Category Archives: Art

Virtual Summer Field Trips {without leaving home!}

by Elizabeth Cossick, M. Ed.

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“Van Gogh’s ear got cut off!” This was how my 5-year-old son greeted me after art & museum week at summer camp. “Yeah, it was probably cuz some kids were playing with scissors,” he wisely concluded.

Of course I found this humorous, but then, as he rattled off van Gogh’s bio and described with enthusiasm how he had painted his own Starry Night at camp, I shifted from bemused to downright impressed.

So, what had inspired my rough-and-tumble boy to suddenly declare, “I think I want to be an artist one day, a really good one like van Gogh”? Turns out it was a bevy of virtual museum field trips they’d taken during camp.

His enthusiasm in turn inspired the educator-mom in me. So, I popped open my laptop and collected a list of truly stellar world-class museum sites. No need to book a plane ticket; we can visit the Smithsonian, MET, and Louve without ever leaving our living room.

Here’s a rundown of the best:

The Smithsonian {for kids}: www.si.edu/kids

Meet Smithsonian scientists, watch the LIVE animal cams at the National Zoo, and–best part!–take a virtual interactive tour of the Dinosaur Exhibit. Awesome!

The Louvre: www.louvre.fr

Did you know that The Louvre was originally a fortress built by the French king Philippe Auguste? It was intended to protect Paris from attack via the Seine. Today, visitors can walk around the original perimeter moat and view the piers that supported the drawbridge…and you can take a virtual tour here! Or take a virtual tour of Egyptian Antiquities (mummies!).

The U.S. Mint: www.usmint.gov

Learn the history of our currency with a kid-friendly, interactive timeline where you’ll pick up some intriguing facts. (Like that our currency system was inspired by an idea from John Hancock. Who knew?)

Then, play some money games! Kids can also travel to different parts of the world to learn about their currencies, too, in this fun toon.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art: www.metmuseum.org

Almost their entire collection can be viewed online! Simply search for a piece of art, and voila! An image and information about the piece appears.

But the best part of this website is the interactive family and children’s media section. Took some digging to find it, but here are the best spots:

Cezanne’s Astonishing Apples: Learn about Cezanne and view his masterpieces.

Aaron’s Awesome Adventure: An animated read-aloud of the story of a boy who visits the Met.

And check out their TweenCasts, special podcasts produced by the Metropolitan Museum of Art specifically for adolescent audiences. Fabulous!

So go tour some cultural wonders of the world. Who knows what you might discover–aside from scissor safety, that is. 

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Filed under Art, Parenting, Summer Learning, Teacher Inspiration, Virtual tour

Favorite {FUN} Ways to Keep Learning!

by Elizabeth Cossick, M. Ed.

Comment on this post and be entered to win a $20 School Box gift card! Winners are drawn each month.  

Don’t let summer turn into a brain bummer! There are a slew of super fun activities out there that keep mental skills sharp. Here are some favorite games, workbooks, and activities that parents can easily pull off all summer–without a lot of hassle. And, best part: kids LOVE them! In fact, the games would even make great birthday presents….

Games {for the whole family to play together}

Pathwords

The “Tetris meets Words Search” puzzle brings the fun of our popular PathWords game to younger players. Players exercise verbal and spatial reasoning as they place the Tetris-stylepuzzle pieces onto the challenge grid so the letters under each piece spell a word. Single player game. Ages 6+, Grades 1-4, $19.99.

Yikerz!

Place your magnets down on the board and try to avoid attracting the other pieces already played. The object is to get rid of all your pieces. If they collapse together, those pieces are yours to add to your stack. Includes travel pouch for portable fun! Ages 14+, $16.99.

Workbooks {good interactive ones!}

Summer Bridge

Help children maintain skills while away from school with this award-winning series and original summer learning program! Daily activities in reading, writing, math and language arts with bonus activities in science and geography. Also included are full-color flash cards, incentive contract calendars, a certificate of completion, and more! Grades PreK-8th, 160 pages, $14.99.

Summer Fit

This innovative workbook series integrates online resources with workbook-based learning to help students retain basic skills in reading, writing, math, and language arts while–get this!–keeping them physically active on a daily basis! The daily fitness routines in this series were developed with input from coaches and trainers throughout the country. Grades PreK-8th, $12.95.

Learning on the Go {for swim meets, vacations, car trips and more}

The perfectly portable, totally independent, completely interactive preschool learning system! Cards can be used alone as traditional flash cards, or when used with any Hot Dots or Hot Dots Jr. Pen (sold separately), fun lights and encouraging sounds guide children through the cute, colorful lessons. Each card set features 72 activities on double-sided cards and teaches children all they need for academic success. $14.99
 
Travel Blurt!
This handy, portable version of best-selling Blurt includes 75 new Blurt definition cards and 450 new Blurt clues. Take turns passing the cards, reading the definitions, and blurting out the answers. Ages 10+. 3-4 players, $12.99.

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Filed under Academic Success, Activities, Art, Parenting, Summer Learning

10 Ways to Fight the Summer Slide, Part II

This is Part II in a two-part series on keeping skills sharp during the summer. In Part I, Kristen Thompson shared five stellar (and easy to apply!) ideas. Here are five more that are sure to make keep your child happy…and learning. 

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Five More Ways to Fight the Summer Slide

by Kristen Thompson

Tips one through five were shared here. Here are five more ways to keep your student on their toes (and lovin’ it) during the next couple months.

  1. Utilize Summer Programs. Take your children to summer library and bookstore programs. Most will post them online, but you can also request a calendar of events. Many libraries really crank it up a notch during the summer and hold fabulous, free activities and book clubs for students.
  2.  Be Choosy about Summer Camps. Consider registering your child for summer camps that encourage kids to use their minds on science projects, exploration, creative writing, music and art.
  3. Train the Brain. Use the summer to strengthen your student’s cognitive skills through one-on-one brain training to improve memory, visual and auditory processing, attention, and logic and reasoning. A core of strong brain skills will help them head back to school with the tools to succeed at learning in any subject. Unlike tutoring, which focuses on academics, brain-training addresses the root causes of any learning struggles. (For more information on brain training, see www.learningrx.com.)
  4. Get Musical or Lingual. Encourage your child to learn an instrument or another language. Studies have shown a strong correlation between “Arts” and “smarts.”
  5. Pick the Right Books. Learn how to choose age-appropriate books for children and teens. Reading is Fundamental has a great brochure that offers basic tips on what to look for. Your local librarian can also help you select books for your child’s interest and reading level. According to Scholastic Parents Online, reading just six books during the summer break can be enough to keep a struggling reader from falling behind.

A Final Note of Wisdom

Research shows that ALL young people experience learning losses when they don’t engage in educational activities during the summer.

“It doesn’t have to be that way,” says Dr. Ken Gibson, author of Unlock the Einstein Inside: Applying New Brain Science to Wake Up the Smart in your Child (www.unlocktheeinsteininside.com). “Think of it like this: The brain is like the body. If you exercise it, you improve it, but if you let it sit idle, it’s going to lose ability.”

To avoid the summer slide, Gibson recommends brain games and exercises that build cognitive skills, the underlying skills needed to learn.

And don’t assume that your kids will roll their eyes when you suggest ideas to keep their brain skills strong all summer. More than half of students surveyed say they want to be involved in a summer program that helps them keep up with schoolwork or prepare them for the next grade. Besides, unlike abdominal crunches, exercise for your brain is actually FUN!

Kristen Thompson is a parent, former teacher, and also the director at LearningRx Kennesaw, a center that specializes in helping learners of all ages and stages reach their full potential. LearningRx is located at 3420 Acworth Due West Road, Suite B, Kennesaw, GA 30144. 

Parents can request a free five-page Summer Slide Guide from LearningRx that includes dozens of brain-building games and exercises, as well as tips on how to incorporate brain building into daily activities. For the free Summer Slide Guide, simply call the Kennesaw LearningRx center at 770-529-4800 or the Atlanta-Buckhead LearningRx at 404-252-7246.

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Filed under Academic Success, Art, Games, Music, Summer Learning

Recycled Ocean Bulletin Board {with how-to pics!}

by Elizabeth Cossick, M. Ed.

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This fabulous idea was found organically (no pun intended) when my son’s pre-K class was learning about both recycling and the ocean. His {wonderful} teachers Lindsey Allman and Ariana Hull combined the two units in this uber-creative bulletin board, featuring an array of marine life made by the children out of materials pilfered from their recycling bins.

Check out the pictures below. This bulletin board is too cute not to share…and recreate!

How to build your own recycled ocean: 

The bulletin board was covered in white paper and then topped with crinkled blue cellophane wrap. Add a sandy ocean floor made out of textured scrapbook paper, white paper painted sandy tones, sandpaper, or a roll of craft paper. You could even get creative and have the children glue on dry grits: Paint white glue (thinned with a bit of water) over paper with a large brush, sprinkle on grits as you would glitter, allow to dry, dump off the excess, and hang.

The items can be attached to the board with staples, strong tape like Mavalus Mounting Tape, and/or a glue gun.

Add some yogurt-container ribbon jelly fish. The children loved painting their “trash!”

Check out the empty detergent-bottle Shamu!

Here’s how Shamu was attached…a little ingenuity, a little ribbon, and some staples. :)

How cute is this cardboard sea turtle with an egg carton head?

This empty container was inverted, painted, and given eight streamer tentacles with bead suctions. Adorable octopus!

A school of water-bottle fish is happily swimming in the corner. The bottles were cut by the teacher and their “tails” were stapled shut. The children customized their own fishies.

Some empty bottles cut into strips and painted green became seaweed. (Others were painted orange and assembled into coral.)

Paint and streamers transformed this drink bottle into a giant squid.

These three little egg carton clams may just be my favorite.

I like the idea of including a “what was learned” paragraph with the bulletin board, especially since this one is hanging in the hallway outside the classroom:

See why I had to share this idea? This bulletin board epitomizes a great culminating project: it combines two units of study, allows the children to utilize their creativity, and results in stunning student-made decor. Fabulous!

And…the class had loads of fun building this “recycled robot” out of their leftover trash:

credits:

Many thanks to Ariana Hull and Lindsey Allman with Primrose Schools for these awesome ideas. Your creativity is inspiring!

Click here for more ocean-themed activities, courtesy of The School Box.

Elizabeth D. Cossick, M. Ed. has a bachelors in education from The University of Georgia and a masters in curriculum and instruction from Lesley University, Cambridge. In addition to being the editor of A Learning Experience, she publishes Little Black Dress | Little Red Wagon Magazine. She resides in Atlanta with her husband, two young children, and a frisky Westie named Munson.

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Filed under Activities, Art, Classroom Decor, Science, Social Studies

Mother’s Day Craft: Rolled Pipe Cleaner Flowers

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You have a secret. You want to be outside enjoying the mild spring weather just as much as your students do. Don’t worry; we won’t tell. But we will provide you with a fun craft, courtesy of Diane Burdick, M. Ed., to bring some of that springtime beauty inside. {It’s the least we could do.}

And…this idea also makes a super cute (and affordable) Mother’s Day gift!

Pipe Cleaner Flowers

The beauty of this craft (aside from the finished product) is that it uses a cheap classroom staple: colored pipe cleaners. Use only pipe cleaners, if you so desire, or add a few more embellishments, such as buttons, pom-poms, beads, silk flower leaves or jewels to add a bit of fancy to your flowers.

Options (and shapes!) are endless. We were inspired by the three variations pictured from MakeandTakes.com (above left), Martha Stewart Weddings (right), and Crunchy Catholic Mama (below; dontcha love that blog’s name?).

Things You’ll Need

6 12”-pipe cleaners in an array of colors for each flower

2 12”-green pipe cleaners for each flower stem and leaf

Optional supplies: ribbon (to tie around the flowers), or a small terra cotta pot, glue, and dry grits or dry rice (to plant the flowers)

What You’ll Do

  1. Bundle together six pipe cleaners of the same color; straighten pipe cleaners so that the ends line up evenly. Twist the bunch in the middle about four times, until the outside edges look like a bow-tie or cat whiskers.
  2. Twist the end of a green piece of pipe cleaner around the middle of this “bow-tie” to create the stem.
  3. Twist the petal-colored pipe cleaner around one more time to ensure the “stem” is attached to the “petals”. (For a sturdier stem, fold the green stem in half from the bottom up.)
  4. Spread out the “petal” pieces out into individual strands, and roll each petal piece inward until you reach the center. Work around the flower, rolling up each piece. You can bend and angle the “petals” to give your flower a fuller look.
  5. Add a “leaf” to the flower by wrapping another green pipe cleaner at the base of the “petal.” Roll the pipe cleaner as you did the “petals,” and pinch it a bit at the top to give it a leaf shape.

Present the flowers to the recipient individually, or gather a few in a bunch for greater impact. Wrap with a ribbon or with another colored pipe cleaner to make an attractive bundle.

To “plant” the flowers in a pot, mix dry grits or rice with white glue and pour into the bottom of a small terra cotta pot (with the drain whole covered on the inside with a scrap of paper). Stick the pipe cleaner flowers into the glue-grits/rice mixture and allow to dry.

Happy spring! It may not be a full-blown garden, but these flowers will bring a bit of welcomed color into your classroom. 

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Filed under Activities, Art, Holidays

More Pinterest Classroom Finds!

by Elizabeth Cossick, M. Ed.

Comment on this post and be entered to win a $20 School Box gift card. (Who couldn’t use that?)

Once spring break is over, it’s a mad dash to the finish of the school year. But it’s also a great opportunity to make a lasting impact in your students’ memories with relevant, hands-on activities. Here are two of our faves–found via Pinterest. (Yes, we’re addicted, too.)

Very Hungry Caterpillar Printables!

We love this idea from Teaching Heart Blog of making a Very Hungry Caterpillar paper bag and then using the provided printables to “feed” the caterpillar. So cute! It would make a dandy spring activity, and it has some good center possibilities, too. Think of what else your students could categorize, count, and feed to that hungry caterpillar: cotton balls, paperclips, small manipulatives. Or, search “snacks” or “food” on Google images, like we did here, and then print an array of snackies for your students to cut out and feed to the caterpillar!


Fingerprint Tree

We love any idea that’s both aesthetic and artful. Here’s a beauty! This could have two purposes: 1) What a fabulous Mother’s Day gift idea for students to make for their mamas! And 2) You could make one as a class, and then reproduce it for each student to keep, as an end-of-the-year keepsake.

The idea originally came from Carolina Pad products. All you’d need are paints and a heavy duty piece of paper or canvas (one per class if it’s a class keepsake or one per child, if it’s for Mother’s Day). For Mother’s Day, each student would repeatedly make their own fingerprints to cover their trees. For a class keepsake, every child in the class would add their fingerprints to one class tree. Either way, this idea is preciousness!

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Filed under Activities, Art, Classroom Decor, Holidays, Reading

DIY Scratch-Off Card {love this!}

Looking for a unique Mother’s Day gift idea? Or a fun post-testing diversion? Or a creative way to review for the next big test? Check out this cool idea from Diane Burdick, M. Ed. 

{And let us know what you think. A comment below could land you a $20 School Box gift card. We like to reward loud mouths.}

If you’ve ever received a scratch-off card in the mail, you know the anticipation of selecting a spot and rubbing the coating off the paper…all in hopes of winning a special prize or discount. If you think those scratch-offs are only for the retail-minded or lottery-blinded among us, think again. Scratch-off solution is something you can make at home or school to create a fun craft activity (or greeting card) with your children.

Materials:

Cardstock

Drawing materials

Scissors

Contact paper (clear)

Dishwashing liquid

Metallic acrylic paint (from the craft store)

Small, flat paintbrush

Here’s how to make a greeting card:
Other options below, too. 

  • Create a card out of cardstock by folding the cardstock in half.
  • Decorate the card with a design, and then think of a message that could have three possible answers. For example, the outside of the card might say, “Guess how much I love you?” Then, inside, draw three circles. Inside one, write “To the Moon.” In another, write “To the Moon and Back.” And in the final circle, write “To Infinity and Beyond.” You will cover these three circles with scratch-off solution.
  • To make the solution, mix together one part dishwashing liquid with two parts metallic-colored acrylic paint in a disposable cup.
  • Apply a thin coat of paint to the contact paper with a small, flat paintbrush.
  • Allow the paint to dry for at least one hour, and then reapply one to two coats until paint is not streaky, allowing to dry between coats.
  • Cut the painted contact paper to the appropriate size and shape (so, circles in this case). Then peel the backing off the contact paper and apply the painted “stickers” to the correct spots on the card.
  • Make sure to put a penny down in the envelope with the card, so the recipient can scratch off their choice and see the message underneath.

Other Fun Options:

  • Reward Cards! Make scratch-off reward cards for your class. Using notecards, write various rewards on each (extra computer time, skip one problem on Math homework, serve in a class leadership role, bring a stuffed animal to school, etc.) Distribute the cards to deserving students, and let them scratch off to discover their reward. Students LOVE this!
  • Review Game. You can make up your own version of scratch-off bingo using cards you make, customized to your lessons.
  • Coupon Book. Instead of a traditional coupon book for Mother’s, Father’s or Grandparent’s Days, help students create a scratch-off card with chores the child can do or sweet messages the child writes.
  • Teacher Cards. Parents: create a card for your child’s teacher that lets the recipient choose a scratch-off square (or two) listing helpful things your student could do for the teacher. Include age-appropriate tasks, such as empty the pencil sharpener, erase the board, pick up trash from the floor, or collect trash after snack.
  • Principal Thanks. Or create a similar card for the principal, sharing the child’s favorite things about the school: What do I love most about P.S. 212 Elementary School? The teachers are nice (one scratch-off square), the playground is really fun (another), the principal is the best ever!! (the final option).

So cool, right? We’ve even seen scratch-offs used in wedding save-the-date cards, bridal and baby shower invitations, and shower games. So, now that you know how to make your own, go get crafty!

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Creative Dr. Seuss Birthday Ideas {It’s March 2!}

by Diane Burdick, M. Ed. 

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One of my favorite sayings comes from my children’s favorite author. Seriously. Consider the wisdom of Theodor Geisel, more commonly known as Dr. Seuss:

“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”

Truth, plain and simple.

Every March 2, libraries and schools around the country celebrate the birthday of this beloved childhood muse. So why not go beyond simply reading his timless tales and bring them to life? Here are some creative ideas to take you from snack time to craft time to recess.

Fun with Food

With a smidgen of creativity, Dr. Seuss’s books become veritable cookbooks! Favorite yum-o ideas:

  • Create a stack of pancakes with strawberry filling to look like the hat of The Cat In the Hat
  • Eat cake in the bathtub at home, like the cat does in The Cat in the Hat Comes Back (do it while holding an open umbrella, if you’re truly talented)
  • Hand out multicolored Goldfish crackers to illustrate One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish
  • Drink pink ink (strawberry Quik-flavored milk) like the “pink yink ink” in One Fish, Two Fish
  • Of course there’s green eggs and ham. Of course.
  • And check out these adorable Thing One Thing Two cupcakes, shown right, from Go Graham Go!

Dress Up, Seuss-style

Keep the fun going by helping kids dress like their favorite (or original!) Seuss character.

  • Look for tall pipe-like hats at the craft store and decorate them with red and white stripes (or make your own from poster board).
  • Wear socks on your hands and feet to resemble Fox in Socks.
  •  And if your dress-up box is a bit more on the wild side, let children layer on the funny furs, feather boas, ears and snouts to create their own silly Seuss-like character! Older children can then write rhyming stories about their original character to share with a younger class.

Tim Tebow Storytime

View the animated webcast recording of football phenom Tim Tebow reading Green Eggs and Ham. Great reading role model! Just click “watch now” and then enter the little information it asks for (city, state, etc.). The video is adorable.

Cat-y Crafts!

Looking for something to do? How about some help from Thing 1 and Thing 2?

Let kids create two paper bag hand puppets of the Things with this adorable template from obSEUSSed.com. In addition to a printout for each student (provided on the site), you’ll need two red paper bags (or white bags colored red), scissors, glue/double-sided tape and crayons or markers. So stinkin’ cute!

Get Movin’

Balance Silliness: Recreate some of the fun from the Cat in the Hat by letting children try their hand at carrying and balancing a variety of items, cat-style, while walking across the room: balance a book on a child’s head, hold a stack of books with a ball on top, and hang a curved-handled umbrella over the crook of the child’s arm. Make it into a contest: Have every child in your class try walking with the same items. Mark each child’s stopping point (how far they get before things topple) on tape on the rug, labeled with their names. The child who walks the farthest wins!

Kite Race: Recreate another activity from the Cat in the Hat by letting kids race kites outside or in the gym at school. Keep things safe by spacing children at least 10 feet apart from each other and shortening their kite strings to under 10 feet. They’ll end up dragging the kites the whole way, but it is hysterical!

Lego Cat Hat: Looking for a simple activity? Have kids sort out red and white Lego blocks and see who can build the tallest ‘Cat Hat’ quickest. Make sure to have a timer and ruler ready to see who wins!

After a Seusstacular day, your students will be saying, “Today was good. Today was fun. Tomorrow is another one.”

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Filed under Activities, Art, creative writing, Games, Reading, reading aloud, reluctant readers, technology, Writing

Writing Activity: Using Legos to Spark Creative Writing

by Elizabeth Cossick, M. Ed.

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We all know that blocks are great for creative play, but what about for writing? Yes, indeedy! Blocks can be super starters for creative writing. Here are two ideas for how to use blocks at home or in the classroom to get the juices flowing. (Hint: blocks aren’t just good for the little ones, either. Dump a pile of Legos on the floor in a high school English classroom and watch the students come to life!)

Writer’s Block

Write or type basic words on paper, cut out the words, and tape them on the sides of big Lego Duplo blocks (the larger toddler-sized variety). Then, children can combine the blocks, lay them out, and build them up in creative ways to make sentences and stories! You can even color-coordinate the blocks by part of speech, so all nouns are on yellow blocks, all verbs are on blue blocks, all adjectives are on green blocks, all proper nouns are on red blocks, etc. Students can also suggest their own words. It’s like a 3-D game of Madlibs…and “writing” possibilities are endless!

For printable lists of sight (Dolch) words to use as starters, check out: www.mrsperkins.com/dolch.htm

Create a World

Allow students access to a large variety of blocks or Legos. Instruct them to build a house or building and then write a story about that structure. Who lives there? What do they do? Look like? Enjoy? Struggle with? Students can also write descriptive paragraphs about their structure’s imaginary world. Is it in our country? Is it on earth?

Students love the opportunity to play with blocks during “writing” time, and being creative with their hands often leads to creativity with words, as well. Not to mention the positive associations fostered around writing. This may be the “fun” activity that they need to prove to them that writing is accessible…and enjoyable.

Elizabeth D. Cossick, M. Ed. has a bachelors in education from The University of Georgia and a masters in curriculum and instruction from Lesley University, Cambridge. In addition to being the editor of A Learning Experience, she publishes Little Black Dress | Little Red Wagon Magazine. She resides in Atlanta with her husband, two young children, and a frisky Westie named Munson.

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Filed under Activities, Art, creative writing, Critical Thinking, grammar, Language Arts, Writing

a long way from Legos: the latest, greatest building sets {and how to use them in the classroom}

by Elizabeth Cossick, M. Ed.

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Legos and Lincoln Logs used to rule the roost when it came to building sets. Not so these days, my friend. Magnets, gears and pulleys make today’s building sets more engaging–and mind-bending–than ever. Whether you’re looking for sets for a classroom, birthday gift, or just a rainy day, here are our top picks for kiddie-approved, creativity-inspiring building sets, followed by some ways to incorporate them into your classroom.

Gears, Gears, Gears!

The fun Gears, Gears, Gears! sets allow young builders to construct buildings, vehicles, factories and the like. There are a variety of sets, from beginner to themed kits (like this cute Movin’ Monkeys set), but all are interchangeable. Sets include spinning gears, pillars, connectors and cranks to set creations in motion–plus interlocking plates for limitless building.

Magneatos

I first discovered these magnetized balls, rods and plates when my son received a Magneatos set from his Popi. Three years later, they’re still a favorite. No wonder why Magneatos have garnered so much praise: recipient of 2005 & 2006 OPPENHEIM AWARD WINNER; featured on NBC’s Today Show and Featured in MONEY magazine; recipient of Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Award (Top Honor); recipient of Oppenheim SNAP (Special Needs Adaptable Product) Award Winner.

Thistle Blocks

Thistle Blocks are an oldie but goodie– a cousin to the Bristle Blocks from my own childhood. Guess what? These stick-to-each-other squares, rectangles and rods are still tons of fun. 

Flexiblocks

What set allows children to build movable bridges, creatures, vehicles and reptiles all with the same blocks? Flexiblocks! These wonder blocks, shown below, can be configured into a limitless variety of critters and formations: a boredom buster for sure. 

In the Classroom

Here are three ideas for using building sets in the classroom to encourage critical thinking and creativity, while practicing  hands-on geometry, public speaking, measuring, graphing and writing.

  • Hold a Building Challenge.

Break students into groups or pairs. Give each group the same number of blocks (or have pairs bring in building sets from home) and set the clock. Give the groups 15 or 20 minutes to build. Then, have each group present their creation to the class. The class can vote on which structures win Most Creative, Most Impressive, Most Blocks Used, Most Movable, etc.

Skills utilized: critical thinking, cooperative learning, oral speaking/presenting

  • Create (and Write About) a Fantasy World.

Allow students (individually or in small groups) to build a fantasy world with sets of blocks, including buildings, creatures, people, vehicles, bridges–whatever their imaginations hold. At the end of a set building period (around 20-30 minutes), students will then write either fiction stories, descriptive narratives or poems about their fantasy world, explaining what it looks like, who lives there, and how life works within the world of their imagination.

Skills utilized: critical thinking, cooperative learning, writing, grammar

  • Have a Race and Chart the Results.

Lots of building sets have circle or disk components that make great wheels. Allow students to build vehicles and then hold a race. Make predictions about which vehicle will go farthest. Create a starting line with tape, line up students two-at-a-time to race their creations. Then, use a ruler or yard stick to measure the distance traveled. Chart or graph the distances as a class on a piece of a bulletin board or chart paper. Be sure to note which are creative and aesthetic, even if they don’t go the distance! :)

Skills utilized: critical thinking, predicting, math, graphing, measuring, comparing/contrasting

For more great building sets, click here and here and here.

Build on!

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Filed under Activities, Art, Centers, Critical Thinking, Parenting, School Readiness, Science, Summer Learning