Mud + Mess + Math = Educational Fun!
Young children seem naturally attracted to activities that end up messy. Sometimes, though, creating the messy fun with them can be educational, especially if you think of ways to control the mess. Select an outside area that can easily be hosed down, put on old clothes, and you are ready to create your own Messy Mud Pie Café!
- large basin of water
- measuring tools – teaspoons, tablespoons, measuring cups, liquid measures, kitchen scale, bathroom scale
- old pie pans, muffin tins, or small flat containers
- rolling pin (optional)
- natural “decorations”, such as flowers or twigs (optional)
To create your mud pies, combine approximately 75% mud and 25% sand in a large container. Slowly add the water until it is moist and moldable. Use the rolling pin or just your hands to roll out the mud into pies. Form the “pies” in a muffin tin, old pie pans, or small flat containers. Decorate them with items from your backyard such as flowers, twigs, pine cones, or stones. Put them in the sun to “bake.”
Talk about the time it will take for the mud pie to “bake” (or dry out). (Parents, you might consider creating your own mud pie ahead time and letting it dry to show an example of a baked pie.) Record the guesses. Then check back in at regular intervals, such as 30 minutes, 1 hour, and half a day. Take a picture at different intervals to record how the mud pies are baking.
While the pies are “baking”, consider the following activities:
- Measuring mud. Use the remaining mud to explore different weights and measures. Have your child measure specific amounts of mud. For example, ask your child to measure 1/4 cup of mud and place it in a container. Help your child fully fill the measuring cup and level it to obtain the exact measurement. Then ask your child, “Can you measure ¾ cup of mud?” Place the two containers next to each other and compare the amounts of mud. Which container of mud is more? Which is less?
- Weighing mud. Next, try weighing some mud. First have your child estimate the weight of a particular amount of mud. Then use a scale to weigh the mud. Was your child correct? Next select two different amounts of mud and estimate their weight based on your first measurement; then find the actual weights. Was your estimate more or less than the actual amount?
- Measuring water. Use the remaining water to find volume with different-sized containers. Pour the water into the containers and estimate which container holds more water. Next pour each container into the liquid measure. Was your estimate correct?
Be sure to allow lots of time for free play in addition to your education time with your child. Enjoy the messy fun together!
Related Blog Post:
10 Items from the Dollar Store for the Sandbox
Tags: activity, math, measurement, offline, outdoors
End of Summer Activity: Hammering Cotton Balls
What child doesn’t enjoy the act of smashing and breaking? Try this easy activity with your child and enjoy the hammering together and develop gross motor skills in the process.
Hammer Away: Master hammering skills with a toy hammer to smash water beads, hammer golf tees into the bottom of an egg carton, mounds of clay, foam trays, or into the ground. Place flowers (wild flowers, dandelion weeds, etc…) between a folded piece of paper to hammer into flower prints. Try the recipe for making baked cotton balls and have fun crushing them into pieces. (Science)
- 1 cup flour
- 1 cup water
- Food coloring
- Cotton balls
- Medium bowl
- Small containers
- Aluminum foil lined baking sheet or pan
- Preheat oven to 350° F.
- Mix together the 1 cup of water and the 1 cup of flour in the large bowl.
- Spoon the mixture into the smaller containers.
- Add a few drops of food coloring to each container. Stir and mix well.
- Place a cotton ball into each container.
- Coat the cotton ball completely in the mixture.
- Scoop the cotton ball onto the baking sheet.
- Repeat to make to several cotton balls.
- Bake in the oven for about 45 minutes.
- The cotton balls will have a hard coating on the outside when ready.
- Allow the cotton balls to cool thoroughly.
- Let the smashing begin!
Note: If the outer coating is too hard or thick the smashing may require a real hammer. This can be done as a demonstration by an adult or with a small hammer that the child can manage easily at the parent’s discretion.
Tags: activity, motor skills
Back to School Math Apps
This app practices early childhood math concepts through games and videos. Parents, the app will prompt you to select your child’s age and then will adjust the options available for your child. Each concept is segmented into learning modules situated along a path in the woods. For each module there are 3 educational videos that explain the concept to children. They are short and appropriate for the age level of the child. Then your child can complete the practice games. The practice games focus in on early learning concepts such as tracing and counting numbers, basic geometric shapes, ordinal numbers, patterns, and more. The characters in the videos and games are well developed and appealing to young children. This app is subscription-based with various options for monthly or yearly payments. Additionally, there is a free 7-day trial option. Parents, you are able to set up multiple profiles and have each profile be a unique experience for the child. Another great feature to accompany the app is free printable worksheets available on their website to follow up your child’s digital practice. This app is a worthwhile investment for building early learning math skills and is appropriate for children ages 4-8.
Todo Math is a free app designed to practice early childhood math skills. Todo in Spanish means all, which indicates that this app is designed to inspire play with all the early childhood math concepts. It includes 18 multi-level games and has two different types of play: free choice and mission. In mission mode, the app gives a brief overview of each game and guides your child through each game one at a time. In free choice mode, all games are presented, and your child chooses which one they would like to play. It includes multiple levels of math games and includes adaptive play, which means the games automatically adapt to your child’s skill level. Parents, you can sign up for a parent account, which will provide you with a more detailed look at how your child is progressing through the app. Compared to most apps, Todo Math does contain a worthwhile amount of free content to provide practice in many areas of math for children ages 3-6.
Park Math by Duck Duck Moose provides practice in a variety of math concepts without sacrificing depth of learning or fun. Park Math is an extremely thoughtful app that moves users seamlessly through counting, addition, subtraction, sequencing, patterning, and comparing while being developmentally appropriate and engaging. Cheery music and a child’s voice accompany the game play throughout the app. Unlike many of the math apps in the app store, Park Math does not simply have children answering questions or tapping on objects. Park Math integrates three levels of learning into a park theme to practice and investigate math concepts in a meaningful way. Addition and subtraction are practiced in a story problem format, and counting skills are developed in the context of one-to-one correspondence. Thank you, Duck Duck Moose, for creating this engaging and educational environment. Park Math is appropriate for children ages 3-5.
Tags: addition, back to school, childhood, comparing, counting, development, early, free, math, patterning, play, sequencing, subtraction
Back to School Learning Activities
Back to school time is upon us and KinderTown has some fun educational activities for your 3-8 year old to complete at home. Most of the activities can be completed in 10 minutes with little to no preparation.
Bingo Board #3
Draw shapes together, talk about a family photo, or make popcorn. Check out the latest Bingo Board to find these educational activities and more. Also included on the Bingo board are 3 recommended educational apps for your preschooler including a free app.
Bingo Board #2
Have a preschooler at home? Or a child between the ages of 3-6? Try this Back To School Bingo board with your child. The activities are perfect for at-home learning and designed to use very few materials. Mark the activities off as you go and reward your child for their work. The Bingo boards are easy to print and use and can be hung on your fridge or bulletin board.
Bingo Board #1
To use the Learning Bingo Board, simply complete any activity and have your child mark it off in some way. Color the square or use anything else that you have around the house to mark the squares, such as stamps or stickers. Decide on an incentive or reward for completing the board that works for your family or child. Check back soon for more activities!
Be sure to download KinderTown, the Educational App for Engaged Parents, to find additional educational apps to support your child’s learning. KinderTown is dedicated to improving early childhood education by empowering parents with the tools to support their child’s learning. KinderTown only includes apps that have substantial educational value as determined by an objective review process conducted by childhood educators. Search by age, device, or subject area.
Tags: activity, back to school, home, language arts, math
End of Summer Activity: Homemade Zip Lines
Race homemade rockets, airplanes, birds, or your own creation on homemade zip lines. Discover how the length and steepness of the line affect how the items move.
- Paper tube
- Craft supplies (paper, tape, markers, paint, feathers, duct tape, glue, craft sticks, etc.)
- Fishing line or thread
- Create an original “racer” by decorating the paper tube as a car, bird, airplane, rocket, or other item with the craft supplies you have available. Allow to dry thoroughly if necessary.
- Locate two sturdy objects to which you can secure the fishing line.
- Secure the fishing line to one object.
- Thread the racer on to the other end of the fishing line.
- Secure the fishing line to the other object.
- Slide the racer to one end of the fishing line (the side that is higher).
- Release the racer and watch it zip across the line.
- Repeat and experiment with different lengths of line and by changing the heights of objects to which it is secured.
Related Blog Post:
Tags: activity, homemade
End of Summer Activity: Bird Feeder
Create a decorative, mobile-inspired bird feeder from items found in your back yard, recycling bin, and around the kitchen.
- Paper towel tube or a cardboard cereal box
- Several sticks of different shapes and sizes
- Corn syrup or molasses
- Basting brush or paint brush
- Bird seed
- 2 open containers (one to hold the bird seed and one for the corn syrup)
- Single hole punch
- String or yarn
- Oat cereal rings
- Fill one container ½ full with bird seed.
- Fill the second container with corn syrup or molasses (enough to paint with).
- Cut the paper towel tube into several rings. If using a cereal box, cut the cardboard into several strips and form into loops, securing each with tape. Make sure the plain side of the box shows on the outside of each ring.
- Punch a single hole into the center of each ring.
- Paint a thick coat of syrup onto each ring and then roll thoroughly in the bird seed.
- Allow the bird seed to set on the rings for about 10-15 minutes.
- Cut a variety of lengths of string or yarn. If using yarn, wrap a small piece of tape tightly around the end to help thread it more easily.
- Tie a knot at one end of a piece of string. Begin stringing a few pieces of oat cereal on to it.
- Slide the string through the bottom hole of a ring with bird seed. String more oat cereal onto the string and then slide the remaining string through the top hole of the ring.
- Continue to string with oat cereal or add another bird seed covered ring. Create different arrangements.
- Tie the completed strings to the stick.
- Hang the bird feeder outside and watch the birds enjoy a snack.
Related Blog Post:
The Great Outdoors: App Connections
Tags: activity, homemade
Back to School Reading Apps
Back-to-school time is here, and these apps are great to supplement your beginning reader!
Reading Train Learn to Read Books, Songs & Games is a uniquely designed app for emergent readers. No other app is as specifically tailored to the needs of beginning readers. Reading Train includes 200 books for children who are beginning to read. Children are typically at this stage of reading during their kindergarten or first-grade year, depending on their development. Many children progress quickly through these stages, while others need more time. This app would be an asset to those children needing more time at this level. The app has a kid-friendly train where children choose books based on their level and desired topic. Parents, you will need to assist your child during their first interactions with the app in order to create a user and guide your child to the appropriate level. The books offer three different options: Listen, Read, and Record. Children like the books, but the app does not offer enough entertainment value that your child is likely to choose this app freely. Children are rewarded with a songbook after reading books and completing review activities. Some children won’t have enough patience to sit through the longer song and may tap the screen in anticipation of interactivity in this area. Also, this app should not be used in isolation because children need to learn the valuable skills associated with handling real books, such as reading left to right and orienting the book correctly. There’s no real substitute for creating a love of real books! The app would be a great supplement to a literature-rich environment. Reading Train Learn to Read Books, Songs & Games costs $3.99.
Duck Duck Moose Reading is a solid phonics practice app for your beginning reader. Children quickly progress through five varied phonics activities, each focused on a specific set of letters. Games are entertaining to play and are designed to focus kids on individual sounds, letters, or both letters and sounds in the context of words. Kids earn animals to add to their zoo after each series of activities. Parents are given a progress report for multiple kids who log into the app. We’d like it if parents were able to customize which letters and sounds are given to each child to practice. Overall, this is a good phonics practice app with the high quality visual and touch screen design that Duck Duck Moose is known for. Duck Duck Moose Reading is perfect for children at the Kindergarten or first grade level and costs $2.99.
Related Blog Post
Pre-Reading Skills: Beyond Letters and Sounds
Tags: back to school, books, letters, phonics, Reading
Create Sea Snacks for the Whole Family
Create some healthy under-the-sea-themed snacks to share during a picnic, barbecue, or any time that suits your family. Here are some ideas to get you started. See if your child can come up with some of his own creations to add to the list.
- Bananas (not peeled)
Sea Star Sandwiches
Use a star-shaped cookie cutter to transform your child’s favorite sandwich, toast, waffle, pancake, or slice of cheese into a sea star.
Fish in the Sea
- Fish-shaped crackers
- Cream cheese
- Rice cake
- Blue food coloring
- Mix a scoop of cream cheese with a drop or two of blue food coloring. Stir well.
- Spread the blue cream cheese onto the rice cake.
- Place several fish shaped crackers into the “sea” of blue cream cheese.
- Take a picture of your creation. Then eat and enjoy.
Add baby carrots standing upright or florets of broccoli to create a coral reef for the fish to hide in.
- Round crackers
- Peanut butter, cream cheese, hummus, or cheese spread
- Yogurt-covered raisins (white)
- Spread peanut butter, cream cheese, hummus, or cheese onto one cracker.
- Place one yogurt-covered raisin off center in the peanut butter, cream cheese, hummus, or cheese. This is the bottom of the mouth of the clam with the “pearl”.
- To make the eyes put two small dollops of peanut butter, cream cheese, hummus, or cheese onto the top of the other cracker about thumb width apart. Place a raisin on each.
- Set the cracker with the eyes on top of the cracker with the pearl.
- Take a picture of your clam(s). Eat and enjoy!
Tags: activity, homemade
Summer Activity: Jellyfish in a Bottle
Make your own jellyfish in a bottle using recycled materials and items from the kitchen.
- Empty clear plastic bottle with lid (label removed)
- 1 white plastic grocery bag
- Thread or small rubber band
- Food coloring
- Hot glue
- Cut the handles and bottom off the plastic grocery bag.
- Cut the sides of the bag so you have the two halves–the back and the front sides. Discard the side with the logo.
- Lift and pinch the center of the bag and make a small bubble.
- Tie off the bubble loosely with the thread or rubber band so a small opening remains. Turn it over and be certain you can see a small opening. This is the “head” of the jellyfish.
- Cut the part of the bag hanging down into strands to make the tentacles. Cut the strands so that there are various lengths and widths.
- Fill the bottle close to the neck full with water.
- Add a few drops of blue food coloring.
- Turn the jellyfish over. Blow into the small opening and fill with air. Then fill the opening about half way with water.
- Twist the head closed and stuff the jellyfish into the bottle.
- Hot glue the lid on to the bottle.
- Turn the bottle upside down and then right side up to watch the jellyfish swim.
Tags: activity, homemade
Family Activity: Design Your Own Spectroscope
Light is an amazing tool for learning and experimentation. Make your own spectroscope and experiment with light.
Spectroscope: A spectroscope is an instrument used to break up light, just like a prism does, showing the light spectrum. Make this scientific tool using recycled materials.
- Paper tube
- A blank CD
- 2 index cards (at least 3×5 inches)
- Pencil or pen
- Hot glue or quick-drying glue
- Scissors or utility knife
- Paint or makers (optional)
- On the reflective side of the CD, draw a circle off to the side, using the tube as a template.
- Use tape to remove the reflective layer from the CD. You may need to make a small scratch on the CD with a key or coin to get it started.
- Cut out the circle you drew on the CD.
- Tape the two index cards next to one another, leaving a small vertical slit between them.
- Place the paper tube on top of the index cards, covering the slit. Adhere the paper tube to the cards with glue. Trim the index cards so they are flush with the paper tube.
- Place the circle cut from the CD on the other side of the tube. Be sure the lines on the CD are parallel to the slit in the index cards on the opposite side. Glue the circle to the tube.
- Optional: decorate the outside of the tube with construction paper, paint, or markers.
- Note: Remind your child never to look directly at the sun. Look through the CD plastic toward a light source. The spectrum should appear on both sides (like the colors of the rainbow).
- Experiment with different light sources, which will produce different spectra.
Tags: activity, homemade