This is my place for writing down ideas for teaching kids. You'll find things I have tried, things I am thinking about trying, and reviews of educational products. My own kids are young so most of the information is for preschool age children. I hope you find it useful.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Cookie Decorating

I like decorating cookies with thing-one and thing-two. We have done it a few times now and it has always been a good experience-- albeit a messy one. But making messes is good for kids. It means they are able to be carefree and creative without having to worry about getting a little dirty. Making sugar cookies is a fun and easily cleaned way to let them express themselves.

Here is my sugar cookie recipe-- I don't remember where we got it from, but it works fine so if you don't have one... Here you go.

1/2 cup butter
1cup sugar
1 egg
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp vanilla

Blend together cream and sugar until creamy. Blend in egg. Add dry ingredients and vanilla.

Roll out on lightly floured surface and cut to desired shapes

Bake at 400F for 8-10 minutes on un-greased cookie sheet. (I generally cook it slightly less time than this. Watch them)

You can let your little cookie monsters help pour in the ingredients, stir, and help you cut out the shapes and then help decorate them. What they can do depends on their age and coordination, as well as how much mess you are willing to deal with. Just remember this is not about making something beautiful, or even appetizing. It's all about letting them help you and be creative.

I usually just buy my frosting from the store and then use a couple of drops of food coloring to make it fun for whatever holiday we're coming up on. If your kids can spread the frosting on that's great. If they can't you can always let them stick little candies on afterwards. Try green frosting and red candies on a Christmas tree shape, or orange on a circle and then a variety of candies to make jack-o-lantern faces. 

For St. Patrick's day we did green cookies with sprinkles. Thing-one piled the frosting about 2 inches high and had almost the same amount of sprinkles before she declared her cookie ready to be eaten. Thing-two was in a hurry to take bites out of all the cookies she could. I showed her how to spread the frosting and helped her to try it out along with shaking on some sprinkles. It was fun for all of us.

Also, I have never done this, but it would be a fun way to teach colors and shapes. just a thought. I'll have to try it out sometime.

Now go have some fun with your kids.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Good Books for Little Ones

It's good to read with your kids. It helps build reading readiness, vocabulary, and a lifelong love of reading (at least that's the plan). I have always tried instill a love of books in my little ones, but when thing-one was smaller I really struggled to find books that she would sit through. With that in mind I thought I would stick up some of the books that my kids  have liked best. The "All About Me" flap book  has been their favorite. We read it so many times that we had to buy another one because the flaps wore out. We might have to buy another one again soon because thing-two loves it just as much as thing-one did. It is a simple sturdy book. The kids love it and it is not annoying to read (big plus). It is also not very expensive. I'll put a few of my other favorites in here too.


Now  go have some fun with your kids!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Dissecting Seeds

It's time for another botany lesson! Have you ever opened up a bean to see what is inside?
There really is a tiny plant in there just waiting to grow. I think that is pretty cool. You can see the plant in any large seed: beans, almonds, sunflower seeds. Just pop them open and take a look (if a particular seed you are interested in won't open up try soaking it in water for a little while first). This is fascinating to little kids. And a good, quick way to fit in a science lesson anytime. Thing-one was so fascinated that she is always bringing me seeds to open up now! I have been surprised at how easy it is to find little plant embryos all around us.

Note: if you want to make it easier to see the plant, try putting a couple drops of food coloring onto it for added contrast. I got that tip from this site, which I haven't checked out too much yet, but seems to have some good ideas.

Now go have fun with your kids!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Potted Gardens!

We love plants at our house. Thing-one seems to have a natural green thumb and thing-two loves to eat our fresh vegetables. I love watching my kids grabbing lettuce and spinach from out garden and cramming it into their mouths. Victory! Talk about a great way to teach and reinforce good nutrition. We have conversations about how healthy those vegetables are and so yummy too

A vegetable garden is also a great science lesson. In fact we have been focusing a lot on Botany lately because thing 1 and thing 2 have become so fascinated by it all. A garden is a great way to teach that! They learn all about the different parts of the plant-- planting seeds, harvesting (which part of the plant are we eating?), watching it grow (the pea plant grows differently and looks differently from the broccoli plant), and even when they accidentally uproot a plant while trying to pick off something yummy. They also learn about the things a plant needs to grow. You can slip in a very simple  lesson on photosynthesis here- the plant uses the sunshine to make energy so that it can grow. Just like food helps you to grow. 

The best part is, you don't even have to have a yard. or even know that much about gardening to make this a project with your kids. Our "garden" consists of a few pots on the back patio of our apartment. So far we have successfully grown spinach, lettuce, and broccoli. Our pea plant is growing well, but we'll see if it ever produces anything. 

The one thing I have found from personal experience is that vegetables don't grow well without sun. So if you don't have a sunny spot you might want to try a different type of plant. Maybe a pot of flowers. There are several types of flowers that are edible so you could look into that too.

Go have some fun with your kids!


Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Chalk! I love it!

Art is great for kids, and I love letting my little monsters get all artistic, but I hate cleaning up after them.  I wish I had realized earlier how great chalk is!  Do you know how much easier it is to clean up chalk than crayons or paint? Why didn't anybody tell me these things earlier?! Plus chalk is so versatile! Take your sidewalk chalk outside on a sunny day and color on the ground, or start up a game of hopscotch (Great for physical ed.), or tic-tac-toe. On cloudy days stay in and color on your chalk board. So much fun and you go through alot less paper. And cleanup is a breeze. Just a little bit of H2O and it all goes away. Seriously. This is my latest and greatest discovery.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Animal Homes

I have been thinking alot about what to do with this blog, and I have decided to turn it into a place to write down my ideas and lesson plans for teaching my kids. I plan to put in successful projects, not so successful projects (along with notes for improvement), product reviews, and ideas. That way I have a place to store ideas, and you have a place to find them. Comments and suggestions are always welcome.

Today's project is all about animal homes and I must admit that it was mostly thing 1's idea. I was watching her play on the playground and noticed that she kept bringing little sticks and leaves to her spot under the slide. So I went over to see what she was working on:

she was building a nest

This project really has almost endless possibilities.

First we talked about soft vs. hard and worked a little bit on vocabulary. The sticks were hard, and poky. Rough.  What can we find that is soft, smooth etc.? Those things will make it more comfortable for the baby birds. 

You could take this farther into a lesson on shapes: What shape are eggs? can you find anything that is round like an egg so that we can put them in our nest? (we used some acorn seeds)

Building a nest led naturally into curiosity about  other kinds of animal homes, and could we find a real birds nest? So we went exploring and it turned into a great biology lesson.  You don't have to go anyplace fancy for this lesson. You wouldn't believe all of the animal homes we found in just our little apartment complex. 

The first home we found was some type of little burrow:

Ask questions about whatever animal homes you find. This is a great way to practice critical thinking. What kind of animal might live here? Is it a big animal or a little animal? Can we see any tracks? Why would an animal build this kind of home? What would it be like to live in this home? And if you're up for it you can always try to build the homes you see. My kids wanted to dig their own burrow. So I let them try. It was great because even little toddling thing 2 could participate!

They learned that it is quite a bit harder than it looks. Hands really hard to dig with. So they tried sticks. A little better, but still hard. We didn't spend very long on out burrow making attempt. This led to a short lesson on animal anatomy. How does that animal dig holes? It must have strong paws! Animals are different than people. Do you think a bird could dig a hole like this? How about a fish? Why? How?

Just continue your walk. Follow your child's lead. They'll pay much better attention if you're talking about what interests them. Thing 1 was excited when we saw the swimming pool. Fish live in the water, mom! Well there aren't really fish in the swimming pool, but whatever. :)

The point is, just be creative and let them get excited about things. We turned over rocks to find bugs, looked at spiderwebs in dark corners, we even found some snails and talked about how they carry their homes on their backs. Like I said, this one has endless possibilities, we even ended up talking about how in some countries they eat snails. Eww! Mommy that's so yucky!  Cultural diversity?? Maybe not.

Now go have some fun!