This is a sponsored post. I received two Ivy Kids Kits as compensation for writing a review about Ivy Kids. I was not required to write a positive view, and all opinions expressed here are my own.
If you’ve followed my blog for any length of time, you know that I enjoy doing unit studies with my kids. We’ve done unit studies covering insects, life on the farm, the ocean, botany, polar animals, and states of matter, among others. Although each unit we study is unique, all of our unit studies involve reading about a particular topic (e.g., insects) and then doing a variety of activities related to that topic covering multiple subject areas (e.g., language arts, math, science, music).
For us, books are always at the center of our unit studies. And moving forward, I intend to do more literature-based unit studies with my kids. By literature-based unit study, I am referring to unit studies where activities are centered around the themes in a particular book.
I recently learned of a new resource that will be invaluable to me and other parents/caregivers who would like to do comprehensive, literature-based unit studies with their kids ages 3-8: Ivy Kids.
What is a literature-based unit study?
The goal of a unit study is to spend a lot of time exploring one particular topic in depth, and to study it from a variety of different angles.
As part of a unit study, the parent, caregiver, or teacher reads a book aloud to their child or children and then facilities a variety of activities and projects based on the book. The activities and projects may touch upon any or all of the following curricular areas:
- Language arts (e.g., study vocabulary from the book, practice sequencing the events in the story)
- Math (e.g., count or graph objects related to the topic of the book)
- Science (e.g., do a science experiment based on events in the book)
- Social studies (e.g., discuss how the events in the book are relevant to the child’s school or neighborhood)
- Sensory play (e.g., create a sensory bin based on the book)
- Art (e.g., draw or paint a picture based on a character in the book)
- Music (e.g., sing songs related to the topic of the book)
- Drama (e.g., act out key parts of the book or do a puppet show)
- Physical education (e.g., move like the animals in a book)
Not all unit studies will touch upon all curricular areas. And some unit studies will be focused more heavily in one area than another. For example, a unit study about insects will probably include more science activities, while a unit study about the Renaissance will include more literature and history activities.
Why use literature-based unit studies with your kids?
Here are just a few of the many reasons you might choose to use literature-based unit studies with your kids. . .
For starters, studying subjects through a unit study approach is likely to facilitate greater comprehension of the material than studying each curricular subject in isolation. Humans learn best by building upon prior knowledge. So using a book to anchor your children’s learning will facilitate retention. But aside from the fact that your children may learn more, there are other wonderful reasons for using a literature-based unit study approach:
- Books should be a fundamental part of any education, and literature-based unit studies are a wonderful way to expose your children to great books.
- Humans learn best by assimilating new information in ways that build upon prior knowledge. Literature studies are a fantastic way to help children learn and retain new information since all of the subjects being studied are related to a particular topic, allowing your child to spend the unit continually adding new knowledge by building upon prior knowledge.
- Your child will likely display greater interest in learning activities if the activities are related to a book your child has enjoyed.
- Unit studies allow for an in-depth study of a particular topic of interest. Studying one topic in depth creates a more satisfying learning experience for children than simply skimming the surface of a lot of different topics.
- Unit studies make it possible to teach multiple kids of different ages at the same time. Your preschooler can learn about insects alongside your 3rd grader, and this is easily accomplished by tailoring the activities to each child’s developmental level.
How Ivy Kids makes it easy to do literature-based unit studies
Have I convinced you to try doing a literature-based unit study with your child or children yet? 🙂 Of course, there are tons of resources online and at your library for creating your own unit study. But if you are the type of person who would prefer to use a unit study that someone else did the hard work of creating, you should definitely check out Ivy Kids.
I recently had the opportunity to review their July 2014 kit featuring the book Jump, Frog, Jump! by Robert Kalan.
I was very impressed at the amount of materials included in the kit to go with this book. Plus, the way everything was organized and laid out to make it very easy for me to do the activities with my kids.
For starters, when you open the Ivy Kids kit, you will find a pictorial list of all the activities included in the kit. As you can see, there are quite a few activities and they cover a number of curricular areas. We spent several days going through all of the activities in the kit. Below I share our experience.
Skills practiced: Reading comprehension, making predictions
We started each day by reading through the book. I was not familiar with the book before we received our kit, but I thought it was a clever choice in children’s literature due to the repetitive nature of the story involving a frog. The frog faces many challenges during the story, and each time we must wonder, “How did the frog escape?” The answer, in each case, is “Jump, Frog, jump!” However, there is a slight twist at the end which will surprise and delight young readers.
Finger Frogs Song
Skills practiced: Counting with one-to-one correspondence, counting backwards, subtraction, music
The first time we read the book, we decided to follow up our reading by singing the Five Green and Speckled Frogs song included in the kit. Ivy Kids provides five froggy finger puppets to use while singing. My kids took turns using the finger puppets to act out the song about five frogs sitting on a speckled log eating some bugs. One by one, the frogs jump into the pond until finally there are no frogs left.
We spread a blue blanket on the floor to act as our “pond,” and one by one the frogs jumped into the pond while we sang the song.
Lily Pad Line Jump
Skills practiced: Number identification, counting, number sequencing, addition and subtraction, gross motor development
After singing the Five Green and Speckled Frogs song, we decided to play Lily Pad Line Jump. QBoy started by placing the lily pads from our kit in numbered order on the floor.
One thing I appreciate about the Ivy Kids activities is that each instruction set comes with suggested variations for “Little Ivies” ages 3-5 and “Junior Ivies” ages 5-8. So when doing the Lily Pad Line Jump, I differentiated the activity to meet the developmental needs of both of my kids. XGirl, who is still working on recognizing all of the numbers 1 through 10, simply jumped from number to number, saying their name aloud as she went.
QBoy, on the other hand, recognizes his numbers and is already working on basic addition. So to practice some basic addition and subtraction, I had him stand on a number and tell me where he would end up if he took 2 jumps forward or 3 jumps backward.
Of course, the kids got a great gross motor workout during this activity as well. XGirl really, really enjoyed jumping as high as she could while bouncing from number to number!
Lily Pad Scatter Jump
Skills practiced: Number identification, counting, number sequencing, addition and subtraction, gross motor development
After playing Lily Pad Line Jump, we decided to add a bit more challenge to the activity by playing Lily Pad Scatter Jump.
The kids re-arranged the lily pads so they were scattered randomly around our floor.
Then I called out a number and they had to find it and jump to it. For XGirl, I would simply call out the number for her to find. For QBoy, I added some additional challenge by saying things like “jump to the number equal to 2 plus 3.”
Skills practiced: science (identifying and learning about frog body parts), imagination, fine motor, language arts (creating a character and telling a story), creativity
The July kit comes with materials to create your own frog puppet. The parts are pre-cut, so your kids simply need to assemble and glue them onto the bag. This was a good opportunity to talk about the anatomy of a frog.
The kit comes with two green ellipses that are supposed to be part of the frog’s eyes.
XGirl, who has been obsessed with babies and pregnancy lately, decided that they were actually eggs in the frog’s belly. 🙂
Skills practiced: listening to and identifying patterns in a story, making predictions, retelling a story, building vocabulary
On the second day, we re-read the story. We then decided to use the story sticks included in the kit to do a puppet show.
We set up our own puppet theater by tying a string between two chairs and draping a blanket over it. I then handed the story sticks to my kids and let them get set up behind the blanket.
Once they were ready, I read the story out loud again while they used the puppets to act out each of the roles.
Race to the Pond Game
Skills practiced: counting with one-to-one correspondence, directionality, comparing quantities
The July kit includes a simple little board game called Race to the Pond. The idea is to get your frog to the pond while trying to collect as many insects as you go.
All About Frogs Science Booklet
Skills practiced: Science (learning about frogs)
The kit comes with a short little All About Frogs booklet. My kids and I read it together to get more background knowledge about frogs. We then used the information as a springboard for the next activity.
Create Your Own Frog Habitat
Skills practiced: Science, building vocabulary, creativity and imagination
After reading about frogs, we used the materials in the kit to create our own frog habitats.
The blue plates represented water, and we added sand to represent land.
My kids then used play dough (included in the kit) to create logs, lily pads, rocks, and more!
Again, this was a great opportunity to talk about where frogs live. Plus, creating the habitat with play dough provides excellent fine motor practice.
Letter Jump Game
Skills practiced: Letter identification, phonemic awareness, fine motor development
On another day we played the Letter Jump Game. I laid the letter jump game board on the floor. The kit included several “jumping frogs.” These are plastic toys that kids can make “jump” by pushing gently on the back.
As my kids made the frogs jump, I asked them to think of words beginning with the letter their frog had landed on. The kit includes other ideas for playing this game as well, so you can tailor it to your child’s developmental level.
Make Your Own Frog
Skills practiced: Fine motor development, creativity, science (learning about frog anatomy)
My kids really loved making these simple frogs from green cups.
Feed the Frog Game
Skills practiced: Counting, one-to-one correspondence, fine motor development
Once their frogs were ready, we played the Feed the Frog game. We gathered up the plastic insects that came with our kit, and took turns rolling the dice.
The kids then had to use the tweezers to put that number of frogs into their cups.
This provided a tricky fine motor challenge, and was also great for counting practice for XGirl.
My opinion about Ivy Kids
As you can see from our experience, this Ivy Kids kit was jam packed with educational activities for my kids, and the activities covered a wide range of subjects spanning the curriculum. It took us several days to finish all of the activities in this kit.
So how would I rate Ivy Kids?
- I loved the book choice for this kit. More importantly, my kids did too!
- I found the activities to be very comprehensive, spanning multiple areas of the curriculum.
- ALL of the materials you need to do these activities are included in the kit. There’s no need to spend time or money hunting anything down. Ivy Kids makes it easy to simply open your kit and get started with learning!
- Each activity comes with its own instruction guide listing which materials from the kit you will need, how to do the activity, tips for tailoring the activity to your “Little Ivy” ages 3-5 or your “Junior Ivy” ages 5-8, questions you can ask to scaffold the learning for your children, and a list of learning goals.
- The kits are put together by former teachers, so you know that the materials inside are educationally sound.
- If you choose a 6-month subscription, each kit will come with a personalized item or activity just for your child.
- If you have multiple kids in the age range, there is a sibling ad-on option so you can have enough materials for all of your kids to enjoy.
Areas for improvement
- Ivy Kids says it is for kids ages 3-8. Since many kids begin reading and doing basic math well before age 8, the math and literacy activities in the kit are likely to be too simple for kids at the upper end of this age range. However, many of the music, craft, and science activities are likely to still appeal to older kids.
More literacy resources
More literature studies from Gift of Curiosity:
- Color Zoo book study
- Mouse Paint book study
- Activities inspired by The Lorax
- Activity inspired by The Teddy Bear’s Picnic
- Activity inspired by Sail Away