## Friday, August 30, 2013

### Aliens on Vacation [Printable Multiplication Game]

When my son finished math camp, he came home toting a notebook filled with math problems and two ziploc bags of flash cards. One was marked in bold Sharpie "needs to work on."

There was nothing subliminal about it. My son had mastered many of the facts but a little more than a dozen multiplication problems continued to stump him.

Rather than quiz him with the flash cards, I got busy making a fun board game with the problems he was struggling with, and the rest of the fearsome fifteen that kids often miss.

I call the game "Aliens on Vacation."

Here's the backstory.

Several families of aliens went on vacation, but they're having trouble finding their way home. Help them return to their home planet (in the center of the board) by helping them maneuver along the space rocks in orbit.

What You Need
Game board (print this 4-page PDF, trim, align and tape together)
Die
Alien game pieces (3 for each player in like colors)

Our alien game pieces were inspired by the space invaders game. We recreated them using perler beads. This was an excellent fine-motor art project!

Not crazy about perler beads? What about making some pom pom aliens? Check out an example here.

How to Play
Three like-colored aliens are placed on the UFOs of the corresponding colors. Each player takes turns rolling the die. When a player rolls a six, their alien can leave the UFO and begin traveling along the orbiting rocks.

The alien is moved to the rock immediately in front of the UFO, but only if the player can answer the multiplication problem correctly. Play moves to the next player who rolls, answers the problem on the rock that number of spaces away, and moves their alien . Each time a player rolls a six, a new alien can move out of the UFO.

Players must answer correctly to move their alien. Stumped? Use a multiplication table!

If a player rolls and lands on the same rock as an opponent, that player can send their alien back to the UFO.

When the aliens have orbited once around, they must roll the precise number of rocks left to get their alien up to their home planet. For example, if there are three rocks left to get their alien back to the home planet; the player must roll a 1, 2, or 3. If the player rolls a 4, 5, or 6, they can either move another one of the aliens in play or they forfeit their turn, leaving the alien in place. Once the player answers the last rock, their alien can go home!

The first player to get all of their aliens home wins!

Love this game but want to practice OTHER skills (sight words, addition problems, etc.)? Download a blank game board here and write on the rocks!

## Wednesday, August 28, 2013

### Popcorn Letters (Pre-K and Elementary Spelling)

I've been working hard to feed our boys healthier snacks and lately, there's no snack requested more than popcorn. I even whipped up some tasty cinnamon-glazed popcorn this weekend (MMMMmmm).

So when I saw Mrs. Jones's popcorn words, I was excited.

Instead of word work, though, I thought we could do some spelling practice.

I made an alphabet of letters on popcorn pieces.

I printed four sets of the popcorn alphabet, cut apart the letters, and grabbed a few popcorn buckets.

Now it was time for both of my boys to play!

LEARNING THE LETTERS IN MY NAME Popcorn Game (PreK)
For my just-turned-four-year-old son, learning the letters in his name has been a struggle. I've been itching to find ways to help make this fun. I took a piece of 8 1/2 by 11-inch office paper and cut it the long way, taping the short ends together so I had one long strip of paper.

Then, I wrote the letters in his name leaving a generous amount of space between each. Now, I grabbed only the popcorn letters that make up his name, wadded them up a little, and tossed them into a popcorn cup.

It was his job to pull them out, say each letter out loud (he repeated after me), and match the popcorn's letter with the letter in his name, placing the popcorn letters in piles on top of the handwritten name banner I made. He really enjoyed this game and the two books we read to go along with it as well.

SPELLING PRACTICE Popcorn Game (Elementary)
My oldest son toted home his first spelling list this week (the 2nd week of 3rd grade). While the list is shockingly easy compared to last year (they're implementing a new literacy program), I wanted him to get in the habit of studying spelling. The popcorn letters were the perfect spelling manipulative.

For his activity, I used a BIG popcorn bowl we had on hand and all the letters from four sets of the popcorn alphabet.

I wrote a handful of the words in his notebook and told him to pull the pieces out, trying to find the letters to spell each of the words.

Each word got a score - the number of extra popcorn letters that were pulled out before the entire word was spelled. One word only had 15, another 62! My son had fun counting and recording each word's score.

When he was done, we read The Popcorn Book. WOWZERS, there sure is a lot to learn about popcorn!

## Monday, August 26, 2013

### After School Linky Party (8/26)

Welcome to the After School Linky!

I hope you find inspiration here. I know I do
every. single. week.

Here are just a few of the wildly creative and enjoyable educational activities shared last week.

(This round-up of 10 simple science experiments explores everything from chromatography to chemical reactions. There's not one single activity listed that I don't want to do with my son!)

(Katie's list of ocean animal activities are so diverse, no kid will be bored. Gross motor, observation, matching ... there are so many skills practiced here!)

(Sure it's fun to read about flamingos, but it's even more fun to try and "eat" like one with a pair of spoons. This is hands-on learning at its finest!)

Silly Animal Charades at Moms & Munchkins.
(Thanks for sharing this fun take on charades, Cheryl! This looks like the perfect activity for family game night.)

(Jacquie has prepared an amazing list of resource for free online children's books and parents of voracious readers everywhere couldn't be more psyched. We all owe you!!)

Packing school lunches this year?
These three bloggers have some great notes, jokes, and tips for personal messages.
Printable Lunch Notes from Moms & Munchkins.

Cohosted by

## Friday, August 23, 2013

### Color Hunt & Fruit Rainbow

When planning an activity for an 8- and 4-year-old, it can be hard to find an idea that will keep both stimulated. These two activities fit the bill. My boys had a blast!

Color Hunt
A local park in town has the most breathtaking display of flower beds. I spend so much time ogling the flowers as I drive by, it's surprising I haven't rear-ended someone. To share the beauty of the gardens with my family, I planned a Color Hunt.

The supplies were simple: six large paint sample strips (ours were BEHR from Home Depot) in the colors of the rainbow (i.e. reds, oranges, yellows, etc.), which I cut in two.

I punched leaves out of the hues and used a brad to hinge them all together. I gave each of the boys their color book and sent them exploring to see how many of the colors they could find in nature.

This was SUCH a simple activity. What we found was that blue was an especially difficult color to find a flower of; we had to look no further than the sky, though!

Fruit Rainbow
The next day for a snack, I prepared a plate of various fruits for the boys. In front of them I placed a Rainbow Placemat that contained boxes for each of the colors.

The boys were instructed to place fruits of the correct color on their mats in the order specified. My oldest son's placemat had the full seven colors of the rainbow (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet), while the 4-year-old's contained the six basic colors (i.e. purple instead of indigo and violet).

,

Download a 4-page PDF of both placemats herePrint, tape together, and laminate for durability.

FRUIT WE USED
Red: Strawberries
Orange: Mandarin oranges
Yellow: Pineapple
Green: Kiwi
Blue: Blueberries
Indigo: Grapes
Violet: Raisins

The boys used a small pair of serving tongs to move the fruit from the platter to their placemat, which provided a little extra fine motor practice for the younger of the two of them.

Alternative: Not a fruit-eating family? Have kids collect everyday objects from around the house to add to their rainbow mat!

(This isn't the first time we've eaten a rainbow. Check out our rainbow cupcakes and word puzzle here.)

Book Recommendations
To conclude our color fun, I read a book with each of the boys. The PreK book I chose for my youngest is by Betty Schwartz. This Magic Ribbon book is such a treat to read with its colorful animals. My son never ceases to be impressed when he turns the page and a new ribbon of color has been added to the rainbow from the previous page.

My oldest son and I enjoyed E. C. Krupp's book The Rainbow and You. It taught us a ton about how ancient cultures thought of the rainbow, who Roy G. Biv is, how the eye sees color, what rainbows are made of, etc. Both of us were astonished to discover how little we actually knew about these weather wonders!

## Wednesday, August 21, 2013

### 2-Liter {Bottle} Tropical Fish

The summer camp my son attended made these and while he wasn't signed up for the particular "recycled art" workshop, when I saw them, I knew he'd love it.

This is a simple craft with minimal supplies.

1 clear, clean 2-liter soda bottle
2 dot stickers (like you'd use for garage sale pricing)
Acrylic craft paint in whatever colors you please
black construction paper
exacto craft knife
hole punch
paint brushes, sponge brushes, etc.
permanent marker
scissors
stapler
(and anything else to decorate your fish like glitter, tissue paper, fabric, sequins, etc.!)

Before we made our 2-liter tropical fish, we read about the coral reef, where so many brightly colored fish reside.

Having admired some of the strange and beautiful creatures of the reef through Sylvia Earle's book, we got busy crafting our own tropical fish.

Next, my son wrapped it around the bottle, secured it in place, and began tracing around the edge of the template with a permanent marker.

Now, he handed the bottle to me and with an exacto craft knife and scissors, I carefully cut along the lines he'd drawn.

Before things got messy with paints, he paper punched two black dots from the construction paper. He placed it in the middle of the sticky side of each dot sticker, and adhered the stickers (our fish's eyes) on the inside of the bottle.

Paint brushes came out and the inside of the bottle was lightly coated in an array of red, yellow, and lime green.

My son couldn't wait for it to dry. So we pinched the tail together and added a staple to make our fish's body more flat.

Isn't the final result awesome? If we drank more soda, we'd have a sea full of these at our house!

## Monday, August 19, 2013

### After School Linky Party (8/19)

Welcome to the After School Linky!

Here are just a few of my favorites from last week's party.

The Essential Guide for Homework Help & Afterschool Activities at KC Edventures.
(Jacquie has loads of links and advice for getting back into the school swing of things in this post!)

P is for Police at Life with Moore Babies.
(Ashley gave her kids a wonderful pretend police experience - complete with crafting their own badges, fingerprinting, and a mystery to solve. FUN!)

Kids Back to School Shopping Scavenger Hunt at B-Inspired Mama.
(Shopping can be boring for kids, but Krissy knows how to make it fun: a scavenger hunt. Download her School Shopping Scavenger Hunt to keep kids entertained while you're looking for all those school supplies!)

Word Family Slam at Toddler Approved.
(This word review is simply genius. Post note cards with word family words (or sight words) on the wall and have your child try to hit them as you call them out. Perfect for kinesthetic learners!)

Opuestos (Opposities) at Toddling in the Fast Lane.
(Yogamama guided youngsters through a series of activities - everything from acting out opposites to memory and a version of duck, duck, goose - to help them remember Spanish opposites. Perfect for kids of all ages!)

4 Math & Counting Activities with Stamps at 3 Dinosaurs.
(Cassie used stamps as a math manipulative and shows us how to practice patterns, counting, addition & subtraction. This is SUCH a clever use of stamps. Kids will LOVE it!)

Cohosted by
Relentlessly Fun, Deceptively Educational

## Wednesday, August 14, 2013

### Outdoor Ring Toss Game [Division/Addition]

Have you been over to Crafts by Amanda? Her ideas are incredible! This ring toss game especially caught my eye.

When we hosted a neighborhood outdoor movie night, I wanted something for kids to do while we waited for it to grow dark enough to project the DVD onto the garage door. Amanda's little game proved to be the perfect solution.

I purchased a stick (you could use a jumbo paint stir stick) and three 6-inch floral craft rings from our local craft/hobby store.

We ran out of time to paint our stick and rings (perhaps I'll get around to that once school starts back up) but I used some paint pens to write on the rings.

Each ring had one of the following numbers on it: 10, 20, or 30. I placed the stick in the ground using a rubber mallet about five feet out from the edge of our driveway.

Kids could stand at the edge of the cement and there would be no "no fair" comments because someone stood too close. (Although, we DID allow the younger children the opportunity to stand closer.)

Here's how we played. Each player gets all three rings to toss. The objective is (of course) to try and get them threaded through the stick. If he/she is successful, they get the points indicated on that ring. For example, if a child tossed the ring marked 10 and it landed through the stick, 10 points were awarded.

If that same child hit the stick but it didn't go onto the ring, only half the points on the ring (i.e. five points) were awarded. No points are awarded for missing the stick.

The kids played this for an eternity and I was quickly sent inside for paper and a pencil so that a scorecard could be made to keep track of the rounds.

This was quick and easy division and addition practice. And the kids thought they were just playing at a fun game at an outdoor neighborhood party.

He He He. That makes me smile.

## Monday, August 12, 2013

### After School Linky Party (8/12)

Welcome to the After School Linky Party!

Summer is nearly over. If you're like us, you're looking for great activities to get the kids ready for school, while trying to find fun ways to get the most out of the last days of the summer.

Here are just a few of the great ideas and activities shared.

5 Secret Codes for Kids at Kids Activities Blog.
(Codes are a wonderfully sneaky way to get kids interested in word work.
And these are AWESOME!)

Water Displacement Activity by Happy Hooligans.
(Jackie created this great hands-on activity for kids to teach them about water displacement. How many rocks would need to be added in order for the turtle at the top of the jar to get a drink?)

KC Edventures.
(Jacquie brings a Cat in the Hat book to life with this great activity. Kids learn the ocean zones and animals that live in each by making their own underwater world in a jar!)

A Punch of Color at Playdough to Plato.
(Letters, colors, and critical thinking combine with Jen Rice's easy punch box. Kids will have so much fun playing, they won't even realize the activity is educational!)

Summer Learning Fun: Squirt the Letter Game by Pen Pals & Picture Books.
(Quick! It's not to late to get some practice recognizing letters in before school starts. Grab a squirt gun and some chalk and get ready for a good time.)

Simple Ways to Make Reading Fun from Keep Moving Forward with Me.
(Kids L-O-V-E balloons, so using them for reading practice and a letter recognition exercise is bound to capture their attention. All you need are balloons and some flashcards!)

The Awe Journal from The House of Hendrix.
(I'm a firm believer that happiness stems from recognizing life's most beautiful moments. Encouraging kids to keep an Awe Journal will help teach them this important lesson!)

Cohosted by
Relentlessly Fun, Deceptively Educational

## Wednesday, August 7, 2013

### 2 Air-Powered Rockets

We're no strangers to air-powered experiments. Check out our balloon-powered pinwheel and swimming balloon squid. The success of those two activities pretty much guaranteed my son would have a blast with this.

Rocket with a Drinking Straw Launcher

Here's what you'll need:
Disposable Bendable Drinking Straw
Two pictures of rockets (use clip art or draw your own; just make sure they are mirror images)
Toothpick
Hot glue

Cut out your rocket pictures. Ours were approximately 2 inches by 1 inch in size.

Turn one of the rocket pictures over and place a small bead of hot glue running up the center. Place the toothpick in the glue so half of it extends out the bottom of your rocket.

Add glue on either side of the toothpick and carefully add threads to simulate engine exhaust (remember, the glue is HOT!). Now add some more glue to the entire rocket and place the other picture on top, sandwiching the toothpick and threads.

Grab a straw and insert the toothpick into one end. Blow through the other end to launch your rocket.

Turn this into a measuring activity! We placed a measuring tape on the ground and kept track of which launch went the farthest. My son's record was 5 ft. 8 inches!

Balloon-Powered Rocket

Here's what you'll need:
Packing tape
Picture of a rocket (use clip art or draw your own)
Disposable drinking straw
String/Twine/Cording

Cut a long length of your string and affix one end to a surface that's elevated (make sure it's not too high for your child to reach). We used the packing tape to hold it. Now cut the drinking straw in half. Thread it through the end of the other end of the string.

Now tape that end to another area that is lower, so the string is at an angle.

Blow up a balloon but do not tie the end closed. Use a piece of packing tape to adhere the balloon to the straw that is on the string. Make sure the open end of the balloon is pointing toward the elevated end of the string.

Keep the balloon pinched shut with your hands or use a clothespin. Add a loop of the tape on top of the straw and place your rocket picture on top.

Now release the balloon and watch the rocket whiz down the string!

NOTE: We found it difficult to reuse the balloons so if you do this, have LOADS of extras handy. We launched our balloon-powered rockets again and again and again. It just never got old!