Let’s Have a Ball!

The last few months we’ve been talking all about simple activity ideas, using our favorite things, books, blocks, and balls. Today we’re going to wrap up these simple activities by focusing on balls!

Balls have dynamics all their own:  they bounce, roll when pushed, soar when thrown, move unassisted down a ramp and come to a complete stop.  Because of this the dynamics of moving balls can help your child learn principles of physics and cause and effect.

Here’s some fun activities to try at home:

Quite the Catch: Using a variety of balls, try the following activities:

Drop the ball, let it bounce and then catch it.

Throw the ball into the air and catch it.

See how high you can throw the ball and still catch it.

Throw the ball into the air and see how many times you can clap your hands before you catch it.

Throw the ball against the wall and catch it.

Throw the ball back and forth with a friend.

Home Bowling: Using empty water or soda bottles, set up a small group of at least five bottles. Standing a few feet away, have your child roll a ball to the bottles and see how many he can know down. Make it a game with other people!

Balls in the Air: Hold the corners of a small blanket with your child to create a parachute. Place balls on the blanket and throw them up, trying to catch them on the blanket. Try different sized balls to add variation.

The Rhyming Ball Game: First have everyone sit in a circle. Hold a ball and say a word then roll it to the next person. The person who receives the ball then says a word that rhymes with your word. See how many words the circle can come up with, before picking a new word and starting again.

When you’re at Discovery Gateway next, be sure to have a ball in the Beehive exhibit in the Garden, the Magnet Wall in the STEAM Studio, the New Move It exhibit, and more!

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Blocks–Building More Than You Realize!

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Picture this–You’ve just bought your child a great new toy. It’s fun, it’s colorful, and it’s supposed to be great for their development! You are so excited to pull it out and start the fun! But the next thing you know your child is playing with the empty box it came in and having the time of his life. Does this experience sound familiar?

I can’t tell you how many times I have heard this type of story from parents! Children are curious beings and can make toys out of just about anything. Because of this some of our favorite toys to suggest to parents are a simple set of wooden blocks.

While playing with blocks, children learn all about counting, equality, addition, subtraction, planning, patterns, volume, classification, area and measurement. When parents engage with their child in block play it also provides teaching moments for social skills, language and exploration.

Check out these activity ideas to add some variety to your family’s block play:

  • Make your own blocks: Using standard size boxes (milk cartons, capri sun, etc.) you can make blocks by covering them with sturdy wrapping paper or contact paper. Allow your child to guide the activity and discuss the sizes as you create the blocks.
  • Create your home: Have your child look at the neighborhood and your home. Help them build a structure like your home. Make sure you take pictures and show off your child’s work whenever friends or family are around.
  • Knock ’Em Down: Margarine tubs are best for this. Children stack them up, then with flourish, knock them down. Of course, everyone applauds. Then you do it all over again. Kids love it!
  • Ramp It: Create a variety of ramps with blocks. Roll a small ball down the ramps. Which incline makes the ball roll slower? Faster?
  • Making Patterns: Provide blocks of different shapes or colors. Create a pattern for children to repeat, such as square, rectangle, square, rectangle or red, blue, red, blue. Ask children to create new patterns for you to repeat.
  • Visit Discovery Gateway’s Block Party Exhibit: Children can build amazing structures from floor to ceiling with the giant blue blocks, connecting parts into the gallery walls, and transforming the space with power of their imaginations.
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Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune Lily Edmondson plays in the new Imagination Playground Block Party at Discovery Gateway Children’s Museum in Salt Lake City, Thursday October 1, 2015.

Help Me Grow Utah has hundreds of age appropriate activity ideas for parents at no cost! You can learn more by calling 801-691-5322 or visiting helpmegrowutah.org

Kali Iverson—Community Liaison

Early Childhood Connections: STEM Learning Through Play

There’s a new term in education that you’ve most likely heard a lot about – STEM. What is STEM anyway? It sounds very scientific, and a little intimidating.

To put it simply, STEM is an acronym that stands for Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics. STEM is also a philosophy, a new way of thinking about how we can help our children integrate knowledge across disciplines. It is a way of encouraging children to think in a more connected and holistic way.

The question is, at what age should we begin introducing this philosophy to our children? The answer is simple … children are naturally curious. They are born into the world engaged and ready to learn. We, as parents and educators, can support and encourage that innate sense of discovery and curiosity of the living world by allowing children to investigate and encourage them to ask questions, lots of questions. Another way is to allow your child to play with open-ended materials, and as they play ask plenty of “why” and “what do you think will happen if …” questions. This gets your child thinking and problem solving – both critical skills needed to succeed in life.

A great example of STEM learning is through wooden blocks. When children play with blocks, they’re learning about social science whenever two or more children play together. Geometry and early math skills are discovered as two triangle blocks are put together to create a square. Engineering concepts are explored as children construct a house or tower. Finally, simple technology is uncovered as a cylinder block is put underneath a flat bock to create an inclined plane that can move blocks from one level to another.

The term STEM can be a little scary at first, but keep in mind that children are more competent in math and science than we, as adults, think. Encourage curiosity and discovery, and expose your children to a wide range of experiences. When you do this, you are engaging children in STEM learning through play.

Tammy M Spicer, MAEd | Assistant Director of Operations