Beach Learning

by Katy


Going on vacation is wonderful–you escape from the everyday stresses of ringing phones and errand running. You can keep learning with your kids, though, even if you are on vacation. Kids love learning and most will see these activities as fun rather than work.

We spent a week at the beach with my son Charlie who has special needs. The activities we did were pretty simple because of his physical limitations, but there are all sorts of fun ways to incorporate learning into your trips and I’ll include some more suggestions at the bottom of this post.

One of the simplest and easiest things you can do is collect sea shells.

Don’t just pick them up, though, observe them. Talk about different sizes and colors. You might try sorting them into different piles. I sorted these sea shells into piles based on their shape in front of Charlie. Then we guided him through counting the different piles. If your child can speak, have them count out loud with you–we counted out loud for Charlie since he’s non verbal.

Sand writing is another great way to take advantage of your surroundings. I’ve blogged about the benefits of multi-sensory activities before. Here, mother nature is giving you the perfect pallet for practicing writing. Guide your child through writing letters in the sand, taking time to tell them the name of the letter and the sounds that it makes. We enjoyed showing Charlie the letters of his name and let mother nature do the erasing for us!

As a final activity, you can teach your child about simple machines with a little purchase from the discount bins at Target. For $1.50 I got this “sand sifter.” You pour sand in and then watch as it spins the wheels below.  You can talk about how the weight of the sand makes the wheels spin as it falls through the machine. Something as cheap and easy as this is really the beginning of much bigger scientific topics like physics. I was always lousy at physics–maybe if my mom had gotten me a sand sifter I wouldn’t be in the shape I am today. Kidding!
There are many activities you can do with your children at the beach. I chose simple ones because of Charlie’s disability. Here are a few more ideas you can try if your child is better at talking, walking, standing, etc.:

You can observe local birds and talk about their characteristics. For example, sea gulls have webbed feet, which makes them better adapted to the water.
You can experiment with what types of items sink in the pool or ocean, and which float.
With older children, you can talk about endangered species–our area has brown pelicans and sea turtles which are both endangered species.
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Here are some great books about the beach you may enjoy.

Stella, Star of the Sea by Marie Louise Gay is a little long for my easily-distracted child, but I absolutely loved it and we’ll definitely be trying it again when he’s a little older. It’s all about a little girl named Stella and her adventures at the beach–some of them traditional and some of them less so (think riding a seahorse). The illustrations are gorgeous too.

Seashore Baby by Elise Broach with its ryhming rhythm and liftable flaps was more Charlie’s style. Definitely for younger children, but really cute.
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Katy is a mom of one who loves art, mystery novels, and anything involving peanut butter–she blogs about raising her little miracle at Bird on the Street.

Sensory Alphabet Activities

by Katy
Sensory Alphabet Activity
One of the best ways to help a child learn is to have them use more than one sense at the same time.  I’m guessing that’s one of the reasons why Allie is so passionate about doing crafts with kids–all kinds of senses are engaged, which makes learning easier and also fun. It can be hard, though, when your child has issues that prevent them from participating in crafts.  Today I’m sharing three ways to do the alphabet with kids with limited motor skills although I think they would be fun for all kids.
Alphabet StampsSensory Alphabet Activity

I bought a pack of foam letters at Walmart for one dollar and turned them into two activities.  First, I used them as stamps and let Charlie stamp on a sheet of paper.  As we’re stamping out the letter, it’s good to name it and tell your child the sound it makes.
I then took the foam pieces and glued them to a piece of cardboard to make an alphabet puzzle.  Since Charlie’s aim is rough, I put all the letters in and then let him pull them out.  I let him decided which letter looked good and then I would again, name the letter he was touching and say it’s sound aloud.
Big LettersSensory Alphabet Activity
This activity is also great for improving fine motor skills–I don’t completely understand the relationship between big motions and improving fine motor, but multiple therapists have told me this, so I’m going to believe them.  Take a sheet of paper and put it up on your refrigerator. Give your child a crayon or marker and help them make BIG letters on the paper.  I found that Charlie was able to make some c-like motions, which is pretty impressive for him.  Children with poor neck control often do better when activities are propped up in front of them because it requires less head control.
Sugar Writing
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You can also use sand, but sugar is easier for me to find.  Pour about half a cup of sugar into a baking pan.  If you can find one with a dark finish, then that will work great.  Help your child form letters in the sugar with their fingers.  This was probably Charlie’s favorite activity of the bunch–probably because it was one of the few that he was allowed to taste!
As always, don’t be discouraged if you try and activity and your child doesn’t like it.  All children are picky and special needs kids can often be intimidated by new experiences.  Experiment with different ideas, try activities multiple times, and remember that not every activity is going to be a hit.
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Katy is a mom of one who loves art, mystery novels, and anything involving peanut butter–she blogs about raising her little miracle at Bird on the Street.

Fun and Learning with Boxes

by Kim

This game was a big hit with my 3 year old son. It evolved into so many things. I love activities like that. When your kids can take it in any direction they would like and they are still learning while playing, that is my kind of fun.

My neighbor sells jewelry in her spare time. She gives me the jewelry boxes after she hosts a party. Now if you do not have a neighbor that gives you jewelry boxes (which most of you don’t) you can always use different sized shoe boxes or even food storage containers from your kitchen. Anything that has a detachable lid.

Place your different size boxes out on the table. Put the lids near them, but make sure to not have them in the same positions as the boxes.

Have your child put the lids on the boxes. This is great for shape learning, deductive reasoning, and just plain out fun.

My son asked if we could put things inside the boxes. So I got items that were all different from each other. I grabbed a crayon, craft poms, a decorative marble, and a crumbled piece of paper.

I had him close his eyes while I put these items in different boxes. After he opened his eyes I asked him to figure out which item was in each box. I even drew a little sketch of the different items on a scratch piece of paper so he could remember what he trying to figure out. It worked great because he crossed through the items when he figured them out. It was fun to watch his techniques for figuring out which items were in which box. He would shake, he would tilt from side to side, and he would put one in each hand to compare the weight. I was really impressed. I told him to do whatever he needed to do to figure it out, but he couldn’t open the boxes.

After that fun, this turned into a building activity. The boxes were a city and the craft poms became tress and bushes, while the crayon was a man. I love a preschooler’s imagination!

Now don’t think this was just for preschoolers. My 21 month old got in on the action, too. She matched up the lids.

She shook the boxes to learn the difference between the sounds the different items made. I opened the boxes with her before and after she shook them. I had to be very careful about the poms and the marble. Those items required this activity to be a closely monitored one for her age.

Her learning also evolved. The boxes got stacked and made into a bed for her doll. Soon all of the boxes made there way into the backs of various dump trucks where they continued to be played with in many ways.

So start looking around your house for boxes and containers with lids. Watch and see where your kids take this activity. Then come back and let us know. I know I would love to read about it. :-)

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Kim is a contributing writer for No Time For Flash Cards, a mom to a toddler, a preschooler, and a foster parent, too. She juggles her day by trying out fun activities and crafts with the kids. After all, she is just a big kid herself.

Fruity Scented Playdough

fruity scented playdough

Sensory activities are always a huge hit around here. My son loves exploring , squishing and the pretend play that always seems to accompany play dough play. Adding scents to your play dough simply makes something every day a little more novel and exciting.He played with this play dough forever. I originally only gave him half of each scent/color so we’d have some reserved for later, but then gave in. He was pretending to make and ice a cake on his own youtube video. It was hilarious and  great pretend play.

  1. Gather your materials.  Today we made Bisquick Playdough ( click  for the recipe) , I like this one because the playdough is very white and is easy to color. To make the play dough scented we used flavorings ( Banana, Strawberry and Cherry) and food coloring.  You can also use Kool-aid.  Also grab a few zip locks for adding the flavor and color to avoid stained hands.fruity scented playdough
  2. After kneading the dough per the recipe , separate the dough into one bag per scent/color. fruity scented playdough
  3. Add the coloring , close the bag and have your helper come help. He mixed it some but I did the majority of mixing, it takes some time.fruity scented playdough 005
  4. Chill the dough until cold. This makes it less sticky.fruity scented playdough
  5. Gather some fun tools to play with – I love cookie cutters and popscicle sticks.fruity scented playdough
  6. Smell see if your child can identify the scents. fruity scented playdough
  7. Play! fruity scented playdough
  8. One big happy smelly mess . fruity scented playdough

Books About Fruit

Raisin and Grape by Tom Amico and James Priomos is a hilarious and sweet book more about grandpas and grandsons then about grapes and raisins. The dry sarcastic humor will keep parents happy ( or if you aren’t into that you’ll hate the book) while the funky illustrations and simple text will keep your little ones interested. This is a great book for older children to read to younger siblings, the text is easy enough for novice readers and they will think it’s funny, especially the part about armpits! My son is so into his grandpas right now that this was a huge hit and I love that it can also be used to explain that raisins are dried grapes. Grab this , sit down with some grapes and have fun!

Eating the Alphabet: Fruits & Vegetables from A to Z by Lois Ehlert is an alphabet book extraordinaire! Wonderful paintings of fruits and vegetables seem ultra simple and it is but somehow the way the author has pieced this simple book together is brilliant. Maybe it’s that children learn about food at the table multiple times a day and feel proud being able to identify not only some of the letters but some of the pictures too! From a teaching standpoint I love that there are both upper and lower case letters on each page! This book will grow with your child, and beware it will also make you
hungry!

The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry, and the Big Hungry Bear by Audrey and Ron Wood is a fantastic book that children adore! The story not only unique in that the narrator speaks directly to the mouse , it’s illustrations will enchant your child’s imagination and make the most overtired parent smile. The little mouse is trying to keep the strawberry away from the bear, and his adorable attempts to hide it make my son laugh every time! Great book!

Sandpaper Sun

There are so many opportunities  for playing with textures with every day art supplies but rough is one that doesn’t come as easy, but it’s not impossible. Sandpaper is really fun to use for all sorts of things. Just remember that when you do a sensory art project that you need to be prepared for mess since the whole point is to touch and feel! My son had so much fun ( by fun I mean made a huge mess)with this that we ended up in the bath immediately after.

  1. Gather your materials. You will need 2 sheets of sandpaper, some yellow and/or orange paint, a marker,  a paint brush , scissors and glue.sandpaper sun craft
  2. Draw a circle on one of the sheets. sandpaper sun craft
  3. Cut the circle out, leave the other sheet whole, you will cut the rays into triangles later. sandpaper sun craft
  4. Start by letting your child feel the sand paper, some kids will recoil from it, some will love the texture and explore it with their finger tips and nails for a long time.sandpaper sun craft
  5. Next get the paint ready we wanted to use both colors since we were looking at pictures of the sun and I quote ” It’s not all yellow like I thought mommy!” so both colors were poured into a container for this project.sandpaper sun craft
  6. Start painting the circle.  We started with a brush and the sound the bristles made were really interesting. However I didn’t even have time to get a photo of him using a brush on the circle, he went straight for finger painting.sandpaper sun craft
  7. Next he compared the rough paper to his  smooth hands. sandpaper sun craft
  8. Pass them the full sheet when they are ready.sandpaper sun craft
  9. Remember that when you encourage finger painting, often a mess will follow, this is why you always use washable paint. These were not the only two hand prints on my table or his body, just the prettiest. sandpaper sun craft
  10. Set the circle and other sheet up to dry and get in the bath.
  11. When dry ( ours took forever cause we had globs). Cut out the rays. If your child is willing have them cut, my son wanted NO part of cutting the sandpaper and I admit , I don’t enjoy cutting it either. I had shivers the whole time.sandpaper sun craft
  12. Add glue to the back of the circle.sandpaper sun craft
  13. Add your rays and let dry.sandpaper sun craft

Other Activities About Texture:

Sense of Touch Game

Texture Collage

Sand Art