Water Work

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This easy experiment will teach your preschooler or kindergartner about evaporation in an easy to see, hands-on way. Plus get you out into the sunshine each morning!

Travis filled two equal containers with 1 cup water each. We made sure to measure carefully before pouring, so our results would be accurate.

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We screwed the lid tightly on one container but left the other container open. Place them somewhere that gets direct sunlight.

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Each morning for a week, we headed out and measured the water. On the first day, the difference wasn’t that great, 1.5 inches of water in the lidded container, versus 1 inch in the open one.

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By the next day, the results were 1.25 inches in the closed container (some had condensed on the lid!) versus only .75 inches in the open.

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I asked Travis where the water was going and he correctly understood that some was evaporating into the air each day.

We continued to check on subsequent days, until a final reading of .25 inches in our open container. As a final component, Travis drew what had happened, showing a very full closed container and only a small layer of water in the open one. Those are three hot orange suns boiling off the water at the top!

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A fantastic STEM/STEAM project for your summer!


Catch That Sound

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Here’s a game that combines reading and phonics skills with gross motor skills, but your kids will just think they’re having a blast! In other words: the perfect way to spend a summer morning.

I pulled out the beach ball, which already had Travis excited, and explained the rules.

Pick a letter, and the person throwing the ball has to say a word that begins with that letter before each toss.

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Some of these were easy. B lent itself to books, babies, balls, and bees rapidly. Others made him stop and think between each throw. Eagle was his first confident answer for E, but then he was stuck until I prompted some words with the short-E vowel sound like elephant.

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Travis also thought it was fun to roll the ball to little sister after saying each word, a great way to see the siblings play together.

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See which letter your kids can get the most for! And with every throw, they will be honing those gross motor catching and throwing skills, too. We might just have to play this one on the beach, next time!

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‘Are We There Yet’ Car Game

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Road-tripping with the kids this summer and sick of the “are we there yet?” question? So was I, until we found this cute game in Highlights magazine: a road trip scavenger hunt.

Ahead of time, select items that your child will need to find from the back seat of the car. You can make a written list for readers, but I printed out pictures for Travis and glued them to sheets of a notebook. If I’d had more time, I would have found pictures of uniform size, and perhaps colored them in, but we were also busy packing!

Try to vary the difficulty of these; some I knew he could spot right away, like an American flag. Others (cows! hawks!) would take some doing.

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The game is fantastic because you can mix it up with new finds for each road trip, no matter how long or short.


Are we there yet? Who cares when you’re having fun!

DIY Lip Balm

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There was a jar of coconut oil in the pantry that I wanted to use up before an upcoming move, and thought it would be fun for Travis and I to make pots of DIY lip balm… the perfect remedy for dry lips on hot summer days.

To start, we stirred 1 pack of tropical punch Kool-Aid powder into 3 tablespoons olive oil for a purple-y hue. Although not something I ever have Travis drink straight, Kool-Aid does provide a fun punch of color sometimes. Alternatively, you can leave it clear.

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Stir the olive oil mixture into 12 tablespoons coconut oil. (Note: Let your coconut oil soften first…which wasn’t hard here on a 90 degree day!).

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We spooned this into individual tins; clear jars meant for beads from the craft store were the perfect size. Place the jars in the fridge to set.

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Travis was a nut trying out the balm; it cracked him up that it made his lips red!

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We were inspired by the latest Gallant story in his Highlights magazine about boys who sell a similar lip balm to raise money for a cancer fundraiser. So we’re hoping to have a mini fundraiser with our little pots of balm and send to a favorite charity!

Nature Game

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The outdoor challenge this week in Travis’s summer workbook was to create a game using items found in nature. Not only was Travis up for the challenge, he requested an extra long nature walk to make sure we had enough materials, turning it into a fantastic opportunity to get outside.

First, he gathered up any items that caught his eye. Soon we had a collection of leaves, sticks, and two pebbles.

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I laid everything out on a picnic table and challenged him to think of how he could combine the items into a game. At first he was at a loss. Lining up the sticks helped provide a bit of direction. Since there were two pebbles, it made sense that those would be our playing pieces.

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Aha, now an idea was forming. With each turn, we could jump our piece forward over one stick. He still had to decide what we would do to earn that move forward. Looking around, he settled on spotting any animal or bug; the same animal could not be used twice.

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Soon he was finding birds, butterflies, ants, spiders, and more. With each new creature, his stone jumped forward. He was delighted when he was ahead of me!

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The first player to reach the leaf “jackpot” wins. I was so proud of him; this activity involved a bit of nature, a bit of creativity, and lots of problem solving. He truly came up with a game that can now be our family pastime almost anywhere outdoors!

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Pollinators for Every Flower

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The final lesson plan for the Garden Party kit from Raddish Kids was a huge hit, since Travis loves bugs and everything about them. He was a whiz already at much of this topic, but enjoyed the hands-on and artistic aspects of it!

When he came to the table for our lesson, he was surprised to find a flower waiting.

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We explored the flower in detail, including: rolling the leaves between his fingers to see how that changed the texture; smelling it; feeling the fluffy petals; and looking closely with his eyes.

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As he explored the flower, I read to him from a provided chart about plant anatomy. Much of it was a bit over a preschooler’s head, so focus on the bits your child will grasp. He liked the rather astounding fact that while people and animals are either a man (male) or woman (female), a plant is both!

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Some pollen ended up on the table… the perfect segue-way!

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I asked him to name pollinators he knew and he quickly rattled off butterflies and bees. After some prompting, he also guessed birds. I told him he was correct, especially hummingbirds, and then named a few surprises: bats, beetles, and the wind!

The next challenge was to pick a pollinator and make a flower with art supplies that was specific to that pollinator. First up was a bee! Thanks to the provided pollinator profile cards from Raddish, we learned that bees like flowers that smell sweet and in bright colors like yellow and purple.

Travis chose construction paper for this flower, and added glittery “pollen” in the center. To make it smell sweet, we dabbed a vanilla extract-scented pom pom around the petals. Travis loved this!

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Next he wanted to make one for a hummingbird. Our card said the birds don’t land on the petals but instead dip in their beaks, so I helped him fashion a tube-shaped flower from tissue paper (we used red, since the birds like the bright colors). It was fun to add vanilla to the “pollen” pom poms in this one, too, even though the profile card said the birds had good vision but a poor sense of smell.

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Travis next wanted beetles, delighting in the notes on the card that they like “unpleasant” smelling flowers or ones with no scent. We used white pom poms, since beetles prefer pale or dull colors, and added lots of yellow pollen in the center, which the beetle eats.

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He was so proud! I loved watching him think carefully about each pollinator, as well as use different materials each time.

Finally, he wanted a flower for butterflies! This one needed petals for the butterfly to rest on, bright reds and oranges, and no vanilla extract since the butterfly has good eyesight but a poor sense of smell.

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Overall, a fantastic lesson, with a little bit of art, a little bit of science, and important information about the role pollinators play in food crops thrown in there.

Jellybean J

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Today’s letter of the day for tracing had an edible treat at the end – jellybeans!

Travis easily traced both upper case J and lower case j, and then I told him he was going to love our 3-D model today because it involved a favorite treat.

Place jellybeans on a sheet of parchment paper, and challenge your child to recreate the letter with the candies.

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Travis didn’t even need to look at an example. I helped him make his dot a bit more precise…

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…but then it was impishly gobbled up.

For the big J, I pulled out a few old winter scarves (how jolly!), and I asked him to make them into the upper case letter. This wasn’t as easy as the candy. He looked at me in amused confusion.

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I helped him form one scarf into the hook. He still couldn’t quite see where the second should align…

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Aha, now he saw how to cross it at the top.

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As with the other letters we’ve tackled this summer, these hands-on models are fantastic for reinforcing the two-dimensional lesson of tracing on paper.

Edible Parts of the Plant

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To complement a recent Strawberry Shortcake recipe from Raddish Kids, Travis and I had fun with this homeschooling lesson on the various edible parts of a plant.

Ahead of time, I gathered two examples of each of these six plant categories:

  • Roots: carrot and potato
  • Stems: asparagus and celery
  • Flowers: broccoli and flowers
  • Seeds: peas and pinto beans
  • Leaves: spinach and lettuce
  • Fruit: tomato and apple

I hid all of these under a blanket, and called Travis over.

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He was immediately intrigued, of course, checking out the blanket with his hands and using his nose, too, when I invited him to use all his senses. Could he guess what was underneath? Tada! The big reveal.

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I challenged him to put the items into pairs, using whatever criteria made sense to him. This confused him a bit, but he began to match them up. Some he got correct without understanding why; it was easy to see that the spinach and lettuce leaves were similar, for example, or that the tomato and apple were both big and round.

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When he was finished, I shifted his answers around slightly. Aha, the asparagus and celery went together… because they were both the stems of plants. Same for the potato and carrot – both roots!

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I ran through a quick definition of each of the six parts. As a bonus, I asked him why the mushroom was leftover. Aha – a fungus!

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Big kids may want to pause here and make a chart and then brainstorm other foods that fit each of the six categories. But Travis and I hopped right along to the next activity: artwork! We used all of the items to make a picture. I gave him complete free reign, which meant that at first he wasn’t depicting anything, just enjoying the materials. He discovered, for example, that you can pull strings from the celery that glued down nicely.

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Then he got a bit more purposeful. There was a flower rimmed in pinto beans with a celery stem and mushroom center. And orange carrot curls for a sun.

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This, he proudly informed me, was a whale.

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Big kids may want to make a plant with their plants, or perhaps a funny plant person!

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We next checked out a few of Raddish’s suggested links, including a read-aloud of the very funny Tops and Bottoms. As he watched an informative clip about plants, Travis kept running over with tidbits. “Did you know rice is a seed??” I love seeing him so excited about learning!

We next made an art collage of the six plant parts using a grocery store flyer.

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After he cut out all the pictures of fruits and veggies, we talked through where on our collage each item belonged.

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This was also great for sightreading words!

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As a bonus activity, we tested out Raddish’s suggested Kitchen Garden Experiment to regrow food scraps. We read about how plants can stockpile nutrients to keep growing for a short time, provided with water and sunlight, even if they no longer have soil.

I set out three different vegetable scraps for Travis: green onion bulbs, the bottom of a head of celery, and the bottom of a head of romaine lettuce.

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We placed each in a container filled with water and set them on the windowsill. Travis’s hypothesis was that celery would grow fastest.

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Each day we changed the water and observed. It was immediately apparent that green onion grew far faster than the other two.

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After a couple of days, we measured the progress.

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We also drew a picture of what he had observed. Then Travis wanted to eat the green onion, so that was the end of our scientific method!

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There is so much more that older kids can do to learn about plants. Consider cooking a recipe that uses all 6 parts of a plant, or perhaps sprouting seeds.

Symmetry Kiwi Crate

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Kiwi Co dubs Travis’s latest kit the Kaleidoscope Puzzles crate, but more broadly, it was all about symmetry. It was more helpful for me to present it to Travis that way, and he loved the projects and lessons involved!

First, there were two versions of a kaleidoscope to make (which, I explained to him, is a devise that reflects materials in a pattern). The standard Spinning Kaleidoscope was up first. Travis peeled the backing from the rectangular mirrors, folded up the provided cardboard tube, and inserted the mirrors.

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I helped him to make sure that the three mirrors were angled the right way and he peeked inside – it already had a cool effect!

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Next we covered the provided clear wheels with stickers, and saved a few stickers to decorate the outside of the tube.

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Line up one of the sticker-covered circles with the hole in the viewing tube, then insert a brad and a foam bumper to hold it all together.

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Travis peeked inside and was awe struck!

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We had fun spinning it and handing it to each other for quite some time. “Look at this pattern, Mom!” he said in excitement, handing it over. Because the brad easily unfastens, you can switch back and forth between your two sticker-covered wheels.

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Next we tackled the Standing Kaleidoscope. This relies on a mirror placed at different angles to make patterns from whatever is reflected below. Travis again peeled the backing from the mirrors (square ones this time) and inserted them into the mirror book.

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This book then slots into the mirror base, which is helpfully labeled with the number of the angle – good math practice!

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We slipped one of the provided pieces of patterned paper under the mirror book and immediately saw that it turned into a six-figured reflection.

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Moving it out to 90 degree angle meant we only saw the pattern repeat 4 times – neat!

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We tried it with a toy just for fun. “There are three cars!” Travis laughed with delight.

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Your child might enjoy doing this with any number of small toys or coins, and playing around with various angles. The kit also includes lots of extra paper to color in your own patterns, which kept Travis happy for quite some time.

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I reminded him to use lots of color for maximum effect.

The third project was to put it all together in Kaleidoscope Puzzle Games. The kit included foam shapes and puzzle cards, with the challenge to match the design on the card.

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Travis being on the very young age-range for Kiwi Crate needed my assistance with this, but he definitely got the concept. It was easiest for him to think in terms of color, since the shapes were doubled on the puzzle cards (a triangle becomes a diamond, a trapezoid becomes a hexagon etc). But if I prompted him by color, he realized where he needed to lay down an orange piece, a blue piece, etc.

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He was thrilled each time we flipped over the card to reveal the solution. Parents take note: some of these are tricky even for grown-ups!

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Finally, there is a handy travel pouch to store all the pieces, meaning this would make a great game for car trips or vacations! The Explore magazine was full of fascinating tidbits about symmetry in nature (butterflies, zebra stripes).

We also checked out the suggested books, Let’s Fly a Kite by Stuart J. Murphy, and a coloring book on math and patterns (Patterns of the Universe) that he has been incredibly into, insisting we color one page before bed each night!

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I was so proud of Travis tackling this intro to a tricky math concept.

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Imaginative I

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I is generally an easy letter to trace, and Travis enjoys the motions of this letter. But after tracing over it in his workbook, he and I stretched our imaginations to make 3-D versions of the letter!

First, I challenged him to seek out three things in the house that resembled an I. Basically, this can mean anything that’s long and straight.

It took him some wandering around the apartment, but he settled on a straw, a marker, and a piece of celery.

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Other good finds might include a stick, pencil, or asparagus spear!

For lower case i, we needed to be sure to include the dot. A baby carrot plus a grape on top did the trick!

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There are so many cute ways to come up with an i using found objects. What will your child choose? Please share in the comments!