Category Archives: explorations

Summer Bucket List: Melting Crayons, Painting with Water, and Bathtub Paints

We have had fun completing some of our Summer Bucket List activities. I thought I would share a few of our favorites so far!

Melting Crayons:

Play Create Explore posted a fabulous art project using crayons and a candle warmer. You should check out her site- she has some great ideas!

Painting with Water:

This is a wonderful and EASY way to keep your little ones busy for a few minutes (maybe longer if your child loves painting!). Using water and a paintbrush, your child can paint away on the sidewalk and magically watch their artwork evaporate!

Bathtub Paints:

When I saw this idea on pinterest from Having Fun at Home, I was in love with the bright colors…. and the idea of making a mess in a small contained area that can easily be washed clean. It’s super easy to create (food coloring and shaving cream) and my daughter loved it! ¬†I have read some comments online that the food dye can stain grout- we don’t have a tiled tub so that wasn’t an issue for us. It did make the bathwater black… so be prepared to give your child a second bath!

Hope you all are having a great summer! Happy teaching and playing! ūüôā

Mud Pie Kitchen

I have seen a lot of FUN mud pie kitchens on Pinterest and thought we would try our hand at one! My daughter had a blast playing in the mud and ended up creating our own Mud Pie Restaurant. My favorite entrees: chicken noodle mud soup and dirt covered strawberries. This is an EASY summer activity that will provide lots of fun, imaginative play for your little ones!

Materials:
Dishes We used play dishes, because we have a lot of them that unfortunately don’t get used inside. But they are getting plenty of use outside!
Mud
Bucket of Water
Aprons not shown in this picture, but we used them on other occasions and they helped keep my daughter’s clothes nice and clean! And it added to the whole kitchen thing ūüôā

Hope you all are having a fun summer! Happy Teaching!

Summer Bucket List

I have a MILLION plans for my family this summer (thank you Pinterest!) Instead of doing the old plan-the-days-in-advance method, I thought I would try my hand at making a more spontaneous and fun bucket list. And for the record- I hate that these summer to do lists are called bucket lists- I don’t plan on kicking the bucket this fall! Geez! But my ideas of “popsicle pail list” or “random jar of fun” just don’t have the same ring. So I’m callin’ this a bucket list! ūüôā

Here is a pic of our summertime popsicle pail (see, it just sounds WEIRD). Notice that there are no cute summertime stickers on the pails- and for one good reason: I will be reusing these for every season. I am bound and determined to cross off some of my pinterest to do lists!!

As you can see from the pic, there are three pails. One pail for our fun activities, one pail for the completed activities, and a third pail to hold extra popsicle sticks and a fine point sharpie. Because I am continuously adding to our list. I think I add about 5 new ideas a day! Which is the primary reason why we have already started picking popsicle sticks. At last count I had a total of 125 things to do this summer!

All of our popsicle sticks are sorted into colored categories. The yellow sticks are things we can do outside in the sun, the blue sticks are summer time treats, the orange sticks are science projects, the red sticks are art projects, the purple sticks are learning activities, the green sticks are places we can go near our home, and the brown sticks are places we can go in Salt Lake (and beyond). This has provided to be SUPER useful already- when my daughter wanted to do something artsy she grabbed a red stick and voila! she had a summertime art project. And I was able to cross of an activity from my Pinterest list! Yay!

When an activity is completed, I have been writing the date on the back of the popsicle stick. That way if I decide to do a journal, I will know the exact dates we did stuff. And when some of the more easy and accessible activities are finished, I write the date and stick it back into the pail of things to do.

I thought I would include the activities we have in our summer bucket list. Of course the list can be easily adapted to meet your family’s needs.¬†And I should mention that the pails are from the dollar section at Target, and the popsicle sticks are from the Dollar Tree. I just love a good bargain!

125 Things To Do This Summer


YELLOW (things to do outside in the sun)
1. bubbles
2. catch a butterfly
3. sandbox
4. paperbag scavenger hunt
5. water pinatas
6. water games
7. hopscotch
8. run in the sprinklers
9. make an obstacle course
10. pull weeds (not everything has to be fun, right? ūüôā
11. sidewalk chalk paint
12. mud pie kitchen
13. hunt for predators with water guns
14. sidewalk chalk
15. ride your bike
16. wash cars, scooters, and bikes
17. plant flowers
18. play hide and seek
19. have a race
20. roller skate
21. play red light/ green light
22. play tag
23. plant a garden- even if its just herbs
24. kiddie pool in backyard

BLUE (summertime treats)¬†I have a bunch of dinner recipes that I want to try that I will be adding to our monthly meal schedule (hopefully!). ¬†I wanted to make the summer bucket list fun for my daughter, and pulling out a popsicle stick that said “grilled chicken fajitas” wouldn’t do much for her.
25. smoothies
26. campfire cones
27. cupcakes in ice cream cones
28. make sugar cookies and decorate
29. food paint
30. dip a banana in chocolate and freeze
31. take a picnic somewhere
32. muddy buddies
33. mini personal pizzas for lunch
34. candlelight dinner
35. make homemade taffy
36. indoor smores
37. homemade snow cones
38. frozen grapes
39. ice cream in a bag
40. make popsicles
41. use candy melts to make suckers
42. frozen jr mints
43. gelato
44. fruit kabobs

46. kool-aid ice cubes and 7-up
47. crabby sandwich for lunch
48. frozen fruit bars

ORANGE (science projects)

49. make bird feeders
50. freeze things and dig them out
51. oily fireworks
52. fossil cookies
53. static electricity
54. volcano in a mug
55. m&ms in hot water
56. glow in the dark party
57. weather cloud in a cup
58. blowing up balloons
59. ice sculptures
60. sidewalk egg frying w/aluminum foil
61. floating eggs in salt water

RED (art projects)

66. glitter toes
67. make a treasure map and go on a hunt
68. marshmallow and tooth pick sculptures
69. make slime
70. make a paper mache bowl

72. paint cement with water

74. fingerpaint
75. fingerpaint with pudding
76. self portrait
77. silhouette pictures

PURPLE (learning activities)
80. use a calculator
81. write digits 0-9
82. puppet show
83. sound sorts
84. write name
85. letter bingo
86. write and illustrate a story
87. follow direction cards
88. etiquette factory
89. Dora letter sound flashcards
90. number bingo

GREEN (hometown activities)
91. bowling
92. bounce house
93. aquatic center/ swimming pool
94. dinosaur park
95. splash pad
96. children’s museum
97. playground
98. duck pond
99. city museum
100. train museum
101. nature trail
102. nickelcade
103. Hill Air Force base airplane museum
104. nature center

BROWN (Salt Lake and beyond activities)
105. Symphony
106. Natural History Museum
107. Red Butte Gardens
108. Zoo
109. Kennecott Copper Mine
110. City Creek shopping center
111.State Capital Building
112. baseball game
113. planetarium
114. temple square
115. liberty park
116. aviary
117. childrens theater
118. Park City
119. aquarium
120. Church History Museum
121. Gateway
122. This is the Place State Park
123. ride the bus
124. fireworks
125. fair

I know there are TONS more ideas (Thanksgiving Pointe, Yellowstone, Dinosaur National Monument, hiking, Antelope Island, etc….) And there is NO pressure on accomplishing every single thing on my list. OK, maybe a little pressure- I mean, being able to cross off my entire list would be amazing!
I hope this list inspires you to make some fun memories with your families this summer.

Happy Teaching!

Space Day

“When are we going to go up to outer space?” This is the question that my¬†inquisitive¬†4 year old has been asking me lately. Of course we can’t take a literal trip to space- but we can take an imaginative one! And the teacher brain in me went crazy with the fun possibilities of creating an outer space “feel”. Like making a rocket ship and traveling to our own version of outer space. When I heard that there was a Space Day the first friday in May I jumped aboard and made our space visit a reality!¬†I thought I would share some of our fun explorative activities. If your child is interested- set a date and go on an exciting trip to outer space – or just use some of these ideas in a Space Unit.

You can’t go wrong with space books. As you can see we have a variety of genres- from non-fiction to science fiction!

My daughter and I made our very own rocket ship out of Ikea bookshelf boxes. Our rocket is tall enough for me and provided lots of space for painting and adding rainbow stickers (as requested from my Boo). My favorite part of this activity was hearing my daughter say “Will it REALLY fly to outer space Mom?”

my little astronaut
our very own rocket ship

We took a quick trip down to the planetarium and walked on the moon! We also watched a planet movie in their dome theater (its pretty cool to see a movie on the ceiling).

Later that night we ate dinner in our star tent and played with rockets from the Dollar Tree.

We then had a glow in the dark space party! I put glow sticks in balloons and hung them from the ceiling in our basement. These made PERFECT planets. We hopped aboard our rocket ship and were traveling through space! My daughter had a special star glow stick (thanks again to our favorite dollar store) that shone the way.

Even my science driven husband said that this was cool. Sweet! 

Happy Teaching!

Animal Unit: Diego Field Journal

My daughter LOVES animals. It just seemed fitting to do a little learning unit about them! After I created an AMAZING outline of all the fun things we were going to do, the lessons stopped being fun and exciting. Maybe it was me- it seemed like putting together my fabulous curriculum plans was more¬†strenuous¬†than I had¬†initially¬†thought- or maybe my daughter was sick of having to learn something¬†every time¬†we played- or maybe it was both of us! At any rate- I live by the motto that learning at this age SHOULD BE FUN- and since it wasn’t exciting anymore- we stopped. Plain and simple. I think the fact that my daughter knows about animal habitats, bipeds and¬†quadrupeds, nocturnal animals, animal groups (mammals, reptiles, amphibians, invertebrates, etc) is pretty stinkin’ good for a 4 year old! And I have to say I am one proud Mom!

Boo’s animal field journal! It’s a binder that has a huge variety of animal cards ¬†(found at National Geographic for Kids)

Anyway- we did do some activities with her field journal. For those that have watched Diego you will be familiar with this idea already! Our animal field journal is a place where we keep information about all the animals we learned. I found some free printable cards at National Geographic for Kids– they were very informative, too! I liked that they were categorized by animal group and had information on diet and habitat. And did I mention they are free?! So yes, I spent like an hour printing them ALL. And I have these darling little binder- I think its from Staples- that just so happens to fit perfectly in her Diego rescue pack. It was like they were meant for each other….

Theoretically it would be wonderful to add animal cards one at a time as your child learned about each animal, but I just threw them all in at the beginning. I glued the animal cards onto colored card stock- a different color for each animal group. Since they were already visually sorted by group, I decided it would be fun to sort them by habitat. We went on an animal safari to different habitats to save several animals that were in trouble (again- think Diego).

Boo going on a safari to help the desert animals in trouble (aka locating the animal cards Mommy randomly placed throughout the house)

The first habitat we went to was the desert. We saved about 10 different animals (I tried to get a variety of animal groups represented in this activity, so we had some birds, some reptiles, some mammals, etc). Saving the animals just meant locating the animal card I had placed in various distressing places around the house. (so clever, I know. It would be more fun to actually save a stuffed animal- or imaginary animal even- but we just picked up the cards. It was quick and easy!) After we “saved” all the animals, we brought the cards back to the rescue center and added them to our field journal.

Animal Rescue Center- counting all the different animal groups we found during our safari to the desert

We repeated this activity for a few different habitats- I think we did grasslands. rainforest, and mountains as well as the desert. This time we kept the animals sorted by habitat in my daughter’s field journal.

A sample of some of our desert animals- I like that you can look at the color of cardstock and easily see we found a mammal, reptile, and invertebrate. 

That was really the last “official” learning activity we did with animals- at least for now. When my daughter and I are ready, we will relaunch our animal expedition! I think it is such a blessing to have the freedom to choose what we are learning about!

Happy Teaching!

Speekee Review

I am back from a crazy Easter weekend, a book reading binge (the Hunger Games series- couldn’t put them down!), and a brief stomach bug. And I bring you a MUCH overdue review of Speekee!

 Ever since my daughter was a baby I have had a desire to teach her Spanish. I started with basic colors and word lists found online. I even printed a couple Dora and Diego worksheets with the hopes of Boo learning Spanish! There was no professional strategy to her Spanish learning, just a bunch of thrown together ideas. Until I was asked to do a review for Speekee (I think this would be an appropriate place to say that they did give me a free two month subscription to their site).

Speekee is a Spanish learning website for kids. They have 10 episodes of “Speekee TV” which is actually filmed in Spain (cool, right?). But it doesn’t end there. Speekee offers additional resource activities and an amazing teacher resource/planning guide that makes my educator heart sing!

The teacher resource section is also known as the scheme of work. There are 10 units of comprehensive study that go right along with the episodes. Each unit has an overview where expectations are clearly defined and new vocabulary listed. I recommend using this resource along with the videos to enhance and enrich your child’s Spanish learning experience.

Boo watching one of the fun episodes of Speekee TV

Pros…. Educational, several different lessons based on children’s interests, good price point, easy to use and navigate the site. Best of all (in my opinion) is the teacher resource guide! A great planning tool to turn the 10 Speekee TV episodes into a comprehensive Spanish learning resource!

Cons… Like all Spanish software there is an element of truly being immersed in the language and having social interaction that is missing. However those opportunities can be given to your child and¬†integrated¬†easily with your Speekee study. Also an iPad app would be cool to learn and watch movies on the go :).

I would definitely recommend this site to anyone interested in teaching their child in Spanish! Heck, even I will be learning it right along with my kiddo!

Happy Teaching!

Animal Adventures: Learning About Mammals

Yesterday we celebrated “Mammal Day”. This was a fun yet educational day centered around learning more about mammals. Can I just say my daughter is in heaven learning about animals! Learning is so much more exciting when the subject matter appeals to you!

Here is a brief run down of our day:

Sorted through all the small plastic animals on our biome board and pulled out just the mammals for our day of mammal fun!

Drank milk- since all mammal moms give their babies milk

Played some animal games on the iPad- specifically apps on mammal tracks (iTrack Lite and Critter Trax) and Animal Sounds. We looked at some mammal tracks (and scat- gross but interesting to a 4 year old). We also listened to different animal sounds and tried to guess what animal made it. It was a lot of fun!

Read mammal books: Pulled out a lot of our non fiction mammal books and sat on the couch looking at them! As we were reading we talked about the features of mammals: all mammal mothers give their babies milk, most have hair, most are born live (not from a hard egg), are warm blooded, and breathe through lungs.

Biped/ quadraped¬†play-dough¬†animal tracks: I thought it would be fun to make and sort animal tracks! The great thing about this activity was that I set out all the supplies and when my daughter got to the table she exclaimed: “Mom! Let’s make animal tracks!” I love it when she “comes up” with a prescheduled activity. It makes it seem so child-directed. ūüôā

Pattern Match- I printed some pics of animals and their skin from Google Images. After playing a brief matching game with the cards we ran over to my daughters room and tried to figure out which animal skins were on her blanket (This adorable blanket was made with lots of love by Boo’s grandma– isn’t it the cutest!)

Field Journal: ¬†Added stickers to our mammal divider card and added a whole bunch of mammal cards to Boo’s Field Journal. I found some free printables at National Geographic Kids and downloaded 99% of them. It took FOREVER, but they were free and very informative. (More posts to come explaining this field journal- it is going to be a collection of all animal types and habitats- so stay tuned for that!)

I taught Boo how to draw a cat. So simple, and yet it was fun to add in a little drawing lesson. And she was so proud of her accomplishment! Isn’t it super cute!

The last thing we did on mammal day was to take our mammals outside and play. Originally we had just the sea mammals in the water, but a couple land mammals decided to go for a swim ūüôā

Funny side note- this morning my daughter said that her little plastic snake wanted to participate in mammal day because she was special and gave milk to her babies and had hair. Points for creativity!

Its off to plan for “Bird Day”. Happy Teaching!

Animal Unit: Overview of Animal Groups

We started our Animal Unit! ¬†Today was all about introducing the 6 different animal groups: Mammals, Fish, Birds, Reptiles, Amphibians, and Invertebrates. Nothing over the top- just a day to¬†familiarize¬†ourselves with the groups. Here is a recap of today’s learning adventures:

  • Brought out the tub of non-fiction animal books. We looked through a few of them and I left all the books in our family room so she will have easy access to them throughout the next few weeks.
  • Bought some new apps. I am a huge sucker for Montessori apps…just love the organization and design of ’em! We got Vertebrates, Invertebrates, and Baby Animals. Boo already had Mini Adventures- Animals¬†(free)¬†and ABC Wildlife (two very, very similar apps but we like them both).
  • Animal Sorting- We have a ginormous amount of small plastic animals. After we had talked a little about the different groups of animals, I showed her the cards I made for her field journal (more on that in upcoming weeks). I had planned to have her sort the animals but before I had time to officially introduce the activity she started placing them in their families. Boo would pick an animal and hopelessly declare that it was lost, and then she would have another animal guide it to the correct card. It was hilarious to watch and yet very, very educational!¬†
  • Boo sorting the animals into their correct group: Fish, Amphibian, Reptile, Mammals, Birds, and Invertebrates. You can see that we have a LOT of mammals!

I got the information for the animal group cards from Home School Creations. I was going to print the cards but our printer was out of ink. Of course.

What you can expect in future Animal Unit posts: websites, sorts, books, games, and other activities with Diego as our animal adventure guide!! Can I just say I am SO excited about this animal unit!
For more ideas on teaching animals, check out my Animal Pinterest Board.
As always- Happy Teaching!

Animal Unit Overview

We just finished our gigantic study of the human body. We read many books, watched interesting videos, played games, crafted, and did science experiments all based on learning about our bodies. After a nice break we are back on the structured learning bandwagon with a new study about animals.

Right now everything is tentatively mapped out. It was quite a struggle figuring out the order to teach the animals and where to spend our focus of study. After talking to some good teacher moms I remembered the importance of a child-centered curriculum and let my daughter’s interests lead the way. Which means a lot of learning about mean¬†carnivorous animals chasing poor innocent hoofed mammals. We will have a riot learning about food chains, too!

I will post about our animal adventures as we complete them. Right now this is our tentative schedule:

Day 1: Overview of Animal Groups (Reptiles, Amphibians, Invertebrates, Mammals, Birds, and Fish)
Day 2: Mammals
Day 3: Birds
Day 4: Reptiles
Day 5: Amphibians
Day 6: Fish
Day 7: Invertebrates
Day 8: What do animals eat? Carnivore/Herbivore/Insectivore sort 
Day 9: Food Chain Games
Day 10: Endangered Animals
Day 11: Animal Babies
Day 12: Overview of Biomes: Get Ready for Diego Adventures! Diego will take Boo on a new adventure every day to save baby animals and learn more about each biome.
Day 13: Grasslands
Day 14: Polar/Arctic
Day 15: Marine
Day 16: Desert
Day 17: Tropical Forest
Day 18: Alpine/Mountains
Day 19: Temperate Forests and Coniferous Forests
Day 20: Animal Celebration

Possible other units of study- if Boo is interested:
nocturnal/diurnal
domestic animals
animal tracks
animal sounds
endothermic/ ectothermic
oviparous/ viviparous
venomous/ poisonous

Realize that each day we will only spend 10-20 minutes on our animal study. AND this schedule is SUPER¬†tentative- I have learned the importance of being flexible as a teacher of a 4 year old! ¬†If Boo is eager to learn more-we’ll go faster, and we will slow down if she is overwhelmed.

As far as learning is considered- she is the compass and accelerator while I have a map in one hand and an assortment of learning tools for her in the other hand. And together we seek the great treasure of education. ¬†Theres your cheezy thought for the day ūüôā

Happy Teaching!

DIY Light Box and Teaching Ideas

Oh, the wonder and magic of playing with light! I have wanted to make a light box for awhile, and I finally set the goal and got it done. I had no idea that there was SO many different (and educational!) things you could do with light!

Light Box Materials:
Clear plastic under-the-bed Rubbermaid container
2 fluorescent lights

To make the light box, I just turned the Rubbermaid container upside down with the 2 lights inside. It isn’t anything fancy- but it was SO easy!!

Light Box Manipulatives:
Colored accent gems, transparencies (teaching manipulatives I used with an overhead projector), dry erase marker & sheet protector, geometry mirror, microscope slides & magnifying glass

There are tons of different ways to play with a light box. I am going to list some of our ideas- enjoy!

Science:
Pull out your old microscope slides! A light box is a perfect way to view ’em! It’s also a great way to view x-rays.

Looking at a fruit fly with a magnifying glass and our new light box

Math
We made lots of designs with pattern blocks. Boo and I also played and sorted money, made shapes with our geoboard, spun the colored spinner, and created symmetrical patterns with our geometry mirror. With the exception of the mirror, the rest of our math light box manipulatives are old overhead projector teaching materials. And since overhead projectors are on their way out in lots of schools, I bet you could snatch some of these up for a great price.

Geoboard designs and colorful spinners
Geometry mirrors- they are such a fun math manipulative! It’s a great tool for teaching symmetry!
Playing and sorting dollars and coins
Art
We used our pattern blocks to make colors. It was a fast way to show that yellow and blue make green! 
Literacy
I grabbed a dry erase marker and a sheet protector and Boo and I had fun reading words! We played a simple game where a predator was trying to get Boo’s stuffed animal and so we had to read the clues to figure out who he was and what he¬†intended¬†to do if he caught us.¬†
Reading and writing words
And of course, we did a LOT of free play.

Boo playing with 2 geometry mirrors and accent gems

A big source of light-play inspiration goes to Play at Home Mom– she has some “bright” ideas on her blog! ūüôā
I would love to hear about your light play! Now to figure out how to make a “Lite-Brite” with our new box….
Happy Teaching!

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