Saturday, January 26, 2013

Pushing Pins into a Pin Cushion Activity

Pushing pins into a pin cushion takes coordination and careful handling for ages 2, and sometimes up to age 6 or older.   This is a preliminary sewing activity that the students in our Montessori studio absolutely love.  It's an activity that is seen in many Montessori environments.  A very thorough lesson is given to children first before handling sharp objects such as pins.  We explain that if we are not careful, these items could be dangerous.  Many children also realize that in most cases, it is a privilege to use such objects at this age. They recognize that we are trusting them to handle this material properly and they take pride in that.  Of course, we are always observing them, but we find that they are most respectful to material that typically wouldn't be offered to them elsewhere.  This lesson teaches children safety and a respect for materials in the classroom.  In addition, it is great for the fine motor skills!

Extension for Pushing Pins into a Pin Cushion

After the kids have had some practice with pushing the pins in, challenge their coordination by adding beads.  Show them how to put the pin through the bead hole before pushing the pin into the cushion.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Make a Rainbow Basket for Kids to Explore

What child doesn't like learning about rainbows?  I have made baskets like this in classrooms for ages 2 through 6 and it is always a hit.  Discovery baskets are great opportunities for kids to explore on their own.  

Things you could add to your own basket
Note: Be sure to rotate out different items that you find related to rainbows, and don't add too much material at once if the children don't have the space to explore.  I find in the Montessori environment, sometimes a few items are better than a lot, so that the children can spend more time absorbing the material lessons.  Once they have had enough opportunity to learn from the basket, it may be time to rotate new material that teaches about how color works.  For older kids or as children advance, you can start making separate baskets that are focused on different areas of color, such as a color basket that teaches about the painters pallet and color wheel, and another basket that teaches about light and color.  

-Rainbow Exploration Cards: Surf the web and print off available images of real rainbows, colors, diagrams of how light and raindrops work to see rainbows, and don't forget Sir Isaac Newton (who used prisms to show that sunlight was made up of the colours of the rainbow, etc.)!  Oh, and be sure to have an image of an airplane view of a rainbow so that the kids can learn that rainbows are actually round when we can see the entire rainbow is in view.  Laminate the printed images to make them last longer.  If you don't have a computer available to find images, start saving rainbow and color clippings from magazines as well as samples at local paint stores.

-Prisms and Color Paddles:  You can get a small prism for pretty cheap on Amazon and those translucent color paddles are great for holding up to the light.  Just Google "color paddles" and search through images if you aren't sure what I mean by those, as they are usually the first thing that pops up.  An old CD also could be added so that the kids could see how the rainbow colors on the reflective side.

- Color Sample Swatches from your local hardware store.  If the swatch books aren't available like I have here, you can gather several color strips in the paint section and make your own book.  Just stack them together, hole punch each of them one one end, and add a key ring or string to keep them together.

-Make a Felt or Laminated-Paper Rainbow Puzzle: Search for a rainbow coloring page on the web and print out an image or just draw one up yourself. Cut each arch out to create a stencil for your rainbow puzzle. Then place each layer of the rainbow on the appropriate sheet of colored construction paper or felt sheets, trace each arch and cut them out.  Put the rainbow arches together and glue the entire rainbow to a piece of poster board.  Cut the rainbow out, but do not cut it into sections just yet if you choose to make a rainbow out of construction paper.  I would laminate it first or use clear packaging tape if you don't have any laminating paper.  After it is laminated, you can cut each ray out and add it as a rainbow puzzle to your basket.  If you use felt, you can simply cut each arch out and there you have a rainbow puzzle.  It won't be easy to make it perfect, but it will be good enough for the little ones.  You may want to use foam paper instead of poster board for the felt if you want it to last a little longer.  I find that felt sticks really well to foam paper, especially if you use elmer's adhesive spray.

-Make a Braided-Yarn Rainbow Puzzle: Buy yarn in all of the colors of the rainbow, cut 3 long strands from each ball of yarn and start braiding.  I suggest braiding all colors very long at first, at least 2 feet long so that you have plenty of yarn to figure out what size you want your rainbow.  Lay them straight next to each other in the order of the rainbow with the red at the top, and then trim each one shorter and shorter, making sure that the red stays the longest and the indigo/purple is the shortest.  Depending on how long you are keeping the red, you may want to cut at least one to two inches off of the next one and so forth. It is important that the kids see a different of length if you are trying to teach them about the spectrum of color rays.  Save room for knotting each end and then you may want to trim the ends up so there is not too much fraying.  I actually bought a bundle of yarn called "rainbow yarn" to do this, so that might be another option if you don't want to buy each individual color.  When you are all finished, you can show the kids how they can stretch the braids out to learn how red is the longest ray of light, and how each ray gets shorter and shorter.  Yes, children can learn elementary and middle school level material, too!  Afterward, show them how to arch each color into a rainbow like how I did in the image above.

These ideas may or may not fly for some kids, depending on what they are interested in, but I'm sure they will find something fun in the basket...

Thanks for tuning in and I hope you learned something!