Taking your kids to Paris, London or Pisa might not be in the budget but you can turn their building blocks into the city’s most famous landmarks. What a great way to introduce learning about far away places by using your kid’s own blocks. This was so simple and can be redone with so many different themes like these animal ones ,or faces you don’t even need a printer if you want to hand draw the pictures. My son didn’t participate in making the blocks ( I think he gets enough crafts, what do you think?) but from toddler to school age kids can color or draw the buildings too.
- Gather your materials. You will need some building blocks. Any will do but here is my opinion- we used Fisher-Price Little People Builders Blocks, they are big, snap together but not too tightly. They let me be sorta sloppy with the contact paper. If there was some bunched up I could still snap them together. Duplo is less forgiving so you will need to only get contact paper on the side none on the top where the blocks come together. Wood blocks would work well but might frustrate younger ones who want them to stay together. You will also need pictures of whatever buildings you want to use, scissors, contact paper and clear tape.
- Start by laying out what blocks you will need for each building.
- Now here I did it two ways. I first cut the image into the pieces for the blocks, then cut the contact paper and put it on. It was tedious.
- The other way was to use one large piece of contact paper place the image on it face down, lay the blocks on it, make snips where you need to cut.
- Cut and apply to the blocks. This worked WAY better. I am not the most patient or careful because my window for doing anything without kids interrupting is tiny these days but as you can see even not too careful turned out great.
- Put them together!
- Time to play – he may not have participated in the making but he sure did with the playing.
- It’s mega-landmark!
With summer vacations on the horizon some of my book lists will lean towards school age kids in the next few months. This series by Joanna Cole are books I have been reading with my 4.5 year old but they are really geared towards Kindergarten and up, with the true target being 6 and 7 year olds. There is a lot of information on every page of every book so take your time. We grabbed the Medieval Castles book on Monday and by Wednesday we’d tracked down the other two, now on Thursday I am sharing them with you. I couldn’t wait to write about how much I like these books and how exciting they make history and travel, two of my favorite subjects.
Ms. Frizzle’s Adventures: Ancient Egypt took me back to 6th grade when I discovered all the gruesome details of mummification . Ms. Frizzle and all the others on her tour to Egypt magically go back in time ditching their tour guide in modern day Egypt while they time travel to Ancient Egypt and learn all about the sights, daily life and the most exciting of course learning about mummification. I discovered that my son thought mummies were make believe and we took some time to talk all about what is real and what isn’t. Did I ever tell you I have a degree in history? I love this stuff and books like this one is why I craved more and more information as a kid because it was presented so well. My son sat wide eyed as I read the book to him, and he carefully studied all the details of the amazing illustrations .
Ms. Frizzle’s Adventures: Imperial China Takes readers from present day Chinese New Year celebrations to the rice fields and palaces of Imperial China. In this installment Ms.Frizzle explores China, explains the concept of taxes really quite well and covers many of the inventions that came from the country. My 4.5 year old wasn’t as into this book as the other two in the series but I think that’s because I read two of them to him back to back with this one at the end, which was obviously too much for his attention. I however loved this one and was fascinated by the little asides filled with information about Chinese inventions.
Ms. Frizzle’s Adventures: Medieval Castle was the biggest hit with both my son and I and the reason we went searching for the other books. This is a great book. The story is fun, the character’s asides are hilarious ( I love that her student is less than thrilled to see her outside of school), and the history explored is really an adventure. Ms. Frizzle heads to Medieval times after following a tunnel in a castle shop and a little twist of that magic time traveling watch of hers. Immediately they are at a castle where the Lord is on his way to fight for the King. This got my son’s attention right away and when the Castle was attacked my son was glued. We have had it out from the library less than one week but I have read it half a dozen time, and it’s LONG. I am more than happy to read it though, and the cutaway view of the inside of the castle is my son’s favorite part. I think perhaps being dragged around to open houses as we look for a new house has left a mark? There is a lot of fighting and weapons which may mean this is not the book for your family but for us it puts these toys my son loves so much ( his Playmobil knights especially) into a historical perspective. I will be buying this one for sure.
Letter of the week has been a popular feature on our blog for a few years now, but it’s not so popular at my kitchen table anymore. My son has known his letters for what feels like forever so to get him interested it takes something special… like a map. He loves maps, and will often ask us ” How do you get to Nebraska? How do you get to Paris? ” So we find the map and we decide if we should fly, drive or take a boat. I capitalized on that love to do this simple cutting and letter activity.
- Gather your materials you will need an old atlas or map ( you will be cutting it ), kid scissors, a marker, piece of construction paper and glue.
- Start by looking at a map . We looked at a map of the US since my son is into learning about states right now. Choose a state or country to check out. He chose Utah, we don’t know why but he loves Utah, like a lot.
- Flip to it if you are using an Atlas. If you just have one map to use, take some time looking at it with your child, look for different points of interest . This activity is as much a lesson to familiarize kids with maps and geography as it is one for the letter m.
- Tear out the page and write an M, if your child is able to have them write it. It’s easy to turn it into a block M by adding to theirs.
- Cut it out. This will take time.
- Encourage them when it gets tricky. This was the most line cutting my son has ever done, honestly I was pleasantly surprised he did it all. He was pretty proud too.
- Add glue
- “Slam Utah down” His words. Let dry.
It’s an easy project but the cutting takes patience and builds skills , the exploration of the map sparks discussion and the letter recognition comes along for the ride!
Learning at Snack Time Too
While my son flipped through the atlas I fixed him a snack. I knew which state he was looking for and was just thankful it was Utah, I didn’t have enough ham for any other state.
ABC USAby Martin Jarrie is another beautiful alphabet book! Like most alphabet books it devotes a page to each letter with vibrant illustrations . Not everything in this book is by any means unique to the United States but most are. I specifically appreciated the I for Immigrants page, both from a historical and personal perspective, my son loved the J for Jazz and we both loved all the whimsical illustrations. There are a lot of learning opportunities presented as well, school age children could really benefit from it as well the 2 letters that stood out for me for further learning were U for Underground Railroad and V for Valley Forge. How ever you use this it’s worth a look for certain.
All Aboard!: A Traveling Alphabet by Bill Mayer was more fun for my husband and I than for my son but that’s not a bad thing. It’s a book of pictures, with hidden letters in them. For example the letter O is overpass with loops of road and hidden in it is an O. Some letters were easy to find some were hilariously hard. We read this to my son tonight at bedtime and while we stared at the letter H ( highway) picture debating where the h was, he fell asleep between us in his bed. This is a great alphabet book for families with children just learning and those who have mastered the alphabet. Oh and the debate was settled , we were both wrong. The final page highlights the letter in each picture in a compilation of the whole alphabet.
- Gather your materials. You will need a paper plate , multiple pieces of construction paper, scissors, glue, a permanent marker, and your choice of water colors or crayons.
- Start my tracing your child’s hand or having them do it themselves. I traced mine first thing this morning and as he was eating breakfast I use it to trace all the other hand prints I needed. Trying to get him to stay still for one hand print was hard enough!
- Trace out at least 4 but more is better!
- Find all different ways people say thanks. If you have a toddler you will probably want to do this yourself, but I encourage parents with children able to understand to grab a map and explain that in that country children don’t say “Thank you ” in English, instead they speak ______ and say ______ . ( Edited to add Navajo word for Thank You = Ahéhee’)
- Write the “Thank Yous” in permanent marker in the middle of the hands.
- Have your child decorate the hands. We are using watercolor crayons but plain water color paint works wonderfully and crayons work in a pinch, as would light colored paint. You just don’t want to cover up the words.
- Have your child decorate the paper plate.
- While they work on the plate cut out the hand prints.
- Cut out the middle of the plate.
- Time to glue! I put a few globs on where the hands needed to go to guide my son, older kids obviously can do this themselves.
- Let dry and add a ribbon!
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Whoever You Are by Mem Fox gives me goosebumps and brought me to tears when I was a homesick Canadian teaching in St. Louis. The book is simple and talks about the differences of little children all over the world, but focuses on what they all have in common. There are beautiful illustrations that show children in all different cultures from around the globe with a sing song story to carry you along. It is a wonderful companion to the activity today.
- Gather your materials. You will need color pictures of flags in an atlas or online, some markers, white paper, double stick tape or glue and a long piece of ribbon.
- Show your child a number of different flags and have them choose which they want to recreate. I would urge them to choose countries other than their own to do since this is a chance to learn about something new.
- Fold the paper , one side will be for the flag , the other to write the name of the country on the back.
- Color your flag.
- Write the name of the country on the back.
- Make multiple flags.
- Using double stick tape put one piece at the top by the fold in the paper , and one at the bottom, place your ribbon on top of the tape near the fold. Press down to seal both sides. Repeat this for each flag.
- Hang up and show off the worldly masterpiece!
On my quest for some Olympic picture books at my local library I didn’t find any, but I did find this. A fantastic book for older school age children. There is a lot of text but there is also plenty of pictures with short blurbs that will appeal to younger kids. Do not expect preschoolers to sit for this, but you may enjoy reading it, I found it very interesting and the collection of photos was great!