Learning Activities with Water Beads

Water beads are such a versatile yet hardly explored tool for learning that you’ll not realize its benefits unless you start playing with them. Add a handful of water beads to the child’s activity time (well monitored to ensure kids don’t swallow the beads) the next time she brings out her toys and see the difference. Learning will reach a different level altogether with the effective play tool.

Learning Math with Water Beads

Have fun simply counting the tactile, colorful water beads with the kids. Line up a handful of water beads in a row and take out a couple from it. Ask kids to count how many remain. Add a few and ask them to recount. Play the symbol game where you write two digits on the left of an ‘equal’ sign and a resultant on the right. Ask the kids to guess the math symbol which will get the resultant and have them write the symbol with water beads. Though water beads don’t hold any topical significance in this activity, kids will be eager to play it out just to enjoy the tactility of the beads. If you are playing with a group younger than 6-7 year olds, here are a couple of more activity ideas.

  • Have them put red beads in one spot and the yellow ones in another. Ask them to count both the groups individually as well as together.
  • Have kindergarteners make shapes and patterns with the beads. You can choose to make the first shape and ask them to follow you.
  • Ask them to count if they’ve got more blue water beads or white water beads? If they have mastered their math by now, ask them to count the difference in the number of beads of the two colors.

Learning Science with Water Beads

It’s time to explore the science behind water beads that swell up to look like the way they do. Start by handing over an unopened pack of water beads to the kids. Let them experience the fun of these tactile beads from the beginning. Have them play with these beads which have not been soaked in water yet. They’ll be coarse to touch, similar to M&M candies. Keep a notebook handy to document the experiences step by step. Read out the packet instructions to the kids and have them follow. The steps will mostly ask you to add a liter of water to a packet of beads. Find out if the kids are surprised at this stage at the proportion of water to the beads. Let the beads soak in the water and the kids marvel at the change of the beads’ appearance. To add more fun, divide the beads into three bowls and add a few drops of food color to the water in each to get colorful beads. Let kids squash, squeeze, squish, and smash the beads and understand why the beads swelled up. Encourage them to test out the properties of the swollen beads and compare these with the ones with which they started. Do they roll, bounce, go flat or back to their original shape? Explore the possibilities with the kids.

Learning English with Water Beads

Right at the beginning, we told you water beads are versatile. Well, here is an English activity too with the multipurpose water beads! Play this activity with the kids before the water beads go all dry and you have to throw them away. Fill up a bowl with squishy water beads and add a number of letters into the bowl. Instead of using tongs or another similar tool to pull out the alphabets, blindfold the kids and have them put their fists into the bowl and pull out any three random letters. Next, ask them to make a syllable or a word with them. If the letters cannot make up a word or a syllable, you can give them an imaginary vowel to complete the task. You’ll be surprised at how long this alphabet game can go on!

Explore the many learning possibilities of water beads with the kids as you play with them!

Old School Cartoons for Kids

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These are cartoons I grew up watching and so I am slightly partial to them and therefore there is some amount of bias on this list. They are in my top 10 old school cartoons that your kids MUST watch list. They are classics. They are sometimes just pure unadulterated entertainment but most of the time, they have life lessons I still remember as an adult.

They also take me back to my childhood. Everything good about the spring and summer break involved memories of watching these shows in our pajamas and eating overly sweet cereal before we went out to explore the great outdoors. While I don’t want to give too much away in terms storyline, I have compiled, along with a list, their respective intros as well. Hopefully they will be catchy enough to make you want to watch the show with your kids.

Flintstones

Wacky Racers

Yogi Bear

Atom Ant

The Jetsons

Dastardly & Mutley

Richie Rich

Addams Family

Johnny Quest

Scooby Doo

What were your favorite cartoons growing up? What are some of those shows you would gladly get your kids to watch? Leave me a comment; I would love to have a discussion with you about it!

Mathematician of the Month – Fibonacci

I’m doing a series with my family where we learn about an important figure every month and learn about their life and theories. I got stuck with the short end of the straw, which obviously means I got stuck with Math. While all my moaning and groaning and whining fell on deaf ears, I actually found that I was enjoying myself. I thought I’d document little short stories here just in case some of you find it interesting as well.

Fibonacci

Fibonacci c. 1170 – 1240

This month’s mathematician is a handsome young Italian man called Leonardo de Pisa (the same place the famous Leaning Tower is from) who was born to a rich merchant who would take the young boy along during his travels to one of his posts in Algeria. Leonardo, who went by his nickname of Fibonacci by then, started showing a fascination towards the Hindu-Arabic numeral system. Not having to work, owing to his riches, Fibonacci decided to travel around the world to discover math in different cultures. His travels took him to many Arabic and Mediterranean countries where he found that the Hindu-Arabic numerals were simpler and more efficient than the Roman numerals he was taught.

All of his learning and travel led him to write the famous Liber Abaci, spreading word on the new numeral system he had picked up. The book was first published 800 years ago and was full of mathematical puzzles. One of the most famous puzzles was -

If you put a male and a female rabbit in an enclosed space, how many rabbits will you have at the end of a year?

The answer can be found using a mathematical model – a pattern that has now come to be called the Fibonacci sequence.

1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, …

What’s fascinating about the sequence is that the numbers appear everywhere in nature. If you could the bumps on pineapples and pine-cones, the family tree of cows etc. It can also be found in renaissance paintings, in the Pyramids of Giza and many other architectural wonders

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STEM Apps for Kids

STEM education is seen as essential for kids as it gives them the foundation to explore a variety of careers. While these careers can be directly related to STEM, there are also those that require the skills one develops while learning these subjects. STEM subjects are Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. These subjects train students in skills like problem solving and critical thinking. So it is not necessary that only students interested in becoming scientists and engineers should get acquainted with STEM. Even those who find these subjects dreary can rediscover the subjects in a whole new light with apps that deliver the concepts without taking the skills and fun out of them.

Dibble Dash: In penguin games like this one, kids can practice their math skills like addition, subtraction, multiplication and division.

Math Bingo: Kids can test their math know-how with this game and play through three levels. Questions are related to addition, subtraction, multiplication and division.

Math AppsMathApps” by Kathy Cassidy is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Science360: Older kids will benefit from the latest news, spectacular images and videos that are streamed on this app related to science and engineering.

Bridge Constructor: If building bridges is a passion, this app gives plenty of opportunities for that as it allows kids to choose materials and conduct stress tests.

Cat Physics: In this fun game, kids learn about underlying concepts of physicswhile the ball is passed from one cat to another, while simultaneously getting past obstacles.

New iphoneNew iPhone” by Johan Larsson is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Aero: With this app, kids will learn about aerodynamics as they adjust the wings of an albatross to make it fly and simultaneously learn about flight techniques.

Monster Physics: Kids can have fun inventing. Another building app, this one lets you build planes and rockets, and once they are built, kids can operate them.

The Chemical Touch: In this exciting app, kids can learn about the periodic table and the chemical properties of elements.

Math GraffitiMath graffiti @ #SLA” by Chris Lehmann is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Spacecraft 3D: As the name suggests, the app helps kids understand space and learn about the earth and solar system.

Bobo Explores Light: Children can learn about scientific concepts like lasers, lightning and bioluminescence under the tutelage of a robot.

Curiosityjsc2013e065175” by NASA_JSC_Photo is licensed under CC BY 2.0

When STEM is introduced to kids in an engaging way and they learn about the difference these concepts help make to the quality of life, they will become more receptive to learning and practicing these skills.

Science Games that Teach about the Five Senses

The five senses (sight, smell, taste, touch and hearing) help us discover, explore and understand the world around us. These senses also help us find food and identify and avoid dangers. For instance, the sense of hearing lets us communicate with others, identify sounds made by other species and avoid dangers in our environment. The sense of touch helps us find and identify objects. The senses of smell and taste enable us to find edible foods. When it’s time to show your child how their senses work, nothing does the job better than fun science games. There is a variety of online science games you can choose from or you could try these active games that your child will definitely enjoy.

Five SensesFive Senses” by Nicki Dugan Pogue, licensed under CC BY SA 2.0

Feel the Bag

Your fingers have nerve endings that are extremely sensitive – they can sense texture, shape, temperature, dryness, moisture, softness and hardness. Your fingertips help you learn a lot about your environment. Help your child understand how the sense of touch works with this easy science game.

You will need

  • Old purse / Cloth shopping bag / Pillow case
  • Assorted objects (pin, comb, fruit, notebook, toy, etc.)

How to play

  • Place all items in the bag and invite your child to feel it without opening it.
  • Encourage him to identify the contents and describe them by size, shape, texture and hardness.
  • Ask him how he can identify an object without seeing it.
  • Discuss how people who do not have the sense of sight can identify objects and even read books using the sense of touch.

Design a Telephone

Sound waves can travel through solids (walls), liquids (water) and gases (atmosphere.) Sound waves travel fastest through solids. This simple science game can help your child learn more about the sense of hearing.

You will need

  • 8 dry, clean plastic yogurt cups
  • Plastic wire
  • Copper wire
  • Yarn
  • Packing twine
  • Scissors

Instructions

  • Drill a small hole in the center of the bottom of each cup.
  • Cut four feet lengths out of the wires, twine and yarn.
  • Divide the kids into groups of two and hand out a yogurt cup to each pair.
  • Now let each pair choose a twine, yarn or one of the wires to create their telephones.
  • One end of the twine, yarn or wire must be inserted through the hole in the cup and knotted.
  • Once all the cups are connected, invite the kids to test which material is the best conductor of sound waves. They can do this by stretching the connectors and taking turns to listen/talk into their cups.

Make your own Storytelling Games!

storytelling

Storytelling, in its traditional sense, in an art that is being slowly forgotten. The great oral traditions of old have been replaced by movies and songs and even books. In the old days, travelling communities like the gypsies brought you news from towns you would never have visited – latest inventions, news about politics and the current state of affairs etc. Nowadays, everything is relayed the minute it is breaking and it is delivered to our fingertips. You don’t need an uncle visiting from Canada to know that there was x inches of snow this year. However, there is a forgotten charm to sitting around in a circle, sometimes around a fire, and narrating stories that have captivated your imagination.

In a bid to do so with my family, I’ve compiled a list of storytelling games that you could be your next pet DIY project.

Draw a Story –

If you have two or more people to entertain, start the activity by giving out art equipment and freedom to draw whatever they please. Once the activity is done, swap drawings and come up with a story for the image you have in hand. It’s a great way to keep your kids occupied for more than a few minutes and also a great way to exercise your imagination. An alternative version is to either collect previous artwork from your kids or draw more than one on cards and shuffle them up. The one rule would be that the story couldn’t be repeated more than once.

Once Upon a Time –

I found this idea at a beautiful blog called Blackboard and Brush and I don’t want to go on when Kim has done such a lovely job of it. Kim has described a lovely game that can be played during game night and can also be great lesson plan. In her words, “In this game I call ‘Once Upon a Time’, students become storytellers, not of someone else’s stories but of their own. Students will be presented with three sets of story sticks, the green sticks represent the place where their story will take place, the blue will be their main character(s) and the red (my personal favorite) will be the central problem of the plot or a problem their main character must endure or overcome” Don’t forget to click on the name of her blog for instructions.

Make it up –

You sometimes hear that the best songs, the best ideas – they come from last minute panic or from just winging it in an unforeseen situation. This is a game like it. I had my nieces and nephews apart from my own kids to take care of. I suddenly found myself in a situation where I had to babysit around 10 kids and wasn’t prepared to keep their attention. If you just leave them to play with whatever toy was lying around, you could almost guarantee there would be a fight. So I took an old laundry bag, stuffed it with toys and had the kids sit around in a circle. Like in scrabble, one kid would have to blind pick a toy and then make up a story that included that prop. The next kid who would pick up the next toy would continue the story and think of a way to include his or her toy in it. The game can go on for as long as you like.

Do you have similar games you have made up or ideas you have heard? Feel free to comment with your favorite games and camp hacks that bring out the inner storyteller in your child.

How to Plan Fun Holiday Activities for Kids

While the holidays are a welcome break from the school routine, it does leave kids with a lot of time. Activities for kids during holidays can serve a dual purpose – they can be fun and educational. These activities can also be made more interesting by introducing a holiday theme. Additionally, it helps kids stay in touch with their schoolwork during holidays so that they don’t have trouble getting back into it once they are back at school.

ButterfliesButterflies” by Cockburn Libraries is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

I prefer using activities over worksheets as they give kids the sense of doing something and having fun. We usually plan our holidays ahead of time and I take the kids’ help in preparing a holiday plan. When we involve kids, they take more interest in the activities as they have helped select them. I try to have a good mix of indoor and outdoor activities, and squeeze in a short trip. The drive and place we head to offer opportunities for learning, whether the kids count the yellow cars en route, trek through a bioluminescent forest or collect shells on the beach.

ChannukahChanukkah Menorah” by atl10trader is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Museums and local cultural centers are a good source of information for child-centric activities. I also find that giving kids the space to do their own thing during the holidays is a good idea instead of filling the calendar with activities. My kids usually use this time to get out and play, bike around the neighborhood, read, or play on their favorite app.

Younger kids will enjoy coloring activities, simple crafts and games like sorting. I usually bring in elements from the holiday so that they can also learn something about the holiday. It could be a snowman in winter, a beach in summer, a menorah during Hanukkah or a shamrock for St. Patrick’s Day.

Treasure BoxTreasure box craft @ Spearwood Library” by Cockburn Libraries is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Even math and science activities can be presented to kids by adding a holiday spin to them. Ask kids to count the number of gelt during Hanukkah or grow clover as part of a science experiment. Making a paper snowflake during Christmas can be a demonstration in symmetry.

Food and holidays go hand-in-hand. I get my kids to help me make something special like a rainbow colored drink in summer or a little strawberry treat for Valentine’s Day. Kids also learn math skills like measuring and chemical reactions like fermentation when they don their chef’s apron  . I also find that it is easy to cover multiple skills like critical thinking and writing with a round of journaling every day.

Sand PaintingSand painting @ Spearwood Library” by Cockburn Libraries is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

To sum it up, here’s how you can plan fun, learning activities during holidays –

  • Plan ahead.
  • Let kids be part of the planning.
  • Incorporate elements of holidays into the
  • Use a mix of indoor and outdoor
  • Take a look at their curriculum and choose activities that are age-appropriate.
  • Look for opportunities to teach core subjects in creative or leisure activities like art, crafts, games, reading.