Sometimes as adults, we read these blogs and articles, or in my case, recipe books and try to follow each set of directions to a tee. We face enough stress in life without the need of putting more on ourselves. “Families shouldn’t feel pressured to do ‘exactly’ what some of these sites illustrate in terms of the activities described” according to Becky (she/her), educator at Hilltop. “But can instead take the ideas as inspiration and apply them to their own home environment, the materials they already have on hand, the outdoor space they have access to, and their own energy/interest level.”
 
“If they (the families) think an activity looks fun/interesting, they’ll be more motivated to set it up for their kiddo and their enthusiasm will come through and spark their child’s interest. And if an activity looks overwhelming/stressful/too messy, then don’t bother! The goal is to engage in learning with their child in a fun & positive way, not to create more stress for themselves.”
 
As the shelter-in-place order wages on, Becky and her colleague, Nick T. (he/him), have collated a list of activities Hilltop educators have provided the families and communities we serve to help guardians keep children active, engaged, and emotionally supported during this time. Below are three examples of our favorite Science, Nature, STEM related activities! We invite you to share this blog with your community and with your colleagues.
 
Early Math Matters – Supporting Math and Numeracy Acquisition at Home: 
PBS Learning Media has some excellent 2-3 min videos to show parents how to incorporate math activities in easy ways at home
 
Summary of ideas from PBS: 
Numerals & Counting: Use an empty cereal box to cut out cards and draw numerals & the corresponding number of dots for numbers 1-20. Take time to trace the numerals with your finger and count the dots. Play a game with your child where they think up a movement, pick a card from the pile face-down, and then do that movement for the number of times as indicated on their card. Then switch roles and let them direct you!
 
Shapes: make play dough at home and then challenge your child to cut out specific shapes, compare and contrast them
 
Sorting & Patterns: Encourage your child to gather up small interesting materials from around the house or outdoors, then make little collections by sorting the materials by different attributes (size, color, shape, texture, etc.). Compare and contrast the different collections, count how may items are in each collection, make patterns with the items, draw them, etc. Sorting is actually a component of early algebra! 
 
*Spatial Reasoning: Create a treasure map with your child… draw a map of your home, hide a little something for them to find, and then draw an ‘x’ on the map where you’ve hidden it. Use positional/spatial vocabulary with them (“you looked under the bed, have you tried looking above the book shelf?”). Then switch roles and have them hide the treasure & mark the ‘x’ for you to find! To make this more challenging, give the child clues (using positional vocabulary) rather than marking the ‘x’ so they have to do more searching and apply that vocabulary to their thinking process. 
 
Measurement & Comparison: Find some recycled paper or cardboard and trace your and your child’s foot and hand (if you have more family members at home, include them too). Cut out the tracings, then encourage your child to write their name on their cut-out (and if they’re able/interested, to write the other family members’ names on their cut-outs, as well). Then compare sizes – who’s foot/hand is wider, longer, thinner, shorter? Find small items around the house like pennies, paper-clips, jelly beans, etc. to create a standard unit to measure the sizes of each cut-out (“Dad’s foot is 10 pennies long, but mine is only 5 pennies long”, etc.)
 
*A favorite among Hilltop children’s and faculty! 
 
Nature and the World Around Us:
Burke Museum (Seattle, WA) has put together an excellent collection of home activities, including virtual field trips & brief videos about specific exhibits.
 
Summary of ideas from Burke: 
*Burke’s “Activities for Kids & Families” tab features coloring sheets, craft activities, and backyard scavenger hunt idea for dinosaur & plant lovers!
 
Burke’s “Native Plants and Animals Identification” tab debunks myths and offers you the opportunity to explore the diversity of fascinating amphibians and reptiles!
 
*A favorite among Hilltop children’s and faculty! 
 
A Passion for Slime and Other STEM Related Activities:
Little Bin for Little Hands makes science and STEM look cool and easy! This site is great for children who are just starting to explore how cool STEM could be and for those who are in need for a more cognitive challenge and concrete activities to work on at home.
 
Summary of ideas from Little Bin for Little Hands: 
*Edible Science Experiments: Kids are naturally curious and they love to be helpful in the kitchen. We have everything from edible rocks to fizzy drinks and a few fun extras thrown in along the way. Kids really pick up simple science when they get to participate and can also enjoy the outcome, which of course is tasting everything.
 
Space: The universe has a mysterious and magical quality to it, and yet we can start to learn about it with these simple space activities for kids. Explore the moon with moon craters, and fizzy moon rocks, learn about the phases of the moon, our galaxy and more!
 
Ocean Activities & Environmental Justice: Fun ocean activities and ocean crafts to learn, play, discover, and explore one of the best places on Earth, the beach!  These ocean activities are perfect for summertime! Find simple hands-on STEM and sensory ideas suitable for preschoolers to early elementary.

*A favorite among Hilltop children’s and faculty! 

We hope you enjoy these activities as much as our community did! These preschool STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Math) activities will keep little ones busy, ignite their curiosity, develop their problem-solving capacities, and teach them the basics of STEAM that they’ll need to succeed throughout their life.

Looking for additional learning opportunities? Check Out Our Educator Discussion Series, including our two next virtual learning workshops:

  1. Cross-Cultural Communications: What I Said and What I Meant
    Saturday, June 6th, 2020
    11:00am – 12:30pm PST (2:00pm – 3:30pm EST)
    This workshop is geared towards anyone who works with adults! 
    Register at: http://hilltopcc.com/crosscultural
  2. No Walls, No Problem! Addressing the Barriers to Taking Learning Outside
    Thursday, July 9th, 2020,
    5:00pm – 6:30pm PST (8:00pm – 9:30pm EST)
    This workshop is geared towards educators, parents/relatives, interested professionals, policy-makers and more! 
    Register at: http://hilltopcc.com/outdoors

What’s better than one male educators of color? Two! Check out Hilltop’s brand new podcast called “Napcast” which features Mike Browne (he/him) and Nick Terrones (he/him).  This podcast is designed to help you learn on the go, hear another perspective, spark debate and honestly, remind you that you’re not alone. We live in a complex world, so allow us to challenge your orientation with words, thoughts, advice, and the perspective of two early childhood educators of color. Visit Napcast to tune in now and check out the rest of our professional development offerings including Hilltop Study Days and Study Tours to New Zealand. Feel free to email us at institute@hilltopcc.org.

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