In Sunday School, our preschoolers have been learning about God's miracles through our God Did WHAATT?!?! unit and they are LOVING it.  Sometimes, as an adult who grew up in church all of her life, I become immune to the awesomeness of God's miraculous powers.  But spending time with 3 and 4 year olds and watching their eyes light up at these amazing miracles has given me a fresh appreciation for God.

This week we learned about the miracle of God sending manna for the Israelites to eat while they were in the desert.  I wanted to share the game we played because it was a HUGE hit for my kiddos and helped them really understand this miracle.

After our Bible time, I set up our room for the manna game while the kids were coloring and listening to our Miracles song. {They love listening to a song that goes with our unit during our coloring time and it gives them a short time frame to focus on a task and stay focused!}

I used brown craft paper and put it down on the floor as our "desert."  

Before class, I filled a bag full of Rice Krispies as our flakes of manna.  You could use small oyster crackers or cornflake cereals, too.

Then, I gave each kid a "tent house" area around the desert to stay in.  They also each got a bag to use as a basket to collect the "manna."  Next, I turned off our lights for night time and they each went to sleep in their "tents."

When I turned the lights back on it was morning time.  The kids got up and collected the Rice cereal off of the desert ground and put it in their bags.  I reminded them that God said to only collect enough for their day and not too much. 

Once they thought they had enough for the day, they returned to their "tent" and ate their manna. 

After the first round, some had too much manna so they had to empty their baskets so they wouldn't have any left overs for the next day!  We played 3 rounds of this and then I added some more manna to their bags at the end!  Here's a little video of it to watch the game in action!
video


We had so much fun playing this game and I know it really made this Bible story more memorable for my preschoolers.  You can check out this lesson, plus the entire unit here!

I have always loved to play games.  So, 12 years ago, when I began my teaching journey as a first year first grade teacher, I decided games would not just be for inside recess.

I put board games and puzzles in my literacy stations while I did guided reading groups.  And I didn't just give them a whole station just because I loved games.  I also knew that games were an important part of helping kids develop skills they needed as an adult.  At my teacher core, I believe primary kids learn best through play.

But....the stress of the classroom came.

And peer pressure from others came.

Higher standards and higher expectations came.

And even though I knew games were beneficial, I didn't feel confident in WHY I thought games were so important.  After all, I was just a first year teacher.  What the heck did I know?  {hint: not much at all!}

So, slowly the games and puzzles went back into the closet.  Because "They just are," isn't an acceptable answer to the question, "Why is it important for your kids to play board games during instructional time," in the eyes of many people.  And it wasn't an acceptable answer to me either.  But it was all I had.

Fast forward 12 years.  I'm home with my 5 year old on a mommy break from the classroom.  And he is obsessed with playing games.  Every time we play, I see math and literacy skills developing in my preschooler through my teacher lense.

And now, I finally can defend the value of board games and puzzles as an important part of the primary classroom.

Games Build Problem Solving Skills

Math Practice #1 says,

When I play board games, there is always a problem I need to solve.  Getting 4 in a row {Connect 4}, finding my opponent's battleships, capturing checkers are all problems that have to be solved to win a game.  And they don't happen very quickly.  I have to have patience and persevere to win.  Losing my stamina and giving up quickly means I lose the game.

The same is true in math and literacy.  In math, when word problems get tough, I need to be able to persevere and not give up to find the solution.

In reading, decoding can be tough.  But I need to be able to persevere and use multiple clues and strategies to accurately read.

Having difficulty with your kids giving up easily on math problems? Problems building stamina in independent reading time?

Play games.

Strategy Games Build Analyzing Skills

When I play strategy games, I have to analyze the game, my opponents move, and I have to stay at least one step ahead of my opponent in order to win.  I have to look for patterns, evaluate whether my strategy or next move is reasonable and look for the most efficient way to "win."

When I make predictions and inferences in stories, it requires me to be one step ahead of the story to know what's happening next or why something is happening.

When I look at my friend's math strategies, or participate in math talks, I must be able to analyze their strategy and tell why they chose that strategy. 

When I solve math problems, I need to analyze my own thinking by using a reasonable strategy that is efficient so that I can solve quickly.

Becoming a mathematician means...


Not all games are strategy games, though.  Candyland is fun, but there is no strategy to it.  This is not a game I have in my primary classroom, unless it's for inside recess.  Games that are a must in the primary classroom, must be strategy games.  {I'll be blogging soon about my favorite strategy games for the primary classroom.}

Want your kids to have more strategies in their math toolbox and be flexible thinkers? Looking for higher level analysis skills in reading comprehension? Want kids who can analyze equations and math thinking during math talks?

Play games.

Games Build Accuracy


When I play games, I have to be accurate or I cannot win.  The first game that comes to mind with accuracy is Guess Who.   If I put down someone with facial hair after my friend tells me his person has facial hair, there's a chance I just got rid of the person I needed to win the game.

When I solve math problems, measure, or tell time, I have to be accurate.  One mistake means an incorrect answer and no solution. Becoming a mathematician means...

When I read, I have to be accurate.  Too many mistakes mean my comprehension suffers or I have misunderstandings.

Want your kids to slow down and make fewer mistakes in math and literacy?  Wish they would go back and check their writing for mistakes?

Play games. Play games.  Play games.

So stand tall.  Your gut is right.  Games are worth some of your instructional time.  They are worth playing with the family after dinner {and a great way to support school work at home with out doing homework... #winning} Let your primary kids play strategy games and don't feel guilty about it one bit.  Feel confident knowing that you are building little people with high level thinking and problem solving skills for the adult world!
Yesterday, I posted this picture on my personal Facebook page...

And since I've had a few friends request this template, so you can find the link to this FREE at the end of this post!

What is our family prayer routine?

Each night, we read our prayer verse from James 5 out loud.  Then, we ask and share any prayer requests that our family has and add them to our list.  We mark off any prayers that have been answered and praise God for his healing!

Then, Cooper prays.  The list is perfect because it helps him (and us) remember what to pray for.

When we use up the entire page, we simply print a new page, add the unanswered prayers to that list and keep going.

Why have a family prayer routine?

I love that this is just built in and part of what we do.  It's habit forming for us and makes us consciously think about prayer every single day.  Those are habits that I definitely want to form in Cooper.

But we don't just want it to be a habit.  We want it to be a building block for a relationship with God AND a relationship with others.  Many times, when we have had a prayer on our list for a long time, Cooper will say, "How is ____ family doing? Do we still need to pray for them?"  And then we can encourage him to ask that friend or family and let them know we are praying for them.  There have been several times he's started doing this on his own and asked about one of our own needs:  "Daddy, is your headache better today?" Or the other day, when he thought on his own about praying for Mrs. Patricia's arm because he noticed it was in a sling at Bible Study.  I love that this habit encourages empathy, and compassion and empowers him with a tool to help.

Grab this prayer page for FREE here and let's build and strengthen our family prayer life together!

Happy October!  It's starting to finally get cool here in Arkansas, and I'm ready for cardigans and scarves!  At school, October is the time where we are really digging into some good content now that our routines are {mostly} under control! :)  We learn about animal groups and the human body in Science because it ties in so nicely with Halloween and skeletons!   Here is my must-have list of science read alouds for October!

These books are fabulous read alouds for learning about parts of our body during our Animal Unit.  We use it as we chart our shared research about organs and areas of our body with our human body collaborative posters {get the details here}.  They also make great classroom library books for first graders to shop for! 

I love this read aloud and the dvd too!  We use this for our collaborative body posters when we add our digestive system!

Once we finish up the human body, we move onto comparing and contrasting animal groups!  We use these animal group read alouds to fill in our shared research anchor charts about each animal group.  Once again, these are a great independent reading level for many first graders, so they are a great addition for guided reading or our classroom library.

I got all of these True or False books by accident with a book order one time--but they are AWESOME!  They are engaging reads, super interesting, and the kids LOVE trying to guess whether the facts are true or false!




During our animal unit, we learn about shapes and geometry during math.  So, at the end of our unit we use this book as the launch for our shape animals project!  While my firsties work in groups to research their animals, they also make their animal out of shapes to display in the hallway with their animal research writing.  I love this STEM connection at the end of this unit!

Almost 6 months ago, my then 4 and a half year old had almost his entire 5th birthday party planned.

"Momma, all I want is for my friends to bring their bikes and cars and ride up and down our street with me!  Let's call it, 'Go Cooper Go!'"

And with that, a cars party was born (in the church parking lot, not our busy street!) Here's a look at this fun party day for our sweet {almost} 5 year old!
{some affiliate links may be contained in this post!}

When I say Cooper planned almost all of the details for his party, I really mean it!  Right down to which cars should go together in the thank you favors...

...to sitting with me while we designed his birthday invitations.  "Mommy, let's make a big 5 that looks like a road!"

And when it came time to prepping this week, he loved picking out which cars we would use for the food signs...

...and making the traffic light Rice Krispies!

Party day turned out fabulous...despite the windy day that made us need to move the food table inside! :)

The pennant banners were made from scrapbook paper and cardstock triangles! And I printed 7 inch circles with the words in the middle and cut outside of the edge to make some stop light banners too!

Cooper picked out his menu too!  And he made sure each of his friends knew not to accidentally swallow the toothpicks!






We saw this idea on Pinterest and Cooper could not stop talking about it!  Daddy came to the rescue and turned these {brand new} gas cans into drink stations!


We had the thank you favors on the drink table too!  You can grab these thank you cards with versions for valentine's day and more gift tags here.

The kids table was my favorite!  The cars in the plates were necessary in the wind! :)  We used race car napkins all unfolded to make placemats and taped down the corners to make them wind proof.  The road table runners on all of the tables were just made out of black and white felt I had around the house {yay for free decorations!}





Have I mentioned the wind yet?  Because it completely hijacked our blowing out candles situation.  Cooper really wanted 5 individual candles to blow out.  Getting all 5 lit without the wind killing the flames was impossible...even with hands blocking the wind and whatever else we tried.  So, we finally settled for blowing out the lighter! LOL! #whateverworks

We set up a road with traffic signs for the kids to ride on.  And if you look closely enough you can see the railroad tracks Cooper taped down for the railroad!  You can find this set of adorable traffic signs here {affiliate link}.  I LOVE that they were super easy to put together, great quality and all the pieces go back into a box that's super easy to store!

Cooper lined up all the vehicles we brought {not all from our house!} for the party... #thecutest

And then off they went!  I absolutely loved watching this kid and his friends do exactly what he's been dreaming about doing for almost 6 months now!









I say this every year, but truely this may have been my favorite party yet.  Just simple kid fun celebrating our miracle!

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