St. Patrick’s Day Rainbow Activities

Well, so if you’re homeschooling, you may not officially have a Spring Break… or if you are public/private schooling, you may have kids who are constantly wanting SOMETHING to keep them busy!  Either way, I’ve got two fun activities for you that kids of all ages could enjoy this week as we prepare for St. Patrick’s Day.

First, if you’ve got kids under age 7, who are working on spelling, reading, or even just recognizing their color words, this super fun and easy craft stick rainbow activity is for you!  I wrote for my kids, but for older kids you could easily practice spelling and handwriting in a small space by having them write the color words on the sticks.  (Or older siblings can write for the younger ones!)

I simply had my kids squeeze glue (working on those fine motor skills!) onto the back of a thick paper plate (to provide a nice solid backing).  Then, lay the labeled craft sticks in order of the rainbow.  (I purchased colored craft sticks at Walmart, but you could also have them color or paint plain sticks.)  Then stretch your cotton balls and glue on top.  Once it is totally dry, you can cut off the excess plate and display your beautiful rainbow!

I wish I could take total credit for this next idea, but I can’t.  I saw on Pinterest somewhere a cute rainbow handprint painted sign… and then I downloaded this FREE set from Teachers Pay Teachers that was created by Lindsey from The Teacher Wife.  The two activities melded together well.

The thing I love about her free printable activity is that it’s very flexible for kids of all ages and stages.  To make my pots, I simply cut black construction paper out around Lindsey’s pot template and then cut out the coins from her template from yellow construction paper.  Becca decided she would draw her picture first, and then tell me what to write about it.  She is the one who picked that it would be a friend theme – the actual writing template says “Who is worth more to you than gold?”  She decided that Gray’s should have his friends, too, so I used the blank pieces from the set and just printed out pictures of him with his friends since he wasn’t interested in drawing them on the paper.  I just asked him who he wanted me to include and he told me.

There are multiple other template options in the set that would work for a variety of different ages.  In fact, the two blank pot pieces I used for Gray’s pictures could also easily be used in comic strip fashion and made into a pot of gold comic book by your older artists who are really dying for an engaging project this week.  I would love to see how you modify this to make it your own!

The rainbow painting was simple – I just pulled out paint, painted each child’s hand for each color, and used legal length paper to fit the most handprints together on one page.

**Note – baby wipes work great to get paint off between each color, and then you can do in-depth soap and water cleaning when you’re all done.  I prefer to use acrylic paints because they dry quickly, but they are prone to staining clothing, so if you prefer, use a washable finger paint or add dish soap to tempera paint before using.

 

All Things Gingerbread

So, here we sit.  Just two days until Christmas Eve.  And if you are anything like me, you are frantically trying to figure out ways to occupy your children, who are more than ready to kill each other.  Y’all, I have even pulled out the “Santa doesn’t bring gifts to children who aren’t kind to each other and their parents” line.  It’s gettin hectic over here.  Plus, I still have gifts left to wrap, bows left to tie, a house to clean, and a whole mountain range of clean laundry to fold and put away (since I conquered the washing part yesterday, thank the Lord!)

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The one thing that seems to be my saving grace the last two days has been All Things Gingerbread.  Seriously.  I threw together some gingerbread play dough, and since we made gingerbread cookies last week, the kids are so excited about this play dough!!!  I gave them the same little cookie cutters we used for our cookies, and they have had a blast making “cookies” and “cookie pops” and then yesterday they even got out Gray’s little construction trucks and informed me that the play dough looks like dirt, and it’s super fun to put into the construction trucks, apparently!  (So sad I didn’t get any pics of them playing, but y’all, seriously – they were happy, playing TOGETHER, and I was taking full advantage and fixing dinner – in peace!!!)

Today I plan to make another batch so they each have their own big ball of it, give them the giant gingerbread man cookie cutter (aff link thank you!), some buttons, some pipe cleaners (for hair or whatever else they get creative and come up with) and let them go to town making their own gingerbread friends!  (Fits great with the fact that we’re frantically finishing up our Christmas Around the World unit (link to the file on TPT) and today is Germany… which is where the gingerbread traditions originated!  Plus, I’m using a Gingerbread Girl organizational chart (it’s in this FREEBIE file on TPT!) today to diagram about the Gingerbread Girl book by Lisa Campbell Ernst (Aff link, thank you!)… dang, doesn’t this make me seem so organized?  HA!  Seriously, y’all… I’m not.  Being real, I originally planned to do this stuff yesterday, but can’t find the Gingerbread Girl book in the vast cavernous mess of books in Becca’s room, and if all else fails, I may try to find a youtube or just say screw it and forget the organizational chart and attempt to do it next year.) (Keepin’ it real here.)  (Also keepin’ it real – if you made it through the mess of links and () in this paragraph, I love you.  HA!)

The best part about play dough is it takes WAY less time to make than it does for me to write this blog post, which I’ve been intending to write for a couple days now.  So you can do it!  Buy yourself a little time (and patience!)… and better yet, stop everything and sit down and play WITH them.  Playing play dough is so calming for me.  Have you tried it lately?  Becca and I loved making “cookie pops” and then “selling” them to each other to work on her money skills!

Here’s the recipe for my Gingerbread play dough:

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And because I know some of you sweet mamas are going crazy and trying to find a gingerbread cookie recipe that your kids will actually eat… use mine.  It’s super easy and even my pickiest eater loves them!  I make these every single year.  Without fail.  Even if I don’t make any other cookies.  I’m in love with them.  Which is why I felt a picture of my tattered, dirty recipe card page was the best way to share it with you.  This recipe is WELL loved.

And so are you, dear blog reader.  Merry Christmas!  May you be richly blessed this holiday season.

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Writing About Thankfulness

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In my original post in this series, I mentioned setting up a Thankful Journal for Becca, and I showed how I put it together.  I wanted to show you how my original plan evolved, and what we’re doing.  Becca has decided also that she wants to do her journal every day until the book is full!  So, at least for now, we’re thinking we’ll keep doing this beyond November.

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I had her practice her handwriting to write the title on the cover, and then she has been having great fun looking through magazines to find illustrations for things she is thankful for.  Right now, I’m writing “I am thankful for” and then she finishes the sentence and writes the date.  We practice sounding out the words to figure out how to spell them, and I help her with silent letters or tricky spellings.

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I love her beginning handwriting – her periods are gigantic, and so are her letters. Many of her letters are backwards, and some end up sideways. Early writing is so cute!

Another super fun writing activity that we did, I actually wrote the words, but she came up with them.  We did this Thankful Alphabet activity, which is a free printable found here.

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Then we hung it on the refrigerator with Grayson’s list of friends he is thankful for (See my Toddler Thanksgiving post here).  The kids love having their thankful lists on the fridge!

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Yup. That says “Lepidopterists” on L, and “Unicorns” on U. Because that’s the world we live in – one that is very scientific and based in fact, but dusted with glitter, fairy dust, and lots of make believe. 🙂

Looking for more fun FREE Thanksgiving writing and handwriting printables?  Just click on the pictures below to see what else we’re working on this month!

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Busy Hands, Happy Heart

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This post contains affiliate links.  Thank you for supporting my blog!

Most of my posts here are about homeschooling Becca, but this one is all about what to do with the little ones… and highlights what I do to keep Gray occupied so Sis can learn.  (And SHHHH! he’s learning, too!)  Keeping your toddler occupied while your older child does homeschool is NOT easy!  But hopefully a few of these ideas will inspire you and be helpful on your journey!

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One thing we really struggle with with Gray is that he still likes to put things in his mouth – a lot.  I can’t just give him an activity and pay total attention to Sis.  So, I have to very carefully select what he does when I’m busy with her.  He loves our pop beads set – so when I’m teaching her, I pull out only the large beads on a tray and let him sit on the bench right next to me in our family room (which doubles as our homeschool room).

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If we are doing something downstairs at the dining room table, he gets to do play dough next to me, and loves to make prints in the dough.  We have little stackers, dominoes, construction trucks, and dinosaurs that all make awesome dough stamps, not to mention our fabulous cookie cutter set.  He can stay occupied with play dough for almost an hour!  (Plus, I make my own dough, so I can make it any color I want, and he loves to take two different colors of dough and squish them together… which works on those fine AND gross motor skills all at the same time!)

Back upstairs in the family room, we have a little Duplo table (this is the one I’d like to get once we move up to only Legos) and some diaper boxes full of Duplos that Gray loves to build with.  Then we also have big wooden blocks (that my dad made for me when I was little!) with which he can build larger-scale items.  We also keep crayons and coloring books readily available so that he can color when Sis is illustrating – because nothing is more exciting and makes you feel big and important like coloring when Sis is coloring.  And he has been enjoying playing with window clings that I got from Dollar Tree!

There are so many fabulous things you can get your little ones excited about that are going to stretch them and help them grow their fine AND gross motor skills.

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Pretend play is so important for little ones, and Gray is all about pretending.  He is fairly quiet with his pretend play, so he doesn’t distract Sis too much.  If you have a louder child who likes to play really loudly, you might want to skip this section and move on down to the academic ideas, leaving the pretend play for non-school times.

Gray loves our new set of felt dinosaurs.  He likes to tell little stories with the dinosaurs, and can either use the portable board with which they came, or can use the larger cork board that I covered with felt that is up in our family room.  I love that both kids can stand together at the easel and play, or he can play alone right next to me while she works.  He also loves to drive his cars and trains on the activity rug that sits on the floor next to me, and cook “meals” for us in their kitchen, which is across the room. (This link is to a similar set – ours is no longer sold.)

He also loves to grab a reusable shopping bag and pretend he’s shopping, play dress up, and play with Little People figures.  The beauty of doing school in our family room is the multiplicity of options to keep him entertained.  We do not choose to have the tv on during school time.  That is far too distracting for Becca.

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Sometimes there is just no other way than to teach her with him sitting in my lap or standing right next to me.  (His love language is touch.)  For those times, I have some little academic activities that aren’t distracting to her that I can do with him while she is working independently.  We have number puzzles matching the numerals 1-10 to their values, and he can sometimes do 1-5 alone.  Sometimes he gets frustrated when they don’t fit exactly together (fine motor work!), but I can help him.

He also loves our pattern block shapes that I made out of thick colored card stock and laminated.  I use them with Sis as math manipulatives, and he also loves to sort them out and try to count them.  You can print your own here for free!

I have also laminated some little basic puzzles that have come out of magazines the kids get – he loves to put the three pieces together to make the trucks, and can put them together wrong to be silly and it’s ok, so he feels very successful with those.

I love the Target dollar section.  Sometimes I get surprised and find a $3 item that I love and just have to have, but normally I stick to the $1 stuff.  I got some really neat felt sticker numbers there (for $1), and placed one each on a set of 10 index cards so that he can actually FEEL the number, and attempts to put them in order.

He loves so much the big bin of Scrabble letter tiles at the DoSeum, so I finally bought this set so that he can play with the letters at home – and Sis can use them for spelling practice!  They are both so excited to have their own letter tiles at home now!  Sis also enjoys playing Scrabble Jr, so this now gives him letter tiles to play with, without messing up the board while we are playing!

I hope that you find these ideas helpful, and I so appreciate you purchasing via my affiliate links!  What helpful hints do you have to share?  What do you like to do with your toddler?  And which of these ideas that I’ve shared are you ready to try this week?  Let me know!  I love to hear from you!  Send me comments, and please be sure to head over to my Facebook Page to get involved in the discussion!

Teaching Graphs

I’m not going to begin to put an age level on this lesson because I’ve sort of lost all realistic memory of when is the “right time” to do this type of activity.  SO, I’ll say that if you think it might be time for your child, you might be right!

Graphing is so much fun.  And it’s even more fun when you add in a technology element and work with your child to set them up in Excel or Numbers!  I have a Mac, so our work was done in Numbers.  The first step before creating any graphs, however, is to collect data.

I came across this insect survey free on TPT and thought, somehow I have to make this work for Becca even though there isn’t a class full of kids to survey!  Enter social media.  I polled Facebook through my page (thanks to several friends and family members who shared my post!) and we received over 30 responses!

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As I scrolled through the responses, I would read them out to Becca, and she learned about making tally marks.  She would mark the sheet, and then once we had recorded all of the answers, we counted the marks and I wrote how many of each insect had been “favorited” by our participants.  Making tally marks was a new experience for her, and she wanted to circle the groups of four instead of making a line through them for five to group them together.  Cody and I were both there for this lesson, and we had to explain to her that this isn’t something you can do however which way you want – to make tally marks, this IS the way to do it.  No other options.  She wasn’t real sure about that, which I dealt with again with her when we did our second grouping of data, which I’ll talk about later in this same post.

So, once we had the numbers for our insects, I pulled up Numbers and immediately set up a little data table.  She read off the insect names to me and how many of each one.  Then she decided what title we should put on our table.  I knew that I wanted to teach her about pie graphs AND bar graphs (she has seen some bar graphs before, but it’s been a while), so I first put the information into a pie graph, and she was immediately intrigued – she helped me select the colors that she wanted, and was very pleased.  She started asking questions about what % means… and I skirted around it by simply saying, it’s what part of the whole group it is – sort of like fractions.  She said “oh” and was actually content with that.  No doubt  percentages will be entering our math time very soon.  Then I let her select whether she wanted a vertical or horizontal bar graph, and she selected the color.  She decided that she needed some pictures of her top favorite insect to make it look a little “happier,” so I pulled up Google images, and had her type in “butterfly.”  She selected the image and I showed her how to save it.  Then she also saved a dragonfly and a ladybug.  I showed her how to import her photos into the document, and once I got them the right size, she dragged them to where she wanted them.  I had her tell me about her graphs and typed her words onto the “poster” as well.  We printed it out on card stock, and she was so proud to show her daddy!

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Left: she typed in the words to save it to my computer, and was quite frustrated wanting to know what crazy person put the letters in the wrong order on the keyboard! HA!

Then, a couple days later, we colored Easter eggs with some dear friends.  And we had ALL. THESE. DANG. EGGS!  What to do with them all?  So after she had spent a good amount of time sticking butterfly stickers all over them, we sat down and made a tally of how many eggs we had of each color, and I had her draw a bar graph on paper so she would have the physical concept of what the bars show.  We talked about how “this is what three orange eggs look like in real life, and this is what they look like in tally marks, and this is what they look like on a bar graph!”  She said “that’s cool let’s put them on your computer.”  Hey, what can I say?  It’s really fun to make “graph posters” on Numbers!  So, for ease (and because it was almost bedtime) I pulled up her previous file, renamed and saved it as a new file, and then had her tell me the new data to type in.  She was quick to notice that I needed to change my titles on the data table, and told me what names I needed.  Instead of types of insects, I needed colors of eggs!  She decided this poster needed different graph colors, and of course it needed Easter egg images.  We also edited our text, and in about 7 minutes, we had a whole new graph poster about our Easter eggs!  We printed it and she was so excited again to show it off to her Daddy!

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This is a super simple way to get your child talking about Science and Math AND to incorporate the Technology aspect of STEM as well.  Don’t have a computer or experience with Excel/Numbers?  No problem!  Drawing on paper can be awesome as well – you could draw on copy paper, cut them out, and post them onto a large sheet of construction paper!  Clip photos from magazines, or illustrate yourself with paints and markers!

I’ve noticed since doing these graphs, Becca is much more interested in Math again – not shying away from addition and subtraction story problems, and excited to count and sit to learn new math concepts as well.  Remember – Math HAS to be FUN!!!  Make it that way!

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