Aug 14, 2013

A Backyard Bug Trap

 My kids, like many others, just love bugs.  We've gone on many bug hunts during camping and fishing trips, and several here around our home.  We've caught (and subsequently released) dragonflies, damselflies, bees, caterpillars, and other various insects.  The other day, however, Dirty D mentioned that we have never set out a trap to see what kind of bugs we have living in our back yard that may be too smart to be caught.  We decided to put a pit trap in our garden area and see what we may catch!

First, we got together our materials:  a jar, a hand rake, a square of wood, some stones, and for bait we used a few chunks of cheese.
Princess and Dirty D picked a spot in our garden area and soaked the area generously with the water house so that it would be easier to dig.  Then the kids started digging a hole the depth of the jar we were using.

After digging deep enough to hide the body of the jar under the mud, we set the jar in it's hole with the cheese bait inside.
Then we set the stones around the jar and put the square of wood on top, protecting the bait and whatever it catches from our pets prying noses (and paws) and any inclement weather. 
We left the trap out overnight.  The next morning, we checked it to find an interesting insect that we have never caught or seen before!  We dug the jar out and put our specimen in a container for closer observation. 

It's not a fly, or a bee...we still don't know what it was.  It was a pretty awesome catch for our first time using a trap though, and we plan on trying different baits to see what kind of other creatures we can catch!

Aug 13, 2013

Green Week in Tot School!

A new week of Tot School for Curls has started, and this week he's having fun exploring and learning about the color green!  We are having a lot of fun with green themed, Montessori inspired activities.  Here are the things we are doing this week!

Fine Motor

The parmesan cheese container from a few weeks ago has returned and been partnered up with some lengths of green pipe cleaners.  Curls enjoys putting the pipe cleaners in the container and then shaking it around like a maraca.  He really enjoyed the poms through the lid from the past two weeks, but I felt the need to change it up just a little bit, mostly because I needed the poms for our practical life activity this week!

Practical Life - Pom Transferring w/ Tweezers

Curls has continued to show interest in transferring activities, often pouring water or juice from one cup to another.  I have been wanting to give him the opportunity to try tweezers, and these kid sized bug tweezers were just the ticket.  The poms are pretty easy to pick up using the tweezers, so Curls got the hang of it after watching me just a couple times.


I put this little matching activity together for Curls the other evening because I couldn't find any books that focused on the color green that weren't tore up.  I just grabbed a bunch of green things and made some matching cards for them, all out of index cards.  I used leaves, some grass, pictures of frogs, and pictures of green beans.  Curls goes through the cards with me, and we talk about how all the pictures are green, and we name the pictures.  Once in awhile he will match an unlabeled card with it's labeled match!

Two Color Sorting

For color sorting this week, I used some yellow and green popsicle sticks and two containers that I colored with some washable markers.  Curls is showing a little more interest in sorting by color again, most notably by not stepping on the sorting tray!  He still needs a bit of guidance, but he doesn't ignore the sorting activity altogether anymore, and I'd say that's a step in the right direction!

I recently bought a laminator and have been getting some color cards and the pieces to our daily calendar/weather board laminating so that we can start using it in our daily schedule.  I'm very excited about it, and will be sharing how I'm putting mine together and discussing it's components in an upcoming post!

Here's where I linked up!

Montessori Monday

Aug 9, 2013

Just Dance! Using Children's Action Songs

It's no secret that most kids just love to dance.  When I was teaching, we had a special time of music and movement that we did everyday that the children really enjoyed participating in, where they would move and dance according to directions in the songs.  The kids always saw this music and movement as a lot of fun, like a game almost, but the sneaky truth is that using children's action songs serves many purposes, not just getting a little exercise.  Using action songs as a regular daily activity promotes listening and thinking skills, cooperation, and rhythm, among other things.

Remembering how much my students loved this time in class, I decided to institute it at home for Curls a few weeks ago.  So I went on YouTube and searched for some of my favorite children's action songs that I had used.  After putting together a playlist, Princess and Dirty D were happy to join me in following the directions in the songs so that Curls could see what this playtime was all about.  After several days of just watching his older brother and sister do the movements, he started to join in! 

Do your kids love to dance?  Here are some of Curls favorite children's action songs to dance to!

Disclaimer:  These videos are shared via YouTube.  As with anything that can be shared, I have no control over the content of the videos and/or advertisements included within.  Please use your own best judgement when using YouTube with your children, including prescreening videos, closing advertisements immediately, and ignoring/avoiding the comments section.  

First of all, I have to say as both a former teacher and a parent, that Laurie Berkner and her little band are awesome for action songs!  When my older two were little, we had all their cds, and they got a ton of use here at home before I passed them along to my friend after my kids had supposedly outgrown them.  The music is full of energy and has this great ability to put you in a happy mood.  Our absolute favorites:

There are several more great action songs out there. Children especially love the ones where you imitate animals, such as this one: (my kids' favorite!)
And of course, the good ole "Going on a Bear Hunt" (I remember this from when I was a child!)
Do you use action songs in your home? What are some of your children's favorites?

Aug 5, 2013

Yellow Week In Tot School

Yay, it's yellow week here for Curls Tot School!  Yellow is such a fun color, and we are having a lot of fun learning about all kinds of yellow things.  Curls shelf has some simple yet educational and fun tot trays this week that he's working on!

One-To-One Correspondence (Early Math)

After last week's one to one correspondence using an ice cube tray, I wanted to really keep going with some more practice.  Curls really seems to enjoy it, so this week we are using 6 yellow foam fish and a muffin tin.

We have been doing this at the table while Princess and Dirty D are reviewing their math skills ahead of returning to school.  Curls really enjoys being involved with the morning math time!

Fine Motor Skills

The only thing about this that I changed up from last week is of course, the poms are yellow instead of blue.  So now the game is putting "lemons" in the bowl.  Once again, this is one of Curls favorite activities, he pulls it out of the shelf to do at least three times a day!  He is getting a little better with it too, and doesn't get as frustrated as he did last week.



Despite the fact that Curls was not interested in color sorting at all last week, I feel like it's an important activity to have out and available.  This week we are using 8 colored foam discs in yellow and purple that came with one of Dirty D's toys a couple years back.  The sorting mats are just two coasters that perfectly match the colors of the discs.  It's really amazing the things that you can find around the house and put together to make a great tot tray!

Curls has done a little sorting so far, but he has more fun putting the discs on his fingers as if they were rings!

Lacing (Fine Motor & Hand/Eye Coordination)

I've been wanting to do some type lacing activity since I started, but couldn't really figure out the best way to start.  I saw the idea of using clay to hold up popsicle sticks and it works pretty good.  For the rings, I just cut a few yellow pipe cleaners into pinkie finger lengths and made them into tiny circles.  I used wire clips to make sure there were no sharp points too.  Curls really, really loves doing this, I'd say it's his favorite this week.

Sensorial - Visual Discrimination

During our red week I pulled out Curls red nesting/stacking cups from this set that he received for Christmas, and he really enjoyed them, so I was looking forward to pulling out the yellow ones!  He loves playing with these, and actually does very good stacking them.

And having Princess join him in playing like they are phones!

Life Skills-Sponging Up Messes

Curls has really been showing a lot of interest lately when it comes to helping me clean, so I have been having him sponge up any spills he makes and sponge off his spot at the table after meals.  He really loves it, so I'm enjoying the help while he still wants to do it!  When he is doing this, I usually am starting dishes, so I don't often grab the camera with wet hands. 

Next week, we will be learning the color green!

Montessori Monday

Tabletop Soccer!

I originally got this idea from a Family Fun magazine that is by now a few years old.  Back then, I thought it was a super cool thing that would be simple to put together and a lot of fun to use.  So I filed the idea in the back of my brain under it's "Will Do Someday" heading.  Someday came yesterday, when we had a couple leftover pizza boxes after I caved and agreed to a pair of pizzas for dinner.  (Studly and the kids just love pizza.  I, on the other hand, am not a big fan.)

Other than the pizza box, you need a sheet of green poster board, glue, a pencil, ruler, and a white out pen or white paint and a thin brush.

First, you cut your green poster board to fit inside the pizza box and glue it down.  After giving the glue a few minutes to dry, press down on the folds of the box and slowly fold it a few times so that the paper gets a crease.  This way it will be easier to fold up the box after play.

After the glue has completely dried, take your ruler and find the middle of the box, then draw a line down the middle.  Then trace around the bottom of a cup or can at about the middle of that line.  Go over the lines with your white out pen or the white paint.  For the goals, I just basically eyeballed where the lines would be, keeping in mind that it was going to be a smaller rectangle inside a larger one.  You make the goal area on each side and go over the lines with your white out pen or paint.

After it's all dry, you have your table top soccer field!  It's really simple to make, and if your family is like mine, they will be eager to try it out when it's done.

 To play, you just need a pom pom and a couple straws.  The goal is to get the pom in the smaller rectangle on the other players side of the field.

Princess and Dirty D played for quite a bit yesterday, and I'm not sure if either of them ever scored.  There was too much laughing going on to figure out if points were made.  They did have a lot of fun though, and that was the GOOOOAAALL! (haha, sorry!)