Category Archives: early education & play

Picture Books About Numeracy

Picture Books

Books are a fun way to learn about number, practice counting and understand number in practical contexts.The following are some of my favourites for introducing and reinforcing number skills.

Counting up: 1-10

One Mole Digging a Hole by Julia Donaldson

Julia Donaldson’s wonderful rhyming text and Nick Sharrat’s comical illustrations are a perfect combination.  Brightly colored numerals appear in the middle of the brief rhyming sentences, along with the corresponding number of animals to count. The engaging illustrations make this my favourite counting book.

Father Christmas Needs a Wee by Nicholas Allan

At each different house that he visits Father Christmas drinks and eats all the goodies left out for him. At number one there is hot chocolate and at number three, three cups of tea. By the time he reaches ten, he is desperate for a wee!  This comical rhyming book will appeal to all kids who love toilet humour.

Counting Down: Simple Subtraction

Sesame Street- 5 Little Rubber Duckies

This is a sweet interactive board book featuring familiar Sesame Street characters. Ernie starts with 5 rubber duckies but along the way the rubber duckies stop off to play with other Sesame Street friends.  Each page features a feel and trace number and 5 ducks you can move and count as each one disappears. Perfect for introducing numbers 1-5 to young children.

10,9,8…Owls up Late

This rhyming bedtime countdown features 10 mischievous baby owls and their antics to avoid bedtime.  As a sturdy board book with peek through pages, it is perfect for little fingers.  The individual character of every owl is illustrated perfectly and children will enjoy looking out for other characters in the tree, like the book reading caterpillar, busy bees and the mouse storing berries. The back of the book has a clear counting chart to practice number recognition and counting.

Ordinal Numbers

10 Little Rubber Ducks by Eric Carle

This sweet Eric Carle story features 10 ducks that fall from a boat and what happens to each of them along the way.  The hardback copy also features a squeaker to help children count along and interact with the text.

Numbers Greater than 10

One Thing by Lauren Child

This is my favourite book about numbers. It features the adorable Charlie and Lola and is perfect for any child who is interested in numbers.  It shows number in everyday contexts, explores counting , time, addition, subtraction, division and multiplication. It even investigates children’s fascinations with numbers beyond one thousand. A wonderful book, with numbers interwoven amongst the illustrations in Lauren Child’s own unique way.

The Real Princess – A Mathematical Tale

The familiar story of the Princess and the Pea is retold to emphasise numbers within the story and to encourage children to understand number problems.  The questions in the back of the book are designed to look back at the text and illustrations, counting and working out simple mathematical sums.

 

Disclaimer: all links are Amazon affiliate links.

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Snail Mail: Book review & classroom activities

Snail Mail  by Samantha Berger is the story of a girl, who sends a letter to her friend on the other side of the country, delivering it the traditional ‘snail mail’ way. As the four special snails slowly travel across the country, they find by taking their time, they discover beauty in the world.

The illustrations by Julia Patton, show four snails with unique characters. Children will enjoy looking at the equipment each snail takes with them on their journey and tracking how it is used in the different climates. The snails move across the United States, through deserts and mountains, passing famous landmarks, through flat prairies and different weather until they reach New York City.  The illustrations are quirky, full of expression and packed with tiny details that children will return to time and again.

The story of the snails delivering their precious cargo emphasises the magical nature of receiving something in the mail. It is a reminder that in the modern world of email and texting, there are some things that are more special if they are delivered by post.

My children loved it, they thought it was a charming story and spent a long time pouring over the detailed illustrations.  I love the sentiment of the book, reminding children of the magic of receiving a special message in the mail.

This would be a perfect book for a classroom as an introduction to many projects

  • writing letters – practice writing letters to friends or family, set up a class mailbox to post them, find a class in another part of the country/world to be pen pals with.
  • sending postcards – provide postcards in the writing area. How is writing a postcard different from writing a letter? Have the children ever received postcards – bring them in to talk about.  Do we still need postcards, make notes for and against.
  • making and writing cards – create a greeting card station, provide lots of examples, make and write cards.
  • how does mail get from one place to another? Find out about the mail service – how does mail get from one place to another? Find out if the way people receive mail is different in other countries.
  • the post office – set up your role play area as a post office, visit a local post office or sorting office
  • introducing maps – look at maps of the united states and mark the route the snails took. Has anyone visited these places? Encourage family and friends to send the children letters – mark on a World and US map, where the children’s letters have travelled from.
  • the desert – research desert climates and the animals and plants you can find in a desert.  Write a piece of informational writing about a desert animal.
  • mountains – research mountain climates and the plants and animals that live there. make list of similarities and differences between deserts and mountains.
  • Famous landmarks around in United States – talk to the children about some famous landmarks they may have visited, ask them to share pictures and stories – make a class book about the wonderful places they have seen.

Snail Mail is published in the US on May 1st by Running Press Kids.

 

Disclaimer: links in this post are Amazon Affiliate links.  Advance copies of the book were received for review purposes.

Visiting New Zealand with Kids? Try these exciting and educational activities.

Today I have a guest post from Harper Reid.  Harper Reid is a freelance writer from Auckland, New Zealand who has a passion for child learning and development. When she’s not writing, you’ll find her reading through the latest E-learning trends and early childhood activities. You can find more of her work on her Tumblr.  (Disclaimer: this post does not contain sponsored content).

Though I haven’t visited New Zealand myself – it is top of my list (alongside Reggio Emilia) of must visit places in the world. If you are lucky enough to visit New Zealand, you may like to try out some of her suggestions.
Whether you’re from or live outside of New Zealand, vacationing around Aotearoa with kids, is the family adventure for a lifetime. New Zealand’s towns and cities are a veritable treasure trove for tourists – and especially for families. With outdoor experiences and historical sights galore, you won’t have to work too hard to schedule an exciting itinerary for your time in the Land of the Long White Cloud.
1. Explore the country’s national reserves

new zealand park

Image Source Park via Pexels.com

New Zealand’s national parks and reserves make introducing your kids to the country’s topography and native wildlife a dream – and with so many to choose from, you’ll have no shortage of outdoor days. Some of the most beautiful reserves include Abel Tasman National Park on the top of the South Island, Tongariro in the central North Island (particularly stunning in winter), and the stunning Mount Aspiring National Park near Lake Wanaka.

What’s more, the reserves are dotted with informative plaques, native wildlife habitats, and informed guides to get your mini-biologists looking out for specific species of flora and fauna.

2. Go on a heritage tour

Because New Zealand’s recorded history spans just over a couple of centuries, many of the country’s first settler houses and towns are still in pristine condition. This is great news for budding history buffs in the family.

To explore 19th-century New Zealand’s goldrushing history, put Arrowtown in Central Otago  on your map, and consider road-tripping around Hokitika on the West Coast to discover some pioneer-era halfway houses. You’ll also want to schedule in a stop at Waitangi to discover more about Aotearoa’s fraught bicultural past – a great way to introduce your kids to issues of colonisation and land ownership.

3. Get involved in rural life

agriculture-animals-blue-skies-710263

Photo credit Gabriel Peter

New Zealanders take great pride in their rustic roots, which is why the national education system makes room for unique outdoor play experiences like Calf Club and Agriculture Days.

Held in the springtime, Calf Club and Agriculture Days are a wonderful way to get up and close with New Zealand’s preeminent dairy and agriculture industry, and will allow your children to see what’s distinctive about an NZ upbringing – namely, the ability to rear your own sheep, calf, or goat, and bring it along for judging!

You might also consider attending an A&P lifestyle show, which is basically a Calf Club Day on a larger scale. Complete with horse and cattle events, shearing, and fun food stalls and rides for all the family to enjoy, you’ll be feeling like a local in no time.

4. Visit one of NZ’s top museums

New Zealand may be small, but its museums are world-quality. Auckland’s Maritime Museum, the Otago Museum, Te Manawa in Palmerston North – near every major centre, will serve up culture and history to feed to your kids.

Wellington’s Te Papa, in particular, is sure to enthral children and adults alike. With exhibitions about everything from World War I, to giant squid, to New Zealand’s Maori culture and heritage, there isn’t much you won’t find at Te Papa. And make sure you experience the earthquake simulator, too.

5. Encounter the Antarctic

newzealand aquarium

unsplash-logoCaroline Hernandez

Probably because of its geographical proximity to the continent, New Zealand is host to a variety of Antarctica-related experiences which you’d be smart to take advantage of whilst you’re in the country. If in Auckland, make a beeline to Kelly Tarlton’s, the world-famous aquarium which offers an “Antarctic Encounter” experience complete with penguins and snow.

Go all-out in the South Island with a trip to Christchurch’s Antarctic Centre, a vast warehouse near the airport which is just about as close as most of us will ever get to Scott’s Base.

Art Project Inspired by Chihuly’s Macchia

Dale Chihuly is a local glass artist. His works have been exhibited around the world and can be seen locally at the Chihuly Glass Garden and Museum adjacent to the Space Needle in Seattle or at the Museum of Glass and Chihuly Bridge of Glass in Tacoma.

My daughter did a science project for her first grade class last week, where she showed how colours could be separated using a coffee filter and water.  The class were fascinated, so I had an idea to incorporate their interests into our next art project.

One of Chihuly’s famous series are Macchia.  These look a little like glass bowls, similar in shape to a coffee filter and are made by experimenting with different colour combinations.  I showed the children pictures of Macchia and a short video showing how they are made.

Macchia means spots. I asked the children to decorate a coffee filter using washable  markers, adding a variety of colours and including spots in their design.  I showed them some examples from home, some had white spaces and some had the whole filter filled with colour.

When the designs were finished the children placed them on an upside down plastic cup and secured them with a rubber band.

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They were then sprayed with spray starch.  We protected the floor with paper and sprayed each one from a distance so the starch would create a fine mist and the filters wouldn’t get too wet.

This is quite a quick project but the children were keen to make more.  Most children made two or three in a 45 minute lesson.

The designs were left overnight to dry.

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The finished designs were mounted onto black card.  These were joined to make a collaborative display but I chose to put each bowl on an individual piece of card so they could take them home.

The finished display.

Chihuly macchia bowls using coffee filtersart project inspired by chihuly's macchiamacchia bowls made from coffee filters

 

 

Play With Shadow Puppets with Black Forest Theater Presents Dinosaurs (Book Review).

Black Forest Theater Presents Dinosaurs is a book set with everything a child will need to investigate shadow puppets.

The set, hand crafted by Montana Toy Company, includes

  • A theatre backdrop
  • An interactive storybook about dinosaurs
  • An Led light that stands up
  • 5 dinosaur shadow puppets with removable sticks
  • A protective cover.

The backdrop is sturdy and stands up well. We set it up and assembled the shadow puppets and the light.

Black forest theater

 

The children had to figure out for themselves the best position for the light and puppets to enable the shadows to reflect onto the backdrop.  I feel that a page of instructions may have been helpful although there is also a part of me that liked them having to work it out for themselves. Perhaps a little section in the book about the science of shadows would be good?

shadow puppets montana toy company

 

The puppets are made of sturdy black card and the sticks have Velcro attachments so you can change the position if desired.  I can see these being popular in a pre-school especially as a prop for an overhead projector.  I would introduce the materials using the rhyming book and then let the children create their own stories.

My children enjoyed inventing their own story with the puppets.

Black Forest Theater – Dinosaurs retails for $29.99

Disclaimer: No payment was received for writing this review, we received a product for review purposes.

 

Art Lesson: Eric Carle Inspired Textured Collage (1st Grade)

Our Eric Carle inspired under the sea collages with 2nd grade last year, were such a success, I decided to take them a step further.

Eric Carle creates his collages using tissue paper he has painted and printed to create interesting patterns and textures. This was a two-part lesson. In the first lesson we created the tissue paper designs and in the following lesson made Eric Carle inspired collages.

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Lesson 1

Materials

  • Tissue paper
  • Acrylic paint
  • Paintbrushes
  • Objects to print with – pine cones, corks, q-tips, toy cars, plastic duck feet, textured balls, sponges, bubble wrap.

I showed the children a slide show from the Eric Carle website showing how Eric Carle paints his tissue paper.

We looked at examples of the different patterns and textures Eric Carle uses in his books.  I showed them how to create different patterns and textures on tissue paper by using different brush strokes and printing with a variety of materials.

The children created their own. Some children were a little confused and painted pictures onto the tissue paper. Perhaps this would have been avoided if I didn’t provide paintbrushes.

Each child created at least one patterned sheet.

Lesson 2

Materials

  • Painted tissue paper
  • Plain tissue paper
  • Glue sticks
  • Drawing paper
  • A pencil
  • Scissors

I showed the children a slideshow of Eric Carle creating a collage of the hungry caterpillar.

Each child had a piece of plain paper. They were asked to draw a simple outline drawing big enough to fill the page. I drew some examples – a butterfly, a caterpillar and a mountain scene and an example of a picture that wouldn’t work with lots of small things and details.

Eric Carle collage

The children drew their picture and used their printed tissue to fill in the picture like Eric Carle. We added plain coloured tissue paper and tissue paper squares and circles.  To finish the children drew in details with marker.

This was a wonderfully calm and focused lesson. The children really found the collage work therapeutic.

The finished products

In a play based setting I would spend a week focusing on only creating the tissue paper. The tissue paper designs would be  used the following week to explore collage and would remain as  a permanent resource to explore the techniques further.  I would  read lots of  Eric Carle books  and display examples of his pictures around the setting.

If you want to have a whole project about Eric Carle you might be interested in some of the other things we have tried.

Pink is For Boys: Book Review

(This Post contains Amazon Affiliate links: if you buy a product using these links, I receive a small commission)

If you have been waiting for a book for young children that challenges and encourages discussion about gender stereotypes, then add Pink is For Boys to your library.

This timely and beautiful picture book rethinks and reframes the stereotypical blue/pink gender binary and empowers kids-and their grown-ups-to express themselves in every color of the rainbow. With the help of a diverse cast of characters, readers are taken through the spectrum of the rainbow demonstrating that gender does not dictate their favourite colour or hobby.

My family loved it. My teenager asserted ‘ this is great’ and my younger girls said ‘I love this book’. It feels refreshing and not at all preachy. The text is understated, follows a familiar pattern and is clear in its message, without being too obvious.  I love the illustrations, the children reflect diverse cultures and look like they are having loads of fun. My only criticism (and this may only be true of my advance review copy) is that the shade of yellow chosen, looks more like lime green.

Using Pink is for Boys in the Classroom

I can imagine using the book in school or preschool to open discussions about gender stereotypes. It would be a lovely introduction to an art or writing project describing their favourite activities entitled ———- is for boys and girls.  You could encourage children to bring in photographs of themselves doing activities traditionally attributed to a singular sex and talk about their hobbies. Start your discussions from the things you hear children say, or try one of these prompts.

  • Are there any boys who go to a dance class? How does it feel to be in a class with only girls? Would it be better if boys were in the class? What stops boys wanting to go to dance class.
  • Do any children play sports where only girls or only boys are allowed? Would they prefer mixed teams?
  • What would they say are boys toys and girls toys? Is there a difference? Should there be a difference?
  • Do boys and girls play different things at recess? Have you ever been told you can’t join in because of your gender?

Coincidentally, when my youngest came home from school today she told me a group of her friends go to girl scouts. ‘I wish I could go to boy scouts’ she said ‘Why can’t I?’.  Wouldn’t it be great if it were no longer segregated and children could simply go to scouts!  This would be a great talking point for kids – make a list of activities that are segregated by gender. What kinds of activities are they and why do the children think they are segregated. Do the children think these activities should be segregated or inclusive? Older children could write a piece of persuasive writing explaining their views.

Pink is for boys is written by Robb Pearlman and illustrated by Eda Kaban . It is recommended for children aged 4-8 years.

It is released in the US on 5th June 2018 for $17.99 and in the UK on 28th June 2018 for £12.99 pre-order is available.