Wednesday, May 28, 2014

5 Fun "Homework" Ideas for 5 Year Olds

My daughter will be going into Kindergarten next year and I have never been the type of Mom to pull out flashcards or do worksheets.  She prefers to be outside with her friends, riding bikes, playing dolls, and getting fresh air.  And that's been fine by me.

However, recently we had a playdate with a friend who is already in Kindergarten and at the end of the playdate, they explained that they had to get home to work on homework.  My daughter was intrigued.  The whole way home she was grilling me with questions about homework.  What did it mean?  Who got to do it?  Did it make you smarter?  And on and on and on.

So, I finally took the opportunity to introduce my daughter to worksheets.  And flashcards.  And she absolutely loves it.  Almost every night after dinner she begs me to do "homework".  I thought the interest would eventually wither away, but sure enough this has been going on for months and she is still thrilled about learning.  Some nights I just don't have the energy for it, but the interesting thing I have noticed is that she is truly behaving better for me in general.  She is quite a ball of energy and sometimes I have a difficult time reining her in, but I think she is thriving on this ability to learn new things.  It is improving her self-esteem and our relationship as well since we get to have this positive time together. 

I started out with worksheets but I have had to come up with some new things to keep her interest because let's face it, worksheets are only so interesting and reading isn't the only important thing to work on.  Here are some ideas of 

1.  Worksheets:  I downloaded some worksheets I found online and we have used Guided Math Made Easy, Grade K, which she really enjoys.  Pictured below is a worksheet from the Kindergarten/Pre-K version of Phonics First: Grades 2-4 ( I couldn't find the actual version I bought on Amazon, so don't buy this version that I linked to, it's for the wrong grades.  I had to go to a local toy store to find the Kindergarten version).  I also found one for my four year old called My First Book Of Tracing (Kumon Workbooks).  He has been insisting on doing "homework" as well since his big sister is doing it and this is great for his fine motor skills.

2.  Counting/Math:  For this I just find stuff around the house, like spoons, playing cards, legos, dolls, anything that is easily accessible and I lay them out on the table and tell her to count them.  When she finishes, she writes the number on the line (see below).  Then I take away a few and ask her to re-count them.  I showed her how to write the minus symbol, the plus symbol, and the equals symbol, and for each set of house-hold items, we turn it into an easy math problem.  This helps reinforce writing numbers and I am slyly introducing her to easy math.  

  3.  Geography:  My kids started to get really interested in other countries during the Olympics, but they had a really hard time understanding how huge the United States of America really is.  Every time we travel, it's hard to explain that we are still in our country.  I found a relatively inexpensive globe on Amazon, Elenco 11" Desktop Political Globe, and my daughter loves looking at it.  I have used it to explain north and south, how it is hotter at the equator and colder at the North and South Pole.  I picked out certain countries and explained some of the things they do there and even used my iPad to show photos of the people of the country, the customs of the country, etc.  I have never seen my daughter so interested in anything!  I had to practically glue her eyes shut that night to get her sleep.

4.  LEGO Stacking/Patterning: My co-author Susan Case, is a big fan of using patterning to teach math and reading skills and I have found this to be an easy and fun way to do some hands-on homework.  I just found some LEGOs, then I would use crayons to draw a pattern of LEGOs and she would put together the pattern for me.  This took no prep work at all, we just made it up and we went and it worked perfectly.

5.  Simple reading: I simply write out a very easy sentence and we work on sounding it out.  This is an opportunity to work on sight words and repetition.  I was so thrilled the first time we did this, because the look on my daughter's face when she read her first full sentence was truly amazing.  She was grinning from ear to ear and was so proud of herself.  

For more ideas on engaging your children and keeping them busy, please consider my book, The Happy Mommy Handbook: The Ultimate How-to Guide on Keeping Your Toddlers and Preschoolers Busy, Out of Trouble and Motivated to Learn.  

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Thursday, May 22, 2014

Fun With Cloud Dough to "Fill up my kids' tanks"

Even though I wrote a book on keeping kids busy, sometimes I just plain forget that kids are not like dogs.  They cannot just find ways to amuse themselves while I'm busy running the house.  I mean really, why can't they just go lay down on the floor while I clean the toilets?    

Let me back up.  I am used to going to work at 8:30, so even though I'm not officially working, I find that my body still wants to get to work right at 8:30.  The first few days of my new life, I still got to work at 8:30, but this time it was cleaning bathrooms, doing laundry, making grocery lists, etc.  Life.  I thought the kids would just play while I worked.  Boy was I wrong.  By 11:00 that morning they were fighting, whining, and I was screaming.  

So, I took a step back and remembered that the key to kids is spending that quality time with them, especially first thing in the morning so they get their "tanks full" and then they will do a better job of keeping each other busy. 

The third morning I was home I introduced a new project to them right after breakfast: cloud dough.  If you've never done this with your kids, it's a must!  Admittedly, it's super messy, but I put towels on the floor to contain the mess and it wasn't too bad at all to clean up.  The kids adored the fluffy sensation of the dough and came up with all sorts of ways to play with it including smashing trucks into it, hiding beads in it, and making pretend food out of it.

Just mix 1/4 cup baby oil with 2 cups flour (or any derivation of 1 to 8 ratio).  I put this mixture into our trusty foil tins and this kept the kids busy for 47 minutes.  After they got bored, they went upstairs to play house and left me alone. :-)   Everyone wins.

For more ideas on keeping kids busy, check out my book, which I co-wrote with a wonderful former Kindergarten teacher, Susan Case. The Happy Mommy Handbook: The Ultimate How-to Guide on Keeping Your Toddlers and Preschoolers Busy, Out of Trouble and Motivated to Learn

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Thursday, May 15, 2014

4 Great Lessons Learned from Pen-Pals

We love traveling to Florida with the kids.  The kids love it too, but now that they are 4 and 5, we have noticed a definite change from previous years.  They want to ditch us.  They were desperate to meet other kids their age so they could play with them instead of us.  I'm not really complaining.  Hubby and I read our books, relaxed, and watched in peace while the kids were entertained by their new best friends.  The problem was that after the week was over, life suddenly became pretty rough for the newly established BFFs. 

Then the girls came up with a great idea: they could become pen pals.  At first, I just thought, "How sweet, it could be like the movie, Beaches!  They will become best friends and college roommates someday...." and my imagination took ahold of me.  Luckily a wild and possibly rabid seagull screamed at me, bringing me back to reality.

Then I realized what a great learning experience this could be and the lessons we could work on throughout this fun project:
  1. Geography: Everyone in my house still seems to be a little confused about "The United States".  I am taking this is as a great opportunity to really help them understand about our states and how they are all part of America.  I printed out a map of the United States that we can hang on the wall and really study, especially every time we get a letter from her special new friend.
  2. Reading:  My daughter loves writing her name, her dog's name, etc, but we have not quite been able to make the switch yet to reading books.  It makes her frustrated so I haven't pushed it yet, even though she is entering Kindergarten in the Fall.  However, now she is begging me to teach her how to read so she can read the letters from her new BFF.
  3. Money:  I took her with me to the post office and she helped me buy the stamp for her letter.  We worked on what a dollar really means and counted out the change she got back from the post office.
  4. The Importance of Friendship:  We work on this one whenever we can.  It's very important to me that she understands that in life we all need good friends.
Who knows how long this pen-pal interest will last, but for now I am enjoying watching my daughter hard at work on her letters for her new friend.

For more ideas on how to keep your toddlers and preschoolers busy and learning, please check out my book, The Happy Mommy Handbook: The Ultimate How-to Guide on Keeping Your Toddlers and Preschoolers Busy, Out of Trouble and Motivated to Learn.  You will find hundreds of ideas on crafts, fine motor, reading, and much more.  The book was co-written by a former Kindergarten teacher, Susan Case.  

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Tuesday, May 13, 2014

My first day as a Stay at Home Mom

Well it's official.  I am a stay at home Mom!  So far, these are my observations:

  • I thought I would be less absent-minded since I wouldn't be so stressed out all the time.  Turns out, not so much.  I somehow left my grocery list at the kids preschool while I was writing them a check, even though it was tucked neatly into my purse originally, and had to drive all the way back there and have them root through the trash to help me find it.
  • Even though the kids were at preschool during the day, I still filled up every second of my day.  And hubby didn't even notice the sparkling-clean house.  I need a bon-bon.
  • I'm much less motivated to take a shower 
  • I'm very excited to spend the day with my kids (on their off-day from preschool) instead of leaving them with the babysitter
My story is a long one, I will fill you in briefly.  Boy meets girl.  They get married and boy starts medical school.  Girl spends 10 long years putting boy through medical school, only to have to move with boy for a fellowship right before first child enters Kindergarten.  Girl is forced to resign from beloved career to follow boy to the mountains for the final year of medical training before officially becoming a "real doctor".  Girl discovers that life is actually pretty amazing and is ready to begin a brand-new journey as a career woman turned stay at home Mom.  

The good news is that with all my experience with crafts and games for the kids, I think we will be very busy.  I have decided to send Munchkin Girl to half-day Kindergarten next year so that we can explore our new city together.  I will be documenting our adventures and hopefully educational experiences.  Stay tuned, I'm so grateful for all my readers (hopefully there are still some out there?)

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