Monday, February 10, 2014

Asian Geography and Culture

Disclaimer: This post contains Amazon Affiliate links for your convenience. See my Disclosures for more information.

As we continued our Around the World Journey, we traveled to Asia! I thought it would be fun to learn about Asian countries this week since many countries in Asia are currently celebrating the Lunar New Year (Chinese New Year). We also chose the letter J this week (for Japan).

We started the week at the library and found a ton of great books about the continent of Asia, several Asian countries, and traditions associated with Chinese New Year.

When we returned from the library, M immediately grabbed the tray with the color-by-number dragon page (from Royal Baloo's free Chinese New Year pack). She started it before I had a chance to explain how to follow the numbers to color it, and by the time I explained it she had already decided that the whole dragon should be blue. Oh well. She enjoyed coloring it anyway.

After reading a couple of books about Chinese New Year and watching the Little Einsteins Dragon Kite video on YouTube, M said she wanted to make a dragon of her own. I used this paper chain dragon from Naturally Educational as inspiration, along with a couple of pictures from our library books. M totally took the lead on this project - she did all of the cutting, gluing and choosing colors for the paper chains. I was honestly shocked by how well she was able to cut out the dragon's head and the strips of paper for the chains. After she glued eyes, feathers, teeth and a tongue on her dragon's head, I helped her staple the paper strips into a chain. She wanted to be able to carry the dragon, so we added popsicle sticks at the head and tail. She was so proud of this dragon!

After she finished her dragon, we read through the rest of the library book to learn about the Lunar New Year and the other traditions that go along with the celebration.

We used these directions to make an origami red envelope. I put a dollar in her envelope for good luck for the new year. The directions were too complex for a preschooler to follow, but she liked the end product. If I were going to do it again, I would use a simple heart envelope instead.

We read about Chinese culture, and M was fascinated by the symbols used in Chinese writing. She ran to her writing tray on the bookshelf and grabbed her notebook and a marker to try to draw some of the symbols herself. This, of course, led her on a tangent of drawing all kids of pictures in her notebook.

We love sensorial activities, and I try to include at least one sensory bin each week. Instead of a traditional sensory bin, I decided to try this painting with tea bags activity. I bought this Celestial Seasonings Fruit Tea Sampler because I figured the fruity tea would produce brighter colors, would smell interesting, and it would be more likely that M would be willing to try fruity flavors. Good choice! They smelled delicious!

I pulled out one tea bag of each flavor. M and I smelled each tea bag and talked about what color we thought the tea would be. I then put each tea bag into a small container of water and swished them around until the water became colored. Most of them had a red or orange coloring.

M started by dripping the tea onto her paper. Then she started squishing the tea bags onto the paper to see if she could get more color out. She realized that squeezing the tea bag would produce the most vibrant color. She liked dipping the tea bag in the water and squeezing it out.

I told her to smell the tea bags to see if the scent was the same now as it was when the tea bags were dry. She asked if she could taste it too, so I told her to stick her finger into the water and see what each flavor tasted like. She liked the blueberry and raspberry teas the best, so I brewed some tea while she continued playing and exploring.

When I got back, the tray was completely soaked through, so I got her some new paper and gave her some transfer tools to play with. (It was clear at this point that this would be more of an exploration activity than a real "art" project.) She alternated between squeezing the tea bags, pouring the liquid, and using an eyedropper to transfer tea from place to place. I gave her a small palette that she could use to compare the different colors of tea. It was messy, but she had a lot of fun!

I was able to convince her to clean up by bringing over some of our wedding china for a "real" tea party. I don't have an actual teapot, so I filled the creamer with tea and let her very carefully serve us. She actually drank some of the tea (I didn't think she would like it), and then asked if she could try the next flavor. I let her add some sugar to the blueberry tea, and she liked that a lot better.

The next day we started with a practical life transfer activity. I used an empty egg carton (actually the mancala board I made for the Africa unit but never used), a bowl of m&m's, and a pair of chopsticks. First she sorted through the bowl of m&m's to find all of the "lucky" red ones, then filled the compartments of the egg carton. The first time she did the activity she used her fingers. Later she tried it again and actually used the chopsticks.

She really liked the letter maze that I printed out for A Week last week, so I printed the D is for Dragon maze from the Chinese New Year Pack.

That afternoon was gorgeous, so we spent a couple of hours playing in the yard. M spent a long time drawing a huge dragon that spanned the entire width of our driveway, complete with scales all along the length of its back. 

Later in the week we explored flags of some different Asian countries. I printed pictures of several different flags, and we worked together to make some of the simpler flags out of beans and rice. We started with the flag for China, but quickly realized that it wasn't going to work to make stars out of rice. We scrapped our first attempt, and I drew stars for M to trace over with glitter glue.

Next, I showed her a picture of Japan's flag. She chose the red kidney beans to glue in a circle in the middle of the white paper.

If I was smart, I would have ended things there because M was clearly tired and losing interest. But... I really wanted to try to make the Indian flag like this one from Kid World Citizen. This got really messy really fast, and ended with rice all over the floor and an unfinished flag...

The next morning M was refreshed and ready to go. She chose to work on her pin map of the world for a while on her own, and I finished taping popsicle sticks to the flags that she made the day before. (I also put some blue glitter in the middle of the India flag to finish it up.)

After breakfast we watched the Olympic Opening Ceremonies that I had recorded. We talked about Russia (we had found Russia earlier in the week on her globe, but I told her we would save Russia for Europe Week since it spans both continents) and enjoyed watching pieces of Russia's history, as well as the beautiful costumes.

We took out the flags and waved them as we watched the Parade of Nations. M lost interest somewhere around Canada, so we switched over to figure skating instead. We talked about what it meant to be an Olympic athlete, and how the Olympics started in Greece. M "skated" along and tried out some of the jumps and twirls as she watched. She even grabbed her Japanese flag to cheer on the team from Japan!

We wrapped up the week by reviewing where Asia is located on the world map, and M colored the continent yellow in her passport to match her Montessori maps.

It was another fun week of exploring geography and culture! Check out the Around the World page to keep up with all of our adventures.

Linking Up With:
Preschool & Kindergarten Community
Sharing Saturday
Share It Saturday
The Sunday Showcase
Link & Learn
Thoughtful Spot Weekly Blog Hop
Montessori Monday
Hands On Play Party


  1. The tea bag learning is awesome! We will have to do that sometime!!

    1. You'll definitely have to try it, Lisa! Talk about a total sensory experience - touch, smell, taste, sight... just put on some music in the background and you're set! Have fun :)

  2. So many great ideas here! Thank you for sharing at Sharing Saturday!