Thursday, October 10, 2013

Favorite Childhood Past Times...Pets?

I teach a series class for child care providers through Childcare Resource and Referral called Childnet.  One of the nights of the ten week series talks about our toys and how we spend our time growing up.  We do a brainstorm activity where participants name their favorite childhood past times.  The activity is done to make childcare providers realize that toys aren't everything in a child's life and rarely do we need things that are super expensive to entertain kids.  Typically the list goes something like this...

playing outside
playing game children made up
hanging out with neighbor kids until the street light went on
baseball with the neighbor kids

Then someone pets count?  I say yes.  Then comes the pet stories.  My cat was amazing..she let us dress her up in clothes or my dog was wonderful...She followed me everywhere and I even gave her rides in the basket of my bicycle.  There are stories and stories and stories about pets.

Much of my childhood time was spent with pets...

As a real young girl, my dog was Nippy.

As I got older it was Pugsy.

Pugsy was so neat.  I could hook her leash over the handle bar of my bike and she would trot along as I rode bike.  It was so fun!!

Both were wonderful dogs that I could fill blog entry after blog entry about.  I can't say enough good things about growing up with a dog to love.  If I could only pick one "toy" would have been my dogs.

The best thing of all...I learned so much from them, loyalty, compassion, empathy, responsibility.  There is something that a pet can teach that no human or toy ever could.

Thankfully I had parents who allowed a dog in the house and who were there to provide the training and rules that helped me learn to be a responsible pet owner.  Granted, a dog is much more work in maintenance and time than a toy is..but it's oh so worth it.  No toy can ever comfort or care for a child like a pet can.

A pet is a wonderful investment for an entire family.  I watch my husband who didn't have a dog in the house growing up be playful and at ease with our dog.  I see some of his stress melt away.  Granted...the emotional attachment goes both ways as it is really hard to watch pets die..but again that is another thing pets can teach to let go.

If your house is ready for a long term forever commitment a pet that includes training, it is a much better investment than any toy on any shelf.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Getting To Know You

Everyone always asks what's the best way to teach kids their letters.  I am all for non formal learning and making things seem like a game.  I am also big into having kids take responsibility for part of the teaching.

With a new school year here I combined a few of those ideas and came up with this activity.

Print a card for each child with the first letter of their name.  Cut it out.
On the back side of the card, put a picture of the child.  Laminate cards.

Gather the children together.  Have a child stand showing a picture of themselves and say:

My name is Joe. (turn card)
My letter is
Can you say my sound,

This activity is great for learning social skills by taking turns.  It's good to have children stand up and be in front of their peers and practice public speaking.  It gives kids a pride in sharing about themselves.  For those listening, this is awesome for beginning letter recognition and letter sounds.  If you are working in home environment tweak the activity.  Include cousins, neighbors and grandparents pictures.  Change the rhyme to say.

His/Her name is Joe. (turn card)
His/her letter is 
I can say his/her sound, 

If you are looking for printable cards with letters, you can find them here at Making Learning Fun.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Keeping Track of Days

Life is always hectic in the summer coordinating all the days when you have events or celebrations.  Kids seem to be hyper waiting for the special weekend at grandma's, pool days, movie night, or family picnics.

Rather than listen to the constant "how many days before", why not give them the tools to manage their own calendar.  For little ones, a linear calendar can sometimes be easier for them to understand and manage.

You can find resources to make one here at Making Learning Fun.

Print the calendar on legal paper.  Cut and assemble.  Laminate for extended use.  Hang on a wall.  Put the holidays or special event pieces in place on your calendar.  There are blank cards on page four so you can create events that are important to you and your family.

Now practice with your kids saying the days of the week.  Point our which day today is.  Now you can ask, "How many more days until we go to the pool?"  Kids will have this tool to help them be able to figure it out all on their own.

You can make four of these and put them together to create a whole month for older kids.  Even older kids can use our full sized calendar pages.  I used these with our youngest and she loved them!

Teaching kids to manage time is an important...after all isn't it a skill we all have to learn??
Learning about the days of the week and calendars is a great way to practice math skills and counting and even personal management skills.  You can do this with kids and they will never know that they are learning...and that is all part of "making learning fun".

Monday, August 5, 2013

Clank Cans

Long ago, my niece who was doing child care at the time, suggested I make a clank can and use it for story retelling.  I didn't know what a clank can was and to be honest, after she explained it to me I thought she was a little crazy.  Why would kids like them??

I ended up trying them and went on to design many.  Why??  Because for some reason kids love them!

Here is a version for a Brown Bear, Brown Bear clank can.

Here's how you make them.  Find a can that has a metal bottom.  Formula cans or some coffee cans work great for this.  Take off the label and cover the can with construction paper.  Cut a hole in the lid as shown.

Go to this page at Making Learning Fun and decided what version of the can you'd like to make.  There are many to choose from.  Print the pieces.

Collect frozen orange juice lids or lids that have been removed with a can opener that open cans by lifting the lids rather than cutting the lids like this one.

Pampered Chef New Smooth Edge Can Opener #2759

After the lids are clean attach the character pieces to the lids by gluing then covering with Clear Contact Paper,  Cut out and laminate the label.  Attach to your can with Velcro.  Then you can interchange the labels depending on which story version you are using.

Now the fun begins.  Sit in a circle with your kiddos or work one on one.  Lay the character pieces(lids) out on the floor.  Start retelling the story.  As there is action with each character, have the children drop that lid (character) into the can.  Kids love to hear the clank sound as they lids drop and hit the bottom of the can.

I know it sounds crazy that kids would like this but they truly do.  I had one little girl at childcare that would stack the lids on top of each other in order of the story.  I've made two sets of lids and the kids have played concentration with them.  It's a great activity to aid in story retelling...and it's super cheap to make.

Fun and cheap and educational??  You can't beat that!!

Monday, July 22, 2013

Pinterest and Puppets

Making Learning Fun is slowly finding it's way to Pinterest.  It has been an arduous job getting the website updated so that it will be Pinterest ready but slowly, it is happening.  You can find us on Pinterest here.

So many of the pages on Making Learning Fun were created long ago before I ever had a clue that the site would grow to what it is today.   I was a little organizationally and technically overwhelmed.  Over the summer I have been updating those older pages trying to make it more user friendly.  As I am doing that, I come across projects that I have forgotten about.  One of those projects were these cute toilet paper tube puppets that can go with the book Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do You Hear?

Seeing those puppets brought me back to when I did in home childcare.  Summer time was such a great time for fun dramatic play.  One of our favorite things to do was to take a spring tension curtain rod with a curtain on it and put it in the door frame to make a wonderful little puppet stage.  We'd make puppets and put on "plays" and retell stories.  Why not give it a try with the Polar Bear, Polar Bear Puppets?

If you are looking for even more toilet paper tube puppets Making Learning Fun has many more that you can find here.