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Parenting

Holiday gift ideas that are educational…and still fun!

By Anitra

This post may contain affiliate links.   Please see disclosure policy for more information.

 

Oh boy, it’s that time of year again…Christmas gift shopping time!  I know that many of you have probably already started (or even finished) your gift shopping, but there are many of you that haven’t started because you have no idea what to get your children.  There are many desirable toys out there right now, and trying to get your hands on the latest toy may be close to impossible.

 

As a mom, I understand how much you dread adding to your child’s already large collection of toys.  Toys that make noise, toys they begged for and no longer play with, toys that they haven’t played with in months, but if you try to throw them away or donate them, that will probably start World War III!!!

 

Sound familiar?…I had this happen to me over and over again; year after year.  Now that my girls are older, I don’t have to worry about this.  But for those of you who have younger children, I am here to help in your search for great gifts for your children that are educational, and yet, still fun!!!  Why not get them something that they can actually learn some valuable skills from?  The items on the list can educate your child in a variety of subjects; the body, rocks & minerals, geography, art appreciation, shapes, sorting, math, time, language, and one of my personal favorites, yoga! They are also for many ages, as young as birth and up to age 8!

 

As a mom and an educator, I tried to pick the best options that I would pick if my girls were still little.  I hope you enjoy my choices!

**Brief descriptions under products are from Montessori Services®, used with permission**

 

 

True-to-Life Human X-rays

Ages 5+

“Children can feel their bones from the outside through their skin and muscle. This x-ray set shows children what their bones actually look like. Showing the body’s outline around the skeleton, young children are able to relate the x-ray bones to visible body parts (arms, legs, etc.). Young children might assemble a 5′ 6″ skeleton with these x-rays or guess which body parts belong to which bones.” -Montessori Services®

 

 

Rock Science Kit

Ages 5+

“Children will learn to look for luster (the way a mineral reflects light) and hardness (measured on the Mohs scale), for example. This starter kit includes 15 numbered specimens that represent the full range of types of rocks, a small magnifier, and activity guide offering more test ideas for further study.”-Montessori Services®

 

 

Mineral Science Kit

Ages 5+

“Children will learn to look for luster, (the way a mineral reflects light), hardness (measured on the Mohs scale), and color (with a streak test) with this starter kit.  This kit includes 15 numbered specimens that represent the full range of types of minerals, a small magnifier, a nail and tile for testing, and activity guide offering more test ideas for further study.”-Montessori Services®

 

 

Shape Sorting Box

Ages 2+

“Toddlers love matching these simple blocks to the cutout shapes in the lid of the box. In fact, they love it so much they do it over and over!”-Montessori Services®

 

 

 

Yoga Pretzels Card Deck

Ages 4+

“Pick a card from any of nine categories and find an imaginative way to start your children bending, breathing, and stretching with yoga.  This mind/body practice develops children’s strength and flexibility, helps improve their concentration, and builds self-esteem. Engaging step-by-step illustrations show a playful, imaginative pose or activity on one side, with activity instructions or simple visualizations on the other. Try partner poses or choose a fun group game, such as “Yoga Pretzels.” The companion booklet helps any adult design a safe and fun practice for children.”-Montessori Services®

 

Beginner’s World Atlas

Ages 5-8

“Large, easy-to-read maps introduce youngsters to the world and each of its seven continents. Stunning photographs, carefully selected for their appeal, supplement the maps.” –Montessori Services®

 

 

Famous Paintings Cards

Ages 3+

“You’ll learn where Dali’s inspiration came from, why Magritte painted improbable scenes, how many dots are in a Seurat painting, and so much more.  These cards beg to be lingered over—looking at the painting on one side, reading the interesting facts on the back. Young children will enjoy the pictures; older ones will love the stories of the paintings and the artists; adults will find them engaging, too.”-Montessori Services®

 

 

Classic Judy Clock

Ages 4+

“The Judy Clock has movable hands and large, clear hour numbers on the face.  Grasp the knob on the minute hand to turn it and watch the visible, working gears simultaneously move the hour hand. Children clearly see that turning the minute hand one complete revolution causes the hour hand to move forward one hour.”-Montessori Services®

 

 

Sum Swamp

Ages 5+

“Take a skill-building journey through a whimsical land where adding and subtracting dice numbers determines your fate.  Players will master basic operations and learn about number relationships such as even and odd or “less than” and “greater than.”-Montessori Services®

 

 

Count Your Chickens

Ages 3-5

“All 40 baby chicks are out and the fox is loose. Young children will be eager to work together to collect the chicks. Picture-based play makes it easy for everyone to participate.  Spin the spinner, count the spaces together, and move the mother hen. Then return that many baby chicks to the safety of the coop.  A very appealing way to learn and reinforce counting skills.”-Montessori Services®

 

 

Happy Hats Beginning Reading Game

Ages 4+

“Play and read with your favorite characters from the popular Bob Books® series.  Children explore initial consonant and short vowel sounds as they form simple words. For each word they create, they collect a “Happy Hat.”  Includes board, 44 hat token, 40 word ending cards, 4 characters & stands, spinner, a word list, and complete instructions.”-Montessori Services®

 

 

My First Dictionary

Ages 5-8

“A brilliant bridge between a picture dictionary and a text-only dictionary! Early readers will find a picture clue alongside the definitions for words selected with early readers in mind.  Alphabetical listings help children look up and decipher unfamiliar words. Includes tips for parents and nine dictionary games.”-Montessori Services®

 

 

A few other great gift ideas…

Do you have a child that LOVES books?  Well, Scholastic has a wide selection of books that any child will love!!  Simply search by age, author, or title!

Scholastic Books 

Do you have a younger child or infant?  MontiKids provides quality, educational Montessori products for children birth to three years of age.  Check out their toy timeline, which gets more challenging as your child works their way through each level!  Materials sent directly to your home every three months!

MontiKids

 

 

These are some of my favorite products as an educator.  Many of these products I have even used before in my classroom, so I have first hand knowledge of how awesome they are!!  I hope that I helped you out with your shopping list for your littles, and I wish you a happy shopping season!!

 

Anitra

 

 

Sensorial

Fun & easy to make Flubber!

By Anitra

This post may contain affiliate links.  Please see disclosure policy for more information.

Young children benefit greatly from sensory experiences.  They use their senses to explore and discover the world around them.  Exposing children to tactile activities helps with the growth in physcial abilities, cognitive and language skills, and social and emotional development as well.  Tactile experiences are sometimes overlooked when educators prepare early childhood environments, but the importance of sensory/tactile experiences is something that should not be left out of a young child’s everyday learning activities.

There are many ways to add sensory/tactile experiences to your curriculum; playdough, water tables, sand tables, and shaving cream are just a few.  There are endless everyday items that can be used as sensory experiences for young children.

 

Looking for a fun and easy activity to add a tactile activity to your homeschool or classroom curriculum?  Make Flubber!

Flubber. Slime. Putty. Whatever you’d like to call it, it’s fun, ooey, gooey and is super easy to make!  There’s just one rule to making flubber…get your hands in it! Smush it, mush, squish it with your hands so that you can make sure it gets mixed well.  All you need is  three simple items, and you can make flubber in no time.  You will definitely be a hit with your own children or children in your classroom.

 

I have made this particular flubber for many, many years.  It is always a favorite in my classroom.  You can use cookie cutters with it, cut it, roll it, or spread it out…whatever you’d like!  It adds a little different element to tactile learning than playdough, and it is just as fun!  Below are the simple and easy steps to making your own flubber.

 

Making Flubber

 

Materials needed:

Purex Sta-Flo Liquid Starch

Elmer’s School Glue

Colorations Washable Tempera Paint (any color)

Bowl

1 cup measuring spoon

1 teaspooon measuring spoon

Silicone spatula (optional)

 

                      

 

 

STEP ONE:

Measure out 1 cup of Purex Sta-Flo Liquid Starch into the measuring spoon.  Pour into the bowl.

 

                           

 

STEP TWO:

Measure 1 cup of Elmer’s School Glue into the measuring spoon.  Pour into bowl with liquid starch.

 

 

STEP THREE:

Measure 2 teaspoons of Colorations Washable Tempera Paint into the mixture in the bowl.  (I chose orange to go with the Fall theme).

 

                    

 

 

 

STEP FOUR:

Using spatula and or your hand, mix everything together.  Keep mixing until all of the liquid starch, glue, and paint are blended well.

               

 

 

 

STEP FIVE:

Next, take the flubber mixture and place it into a ziploc bag.  It is normal for it to be very wet and stringy, so don’t worry.  Once it is in the bag, you can mix it a little more by squishing it and mushing it.

 

 

The flubber will need time to sit and form.  You will need to let it sit for at least a few hours, maybe longer.  You want it to not be super wet, and for all of the liquid starch and glue to be as one.  If it is still stringy and really wet, let it sit for awhile longer.  Keep the flubber stored in the ziploc bag in between uses.  Flubber lasts anywhere from two to four weeks, depending on how often it is used.  Use your discretion on if you feel the flubber should be thrown out.

 

Flubber is an easy, fun, and simple way that you can add a great tactile element to your curriculum.  It’s awesome for adults too!!

 

Enjoy!

Anitra

 

 

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Classroom Content Practical Life

4 fine motor activities for fun and development

By Anitra

Fine motor development is an important skill that children will need in all aspects of their development.  Fine motor skills aid in the development of the small muscles in their hands, fingers, and thumbs.  The development of these skills help a child with correct pencil grip, writing; and such activities as buttoning, zipping, and tying.  From a young age, young children naturally use their whole hand to grasp, grab and pick up items.  Their small hands need practice developing dexterity and strength frequently.  There are many activities that can be introduced in your classroom or homeschool, and even during play time.  In a Montessori primary classroom, there are many areas that include the inclusion of fine motor activities.  In the Language area, there are the Metal Insets.  In the Math area, there is the one to ten hanging beads.  In the Sensorial area, there are the knobbed cylinders.  The most prominent area of the classroom where most fine motor activities are introduced is the Practical Life area.  The Practical Life area is an area where the teacher can use her creativity and personality to add activities to the classroom.  Most of the the other areas in a Montessori classroom have very specific work that is customary and standard.  There are some opportunities to add to other areas of the classroom, but in the Practical Life area, you can be as creative as you would like.  One of my favorite areas in a Montessori primary classroom is the Practical Life area.  I have integrated various activities in my Practical Life area over the years; I have added to my list of works, and have done away with a few as well.  The list of activities for the development of fine motor skills are currently activities in use in my classroom and are favorites of the children.  All of the items used in each of these activities use inexpensive items.

4 activities that promote fine motor development

 

1. Cutting practice

I have 4 cutting practice activities set up daily.  I use hot dog trays and matching scissors.  I have a cutting strip of either dotted or solid line in each tray along with an envelope.

Procedure: Select a tray, and cut along the lines.  Once all of the lines have been cut, they can put their cutting strips into the provided envelope, and it can be taken home.  The tray then gets returned to the shelf.  Throughout the morning work time, I just replenish the cutting strips and envelopes as needed.

 

2. Single hole punching

I have a basket of 3×3 squares of printer paper cut.  I then have 3 small bowls with a single whole puncher in them.

Procedure: Select a bowl, and get a  paper square.  Hole punch the paper over the bowl, and once complete, they empty the paper holes in the trash and can keep the paper with the holes in it.  The bowl is then returned to the shelf.

 

3. Tweezing peas   

I have a tray of peas, two small, clear bowls, and a pair of tweezers.

Procedure: A child will use the tweezers to transfer all of the peas from one bowl to the other.  This work actually takes patience, and it takes awhile to complete.  Sometimes the peas are a little hard to pick up, but I like that it adds a little difficulty to the work.

 

4. Pin Poking

A tray containing a giant push pin, a push pin pad, and a small bowl for the pin to sit in. This work is one of the favorites of the children!  When it is first introduced, I go over the importance of keeping the poking pin in the bowl when not in use, as well as how to properly use the pin poking so that no one gets hurt.

Procedure: There are two of each pin poking trays.  The children pick a paper with a shape to poke and once complete, they bring it to the teacher to help with getting the shape out.  This work can be fun; I use metal inset shapes, shapes related to various holidays, or pick things that go with what we are learning for the week.

 

The most important thing to remember is to develop and enforce safety rules and procedures while giving the lesson on each activity.  Also be sure that you reinforce the safety rules and procedures as well.  Each of these activities can be easily incorporated or even modified to fit into any classroom or homeschool.

Anitra

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Science

5 easy science experiments to try in a preschool classroom

By Anitra

This post may contain affiliate links.  Please see the disclosure policy for more information.

Science is an everyday part of our lives.  It is all around us, and it is important for young children to be given the opportunity to explore, test, and experiment with science.  When considering implementing science experiments into a preschool classroom, there are many things to consider.  Is it safe? Is there a way to get the children’s involvement? What are age appropriate experiments? It is important to consider the age of the children, their developmental levels, and their ability to follow directions and listen to instructions.  Early preparation and planning is a key factor in how successful implementing science experiments into a preschool classroom will be.  Depending on the ages and developmental levels of each of the young children in your classroom, that will determine how simple or complex each of the experiments are.  Examples could include simple machines, color mixing, making sugar crystals, and volcano making. I have compiled a list of science experiments that are age and developmentally appropriate; and were successful in their implementation.

 

5 science experiments for young children

1. Cleaning pennies

Materials:

pennies, salt, vinegar, water, towels

Procedure:

Children can put a spoonful of salt into the a bowl of vinegar and then mix well.  They then place in the pennies. Wait for about 15 seconds, take out pennies and set in bowl of water. Dry off  the “clean” pennies.

 

2.  Vortex

Materials:

2 empty 2 liter soda bottles, electrical tape, water, food coloring

Set-up:

Fill one of the 2 liter bottles with water and about 4 drops of food coloring.  Using the electrical tape, and tape the second 2 liter bottle to the top.

Procedure:

The children will learn how a vortex works by turning the apparatus upside down and twirling it around in their hands.

 

 

3. Static

Materials:

Balloons, rice cereal, tray

Procedure:

Using already blown up balloons, have the children rub the balloon onto a tray of rice cereal.  Then have  them see how the static electricity on the balloon to reacts.

 

 

 

 

 

 

4. Color absorption

Materials:

Clear cups, food coloring, water, white carnations

Procedure:

Have a cup for each flower and add water to each.  Put about 4 to 6  drops of food coloring in each cups.  Within a few hours, you will begin to see the color absorb through the stem of the flower and onto the petals.

 

 

5. Slime

Materials:

Elmer’s school glue, washable paint, and Liquid starch

Procedure:

Mix equal parts school glue, liquid starch, and about 2 ounces of washable paint. Mix well. Let sit for about an hour.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Each of these science experiments were fun, easy, and encouraged the children to use their problem solving, observation, and abstract thinking skills. Use these activities as a way of a first introduction into the world of science, and open the children’s minds into a lifelong love of science!

Anitra

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