Sunday, October 26, 2014

Human Body: Muscles and Bones

Hello! I know it has been entirely too long since I've posted, but we're still alive, all is well (other than working WAY too much), and I FINALLY have a new post for you!

The plan for this school year was to do preschool themes, although we're only just now finishing our second one.  (Check out these posts for our learning goals).  As one of them, I thought it would be fun to do the human body, although since it is such a big topic, I broke it down into sections.  This part was just Muscles and Bones.

Sensory Play
We got our homemade x-rays out to use on the light table (check out our X for X-Ray post to see how I made them).
I also made a sensory bin, but totally forgot to take a picture!  Maybe next time!

Simulating Joints
We talked a lot about how bones are strong and hard to hold us up, but joints are what let us bend and move.  To illustrate that I taped two toilet paper tubes together to simulate a hinge joint.

Design Challenge
In an effort to encourage spacial and thinking skills, I gave Xander some Hexie-Snaps and asked him to build a person.  He needed a little coaching, but eventually got it.  Then he had to build a "force field" around his person.

We did the same thing with Zoobs, although minus the force field.  I wish I were as flexible as he is!  I couldn't imagine building from that position.

Skeletal System 3 Part Cards
I got these great cards from the Montessori at Home e-Book and materials bundle.  Since the words were much harder (and I don't have a Little Reader lesson for it), I used the traditional 3-Part card method.  He had fun with it, and now goes around talking about phalanges.

Anticipating the human body unit, I ordered this fantastic human body puzzle.  Each body system is a layer of the puzzle and I love how it lets us talk about the complexity of the body in an accessible way (can you tell I'm a biology nut who finds the human body fascinating??)

We also did a Doc McStuffins floor puzzle (it kind of goes with the theme, right?)

Making a Skeleton
I found this cute cut-out in an ancient More Fun with Science book.  We cut it out and put the pieces together with little paper fasteners (the guy at Staples had no idea what I wanted when I described them, but I swear, they exist).  You could easily print a skeleton from the internet and connect it the same way.  I loved that it let us talked about how each fastener represented a joint.

Well, the whole week is kind of science, but we did a chicken wing dissection as the main science activity.  A little gross, but very fun for any three year old!  Full post and directions to come in an Alphabet in Simple Science Post!
While we aren't don't nearly as much literacy work as I would like, we definitely still spend a lot of time reading.  Here's a glimpse into a normal Sunday afternoon (or, really, any other time he's home).  He gets one book out, reads it, then moves on to the next. 
We read way, WAY too many books on the human body to list them all, but here are a few:

At a museum Xander saw this model of a torso and had to have it, but it was expensive there, so I made him wait.  He ended up wanting it for so long I let him use his own money to order it from Amazon.  It is WAY too hard for him to put together himself, but he likes to play with the pieces, and I put it together for him. Sorry I didn't snap a better picture of it!

I picked up Operation at a garage sale.  It is missing pieces and the buzzer scares Xander, so we play without batteries, but he still loved it!
Follow Kaysha @ Memorizing the Moments's board Body/Senses on Pinterest. 

Linked to Preschool and Kindergarten Learning Community

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Visual Spatial Skills

Things have been quiet around the blog lately, for which I apologize.  Being a new teacher is much more difficult and time consuming than I had ever expected.  I am going in early, staying late and working both Saturdays and Sundays to try to keep up (I'm only able to sit down to write this post because I stayed home sick today).  It breaks my heart, but Xander's school has had to take a back seat for a while.  Instead, we have been focusing on reading a lot of books together and making his play educational.  One area we have been focusing on is visual spatial skills.

Last fall I attended a educational conference.  While I learned many interesting and useful things, one interesting fact really made an impression on me when it comes to Xander's education.  I learned that one of the biggest predictors of math and science achievement in school is the ability to mentally manipulate three dimensional objects.  In fact, the presenters talked about giving art lessons to kids struggling in math to help build these skills, which improved their achievement.

Since then, I've slowly been collecting toys and games that build these visual spatial skills (It sounds like we have a lot, but we definitely do it on a budget.  Michaels often has great games, so we wait for a 50% off coupon.  Xander also gets these types of toys for Christmases and Birthdays).  You can see all of our favorites on our Toys and Tools page.

We both LOVE building toys.  Magnatiles are, by far, Xander's favorites.  They are the most expensive toy I've ever purchased, but get used almost daily.  He also enjoys building with blocks, Marble RunWedgits, Duplos and other building toys.

 Template Matching
We are fortunate enough to have lots of template matching type toys.  Xander enjoys Magnetic RingsBlock Buddies, Imaginets and Pattern Play.  While he does work to match the pattern cards, he also really just enjoys making his own patterns and designs with these toys.
I've also worked on making some of my own activities that work on these skills.  I want Xander exposed to them often, but don't want him getting bored.  I pulled together all of the printables I've made into this one page so it'll be easier for others to find.
We've also slowly been building our collection of visual spatial games.  Xander likes Castle Logic and Color Code.  We also recently picked up Penguins on Ice and Temple Trap, although he still needs a little help with these.

What are your favorite visual spatial toys?  Have you found any other good printables for these skills?  Please leave me a comment, I would love to check it out!

Friday, September 12, 2014

A for Archaeology

Although we made it from A-Z in our Alphabet in Simple Science, I decided that I'd add some here and there.
Science Notebook Page (Click the picture to print).

Since we were studying about Ancient Egypt, we talked about how archaeologists are the ones who studied the old culture and found the mummies.  We talked about how sometimes studying the past is like a big puzzle.  Archaeologists have to piece together a lot of clues to figure out how people lived.

Ancient Egypt Archaeology Dig
1 cup sand
1/2 c cornstarch
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
1/2 cup water
Ancient Egypt Toob (or any other small figurines)

Inspiration for this activity came from Coffee Cups and Crayons.  First I mixed the sand, cornstarch and cream of tartar.  Then I added them to a pot with the water and warmed it until the water was cooked in (kind of like cooking play dough).  Once it was nice and thick, I let the mixture cool for a while, then wrapped the Toob figurines in the dough.  I like them dry for about a day.  
Then I put the "fossils" in the sand box and told Xander he needed to hunt them down.  I gave him a shovel and a sifter and he went searching.  If you don't have a sand box, you could hide the fossils in any sort of sensory bin.
After he dug them all up, I set up some "archaeology tools" on a tray for him to dig out the fossils.  They were basically some play dough tools and a little paint brush.  He had so much fun digging out all of the toys!  We will definitely be doing something similar in the future!
I also picked up Temple Trap for him (50% off coupon at Michaels).  He needs some help, but likes the idea of avoiding the alligators.  The premise of the game is that you're a person stuck in a temple and you have to try to escape without getting eaten by alligators.

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