Saturday, February 27, 2010

Tot School: The Farming Game Kids

Tot School
B is currently 29 months old.

(Note: This post is the second in a series on adapting games
to play with a toddler. Find the first post here.)

Before I get started on the main point of this post, I wanted to throw the idea out there for a weekly link-up on games. I would love to see reviews of games, ideas for using commercial board/card/dice/etc. games in learning, adaptations of games, homemade games . . . you get the picture. What do you think? Does a link-up on this topic already exist? If not, would you be, well, um . . . game?

One game B chose to play with me this week was The Farming Game Kids. All of my kids (okay, except for Baby P!) have had fun with this one, which already comes with instructions for three different levels of play. The beginning level (Level 1) is geared toward ages 3+, but I found that B was interested in playing this way for at least a little while.

Basically, you roll a die (that only goes up to 3), move the appropriate number of spaces, and collect a card that matches the space you land on. If you find yourself on a school bus or playground, you don't get a card. (Driving home the message, as my mother used to put it, "No workee, no eatee!") The object of the game at this level is to collect the highest number of produce cards.

B was interested in playing this way for about five turns each, then he was done. Even for this short time, though, it was good practice for him in several areas, including:
  • basic skills of board game play, such as turn-taking and rolling dice to determine moves
  • number recognition for numerals 1-3
  • counting (both spaces to move and cards)
  • one-to-one correspondence (moving the same number of spaces as the number rolled)
  • matching (spaces to cards and cards to each other)
Some other ways I thought of to use this game equipment with B:
  • sort cards into stacks
  • use the cards to make patterns (e.g. apples, watermelon, apples, watermelon, etc.)
  • pick a card and move to the next matching space
  • roll the die and take that number of cards
I'm sure there are tons more things to do with this game. I'd love to hear your ideas!

(For a look at what others are doing with their tots this week, be sure to check out Carisa's blog.)

Monday, February 15, 2010

K's Drawing Notebook

For both N and K, we have used (and enjoyed) the Explode the Code series as a component of our language arts curriculum. N has completed the series and moved on to other things, and K was following behind at a good pace. When she finished Book 4 a few months ago, however, we both agreed she was ready for a break.

Although her reading comprehension and fluency are phenomenal, I felt that she could use more practice with writing. She loves to draw, so I thought of a way to incorporate drawing and writing into one daily activity--the Drawing Notebook. This has definitely been a successful addition to K's workboxes!

I downloaded a printable file for "story paper", which has a blank area at the top for a drawing and ruled lines on the bottom for writing. (Although not the exact one I used, has some great customizable story paper. There are tons of other options out there, as well--just do a search for "story paper".) Each day, K spends time drawing a picture:

When she's finished, I ask her to tell me about what she has drawn. In the process of discussing it, we decide on one or two sentences for her to write about her drawing. (Although I didn't have this in mind to begin with, I have found that this is a great way to introduce the concepts of "main idea", "summary", and "details" to a young child.) I then write out the sentence(s) we have crafted on a ruled dry-erase board:

If necessary, I will briefly review things like capitalization and punctuation, explaining anything that might be new to her. Then, she copies the sentences onto the bottom of her paper:

One day, K asked, "Mom, is it okay if I keep doing my Drawing Notebook every day for a really long time?" Can't ask for better proof that she's enjoying this activity!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Tot School: Monster Match

Tot School
B is currently 29 months old.

B loves to play games. Of course, we have many games that are intended for his current developmental level, and he does enjoy these. Lately, though, he has wanted to play the same games his older siblings are playing. We've had a lot of fun finding ways to modify "older" games so that he can enjoy them, too. As a result, I've decided to work on a series of blog posts on this topic. I hope that you will share some games (and ways of playing them) that your tot loves, too!

One gift we got for Christmas is a game called "Monster Mix Up". I couldn't find it online to link to, but it is exactly the same concept as the classic Guess Who? game (which we also have), just using monsters instead of people. (In B's opinion, this makes it much more fun! I have to agree that it's more interesting to ask for clues using words like "eyestalks", "horns", and "tentacles"!) B loved watching N and K play, and soon after I found him "playing" it by himself, even mimicking the questions he'd heard them ask, such as, "Does your mystery monster have green skin?" After a while, I asked him if I could join in the fun. He decided to let me. :)

Here are a couple of different ways we have enjoyed this game together:
  • SIMPLE MATCHING. We put all the monster cards in a bag and take turns drawing them out. B then finds the matching card on his game board and flips it down. At first, he only wanted to do this for a few turns. Now that he's gotten a little faster at it, though, he usually doesn't want to stop until we've flipped down all the monsters.
  • MODIFIED "GUESS WHO?" GAME. Of course, B isn't quite ready to understand the idea of logically eliminating some of the monsters after asking for an identifying clue. He does like to feel that he is "really" playing the game, though. It has been working great for me to help him. If he can't think of a question to ask, I'll suggest a few and let him choose one. Then, I'll say something like, "Yes, my monster has three eyes. That means we need to flip down all the ones who have one or two eyes." I'll guide him to each monster and ask, "Does this one have one or two eyes? Okay, looks like we need to flip it down!" I talk through my thought process on my turn, too. (This is part of a technique called metacognition.) Doing it this way takes a long time, of course, but I feel it's worth it! B is already beginning to catch on to the idea in a very basic way.
  • SORTING. I haven't tried this one yet, but another way I thought of to use this game is to just give him a category of monsters to look for and have him flip them down. For example, I could say, "Can you flip down all the monsters who have teeth showing?" This would be a simple way to practice one of the steps in the "full" game, and I think he would enjoy it.
I would love to hear other ideas on how to use this game with a toddler as well as about other games you are playing with your tot!

To see what other Tot Schoolers are doing and learning, be sure to visit Carisa's blog.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Valentine Cookie Houses: Part 2

Of course, you've been waiting on the edge of your seat to see our finished Valentine cookie houses. Well, the wait is finally over! :) Part one of our creating frenzy started on Saturday morning, when we made the cookie dough (the basic sugar cookie cutout recipe from the Better Homes and Gardens cookbook), cut out the pieces, baked them (about twice the recommended time to increase firmness), and assembled the houses:

That evening, we enjoyed dinner with friends and then supervised a wonderful session of creative chaos:

This week, J and I had our own decorating session after everyone was in bed and created these:

I have to give this activity an A+ for working so well for a larger group as well as a smaller one. Adults and children both had a fabulous time, and, although the preparation was considerable, it was definitely worth it. Hopefully this will convince you that "gingerbread" house building is not just for Christmas anymore! Happy Valentine's Day!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Valentine Cookie Houses

Like many families, we've really enjoyed constructing gingerbread houses at Christmas. J and I actually started doing this even before we had any children, and it has been fun to continue it as a yearly tradition. One year, J went all out and constructed this castle (shown in the center of the photo and created from precisely cut and fitted graham cracker pieces):

Did I mention that was before we had children? :) These days, we usually serve more in an advisory capacity while our little ones do the constructing and decorating:

Well, several years ago, I noticed all the fun candy for sale around Valentine's Day and thought, "Wouldn't it be fun to decorate a Valentine house?" Guess what--it WAS!

I ended up making the houses out of sugar cookie dough for a couple of reasons: a) it tastes better than gingerbread and b) it seemed to go better with the feel of Valentine's Day somehow. I made a few different ones and gave them away to friends that year, but I never seemed to get around to doing it again.

Well, the other day I remembered that fun experience, and I decided to start a NEW tradition at our house. We're planning a get-together with friends this weekend to build some fun cookie houses. I'll be posting photos after that so you can see our creations.

A quick Google search showed that I'm not the only one to come up with the idea (see this one and this one, for example), but, I thought I'd share just in case this is something that never crossed your mind to do!