Have you enjoyed your first snow of the season yet? We just did! Here are 6 learning activities it inspired.

6 Activities for Learning in the Snow

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.

At least that’s what my kids are singing. Me? Not so much. I don’t really appreciate the falling white stuff as much as they do.

I think that’s because I have to drive in it. And deal with freezing hoses when I go water the cows.

But, there’s something special about the first snow of the year. We just experienced that this week. My kids woke up, looked out the window and asked to go outside to play.

They bundled up, and headed out for an hour of fun and learning before coming in to warm up for breakfast.

I love how much they’re learning while they play in the snow. If your kids need a little winter inspiration, here are six fun activities for them to try. Each activity highlights a few of the many skills your child will be practicing while having a blast.

1. Build a Snowman

I dare you to suggest this one without breaking into a certain song from Disney’s Frozen. You know the one. It was seriously stuck in my head all day!

Kids naturally seem drawn to creating things out of snow. Here’s what they’re learning while they build:

  • Comparing sizes (the head should be smaller than the body after all!)
  • Properties of snow (it’s cold, it’s white, it can stick together when packed if it’s the right kind of snow)
  • Creativity (what will make a good nose? How can I pose my snowman?)
  • Fine and Gross motor skill practice
  • Motor planning (it’s not easy to balance while pushing around a big snowball!)

2. Shovel Some Snow

It’s amazing how fun this task is if you don’t have to do it. Just keeping a snow shovel accessible seems to call the kids’ names, especially my boys.

Jeffrey shoveling snow with a snow shovel. The steps might not be perfect when he finished, but they were a lot better. And he practiced some important skills:

  • Being considerate of others
  • The angle to hold the shovel to get the greatest amount with each scoop
  • Thinking through his actions (where should the snow go when he dumps it?)
  • Gross motor skills

3. Color Some Snow

My kids love doing this, and no they aren’t out there just relieving themselves (well, I can’t promise they didn’t do that, but that’s not the kind of coloring we’re talking about!)

A quick snow spray is easy to prepare. You just need an empty bottle, a few drops of food coloring, and water.

Mix the water and food coloring in your bottle. Then send your kids outside to color snow. You’ll probably need a bottle for everyone to avoid battles.

While your kids are busy spraying, they’ll be learning more about:

  • How water spreads as it sprays (which will change how they spray)
  • How water and snow react
  • How colors dilute a bit when sprayed on a wet background

They’ll also be practicing their fine motor skills as they use the spray bottle.

Here's a snow volcano the kids made. Can you see the red tint they gave it with their spray bottles?

4. Go Sledding

It doesn’t take much of a hill to get a sled going. This is another winter favorite of my kids.

There hasn’t been enough of a snow pack yet to bring the sleds out this year, but they’re looking forward to it.

Sledding teaches kids:

  • How to judge risks and take appropriate ones
  • A little bit about gravity
  • A bit about the laws of motion
  • Perseverance (because it’s hard work packing that sled all the way back to the top time after time!)

5. Draw with a Stick

The snow is their canvas, and a stick is their crayon. Writing and drawing in the fresh snow is fun!

Your child will be:

  • Practicing forming letters
  •  Improving fine motor skills
  • Judging size and proportions to get their picture or message to look just right
  • Creating shapes

6. Use a Magnifying Glass

We have a couple of large magnifying glasses (aff. link) that are pretty kid friendly. They’re great for bringing outside and exploring.

Your child can spend time looking closely at the snowflakes. This is especially fun if they’re outside when the snow is actually falling.

They might even be able to catch some on black paper to check out more closely.

They’ll learn:

  • That snowflakes are different from each other, but share similar properties
  • How to compare tiny objects
  • How things look different through a magnifying glass than through the eye

What are your kids’ favorite activities in the snow?

Whatever it is, you can bet they’ll be learning as they play. I’d love you to share your favorites in the comments section.

Disclaimer: This post has affiliate links, which means that if you click on one of the product links, I’ll receive a small portion, and you won’t pay any more for the product!

 

Try these five science car games the next time you hit the road with your kids.

5 Science Car Games for Your Next Road Trip

Are you traveling for Thanksgiving or Christmas this year? If you’re looking for new ways to keep your kids engaged and avoid squabbles, give these science car games a try.

These games are perfect for road trips. They don’t require any materials, they’re easy to learn, and they’re educational. Best of all, they’re actually fun.

Since most of my kids are young (grade 2 and under), the science covered isn’t complex. Many focus on animal science, since that’s an accessible topic for most ages.

Here are the science games that my kids enjoyed:

1. Animal Classification

This game provides great practice in naming animals from the five main classes of vertebrate animals (those that have a backbone).

Here’s a quick refresher for you:

Mammals: Animals that have fur or hair, and give birth to live babies

Birds: Animals that have feathers covering their bodies, lay eggs, and many have the ability to fly

Bony Fish: Animals that are covered with scales, have a skeleton, and live in the water

Amphibians: Cold blooded animals with moist skin that spend the first part of their life cycle in the water and the second part on land.

Reptiles: Cold blooded animals covered in dry scales, that live on land, but can go in the water

Honestly, I always confuse amphibians and reptiles! But that’s alright. This game is good practice!

How to Play

One person picks a class of animals. Then each player takes a turn saying an animal that falls into that class.

If a player can’t think of an animal that hasn’t already been said, that person is out for the rest of the round.

The last person to correctly name an animal from the class wins.

Some rounds (like mammals) will obviously last longer than others. But that makes it more of a challenge and fun!

2. Living or Non-living?

In every ecosystem, there are living (biotic) things and abiotic (not living) things. These work together to make the environment complete.

It’s important that kids know the difference between things that are living and things that are not, and this game helps them practice making that distinction.

For this game, players will need to be able to look out of the window.

The goal is to work as a team to name a certain number of living things and the same number of non-living things that you see outside.

Here are some examples:

Living:

Birds

Horses

Cows

People

Bugs

Grass

Trees

Shrubs

Dogs

Non-Living:
Rocks

Dirt

Sunlight

Air

Water

Litter

Cars

Road

Clouds

How to Play:

Working together as a team helps build family unity. You’ll first pick a number of how many of each living and non-living items you want to find. Somewhere between 5-10 is a good starting point.

You can decide if you want to look for living or non-living things first. Then everyone starts looking and calls out when something is found. When you’ve found enough of the first, move onto the second.

If desired, take a moment or two to discuss whether the item found was correctly labeled each time one is found. This adds some more science into the game.

3. What Animal Am I?

In this game, one player thinks of an animal. The other players take turns asking questions to figure out what animal is being thought of.

How to Play:

One person goes first. This person secretly selects an animal.

The other players take turns asking yes or no questions to learn more about the mystery animal. Here are some sample questions:

  • Do you live on land?
  • Can you breathe underwater?
  • Do you live in a rain forest?
  • Have I ever seen this animal?
  • Are you a mammal?
  • Do you lay eggs?
  • Can you fly?
  • Do you live on a farm?
  • Does this animal say, “Moo!”?
  • Do you eat other animals?

Based on the answers given, your questions can get more and more specific. Feel free to ask about coloring, size, or anything else that helps you get closer to guessing.

4. States of Matter

There are three main states of matter that children learn about in the early years of science. These are solids, liquids, and gasses.

This quick game helps them think about the properties of each, so they can correctly classify an object by the state of its matter.

How to Play:

Pick one player to go first. This player calls out one of the states of matter: solids, liquids, or gasses.

Now players take turns looking around them in the vehicle and out the window, and say something that matches that state.

Once everyone has named something, let another player pick the next category.

You can repeat each category more than once if interest holds. Liquids and solids will be the easiest to spot while traveling, so you may want to do those two more often.

5. The Food Chain Game

This game allows the family to explore the concept of food chains. It can get a little silly at times, which is okay!

How to Play:

One person goes first, and picks a small animal that eats grass, leaves, seeds, or nuts.

The next player names an animal that eats the first person’s animal.

And so the game continues. It’s fun to see how many animals you can fit into the food chain.

Once you reach a large predator or a human the food chain is complete. Stop the round and let someone else go first.

Will you play any of these science car games on your next trip?

Or do you have any other ideas for science car games?

Please share in the comments.

Other Car Game Posts:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Looking for some great books to help ignite a love of reading in your early readers? Give these books a try!

18 Great Books to Help Beginning Readers Soar

Learning to read is such an exciting time! One of the best ways to encourage reading skills is to introduce your early readers to great books.

When your child is interested in the material, it’s no longer a struggle to get him to read. It makes sense. Were there books you had to read that you hated in school? I know I had a couple!

Disliked books were SO MUCH HARDER to get through.

So if your child is fighting reading, it could be that you haven’t stumbled upon anything yet that is of interest. Keep trying new books, because you never know when you’ll come across the one that unlocks the love of reading for your child.

Here are 18 great books that I’ve used with beginning readers. They represent a variety of interests and difficulty level, because I’ve learned that children will stretch their reading ability if they’re engaged in the book. These all fall in the early reader (grades K-2) category though.

All of the links in this post will take you to the book on Amazon. They are affiliate links, which means I’ll get a small portion for everything you purchase. But, you won’t pay any more!

1. Fix It Duck

My mom, a former kindergarten teacher, introduced us to this book. Duck likes to fix things. Except, he’s not always very good at it. Like when he decides to use a hammer to fix a window.

It’s a fun book–you just should be sure to keep a close eye on your hammers after reading it! 😀

2. Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus

We love the pigeon books by Mo Willems! While some of the words will be a challenge for a young reader, the majority of the text will be easy. That makes it a great book to read together!

3. I Like Bugs!

Do any of your kids like bugs? My early readers all do. They’re always catching grasshoppers, making habitats for worms and keeping me informed of how many bugs they’ve found. Kind of grosses me out, but that’s alright. This book is the perfect one for bug lovers!

4. Henry and Mudge

Your child can read all about the many adventures that Henry has with his huge dog Mudge in this series of books. They’re great for readers who want to get to know some friendly characters and stay with them throughout several books.

5. You Read to Me, I’ll Read to You

These books have alternating colors of text. One color is for the parent to read, one for the early reader, and one color means to read the material together.

My kids love sitting and reading these. It’s a great way to model good reading at the same time as you let your child practice reading aloud!

6. Dr. Maggie’s Phonics Readers

These are my favorite phonetic readers. They actually tell a story that makes sense instead of just having random pages of easy to decode words. I highly recommend them as first books!

7. Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?

The repetitive pattern and beautiful pictures make this book engaging for early readers. It’s a great way to practice sight words such as do, you, and see.

8. Go Dog, Go

This was one of my favorites as a kid. My mom hated it! Now my kids love it, and I love to hear them read it. It’s one of the first they can read aloud to me.

They also like to read it to Grandma, because she still doesn’t like it!

9. If You Give a Dog a Donut

Actually, any of the books in this series are fun for early readers. It’s a cause and effect story that ends up right back at the beginning. If you give a dog a donut, he’ll want something different. Then you’ll give him that and he’ll want something new. Until he ends up wanting a donut again!

10. There Was An Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly

If you sing silly songs with your kids, you can often find matching books to go along with them. This is a fun way to practice pointing to each word as you read/sing the words.

11. Thump, Quack, Moo

The animals on Farmer Brown’s farm aren’t your typical farm animals! They’re always up to something.

12. The Very Hungry Caterpillar

What will the little caterpillar find to eat before he turns into a beautiful butterfly? My kids love looking at all the food as they read this book.

13. Dragon Egg

Oh no, a dragon egg rolled out of the nest. Where will it end up? This easy reader explores a fairy tale world.

14. The Very Lazy Ladybug

This ladybug likes to sleep. But everywhere she goes, she gets woken up. It’s hard to get to each new spot, because she doesn’t know how to fly. This is a fun book, that has a few more words on each page than some of the others in this list.

15. Are You My Mother?

Another classic by P.D. Eastman, the little bird in the story doesn’t know where his mother is. He travels all around asking different characters, “Are you my mother?”

16. When a Bear Bakes a Cake

This fun rhyming book is perfect for early readers who can decode long vowel words. The pictures help provide clues in case the reader gets stuck.

17. The Berenstain Bears Kitten Rescue

The Berenstain Bear books are so much fun to read, but there are so many words on each page they can easily become overwhelming to young readers.

That’s why I was so excited to find these I Can Read! Berenstain Bears books. They have just the right number of words on the page to make them accessible to early readers.

18. One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish

Another classic, this Dr. Seuss book has all sorts of crazy characters. This book will give your child a chance to practice decoding nonsense words like Zeep and Yop.

What Books Would You Add?

Do you recommend other books for early readers? I’d love for you to share them in the comments so I can check them out!
 

 

Looking for ways to engage your kids in the kitchen while you cook? Try these activities.

10 Easy Ways to Engage Your Kids in the Kitchen

The kitchen can be the heart of the home! It seems like I’m always in the kitchen–cooking three meals a day, plus our snack, not to mention all of the clean up and prep. I can either be there by myself, or I can bring the kids in the kitchen and get them engaged.

I love to do the latter! If you’re running out of ways to keep your kids engaged (and out of the way of the hot stuff), here’s some easy ways.

1. Let Them Run a Restaurant

Encourage your kids to bring out some pots, pans, and spoons and “cook” some food on their own. My early elementary and preschool age kids love to do this.

They’ll take my order and then set to work stirring their pretend ingredients together. They pour out of measuring cups, add some seasoning (with the lids closed) and go to town.

Then they dish it up onto a plate and bring it to me to pretend to eat. So much fun!

2. Let Your Kids Make Salad

Salad is a kid-friendly dish to prepare, especially if you’re using packaged salad that’s already cut. If not, older kids can cut up some vegetables, or you can work with the younger kids to do it too.

The kids can then add baby carrots, frozen peas, dried fruit, and a variety of other ingredients. You could even have them go around and take orders for who wants what on their salad, and then create customized bowls for everyone in the family.

Bonus…kids are more likely to eat the salad if they help make it!

3. Give Them Some Dough

If you’re making bread, break off a small chunk and let your child play with it. You can also use play dough.

Let them poke it with chopsticks, cut it with butter knives, and just have a grand time. My two toddlers stayed engaged with dough for over thirty minutes the last time we did this one, which is huge!

4. Use Magnets

Cookie sheets and refrigerators are great canvases for magnets. Invest in a set of ABC magnets, and a variety of other styles. They’re so much fun to play with!

My kids love to divvy up the fridge magnets and play. They use the animals to create stories, try to build as many words as they can with the few letters we have left, and just have a grand time.

Of course you’ll need to make sure your child is old enough not to try and eat the magnet before you try this activity!

5. Make an Instrument

If you don’t mind noise, challenge your child to create an instrument from kitchen equipment. You might have a pan turned into a drum, a set of spoons being played, or rubber bands wrapped around a cracker box.

Anything goes as long as the food doesn’t end up on the floor! Then let your kids serenade you while you finish cooking.

6. Washing Dishes

Washing dishes is a fabulous way to get some sensory play. If your kids are young, just plan on rewashing the dishes when they’re done!

Give them some warm water, some dish soap, a rag, and some non-breakable dishes. Pull up a stool or a chair and let them play in the water.

7. Enlist Their Help

Pull up a chair and encourage your child to help you. If you start young, they’ll quickly learn some cooking skills.

Measuring and stirring are great starting points. Here are some other kid friendly tasks:

  • Washing fruits and vegetables
  • Getting ingredients from the cupboard
  • Chief Taste Tester
  • Spreading butter on bread or beans on tortillas
  • Setting the table
  • Counting plates and forks
  • Unloading the silverware

There are plenty of others, so give your kids a couple of tasks and see what they enjoy working on.

8. Cleaning

A couple of my kids love to organize! I put them to work emptying out a messed up cupboard and letting them have their way.

It normally ends up looking a lot better than it was before they started!

You can also give your kids a bucket of soapy water and a rag and let them wipe the outside of the fridge and dishwasher.

Just be sure to have a good supply of towels on hand so they can dry up when they’re done!

9. Color

If you have a nice amount of counter space, keep some special coloring supplies in the kitchen so your kids can use them. They can pull up a stool and sit down and make place mats for everyone. Or they can just use a coloring book.

10. Whipped Cream Painting

This is another one that takes a little extra counter space. Spray a good sized ball of whipped cream on the counter and let your kids play in it.

When they’re done, give them a wet rag and make them clean up the mess. It’s a fun way to engage in messy play without having to worry about any non-edibles.

How do you engage your kids in the kitchen?

If you frequently bring your kids in the kitchen, what other activities do you use to keep them engaged? Please share your ideas in the comments!

Inexpensive homemade math manipulatives can help your child understand a variety of math concepts.

5 Inexpensive Homemade Math Manipulatives

Using manipulatives help students understand math concepts. Being able to see math really makes it easier to grasp for most students.

Three Stages of Math

In fact, college math classes that prepare elementary teachers to teach math recommend moving through three distinct stages of instruction. The first stage is concrete, using hand on manipulatives to demonstrate concepts.

After this stage comes the pictorial. This is what most elementary math books do well.  Pages that show items for students to add, show pictures of groups of ten, or have a picture of a clock all have pictorial representations of math.

Once students understand the math, they’re able to move onto the abstract stage. This is where they solve math problems by looking at numbers and symbols. If a student doesn’t know what the addition sign means, the number sentence 2+3=___ is a foreign concept.

That’s why all three stages of math are important. The knowledge gained at each stage prepares a student to master each math concept.

Homemade Math Manipulatives

Manipulatives are an essential part of math instruction, even at home. Unfortunately, store bought, ready-made manipulatives can really add up. To help lower the bill, here are five math manipulatives you can make at home.

They’re all fairly simple, and utilize common household materials. You’ll find directions for each, along with a few tips on how to use them to support your math instruction.

Gather what you need, and have your kids help you for a math day!

1.      Double-Sided Counters

To make your own double-sided counters, you’ll need:

  • Large lima beans (uncooked)
  • Fingernail polish or spray paint
  • Newspaper to protect your work surface

You’re going to color one side of each bean. The fastest way to accomplish this is to line your beans up on newspaper in a single layer. Then give them all a quick coat of spray paint.

Alternatively, you can paint one side of each bean individually with some nail polish. This is a fun way to get the kids involved, but is definitely more time consuming.

Allow plenty of time for your counters to dry, and then store them in a Ziploc bag or an old-cookie tin.

Use Counters to:

  1. Demonstrate addition or subtraction problems.
  • 1 red counter plus 3 white counters equals how many counters in all?
  • If you have ten counters and take away all four white ones, how many are left?
  1. Bring story problems to life
  • Sally picked three red flowers and five white flowers. How many flowers did she pick in all?
  1. Make arrays for teaching multiplication (with the same color up)

array

Three rows of four counters equals 12 total counters. 4 X 3 = 12

  1. Teach the different ways to make the same number

You can make five with:

Homemade Math Manipulatives: Counter

1 red and 4 white (1+4=5)

2 red and 3 white (2+3=5)

3 red and 2 white (3+2=5)

4 red and 1 white (4+1=5)

5 red and 0 white (0+5=5)

2.      Fraction Plates

Fractions are a hard concept for many learners. Especially when they’re trying to remember if ¼ is smaller than 1/3. A set of fraction pieces are a great way to help reinforce fractions.

To make your own, you’ll need:

  • 7 paper plates that are all the same size
  • A ruler
  • A permanent black marker
  • Scissors

Your goal is to turn each plate into a set of fractions. Use a ruler and your marker to mark your lines, and then carefully cut them apart. Each piece of each plate should be the same size, to show that fractions are a whole divided equally.

You’ll wind up with:

Homemade math manipulatives: Fraction Plates

fraction-2

Leave one plate intact to represent the whole.

Use Fraction Plates to:

  1. Experiment with equivalent fractions.
    • How many eights does it take to make a ½?
    • What is the same as two sixths?
  2. Explore sizes of different fractions.
    • What is bigger, a fifth or a third?
    • What’s the piece called that is ½ of a ¼?
  3. Solve basic addition and subtraction problems with fractions.
    • If you have ½ and you add ¼, how much do you have?
    • What happens when you take a sixth away from a third?

3.      Bundles of 10

Place value is the understanding that each digit in a number represents something. The digit in the ones column shows how many ones. The digit in the tens column shows how many tens, and so on.

This concept can seem rather abstract to young learners, so creating bundles of 10 is a great way to provide understanding.

You’ll need:

  • 100 straws, coffee stirrers, or toothpicks
  • 10 rubber bands

Have your child count out a group of 10 straws and bundle them with a rubber band. Continue until there are 10 groups of 10.

Use Bundles of 10 to:

  1. Represent numbers 0-99
    • To represent 34, your child would use 3 whole bundles. Then an additional bundle would need to be opened. Four of those straws are needed to show 34.
  2. Practice counting by 10s
  3. Understand that 100 is 10 groups of 10
    • Use an 11th rubber band that’s slightly bigger to bundle all ten groups of 10 together. Ask your child how many straws are in the big bundle.

4.      Geoboard

Geoboards provide an excellent tool for students to study geometry. In addition to just making basic shapes, they can explore the concepts of area, perimeter, parallel and more.

To make your very own geoboard you’ll need:

  • An 8X8 piece of wood (sanded to avoid splinters)
  • 49 nails
  • A ruler
  • A pencil
  • A hammer
  • A package of rubber bands

Using your ruler, mark off a grid of 1 inch by 1 inch squares on your board. Then at every intersection, hammer in a nail half-way. You don’t want the nails to go all the way in, the tops are needed to act as pegs to wrap rubber bands around.

You’ll end up with a one-inch border around your geoboard, and 49 pegs to hold the bands.

Use Your Geoboard to:

  1. Explore basic shapes
    • Ask your child to make a triangle. Then a square. How about a rectangle?
  2. Understand the term congruent and similar
  3. Create parallel and perpendicular line segments
  4. Calculate the area of a square
  5. Calculate the perimeter of a rectangle
  6. Create complex geometric designs using basic shapes

5.      10 Frame

A ten frame helps students visualize the numbers 1-10. They encourage students to use the 5 and 10 space as a reference, which helps build mental math skills. To build your own ten frame, you’ll need:

  • An egg carton
  • Scissors
  • Counters (your painted lima beans work well!)

Cut the top off of your egg carton. Next, cut off the little piece with the tabs that keeps the egg carton closed.

Now you have a section with 12 egg holders remaining. Carefully cut off the last set of two, leaving two rows of five holders each.

This is your ten frame!

Homemade math manipulatives: ten frame

Use the Ten Frame to:

  1. Introduce odd and even numbers
  2. Practice one to one correspondence
  3. Practice addition and subtraction facts through 10

Have you made homemade math manipulatives before?

I’d love to hear what you made and how you used them! Will you be trying any of these five?