Friday, June 23, 2017

Friday Freebie - 4th of July Play Dough Fun

Happy Friday! How does the summer fly by so quickly?! It's already time to start thinking about the 4th of July.

Today's freebie can be used in your classroom or with your own children, making it perfect no matter what you're up to this holiday.  Go download this set of 4th of July Play Dough Mats from Preschool Unplugged, and have a wonderful weekend. Check back next week for a ton more 4th of July activities too!

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Fourth of July Round Up

The 4th of July is my all-time favorite holiday, but it has a way of sneaking up on me and I always seem to find myself slightly unprepared.  Since it's coming at us quickly, and it just happens to fall at the beginning of the week this year, I wanted to make sure I had plenty of time to share all of my ideas with you!

I'm going to start with some past posts for the holiday because the ideas are still great! So as you start your own planning, make sure to take some time to check these out:

I've got more great ideas for you all next week, so check back often to see what I'm sharing!

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Flashlight Play

If you're looking for some fun activities that children will love, that incorporate science, and that may be just a little different than your typical preschool activities then flashlights might be just what you need.  First things first, you'll need enough flashlights for multiple children to use at once.  There are a few ways to gather these; ask your families to bring in flash lights from their homes, visit the local hardware store and ask for a donation, or order a set from Oriental Trading.

Once you've got your flashlights think about how you want to use them.  Can you make your classroom dark enough for them to work well? Is it possible to cover your windows in order to make the room darker? Can you create a dark space in the classroom (I love the blanket fort method)? Is there another room or space that gets darker that you could use? Thinking through the answers to these questions before you give the children their flashlights will help you make sure that the experience is successful - although working with the children to figure out why the flashlights aren't very bright and how you could make them appear brighter could be a good problem solving activity too.

Finally, you'll want to gather some materials to explore with your flashlights - any items that impact the way light shines is perfect. Some ideas include:

  • Small mirrors
  • Colored transparencies or cellophane
  • Xrays
  • Prisms
  • Construction paper with holes punched in it
  • Saran wrap
  • Transparent colored plastic cups
  • Tissue paper
  • Old CDs
  • Aluminum foil
  • Plastic water bottles
  • Magna-Tiles
  • Plastic easter eggs
Giving your students plenty of time to explore these materials with their flashlights will surely lead to additional questions to explore and new materials to test!

Monday, June 19, 2017

Firefly Crafts

It always feels like it's officially summer when the fireflies show up - and usually it's right around this week (at least it is where I live).  I know that it's typical to explore bugs and insects in the spring, but fireflies would be a fun, different summer theme if you're looking to switch it up from the usual beach and barbecue themes.  Here are some fun firefly art projects to try out while you explore these amazing little critters!

Which one will you try first?

Friday, June 16, 2017

Friday Freebie - Cleaning Checklist

Happy Friday! I hope that you've been able to enjoy some summer weather and summer activities!

I usually share freebie for the classroom, but this one was too good to pass up! My posts this week have been all about cleaning at school, but when you can come home to a clean house it can ease a lot of stress! This huge cleaning checklist is from Printable Crush, and it is amazing.  If you're anything like me cleaning will be worth it if you get to cross something off the checklist! Go download your copy and have a wonderful weekend!

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Cleaning Ideas

I just realized how many posts I've written about cleaning the classroom.  What exactly does that say about me? I know I'm a bit of a neat freak, so clearly this has spread to my classroom, which I don't think is necessarily a bad thing.  If you are looking to implement a new cleaning routine, or just looking for some tips and tricks, here are some of my previous posts for you to check out:

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Cleaning and Sanitizing

So what is the difference between cleaning and sanitizing? Most people use these terms interchangeably, but they aren't the same thing, and when it comes to preschool germs they can make a huge difference!

If you aren't familiar with the book Caring for Our Children, you've got to check it out.  This resource is published by the National Resource Center for Health and Safety in Child Care and Early Education, and it gives recommendations for every possible health and safety topic that you could every come across while working in child care.  It is an incredible resource to have on hand when you need to look up how to handle specific situations, and when you're creating program policies.

According to Caring for Our Children, cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfecting are very different tasks, which are defined as follows:

Understanding the differences between these three practices can help you better decide when to use each one - and in many cases child care licensing will want you to use a specific task depending on the purpose. For example, in my state cots have to be sanitized either weekly, or before being used by a different child, and cleaned every three months.  

So, now you know - and you'll know a lot more if you go check out Caring for Our Children.  You can browse the different topics online or order a print version of the book for your program's resource library.  

Monday, June 12, 2017

Cleaning Routines for the Classroom

This time of the year is perfect for examining your routines - what worked well this past year? What would you like to change? How can you be more efficient? If you've got the summer off you can prepare now to put these new routines in place, and if you are in the classroom all summer long then starting new routines now will mean less stress in the fall!

One type of routine that I've always found helpful for myself is a cleaning routine - or more specifically, a schedule of certain things to clean at certain times, or on certain days.  This has always helped me make sure that I'm getting it all done, without stressing about doing it all at once.

Anyone with preschool experience understand the importance of cleaning toys and table tops regularly.  Preschoolers are gross, they get germs everywhere, and these are the things that they tend to touch the most, so of course these are the things that get cleaned the most.  But when you take the time to think about all of the other things that get touched and germy, it can be a bit overwhelming.

When was the last time that you disinfected all of your doorknobs or wiped down your light switches? Have you ever cleaned your faucet handles or chairs? Do you dust your shelves or wipe down your markers? Add all of these things to your cleaning list.

The easiest way that I've found to banish the germs and handle all of the cleaning is to focus on one task each day.

  • Monday I'll dust and clean the toys in the block center.  
  • Tuesday I'll use a Magic Eraser on all of the chairs before spraying them with disinfectant and also clean the toys and materials in the science center.  
  • Wednesday I wipe down all the knobs, handles, and switches with Clorox wipes, and do the same with any hard cover books.  
  • Thursday I clean the dramatic play props and wipe down any art supplies that need cleaned (markers, scissors, pencils, etc.).  
  • Friday I gather any items that can be washed in the washing machine - pillow covers and cushions, dramatic play clothes, rags, blankets, etc. and make sure that it all gets washed. 

This strategy isn't fool proof, things certainly get missed, and we still occasionally get sick but it does help me make sure that I'm doing everything I possibly can, and it breaks down the tasks so that I get a little bit done each day!

Friday, June 9, 2017

Friday Freebie - Starting a Child Care Program

Happy Friday! Are you still in school? Do you work year round? For those of you who are enjoying summer break, I hope that you're having a great time. For those of you who don't get a summer break, I feel your pain - but there is something about summer weekends that makes them even better than weekends the rest of the year, so enjoy them!

Today's freebie is a little bit different than what I usually share on Fridays.  This business workbook is for those of you who have ever considered starting a child care program of your own.  The pages in this workbook will walk you through the basics and give you a lot to think about! Go download your copy and enjoy your weekend!

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Questions to ask potential child care providers

Here are some great questions to ask potential child care providers:

  1. What is your philosophy about how young children learn?
  2. What is your favorite thing about working with children?
  3. What is your least favorite thing about working with children?
  4. How do you decide which activities to do with the children?
  5. Do you use any type of curriculum or assessment?
  6. How long have you been working with children and have you completed any education related to child development?
  7. How many children do you typically care for at one time?
  8. What is your typical daily schedule like?
  9. How do you handle temper tantrums and behavior challenges?
  10. What kinds of communication can I expect from you?
These 10 questions can tell you a lot about a provider's level of experience and professionalism, as well as their temperament.  If you are looking for child care for your own children, consider asking them as part of your provider interview.  If you have friends and family members who regularly ask you what to look for when choosing child care - because they know that you know the field - then this is the perfect list to share!

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Things to look for in quality child care

Yesterday I shared all of the things that I personally looked for when choosing child care for my own child.  Today I wanted to give you some additional tips from the experts.

When I need a great resource for anything related to Early Childhood Education the first place I look is always NAEYC.  For this particular topic, NAEYC for Families does not disappoint. Below are the infographics, you can follow the links to read additional in-depth information.

This information is perfect for sharing with parents who come to visit your program (so they can see that you are meeting all of these recommendations) and with the rest of your staff, so they know how to articulate the great things about your program when they are talking to potential families.

Monday, June 5, 2017

What I Looked for when Choosing Child Care

We just recently had to choose a child care center for our new baby girl to attend when I go back to work, and let me tell you it was hard! I have worked in child care for my entire career, at three very different programs, and I currently help programs apply for our quality rating system, so it's safe to say that I have far more knowledge about child care than the average new parent. I'm convinced that my training in licensing, curriculum and assessment, quality improvement, and best practice made this particular parenting task infinitely more difficult, especially considering our budget!

I thought it might be valuable to share the specific criteria that I looked for, and some of the questions that I asked.  You might also be surprised to know what I didn't ask about, so I've included some notes on that too.

First, I toured every single program that I was even remotely interested in.  Yes this takes time, but it was so worth it.  In my area most programs won't share their rates with you until after you've come in for a tour anyway, so I had to visit the program.  I'm glad I did because I was able to see first hand things like:

  • The types of materials that were available for children in the infant room to play with (and if the children were actually able to reach and use them independently)
  • How the staff members interacted with the children
  • If the children were free to explore the room, or if they were all strapped into bouncers and exersaucers
  • The room set up, and if it was easy for staff to supervise children who were playing as well as those who were sleeping
  • The noise level in the room
  • If there are lesson plans for the infants, and if the types of activities on them are developmentally appropriate
  • The professionalism of the staff and director
  • If staff make an effort to clean toys regularly
  • That the room itself looks well taken care of and clean
  • Security; how families enter the program, and how long it took someone to answer the door when I rang the bell
I also made sure to ask:
  • How much experience the teaching staff has and how long they have been with this specific program
  • What the staff members' schedules were, and how many different adults my child would be with throughout the day
  • What the program's vaccination policy is (which is especially important when enrolling an infant who will be to young to have had all of her vaccinations when she starts)
  • How strict they are about children's schedules - my work schedule changes daily, so I needed a program that was ok with that
  • If they provide food or formula if needed
  • The program's storage availability - if I needed to leave a car seat at drop off so my husband could use it at pick up, for example
I did not ask:
  • Any licensing related questions, i.e. questions about ratios, supervision, behavior guidance, illness policies, sleep practices, etc.  Most of these were covered by whomever was giving the tour anyway, but I know the answers to these questions and have worked with enough programs to know that they know the answers and will tell you the correct answers if you ask, even if that isn't currently what is happening in the classroom. I'd prefer to observe for myself, and then ask if I noticed a discrepancy. 
  • To see the toddler or preschool rooms.  I needed to put my own blinders on and focus on the infant program for this particular tour, when it is time to think about moving up I will ask more specific questions about their curriculum, assessments, and expectations for these ages.  I have no problem looking for another program at this time if I feel it is necessary, I'll worry about that when we get there! This does not mean that I didn't listen to how the teachers in the other classrooms were talking to the children as we walked by them - because I definitely did that.  Those teachers may end up with my child if staff are shuffled at any point, and I wanted to know how the program in general responds to children, especially when teachers don't think anyone is listening. 
I decided before visiting any programs that I would make every effort to choose a program where the staff would really truly care about my child, and the overall feeling of the program was positive.  These were my priorities and I really tried to keep that at the front of my mind during every visit.  I did visit the program that I ended up choosing twice, at different times of the day, and I made my husband come along for one of the visits - although we both knew that I would have the final say! I can't tell you if I've made the right choice because we haven't actually attended yet, but for now I'm happy with our decision!

Friday, June 2, 2017

Friday Freebie - Phone Number and Address Practice

Happy Friday! It's really starting to feel like summer around here!

Today's freebie goes right along with this week's theme of Kindergarten readiness prep! This phone number and address set was designed to help children practice their phone number and address in a way that is a ton of fun; with their own personalized ID card, mailbox, and play phone.  Download your copy and enjoy your weekend!

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Household Tasks that promote Kindergarten Readiness Skills

When parents ask me for things that they can work on with their children at home, I know that they expect me to encourage them to practice number and letter recognition, and writing their names.  So it often comes as a surprise when I encourage them to work on things like responsibility, independence, and self help skills.

These are all important kindergarten readiness skills, and can easily be practiced at home by encouraging children to help with simple tasks, like the following:

  • Making their bed
  • Setting the table
  • Helping pack lunches
  • Cleaning their room
  • Picking out clothes for the next day
  • Dusting
  • Feeding pets
  • Watering plants
  • Putting away clean laundry
  • Sorting dirty laundry
  • Folding towels
Not only will these tasks help children build responsibility and independence, but they also encourage the use of fine motor skills, confidence, and problem solving!

For more ideas about how to introduce chores at home, check out these posts:

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Making Kindergarten Prep Fun

When parents ask me for ideas to help them prepare their children for Kindergarten, I'm sure they are expecting me to tell them to practice letters and numbers, and help their children learn how to tie their shoes.  There are ways to practice Kindergarten readiness skills that can be fun for the entire family, so often I suggest activities like;

  • Going to the Zoo: Practice staying close to family members while waiting your turn to see your favorite animals, and introduce new vocabulary as you learn what animals eat, and where they are from.
  • Visiting the Science Museum: Explore hands on science concepts while interacting with other children.
  • Attending a baseball game: practice counting and number recognition as the score goes up, look for the seat that matches the number on your ticket.
  • Visiting the ice cream store: Practice making menu decisions and ordering for yourself, help count out the dollar bills needed to pay for your ice cream. 
  • Playing mini-golf: count the putts that it takes to get your ball in the hole and practice adding up your score when you're done, wait your turn to putt and play each hole in the same order.
  • Going camping: Explore new places and practice safety skills while hiking and cooking over the campfire. 
  • Taking a class: Sign your child up for an art class, sports lesson, dance class, day camp, or music lesson.  Learn something new while interacting with new children and adults.
All of these fun summer activities can be extremely helpful when children are preparing to start Kindergarten, and they definitely don't feel like work!

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Kindergarten Readiness Checklist

There are so many different Kindergarten Readiness Checklist out there (seriously, I just did a Google search and it returned 517,000 results) and some are certainly more developmentally appropriate than others.  My all-time favorite list, the one that I consistently shared with my preschool parents is the checklist that was developed by my state's Department of Education.

I love this list because it focuses on health, safety, and social emotional skills. I'm including the images below, but you can also view the list here.

Parents are always surprised by the things that aren't on the list; it doesn't say anything about knowing their letters, numbers, or shapes.  It also doesn't mention sight words, being able to read, or being able to write their name.  I always remind parents that these are things that children will learn in Kindergarten, and while it doesn't hurt to introduce these concepts to children in preschool, the skills listed above build the foundation for academic success.  These are the skills that will help ensure that children are successful and confident in a Kindergarten classroom.  

Monday, May 29, 2017

Skills to practice before kindergarten

The most popular question that I used to get asked as a preschool teacher was "How can I make sure that my child is ready for kindergarten?"

Of course there is not one thing that parents can work on with their preschooler, but they usually ask me this question when they don't actually have time for a long conversation.  So I created this workbook to share with parents.  It includes simple activities that are easy for families to do and don't require a ton of materials.

This set includes 10 weeks worth of daily activities, one activity for each week day, which can be completed during the weeks between the end of preschool and the beginning of Kindergarten. The activities are simple, and designed to be easy for parents to facilitate using materials found in every home. Each week follows the same schedule;
Monday – Math concepts
Tuesday – Language and Literacy 
Wednesday – Social/Emotional Skills
Thursday – Social Studies/Civics
Friday – Building confidence

This pack includes three different formats, each containing the same content. Please choose the format that meets your needs and will be most helpful to your families;
Workbook – 1 page for each of the 10 weeks
Calendar – Two 5 week calendar pages
Booklet – Half sheet booklets with one page per week
I’ve also included a parent letter that you can send home to help explain the Get Ready for Kindergarten activities. 

I hope this resource helps your families feel confident in their children’s abilities and level of Kindergarten readiness. I also hope that it makes your job easier as you try to recommend resources and opportunities for each family. 

Friday, May 26, 2017

Friday Freebie - Branches of the Armed Forces

Happy Friday! I know that many of you are looking forward to the holiday weekend, so here's a freebie that you can stick away for next year.

These Branches of the Armed Services Posters from the Not So Wimpy Teacher are a great way to introduce some new vocabulary words while celebrating our servicemen and women!  Download your set and have a wonderful weekend!

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Memorial Day Pinwheels

I have fond memories of summer days playing with pinwheels when I was a child and I love that they are so easy for preschoolers to make and explore.  These are a perfect project for Memorial Day because they can be taken to a parade or celebration and they are easy to color coordinate.

Start by collecting the following supplies:

  • Scrapbook paper or colored copy paper (avoid construction paper and card stock because they are too heavy to turn in the wind)
  • Sturdy plastic straws
  • Metal brads
Next, determine what size you want your finished pinwheel to be.  If you are using 12"x12" or 8"x8" scrapbook paper, which is already square, you will not have to trim it down.  If you are using copy paper or 8.5"x11" scrapbook paper then you will have to cut the paper down to a perfect square.  

Once your paper is square, use a ruler to locate the center of the square and mark it with a pencil.  Make a hole here with a push pin or thumbtack.  Then use your ruler to draw lines from each corner of the paper into the center of the square, stopping roughly 2 inches from the middle (see diagram below).

Cut down each of the diagonal lines, and then fold every other corner into the center of the square. 

Overlap the corners in the middle and use a metal brad to attach all of the layers of the paper to your straw.  

Here are some close up photos so that you can see a little better:

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Connecting your class with service members

Memorial Day is the perfect time to think about engaging your students in a service project that is directed toward helping service members and their families.  Something that is easy for preschoolers to do is to draw pictures or create thank you cards for servicemen and women who are currently deployed.

After your class has created their cards, letters, or drawings you can connect with the following organizations to make sure that our service members receive them:

This project can also be a wonderful family engagement opportunity.  Set up a station for parents and family members to write letters at drop off or pick up so that your students can share the experience with their entire family.  

You may also consider reaching out to your families to see if they have any relatives currently serving in the armed forces.  If these family members are deployed you can send your letters, cards, and pictures directly to them, and they may even send a letter back to your class.  If one of your families knows a veteran or a service member who lives locally, this person may agree to come visit your class and answer the students' questions. 

These are experiences that will give children a better understanding of the holiday and help them connect it to their own lives.  

Monday, May 22, 2017

Children's Books for Memorial Day

Memorial Day is one of those holidays that can be really difficult to explain to young children.  We all look forward to the unofficial start of summer, but we also want to recognize the true intent of the day, which is to honor our servicemen and women who have made sacrifices for our freedom.  Books are my favorite way to introduce this particular day, here are a few that I have used: (all links are affiliates)

Memorial Day Surprise by Theresa Martin Golding

F is for Flag by Wendy Cheyette Lewison and Barbara Duke

Rolling Thunder by Kate Messner

Do you have a favorite book for Memorial Day, or even a favorite patriotic book? Feel free to share a link in the comments!

Friday, May 19, 2017

Friday Freebie - Graduation Song

Happy Friday! Can you believe we're halfway through May?! This spring has flown by!

Today's freebie is perfect for those of you who are still planning your graduation ceremony. This adorable Graduation song from Miss Campos is sung to the tune of "Let It Go" (you know, from Frozen) so your children will have no problem getting into it.  It was written for Kindergarten graduation so you may have to make some minor changes to the lyrics, but it includes a power point with the words so the children can see them as you practice and sing along.  If you've already had your graduation ceremony this'll definitely want to tuck this one away for next year!

Thursday, May 18, 2017

DIY Graduation Tassels

Tassels are easy to make and a wonderful keepsake for any type of graduation ceremony.  Check out this tutorial from Style Inked, her step by step instructions make it so easy that you're preschoolers could probably make their own!

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Tips for a Smooth Graduation Ceremony

No Preschool Graduation ceremony will every run completely smoothly - your performers are preschoolers, they're bound to do something unpredictable, and sometimes these unpredictable moments are the most endearing parts of the entire ceremony.  There are still some things that you can do to help your students prepare and ensure that everything runs as smoothly as possible. Here are a few tips that have worked for me in the past;

  • Keep it short - the shorter your ceremony is, the less opportunity for something to go wrong.  You want it to be meaningful without being boring, while your audience is probably happy to sit and listen, your students will only pay attention for so long. Try not to go longer than your typical circle time, this way you know that your children will be able to handle it. 
  • Practice, practice, practice - In order for the children to do what they need to do, they need to know the exact order of events, and practice them enough times that they don't have to think about them too much.  Ideally, you should practice at least once every day for the entire week leading up to the ceremony so that it all becomes muscle memory.  If at all possible at least a couple of your practice sessions should be in the same space that you will use for the ceremony, especially if it will not be in your classroom.  This way the children will have time to get used to a different space, and it won't throw them off when you do the real thing. 
  • Identify where each child will sit or stand - If you are going to have the children sit or stand in a specific order, use their photos to mark these spots and then have them stand on their own picture, or sit in the chair with their picture.  This will give the children a visual cue of where they need to be, and help them stay there. 
  • Use other visual cues whenever possible - If you plan on having the children walk or move anywhere, use masking tape to mark arrows on the floor showing them the way. If you want them to stop in a certain place so that their families can take a photo, put a stop sign on the floor right where they should stop. These will help the children remember what they are supposed to do, even when in front of a large crowd. 
  • Talk to them about who is coming - Explain that there will be a lot of people there to watch them graduate, but all of these people are coming because they are proud of them and excited to watch them get their diplomas.  Make sure that they know that these are all people who love them, which will help prepare them for the crowd while calming their nerves and fears of being in front of such a large group. 
Do you have any tips that have saved the day? Feel free to share them in the comments!

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Graduation Decorations

I know that I've professed my love for my printable classroom decoration sets before, but this Graduation Decoration Set is hands-down my favorite.  It coordinates so well with all of the other graduation materials that I use, and the printables included pack a big punch.  This one set includes the following:

  •  "Congratulations" bunting - a perfect backdrop for your ceremony stage or photo area 
  • Hello banner - for making sure that family members can find the ceremony location easily 
  • Cupcake picks- which can also be used as stickers, or as seals for your diplomas
  • Treat Bag Toppers - make ziploc bags look super fancy
  • Name Plates - great for marking the children's seats or reserving tables for their families
Save yourself a little stress and a lot of effort, go download this set now!