Cardboard Learning Tree
We upcycled a large piece of cardboard and turned it into a Christmas tree, added some ornaments with Velcro dots, and then made some learning games for kids at all stages of learning. The ornaments can be laminated or covered in contact paper so you can use them over and over again with erasable markers. For preschoolers, there were games for identifying letters and numbers, matching upper- and lowercase letters, and finding the letters in each kid's name. For my emergent reader, we practiced finding sight words and making groups of word families. This tree was easy to make and so fun to play with!
How We Did It
We found a large piece of cardboard about four feet long. I used a plastic-backed tablecloth and spread it on the carpet for the kids to paint, since it was too cold to paint outside. We gathered our green paint, brushes, and a pencil.
I drew a large Christmas tree shape onto the cardboard.
The kids got to work painting the tree.
While the paint dried, we gathered our next group of supplies to make the ornaments: holiday themed cookie cutters, colorful paper, markers, scissors, and contact paper.
The kids traced some of the cookie cutter shapes onto the colorful paper.
Some shapes were a little difficult for them to trace, so I traced the shapes in pencil and the kids went over them with a marker.
When we were done tracing, we had a lot of ornaments, about 25 total.
I laminated the paper ornaments and we cut them out. Laminating the ornaments will make them more durable, so that you can use the pieces for many different games.
Using Velcro sticky dots, we attached the rough side of the Velcro to the back of each ornament.
By this point, our paint was dry, so I used a box cutter and trimmed away the excess cardboard. I used another piece of cardboard underneath the tree painting to protect my carpet.
Here's our finished tree.
Next, we randomly placed the soft "loop" side of the Velcro sticky dots on the tree itself. I just leaned our tree up against the wall but you can also attach it to the wall with painter's tape.
Now for the fun! Using wet-erase markers (dry-erase would work as well), I made an uppercase and lowercase letter match game for my preschooler. He pulled off an uppercase letter, then found its lowercase match and lay them on the floor in pairs. A quick wipe over the ornaments with a damp paper towel and we were on to our next game.
To practice number identification, I gave my preschooler a container and called out numbers. He found the correct ornaments on the tree, pulled them off, and placed them in the container.
For the next game, I put random letters all over the tree and had the preschoolers find the letters in their name. (You could also do this with with spelling words for older kids.)
Here's a sight word game. I wrote all of the sight words my six-year-old is working on this week, then had him read the word and remove the ornament from the tree.
Here's our word family game for emergent readers: I created small ornaments for letters and large ornaments for the rest of the words. The kids pull the ornaments off the tree and put them together on the floor to make words. We made some silly words, too, which is another way to engage kids in sounding things out in a fun way.
We had such fun all week with the different games on our learning tree. What other uses can you think of for this activity? I'd love to read your comments.