Height H

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Travis and I focused on the letter H today; it’s one of the first that he mastered, so tracing was a no-brainer for this one. But then we played around with the concept of  an h word (“height”) to form both the upper case and lower case.

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First, I set out a variety of Legos in different heights for him. It was up to him to decide how they needed to be combined to form an H, using two longer and one shorter. Hmm, not quite right…

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Next, we played up the concept of height even more by using a ruler for the line of lower case h.

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A sock makes the curve, for a fun final result. He needed no help from me on this one!

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Snake Lengths

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Travis has been quite into snakes lately and today I invited him to make a few from clay. Little did he know that I was sneaking in some math to prevent the “summer slide” with this little project!

First, he remembered that to make a snake coil, he needed to roll the clay between his palms.

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I challenged him to make three different lengths and had him name for me which was long, which was medium, and which was short.

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I suggested we measure the snakes next; of course we needed to check how long the biggest “python” was! First we used a traditional ruler, but then we grabbed other objects from around the house to see how the snakes stacked up.

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Pennies were his favorite; I showed him how to carefully line up the pennies and make sure the line was straight. The big snake was 15 pennies long, medium was 9, and short was only 5.

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We tried paper clips next and found that it was easiest to clip these into a chain so they didn’t slide around during measuring.

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The possibilities here are almost endless. Will you measure your snakes in units of dried beans? Of pasta? Of buttons? Have fun with this one!

Carbon Footprint Pledge

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To go with our Farmer’s Flatbread and focus more keenly on why families might choose to eat food from a local farmers’ market, the paired lesson from Raddish Kids was about carbon footprints. I’ve long wanted to explore the idea of global warming with my kindergartner and this lesson plan made it so approachable for him.

First, I set out four items for Travis to gather, simply telling him they were needed for a “project”. But here was the catch: as he walked between each item and picked it up, he had to mark his trail with dried beans.

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Well he just loved this!

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Between the final two items, he exclaimed, “Oh no, Mom, some spilled!” What a teachable moment this was, akin to an “oil spill.” “That’s a really interesting accident,” I told him, and promised to explain why later. Even better, he decided he could use the beans from his spill, spread them out, and reach the final item. He cleaned up his own oil spill before I’d even imparted the lesson!

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He carried the four items over and I broke the secret. We weren’t really making anything (with yarn, glue, straws, and newspaper); we were noticing the impact and trail we’d left behind. I explained how it represented the way that everything we use leaves an impact, or a carbon footprint.

Next up we watched a video clip of a Magic Bus and the Climate Challenge read-aloud. This video was 14 minutes long, but Travis was captivated… and full of questions. Would our home be under water some day? (I answered honestly – quite possibly, but while we have the ability to move, many people in the world didn’t have that choice). Did being vegan lower our carbon footprint? For this one, I could happily report yes!

After what I worried might seem a scary concept, the key to the lesson plan was to have kids walk away empowered, so it was time to talk about what we could do.

We checked out the Rainforest Alliance and their list of 10 things kids can do to help the rainforest. This led to coloring in a picture of rainforest animals, which Travis took so seriously, and reading a few online profiles of children who live near the rainforest.

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He made me promise to buy only ethically sourced coffee beans and bananas, which luckily we already do!

Of all the suggested activities from Raddish for extension, the easiest for kindergartners is to make a pledge and spread the word to friends and family. Travis immediately wanted our poster to be about not leaving the fridge open and turning the a/c up one degree. The poster required stamps and glitter (of course!).

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It was his project, and other than writing the words, I loved watching him decide what the poster needed.

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There’s a lot more here for bigger kids: writing to congress members; planting trees; and a fantastic booklet of activities from PBS Kids that I want to explore when Travis is older. I’m thankful to Raddish for giving me the words to begin this important conversation with my son. Hopefully it’s the big beginning of our family making a small footprint.

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Straws and Yarn

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This project is fantastic for keeping motor skills sharp in the summer break between preschool and kindergarten… and the final product easily becomes a gift for someone special, whether a graduation or a birthday!

Tie a piece of yarn to a drinking straw with a tight knot; set aside. Help your child snip straws into pieces of varying size. We used wide pastel-colored milkshake straws, and discovered that the smaller we snipped them, the more they were ilke “beads” for our necklace.

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The straws could be a bit tough to snip, and Travis loved when pieces went flying!

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Have your child begin threading them on to the yarn.

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Travis tried a few tactics, including pushing a straw “bead” onto the yarn, or pulling the yarn up through.

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I loved his patience and concentration as he worked!

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Once long enough for a necklace, tie the two ends of the yarn into a secure knot.

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Travis enjoyed the project so much that he insisted we make two; he didn’t want either grandmother to feel left out, so we’ll be gifting two of these!

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Postcard Journal

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Acting on a suggestion from Highlights magazine, Travis is beginning a summer-long postcard journal. We have no grand trips planned, but there’s no reason that should stop us (or you) from the activity; we plan to pick up a postcard at every place we go in the next two months, whether or local or further afield!

This is a neat way to introduce kids to postcards, which may seem like a throwback to another era in this age of vacation posts on Instagram and Facebook. Travis thought it was neat when we headed to the local bookstore and picked out a postcard just of our home town, our first summer location.

We also checked out one of the sights in town and made sure to scoop up a postcard there.

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Punch a hole in each postcard after the visit, and loop them together on a key ring (or thread them together on a piece of yarn.

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For each place we visit, we jot down the date and some memories on the back. These memories can be grand or ho-hum, but the key is to capture a few details.

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And to remember your summer on one easy key ring. As with Travis’s Summer Memory Jar, we’ll be updating this all summer long, so stay tuned for an update!

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Update: Travis loved collecting postcards at each stop along our summer, whether local attractions or vacation visits. This is definitely an activity we’ll continue in years to come.

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Early Explorers Landmarks

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Well my goodness, Travis has now received all 24 Early Explorers packages from “Max and Mia”. This final one was fantastic, (though with some overlap from a recent landmark unit we did with a Raddish Kids recipe). But reinforcement never hurts!

First we went through the booklet, learning about spots around the world like the Leaning Tower of Pisa, the Eiffel Tower, and the Great Wall of China. Travis is a pro now at every type of activity in these books.

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Landmarks Craft:

The booklet’s suggestion was to make a landmark out of blocks or craft supplies. I simply set Travis loose with everything-but-the-kitchen sink in our craft bin, and he loved it!

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Undirected projects like these are fantastic for the imagination. Rather than copy an existing landmark, Travis preferred to create his own.

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Soon we had a fence made of craft sticks, and walls covered in feathers and pom poms.

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Landmarks Science:

Okay, our “science” in this unit was more architecture and engineering, with the challenge to build a landmark from cardboard, but hey that fits loosely under the STEM heading!

Cut two paper towel tubes in half. Cut 4 pieces of cardboard so you have two long rectangles and 2 short ones.

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Cut 2, 2-inch slits in the bottom of each tube, about 1 inch apart.

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Cut a 2-inch slit into each corner of the cardboard. Now your castle can slot together!

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Travis wasn’t satisfied until I also cut out a door he could open and close.

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We taped construction paper to toothpicks for little pennant flags, which we then taped into the towers.

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(Note: You could also glue these on, but Travis was impatient and preferred the quick tape fix). He loved playing with this “landmark”!

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Landmarks Keepsake:

Travis wanted to know right away what he had received: a sticker book. He was thrilled to learn they were the puffy reusable stickers he likes best.

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Even better, the board to place them on featured a pop-up 3-D element, which made arranging the landmarks tons of fun.

Landmarks Field Trip:

Of course we had to visit a landmark, and decided to check out an iconic structure in our town that we’ve never seen in two years of living here: the local lighthouse. Unfortunately, the day we went to peek at it was so rainy and foggy I could barely snap a picture! But at least we had a fun adventure.

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Landmarks Further Activities:

The booklet suggested talking further about everything we’d learned: what were our favorite landmarks and where would we most like to visit. It turns out Travis is into the tall landmarks, and wants to visit the Empire State Building. We’re close enough that hopefully we can make that happen soon. We followed up by exploring some pictures of the Empire State Building online.

I also found a neat Montessori-inspired activity to go along with this package, matching miniatures to a map.

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This sounded like the perfect hands-on way to bring the lesson to life. I purchased a simple tube of landmarks from Amazon and set them out for Travis.

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Some of them he now knew from the booklet, and a few others I had to help him with. It was great review not only for where each country was, but also for a chance to understand some of the landmarks better in three dimensions.

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He was so delighted with the little miniatures that they soon became involved in all his games!

Finally, I opted for the add-on to the package, a delightful book from Max and Mia, featuring “mail” for the reader from each continent.

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The pages were so innovative and clever, including a puzzle from the African section, “photos” from Australia, a “train ticket” from Asia, and more!

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Incidentally, this book is great for car trips – perhaps on the way to see a landmark?

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So wow, thank you for 2 years of fun, Early Explorers!

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Green G


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Today’s letter for tracing was G. Travis has a hard time with both the upper and lower case of this letter, so I made sure to sit us down when he was well-rested and focused.

He made great progress, and was delighted with the materials I pulled out to make our 3-D versions of the letter.

First up: green clay. “How can this be a G?” he asked, looking at a short blob of clay.

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“Look, a G” he said a moment later, inadvertently making as smooshed one.

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To be more precise, we rolled out long coils of clay.

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With this, we could first loop it into a C and then add the line inwards for a G. Tada!

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Next up: grapes! (If only they had been green grapes, but red worked in a pinch).

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Travis worked carefully to form the circle of lower case g, but then needed a little help understanding how to make the rest of the grapes march down in a line for the final flourish.

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After that, the g got gobbled up too quickly for me to snap a picture!

Fishy F

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Today Travis and I focused on the letter F, tracing it first and then making it 3-D in two ways.

For the first, we raided daddy’s non-vegan pantry of snack foods, and used fish (goldfish crackers, that is). I drew lower case f on construction paper, and Travis loved making a big line of glue and sticking on the fishy friends.

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We used blue paper and I encouraged him to color in an ocean scene behind the fish, but he decided he didn’t want to.

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For upper case F, we used a few forest finds from a walk. Once we were home, I laid out two short sticks and one long.

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“I can do this!” he declared with confidence, and in no time had formed an F.

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Easy E

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For lack of a better title, today Travis and I made Es with two easy materials (straws and string)… But it turns out they were quite tricky to master!

First we traced big E and little e, and then I presented him with 4 straws; 3 were short, and 1 was long.

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At first, he added the short straws to the long one in a rather slapdash way.

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He traces E this way sometimes, too, so I challenged him to look closer at the E in his tracing book. Aha! One short line comes from the top, one from the bottom, and one from the middle.

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Making little e with another easy material (string) was even harder. He got frustrated figuring out how to twist it in just the right way, until I provided direction.

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What material would you make an E? Please share in the comments!

Simon Says Alphabet

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Here’s a fun twist on ‘Simon Says’ that will reinforce letter recognition as well as promote direction-taking. The perfect game, in other words, to help prevent a summer slide before Kindergarten.

I laid out alphabet flash cards using only the lower case letters, so as not to make things confusing. If you have older players, you could hypothetically include capitals and lower case.

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“Simon” began giving Travis directions .Put your toe on ‘w’, put your thumb on ‘e’.

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Turn over the ‘h’ card.

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Whoops! I didn’t say ‘Simon Says’, and Travis laughed about being tricked.

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Now he was the Simon and he loved getting to be the boss and give mommy directions. Simon Says put your toe on ‘p’!

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He was gleeful when I did a direction that omitted the ‘Simon Says’, and immediately wanted more rounds. We’ll be playing this one all summer!

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