Monday, December 25, 2017

Merry Christmas!

I hope that your day is full of joy and happiness! My posts will be a little light this week, but I'll be back with the new year and a ton of new ideas to share! Have a wonderful holiday!

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

DIY Christmas Cookie Plates

I always strive to create gifts for parents that are going to be both meaningful and useful.  One of my all-time favorites was the year that my students made plates for their cookies for Santa.  I found 65 cent plates at our local glass factory outlet and we decorated them with special ceramic paints.  Here are some ideas for your own Christmas Cookie plates:

How many cookie plates for Santa does one family need, because I'm feeling crafty!

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Family Engagement - Cookie Night

It's not the holiday season without cookies - no matter which winter holiday your family celebrates, there is likely a traditional favorite cookie (or sweet pastry) for it.  A great way to explore cultures and family traditions is to invite all of your families for a cookie night. 

Ask each family to bring a tray of cookies to share with everyone, along with a card describing why these are a family favorite.  Gather copies of some of the following books that parents can read to their children as they enjoy sweet treats (links are affiliates):

For more great ideas for cookie night, check out my Christmas Cookie Activities and my Holiday Cookie Party post!

Monday, December 18, 2017

Holiday Thank You Notes Made Easy

This time of year is a little chaotic.  There are holiday events for school, on top of personal holiday parties and celebrations. There are lists upon lists of things to bake, people to shop for, and traditions to remember.  It can be difficult to remember and manage all of this, adding one more thing to your to-do list can make your head spin. 

For me, one of the hardest things to manage at the holidays is finding time to write thank you cards for the gifts that I receive from students and colleagues.  These are so important, but so easy to forget because there are just so many other tasks to complete.

I've created some printable notes, along with a tracker, to help make this job a little easier.  The printable note cards are wonderful because you can print them whenever you need them - no more running out of cards and forgetting to get more! The tracker helps you remember what you've received from each student, and track whether your thank you has been both written and sent. 

The best part? They're FREE! So go download them from my TPT store and enjoy your holiday season!

Friday, December 15, 2017

Friday Freebie - Christmas notes

Happy Friday! We're almost there! Whether you get time off for the holidays or not, it's still the home stretch for 2017.  Today's freebie is a template for a sweet little note you can write to each of your students before the holiday.  They will so appreciate that you are thinking of each of them during this crazy time of the year! Download yours from Simply Kinder and have a wonderful weekend!

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Pre-Holiday Classroom Cleaning Tips

Did you read that title? Do you think I'm crazy yet?! Seriously, one of the most important things that I do before leaving for winter break is to CLEAN.  One year my students made ornaments with cookie sprinkles and I was finding sticky sprinkles for months - not really something that you want to do when Christmas is over. 

I'll be the first one to tell you that staying to clean my classroom was always the last thing I wanted to do, but it always made coming back to school after break so much easier.  The decorations were already put away, all the party frosting was cleaned off the tables, and that peppermint play dough was no where to be found - I learned to throw that out before leaving after coming back to smelly, moldy play dough!

I try to spread my cleaning out across the week before break so that I don't have to do it all the last night before leaving.  Start with any decorations that won't be missed, and send home finished artwork as soon as it is dry.  I also start putting away any activity centers or stations that won't be used much this week, and I make sure to put other items away as soon as we are done using them. 

I love to have our holiday party a couple of days before we are actually finished, this gives me time to clean up afterwards. If that isn't possible I keep the decorations to a minimum and spend extra time afterwards cleaning tables and making sure the floors are neat.

I know that this isn't the most exciting topic, but I promise it makes a huge difference!

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Holiday To-Do List

The holiday season is in full force, and my to-do list is a little bit crazy at the moment.  The shopping, wrapping, baking, parties, teacher gifts, decorating and all the events can get a little overwhelming.  I really needed something to help me keep track of it all because the random lists on my phone just weren't cutting it anymore.  Here are some of the amazing planners that I found to help sort out all of the chaos and help make the holidays just a little less stressful!

These are amazing, and I'll definitely use one of them next year to give me a great start for the whole season, but for right now I just needed a one page organizer to help me with all of the last minute to-dos, so I made my own.  You can download it for free right here!

Friday, December 8, 2017

Friday Freebie - Random Acts of Kindness Calendar

Happy Friday! Yesterday I shared some random acts of kindness for the holiday season.  Today I'm sharing a freebie that makes it nearly impossible to NOT do some random acts of kindness this month! This Random Acts of Kindness Calendar is an amazing way to plan for, and keep track of the activities you want to complete.  Go download your copy from Herding Kats in Kindergarten, and have a great weekend!

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Holiday-Themed Random Acts of Kindness

The holiday spirit is a powerful thing, and I love to take advantage of this time of year to encourage my students to do nice things for others.  Here are some random acts of kindness that work perfect for the holiday season:

  1. Tape a sweet note to a candy cane and leave these throughout the building 
  2. Go Caroling
  3. Write special Christmas cards to people who have been especially helpful
  4. Collect toys for children in need
  5. Share baked goods with local first responders
  6. Hang Christmas lights around the school for everyone to enjoy
  7. Make the janitor's job easier by cleaning the classroom really well
  8. Put together a special gift for support staff
  9. Decorate a tree for the community
  10. Make holiday decorations for a nursing home or senior center
  11. Tell parents how much you appreciate everything that they do
  12. Collect gently used coats and blankets for a local homeless shelter
  13. Host a special event for another class
  14. Plan a parent's night out
  15. Draw pictures for members of the military
What else do you do during the holidays to show your appreciation?

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Secret Santa Ideas

I feel like secret santa is one of those things that you either really love, or really hate. Personally I love it.  I've participated in a secret santa (or secret pal as we call it at my current job) at a number of different jobs and I think that it can be a really great way to know each other better, and to help connect people who otherwise may not spend time together.

The most successful secret santa activities include some sort of questionnaire, this gives the gift giver some really strong ideas about what the receiver would like, and ensures that everyone doesn't receive the same candles, lotion, and post-it notes that you generally receive from people who don't know you very well. If you need some ideas for what to include on your questionnaire, use these for inspiration.

There should also be some guidance for all participants when it comes to how much they should spend (a range), when they should start gifting, and how often gifts should be given.  This helps to keep things far, and when everyone is on the same page it makes it harder to guess who your secret santa is.

Beyond that, the possibilities are endless. There are a ton of options for gift giving themes that you could stick to, such as:

  • Holiday items only
  • Office or school supplies
  • Handmade items
  • Items from the dollar store
  • Snacks and edible treats
Following a theme can also make it more difficult to guess who your secret santa is because everyone is receiving the same type of gifts.

For me, the most difficult part of participating in a secret santa is always finding a way to sneak gifts to the recipient without them figuring out who I am.  I am not the slightest bit sneaky, so it can also be helpful if you designate a place where gifts are supposed to be left (i.e. in an office mailbox, labled with a gift tag on a specific counter, or on the recipient's desk) so there is no confusion and so multiple people are carrying gifts to the same location, further complicating the guessing. 

How do you do secret santa? I'd love to hear your best tips!

Monday, December 4, 2017

Easy gifts for co-workers

It's always nice to let the people that we spend so much of our time with know how much we appreciate them.  When your budget is tight you have to make a little bit go a long way in this department.  I have a few creative ideas fir gifts that your co-workers, whether they are co-teachers, aides, or support staff, will really love.

  • Share something that you really love.  Is there something that makes your life easier? Something that you find yourself using on a daily basis? Something you're willing to spend a little extra on because you know it's worth it? Share this item with your co-workers.  This year all of my closest friends are getting a bottle of my favorite nail polish.  It's that perfect color that goes on easy, dries quick, and doesn't really chip and I think that they all need to know about it!
  • Use your talents.  Is there something that you do well that everyone is always commenting on? Chances are they appreciate it because it is not one of their strengths, which means they would probably really appreciate that particular gift.  Do you have beautiful handwriting? make them a plaque for their desk or home.  Do you garden? Gift them one of your plants. Are you crafty? Put together a wreath for their door.  I bake cookies for all of my co-workers each year and they are always a hit. These gifts will be especially meaningful because they are something that only you can offer.
  • Make them lunch.  This is a great way to show appreciation to a group of people without buying a ton of individual gifts.  Pick a day and make your co-workers lunch.  Chili, cornbread and a salad is an easy way to feed a crowd.  Chicken noodle soup and breadsticks are perfect for a winter day.  Put that crock-pot to good use, plug it in when you arrive in the morning and your co-workers will be very happy at lunch time. 
  • Write a thoughtful note.  How often do we really let people know that we appreciate all they have done for us.  A heartfelt note is a gift that many of us don't receive very often, and it is sure to be a gift that your co-workers hang onto and look at often.  Writing notes like these can feel intimidating - you want it to show your appreciation without being too sappy, so start by sharing a memory that you have of that person, something that sticks in your mind and describes exactly what you appreciate about them.  
There are ways to let all of these people know how much you care without adding too much stress or shopping to your already busy month.  Get creative and you'll be amazed - you're gift might be the one they remember for years to come. 

Friday, December 1, 2017

Friday Freebie - Christmas Surprise for Your Students

Happy Friday! How is it December already?! I'm usually so ready for the holidays by the time December gets here, but this year I'm feeling a bit behind.  If you're like me then you haven't started planning holiday gifts for your students yet, but today's freebie just might take care of that for you.

I love this Special Surprise from Dancing in Our Teacher Shoes.  Instead of giving their students "stuff" they give them a special day that will be remembered for years to come.  Download your copy with instructions and try it out with your students this year!

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Favorite Things - Preschool Teacher Edition 2017

Every year I play Oprah and share some of my all time favorite things from the past year.  The idea is that any of these items would make an incredible gift for the teacher in your life. Whether you're shopping for a co-worker, a family member, or your child's teacher, here are some fun ideas ** All links are affiliates**

Bow Earrings - My favorite thing about these earrings is that they can be dressy or casual, they literally work with every outfit.  I have them in gold and silver and they get worn often!

Happy Planner - A good planner is a must for any teacher. The best thing about the Happy Planner is that it is completely customize-able and it is easy to add additional pages.  Everything that needs remembering can finally be kept in one place

Bark Thins - There is something about this pretzel bark that makes it taste like heaven.  I'm not sure what it is, but if you get this three-pack you can keep one for yourself, which means it's a gift for your teacher AND for you!

Kate Spade Tumbler - I have a collection of these Kate Spade Tumblers and I use them every single day.  They definitely make drinking water a lot more fun, and the quality is incredible.

Moleskine Notebook - I'll admit that I'm a bit of a notebook hoarder, but this is one notebook that I use every day.  You can't beat the quality of a Moleskine, and these purple polka dots get me every single time I pull it out.

Vera Bradley Lunch Cooler - If I'm going to pack my lunch, I better at least have a cute lunch bag. I love this one because it is just the right size and super cute!

Essie TLC Sheers to You - I call this my magic nail polish.  Just one coat makes my nails look shiny and healthy, like I just got a manicure at the nail salon.  It dries super fast and you can't see any chips.  It also strengthens your nails, so it really is good for them. I have this on my nails at all times.

Blanket Scarves - I wear scarves all winter long, and these blanket scarves are my current favorites.  They make every outfit look well put together, and they keep you warm all day long.

Vera Bradley Campus Tech Backpack - I haven't used a backpack since I was in elementary school, but I got this one for Christmas last year and have been using it non-stop. It fits a ton and makes it so much easier to lug stuff to and from school.

Gaiam Print Yoga Mat - Life is stressful and yoga is one of my favorite ways to relax at the end of the day. This mat makes it more fun, and we could all use a little more fun in our lives.  Make this gift a bundle by adding my favorite yoga DVD.

I hope this list has helped you come up with some ideas for your favorite teacher. If you're still searching for the perfect gift make sure to check out my Teacher Favorite Things lists from previous years - I still love and use all of these items!
Favorite Things - Preschool Teacher Edition 2014
Favorite Things - Teacher Edition 2015
Favorite Things - Preschool Teacher Edition 2016

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Preschool Gift Guide 2017

It's my favorite week of the year - the week that I get to share my annual gift guides with all of you! I love putting these together because I am always being asked what makes a great gift for a little one, being a teacher brings a unique perspective.  I love to share my favorite items, and the ones that I've seen young children love - and use - over and over again.  Here's what I recommend for Preschoolers, I'm giving a lot of these items as gifts this year! **All links are affiliates**

Janod Magnetibooks - I want to play with these! The books come in a variety of themes (this is the Four Seasons version), and they are designed to provide maximum fun while keeping all of the pieces contained. These are perfect for travel and they store easily.

Wooden Marble Run - The classic marble maze was one of my favorite toys as a child, and some things don't change because it is still immensely popular.  This wooden version is one that parents might not mind leaving out because it is so gorgeous!

I Spy Books - Help your favorite preschooler practice their focus and attention to detail with these classics books.  There is an I Spy book for nearly every holiday and subject, and with good reason, these are addictive! You might find that parents enjoy them as much as children do. 

Castle Logix - These blocks look simple enough, but they only fit together certain ways.  Each page in the idea book encourages problem solving, asking children to figure out how the different castles are built. 

Melissa and Doug Mixer Set - I thought that the Melissa and Doug Coffee Maker that I shared last year was my favorite Melissa and Doug toy of all time. I was wrong.  How amazing is this mixer?! In addition to mixing up the included play cake mix, little ones can crack eggs and cut butter for the perfect cake. They really thought of everything and those little details are what keeps me coming bak to Melissa and Doug.

Urban Infant Packie Backpack - Preschoolers love having a place to keep all of their own stuff.  This backpack is specifically designed with preschoolers in mind.  The small size makes it easier for them to carry, and the fabric is waterproof and can be wiped clean.  Also, do you see the tube on the side? That's not for a water bottle, it's actually a patented art cylinder so artwork can be rolled up and easily transported home without damage. The variety of fabric designs means there's a Packie for every personality.

Crayola Silly Scents - I absolutely love Crayola Twistables, they are easy for little hands to use and they have a longer lifespan than your average crayon.  The Silly Scents would make a fun stocking stuffer for your little artist, no preschooler can resist a scented crayon!

My Giant Busy Box - If you're looking for a gift that will keep a preschooler busy, this is it.  This box is packed full of supplies to make 16 different art projects - all of which will help little ones work on their fine motor skills and creativity.

The Idea Box Wiggle Box - This little box contains 40 different ideas for simple movement activities that children can do any time, anywhere.  Little ones simply pick an idea and then do it.  This gift is a great way to get preschoolers moving, but there are also Idea Boxes for random acts of kindness, backyard play, scientific observations, quiet time, and more!

HABA Little Friends Bendy Dolls - These little dolls are only 4 inches tall and come in a variety of characters.  They are perfect for doll houses, block play, and travel.  These would be amazing stocking stuffers!

I hope that this list has given you some wonderful ideas for your favorite preschooler. If you're still searching for the perfect gift please take a minute to check out my gift guides from previous years - these are all still wonderful gifts!
Holiday Gift Guide: Preschool 2014
Preschool Gift Guide 2015
Preschool Gift Guide 2016

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Toddler Gift Guide 2017

It's my favorite week of the year - the week that I get to share my annual gift guides with all of you! I love putting these together because I am always being asked what makes a great gift for a little one, being a teacher brings a unique perspective.  I love to share my favorite items, and the ones that I've seen young children love - and use - over and over again.  Here's what I recommend for Toddlers, I'm giving a lot of these items as gifts this year! **All links are affiliates**

Oakiwear Rainboots - Practical is not always fun, but Oakiwear rainboots are definitely fun. They have the best designs, and they are perfect for toddlers - who can't seem to resist a muddy mess!

Jumbo Alphabet Stringing Beads - Encourage toddlers to work on two difficult concepts; stringing and letter recognition with this fun stringing set. I love that the string comes with an attached wooden "needle" to help all children be successful.

Melissa and Doug Fill and Spill Toolbox - There are a million toy tool sets out there, but I love this one because it was truly designed for the youngest hands. The tools may be soft, but that doesn't mean they are boring. The drill actually vibrates and the screwdriver, screws, and blocks actually fit together. 

B. Fish and Splish Bath Boat - This set is a ton of fun, it is designed to be a bath toy, but can absolutely be used without water.  The fisherman is adorable, and the fishing pole and little fish promote hand eye coordination

What Can You Spot in the Wild - This board book is beautifully illustrated and truly engaging.  Children do more than just listen, they have to find different animals and count them as they go, ensuring that reading is both active and meaningful.  There is also a Things That Go version available.

Green Toys Farm Play Set - I love Green Toys, and this farm play set is amazing because not only do you get everything pictured, but they also have a video showing how it all fits back inside the barn - which is any parent's dream.

Melissa and Doug Christmas Cookie Set - If you know a child who loves Melissa and Doug (or a parent who does) then this gift is a home run.  Melissa and Doug have a slice and bake cookie set for the rest of the year, but this set gives children the chance to enjoy a seasonal tradition. 

There Was an Old Lady 6 Book Set - These books are sure to make any toddler giggle, and they will love that there is one for each season.  The illustrations and story are a bit too whimsical to be plausible, which makes them absolutely perfect for toddlers. This particular set includes; There Was a Cold Lady Who Swallowed Some Snow, There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Bat, There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Bell, There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Chick, There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Shell, and There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed Some Leaves.

Kwik Stix Tempera Stix - Painting without the mess is always a great idea.  Kids and parents will love this alternative to traditional tempera paints.

Hello World Solar System - Jill McDonald's Hello World books are a beautiful way to introduce little ones to non-fiction texts.  The illustrations are incredible and the content is developmentally appropriate, making these both educational and fun to read.

Hopefully this post gave you some great gift ideas, if you're still searching for the perfect toddler gift make sure to check out my gift guides from previous years - these are all still wonderful gifts!
Holiday Gift Guide: Infants and Toddlers 2014
Toddler Gift Guide 2015
Toddler Gift Guide 2016