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.

Leaf Scrapbook

Leaf Scrapbook

Today’s post is from contributing writer Katy Bird, who reminds us just how simple it can be to explore science and  the natural world around us.  Get some fresh air, and explore with your child, even if your adventure goes no further than your own backyard.
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We were recently studying plants and so we decided to make a leaf scrapbook.  This activity was a huge hit and I think it could be adapted for children of almost any ability level.
First you take a walk–we just went around the yard, but you could go further if you need/want to.
Leaf Craft
Collect leaves–try to collect leaves from plants that you recognize.  This was pretty easy for us since my husband is a gardening nut, but you can always do a little online research if you needed.
Leaf Craft
Create a Leaf Scrapbook.  Paste a leaf on each page of your scrapbook and then label each with its name.
Leaf Scrapbook
Allow your child to do as much of the creating as they are capable. Take time to go over your scrapbook with your child–talk about color, size, and texture.
I ended up laminating Charlie’s cards because he LOVES to put things in his mouth and I was afraid he might eat one of the leaves!  This could work just as well with note cards or heavy paper.  I especially like this activity because it gets kids started on the basics of science in a way that is fun and interactive.

You could do this activity with flowers as well.

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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.

Cotton Ball Bunny

Cotton Ball Bunny

Bunny crafts aren’t just for Easter time, toddlers and preschoolers readily identify with these animals because so much media is directed towards them with bunny themes: books, TV , even clothing for little ones often have fuzzy little bunnies on them. So grab some cotton balls and enjoy this activity from our contributing writer Katy.

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This is a great, easy activity that you can do with your child if they have the motor skills or you can create it and then share it with them if they don’t.

You need a heavy piece of white paper, cotton balls, scissors, and glue.
1. Cut out the shape of a rabbit out the white paper.  If your child is able, you can have them do it themselves. Cotton Ball Buny Craft
2. Sit down with your child, add a line of glue, and then add the cotton balls.  We also practiced taking turns for this activity.  We had to move Charlie’s arms into the position at first, but he quickly got the hang of dropping the cotton balls into place.cotton ball bunny
3. Cover the paper with cotton balls.  We took turns since Charlie can be a little slow all by himself. Cotton Ball BunnyCotton Ball Bunny Craft
This activity could easily be done with almost any animal and cotton balls of all colors are available at craft stores.

Book We Enjoyed

It's Spring

It’s Springby Samantha Berger and Pamela Chanko. Illustrated by Melissa Sweet

This is a simple book with a rhyming rhythm about the arrival of spring.  The illustrations are precious.  Definitely for younger kids.
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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.