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Friday, 30 September 2016

Exploring Bugs

Over the past few weeks we have been exploring bugs!  The children are both fascinated and scared by them; with Wugs declaring his undying for spiders until he sees one and then runs through the house screaming and with Dooey saying he doesn’t like flies, but if he sees one sat on a table or flower he watches it with fascination.  Either way, I thought devoting a few weeks to the study of bugs would be therapeutic for them…and me! (It’s ironic that I’m writing this a week after a gigantic spider crawled under my bed which meant I had to bunk with the children all night)!

Bug Sensory Tub

I started off our bug exploration with a sensory tub which I filled with soil, a spoon, a flower or two, some fruit on a plate with a bug munching on it (the children are intrigued by bugs turning up on plates or in food after we played the “Pizza! Pizza!” game from Orchard).  They played with the sensory tub on and off for a couple of hours and at one point when I was sitting inside I could hear them through the window talking about the need for the caterpillar to eat lots and lots of food referencing Eric Carle’s The Hungry Caterpillar.   

A Bug Hunt

Afterwards I asked the children if they would like to look for bugs in the garden.  We had a look through some cards that showed illustrations of common bugs and that matched the models of the bugs they had been playing with. 

The children took the bug box and a magnifying glass into the garden and spent all afternoon outside searching for bugs.  To their delight, they discovered a caterpillar on the wooden fence and gently put him in the bug box with a leaf.  He instantly coiled up and after 15 minutes still hadn’t uncoiled, so Dooey released him. They also found lots of ants and a spider which we placed in the box, but it turned out to be dead already.

For added fun I included some bug glasses, so the children could see through the eyes of a fly!  (I’m not sure how accurate the bug glasses are, but they had great fun putting them on and seeing the world through yellow-tinted glasses).

Alongside our outdoor activities, I included some literacy and maths activities which I placed on the children’s shelves indoors.  These were downloaded from TrilliumMontessori.

Counting Ladybirds and Spiders
The ladybird counters were made using red glass pebbles and a black marker; an idea I took from Trillium Montessori.  As our red pebbles were quite dark, we carried out the counting on our DIY light box, which the children are always thrilled to use.  I adapted this idea for my spider-lover using clear pebbles. 

Pegging the First Letter Sound

For the literacy activities we used the cards to peg the beginning letter sound using some ladybird pegs. 

Bug Identification (Nomenclature) Cards

I also included some terminology (nomenclature cards) which we downloaded from Every Star is Different.  I spent some time searching for some clear, real images and I found that these were the best.  The children became familiar with the names of various bugs and then matched the labels with the pictures. 

Creating an Ant Farm

Although the children enjoyed all the activities, they seemed to prefer observing the live bugs they had seen in the garden, but when the children came close, the insects would freeze in fear.  I thought creating a habitat for the bugs and observing them over a period of time would give the children an opportunity to view their habits without frightening them.  So... I invested in an ant farm!  Our ant farm arrived a few weeks ago.  We went into the garden to collect the ants in the little dish provided, but we waited and waited and couldn’t find any ants at all!  I could see the children’s interest waning, so I decided to order some ants online. 

Week 2
Week 5
The ants arrived in a dish with soil already provided and we connected it up to our farm.  Slowly we saw the ants moving up the tube into the viewing box that was filled with a sand/soil mixture.  Unfortunately, most of them stayed in the tube or seemed happier in the dish with the soil they had travelled with, so after a couple of days I engaged in the tricky operation of emptying the soil and some of the ants directly into the farm. I had a couple of escapees, but on the whole it was a success!   Over the past week the ants have begun to create tunnels and chambers in the sand/soil, carrying things from one area of the ant farm to another.  We replenish their food every few days and keep the soil moisturised using a teat pipette.  So far we haven’t observed any pregnant ants, but we are on the look-out!

Ant Anatomy

Seeing as the children are observing ants at the moment, I thought it would be useful to look at the anatomy of an ant.  These sheets are produced by Gift of Curiosity and are free to download.  A control sheet is also provided.

Bug Books

During our bug project, we visited the library and collected a number of books and pulled out a few of our favourites from our own collection.

A new series that we are starting to collect is produced by Moonlight Publishing and uses overlays and a “torchlight” (a white backdrop in the shape of a torch!) to view detailed images.  Given that Dooey is still in his sensitive period for small things, I found these books have really captured his interest.

At the moment, the National Geographic are doing a series on bugs and each edition has a specimen of a  bug enclosed in glass.  (I hope they died naturally).  The series looks amazing, but is a bit expensive, so we might be selective about which ones we collect.  The features and images on the National Geographic website are a great alternative and include lots of interesting facts.

Clay Bug Creations

Our final bug activity involved creating bugs from clay, pipe cleaners and googly eyes.  We had 12-legged spiders and insects with just one eye!
I'm not sure if our bug activities have completely allayed our fear of creepy crawlies, but the children seem to have a greater appreciation for them.  During a trip to a playground, Dooey discovered a golden-coloured caterpillar and on the trunk of a tree at Wugs' school, he found a yellow ladybird.  We try to take pictures of our little discoveries each time we meet them.

Friday, 25 March 2016

Resurrection Garden

I love Easter!  I love it like most people love Christmas!  The promise of new life reflected in the season with its blooming of daffodils and the lighter evenings after the cold and darkness of winter.

I felt inspired to create a resurrection garden a couple of years ago, initially building one from play dough, but this year I finally built up enough courage to grow one!  Given my poor performance in keeping plants and flowers alive, this was quite a feat.

It turned out to be very easy.  I purchased a large plant tray, a small flower pot, some soil and grass seed.  I covered the tray with soil and built a mound of soil over the flower pot.  Once the pot was held in place, I added grass seed pushing it into the soil.  I watered it and waited about six days for signs of life and by the sixth day grass started to sprout and from then on grew very quickly.  I added some stones that I collected from our driveway and a large stone for the tomb.

I wanted the children to open an egg each day and find a symbol of Easter inside that could be built into the garden scene.  I used seven plastic eggs and placed a chocolate for each child inside together with a symbol and a card.  The cards were downloaded from this website.  The website uses more cards as part of a resurrection egg activity, but I stuck with just seven days.  I hung the eggs on a tree for the children to take down and open up each day.

In addition to the symbols I included some larger items: a donkey, three crosses, an angel and a small LED light that will shine out of the tomb on Easter morning (more photos to follow).

The children absolutely loved it and we accompanied the activity with readings from the bible story to make sure the children could appreciate the true meaning of Easter.

What we used:
Large plant tray
Grass seed
Small plant pot
Small stones
One large stone
Plastic eggs
Symbols for the eggs: green foam paper palm leaves, bread, a foil cup to symbolise suffering, a gold coin, a crown of thorns made from twisted jewellery wire, a crucifix, a swab to represent Jesus' clothes in the tomb (I decided that the "clothes" would be placed in the tomb for the children to discover on Easter morning, rather than in the egg).
A donkey figurine
An angel (made from silver tinsel pipe cleaners)
3 crosses (made from coloured lollipop sticks)

Happy Easter everyone!

Friday, 5 February 2016

Chinese New Year Activities and Crafts

More Chinese New Year activities and crafts:

Chinese New Year Small World Play

Lion Dance Puppets

Chinese New Year Sensory Tub

My youngest son, Dooey (2.7 years) is really into sensory play at the moment, so I created this mini sensory tub for him to explore.

What we used:
Rice (dyed red)
Gold coins
Orange peel
Angpow packets (for him to transfer the rice into and empty)
Tin containers (for extra sound)
Scoops for transferring
(Another idea I had, but didn't use in this tub was the idea of adding the 12 animals of the Chinese zodiac for the child to discover and arrange according to the order they came in the race).

Orange Peel Numbers

This activity was based on the lion dance that is performed around shops and condos in Singapore during the build up to Chinese New Year.  During the dance, the lion is offered oranges (believed to symbolise prosperity and health), which he consumes, leaving an arrangement of "lucky" numbers which he forms out of the orange peel.   The Chinese typically make a note of the numbers and then gamble on them!

I created an outline of our numbers (I followed the year, 2016, but also created individual mats for the boys birth years, 2011 and 2013).  I peeled a couple of oranges and tore up the peel.  The boys then arranged the peel in the shape of the numbers.  It was also a fun way to teach them the year of their birth and to help Dooey (2.7 years) gain a familiarity with the shape of the numbers.

What we used:
Orange Peel

Chinese New Year Plaques

When I think of Chinese New Year in Singapore I think of red and gold plaques with animals and/or Chinese symbols for wealth, health, good luck and happiness stuck to shop windows or hanging from the ceilings - if not the plaques then those gigantic paper pineapples!

Today we made some plaques of our own - an activity that combined writing and threading skills.

I downloaded images of Chinese symbols for happiness and laminated them.  I gave each child a symbol, tracing paper and a black marker pen (Dooey chose green!) and let them trace the symbol. Later we mounted the symbols onto red card and added some gold thread, which Wugs threaded.

What we used:
Chinese symbol (laminated)
Tracing paper (optional, the child could copy)
Red card
Gold thread

Making Angpow Packets

We have really been getting into the spirit of Chinese New Year this week and decided that today we would make some angpow packets.  In Chinese tradition, the red envelopes (sometimes refered to as "lai see") are usually filled with money notes and presented by the older generation to the younger one.  They symbolise good luck for the year ahead.   Being a part-Chinese family, we follow this tradition and the children will be receiving angpow from us and their grandparents this year.

I designed a template for the packets based on an A4 sheet of red paper.  Once I had cut them out and glued the edges, I presented the packets to the boys for decoration.  Usually the decoration is in gold and includes Chinese symbols for good luck and happiness.  Once they had finished, we added chocolate gold coins.

What we used:
Red A4 paper
Gold and red glitter glue
Examples of angpow packets and Chinese symbols
(Any red and gold patterned paper would also look good on these packets).
Chocolate gold coins