Friday, July 30, 2021

Artist of the Month

Printable Artist of the Month materials for homeschool

 I was a hardcore math and science kid. That's the way my brain works. However, I want to make sure I give my kids some well-rounded experiences. As part of that, I decided to do an Artist of the Month and a Composer of the Month. In looking into collections of famous paintings for kids, I found that a lot of them only have male artists. I decided I definitely wanted to include some women, so I started with Mary Cassatt.

Each month will have the artist, where they are from, some quick facts and some examples of their work. I will also use outside books, YouTube videos and other resources (I included some of these links in the PDF I'm sharing). Since I have a middle schooler and a 3 year old, I included a wide range of things.

General Resource About Art & Artists


(Only a few are done, so far. I will update as I add more, I was just excited to share)


Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Cuisenaire Addition Activity Mats

Free printable mats for practicing addition with Cuisenaire rods

 As my little guy becomes more familiar with his Cuisenaire Rods and explores addition, I wanted more ways to combine the two. I ended up making these addition mats for him to play with.  There are two kinds of mats that approach addition just a bit differently. One kind has two rods placed on top of each other and you have to find the missing rod to make them equal. The other is set up like equations and you could even write in the numbers with dry erase markers.

Print the Cuisenaire Addition Activity Mats Here

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

What is a "Teachable Moment"

 As an adult with responsibility for a child, it is inevitable that from time to time you will find yourself in a position where you need to educate them. This can take the form of a more or less formal lesson, depending on the situation, but what matters most is that you make the most of the opportunity. Children are inherently curious, which is a positive and important characteristic at their age, but means that as an adult you will need to direct that curiosity in the right direction.

Whether it is as part of formal educational work or not, a chance to educate a child is what we often refer to as a “teachable moment”. These moments arise when a child is showing curiosity and an interest in learning, and it is important to be able to both identify them when they arise, and to know how to deliver that learning in a way which will be absorbed positively. Hopefully, the advice below will make this easier.

Is your child a little Socrates?

Pixabay - CC0 Licence

The Greek philosopher Socrates frustrated those around him by asking one question more than any other. He would ask, simply, “Why?”. This is a question that might be familiar to any parent or guardian of a young child. It’s possible that, as an adult, you may not know the answer. However, asking “Why” is an essential element of how a child learns, so never simply tell them “that’s just the way things are”. Work with them to answer the question, because as long as they are asking you can be pleased to see that they are motivated to learn - and that’s so valuable.

Is your child frustrated by school and education?

We’ve all been the child who sits looking at their workbooks and asks the question, maybe in frustration and maybe in simple innocence: “When will I need to know any of this?”. At the age of 7, or even 17, it can be hard to envisage a time when certain aspects of the curriculum will ever matter to you in real life. If you peruse Teach for America reviews, you’ll commonly see that kids can become cynical about education when they don’t see a value to it. But all knowledge has value, and it’s better to learn something and not need it than to look back wistfully. One seemingly random lesson could be the seed of a future fulfilling career.

Does your child seem to find ways to make mess?

Pixabay - CC0 Licence

The ideal picture of an intelligent, hard-working child is one which features tidy desks and methodically-filed notes. This may not be what you see when you look at your child’s bedroom - but don’t assume that they’re lacking in diligence because things are messy. The signs are that disorganized people are actually often more likely to be bright students. Take the opportunity to ask what they’re learning about, and encourage their interests - and maybe ask that they tidy a bit more often for the sake of your nerves! - because the reason they are messy may well be that their minds are on higher things.

Spotting the moments where you can encourage your child to learn may take practice - let’s face it, most of us were less than enthusiastic about education at one time or another - but as we get better at recognizing teachable moments, we can help our kids so much more.

This is a contributed post.

Monday, July 26, 2021

Board Games for Toddlers

Tips and ideas for board games with 2 and 3 year olds

After spending so much time playing games with my oldest, I knew that I wanted to get my youngest playing with us as soon as we could. Unfortunately, not all toddler games are all that much fun. Thus began a quest to find games for the toddler that wouldn't make the rest of us go (too) crazy.

Tips for incorporating younger kids into family games:

  • Let them "help" - We will often have my youngest roll dice for us. He feels like he's part of the game, but not actually making any decisions.
  • Cooperative games - These games are great because everyone is working towards the same goal. Younger kids can be coached, while still taking the actions themselves. We started doing this with Forbidden Island when my oldest was about 4. Ghost Fighting Treasure Hunters could also easily work with older players helping a child as young as 3.
  • Make it cooperative - do you have a competitive game you can make cooperative? We used to play Candyland and Chutes and Ladders cooperatively with my 2 year old. Now we play Math Dice Jr cooperatively with my 3 year old. Instead of seeing who can get to the end of the track first, work together to move the same piece.
  • Gamer in Training - keep in mind a lot of games aimed at 2 year olds end up being more activities than true "games." However, they get little ones used to some game mechanics like taking turns, doing things in steps, working towards a goal, etc.
  • Non-Toddler Games - so many games now have fun components and pieces. I've found several of the games we play with my oldest are interesting to the youngest. This ends up saving money on toddler specific games and gives us more bang for our buck on the older games (as long as pieces don't get lost). Some include Blokus, Qwirkle, and Conezilla.

Non-Toddler Games
We have a lot of games that we play with my oldest, but my youngest has discovered some as activities for himself.
  • Pancake Pileup - This is actually a racing game for older kids where you have to stack the pancakes in a particular order. We play without the racing component.
  • Blokus - he loves arranging all the blocks in the tray. It keeps him busy for a long time and is great for visual/spacial skills!
  • Qwirkle - we have used these for matching games. They also work well for shape or color sorting! You could even use them with Venn Diagram rings!
  • Conezilla - my little guy loves putting numbers in order, so this game was perfect for that! As he gets older, we will be able to play the real game.
  • Shaky Manor - once again, my little guy loved sorting the components into categories.

Toddler Game Ideas

  • Lucky Ducks - Very simple shape matching game.
  • Perfection (smaller version) - We started off using it without the timer that makes it pop. It makes a great little shape matching/orientation game.
  • Frankie's Food Truck Fiasco - This is a good one to grow with the kids. We started playing at 2 without the spinner or tweezers as a simple shape matching activity. As he has gotten older, we have been able to add in the idea of the spinner and cat tweezers. 
  • Sneaky Snacky Squirrel - Similar to Frankie's Food Truck Fiasco, this one uses squirrel tweezers and colored nuts instead of shapes.
  • Honeybee Tree (or Kerplunk) - this is one of those games that both my kids have enjoyed across a wide range of ages. To be 100% honest, it isn't my favorite, because it does take a while to put all those sticks in!
  • Building Site Game - This game has a little truck that drives around the building site to build a house. You have to match little icons to the stage of the "blueprint" to build the different components of the house. There really is no way to lose, it is more of an activity about accomplishing tasks in order.
  • My First Orchard - a cooperative game where you try to gather all of the fruit from the trees before the raven gets to them. You can actually lose, depending on the die rolls. 
  • Spin to Play Build a Robot - a simple spinning game that works on number recognition. To make it simpler, eliminate the "tool." 
  • Go Away Monster! - a cute little game where you pull pieces out of a bag to decorate your room. If you get a monster you yell "Go Away Monster!" and put it in the monster pile. You may be the first to complete your room, but not a strong way to lose.
  • Little Cooperation - an adorable little luck game. I like this one because it is a story that is really easy for little ones to grasp. The little animals want to go home to their igloo and you have to help them by getting them across the bridge. We do tend to lose this one often, though.
  • Monkey Around - a cooperative action game where players get bananas by performing different actions. Once again, not a true "game" because there really is no way to lose.
  • Raccoon Rumpus or Koala Caper - These games are pretty similar, but one focuses on colors and the other on patterns. You have to try to find clothes for your little character that match the dice. We started off playing this one with only one die and then added in the second.
  • My First Animal Upon Animal - an adorable little animal stacking game that has multiple ways to play. 
  • Little Bird Big Hunger - Another cute little HABA game. This game actually does have someone win. The nice thing is everyone has the potential to play on everyone else's turn as well, avoiding that lull for kids while waiting for it to be their turn.
  • Shopping List Game - Orchard Games has a very popular version of this game that includes expansions. I actually went with this other version because it included "money" and prices, giving us more ways to play. So far, for us, it is more of an activity than a game, though. No one really wins or loses.
  • Count Your Chickens - a cooperative game where you try to get all the baby chicks in the coop before the mama hen gets there. I like that it introduces the concept of a board where you progress from one end to the other. This one works on early counting skills.
  • Hoot Owl Hoot - another cooperative game where you try to get the little owls back to their nest before the sun comes up. Similar to Count Your Chickens, it introduces the idea of progressing across a board, focusing on color recognition instead of counting. (A lot of times you can find a two pack of this and Count Your Chickens from places like Mindware or Target).

  • Stone Soup - another cooperative Peacable Kingdom game. This one says ages 5+, but I think it might be too boring for a 5 year old. It is a memory matching game where you try to finish making the soup before the fire goes out. My 3 year old likes it now.
  • Don't Break the Ice - another game I'm torn about putting on here. My son LOVES it and it is great for using an overhead marker to write words or numbers on. However, you spend most of your time setting it back up.
  • Hiss  in this game you match colors to make snakes. My little guy gets how to play, but doesn't get the strategy part of it, therefore my older son always wins. 
  • Feed the Woozle - in this game you balance food on your little spoon and walk it across the room to put in the Woozle's mouth. It's simple and fun, although I think we did adjust the rules a bit at the beginning of playing.
  • Dragomino - the junior version of Kingdomino. Players match terrains on "dominoes" to earn eggs and baby dragons. Simple, but should still be fun for older siblings playing with little ones.

Single Player Logic Games for Toddlers

I LOVE single player logic games for kids! Most are so good for developing visual spatial and/or deductive logic skills. I learned at a math conference years ago that being able to mentally manipulate objects is a huge predictor of success in math and it has really stuck with me. Here are some that are good for toddlers.
  • Castle Logix
  • Bunny Peak a Boo
  • Trucky 3
  • Three Little Pigs - my 3 year old can do this one, but needs a little help with setup.
  • Penguins on Ice - This is actually intended for much older kids. I have found that my toddler can do it when I put the pieces in the correct positions (they slide to change shapes) and he just have to figure out how they fit into the tray together.
Gifting-Online also has a good list of family board games.

Monday, July 19, 2021

Preschool Books for Social Emotional Skills

Preschool and early elementary books for social emotional skills like mindfulness, feelings, emotions, manners, kindness, friendship and being yourself.

As I was putting together my Pre-K Homeschool year, one of the core subjects we will be incorporating is social emotional skills. This will include things like being kind, mindfulness, gratitude, manners, self regulation, good behavior and both identifying and handling emotions. For simplicity's sake, I'm going to call them "heart" lessons. 

Since I was putting together a big list of books that would fall under this category anyway, I decided to share for any other parents looking. Obviously, I can't buy ALL of them. We already have some, we will buy others and I'll see what I can get from the library. I tried to divide them into loose categories for you!

Books about Feelings

Books on Gratitude

Just So Thankful (Both my kids have been huge Little Critter fans)
We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga - I like the multi-cultural aspect of this one!
The Thank You Book - Elephant and Piggie are big hits around here.

Books on Mindfulness, Self-regulation and Being Yourself

Peaceful Like a Panda: 30 Mindful Moments for Playtime, Mealtime, Bedtime or Anytime! - there are a couple other books in this series as well!
Have You Filled a Bucket Today? A Guide for Daily Happiness to Kids - we don't have this one yet, but it looks like the cutest one of the series
Bucket Filling from A to Z: The Key to Being Happy - my little guy is obsessed with letters, so we had to get this one
Bear Can't Wait - I love all the Bear books. This one is about patience
The Perfect Fit - a story about being yourself instead of trying to fit in
Exclamation Mark - another story about being yourself. Both my kids have loved it!
Not Your Typical Dragon - a cute little story about a dragon who couldn't breathe fire.

The Secret Words - a book about self-confidence

Books on Friendship, Being Kind and Inclusion

Do Unto Otters - some reviews say it was a little long, but most say it is hilarious to kids.

Books on Manners

My Mouth is a Volcano - a story about interrupting

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