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Upper Lower Case Letter Seek and Find

Learning letters and matching upper and lower case letters is a Kindergarten skill that can be tricky for some kids.  We made this easy prep letter identification activity using items you probably already have in the house.  If you've seen our blog posts over the last few days, you've noticed we're on a learning theme using free (or mostly free) items you probably already have.  We're sharing 31 days of learning at home with free materials this month along with 25 other bloggers in the 31 days of homeschooling tips series.  Today's easy letter learning activity can use any letters you have around the house or magnetic letters and coffee filters.  

Matching upper and lower case letters and alphabet letter identification can be difficult for kindergarteners.  Use this letter matching game to prepare for kindergarten skills and gross motor play along with visual scanning. Uses magnetic letters and coffee filters for easy prep and set-up.  Great letter matching ideas and activities here!


Upper case and lower case letter matching activity for Kindergartners:

While this activity is almost free if you've got the items at home already, we're sharing the affiliate links for the items in this post.

Matching upper and lower case letters and alphabet letter identification can be difficult for kindergarteners.  Use this letter matching game to prepare for kindergarten skills and gross motor play along with visual scanning. Uses magnetic letters and coffee filters for easy prep and set-up.  Great letter matching ideas and activities here!

Grab the magnetic letters from the fridge and 26 coffee filters. Use a permanent marker to write one lower case letter of the alphabet on each coffee filter.


Matching upper and lower case letters and alphabet letter identification can be difficult for kindergarteners.  Use this letter matching game to prepare for kindergarten skills and gross motor play along with visual scanning. Uses magnetic letters and coffee filters for easy prep and set-up.  Great letter matching ideas and activities here!

With your child, first match up each lower case coffee filter letter to the upper case magnetic letter.  You can spread the filters out to encourage visual scanning and involve movement in the activity, OR you can stack the coffee filters in a pile and one by one match up the letters.  This technique requires the child to visually scan for the upper case magnet letters.  Try both ways for more upper/lower case letter practice!

We then wrapped the coffee filters around the magnets in a little bundle.  There are so many games you can play with these upper and lower case letters:
  • Hide the bundled up letters around the room while your child hides his eyes.  Send him off to find the letters and ask him to open the bundle and identify the letter.
  • Toss the coffee filter bundles into a bucket or bin.  Any letters that make it into the bin are winners!
  • Unwrap the bundles and name the letters.  Spread the coffee filters out around the room.  Toss magnetic letters onto the matching lower case letter.  
  • Toss a bean bag onto the coffee filters.  The child can identify the lower case letter, then go to the pile of magnetic letters and find the matching upper case letter.  
Matching upper and lower case letters and alphabet letter identification can be difficult for kindergarteners.  Use this letter matching game to prepare for kindergarten skills and gross motor play along with visual scanning. Uses magnetic letters and coffee filters for easy prep and set-up.  Great letter matching ideas and activities here!

Can you think of any more ways to work on upper and lower case letter matching with coffee filters and magnetic letters? 

Let us know on Facebook.  You can follow our Alphabet Play Pinterest board for more upper and lower case letter matching ideas.

You will enjoy more alphabet posts from our archives:








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Learning with Recycled Plastic Containers

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Sometimes finding materials at home for learning and play is as easy as grabbing a plastic container from the recycle bin!  We put together this list of creative learning ideas using recycled plastic containers.  Who knew you could use an old plastic bottle or food container in so many ways!  This post is part of the 31 Days of Homeschooling Tips series where we are joining 25 bloggers in creative learning and ideas for homeschooling and learning at home.  We're sharing 31 Days of learning with free (or almost free) materials so today's plastic container learning ideas fits the bill!

Ideas for using recycled plastic containers in learning activities for kids: science, math, sensory, crafts.

Learning with Recycled Plastic Containers Ideas for Kids:


Picklebums explored colors and created print art with plastic containers.
Learn with Play at Home mixed colors in a container.
grated cheese container is great for fine motor work, sorting, math, and color identification.
For more fine motor work, use a recycled container for sorting like Mama OT.
Practice math concepts with recycled snack containers. (This Reading Mama featured on Kids Activities Blog)
Use yogurt containers for Counting Games like Teaching Mama.
For more math concepts, try this measuring activity from Learn with Play at Home.
Can Do Mama shares baby container play ideas.
Use spice containers to explore counting, observing, stacking, problem solving and more like Toddler Approved.
Or use spice containers for baby sensory play like we did.
Plastic containers are great means for conducting science experiements like this water fountain from Learn with Play at Home.
This water filter science experiment from Planet Smarty Pants uses a recycled tennis ball container.
Try this wave in a bottle from Imagination Tree.

How do you play with recycled plastic containers?  There is a lot of learning that can happen with trash!  Visit our Trash Turned Kids Crafts Pinterest board for recycled material fun and learning.

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Fine Motor Color Math

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You may have noticed that we like to share easy and (mostly) free activities for kids here on our blog. This Fine Motor Count and Color Match Activity is no exception.   Moms and Aunts are always looking for simple prep and low cost when it comes to learning at home.  We made this counting math activity using a few materials we had on hand.  You could cheaply re-create this activity using supplies in your home while working on preschool math and color recognition.

Fine motor color math with push pins and a foam cup. This is great and a simple activity for preschoolers to do at home! Work on counting, addition, subtraction, and color recognition with materials you already have at home (free or almost free materials for homeschool or learning extension activities at home!)


This post contains affiliate links.  

This post is part of the 31 Days of Homeschooling Tips.  You can find homeschooling and learning at home tips from 25 other bloggers this month.  We'll be sharing 31 days of learning at home in the series. 

Math and Fine Motor Color Match with Foam Cups:


Fine motor color math with push pins and a foam cup. This is great and a simple activity for preschoolers to do at home! Work on counting, addition, subtraction, and color recognition with materials you already have at home (free or almost free materials for homeschool or learning extension activities at home!)

This is such a simple activity and one we did after having so much fun with our rainbow order color stacking cups.  We used foam cups and plastic push pins along with the colored strips from our stacking cups post.  This is such a simple and fun activity that my 5 year old son really got into.  We worked on the tripod grasp needed for handwriting by pushing the pins into the resistive surface.

I had my preschooler work on matching the colored push pins with the colored band at the bottom of the cups.  We kept the foam cups positioned so the opening of the cup was flat on the table to avoid any pinches to hands.  We added wadded up paper towels to the inside of the cups to prevent any scratches as well.  This is an activity that will require supervision with younger kids.

Fine motor color math with push pins and a foam cup. This is great and a simple activity for preschoolers to do at home! Work on counting, addition, subtraction, and color recognition with materials you already have at home (free or almost free materials for homeschool or learning extension activities at home!)

Math with push pins:

To work on beginning math skills with my preschoolers, we counted the pins as they pushed them into the cups.  We then counted any pins that were grouped together and counted the total number of pins.  Extend this activity further by adding a dice to add and subtract push pins.  Roll the dice and push in the rolled number of push pins.  When all of the pins are added to the cup, remove pins by rolling the dice and removing the rolled number of pins.   

More Math activities you will enjoy:


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How to Compose and Decompose Numbers

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Most of us have glass gems sitting around the house.  (Don't have any?  See where we got them super cheap below!)  These glass gems came in handy when we were practicing first grade math recently.  Math and common core standards can be a tricky thing with terms like composing and decomposing numbers.  They can throw us old moms and dads for a loop when we are helping out with homework duty (or following guidelines in homeschooling curricula).  Today's post for our 31 Days of Learning with Free (or almost free) Materials was a fun and easy way to practice difficult first grade math concepts in a fun way!


Compose and decompose numbers with glass gems in this first grade math activity

This post contains affiliate links.

How do you Compose and Decompose numbers (First Grade Math):

To start with, we used clear glass gems that we found in the dollar store.  You can get a pound of gems for a dollar which will go a long way in math and other activities with the kids.  You can quickly purchase the gems here for convenience.  

What is "composing numbers"?

To practice our composing and decomposing of numbers, we pulled out a handful of the glass gems and paper with a marker.  I drew a triangle and wrote two numbers in two corners of the triangles.  My oldest daugher (in first grade at the time) used the gems as counting manipulatives.  She added the two numbers up by counting the glass gems and wrote the total in the empty corner of the triangle.   This adding numbers together, or building a number is called composing a number.  Another way to say composing numbers is to think about putting numbers together.  My daughter came home from school talking about how to "put together" numbers.

What is "decomposing numbers"?

To decompose the number, we wrote another triangle and started with a higher number and a lower number.  She used the clear glass gems to subtract by counting out the manipulatives.  This taking apart of a number is called decomposing a number.  You can think about decomposing numbers by "taking apart" a number.

composing and decomposing numbers



How to compose and decompose numbers in first grade math

We then wrote out the addition and subtraction sentences using boxes with the composed and decomposed numbers.  It is interesting to see the light bulb go off as your child realizes that a number can be built in many ways, but if you take away a specific amount of gems (or subtract), there is only one number that can "fit" in that corner of the triangle.  Likewise, if you subtract either number from a composed triangle statement, you will always get the other corner's number (assuming the math has been done correctly).

You can extend this activity out more by filling in just one corner of the triangle.  Draw  a page full of triangles.  Ask your child to put together, or compose, that number in as many different ways as they can.  
Work on decomposing a number by filling in just one corner of a triangle.  Draw a page full of triangles.  Ask your child to take apart, or decompose, that number in as many different ways as they can.

See all of our Learning with Free (or almost free) Materials.

This post is part of the 31 Days of Homeschool Tips series.

See all of our math posts here.

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Improve Handwriting with Cookie Cutters

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Did you know you can work on handwriting with cookie cutters? Working in the schools as an occupational therapist, I loved to work on handwriting.  I loved coming up with creative techniques for individuals who had specific needs.  Many times, a trick that worked for one child didn't help at all with another.  Kids are so different and so a teacher, therapist, or parent needs to have a lot of tricks up their sleeves when it comes to teaching kids to write.  

Handwriting involves many skills.  From the visual motor skills, to the motor coordination needed to manage and move a pencil, forming letters, writing on the lines, and spacing out letters and words can be a disaster if any of these areas are difficult for a child.  Throw in physical difficulties like weakness or sensory issues, and you've got a real problem with writing.  And we all know that when a child feels something is hard, they don't want to try.  It can make a mama want to pull her hair out just to work on something like handwriting.  This fun little handwriting activity that we are sharing today can provide something different to work on the skills needed for handwriting.  Work on pencil control, bilateral hand coordination, visual motor skills, and more with something as simple as cookie cutters!


Use cookie cutters to improve and help with handwriting.


This post contains affiliate links.

Help Handwriting and Pencil Control with Cookie Cutters!


Grab a few cookie cutters from your kitchen cupboards and get ready to start practicing handwriting.  We used these alphabet cookie cutters but you can use any cutters that you have on hand.  Because we already had these, they worked for us!  (And as a side-not, this post is part of our 31 Days of Homeschooling Tips series this month.  We are sharing 31 days of learning at home with free (or almost free) materials.  You can see them all here.  

Use cookie cutters to help with handwriting

So how can you use cookie cutters in handwriting?  Grab a cookie cutter and a pencil or crayon.  It is fun to use different types of writing utensils for this activity too.  Use a pack of colored pencils or a rainbow of markers to make colorful letters and shapes.  

Bilateral hand coordination in handwriting
Have your child choose a cookie cutter.  Any shape works, so one that they like will keep their interest.  Encourage your child to hold the cookie cutter flat on the paper with their non-dominant hand.  Holding the cookie cutter flat and firm is an important part of this activity and is an essential part of neatness in handwriting.  When writing with a pencil and paper, one must hold the paper flat and steady on the table or desk.  This coordinated use of tow hands together is bilateral hand coordination and can be difficult for some kids.  Encourage your child to hold the cookie cutter steady on the paper as they trace the inside of the cookie cutter.  They will have to move their hand around as they trace the shape, and that is a good way to coordinate those hands together, much like the paper must be managed when writing.  You may have to move the paper around to comfortably write from line to line, or to fill in sections of a worksheet, or erase.  These changes in movement wile holding the paper with the non-dominant hand can be difficult for some kids, so this activity should help to work on bilateral hand coordination in writing in a fun way.

Tripod grasp in handwriting
A tripod grasp on the pencil is effective in handwriting.  As children grow older, they are required to write more and at a faster pace.  Sometimes kids who are writing with an ineffective grasp struggle to keep up with note-taking tasks due to fatigue and weakness.  This cookie cutter handwriting task will help to encourage a tripod grasp as they attempt to trace inside the cookie cutter.  Encourage your child to trace as close to the inside of the cookie cutter as possible.  They will need to manipulate the pencil with the small intrinsic muscles of the hand to get  the pencil marks close to the cookie cutter edge.

Letter formation in handwriting
Younger kids can work on tracing their finger in the letter and number cookie cutters to work on formation.  Encourage them to trace the letter several times and always using the correct sequence to make the letters (start at the top and jump the finger back up to the top to start new parts of the letters) and use verbal cues as they "write" the letter.  Do this several times to achieve a motor plan.  Then give your child a crayon or thick marker and have them draw the letter as if it were a stencil.  You can even throw the cookie cutters into a bin of corn like we did with our corn and cookie cutters sensory bin.  Don't have the alphabet cookie cutters?  

Use any shape cutter for tracing and line awareness, pencil control, and hand-eye coordination.  

More handwriting activities you will enjoy:


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5 Minute Ideas for Kids Who Don't Do Quiet Time

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“I participated in an Influencer Activation on behalf of Influence Central for Folgers. I received a promotional item to thank me for my participation.”

I am an early bird (make that a caffeinated early bird).  I wake up early and get things done.  Before kids, it was household things, an early morning run before work, or just reading.  After four kids, I am still waking up early, but productive tasks are not being checked from my to-do list.  Now, those early mornings are spent changing diapers, fixing breakfast, wiping spills, getting kids dressed, wiping more spills, snuggling sleepy babies, wiping spills... The tasks may have changed from a few years ago, but the morning is still a time of productive (and some days, not-so-productive) work.  This job called Motherhood is a tough one that is repetitive, thankless, but oh so important.  Through it all those early mornings were and now REALLY are fueled by coffee.  

five minute activities and ideas for moms. keep the kids busy so mom can take a time out and stay sane!

Motherhood is messy quotes. Spilled milk happens

So, when this mama is running all day long chasing kids, breaking up arguments, and wiping up all of those spills (WHY do kids spill so many things??!!) and the early mornings lead into sleepy afternoons, I need a mini-break.  It is so exhausting when the kids are in that tired/hungry/bored time around 4:00 pm.  It can be easy to let the exhaustion get to you.  Sure, you can throw on a movie or encourage a little rest time, but with four kids, someone always needs something.  I can't recall a moment when all four kids napped at the same time.  I'm not one of the lucky moms whose three year old and four year old still nap.  They just. keep. going.  Quiet time in their rooms turn into a little someone yelling or pounding on the door about a dire emergency.  Or a spill.  

 Motherhood is messy quote

 I can't keep going full steam without a mini-rest.  Some days are HARD to pull it together and be the patient, kind, loving, peaceful, joyful mom that the kids need.  Moms need time-outs too!  We've got some ideas to keep the kids busy for five minutes while mom gets a break (and a little caffeinated pep to keep you going through dinner).  Grab a cup of iced coffee, give the kids a quick activity in their rooms, and re-fresh yourselves.  Ignore the spills for a minute and take a deep breath.  You've got this!

I am SO excited to share my love of afternoon mini-break time and iced coffee with you.  I was able to try Folgers® Iced CaféTM Coffee Drink Concentrates.  They are a new line of concentrated coffee, sweetener, and flavor that are all conveniently combined in a portable package.  Moms need convenience when it comes to getting a few moments to herself so the quick prep makes it a winner for me!  I loved that I can add the concentrates quickly into an ice cold glass of milk and enjoy a little pick-me-up to beat the afternoon fatigue.  What makes them even better is that no sugar or preservatives are added to the portable squeeze bottles.  I have been loving all of the available flavors (Original Latte, Vanilla Latte, Caramel Macchiato and Hazelnut Latte) but the Caramel Macchiato iced coffee in a cute glass mug and a straw makes my min-break seem even more luxurious.  The kids know that the sight of coffee in the afternoon is a mom-only drink by now so for at least 5 minutes, the spills should be at a minimum.  "Should" being the key word. 

Grab Make Summer Fridays even cooler with new Folgers® Iced CaféTM Coffee Drink Concentrates and a little me time (even if it is only for five minutes!) while the kids are busy:


five minute activities and ideas for kids who don't do nap time or quiet time.


5 minute activities for kids who don't do quiet time:

Grab a stack of books and a timer.  Have your child read or look at pictures for five minutes.  When the timer goes off, join your child and read together.

Hand your child a box of sidewalk chalk and a baby doll or pretend figure.  Encourage your child to draw a picture with the chalk and place the baby doll or figure into the sidewalk art.  Watch from the side for 5 minutes as you sip your iced coffee.

Set up a healthy snack.  

Pull out a piece of paper and a fun pen.  Ask your child to draw a picture or write a letter to someone special.  A grandparent, neighbor, cousin, or friend would love to receive mail!  After five minutes, join your child and help them address their mail.

Spread out a stack of easy puzzles.  Kids need to do all of the puzzles in the stack before they are done with their mini-quiet time.  When they are done, join them and do the puzzles in reverse by taking the pieces out and building them on the table.  For silly giggles, do the puzzles in slow motion and at super speed together!

Pull out bubbles and head outside.  Grab your iced coffee and just watch the excitement.  Let the bubble spills happen.  And they will. Just watch the giggles and the fun.  Then grab a bubble wand and join in on the fun!

time out for mom with iced coffee

The best news of all is that we have a giveaway for you!  You can try all of these awesome flavors while the kids are busy by winning Folgers prizes on on Facebook and Twitter in the Folgers Fridays Promotion.  Each Friday from June 5, 2015 to September 4, 2015, you can enter the Promotion for weekly chances to win a prize basket of Folgers products (ARV: $200) by answering a question prompted in a post that invites entry into the Promotion.      

To enter on Facebook, answer in the Comments section. On Twitter, send an answer in a non-private Tweet @Folgers, and include the hashtags #FolgersFridays and #PromoEntry.

Promotion is open to legal residents of the 50 United States and D.C, 18 years of age older. Internet access and a valid Facebook account are required to enter the Promotion on Facebook; to enter on Twitter you must have a public Twitter account and follow the Twitter account @Folgers. Void where prohibited.
For details on the #FolgersFridays Promotion and a store locator to find Folgers Iced Café near you, please visit http://folgers.com and follow Folgers on Facebook and Twitter.
Motherhood is messy.  Moms need a little time out when they can enjoy the little things.


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Bear Sees Colors Snack Ice Cream Cone Color Hunt

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This month in the Book Club Play Date series, we're exploring a new (to us) book, Bear Sees Colors.  We made a creative and healthy snack based on the book and all of it's colors.  Preschool kids (and older kids!) will love to seek and hunt for colors with these ice cream cone color scopes, then use the cones as an edible snack container. This is such a great activity for a preschool playdate.  Simply set out a plate of healthy snacks and the color scopes while the book is being read.  You can see the whole Book Club Play Dates series and tips for an awesome play date outlined at Still Playing School here.



Ice Cream Cone snack container and color scope (or telescope!) based on the preschool book, Bear Sees Colors.


This post contains affiliate links.

Use an Ice Cream Cone for a Snack Container!

When we read Bear Sees Colors by Karma Wilson and loved it's rhyming story and fun illustrations. We are HUGE fans of the other Bear books, (Bear Snores On is one of our absolute favorites!) so reading Bear Sees Colors was fun for us.  We thought it would be fun to go on a color hunt with our snack using an ice cream cone telescope and seek out colors like Bear does in the book.  We often use 
cake ice cream cones as a snack container.  We shared the idea with our Instagram followers recently.
(Click here to follow us on Instagram.)

Simply fill up a cake ice cream cone with healthy treats: fruits, nuts, and veggies for a different snack that will get the kids to smile.

We used the same idea for our Color Scopes based on the book, Bear Sees Colors and made the cake cones into color telescopes.

Make a Color Scope Using a Cake Ice Cream Cone:

Ice Cream Cone snack container and color scope (or telescope!) based on the preschool book, Bear Sees Colors.

To make the color telescope, grab a few cake ice cream cones.  Using a sharp knife (this is a job for an adult.) Slice off the end of the cone.  I wanted the grid-like bottom of the cone to stay intact for our color scopes, for a couple of reasons:  First, it was difficult to try to cut out the grid.  Second, I wanted the kids to be able to put fruit and veggies from our snack into the cones and the grid held the treats in.  Third, if the grid was removed from the cone, the cone would probably squash when handled by little curious hands, resulting in crushed cone snack.  That would be an equally tasty and fun treat, I'm sure, but ineffective when it comes to hunting for colors in your snack ;)

Bear Sees Colors Snack Idea

Ice Cream Cone snack container and color scope (or telescope!) based on the preschool book, Bear Sees Colors.

In the book, Bear goes hunting with a few friends and sees all sorts of wonderful colors in the world around him.  Bear Sees Colors doesn't hit all of the colors of the rainbow, but we decided to make our snack include a bunch of tasty berries, nuts, vegetables, and of course, Teddy Graham Crackers.  The nice thing about this snack idea, is that you can use whatever you've got in your pantry and fridge.  Pull out a plate and load it up with anything colorful.

Ice Cream Cone snack container and color scope (or telescope!) based on the preschool book, Bear Sees Colors.

We read through the book again as we ate our snack, and when Bear saw a color, I had the kids look through their color scopes to seek and find the color on the plate. 

Ice Cream Cone snack container and color scope (or telescope!) based on the preschool book, Bear Sees Colors.

I had them hunt for more colors, too. I called out a color and they had to search for it using their color scope.  They got a big kick out of this activity!

Ice Cream Cone snack container and color scope (or telescope!) based on the preschool book, Bear Sees Colors.

We then filled up our cones with healthy treats and had a colorful snack!

Ice Cream Cone snack container and color scope (or telescope!) based on the preschool book, Bear Sees Colors.

This snack idea was fun for all of my kids, but would be great for preschool kids, especially as they identify colors.  How can you think of using our ice cream scopes?

Love this idea?  Pin it!

Ice Cream Cone snack container and color scope (or telescope!) based on the preschool book, Bear Sees Colors.

Join us over on Facebook for creative ideas for kids, parents, and AUNTS!  If you make a cone snack, be sure to share a picture with us there. We would love to see it!

See what the other bloggers on the Book Club Play Dates team have made for the book,  Bear Sees Colors:

Colors Busy Bag from Craftulate
Color Hunt Game from House of Burke
Colorful Pre-Writing Activity from Still Playing School

More snack ideas for you may love: 



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