Doing More With Less Since 1972

Category: Just For Fun (Page 1 of 3)

A Snack Time Counting Game

Here’s a great little activity that took about 3 minutes to make. Bug loves it, and it’s a great chance for her to practice counting.

All you have to do is draw the six sides of a die onto a piece of paper. Then your child rolls the die and puts the correct number of snack items (Goldfish in this case) onto the corresponding picture on the paper. When all the spaces are filled, it’s snack time!

Technology Class Failure. But…

We started school officially today, and Ana charged me with doing a technology session for Pea. I had this grand idea of having her come up with a 6 paneled comic strip that she could create with this cool and simple comic generator I found. Um…yeah…I still forget sometimes that I’m working with a 5 year old attention span. We spent about 15 minutes on that. While it’s a really cool (and free) tool, it takes too long for kids that age to get any results for their efforts.

Lesson learned.

But I was able to salvage our time by doing something that was really easy, entertaining, and hilarious. Why not start with helping her get familiar with a computer keyboard, right? And what if we could work in some sight word exercises, vocabulary expansion, and foreign language practice too? Pea’s Spanish has been suffering lately. She understands fine, but refuses to speak. I think I may have stumbled onto something that will help with that though.

Silly Sentences and Google Translate

 

I wrote some silly sentences on paper, then Pea typed them into Google Translate. She tried to read all the sentences, and she could get most of the words, but I made it just hard enough that she couldn’t read it on her own and was so ridiculous that she wouldn’t get the joke until she listed to it. She loved hearing the silly sentences in Spanish and actually ran to repeat them to Ana. She actually chose to speak Spanish.

Now the challenge is to keep coming up with silly sentences and working the same words over and over until she can read them on her own. She’s already pretty good at finding the letters on the keyboard, but it’s good practice!

December Giveway…Straight Off Our Wish List!

Back by popular demand (and because some people are signing up for last year’s) we’re excited to announce this year’s giveaway. Last year’s giveaway was really popular, but we realized that we sort of limited the scope of it since it was a toy for a specific skill level. So this year we’re going to do something a little different…we’ll let the winner choose the prize.

This year’s choices are coming straight off our own shopping list for our girls, so you’ll know they’ve are Ana-approved!

Just as a side note…please don’t think limit our kids to reading and literacy toys. We’re only including those here because this is a reading site. They also love to play with craft toys, crayons/paint/chalk, counting and math games (that could be a whole different site), and anything with a Disney Princess on it. Now…let’s get to the choices!!!

Pop for Letters Game

We can’t wait to get this toy! There are so many fun things you can do with this! Memory match games for capital and lower case letters, shuttle runs (quickly becoming a favorite activity at our house) matching cases or sounds to letters, changing the first letter of a word to make a new word, etc. The possibilities are literally endless. Yeah…you could do the same thing with a few pieces of paper, but the fact that this is popcorn themed makes it way more fun and inviting for the kids.

Pop for Sight Words Game

Just like the Pop Letters game, but with sight words–endless possibilities! “Quiz games” with multiple kids to see who can read the word first, putting words together to make sentences, and once the kids can read all of these words you can play games for parts of speech sorting and spelling bees. You can even use the Pop Letter Game with this toy to create prefixes and suffixes for the sight words!

Pretend and Play School Set

Not necessarily a literacy game, but our girls love to play school, and the Pea just happens to teach Bug letters and sounds in almost every class since reading is her favorite subject. It really has helped drive home all the things Bug is learning, and we’re so excited the baby will hopefully have two teachers when it’s her turn to start school!

Silly Sentences

I remember Ana taking a long time to prepare for centers when she was a teacher so the kids in her class could play this exact game! It’s so convenient to have it made for you, and even better that the kids can go grab this game and play any time they want. Some ideas for extension activities are to have the kids draw a picture of the silly sentences they make or create entire stories based on the sentences.

How to Enter

That would be useful information, huh? Just like last year, all you have to do to be eligible to enter the contest is like us on Facebook. That means like us on our Fan Page, not like this post (although you’re welcomed to do that as well). We’ll randomly choose one of our fans at midnight on December 13, 2011 and contact the winner through Facebook to find out what prize they’d like to receive.

Thanks for your continued support this year. Merry Christmas!

Sight Word Shuttle Runs…In Reverse!

A while back, Ana made up a fun game we call Sight Word Shuttle Runs that not only helps the kids with learning new sight words, but also lets them burn up some energy. We just realized at dinner last night that we can play the game in reverse too.

The original game was to have the child look at a word, read it correctly, then run to a designated spot to pick up pennies, toy soldiers, stickers, or whatever else motivates your child.

The reverse game is to say the word to the child, then have them run to the designated spot to find the correct word written on an index card with a bunch of other words written on cards. If they bring back the right word, they get the motivational item to add to their pile. If not, they take the card back and try again.

Yet another fun twist to help build vocabulary is to begin a sentence and leave off the last word, having them run and pick out the word that makes the most sense to complete the sentence.

Chin Bop Syllable Count

Here’s a quick and easy game you can play in the car or around the house.

Learning to count the number of syllables in words they hear and say can help your child learn to “chunk” sounds in a word together when they are reading. A simple way to introduce this concept is to have them make a fist and place it just under their chin. Whenever they say a word, they can count how many times their chin bumps their fist to count the number of syllables in the word.

You can be in charge of keeping a running total of all the syllables they’ve counted, or make it a math/counting game by having them add the syllables in the last word they counted to their total. You can even challenge them to get a “high score” by learning and saying bigger and bigger words to increase their vocabulary.

Some Programming Notes

Some of you may have noticed the pace of new posts has slowed (even more) over the past couple of months. We’re very happy to tell you that the reason is that Ana is in a family way once again. For those of you who aren’t from the Southeast–she’s pregnant. Unfortunately for Ana, that means 20 weeks of extreme illness, 24 hours a day.

So for the past few months we’ve been in “survival mode” around our house, and that means housekeeping is at a minimum, much less blogging. The homeschool co-op had to go on a hiatus as well. The good news is that she experienced the same thing with the first two pregnancies, and the kids were both born healthy, so we’re hoping that bodes well for this one too. The other good news is that we are almost out of the woods…the nauseas has mostly subsided, and now she’s building her strength back up.

On a less happy note, we learned this past week that our dear friend Coupon Katie has been diagnosed with thyroid cancer. Many of you know Katie and/or follow her blog, so you already know what a great, strong, and inspirational person she is. On top of that, she can tell you how to get a bunch of stuff for free at Walgreens and end up having them give you money. Please keep Katie and Shawn (the Coupon Koala) in your thoughts and prayers as they overcome this obstacle.

How And Why We Find Books At The Library

The last few  times I’ve taken the girls to the library, I’ve noticed that Chick Pea tends to gravitate towards books she’s somewhat familiar with. She has several books at home that are parts of a series (Dora, Mrs. Wishy Washy, Curious George, etc.) and if she sees a book she doesn’t own at the library that’s also part of that series, there’s a good chance she’ll want to check it out.

I really like to watch her semi-serendipitous process of selecting books, but in the last couple of weeks her eyes have been opened to a different way of looking for library books. One of her favorites at bed time right now is Curious George Visits the Library. In the book, George explores the shelves at the library and finds books on all sorts subjects he’s interested in–dinosaurs, trains, trucks, cranes, etc. Of course, he ends up with more books than he can handle, and pre-k hilarity ensues.

A couple of nights ago, Pea asked why George picked so many books instead of the two books she usually gets. We talked about how curious George is, and that he’s interested in many different things. I told her that when we go to the library, we can choose different books about the different things we want to learn more about and gave her an example of all the different things I like. Then I asked her what she likes to learn about. With a little guidance, she realized that animals and flowers are things she’s curious about, and we decided we’d look for books about animals and flowers the next time we’re at the library.

We definitely don’t want to squash the idea of browsing for books just to see what catches her eye, but this is also a great opportunity for her to realize that we can look with a purpose for particular books as well–books that will help us learn about things we like.

What Your Kids See You Read

George Washington Crossing The Delaware

I’ve read articles before (someone can provide links in the comments) about how important it is to have books around the house and to set an example for your kids by making sure they see you reading. But I’ve always looked at that as a general idea–just make sure they see that you read, and the magic will happen later on. Last night I got my first glimpse of how it can affect them in ways I hadn’t considered.

I’m currently reading To Try Men’s Souls, which is a historical novel about George Washington and the Continental Army’s crossing of the Delaware on Christmas night, 1776. The cover of the book features the famous painting by Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze. Yesterday afternoon, Pea was looking at the cover and asked, “Who’s that?”. I told her it was a painting of George Washington crossing a river in a boat, and the book is a story about him going across the river. She’s familiar with George Washington because she’s seen another painting of him when going over the Presidents of the United States with Ana. She immediately said, “Look Mami! Daddy’s reading a book about George Washington! He’s one of the Presidents in my pictures!” She looked through the pages for a little while before putting the book down. I assume she was looking for more pictures–that’s what I did when I was little. It didn’t take long for her to get bored and go play with something else.

We read books together before bed every night, then Pea climbs up to her top bunk and looks at books in her bed before she goes to sleep while I hang out on the bottom bunk and read. Last night, as she was looking at her books and going to sleep she whispered down to me, “Daddy, are you looking at the book about George Washington in the boat?”

Cool! She just made a connection between two paintings she’s seen at different times and something the person in those painting did, and it’s stuck in her memory! She also understands the that I’m reading the story (learning) about what happened from the book. Hopefully this will lead to more questions about George Washington in the future. Maybe she’ll even ask me to tell her the story.

Creating a Reading Christmas Tradition

Ana and I were discussing how cool the idea of a Book on Every Bed idea is last night, and came up with another idea. Now, we come up with all kinds of crazy ideas–some pan out, and some don’t–but this is one we hope we are able to establish in our family.

We will definitely be doing Book on Every Bed while our kids are small, but we hope we are able to continue a variation of that idea long after our children are grown. We’re going to start this year with one another. Here’s the idea:

Give every member of your family a book at Christmas. This isn’t their Christmas gift(s), just a little added something. It can be a book that you’ve read over the past year and enjoyed, a book you think they’d like, a book you want to read at the same time they read it so you can discuss…whatever reason you want. And it doesn’t have to be a freshly purchased book from the bookstore. Buy a used book. Give them a book you’ve finished. You can even check out books for them at the library. When you’re living in the same house together, you can just pull one right off the bookshelf and wrap it up!

Sure, it’s for the kids, right? Well, yeah. But I also want to learn the things they are learning as they grow up, and I want to continue to glean knowledge off of them when they are adults. So while they will definitely benefit, I really want to start this tradition for completely selfish reasons! 😛

A Book On Every Bed

Here’s a great idea–make sure a book is the first thing your children unwrap on Christmas morning!

The easiest way to do that is to make sure Santa leaves the book at the foot of their bed. I can’t imagine even the most anxious kid being able to pass up the opportunity to unwrap the first gift they see on Christmas morning.

Start a tradition: My hope is that other families will enjoy a tradition that revolves around reading together. I further hope that librarians, teachers, bookstore owners and literacy advocates spread this idea as far and wide as it will go, making it possible for any family that wants a child to receive a book to get one.

Newest Carnival of Homeschooling Is Up!

Thanks to Christine at Our Curious Home for hosting this week’s Carnival of Homeschooling and including us!

There are so many good articles in this week’s edition, and these are some of our favorites so far…

Montessori Print shop has some good tips on getting started with Montessori at home. We are a far cry from full-blown Montessori style learning around our house, but it’s nice to have a little area set up for the kids to come and do self-directed activities they enjoy.

Robin at Crack The Egg has a great idea on creating and using a robot book. This idea can be used for whatever subject your child is interested in. For us, that would be a flower book. Two of them.

And finally, some advice on dealing with people who are hostile to the idea of homeschooling from The Common Room. Bottom line–everybody has to do the best for their particular families based on their particular situation. In the end, you may not be able to help them see why it’s the best decision for your family, but it may help  you understand why they react the way they do.

Starting a Co-op – Finding Others

Thinking of starting your own homeschool co-op? Not sure how to find other people to participate? Not sure how to outline expectations? Here’s where we started…

We were really excited about the idea of homeschool co-ops long before Ana ever started one. But there were a couple of things we weren’t really sure about, like when we should do it and how to find other people who were interested. It had always been in the back of our minds, but was always one of those things we thought we’d get to sooner or later. We really started talking seriously about it when other moms in Pea’s loose-knit play group started asking about where/when she’d be attending pre-school. Our answer was always, “we’re homeschooling”, and since we sort of believe that education starts at birth, she was already “in” school as far as we were concerned.

We were discussing it one night, and Ana mentioned jumping right in and starting up a co-op for preschoolers. Why not? The beauty of a preschool co-op would be that even parents who planned on sending their kids to a traditional school later on but were currently staying home with them may want to participate. We also thought it would be a good time for us personally to shift Pea’s educational experience a little by exposing her to different teachers and other students. Playing the part of mommy and teacher at the same time didn’t always work out as planned for Ana.

Ana jumped online and went to our local MomsLikeMe site and wrote up a quick post, just to gauge interest, and the response was great. Actually, the response was a little overwhelming. There were a lot more people interested than we’d anticipated. We figured the ideal class size would be 6 or 7 kids, but there were way more initial responses.

A meet and greet was set up so that the moms and kids could get to know each other a little. This was one of the most important steps of organizing the co-op. Of course, not every family who responded showed up for the meeting. Not a problem–if you aren’t interested enough to come to the first meeting, you probably aren’t that interested long-term. The meetup also provided a chance to lay out all the things that would be involved in a co-op. Supplies and curricula cost money, so there would obviously be a financial commitment. More importantly, there needed to be a commitment to being heavily involved with teaching classes and providing care for younger siblings while their moms were instructing.

Most of all, there needed to be a real commitment to participate every day to help the kids establish a steady group dynamic in their school. Sure, kids get sick and scheduling conflicts come up, that’s understandable. But the kids needed the stable group and each mom’s unique creativity and perspective.

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I wouldn’t go so far as to say anyone was scared off, but if anyone expected this to be just another playgroup or a chance for moms to get together and gossip while the kids played with letter blocks, their eyes were opened to a very different idea. The group of moms that decided to continue on with the project was fully committed, and the results have been great. The kids are now getting a variety of classes taught by different moms, and they are having a blast with it.

I’d say the commitment of the families involved, and that especially means the MOMS, is the single most important factor in the co-op’s success so far. If you are thinking of starting a co-op, don’t feel bad about being selective and laying out firm expectations from the very beginning.

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