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March 2017

Vincent van Gogh's ๐ŸŽจ Birthday ๐ŸŽ‚ - How we ๐ŸŽ‰ celebrate

Vincent Van Gogh was born on March 30th, 1853 in Holland, and died in France in 1890. Van Gogh was one of the most tragic ๐ŸŽจ artists who had ever lived. He was not very happy as evident by his never smiling self-portraits since nothing ever seemed to go right for him.

DSC_0006-2While reading Van Gogh, Getting to Know the World's Greatest Artists book (buy here), we learned that unlike most artists, Van Gogh did not decide to become an artist until he was grown up. He tried a lot of other things first, such as working as an art-dealer, selling paintings, working as a teacher, and in a bookstore. He even tried to find happiness in being a preacher, like his father, but nothing seemed to make him happy. Then one day, he decided to be ๐ŸŽจ an artist!

DSC_0006-2Vincent van Gogh, Sunflowers. 1888. Oil on canvas. 

Van Gogh usually applied his paint on very thick. Sometimes, he painted so fast, that he did not even mix his colors, and used paint right out of the tube. In fact, Van Gogh was using so much paint that he was constantly running out of it. There were periods in his life when he would stop buying food in order to buy more paint. As a result, his nutrition was very poor, he was hungry most of the time, and thus he was not very healthy. However, through his innovative style, Van Gogh was able to convey through his paintings feelings - impressions - becoming one of the most popular Post- Impressionist painters!  DSC_0006-2

Just few months ago (at 38 months), Adrian had to recruit Julia's help putting together this "Vase with Twelve Sunflowers" puzzle (buy here). The box says 3+ however, pieces are very similar looking, making it visually challenging to figure out where the pieces fit. Now, at 41 months, Adrian was able to complete this puzzle in eight minutes.   

This puzzle is the appropriate level of difficulty for Adrian: not too easy offering just enough challenge and not too hard to cause frustration.

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The painting featured on this puzzle is Sunflowers - one of the four paintings of sunflowers dating from August and September 1888. Van Gogh intended to decorate the artist Paul Gauguin's room with these paintings in the so-called Yellow House that he rented in Arles in the South of France, where he and Gauguin worked together between October and December 1888. Van Gogh wrote to his brother Theo in August 1888,

"I am hard at it, painting with the enthusiasm of a Marseillais eating bouillabaisse, which won't surprise you when you know that what I'm at is the painting of some sunflowers. If I carry out this idea there will be a dozen panels. So the whole thing will be a symphony in blue and yellow. I am working at it every morning from sunrise on, for the flowers fade so quickly. I am now on the fourth picture of sunflowers. This fourth one is a bunch of 14 flowers ... it gives a singular effect."

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As a tribute to Van Gogh's Birthday, Adrian made 12 ๐ŸŒปSunflowers Tissue Paper Recycled Cardboard Roll Paper-Mache Craft (see ๐Ÿ“ฝ๏ธ a video of him making it here).

Unfortunately, during his life-time, Van Gogh received little acknowledgement. Hardly anyone was interested in his work. While he was alive, he sold only few drawings and may be one to two of his paintings. People during his time were not used to the bright โ€œmovingโ€ lively pictures that Van Gogh painted. Today, however, people have learned to appreciate the beauty of Vincent Van Goghโ€™s art. Now, his paintings are some of the most popular paintings in the world.

Sadly, Van Gogh suffered from depression most of his life. Sometimes, he was too angry to paint, and sometime he was too despondent to paint. However, when he felt good, he painted better than ever. Van Gogh made his painting seem alive with colors - so bright and beautiful that you can almost smell the flowers he painted, or feel the bright sun. His brush strokes give everything a feeling of movement: trees, stars, and people seem alive. More than any other artist, Van Goghโ€™s feelings came out in his paintings, and that is why Vincent Van Gogh is one of the worldโ€™s greatest ๐ŸŽจ artists!

Happy Birthday Vincent Van Gough!

p.s. Van Gogh Dover postcards (buy here) are a great addition to the Van Gogh study. I had cut them out and laminated for durability. 

For more about Van Gogh, read here a post "Vincent van Gogh - Introducing the World's Greatest Artists series."  


Vincent Van Gogh Inspired 12 ๐ŸŒปSunflowers Tissue Paper Recycled Cardboard Roll Paper-Mache Craft for Children

In anticipation of Vincent Van Gogh's Birthday on March 30th, we are making 12 Sunflowers Tissue Paper Recycled Cardboard Paper-Mache Craft as inspired by his painting, Sunflowers 1889, Philadelphia Museum of Art.

"Twelve sunflowers lean toward the light. Five are wide open, seven shut tight." In The Garden with Van Gogh board book (buy here).This board book series is a fun way to introduce fine art to smaller children. Adrian has been enjoying this book since he was one year old. Each of Van Gogh's timeless paintings is accompanied by a simple four line playful rhyming text.

DSC_0004Sunflowers were Van Gogh's favorite flowers. In anticipation of Gauguin's arrival to Arles, he was excitedly decorating the house preparing everything for his friend's arrival. He painted four pictures of sunflowers in rapid succession, and another three the following year. 13 Artists Children Should Know book (buy here).

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To make this craft, we are referring to a Tissue Paper Flowers Craft book (buy here), which features incredibly simple-to-make tissue paper flowers that look good enough to fool the bees. The book has clear easy to follow instructions, and it comes with 75 sheets of brilliantly colored tissue paper, and variety of green pipe cleaners for stems.

How to make Van Gogh's inspired 12 Sunflowers Craft: poke - slide-crunch

  • layer paper at least four-fold and cut out a circle or an oval pattern. (The less perfect the shape is, the better the flower will look - great for little hands!)
  • poke one end of a pipe cleaner and slide cut-out paper circles. (The more you poke and slide, the fluffier the flower will be. Adrian was doing about five circles per stem since he had to do twelve flowers! You be the judge of how much patience does your child have. If you are making just one flower, you may layer more cut-outs.)
  • roll the other end of the pipe cleaner into a nub,
  • slide all the papers towards the nub and scrunch - the more you scrunch and squeeze - the better the flower will come out,
  • we also used color combination since on Van Gogh's painting, sunflowers had shades of yellow, orange, some brown, and some white.

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To decorate the flower "vase," Adrian is using paper-mache technique, and applies golden recycled gift-wrapping paper to a recycled paper-towel cardboard roll.  

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Happy๐ŸŽ‚ Birthday Vincent Van Gogh! We hope you would have liked our present! 

Read here "Vincent van Gogh's ๐ŸŽจ Birthday ๐ŸŽ‚ - How we ๐ŸŽ‰ celebrate" post.

Read here a post "Vincent van Gogh - Introducing the World's Greatest Artists series." 

For more on Paper Mache read here a post "Pasting a glass jar Paper Mache at two years old."

 Are you preparing to celebrate Van Gogh's birthday? I would love to know what your ideas are!


Montessori Math Simple โž• Addition using Marble-Counters

What is Montessori Math?

In a traditional math curriculum, children are introduced abstract numeration before they can understand the actual quantity. Number "one"/1 is just a symbol representing a quantity (holding one apple in your hand). What is special about Montessori Math curriculum is that a three year old will understand the concept that "one" is small and "ten" is big way before any kind of numeration is introduced. Such concept is first explained in a sensorial area, where most works deal with number ten: you have ten cubes in a Pink tower, ten rods in Red Rods and Number Rods, and ten knobbed and knobless colored cylinders. 

The sensorial area is where you begin to talk with your child about numbers and quantities. Maria Montessori knew that children learn by doing. Well, the math when I learned it was taught very abstractly - I simply had to trust that 3 x 5 is 15. But with Montessori math, children learn to love numbers because the understand them: for example, they understand fractions because they are building it themselves, which is a very concrete exercise.

Montessori Math lessons are build on each other just like in other areas: you would start with small concept of numbers one through 10. For example, number "one" is represented by a numeral -1 as well as by quantity when a child is holding the one apple/car/spindle in his/her hands. Such association of quantity to numeral is very concrete in nature: a child is holding one, two, or three spindles and realizes how differently it feels than holding ten. All this helps children understand in a concrete way basic mathematical concepts.

DSC_0071This wooden transferring set (buy hereis hand-carved from native South Pacific hardwood. (Read Green Lentils Spoon Transferring Montessori Practical Life post using this set here.)

Simple addition should be presented to a child who understands the concept of numbers one through ten. This lesson uses materials you probably have at home, and it is very simple to set up.  You will need two shallow small bowls, and a different bowl for the sum. You will also need equations (I am using a chart where I wrote the equations) and counters, which can be marbles, chips, game tokens etc. 

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You would explain to a child that "plus" means addition - we are adding things together, and "equal" sign means the sum - what we end up with. You may download the Math Addition Template for your personal use (here) - please do not re-distribute, rather direct others to my blog.

Montessori Math - Simple Addition at 41 months from Anya on Vimeo.

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The idea behind Montessori philosophy is to introduce the concept in the most concrete hands-on way. You would first demonstrate to the child the entire lesson. It is really important to reiterate each step (such as counting each marble even if such seems redundant) because this is how the child is learning - they watch what we do. So, you would show the lesson over and over again until a child is able to complete the entire lesson by himself.
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By offering a concrete demonstration of abstract mathematical concepts, I hope to provide my child with the excitement and instill the love for learning and mathematics.

Read here a post Numeral ๐Ÿ”ข vs Quantity ๐Ÿฎ๐Ÿฎ at 34 months with Self-Correcting Numbers Puzzle (Early Montessori Math).

About some of the materials mentioned in the beginning of the post:

  • Read here a post about a Pink Tower,
  • Read here a post about Numbers Rods ,
  • Read here a post about Knobbed Cylinders, and here about Knobless Cylinders.

Interactive ๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ธ United States ๐Ÿ—บ Map Puzzles

In continuing with our Geography ๐ŸŒŽ Theory ๐Ÿ“– Curriculum Lesson on ๐Ÿ—บ Mapping (read a post here), today, we are putting theory into practice by assembling some of our favorite interactive map puzzles. 

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We are also using miniature replicas of U.S. monuments (buy here) to add a 3-D to our puzzle.  

This USA Wooden Sound Map Peg Puzzle (buy here) is a light-activated puzzle, which says the name of the capitol when the puzzle piece shaped as a particular state is placed in the puzzle board correctly. Besides helping develop fine-motor and pincer grip via the use of the peg, this sound puzzle helps a child learn about the 50 American states and their capitols. The puzzle has 40 pieces, and I did not expect Adrian to be able to complete it at 41 months, but interactive sound really kept him engaged, and he tenaciously kept going until he had finished the entire puzzle. The light on his face when he exclaimed: "Mommy, I did it; I did it!" and the sense of accomplishment and confidence it gives to a child is immeasurable, and is worth all the effort.

Adrian also has been enjoying interactive TAG pen (buy here), and today, for the first time, he independently assembled Interactive United States Map Puzzle (buy here). This two-sided jumbo map puzzle teaches U.S. geography, map skills and famous U.S. landmarks through numerous interactive games  and over 300 audio responses. 

DSC_0028This puzzle works with a TAG pen, which is sold separately (buy here), but it is worth the investment since the pen works with any LeapFrog Reading system. 

Visit landmarks, meet children from around the country, explore state capitals, find fun facts and play 10+ games on a jumbo 2-sided U.S. map puzzle. Age 4-8 years Features Climb volcanos, fly planes, navigate lakes and learn about animals from coast to coastโ€”with 300+ audio responses. Hear kids from across the country tell you about how they live, play and eat on the Great Plains, in Alaska and around the United States! Locate cities, measure distances, compare regions and find the 50 states and their capitals. Touch the compass rose to go on a musical journey across the United States and listen to regional songs. About the Series The Learn through Reading Series supports reading development by providing children with knowledge-building opportunities in areas of personal interest. Learning Difference Interactive maps are a great way for young children to explore the world and build basic map skills. Fun facts and engaging games inspire children to make real world connections with the settings of their favorite stories. 

DSC_0035The reverse side of the puzzle reveals the political map of the U.S.

For your convenience, I added these two puzzles as well as the geography materials we are loving to my ๐Ÿ’–aStore ๐Ÿ› here under a single subcategory "Geography๐ŸŒŽMaterials & ๐Ÿ“šBooks." 

For more on U.S. monuments and landmarks, see a post here "Presidents' Day - How we celebrate (U.S. Landmarks๐Ÿ—ฝ and Monuments๐Ÿ›)"


๐ŸŒŽ Geography ๐Ÿ“–Theory Curriculum Lesson 3: ๐Ÿ—บ Mapping (Making the Earth ๐ŸŽˆ Flat)

Today, we are learning about maps and the process of mapping. We are currently reading National Geographic Kids Beginner's World Atlas (buy here), which is the next level reading after the National Geographic Our World: A Child's First Picture Atlas, which is the atlas you would start reading with your child at around two-and-a-half years (buy here).

A map is a drawing of a place as it looks from above. If you were a bird flying directly overhead, you would see only the tops of things. A map looks at places from a bird's-eye view, and utilizes drawings called symbols to show things that do not move. Thus, the map is flat, and it is smaller than the place shows. A map can help you find where you are and where you want to go. 

DSC_0012A compass helps you travel in the right direction. It tells you where north (N), south (S), east (E), and west (W) are on your map. Sometimes it only shows where the north is. A map key helps you understand the symbols used by the map-makers to show things like houses or water on the map. 

DSC_0048We are using this Colored globe as a reference to trace continents to our balloon globe model.

From your backyard, Earth probably looks flat, however, astronauts see that Earth appears like a giant ball with blue oceans, greenish brown land and white clouds. Even in space, you see only the part of Earth facing you. To see the whole Earth at one time, we need a map. Maps take the round Earth and make it flat, so that both hemisphere could be seen at one time.   DSC_0051If you could "peel" a globe like an orange, you would make the Earth flat, but there would be spaces between places. Cartographers (map-makers) stretch the land and the water at the top and bottom to fill in the spaces. This is how a map lets you see the whole world all at once. 

A cartographer is a person who makes a map, which is a picture that tells a story for example about physical characteristics of our plant Earth or about the weather or natural hazards โ˜”๏ธ๐ŸŒช๐ŸŒจ or about where to find places or things and how to go from one place to another. Maps can make a large place look small. 

Maps were not always this complicated and advanced. Maps were first drawn with a stick in the dirt and then on cave walls. Later maps were made of clay, silk, parchment, and eventually of paper as we know them now. First map symbols were very simple and child-like ( a wave-like line would represent water). Symbols were used to indicate specific things like โ›ฐmountains, ๐Ÿ‘ฅpopulation, ๐Ÿžrivers and lakes, etc.

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I illustrated for Adrian what primitive people might have used as symbols to create a map, and asked him to draw a primitive map, just as a cartographer. For this activity, you would need a container, a tray or a large cookie or baking sheet and either sand (white or colored), cornmeal, or we are using wheat flour. I also lined the bottom of the tray (we are using a floor-table) with an orange colored cardstock paper to add a pop of color to his map drawing. 

Adrian is mapping a ๐ŸŒ™ moon, a ๐ŸŒฒtree, ๐Ÿžwater, ๐Ÿ”mountains and a house ( t-pee ).

DSC_0012And, of course, there was a lot of sensory exploration! 

Point of interest: how the sand/corn meal/wheat flour feels ( sensorial tactile exploration). Also, how the drawing stays in the "sand" tray after it has been traced. 

The goal of this lesson: hand-eye coordination, concentration, ability to trace symbols, fine-motor development. 

Language: cartographer, names of symbols, a map.


DSC_0012Furthermore, while reading another atlas book, National Geographic Kids United States Atlas (buy here), we learned that the maps' symbols can stand for physical, political, economic, environmental features and more. For example, above, the economy symbols like a "sheep" and "dairy cows/products" describe which region's economy produces most of this particular commodity. 


DSC_0012Political map shows countries and often capitals of a particular area. 

For your convenience, I added here all our geography materials to my ๐Ÿ’–aStore ๐Ÿ› under a single subcategory "Geography๐ŸŒŽMaterials & ๐Ÿ“šBooks." For prior lessons, please read

  • here Geography ๐ŸŒŽ Theory ๐Ÿ“–  Curriculum Lesson 2: Introduction (Abstract - Pictures), and
  • Read here Geography ๐ŸŒŽ Theory ๐Ÿ“– Curriculum Lesson 1: Introduction (Concrete - Objects). 
  • Read a similar post here, where we cut a grapefruit to illustrate how we get two Antarcticas when making the Earth flat.