COUNTRY FUN

an early education learning space ~ where play equals learning

July 17, 2014
by countryfun
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One Pool Noodle and (at least 2) Marbles = Science and Fun!

If you search pool noodles online you will find lots of creative ways to use this easy to find, low cost item with children. I have used for building blocks, ordering ABC’s and numbers, making obstacles courses, whack the beach ball…..

Using the marble raceway set recently reminded me of an idea I had seen where a large pool noodle was cut in half and used as a raceway.

IMG_1507

I just happen to have a few large noodles ready laying around and needing a new activity for another inside summer day I got it out. Pool noodles cut really easy with a serrated knife.

I cut completely through one side and then deeper so I was going part way into the opposite side. This allowed the pool noodle to open flat without separating into two pieces. (I taped for a bit more support as the noodle began to be bent in many directions)DSC05066

Then we just needed to add children, their creativity and marbles.

They found out they needed to capture the marbles and they needed a way to hold them at the top for an even start. I solved the start by cutting a slit across the noodle which would fit a jumbo craft stick.DSC05067 Perfect size for smaller fingers to handle – easy in and out.

IMG 1505 from Country Fun Child Care on Vimeo.

Many items have been used to capture the marbles as the children continue to explore the raceway.DSC05065

Where’s the science?

  • problem solving
  • discovering which size marble runs best and why
  • how curving the noodle affects run of the marbles
  • how angle (slope) of run affects speed
  • differences in number of marbles run together

July 15, 2014
by countryfun
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When Engaged – Learning Just Seems to Happen

So much of the learning that occurs here comes about naturally through play. I think that’s great and really the best way for children to truly learn what they need when they need it. That’s not to say I do not do direct teaching of concepts. That’s needed at times. It also doesn’t mean I do not set up opportunities to stretch areas of interest, set up problems to be solved, or flat out challenge the children to an activity.

I love sitting back and observing as the children here take a simple activity and stretch it themselves. Adding in a word or two supports their efforts and also lets them know I’m aware and supportive of what they are doing.

The morning of 7/14 found me organizing and sorting out items that I have not used in years, yet are taking up precious shelf space in the room, as the children arrived. They offered to help. I told them I wanted to be sure all the puzzle pieces were present. They offer to make the large floor puzzles up. I told them “to go for it.”

What happens next:

  • communication
  • team work
  • lots of practice around the ABC’s and numbers
  • words were read
  • ordinal practice with ABC’s and numbers through 20
  • self awareness
  • feeling of accomplishment
  • puzzleorganize

To actually see in action watch this video:

This video shows another way they naturally extended the learning. This puzzle was checked for all it’s pieces and they started to then place in order.

Then you get to see their creative side emerge while using the slip ‘n slide. Have you every somersaulted down one? Or maybe been a sliding train? If you don’t feel like getting wet then it’s digging a “super hole” or testing out your balance on the slack line.

splash

Everything stopped instantly when Mr. Toad was spotted hiding on the climbing gym. Observe. Talk about. Question.

Then back to playing.

July 3, 2014
by countryfun
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School-age Changes Up Summer Activities

Providing summer care means more time with my school-age children which means I get to stretch my creative side a bit more. Whether it’s pulling together supplies for designing outside obstacle courses or hunting down stored craft project supplies for a surprise project request, I’m never quite sure what each day will bring.

When the weather is sunny and pleasant we spend our days outside.  Six hrs. of sandbox or bike play days on end doesn’t work however, so it’s important to have water play time as well as focused active play.

This week saw carnival games……

carnival games

The first water play of the summer is always fun and the slip and slide is a yearly hit, even in a fairly flat yard space.

IMG 1486 from Country Fun Child Care on Vimeo.

Then the heat/humidity and rain hits which means inside play. If you follow on Facebook you saw the marble raceway I brought out yesterday in action.

Here’s what it looked like during afternoon play and the children having control of the photos. (I always like seeing events from their viewpoint. It’s informative.)

ourrace

As I mentioned at the beginning, summer is also about creative arts & craft projects. Watercolors have been used a lot this past year by the younger group, so I wasn’t surprised when some school-age asked for them. What I loved is that they painted pictures not only for themselves, but for the younger children as gifts.

DSC04915  DSC04918  DSC04917

Now the watercolors were easy, but the idea of making a headband was definitely unexpected. First step: internet search directions for a 5 strand braid. Then find a stretchy material to use. I hunted for 15 minutes for the ball of homemade t-shirt yarn without success. That meant a raid on my fabric stash where I came up with yardage of a white knit. Knew we had options for adding color later – fabric markers, food coloring or Sharpies with rubbing alcohol. Thought the girls might pick the latter as they’ve done that process before. You can see the how by clicking here.

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June 9, 2014
by countryfun
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Homemade Play Yard Fence

Infants have a need to be part of the group, but separated at times for safe play. In the past I have used a purchased play yard fence (on it’s last legs now), but have found them expensive and cumbersome. It’s time to put my thinking cap on and design a play yard fence for inside that would work for my needs: light weight, low cost, adaptable.

I have used pvc piping to make a connect building set, a doorway gate and a puppet theatre. It’s low cost, easy to locate, and easy to work with, so that’s where my design started. I only need a 3 sided fence in the 3 ft square range and at least a foot high for the sides. PVC comes in 10 ft lengths so:

  • 2- 1 ‘ pieces
  • 2- 2 1/2′ pieces
  • 1- 3′ piece

With 2 – 10′ lengths of pvc pipe I can build 3 sides. I used 3/4″ pipe.

Now for fittings:

  • 4 – 90 degree slip on corners
  • 4 – 90 degree outlet elbows

All this for less than $20. The standard play yard fences run around $80, so a nice savings.

PVC can be cut with a hack saw, but I purchased cutters made for cutting pvc pipe when I decided to make the connector building set, so I used them here also. They provide a nice clean cut and are super easy to use.

To build: Place fittings on 1′ pieces: 2 short pieces have the plain elbows on each end. The other 2 have the outlet elbows on each end. Take one of each of these 1′ pieces and connect 2 – 2 1/2′ lengths to make a shorter side. Make the other short side. Now connect the 3′ lengths into the outlet elbows and you have your finished U shape fence. (Cutting pieces to constructed fence about a half hour.)

I made fabric tubes from a light weight knit to slide over the structure. I did 3 separate tubes, because that worked with fabric I had on hand and I only wanted a simple barrier. You could do 1 long tube. You could do straight pieces with small tubes on the long edges to side over each pipe section before building the fence. Not a sewer? Then I would use fusible hem tape. Overlap the long edges to make the fabric tube, placing tape along one edge and iron away.

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The end product is light weight, but solid – a simple barrier. It’s easily moved to accommodate the play in the space. It will also stand up on end when not needed to section off a safe space for a little one. Also thinking can be used for when those special tower structures are being built by older children providing the youngest with maximum use of the space.

May 20, 2014
by countryfun
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Gardening 2014 Begins

I love getting my hands into the dirt, watching things grow and feeling the satisfaction of enjoying something I had a hand in raising. In trying to expose the children here to some of that I encourage them to help me as I garden. Maybe it’s the perennials, but more likely the herbs and vegetables. Every time we’re checking the herb garden we have to touch and smell.herbs

The vegetable garden is a totally different experience.

Garden2014.jpg

Our backyard garden is not about teaching children about plants. It’s about us having fresh vegetables for eating. The learning comes naturally through the growing season for children who are interested. To involve the children we explore the seeds, discussing differences in size and shape, explaining how it helps us know how deep to plant them. There are some seeds that are really easy for small hands to seed (spinach, beets, kale, lettuce, carrots) as it’s about just spread them on top of the soil, then sprinkling a little soil over them, patting down and watering. I also always let them help with peas and onion sets. I try to get them to place and then poke into the ground the depth of their finger. What I find is the onions can be hard to poke in, so I follow behind to finish off. The peas go in easy, but often only about half germinate, so I reseed. I purchase many of the plants as seedlings from local farmers and plant them myself. Once done it’s time to tour, begin checking on growth progress, discussing varieties planted, how, why and what we can expect. The weeding I’ll do, but we’ll soon thin with the purpose of eating. (We’re already harvesting the rhubarb and asparagus.)

Gardening Begins 2014 from Country Fun Child Care on Vimeo.

One of those discussions is around why there are sticks and paper tubes. Simple answer – cut worms. Cut WormA garden pest that likes new seedlings. They circle the stem cutting through it. The stick stops them from getting around the stem. The paper tube works the same. I use paper tubes around seedlings can slide over. Sticks on all others.

 

May 14, 2014
by countryfun
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Travels with Charlie: MAINE Footprint Lobster #bookingusa

We so enjoyed being involved with Booking Across the USA (Trip 1) last year. It was fun to connect with others from across the other states. So many new books and fun activities to explore. So when Booking Across the USA Trip 2 was announced we jumped at the chance to participate again.  50 bloggers sharing activities related to their state with all ideas being inspired by a new series of books! What’s not to like about this?

We got our learning started with a new book: Travels with Charlie – Travelin’ the Northest by Miles Backer. Who says you have to start every book on the first page? Not me, so we started the reading with our own state of Maine and continued through the Northeast comparing these other states to ours. (Future Venn Diagram) This series and discussion opens up a way to develop an understanding of the USA in the preschoolers here.

My original idea was to combine reading this book with all the questions that have been raised as we prepare to head off to various schools for K next year. I figured we could start from the big picture – Earth, heading to USA, to Maine and then our homes in our towns. We are still doing that, but will be expanding into making personal books about Maine.

This simple activity takes coffee filters, markers (not sharpies), white art paper and water.

coffeefilterearth

  1. Color, scribble is best, onto the coffee filter with the markers. We viewed the earth as seen from space on our iPads to figure out the colors and what those colors represented. – Our choices were: blue, green and brown. the empty spaces would give us white.
  2. Place filter in middle of the white art paper (we used drawing paper, construction paper and copy paper all worked fine), start spraying with water. Really get the coffee filter wet. You will see the colors start to blend and parts of the filter will lift (do not push down). Leave everything in place until it dries.
  3. Once dry lift up filter, reposition on the paper and spray well again. Let dry. This can be done multiple times, but we only needed these 2 color areas.
  4. Using a clear circle shape place where you like the Earth image, trace around. Cut out saving remaining paper for the USA outline to come.

We have completed the earth and background for the USA outline, but the discussions have shifted our focus just now. The children want to know more about Maine.

maine

In answer to their interest I headed to the library in search of books about Maine. Little did I expect to have such a large and varied collection of titles to explore and chose from. (I’ve listed all the books we’ll be exploring on the Country Fun Program Blog: Book Files.)

Needless to say the idea I had for the initial project has also evolved and will not be completed in time for the link up today (the 14th). I will definitely link up once done or you can check back here or on one of the other social media connections I use.

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Allowing the children to direct what books we explored next, they chose the Moose stories. DSC04510 (Never imagined I’d find a use for the jar of dried moose droppings we have sitting on a book shelf. It was fun to show the children, discussing size, shape and how we could see the fibers from the plants that moose eat.) However, it’s been the books about lobsters (Lobsterman by Dahlov Ipcar, open below) and islands that have engaged the children the most.  DSC04517 islands

I pulled together materials for a simple and fun activity I’ve done in the past – a footprint lobster.

PS- Live lobsters are brown. They turn red once cooked. The children chose to do red, not brown. That is the color used most in advertising here, so they think of lobsters as being red.

buildalobster

  1. copy paper (we’ll be cutting out), thin red paint and wipes
  2. paint bottom of one foot
  3. place carefully on one short edge of paper, pressing down firm. (Watch out that the toes are to the edge.)
  4. wipe foot clean
  5. paint palms of both hands
  6. position hands over heel area, finger together, thumb out, place and press down
  7. wash hands
  8. let dry
  9. cut out lobster

 

Chose background paper (we used 9″x12″ blues from the textured paper stash). Have book open to the page with clear example of the lobster’s body.

  1. lobstercut out rock shapes (more textured paper)
  2. glue down rocks then place and glue down lobster
  3. color arm section where claw attaches to body
  4. glue on eyes and antennas (cut into 2 pieces, does not stayed glued as well when folded)
  5. add 8 legs (“L” shape)
  6. lines for tail section
  7. label body parts

 

These will be added as a page to our Maine books.

 

May 1, 2014
by countryfun
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Peek into Our Morning

It’s raw and rainy, so that means a solid morning inside playing. Figured it was a good day to gather some photos and video of where the children are at. So much activity this morning headed off in different directions thought it was a good morning to share, so you can see first hand what happens here.

My morning started off gathering worms. It was easy with all the ones swimming on the driveway. We’ll be using them inside for some preschool exploration after lunch.

DSC04472

The morning started with questions (as usual), but one today offered a chance to learn a little more about changes in matter. “Why are the roads all cracked?” Our winter freezes and thaws which means the hardtop roads crack. Explaining this with water freezing, moving the ground and roadbed up, then thawing and everything settles back.  To show how water takes up more space when frozen we put water in a yogurt cup to a mark, then into the freezer. We’ll check to see how much above the mark it is once frozen. Then we’ll let it thaw and check the level again. Still needing more we headed to the rice box. I spread rice over a sheet of paper I held tight. I had the children push up on the paper, which caused the rice to shift. Once stopped pushing the rice settled back with a slight split.

That of course lead to rice box play. There we poured, explored volume of containers, estimating handfuls to fill, figuring out why I always filled with less handfuls, and on.

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The children were definitely engaged, but sitting, so wanted to get a little movement. The youngest were hopping around the room which lead to the inside hopscotch or jumping board to come out for play.

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When I see interest waning (as the play becomes less about jumping and more about wacky and wackier jumps) its time to pack it up for another day. With that the play split. Older boys headed off to the blocks and legos which have been a major activity this week.

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The girls and youngest got out the lavender scented playdough.

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As happens most morning, music was requested as everyone headed off to do their own thing. This always sees to lead to dancing. Just never sure who will join in, except for “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes”. That’s a whole group draw. :)

Busy, fun, learning always means the morning flies by.

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