Thursday, June 30, 2016

Teaching disguised as outdoor play

Outdoor fun has been a huge theme on my blog this summer, probably because I've been spending as much time outside as possible.  We may be halfway done with summer, but that just means that we still have half of the summer left to enjoy the sunshine!

Beautiful weather makes me want to stay on the playground all day long, but I can only justify it if I can sneak in some of my lesson plan while we're outside.  I just found some really fun ideas on Oriental Trading's website that kids and teachers are both sure to love. These are classics that every child should learn how to play and they can help children explore key concepts:

Dominoes are a great way to work on counting and matching. These Giant Backyard Dominoes are easy for children to hold and manipulate, and the durable wood design is perfect for the playground. 

These Garden Dice are beautiful! Dice are perfect for preschoolers because they offer so many different math opportunities; from counting the dots, to subitizing, and even basic addition. You can easily modify a game to meet the needs of the child that you are playing with. 

It's not hard to come up with gross motor activities to do on the playground, but I had to share this Limbo Kit.  The children can play this game independently while you supervise the entire group.  

I was so excited to see this Backyard Letter Game! They are supposed to be for a Scrabble-type game but you could use them to spell names, beginning sound scavenger hunts, or letter recognition games. I have to get a set of these!

Relay races are the perfect way to practice social emotional skills; cooperation, teamwork, and self-regulation just to name a few! These Potato Sacks are burlap, and can be left outside with the rest of your playground toys.

If more long days outside are in your future, make sure to check out the rest of the Games and Activities available from Oriental Trading! While you're at it, catch up on some of my previous outdoor related posts:

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

4th of July Decorations

The 4th is almost here, how did this sneak up so quickly?! Whether you're celebrating with your family or the little one's that you get to spend the summer with, every party needs decorations, for a quick and easy fix to your decor problems, check out my Patriotic Classroom Decorations.

These are all printable and super quick! They have saved me so many times.  Here are a couple of other really easy ideas for decorations;

Confetti Launchers! (from Piikea Street)

Cup Streamers (from Danielle's Place)

Ribbon Wands (from Scholastic)

Driveway stars (from Mom Inspired Life)

These projects will keep you busy all week while you prepare for the big day!

Monday, June 27, 2016

Random Projects

Full disclosure: This post has nothing to do with preschool.  We all need a break sometimes, and my little breaks often come in the form of craft projects. I wanted to share my current projects to give you a little peek into what i'm up to, but they're all at different stages of completion, so I'll just share some tidbits and I"ll share updates when they're finished.

This photo is from @targetteachers you HAVE to follow them on Instagram!)

I finally scored a set of these wooden pencils from the Dollar Spot at Target, and I have a fun project in mind for them, I can't wait to share it with you because it is going to be a perfect teacher appreciation idea!

My friends just bought a used swing set for their daughter, it's pretty similar to the one in this photo, but the awning over the middle part is ripped. So being they DIY girl that I am, I offered to make a new one. Shopping for fabric is one of my all time favorite things to do, and I love outdoor projects but I don't usually get to do a lot of them, so this one has me super excited!

This photo is from Enticing Icing

I haven't had time to make sugar cookies since Christmas so I am pumped to whip up a batch for the Fourth of July.  These are currently my inspirations, so we'll see what I come up with!

I'm hoping that I can find time throughout the week to work on each of these, but if I don't then you can bet this is what I'll be doing over my holiday weekend!

Friday, June 24, 2016

Friday Freebie - Post-It To Do Lists

Happy Friday! We've almost made it to another long weekend, just one more week - and since I know that next week will feel extra long, I'm especially excited to enjoy this weekend.  Did that sentence make any sense?

I usually try to make sure that my Friday Freebie goes with whatever topics I've written about all week, usually.  This week's freebie has nothing to do with playgrounds, so if you want to check out those posts be my guest, after you download this super cute freebie! The list-maker in me could not resist sharing this editable To Do List for Post-It notes from Brooke Brown.  I think I'm in love! This would be a really back to school gift idea for your favorite teachers, and while you're at it, make one for yourself too!

Have a wonderful weekend!

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Easy Playground Storage

Since this week has been all about the playground I wanted to share one of my favorite posts, this was originally written in June of 2014, but the idea is still just as cute and just as easy!

I love to be outside - which is kind of a shock because when I was little the last thing that I wanted to do was play outside.  I need my daily dose of vitamin D, and my students need to run around and be crazy people.  It is so good for them to have the opportunity to just play - completely unstructured and in a wide open space, so we spend a lot of time outside. 

The kiddos can only run around in circles for so long, so we've been introducing a lot of other activities into our outdoor space in order to help keep them busy.  Our playground is small, so it was really important for us to have storage for all of these activities that was aesthetically pleasing and didn't take up a lot of space.  So we used these cute baskets!

I absolutely love how cute it turned out, and the kids love to go through the baskets and find little treasures to play with. Right now we have sidewalk chalk, tongs and tweezers, shaped ice cube trays, clear gems, decorative tiles, sea shells, polished rocks, twigs, plastic blocks, toy trucks, colored play dough lids, and manipulative bears in our baskets.  These items will be switched out regularly to keep things fresh. I can't wait to see what the kiddos will create with them!

What are your outdoor storage solutions?!

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Easy personalized waterbottles

The one major issue that has always made playground time difficult is the lack of a water supply. I can get creative when it comes to water play, but daily drink breaks are another thing.  This easy activity is the perfect solution. 

You will need 1 disposable water bottle for each child - if you collect them from staff or families clean them out with soap and water.  The children can help you take the labels off all of the bottles.  Use one of the labels to measure new labels, and cut these from white printer paper.  

Each student can decorate their own new label, which will help them find their own water bottles easier. Add their names and cover the entire label with clear packing tape.  You can also use the packing tape to adhere the new labels to the bottle.  

Find a tray or basket that you can use to carry all of the filled water bottles out to the playground, and the children can get their water bottles whenever they need them.  Once the water bottles start to get gross you can recycle them and make new ones!

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Shady spaces for your playground

Nothing can beat a really great sunscreen when it comes to protecting a child from a serious sunburn, but a great shady space is just as important! The thing about creating an inviting shady area is that the children have to WANT to spend time in it. I've rounded up some ideas that would have any kid happy to spend some time in the shade - these are all easy DIYs that would be perfect for the playground!

Make your shady trees even more inviting - from

Cover your sandbox - from Wray Sist3rs

A tent for all kinds of adventures - from A Sharper Focus

Some other fun ideas include:
  • Patio umbrellas
  • Mosquito netting
  • Collapsible play tunnels
  • Beach canopies
I'm currently in love with my big red patio umbrella, it makes me feel like I'm sitting on the patio at a cute little bistro!

Monday, June 20, 2016

Playground games

I've been spending as much time outside as I possibly can - I think I might be addicted to vitamin D, or maybe I'm just preparing myself for next winter by soaking up the sun while I still can! This is all fairly new to me, when I was little I was not an outdoorsy kind of kid.  This means that I sympathize with my students who don't really know what they're supposed to do when they're on the playground.  I started teaching the children the games that I did enjoy playing outside, and it surprised me that most of them had never played any version of tag before.

I think that we've become so fascinated with finding brilliant new ideas on Pinterest for our kiddos, that we forget about the great, simple things that we did when we were children.  The things my students always loved the best were also the simplest activities.  Here are 15 easy, classic games that preschoolers can play outside with very basic instruction.

  1. Tag
  2. Freeze tag
  3. Ring around the rosy
  4. Hopscotch
  5. Red light Green Light
  6. Mother May I
  7. Hide and seek
  8. Sardines
  9. Simon Says
  10. Tug of war
  11. Three legged races
  12. Duck duck goose
  13. Hot potato
  14. Relay races
  15. Obstacle courses

I made some cards to take out on the playground, so the next time you're in need of a quick game you can have a child choose a card, and then teach them how to play the game that they've drawn! Download the cards here and be sure to laminate them before you take them outside!

Friday, June 17, 2016

Friday Freebie - Summer planning

Happy Friday! It's definitely summer, the temperatures are rising and I am in a very summer mood! This week I shared some of my favorite summer posts, let you know what I hope to check off my summer bucket list, hunted down some healthy summer snacks, and let you all in on some of my favorite summer outfits for work. Today I've found a freebie that will help you map out the rest of your summer.

This Summer Planning set is from Proud to be Primary. It includes weekly and monthly calendar pages, along with a page to track what you plan to read, write, and create, plus any fun trips that you have planned.  I love love love this set!!! Go download a copy and take some time this weekend to relax and soak up the summer vibes!

Thursday, June 16, 2016

What to Wear: Summer styles for preschool teachers

I've shared some tips about dressing professionally (and appropriately) for preschool before, so today I want to tackle what to wear when you have to teach all summer long.  I've always had to work year round, and I know that summer can bring some special challenges. Not only is it hot hot hot, but you want to spend a lot more time outside - which usually means getting dirtier than you might in the classroom.  Here are some of my current favorites for wearing to work - I actually own all of these, and I've chosen them because they are professional-looking without breaking the budget.  They all wash well and are lightweight and easy to wear!

My number one problem in the summer is that it can still be really cool when I leave the house in the morning, and it doesn't warm up until later in the day. I also happen to be one of those people who is always too cold in an air conditioned room, so layers are my secret weapon.  Bright colored cardigans instantly complete any outfit and my current favorites are from So Perla (1).  I'm also a huge fan of the chambray shirt trend, the one I've been grabbing regularly is this SO version (3) from Kohls.

A great tank top can make or break a summer outfit.  The mixed media tank (2) from Loft is perfect. It looks dressy on it's own or layered, and it can be worn with jeans, or dress pants.  I have this tank in four colors and my favorite way to wear it is tucked into a cute skirt.

Dresses are what I live in all summer long.  They are easy, and comfortable, but you have to be careful when selecting dresses for work.  You don't want them to be too short or too casual, and if you're playing with little ones you have to be able to move in them.  The striped shift dress (4) from So Perla is honestly the most comfortable dress I've ever owned, and the length is perfect!the last two dresses are from Target.  Target is my favorite store for dresses because they always have the basics at the best prices. I don't worry about ruining these at work because they are inexpensive, but they don't look cheap! The A-line Merona (5) dress is comfortable and looks great dressed up with a blazer but I can also wear it with flip flops.  I've saved the best for last, the textured t-shirt dress (6) is a classic.  It's also easy to dress up or down, and the extra length in the back is perfect.

None of the brands mentioned above sponsored this post in any way, I really do own and love all of these pieces! Working in the summer time is hard enough, I fully believe in the power of a great (and comfortable) outfit. I'd love to know what some of your favorite pieces for summer are too!

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Quick and easy summer snacks

It's been a while since I've done a snack post, my go to snack during the summer are definitely a lot different than during other times of the year.  My favorites are lite, quick and easy.  This is the perfect time of year to introduce children to fresh produce, and you can play around with fun things like popsicles, that don't take a lot of effort but always get great reviews.

Here are some fun ideas for lite easy summer snacks that children will love as much as you do!

Every single one of these recipes is on my list to try this summer - here's to sweet treats that are actually good for you!

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

My Summer Bucket list

Every so often I like to stray from the preschool subject matter and share just a little bit of myself (although preschool is definitely a part of me) with all of you.  So I thought I would share my bucket list for this summer! I have to be honest for a minute and tell you that it was hard to come up with 10 fun things that I want to do this summer - and I think that's a little sad, so I'm making it my mission to seek out fun experiences!

  1. Go camping - Technically I can check this one off, we went camping with friends a couple of weeks ago, but I've got at least two more camping trips planned and I can't wait!
  2. Have a patio party - We're finally building a deck (after nearly nine years in our house) and I can't wait to finish it so that we can have a party!
  3. Enjoy the sunset - This is hands-down my favorite thing to do in the summer. I am always happy to sit in the backyard and watch the sun go down. 
  4. Read! - I've been making extra time for reading, it's usually what I do while watching the sun go down.  If that's not a great way to unwind, I don't know what is. 
  5. Eat too much ice cream - To be honest, I'm not sure that's even possible. Is there such a thing as too much ice cream? I'm happy to visit my favorite ice creams stores - I'd do it every day if I could - and I want to make a few batches of homemade ice cream too. 
  6. Bake cookies - I haven't had time to make my famous decorated sugar cookies since Christmas and I'm in need of some sugar therapy.
  7. Spend the day outside - The older I get the more I love being outdoors.  I've got a few days on my calendar that will be spent entirely outside and I can't wait to soak up all of that vitamin D.
  8. Movie marathon - This is the exact opposite of spending the day outside, but I fully intend to spend an entire day in the air conditioning doing nothing but watching movies. 
  9. Go to a concert - I'm always in for a concert, I don't have one planned yet, but I'm dying to find a good one. It's not summer without a concert. 
  10. Get a mani-pedi - This is honestly one of my favorite things in the world, but I don't indulge often. I love looking forward to it almost as much as actually having it done.  
What's on your summer bucket list? If you love this cute template you can download it here - these would be fun to do with your students for a summer bulletin board!

Monday, June 13, 2016

Summer Fun!

It has been hot hot hot around here, and it definitely feels like summer! I wanted to share some previous posts that offer some fun ideas for summer activities that will keep you busy while you beat the heat!

I hope that you will use some of these ideas to make memories that last a lifetime!

Friday, June 10, 2016

Friday Freebie - Editable Boarding Pass

Happy Friday! My travel posts all week have me itching to go somewhere, I might have to make a day trip this weekend!

Here is an incredible freebie for your travel week - this super-high quality Boarding Pass from A First for Everything can be edited to reflect the destination, the name of the traveler, and the name of the airline.  How fun is that?! Make sure to download yours and have a great weekend!

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Travel-themed dramatic play props

Are you in vacation mode yet?! Me too, and since it isn't going to happen for real, I figured I'd take a pretend trip (you can download my free travel lesson plan here!).  I fully believe that children need the opportunity to explore authentic materials when engaged in dramatic play, so here is a great big list of travel-themed props that you can add to the classroom for your travel or vacation week.

  1. Suitcases
  2. Duffel bags
  3. Cosmetic or toiletry bags
  4. Empty travel bottles (Shampoo, conditioner, etc.)
  5. Tote bags
  6. Luggage tags
  7. Travel pillows
  8. Boarding passes
  9. Passports
  10. Travel magazines and brochures
  11. Cameras
  12. Binoculars
  13. Postcards
  14. Clothing
  15. Flip flops
  16. Maps
  17. Hotel room keys
  18. Sunglasses
  19. Hats
  20. Itineraries and packing lists
What else would you add?

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Preschool books about vacation

Yesterday I shared a lesson plan for a vacation themed week (go check it out)! This is the perfect theme to introduce non-fiction texts, I'm a huge fan of the materials available from AAA. If you aren't a AAA member, see if any of your colleagues or parents are, they might be able to pick up some travel guides for you.  Many local tourism organizations are also more than willing to send you free information, you can often request info through their websites.  These are both very cost-effective ways to gather non-fiction texts (that are usually full of beautiful photos) for your classroom library.

Even with all of those great non-fiction books, there is always room for story books too. Here are a few of my favorite vacation-themed picture books (links are affiliates).

Depending on the types of vacations your students have taken, there are certainly other books that could fit into this category as well - books about the beach, museums, aquariums, national parks, and different cities.  What are your favorite vacation books?

Monday, June 6, 2016

Vacation Lesson Plan

I don't know about you, but summer weather makes me want to take a vacation! Unfortunately, that doesn't quite work into my schedule at the moment, but I know I'm not the only one in need of a vacation, so I though It would be fun to plan a vacation themed week for the children too.

Here is the lesson plan that I put together for vacation week:

You can download a copy HERE!

I created it to be somewhat generic because I want the children to help decide where your class will go on their pretend vacation, then you can tailor the activities to your destination.  Once your students pick their destination you can find maps, photos, and postcards to fit your theme.

I'd love to hear how your pretend vacations go, keep me posted!

Oh, and if you like this lesson plan format, it's one of the choices in my free lesson plan templates.