DIY Reading Games for the Classroom as well as Home

Kids are never tired! They are always looking for new opportunities, new tricks, and new mischief! Why don’t you channelize the bundles of energy with these reading games that are fun, exciting, and challenging too?

Phonics Flip Book

Image 1

When children start learning their letters, the sounds that they make, and they themselves start blending the sounds, it’s time you made a phonics flip book for them. Follow the easy steps below to come up with this nifty tool.

Supplies:

  • Spiral bound index card book
  • A pair of scissors/paper knife
  • Tape
  • Marker/s

It’s ideal to divide the flip chart into three sections for three letter words but you can go ahead by splitting it into four sections to help early readers with their consonant blends.

Cut out the number of sections you want with a sharp paper knife and label each index card with a letter from a-z. You can also add a section for vowels in the center or for common consonant blends like fr, sc, sl, etc. if you’re making the flip book for a little older children.

The objective of a phonics flip chart is not to spell out words impeccably but be able to sound them out perfectly. So if you r child makes a word from the flip book such as ‘SL-I-N’, don’t discourage them, instead appreciate their effort to sound out the imperfect word! Consider blinking the lights when your child sounds out a real word!

Tape the perforations to ensure the flip book lives for long!

Leftover Plastic Easter Egg Cups

Image 2

What do you do with leftover Easter egg plastic cups? Here is a novel way of putting them into good use.

Supplies:

  • Plastic Easter eggs (one for each word family)
  • Permanent marker
  • Baking pan
  • Sand

Before you begin prepping for the game, have the kids count the number of Easter egg cups you’ve got in hand; it’s never boring to sneak in a little counting lesson, you see!

Write a word family on the pointy side of the egg cup like, am, in, ed, at, etc. On the other side, write letters, spaced out from one another, that will make both a perfect and an imperfect word when connected with the word family.

Now comes the fun part! Spread a thin layer of sand on the baking pan; the layer should be thin enough to allow finger-writing on it.

Hand over an egg cup to the child and have her make a word from it. If she makes a perfect word, she gets to write that word on the pan of sand! Isn’t that exciting!

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.

Grade-Specific Science Fair Project Ideas

My kids love to get their hands dirty when they learn, sometimes quite literally. This makes our home that much messier and livelier. With two kids in separate grades, discussions over what to work on can turn into a rough tumble of ideas.

Over the years, I have compiled a list of science fair project ideas that I have used and sorted them out grade-wise (kindergarten to third grade so far) so that we have an easier time finding the right project (or subject) based on my kids’ curriculum, interest and relevance.

1DSC01160” by Laurie Sullivan is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Kindergarten – Projects can be nature-based. Science fair project ideas that kids can explore include the weather, plants and animals. Kids can grow plants to understand what a plant needs to grow. This could be in the form of growing a bean plant in cotton wool or grouping plants and studying their growth when they are exposed to sunlight and water, and when they are not. Other simple experiments include understanding the density of fluids (oil and water) and demonstrating displacement by dropping pebbles into a jar of water. Collecting different types of leaves and flowers to understand their structure, and sorting seeds from fruits and vegetables is something kids enjoy.

2Test site 3 & 4” by Dave is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

First Grade – Kids can move beyond curiosity and start learning to make and record observations. They can perform experiments with water to understand the states of matter (solid, gas and liquid). Other experiments can revolve around the five senses. Kids can interact with objects using only one of their senses and jot down observations. Other concepts that kids can learn include rain and cloud formations, the solar system, colors and surface tension.

Second Grade – When your kids get to the second grade, they can start experimenting with electricity and magnetism, animals and lifecycles, study anatomy, and learn more about the earth. Making a bird feeder to track bird species in the neighborhood is a popular project. Apart from continuing to collect data and making observations, kids can also start making models and presentations. Drawing the life cycles of insects and their anatomy, the most popular being a butterfly, is a good way to start. Observing mold to understand the effects of heat, humidity and other factors that cause mold is another easy to put together projects that second graders can work on.

3DSC00170” by Laurie Sullivan is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Third Grade – By the time kids get to third grade, they should be able to observe, collect, conduct experiments, record observations and form hypothesis. Science fair project ideas that you can consider are motion and sound, electricity and magnetism, animal and plant life, the human body, and the earth and solar system. Children can study chemical reactions like rusting and making soaps. Third graders can try their hand at making sundials, volcanoes, model airplanes and even a simple electric circuit.

4Making Marbled Paper” by Topeka Library is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

These are just a few of the science fair project ideas I have tried with my kids. It helps to talk to their science teacher, figure out the subjects that they will be studying, the extent to which they can explore a subject and grasp a concept, and their own interest before zeroing in on an idea.

Candy for a Cause – Science Fair Projects for the Sweet-Toothed

Science is a highly competitive field so if you’re aiming for the top, this is a good time to get your science fair project ideas in order and start planning. Avoid last-minute panic, impress the judges and grab top grades with these three delicious and easy candy-based science fair projects. Ready to start?

Expanding Balloons with Pop Rocks

pop rocks

Pop Rocks” by Carolina Alves Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

As all candy lovers know, Pop Rocks RULE! And in case you were wondering, there’s an interesting science angle to these fizzing popping little dudes. Here’s how you can explore it.

You will need

  • Pop Rocks
  • Balloon
  • A 12 oz. bottle of soda
  • Funnel

What to do

  • Dump an entire package of Pop Rocks into a balloon. This is easier said than done, so place a small funnel in the mouth of the balloon to avoid spills.
  • Open the soda bottle and carefully stretch the balloon over its mouth. Make sure the candy doesn’t slip into the bottle before you’re ready.
  • Now, quickly dump the candy into the bottle and watch all the interesting things that happen when soda and candy meet for the very first time.
  • Did the balloon inflate without you doing a thing?

How did it happen?

Pop Rocks contain pressurized carbon dioxide gas that makes the famous popping sound when released from its candy shell prison. But the amount of carbon dioxide present in the candy isn’t enough to inflate a balloon on its own. However, soda also contains pressurized carbon dioxide gas that escapes from the fructose-rich corn syrup when you drop Pop Rocks into it. Because the balloon is tightly clamped over the bottle’s mouth, this gas has no place to go except straight up into the balloon.

Finding Acid in Sour Candy

“_MG_7421” by Chris Short licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

_MG_7421” by Chris Short licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Sour foods contain acid and acidic foods produce carbon dioxide bubbles when they react with baking soda. Here’s something you can do to demonstrate that sour candy contains acid.

You will need

  • Sour or fruit candy (Nerds, LemonHeads, Pixy Stix, etc.)
  • Baking soda
  • Measuring cup
  • Bowl
  • Spoon
  • Water

What to do

  • Dissolve the candy in half a cup of water. Try crushing hard candies to make the process faster.
  • Add a spoonful of baking soda to this mixture and blend.
  • If you can see bubbles rising up from the mixture, the candy contains acid.

Lighting up with Lifesavers

“100 k wint-o-green” by Windell Oskay licensed under CC BY 2.0

100 k wint-o-green” by Windell Oskay licensed under CC BY 2.0

Here’s the how (and the why) of producing magical lights with Lifesavers.

You will need

  • A dark room
  • Mirror
  • Wintergreen Lifesavers

What to do

  • Turn off the lights and stand in the dark facing the mirror.
  • Chew on some wintergreen Lifesavers
  • Can you see those blue flashes of light?

How does it happen?

When you chew on the Lifesavers, you break down the chemical bonds between the molecules of the candy. In certain foods, this produces energy, sometimes light energy as in the case of wintergreen Lifesavers. It is the wintergreen oil present in the candy that is responsible for the blue light produced during chewing.

Sweet or sour, candy is one of the best chemistry teachers you’ll ever learn from!

Freaky Science Games and Activities for Halloween

If your child doesn’t respond too well to conventional science teaching, it’s time to make the subject more fun and relevant. Luckily, All Saints’ Eve is round the corner and it’s time for some science games! Get your little ghouls and ghosties excited about science as they prepare for the Halloween festivities. Here are some fun kids’ activities that double as super freaky science games for Halloween.

“Tonic” by Todd Huffman licensed under CC BY 2.0

Tonic” by Todd Huffman licensed under CC BY 2.0

Make a Glowing Drink

If you think gory is gorgeous, here’s a drinkable beverage you can proudly serve your trick-or-treaters. It’s a cool drink that glows when you shine a black light on it.

You will need

  • Tonic water
  • Drinking glass
  • Sprite OR any light-colored citrus drink

How to make it

  • Pour tonic water into the ice cube tray and freeze.
  • Pour the ice cubes into a glass of Sprite.
  • Shine the black light on it and voila!

How does it happen?

Tonic water contains quinine that glows blue when exposed to the ultraviolet rays emitted by black lights.

Foaming Pumpkin

Give your standard Jack-O-Lantern a miss this year and try these ghastly foaming-at-the-mouth pumpkins. Soooo sick!!

You will need

  • Carved pumpkin
  • Hydrogen peroxide (12%)
  • Food coloring
  • Liquid dish soap
  • Dry yeast
  • Small cup that fits inside the pumpkin
  • Small plastic cup
  • Warm water

How to make it

  • Fill the cup with 30 ml. hydrogen peroxide
  • Squirt some dish washing soap into it.
  • Add some food coloring for extra effect
  • Open the top of the carved pumpkin and lower the cup into it. (Make sure you don’t spill the contents inside!)
  • Now, pour an entire package of dry yeast into the plastic cup and mix it with warm water. Blend it until it reaches an even consistency – one that is neither too thick nor too thin.
  • Pour this yeast and warm water solution into the cup inside the pumpkin and replace the top quickly.
  • Your Jack-O-Lantern will start foaming at the mouth in a few moments!

How does it happen?

Hydrogen peroxide contains oxygen molecules that are released when you add the yeast solution to it. Hydrogen peroxide breaks down into water (H2O) and oxygen (O2) and the oxygen turns into tiny bubbles as it passes through the liquid soap.

DIY Slime

Disgusting but fun, slime is easy to make and easy to wash off once you’re done playing. Now it’s time to make your own!

Ingredients

  • Elmer’s glue
  • Food coloring (any color)
  • 2 disposable plastic cups
  • Borax powder
  • Water
  • Plastic spoon
  • Tablespoon

How to make it

  • Fill one of the disposable cups with water, add a tablespoon of Borax powder to it and mix well.
  • Fill the other cup with an inch of Elmer’s glue, add 3 tablespoons of water and a few drops of food coloring to it and mix well.
  • Take one tablespoon of the Borax solution and pour it into the glue solution.
  • Your slime is ready for the fun!

What’s happening?

When you mix Borax with Elmer’s glue and water, you produce a putty-like substance that is known as a polymer. But unlike other polymers, this has the qualities of both a liquid and a solid – you can hold it in your hand like a solid but it can take the shape of its container like a liquid.

Freaky science can add a unique touch to your Halloween. Hope you have fun playing your science games!

The Psychological Benefits of Games

I have an obsession with infographics. I have tried to steer away from reblogging all the lovely ones I keep finding. I think I have managed quite well. On my list of resolutions this year, however, I had written “Design my own Infographic”. I slaved over it for months and months. They never tell you how hard it is to narrow down to a topic. I have felt like a prospective PhD student, ideating pitches.  After all that hair-pulling and day dreaming, I’ve finally finished.

Here is the finished product. Feel free to share and leave your feedback.

The Psychological Benefits of Games

Coming Up with a Winning Science Fair Project Idea

So your child is participating in the school science fair, and you’re now trying to help come up with science fair project ideas. Irrespective of whether your child was forced to take part in the science fair or even if science is a much-disliked subject, you can turn the situation around with a winning science fair project idea. Here are six tips to share with your child to ensure (s)he enjoys working on the project, learns a lot in the process and maybe even ends up with a prize!

"Science Fair, 09" by Rich Bowen is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Science Fair, 09” by Rich Bowen is licensed under CC BY 2.0

1. Begin Early

The science fair is a long way away, and you figure you have more than enough time to come up with a good science fair project idea and see it through to the end. Great! That’s no reason to put off starting on the project. You never know what complications may arise once you actually begin. Even the seemingly simple task of coming up with a good idea may take a lot more time than expected. The last thing you want is to find out that you have only one week left for the project, and an understandably limited choice of ideas to choose from. With more time in hand, you have the liberty of choosing a topic that truly interests you, spending enough time to do research and understand the topic in detail, and collecting the necessary information in a well thought-out and organized manner. And if you’ve got your eyes on the prize, each of these factors will help differentiate your project from the other good ones on display. Believe me, the judges can tell.

2. Choose a topic that really interests you

The right way to go about finding a good science fair project idea is to begin with your interests. Don’t read through a list of ideas and see whether any of them appeal to you. Rather, take some time to think about what kind of topics get you excited. It doesn’t even have to have a direct link to science. What things make you sit up and pay attention? Sports? Cats? Building things with your own hands? Narrow your list down to a few of your favorite topics and spend some time thinking about them. Most probably you will have to do some additional reading on the topic to come up with a question that interests you. The Google Idea Springboard is a great tool to help you out in this area. You’re likely to spend a few weeks if not months working on your project, so having a topic that you love will keep you interested till the end.

3. Come up with a good question that you can work with

A good science fair project idea begins with a good question. How do you define a good question? Firstly, it should not be a question that has already been answered by someone else. If you design a science fair project around the question ‘Which color light do plants grow best in?’, it is unlikely that you or anyone else will learn anything new from it. The experimental procedure and results for such a project can easily be found on the internet. Even if you do decide to do a project based on a science fair project idea you found online, make sure to change the question and ask something new so that you are experimenting and doing research on a slightly different area. Secondly, the question should truly interest you. Don’t adopt a question that someone else finds interesting or exciting. Use your ‘favorite topics’ list, spend time playing with different ideas in your head and only settle for a question that you would genuinely like to know the answer to. This interest will completely change the way you approach the project.

4. Consider the experimental procedure involved

Remember, while trying to settle on your science fair project idea, that you have to come up with a fool proof method for collecting data to answer your question. Consider the kind of time, energy and resources required to set up your experiment, and realistically evaluate whether it can be accomplished with what is available to you. Also check your experiment for any flaws. Is the data that you are collecting quantifiable? Is there any subjectivity involved? Have you considered and taken care of external factors that may affect your results? If you do not know the right answers to these questions, or how to design your experiment accordingly, you will need to spend some time understanding how to set up a scientific experiment.

5. Feel free to change your question based on your background research

It is entirely possible that as you go about collecting the information you need for your project, you realize that your question isn’t a very good one, or that you think of a better and more interesting one. Feel free to change your question according to your findings. This is where point #1 becomes even more important.

6. Make sure you understand all the concepts involved

Don’t worry about finding a topic that sounds highly complicated or scientific. In fact, the more simple your topic, the better you will be able to work with it. Nobody is expecting Ph.D. level research from you. More importantly, you will find the research and data collection far more difficult if you haven’t fully understood the topic yourself. Feel free to ask for help from an adult or the internet in order to learn more about the topic, but when it comes to the project, do all the thinking and analysis yourself. This will help you immensely when it comes to answering the judges’ questions about your project, and your in-depth understanding will show.

As long as you keep these tips in mind, you can be sure to come up with a science fair project idea that will win you over, impress your audience and maybe even tip the judges’ scales in your favor.