Age 5 and older
I am not sure I ever thought the day would come when I’d hand one of my kids a hot glue gun and sit back and take pictures but it did and look at the results! Inspired by Kandinsky’s Squares with Concentric Circles , this recycled project was a big hit with my 6 year old who took the responsibility of using a hot glue gun very seriously. One of my goals with my son right now is for him to take his time with school work and having a project that forces him to slow down and pay attention is a great way to practice this without nagging. Our glue gun is not a low temp but they are available so this project could be done by younger kids if you feel it’s safe and can properly supervise. We made sure my daughter was napping so that she wouldn’t want to “help” us at our house this was a big kid only project.
- Gather your materials. You will need a hot glue gun and extra glue sticks, jar lids and bottle tops in various colors and sizes, and a card board box lid ( ours is a gift box from Christmas that lost it’s mate to an overzealous gift opener) . We also used a plastic plate and cutting board .
- Start by warming up your glue gun and having your child practice squeezing out the glue, holding the gun properly and avoiding the hot glue .He was so careful .
- Lay out your first set of circles. He decided on 2 rows of 3.
- Flip over and add the glue. Be careful not to touch the glue through the lid even through the lid it can get hot!
- Keep gluing adding layers and layers of lids. I think this project really made him feel special and grown up. He knew his sister could NOT do this and that really made him feel proud and encouraged him to take special care choosing which lids would look the best. I just like watching him take his time creating.
- I thought we were done but he wanted to add a big glob of glue on each stack. This actually took a great deal of control and worked on his hand eye coordination skills. There is always layers of learning in a project hiding under the fun.
- Let dry and display. Ours has proudly been above our TV for days.
You don’t have to live within walking distance of one of the world’s best museums to expose your kids to art you just need a few great books. These picture books about art are a wonderful place to start. Check out our post about art books for kids here.
These are simple learning games for kindergarten one focusing on breaking down syllables the other is math but they use the same materials from the dollar store. Learning After School at our house is all about doing quick and simple games that reinforce what my son is learning in Kindergarten. These lessons or games need to be fun, active and not too long. This isn’t homework ( he gets some very simple but useful homework) it’s in addition to it. What I love best about these activities is you really get to see how much your child has learned and while we play he will naturally open up and tall me about school.
- For both activities you will need a pen, some foam craft sticks ( wood would be fine too ) in rainbow of colors and green foam shamrocks.
- Start with the syllable break down by writing one, two and three syllable words on the craft sticks. You will want one word per rainbow color stick per shamrock. I had five one syllable, five two syllable and 5 three syllable words each. Our list was as follows 1: mop, mom, pan, run, son 2: color, garden, panda, super, open 3: umbrella, telephone, dinosaur, butterfly, elephant
- Write the numbers ( 1, 2, 3) on the different shamrocks.
- Play! Set out the words and shamrocks. Ask your child to clap out or breakdown the words into syllables and place it on the shamrock with that number. He was way faster at this than I could have imaged. Each shamrock has one craft stick in each color. My son didn’t need the prompt but had I been doing this at his age I would have welcomed the hint that the colors give without having to ask for help. If your child is struggling you can say ” Does the number 3 shamrock have a red stick yet?” * Also there is no shame in googling ” 2 syllable words” or ” How to break a word into syllables” as a parent it’s probably been years since you have clapped out a word .
- Adding in a little lesson about rainbow colors I had him place the words in proper rainbow order after he’d sorted them.
- This is when he said ” Ok now can we make it math?”
- So I flipped the sticks and wrote out simple equations. Again making sure to have one of each color matching the answer on the shamrocks.
- He loved this . He decided he wanted to write the answer on each which slowed it down but I was so happy since writing is still not his favorite activity but is something he is doing in class right now. He didn’t finish all the equations. That’s OK! 15 equations is a huge amount in one go . This game can be played over and over again .
Math is important and practicing facts and skills after school doesn’t have to be major undertaking. A quick trip to the dollar store and you can get all the materials for both of these activities that are easy to adapt as your child masters the material. These activities are not geared to teach your child the material but to practice facts they know for speed and accuracy. Yes this is the realm of flash cards ( go ahead and giggle) and the perfect example of when they work. Subitising ( recognizing amounts without counting )and addition up to ten are both facts that need to be recalled not figured out by the end of Kindergarten and practice like this is a fun way to do it. Do not worry if your kids count at first that’s fine and natural just keep playing, keeping it fun and practicing until they recall it instead of counting.
Clip In The Blanks
This is a novel way of working on a not so novel exercise. The clothes pins also add in a little fine motor work that children in the early grades can always use as they strengthen their skills for writing.
- Gather your materials. You will need some foam sticks ( large tongue depressors or simple cardboard will work too) , clothes pins, markers and a kiddo ready to practice.
- Write out equations that equal 10. Starting with 1 + _ = 10 up to 9 + __ = 10 .
- Write the numbers on your clothes pins.
- Set them out of your child. If you are just starting to work on these facts choose a few in order . Then next time move to all ten in order. We aren’t trying to get them to work it out we are trying to get them to respond automatically. Once they can do it in order easily mix it up the next time.
- My son loves math and quickly clipped them when they were in order. “This is easy.” So I mixed a few up and while he did it well it took him a little longer. As we play more it will get faster and faster.
Not all of these flash cards are working on subitising but most are. For those of you unfamiliar with subitising it’s the ability to recognize amounts automatically without counting. Tally marks, dots like on dominoes and numbers represented by hand signals are the most commonly used. These simple folded flash cards lets kids practice alone if they want.
- Gather your materials. You will need some sentence strips a marker and a kiddo.
- Write out equations, make dominoes or tally marks on the first third of the strip.
- Place the answer on the 2nd third and then fold. I made 14 for my son and he flew through them. I am making him 20 next time.
- Press the folds tight so there will be no cheating!
- Play. Clearly he thought it was fun . I was so happy to see that!
Even though we are working hard to practice I am still not a fan of drill drill drill so keeping it fun, novel and as positive as possible is really important. This side of math is my most hated and is what killed my joy for it as a child so I really want to make these activities as dynamic, light and interactive as possible so my son’s passion for math isn’t squashed.
We love to play with vinegar and baking soda at our house . We explored it with squirt guns, at a play date and even pretending to be mad scientists. This time we made potions but really we just made a really awesome fun mess! We made these after school this week and already my 2 year old has asked to make so many I am out of vinegar and baking soda. Kids love to pretend and mixing imagination with scientific inquiry is a great way to get them interested in asking questions and testing their theories out. We pretended we were making love potions but not the way that maybe a teenager would think about it. Instead we were making potions to make everyone feel loved, not to fall in love with us and even that fell by the wayside . Bottom line, have fun and make sure you have towels ready!
- Gather your materials. You will need some baking soda, vinegar and then we added food color and food flavoring ( strawberry and cherry) . You will want clear containers, spoons, and whatever you need to protect your house from food color.
- Set out the ingredients and let them explore. While they started I talked about how some people think that potions and spells will make people fall in love and they both thought that was crazy talk! We pretended we were making people feel love but soon they just got into making a potion and the love bit was lost. This is fine the goal wasn’t to teach about love potions so much as simply explore.
- My son saw the baking soda and immediately got excited about the prospect of a fizzy overflowing potion. Only he couldn’t remember what made it bubble and discovered it was not the cherry flavoring.
- My daughter followed her brother’s lead and absolutely adored every minute.
- Once they figured out it was the vinegar they made potions over and over. In all different color combinations and with as much excitement every time. It soon turned into making predictions about if it would overflow or not.
This year is the year of the snake and Chinese new year is always a great vehicle to learn about a different culture. Lately my daughter and I have been playing pretend play airplane always landing in China to explore the great wall ( my idea) and local candy shops ( her idea) . This week we will make some Chinese food together , look at maps and read the books below. At the age of 2 the idea of New Year is still pretty tough especially when we already celebrated on January 1st. So instead I have explained it to her as a party and the snake is the special symbol for it and used the theme to explore China with her.
- Gather your materials. You will need some sturdy paper. I adore the canvas paper from craftprojectideas.com who graciously sent me this when I couldn’t find any locally. You will also need some paint, a paint brush ( we used a dish scrubber) , double stick tape ( if you need to tape the snake together) a googly eye, pipe cleaner, paint, glue and collage materials.
- Start by drawing a snake and cutting it out. OK now I admit my snake looks like a worm at best but my daughter couldn’t care less so I stuck with it. I cut mine out in two pieces and taped them together. I used tape so we could get to the project right away but glue would be fine too.
- Next step . Time to choose your paint colors.
- Next it’s time to start painting. First with the scrubber…. then with your hands . My table was dirty so I didn’t bother covering it since I needed to give it a good scrub anyway. Have a damp cloth handy if like us you have to pass by carpet on the way to the sink.
- Let the snake dry. We were short on time ( almost nap time) and usually I’d let it dry during nap and finish we had a doctor’s appointment after nap so instead I dried it carefully with a cool hair dryer while my daughter washed her hands and played in the sink. It worked so well.
- Time to glue!
- Add the collage materials. I love sequins and buttons because my daughter is so patient picking them up and putting them on to projects. She also loves peeling them off after the glue is dry so if you saw this snake now days later you’d see a sad no eye no sequin snake. Interestingly my first thought was ” Well I can re-use those and it was great fine motor as she peeled them off too.”
- Add the eye.
- Poke a hole in the mouth area and thread a pipe cleaner through . Bend a Y in the end to make it look like a forked tongue.
- Let it all dry .
Books about Chinese New Year
My First Chinese New Year by Karen Katz is a simple introduction to Chinese New Year for young children. It’s a board book so if you have let’s say a 4 year old who , let’s say has decided he thinks board books are only for babies, you may want to have him be a reading helper for this one.I had to cajole my son into helping me read this book to his sister but once I started he was into it and enjoying the simplistic way the author illustrator explains the Chinese customs. Even adults may learn something new. Did you know that cutting hair for a fresh start for the new year is a tradition? I never did! The illustrations are bright and cheery and for those of you who aren’t fans of the baby lift the flap books from this author you may want to give the author another chance because her holiday books are really great.
Bringing in the New Year by Grace Lin is a wonderful book to explain Chinese New Year and some of the customs that comes along with it to your preschooler. The illustrations are bright and help explain the festivities and preparations that go into the celebration. The book culminates with a fold out page with a huge dragon briging in the new year. There is also a great explanation of the holiday for parents at the back of the book.
This Next New Year by Janet Wong is a great new to me book about Chinese New Year. I read it with my kids after dinner and they booth really enjoyed it. My daughter liked the illustrations and the text itself was short enough to keep my 2 year old interested too. What this book did a great job of doing was explaining a few of the differences between Chinese New Year and New Year of January 1st and lots of the traditions . My son related well to the main character, a little boy about his age, and had a ton of questions after the book that the author actually addressed in a authors note at the end. Great book for PreK and up.This post contains affiliate links.