Nerf Guns and Measurement
Are your kids Nerf gun fanatics, too?
 You can add mathematics into their Nerf play, by simply adding measuring tools. 
In this activity, I practiced using both standard and nonstandard units to measure the distance of the Nerf bullet. 
My son and I decided what units of measurement we would use:
He wanted to use:

  • Shoes
  • Measuring tape
  • Ruler
  • Pool noodles
1. We made a not very fancy graph for our two bulletswe would shoot.
2. He stood at the starting point and shot a bullet.
3. We measured the distance from the starting point to the bullet.
We used each of our measurement methods.
4. He recorded the units using tally marks.
5. We compared measurement method quantities. Wecompared which bullet traveled farther.

Self Portraits: Representational Drawing 
Do you ever feel like your child thinks the world revolves around him? Well, that’s probably because he does. And it is normal. Piaget claimed that children ages 2-7 are in a period of development that is hallmarked by egocentrism. This means that children in this age range are unable to think about other people’s points of view. They are focused on themselves. 

What better time to work on self portraits?

This age range also happens to be a crucial time in writing and drawing development. Children around the age of 18 months begin scribbling. With time and experience, children’s fine motor skills will further develop and they will gain more control over these scribbling movements. 

Between the ages of 2-3 years, specific forms/shapes begin to appear in children’s drawing. By the ages of 3-4 years, children are able to draw beginning  representations. 
As children get older, they become more and more concerned with drawing exactly what they see.

Setting up this activity:
1. Provide mirrors, lots of paper, and writing utensils.
I was inspired by the simple black marker drawings I saw the preschool children doing in Reggio Emilia only recent visit. 
2. Ask children guiding questions if they get stuck. 
My youngest-middle didn’t know how to get started. As he looked into the mirror, I asked him what shape his face was. He decided it was not a circle, and was more of an oval.
3. Revisit the experience. 
It’s amazing to see the progression of changes that happen in a child’s drawing. It’s particularly evident when the subject matter is the same.

***I love the idea of using real artist materials with children, but very young children are probably not ready yet. Be sure to provide nontoxic, washable markets

Here is a fantastic article about the development of writing in young children. As an added bonus, the author ( Dr. Crosser) was my professor in undergrad! 

I love this quote from her:
Like no other activity, drawing allows young children to express emotions, experience autonomy, and build confidence.” —Dr. Crosser, 

Summer Play Group Sessions

I have been thinking about doing this for over a year now. My recent trip to Reggio Emilia, Italy has inspired me to take the plunge!
Please join us in our outdoor atelier (studio) in June!

The NO-Worksheet Guide to Summer Learning Activities

Over the past few years, I have had the opportunity to spend the morning with an amazing group of women during their mom’s group. This is one of my favorite days of the year!  This time I was asked to present a workshop on summer learning activities. 
I thought it might be a good idea to cull all of the activities into one post.  This way all of the mommas can find the info in one spot! And you can benefit, too!

First, I polled the moms to find out the ages of their children.  The ages ranged from 2 months old to 11 years old!  This was perfect, I have children in my own home that hit most of these age categories. 

My goal was to think of activities that families can do with their children, regardless of age, that are fun and engaging.  I wanted to show families how they can use toys and materials that they already own to foster learning and exploration.  I wanted to show that learning can be done without worksheets and flashcards!


Car Wash: Shaving Cream & Numbers, Oh MY!
Self Portraits
Sensory Play Recipe Writing
Nerf Guns and Measurement
Dollhouse Writing

If you have enjoyed these activities, please consider signing up for a summer play group session!  I would love to see you there!

Writing Recipes & Sensory Play
This idea actually came to me after I taught my Intro to Kindergarten course last week. My college studentsare practicing writing and teaching lesson plans for 5-6 year olds. One group had a lesson on following directions. They brought in trail mix for their classmates to make following the directions. I brought home threebags of the mix for my own children. The problem is that I have 4 kids. My oldest middle didn’t get any. He decided to make his own mix using things he could scrounge up in the pantry. 

It was not necessarily the most healthy combination in the world, but he assured me that it tasted great. I asked him to write down the recipe for me.

Don’t you love invented spelling?

Children follow directions that they are given all day, every day. It is powerful when we let THEM give the directions. One way to do that is through recipe writing. Allowing our children to write the recipe gives them a sense of control and pride. 
For this moms’ group activity, I chose to use reusablesensory materials for the recipe writing activity. You could definitely use a variety of edible materials, though! 
Set up:
1. Set out a variety of “ingredients.”
2. Provide measuring cups, measuring spoons, scoops, and tongs. 
3. Give children small bowls to put their creation in.

4. Have notecards and writing utensils available for children who would like to record their recipes.

Why is this beneficial?

  • Children build motor skills: filling, dumping, pinching, picking up small items using a developing grasp (palm versus pincer). 
  • Children practice mathematical skills: measuring, comparing quantities, volume, counting
  • Children practice writing skills: prewriting skills, phonemic awareness, letter and number formation
My children spent over an hour with these materials. My oldest middle even sorted the popcorn kernels, rice grains, and beans! He told me it was “calming”.

How to Turn Dollhouse Play into a Writing Activity for EVERY Age
I just realized how writing heavy all of these activities for this workshop are. I suppose it is because I think writing is an important skill. 

Do your children span age ranges? Are you trying to figure out ways to include everyone? 

This activity will help!
In my house, my children are 1.5, 4, 9, and 11 years old.

But, Jessica, we don’t have a dollhouse. 

Fear not! You can do this with any type of small world play. You can use dinosaurs. You can use LEGO minifigs. You can use PollyPockets. You can use fast food toys. Just see what you have around your house.

I recorded my youngest and I playing for about 3 minutes. Then I had my oldest daughter watch it and write the story.
My youngest-middle child decided he would do both the acting and the writing.
He started to get upset that he didn’t know how to write “Bunny,” so we decided to create name cards thathe could use as a reference. 
He loved looking at these cards and pointing out the beginning letters.

With my oldest two, we talked about how movie scripts are stories. Scripts are written BEFORE the movie is made. So they wrote a script:
And then created a stop motion movie using a free app.

What stories/movies have your kids created this week?

Car Wash: Shaving Cream & Numbers, Oh My!

Kids go crazy for shaving cream! Most kids love cars,too. This activity combines both. This sensory activity combines pretend play with mathematics.

***If you are doing this activity with very young children, or children who may put their hands in their mouths,please consider substituting Cool Whip for shaving cream. Of course, check for allergies first. Cool Whip does not burn eyes, but shaving cream will!

First, let me say that this sensory activity can be a stand alone play exploration. Play for the sake of play is important! If you want to add another layer of interest, you might consider adapting this for mathematics learning. 

The premise of this activity: children will clean the cars in order to find the numeral on the bottom. They will match this numeral to the correct parking space. Several variations can be made to this game. See the end of this post for more ideas.

Setting up the activity:
1. Gather cars that your child would not mind getting wet.
2. Using a permanent marker, write numbers on the bottom of the cars. I wrote the numbers 1-10. I did find that I had to cover some of the numbers with clear nail polish (the shaving cream took the permanent marker off the shiny silver cars).

3. Using the permanent marker, write a ten frame on acheap tarp (I bought mine from the dollar store). These will be your “parking spaces.”
4. Set out a tub or bowl of water for rinsing the cars. Provide sponges and toothbrushes for cleaning.
5. This is the fun step! Cover the cars in shaving cream.
6. Invite your children to play.

Why is this activity beneficial?
  • Fine motor skills: Children are using different grasps to manipulate the cars, toothbrushes, and sponges.
  • Social skills and Communication: Children have to negotiate who will get to use which tool. Theywill need to take turns with the items. Older siblings can help younger siblings find the right parking space.
  • Mathematics: Number recognition and matching numerals.
How can this activity be adapted?
  • You can go beyond simply matching the numeral on the car to parking spot. Children can put the appropriate number of cars in each parking spot. For example, two cars would go in the 2 space, and five cars in the 5 space. 
  • Older children can combine numbers using addition and match the set of cars to the parking space sum. For example, car 3 and car 4 could both be parked in space 7 (3+4=7).
  • If you made a bigger parking lot, you could try the same with multiplications facts. 
  • If you have lots of cars, you could do this same activity with the alphabet.
Do not stress about making this activity ACADEMIC. Let the children explore the materials. The first time you present this activity, the children may not show an interest in matching the numbers to the parking spaces. They need time to become comfortable with the materials before they are ready to explore it in a new way. Maybe the next time you make this activity available, your children will be ready to try adding this new layer.

I I would love to know how you plan to incorporate this into your summer routine! Leave a comment below!