22 October, 2010

Tear-Free Handwriting

Letters and Numbers for Me
My eight year old was a super early reader, but legible handwriting has always been a challenge for her (And her mother, for that matter). So, last year, my daughter's second grade teacher recommended the Handwriting Without Tears workbook series for at-home handwriting practice. 
The series was developed by occupational therapist Jan Olsen, so it is a great resource for  kids with fine motor skill difficulties. There are workbooks from pre-kindergarten through grade five. The workbooks are simple and enjoyable. My daughter actually looks forward to practicing her handwriting now. Which is quite an improvement.

To visit the Handwriting Without Tears website, click here.

18 October, 2010

Getting Artsy

This weekend was Family Day in the Design District of Miami. Once a month, chic interior design shops, restaurants, and art galleries open their doors to tots. Projects and activities for kids are conducted by volunteers. You can make art and look at art at the same time. It is free. It is artsy. It is fun.

We made graffiti on store windows.
We even turned this sock...
Into this sock monkey.
Arts districts in many cities have similar  family friendly events. Check out your town's community calendar to find one near you.

15 October, 2010

Character Study

Kids know all about cartoon characters these days. But what about historical characters? Many of them are just as colorful (wink, wink). The Learning Together activity this week is a Character Study. Choose a character in history to study with your child. Get some books about him/her at the library. Do some internet searches on that person. Find a good quality photograph or painting of that person. Your child can draw that character. Write about that character. Illustrate a cartoon about that character. Your child can even dress up like that character. (Last minute Halloween costume, anyone?) A homeschool group that I know of meets in a local library for a "character party" in which all of the party-goers are dressed like historical figures. Try it. Learning about history can be a really fun past-time. (wink, wink)

11 October, 2010

Connecting with Nature

 The Nature Connection: An Outdoor Workbook for Kids, Families, and Classrooms
Have you got a budding naturalist in your home? You know, a kid with a rock collection. A leaf collection. A seashell collection. An insect collection. Well then, Clare Walker Leslie's The Nature Connection: An Outdoor Workbook for Kids, Families, and Classrooms is for you. The book is neatly organized by month and includes outdoor activities for families to do together. Leslie instructs kids what to pack in an "outdoor adventure kit", explains phenomena such as moon phases, eclipses, tides, and the summer solstice. There is even an activity in the book that involves hunting for animal tracks.  It is called a "workbook", but is not the fill-in-the-blank kind. It is more of an outdoor journal, complete with ample sketching space. This book is the best naturalist book for children that I have come across. Grab this book and get out there!

08 October, 2010

Leaf Peepers

Autumn is a great time of year to do leaf rubbings with your kids. If you are new to leaf rubbings, you just grab a few leaves, set them underneath a sheet of paper (cardstock works best), and color the paper with the side of a crayon (crayon wrapper removed). Leaf rubbings can be decorative and educational. The shape of the leaf and the leaf's veins and mid-rib pop out on paper, which makes the parts of the leaf easy to identify for kids.

Go on a walk through your neighborhood and see how many different kinds of leaves you can find. When you get home, lay the leaves out on a table and ask your child to sort them. Point out that there many ways to sort and identify leaves. You can sort them by shape, by the edges, by color, by their position on the stalk (petiole), and many other ways. 
There are small leaves.
There are large leaves.
There are leaves shaped like hearts.
There are leaves shaped like swords.
There are even leaves shaped like heart-shaped swords!

So, take your little one outside in the brisk autumn air and see what kinds of leaves you can find!

04 October, 2010

Kid-Friendly Design

Where I live in Miami Beach there is a place called Lincoln Road. It is basically a pedestrian-only street filled with boutiques, outdoor cafes, restaurants, and theaters. It is teeming with both tourists and locals from early in the morning until late at night. It is a great place to walk the dog and window shop at the same time. (The store owners even put out dog dishes filled with water for the thirsty pooches) Well, Lincoln Road just got even better. (For my kids anyway) 

Landscape architect Raymond Jungles and Beijing "Bird Nest" stadium architect Herzog and de Meuron recently completed a renovation of the western block of Lincoln Road. The best part? Several serene water gardens filled with fish. The ponds are at kid-level so that little ones can get a good look at the colorful fish as they swim by. (Or follow them around and around the rim of the pool)

Artist Dan Grahame's walk-in sculpture is my kids' very favorite, though. Walk inside of the minimalist curvy glass structure and it's a fun house, silly mirrors included. Completely oblivious to the fact that everyone walking by is an audience to their silliness and funny faces, children (and I have seen adults in here too) can't get enough it. After all, design is at its best when it is both visually beautiful and kid-friendly.

25 September, 2010

Free Museum Day Today

The 6th annual Smithsonian Museum Day is today. Click here to print out a free ticket for you and a guest to a participating museum nation-wide.