Originally published as a part of the first annual Alphabet Glue Summer Science Special, this project has gotten great feedback from families looking for some simple and science-centric summer fun. Alka-Seltzer rockets might very well be the classic science experiment. Incredibly easy to put together and launch, these diminutive rockets are good entertainment with tons of potential for the type of trial and error experimentation that makes an excellent first foray into the field of physics.
This link will take you to a downloadable PDF file with experiment instructions, printable templates for rocket decorations, and a leveled book list filled with great titles for reading up on all things rockets.
A quick note about materials: In the era of digital everything, film canisters like the type used here are increasingly difficult to find. For this reason, science supply and teacher supply shops will often sell canisters just for this type of experiment. We got ours from Steve Spangler Science (www.stevespangler.com).
Using the work of a specific artist as inspiration can be a fun activity with budding young creatives. Paper cutting is a true art form, and we suggest keeping a large box full of colorful paper scraps on hand for those spur of the moment creations.
Two wonderful books to pair with this activity, which focus on the later works of Henri Matisse known as his “cut outs,” are (Henri Matisse: Drawing with Scissors, by Jane O’Conner, and Adventures in Art: Cut-Out Fun with Matisse). Spend some time browsing these books and learning how Henri spent the last years of his career “painting with scissors” instead of a brush, creating bright and colorful scenes constructed out of colorfully painted paper. These books offer a wonderful source of inspiration and will spark children to put their scissors to work! If you can’t get a hold of a book about Matisse, you can also do an image search of “Matisse cut-outs” and read more about his career and technique here.
First, spread out your paper and open the books or offer reference images from the web. Even toddlers, who aren’t very skilled with scissors yet, can join in on the fun by helping you find the right shapes to recreate, and then you can do the cutting for them. This can be a fun open-ended activity as you imagine all the different things the shapes could be!
Next, spread all of your shapes out on your paper or workspace and have fun arranging them! A lot of times, the pieces will unintentionally fit and move together in a certain way. This is a great way for kids to evaluate how colors interact with each other and also to examine the use of white space and the form of the shape-all without realizing they are doing it! Play around and try different arrangements until you’re satisfied.
Now it’s time to glue your shapes down. This part is especially fun for toddlers and young children who enjoy gluing! Our design ended up changing and evolving as we secured the shapes down.
The impact of simple shapes and beautiful colors is amazing! Happy cutting…
There is something magical about finding a just right activity – one that perfectly matches a child’s intrinsic desire to master developmental milestones.
Whether or not an activity is a good developmental fit for a child is evident in the amount of time they spend on it. Oftentimes, a child will want to repeat the activity over and over again until it is fully mastered. Scissor practice activities for preschoolers provide a glimpse into what this magic can look like. For many preschoolers, practicing with scissors is the perfect activity at the perfect time in their development, as they have an internal drive to master the skill.
The good news about scissor-cutting activities is that they are easy to prepare and children often spend a long period of time focused on developing and perfecting their newfound skill.
Simply cut colorful strips of paper and draw lines for cutting. It is also nice to include a small bucket, basket, or bowl for the cuttings. You will be amazed at how careful your preschooler will be about putting their cuttings all in one place. They take great pride in seeing their accomplishment!
My First Scissors (Stage I)
Fiskars Blunt Tip (Stage II)
Fiskars Pointed Tip (Stage III)
More Scissor Practice Inspiration…
Paper Cutting Box by Fun with Mama
10 Awesome Activities to Strengthen Preschool Scissor Skills at Teaching 2 and 3-Year-Olds
The holidays present a wonderful opportunity to discuss the concept of family. As your child spends extra time with relatives, many of whom don’t live in your home, she might have questions about how the people in her life are connected. And let’s face it – genealogy is a complex and abstract concept for adults, so it can be quite confusing trying to explain to your child how she is “related” to someone else.
Start out by discussing the people who live in your home (parents, caregivers, siblings, and yes they’ll want to include their pet hamster). Then ask your child who else they think of when they think of family. This might include grandparents, aunts and uncles, or cousins. It even might include close friends who can absolutely feel like a part of your family!
Encourage questions, and then create a diagram to help her understand how everyone is connected!
As our gift to you and your family, we have included a link to our Family Tree experience below. We hope you find time this holiday season to have these invaluable conversations with the ones you love and bring your family history to the forefront of your special celebrations.
Cut apart the portrait circles – we’ve included two sets from which to choose.
Use a favorite art material to draw each family member inside a portrait circle.
Write in the names of each person – take dictation for pre-writers and let early writers write independently or copy from a list of names that you’ve provided.
Glue each portrait onto the tree. With older children, you might want to discuss the way a traditional family tree is organized, with older generations toward the top and younger generations toward the bottom. However, we suggest allowing your child to organize her tree in whatever fashion makes sense to her!
Finally, write your family name on the label at the bottom of the tree and display your tree proudly!
If you are an online member you’ll find the Family Tree experience here, and for our Do-It-Together Kit subscribers, you have everything you need in your D-I-T Kit: All About Trees.
One year in a tree’s life brings about many spectacular changes, and children love watching these changes in real-time. You can teach your child a lot about scientific cycles and how living things change over time by observing the trees in your neighborhood at different points in the year.
Befriend a Tree
Start your exploration by choosing a favorite tree. It might be one in your backyard, a special one you pass every day on your walk to school, or one you like to climb in your neighborhood park. While we recommend choosing a deciduous tree, since these are the types of trees that change with the seasons, if your child falls in love with an evergreen, there are still a lot of wonderful lessons to be learned (including why coniferous trees don’t change colors or lose their leaves).
It’s also important for children to understand that each species has a different life cycle. So, depending on the type of tree you choose, and what part of the world you call home, your tree might look a whole lot different from someone else’s. Connect With Your Tree
Connect with Your Tree
Now spend some time getting to know your tree during different times of the year. Use your senses to learn what makes your tree unique. Think about what your tree looks like, sounds like, smells like, and feels like during each of the seasons.
Here are a few more suggestions to help you connect with your tree:
In the fall, use a magnifying glass to look closely at the parts of your tree.
In the winter, hug your tree to feel the texture of its bark.
In the spring, take a walk around your tree and notice the plants and animals that live there.
In the summer, sit against the trunk of your tree and appreciate its shade or lay down underneath your tree and look up.
Explore Your Tree Up Close
Learning how to pause and look closely is an essential skill for any naturalist. Teach children the careful art of observation by taking them on a scavenger hunt to learn more about the parts of their tree.
Print out the scavenger hunt below, attach it to a clipboard, and offer your child a writing tool. If you have our Do-It-Together Kit: All About Trees, you’ll want to pack up your tote bag with the magnifying glass and identification guides, because you never know when those will come in handy on your hunt! Plus, you already have a scavenger hunt for each of the four seasons … yay!
During your outdoor adventure, remember to pause and look closely. Notice the seasonal changes happening around you and take in the beauty of the season.
All of our experiences are meant to encourage playful learning, playful parenting, and connection. So breathe, observe, be present, and enjoy!
Resources and Inspiration (members only):
Free: Fall Tree Scavenger Hunt
Do-It-Together Experience: Seasonal Tree Scavenger Hunts
“We are always getting ready to live but never living.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson
On a cloudy afternoon recently, I had an experience that ended up having a huge impact on my attitude as I approach the upcoming holiday season. My young daughter was playing nearby, as she often does, and for some reason, I decided to get down on the floor and play. I mean really play with her and do nothing else. I put the phone away, no TV on to keep us company, just her and I. After an hour or so, she looked at me and said, “Mama? I’m really having fun with you. But, why are you playing with me for so long? I really like it.”
Ouch! If you asked me how often I play with my children, I would say “everyday.” But in this technology driven age, with an abundance of distractions, literally at my fingertips, the honest truth it that I don’t really play with them (sans distractions) as much as I would like to. I have been guilty of saying “no,” when I should have said, “yes” (and I can still picture the disappointed faces). To multitasking when I should have focused. To missing out on special moments, because I simply didn’t see them.
The holiday season seems like the hardest time to start to be more present with the ones we love, with its overflowing to-do lists, and overbooked calendar, but I can almost guarantee that children will be far more impressed with our presence this year than the presents under the tree. With breaks from school and forced time indoors, this season can be the perfect opportunity to form a few habits that will hopefully result in more fulfilling relationships and shared moments in our homes as we start a new year.
Make a plan for how you will spend meaningful time with your family this winter…
Limit phone and device time. Turn off your phone or put it in the other room for a planned portion of each day. Ask older kids and teens to also put away their devices during this time.
Fill a jar with ideas of shared activities that are easy to do. Encourage children to add their own to the jar. Pull out an idea at least once a day and do it! Some ideas are: look at family photos, read together, play a board game, build a fort, play outside, dance to music, make some art, or play on the floor together.
Plan a one-on-one date with each of your children at least once during the holiday season. This doesn’t need to be fancy or expensive. Maybe a quick date to sip hot chocolate or a visit to the book store. The only rule: no distractions.
Pick one night a week to spend together as a family and commit to it.
Less Presents, More Presence
Our children will most likely not remember all of the gifts they were given throughout the years, but they will remember the time spent together…
Make the focus of at least a portion of your gift giving be on shared activities or experiences. Plan a road trip for later in the year and let your children help you plan it. Sign up for a class together for the coming year, or purchase tickets to a concert or event. Buy a new game that everyone can enjoy together.
Encourage Grandparents and other gift givers to do the same. A toy is nice, but an afternoon alone with Grandma at the zoo will become a cherished memory.
Create simple traditions your family will remember. Make brunch together on Christmas morning, read the same books every year, look at Christmas lights, whatever your family likes to do together.
Let it Become a Lifestyle
The truth is, you can’t predict when your best memories will be made, but focusing on being present will give you eyes to see those moments coming…
Incorporate time with your children into the day. We are busy people with things to do-involve your children in your activities, chores and errands instead of waiting to spend time with them when your list is all crossed off (because when does that actually happen?).
Be willing to be spontaneous. Some of my best memories are of times when my parents shirked their normal pattern/responsibilities to spend time with me. Of course, this isn’t always possible, but be open to the chance. The laundry and emails will still be there when you get back.
Try to say “yes” to their requests for attention and time as often as you can.
Build habits that naturally lead to more quality time: controlled screen time for everyone, regular weeknight dinners at home together, finding hobbies to enjoy together, etc.
Say “no” to over commitment as a family.
Say “no” to the ideals of perfection as a parent. You really can’t do it all, but you can choose what you will focus on and prioritize everyday.
Wondering what to do with the leaves you pressed from your leaf walk?
We know just the activity … introduce your child to the beauty of collage!
First, browse your leaf collection and choose some favorites. Encourage your child to select a variety of shapes, colors, and sizes. You can keep the stems on each leaf or remove them – just do it carefully so as not to damage the leaves.
Then using glue and a paintbrush, arrange each leaf onto a heavy piece of cardboard or cardstock. If you have our Do-It-Together Kit: All About Trees you can glue leaves directly onto the Leaf Collage. Your child may want to place the leaves in a random fashion, sort them by color/shape/size, or overlap them. Remember, this is a time to let your child practice independence, develop a plan, and make important choices about their work.
There’s no right or wrong way to collage – just let the creativity flow!
At Playful Learning, we believe that the physical environment plays a VERY powerful role in the behavior of children. The presentation of simple invitations can inspire children to engage in meaningful activities.
What we love about creating these invitations is that they are easy (you don’t have to tackle that scary closet) and you can use materials and activities that you already have on hand. It helps to think of these invitations as a way to highlight your child’s underused supplies, games or toys. It is amazing how putting together a few thoughtfully selected items on/in a tray, bin, or basket can reawaken a child’s interest.
And, here comes the best part, all you have to do is leave them out for your child to discover. You don’t have to say a thing!
“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.”
Teaching children the art of gratitude creates a habit of mindfulness and does wonders for their health and well-being. With holiday gatherings on the horizon, and extended visits with family and friends, this time of year provides a subtle reminder to pause and give thanks for all the things in our lives, both big and small.
In a world obsessed with more, we find it helpful and eye-opening to compose a gratitude list with children. Begin by asking your child to think about something for which she is grateful. Put simply, what is one thing (place, person, etc.) that makes her heart happy?
Once you’ve compiled the list with your child, turn her ideas into a Thankful Tree! Simply find a large branch (or a collection of smaller branches) and anchor it inside a mason jar using small rocks or glass beads. Then write each item from the list on a piece of heavier cardstock or watercolor paper that has been cut into the shape of a leaf. Paint over top of the leaves, punch a hole at the top, and string each one onto a branch.
Want to get the whole family involved? Hand out leaves to friends or family members and ask them to add their own special leaf to the tree.
For our online members, you can find the My Gratitude Tree printable (and many more) in our Gratitude thematic unit. And if you’re a Do-It-Together Kit subscriber, the materials for your own Thankful Tree are included inside your box.
You can also use our printable version below. Simply print out the tree background and leaves and write one thing you feel grateful for on each leaf. Even the youngest writers can dictate to you and participate!
Glue the leaves onto the tree and hang as a reminder throughout the year. Turn it into a fun collage activity by adding in loose parts and natural treasures.
Resources and Inspiration (members only):
Do-It-Together Experiences: All About Trees
Gratitude Thematic Exploration
We hope you are able to pause for a moment with the ones you love and reflect on all that you are grateful for these next few months. It’s not too late to create a special moment with your little ones!
This is a wonderful learning experience that inspires great conversations and encourages new insights!
Invite your child to reflect on his personal history (no matter how short it might be) and think about his unique life story. With this, your child will gain a deeper understanding of himself and how he has changed, and will continue to change, over time.
There are many ways that children can develop their own personal timelines and share their stories, but one way to do this (and tie in some scientific exploration and discovery) is to start out by looking at a cross section of a tree trunk.
Each year, a tree forms a new layer of cells. If we could look inside a tree’s trunk, we would see these cells arranged in concentric circles called growth rings. These rings help us better understand a tree’s personal story by telling us its age and giving us insight into its unique history. The rings provide clues that identify some of the major events that happened in its lifetime.
Explore A Tree’s Life, to learn more about the history of this particular tree. Then ask your child, “If you were a tree what would your rings say about your life?”
GO TO LESSON (MEMBERS ONLY)
Not a member? Here’s how you can re-create this experience at home!
You will need:
A Writing Tool (we love using oil pastels to draw the rings)
Begin by drawing a large circle on a piece of paper and invite your child to draw the number of rings that matches his age. Choose one important event/milestone from each year of his life such as when he took his first steps, lost a tooth, spoke his first words, or welcomed a sibling into the family. This is where storytelling and connection comes in – spend time sharing your child’s stories and reminiscing about all of the “firsts” in his life.
Then use a black sharpie marker to write in, or have your child dictate to you, each event along a growth ring. Start with his first year of life in the center and work outward.
Finally, paint over top of the rings with watercolor paints.
This is definitely a keepsake project that looks beautiful when displayed in your home and would be fun to revisit and discuss each year to document your child’s growth.