Sunday, February 2, 2014

A is for Africa

Our first stop on the Journey Around the World: Africa!

I have been collecting and preparing materials for our Africa Continent Box for a few weeks now. It helped tremendously that my brother and sister-in-law just went on an African Safari a few months ago and brought back a bunch of great souvenirs as Christmas presents! Here's what's in our box:

The drum, hand-carved jewelry box, and Safari Ltd TOOBs (African Village and Ancient Egypt - in hindsight I wish I had also gotten the Wild TOOB) saw the most action this week.

I also threw in the African country cards from the Kids Around The World Flash Cards set, some duplo zoo animals, the Africa piece from our felt world map, and 3 part cards. The green envelope contains all of the Africa 3-part Cards. M showed very little interest in the cards (don't you love when that happens?), so the envelope remained closed for most of the week. We'll save those for another time.

On Monday, I laid everything out on the table in M's playroom. I didn't have a real plan for the day except to allow her to explore the materials, read a few library books, and gauge her interest in the different aspects of African geography and culture.

She immediately gravitated toward the "archaeological site" that I had made with some of the Ancient Egypt figures. She spent most of the morning working on that tray, and I decided that some more Ancient Egyptian activities were in order. (Here's a full post on the Egypt activities.)

Later that afternoon she wanted to play on the computer, so we pulled up to play. The "Learning Path" takes you through different environments where you complete lessons and games to complete the various levels. Ironically, M moved from the "wetlands environment" to the "sandy desert environment," and a lot of the activities had African-themed lessons and games. The sidebar also has information about the environment, including facts about different plants and animals that live in that environment. M spent almost two hours playing games, listening to songs, and completing puzzles and coloring pages. I don't find the activities to be particularly challenging for her, but it's a good opportunity for her to practice computer skills - she can now navigate the site entirely by herself using the touch pad on my laptop. I'm really hoping that they come out with an Android app soon so she can access the program on her Nabi tablet as well.

She asked to play again a second day during the week. You can see in the picture below that she was listening to facts about plants and animals that live in a desert environment. Thyme was one of the plants that was featured, so I grabbed a jar of thyme from the pantry for her to smell while she learned about it.

On Tuesday we made an African mask from a recycled milk jug. This was a great practical life activity. First M ripped up pieces of construction paper into long strips and then ripped the strips into smaller pieces. Then she used a paintbrush to apply watered down glue to the outside of the milk jug (you could also dip the shredded paper in the glue, but she didn't want to get it on her fingers) and covered the mask in paper.

Later in the week we punched holes across the top of the jug and added yarn for "hair." (See the pictures below.)

It also snowed on Tuesday! We're in South Carolina, so that's a big deal here. Of course we had to drop everything to go play in the snow! (I'll post pictures in the weekly wrap-up.)

On Wednesday, we started off the day by making some beaded necklaces. I like using pipe cleaners instead of string because there's less risk of beads falling off and getting all over the floor.

M was really into cutting that day, so I showed her how to trace the outline of the jewelry box (in the shape of Africa), and she used her scissors to cut out the shape. (I also gave her some random scraps of paper to cut up, and other stencils to trace and cut out - I'll post more in the weekly wrap-up.)

While she was cutting, I traced the outline of the jewelry box again and set up a pin prick activity (like this one from Nurturing Learning). I put the piece of construction paper with the outline of Africa over a sheet of foam and clipped them together on a clipboard.

She only made it about half way around the continent, so we used the cut out version for her Letter "a" activity - A is for African Animals. After she "traced" the outline of the letter "a" with African animal stickers I hole punched the top of the sheet and attached it to the other letters she has completed so far (b and c).

On Thursday, M said she was tired, so we laid down on the couch and watched The Lion King. When that was over, we re-read some of our Africa library books. Explore Africa (from the Explore the Continents series) was her favorite. I love that this book starts with the basics, explaining that the world is made of land and water, and shows a world map with the seven continents and five oceans. We talked about the different types of environments in different parts of Africa as we read the book.

I thought this would be a good opportunity for M to play with the African animal figures, so we worked together to build a model of Mt. Kilimanjaro, Lake Victoria, and the Great Rift Valley. (Obviously our model wasn't to scale...)

While she played, I messed around on her interactive globe. We listened to facts about the countries in Africa (geography, weather, currency, language, etc.) and listened to the national anthems. I definitely learned some new facts myself - I had no idea that English was the official language in so many African countries!

When she was finished playing with her model, we flipped through Safari: A Photicular Book, a really neat book my mom got her that shows how the animals move.

That afternoon she decided she wanted to be an "African girl." We flipped through Africa Is Not A Country to read about children who live in different countries in Africa. She chose one of the girls from the book (she's really big on role play and re-enacting stories right now), and dressed up. We tied a ring sling as a kanga, put on a beaded necklace, and danced and played the drum to this African Playground CD from the library.

We wrapped up the day by looking at her "passport" (I printed and assembled the pages from this freebie from Super Mom by Day). She "signed" her name in the front, then colored in Africa on the map.

Friday was field trip day - Rainforest Fridays program at Roper Mountain Science Center, lunch with Gigi (my mom) for her birthday, and a visit to the NC Arboretum to see the Lego exhibit.

Disclaimer: This post contains Amazon Affiliate links for your convenience.

Our journey is off to a great start! I hope you'll come back to check out the rest of our exciting adventure!

Linking Up With:
Montessori Monday
Thoughtful Spot Weekly Blog Hop
Tuesday Tots
We Made That Wednesday
Weekly Kids Co-op


  1. I just came across your blog tonight and I'm so excited that I did! I recently started to incorporate some Montessori preschool lessons for my 3 1/2 and 2 yr. old daughters and I've been trying to decide where to take it from here. I love your idea of bringing together the alphabet and geography and you've pulled some of the best ideas from the best Montessori blogs so I look forward to following your journey!

    1. I'm so glad you found us! I hope some of these ideas help you get started. Good luck and have fun!