Sunday, October 31, 2010

Math ideas for Preschool/Kindergarten Age: What to do with a set of 1-20 numbers

Our math learning box is labeled "Fun with Numbers," and that's how we approach math around here.  The nice thing about introducing concepts way early is that there is zero pressure to learn anything on a schedule!  It's all in good fun here.

After making our heart-shaped sunbutter cup treats, I was inspired to cut some heart shapes out of Model Magic for an upcoming playdate this week (our theme is "H," so we used a cookie cutter to cut a bunch of heart shapes out of clay, poked holes in them, and the kids can paint/glitter glue them to decorate and then string them to make bracelets).  If you haven't used Model Magic before, give it a try!  It dries to a nice solid, slightly spongy consistency that can be painted or written on, and the finished product doesn't dry out and crack the way finished play-doh creations do.  We love it for Christmas ornaments and homemade handprints.  Anyway, I may have just gone a little bit overboard with the leftover clay...

I decided to make a set of 1-20 numbers (as well as +, -, and =) for each of the kids.  Later that day, once the Model Magic had dried, the Bibliophile and I had fun playing with his set.  Of course, this could be done with numbers on paper, bottlecaps, stickers, etc. - I'm pretty sure we have a wooden set of numbers from the dollar store around here somewhere - but the novelty of the clay numbers seemed to capture his interest nicely.

Here are 5 ideas of what you can do with a set of 20 numbers:

1.  Put them in order.  We did this once, and he got bored around #15.  But if your child is just learning to count, this would be perfect.

2.  Set up addition and subtraction problems.  This is what we did the most of.  You could even flip the other hearts over to their blank sides and use them as counting aids.

3. Skip counting.  This is one of those concepts that doesn't come naturally to me to teach (like telling time on a clock - "when the little hand is on the 5, that means 25" - huh?).  Anyway, I showed him briefly what counting by 2's meant, but I think we are awhile away from this.

4. Which number is bigger/smaller?   We've been doing it with three-digit numbers, but you can do it with as small a number as you want.  Another variation is: "can you find/make a number bigger than this number?"

5. And, of course, matching your numbers up to your Disney Cars' racing numbers.

Another idea would be to put a few objects out (i.e. five cotton balls) and have the child match the right number to the set.

I will be linking this post up with Math Monday and Carnival of Play.

Comment!  Do you have other ideas to share about what we could do with these numbers?

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Saturday, October 30, 2010

Homemade Allergy-friendly "Peanut butter" (Sunbutter) Cups

 The Bibliophile is allergic to a lot of things, including nuts.  We eat a lot of sunbutter in our house.  Sunbutter is a peanut butter substitute made from sunflower seeds, and it is delicious.  I had a lightbulb moment this week, and decided to try making sunbutter/chocolate cups that would be safe for him.  I didn't use a recipe but I did take a few photos, so I can fib the recipe for you here.  Of course, you can try the same technique with peanut butter and regular chocolate and butter, if you don't have allergy issues.

Wilton Mini Heart Silicone Baking CupsI used Wilton Mini Heart Silicone Baking Cups, which gave them their adorable shape.

I melted Enjoy Life chocolate chips (which are dairy free) in a glass dish in the microwave along with a tablespoon or so of Earth Balance (a dairy-free spread which substitutes for butter.  We buy it at Whole Foods).  I'd tell you an amount, but I was only making 4 sunbutter cups at the time.  Maybe 1/2 cup?  I microwaved them for 1 minute, stirred, and then repeated another 30 seconds or until the chocolate stirred smooth.  Then I spooned some chocolate into the bottom of each cup, and spread the chocolate up the sides a little bit (you don't want it all the way up.  That would be one huge sunbutter cup).  If your chocolate is smooth enough, you might be able to use a pastry brush, but that didn't work for me, so I just used a spoon to do it. 

Then I stuck those in the fridge to harden a bit while I got out my sunbutter.  I microwaved some sunbutter in a bowl with a small amount (teaspoon?) of Earth Balance, just enough to melt the Earth Balance.  Then I stirred it smooth.  Spoon a bit of sunbutter into each cup, and it will look like this:

Back into the fridge they went while I melted more chocolate.  I spooned a bit of the melted chocolate onto each cup, and used a toothpick to swirl it around.  You could use more chocolate, and it will create a smoother, more finished look.

Then I put them back into the fridge for one final firming up - this time for an hour or so.  When we were ready to eat them, they slid easily out of the cups with no sticking. 

The finished product (which could have looked much more lovely in these photos if I cleaned up the sides a bit, but we were too anxious to dive in!):

YUM.  I think I found our snack for our "H" themed playgroup this week.

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What My Child Is Reading

We have read some fun books this week.  If you have young kids, particularly in the infant to three year-old range, make sure to check back on our blog on Monday and Tuesday for two great board book give aways.

Cock-a-Doodle-Doo! Barnyard HullabalooCock-a-doodle-doo Barnyard Hullabaloo.  The Bibliophile chose this out of the catalog we received when we got our give away prize of Five Little Pumpkins in the mail.  We were happy to find a copy at the library, and it has been well received.  It is a nice length - includes a lot of animals and fun text for a picture book, but not so much that you groan when they choose it off the shelf at bedtime.

Big, Bigger, BiggestBig Bigger Biggest  The Bibliophile picked this up from a table at the library.  The only text are the descriptive words (deep, deeper, deepest, etc.), which appear in combination with fold out flaps.  It's a bit simple for him, but he enjoys it.  If you want another book like this, he has always enjoyed his Curious George bigger smaller board book, which has similar flaps.

Other favorites which have seen some repeat reading this week:

Cars: Rally Race (Disney Pixar (Quality))Rally Race

I'm really trying to avoid buying this, but it might be inevitable.  He often opts for one chapter of Rally Race instead of a pile of shorter books at bedtime.  We've read it 1,000 times.

Are You My Mother?
Are You My Mother?
In the Town All Year 'Round

A classic.  We had read it many times before, but now he seems to be connecting with it more - understanding the full storyline and laughing in the appropriate places.  It's a nice reading level for him to read aloud right now too.

In the Town All Year Round.  This was his favorite book for a long time, so we used to post about it often, but it has been awhile since I have mentioned it here.  It is such a fun book, with so many ways to read it -- playing I spy, answering the questions posed in the book, just looking at the illustrations, turning the pages to follow one character through one of the many storylines depicted wordlessly throughout the book.  It is reminiscent of Richard Scarry, for sure, but also unique.  If you haven't read it, I suggest taking a look.

For other books we've been reading, see our posts this week about:
pumpkin crafts
knock knock jokes and riddles

I am linking this post up with What My Child is Reading and Kid Konnection.

Comment! What have been your favorite reads this week?

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Friday, October 29, 2010

Weekly Wrap-Up

Here is what we've been up to this week, by category of our 10 learning boxes.

1.  Fun With Numbers (Math)

We have been working on an addition workbook (just a dollar store 1st grade one), and he loves it.  He has started being able to add numbers like 11+4 by counting 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11 (he's not ready to start at 11 yet) and then saying "12,13,14,15!" rather than by trying to count on his fingers or with objects.  Still, at the risk of sounding defensive, we are really just doing this for fun -- I know he's very young to be adding so I don't push it when his attention strays.

I also have been quizzing him a little to see if he can tell me which number is bigger among two 3-digit numbers, or asking him to tell me a number more than XXX.  I've been doing this because he kept playing monopoly on my iphone and getting an error message that he must bid higher than the highest bid.  After I asked him about 25 questions in a row, and he got every one right, I said, "do you just get it wrong on the phone on purpose?"  "Yes, Mama, I like when the little box pops up."

2. Science, Animals, and Nature

We picked up a pack of animal flashcards at Target last week, and he learned the word "diet" from looking at them.  We keep them at the dinner table, and as he eats, he picks an animal and looks up what the animal's diet is and what that animal's baby are called.  I could care less about him memorizing those facts (and he's not trying to), but I do like the idea of him learning to pick information out of a card full of facts. 

3. Arts and Crafts

We did a Five Little  Pumpkins craft at a playdate today.

We also did some handprint art (post here) and pumpkin-related fun (post here).
4. Let's Get Moving

Nothing to report here.

5. Word Games

We took advantage of the Bibliophile's growing fondness for knock knock jokes to teach about homophones (see our post here).

6. Games Box

We played a lot of Scrabble this week.  I don't keep score, but he gets very excited to use the colored squares, which he knows are worth more points.  I help him a lot with placement and word formation, so we're kind of mock playing the game while we practice spelling words together.

7. Reading and Storytelling

I'll post tomorrow about some books we've been reading.  I should do more on comprehension and sequencing.  I think he's ready for this and I've just been lazy about it.

8. "Play fun" (Miscellaneous)

We sewed together a quick quilt top for his bed, with some Disney cars, route 66, and tire print fabric.  I bought a backing fabric and have batting; now I just have to figure out how to baste a quilt while very pregnant.

9. Spanish

He enjoyed connecting English to Spanish words on a dry-erase placement from Target (yay $1 section).  I generally told him which words matched up and he drew the lines.

10. Countries/Places (Geography)

Political World Map Giant Poster Print, 55x39We didn't focus on any one country this week.  I remembered that I had bought him a world map poster awhile back and never hung it, so I pulled that out (still in plastic and packaged on a sturdy piece of cardboard), and we used it to tell stories about his cars traveling around the world (as they drove around on the map).  He also brought his toy bath boats in on the action, for ferrying the cars from continent to continent.  A perfect pretend play activity for car loving preschoolers.

Comment! What have you been up to this week?  Stop back on Monday and Tuesday next week for some fun give aways that we have scheduled to post!

I am linking this post up with Weekly Wrap Up, Preschool Corner, and Tot School.

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Thursday, October 28, 2010

Carnival of Messy Play (Handprints)

The Naturestore is holding a Carnival of Messy Play today, and we decided to take part.  My son isn't very big on getting messy (and, I admit, I haven't exactly encouraged it).  He will agree to fingerpaint or other messy projects, but after a couple of minutes, he declares himself "all done," and I have to just clean it all up.  Still, I feel like it is a good thing to encourage him to let loose and have some good messy fun now and then.  I decided to keep it simple, and asked him today if he'd like to make some handprints with paint.  He very enthusiastically agreed, and ran to his paints, directing me as to which colors to pour out.

He had a lot of fun with it.  He might have even kept it up for 6 minutes or so.  A new messy craft record.  After the handprints, he also stamped/rubbed/smeared a bit with a make-up applicator type sponge. 

I know there are hundreds of crafty things we could have done with our finished prints (we did make some quick turkeys), but we mostly just had fun enjoying them for what they were.  Which, according to the Bibliophile were:

A Big Weird Elephant:


A Big Weird Lion:

Well, obviously.

I am linking this post up with Play Academy's Carnival of Messy Play.

Comment: Have you been up to any messy fun lately? Do you find yourself encouraging your kids to be less messy or more messy (when it comes to art, that is)?

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