Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Pioneer Busy Bags for Tots & Preschoolers w/ Free Printables (Learn & Play Link Up)

This post contains affiliate links.


We are a church going family and strive to attend our church meetings each week.  This is easier said than done with four special needs kiddos.  In fact, if I'm completely honest, Sunday is THE HARDEST day of the week, with Monday coming in as a close second, because of the aftermath of Sunday's events and changes in schedules.

Our three older children have definitely had their ups and downs when it comes to attending church.  Dinomite and Bulldozer have struggled for years trying to make it through Sacrament Meeting (our main Sunday service) due to sensory issues.  They took three years to transition to primary (Sunday school for children).  Just this year Bulldozer has finally started to participate with the other kiddos.  Princess loves to attend church and primary, but she's a bit of a handful.  More often than not, I receive at least one comment from teachers and/or leaders about particular behaviors each week.  Still, she's come a LONG way, and is really doing well.  I can not applaud her enough for her desire to make good choices at church.

I thought I would be a pro at the Sunday thing when Sunshine came along, but as always, she's proven to be THE MOST challenging of all.  Due to past trauma and neglect, Sunshine tends to react very strongly to situations where she feels confined or restrained in any way.  Being required to sit in a pew for an hour definitely falls under that category.  She also has some significant sensory issues.  Combine those with anxiety when around people she doesn't know, and the situation is not pretty.  Sunshine's go to trigger response is fight.   Let me be the first to say, this can be very scary and really hurt.  Sigh.  Matters become worse when Sunshine's fight response turns towards other adults and children.

We've stopped attending Primary, as it's too much for her for right now.  All of our efforts and energies are geared towards helping our little girl make it through sacrament meeting.  In the past we've tried snacks, books, toys, etc., but nothing has worked.  I have been in tears several times as Sunshine has had to be removed from our church building and taken to the van, where she's placed in her car seat, to ensure her safety, and to ensure the safety of those around her.  My husband sits in the car with her, waiting for her to calm down and feel safe.

A few weeks ago, I couldn't handle another Sunday of the same viscous cycle.  I pleaded in prayer for ideas to help Sunshine, so that we could all make it through sacrament meeting.  Thankfully inspiration came.  Sunshine doesn't play or attend to any task for any length of time, except when she's doing learning time activities.  What if I made Montessori-inspired busy bags for her to use during sacrament meeting?  My husband and I discussed the idea and decided we didn't have anything to lose, as things couldn't get much worse than they already were.  So, over the past two week's I've worked to put together six busy bags for Sunshine that are appropriate for use in church.  Last week we tried out three.  The difference in her was incredible.  We just hadn't put enough bags together, so she ended up in the hall with my husband for the last 10 minutes of the meeting.  Still, this was night and day compared to weeks past.

For as long as the busy bags continue to work, we'll be switching them out about every 4-6 weeks.  All activities will be quiet activities, based on church history, religious principles, and/or Christ centered holidays and events.  All printables I create will be available for free.  I hope you enjoy!  


Pioneer Clothespin Match Up
This busy bag contains 2 sets of 12 laminated pioneer themed cards.  Sunshine uses the clothespins to fasten matches together.  The clothespins really make this simple matching activity extraordinary.  It provides opportunities for hands on learning, fine motor development, and sensory input.  The best part is that Sunshine is learning about pioneers at the same time.  Sunshine LOVES this activity.  I presented the activity at home.  We did it together, and then she did it by herself before we brought it to church.  She was so excited about her new busy bag!

Source: The free printable for this activity is part of the Pioneer Pack from 3 Dinosaurs.

Buttons & Pipe Cleaners
When I think about pioneers one of the first things to come to mind is all of the sewing the women did.  Sunshine is a bit young to learn to sew.  I don't want to think about the safety issues that would result from bringing a sewing needle to church.  We've tried lacing cards in the past, but Sunshine thinks they're kites and starts waving them in the air.  Once again, I didn't think this was appropriate for church.  Instead I went for a more basic introduction to the concept of sewing.  In this activity Sunshine strings the buttons on a pipe cleaner.  I've provided multiple pipe cleaners to provide variation to the activity and in case she decides to thread the pipe cleaner through more than one hole on the buttons.

Pioneer Play
Sunshine does better with a very structured learning activity that has an end and a beginning.  Pretend play is definitely not her forte.  However, I still want to make sure I provide opportunities for her to do so. The Safari Ltd Wild West TOOB has the perfect quiet, hands-on figures to use when learning about pioneers.   I removed the Indian characters along with figures who had guns, to provide for more reverent play.  My husband and I were a little concerned Sunshine might start acting like the animals in the set, using a loud voice during our meeting, but she didn't.  Instead she played quietly for a few minutes, before putting them away and moving on to the next activity.
  
Handcarts & Wagons
When learning about the pioneers, it's important to learn the difference between a handcart and a wagon.  For this activity, Sunshine will examine several pioneer themed paintings identifying handcarts and wagons in each.  She will then separate the paintings.  Those that have handcarts, she will place under the handcart card.  Paintings of wagons, she'll place under the wagon card.  The scene in each painting is beautiful.

Source:  I created the printable for this activity.  For your free copy, click HERE.

Picking Berries Transfer
Many pioneer children had the responsibility of collecting berries while on the trail.  I thought it might be fun for Sunshine to practice either using her fingers or tweezers.  She won't transfer from bush to basket, but she can practice transferring between two pails.  Pom poms are being used as berries to keep the activity quiet.  If she decides to be irreverent with the pails, we'll just move on to a different busy bag activity.

Campfire Snack
Sunshine is still at an age where snack is sometimes necessary during sacrament meeting.  This activity is my attempt at being creative with snacks in church.  Lol.  The pretzel sticks represent fire wood. The yellow and orange fruit snacks are fire.  Sunshine can build her own camp fire if she wants to.  Chances are she won't, but I still think the idea is pretty cute.  If you attempt to make this snack, be sure to press a fruit snack into the top of some of your pretzel sticks to keep them together.  Fruit snacks along the bottom also help.  Otherwise the pretzels just topple over. 
Sunshine is already excited about church on Sunday.  She was quite disappointed to learn that church is still a few days away.  (I was putting the last few busy bags together today and she happened to see them.)  I won't lie, putting together these busy bags is work, but if they help Sunshine, the work will be worth it.  So far, the busy bags are helping her more than I could have ever imagined.  The best part is they can also be used for Family Home Evening and other church activities!


Welcome to this week's Learn & Play Link Up!

I am so excited about this week's features.  Pioneer history is very near and dear to my heart, especially this time of year.  Whether you are celebrating Pioneer Day, studying the history of the United States of America, or reading the Little House on the Prairie series, the posts featured this week are full of resources and ideas!  



Free Pioneer Pack from 3 Dinosaurs

Cattle Drives and the Old West from Adventures in Mommydom

Learn & Play Link Up Every Thursday


Now it’s time for this week’s link party! This new link up is for all blog posts that include learn and play activities and hands-on education for kids. We are excited to read your blog posts and to see what you have to share! Please link up below and grab our button to display on your blog.
If you are a blogger, share your family friendly posts here. We are looking for things which include:
  • Montessori Education
  • Homeschool
  • Sensory Play
  • Tot and Preschool Trays
  • Fine and Gross Motor Activities
  • Kids in the Kitchen
  • Healthy Recipes for Kids
  • Arts and Crafts
  • Natural Living
  • Free Educational Printables
  • Family-Oriented Activities
  • Healthy Living
Your post will be shown on each host’s blog where we will individually pick features every other week. That means there is more of a chance that you will be featured!
Everyone, please meet our link party hosts:
learn and play party hostesses
Guidelines for Linking:
  • Please link up 1-3 posts
  • Follow each of the hosts on social media
  • When you link up, please add our button and place it at the bottom of your shared posts or link back with text link.
  • By entering a link, you’re giving us permission to feature an image on our blogs. Proper credit & links will ALWAYS be given.
  • Please visit a couple of shared posts and leave a comment for them
  • Remember that you must link back in order to be featured
Christian Montessori Network


Friday, July 17, 2015

Montessori-inspired Music Activities


This post contains affiliate links.

I am a professional musician.  I have a bachelor's degree in music with an emphasis in voice.  My college days were spent in practice labs, singing a minimum of three hours each day.  Favorite vocal composers include Mozart, Brahms, Barber and Ives.  My favorite language to sing is German.  Italian is a close second.  I also play the piano.  Before children, I had my own music studio and taught private vocal and piano lessons.  It is my hope that I can further my music education in the future by studying musicology and choral conducting.  Nothing gives me more of a natural high than conducting a large choir.

One would think that with all of my education and experience, teaching music to my children would come easy to me.  The opposite is true.  It's hard to teach something that comes so natural to me, yet is so foreign to them.  I forget sometimes to break down the material into the simplest terms, because I don't think about all of music's parts individually anymore.

The three kiddos have been dabbling with piano lessons for two years now.  Dinomite and Princess can play simple songs, using a C Major five finger scale, while reading notes on a grand staff as they play.  Bulldozer struggles to read notes, but does well playing what he hears.  This year piano lessons will be more formal.  Practice will be part of their daily routine.

Dinomite, Bulldozer, and Princess know how to read notes on a staff, when given a control.  They know how to play through a piece of music.  However, they struggle with pitch identification, rhythm, tempo, and dynamics.  I've taught the concepts many times, but they still seem a bit foreign to them because they're just about music and playing the piano.  The activities in this post have been created to help the kiddos relate to music concepts in other ways, making them easier to understand.  Sometimes thinking about music in other terms, is the best approach to take.

Red Light, Green Light with Music Signs
Understanding signs in music can be a bit difficult for some.  I decided to relate double bar lines and repeat signs to traffic lights.  When you play through a piece of music and see a double bar line, it means it's time to stop.  If you see a repeat sign, you continue to "go" or play.  To help the kiddos visualize what to do, I've added a mini match box car, and am treating the line of music as if it's a track for the car to drive in.
The kiddos dip the car in paint and drive across the line of music, depending on the final music notation, they'll either stop, or continue to drive back to the beginning of the piece, and repeat the "race" again.  Kiddos may need to dip their car in paint several times along the way.  Bar lines make great "pit stops."

I had so much fun selecting sheet music for this activity.  Because I am only teaching the concept of repeat signs and double bar lines, it doesn't matter how complicated the piece looks.

Source:  I created the printable for this activity as part of my Montessori-inspired Music Activities Printable Pack 1.  For your free copy, click on the link at the bottom of the post.

Music Dynamics Sort
My kiddos know the difference between loud and soft, but to remember the words forte and piano, along with their symbols is a bit more difficult.  Perhaps it's because they only see the words used in music.  In this activity I apply the words to sounds outside of music. 

The kiddos will sort objects, placing them under the correct dynamic marking.  Control cards are provided so they can check their work.  Objects that make loud sounds have labels bold faced.  Soft sounding objects are not bold faced.  The cards can be used in place of objects if they aren't available.

Source:  I created the activity for this printable as part of my Montessori-inspired Music Activities Printable Pack 1.  For your free copy, click on the link at the bottom of this post.

Tones in Nature
Dinomite and Princess struggle with identifying pitches as low and high.  Sometimes they confuse pitches with dynamics. Other times they mix up pitches, thinking low is high, and high is low.  I've introduced bells to them, trying to help them understand the sequence of pitches, but they struggled A LOT.  Bulldozer on the other hand did amazing and seems to have close to perfect pitch.  

This activity is designed to encourage them to forget about the piano and bells.  Instead they'll think and listen to various natural sounds and determine if they are low, medium or high.  Once they remember the natural sound pitch labels, I'm hoping it will help them identify correct labels while playing various musical instruments.

The kiddos will look at the cards and imagine the sounds they might hear in the pictures.  They will listen to corresponding sounds on the Conair Sound Therapy Sound Machine as a control.  Then they will place the picture cards under the correct label.  We will do this together several times before they complete the activity on their own.  The boys use the sound machine every night to help them sleep and love the various sounds.  It is very easy to distinguish low versus high pitches on the machine.

Source:  I created the printable for this activity as part of my Montessori-inspired Music Activities Printable Pack 1.  For your free copy, click on the link at the bottom of this post.

Conducting 101
My kiddos love watching conductors and have asked if I could teach them the skill.  Without hesitation I graciously agreed.  Conducting is a fantastic way to teach kiddos about rhythm and tempo.  It involves movement of the body, listening skills, and provides a natural control, whether conducting a group of people, or trying to conduct using a metronome. 

In this activity the kiddos will learn the value of a quarter note as one beat.  Using the Wittner 903014 Taktell Super-Mini Metronome, Black, they will practice conducting two beats per measure, then three beats, and finally four beats.  The metronome allows them to conduct at various tempos, first slow, and then faster over time.  A mirror is provided as a control for their movements.  The kiddos are so excited to try this out.  I was hoping to find a conducting baton that was their size to add to the tray, but none of our local music stores carry them anymore.  Oh well.

Source:  I created the printable for this activity as part of my Montessori-inspired Music Activities Printable Pack 1. For your free copy, click on the link at the bottom of this post.

Fractions in Music
My kiddos may not understand note values, but they LOVE fractions.  Why not apply math to music, to help them better understand things?  This activity can be done in two ways.  First, the kiddos will sequence note values from biggest to smallest, using the Learning Resources Fraction Tower Activity Set as a control.  I'm hoping this will help them understand how each music note received it's name.
Once the kiddos feel comfortable with their sequencing abilities, they'll create a note value chart with the fraction pieces.  This will come in handy as they start to understand and analyze beats per measue in the future.
Source:  I created the printable for this activity as part of my Montessori-inspired Music Activities Printable Pack 1. For your free copy, click on the link provided at the bottom of this post.

Divisions of 4 with Montessori Beads
The kiddos may be a bit young to understand time signatures and how different note combinations can make up four beats in a measure, but they're not to young to come up with their own number combinations, especially when using Kid Advance Montessori Checker Board Beads.

When choosing this activity, the kiddos will lay out several yellow bead bars representing the number four.  Each bead bar represents one measure of music.  They'll place a tooth pick in between each yellow bead bar to represent bar lines.  Then they'll create different bead bar combinations that add up to four, using the yellow bead bar as a control.  Eventually they'll be ready to label and write rhythms they've created and play them on various percussion instruments.

Music is a combination of all subjects.  When students are struggling to understand specific musical terms at the piano, or while learning any other instrument, sometimes the best thing to do is to teach musical concepts in other terms, using different subject areas and interests.  It not only will enhance their understanding, but will teach them that music is everywhere.

For those interested in the free printables, click on the link below:


For other fun music theory ideas, be sure to check out my Music Theory Activities and Printables post! 
  For more fabulous Montessori-inspired music activities and ideas take a look at posts included in the 12 Months of Montessori Learning Series.
Amazing Blogs involved in the 12 Months of Montessori Learning Series

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Learn & Play Link Up Summertime Art & Craft Idea Features

There's just something about summer art projects that takes me back to when I was a little girl.  Whether it be decorating rocks, weaving, making picture frames or watching relatives create amazing canned jams, fruits and vegetables (which I still have no clue how to do on my own).  Just the sight of the activity features this week is as comforting as homemade macaroni and cheese.  I hope you're able to take the time this summer to enjoy life's simple pleasures.  Be sure to try out one of these feature projects!  

Nature Number Art Challenge from Mosswood Connections



Recovering a Lost Art from The End In Mind

Learn & Play Link Up Every Thursday


Now it’s time for this week’s link party! This new link up is for all blog posts that include learn and play activities and hands-on education for kids. We are excited to read your blog posts and to see what you have to share! Please link up below and grab our button to display on your blog.
If you are a blogger, share your family friendly posts here. We are looking for things which include:
  • Montessori Education
  • Homeschool
  • Sensory Play
  • Tot and Preschool Trays
  • Fine and Gross Motor Activities
  • Kids in the Kitchen
  • Healthy Recipes for Kids
  • Arts and Crafts
  • Natural Living
  • Free Educational Printables
  • Family-Oriented Activities
  • Healthy Living
Your post will be shown on each host’s blog where we will individually pick features every other week. That means there is more of a chance that you will be featured!
Everyone, please meet our link party hosts:
learn and play party hostesses
Guidelines for Linking:
  • Please link up 1-3 posts
  • Follow each of the hosts on social media
  • When you link up, please add our button and place it at the bottom of your shared posts or link back with text link.
  • By entering a link, you’re giving us permission to feature an image on our blogs. Proper credit & links will ALWAYS be given.
  • Please visit a couple of shared posts and leave a comment for them
  • Remember that you must link back in order to be featured
Christian Montessori Network

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