Monday, July 31, 2017

First day of School gift for parents and children

One of my all-time favorite ideas is a little gift that I put together for my preschoolers on their first day of kindergarten.  It includes two little felt hearts, one for the parent and one for the child to keep with them on the first day, as well as some kleenex and Hershey's Hugs for a little added comfort.

This would also be a great gift to share with your new preschool families on meet the teacher night, or at your open house, so that they can use it on their first day of school.  The tags that go with the set and explain the gift to parents are available as a free download in my Teachers Pay Teachers store, so go download yours right now and add it to your Back to School idea file!

Friday, July 28, 2017

Friday Freebie - Parent Communication

Happy Friday! I don't know about you but I consider the end of July the end of summer - at least the carefree, fun part of summer.  Somehow we've made it to the end of July already and I'm not happy about it.

So whether we like it or not, it's time to think about getting ready for the new school year, and today's freebie is perfect for that.  This parent communication set from Teaching Treasure Box includes daily sheets, weekly summaries, first aid reports, field trip information, and a parent survey.  It has everything that you need to keep parents informed.

enjoy your last July weekend and make sure to download all of these helpful handouts!

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Family Photo Albums for the Classroom

An easy way to help welcome families at the beginning of the year is to encourage them to share a little information about themselves.  Using photo albums is popular because the albums also serve to help children separate from their parents a little easier in the morning.  I've heard many teachers say that they've tried to create albums for the children but they haven't been successful because families will not provide the photos that they need.  This easy printable activity is something that you can send home with each student that might help combat this issue. 

I created this easy little paper bag album that you can send home for families to complete together.  

You will need: 2 paper lunch bags per child Staples and stapler 1 copy of the printable album pages per child 1 ziplock bag per child Cut the bottom of each paper bag out, then place the paper bags on top of each other and fold in half.  Use two staples along the folded edge to secure the pages Cut out each page of the album printable and secure it to a page in the paper bag album (or cut out each page and families can secure them to the album pages). Place the album in the ziplock bag with the instruction sheet and a glue stick. Send the bag home with the children to complete and bring back (make sure to write a due date on the blank on the instruction sheet). I always make one with my own pictures and share it with the children before sending the project home. This helps get them excited about completing their own!

Monday, July 24, 2017

Tips for welcoming new families

Whether you work for a year-round program or a program that follows a traditional school calendar there is a good chance that you will be welcoming some families that are new to your program in the fall. I am a huge believer in the importance of building relationships with parents, and those relationships start with first impressions.  There are a few simple things that you can do to welcome families and make a positive impression that will lead to stronger relationships.

  • Share information about yourself.  It is common practice to share info about your program and classroom practices, but parents really want to know who you are. Consider sending home an "All About Me" info sheet (like this freebie) - and send a blank one that parents can help their child complete and return.  You could also create a bulletin board or scrapbook page about yourself to display.  This information will help parents see you as a person with hobbies, interests, and a family, in addition to your job as a teacher.  Knowing these things about you can help parents connect with you as a person.
  • Take an interest in them.  Do you send home family surveys? If you do, take the time to read them.  Try to remember at least one thing about each family that you want to talk to them or ask them about.  It can be something as simple as "What kind of dog is Buddy?" or "My kids play soccer too, what team are you on?" These conversations will show that you actually took the time to read the information they've shared and that you want to know more.  It will help them understand that the paperwork you send home is valuable. 
  • Be available.  Share your contact information and be available to parents when they attempt to use it. If you can only talk to them on the phone at certain times of the day, let them know this.  If you tell them that email is the best way to reach you, then make sure to respond to their emails in a timely fashion.  The way that you communicate with families at the beginning of the year will set the tone for the rest of the year.
  • Involve them.  Share various opportunities for families to participate in classroom activities - everything from donating materials or expertise to chaperoning field trips and organizing class parties.  Make it clear that there are ways for all families to be involved and that you really want them to participate. 
For more family engagement ideas, check out these posts!

Friday, July 21, 2017

Friday Freebie - Teacher Planning Pages

Happy Friday! This summer has flown by!

This week is a double freebie week.  On Tuesday I shared an awesome list of ideas for your monthly newsletters (download that here) and today I have a freebie for those of you who have started thinking about next year - or for those of you who know you probably should, and will eventually! I love, love, love these teacher planning pages.  They have helped me stay organized for years and include 6 different idea trackers and lists to keep you on your toes.  Go download your set and have a wonderful weekend!

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Ideas for sharing newsletters

It's a fairly common problem, you print a copy of the classroom newsletter for each child and stick it in their mailbox, and then at the end of the year you clean out their mailboxes only to find all of those newsletters still in there.  It's no wonder the parents had no idea what was happening all year long! This frustrating problem is made even worse by knowing just how much time you spent writing each of those newsletters!

I've sen this scenario play out time and time again - in my own classroom, and with a number of teachers that I work with, so unfortunately you are not alone.  On Tuesday I shared an amazing list of topics that you can include in your newsletters, so how can you guarantee that parents will actually read them?

My solution to this problem has two answers;

  1. Share your newsletter in every way that you possibly can
  2. Figure out which way of sharing it is most likely to actually get it in front of your parents' faces. 
I know, it's easier said than done, but every family is different so if you really want them to see your important information it has to be shared in a way that is easy for them to consume.  Here are some ideas for different ways of sharing your newsletters:
  • Hard copy - keep printing out that paper version, chances are someone is taking it home, reading it, and sticking it on the fridge just like you intended, and you don't want to take that away if someone is actually using it that way. 
  • Post it in the classroom - do you have a family message center or a location in your classroom where parents tend to congregate during drop off and pick up? Put a copy of your newsletter their, it just might catch their eye and throughout the course of the month they might actually read the entire thing in small bits and pieces. 
  • Email it - save your finished newsletter as a PDF and send it as an email attachment. Many parents are just more likely to read something if it is always with them, on their phone. Maybe they catch up on their email while their child is at soccer practice, or in the doctor's office waiting room (I know I do), if they have easy access to the newsletter, and they are bored enough, they just might read it.
  • Share your newsletter on social media - Does your program have an active facebook group? Upload the newsletter as a photo and parents can read it that way. Do you use instagram? Take photos of the different sections of your newsletter and share them this way.  Get creative and capture the parent's attention where they're already interacting with you
  • Have a contest - Post a question about your newsletter each month, a question that families will only know the answer to if they read the newsletter. Have a box where they can put their answer and draw a winner at the end of the month. 
Do you do anything that really encourages families to read your newsletter? I'd love to hear what works for you!

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Newsletter ideas!

I spend way too much time putting together monthly newsletters - partly because I enjoy designing something new each month, and partly because I can't ever think of what I want to say.  And it never fails, the day after I send home the newsletter, I think of something that I really should have included.

I know there are a ton of newsletter templates available, but that's not really what I've always needed - I need the actual content. So I put together a great big list of potential newsletter topics, this way I can scan my list and choose a few that seem especially relevant and timely.  I've organized the list into 4 different categories:

  1. Seasonal Activities/Ideas/Information
  2. Health and Wellness Topics
  3. Community Events and Family Engagement Activities
  4. Child Development Information
I also try to mix up the categories that I share from so that throughout the year families are getting just a little info from each topic.  Not only has this list made it so much easier for me to write my newsletters, but it has made the newsletters themselves more valuable to my families.  It is more than just a list of important dates and reminders of upcoming fundraisers.  Now my newsletters include topics that are meaningful and helpful to the parents of children in my class.  While I can't guarantee that they read them every single month, I know that I've done my part to make them more interesting and helpful!

Here is the list of topics that I choose from, you can download a copy of the list to have on hand when you sit down to write your own newsletter!

Monday, July 17, 2017

Ways to make lesson planning easier!

I'm one of those weird teachers - you know, the ones who love lesson planning.  I love every part of it - analyzing what my student needs, finding new ideas, writing the plans, prepping materials - I love it! I've also come up with a number of ways to make lesson planning easier.  Since many of you have probably begin to think about your first few weeks of the school year, and the rest of you are probably preparing to do things a little differently in the fall, I want to share my tips with you.

The one thing that has been the biggest help is also the most simple tip - I keep a notebook handy AT ALL TIMES.  This way, when I notice that there is something my students need to work on, or when a new activity idea pops into my head, I always have somewhere to write it down.  Another great way to keep track of this kind of information (especially if you aren't the type of person who generally keeps notes throughout the day) is to use my teacher reflection checklist.  It's FREE and you can print out as many as you need!

Tip number two seems like a no brainer - I use Pinterest.  But I promise there is more to this tip than that.  I'm very strategic about how I use Pinterest. I've organized my boards so that there is one for each subject or domain included on my lesson plan.  This way, when I'm pinning I can save new ideas based on domain, and then when I'm planning it is easy to find the idea that I'm looking for.  If you want a detailed explanation of how I've organized my boards, check out this post!

My final tip is to keep favorite recipes close so that when I put them on my lesson plan I don't have to look up the recipe every time.  This is especially true for when I make things like play dough, flubber, and different types of paints.  Since I use these recipes so often, and modify them for different holidays and seasons, I put together a recipe book to keep in the classroom.  This helps me make sure that I have all the supplies I need before I get started.  It also helps when I can't think of something to add to my lesson plan, I just flip through the book and decide how I want to modify a recipe for whatever topic we're currently working on!

I hope that my tips help you gear up for fall lesson planning, take a couple of minutes to check out each link for the resources that I've described!

Friday, July 14, 2017

Friday Freebie - Beach Counting

Happy Friday! I hope that you are enjoying these summer weeks, I still haven't figured out why they seem to fly by so much faster than the rest of the weeks during the year.

Today's freebie is perfect for summer, or for your beach theme.  These play dough counting mats from Over the MoonBow encourage children to practice math skills while being creative.  Go download your set and have a wonderful weekend!

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Books about the Beach

I feel like summer themed books don't always get the attention that they deserve because there are so many things to do in the summer besides read.  There are a ton of beach books that will add new elements to your discussions about the beach.  Here are a few of my favorites (all links are Amazon affiliates):

Check these out and be sure to take some time examining the pictures, which might help you add to your list of dramatic play props to add to your own beach play!

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Dramatic Play Beach Props

While you may not be able to get to the beach this summer, you can definitely make your classroom feel a little more like the beach.  Here are a list of props that you can collect for your dramatic play center to help create imaginative beach days:

  • Beach towels
  • Empty sunscreen bottles
  • Sunglasses
  • Beach umbrellas
  • Sand toys
  • Rafts and inflatable pool toys
  • Beach balls
  • Sun hats
  • Flip flops
  • Snorkel and flippers
Your students can help you make a list of all of the things that they would need to take to the beach, they might come up with additional items that you had never even considered!

Monday, July 10, 2017

Beach-Themed Sand Play

We may have hit the official halfway mark for summer when we celebrated the 4th of July last week, but that just means that we still have half of summer left to enjoy! What better way to enjoy all things summer time than with a trip to the beach?!

While I would love to live near the beach - and around here we can make a day trip to Lake Erie happen - it's not exactly a place that you can take a field trip to.  Child care licensing tends to frown on large bodies of water, so we usually have to bring the beach to us.  The perfect place to start is the sand box.

You can turn your own sand box into a beach oasis by adding just a few things.  Start with the beach towels.  Even if your sand box is on the small side you can still lay beach towels around the perimeter.  The children will love to hang out on the beach towels, and this is a great way to make space for more children to be involved in the play even if they don't fit inside the sandbox.

When planning for sand toys you can be a little more creative.  Any container that can be used to build a sand castle is perfect.  The children can help gather these, or even bring empty containers from home.  In order to make a great sand castle you'll also have to add water to your sand.  This is the perfect excuse for experimentation.  Have containers of water available and encourage the children to see how wet their sand needs to be in order to hold their sand castle together - without turning it into a sloppy mess.

Once the children have begun to create sand castles, encourage them to find natural materials on the playground that they can use to decorate their sand castles.  You might also consider having sea shells available for them to use on their sand castles.

Sand play is something that is pretty common in preschool, but this is the one time of the year when it feels relevant to the children and their experiences because sand plays such a huge role in summer fun!

Friday, July 7, 2017

Friday Freebie - Number Puzzles

Happy Friday! Aren't holiday weeks the best?! They go by so fast and then it's the weekend again.

I love these number sequencing puzzles, and this summer set from Klever Kiddos could not be cuter! These are great practice and can be used to focus on the number sequencing, or putting the picture together in the correct order. Go download your set and have a wonderful weekend!

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Fun Ideas for Star Marshmallows

I cannot resist holiday-themed treats, I always buy them, use a few for the holiday, and then find them in my cupboard 3 months later.  One thing that I purchase without fail (knowing full well that I will never use) are holiday shaped marshmallows. So this year I thought I would share some fun ideas for using them up, even after the holiday, in the hopes that this list will inspire me to use them up!

If you missed out on the 4th of July Marshmallow fun you can probably still find them in the grocery store - maybe even on clearance!

So what exactly could you do with these fun little things? Here's a list:

  • Use them as ice cream sundae toppings
  • Slide them onto skewers with strawberries and blueberries
  • Make necklaces by stringing them on plastic lanyard string
  • Layer them on top of brownie batter before baking
  • Add them to your chocolate chip cookies
  • Make a snack mix and toss these in
  • Throw them in with your popcorn
  • Use them to make rice crispy treats
  • Dip them in chocolate
Now I can't wait to use these up - we'll be eating marshmallows for days!

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Happy 4th!

Happy 4th of July! I hope that you are all taking time to enjoy your families and celebrate freedom and summer today!I'm looking forward to spending time outside and lots of barbecue.  My family also has a tradition of making homemade ice cream for the 4th and I can't wait to get my hands on some of that! Enjoy your holiday and your celebrations!

Monday, July 3, 2017

Children's Books for the 4th of July

I think that 4th of July books often get overlooked because it isn't a holiday that takes place during the traditional school year.  This is unfortunate because there are some real gems out there.  When it comes to celebrating Independence Day, here are my favorite books to share with young children (all links are affiliates):

Do you have any favorite patriotic books? Feel free to share them in the comments!