Creating a Positive Learning Environment
As a former teacher now homeschooling my own kids, I love to create a positive learning environment by cultivating a resource-rich home for them. We haven’t yet reached an age where I feel compelled to decide whether to take the curriculum route or just keep following their lead to explore anything and everything they find interesting … for now, we’re all having a great time with a relaxed, eclectic, child-led, play-based mode of learning and living. 🙂
A big part of that is surrounding my kids with intriguing learning materials, including games, toys, and digital products. I find things from other blogger’s recommendations, TPT (TeachersPayTeachers), thrift stores, Amazon, Costco, the dollar store (!! I’ll have more posts on this later – great place for learning resources!), and all the gifts (both well-loved and brand new) we receive from others.
We are especially well-stocked in the Science department. I’ve collected a lot of materials related to how our body works, and I wanted to take some time to pass along some of the best resources we’ve found, as well as a free printable that I’ve made to tie in some math. (Lol, I couldn’t help myself!)
The Skeleton Inside You
We read this book, The Skeleton Inside You (Let’s-Read-and-Find-Out Science 2) a couple weeks ago, and I was surprised how amazed my boys both were to find out they had BONES inside them! Lol – seeing life through their eyes never gets old! I showed them how to feel their finger bones and arm bones and ribs – they were so excited! (For a little perspective – they’re 2 and 4 years old ;).)
I’ve teamed up with a group of bloggers who are compiling a series of posts dedicated to these books. Each post has a description of one of the books from the Let’s Read and Find Out Series, a craft or activity, and links to related resources. I have a link to the full list of posts at the bottom. (I don’t want to lose you yet! 😉 )
Large Skeleton Puzzle
Since that experience, we’ve re-discovered some of the other books and activities we have related to skeletons. This one (Make and Move: Human Body) is a long-standing favorite. My 2 year old often pulls this off the shelf asking to “make the Human Body.” He needs a bit of help from Superman (our 4 year old) and me, but they’re both pretty proud of it every time it gets put together. (Sometimes the left and right sides even end up in the right places!) It comes with a full-color illustrated book with pretty simple explanations for how each system in our body works (although the book part would probably be best for kids age 5+).
DIY Robotic Hand
We ran across this unit in one of our favorite online science programs (MysteryScience) — it explains how joints and tendons work in a skeleton by looking at how human-like robots are made. They provide the materials and tutorials to create a robotic finger and hand; N and I both loved this unit! You pull the strings (tendons) to move the “joints” and you can actually play (paper) ball with it!
(Note: The lessons are available at mysteryscience.com. I checked with them about including a link in this post and they mentioned that any homeschooler that signs up can get a free trial through June 30th. We are seriously loving this program!!)
We’ve signed N up for a local science class (which he loved!!) but it cost about $35/session. For the cost of 2 of those sessions (roughly … specific details in the link), you can get a whole year subscription to this online science curriculum — the videos are great for kids (our boys enjoy watching them but it would be even better for older kids!) and each unit comes with a video, hands-on activity, assessment, and extension ideas.
They also have an extensive catalog of free units, so you can check it out first to see how your kids like it :).
I’m not an affiliate for them — I just really like what they’re doing and wanted to share!
DVD with a full soundtrack of educational songs
We also have a really well-crafted video/music series from Rachel Coleman (creator of Signing Time). I can’t say enough good things about the Rachel and the TreeSchoolers series. This is a preschool Science curriculum with DVDs and music CDs for pretty much any topic you would want your preschooler to learn about. Our kids love listening to the CDs endlessly and have memorized most of the songs, which are packed full of great information! This one called “The Amazing Human Body” tied in perfectly with our mini unit study we have going on over here. 🙂
Cat in the Hat!!
Did you know there’s a whole series of science books called The Cat in the Hat’s Learning Library? There’s also a PBS kids series of shows (currently on Netflix — called The Cat in the Hat knows a Lot About That!) where the Cat in the Hat (with Nick, Sally, Thing 1, and Thing 2) learn about how all kinds of things work, going on exploring adventures all over the world in the Thing-a-ma-Jigger. 🙂 Here’s a sample of a set of books (Oh, the Places on Earth! A Cat in the Hat’s Learning Library Collection (Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About That!: Cat in the Hat’s Learning Library)) but you can see more in the related items if you follow that link.
We have this book (Inside Your Outside: All About the Human Body (Cat in the Hat’s Learning Library)) and have read it several times — the illustrations and rhyming explanations are so much fun for young learners :).
More Books on Skeletons and How the Body Works
Here’s a small picture gallery of more books we’ve picked up and keep on hand for the boys to look through as they find interest: (These would all be better for older kids.)
I couldn’t stop myself from finding a way to tie this idea into math, since we were getting so much leverage out of the skeleton idea ;). I’ve been doing a lot with ten frames recently, so I made a couple sheets of activities to do related to counting bones in your body. (You can get a free chapter from my ebook on teaching Math with ten frames by subscribing to my newsletter.)
Skeleton Math with Ten Frames
This free printable comes with instructions, answer keys, and a printer-friendly version. You can get your own copy at the end of this post. Here’s a preview of a few of the pages:
More Math Activities
You can see all of my posts about our math activities (with several free printables) on my Math page.
The Full Series
Be sure to check out the other posts in this series for more recommendations on ways to introduce science in interactive, engaging ways with your kids!
Get your free copy of Skeleton Math with Ten Frames
You can subscribe here to my newsletter and get access to this free printable as well as access my growing library of free learning resources. I’d love to hear how these work out for you! Enjoy doing science and math with your kids today! 🙂
Learning Resources for Teachers, Tutors, and Parents
If you’d like to visit my store to see my library of learning resources (focused on Pre-K – 3rd grade Math, Reading, and Writing, and High School Algebra and Geometry), you can check it out here: