Tuesday, August 4, 2009

A Few of Our Favorite Things

I thought about making this a post about my favorite homeschooling resources, but I realized that I didn't really feel all that excited about discussing expensive curriculum and textbooks. And when I thought about it, most of my favorite resources for my kids aren't officially "school" stuff.

So here's my unofficial non-exhaustive, in-no-particular-order list of favorites resources for kids - for learning, for entertainment, for character-building, for whatever - it all overlaps in real life anyway.

Sensory Bins - I filled a large tupperware container with rice (you could also use dried peas or beans) and threw in a few measuring cups and spoons. Joshua loves it (Actually, Grace and Caleb do too) and it keeps him out of trouble while I make dinner.

Okay, yeah, it can be a little bit messy, but I've never exactly been known for pristine floors anyway. And fortunately, Joshua can be kind of a neat freak:

Books on Tape - And not just the kind you buy, but the ones you make yourself. Our kids often fall asleep at night to a recording of Grandparents reading stories or Mommy and Daddy reading from the Psalms.

Our library also has lots of books on tape (or CD, I guess people don't really use tapes anymore...). Anyway, on days when I have a lot to get done - like laundry and unpacking from camping - I have them color or do play dough while listening to a recorded book. I'd like to think it inspires the imagination a little more than television.

Walmart Placemats -
I'm talking about those $1 laminated educational placemats (such as parts of a flower, layers of the earth, etc.) Maybe it's because we love to eat and end up spending so much time at the table, but these really do create educational discussions and contribute to learning at our house. Their favorite is the map of the world and they have contests for finding different countries.

Pictures from Proverbs Cards - These cards use put pictures to proverbs and ask a question on the front, like this one:

On the back is the answer and complete proverb, along with a story about a person from scripture that illustrates this proverb. These only take a few minutes to do and come with a coloring book that kids can color in while you tell the story.

Just FYI - these are written in King James English, and unless your kids normally talk that way, you may find it necessary to translate them into normal, understandable language.

Room Time - for a detailed description see here. For some reason, I resisted this idea with my first two. But by the time child number three came along, it was much easier to put the gate up and give myself a break for 20 minutes or so. To my surprise, he didn't protest at all. In fact, he thoroughly enjoys room time. It seems maybe he needs a little break once in a while too - who knew?

Really, really good books to share -
You knew I was going to say this, right? I'm not talking about the books you give your kids and send them off to read quietly, but the kind you read aloud and enjoy together. Some of the times my kids and I have most enjoyed together have been spent on my bed giggling at the predicaments Henry and Ribsy get themselves into, or biting our nails in suspense to see if Sarah Whitcher will be found or if Almanzo Wilder will survive his dangerous journey to save a starving town.

Recently, we were reading a passage where the main character was sliding across a frozen pond at night under the moon. As it told how her heart swelled within her and she felt as if she were flying, Grace interrupted me.

"Oh," she exclaimed, "I have felt that way before!"

"Oh, yes, I have too," Caleb chimed in earnestly, "when I was at the ocean."

- I am a huge fan of biographies. I think they not only make for interesting and exciting reading, but they give kids heroes and role models that really stand for something worth while. I especially appreciate Little Lights Biographies, because they bring some of the great biographies (Corrie Ten Boom, Amy Carmichael, George Muller...) to a level that is interesting and appropriate for young children.

For a little bit older kids, we are looking forward to reading the Ten Girls/Ten Boys series by Irene Howat.

Our family has also enjoyed reading Hero Tales by Dave and Neta Jackson.

Music - If you're hoping for a discussion of the best type of classical music to play while your children are painting, you're going to have to go somewhere else. I'm talking about when it's 115 degrees outside and you don't have a pool and your kids are doing stuff like this:

I'm talking about getting some dancing music good and loud and letting up on the "no running in the house" rule. Let your kids run wild for a little while so they'll sleep tonight, have some fun dancing with them, close the blinds, and try not to let your spouse take your picture.

And last, but certainly not least...

The Recycle Bin

Seriously, nothing else in my house has kept my kids entertained longer, and nothing in all of the expensive boxed curriculums I've bought has ever inspired more imaginative play in my kids.

Imagination is the true magic carpet.
Norman Vincent Peale


Vik said...

i'm so thankful you did this blog with such practical ideas for toddler fun! I was about to email you and some friends what to do with my very busy active distractable toddler! i will definitely try some of these!

Jennifer said...

My kids had a "rice box". I dyed some of the rice with food coloring and rubbing alcohol. You just mix it up on a paper plate and let it dry. It gave flecks of color to the rice. They kept cars, trucks, scoops, etc. in there, too.

Kelly said...

Great list! I love the sensory bin and recycling.

Vik said...

what do you do when your kid tries to eat the uncooked rice?? any ideas?

angie said...

Oh no! I only started it recently so I've never had that problem. I will have to think about that.

Vikki, I feel for you being pregnant and tired with a busy toddler - I do not miss those days!

Julie B said...

Great ideas! I was needing some more book ideas. What books on CD do you listen to? Asher's been into Winnie the Pooh. I tried Beatrix Potter but he got stuck on Pooh.
This was a neat site that gives an idea for a new sensory tub each month (so they don't get old!). The different kinds of pasta was always easy (and I didn't care if he ate it).