Rainbow Noodles Sensory Play--a fun way to keep kids engaged and exploring.

Rainbow Noodles: A Fun Sensory Activity

Recently, I was coming up on a writing deadline. I knew I needed a fabulous activity to keep the kids engaged while I sat nearby and worked on the computer. Rainbow noodles to the rescue!

Sensory learning is important!  I knew a low-mess activity could keep the kids playing and exploring for a while. So I brought a pot of water to a boil and cooked a pack of cheap fettuccine. You can use spaghetti, but I think the thicker texture of fettuccine holds up to play better.

To Make a Batch of Rainbow Noodles

Once the noodles were cooked to al dente, I drained them. To speed up the process, I ran cold water over them until they were cool enough to touch.

Then, I added a couple of tablespoons of olive oil and stirred to make sure everything was coated. I didn’t want the noodles sticking together.

The oily noodles got separated into several different bowls. I let each child who wanted to play pick a color, so we ended up with six bowls.

The kids picked their color, and added two drops of food coloring gel into their bowl. I handed them each a chopstick and let them stir.

When they were finished, the noodles were bright and colorful. We let them dry in the bowl for about fifteen minutes, while we took a short snack break. Kids who aren’t hungry are able to focus for a little bit longer, after all! đŸ˜€

Prepping for Play

After cleaning up our snack mess, I brought out a large paper plate for each child. I asked them to each head outside and select three rocks for meatballs.

The kids loved searching for the best meatballs!

While they were out, I scooped a little of each color noodle onto each plate. I added a pair of chopsticks and a plastic fork as well.

When the kids came in, they added their meatballs to their plate. Then I let them each pick two other tools to play with.

They picked:

  • Measuring cups
  • Spatula
  • Wooden spoon
  • Cookie cutters
  • Silicone muffin cups

Let the Fun Begin!

Then we gathered the rainbow noodle plates and the tools, and headed to the table. I spent a few minutes with the kids watching them play.

My son with disabilities (and Pica) immediately started eating his noodles. That’s why we were using an edible today!

As he was eating, he let them drop onto his head and arms. I knew he’d be fine and enjoy the activity.

The other kids were getting into their noodles. They started off playing with each color separately, but it didn’t take long until they were all mixed together.

Rainbow noodle play!

Then the free play started.

They cooked each other meals of noodles, added a certain amount meatballs to order, and arranged noodles into shapes.

Another child suggested making a rainbow out of the noodles, bending one of each color onto the table. They all picked out their noodles and tried to build their own.

They used chopsticks to see who could pick up the most noodles at once, and who could pick out only one of each color.

One decided to count how many noodles it took to fill a specific measuring cup.

They had a blast!

And I was able to sit nearby with my laptop and knock out some work. Win win!

Clean Up

When we were done, we tossed the rocks back on the driveway. We gathered all the big noodles and tossed them out for the chickens to eat.

A broom and dustpan took care of most of the remaining mess. A few pieces were sort of gummy and needed picked up by hand. Good thing there were plenty of helpers to help!

The next time I do this activity, I’ll likely cook up two boxes of noodles. That way everyone gets more to play with. If you have a smaller family, one box will probably work just fine for you!

The next time you’re looking for a low-key, open-ended sensory activity whip up a batch of rainbow noodles.

Rainbow Noodles Sensory Play--a fun way to keep kids engaged and exploring.

Telestrations is a fun family game! Here are some easy adaptations to allow early readers and writers to play too.

Adapting Telestrations for Early Readers & Writers

I recently picked up the game Telestrations at Goodwill. Thankfully, all the pieces were there, and it was ready to play.

For this game, you start with a word and draw it in your sketch book. Then the next person looks at what you drew, and writes down what they think you drew. You continue taking turns guessing and drawing, passing the sketch book to the left each time.

Here’s what it looks like (affiliate link…):

It’s a fun game, but does require a bit of adaptation to play with younger children. Here’s how I make it work for my family.

The Youngest Is Teamed Up

When my four-year-old wants to play, she and I team up. I tackle the reading and writing, and let her do the drawing. That’s her favorite part.

I also pass the two toddlers each a dry erase marker and a sketch book. That keeps them entertained while the rest of us play!

Pick Any Word on the Card

The original rules in Telestrations call for rolling the die to see which number word on the card you draw. This causes a problem when you’re playing with early readers. They might not be able to read that particular word.

Here's how we adapt the rules of Telestrations to make it accessible to early readers and writers. So we allow each player to pick any word, from either side of his or her card. If a young reader can’t read any of the words, we let them draw again.

Everyone loves being able to pick the word. My teenager likes it, because she can pick something she actually would like to draw. The early readers like it because they get to be in control of deciding which word they can read. It’s a win win!

Use Invented Spelling

When my younger players write down what they think someone else wrote, they aren’t allowed to ask anyone how to spell a word. They have to say the word, and just do the best they can.

This keeps the game going more smoothly, and makes them practice listening to each letter. It’s a fun way to practice!

You Can Ask for Reading Help

Because of the invented spelling, we’ve had a few instances where we just can’t figure out what was written. There are also cases when an older player wrote something as a guess that an early reader can’t read.

So when we play, you can ask the person sitting next to you to help you read. You just have to ask politely and not shout.

We Don’t Keep Score

There are directions for scoring in Telestrations, but we don’t worry about keeping score. Right now, we’re playing for fun. We typically play two or three rounds and call it good. It’s fun for everyone, even without a “winner!”

We All Share

Once we reach the end of a round, everyone takes turns sharing the pages in their sketchbooks. This lets everyone practice their speaking skills, and we all get a good laugh out of the way the word changed through words and pictures.

Have You Played Telestrations?

I love board games, and I was happy to add this one to our collection. It’s one we’ll get a lot of use out of. Have you ever played this one? I’d love to hear your family rules and adaptations in the comments.

 

Save

ABC Pancakes & Easy Letter Identification Games

My young kids love playing with ABC pancakes. Now don’t worry–I’m not letting them get all sticky with syrup and butter by playing with real pancakes.

Nope.

They’re using pancakes I whipped up on the computer. I made a basic template by copying and pasting a circle over and over again in Word.

When I printed it, I made sure to print enough copies that I ended up with 26 circles. I actually got 30 copies since there were six pancakes on each side, but they had fun writing their names on the extras.

How to Make ABC Pancakes

Once you print the pancake templates, let your kid cut them out. They don’t have to be perfect (the real pancakes I make rarely are either), and it’s a great way to practice fine motor skills.

Then, give your child a marker. He’s going to write a mommy letter on one side of each pancake, A-Z. On the back of each pancake, write the same baby letter. So one pancake will have A on one side, and a on the other. Another will have Y on one side, and y on the other.

Once the pancakes are lettered, have your child color them. My kids decided to use brown so they looked like actual pancakes, but there’s no reason your child has to. Let them use their imagination if desired! Just be sure you can actually read the letters when they’re finished.

When the pancakes are ready, have your kids pick up the scraps. Now they’re ready to play! You’ll need the pancakes they just prepared, and a spatula.

Scramble the cards, and lay them out on the table. Here are three different games to play, that’ll help with letter identification:

ABC Order Stack

Have your child use the spatula to lift up the letter A and place it in a nearby spot. Next, they need to lift the letter B and stack it on top of the A. Continue until there’s a stack of 26 pancakes in ABC order.

Flip Over

Pancakes need to flip! Have your little one say the name of a letter, and flip it over to reveal the mama or baby of the same letter. Kids need repetition to help them remember, so making it fun helps!

Order Up!

Let your child try her hand at being a short order chef. Go up to the table and “order” a stack of pancakes with three different letters. You might say:

I’d like a stack with Y, W, and B today please.

Let your child stack up your order and read the letters back to you.

Take turns being chef and customer. You can always use fewer or more pancakes to keep the game at an appropriate level!

Want some pancakes of your own?

Here’s the template I whipped up. It’s super simple, because if you’re looking for fancy you’re at the wrong blog.

ABC Pancake Template

If you print it out and play, I’d love to hear how it goes in the comments section below!

Photo credit: Elli O via Unsplash

Who says teaching nutrition has to be boring? Here are five activities to help your child learn to make wise food choices.

5 Activities for Teaching Nutrition

Teaching nutrition to our kids is essential. There’s so much junk food on the market today, and it’s easy to access.

To balance this out, our kids need us to help them build a solid nutritional understanding. They need to know that not all foods are created equally, and that treats aren’t meant to be eaten all the time.

But, teaching nutrition doesn’t have to be boring. Here are some of the activities I use to reinforce nutrition concepts with my kids.

Food Group Sort

Materials Needed:

Newspaper ads from the grocery store

Scissors

Glue stick

Paper

Procedure:

By cutting out a variety of food and then sorting them by type, your child will gain a better understanding of the food groups.

Have your child cut out several kinds of food from the ads.

Then, ask her to sort them into groups that make sense. When she’s done, have her explain the groupings to you.

Tell your child that now you’re going to sort them. Break the food into the following categories:

  • Protein
  • Grain
  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Dairy
  • Treats

Talk to your child about the way you sorted them, and explain that these are the food groups. Our bodies need some from each category to grow well.

Have your child glue the pictures from each category onto a piece of paper.

Drawing a Balanced Meal

Materials needed:

Drawing paper

A dinner plate

Pencil

Crayons/Colored Pencils

Procedure:

This game is all about creating a balanced meal. To start, ask your child to trace the dinner plate onto his paper.

Put the plate away.

Ask your child to draw a balanced meal that he’d love to eat. It has to include:

  • A protein
  • A fruit
  • A veggie
  • A source of dairy
  • Some grain

Then let their imaginations run wild. My kids have created some crazy combinations, like this one my seven year old came up with:

  • Hot dogs
  • Bananas
  • Carrot sticks
  • Chocolate milk
  • Mashed potatoes

While it’s balanced, it’s definitely not a combination that I’d normally make to go together. But that’s okay–I really wanted to make sure he knew what the components of a balanced meal were, and could name something from each category.

Fruit & Vegetable Alphabet Game

Materials Needed:

None

Procedure:

This game is an alphabet game–your goal is to work as a team to name a fruit or vegetable for each letter of the alphabet.

Thinking of this variety will help expose your child to several different kinds of produce.

One person starts by saying a fruit or vegetable that starts with the letter A. The next person does B. Continue until you reach Z.

Nutrition & The Farm: Where Our Food Comes From

Materials Needed:

The ingredients you’re using to prepare dinner

Procedure:

Invite your child into the kitchen to help you cook. As you prepare the meal, talk about where each ingredient came from.

If you’re using milk, cheese, and hamburger, you can talk about how these all came from a cow.

Eggs come from chickens.

Fruits and vegetables are grown in a garden.

These conversations are simple, and important. It’s essential that consumers know where their food comes from. Make sure your children know–food comes from farms!

How What You Drink Affects Your Teeth

Teeth and eggshells are composed of similar material. This experiment will help your child see the impact that what they drink has on their teeth.

Materials Needed:

2 eggs

4 clear plastic glasses

Enough soda to fill a glass

Enough water to fill a glass

Enough juice to fill a glass

Enough energy drink to fill a glass

Procedure:

Carefully crack the eggs in half and preserve the shell halves. Use the eggs as you’d like and rinse the shells.

Have your child help place one half egg shell in each plastic glass.

Let your child pour water into a glass over the eggshell.

Repeat with the other drinks.

Each day for a week, carefully remove the eggshell and observe any changes. Look for changes in:

  • Color
  • Texture
  • Strength
  • Shape

After a week, dispose of the egg shells and discuss what you saw. Some beverages are really hard on our teeth!

Experiment inspired by this one.

What activities do you use for teaching nutrition?

I’d love to hear how you teach nutrition in a fun way. Please share in the comment section below.

You don't have to play Monopoly by the rules. Here are 5 learning activities with this classic game.

5 Learning Activities with Monopoly

Monopoly.

This game takes FOREVER when played correctly. But, it’s the perfect learning manipulative for these five activities.

These tweaks also allow you to “play” the game with younger kids. Which is a bonus!

1. Buying Property & Houses Card Game

Monopoly has all of that beautiful money, just waiting to be used! It’s the perfect tool for teaching kids all about money.

We organize the money into the plastic holder that comes with the game. Then, we shuffle all the property cards and pile them face down.

On each person’s turn, she draws a card and locates that property on the board. Then, she reads the price, and counts out how much money it is.

She takes the money out of the bank and puts it in front of her. Kind of backwards shopping I know, but it’s been a fun way to play!

Then, whenever it’s their turn again, players can buy houses for $100. They use the money in front of them to buy those.

They don’t need a Monopoly to buy a house, and houses can go on any property they own.

2. Story Telling

We use the pieces in Monopoly as key items in a story. This one is simple. We put all of those pieces in a hat or bowl.

One player draws out three. Then, they have to tell a story using all three pieces. The kids usually use the actual pieces as props, helping to act the story out.

When one person’s story is done, we put all the pieces back in and another person draws.

3. Go Around the Board

We use the dice and practice counting for this activity. Everyone picks a piece and places it on Go. Then, we take turns rolling the dice, adding how many dots in all, and moving our piece that number.

I usually set a limit–we’ll go around the board three times or something. Some of my younger kids would play this version for a long time!

4. Majorly Modified Monopoly

To make the game simpler, we remove the money. On your turn, you roll the dice. If you land on a property, you get to find the card and keep it.

If you land on another square, you have to sing the ABC song, Touch your toes 10 times, or do any other random activity that the person who goes after you decides.

This version keeps us laughing!

5. Money Sort

We shuffle up the money, and divvy it out. Everyone gets a stack of random money.

The first person to sort their money by denomination wins!

Then, we practice counting by each number. It’s fun skip counting practice!

Have you played other games with Monopoly?

I’d love for you to share your tweaks. It’s the perfect game for all sorts of learning fun!