Sunday, July 31, 2011

Mini Unit - Mickey Mouse

I have to admit, I don't usually buy into the whole mainstream commercialism thing when it comes to my classroom. It just seems a bit distracting to me. But, I decided to bend a little just this once and I created this Mickey Mouse themed mini unit for James. He's digging Mickey right now (and truth be told I'm a big Mickey fan, too!) and I figured if I could make the activities educational, why not let the Mouse come over for a visit? :)

I should note that because Bermuda has limited supplies when it comes to specialty items, I made many of these materials myself. In the rare case that I did purchase items, they were cheaply found at our local dollar store, thrift shop, and party supple store.

~an overview~

Here's a closer look at what's inside this unit:
Mini Sensory Tub (Sensorial/Language). I thought about making a full size version of this tub, but with only 3 weeks left to go in this pregnancy, I just haven't the energy. I used red pony beads and black marbles and foam squares as the main filler. Also included are bottlecaps (dollar store), buttons, letter beads to spell with, poms, tiny Mickey Mouse buttons, a couple of vellum stars, and a Pluto Pez dispenser.

Telling Time (Math). I made this myself by using the back of a Mickey Mouse paper plate. I purchased the button embellishments from a scrapbooking store (years ago) and then cut the clock hands out of cardstock and pinned them loosely to the plate with a brad.

Lacing (Practical Life). Another use for the paper plates - I simply punched holes around the perimeter and added a shoelace.

Pin Punching (Practical Life). I create the Mouse heads in Word and printed a few of them so James can repeat the work as desired. I provided a sheet of black foam paper to absorb the pin. I've been asked a zillion times about the jumbo pins I use - I found them at our local dollar store over a year ago, but I've seen them available on Amazon as well.

Dominoes (Math/Language/Sensorial). These dominoes are another dollar store find and boy are they teeny-tiny!

Bingo (Language/Sensorial). Two kinds - one is homemade and involves reading, the other is a thrift store find and focuses on shapes. I had already created the homemade version (by using clip art), but couldn't pass up the other one when I found it for only 25 cents.

Worksheets (Language/Math/Art). I made all of these myself using free clip art I found online. While I would normally share these with you as PDF's, I don't feel comfortable doing so this time around. I'm fearful of some unknown copyright I'd be breaking if I shared them. Sorry!

Books (Language). Going through our bookcases I found only these three Mickey Mouse books. In fact, these were MY books when I was young and I *think*, perhaps with the exception of The Sorcerer's Apprentice, they're now out of print.

Activity Books (Math/Language/Art/Just For Fun!). Birthday gifts from a couple of years ago.

Manipulatives. I found these at our local party supply store. I envision them being used for sorting, sequencing, math, storytelling, and whatever else James comes up with. Oftentimes I will just put materials out there and sit back to see what HE decides to do with them. His ideas are usually much more creative than mine!

Stick Puppets. I used some of the above manipulatives and pasted them to popsicle sticks. Again, I'm curious to see what James will do with these.

Memory/Matching Game (Sensorial). These are paint chips, which I believe you can find at most large home-retailers. The ones in the photo were a gift from my sweet bloggy friend, Susan. :)

Pasting Practice & Collage Making (Practical Life/Art). The paper and stickers are several years old and from my scrapbooking stash. I cut up various aspects of the papers and it'll be up to James to arrange them however he'd like.

Cutting Practice (Practical Life/Math). As with all of our sticker cutting strips, James will need to cut in between the stickers. He can then use the snipped pieces for a sequencing or sorting activity.

All packed up and ready to explore!

~Click the button below to view more of our mini units.~

~Thank you for your comments!~

Montessori At Home! Giveaway WINNER

A huge thanks to all who entered the Montessori At Home! giveaway this week - there were 659 entries!

The winner is Samantha Lee, who wrote:
"Montessori At Home looks like an awesome resource to have. I love the penny extensions to the math exercises. Thanks for this opportunity!"

Congratulations, Samantha Lee, please email me at with your contact details.

To all the rest of you I'm excited to announce that John Bowman, author of Montessori At Home!, is offering a huge discount to Counting Coconuts readers. For the entire month of August, you can purchase his e-book for only $5.95 (that's a $2 savings!!) by clicking the button below!

Buy Now

Or, if you'd like something to hold in your hands, John offers a paperback version (under the title Help Your Preschooler Build A Better Brain) for just $9.95! Such a great deal either way!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Multi-Tool Sorting Activity

This is really just a sorting/transferring activity, but with a little twist...

To do this work James will need to choose which of the tools in the tray will transfer which of the items in the bucket. Oh - ha! I see a little stray cube found its way onto the tool tray in the photo. :)

I tried to make it so only one tool applies to each kind of item. There is an overlap in that the tweezers can be used to pick up the large homemade poms. I think James will enjoy trying various tools all at once and discovering which ones work best. The bucket provides an added challenge as the depth will make scooping or tonging a bit more difficult.

As with ALL of the activities I put on our shelves I'm always sure to test them out myself first to make sure the materials work well together and that everything needed to complete the work is made available.

~Thank you for your comments!~

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Mini Unit - Space

The great thing about putting this unit together is that it was pretty much already put together. (You may recall we spent the month of January focusing on space.) There are some new things, but for the most part I reused many of the same materials and, because I'm lazy (and very pregnant), I'm reusing many of the photos and text from my January post, too. :) Just note that the trays aren't included in the mini unit.

~an overview~

Here's a closer look at what's inside this unit:
Felt Planets (Sensorial/Just For Fun!) Made these myself and I'm proud to say they've held up quite well considering how much they've been loved. :)

Poetry Basket (Language). I made the sun out of felt, the Earth came from the top of a Toob, and the little baggies is filled with star shaped beads.

Worksheets (Language/Math/Art/Science). Many of these worksheets were found in various places around the web - Google Images, Making Learning Fun, abcteach, and Homeschool Creations Astronaut Preschool Pack.

Lacing (Practical Life). I found this image on Google, laminated it and then punched in holes about 1" apart.

Stamping Stars (Practical Life/Art). This is a self-inking star-shaped stamper and a little booklet of scrap paper stapled together. Simple, but fun!

Skip Counting (Math). This counting mat came from here. I made that little blue envelope as well as the ones in a few of the other photos. They're really easy to make and perfect for small cards that would normally slide around on a tray. I made my own version after watching this video.

Life Cycle of a Star (Science). I made these myself! This is very similar to the phases of the moon work in that James will need to order the cycle according to the control chart. As with all of these activities, I keep it light and fun - I am well aware of the fact that James is only FOUR and so there's no need to delve into the cosmological significance of black holes or anything. ;D The important thing to me is the fact that he LOVES doing this kind of stuff!

Phases of the Moon Cards (Science). We use these regularly on our classroom calendar, but I'm putting them all on the shelf along with the control chart.

Build A Rocket (Math/Sensorial). I found this idea on Making Learning Fun, but I modified and recreated it with card stock and added a 6th shape to account for the 6 on the die.

Solar System Flashcards (Science/Language). These cards have really beautiful photos and are full of significant, yet easy to follow facts on the reverse sides. You can buy them through Montessori Services.

Space Magnet Pages (Language). I don't actually use magnets with these, I use flat marbles instead. These came from Making Learning Fun.

Memory/Matching Games (Language/Sensorial/Science). These are three separate games focusing on planets, parts of the Earth, and constellations.

Space Mat (Science). These little things are the UK version of Shrinky Dinks (they sell A LOT of UK brands here). Basically they are drawings cast on to plastic sheets which you then color and heat in the oven. They shrink down and become very sturdy. The solar system mat came with the kit.

Pin Punching (Practical Life). I found these jumbo pins at the dollar store and printed out the constellation cards from here. The added bonus to this activity is that once James has them all punched we'll go into a dark room, shine a flashlight behind them and project the images onto a wall!

Books (Language). My Place in Space by Joan Sweeney; There's No Place Like Space by Dr. Seuss; and On The Moon by Anna Milbourne.

Cards & Counters (Math). I made these cards and used stone pebbles ("moon rocks") as the counters.

Astronaut Figurines (Just For Fun!).

Planets (Science/Sensorial/Just For Fun!). These are made of styrofoam (I think). I found them at the local thrift shop. They aren't the greatest, but James loved using them in our space lessons.

Planet Photos (Science). Not sure who makes these (another thrifty find), but their large size and detail make them perfect for studying.

Solar System Card (Science/Just For Fun!). My wonderful sister in law sent this card to James. It is SO cool! Pop up things have come such a long way since my childhood days!

Three Part Space Cards (Science/Language).

All packed and ready to explore!

~Click the button below to view more of our mini units.~

~Thank you for your comments!~

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Montessori At Home! Review & Two-Part Giveaway!

~This giveaway is now closed!~

Have you heard of Montessori At Home!, the wonderfully resourceful book written by John Bowman? Yes? Then you know just what a treat one of you will be receiving!

For those that aren't familiar with the book, allow me to quote the author's website:
"Montessori At Home! shows you how to easily and inexpensively create over 200 brain building experiences for your preschooler. These Montessori activities are not complicated and require no special training for parents to do at home. We show you everything you need to know to give your child the benefits of these early learning experiences."

John was kind enough to offer me a free copy of his book to review and while the above quote is absolutely true, there's so much more to this fantastic how-to guide. (View sample pages)

Inside of this book you'll find:
::An extensive list of which Montessori materials work well at home as well as a comparative price list.
::Detailed activity guides complete with what age the activity is geared toward, the materials needed, the goal(s) of the activity, how to present it, and potential extensions.
::An informative, yet concise history of Montessori.
::Lots of links and shopping recommendations.
::Over 30 printable activity sheets including the Hundreds Board, Numeral Cards, and Land/Water Forms!

I was delighted to find several activities in Montessori At Home! that we had yet to try - here are just a few I've added to our shelves since reviewing the book:
100 Penny Layout with the Hundreds Board

Pipe Building. The book suggests using real piping materials, which I think is a really fun idea! We happened to have this marble run on hand and used it instead.

Tees & Marbles

Magnetic vs. Non-Magnetic

Fun stuff, right? Montessori At Home! is an excellent in home guide for those wanting to incorporate the Montessori method into their child's learning experience. It's perfect for teachers, parents, grandparents, and anyone with a passion for Montessori!

Now for the giveaway:
John offers Montessori At Home! in two formats: CD and e-book. His paperback version, titled Help Your Preschooler Build A Better Brain, is a bit more condensed though it too is a fantastic resource.

You can try your hand at winning a FREE copy of the CD and the book by entering this giveaway! Open to anyone, anywhere!!
~Please note: the CD and paperback copy of the book is available only to those in the US.
All other locations will receive a downloadable e-book.

AND because I'm feeling very "mother hen" right now (thanks, pregnancy hormones!), I'm throwing in a little something, too!
~Please note: this portion of the giveaway is only available if the winner is located in the US.
(Sorry - international shipping is just too expensive!)

I'm such a believer in providing Montessori activities at home that I really want one of your kiddos to benefit from something my son has enjoyed time and again. I'll be gifting the winner ONE of the following:

This juicing kit (from Montessori N' Such) - it comes with everything you see minus the oranges. :)


This set of Sandpaper Numerals (from Kid Advance) - a must have in any classroom.

The winner can chose which of the above materials they'd like to receive.

Here's how you can enter to win:
Mandatory entry:
1. Leave a comment on this post.

Extra entries:
2. Like Counting Coconuts on Facebook and leave me a separate comment on this post letting me know you have/already do.
3. Follow Counting Coconuts and leave me a separate comment on this post letting me know you have/already do.
5. After today come back and leave me one comment per day on this post until the end of the giveaway.

A couple of notes:
:: All comments are moderated - they will NOT appear immediately after you post them.
:: Do not leave your entry comments on the Counting Coconuts Facebook page - they will not be included.
:: Regarding separate comments - each entry will be counted as a chance to win. If you put all of your entry requirements into just ONE comment, you'll only have ONE chance to win.

This giveaway ends at 9pm (Atlantic Time) on Friday, July 29th. The winner will be announced the following day.

~Good luck, everyone!~


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