Category: Activity Ideas

Top Secret Turkey Placemat

By , November 22, 2016 5:59 pm

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We all know about “Secret Santa,” but how about “Top Secret Turkey?”

With Thanksgiving in the United States a mere three days away (what happened to the year, can someone tell me please??), we wanted to come up with a fun idea to celebrate being thankful. The children were talking about their fond memories of weaving construction paper placemats each year at their Montessori school to use at the school Thanksgiving feast, so we came up with a variation of the simple woven placemat that also incorporates thankfulness.

This is pretty easy and works for all ages.  Totally doable with younger children (if they can’t cut well yet, you can precut the strips) or with teenagers if they’ll agree to it.  Mine did because they wanted to make the placemat of their memories and honestly, we had a lot of silly fun along the way.

The basics you will need are construction paper, scissors, and something to write with.  We used colored Sharpies.

1) Choose your paper colors. We used red, yellow, orange, and brown to represent fall.  Orient the sheets of paper vertically and use a ruler to mark off one inch increments.

dsc_00922) Using the guide dots, cut the papers into one inch strips.  They don’t have to be perfect.  I actually think it looks better if they aren’t.

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3) Arrange the strips in rows in a pattern if you like patterns (I am a pattern kind of person) or random if that suits you better!  Experiment with the number of strips you will need of each color to achieve the size that you want.  We used four strips each of our four colors (so we had some left over).

4) Tape the very top of the papers to the table using a long strip of tape to hold them in place (LESSON LEARNED: We used Scotch Tape and it was quite difficult to remove from the table afterwards, masking tape would be much easier).

5) Now you can begin weaving.  Very little ones will need help with this.  Follow the same pattern you used with the vertical strips or make a new one.

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6) Now get a glue stick or some white glue and glue underneath each top flap at the edge all the way around the mat.

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Unstick the tape from the table and flip the mat over.  Fold over the taped flap to easily stick down that edge.   Then repeat same gluing process as first side along the remaining edges of the mat.

7) Cut off the extra bits that are hanging off.

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Now for the Top Secret part!  

Put all the placemats in a pile. Before your meal, have everyone at the Thanksgiving table draw a name out of a hat to determine who’s Top Secret Turkey they will be.  Next have each person take a random placemat and write on the back of the placemat something they are thankful for about the person who’s name they drew.  On the front of the placemat, they should write that person’s name.  If you are concerned with handwriting being a giveaway, prepare stickers with all the names ahead of time (either computer printed or all written by the same person).  Set the table with the placemats. An added bonus is that the names will serve as place markers so everyone knows where to sit.

At some point before, during or after the meal, have everyone turn over their mat and read the nice comment. Each person can then try to guess who is his or her Top Secret Turkey!  It’s a fun game that leaves everyone feeling happy and appreciated!

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Here are two other thankful-related projects that you might enjoy:

(NOTE: I apologize for the lack of photos in these posts.  They suffered from my great photo disaster but I am working on finding and replacing them, or recreating them!)

 

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Super Fun with the Supermoon

By , November 15, 2016 9:09 pm

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Image: By Gregory H. Revera (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons

 

Have you and your family been moongazing the last few nights to see the “Supermoon?”  Last night the moon was at its closest point to Earth since 1948 and it appeared 15% bigger and 30% brighter than usual.

We went outside to check it out.  This time we didn’t lie on the golf course wondering about the timing of the sprinklers, but we did stand in the driveway to get a good look at the moon as it rose over the mountain.  I felt I could see detailed lunar features without binoculars or a telescope (and I can’t even see what is right in front of me without glasses anymore!) but I think the incredible brightness was what struck us the most.

If your kids are moon-crazy now, here are a few moon-related resources and educational ideas that might be just the ticket to feed their interest:

 

Educational Experiments and Activities

  • Oreo Moon Phase Match Game (with free printable template) from Simply Learning: A fun matching activity to learn about the phases of the moon, plus kids can eat their work when they are done. What could be better?
  • How the Moon’s Craters Form: An easy activity involving flour and a weighted plastic Easter egg teaches how the moon’s craters are formed.  For older kids, the activity also involves experimenting with the different factors that determine the size of lunar craters, and recording the data.  There is even a free printable data collection worksheet.

 

Books

(By the way, Kitten’s First Full Moon is one of my very favorite picture books EVER!)

Classic Fall Trees

By , October 10, 2013 1:45 pm

This is not high tech.  It is not original and unique.  It requires only paint, paper, water, a sponge, and a brush.  But sometimes classic and easy is what makes a long-lasting impression.  My beloved early elementary art teacher did this fall project with us and I STILL remember it.  Of all the art projects from the 9 years that I had art classes in school, this one stands out and I was probably only 5 or 6 when I did it. Here it is:

Sponge painting fall trees!

Sounds kind of “ho hum” to those of us striving for complicated and original art forms, but I can guarantee that the results are usually amazing, even with really little ones.  Watch your children’s faces as they work.  There is something magical that happens when they realize they can paint beautifully with something other than a brush!

Supplies

  • Orange, red, yellow, and brown paint (I recommend a washable tempera)
  • White paper (ordinary copy paper is fine)
  • A wide brush and a small sponge (sea sponge is best, but any sponge is OK)
  • A bowl of water for rinsing the sponge between colors

Let each child draw a tree trunk on the paper with the wide brush and brown paint, beginning at the bottom and extending half-way up.  Then let them have at it with the sponge and the colors.

Be sure to teach them to lightly dip the sponge in the paint (really a tiny amount works much better) and to dab the sponge gently on and off the page.  Some will want to smear it like a paint brush.  Some will still smear it on the page like a paint brush despite the instructions, the results will still be satisfying and fine, but not as realistic.

Also, be sure to explain that before changing colors they should dip the sponge in the water to wash it off.  Demonstrate squeezing the sponge over and over to get the old paint out.  Also demonstrate how to squeeze it really hard over the bowl afterwards until it doesn’t drip anymore.  This is quite important, because some young children will be more fascinated with the whole sponge and water process and will wind up with a very wet artwork.

If you try this with a large group of young children, be prepared for a lengthy clean up in the art room, and the bathroom where they will wash their inevitably, very much paint-covered hands.

Also be prepared for huge interest (even from reluctant artists) and lots of smiles and pride in their accomplishment!

 

 

Watercolor and Rice Art

By , September 23, 2013 9:28 am

I LOVE WATERCOLOR PAINT!  I like being able to just pull out the cute little box and the teeny, tiny brush, grab a cup of water, a piece of paper, and voilà!  Ready to go!  Plus with watercolor, I don’t live in fear of the post-art session cleanup.

If you are bored with just having your child slap some watercolor paint on a piece of paper, check out some of the creative watercolor ideas out there, such as these from The Artful Parent, or those featured in a top ten list at KidsArt.

I decided to jazz up a recent 3 to 6 year-old art class watercolor session by trying this interesting idea from the Fairy Dust Teaching Blog that I can sum up in one word:  Rice.

The idea is to paint lots of water color on the page, sprinkle on dry rice, and let it sit while everything dries.  The rice should absorb some of the paint and produce a lovely, ethereal bubbly/frost-like effect.

I told the kids to paint whatever they wanted.  They could do one color across the whole page, a pattern, a picture or multiple random colors.  The trick, I said,  was to cover the whole page with color (this was a bit too much to ask of a few of the 3 year-olds, but that’s OK).

As they finished, I brought out the secret rice ingredient.  The kids loved sprinkling on the rice!  A few were so into it that they made big piles.

I was worried that since the children were taking so long to paint, the paper and paint might be drying out.  I resolved this by squirting each page with some water before the final step of rice application.

The results were mixed for us.  Each child produced a lovely watercolor painting to take home.  Only a few of those works really showed that rice had been present, and the effect was of rice outlines, very pretty and cool, but not what I had hoped for.

What I learned:

  • Sally of Fairy Dust Teaching used watercolor paper for her lovely effect.  I used what I had on hand, plain old copy paper (a risky move on my part!).
  • I think that the paint needs to be very richly applied and be very wet, not a technique that is natural for most little ones with watercolor.  However, this is probably much easier to achieve with watercolor paper that is more far more absorbent than what I used.
  • The effect can be cool on plain old copy paper too, but it was only obvious in the work of those children who really used a lot of paint.

My favorite painting is the one at the top of the post.  Personally, I think the copy paper effect looks a bit like a microscopic image of bacteria.  I see a science tie-in here somehow!

What We’ve Been Up To …

By , March 4, 2012 1:03 pm

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Has it really been four months since my last post?  Definitely time for an update!

Teaching in the local Montessori school this year has been fabulous!  I absolutely love it.  The kids are great, my coworkers are wonderful and a pleasure to be with, and of course I am a huge Montessori fan so I feel right at home there.  I recently completed my 3 to 6 year-old certification so now I am “official.”

In a few weeks my fellow teachers and I will be off to San Francisco to attend the American Montessori Society Annual Conference which should be a wonderful experience.  My seminars sound really interesting (it was so hard to choose just a few) and I think I’ll return to school inspired and energized.

The year has been busy with lots of projects, works, and lessons at school.  I had hoped to post regularly on what we’ve been up to, but I find that school, prep, and my family take up nearly all my time.  I think from now on I will keep a small camera at school so that I can at least post some photos.

 

~A small sample of some of our class activities~

Pumpkin Update:

Last fall we cut open a pumpkin and filled it with dirt to see if the seeds would grow in the pumpkin and they certainly did!  Unfortunately I don’t have a photo of the sprouts in the pumpkin, but we now have a pumpkin plant growing happily in a pot in the classroom:

 

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Once the plant was large and the pumpkin skin was beginning to soften and grow moldy we decided it was time to bury the whole thing, pumpkin and all, in a large pot.  It is too cold here in the winter to grow anything outside, but in a warm climate you could just plant the whole pumpkin outside and really watch it take off.

At the same time last fall, we also planted a seed in a transparent glass and recently noticed a flower on that plant:

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This led to a discussion of what that flower would become…a pumpkin of course!

Mummified Chicken:

Meet King Cutey Patooty, our mummified pharaoh chicken (well, guinea hen actually – much smaller and less time-consuming to mummify):

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The King was part of our Africa unit last fall and he is now all wrapped up and resides in a shoe box “sarcophagus” on a shelf in the works storage room.  We’ll unwrap him in a few years to see how he fared.

Kindergarten Class Totem Poles:

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As part of our North America unit we studied totem poles.  After talking about how the purpose of totem poles is to tell a story, we learned where they are found, and looked at photos of real totem poles.

I wanted to make this a teamwork activity so I divided the class in to two groups of five, gave each group a pile of construction paper, and told them to come up with a story for their group that they all agreed on.

Once they had a story they had to work together to create a totem pole telling that story.  A group “story teller” dictated the story to me and I wrote it on a paper that we hung on the wall next to the completed totems poles.

Cool Brain Hat!

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As part of our Human Body unit we made these great hats that I found at Ellen McHenry’s Basement Workshop (a really cool site for lots of educational ideas, especially science).  You can download the pattern here for free!  Just print on card stock and cut out.

Since I was dealing with kindergarteners, I thought it would be easier to cut them all out myself ahead of time.  I then outlined each area with the color that they should color it with (it can be a little tricky to see the boundaries).  They colored the hats and then I assembled them.

Assembling ten of these was a bit of a painful process since tape did not stick well to crayon (or colored pencil – I tried that too), but I got it done and they each went home with a hat.  Maybe try marker next time?

PS. I got lots of compliments from parents on these!

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Well that’s it for now.

If there is any interest, I could write up a post about the details of our mummification project.

I’ll try to post more regularly and be better about taking photos!

 

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