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    Learning, Parenting

    A Membership For Discovery

    One of my favorite parenting tips is to buy memberships to a couple of places in your area. I love having built in places to take my kids at anytime. Not only is it great for a planned day out, but it also can save the day, as it has a time or two for me. Last summer, the air conditioning wasn’t working in our house. Last summer. In Texas. We took refuge at the museum a few times during those uncomfortable weeks. Did I mention we had just moved and I was seven months pregnant, too? It was fun times.

    But really. a membership is a great way to encourage learning and exploration in your kids. Now, when we read a books with animals in it, my son points out all the animals he remembers seeing at the zoo. The museum is a place my kids ask for regularly. It’s a bit of an investment up front, but it pays for itself in just a couple of visits and then you are the beneficiaries every time!

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    Last week, we got to go check out some of the new additions to the Perot Museum of Nature & Science in Dallas. We have had a membership there a couple of times and it is such a fun place to take the family. Because when you have small children, everything takes about ten times longer than normal, going to a place like the Perot is great, because you can go ten times and still not see everything. Naturally, we always end up at the Children’s Museum first, spend an hour or so there, and have enough time to check out maybe one of the remaining four floors. All the more reason to keep going back. My assistant (toddler) photographer requested this photo.

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    We got to visit their new Birds of Paradise exhibit, which was so neat. It took me back to when we were newlyweds and we would get the Planet Earth DVDs from Netflix in the mail. For some reason, I remember the birds of paradise episode more than the others. Ah, the good old days.

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    After we explored the exhibit, we of course made a stop at the Children’s Museum. It is not huge, but we have spent hours there before and the kids could have kept on going. Any place that gets my kids using their imaginations, playing and socializing is a win in my book!

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    After tearing them away from their beloved Children’s area, we saw the Asteroids movie in 3D in the theater. It was probably an interesting movie, but my two year old decided he wasn’t a fan of giant rocks hurtling through space, so we didn’t watch much of it. I’ve seen movies there before though and they are fantastic. Just be honest with your expectations when taking young kids to things like that.

    Something I think is so neat about this museum (and any good museum for kids) is the different interactive features and how learning and information is incorporated. Case in point, I can never forget sitting on a bench and looking down to see the fact about how many bugs you eat on average in a year. It was way more than I ever would have hoped.

    Just writing about it makes me want to go back again. I can’t recommend memberships enough to a few places in your area. If you’re in the DFW area, head over to my Facebook page later today where I’m giving away a 4-pack of tickets to the Perot Museum of Nature & Science!

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    Learning

    Simple Early Learning: Color Matching Bean Bags

    The other day I dusted off my sewing machine for a little naptime crafting. One of my goals now that I have a block of time during the day is to channel my creativity and check off some projects that I have on a list in my mind. Creating some simple learning activities have been on my mind a lot lately. I love teaching and I love watching my kids learn! If there is one thing that I have learned over my robust five year parenting career it is that children often learn when they are ready to learn. I try my best to let my kids lead their learning in these early years. I’ve noticed over the past few weeks that my son is really starting to recognize that there are different colors and they have names. We are moving out of the “everything is blue” stage! I have been thinking about an easy activity I could make to have on hand to use to reinforce colors with him.

    I’m a big advocate for play as the means of learning for as long as possible. I am fully aware that this little project may just turn into more projectiles to be thrown around the house, but we will do the best we can!

    I made this project as easy as possible so that I could finish it in one naptime. I didn’t measure, didn’t worry about perfectly straight edges. There’s something satisfying about finishing a project in all at once, am I right?

    Here’s what you’ll need:

    Bean Bag Color Matching

    • Felt in the colors you want (I did red, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple with black for an extra bean bag). Bonus: I actually had all this felt sitting in a craft drawer lonely and neglected from a project I planned to do a year ago.
    • Dried beans
    • Sewing machine, or needle and thread if you are really ambitious!
    • Scissors or rotary cutter
    • Cutting boards as a straight edge (Yes, I did in fact use a cutting board as a straight edge because my fancy sewing one was in the closet in my baby’s room who was napping and we all know you never wake a sleeping baby!)

    – I started with one color and cut a large square and a long strip. This long strip is your bean bag will be folded over and you will sew along the three open edges, so cut the felt as large as you would like the bean bag to be. The large square can serve as a “target” as you practice color matching.

    -Sew two of the sides closed and then half of the third side. Turn the bean bag right side out. Now you should have an opening where you can pour your beans in. You know what would have made pouring the beans much easier for me? A funnel. But I didn’t think of that. I just poured very carefully and only spilled a few in the process. Then I folded in the edges and sewed them closed. And there you have  bean bag.

    -Repeat this process with the remaining colors.

    A few ways I plan to use these new bean bags:

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    • To start, just toss the bean bags back and forth. Label each color as you toss. So, if you are tossing the blue bean bag, emphasize that. Say the color as you pick it up and as you catch it and toss it. This is a simple way to help your kiddo start learning the names of colors and then matching the word to the color.
    • Lay out the different colored squares. Using the bean bags, toss the bean bag to the matching color and talk about the name of the color. This is an easy first step to introducing different colors.
      • The next step to this could be to name things in the room that are the same color as what they just matched.
    • Lay out the different colored squares. Using the black bean bag, toss the bean bag to a color that you suggest. This is a little bit more difficult because it is no longer matching, but remembering the colors individually.
      • Using the black square, you can ask your kiddo to pick up a specific color bean bag and toss it on the black square.

    And of course, if all else fails, just throw them up in the air for fun.

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    Learning

    Making the Most of that One Library Book

    As is a common theme right now, kindergarten has opened up a whole new world of experiences for us this year. Waking up early, making new friends, begging to buy lunch, and checking out your very own book from the library!

    My daughter was very excited to check out her very own book, choose a bookmark and take care of it all week. She told us all about how they had a lesson about how to care for library books (we’ve had a few mishaps with library books in the past, so this was probably very good information). Now, when children have free reign over their choices at the library, the selections can be…interesting. We are only two weeks into this whole library book excitement, but I am hoping to find a way to use these books for extra learning and growth. Because, it’s a fact that you will read that library book every day for the seven days it is in your possession!dscn2979

    I actually loved this book that my daughter chose last week at the library. So many important life lessons can be taken from this book!

    Here are a few suggestions on how to use your weekly library choices. These work for more than just kindergarten, parents should be reading with their children as they grow!-

    • READ the book! Every night we are supposed to “study” a book for ten minutes, according to my daughter. Pretty sure it is just “read” for ten minutes, but she likes the word study. First and foremost, read, read, read!
    • Ask questions. Simple questions like: Who are the characters? What happened in the story? What was the problem in the story? How was the problem fixed? Include some critical thinking questions like, How would you solve the problem? What would you do in that situation? How do you feel about what happened? Any question you can think of to help your child think about what they are reading will be beneficial for them.
    • Apply it to their life. This may not work perfectly for every book you read. Last week, my daughter chose a book about a polar bear who ate ice cream, so that one was just…interesting. But, this current book is perfect for this! Kindness, bravery, courage, love, are all topics we could discuss from this book! Children are likely to remember lessons they learn even better when they are linked to a story they read or experience they had, so try as much as you can to connect what they are reading to their own life.
    • Encourage retelling and imaginary play. “Playing kindergarten” has been a big deal around our house the past month. And now that library books are being checked out, they are for sure making an appearance. Not only is this a fun activity, it is also great for little developing minds and readers! In this instance, my daughter (who isn’t reading whole books yet) was able to retell the story in her own words while pretending to teach her class of kindergartners. This is wonderful for comprehension and creativity.
    • READ again– You can never read too much. Even as your children grow older, read aloud to them. It will make a difference for them as readers and provide ways for you to connect with your child. It’s the best!

    It’s always a surprise to see what library book comes home each week. What will this week’s treasure be?

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