Playdough Math

We love playdough! We probably play with play dough everyday at one point or another. Not only is it squishy and wonderful it provides an excellent hands on way to learn so many great skills. We have been using cookie cutters with our play dough this last week. Just the other day the kids were wondering about the “+” sign. I explained it to them and that’s where it all started. The children would choose two numbers to add and then they would count out the number of balls that each number represented. Next they counted all of the play dough balls and added them together, they found the answer to the equation and stamped it out of the play dough. By the end of this activity they were doing the whole process entirely on their own! They were doing math! The kids learned new vocabulary; “adding”, “equation” and “equals”. They also got a chance to explore these skills while working with their hands, squishing the dough and making their own counters! They were so proud!

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A Gorgeous Variation

My post Like Oil and Water(colors) is by far my most popular post. After being featured on Teach Preschool’s Facebook page my blog blew up! I actually thought it was a virus I had so many visits to my blog. 🙂 The version of oil and watercolors that we did in that post was beautiful and a very fun way to make abstract watercolors. But once the finished product was dry it was a little disappointing. Those brilliant colors, and vibrant bubbles looked kind of dark green and a little greasy :/ . Not to mention my kiddos wanted to put WAY more color on the paper than it could hold. With all of that being said I still loved the scientific exploration behind the project that resulted in art. I needed to find a new way to make this oil and watercolor plan work out. And Viola! A new oil and watercolor that provides gorgeous, frame able art and holds attention for oh so long! I do love a good engaging project!

We started with:

  • Four cups with a little bit of oil in each
  • A pan with a small amount of water in the bottom – not too much or your colors will sink to the bottom
  • Some liquid watercolors and some watercolor paper (or any thicker paper)
  • Eye Droppers

After a few squirts of liquid watercolors into the oil cups we mixed and mixed and mixed until the color was incorporated into the oil. This took a bit of mixing.

Image 15 Image 21 Then we got started, using the eye droppers to place the colored oil in the pan of water. The kids put the oil anywhere and everywhere  in the pan.Image 25 Image 22

Image 14 When they were satisfied with the color placement we plopped a piece of paper on top and let it sit for about 45seconds, the oil bled through the paper & was fun to watch.

Image 12 We peeled the paper up and were presented with these works of art!Image 29

Mad Scientists

Everyone has participated in the oh so familiar science experiment of baking soda and vinegar; the two mixing together and bubbling and fizzing so rapidly we all jump up and down and joyfully watch the ingredients “explode!” This project is chemistry at its most basic level, and yet so new and magical in the eyes of a three year old.

Instead of pouring the vinegar into the baking soda for a one time explosion I go about this project a little differently. I line a pan with a thin layer of baking soda and then arm the kids with eye droppers – Side note I recently made a purchase from discount school supply and was so excited to get my new eye droppers and liquid water colors, I usually try to use ingredients found around the house for most of my projects but these items are so useful! – Next I fill small cups with vinegar and then add color, you can use food coloring or liquid water colors.

The kids work on fine motor skills and improve their hand coordination, great for pre-writing, when using the eye droppers. They watch the colors bubble and pop while working on covering all of their white from the baking soda. When all of the chemical reactions have been used up and there are “no more bubbles” My little ones always do a bit of color mixing and of course can’t get through an activity without a little sensory exploration! This time in the form of running their hands through the sludge.  This is by far one of my favorite activities it keeps the kids engaged for a seriously long time, and I love the conversation that comes about as we’re making mini colorful explosions!DSCN1030 DSCN1026 DSCN1027 DSCN1029 DSCN1031

Pipe Cleaner Palaces!

We recently bought a new TV for our bedroom. With that TV came a box with all sorts of foam packaging. Once finished with the installation of the TV my husband bagged up all that packaging and headed to the trash. Now for some people this is totally normal and completely acceptable but to me this was an outrage!

“What are you doing throwing this away?” (He looks at me as if I’ve temporarily lost touch with reality – it is garbage after all) “We can totally use this for something!”

“What are you going to use oddly shaped pieces of foam for?”

“All sorts of things!”

He shrugged his shoulders and left the foam for me to deal with, clearly realizing his defeat and most likely wondering why I had acted like he was throwing away a bag of money. Now I felt the pressure, what would I do with it? Where was I going to put it? I tucked it into a corner hoping that inspiration would strike soon or my mini drama over the styrofoam that was almost no more was going to be all for naught.

Luckily the very next day we were in search of an activity and I decided to bust out the foam and some loose parts with pointy edges for jabbing into the foam. The results were beautiful! The pipe cleaners easily poked into the foam and were fun to twist and turn, we made tunnels and doorways, the golf tees worked wonders for patterns and then for a little balancing. This activity was an exercise in fine motor, imaginative play, mathematic concepts and so much more, plus it was fun!DSCN1009 DSCN1006 DSCN1008 DSCN1012 DSCN1013 DSCN1017 🙂

Lego Math

Our lego table is always a big hit with all of the kids in my care. We build castles, houses, racetracks and of course we always knock them down with great vigor! Legos flying everywhere. Usually we only build so that we can knock them down. We have been experimenting with 2 part patterns with the legos and those too get knocked down and broken to pieces as fast as they possibly can.

I have built on this lego interest by painting with legos, adding them to play dough for polka dot printing and most recently creating a math game that my kids love! E and I tested out this game on a day that it was just him and I. I made several structures, then placed the required pieces to replicate the structure in little bins. E started by looking at the pre-made structure and then got to work making its twin. We started pretty basic and then built on those designs making them more and more challenging. E was so proud when he carefully copied the structure. This fun twist on legos has worked well for all of the kids and my very math minded boy (open ended play stresses him out! who’s kid is he?) has loved showing his friends how to “play the game!”DSCN0935 DSCN0948DSCN0946DSCN0938DSCN0936
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Magnet Board!

This year Santa brought us something fun for daycare! A massive magnet board! I’ve seen these for a few years now and in my quest to find something homemade for E this Christmas we decided to jump all over this simple project! I found the big oil pan at Walmart in the auto section for about $11.oo then had the hubby spray paint it yellow. I used colored duct tape to add the border. We went with kind of a John Deer feel :). While the magnet board was drying I got to work on a variety of magnets. I made alphabet magnets using those gems you use for fish tanks or vases, I also made numbers and some shapes. My favorite magnets by far though are the paper doll magnets. I found some paper doll printables and then added flat magnets to the back. I made E’s face on one of the dolls so that he could dress himself in all sorts of funny outfits! Add some Melissa and Doug dinosaur magnets and viola! Very engaging and lots of fun magnet exploration. DSCN0773 DSCN0772DSCN0776

“How Lovely are your Branches”

Our house is decked for the holidays, and aren’t those beautiful trees so enticing to little hands? The pretty lights, the shiny ornaments, of course our little ones want to join in on all of the holiday fun and tear every single ornament within reach off of that tree! 🙂 This year I have added a couple of Christmas tree alternatives to our house to help appease my helpful friends.

First we have our felt tree. I had a ton of leftover felt from our monster costumes this Halloween and luckily one of my little monsters was green! I cut out a tree from the green felt and tacked it to the wall. I then cut different shapes from both the green and pink felt and we got to decorating! The felt tree was wonderful! We peeled the ornaments off and stuck them back on, we sorted by shape and by color, we decorated the tree in patterns and different designs. It has been an excellent quiet time activity and a great early mathematics game.

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Our next alternative Christmas tree is our giant coloring page Christmas tree! I stumbled upon this when looking for simple Christmas themed coloring pages. I am not typically a fan of coloring pages for this age group, I feel that they tend to stifle creativity and create an unrealistic expectation of what this age group should be able to do. Luckily I have no perfectionists in my group and they love the familiarity of an image (santa, a tree, a snowman) and they scribble all over the image with enthusiasm and proudly show off their “snowman!”

So back to the Christmas tree. This gigantic coloring page prints out in 26pages, then you tape it together and post it on the wall. Now the five year old girl in me was so excited! I knew that my kids wouldn’t necessarily appreciate it like I did but that’s ok, I let go of control and let them scribble away, I colored the little pieces that they let me have and they have re-visited the tree over the past few weeks adding a scribble here and a scribble there. I am keeping this link for future years, I can’t wait to see how our coloring progresses! Here is the link: http://www.mrprintables.com/christmas-coloring-pages-for-kids.htmlDSCN1483 DSCN1484

Of course the real tree is still just as enticing, beautiful, and magical!

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Fine Motor Time

In the world of three year old boys, at least the three year old boys I surround myself with, fine motor activities are few and far between. My kids, and apparently the ones I draw to me, tend to need big gross motor activities, if they are not moving they are not interested. But I still set up fine motor options to hopefully stumble upon something that will draw them in and hold their interest all the while building and strengthening those little hands and fingers. This week I was lucky, I found two things that kept them engaged, sitting at the table, for more than 15 minutes (that’s almost enough time to prep their lunch!) We started with pipe cleaners and beads. I wasn’t sure of their ability with such small beads so I was sure to use pipe cleaners instead of string to help aid them in stringing the beads. I even had some bamboo skewers ready to go if the pipe cleaners were too challenging. I stuck the pipe cleaners into some Styrofoam adding another dimension to the beading and giving them a clear idea of what end to bead from. It was fun to watch the boys be so careful, really concentrating, and working their fingers to place the beads one on top of the other. They talked about how tall the “trees” were, trying to make each one taller than the next.

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Our next success story with fine motor this week was with stickers! We have a ton of stickers, random collection of different things. I set the stickers on the table today with papers that I had drawn “their letters” on I left the table and let them decide on their own what they would do. Of course I wanted them to stick the stickers onto their letter but I wasn’t sure that would actually happen. Watching them work I noticed that they immediately found “their” letters then discovered the stickers. E immediately went to town sticking the stickers meticulously onto his letter, B watched and quickly joined in. They finished the first letters in their name and wanted more! I ended up writing out all of the letters in their names and they carefully sat, pealing stickers and placing them along the lines of the letters. This was by far the longest my son has ever worked on a fine motor activity! Watching them concentrate is so much fun, trying to work those little fingers! The last picture is what happened to the baby when I went to the bathroom, they couldn’t sit perfectly the entire time without a little mischief 🙂
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Mirrors and Pom Poms

Although most of my projects and invitations to play are geared towards my gaggle of three year old boys I do have two teeny tiny infants with me and a busy 1 year old as well. I have been trying to find fun and exciting new things to do with these younger age groups. Recently during a trip to the oh so wonderful dollar tree (seriously I love this store for kids stuff) I found mirrors. I have been wanting mirrors for our dress up area for a while so I threw a couple in the cart and headed for the shaving cream, a must when you’re at the dollar tree. The mirrors have been a hit with the older kids who frequently post up at a mirror and make different faces or try on silly hats but until the other day I had not given the littles a chance to try them out. Feeling a little guilty for my lack of attention to the little ones yesterday I spur of the moment pulled down a mirror and added some pom poms. Success! At first all of the boys crowded round wanting to play and experiment with this new use for mirrors, we sorted the poms, we dropped them onto the mirror from high up. Once the older kids cleared the way my little one year old buddy had a chance to check it out. He put the poms on the mirror on his face, he laughed and laughed, he threw the poms at the mirror and more laughs erupted. He was fascinated and fully engaged for close to 10 minutes – a long time for a little one! DSCN1220 DSCN1223 DSCN1224

Boys and Their Hammers

 

Carving pumpkins is messy work. Its goey and icky and in my experience not an activity 3 year olds enjoy! In fact my son screamed and ran away when I tried to cajole him into reaching inside for a handful of seeds. I have always loved the idea of pumpkin investigation, each year I bring out a pumpkin or two and hope for these little ones to really dive in and experience a pumpkin, feeling it, smelling it, dissecting it. But every year the pumpkin sits there and the kids play with something else. I haven’t given up on this opportunity for early science, so this year I opened the pumpkin, and it sat there… When we were ready to move on I pulled out Rob’s golf tees and dug around for some toy hammers, coincidently we have 4! And with the appearance of said hammers came an enthusiastic group of boys. The pumpkin was now a point of interest. And while we may not have had a sophisticated conversation about the consistency of a pumpkins shell we sure did have fun! Fine motor skills were refined and we got a little lesson in the working parts of a hammer. DSCN1214 DSCN1217 DSCN1219