Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Baking with Math

Baking is a great fun activity to do with kids. Kids enjoy making funny shapes with the dough, beating the batter and not to forget gobbling the gooey paste before you can even put it in the oven. 

I've always enjoyed baking with my daughter, and this Sunday while we baked together, she also learnt some bit of Math.

Our baking session began with measuring the ingredients and putting them in a bowl to make the dough. Once the dough was ready, I gave her some in a small bowl, so she could make her own funny shaped cookies. She immediately noticed that my bowl had more dough than hers, and therefore concluded that I would make more cookies than her. (Lesson 1: Greater quantity means more, lesser quantity means less)

She decided to make worm-shaped cookies. So she flattened and rolled the dough to make some yummy worms. At the end, she had lined up 20 cookie worms. She quickly realized that some worms were longer than the others. And the little perfectionist that she is, she insisted on making them again so that they were all the same length. We took one worm, and marked its length on a Popsicle stick. And then as she made new worms, she measured them against the Popsicle stick marking and adjusted their length to get them all in one size. (Lesson 2: Using a tool to measure length)

Once the worms were ready, she wanted to give them chocolate chip eyes. Together, we counted the number of chocolate chips required for each worm, and then picked out 40 chips from the jar to put on the worms. (Lesson 3: Multiplication)

Finally we put our trays in the oven to bake. While we waited, we labeled the cookie jars for each family member. We calculated how many total cookies would be baked and how we could divide them equally among all. (Lesson 4: Division).

There were 2 extra cookies left, after dividing them equally between all. So, we treated ourselves to the two cookies, as a reward for a good job done!

Math is so much more fun when it is learnt through an activity, rather than as a subject. Projects are a great way to reinforce math skills in kids. And, if you can't find enough time to do projects with your kids, then buy them some story books that will take them into the fascinating world of Math. 

Check out these interesting titles:
  • Mummy Math - An Adventure in Geometry
  • What's Your Angle, Pythagoras? - A Math Adventure
  • Equal Shmequal

Monday, 27 February 2012

If I Had a World Map...

Have you ever thought of beginning the school term with a world map? Yes, the world map, which would serve as the mind map for the entire year.

As we start a term, for each lesson we learn, we can put flags on the world map. For example, the first chapter in English, Class 8 is set in Birdport, England; so as the class reads the chapter, the teacher can write the name of the lesson on a little red flag, and then she/he can place the flag on Birdport, England. Teachers can have different colour flags for their subject. 

Some subjects like science and math may not be location specific, so in such cases, students can be encouraged to find the history about the scientist or mathematician associated with the topic. And, then they can put a flag on the place where the scientist or mathematician belongs.

Imagine how colourful the map would look at the end of the year. Yes, it may look cluttered, but it will be filled with colourful flags, and the students will be amazed to realize all the places they visited in their school term! It'll also bring a different excitement to their study - they may be able to better remember concepts or facts because they can associate them with places on the map.

A world map can also be put up at home. The kids can use it for the school term flag idea mentioned above. Or, together, the family can use it for other activities.
We can put flags to indicate: 

  • Places we visited during holidays 
  • Places we would like to visit
  • Places famous for our favorite delicacies
  • Places where our family and friends are settled
  • Locations of the story or novel we read or our favorite movie
The map would be like a chart that tells you the story about the people who live in the house, don't you think?
If you had a world map, what would you put on it?

Friday, 24 February 2012

Fun Science

Our day on February 18 began with a nice surprise. The morning edition of Times of India, Mumbai had a packet of tomato seeds pasted on the front page. The seeds were part of the Kissan ketchup ad campaign, and an innovative one I must say. The ad provided a packet of tomato seeds and listed the steps to plant them, and grow a tomato plant. More information was provided on their website.

Needless to say, my to-do item for the weekend was to buy a nice pot and plant the seed, along with my daughter. We'll be taking milestone pictures of our plant project and then we'll create a picture sequence that shows the journey of a tomato - from seed to plant.

Science always lends itself to interesting projects that we can do at home with our kids, not necessarily as part of studies, but just as an activity. Experiments allow kids to observe and infer how things work. Very young kids (toddlers) may not understand the scientific reasoning behind things, but they do understand some bit of cause and effect, and their sharp minds remember things.

Experiments with older kids are more fun, because their inquisitive nature makes activities more challenging; they always want to know "why". And they don't need to visit a lab to quench their inquisitiveness, because science is all around us.

Here are some fun activities that you can do with kids, and have them conclude why or how things happened.
  • Which toys float and which toys sink in the bath tub?
  • Focus the flashlight on the wall and block it with your hand and observe shadows (older kids can conclude why shadows are formed)
  • Race cars of different sizes (body and wheels) and find out which ones go fast
  • What happens if we don't water plants?
And if you are a working parent, and can't find enough time to do activities with your kids, you need not feel guilty. Because, you can buy your kids story books that teach science.

Check out the Magic School Bus series. They have books for different reader levels, which take children on amazing science adventures!

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Around the World in 8 1/2 days with Judy Moody

This is in continuation to our earlier post about making Geography interesting for kids.

Around the World in 8 1/2 days is a book by Megan McDonald. The book is about Judy Moody, a grade three student who makes a new friend in school - Amy Namey. At first Judy doesn't like Amy, but a thought from her little brother Stink, makes Judy change her mind. Judy and Amy soon become best friends and members of the "My-name-is-a-poem" club.

As their friendship progresses, Judy, Amy and the other grade three students, take the reader through a journey around the world, which is their school project. Besides finding fun facts about different places in the world, the readers also learn about the importance of friendship.

Things like Bubblegum Alley, ABC (already been chewed gum), make your own gum kit and the pizza table tower keep the reader entertained and giggling, and make this book a fantastico (as Judy would say it) read for 5-7 year old children.

Putting FUN into Learning

As a child, Social Studies was not one of my favourite subjects. And that's probably because our textbooks stated facts in a plain manner and no one really explained the importance/relevance of learning about places and cultures.
My kids are still small, but I already have ideas on how to make Geography interesting for them (without letting them know). Sharing my ideas with you...
  1. The world map - Each year we travel to some place (India or aborad) during summer vaccations - it'll be a good idea to have kids do some research about the destination they will be visiting, and create their own tour guide.

    As an after activity, they can create a photo album about their visit to the place and also write about their holiday.
  2. Stories - Stories are a wonderful resource to learn about people and culture. As children read books, have them write a short report about the location (non-fictional) where the story was set - the report can include list of interesting places mentioned in the story, lifestyle, culture and any other features.
  3. Music - They say music knows no boundaries - today thanks to satellite radio and television, we have access to channels that play different world music. Have children select a music theme/type/genre and find out its origin and how culture of a place impacts the music
  4. Food - This is my favourite category. Each time you take your kids out to a speciality restaurant, ask them to read the items on the menu. They can select 2-3 items and do some research to find out the origin of the food - right from where the crop is produced to which country the dish belongs to.
I hope you find these useful, and if you like them, do write back and let me know, so I am encouraged to write more. And yes, if you can think of any other ideas, please share them too.

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

My Magical Pitara

Summer Holidays are coming up, and as my almost 4-yr old daughter will gear up for her holidays, I wish I too can go back to being a child and enjoy the summer holidays. Summer holidays for me meant spending the mornings and afternoons reading books and escaping into the fantasy world of stories and evenings were meant for outdoor fun.

We were given a monthly book budget each month, and we could use the money to buy any book of our choice. It was their way of encouraging the reading habit, and it worked!!!

I had a cupboard full of books - adventure, fiction, humour, knowledge - it was all there. The cupboard was my magical pitara. Any time I felt bored, lonely or down, I would go to my magical pitara and pull out a book that would transform me into a different world.

Books were and still are my best friend. And that's why today, when I have my own 2 little kids, I spend some afternoons with them telling them stories. In fact, I enjoy story telling so much, that I am tempted to start a story telling venture for children.

What do you that a good idea? If you have a bunch of kids who would enjoy listening to a story, then drop me a line, I would love to conduct a story telling session for them.