Hands-on Learning about Ladybugs

Last year we planted some watermelon seeds and have been doing lots of learning about how to care for watermelon plants and even enjoying some very juicy watermelons. However, a few weeks ago, my children discovered some ladybugs on our watermelon plant and this has led them on an interest-led learning journey all about ladybugs. 

We spent time out in our garden each morning observing the ladybugs and just watching what they were doing and where they were going. While we were observing them my children started to ask questions such as what do ladybugs eat, do they sleep, how do they have babies and is that a cocoon?

The Life Cycle
One of my children’s first questions was how ladybugs have babies or reproduce. We had previously looked at the ladybug life cycle last year so they had a basic idea. We were lucky enough to be able to observe the complete life cycle of a ladybug right in our garden. Through observation we found ladybug eggs under some leaves in our garden, we observed the larva moving around and even saw a few different pupa’s and of course, plenty of adult ladybugs.

Even as we observed their life cycle, questions about why they laid their eggs under a leaf instead of on top of the leaf came up. So we took our learning inside to investigate these questions further. Their questions are always a good indication of where their interests are and what direction their learning is heading. My children found their Safari Ladybug Life Cycle figurines and the nomenclature cards I had made to explore the life cycle further.

Without interrupting their learning, I set up a simple provocative with our speilgaben set to provoke an open-ended way for my children to create and explore ladybugs through art. Miss 5 took the opportunity to create a ladybug and some ladybug eggs on a leaf like she had seen in the garden.

Ladybug Anatomy
While we had been observing the ladybugs in our garden, we watched a ladybug spread out their wings and flutter around. This provoked questions such as how do ladybugs fly and where are their wings.

I used ladybug nomenclature cards to introduce parts of a ladybug to my children. I introduced the control cards first as we talked about the name and where it was located on the ladybugs body. This was followed matching the picture cards and word card to the control cards.

To make learning about ladybug anatomy more hands-on, I made a ladybug model out of felts (I share my FREE template at the end of this post). So my children used the word cards to identify and label their ladybug. Each of them did this activity a number of times over a few weeks as they used the control cards to identify the parts of the ladybugs anatomy. This was such a great independent learning activity.

 

Ladybug Diet
Another question that my children wanted to know was what did ladybugs eat. My children use our Beetles and Bugs guide to search for the information. They discovered aphids are what ladybugs like to eat and this is a good thing as aphids are considered pests and they eat crops….just like our watermelon! They went straight out in search of aphids and found plenty of them all over our watermelon vine. This was a fantastic learning moment when my children realised what ladybugs do and why they are important in our garden and other gardens that grow fruits and vegetables.

Interest Shelf
As the interest in ladybugs has grown, we have slowly put together an interest shelf of all the resources we have been using. So far we have books as well as the ladybug life cycle and anatomy resources that I have shared above. I am sure over the coming weeks my children will add more resources to their interest table.

You can download a copy of my printable ladybug life cycle cards as well as a ladybug anatomy template puzzle.

You can find more hands-on activity ideas and resources over on my Insects pinterest board

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Learning about Aboriginal Rock Art (Kakadu)

My children were first introduced to Aboriginal culture through introducing Australian history, reading different dreamtime stories and learning about UluruWe recently took road-trip to the World Heritage listed Kakadu National Park where we took the opportunity to explore some of the 5,000 recorded and identified Aboriginal art sites that are there. By taking our children to Kakadu to see the aboriginal rock art, we were also about to see the most ancient and authentic art gallery we had ever been too. We were hoping to help  our children understand the rich and proud history of the aboriginal people of Kakadu but we discovered and gained a whole lot more about the world’s most ancient living culture.

Books about Kakadu
An interest in Aboriginal rock art has been slowly emerging after we borrowed some books from our local library to read about Kakadu, where some rock art is located. Some of our most favourite picture books have been written about Kakadu, the traditional owners and their culture. These books help tell the story of Kakadu, the seasons, the people, their culture, their history and their way of life. Our favourite books include:

 

Documentary about Kakadu
As the interest grew, my son came across this fantastic documentary about Kakadu that we watched. This documentary takes you through twelve months of the life and death, extreme weather changes, the amazing animals and people who are lucky enough to call Kakadu home. It gives you a deep insight into the traditional owners who work together with the park rangers in order to keep the magic of Kakadu alive. This documentary can be viewed in full on You Tube; Episode 1, Episode 2, Episode 3 and Episode 4. A Kakadu Study Guide is also available as a free download.

Aboriginal Rock Art
The most visited Aboriginal Rock Art galleries in Kakadu are Nourlangie, Nanguluwur and Ubirr and we were lucky enough to visit Ubirr while we were there.

 

In general, Aboriginal rock art is their way of recording their stories through symbols, also known as iconography, as Aboriginal people do not have their own written language. Depending on where the artist lived, Aboriginal art will vary in character and style so different Aboriginal families will approach art in their own unique way. The rock art paintings are used for recording information about local foods, traditions and dreamtime. It is also used for teaching the next generation about hunting and caring for their land.

For the Aboriginal land owners of Ubirr rock, their paintings tell the story of their country and their people. Just like the dreaming stories, we are privileged that the Aboriginal people are willing to share their ancient stories and lives with us. 

Many of the paintings at Ubirr rock show records of the different foods, an illustrated menu, that the Aboriginal owners would catch and eat such as barramundi and turtles. It also shows the hunting tools they used and their unique artist style. It also records important events in the lives of the traditional owners of Ubirr rock. This is one of the reasons why Kakadu is on the World Heritage list.


Not only were the ancient rock paintings around Ubirr rock just amazing to see but when you reach the top of the rocky outlook, you get this incredible view of Kakadu. You can’t help but be taken away by the beauty and vastness of this land.

I hope this has inspired you to get out and find the history that is in your local community so you can gain a better understanding of the past and present. And if you live in my beautiful country Australia, I hope this has inspired you to take your children travelling to see the rich and ancient culture that is alive in our country today and gain a better understand the Aboriginal people and their rich culture. 

You can find more learning resources and information on Australian Aboriginals on my pinterest board.

10 ways to encourage healthy eating choices

We have always encouraged our children to make healthy eating choices right from their very first taste of solid food. Although we do have the occasional “sometimes food” it is important that my children establish good eating habits and learn how to make healthy eating choices for themselves. So as we’ve been learning about teeth and how to keep them healthy we have also been looking at food and how “we are what we eat”. So here are ten ways we encourage healthy eating in our home.

Rainbow of Fruits and Vegetables
A few years ago I came across Kristine’s post Eating a Rainbow. At the time my son was only five years old and her suggested activities were perfect for him. You can read about our rainbow coloured recipe here. This really helped my son with understanding the importance of eating fruits and vegetables. So recently, we did the same activity with my daughters.

We started with a pile of magazines and grocery shop catalogues and found pictures of fruits and vegetables of all different colours. We sorted the fruits and vegetables pictures into colour groups.

We glued the pictures down onto the matching coloured paper as we talked about what the fruits and vegetables were called (turnip was a new vegetable for them) and I wrote the names beside them. Because our dinning room is also our learning room, we hung up our Rainbow of Fruits and Vegetables above our interest table and later, they be stuck on our fridge so they can be used as a reference guide to choose healthy eating.

Cooking Together
We have a pile of kids cooking books that we have used over the years for learning in the kitchen but recently I came across Teepee Learning who makes these fantastic Healthy Alphabet Flash Cards. Each card has beautiful photographs of different fruits and vegetables as well as a recipe on the back of each card. 

Naturally we started with the Aa is for Apple card and made these yummy apple and cinnamon muffins before moving onto Bb is for Banana card and making Banana and Oatmeal Bars. These cards have added to my children’s love of cooking together while encouraging healthy eating choices. 

Learn about food groups
I downloaded the Australia Guide to Healthy Eating to show how other healthy foods fit into our diet.  I have always used the phrase “sometimes foods” when referring to less healthy items such as chips, icecream, lollies and chocolate for example. Since we were learning about teeth and how to keep them healthy, it was important to understand how these “sometimes foods” cause cavities and decay in our teeth as they lack the nutrition that we need.

Read about healthy eating
Last year Woolworths, together with Jamie Oliver, brought out a book called Jamie’s Garden which has encouraged my children to eat and grow fresh fruit and vegetables. They have returned to this little book a number of times to read about planting, cleaning, preparing and cooking fruits and veggies as well as how to grow them. We also have a range of fruit and vegetable magazines, thanks to my own interest in growing foods, that my children have been reading from time to time.

Grow food together
I’m not farmer and have had my fair share of dead plants but there is something so rewarding about growing your own food. Not only is it a wonderful way for children to learn about seeds, nature and how things grow, but its also a fantastic way for  them to understand where their food comes from. This is where children learn about being a producer rather than just a consumer. This last year we have grown watermelon and I would never had imagined the amount of learning that we have had from just planting those tiny watermelon seeds in our garden.

Planning meals together

This might sound like an odd thing to do but we sit down together as a family and plan our meals. Each of our three children choose a meal that they want to cook or help us prepare for the family each week. They sometimes use different cook books to find new recipes to make but overall, this weekly activity has encouraged healthy eating choices and supporting our children as they learn skills they will need later in life.

Shopping together 
Once a week, we take our meal planner and my children and I head to our grocery store together. In doing this, we are setting an example by making healthy food choices by buying foods that are  nutrienous and healthy for us. 

 
Eat meals together as a family
Many years ago I read somewhere that eating dinner together as a family at the end of the day was a great to establish good eating habits, setting a good example on healthy eating choices as well as create quality family time. 

Pack lunches when going out 
When I was young my mother used to always pack us lunch if we were heading out of the house for the day. I thought it was to save on money, which is a bonus, but it was so we could have fresh healthy food to eat while we were out and not have to rely on fast food. My mother set a great example for me as I have continued this and make healthy eating choices for my family when we are going out for the day.

Set the example
There have been times that I haven’t always set the best example when it comes to making healthy eating choices but as a parent and home educator, my actions speak louder than my words. So setting the example and choosing foods that are good for my body and mind will set the example for my children. 

You can find more activity and resource ideas as well as recipes over on my Kids in the Kitchen – Healthy Eating pinterest board.
 
 

Encouraging Independent Creativity with Clay

When it comes to arts and craft I like to encourage my children to express their creative side by forming their own ideas on how their artwork should look and how they go about creating it. I have written about How to Encourage Independent Creativity a few months ago and I can honestly say this works brilliantly for my children as  they have gained confidence in their own creative abilities. So I want to show you how we take an activity and encourage independent creative expression with my learners.
  

Clever Patch has kindly gifted us their Clever Clay Snow Wonderland set to work with. I showed my children this activity, we read through the instruction on how to assemble the snow wonderland (but not how to create or design your object) and all three of them were a buzz with their own ideas of what they wanted to make. 

We started by having a look at the clay, feeling it and seeing how it works as this is something we haven’t really explore much of yet. In our set, Clever Patch included a guide on mixing the clay to make different colours. My children have always been interested in mixing colours especially when they are using paints, so it was no surprise that they jumped at the chance to mix their own colours. 

Aboriginal Didgeridoo
Once my son (9years) started mixing the colours to make brown (his chosen colour), he started to see how the colours that were blending together liked a didgeridoo. This was the start of his creative idea.

My sons first attempt at making a didgeridoo didn’t quite go to plan so a second one was made and he was much happier with it. He mixed together white and black clay  to make grey for his rock as this gave his didgeridoo something to lean against. This process was all about my son making his own independent decisions about his creative process.

The instructions that Clever Patch provided us told how to do to make the final step in completing a snow wonderland. We had to attach our character to the jar lid, add water and glitter with a drop of detergent to prevent glitter from sticking to the clay (as we found out) into the jar before attaching the lid (tightly) and our snow wonderland was complete.


The Snow Blob
Miss 5 was in no rush with her clay creation. She spent much of her time mixing primary colours to make secondary colours and at one stage told me that she had no idea what to make and she would try it again later. This was NOT my cue for filling her head with ideas but this was her saying that she wanted time and space to come up with her own idea.

Miss 5 came back sometime later and decided she wanted to make a snow blob. Choosing her colours, shaping them and putting them into place is what this independent, creative process is all about and that is exactly what she did.

Once she was happy with her creation, Miss 5 placed it on the lid, turned it over and put the lid on the jar which had water, glitter and a bit of detergent in it.

Snail Playing Ball
Miss 4 joined in to make her own creation with clay. She happily chose her coloured clay to mix together just like her siblings had done. Being so little she did get frustrated with mixing the clay together but this is all part of the learning process.

By mixing the clay together her creative expression began to take place as she rolled out her clay and made a “sausage” before rolling it into a snail shape. There was no need for me to intervene as she was forming her own ideas about making a snail and what she wanted to do.

Miss 4 added little yellow eyes so the snail could see in the dark and pink ball was made so the snail could play with it. This whole process of independent creativity also encouraged her imagination as she put together her master piece. Miss 4 did need my help to attached her creation to the lid before we put the lid onto the jar completing her snow wonderland.

Three very different creations were made by three very different artist using the same material yet their creative process was the same…independent. Forming their own ideas and creating their own master piece gives them confidence in their own ability as learners and artists. It also gives them freedom to express their own creativity and ideas. 

“Every child is an artist” – Pablo Picasso

This is NOT a sponsored post. Clever Patch gifted me the Clever Clay Snow Wonderland set and all comments expressed here are my own.


Hands-on Learning about Teeth

Last year we made a trip to our dentist and sadly, my son had to have a tooth removed as it was badly decayed. Since that visit, my children have been very focused on learning about their teeth and how to keep them healthy. They have had lots of questions about why we have teeth, why do teeth fall out, how come there are different size teeth, what happens when you break your adult teeth, what are braces? So here are some of the interest-led ways we have learned about our teeth over the last few months.

I put together a little basket of all the “teeth” related items we had. Our dentist was kind enough to give us teeth molds for my kids to explore and I found some of my old plates (yes, I used to wear braces), some baby teeth that had fallen out and my sons newly extract molar. I left these items on our learning shelf to encourage an interest and to provoke curiosity and further questions.
Keeping Our Teeth Clean
Our dentist had talked with our children about how to brush their teeth so each tooth is cleaned preventing plaque build up and decay. To help my children remember how to brush effectively I found these sequence of teeth brushing visual prompts that we hung up in front of our bathroom sink. In doing this, my children are reminded on how to brush ALL of these teeth and what sequence they could do it in.
 
As the interest in teeth continued to grow, I purchased a Science Time Dentistry Deluxe kit from Big W and the kit came with some fantastic hands-on resources, including this permanent teeth model. We used our teeth model to practice brushing teeth making sure we got all the teeth especially at the back. We also watched How To Bush Your Teeth on You Tube and looked at how to floss our teeth as well.

Types of Teeth
My son lost one of his deciduous (baby) teeth and this sparked a curiosity about the different types of teeth and why we have them. So we used the manual that came with our Dentistry Deluxe kit to read about the names of the different teeth, to look at their sizes and what their main jobs are. We looked at molars, premolars, canines and incisors and removed these teeth from our model to see their different shape.



I also downloaded these FREE teeth development nomenclature cards from The Pinay Homeschooler. Because we had already talked about the name of each tooth and what they do, I simply placed the cards in a basket on our learning shelf. This approach works well with my children as it gives them the opportunity to select the activity independently and when they are curious about it rather then me having to direct them.


Parts of Teeth
The dentist had talked about tooth decay with us and this was something that my son (9 years old) wanted to know more about. He started by looking at Tooth Decay on You Tube and searched through some of our human body books. He found a diagram of a tooth and constructed it with play dough noting each part of the tooth and how decay attacks the enamel.

Tooth Decay
Miss 5 took particular interest in tooth decay as well. She used our Tooth Model from Modern Teaching Aids and her understanding of tooth decay to draw a diagram of decay attaching a tooth. She easily explained to me how tooth decay works and what she needs to do to avoid getting holes in her teeth.

Books about Teeth
Books are always a fantastic resource for introducing children to different topics. The Jenny Evolution blog has put together a list of 10 Picture Books about Brushing Teeth for Kids that are perfect to help children learn all about teeth.
Healthy Eating, Healthy Teeth
As well as having good teeth cleaning habits, we have talked about and practiced having a healthy diet. You can read more about our 10 ways to encourage healthy eating.

You can find more hands-on ideas and resources for learning about teeth and other human body related subjects on my Human Body pinterest board.