Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Childhood of Famous Americans

Please note: This is an expanded post of the original which I posted at Start Well Home School on November 18, 2009. Since that time we have read more titles from this series with a growing love for them.

One of the very first recommendations I received from a veteran home educator was to read titles from the Childhood of Famous Americans series to my children. WOW! What a find! These books have engaged my children since the early 1990's. The flame was recently rekindled as my younger children took an interest in the bright red, white and blue covers gracing our shelves. We have been eagerly reading about the childhood lives of famous Americans, learning some very interesting lesser-known facts about people we have come to admire.

Recent notes: These books are fictionalized, though we have found them to contain accurate information about the childhoods of these famous Americans. I think my children find them inviting because of their focus on the childhood life of people they know only as adults.

Each book is packed with noteworthy experiences, personality traits, and adventures about the girl or boy who eventually grew up to be the inventor, scientist, statesman, president, educator, or explorer we knew only as an adult. The books bring the young person to life, incorporating events to which a child reader can relate. We have found ourselves mindful of the childhood experiences and personal gifts which eventually contributed to the famous American's greatness. By the end of each book, the reader is left with the desire to find out what happened next, a perfect lead to further study.

The Childhood of Famous Americans (COFA) series, praised by parents, teachers, and librarians for over 65 years, was first introduced to the public in the 1940s and continued to be printed into the 1960s by Bobbs-Merrill. Originally printed in hardback form, these fictionalized biographies (suitable for independent readers third grade and up or to be read aloud to any age) became instant favorites and were reintroduced in an infamous red, white and blue paperback form in the 1980s.

Recent notes: We especially like the original hardcover books. Though these are out of print, they can be found online or in used bookstore. Great finds! With over 170 COFAs to choose from, there is sure to be one to be woven into any study.

A list of COFAs can be found at Valerie's Living Books.

You can find some here.

If you need a visual (like me) so you can spot them at a sale quickly, take a look here.

In recent years, several publishers are working to bring the once-out-of-print-titles back to life. A great endeavor, however in the process some of the books have undergone editing and rewording. One publisher, Patria Press, began reprinting the stories in 2002, renaming the series Young Patriots. Find out more about the titles they have reprinted at

Whenever we begin new unit of study or a new period of American history we try to find a COFA title to personalize our learning. Visit for a listing of all the titles arranged by era.

The hardcover originals are, of course, our favorite because of their old, authentic feel and larger font. Now considered vintage books, they can be difficult to find. If we cannot get our eyes and hands on these treasures, we look for the well-known red, white and blue covers.

Want to learn more about the heroes and heroines who shaped our country? Find a COFA title and relax on a comfy couch. You and your children will discover inspiring details from the lives of the men and women whom we often know only through their adult accomplishments.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Step Up Books Save A Want-to-be-Reader

The want-to-be-reader in my daughter disappeared, somewhere between simple short vowel words and complex sentences. Just like that, gone. In desperation (if you know us you know we love books) I went to the home library shelf. There before my eyes appeared, George Washington. The title invited me in- Meet George Washington.

I pulled the book off the shelf and thumbed through the pages. PERFECT! Large type. Pictures on every other page. All nestled in chapters between two hard covers. THIS book had the look and  feel of a book an "older" child would read. I beckoned my want-to-be-reader and proposed we sit together as I read. That is all she needed. A book that felt like a "real" book. Not just some story printed in a graded reader, but a real book. Motivation returned.

So often want-to-be-readers are lost when fluency and practice are needed to feed the reading process. Reading can be just plain hard for some. Lots of practice. Lots of encouragement. Lots of interesting "real books" needed to make it through that tough time when a young child is building vocabulary and fluency to become an proficient reader.

We started together. I read to her. The content was intriguing, interesting, something she wanted to know more about. I read the entire book. She listened. She wanted another. I had no idea where I had gotten the only one we owned. Where to look? The library? No, not there. Google saved the day. Within a short time, I was able to locate another, then another. I read a page. Then she read a page. Soon, she read a chapter, then I read a chapter. Dad was invited to read. Before long (maybe 2 months) she was reading, independently on her own with enthusiasm. The want-to-be-reader had been transformed to the I-gotta-read reader. Currently, she wants to read every book in the series. In fact, the now fluent reader won't move to another series until she reads them all (or at least the ones we can find). Step Up books are that interesting to her. Interest is the prime motivator. It's internal. It's powerful.

A map for reference while reading. Yes! Geography and Reading!

In the process of finding other books in the series, we have acquired "extras" of some of the titles (because we had to buy them in lots). If you have a want-to-be-reader who has gotten lost between simple words and complex sentences, perhaps these high interest books will motivate your child as they have ours. If so, let us know. We know how you can add them to your library.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Gettysburg Resources

Studying the Civil War? If you are attending the Living History Performance Gettysburg: The Second Day presented by Bob Farewell at Killarney Baptist Church, October 20, you might find you will be soon if your children carry their curiosity home with them. If you aren't attending you may still find these resources helpful for future Gettysburg or related studies. There are Internet links, living books and biographies. Please understand I am not endorsing a viewpoint on the Civil War and I would encourage parents to view, read or do research about the resources below before placing in the hands (or eyes and ears) of your child(ren).


Living Books
Informational and Activity Books

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Sticky Letters Become Words

"Mom! Can I have these!" 

Our youngest, a budding emergent reader, emergent speller happened upon a large sheets of 2-inch peel off brightly-colored sticky letters. A gold mine! Within 40 minutes she had completed the equivalent of a month's worth of spelling lessons, without tears, without coercion. Best of all, she remembered the words she spelled, days later. A win-win-win situation. Learning, fun, retention. That is what I call a productive day!

Saturday, September 29, 2012

New Mama-Made Game

Mama-made games are becoming very popular at our house. And, we are learning!

Here is the latest mama-made game at our house (a small sampling of about 30 abbreviations in a variety of colors). We were struggling with abbreviations and multiple worksheets...well, that wasn't the answer. So, I took learning off the page and put it into their hands. What happened? They loved it! We matched the abbreviations and learned how to spell measurement words.

Side note: the visual-spatial child ordered the color shades (not shown here). Very cool!

Maybe there is a concept you can pull off the page for your child. Doesn't have to be fancy to be fun.

Here Chicky, Chicky!

(An exciting adventure for all ages, those who want to bring some country home.)

Our recent adventures began with a home school evaluation. Families come to us to discuss and review work samples from their year's accomplishments. In addition to paperwork, we often see models, dioramas, crafts and artwork. This particular family brought live items to document their school year.  In a cardboard box were two, eight-hour-old chicks. These puffs of black fuzz quickly attached to one of our daughters.  The mother who brought the chicks taught my daughter what imprinting meant and fast friends were made.  The result was "Can we keep them?"

Daddy gave the affirmative, highly-hoped-for answer and the chickens came to live with us, under the condition they had to go back when they became adults because the neighbors may not be so appreciative of our latest home school "project". 

The next day, initiated by an innate curiosity, we hunted books from our personal library, researched the Internet and called local feed stores.  We watched an Internet video of a hen laying an egg. 

On day two, we took a "field trip" with grandpa to the feed store (that was a sensory experience!) for chicken mash. We saw baby animals including pigeon chicks, compared the many kinds of feed, watched the man weigh the mash on the big scale, enjoyed the smell of the live tackle and took a stroll through the garden plants. 

Day three we read and compared several versions of The Little Red Hen. Later in the day we discussed diagrams of the 21-day embryo growth inside the egg, amazed by the transformation. We discussed why the eggs in our refrigerator would not become chicks, greeting us the next time we opened the door. This sparked a conversation about how many eggs are in a dozen and a half-dozen. We figured out egg carton multiplication and enjoyed egg salad for lunch. One daughter suggested we make a chicken book, a novel idea! We made the book over several days and then headed to the library used book store to find an old magazine with chicken pictures to cut out.

Internet Resources:

What a wonder we have experienced! We watched the baby chick's wings grow and then add feathers. The chicks chased us across the tile floor. We watched, amazed, as they took to flight for the very first time. We have learned that chicks need to have their bedding changed everyday or the house begins to smell like grandpa's farm. And alas, our chicks are now looking like miniature chickens. They will be heading back to their original family soon. 

We wanted to pass on what we have learned as well as the books we read, in case, by some circumstance, chickens appear on your doorstep. 

Chicken/Farm Books:
Are You My Mother? by P. D. Eastman
Big Red Barn by Margaret Wise Brown 
Barnyard Banter by Denise Fleming
The Little Red Hen by Paul Galdone
The Little Red Hen by Jerry Pickney
Little Red Hen Makes a Pizza by Philemon Sturges
Five Little Chicks by Nancy Tafuri
Field Guide to Chickens by Pam Percy
Chicks and Chickens by Gail Gibbons 
The Chicken Book by Page Smith and Charles Daniel
Where Do Chickens Come From by Amy E. Sklansky
Chickens by David M. Schwartz

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Building Vocabulary with Vocabulary Workshop

For years our children have benefited from using Vocabulary Workshop published by Sadlier-Oxford. The paperback workbooks teach new words through definitions, antonyms, synonyms, word associations, and reading comprehension exercises. Repetition allows students to achieve success and higher retention.

Vocabulary Workshop Color Levels
Students, elementary through high school, needing additional practice can access additional online review activities for every level workbook. Auditory recordings of the word pronunciations and definitions are available. These online exercises are especially helpful for students who need auditory input for optimal retention. 

Online link 

Friday, August 24, 2012

Learning and Paper Trails

Learning is often measured in paper. Thirty-problem speed drills. Handwriting practice sheets. Standardized tests. Lab reports. In and of themselves, these items aren't terrible. They have their place. However, valuable learning also takes place when there is no visible, tangible trace.

We have had one of those weeks, weeks where most learning will not be measured in paper. Stellar, life-impacting learning occurred, but we didn't have sheets and sheets of paper to prove our efforts. During the course of the week, we had the opportunity to:

  • learn number recognition while playing BINGO with Great-grandma
  • counted and rolled coins (collected in the family change jar)
  • played Pizza Fraction Fun 
  • weighed produce with a kitchen scale
  • made figures with tangrams
  • wrote letters on the driveway with sidewalk chalk
  • retold a story we heard someone else tell and then discussed how point of view and experiences determine potential bias
  • read a recipe, followed directions, and measured ingredients
  • listened to Jim Weiss stories on CD
    Gone West
  • spelled three- and four-letter short vowel words on a white board
  • listened to The Tale of Two Cities and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (books on tape)
  • reviewed state abbreviations while driving to Grandma's house
  • assembled a floor puzzle of the United States
  • listened to mom read Meet the Pilgrim Fathers by Elizabeth Payne
  • learned body systems and their functions while listening to Lyrical life Science: Human Body
  • listened to the Biology audio text while creating pencil drawings
  • discussed the nutritional content of three types of cereal
  • cared for the neighbor's dogs
Children were engaged. Learning occurred. No paper trace for these activities. The evidence resided in the minds of the young learners. How did we document our learning? We kept a resource list and took pictures of the white board, tangram creations, and completed puzzle. The will have to ask the children. I am sure they would be more than willing to share their adventures!

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Building Reading Fluency

Every child has interests. Every child is motivated by something.When interest and motivation collide, learning occurs. Children learn uniquely.

I have a little learner who is motivated to read fluently. She wants to read independently like her sisters. We've tried readers. She needed something she found interesting. Animals. Perfect fit!

While at the library, I found some smaller books, easily held by little hands, with simple words. Not too much text on the pages and beautiful, inviting photographs. Perfect! One book, and she was hooked. One week later, while at the library, my little learner asked, "Mom, can we find more of those animal books!" This  visit, I found books with more difficult words and a bit more text. Reading is taking off!

     Tiger Cub   Rhinoceroses (Animals That Live in the Grasslands)

Beginning with easier reads and moving to more difficult:

Lions, Amelie von Zumbusch
Arctic Foxes, Emily Rose Townsend
Seals, Emily Rose Townsend
Polar Bears, Emily Rose Townsend
Puppies Grow Up to Be Dogs, Cecilia Minden 
Foals Grow Up to  be Horses, Cecilia Minden 
Tiger Cub, Monica Hughes
Rhinoceroses, Ethan Grucella
Anteaters, Megan Borgert-Spaniol
Camels, Megan Borgert-Spaniol
Crabs, Ann Herriges
Arabian Oryx, Anita Ganeri 

The Wright Brothers


Looking for a new read-aloud, we headed to our home library. Majority vote determined The Wright Brothers (from the Landmark series) by Quentin Reynolds would be our next read. From the very first page, we were captivated. Science, geography, life application. Encouragement for mom. A great read for sure!

Side note: This book spoke to me as a mom who strives to encourage children to ask questions, to remain curious, to love learning. Pages 4-6 impacted me, so much so that I often quote this passage when I speak to mama of little learners. Susan Wright inspired her children with her ability to encourage questions and cultivated wonder. Her efforts changed technology.

     "What makes a bird fly, Mother?" Wilbur asked.
     "Their wings, Will," she said. "You notice they move their wings and that makes them go faster."
     "But Mother, " Will said, not quite satisfied, "that bird that just swooped down didn't even move his wings. He swooped down and grabbed a fish, and then went right up again. He never moved his wings at all."
      "The wind doesn't just blow toward you or away from you," she said. "It blows up and down too. When a current of air blows up, it takes the bird up. This wings support him in the air."
The story continues as the brothers ask their mother questions about what they were observing. Wilbur insists he could fly if he had wings, if he could make wings. The narrator concludes the chapter:

"She knew that even an eleven-year-old boy can have ideas of his own, and just because they happened to come from an eleven-year-old head--well, that didn't make them foolish. She never treated her children as if they were babies, and perhaps that's why they liked to go fishing with her or on picnics with her. And that's why they kept asking her questions.

We finished the book and our children wanted to learn more about the Wright Brothers and flight. That interest led to asking the local butcher for Styrofoam meat trays from which we cut glider wings. Gliders led to creating a Science Fair project which hypothesized the effect of paper weight on the flight of paper airplanes. We folded, flew, measured and compared. What a journey! It all started with a trip to our home library.

The Wright Brothers by Elizabeth MacLeod
To Fly: The Story of the Wright Brothers by Wendie C. Old
First Flight: The Story of Tom Tate and the Wright Brothers by George Shea

Learning resources
Wright Brothers unit study (includes instructions for making gliders)

Another tutorial for making gliders

Monday, July 23, 2012

Balloons Over Broadway

Balloons over Broadway: The True Story of the Puppeteer of Macy's Parade

Flipping through books on the "new book cart" at our local library, I was intrigued by one of the
titles—Balloons Over Broadway: The Story of the Puppeteer of Macy's Parade. Living in the Northeast as a child, the Macy's Parade was a highlight of our Thanksgiving Day morning; almost as important as putting the turkey in the oven.

I pulled the book from the shelf and placed it in our canvas library bag. When we arrived home an eager, curious little learner retrieved the book from the bag. "Mom, let's read this one!" We did and I learned the back story about the balloons at which I marveled as I child. In the process of reading one of our newest library finds, I was able to tell my children about one of our favorite holiday traditions—watching the Macy's Day Parade while smells of cinnamon and roasting turkey permeated our home. A slice of family tradition and a delightful piece of American history served up during read-aloud time. 

Interested in learning more about Macy's Parade, Tony Sarg, or puppet making:
A brief video about the parade history
Behind the scenes tour of the parade
Parade Memory Match
About Tony Sarg, puppeteer
More about Tony Sarg
Puppets children can make
More puppets to make

Other creative experiences:
Make puppets and perform a puppet show to entertain family and friends
Visit a local marionette theater

Monday, May 28, 2012

Our Favorite Microscope for Little Learners

"Mom, look at this wasp's nest. Quick! Go get the microscope!"

Little learners are curious. Curious about everything, big or small, wanting to take a second, closer look. That is when our Magiscope comes in handy. No slide preparation. Built-in light source. Removable ocular for odd- shaped specimens. What else could a curious little learner hope for?

When our oldest son was six years old, grandparents asked what he would like for Christmas. The Magiscope made a  perfect present, one which satisfied him (as well as his siblings) for years. In fact, 17 years later, it is still one of our favorite learning tools.

As I speak to parents, whether in a living room chat or at a large convention, I often mention our fascination with this portable scientific tool, one that gives little learners a simple, age-appropriate introduction to magnification. We carry ours outside to the swing set fort or to the front yard. We have even taken it on vacation. When the Magiscope is not with us, we collect the specimen in a baggie for observation at home. The Magiscope helps to foster a curiosity for natural science in our eager learners. For that, I am  grateful.

For more information, check out these links:

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Counting by 5 with Smarties and Spree

Found a few packs of Smarties and Spree today. Instead of dividing them out freely among the masses, I decided to take math in another direction, counting by 5s. Eager (we don't make a habit of having little candies on hand), children circled.

"If each Smarty cost us 5 cents, how much would we have to pay for this little pack?" I asked.

Gears began to turn.

Seconds passed. Thoughts continued. Finally, an answer.

"85!" shouted a little learner.

We counted together in four-part harmony. Yes, indeed, 85.

Then we divided up small treats evenly.

All in all...great fun, eager learning.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Our Newest Game: Tricky Ys

"Words ending in "Y" all make different sounds."
Little Learner, quite confused by all the "Y" words in a recent workbook page (yes, we do them occasionally) voiced her opinion about why "Y" shouldn't have so many sounds. Tricky "Y".

I decided to take learning off the page and put it into her hands.

I made a list of all the words I could ending in "Y" taking on the sound of either long e or long i. I designed 2x3 inch cards, one word to each card, and printed the cards on 100 pound cardstock (colored makes it more fun). Little Learners helped me cut through the straight lines with their blunt tipped scissors.

Once cards were cut, I created a "Y" from one business- and one letter-sized envelope. After sealing the envelopes, I trimmed 1/4 inch off the top edge to make two pockets. I formed the "Y", securing with tape on the back, and traced around the outside edges with a black Sharpie to make the "Y" more pronounced. I wrote "long e" on one envelope pocket and "long i" on the other.

We have played this game many ways, in fact the littles like making up new rules. One round (played with a 5 and 8 year old) we read through the cards. I helped the 5 year old and it was great review for the eight year old. Then we placed the cards face down in the center of the play area and took turns drawing a card, saying the word, and letting it slide down the correct pocket.

This morning, we look the game with us on the morning dog walking adventure. The girls each had a handful of random cards, took turns reading their word and placing it in the correct pocket. I helped read words which had been forgotten.

We've had great fun and success with our new game, Tricky Ys. We also learned the meanings of some new words: wity, sly, and rely. So, chalk one up for vocabulary. Today, learning with our hands (and outside) was delightful.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

College Admission Requirements for Home Educated Applicants

Over the past several months, I have been speaking to rooms full of parents (some larger than others) considering the home education journey for their middle and high school children. Most often, we talk about specifics and how-tos. At some point during the Q&A portion, I am usually asked, "What about college admission?" 

Generally colleges welcome home educated students, but it is always wise to check on the admission requirements of particular schools of interest. Don't assume. Contact admissions counselors. Some universities have one counselor designated for home educated students. Finding out valuable information early enables parents and young adults to plan well for the high school chapter of a student's life. 

Finding the specific requirements for home educated students on a college site can take time. In an effort to help parents, I have created this blog with links, hoping it might save someone, somewhere, time. I will add to the list as I am able, so check back.

Agnes Scott College, Decatur, GA

Amherst College, Amherst, MA

Arizona State, Phoenix Area

Auburn, Auburn, AL (Scroll to the bottom)

Baptist Bible College, Clarks Summit, PA

Bellhaven University, Jackson, MS

Belmont Abbey College, Belmont, NC

Bowdoin College, Brunswick, ME

Bradley University, Peoria, IL

Bryan College, Dayton, TN

Bucknell University, Lewisburg, PA

California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA

Cedarville University, Cedarville, OH

Charleston Southern University, Charleston, SC

Clearwater Christian College, Clearwater, FL

Covenant College, Lookout Mountain, GA

Emory, Atlanta, GA

Emory-Riddle Aeronautical University, Daytona Beach, FL

Florida Gulf Coast University, Ft. Myers, FL

Florida Institute of Technology, Melbourne, FL

Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL

Furman, Greenville, SC

George Mason University, Fairfax, VA

Grove City College, Grove City, PA

Hillsdale College, Hillsdale, MI

John Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD (see Other Questions)

Kansas State University, Manhattan, KS

Liberty University, Lynchburg, VA

Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA

Mercer University, Macon, GA

Messiah College, Grantham, PA

Oberlin College and Conservatory, Oberlin, OH

Oglethorpe University, Atlanta, GA

Ohio University, Athens, OH

Patrick Henry College, Purcellville, VA

Pensacola Christian College, Pensacola, FL

Princeton University, Princeton, NJ

Rice, Houston, TX

Rollins College, Winter Park, FL

St. John's College, Annapolis, MD and Santa Fe, NM

Stanford University, Stanford, CA

Stetson University, Deland, FL

Southern Methodist University, Dallas TX

Taylor University, Upland, IN

Texas Christian Universtiy, Fort Worth, TX (home educated students ask to contact home education admission counselor at the university)

The College of William and Mary, Williamsburg, VA

Trinity Lutheran College, Everett, WA

Tulane University, New Orleans, LA

United States Air Force Academy, Colorado Springs, CO

United States Naval Academy, Annapolis, MD

University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, AL

University of Dallas, Irving, TX

University of Illinois, Urbana, IL

University of Evansville, Evansville, IL

University of Florida, Gainesville, FL

University of Georgia, Athens, GA

University of Illinois, Champaign, IL

University of New Hampshire, Durham, NH

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC

University of North Florida, Jacksonville, FL

University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, IN (scroll to the bottom)

University of Richmond, Richmond, VA

University of South Florida, Tampa, FL

Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN

Washington State University, Pullman, WA

Wheaton College, Wheaton, IL

Thursday, April 19, 2012

A Handsomely Fabulous Way to Learn Measurement

Searching the internet, I happened across a great way to teach or to reinforce units of capacity. I love hands-on, interactive ways to teach and to learn math, so Measurement Man was right up my alley, I mean abacus.

My girls LOVED this activity which is the best I have found to teach this concept in a hands-on, concrete method.

I posted the link on the Flip Three Pancakes page of my website. If you liked Measurement Man, you will love the other activities I posted.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Inventors and Inventions

Creative juices flowing. Dreams of building something marvelous. Children love books about people who created something useful, something we use on a daily basis. Ah, the wonder of it all!

Looking for books to keep creativity stoked? There are several for younger learners. Some grew to be our favorites, checked out again and again at the library. When my oldest son went through the inventor stage and we couldn't find a picture book on the subject, I would check out books for the older learners and we would look at the pictures, read the captions, or I would read the book aloud to him, depending on his interest. I specifically remember one about Mr. Kellogg, the cereal genius. We read, both thoroughly engrossed with the process of making the tasty crunchies in our breakfast bowls.

The Childhood of Famous American series has provided us great read alouds about the childhood lives of famous folks. Several are about inventors. Interesting to see how their childhoods influenced their careers and ideas. Here are a list of our favorites books about inventors:

Young Thomas Edison, Michael Dooling (fabulous text and illustrations)

Snowflake Bentley, Jacqueline Briggs Martin (by far a favorite with more than one check-out)

The Glorious Flight: Across the Channel with Louis Bleriot, Alice Provensen

Stradivari's Singing Violin, Catherine Deverell (a definite favorite)

Marvelous Mattie: How Margaret E. Knight Became an Inventor, Emily Arnold McCully

Click: A Story about George Eastman, Barbara Mitchell

Boss of the Plains: The Hat that Won the West, Laurie Carlson

Thomas Edison: Young Inventor (Childhood of Famous Americans), Sue Guthridge

The Great Horse and Carriage Race, Michael Dooling

Listen UP! Alexander Graham Bell's Talking Machine, Monica Kulling (Step Up to Reading- great for beginning readers)

Wilbur and Orville Wright: Young Fliers (Childhood of Famous Americans series), Augusta Stevenson

A Picture Book of Thomas Alva Edison, David Adler (one of our absolute favorite series)

Pioneer Plowman: A Story about John Deere, David R. Collins

Homer Price, Robert McCloskey (fictional)

Want to make learning experiential? Here are some ideas:
There are lots of hands-on, experiential activities which can enhance the learning of your young inventor.

Perhaps the best idea might be providing found objects which can be used in creative ventures. In an inventions box (a cardboard or plastic bucket) place:
  • nuts and bolts
  • glue
  • newspaper or wallpaper
  • paper clips
  • staples and stapler
  • pvc pipes and elbows
  • duct tape
  • scissors (age-appropriate, of course)
  • dowel rods
  • wood pieces
  • craft sticks
  • straws
  • plastic spoons
  • pipe cleaners
  • colored wire
Build a model rocket. Estes kits have rockets suitable for beginner as well as advanced builders.

Design a kite. Catch the wind and give it a try.

Build a bridge. See how much weight the bridge can hold. Popsicle sticks and straws make great bridge building materials.

Invent a cookie. Yes, all cookie recipes start in someone's kitchen. My childhood friend and I spent many a Saturday trying to create the next cookie sensation.

Want to dig deeper?