Mining For Shapes

by Kim

My daughter is learning her shapes and colors. She is doing fabulous, but I remember my son having trouble with certain shapes simply because we didn’t talk about them as much. Let’s face it diamonds, ovals, and octagons (other than stop signs) don’t really come up that often. So I came up with this sensory box as a fun way to practice these shapes.

You will need scissors, craft foam, cardboard, aluminum foil, and black beans.

I drew some shapes onto the craft foam and cardboard. Rectangles on green (for emeralds), octagons on red (for rubies), ovals on blue (for sapphires), and diamonds on the cardboard.

Cut the shapes out and wrap the diamond shapes with small pieces of foil.

Pour the black beans and shapes in the bowl. I chose black beans because I thought it would look more like coal. It really makes the colors stand out, too.

To make it a tad more authentic for mining, you can cut strips of construction paper and tape them together to fit around your child’s head. Then cut a 1 inch section off of a toilet paper roll and tape it to the headband. I thought we had yellow tissue paper (very cute for the headlamp, but we didn’t). He’s still cute, I think.

You can give your child tongs, sifter, strainer, colander, or measuring cups. Try anything to make it feel more like mining. It’s all about having fun.

Every time my daughter found a shape I would say “Wow, you found a blue oval. Great job!” or the corresponding shape and color. We had a blast mining. My son had to play along after he saw how much fun my daughter was having.

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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. See what she has been up to over at Mom Tried It.

Alphabet Sensory Tub

Sensory tubs are great for all sorts of learning  and you don’t need fancy things to get your kids interested … but it’s so fun to give them a theme! This one is a great one for preschoolers who want to do a little more than scoop and pour. It’s easy enough to simplify using plain rice or beans ,  only the  larger letters and adding cups to fill and spill! Do not feel like you have to be directing your kids while they play with sensory tubs, some kids need it but most do not, just let them play. If they are older and looking for a game to play with it follow our instructions for the letter hunt .

  1. Gather your materials. For this sensory tub we used a handful of magnetic letters, some huge floor puzzle letters,small foam letters,  small letter beads, plain white beans a plastic dish tub ,  alphabet pasta. If you want to do the letter hunt game, you will also need an ice cube tray and some tongs.
  2. Start by putting the beans in the tub .
  3. Next the pasta.
  4. Now add the letter beads – my son was playing outside and came in to help.
  5. Next the foam, magnets and jumbo puzzle pieces.
  6. If you are doing a letter hunt place some letters in your ice tray for your child to find.
  7. Go for it!
  8. Found it!
  9. This was such a big hit that he pulled it back out later that evening.

More Fun with Letters

Fishing For Letters

Christmas Sensory Tub

We love sensory tubs!  Digging, scooping and my son’s favorite… pretending! Yes these fun tubs filled with dry goods aren’t just for sensory development they are awesome for the imagination too. I really love this one not just because it was a big hit with my son, but because it combines so many different textures as well as sounds as you play.

  1. Gather your materials. For this festive themed tub we are using split peas, white beans, green matte garland , red and silver shiny garland, scoops, tongs and a plastic container. My son also grabbed a Christmas tin to fill up.
  2. Start by cutting the garland into the tub. Have your kids help if they want.
  3. Pour in the split peas.
  4. And the beans .
  5. As soon as he did the hands dove in to explore. The shiny garland was smooth, the beans were hard, the green garland was crunchy and the split peas were sharp. A wide range of textures for such a simple tub.
  6. Add the tools and enjoy.
  7. My son used the tongs to sort the garland into the tin.
  8. And the scoop for the beans.
  9. Eventually he got all the bunches of garland out.

Books

Merry Christmas, Mouse! (If You Give…) by Laura Numeroff is an adorable little Christmas counting book. Most of the praise should really be on Felicia Bond the illustrator because the pictures take the cake on this one. The book follows the mouse as he decorates the Christmas tree, 1 Star… 2 angels… etc… It’s a perfect to read and then count the ornaments on your own tree. After reading it my son and I found 4 bells, and 3 trains on our own tree.

A Small Christmas by Wong Herbert Yee is about as perfect a Christmas book as my son could ever read. My son is obsessed with firefighters, he rescues his baby sister all day long and the sound of sirens are pretty much a given day or night in our house. Fireman Small is a tiny firefighter that children immediately relate to because he is little. His heart is big though and so is his courage. In this installment though it’s not a fire he rushes to but Santa’s aid.  Your child doesn’t need to be as nuts about firefighters as my son is to enjoy this sweet holiday book.

Thanksgiving Sensory Tub

I love sensory tubs and one of the reasons is illustrated beautifully in this post. They aren’t just a chance to scoop and pour ( although don’t discount the importance of that) they are also a chance to make believe, create a new mini landscape and practice imaginative play. Children love to explore so when you create a sensory bin allow them to add to it as well, it’s not a static item but rather a dynamic experience for them to create with.

  1. Gather your materials. You will need a big pan or plastic tub, some multicolored unpopped popcorn , red quinoa, and brown rice. You will also need some fall leaf confetti, and scoops. Obviously you don’t need to follow our contents exactly but I do love the corn since it ties into other Thanksgiving crafts so well. Orange lentils, wild rice, flax seeds etc… all have a fall feeling to them too.
  2. Pour the dried grains etc.. into the tub. Have your child help with this , my son loves ” cooking up” the sensory bins.
  3. Add the fall confetti. Be careful some of ours were pretty small, fabric leaves are another larger option for younger children.
  4. Add the scoops and containers and start playing.
  5. Follow your child’s imagination, we went and got some construction vehicles.

I get asked all the time what I do with these tubs after he’s done playing. I pop them into ziplocs and keep them , and pull them out for quiet play time often.  The variety keeps him interested and as long as the bags are sealed from moisture and insects you can keep them indefinitely.

Thanksgiving Books

The Little Engine That Could Saves the Thanksgiving Day Parade by Watty Piper is unremarkable. The story is about a school band who has a flat tire and hitches a ride on the train to get to the Thanksgiving Day parade on time.  My son liked the instruments and the train but the story was pretty boring and it was obvious to me why this was one of the only Thanksgiving books left at my local library. If you have a child who is wild about trains I would maybe check it out of the library but it’s not worth purchasing in my opinion.

Thanksgiving at the Tappleton’s by Eileen Spinelli is a really cute story that offers many opportunities for parents to talk about lying, disappointment and what really matters at Thanksgiving. The Tappleton’s Thanksgiving dinner is doomed, first the turkey falls in the pond, then there are no pies left at the bakery and then continues to get worse.  No one wants to be the person to ruin the holiday dinner and keeps it a secret that the part of the meal that was their responsibility is ruined.  Of course this means they end up eating liverwurst and pickles for dinner but Grandma saves Thanksgiving by reminding them all that it doesn’t matter what they are eating but who they are eating with.

Patty’s Pumpkin Patch by Teri Sloat is a great alphabet book and story in one. Readers follow a pumpkin patch from planting the seeds until after Halloween when they gather the seeds for the next planting.  I really like how this book combines an alphabet book with both upper and lowercase letters corresponding to some animal or insect in the story . I also like the easy rhythm of the rhyming text and the engaging and detailed illustrations . All in all I think this is a great fall book!

Ice Fishing and Color Mixing !

To tell you the truth I didn’t plan this activity, I saw the fishing net , wanted to do something with it and didn’t have much for my son to catch so instead I made some ice.  To make it more fun we colored the ice, then to make it more educational we made them red and yellow to create orange ! It was a big hit and not as big a mess as I feared .

  1. Gather your materials. You will need a bin or tub, a ice cube tray , food coloring , a fish net ( or soup ladle) and water. You will also need plain ice for the second part.
  2. Start by putting a few drops of food coloring in your ice tray – half one color, half the other. 
  3. Add water and freeze.
  4. Fill your tub with water – ours was too warm, the ice melted so quickly the color mixing was fast. When I do it again I will use cold water so it’s a slower mix.
  5. When ice firm, show it to your child and tell them you are going to put it in the water. Ask them to make a prediction about what will happen to the ice when it is in the water, what will happen to the water ?  Pop it in!
  6. Mix and catch with net.
  7. Pop in more plain ice to “fish” – my son had fun with the color mixing but the extension of the activity was the real fun.