Fall Feed

๐Ÿ›Bugs ๐ŸœInsects and other ๐Ÿž๐Ÿ๐Ÿ•ท๏ธArthropods

While most adults do not have a deep affection for bugs, children, on the other hand, spend hours in a backyard flipping over rocks and inspecting blades of grass in search of the coolest caterpillars and tiny crawlers. And little ones are smart to befriend bugs since without little creature our entire ecosystem would shut down. Animals such as fish, bats, and amphibians would have nothing to eat; rivers and lakes would be overrun with algae, and flowers would remain unpollinated. Teaching children about insects is a great way for them to learn about nature in general since everything in our world is interconnected. Also, bugs are the most accessible of all creatures since children can most closely approach them. So, suppress your squeamishness and delve into the wonderful world of bugs and other insects!

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To explore bugs and insects in a fun hands-on sensorial play, I set up an Autumn-Inspired sensory bin with fresh leaves and acorns children found during nature walks, shredded paper, this bug loupe and these insects. 

DSC_0426 An ant, besides being able to lift 50 times its weigh, has the biggest brain relative to its size amongst the insect kingdom!

DSC_0426Entomology is the study of insects, including their relationship with other animals, their environments, and human beings; making Adrian an entomologist for a time being.
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Insects are creatures with three body sections, six legs, and usually four wings and two antennae. Although some people use the words "bug" and "insect" interchangeably, a bug is a certain type of insect such as boxelder bug, milkweed bug, assassin bug, and stink bug. True bugs have a stylet (a mouth shaped like a straw) that they use to suck juices from plants. That is all bugs are insects, but not all insects are bugs. Scientists have discovered already over one million species of insects: also called arthropods, and every day they are discovering new species.

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Some insects have wings, and some do not, but there are few characteristics that all insects have in common:

  • Insects do not have bones or a backbone like humans do, and thus are invertebrates, meaning that they have a hard exoskeleton or shell on the outside of their bodies which protects them.
  • All insects have three parts: the head, the thorax (the middle part), and the abdomen (the end part).
  • Insects have two antennae and six legs.
  • All insects hatch from eggs, and the babies are called larva.
  • All insects go through the same lifecycle: beginning as an egg. The egg hatches and larva emerge. Larvae usually look nothing like the adult insect. The larvae enter a pupa, chrysalis or cocoon. An adult insect emerges from the pupa.
  • Note: spiders are not insects. Spiders have eight legs, and they are related to scorpions and belong to the arachnid family. ๐ŸŒ Snails, on the other hand, are gastropods. 

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Bugs A-Z book (in the middle) is a perfect book for any child fascinated with bugs! A simple text from A to Z provides interesting and concise buggy facts in addition to reinforcing the first letter association: A is for Ant, B is for Bee, C for Caterpillar etc. Larger than life full-color photographs of creepy crawlies include locusts, caterpillars, beetles, flies, grasshoppers, ants, praying mantis, and more! Also, the facts provided under each insect are fascinating and engaging enough even for a three-year-old. At the end of the book, there is a glossary review, which I use to reinforce the concepts learned. 

DSC_0003Scorpions are not insects! They are arachnid, with eight legs, instead of six.

Scorpions can be found on all continents except Alaska (and Antarctica). They are predatory animals of the class Arachnida (having eight legs) making them cousins to spiders, mites, and ticks. Insects, on the other hand, are Arthropods with six legs, two antennae, and three-parts segmented body.

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Tarantulas are the largest known arachnids (spider family) measuring seven to ten cm in length, capable, however, of exceeding 30 cm (that is twelve inches: the size of a regular laptop). Besides their size, tarantulas are known for their dense and hairy body. Also, they are night-time (nocturnal) hunters who will pounce on their prey, such as insects, beetles, and grasshoppers. Interestingly, although not spinning traditional webs, tarantulas are capable of producing silk and can use it for similar purposes, depending on species. Many of the arboreal tarantulas make silken homes in tree holes or other crevices. Even the burrowing terrestrial species use silk to line their burrows, and some use silk to create door-like entrances to their burrows. The tarantulaโ€™s silk acts as an alarm system, alerting the arachnid to the presence of threat or prey outside its home. If the intruder is potential prey, the tarantula will capture and subdue it.

DSC_0006The cladogram below shows the relationship between the arthropod's groups:

Arthropoda
 

Chelicerata (sea spiders, horseshoe crabs, and ๐Ÿ•ท๏ธarachnids: 8 legs)

 
Mandibulata
 

Pancrustacea (crustaceans and ๐Ÿžinsects: 6 legs)

 
 

Myriapoda (centipedes, millipedes, and allies)

 

 

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To examine tiny creatures up close, children like to use this bug loupe, which provides a 5X view of whatโ€™s underneath! The above-shown Bugs collection (buy here) comes with twelve insects in clear acrylic blocks for up-close examination. A mini-guide that comes with it provides a concise description of the species included as well as interesting details. This set is a perfect starter collection of insects for any entomologist!  DSC_0003
Little Explorer Insects book (on the left - buy here) provides further insight into these buzzing, stinging, and creepy crawlers: where they live, what they eat, and why they are so important.

DSC_0074 bee copyDid you know that a bee has five eyes, none of which can see the color red!

Honey bees are very important pollinators of flowers, fruits, and vegetables, transferring pollen between the male and female parts of the plant, thus allowing plants to grow seeds and fruit. Honey bees live in hives (or colonies) everywhere except Antarctica. The members of the hive are divided into three types:

  •  Queen: One queen runs the whole hive. Her job is to lay the eggs which will spawn the hiveโ€™s next generation of bees. The queen also produces chemicals that guide the behavior of the other bees.
  • Workers are all sterile female and their roles are to forage for food (pollen and nectar from flowers), build and protect the hive, and clean and circulate air by beating their wings. Workers would be the only bees we ever see flying around outside the hive.
  • Drones are the male bees, and their purpose is to mate with the Queen. Several hundred live in each hive during the spring and summer. But come winter, when the hive goes into survival mode, the drones are kicked out! 

DSC_0003Lastly, National Geographic Little Kids First Big Book of Bugs (top right - buy here) explores backyard favorite bugs, such as ladybugs and lightning bugs, and also introduces more exotic species which inhabit rain forests and deserts around the world. Colorful photos are paired with profiles of each insect, along with facts about the creatures' sizes, diets, homes, and more. "Little Kids First BIG Book of" series is my children's favorite non-fiction series. 

To put all this knowledge to use, seek out ways together with your child to get to know just how amazing Earth's little inhabitants are! Parks, local playgrounds, and forests are great places to introduce children to the wonders of the local insect population. Go outside and explore by examining dead wood, banks of streams, and the underside of rocks and leaves. Backyard bugs can usually be found under potted plants, rocks or deck furniture. On forest trails, look for bugs in flowers, on trees or near water.

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During nature walks, explore the world of bugs, insects and other creatures, first hand by doing a scavenger hunt. (Do not forget a bug container, bug tweezers, and a magnifying glass.)

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Do not rush and stay close to the ground as bugs are easy to miss. Most are small and many camouflages, making them tough to spot at first glance. 

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Take it slow and let your eyes roam the area for anything that moves.

DSC_0394.JPGLook under moss, rocks, leaves or underturned trees. 

DSC_0038With close observation, you will find that local fauna is full of surprises!

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"There is no description, no image in any book that is capable of replacing the sight of real trees, and all the life to be found around them, in a real forest. Something emanates from those trees that speaks to the soul, something no book, no museum is capable of giving." Dr. Maria Montessori.

DSC_0038If you find a caterpillar feeding on a plant and wish to bring it home, be sure to include that exact plant it was eating since many insects can only digest one type of plant and will starve without it.

DSC_0394.JPGDr. Maria Montessori strongly believed that the intelligence was a result of joyful learning and not a mere memorization. So learning need not take place inside of a classroom: there is nothing more inviting than a forest school!

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Invite your child to be a naturalist! Zoos, botanical gardens and even local parks might offer classes which introduce children to the wonders of the local insect population.

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Having contact with nature will allow children to understand and appreciate its natural order, the harmony and the beauty in it. Such contact will allow them to be friends with animals: big and small, creeping and crawling, scary and beautiful. All Earth's inhabitants are necessary for the equilibrium of life: all life form is precious. So, let's explore, go outside and be with nature!


Frost covered equestrian farm โ„๏ธ๐ŸŽ

This morning, I was dropping Julia off to school, and I saw this beautiful frost-covered equestrian field, with horses covered with winter blankets in the background. I could not resist but to capture this moment. We are not as fortunate as other parts of the world with having a lot of ๐ŸŒจ snow, so we enjoy every sight of it even if it is in a form of a morning frost ๐ŸŒฌ๐Ÿ˜Š. And there is something enigmatic about frost: the fact that it does not cover the earth with a solid blanket, but that you see green grass, and then right next to it, you see tweeds, strands of grass and leaves border-embroidered with an intricately designed sparkling ice.

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 Do you enjoy snow? What about frost?


๐ŸฆƒThanksgiving Inspired Homeschooling Activities for Children (2016)

Thanksgiving is a special time to stop, reflect and express our gratitude for all the wonderful things our lives are full of. So often we focus on what is not working or on things that are missing or on something that we think we need. It takes some effort to focus on what we can be thankful for, but when we do, we realize how many things we are so fortunately blessed with. And being in the now and appreciating our blessings, is in itself a gift.

DSC_0467-001Julia used Waldorf Alphabet Cards to spell out -"BE THANKFUL"


DSC_0467-001Children made this "Thankful Tree" by tying hearts to it with written confirmation of what they are grateful for. 


DSC_0467-001Our Thanksgiving -inspired shelf at our learning space
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DSC_0467-001Our Thanksgiving inspired shelf: Forest Animals Sensorial trayThanksgiving book, Thankful Tree, balance scales ...

DSC_0485 All the Thanksgiving count-down rings are removed - Happy Thanksgiving!

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Our Thanksgiving-Inspired Forest Animals Sensory Bin


DSC_0488-001Our Thankful Tree

DSC_0488-001Julia wrote most of the wishes: she is thankful for having her Family, Adrian, the Earth with air, trees and food, Friends and more ...

 

Below are some of the Thanksgiving -inspired activities we have done:

 DSC_0297-001Thanksgiving Craft - a Clay Turkey

DSC_0257-001Thanksgiving-Inspired Forest Animals Sensory Bin

DSC_0424.JPGThanksgiving-Inspired pretend/role play with a Green Doll House  

Happy Thanksgiving!

THANK YOU

 for following our Montessori Life Journey ...

p.s. You can read more about our Fall-inspired activities here


Thanksgiving-Inspired pretend/role play with a Green Doll House

Maria Montessori believed that children from birth till six years are in a period of Absorbent Mind. She defined children at this First Plane of Development  as "sensorial explorers"of the world, who have the ability to quickly and effortlessly absorb information from their environment just by being in it - that is without conscious effort, naturally and spontaneously. Pretend play and role-play are forms of imitation of the real adult world, which can promote child's development in many ways.  

Role-playing is packed with potentials for teaching children about themselves and the world around them, by developing their cognitive, fine motor, and self-help skills. Children often find it easier to practice these skills on someone/something else before they can efficiently apply it to themselves. For example: at around two years, children typically begin to act as if their doll/teddy bear/car is alive and can interact with them. They might create a sequence of activities or pay out a story with their "friends", and such pretend play is a very important part of their cognitive development. 

Moreover, through pretend play, children develop their speech and language skills by taking turns and asking questions. By naming objects they play with, as well as body-parts, clothing etc, role-play is helping teach them appropriate social/pragmatic skills. 

Children also use play to understand the world around them, and thus are developing their social-emotional skills. Role-play enables them to practice nurturing and caring (socio-emotional) as well as re-enacting interactions with their own caregivers, family, and friends (cognitive reframing). In playing a "family" for example, children are practicing being loving to each other and others. They are modeling how they see us (adults) in their world caring for them. Often children copy parents working in the kitchen, vacuuming, raking leaves etc. Through such imitation and by practicing these everyday activities, children try to understand and make the world their own.

Role-play is also a way for children to relive things that have happened to them, thus allowing them to increase understanding of their life events. Sometimes, they take on the opposite role, which allows them to see things from anotherโ€™s perspective. To feel a sense of control and power, children often take on an adult role, so that they can be us - the parents! In their play, they can independently vacuum, sew, do laundry, load the dishwasher, mop the floor, cook dinner ... possibilities are endless!

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There are a few things that I look for in a Montessori Toy: the toy has to be functional and represent a real life situation; it has to be preferably made from wood and be safe and nontoxic. This Green Doll House  meets all my criteria:

  • PlanToys practices the "Three R's" of Green Living: Reduce  Reuse Recyclethus, its manufacturing processes are designed to reduce waste and save energy.
  • This dollhouse and furniture are crafted from non-toxic, recycled, natural organic rubber wood, and dyed with vegetable and soy dyes. (PlanToys is the first company to manufacture toys using wood from rubber trees which no longer provide latex.)

My children have been enjoying this Green Doll House  since they were about two years old, and since the house encompassed the entire family, this toy is gender neutral. Today, Adrian wanted to make something special for Julia in anticipation of Thanksgiving, so he decided to decorate it. 


DSC_0424.JPGAdrian used left-over pieces from Julia's last year's Thanksgiving craft (Creatology "Give thanks" kit) to decorate the dollhouse, and he also created a little "forest" theme in front of the house. 

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DSC_0424.JPGDaddy raking leaves. 


DSC_0424.JPGJulia painting.


DSC_0424.JPGMommy in the kitchen.


DSC_0424.JPGAdrian's room.

He decided to place a teddy bear and a cradle in "his room" rather than in Julia's, thus confirming a tender affection to his teddies :)

DSC_0424.JPGAdrian peeking through the mirror - (a real one!) at the washing station.

DSC_0424.JPGThere is even an area for a little bathroom: a shower, a sink and a toilet.DSC_0424.JPGJulia sleeping in her room. (No, we do not have a cat!)

DSC_0437Adrian is indeed an early riser, waking Julia up almost every morning! 


DSC_0424.JPGWith his new cleaning set, Adrian has been more than ever cleaning the floor. In a pretend world, he is doing what he is doing in real life.

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DSC_0437Adrian vacuuming leaves which inevitably find their way to the house:)

DSC_0437Helping load the laundry machine. 

DSC_0437Helping load the dishwasher. 

DSC_0437Adrian making hot cacao in the morning.  
DSC_0437Busy first floor ...

This "green" dollhouse is also an energy conscious inspiration, as it opens doors for discussing with my children concepts of renewable and sustainable energy, recycling, wind-power and so forth. Its energy efficient design includes a wind turbine, a solar cell panel, an electric inverter for generating electricity, and a rain barrel for collecting rain. There is also a biofacade, which uses the natural cycle of plant growth to provide shading, and a blind that can adjust to the amount of sunlight and air circulation. Recycling bins are also included with the house. 

However, most importantly, this dollhouse offers countless hours of imaginary pretend-play that represents a real world situation, inspiring children's imagination as well as promoting their physical and intellectual development! 

Kylie wrote this beautiful post "Montessori - on pretend play" -  she spoke my heart:)

 What are your thoughts on pretend/role play? Read here Our pretend-play Farm Collection

You can read more on our Montessori Fall-Themed Activities for Toddlers and Preschoolers here