Monday, January 30, 2012

Sensory Bin: Mashed Potato Playtime

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So what do you do with an expired box of mashed potato flakes?  You cook them up and let your kids play with their food!

I found an expired box of mashed potatoes flakes tucked in the back of the pantry.  I didn't want them to completely go to waste, so I boiled some water (didn't bother to add milk or butter since we wouldn't be eating these), let them cool, added them to our sensory bin and let my tot and preschooler have some messy fun! 

First they used their sand toys to make mashed potato sculptures.  

Then they created a winter wonderland using miniature polar animals.  (This was the same set of animals from our Polar Region Sensory Bin.)  

It was a little messy, but a whole lot of fun for my tot and preschooler.  And now I feel a little less guilty for letting the box of mashed potato flakes expire!

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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Montessori for the Closet

Reading How To Raise An Amazing Child the Montessori Way, by Tim Seldin, inspired me to create a more kid-friendly environment at home.  All the ideas in this book are so incredibly simple and sensible!  This book does an excellent job of teaching parents how to implement Montessori principles at home to encourage children to be helpful, happy and independent.  The first thing I reorganized at home was a kitchen drawer.  Then I moved onto tackling the clutter in the front closet.  I took all my kids' things out of the closet and moved them down to a pint sized level...

a low coat rack for jackets and book bags

a basket for mittens, gloves, scarfs and hats

a stool to sit on

clothespins to clip together shoes

These simple changes have saved sooooo much time and stress when heading out the door.  My preschooler can independently get ready to go (she just needs help zipping her jacket).  And gone are the days of her  asking if her shoes are on the right feet!!  My tot knows right where to go to find everything and can follow simple directions like, "please go get your sneakers."  And when we come home, my tot and preschooler can put away their own things, saving me just a little cleaning time!!

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Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Perfect Board Game Pieces!!

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Have you noticed more and more FREE teacher materials on Pinterest?  Some of my favorite Pinterest freebies are teacher created board games I can play with my preschooler.  Once I print a game I scramble around the house to find something to use for game pieces.  I usually use small candies, foam squares, old board game pieces or any little trinkets I find lying around the house.  Well now I have a new item to add to my game piece list...SQUINKIES!!!

My preschooler received her first set of Squinkies in October for her birthday.  It was the first time I saw these mini squished up toys.  My preschooler found them adorable.  I could not agree with her less!  All I saw when I looked at these toys were a terrifying choking hazard!  I couldn't imagine why my preschooler would choose to play with them.  They are less than an inch tall, the only accessory they came with were a couple of tiny plastic containers and she owns so many other toys that (in my opinion) are much better for imaginary play.  But play with them she did.  She enjoyed her first set of Squinkies so much that when Christmas rolled around, Disney Princess Squinkies made their way to the top of her Christmas list.

It wasn't until last week, when I figured out an education purpose for Squinkies, that I finally gave in and became a fan of these collectible toys.  Squinkies make the perfect game pieces for all those teacher created games I've pinned and printed from Pinterest!!  They are the perfect size for game boards, they stand up and they come in a wide variety...pets, babies, sports players and cars just to name a few.   

Last week while I prepared for my faith formation class (I teach a 1st grade religion class once a week), I gathered up a collection of my preschooler's Squinkies.  My preschooler graciously offered me use of any of her Squinkies, "expect her favorite princess ones!"

Before the lesson began, I told the class they would each get to choose a Squinkie at the end of the lesson to play a quick board game.  I used good behavior as an incentive for choosing the Squinkies (those students who were attentive and participated would get to choose their Squinkie first).  The class loved it!  It was great motivation and added a little extra fun to the game!

I didn't have my camera with me in class, but when I got home I played the game with my preschooler and took a few pictures.

Now my head is spinning with ideas for all the different preschool games I could create using different Squinkie sets!  And not only do Squinkies make the perfect game board pieces, they will also be a great math manipulative for my preschooler to use for counting, addition, subtraction, measurement, geometry and so much more!

I might just have to start collecting Squinkies right along with my preschooler!

What educational ways will you use Squinkies???


Friday, January 20, 2012

The Phonetic ABC Song

Do your kids know their phonetic ABCs??

Last week I stumbled across a link for a FREE MP3 download of the Phonetic ABC Song from Maitri Learning.  This version of the classic ABC song sings letter sounds instead of the letter names.  Since I started working with my preschooler on pre-reading activities, I've seen first hand how important it is to teach children letter sounds.  Singing the phonetic version of The ABC Song would be a great way to build phonemic awareness (knowledge of sounds/symbols) in the youngest learners. 


Photo by Peter Galbraith

Friday's High Five: Penguins

This week's High Five topic is penguins!  The following five kid-center activities are easy to prepare, quick, inexpensive, educational and fun!  I'm giving each activity (and it's creator) a  
HUGE HIGH FIVE!  Here we go...

Penguin Craft Using Shapes

                                      Source: via Lisa Kniess @ Criss-Cross Applesauce on Pinterest

What Number Comes Between? (Freebie)
                                       Source: via Lisa Kniess @ Criss-Cross Applesauce on Pinterest

Roll and Draw a Penguin (Freebie)
                                                 Source: via Lisa Kniess @ Criss-Cross Applesauce on Pinterest

Penguin Memory Cards (Freebie)
                                                Source: via Lisa Kniess @ Criss-Cross Applesauce on Pinterest

Roll and Color (Freebie)
                                                      Source: via Lisa Kniess @ Criss-Cross Applesauce on Pinterest

If you're looking for more penguin activities, check out my Winter Theme Board on Pinterest!


High Five Photo by S Braswell

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Build a Snowman

Check out our indoor snowman! 

This is a great language building activity for my tot.  While he moves around all the pieces I say the names of the colors, shapes and/or body parts.  He loves testing out this new vocabulary by repeating the words back to me.  

To turn this fun felt board activity into a learning experience for my preschooler, I created an emergent reader.  This is the first reader I made for her, so it was definitely a learning experience.  Next time I think I'll scale back a little.  I included sight words, color words, shapes, numbers and clipart to cut out and paste.

Once she got to work on the book, I knew it was a little too much for her to handle on her own.  But as always, she amazes me!  We worked together to assemble the book.  Then I guided her the first time through reading the book.  Now she proudly reads this book all by herself!


Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Using Montessori Sandpaper Letters

Last month I shared how I made a set of Montessori inspired sandpaper letters.  If you're not familiar with Montessori or sandpaper letters you might be wondering how to use these teaching materials.  After a lot of reading on Montessori methods and a little trial and error I figured out how to use these materials to teach my preschooler letter sounds and letter formations.  Here's what we did: 

Each time I introduced new letters, I picked 3 at a time that looked and/or sounded different from each other.  On this particular day we worked on letters i, b and v.  I also set-up some salt on one side of a baking sheet (sand works great too).   

Before showing my preschooler the letters, we played I Spy.  I looked around the room for an object that began with one of the letters we were working on.  We always played this games using the letter sounds not the letter names.  I said, "I spy something in the room that starts with the "i" sound."  Then my preschooler tried to guess what object I was thinking of.  If I couldn't easily find something in the room that started with the sound we were working on (the i sound was a tricky one) then I would quickly alter the game.  For example in the case of letter i, I itched the side of my face and asked, "What am doing that starts with the "i" sound?"  After she figured out the I spy object or action I said, "Now let me show you what the sound "i" looks like?"  Then I placed the sandpaper letter in front of my preschooler. 

Next I went through the stages of a Montessori 3 part lesson.

Stage 1:  I modeled how to say the letter sound while tracing the sandpaper letter at the same time.  Then my preschooler practiced tracing the letter and saying the sound a few times.  If she was able to trace the sandpaper letter in the correct direction, then I modeled how to trace the sandpaper letter in the salt.  Next she traced over my letter in the salt, then wrote her own letter in the salt.  If she showed confusion on how to trace the sandpaper letter, I didn't have her trace it in the salt because I didn't want her to practice writing something incorrectly.  Bad habits in writing are hard to break!  After finishing one letter, we played I Spy and practiced tracing the other two letters.

Stage 2:  Next I put all three sandpaper letters in front of my preschooler.  I asked her to point to a specific letter, naming its sound.  I said, "Please show me the "i" sound."  After she pointed to the correct letter I had her trace it again and if she correctly traced it on the sandpaper I had her write it in the salt.  We repeated this activity for all three letters. 

Stage 3:  For the last step I turned all three cards upside down and asked my preschooler to pick one.  She liked this part of the activity best, calling it the Mystery Letter Game.  After she turned over a card I asked, "What sound does this letter make?"  If she was able to correctly tell me the sound I had her trace the letter again and proceed to writing it in the salt.  If she was unable to to tell me the sound I simply told her the sound and had her trace it while saying the sound a couple times.  

I am so glad I discovered Montessori!  Using sandpaper letters was an fun, multisensory way for my preschooler to prepare for reading and writing.  Next week I'll introduce my daughter to the our Montessori inspired moveable alphabet (another DIY project!)!  My preschooler is eager to start writing words and I am equally excited to teach her!


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Thursday, January 12, 2012

Snowmen Made with Homemade Glitter Playdough

I did it!!  I finally added glitter to our playdough!!

So what's the big deal with adding glitter to playdough?  Well if you read my Keeping Clam in 2012 post, little things (like the thought of glitter being tracked EVERYWHERE in my house) make me a bit stressed out.  I usually try to avoid messy projects that involve craft supplies like paint and glitter.  But in 2012 I'm trying to improve my patience and my need to control every little thing.  I thought, why not try adding glitter to our playdough?  After all what's the worse that could happen?  The tube full of glitter could slip out of my hand cascading tiny sparkles across my entire kitchen?  So what!  I've cleaned up a lot worse!  I can handle a little glitter!

And handle it I did.  Besides for a few stray glitter flakes here and there, this really wasn't a messy project at all.  Next time I won't hesitate to add a little glitter to our playdough!

Here's a quick version of the recipe I used for our glitter playdough (orginally from My Montessori Journey)

1 Cup Flour
1/2 Cup Salt
1 Tablespoon Cream of Tarter
1 Tablespoon Vegetable Oil
1 Cup Water

1.  In a medium sized mixing bowl, mix all dry ingredients.  Then add all wet ingredients.  Mix well.

2.  Transfer ingredients to a saucepan.  Mix continuously over medium heat.  When the mix starts to pull  away from the sides and forms into a ball the playdough is done (it will no longer have a wet look).

3.  Turn dough onto countertop and knead.

4.  Add glitter, spice and/or food coloring!

5.  Store in a Ziploc container.  

After the glitter playdough cooled, I gave it to my kids along with a basket full of crafting supplies (googly eyes, buttons, pipe cleaners, felt, pony beads, pom-poms and sticks).  Then my tot and preschooler spent some time playing and creating the cutest little glittery playdough snowmen!   


Now that our glitter playdough was a success, maybe it's time to bust out a messy paint project and really put my patience to the test!  

I link-up at these great parties!


Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Let it Snow Marshmallows!

There may be no snow outside (yet), but inside our house it's snowing marshmallows! 

This fun math game lets little ones practice identifying numbers 1-20.  To play this game, all you need are a copy of the printable materials below and some tasty mini-marshmallows! 

To grab a copy click the image below or click HERE

Snowman graphic by Scrappin Doodles
1. Shuffle the cards and lay them in a pile upside down. 
2. Player 1 draws a card, reads the number aloud and uses a marshmallow to cover up the corresponding snowflake number on his board. 
3. Players continue taking turns, drawing cards and covering up snowflakes. 
4. If a player chooses a number card which he has already covered up on his board then that player skips his turn.
5.  The first player to cover up all their snowflakes wins!

Game Variations
There are four blank number cards included in this game.  These can be used as a skip your turn card or as card to allow the player to call out any number that he needs to cover on his board.  Just be sure to decide how you want these cards to be used before the game starts!

Skills Practiced 
Identifying and Reading Numbers 1-20

Let it snow!  

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Monday, January 9, 2012

Place Value Bean Sticks and a Freebie!

Yay!  I'm so excited to share my first winter freebie!

If you read my snowflake craft post last week, you might remember that during that activity I introduced skip counting to my preschooler.  She was very enthusiastic about learning this and caught on pretty quick.  I knew she would need lots of practice to better understand this concept, so last week she made a set of place value bean sticks to help her as she practices skip counting. 

I first stumbled across place value bean sticks at Kindergarten Crayons.  If you're not familiar with this math tool, (I wasn't until a few days ago!) they are the inexpensive version of the plastic place value blocks I've used in my classroom.  Place value bean sticks are a great multisensory math manipulative that little learners can make themselves.  

Here's how my preschooler made a set of place value bean sticks...
Craft Sticks
Large Lima Beans (The Dollar Store!)
Elmer's Glue 

First my preschooler spread out the glue using a paintbrush.  This method of gluing turned out to be much  easier on her fingers than squeezing the glue from the bottle!

Next she counted out ten beans.

Then she glued the beans onto a stick and repeated the process until she had 10 bean sticks.  

It was a great math activity and also lots of messy fun for my little one too!  These bean sticks will be a great tool for teaching and practicing all sorts of place value concepts such as building two digit numbers, identifying two digit numbers, regrouping, addition and subtraction!  But to start off, my preschool will use these bean sticks to practice skip counting by ten.     

Skip Counting Cards (Freebie!)
To go along with the place value bean sticks, I made a set of skip counting cards using some adorable graphics for Scrappin Doodles.

Click on the image below to download a copy or click HERE

Here is the activity I have set up using the place value bean sticks and skip counting cards...

My preschooler selects a card, clips it to the cup, counts out the correct number of place value bean sticks and puts them in the cup!

What activities do you do to teach your kiddos skip counting?

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