Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Musical Instruments to Make at Home

Children love music as much as they enjoy making things. Why not join these two creative forces and make one or all of these fun and easy musical instruments to encourage play and creativity.

Bean Shakers
What You Need:
Empty Plastic Bottle (small, medium or large, it's up to you)
Dried peas, beans or lentils

Clean out the bottle and allow to dry thoroughly.
Fill the bottle about 1/8 to 1/4 full with the peas, beans or lentils.
Place superglue around the threads of the bottle opening and quickly tighten the lid and allow the glue to dry before playing with the shaker.

What You Need:
Waxed Paper
Paper towel tube
Rubber bands

Cut the waxed paper to fit over one end of the paper towel tube.
Secure the paper with several rubber bands.
Poke a few holes in the waxed paper.
Hum into the unpapered end to make music.

What you need:
Large, cylindrical formula container
Craft knife
Tyvek (what no-rip envelopes are made of; available at your local post office or at office supply stores)
Duct Tape
Heavy-duty wrapping paper or one of your child's drawings

Remove the lid from a large, cylindrical formula container.
Cut out the bottom with a craft knife.
Cut a piece of Tyvek (what no-rip envelopes are made of; available at your local post office or at office supply stores) into a circle that's 4 inches wider than the mouth of the oatmeal carton. (For instance, if your container measures 5 inches across, the Tyvek should be 9 inches.) Don't worry about making the circle perfectly round; we traced the carton onto our envelope, then cut around it, keeping our scissors roughly 2 inches from that line.
To get it as taut as possible, adhere 2 pieces of tape directly opposite each other after pulling the Tyvek tight between them. Continue in the same way around the container, until all 8 strips are applied in pairs (you'll need to gather the material slightly as you go). Finally, cut one last, longer piece of tape and wrap it all the way around the edge of the Tyvek.

What you need:
2 paper plates
stapler or glue
hole punch
jingle bells

Staple or glue two paper plates together, facing each other. Using a hole punch, make holes around the plates and tie jingle bells to the holes with string. Decorate the tambourine with crayons. Shake to play.

Cactus Rain Stick

Fill an empty wrapping paper roll with rice and tape ends closed. Poke straight pins from one side through to the other up and down the roll and decorate. The pins are stuck into the cardboard randomly so that when the cylinder is turned upside down, the rice falls through bouncing off the straight pins, creating a rain stick sound.


What you need:
ruler or stick,washers,nail polish,string,mixing spoon

Instructions:Hang the washers from the ruler or stick with pieces of string by wrapping the string around the ruler or stick and securing. Strike the washers with the mixing spoon to play.
Note: You can make this craft colorful by painting the washers first with different color nail polishes, such as red, gold, glittery, etc. Parents should supervise this part of the activity closely.


What you need:
tall glasses or jars, water, mixing spoon

Fill the glasses or jars with different amounts of water. The more water in the glass, the lower the pitch will be. Having less water in the glass or jar will raise the pitch.
To play, gently strike the glasses with a mixing spoon.
Note: This instrument should probably be played by older children in "the band" because of the use of glass.


What you need:
empty shoe box,rubber bands,ruler or stick

Remove the cover from the box. Stretch the rubber bands around the box. Attach the ruler or stick to the back of the box on one end to act as the arm of the guitar.
To play, strum or pluck the rubber bands.


What you need:two matching pot covers yarn or ribbon

Tie the ribbon or yarn around the handles of the pot covers. To play, strike together..

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Pegging Colours to make Patterns

This morning the boys and I spent some time focussing on colour recognition and patterning. If you are just introducing patterning use a simple AB pattern based on colour .Using everyday objects are a great way to reinforce patterning at home. (cars and trains are a favourite in our house!) I'm always looking for creative activities with a dual purpose - that suits a 4 year old and a 2 year old!! The boys had a great time this morning working through these simple cards that I made last night. I had some smiley face stickers in the craft box and used them to create AB and ABC patterns for Master4, and then put a smiley face of each colour for Master2 in different variations. I was looking for Master 2 to identify colours and use his fine-motor skills with the pegging onto the card. This is a really easy activity to make for your little one at home and you will find once you have spent time showing him how to do it, he will happily sit and complete the cards independently.

Easy Ways to Teach Numbers, Counting & Maths

Numbers, Numbers everywhere.... we are all about numbers this week leading up to the celebration of Numeracy Week here in Queensland. I put some glitter paint into zip lock bags for Master 4 to practice writing his numbers. When teaching numbers I find children respond really well if they are able to touch and feel numbers and make numbers in different textures.

Though preschoolers generally don’t recognise it, maths is another way to understand and make sense of the world, much like language. Like words, maths is used everywhere and is an integral part of everyday life. What exactly is maths? Simply put, maths is the observation, identification, description and explanation of numbers, space, relation, and order. Counting, measuring, problem solving, reasoning, and identifying shapes and patterns are the activities of math. Preschoolers, who have opportunities to learn maths through play and everyday interactions are gaining the foundation for maths development.

Beyond exposing young kids to maths, fostering a healthy attitude is key. A maths attitude includes observing that maths is all around, identifying maths as fun and interesting, and believing that maths is something you can do. When a child notices that mittens make a pair, observes the similar shape of stop signs, or delights in counting animal crackers, this child is not only doing maths, but also showing a healthy math attitude.

The best way to teach preschool children (or students of any age) is in a purposeful manner—in a context that has a purpose to the child. Teaching moments can be created by playing a game that involves mathematics (e.g. recognizing the number of dots on a die or a domino). Everyday activities provide a wealth of real learning opportunities. Basically, as parents we need to find or manufacture situations that create a real need on the part of the child to use, and thus learn or practice math. Below I have listed some ideas for you to use at home. You will probably recognise many of these that you already do on a regular basis without even intentionally teaching to your child!

Count everything
As you go up steps, eat strawberries, pick flowers, put up Lego's, you name it.

Count to 60 while brushing their teeth
Master 4 and I take turns brushing his teeth and I count out loud to 60 for each of our turns. It's an easy way for him to understand the concept of one minute and he's picked up most of his higher numbers too.

Use Card Games
From UNO to Go Fish, these are fun and easy ways to get to know numbers and their relation to each other.

Cook Together
Include your child when you cook. Have him count the cups of milk, the tablespoons of margarine, or the eggs when you cook. Show him the recipe as you cook so he can follow along.

Build a Playhouse
All kids love to take part in building forts and playhouses. A nice side effect is that they'll painlessly pick up geometry while using measurements & angles. On a smaller scale, plan and build a Lego fort.

Give Them Puzzles
Young children learn valuable spacial lessons while putting together puzzles of all types. Tangrams (geometric shapes that can be put together to create pictures and new shapes) are also great tools.

Let Them Earn Some Money
Even tiny tots can do small jobs and earn some pocket money. pay the money with different denominations of coins each week so your child starts to identify coins and their value.

Use Math Games
There are so many great board games that incorporate maths concepts.

Do Connect the Dots
Paint by number, connect the dots and other "funbook" type sheets are great ways to learn early concepts while having fun.

Play Dice Games
Kids can roll the dice & add the numbers, play "horses" or make up lots of games on their own.

Sing Songs & Memorise rhymes
Everything from "10 Green Bottles sitting on the wall" to "5 Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed" teaches counting down and subtraction. Many jump rope songs involve numbers too, and kinesthetic learners (those who learn best while doing and moving) and auditory learners (those who learn best by hearing and saying things) will especially benefit from moving and singing while they learn.

Count items around the house
Gather up items around your house such as buttons, pencils, paper clips, etc. Put them in stacks and count them with your child

Play Hopscotch
Use chalk and draw a hopscotch game outside. Make sure to say the numbers out loud as you play.

Read counting books
Check out counting books from the library. Read counting books to your child. Have him practice counting as you read the book.

Have a treasure hunt
Fold up ten pieces of paper. On each piece of paper draw a number of items. For example, draw one fish, two triangles, or three apples. Also write a clue on the paper telling where to find the next number "clue". Start the game with number one and end with the number ten. Have your child count the items on the page before you read the clue.

Play a telephone game
Using a toy telephone and a telephone book, have your child call an order a pizza. Help him read the number and press the numbers on the phone. You can also call the florist and have flowers delivered. Let your child use his imagination.

Make a counting book
You can purchase a blank book at an educational supply store or make your own with construction paper and a three-hole punch. On each page have your child draw or trace a number. Have him draw items such as balls, worms, or smiley faces to correspond with the number. Make pages for one to ten or one to twenty if your child is older.

Play an "I spy" game
Take turns playing "I spy". Look around your room and say, "I spy something we have two of (or three of)..." It could be speakers for your stereo, cushions on the couch or pictures on the wall, or anything you can count.

Some of my favourite books to use when I'm teaching about numbers and counting are:
  • Hungry Monsters Teach Counting in Rhyme by Susan Heyboer O’Keefe and illustrated by Lynn Munsinger.

  • Young Children Can Learn to Count Down From Ten With Ten Little Ladybugs written by Melanie Gerth and illustrated by Laura Huliska-Beith

  • Miss Spider’s Tea Party Teaches Counting With a Social Lesson written and illustrated by David Kirk.

  • Six Dinner Sid by Inga Moore

  • The Bad-tempered Ladybird Eric Carle, a good story to discuss the concept of size with a young child. This book would also be excellent for consolidating a child's understanding of time, as at the top of each page it shows a clock face with the time that the bad-tempered ladybird meets each animal.

  • The Very Hungry Caterpillar

  • The Shopping Basket by John Burningham

  • Nine Ducks Nine by Sarah Hayes

  • Handa's Surprise by Eileen Browne

  • The Smartest Giant in Town by Julia Donaldson

  • One is a Snail, Ten is a Crab by April Pulley Sayre

Monday, August 23, 2010

Father's Day

Why I Love My Daddy - Illustrated by Daniel Howarth is my favourite book to use with little ones leading up to Father's Day. Every one's daddy is the best. And who better to tell the world than children themselves? This charming book combines endearing things said by children about their fathers with gentle illustrations of familiar animals. The text is amusing and insightful, with reasons why daddies are loved by their children ranging from 'because he tickles me' to 'because he is my best friend'.

Father's Day celebration in Australia takes place in the same way as in several other countries around the world. Taking opportunity of the occasion to express gratitude for their dad and thank them for all their care and support. The greatest gift is one made with LOVE. All children take great pride in gifting a hand-made gift, to honour their dad. This year we are making our dad a puzzle that has been hand-painted with love. I bought blank puzzle templates from the discount shop and outlined the word DAD on it for the boys to paint. We then decorated a box and broke the puzzle into pieces for Daddy to put together on father's day! Then to finish our present off the boys hand printed paper to use as wrapping paper. So cute and made with SO much love x

Saturday, August 21, 2010

The Rainbow Fish is a little book with a big message for children and adults. It teaches the joy of sharing.It is a story about the most beautiful fish in the sea. The Rainbow Fish thought he was too beautiful to play with the other fish. He had beautiful shiny scales on his body and he was very proud of them. The other fish asked him to share his scales so that they might be beautiful too. The Rainbow Fish said "no" and treated them with disdain, so the other fish swam away. He became lonely and sad. One day the Rainbow Fish felt so lonely and sad he asked the advice of the wise octopus. The wise octopus suggested if he shared his beautiful scales with the other fish he may discover the source of happiness. So he gave away most of his scales to the other fish, he was no longer the most beautiful fish in the sea but it didn't matter because he was happy.The Rainbow Fish learned the joy of sharing. Here is my favourite little rhyme that I teach when I read this book.
Two Little Friends
Two little friends are better than one,
And three are better than two,
And four are much better still,
Just think!What four little friends can do.

We all have friends who we love being with and as parents we want our children to have great and lasting friendships.Preschoolers make friends quickly and intensely. To your three-year-old, a "friend" is anyone who is willing to play with her the way she wants to play at the moment. It could be someone she sees every day in the neighborhood or at day care. But it could just as well be someone she meets just once while playing in the park or playground or children's museum. (Even if she never sees that child again, your three-year-old may continue to refer to the child as "my friend.") Your preschoolers friends are just as likely to be boys as girls, because most three-year-olds play with either sex equally well and seldom have a preference for one or the other. Friendships, no matter how fleeting, are important to preschoolers. Early childhood isolation—whether self-imposed, created by parental inattention, or caused by the rejection of other children—will not only be painful in the present, but may lead to emotional problems in the future as well. So encourage your child to form friendships. Because most three-year-olds make friends so easily, you may not need to do that much to help other than offering her the opportunity to meet other children.

Friends - Encourage imagination
Preschoolers have vivid imaginations. They pretend things are different from what they are. Cardboard boxes become castles, dolls become fairy princesses with magic wands. Doing it by themselves is great but a friend helps more. When two children get together, their imagination multiplies. Each child brings in new perspectives and thoughts that lets their creativity grow and flower. Even preschoolers who are just sitting next to each other and playing, can trigger each other's imagination.

Hold my hand
Sometimes children can be timid or reticent to do something that is new, like a new activity in the playground. But the presence of a friend, somehow makes these challenges appear much smaller. When one child does it, the other one learns that it is doable and their resistance disappears. While many parents look at this as risky, as one child may lead another to a risky venture, the positives far outweigh any perceived negatives. This group experience also teaches children the importance of a team and how team members can motivate each other.

Teach sharing and compromise
Children do not always share objects easily even when playing with friends. As parents, we tend to focus on the times when our children and their friends argue over a toy or a book, the negatives. But often, they do tend to share and they learn to take turns with the toy or book under argument. Also, while your child may not realize it, she is also learning to compromise. In a pretend play situation like a doctor and patient. Children will negotiate so that one child is a doctor, while the other has to be a patient who just lies down. A patient can be a boring role, but a required role. Or they may compromise in a different way with both being doctors and using a doll as a patient. Either way, they learn that each has their own desires and that unless they reconcile them, they will not be able to play together.

The power of the many
While preschoolers typically do not form cliques or act as bullies in a traditional sense, some maybe timid while others maybe more assertive. Having friends around helps the timid ones state their complaint loudly, if an assertive kid is taking their turn or grabs a book from them. Similarly, it helps the assertive kid, because his friends may tell him that he should not grab or snatch things from other children. Either way, friends step in and help a child reach socially desired behaviour.

As parents what we need to keep in mind is that it is important even for very young children to have friends, instead of playing by themselves or with you. Yes, they do need to play by themselves. Yes, they do need to play and bond with you. But they also need to play with friends as they get trained for a social world. So do make the effort as parents to help your child interact with friends.

What if my child has difficulty making friends?
If your young child has difficulty interacting with other kids, you can help, too, and it will be worthwhile. Playing with friends is an important way for children to learn social rules such as sharing and taking turns. It's also fun.The key is taking small and gentle steps that encourage positive social interaction without being too pushy. You want to give your child opportunities for rewarding social experiences that will leave him wanting more rather than feeling pressured to do something he finds difficult. Your child may be shy or cautious by nature, and this isn't necessarily a bad thing. Rather than try to change your child's personality, you can help him stretch just enough to discover the joys of relationships with peers.Here are some practical tips for helping your child form friendships:

  • Keep play dates small. Start by inviting only one or two prospective pals to your house, preferably kids your child already knows.
  • Plan ahead. Orient the play date around games and activities your child enjoys and is good at. This will make him more comfortable and keep him feeling good about himself.
  • Get involved. Don't just leave the kids to play by themselves and hope for the best. Your guidance can make children feel more at ease with each other, especially if they're new friends. Make yourself available in case they run into conflicts, get distracted and stop playing together, or need a change of activity.
  • Get a schedule, then get going. To develop familiarity, try to arrange regular play dates with the same kids on a weekly basis. If things are going well, meet in a park or playground or at another child's house.
  • Be a play date yourself. Have regular play times with your child, just the two of you. This allows you to stimulate interaction while getting to know his playing style.
  • Consider getting a pet. Some young children just aren't ready to play with peers. If your child clings to you and refuses to leave your side, consider adding a furry friend to the family. Playing with pets requires social interaction but is usually nonthreatening.
  • Have your own friends over. Since young children pay close attention to what grown-ups do and often imitate their behavior, model for your child by having your friends over, especially in ways that include the younger generation.
  • Try not to expect too much. Preschool-age children play mostly side by side, imitating each other rather than playing together directly

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Edible Art Activities

Here you'll find easy kids crafts using edible art supplies. Most of the ingredients are common household items and these kids food crafts are quick to make and fun! They also expose your child to language development, tactile stimulation and tactile discrimination. So don't ever think your little one is too young to start getting messy and getting arty!!

Play dough

Peanut Butter Play Dough
1 jar peanut butter
6 tsp honey
nonfat dry milk or milk plus flour to right consistency
Mix all together. You can decorate your creations with raisins, chocolate chips, coconut, etc.
Alternative to Peanut Butter Play Dough
1/2 cup peanut butter
2 Tbsp honey
1/2 cup flour
Mix all together. This is great for kids who want the peanut butter play dough but are allergic to milk found in other peanut butter play dough recipes.
Applesauce Cinnamon Dough
1/2 cup cinnamon
1/2 cup applesauce
1 plastic zip lock sandwich bag
Pour cinnamon and applesauce into zip lock bag. Seal bag and knead until mixture turns to dough. Allow your dough creations to air dry for 12 hours or until hard.
Suggestion: Use cookie cutters to make really great, very fragrant tree ornaments. Roll out dough between two sheets of wax paper. Don't roll out too thin (roll out dough to 1/4 to 1/2 inch in thickness).

Cream Cheese Play Dough
8 oz. package of cream cheese
1/2 cup non-fat dry milk
1 tablespoon honey crackers or bread slices
Combine cream cheese, milk and honey in a bowl and mix until well blended. Mold sculptures on was paper.
Storage: Unused portions MUST BE STORED in an airtight container and kept refrigerated! Because cream cheese is perishable, use the expiration date on the cream cheese package as your guide for how long you can keep this play dough.

Frosting Play Dough
1 can frosting (any flavor)
1-1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 cup creamy peanut butter
Mix together until dough reaches desired consistency
Storage: When not using, MUST be stored in an airtight container and refrigerated. Next time you want to use it, let it come to room temperature for pliable dough.


Sticky Paint
2 Tbsp light corn syrup
4-6 drops food coloring
Mix corn syrup and food coloring together in a small bowl until well blended. This can be used with either a paint brush or as finger paint.

Scratch and Sniff Paints
1 Tbsp unsweetened powdered drink
mix 1Tbsp warm water
Mix water and drink mix together. With this recipe you can paint pictures of fruit that will really smell like fruit. Allow finished paintings to dry overnight before scratching and sniffing.

Chocolate Pudding Paint
1 large package instant chocolate pudding
2 cups ice cold water
Whisk instant pudding and water together in a bowl for 2 minutes. Refrigerate for 5 minutes. This makes a thin paint. If you want a thicker finger-paint texture, I just mix up chocolate pudding as per the instructions on the box or buy the canned ready-made pudding from the grocery store.

Vanilla Pudding Paint
1 large package instant vanilla pudding
2 cups ice cold water
Whisk instant pudding and water together in a bowl for 2 minutes. Refrigerate for 5 minutes. Divide the pudding paint into several small containers or a muffin tin and add different food coloring to each one. This makes a thin paint. If you want a thicker finger paint texture, just mix up the pudding as per package instructions or buy the canned, ready-made pudding in the grocery stores.

Jelly Finger Painting
1 package jelly
2 Tbsp hot water
Mix together in a small bowl being careful not to over mix. Let cool 5-10 minutes before using. Paint on tin foil for a neat effect.

Yoghurt Finger Paint
Plain yoghurt
Food coloring
Mix together.

1 cup cornstarch
food coloring
In a medium saucepan, bring water to a boil. Dissolve cornstarch in a separate bowl with water. Remove boiling water from heat and add cornstarch mixture. Return to heat, stirring constantly. Boil until the mixture is clear and thick (about 1 minute). Remove from heat.
As the mixture is cooling, divide into separate bowls and add food coloring. Let the children carefully mix in the coloring.
Add 1 tbsp of glycerin to make the mixture shiny. You can find glycerin in most pharmacies.

Milk Paint
Dixie cups
Food Coloring
Paint Brushes
Use a tablespoon or two of milk and a couple of drops of food coloring to create "milk paints" in Dixie cups, as many different colors as you want. Allow child to use paints to decorate slices of bread (don't allow bread to become too soggy). When done, toast as usual. Let child eat their creation! Toppings are optional.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Ekka-cational Experience

For the past two weeks I have listened to people's opinions on the value of going to the Ekka? Is there any one friend asked me? Yesterday my husband and I took Master 2 and Master 4 to the Ekka (for those non-Quennslanders it is a show to promote and encourage the agricultural and industrial development of Queensland; as well as provide a unique opportunity for country and urban residents to come together in a celebration of Queensland lifestyle.) The Ekka (and previously Royal Melbourne Show when I was growing up) has held a special place in our family calender ever since I can remember. My mum, as a young girl, use to travel from the country with her parents and siblings to compete in the annual show jumping held in the famous arena. So as a young girl each year we enjoyed the hustle and bustle of the crowds, looking through all the exhibits, eating dag wood dogs and finally spending our saved-up pocket money on that precious show bag! I have so many fond memories of going to the show as a child that I have now embraced it as a yearly tradition with my own kids (and mum!). Many people I know are of the opinion that it is too expensive and a waste of money. This can certainly be the case if you are simply there to enjoy the rides, eat terrible take-away food and buy too many show bags. On the flip side the Ekka for us was a wonderful family day out where my boys got to participate in so many wonderful hands-on learning experiences. We always take our own food to the Ekka and make sure that we have plenty to see us through the day. The boys enjoyed a treat yesterday whilst we were watching the horse/cattle activities in the arena but other than that there was no need to spend money on food. I had taken the time to really plan the the day for the boys so that we would get the most out of the activities on offer before they became too tired. I don't normally post individual photos on my blog but in this case I was so impressed with the learning opportunities at the Ekka that I wanted to share them with you. Basically in a day at the Ekka you could:
• Watch a lamb being born!

• See a beef cattle ultrasound!

• Talk to a farmer!

• Take part in a scientific experiment!

• Measure a horse!

• Taste some honey straight from the hive!

• See giant pumpkins!

• Plant a seed, take it home, watch it grow!

• Judge your favourite chicken!

• Milk a cow!

• Discover how much energy it takes to power up your favourite games console.

Here are just some of the great learning opportunities the boys took part in at the Ekka this year...

We started off the morning joining Max and Milly for a fun packed all singing and dancing Barnyard Boogie. Master 2 is a big fan and was very excited to see his favourite animals on stage.

The strawberry sundae, originated at the Ekka in the early 1950s and quickly became synonymous with all things Ekka. This is as an Ekka icon, we couldn't get away with not treating the boys to one! The famous sundae with its crunchy cone with layers of fresh chopped Queensland strawberries, smooth vanilla and strawberry ice-cream and clouds of fluffy cream topped with a juicy strawberry was enough to keep Master 2 quiet for a few minutes!!!!

Master 2 is animal crazy so was delighted to spend time looking at and touching these life size animals on display for the children.

My favourite part of the Ekka, the chance to interact with the animals and feed them. Beats singing "Old Mac Donald had a farm" when you can meet all the animals, touch them and feed them.

Master 4 really enjoyed the experience of working along side many other children and making pictures using fresh fruit and vegetables!

The Queensland Institute of Medical Research stand was a favourite. It was an interactive laboratory area that allowed Master 4 to dress up like a scientist, and try his hand at lab work.

Master 4 looking at some white blood cells!

Master 2 using a magnifying glass to look at rocks and fossils before beginning the Dinosaur Dig.

Getting Funky with Fruit and Vegies!

This was my favourite exhibition. The clever farmers have made amazing displays using fresh fruit and veg. My favourite (well there were many) was the one above "Once Upon a Time."
The display included characters and settings from well known Fairy Tales and Nursery Rhymes that you had to find! Truly amazing.

And of course there was a display with trains in it!!!

An alphabet display using apples!

Master 2 in his element as the boys pretended to drive the Fire Truck and look at all the equipment on board.

Riding an old fashioned tractor from the Caboolture Heritage Display.

Master 2 had been saying all week that he wanted to ride a pink horse! I was glad to be able to show him the difference between the Merry-go-round horse he rides after the shopping each Friday and a real horse!
Although we didn't get to see and do everything on offer at the Ekka we certainly had a great day and I had two very tired and quiet boys on the trip home to the Sunshine Coast! zzzz zzz zzzz!!!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Sand and Water Table Play

Sand/Water Table
Even children who don't ordinarily dig in the sand at the beach will find it fun to measure, sift, and pour the sand from one container to another. When it's filled with water, the basin becomes a doll bathtub or a sink for toy china.
What's Learned through sand an water table play?
A child has a practical math lesson in fractions when she pours a cup full of sand into a two-cup container. It explains the concept faster and more clearly than a detailed discussion or drawing. Her fine-motor skills are also being developed as she washes a tea set or maneuvers a cup full of sand into a sifter. Her eye-hand coordination is helped. Sand and water play can be important for a child’s development. They learn science from pouring and measuring and seeing the consistency of how the water changes. Plus you get so much cooperative play. Sand and water is completely a hands-on experience that is open-ended. You’re only limited by the things you don’t put out. The kids can put toys to fish in, or they can make mountains and islands. They can put rocks in the water and work with density and weight.

As anyone who has sat on a beach knows, sand and water play is soothing. It encourages children to explore and learn about cause and effect. (For example, what happens if I put a sponge in the water? What happens if I then squeeze the sponge?).

There is no right or wrong way to play with sand and water (except to throw it out of the basin), so each child experiences success. If you don't have a table at home think outside the box... use your baby bath, sandpit cover (clam shell lids), small blow up ball from the cheap shop etc Also vary what you put in to your table, don't just think it has to be sand and water. Turn your table into a discovery table by using:
Instead of sand, try one of the following:
Shredded paper
Rice, white or
dyed with food coloring
Easter grass
Cotton balls, plain or scented with flavoring extracts like peppermint
Potting soil with no chemical additives
Hay or straw
Small pine cones
Different kinds of pasta

Instead of water, try one of these:
Snow or ice, while children wear mittens or gloves
Water mixed with mild dish washing liquid to make bubbles
Flavored gelatin

Winnie The Witch

I love this story as a parent and educator. I often used this when I was a literacy consultant to highlight the need for teacher's to focus on curriculum differentiation for children who don't fit the mould (ie. the square peg in the round hole of an inflexible educational system). The message was to change the environment as opposed to the child and I thought that this story illustrated that point most poignantly. Brilliantly wacky illustrations and a very funny story lines make this award-winning book a real pleasure to read aloud night after night in our house! Even better that an author has created a witch that is not wicked and actually has a personality & spirit within her! Students, parents, teachers, and all of us can learn a lesson from this story. It teaches a powerful lesson about good character and respecting those around us. This is also a wonderful text to use when looking at colours with the little ones. With the focus being on Winnie changing her cat and then her house into different colours it is a great opportunity to do some magic wax crayon resist painting. Master 2 is very keen to copy his big brother so is all about learning his letters of the alphabet at the moment! I gave him his name on a piece of paper which I had coloured in with white pastel and drew some stars around his name. Master 2 then used coloured dye paint (pretending it was his magic wand) and painted over his name to see what appeared! He also had great fun painting a witches hat I had picked up from Lincraft the other week. I also took the opportunity to do some colour recognition with him and sorting of coloured stars, all of which was done whilst we had a great time talking about the story. This is just the beginning of Winnie's adventures and we will certainly be on the look out for many of her other titles!

Be sure to check out the official Winnie the Witch site:

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Look Who’s Talking – Encouraging Your Toddler’s Inner Chatterbox!

We eagerly await the first words, then the sentences that let us enter the magical world of our toddler in a new and exciting way. The exciting journey from babbling to banter is closely linked to emotion and the development of relationships, which means that your input – loving, joyful interaction and responsiveness to your child’s efforts to talk (stop, get on your child’s level and make eye contact as you listen) – are hugely important to help him become an articulate little speaker.Your baby has been developing his conversation skills from birth, or even earlier if we count all the listening in to your conversations that he was doing while he was still on the inside, but now that he is a toddler his speech skills will come together at breakneck speed: From somewhere around your child’s first birthday, he will learn approximately two words a week – that is, an exciting 50 words or so by the time he is eighteen months old. If your child is being reared in a bilingual environment the number of words may be split between both languages and at first, your little one’s wonderful version of words may be understandable only to you or close family members.

  • Between 18 and 24 months, language skills will really start to take off: experts call this the ‘naming explosion’ because your toddler could learn around ten or more new words each day as he begins to label things in his environment – cup, car, ball, bath… And, if he is really a little chatterbox, he could learn a new word every ninety minutes!
  • At around two years (remember, all children develop at their own individual pace), your toddler will begin stringing words together. However, his sense of grammar will take a while longer to evolve: he will say things like “me go,” and he may use the same name for anything that falls into the same general category: all animals with four legs might be ‘dog’ and (oh dear!) any man could be a ‘daddy’. Grammar skills are related to maturity of an area of the brain that is dedicated to processing language and storing all the rules needed for stringing words together into meaningful sentences. This means that when your little chatterbox is developmentally ready, along with lots of exposure to language, he will soon be telling you about his world, describing his feelings and embarrassing you out loud and proud as he ‘parrots’ everything he hears – so watch your own language!

To encourage your little chatterbox:

Name everything
‘ Door knob!’, ‘chair’ , ‘dog’, ‘light’. Later add adjectives to describe his favorite toys, people and objects: ‘red jumper’, ‘cold milk’, ‘big truck.’

Encourage social language
You are your child’s most powerful model as you help her develop social skills such as greeting people politely, taking turns in conversation, making eye contact while talking and encouraging manners such as ‘please’, ‘thank-you’ and ‘excuse me’.

Your child’s attempts to use language will be reinforced when you pay attention, so remove background distractions such as the television and computer and give your child your full attention. Get down to your little one’s level and make eye contact as you talk to him, then pause and listen as he takes a turn at responding.

Be a role-model
Talk to your child in clear, simple, relevant language, avoiding baby talk. Model language by using ‘parallel talk.’ This means talking about everything your child is doing while she is doing it. For example, while your child is scooting along on her ride on, you could say, “You are riding your train. Wow! You are pushing with your feet. I like the way you are riding your train.” When you’re walking down the street, babble on about trees, cars, people, puddles – whatever your child sees, hears or smells. You can also model language by using ‘self-talk’ – talking about what YOU are doing as you work at home (I am getting the milk out of the fridge and now I will make a cup of tea) or as you drive along in the car (we are going round the corner at the traffic lights and we will buy some apples at the shop. Look at the big digger pushing the dirt into a hill!).

Encourage, don’t criticize
If somebody corrects you when you are doing your best, it does not inspire you to do better, does it? In fact, it might put you off trying for a while. So please don’t correct your child when she makes an attempt to talk but gets it a little wrong. Instead of telling her “it is ‘dog’, not ‘gog’,” simply model the correct word without a fuss, “yes, a big black dog.” Extend your child’s vocabulary. Your toddler’s level of understanding will be ahead of his ability to express himself. As he attempts to talk, model advanced grammar, add information and extend your tot’s vocabulary by repeating his words clearly and adding to them. For instance, if he says, “drink,” (or “dink,” as he points animatedly at the fridge), you can say, “you want a drink? Mummy will get you a drink.”

Extend language through experience
Your toddler will learn more from seeing animals at the zoo or a farm, than being shown flashcards of animals. You can then enjoy a shared experience and expand his language skills by reading books about the animals he has seen, or take photos and make your own picture book. As you read about animals, create discussion, “that’s a big pink pig. He likes to roll in mud. What noise does the pig make?” Letting him help with household chores will create opportunities to talk too. For instance, cooking together is great hands-on experience that will extend your tot’s vocabulary as you name ingredients, pour, chop and stir.

Exaggerate speech sounds
Some children acquire speech sounds much earlier or later than others, depending on coordination of the child’s lips tongue and palate. As your child matures, he will gradually correct his speech sound patterns. To encourage correct speech sounds, exaggerate sounds in words and play games with silly sounds –if silliness does not come easily, read Dr Seuss books for inspiration: “He can go like a train CHOO, CHOO, CHOO, CHOO. He can go like a clock. He can TICK. He can TOCK.”

Be animated!
Come on, shed those inhibitions by using gestures as you stress prepositions to help your tot understand ‘behind’ ‘on top’ and ‘under’!

Sing along
Whatever your singing ability, ban performance anxiety and sing out loud with your child. Singing helps break words into syllables and slows down the sounds of speech. Consider too, the repetition as little ones hear the words to familiar songs over and over. And, let’s face it, if you are going to repeat yourself endlessly (as you do!), it is far more fun to sing than to nag (‘this is the way we pick up the toys..’).

Read aloud every day, several times a day. Short books with rhyme and repetition will encourage your child to join in and ‘read’ with you. You can play games by waiting for him to finish the line of a favourite rhyming book. As you enjoy reading together, your poppet will be naturally, joyously extending his vocabulary and his feeling for word patterns that make up speech and grammar.

Encourage social language
You are your child’s most powerful model as you help her develop social skills such as greeting people politely, taking turns in conversation, making eye contact while talking and encouraging manners such as ‘please’, ‘thank-you’ and ‘excuse me’.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Creative teaching for your A, B, C ...

Teaching a child the alphabet is the first step to teaching a child how to read. The child must be able to identify letters and their sounds in order to string those sounds together to make words. Teaching the alphabet can be a lot of fun if you get creative. By incorporating sight, sound, touch, smell and taste to each lesson, you engage the child's senses and make learning the alphabet much more fun. Not every child learns as quickly and easily as others. However, every kid loves some form of a game, song or activity. This helps the child to interact with you while he has fun and learns his alphabet, too. Below I have listed as many activities as I can remember using over the years!
  • Edible alphabets - Make alphabets soup from alphabet pasta and before the kids consume it, use this to teach them the abc. Alternatively, you can use alphabet biscuits .Your kid will enjoy learning abc and eating them as well !
  • Alphabets decor - Use alphabets as decor around the house especially at your child's play area or bedroom. Not only are they decorative but they also becomes a great tool in teaching abc for kid. Hand-painted or stencilled lettering can be applied to all kinds of things. You can start by putting your child's name on the door followed by labelling drawers with their contents etc.
  • Put Alphabet magnetic letters on your fridge for your child to play with.
  • Have foam Alphabet letters in the bath to play with.
  • Alphabet Stamps - use alphabet stamps and an ink pad to look at letters
  • Make an Alphabet Book - Make your own alphabet book with your kids. You can purchase a blank paper book or you can make one with construction paper and a three-hole punch. Help your child make a page with each letter. You can have him write the letter or find the letter in an old magazine and cut it out. Cut out pictures from an old coloring book or magazine that has words that start with the letter on the page.
  • Play the ABC game whenever you drive somewhere - This is an easy and fun way to teach your child the alphabet. Whenever you drive anywhere play the ABC game. Have your child find the letter A on billboards, or license plates, or signs. Start with the letter A and then look for letter b, c, etc. Once you finish the alphabet you can play again.
  • Sing the Alphabet Song - Children love to sing and what better song to sing than the Alphabet Song. Start your day off with a song or two and be sure to include the ABC song.
  • Play the Alphabet Memory Game - You can purchase flashcards of the alphabet or make your own with card stock paper or construction paper. Have your child match the capital letter A to the lowercase letter a. Or you can start with letters that are all lowercase or all capital. Each time your child matches the letters have him tell you what letter it is.
  • Make an Alphabet Photo collage - Take a trip outside, to the park, zoo, or wherever. Spend your time looking for pictures of words that start with the letter A or B, or whichever letter you choose. When you get the photos developed let your child cut them out and glue them onto a collage. Have your child write or trace the letter for your photo collage onto construction paper and glue the photos around. Children love taking pictures and this is a lot of fun.
  • Another Alphabet Game - We have probably all played this game before. Its fun for kids and can be fun for adults too. If your child is young you can just play a simple game. Start with the letter A. “A is for apple”, “B is for banana”, “C is for cat”, and continue on with all the letters. If your child is older you can play the game with a theme. For example, play lets do the alphabet game with fruit or animals. This way they are learning to sort animals or fruits and also practicing their alphabet.
  • Play Alphabet Bingo- Make your own Bingo cards with construction paper. Write the letters of the alphabet on it. You can make this simple by making your Bingo cards more like a Tic-Tac-Toe game or you can make them like a traditional Bingo card. Call out the letters and have your child mark them or put a Bingo chip on the letter. When your child wins they can yell out Bingo! Purchase little prizes from the dollar store to make this even more fun.
  • Make an Alphabet finger painting- Use poster board or construction paper and make a finger painting with different letters. Have your child paint the capital letter and lowercase letter. Let him decorate it with whatever colors he likes.
  • Play the Alphabet Hide Away Game- Fill a bag with different objects that start with different letter sounds. For example, you could fill it with a car, a book, a pencil, etc. Show your child all the items in the bag. Then put all the items back in the bag. Have them find the items by touching them only. Say can you find something that starts with the letter B? Say what sound does the b make? Then see if they can find the book in your bag just by touching. This game is not only good for learning letters and sounds but also helps them with using their senses and tactile skills.
  • Write Letters in Whipped Cream- Just grab some wax paper (or even a dark coloured plate will do), and some whipped cream in a can (Reddi-Whip is great), and start writing away! If the child is a little older, encourage him to try to make letters as well with the whipped cream. Perhaps add some strawberries to help eat the cream up. This would be fun as a dessert!
  • Cut Letters Out with Play-Doh- Another idea for cookie cutters is to use them to mold play-doh into alphabet shapes. Yes, you can use the same cookie cutters, that's what dish soap is for! Store bought play-doh works great.
  • Read Books Often that Promote the Alphabet- Reading is the basic key to learning. It will promote cognitive growth and can help children master the alphabet. Just visit your local library and check out some books. Some books to consider are Dr. Suess's ABC: An Amazing Alphabet Book, Chicka Chicka ABC, The A to Z Book, and Ocean Alphabet Book.
  • Write a Letter on Child's hand - Choose a letter that the child needs to learn and write it on their hand with a magic marker in the morning. Throughout the day ask the child what the letter is and talk about it. Children may enjoy showing off their temporary body art to their friends!
  • Create artwork with Alphabet Stickers, Stamps and Sponges- Most youngsters love playing with stickers and stamping stamps. You can purchase alphabet stickers/stamps at spotlight, lincrfta or a craft store. So, just grab some construction paper and let their creativity run loose! Be sure to ask the child what the letter is, encourage him/her to repeat, etc
  • Make an Alphabet Beads Necklace or Bracelet- This is more for older children as well. Younger children can help, but might not have the dexterity to do it completely. Go to a craft store and purchase alphabet beads and string, along with some other beads for decoration. Help the child string the letters onto the bracelet or necklace, and - voila! - you've got an excellent teaching tool that can also be a piece of jewelry. For younger children, you might just let them watch you make it, and then they can enjoy wearing it.
  • Play Educational Computer Games- There is a variety of computer software available that will teach your child the ABC's.
  • Encourage Him/Her to Play With Alphabet Blocks- Baby's as young as a few months old will enjoy this activity.
  • Point out the Letters On Signs Often- Whether you're driving, on a walk, or even in the store, point out the letters on signs often. For example, if you see a stop sign, ask what is the first letter of the word. If you're walking, point out letters on real estate signs. The increased exposure to letters will help your child know the ABC's sooner.
  • Do a Letter Hunt - Pick a letter as the theme letter for your letter hunt. Then go around the house, or the shopping mall, or wherever you are, and find the letter you are looking for in at least 10 places: signs, books, products, toys, etc. If you are at home doing this you can actually pick up the items and collect the 10 things in a pile. Kids will enjoy collecting the items and then going around helping you put the items away.
  • Tracing the Letters of the Alphabet - After your child can read and print their own name, then he/she can start tracing the rest of the alphabet. This will reinforce the oral learning of the alphabet with early printing skills. Either create tracing pages of letters, or print out some pre-made letter tracing pages. Repetitive tracing of each letter will solidify their learning of the letter shapes.
  • Make lacing cards for your child to thread around the letter shapes.
  • Provide letter shapes for the sand pit.
  • Play musical alphabet - when the music stops your child stands on a letter, has to say the letter name and sound before the music starts again. Keep going until all letters are gone.
  • Use Wikki Stix to trace the letter shapes.
OK, this should keep you going for a while. Remember to keep it fun and make it part of your day!

Ahoy! Ma Hearties.

Ahoy - me hearties! Cap'n Romeo and his trusty crew (Talon and Dogger) are sailing into port. Calling all land lubbers to enjoy some swash-buckling fun aboard their pirate ship! What fun we have had this week dressing up as pirates and role-playing in the boys pirate ship. (from cotton on kids) Our week of pirate play came about after a visit to the library where Master 2 yells at the top of his voice "Ahoy Me Hearties Book Mama!" Shiver me timbers! This be as fine a book as I've seen in many a year. Master 4 and Master 2 love this book almost as much as I do. The story is witty, arch enough for a grown-up, but simple enough for children from 3-30 to love. And the gorgeous illustrations - taking Pirate Pete and his harried parrot from Candy Island to Dragon Island, to the treasure bearing Mermaid Island are an utter delight. This is a rarity in children's books - a tale that is as fun for adults as it is for kids, and one which stands the test of multiple (often nightly) readings. Arrr! Bring this book alive and your little one will have so much fun letting his imagination run wild!

Outdoor Fun:

Set up a hammock if possible.
  • make an awning from some calico or an old sheet. Tie each corner to four sturdy poles and make guy ropes to keep the poles vertical. (Use tent poles and guys if you already have them.) Put down some blankets and cushions and have a swask-buckling pirate story-telling session!

Craft Fun:

  • Master 2 had great fun painting a treasure box with six different glitter paints. When the box was dry I gave him a sheet of pirate stickers which he sat and peeled off to decorate with.

Afternoon tea:

Fruit & Veggie Pirates
Makes 2

2 rice cakes
1 tbs spreadable cream cheese
2 slices cucumber
2 Uncle Toby's Cheerios
4 currants
1 fresh date remove
4 fresh chives
1/2 tsp poppy seeds
2 slices red capsicum 4 large slices red apple
4 smaller slices red apple

If you have a real pirate lover in your house be sure to check out this link which has lots of ideas and suggestions of the best pirate toys for boys. The pirate toys featured range from being suitable for boys from as young as 3 and 4 years old up until 8 or 9 years old.

Monday, August 2, 2010

The Tiny Seed

I love the colourful collage illustrations used in Eric Carle's books! This story tells the fascinating story of the life cycle of a flower in terms of the adventures of a tiny seed. Master 4 loved listening to the journey whilst Master 2 took great delight in finding the seed on each page as it went through its journey. After reading our story we decided to paint some flowers and put seeds in the middle. I had a whole lot of seeds in the cupboard that we got out and looked at and even tasted!!
I had been promising the boys all weekend that they could paint the spare pots I had in my cupboard, so today was the day!Painting clay pots is the perfect activity for a sunny afternoon, suitable for any age group and skill level, as seen with Master 2 and Master 4 busy at work, allowing creativity and imagination to run wild. Painted flower pots brighten up balconies and windowsill and make the perfect personalised gift.The boys decided today that they would paint these pots for their nanny who has been away for a few days. I find Terra-cotta clay pots or ceramic pots are the best types of flower pots for painting. Terra-cotta will actually absorb a little of the paint, so give your little one lots of paint.
Alternative ideas for painting clay pots
  • Stick scraps of material on top of your painted flower pot for a textured appearance.
  • Instead of painting clay pots, cover them in coloured tissue paper, glue down well, then spray with varnish.
  • Tie a bright ribbon round the top of your painted clay pot and fix in place with a little glue if giving it as a gift.
  • Cut out pictures from magazines and glue them onto your painted flower pot for a collage effect.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Bath Time Is Learning Time

Making bath time fun? Not an easy task? Does every task associated with bathing and hair washing seem truly torture for your kids; getting their hair wet, getting water or soap in their eyes, refusing to hold washcloths over their face when you're trying to rinse... Bath time can be fun or it can be a real hassle if your child does not like it. So, we as mums, try to make it a fun time for our little ones! Then the problem will be getting them out!!! Admittedly I struggle with all of the above night in and night out with both my boys, and am the first to give a"silent yippee" in the air when their dad makes it home to do bath time(which is not too often!) Bathing one is fine, as I'm sure you agree, bathing two or more can end up feeling like an octopus wrestling Siberian tigers!!

So to overcome this battle, bath time in our house has predominately become learning time.... all of which is fun and interactive and involves all the tedious tasks that need to be done. We even manage to cut our nails in the bath as we are tigers getting ready to go hunting!! Below I have put together some ideas that I use with the boys when it is bath time. I have found it a wonderful opportunity to teach colours, numbers, shapes, science concepts (floating & sinking - not the kids!!), maths concepts (full and empty) etc

  • Sing Songs Together
    Kids love to sing and to be sung to. Bath time songs like "Rubber Ducky" and "Splish Splash I Was Taking A Bath" are great bath time songs. When my children were very young we played "This Little Piggy" as I washed each toe.

  • Measure It
    Measuring cups are fun for pouring and filling in the tub and if you have an old set they are a great free fun set of toys for the tub. They can stack and pour to their hearts content and maybe even learn to wet their hair for washing. Control gives many children the power to overcome fears such as getting their hair wet for washing.
    Learning time can be created through the use of measures. Take the one cup measuring cup and ask the child how many of each cup it will take to fill your big cup.

  • Color It
    Bubble bath can be irritating to little ones causing urinary tract infections, yeast infections, as well as skin irritation. A few drops of food coloring is a wonderful solution adding interest and fun to your child’s bath. You can also turn each bath into a learning experience; drop one color in, such as red, then ask your child what they think will happen if you add a drop of yellow.

  • Counting down from 10 or 20 during rinsing

  • Soap bubbles - mix liquid soap, food coloring, and soap flakes together in a bowl. Let the children paint with the soap bubbles on the tiles around the tub or on the insides of the tub. This mixture can be used like finger paint and will wash off easily.

  • Food coloring in the water - two or three drops will turn the water different colors and will not harm the children. Mix colors together to make new colors.

  • Pails and paintbrushes - "paint" the tub, tiled walls, faucets, and tub toys with water.

  • Floating and sinking - gather items of different sizes and weights and place them in the tub one at a time while playing the game "Sink?" or "Float?"

  • Fishing pole - make out of paper towel cardboard or other safe material, and "go fishing" in the tub for toys.

  • Ice cubes - put one or two in the tub to play with and to watch as they melt. Talk about water and how it can be frozen to make ice and how ice can be melted to make water.

  • Boats - make out of empty milk cartons or plastic bottles.

  • Buy some bath time letters A-Z and numbers 1-10 that are scrambled around all sides of the bath. After asking about Master 4's day and what he did, we move onto a little bit of revision I guess you could say. But simple things, simple words, like cat, dog, etc that he can use the letters to make the word.

  • Alternate bath toys as much as possible so that the kids always find something which is fun to play with.

  • Sculpture from shaving foam is also bath time fun activity and you can squeeze some large splotches of shaving foam on the hand of the child or the bath and let the child imagine after that.

  • You can take the opportunity at the bath time for kids to introduce them to different types of music as well as to story on CD’s or tapes.

  • Read bath books to your child - great for when your little one is very tired and may not stay awake for a story that night.

  • You can give the kids a special treat at the bath time for kids, by having bubble blowing mixture in the bathroom, but be careful that it does not get into the eyes of the child or anyone else.

  • Buy bath crayons to draw with, learn to write your name.

Remember that not too soon your child's bath time will not be there as your kids will grow up and will take their own shower and will not like your interference. The things you do to add magic and fun to the kids bath time during these times will be repaid many times over in making fun memories for your kid and you for the future.

Co-operative Play

"Please cooperate!" It's a plea we as parents make almost every day. It seems that we're constantly asking our children to share and cooperate with their friends, siblings, and us, their parents. And while they may not seem like they want to cooperate, the desire to do so is an important aspect of human nature. Cooperation is a key part of relating to others and forging meaningful relationships. Through team building and collaboration, a child learns to respect others and to control his own immediate needs and impulses. Learning to cooperate is essential, but doesn't mean that it's easy. The on-going struggle to get your child to share a toy or put his coat on is part of his experimentation with what is and isn't acceptable and his search for a balance between being a part of the group while still maintaining his sense of identity.
Young children will often play by themselves but next to another child, (Parallel play is a form of play where children play adjacent to each other, but do not try to influence one an other's behavior. Parallel play usually involves two or more children in the same room. The children are interested in the same toys and both see the toy as belonging to them. The children do not play together, but alongside each other simply because they are in the same room. Parallel play is, usually, first observed in children of ages 2 or 3.) The amount of cooperative play increases as the children grow older. Some of this play may be child initiated, and some may be adult/teacher directed.

Working together, whether it's on a block building or planning a tea party, helps children to learn to respect the ideas of others. They develop their social skills, and social competence is an underlying goal of early childhood education. Children in cooperative play learn to contribute to joint efforts. They also learn how to problem solve by working together to find a solution.
Below are some ideas for games are perfect for involving friends and siblings.
Side-by-Side Science

• Create a garden. Block out part of your yard for an area where children can plant flowers and vegetables. Let your kids and their friends work together to make a drawing of the garden they'd like to create. As they plan and then work on their garden, point out how they're all contributing. Encourage them to take on different jobs, such as planting, monitoring, and watering. This project requires all of the little planters to share ideas and tasks: The bounty the garden bears will truly be the product of every one's labor.

Outdoor Activities (exercise their ability to cooperate as they build gross-motor skills.)

  • Construction site. As children play in the yard or sandbox with trucks, pails, and shovels, they can deliver the sand or dirt, pretending they are preparing a construction site. Each child can be a different kind of worker (such as steam shovel operator, trench digger, or truck driver). Encourage the little builders to take turns using different vehicles as they work on the project and collaborate on building something.

Artful Collaborations

Creating works of art is a wonderful way to promote cooperation while helping children develop their creative-thinking and fine-motor skills.

  • Table paint. Tape a large sheet of paper over a low table and let two or more children finger paint all over the paper. They'll love squishing their fingers and hands through the paint — and they'll each help to create a unique painting.
  • Build something. Using play dough or clay, children can collaborate on making a zoo, a pet shop, a bakery, a house, or a toyshop. Encourage them to help each other create the animals and objects that they want in their setting. Ask the kids to describe how they each contributed to the project.

Toys to Share

Not all toys lend themselves to cooperative play — some are simply best for alone time. When your child is having friends over or playing with a sibling, it's best to provide toys and games that work well with small groups. Try putting out these playthings, all of which are easy to share:

• Musical instruments: From maracas to tambourines, using instruments together allows children to make music they couldn't create on their own. When kids form a band, they hear the power of collaborating.

Puppets, dolls, and stuffed animals: Playmates can bring inanimate pals to life and act out tales and adventures with more than one character.

• Children's books: Kids love sharing cherished stories. Encourage them to each take on a different character's voice and make the sounds described in the story as they read or retell the tale together.

• Puzzles: Putting all the pieces in place is easier — and more enjoyable — when little problem solvers put their heads together.

• Figures, cars, and blocks: By building with blocks, adding figures, cars, road signs, and the like, children learn from one an other's ideas and see how the power of group play can add fun.

• Dress-up clothes: Old hats, bags, shoes, and shirts are perfect props for letting children share imaginative ideas and transform themselves into an infinite roster of roles.

Encourage taking turns
Create play situations that require two children to keep a game going so that they can enjoy the activity together. For example, they may enjoy climbing up the slide in your backyard and taking turns sliding down, then rushing back to climb up and slide down again! Or make a counting game when they are on the swings. First one gets a push, then the other gets a push, then one gets two pushes, and so on.