Thursday, April 17, 2014

6 Ways to Explore Quantity With Young Children

Exploring quantity and numbers with kids through play and daily life

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!

Getting Started with Numbers

My daughter is 7 now, and she really enjoys math. Her number sense is very strong, and she grasps math concepts easily and intuitively. How did we start with math? Read on to find out.

Einstein Never Used Flash Cards

Einstein Never Used Flashcards

I highly recommend Einstein Never Used Flash Cards by Roberta Michnick Golinkoff and Kathy Hirsh-Pasek to every parent of a young child. When I first heard of it, I thought that the book will be somewhat theoretical, but I really enjoyed reading it when my daughter was about 2. Einstein Never Used Flash Cards describes a lot of research on child development in the terms that are simple to understand. The main premise of the book is that children learn best through unstructured play and not through any kind of formal instruction with educational props. The book really spoke to our own approaches and also contained a lot of practical advice on what to do to encourage certain areas of development at certain ages.

One of the first chapters talked about how children learn about numbers and quantity and I was amazed to discover how "on the spot" the authors were when describing the steps and mistakes on the path to mathematical awareness. Every chapter ends with Bringing the Lessons Home section summarizing the advice in it, and we used a lot of suggestions from those sections while guiding our daughter and helping her explore the world around it. Here are math strategies on quantity explorations that really worked for us (some are taken from Einstein Never Used Flash Cards and some are my own).

1. Playing With Blocks

Building_With_Blocks

The very best way to learn about numbers is to manipulate objects, line them up, compare sets, and so on. From early ages we encouraged our daughter to play with Duplo, wooden blocks, objects in the recycle box and talked about shapes, patterns, quantities and sizes.

2. Hunting for Numbers

Numbers_Hunt

You can find rectangles in buildings and hexagons in stop signs, but numbers will also appear when you look for them, especially in the places likes shops, gas stations, even toys. We are still looking for numbers when we go on hiking trips. This is the photo Smarty taken recently – alas, 4 is reversed!

3. Play Board Games

Hi_Ho-CherryOOur daughter loved board games from very early age. I would say that Hi-Ho Cherry-O is invaluable in introducing addition, subtraction, and concepts of more or less.

4. Introduce Measuring Instruments

Measuring_With_Ruler

Young children passionately want to be taken seriously and have access to “toys for adults”. Between ages of 2 and 3 our daughter was delighted to play with a kitchen timer, pitchers for liquid measurements, and with rulers. Of course, she was not able to use these instruments properly at the time, but I believe that this early exposure helped her grasp measuring very easily later when she was ready for it. And, yes, there is a story behind her extremely short bangs (her Papa got a little carried away cutting her hair, an example of misjudging quantity).

5. Get Your Young Child In the Kitchen

Kids-In-the_Kitchen

The next best thing to learning in play is learning while doing meaningful activities and watching parents measuring, dividing and adding ingredients. Even young kids can rise to the challenge of cutting as many cookies as possible from a piece of flattened dough.

6. Read Books

Anno Counting Book

I estimate that we easily read a thousand books just in one year from age 2 and age 3 (before that age Smarty had a lot of favorites that she wanted to read over and over again). Many of those books introduced numbers, quantity, and counting in various ways. You can find a giant list of math books at Love2Learn2day, and I wrote a guest post about our favorite 10 math books for 10 years of life for This Reading Mama.

Your Turn:

Share your ways to explore quantity and numbers with young kids.

More Preschool Math

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Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Passover Books for Kids of Different Ages

Are you looking to introduce Passover to your children? I am sharing our favorite Passover books starting with books for young preschoolers going all the way up to upper elementary grades.
Books and activities for Passover for kids
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!

Happy Passover!

Yesterday the Jews all over the world sat down to the most important meal of Jewish year – the first Seder of Passover. We are not religious, and we chose to postpone Seder to Saturday, since our daughter is still fighting a stomach bug that she picked up somewhere on our cruise. But over years we read many books about Passover, and I want to share them today with my readers. They are arranged from the ones appropriate for the youngest audience to the ones better suited for older readers.

Read About Passover

Sammy Spider First Passover
Sammy Spider’s First Passover by Sylvia A. Rouss is one of the books in a series about a young spider who lives with his Mom in a house of a Jewish family. This book gives a very basic introduction of Passover to young (think age 3 or 4) kids together with a lesson on shapes. Illustrations by Katherine Janus Khan reminded me a lot of Eric Carle’s style.
Four Special Questions
Four Special Questions by Johnny Zucker is also targeted to preschoolers and appropriate both for Jewish families and for children of different faiths. Despite its name, the book only mentions the ritual of four questions of Passover but doesn’t provide them. It focuses instead on special foods of Seder plate.
Passover Celebrating Now Remembering Then
Passover: Celebrating Now, Remembering Then by Harriet Ziefert will appeal both to younger and to older kids because of terrific illustrations by Karla Gudeon. The book doesn’t have a lot of text allowing the parents or child’s imagination to expand on the beautiful pictures. I love how every double spread pairs modern part of Passover ritual with the portion of Exodus that it is supposed to represent.
A Picture Book of Passover
A Picture Book of Passover by David Adler is more suitable for children 5+ (US kindergarten and older). This story is fairly detailed and retells the Biblical story including the plagues. It ends with the description of Passover Seder and explanation of major Passover symbols.
The Matzah Man
As you can imagine, The Matzah Man by Naomi Howland is a Passover version of The Gingerbread Man even though I am yet to see anyone making a man out of a fragile matzah dough. This book has little to do with an actual holiday, but will provide a great “compare and contrast” lesson for ages 5+ when read next to the original Gingerbread story.
Rebecca Passover
Rebecca’s Passover by Adele Geras illustrated by Sheila Moxley is Smarty’s favorite Passover book. A narrator is a modern 8 year old girl, and she explains how her family prepares for Seder. Smarty loves the additional excitement in the middle of the book when an unexpected visitor arrives to share Rebecca’s family celebration. We read this book for the first time when Smarty was in preschool, but I’d say that it’s targeted to children 7+, because it’s rather long.
Kimmel Passover Companion
Wonders and Miracles: A Passover Companion is certainly a book for older children (I agree with Amazon recommendation of grade 3-7). The book walks a reader through all components of Seder through short stories, poems, art and explanations. This thick book was a little too involved for my 7 year old to read cover-to-cover, but she enjoyed many stories from it.
Seder Companion
The Passover Journey by Barbara Diamond Godlin is a good “in-depth” book for older kids, especially if they are invited to Passover celebrations in more traditional households of their friends. This book starts with a detailed retelling of Exodus story, and then describes in detail every step of traditional Seder meal and a reason behind it. It proved to be too detailed for my 7 year old daughter at this stage, but I think she might enjoy it when she is older.

Kids’ Activities for Passover

More Great Books for Kids?

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Monday, April 14, 2014

After School Link Up–Spring Break Edition

Spring Break on Planet Smarty Pants

Mexico Cruise_084
We have come back yesterday afternoon after a wonderful Internet-free spring break on board of Norwegian Star. It was the first cruise for our 7 year old Smarty, and she had a blast. According to her, it was “the best spring break ever”. She loved the ship with its many activities for kids and the stops in Mexican Riviera. Unfortunately, the last sea day of a cruise was ruined for her by high fever and by what looks like a stomach bug. We decided to keep her at home today, since she was still running a low-grade fever and having an upset stomach yesterday, but she is already lobbying for having another cruise vacation next spring.

What Smarty Is Reading

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!
Kane Chronicles
On the cruise Smarty quickly flew through Genius Files and finally got into The Kane Chronicles of Rick Riordan. She is already a huge fan of Percy Jackson’s books. She was begging for The Kane Chronicles for her 7th birthday, but, for whatever reason, dropped the first book after the first chapter saying that it’s too boring. Now she returned to it and was done with the first two books in the series by the end of our vacation. 

2014 After School Link Up Hosts

[Afterschool%255B8%255D.jpg] The Educators' Spin On It
  • Planet Smarty Pants
  • Boy Mama Teacher Mama
  • Coffee Cups and Crayons
  • Little Wonders' Days
  • Mama Smiles
  • Relentlessly Fun, Deceptively Educational
  • The Measured Mom
  • This Reading Mama
  • What Do We Do All Day

    Share Your After School Week

    We would love to have you link up your School-Age Post (Ages 5 and up) about your learning week after school including Crafts, Activities, Playtime and Adventures that you are doing to enrich your children's lives after their day at school, home school or on the weekend!
    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.
  • Wednesday, April 9, 2014

    Read and Learn About Mexico

    Books and Activities for Elementary School to Learn About Mexico
    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!

    Why Are We Learning About Mexico?

    1. Mexico is a US neighbor, and it’s interesting to see what is the same and difference between our countries.
    2. California’s culture and everyday life has significant Mexican influence. Smarty’s school has many kids with their roots in Mexico.
    3. We are spending our spring break this year on a cruise heading down to Mexico. It’s a great opportunity to learn about this country from first hand experience, not just from the books.

    Books about Mexico

    The books below are sorted from the ones appropriate for preschool and kindergarten to the ones better suited for older readers.
    Off we go to Mexico
    Off We Go to Mexico by Laurie Krebs illustrated by Christopher Corr is a Barefoot picture book. Barefoot Publishing is famous for high quality multicultural books, and this one is not an exception. It’s a book best suited for preschool and kindergarten kids, and it takes a very brief look at Mexico highlights, but one can use it as a starting point to learn more about Mexico culture and geography.
    What Can You Do with a Rebozo   What Can You Do With a Paleta
    What Can You Do With a Paleta by Carmen Tafolla illustrated by Magaly Morales and What Can You Do With a Rebozo by the same author but illustrated by Amy Cordova are “sister books”. Children, starting with young preK age, can easily identify themselves with Mexican narrators in the stories who talk about things they enjoy and use in everyday life.
    Book Fiesta
    Ironically while everyone in America (or at least in California) knows about Cinco de Mayo, it’s really not an important Mexican holiday. Mexico celebrates its Independence Day on September 16th. I chose to include a book about a holiday that celebrates children and books – Book Fiesta by Pat Mora. This book is gorgeously illustrated by Rafael Lopez and tells a story of Children’s Day and Books’ Day that both fall on the same day in Mexico – April 30th. An additional bonus of this book is that it is bilingual and celebrates reading both in English and in Spanish.
    P is for Pinata
    P is for Pinata by Tony Johnston is one of “two level” books from Discover the World series by Sleeping Bear Press. This book can work for young kids and for much older kids. Younger kids can read short verses for each letter and admire detailed and bright illustrations by John Parra. Older kids can read in-depth information included on every page about various Mexican highlights. Smarty was not interested in that level of information, but I read through details, found them fascinating and shared some with her.
    The Chocolate Tree
    My daughter loves myths and I am impatiently waiting for The Chocolate Tree to arrive to our library from an Interlibrary Loan system. I am also looking forward to indulge her love of all things chocolate as we learn more about the birthplace of chocolate.
    Aztec News
    Smarty really enjoyed Roman News and Greek News from the same series, so I am looking forward to arrival of Aztec News from the library loan system. This non-fictional series is very clever in wrapping up a lot of facts about ancient cultures in the format of the modern day news magazine. We read the first one when Smarty was in the first grade, but she is a very fluent reader with high degree of interest in history. Generally, I would align with Amazon recommendations for these books – 9 years and up.
    Mexico Activities and Crafts
    The last on my list in a non-fictional activities book: 40 Activities to Experience Mexico Past and Present  that would be good for someone planning a long unit study on Mexico. Some activities are very involved (3D map of Mexico!) and some are a lot more doable including several fun recipes. Smarty and I both looked through the book deciding what might be interesting to do for hands-on learning about Mexico.

    Hands-On Activities to Learn About Mexico

    • Chocolate! Hot chocolate, Mexican brownies, melt chocolates to make shapes (something that Smarty has been asking to do for a while).
    • Corn. Believe it or not, we have never made popcorn before. Mexico study seems to be a good opportunity to try it out.
    • Mud bricks. Another thing that Smarty wanted to do for a while.
    • Listen to mariachi bands (hopefully, live on our vacation in Mexico) + on YouTube.
    • Make a Mexican dish – we make fajitas quite often, but perhaps we will try something different this time around from Kid Friendly Mexican recipes
    • Make paletas (OK, it is, after all, a fancy name for a popsicle!)
    • Sombrero art project
    • Paint a wooden animal Oaxacan style
    • Mexican Metal Art

    Your Turn:

    I would love you to follow my new Mexico for Kids Pinterest board. I would also love for you to share your favorite resources about Mexico in the comments.

    Monday, April 7, 2014

    Fun with Food from After School Link Up

    Another week of After School Link Up – featuring food fun from After School participants.
    Fun-With-Food-After-School-Link-Up

    Last week on Planet Smarty Pants

    Since we are traveling this week, we were reading our Passover and Easter books. to be ready to come back to a holiday week. We did a fun “repeat” project to get in Passover mood – Smarty decorated Elijah’s Cup:
    Elija Glass 7 year old
    Passover is a holiday with a big feast, and this prompted me to look for After School posts where kids and parents are having fun in the kitchen. And this brings me to featured posts for this week.

    Featured Posts – Kids in the Kitchen

    1. World of Learning has a terrific round up of kids’ cookbooks with international recipes. I am very excited about this post, because we love learning about other cultures and we love cooking. I am definitely going to get one of these cookbooks for Smarty as an Easter present!
    cookbooks for kids from World of Learning
    2. I like the idea of a relatively simple “cupboard-clearing cake” shared by The Lady Prefers to Save. We don’t bake often, but if we do, I prefer “from scratch”recipe like this one.
    Cupboard Clearing Cake from This Lady Prefers to Save
    3. I just had to include this Snack ideas for Kids from Kids Activities Blog, especially since I have a picky eater. Holly pulled together 8 terrific healthy snack ideas. My favorite is a traffic signal snack.
    Kid-Snack-Ideas-Kids-Activities-Blog
    4. Even kids who know all their letters perfectly will enjoy this T is for Tree snack from Crystal & Co. It’s also really easy to do – a big plus in my book!
    letter-of-the-week-snacks-t-is-for-tree from Crystal and Co.
    5. Of course, this round up would not be complete without Easter related food fun. B-Inspired Mama shares her recipe for Easter bunny pretzel treats, and it looks reasonably easy to do:
    Easy-Easter-Bunny-Treats-at-B-InspiredMama
    6. Finally, this “crafty recipe” is way too much for me, but I love the idea of it! Iced sugar cookie eggs are becoming a canvas for decorating them with food markers – an original idea of these Easter sugar cookies comes from Iced Baked Shoppe shared as a guest post on Moms and Munchkins.
    easter-sugar-cookies from Iced Baked Shoppe

    2014 After School Link Up Hosts

    [Afterschool%255B8%255D.jpg] The Educators' Spin On It
  • Planet Smarty Pants
  • Boy Mama Teacher Mama
  • Coffee Cups and Crayons
  • Little Wonders' Days
  • Mama Smiles
  • Relentlessly Fun, Deceptively Educational
  • The Measured Mom
  • This Reading Mama
  • What Do We Do All Day

    Share Your After School Week

    We would love to have you link up your School-Age Post (Ages 5 and up) about your learning week after school including Crafts, Activities, Playtime and Adventures that you are doing to enrich your children's lives after their day at school, home school or on the weekend!
    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. I am also linking my post to my favorite kid blogger link ups and share days.
  • Saturday, April 5, 2014

    The Week In Review–April 5, 2014

    IMG_3241
    In our lives. This week was “a mixed bag” in the house. It rained almost every day, which is a good news for California drought, but bad news for children wanting to play outside. Last weekend I came down with a bad virus that is going around at work, and I only started to feel myself again by Wednesday. By that time Smarty was complaining of sore throat and losing her voice (luckily, her illness only lasted a day or two), and my husband was sniffling too. I really hope that my husband will shake his virus off by tonight, because we are leaving tomorrow for a spring break vacation in Mexico. Smarty is super excited to go on her first cruise, and I keep my fingers crossed that everyone is well enough to enjoy it.
    IMG_3541
    Afterschool. Remember our bird house? It certainly attracted more birds to our yard, and a pair of mourning doves decided to nest in our hanging flower basket that is hanging a foot away from our backyard door. There is at least one egg in the basket, and we might be able to observe the baby birds if all goes well. My husband is joking that these birds must be lazy creatures with nerves of steel to nest so close to humans. We read a lot of interesting facts about mourning doves at All About Birds from The Cornell Lab of Ornitology.
    IMG_3543-001
    Building with Lego. While I was sick last weekend, Smarty and Papa spent hours building this Lego zoo. They kept working on it during the week too. Interestingly, while Smarty loves building with Lego, she rarely really plays with her creations – she has to be in a “special mood” for that.

    What My Child Is Reading
    Smarty really likes the first book of The Genius Files series by Dan Gutman, and this week she “swallowed” the second book in the series. Sadly, our library doesn’t have book #3 at the moment, but maybe we will have more luck after our vacation.
    Plans for the Next Week
    Vacation! We are all looking forward to it. I hope we will enjoy our first cruise together and exploring three stops in Mexico.
    Your turn:
    How was your week? Do you have spring breaks and what did/will you do during yours?

    Thursday, April 3, 2014

    Preparing for Passover

    Here is a simple art project for kids to go with a Passover book.
    Art Project for Passover from Planet Smarty Pants
    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!

    Celebrating Passover

    This year Passover and Easter fall on the same week, as they did at the time of the first Easter. We celebrate both Easter and Passover in our agnostic household as cultural heritage holidays, and my 7 year old is eagerly looking forward to both events. I wrote more about traditional and non-traditional Passover celebrations in my guest post for Multicultural Kid Blogs.

    Passover Books for Kids

    Rebecca Passover
    We read many good Passover books over years, and I hope to have a round up post with Passover books out next week. My daughter’s favorite Passover book, however, is Rebecca’s Passover by Adele Geras illustrated by Sheila Moxley. The narrator is a 8 year old girl who tells the story of Passover celebrations in her family. An original story of Passover is artfully woven into the main story. We read this book since Smarty was 4, but generally it’s better for kids 5+, because the story is rather long. It’s a great introduction to Passover for people of different faiths, since the focus is not so much on religious aspects of this holiday, but on family togetherness and connecting to our roots.

    An Art Project for Passover

    Elija Glass 7 year old
    In a traditional Passover Seder, a special cup of wine is set out for prophet Elijah. According to Jewish tradition, the door is open and a cup of wine is poured for Elijah, so he can join the celebration. This year yet again Smarty decorated a glass with window markers to make an Elijah’s Cup, just as she did 4 years ago. This time she drew her idea of Israel based on my travel stories – with a sea and a sandy beach, and a lot of greenery (on the opposite side of her glass).

    Repeating the Same Project Over Years

    It’s fun to repeat the same project with a child over several years and see how their approach changes over time. We didn’t do a DIY Elijah’s Cup in years in between, and I can say that Smarty’s art became more purposeful but not much more elaborate. Drawing is not her strong suit, and she would much rather describe an object in words than in pictures. Still, this is a great memory of years passed, especially when captured in pictures.
    Repeating Art Projects Over Years

    More Passover Resources

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    Your Turn

    Are you introducing religious holidays from other religions to your kids? Why or why not?

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