Friday, June 29, 2012

Swimming Balloon Squid

Squids swim backwards?!?! Yep, they sure do. Of course, my son asked, “How do they see where they’re going?”

“I don’t think they do,” I replied and told him it was probably like when he swims on his back. This was definitely something to ponder.

To begin learning about squid, we read a Step Into Reading Level 3 book by Shirley Raye Redmond.

It’s hard to say what impressed us most about her account of these mysterious creatures:
  • That the giant squid’s eyes are as big as a human head.
  • Or that if stretched out on a baseball field, one end of the giant mollusk would touch home plate and the other would extend all of the way to the pitcher’s mound.
WHOA, that's cool!

When we wrapped up the book, I rescued a pop-up water bottle lid from the recycling and grabbed a balloon. We headed into the bathroom and filled the tub with water. It was time to simulate how the squid swims.

(This is the second activity we’ve done from Cindy A. Littlefield’s book Awesome Ocean Science! Investigating the Secrets of the Underwater World. It’s jam-packed with great activities for ocean-interested kids.)

Following the instructions, we filled our balloon with water. Then, my son pinched the neck of the balloon closed tightly while I carefully pulled the mouth of the balloon up over the pop-up bottle lid (making sure it was in the closed position before).

Now we put our little squid in the bathtub and pulled the pop top open. Hmmm. What was supposed to happen is the force of the water coming out, would send the balloon shooting backwards through the water, emulating how a squid swims.

Unfortunately, our balloon moved very little, which I credit to the fact that we used a regular party balloon instead of a water balloon, which would have enabled us to fill it up a lot more.

So we improvised.

Instead of filling the balloon with water, I filled it with air. I blew up the balloon, my son pinched the neck tight and I added the closed water bottle lid. Then, we put the balloon in the bathtub. While it didn’t sink beneath the water, the way a true squid swims, when my son popped up the lid, SWOOSH!! the balloon shot backwards all over the tub like a rocket launcher.


Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Sponge-stamped Lungs “Art”

What’s that they say about the best laid plans? Well, whatever it is, it applies to this activity, which did not go quite as I had planned. Regardless, the end result was fantastic and my son still learned a lot.

First, we talked about lungs and read Breathe In, Breathe Out: Learning About Your Lungs. The book provided the right level of detail, without being too complicated, for my son to understand what lungs do, what they’re made of, and why they’re so important.

Then, we painted a pair of lungs that I’d made (download a PDF here). Initially, we tried imprinting the image of bubbles onto our lung pages. Unfortunately, the prints were nearly invisible. (sigh) Time for “Plan B.” 

I grabbed a household sponge and we used it as a stamp with some watered-down red tempera paint. The sponge left a wonderful texture on the lungs.

Afterwards, my son dabbed his finger in blue paint to add the air sacs (alveoli) at the end of the bronchioles.

Since we had to let the lungs dry and the evening was jam-packed, we set the activity aside until the next day.

When we returned, our painted lungs were ready to cut out. Once this was done, my son colored and cut out the windpipe, and then glued all the pieces to posterboard.

Lastly, he added labels for the different parts, referring to a drawing in Nettleton’s book. I had to smile later when I overheard my son explain to his little brother what the picture was. “You have lungs too!” he said enthusiastically.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Post-It Page Marker Math

I love Post-It® notes. So does my son. I’m not sure what either of us thinks is so special about them, but whenever our learning activities involve Post-Its, we BOTH have fun. This activity is no exception.

I bought a pack of multi-colored Post-It Page Markers at the store and designed three pages for my son to stick them to. Each page has a different number on it (i.e. 12, 25, 60).

On the Post-Its I wrote a variety of math problems (addition, subtraction, and even a few easy multiplication ones). Each pad of page markers had problems with answers that matched to different pages.

It was up to my son to answer the problem and stick the Post-It Page Marker to the right page, giving the lion a mane, the hedgehog quills, or the child hair.

My son had loads of fun with this activity, pushing himself to get each problem right. When he answered wrong, he knew it. There was no page for that marker! He recalculated, and found the marker’s home.

My son solved 33 problems doing this activity (15 for the lion page, 10 for the hedgehog, and 8 for the child)!!

Want to do this activity with only one page? Simply write a variety of problems, many with the answer that’s on the page and other problems with answers that are not. Challenge your child to match-up the right problems and reserve the ones with the wrong answers.

Download the pages I made here.

Friday, June 22, 2012

You Be the Author & Illustrator [Ants Activity]

It’s a guarantee that any time we’re outside, we’ll stop to stare at the ants. My kids have always seemed fascinated by these tiniest of insects in our driveway.

The other day, my son and I read a great book about an ant walking along a railroad track and the switchman determined to save him from a seemingly inevitable head-on crash with an approaching train.

Its rhyming text has a rhythm, its ending is comical, and the book’s illustrations are wildly expressive and imaginative. If you’re looking for a fun fiction picture book about an adventuresome ant, this certainly fits the bill.

Download this PDF here.
Print pages 1 and 2 and flip over.
Print pages 3 and 4 on the back.
Fold and staple.

When we’d finished reading, I flipped back a few pages and asked my son to show me the rhyming words, pointing out that they were the last words in each line. Now it was time for my son to write his own rhyming ant story!

I gave him a book I’d created, printed on cardstock, folded, and stapled in the middle.

We started with the “illustrations” first. My son used an ink pad and his fingerprint to make ants on each page of the book (i.e. one ant on the first page, two on the second, etc.). He simply lined three fingerprints up and drew on antennae and legs. Voila, ants!

Now that the ants were added, it was time for some creative writing. Each page of the book I made has a beginning line that ends in the number of ants on that page. It was up to my son to think of a word that rhymed with those numbers and write a sentence where the rhyming word would fall at the end.

My son can easily match rhyming words into pairs, but coming up with them on his own was a challenge. I had to help him a little with clues. As we worked on the pages, I reminded him that the story was a progression. For example, he couldn’t say the ants saw something blue on page two and never tell readers what blue thing they saw on future pages; the reader would be left wondering.

This was a lot of brainstorming and more writing than son would normally do, but he stayed at it and was so proud of the finished book that he called a “meeting” at bedtime to read it aloud to the entire family. Success!

To reward my son for all his writing, we also made one of the characters from his book – Bob the Ant out of spray-painted plastic spoons, black pipe cleaners, and two googly eyes.

You can find the complete directions for this craft on Danielle's Place of Crafts and Activities on the Bug and Insect Crafts for Kids page. (Variation: We didn’t cut our spoons, but rather just layered one on top of the other.)

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Making Waves ... in a bottle

We are totally land-locked here in the Midwest. To say that the ripples of water on the surface of lake water are waves is downright ridiculous; but that's the closest thing we've got to them. Perhaps this is why my son has a fascination with the ocean, because it’s a complete mystery to him.

To teach him about ocean waves, first we read a great non-fiction book. This is the second time we’ve read a book from the Tell Me Why, Tell Me How series (the last time was when we learned about the seasons changing). Wil Mara’s book has LOADS of great information, perhaps a little more than we needed! We only read the first 15 pages.

My favorite light-bulb moment was when I read aloud “A wave does not really start in the water, but in the sky!” and my son burst out with a “what?!?” We read more. Wind energy makes waves!

Mara’s book also taught us the names for a wave’s highest and lowest points.

Now it was time to make some waves!

What you need
A clear, thin-necked bottle with a cap (I used a bottle of sparkling lemonade.)
Corn Syrup
Vegetable oil
Blue food coloring

What to do
Pour corn syrup into the bottle until it’s about 1/5th full. Add a drop of blue food coloring. Swirl the bottle to mix the food coloring into the syrup. Then, add the same amount of vegetable oil to the bottle.

Now put the cap on.

Turn the bottle on its side and slowly lower the neck. Watch the bottom blue syrup layer as a small wave builds and crests in the neck (which is your pretend beach) of the bottle. Now slowly lower it back down, sending the wave back out to the ocean.

Oh yeah. This was fun!

CREDIT: The “Breakers in a Bottle” idea came from Cindy A. Littlefield’s book Awesome Ocean Science! Investigating the Secrets of the Underwater World. This book is 113 pages of hands-on activities all about the ocean. There's no telling how much fun you can have with your kids, thanks to this book!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Driveway Dice Roll Board Game

It’s summer. What are we doing inside, right?!? This little activity takes our math lesson outdoors. Put on the sunscreen and get ready for some subtraction and addition fun!

Take an empty cube-shaped tissue box and cover it with posterboard. Attach dot label stickers to the sides to mimic a die (I had some left over from our Noun Clown activity). Don't have dot stickers? Color some dots with a magic marker! Now cover the box with clear household contact paper for added durability and to keep the die somewhat clean.

Draw a game board on your driveway with sidewalk chalk. Mark the start and finish clearly. For older kids, make lots of spaces (ours had 47); for younger kids with shorter attention spans or early addition/subtraction skills, keep the board shorter.

Add small numbers in one corner of each space. Then, at random, add “-3, +4, -6, +2,” etc. in some of the board's spaces.

Now you’re ready to play.

How to Play
Players stand at the start and roll the die. Whatever number is on top when the die lands, is the number of spaces the player moves. In the player lands on a space with a plus or minus, they must move the number of spaces noted (i.e. if a player rolls a six, moves six space, and the sixth space says “-2,” they must move back two spaces).

The player can only move forward or backward once per roll. In other words, in the example above, if the player moved back two and that space read “+4,” they would not move again.

As the player moves they should speak the problem created out loud before or as they’re moving. So if a player is on space 14 and they roll a six, they should say, “14 + 6 = 20.”

Players take turns rolling the die and moving forward and backwards on the driveway game board (it helps if you have a person willing to fetch the die for players; little brother LOVED doing this!).

The first player to the finish wins!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Wearing Lincoln’s Hat

When my son started his presidential dollar coin collection, an interest in the presidents was ignited. At a recent trip to an area presidential museum, his grandmother bought him a deck of cards with all the presidents. Of all the trinkets he could have picked out, that’s what he wanted. I love that about him.

To take his interest beyond just their names and order in the lineage of presidents, I checked out a book on my absolute favorite president: Abraham Lincoln. Looking at Lincoln isn’t just another boring book, it’s a journey of discovery.

A child spots a man while on a walk that reminds her of someone but she can’t recall just who until she pays for breakfast with a five-dollar bill. Eureka! The man she saw looked like our 16th president, Abraham Lincoln! Curious, she heads to the library to do a little research. The book reveals all her discoveries about his life, his contribution to the history of the United States, his death, and the Washington, D. C. Lincoln Memorial.

The book pushed us into lots of heavy discussions about things like what it means to be poor, what slavery was, and what the civil war was about. I didn’t try to overwhelm him with detailed explanations, remembering that he’s only almost-seven years old. I could tell my son was really listening and thinking when he said, “People don’t have slaves today, do they?” We could have stopped our learning there and I would have chalked this whole activity up as a success.

But we didn’t. Instead we made a hat like Lincoln used to wear.

It’s amazing what you can do with two pieces of black posterboard, some gray ribbon, and a low-temp glue gun. Here’s how we did it!

Cut a rectangle of black posterboard (1) so it’s slightly larger than the circumference of your child’s head.

Draw two lines roughly an inch and a half away from the edge of each long side of the rectangle. Make several cuts straight in up to the line on each side, approximately ¾-inch apart. If you’ve done it right, your rectangle will have fringe (2).

Roll your rectangle into a tube and glue together (3). Gently trace the circle formed by the tube onto another piece of black posterboard. Set that aside for later.

On one end of the tube, fold the fringe back (4); this is the base of the hat. On the other end, fold the fringe flaps in for the top of your hat (5).

Now cut out the circle you drew earlier. Then trace that circle again inside a larger circle (we traced a dinner plate to make our outer circle [6]). Now cut both out. The small circle is the top of your hat. The donut-shaped circle is the base (or brim of your hat).

Then slide the donut-shaped circle down the hat (7). You may need to re-trim the inside circle to make it bigger. It should be snug.

Tip the hat over and add dots of glue to the flaps (8). An adult should carefully press down onto the donut brim (even though it's a low-temp glue gun, it's still hot!). If your flaps stick out past the brim, trim the excess away.

Add glue to the fringe flaps at the top of your hat (9) and attach the small circle.

Now add a wide gray ribbon around the base of the hat, above the brim.

Before our learning time ended, I gave my son some small business card-sized “Abraham Lincoln …” slips of paper.

Download a PDF of the Abraham Lincoln Fact Recording Cards here.

It was up to him to complete the sentence. He wrote out six sentences. Abraham Lincoln …
was tall.
liked reading.
was kicked by a mule.
was 16th president.
was shot.

Because Maira Kalman’s book shared that Abe used to write notes and stuff them inside his hat, we glued our fact slips onto the bottom side of our hat’s brim.

When his father came home, my son put on the hat to show him (it may be just a wee bit taller than Lincoln’s). Then he promptly took off his hat and read the facts to share what he’d learned. He was so excited!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Moths and Butterflies - Another Lesson in Differences

Just last week, my son spotted a winged insect flitting across our lawn. “Look, Mom, a butterfly!” he announced. “Actually, I think it’s a moth,” I said. He looked at me with his eyes all filled with mystery and said, “How do you know?” Hmmmm … how DID I know?

Luckily, our library had the answer. I checked out What’s the Difference Between a Butterfly and a Moth? written by Robin Michal Koontz and illustrated by Bandelin-Dacey.

This wasn’t the first time we’d checked out one of the books in this “What’s the Difference…?” series (check out our
frogs and toads activity), so our expectations were high. We weren’t disappointed.

The book provides a concise comparison of butterflies and moths, highlighting both their similarities and differences. We learned a ton and both oogled over the breathtaking painted illustrations in the book. Even my youngest son (a toddler) pointed and exclaimed, “Look it!” every time we turned a page.

When we were done reading, I gave my oldest son a venn diagram and pencil. I’m not going to lie. After two weeks of no school, igniting the ambition to write was a bit of a challenge.

Download a PDF of the moths and butterflies venn diagram I made here.

The good news, though, is that he remembered much of what we’d read and could fill most of it out from memory, only needing to refer to the book for spelling terms like diurnal (awake and active during the day) and nocturnal (awake and active at night).

Under “both” in the diagram, he wrote “fly, have wings and proboscis.” In each of the wings he recorded the different types of casings they form before transforming from a caterpillar (i.e. butterflies make a chrysalis, moths make a cocoon), their different coloring, when they are active, and the position of their wings when they land.

We both loved learning about these amazing creatures. Next time someone asks my son what the difference is, he can refer back to his venn diagram ... and I can too!

Monday, June 11, 2012

No Stone Left Unturned [a Time-Telling Game]

Flash cards work. The only problem is, my son hates them. Don’t most kids? 

I cooked up a little game to sneak in some flash card-like time-telling practice.

I printed 16 clocks. On the back of the paper, were stone shapes. I also printed cards with the times from the clocks – some written out and others as numbers.

Once cut out, I laid the clocks face up in a four by four grid on the table.

Then I turned over one card at a time. My son’s job was to find the same time on the clock and turn that stone over. 

If he’d found all the times, all the stones would be turned over at the end of the game, when the pile of cards had all been gone through.

My son was anxious to see how fast he could identify the right times. (Maybe next time we'll see how quickly he can identify all the times correctly.) He truly enjoyed the game and when a neighbor boy stopped by, even he joined in the fun.

To make your own time-telling stones, download a PDF here. Print the first four pages of stones onto heavyweight cardstock. Flip the paper over and print page five through eight. The remaining two pages are the cards.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Hide & Seek Camouflage Game

My son wasn’t excited when I told him we were doing an activity all about camouflage. “I already know about camouflage animals, Mom,” he groaned. (sigh) I reassured him it would be fun and tossed a handful of his small plastic jungle animals on the table with a book I’d checked out from the library.

Curiosity definitely changed his mind.

To start, we read an absolutely captivating book written by David M. Schwartz and Yael Schy, with eye-tricking photos by Dwight Kuhn. This is actually the second book by the trio, but since our library system had the first checked out, we “settled” for Where Else in the Wild? More Camouflaged Creatures Concealed … and Revealed.

Oh my, was this fun! The book contains large-scale breathtaking nature photography with riddle-like poems that tease you into guessing the animal(s) hidden on the opposite page. Then readers lift the flap where the image is ghosted out, except for the camouflaged creature(s).

If you thought camouflage was just about frogs being green and leopards having spots, abandon this post and get to the nearest bookstore or library now. There were creatures familiar (e.g. crayfish) and far-out (e.g. Orchid Mantis) in this book. We learned so much and were eager to see what we could find. Sometimes it was easy, other times nearly impossible to spot the animals and insects.

This book was the perfect pairing for our little game. I gave my son his plastic miniature animals and had him imagine that our house was their natural habitat. It was up to him to find places where their coloring would camouflage them.

Off he went.

Forgive the pictures. He refused to let me see him hiding the animals because he wanted to challenge me to find them. And challenge me, he did!

Once they were found, he refused to move them. It was time for little brother to go a ’hunting. The fun continued then. And when Dad came home … yep, you guessed it … he was sent on a wild animal hunt, too.

So as it turned out, even though my son thought he knew everything there was to know about camouflage, he still learned something (did you know the snowshoe hare is white in winter then its coat molts and it is brown by summer? We sure didn’t!). He had a blast with our camouflage hide and seek game!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Miniature Multiplication Ring Toss

I’m not sure if I could even pass one of those elementary school math timed tests today. Math is just something my brain processes slowly. Thankfully, I’ve outgrown caring. Unfortunately, I still remember the feeling of anxiety and panic that those tests brought on. I hope my sons never feel that in school.

Even though my oldest son is a long way from mastering multiplication (he just finished first grade), anything I can do to simply expose him to the concept serves the purpose of easing the intimidation that he could otherwise feel later. Out of that desire, this game was born.

Before we played, we read If You Were a Times Sign, which is an ideal book for kids who have just been introduced to multiplication.

Multiplication is a fast way to add the same number over again and again.
The answer is the product.
The order of the numbers being multiplied can be reversed and the product is the same.
Multiplication is the opposite of division.
All of these little nuggets of math knowledge were playfully explained in Trisha Speed Shaskan’s book. It’s awesome!

Now my son was ready to practice his multiplication facts.

What You Need
2 plastic bottle-cap rings
1 square of thick Styrofoam
Wooden popsicle-like sticks (I used nine)
Number scrapbooking stickers (I used the numbers one through nine.)
Hot glue/glue gun

Push the wooden sticks into the styrofoam, evenly spacing them. Pull each one out and add a big glob of hot glue in the hole; replace the stick and hold in place until the glue dries and its secure. Add number stickers at the base of each stick on the styrofoam.

How to Play
Each player tosses the bottle-cap rings one at a time at the board, which is placed about two to three feet away. If the rings don’t land around a stick, they try again. If it encircles two sticks, the ring is removed and tossed again. 

Once two rings have been ensnared around the sticks, the player records the numbers and multiplies them for their Round 1 score.

My son used a multiplication table I made (download it here). 

The next player does the same. Who won Round 1? Play continues for four more rounds (five total), when each players’ rounds are added together.

The number will be high so have a calculator ready. Whoever has the highest number wins!