Friday, 28 May 2010

Letter E: E is for Elephant: Elmer

Elmer is an elephant created by David McKee.  As you can see Elmer is different to other elephants because he isn't ordinary elephant coloured.  In this first story of a series Elmer finds out it is OK not to look the same as anyone else because he is special just the way he is.

Here are some of the resources we chose to use with the book this week:

Pictures to follow as as when of course. Wish us luck it should be a busy day!

Thursday, 27 May 2010

Railway Tunnel

If you have boys the chances are that you have a train set.  The only trouble is that once the bug hits it can get very expensive.  A and B are always piling up things to make bridges etc.  to go over the basic track; and they usually fall down within 30 seconds (cue the temper tantrum!).
Having got fed up with rebuilding every circuit of the track when the boys played with the trains I decided to get them a tunnel.  This is when I discovered how much these things are (yes it does really say 34 and a half dollars!) for a plain arch glued to a piece of track.
So having had a scout around the house here is our version

Yep it is a washing detergent bottle that was destined for the bin that has been cut to shape.  I love a freebie!

Letter C: C is for caterpillar, the Very Hungry Caterpillar lacing cards and online animated video

Having put together the resources for the Hungry Caterpillar on my own post here I came across a mention of hungry caterpillar lacing cards for download from Confessions of a Homeschooler. The link for the download is near the bottom of the post for the letter C so you will need to scroll down.  Brilliant as we still have to get around to actually producing these here.
 This is a fantastic site with millions of great ideas (many available free for download), just be sure you stock up on printer ink before visiting because I guarantee there will be something there you just have to print out and use!

We also found the online animated version here for if you want a change from the book.

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Handprint Crafts: Christmas Tree

OK I know this must go down as the earliest mention of Christmas ever.  It is not that I am super organised and starting my Christmas preparations before we are even in June - it is because we have been clearing out our cupboards in preparation for moving house.
For Christmas 2009 we did not know whether we would be in Germany or the UK.  In the end we decided that we would leave all our Christmas decorations behind in the UK on the basis that we would be there at some point during the holiday and it would save room on the removals van.  So far so good.  What we didn't count on was that R and A would feel it wasn't a proper Christmas since we weren't putting up decorations.  Add to that it was the first Christmas for about 6 years that we didn't "do" the School Nativity Play and somehow Christmas didn't seem to be really happening.
I decided that although we didn't have the time, space or money to have a "proper" Christmas tree we would make our own that could be hung on the wall.
Here it is in all its rather crushed glory.

The leaves are handprints from all three kids on different shades of green  paper.  We drew round their hands onto thin cardboard first and then used this as a template or it would have got very boring and the tree would probably never have been finished.  We decided on a star for the top just like we have at home.  A and R helped me stick the leaves to a cardboard tree made from an unwanted box.  R decided that it needed some other decorations and so found something suitable from her advent calendar box.
When it was finished we stuck it to the patio doors where it looked brilliant against the snowy garden background.
So there you have it a free Christmas tree for those who have no room for a tree.

Learning resources:poor joe

I came across this post on momtessori for these learning cards.

My first thought was what a brilliant idea - the next thought was "how much!" OK $8 or so it not a lot but I thought that being "money poor and time rich" making our own would be a good idea.

And here they are:

I used this image of the basketball player with the ball painted out. (The images from this site are free to use and adapt as you want providing you acknowledge where they came from so here I am doing just that!)

B wasn't that interested at first. A asked what they were and how they were used so I sat on the floor with him and started saying "Oh No! Poor Joe! He has no.." and letting him fill in the missing word.  He thought it was hilarious and soon B just had to come over to see what was going on.  Although he didn't add any of the words (he is only 29 months old!) he was very interested in holding the cards and looking at the pictures and concentrated hard.  For the rest of the day it was "My Boy. My Joe" and they cannot be used by anyone else when he is around. (Not even by mummy for a photo - now that is a result I like)
For more learning resources head over to Tools for Tots.
Tools For Tots

Medieval Make

Take several cardboard boxes, some tape, glue, paint and tissue paper.
Add one fantastic 8 year old and leave undisturbed for a weekend.
This what you get.
For more creative makes head over to Mama Jenn and

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Little Red Hen

The project for May 2010 over at Unplug Your Kids  is "bread".  I avoided doing last months project because I could not think of anything creative for "flat" and at first I could only think of the obvious for bread and actually bake some.  Then I was looking for some links to go with the story bags I have been trying to put together and I found a link to an online version of "The Little Red Hen".  Well that was my lightbulb moment so here are the resources to go with the story.
The story itself is thought to be a folk tale which was originally written in the 19 th century.  The hard working red hen finds a grain of wheat and plants, grows, reaps, and mills the wheat and then bakes the flour into bread.  Along the way she asks the "who will help me...?" of the lazy animals where she lives all of whom answer "Not I".  Today there are many versions of the tale and which version you have dictates the animals involved in the tale but the choral nature of the text is usually common to each version.  At the end of the tale the red hen having done all the work keeps all the bread for herself - the moral of the tale,hard work pays off and if you want to share the benefits you have to work with the team.
The story can also be used to teach plant life cycles; sequencing, farm animals, and crops as well as linking into a baking session!
Without further ado here is a list of resources you could use to tie in with this version.  This version has a duck, a dog and a cat as well as the hen but obviously if your version has different animals you might need to adapt it slightly.

Photos to follow once I get my camera back from OH!

    Science Sunday: Sunshine and Shadows

    Sometimes the most successful sessions are the ones you make up on the spot.
    It was an absolutely beautiful day here yesterday and A decided off his own back to get out the sidewalk chalks.     As he came back into the cul-de-sac he remarked that he could see his shadow.  Cue the "oldy but a goody" science lesson.

    We first marked a line on the ground and where A's toes where and then drew round his shadow (and Daddys!) Then I asked A what would happen to his shadow during the day. (Answer "Nothing") We came back to it at 45 minute intervals and what do you know the shadow had moved round and got shorter!  Unfortunately Daddy then decided to park his work car on top of our experiment and when he moved it later the sun had gone behind the building so maybe we will choose our site more carefully next time;)

    Head on over to Adventures in Mommydom for more Science Sunday ideas

    Sunday, 23 May 2010

    Cooking for Kids: Tuna and Mushroom Spaghetti

    My oldest kids are big fans of the BBC TV series Masterchef.  Recently the BBC have started a children's one (Junior Masterchef) where kids aged 9-12 compete in daily cookoffs until one will be crowned a winner at the end of the series.  R (and A) have started using phrases such as "When I'm on Junior Masterchef..." and since they are both veteran cake makers I decided that R could help cook dinner so handed her  my cookbooks and this is the recipe R choose albeit with a slight adaptation to fit what we had in the cupboard.
     Tuna and Mushroom Spaghetti (serves 4)
    350 g spaghetti
    2 tbsp oil
    1 clove garlic, crushed
    175 g mushrooms
    tinned sweetcorn, drained
    200 g can tuna in brine, drained
    150-200 ml carton creme fraiche
    juice of half a lemon
    Cook the spaghetti in a pan of salted boiling water according to the instructions on the packet.
    Whilst the pasta is cooking make the sauce.
    Using a table knife cut the mushrooms into slices (nice and easy and no possibility of cutting little fingers!).
    Heat the oil in the pan and add the garlic and mushrooms, cook for a few minutes until brown(er) and soft.  Add all the remaining sauce ingredients and stir to combine.
    Once all the pasta is cooked drain and stir in the sauce.
    Serve. Simple, quick and delicious.

    Sunday, 16 May 2010

    Letter D: D is for Dog: Hairy Maclary from Donaldsons Dairy

    Hairy Maclary From Donaldsons Dairy is the first in a series of book by New Zealand author Lynley Dodd.  In the story Hairy Maclary goes on a walk with all his friends until he meets Scarface Claw the toughest tom in town who scares all the dogs so much that they run back home.  It is filled with lots of lovely rhyme and repetition; at the end of each page is the phrase "and Hairy Maclary from Donaldsons Dairy" guaranteed to get the kids chiming in.

    Here are my resources for using with this book this week:

    Letter C: C is for Camera: Camera I-Spy

    There is something irresistible about digital cameras for my kids.  So much so that often I put my camera away save and sound and when I come back to it it has no battery left and a full SD card.  It is interesting to see what they think are noteworthy things to take photos of. 
    One of the things that A likes to do is just look at the world through the camera - not necessarily take photos but just use the camera to focus more clearly on what he is doing.  B has picked up on this and I saw him doing this yesterday.  So why camera I-Spy? because the camera can be used to build his vocabulary.  Here's how it works.  I sit him on my lap so we can both see the screen and I zoom onto something of interest in the room, I then ask B what it is, what colour it is, what shape it is, who it belongs to etc (he's not quite up to what letter it begins with yet but we'll get there!).  Having the screen limit the field of view is perfect for helping him concentrate on a limited number of objects and makes it easier for him to guess what it is I'm talking about.

    Saturday, 15 May 2010

    Cooking for Kids: English Flapjacks

    These biscuits are a specifically English recipe.  In England (unlike the US and elsewhere) Flapjacks are a chewy syrupy oaty biscuit that is baked in the oven. They are great for kids to take to school in their lunchboxes as the oats are a slow release carbohydrate (although you do get the instant buzz from the syrup and sugar).  This is the basic recipe but you can make countless variations some of which are suggested below.  Best of all a lot of the "cooking" is done in the microwave so it is easy for the kids to help to make.
    fat for greasing
    100 g brown sugar
    60 ml golden syrup
    100 g butter
    200 g oats
    Preheat the oven to 160 degrees centigrade or 325 Fahrenheit.
    Grease a swiss roll baking tin.
    Take the butter and place in a large microwaveable bowl.  Heat in the microwave until just melted.  In my microwave this takes 1 minute but this will vary according to the power of your machine.
    Add the sugar and syrup and give another 20 seconds to heat together slightly (this makes it all mix together easily otherwise the syrup can crystallize and the sugar will not dissolve and you get a biscuit with crunchy crystals in patches).
    Add the oats and stir well.
    Press into the prepared tin and bake in the oven for about 25 minutes.  
    Whilst it is still warm cut into squares.  Leave to cool in the tin before turning out.
    what can't you add to the basic mix? Well not a lot!
    dried fruit
    fresh fruit
    chocolate chips white/ plain/ or milk
    butterscotch chips
    honey instead of syrup
    chocolate on top
    toffee and chocolate on top (like millionaires shortbread) the variations are only limited by your imagination.

    Friday, 14 May 2010

    Snow scene

    R decided to make a snow scene entirely on her own this morning and she wanted to share it here.  It has a school, a hotel, a house and a person playing in the snow.

    stART - The Very Hungry Caterpillar

    Since most of the stuff we have been doing this week is inspired by The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle I thought that it would be a good idea to link up to the stART project over at A Mommy's Adventures.

    At  the start of the week I wrote this post about what we intended to do with the book.Here are some of the things  we actually did.
    A decided to be very literal.
    B was a bit bemused by the caterpillar though the holes stuff...and mummy discovered how hard it is to take a decent picture at arms length whilst reading a story and balancing a book!
    We decided that it would be easier to make a butterfly mobile rather than a food mobile.  I cut out plain butterfiles from blank white paper.
    B coloured some along with the table

    R coloured others

    A decided he wanted his own mobile with bees instead

    We laminated the coloured butterfiles.  R helped by cutting them out then we hole punched top and bottom and attached some string.

    the end result looked brilliant.

    For more ideas check out 
    over at  A Mommy's Adventures.

    Sunday, 9 May 2010

    Letter C: C is for caterpillar, the Very Hungry Caterpillar

    "In the light of the moon a little egg lay on a leaf."
    When it comes to caterpillars there can only be one book. It is one of the best selling children's books of all time, has been translated into practically every language known to man and celebrated its 40th birthday last year. It is of course "The Very Hungry Caterpillar" by Eric Carle.
    Where to start? It all depends on the age of the child(ren) you are using the book with. The book can be used to introduce the concepts of big and little; counting; colours; days of the week; life cycles of caterpillars and butterflies;nutrition and healthy eating; even symmetry. By the time you add some crafts and creative play around the butterfly/caterpillar theme you have enough there for one week all on its own!
    One thing I intend to do is put together a story sack based on the book before we start the week so I have everything in one place.
    What is a story sack?
    Storysacks were developed by a Headteacher from the UK for use in his classroom and at home to engage the children in his school more actively with books and allow a fun shared interactive experience for carers and young children that could be tailored for all kinds of ages and abilities.
    Here is more from Communigate who are sponsored by Northumbria University in the UK.
    Mine will be a storybox rather than a sack (easier to store) but you get the idea!

    OK Here's mine so far - bear in mind I have a toddler, a kindergartener and a second grader and (since homeschooling is illegal in Germany) it is a supplementary activity for the older ones. As always use you own discretion when choosing the tasks relevant to your child's age and ability.
    • the book itself - alas not the super pop-up one featured in the Amazon ad above just the plain paperback but hey doesn't matter.
    • a little caterpillar made out of a pipecleaner (chenille craft stick) who can be threaded through the holes in the pages as we go, thus interacting with the book.
    • Story sequencing cards from DLTK.
    • puppets made from the felt board characters at DLTK
    • Butterfly lifecycle wheel from Enchanted Learning
    • Butterfly wordsearch from Enchanted Learning
    • craft activity - make a papier mache cocoon
    • fruit and vegetable file folder game from File Folder Fun
    • painting activity - make a puffy paint caterpillar using the puffy paint recipe used on No Time for Flashcards (she uses it for a textured lunar landscape but the second I saw it I thought puffy caterpillar I don't know why!)
    • threading activity - take pictures of the food the caterpillar ate and laminate them and punch holes in to thread onto a pipecleaner or lace.
    • mobile use the images above to construct a mobile we can use as a decoration
    • Days of the week tracer pages from First School
    • leaf/caterpillar/butterfly lacing cards
    • colouring pages
    • counting game- count out the appropriate fruit 1-5
    • match the halves food activity
    • write your own version of what the caterpillar might have eaten
    Looks like a long list and there are even more activities that we could add but this will do for a start. As always photos will follow if we get a chance to do an activity.

    Wednesday, 5 May 2010

    Sensory Bottles: shake rattle and roll

    R decided to make her own set of shaker bottles and raided the kitchen to make these three amongst others. Each makes a different kind of noise due to the different sizes of the "filling" and R and A enjoyed ranking them from highest to lowest (I am sure more will follow in the same vein), B just enjoyed making as much noise as possible running round with one in each hand and shouting "Noisy!" at the top of his voice. Lots of fun but don't forget to pass the ear plugs!

    Colours and Sorting:Fruit Loops

    Yesterday B and I worked on the essential pre-number mathematical skill of colour differentiation. Sounds impressive doesn't it! Here's how- take one box of Fruit Loops...... (and remember to take one very fuzzy photo:) )

    I have linked this post to the Homeschool Creations Preschool Corner carnival - if you are looking for inspiration for your preschoolers this site (or indeed other ages) this site is an excellent resource.