Tag Archives: activities

I Spy Eagle Eye Game

My youngest loves looking for objects hidden in books, such as the I Spy books by Scholastic. Whenever we visit our library’s bookmobile, he heads straight for the section that holds the “finding books.” So when I found an I SPY game on sale at the store, I couldn’t resist.

Overall, it turned out to be a good game, especially for younger children. To begin, each player is given a playing card made out of very sturdy cardboard with a picture featuring a couple hundred objects, such as marbles, blocks, buttons, toy cars, letters, beads, balls, or tiny figures. Each side of the game board has a different picture, and there are four game boards, making eight pictures in all. The rest of the game consists a bell and thirty double-sided playing cards with eight pictures on each.

Players all play the game at the same time. Each player draws a card from the stack and looks at the eight images on the card, then tries to figure out which ONE object is a match with an object on his game board. The first player to find his particular match rings the bell. So, not only does the player have to find an object first, but he also has to figure out just which object he needs to find.

Sounds difficult, doesn’t it? It was at first, even for me; my six-year-old was finding his objects before I could find mine. It was a good game for our family to play together — everyone seemed to have an equal chance at winning, no matter how young or old they were.

Interestingly, though, the game became easier and easier the more we played. The first few times through, we studied the game boards very closely; after a while, when we drew new playing cards, it was easy to recognize which object we needed to find and easy to find it. So, we switched the game boards around, but again, after several rounds of play, it became too easy, especially for the older children. My youngest became frustrated that he could never win, and the older ones were tired of hearing him fuss about it.

Right now the game is back on our game shelf, but I’m sure we’ll pull it out again. We’ll just have to wait until we’ve forgotten where all the objects are hidden.

Story Starters

This week, I’ve been helping to teach classes at a writing/illustrating camp for kids. We have students ages 6-13, and it’s been a lot of fun. The children have come up with some very imaginative stories!

One of the things we discussed at the camp was how the main character of a story has a problem to overcome. After the students decided on their main character, they had to figure out what the problem was going to be. For those who were having trouble thinking of a story line, we gave them a list of story starters.

The story starters were ideas for stories that the children could build upon. A story starter might be something like:

1. Tommy arrived home from school only to discover his baby brother was now sharing his bedroom.

2. The day before the royal ball, the princess fell from her horse and broke her leg.

3. The pirate captain and his crew were ready to dig for treasure, but they lost the map.

4. Spotty the dog wanted to walk with his owner to the store, but there was a cat sitting in the middle of the sidewalk. Spotty was afraid of cats.

5. As Jane and Marvin were having a picnic in the yard, a terrible storm blew in.

You can create more story starters to get your child writing. Just choose a character and a problem, and let the story begin! But, if you need even more ideas, there’s plenty of help online. Below are a couple of sites worth visiting:

  • Scholastic.com has a fun story starter “machine.” Just give the wheel a spin and see what comes up.
  • BookWeekOnline offers some interesting story starters for older kids. The first part of the story is written by a well-known author, but it’s up to the student to finish the adventure.

Your child might write using the story starter, or it might inspire him to develop his own storyline. Either way, story starters are a great way to get kids thinking — and writing!

Photo by kakisky

Nuts and Bolts

This week, our Five in a Row story for the K-5/First Graders at co-op was Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel by Virginia Lee Burton. It was a little harder coming up with a craft to go along with the story, but with the help of my oldest son, John, we came up with one that was a big hit.

The story is about Mike Mulligan and his out-dated steam shovel, Mary Ann. In the story, they take on one last job, digging the cellar of the new town hall in Popperville. As we read the book, we talked about the different machines depicted, and how Mike Mulligan used his machine Mary Ann to dig faster and better.

The project? The children had to think up and sketch their own time-saving machines.


  • 1/2 sheet of posterboard (one per student)
  • Pencils
  • Markers, crayons, and/or colored pencils
  • Hot glue gun
  • Hot glue
  • Collection of misc. nails, screws, nuts, washers, bolts, etc.

Each student was given 1/2 sheet of posterboard and a pencil and instructed to spend a few minutes thinking about the kind of machine they would design. What would their machine do? How would it be helpful? What would it need to do the job?

Next, the children drew their machines on the posterboard. After they were satisfied with it, they colored them in with crayons, colored pencils, or markers.
While they were working, we plugged in a couple of low-temp mini-glue guns.  When the students had finished their drawings, they were given a handful of various nuts, nails, screws, bolts, etc. to choose from. They would then place them on their pictures where they thought they should go. We then used hot glue (a lot for the heavier items) to affix them to the “machine.”

The children really enjoyed it — and they enjoyed telling about their machines, too! Later that day, they stood up one by one with the drawings of their machines and explained just what their machines were supposed to do. They were all so proud of their ideas — and I was too!

Pizza Day

Pizza_6Once a week, a friend of mine organizes a special day for fellow homeschoolers she knows. It might be a science day, when we try a few experiments, or it might be a field trip to a bakery or nature park. Sometimes she hosts a holiday celebration. While my family isn’t to attend the event every week, we are usually able to attend the get-togethers held at her house. And this week, we all met for Pizza Day.

Every family that was able brought in some pizza dough, whether it was homemade or frozen or pre-made from the grocery store. Some of the dough was whole wheat while other dough had been mixed with parmesan cheese. We also brought along our favorite toppings: pizza sauce, mozzarella cheese, feta cheese, pepperoni, sausage, bell peppers, hot peppers, mushrooms, onions, barbecue sauce, chicken, pineapple, coconut — if it sounded tasty, someone had brought it along.

Then came the best part. The tables were covered with baking pans coated with cooking spray, and the children got to work. First they decided which dough they would use, then they flattened it in the pan using either their hands or a roller. Then they chose their toppings. When the children were finished, they compared creations, and one by one the pans went into the oven.

Although everyone didn’t eat at the same time (there was a constant rotation of cooking sheets with pizzas on them going in and out of the oven), all enjoyed their personal pizzas and shared slices with each other. There was so much pizza, in fact, that we even took some of the extra home with us.

Pizza Day not only provided us with a great lunch, but it gave the kids some hands-on cooking experience and the moms time to visit. All in all, I’d say Pizza Day was a huge success!

The Little Red Lighthouse Craft

alighthouseThis week, our kindergarteners and first graders at co-op read The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Grey Bridge by Hildegard Swift and Lynd Ward. The craft we did with this book took a little while to prepare, but it was a lot of fun that provided some good practice for their fine motor skills.

For the activity, the children created their own lighthouses using popsicle sticks. If you’d like to make a lighthouse with your child, here’s what you’ll need:

  • 40 popsicle sticks cut in half, or 80 half-size sticks
  • Red acrylic craft paint
  • Paint Brush
  • Paper towels
  • Container with water (to clean the brushes)
  • Newspaper
  • White school glue
  • Cardstock
  • Something round (about 2 ” in diameter) to use as a pattern, such as jar lid
  • Hot glue gun and glue stick
  • Yellow paper or foam
  • Scissors

If you are working with a lot of students (we have 11 in our class), you may want to do the first few steps yourself to save time. However, if you’re working with only your own children, you can show them how to complete each step themselves.

1. First, cover your table top or work area with newspaper.

2. Lay out the sticks on the paper. Using the red craft acrylics, paint one side of each popsicle sticks red. Allow the paint to dry (acrylic paints dry quickly, so if the paint isn’t very thick, a few minutes should be enough. You can also speed up the drying process by using a hair dryer).

3. If you are using whole sticks, you’ll need to cut them in half. Do this yourself, as it’s a difficult task for children. You can cut them in half with a large pair of scissors. Some of the sticks might split a little, but they can still be used.

4. Now, show your child how to “build” the lighthouse by placing two sticks parallel to each other on the paper, adding a drop of glue to each one, and then placing two more parallel sticks on the glue going in the opposite direction. Continue gluing and alternating the pairs until all of the sticks have been used.

5. To make the top of the lighthouse, draw a circle on the cardstock. Use the jar lid as a guide and trace around it. Cut out the circle. Then, cut one slit in the circle, going from the edge of the circle to the center. Stop cutting at the center of the circle.

6. At the slit, pull one of the straight edges you just cut under the other, forming a cone shape. Glue the edges with hot glue so that the glue dries quickly and the shape holds. Using the hot glue again, glue the edges of the cone to the top of the lighthouse.

7. To complete the lighthouse, cut a small circle from yellow cardstock or foam and glue it onto one side of the lighthouse as a “light.”

Springtime and Flower Pots

aflowerOur part of the country (the southeast) has had an unusually cold winter this year. Temperatures have dipped below the normal range almost every week since the first of January; we’ve had three snow/ice storms in the past two months when we usually only see one during the season. Is it any wonder that everyone in our home is looking forward to spring?

This past week we did a fun activity that helped put us in the mood even more. This simple craft is great for all ages, even moms.

Painted Flower Pots

What you’ll need:

  • Small clay pots
  • Potting soil
  • Acrylic Craft Paints
  • Smocks or Paint shirts
  • Containers filled with water
  • Paint Brushes
  • Styrofoam plates
  • Paper Towels
  • Newspaper
  • Seeds

Before you begin, cover your table top or painting area with newspaper, allowing for easy clean up. Have each student put on a paint smock or shirt; acrylic paints usually don’t come out of clothing.

Provide each student with a pot, a Styrofoam plate to use as a palette, paintbrushes, a container of water to clean the brushes, and a paper towel to dab the brushes on after they’ve been cleaned.

Tell the students that they will be painting their own designs on the pots. Before beginning, though, have them think about what they want to paint. Do they want to paint spots and stripes? Butterflies? Rainbows? Geometric shapes? Solid colors?

Now instruct the children to begin painting. Have them wash their brushes out when changing colors.

After the students have finished decorating the pots, allow the pots to dry for a few minutes. These acrylic paints dry quickly, so they won’t have to wait too long.

When the pots are dry, show the children how to fill them with potting soil. Provide them with two or three seeds (we used sunflower seeds), and show them how to plant them. A perfect opportunity to learn about the life cycle of plants!

Now add a little water and place the pot in a sunny location. Watch for the new life to push through — and enjoy the first signs of spring!

Stuffed Owl Craft

owlThis week, our first grade class read the story Owl Moon by Jane Yolen. Beautiful, rhythmic text describes a young girl’s night time adventure as she goes owling with her father. To go along with the story, we made our own owls using a few easy-to-find supplies.

To make this stuffed owl, you’ll need:

  • Poly fiberfill
  • A grey or brown tube sock
  • Yellow felt
  • Black felt
  • Brown or tan felt
  • Scissors
  • Rubber band
  • White glue or hot glue gun

To begin, cut off most of the ribbed portion of the sock, leaving about 1 – 1 1/2 inches.

Next, stuff the sock with the fiberfill. The heel of the sock will be the front of the owl, so make sure you stuff it full enough. Stop stuffing when you reach the remaining ribbed portion of the sock.

Now, tie off the sock by twisting the rubber band around it. The ribbed portion is the owl’s tail.

Next, take the ribbed top portion of the sock that you cut off. Cut it in half so you have two equal pieces. Glue one piece to each side of the owl with the ribbed side facing outward. These are the owl’s wings.

To create the owl’s face, cut a large bean-shaped piece from the brown or tan felt (use a different color than the sock). Glue it onto the stuffed toe of the sock, or the owl’s head.

Next, cut out two small circles from the back felt and two larger circles from the yellow. Glue one black circle onto each yellow circle, forming the eyes. Glue these onto the brown or tan face.

Finally, cut a small triangle from the yellow felt. Center this below the eyes and glue it to the face with one point going downward. This is the owl’s beak.

Give the glue plenty of time to dry — you can do this by telling your young student that it’s daytime, and the owl needs to sleep. 😉

Time Management Strategies

smithA couple of weeks ago, we were browsing through a thrift store when I came across a book entitled The 10 Natural Laws of Successful Time and Life Management by Hyrum W. Smith. Smith is one of the creators of the Franklin Planner, a planner my father enjoyed using for years. Because it seems I’m always working towards a better schedule for getting things done, I went ahead and purchased the book without even browsing through it. I think it cost a dollar.

As it turns out, it was one of the best dollars I’ve ever spent. I’m only about a third of the way through the book, as each chapter gives the reader a lot to think about. One of the things I’ve found most helpful was the chapter concerning governing values, or those things that are the highest priorities in our lives. They are unique to each individual, and although they are most important to us, they are often the things that get pushed aside when the urgency of the less significant fills up our time.

Smith, then, encourages the reader to decide just what his or her governing values are and to list them as a “personal constitution,” a prioritized list with a short description of what each one means. Writing that list as affirmations also helps you see yourself as you want to be. The list might include something like “I am a joyful and patient mother,” “I am debt-free,” or “I am dependable.”

I have written down my personal constitution, and I can already see how helpful it is. I can also see how many of my activities aren’t really related to my values. This, Smith says, is what causes many people to feel so frustrated.

What is one to do? Well, the next step is to write down my long-term and short-term goals based on those values, then make my daily plan based on those goals. I’m still working through that part, but I can’t wait to see the difference it’s going to make!

The Look Book

9780688149710We found Look Book by Tana Hoban in our library a few years ago, and it’s been one of our favorite books ever since. We liked it so much, in fact, that we made one of our own.

Look Book is a wordless picture book that features pages with a cut-out that shows a small part of a photo on the page underneath. The reader, then, must take a good look and decide what is actually in the picture. A turn of the page will reveal what the photo really captures — a pretzel, a flower, or some other object. The following photo then shows that object in an even wider view, such as pretzels on a pretzel cart or a stand filled with flowers.

After going through Look Book with my oldest son when he was little, I made a similar book using items I had around the house, and it’s lasted us for years. Now my five-year-old is enjoying the same book. If you’d like to make a “Look Book”, here’s what you’ll need:

  • Three-ring binder
  • White or black cardstock
  • Scissors
  • Hole punch
  • Old magazines
  • Glue Stick
  • One piece of notebook paper

To begin, search through your old magazines for photos that would work well in a “Look Book.” Large photos of familiar objects that fill the page work best. Items such as fruit, animals, and cars are a good place to start.

Next, cut the photo to fit on a piece of cardstock. Glue it to the cardstock using a glue stick. Line the cardstock up with a piece of notebook paper and punch three holes on the left side and put it in the binder. Do the same with all of the photos you’ve chosen.

Now, for each picture you have, take another sheet of plain cardstock and punch the holes along the side. Place one piece of plain cardstock in the binder in front of each piece of cardstock with a photo.

Next, choose an area on the plain cardstock to cut out. You don’t have the make the area very large — you want it large enough to show a portion of the photo underneath, but not too large that the reader can tell just what it is without looking closely. (To cut an area from the middle of the paper, poke on end of the scissors through the paper, then cut it out from there.) The pages in your book should alternate between plain cardstock with a cut-out and the cardstock with the photo.

There you have it! You’re children will enjoy the Look Book you’ve made — and they may even want to make one of their own!

Snowman Picture

snowmanThis week, our kindergarten/first grade class read the story Katie and the Big Snow by Virginia Lee Burton. Our craft was a simple but fun snowman picture. If you’ve been experiencing wintery weather lately, give this craft a try.


  • Colored cardstock (any color will do, but we used a dark turquoise color)
  • White cardstock
  • Glue Stick
  • Elmer’s glue
  • Googley eyes
  • Crayons, colored pencils, or markers.
  • Pen
  • White acrylic craft paint
  • Styrofoam plate
  • Water in a container
  • Two small-medium paint brushes
  • Paper towels
  • Newspaper
  • Scissors
  • 3 objects with circular bases, 3 different sizes (i.e. a mug, the lid to a jar, etc.)

To prepare, draw 3 circles of different sizes (small, medium, and large) on a piece of white cardstock using the 3 objects with circular bases. Older students can do this step themselves.

Next, draw a hat (or several different hats if you want to give the student a choice) on the piece of white cardstock. Older students can draw the hat themselves.

Now draw a triangle for the snowman’s “carrot” nose on the white cardstock. Again, older students can draw the nose by themselves.

Have you gathered all of the supplies? Now you’re ready to create your snowman!

1. To begin, color the hat and triangular “carrot” nose with crayons, colored pencils, or makers.

2.  Next, cut out the hat, carrot nose, and 3 circles.

3. Using the glue stick, glue the circles onto the colored cardstock, placing the largest on the bottom, the medium-sized one in the middle, and the smallest on top, forming a snowman.

4. Next, glue the carrot nose onto the face of the snowman. Glue the hat onto the head of the snowman.

5. With a pen, give your snowman a smile. You might also want to draw on arms or buttons.

6. Now it’s time to add the snow! Cover your table top with newspaper. Next, pour a small amount of white paint onto the Styrofoam plate. Dip one brush into the water and then in the paint to dilute it a little bit. Now, hold that brush over your painting and begin tapping the handle of it with the handle of your other brush. The paint will spatter all over your painting, forming the snow flurries.

7. As a final step, glue on the googley eyes using Elmer’s or school glue (this step comes after painting the snow so the eyes won’t get paint on them).

When you’re finished, put it in a safe place to dry, and you can soon hang up your snowy day picture!