Monday, October 31, 2016

Happy Halloween!

Friday, October 28, 2016

Friday Freebie - Halloween Alphabet Game

Happy Friday! I know many of you are celebrating Halloween today or over the weekend, but for those of you who are waiting until Monday I have the perfect last minute game for you today.

This Halloween Alphabet Game is from Christina Price, and it is adorable! Children draw cards with letters, and if they can name the letter correctly they get to keep the card, but if they pick up a Frankenstein card they have to put all of their cards back.  Not only is it a fun way to practice the alphabet, it's also a lesson in self-regulation!

I hope you all have a wonderful holiday and a great weekend - be safe and enjoy your candy!

Thursday, October 27, 2016

New for Halloween!

I was not about to let Halloween go by without coming up with something new and fun, and I'm hoping that you are as excited about this activity as I am!

Do you remember my Story Problems for Beginners? This is one of my favorite sets because it has so many different built in supports and visuals, it brings these concepts to life in a very easy to understand way.

I just added a Story Problems for Beginners set for Halloween!!!! I had so much fun switching up the colors and graphics for the holidays and I'm really happy with how it all turned out.

The first group of problems showcase two different kinds of jack-o-lanterns, and the problems all have sums of five or under.
The second group features two different kinds of candy, and all of the problems have sums of 8 or under.
The last group of problems ask children to add up their monsters to get sums of 10 or under.

There are problems in this set for every level of children in your class, and I'm sure that the Halloween theme will be a hit! Watch for additional seasonal set coming soon!

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Organizing all that paperwork!

If you've spent any time in a licensed child care program, you've seen all the required paperwork - lesson plans, daily communication sheets, medication forms, permission slips, pick-up lists, the forms are never ending.  If you've ever been a program administrator then you've felt the crush of the paperwork avalanche - add all those licensing forms to invoices, bills, staff forms, and all that mail!

If you're like me you're probably feeling your blood pressure rise just thinking about it, but I've got a few tips to help you handle all that paperwork. Whether you're a classroom teacher or an administrator, I hope that some of these tips will be helpful because they worked for me (and I still use them daily).

  1. FILE SYSTEM - Yes, I'm shouting that.  A good file system is critical, i'd even go so far as to suggest color coding your files (these are the file folders I use).  Use one color for children's files, one color for staff files, another color for financial paperwork, you get the idea. You can keep your files in a desk drawer, a file cabinet, or a plastic bin on the floor - it doesn't matter as long as the system works for you. What does matter is that you label your files clearly so that are easy to find.  I like to use a fine tip Sharpie or a black flair pen so that the wording is bold enough to read without getting too close.  The other key to a good file system is using it.  Seriously.  If you have a file for completed attendance forms you have to put the forms in the file folder, or you'll never find the attendance form that you want when you need to double check a child's hours for that week. 
  2. Only touch a piece of paper once - This might sound crazy but it works because I never have piles on my desk any more.  When you open that mail and find a new bill take care of it immediately - pay the bill and file the statement right away, then move on to the next piece of mail.  If you come back to your desk and find a note asking you to call a parent back sit down and call them asap, then you can pitch the note right away.  If this just won't work for you - because it can be a bit distracting - then try this: make one pile of all of the paperwork that you need to deal with that day, then set aside a half an hour every single day to tackle the pile.  This used to be my after lunch ritual and it saved me from scrambling to finish everything at the end of the day
  3. Clean off your desk at the end of the day - Put everything in it's proper place so that you can see the top of your desk again.  There are two reasons for this tip; First, you want everything back in it's place so that you know where to find it when you need it again. Second, When you come in the next morning your desk will be clear and you can sit down and get started instead of immediately feeling stressed over the state of that messy desk. I am vigilant about cleaning off my desk at the end of the day, especially because I know that the chances I will come in and start working on the same project the next morning are slim to none. 
  4. Let everyone else in on your systems - You can't control paperwork left for you by others, but you can let them know where they should put these things so that they are cluttering your desk.  Have a bin or a file for paperwork that others need to leave for you. This will keep it out of your way and let you get to it when you have a chance. If you're going to do this you have to make sure to clean out this bin regularly so that you aren't hunting someone down for a paper that they've already turned in. 
  5. Make your space feel like home - My desk is where I need to be in the zone, so I made it homey, I have a fun mat for my computer to sit on, matching framed quotes, nice containers for pens and paperclips, and get this - I only use post-its that match the color scheme of my space.  I'm more likely to keep my space nice and neat because it is somewhere I want to be. The post-it thing may be OCD, but I can stick up as many notes as I want and they look like they belong - not like they're shouting at me.  You don't have to spend a lot of money, my computer mat was $5 from Ikea and I used spray adhesive to stick fabric to it, my pen holder was a vase that I had in my basement.  Look around and see what you can re-purpose, even things that don't match can easily change colors with a little spray paint.  Here are some instagram photos of my work space so you can get an idea:

What organization tips work best for you?

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Evaluating your child care business

This week I'm focusing on tips for child care business.  Yesterday I shared some of my favorite online resources, and today is about taking a minute to step back and evaluate.

Looking critically at your own program can be a difficult thing to do, you either see the hopes and dreams that you have for the program or you see everything that is going wrong.  That's what happens when we're too close to a situation.  Luckily there are some research-based tools that can help you see exactly where you are so that you can create clear action plans towards your goals.

The Program Administration Scale is designed to be used by Child Care Center administrators to evaluate their business practices. You can use the tool as a self-assessment, or you can find an assessor who is PAS Reliable and they can come in and go through the assessment for your program. The items cover in the scale include Human Resources, Operations, Fiscal Management, Family Engagement, Marketing, and Staff Qualifications, to name just a few. (Amazon Affiliate link)

The Business Administration Scale is a similar tool that is specifically designed for family Child Care programs. It assess many of the same items, but with attention given to challenges and situations that are unique to family child care programs. (Amazon Affiliate link)

I love these tools because every provider that I have ever used them with (myself included) has found at least one item that they've acknowledge they've never even thought about for their program.  We're in the early childhood education field, so we recognize that learning is a lifelong process - why shouldn't we also continue to learn about business practices that could improve our programs?!

If you're looking for a tool that you can use to evaluate your classroom environments, check out this post!

Monday, October 24, 2016

Resources for Child Care Businesses

When I first started thinking about running a child care program I knew that there was a lot I would have to learn, but I had to idea how difficult it would be to find the answers I needed.  There are all kinds of resources available if you want to learn more about child development, and even more ideas for planning lessons for preschoolers, toddlers, and infants, but helpful resources for the ins and outs of running the business - not so much.

A big part of my job right now is working with administrators, I help them navigate our state's quality rating system, but I also offer a ton of resources for any business-specific issues that they might be having.  I share some of these resources so regularly that it seems only natural to share them here too. So for those of you who are currently running a childcare program, and for those of you are thinking about doing so one day, here are a couple of resources that I think you should know about:

  • The U.S. Small business Administration's Online Learning Center: Free webinars about topics like marketing, understanding your customer, things to know when purchasing an existing business, financing options, and how to write a business plan - just to name a few.  The wealth of resources here is invaluable!
  • Tom Copeland: I cannot say enough wonderful things about Tom Copeland. His experience and no-nonsense business attitude make it easy to understand and implement his advice on everything from record-keeping, to policy implementation, to financial practices and taxes. 
  • Early Childhood Investigations Webinars: These free webinars have been a lifeline for me. They have introduced me to countless new ideas and helped me better understand practices and concepts that I had been struggling with.  The wide variety of topics covers everything from social emotional development to curriculum implementation, to leading staff meetings. I regularly search the recorded webinars for specific topics, but I am also on their mailing list so that I can get first dibs on the newest offerings. 

I am also constantly referring providers to our local small business development center, and our local libraries do introductory classes for Microsoft Excel which is really helpful for anyone who is looking for a simple bookkeeping solution.

What are some of your favorite resources for business matters and professional development? I would love to explore some additional options for myself!

Friday, October 21, 2016

Friday Freebie - Pumpkin Spice Gift Set

Happy Friday! I have something a little different for you this week. This freebie is designed to spread the autumn love and it's a blog exclusive so you can only get it right here!

Brighten someone’s day with this sweet little pumpkin spice set. Whether you send your favorite teacher a Halloween surprise, get a co-worker a little autumn pick-me-up, or share a latte with a good friend, this set is the perfect way to celebrate a love for pumpkin spice! It includes the orange tag card, the lattice pumpkin coffee sleeve, and some additional little circles that you can use as stickers or sprinkle around like confetti.  Cut out all of the pieces before you leave the house and run through Starbucks to pick up a latte and you've got a quick easy little gift.  Have a great weekend!

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Halloween Treat Bag Ideas

I try to be the teacher who is prepared for everything, and I've learned over the years that a holiday cannot come and go without children having a ton of stuff to take home with them - seriously, even if you don't even have a party parents will still send treats.  So whenever I plan for holidays I always include an easy container to take all the stuff home in. I've gathered some treat bag ideas for Halloween that the children can create themselves, and these won't break the bank as far as supplies are concerned!

Ghost bags from All Kids Network

Full Moon Lunch Bags from Scrapbook Destination

Duct Tape Bag from Sugarbee crafts

Monster Treat Bags from Our Whimsical Days

Hopefully these bags will keep the goodies from exploding out of their cubbies this year!

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Easy Halloween Snacks

Whether you're looking for an easy treat for your class party or something to appeal to your own children, here are some fun ideas that are super simple crowd pleasers!

Candy Corn Jello from Cincy Shopper

Pumpkin Patch Pudding Cups from Sprinkle Some Fun

Ghost Milkshakes from Martha Stewart

Peep Ghost Donuts from Pizzazzeri

I'm ready for one of those ghost milkshakes right now! What are your favorite Halloween treats?

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Preschool Teacher Humor

Halloween - I love it and I hate it, and I think teachers everywhere are with me.  Here's a little list I put together for those of you who are preparing yourself to celebrate this particular holiday in the classroom. I hope you enjoy a little laugh and know that you are not alone!

Monday, October 17, 2016

Halloween books!

Did you know that October is national book month?! I thought that i would celebrate by sharing my favorite books to read to my class this month. Most of these are Halloween books, and I love them because they make what can be a pretty frightening holiday a little less scary, and a little more whimsical.  Make sure to scroll all the way to the bottom to see my all-time-favorite pick! All of the following links are Amazon affiliates.

Room on the Broom is an adorable story and the perfect book for talking about rhyming words!

The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything is a teeny tiny bit scary, until you get to the end of the story. It's perfect for helping children overcome their fears, and they can act out the actions making it an ideal read-aloud.

The Biggest Pumpkin Ever is a very sweet story about the power of team work. This one is LONG, but it works really well for spreading out over a couple of story time sessions. 

Big Pumpkin is my all-time favorite Halloween book ever. I read this book to my class two or three times a week during the month of October. It's repetitive so the children quickly learn the story and can help tell it, and the different characters are great for practicing all of your different voices. If you can find the audio recording that goes with it you are in for a huge hit!

Which books are your favorite to read in October?!

Friday, October 14, 2016

Friday Freebie - Trick or Treat Sequencing

Happy Friday! I've given in to the Halloween chaos (even though we still have a couple of weeks) but I'm trying to stay away from the candy!

Today's freebie is a Trick or Treat Sequencing poster from Preschool Wonders. You can use it to teach preschoolers practice the steps involved in Trick or Treating, and to help them become more comfortable with the entire process.  Halloween can be scary for little ones, so giving them as much information about the day can ease some of those fears.

Have a wonderful weekend, and make sure to check out the rest of this week's Halloween-themed posts for more great activities!

Treats to Watch Out For
My Favorite Halloween Activity
EASY Halloween Sensory Bin

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

EASY Halloween Sensory Bin

I was going through my Instagram feed earlier and I came across this photo from a couple of years ago - the timing couldn't be better so I thought I'd share it here.

This is honestly the easiest sensory bin ever, I just took some Halloween colored paper and ran it through the shredder.  I finished it off by turning make-up remover pads into eyeballs with markers, that's it.

This would be perfect for your spooky Halloween party!

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

My Favorite Halloween Activity

I can't let Halloween fly by without sharing my all-time favorite Halloween activity!

This Jack-o-Lantern shape set can be used in so many different ways, so it is easy to use with children of varying ages and abilities.

Children can use the shapes to make any face they wish, or they can recreate the inspiration cards by recognizing the shapes that have been used, finding them, and placing them in the proper locations on the Jack-o-Lantern.

The set also includes matching cards, which children can use to play memory, or to match to the larger Jack-o-Lantern inspiration cards.

Finally, there are "find me" cards.  Children can work together to find the inspiration cards or matching cards with the corresponding shapes.

Every child in the class can enjoy the materials that are included in this set, and they provide a varieyt of opportunities to work on a number of different standards, including;

  • Shape recognition
  • Memory and recall
  • Peer relationships and teamwork
  • Following directions
  • Creativity
How would you use them?! Check the set out here and let me know!

Monday, October 10, 2016

Treats to watch out for

Halloween is quickly approaching, so this week I'm going to share some of my favorite activities, but I also want to share some safety tips that are helpful for teachers, parents, and anyone that will be spending this holiday with young children.

Halloween is all about sweet treats, so candy and snacks tend to appear out of thin air.  One thing to remember when celebrating with the youngest children is that many common Halloween snacks can also be choking hazards.  So whether you are indulging in sweets or trying to stay healthy, here are some foods to watch out for;

  • Popcorn
  • Jolly Ranchers
  • Jawbreakers
  • Hard Candy
  • Gum and Gumballs
  • Nuts
  • Grapes
  • Blueberries
  • Hot Dogs
  • Marshmallows
  • Pixie stix (Seriously - too much powder can get lodged in the throat)
  • Laffy Taffy and other sticky candies
  • Gummies

There are also some non-food items that you want to watch out for, especially during parties and holiday events, such as:

  • Pennies and coins
  • Balloons
  • Small Toys (like party favors)
  • Bouncy Balls
This doesn't mean that you should ban all of these things from the classroom, it's all about proper supervision. Make sure that you are able to sit with children while they are eating so that you can be right there in the event of an emergency, and brush up on your first aid and CPR. Look into your state's licensing regulations and make sure that any rules relating to choking hazards are followed. And last but not least, share this information with your parents and families so that they can be informed and aware. 

Friday, October 7, 2016

Friday Freebie - Election Day

Happy Friday! I know that we've still got time before election day, but this freebie fits really well with the other posts that I've shared this week, so I thought I'd point it out today so you can plan ahead.

This Future Voter Ribbon craft from For Such Time is a great way to involve even the youngest children in election day. I love it because it's also a great reminder to all of the adults in their lives that these little ones are watching us, and one day it will be their turn to make these big decisions.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Advocating for Early Childhood Education

Yesterday I shared some info to help you inform yourself about child care policy and the upcoming elections. Here are some graphics that you can share as you advocate for our profession and our children.

The easiest way to advocate for a cause you believe in is to vote, the next best step is to contact your legislator.  Arm yourself with the facts and make your message heard!

A cause worth believing in

Other than advocating for my favorite teaching philosophies, I don't generally get political here - don't worry I'm not about to. I just wanted to take a quick minute to recognize that election day is coming up and I for one am most interested in what all of the candidates have to say about Early Childhood Education Policy and Funding.  While the presidential election is important, don't forget about local races too, state representatives and senators have a lot of influence on state budgets, and local school levies impact our children too.

While I'm not advocating for any specific candidate (I promise I will never ever do that here), I am a huge advocate for ECE, so I've been watching NAEYCs Early Ed For President campaign closely. If you haven't taken time to check out the site make sure to do so. It's a one-stop-shop for all of the latest early childhood legislation at the national level, as well as news from presidential candidates.

If you're looking for clear-cut, easy to understand information regarding candidates' stances on child care, this fact sheet from Child Care Aware is really helpful too! This election is an opportunity to make sure that all of our voices are heard, but we can only do it if we work together. The more noise we make, the more impact we have for our profession and our children's futures!

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Halloween Play Dough Activities

Play Dough is one of those preschool supplies that some teachers love and other teachers hate. I can certainly see both perspectives, but I love it.  I'm a huge fan of homemade play dough, for a couple of reasons;

  1. A batch of homemade play dough can be shared among more children than one container of store bought play dough.
  2. When you make your own play dough you can create any color that you want, so it can be used for endless themes and seasons.
  3. If you're careful you can make the play dough in the classroom, extending the learning experience and helping the children appreciate the play dough even more because they got to help make it. 
I wanted to share a list of different activities to do with play dough, but honestly I was a little overwhelmed by all of the possibilities, so I narrowed it down a bit to Halloween activities that you could do with play dough:
  • Put out photos or vocabulary cards with Halloween images and ask children to sculpt their own versions.
  • Collect Halloween sequins and buttons and press them into the play dough to make pictures.
  • Use pipe cleaners with your play dough to make spider webs, add some plastic spiders too!
  • Cut out Halloween shapes with cookie cutters and use them to make Halloween scenes.
  • Sculpt haunted houses or pumpkin patches.
  • Cut shapes out of your play dough to make jack-o-lantern faces.
  • Create monsters or spooky eye balls
  • Add glitter to your play dough for sparkly fun.
  • Turn the lights off and use play dough and glow sticks together.
  • Create props for you Halloween themed dramatic play like pumpkins or candy.
  • Press play dough against leaves, gourds, pumpkins, and Indian corn to study the textures. 
  • Make Play dough that is pumpkin, apple, or even chocolate scented.
  • Press candy corn into your play dough to make mosaic pictures.
With this list you could do a different play dough activity every day from now until Halloween! If you need a great homemade play dough recipe, make sure to check out This apple scented play dough recipe, and this pumpkin scented play dough recipe

Monday, October 3, 2016

Preschool on Instagram

I follow a ton of great preschool teachers on Instagram, and their photos are a huge source of inspiration for me, so I thought I would take some time to share my favorites with you!

playtolearnps: Jamie is always sharing photos from her classroom and all of the activities that she does are simple and easy to re-create.

pocketofpreschool: Jackie has the best dramatic play centers, I Love her ideas and the way she includes the children in the work.

teachingpreschoolers: Tami's instagram is the perfect mix of classroom ideas and personal photos, I love when I get to see what my favorite teachers do outside of school

teachpreschool: If you already love Deborah's amazing blog, then just wait until you see her Instagram. She takes the time write insightful captions for each photo, and is constantly reminding me why I do what I do.

preschoolplans: I'm in love with all of the documentation that she shares.  Her activities are both creative and authentic and I would love to be a preschooler in this classroom!

Go check out these very talented teachers, and share your favorite preschool Instagram accounts in the comments! Oh, and if you haven't taken the time to follow my Instagram you can do so at erinnholleran.