In our decade-and-a-half (plus) of homeschooling, we have discovered that nothing clarifies and solidifies understanding of math concepts like the use of manipulatives for younger children. There are many types available, and we have bought several of them over the years. The high quality, natural material ones were costly, and sometimes difficult to replace if pieces were lost. There are less expensive, plastic options, which we also tried (as replacements), but didn’t like. They are all essentially the same – units and bars of differing colours used to represent numerals and quantities.
Anytime that I can make my own tools and materials – especially when that is a more economical option – I am happy.
Below are instructions for making your own bead stair sets. We made 11 complete sets. (I’m planning to post a little something on making bead stair trays, as well as on how we store our materials).
You will need:
10 mm painted wooden beads in the following colours and quantities –
red – 11
green – 22
pink – 33
yellow – 44
light blue – 55
orange – 66 (traditionally, this would be brown, but I prefer the orange!)
white – 77
violet – 88
dark blue – 99
Paddle wire (craft wire that comes on a paddle). Try to get tarnish-free.
Felt pad to work on (handy, but optional)
Good, sturdy pair of hands. 🙂
Gather up your supplies. With a bustly house, it helps to keep them on a tray, if you have one available.
Sorting the beads makes work much easier than fiddling with plastic bags.
Cut the wire a bit longer than you think you'll need it. A good pair of jewelers wire cutters are essential.
Make a loop around the fattest part of the pliers for this project. It prevents the bead from falling off, certainly, but also gives a little something more for small hands (and big arthritic ones) to grasp.
Thread the bead (or beads) onto the wire. You'll have to eyeball how much you'll need for the closing loop. Trim if you need to and curl that wire around the pliers at the fattest point.
Continue this way with all of the beads, making bars as follows below.
Do you remember finger paints when you were small? I remember having little pots of paint, the cool semi-gelatinous texture, and a distinctive smell, not unlike play-doh. I was five years old.
Finger painting is a wonderful way to introduce little ones to making art. They have better control of their own fingers than they do a paint brush, and helps them to build a muscle memory of the way certain objects are formed in two dimensions. Finger painting is an excellent way to re-enforce letter and number formation. It is also a wonderful way to teach children to mix colours.
As they get a little more advanced, finger painting can be a useful introduction to early figure drawing.
Of course, the extent of wonderful artistic activities is only limited by your imagination. We’d sure love to see what you and your children make with your finger paints!
1 c. cornstarch
1 c. grated soap (we use plain olive oil soap or goat’s milk soap)
3 c. water
1T. glycerine or white sugar
food dyes (we use India Tree plant-based food dye)
3 flip-top squirt bottles
pad of large art paper
Gather your supplies... and your little helpers.
Pour your cornstarch (cornflour) into the pot...
and your sugar...
... and add 1 c. of water.
Stir and stir until completely dissolved.
Grate the soap
Luminous curly soap noodles (ours smell like sandalwood)
Add the soap curls to the pot.
Place pot over medium heat and stir constantly. As the mixture thickens, add as much of the remaining 2c. water to make the gel workable.
When it's ready, the mixture will be light and fluffy.
Divide the mixture evenly amongst 3 bowls (or however many you want).
Add food colouring to each bowl. We used 40 drops each, and obtained soft colours. Your results will vary depending upon the food colouring you choose. Paste colurants will give you the most vibrant colours.
Keep stirring until the colour is even.
Pour paint through a funnel into your bottles. Remember to thoroughly rinse the funnel between colours.
Take out the paper and fill the wells of the pallettes.
These finger paints can also be used in the bath! Since they are soapy, they are also washable. Lovely!
Long ago, in the land of Gaul, was nestled the beautiful town of Trier. The hillsides were covered, and still are today, in vines, which – every summer – grow heavy with grapes. And in one lovely house, on one of those hillsides, lived the family of Aurelius Ambrosius – his very wise and pius wife, his daughter Marcellina, and son Satyrus. The house was blessed once more with the birth of a baby – another son, whom they named Ambrose.
Ambrose was a very special child.
One day, when his mother placed him in out in the garden in his cradle for a midday nap, a swarm of bees entered from the vineyard and began to dance around the infant’s downy head. Round and round they flew, buzzing merrily, as his parents gazed on in amazement. Not a single bee offered to sting their tiny boy. And just as suddenly as they had appeared, the bees gathered themselves and flitted away back to their hives, leaving on the child’s lips
a single drop of honey.
“Surely this is a sign that the boy will grow in wisdom, and eloquence, and sweetness!” cried his father.
And he was right.
Ambrose grew to manhood and became a lawyer, then a governor, and was later elected the Bishop of Milan in Italy. He was known far and wide for his wisdom, his elegant turn of phrase, and his sweetness – especially to the poor.
St. Ambrose Day is celebrated on 7th December, during the season of Advent.