Friday, May 29, 2015

Friday Freebie - Popsicle Fun

Happy Friday! It's starting to feel like summer, whether you are finishing up the school year or just looking forward to some summer fun, this popsicle number set is a great way to work on number recognition and sequencing while you enjoy some warmer days! It's from Erin at Creating and Teaching, and it's adorable so go download a copy!

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Personalizing our playground with Oriental Trading

I've loved Oriental Trading for as long as I can remember, so when they offered to send me some products to review, I jumped at the opportunity! Since my focus has been on creating an engaging playground, I chose Oriental Trading Products that would add value and color to this space.  I was like a little kid on Christmas when the box arrived, it included unfinished wood bird houses, bird feeders, wind chimes, blank plastic sun catchers and paint pens, and blank kites.

I love all of the unfinished wood because it really gives my students the opportunity to be creative.  Before introducing all of the materials to the children I put together the bird feeders (I had some help from my family so they went together pretty quickly).  Each of the children in the preschool and pre-k classes at my school decorated a bird feeder, and they all look different!

The infants, toddlers and preschoolers helped me with the wind chimes.  The infants and toddlers finger painted them, while the preschoolers used brushes (and their fingers too).

The infants and toddlers also helped out with the large bird houses, we finger painted both of them and they are beautiful, I did the sun catchers with the students in our pre-k class, and they did an amazing job with the pain pens (although I recommend paint smocks because they were messier than I thought they would be. 

Before displaying anything on the playground I sprayed all of the wooden items with a coat of clear spray paint to protect the wood and the paint. 

Here are some photos of the finished products on our playground:

I wanted the infants and toddlers to be able to enjoy the sun catchers, so I turned a wooden crate on its side and hung some of the sun catchers inside the crate. I hung the rest from a tree branch where the children can watch the sun come through the colors. 
The wind chimes look perfect hanging from our picket fence.  Our school is in a residential neighborhood and I was worried that these would be loud and the noise would irritate the neighbors, but they don't get a ton of wind hanging this close to the wall, so it's a very light, comforting sound.  

I put hooks in the bird houses so that we could hang them in a tree, but I decided to keep them low to the ground so the children could peek in and see if any birds were building their nests.  This one in perched on a piece of driftwood. I also place one in a large planter. 

After we finished all of the decorative touches, we started working on the kites.  The preschoolers and pre-k children loved coloring these, and they loved that they got to use permanent markers!

Putting the kites together was a challenge, and the instructions could definitely be improved, but it didn't seem to matter to the children.  Most of our playground is covered by a very large tree, so we decided to take our kites to a local courtyard to fly.  

It was a windy day, and probably perfect for flying kites, but the children had a really hard time getting them in the air.  We ended up running with the kites to help the fly.  The children loved this experience, it was the first thing that they told their parents about at the end of the day.  Only half of the kites will be able to be flown again, there were quite a few casualties.  All in all decorating and flying the kites kept the children busy, and was a lot of fun.  

I am so happy with the personal touches that we were able to add to our playground, and flying kites was an amazing experience for the children.  Oriental Trading continues to provide great products at price points that teachers can afford, and that children love!

This post reflects my honest opinions about Oriental Trading and the products reviewed.  Oriental Trading provided the products for review but did not sponsor this post in any way. 

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Preschool activities that promote scientific inquiry

It's Wednesday, and here at Preschool Ponderings, that means time to focus on the standards.  Every Wednesday I choose an Early Learning Standard and share a number of activities that can be aligned with that particular standard.  Remember, the Standards that I use every day, and am most comfortable with are Ohio's Early Learning Development Standards - you can review them here, however I've found that even if your State's standards differ, many of these activities can still be aligned similarly. I've rounded up some great ideas today!

Domain: Science
Strand: Science Inquiry and Application
Topic: Inquiry

This standard is all about scientific exploration. It encourages children to engage in investigations, make observations and predictions, identify relationships, and explore using simple scientific tools.

The possibilities are endless when it comes to scientific observation, especially because preschoolers don't have a large amount of life experiences to draw from, so every day presents new opportunities for observation and exploration.  These are just a few examples to get you started.  Check out my Preschool Science pin board for more ideas!

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Personalize your playground with children's artwork

At school we've been focusing on making our playground a fun place for the children to explore. We did some fundraising so that we could purchase a beautiful new sandbox, but I also wanted the children to be able to put their mark on the space. The Reggio Emilia philosophy encourages us to find beauty in our surroundings and create aesthetically pleasing learning environments, so I rounded up some ideas that will add color and whimsy to the playground!

I can't wait to do some of these projects with the children!

Monday, May 25, 2015

Ideas to start your summer off right

Happy Memorial Day! I hope you're enjoying your holiday weekend and taking some time to appreciate those who've served our country!

Since today is the unofficial start of summer I wanted to share some posts from last year that list a ton of ideas for summertime activities with the kiddos. These activities are great for the classroom, or for your own children at home!

If you're still looking for fun ideas to fill out your summer calendar, be sure to check out my Preschool Summer Ideas Pinboard and enjoy the rest of your weekend!

Friday, May 22, 2015

Friday Freebie - Summertime

We made it to Memorial Day weekend! This is definitely cause for celebration, and I've got another reason to celebrate - I'm presenting at the OAEYC Conference in Sandusky Ohio today.  If you're going to be at the conference this weekend I'd love to meet you! I've presented at OAEYC a few times, but I'm especially excited this year because the conference is being held at Kalahari Resort and Indoor Waterpark, so I'm taking a mini-vacation with some of my favorite teachers.

In honor of the unofficial start of summer I found a really cute freebie for you today.  This ABCs of Summer book from Whitney Parlin would be a great final activity for the school year.  I think it would be fun to assign each student a letter and ask their families to send in a photo that represents the letter.  How cute would it be to include all of the photos in one last class book that could be your keepsake for the year.

I'm adding a bonus freebie this week - here is my handout from the conference. It will walk you through creating a documentation panel for your classroom.  Print a copy or check out this series of posts on documentation for more information.  

Have a great holiday weekend!

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Banish boredom with a rainy day box

One of the best things that I've done for my classroom is to put together a rainy day box.  This is a fairly large tub of games, activities, and art supplies that only come out on rainy days.  Now, when I say rainy days, I don't necessarily mean days that are literally rainy (although sometimes I do bring it out when it's raining - are you confused yet?), this box is for those days that everyone is just grumpy, or days when the activities I have planned just aren't working out, sometimes I use it on days when I'm feeling crummy - just to lighten the mood in the classroom.

Putting together a box of "special fun stuff" that the children only get to use a few times all year makes days that would otherwise drag on forever a lot more fun.  THe best thing is that young children are easily impressed, so as long as I'm excited about the materials in the box, the children think they are the best toys in the world.  You can pick up materials at garage sales and discount store to fill your box, here are some of the things that I include in mine:
  • Character puzzles.  My students do puzzles all the time, but I usually only have the generic numbers, letters, fruits and vegetables, and transportation puzzles from school supply stores. When I pull out the Disney or Nick Jr. puzzles from the dollar bin my students go nuts!
  • Special art supplies.  We use art supplies everyday, so I define special art supplies as any materials that aren't typically bought for back to school, like Crayola Twistables Glitter Markers, and Model Magic
  • Beads. Beads are a great fine motor activity, and they tend to keep my kiddos busy for quite a while, so these are a perfect rainy day activity.  When choosing beads for the rainy day box I make sure add a set that has enough beads to keep a large group busy, and something just a little fun, like these Glitter Alphabet Beads  or these Pop Beads.
  • Matchbox cars. These are always a hit, but I try to make sure I include a variety of vehicle types and colors, otherwise everyone ends up arguing over the same car. I always encourage my students to use things in the classroom to build roads and tracks for their cars, which usually turns into a consuming project. 
  • Colored plastic cups.  This sounds silly, but these are the best for building towers and castles.  They are also just as much fun to knock down because they make a loud, satisfying crash, without risk of hurting any bystanders.  I buy a new package at Sam's club and put the entire pack in my rainy day box - it's hard to say "I don't have enough" when there are over 100 cups to share. 
  • Balloons. If my students had to pick there favorite thing from the box they would all pick balloons. It is a special treat to blow up some balloons and throw them around the classroom, and it makes my kiddos squeal with delight, which is an instant mood-booster. 
Every so often we have one of those days where we just need to forget the lesson plan and have a little fun, this box has made that possible.  It saves my sanity, and then the next day we get back on track in a much better mood.  

I'd love to know what kind of activities you have in your back pocket for these kind of days, share them in the comments!

* links are affiliates

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Activities for practicing shape comparison and analysis

It's Wednesday, and here at Preschool Ponderings, that means time to focus on the standards.  Every Wednesday I choose an Early Learning Standard and share a number of activities that can be aligned with that particular standard.  Remember, the Standards that I use every day, and am most comfortable with are Ohio's Early Learning Development Standards - you can review them here, however I've found that even if your State's standards differ, many of these activities can still be aligned similarly. I've rounded up some great ideas today!

Domain: Mathematics
Strand: Geometry
Topic: Analyze, Compare, and Create Shapes

This standard encourages students to look at shapes critically.  Children should be able to recognize that two triangles, which are different sizes and colors, are both still triangles. It also asks children to combine two shapes to make new, larger shapes. In addition, children should be able to draw shapes, build them with blocks, and create different shapes as they play.  Here are some great ideas for meeting this standard; 

Use shape cut outs to build dinosaurs (or robots, or bugs, or ...)

Make "Can you build it?" cards for your block area

All of these can be used with students working on this standard, or the simpler recognize and identify shapes standard, making them great activities for working with children at different ability levels.  

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Making chores fun and easy

Yesterday I shared a list of chores that preschoolers can do at home and in the classroom to build confidence, motor skills, and responsibility.  Today I've got some great ideas for making sure that children want to do their chores.

First, I suggest incorporating the responsibilities into your daily routine.  When children complete their chores as a part of a regular routine, they are more likely to complete them without whining or complaining.  This is because they know what is expected of them, and their chores become a responsibility and not a task they have to complete before they have fun.

It is also fun to have your children or students help you make a clean-up kit just for them, here's what I have in mine:

You might also want to add a small spray bottle, rubber gloves, or a dust pan and brush.  This kit is great because children can use it whenever they want, and having their own tools always makes the job more fun.  

When you're implementing a job system in the classroom it is helpful for each child to keep the same job for a week or two, this way they have time to build a routine and master the skills that are related to each job.  If you are starting chores at home, add one job at a time.  Once a child has shown that he or she is able to complete their job (and remember to do it) then add another to their list.  Adding jobs slowly will help children ease into their responsibilities and not feel overwhelmed by being given too many new tasks at one time. 

The end of the year might not be the best time to start a job routine in the classroom, but if you've started planning for next year please be sure to check out my Classroom Jobs Set!

Monday, May 18, 2015

Age appropriate chores for preschoolers

Young children love to help, and encouraging this is a great way to ensure that they develop a sense of responsibility, and understanding that when we all work together, things get done faster.  Whether you're looking to give your children some responsibility at home over the summer, or you could just use a little help keeping the classroom tidy, here are chores that are developmentally appropriate for preschoolers to help with;

At home
- Gathering dirty laundry
- Folding t-shirts and towels
- Matching clean socks
- Feeding pets
- Dusting
- Cleaning up play spaces
- Cleaning up small messes with a handheld vacuum
- Use a damp mop or Swiffer on the floors
- Making their own bed
- Set the table
- Clear the table
- Load and unload the dishwasher
- Water plants

In the classroom
- Clean up after snacks/meals
- Replenish supplies
- Sharpen pencils
- Wipe down tables with soap and water
- Feed pets
- Water plants
- Sweep up messes with a small broom
- Dust shelves
- Tidying centers/bookshelves

Young children are able to take on responsibilities, and doing so helps them build confidence and coordination.  Children also appreciate that they are able to help, because so often they are the ones asking adults for help.  Check back tomorrow and I'll share some great ideas for setting up routines that help children accomplish their chores.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Friday Freebie - Seed Math

Happy Friday! My posts this week have been all about spending time outside; Exploring, Taking Walks, and Gardening - today's freebie is a math activity that would be great to do while you take a break from planting the garden.

This seed math set is a really cute way to help children practice sorting different seeds, counting them, and graphing them.  It is also a really nice visual of what the seeds for each plant look like, one that you could refer to all summer long.  Go download this freebie from Elizabeth McCarter and enjoy your weekend, we've almost made it to Memorial Day!

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Ideas for gardening with young children

Young children desperately want to help with everything, and gardening looks like so much fun because you get to dig in the dirt and get your hands dirty.  Gardening together is a great way to teach responsibility, and to help children learn where their food comes from, plus, children are a lot more likely to try new foods when they've had a hand in growing them.  

There are a lot of things that children can help with in the garden, starting with choosing the plants.  Ask children what kind of plants they would like to grow. Encourage them to think about the kinds of vegetables that they like to eat, and what they might like to try.  If you can, it is great to take the children to pick out the actual plants that you will put in your garden.  This way they can see where the plants are from, and visualize the kind of place that you get plants for the garden.  

It is helpful to do a little prep work before letting the children loose on the garden, little ones are great at pulling weeds, so this is something that they can definitely help with, but if you like your plants in straight rows you may want to mark the rows and start some holes before bringing the children out to help.  Children can also help water the garden. 

Children love to personalize their spaces, and gardens are no different. Ask them to help you make markers for each row of plants.  You might even want to create decor for your garden, wind chimes, stepping stones, and bird feeders are all things that children can make for the garden, and they will love showing off their projects as the plants grow.  

Gardening can be time consuming, so plan on spending a specified amount of time each day in the garden with the children, this can be your science time for the day.  Putting it on your lesson plan and making it a part of your daily routine will ensure that the project doesn't become overwhelming - you'll always have a little time for weeding, watering, and harvesting if you spend 15 minutes each day in the garden.  This will also help you make sure that your entire class gets to participate, because you will have plenty of opportunities to involve everyone!

When you begin to harvest consider sending vegetables home with families.  It's a great way to encourage healthy eating, and it will create wonderful discussions about what each family made with their vegetables, and if the children enjoyed them.  

Planting a garden is a special project that can last all summer long and lead to wonderful learning experiences!