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Monday, February 8, 2016

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LEGO Engineering Preschool Challenge 1 (STEM): Cars

This LEGO Engineering STEM Preschool Challenge kept our crew busy for almost an hour!



First they worked on the challenge--making their own creations.  Then they made more variations.  Then they played with their masterpieces!

This challenge incorporates three of the four STEM components (science, engineering, and math) just by building.  You could easily add the last component (technology) by letting them drive their cars down a ramp and timing how long they continue to drive.  You could also let them make videos of their cars with a smart phone or camera.

I've always considered physics and engineering branches of science.  As your children work through this challenge, they are engaging loads of science processing skills, including questioning, observing, hypothesizing, experimenting, analyzing, problem solving, and evaluating.  They are using math skills like measuring, comparing, adding, and subtracting.  And, they are doing it on a level that is precisely adapted to their capabilities because they are leading the construction themselves!  At the same time, they are gaining confidence that they can be successful creators and problem solvers!

You can present this challenge to your children as the morning begins or set it up in a classroom as a science center. Or you could set out the LEGOS and see if they create the challenge themselves!

What is the challenge?

Build a car with LEGOS.

Older children may be ready for a bigger challenge:

Build a car that moves.

Or bigger still, build a car that moves by itself!

Give them the LEGOS  (which, in our case, is a giant LEGO / Mega Bloks combo bin!) and let them get started!






Do your kiddos love LEGOS?  Then check out my {FREE} Penguin LEGO counting mat and spelling/reading activity! Also, be sure to pop back and see our other LEGO preschool challenges coming up!

And if you love STEM and science activities, check out my collection of 100+ Science Activities!



We are joining in the 28 Days of Hands-On STEM activities for Kids!  Check out the homepage to see a list of all the great STEM activities you can look forward to this month!







I may share at any of these parties!



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Saturday, February 6, 2016

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Ice Cube Igloo STEM Project!

Creating an ice cube igloo is a wonderful STEM project that gives kids practice in science, math, engineering, physics, fine motor skills, and patience! It is loads of fun for groups and/or individuals!


Igloos fit in perfectly with our Arctic theme this month, but you could also build them when you talk about winter, polar regions, or states of matter!

To make your own igloo, you need the following

Simple Supplies:

* ice
* salt
* water
* something to build on (we used a plate)
* blender
* freezer

Easy How To:

1- Make an icy "glue" to hold the ice cubes together by blending up about two cups of ice.  Add just enough water so that the ice is soft and moldable, but not liquid. I "cut" the water in with a fork.  It should hold it's shape (or a snowball shape!) easily when you squeeze it together.  When I was a kid living in Utah, we used to call this "slush," so as we built we talked about our "slushy" mixture!



2- Arrange the ice in your igloo shape around a plate or on another building surface.


3- Fill in the gaps between the ice with slushy!


4- Sprinkle salt on top of the ice cubes to encourage them to melt the tiniest bit.  The melted water will freeze to any ice that touches it.  Add another layer of ice and slushy.  My kids were fascinated by the way the ice cubes stuck together and how the slushy could change its shape as you molded it and then re-freeze.  I should add that we live in Houston, so my kids have had a lot less experience with ice and snow than some!


5- Put it in the freezer to harden.  Then repeat steps 2-5 until your igloo is as tall as you want it.  Check out my video to "watch" ours grow!  (If it doesn't load, you can watch it here.)




6- Use slushy to form the top of the igloo.  Also add slushy to the sides to make it air-tight and stronger!


7- Ta da!  Your igloo is done!  We took about two days to build ours and just did each step in between other lessons and activities, letting it freeze while we were busy.  My kids pointed out that a real igloo built in the arctic would have re-frozen as they were building it.  They were also very impressed with the amount of work it would have taken someone to build a life-size igloo, as our 14-inch tall igloo took quite a bit of care and effort!


You can play with your igloo, show it off, or just store it in the freezer for a while!  We had some arctic animals move in!



Your kids can also experiment with the ice and slushy to make different ice sculptures and creations!  
My son continued to grind snow, make ice, and experiment & play with it for two days after we finished!



I loved how the entire project modeled a real-life solution to a problem (housing in the artic), and gave our kiddos experience with the cold ice and snow while staying in a nice warm environment.  And, of course, we talked about how people living in the arctic now do not usually make igloos.  It was still a fun connection to the past and to an environment different than theirs!
The project also let them experience first-hand states of matter: how water freezes into ice and ice melts into water.  For more experiments with this, check out our Frozen Water Magic Science and Elsa's Ice Castle Science Play!


Would you make an igloo with your kiddos?  I'd love to see it!  Feel free to leave a comment, send me an email, or say 'Hi' on Facebook!


Do you love science?  Be sure to check out my collection of 100+ science activities here!

STEM Saturday.jpg

You will also love these science activities from the STEM Saturday bloggers:

Ice Cube Igloo STEM Project from Preschool Powol Packets
DIY Engineering Project Kit from The Homeschool Scientist
Glow Stick Science from Little Bins for Little Hands





I may share at any of these parties!



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Thursday, February 4, 2016

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{FREE} Valentines Math Games for Preschool - 4th Grade!

It's Valentine's time!  Today I'm sharing our favorite math games with a {FREE} set of Valentine number cards!!




Our favorite math games are variations on "war," a game I used to play when I was a kid too!

Preschool Version:

Give each player 6-20 cards, depending on their age and attention span.

Each player places "his" deck in front of him upside down.  The game is played in rounds.  In Round 1, every player flips the top card of his deck right side up.  The player with the highest number wins the round and collects everyone else's cards.

Repeat in rounds until all the cards are used up.  Optionally, you can continue to play until one player has all the cards.

When two cards are the same or when the "Instant Battle" card is flipped over, the players "battle" by flipping four cards over, still upside down, and flipping one card of their choice over.  The highest number collects all the cards from the battle and the original two tying cards.

Kindergarten Version:

Divide the deck evenly between all players.

Each player places "his" deck in front of him upside down.  The game is played in rounds.  In Round 1, every player flips the top two cards of his deck right side up.  Each player adds the cards together and announces his score.  The player with the highest score wins the round and collects everyone else's cards.

Repeat in rounds until all the cards are used up.  Optionally, you can continue to play until one player has all the cards.

When two cards are the same or when the "Instant Battle" card is flipped over, the players "battle" by flipping four cards over, still upside down, and flipping two cards of their choice over.  The highest score collects all the cards from the battle and the original two tying cards.

3rd-4th Grade Version:

Each player places "his" deck in front of him upside down.  The game is played in rounds.  In Round 1, every player flips the top two cards of his deck right side up.  Each player multiplies the cards together and announces his score.  The player with the highest score wins the round and collects everyone else's cards.

Repeat in rounds until all the cards are used up.  Optionally, you can continue to play until one player has all the cards.

When two cards are the same or when the "Instant Battle" card is flipped over, the players "battle" by flipping four cards over, still upside down, and flipping two cards of their choice over.  The highest score collects all the cards from the battle and the original two tying cards.


Playing math games is loads of fun, especially when you combine it with seasonal themes like Valentine's Day!  It's a great way to review basic math facts, number recognition, and greater/less than skills!

Be sure to check out our collection of Valentine's activities -- perfect for a Valentine's theme -- here!!



And if you're looking for more elementary-level Valentine's activities, be sure to visit these great ideas:


Low Prep Rounding Activity by Life Over C's
Conversation Heart More or Less Activity by Raising Little Superheroes
Needle Felted Heart by Rainy Day Mum
Tile Printed Heart Cards from Peakle Pie
Broken Hearts Compound Words from School Time Snippets




I may share at any of these parties!




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Tuesday, February 2, 2016

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Outdoors STEM: Build a Bridge

I was apprehensive about this project as it began, but the kids soon convinced me it was worth all of our time and the effort they were giving it.


If I had thought about it at all, I would have realized that it combined some of the subjects I am most passionate about: outdoor play, child-led education, science, problem solving, engineering, and math!  But, I'm afraid the first thing that I thought of when my kids started this project on their own was that there had to be an awful lot of germs in that murky water!

Building a bridge can be done in *so* many ways.  We drove a short distance to a beach near this ditch.  As we played in the sand, the kids were soon distracted by this ditch and they challenged themselves to build a bridge across it.  If you don't have access to a ditch like this, you can create your own "river" to build a bridge across.  It can be an actual tunnel-like hole with water in it or just a line in the dirt!  We also have a rock "river" in our yard with a real bridge going over it that our kids play on.  But, that's not the topic for today!

Today, I'm talking about letting your kids (or even challenging them) to build a real bridge outside.  It uses problem solving, scientific reasoning, and qualitative math to engineer a creation that they can actually use!  STEM activities are beautiful to watch unfold because you can practically see children's minds working as they solve problems:

The bridge project began when my son started taking piling rocks onto the edge of the ditch.  It only took a few minutes before he realized that he could build a bridge all the way across the water using rocks.


They piled up pretty fast.  This is wonderful "heavy work" for kids who have lots of energy or who need a sensory processing release.

He quickly recruited help from his sisters, and they had a very big pile of rocks at the edge of the ditch.


I love how they had to work together to move the"heavy" rocks that had a flatter top.  Projects that require teamwork help children learn ways to collaborate and cooperate.


Finally, the bridge was done!

It had to be crossed immediately!


We even came back a week later and it was still there!



Try building a bridge outdoors and watch all the STEM skills interact as your children use scientific reasoning to problem solve and find a way to cross their own bridges! On a bad-weather day, you can even try an indoor version where you cross blanket or pillow rivers!

Have your kiddos ever built a bridge?  I'd love to hear about it and see picures!


We are participating in the 28 Days of Hands-On STEM activities for Kids!  Check out the homepage to see a list of all the great STEM activities you can look forward to this month! 







I may share at any of these parties!



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Monday, February 1, 2016

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Cat in the Hat Center of Gravity Preschool Science

This month's Virtual Book Club book is The Cat in the Hat, so today I'm sharing some fun Cat in the Hat themed Center of Gravity and Balancing science experiments and activities!



One of the cat's first tricks is a crazy balancing trick:

 "Look at me!
Look at me now!" said the cat.
"With a cup and a cake
On the top of my hat!
I can hold TWO books!
I can hold up the fish!
And a little toy ship!
And some milk on a dish!
And look!
I can hop up and down on the ball!
But that is not all!
Oh, no.
That is not all...




Of course, he continues to balance more and more things...until they all come crashing to the ground!
So, for our Cat in the Hat Science Lesson, we talked about balance and center of gravity.
Center of Gravity is the point on an object (or person or cat or collection of items!) around which the entire object balances.  It is the average location of the weight.  It is the one spot where you can balance an entire object.
To experiment with it, we started out by finding the center of gravity of different objects.  You can do this by balancing the objects on a single point--we used a short tower of blocks.  Most symmetrical objects need to be balanced in the middle of the object.

Some objects are trickier.  You can even balance raw eggs on an end if you know a trick or two:
Normally the yolk is suspended in the middle of the egg.  If you shake it really hard, the yolk will sink to the bottom of the egg.  This moves the center of gravity lower in the egg and makes it easier to balance the egg on its end!  
We also did a few fun center of gravity tricks with our own bodies!  Like the cat, we balanced crazy items and tried it on one foot and while standing on a chair.  We tried it on a ball too, but that was a little too crazy for pictures!
There are a few center of gravity tricks that you cannot do that we thought were fun too.  Try these two out:
#1:  Stand right in front of a wall so that both your heals are touching the wall.  Place an object about 1 1/2 feet in front of you and try to pick it up without tipping over!  It is impossible to do without bending your knees or moving your heals!
#2:  Stand next to a wall (sidways) with your left cheek and the left side of your left foot touching the wall.  It's impossible to lift up your right foot without tipping over!  
We love the Virtual Book Club!!
February's Virtual Book Club book is The Cat in the Hat:
Amazon Affiliate Link:
Every month the Virtual Book Club brings you hands-on activities that you can do along with a book to read!  Visit the Virtual Book Club's Facebook page here and click here to learn more about the book club and its schedule!  AND, be sure to stop by these other blogs for more fantastic Cat in the Hat themed ideas, activities, crafts, and more:
Build the Hat activity by I Can Teach My Child
Cat In The Hat Fine Motor Hats by The Pleasantest Thing
Cat in the Hat Shape Activity by Mom Inspired Life
Sweeping Colors Sorting Activity by Inspiration Laboratories



I may share at any of these parties!



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Saturday, January 30, 2016

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Sand Castle STEM Challenge

You can add a little sand castle science and STEM to any day, whether it's a day at the beach or a day in the classroom!  Plus, it fits right in with common preschool themes like Beaches and Oceans!


N. V. Scarfe once said, "The highest form of research is essentially play."  This is especially true when it comes to sand.

Sand is one of very few items that both children and professional scientists experiment with!  Just a few years ago, investigators sent sand into space so they could see how it behaves when it doesn't have its own weight affecting the experiment!  

Kids don't need to go into space to experiment with sand!  You can take them to the beach or just buy a bag of play sand at a hardware store.  Make some water and plastic buckets available, and you can challenge them to create a sand castle of their own!

Of course, if you go to the beach they will probably challenge themselves.  We had one castle built on top of a tunnel that was so deep that a child's hand wouldn't reach all the way through.  But, if you had one kiddo on each end of the tunnel, they could touch each other in the middle:


We had several tall towers:


And we had a group project:


The kids loved working together on this one!  It started out as one child's castle, but it was taking much longer than she'd hoped.  Soon, everyone wanted to help.  Four kids, two adults, and three yogurt buckets later, this castle -- complete with a moat -- began to emerge:


We had to get a picture to immortalize it.


Building sand castles lets children experiment with the science, engineering, and math components of STEM:

Science: questioning, hypothesizing, predicting, experimenting, testing, analyzing

Engineering: using science and math to build and create castles

Math: subjectively calculating how to best fill the available area with the available tools, 
non-standard measurements

You can call it a fun day at the beach (or a super fun sensory bin), but your lesson plan can include a note about a fantastic STEM experience!


Do your kiddos love science?  I have over 100+ science and STEM activities and experiments here!


And be sure to check out these other STEM activities from our STEM Saturday bloggers:

STEM Saturday.jpg

Sand Castle STEM Challenge from Preschool Powol Packets
Wind Power LEGO Car Races from Handmade Kids Art
February Science Calendar from The Homeschool Scientist
Fishing for LEGO Ice Minifigures from The Science Kiddo
Lego Displacement Experiment for Kids from Lemon Lime Adventures










I may share at any of these parties!



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