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.

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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.


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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.


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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


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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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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


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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.

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