Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Toddler Train

Since Sponge started walking he's been a lot more insistent on being part of things. So I've been trying really hard to do a few activities each week that target him specifically, and then also finding ways to involve him in what I'm doing with Scientist.

This morning while I was trying to get ready for the day, Sponge was on a rampage and needed a distraction. So I took a 5 minute break from getting ready and made him a toddler train. I got the idea out of The Toddler's Busy Book: 365 Creative Games and Activities to Keep Your 1 1/2 to 3 Year Old Busy by Trish Kuffner. I like this book a lot, I'll do a review on it one of these days.

To make a Toddler Train you'll need:

3 or more assorted boxes (I made boxes out of sheets of card stock, and I only had two)
String, ribbon, or yarn
Plastic straw

Use scissors or another pointed object to poke small holes in the ends of each box. Insert about a foot of string, ribbon, or yarn, into the back hole of the first box, then tie the end of the string around a short piece of plastic straw to prevent it from pulling through the hole. Insert the other end of the string through the front hole of the next box and fasten it in the same way. Use more string to continue connecting boxes until the train is finished. Use a longer length of string for the front hole of the first box. Tie a cylindrical wooden block or small plastic vitamin bottle to the end of the string for a handle.

I couldn't convince him that it would be cool to pull his toys in his train, but the empty train kept him busy for the next 25 minutes while I finished getting ready, so I'm not going to complain.

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Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Book Review: Marshmallow Math: Early Math for Toddlers, Preschoolers, and Primary School Children

Marshmallow Math: Early Math for Toddlers, Preschoolers, and Primary School Children  by Trevor Schindeler

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I originally picked this book up to get ideas for simple counting and math games for Scientist. I was pleasantly surprised to find, not only the games I was looking for, but a philosophy about teaching math to young children that I agree with.

This book focuses on how to teach solid math principles instead of just memorizing equations and rules. It encourages using objects (i.e. marshmallows, pennies, jelly beans etc.) over written numbers in the early stages of math so that children can see and physically manipulate the numbers they are trying to work with, and gain a understanding of what they are actually doing with each equation. Most importantly, it does this in game format to make it fun.

Other things I liked about the encourages short, focused, fun time periods for doing math, instead of long stretches with lots of "work". It is easy to read and simple to understand, as in, they don't spend pages and pages trying to convince you why their method works or is better. In fact, each chapter is only about a page long. The book itself is only 153 pages, which includes charts and game boards that you can print out to use. Also, the concepts start with simple things for toddlers, and gradually advance in difficulty to about a 1st or 2nd grade level. So the book and it's ideas will be useful for awhile.

I would recommend this book for anyone out there with younger children looking for fun ways to include math into your everyday playtime activities.

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Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Fine Motor Mania

This week we've been working with Scientist on his fine motor skills. We've taken ideas for games from different places and also come up with a few on our own. I was a little bit surprised at the positive response I got from Scientist. He loved the games, and would ask to play them over and over. He never suspected we were working on a skill :)

For our first game we used marbles. I filled a small bowl full of marbles and gave Scientist a spoon and told him the game was to pick up the marbles with the spoon and put them in the other bowl. He went back and forth between bowls several times.

Then we decided to take it up a notch. I put the full bowl of marbles on a chair at one end of the kitchen, and the empty bowl on a chair at the other end of the kitchen, so Scientist had to go a lot farther, and do a lot more balancing, to get marbles from one bowl to the other.

After several rounds of that, I tried making a course that was a little bit harder, requiring Scientist to walk a circle around a chair before putting his marble in the bowl, but by that time his attention span was at an end. He did start inventing his own games though, that involved making the marbles make as much noise as possible. :) And that kept him entertained for another 10 minutes or so.

Another game we played this week was to place colored stones in different patterns on a board. For this I just used colored floral stones that I bought at Wal-Mart for $3. For the board I made up my own in Microsoft Word and printed it out. The game was for Scientist to pick out of three different colors, white, light blue, and dark blue, and place the stone on the corresponding color on the board. This game was a little bit more challenging for him. It was interesting for me to see how he chose to meet the requirement. He did all the dark blue stones first, then the all the white, and then the light blue; instead of picking stones at random. After he'd done the whole board a couple times, I turned the board upside for variation.

Scientist's favorite activity was the easiest to come up with and to prepare for. I just gave him an empty cereal box and a pair of safety scissors and let him have at it. He stayed busy for a long time, and this activity is the one he asks to do again most often.

Scientist also really enjoyed our marshmallow game, probably because he got to eat the marshmallows when we were through. For this game we added a little math into the mix. I dumped out a big pile of mini marshmallows and separated them into several different piles with a different number of marshmallows in each pile. I had Scientist count the number of mallows in each pile. Then I gave him a pile of tooth picks and we counted how many of those we had too. Next I let Scientist spear the mallows with the tooth picks, and showed him how to make different shapes by hooking the tooth picks together with marshmallows. We talked about and counted how many sides and how many points each shape had. Before I let him eat the marshmallows, I had him count how many was on each tooth pick as he pulled them off.

A few of the other fine motor activities we did this week were coloring with sidewalk chalk, threading large wooden beads onto a shoelace, and painting both with fingers and with brushes.

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