Math in Flowers

April showers bring May flowers, and this month there are a few flower centered days to celebrate with a math lesson.


Public Gardens Day is May 8th.
Mother’s Day is on May 10th.
May 15th is Bring Flowers to Someone Day.
And, May 30th is Water a Flower Day.

With all these days to give or enjoy flowers, this is a good month to visit the Fibonacci numbers and learn more about math patterns in nature. You may notice the makeup of a flower begins in a spiral pattern. In addition to this being an efficient way to grow, this spiral will always result in a Fibonacci number.

We demonstrate that with a pinecone! As we trace the spirals with paint, the purple spiral is the 13th! Using this pinecone pattern we have an easy craft where little ones can create their own Fibonacci flowers, but first, you might want to visit Fibonacci Zoo to master the number pattern.

Fibonacci Zoo by Tom Robinson, illustrated by Christina Wald

When Eli and his father visit an unusual zoo, they count the creatures in each exhibit. Eli sees one alligator, then one bison, and next two camels. Soon a number pattern emerges and Eli thinks he can predict how many animals will be in the next exhibit. Explore the zoo with Eli as he runs ahead to test his hypothesis. Visit the book page, or download the “For Creative Minds

Now, Let’s Make Flowers!

Flowers made of pinecones

To make the flowers you will need:
Craft paint and paint brushes
Garden clippers, or a saw

If you want to make a bouquet, you also need:
Floral wire
Floral tape

Start by cutting the pinecones into small sections with the clippers or if your pinecone is larger a small saw. (Have an adult do this ahead of time for easier painting)

clipping the pinecone

Choose your paint colors and paintbrush and start creating by painting the scales and center of the pinecone to look like a flower.

painting the clipped pinecone

Although we did not make a bouquet, you can wrap the wire around the center of the cone, leave two sides long enough to fold down, and then wrap with floral tape to make the stem.

the finished pinecone flower

Now count your scales to find the Fibonacci number!

Facebook Contest…Enter to Win!

Don’t pass this up guys! It’s easy and fun, and you could win your own personal elibrary. Starting now through December 31, check out our facebook page and post on our wall.  All you have to do is write your favorite thing about reading or the holidays.  And hey, you could “Like” us while you’re at it!

For example my favorite thing about Christmas is the hot Russian tea at my hometown tree farm, and the smell of my favorite Christmas tree candle. 

If you are in the holiday spirit to share your favorite thing about the holidays, or your favorite thing about reading, do it now while you still have a chance to win! We will be giving out 5 free personal elibraries between now and the end of December.

With one click, these eBooks read aloud to the children and page-flip from the beginning of a story to the end. Put a child in front of this eLibrary, and they will “play” for hours on end reading and listening to wonderful, award-winning picture books. We encourage parents to take this excitement and discuss the “For Creative Minds” section at the end of each ebook with their child. Each book homepage also has 40-60 pages of cross-curricular Teaching Activities plus 3 Interactive Reading Comprehension and Math Quizzes.

And since I’m in such a holiday spirit, I can’t help but share the recipe to the best hot winter drink EVER!

  • 1 cup of instant tea
  • 2 cups of tang
  • 1 tsp of cloves
  • 1 package of Wylers lemonade mix
  • 1 1/2 cups of sugar (or less depending on taste)

Directions: Mix all of this together and keep it in a tightly sealed jar. Use 2 heaping teaspoons for one cup of tea.

And Wha Lah! There you have it…the best winter drink of all time!

Let’s Celebrate Antarctic Day!

Tomorrow, November 22nd, is Antarctic Day! This is a day to celebrate our neighbors way way south where the penguins and icicles play. This may be a nice place to visit, if you can handle the extreme cold, but I think it’s safe to say that none of us would want to live there.  Since we won’t be unpacking for good any time soon in the Antarctic, how about we give it its own special day and celebrate!

Here are some interesting and fun facts to get you and your kids excited about the Antarctic:

  • To avoid confusion, the Antarctic is the region around our Earth’s South Pole, while the Arctic region opposite it is around Earth’s North Pole.  Now which one does Santa fly from again? 
  • Did you know that that there are no polar bears in this southern region?  They only live in the Northern Hemisphere.  Penguins, on the other hand, are abundant in the Antarctic. 
  • The very first human to be born in the Antarctic was named Solveig Gunbjørg Jacobsen (have fun pronouncing that one!).  He was born on October 8 of 1913.
  • This region had no indigenous people living in it when it was first discovered
  • There are more tourists that visit the Antarctic each year than people who actually live there!

Well there you go! To find out more about the Antarctic, keep an eye out for our new title coming in February of 2012, called “The Penguin Lady,”by Carol A. Cole. In this picture book, Penelope Parker lives with penguins!  Short ones, tall ones; young and old—the penguins are from all over the Southern Hemisphere including some that live near the equator! Do the penguin antics prove too much for her to handle? Children count and then compare and contrast the different penguin species as they learn geography.

In the meantime, however, you can learn all about the Antarctic’s rival region, the Arctic, by checking out our wonderful title, “In Arctic Waters,” by Laura Crawford.  While reading this book, you and your child can follow polar bears, walruses, seals, narwhals, and beluga whales while they chase each other around the ice in the Arctic waters!  It is a pure delight to read aloud, and the “For Creative Minds” section helps children learn how these animals live in the cold, icy arctic region. 

Halloween Games for Kids!

Nervous about how to deal with the increased levels of sugar intake your children will be getting this time of year? Well, here are some ways to help them stay active and burn the energy off.

The Monster Mash, as we all know, is a classic Halloween tune.  As it has been around since 1962, what would be better than to keep it alive and kicking?  You can turn this song into your own Halloween version of freeze tag.  We’ll call it Monster Mash Freeze Dance.  Kids can dance while the song is being played, but when the music is stopped at random intervals, participants must freeze in place or be out.  The last one standing is the winner!

How about Pumpkin bowling?  This is one of those games that will keep children on their feet.  You can use standard plastic bowling pins and a mini pumpkin as the ball.  Kids compete to see who can knock down the most pins.  This game can even be incorporated into your very own obstacle course

Do you remember the egg and spoon race?  Turn it into the eyeball and spoon race!  You can use an egg, or if you’re looking for less mess, a ping pong ball.  Paint it to look like an eyeball and have kids race to the finish line without dropping the eye.  To make it more fun and creative, kids canpaint their own eye before competing in the race. 

Conduct your very own Skeleton Scavenger Hunt!  You can cut different bone shapes from paper or even buy plastic ones from a toy store or craft shop.  Have the kids roam around in search of these different parts.  You can even see if the little party guests can reassemble their bony treasures into a complete skeleton set.

Play Musical Pumpkins!  You can set up an arrangement of differently painted or carved pumpkins and have kids move between them while music plays…just like in musical chairs.  A pumpkin is removed after each round.  By the end of the game, kids are running around trying to squeeze into one spot.  For variety, you can used spider webs, tombstones, or even witchy cauldrons as your targets. 

I bet you haven’t heard of this one: The Witch’s Stew game. Cut ten Halloween shapes, such as ghosts, bats, and pumpkins from construction paper.  Each shape should be about the size of a silver dollar.  Using a straw as a vacuum, each contestant can try to pick up a shape and place it in the bowl to create Witch’s Stew.  You can time the players to see who gets all ten of the shapes into the bowl the fastest.  Even cut out several sets of shape and set up differentcauldrons.  This way kids can have some fun with head to head races.

And lastly…play Wrap the Mummy.  It’s always a hit. Divide the children into groups of three to five kids. Select one child in each group to be a mummy. Then give the other children a roll of toilet paper or crepe paper. Instruct them to wrap the mummy with the paper, leaving the eyes, nose and mouth uncovered. The first group to be done with their roll of paper,wins!

The Many Facets of Halloween!

Our celebration of Halloween today is but a pale representation of its actual rich and multicultural history.  It was once a celebration marking the end of the growing season, and a heralding of the coming winter months.  It is told that this day, of all days in the year, is the one in which the veil between the living and the dead is the thinnest.  It is the day that ghouls and ghosts can walk among the living.  While costumes today are for entertainment and fun, they were once used to confuse the dead and keep the living safe on this supernatural night.  Blended from several origins, including the Celts, Romans, and Catholic tradition, Halloween came to be it’s own special celebration.  Today, however, it has become a nationally commercial holiday, supported by a consumer based economy. 

Back in the old days…with the history of the Celts, Druid priests were believed to have the ability to commune with the dead.  It was rumored that their powers were the most powerful on the last day of the year: Samhain (sow-en) according to the Celtic calendar.  On this day, the Celtic people would extinguish their hearth fires and gather in front of a bonfire for the evening instead.  A celebration of singing, dancing, and listening to stories would ensue.  At the end of the evening, each family would take some of the bonfire home and relight it in their hearths in hopes of good fortune for their home and family in the coming year.  If it did not light, misfortune or death would come to someone in the house that year. The celebration of Halloween does not come directly from this day, however, for credit can also be given to the practice of several other cultures.

For instance, in the New World, Halloween was largely disallowed.  In Maryland, however, it was encouraged, and people would attend parties with singing and dancing and ghost stories.  Children would dress in costumes and try to scare one another.  The actual tradition of trick-or-treating from door to door, did not begin until the Irish immigrants brought it with them when they came fleeing from the Potato Famine. 

In relation to Pagan tradtion, this night was determined to be the night that a young woman would find out her future husband.  This would be done by looking into a mirror in a dark room or by peeling an apple and casting the peel over her shoulder.  Many Christian churches, who believed such paganistic rituals would lead to witchcraft and Satanism, created “Hell Houses” (haunted houses to us today), which were meant to scare children and young adults away from ever tampering with such damning traditions.

As you can see, this now famous American holiday is due to the old practices of many cultures throughout the centuries.  There is so much more to learn about the history of Halloween as well all the other holidays we celebrate with our friends and loved ones.  The best part is that ALL of the learning can be done through the simply wonderful act of reading!

Tomorrow, Nov. 1, is the start of National Family Literacy Month.  Take advantage of this time to spark a budding love of reading in your child.  Read to them about interesting facts they don’t know, and let them read with you.  Sylvan Dell Publishing has a whole slew of options that can help aid you in educating your little one on a parent-child basis.  Check out our homepage, and from there you can read about every book we have to offer you and your child!

October is National Collector’s Month! What do YOU collect?

Have you discovered the joy of stamp collecting?  Better yet, have you discovered the joy of collecting anything at all?  Now, I’m not talking about the junk mail that finds its way onto each and every one of our kitchen tables.  I’m talking about the collection of something meaningful, something that can offer knowledge and educate us, or simply be productive fun.

This month is your chance to get in the spirit, because October is none other than National Collector’s Month (…and Halloween of course)!  Did you know that stamp collecting just so happens to be the most popular hobby in the world?  Who knew?  And just like me, I bet you’re asking, “Why stamps?”  Well, they aren’t just little pictures on little sticky pieces of paper.  Stamps represent different historical events, people, and places!  It is the perfect stepping stone to learning as much or as little as you would like about the world. 

This is the perfect hobby to start young or with children, because it gives kids the chance to ask questions, and it’s a fun way to start.  It opens the door to so much history and information.  It may be a stretch, but if you let it, collecting can be like visiting other parts of the world from your own living room.  If you are looking for it, this is a wonderful experience to share with your children.  You can choose any way to start, which give you the opportunity to choose an approach that will interst your child the most.  For instance, you can focus the collection on a particular place or time period.  Here are a few specific areas of collecting to consider:

    • Topical (birds, castles, Disney, etc.)
    • Precancels (US or foreign)
    • Machins (Queen Elizabeth heads)
    • Perfins (stamps with holes punched into them)
    • Classics (stamps issued in the 19th century)
    • and so many more!

Reading with your kids about other collectors can be another great way to get them interested in a hobby of their own.  Sylvan Dell publishes a book called “Sort it Out!”  by Barbara Mariconda.  In this book, Packy the pack rat collects tons of things and has to sort them out.  To him, all of the things he has collected are treasures in some way special to him.  This book also includes interactive activites on sorting, categorizing, and classifying.  Check it out, and maybe your child will find something awesome to collect too!



Moving Forward to Fall and Revisiting the Past with Kids!

September 23rd, three days from now, will be the Autumnal Equinox!  Sit down with your child and take the chance to teach them something they may not know.  What better way to teach kids about this spectacular occurace that only comes twice a year?  They can observe and learn at the same time!  Check out our books, “Count Down to Fall,” and “Meet the Planets” to get your child interested in the changing of seasons and the world of the stars.  Through “Count Down to Fall,” by Fran Hawk, children can watch the vibrant falling of leaves all around and capture the majesty of the maple, the oak, the linden, and more!  Through “Meet the Planets,” by John McGranaghan, children can soar into the solar system and learn about the planets.  And those of you suffering from a mild case of nostalgia, don’t worry, it doesn’t forget to include our former ninth planet, Pluto! 

By visiting our website, you will also have access to numerous arts and crafts ideas as well as interractive quizzes for kids with budding creative minds.  Corresponding to this particular time of year, we have provided some free activities for you to enjoy with your child. Children can learn the identification of stems, roots, and seeds as well as their fuctions and purposes.  Who knows, you may even find something new to learn that you didn’t know!

Not only do we have the changing of the seasons occuring around us as we speak, but look out! September 28th is coming soon.  This day has been dubbed Read a Child a Book You Like Day.  Go ahead and visit your local library to check out one of your favorite books from your childhood!  This way your child will get to know a little piece of something you enjoyed at their age.

Holidays Make Great Excuses to Get Outdoors!

June has a number of great holidays!