April 2011 - momgineer

apples in the basket

I had the idea for another homemade board game after we dyed our wooden apples last month. So far the kids have really been enjoying playing it so I thought I'd share it here. I call it "Apples in the Basket." These apples are wonderful for counting, transferring, and basic math operations. Perfect for little hands!

What I used:
  • an IKEA trofast bin that had cracked
  • card stock
  • foam stickers
  • hole punch
  • permanent markers
I cut the bottom of the bin out to use as the main playing surface. Then I had the kids punch holes in the stickers for the apples to rest in.
Materials used.
The board mostly done.
We glued the plastic board onto card stock and I then traced triangles for spaces around the outside the main board on the card stock. The stickers represent different colored apple trees.

The game ready to be played.
The object of the game is to start at the center of the board, and then move around and collect one apple from each of the different colored apple trees to fill your basket, and then to travel back to the center. Whoever gets to the center first gets to put all of their apples in the white tree. There are a few variations we've come up with, but that is the main idea of the game. You can use a die, a spinner, or flip a coin to determine how far you should move.
The game in action.
Check out other great math resources by clicking the image above!

momgineer Meredith Anderson

STEM education is my passion!

befriending vegetables

Before having kids of my own, I knew my kids would love vegetables and would eat them without complaints or looks of disgust. I knew that if I just offered them a variety of fresh veggies from the start they would love them as much as I do. Boy did I know wrong! I ended up with one who will avoid most veggies at all costs, though the other hasn't turned one down yet. At nearly 5, H is finally at least tasting veggies before declaring them foul, but for the most part he just doesn't like them. Here are a few ways that he will consume them, even knowing they are hidden since he usually helps me prepare food. What is great about these is that they don't alter the taste much other than adding a little natural sweetness.

Fruit smoothies
  • yogurt, or kefir
  • frozen berries or mangoes/bananas
  • milk or water to thin
  • greens - baby spinach, romaine, red or green leaf lettuce, etc.
Blend together and drink!

Mac and cheese
Follow your favorite homemade baked macaroni and cheese recipe, but add in 2 cups of pureed butternut squash. Another thing you can try is steamed and pureed cauliflower, but I prefer the taste of the squash.

Spaghetti with "carronara" (carrots and marinara)
Steam some carrots, and then puree them with water. Add to your marinara sauce.

Zucchini bread
Zucchini, when grated and added to bread, doesn't add any noticeable flavor at all. Here is a recipe - don't forget you can use applesauce in place of oil and reduce/replace the sugar with honey!

Almond meal pancakes
Though nuts aren't vegetables, H also refuses to eat nuts, so I thought I'd include this idea. He is allergic to peanuts so for a long time we were advised to avoid all nuts. When we tried to introduce nuts other than peanuts, he refused to eat them. One tasty way to get some into him is with almond meal! We love the stuff. Almond meal pancakes are delicious; you can add some of your regular flour for a portion of the almond meal if straight almond meal is too much for you, but we love these!

These are just a few ideas off the top of my head, but I'll add more as I think of them or if anyone has more suggestions!

momgineer Meredith Anderson

STEM education is my passion!

earth day activities

Here are some ways to celebrate Earth Day (4.22.2011) with your children:

sort your recyclables.
this is an activity H&F both love.

go on a nature walk.
count how many birds you hear or flowers you see.

talk about ways to reuse, reduce, and recycle.
composting is really easy to do and talk about.

make a nature craft.
gather items you find outside like leaves, sticks, rocks, and build something with them or turn them into an art project.

plant something!
it could be flowers, herbs, vegetables, or even a tree.

do an earth day activity.
cute ideas here.

Happy Earth Day!
momgineer Meredith Anderson

STEM education is my passion!

puddle jumping

I know this isn't something new or fancy, but it is good old clean fun (except for the clean part). One of our favorite springtime activities is going out on a rainy day (light rain, mist, or just after rain seems best) and jumping in as many puddles as we can find.
Heading out for a walk in search of puddles.
Rain pants and waterproof boots highly recommended!
Dance around!
Another thing the boys like to do is to fill puddles with rocks. If your child doesn't like to get as wet, this is another great way to play with the puddles!
momgineer Meredith Anderson

STEM education is my passion!

telling time introduction

H has been able to tell time for awhile but since we don't have analog clocks around (I know, I need to hang one up!) he doesn't get much practice. F hadn't been exposed before so I thought it might be fun to make a game of it. I found this site which is great for printables! You can choose how many pieces you want in your set and then the type of picture. I chose Time (Clocks)-- full hours and Time (Clocks)-- half hours (at the bottom of the page).

Here they are printed out and trimmed/laminated:

Ready for play:

I introduced full hours first in a game of memory. It was nice that each clock was a different color, because it helped with the game. After we played memory with the cards a few times, I added in half hours, and then we switched to a game of go fish which worked out really well. After the end of the game they both had a much better idea of how to tell time.

Another game to play with these cards would be to sort them and then arrange them by earliest time to latest time. With younger children you could pick a few of the colors out and just play by color. The kids really love these cards!
momgineer Meredith Anderson

STEM education is my passion!

natural playscape

I've wanted to share our stepping stumps and stones and now that almost all of the snow is gone, I was finally able to take a few pictures. We luckily (?) had an abundance of sorry looking ash trees on our property, as well as giant rocks half buried that needed to be moved anyway due to mowing complications. If you have access to logs, stumps, boulders, gravel, hills you can add slides to, etc., you can make a fun natural play space for your child. You will also possibly get an awesome workout (unless you are lucky and have heavy duty equipment that can move them for you!) because moving those was nearly impossible by hand (i.e. a 12 foot long 4x4).

Natural playground design ideas:
Front view
Side view
Really cool marks on that rock
Endless fun

Huge climbing log at a local farm
F climbing

momgineer Meredith Anderson

STEM education is my passion!

sorting seasons by clothing

Montessori for Everyone has a cute printable file for sorting seasons by which clothing is worn. I don't have a laminator but if you do, I'd recommend printing the file on card stock and laminating these. I took the poor woman's version and printed on regular paper, glued to heavy weight paper, and laminated with clear contact paper before cutting them out. We then set up the activity on a woven placemat. As it turns out, some of the cards aren't quite as obvious so it can be solved a couple different ways that are still correct, even with five pieces of clothing for each season. I will probably also print the outdoor season cards as well to mix in with these.
Printed, glued, and covered with clear contact paper.
Cut out.
Season cards placed for sorting.
Trickier than expected, but fun.
momgineer Meredith Anderson

STEM education is my passion!

ball bopping

We like to find creative uses for cardboard boxes. For this one, all you need are some balls and scissors in addition to the box. All you need to do is cut circular holes roughly the same size as the balls you are going to use. This is quite forgiving as you can see, so don't waste too much time trying to make them perfect.
1. Cut your holes.
2. Place the balls on top of the holes.
3. Pound them in!
4. If you are feeling saucy, give your child a mallet.
Try cutting several sizes of holes for different balls you have around. Don't be surprised if your child(ren) start filling the box with every imaginable item. Dump and fill at its finest!
momgineer Meredith Anderson

STEM education is my passion!

scent matching

This is a fun game for rainy days, and the scents can easily be discarded and replaced as often as you'd like, so you can keep changing it up for variation.

What you need:
  • empty and clean bottles (matching)
  • cotton balls
  • scents (anything from herbs or vinegar to perfumes)
  • small pitcher and funnel (optional)
Gather your bottles.
Choose some scents; you will need to make two of each.
Add the scents and a cotton ball and put the lids on.
The kids helped me choose the scents and add them with some water to the bottle. They added a bit more water (with the small pitcher and funnel) than I would have but they worked fine for the game. Just soaking the cotton ball with some scent and water should be enough, though, and less chance for spills.

All you have to do now is play. Choose two bottles at a time to try and match the scents. If you are using herbs, you might have to use more opaque bottles (or use all herbs so that you can't just tell by looking at them). Ideally you will have a lot of scents to choose from; you can discuss the nature of the scents as you play and have your child try to describe them.
momgineer Meredith Anderson

STEM education is my passion!

practicing loving kindness

In the meditation chapter of Buddhism for Mothers, the author brings up the topic of Loving Kindness Meditation, which is a common buddhist practice. I think this is a wonderful thing to revisit after becoming a parent, regardless of faith. She explains the meditation as focusing on the following people in this order:
  1. Yourself
  2. Someone close to you that you love
  3. A neutral person
  4. Someone you find difficult to get along with
  5. All beings
Focus on each item, while visualizing happiness, love, freedom from suffering, etc. for each person listed. As a mother, it is sometimes difficult to recognize your own triumphs, needs, and so on, so starting with loving kindness towards yourself helps define the practice. I have been finding this practice so useful with respect to H and F, especially after a tough day.

After loving kindness toward oneself, it seems to go from fairly easy to much more difficult as you come to number 4. Since becoming a parent, I find it so easy to fall into thinking that a particular way of parenting is the right, or better, way, and having judgmental or even bitter thoughts towards other parents whose methods oppose that way of parenting. I know I need to search myself to find more compassion and extend it to those parents, and their children, as well as inwardly. The role of parent is so dynamic and full of new challenges every day, that I think a little compassion goes a long way. I would like to extend that compassion to anyone reading here and ask that you take it within you and be gentle with yourselves as well.

momgineer Meredith Anderson

STEM education is my passion!