Friday, July 29, 2011

Recycled Boat


Got cardboard, a couple empty plastic bottles, an egg carton and a stick? Then you’re ready to make a boat! When I saw this idea on GreenKidCrafts.com, I knew we HAD to try it. After a trip to the yard and garage for some supplies, all we had to do was fire up our hot glue gun and we were ready to embark on our boating adventure.

Because this project is all about turning something unusual into a boat, we started the activity with a book about a boy who fills the bathtub a little too full. My son read Janie Spaht Gill’s “The Tub That Became a Boat,” a predictable word book, with ease.

Then I read to him Richard Scarry’s “Busytown Boat Race,” another book about silly boats made from all sorts of unpredictable things. (My favorite is the mice’s swiss cheese sailboat!)

Now it was time to start on a project I knew would really float my son’s boat. (Yes, I do love a cheesy, well-placed pun.) I cut a box of diapers (courtesy of our youngest son) into two cardboard shapes – one in a square, the other in a triangle (for our sail). I poked holes in the “sail” so he could thread the stick through.

My son painted the cardboard sail with acrylic craft paint.

Then I drew two parallel lines on the bottom of the cardboard square and supervised my son in the use of a hot glue gun. (Note: NEVER let your child use this tool without your guidance. The burns can be wicked!) We placed our Gatorade bottles (with caps on) on top of the glue. Next we glued on part of an egg carton, threaded the stick through the sail, and poked the stick through the egg carton and down through the cardboard base.

The only thing left to do was set sail (in our bathtub). When we tested it out, my son rather matter-of-factly explained to me that the bottles were filled with air, which is why it floated. Holy cow, he remembered that little nugget of info from our Will it Float or Sink activity!

My son had fun adding a few bathtub squirty toys to the boats’ egg carton seats. (Can you see Sandman taking a ride in the picture up above?)

To wrap up our boating activity (or should I say “expedition?”), I read Tony Mitton and Ant Parker’s book “Busy Boats,” which introduced us to all different types of boats.


Happy sailing!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Friend vs. Foe Beetle Tic-Tac-Toe

“There’s a bug in the house!” yelled my son as he pointed at the window. Ugh! It was big, too. But luckily, it wasn’t in the house. Unfortunately, though, the insect clinging to our window screen was a Japanese Beetle. (They’ve invaded our neighborhood but, thankfully, our trees, plants, and bushes seem to be holding their own against their insatiable appetite.) The only thing these pests are good for is inspiring a science lesson and craft, so that’s just what I created.

My son and I looked online to find out what we were up against.  We also talked about beetles and learned that while the Japanese Beetle seemed to have no redeeming qualities, the ladybug (also in the beetle family) does.

I read him Denise Fleming’s “Beetle Bop,” a whimsical fiction book whose rhyming text talked about all the different colors and types of beetles.

Then it was time to get our craft on. The day before, I had mixed 1 cup of Plaster of Paris powder and water. Then my son and I filled plastic spoons. We tapped the bottom of the spoons on the counter to release any air bubbles and level out the plaster (so we could glue magnets on the back later).

After an hour, the plaster had dried enough to be released from its spoon molds. A full day later, they were completely dry and ready to paint. (Check out Disney’s Family Fun site to see where this idea originated from.) Using acrylic craft paint, we painted five of the plaster shapes like Japanese Beetles and five like ladybugs. Truthfully, we painted a total of 12; my son wanted to keep painting, so we made a few extras too! I used a black Sharpie marker to add some details (e.g. a line down the bugs’ backs between the “wings,” antennae, etc.) and dipped the opposite end of the paint brush in white paint to make dots for eyes. To make the ladybug’s big black dots, we dipped a pencil eraser in black paint.


When dry, we attached magnets to the back. I used a black Sharpie permanent marker and ruler to draw a Tic-Tac-Toe board onto a paint can lid.


Now, it was time to play Beetle Tic-Tac-Toe … or shamelessly get beat. (If only the real Japanese Beetles in our yard were as easy to beat as I am!)

Monday, July 25, 2011

Making Nautical Fraction Flags


When my son came home from his math summer camp with a table of fractions in his backpack, I thought, “Really?” Could a soon-to-be first-grader really comprehend fractions? Why not? To supplement whatever my son had picked up in this classroom of multi-aged kiddos, I decided to whip up some fractions of our own.

I was inspired by nautical flags. They’re geometry was perfect for a lesson in fractions! To prep for the activity I bought five colors of fabric, some muslin, Pellon Wonder-Under, and a package of four square cork bulletin boards. I attached the Wonder-Under to my colored fabrics and cut each into shapes to match the patterns on four nautical flags that demonstrated the fractions 1/2, 1/3, 1/4, and 1/8. I cut the muslin into squares bigger than my cork boards.

Then I ran freezer paper that I’d cut to 8 ½ by 11 inches through my printer and printed some labels. (You can download the labels here.) If you’ve ever worked with freezer paper, you know that its waxy side will temporarily adhere to fabric when pressed with an iron set to medium-high heat. I cut the shaped labels out and ironed them onto my fabric shapes.

When it came time to start our lesson in fractions, we read Loreen Leedy’s “Fraction Action.” This book has great illustrations and told the story of a teacher whose pupils have to come up with real-life examples of fractions (e.g. a sandwich cut in half, a flag with three stripes, etc.).

Then I handed my son all those fabric shapes and asked him to sort them into four piles by their labels. Once this was done, I asked him which of the piles had the biggest shapes and asked him to put the two triangles together to make a whole square. I showed him that the bottom number in the fraction 1/2 was two and that’s why there are two shapes that make up a whole.

He peeled the paper backing from the Wonder-Under off of the triangles and positioned them on the muslin. I ironed to bond them together.

Then we moved on to the 1/3 flag with three stripes, the 1/4 flag with four cubes, and lastly, the 1/8 flag with eight triangles; this last one required several looks at the sheet of nautical flags I’d printed to get the configuration right.

After each was ironed, we reviewed the fractions again before he peeled off the fraction labels.

His fraction flags were beautiful! I used spray adhesive to glue the flags to the cork bulletin boards and 3M Command Picture-Hanging strips to hang them on his bedroom wall. Now he can review his fractions any time he wants from his very own bed.


NOTE: Only adults should apply spray adhesive and when doing so, carefully follow the can’s instructions. That stuff is super sticky but also quite toxic.


For other great math ideas, visit Love2Learn2day's Math Monday blog hop!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Nature Scavenger Hunt

Two days ago when I picked my oldest son up from summer camp, his little brother and I found a small toad in the yard outside the school. We stopped and gawked for quite awhile. As we walked into the building, I turned back to see parents and children coming and going, oblivious to that small magical creature hidden in the grass.

To teach my children one of the most important lessons I’ve learned in my adult life – that there is beauty all around us, all you have to do is look – I wanted to put together a nature scavenger hunt.

In order to put the game cards together, we headed out for an early morning walk on a nearby trail. I told my son to find some cool stuff. It was an easy assignment. He found everything from a seed pod shaped like an “S” (a natural letter) to a ladybug and wild berries. I kept my camera clicking. Unfortunately, I wasn’t fast enough to catch the orioles we saw – these were the only ones I’ve ever seen in our neighborhood and they were amazing!

When we got home, I supplemented my own photography with beautiful images from FreeNaturePictures.com, an incredible site with lots of pictures for free download. With the addition of just a few clip art photos, we were ready to make our game cards.

I used Picnik online and Microsoft Publisher. Well, I shouldn’t really say “I." I had some help. My oldest son loved dragging and dropping the images into the collage template and hitting “shuffle.” Some of the things in the hunt are big (such as an owl); other things are small (like a spider). I made four cards, two per page. You can download the PDF file for free here

TIP: Make them reusable!
Print, cut, laminate, and give your child a dry-erase marker to check off which nature discoveries they find. Once you both start looking, I think you’ll be amazed at all the wonderful things you would have missed otherwise!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Rainbows: Eat and Learn

Unfortunately, we had a wet spring and up until about three weeks ago, our summer weather was on the same trajectory. Nobody was happy about it. While we were stuck inside watching the rain, I cooked up this colorful weather-related activity. 

First, my son read Dana Meachen Rau’s wonderful non-fiction book called, “Rainbows (Wonders of Nature).” Then I gave him a pair of scissors and a worksheet.

Download this curious question puzzle here.

The words inside white boxes made up the question; the words in yellow boxes comprised the answer. My son cut and moved the words around until the rainbow-related fact was unscrambled.

QUESTION: What two things do you need to make a rainbow?
ANSWER: You need sunlight shining through drops of water.

The curious question activity was something I found in "The Everything Kids' Dinosaur Book" by Kathi Wagner and Sheryl Racine and adapted for this subject matter.

While we waited for our own rainbow outside, we whipped up some rainbow cupcakes. These are so easy and super fun. Simply follow the directions on the back of a white or yellow cake mix box. Divide the batter evenly and add food coloring.


This is a great opportunity to talk about primary colors and how to make secondary colors (e.g. red and blue food coloring can be added to make purple). Spoon some of each colored batter into lined muffin tins. Bake according to the box’s instructions.

Cool. Frost. Share. Impress.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Reading a Treasure Map

When my son mastered reading a grid during the Crayon Word Roll activity, I was inspired to test his map-reading skills further. His interest in pirates is still strong so I knew a treasure hunt would excite him.


This activity combined reading clues and a map, all cleverly disguised in a hunt for an inexpensive puzzle treasure.


I drew a floorplan of our house and printed a grid over the top (download the grid I used here). 

Then I wrote five clues that lead him to various places on the map. I gave him the following to start:
You’re hunting for a treasure.
A treasure you will find.
Look at the map. Read the clues.
You’ll have to use your mind.

Go to C5 to begin.
If you get tired, have a seat.
While there, you may even find a treat.

Each of the hidden clues was folded inside of a small cardboard box with a treasure chest sticker on the outside. The first box also contained a piece of candy.

From one clue to the next, he made his way all around our house, getting closer to the treasure until it was found. 


My son L-O-V-E-D this activity! The only thing he struggled with was quelling his excitement enough to slow down and sound out the words in the clues. 


ARRrrr, mateys! This is an excellent way to trick your child into reading!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Hard and Soft C Song and Sort

When my son reads the word “face,” he almost always says “fake.” Figuring out when to use the hard and soft c can be difficult. Before we started our activity, we watched Sean Kingston’s “Two Ways to Say C” performance from Electric Company on YouTube.


Not only is Kingston’s song catchy, but it’s helpful too. The following lyrics are proof:
When the c is hard, it sounds just like a k …
When the c is soft it sounds just like an s …
Now if a c comes before an e, i, or y,
That is when you know to give the softer c a try …
And when the c comes before an l, r, or t,
You probably want to use the harder sounding c.

After we listened and danced a little, I gave my son a Venn diagram and some lick-and-stick words that started with and/or contained the letter c. (Download the Two Ways to Say C Venn Diagram and word list here.)


We made the lick-and-stick words a few days earlier, with instructions from I Can Teach My Child. I cut a piece of freezer paper to 8 ½ by 11 inches and printed our words on it. (I used freezer paper to prevent the liquid from seeping through and smearing my ink-jet printed words.) Then I dissolved 1 tablespoon of grape jello (pick the flavor of your liking) in 2 tablespoons of boiling water. 

Once the mixture had cooled, I handed my son a sponge brush and he “painted” the back (i.e. waxy side) of the printed words. I let it dry thoroughly before cutting out the words. 



With a little help pronouncing the words, my son was able to sort which words made the hard c sound (e.g. car, camel, candy), which made the soft c sound (i.e. city, cereal, price), and which made both (e.g. circle, concert, circus). All he had to do was remember the rules from the “Two Ways to Say C” song, figure out where to put them on the Venn Diagram, and lick 'em and stick 'em.


While the stickers aren't a necessity, I think the grape-flavored words certainly added to my son's enjoyment of the activity. What a tasty way to learn about hard and soft c!




Looking for some great books to help your child master the two sounds of c? Check out these by Joanne Meier and Cecilia Minden:
Carrie's Surprise (The Sound of Hard C)
Cindy, Cedric, and the Circus (The Sound of Soft C)

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Snow in July

Really? You betcha! In my experience, thinking about snow when the humidity is high and temps are even higher is the only good time to ponder winter weather. Besides, what kid wouldn't love two attempts [clearing throat] ... ur ... I mean experiments to make snow, reading a few fun books, and then having our own "snowball" fight?

To kick things off, we took turns reading the following fiction books: 
  1. Lost in the Snow, a Magic School Bus Level 2 Scholastic Reader by Joanna Cole
  2. I Love Snow by Hans Wilhelm (My son read this Level 1 reader himself.)
  3. The Biggest Snowball Fight! By Angela Shelf Medearis (Get ready for some giggles! This is a funny one.)

Then, we got busy making "snow" from a bar of ivory soap. Check out this Steve Spangler science video to see what we did (and how cool it was).




While it looked like snow, it didn’t feel (or smell) like it. We moved on to our second attempt, using Insta-Snow Powder, which I bought at an educational toy store that just opened (I like to support local business and it was only about $4). Just add water, watch, and be amazed! It felt more like snow but still wasn’t the real deal. We talked about the differences between winter snow and our Insta-Snow.
 

To wrap up our fun, I raided my son’s sock drawer and grabbed as many balled up white athletic socks as my arms could hold. My son claimed the spot behind our living room couch as his fort; I was left out in the open to get pummeled by our “snow balls.” His aim has obviously improved since last winter. At least they weren’t as cold and wet as the real thing! 


What fun!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Marshmallow Math (Counting 1s, 10s, and 100s)

Math is so much more fun when you can eat it. I learned this little lesson when we did Let’s Go Fishing (Snacktime Subtraction) with peanut butter, goldfish crackers, and pretzel sticks. For this activity, I was banking on my son adding (not eating) the marshmallows. It took a little convincing, but when I promised he could eat some after we were done, he was game.

I used three sizes of marshmallows – small, large, and those crazy jumbo-sized ones. The little marshmallows had a value of one, the large ones had a value of ten, and the big honkin’ ones were worth 100. I explained this to my son and gave him an answer sheet with this key at the top.


I started by giving him just three little marshmallows and asking him to add them up. Simple. Then I added some large-sized marshmallows. Lastly I added some of the biggest marshmallows. At first my son was adding them (i.e. 100, 200 … 210, 220 … 221, 223, 224). I gave my son a 1-100 numbers grid to use in case he needed it; he didn't (yahoo!).

Then I explained that when you have a number in the hundreds, the number will have three digits. I made three lines on his answer sheet and asked him how many jumbo marshmallows were on the table. “Two,” he said. I told him to write it on the first line. Next I asked how many large marshmallows were there. “Two.” He added this to the second line. Finally, I asked how many little marshmallows (i.e. ones) there were. “Four.” Now he had the answer: 224.


We ran through a number of problems, with answers that ranged from 22 to 955. To wrap up our activity, I put three jumbo marshmallows and two little ones in front of him. I could see him thinking this through before he added three lines and wrote 302. “That’s right! There are no tens so you write a zero in that spot. Great job!”

To reward him for all that hard work, I whipped up some rice krispie treats. What else am I gonna do with all those marshmallows? MMMMmmm. (I’m really starting to like these math activities!)

Want to download the Marshmallow Math answer sheet? A free download is available here.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

The Magic of Silent E

Words ending in a silent e are tricky. If I had a nickel for every time my son mispronounced them, I’d be one rich lady. To help him practice several of these words, I wrote a story about a magical wizard who leaves his trusty letter wand with a child for safe keeping. When a friend comes to play and the wand is pulled down off the child’s shelf, amazing things start to happen: a family pet turns into Pete and stuffed animal bear cub transforms into a cube.

The story has several blank boxes, into which my son had to find the right words to glue in order to complete the story.

Before my son started working on the book, we talked about how silent e changes the way letters sound, how the e in race makes the a say its name (i.e. it makes the “aye” sound, not the “ah” sound). Then, because my son desperately needs practice using scissors, I had him cut out the words he’d be gluing into the book.


He sorted the words, finding the two that matched – one without the e and the same word with an e on the end (e.g. cap and cape, hug and huge, Tim and time). He read these words and then we started the story.

I read the first page and had him write a friend’s name of his choice into the story. From then on, we read the pages together (I helped him when necessary and gave hints when he had trouble). He used the picture prompts and beginning letter clues to help choose the right words to complete the story.


When it was done, he colored the wands and wizard, told me he couldn't wait to share his new book with Dad, and hopped on the computer to play Magic “e” Adventures, a free online reading game on Fun4TheBrain.com.

Download a free PDF of “The Magic of Silent e” book and Word List I made here. Simply cut the pages in half horizontally and staple along the left side.

For another great book about the amazing transformation that occurs when words have a silent e on the end, check out “Here Comes Silent E!” by Anna Jane Hays.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Backyard Rock Classification


The soil in our yard is filled with rocks. While my husband and I found this frustrating, our sons were overjoyed. During multiple weekends adding landscaping beds to our backyard, the boys occupied themselves picking up rocks from the freshly turned dirt. Being the geeky mother that I am, I seized the opportunity to use my sons’ growing rock collection as an educational activity.

I hit the local library in search of books about rocks, but was discouraged by the overly technical details most contained. The non-fiction available there was WAY beyond my son’s understanding. I did grab Melinda Lilly’s “Read and Do Science: Rocks” book, though. It provided a brief explanation of the three types of rocks (igneous, metamorphic, and sedimentary). I also read "Let's Go Rock Collecting" by Roma Gans to my son before he began sorting, measuring, and studying his own rock collection.

I instructed my son to pick eight rocks of varying shapes, colors, and sizes from his stash. Then I gave him a ruler and a rock classification worksheet I’d made. He wrote the numbers one through eight on sticky notes and we placed each rock on top, to keep them straight.

Download a copy of this worksheet here.

Then one by one my son examined each rock. What color is it? Is it shiny or dull? Rough or smooth? How long is it? Does it look like metal or glass? When he’d made check marks or filled in the appropriate boxes on his chart, we moved the rocks (and sticky notes) around on the table, putting them in order biggest to smallest and wrote the corresponding numbers at the bottom.


I planned this activity to teach my son about observation, but instead the lesson ended up being more about characteristics and measuring. It never occurred to me when I prepped for this, that my son wouldn’t know what shiny and dull meant or how to read a ruler (aside from the big numbers).

So what did I learn from this? That sometimes the best kind of learning is accidental.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Brown Baggin' It: A Touch-and-Feel Game

Too many worksheets make for one uncooperative boy. It’s easy to get in a rut. Ask a soon-to-be-first-grader and they’ll tell you: ruts are NOT fun. To mix it up, I put together a guessing game for my son that I discovered in “Rainy Days and Saturdays” by Linda Hetzer.

I labeled brown lunch sacks with the numbers one through 10. Then I ran around the house and collected 10 objects (e.g., an apple, crayon, flip-flop sandal, etc.) when my son was out of the house, stuffed one object in each bag, and stapled the top shut. When he got home, the fun began. I gave him the bags to feel and guess what was inside. 

A scotch tape dispenser is the same shape as a snail. I had never noticed this before, but my son sure did. (Clever, huh?)

He listed the guesses on a page of his spiral notebook.


When he finished touching, smashing, and squeezing each bag, he opened them and wrote down each of the objects in the second column next to his guesses.


My son only guessed one object correctly and he was disappointed. I told him that we sure rely on our eyes a lot to tell us what things are; he agreed. I applauded his creative guesses and his mood changed from deflated to proud.

I have a feeling we’ll be playing this little game again sometime.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Counting Money with Coin Caterpillars


My son just wrapped up a four-week math summer camp and loved it (he clearly has his father’s genes). One of the things his teacher mentioned that he should continue to work on was counting money. Imagine my glee when that very same day Miss Kindergarten shared an amazing activity and printable on counting coins on her blog. (Yes, I do believe in fate.) Her Coin Caterpillars idea was EXACTLY what we needed!

Rather than just hand my son some pocket change and her worksheet, I decided to make some caterpillar faces so we could create caterpillar problems to do now and later.

To make the caterpillar faces:
  1. I traced a quarter onto construction paper and an empty cardboard cracker box I pulled out of our recycle bin and cut them out. 
  2. I cut and bent a pipe cleaner in the shape of a “V” and hot glued it to the cardboard circle. 
  3. I added glue on top and put the construction paper circle over it, sandwiching the pipe cleaner in the middle. 
  4. Then I laid a pencil over the pipe cleaner and wrapped both ends around the pencil to make the squiggly antennae.
  5. All that was left to do was glue on some googly eyes and draw a smile.


To make his coin caterpillars, I asked him to pick several coins and line them up in a row with a caterpillar face at the beginning. Underneath he wrote the values of the coins and then used a 1-100 numbers grid to count forward (i.e. add the values together).

So cute. So fun. And such good practice. Thank you, Miss Kindergarten!


Find this idea and loads of other great math activities listed on love2learn2day's Math Monday blog hop here.

Friday, July 8, 2011

How to Make a Thinking Cap


“But, Mom, what about the brain?!?!” was my son’s question when we finished his human organs tee shirt. Truth be told, I thought that we’d just read up on the brain and add what we learned to his Body Book (visit this post for links to download the Body Book pages free). But, ohhhh no, that wasn’t going to cut it for my son. Apparently I’d set the bar too high with our other human body-related activities. (I have no one to blame but myself.)

Frantically searching the web for a fun craft to do, I found the Brain Child blog. Hallelujah! This incredible site had the perfect activity to cap off (excuse the corny pun) our lessons on the human body.

Before we got crafty, we read Pamela Hill Nettleton’s book “Think, Think, Think: Learning about Your Brain.” It taught us what the three parts of your brain are used for:
  • The cerebrum helps you think.
  • The cerebellum helps you move.
  • The brain stem keeps your heart and lungs working.

Now it was time for my son to make his very own thinking cap!

What we used:
A can of Great Stuff foam sealant (cost: approximately $4)
Lots of aluminum foil
Disposable gloves (a pair for you AND a pair for your child)
Protective eyewear
A disposable bowl that fits your son/daughter’s head
Waxed paper


What we did:
  1. I covered the top of my son’s head in aluminum foil. I’d recommend finding a bowl that’s a snug fit and covering it completely with foil. If you omit the bowl, use LOTS of foil to make your foiled hat thick and stiff. This will serve as a permanent base for your "brain."
  2. After we removed the foil form, we put on gloves and eyewear and sprayed the foam sealant, covering our foil hat completely. Before handing over the can, I showed my son how to make folds like what you’d see in the cerebrum. 
  3. We set our “brain” on top of waxed paper to dry, threw out the gloves, and gave each other a high-five. “That was cool, Mom,” my son said. I agreed!
  4. I checked the brain cap a few hours later and as it was drying, gently pulled the waxed paper away from the bottom where it was sticking. Then I turned it over since the top was dry, letting the bottom dry thoroughly overnight.


Note: We did this in our garage with the door open so there was plenty of ventilation. While the sealant’s can didn’t give this warning, I thought it best to control the mess and protect our brains.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Paint-Your-Organs Shirt and Printable Body Book

When the skeleton activity was such a hit with my son, I knew that it was time to move on to discuss some of the organs in the human body. I created a printable book for my son to record what he learned and planned six days of exploring organs. (Thank you, library, for all the wonderful resources!)

Each day we read about an important organ in our torso: lungs, heart, liver, stomach, intestines, and kidneys and bladder (we lumped these last two into one activity).


We used the following books in our exploration of the human body:
Breathe In, Breathe Out: Learning About Your Lungs” by Pamela Hill Nettleton
Hear Your Heart” by Paul Showers
Thump-Thump: Learning About Your Heart” by Pamela Hill Nettleton
My Digestive System: An Exciting Way to Learn about your Body” by Sally Hewitt
Human Organs” by Kristi Lew
What’s Inside Me? My Stomach” by Dana Meachen Rau
See inside Your Body by Katie Daynes and Colin King


After reading up, we conducted a few other fun activities like:
  • Using an empty paper towel tube to listen to each other's hearts.
  • Making smoothies in a blender to simulate the stomach mushing up food.
  • Pouring four cups of water into glasses to show how much urine the bladder can hold. 
  • Pulling a measuring tape out to 12 feet to show the length of a child's small intestine.

Once we'd read enough to be in awe of our body's organs and their capabilities, my son recorded the important work the organ we explored is doing in his Body Book. (To make your own body book, download pages 1-3 front and pages 1-3 back, as well as assembly instructions.)






Finally, he added the organ to a tee shirt using freezer paper stencils, fabric paint, and a sponge brush. 

The human organ shapes are also available for free download. These were designed to fit on a child's size small tee shirt. Click on each of the links below to print.

Just download, print, place behind a piece of freezer paper and trace the shape with an Exacto knife to cut out. Iron the paper waxy side down onto a pre-washed cotton tee shirt using medium-high heat. Place a piece of cardboard inside the shirt to prevent the paint from bleeding through. Paint, dry, and peel off the paper. Heat set each organ before painting the next one. For a tutorial on using freezer paper stencils, click here.


Help your child finish their Body Book by learning about the brain. Visit the "How to Make a Thinking Cap" post for instructions on how to make a brain hat to wear with the organs tee shirt!

Monday, July 4, 2011

Paper Airplane Competition

For Father’s Day, I took the suggestion of a fellow blogger at Modern Kids Messy Parents and ordered my husband the book “Handy Dad” by Todd Davis. I’m not sure who spent more time oohing and awing over the projects in its pages: my oldest son or his father.

Last weekend, they embarked on the first of the book’s projects: a paper airplane. Ever since, my son has been fascinated. He even asked me if one of our activities could be paper airplanes. Who am I to say no?

I found an amazing website that provided great free written and animated instructions to make 10 airplanes (check out 10paperairplanes.com). With a little help from me, my son made five of the planes – the arrow, dart, stealth (in progress pictured below), moth, and kite.

I had some scrapbooking papers lying around, so we used those. After each was made, he labeled the planes with their names and listed them in his notebook. When all five were done, I taped a ruler to the ground (the starting line) and he flew them.

The competition was fierce to see which would fly the farthest. Some of the planes that looked the fastest weren’t. Others curved and swooped. It was like having a front-row seat at our own private air show!

I gave him a measuring tape so he could measure the distance each flew and record the number (in inches) next to the plane’s name in his notebook. Once the competition was over, I asked him to figure out how the planes had placed.

I asked questions like, “Is it a good thing if the plane flew a little ways or a long ways? Would the number be big or small if it flew a long ways? Which number is the biggest?” He wrote the numbers one through five next to the plane’s name to indicate who’d placed first, second, third, etc. And then he played with his new planes for a solid 30 minutes before a growling stomach distracted him.

Next time it’s raining and you just can’t listen to another “Moooommmm, I’m SO bored,” grab some paper and help your child make paper airplanes!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Studying (and Making) Our Own Skeleton

The human body is so cool. To kick off some lessons related to our anatomy, I thought we’d read up on bones. Our first book was “Bones” by Stephen Krensky. Even though it’s a step 2 Step Into Reading book, I read it to my son. This non-fiction book talked about bones at my son’s level and I was thrilled to have found it at our local library.

Afterwards, I gave my son a skeleton puzzle. (Well, that’s what I called it, anyway.) I downloaded these great bone cut-outs from The Crafty Crow website, then printed, cut out, and punched holes in them. All that was left to do was assemble. My son was up to the challenge.

Right away, he grabbed the skull and ribs (I reminded him what these bones were called) and he taped them together. Then he attached the pelvis with one of the brads I’d set out.


Now, he was stumped. Then I reminded him of what we’d learned in Krensky’s book: that the longest bones in our body are in our legs! That was just the hint he needed to push on. It wasn’t long before the whole skeleton was assembled.

When he asked me why we were using brads instead of tape to connect the bones, I reminded him about joints and showed him how we’d walk if we couldn’t bend our knees.

After our skeleton was complete, my son read Jo Cleland’s non-fiction book, “Why Do I Have Bones?” The repetitive phrases and simple words made this book ideal for my almost-six-year-old son to read on his own.

To wrap up our lesson on bones, we watched “The Skeleton Dance” on YouTube.


I wonder how long I’ll have “Dem Bones, dem bones, dem bones, dem dancing bones …” stuck in my head!

This is a great activity for young learners and the books we used were instrumental and age-appropriate for kindergarteners or first graders. They helped teach my son lots of fun facts about the human skeleton. A few hours after we'd completed the activity, I overheard my son tell his younger brother, "If we didn't have bones, we'd be blobs." HA!

Make your own skeleton by downloading Kate from Mini-Eco’s skeleton parts on The Crafty Crow here.
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