Preschool Inspirations

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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.



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


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).


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

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.

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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!