Toy Blog - Toys, Parenting, and Kids

Make Mealtime A Teachable Moment

I got a terrific idea from my son’s teacher this week.  This idea can be used with just about any subject being studied.  Take a piece of posterboard (12 x 18 inches) and have your child decorate it with anything that is currently being studied.  For example, if your child is learning his or her multiplicaction facts, have him or her write them around the edges of the posterboard.  Or, if your child is learning to identify colors or letters, do the same with that information.  Maybe your older child needs to memorize a timeline or a set of dates or events.  Write whatever subject it is on the posterboard, then cover it with clear Contact paper.  Viola!  Your child has made an instant, teachable placemat to use at mealtimes!

Supplementing Your Child’s Education

Bells are ringing across the country, in classes (and homes) as children make their way back to school for another year.  As a parent, I want to give my child the best possible chance at a successful school year.  Being actively involved in my child’s experiences at school by volunteering and assisting, as well as being a physical presence around the school, are great ways to take an active role in my son’s education.  I also like to find things to supplement classroom learning and bring it home as well.

WonderBrains is currently carrying two lines of materials that are perfect for homeschooled children and children who are educated outside the home.  Carson-Dellosa, a leading education publisher, has created a variety of activities and workbooks for children ages three through fifth grade.  For preschool-aged children, WonderBrains carries a variety of read-aloud, activity-centered books, such as Magnix: A Visit To the Farm.  The Magnix series of books also branches into early math and writing activities as well.  For school-aged children, WonderBrains carries Carson-Dellosa’s Summer Bridge series.  But, don’t let the titles fool you!  These are excellent tools year-round, and may even inspire your young learner to come up with even more activities.  These books are found as Summer Bridge Activities, Summer Bridge Math and Summer Bridge Reading and are available in several different age ranges. 

WonderBrains has also welcomed Remedia on board.  These reading activities workbooks are available for children from Kindergarten through high school with a wide range of reading skill areas.  For younger children, the Remedia Beginning Reading Program is a comprehensive collection of age and ability-level appropriate materials with an accompanying activity guide.  Choose from the sampler set or the small group set (three copies of each story).  As the students progress in their learning, so do the skill materials covered by Remedia’s materials: comprehension, vocabulary, context clues and life skills reading activities.  For reluctant readers, Remedia offers a line of activity books that are high-interest, low-readability to boost confidence and success in students who need it the most. 

Extending the learning to the homefront is a wonderful way to stress the importance of education with young people.  WonderBrains can help you find the resources to do so!

Edible Geometry!

Even our little kids will get a kick out of this great idea for using fun food to create some excitement about geometry!  It is a great way to explore shapes, and even older kids can benefit tremendously from this hands-on activity with shapes.

You will need toothpicks and a soft (and yummy) food, such as gumdrops, fruit snacks, grapes or marshmallows.  Use the toothpicks to place the piece of food on each end, then stick another toothpick in to form shapes, such as triangles, squares, and three-dimensional objects.  The food pieces are your “endcaps”.  This is similar to Tinker Toys and K’Nex.  See what interesting and new structures your little architect can create!

Patterns In Nature: A Mathematical Lesson

Our natural world is the perfect classroom on so many levels.  The world is full of color, vibrancy, life, science, history.  It is an inspiration for art, writing, music and dance.  And, our world is so mathematical. 

Not exactly what you were expecting?

But, it is.  The natural world is FULL of symmetry, geometry, functionality, balance, and patterns.  And, because children love the outdoors, what better place to feed their sometimes insatiable desire to learn than outside?

Teaching young children about patterns is a natural part of our world.  Begin by looking at simple, man-made structures, such as fences, bridges, architecture, even sidewalks.  Find patterns in brickwork, woodwork, painting and even in everyday things such as the parking lot of a store or the windows on a building.

Once a child understands the basic concept of a pattern (a sequence that repeats itself over and over), look for examples in nature.  Many plants actually grow in a patterned state.  The Vitex (also known as a Texas Lavender) puts off flowers in plumes grouped in threes on each branch.  Look at the petals of flowers – do all the flowers have the same number of petals?  What about trees?  Do the leaves grow in some sort of organized pattern? 

Look for small bugs and other critters that exhibit patterns, such as ladybugs and butterflies.  These animals also lend themselves well to teaching SYMMETRY (mirror imaging).  Larger animals, such as horses, can be observed for patterns in the way they walk or run.  The “sound” of galloping is a great auditory pattern.  Listen for patterns with crickets and birds as well.

Take advantage of the warmer, sunnier days and enjoy the scenery with a child.  You never know what they might learn in the process!

Tantalizing Tessellations

If there is one item in my 4 year-old class that thrills every single one of my students, it is my set of pattern blocks.  My class loves to create patterns and pictures with shapes, creating art and objects using squares, hexagons, triangles and quadrilaterals.  This activity always manages to lead the child to discover the properties of shapes in regards to angles and sides: how different shapes can “interlock”, which shapes work best for creating patterns, and which shapes do not work at all.

Tessellations are, simply put, a “tiled” pattern.  They are a design created by interlocking, non-overlapping, repetitive shapes that leave no “holes” or gaps between them.  Much like floor tile, tessellations can go on forever, repeating the same pattern over and over.  Tessellations do not have to be regular polygons (such as triangles and squares); they can be created with non-traditional shapes and figures as well.  Dutch artist M.C. Escher is one of the most famous names associated with tessellations.  Check out a terrific collection of his work at Platonic Realms’ site, complete with a short biography and a variety of his sketches and drawings.

While playing with shapes and their relationships with each other can create amazing art and designs, children are also exploring mathematical concepts closely tied with geometry and spatial relationships.  Incorporating toys and tools such as Fractallations and Puzzellations, children are able to experience the joy of creating a unique design or picture while still learning and internalizing key mathematical concepts.  For a more direct look at tessellations, products such as tessellation activity books can provide opportunities for children to explore the use of design and color to enhance a tessellation design.

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