Hexbug Races

hexbug activities for kidsSimple activities using toys we already have in our playroom are my favorite. Finding new ways to use the toys inspires creativity and play. This Hexbug race activity was a spur of the moment idea that I made my son pause as I ran downstairs to grab my camera. We played from after dinner all the way until bedtime and again after school the next day. We didn’t places bets but the way my son was hooting and hollering you’d think he had money on his little Hexbugs. Here is how we set it up simply enough that anyone can do this with very little planning. I apologize for the terrible light in the photos, I could have re-taken the photos in the daylight the next day but I try my best to always share it like it is, and this was done after the sun went down with bad photography light. The good news is that didn’t change how much fun it was.

Gather your materials. You will need some Hexbug Nanos , habitats, and bridges.  I have links to the exact toys we have at the end of the post. If you want to take a more hands on approach you could try making your own bristle bots and make your own mazes with Lego! With a little extra planning there is no reason you have to use these exact toys.hexbug races supplies

Set up the course. We don’t have a ton of tracks so our courses were short but we made two identical ones with what we had. You could do this with one track and a stopwatch too, just send the bugs in one and a time and time them.hexbug nano races

After you set the courses turn the bugs on and the first one to do the whole course and find the exit wins. hexbugs racesIf they exit before going through the whole course they have to start again.hex bugs races

That’s it.

That kept my son completely engaged and cheering for ages.hex bug collage

We turned the races into a championship having the winners of each race go head to head until we had a grand champion. My son decided to make the winner a medal with a pipe cleaner and bead.hex bug champion

Some activities have a clear academic goal,some are about creating something together,  some are for physical development, and some are just about having fun with your kids. They are all important.

 

Quick Links Supply List
This is a list of the supplies ( or very similar) items used in the post. This list contains affiliate links.

Hexbug Nano Hex Cells
Hexbug Nano Curved Bridges
HEXBUG Nano, 5-Pack
Hexbug Nano Habitat Set

Cork Board Spider Web Craft

spider web craft for halloween This spider web craft is not only an adorable addition to your Halloween craft display ( am I the only one with a mantel full of kid made stuff? ) it is also a wonderful activity that develops the pincer grasp , a major part of fine motor skills. By pushing those thumbtacks in, pulling them out, and repositioning them your child will be developing these skills. Wrapping the yarn takes major concentration and I am glad it did. I would watch frustration levels and be there to offer help if needed but my ” I will do it with NONE of your help Mama” 4 year old managed even if she went at it a different way than I would have.

Test our your cork to make sure the thumbtacks are nice and snug and please only use these tacks with children who are absolutely not going to put them in their mouths. They can be very dangerous if swallowed. Always be in arms reach and carefully watching.

Gather your materials. You will need a cork hot plate ( from IKEA), some thumbtacks, yarn, and a plastic spider. spider web craft supplies

Start by pushing in the thumbtacks. spider web craft geoboardWhen I explained the idea to my daughter I said the spider needs a web and that the tacks will make the edges of the web, the yarn will be the threads. She went to town adding tacks. spider web craft for kids fine motor development

Next cut a length of yarn long enough to make a good web, but short enough for a child to handle. Tie it onto a tack. cork board spider web craft

Wrap! spider web yarn art for kidsWhen she started wrapping it was all loosey goosey and I interfered. I didn’t want it to frustrate her when it was all slack. I shouldn’t have stepped in because she had a plan and really it’s NOT my web. I was the only thing frustrating her. Luckily she is almost as subtle about her feelings as I am and told me in no uncertain terms to back off. I did. It’s hard sometimes not to jump in and I find it’s way way easier not to when it’s your students than when it’s your own kid. I know this lesson will pop up in all sorts of arenas over the next dozen or so years. Back off. Got it… I hope.

It took her a minute ( and I stayed quiet letting her be) but she got the hang of wrapping, of how she had to hold the cork still, and wrap the yarn, pulling it tight.

spider web activity

When the web is complete it’s time to add the spider.

 

 

Word Building With Letter Magnets & Word Families

word family activity with letter magnets As children get a firm grasp on letter sounds they will be able to manipulate those sounds to create new ones.  My daughter has been playing with letter sounds for a while ( I think she is desperate to catch up to her big brother) and rhyming is one of her favorite things to do. All of her time rhyming has definitely helped her be able to isolate and substitute sounds and I wondered if she was ready for some word families. She was. I chose the word families that we used in this activity ( all, ap, at, it ) because she can sound them out without help. I wanted her to be able to build the words without me, because you are using masking tape you can easily switch up the word families as your child develops.

 

Gather your materials. You will need some masking tape, some letter magnets ( try to find ones that are fully magnetic instead of having little magnets glued on the back to be safe) , a cookie sheet, and a marker. The older brother overseeing the activity is completely optional. word building word families with magnets supplies

 

Add a few strips of masking tape on your cookie sheet.Write the word families you want to work on with your child. You can do a few or stick to just one. Here is a list of the 37 most common word families. word building with magnets

Take a few moments to have your child sound out the word families for you to make sure that this activity will be challenging but not impossible. When we give children challenges they grow but if we give them impossible tasks we end up discouraging them and sending them the message that learning is too hard for them. word building with magnets

 

Add a bunch of letter magnets ( I had 3 packs available) and help your child do the first modeling sounding out the word family and then adding the first sound and sounding out the word again.  Then let them at it.word building with word families

She started adding the magnets then sounding them out with her brother overseeing under strict instructions “To let her do it herself.” Sometimes she’d add one that didn’t make sense, he’d shake his head ,  and she’d just remove it and try with another letter. After a few letters he declared he wasn’t needed and left. I left words that she sounded out but might not know the definition of like pall. Even though should couldn’t tell me what a pall was she was sounding out the words correctly so I decided to leave it be. When kids are a little older I would ask is that a real word? Then ask them to look it up to find out.word building with letter magnets

I am so happy I caught this picture. After she made a word it was so amazing to her she turned to me saying ” Mama I did it again!” as if the other times were just flukes. I LOVE moments like this when kids take ownership of their abilities. She KNEW she could do it at that moment and continued to build the rest of the words.word building learning is fun

We will do this again soon with a few of these word families and mix in one or two new ones. Remember kids love repetition, it feels good to know what to expect and it gives them a chance to master something.word building with magnets and cookie sheets

 

Recycled Robot Craft inspired by The Ricky Ricotta Books by Dav Pilkey

robot craft for kids I love books.  More than my love of books is my love of getting KIDS to love books, especially my own kid. Before I share how we made this super rad robot inspired by Dav Pilkey’s Ricky Ricotta Mighty Robot series of books, I need to tell you that this post was sponsored by Scholastic.  I am so glad that the publisher sent me these books because my son loved them. LOVED. So much that we decided to make a shiny recycled robot craft that reminded us of the shiny full color pages of these awesome books. The whole book is beautiful and I really think those silky full color pages made reading the book even more enjoyable for my son.

Gather your materials. You will need some recycled materials. I save anything that looks interesting so I had some ribbon spools, plastic lids, card board, crusher lids, etc… you will also need metallic paint, a hot glue gun, and something to protect the surfaces you are working on.

ricky ricotta mighty robot supplies

Start by spray painting some of the recycled materials. When you read the books you will see that the Robot is really shiny so my son and I decided we needed to get really shiny silver paint. You might want gloves for this too. My nails are still silver.ricky ricotta silver robot

When dry gather all your pieces and plug in the hot glue gun ( ours is a low temp one) robotricky ricottaand let your robot builder go nuts!robot craft

He has inherited my love ( need?) of symmetry. At one point he was asking me where I think he should put something and when I suggested something asymmetrical he responded with ” Um I don’t think so, that would wreck the symmetry! ” OK then.

I think the robot turned out to be pretty awesome, well worth the days and days of silver spray painted hands ( seriously use gloves!)

robotoooo

 

About The Books!

RickySeries

Ricky Ricotta Series by Dav Pilkey illustrated by Dan Santat

These early chapter books are about a little mouse Ricky who is not the most popular mouse. He gets picked on at school until he ends up saving Robot’s life and the two of them become best friends! You’d think that with a giant robot as a best buddy a little mouse might let it go to his head. Ricky is a good mouse through and through and as the series continues he and Robot continue to save Squeakyville from all sorts of evil.

When my son and I snuggled up in bed to read the first book I did most of the reading. The books themselves are below my son’s reading level ( The series is listed as DRA 20 )  but reading levels are not the only things parents need to consider. Do you always read at your maximum reading ability? I can guarantee that I do not. Reading for pleasure isn’t always challenging. We flew through the first book and he begged me to read the next. I read it then left him the other two books and told him he could stay up as long as he was reading. Less than half an hour later he came downstairs to ask me if we had the 5th book! He’d read the other two books immediately. My son is a great reader but he doesn’t LOVE reading fiction, so his desire to read more more more was huge. I was THRILLED.dav pilkey bo

When I asked him what he loved about these books he said the illustrations by Dan Santat were amazing, the cool features like comics and flip book in the middle , and how quick they were for him to read. Patience is not something most 7 year old boys have in spades so I get that. The illustrations really are awesome but I want to let you know that the whole book is full color. The book is really beautiful , seriously every page feels special. I have already been telling friends in real life about how these are great early chapter books for reluctant ( and not reluctant) readers and I am thrilled to share it here too.

Visit the Ricky Ricotta Official Site
Learn more about author Dav Pilkey
Follow Scholastic and ScholasticTeach on Twitter
Like Scholastic Parents and Scholastic Teachers on Facebook

As stated above this post was sponsored by Scholastic.

 

 

Rhyming Dominoes and Speedracer Game – Learning After School

rhyming game for kindergarten The school year has started and that means that some of our longer activities get shortened into smaller bite sized pieces of hands on learning that won’t compete with homework or my son’s need to just chill out after a long day at school.  Our whole Learning After School series is all about how to have fun with learning without stressing our school age kids. My son gets out of school early once a week so that is usually when we do one of these types of activities. I want to support his learning, work on any areas he might need a little work on but more than anything I want to have fun with him. This rhyming activity is simple but so adaptable. For my son I noticed that he was starting to confuse rhyming and word families. They are similar yes but rhyming is all about sound, spelling doesn’t come into it. This game helped him remember that. For children not yet reading you can skip the words and use clip art pictures instead.

 

Gather your materials. You will need some card stock ( I used sentence strips from the dollar store), a permanent marker,  and scissors. If you want to get all fancy you can use a ruler so the lines are exactly in the middle of each card too.  It’s also helpful to come up with a list of rhyming words to have on hand. rhyming bingo

Start by cutting your sentence strips in half.

 

Draw a line down the middle. rhyming bingo game for kids

Write two words on the card that do not rhyme with each other. Make sure you have used all your rhyming words at least once.  I was specifically trying to find words that rhyme but are not spelled using the same spelling patterns like bear and care. Choose words that fit YOUR child. rhyming game for kindergarten

Play!

rhyming game for preschool and kindergarten

Dominoes – For our version of Rhyming Dominoes we split the deck into 2 and hand each player half. The younger player puts the first card down and the other player sees if they can put down a rhyming match. If not the other player goes. The first player with no cards left wins.  Simple and quick enough to keep moving so players are engaged. rhyming dominoes and speedracer game for kids

Speedracer.

rhyming dominoes and rhyming match game

My son LOVES this game. It’s simple and always seems to end up in major trash talk ( in the nicest way) , which means my 7 year old loves it. The rules are easy. You lay two cards down to start and leave the pile as one. You flip the cards and if it rhymes with your card you grab it and add it to your line. If the card has a rhyme that works for both players it’s whoever gets to it first. The only thing you need to watch out for is that when you choose the first two cards that they don’t rhyme. If they do you could end up with a stale mate. rhyming game for first grade

First person to the end of the table ( or any line you make) wins. speedracer rhyming game

 

Books That Rhyme

 

Another fun way to work on rhyming is to read great read alouds that rhyme. Here are some of our favorite books to read together that rhyme. For the full list of 25 Books That Rhyme Click here. All our book lists include affiliate links.

 

Granny Went To Market

Granny Went to Market by Stella Blackstone is a book I got to know very well when writing lessons for Itty Bitty Bookworm preschool curriculum using it. This a a really fantastic book that is filled with language arts, geography and math lessons. Granny is a traveler and everywhere she goes she picks up a number of souvenirs. Not only are a number of countries like Switzerland, Mexico and Peru visited, but the souvenirs she buys relate to the country’s culture and offer even more learning opportunities for interested kids.  The rhyming text will enchant even the youngest world traveler , this is a must for any jet setting family!

My trucks is stuck

My Truck is Stuck! by Kevin Lewis is a fun book full of great rhymes and funny illustrations from Daniel Kirk. The story is simple a truck is stuck and even though other vehicles come to help, nothing budges until a tow truck arrives. The best part is the cargo of bones in the truck are slowly stolen by hungry gophers while the others work to free the truck. It’s got a great message about helping people and the illustrations make me giggle, especially the guy in the moving van who is blowing bubbles. I have never understood that but it makes me laugh.

Flashing Fire Engines

Flashing Fire Engines by Tony Mitton is a favorite at our house. The book is a rhyming masterpiece, somehow keeping up the rhyming pace as it explains how firefighters fight fires and rescue people! Details like what gear they wear, and how hoses and hydrants work are included as well as ladders and sirens. My son loves this book and as an adult who has  read it hundreds of times it’s fun to read,  even over and over again . We also love all the other books in the series like Cool Cars   and Terrific Trains   it’s completely worth checking out anything they do!