Saturday, October 12, 2013

Numbers, Shapes, Counting and Colors

This week was supposed to be "Our World" week, but since the boys were still getting a lot of enjoyment from the 50 State Week books and were still talking about the Untied States, I decided to take a break from the "them" thing this week and go back to the basics. Each week in our lessons we also include a color, letter, number, and shape, but I decided that this week I'd focus on those background lessons and make them the focus.

You can do a lot when your theme is based on colors, numbers and shapes and boy, were we busy! Here are some of the activities we did this week:

Fishin' for Numbers and Letters:
One of my dearest friends in the whole word is pretty crafty and when I pinned on Pinterest cloth letters, she thought it was a great idea and made some for her kinds and mine! I'm not sure if this is the exact tutorial she used, but here is one very similar. In our kit, she put magnets in them so they could stick to the fridge, but since my boys like fishing so much, I decided to make a switch and have them go fishing for numbers and letters! We have these handy fishing sets, that are just perfect for indoor pretend play, and because the magnet in the lures are so strong, it is perfect for them, no struggles at all catching these pesky letters and numbers.

There are about a million things you can do with these letters and with the fishing poles out, my boys were busy for a VERY long time. At first I just let them play, then I split up the numbers and letters and asked them to put them in order. After a while, I laid out letters and numbers into a "pond" and asked them to try and catch a three, a Y or whatever was in the pile. They seriously could have done this for hours.

Playing Cards:
My in-laws went on a trip and found these beautiful cards with animals and fish on them. They gave them to the boys and I was afraid to give them to the boys. I was sure we'd loose them, but Henrik found them in the school closet and wanted to get them out. So, why not?! I had Henrik explore the cards for a bit and he realized that there were numbers on them. We did all the possible things you can do with cards: put them in by their suit, put all the numbers together, find a match, etc.

We even played "Go Fish" but it was much more fun to actually put the fish into their species groups. I guess their daddy has rubbed off on them.

Playing Store (Or Payers):
For Christmas last year the boys got a kitchen set, shopping carts and a cash register, it wasn't really fun until this year and for some reason, playing "Payers" is Henrik's favorite game! He takes it so seriously! This was a fun activity for a few reasons, first, Dad joined in! Eric set up a store and had Henrik buy different things. They had smaller things cost less than the larger things, sweets and desserts cost more than toy cars, and so on. Henrik used toy money to pay for things and he couldn't get enough. He kept running around the house trying to buy different items and had to make sure he had enough money.

Theo thought the activity was pretty fun too, though every thing costs $50 to Theo. I'm not sure where that number comes from but it's pretty funny. Also, Theo doesn't get dollar bills, he understands coins (you can put them in your bank for allowance) and debit cards (what I use when I buy groceries). It's funny as he runs around the house giving every one their $50 and pushes his cart around.

Later in the week, I set up a lunch store for the boys, they used real coins to purchase their lunch, drinks and desserts. You could do this project a number of ways, we did it differently each time. One time we actually used the numbers on the bills and the actual value for the coins and other times we just had the boys count out bills and coins. I think that each way is beneficial in different ways, either way, you are still teaching how to count, the value of money and how to make financial decisions.

Counting Cards:
I LOVE this toy, I love it so much that we have the letter version too. These simple counting cards let the child physically hold the number and put it where it goes. We've played this "game" before, but this was the first time Henrik actually participated. I've noticed that as his confidence grows, he becomes much more creative and exploratory. For example, after we put all the numbers where they went, we talked about each one. Henrik tried to figure out what they looked like, he had a hard time with an 8 and a B because they look similar, but then, as he was holding the number he himself decided that they looked like glasses. He decided that the 9 was a socket wrench, the 6 was an upside down socket wrench, the 7 was an Allen wrench and the 3 was a sideways M or a funny mustache.

I was so impressed with his ability to make comparisons and actually relate to other things he knows. I was even more impressed when he was able to think back later in the day when I said, "Which number looks like a socket wrench?" (Mostly to test to see if he had actually made a connection) When he replied, "9" I knew we were on to something. 

The set I have isn't great, but it was fun for a little while. If the dominoes were larger I think we would have had more success with this. Henrik understood the concept of playing the game, but because the dots were so small, I think he lost interest quickly. 

Either way, it was a fun activity for a little while as he matched the dots together. Soon though, it was just more fun to make a road. 

Fine Motor Play:
This is an activity you can do without having your child think that you're working them! Theo loves to cook and use a "cutter" so I figured that while Henrik was at school, Theodor and I would have some pretend play that actually stimulated him in a different way. 

I gave him different tasks, "Can you please give me some red food?" "Can you please cut the red tomato?" "Can you put all the green food in the pot?" We did this for almost 30 minutes as we switched colors, and tasks. This is a small way to make a big difference in the way you interact with your child. Simple questions and small tasks will make a huge difference in their speaking skills, their fine motor skills and their problem solving skills. Plus, their sense of completion and successful completion of a project will boost their confidence, so much so that Theodor now jumps a the opportunity to cook with me at every meal time! Someone said to me recently that their child was too young for an in home preschool, I strongly disagreed! You can make every day "play" into a lesson! This is a perfect example.

Play-Doh Numbers:

This is a fine sensory activity that also tests your child's ability at number recognition and number creation. I used painter's tape to make numbers all around our table. I asked the boys to trace the number with their hands and tell me what numbers were in front of them.

Once they did that, I got out the play doh and had them trace the tape with the play-doh. They were actually creating their numbers!

Once they made the numbers in front of them, I had them switch sides of the table to create different numbers. This was perfect for my fidgety boys because it was a whole new game when they got different numbers, plus they got to get up and get active.

While we had the play doh out I made each of their names and had them sing their name song, I made it up to the tune of Rain, Rain, Go Away. And of course, while we had the play doh out, the boys just had to get creative and create creatures!

Shape and Color Sorting Blocks:

I went online and found this cool set at Oriental Trading, though I can't find it on their site right now. It has all different shapes and colors for kids to match. This happened to be an activity that Theo liked the best. Henrik knew almost all of the shapes and of course he knew all of the colors.

Nonetheless, Henrik participated and even played with his brother asking him what the colors and shapes were that he was using. It was pretty cute.

Number Matching:
I left the numbers on the table all week long and each day we did something different with them. This activity was really fun for Henrik because we got to go on a number treasure hunt and find different things to go on each number.

We searched the house for groups of things and when we found the number of items we needed, we placed them on the corresponding number. Henrik was pretty pleased with himself when he was able to identify the number and even figure out how many items we needed to match with the next number on the table.

Number Stacking:
This shape/color/counting sorter is perfect for any age child, for my 20 month old it was an activity that we could do for a long time as we switched up the task. Before Dad came home for lunch, Theo and I were counting the blocks, but when Eric walked in, the game changed to finding the correct color.

Toys like these are so wonderful because you can do so much with them without much effort. And again, this was a special activity because Eric was involved! I think it's so important to have each person in the family work with a child. When Eric works with the boys he gets different results in terms of their behavior and their reaction to him. He also asks different questions than I would. One of the greatest things you can do with your child is to encourage them to work with other people so that they can learn different things from each instructor. We're not all the same and we all relate differently to different tasks. I think it's important to expose your child to as much as possible to find out how they like to learn.

Train Counting:
Again, here's another project you can do while your kids think they are "just playing". My boys could play trains all day long and while they are learning valuable lessons working together, assembling tracks and even putting trains together, I wanted to add a new element to this game.

I asked the boys to find me the trains with numbers on them. Then we lined them all up in order. Then we tried to find corresponding numbers around the train village we'd set up. Then we practiced counting the different trains and even sorted them in terms of how many steam engines and how many diesel engines. 

Friday, October 11, 2013

50 States Part II

We did so much that I have to put it in two different posts!

Mining for Gold:
In some Colorado western and touristy towns you can still pan for gold. And I thought, what a perfect opportunity for us to get out and do some sand and water play! I went on Amazon and found fools gold so that we could actually pan for gold! The boys were in awe as they got to dig and sift through sand and water to try to find gold! The best part was when they yelled, "Eureka!" when they found some. I didn't expect it, but this activity is STILL in our backyard and they STILL play in there for hours! One thing I did with our cooler temps was put hot water in the water side. It made it perfect for  their little hands didn't get cold! This was the perfect way to end our States week.

Colorado Adventure Days
Each week we've been trying to get out and do different Colorado Adventures. We go to State or National parks, we hike, mountain bike or just enjoy doing some touristy adventures. For the past two weeks, and actually, the past two months, we've been very active and teaching the boys about the different things our state has to offer. Here are some pictures of places and things to do in CO that we've done. 

Cliff Dwellings:
Until the 1980s these Cliff Dwellings were occupied by the Anasazi people. The boys, and our dog, loved exploring the village. I found it fascinating, this was a matriarchal society in just about every aspect of their daily lives. These people were incredible at architecture and gardening (you can see their gardens today) and it was incredibly amazing how these people lived on the side of a cliff! If you want more information, click here

Family photo at the Elder's house

Theo found a spot to cook us dinner

Henrik, exploring the dwellings. 

Fossil Beds:
Colorado has unique geography all over it, but we went and explored the most famous fossil beds. This area was more for older kids and adults as it was highly educational and not very preschool friendly, however, Eric had a brilliant idea to get the kids a fossil tool kit! We filled their tool belts with a magnifying glass, a notebook, pen, paint brush and flashlight. They had SO much fun writing in their field journals and exploring nature! Plus, it was nice to just get out and spend the day outside. For more information on the Florescent Fossil Beds, click here. The National park site is much better, but due to the shutdown it won't let me access the site.

Checking out a petrified Red Wood tree.
Theo, walking the trail

Writing their findings in a field journal
Henrik, Looking for fossils

Family photo at the site of a petrified Red Wood at the base of a volcano! 

Pikes Peak:
The mountain we see every morning is not the highest in Colorado, but it's the most famous. We took the Cog Railway to the top, because, well, who doesn't like a good train ride. We actually bout our tickets in advance, but it turned out to be the worst day since we've been here to visit the summit. Oh well, I guess we'll have to go back. We didn't see anything, but the boys enjoyed a nice trip via cog to the top. For more information, click here.

Cold and wet kids in a family photo at the top. We'll have to come back.

Dinosaur Museum:
Colorado has a TON of dinosaur bones, all across the state actually. We went to Woodland Park to see a small collection of Dinos. You can guess how this trip went. This museum is full of displays (ones you can touch and ones you can't), a movie viewing area on prehistoric animals, a kid discovery zone and a viewing area where they actually put the bones together! This was a wonderful family trip! For more information, click here


Theo, in awe. 

Prehistoric turtle

Henrik loved the jaw of Mega Mouth! 

Elasmosaurus (or Nesse like Hanky likes to call it)

Henrik, in love with all of the "BONES"

Hiking at USAFA:
To end our two weeks of Colorado exploration we headed up to our old stomping ground, the United States Air Force Academy. We had a blast taking a Sunday and checking out the Santa Fe trail. The boys looked for signs of wildlife, loved looking at the Fall colors and just enjoyed being able to see water, railroad tracks and bridges all in one space! We even saw a coyote! For more information, click here.

My boys

Theo, checking out the trail

Looking at animal tracks! We saw a deer and a coyote footprint! 

Hanky, reading all of the signs. He loves to learn. 

A pretty happy kid on a beautiful day.

If you're ever in the area, there is something to do on every corner, we've been here three months and have done something different each weekend, most of the time it's free! I hope that this post inspires you to go out and explore your own state to see what it has to offer. 

50 States Week

For the past two weeks we've been learning as much as possible about the 50 states, the geography of our country, our current state of Colorado, our home state of Michigan, our flags, animals, and fun state facts. It's been a BUSY two weeks!

When I started this lesson, I looked to the Internet, to teacher sites, and to Pinterest to see how and what they were teaching kids this age. Unfortunately, I found that teaching about the United States isn't really a thing in the pre-school grades. I wasn't upset by this, I just wondered why. I think, after doing some research, that because we are focused on a lot of other things like letters, numbers, shapes, our name, how to spell it, and maybe even where we live; we forget to teach our kids about where they are from, what they are entitled to as an American, about this country, the geography of it and so on. I am always shocked when I meet adults and they can't point out states on a map, or can't point out geographic icons on a map. I wanted to make sure that my kids started early and could start to piece together some of the different aspects of this vast country we live in, and, we live in Colorado with SO MUCH to offer in terms of geography, I didn't want them to miss important things like the Rockies, dinosaurs and volcanoes!

As I sat and watched the Government Shut Down I was determined to make sure that my kids learned from the mistakes we've made in our own government. I wanted to include more than just where the main mountain ranges were, I wanted to teach them about being an American, so I included some difficult tasks for a three year old this week when I had him write a letter to the President, but I want to teach my boys that they are a part of this country, a part of this government and a part of this nation. I want to teach them that they have a voice and that it's okay to participate in policies and things you believe in. I understand that this is a lot for a 3 and 1 year old, but I want to stop living in a world where people confuse the Affordable Care Act and Obamacare, I want my boys to be able to recognize important figures in our society and I want them to be involved on every level for their entire life.

Alight, enough lecturing. Here are some things we did over the past two weeks:

Map Identification:

The very first thing we did was play with a map. I wanted them to realize how big our country was, how large some states were and how tiny others were. I taught them that they all had equal representation in our government even though some were big and some were small. We did a lot of talking and questioning during our map time. I would ask, "Can you find a large state?" "How about a small one?" "Can you find one that looks like a shoe? How about one that looks like the profile of a face?" "Can you find a mitten?" "How about a square?" The boys really thought it was fun and even made up shapes for different states, Idaho for example, is a rocket taking off. We also did some games like, "Find Michigan, now, which state is to the left of Michigan?"

I am so proud, and can confidently say that my three and one year olds can identify at least five different states correctly and more on a second try. And, I'll never forget the morning that Theo brought this book into our bedroom and excitedly said, "MOM! READ ME DIS BOOK BOUT MICH-I-GAN!" He had never seen or read that book, he found it in the library bag that I'd brought home, but he knew that the pictures were telling him it was about Michigan!

Mapping Postcards:

Remember when I asked you all to send us postcards? Well, a lot of  you responded! This was an excellent activity that the boys could really get involved in. Once they knew postcards were coming, they wanted each day, to wait for and check the mail! Thank you! It was so fun seeing all of the different places our friends live and little tidbits about each of your states!

Each day after we got a new postcard we'd run to the map to figure out where it came from. The pictures on the map were so helpful in terms of showing the boys what different parts of the country looked like. I think that because of the postcards, we were able to move on quickly to this next activity! 

Animals and Places:

Once they became familiar with the map, I drew up some different landmarks. I focused on geographic regions like deserts, mountains, lakes, and oceans. I also drew up icebergs, palm trees, houses (for where we've lived) and hearts (where our family members live). I had they tell me things like where their Aunts and Uncles lived, where their family lived and so on. I helped them with the other icons. But once we had the deserts, mountains, lakes and oceans in place, they were able to figure out where different kinds of animals lived. We put lobsters in Maine, dolphins in Florida, tropical birds in Hawaii, moose in the mountains, cows in Wisconsin and so on. If you look at our map, you will see a giraffe in Colorado. They are fully aware that there are no giraffes in Colorado, in fact we discussed where they could find them. HOWEVER, they insisted that because they had fed them at our local zoo, there were in fact giraffes in Colorado.
I couldn't argue with that logic, but I insisted that we finish the rest of the map the right way. I was really impressed with their ability to locate the different regions and what kind of habitat these animals lived in. And I'm pretty pleased with their placement of the waterways and geographical features!

This is a really easy project to do, but a lot of fun. My boys LOVE painting and getting messy. One thing that I like is that they have such different personalities when it comes to painting. Before we started this project, I printed out a flag of Colorado. I showed the boys pictures of what the flag looked like and where the different colors went. I even wrote in pencil a B for blue on the blue parts, an R for red, etc. in case they forgot. Henrik was SO careful when he painted his flag and was able to follow the coloring directions and mimic the flag I showed him. Theodor on the other hand can't do his letters yet, though he's getting close so I practiced his colors with him. In this case, Theo wanted to use yellow. All the yellow. At least he called it the correct color as he painted!

One of the best things about this activity was that Henrik was able to identify the Colorado flag while we were driving. "Look, Mom! That sign has a Colorado flag on it!" and sure enough, he was talking about a CO highway. He was so proud that he could identify it, and so was I.

We also decorated the American flag, though here I just hand drew it and only did 3 stars because, well, 50 is a lot to draw. Henrik didn't like that there were just three, he knows that there is a star for each state, but in the end I convinced him it was okay for this particular project.

I did the same thing as with the Colorado flag, I wrote the letters for each color in the correct location, for Hank and for Theo I tested him on his colors. He decided to paint wherever he wanted and that was fine with me. It was his project after all!

Writing Postcards: 
Because we'd received so many cards, we wanted to return the favor! We took the boys to Pikes Peak and picked up some postcards to send our friends. I actually wrote the messages, but I asked the boys to draw something in Colorado for their friends. They had fun trying to think of different animals or different things that they wanted to show or tell their new friends about. If you sent us a card and want one back, send me a message on my Facebook Page with your address! We'll get one to you!

Building Monuments:

Another fun activity that we did was to become architects and build national monuments! I showed the boys pictures of different places: the Washington Monument, The White House, the Golden Gate Bridge, The Grand Hotel, the Mackinac Bridge and the Air Force Academy Chapel. All of these landmarks and monuments are unique in their own way and I wanted the boys to appreciate what these landmarks were and why they were important. They had pictures to look at while they made their version of the structure, but I liked their imagination and improvements that they made on those buildings. We also pretended we were the Statue of Liberty, because they informed me that they couldn't make her face out of Legos. :) 

Critical Thinking:
I challenged Henrik to do a hard project, he said he was up for it so we tried. I spent the day talking about the President and what his job is and how the basic process of government works. I showed him pictures of the President, Vice President and pictures of congress and the Supreme Court. He was actually very interested to find out "who the boss" of the different branches were. He's really into, "I'm the boss of my food" and "Mom's in charge of ______" so I figured that I could relate to him this way. Next, I informed him that when people get elected into office, they usually have a platform or things that they say they will do to help out people or our country. I asked him if he were president what would he do. It was hard at first, he didn't really understand that he could pick anything, so we started talking. I asked him if he liked parks, if he liked water and lakes, if he liked kids or animals, once he answered we went from there and he told me how he'd like to help them out. 

In this picture you'll see his self-portrait, he's wearing a tie because "Barack Obama always has a tie on TV". I'm pretty impressed with what he came up with as his platform. And I'm even more impressed that he can identify the President and Vice President on TV. My favorite was when he said, "Mom! There's Barack Obama at the White House!!" His face lit up with pride when he noticed what was on the news. (the picture below is the white house)

The next day we wrote a letter to the President, this time it was to just talk to him to learn more about him. It still required some abstract thinking on Henrik's part and this was difficult because he's obviously never met him so writing a letter to a person you don't know is hard to grasp for a 3 year old. We'd practiced writing letters before and how you ask how someone is, you relate to them and you tell them about yourself and what you're doing, then you can go back and ask them questions. Henrik was still stumped, but after I told Henrik some facts about the President and the White House (like there's a bowling alley and movie theatre there, they have a garden, he likes basketball...) and Henrik gathered things that HE knew about the White House, we were able to write a letter. This is what we came up with. I helped him form sentences but this is all him. 

We packaged up these things and sent them off to the President, hopefully we'll get a letter back from the President!