Learning With Duplo

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Learning with Duplo

I have several parents of students I’ve been sharing with recently about various ways for kiddos to use Duplo for learning… so I thought I would share a few ideas here that could benefit everyone!

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Write letters on Duplo!

Did you know – you can write on Duplo with sharpie marker, and it can be erased with a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser or finger nail polish remover?  So you can put whatever letters you’d like on blocks and kids can use them to practice reading sight words, or building even more difficult spelling words!  This idea can last all the way up through elementary or middle school as a more interactive way to practice words!

Plus, check out THIS idea for using Duplo to build sight words in a whole different way!

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Practice word families/rhyming!

You can have your child create word family/rhyming words with Duplo, too!

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Build sentences and even stories!

By writing whole words on blocks, and adding punctuation, your child can start building complete sentences and even making short stories with their Duplo blocks!  Have your older child help you think of words to write on the blocks – practice which words are nouns, adjectives, adverbs, verbs, pronouns, etc… and after you write the words, your student can sort them by word types!  This is also a great way to practice labeling sentence parts, etc!  So many things you can do with this to meet many needs.

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Add, subtract, and even multiply & divide!

Looking to use Duplo with math?  Here’s an easy idea for using the dots to add, but you can also easily use Duplo to teach multiplication concepts, as well!  And of course, you can always take away Duplo for math as well!!  And just think – you could use it for non-standard measurement, sorting by colors or size, patterning, counting by twos, graphing,  and fractions, too!

The possibilities are truly endless.

And don’t forget to let your kiddos play with Duplo to build their creativity!  🙂

ENJOY, and please – share with me any ideas you and your kiddos come up with!

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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.


Building Duplo Sentences and Pronoun Matching

duplo sentencesI saw this idea from Allison McDonald, over at No Time For Flash Cards, and I thought it was really cool… but wasn’t sure how to relate it to Becca.  Then one day it hit me.  Sentences.  Becca is always wanting to write.  But due to her very asynchronous development paired with her perfectionism… she is unable to write in a manner that looks correct to her, so she doesn’t enjoy writing.  She gets very frustrated.  But this way… this way the world is opened to her.

I started by taking the Duplos that she already had and writing a bunch of words on them.  We did the activity and then we discovered I had inadvertently forgotten to make any prepositions.  And we needed color words.  And adverbs.  And… and… and… she thought of more words than I had ever dreamed of.  SO, since we needed to go to Toys R Us that afternoon anyway, we got another set of Duplos.  Because truly, we can’t ever get enough of them around here.

As of today, she has 169 words and punctuation marks.  (And that includes three blocks with ” ‘s ” written on them.)  She keeps thinking of more words she wants.  I told her that she’ll need to wait a while because we aren’t going to buy any more Duplos right now.  She wants me to write words on all of her brother’s Duplos too… which I have also held off doing because his go to specific sets.

I love the tenacity with which she approaches building her sentences.  Sometimes she likes to build silly sentences just by putting words together that don’t make sense.  Sometimes I think of sentences and have her hunt through all the blocks to find the words that are in the sentence.  And sometimes she comes up with things on her own that just blow me away.  When she wrote “I love my Mommy,” I couldn’t help but smile.

She has discovered that she can also build sentences vertically, and she loves sorting the words by type (which I made easy for her by matching the colors – all the verbs are yellow, food nouns are light blue, pronouns are red, etc.)  It’s a great way to talk about types of words, appropriate punctuation marks, sentence structure.  She can write stories by building them vertically, or by making them wrap around the table.  It’s also a great way to practice sight words if you have some words your child is struggling to remember.

I love the flexibility that comes with this activity, and that she still has the ability to use her engineering skills to build fun towers as well.  For example, yesterday I told her to forget there were words on the blocks, and just build something cool.  Then after she was done building, we read all the words in order and giggled at the silly nonsensical story she had written!

I also made male and female word sets to reinforce male and female pronouns, and that can be an activity in and of itself sorting them into the correct stack.

pronoun matching

We have a bunch of flat Duplos that I haven’t been sure what to do with… and I think I’m going to use them for math facts.  Whatever I decide to do with them, you can be sure I’ll share.  What ideas do you have for fun ways to use Duplos?

This post was not sponsored in any way by Lego Duplo… we’re just a family who loves Legos and Duplos and has an overabundance!



Teaching Reading from Day 1 – Sight Words

teaching reading series

Looking for last week’s post from this series?

What are sight words?  They are words that we just know to look at them.  And we know what they mean without thinking.  Right now, as an adult, your sight word vocabulary is probably in the thousands of words.  Maybe even hundred thousands.  And, they are based around your specialty.  If you are a scientist, or in the medical profession, you have hundreds of sight words in your vocabulary that would be words I would have to sound out using phonics or other reading techniques, and I’d have to look up in a dictionary.  If you are an engineer or mathematician, you have a different set of sight word vocabulary.  And lawyers, well, that’s a whole other set.  I love to cook and bake, so my sight word set includes words like rigatoni and fusilli, parboil and blanche.

But as a child, we start as a blank slate.  And there are basic sight words that can’t be sounded out phoneme by phoneme (fo-neem = sound by sound).  And there are words like the word phoneme that don’t sound like they look.  We have to be taught at some point that p and h together say /f/.  So where do you start?  Obviously singing the alphabet with your child is awesome.  But beyond that, you can begin working on letter sounds with your child.  (I’ll do a whole other post on teaching letters and sounds, I promise.)  And you can start introducing the basic sight words they’ll need to know.  You can usually find some little picture cards with words on them at Dollar Tree.  They’ll have a picture of a cat and the word “cat” on the card.  These are fabulous.  You can write words on index cards like “tv,” “couch,” “fireplace,” and “fish tank” to post on those items around your house (if you chose to do this… I personally don’t like labeling my whole world.  Some moms love this idea, which is why I shared it.)

You can also find a great set of what are determined by professionals (Dolch and Fry are the most common) to be sight words in flashcard form here.  Different schools use different lists.  But if you are working with your child ahead, then any list you work on is fabulous.  The more words your child can become accustomed to, the better.Snip20141022_11

Am I saying you should drill your three and four year olds with flash cards to prepare them for kindergarten?  NO!  But these “flashcards” are a fabulous way to keep the words present in your child’s mind.  Perhaps you post a couple of them random places in your home – maybe one on the refrigerator door with some magnets so your child can build the word occasionally.  Perhaps on the mirror where he or she brushes her teeth.   Maybe put one on the garage door, and read it as you go out to the car.  Or maybe you want to get really fun and build words with “skeleton bones” – check out this super fun word building idea from Jamie over at Hands On As We Grow.  You can easily put three – five sight word cards on a tray with the “skeleton bones” and let your child practice building the words.  Nothing says you have to take these cards and hang them on a “word wall” alphabetically.  But you could.  Totally up to you and how interactive you want to be with them – remembering that the more FUN interaction your child has with a word, the more likely it is to become a member of your child’s sight word vocabulary.

You can also use them with your older child to begin basic alphabetizing skills – presort the cards so that there’s only one word that starts with each letter, then add more in as their skills increase.

Come back next Friday as we explore a different kind of sight words – called “Environmental Print.”

Food Pouch Lid Activities

I’m sure I’m not the first to create a post about what you can do with all those little food pouch lids… because I’m sure there are a LOT of parents out there who have them coming out of their ears!!!  (I know I shudder to think how many we just threw away before we were saving them… sigh.)  So… if your kids eat anything from a pouch, SAVE THE LIDS!  These are just THREE of the activities you can do with these – not to mention color sorting, using them for counters for addition/subtraction, etc.

Fall Tree Activity – See my blog post yesterday for this fabulous activity – where your child matches numbers to encourage recognition out of order.  And just a side note – you realize you could do any numbers you wanted – it could be 50-70 or 80-100 (although you’d have to write really tiny to fit three digits on the center of one of those lids, you could easily write the number on the side – and go as big as you want!)  OR – what about this extension for your older kids?  Write an addition, subtraction, multiplication, or division problem on the side of the lid, and they have to match it to the answer on the tree!  Again, color coding helps make it a little easier, so if you have two or even three colors of lids that are fall leaf colors, that would be awesome.  Or, make it more challenging by making all your leaves/pouch tops the same color!


Imaginative Play Activity – Build your family!  Did you ever think that you could make people with these little pouch tops?  And houses?  Becca loves to build with her pouch tops, so one fun activity was to make our family.  I drew faces on four lids, and then we stacked them up by height to create our family!  Now, you could take it a step further and hot glue them together so they could walk around and go into their house, etc.  But Becca enjoys building the people over and over.  She searches through and finds the faces, and then builds them over and over again.  She knows Mommy and Daddy are four pouch tops, she’s three, and Baby Grayson is two.  So it makes a great counting activity, but stacking them is also great for her fine motor development – because by the time she has three stacked up, she has to be very careful to not knock them over!  She loves building castles and houses for her people, as well!  Super fun.


Patterning – I think another fabulous thing we have done with these is using them to create patterns.  Patterns are all around us in our world, but to recognize and create patterns is an important skill we must first be taught.  Becca is a huge fan of patterns – she’s always wanting me to make harder patterns for her to complete.  Sadly, she’s only a fan of three or four different kinds of pouches… so we can’t make patterns with very many colors of pouch lids, but that’s ok!  We use what we have!  If you aren’t familiar with teaching patterns to children, you might be interested to know that once in school, your child will learn to “name” their patterns with letters.  You can start coordinating this and teaching your child early to name their pattern.  For example, the patterns in this picture are named (L to R, bottom to top) an AB pattern, an ABB pattern, an AB pattern.


Counting/Ordinal Position/One-to-one Correspondence – I’m always a fan of using REAL LIFE objects to help teach little ones to count.  So, it’s as simple as what I did for the fall tree – put the numbers that you want to work on on top of each lid.  Then your child can use them to make a number line, putting each number in it’s correct spot; they can use the numbers to count the lids and see how many they have; and it’s also helpful for those who like to just keep counting, and struggle with One-to-one Correspondence.  Becca used to really struggle with that.  There could be four of an item, and she’d put her finger on each of the four and count to four, but then keep touching the items and count however high she wanted to count.  She still does that occasionally – with a grin on her face because she knows she’s doing it wrong.  What really helped her to understand this concept was to count items that had a number on them.  She would touch the number, and say it.  When she ran out of numbers, she was done counting.  This activity might help your child if he/she struggles with this concept as well.


Alphabet Matching/ Ordering / Word Building – Another activity that I want to do with her soon (as soon as we have enough more pouch lids) is taking these over to the Language Arts side of things, and putting the letters of the alphabet on them.  You could put an upper case letter on one, and lower case on another and match the upper and lower case together.  You could simply practice putting them in order.  Or, what I’d really like to do, is to start word building.  Pre-program lids to have the letters you need to build basic sight words, or high interest words – for any age child.  If your older child is super into dinosaurs, save up a bunch of pouch lids and make enough to spell out types of dinosaurs!  The possibilities are endless.  If you are doing word building, I recommend having a pre-printed sheet of words that your child can use to spell from the pouch lids you’ve made available.  Have him/her build the word on the mat right next to the pre-printed word, or if you have space, ideally, they would build the word right on top of the word you’ve pre-printed.  So you’ll have to check your spacing.  I’ll be working on creating some of these for basic sight words SOON, and will share the printable when I have them created. 🙂

Do you have more food pouch lid activities that you’d like to share?  Post them over on my Facebook page!  I’d love to see what you are doing, and would love to have you be a part of the Facebook community I’m attempting to build! 🙂  (Be sure to click “like” over on the right-hand side of my blog! 🙂 )