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Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Tree & Leaf Tot Trays

Tree Tot Trays

Here are my preschooler’s tray activities from our tree unit. I didn’t get too many action pictures this time. We’ve been busy trying to finish up our homeschool year strong. But I think there are enough pictures to give you a good idea of what Jet’s been up to.


Stick Size Sorting
(Idea from here)

Another use for a pile of sticks! My 4 year old worked on some early math skills with this stick size sorting tray. I started him off with fewer sticks and added more later to increase the challenge.


Leaf Rubbing Tray

Jet made leaf rubbings as long as he had paper. Having a brother or myself hold the paper down, and using triangular crayons, made this tray easier for him. I did have him do it solo a few times, but he got a little frustrated when the leaf moved around and his rubbing wasn’t perfect. We’ve done this as a group before, so my preschooler had high expectations for himself.


Button Tree Fine-Motor Activity
(Idea inspired by this blog post)

For this tray I threaded 3 pipe cleaners through an overturned colander and twisted them to make a tree onto which my little guy threaded buttons. Our tree got a bit wobbly with the weight of the buttons, so if you try this I’d recommend using a few more pipe cleaners for a stronger “trunk.”


Leaf Shadow Match Puzzle

This puzzle is part of a collection of file folder games that I keep on hand. This one is from A Teaching Mommy.

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Leaf Art Tray

This art tray was a spin-off of a book activity that I’ll post about soon. Jet was free to do whatever he wanted here and I just love the cute leaf creations he made.


Tree Sequencing Cut & Paste Activity

This was a throwback activity for me. I did this same activity with my oldest son more than 5 years ago! My current preschooler did just as well with this simple cut & paste activity which basically consists of cutting progressively smaller triangles and then gluing them down from largest to smallest to make a tree. You can see a better picture of how to draw the cutting lines (from only a single sheet of construction paper) here in my original post. Jet was using spring assisted scissors here.


Seed Sorting Tray
(Idea from here)

Jet practiced sorting and used his fine-motor skills to operate the tweezers in this seed sorting tray. We had acorns, pine tree seeds, apple seeds, and I put beans into the fourth compartment because I didn’t have any other tree seeds handy. Jet also helped me find all these seeds and put the tray together. It was a great opportunity for observation and discussing some of the things we'd learned in our reading.


Leaf Patterning Tray

For this tray I put down 3 strips of tape and made patterns with fabric leaves for my preschooler to finish. The tape allowed me to easily change the patterns from day to day. I used fabric leaves because I didn’t want to confuse my little guy, but real leaves would have been so fun here. Real leaves and a scavenger hunt for the next leaf in the pattern? There’s an activity for another day!


Falling Leaves File Folder Game

This next activity isn’t a tray activity, but an actual game. You can play with 1 or 2 players, but reading is required so younger children may need help. This game provides a silly way to practice gross-motor skills, coordination, and balance. You can download it free from Your Therapy Source.

Don’t forget to check out our other tree activities:

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Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Tree of Benefits – Ongoing Project

Tree of Benefits

During our tree study we had this Tree of Benefits project ongoing on one wall. It not only gave my boys a chance to display their newfound knowledge, but also provided fine-motor skills practice for my preschooler and kindergartener and spelling practice for my 2nd grader. In case you haven’t noticed, I really love projects where everyone is involved and getting something out of it!


This project started off with the boys cutting small rectangles out of green paper and folding them in half.


Next the boys cut crescent shapes along the folded edges. (After a little instruction even my 3 year old was able to do this. He used spring-assisted scissors to make it a little easier.)


When unfolded you have a nice little leaf.

(We also took this opportunity to talk about symmetry and same & different with my younger boys.)


Each time the boys thought of a benefit provided by trees, we listed it on a separate leaf. Either my 2nd grader or I would write the benefit in pencil for my preschooler or kindergartner to trace in marker.


And up on the tree each leaf went.

(We happened to have an adhesive tree trunk on hand, but if your mother doesn’t send you these sorts of random things, you could easily cut one out of construction paper or a paper grocery bag. Love you, Nana!)


Here’s a close up of our tree near the end of our unit.


The finished product!

Want more? You can check out our other tree projects here:

And don't forget the books!

Here are my Top 3 Book Picks to go along with this project:


by Janice May Udry

If you’re only going to get one tree book, this is my top pick. It’s a living book and a Caldecott winner, with beautiful illustrations, a sweet innocence to it, and plenty of information. I’m glad to own this one!


by Shel Silverstein

This is a great book, but it may not be right for every family. It tells the story of the relationship between a tree and a boy over the course of their lifetimes. The tree gives. The boy takes. There’s a great opportunity here for discussion, and plenty of room to insert your own appreciation for the gifts that trees give to all of us.


by Clyde Robert Bulla

This book is part of the Let’s Read and Find Out Science Series. These are simple and well-done non-fiction books for kids. They don’t skimp on information, but it’s presented in a very easy to read manner. We own several other books from this series and I’m always quick to grab them at the library when they relate to what we’re studying.
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Friday, April 15, 2016

The Giving Tree- Leaf Crowns

Leaf Crowns

I can hardly resist a good book! And it’s even better when it elicits some good discussion! The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein fulfills both of those needs. It’s a sad, yet sweet, book about the relationship between a tree and a boy over the course of their lifetimes. There’s an unexpected depth to this book, so you might want to preread it, especially if you’re unfamiliar with Shel Silverstein.


In his youth, the main character of our book uses leaves from the giving tree to make play crowns. That was the idea we ran with for this project! The materials we used were cheap and easy to find: paper grocery bag, tape, glue, scissors, and of course leaves. (I was easily able to make 4 crowns from one paper bag.)


The instructions are equally simple:

Cut strips from the grocery bag long enough to fit around your head(s).

Glue the tape onto the grocery bag strips sticky-side out. Leave a border of grocery bag on either side of the tape. This will help prevent hair from getting stuck in the tape.

(Double-sided tape probably would have been ideal here, but I didn’t have any so I just used masking tape. I used my fingernail to lightly press the tape into the glue and it was actually really easy. No tapey-gluey mess! No trip to the store needed!)


Leaf hunt time!

The tape worked double duty in allowing me to easily secure the crowns to the boys' heads. We decided to do this as a collaborative project, so all of the boys hunted leaves and put them onto each other's crowns. There was quite a bit of discussion necessary to get each crown made to the wearer's satisfaction. I do so love giving these brothers the opportunity to work together :)


Because this was a group project my youngest was also able to be involved, when we could catch him….


Insert play (& cuteness) here!

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Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Poetry Memorization–Trees


As a homeschooler who’s inspired by the classical methods, and especially The Well-Trained Mind by Susan Wise Bauer, I like to frequently incorporate poetry memorization into our homeschool routine.  Memorization seems to come so easily for children and I can really appreciate the multitude of skills that are sharpened through this simple practice. We all know that language skills are acquired through reading, but poetry memorization takes these benefits even further. Not only are my boys exposed to beautiful examples of rhythm & verse, sophisticated vocabulary (in context), and the power of words in creating imagery, but they’re committing all of these fantastic examples to memory. They’ll carry this beautiful language with them forever!


My oldest son used the first two levels of First Language Lessons in previous years, which included poetry memorization, but for this year I’ve had to pull together our poetry memory work myself. That was a little daunting at first as I'm not a fan of a lot of children's poetry that you find on the internet, but now that I've found some good poetry resources in the form of physical books, it usually comes together pretty easily. For our tree unit I thumbed through A Child’s Book of Poems & Julie Andrews’ Collection of Poems, Songs, & Lullabies and chose Trees by Henry Behn for my second grader and Who Has Seen the Wind? by Christina Rosetti for my younger boys to memorize.


After selecting our poems I created a printable version and cut my second-graders sheet as shown above. This gives him something easier to manipulate and allows him to focus on particular lines as well as quiz himself as he goes. (You can download the printables we used here.)


After successfully memorizing his poem, Dude accepted the challenge of reciting it in front of our homeschool co-op group. As you can probably tell from his posture in the picture above, he was incredibly nervous. He did great though! And I was a very proud mama seeing him face those fears and succeed :)

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Monday, March 14, 2016

Number Tree - Theme Reveal


To reveal our next theme to the boys, I put together this tray activity one night after they had gone to bed. I hadn’t told them to expect it, but instead just left it for them to find.


Jet noticed it early the next morning….too early the next morning. Once Spudder was awake I let them get to work on it together. I explained to them that each cup contained a group of legos with numbers on them. It would be the boys job to put the numbers in each cup in order. The catch was that only one cup started at 1. For the other cups the boys would have to pick out the lowest number and then count on from there. This is a skill that’ll not only help the boys get more familiar with numbers, but will be especially beneficial when they’re perfecting their addition & subtraction skills.


Next they sequenced the rows from largest to smallest. Now they could see where this was headed!

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The boys with their completed number tree

More TREE fun to come!

Counting On Lego Tree

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Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Bee-Themed Tot Trays

Bee Trays

It’s been quite a while since I’ve set up Tot Trays at our house, but last week as I was planning out a bee unit study and thinking of activities for my Preschool and Kindergarten guys, trays seemed like the perfect set-up. And I have to say after having these out for a week, I’m remembering all the reasons I like them: fine-motor skills practice, open-ended exploration, creativity, logic, & a defined work-space. What’s not to love! (You can see more about Tot Trays over at 1+1+1=1.)

Here are the Bee-Themed trays that we had out this week:



Make a Beehive

I saw this clever idea for making a beehive out of toilet paper rolls over at Deceptively Educational. We followed her instructions for the most part, only instead of gluing it together we used this as a fine-motor paper-clipping activity. To better accomodate the paper clips, I did cut my hexagonal cells to be a little wider. I found 1 inch to be just right. All the boys really loved this activity and I ended up cutting up more cells for them.



Bee Fraction Puzzles

I made this hexagonal puzzle page to expose my boys to the idea of fractions. I don’t expect full comprehension at this age, just EXPOSURE. While they worked the puzzles we talked and I used keywords like “whole,” “part,” “half,’' “fraction,” etc. There’s a template on the second page of the download that I used to cut the puzzle pieces out of craft foam. You can download your own copy HERE.

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Pollen Punch

For this tray I borrowed the flower from our Bee & Pollination Craft-tivity and paired it with a simple hole-punch and some yellow construction paper. The boys punched & punched & punched out “pollen” exercising those little hand muscles along the way.



Bee Life Cycle 3-Part Cards

These Bee Life Cycle 3-Part Cards from Trillium Montessori were a huge hit with Jet. He laid out the full cards and matched up the picture and word cards while we discussed the life cycle of the bee. Another day he put them in a circle to better illustrate the continuing cycle and matched the cards up again. You do have to take the extra step of subscribing to the Trillium Montessori blog to get the link and password for their free downloads page, but (check out those smiles) it was definitely worth it for me!



Nectar Transfer

The boys used a dropper “proboscis” to transfer colored water “nectar” to ice cube tray “cells.” All 3 of my older boys got in on playing with this tray together. This was especially nice because I could hear Dude appropriately using (and inadvertently exposing his brothers to) some newly acquired bee vocabulary as they played. Brother teaching brother! I first saw this idea on the For the Children Blog where they used a turkey baster. My boys would love that, but we didn’t have one so I went with the droppers instead.

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Bee Playdough Mat

All of my boys like playdough, so I knew this creative tray would be a hit. It was used multiple times throughout the week. The printable is from This Reading Mama. I just gave them some art supplies that were close at hand and let their imaginations take over. Next time I think I’ll give them scissors too.

If you're looking for more Bee-themed fun check out our
Bee & Pollination Craft-tivity

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In addition to the above activities the boys also got to drink juice through their proboscises (straws) and taste test some local wildflower and clover honeys.

Book Recommendations:
As usual books provided the real meat of our unit study.
Here were our favorites.



The Bee Tree
by Patricia Polacco
The Bee Tree tells the lively story of a little girl and her grandfather who go on a hunt for a Bee Tree. Friends join the pair as they scramble to follow bees back to their hive. There’s not much information on bees in this book, but it’s a lovely & fun story that really encourages literacy in its final pages. I think anyone who loves reading will really appreciate this book.

Bee & Me
by Elle McGuinness
This quick read combines factual information about bees with the sweet story of a bee who gets lost and finds himself stuck inside of a little boy’s room. The book encourages kids not to be afraid of bees, but to appreciate them for their contributions. It’s perfect for even the youngest readers.



Honey in a Hive (Let's-Read-and-Find-Out Science 2)
by Anne Rockwell
 Honey in a Hive is a great non-fiction bee book for 3-8 year olds. It's 40 pages pack a good bit of knowledge into short descriptions and informative illustrations.

The Honey Makers
by Gail Gibbons
I love, love, love The Honey Makers by Gail Gibbons. There's a wealth of information in this picture book covering everything from bee anatomy, the bee life cycle, a detailed description of the various duties of worker bees, and of course how honey is made. This book is pretty detailed and can be a bit wordy, so I'd recommend it for the 5+ age group. Even I leaned some things from it!

by Joanna Cole
Who can resist Ms. Frizzle? I know my boys can't! This book follows the adventures of an elementary school class and their ecentric teacher as their bus is magically transformed into a beehive (and the children into bees). Each page is practically overflowing with information as you can see labeled diagrams and notes the children take in their notebooks, as well as speech bubbles that often provide humor and give you insight into each characters personality. There's a lot here for everyone and I'd recommend this book for ages 4+. And if your voice is getting tired by this point there's also the The Magic School Bus TV Series. The Inside a Beehive episode is on disc 4, episode 6. It's very similar content to the book. (I opted to read the other books this week and let the boys watch this one on DVD.)

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