Friday, December 30, 2016

Friday Freebie - Ring in the New Year

Happy Friday! It's the end of another week, and almost the end of the year. I'm trying to squeeze in as much as I can before I have to go back to work, so I'm sure my weekend will fly by way to fast.

Today's freebie is a cute little New Year questionnaire from Carol Miller that could become an annual tradition.  Whether you use this with your students or your own children their answers will be cherished! Have a wonderful weekend!

Thursday, December 29, 2016

New Year's Eve Round Up

I've been scrambling to figure out my New Year's Eve plans, so if you're doing the same, and your plans include little ones, I've rounded up all of my previous New Year's posts to give you some more ideas.  Take a couple of minutes to check these out!

For even more ideas take a look at my Preschool Holidays pin board, and have a wonderful rest of the holidays!

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Save your extra wrapping paper!

Preschool teachers are well known for saving everything, so it should come as no surprise that I'm telling you to save your left over wrapping paper.  There are so many things that you can use it for in the classroom, here are a few ideas:

  • Create artwork on top of the wrapping paper design. Most wrapping paper is shiny, so it would be interesting to see how paint, crayons, and glue react to this surface. It would also be interesting to see if the children cover the design, or if they incorporate it into their art. 
  • Cut wrapping paper into smaller pieces and use it for collages. I always had collage materials available, and wrapping paper is an easy, economical way to incorporate colored pieces that children can use as mosaics, or in many cases just to soak up all that glue. 
  • Staple a stack of white paper between two pieces of wrapping paper to create little books.  There is something about a tiny notebook that children cannot resist.  A stack of these in the writing center would be a great way to energize this area of the classroom. 
  • Cut it up! I was always looking for something to use for cutting practice.  wrapping paper is perfect for beginning cutters because it's so thin. Children who have better scissor skills can cut out the pictures from the wrapping paper.
  • Laminate a few pieces and create a search and find.  Does any of your wrapping paper have small pictures, words, or letters? Laminate pieces of these designs and create a card to go with each, asking if children can find specific characters, images, or letters.
  • Make math counters. Cut out images from your wrapping paper and laminate so that you can use them for counters. Wrapping paper is perfect for this because the designs repeat themselves, so there are plenty of similar images to use.
Can you think of any other ways to re-use wrapping paper? I love to hear them!

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

A little reflection

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas, I know I'm taking some much needed time to relax (and do lots of shopping)!  The end of the year is the perfect time to think about what went well this year, and goals that we have going forward.  If you're thinking about the rest of the year in your classroom and what it might look like I want to share some inspiration that might be helpful.

Here are the top five posts from Preschool Ponderings this year:

1. Make your lesson plans work for you - This post has quickly become one of my most popular of all time because it includes a wonderful freebie; 6 lesson plan templates!

2. Playground games - It doesn't surprise me that this post was super-popular. It has a great freebie too; cards with basic playground games that you can easily teach your students (or your own children).  These are designed to help you banish the "I don't want to go outside" and "I'm bored" comments.

3. Lesson planing with emergent curriculum - This was one thing that I really struggled to get used to when I started teaching at a Reggio school, and I'm so glad that I can share my own tips and tricks with those of you who are having similar experiences!

4. Fighting germs in preschool - This is a timely post for those of you who are thinking about the units that you want to introduce for the rest of the winter.  Keeping everyone healthy is a team effort that your students have to be a part of, and this definitely starts with helping them understand why hand washing is important.

5. Last minute teacher gift ideas - This is a great post to keep in mind as we head into the spring and prepare for teacher appreciation week!

And if you want even more reading materials, here are my top five posts of all time:

1. What's in my student portfolios?
2. Everything you need to host a preschool graduation
3. My lesson plans for the first week
4. Starting a childcare center - business aspects
5. The best clothes for preschool teachers

Enjoy the end of the year festivities and feel free to let me know if there are any topics that you would like to see me cover in the future!

Friday, December 23, 2016

Happy Holidays!

I hope that your holidays are wonderful and relaxing!

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Thursday Freebie

I know, you're used to Friday Freebies, but since this weekend will be so crazy, I didn't want this to get lost in the holiday shuffle!

Since it's the first time I've ever done a Thursday Freebie, I'm going all out and sharing two freebies.  This first one is a Christmas Cookie counting set, which would be great math practice as you wind down your Christmas celebration.

The second freebie is a Snowman themed mini-book.  This freebie is perfect for that transition from the holidays into the rest of your winter work.

Download both freebies and have a wonderful holiday weekend!

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Last Minute Teacher Gift Ideas

If you're still looking for the perfect gift for a teacher that you know, make sure to check out this post - My Favorite Things for Teachers!

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Tips for banishing pre-holiday behavior problems

If you're spending this week with young children - your students, or your own children - then I'm sure you've taken a deep breath and prepared yourself for chaos and tantrums.  While some off the behavior problems you might encounter come with the season, others are a product of messed up routines, missed nap times, and too many sweet treats.  Those are the kind of problems that can be avoided with some careful preparation.

Here are a few tips that I've picked up along the way:

  1. Try to keep your routine as normal as possible.  If you can't schedule fun events into your normal routine, then prepare the children in advance for changes to the routine.  Talk about the fun events, but also talk about what the event will mean for your schedule. Will their nap time be later than normal? Will you have to eat lunch early or miss your morning snack? How will you help the children deal with these changes?
  2. Make sure everyone gets enough sleep.  When naps are missed, try to prepare for quiet afternoons or early bedtimes.  Time snuggling with a good book won't make up for a lost nap time, but it will give little bodies a few minutes to rest and relax enough to stave off that tantrum. Don't forget about your own sleep schedule, I know that I have a tendency to be short tempered when I don't get enough sleep. The holidays are stressful enough on their own, I don't need to add my own lack of sleep on top of it, and you shouldn't either. 
  3. Try to keep healthy snacks around.  I'm the first person to admit that the holidays are for indulging, especially in those treats that you only get to enjoy once a year.  I also don't fully believe that sugar impacts children's behaviors, but I do know that when I eat too much junk I feel miserable - and that makes me cranky. I can only imagine that this is true for little ones, except they don't have the coping skills or experience to know how to deal with it. This is why I'm a huge fan of the movement to create fun, holiday versions of healthy snacks.  Try to trade off, have some fresh fruit in the morning and a cookie in the afternoon.  If you're having a party try to have a good balance of healthy stuff and special treats. One of my favorite things about young children is that they are so much better at listening to their bodies than adults are. Preschoolers will often choose a healthier snack even when they are given the option of a cupcake or rice krispy treat.  
I'd love to know what strategies work for you, please share your tips in the comments!

Monday, December 19, 2016

Last minute gift idea

If you're still looking for something easy to make for your students or co-workers, check out the idea I have for you:

I whipped up some of these snowman marshmallows over the weekend because I had some extra frosting left over from baking sugar cookies.  These are so easy to make that you could even have your students make some of them for their families.

All you need is marshmallows, black frosting, and orange frosting.  I used piping bags to get the small details, but you could always pick up some tubes of the pre-mixed colored frosting for even less mess and hassle.

Add a packet of hot chocolate to a bag of three or four marshmallows and you've got a great gift that didn't break the bank!

Friday, December 16, 2016

Friday Freebie - Cookie Patterning

Happy Friday! We've almost made it to the holidays, and let me tell you, I am ready for a break!

I had to share this Cookie Patterning freebie from Stuff from Steff because I'm pretty sure it was the first thing that I ever downloaded from TPT. I still use it every year, so I can attest to how wonderful it is, and how much my students love it! Go download your and enjoy your weekend!

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Talking about traditions

One of our social studies standards for preschoolers is to develop an awareness and appreciation of family and cultural stories and traditions.  The holidays lend themselves perfectly to this standard so I make a special effort to encourage families to share their traditions with our class.  

Over the years I have had families bring in cookies to decorate with the class, I've had families make gingerbread houses with us, decorate ornaments  with the children, share favorite holiday stories, and make traditional foods with the class.  

Each of these experiences has given the children the opportunity to compare and contrast their own family traditions, to see which traditions they might share with their friends, and which ones are new and unfamiliar.  It has also given them a better understanding of each others' families and given the children a chance to try something new while working with an adult who is not their teacher or their own parent.  

If you have never invited families to share their traditions, it's not too late! Start with one or two parents that have been responsive to your requests in the past.  Now is the perfect time since many of them are thinking about their own traditions and would love to help out in the classroom at this time of year anyway!

Monday, December 12, 2016

Winter Traditions

Around the holidays I love to encourage my families to share their favorite traditions with the class.  Here is my winter tradition bucket list:

All of these traditions would be fun to do with your students or with your own families!

Friday, December 9, 2016

Friday Freebie - Holidays around the world

Happy Friday! As these weeks get closer to winter break I swear they get longer and longer! If you are still planning for holiday exploration (or evaluating how you want to teach this unit next year) today's freebie is for you!

This Holidays around the World Poster Pack from Sunny and Bright in First Grade is a great way to help your students visually organize the symbols and images that go with all of the different holidays. There are 8 holidays included in the set, and even if you don't use all of the posters they give you a great starting point for your research. Download your copy and have a great weekend!

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Books for learning more about Kwanzaa

Kwanzaa is one of those holidays that you might hear about annually - especially if you are teaching multicultural holidays - but the general population does not have a great understanding of the principles, symbols, or reasons for the holiday.  It's not easy to teach children about something that we don't know much about ourselves, so books can be a great place to start.  Here are a couple of great books for learning more about Kwanzaa. All links are Amazon affiliates.

Titled simply Kwanzaa, this is one of my favorites because the real photos are of modern families and they avoid stereotypes to introduce the holiday in a way that is realistic and culturally sensitive.

The Story of Kwanzaa is highly informative and can help you answer all of those questions that your students are bound to come up with.  My favorite thing about this book is that it includes a glossary of vocabulary words along with the pronunciation guide for each.

Hopefully these will give you a starting point that you can branch out from!

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Books to help you celebrate Hanukkah

In my opinion, the best way to introduce new concepts to young children is through books.  Whether Hanukkah is a new holiday or a near and dear one, these books will be favorites in your classroom celebration.  All links are Amazon affiliates.

 Latke, The Lucky Dog is told from the dog's point of view - what preschooler can resist that? The illustrations and text work together to introduce new vocabulary words in a way that feels natural and flows with the story.

Dear Santa, Love Rachel Rosenstein is not exactly a Hanukkah book.  It's a book about a little girl who's family is Jewish and celebrates Hanukkah even though she really wants to celebrate Christmas.  This is the perfect book for children who are struggling to understand why different families celebrate different holidays, and how to appreciate their own families' traditions.

My First Chanukah is a basic little board book that explains the holiday in a way that is simple and easy for little ones to understand. Plus, it's from the legendary Tomie DePaola so you really can't go wrong with this one.

The Night Before books are often my favorite for helping children learn about an upcoming event. Whether it is The Night Before Kindergarten, or in this case The Night Before Hanukkah, these books have a way of helping children prepare for new adventures.

If you're looking for more books for winter holidays check out the Christmas favorites that I posted yesterday, and be sure to check back tomorrow for some great books about Kwanzaa!

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Books to help you celebrate Christmas

It's not a preschool holiday without some themed children's books! Here are some of the best for Christmas - Just a note, I've always stuck with stories that stay away from the religious aspects of the holiday because that's what I feel most comfortable with in the classroom, so that's what I've got to share with you! All links are amazon affiliates.

The Polar Express is a classic for a reason. I remember having this story read to us every year as a child and it's an endearing tradition that needs to be shared.  The illustrations are magical and the story leaves just enough to a child's imagination to make the story come to life.  Plus, the Kindle version is free right now!

The Nutcracker is another classic Christmas story, but my favorite thing about this particular version is that it's a pop-up book.  While I would not leave this out for the children to look at on their own, it is perfect for reading to the entire group. Talk about finding a book that really captures their attention! They will be mesmerized by the pop up art, which only adds to the dreamy, unbelievable story.

Bear is pretty much my all-time favorite, and Bear Stays Up for Christmas is no exception.  It's a sweet story about friendship and the lengths we will go for those that we care about.  What I love about each and everyone of these books is how they showcase the animals' differences and celebrate the strong bonds that they've forged in spite of those differences.  Perfect Christmas story!

The Stinky Face collection has taken off recently and I've been a fan since the very beginning. I love the whimsical illustrations, and I love the "what ifs." These books are written exactly the way every young child thinks, and the way every parent wishes they could respond in that moment.  Merry Christmas Stinky Face is a great way to get into the holiday spirit!

It's not Christmas without a Jan Brett story and Gingerbread Christmas is the third in this particular set.  The illustrations are amazing (of course) and the story includes the kind of chase scene that we've come to expect from Brett's other Gingerbread stories.  Preschoolers will love this version as much as the original!

I could honestly go on for quite a while with my favorite Christmas books, there never seems to be enough days in December to squeeze them all in, but I want to share some books for other December Holidays too so I'll stop here for now.  Check back tomorrow for books that are perfect for celebrating Hanukkah.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Cultural Sensitivity and Winter Holidays

Some teachers live for the holiday season and cannot wait to introduce holiday themed activities, others are more apprehensive about planning activities that meet the needs and beliefs of all of their students, and still others work in schools where policies prevent them from using any holiday-related materials whatsoever.  I've met and worked with teachers who fall into all three groups, and I myself tend to end up in that middle category.  Whichever of the three groups you find yourself belonging to, here are a couple of my tried and true resources for handling the holidays while still be culturally sensitive.

First thing's first, this little parent letter has saved me every single year, which is exactly why it's a freebie in my TPT store.  There is no better way to learn the wishes of each of your families than to simply ask them.  The letter includes a few direct questions, designed to help you determine which holidays your families celebrate, what topics they are comfortable with you introducing, and if there are any special family traditions that they would like to share with the class.  It's a great way make sure that families realize you want their input, and also encourage family engagement by asking them to share.

Second, I stumbled across a great article on Edutopia all about teaching the holidays and being culturally sensitive.  It's written for those who teach older children, but the strategies and principles are just as relevant to those of us who teacher preschoolers (and younger).  It would be a great article to discuss at a staff meeting, or to use as a guide while you're planning your own activities for this month.

A few other tips that I've learned through the years:

  • Focus on main themes of the holidays, such as giving, helping others, sharing joy and love, and spending time with those we love.  This helps to avoid religious discussions and fictional characters, while connecting concepts that many winter holidays have in common. 
  • Communicate openly with your families.  If you know for a fact that all of your families celebrate Christmas and your families are comfortable with you using Christmas themes in the classroom then go for it.  If you can't be sure, or you have a few different holidays represented in your class, then take an around the world approach. Introduce a number of different winter holidays and be sure to include those that your students will be familiar with, as well as those that might be new.  Different cultures are fascinating to preschoolers, especially when they can see photos, videos, and artifacts to help them develop a more concrete understanding. 
  • If you are really truly uncomfortable with the entire prospect, or you are sure that someone will be offended no matter how hard you try then stick with basic winter themes such as snow, snowmen, ice, and animals that live in cold climates. Check out 32 winter themes for preschool for more ideas!
I'd love to know what tips you stick by when it comes to celebrating the holidays, feel free to share them in the comments!

Friday, December 2, 2016

Friday Freebie - New Year Countdown

Happy Friday! We are officially into December and I couldn't be happier about it - I don't know if I'm more ready for the Holiday, or just for a break.

Yesterday I posted some ideas for counting down to Christmas, today's Freebie is a countdown to the New Year.  If you're planning ahead for your own festivities make sure to add this to your repertoire!

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Countdown to Christmas!

It's December 1st so we can officially begin that countdown! Whether you countdown to Christmas, or winter break, it's always fun to watch those days go by as you anticipate the holiday - or a little bit of time off!

I was overwhelmed by the cute ideas that are out there so I had to share some of my favorites with you. I still can't decide which one I like best, but I love that they are all simple to use and involve the children in the process.

 This cute freebie is from Erin Wing, and it includes little positive notes and compliments for each day.

This Santa Countdown is adorable, you trim Santa's beard each day.  I would probably switch the numbers so that it is more of a countdown - you start by cutting off the highest number and work your way up until there are no days left (and Santa has no beard). I love this one because each child could have their own, or you could do a large one for the entire class. 

On of the teachers that I'm working with told me that she is going to use something like this as a bit of a reverse countdown.  Each child will have their own chain and every day they will get to add one link to it, then by the end of the month the chains will all be long enough to form a tree.

One of my other favorite ideas is also a paper chain, you type random acts of kindness on slips of paper and use those slips to create a paper chain. Each day you take one link off the chain and the class has to complete that random act of kindness.  This really instill the spirit of the season and gives children something to look forward to every day!

How will you count down to Christmas?!

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

32 Winter Themes for Preschool

If you've begun to plan your winter lesson plans, I'm here to help! Here are 32 different winter themes and topics that you can choose from when you're looking for new ideas!

  1. Ice
  2. Snow
  3. Snowmen
  4. Christmas
  5. Hanukkah
  6. Kwanzaa
  7. Winter Clothing
  8. Christmas Lights
  9. Pine Trees
  10. Jingle Bells
  11. Cookies
  12. Gift Wrap
  13. Bows
  14. Sledding
  15. Skiing
  16. Ice Skating
  17. Winter Animals
  18. Peppermint
  19. Candy Canes
  20. Pine cones
  21. Cranberries
  22. Cinnamon
  23. Quilts and blankets
  24. Boots
  25. New Year
  26. Ground Hog Day
  27. President's Day
  28. Martin Luther King Jr. Day
  29. Valentine's Day
  30. Conversation Hearts
  31. Hot Chocolate
  32. Igloos
Here's a graphic if you prefer!

Monday, November 28, 2016

Cyber Monday

I hope that you aren't all shopped out because TPT is having their annual Cyber Monday sale - only TPT's sale is better because it's Monday AND Tuesday! I always share my wishlist with you for these big sales, so here it i - this is what I'll be buying:

I can't wait to use these Winter Photo Booth Props from Old Market at our holiday party!

Ahh! I'm absolutely in love with these weather movement cards from Lisa Markle Sparkles in Preschool, the cards are adorable and this would be such a fun way to explore weather concepts.  

It's not a wishlist without something from Play to Learn Preschool, and this Dramatic Play Hot Cocoa set is perfect for the holiday season!

And if you're still looking for that perfect item to add to your own wishlist, here's one of my favorite things from my own store:

This time of year is all about celebrations, and you can't have a good celebration without decorations! I can't say enough about this Classroom Decoration bundle because it has made my life so much easier - seriously - printable, easy to store classroom decor for every holiday, season, and celebration you can imagine!

So get over to Teacher's Pay Teachers and check out the sale (don't forget to use the code CYBER2016), and then come back and tell me about the amazing purchases that you made!

Friday, November 25, 2016

Friday Freebie - Thanksgiving Pie

Happy Friday! I'm spending the day shopping, putting up my Christmas decorations, and relaxing - I hope that you get to do some of the same!

I know that Thanksgiving is over, but this activity is a great one to stash away for next year.  This Thankful Pie craftivity from Lindy du Plessis looks like a great way to help children think about all of the things they are thankful for, I bet that parents would love to see what their children came up with.  Add this one to your file for next year and enjoy the rest of your holiday weekend!

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving! I hope that your holiday is wonderful and relaxing!

*Card image from Snapfish*

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Tips for celebrating Thanksgiving with little ones

Do you have any young children attending your Thanksgiving celebration? I wanted to make sure to share one of my most popular posts because it is full of tips for avoiding meltdowns and keeping toddlers and preschoolers happy on Thanksgiving day.  You can check that post out here!

Monday, November 21, 2016

Family Engagment - Discussing Thanksgiving

I like to take any opportunity that I can get to involve families in my classroom discussions and investigations, so I created this great freebie in order to find out a little more about each of my individual students' family Thanksgiving celebration.

Send this questionnaire home with your students to find out what each of their Thanksgiving celebrations is like.  Ask them to bring it back after the holiday and compare and contrast the foods that they ate, what they liked and did not like, and give children the opportunity to share their own special traditions. This is a great way to help little ones understand that their families have similarities, and to help them celebrate their differences. 

Download the free questionnaire HERE!

Friday, November 18, 2016

Friday Freebie - Holiday Checklists

Happy Friday! We've made, just a couple more days until Thanksgiving (and hopefully a nice little break), and then we rush headfirst into December.

If you have given any thought at all to everything you have to get done in December - even if just to dread managing all of it - then this freebie is for you. I am so excited about this Holiday Checklist Sampler from Ladybug's Teacher Files.  You put your students' names into one list and it automatically fills all of the lists for you, so you have easy checklists to help you make sure that everyone has finished their gifts for their families and you can track the student gifts that you've distributed and received. Download your set now and get organized before all the chaos begins! Have a great weekend.