Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Nature Identification Part 2

Growing up, my grandparents loved nature. They had books to help you identify different birds and flowers. I think they were in alphabetical order, and each kind had a picture so you could learn what they looked like. Sometimes, my grandparents would find a new kind of bird or flower and look in the book to see what kind they had found. Look at your library. They should have books like this as well as books on trees, leaves, bugs, and other things that your kids may like. Then come up with some activities to incorporate the books.

Some further ideas are:
  • Have some fun with photography. Kids love taking pictures, and now that most people have digital cameras, it is easier to let them take a lot of pictures. Go on a walk. Let your kids take pictures of flowers, trees, or birds that they see.
  • Make a collage of the pictures you take, and label them. You can even make a digital collage on your computer.
  • Catch different kinds of bugs to look at under a microscope or put into a bug box to observe.
  • Label or draw pictures of your bugs.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Nature Identification Part 1

Growing up, my grandparents loved nature. They had books to help you identify different birds and flowers. I think they were in alphabetical order, and each kind had a picture so you could learn what they looked like. Sometimes, my grandparents would find a new kind of bird or flower and look in the book to see what kind they had found. Look at your library. They should have books like this as well as books on trees, leaves, bugs, and other things that your kids may like. Then come up with some activities to incorporate the books.

Some ideas for leaves are:
  • Collect as many different kinds of leaves as you can find. When you get back identify them in a leaf/tree book.
  • Add to the activity by drawing pictures of the leaves you find and labeling them.
  • You could also make leaf rubbings by putting paper of the the leaves and rub a pencil across so the veins and shape of the leaf show in your pencil rubbing.
  • Another leaf activity for kids who like to be creative is to put your leaves in a book. Get page protector sleeves to drop the leaves into. Put in a piece of paper first with the name of the leaf on it. Then you can put a leaf on each side of the paper.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Penny Science Round 2

This is a fun experiment for kids to try. You will need, a penny, an eyedropper, and rubbing alcohol, and a cup of water. First, fill the eyedropper from the cup of water. See how many drops you can place on a dry penny before it spills off of the penny's side. (You will be surprised if you have never done this before. I usually get between 30 and 60 drops of water on a penny.) Next, repeat the experiment by dropping drops of rubbing alcohol from the eyedropper onto a dry penny. (You will only get around 10-20 drops.) Explain to your kids that the difference is that water is cohesive (bonds with itself) while rubbing alcohol is not. (In kid terms, "water wants to stick to other water like best friends. We call this cohesion. Rubbing alcohol does not do that because it is made of different stuff and it happens to not stick to other rubbing alcohol very well.")

Friday, June 12, 2009

The Goal of American Education

Recently I read an article about American society and how we view education. The article mentioned that we,as a society, push all kids to go to college and tend to look down on vocational training. If you want to read the article, click here. Of course I think that education is important, but he does have some good points. College may not be for everyone, and there should be no shame in vocational training. Those positions are necessary in our society, so we should appreciate the people who do these jobs.

I must admit my favorite part of the article was when he talked about parents not accepting their child's scholastic achievement level. He is exactly right. Most parents believe that their child is a genius, so if they do not understand they immediately blame the teacher. Of course we all want our children to be smart, but most children need extra practice at home in a few subjects to achieve their full potential.

I think it is still a good idea to push kids towards college for the most part, but there is nothing wrong with vocational training.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Penny Science

I learned about this from a child's magic book. It fascinated me quite a bit as a child, yet the science behind it can be quite an educational moment. You will need a few cups of different sizes and a large stack of pennies. Put the cups somewhere that is OK to get wet. (I did mine in the sink) Then, fill the first cup with water. It must be full to the point of spilling if one more drop was added. Then, rub your finger around the rim of the cup to make sure that the rim is dry. After that, slowly place pennies in the water (carefully so as not to make waves.) You will see the water level bubble up out of the cup eventually. (It should not take too long if you filled the cup enough.) Let the kids discuss why they think the water is bubbling over the top of the cup, but not spilling. If you want, you can use this chance to teach them about the cohesive (bonding) properties of water. (It bonds to other water molecules so it stays together instead of spilling - to a certain point.) When the water eventually spills over, you can count the number of pennies that you put in the cup before it spilled. Then, repeat with a different size cup. After doing this a few times compare the number of pennies you got into each cup. Did larger cups hold more pennies?

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Brain Tuner

For those of you that have an iPhone, your child must want to play on it all of the time, right? Let me suggest an application that will be great for your child ages 6 and up. It is called Brain Tuner. It gives your child basic math facts (addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division) and then asks them to select if the answer given was right or wrong. Kids can pick 20, 60, or 100 facts and compete against the clock to be the fastest one. I love this because it encourages kids to know their facts so well that they can do them quite quickly. Kids love to get a new speed record, and parents love that they are practicing their math facts. If your children are younger, you can touch the small "i" in the bottom right corner of the main menu. From there you can turn each opperation on or off. That way younger kids can do just addition or even addition and subtraction. Older kids can do all four, or just pick one or two they need extra practice with. Another nice option on that page is the review option. You can turn this on so it will review the ones that your child missed.

The best part is that the lite version is free. (I have not bought the full version, but it is only a couple dollars if you are interested.) I personally think that the lite version is enough. It lets kids practice their facts as much as they need to or would like to, but with the feel of a game.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Helping Hands

It is good for kids to learn to help out around the house. It teaches them responsibility as well as to take ownership. My mom used to make it fun for us to help around the house. Once in a while (usually on the BIG cleaning days) she would get out 2 plastic bowls. Then, while my brother and I were playing, she would cut paper into strips. On the papers she would write tasks for my brother and I. His tasks went into one bowl, and mine went into the other. Each of us would end up with around 15 strips of paper. 15 chores would probably overwhelm a child, but not all of our tasks were "work." For example, we might pick something like refold the clothes in your 2 messiest dresser drawers, but then the next task might be to give mom a hug. Often our chores would include dusting a room or two, picking up our own things, vacuuming, getting hugs, or maybe running around the house once. But it was more fun because you made it into a game. (We called it the cleaning game.) The idea of not knowing what will come next kept it exciting. Sometimes, when we were almost done, my mom would slip in a paper that said, "Go to Taco Bell for all of your hard work!) We would race to finish up everything from our bowls so we could go out for lunch! My mom got a lot of help out of us, and we enjoyed it.

Monday, June 8, 2009

11 Year Old College Graduate

Recently an 11 year old boy graduated from East Los Angeles College. I am including a link to the news story below. You would think that a boy who finishes college by 11 must not have any time for extracurricular activities, but he has won many national championships in martial arts as well. This article is a short interesting piece. I thought the end was interesting when he mentioned why he does not like to play video games.

To view the article click here.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Take a Twist on Old Road Trip Games

We've all played games on long road trips like the alphabet game where you race to find the letters of the alphabet in order. But try a new twist, such as finding the numbers from 0-100. It can prove to change things up a bit.

Another game is where you think of names of things like animals or people then you try to come up with another name from the last letter of the previous one given. For example elephant - tiger - rhino, etc. Make it more interesting (and educational) by thinking of different categories like state names, cities, landmarks, things on a map, etc.

Many traditional car games can be spiced up without much extra effort. If you have any suggestions or ideas feel free to share them with others in the comments below.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Website Review ~


Appropriate for ages: all ages

Helps with: Learning American Sign Language

Review: Kids are interested in Sign Language. This is a great website to help them get started on the basics. It is not a website to take you from knowing nothing about Sign Language to being fluent in signs, but it will help you learn some signs that you can experiment with. When you first load the page, you will see an introduction. Scroll down; from there you will see links to area of the site. The site is grouped by categories of signs such as signs for babies, religious signs, conversational signs, etc. Click the link to start learning what you are interested in. Once you feel confident, you can even try to take a multi-choice quiz. The thing that I liked about this site is that it shows videos of each sign. This is much more effective for teaching signs than illustrations! Elementary age kids are often very interested in Sign Language. See if you can't experiment and learn a few.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Sort it Out

Sorting can be such a good exercise for younger children. Everything from a stash of old buttons to a small pack of M&Ms can help a child learn organizing skills. Encourage your child to sort their toys when they put them away, or sort Legos as they build. Many items, like the Legos, can be sorted in many different ways. Suggest they try to sort them in different ways, such as by size and then by color later. If your child is not naturally an organizer, make it into a game or an art project by giving them a large handful of Fruit Loops and asking them to string them according to a pattern that they come up with. Another idea is something that my grandmother did for me. She collected old buttons and saved them in a box for me. Then when I came over, she let me string them or sew them onto an old washcloth. When I was done, we would usually cut the thread and dump the buttons back into the box, but it was a lot of fun trying to find matching buttons and make patterns on the string and washcloth.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Book Review ~ Worth

Title: Worth

Author: A. LaFaye

Accelerated Reader (AR) Level: 4 (worth 4 points)

Ages that Will Enjoy the Book: 10-14

Movie Version Available: No

Review: This is a work of historical fiction that explores the feelings of belonging and fitting into a family. Nathaniel is working on his family's farm when he is involved in an accident. Due to this accident, he is no longer able to work on his family farm. An orphan train comes to town, and his family adopts an orphan boy to help with the tasks Nathaniel can no longer help with. Both boys have troubles adjusting to this new way of life. Nathaniel feels like he has been replaced, while John, the orphan boy, feels more like the help than a part of the family he longs for. The book follows the boys as they sort out their feelings and adjust to this new lifestyle. It is a nice book, and I think that kids can relate to feeling a little out of place and trying to find out how to fit in.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Fun Sand Art

Kids of course, like sand art. Make your next vacation into a memory by incorporating it into the sand artwork. If you stop at a gas station for a drink, the bottle you get could become the container for the art project. If you stop at a beach, you could get the sand and some small shells from there. Incorporate many small items in your sand art instead of just layering sand.
Some examples could be:
  • dried flowers
  • special rocks
  • small souvenirs
  • shells
  • any thing from your trip or day at the beach that would fit in the bottle will work.