Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Fine Motor Skills and Gross Motor Skills:Bubble Wrap

Is there any kid in the entire world who doesn't like popping the bubbles in bubble wrap.  We bought a new oven this weekend (pizza on the menu again after 6 weeks waiting! Yey!) and of course it was swathed in bubble wrap.
A, R and B all wanted to get hold of it and pop the bubbles but it was B who got to play with it longest in the end.  He tried popping the bubbles by squeezing them between his fingers but this didn't work too well.  His preferred technique found from empirical observation was to place it on a flat surface (like the floor) and press down.
All good fine motor stuff but gross motor?  If you have a big enough roll of bubble wrap put on the floor and walk, run, jump, hop,skip, dance, crawl and anything else you can think of to burst the bubbles, no fingers allowed. Even better if you have more than 1 piece then you can make it a contest.  Manic but fun!

Monday, 20 September 2010

Recycling Crafts:Windsock

The wind has definitely decided that it is Autumn and is blowing for all it is worth - it's almost like being back in the UK.  This was a quick weekend craft make to take advantage of the weather.
You will need:

large plastic bottle, ours was about 1.5 litres
ribbon or string to hang the windsock up
plastic carrier bags

Cut the bottle into rings each about 4-5 inches high.
Take a hole punch or pair of scissors and make two holes in the top edge of the bottle opposite each other.
Cut a length of string or ribbon and tie each end to one of the holes to give a hanging loop.
Punch holes around the bottom edge of the ring.  We did eight holes (even number) to be able to use two colours.  How many holes you use will depend on how big your bottle was to start with.
Cut the bags into strips and poke through the punched holes, tie each one with a double knot at one end to make a long tail.  All of this is good practise for little fingers.
Hang somewhere it can blow in the wind.

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Climbing Trees and Skinning Knees

Yesterday my children climbed a tree! Now there will be people all round the world who are sitting there saying "So what?". Let me explain why this is such a big thing.

If you are a child in the modern UK the chances are pretty high you have never climbed a tree.  Trees big enough to be climbed are old trees- old trees are often removed from public places like schools and parks because they can have dangerous things like dead branches.  If they are replaced, and sadly it is often an if, it is with small immature trees that are too small to climb.  Even if they are perfectly healthy trees may even be removed simply because they are big enough to climb and therefore there is a risk that a child could be injured falling from the tree.  Likewise many trees will have lower branches removed so that they cannot be reached from the ground specifically to prevent climbing.

So much for climbing trees in public places.  How about just climbing trees at home.  Here we get to the climbing trees are old trees argument again.  Aside from those families who live in flats and therefore don't have a garden most UK housing bought or rented by families with young children is new or recent build.  Cost being the prime reason - availability being another.  Such houses often don't have a garden big enough for an old tree (it would take up the entire space) and haven't been established long enough for a mature tree to have grown anyway.

The image of childhood and playing outside includes things like climbing trees, making treehouses and rope swings from branches.  Most of the children in the UK will be extremely lucky to be able to do these simple things that 50 years ago would have been much more common.

So if you do have a local climbing tree it is a privilege, don't just ignore it, let your children love it and climb it!

File Folder Games:Frog Colour Matching game for download

Another great game for free from File Folder Fun.

Simply match the frogs and the bugs - two colours on each one so slightly more difficult than the dinosaur colour match.  Download the pdf's from this page which includes other colour matching games.

Saturday, 18 September 2010

File Folder Games: Dinosaur colour matching game for download

I have to confess I hadn't really come across File Folder Games as a concept until I started reading homeschool blogs during the last year.  File Folder Games along with Lapbooks were often mentioned and I didn't know what they were.  What I discovered was that File Folder Games are home-made games that allow learning and reinforcement on any subject and any level; they can be for kids to work on alone or for multiple players; and there are thousands of examples on the net for you to to inspired by or even use directly due to the generosity of some great educators.  This game is one such.
This file folder game is free for download from File Folder Fun.  It is a simple one to one colour matching game that you could use on its own or as part of a dinosaur theme and is listed along with several others on this page.
B got this straight away.  As I passed him each dinosaur he put it straight on the different shaped one that matched in colour (I think the only one he hesitated over was the purple one which he initially matched with the pink).  Of course we talked about each colour as we put them into the game as well.

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Fine Motor Skills meets Science Sunday: What's inside a pepper?

Take one two-and-a-half year old, one yellow bell pepper and one table knife and let the fun begin.

B loved this activity.  He got to cut the pepper open and explore how it smelt, tasted, felt, sounded and looked inside.  Holding the knife and playing with the small seeds are both fine motor skills activities.  "Yellow" was also the word of the day since it is one colour which he has problems identifying (usually with a yellow object it is "green" to B).  He cut, snapped, broke and (tried to) squish the pepper.  He cut it into ever smaller pieces and counted seeds.  He even noticed that it was wet when we cut it.  Not bad for one small vegetable!
And we even get to save the seeds to germinate with our older kids another time.

Saturday, 11 September 2010

Paper Crafts: Kung Fu Panda Wall Masks- update, link no longer valid :(

Our first playdate since moving to Northern Germany.  A is a decided Kung Fu Panda fan since we bought the DVD over the summer and when we collected his playmate he was clutching a cuddly Po so this seemed a brilliant rainy playdate activity.
The free downloadable patterns for these Kung Fu Panda 3-D wall masks are from the HP Activity Centre along with some other nice stuff.
We have made Po and Viper so far but there are five to choose from:  Mantis, Po, Monkey, Viper and Tigress.  The instructions and artwork are available to download separately for each character and work well with the ones we have made so far - although I have to admit we used sticky tape not glue (not as pretty a finish but more instant results).

So if you have a Kung Fu Panda fan in your home (or a fan coming for a playdate) why not give these a go.

hairy maclary game

Using the images from here I made up this simple card game.  I would make a .pdf for download but I have a feeling that this would be a serious breach of copyright.  But here is how I made ours for our own personal use.

The object is for the players to attempt to collect all six dogs featured in the Hairy Maclary story.
Each player has one long card with the pictures of the six dogs.
The remainder of the cards are shuffled and placed face down between the players.
Players take it in turns to take a card from a pile.  If it is a dog they still have to collect then they can add it to their collection.
If not they put it back in the middle.
If it is Scarface Claw then they have to remove one of their cards.
Winner is the first player to collect all six dogs
We made six of each dog for the single picture cards and only three of Scarface.
Let the game begin!

Monday, 6 September 2010

Fine Motor Skills: sticks in a shaker

More fine motor practice using stuff from around the home.

This time using coloured sticks and a shaker from the kitchen gave us an opportunity to practice motor skills and talk about colours as well.

Sunday, 5 September 2010

triceratops hat

In the same vein as the giraffe and elephant heads we made earlier this year - here is the original costume inspired by the triceratops in How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight? again made from corrugated cardboard and papier mache.

Homemade Ice-cream

We have been having fun with my latest toy - an ice-cream maker.  It was a birthday present and a big surprise.
For years (and I do mean four or five) I have been asking for an ice-cream maker for birthdays and Christmas to no avail.  It had got to the stage where it was:
"What do you want for your birthday?" 
"Well, I would ask for an ice-cream maker but there is no point as I won't get one!"
But now here it is a Proline IMC15 with its own freezer so all you have to do it bung everything in a wait for 60 minutes to have home-made icecream.

Now if your family is anything like mine everybody wants their own flavour so we have had a trip to the store to get some containers and have made two different flavours so far - Chocolate Chip and Banana and Almond.

Apologises that the measurements are in cups - this is what came with the machine!  Of course you could use the recipe without an ice-cream maker - pour into a freezer container and whisk the mixture at intervals to break up the ice crystals as it freezes.

Chocolate Chip Ice-cream (Makes eight 1/2 cup servings)
This was originally supposed to be plain vanilla as our first foray into homemade ice-cream but when we had added all the cream etc. to the maker I discovered that the vanilla essence had not been unpacked yet! We saved the situation by adding a bar of chocolate chopped up to make our own chocolate chips.

1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups double cream
1 bar chocolate chopped

Mix together the milk and sugar in a bowl until the sugar has dissolved.  Add the other ingredients and throw it all into the ice-cream maker.  Turn on and wait to see what happens.  At this point it was impossible to get close as there where three small heads all crowded around the machine.  The mixture, which looked nowhere near enough at the start of the session, began to expand as it froze and looked like it was about to climb out of the bowl!  We held our nerve (and our breathe) and it stopped just at the top of the bucket.
The verdict- well it goes to show that commercial ice-cream doesn't really have that much cream in it!  This was very rich; next time we will have to adjust the proportion of cream to milk (or maybe add some yogurt instead of some of the cream).  Oh and having found the vanilla I am definitely going to add a few drops next time as well as the chocolate chips, sometimes a little thing can make a lot of difference!

Banana and Almond Ice-cream (makes eight 1/2 cup servings)

2 bananas, mashed
1/2 cup almonds, chopped
1 cup milk
1 cup double cream
1/2 cup sugar
3-4 drops vanilla essence

Stir everything together and pour into the ice-cream maker.
60 minutes later this is what we had. Yep at the top of the maker again!

The milk to cream balance was much better this time, much less fatty tasting. It was also very bananary (is that even a word - well you know what I mean!) so could maybe stand 1 banana not 2.  The almonds had a hard time competing against the bananas so maybe a little more of them next time. Oh and to make it perfect some toffee or caramel sauce - yum!