Monday, February 25, 2013

Knights, Castles and Dragons for Preschoolers - Part 1

Dragons? Yes, I hesitated grandly before coming up with a mini-unit that would include a fantasy component. After all, Dr. Montessori was not exactly known to make room for these. Part of me understands why but part of me also thinks it's sad. I find fairy tales somewhat traditional and feel like my son should at least be aware of what a dragon is. Now that he is nearing 5 years old, I feel like he is well grounded in reality and that he knows certain creatures were made up by someone else's imagination. Sure he can create his own "monsters" and most certainly the real world is big enough for a 4.5 year old to discover but I still liked the idea of incorporating a tiny bit of dragon into this thematic. Hey, doesn't the Komodo Dragon exist after all? ;)

Making old pennies can shine like new

The background story given to Adrian was that a knight wanted his shining armor to be shiny again but before handing it to us, he wanted to make sure we could make it shine. As such, we would practice on cents. Being that we are in the E.U., we used Euros but American and Canadians pennies (did you guys keep some?) will work as well and other high content copper coins from other countries would as well. You'll need some salt and vinegar. I was out of regular vinegar so I used apple-cider vinegar (thus the yellowish color in the glass) and it worked just fine. The pennies don't need to soak long at all and Adrian liked to dip for 5 seconds and check the line the solution had made on the penny before sending the coin to the bottom of the glass. For full instructions, check out the link under the 2 pictures.

Can you guess which cents were cleaned and which weren't?

Can you guess which cents were rinsed and which weren't?

Ok. So the rinsed cents did not leave any residue on the paper towel and the ones that were no rinsed sadly didn't leave much behind either. It just remained on the coins themselves...which is still cool since the cents were quite colorful when we flipped them over. Adrian thought the rinsing versus non-rinsing changed nothing at first but when he turned the coins over, THERE was a different after all! 

Instructions and extensions to this activity can be found on Exploratorium's Website

"Metal" working - Hammering textures in aluminum foil

Is texture rubbing popular in your house? We haven't done it here except with leaves but I thought we could do something similar with aluminum foil and a toy hammer and pretend we were working metal like in the Middle Ages. It was actually not very easy to find textures that would hammer well. We either have a very smooth home or hammering textures is much harder than rubbing them with crayons. The activity itself was still fun but I felt like I was looking for textures more than Adrian was.

Close-up of our results

"Castle and Sun" by Paul Klee

Being that we were doing a unit about the Middle Ages, I thought I'd sneak in our first Artist. About time, right? We've been doing art a lot but not appreciating it much. I am now aiming to do it once a month. For this month, I picked Paul Klee and his "Castle and Sun" painting. Adrian and I first looked at Klee's work through a slideshow at We discussed how he liked to use shapes and looked at the colors he liked. We talked about Klee himself and how he lived in Germany like we do. I then showed Adrian the "Castle and Sun" painting. I had printed that one. I made sure not to mention the name of the painting to Adrian and then asked him to tell me what he thought it was about. We talked about the shapes Klee used, the colors, the sizes, how he filled the frame of the picture and so on. In the end, I presented a black sheet and tray filled with pre-cut shapes. Adrian was then asked to make his own "Castle and Sun". I first saw this idea of My Montessori Journey. I saw it done with chalk too and the results are always beautiful.

Crown Jewels - Counting Gems

A little counting activity I saw on Our Montessori Home. Really easy and basic for Adrian but I didn't have enough gems to make it more challenging. The size of certain jewels made it difficult though! :) Off to buy more gems! :)

"Pin" pushing / "Slaying the Dragon"

Hmm. I didn't tell Adrian we'd be slaying the dragon actually. It sounded too violent to me so I actually told him we'd pierce the dragon's heart with a sword to turn him into a nice dragon because there was a "nice dragon" serum on the tip of the sword. :) He made sure not to miss and inserted the tip of the sword into the heart of every dragon. I found this clipart on Best Clipart Blog and the sword toothpicks at a dollar store back in the U.S.

Sharpening Jousting Lances...aka pencils

Well this was the first time Adrian sharpened a pencil. I quickly realized that 3 was way too many! :) 1 was enough and it took a while and lots of encouragement. I found it was a GREAT hand strengthening exercise though. Will have to do it again. I pretended these pencils were jousting lances in need of sharpening for the jousting tournament. Cute, eh?

Stay tuned for another post on knights, castles and dragons later this week!

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  1. I love the activities you prepared for this unit! I've pinned it for future reference!

    1. Thank you so much. Glad you liked it Katie! Haven't started on Pinterest yet. Must be the only one! :)

  2. Oh wow! These activities are great. I have a four year old. He'll be 5 very soon so I know he'll love these and I can incorporate some of them for my three year old too. I agree that fairy tale elements are important. Have you ever read Mem Fox's book, "Reading Magic"? She talks about the importance of fairy tales. They teach kids consequences and many of them values -- and they allow them to try out those scary things (that they may already imagine anyway) in a fantasy setting. But I think it's very smart to evaluate when and how to introduce them with your child.

    1. I have not read that book actually. I probably should add it to my reading list. Thanks for bringing it up and thank you for your kind comments. I try my make our time together as fun as possible. Learning always goes unnoticed! :)

  3. I love these ideas. We did a fairy tale unit last year where we talked a bit about castles and knights but since my boys are obsessed with knights we will have to a different study soon. Pinning the dragon slaying idea because it's brilliant!

    1. Thank you Rachel! I'm sure I'll be updating our activity registry from year to year as well. My boy isn't into knights and castles yet but I thought a unit on it might inspire a bit of curiosity on the subject...Better luck next year I guess! :)

  4. What fun activities! They were all different ones than I expected! Love that you threw in some science with making the pennies look new again =)

    Thanks for linking up and sharing your creativity with all of us at TGIF! I hope to see you back again today,
    Beth =-)

    1. Ha! I guess I like to think a bit outside the box! :) I'm not sure Adrian gathered how everything was linked and related but I tried to make it as interesting as possible for him and he enjoyed every single bit. Thanks for stopping by and for allowing us to link with you Beth! :)

  5. wow, great ideas

    1. Thank you. I'm glad you stopped by and found some ideas to work with!

  6. Found this post through KC Edventures museum linky. Cute ideas! The pushpin dragon slaying is so great! Thanks for sharing!

    1. Glad you like it! Meant to take the swords out again for pirate week and ran out of time! :(

  7. I love the dragon slaying activity with the toothpicks. Definitely going to use that one!

    1. Hehe. It was one of the favorites that week but I hesitated before putting it out. It is what it is: slaying the dragon is a poking activity so I made it sound like it was a good poke...a bit like a vaccine kind of poke. That appeased Adrian. :)