Preschool Inspirations

The world is their playground!


3 Comments

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!

Advertisements


Leave a comment

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.

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B004FM76BK/ref=xs_gb_A1Y7W5RENE08GH?_encoding=UTF8&m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_p=441937901&pf_rd_s=right-1&pf_rd_t=701&pf_rd_i=20&pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_r=0SMPMN0H7AQHFBXY0TNC


10 Comments

Preschool Supplies for Back to School

Preschool Supplies

I must admit that I am always super excited when it’s time to buy more supplies for my preschool. When I was an Assistant Director, I had six classrooms that I was in charge of buying supplies for. That was school shopping heaven to me! Now that I just have my one classroom, my budget has weaned down substantially. There are certainly supplies that I feel are the best use of our money, so I wanted to highlight them for anyone who is buying for a preschool center, child care center, in home preschool, homeschool preschool, or Sunday School program. This is by no means an extensive list, but it is a bunch of my personal favorites. The first three areas I am going to share about are art, science, and math. To see the rest of the series you can click here: sensory play and fine motor activities, movement and music, and manipulatives and puzzles.

Please be sure to provide proper supervision with these materials.

art suppliesPaint: My favorite is washable tempera paint from Discount School Supply because it is the best quality for the price. Other paints I have bought have had an undesirable scent and aren’t as vibrant.

Crayons: I love the twistables because they stay the same size, so I don’t have to worry as much about them getting too small and becoming a choking hazard. There is some training required in helping them twist it to a good height though.

Paint brushes: It’s great to have the chubby ones for new painters and skinnier ones as they become more proficient in painting.

Markers: Go for washable!

Scissors: We have the kind that won’t cut hair and also the kind that work really well. I save the ones that cut really well for the four year olds and older three year olds who have proven themselves trustworthy.

Liquid Watercolor: This is a food coloring substitute, and it is amazing!!! It is washable, and I almost couldn’t imagine life without it. You can find it at Discount School Supply.

Glue bottles and glue sticks: Some projects need liquid glue, but I am also a huge fan of glue sticks since it is easiest for a preschooler to use.

Play dough: We make a homemade recipe so that we can add peppermint to it, and it lasts longer than store bought too.

Shimmer: Okay, so this would be a splurge item. I just love adding glitter to our art supplies, so it’s worth it to us! I purchase “Make it Glitter” at Discount school supply and add it to paint and discovery bottles.

Paper: Get an assortment of colors. I usually buy this in bulk at Costco. I like to get tissue paper at the dollar store.

Pom poms: These are great for so many projects! I buy big bags through Discount School Supply or with a coupon at Hobby Lobby.

Chenille stems (pipe cleaners): I think that almost any project could use these in some sort of form. They’re great for science too as you will see below.

Googly eyes: I find these at my local dollar store, and there are fancy ones too with eye lashes and colored eyes (although I wish I could get those ones at the dollar store too).

Science

Natural items: I rotate items such as sea shells, rocks, pine cones, leaves, etc. We have our own class greenhouse, so I do a lot with plants, vegetables, and observing growth. However, anyone can do something as simple as planting grass seed as pictured in the upper left corner.

Tools: These are just items to use to explore what they are observing such as a magnifying glass, tweezers, insect cages, butterfly tents, etc.

Photos of nature: Books are a great source for these. I love finding books at the library with actual photographs of what we are studying. My husband and I also love to photograph, and since we live in Colorado, we have lots of opportunities to take pictures of weather, animals, and other natural occurrences such as leaves changing color. National Geographic has some great magazines for children that offer beautiful pictures as well.

Class pet: Pets are wonderful source of learning for children. I have had classes with fish and guinea pigs, as well as an occasional visit from a class member’s friend from home. I have not had much luck with my last two class fish, so we’ve stuck with class plants for now.

Magnets: We are addicted to magnets…floating magnets, using chenille stems as magnets, magnetic white boards, magnetic letters, etc. I keep magnetic strips around so that I can make more magnets even. The floating magnets pictured in the above collage is from Discount School Supply.

Math for Preschoolers

Counting Bears: These have been my all time favorite math activity. Oh yeah, my classes have loved them too! They are available at any school supply store and amazon.

Number correspondence activities: Many of these can be homemade, or there are tons of printables online for them. The fish one pictured above is from obseussed.com.

Learning mats: Scholastic has put out a bunch of great learning mats. We have another one that is patterns too. These types of materials can be replicated and teacher made/homemade by laminating a math activity of your choice. I usually make ones for whatever unit we are studying.

Sorting activities: Many materials can be used to teach sorting, whether it’s by color, shape, or size. I used some buttons above that I bought from Oriental Trading Company. I chose these particular ones because they are not a choking hazard.

Patterns: Typically, lots of sorting objects can be used to make patterns too. We love to make patterns out of our snacks, finger puppets, and of course…counting bears!

Shapes: There are some fantastic ways to explore shapes. Pattern blocks and boards supply hours of fun in our class, and we also love shape puzzles. The self correcting puzzle above is from Discount School Supply.

Counting activities: The most successful way that we have learned to count is through our abacus. We count by 1s and by 10s. This is my “go to” object to see how high each child is counting. I must also admit that we spend lots of time counting to Jack Hartmann’s “Count to 100” song as well.

I hope you find these supplies and activities to be a source of inspiration for educating the little one(s) in your life. I am looking forward to sharing more activities in the rest of my “Preschool Supplies for Back to School” series.

This post has been featured on Discover and Explore through TeachPreschool.org:

Discover & Explore Weekly Themed Linky


2 Comments

Fun Ways to Encourage Children to Write

Writing in Preschool

The most frequent question I am asked when people find out I am a preschool teacher is how to help children write their letters. I must admit that I LOVE this specific question because I am naturally a teacher who puts a lot of emphasis into writing and literacy. I also feel that writing should be adopted by children with admiration. I can remember feeling stressed about this in kindergarten, so I have made it my mission to find exciting and fun ways to teach children how to write. While I have lots of activities that encourage writing, here are my favorites.

1.) Writing in play dough

Play dough is such a fantastic medium. It gives children the chance to be a creator and artist, and it is super fun to write in. Just hand your little one a pencil while playing with play dough and help lead the way. Write things such as their name, their favorite animal, or how old they are.

DSC_0898

2.) Writing in Journals

What I use for journals are notebooks — they can have a fun cover or just be something simple. I write the child’s name on the front to help with name recognition, and I offer this opportunity every day after lunch. They have a basket of colored pencils to choose from, and the writing frenzy begins. To me it does not matter if they are writing or drawing, as long as they are using the skills to progress in forming shapes/letters and strengthening the muscles that will help in writing.

Preschool journal

3.) Writing in Cream

One of my favorite ways to teach is through some sort of sensory method. When a child is able to have an “experience,” learning stretches to greater depths. To offer this activity, put some whipped cream/shaving cream on a table top, have the child spread it smooth, and have them write letters in this foamy goodness. If using shaving cream, close supervision is necessary to make sure your child does not intake the shaving cream in any way.

DSC_1709

4.) A writing notebook

This has been my class’ favorite method of writing for years! I made a writing notebook by putting laminated writing sheets into an empty 3 ring binder. We have tracing sheets with each child’s name, letter and number sheets from teacherspayteachers.com (the free ones), as well as other writing sheets that correlate with what we are studying. Two of my favorite websites with printables are homeschoolcreations.com and at 123Homeschool4me.com. We just use dry erase markers on the laminated sheets, and wipe them off or spray them off with water when finished.

Writing Notebook

5.) Writing Apps

I am a believer in exposing preschoolers to technology. At this point my daughter (4) is able to use the apps on my tablet as well as I am. It’s amazing how quickly they pick these skills up. I found a wonderful app called ABC tracing. This particular app is perfect for preschoolers. There is an easy and hard setting so that once your child is more proficient in tracing, they can jump up to the next level. It shows how to properly trace the letter, and it is full of positive reinforcement. Plus you can make your own words, so you can put your child’s name in for her to practice. It was definitely a few dollars well spent to purchase this, and there is even a free version if you want to try it out first.

DSC_1705

6.) Writing in Colored Sand

This activity is one that I get requests for on a regular basis! I just put colored sand in the bottom of a wide and shallow container, then I put alphabet cards next to it. Each child chooses which cards she wants to trace, then she writes the letter in the sand. Plus shaking it smooth again is so much fun.

Writing in sand

When starting out I always recommend helping children write letters that are meaningful to them. Use the letters in their name or the name of someone that is very close to them. My daughter’s name is 8 letters long, so it was definitely not her first written word. Instead it was “Mimi,” a nice easy word of someone who is very important to her. What other fun ways have you found to be successful in helping children write?


Leave a comment

The First Day of Preschool

First Day of Preschool

The first day of preschool is such an exciting day, and I want to share some tips to make it flow as smoothly as possible!

1) Prep your child for this big day. The day before preschool begins, let your child know that he will be starting preschool tomorrow. Tell him how exciting it will be as he will get to play and meet new friends. Describe some of the events that will take place such as playing inside and outside. Also prepare your child that you will take him to school and you will be leaving for the morning/day.

2) Make drop off a quick process. There are definitely kiddos who may start crying once you arrive at preschool and realize you will not be staying. Sometimes this happens the first day, but it may even happen on the second or third day.  If your child is crying when you leave, be comforted by this teacher secret: somewhere around 95% of those children have stopped crying within 1-5 minutes of you leaving (in my experience at least). They just need you out of sight to help with the process. Lots of kiddos won’t cry at all, so don’t worry if they are happy for you to leave.

3) Show up with all items that are needed. Look through the paperwork and find which belongings you will need to bring and be sure to have them all, which I would recommend you label with their name. Usually you will need an extra set of clothes, and you may need to bring a lunch or school supplies. If your child is in a program that incorporates nap and allows a special blanket or stuffed animal from home, I would recommend bringing something that they find familiarity in. I especially love the little Pillow Pets. They are a pillow and stuffed animal all in one, and they are easy to store in a cubby.

This first day of preschool is a huge milestone, and if you are feeling a little emotional about it, that is completely understandable. Lots of parents have shed a tear or two, and you won’t be the last. Enjoy this step your family is taking, and welcome to preschool!

To find out how to help prepare your child for preschool, read more here.


8 Comments

Growing Children With a Greenhouse

Collage

“I am the Lorax. I speak for the trees. I speak for the trees for the trees have no tongues.” The Lorax by Dr. Seuss

Children are driven by curiosity. I believe that they are very misunderstood at times because of this. Much of the world tells them “don’t touch that,” “stay away from there,” or “leave it alone.” A better alternative is to provide an environment which encourages children to be carefully guided by their senses. It’s definitely not a free for all with uninhibited chaos though! It is a planned environment with on going training which honors respect. One of my ultimate goals in teaching is to encourage respect for the people and the items in our lives. If the children in my class leave being academic overachievers but lack respect, then I have failed them on one of the most important aspects of life.

In my own classroom, I am constantly trying to create an environment with many opportunities to practice being intentional. My biggest training ground has been our “greenhouse project.” I have to humbly admit that this was somewhat of an accident. Initially, this was to be a fun place to observe growth and expand our science and math activities and to provide healthy snacks. Little did I know how much I underestimated one of the greatest treasures that it offered us: the process of cultivating respect.

I have made our greenhouse available as an opportunity to explore each day. It is amazing how the plants easily transitioned into teachers of their own. Our class has learned to listen to the plants and follow their lead. When the cucumber needs more time to grow and develop, it’s sharp peel and prickly leaves instantly communicate this to the little fingers. Once the cucumber turns softer and is about to fall off the stem, then we know it is telling us that it is time to interact and enjoy it. When these three and four year olds see saggy leaves, they know that the squash is asking for a drink because it is thirsty. I especially love how these kiddos know these plants so well that they can identify them by the leaves. Even though none of the strawberries have appeared yet, it is still known as the strawberry plant. They will just point and call each by name: squash, cucumber, watermelon, peppers, basil, oregano, tomatoes, strawberries, marigolds, zinnias, pansies, beans, lettuce, and lavender.

In the beginning, I had to accompany the children in through the latched door and allow them to touch with a “one finger touch” in order to guard the plants. In a few short days, each child came to the realization that plants needed to be cared for gently. If they really want to pluck something, they are allowed to pick lavender with permission. All of the other plants may only be touched though. I felt that it was important to have the children water the plants as well. I put a container of water inside of the greenhouse with pipettes, so that the children could water whichever plants they wanted. Plus since it is a pipette, I don’t have to worry about any of our plants getting too much water.

Our greenhouse is now part of our daily routine. The latch is no longer needed as they have increased their awareness and understanding of how plants are to be treated. There is not a day that goes by in which someone does not ask to go in the greenhouse. The process of tending for the plants is about 5-15 minutes, depending on the child. For the most part, they are allowed to stay in as long as they like. I love how the garden has become an oasis as it invites the children to come in, relax, and to enjoy. Time seems to slow down, and there is an added sense of calm.

We have had our thriving garden in the greenhouse for a little over two months now, and I wish we would have put it in sooner. What a haven it is. There is much more to plants than I ever understood, and I am sure that I am just beginning to understand this incredible process.

This post has been featured at:

HappyandBlessedHome.com


Leave a comment

Creative Spaces — Interest Centers

Creative Spaces -- Interest Centers

Interest centers are such a vital aspect of a classroom! While educators are teaching and working with small groups, our centers are taking the lead in child initiated learning. It’s such an amazing blend. Sometimes I wish I could just go around and tour all of the local preschools to be inspired by other interest centers. It is always exciting to find creativity in another teacher’s classroom to enhance your own room. As an early childhood teacher of over 12 years, I have had the privilege of seeing many amazing child care and preschool programs, and I wanted to share one of my favorites!

Early Connections Learning Centers is a non profit, NAEYC accredited preschool and child care program in Colorado Springs, and they have some incredibly talented educators among them! Their Curriculum and Assessment Director gave me the grand tour of two of their sites. Early Connections has six locations, all with preschool classrooms. I was able to tour eight of their classrooms, and I wanted to pass along the inspiring creativity.  Here are some snap shots of their interest centers. What has inspired you? I would love to hear more creative ideas!