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.

Math’s a blast!

Preschool Math GameI often go to the dollar store for inspiration, and I found these fun paper cuts and spinners on my last trip and decided to put together a math game with a rocket theme. My son likes numbers and rockets so I thought easy peasy, sure fire hit. No. Not with me but for some reason when daddy got home they played after dinner until I had to break it up for bedtime. Goes to show you that if something doesn’t go smoothly at first tweak it ( like maybe let daddy do it) and try again.

  1. Gather your materials.  I bought these rocket cut outs but you could make them ( a helpful time saver would be to find a rocket cookie cutter and trace it), I also got the spinner at the dollar store as well. You will also need a marker.preschool math lesson
  2. Number at least 2 sets of the rockets from 1-8 .preschool math lesson
  3. Place dots from 1-8 on the spinner sections.preschool math game
  4. To play: give each player 8 rocket pieces in order.preschool math game
  5. Take turns spinning the spinner. When it lands on a section count the dots and take that number out of your line up. preschool math lessonPreschool math game
  6. First person to have no rockets left wins.
  7. Also to make it more fun, my son and husband would do a count down every time they removed a rocket. They started with whatever the number they had to remove . For example if the spinner landed on a 7 they would say 7-6-5-4-3-2-1 BLAST OFF then launch the rocket into a pile, and spin the next number.Preschool math lesson

Counting Books

Goodnight Moon 123 by Margaret Wise Brown uses the familiar illustrations from the classic book by Margaret Wise Brown and turns it into a counting book. The page with 100 stars really has 100 stars on it, count and see!

1 2 3

One, Two, Three by Tom Slaughter is super simple, bold, bright and a great counting book!  These aren’t complex books, pictures matter because they should encourage the reader to want to count and connect the number they have counted with the number printed on the page.  I would happily recommend this book to families with babies through preschoolers , my 3 year old loved it and partly because he read all the pictures and numbers himself!

Mouse Count by Ellen Stoll Walsh is another gem from this author illustrator. In this book the mice outsmart a hungry snake and save themselves from his belly. In the meantime the reader counts along as the mouse are caught and put in a jar , then again when they escape. The simple illustrations are so effective and my son loved this book.

Shell Sorting

When I buy something specifically for an activity and spend more than I want to for only one experience, I try to brainstorm other things to use the item for. That is where this idea came from . I bought these shells for the Beach Sensory Tub we made last week, but wanted to use them for something else as well. Sorting is more than just a time filler in preschools , it’s a math lesson about matching, shapes and counting. Using tongs adds in fine motor and hand eye coordination too. I knew my son would like this but he sorted every single one , dumped them back in and did it again! I got my money’s worth out of these shells!

  1. Gather your materials. You will need some sea shells, a divided platter ( ours is a chip and dip plate from the dollar store) , and some tongs or kiddie chopsticks ! Preschool Shell Sorting Activity
  2. Start by placing one of each shell in the divided sections of your platter as a guide for your child.Preschool Shell Sorting Activity
  3. Invite them to the table and have them use the tongs to pick up and sort the shells. If this is too frustrating, ditch the tongs and just use their hands.Preschool Shell Sorting Activity
  4. Keep going! Preschool Shell Sorting Activity
  5. Talk about the shells as you play, we googled sea shells after we finished to look at even more variety of shells .
  6. Celebrate their efforts- if they sorted 4 shells or all !Preschool Shell Sorting Activity

Beach Books

 

One White Wishing Stone by Doris K. Gayzagian is a beautiful book. Visually it reminds me of an impressionist painting, the soft beach colors used by illustrator Kristina Swarner are calming and pretty. This is more than just a counting book, there is a story of a little girl at the beach,what she finds and how she plans to use them when she takes them home. It’s so beautifully done that it almost makes me forget how much I hate finding sand in my car after a trip to the beach.
Beach Party! by Harriet Ziefert and Simms Taback reminds me of “Head to Toe” by Eric Carle , and that comparison is a compliment. This large board book is a fun and cute way to introduce toddlers to movement as well as animals you find or want to avoid at the beach. The reader is asked how they want to walk today then they see how each animal moves. This would be a fun read for a circle time where kids could get up and move!
The Seashore Book
by Charlotte Zolotow is a touching story of a little boy excited to go to the sea for the first time from his mountain home. The mother describes it so well that you will be aching for a trip too! I must admit though that my son and I barely paid attention to the words, we were both so moved by Wendell Minor’s paintings. We couldn’t help but ooh and awe every time we turned the page. My son’s favorite page was the one with the crab, of course!

Fishing Alphabet Game

I think I have made one of these fishing games for every class I have ever taught, my son loves it and it was a huge part of him learning his letters, all while playing!

Learning About Money

Learning about money

Teaching children about money is not a one time thing. It will take years to instill all the lessons we want them to learn, my husband is a banker and you better believe that this is but the very tip of the iceberg but we will leave lessons about investing, interest rates and such for another year or 5 !  Today we focused on learning the names and denominations of the coins and dollar bills while playing bakery.

  1. Gather your materials. We are using a few props for our bakery, play cookies, an apron for our baker, a cake stand and place mat, a magna doodle, real money and a little change purse. Learning about money
  2. Start by setting your prices. I kept it simple so that we could focus on our lesson which was identifying the coins and amounts. If you wanted to focus on addition I would make the cookies cost amounts that would facilitate addition ( $1.25, 75cents etc..) but if your goal is the same as mine make them for exact coin amounts. I did make other cookies $2 but that was easy for him with the dollar bills.Learning about money
  3. Set up your bakery. I find that when I set up the pretend play props he plays more, but some children will want to be a part of this and by all means let them.Learning about money
  4. Take some time to go over the basics of the coins or a quick refresher.Learning about money
  5. Put the apron on and start playing.  Learning about money
  6. We didn’t use any amounts that required him giving me the customer  change but for a child who is more advanced with money than my 3 year old, that is an awesome math lesson. We did count out some pennies though. Learning about money
  7. For younger kids you can make is simpler like I did here almost a year ago .
  8. When you play pretend with your child let them go off on tangents and tell you about their “character” ask them questions , and play the part. I know for some parents this can be really silly but it helps , the kids get into the lesson and forget they are even learning.Learning about money

* A great follow up to this would be to go to your local bakery and continue this lesson buy buying a cookie, having your child find the right coins to do so and enjoying it together. Or make some fun Letter C cookies .

Books

If You Give a Mouse a Cookie by Laura Joffe Numeroff is a contemporary classic, and if you have ever read it to a group of children you will know why. The story builds as one thing leads to the next when you give into the whims of a silly little mouse! This is a great book to recall and recount with your child, after reading have them retell you what happened by asking ” What happened next?” this is a really easy and important tool in early literacy!

Mmm, Cookies! by Robert Munsch is a loud and silly book, that preschoolers love! The text is perfect for a read aloud encouraging audience participation the way only Munsch can .  The main character loves to play jokes on everybody but doesn’t really understand that they aren’t funny until the joke is on him. This book gives parents a easy going way to talk about practical jokes and when they are and aren’t funny.

Mr. Cookie Baker was an instant hit at our house. The book is about who else, Mr. Cookie Baker and it shows the reader how he makes cookies from scratch, ices them and sells them. It’s a great book to explain baking and bakeries. My son loves the part where Mr. Cookie Baker eats a cookie after a long hard day and then says goodnight. I like the illustrations, they are bold and detailed without being cluttered and can almost tell the story all by themselves. Be warned though reading this will almost definitely make you crave a cookie or two.

Shape Castle

Kids Castle Craft

My mom is in Ireland right now on business and staying in castles, nice eh? Well since telling my son that he has been pretending to be in a castle in Ireland too. So today we made one out of all different shapes. We couldn’t pass up the glitter either , although looking at my floor sorta wish I did. Getting down on all fours with a dust buster and a 34 week belly is well, not fun! Decide for yourself!

  1. Gather your materials. You will need 3 different colors of construction paper, scissors, glue, markers and glitter .Kids Castle Craft
  2. Start by cutting out large rectangles and triangles , as well as some small squares for the castle.  You can use any shapes you want but these were simple for me to cut out and simple for my son to use to build. Kids Castle Craft
  3. Cut out some shapes to use as windows, doors and flags in a contrasting color.Shape Castle
  4. Invite your little castle builder to come and decorate the background.  Clouds, flowers, whatever they choose. My son made rain, because I had shown him pictures of me in Ireland and it was raining, and he was making his castle in Ireland as well.Shape Castle
  5. Next add glueShape Castle
  6. Add your main castle pieces. Remember to ask and talk about the shapes. Today my question was if he turned the shape around would it still be the same shape. He had to think about that for a second.Shape Castle
  7. Add your triangles.Shape Castle
  8. Add the small squares.Shape Castle
  9. Add more glue for the windows and doors. Shape Castle
  10. Add the contrasting shapes. My son didn’t want the flags, or all the shapes I cut so they went into my scrap bin.
  11. Next up glitter, add the glue first ( we took turns adding glue). Shape Castle
  12. Add the glitter.Shape Castle Immediately regret it when you watch your child rub the super fine glitter into their PJs, and hair. Send them onto the back porch to shake off.Shape Castle
  13. Let dry. I always let the glue dry before shaking the excess glitter off.

Princess Books

Princess and The Pizza

The Princess and the Pizza by Mary Jane and Herb Auch is really a cute re telling of the classic Princess and the Pea. They have modernized it and made it a little more feminist in the process, exactly my kind of book. The text is a little long for toddlers but my son sat through about half before wanting to go back and look at the illustration of the horse on the first page. The message is sweet, saying that a woman doesn’t need a man or marriage to attain her goals! Beware though it will make you crave pizza!

Princess Smarty Pants

Princess Smartypants by Brenda Cole is the antithesis of the classic beautiful frail princess stories, but it still ends with happily ever after.  Princess Smartypants does her own thing and doesn’t understand why her family is so obsessed with finding her a husband. She bends to their wishes but still does things her way. I think this is a great message about happiness and confidence for girls and balances out some of the other princess stories. She was happy just the way she is and didn’t  need a spouse to feel complete.

Paper_Bag_Princess

The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch is one of my very favorite books. Some parents have shared their dislike of Elizabeth’s outburst at the end calling Ronald a bum but I think not only is it justified, he treated her horribly, but people say things when they are angry and you can easily use it to teach your child about anger. I think it’s a wonderful story about a princess taking things into her own hands and saving herself and the prince! My kind of fairytale.

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