Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Woodland Fairies - Part 2

How's the fairy unit inspiring you? Gathered some ideas already? It was quite a fun time for us to explore such a fascinating topic. Best of all, some of these activities will remain available for further play now that the unit has come to an end (i.e. the fairy garden play dough and the house you see below).

Handmade Fairy Tree house
Granted this was not entirely produced by my preschooler, she'll gladly boast to having painted every single cloud and tree you see here. The rest of the credit goes to an idea seen (but no longer seen...) on Disney.Family.Go website and to me for the cutting of the cardboard. The idea was to provide entertainment sure, but also to show how to play gently with items. Too often, children are rough with their toys and this one was most definitely not going to sustain such rough play...The house did not take nearly as long as I expected to cut and assemble (even without the free templates the website used to provide!)...especially considering how happy my little girl was in helping making it, seeing the final result and letting her new fairies try it!

The Cardboard Fairy Tree House...So cool
even 6 year old boys will enjoy them!

Sorting & Counting Butterfly Gems
Butterflies are somehow likely to be associated with fairies so I took this opportunity to get out my beautiful butterfly gems. It made for a great activity of sorting. The blue and dark purple butterflies were so close in color that at first, they were grouped together! Once the final sorting had taken place, we switched to a counting activity. Zahavah loves to count everything so she was very happy to see how many winged creatures were in each group.

Butterfly & Water Beads Transfer
More butterflies? Why not? Using a bathtub anti-slip applique, Zahavah transfered and balanced her favorite new school material : water pearls. It wasn't easy but she delighted in being allowed to manipulate the beads (and seeing them roll off of course!).

Making & Eating Fairy Bread
Hmm. Non-healthy snack in sight? Well, while exploring Oceania with my eldest, we did a lot of Montessori-style activities to keep him engaged. One of those was to make "fairy bread". Needless to say, it also happened to be perfect for Zahavah's thematic week so she was also allowed to make her own fairy bread too...and enjoyed it thoroughly! :)

Fairy Printable Pack
This unit also included a bit of "paperwork", courtesy of 1+1+1=1. I didn't print too many pages since little Z doesn't enjoy worksheets much but for the times where she wants to mimic her big brother, it was helpful and fun.

Chalkboard & Chalk: excellent for handwriting practice

In preparation for handwriting, Zahavah also got to "write" on her own chalkboard with colorful chalk. She's used it before but each time it comes out, she is so happy to see it.

Patterning with flowers from the fairy garden (aka flower buttons!)
Well this was rather hard. Somehow when she is using a worksheet, discovering what comes next is always easy but building a pattern sequence was awfully hard for my little one. Analyzing what came next was also difficult. Hmm. Maybe she was just having an off day...

Grace & Courtesy:
Opening and Closing doors quietly like the tooth fairy
A fairy week would of course not be complete without a grace and courtesy lesson! How does the tooth fairy come in our bedroom to exchange a tooth for money without being seen? She knows how to open and close the bedroom door super quietly of course! We pretended to be fairies with our doors and it seems the lesson has been learned...

Matching butterfly game
These are always fun! Printed off PreKinders, I got for free this nice set of real butterfly photographs for matching. 

Picture Story time!
Writing has been quite fascinating for my daughter. Her brother writes the longest "books" so she's quite wanting to "put down her own words" too. Unfortunately, she isn't quite there yet but to show her that those written symbols do carry a meaning, I printed off this picture for her and asked her to tell me the story that goes with it. I wrote it down for her and showed her each word as we went. She's asked me to read her story several times since.

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Friday, November 14, 2014

Woodland Fairies - Part 1

Like most little girls her age, Zahavah loves fairies. Nevermind that they are mythical creatures rarely (if ever) seen in Montessori classrooms...Despite the fictional theme, I still tried to keep in line with some work you'd see in Montessori environments. Here's what my littlest has been up to last week...

Fairy Garden - Hands on Play Dough Moment
Playdough is practically a necessity with preschoolers. I used to always buy the pre-made cans but I've now switched to making my own. Based on an idea seen a while back on Fantastic Fun and Learning, I decided to offer Zahavah the opportunity to create her own fairy garden by providing brown glittery play dough, small twigs, fresh leaves, glass gems, silk flowers, shiny rocks and a Safari Toob of Fairies. Needless to say, this was a very popular activity and it came out every single day.

Fairy Bells Matching by Sound
I have been told that fairies can make a jingly and beautiful little noise when they move about. I thought it'd be the perfect time to introduce Zahavah to a homemade version of the Montessori sound canisters. I used empty Kinder Surprise egg shells and three different sizes of bells. My daughter quickly discovered that shaking the container slowly and close to her ear was the best way to discern the sound and allow for a great match. Shaking hard made them all sound the same! :)

Sweeping fairy dust is magical!
Has the tooth fairy come by your house already? My eldest has been visited twice already and sometimes, the fairy leaves a residue of fairy dust (really just salt and glitter). I had the chance to collect some and used it for an activity here: sweeping fairy dust. Not an easy task!

Spooning "Fairy Water Pearls"
Water beads are a newer material in our "school". I bought it last year and ended up forgetting about it. Whilst cleaning during the summer, I found them again and made sure they'd get our of their bottle this year! :) How perfect are these for a fairy activity? I only had blue on hand but an array of colors would have been delightful. We called them "fairy water pearls" to add some appeal to this transfer activity. It was very much loved and "Z" transferred and transferred over again. She especially loved how the last 1-2 beads would sort of flee when the spoon came near by!

Counting and Hunting Mushrooms
Polka dot mushrooms are fun! I made these myself a few years ago and they've always been well received. This time, we chose to count the dots on each mushroom. It was easy until it got to 9 and 10 (my little one would count up to 16 dots at times!) :) We also scattered them for a wild mushroom foraging activity. Mushroom foraging is very popular in our area and the kids desperately want to go pick their own food in the forest every time they see neighbors come back with a basket full of cool mushrooms. As such, I announced that the famous Amanita Muscaria is a toxic mushroom and that although it can be found in our local forest, it should not be eaten (well, some people swear it can but only with proper prep)! :)

Handmade Fairy Bubble Wands
A crafty little idea that I've seen on so many different blogs this summer and last. Children love blowing bubbles and well, mine are no different. I've made my own bubble solution countless times now but had never made my own wand. In this activity, Zahavah made her own fairy wand using pipe cleaners and decorative beads. They can be shaped any way really and of various sizes as well. I'm not sure what she enjoyed most: the making the wand or the "using" of the wand! :)

Fairy Color Mixing Class
How do fairies make all these rainbow colors? They mix them of course. Using translucent "tokens" in the primary colors, we discovered how two colors put together could give use secondary colors. This was nothing new to Zahavah who has mixed her own paint colors a while ago but it was a different, mess-free, approach.

Cylinder Block 1
Of course, I had to keep up with "regular" stuff too. We revised our "S,m,a,t" sandpaper letters and added other non-thematic elements such as the mini cylinder block 1.

Parts of a Plant - because a good fairy loves plants!
Now, fairies spend a fair amount of time in the garden so it's only normal they should know about plants, right? 3 part cards, booklets, wall chart, puzzle, any of these can be helpful in presenting/reinforcing this kind of learning. I chose to present a real plant: my beloved orchid and a set of 3 part cards provided graciously by The Helpful Garden (which by the way provides the most amazing and beautiful FREE Montessori materials by the way). 

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Friday, October 3, 2014

Down by the Seashore - Part 2

Every good thing has apparently to come to an end. As such, last week, we said good-bye to our beloved "Down by the Seashore" theme. This thematic is definitely a keeper. I chose not to include any ocean components this week but that is only because I'd like to give our oceans the focus they deserve. Come Summer, we'll most likely have time to allow for an entire week to this beautiful topic. Until then, here are a few more activities Zahavah did during her beach week.

Folding "beach" towels
Folding beach towels. Most toddlers are delighted to help when it comes to big people's chores.  Zahavah being closer to 4, chores are starting to look a bit more like such in many aspects. I tried to disguise this practical life activity into something less formal than you'd usually see in a Montessori setting. I provided two washcloths, both marked with a big fat line down the middle and told Z that these were her plush cats' beach towels and needed folding so they could be packed for their next trip. After a demonstration, Z quickly set to work and even had some cats come pretend they went to the beach...
Fabric matching: Matching "beach towels" for tiny dolls
I truly wish I had access to a bigger variety of fabric but for now, I guess we'll call it a "start". For a first time matching fabric by touch, I didn't want it to be overwhelming either! I served this activity as beach towels matching. I had some fleece towels, some lace towels and a netting towel set. In the future, I'm hoping to get my hands on some burlap, silk, cotton, leather and such. This was, by the way, a very quick activity for my 3 year old. She matched the towels in no time so I furthered the activity by asking her which she'd rather use as a beach towel and why. We discussed the thickness, the sand possibly passing through others, and so on.

Some "paperwork" to be like her big brother!
An immense thank you to Katie at The Gift of Curiosity for putting together this HUGE printable pack with a beach theme. Zahavah is not much into "paperwork" but she sometimes like to "imitate" her big brother (who actually would like to see less "paperwork") so I printed several pages out of the pack for little Z in case she'd want to sit down and "write". To my biggest surprise, she loved this so much that she went right through the dozen pages I printed for her in one sitting!

Dry Pouring: Beach Sand
With a theme like "Down by the Seashore", it's hard to escape the beach sand, I brought it in disguised under a dry pouring activity. Zahavah was very good at it and loved it too.  She really wanted to poke her fingers into the small pitchers too! :)

Which sunscreen fragrance is a winner? Can you match the scents?
I love the smell of sunscreen, don't you? It just reminds me of a calm, serene and warm beach. Whenever I smell it, it brings me back! For this activity, I thought I'd do a twist on the traditional Montessori smelling bottles by asking Zahavah to help me with the newest sunscreen fragrances. I provided 3 different scents and they all had to be matched (blindfolded). In the end, she was welcomed to choose whichever fragrance she thought would be best suited for a new suntan lotion! If you're curious to know what we used inside, it's quite delirious: vinegar, hot sauce and a flower scented hand lotion! :) Needless to say, it was easy to match AND decide which would be best in a suntan lotion...

?(shell washing)?
(The moment you realize you've put everything away and forgot to photograph the tray!)

Zahavah would have loved to wash the big seashell but I felt it would be overwhelming. Instead, I provided her with another smaller and simpler seashell so she could scrub it. She's previously not enjoyed the meticulous washing of items so I tried to make it more fun for her by letting her explore  how to wash more than how she should be washing. Not very Montessori in that aspect but I'm hoping she'll see how best to wash by herself!

What's in YOUR beach bag? - practical life fun
Pretending to go on vacation is neat. Going is even better but we do not have any plans at this time. Still, it's better to be prepared and as such, I set out an activity where Zahavah had to select what to bring to the beach. Would she pick a bathing suit? A pair of pair of pajamas? I let her pick reminder her we would be at the beach on a warm sunny day. Once she was happy with her picked items, she had to fill her beach bag with her folded belongings.

Beach craft
Art is something Zahavah loves. She likes craft a lot though so I always try to think of things we could make together. As far as painting and drawing goes, she already does a lot with her brother during our art appreciation classes so when it's "preschool time", I try to keep it simple and fun. For this week, I picked a first palette craft, which recreates a beach scene. It was very fun to do for everyone who tried their hand at it and I highly recommend it! I modified the version found online to suit my preschooler's desires by the way. She wanted to use her own props instead of making them out of clay and preferred using play dough for the sand so her small animals could truly dig in the sand. Check out the steps and materials necessary on First Palette's website.

Can you find the hiding seashells?
Planned on using a sugar caster tool for this but it seems to be missing, so I put a kid size slotted spatula instead. The goal was to find the seashells hiding in the sand using the tool. I used real beach sand and real seashells found on an Israeli beach. They were small and as such, provided a better challenge than the store-bought kind.

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Thursday, September 25, 2014

Down by the Seashore - Part 1

Well, although beach season is pretty much over for us (yes...Germany does have beaches and yes, it's already nippy!), I couldn't help but have a beach-themed week for my little one. She, like most children (and adults possibly) loves the beach and anything connecting to it. It took me a while to organize this week's activities but that's mostly because I needed to smoothen things out for my first grader first. In terms of ideas, it was flowing quite easily. 

Nature Center: Down by the Seashore. For hands on exploration and scientific exploration
Our first Nature Center for the year got it: beach treasures! I tried to provide a variety of items for exploring and touching but as we are far from the beach and not big into trinkets, we did not have that much in our center...On hand, I had an array of seashells. Some bought in stores, some provided by Adrian's own personal collection (he loves collecting shells at the beach!). I also had the big "centerpiece" seashell, a souvenir from the Bahamas. I added some real beach sand as well to remind the kids that beach sand is really just rocks that were eroded. This sand really showed that (thank you to the beautiful Florida panhandle beaches for their donation). I also added a vase from Tenerife to show that not all beach sand is beige. My vase included grey/black sand from the volcanic beach of the island. Beach glass, sand dollars and natural sponges were also in the center for exploration. Even my oldest took interest in the center and wanted to know more. "Was beach glass real glass?", "How did it get so smooth?", "Where did it come from?", "What are the holes under the sand dollars?", "It was alive?", "Where can I get my own huge seashell, mama?", Sponges grow?", "but I went to Cyprus too and didn't see any!"

Storytelling with pictures - a day at the beach
A great and easy language activity can easily be prepared with pictures printed at home or shown onto a computer monitor. For this activity, I picked a few pictures of Zahavah at the beach and asked her to tell me about the picture (the other ones were put aside for other days). When she got stalled, I'd ask her questions to prompt for more information. Where was it? (can you believe she remembers? "Israel!", "Sardinia!") What are you doing? Was the water cold? Did you collect seashells? She got quite talkative and loved the opportunity to share about her day at the beach and...requesting another one! :) 

Sensorial: Perfect water temperature for a swim!
As a first thermal activity, I thought we'd do a twist on those metal thermal bottles by using little cups filled with water. I prepared 3 different cups and doubled them. As such Zahavah had 2 very cold cups, 2 very warm cups (not scalding hot of course!) and 2 cups at body temperature. She had to feel the water in each cup with her finger and decide which matched which and finally had to tell me which she'd rather swim in. Can you guess which that was?

Color tablets...hmm swimsuits!
Felt swimsuit anyone? I couldn't resists putting a little twist on the color tablets! As this was our first introduction to the tablets this year, I prepared the little swimsuits in only the 3 first colors: red, blue and yellow. Needless to say, it was an easy match and the 3 period lesson lasted about just as long as 3 seconds! :)

Language: The sandpaper letters make their introduction!
Well it's about that time when a child should learn the letter sounds, right? Zahavah will be turning 4 this winter and so I'm starting to introduce the sandpaper letters. At this age, my son already knew the names and sounds of the letters but Z is not exactly interested in letters. I'll be trying to change that this year. The first letters introduced in a Montessori setting are the ones above so I'll be working on these with Zahavah until she masters them. Her big brother was so happy to see these again!

A play dough beach!
Play dough is, needless to say, a staple in most preschool aged kids' environment. I'm afraid our playdoh has been used so much that it is now either dry or of funky coloring due to color mixing so I did what I do every so often: made a batch of homemade play dough. I didn't dye it so it looked somewhat like sand and was used to...replicate a beach this of course! I put tiny accessories in a basket and Z loved decorating her "sand" to turn it into a nice beach. She even invited her Disney princesses to come relax on the beach and added more seashells for them to collect! This activity came out every day...several times a day! Thanks to Counting Coconuts for inspiring this one!

Play dough prints/fossils
Not nearly as popular as the play dough beach was the play dough prints and fossils center... I liked it. Very pretty but it did not fascinate my daughter one bit. :(

Language: Circle inset...becomes a beach ball!
Zahavah is not a pro at handling the metal insets (in our case...the plastic insets) but she loves them. Her favorite thing to do with them is to pretend they are puzzles. This week though, I showed her how a new way to use them. We practiced the single outline of the circle. I showed her how I transformed my circle into a beach ball and she was sold. Couldn't resist making her own beach ball using the inset...neither could my 6 year old actually! :) We also discussed the shape she created and went about looking for more circles in the house.

Smooth & Rough Board : beach sand or not?
I thought this week would be perfect to introduce the rough and smooth board...after all, it is sand on the board! Zahavah felt the rough sandpaper and the smooth balsam wood with her fingers and declared it felt like sand on the top. She didn't like the texture as much as she liked the bottom of course. We discussed the difference between smooth and rough and went about the house finding rough and smooth items to reinforce the concept. Z loves to move so I try to give her opportunities to leave her rug.

And that is partly how our first school week got started...For more beach-themed activities presented during our first school week, stay tuned! :)

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Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Changes to our Calendar Bulletin Board

Like most everything in life, changes sometimes have to be made to ensure the timelessness of the invention. Such was the case with our calendar cork board built last year. I knew this day would come and was not afraid to change things a bit. I kept most of the board intact actually since my oldest is reluctant to change but wanted to adapt it a bit to add some elements; namely a section called "In the News" and another one called "This Day in History".

A Newer Version of our Calendar Board!

I had those ideas back when I first put the board together so I knew I'd have room when the time would  come for these additions but I still had to shift other pockets slightly. Both pockets were well received by the kids. Now, there isn't always "fresh news" or a post about "this day in history" but when the sections are filled, the kids are always excited. I try to have at least one pocket filled each day. 

In the News section, I simply print off...fresh news! Nothing that would not be age appropriate of course and nothing long but always something with a picture. I also try to pick news that I know will appeal my son and daughter. For example, last week, my son was excited to read about the big asteroid that passed close to Earth. He was also jumping with joy when he saw that yet another volcano erupted (sorry Papua-New Guinea!). 

This Day in History is also something fun to have. Every month, I pull up what happened years ago on that day and choose one for each day; one that once again, will be relevant to my youngsters and geared towards preschool/primary kids. Sometimes, I actually don't find anything they could relate to and don't put anything down for that day. So far, Adrian was most excited about the day in history when a race was conducted in between a horse and a steam locomotive! He could not believe the horse actually won! :) 

Above our board, I've also added, using tack, reward charts, a behavioral chart, the Pledge of Allegiance and the National Anthem of the United States. I find it important that as citizens, my children know the words to both (besides, if they were in a public American school, chances are, they'd recite at least the pledge daily). Each morning, we recite and sing. Sometimes, we watch a video of other kids/performers singing the anthem too. The behavioral chart idea actually came from another blog I'm now following : Fun in First. Although Jodi uses the chart for an entire first grade classroom, I thought I could use it for Adrian and Zahavah. To read more about how it works, head here. I started using these after Adrian showed resistance to his "extended" school days. It curbs most complains now and gets him to do his work neatly and at a regular pace. At the end of the month, I have a prize each child gets for having at least 15 stars on their chart. Of course, the charts do not include week-ends! ;)

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