Preschool Inspirations

The world is their playground!

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DIY Bug Observation Station

DIY Bug Observation Station Preschool Inspirations

Here is another post from the fantastic and very knowledgeable Marta*. This is a wonderful tutorial on how to create a space for children to observe bugs! We hope you enjoy creating one with some sweethearts, and if you’re lucky enough to catch several bugs, you could make your very own “BugLand.”

DIY Bug “Observation Station”

It is really easy to dive into the world of insects…and the great thing is that it doesn’t cost much at all! In our home, we have a “no kill” rule. We do NOT kill insects (with the exception of those that could harm us or our garden – black widow spiders, squash bugs, centipedes, mosquitos, house flies, anything at “infestation” level, etc.). Instead, we gently capture insects with a Bug Observation Station. We use identification books and/or the internet to identify the bug. We take a lot of pictures to document our new find and the pictures get printed for our Proof Book portion of my son’s bug collection. If we find a dead bug, then it gets added to the actual bug collection. Below are some suggestions to help you dive (inexpensively) into the bug world:

1. A Bug Observation Station is any container that will allow you to safely and gently capture a bug and observe it for some period of time. A good Observation Station will:

a. Have an opening large enough to safely “scoop” up bugs of various sizes and including flying bugs;

b. Have at least 1 side “clear” enough to see through in order to observe the bug; although multiple clear sides is better as bugs tend to be active and fast!

c. Have a securely fitting lid for safe containment;

d. Have multiple small holes in the lid for air flow;

01. BOS supplies

2. To make a cheap Observation Station, you can reuse any clear plastic container with a large opening. The square shaped containers – such as bulk peanuts or couscous containers – are the best. The straight sides are easier to take pictures through compared to curved bottles. However, if all you have is a curved plastic bottle you can still start with that (as long as the opening is big enough)!

02. use peanut butter to clean03. Cleaned containers

3. Completely empty the container and clean thoroughly with mild dish soap if necessary. Remove any stickers or packaging labels. I use a small amount of peanut butter to remove the sticky residue that can remain.

04. Poke air holes

4. Using a small screwdriver or nut pick (or any other small, sturdy, semi-sharp tool) poke several small holes in the lid. I find it easiest to heat the end of the metal tool over the stove – it cuts through plastic with so much less effort! You will need several small air holes to allow sufficient air for your bug.

5. You are now ready to go bug hunting! Depending on the insect, I like to put a leaf or twig in the Observation Station to encourage our bugs to remain active or find shelter.


6. If you can properly identify your bug, you may choose to keep it for several days to make observations about it. Please do this only if you can meet all the needs of the creature: food, water, shelter, etc.

05. Finished BOS

7. NOTE: while there are only a few types of dangerous bugs (spiders, for example), there are a lot of other bugs that can carry a painful bite. If at all possible, identify your bug before you try to capture it. Use common sense – if you cannot easily capture a bug without putting yourself in potential harm’s way, then please don’t attempt to capture. Use a camera from a safe distance.

a. I will often use a camera to get close-ups first, which I use to identify our find with

b. We always relocate (rescue) the bugs we have observed.

06. example of identification books

A sample of our collection of identification books. We have a bookshelf dedicated to identification books: rocks, birds, flowers/plants, reptiles and amphibians, fossils, etc. The boys know how to get the bug-specific books off the shelf and look through pictures to try to identify a new bug before it is mom’s turn.

Ta-da! Observation Station ready to go! Time for a walk, no?!

*Marta works as a geologist in New Mexico as well as a homeschool mama, and she channels her passion of science and nature into high quality learning tools for children, including two sweet boys of her own.

If you choose not to make your own containers, they are available at places such as camping stores, amazon, as well as shops such as book stores and dollar stores during the summer.


Color Mixing with Preschoolers

Color Mixing Preschool Inspirations

Color mixing is always one of my favorite units! Learning colors is a huge aspect of preschool curriculum, and there are so many great books and resources on them. You can talk about colors just about anywhere you are!

The idea of mixing two colors to form a new color is somewhat of a complex concept for preschoolers. While it may be easier to understand that red and white make pink, it’s just not as easy to remember that blue and red make purple. Whenever I do color mixing with young children, I try to make the process of learning one that is memorable. If we engage their senses in the process, then it becomes an even greater tool.

Here are some of our favorite and effective color mixing activities.

We found this fantastic foamy color mixing idea from Fun at Home With Kids. I started off with just pink and blue to make purple, then we made a second batch with yellow and blue to make green. This has been one of our most exciting sensory projects ever, and afterward many of the kids loved talking about the different colors they created. A few minutes into the project I added spoons, ladles, measuring cups, etc. for the ones who wanted to participate but didn’t want to get foamy.

To make the soapy, foamy mixture, I combined 6 Tbs of dish soap (Palmolive is used here) with 3/4 cup of water. We put them in the Kitchen Aid on the highest speed for about 90 seconds and added a bunch of drops of liquid watercolor. The fun lasts for about 45 minutes before it deflates. Initially I was only going to have three kiddos at this project at a time, but they were all so eager that I gave in and let all six do it at once.

Preschool Inspirations

Preschool InspirationsPreschool Inspirations

The next activity that was hugely successful in helping my class learn about color mixing is an idea that I saw at Teach Preschool. We finger painted color wheels, and I would say each child chose to participate in this for at least 25 minutes! I printed off a color wheel for each child, and I put red, yellow, and blue on their painting plate. There was enough space in between each color to form a new color to be mixed. They painted the red, left a blank space, then painted yellow. Then they mixed the red and yellow on their plate to make orange and added it to the color wheel. We continued this until we had red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple on the color wheel. I felt that this specific activity really sank into their minds and gave them a great understanding of color mixing — one that words could never do justice with.

Preschool InspirationsPreschool Inspirations

Preschool InspirationsPreschool InspirationsPreschool Inspirations

Lastly, we used a salad spinner to mix colors. My inspiration this time came from Scrumdilly-do! I set out three cups of liquid watercolor for each child to choose from. They used the droppers to put the desired color and number of drops onto their paper. Then it was time to spin! It was such a hit that even my younger preschoolers wanted to do this over and over and over. Since I have an in home preschool, it is super convenient to allow each of my students to make 2-3 different projects since my class size is much smaller than in a center preschool setting. Plus, then I can keep one to hang on the walls, and they can take some home which makes us both happy!

Preschool InspirationsPreschool InspirationsDSC_0305Preschool InspirationsPreschool Inspirations

I would love to hear about some of your proven color mixing activities!

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Bug Games

Bug Games  Preschool Inspirations

Bugs and insects are so fascinating to children! They want to hold them, keep them as pets, or at times, children are super afraid of them too. Our lives are surrounded by these beautiful creatures, and the more we know about them, the better we can protect ourselves and them.

To encourage bug and insect knowledge, here are two wonderful bug games. Not only are these fun activities, but they include real photographs of insects! While there is a great abundance of  beautifully illustrated insects available, children really need access to real pictures as well!

There are two games attached. For the first game, you will use the bug pictures to play a memory game with. We enjoy talking about the bugs when we find the match!

The next game is a scavenger hunt, with a checklist even! Just click on “Bug Hunt Cards” below to print them out.

Bug Hunt cards

You can find more bug and insect fun with this bug book.

**These fantastic, educational games are brought to you by the very talented Marta! Marta works as a geologist in New Mexico as well as a homeschool mama, and she channels her passion of science and nature into high quality learning tools for children, including two sweet boys of her own.


A Must Have Bug Book *Freebie*

Bug Book

I must admit that I have been super excited to publish this post! It is not always easy to find a GREAT book with insects and bugs for preschoolers. Well now here is a fantastic bug book for you to add to your book collection, and it is completely free!

This wonderful resource is brought to you in part by Marta Wood, my very talented and knowledgeable cousin. She has a strong passion for all things nature and sharing this information with young children.

Here’s a little bit about Marta:

“I am the proud mother of 2 small-ish boys; one of which has been a bug-lover since the tender age of 3.  I work part-time as a geologist for a small environmental firm in New Mexico.  I am so blessed that I am able to do the majority of my work from a home office which has allowed me to stay home with my precious boys.

I would like to dedicate my portion of this bug book to all the amazing moms and teachers out there who dedicate their lives to the ittle-bittles and to my special son, Z-man, who can’t wait to share his knowledge of bugs with anyone who will listen! ”

We hope you enjoy this book, and I guarantee you will learn something new while reading through it! There is a blank page near the end of the book so that your child or class can add an extra bug of his or her choice.

*Unless otherwise noted, all photographs are copyrighted to Marta Wood.  They can be reproduced as part of this booklet for personal or single classroom use.

My Bug Book


Lacing Beads and Literacy

Lacing Beads and Literacy

Here is a great Montessori inspired activity that my preschool class has been enjoying lately to practice identifying and spelling names. We try to do lots of fine motor activities, so I thought this would be a fun way to combine letter recognition. While my preschool is not an official Montessori, I certainly try to incorporate Montessori techniques into our learning on a daily basis.

Lacing Beads and Literacy

This wooden lacing kit is made by Melissa and Doug, and I found that it simplified my prep time. Any sort of letter beads could be used instead though. It was important to me to be able to separate the letters out, so that the correct ones could be easily found. This definitely achieved that purpose, and there were several to choose from. I also realized that some children would need close supervision with so many lacing beads, yet others could let me know when (or if) they would need my assistance.


First, I went through all the children in the class and wrote their names for them. While I traditionally only try to use a capital letter and the rest lower case, I felt that I needed to put their name in all capitals as well since that is what these specific letters are. Then I showed them how to find the letter in the box that matched the letter on their name card. I laced my entire name through with their help, then it was their turn. I let them find their own names (and helped if needed) to help with name recognition, they then chose whichever lace they wanted. The very proficient four years olds completed this task well, but the younger ones were allowed extra freedom and flexibility. They mostly focused on finding some letters in their name or even letters that they liked. My philosophy is that as long as they are engaged and enjoy what I am working with them on, that’s more important than whether they are doing it exactly right.



Preschool Supplies for Back to School — Manipulatives and Puzzles

Preschool Supplies

This is the last post in my series of my favorite supplies for back to school for preschoolers. If you missed my other posts, you can see some preschool must haves by clicking below:

Art, Science, and Math

Sensory Play and Fine Motor

Music and Movement

Now onto some more fantastic learning activities for little ones. I am featuring manipulatives and puzzles, two interest areas that I have seen children participate in for up to an hour in one sitting. It’s just amazing how captivating these activities are, as well as the concepts that children are learning through them. There is no need for a teacher or parent to even say a word for this learning to take place.

Manipulatives involve the fine motor muscles and often times are objects that are made to fit together. They go across many learning domains as they can be used in math, lacing, puzzles, social studies, and more. In my experience these are the most popular activities, so I try to have many out and available. I also allow large blocks of time to give children the opportunity to have an in depth learning experience.

Puzzles are the ultimate favorite of my own children. They each found their love for puzzles at two years old, and their focus and patience blow me away. I am always in awe of how puzzles enable a child to take chaos and turn it into order. There are so many different stages that a child can use puzzles too. An infant can find joy in a puzzle, just as a 10 year old, or even an adult.

Manipulatives for Preschoolers

Pattern Boards and Counting Bears: Both of these are math related, and they are available at most school supply stores as well as on Amazon.

Busy Beads: This is one of the few learning experiences that I keep out all year through my weekly rotations. I find that even the most active children seek solace in twirling the colorful beads about.

Legos: An all time favorite through the years!

Mr. Potato Head: There are so many fun variations of him and his family out there. My best finds for a good deal on them have been at Costco, and I found a Toy Story version at Kohl’s on sale (plus I had a 30% off coupon).

Snapping and Skill Activities: I have a Melissa and Doug snap and sort activity game pictured above. We are a huge fan of any linking or snapping toys. The picture of the lock and latch puzzle in my series collage is another great manipulative that doubles as a puzzle.

Puzzles for Preschoolers

Chunk puzzles: These are perfect for the littlest ones or children who are just beginning with puzzles. They are fun to play with at all levels though! This dinosaur one is a Melissa and Doug creation. We also have some sensory ones that are wonderful to just touch and feel.

Peg Puzzles: The next step up. There are puzzles with jumbo pegs as well as the smaller pegs.

Variety Puzzles: Our magnetic puzzles are such a hit! The ocean one is made by Melissa and Doug. Another favorite puzzle of ours is a shape puzzle that is self correcting. You can see it on my post about fine motor activities.

Piece puzzles: While these are the hardest puzzles to transition into, they can also be the most thrilling once a child puts it together all by himself for the first time. Then the addiction begins. Bring on the 48 piece puzzles once the 24 piece ones become a breeze. My favorite place for great puzzle finds is a dollar store.

Large floor puzzles: It is possible for two children to work on a 24 piece puzzle together, but I would save that for the identical twins who just understand one another that well. My puzzle of choice for teams are the large floor puzzles. I’ve seen groups of four children successfully build a puzzle together. Those are very proud teacher moments by the way!

Well I’m sad to say goodbye to this series as it has the wonderful and enticing school supplies that I love buying each year, but I hope you have found some inspiration to increase learning for the kiddos around you!

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A Summer Keepsake

Sand Footprints

There are 17 days left of summer, and I am for sure savoring each and every day! One of our favorite traditions each summer is to visit Nebraska and spend time at Lake McConaughy. It has a nice beachy feel to it, and our kids have a blast camping out there. Back when my daughter was a baby, a family member of ours introduced us to her family tradition of making a plaster of paris mold of her children’s footprints each summer. She made one for our daughter, and I have treasured it since! This year we decided to do it again, and they turned out so sweet.

sand footprints

It is a fairly easy process. You just need moist sand and some plaster of paris. We used the sand from the beach, but I think a sand box or container with sand would work just fine. The important factor is to have sand with enough moisture to make a mold out of your child’s foot. Once you get a good mold, the rest is a breeze. Here’s how we did it!

We dug up a pile of sand and helped our daughter gently place her foot in it. You certainly can help make the mold more defined by using your finger to shape it if your little one is not the most cooperative.

Sand footprint

Then we mixed up some plaster of paris. I used 3 cups of plaster and 1 1/2 cup of water, and there was some left over. You may need more or less depending on how small or big your child’s foot is. Then we poured it into the mold. It works best if it’s slightly runny, otherwise you may need to smooth it out on the top.


Next, I sprinkled sand on top so that when it all dried, it would have a consistent sandy look.

Sand footprints

After about 10 minutes, I wrote their initials and the year in it.

sand footprints

I let it dry for about 45 minutes, and then I took out my kiddo’s precious footprints.

Sand footprints

I certainly love how sentimental these are! While we probably won’t do them every year, I do foresee many summers with more footprints to come.


Preschool Supplies for Back to School — Music & Movement

Preschool Supplies

I have been posting a series about my all time favorite preschool supplies. If you are looking for some ideas for the preschooler(s) in your life, you can see my must have list of art, science, and math supplies as well as sensory and fine motor supplies and manipulatives and puzzles. I find that looking through a colleague’s classroom can help stir the creative powers in my mind, so I hope this does the same for you.

I am very excited to share about movement and music today. Perhaps one of the most challenging aspects of preschoolers is their bountiful spurts of energy. So I want to show you the activities that I use to get preschoolers using that amazing energy in a constructive way through music and gross motor  movement.

Music and Movement for Preschoolers

Bean Bags: These are one of my all time favorites for an organized large group activity. We turn on the “Pass the Bean Bag” song, and around the bean bag goes, mesmerizing each child as they hope the music stops while they are holding it. We also love balancing bean bags on our elbows, nose, ears, knees, and head. Plus they are great for throwing into a cardboard box with shape cutouts. Our bean bags are shapes (and used to have shapes labeled and painted on them), and there are some that have letters too.

Bean bags

Ribbons and scarves: Who can resist the excitement of flowing pieces of fabric twirling through the air? Even the the most shy and timid child opens up with the opportunity to bring these colors to flight! Tie some scarves together, and you can create a game for multiple children to participate in.

Musical instruments: Whether it is maracas, a tambourine, drum, microphone, etc. preschoolers love musical instruments! It’s also super fun to make them as well. We will be making some rain sticks later on, and I’ll post about those!

Tunnel:  I live in a climate where winter can be extended over eight months, so we thrive on indoor gross motor activities. Crawling through a tunnel is a fantastic way to get those wiggles out, especially if we have a cold spell that keeps us in for an entire week.

Parachute: We also love using a parachute! Our favorite game is to put someone in the middle and run. We also practice shaking it faster and slower, higher and lower. Sometimes we just sit on top of it and have a circle time. We also enjoy putting it over our heads and behind our backs until we’re sitting on it again  and all inside, like a turtle inside of a shell.


A bridge and a boat: The picture of the wooden bridge turns into a boat for four preschoolers to sit comfortably. If you are looking for a great gross motor activity for indoors, I highly recommend these! I found the best deal at Amazon.

Bridge and boat

What are some of your “go to” activities when your little one(s) need to get some wiggles out?


Preschool Supplies for Back to School — Sensory and Fine Motor

Preschool Supplies

It’s back to school season, and I’m continuing my series on my favorite supplies for preschool aged children. The other learning domains I have written about are art, math, and science; music and movement; and manipulatives and puzzles. Now for two more fantastic ways to offer learning experiences to young children: through sensory play and fine motor skills.

Sensory play crosses several learning domains, and while you could easily label it as science, I like to give it a category of its own. While sensory play is enriching for all children, I find it to be a daily essential for the kiddos who are very tactile learners.

Fine motor skills are demonstrated in most art activities, so I won’t be going into those. Instead I am featuring fine motor activities that can supplement everyday activities. I hope you enjoy!

Sensory for Preschoolers

Sensory tables: Don’t be scared by the name or price — a wide and shallow container would suffice if you did not have an actual sand and water table. I love to have one outdoors each day when the weather is nice, and we use one indoors as well (although not every day). These are great for the obvious sand and water, but I also love to turn mine into a well of bubbles or even add colored ice cubes. Dry items such as rice, beans, or birdseed also make for wonderful learning adventures. Sand and water play are great materials for children to discover and explore with each day.

Sand: My sandbox is absolutely one of the most popular activities every week!  Another one of our favorite activities is writing letters in shallow containers of colored sand. I buy play sand from a hardware store such as Home Depot or Lowe’s, and I can fill my entire sand box for under $10.

Discovery bottles: Also known as sensory bottles, these containers of visual bliss are absolutely perfect for providing a contained sensory environment! We make our own sensory bottles and add items to reflect different themes that we are studying. Here is my post with a tutorial on making a discovery bottle, and I recommend checking out some beautiful rainbow discovery bottles from Fun at Home With Kids.

Sensory activities: You can make several sensory recipes. Some of my favorites are oobleck, gak/slime, anything foamy (and safe), and play dough. Or you can buy some water beads/aqua pearls/whatever other name they’ve thought of lately.  These are perfect activities when you have one of those weeks that the kiddos seem to be extra busy!

Fine Motor Activities for Preschoolers

Eye droppers and pipettes: We try to use these almost every day to help strengthen the muscles which are used for writing and many other important hand coordination skills. They are especially great for watering our class greenhouse. I purchase both of these from Amazon.

Lacing activities: There are so many lacing opportunities out there: lacing beads, shoe lacing books, lacing cards, and lacing any objects such as buttons with a large enough hole. Lacing cards can easily be made by laminating a picture and hole punching it. I purchased the shoe lacing book with my class points from Scholastic. Free is great, right!

Spreaders: We love to use the plastic knives from IKEA for spreading. Popsicle sticks also work great for this! I have been known to hand one to each child in my class so that they could spread cream cheese, jam, or peanut butter (if there are no allergies) on our snacks and sandwiches.

Other tools: Some more great “tools” for enriching fine motor skills are tweezers, tongs, and spray bottles. I have recently become fond of “practical living” Montessori activities, and I find that most of these activities involve these types of utensils.

I would love to hear about some of your favorite sensory and fine motor activities!

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Hot Laminator Deal — Today Only 8/26

Today Amazon’s Deal of the Day is a Swingline Laminator for $14.99. This is possibly the lowest price I have seen on Amazon’s Deal of the Day for laminators. I use my laminator every week, and it is a great way to preserve learning activities for preschool aged children. While I do not have this specific laminator, the reviews on it look great. So if you have been waiting for a great deal on a laminator, here it is!

Here are the laminating pouches that I buy to go with my laminator. The quality of these pouches are a perfect match for the wear and tear that preschoolers bring.