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Thursday, November 30, 2017


Christmas STEAM: Kid-Made Ornaments & Book

I am delighted to join the Kid-Made Christmas today with a Christmas STEAM activity and book for you!

One of our favorite Christmas books is the Polar Express, and we always make at least one bell-themed ornament each year to go with it. (Image below is an Amazon affiliate link):

This year, we have some very young preschoolers/toddlers and I wanted a project that they could make that the older kiddos would still enjoy and appreciate. That's the beauty of STEM and STEAM activities--they meet kids right at their level, and they work for even very young children! They also give the kids lots of room to experiment, try new ideas, and create whatever they like. And a bonus for moms and teachers: they require very little instructions or oversight!

Here are the simple supplies for these ornaments:

* clear ornament balls
* jingle bells that fit into the ornament balls
* fuzzy sticks/pipecleaners
* any tools the kids want: we used scissors and pencils

Easy How To:

1- Read the book. Seriously, I love this book! It's magical. If you're not a fan, though, you can skip this step. :)

2- Lay out the supplies and tell the kids they can make their own goals for these ornaments. Here are a few ideas:

* Make an ornament that jingles beautifully, loudly, or softly.
* Make a colorful ornament.
* Make an ornament that's all one color.
* Make an ornament that includes all the colors available.

3- Let the kids get to work! Be available if they need any help!

They were super creative with the fuzzy sticks! Some twisted them together, some cut them up, and some bent them into little shapes!

We learned a lot about what fits in a container! My toddler was determined to get more bells in her ornament, but eventually she just had to declare it done and make a new one! These kinds of size relationships are an early math skill!

This was also awesome fine motor exercise!

I did not anticipate any decorations on top of the balls, but several of the kids were very fancy with their ornament tops!

In the end, we had loads of amazing ringing ornaments! The kids hung them up...and took them down, shook them, and hung them back over and over! We even made a set to give away to some of the kids "adopted" grandparents!

Do you love making ornaments with your kiddos? Would you like to try some more? If so, please join us in the Kid-Made Ornaments fun this year!! There are DOZENS of ideas all gathering at the Mama Miss blog--just click here! This year there's even a new cateogry of kid-made gifts too!

Today, ornaments are going live at these blogs:

Preschool Powol Packets (right here!!)

Feel free to stop by them and see what awesome ornaments + books they've been working on!

As always,

Happy Educating,

I may share at any of these parties!

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ABC's of LeapFrog Academy

As a LeapFrog Mom Ambassador I get to try new LeapFrog products and share my opinions about them with you. Today I am truly delighted to introduce you to LeapFrog Academy!

LeapFrog Academy is a new 3-D learning world that actually covers a well-rounded curriculum in a fun and exciting online platform. Since ABC's and young children are practically synonymous I decided to introduce you to LeapFrog Academy and share my review with my own set of ABC's...and I'll admit my kids totally helped me come up with these!

ABC's of LeapFrog Academy:

A is for Avatar...and Accessories! My 4-year old daughter's favorite thing to do is dress up her avatar and change her "accessories." Not even joking! Your avatar travels through the LeapFrog world as you click or touch (on a touch-screen) the path you want to travel.

B is for Balloons! The LeapFrog world happens to be a series of really cool islands floating in the air, and you enter the world holding a bouquet of balloons! You also transition between certain islands with the same flying balloons.

C is for Collections! As you complete levels and collect rewards you have options to choose collections (like castles, dinosaurs, robots, and more!) to build. Each collection is made up of building blocks, and you earn the placement of those building blocks as you "play" the learning games. My daughter already completed a castle (which you can visit and learn cool facts about castles) and is about to start a rocket in the picture below.

D is for Device Compatability! This is truly an amazing feature. You can access the web-based LeapFrog Academy from two of LeapFrog's tablets (the Epic or the LeapFrog Academy Epic) OR from your own phone (iPhone or Android) OR from an iPAD OR an Android tablet OR any Windows or Apple computer with a Wi-Fi connection!! As far as I can tell, the only common device that does not support the Academy are Amazon tablets.  AND, if you are using a tablet with a Wi-Fi connection, your kiddo can save up to 24 activities to the device to use when they are "offline" by marking them as "favorites."

E is for Emotions and Feelings! Feelings are part of the curriculum included--they are addressed in games and stories.

F is for Frog! Frog characters lead many of the lessons where they explain concepts like rhyming, math, and more to each other. Of course, your child watches the "conversation" and learns the lesson too!

G is for Great for Families! Seriously!! I love this about LeapFrog Academy--it's perfect for homeschooling families or families who just want educational activities on their tablets when the kids want screen time. Each monthly subscription includes FIVE ACCOUNTS!! And it is EASY to switch between accounts and monitor what your kiddos are doing on them!

H is for Home Extension Learning Ideas! As you check on your children's progress in the Parent Dashboard (see T - tracking - for more details) it includes suggestions that you can do with your kiddos to "extend" the learning concepts with hands-on activities with your kiddo.

I is for Intestines! Intestines, ribs, hearth, and the lungs are just part of the Human Body lessons--some of my favorite science concepts!

J is for Just Read to Me! Okay, this might be a little bit of a stretch, but I love that LeapFrog Academy has a huge library of ebooks, and you can either read them yourself, have LeapFrog read them to you, or read along with with LeapFrog. Reading is such an important aspect of childhood, and I love the confidence that the LeapFrog library gives kiddos as they can "read" without an adult helping them!

K is for Kindergarten, PreK, and 1st Grade! LeapFrog Academy is designed for children ages 3-6 in PreK, K, and 1st grade levels. Here are some peeks at some of the skills included:

The "Intro to Preschool" level includes the following:

Exploring Numbers and Letters
Letters, Sounds, and Rhymes
Shapes, Numbers, and Letters
Critical Thinking Skills
Colors, Music, and Letters
Math and Science
and more!

The "Intro to Kindergarten" level includes the following:

Letters, Numbers, and Words
Numbers and Shapes
Letters and Letter Sounds
Critical Thinking and Problem Solving
Rhymes and Blending Sounds
Art and Music
Early Science Concepts
Phonics and Spelling
Coding and STEM 
and more!

L is for Learning Adventure! When your kiddos log into LeapFrog Academy, they can choose between "My Learning Adventure" and "My World."  My Learning Adventure has 32 learning paths called Learning Adventures. Each Learning Adventure has 3-8 lessons (with 6 activities per lesson) that you progress through as you move along a path on the floating islands. If you complete them all in order, you will have moved successfully through the LeapFrog Academy curriculum. If, on the other hand, your kiddos would prefer to explore and choose their own adventures, the "My World" option has learning activities organized by types throughout floating islands that you can explore at your own pleasure. My kids have done a combination of both, and they love having the choice!

M is for Math! Each level covers a huge variety of math skills! I've seen everything from patterns to mathematical thinking and coding!

N is for Numbers! This might seem a little redundant, but kids learn how to identify numbers, manipulate them, and predict them!

O is for Over 1,000 Learning Activities!! AND....LeapFrog intends to keep adding to this massive collection!

P is for Puzzles! When your kiddo logs into LeapFrog Academy, below the options for My Learning Adventure and My World are small icons so you can jump to the following choices: Books, Games, Puzzles, Videos, Music, Art, and Favorites. There are over 120 puzzles in so many subjects--math, science, and more!

Q is for Quality! I have tested A LOT of online learning programs, and this is hands-down my favorite! Everything in LeapFrog Academy, from the graphics to the curriculum to the design of the world, is engaging, exciting, and educational. My preschoolers are constantly engaged when they log on.

R is for Rewards! My kids love collecting the marbles as they complete learning activities...and finding the "hidden" marbles as they travel the learning paths! When the marbles "fill up" the flower gauge on the screen, they get to exchange them for prizes, like new clothes or accessories for their avatar! (See A...my 4-year old LOVES this!!)

S is for Science! Science is one of the subjects that both has its own lessons and is integrated into lots of other lessons. Remember how I'm in love with the Human Body activities?! There are also activities for Space, Dinosaurs, Geology, Food, Engineering, and more!

T is for Tracking! Tracking your students progress is SO EASY! I have been frustrated with the parent portals of other online learning websites, but I truly find the Parent Dashboard a pleasure to use. It is fun to see what your child has done, the progress they make, and even get to choose what they will work on next! You can adjust levels or even add specific activities to My Learning Lab. Each child's work shows up in a screen where you simply scroll from one child to the next. I have used a PC every time I log into the Parent Dashboard, so I'm not sure how it would look on a tablet, but it is extremely user-friendly on a computer.

U is for Unicorn! Yep, there are unicorns in LeapFrog Academy. Short story: I was watching my daughter "play" recently, when she came to a letter-learning station. The letter popped up on the screen, and she exclaimed, "Oh, yes! I love these!!" The screen showed the proper way to write the letter, and gave her a chance to trace it in sequence. As she traced it correctly, it filled with clouds. When she finished tracing it, an airplane flew along the path. Other times the letters filled with different things...cheese that was traced by a mouse, rocks traced by a bulldozer, roads traced by cars, and more...even a rainbow traced by a unicorn!  In fact, after using LeapFrog Academy for a couple weeks, my 4-year old started writing letters spontaneously on her paper drawings too!

V is for Videos! Last time I counted there were over 60 educational videos on the system...covering topics as wide and varied as letters, engineering, and music! And they keep adding more videos!

W is for Writing and Words!  I already mentioned how my daughter is now writing letters, but let me tell you a little about my son. Even though is a few months older than the intended age range, I made him an account to let him practice the phonics included in the system. The 1st grade curriculum includes things like reading, sight word identification, vowel and consonant blends, digraphs, and lots of other reading and writing skills. It has been perfect for him as he's still working on a lot of these skills, and I have loved watching his reading confidence grow during the last couple months!

X is for X-tremely Fun Games! I know "extremely" actually starts with an "e," but I needed to emphasize how fun these activities are! Seriously, sometimes my 10-year old will ask for a turn to play!!

Y is for Yellow! Not only are colors covered in the PreK level, but my kids love the Banzai Beans games. They include skills in patterns, math, literacy, and more...and they include *yellow* lanterns in the game! My kids especially like the bonus levels where you design catapults to launch bean characters around!

Z is for Zoo! Lots of popular zoo animals are included in different games and activities, like monkeys in the Stretchy Monkey game, where kiddos practice matching uppercase and lowercase letters!

So now that I've introduced you to LeapFrog Academy, I'm going to finish this review up by letting you know that both I and my kiddos absolutely love it! LeapFrog Academy is one of the few "screen" activities that I am perfectly happy, without reservation, to let my kids use. It is engaging, educational, and safe--everything I want in an electronic activity!

And to make it even more accessible, LeapFrog offers a month-long free trial. You can try it out and see how you like it!

Have you seen LeapFrog Academy? Do you have any questions? I would love to answer them! Feel free to send me an email or leave a comment!

Disclosure: We were given a subscription to LeapFrog Academy to facilitate this review. All opinions are mine and I only recommend products I love!

Happy Educating,

I may share at any of these parties!

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Ocean Theme Experiment: See Sound Waves!

Sea animals, beaches, and hydrothermal vents are popular topics around here, so we end up doing an Ocean Theme a couple times each year. Today, I'm sharing an awesome way for your kids (and you) to actually see sound waves!

Fun Fact: Whales don't see color!

Sonar is using sound waves to "see" objects under water. It is like echolocation, except that echolocation is in the atmosphere (so bats and some birds use it), and sonar is under water (so whales and dolphins and submarines use it)!

Whales have huge eyes, but they often use sonar to find food, especially when they travel deeper in the Twilight Zone where light is scarce.

Understanding that sound waves bounce off objects and can be used to figure out where those objects are can be a tricky concept for kids, especially because we don't usually see sound waves. BUT, there are ways you can see right where those sound waves hit and how hard they are vibrating! Today I'm sharing a set of experiments you can do to see just that!

Simple Supplies:

* plastic container (I used a coconut flour bucket...you can use anything that a balloon will fit around, but I always have trouble getting balloons to stay put around oatmeal containers...they bend a lot! Plastic containers are often a little stronger.)
* paper towel tube (or PVC pipe...I really wanted to use PVC pipe because it will absorb less sound than cardboard, but I happened to be all out and I didn't want to go to the hardware store for this...and paper towel tubes work great!)
* 12" balloon
* rubberband
* strong scissors
* salt

Easy How To:

1- Check out this picture:

2- To make this device, trim the balloon and stretch it over the rim of your plastic container. Add a rubberband for extra strength. Cut a hole in the side of the container just a little bit smaller than your cardboard tube. Squish the cardboard tube into the hole so it fills all the space. This is a crude tonoscope, or a device that lets you see images created by sound waves.

3- Try these experiments:

A: Sprinkle salt on the top of the balloon and shout "Boo!" through the cardboard tube! 
B: Try a variety of noises and see how the salt behaves differently...hums, singing, talking, and sound effects are fun!
C: Try a variety of pitches...does the salt move more with high or low pitch?  (Hint: high pitch sounds have higher frequency wavelengths, meaning that the waves are closer together so the salt is getting hit by more sound waves every second than low pitch sounds!)
D: Try a variety of volumes...does the salt change with loud or soft sounds?  (Hint: louder sounds have a higher amplitude, or a "bigger" sound wave. Very loud sounds hit your eardrums {similar to the balloon} so hard they can damage it!)

One of my favorite parts of these experiments is that it includes so many senses: sight, hearing, touch (touch the container!), and even your vestibular system!

How else can you experiment? 

I'll be honest: my young kids were so caught up in the experiments they came up with that it was impossible to get them to hold still long enough to take a picture! I had my oldest pose for a couple so you could get an idea of how everything works!

The tonoscope doubles as a pretty awesome drum:

We also discovered you could point the cardboard tube directly at the salt and see it move when the sound waves hit it:

We were motivated to look into sound waves by our book for the LET’S-READ-AND-FIND-OUT SCIENCE® BLOG SERIES!  During this series, bloggers are featuring a science book from the LET’S-READ-AND-FIND-OUT SCIENCE® books and an activity that goes with it! This series is fantastic--you could even use it as a science curriculum! You can find the collection of all the blogger's activity ideas at My Joy Filled Life--just click here!

Our featured book is How Deep is the Ocean? (Image below is an Amazon affiliate link:)

One of the pages points out that sperm whales use sonar to find prey deep under the ocean. We wanted to learn more about that, so we spent the morning experimenting with sound waves!

The book is full of cool facts and surprising information...it even has some fun experiment suggestions for learning more about pressure and measuring the ocean depths!

And if you want more background information about how whale's see, this is a fantastic article!

AND, if you're looking for more ocean themed fun, check out our Ocean Theme Collection, How Sharks Float, and Penguin Experiments!


As always,

Happy Educating,

I may share at any of these parties!

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Monday, November 27, 2017


Christmas STEAM: Paint Explosion Ornaments

STEM activities and STEAM projects are the only way we keep learning through the holiday season, so I am super excited to share these paint exposion ornaments with you as part of the Virtual Book Club's Ornament week!

Ever since last year when I saw Sarah's Erupting Ornaments here, I have wanted to try it with paint! And let me tell you...it has been one of our favorite Christmas STEAM / STEM activities so far!!

The supply list seems a little long, but they are all really basic supplies that you probably already have (with the exception of the ornament balls...I grabbed a bunch of those at Walmart and the Dollar Store!):

Simple Supplies:

* ornament balls
* acrylic paint
* baking soda
* vinegar
* glitter
* something to catch the mess in (I used pyrex bowls)
* something to pour the vinegar with (I used graduated cylinders)
* safety goggles (because everyone loves to work with goggles)
* optional: butcher paper (I love to cover our work area with butcher paper so I can scoop up any spills and throw them away easily!)

I setup our work area before I invited the kids -- I've learned that when you're doing a "messy" project with more than one or two kiddos setting up all the supplies makes it easier for them to be independent, which makes it easier to help everyone as they need it. ;)

Easy How To:

1- Squirt some paint in the ornaments and swirl it around. My toddler needed help holding her ornament up while she squirted paint in, but she LOVED this part as much as the other kids! Don't get too attached to the design (see the next few steps), but have fun with it! I suggested the kids limit themselves to two colors, but some used four or five and it still looked awesome!

2- Add a spoonful or two of baking soda and 50-100 millileters of vinegar. If you don't have graduated cylinders, just use a cup. ;)  Let it explode over a pan!

3- Repeat steps 1 & 2 as often as you like! You can also add glitter in at any point...because everyone loves glitter!

4- Let them dry!! This took at least a day!

And ta da!! Fantastic ornaments to remind them of science play!

I actually wanted to add a squirt of white paint after the colors dried so they would "pop" a little more, but my kiddos wouldn't hear of it! They wanted to get the ornaments up and played with...and eventually on the tree!

5- Some of my kids were a little frustrated when the explosion lifted the paint out of the ornaments. They loved the colorful eruptions, but they wanted a little more control over their designs. So some of them swirled the paint and then just let them dry. This would also make a cool activity all by itself:

So how is this a STEAM activity? It incorporates aspects of science, technology, engineering, art, and math into one fun project:

SCIENCE: problem solving, questioning, testing, experimenting, and chemistry (see note below)
TECHNOLOGY: using tools like graduated cylinders and paint bottles
ENGINEERING: designing the ornament, deciding how to organize and repeat steps 2 & 3
ART: creating an ornament
MATH: measuring vinegar, counting spoonfuls of baking soda

I would LOVE to see pictures of any ornaments you make! Feel free to email me or leave a comment!!

Chemistry note: What exactly is going on here? When vinegar (acetic acid) and baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) react, the final products are carbon dioxide (a gas), sodium acetate (aqueous), and water. The carbon dioxide bubbles up, bound to paint pigment, and "explodes." The sodium acetate separates into sodium ions and acetate molecules. The carbon dioxide dissipates in the air and over a day or so the water and acetate evaporate, leaving the paint pigments behind. Of course, we just tell our preschoolers that vinegar and baking soda react and make carbon dioxide...and carbon dioxide is a gas that bubbles!

As I mentioned earlier, we are joining in the Virtual Book Club for Kids this week to make TONS of ornaments! You can join in too at the Virtual Book Club for Kids FB page here

This week we are making ornaments and featuring the book Merry Christmas Mouse. Check it out below (image is an Amazon affiliate link):

Then be sure to check out all these fun ornament ideas from the VBC co-hosts:

Advent Countdown for Kids
Peppermint Cream Mice - Rainy Day Mum
Christmas STEAM: Paint Eruption Ornaments - Preschool Powol Packets
Solar System Ornaments- Teach Beside Me
Elf Station Ornament CoLor Sort - Sea of Knowledge
If You Give a Mouse Fingerprint Ornament for Kids - The Educators' Spin On It

Happy Educating,

I may share at any of these parties!

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