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Sunday, February 26, 2012

Learning about Habitats

We had a week of exploring the habitats of the world which led to lots of crafty fun. We talked about where we live (in a house, a place we can sleep, be safe and eat) and then I asked the question where animals live and we came up with lots of answers: in a tree, in a pond, in our garden, underground, in the sea, deserts, jungles etc.

We read the following books as an introduction to our studies:

This is a simple picture book with six different habitats and vivid drawings of animals that live in that habitat. It is a seek and find book which engages your little one in hunting for the creature.

We also used this non-fiction title from Bobbie Kalman

Our library didn't have a great selection but there are lots of books out there on specific habitats like the desert, forest, Arctic etc.

Day One: Tree Habitats

As we already had this wonderful title The Tree in the Ancient Forest from our Tree study - It made sense to use it as our starting point for exploring animals that live in trees/forests.

After reading this beautifully illustrated book - I printed off pictures of the animals that live in the tree and we created a tree habitat picture. I sketched a picture of a large tree on a long piece of paper and Adventure-man painted it and then we pasted on the pictures.

He also played on Scholastic's Magic Schoolbus Habitat Match-up and on FossWeb's Where Does It Live? The latter game may work better as a review of different habitats but I used it as a jumping off point for talking about different habitats and animals.

You can download the clipart and my day 1 plan here.

Day 2: Desert Habitats

We watched these videos on deserts and desert habitats:

This is a gallery of desert photos:

This is a video of desert wildlife:

This is a video on desert cacti:

We then re-read our book Desert Giant and again I printed out animal images to use for our craft project.

Our craft was done on cardboard; we painted the sand yellow and sprinkled glitter all over, painted the sky blue and stuck on cotton wool clouds. The cacti were made out of playdough and we stuck little pieces of broken spaghetti onto the cacti for the thorns. And finally we stuck our animals on. It turned out really well and we had fun with this.

We enjoyed looking for animals in The Great Animal Search. It is divided into different habitats and is a great way to introduce different animals.

We then played this desert habitat online game from Exploring Nature.

Other resources:

Food Chains Card games - provides animal cards with relevant information on each animal. Includes  different habitats.

Everything Preschool: desert themed resources

Making Learning Fun: more desert themed projects and resources

Make a desert diorama

You can download my Day 2 plan and clip art here.

Day 3 Pond Habitats

I have to admit that I chose this because I knew I could get some great resources online.

So I downloaded some excellent resources from Homeschool Creations and 1+1+1=1 . All the preschool/kindergarten pond resources you could want can be found there.

There was a nice online game where Adventure-man could create his own pond and he enjoyed playing that.

Here's another from the Scottish National Heritage pond game you can use.

Our pond craft was made from a shallow box, painted blue with glitter sprinkled and I printed off templates of lily pads, frogs, ducks and turtles from here and we stuck them on. I made a dragonfly from pipe cleaners and tissue paper. I got the idea from The Lazy Stay-at-Home Mommy - hers is way more attractive and elaborate than ours - so do go to her blog to get some creative ideas for your pond!

We explored a little more about frogs and their life cycle.

We watched a couple of helpful videos:

This is a classic frog live cycle video from Sesame Street.

This is another good animated version of the frog life cycle.

This video uses footage of real tadpoles growing into frogs.

We also made a frog life cycle wheel. Here is a worksheet you can use from Have Fun Teaching.

And I've just discovered this great frog race game here!

For our active break we played at being animals in a pond - we were frogs hopping from cushion to cushion (exhausting!), pretending to be Kingfishers diving off the trees - they jumped off the sofa and had to catch a ball I threw in the air, they pretended to be dragonflies and fly around at great speed ducking and diving as quickly as possible.

Some other pond habitat resources and printables:

abcteach pond printables

Exploring pond habitats online

Pond animal flash cards and memory games

Pond printables and ideas from PreK-8.

Circle Fractions Frog craft from DLTK-kids

Making a tadpole puppet that transforms into a frog

Day 4 The Arctic

The last habitat we explored was the Arctic. We discussed what the Arctic was like, looked for it on a map and then watched this video on Arctic animals.

We sang this song about Arctic animals.

I printed this set of Arctic animal cards (from The Pinay Homeschooler) and we played memory with them.

Our craft was made out of salt dough (and added glitter to it - yes we love glitter!) rolled it out in a rough shape to represent the snow and ice of the arctic. We had cardboard animals taped onto ice cream sticks and then stuck them onto our Arctic shelf.

More Arctic habitat resources:

Arctic animals file folder game

Arctic themed ideas

Arctic animal bingo

Diego's printable arctic animal ID cards

Great ideas from this Montessori inspired post for Arctic and Antarctic activities

Here are some helpful ideas or links for a study of other habitats: 

Ocean Habitats

Prekinders Ocean Page

Learning Page - Great source of Ocean themed worksheets

DLTK-Kids - ocean themed craft

Ocean Themed Squidoo page - lots of colouring, craft and book ideas

Funschool - Ocean themed online games

Homeschool Creations Ocean Preschool Pack

1+1+1=1 Ocean printables

Nice introduction to the Ocean

Jungle/Rainforest Habitats

Basic simple information on Tropical Rainforests from Enchanted Learning

E-stories and online games

Colouring pages from The Living Rainforest

African Animals Montessori 3 part cards

Guess the rainforest animal Dot to Dot

PBS Jungle journey flash presentation

Rainforest science and activities from Homeschool-Activities

1+1+1=1 Rainforest Printables

Fabulous Rainforest Diorama from Confessions of a Homeschooler

More Jungle themed art at Totally Tots

Savannah Habitats

Printables from ABCteach

Grassland food web printable poster

Savannah animal identification online game

Pre-Kinders Safari Theme - lots of resources and helps!

African Animals colouring book

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Kindergarten Math: Playing to Learn

Adventure-man likes numbers - he likes to count them, add them, write them, looks out for them in books (we once read all the page numbers in a book rather than reading the book itself!). I was surprised by just how much he now understands without any formal teaching from me. He recognises numbers up to the hundreds, can skip count 2s, 5s, 10s, 20s, 50 and 100s, he can add and subtract numbers mentally.

I decided that I just had to encourage this love for numbers and math and I wanted to do it by playing lots of games. So here are a bunch of different math games and activities we've been doing

Number Bond games:

I downloaded these number bond flashcards from which I used in a variety of ways - we play memory and have to match up cards that  add up to 10. He loves the challenge of being timed for some reason (my girls hated it!) - so I time him to see how quickly he can match up the cards that add to 10.

We added this Rocket number bond game to our solar system studies and he really enjoyed it. I just printed out the game board and not the cards (to save ink) and we played using a die. We had counter pieces to move and whatever number we rolled - we had to work out what number we needed to add to it to make ten and then we would to move our piece to that number. A variation on the game was that we had to move to the nearest number which meant we sometimes moved back (it made the game last longer). Click on the picture to go to Mathsticks for more ways to play the game.

I printed out these triangles and we used the cards to make a great big triangle where the adjacent numbers had to equal 10.

 A ten frame is a useful visual tool for teaching math facts so I decided to introduce it into our play. I printed out a ten frame with dots representing numbers from 0-10 onto card stock and I made double copies. I showed him the cards and we'd count and say the numbers and then we'd work out how many more dots we need to make ten. We later moved onto played a matching game and snap with the cards and he had to shout out the number on the cards in hope of him becoming more familiar with the numbers each card represented.

You can print out a set from here. You can also find other ten frame activities here. In fact  has a bunch of really helpful looking activities for teaching different grades which I plan on exploring further.


I wanted to introduce him to the concepts of halves and quarters and basic fractions. I knew we had use pizza. I found this game from Learning Resources - Pizza Fraction Fun. It has many variations of games depending on what concepts you want to teach - so it has the advantage of growing with your child. Adventure-man enjoys it and we play games where we have to make pizzas out of halves, quarters, thirds etc. It is a simply fun way to introduce the concepts.

Addition games

We love Gamewright's Rat-a-tat Cat. The object of the game is to end up with the lowest value on your cards. There requires some strategy, basic addition at the end of the game, it is a lot of fun and it is a relatively short game to play so it doesn't drag on too long.
Adventure-man loves board games so I like to find printable board games where we can practice math skills. There are many printable board games which can be used for all sorts of math skill from More printables here at K-3teacherresources and at Dr Mike's Math Games.

He also loves Monopoly and Game of Life and his favourite part is counting the money out (and winning, of course!). He has got used to dealing with larger numbers - counting in 20s, 50s and 100s and can even get on with the thousand and ten,fifty and hundred thousand dollar notes in the Game of Life.


I love this magnetic money chart I bought that has English coins and notes. I purchased from Baker Ross. We use it in a variety of ways:

I started by introduced English coins and notes to him and then we'd take turns writing amounts on the board and making it with the money. I printed out little shopping cards with pictures of food or toys and they all had price on them. We would take turns drawing three cards and then we'd have to put together the right amount of money and add it all up. He loved it! You can download my cards here. (note: The cards look all messed up on google docs but if you download the orginal, they should come out fine.)

iPhone Apps and electronic games:

I must admit that he played a fair bit on the iPhone and iPad when we were moving countries and had  family health issues. I did try to find games that were educational. Here are some math games listed below (I don't tend to like to pay for my apps) so most of these are free or lite versions:

Motion Math (addition and subtraction) - we have only used the lite version so far.

Park Math - he played with this quite a lot when we first got it (actually I think I paid for this because it looked great) but he doesn't play with it anymore. Nice and attractive. Maybe it just got too simple for him.

Pearl Diver - a number line math game: it is suitable for grades 3-8 and I downloaded it for my older kids but Adventure-man seems to like it a lot. He probably gets the first two level and guesses the rest! 

More suitable for his age group is Motion Math Zoom. It covers place value and uses the number line.

PopMath - for practising basic math (addition, subtraction, multiplication and division)

An observation I've made when he has played on the Wii (but certainly not at all an endorsement for using the Wii as an educational tool!) - we allowed him to play an adventure board game on our Wii Party game and there were dice to roll and moves to make and scores to read.  I noticed that from the age of 3 - he was recognising big numbers (hundreds and over) and he was adding the numbers on the dice without any difficulty. Now, I wouldn't necessarily encourage everyone to let their little ones play on the Wii for educational reasons but it does go to show how much they will pick up when they are playing.

So my plan for now is to just keep playing with him and exposing him to all the math facts and skills that he is ready for. 

A Fun Study on Trees

It has been a LONG while since I've posted on here - Adventure-Man was 3 when I started and now he's four and a half! My absence from blogging is fully explained here, so I won't go over old ground again. I'll just get back to the business of recording our days spent learning and playing.

Being back in England has been great for our nature studies and I decided to ease us back into our homeschooling routine by creating a short little fun unit study on trees.

We started off with making a cover for our tree book using stencils from Dover Press' Fun with Trees Stencils.

We then read from a selection of books. Usborne's Trees (Beginners) is a great little introductory book from which we learnt the different parts of a tree, that they have different shapes and heights, that their leaves can look very different and about the differences between deciduous and evergreen trees.

We had a little excursion out to the garden to examine the different kinds of trees - all the while talking and comparing them. It was a great opportunity to discuss the differences in the texture of the bark, about how and why trees lose their leaves in winter, about the shape and colour of the leaves on different trees. I created a task sheet for Adventure-man and we had to look out for and mark on our sheet:

1. How many tall trees?
2. How many short trees?
3. How many trees with leaves?
4. How many without leaves?

He made tally marks on the sheet for each tree he found - a great opportunity to practise some math - counting, comparisons and estimating, using math terms like how may more, which is taller/shorter, are there fewer/less etc.

We then did a comparison between the apple tree and fir tree in the garden. We measured the trunk, estimated the height of the tree, noted the difference in the leaves and the bark and the branches. It was cold work but fun!

Daddy and Adventure-man measuring the trunk of the tree

Other books we read (which very nicely ties into a Habitat unit study I have just put together  - post to follow!)

Another great book to introduce the subject:


We worked on a couple of craft projects but I forgot to take any photos. One simple craft we did was creating a tree out of torn up crepe paper.

I'm including some links to various tree craft you can use to tie into this study:

Fun standing fall tree made with tissue paper
Craftscope Autumn leaves
Following an Apple tree through the seasons craft  - scroll down the page to find the craft idea here.
Winter trees using candy and liquorice - while this is a halloween craft, I thought it could be easily adapted to make a winter tree scene using the liquorice for tree and maybe icing for snow and chocolate chips for rock or stone.
More tree craft ideas here from Busy Bee Kids Craft.

We watched some videos on special trees like the tallest Redwood tree:

Cherry Blossoms in Osaka:

Suguaro Cacti in Sonoran desert:

There is online education game called The Secret Life of Trees - it is probably better suited for slightly older kids but I think the younger ones can get a lot of it too.

This site is a great resource for lessons too.

This video is great as an introduction to use as a jumping off point for learning about what trees need to grow (light, carbon dioxide and water), trees as a habitat and it's usefulness (trees for building and making furniture, paper and even when it dies how it decomposes and provides food and shelter for different animals and finally returns nutrients for the soil.

You could do bean plant experiments to demonstrate the importance of light and water for plants and trees to grow. Ideas can be found here.

Here are some ideas for discussing what trees are used for from this site.

You could play a game where your child goes around the house and identifies things made from wood and you can explain how paper is also made of wood. This site has an explanation and a PDF at the end on how to make your own paper. PBS also have an activity where you can turn newspaper to paper - you can explore issues of conservation and recycling further as well if you wanted to.

Here are some recycling resources at Activity Village.

Here are some books on recycling that might be useful:

Have fun!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Letter E and F is for Emergency Services and Firemen

We did some fun activities today with a focus on Emergency Services like Firefighters and Policemen. How can little boys not enjoy anything to do with fire engines and firefighters. Magaret Mayo's book "Emergency" is a great book to start with - it has vivid, bold illustrations, fast-paced rhymes and it covers emergency vehicles ranging from fire engines, ambulances and police cars to snow-ploughs, lifeboats and helicopters.

We focused on firefighters today and had a blast. My favourite activity of the day was when we put on his firefighter helmet and went outside to play a number game. Armed with a spray (which we later changed to a foam water gun for added power!), I would call out numbers 1-20 which I had written in chalk with fire around them and he would run to put out the fire by spraying them. So cute! I got the idea from Along The Way - some nice firefighter activities there.

I read him a few books about what firefighters do and about fire-safety :

Afterwhich we practiced what to do if our clothes are on fire ("Stop, drop, roll") - we did that many times! In fact Adventure-man's older sisters joined in the fun and we all took turns screaming "You're clothes are on fire!" and everyone would fall to the ground and roll around. Yes, we looked very silly!

I also gave him a play mobile phone and as we were reading through "Emergency!", I would get him to dial 999 to call the police or firemen. It was good fun and by the end of that, there was no way he was going to forget what number to call in an emergency!

We made yummy fire-engine ladders snacks out of cream cheese, pretzel sticks and crispbread crackers. It worked well with peanut butter and Nutella as well.

I downloaded a number of activites from Homeschool Creation's Fireman preschool pack for Adventure-man's workboxes. It included a fireman puzzle, A fireman colouring page, sequencing cards and matching cards.

He also spent some time playing games and listening to stories on these sites: - "What will Firefighter Fran wear"
                                                      and "It's Time To Fight Fires"

We ended our day building Lego fire-stations and trucks.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Math Fun: Counting, Adding and Playing with Numbers

We've had lots of fun finding creative ways to approach math concepts such as counting, sorting, sequencing and even addition and I thought I'd share a few of those ideas.

The top picture show Adventure-man sorting his dinosaurs by colour using a pair of Thomas the Tank Engine trainer chopsticks.  They are really fun to use and great for enhancing motor-skills.

He worked on putting numbers 1-20 in sequence. We got this cute caterpillar to go with our Letter C theme from Confessions of a Homeschooler. She has a bunch of great resources like a Caterpillar dice game which Adventure-man loved, as well as a number of other sorting, counting and matching printables around the same theme.

We played a lot of grid games which he really enjoys at the moment. Prekinders has a nice selection of them to print off in different themes. The game simply requires us to take turns throwing a die, identifying the number and then placing the correct number of tokens (like beads, nuts, buttons etc) on the squares in the grid. One token per square. The first person to cover their board wins.

This was our favourite of the week - a math game called Add-it! created by Erica at Confessions of a Homeschooler (she's amazing!). It was a really fun adding game which Adventure-man seemed really ready to do. We used Dinosaurs and other fun manipulatives and just added them up. We played against each other - collecting number cards to see who could get the most. He particularly enjoyed it when he poached cards from me. So much fun! Download from Erica here.

We reviewed our shapes in various ways which included playing "Perfection" (I had him name the shapes as we went along). He also enjoyed a shape matching file folder games (here's a good one) and we just built with blocks and our Magformers.

Other number activities this week: I drew numbers outside on our patio and Adventure-man threw beanbags onto the numbers as I called them out. We also played hopscotch. And we practiced our counting to 20 as we threw a ball/beanbag/balloon back and forth.

We also practiced our number writing with these cute rhymes from Hubbards Cupboard. We used the whiteboard (most popular), flour, shaving cream (strangely not so popular - go figure!) and traced the numbers with crayons.

Here are some links to some other fun math printables for preschoolers:
Homeschool Creations
Shirley's Preschool

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Plans for the New Year: moving beyond intentional play

This new year I've decided that I need some kind of curriculum to keep me on track with Adventure-man. Last year, I was coming up with my own ideas and drawing resources together from the internet - this turned out to be too time-consuming and I'd frequently end up not doing anything at all because I hadn't had time to think about it.

I considered Five In A Row (FIAR) and decided that I would wait on that for awhile as I wasn't sure about it. In the meantime, I found a great free resource - an online Christian curriculum at Hubbard's Cupboard which has all the plans and booklists all ready to use and print out. The site has all sorts of great resources. For the preschoolers - it has a curriculum plan for 2 to 4 year olds. It is bible-based stories, with literature, art, science and music and movement suggestions and lots of varied activities for play.  I've chosen to use the 3 year old Bible and Rhyme curriculum even though Adventure-Man is pretty sure about his letters and numbers up to 10. I wanted to go through the bible stories and projects in the curriculum. The four year old Joyful Heart curriculum is based on biblical character and values. It seems well-thought through with a scope and sequence sheet, daily planning sheets and an weekly overview. All the resources, bible verses and printables are well organised and therefore are easy to implement. It merely requires me to gather the different materials together a day or two before which is not to difficult. It is a three day week programme that leaves lots of time for one to pursue other activities and play with my preschooler. The only thing I need to be organised about is getting the books from the library beforehand!

We're into our second week and so far I am liking it - I do enjoy not having to think too hard about what to do for the week.

This is a quick glimpse into how our week turned out. Week one and two was all about the The Creation Story with Genesis 1:1 as our memory verse.
In the morning, 15 minutes before our family devotions - I will have a little devotion time with Adventure-man. My two older girls join in for fun and that makes it really enjoyable for him. I read the story from the different childrens' bible versions over the week and I also use the Beginner's Bible devotional (I didn't have a copy of the devotional that was recommended, so I decided to use what I have). We would then sing some of the related children's praise songs, practice the memory verse and then do a craft (which, this week, was putting together a Creation booklet). We finish it all off with a song and prayer. Some days, Adventure-man will join us for the worship time at the start of our family devotions and some days, he'll want to play. I don't insist on him taking part while the girls and I pray and study the bible.

After family devotions, the girls will go off and do some independent work and I will have about an hour with him. We'll do the suggested activities which included singing/chanting/stomping the ABCs, talking about the days of the week and talking about the number or colours of the day. We'll then progress to other things like reading a story, going for a nature walk, art and craft and singing some songs. 
Here is a snapshot of some of our activities:
We made a edible creation story using whipped cream (light), chocolate chips (dark), marshmallows (sky), sprinkles ( stars), animal crackers (animals) and gingerbread men (Adam and Eve) - needless to say, that was a hit!

We started a creation book - all the creation activities are suggested in Hubbard's Cupboard.

We also learnt our colours and numbers using art, games and books.
Writing numbers in shaving cream
Counting and matching numbers

Making green with yellow and blue (after reading Mouse Paint)
For the first time, I have scheduled Adventure-man into our homeschool day - in the hope that our day will run a little smoother with fewer interruptions from him when I am teaching the girls.
So, as I said, after devotions we will have table time and playtime together while his sisters work independently. Afterwhich, they all have an active break together playing a game or going to the playground and we all have a snack. While they are playing, I'll set out some activities like the sand/water-table, his trains, paints, blocks or his playmobil farm and animals.  
I've adopted an adapted workbox system with him (using filing trays which I already had). So, immediately after the break, I'll encourage him to work through each tray. I fill it with different activities he can do independently. I'm teaching him to complete one tray and to return it before starting a new one. This is an example of some of the things I'm putting in them.
A little mismatched as I was working with trays I already had

Free play with stones, tongs and containers
Working on motor skills

Other things I'm putting in there: 
  • beads to string 
  • Playdough and cutters
  • Worksheets -tracing, colouring , do-a-dot makers 
  • Sequencing cards
  • paper, glue, glitter, yarn, cut paper, foam pieces for collages
  • stamps and pens
  • animals with coloured rice (admittedly a little messy)
  • Zoobs
  • Magformers
  • pattern blocks

This seems to work better in holding his interest than if I were to lay these same toys and activities out in front of him. He likes going through the trays in an orderly fashion. Afterwhich, ideally, I'll try and direct him to the things I've set up like the water play or rice in a tray with cars, Lego etc.

I've also allowed for computer time on something like Starfall (I've just joined More Starfall - which I think is really worth the money) or playing on the Wii, if absolutely necessary.

We read together during the girls break time and depending on the day he might take a nap. I've planned for independent play during our afternoon lessons but that has been less successful - probably because we are all a little tired and cranky! I have to work on a better plan to distract him.
I'm really pleased about being more organised and spending quality time with Adventure-man playing and learning. The mornings are sorted, it's just the afternoons that are still a little chaotic! Well, there's still some work to do but I'm sure we'll get there (hopefully with a big smile on our faces!).