Water beads first got popular as a kids' toy when I was student teaching. The kids in my class would carry them in little containers, calling them their babies! I didn't even realize till much later that they were meant to be for flower arrangements. These teensy tiny little balls grow through osmosis in just a few hours.
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I feel really safe with these beads since they've passed kids safety testing, but always use caution when playing with small objects as they can become choking hazards . You get 55,000 beads for under $8! This is an affiliate link, so I may receive commission if you purchase.
When you first bring out the water beads, they're unbelievably tiny. We inspected them and made observations: what colors they were, their size, shape, and texture.
Next we put them in a container and added two cups of water (for one tablespoon of waters beads). I asked the girls what they thought might happen and that a guess like this is called a "hypothesis" in science.
Big Sis is familiar had just watched a Doc McStuffins episode about a toy that grows when put in the water, so she predicted it would grow! In just over an hour the tiny balls were looking larger, like splotchy orbs in the water. After naptime, the water beads were about 20 times the size, at least, and ready for some sensory play.
We ventured outside because these water beads are bouncy and so delightful to Lil Sis that I knew there was a chance of getting them everywhere. Just to be clear, make sure you are okay with these rolling around. If your toddler is prone to putting things in their mouth, this is probably not the best toy for them. Lil Sis (almost 2) is not inclined to put random things in her mouth, but I'm always cautious and watch her with small toys.
I cut a hole in an Amazon box and put the funnel in the top. Under the funnel, I put a taller clear container for the water beads to drop into. I gave each kid a scooper and a straw and asked them what the best way to get the balls into the container would be. Another idea would be to put multiple funnels in one larger box.
With Lil Sis, she was laughably confused about where the "ballies" were going until I turned the box around and she could see them shooting through the funnel and down into the containers. Since some had grown rather large for the funnel opening, I gave the kiddos reusable straws to use for pushing the balls down.
Keeping my almost 2 year old busy is quite a feat and we sat doing this for around 40 min! The box added an element of excitement, more so than just dumping the water beads into the funnel if it had been put into the container. Because you could turn it around and not what was happening inside the box, she kept inspecting it from all angles to make sure the objects went where they were supposed to. Object permanence lesson right here.
Big Sis was really motivated to fill her container to the top. She also loved the force the straw created as it pushed the water beads through.
I love open ended play and exploration, because each time can be different. We will definitely be playing with these again.
Teachers of young children talk about one to one correspondence, but what is it? One to One correspondence is counting one object for every number said.
Without one to one correspondence, one will not be able to count objects accurately. When a child is able to count one object per each number said, they also understand that a number represents a specific quantity.
At what age do kids develop one to one correspondence? This can be between the ages of 3-5. In kindergarten, kids are expected to count up to 20 objects with one to one correspondence. In preschool up to 10.
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When given a quantity of objects and asked to count, many kids count faster than they register each object resulting in counting to a number that is MORE than the actual number of objects!
This happens because kids learn counting as a rote skill. They memorize the number order much earlier than they learn to count objects, so saying the numbers in that order is automatic. For many, they are just saying numbers in order without any knowledge of numbers representing quantities.
So, we have to SLOW DOWN!
The best way to build one to one correspondence is to give children a way to slow down their counting. I teach my students a counting rule called, "Touch 1, count 1." For every object they are counting, they must either touch it, or move it to another spot completely.
This snack activity, aka snacktivity, is a highly engaging way to build one to one correspondence with items you already have around the house. You can also use it as an assessment to see if your child has one to one correspondence up to a certain number.
With this simple hands-on learning game, your kid will love learning number recognition, one to one correspondence, numeracy, and even arithmetic. Just grab these few supplies and get ready to play.
For preschoolers, I recommend numbers between 1-10. For kindergarteners, numbers ranging from 1-15. Don't go into the teens unless your child has mastered 1-10.
For this version, your child is solely focused on number recognition and one to one correspondence.
Present your kiddo with the straw and talk about the numbers they see on the aluminum. Their mission is to uncover their snack by identifying the correct number and punching through the aluminum foil that many times.
Invite your child to play by asking them to punch number 3 three times, number 5 five times, etc.
By punching the straw through the aluminum foil they're forced to slow down their counting and follow the "touch one, count one," rule of one to one correspondence.
They'll be thrilled to reveal the snacks underneath with each punch through. For an additional way to practice, you can have them count the snacks as well!
Once your preschooler or kindergartner has a good grip on number identification try this way of playing that builds number sense using more than and less than.
Call out actions such as, "Punch a number that is more than 5. Punch a number that is less than 2."
Another way to play this way is to show them on your hands a number of fingers and ask them to find a number that is more than or less than that many! That way they're "subitizing" the number of fingers, translating that into the number they identified, and then building their knowledge of more and less.
You guessed it, have your child determine which number is the sum or the difference to your simple arithmetic problem, and punch the number the correct number of times to reveal the snack beneath.
Use call outs like, "Punch the number that is 5 +1!" and "Punch the number that is 4-2!"
To scaffold and make this a little less tricky, use your fingers to show addition and subtraction. Hold up 8 fingers, "Punch the number that is this many take away 3!"
In order to best guide our children in their learning, we must assess their skills.
This helps us to avoid wasting time teaching them the same things when they've already mastered them, but also it helps us target specific skills that need more attention.
As you play this one to one correspondence game with your child, review what they do accurately and what they don't. Take note.
When we watch our children during a learning activity and take note of what they can and can't do, it's called an observational assessment.
Does your child begin to count to fast once they get to the teen numbers? This will help you target one to one correspondence in the teens for a future activity.
Does your child instantly add small numbers but falter when it comes to subtraction? Those are the skills that require more attention as you play together.
Assessments are essential to help children reach new heights in every topic. When a teacher or parent is made aware of what the child doesn't yet know, even without creating special activities or games to target that skill, the child is more likely to become proficient.
Why? Well, for example, if I knew my daughter always got stuck on the number 7. I would organically bring it up as we cook dinner, I might count out 7 carrots with her. On a walk, I may be more likely to point out the number 7 on a license plate.
Assessment is KEY to your child's success!
Did you grow up learning about positive self talk? I didn't. As little girls in the 80's and 90's, we were not taught to be empowered and confident. We were taught to be humble, not to take up too much space, and not to brag. For fear of being braggarts, many little girls grew up never speaking about themselves in a positive manner.
I wonder if I'm alone in this. In a group of female friends, do you hear yourself saying, "I'm not good at this," or "You are way better at this than I am?" Why do we so often put ourselves down, even when we are sharing something we are good at? Are these self-deprecating statements lowering our own self confidence? Should we be modeling this behavior for our children?
Although I usually share early literacy and math activities, I firmly believe in teaching the whole child. Children can only learn when their needs are being met emotionally, and if a child is experiencing something emotionally heightened, they may have trouble learning something new until those emotions are addressed.
When we build kids' confidence they feel more ready to take on challenges and deal with issues that arise. And a coping skill I have observed even in very young kids is positive self talk to help get through a tough situation. This can be anything from saying to oneself, "I'm a big kid! I can do it," to "I won't give up."
Most recently my friend told me her two year old was talking to himself encouragingly before bedtime in a new place, and he built his own confidence to get through an unknown and scary thing for him.
When confidence is low, kids are less likely to learn. By teaching kids how to use affirmation statements and see the positive things about themselves, we will increase their confidence and their ability to take on new, difficult tasks at home and in the classroom.
I use Confidence Cookies with my own children and the members of The Fun Club to teach about positive self-talk. In this activity our children are encouraged to see themselves in a positive light and speak about themselves positively out loud to us. Not only do I have all the kids do this activity, I also advise ALL adults doing the activity to participate!
When a parent or caretaker participates in positive self-talk, that is modeling the skill for the child, and the adults who care for us are our most important influences. If your child sees yourself speaking positively, gently, and kindly about your own self, they're more likely to do the same for themselves. The same is true if they hear you putting yourself down or speaking in a self-deprecating manner. Be mindful of what you say when you think they're not listening!
Download your FREE SET of Confidence Cookies by Forward with Fun.
confidence cookies.pdfDownload PDF • 1.58MB
Cut out the Confidence Cookies and place them in a jar or any container.
Invite your child to play. "There are pretend cookies in here with different questions and ideas. Can you pull one out?"
As they pull one out, read it to them and have them answer the question or complete the affirmation statement. Then you answer it! If they're having trouble answering, maybe jog their memory of a story or idea that will lead them to a positive self thought.
It's important to take time to pause and reflect on what makes us great, lovable, and important. If your child struggles with self-confidence, positive self talk may take some time to get used to, but it's worth it.
Keep the confidence cookies in the kitchen in a jar on the table. When you sit down at the table before a meal, have someone pick a confidence cookie from the jar. Everyone at the table has to answer the question. Your kids can even make their own cookies and add them to the jar for even more prompts. Incorporating positive self talk into your day is a process, not just a one time thing, so keep using those Confidence Cookies!
Hands on learning is my secret to teaching reading so kids are never bored!
I NEVER use workbooks or worksheets.
When I say "hands on learning," I mean any kind of learning where your child is actively participating in creating new knowledge or solving a problem. This is also called learning by doing. From your own childhood, did you ever really learn something from a worksheet? I remember the projects, the games, the activities that got me and my classmates up and moving, creating, and solving problems.
Hidden Object is a hands on learning game that combines reading skills with a fun, element of surprise.
What you'll need-
On the Post-its, write the letters your child is learning. If you're child is just starting to recognize letters, I recommend starting with the letters of their name.
In this version, children will either say the letter name or the letter sounds as they lift each bowl on the hunt for the hidden object.
Another idea would be to include words that have a new sound they've just learning like digraphs: sh, wh, th, and ch.
This simple hands on game can be used for so many different skills: letter sounds, letter identification, sight words, CVC words, digraphs, etc.
In this instance, Big Sis was practicing reading CVC words (consonant vowel consonant words) that had different vowels in the middle. If I notice her struggling with a specific vowel or letter sound, I would put more words with those sounds on the Post its.
Whenever I discuss early literacy skills like reading CVC words and sight words, I want to reinforce that all the games and wonderful activities are only part of the reading puzzle. The biggest thing you can do for your child to have success with reading from an early age is read to them everyday.
Like teaching your child through hands on learning games? Want to teach you 4-5 year old to read using hands on learning? Check out The Fun Club! Subscribe for a free week of activities right now!
I think I traumatized one of my kindergarteners with my lesson plan on how to make a leprechaun trap.
Even 10 years later, his mother and I recount how she had to convince him leprechauns were not real, but he swore that they came to school and messed up our classroom. I'm so sorry, Dude! Just trying to do some engaging hands-on learning with the kiddos.
So be warned, that it might be a good idea to tell your child that maybe after all, it was you who tripped the trap after all.
Before making the trap, you'll going to want to have a plan. What materials will you want to use? What object might lure a leprechaun into your trap?
This project involves so much learning from science to STEM to writing. In the first steps, kids will plan and prepare to build their leprechaun trap using my FREE How I'll Make My Leprechaun Trap printable.
How to make my leprechaun trap.pdfDownload PDF • 1.39MB
Download the printable and you're ready to make an easy leprechaun trap in minutes. If you don't have all the supplies listed on the left hand side, tell your child/students what you do have. You might want to show them the materials but not let them use them just yet.
Using the printable, have them draw a plan of what their trap will look like. What will they use to lure the leprechaun into the trap? Hopefully, something shiny!
For older kids who can already write, have them label their leprechaun trap plans so that the reader will know what materials they plan to use for which parts.
Ask your child/students, how will the leprechaun know to come to the trap. Will there be any signage to entice them to come inside?
Now let's build it!
While watching the kids build their leprechaun traps you might feel inclined to jump in and say, "Oh what about this? It would be cool if we..." but I encourage you to stop yourself and let this experiment be completely child led.
In the planning stages, we have provided the questions to provoke problem solving and the materials to inspire. This is the kids' part to be the engineers! Giving our children full creative freedom is hard, but it means that what they create is 100% their own.
Whenever I feel the urge to place value on my children's creation or make suggestions, I try to use the technique called "Say what you see." I just narrate what is happening. So instead of saying, "I love that little door you made," I might say, "You made a door out of paper." Sometimes I just try to step away and see what they'll come up with completely on their own!
These easy to make leprechaun traps will surely bring some excitement to your home or classroom. So now what do you do with them on St. Patrick's day?
The day before St. Patrick's day, I have the kids lay their traps wherever they think the leprechauns will be searching for gold and shiny goods. I make sure that they have their lure inside the trap.
Once I'm alone, I go and snag the gold coins/lures out of each trap.
This is the kicker, the piece de resistance, that probably really made my little student frightened: the footprints. Are you unsure of how to make little leprechaun footprints around your trap?
Easy! Get some green paint. Make a fist and paint the bottom side of your fist before gently stamping it across the surface of your choosing. Then dip your pointing finger in the green paint and create little toes over the foot print. Tada, adorable leprechaun footprints, and they couldn't have been made by an adults large feet!
So yeah, it's a good prank, but if your child or students are iffy on the subject, show them how you did it!!!
The kids will flip when they see the leprechauns have sprung their traps without being caught. This is usually when I leave a little note from the leprechauns saying something like, "You almost got me!" or "Try again next year!"
Measuring is a practical skill that kids use all the time. They help measure volume when pouring ingredients to bake a cake. They measure quantity when checking who got more of that delicious snack Mom brought out. They measure when comparing height to see who made the tallest tower. Kids are measuring all the time, but to delve a bit deeper into understanding measuring I created this activity that gets them moving, learning, and thinking in new ways. Measuring is in and of itself, a hands-on concept.
When introducing measurement with child, they usually have no understanding of centimetres and inches. The concept of standardized units is very abstract. That's why in preschool and kindergarten we introduce units of measurement that kids can really wrap their minds around. Usually those are regular household objects and toys. The must-do for measuring is that kids must use one specific object, so it's length stays consistent all the way through. Once kids understand that they must measure with a unit that is consistently the same size, you can begin to introduce inches and other standardized measurement tools.
To play "Measuring Me," you'll need blue tape and access to items around the home that are (mostly) uniform in length. Some ideas are shoes, blocks, markers, crayons, envelopes, etc. If you need some blue tape, click the pic to grab some. We use this for projects and activities on the daily and may receive a commission if you purchase through this link.
One big take away for this activity is that when measuring you must start lining items up at one end of the tape and continue till the end. The second big take away is to get an accurate measurement you must use items that are one size.
This is a tricky concept at first but if you were to explain to another person that you were 14 markers and buttons long, they would have no idea what you mean? If you said you were 17 markers long though, they might have a clearer picture. As kids grasp measuring more and more, we introduce inches and feet or centimetres and meters.
Preschoolers and kindergartners are building their understanding of math concepts through this hands-on activity. You'll be touching on so many concepts. Besides measuring with nonstandard units, you'll also be making predictions, counting, comparing more and less, and of course, keeping your little ones engaged in hands-on learning.
Signing up for my daughter's kindergarten entrance exam sounds so official and intimidating, even as a teacher!
Here are the details on the why's and how's of the entrance exam so you and your child can feel more relaxed about it and even know a couple teacher secrets as to how it's used.
In the summer before kids enter kindergarten most schools ask them to come in and do some kind of assessment in order to determine where they are academically.
These assessments are not all the same. Some school use teacher made assessments, while others use standardized widely available tests like the Lollipop Test and DIBELS. Many use a combination of assessments.
Does your child need to study for their kinder entrance test? NO!
Kids don't need to "pass" in order to be ready or admitted to kindergarten, which brings me to the next important point. What kinds of questions will be on the test and how are these assessments used?
These tests vary by school, so there isn't a way to determine the exact content, but that is okay, because we don't want to coach kids towards right answers. Rather we want to see what your child truly knows.
To learn more about what kids should know before kindergarten, check out my kindergarten readiness checklist post and grab your checklist for FREE!
The test can take any where from 5 to 30 minutes depending on the set of skills the teachers are assessing.
Now this is something that varies by school, but some schools will be outright with the information and others may choose to keep this a bit hush.
2 Main Uses for the entrance exam:
Most often, the kindergarten entrance exam is a comprehensive assessment to determine your child's mastery of pre-k skills but also kindergarten skills like reading and doing arithmetic.
By determining what kids do not yet know, teacher's can help individualize instruction and plan their lessons based on what kids need to know next. For example, it would be pointless to spend a week on each alphabet letter in kindergarten if all kids came in knowing all their letters!
Giving the teachers the opportunity to spend individual time with each student and assessing their needs and strengths BEFORE school starts will help maximize learning right off the bat. From a teacher's perspective, it really beats having to individually assess each child during classroom hours, or let's face it during recess time.
Some schools are not as forthcoming in how they use the tests to determine class placements but generally classes are either mixed ability or by ability.
What does that mean? Well, classes are either made up of kids with varying academic ability levels OR they're by kids in the same ability levels. That is where things can get tricky...
My daughter's school determines placement based on a child's READING SKILLS assessment. (That's what they told me when I asked.)
Our neighborhood school groups children by reading ability at this age. When I asked why, they said it would be to best target instruction at all levels.
Apparently, many students come in with no letter knowledge and some come in reading. In order to best meet all kids' needs they'd be separated by this determining factor, not necessarily taking into account if a child was really strong in math or other academic subjects.
When I was teaching in the classroom, entrance exams for kindergarten were also used to determine student ability. Similarly to my daughter's choose, early literacy/reading skills were the major factor we were looking at, but there was a giant difference.
We were creating MIXED ABILITY classrooms. You see, just because a child is advanced in one area, doesn't mean they're advanced in all areas (and vice versa).
Mixed ability classes help all to excel. In contrast, it has been shown that creating a high achieving vs low achieving class can be detrimental to the students classified as under performing.
Mixed ability grouping is more equitable and helps lower achieving students. Also, mixed ability grouping allows high achieving students to excel in leadership roles. To read more on the research behind these statements check out this post by learningaccelerator.org.
Will teachers ignore a high achieving child's needs in a mixed-ability class? From my personal experience, I worked extra hard to ensure this wouldn't happen! I was able to not only get my struggling students to become readers. I also met the needs of very high achieving students as well.
It's okay to ask your child's school how placement is determined!
Nothing bad is going to happen. Take a breath, for real. I mean it. Kids are not supposed to know everything on these tests!
This test is comprehensive, and remember when I said it was going to cover kindergarten skills too? They shouldn't know how to delete ending sounds or read CVC words yet. If they have never heard of a sight word, that's totally fine! They can't count to 100? GOOD! That means that they haven't mastered kindergarten standards before kindergarten. That's perfect!
The words "assessment" and "exam" do sound intimidating. However, these exams help teachers understand where your child is coming in academically.
By treating this whole experience as an exam, your child may feel a bit nervous or scared. It's super normal! So if they flub up, they'll get lots of other chances to prove what they know. We teachers know this is a big new thing for them!
My recommendation is to not treat it like a test AT ALL.
Here are some ways to explain to your child what they'll be doing:
Walk around the school and point out different spots like the playground, the cafeteria, the library. Building familiarity with the new space will help your child a lot when the first day of school rolls around.
A KinderReady Summer is an 8 week home program made just for the summer before kindergarten! In less than 20 minutes a day, you can easily teach your child the MOST important academic skills listed in the kindergarten readiness checklist.
How does this sound? Imagine a weekly email with 5 fun, hands-on activities to do with your child heading your way for 8 weeks. NO worksheets or boring printables, only MAXIMUM fun learning! Plus it's super simple to do, just read the instructions.
The supplies you need? You may already have them! I can send them to you if you want, yup, for real.
These kinder-prep learning activities and games will ensure that your child will master the skills they need to have a smooth and successful kindergarten year.
You know, it might even skyrocket them to the top of their kindergarten class, and best of all they'll be developing a love of learning which serves them their whole academic career. Check out A KinderReady Summer.
"Swat It" is a high energy fly swatter game that kids ask to play again and again. Whatever you want to practice with your child, be it number recognition, number sense, letters, sight words, or reading skills you can do it with this game. All you need is a fly swatter and some Post-its or flashcards.
Who doesn't love permission to hit something every once in a while? Lot's of parents express worry about their child's low interest in learning numbers and letters and a lack of focus. But the problem, isn't really their child's focus. It's boredom so let's make practicing fun with hands-on learning games. All you need is a fly swatter and Post-its.
Hands-on learning involves the child, so instead of just taking in information and repeating it back, they're a part of creating that learning in a FUN way.
1. Teach Letters or Letter Sounds - For younger kids 2-4, call out a letter name. Wanna up the ante a bit? Call out the letter sound for kids 4+. Here are 9 more epic hands-on games to teach letter sounds.
2. Teach Numbers- For kids in preschool, practice numbers 1-10. For kids in kindergarten use numbers 1-20!
AT Word Family SPLAT
4. Teach sight words - Using a fly swatter is just one of 16 epic ways I teach my kid sight words.
5. Teach number sense- In this game, kids are working on more than just number identification. Call out more difficult math clues to get them really thinking.
6. Combination of numbers and letters - For this we had Big Sis identifying numbers and Lil Sis working on letters!
Be sure to add in some items that your child has already mastered so they won’t get burnt out searching for only ones they don't know. We want kids to have success and fun while exposing them to new numbers, letters, words, etc.
What should I do if they don't know the answer? When my eldest was looking for a number she didn't know, I would call out clues initially like what it was next to or if it was higher or lower. This would help her narrow her focus, preventing visual overwhelm and guide her to find it on her own. After playing a few times, she felt more confident and we did a lightning round.
There is NO way your child won't absolutely love this fly swatter game.
Sight Word Post-It Word Search
How can we help kids memorize sight words in a fun, play-based way?
The Sight Words Post-it Search is one of 14 Hands-on games that I use to make learning sight words fun!
Exposure, exposure, exposure! That’s the key to learning sight words! Sight words are the most common words we come across when reading, but often they don't make sense when "decoded." To decode in terms of reading, means to sound out. Kids trip up on words like "of," "has," "is," and "the" but those words are imperative to learn at the beginning of their reading journey in order to become confident readers. That's why sight words need to be memorized, so that kids know them instantly and can spend time sounding out the words that make sense phonetically.
Sight words are a more advanced reading skill that begins in TK/kindergarten. This game can be played with letters, numbers, and even shapes and colors. If your child doesn't know their letters and sounds yet, I recommend playing this fun seeking game with up to 4 letters on which you want to focus.
Here is a link to Fry's first 100 sight words.
I always start with the words I see most in my kids' books, so I'd recommend: I, a, am, the, is, was, has, of, be, to if you're first starting out.
Sorting helps our little ones discern differences and similarities, learn how to create categories, and begin to problem solve. Imagine how helpful sorting is in your everyday life. You sort silverware, clothing, and toys all to create organized systems in your home. At the grocery store, items are sorted by categories for ease and efficiency of shopping. Recess at schools is most often sorted by grade level to keep kids of the same age together. Sorting happens all the time, and kids need to know how to sort in more than one way in order to make sense of new information as they process the world around them.
-Encourage your child to sort the same objects in more than one way.
-Have them to come up with HOW they sort the objects.
Being able to sort the same group of objects in more than one way shows diversity in thinking. It also engages us to problem solve: What is the best way to sort? If we sort clothing in a store by color, how will our customer find shorts? Going the step further and asking your child to describe HOW they want to sort gives us insight into how our child views the world: Is the size of something a bigger factor than its function?
I had a giant pile of clean laundry I ignored for about 3 days. I asked Big Sis how we should sort it. She decided by color, so we did that and problem solved as things had more than one color or pattern. But color wasn’t a practical way to sort laundry. I asked her how we could sort the laundry to make it easier to put away. She said “by house room.” She then made a kitchen pile, a baby pile, mommy and daddy pile and her own. Of course then her sister came and ruined it but that’s life!