Posts tagged ‘activities for preschoolers’

August 8, 2013

Summer Scavenger Hunts

Note: This column was published in the Barrow Journal on Wednesday, August 7, 2013.

If you need some more activities to do with your children on these long summer days, try a scavenger hunt. Earlier this summer I made one up for my six- and three-year-old, and they had a blast. Kids love to have a mission.

I gave my six-year-old a list of ten items, and little did he know that I hoped he’d put some effort into reading the list. I was right – the game motivated him to read, and the three-year-old was in charge of carrying the bag, which he was proud to do.

My list included things they would have to search for inside and outside the house. I tried to think of fun things that my son likes too: A little seed, flower from the woods, pinecone, big seed, red crayon, string, little ball, something purple, something blue, and a bug.

I was worried that they would find everything in ten minutes, but my list was just the right size – it gave me about 45 minutes to sit on the porch and read! They were very proud of themselves when they reported back to me with all the loot.

Another variation of this game is great for preschoolers learning their numbers. When the six-year-old was four, I used to write the numbers 1-10 in chalk on the sidewalk. Then I would put dots under the numbers, which represented the amount. One dot under the number one, two dots under the number two, and so forth.

Then we would find things around the yard to put on top of the dots: one toy car, two flowers, three leaves, four twigs, five acorns, and so on…  He always had fun doing that.

Last year my sister-in-law sent the boys a Venn diagram with lots of fun trinkets for Valentine’s Day, and my boys loved it. We sorted those trinkets a half a dozen times. The other day I thought I would put a summer twist on it.

A Venn diagram is a visual way of sorting and comparing a group of things. Draw two or more circles and overlap them. Each circle will be labeled with one characteristic. If an object has that characteristic, it will go into one circle. If it has two characteristics, it will go in the area where the circles overlap.  If it doesn’t have any of the characteristics, it will go outside the circles. Is that clear as mud?

Let me explain.  I drew three big, overlapping circles with chalk on the pavement, and I labeled one “brown,” one “hard,” and one “curved.” Then the boys and I looked around the yard for what we could find with those characteristics. The first thing the boys picked up was a twig. It was brown, hard and curved, so it went in the middle of the diagram where all the circles overlapped.

A rock wasn’t brown, but it was hard and curved, so it went in the space where the circles “hard” and “curved” overlapped. We decided that a flower and a green leaf were only “curved”, so they went in that circle.

My son thought we should add a circle labeled “green,” so we tried that. After awhile, it was hard to find different kinds of objects outside, so I think this activity might have been more fun using toys or a variety of indoor and outdoor objects. It kept my sons busy for a few minutes, but the best part is that it got them outside, and as they searched the yard, other things caught their attention. Before I knew it, they were off exploring and playing on their own.

Do you love scavenger hunts? What versions do you play?

December 21, 2011

December & Christmas Activities with Small Children

These are snowflakes that we made last year for the tree. I hung them up in the entrance way of our activity room. They make a pretty decoration.

A while back I wrote about my desire to make new family traditions for my family, and December seems like a great time to do that.  However, I have to admit, I have kept this December extremely simple and I’ve done nothing to intentionally start anything new.  This might also be laziness on my part too.  But right now with a 5 and 2 year old, it feels like an accomplishment to get our regular chores done let alone begin new projects!  So I haven’t stressed.  I’ve just done what I could do easily and what the boys were receptive to.

(However, part of the reason I haven’t had to do much is because my husband initiated a new goal for the family!  I’ll be writing about this in an upcoming post. You can read about that here!)

So let’s see.  What have we done?  We have done what we’ve always done…..

  • We decorated a Christmas tree.  And this year, my five-year-old put all the ornaments on by himself!  That was special.
  • We also put a small tree in the five-year-old’s room.  We’ve done this the last few years, so I think we can call it a tradition.
  • This should have been written up under my “November Activities” post, but in early November, I always help my son write a letter to Santa Claus. This year I forgot to put a stamp in the envelope, but if you put a stamp in the envelope and address it to “Santa Claus, North Pole,” you’ll probably get a reply like we did last year!!
  • My five-year-old and I decided to make puppets with some extra cardboard I found and popsicle sticks.  We drew pictures on the cardboard, cut them out, pasted a popsicle stick on the back, and voila! a puppet!  We made some for my little nephews, and then my son wanted to make some for his friends. (A proud mama moment!)
  • We have been reading our Christmas books.  (I keep all the seasonal books tucked away so that we can pull them out around the holidays and they seem like new.)
  • Yesterday I baked one batch of oatmeal raisin cookies with the five-year-old while the two-year-old was napping, and yep, that’s the extent of my baking for the holidays.
  • This week I’ll let my boys watch some Christmas specials on T.V. if they want to.  We own the Charlie Brown Christmas special.
  • We strung up frosted Os for the tree.  We also did this last year, so maybe we can call it a tradition.  Frosted Os (or some kind of generic version) are big and easy for a little one to hold and string!  (That is, if he’s willing to do it.)  (Also, word to the wise: do not put them low on the tree if you have a dog.  Also don’t leave them on the kid’s activity table while the dogs are in the house.)
  • For an easy craft, I cut out the shape of a Christmas tree out of green construction paper, and then I cut out different colored shapes such as a star and circles, squares, triangles & small rectangles to make ornaments.  (My intent was to help my 2yo learn his shapes, but the craft didn’t hold his attention for very long.)  I put all the shapes and bits of paper into a plastic bag with a glue stick and a few extra Christmas stickers, and I told my boys they could make a Christmas tree whenever they wanted. I wasn’t sure my five-year-old wanted to do it, but he finally asked for it today.

So that is what I have done this December. There’s also a few things I didn’t do:

A simple craft: cut out the shape of a tree and several different shapes to use as ornaments. Stickers are also fun to add.

  • We didn’t decorate the outside of our house.  (Except for a small wreath on the door.)
  • I didn’t send Christmas cards this year. (Needed to save time and money.)
  • We didn’t do a lot of baking. (Except for that one batch of oatmeal raisin cookies.)
  • We didn’t drive around looking at Christmas lights.  (This was a favorite tradition of mine growing up.)
  • I didn’t buy a lot of presents (don’t have the money anyway), make any presents (except for the easy puppets), or invite anyone over for a Christmas get-together.

My main goal this December was to just enjoy the time with my boys, husband and keep up with our daily routine because when I don’t do that, we can all get quite frazzled.  Like I said above, with a 5 and 2 year-old, it’s an accomplishment to get anything done, and routine is important to them.  As their mom, I have to be ready for their mood changes (which can be swift), illnesses or whims (“I don’t want to do a craft, Mommy!”)  I also want to honor daddy’s ideas for family outings while he’s home on winter break.  So, not overwhelming myself with extra chores or expectations is key to making me a good mother.  (At least, most of the time.)

Whether you celebrate Christmas, another holiday, or none at all, I hope this winter season is warm, happy and peaceful for you!  Please leave me a comment and tell me what celebrations or activities you are participating in this December.

May 26, 2011

Free places to take kids in Athens, Georgia

Above is a photo of the Kugel at the State Botanical Garden of Georgia, which I wrote about in my column.  My son loves to spin it and point to Georgia.

Recently I realized that some local friends who live here in Barrow County had never been to my son’s hot spots over in Athens, which is a short, 30-minute drive away.  So I wrote a column about our favorite places to go, and they also have FREE ADMISSION.  You can click here to read the column, or you can just go straight to the websites of these places, which I’ve listed below for you.  If you live around here, you don’t want to miss these places.

The State Botanical Garden of Georgia:  http://www.uga.edu/botgarden

For Memorial Park, Bear Hollow Zoo, which is next to each other, and then also the Sandy Creek Nature Center, you need to go to http://athensclarkecounty.com/ and type in the name in their search box.  It will take you to the page that tells you where and what these places are about.

Please tell me what your children’s hot spots are!

Note: If you are looking for other places to take your kids in Georgia (whether free or not), take a look at my Resources for Georgia Homeschoolers page.  I am writing a column about each outdoor area and state park that we visit.  It also includes information on indoor activities or field trips specifically for Georgia homeschoolers.

April 6, 2011

How I taught my son his ABCs, 123s, and a little bit of my philosophy too

Soon I will post the second in my series of columns about homeschooling a preschooler, but first I thought it might be appropriate to start at the very beginning….That is, how I taught my son his ABCs and 123s.

I believe that learning happens all the time, and as Maria Montessori said, it begins at birth.  There are the kinds of things we teach ourselves, such as learning how to walk, talk, love and explore.  Then there is the “school” kind of learning:  learning the language our parents speak, our history, math and critical thinking.  Every kind of learning is important.

Of all the things I want to teach my sons, what I hope to teach them above all is to love learning. This world is beautiful, distressing and complex.  I hope to instill in them the desire to discover, and I want to teach them how they can find answers for themselves.  I also want them to know it’s okay to keep asking questions and how to embrace mystery, if need be.

That may sound lofty, but it’s for those reasons that I try to take my son’s lead with learning, especially now when he’s only four years old.  If I push anything on him, he’s going to balk.  As long as he’s inquisitive and thinks what we’re doing is fun, I’m going to roll with it.  (We will re-evaluate this method as he gets older.)

But I don’t sit back and wait for him to pick up a book either.  I show him books, and I introduce new ideas to him.  Usually he thinks my suggestions are pretty cool. After all, he is FOUR.

My eldest son learned his ABCs very early.  By 21 months, he could correctly identify each letter.  That is, I could say, “Point to the M,” and he would point to the correct letter.  I taught my son his letters in a variety of ways, but I think what helped him the most was our lessons in the bathtub.

I bought those letters that you can use in the tub, and we would play with them, and I simply stated the names of the letters as we moved them around.  Sometimes we would line up three letters on the edge of the tub, and I would say their names as I pointed to them.  For a while, I thought that what I was doing was pointless and that he was probably too young to get it, but then one night I asked him to pick up such and such letter and he did it!  And then he did it again!  I was amazed!

Nowadays Daddy usually gives him a bath, but not long ago I did, and that night he wanted to try to “build words” like they do in the PBS show “Word World.”  (I also credit and thank educational television shows for teaching my son the basics better than I can!  If used properly, T.V. is not bad for kids!  You can read a column I wrote about children and television here.)  You can see one word we built above.  I had to assemble it on the toilet because his younger brother kept grabbing and throwing the letters around.

Another fun activity we did was writing the alphabet on the sidewalk outside and then walking along and saying the letters.

I also used the chalk to teach him numbers.  I wrote the numbers with the chalk on the sidewalk, and I drew dots under each numeral…..1 dot for the number one, 2 dots for the number 2, etc.  Then we would find objects to put under each letter:  2 acorns, 3 leaves, etc.  I think this really helped him to understand what the numbers meant.

These are simple exercises, and they were simply part of our routine.  I did not do any planning.  I just took advantage of the moments when my son was focused and willing to learn.

Moral of the story:  Teach when child is willing and you have the energy!

It should not go unmentioned that my youngest son, the 19-month-old, is a completely different character!  Even if I had the opportunity to spend leisure, uninterrupted one-on-one time with him like I did with my first child, I’m not sure he would learn the same way.  He never sits still.  In the bathtub, he’s a fish flipping from one side to the other, and he chews on the letters.

I have not tried to teach the 19-month-old anything because I just don’t have the time or energy, but I’m not worried about him.  He is vibrant, curious, and he loves books.  He loves nothing more than sitting in my lap with a book and flipping through the pages.  Sometimes he’ll point to the images and say, “ugh!” which means I need to tell him what it is.  He will definitely learn differently than his older brother, but as you can see, he has already taken the lead on how.

If you have any other fun, easy methods for teaching toddlers the basics, please leave a note in the comment section!

March 15, 2011

Preschool Body Tracing Activity

I am in the process of writing a 3-part column about homeschooling a preschooler.  The first part was going to print this upcoming week in the newspaper, but I have asked them to postpone it because I wanted to write about the terrible disaster occurring now in Japan.   So, it will be a while before my preschool columns are printed and shared online.  I hope you’ll check back here for those when I post them.  I will have several extra details to share with you on my blog, mostly in the form of photos.

I can share one photo and details about it now: Above you can see the body tracings that my four-year-old and I did together.  I can remember doing this in my early years at school.  Can you?

We were lucky enough to participate in a “Mystery Friend” program at our church.  I was anonymously paired with a young person at our church, and my son was paired with an adult.  Then we exchanged letters and trinkets for several weeks before revealing our identities at a special event.  It was a nice way for the children and adults in the church to get to know each other, and it was perfect for my goal of socializing my son!  My son got a really good mystery friend who gave him some great activities to do during those weeks.

One of the activities she gave him was this huge sheet of paper and some extra markers.  She gave him the directions to trace his mother’s body on one side and his on the other.  So we did that, and then he wanted me to trace his body again, so we did it over my tracing.  Then he added the eyes and mouth and colored them in (a little).

I was very grateful to her.  I had thought about this before, but I never got around to finding paper large enough.  This activity is an oldie but goody!  We had lots of fun!

P.S.  See that coloring of the pretty flower on the left?  My Mystery Friend gave me that!  I also got a super cool mystery friend!

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