Monday, April 29, 2013

Beach Sensory Bin

It started out as a simple activity, some fine motor practice for the boys, and a few minutes of peace for mom. 
Hammer and nails - check.

Open the pretty parasols, stick them in the Styrofoam - check, umm, no, wait..
Inspiration behind the Beach sensory bin

Batman came back to me, and said, mom, those pretty beach umbrellas really do need a beach to go along with it. <OK, I can take a hint. >

So a simple bin was born, providing hours of fun for my two boys......

.. and tons of fine motor practice with the "pretty beach umbrellas"! 

Of course, then we need a beach towel under the umbrella, a picnic perhaps on the towel, and a chair or two if you don't want to get all messy on the sand!

Batman was more into this bin because he was trying to build as many sand castles as space would allow, with moat, flags, pretty stones...

The teeny tiny flower pots, and some small buckets to make the mounds, scrap paper glued on toothpicks for the flag, small pebbles for the moat, a shovel for him, and he was in sand castle heaven...

We had some tidal pools in our bin, with the kind of ocean animals we might see in them.
These are the "grow in the water" kinds, and we will play with them later... 

See the net? It's for beach volleyball. But I was not allowed to put in a ball, because apparently it got washed away by the waves, so only the net remains...

My two super heroes had a fun time digging for treasure (pretty stones) in the sand, and I am to make a pirate bin, and use the beach in here....

The only twist in this sensory bin is that I used baking soda (colored yellow) instead of sand. I saw these wonderful post on "bath dirt" and other wonderful tactile bath fun, and wanted to give it a try. So the "bath sand" is getting played in the sensory bin now, and later on will make a transition into the bath tub, along with the grow in the water ocean animals, before it gets washed out!

Tot School Feature

Linked up to:
Screen Free Activities and Resources, Stress-Free Sunday, Link & Learn, Montessori Monday, Monday Kid Corner, and Tot School Gathering Place

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Now I know my 1 2 3 s...

Write Your Numbers!
My super-heroes are not big fans of writing.

So I am always looking out for ways to make it more fun, and do "super-writing" worthy of Spiderman and Batman.

How many ways can you write your numbers?

This post is about numbers. But of course, it applies to just plain old writing, for numbers, letters, shapes, and all the fun ways to do it. I think we tend to focus more on writing our letters, than numbers. In defense of the letters, I understand there is more of them.
After all, there is no uppercase and lowercase numbers, but nonetheless, this post is dedicated to numbers.

Drill your numbers!

There are some awesome ideas out there to tempt even the most reluctant "writers". They generously gave me permission to link back to their posts. Give it a spin...
Trace it, then write it...
  • Play at Home Mom shows us how to make fantastic squishy bags! Make sure you play with them a while before passing it on to the kiddos :)

  • Read a book with sensory numbers, like this book with large grooved numbers, and trace them!
    Books with large grooved numbers to trace
  • Go with the staples. Fun worksheets, wipe-off cards! I have the Kumon workbooks, and the Flash Cards. I like using the Dry Erase Crayons with the flash cards! Just wipe it off with a damp paper towel when you are done!
    Wipe-off Flash Cards

  • Make them with bingo markers, or Do-A-Dot markers! You can find tons of free printables online. The one shown here is from a book made to go with the dot markers.
Numbers with Bingo Markers

  • Or for a fun twist, use the same sheets with flat pebbles backed with magnetic strip and a baking tray. Or let the kids wing it!
    Magnetic numbers!
  • Write it on paper, chalkboard, sidewalks. Write with pencils, crayons, markers, paints, chalks, finger paints, window crayons, puff paints! Here is a very fun twist on writing on the chalkboard from Kingdom First Homeschool.
    Kingdom First Homeschool - Writing on chalkboard!

  • Write in on the shower stall after a steamy bath! Write it in the shaving cream. Write it in the sand tray, or in sugar, cornmeal. Here is a fun twist on the sand tray from Teach Preschool.
    Teach Preschool - Feather and Sand
  • Shape it out - with pipe cleaners, tooth picks, craft pieces, play-doh, pebbles, shells... Cut out the various curves and lines from felt, and ask your number-expert to put it together!!
    • Let them "Drill" their numbers with this board, pun intended!
      Screw and drill board number practice
Rubber band and Geo board number fun
    • Or droplets of water on a suction mat? Or beads on the fuse mat?

    How do you practice your numbers (& letters, shapes...)? Let us know!

    Linked up to:
    Montessori Monday, Monday Kid Corner, Tuesday Tots, and After School Link Up

    Thursday, April 18, 2013

    Consonant Blends and Star Wars Board Game

    We had tons of fun learning consonant blends this week. We focused on the ending blends.

    Uh, but are you wondering about the connection between blends and Star Wars? Patience Padawan.
    All in good time.

    First, we used the object box for our blends. I set it up with the ending blends, the basket of miniatures, and some index cards. Batman is not a complete beginner at the blends, and I wanted to increase the level of complexity for him. The index cards are for him to spell the words, and create his own labels.

    Batman is hard at work, placing things under the right group.

    Here are the blends ending with k. Batman has labeled the bank.
    For -lk, we have yolk in the bowl, ahead of milk. Shark and stork for -rk. Desk, whisk and mask for -sk. And bank, sink, tank, and skunk for -nk.

    Batman hard at work, writing....
    And we have few more labels for the group ending in t...

    For nt, we had plant, tent, and ant. For st, there was nest, vest, chest, and mast (of the pirate ship), for ft, gift (which could also work as present), and for lt, we had belt.

    Batman was wearing a storm trooper cupcake ring while doing all this. Which inspired us to come up with a Star Wars themed board game to reinforce ending consonant blends (mostly), although I sneaked in a few digraphs (-ng and -sh). As you can see, the blends are the ones we worked with, except for one or two different ones.

    <Click on the image to see the pdf file>

    Download the board game

    Rules are simple.
    If the square has an ending sound, and a skip, then you have to say/spell the word with that ending sound (mask for example for –sk), and if done correctly, as a reward you can skip and go to the next square.
    If you land on a square that says Skip, or Go back 2, or Ride 4 hops, well then, skip that and go to the next square etc etc. There are two short cuts with blue light sabers.
    Because this is such a short game, we made our own modified dice/die with some stickers/labels with just 1, 2, and 3. I drew the dots on the stick on labels.
    We had a blast playing with our modified dice, and Lego star wars counters.  We even managed to sneak in a light saber fight (well, it said so on the game, not our fault)!

    < Last but not least, Spiderman also worked with miniatures, but we did rhyming, and now, I have a request from Spiderman to make a board game for him as well. Watch out for that post!>

    Monday, April 15, 2013

    Water Level Experiment Inspired by Literature!

    Learn with Literature!

    Water level experiment inspired by literature!

    Batman loves to read stories from Panchatantra
    Panchatantra is essentially a collection of animal fables, that are generally accompanied with a moral and philosophical teaching, compiled together by a very learned scholar, Pandit Vishnu Sharma, more than 2,000 years ago! They have passed the test of time with flying rainbow colors :)

    It is one of the most frequently translated literary products of India and these stories are supposedly amongst the most widely known in the world. Originally written to impart wisdom to some "dud" sons of a king around 200 B.C., they are still traveling around the world, enlightening and enchanting readers, young and old! 
    At least, that is certainly the case in my house! Batman and Spiderman both love the stories. Some of them are a bit violent for younger kids, and I generally skip over them. Some I modify a bit. But the stories still have the power to enthrall my boys.
    Here is the story in short which inspired our water level experiment, and a whole water unit (in a separate post).

    Thirsty Crow

    Once upon a time, a very thirsty crow was flying in search of water. After a long search, all he could find was a tiny bit of water inside an earthen pot/pitcher. But the water level was too low. The poor crow could not reach the water with his beak. Nor could he tip over the pitcher, which was too heavy. The crow, about to give up in despair, noticed some pebbles lying around the pitcher. He decided to drop the pebbles, one at a time, until the water level had risen high enough for him to reach with his beak! Hurray for the crow. The story teaches us several things - where there is a will, there is way; necessity  is the mother of invention.

    Water Level Experiment

    Now that we have all the context, onwards with the experiment. Batman had read this story a while back, so it was not fresh in his mind, on purpose. To set up the experiment, we had a cup of water (a pitcher or a vase with a narrow opening is better to imitate the story!) with color of choice, and some pebbles, big and small and a kitchen scale.
    At first, I presented Batman with just the cup of water, and asked him if he could think of  a way we could make the water level rise for the thirsty crow. He immediately said pebbles. 
    Out came the pebbles, along with kitchen scale. And my little scientist got his "notebook" for recording stuff, and a marker to mark the water level, on his own, I might add!

     Then we got to work. Batman marked the existing level of water with a marker as "1". We measured the big pebbles first. Batman noted the number, and I explained that the weight is between 4 and 5 ounces, or unit. Then we dropped the pebbles in the cup, the water rose, and we marked it with "2". 

    Then we measured the the small pebbles, we kept on putting pebbles on the scale till we got to 4.5 oz again.
    Hypothesis - if we take the big pebbles out, where will the water level be? If we put the small pebbles we measured, where will the water level be? 
    Batman was spot on. He told me that the water level came up to 2 in both cases because the big pebbles and the small pebbles both showed the same "number" on the scale. The crow must have chosen a few big pebbles rather than a lot of small pebbles, because he was a smart crow!!

    Level 2 - with either the small or the big pebbles, and Level 3 - with both big and small pebbles. We guesstimated that the distance between 1 and 2, and 2 and 3 is about the same!! 


    We digressed into other fun stuff with water after that, but that will keep for another post at another time!!

    If you are interested, you can find some stories from Panchatantra online for free here. These translations are a bit pedestrian, lacking the richness of the prose and the poetry.

    I also found some on Amazon.  I did not see the book that I own on Amazon, but the ones there looked good.

    Shared at:
    Link & Learn, Montessori Monday, Made by Little Hands, Afterschool Linkup

    Thursday, April 11, 2013

    Frog Sensory Bin and Pond Unit

    Metamorphosis and more!

    Spiderman read "The Teeny Weeny Tadpole" by Sheridan Cain at school.

    The teeny weeny tadpole is well, teeny weeny, and a tadpole to boot, and cannot jump among the lily pads like Mother Frog, he can only splish and splash.  His mom, and all the other animals he meets on his journey downstream (lamb, rabbit and grasshopper) assure him that he will be able to jump just like them - soon. After several days, he meets up with big bad fish, who eats tadpoles! And the only way to escape the big bad fish is to jump. And the teeny weeny tadpole, who has now become a frog, jumps and escapes from fish! This is the story in a nutshell. It's a fun book.

    Now back to Spiderman, who, just like the teeny weeny tadpole, has been going around asking everyone - Can you jump? And, he is naming everything teeny weeny tadpole! So I thought this would be the ideal time to introduce to him the transition of tadpole to frog, and refresh Batman's memory about Metamorphosis!!

    I set this frog/pond sensory bin up as a surprise for the two kiddos.
    There are some blue/green pebbles, blue/dark blue water beads, twigs, some tiny weeds pulled from the garden that looked like they could be found in a pond (minus all the root soil), plastic fish, frogs, and turtles, lily pads cut from foam, and of course, the life cycle models of the frog!! The set does not have eggs, but we have the young tadpole, mature tadpole, tadpole with legs, froglet, and the frog.
    You can find frog life cycle figures (I don't remember where I got mine from, mine does not have the eggs), and the Safari frogs and turtle toob.

    This is what the kiddos found when they came home from school!

    Gratifyingly, they loved the surprise! Frogs, water, water beads, nets to catch the tadpole in - apparently, that's all it takes to make them happy! Spiderman "caught" a fish, and put it in a bowl aquarium! Spiderman was not too sure about the "plants", but Batman showed him how the plants/logs were needed for the animals to hide in. Otherwise, they would get eaten up too easily. He even explained that this was called "camouflage"!!

    Batman's comments when he saw the whole set up and presentation as shown above - "the tadpoles should not be "on" the lily pads. Can they breathe if they are out of water for too long? I know the frogs can!" Just that one comment was worth all that work. That he observed, processed it, and pointed it out to me. 
    He is right. Initially, a tadpoles breathes and moves just like a fish, using its gills and tail. After about 5 weeks, the tadpole develops lungs, and has to swim to the surface to gulp water!!

    I had five frogs, so we also sang the five little speckled frogs, sitting on a log song, and created some satisfactory splashes :)
    Umm, we had to balance the frogs on the log outside the water. Next time, we will try with a bigger log. Check our collage picture.

    I always try to make a mini unit to go along with the sensory bin if possible. Counting, sorting, patterns, stacking, pouring and making a mess comes naturally. But the frog sensory bin lends itself very nicely to a lot of different learning adventures, especially a pond or frog unit!

    These are the concepts that I am going to introduce to the boys after their excitement over the bin dies down a bit!
    • I don't have the book, but I found a reading of the book, the Teeny Weeny Tadpole.
    • Read the books, as soon as I figure out where two of them are hiding!
      From Tadpole to Frog - the book not only takes us through the metamorphosis of the bull frog, but also takes about frogs hibernating, and shows a variety of animals and plant life through the different seasons.
      The Wide Mouthed Frog - a fun pop up book about a curious, and bragging wide-mouthed frog! By the end of the book, the mouth is not so wide...
      Fish is Fish
      - a delightful story of friendship between a minnow and a tadpole!
      Curious George Tadpole Trouble - the kids have seen this episode, and love reading the book. George, who is charge of Bill's tadpoles, lets them out in the pond for a swim, but do the tadpoles come back?

    • Introduce the concept of Amphibian - which a frog is. 
    • Some other characteristics - like webbed feet. What other animals has webbed feet? Why? What other animals do you know who can live in both land and water? How about their super special moist skin? Or their tongue?
    • Talk about Metamorphosis - through frog's life cycle and butterfly's!
    • Observe our pond life habitat, and learn more about it.
    • Counting backwards with Spiderman with the five speckled frog song!!
    • Beginning sound, ending sound, rhyming reviews with words like frog, log, fish, turtle, duck, water, pond etc...
    • I have to prepare this, but it might be fun to have plastic eggs with the beginning sounds, and get the kiddos to match the eggs to the animals, like d for duck and dragonfly, f for fish and frog, t for turtle, s for snail, salamander, snakes etc. These all hatch from eggs, and all can be found at a pond habitat.
    • Go through the frog nomenclature card/booklets at +Montessori Print Shop at the free printable downloads section!
    • Supplement with the frog/pond themed printables for more language and math fun!
    You can find some wonderful resources at Frog life cycle newsletter, along with lots of free printables from generous bloggers. Hop on to my Pinterest board, Pond Unit Fun n Learn, which lists all these resources and more!

    The post contains affiliate links.

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