Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Using your local Child Care Resource and Referral

I promised posts this week that will help you save money and find resources for your preschool and child care programs.  In my opinion, there is no greater resource than your local Child Care Resource and Referral.

According to Child Care Aware there are over 400 Child Care Resource and Referral offices across the US, and while they all offer slightly different services, many of their offerings are similar.  For example, at my local Child Care Resource and Referral (CCR&R) they help families locate child care programs that meet their needs, offer professional development trainings and technical assistance to child care providers, provide programming for parents and families, and run a resource library where I can use the Ellison machine, Cricut, or binding machine, laminate for free, and check out prop boxes for different themes.

It's also great to know who to call when you have a question, which can save a ton of time that I would otherwise spend searching for answers online.

If you aren't sure if your area has a CCR&R you can find out by using the CCR&R Search on Child Care Aware's website.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Free books for the classroom

I am so excited about the series of posts that I have planned for this week, they are all about ways to save money or find inexpensive resources for preschool and child care programs - who doesn't love that!

Let's start with how you can get free books for your classroom - yup, free! Books are a necessity in any preschool room, a great way to share new information, encourage classroom communities, and instill a love of reading at a very early age. But books aren't always the most durable items in a classroom. So whether you need some more to replace your favorite worn out copies, or you're just starting your classroom library, you have to check out Scholastic Reading Club!

It could not be easier, you set up an account on Scholastic's website for your classroom, and every month they send you enough book orders to send home with all of your students.  For every dollar that your families order, your classroom earns one point which you can redeem for books and other materials for the classroom.

I know that it can be difficult to ask parents to spend money, but every month there is at least one $1 book available, and many of the others fall in the $3-$5 range.  So even if your parents only purchase the $1 book each month, they are still helping their children get excited about reading, growing their own personal libraries, and helping you earn books for the classroom.  Scholastic also offers additional promotions, such as bonus points for sales that reach a certain amount, so earning more books is really easy.

I love Scholastic because their catalog of books is huge. It's easy to find books that you don't already have, adding a ton of variety to your classroom library. They also have more seasonal books available than I've seen anywhere else.  Another plus, their reading clubs are targeted to different age ranges, so If you have infants and toddlers, those families will receive book orders that are developmentally appropriate for their children, while preschoolers get another set of orders, and each elementary age level gets book orders targeted to their needs and interests.  Families can also order online, so they can choose from books that may not be included in their child's book order, making it easy to give books as gifts, or stock up on books for the future.

I remember receiving book orders as a child, it was just like Christmas. From my own personal experience, the feeling is the same as a teacher as it was as a child.  That Scholastic box is happy mail!

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Friday Freebie - Valentine Movement

Happy Friday! This week has been all about movement activities, so it's only fitting that this freebie goes with that theme.

These Valentine-themed movement cards are from Play Learn Teach and there are a ton of ways that you could use them.  Download your set and get a couple days of fun out of them before February is over, then stash them away for next year! Have a wonderful weekend!

Alphabet Practice with Balloons

The easiest, most simple activities tend to be the ones that always fascinate my students.  So it should come as no surprise that this alphabet activity is one of their all-time favorites.  

The concept is ridiculously simple, I just blow up a bunch of balloons (ideally at least one per child) and use a permanent marker to write a different letter on each balloon.  Then I turn on some music and we hit the balloons around, trying to keep them from touching the floor.

When the music stops each child has to catch a balloon, and tell me what letter is on their balloon.  We repeat this until they get bored or we've practiced each letter multiple times.  Then I collect the balloons and we save them for another day.  As long as I store the balloons well we can usually use them for 3 or 4 days, which is a pretty good deal if you buy a pack at the dollar store!

I've also used similar activities to practices numbers, name recognition, and even emotions by drawing faces on each balloon.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Movement Math Activity

Since I've been sharing movement activities this week I wanted to remind you about this one;

This Movement Math set requires very little prep and is the perfect activity for circle time or small groups.  It includes two sets of cards, one with numbers and the other with simple motions.  Children get to draw one card from each pile and lead the group in completing the motion the correct number of times.  If you're looking for something different to get the wiggles out or a movement activity that you feel good about putting on your lesson plan, then this one is perfect! Download your copy HERE.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

DIY Ribbon Rings

I have a hard time believing that I've never shared this easy DIY - It's my all time favorite indoor movement activity, and I've been known to gift Toddlers and preschoolers on my shopping list with some favorite music and their very own sets of DIY ribbon rings.

I've seen a number of varieties of ribbon wands over the years, but I'm partial to the rings because they are easier for little hands to hold onto, and they pose fewer opportunities for accidental injuries when the dancing gets wild.  Rings also require no glue or tape at all because you can tie the ribbon right around the ring itself, so they are a quick project.

To make your own you'll need plastic shower curtain rings and an assortment of ribbon.  The only tip that I suggest when you're picking out ribbon is to stay away from any ribbon that has wire edges, because the wire can be sharp when it is cut.  Any other ribbon works just fine, and if you are feeling especially frugal you could even use fabric strips if you happen to have a stash.

To put together your ribbon rings you just have to tie the ribbon to the ring. I like to fold each piece of ribbon in half (cut them extra long) and use a slip knot to attach it to the ring.  This makes it really easy to take the ribbon off if I need to change it.

Now that your ribbon rings are finished, what exactly do you do with them? Here are some ideas:

  • Dance to music while waving them around
  • Sing favorite movement songs and do the motions to the songs while holding them
  • Hang them so that children can crawl underneath them
  • Take them outside and use them like kites
  • Play Simon Says and similar direction-following games with them
  • Use them to decorate for class parties
  • Attach them to a chain link fence and weave the ribbons through the links
Can you think of other fun ways to use these?

Monday, February 20, 2017

Movement Art

I planned an entire series of posts for this week thinking "It's February, everyone's been cooped up inside all winter and we need to MOVE."  Ha, clearly the joke is on me because it's supposed to be 60 degrees all week here where I am so, all the little ones I know will get plenty of outside time.  If the same can't be said of your home, then this week is for you! If you're lucky like me and getting some warm weather then be sure to stash these activities away for cold rainy days that are sure to come your way before spring officially gets here.

This particular activity is one of my favorite ways to encourage children who don't typically choose to participate in art activities to join us for art - drawing or painting to music.

I always start by covering a table with a large piece of paper, which allows for free movement and collaboration, and minimizes the "that's my paper!" arguments.  Then I select a playlist.  The Piano Guys are my personal favorite for a mix in tempos and styles, and they are available on CD or you can stream their channel on Pandora.  Another great option is a mix of Disney songs, which work well because they usually include ballads as well as up-tempo dance beats.

Choose your art media based on the music and level of activity that you expect.  Paint is fun, but if you're rocking to dance tunes you may want to stick with the crayons or markers to minimize the mess.

I give the children just a couple of simple rules;

  1. Draw or paint to the music.  This takes some practice to get used to, but encourage them to focus on the tempo.
  2. Be aware of those around you.  I let my students know that it is fine for them to move around as they work, both in their own space and moving to new spaces on the paper, but they should look out for each other and try not to impose on others' space. 
  3. Have fun.  This is meant to be a little silly, there should be giggles and large movements.  If you aren't sure how well your students will be able to regulate their bodies and reactions to the music consider working with small groups, 3 or 4 children at a time to see how it goes.  
When the artwork is complete I make a huge deal out of displaying it.  The children help me find a space on the wall that is large enough to hang it on, and we make sure to tell each and every parent what we did. There is often a giant white space in the middle, where no one thought to draw, so we talk about that too - why we might have stayed around the edge, and how we can reach the middle next time.  

Friday, February 17, 2017

Friday Freebie - Visual Social Stories

Happy Friday! This felt like an extra long week, I think holidays have a way of making the rest of the week stretch out.

I know that Valentine's Day is over, but I wanted to share this so that you can save it for next year.  This awesome freebie is a set of Visual Social Stories all about Valentine's day. This would be amazing for helping your students prepare for your party and have a better understanding of how the day will go.  Go download your copy from Creating and Teaching, and have a wonderful weekend!

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Ideas for leftover candy hearts

I know how popular candy heart activities are in the days leading up to Valentine's day, but I'm a huge fan of using them after the holiday is over.  For one thing, you can get them on clearance, and for another I always take full advantage of an opportunity to reflect and transition out of a holiday - otherwise it can be a bit of a let down for little ones who have spent so much time looking forward to the big event.

If you've already used your candy hearts for all of those fun printable activities that are out there, here are some different ideas that would be easy to create on your own:

  • Use them for patterning
  • Write the words that are on them
  • Create mosaics with candy hearts, glue, and paper (and explore the science experiment that begins when the glue gets the candy hearts wet)
  • Graph them
  • Do a taste test and determine your favorite flavors
  • Use them for counters in math games
  • Make silly stories by stringing them together and filling in words
  • Weigh and measure them
  • Form letters, shapes, and names with them
  • Experiment with freezing or dissolving them
Can you think of any other fun ideas?

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Monday, February 13, 2017

Managing Class Party Chaos

I've been thinking about all of my teacher friends for the last week or so because I know that many of you are preparing for Valentine's Day parties in your classrooms tomorrow.  In my experience I've found that there are two kind of teachers; those that absolutely love party days, and those that dread and hate them.  I personally fall under the LOVE category, but I can completely understand why one might dislike these days. Let's face it, the children can't focus on anything, the room is loud, and there is usually far too much sugar, not to mention activities that need a lot of prep, and just extra mess in general.  It's enough to wear you out just thinking about it.

Since I am on the pro-class parties team, I have a couple of tips for these days that have always worked wonders for me;

  1. Make the day just as special for you as it is for them. I get into the spirit by putting on a festive outfit (you can bet I'll be wearing red tomorrow), and I make sure that I include a few treats for myself along the way.  Starbucks on my way to work in the morning, yes please.  A special treat at lunch time, you bet.  Something fun to look forward to when I get home in the evening, even something as simple as picking up a pizza for dinner after school can make all the difference.  These little things make the day enjoyable for me too, and then I can better understand why my students are so amped up. 
  2. Embrace the chaos.  It cannot be controlled, this doesn't mean throw all of your rules out the window, but it does mean that it is helpful to relax them just a bit.  Spending the entire day being the enforcer will just stress you out, pick your battles and go with the flow.  The same goes for your daily schedule. If you really need an extra brain break, or a little more time outside to blow off all that extra steam, then take it.  
  3. Share your expectations right from the start.  If you aren't partying until the afternoon, let your children know that the morning will be business as usual.  This way they will be clear on your timeline.  I always did class parties after we got up from nap, when my children knew that they had to wait until after nap it helped them frame the day in their minds, and it saved me from answering the "is it party time yet?" question over and over again. 
  4. Remember that these days are magical.  These party days are the ones that children will remember, so let them enjoy.  Smile and laugh with them and let yourself get in on the fun too.  Our children only get to be children once, and there aren't many occupations that include fun parties for every little holiday, they should get to enjoy these opportunities now. 
I'll be thinking of all of you tomorrow, I hope that your parties go well and that you get some much deserved rest afterwards! 

Friday, February 10, 2017

Friday Freebie - Valentine's Day I Spy

Happy Friday! We are well into February and I could not be more happy, I love how quickly this month flies by, and how close it brings us to spring!

Before I get ahead of myself, let me stop and share this cure Valentine's Day Activity. I'm seriously considering printing this Valentine's Day I Spy from Life Over Cs just so I can do it myself.  The graphics are cute, the concept is fun and easy, and it appeals to a wide age range.  Go get yourself a copy and enjoy your weekend!

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Books About Valentine's Day

It's been a couple of weeks since I shared some of my favorite books, and Valentine's day seemed liek the perfect opportunity. There are so many Valentine's Day books out there, it can be overwhelming to find the real gems (and trust me, there are plenty that are not gems).  Here are some of my favorites (these are all Amazon affiliates, so you still have time to order them before the big day!

You can't go wrong with Little Critter! - Happy Valentine's Day Little Critter by Mercer Mayer

This was always my students' most requested! - Roses are Pink, Your Feet Really Stink by 
Diane De Groat

If you don't already have this one in your library you definitely should! - There was an old lady who swallowed a rose by Lucille Colandro

Arthur will always be a favorite! - Arthur's Valentine by Marc Brown

These are definitely the cream of the crop, what are some of your favorite Valentine's Day books?

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Valentine's Day Ideas!

I hope that you were able to snatch up a ton of great deals during the Teachers Pay Teachers sale, don't worry if you haven't had a chance yet - you still have one more day!

I know many of you are actively planning your Valentine's day events, whether it be for your class or your family, so I thought that I would pull together all of my previous Valentine's Day posts and put them right here in one place so the ideas are easy to access. Please let me know if you have any questions or if there is anything specific that you'd like to see in the future. When it comes to holidays I'm starting to feel like I've shared it all, so I'd love some new ideas!

I hope that this helps your planning go quickly, keep checking in for more great ideas!

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

My Favorite Resources

In case you missed yesterday's announcement, there's a great big sale happening over at Teachers Pay Teachers! You can get in on the action using the information below:
I have a tradition here at Preschool Ponderings, when there is a TPT sale I share what's on my wishlist (you can check that out in yesterday's post) and I also share some of my favorite items from my store.  That's what today's post is all about, check out the amazing resources that you can get a great bargain on!

Whether you are looking to review numbers that you have already taught, or you want to introduce new numbers, these sets are so helpful! They give a number of visual representations to help children understand what each number and quantity really looks like.  They also make it easy to compare the different numbers and go beyond memorization of numerals. They are available in 1-10, 11-20, 21-30  or as a bundle of all three sets.

It's never too early to start thinking about graduation, especially since the next sale probably won't be until May, and you definitely don't want to wait until then to get your hands on this Graduation Bundle! It has everything you need to throw a graduation celebration including; materials to help the children prepare, invitations, memory books, and awards.

Don't forget about activity bundles for upcoming holidays! These include math and language activities that are perfect for centers or small groups, as well as vocabulary cards for introducing new words. Make sure to take a look at the Valentine's Day Bundle and the St. Patrick's Day bundle, and while you're at it check out the rest of my bundles for more great ideas!

Over the next couple of months you're bound to have some little ones who are ready to start blending sounds and making words. This CVC Word Family Bundle includes three activities to help them practice, and each activity has a TON of materials.  This is sure to keep them busy for the rest of the year!

So what's on your wishlist?! Head over to Teachers Pay Teachers and make  those purchases before the sale is over!

Monday, February 6, 2017

It's time for a SALE!

Big news! Teachers Pay Teachers is having a sale Tuesday and Wednesday, and you can get in on the action.  I love TPT sales because I can get great resources for even better prices - which means I can get even more stuff!

Before every sale I share what's on my wish list, so here it goes, this is what I'm shopping for:

How cute are these penguin shapes from Cherry Workshop?! It includes an entire set of different penguin shapes and matching mats that would be perfect for a math center!

I'm also loving this Number Punch Out set from Rebekah Brock. This is such a unique idea, each card has numbers around the edge, the children are supposed to find all of one particular number and punch this number with a hole punch.  I know a bunch of preschoolers who would love the opportunity to use a hole punch, this would definitely be a hit!

This Q-Tip Letter Painting set from Teaching Preschoolers is an awesome idea. These mats are the perfect way to work on fine motor skills and letter recognition and formation at the same time.

Here's another great letter activity, these Geoboard Alphabet Templates from Play to Learn Preschool.  These would be a fun challenge to attempt, while again working on fine motor skills.

What's on your wish list? If you haven't made one yet, you'd better start looking! If you're still in need of ideas check back tomorrow and I'll share some other great TPT products!

Friday, February 3, 2017

Friday Freebie - Paper Dolls

Happy Friday! I spent a lot of time in front of the computer this week, so I am looking forward to accomplishing some hands-on projects this weekend!

Today's freebie goes right along with all of the other doll posts that I've shared this weekend.  These adorable printable paper dolls are from Royalbaloo.com I know a lot of people who think that preschoolers are quite gentle enough for dolls, but I love to use paper dolls in the classroom. They teach children to treat materials carefully, and they offer far more opportunities to make choices because there are so many different pieces and I could never hope to have that many real doll clothes. The other great thing about these paper dolls is that they are printable, so if something does get torn you can always print another.

Go download your set and enjoy! Have a great weekend!

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Standards Related to Doll Play

I am all about dramatic play, but I struggle with making sure that my dramatic play centers are interesting and engaging.  I like to change them up, but I don't like to spend a ton of money or store a lot of stuff.

On Monday I shared some of my favorite tips for adding authentic items to doll-themed dramatic play, but there are so many great ideas out there that it seemed a shame to stop with my own personal list.  So here are some other doll ideas that I've rounded up.

Did you see any ideas that spark your imagination?! These ideas are exactly what I look for when I want to try something new, I hope they inspire you too!

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Try a Baby Food Taste Test

On Monday I shared some of my favorite items to add to your doll-themed dramatic play center. If you really want to start a great conversation, why not try a baby food taste test?! This is a great way to get your preschoolers talking about the textures of different foods, and to compare and contrast the purees with the solid foods.

While it hasn't been all that long since most of your preschoolers were eating baby food regularly, they'll never believe you when you tell them this. It's a good idea to start with foods that they are going to be willing to try - fruits are generally a safe bet because they taste pretty similar to how the children expect them to taste, and they are a little sweet.  You can also remind them that they like applesauce and these fruit purees will be a lot like applesauce.

I love to have the children try the baby foods and then try the solid versions of the same foods, so if you have pureed pears, then have some pear slices available too.  This gives them something to compare and contrast, and you can record which students like the puree the best, and which students like the solids the best.

It's also a good idea to have a conversation before you begin, ask them which foods they think they will like and which foods they think they won't like.  After the taste test you can talk about their expectations and see if they were surprised.

The squeeze pouch baby foods are perfect for this particular experience because you can squirt just a little onto each child's plate and they can test it with a spoon or their finger. You won't need a lot to taste, so you can pick up a few more varieties than you would if you were planning on giving each child a spoonful of the food.

This is definitely one of those learning experiences that the children will be talking about for the rest of the year, so use those conversations to encourage questions and continued exploration!