Thursday, May 18, 2017

A Simple Math Activity for Preschool

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Before Mother Goose Time, I would not have thought of an activity like this.  For math and numbers I probably would have just gotten out flash cards and counted out loud with my kids.  But Mother Goose Time has provided us with all sorts of number and counting activities over the years and this is something you can do easily at home even if you don't have Mother Goose Time.

This specific activity went along with the lady bug theme and as always is incredibly adorable.  Chris Lensch is the graphic designer behind MGT and I have no problem filling my home with his works of art.

We received a bug spinner with numbers up to 9, which is the number we are focusing on this month.  We also got a large lady bug who is missing her black spots and black Bingo chips.  As with most of our MGT activities they are done along side either chicken nuggets or cereal.
 Adam would spin the spinner and then count that many chips and place them on the slightly darker red spots on the ladybug.  He would celebrate every time he got the right number placed on the ladybug.

Not only are we counting but picking up and perfectly placing the chips is of course a great fine motor activity.
 He would flick the spinner a few times until he got a good spin on it.  He can not recognize the written numbers yet, so we would tell him the number and he would start counting.
Once he got all the dots on the ladybug we would slide them off and start again.  He filled the bug with dots twice before he was ready to move on.  That was quite a few spins.  Something like this can easily be made more challenging by having the child add the two numbers they spin together and then placing that many dots.  In fact many children will most likely do this in their heads naturally, especially with the smaller numbers.  If I already have two on there and add three, that's five!
Adam discovered parts to a Disney pirate set he got for Christmas.  He had the patch over his eye but placed it here so he could see.
 And my Lachie, trying not to smile when I had the camera in his face.  His eye lashes have always been amazing!
So if you want to get some counting practice in, first figure out what your child is really into and then create something like this.  I did this once for a little friend that was over visiting.  The ONLY thing he wanted to do was play with the toy trucks and other construction equipment.  So I got out my flash cards with numbers one through five, made paper rocks and asked him to deliver the correct number of paper rocks to each card.

It worked! He happily got right to work hauling rocks.

So think outside the box and get your kiddos counting.  A toddler should be able to verbally count, not necessarily in the correct order.  As the toddler starts nearing preschool age they should be able to point to one object at a time while counting.  This is the one to one correspondence idea that you may have heard about.  When they are firmly in that preschool age, they should be able to count up to 10 objects.  The next goal is to get to 20!!

Good luck all you parents and educators out there and have fun with it!

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Bee Day with Our New Drawer System

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A few days ago I cleaned out and rearranged our whole school space so that I could use our rainbow drawers for Adam.  You can see how I set everything up here.

Since then, it has been sunny and I have barely been able to get the boys to come inside.  Although today was the first day we had worked through the drawers, we have been getting in a good habit of checking the weather and marking the calendar.  Yesterday, I was especially impressed by his bed head as he looked out the window to study the weather.
Today, the weather changed and he was able to put up a cloud and raindrops.  As he sat there eating breakfast I asked him what clothes he should wear since it's raining outside today.  His brothers couldn't help but chime in and they gave him some of the answers.  He said a jacket would be good and shorts and a tank top would be the wrong clothes to wear.  He also thought boots would be better than flip flops.  Having your child check the weather every morning is a fun first introduction into science, specifically earth science, and how it affects them, even as a little one.
 Yesterday I had introduced Adam to Bug Bingo and he wanted to start today with that.
He got out all the bingo cards and picked the first bug card off of the stack.  "I've got that one", he would exclaim and then cover it up with a bingo chip.  I have found that going for the three in a row Bingo concept is a bit hard for little ones, so we always go until we get to black out.
 We made these teriyaki cereal snacks together and he was adding a little bit of extra salt for fun.
As he and Peter were playing Bug Bingo I set up the Invitation to Create at the counter.  We just recently put up subway tile back splash in our kitchen.  I saved a few of the cut tiles to use for our paints.  They have no lip on them, so that would be the down side, but otherwise they have been working well.
I asked Adam the questions on the Invitation to Create guide card.

  • What do you think the bee is doing?
  • What would you like to create?
  • How will you use the bubble wrap?
  • What can you use the pipe cleaner for?

When I asked him about the bee and what he was doing he turned it around on me and asked me the question.  I explained to him that the bee was collecting nectar for food.  I then showed him one way he could use the bubble wrap but with out actually doing it for him, just explaining it to him.  He tried it a few times and then asked for a "painting thing" - a paint brush.
Peter also wanted to join in and he also wanted a brush.  I gave them each a brush and let them do as they pleased with the materials.  That's exactly what the invitation concept is all about.  An invitation to explore.  With the supplies Mother Goose Time offers, it turns a standard art project into more of a STEM project.
Lachlan soon joined in and turned the egg carton pieces and the bubble wrap pouch into an egg holding contraption.  Adam asked for red paint.
I think he was inspired more by the materials than he was by the inspiration photo of the bee.  All three of them were really.  But I have gotten to know a few of the Mother Goose Time team members, and I am positive they won't be offended.  This is what it's all about.
 Mom, I am done, come wash my brush.
As they were working I was reading them the book we got in our box this month called "There Are Bugs!" by Chris Lensch.
 Peter painted the egg carton pieces yellow and his hands and some of his face.
 This is the last two pages of the "These Are Bugs!" book.  Super cool collection of critters.
Our energy was winding down, so the last thing left is the investigation station.  I put it on the counter at the top of the tower.  I haven't done this in a while.  The wooden structure you see in the picture there is called a Learning Tower and it brings a child up to counter height and gives them a safe space for them to stand.  We have a roomy kitchen, so it's a great option for us.  The boys have spent a lot of time here working with us in the kitchen or on school projects where they can really spread out.
Adam's last activity is simply pompoms, an ice cube tray and tweezers.  He is then supposed to build blocks around the tray to protect the pompoms.  I hope to introduce this to him after he wakes up from his nap.  

As far as the drawer system goes, I am just not sure yet.  It hasn't been as amazing as I had pictured it to be.  The con is that it kind of keeps everything tucked away and out of sight.  It does however keep it organized and it makes it even quicker for me to grab one of the activities and get started.

I had hoped it would excite my super independent 3 year old to have his very own school he could grab and do on his own.  He loves to do everything his big brothers do and of course he can do everything "all by myself".  He did not, however, get as excited about it as I had hoped.  On the other hand, the sunshine has been very appealing.  

I still have hope because I believe as he gets more familiar with it, he will open the drawers each day to see what surprises are waiting for him.  

The one drawer he is very familiar with and excited about is the weather drawer and I could not be happier.  It's such a great way to get preschoolers to observe the world around them, to get curious and ask lots of questions.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Trying to Beat the Slump with a Revamp of Our School Space

It's getting towards the end of the official school year and it feels like we are in a rut.  Stuck in the same routine, and if it's getting boring for me, it is for sure boring the kids.  We are in a slump.

Now that Adam is 3 I have a strong desire to give him more learning opportunities and that is pretty easy for me to do with all the amazing Mother Goose Time we have around here.  Yet, our days keep slipping by.

I keep staring at our 10 drawer system we have in the dining room/school room and thinking, it's just not being used to it's full potential.  Years ago I read about the workbox system at Confessions of a Homeschooler.  Each of her children has a 10 drawer system that they work through each day.  I don't have room in the budget or the house for 3 sets of 10 drawers, but I do have the one.  Emptying it out means I have to find space somewhere else.  Which means I also have to clean out the bookshelf in the school space and the overflow shelf in the garage.  Needless to say, this simple project, took all day.

I have our Circle Time display board right next to the 10 drawer stand.  
On top of the 10 drawer system I have the CD player and the top drawer has all of our Mother Goose Time music.
The 2nd drawer has the days of the week clouds at the very back, the weather indicators and I already put washi tape on the back of tomorrow's date and stuck it to the bottom of the drawer.  In the morning he can pull out the first drawer to do all the Circle Time activities.
From there I put one Mother Goose Time lesson in each drawer.  The first activity is called There Are Bugs and the supplies we need include the book "There Are Bugs".
All that is in the drawer is the book.  Some might see this new arrangement as a waste of space.  But I think Adam will be more drawn to this set up, with out all the clutter.
The next activity is the Invitation to Create and it's called Bee.
I have included all of the supplies, except the ones listed under "your supplies".  But those are easy to grab when he is ready to get started.
The next drawer and the next activity is the Bug Bingo.
If I wasn't doing so many other things as I organized, I would have cut these cards apart so we were ready to go.
The last activity is the Investigation Station and it called for pompoms, an ice cube tray and tweezers.
It also called for blocks to see if they could figure out how to put blocks or walls around the tray.  I figure, when he seems ready to do this activity, I will either go grab blocks, or bring the whole thing to the play room where he can build with our large collection of Duplos.
If you are keeping count, that is only 6 drawers filled of our 10 drawer system.  The last two drawers I just filled with other Mother Goose Time items I had available.  I made the 7th drawer a STEM building slash color sorting drawer.
The last drawer I turned into a story and reading drawer by pulling the I Can Read book from day 16 of Bugs and Crawling Things.  I bet Adam could pick up on some of the words if we read this little gem a few times this month.  I also included this sequencing puzzle set because I thought the sequencing concept would go really well with the idea of story telling.
Since I still had 2 drawers left I decided to finally find a permanent home for our Pokemon card collection.  These are all the decks and counters that we need when we battle.

I now have a huge bin of stuff to pass along to other parents who may be interested at our homeschool night in a few days.  I also recycled a lot and threw a lot away.  But it has to be done.  Instead of having a bunch of stuff on this bookshelf that I never use and an overflowing top shelf of stuff I use everyday, I got rid of the stuff I don't use and made each shelf purposeful.  Curriculum on top, Bible shelf in the middle with a few odds and ends, and readers at the bottom.
The overflow shelf is looking fresh which should make it easier to find what I am looking for and easier for me to see what I have.
But don't let me convince you it all went smoothly.  This fine stack of children's books are all ones I would like to keep, but they now have no place to call home.  Where they will go, I do not know.
Now, when he asks for "school" to do, I can quickly direct him to his colorful drawers.  He won't feel left out and I won't feel overwhelmed.

I am so glad I took the time to clean out and reorganize our school space.  I always put this project off, but when it's done, it feels so good and I feel motivated to keep at it.