Learning through play: Mail theme.

Recently we’ve been adapting a play based approach during our summer break. That way my oldest doesn’t lose the knowledge she learned all awhile getting the summer break she desires. Trying to come up with ideas to keep both my daughters interested and learning at their correct levels can be exhausting. Lately I’ve been taking a day to day approach in which I ask what they want to play and I just go with it and on the spot I throw in as much learning as possible within the activity. My only catch when it comes to the oldest is I tell her it has to involve writing. She often rolls her eyes and runs away when I grab out her journal and ask her to write. Therefore I’ve been trying to make it more fun.

What I was able to cover in our mail time…
-Reading: My daughter read the notes I wrote.
-Writing: My daughter wrote out notes for me and her little sister to read.
-Shapes: I drew pictures of shapes for my youngest.
-Sight words: I placed sight word cards into the mail box for my oldest to read.
-Alphabet recognition: I placed colorful alphabet pieces in the box for my daughters to name the different letters.

We placed our mail within a bin I had on hand. You can get creative and add to the fun by making a mailbox out of an old shoe box or similar box you have on hand.

Inside the box we all placed our notes to each other. My oldest wrote out her notes giving her plenty of writing practice for the day. My youngest drew all over pieces of paper for her notes. I wrote out notes to my oldest to help practice her reading skills, and I drew shapes for my youngest as a way to work in shape recognition for the day. I even added in letters from an alphabet puzzle we have, and sight word cards I’ve made previously.

An envelope my daughter made out of stickers and paper.
Samples of the notes I made for my daughters.

I’ve been trying to do no print simple activities lately. To make the letters more fancy they could easily be printed from the computer. The possibilities are endless as far as what the notes can cover in the sense of learning. A focus I have with my youngest is currently shapes therefore I chose to do pictures of shapes with you. While working in basic number practice as well. My oldest is at a level in which reading is a main focus therefore I kept her notes reading oriented without pictures.

A purse made out of paper and yarn my daughter made to hold the letters when finished.

After she made hers I made my own version using staples instead of tape to keep it more sturdy. I also tied string to the bag rather than taped it on which was used as a handle for the purse.

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Learning through play: Superheroes

To keep learning fun and engaging throughout summer break we have been taking a play based learning approach. My daughters often pick a theme in which we use within our lessons for the day. My daughters recently wanted to play Superheroes. (ages 2 and 6)

We used construction paper and popsicle sticks to make our own superhero masks. When finished we wrote out facts about our superhero which gave my oldest the opportunity to practice on her writing skills. I had my oldest read the facts I wrote down about the superhero my youngest and I made together.

Learning I was able to incorporate within the Superhero theme…
-color recognition
-shape recognition
-reading
-writing
-creativity
-scissor skills

My oldest daughters Unicorn superhero mask.
Her unicorn had laser eyes, and could fly.
The Purple Cookie Superhero mask.

My youngest daughter came up with all the powers except for laser eyes. My oldest daughter added laser eyes to make the superhero a worthy partner in her eyes. It’s funny to stop and think like a two year old because eating an unlimited amount of cookies without getting sick would be a superpower. One that I never would have thought about. My youngest and I made the mask together. She picked out the colors to use which gave her an opportunity to work on her color recognition. I cut out the eyes as squares and ears as rectangles to incorporate shapes within the activity.

Colorful popsicle sticks.

I laid out colorful popsicle sticks for my youngest to choose from. I had her name each color as she chose which popsicle stick she wanted to use as the handle for the superhero mask.

As I cut out the eyes of the superhero mask my youngest poked holes in another piece of paper.
My youngest daughter added a pink mask to her mask because she insisted it needed one.
My youngest daughter practiced her scissor skills by cutting the masks hair. She’s still working on proper grip. She often tries to use two hands.

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Learning through play: Treasure hunt.

Lately since it is my oldest daughters (age 6) summer break I’ve been trying to keep learning simple to avoid the summer slide all awhile not overwhelming her. Also allowing myself a break from the learning meltdowns that occur when she has to do scheduled school work in which she isn’t interested in. Over the summer we’ve adapted a learning through play approach in which I ask my daughters what they want to play and then we quickly get to it. In which I haven’t had to plan ahead.

My oldest decided she wanted to go on a treasure hunt. I gathered old fashion jewelry my kids already own, paper money and placed it within an old basket. In which she chose where to hide it because my oldest feels best when she is in control of an activity. Therefore she hid the bucket from her little sister (age 2) and we both began to make maps to find the treasure.

To make our maps we grabbed paper, pencils, markers, and scissors then got to work. We also made clues, and our own fake coins because my daughters insisted no treasure is complete without coins.

Maps and clues…
-writing practice
-reading practice as my oldest read my map and clues
-shape recognition because I used basic shapes to make the images on the map
-imagination and creativity
-scissor practice my oldest cut her map up and hid it around the house

Making paper coins…
-color recognition
-scissor practice

A map my youngest and I made together.

I used simple captions on the treasure map for my oldest to read. I tried to incorporate shapes. For example I went with the typical house drawing using a square and a triangle in order to work in shape recognition for my youngest

I wrote down simple sentences for my daughters to follow.

I kept the sentences simple for my oldest daughter that is learning to read. I didn’t plan ahead for the activity therefore I wrote out the sentences on plain paper. Of course you could always print out clues/directions to make it look more fancy. Recently I have just been keeping our activities simple and saving time not over planning.

Treasure map my oldest made.
A clue that a map piece was hidden under a chair in the shape of a fox.
Colorful coins to point out colors to my youngest daughter. A treasure isn’t complete without coins of course.
Coins my oldest made.

For added scissor practice kids can make their own treasure coins to find. I simply drew them on a piece of paper using a variety of colors and we cut them out together. You could draw coins in various shapes for additional shape recognition. I didn’t think about it till after I drew traditional circle coins. As I stated before I didn’t plan ahead. I’ve been keeping learning fun, engaging and allowing my daughters to use their imagination by picking an activity and going with it. When they pick the activity I have found they are more willing to learn and stick with it.

My youngest daughters coins.
Looking for treasure in the ball pit.
They found the treasure! Time to dig in.

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Learning through play: Restaurant theme.

My daughters are currently ages 2 and 6. My oldest is currently on her summer break before starting First Grade. Since we homeschool in or household it is hard to separate school from home life. I’ve been trying to keep both my kids learning and avoiding my oldest from the dreaded summer slide. Although since we do homeschool I wanted my daughter to still feel as if she had a summer break all while learning. Therefore we’ve adapted a play based approach.

My oldest often doesn’t feel like writing and reading. When I state it is time for writing and or to sit down and read a book she often gets frustrated and tells me it isn’t school time. Rather than skipping anything educational at all I’ve been asking her what she wants to play and then incorporating reading and writing within the activity her and her sister chooses. My daughters enjoy playing restaurant. We made our own menus and restaurant signs which gave my oldest an opportunity to practice her writing and to express her creative side at the same time. You could also write down customer orders as you play for more writing practice.

Besides writing and reading it is a great opportunity to talk about the concept of money and learn simple counting and math skills when the restaurant owner collects the money from the customer. Depending on the variety of play food you have on hand you can also incorporate color learning for younger children such as my two year old. I often ask her what color is the broccoli, banana, etc.

My oldest daughters menu.
My oldest daughters restaurant sign.
Open sign. I tried to get in as much reading as possible. As I asked my daughter to read each sign I made to me.
My restaurant sign.
I didn’t get all fancy with it. I just simply wrote my menu down on line paper by hand. I left out pictures because I wanted her to focus on reading and not rely on pictures for clues.
I added more menu items to the back upon her request because she wasn’t satisfied with the few options I had given her.
My oldest daughters fries made out of construction paper she made herself.
When finished with our menus and signs my daughter hung them on the dollhouse side of our play kitchen.
My youngest daughter was our first customer.

It is important to remember that learning doesn’t have to be perfectly structured and the best way to learn is through fun. Just enjoy the process. The whole point is for it to be fun and enjoyable that way the child is more willing to learn and their interest is better held. If your child doesn’t enjoy playing restaurant that is ok go with an activity that they do enjoy instead. The possibilities are endless.

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Using beads, toys, and markers to keep learning fun and simple.

My oldest daughter (age 6) is currently on a Summer break before starting First Grade next school year. I’ve been trying to incorporate as much education into her break without it feeling as if she is still in school. We’ve been turning to a play based approach to keep it casual, relaxed and fun during the summer. The goal is to avoid the summer slide and to enhance her reading skills to make sure she is where she needs to be for First Grade. My youngest (age 2) is still quite young and the play based approach is what best holds her interest all year round.

Today I kept it simple by bringing out markers, and paper. I wrote several words down, having my oldest read them and then asked her to write a few sentences to get in some writing time herself today. We traced our hands, our feet, my youngest cut up our scrap paper. We played with beads to work on fine motor skills, colors and basic counting. We looked at educational posters and we played with dolls and had fun together.

I often have to remind myself that all that matters is that they are exposed to education. It doesn’t have to be pretty and perfect looking. Writing out words on a piece of paper is enough. Buying materials for education can become pricey and I’m often searching for ideas in which I don’t have to print out and waste ink for everything. That’s why when I’m able to I just write it out on paper. Other times I use dry erase boards that way I don’t have to use paper. I can write a word, erase it, and write a new one saving on materials.

Writing sight words with dot and regular markers.
Writing words on paper during art time to get my oldest to read.
My oldest writing sentences during casual art time to keep it from feeling rigid and boring.
Tracing hands. I added simple sentences to my hand drawing to get my oldest to read and to count with my youngest. While throwing in a little bit of coloring learning. Blue and orange fingernails.
My oldest tracing her hand and arm as my youngest kept busy practicing her scissor skills by cutting up our scrap paper.
Dolls and posters to learn shapes.

When it comes to teaching kids the basics such as shapes, colors, numbers, etc. you can use various posters and toys that’ll hold their interest. At my house when my daughters aren’t in the mood to learn I’ll grab out posters and slip them into their play. They were playing with dolls today therefore I brought out a shape poster and we had the dolls jump around landing on different shapes naming each one. For my oldest I brought out a fraction poster and when a doll jumped on a fraction for example I’d say that doll ate half of the pie. To introduce the concept of fractions to my oldest. Then she’d add on looking at the different fraction images naming off how much of the pie the doll ate.

Playing with beads.

Stringing beads can be a great fine motor activity. Beads are also great for teaching colors, patterns, and counting. We incorporated their dolls in with bead play today as a way to keep their interest. My youngest needed more to hold her interest than the beads itself therefore I brought out the dolls and had them jump on the beads and name off each color. In which she did the same and began to name off the colors herself. Picking them up for the doll and picking out the dolls favorite colors.

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The above posters and bead sets are what we used in our lessons today.

Click image above for reading play scenes.
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Click image above for more shape learning ideas.
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