Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Oatmeal Container Planetarium

Throwing unique-shaped containers in the recycling bin is hard for me. (I’m always wondering how they can be recycled into kid’s crafts.) Cylindrical oatmeal containers fall into this category.

When I was light on inspiration, I Googled and found this amazing craft on – a bedroom planetarium! I adapted the instructions slightly; see below.

When my son came home from school and saw the supplies on the table, he was excited. Over and over, he kept asking what we were going to use the flashlight for. (What’s with kids and flashlights?!?! They love ’em!) Here’s the supply list:
  • Colored construction paper, paint, crayons and any other art supplies to decorate the oatmeal container
  • Double-sided tape or glue
  • Exacto craft knife
  • Black construction paper
  • White crayon or white colored pencil
  • Empty oatmeal (cylinder) container with its lid
  • Flashlight
  • Pushpin

Before we got started, I explained to my son that we were going to make a projector to shine the constellations on the wall. The last time we learned about stars was ages ago, but his enthusiasm for all things space hasn’t diminished a bit. He was psyched!

What the Adult Does
Cut a large circle in the middle of the plastic oatmeal container lid with the Exacto craft knife. Next, have your child hold the flashlight in the center of the cardboard bottom of the oatmeal container. Trace around it. Use the craft knife again to cut slightly smaller than the circle you’ve drawn; you want the flashlight to fit snugly.

What the Kid Does
Give your child construction paper to decorate in a space scene. First, my son drew planets and stars with colored pencils. Then I had him add a nebula and galaxy with paint. To do this, we added drops of paint to a plastic disposable dessert plate and placed another clean plate over the top, spinning it to swirl the paint together. Then we removed the top plate and pressed the paper into the paint on the bottom plate. Voila! We also used a pencil eraser dotted with glow-in-the-dark paint to make stars. Let dry.

Next, cut circles out of black construction paper to fit snuggly inside the oatmeal container lid. Now use a book of constellations to draw constellations on the black circles. Carefully use a pushpin to make holes wherever there is a star. Write the constellation’s name on the disc.

Now use glue or double-sided tape or glue to adhere your child’s space art to the outside of the oatmeal container. And if you haven't already, insert the flashlight into the hole and place one of the constellation discs inside the lid. Put the lid on the container.

Head into a dark room and flip on the flashlight. Ooh and Ahh! (My son sure did!)

Monday, February 27, 2012

Building Math Skills with DIY Dominoes

I don’t know what happened to our set of dominoes, but it’s disappeared. (sigh) So many of the blogs I follow have used dominoes as a math manipulative and after seeing all the amazing ways they can be used to build math skills, I was ready to jump on the bandwagon.

If I can make something rather than buy it, I will. Partly because I’m cheap, and partly because I’m crafty.

With some rarely used ice cube trays collecting dust and a big tub of Plaster of Paris in the basement, I already had everything I needed.

My son helped me measure and mix the Plaster of Paris according to the directions on the label. Using a plastic spoon, I tried to carefully dispense an equal amount of plaster into each ice cube tray compartment. 

Two trays makes 28 dominoes, which is exactly what you need for a set of double six!

I tapped the trays on the counter to release any air bubbles and level out the tops of the plaster. After about an hour, they were dry enough to release from the mold. A full 24 hours later and they were ready to paint.

I brushed one coat of black acrylic paint on each. When I was through with that, I cut a small stencil of a thin line to add in the middle of each domino with white paint. Now I stenciled that on. To add the dots, I simply dipped the end of a small paintbrush in white paint and made light contact with the domino. Click here to visit the site that I used to know what each domino should look like.

Now I waited until they dried.

For our first domino activity, I chose to make windows. My son picked a domino and placed it on the table horizontally; he found another one that had a similar number and lined it up vertically underneath so the two like numbers were next to each other. He did this with four dominoes, until it formed a rectangle shape. (Truthfully, there wasn't much of a window in the middle since our dominoes are squattier than store-bought ones.)

The objective was to see if my son could make windows that used every single domino. While we weren’t successful, it was sure fun trying! I got the idea from the NRICH website, which has tons of other fun ideas for using dominoes.

Here are just a few of the other great (math) domino activities I’m planning to do with our DIY plaster dominoes:
Simple Dominoes Addition (printable worksheets) on First School
War with Dominoes on All Things Beautiful

Note: These dominoes have slanted sides so they will not stand-up; but they are positively perfect for doing countless math activities with your kiddo!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Homophones Memory Game

You know what’s REALLY funny to a first grader? Homophones! These are words that sound the same but have different spelling and meaning. Learning about homophones helps your child with reading comprehension and spelling. We kicked off this fun activity with two fabulous books.

There were cascades of laughter during both. My son couldn’t stop giggling at all the silly uses of homophones. These books make language arts hysterical!!

If you haven’t checked out Brian P. Cleary’s Words Are CATegorical series, you must. This is the third time we’ve read one of them and each has been a joy (stop here and here to see the other activities where we used his books). Gene Barretta’s book was equally enjoyable and useful in teaching my son about homophones. I would recommend both.

After reading, I gave my son some homophone cards I’d made. 

Download a 2-page PDF of the cards I made here. Print them on cardstock, glue construction paper to the back so they aren’t see-through, and cut them out. You're ready to play!

Now we made a four-by-six grid of the cards, placing each face down on the table. It was time for a Homophones Memory game! Play alternated between myself and my son.

We each turned over two cards at a time, trying to find a homophones match (e.g. stair and stare). When either of us found a match, we took another turn. The winner of the game is the player with the most matches at the end.

My son’s memory is so much better than mine, but even I enjoyed this game!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

I am Pharaoh [Craft & Writing Prompt]

Warning: If your child tends to be bossy, it might be best to avoid this activity. My son thoroughly enjoyed being “Ruler of Egypt” ... perhaps a little bit too much!

Before my son got crafty, we read up on Ancient Egypt. Both of these books contain amazing graphics and illustrate the Egyptian jewelry, headdresses, and clothes beautifully.

Now watch how we transformed one large sheet of gold posterboard, double-sided sticky tape, and construction paper strips into pharaoh accessories!

First my son made an Egyptian Pharaoh’s headdress, using instructions on the Activity Village website. I used their pattern as a guide, folding a sheet of newspaper in half so the pattern would be symmetrical. Then my son cut it out and we stapled it to a strip of the paper (this became the headband).

Next, he used double-sided sticky tape to glue on blue strips of paper. Voila! He looked just like the Great Sphinx of Giza (well, from the neck up anyway!).

Then we used the rest of the posterboard to make a gold collar with directions from Show Me. We traced a plate for our circle shape and then positioned another circular bowl inside it closer to the edge and traced it too. By cutting a slit in the back, it was easy for my son to cut out the interior circle and to slip it on and off.

Since my pantry only had bowtie pasta (a decidedly un-Egyptian shape), my son glued on more strips of paper to emulate precious jewels.

Once completed, he put them on and promptly told me he was Pharaoh and I was a royal guard. I gave him a blank sheet of writing paper and told him that as Pharaoh, he needed to record his rules.

Download a PDF of this writing paper here.

His rules follow. (Um … I'm not sure how I feel about that first one …)

Mom has to clean the dishes.
Everyone hugs Dad.
Live in the pyramids.
No school!
All wear chapstick.

While my son would rather do just about anything other than write, giving him this opportunity was just the motivation he needed. No whining, just writing. (Oh, how that makes me happy!)

Monday, February 20, 2012

What's the Weather There?

Download this thermometer here.
Spring break is coming up so I figured it would be fun to take an imaginary trip to five U.S. capital cities. Just the idea of this pretend adventure made my son giddy!

“Where we goin’, Mom?" he asked. From a bowl full of papers printed with each capital city, my son drew one. This was our first stop: Sacramento, CA. (Woo Hoo! On a cool February day in the Midwest, it was a real treat to go there, even if it was just in our minds!)

I handed my son a plastic sheet protector filled with two papers: a map of the United States on one side and a thermometer on the other.

We used Google Maps to locate where in California the city of Sacramento was located. My son made a dot on his sheet protector-covered map with a dry-erase marker. Then we headed over to to see what the temps were like that day. My son wrote the name of the city and temperature next to the thermometer and colored in the mercury up to 65 degrees Fahrenheit with the dry-erase marker.

We made stops at four other capital cities - Juneau, AK; Charleston, WV; Bismarck, ND; and Salt Lake City, UT. What a blast we had on our virtual vacay!

When all the cities were identified on the maps and thermometers were colored, we “returned home” and I asked my son the following:
  • What was the hottest city we visited?
  • What was the coolest?

Then he put the cities (i.e. thermometers) in order from coolest to warmest temperature.

Lastly, I put his subtraction skills to the test and asked him to tell me how much warmer it was from one city to the next.

“Why didn’t we go more places, Mom?” he asked when we were done. It looks like more “vacations” are in order!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Spelling Practice with Nautical Flags

Back when we practiced fractions with nautical flags, I discovered something pretty awesome about them: there is a flag for each letter of the alphabet! Cool, huh?

Deciphering secret codes is ALWAYS a favorite activity of my son’s so I knew that using the flags to practice sight and spelling words would be a hit. I was right.

I designed a nautical flag alpha key, three pages of sight word codes, and a 1-page sentence cipher. Download them here.

When my son got home from school, I quickly took his new spelling list and made that into a customized worksheet for him. While I was doing that, my son read aloud a book by Lois Lenski: The Little Sailboat. It didn’t explain the flags or teach him much about sailing, but it was a cute fiction story that related to our activity and snuck in some reading practice (hee hee).

Afterwards, I gave him the key and a few pages to decode. He got right after it, completing the pages in no time. He didn’t even realize he was practicing for the week’s spelling test. Mission accomplished!

The answers to the pages I made are below. Enjoy!

The sentence cipher on page 4 says, "Good job. You are so awesome!"

EXTENSION IDEA: Print four pages of the nautical flag alpha key. Set one aside. Glue the other three pages to chipboard (aka empty cereal boxes), cut out, and attach magnet tape to the back (I did something similar here). That way you can easily make codes out of ANY words ... or better yet, your child can make codes for their friends or siblings to decipher!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

A Klimt-Inspired Self Portrait

Can you think of a more romantic piece of art than Gustav Klimt’s The Kiss? I can’t. While romance isn’t at the heart of this lesson, exposing my son to Klimt’s work is. The artist’s rich paintings celebrate the sheen of metallics, elaborate patterns, emotion, and beauty.

I love it when authors make artists’ work approachable for children. Bernice Capatti has done that with her clever book Klimt and His Cat.

The book is written from the perspective of Katze, an observant cat that does a wonderful job of explaining why her owner’s art doesn’t look like everyone else’s. At the end of the book, several of Klimt’s paintings are featured. We looked at The Kiss and shared our observations.

“It looks like the two people are wrapped in a blanket, right?” I asked my son. He agreed. It was time for him to create his own Klimt-inspired self portrait.

Since Klimt’s faces have a realism lacking in the rest of his portraiture, I printed a photo of my son and cut out around his head. Then he glued aluminum foil to a piece of construction paper. On the back I drew a shape that (hopefully) resembles his body wrapped in a blanket.

My son cut this out and glued it on a yellow piece of construction paper. Next, he glued the cut-out photo head atop his ‘blanketed’ body.

To truly make this look like a Klimt masterpiece, I cut up lots of small rectangular confetti out of scrapbooking papers I had on hand. Handling these tiny scraps of paper was great fine-motor practice! We added dots of white school glue to the body form and laid the patterned papers over the top.

Then my son drew a foreground to his mixed-media portrait and added some background detail with markers.

My son loves his portrait! (I do too.)

Monday, February 13, 2012

Math Post-it Note Scavenger Hunt

My son asked me for another scavenger hunt last week. I wanted to do something different, though (see our other hunts here and here). Blissful and Domestic provided some much-needed inspiration: a post-it note hunt!

To practice some subtraction, I grabbed 20 post-its, a Sharpie marker, and a pencil. I wrote down ten subtraction problems and their answers on a separate piece of paper.

I wrote the first problem on the front of a post-it note to give to my son at the start of our hunt.

Now I wrote the answer with a Sharpie on the front of the next note. On the back of it, I wrote the next math problem in pencil (so it wasn’t see-through). I continued to do this until all the answers and problems were written on the post-its. On the post-it note with the last answer, though, there was no problem. Instead, I wrote, “Good job! There is a prize for you in my bathroom.” (I had to hide it somewhere he doesn't usually go.)

I wrote random numbers on 10 other post-its; these had no problems on the back. If my son picked one of them mistakenly, he’d know he answered wrong since the back was blank.

Now I ran around sticking post-its everywhere!

My son barely dropped his backpack at the front door when he saw the post-it notes I’d scattered in our living room, kitchen, and entryway. His curiosity was piqued and he was chomping at the bit to get going.

I gave him the first post-it, the one with the problem written on the front and off he went, answering problems and dashing around to find the post-its with the answers. When he grabbed the last answer and read the note, his legs carried him at lightning speed to the puzzle.

This took 5 minutes to prepare and barely any materials. And the result was one happy boy who is now the proud owner of an inexpensive (and awesome) Star Wars puzzle.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Compound Word Card Game

Compound words are like addition problems with words instead of numbers. For a math-loving boy like my son, that makes them extra cool. His first brush with the concept of combining two words was a GoGurt wrapper that had “star + rock = what?” ROCK STAR! (Okay, so this isn’t a REAL compound word, but it was the inspiration for this activity.)

After explaining what a compound word was, my son and I read Once There Was a Bull … Frog. Rick Walton's book is the perfect complement to this activity. It has TONS of compound words in it. After pointing out the first few, my son was able to identify most of the rest.

Now he was ready for my DIY compound word card game!

What you need:
  1. The cards. (Download the 11-page PDF of game cards here and print on heavyweight cardstock. Glue a layer of paper to the back so they’re not see-through; I used spray glue and colorful scrapbooking paper).
  2. Some type of small object to use with the Traffic Cop card. I made a plaster of paris molded LEGO minifigure and painted him like a police man. That’s, of course, not necessary. You could use anything – a large button, poker chip, dollar store police badge, small rock, etc.

How to Play
Shuffle all the cards. Deal 8 cards to each player. Place the remaining cards facedown on the table and flip over the top card. This is the beginning of the discard pile.

Each player should look at their cards. Any cards with compound words should be laid face-up on the table (e.g. cupcake, mailman, football). Any cards that contain words that are in that compound word should also be laid down (e.g. cup, man, ball) with the compound word card. All other cards are held in the player’s hand.

When it’s each player’s turn, they can choose to draw a card or pick up the card on top of the discard pile. Each player should discard a card with each turn.

If the draw pile becomes totally depleted, the discard pile can be reshuffled to continue play.
Make three matches (the stoplight cards above are an example). A match contains 3 cards: the compound word card (e.g. toothbrush), and the two cards that contain the words that it is made up of (e.g. tooth and brush). The first player to make three matches wins the game.
When a player plays the Sneaky Thief card by putting it in the discard pile, they can either:
  1. Pick a card at random from an opponent’s hand or
  2. Take a card from one of the unfinished matches that is laid face-up on the table. Finished matches, complete with all three cards, are off limits.
When the Sneaky Thief card is discarded, it cannot be picked up by the next player.

When a player plays the Traffic Cop card, he or she puts it in the discard pile, and moves the small object on top of one of the match piles an opponent is building. This prevents them from building that compound word match until they draw the traffic cop and can move the small object to one of their opponent’s piles.

Like the Sneaky Thief card, the next player cannot pick up the Traffic Cop card from the discard pile.

This was a GREAT way to help my son understand what a compound word is and help him identify them!

Since a lot of this game is based on luck, kids AND adults will have fun playing. (My son sure enjoyed beating me!)

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Plastic Plate Snowman Snow Globe

This winter has been one of the least snowy on record here. To make up for the lack of white fluffy stuff, I organized this fun DIY snow globe craft for my son. I HEART Crafty Things and CraftElf provided the inspiration.

Before we got started crafting, we read Snowmen at Night, a wonderfully enchanting book about snowmen who frolic and party while humans slumber in their beds oblivious.

Once we finished the book, I gathered our supplies:
A piece of flat cardboard
Blue cardstock
1 clear plastic disposable dessert plate
Brown construction paper
Iridescent glitter
Snowflake party confetti
Low-temp glue gun and glue sticks
White acrylic paint
1 large jumbo marshmallow (optional)

I glued the cardstock onto the cardboard for added sturdiness. Then I laid the plate facedown onto the cardstock and traced around it lightly. Now I handed my son the jumbo marshmallow and some white paint I’d squirted onto a paper plate. The marshmallow was the perfect shape to stamp a snowman body!

Once he’d made the snowman inside the circle, he added the snow globe’s base beneath the circle and painted some more “snow.” When this was done, I tossed the paper into the microwave for a few seconds to speed up the drying time. (Patience doesn't come easy for my son OR I.)

Now it was time to give Frosty some personality. My son added a hat, eyes, nose, mouth, buttons, and stick arms. To finish the wintry scene, he drew a bare tree.

Up to this point, my son just couldn't see how it was going to be a snow globe. After all, it just looked like a mixed-medium piece of art. Here’s where the magic happens!

I gave him a few shakers of iridescent glitter and some snowflake shaped confetti and told him to add it all in a pile in the middle of the circle. Once the pile was sufficient, I used the low-temp glue gun to add a bead of glue along the line I’d traced.

He quickly added the upside down clear plate. We checked to see that there were no gaps between the glue and the plate and added more glue wherever necessary, making sure the seal was tight.

After a minute, our snow globe was done. My son gave it lots of shaking and had fun watching the glitter and snowflakes dance around his snowman.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Quarter To, Quarter of, Half Past [Time Sort]

When my son’s first grade teacher sent a note home to parents telling us what we could work on with our sons and daughters, I didn’t ignore it. One of the things she suggested was a little extra practice identifying when times were “quarter to,” “quarter past,” and “half past.”

To work on this with my son, I created some clocks of these times. (Print the 2-page PDF I made here.)

I cut them out and labeled three pieces of paper “quarter to,” “quarter past,” and “half past.” It was up to my son to look at the clock cards and sort them into the right piles.

He whipped through the stack in no time. To check his work, I had him read back the times in each pile.

OOPS! He had several “quarter to” and “quarter past” times confused!

Having him read them aloud was a good reminder, too, that the “quarter to” times were one hour ahead of where the little hand was pointing.

This was a simple activity that really helped my son improve his time-telling abilities. 

Friday, February 3, 2012

Let’s Play Library! [An Alphabetizing & Sequencing Activity]

Children’s librarians tirelessly go through the shelves day in and day out to reorganize the books kids carelessly pull out and shove back in at some other totally random spot. I cannot imagine how frustrating it must be! The school gives kids paint sticks to mark where they removed the book so it can be returned to the same spot if necessary, but not every kid grabs one and sooner or later they’ll all have to be able to figure out the books’ rightful place – including my son.

Before he got started with the library-inspired activity I made, we read a sweet book about library puppets (used during story time) that come to life when the lights go out. It put us in the mood for our own imaginary trip to the library.

When the story was finished, I gave my son some laminated “books” I’d made. On several were written the author’s names with a fine-tip dry-erase marker; the rest had card catalog numbers.

Download a 2-page PDF of these book spines here.

I asked my son which were fiction and which were non-fiction books. He wasn’t sure.

I explained that at the library, fiction books were shelved alphabetically by the author's last name. Non-fiction books were shelved by card catalog numbers.

He promptly sorted the books into two piles – those with authors (fiction) and those with numbers (non-fiction).

Now I told him to put them in order.

He looked at the card catalog numbers on the non-fiction books, and put the book with the smallest numbers first and the largest numbers at the end of our imaginary shelf.

He alphabetized the fiction books by the first (and sometimes second) letter of the author’s last name.

Books with numbers like 145.21 and 110.4 tripped him up a bit. I explained that you focus first on the digits in front of the decimal. 

“Which number is smaller: 145 or 110?” That was easy for him.

My son beamed with pride when all the books were reshelved in the right order!

Maybe he’s a future librarian.