Friday, June 30, 2017

Friday Freebie - 4th of July Bingo

Happy Friday! For many of you this is the start of a long Holiday weekend and I hope that you enjoy every minute!

Today's freebie is an adorable printable 4th of July Bingo game from Crazy Little Projects.I especially love the variety of images included on this Bingo board, it would be a great way to introduce some new vocabulary and historical figures as you play.  Go download your copy and have a wonderful weekend!

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

4th of July Fruit Salad

I love to make fruit salad with little ones for a couple of different reasons.  First, and most obvious being that it gets them really excited about eating fruit - they get to help every step of the way and that ownership gives them the confidence to try things that they otherwise may not.  The second wonderful thing about fruit salad is that it is relatively easy to put together, you may need to cut up some of the ingredients, but other than that it is just pouring and mixing.  There is no cooking involved at all.

This fruit salad is perfect for a patriotic summer event. It uses red and blue fruits, which are seasonal and fresh.  It can also be customized according to your class or families' tastes or dietary restrictions.

Choose from the following ingredients to create your perfect patriotic salad, you can include as many as you wish but it is helpful to try and have an equal amount of both red and blue ingredients to make it as visually appealing as possible.

Red raspberries

Black raspberries
Concord grapes

Red skinned apples

Once you've combined all of your ingredients in a large bowl, add either a quarter cup of powdered sugar or one container of Cool Whip and mix it all together. Enjoy your patriotic fruit salad!

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Patriotic Ribbon Wands

For Memorial Day I shared a tutorial for paper pinwheels that would be perfect for a parade or party decorations, so today I wanted to share another fun party toy that is easy for kids to make: Ribbon Wands.

I know that this is not a new or novel idea in the slightest, but young children often love he simplest things and there are so many different variations and materials that you can use to create a basic ribbon wand.  It is easy for children to personalize their own, and you can select materials that meet your budget constraints as well as the theme or tone of your party.

For the wand itself you'l need some type of stick that is long enough for the children to hold onto easily, and to attach the ribbons to.  This could be a twig from your yard, a popsicle stick or tongue depressor, a marshmallow skewer, a plastic drinking straw, or even an un-sharpened pencil.  To make the wand fit your patriotic theme you can select an item that is already red, white, or blue or you could have the children paint them or wrap them in washi tape.

Once your wand is ready it's time to add the ribbons.  You can use regular grosgrain ribbon from the craft store, or you could use fabric strips, crepe paper streamers, or yarn, or you could make a variety of these available and the children can mix and match what they want.  The ribbons can be attached to the wand in a number of ways, but I've found that the most secure options tend to be hot glue or duct tape.

When the wands are complete they are ready to use - run with them, have a dance party, or just watch them blow in the breeze!

Monday, June 26, 2017

4th of July Play Dough

On Friday I shared a free set of 4th of July Play Dough Mats, so today I wanted to make sure I gave you a play dough recipe to go with it.  I am very picky about my homemade play dough, I don't like it to be too oily or too salty, and I really don't like it when it dries your hands out while you play with it.  I tried a ton of different recipes before finally finding my favorite, which is from  (follow the link to see the entire recipe).  You can make it any colors that you want, and it's the perfect base for adding fun extras.

Plain old regular play dough isn't good enough for a special day like 4th of July, so here are some things that you can add to make your holiday play dough just a little more exciting:
  • Patriotic glitter
  • Star shaped confetti
  • Pop Rocks candy
  • Red, white, and blue sand
  • Rock salt
  • Berry-scented oils or extracts
  • Patriotic sprinkles
  • Red, white, and blue plastic beads
  • Scent it with red or blue Kool-Aid or Jello mix
  • Red, white, and blue colored rice
I can't wait to make my own and try some of these out!

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: