Archive for The Great Outdoors

Catching Up…

Well, I am obviously behind on my posts. We have been keeping up with our ‘studies’ of the world by reading picture books, making ethnic food, and making art projects. I will try to bring out the highlights here.

We finished North America a while back. We made a sequoia tree out of cardboard :

Here she is attaching green paper to the branches to serve as leaves. This turned out pretty neat!

The ‘ethnic food’ we chose to make for North America included homemade lemonade and Canadian pancakes.  I’m not entirely sure what made the pancakes Canadian, as they were just like the pancakes we make here in the states, but they were delicious nonetheless.

Here are some books we read!

Desert Song by Tony Johnston to read about animals in the Southwest:

The Sugaring-Off Party by Jonathan London to read about making maple syrup (this story is set in a French Canadian family):

The Very Last First Time by Jan Andrews is a story about how Inuits in Canada chop holes in the sea ice and walk underneath it at low tide to harvest mussels. I was fascinated by this book:

We read many more about life in various areas of the North American continent. I think picture books are probably my favorite way to tap into another culture for a small child.

We finished reading about monarch caterpillars and watched a documentary from the library called The Butterfly King. It’s about a college student who collects monarch butterfly eggs from milkweed to raise them. It highlighted how many caterpillars are killed by pesticides and herbicides, and then provided close up video of them growing up.  Here’s a picture of Curly looking for more caterpillars.

Speaking of caterpillars, my husband found an incredible looking caterpillar in our garage and we brought it in. After consulting the internet and an entomologist friend, we concluded that it was a species of Sphinx moth caterpillar. It is currently in a pupa in our fridge, waiting for spring. Here is a not very good picture of it:

I didn’t know if it was poisonous or not at first, so I didn’t want to let it out of the bug case we had it in. It was the largest caterpillar I had ever seen. When it turns into a moth in the spring it should be enormous!

Coming back to North America activities, Curly did this coloring page:

She also did a lot of art not related to North America. Here is one painting in progress.

We continued Kinderbach, which is going well, and did lots and lots of coloring, pasting, and counting. Our K4 year is going well!

I noticed that the look of our backyard had changed dramatically since my last post. Here are a couple of pictures.

Our yard in autumn.

Our yard in autumn. My favorite time of the year!

Our yard right now. A frosty,  beautiful morning!

Our yard right now. A frosty, beautiful morning!

Next up is a post about our studies of South America!

Spontaneous Learning

Curly is definitely more into art than me. I remember quickly becoming bored with art as a preschooler. Not Curly! If she had a mantra, I think it might be something like "Art is Life!".

Curly is definitely more into art than me. I remember quickly becoming bored with art as a preschooler. Not Curly! If she had a mantra, I think it might be something like “Art is Life!”.

We haven’t been doing our themed preschool weeks lately, and I was trying to think of a reason why. Honestly, I think it’s because I got bored. We have still been doing art projects and reading books and doing science experiments, so it’s not that I’ve given up on preschool; I think I simply prefer to be more spontaneous. This being my first time teaching preschool, I am still finding my stride as to what works for me and our family. Perhaps in time I will figure out a way to keep my enthusiasm  for themes going strong. In the meantime, we will continue to do what we find interesting at the time!

 

This color mixing science experiment quickly turned into an art project of squirting the colored water onto paper towels.

This color mixing science experiment quickly turned into an art project of squirting the colored water onto paper towels.

 

I have really been focusing on nursery rhymes lately. There are lots of reasons to teach your kids nursery rhymes; one is so that they can be culturally literate. Another is that there is much evidence to show that children that are used to hearing the rhythm of language and know what rhyming words sound like do better once they have to learn to read. Cool stuff. So, there’s lots of rhyming and singing going on most of the day at my house. “Pease porridge hot” is STUCK in my head for the foreseeable future. So we can be in this together, here are the lyrics:

Pease porridge hot, pease porridge cold,
Pease porridge in the pot, nine days old;
Some like it hot, some like it cold,
Some like it in the pot, nine days old.

I am very proud of Curly’s progress in math. She can pick out straight lines, curved lines, and angles. She knows all her shapes and colors.  She can finish simple patterns that I make with pattern blocks. She can recognize the numbers 1-10. A couple of these she couldn’t do just a few months ago, so the sudden jump in comprehension is very noticeable to me.

I could go on and on bragging about my kid, but I’m not sure most of you would find that very interesting. 😛 We have been up to a lot lately, besides preschool. We went on a family road trip to Utah and Nevada. Here is a picture of us in Canyonlands National Park, Utah.

 

It was extremely foggy while we were there. At first we were really disappointed we couldn’t see the full panorama of the canyons and cliffs, but everything being shrouded in mist was stunning in it’s own right. Plus, the fog created super cool frost on all the plant life! You can’t tell in this picture but it was lightly snowing, too. It was quite pretty against the red rock.

I am going to try to be more regular about updating my blog now that we are back from the trip and there’s the long winter ahead of us. Curly keeps asking to go outside to play in the snow and I keep telling her the windchill is dangerously cold (at times -25 or colder). We take advantage of the warmer days and go out, but otherwise we are stuck at home a lot when it’s this cold. So, I should be able to keep with a blog, right? We will see how I do.

Autumn Leaf Butterfly

I originally saw this over at No Time For Flashcards  and thought it would be a fun and easy craft for us to do. Here are the instructions!

This craft is super simple and fun - it took us maybe 10 minutes.

This craft is super simple and fun – it took us maybe 10 minutes.

First, go out and find leaves that still have the stems attached. Pick leaves that would look like good butterfly wings! I had to search a little bit through all the narrow leaves to find some nice broad ones.

Draw the body of the butterfly on a piece of cardboard. While your child decorates it, cut the stems off the leaves and save them, as they will become the antennae for your butterfly.

Once your child is done, cut the body out of the cardboard and flip it over. Attach the ‘antennae’ to the back with glue or tape. Do the same with the ‘wings’.

Flip back over and add googly eyes, a mouth, and other decorations if you wish. Curly added glitter glue to the body to add some necessary sparkle.

  And walla! A leaf butterfly.

Do you have any fun and easy autumn crafts you would like to share?

Camping Theme, Part 2

Part 2 of our camping theme centered around hiking and fishing. I have to say this was one of our most enjoyable weeks of preschool!

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Here is our book list.  The book We’re Going on a Bear Hunt is an old favorite of ours, so it was a perfect candidate for us to center activities around. First, we made binoculars to take along on our bear hunt. I used two used toilet paper rolls and had Curly decorate them.

I provided markers and a variety of stickers.

I provided markers and a variety of stickers.

Then we glued them together. It may have been easier to staple them together, but I couldn’t find the stapler. In any case, white school glue worked just fine. Then I used a hole punch to punch holes large enough for yarn to fit through, and we had a pair of binoculars.

Next we made a ‘bear hunt snack’. I showed Curly how to make trail mix. We used cashews, raisins, and chocolate chips. We were now ready for our bear hunt!

Curly is very excited about the trail mix in this picture. Her finished binoculars are around her neck.

Curly is very excited about the trail mix in this picture. Her finished binoculars are around her neck. Sorry about the poor picture quality…someday I will get a real camera instead of always using my phone.

We headed out into the yard and pretty much just ran around pretending to go through tall grass, wade through a river, get through mucky mud, etc, all while quoting the book. We finally made it to the ‘bear cave’ , which was simply her fort made of sticks we made a couple weeks ago. We then ran like mad back through our make-believe obstacle course of mud and rivers, to finally make it back to our house and jump under blankets on the couch. By this time she was giggling like mad, and I have to admit I quite enjoyed myself. Now Curly asks to go on a bear hunt almost every day.

We did a fish craft that I’ve seen suggested many times. You have your child paint bubble wrap and stamp paper to create the effect of fish scales. It worked pretty well!

I taped the bubble wrap around her hand to make it easier to work with.

I taped the bubble wrap around her hand to make it easier to work with.

She really enjoyed the stamping part! I had already traced a fish shape onto the paper to make it easy to cut out.

She really enjoyed the stamping part! I had already traced fish shapes onto the paper to make it easy to cut out.

I did most of the cutting out of the fish, although she did do a little herself. Then she glued the fish onto some blue construction paper.

Fish!

Fish!

For a fish snack I made blue jello (for the first time EVER; we never have jello) with gummy worms in it. Lo and behold, my child thinks jello is disgusting. I had to feed it all the husband, who gleefully devoured it. At least it didn’t go to waste!

We did another fish snack that was much more of a hit. All you do is have your child dip pretzel sticks in peanut butter, and then use the sticky pretzel stick to pick up fish crackers. Fishing with crackers! I really wanted to take her on a real fishing trip, but we didn’t have any time to even plan it. We settled on eating fish snacks and reading books about fishing instead.

I grew up in a place where we went fishing almost every day near our house, all summer long, so I have really nostalgic feelings about fishing. I hope she can experience some of the same childhood that I did!

For a math activity I used a bunch of plastic cups we had on hand and wrote numbers on them. Then I had her count out marbles into each cup. I will be saving the cups for many other math activities.

This time of year the prairie is just bright with wildflowers, so I took Curly out to cut some with me to put on the kitchen table. We found mostly daisies and wild sunflowers.

We had a great week!

Camping Theme, Part 1

We’ve been doing camping activities for a couple of weeks. We were supposed to go to Glacier National Park on a camping trip this year, but our plans didn’t work out. So, we’ve been having fun at home instead.

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We did a craft involving straw painting, where you blow paint across the paper using a straw. I provided yellow, orange, and red paint and showed Curly how to drop it onto the paper using the straw. Then I showed her how to use the straw. I had mixed the paint to be pretty runny so it wasn’t too hard for her to blow around. Next, I had her paint some popsicle sticks brown and set those aside to dry.

Then it was time to add stars - we used glitter glue in squeeze bottles. I had silver, blue, and gold.

Then it was time to add stars – we used glitter glue in squeeze bottles. I had silver, blue, and gold.

Once she was done adding the stars, I helped her glue the popsicle sticks underneath the ‘flames’ and ta-da! A campfire craft.

Curly was very proud of her campfire.

Curly was very proud of her starry-night campfire.

We did an unrelated art project too. Curly wanted to glue something, so we did an impromptu mosaic.

here she is putting glue down and placing random paper pieces she's cut up

Here she is putting glue down and placing random paper pieces she’s cut up.

The finished mosaic. She chose what color background she wanted to use and she chose all the paper scraps.

The finished mosaic. She chose what color background she wanted to use and she chose all the paper scraps.

 

We talked a lot about fire safety this week. We learned the Stop, Drop, and Roll, which we practiced. I would bring it up randomly throughout the week. Unsurprisingly, Curly found it super fun to suddenly drop to the floor and roll around. What kid wouldn’t?

You can’t have camping week without singing campfire songs. Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star is the favorite around here.

We had to have some pretend play. My plan was to have a fire in the backyard, but it’s been so warm here that no one wanted to. Can’t say I blame them! So we just built a fort and made a pile of sticks that was the ‘fire’.

For science we did the next experiment in our science set. We soaked pennies in different liquids to see which liquid would clean pennies better. Lemon juice won out. We talked about how lemon juice has acid in it, and how acids will eat away at things, like grime on pennies.

Curly always enjoys using the tweezers and beakers.

Curly always enjoys using the tweezers and beakers.

 

We also spent some time vising family in Minnesota , and we went out to pick blueberries, something that Curly has been begging to do ever since we read Blueberries for Sal. She acted a lot like Sal – she plopped down in a patch and ate all she could. The ones that ended up in her pail didn’t stay there long!

Many people told us there probably wouldn't be many berries left, but in half and hour we picked quite a bit! The ground was covered with blueberry plants. It was a beautiful day for it too!

Many people told us there probably wouldn’t be many berries left, but in half an hour we picked quite a bit! The ground was covered with blueberry plants. It was a beautiful day for it too!

 

For fine motor skills we continued with the Kumon workbooks.

For literacy skills we continued working on the letters in her name, mostly tracing.

For math we continued on in her logic workbook, Beginning Thinking Skills. She is surprising me with how well she did on some things that I thought would be too hard!

I will post our book list as soon I can; for the 2 weeks we’ve been doing this camping theme we’ve had a lot of books! Also, stay tuned for Camping theme part 2. Part 2 will include fishing and hiking activities.