story · topic

Brown is Beautiful

Yesterday I sat down multiple times to type up a post, but I couldn’t formulate figure out an at home activity that matched the story I wanted to share. I couldn’t make it meaningful. I’ve learned as a teacher that if activities aren’t meaningful, approachable and memorable then they won’t be impactful with children. So, sorry I didn’t share an activity, but here is the link to the story I wanted to share: It’s Okay to be Different by Todd Parr.

Onto today’s stories and activity:

Today I am sharing two stories that deal with the same topic, skin color. Often we hear people talk about skin in terms of black and white. But, I challenge children (and adults) to look again. The first story compares these colors to those of the earth. All the Colors of the Earth by Sheila Hamanaka. The Colors of Us by Karen Katz finds a young girl and her mother walking through the neighborhood looking at all the beautiful shades of brown that she sees on her friends and neighbors. She compares theses shades to foods that are familiar.

From the palest of sand to the darkest of chocolates, shades of browns are beautiful. So, today let’s celebrate that. Make a collage of all shades of brown paper. Draw with multicultural crayons. Blend paints to create shades of brown. Whatever meaningful, approachable and memorable activity would help your child see the beauty of browns. For me… I drew a rainbow, Because together we create a beautiful rainbow of colors

family activity · story · topic

Elmer is Unique and so are YOU

This week we will look at stories and activities that help children appreciate differences and acceptance of the uniqueness of individuals.

Today listen to the story Elmer by David McKee (read by David McKee). Elmer is a patchwork elephant that lives in a herd of all gray elephants. Elmer’s friends love to laugh at Elmer’s humor, but Elmer worries that they are laughing at his patchwork. He finds a way to change his skin to gray to fit in, but then realizes that the herd isn’t the same without Elmer the Patchwork Elephant’s presence.

Elmer and his friends learn a valuable lesson… the things that make you different are the things that make you special. This is a lesson that educators work to instill in their classes. The look that uniqueness is not a thing to be looked down upon, but instead to be seen as assets.

Chat about the things that make your child special. Look at physical, emotional, behavioral and other differences. Discuss likes and dislikes. How to these attributes make you… you?

At the end of the story, all the elephants have one day a year where they decorate themselves to show their own unique differences too. (Elmer paints himself gray on these days, to still stand out in his own way). Have your child draw an elephant, or print one off the web. Write on the top of the page “I am special because I am ME” Then around the elephant write attributes that make you… you!

Finally decorate your elephant to show off these attributes. What makes you different is what makes you special, celebrate these differences.

This would make a great family project. Have each member of the family create their own unique elephants. Show that there are attributes that are similar across the family, and ones that are special and unique to each individual.

STEAM · story · topic

Mooseltoe

Today let’s read a fun holiday story: Mooseltoe by Margie Palatini. Moose wants everything to be “Perfectly perfect” for Christmas, but will he remember EVERYTHING?

Moose forgot the tree! Oh no… what would you do if you forgot to get a Christmas tree? Well you aren’t a moose, so you can’t decorate yourself. Today’s challenge…. create a tree for Moose!

You can use some of the same materials we had yesterday for the Christmas engineering projects or let your child get creative on his/her own. Encourage them to mix materials and think outside the box.

Some ideas: pipe cleaners, construction paper, Lego, popsicle sticks/tongue depressors, a pile of socks?, garland, toys… food…. your imagination is the limit!

Want to add more academics to this fun project? Pick a challenge to add to the creation. Here are some examples: Can you make a tree that stands without support? Can you make a tree that is taller than 10″? Can you make a tree that will hold ornaments? Can you make a symmetrical tree?

Also, have your child plan ahead. What do they think it will look like? What materials do they plan to use? Why?

Encourage multiple attempts, failure is part of the learning process… if that didn’t work, what else could you try?

Then at the end, if not totally exhausted from the process… have your child draw and write about the end result. Write a letter to Moose to go with the tree.

art · story · topic

Christmas Tree

When we think of Christmas, one image often comes to mind… the Christmas tree. It is believed that this tradition began in 16th century Germany. Trees were originally decorated with foods such as nuts, berries, apples and dates. Beginning in the 18th century, people began adding candles to their trees, but this was not very safe. The first Christmas lights were added to the Christmas 1895.

Let’s read some Christmas tree stories: The Littlest Christmas Tree by Janie Jasin and The Biggest Christmas Tree Ever by Steven Kroll.

I decided to share this Art for Kids Hub video How to Draw a Christmas Tree… it is a folding surprise picture. I chose it because when the picture is folded, it is a little Christmas tree, but when opened, it is the biggest one.

Let’s work together on a torn paper picture.

  • green sheet of construction paper
  • another color to use as the background
  • glue
  • markers
  1. tear the green paper into smaller pieces. encourage your child to use their pincer grasp to hold and tear the paper (fine motor work!)
  2. arrange the torn paper into the shape of a tree, if struggling draw a rough outline on the background paper
  3. After gluing all the pieces down, pick up the paper and let any that didn’t stick fall off. Glue them back on if needed
  4. use markers (or other colors of construction paper) to add ornaments and other decorations.
story · topic

Light the Lights

Many winter holidays have a light component. Christmas lights and candles, Hanukkah’s Menorah, Kwanzaa’s Kinara, Winter Solstice’s yule log, Diwali’s lanterns, St Lucia’s candle headdress, Chinese/Lunar New Year’s lanterns, and more! (Lights of Winter by Heather Conrad)

While many families only celebrate one winter holiday, others celebrate multiple. Let’s read a few books about families who celebrate both Christmas and Hanukkah.

Light the Lights by Margaret Moorman and Daddy Christmas and Hanukkah Momma by Selina Alko.

This is a great opportunity to complete a venn diagram, or double bubble web to compare and contrast the holidays. What makes them the same? What makes them different?

art · story · topic

Hanukkah

Tonight is the first night of Hanukkah. Each night, for 8 nights, families gather around and celebrate by lighting the Menorah. The Menorah symbolizes the oil that lasted long ago in the temple. After the Maccabean War, the Jewish people went back into their temple they only had enough oil for one night, but it lasted for eight nights. This is why Hanukkah is celebrated for eight nights. Each night, the shamash candle (the middle one) is light and from there the other candles are lit. One for each night of Hanukkah.

Families gather together and exchange gifts and a meal. They enjoy potato lakes, sufganiyot (a type of jelly filled donut) and other fried foods (in celebration of the oil that lasted 8 nights). The game of dreidel is played to try and win nuts or gelt (gold chocolate coins). And of course, they light the lights!

Learn more with from National Geographic’s Hanukkah: The Festival of Lights Starts Tonight.

This is the Dreidel by Abby Levine

Follow along as Art for Kids Hub makes a Menorah

Now, let’s make a Menorah. You can either have your child put the whole thing together on one day, or add candles from right to left each night as they do in the celebration.

cut a paper plate in half

one half leave whole, the other half cut out a triangle section for the base (you can color or paint the plate pieces or leave them white… your choice)

on the whole half you will draw curved lines to represent the “arms” of the menorah

cut nine thin rectangles from construction paper (I chose blue, but you can do white, blue, yellow, silver….)

make flames from tissue paper or yellow construction paper

now let’s light the lights!

art · story · topic

Poinsettia

Poinsettia is one of the most popular plants in the US, it even has it’s own “holiday” December 12th is Poinsettia Day. This plant is native to Mexico and Guatemala. In the winter the leaves transform into the well known red coloring with a cluster of yellow buds in the middle.

Zetta the Poinsettia by Alma Hammond

So, lets do some poinsettia fun…

Here is a direct drawing with Art for Kids Hub!

Now let’s make a paper poinsettia. Using red, green and yellow construction paper. Cut leaves out of the red and green paper. I folded both sheets into quarters and then cut two leaf shapes out of the quarter sized paper making 8 of each color, but you don’t have to do it this way. I chose to lay down the green leaves and then layer the red on top. Then I tore the yellow paper to make the poinsettia flower in the middle.

STEAM · story · topic

Candy Cane

When you think of the holiday season, there is one candy that pops into mind… candy canes! So, let’s learn about candy canes today.

File:Candy-Cane-Classic thumbnail.png - Wikimedia Commons

Here is a fun story to start: Katie the Candy Cane Fairy by Tim Bugbird

Now let’s learn about candy canes: How It’s Made Candy Canes, History of Candy Canes, and Making Candy Canes in Disneyland.

Now that you’ve learned a little about candy canes… let’s have some fun.

Candy Cane STEAM (see similar activity here)

  • Take out 3 glasses
  • in one glass put room temperature water
  • in the second, put ice water
  • in the third put boiling/hot water
  • Make a prediction: what do you think will happen to the candy canes in each glass?
  • drop a candy cane (or part of a candy cane) in each glass
  • Now observe!
  • Does the temperature of the water effect the rate of dissolving?
  • Any other observations?

You can do the same experiment using different liquids (water, vinegar, soda, milk) or different waters (tap, distilled, salt, sugar, etc).

art · STEAM · story · teaching thoughts · writing

Let’s Build a Snowman!

Even before Frozen asked “Do you want to build a snowman?….”, building a snowman was a favorite snowy weather activity. (I found out that the first recording of building a snowman was in 1380.)

So, how do you build a snowman? Well… SciShow Kids will tell you in Do you want to build a snowman? So yes, the answer to how to build a snowman is SCIENCE! And I just have to share this favorite from my classes MooseTube’s Yes, I want to build a snowman.

And since we are sharing favorites from my classes. Here are two favorite snowman building stories: Sadie and the Snowman by Allen Morgan and All You Need for a Snowman by Alice Schertle.

Ok… now that we have heard and seen how to build a snowman… let’s write about it.

This is the beginning steps of informative writing… how do you build a snowman? first, then, next, finally for the steps. I chose to fold the paper into four columns this time, but you could do the same thing by folding the paper into four quadrants. The goal is to break it down into simple steps. If you do not have your child doing the writing, make sure to have them articulate the steps.

This is a narrative writing based on Sadie and the Snowman. Sadie used different snack items to make her snowman’s face each time. Have your child draw a picture of a snowman and decide what (s)he would use for the eyes, nose and mouth.

STEAM · story

And Snow!

While it is still technically the season of fall, it looks like winter here today. We woke up to snow and I decided it was a good day to share a snow story. But first… a bit of science. Watch this Sci Show Kids video Where do snowflakes come from?

Then we will watch the story of Snowflake Bentley by Jacqueline Briggs Martin. Snowflake Bentley was a real person who studied snowflakes! Wilson A. Bentley (aka Snowflake Bentley) was the first person to photograph a snowflake. Want to learn more about Snowflake Bentley? Watch this new clip from CBS News.

Snowflake Bentley spent his life trying to capture snowflakes. Today let’s make some! You can either draw a snowflake or cut them out of paper (cutting them out of coffee filters works too).

If it is snowing where you live today, try to go outside and catch a few snowflakes. Can you describe your snowflake? Do you see known shapes? What size it is?