Wednesday, March 11, 2015

LightUp Edison Kit Review and Discount Code

Have you tried the LightUp Kits? They are wonderfully innovative kits that introduce electricity concepts in a hands on way to kiddos!

I even love the pun on the names of the kits!

The kits are called Edison and Tesla, after Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla — both giants of electrical engineering whose innovations changed our lives. But Edison and Tesla were also famous rivals! Edison insisted his own system (DC) was superior, whereas Tesla thought AC was the technology to use. This conflict between the methods and their masters was known as the War of Currents!

Even the name of the kits are brimming with learning :)

So naturally, I decided to get them. The kits have wonderful reviews, and the LightUp App that is part of the kit intrigued me. I think the app is the first-ever interactive augmented-reality tutor app. Combine a real time app with electronics building blocks, and you have a winner!

I decided to start with the Edison Kit. Full disclosure: I was given a blogger discount, but I would have purchased the set anyway :) All opinions are my own.
And you, my reader, get a discount as well!! 

With magnetic blocks that snap together, you can build circuit in seconds, truly. Download the LightUp Learning App and get ready for some fun (and learning!)

LightUp blocks included in the Edison Kit: 

Rechargeable Battery, Red LED, Buzzer, Light Sensor, Momentary Switch, 50k Variable Resistor, 4 Wire blocks, and Micro USB Cable.

Note that every block is just ONE COMPONENT. The blocks are not higher level modules. So the kids start with the basic building blocks of circuits.

Let's get started with the first circuit, the Morse Code Beeper. Start your App.

The App is an interactive tutor that guides you through the process (all the steps, the components you need, why you need them, and how you connect them), checks your work, and helps you figure out what went wrong and how to fix it.
For this circuit, we needed battery, switch, buzzer, and wire.
This screenshot explains battery. Love the nice crisp explanation that kids can understand! 

After you are done building the circuit, use the LightUp App to check your circuit. The boys were super-excited by this stage! Just take a picture and see what the App does.

LightUp Lens, the in-app augmented reality feature, gives the kids "X-ray" vision by letting them "see" the flow of electricity, and more importantly, helps them out when things don't work!

Spiderman is 5, and Batman is 7, so I did not have much in the way of expectations from Spiderman, but boy o boy was I surprised...
The kit intrigued them in different ways. 

Spiderman loved making the circuit. He snapped the blocks, made the circuit stand up instead of flat on the ground, and used the Morse Code to signal everything he could think of! He is an expert at Morse Codes now!

Batman (who has worked with littleBits and Snap Circuits) was not as awed by the making of the circuit itself. He loved the Morse Codes as well. But he was most interested in finding out whether the App can detect mistakes in your circuit (which it totally can!!!)
He read about all the components, messed up the circuit to see what the App would detect, what corrections it would suggest and why!!

Both loved the "flow of electricity" in the App.  The circuit animations are crucial to helping kids understand not just what pieces to connect together, but how the circuit works.

The kit is an impressive blend of learning, ease of construction with the magnetic blocks, and technology that holds everything together withe App that is sure to appeal to this generation of kids!

Projects you can make with the Edison Kit includes a Morse code buzzer, night light, dimmer switch, and lunch box alarm. 
Concepts you learn from tinkering with this kit: circuits, conductivity, voltage, current, resistance, sensors, LEDs etc.

See the complete list of Edison Projects.   

Once you have played and learned with the Edison Kit, upgrade to the Tesla Kit and work on projects that teach kids how to code. Batman has already asked me for the Tesla kit!

Now for the discount code!

Go to the LightUp website, use the code "taketen", and get 10% off.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

I is for Incredible India, letter A

Batman (7) is starting to read a lot of books about India, mostly fun mythology books, and epics (the condensed versions) and has lots of questions.It was his idea to come up with an A-Z book about India.

It's mostly aimed at the 7+ crowd (Batman's age).

Every week (or two), I will post about one letter. When the entire series is complete, I will put the whole thing in a pdf file. Till then, feel free to print out the images.

This might be a fun addition to your continent box for Asia. 

India just celebrated it's 65th Republic Day (anniversary of the adoption of the Constitution) on 26th January with President Obama as an honored guest. I thought it was a good time to start the series!!

This week's post is about letter A. 
But first, a quick introduction to India!

India, officially the Republic of India, is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by area, the second-most populous country with more than 1.2 billion people, and the the largest democracy in the world, with a civilization that is more than 5000 years old! 
Spanning an area of 3,287,263 square kilometers, it is a vast country and includes dry desert areas, evergreen forests, snowy Himalayas, a long coast, and fertile plains. It also hosts a unique eco-system rich with vegetation, wildlife, rare herbs, and a large variety of birds.
Virtually every major religion of the world like Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Islam and Christianity are found here. The Sikhs, the Zoroastrians, the Jews (living in India since 600 B.C.), the people of Bahai faith, all are found in India in substantial numbers.
There is no such thing as the Indian language. There are over 200 languages in India (almost 1600, if you include dialects), with about twenty of them being very prominent ones. The Indian currency is printed in 15 languages.
Then there is diversity in clothing and attire, food habits, culture and customs to name a few.
It is such a complex nation, it is referred to as a sub-continent.
But the main theme of this culture is the unity which absorbs all the diversities. India is a perfect example of Unity in Diversity. Indians are bound by common cultural heritage and share basic human values. The rich and varied heritage happens to be one of the many sources of pride of the nation.



Print one or all three images for letter A! I had a hard time restricting myself to one, so I posted all three!

All images are from Wikipedia unless specified otherwise.

Leave me a comment if you want to read about something specific for a letter. 
And I would love to read if you have something similar for a country!!

You might also like this post, which talks about a tradition in which we celebrate baby's first taste of rice...

Monday, January 26, 2015

Human Conductor Of Electricity

My boys are in love with the Energy Stick from Steve Spangler Science!

It's a plastic tube about 7 inch long, and it has colored LED lights inside the tube. It also has two electrodes on either side of the tube. 
When these two electrodes are touched at the same time and the circuit is complete, the tube buzzes and lights up.

I love the fact that it requires no setup, it's a great visual  (and noisy - it's a bit surprising in its buzzing loudness and flashing lights!) aid, and very hands-on.
Energy Stick in the dark
It's a great simple tool to teach the kids the basics of electricity. like open and closed circuit, difference between conductors and insulators.

My 5 year old loves it - he understands that if mom, him, and his brother are all holding hands and holding the electrodes of the tube, the circuit or path is complete. He understands that instead of touching his brother's hand, if he touches his shirt, the tube will not light up because the shirt did not let the electrons pass through :)

 So water conducts electricity. Hmm, so is it a good idea to touch electric sockets with wet hands?

Metals like steel also conducts electricity, or, they are conductors.

But legos (with which we cannot part even for a few minutes) are plastic, and they are insulators.

What else could you test? 

The first graders in Batman's class loved it, they got a real  "charge" out of it. Try it with 24 kids and see the hilarious results when they find out that they are all "electric"!

Monday, January 12, 2015

Montessori Object Boxes

Both my superheroes have used their Montessori Phonetic/Alphabet Box extensively.

Please see my post about Phonetic Boxes for toddlers here.  

You might think - why objects? Pictures work as well, and they are not nearly as expensive!

I personally think that the tactile experience of handling the three dimensional objects, and seeing miniature replicas of the everyday objects makes it more fun for the kiddos, and makes language work more exciting. And the possibilities with them are endless - you can extend them and get lots of mileage out of them. 

To sum it up, it makes language work more fun and exciting!

Back to the boxes.
Initially, I had a few letters in each box. And I introduced the letters in this order, according to one Montessori Album.
r a m f
b i t g
p o n l
h u s c
d e x q y
z v w j k

The object box is introduced as a Phonetic Object Box, for the kiddos to learn the sounds associated with all the letters. That means short vowel sounds, and hard sounds for c and g. 
My kids always manage to sneak in their toys, which is great! It shows that they understand Angry Bird starts with "a", or Dora and Diego start with "d", and McQueen starts with "m". 

These pictures were taken when Spiderman was already confident of his sounds. After working on a few letters at a time, I  combined all letters from A to M in one box, and letters N to Z in another box. 

And for both Spiderman and Batman, I would ask them to sort all 13 letters at a time once they were conversant with it. I know my kids have the attention span for it. You will know your kids and students the best. So decide accordingly.

They had tons of fun playing with all the miniatures, their toys, speculating about the origin of some of the toys (wasn't this from the goody bag from xyz's birthday etc), and of course, reviewing the beginning sounds.

So they now know their beginning sounds. What next? The same collection can be used for tons of things. 

  • Extend them. Create sensory bins with them - something simple, like just plain white rice, with some or all the letters and one or more objects corresponding to each letter can make the whole experience different and playful and fun!
  • Use then for pre-reading activities. Take a peek here.
  • Use the same objects and work on ending sounds.
  • Middle sounds are harder to identify for beginners. So pair the objects with the same middle sounds. Start with 10 objects, with one pair for each vowel (short) sound. Line up one of the pairs, and ask them to find the matching pair.
  • Rhyming Words - you probably already have quite a few pair. See bank and tank in the picture. If you are working on the pink series, look for objects like pen - hen - men, lid - kid, mop - top, bed - red (a piece of felt works). You can find more pictures here
  • Use them with moveable alphabets for Pink, Blue and Green Series work.
  • Use them to introduce blends and digraphs and diphthongs. See my post here.
  • Extend them to teach doubles - vowels or consonants. I had an apple for a, book and ball for letter b, egg for e, green for letter g - you see where I am going.
  • For syllable count - ask the kids to sort them in 1 syllable, 2 syllable, 3 syllable words etc.
  • Work on compound words - for example, if you have a butterfly, or ladybug, or football in the collection, the kiddos can identify the components. Or if you have a pin, wheel, cow and boy, they can come up with the compound words - pinwheel and cowboy!
  • Once the kiddos have mastered the short sounds, use and extend the object boxes and go hunting for long vowel sounds in your collection. Have grapes for g? Teach them about the silent e in it, and how a says its name.
  • Similarly, extend and use them object boxes for soft c and g sounds.  
  • If you look at the pictures here, you will see I have car, feather - use them to teach about r controlled vowels. 
  • Use it for singular / plural work. For kids working on the pink series, instead of giving them the labels, you can get them to spell the words using moveable alphabet. If they can spell pen, pens is easy-peasy for them!
  • For Montessori grammar work - you can start with noun and article box. You already have everything you need. And if you have farm animals, you are all set for Montessori Grammar Farm.
And they are not just limited to language work. Use them to count and categorize. 
Use them for math work.

They can be used to introduce the kids to living and non-living things, or perhaps natural and man-made, soft or hard, sink or float etc.

For older kids:
  • Present them a few things from your collection, and ask them to compose a story with the those elements. The results can be quite hilarious.
  • Provide the objects (nouns), and ask them to write down adjectives.  
  • Categories for older kids: magnetic or non-magnetic, conductive or non-conductive, vertebrates or non-vertebrates.
Even more fun might be to give a collection to the kids, and ask them to categorize it. 
Having two boys, I always have lots of transportation themed stuff. You could extend use them for Land/Air/Water Unit with vehicles and animals.
I also had quite a few animals. With one or two toobs of animals, I was able to do a categorization of the major habitats - grassland, desert, ocean, forest, polar-regions. 

Here's a picture of Spiderman working on the pink series work with me...


Great places for scoring miniature objects: 
Motessori Services
Tubes like the Safari Toobs 
 Hobby Lobby
Factory Direct Craft
Michaels, Dollar Store, stores that sell doll-house miniatures, other craft stores
Etsy stores like HighPie 
Toy bins at home (you will be surprised at how much you have at home already)

For more ideas on the objects, how to use them, where to get them etc, please follow my Pinterest board: Montessori Language Arts with Objects

As you can tell, I love object boxes, and would love to hear how you are using them! Leave me a comment, or a link.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Teacher Appreciation Gifts and Printables - Thanks for helping me grow

Teacher Appreciation Week is next week (May 5-9). 
I think teachers most appreciate heartfelt letters of thanks and appreciation from the kids (and their parents).  But that can always be supplemented with something small and fun, and something flexible like gift cards!
The kids helped me make these fun succulent terrariums as a big thanks for all their teachers last year. The reason for the delay? I wanted to make sure the plants survived - they did, I kept one of the fun planters for us, and I see some of the planters on teacher's desks at school!
It was a big hit with the teachers. 

This is a project in which kids can fully participate. Their hands are smaller than mine, so it helped out. They decided on potted succulents. The kids potted their own succulents a while back, and were familiar with the process. 

I had a hard time choosing containers, and decided to go with different kinds of planters, and loved them all.

In the pictures, you see tear shaped glass terrariums (Amazon) that can be hung (they are meant for air plants, but worked out perfect for my purposes), ceramic cups (Home Goods), wine glasses, and some hurricane lanterns (World Market) meant to be used with candles. Once we decided on the planters, I took the kids to Home Depot and got succulents to fit the planters.

Have these ready before you start.

  • Planter - something with wide opening will make it easier for you to plant and it is good for the plants - it won't accumulate moisture.
  • Succulent (or cacti) - the size of the plant will depend on the size of the planter
  • Gravel or small pebbles/stones
  • Sand (optional)
  • Activated Charcoal (Amazon)
  • Succulent or cacti soil mix
  • Glass beads, pretty stones and other accessories to pretty things up
  • Small paintbrush and straw if you want add sand as the top layer
  • Spray bottle

For drainage, I placed both gravel and activated charcoal. I think one or the other by itself will work, but I did not want to take a chance that the plants will rot and die! If it is a glass container, place colored gravel to pretty it up. 
1 to 2 inch of gravel, followed by a layer of the charcoal. Place a layer of the soil. Get your plant, and gently loosen the rootball a little. Place it in the planter, and cover with soil as required. 
After this, you can place colored sand, and create dunes or waves with the straw (blow the sand) and the brush. This will especially go well with cacti!
I figured with the kids, it might be better to skip this. We went for shells, pretty pebbles etc. Have your child write the teacher's name with a sharpie on a cork or a flat colored stone. For example, Ms. Grace's Garden. The surfaces were too small for my then 5 year old, so I wrote them.

Add a ribbon or bow, some pretty tags, and you are all done! 

We used some fun tags like "Thanks for helping me grow" and "You are my cup of tea" for the tea cup planters.

Please feel free to use the tags. Click here to download. 

Some tips - place your terrarium in a place where it gets direct sunlight for at least 3-4 hours. Don't water it often - check to see the moistness of the soil. When you do water, there should be about an inch of water at the bottom (with a glass container, it is easy to check the visible water in the gravel at the bottom!)

What are you planning for the teachers in your life?

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Eggy Games - CVC Word Hunt and Crack the Code

 Prolong the fun with those Easter Eggs! Use and reuse them all throughout the year!

For the beginning readers, have a CVC Word Hunt with the eggs!

I hid the eggs with one letter in each with a good mix of vowels and consonants. Once Spiderman found them all, it was a hop to the finish line.

How many words can you make? Make it more challenging by giving them a time limit.

Make sure to have at least a few letter comibinations that are familiar to your word builder. Spiderman loves to spell fox. I was careful to include that.

He had a blast, he came up with tons of words, but sometimes did not have enough letters.
In my mind, I set it up as a CVC Word Game, but nobody passed that memo to Spiderman - his goal was to make words that are real. 

So he came up with egg when he saw 'e' and 'g', but he had only one g. But at least he knows egg has two g in it!
He spelled frog, another bonus.
He also came up with sight words, which again I did not expect, like no, go, to and the.

So don't be surprised if your kids take the game to a whole another level :)


Batman wanted to play Spy while his brother was off making words. So I came up with a simple code (which turned out to be too simple).

Craft the code depending on the level of your cryptographer. Give him the code cheat sheet, and the first clue/code. He will find the first egg when he "cracks" the first code. The location of the second egg is inside the first egg and so on.

Although the codes were easy, I liked that he did not even have to complete the words to guess the location. So for closet, he only went as far as "CLO---", and guessed the rest. Same for microwave. He only went as far as "MICR------". His logic, it can't be microphone, it's short by a letter, and anyway you can't hide an egg in it. So it has to be microwave!!

I did not expect that bit of deduction!

Some of his clues were written in teeny tiny handwriting, and he had to use his magnifying glass to read the clue.

If you are having a spy/detective themed birthday party, this could be incorporated into the theme.

What eggy games are you upto?

Friday, March 14, 2014

Leprechaun Trap and Pot of Golden Words!

Leprechaun trap for KG class project? Hmm....

The one that Batman came up with sounded complicated, with pulleys and levers and springs. He decided to ultimately abandon it. He was worried that the wily little fellow might get hurt.

So we decided to get some inspiration from Family Fun Magazine, and he liked the Hat Trap!
We put some cotton balls at the bottom of the trap so the leprechaun wouldn't get hurt, lol!

All we needed were one oatmeal type container, felt sheets (green, black, and yellow), and some pipe cleaners.
I had some green and gold coins from an older sensory bin.
And the sparkly green and yellow gems as well.
On a previous visit to Michaels, we collected some clover cutout and stickers, which were our embellishments. 
Now all I needed was to remember where I put my glue gun.


So why a hat? Those who make it a point to stay on top of Irish legends (like our intrepid JoEllen from Family Fun) know that these guys might be little, but have big egos! A giant version of their hat will reel them in them for sure. And why the "DO NOT CLIMB" sign in my son's best handwriting? Well, they like to break rules, so another bait for them if you will.

Batman got to work. I cut out the rungs of the ladder, and he twisted the pipe cleaners while I held the sides for him. Some more pipe cleaners in the right colors, some twists, a few drops of hot glue, and voila, a pretty rainbow to tempt the leprechaun into climbing up. 

The hot glue gun, being "hot", was handled by me. But Batman was the scissor master, snipping away at the felts to cover everything up. We decided to glue some feathers to hide some rough edges pretty up the hat!
Now for the bait, some shiny gold and green coins right next to the rainbow. Once the leprechaun climbs up and reaches for the gold, he will fall through (see the hole in the center) the green felt covering and land on the cotton balls we placed in the container.

 We decided to add the sparkly gems as a path to the ladder, and for some bling! Can't have too much of it if you want to tempt a leprechaun!

Some lucky clovers, some more gold coins placed strategically, a few stickers, a pretty stand for the DO NOT CLIMB sign, and we are ready for action.

But while we wait for the trap to bear fruit, so to speak, how about a game of "Pot of Golden Words".
Get your free copy here.
Teachers, please see my TpT Store. This is for personal use only. The set is on sale till Monday, March 17th :)

It is part of a 8 game board package. Two boards are provided here for free.

The first one is to practice your blends, and the second one for digraphs. 

The Level2 included in the package is more challenging. The kiddos will never realize they are learning to spell.

The rules for all games are the same. Collect the gold coins for that board, grab a partner, and roll the die. Make a word with the letters on the shamrock where you land, and find the coin with the matching picture. If you make a mistake, you lose a turn, and don’t get any gold coins. If you cannot make a word, your partner gets a chance to try, and gets to keep the corresponding gold coin if he/she succeeds. The one with the most gold coins wins.
You can use a timer – players have to come up with a word before time is up. 

Do you have any plans for trapping some wee little leprechauns? Do let us know!