“The Lego Game”

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STEAM Topic: Math / Engineering

Whew.  We’ve been busy.  More than just a little bit.  I’m honestly not real sure where the last month went… I so appreciate those of you who have stuck with me through this, and realized that this is just one more way that I’m real.  Sometimes, I just don’t have time to write.  BUT!  I’m slowly coming back.  I’ll have a few posts here and there, and then the goal is to be back to full strength once both kids birthday parties are done.  (Party planning for two parties within two weeks of each other is super fun… and also confusing… and will probably result in multiple blog posts over the course of the next several years…)

But one thing that we picked up around a month ago or so was this game idea for a Lego building game.  I honestly don’t remember where I saw it – somebody shared it on Facebook.  And I didn’t actually take time to read the blog – I just saw the picture and ran with it.  So here’s our version of what Becca has just called “The Lego Game.”

the lego game

You’ll need:
1 die
6 paper plates
a bunch of random Legos, divided onto the six plates
some flat “starter” pieces on which to build

The beauty of this game is that it evolves as you go.  It just kills me to see kids that HAVE to have a schematic drawing to build with Legos.  Obviously, that requires a certain level of skill, but part of the FUN of Legos is just taking random pieces and seeing what you can make with them!  It’s an important part of creativity that kids need to learn, and should be encouraged to enjoy.  This game definitely does that.

So here’s how it works – once you have your random pieces assigned to the plates, just take turns rolling the die and selecting a piece from that numbered section.  You can build and rebuild your design multiple times throughout the game as it evolves with the new pieces you collect.

We have some super fun accessory pieces that are also included, so you can get (for example) a motorcycle or a piano to add to your design, if you’d like.  There are flags, flowers, and a magic wand as well.  Along with a ton of regular bricks in a variety of colors.

Every time we play the game, I love seeing what Cody and Becca will come up with – and I always make something new, too.  It’s a great way to practice taking turns, and Becca now has the dice memorized and knows immediately how many dots are on it to know which plate to pull her piece from.  For quite a while it was a counting game, but now she’s got those dot patterns committed to memory.

You could extend it by rolling two dice – one die would tell you which plate to select from, the other would tell you how many pieces to draw.  Or put a colored dot on each side, and you’d have to select a brick of that color.  The options are endless!!

We typically set a timer and just play until whenever the timer goes off.  It can be a 5 minute game, a 20 minute game, or a 45 minute game.

We have found that Becca does much better with bedtime if she has a focus activity between dinner and bedtime.  Sometimes she plays games on her Kindle or watches a video on it.  Sometimes we set up marble runs or train tracks.  Other times we’ll do a board game or “The Lego Game.”  She just needs some sort of directed activity to focus her brain on so that she will be able to calm and get ready for bed.  Obviously, every kid is different.  This sort of activity right before bed might make it impossible for your child to sleep.  Thankfully, you know your child, and I know mine.  Hopefully this is a fun activity that you can find an appropriate time to play with your kids!!  Bring out their creativity!  Find the inner engineer inside each of you!

NOTE!  Don’t have a bunch of extra Lego pieces?  Visit your local Lego store and shop their brick wall, or check out the Lego website to purchase some sets of randomness!  (not an affiliate link, but a good link!)

Nature Photography Art

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Today’s Theme: Science, Tech, Art, Math
(yup, 4 for the price of 1… and technically, you could say it’s Engineering too if you use your items collected to build something…!)

With my life as crazy busy as it has been lately, I’m going to be perfectly honest with you that we’ve been doing a lot of super free, unplanned play.  Like watching a lot of Sesame Street.  And Creative Galaxy.  And Super Why.  And building train sets.  And marble runs.  And working puzzles.  And coloring in coloring books and on plain paper.  Ya know, the ordinary, unexciting activities that make up MOST of our normal lives.  Not a whole lot worth blogging about and saying “wow, isn’t this fantastic?  Don’t you want to do this with YOUR kids?”  HA!  But, I know that one of the things my readers comment on the most is how they feel inspired by what I share.  And honestly, that is humbling.  And it helps hold me to a higher standard for my own kids.  And I appreciate that.  Maybe it’s something about turning 31 today (really?  31?  I remember when 30 seemed ancient… and now 50 doesn’t sound that old…), or maybe it’s just because my life has been so crazy that I’ve had to think about hitting the “reset” button on our school time… but for whatever reason, I came up with a super fun, EASY activity to do with Becca this past week that she absolutely loved.  And hopefully your kids will too!  (And hopefully I can come up with some more fun ideas very soon!  Might be time to pull out my Raising Creative Kids book again and snag some more ideas from Colleen!!  Have you gotten her book yet?  OMG.  You need it.  You really do.  The link is on the right hand side of this page… or at the bottom if you’re on a mobile device.  And yes, it’s an affiliate link, so I make some dough from your purchase – THANK YOU!)

Wow.  That might well have been the longest run-on paragraph I’ve ever written here on my blog.  Thank ya’ll for sticking with me through that!  HA!

And now to the nitty gritty – Nature Photography Art!

Becca LOVES to get out in our yard and explore.  We are so blessed to have some amazing land for her to roam around on, and even more blessed that we’re on the edge of Texas Hill Country, so our wildflowers each Spring are just simply incredible.  With zero work on our part.  God just paints our land every single year for us, and we are so blessed!  Cody and I both love to take nature photos – it’s one of the things that we first found that we had in common when we met.  So our kids see us take pictures of flowers and trees and butterflies and random rock formations ALL. THE. TIME.  And Becca often asks me if she can take the picture.  But I hesitate to let her hold my phone outside – especially on a day like the one when we did this activity – because the ground was moist and there are random rocks… ya know, my luck I’d hand her my iPhone 6 Plus and she’d drop it face down into a mud puddle with rocks at the bottom (I know Apple Care is great, but…)!  So I came up with this idea to get her involved, let her take nature photos, and yet do it in a structured environment.

IMG_8425I took this photo in our front yard while we were working on collecting our flowers for this project.  The butterflies were fluttering EVERYWHERE, and the Indian Blankets are just gorgeous!

Here’s what you’ll need to do this activity:
A bucket or basket of some sort
A source of wildflowers, leaves, grass, or rocks
A sheet of white butcher paper
A good lamp
A magnifying glass
A digital camera of some sort that you are willing to let your child use
Optional extension:  A computer with internet for photo editing (I use PicMonkey.com)

So just take your bucket to your source of nature, and collect objects.  It can be ANYTHING.  Any small piece of nature can be a fabulous source for photography.  Keep in mind that live objects such as caterpillars are harder to photograph – especially for kids – because they are a moving target.  So encourage your child to select STILL LIFE objects.  You can explain that still life is a type of art that depicts objects that are alive, but not moving.  Flowers don’t get up and walk away.  Nor do rocks or grass.  So they work great for this project.  Try to pull an entire wildflower plant up – root and all – to examine with your child.  If that’s not possible, no worries, but it certainly extended our conversation GREATLY to have a couple full plants.  We talked about the parts of the plant while out there in the yard, and also again once we got into the house – a fabulous science lesson.  You can totally do this with rocks as well, and get into discussing and sorting the features of the rocks, and create a rock collection box.

Once your basket or bucket is full, head inside and lay out your white butcher paper.  Set up your lamp and grab your magnifying glass and camera – the fun is about to begin!  Start laying out your objects on the paper.  You can talk about their shadows, their colors, examine them close up, and watch the paper closely with your magnifying glass as lots of teeny tiny little bugs will crawl off of the flowers and begin to explore your paper.  This is a fabulous time to talk about the features of the camera with your child – especially how to make it focus.  If your little one has shaky hands and you’re using a phone for your photos, work as a team – you hold the phone, let your little one select where on the screen to focus, and push the shutter button to snap the picture (that’s what we did).

Try laying your objects out in all different ways – you can get as creative as your child wants.  You could spell nature words with your objects, you could spell your child’s name, you could build something with your rocks, or you could just do random grouping nature shots.  Encourage your child to try holding the camera closer to an object and farther away to see the difference in the two shots.  How does the shadow look on the screen?  Can you move your camera to a different location to make the shadow longer or shorter?  Etc.  The possibilities with this activity are ENDLESS.  And totally repeatable!!  Just collect different objects each time, and you can do this activity over and over and over.

If you want to extend the activity further in the tech area and your child is really into it, you can easily upload your photos to your computer and check out www.picmonkey.com (totally not an affiliate link, I just love them so much and use their site for everything!).  Try making a collage of your photos together, or even play around with their favorite photo to make a sign for their bedroom door, an inspirational saying for their bathroom mirror, or add text to several of the photos to create a book that you can print out and stick in a 3 ring binder for them.  You could also do this activity throughout the seasons and use these photos instead of paintings for your 2016 calendar!  You could also add some math to this activity by measuring each flower and sorting them by length!  The possibilities of where you can go with this activity are truly limitless, and think of the OWNERSHIP your child will have in this project – and the fabulous opportunity to do something one on one with your child.  (I know I’m frequently looking for something special I can do with JUST Becca so that she feels special and grown up.  We did this while Grayson was napping.  If your younger child doesn’t nap anymore, you can easily have them go on the hunt with you and collect their own items in a separate basket, then give them white paper as well and let them play with the objects.  They could draw ovals around them with crayons, count their objects, and sort by color, just to give you a few ideas.)

Here are some of the beautiful pieces we came up with together:

apr 30 nature photography art

Jesus Loves Me

rejoice

Becca Door SignI am truly so excited about this activity, and I can’t wait to do it with her again with other objects and different flowers!!  I especially loved her root picture (she wasn’t that fond of it, but she loved examining the roots and playing with the shadows!)  IMG_8446

 

I hope that you will try this activity with your kids, and that you’ll SHARE your results on my Facebook page!!!  I would love to see what you are doing!!!  Check back next week – I’m hoping to get more posts up before then for the start of our next new month!!

Mini Engineering Challenges

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Here we are, once again, on the 2nd Thursday of the month!  I’m not quite sure where March went, to be perfectly honest with you!  But, we did some awesomely fun mini engineering challenges in March… so here are some new ideas for you to try with your little engineers!

apr 9 building w bristle buildersWe love our Bristle Blocks!  If you don’t have a set of these, you can definitely purchase them on Amazon here (Battat Bristle Blocks Basic 112 Piece Set Building Kit – affiliate link, thank you!).  Bristle blocks are fabulous for so many reasons, but Becca really enjoys the way they feel – as a sensory seeker, she will sit and rub these blocks while she’s thinking about where to put them.  They just feel really neat in her hands.  Many times, I just let her build whatever, but sometimes I’ll say “see if you can build a ______” and give her an idea.  It is fabulous to let your little engineer free play with blocks and building materials, but it’s also a wonderful idea to give her a specific task to focus on – it puts her brain into the mode of needing to solve a problem, and figure out how to best complete the task at hand.  So next time you get out the bristle blocks, try some of these fun things as building challenges:

  • boat
  • car
  • house
  • rocket
  • dinosaur
  • school

apr 9 construct a city

Becca loves to build cities.  Who knows, maybe someday she’ll be a civil engineer and work for some large city, or be an architect who designs skyscrapers.  I love that the sky is the limit for her.  And all of the activities we do encourage her to grow and play in new and different ways.  She loves the wooden blocks that my dad made for me when I was a kid, and she plays with them frequently.  (If you see the apples on some of them and wonder about that, check out this post from last fall about our Ten Apples Up on Top activity – she still enjoys doing that, and anytime I mention taking the apples off, she gets very defensive of the apples!  HA!)  But anyway, if your kids don’t have a wonderful set of wooden blocks, there are some fabulous ones available on Amazon – try this set: Melissa & Doug 60-Piece Standard Unit Blocks. (aff link, thank you!)

So when your kiddos are building with their wooden blocks, free, imaginative play is awesome, but you can also take it to a different level by creating a challenge for them – see if they can create a variety of structures.  Becca loves to build towers with her blocks, so I asked her one day, “well, how about if you build a city this time?”  (She typically builds cities only with her Duplos.)  She had so much fun creating roads and buildings and even decided where each person in our family would live and work, where the park and school and church were located… she really got detailed with it!  I would definitely encourage you to play blocks with your kids and challenge them to build a city!  See what fabulous ideas they come up with!

apr 9 creative play with straws

Becca loves straws.  She’s fascinated with them – not only in their function, but also in the various ways she can play with them.  The other day, she decided on her own that we could “probly” make a rainbow with them, but informed me “I’m gonna need some major help.”  So I obliged, gladly!  She knew the rainbow started with red on top, so we found all the red straws and laid them out, then we talked about each color and figured out how to place them inside of each other.  When she was done, she declared “George is the treasure under the rainbow!” and proudly placed him underneath.  That made me smile so big.  This girl has a heart of gold.  And she really does cherish her little friend.

Encourage your little engineer to play with straws.  Remember that building doesn’t always involve making a 3d structure – but also can be a fabulous 2d construction as well.  We’ve made several other straw pictures since then – we’ve built a house, a pirate ship, a dinosaur, some clouds, and an airplane.  I love how so many of the STEAM subject matters overlap each other!  This project is clearly engineering AND art… as is our next idea!

apr 9 mini create a firetruck

 

I’ve mentioned previously how much Becca LOVES the Amazon show, Creative Galaxy.  She watches it on her Kindle regularly.  She has seen each of the 9 episodes at least 9 times, if not 20.  In one of the shows between the shows (where real kids make art), they use recycled materials to build items.  One of the ideas they mention but don’t build is a fire truck.  So, Becca got it in her head that she wanted to build a fire truck!  She told me the materials she wanted to use to make it, and I obliged.  I held the hot glue gun, but she placed each item where she wanted it, and did the art work to draw the windows and headlights.  She even determined she wanted the ladder to stick up like it was going up to a house to help someone.  So, we figured out how to do the glue so that it would dry sticking up into the air.

I loved so much that she came up with this project on her own, and that I took the time to make it possible for her.  So many times it’s easy for us to hear an idea that our kids have and say there isn’t time, or we don’t have the supplies.  But this was a project that really benefited us both – I was amazed to see what she is capable of and how her brain works, and she was given a confidence boost because Mommy believed in her idea and helped her make it a reality!

What we used: an old puffs container, fruit pouch lids, straws, hot glue, Sharpee marker, scissors (she cut the straws into pieces – fabulous fine motor practice!)

I’d love to see your kids make items from recycled materials!  Please share your finished engineering feats on my Facebook page anytime and label them #engineeringrocks!

Looking for more engineering ideas for your kids?  Each month on the 2nd Thursday I post Mini Engineering Challenges!  Check out my Engineering page for links to my previous months, and visit next month for more new ideas including a Lego game your family is gonna love!

Text – to – Tech Connections

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Becca is a typical kid – she loves tv.  And we love Netflix – because so many of her favorite shows are available minus commercials.  One thing we’ve recently discovered also is that several of her favorite books are available as videos on Netflix, which brings them to life in a whole new way for her!  So – if you’ve got Netflix, take note of these videos – your kids are gonna love them.  Each book also includes an affiliate link to purchase a copy from Amazon in case it’s a book you don’t have in your library yet.  (Please note – I am not affiliated with Netflix – we just enjoy their services.)

Each one of these books is it’s own individual video – just find it by searching for the title.
Room on the Broom

The Gruffalo

The Gruffalo’s Child

The Snowy Day

The Man Who Walked Between the Towers

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These four books are all in one Eric Carle collection – that can be found by searching for the title “The Very Hungry Caterpillar.”

The Very Hungry Caterpillar

Papa, Please Get the Moon for Me

The Very Quiet Cricket

The Mixed-Up Chameleon

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Plus, check out these books that have become series’ that are also available on Netflix!

Guess How Much I Love You

Martha Speaks

Curious George

The Magic School Bus Inside the Human Body

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YouTube Channel Now Running!

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If you’re like us, we like to let Becca watch educational short videos from YouTube… but it gets frustrating when you’re constantly having to switch to the next video!  SO – I’ve created a channel on YouTube with playlists that include multiple videos under certain themes, so you can just set it to play without having to worry about the roll over.  Super convenient if you’re accessing YouTube on your tv, or handing your child your phone and wanting to know they are watching something that’s ok.

Right now it has a few groups of our favorite Story Bots videos, but over time I will begin to add more and more to it, and will frequently share updates on my Facebook page.  (Have you “liked” and “followed” my Facebook page yet?  Check it out here!)

So, click on over to my YouTube channel, and set it on your favorites so you can quickly find it when needed!  Enjoy!

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