Category Archives: Activity

Summer of Science: Round Up 2

This week we did a bit with water. It is summer after all. For pictures see my Instagram feed at the right.

Day 1: Moon Phases

Today was the first day of Ramadan. Since the Muslim calendar runs on a lunar cycle you know Ramadan has begun when the new moon is sighted. Today we read a little bit about moon phases so she would understand how the month of Ramadan would progress. It gave us some good new vocabulary too- waxing, waning, crescent, etc. 

Day 2: Shaving Cream Clouds

This was a very simple but exciting experiment the combined a chat about weather and about color theory. Fill a glass with water and spray the top with a pile of shaving cream. You then drip food coloring into the “cloud” and slowly it leaks through into the water. The color initially swirling into the water is fascinating and beautiful and if you do more than one color they mix together in a very dramatic way. I got the idea of Pinterest and it was a hit.

Before we started I asked Cam if she knew why/how clouds rained. I was very surprised to find that she does. I suspect she got it off one of her PBS videos, but I was impressed she recalled it. During the experiment we made predictions of what colors would form if we mixed red and yellow, red and blue, and blue and yellow. Most of the time she had no idea so I might try some other fun color experiments this summer. 

Day 3: Do Oil and Water Mix?

We explored how oil and water repel each other using an ice cube floated in a glass of oil. This was fun because to make the water more visible floating in the oil we dropped food coloring onto the ice cube. As droplets melted the food coloring mixed with the water and dripped into the oil. The end result looked a lot like a homemade lava lamp. It helped that I poured the oil into wine glasses. :) 

Cam is into the experiments where you do the initial set up and maybe even a bit of observation then come back to them over several intervals and make more observations. 

Day 4: Thursday

Thursdays are tricky. If I can plan something very quick and simple and Cam wakes up early enough, gets breakfast and over her process of waking up, then we can do something. This week after getting up late we had swim lessons again and then Cam went to my mom’s house for the afternoon. We didn’t manage to do anything especially science-y today.

Day 5: Water Sings Blue

Today we did a little Poetry Friday. I read several ocean themed poems from the beautiful book Water Sings Blue. I love the blend of information and imagery in this book and it’s very appealing to young audiences. Cam can sit through several poems before wanting to move on to something with a bit more narrative, but those few poems are so worth it. This was perfect too because I brought it with us to the restaurant where we ate dinner and it gave us a few minutes of something to do while we waited for food.

Day 6: The Save Water Game

 A fun little board game in our book How Things Work. Water is always a big deal out here in California and our family likes to talk about conserving it. This was a good little reinforcement of that. 

Day 7: Harvesting

I started our tomato plants from seed way back in January and today we will harvested the first fruits!!! Home-grown, homemade salsa here we come!!!!!

Summer of Science: Round Up 1

I decided to do some light exploration and experiments this past week because Cam had been watching an episode of Curios George that featured rainbows. In the episode one of the characters shows George how to make a rainbow with a bowl of water, a piece of paper, and a flashlight. Cam was totally fascinated and completely without prompting or any input from me, wandered off after the episode was over and tried to do the experiment herself. She was a little disappointed it didn’t quite work, but I promised to help her out with it the next day. Instead I thought we might take some time this week and explore light in number of different ways. 

For pictures see my Instagram feed to the right. 

Day 1: Reading

I bought this new book called How Things Work (there are several books with that title, but this one is new and more at a preschool level). It just so happens that it has a couple pages dedicated to light, so we read the introduction to understand a little bit more about light. 

Day 2: Shadow Play

After learning a bit about light we went outside with a stuffed rabbit and set her up on the driveway. I traced her shadow and we came inside. Thirty minutes later we went back out to retrace the shadow. Before coming inside the first time I asked Cam if she thought the shadow would move (she said no). Then I reminded her of the question when we went back out.

She was amazed that it had moved and we talked about what was happening. I asked her if she knew what the light source was outside that was helping cast the shadow (she knew it was the sun). I asked is she thought the sun moved across the sky or stayed in the same place. After some thought she said she thought it moved. I explained that this was why the shadow appeared to move across the driveway and that the distance the shadow had moved was also the distance the sun had moved across the sky in those 30 minutes. She was hooked. We had to come back out several more times (before the sun dipped behind a tree and obscured the shadow). We were also able to notice that the shadows lengthened and changed shape. The reason why was a lot harder for her to understand, but the more we discuss it I’m sure she’ll begin to grasp it better. 

She wanted to do it again the next day with some other toys. 

Day 3: Spectroscope

This was kind of a flop. The device is a little bit like a periscope, but is supposed to help diffract light so you can see a rainbow Cam had a hard time seeing the rainbow in the spectroscope and she wasn’t as engaged with it. The thing is, you don’t really need the “fancy” set up with a paper towel tube and paper slit to see a rainbow in a CD. Just put it in a light environment and move it around. I thought she would like this experiment more because it was very similar to what she saw and attempted on Curious George. I was wrong. 

We did end up getting out the prism and made some more shadow outlines with My Little Ponies and she was a into those for a little while. 

Day 4: Water Wall

We ended up upgrading our water table. Cam hadn’t been overly interested in setting it up and playing with it so we got a water wall. It allows her to dump water into the top and then there is a variety of cups, strainers, buckets, chutes, and funnels that fit into holes in the wall. They catch the water and divert it down the wall into the bottom pool. It’s very cool and a neat experiment in playing with gravity and water. 

Day 5: Moon sighting

Today we are going to head out and look for the moon. It rose this morning between 5:30 and 6 and will set sometime around 9 which means it’s really only up when the sun is up. Ramadan, the Muslim holy month dedicated to fasting and reflection, begins tonight at sundown. The start of the month is begun by sighting the new moon. This is an interesting discussion to have with Cam as it ties in history to the science of time in talking about using the lunar versus the solar calendar. 

Letters!

A few weeks ago, maybe even a month ago now, Cam suddenly took an interest in letters- learning their names, their sounds and writing them. She was carefully watching me one evening as I filled in a crossword puzzle in a puzzle magazine I had just bought. I can’t remember the exact question she asked, but I responded that one day when she learned her letters she would be able to do puzzles like mine. She went back to whatever it was she was doing. She must have been chewing that over in her mind because a few minutes later she got out some index cards and a pencil (or grabbed them off the table, I can’t remember) and started to write what looked like capital “e”s. After a few attempts she turned to me and asked if I would help her write letters. 

From there I began showing her a picture of the letter and how to form it and she would then copy the letter onto the page. She’s been a letter and word fiend ever since, asking to write names and words. While I think this is great practice I also thought she might benefit from being able to form words less laboriously (it takes a lot for her to write any given letter since she has to really think about how it’s formed and what it looks like, not to mention keeping the letters all about the same size and in a line).

IMG_2992I pulled out a cookie sheet I had bought at Wal-Mart several years ago for just this purpose. I also got out our magnetic letters which until this point she hasn’t been overly interested in. Now she tells me words she wants to spell and I tell her the letters in order. She finds them in the bin and arranges them on the tray. I ended up having to buy more letters because the set we had didn’t have nearly enough letters for her to keep a few words on the tray while spelling more. 

I also have some letter cards that have the upper case letter nice and big on the back. They are awesome for showing her what each letter looks like. On the back there is a labeled picture for each letter and both the upper and lower case letter. Thankfully they have appropriate pictures for the letter sounds (I HATE it when alphabets have, say, a giraffe for the “g” since that really reinforces the “j” sound not the hard “g” sound which is too much information for a child just learning the letters). I only wish these cards didn’t have the picture label spelled out in lower case. 

I did make a conscious choice to do only capital or upper case letters. They have a lot more straight lines and it seemed a little easier for her to form. Plus I didn’t want to quash her enthusiasm by making it more a of school lesson than something driven by her own interests. Requiring her to learn both upper and lower case letters was probably going to derail her. 

It took about two weeks, but she has learned to correctly identify each of the letters and say the sound they make. Plus she’s applying those skills to writing words. In another few weeks I suspect she will be sounding out words. Which of course will eventually lead to her reading and that’s pretty exciting for her!

Activity: Weaving

Pipe cleaner weavingOftentimes when I sew Cam really wants to join me. Unfortunately she needs lots of help and doesn’t quite have the running stitch down. To help her develop the concept of the running stitch (where you put the needle down through the top, up through the bottom, down through the top, up through the bottom…) I set up a little provocation with plastic canvas and pipe cleaners.

I figured the pipe cleaners are stiff enough that it will be easy for her to push them through and not have to deal with a needle. The plastic canvas (which is available in all kinds of shapes and sizes) has holes all ready for her to put the pipe cleaners through. It will keep her stitches straight and she can practice not looping over to the other side (creating a whip stitch). 

I set the tray out last week and she started it, but didn’t come back to it. I decided to leave it out for another week even though I’m trying to get out a new provocation each week. Today it’s raining and I have some cataloging to do for the library so I think I’ll invite her to sit next to me and help scan barcodes and weave on the canvas. I also started a rainbow example, something I hadn’t done last week and think may have made it less flexible, but more inviting. 

This would be a great activity for kids practicing their fine motor skills as well as for patterning, counting (count the holes), and as a start to sewing. 

 

Last Week on the Light Table: 3

2015-09-15 09.34.36 I’m slowly letting the light table take over a small area in our living room. I now have out several baskets and trays that allow many of our materials to stay out longer than a week or a few days.

Last week we had: 

I added some slotted translucent builders. This is a similar set on Amazon.

2015-09-15 09.34.42We also have straws and play dough out for building. As a side note, those Play-Doh containers are damn hard to open. I wish I knew of a better way to store it so it doesn’t dry out, but Cam could get into it by herself. 

Update: Cut the straws in half. Long straws are floppy and slippery and were really hard to build with. Narrower ones might be better too. 

Quiet Boxes: September 2

I actually only put out one new quiet box this time around. I kept the magnetic builder (which you can see in the last post) both because Cam didn’t spend much time playing with the quiet boxes over the last two weeks and because when she did, she played with this.

We have:

2015-09-17 18.56.08Halloween stickers and paper. We found the stickers in the dollar bins at Target and Cam has been all about making pictures lately so I thought it would be another good opportunity. 

Last Week on the Light Table: 2

The light table has remained really popular. Cam uses it at least once a day, which has really surprised me. She especially liked the stencils so I have left them out. I also added a couple new activities and put Blokus away. 

Last week we had:

2015-09-10 07.20.12Stained Glass Coloring Sheets and loose parts: Dover makes these coloring sheets that are meant to go in your window once they are colored. I bought a small kaleidoscope patterned booklet and an Arabic patterns which has a lot of geometric patterns. I paired them with tiles, jewels, and translucent beads. 

2015-09-10 07.19.16Transparency sheets and overhead markers: A few years ago the school my husband and I work for switched to digital overhead projectors and other technologies. They ditched all the overhead projectors and a lot of transparency sheets and markers. At the end of the year we rescued a bunch from going into the dumpster. I put out markers and cut down the sheets into smaller squares/rectangles. I also drew patterns on two sheets and set them on the light table with some glass jewels. 

Last Week on the Light Table: 1

So at the beginning of September I set up our light table, a hulking wooden box with a glass top, on the floor of our living room. It used to be in our classroom, but Cam wasn’t particularly interested in it so I put it away. I don’t know if the change in scenery or her being a little older has made a difference, but Cam is all about it this week. I cleared out her play food shelf (putting it with her play kitchen) and set out a few transparent and translucent loose parts jars for her to use with the other pieces I put out throughout the week. 

2015-09-01 15.40.22Last week we had:

Blokus: It’s this nifty game that requires spatial thinking skills and strategy, but the pieces are colored and translucent. Cam has always loved putting the pieces out on the board in different patterns and arrays so I t2015-09-01 15.41.08hought I would give them a try on the light table. My only disappointment is that the board itself is opaque and it has a grid on it that the pieces fit nicely into. 

Stencils: Cam had these Tupperware stencils out in one of her quiet boxes and she was all about them. Plus it’s great fine motor practice. I thought since they are also translucent I would put them out with some thin paper. 

Quiet Boxes: September 1

For the next two weeks I have two new quiet boxes set up. Cam is officially transitioning out of her nap. Thankfully she is willing to have quiet time every day and I get a couple hours to do things mostly Cam-free. More often than not she wants to continue doing what she was doing after lunch, but as the two hour mark nears she gets fatigued and needs some guidance. The quiet boxes are a quick go-to that she knows about and I can remind her of. 

We have:

2015-09-01 15.42.34Mega Magnet Fun: Cam has been into tangrams for ages and this was an extension of it. I like that it adds in the extra dimension building the shapes up even though they are still flat pieces. They appear to sell a slightly different version (no color pieces) on Amazon which you can see here

2015-09-01 15.43.13Popsicle Stick Puzzles: I had these foam popsicle sticks and found some puzzles. I’ve had them out for a long time, but I just don’t think Cam was seeing them. The activity is pretty tricky- she has to look at the picture and copy it with her own sticks- but she’ll 

I don’t think this is the place I downloaded them from, but you can get a set of cards here. You’ll have to provide your email address to get the download link. I’m sorry I can’t find where I got them from. 

 

Summer of Mess: Colored Noodles

2015-08-27 15.33.55Another fun sensory experience from 150+ Screen Free Activities. Cam actually did this one on her own. If I had been there she might have stuck with it longer, but she still played for about 15 minutes which for a messy activity is great for her. 

The idea is simple, cook some noodles, put them in a plastic bag and then add a splash of food coloring and water. I chose blue and green and then added some plastic sea creatures. Also per the book I added a pair of scissors and, interestingly, she was more inspired by those. I am still finding tiny pieces of noodle stuck to my feet when I walk through the kitchen (okay, not exactly, it’s mostly dried up by now).

2015-08-27 15.33.42If you try this… 

…put out the splat mat. Cooked pasta is nasty when it gets stepped on so the more you can contain it, the better.

…you can do uncooked pasta. It’s more like the colored rice. If you don’t want to go through the hassle of cooking the noodles first or you want it to last longer, then you might try that. 

…the scissors (a suggestion from the book) were brilliant. Cam had so much fun snipping away.