Friday, July 29, 2011


A "side note" before I get started on marbles.  :-)  Yesterday, T. was playing with this toy (left) putting the shapes on any which way.  So I sat down next to him and showed him the shapes and colors and "tried" to get him to match it accordingly but no way was that going to happen.  He was getting frustrated with me so I backed off and let him do it his way.  He really hadn't matched anything yet up to this point.  He's 2 years. 
So later I made a really simple matching activity for him.  I placed each eraser on the tray stating the name (great for vocab building) and in the cup was another set of the same erasers.  I showed him by saying "match frog."  And placed the eraser on top of the frog.  Then I'd pull another one out.  "Match bear."  Placed the bear on top of the other bear and so on.  Then I put the second set of erasers back into the cup and said, "Trent do."  And he did it!  He played with that his own way quite a few times.  Today that number stacking toy was chosen again and he had them all over the floor then decided to go play with the nuts and bolts.  Um.  Hmmm.  :-)  So we did our typical, "Trent, clean up.  First clean up then play."  So I started placing the shapes on every which way.  He told me "No! No!" and fixed it!  Did it all.  The picture was in the middle of the whole thing but he did correct them all on his own.  Even pointed to the shapes and counted "3, 4" for most of them.  LOL  The teacher in me had a GREAT BIG SMILE!

Today we did an old favorite...marble painting.  One benefit of having such a small group (usually no more then 6, sometimes I have 7 as A. is old enough not to be "counted") all the time is that I can allow for more choice making with paper color, paint color and so on. Working in a center-based preschool, that was a little more difficult...definitely more time consuming!  And a bit more expensive when it came to paint.  So, definitely a plus here.  I'm always looking for ways to allow for children to make choices and live with them. 
We'll trim up the pages with "crazy" scissors (craft scissors) or make them into shapes another time.

Then, of course, we had to get the MarbleWorks toy out.  A piece of advice...go ahead and spend the few extra dollars to buy a name brand set, preferably from a school supply catalog.  The off brands aren't quite as stable.

Marble Activities:
* Marble painted M Moose.  We just did moose and I thought, this fall, I'm going to work it so that we can make a marble painted M Moose.  :-)  Have the child cut out a block letter M out of card stock then marble paint it brown.  Add antlers and other features. 
*  Transferring activity:  use a measuring spoon or other utensils such as tongs to move marbles from a bowl to a peg, golf tee, or to the suction cups of a bathroom mat.
*  Displacement Activity/Water play:  The children always enjoy when I place large and small marbles with their water play.  Intentionally place several different sizes of bottles so that each bottle requires a different amount of marbles to displace water.
*  Sorting:  The children love to hear the "ping" of a marble on a metal surface.  Anything that makes noise of course.  :-)  So, sort marbles by color or do counting with marbles in a muffin tin.
*  Allow them to make their own "marble works" by taping aluminum foil/wax paper tubes together.  If you have mailing tubes you can use golf balls, ping pong balls and so on.
*  Place a marble inside of a sensory bag (such as gel or paint) to add another fine motor component.  They'll naturally try to move that marble around in their bag.
*  Use a different amount of marbles inside a set of bottles, all the same and preferably not transparent.   You can use these for listening activities.  Order them from softest to loudest.  You may wish to make another exact set and they match the sounds.

Of course, use marbles only when you are supervising as they are choking hazards.  Have fun!

Thursday, July 28, 2011


Only my three kids and two others today and it wasn't a K Readiness day so yesterday I asked what they would like to do.  Cornstarch and water is what I was told by one child and the rest all chimed in...Yes! Cornstarch and water!  So...we went outside early today due to mugginess and it also looking like it was going to rain and then we came in to play with goop.  They've been at it 45 minutes already.  Usually they'll last about an hour.  It IS amazing stuff!  For those of you who haven't tried it yet...when the goop is the "right" consistency it will be hard to touch and scoop.  You almost need to "cut" it. But when you have scooped up it drizzles.  Wet/dry-hard/soft.  And the best thing is that it's relatively easy to clean up.  Even if the child gets it on the carpet on accident, it vacuums.  It's sweeps up, it washes up...however you want to do it.  :-)  Here are some pics of my boys exploring with the goop.

Starting out...if possible let them explore with mixing the two materials-cornstarch and water.
Providing a few "tools" adds to the enjoyment.
I love this picture.  It was like..."How dare you interrupt me!"  Some children get very serious with their explorations so respect that!
Eventually they will use their hands.  Many of my "newbies" will hesitate to use their hands but after a few sessions with Ms. Amber, they realize that she believes there's a time and place for mess and with sensory exploration---the messier the better!  :-P
Then they asked if we could add color.  I suggest you use minimal coloring as it will dye hands/clothes if too dark.  One or two drops is usually plenty.

Suggestions for "Tools"
*  cups
* bowls
* spoons
* scoops (formula scoops, for example)
* small bottles like travel size shampoo-transparent is better
* around easter time you can get themed "eggs"...such as carrots or zoo animals.  They enjoyed the carrots today as it was transparent enough that they could see the goop moving around inside.
* medicine syringes (not eye droppers)
* craft sticks
* plastic scrapers (like Pampered Chef scrapers to scrape pans)
* small spatulas
* small pancake flippers or something similar

The dollar store is a great place to stock up on sensory "tools." 

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

If You Give a Moose a Muffin

By Laura Numeroff

Side note:  I was looking for some moose clip art and I find the best way to find what I want is to search "coloring sheets".  I'm not big on coloring sheets at the preschool level but I do like them to make activities out of.  Here's a nice website I found recently in regards to coloring sheets that can be used for so much more then coloring.

Large Motor
Moose Antlers
 Children created moose head bands and we checked out a couple of you tube videos about how they moved, what they looked liked when they moved.  Then children moved through our home similar to a moose and as they passed me each time I told them a moose fact.  Most enjoyed wearing their antlers throughout the morning.
Numeral Formation
How Many Muffins?
Excuse the horrible picture. 
A simple sheet I created to allow for children to practice 1:1 with their counting and number writing.  Each child stated their favorite type of muffin and chose a pencil accordingly.  They then placed a mark on the top of the muffins as they counted it, writing the numeral at the end of the line. I find placing the space for the number at the end of the line naturally encourages them to count from left to right.  C. here chose to put a blueberry at the top of each of his muffins.

Letter Formation
One fact we learned today was that "moose are great swimmers".  Our letter Ws became waves today.  We did them with oil pastels because we were told that they would be bolder-resist watercolor better.  Then we "washed" our paper with blue water color to make water...and added our moose swimming in the water. 

-am family 
I created this in print shop using a jam coloring sheet.  Placed one at the top and flipped the other so that when the children cut it out they would be able to fold it up.  We stapled the sides and voila! a jam jar.  It was strawberry on our jam jar so I created strawberries with words that belong in the -am family.  Note in the first picture, I had highlighted around where I wanted them to cut.  Otherwise they tend to cut all lines if there isn't a bolder cutting line.

Phonological Awareness
Sequencing and Word Chunks
We sequenced the story and checked our work with the book.  Then I choose the main word on the sequencing squares to say and the children clapped out the word telling me if there were 1, 2, or 3 word chunks.  The following website has many If You Give a Moose a Muffin activities and printables you might be interested in.

Edgar Degas
Edgar Degas lived about 200 years ago and liked to draw things that moved.  Two of his main focuses were horses (horse racing) and ballet dancers.  Monday we worked on a lesson about breaking animals into shapes to make them more simple to draw.  Today we drew a lot of horses on big paper.  Colored them with their choice of media and cut out.  In The Art Garden's ( lesson she encouraged the children to paint a background and then add the paper cutouts.  I chose not to as time is short so we just had the children choose what color construction paper background to use. 
5.5 yrs
"The horses are resting after the race."

6 yrs in Aug.
"The horses are eating supper and getting ready for bed."

8.5 yrs
"In the desert.  The horses were running away from a hungry bear and they ran into my picture and the bear stepped on it.  The horses turned into a piece of paper."

5.5 years
"The horses were at the circus." 
(The green animal is a monkey :-))

Here I was quickly showing them how they could possibly show different "poses" for the horses all using the same basic shapes or triangles and rectangles.  I'm not much of a drawer so no fear of it being "too perfect" and the children feeling like they can't do it.  On a general basis, I don't usually show an example but in lessons like this one it's almost necessary for them to able to get the idea. 

Moveable Letters
Just wanted to share the variation we did today as it might work well for your child(ren) also.
After they sounded out the word and put the letters there they were encouraged to put their finger under each sound once again stating it and then "say it fast" sliding their finger underneath the word.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Smash! Mash! Crash! There Goes the Trash

Maybe I'll start by sharing a tidbit of a conversation I had with my husband last week.  I only feel comfortable in sharing this because I really don't think he meant it in the way it sounded.  :-)  I had one day before we left for camping and had a full load on that day.  I hadn't been sleeping well and I was far from finished getting ready to leave and so I jokingly said, "I think you should stay home and I'll go to work for you today."  Yes, we have mornings that start out that way...doesn't mean we don't love our job or our children...but sometimes you wonder how it's going to go when you know you aren't starting on the "right foot" to begin with because of minimal sleep and so on.  He said, "Okay, I'll stay home and have two days off."  Um.  Hmmm.  :-P  Like I said, I don't think he really meant it that way.  Side note:  the day went just fine.  However, it does come to mind today.  There are many who are very unaware of what we do.  Like I mentioned before, to some I'm considered a babysitter.  To others I fall in the category of a stay at home mom.  In reality...I'm neither.  I do not have the freedom of a stay at home mom.  And for those that think I'm a babysitter...they just need to come walk in my shoes for a week.   Even my husband, who lives here, does not truly understand what my job all entails.  You don't, unless you've done it.  The planning, the prep, the making sure your house is acceptably "clean" all the time, being sure that not only I but the family members are following licensing regulations, the billing, the budgeting, menu planning, keeping up with assessments, and so much more...even before (and after) the children arrive.  There is very little time for myself.  I'll share my rate with you.  I make 2.75/hr-per child and that's only when there are children present.  Though this fall I will be going back to preschool hours being a set fee and "I'm sorry if you have decided your child is too tired to come today.  I've already purchased materials and did a lot for planning."  (Yes, I've had the excuse...but I won't go into how much I disagree with that.)  But presently, they pay for the hours they are in attendance. This does not include any of the extra time that is involved. So, in essence, I make very little after we subtract groceries, bills, art supplies, toy replacement, activity materials, etc.  I don't do this for the money...nobody in this field does. We do it because we love the children and know the importance of a positive early childhood.  So that being said, anyone that considers being home with 6 kids a "day off" has never been in my shoes.  To really understand they must do the lesson planning, the scheduling, the billing-including DHS, activity preparation, photo organization, meal prep and clean up all along with trying to keep the house clean and the family's needs met (and trying to get ready to leave on vacation also).  Easier said then done.  :-)  And I'm not complaining...I just felt the need to "vent" today and help others have a better understanding of what we preschool teachers do.

So, today.  I wouldn't say it was the "best day ever".  Nor would I say it was the worst day I've ever had in this field.  No matter how long we are in the field, we have off days...either because of personal reasons and we are having a rough day or the many factors in the children's lives are playing into the rough day.  Which is probably what was happening today.  To say it nicely..."the children's listening ears were not on today."  So, needless to say I revamped what we did.  I could tell I was becoming frustrated in how everything was going, not smoothly at all, and how I had to repeat repeat repeat.  Why am I saying this?  I want you all to know that we all have days that aren't so smooth.  When we share activities about our day...well, all seems just fine...everything went so smoothly and in doesn't always go that smoothly.  Doesn't mean it wasn't a profitable day...just not what we expected or wanted.  So it is okay to revamp or even set activities aside for another day.  One of the things I did today was stop an activity and have a little conversation about listening and another about emotions.  The best way to teach about that is in the course of the day ... not necessarily it's only lesson. I do feel I need to say that if you are constantly "setting activities aside" then you need to take a look at what you are doing.  What the cause?  Perhaps the child is not ready for the activities you are wanting them to do.  Maybe your expectations are too high/unrealistic or too low and they aren't challenged.  Maybe there isn't enough open-endedness in the activities.  Maybe there is too many "sitting down" activities.  Maybe you need more of a hands-on approach.  Take an honest look at yourself and your child and go from there.  Children don't often "misbehave" for no reason at all.  There is usually something that is triggering it.  I know that today's behaviors probably stemmed from the weekend.
We love this book.  Lots of rhyming also a great way to review/introduce blends,
if your child is at that stage.  Let's see, you can't see the author very easily on this book.  Barbara Odanaka

A lot of giggles came out of our gross motor activity today. 
First I provided 5 pieces of newspaper to each child to create "trash".  We slipped in a little skip counting by 5s also.  Nice to give them a visual of how it works vs. just memorizing 5, 10, 15.  So all together we had 25 newspaper balls.  Yes, I could have done this myself but scrunching newspaper is a very good fine motor activity.  Even better when you encourage them to do it one hand with their nondominant hand. 
I had a masking tape road and A. had created us paper plate steering wheels.  So we drove our "garbage trucks" down the road using the heel-toe method on the line.  "Walking the line" is very beneficial for preschoolers.  Consider doing this also when you are learning or reviewing a letter or number.  It was harder then they thought it was going to be!  At the end of the line there was a trash can.  The children had put their trash around the can after crumbling the newspaper up.
Then they counted the newspaper balls, out loud, from 1-25.  I had the older ones go first so that the younger ones could hear.  Both of the younger ones difficulty remembering what comes next when they hit around 16 and one of them tends to hurry his way through it so he doesn't always do the 1:1 like he should.  Counting isn't his favorite thing to do.  So this was a lovely activity to reinforce both the counting sets and oral counting.
Then they made all sorts of racket as their garbage truck picked up the trash can and dumped it (over their head for the next child).  I will definitely do something like this again.  It was a hit!
Numeral Formation
Kind of hard to see in the picture but each child had a formatted page with two columns and gas pumps.  One gas pump said odd and the other said even.  The children wrote the numerals 1-10 on the garbage trucks.  Then they were cut out and they decided if that garbage truck would go under the odd column or the even column.
Here is the work of one child.  She chose a garbage truck.  Stated the number (6).  Then she put six manipulatives in a line and then buddied them up.  Then glued the garbage truck onto the correct column.  Here's the little poem we used today.
Odd and Even
If you are an even number
You always have a pair
So if you look around
Your buddy will always be there.
If you are an odd  number
There's always a lonley one.
He looks around to find his buddy
But he's the only one.
---Marg Wadsworth

Letter Formation
This activity went well.  We missed a couple of days and so we were behind in our letter formation activities.  So decided that U and V would go well together because most of my preschool students will make a U and then make a V a U also.  :-)  They have a difficult time with stopping at the point and going back up.  So this was perfect.  I was on limited time as we were leaving for vacation last week so chose just a plain semi instead of searching for a garbage truck pattern.  :-)  Children wrote a U in one truck and a V the other.  Then they wrote u or v on the picture strips.  Cut out and glued onto the correct truck.
I was sure to include both short and long sounds for the vowel u.  You may wish to consider clapping out each of the words and talking about word chunks.  Since my kiddos are interested in spelling I have introduced the concept that every word chunk has a vowel, this summer.  You my wish to also. 

Phonological Awareness
 Well, this activity had a lot of potential.  However, since it was a listening activity and our listening ears were not working well this flopped.  I will do it with them though on another day but wanted to share it with you as you may wish to do it with your children.  I really do not have enough "trucks" for each child to have three so we did any vehicle.  They set them in a row and we reviewed beginning, middle, and end.  Then they were given a sound to listen for.  Always start with a very easy to hear consonant...something you can emphasize like /s/.  And I stated a word that had it in the beginning, middle, or end and they pushed that car toward me.  If you have young preschoolers you may wish to do only two cars, beginning and ending sound.  Or another variation would be to put a letter sticker on the top of two vehicles.  State words that start with that sound.  Have them push the vehicle forward with the matching letter.

I probably should stop with these activities. Time flew by!  Have a great week.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Croaky Pokey

This past week I had 3 of the children that were here pick the next three books for our summer program mornings.  This was the first one.  :-)  If you remember correctly, we recently did a version of the Hokey Pokey during our large motor activity.  I do believe that is one reason why this book became a favorite since then.  I just found it at our local library.  Had never seen it before...though I do know there are many versions of the Hokey Pokey in book form.

So, obviously, for our "gettin' movin'" activity we did the Hokey Pokey.  In this book the song goes...
Put your right foot in,
Put your right foot out.
Put your right foot in,
And wave it all about,
Hop the Croaky Pokey
As we chase a fly around,
Right in the froggy's mouth.

The funny thing is that the frogs always miss and never catch the fly and on the last spread of pages...
SLURP! Right in the fishy's mouth!
It's pretty cute all the way around.  So to add a little "extra" to our normal Hokey Pokey, I inflated a balloon as our "fly".
Which, of course, led to some really crazy balloon play later in the morning since (I know, I was asking for it :-)) I let them each choose a color and we blew up balloons for all of them.   

Numeral Formation
Children created a graph by sorting by color.  They then counted how many flies there were in each color and wrote that numeral on the frog beneath the column.  C. was done before everyone (WOW!  That's a first!) so I encouraged him to try to write the numeral words underneath the frogs.

Letter Formation
Children practiced writing "stop sign" Ls on the back of their frog on a lily pad picture.  Then they laced them for extra fine motor.

Phonological Awareness
A. so kindly created a pond, including cattails and a dock.  These logs and frogs were relatively easy to create.  I used patterns from (from her 5 Green and Speckled Frog felt board activity) in Print Shop and added two pictures to a log and one picture to a frog.  Each child went on a frog hunt to find two each.  Then we matched them to the logs.  Of course we sang...5 Green and Speckled Frogs. 

Scissors/Word Family
Another relatively easy activity I came up with last night.  Since our little "vacation" at the beginning of July I've been way behind in my planning.  Funny how that works.  Now we are going on a camping trip this, hmmm!  Where is the summer going?!  Anyway.  Created this in Print Shop again.  Six lily pads to a page.  mop, top, hop, pop, shop and stop.  I also provided an origami frog to go along.  Here's a site I found when looking for written directions for A. as there was a possibility that he may want to make some frogs and I may not have the time to help him right then. 
Easy instructions to follow.

Piet Mondrian
I've always been drawn to this piece of artwork and like to have the children do something similar.  Children were provided with white finger paint paper, pencil and rulers.  After they got their lines on the paper they were provided with black, red, yellow, and blue finger paint.
Even the wipe became a "masterpiece".