Play can be messy. So can cheeky toddlers. Since spending so much time at home it has felt more challenging to keep on top of the mess. So, I decided to turn it around and help the kids take responsibility for helping to run our household. To illustrate this point with the kids I showed them this picture of Gavin. I asked them, what would happen if one person in the house had to tidy up everyone's messes all the time? They realized after some prompting that that is too much work for one person. So we decided we all need to be responsible for helping around the house.
After listening to this, Nyella thought of the book Jillian Jiggs. This is a great story about teaching kids to tidy up their rooms! Her Mum exclaims to Jillian, "Jillian, Jillian, Jillian Jiggs, it looks like your room has been lived in by pig! Nyella decided she wanted to jump in the story and be Jillian. She quickly made a mess of her room and after we reenacted the story she worked to tidy her room
Next we talked about what jobs the would each like to do to help around at home. I made a list of possible jobs and the kids got to include it on their chore chart. Choice is key. Also, I let them know that they didn't have to do these chores everyday but each chore they did do would earn them 25 cents. This helps them work on counting by 25s and teaching them about money. It also helps them with the days of the week as at first I reviewed at the end of each day how many chores they had done. Immediate reward helps increase incentive at first.
Another great incentive to have the kids help with the cleaning was to make a natural cleaner with them that they could use.
This was also another great opportunity to let my kids experiment with measurement and practise their writing skills. Having ownership on their very own cleaner was a huge incentive for them. Soon, all of our windows and many of our surfaces were spotless. Most importantly, the kids were focussed, working as a team and occupied for over an hour. Everybody won here!
I love watching my kids play with characters. They naturally create stories throughout the day. After they are finished playing I always ask them what the story was about. They usually respond, "Mummy, it isn't a story, I was just playing." So, I wanted to find a way for them to write these stories without pulling teeth!
The first thing I did was to take a few pictures of their play as it was happening. You can also have them do this.
When they were done, I printed these pictures and helped them with a story planner. For my SK Merryn, I asked the questions and wrote down what she said. I did have to do some prompting here but it helps them learn the important story elements. Next, for Merryn had her take one of the characters she was playing with the recite the story. After the character said each line I helped Merryn sound out her words or write them on a wipe board to keep the flow moving. Merryn wrote one detail for each of her pictures. She had a blast writing and reading it.
For Nyella who is in grade 3, I only managed to get one picture of her play. She used this in combination with a story map to create her story. She had fun writing on the printed picture to name the characters.
This exercise was the most fun so far. After showing my kids how they are already doing this in their play, I hope they will do this independently after we have done it together a few times.
This morning Nyella woke me up wearing a witch hat. This was not scary at all. When her and Merryn decided to become witches for the day, I knew we had found our theme. The trick to extending their learning in an engaging way for kids so it doesn't seem like work is listening to what they are interested in. You can take any theme and plug it into this equation to make a mini-learning unit.
1) Find the theme they like
2)Language: Listen to their play. Are they making up stories orally? Could you help them write it down as a script? A picture story? A comic? Could you take pictures of this learning and have them write about that picture? Are they interested in research? Help them read or watch videos of their favourite animals and then write down facts about what they have learned. Do they like building? Have them create a plan for what they are building and describe what they have built in writing.
3) Art: You can google any art idea on this theme. As my kids love to draw. I use Kids Art Hub on youtube which shows you how to draw a wide range of characters.
4) Movement: Cosmic Kids Yoga on youtube has an extensive list of videos around so many different topics.
5) Math: You can google math around any theme and so many ideas will pop up. I promise!
6) Stories: Hunt through your bookshelves to see if you have any stories on the theme. You can also go on youtube to look for videos of online readings.
I love www.storylineonline.net because actors read the stories and they use so much expression.
The witches started the day by making potions. We decided to have some fun and mix baking soda, vinegar in food colouring. We also put some food colouring in our bubbles to see if it would make them green. While we stirred the kids started reciting spells. I had Merryn write hers down later on.
As our snack that day we made pattern skewers of monster flesh and newt eyeballs. We also had a witches brew. Later on we drew all the things we had put in our cauldron that day and instructions for how to cook it.
Later on in the day we learned to draw witches and a black cat on Kids Art Hub on youtube. This inspired a 5 finger story as well. For a 5 finger story you tell 5 details to match your picture.
Over the course of the day the kids pretended to be witches for about 8 hours. A big part of this time was them playing in role on their own. They need this undisturbed time to play and be creative. At the end of the day they convinced me to put on a witch's costume as well. This was the highlight for them. When I joined them in their play. Work in the primary grades is using play and making work through play. This makes the experience fun for everyone.
Today, after reading the book Cinderella, Nyella and Merryn decided that they wanted to put on a Royal Ball. They got work right away planning the event and outfits everyone had to wear. Nyella insisted on being the party planner. Everyone was encouraged to dance and switch partners every song. A stern warning was given that NO kissing was allowed.
This was such a fun family activity. We tried dancing the waltz and sampled different classical songs by various composers. The kids got to vote on which composer they liked best.
This activity kept the kids occupied for 2 hours! Other activities around this theme that you could do are:
*STEM task: Making crowns using found materials
*Making a menu for the party
*Making up a dance and writing down the moves
*Drawing 4 pictures of what happened at your party (First, Then, Next & Finally) and labelling each picture with a sentence.
*Reading fairy tales or fractured fairy tales and making up a new ending.
*Writing a letter to a character in the story.
*Online Dance Lesson for Kids ( I sadly could not find a waltz lesson): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sHd2s_saYsQ&t=605s
A Note About Fairy Tales:
When Nyella was 18 months old she tried to ride one of the boys at daycare like a horse. When he didn't comply she put him in thinking chair until he was ready to listen. As both of my girls are very spirited and like to be in charge...I don't see them taking on passive roles in relationships. Having said that, looking at these films gives a great opportunity to look at old stereotypes of a "Damsel in Distress".
A Damsel in Distress is described as beautiful, innocent, and passive. Usually someone or something attacks her and her response is to wait until she is rescued. She is usually rewarded for her good behaviour through marriage to a Prince. Looking at movies such as Cinderella, Snow White and The Little Mermaid, you can ask your child questions about why this role takes away from the character's personal power.
Once we made them, I reviewed with the kids how to count the edges, vertices and sides (faces). I always show them how to count from the top, middle and bottom so they don't miss any.
Later in the afternoon, we created some other 3D solids while we were making cookie dough. I challenged Nyella to make a cone, a cylinder and a sphere as we couldn't make these ones with the magnatiles or skewers.
Kids needs sensory play! As messy as slime can be...and as much as I hate the idea of it getting into my carpet...I gave in and made it with my kids yesterday. I know I have spoken before about how following a recipe can teach so much to kids (capacity, the properties of solids and liquids, measurement, fractions and procedural writing.) Slime is an interesting material because it is neither a solid or a liquid. Slime is a non-Newtonian fluid. A non-Newtonian fluid is neither a liquid or a solid. It can be picked up like a solid, but it also will ooze like a liquid. To find out more about the science of slime visit:
To get my kids to write the recipe, I break it up a bit. I let them know that if they have their recipe they can make it all by themselves one day. I am also a bit cheeky and hand over each ingredient once they have written it down. This makes the writing activity more physical and gives them even more incentive to write.
I hope you have fun making slime! Watch your carpets :)
Photographs can be such a strong tool in getting kids to write. Emergent writers need the kinesthetic/hands on experience before they move to the abstract and a picture can give this to them. One activity you can do to help your child to write is to have them pick a picture that is important to them. Ask them to tell you who is in the picture, when it took place, what they were feeling and where it was. After they tell you the details out loud, help them write them down.
In the classroom, I often take pictures of kids while they are playing and use these as a writing prompt. If they are building towers, making up stories with stuffies or building innovative machines it is great to record this and have them write about it. They can write the steps as to how they built their creation, if they gave it a name and what it does. If they are building a story with puppets or stuffies they can tell you what is going on in the story.
Today we had a blast at home. We planned a teddy bear picnic. To start, we thought about what we wanted on our menu and the details of the picnic. We decided to have it in our backyard at noon.
Next we found all the teddy bears we had and bear themed stories.
Here are bear themed books you can listen to. One is fiction and one is non-fiction:
Bear Snores On by Karma Wilson and Jane Chapman
A Bear Cub Grows Up by Pam Zollman
After reading a few books we became distracted and played with our bears. We put them in order from smallest to biggest and then we made a pattern with them (small bear, big bear...repeat). After this we organized the food. Instead of cucumber sandwiches we made an AB pattern of tomatoes and cucumbers on a skewer.
We had a little feast and listened to the Teddy Bear Picnic song by Anne Murray. We also made up patterns when we danced with our bears. After this the kids played with their bears in the garden for an hour. It was great to see their imagination take over. Later we may do the Cosmic Kids Yoga about Teddy Bears:
This was such a fun way to spend the morning.
I decided to give our day a pirate theme. To do this, I set up a compass rose on our carpet with painter's tape and set up a treasure hunt. The set up for this took a total of 10 minutes. I read the kids the first instruction and had 10 minutes of free time while they scrambled to find costumes.
The kids learned the cardinal directions and how to use a unit of standard measurement. Here, each step was 30 cm long. To remember the cardinal directions I taught them (Never-Eat-Shredded-Wheat and Never-Enter-Stinky-Washrooms.) They liked the second one better! When the hunt was over, they divided up the treasure equally. I used coins so we could study the value of quarters, nickels and dimes. We practiced counting by 5s, 10s and 25s.
I think my kids may be getting a bit spoiled because they said my treasure hunt was a bit boring. I told them to top it...and they did. They wrote clues for each other to find treasure, made a treasure map and two types of boats. One for their dolls that would float in water and one that they could sit in using a cardboard box.
As a writing task, my kids chose to write out pirate jokes we found online.
Other writing ideas:
*Writing a pirate story
*Labeling a diagram of their boats and writing step by step how they made it.
*Making up treasure hunt clues
*Making a wanted poster for a pirate
*Writing in role as a pirate
Yesterday, when the kids came down for breakfast they found a note waiting for them. It was from a magical mystery creature. When they came back from playing outside they found that this creature had left them a little house to set up in the garden. The creature said behind the door lay secret lands at their command.
Later that day they found another note. The mystery creature asked them to set up the house in the yard and write them a letter. In this letter they needed to ask questions so they could uncover who left the note.
Today when the kids came down for breakfast they found this note. After reading it they inferred that a fairy had left this note. We decided to learn to draw a picture of a fairy on Kids Art Hub (youtube).
As a STEM activity, Merryn decided to create more mushroom houses for the fairy's friends. As a movement break we also did a fairy themed dance video on Cosmic Kids Yoga.
We will see where this story goes. The benefit to having a magic visitor is that it puts the kids in the story. Based on their questions and interests they get to shape where the story goes. If they are like dragons or Lego characters they could be the ones leaving the notes. The magical door can lead to wherever their imagination takes them.
Here I will share some every day activities that can draw from various strands across different age groups. Remember each child has different interests so the key to working with your child is to follow their lead and ask the right questions.