}

Super Science Activities

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These are fun science activities that can be done with kids and many of them use items you probably already have around the house!Super Science Activities to do with kids with inexpensive items

Kitchen Science Activities

Jello Science Experiments from here on The Chaos and The Clutter (pictured)

Fireworks in Oil and Water from Go Science Girls

Edible Science Experiments for Kids {Printables} The Natural Homeschool

Naked Egg Cell Study from STEAM Powered Family

Testing for Air from Happy Brown House

Onion DNA Experiment from Teach Beside Me (pictured)

Sink or Float Experiment with Lemons from One Perfect Day

Make Your Own Plastic Toys with Milk from STEAM Powered Family

Lima Bean Dissection from Mama Papa Bubba

How to Make Frost from Schooling a Monkey (pictured)

Dancing Rice from Buggy and Buddy

Colourful Celery from here on The Chaos and The Clutter

Apple Science from Coffee Cups and Crayons

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Solar System Science Activities

Solar System I-Spy Bag from Research Parent (pictured)

Our Space Explorer Adventure from The Natural Homeschool

Phases of the Moon from The Pinay Homeschooler

Space Sensory Bottle from here on The Chaos and The Clutter (pictured)

Solar System Unit from here on The Chaos and The Clutter

Space Adventures, Games & Activities for Kids {Printable Sets} from The Natural Homeschool

Candy Science Activities

Colourful Candy Science Experiments from STEAM Powered Family (pictured)

Skittles Density Experiment from Winegums & Watermelons

Dissolving Gobstoppers from Mama Papa Bubba

Gummy Bear Osmosis Science from Raising Lifelong Learners

Science with Candy from Mama Miss

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Outdoor Science Activities

Backyard Science Lab from Racheous

Nature Ideas for Kids: Herb Garden Play from The Natural Homeschool

Frozen Bubbles from P is for Preschooler

Making a Solar Still from Teach Beside Me

Make a Windsock from here on The Chaos and The Clutter

Nature Ideas for Kids from The Natural Homeschool

Earth Science Activities

How Fold Mountains are Made from here on The Chaos and The Clutter (pictured)

Earthquake Science Experiment from here on The Chaos and The Clutter

Erosion vs. Weathering from The Natural Homeschool (pictured)

How do Salt Flats Form from Planet Smarty Pants

Layers of the Earth from here on The Chaos and The Clutter (pictured)

Graham Cracker Plate Tectonics from Playdough to Plato (pictured)

Making Groundwater from here on The Chaos and The Clutter

Wave in a Bottle from Sugar, Spice and Glitter

Gravity Defying Beads from here on The Chaos and The Clutter

Tide Pool Science Experiment from Buggy and Buddy (pictured)

Must Haves for Kids with Sensory Needs

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Four of my kids have Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD). It’s been a challenge to learn what works best for them but now that we have been on this road for many years, I have discovered things that make their lives so much easier. I wish I had known in the beginning what a huge difference a few small changes could make. These are some of the must-haves that I have found in working with them. It was hard to create this list because not only are there different types of Sensory Processing Disorder that present very differently and can actually present opposing needs, but each child is also so unique. You can read more about the signs of Sensory Processing Disorder here. I am sharing what works for some of my kids. What works for other kids with sensory needs may vary.

These are must-haves if you have kids with sensory processing disorder (SPD).

The books…

There are several books geared towards children regarding Sensory Processing Disorder and I have shared some in Our Favourite Books for Kids About Special Needs.

The Out-of-Sync Child: Recognizing and Coping With Sensory Processing Disorder and Sensational Kids: Hope and Help for Children with Sensory Processing Disorder are two must-reads for parents or teachers of kids with SPD. The Out-of-Sync Child has Fun also has great ideas for activities and practical suggestions that are very helpful.

Sensory Processing 101 is a very comprehensive book written in part by a mom with a child with SPD. It explains SPD very well and also has a large section on activities and contains handy printables. It is great for teachers, professionals and parents.

Weighted items…

Not all of our kids like weighted items but the ones that do, love them! We buy our weighted blankets, capes, neck rolls, and neck curves at Innovaid (you may recognize some of the models on their site as my kids!).

Two of our kids who like deep pressure have a very hard time sleeping without their weighted blankets. Those same two have an easier time attending during our homeschool lessons if they wear a weighted cape or neck curve. They also have weighted stuffed animals that seem to help calm them.

There are tutorials available that walk you through making your own weighted blanket. (hint: click that highlighted text to take you to a list of online tutorials) There are also tutorials for making your own weighted vests.

weighted blanket for sleep

Fidgets…

Fidget toys such as the ones from Tangle Creations can be very helpful in focusing. Especially for children who have to attend for longer periods of time, they can make a tremendous difference. In order for something to be called a fidget toy, it doesn’t need to be officially sold as such. The one most often used by my kids is sensory balls and we make our own for pennies.

Create Your Own Sensory Balls (for pennies each)

My kids also use things like knobby balls or stretchy snakes when they are sitting at their desks so that they have something in their hands to squeeze and pull and move around in their fingers but that doesn’t make a lot of noise or distract the other kids.

knobby balls

Project Sensory offers a wide variety of fidgets as well as other sensory items. They are focused on helping children succeed at navigating the world around them.

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Seat Aids…

Two of my kids really like the Movin’ Sit Cushion. This wonderful invention allows them to stay seated but move around silently at the same time! Not all of my SPD kids like it though.

movin' sit cushionThere are other ways to help your child with SPD in sitting. At places like Ikea, you can buy round textured disks that are about the size of a seat and some kids like the feel of sitting on them.

Another adjustment you can easily make to the chairs in your home to make them more SPD-friendly is to put a theraband or other type of stretchy band around the legs of the chair. This provides sensory feedback to a child who is sitting swinging their legs, as the backs of their legs will make contact with the theraband. One way to explain why some children find this helpful is this…children with SPD do not always have a good sense of where their own body is in space and when their legs swing freely while they sit, it can be an unsettling feeling, but providing a resistance band on the legs of the chair gives them feedback and lets them know where they are in relation to the chair and to the room around them.

Other suggestions include things such as bean bag chairs or swivel chairs, though I don’t recommend swivel chairs in a classroom setting! We have a bean bag chair in our homeschool classroom and it is very popular!

Sensory Bins…

We use sensory bins every day in our home and our homeschool. All of our kids love them and they have been particularly effective with our kids who have SPD. I try to make a different sensory bin every week. I sometimes incorporate what we are learning in our homeschooling into the sensory bin.

The Ultimate Guide to Sensory BinsChew Toys…

Some sensory kids feel the need to chew on things. If they are not given something to chew on, they will chew on pencils, clothes, toys, or even their own fingers. For “chewers”, chew toys are a healthy alternative to those things. There are chew toys that can be purchased, Chewlery (chewable jewelry), pencil toppers designed to be chewed on, or chewy wrist bands.

Play Dough…

Play dough is an inexpensive and effective tool to use with kids with SPD. If you have some readily available, kids can use it when they are anxious, overstimulated or even while they are trying to sit still and pay attention. The store-bought play dough doesn’t stay soft for very long and can get crumbly and messy, so I prefer to make my own such as this lavender scented playdough (although I don’t love all that stirring!). There are many wonderful recipes available for homemade playdough online like Jello Playdough and I have included some recipes in my Sensory Bins book.

Anxiety Aids…

Sometimes, sensory issues and anxiety can go hand-in-hand. For my youngest daughter who deals with anxiety due to other issues, I have created an anti-anxiety kit and many of the items in the kit are useful with all of my kids, particularly when they are overstimulated and are having a hard time self-regulating.

Create an Anti-Anxiety Kit for Your ChildSnugness… 

Some of my kids are more comfortable wearing tight clothing or having the feeling of being snug. There are several ways that we achieve this. One is by them wearing a gymnastics body suit (the kind that goes down almost to the knee) that is a size or two too small underneath their clothing. Innovaid carries a pressure vest that provides essentially the same effect and can be worn under or over clothing.

pressure vest

Another way is by using a sensory sock. You can make your own by sewing a tube with stretchy fabric.

Music…

Some children with SPD find music soothing and it can help with their self-regulation. For kids who prefer white noise, a small sound therapy machine can be invaluable. When it comes time to do quiet seat work in our homeschool, ironically, the classroom is actually quieter if I play music while the kids do their work!

Noise Reduction Headphones:

One of our sons could not get by without his noise reduction headphones. He is extremely sensitive to sound and uses them in the house and especially when we go somewhere that is going to be loud. I try to remember to bring them with us when we will be going to see fireworks or in a crowded place that may be noisy. They have made a huge difference.

Must Haves for Kids with Sensory Needsimage copyright: bnehus1 / 123RF Stock Photo

What items have you found to be must-haves with your kids with sensory needs?

If you are looking for more ideas for sensory needs, you may be interested in following my Sensory Activities for Kids and Sensory Processing Disorder boards on Pinterest.

Follow Sharla Kostelyk’s board Sensory Activities for Kids on Pinterest.

Money Saving Sensory Solutions

6 Tips to Surviving Public Bathrooms with a Child with Sensory IssuesSurviving Public Bathrooms with a Child with Sensory Issues

Olympics Crafts and Activities for Kids

(This post may contain affiliate links. For more information, see my disclosure policy.)

I love the Olympics. There is something about watching nations come together to cheer on a common cause and hearing inspiring stories about athletes who have beaten the odds or overcome seemingly impossible obstacles that just gets me. Being a homeschooler, the Games also offers me an opportunity to teach my kids about what they can learn from that spirit of determination and to study the host country.

Olympics Crafts and Activities and lots of ideas to get your kids engagedI like to make the learning more fun by also incorporating some Olympics crafts, activities, themed food, and of course, we always have our own little mini Olympics for both Summer and Winter Games complete with medals.

Olympics Activities:

Create Your Own Backyard Olympics from here on The Chaos and The Clutter (this was so, so much fun!)

Olympic Torch Game for Kids from Teach Mama

Olympic Torch Obstacle Course from Melissa and Doug (pictured)

Move Like a Gymnast from Creative Family Fun

Olympics Crafts:

O is for “Olympics” from I Can Teach My Child (pictured)

Olympics Paper Chain Countdown from Housing a Forest (pictured)

Coffee Filter Olympic Rings from No Time for Flash Cards (pictured)

Olympic Fun Lego Ring Sorting from Toddler Approved

Paper Plate Olympic Rings from Meaningful Mama (pictured)

Laurel Wreath from Kids Activities Blog

Salt Dough Olympic Medals from The Imagination Tree (pictured)

Olympic Torch Painting Projects from JDaniel4’s Mom

Olympic Torch Craft for Preschoolers from Happy Hooligans (pictured)

Olympic Ring Bottle Cap Sort from Housing a Forest (pictured)

Olympic Sensory Activity from Playtivities

Olympic Torch for the Opening Ceremony from Naturally Educational (pictured)

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Olympics Food:

Edible Olympic Rings from The Iowa Farmer’s Wife

Olympic Snack Necklaces from Coffee Cups and Crayons

Olympic Ring and Olympic Medal Cookies from I Can Teach my Child

Olympics Inspired Healthy Snack Recipe from See Vanessa Craft (pictured)

Olympic Ring Pretzels from I Can Teach my Child (pictured)

Olympics Printables:

Summer Olympics Pack from 3 Dinosaurs

Summer Olympics Observation Sheet from 3 Dinosaurs

Summer Olympic Pack Colour by Letter from 3 Dinosaurs

More:

What the Olympics Can Teach Our Kids from here on The Chaos and The Clutter

What are you doing to celebrate the upcoming Olympics?

Helping Struggling Readers Love Reading

(This post may contain affiliate links. For more information, see my disclosure policy.)

Our oldest read easily and on schedule. When I say “on schedule”, I of course mean some random age that the school system determines that kids should be reading by, which I now know better than to care about but when our second son wasn’t reading by that age, I worried. Another year went by and he still wasn’t reading or even progressing and I started to have an internal panic. I knew that to make a big deal of him not reading would only make him more self-conscious and less likely to want to try, so I kept my worry inside, but I was concerned.

Thankfully, I had some wise friends in my life at the time who talked me down. One of them asked me the question, “what good would it do if he learned to read but along the way, came to hate reading?” That stuck with me. If I pushed too hard, it might turn him off reading for good.

When my son was struggling to read, a friend asked me the question, "what good would it do if he learned to read but along the way, came to hate reading?"Reading has been one of the greatest loves of my life and I had hoped to pass that passion on to my children. In my quest for reading sooner, I could see that I was taking the joy out of it for my son.

I backed off the painful daily practise sessions. I left the worksheets and sight word flashcards behind. I ignored that nagging voice in my head that wanted me to worry about how old he was getting and still not reading and I set about on a quest to teach him not to read, but to love reading.

I am so happy to say that he did learn to read but more importantly, he came to love books. He was 11 years old when he first read but by the end of that year, he had read the full Narnia series. He began to devour books and would ask for them as gifts. He got lost in the fantasy worlds that books provide.

Due to the special needs of some of our younger children, reading has not come easily for most of them. Out of our seven kids, only two of them read “on time”. One of them is still not reading proficiently and he is in Junior High. He has several learning disabilities and while we certainly still work on the goal of having him read, we also have not lost sight of the bigger goal which is to have him love reading.

I’m glad that I had the experience with our second son of focusing on the love of reading rather than on the mechanics of it so that I could relax a lot more when it came to our subsequent struggling readers and enjoy the process with them.

Helping Struggling Readers Love Reading:

Celebrate successes. Focus on what they CAN read or even letters they can recognize rather than on what they can’t. Never compare them to same-age peers. Everyone learns to read at their own pace. Allow them to make mistakes without shaming them but celebrate small victories.

Let them choose their own reading material. Provide a variety of choices strewn all over the house particularly in bathrooms, bedrooms and high traffic areas. Never tell them that a book is too difficult for them or too babyish for them. It is of course appropriate to tell them that they aren’t yet old enough to read a book based on mature content, but if they want to read a book that is above their reading level, allow them to challenge themselves. If they want to read comics or magazines or University textbooks or brochures or anthologies, let them. Reading is reading, regardless of what form it takes.

Take the pressure off. Put away levelled readers that remind them of how “behind” they are. Set aside any type of testing or measurement. Put the focus on digesting information instead of on reading.

Make it fun. Read silly books. Read joke books. Read quirky bathroom readers or those ridiculous Guinness Books of World Records (gross pictures warning).

Talk about books. Discuss books in their presence with your friends or spouse. Talk to your kids about the book you are currently reading. This will allow them to see your own excitement and also to see that adults talk to each other about books because they are interesting.

Read to them. Reading to small children has benefits that most would agree on but reading to older children has many benefits too. Make it relaxing and part of everyday life. When the kids were a bit younger, we used to read a lot on the trampoline and now, I often see them take their book and a blanket out there and read because it seems like the most natural thing to them!

Helping Struggling Readers Love ReadingUse audiobooks. Audiobooks allow kids to love storytelling and characters and far away lands and get the feel of how much adventure there is in books without any of the stress of a print book. It also allows them to build their confidence because they can participate in conversations about books without having strong reading skills. We listen to audiobooks in the house and in the car. You can also put them on a small iPod Nano for your child to listen to before bed or during quiet time.

Do activities that coincide with the books you’re reading together. Make cupcakes and let the kids decorate them to go along with the book If You Give a Cat a Cupcake. We do activities to correspond with many of the books we read together. Some of my favourites were the activities we did to go along with Have You Filled a Bucket Today?, The Kissing Hand, Fancy Nancy, and A Bad Case of Stripes.

Take them to see the movie version of a book after you’ve read it together. Discussing the similarities and differences after seeing the movie will help them to see how much richness can be found in books. Sometimes I plan the books we are going to read based on when the movie will be coming out. We just finished reading The Jungle Book because I had heard that a new movie version was coming out.

Let them see you reading for pleasure. I often read books for education purposes but I try to also read books for no reason at all other than enjoyment. I usually only have time for this on vacation or over the Christmas holidays, but I make sure that the kids see me with a book in my hand. I make comments sometimes about how I just can’t put the book down and they know it’s true as I try to juggle cooking supper while holding a book!

Helping a Struggling Reader to Love Reading - tips that really work

7 Tips for Reading to Older Children