I have put together several activity bags for children to bring home and share with their families. They accomplish several things including filling requests for "homework" that often come from preschoolers with older siblings. I try to make each activity bag very open-ended as the children (3-5 year olds, with and without identified special needs) and their parents (some mentally retarded with little or no reading skills, some single working parents with little time, some who are always looking for more to do with their children, etc.) are diverse groups. One of our all-time favorites is the "Button Bag" which is a tote bag with a few buttons sewn on it. The bag contains:
* Corduroy (written and illustrated by Don Freeman) and audio tape
* The Button Box (written by Margarette S. Reid, illustrated by Sarah Chamberlain)
* a heart-shaped metal box of buttons
* a sorting tray
* a journal for child's words and drawings about the buttons
* a journal for thoughts of whoever worked with child
* writing/drawing tools for the journals
* a note to parents about supervision with materials that can be choked on
* a laminated card with a neat photo of a child-created button collage that I found in a calendar on one side and the following on the other side:
Did you know that buttons could be math materials? They can help your child learn about counting, classification, estimation, and more. The following ideas are meant to promote development of math, art, language skills, while being enjoyable for you and your child. Please don't try to do them all at once, just choose one or two that interest you and your child.
* Read one or both of the button books with your child.
* Give your child an opportunity to explore the buttons.
* Ask your child to guess (estimate) how many buttons are in the box and then count them.
* Sort the buttons with your child using whatever attribute he or she chooses. After sorting one way,you may want to sort them again a different way.
* Create a pattern of buttons (for example: red button, blue button, red button, blue button) and challenge your child to decide what button would continue the pattern.
* Give your child one button, and ask him or her to describe it. If necessary, ask questions such as"What color is the button?", "How many holes does it have?", and "What shape is it?".
* Invite your child to make a picture with buttons.
* If you read Corduroy, remind your child that Corduroy thought the button on the bed was his missing button, and ask him or her to list other small, round things that Corduroy might think are buttons.You may want to write this list in the journal and have your child draw the things.
After Exploring The Button Bag:
* Ask your child to use pictures, numbers, and words (may be dictated for you to write) to tell about button bag experiences on one or two pages of the larger journal.
* The smaller journal is for whoever used the bag with the preschool child (parent, older child, . . .) to share their thoughts on the experience.
* If you have extra buttons at home, please add one to the box so that our variety will grow.
Families have gotten very involved with this bag. As familes write and draw in the journals, others get even more button ideas. Some of my favorite button sharing has been: the child who repaired a broken button with a round neon green band-aid, the family that contributed the metal box for the buttons (I had them in a zip-loc that didn't make that great clinking noise), and the family that told how all members got involved with the bag (an older child used the buttons to do his math homework and a button filled rattle was made for a baby sister). If you have any questions or have anything to add to my button bag ideas, please let me know.