Friday, May 29, 2009

Friday Focus : A Mind for Math, Part 3

image by redroko

Sorting is a basic math concept that can be learned at a very young age. My 2-year-old has mastered his simple sorting toy (four shapes) and works very hard at his more complicated one. I love holding him on my lap as he tries to figure it out.

For the 4- and 6-year-olds, I have an egg carton filled with colored beads. I think you can guess their task. We sort by color most often; sometimes they like to create their own sorting technique--one of each color in each space, or one bead in the first space, two in the second, and so on. I'm always amazed how long they like this activity.

To further boost math skills, find other sorting activities around your house:
Sort socks in the laundry
Sort toy cars by color, type, etc.
Sort treasures from a walk (pinecones, sticks, rocks)
Put the silverware in the correct tray places (a good chore for little ones
Sort buttons, blocks, legos, etc.


Thursday, May 28, 2009

15 Minutes : Read It : A Tree is Nice

image via

A Tree is Nice comes to mind when I think of summertime books. Charming, old pictures sweetly depict the simple, child-like reasons to like trees. This award-winner makes us want to plant more trees and love trees like Anne (of Green Gables) does.


Wednesday, May 27, 2009

1 Hour : Make It : Felty Friends

image via FamilyFun
My daughter and I want to make this cute take on a paper doll. I will have to do the little bit of sewing, but she'll be great help with other parts of the project.


Tuesday, May 26, 2009

15 Minutes : Make It : Fruit Popsicles

My kids love any excuse to make Popsicles and with the weather really warming up we're going to have to start making batches of these yummy, yet healthy, treats. Typically we make our favorite fruit and yogurt smoothie and freeze it in either molds or small paper cups with sticks. The kids love adding ingredients to the blender and helping pour and freeze the Popsicles. The anticipation is the real killer.

Below there's a recipe for Orange Banana Popsicles that my grandma always had handy in the freezer. La Tartine Gourmande also has some great gourmet versions too.

Orange-Banana Popsicles

1 - 8 oz container yogurt, any flavor or plain
1 - 12 oz can frozen orange juice mixed with 3 cans of water
1 - 14 oz can pineapple juice
5 very ripe bananas

Mix and freeze.


Monday, May 25, 2009

15 Minutes : Play It : Ice Painting

Hot day + ice cubes + sidewalk = ice painting.

Refreshing and no cleanup.


Friday, May 22, 2009

Friday Focus : A Mind for Math, Part 2

We have found many math-themed books over the past years. Here are a few of our favorites: Tasha Tudor is one of my favorite author-illustrators. 1 is One is a very beautiful beginning counting book.

How Much is a Million, by David Schwartz, helps children and parents alike to visualize that huge number.

My fourth-grader loves G is for Googol: A Math Alphabet Book. Every letter describes a math concept--some of them fairly advanced--and my son soaked it all in, and then taught bits of it to his little siblings. They love to astound strangers with this one: "How much is 10 to the power of 10 to the power of 100?" (Stunned look from innocent adult.) "Googol!"

One Grain of Rice, by the always excellent Demi, relates a clever story that uses math to teach doubles. Even if the concept is over their heads, the art is too gorgeous to miss.

We also like to check out Stuart Murphy's books when we go to the library. He has written many short picture books that weave basic math principles into a simple story. Some are better than others, and all have kooky, cartoon-ish illustrations; still, our favorites include Henry the Fourth and House for Birdie.

images via Amazon and Barnes & Noble


Wednesday, May 20, 2009

15 Minutes : Play It : Tic, Tac. . .Oh No

My oldest has loved sidewalk chalk hopscotch since before he was two. He used to beg and beg his auntie and I to draw him new boards everyday. FamilyFun has some great variations on lots of sidewalk games here. I really like their Tic, Tac. . .Oh No version.

Tic-tac-toe is a simple classic, but in this driveway version, a single toss can bring about a reversal of fortune.

10 stones

1. Setup: Mark out a 9-square tic-tac-toe grid and a toss line. Our grid was about 3 feet by 3 feet. Have each player use chalk to decorate 4 stones with his "team" color, and a 5th stone -- the "change" stone -- in a different color.

2. Players take turns tossing their stones, trying to get 3 in a row. If a player misses the board or lands in an occupied spot, he picks up his rock and his turn is over.

3. Once a game, each player can toss the change stone to try to take over an opponent's box. To be successful, he must land the stone on the targeted square. If he misses, he must pick up his stone, and his turn is over. The winner is the first player to get tic-tac-toe.


Monday, May 18, 2009

1 Hour : Visit It : Walter Wick Exhibit

image via
Brigham Young University's Museum of Art is currently featuring a kid-friendly exhibit entitled Walter Wick: Games, Gizmos, and Toys in the Attic. My kids and I saw pieces from a cardboard city (they wanted to make their own at home), large framed prints from the artist's I Spy series, and the above set that was created for a photo shoot. This was one art event that kept the kids eager and interested. (The excited mood even carried over to a couple other areas of the museum where we saw recycled art and American portraiture.)

The BYU-MOA exhibit runs through August 1st. On June 10th, the museum will host a special family art day using Wick's works as the theme.

Learn more about Walter Wick's art and publications here.


Friday, May 15, 2009

Friday Focus : A Mind for Math, Part 1

image via here
Beginning Math
Math is easy to incorporate into day-to-day happenings: "Count the number of red cars you see." "Please set the table with 6 spoons and 6 forks." "Let's each pick up five toys." "Divide those fruit snacks evenly."

Lately, my four-year-old poses large number addition problems to the rest of our family. He is proud to understand that if 1 +1 =2, then 100 + 100 =200. We hear variations on this throughout the day. "So," he asks slyly, "what's 500 + 500?" He's even upping the ante with, "Do you know 500 + 500 +1?" The kid loves calculating.

We have found a couple online activities for more formal practicing.
This is a basic addition game for construction lovers.
My kindergartener prefers this higher addition game.
This game is excellent for visualizing groups of ten.

We also like this organized site for finding games by topic and grade level.


Monday, May 11, 2009

1 Hour : Play It : Football Fun

image via here
My ten-year-old wants a football-themed birthday party, but with my (lack of) skills, we're going to keep it simple: think drills, instead of an organized game. He and I both like the idea of doing several different skill games:
--A game of tag, using his set of flags (usually used for flag football).
--Target throwing for future q-backs.
--A kick-off competition.

I think I'll also use a couple ideas from Martha Stewart's Obstacle Course Party. Lucky for me, boys this age are easy to please.


Wednesday, May 6, 2009

15 Minutes : Read It : Summer Bridge Activity Books

image via

Summer is fast approaching and I am trying to figure out a way to help my kids retain all the knowledge they've learned this year. A friend of mine recommended Summer Bridge Books which have activities to help your child "bridge" into the next year. I've found them at, Barnes & Noble and Amazon. I'm sure you could find them at most local bookstores too.


Tuesday, May 5, 2009

1 Hour : Play It : Homemade Finger Paint

We've been into a lot of "hands on" things at our house. For a few weeks it was play-do but now it is finger painting. Mason wears an old shirt of mine known as his "paint shirt" and we do it outside. That way it's more enjoyable for me. I think it's so fun to watch him create. I know he just thinks he's incredible but that's ok because so do I.

Homemade finger paints are nontoxic, washable, and I am going to share with you the EASY recipe!

recipe via

Stir 4 tablespoons of sugar and 1/2 cup cornstarch together; add 2 cups of cold water, and heat over medium heat until the mixture is thick (the mixture will further thicken as it cools). Divide into four or more containers, and add food coloring as desired.


Monday, May 4, 2009

15 Minutes : Read It : Berlioz the Bear

image via
We just read Berlioz the Bear, by one of our favorite author-illustrators, Jan Brett. In addition to the charming pictures, the story has a fun, predictable pattern: one after another, several animals take turns trying to help Berlioz's bandwagon get on its way to a "gala ball". After they all fail, a mysterious character emerges from the double bass to save the day...and make my kids burst into giggles.

Even if a certain classical tune doesn't pop into your head when you read this book, the last page gives a clever nod to Rimsky-Korsakov's "Flight of the Bumblebee". Let your kids dance wildly to the music, or show them an orchestra playing it impressively at a concert.


Friday, May 1, 2009

Friday Focus : Everyday Science, Part 4

image via Family Fun

Coming up with what types of science projects you can do with your kids is usually the hardest part. Here are a few websites that have a big collection of science experiments to look through so you can find ones that will work for your kids and their interests, ages and abilities.

- If you subscribe to the magazine, you can also find experiments at the end of each issue.

Many cities also have children's museums which can be a great place to take your kids for a day full of fun and education. Watch for special exhibits, classes or themes at your local children's museum. Use those themes as the focus for projects you can do at home and then take them to the museum as a special bonus or reward.