Love, Love, Love Marble Runs

They are such a wonderful building toy because the child really has to think and plan and predict.  They have to make sure everything balances and has support, they have to make sure it is angled so the marbles don’t get stuck.  And then there’s all the fine motor work.  Marble runs are a perfect STEM toy but even most important, they’re really fun.  And then after all the building they can use it.

This is the run Pumpkin 1 built today all on her own.

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Educational Games We Love

I’ve started building up our stock of educational games.  I’m trying to make it part of our routine to play a game together as a family after dinner.  Games are a great way to learn and reinforce concepts in a fun way.  When Pumpkin 1 is in a funk and doesn’t want to do any school activities, she’ll always agree to a game.  They’re also great for social skills and teaching team work, taking turns and critical thinking.  With Pumpkin 2 only 2.5 I’ve tried to find games he could join in too.

Snug as a Bug in a Rug:  I think this one is the most loved one of them all.  It’s made by Peaceable Kingdom and is a cooperative game rather than competitive.  There’s different ways to play from simple to more challenging.  It’s won a number of awards.  Pumpkin 2 is able to play it quite easily.  It teaches counting skills, colours and shapes.  I’d say it’s great for about age 2/2.5 and up.  It’s available at Mastermind Toys.

 

Hoot Owl Hoot:  Pumpkin used her Christmas money to get this one.  She likes owls.  This game is also by Peaceable Kingdom.  Pumpkin 2 requires some help with this.  It’s more of a strategy game though they don’t have to quite get that to play.  I’d say it’s better for age 3 or 4 and up though Pumpkin 2 can play with my help.  It has also won awards.  It’s a great team work game.  It’s available at Mastermind Toys.

 

Feed the Woozle:  This is also a Peaceable Kingdom game.  This is Pumpkin 2’s favourite.  It’s a great one for toddlers.  It teaches counting and body awareness, motor skills and balance as well as taking turns and team work.  The snacks are pretty silly which the kids love and there’s different challenge levels for each age group.  Discovery Toys carries Feed the Woozle.

 

Jungle Jive:  This one is great for developing core strength and balance.  Balance is key for learning to write.  It’s tricky for Pumpkin 2 but that doesn’t stop him from trying!  Discovery Toys carries Jungle Jive.

 

Raccoon Rumpus:  This one is a great toddler and preschooler game.  It’s very simple to play.  It’s a good introduction to games and taking turns.  It teaches colours and you can discuss different jobs people have.  It’s available from Discovery Toys.

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Shelby’s Snack Shack:  This is a really good one for counting and 1 to 1 correspondence.  It’s also great for fine motor skills, the pincher grasp and finger strength.  Both my kids are able to play it and enjoy it.  I’d say it’s perfect for ages 2.5 and up as long a supervised due to the small pieces.  It’s available here.

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Memory Game:  There are lots of memory games out there.  I really like this one because it looks so nice and is great quality.  It has a bunch of different cards so there’s many games in one.  It took a bit of playing for my kids to figure out that they had to remember what they saw and for Pumpkin 2 to not try to turn everything over, but now they can play it nicely.  Great for ages 2 and up.  It’s called Memory Moves.

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Bus Stop:  This game is one I don’t get bored playing (that’s important too).  It’s too advanced for Pumpkin 2, he just tries to drive the bus card over the board and messes everything up.  But it’s perfect for 4 year olds.  It teaches counting, dice number recognition, and simple addition and subtraction.  My only negative is I think the buses would have been better if they had been done like a ten frame so children could see the amount of people in their bus without counting.  We purchases our game from Amazon.

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Marble Run

Seriously, if you don’t have a marble run and you have kids ages 3+ you NEED to get one.  This is a set from Scholar’s Choice I got a few years ago.  Discovery Toys also carries a set which has a lifetime guarantee.

It’s so much fun to build and it’s really develops logical thinking, planning, engineering skills, prediction.  And it’s really fun for adults to get into.  Pumpkin 1 is able to build little runs herself.

I’m trying to have a new routine where after dinner I play an educational game with the kids.  It’s a great way to bond with them before bed, promote learning in a fun way and have some family time.  So this is what we did this evening.  Now they’re upstairs watching Daddy shave and telling him stories.

 

Flags, Pompoms and Boomerings

I find practical life activities impossible to leave out because my 2 year old gets into them and makes a mess so we don’t do them as often as we should.  This is a cheap easy one to set up.  The tray is an ice cube tray from the Dollar store.  The pompoms are from there too.  She’s using tweezers from Scholar’s choice that came in a large container of them, I’ve given some away.  They’re easy to use for little hands.  This activity helps build finger strength for writing and fine motor skills.

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Pumpkin 1 LOVES this flag map from Affordable Montessori.  I thought the price was really reasonable and the quality is better than expected.

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I don’t even know the flags so I’ve been learning them.  It’s amazing how fast you pick up something when it’s hands on like this activity.  The map has a key on the back with all the flags and country names but of course you can’t check the back when you’re using it so I made a printable version.

You can download it here: flags

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Have I said how much I love Discovery Toys? Oh, I did?  Haha, they’re just so wonderful.  I love toys that engage and challenge my children, that teach them math, reading, logic, reasoning, prediction, memory, and so many other skills plus they have a life-time guarantee so I don’t have to worry about anything breaking.  We incorporate many of the Discovery Toys into our homeschool activities.

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Today Pumpkin 1 was really engaged in making patterns with the Boomerings.  These are so great, they can be used from infancy right on up until childhood.  They’re really strong and durable and there’s an activity set that comes with different activity cards for matching, patterning or math. Putting them together also is great for her fine motor skills and strengthening her fingers.

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You can even use them for dress-up!  Princess Pumpkin!

Montessori Inspired Math

Pumpkin 1 is just starting to be ready for math at almost 4.  Majority of children aren’t ready for math until that age as their brain hasn’t developed that somewhat abstract thinking skills needed for math.  Math has always been a difficult subject for me but I love the Montessori method of math since it’s so hands on it makes it much easier to understand.

We’re doing a combination of Montessori and Right Start Math.  You can read about the Right Start Math approach here and here.  And a video review by another homeschooling mom here.

Since I still want to use many of the Montessori math materials I am creating my own bead bars, chains and cubes with the Right Start principle of 5+.  Here is what my beads look like.

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So you can see for 6 it’s 5 dark and 1 light.  9 is 5 dark and 4 light.  The 5+ concept helps children to visualize the number.  You can visualize amounts up to 5 but after that you have to group them in your mind to be able to visualize.

Today I was working on helping her understand that the beads and the abacus are the same.

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She has always loved the hanging bead stair since she was little.  If you don’t have one I highly recommend it.  Today she was actually counting the beads past 5.  Usually she just rhymes the numbers off without 1 to 1 correspondence after 5 but today she insisted on counting every bead bar carefully.  When you start to worry as a mom that they’re not getting something, just give it time.  A few weeks older can make a ton of difference.

We’ve also been working on some geometry.  Today we did triangles and quadrilaterals.  Pumpkin 1 loves this geoboard from Discovery Toys and I do too.  It’s huge so it’s easy for her fingers to use, unlike the smaller ones.  I made triangles and quadrilaterals on it and she’d tell me which it was.  She also likes to just make pictures with the elastics.

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Last week I was teaching her (and learning myself) the different types of triangles.  The geoboard was also perfect for this.

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Pumpkin 2 likes to use the other side which is the Giant Pegboard.  Toddlers love to fit things in holes.  You can also do colour and shape matching and patterning and counting and so much more.  It’s just so versatile. You can purchase one for your family here:

http://www.discoverytoys.com/PublicStore/stores/pumpkinsandme/AMCA/product/Giant-Pegboard,621.aspx#sthash.PnGUdXcA.dpbs

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We’ve also been doing shapes on the light table.  I use this set of shapes on it and we put them together to make other shapes.  They’re like mini constructive triangles.

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I’m really enjoying homeschooling in math because of the awesome manipulatives available.

Real Tools

My daycare kids and Pumpkins love to play doctor.  This play is enhanced with the use of real doctors tools.

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I had to sneak the photo so I wouldn’t disrupt their play.

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Waldorf promotes using natural toys that aren’t too realistic to inspire the imagination and to not awaken the dreamlike state of the child whereas Reggio encourages the use of real tool for children.  It’s up to you which way you lean for your family.  Here is a wonderful Reggio inspired blog that discusses real tools:

http://www.playathomemomllc.com/2013/12/creating-play-spaces/

I purchased our doctor’s kit tools from Amazon.  Click the picture for the Amazon link.

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I also put in some medicine measuring spoons and medicine dispensers that look like a needle I picked up from the grocery store pharmacy section.

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What are some other real tools you could give to your children to enhance the depth of their play?

Bunny Love

During the holidays I made my daughter an adorable bunny she just loves.  She bring it everywhere and sleeps with it every night.  She named her Floppy.

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Floppy is made from an upcycled sweater that was Merino wool and possum fur and is stuffed with pure wool.  She’s super soft and realistic feeling.

She was just too cute that I made another for my shop complete with food to feed her all made from 100% wool or wood.  Floppy 2 is waiting for a little girl or boy to love her to bits.  (click picture for link)

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Table Top Bowling

New in shop:

This lovely, all natural, wood toy lets you play bowling anywhere! It’s a perfect game to take with you as it comes in a lovely fabric storage bag. Set the pins up on the table or on the floor. Can you get a strike? A spare? A wonderful non-toxic, eco-friendly toy that encourages skill, hand/eye coordination, activity and imagination. Comes with 10 pins and 2 balls.

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Baby Toys Set

I love this beautiful set of Montessori inspired toys for babies.  It has materials that baby will play with from a few months old right up until toddler-hood and most can be adapted for play beyond that.  The natural wood is so lovely and safe for mouthing children.  Each toy will engage a baby and help to develop many skills from gross motor to fine motor to object permanence.  I wish I had something like this when my son was a baby but now it’s available for your little pumpkin or makes a wonderful baby shower gift.

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