Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Our World: Antarctica

This lesson was really fun. I had to wait until we had snow, a rarity in Colorado this winter, but I was prepared nonetheless. Before this lesson, I took a few of their smaller plastic toys and put them in some water in small cups and placed them in the freezer. When it was time for this lesson, I took them out and had created glaciers! 

This lesson was pretty much one giant sensory bin that lasted hours. It was too cold to play outside in the snow, so I brought the snow in! For this lesson, I am going to show you a bunch of images and then caption them with what we did with the lesson. It's a little easier this way since this was such a science based lesson and a lot of different conversations went into each part of the lesson as the snow melted or as it was added. 

One of our glaciers

 Henrik discovering that he cannot break a glacier with his hands. We talked about how we could get the object out of the glacier. He noticed that the water was coming off of glacier so we talked about why that was happening. After he realized that his hands were making the ice warm, we talked about how ice melts and that it would be a good way for his toys to come out of the glacier.

These are what our sensory bins looked like. Glaciers, different toys and snow! Here we talked about camouflage and what types of animals lived in places covered in snow: bright animals or white animals. And of course we had to talk about why that was! 

A penguin stuck in a glacier

Henrik wanted to know what was under all of that snow and what else could be stuck in the ice, we came up with a few different hypothesis and decided that there must be "millions of dinosaurs stick in the ice, forever". 

It's more fun to play with snow when you have a snow plow

As the snow melted we talked about why that was happening. We talked about what would happen if the world got warmer and all of the snow melted. We talked about how the snow turned to water and decided that the polar bears wouldn't have a home any more because "they can't swim like a fish or a penguin". Regardless of your global warming opinions, you can still teach your child about the effects of heat and cold on the environment of our animals. This was a great lesson for my boys because they really care a lot about animals and creatures and want the polar bears to keep having "ice to walk on".
A frog stuck in a glacier

Theodor was really concerned with the animals stuck in the glaciers, so to speed up the melting process, I gave them a bucket full of warm water. They placed the glaciers in the bucket and waited for them to melt. 

This was a fantastic lesson for my kids about nature, weather, and a whole world that we don't know a lot about. But we watched a few Frozen Planet episodes and watched penguins as they searched for food in a place where it's just too cold for anything else. They thought it was awesome.

Our World: Asia

This lesson was fun, it happened to be short, but the boys had a lot of fun being creative. This lesson, we spent a lot more time looking at maps, pictures, and videos online or on TV than we did with any other lesson. We looked at a few Little Einstein Videos, we watched parts of Mulan, and we even watched people do origami. But at home we were busy too.

This project has been floating around Pinterest for a while, and I loved the outcome so I decided to have the boys try it. I actually have these pictures hanging in my bathroom because they turned out so well. All you need is a 2L bottle or some kind of pop bottle. Something that will allow you to make dots. You could also use finger prints to do the blossoms. For this lesson, we talked about why Cherry trees are important, where we can find cherry trees in our country (ie: Washington DC) and we even got in a little science lesson as we talked about how flowers were created on trees instead of just leaves or pine needles. You can tell we live in a place with no trees :) 

This was a really easy project that actually was really good for Henrik and Theodor. They both need practice with scissors so this was the perfect task! I took some construction paper, folded it in half, and in half again so I had a small square. Then, I drew lines on the paper for them to follow and cut.

Once they were done, the boys took the lanterns, and taped them together. Pretty simple! They actually prefer to use these lanterns as train lanterns, but whatever. 

This took some planning, but I did this lesson on the Chinese New Year. They kind of remembered our New Years celebration (except they didn't stay up for it) so when we talked about the Chinese New Year it was a little easier to comprehend. They actually liked this version better. They got to learn about different animals, different zodiac beliefs, and they LOVE Dragon kites. They loved every thing about this lesson, especially how colorful it was!

Hank and Theo did this project, but I only have pictures of Henrik because Theo thought it would be more fun to tear off the paper and rip apart the dragon, oh well. But, they both had the chance to count the cups we used for parts of the dragon's body, they both told me what colors to use and they helped build the dragon. 

 I actually really liked this project. I gave them the choice of some famous Asian art to paint. They chose to paint the koi, probably because it was fish, but either way, we looked at real masterpieces and talked about what they were made out of (wood cuttings/printings vs. canvas, watercolor vs. oil paints) and who painted them.

Once they decided on a picture to copy, we discussed the picture in depth. I then showed them other images of koi paintings.  What colors were in the image? How were these two paintings similar? What part of the koi can we see? What else is in that picture? Then I took the paintings away. I wanted them to create their own art based on what they had seen. I think they did pretty well! I still have these paintings too. While abstract, and may not look like much other than scribbles on paper, I am very proud of the results, especially when they came from memory!

Our World: Europe

I have to admit, this lesson wasn't as good as I could have made it. But, again, a lot of what I decided to do was based on the interests of my boys. I wanted to do more, but with the Olympics growing near, I knew I needed to wrap up these lessons quickly.

While Theo was asleep, we decided to make a bus to celebrate the unique vehicles in London. Hank is obsessed with these buses. Not sure why, but we have to talk about double decker buses all the time. So, we decided to make one.

I just took a box from the recycling bin, some construction paper, plain white paper and some glue and we had everything we needed to create the perfect bus. He was so proud of his creation he vowed to take it to school to show all of his friends. 

We watched "Dragons", or as most people call it, "How To Train Your Dragon" and learned a bit about the boys viking heritage. Then we talked about Castles, Kings, Queens, Knights, villages, kingdoms, etc. They even got a little history lesson when I told them about how the United States was formed. They found it really interesting when they heard there were boats and ships and horses involved :) What a totally different world than what they know. While they took a nap, I made a shield and swords for them out of cardboard, they had to make their crowns when they woke up.

It was a huge hit. These boys loved being the protectors, they weren't so much into the King business, but they wanted to help save their babies from the pumas and cobras....

And yes, they do have cat faces on, in their super hero capes.

I am a huge fan of Legos, you really can do anything with them and of course we had to build a castle! It quickly became quite the kingdom too. Henrik and I looked at pictures of different famous castles across Europe. We talked about different features, what they were made of, why they had towers, what kind of rooms were in castles, what a kingdom was, who lived/worked in a castle and so on. We had a lot of fun putting our own castle together as we looked at all of the different styles. 

Before we ended our lesson on Europe, I showed the boys different iconic structures in Europe. We talked about their location, their importance and who created/built them. And then, we got to the two easiest ones that we could make out of marshmallows: The Eiffel Tower, and the Leaning Tower of Pisa. 

To make the Eiffel Tower, I printed out a picture of what it looked like. Henrik was sort of left to build his own tower, however, I helped with the base, it was tricky for him to get started. But while we built it, we talked about the different shapes the tower was made of, how many triangles, squares, circles, etc. we could see in the structure. He really enjoyed this project. He loves to construct so this was perfect for him! And it didn't hurt he could eat a few marshmallows as we did it.

We followed the same format with this tower too. Henrik was able to do this one all on his own, as it required no toothpicks. While we built this one we talked about what it was made out of, and we spent a lot of time counting our marshmallows to see how high we could actually make our tower!

Saturday, February 8, 2014

4 Simple & Cheap Valentines

The boys had a Valentine's Day Party where they were going to exchange cards with their friends, I wanted to send out cards to our family, and Henrik's class was going to do an exchange at school. I'm not a huge fan of the store bought cards, so I decided that we'd get our craft on and make our own! All of these are Valentines that kids as young as 18 months can do them, with help of course. Really, all they are doing is using glue. Older kids can do the cutting, but I did all of the prep in advance.

I'll Eat You Up I Love You So! 

For this craft, I cut out different colored hearts, and the white backing before hand. I gave the boys a glue stick and asked them to glue the hearts to the white paper. Once it was dry, I asked them to use Elmer's Glue to put on the eyes, I let Henrik do the glue himself, but I helped Theo with his. They told me how many eyes they wanted to put on their heart face and I made that number of glue dots. Then, I asked them to draw the rest of the face, and the arms and legs. I wrote the rest! But I think these turned out pretty cute!

You Make Me Gush! 

For the cost of some Gushers, these simple valentines were perfect for my fruit snack loving kid to give his friends! I wrote the text, Henrik added the heart stickers, I used a glue gun and put glue on the white backing and Henrik added the gushers! Simple, easy and delicious!

You Blow Me Away! 

These were Theo's valentines for the party. He could have done them, but he fell asleep, so Hanky helped me with these. Again, I wrote the text. I used the glue gun, and Henrik added the bubbles and stickers! I got these tiny bubbles in the party favor aisle for about a dollar!

I Only Have Eyes For You! 

Because these were for Henrik's class at school, I had him write his name on all of the valentines. I cut out the monster shapes and the white backing while he wrote his name 12 times! Then, I glued the monsters on the paper while he added arms, legs and a face. I of course wrote the text and used the glue gun, but he added the eyeball rings to the faces! Again, these rings were in the party favor aisle for $1 each. 

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Our World: Australia

As we continue our lessons on the different continents, I decided to have the boys take a more historical look at Australia. I wanted this lesson plan to teach them about the Aboriginal culture, art and people. Because our weather was chilly, and we were confined to the house due to snow days and delays, I decided to let my boys do a lot of projects and hands on activities for this lesson. This lesson is very project and art based so if you need some painting fun, and aren't worried about the mess, try some of these out!

Nature As Art:
The day before the snow came, I sent the boys outside to gather rocks and sticks. This is by far one of their most favorite activities, so the most difficult part of this task was bringing them indoors once they had a collection!

As they painted, we discussed why we were using nature to create art. I showed them images of different Aboriginal art: sticks, rocks, paintings on bark, etc. They thought it was pretty neat and liked the whole concept of being outdoors do paint. They were upset I wouldn't let them paint in outside. Anyway, while they painted, we talked about the different colors they were using, how many rocks they each were painting, how to mix colors to create other colors etc. Don't forget, while you are teaching about say, Australia, you always have the opportunity to teach your child about simple things that they should be learning about: colors, counting, math, shapes, all of these things are part of our daily life! Take advantage of easy ways to teach your kids the essentials! 

Aboriginal Art:
Eric had the day off, so I thought we'd include Dad in some of our projects! It's always a great idea to share the learning process with another adult because they have different ideas of how to create an understanding of an overall theme. In order to create some Aboriginal art, I drew some basic images after I researched aboriginal art. I tried to include geometric shapes and images that were important to the lesson, but also historically accurate. Once I created the design, I gave the boys paint dabbers and asked them to put dots around the shapes. I showed them different pieces of aboriginal art and asked them to explain it to me. Henrik told me there were a lot of shapes and circles so I asked him to create art using those shapes. 

Carefully, the boys used lines, dots and zig zags to create what I think are pretty cool pieces of art! 

Cave Paintings:
That same day, since we had the paint out already, I asked them to do some cave drawings. We had already discussed how art could be created on wood, paper, rocks, sticks, etc. But I wanted to teach them about cave drawings and how they created a story once they were completed. For this project. I traced their hands. I told them that hand prints were common in cave images because they were personal and told a story about an individual. I suggested that when a baby was born, a hand print could be put on the cave wall and each year after that, a new, larger hand print of the same baby could be put up. Over time, we'd see how that child grew and grew.

As they decorated their hand print, we talked about different stories that they could tell me about their life through pictures. We talked about how Henrik could draw a car next to his hand print because he really loves cars, or how we could put a hand print of Theodor next to his to show they were brothers. I think they liked using symbols to show who they were. It was something different than we've ever done before, but I also really liked how they got to choose what represented them the most and why. 

While the boys were painting their rocks, I painted too. Given the success of Mancala, I decided that I'd play tic-tac-toe with Henrik during this lesson. I wanted to show him that games can be made from just about anything. So, we played! Australian style! There they have different words for it. I've heard, Naka Naka or even Noughts and Crosses, but either way, this was a fun game to play with my 3.5 year old!

We used the Kinetic Sand as our base, a few rocks that I collected from earlier and some paint to create this simple game that can be played anywhere all over the world. Even in Australia.

Sensory Play:
While Hank and I played tic-tac-toe, Erica and Theo were given the task of creating the Outback and Uluru, the largest, most famous rock in Australia. It just sticks up out of no where. The boys and I ready multiple stories how how the rock was formed, (from folklore) and then they were given the task to create it out of Kinetic Sand! We also compared Uluru with rocks we have here in Colorado and discussed how they were different than Uluru because ours are in clusters of other rocks, and Uluru is the only rock formation for miles.

While Hank and I played, and Theo and Eric played, we discussed the animals from Australia. The boys learned about marsupials and even recalled going to our zoo and being face-to-face with a wallaby!

Our World: Africa

Africa is such a vast continent, this was a hard one to teach in just a short amount of time. I guess I could have made it a longer lesson, but at this age, there really isn't a point to do so. So, like I've suggested before, teach your children about things they are interested in and things that you think they will like to learn about. The other thing I like to do at this age, is open up discussion. Instead of having them sit and do work books, or run through flash cards, I've noticed that my kids learn better by being active, by seeing something, and through discourse. In just about everything we do, we talk. From family meal times to playing pretend, to bath time, we are talking non stop about everything that pops into their heads.


For this lesson plan, I made sure that Henrik and I got a few hours alone so we could play Mancala. This is a game I highly recommend getting for children who are starting to comprehend numbers and can follow simple directions. I don't have any pictures of us playing this game, but you can see the game here. I can't believe how well he did at this game. To be honest, we don't really play board games with our boys yet, mostly their attention span isn't long enough. But, this was a great starter game. In fact, a few days after we played together, Henrik ran into our bedroom early in the morning, "Momma!? Is Theo old enough to play now? He's almost two, is that old enough? I want to teach him." Sure enough, when I woke up enough I walked into the play room as I heard the beads hitting something, and there they were, both boys, playing nicely, and Henrik was teaching Theodor Mancala!

While Henrik and I played, we discussed a lot about Africa. I showed him pictures of people in various parts of the continent, and showed him pictures of their houses, kids playing, people working, and families being together. I also took the opportunity to talk to him about Nelson Mandela. This lesson co-in sided with his death, so I figured, the best way to honor someone is by teaching my son about them.

While I half expected Henrik to ask questions about skin color, he didn't. Instead, he asked questions about the differences in clothing, the differences in houses and why so many people didn't have shoes. Those were sometimes harder questions to answer, but I made it work. I also showed him that the children didn't have cars to play with, instead they had hand made toys and used nature in every way. He thought it was a cool idea and then made the connection himself to the beads, the wooden board and the game Mancala.


When I looked at the continent of Africa, I realized that there was SO much I wanted to teach my boys, but I started with African art. As a history major, I vividly remember my Art History classes where we studied African masks and sculptures in depth. I thought that making masks would be a great project to introduce African Art to my boys.

All I did here was cut up a single paper bag to make the shapes of the masks. I cut out holes for eyes, and used left over side from the bag to make noses that we could tape on to add depth. 

The boys had a great time making these and thought they were fun to use as they chased each other around the house. And honestly, I think they turned out great! I love having them on my wall! 

When we were talking about the masks and different tribes in Africa, we started to talk about how people in Africa dress and how they decorate their clothing. I decided that doing some bead art would be a great way to get the boys some fine motor skills and teach them about the art of beading. 

We did two different beading projects, one where Henrik had to make a bracelet with beads that had letters on them...

 And a bracelet that was made from twine and wooden beads.

My boys love to read, so in order to follow suit with our African theme, I wanted to read them stories that I had grown up with: Anansi The Spider, Why Mosquitoes Buzz In People's Ears and First 100 Animals. However, even though we read stories and looked at pictures, I explained to the boys that most of the stories, and the stories that we were reading, were traditionally told orally. So in order to get that point across, I did my best theatrical reading, using multiple voices and getting them involved in the story. I also tried to explain that these stories were stories that explained a moral lesson or taught people how the earth was created. They didn't really understand that mindset, but some day they will. 

Another project we did was to create our own African Safari. We used kinetic sand, and WOW, I LOVE IT. So did the boys, it's really the coolest thing out there. Anyway, I put animals from Africa in the sand and created a sensory bin for them to play in. They probably played here for an hour as the created things with the sand and marched their animals around the "safari". Yes, I know there are no Tigers in Africa, however, it was near impossible to tell my boys that. They insisted that the tigers join the other fierce animals. 

After we were done with a cultural lesson of Africa, I decided to  include the study of Ancient Egypt. This year my boys became familiar with a "mummy" thanks to Halloween, so I thought I'd take the opportunity to teach them about real mummies and Egypt too.


I find that Legos are the perfect toy. You can use them to create just about anything, and they come in handy for kids who like to be hands on. For this lesson, we used Legos (and team work) to build a pyramid. I built the base, the boys added in a mummy, some gold doubloons and some gems, then they closed it all in. They were pretty happy with the way it turned out. 

After our pyramid lesson, we looked at pictures of the different types of pyramids and ziggurats around the world. I asked them questions like, how they thought they were built and how old they were. Then Henrik wanted to see the Sphinx. He learned about the Sphinx from an Little Einsteins episode so we googled some images and talked about why the Sphinx was created, what kind of creature it was and how it was built. 


My boys always like to use play doh, and it seems we go in cycles, but since we hadn't gotten it out of the closet for a while, I decided to let them play with it and create their own mummies. This time around, Henrik was more excited about playing and building his own creations, and that's totally fine with me. Theo on the other hand, was very into creating "not a scary mummy". This lesson was a little hard because the mummification process can be a bit scary, or... detailed. But I just explained that in Egypt, when kings or other important people died, other people wrapped their bodies to preserve the dead. They were buried with their most favorite things so they could have them in the after life. The boys weren't grossed out by that. 

This was a simple and very inexpensive project for them to do. I asked them to pick out a person, someone who is important, and then asked them to "make a snake" out of the doh. I then showed them how to wrap the doh around the figurine they chose. Pretty easy, and Theo wanted to do this project over and over. He liked seeing if the Firefighter was still in there. Perfect for fine motor, perfect for pretend play, perfect for the lesson. 


All of that play made us hungry so I decided that we could make something fun for lunch that day. I had seen some Halloween foods for parties on Pinterest and decided to make mummy dogs with my boys. I should have planned ahead better and purchased some Pillsbury crescent rolls or something like that, but since I didn't, but I wanted to continue our lesson on mummies, I decided to make pizza dough and wrap hot dogs in that. The boys thought that this was the best lunch ever and Henrik even ate a hot dog! 

To make it a little more fun, we added eyes (once they were cooked and cooled) and a cheese pyramid to our plates :) 


In High School I did a speech on the mummification process. For a while, I was really obsessed with the Egyptian culture and King Tut and all of the history of this nation. I wanted to convey some of that to my boys, so I taught them about how cats were so important to the Egyptian people. They seemed to think it was cool! Especially since cats were the first pets and were able to catch mice and SNAKES! We don't have any symbolic figurines in our house, but a lot of people do so I used this lesson to teach the boys about different religious and symbolic figures. Cats, were the perfect project to help teach this lesson. 

Using toilet paper rolls, pine cones, pipe cleaners, foam and googly eyes, I was able to create these cat figurines with the boys. At the end of our project, I showed them pictures of these cat statues and even cat mummies, and asked the boys how our cat was different. The noticed immediately that the cats in the photos had earrings, necklaces and other decorations on them. So, we of course decorated ours!