Archive for the ‘Just for Fun’ Category

Isn’t it amazing what sponges our little ones are? The amount of knowledge they can soak up never ceases to amaze me, and I’m often reminded that we should be continually taking advantage of this insatiable desire to learn, learn, learn.

Here’s one way to do just that. Grab one of those wipe-off, World Map place mats we all have. Put it in front of your child and show her the continents. Name them. Find something she can relate to on each one.

See this? This is Australia. This is where those cute little koala bears live. And kangaroos. And wallabies. Look how small Australia is, compared to the other continents!

And this one here? This is Africa. You know how we always pray for Ashley and Mikayla? This is where they’re doing their mission work. Aaaaaashley…..Aaaaafrica. 

Know why we like to speak Dutch so much? It’s because we learned it when we lived here, in this continent. It’s called Europe. We rode our bikes everywhere when we lived here.

When we Skype with Uncle Kelcy, we’re talking to him in China. That’s here, in Asia. Look how BIG Asia is!

You get the idea. Don’t just tell your child the name of the continent—tell her about the penguins that live in Antarctica, or trips you’ve made to this place or that, or relatives she knows who reside in other areas of the world. Or, point out well-known landmarks that she can associate with each place. Make each continent more than just a colored blob on a map.

Once you’ve gone over the basics, it’s time to start the game. Choose a small snack your child loves. It could be mini-marshmallows, cereal pieces, raisins, nuts, or even m & m’s. They key is to make it small, because she’s going to be eating several of them and they need to fit on your map.

For my daughter, I chose her favorite candy, Skittles. What can I say? I wanted this to be motivating…and it was!

teach continents with candy

Just take one of the snacks and put it on any continent you choose, and ask your child to name it. The rules are simple: If she can do it, she gets to take the snack and eat it. If not, give her the correct answer and move it to another continent and keep playing. You will be amazed at how quickly she will pick up on those names!

Once my daughter had the continents down pat, I decided to move on to learning the states, but since there were so many I changed the reward to Nerds candy–much smaller. (Because I’m just not sure the sugar rush from learning all 50 states with Skittles would be worth it.)

I also taught her a little song I made up to help her remember the continent names, even when she wasn’t looking at a map. We sang it to the tune of “If Your’e Happy and You Know It:”

There are seven continents in our world.

There are seven continents in our world.

North and South America,

Europe, Asia, Africa,

And Australia and Antarctica. 

(Yes, it fits. Work with me here.)

We sang the song over and over while looking at a globe. And during bath time. And while riding in the car.

I based this prize aspect of this activity on an awesome idea I found on Grasping for Objectivity, and you can use this same method to teach all kinds of things to your young (or older) child. Yes, that’s right. As soon as my 12-year-old daughter saw what we were doing (read: saw the candy), she wanted to get in on the action, too. Be sure you up the challenge factor for those older kids!

And once your little one learns the continents, you can move on to oceans, U.S. states, and other geography subjects. You can also use this method to teach the presidents, plant parts, or whatever else you have a place mat for. The possibilities are only as limited as the place mat selection at the dollar store (or Target’s dollar spot), right?

And if you’re trying to decide which subject to study concurrently, may I suggest tackling the importance and methodology of good teeth brushing?

Enjoy learning together!

Aren’t we blessed? We’ve been given so much, but sometimes we forget to acknowledge those blessings and the One who gave them. Do you want to help your child feel (and express) more gratitude?

Although I created this activity during the summer months, I thought November would be a perfect time to share with you a fun way to help your little one focus on being thankful for everything he’s been blessed with. This idea can be used anytime of year, and is a great take-along activity for when you need something to keep your child busy and quiet. I’ve also used it in my Bible class for when the children were just arriving.

Set-up is easy. Simply make a list of things your child is/should be thankful for, and search free clip-art for pictures to represent each item on the list. Put them all into a document and print them out.

gratitude game

For our game, I included a variety of material blessings, like houses, vehicles, toys, and books, as well as relational blessings like parents, grandparents, siblings, and pets. Some were very general, like sunshine and rain, while others were specific to my daughter, like her favorites foods (rice, bananas, and ice cream), her dog, and her two brothers and one sister. Some pictures represented physical blessings like a comfortable bed to sleep in, clothes to wear, and food to eat, while other icons stood for spiritual blessings like Christ, His Word (the Bible), and His church. (I used a building to represent the church, but wish I’d shown a group of people instead, for a more accurate representation.) I intentionally made the drawing of Jesus twice as big as all the others, and we talked about how none of the rest of them would mean much without HIM. His sacrifice for us is the greatest blessing we have!

Next, laminate the pages you printed and cut them out, adding a small magnet piece to the back of each.

magnetic pieces for gratitude game

Now, it’s your child’s turn! If you have a white board or some other large magnetic surface, great. But even a cookie sheet works in a pinch, and is nice for when you need this activity to be portable. Plus, it’s the perfect size for your child’s lap!

playing the gratitude game

My daughter was a young four when I made this for her, but it would work well for just about any age of young child. Simply give yours the pieces and allow him to choose which ones he’s thankful for. (Yes, eventually he’ll pick them all.) Each time he adds one to the board, have him tell you what it is and why he’s thankful for it. If you have tailored this to your child’s life, it should be very natural for him to express thanksgiving for each blessing, and it’s a great way to improve his verbal abilities while he has fun and focuses on all God’s done for him. Win, win, win!

One last note…Be sure you don’t use activities like this only at Thanksgiving time. We should be teaching our children that we are blessed all year, and we need to be grateful all year.

Enjoy learning together!

Today I’m bringing over a free printable from my other blog, Why Amy Smiles, to share with you. I’ve updated it from last year and think you’ll enjoy using this fun interview with your kiddo(s)! Below is the original post, with updates for 2014:

Kids grow and change so fast, and those of us who are parents or grandparents often wish we could somehow capture a slice of life from each stage to hold onto forever. So today I am offering you an opportunity to do just that!

The changing of the calendar year is a great time to reflect on the rapid changes in our kids’ likes, dislikes, and personalities. I created this interview sheet to use with my own kids, and decided to share it with you here. There’s a download link below, but first, here’s how the interview looks:

2014 New Year Interview

2014 New Year Interview

It’s two pages long, so you’ll want to print on front and back. Keep in mind that in our family, we have four kiddos ranging in age from newly five to eighteen, so I included questions to fit preschoolers through teenagers. I purposely started out with the easy questions like favorite colors and foods, then progressed to the more thought-provoking ones.

If you are using this with toddlers, you have several options for adjusting it to their level:

1. Print the first page only, and use the empty space on the back to stamp a handprint or let the child “draw” pictures. (Read: scribble)

2. Selectively answer whatever questions from both pages you feel apply to your child.

3. Make changes to the questions that don’t fit your child’s age. For example, with my youngest I’ll cross out “youth group activity” and replace it with “things to do with my friends.”

Even if your child or grandchild isn’t talking yet, you will want to fill in favorite songs, toys, foods, etc. to have a record of this stage in your baby’s life.  While your older kids are filling out their own, you can let your little ones dictate their answers to you. You might even want to fill one in for yourself while you’re at it!

Of course, you also have the option to use my idea as a starting point and create your own interview to fit your family’s needs. But for those of you who want to skip the hassle and use what I’m sharing (Did I mention it’s FREE?), here’s the link:

2014 New Year’s Interview

Won’t it be fun to look back in a few years to see how the answers have changed?

Enjoy learning together!

Today on my personal blog, Why Amy Smiles, I share a fun interview you can do with your child to forever capture his unique preferences at this moment in time, along with ways to adapt the interview for very young children and even babies.

Follow this link to the blog post, where you can download the interview sheets for free:

http://whyamysmiles.wordpress.com/2012/12/31/free-printable-capture-your-childs-life-now-with-this-new-years-interview/

I hope you enjoy interviewing your child. Dictating his answers for you will be great language workout for your little one. More importantly, in my opinion, how fun it will be to look back later and see how very much his answers have changed!

Enjoy learning together.