Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Teaching Kids About Inventions

What inventions made the biggest impact to human history? Let your children decide with this critical thinking and writing activity.
Critical Thinking and Writing Activity for Kids - InventionsDisclosure: I am an Amazon associate and this post contains affiliate links. For full disclosure, please click here and thank you for supporting my blog!

Timeline of Inventions for Kids

Timeline of Inventions and Inventors My daughter is not a big fan of non-fiction outside of National Geographics trivia books, so I was excited when she picked up An Illustrated Timeline of Inventions and Inventors to take home from the library. This book by Kremena Spengler illustrated by Rick Morgan is a great concise visual on the history of inventions from prehistoric times to 21st century. It’s amazing to flip through the pages and appreciate what human civilization achieved in its rise from fire (the first in the book) to iPads (the last of featured inventions). This book could launch a whole homeschool curriculum on inventions, but for our after school family I decided to use it as a launching pad for a couple of activities related to inventions.

Which Inventions Are Most Important?

As a critical activity for this book, I made a very simple printable and asked my 8 year old to look through the book and pick 12 most important inventions from her point of view. I said that I would do the same. She took her task very seriously and created her own table giving inventions a rating and also writing (without me asking to) why she put that particular “candidate” on her list. She also decided to pick one invention from each of the pages of the book, so her choices were sometimes a little “unexpected”. I really enjoyed listening to her thought process and also noted to myself that there are some things in the book (i.e. telegraph) that Smarty simply cannot appreciate, since they sort of faded before she was born.

What Would Be on Your List?

Smarty worked on her list for more than an hour – I was impressed to observe how much her “writing endurance” increased lately. Of course the number of spelling errors went up towards the end, but she wouldn’t rest until she handed me her list. She couldn’t decide between a couple on her list, so she asked for a “bonus” invention. Then we compared our choices
Smarty Mama
1. Fire
1. Fire
2. Compass
2. Paper
3. Vaccines
3. Wheel
4. Printing Press
4. Metallurgy
5. Canning
5. Printing Press
6. Combustion Engine
6. Steam Engine
7. First Car
7. Electric Motor
8. Pasteurization
8. Vaccines
9. Refrigerator
9. Light bulb
10. Traffic Signal
10. Car/Combustion Engine
11. Lego
11. Telephone
12. Digital Camera
12. Computer
13. iPad
13. Writing (my late bonus add)

What’s Next?

I have a few more ideas for activities related to inventions and inventors – stay tuned and follow my Pinterest board For Future Engineers.
Follow Natalie Planet Smarty Pants's board For future engineers on Pinterest.

Your Turn

What inventions would you put on your list?

Monday, October 20, 2014

Countdown to Halloween

It’s almost Halloween and today I am sharing 10 learning and creative ideas leading that you and your kids can do to get in the mood.
10 Creative Ideas for Kids to Do Before Halloween

Halloween on Planet Smarty Pants

Halloween 2013
The next 10 days is certainly going to be busy in our house. Smarty turned 8 yesterday, and she is eagerly looking forward to other important events of October – her birthday party, a big Halloween celebration in her school called Monster Boogie Bash, a class “fall party”, and, of course, Halloween. With all new toys and books that she already received, the days will pass fast for her, but kids who are counting days until Halloween night might enjoy a count down with many learning and creative ideas shared by After School Link Up participants.

10. Read Halloween Books

Pick a book for early readers recommended by KC Edventures or check out one (or more!) from spooky chapter books recommended by A Book Long Enough.

9. Have Fun with Glow Sticks

Use one of those fun glow sticks ideas from P is for Preschooler
Fun Glow Stick Ideas

8. Make a Scarecrow

It’s even more fun if you do this scarecrow art project from Boy Mama Teacher Mama with a group of kids, but it will also work for one child.

7. Make a Bat

Pick one of great Halloween bat crafts from Gift of Curiosity.

6. Spell with Skeleton Bones

You can play this fun spelling game with “skeleton bones” from Jdaniel’s Mom for any spelling level.

5. In the Mood for Pen and Paper?

Check out this giant list of printable Halloween Activities from KC Edventures..

4. Put a Halloween Twist on a Classic Science Experiment

I really liked this witch science twist on “egg in salt water” from Science Kiddo.
Halloween egg in salt water experiment

3. Make a Homemade Halloween Costume

This monster headband from Fantastic Fun and Learning looks so cute and doesn’t take a lot of time.

2. Do a Halloween Science Experiment

Science Sparks shares 20 terrific science activities for Halloween. Perhaps your kids can pick one they like best.
20 Halloween Science Activities

1. … And a Little More Sensory Halloween Science

Surprise your kids or Halloween guests with one of these Halloween chemistry ideas that I collected into one round up.

More Halloween Ideas for Kids?

Follow my Pinterest board Halloween.
Follow Natalie Planet Smarty Pants's board Halloween on Pinterest.

Your Turn

Who are your kids going to be for Halloween this year. Smarty still wants to wear her ghost Halloween from the last year (in the picture in the beginning of this post).

2014 After School Link Up Hosts

After School Link Up

Share Your Learning Week

We would love to have you link up your School-Age Post (Ages 5 and up) about yourafter school activities with kids age 5+ including Crafts, Activities, Playtime and Adventures. When linking up, please take a moment to comment on at least one post linked up before yours and grab our after school button to include a link on your post or site! By linking up you're giving permission for us to share on our After School Pinterest Board or feature on our After School Party in the upcoming weeks! Don't forget to follow along and join our After School Enrichment Community.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

The Week In Review – October 18, 2014

Highlights of the Week

  • It’s the last week with my 7 year old. Tomorrow Smarty is turning 8! Time flies so quickly!
  • Smarty and Papa had a lot of fun helping out with school garden last weekend. Parent volunteers rock!
  • I had an incredibly intense week at work with another delay to my main project. I am quite exhausted.
  • I managed to read The Blood of Olympus before we give it to Smarty for her birthday – yay, me! This partially explains my level of exhaustion, because I was staying up late reading it.
  • A big dead tree in our backyard toppled over without warning. Luckily, it didn’t fall on the power lines or on the fence.

School News

WritingSchool continues to go very well. Smarty’s favorite day is Wednesday, because she has “four favorite things: library, choir, Mad Science after school class, and Mama coming to volunteer for math”. I enjoy volunteering in Smarty’s classroom and getting to know different kids. It’s kind of alarming to see the gap between the weakest and the strongest kids, which is becoming more noticeable now when weaker kids are asked to take on more challenging tasks. I am trying to help, but it’s obvious that some of them would really benefit from a deeper 1:1 instruction. On the other hand, the strongest cluster is thriving this year, because they get to do tasks of their level in individual work and in a group work together.

After School News

Rectangle-Square-Start I am excited to join a writing team on Bedtime Math, as I am hoping to share my love for math with a wider audience. You are welcome to guess what math activity we were doing here :) This (and one more activity that I hope to share next week) were the only two “guided activities” this week. Smarty spent the rest of her unstructured time after school reading. Interestingly, she hasn’t asked for any computer time for a really long time and I don’t even remember when she watched TV last.

What My Child Is Reading

WMCIR-Oct18Smarty is very taken by Spirit Animals series and is already on book 4. Together we finished The Space Station Rat and she also read random books from her extensive home library. And here she is – in her favorite reading spot on the stairs – so she can be close to the kitchen when my husband and I cook or talk there.

Places We Are Going

Pumpkin PatchEvery year we go to the same pumpkin patch on the parking lot of our strip mall. It’s not much, but it’s tradition. Even Smarty knows she is growing out of these visits, but this is one of the things of her early childhood that she is not willing to give up, especially since she gets to choose all our pumpkins for decorations and for carving.

Favorite Memory of the Week

Pumpkin-Portrait Every year I am taking a picture of Smarty sitting on top of “papa pumpkin” that we bring to decorate our porch and eventually to carve. This picture made me realize how much she grew lately both physically and socially. It’s bittersweet to see her change, and I am grateful for every moment that we have together. I love hearing her tell me every evening how much she loves me and that I am the best Mama in the world.  I will miss my 7 year old, but I am looking forward to the whole year with my 8 year old.

Most Popular Post

Halloween Chemistry Ideas continues to be the most popular. The most popular from recent posts is 12 STEM Ideas for Kids Age 5+.

Your Turn

How was your week?

Thursday, October 16, 2014

6 November Books for 2 and 3 Year Olds

This post is part of the series in Book Recommendations for Kids by Age and Month of the Year. It has November book recommendations for children who are 2 or 3 Years Old. Each book is paired up with additional resources that you can use to extend the story further.
November books for 2 and 3 year old with extension activities
My daughter is turning 8 this weekend, and she is a very fluent reader. Very often I hear the same question, What did you do with her when she was little? Well, we read a lot, and I maintained a diary of our reading activities in weekly What My Child Is Reading entries in my blog. I decided to make these reading diaries more useful and create a new series on my blog where I will share our best books for each month for ages 3, 4, 5, and 6. Moreover, I will pair each book with an extension activity – sometimes with ours and sometimes with activities from my creative friends from Kid Blogger Network. In this post I am featuring books that we read when Smarty just turned 3 years old.
Disclosure: I am an Amazon associate and this post contains affiliate links. For full disclosure, please click here and thank you for supporting my blog!

1. Round the Turkey

Round the turkey
We live in US, so Thanksgiving is a big holiday, especially since my parents usually come to visit us, and we have a bigger gathering. Out of many Thanksgiving books that we read that November, Smarty loved Round the Turkey best. This book doesn’t give any background for an actual holiday, but focuses instead on giving thanks as a big family assembles around Thanksgiving table. We were focusing on being grateful at home in the weeks leading to the holiday, and Smarty produced several Thanksgiving turkey crafts – made in her preschool, at the library story time, and at home.

Preschool-Art-Thanksgiving-Turkeys-5-Ideas 2. Everyone Poops

Everyone Poops
If you have a 2 or a 3 year old, you are probably going through that milestone known as potty training. In this case, don’t miss Everyone Poops by Taro Gomi! Some “egghead” readers are offended by the book, but I think it’s brilliant, and my daughter was certainly both fascinated and entertained by it even though there is not much story to go around. Smarty especially liked to read Everyone Poops sitting on the toilet (we skipped the potty entirely) – she was fully potty trained by 3 and very proud of herself. We used a method similar to Potty Training the Slow Way described by Toddler Approved. I have to admit though that she weaned herself off “poop awards” (2 M&Ms for pooping) only when she was over 6 years old :).

potty training the slow way 3. Alphabet Adventure

Alphabet AdventuresWhen my daughter turned 3, she was beyond learning her letters, but she still enjoyed alphabet books. Audrey Wood and Bruce Wood have three beautifully illustrated books built with the same set of energetic lower case characters (a great idea, since most alphabet books feature upper case letters). Smarty enjoyed the first book Alphabet Adventure best, since it is least suspenseful, and letters all work together as friends to find i’s missing dot. Illustrations by Bruce Wood make this book look like a still cartoon, which might appeal to children who watch a lot of TV. They might be tempted to recreate the story with some sort of moveable alphabet, for example, with these alphabet rocks from Childhood 101.

Alphabet Rocks from Childhood 101 4. Not a Stick

Not a Stick
Not a Stick by Antoinette Portis came out in 2007, but it looks, feels and behaves like a true timeless classic book. My daughter was enchanted by the imagination of the main character who transforms his stick into different things. It gave her a lot of ideas for “not a stick” games. I love what Teach Preschool did with her group – she described their Not a Stick Story Time and Creative Activity in her guest post for No Time for Flashcards.
Stick Group Activity

5. How Do Dinosaurs Say Good Night?

How Do Dinosaurs Say Good Night
I have mixed feelings for Dinosaur series by Jane Yolen and Mark Teague simply because I read these books to Smarty since she was a baby for what feels like a million times. This only proves their staying power. Every book mixes creative humorous illustrations with fun rhymes and teaches (hopefully!) good manners together with dinosaur names. If your child is into dinosaurs (and what child isn’t?), he or she might enjoy making their own dinosaurs with this terrific paper plate dinosaur craft from Learn with Play at Home.

6. The Berenstain Bears Go to the Doctor

Berenstein Bears go to the doctor
The Berenstain Bears were my 3 year old’s favorite characters. She never liked mischievous characters, but could connect to the fears or hopes of little bear cubs. Since we were getting ready for her wellness visit shortly after her third birthday, I got out The Berenstein Bears Go to the Doctor from our stash, and we read it multiple times. This book is great for alleviating children’s concerns about a visit to the doctor and it also gives a good explanation about shots. My daughter took her wellness visit like a champ and spent hours playing with her doctor kit. You can extend a store-bought doctor kit (and we did so in the past) with some DIY components to make it more “real” – check out this DIY pretend doctor kit from Kids Activities Blog.

More November Books Recommendations

  • November Books for 4 Year Olds – coming next week

More Booklists For Kids?

Follow my Pinterest Board Best Children Books Booklists
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Your Turn

What’s your favorite Thanksgiving book for kids of this age?

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

A Drawing Challenge – Organic Shape Monsters

With Halloween around the corner, challenge your children to a fun drawing game of organic shape monsters.
A drawing challenge for any age  making organic shape monsters
Disclosure: I am an Amazon associate and this post contains affiliate links. For full disclosure, please click here and thank you for supporting my blog!

What Are Organic Shape Monsters?

This project was inspired by Organic Shape Monsters post at Our Art Lately. The concept is pretty simple – you take a string and form a shape with it. Then you draw an imaginary creature to fit that shape:

Making an organic monster with a string shape

Choosing Your Art Supplies

Smarty has received an early birthday present from a friend – a Darice 120-Piece Deluxe Art Set. She was excited to try it out on her organic monsters. Frankly, while the price on Amazon is really attractive (this set is under $10), its quality is very disappointing. The crayons are waxy, some of the pencils have this problem with cores sliding out of the end of the opposite end when you draw with them, and the pastels are just horrible. It’s rather sad, since the concept of a big art set is a good one, and my daughter really wanted one. She didn’t want to change her art supplies in the middle of the project, but, sadly, I don’t see this set seeing a lot of action here as we have better art supplies available (mostly from Crayola brand).

Drawing-Organic-MonsterTell the Story While Drawing

Smarty is much better “drawing with words” that drawing with art supplies, and it was fun to listen to her describing her monster. Obviously, it’s a friendly monster that has a big air bubble behind him that allows him to fly. He also has “barnacles with wings”, and he can pick up things with barnacles and with extra feet. I always enjoy seeing her imagination take shape in the form of stories and drawings.

More Art for Kids?

Follow my Pinterest board Arts and Crafts
Follow Natalie Planet Smarty Pants's board Arts & Crafts on Pinterest.

Your Turn

What kind of Halloween art are your kids making right now?

Monday, October 13, 2014

12 STEM Ideas for Kids Age 5+

Do you want to raise kids who love science and math? Pick one of the ideas in this post and try them with your kids this week!
12 Brilliant STEM Ideas for Kids 5+

S = Science

Dry Ice and Water

T = Technology


E = Engineering


M = Math


More STEM Ideas?

Follow my Pinterest Boards Science, Math, Online Learning and Apps, Lego and For Future Engineers
Follow Natalie Planet Smarty Pants's board For future engineers on Pinterest.

Your Turn

How do you encourage STEM activities at home?

12 STEM Ideas for Kids Age 5+ from After School Link Up

2014 After School Link Up Hosts

After School Link Up

Share Your Learning Week

We would love to have you link up your School-Age Post (Ages 5 and up) about your after school activities with kids age 5+ including Crafts, Activities, Playtime and Adventures. When linking up, please take a moment to comment on at least one post linked up before yours and grab our after school button to include a link on your post or site! By linking up you're giving permission for us to share on our After School Pinterest Board or feature on our After School Party in the upcoming weeks! Don't forget to follow along and join our After School Enrichment Community.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

The Week in Review – October 11, 2014

Highlights of the Week


  • Another crazy week at work for me – boo! But my project is moving along, so at least all the craziness is not for nothing.
  • Smarty started the choir and really likes it so far.
  • Both my husband and I feel like we are fighting a virus of some kind. We feel exhausted all the time. So far Smarty has been her usual cheerful self.

School News

Our school has differentiated language arts instruction program, where 4 times a week students have an hour of instruction according to their reading and writing level. This year third graders have a new “ultra-strong” group with 7 people, and Smarty with 4 more kids in her class is in that group. She explained that this group is for kids who feel frustrated in a regular classroom and want to move forward faster. I still didn’t really see any output from this program, but Smarty said that they are reading Judith Viorst books, study comparisons and alliterations, and learn to do Internet research using Google and Wikipedia. But her favorite part of the day at the moment is Social Studies where they are studying Ohlone Indians – a tribe that used to live in our area.

Places We Are Going

Misc-Moon Eclipse_000

Smarty’s class is studying space in science, and she found out about the upcoming total lunar eclipse in school. It happened at 3:30 am for our area, and Smarty begged us to wake her up for it. We did, and it was the right decision. The sky was very clear, and the eclipse was spectacular. Smarty really enjoyed cuddling with us under the blankets and watching the shadow of Earth move over the Moon. She also asked a million questions, to which we had no answers. I am looking forward to studying more astronomy when she is a little older.

What My Child Is Reading

The Faraway Tree Stories

Disclaimer: the links are Amazon affiliate links. Smarty really enjoyed the first book Wild Born in the series written by different authors. While she was waiting to get book #2, she got into The Faraway Tree Stories: Three Books in OneThe Faraway Tree Stories by Enid Blyton – this edition includes three stories in one book, and I snagged it at our library’s garage sale. It’s a pretty thick book, but Smarty read it in a couple of days and already approaching the end. She is a really fast reader when she is really captured by the book, and can read for hours.

Best Memory of the Week:

Smarty: One day I will have a boyfriend. I don’t think I want to have one in middle school, but it’s important to have a boyfriend in college.

Me: Why is it important to have a boyfriend in college?

Smarty: Because someone has to earn money while I go to college.

Me: [A major reset of expectations after I had managed to stop laughing].

Most Popular Post

Halloween Chemistry Ideas is back in the lead. Well, what can I say? It’s Halloween time!


Your Turn

How was your week?

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