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Monday, July 16, 2018

S.T.E.M. Toys for Kids

Everyone is talking about S.T.E.M. right now and schools are spending extra time focusing on Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math.  As a homeschool parent, I love that my children's exposure to these subjects can be through playtime.  My kids loved helping me put together this list of amazing toys that spark curiosity and teach great concepts.  They're wish list is now a whole bunch longer.

DNA BUILDING TOY- I think I've wanted this toy for most of my life.  It's on my list for the near future.  I can't wait to explore the amazing traits of DNA and RNA with this toy.

BUTTERFLY HABITAT- Growing a caterpillar into a butterfly is also on my wish list.

EXPERIMENT KIT- This looks like it would be a good set for homeschoolers as it contains a bunch of different experiments.

MOLECULE BUILDING SET- Build molecules and learn about basic chemistry.

FLOATING MAGNETS- A simple toy that allows kids to explain the power of magnets.

NEWTON'S CRADLE- An object in motion will stay in motion... test it with this toy.

CRYSTAL GROWING KIT- Explore molecules by growing crystals.

BUG NET- Send the kids in the yard to catch bugs for studying.

STRAWBERRY DNA EXTRACTION KIT- Extract and analyze fruit DNA with this kit.

FOSSILS-  Set of fossils for collecting and studying.

VOLCANO- This classic science toy is a must in every home.

SMITHSONIAN MOTOR WORKS- We picked this toy up at a yard sale and are anxiously waiting for the kids to be old enough to build our own engine.

CODE AND GO MOUSE- This is a coding game for preschoolers.  Move the tiles to make the mouse move as the cards show.

CAN ROBOT- Turn an ordinary tin can into a simple robot.

SNAP CIRCUITS- We also have a set of used snap circuits that we're excited to grow into soon.  Put the pieces together to create complete circuits and make things happen.

HEXBUG SCARAB- This little robots look amazing.

CODE-A-PILLAR- Take off and snap together pieces of this caterpillar to code him to do different things.  There are even other pieces to buy and add.

DOT PROGRAMMABLE ROBOT- Use your tablet to make this robot do different things.  It can even fly.

KINDLE FIRE KIDS EDITION- There's so much for kids to do and learn on a tablet.  We love our Kindle Fire and especially the kid-safe "Freetime" mode.

LEARN TO SOLDER KIT- My husband solders pretty often.  This toy for teens teaches an important part of computer and robot building.

ROCKET- This classic toy should be done at least once by every child.

NANOTECHNOLOGY KIT- Explore nanotechnology with a series of experiments.

PROGRAMMABLE ROBOT- A different type of robot.  Looks interesting.

LEGO BRICKS- I don't think it's possible to have too many plain Lego bricks.  We've been working on our collection.

BRAIN FLAKES- Use these interesting plastic pieces to build all sort of things.

MAGABUILDER- These magnetic tiles hang out together to create.

WITKA MAGNETIC BARS-  Build towers and bridges with these magnetic rods.

MIDDLE EASTERN ARCHITECTURE BLOCKS- Even the youngest kids can learn to appreciate architecture with these neat blocks.

BRIDGE BUILDING KIT- Explore physics with this bridge kit.

CITY PLANNING TOY- Pretend to be an architect with this city planning kit.

K'NEX FERRIS WHEEL- K'nex have a reputation for making cool engineering toys that really work.  It was hard to pick just one.

STRAW BUILDING KIT- What could you build with a simple straw and a few connectors.

TAKE APART AND BUILD CAR- Early elementary kids can practice using tools as they build this car.

LINCOLN LOGS- For over 100 years, this toy has been an imagination-inspiring toy.

MARBLE RUN- Build a maze for marbles and experiment with physics.

FRACTION CUBES- Explore fractions and find equivalencies.

STACK AND COUNT PARKING GARAGE- This is a counting toy for preschoolers, but it could also be used for basic addition and subtraction facts to 10.

SUM SWAMP GAME- I keep hearing good things about this game.  It's on our list.

CASH REGISTER- Make calculations and count money with this toy.

ABACUS- One of the oldest math tools, the abacus continues to be a great learning tool.

WOOD TETRIS PUZZLE- For a screen free was to play tetris, check out this game.

PATTERN BLOCKS- A stable in classrooms, these tiles are good for patterns, fractions, symmetry, and more.

TANGRAM PUZZLE- The possibilities are endless with this ancient Chinese game.

RAINBOW BLOCKS- There's something so beautiful about this toy.

GEOMETILES- These pieces snap together to create 3D geometric shapes.

BASE 10 BLOCKS- Another classroom classic, which help kids understand many math concepts.

COUNTING COOKIES- Pretend play disguised as learning!

PRIME CLIMB GAME- Multiply and divide to win this game.

GEOMETRIC SHAPES- This set shows the why behind geometric formulas.

MATCHING AND COUNTING EGGS-  Match colors and numbers with these plastic eggs.

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Thursday, July 5, 2018

Montessori-Inspired Ant Life Cycle 3-Part Cards

Montessori-Inspired Ant Life Cycle 3-Part Cards // In Our Pond // Great for homeschooling or classroom work, these free printable cards encourage scientific exploration, memorization of the life cycle, and comparisons between insects.

Summertime is a great time to learn about ants.  Whether they're crawling on your food at a picnic or in your kitchen, your kids will probably have lots of questions about them.  Grab an ant farm, a couple great books about ants, and a Safari Ltd or Insect Lore life cycle set and start answering their questions!

Our family loves the life cycle sets from Safari Ltd or Insect Lore.  They're so awesome for learning about insects and other animals.  I made these Montessori-inspired 3-part cards that match the toys, which are a great expansion for sensory bins or as part of an ant learning theme.

Montessori-Inspired Ant Life Cycle 3-Part Cards // In Our Pond // Great for homeschooling or classroom work, these free printable cards encourage scientific exploration, memorization of the life cycle, and comparisons between insects.
Click on the Picture to Download the Printable

Print two copies to use in the traditional Montessori way, leaving one set of cards whole and cutting the other set of cards a part.  The 3-parts of the matching cards are the whole card (picture and label), the picture card, and the label card.  Students can match the three parts to each other when they are first learning or can match the picture to the label, using the whole card as a control to check their work.

Cards can also be used to practice spelling, encouraging students to label the pictures with handwritten labels, moveable alphabet tiles, or salt tray writing.  The students could also use the cards as a resource for writing their own short story or non-fiction report about ants.  What other ways do you use them for learning?  Comment below!

My children enjoy bringing out all our life cycle sets and comparing the different stages.  The Safari Ltd and Insect Lore sets are so detailed that it's easy to see each insect's body parts.  With all the adult insects in front of your child, ask them to point to the thorax of each insect or to count the legs.  Point out the unique features, like the stinger on the bee, the colors of the butterfly, and the needle nose of the mosquito.  Grab some good books, look up some videos on Youtube, and just keep the learning going!

Check out all my Montessori-inspired 3-part cards by clicking on the picture below and scroll down to see all the available life cycle sets.

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Montessori-Inspired Ant Life Cycle 3-Part Cards // In Our Pond // Great for homeschooling or classroom work, these free printable cards encourage scientific exploration, memorization of the life cycle, and comparisons between insects.

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Montessori-Inspired Dinosaur Skulls Matching Cards

I recently purchased the Safari Ltd Dinosaur Skulls Toob.  When I finally opened it, I panicked a bit, because the toob didn't have a informational card, and I don't know dinosaurs at all.  I pulled the contents card from the Safari Ltd website and began slowing creating these cards.  Each "skull" has two matching cards, a picture of an actual skull and a picture of the completed skeleton.  When the student becomes proficient at naming and matching all the animals, the cards can be made into Montessori-Inspired 3-part ones.  The pictures from the printable came from Wikimedia Commons.
FREE 3-Part Card for Safari Ltd Dinosaur Skulls from In Our Pond

Update 07-01-18
This is my MOST popular 3-part card printable!  I redid the printable to update is and make it more uniform with all of my other matching cards.  I also added some new images just right for Pinterest, so be sure to pin this post to share with your friends and make it easier to find later.

Click on the Picture to Download the New and Improved Printable

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Wednesday, June 20, 2018

50+ Free Printable Play Dough Mats for Learning and Play

Play dough.  So many things you can do with it to make it interesting.  Have them cut it with scissors.  Roll into snakes.  Roll with rolling pin.  Cut out with cookie cutters.  Bury beads in it and have them pinch them out.  Give them things to build with.  Add small toys and teach them to make tracks.  Add trucks and drive through the dough.  Add noodles, netting, or other things with textures and make imprints.  Poke it with a fork.  Roll it into balls.  Squish them with one finger.  Stamp them with rubber stamps (letters!).....  So much you can do!

Play dough is so great for building fine motor skills!  Kids from about age 2/3 and above need to have their fingers in the dough as much as possible.  I made the graphic below as a reference for play dough ideas when you're feeling bored with the plain lump of dough.  Share it around and spread the fun!

This blog post has been a few years in the making.  The concept has been hanging out in my draft folder for a long time, just waiting for the right moment.  A few months ago, I joined the Kid Blogger Network, and I knew it was time to bring out my play dough ideas with the amazing ideas from the other mom bloggers.

One of the ways that kids can play with play dough is with printed play mats.  These mats encourage kids to make shapes, do simple math concepts, or form snake letters.  Below are over 50 free printables for every kind of theme!

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Tuesday, June 19, 2018

How to Plan a Shark Themed Road Trip

I love Travel Time Tuesday so much that I've decided to give it it's own blog!  It'll take me awhile to transfer everything, but all my future travel posts will now be on the new site- Party Through the USA.  This blog will now be only for homeschooling and parenting stuff, and all the road trip ideas, free travel printables, and DIY toys will be on the new blog.  I've spent the last week trying to get the new site ready, and I'm very excited to introduce it to you today.

Click on the Picture to Visit the Post