minute feels forever? "Waiting" is a wonderful book that inspired us to compare and contrast the cats, review greater - lesser number while feeding the cats, review the seasons... or just patiently look through the window.

Mindfulness, patience, and a sense of time are all great players in the game of waiting!

Waiting: Observation Skills, Time, and Patience

"Waiting" by Kevin Henkes received Caldecott award for many good reasons. Five toy friends on the window sill are waiting for their happy moments. How long should they wait? After all, friends are there to go through the happy and sad times together. So they do. They experience a rainbow and a thunderstorm, a loss of a friend and a picnic together.

Will patience win at the end? There are no answers provided, only the invitations to observe, think, and be mindful. The illustrations feel subtle and poetic with the soft pastels, my favorite combination of chocolate and blue on a creamy background.

Amazon affiliate link: Waiting: Caldecott Honor and Geisel Honor Book.

Math with Cats Preschool Activities

It happened that a cat visited five friends. She was happy... and she waited. What she was waiting for?

The answer was unexpectedly sweet: she was waiting for her kittens to arrive soon! For these activities we used stackable matryoshka cats. They are origami cats and very easy to make. The tutorial is found here: Matryoshka Cats from Krokotak.

We enjoyed reading this short story many times. Each time the new discoveries were made and new things and feelings discussed.

Our new stackable cats remain favorites for several days now. I made them and drew their facial features using a crayon first.

We compared and contrasted the colors of the cats in the book. Do they make a patterns if set up side by side? What are similar? (Pink noses and ears, they all have patches, only one cat has stripes too.)

We looked at the number, color, and size of the patches on each cat. Then used watercolors and Q-tips to make our cats different.

An Invitation to Feed the Cats

For this activity we used:
  • 5 cats,
  • 7 plates,
  • many gold fish crackers in a bowl.
Are the numbers of cats and plates same? Greater and lesser numbers reviewed here. What can we do to set up the table properly? Possible answers: remove 2 plates, bring more cats, set additional plates for us so that everybody has a plate. Than our cats made an order of fish. Fish was counted and served - the cats were grateful.

Such a lovely book, lovely cats: we enjoyed these simple activities!

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Sunday, May 15, 2016

Sunset on the Fields Art Project for Kids Inspired by Vincent van Gogh

Exploring Light and Dark Colors, Light and Shadows with Vincent van Gogh

Sunset on the Fields, a gorgeous, cheerful, and relaxing painting by Vincent van Gogh, turned out to be great for hands-on explorations of light and shadows. Small child's previous experiences and feelings are there to admire the artwork and support this art project.

We tried to stick to an easy painting technique throughout this project:  short brush strokes, or just dabbing the brush (pictured below). We concentrated on playing with light and dark colors, and the feelings we might have at the end of the day with the diminishing sunlight and shadows spreading out.

Source: Vincent van Gogh, The Sower, 1888, Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo

The Sower on the Farm Art Appreciation for Kids

The goal of our art appreciation discussion was to discover the intricate play of light and shadows at the end of the day. 
Some questions we discussed:
  • What can we see in this picture?
  • The sun is almost down, but the farmer is sill working hard on the fields. He is sowing the seeds, he is a sower.
  • Why does the sower have to work so late in the evening? What might he think about?
  • Vincent van Gogh admired the colors he saw at the sunset on the fields. He wanted to make beautiful paintings using all the shades of colors he could notice when observing the glittering sun filling the sky and the fields. What colors can you see here?

Sunset on the Fields Art Project

For this activity we used:
  • Yellow cardstock paper, a horizontal line is drawn by an adult,
  • tempera paint: yellow, blue, brown, black, and white,
  • paper plates for mixing colors.

We started by reviewing two spaces: yellow glittering sun above the line and farmer's field below the line. The sky was painted first.

My Firefly drew a circle for the sun and traced it with brown paint. We allowed brown to dry while we discussed the shades of yellow and played with mixing colors on the plate. Since the paper is already yellow, we needed to make lighter and darker shades than the color of the paper.

The sunrays were painted by dabbing the brush or short strokes using brown and starting from the outline of the sun. Then shades of yellow were added. I showed how making short strokes carefully does not mix the colors on paper, but adds layers of paint for the effect of the glittering sun. Several strokes of white and the lightest yellow were added at the end.

We scratched the sun with the other end of the brush to let the brown outline show through. Then we outlined the inside of the sun with the brush to smooth the imperfections.

The fields were painted in a similar manner. The colors we used for mixing: blue, black, and white. We talked about the negative space left and tried to fill it with colors (letting the yellow of the paper to pick through).

The effects of the light and shadows is achieved. Considering the age of the painter, oh, this is an amazing painting, a last "Good night!" to everything in the nature. Well, I used this to point out how important the good night sleep is and how important it is to go to bed in time.

This article is a part of "Exploring Famous Artists" series. You can find many beautiful art project ideas for kids inspired by famous artists here: Exploring Famous Artists (Series throughout May) by Messy Little Monster.

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Monday, May 9, 2016

Tangram Activities with Three Little Pigs for Preschoolers and up

Hands-on Geometry with Tangrams

Three Little Pigs based pretend play with tangrams was our awesome introduction to this fun family game. We reviewed some geometry, did some meaningful counting, and proceeded to making fun fairytale characters.

This activity turned out to be too long for a four year old, but we couldn't stop until we reached the happy end where the Big Bad Wolf is huffing and puffing... and helping a happy couple of pigs to sail away on a honeymoon (sorry for the spoiler).

Three Little Pigs on the Tangram Adventure

"Three Pigs, One Wolf, and Seven Magic Shapes" by Grace Maccarone was our wonderful guide into the world of seven magic shapes of a tangram. The book could be very fun for the family to read and play together. Each part of a story offers a tangram puzzle of a fun character.

"Use your tangrams to help the pigs beat the big bad wolf! Amazon affiliate link: Three Pigs, One Wolf, Seven Magic Shapes (level 3) (Scholastic Reader, Math)

Tangram Activities for Preschoolers

Our tangram (pictured above) is drafted on foam before the activity. I introduced "the magic square" and cut it apart during the activity while we counted all the pieces.

At the beginning of the story, a magic duck gives seven magic shapes to the first pig. The seek and find activity was fun since it is "magic": we found and counted little, medium-sized, and large triangles. That left us with a square and a parallelogram.

My Firefly got used to the shape and worked with parallelogram with no visible difficulty. Learning through play is the best!

This ancient Chinese puzzle, the tangram is fun for kids and adults. For the little ones, it is a wonderful playful introduction to the world of similarity and angles, area and perimeter, and the magic of geometry.

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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Zookeeper Dramatic Play: Introducing a Question and a Question Mark

Building a Question for the Zookeeper Preschool and K Dramatic Play

Dramatic play with a zoo keeper and animals are always exciting for preschoolers. Today we engineered a gate to the zoo and set up a funny zoo game to practice building questions and answers, as well as using a question mark and period.

This quick set up turned into ten minutes of building questions and handing tickets. The zoo animals were very excited about entering the zoo and learning to use a question mark!

Welcome to the Zoo

"Welcome to the Zoo!" by Alison Jay was the wonderful book that inspired us for this dramatic play. We made up some funny stories and questions using the simple and engaging illustrations from the book. There are no words in this book. The pictures are so cute and funny - the book is asking for telling stories with animal sounds, or playing games, or discussing the latest trip to the zoo.

Amazon affiliate link: Welcome to the Zoo!

Zoo Animals Dramatic Play Quick Set up

Zoo STEM connection: We started by finding the right supplies for engineering the zoo gate.

For this activity we used:
The Zoo gate,
toys at hand: a pretend zoo keeper and animals on a tray,
Lego Duplo blocks,
DIY cards "it, is, a, ?, ." taped on blocks,
small bits of paper for pretend tickets.

  • Zookeeper: Who wants to come to my zoo?
  • Giraffe: I do!
  • Zookeeper: Great! My question is: (building sentences pictured above Is it a giraffe? It is a giraffe.)
  • Giraffe: Yes, I am a giraffe!
  • Zookeeper: Welcome to the zoo! Here is your ticket.

After Giraffe enters the zoo with his ticket, the game continues with the next animal of choice.

This simple scenario became very addicting! We couldn't stop playing until we ran out of "tickets". (We didn't run out of the animals because they continued finding excuses to go in and out of the zoo.)

Then the zoo dramatic play changed according to the flow of imagination: so fun!

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