Friday, June 8, 2012

Nature Prints

Nature Prints
Well, I was SUPPOSE to be cleaning house but couldn't help myself, I had to go outside and explore too!  :-P  Oh well, the house can be cleaned tonight (actually can be done quicker when the kids are in bed anyway). Actually, going outside was two fold...1) got me out of cleaning and 2) I could tell they were going to quickly lose interest because they haven't quite relearned about this "exploration".  So I went out and started verbalizing my thoughts and finding materials they haven't used yet.  Talked about how things didn't quite turn out for me and what I was going to do about it (this was mainly for the first grader who tends to do something and doesn't think it's perfect so he cries-pouts and refuses to finish the teaching how to "make the best of it" without a lecture.  :-))  I also showed by example that really, paint on our hands really isn't a big deal, and it can be part of the fun.
"Oh, well, I was going to make a hand print holding flowers but that print did NOT turn out.  Hmmm, guess I'll mix those colors together to make a new background."  :-)
"Check out these new plants I found to print!"  (I made a point to go beyond 2 feet from our painting area and went on a "scavenger hunt".) 
Here A. printed a bunch of rocks then sat for awhile and then asked for the paint brushes.  Absolutely!  One of my goals is for them to think and explore and ask for materials.  More often than not they'll get them.  Unfortunately, we do not have a space to put materials at their level to get on their own so they have to ask.  Some day I'd like a space for art materials that can be within children's reach.  However, in the mean time I would like them to relearn how to be comfortable in asking for materials that will help in their creative outlet.
After printing many items, he then took a leaf and smeared them around and then printed white leaves.  Neat!

The end opinion:  "That was fun!" 

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

School-Age Center Rotation

I have the privilege to be home in the summer with my kiddos.  This summer I don't even have other kiddos with us.  So what to do?  :-)  Today we had a lovely day.  Actually after our morning I had 2 out of 3 children take a nap.  And the third one I found out fell asleep in the reading tent.  Ha!

After piano, Tae Kwon Do, groceries/shopping, appointments, library...we really only have about 2 days out of the week that we aren't "doing anything".  I find that I really do need to have some sort of activity planned though on these days to help our days go smoother.  Last night they voted a center rotation.  This is where I set up several 'centers' and they can rotate through them and it usually takes about an hour.

My kids are always wanting to be at the computer.  It's limited here, ESPECIALLY during the school year.  They use the computers in their class, at the lab and watch way more movies/TV than necessary.  Multiple times I've walked into the first grade classroom to see Sponge Bob on the TV.  Hello?! can guess my opinion of that!  This was a refurbished computer that we set up as a "kids computer" and it's in our kitchen.  Hopefully by next school year we'll figure out why our wireless Internet is not working with this particular computer and get it fixed.  I do suggest the computer the children use the most be in an easily supervised spot, especially if you have Internet hook up.  But even if not...I find that time can go by quite quickly and you forget how long they've actually been on the computer if they are out of sight.  The kids' favorite CDs are JumpStart and Magic School Bus.  We were trying a series of CDs I've had for years from Manay.  There were several activities on the math and science CD but they really only enjoyed the Math Scrabble.  We actually purchased this game recently and so it has renewed interest.  I'm sure we'll slip the actual game in soon! 
S'Math, from Lakeshore Learning

Science Tray
  We did this with the preschoolers back in February.  You can read that post (Fizzing Trays) here.  Differences for the school-agers:  They were able to color their own vinegar and use as much or as little of the baking soda/vinegar as they'd like.  Allowing the kids to explore on their own with minimal "interference" from mom is...well, yes, it's a little bit more messy but on the other hand, school-agers have a bit more control and ability to clean up their mess!  I use trays often.  It makes clean up so much easier!

I control the activity a bit with a toddler, as you can see below.  I didn't have him pour his own vinegar or add the colors.  I prepared the tray of colored vinegar for him.  As usually, he ended up spending more time mixing the colors.  :-D

Playdough Measuring
Less is often better I've learned.  :-)  I remember when I use to put the whole playdough tub out (yes, I still do on occasion) but when I want something specific explored with, less IS better.  Our goal this summer is to relearn how to explore a specific topic and also to build stamina.  Because they have not had the opportunity to truly explore, they really do not know how to progress on their own.  They want me to tell them what to do.  They quickly move from one area to the next without truly getting anything from the activity.  It'll take time but we'll get there.  :-)
 After 1st grade, the children really do not use clay or playdough anymore in school.  Isn't that sad?   Today I set out two types of scales.  Slipping in some learning here.  :-)  Weight...sometimes the weight of an object is called its mass.  Today we explored with oz. and lbs.  My unstated goal for the 1st grader was to realize that the weight stays the same even though the shape changes.  (As long as no part of the playdough falls off!) 

Reading Tent 
Seems like every time the children want to do this, it isn't the right time.  It takes time and patience to pull all the chairs out and find all the suitable bedding that will work with the tent.  This was C.'s idea for today.  He wanted a tent with flashlights to read.  And lo and behold we were at the library yesterday and got a bunch of "new" books to read.  Love that C. is now at the 3rd grade level and into chapter books.  :-)  A.'s at the 6th grade level and I'm finding it difficult to find books that are at his level in reading as well as social/emotional development.  However, we don't worry about AR during the summer.  Our summer goal is to read for the fun of it.  :-)  I think AR sometimes hinders this. 

We recently went on a field trip to the Wilderness Trails Zoo in Birch Run, MI and our group each chose a paper fan souvenir.  I could tell they were pretty cheap so I encouraged our kiddos to keep theirs to use for our religious convention...which can be a bit warm at times.  :-)  So, I pulled them out so we could see how they were made and then we created our own for every day play. 
9"x12" construction paper
1.5"x10" cardboard/cardstock
I didn't get pictures of every step but these are the main two steps.   Encourage them to decorate the construction paper...both sides if they wish.  Then accordian fold the paper.  Then our own kids chose colored cardstock instead of cardboard and cut a 1 1/2"x10" strip, using a ruler and pencil to mark and a paper cutter.  They folded it half, lengthwise over the bottom of their fan.  They then decided that it was too long for their fan so trimmed it.  Then they stapled it and wrapped packing tape around the bottom.  Seem pretty durable compared to other fans we've made in the past.  :-)

Oh, and we started into our goal of reading ALL of our picture books!  LOL Wonder if we'll actually get through them all before summer is out.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Shiny Pennies

We have a "piggy bank" of pennies that get used frequently.  Not a pig...but a huge baby bottle bank.  :-)  At the toddler and young preschool age, they love to sit there with a bowl of pennies and slip them in the top of the bank.  Great fine motor!  The older kids sort, skip count, stack, use them in their play (they love to haul pennies in the trucks), and so on.

My older kiddos decided they wanted to sort and clean them this past weekend.  Well, we've tried this before and did not have luck.  We only made them worse as many of them have this white coating on them from the last time we tried this.  :-) 
This time we had a bit more really kept them interested because they could see an instant change in the pennies.  The picture below is actually less than a minute in the mixture.  I'm sure it would have gotten shinier but they wanted to get a picture of it like that.  Unfortunately, the picture doesn't show the contrast as much as it does in person.

The lovely smelling mixture is...
3Tbs of vinegar to 2 tsp of salt

We ended up doing quite a bit more, using this ratio, to fill a tray and do more pennies than what would fit in a cup.  Made it easier to watch the instant change also!

So what's up here at Play 'n' Learn?  We are officially on summer break!  And we are looking forward to a change for the fall.  Though I'm not sure we are going to be placed at MVCA, which is our first choice (there wasn't many seats available and there were a LOT of application this year), I feel that we will continue this thought of homeschooling in the fall.  Quite a bit of excitement there!  Stay tuned!  :-)

Friday, June 1, 2012

Froggy, froggy, green and brown...

Another post with some accumulated activities we did with the frog theme. 
The title of the post is from the song Frogs in School by Julie Austin and it's a favorite around here.  It's on her Fandagumbo CD.  You can find the lyrics at

Bubble Wrap Sensory

Bubble wrap is used quite frequently around here.  They love it and so do I.  I can sit and pop those bubbles and I will definitely have a bit of bubble wrap around for my school-agers next year.  One activity we love and have done multiple times is dish soap and paint on bubble wrap.  This makes some cool prints.  I chose to use just blues and greens this time to make a "pond" to go with the 5 Green and Speckled Frogs song and manipulatives so we can keep the foam here for other uses. 

Froggy Sensory With Hair Gel

During our bug week they really enjoyed finding the bugs in a different spot/to be used with different materials each day so I've done the same with our frogs.  In this picture I put them with hair gel and mancala beads.

Frog and Flies Addition

The Mailbox Preschool/Kindergarten Magazines have centerfold games that can be laminated and used.  This is one of them.  Each child rolled a dice and placed that any flies on the mat.  Very simple addition...great for 3's and 4's!

Sight Word Booklet
These are nice little sight word booklets.  With H. here were found the word "see" on every page.  With K., she was able to read it all on her own.  This booklet is one of several printable booklets from the Mailbox Publication High Frequency Word Booklets.

Bulletin Board Strips

Did another more "formal" activity with our frog bulletin board strips.  This time we played an I Spy where the children guess the number I was thinking about.  I used number formation phrases such as "curve around and slide to the right".  I also chose a number and covered up the number before and the number afterward and the children took turns telling me what those numbers word.  Simple, beneficial!

Frogs on Logs 

Another Mailbox publication activity.  I used their estimation sheet but chose to make logs out of simple construction paper and use our frog manipulatives.  They suggested using green pom poms.  Something similar can easily be made on your own.  I love that picture on the left.  Her estimation was the same as the actual measurement and she let out a huge "whoop!"  LOL  

Frog on a Log Vowels
(Picture isn't grand, sorry!  Sent home both children's work before noticing that none of the quick snapshots turned out.)
Initially I planned to have them use these order by size frogs from to match frog rhyming pictures but chose at the last minute to reinforce those short vowel sounds.  For the toddler I simply used numbers and number dots but focused putting the frogs on the log from biggest to smallest, which he did without a problem.  :-)

Shades of Green Froggies
All the children had such a look of concentration when they were doing this activity.  :-)
This was right up the alley for T. and his sense of order.  :-)
The end product wasn't what I'd call beautiful but the process was great and they did enjoy it.  My goal was to have a project that would dry and go home the same day since it was the last day of school.  If I just let them have free for all with the sponge applicators like I would normally do, they wouldn't dry before noon.  :-)
It incorporated art (shades of color-mix with the children), fine motor and eye-hand coordination activity. 

Lily Pad Number Word Match
This was a great way to see which number words K. actually recognized.  Though I made two "trays", one with larger numbers and one with smaller numbers, only K. really knows a good portion of number words, as she's a bit older so I was watching for decoding practices for H. but K. actually sounded the words out for him.  Simple, easy, and they seemed to enjoy this, especially after T. gave them a frog after they completed each lily pad.  :-)  Metal trays from a dollar store and magnets on the back of the flowers.

Watch Me Grow: Frog

 This is a lovely book! Very informative, great illustrations! Better yet, the frogs I purchased from Dollar Tree matched closely to the frogs in the book!

Also want to remind you to check out the following sites for frog themed activities.  We've done several from them that I didn't post about.
(The word find from this kit.  This is one way we complete word finds.  :-)  Colored chips vs. dry-erase markers)

* Frog themed activities from Making Learning Fun
(I had only printed the background frog for the toddler to match the pieces but I ended up going back and printing the background for the other two as well, this puzzle was harder than we thought it was going to be!)

Frog themed activities from Kidssoup (membership fee required...well worth it!)

Non-themed activity:  these last few days I've been asking for suggestions of activities they would like to do again.  This was one of the suggestions they gave me.  :-)

And a lovely gift from one of my families!