Saturday, December 21, 2013


 As I always say, we had a great time these last 2 weeks! How can you not have fun, celebrating the holidays?

 Dramatic Play
We went back to the housekeeping dramatic play (always a favorite) with the addition of 2 Christmas trees (one was a felt one on the wall) and Christmas masks. The kids love the masks and had fun playing "Santa Claus" and delivering presents, made from empty boxes I had wrapped and placed under the tree. The mirror was awesome this week because they loved switching masks and checking themselves out.

The block area was taken over by the Christmas tree and fake presents, plus the felt tree on the wall. This is also where we collected your donations, under the tree in big wrapped boxes. I also had the doll house out. Maybe the old-fashioned feel of a doll house under s Christmas tree makes me think of Christmas. The dolls even had their own little tree.

We made snowflakes for our class tree. I had the paper cut into squares and folded, and they only had to cut it. I knew it'd be hard, but they did a great job! I was impressed. They all cut off the corners because that was the easiest, some cut out a few more shapes, and they mostly cut slits. I only had to help a little. They loved opening them to see their creation! We then added glue and glitter. It was a fun mess!

 Day 2, we painted the salt dough ornaments they had made Tuesday. They were all colorful and bright! A true preschool masterpiece. You can see a few on our tree.

 We decorated these styrofoam "trees" with pipe cleaners and pony beads from here. It was planned as a fine motor activity for the small manips area, but it fit better at the art table. I honestly didn't expect it to be a big hit, but they all did it! They really wanted to take them home too, but they stayed at school. It was a really good fine motor skill that required a lot of concentration. I was also pleasanly surprised when I checked them out to see how many patterns were made, with no help or prompting to do so by me!

We played with peppermint playdough. I used my usual recipe, but added some peppermint extract so they smelled like candy canes. It still smelled like playdough, but left their hands peppermint-y and they loved that. Some even tasted it, and regretted that. We had Christmas cookie cutters and this was a very popular center!

 Small Manips
We had Christmas ABC and picture puzzles.

We played Charlie Brown Christmas dominoes.

We played with the counting tree magnets. There are magnets on the pom poms so they can attach to the trees on cookie sheets. It's a great counting activity. I made the sheets with non-copyrighted pictures, so you can download them here if you want to try them out at home.

I made this bean bag toss board, and the kids loved having a fun and active game, that required sharing and taking turns! It was a hit.

We had out 2 books on cd, The Polar Express, and The Night Before Christmas the whole 2 weeks too. 

This is usually a rotation of stamps, stickers, and stencils in addition to the writing materials always available, so Christmas added a fun twist.
We had Christmas cards out the first day, and I put them away, except every day they begged for them, so I had to pull them back out each day. They wrote and delivered them to each other for 4 days and it was so cute and kind!
 We also had Christmas stamps and stickers.

Besides the usuals, we had Christmas tree waffles for snack. The kids helped prepare the batter, then cleaned up as I cooked them. I cut their waffles into 4 triangles and stacked them to look like trees. I got the idea from here on pinterest, but ours weren't quite as fancy :) They were tasty, and almost each kid ate 2! 

Here's the recipe we used (they especially loved beating the egg whites)
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
3 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs
1 1/4 cups milk
1/2 cup oil
Mix together dry ingredients. Combine egg yolks and milk. Stir into dry ingredients. Stir in oil. Beat egg whites until very stiff. Fold into batter. Don't over mix. Makes about 8 waffles.

The last day, we bagged the healthy thing for once, and decorated sugar cookies that we ate with hot (lukewarm) chocolate. It's Christmas :)

Snow. We figured if I dress them as we eat snack, we can get 10-15 minutes of outside time before we need another 5-10 minutes to get boots and coats off for large group. It's time consuming, but they need the active time, and they love it so it's worth it. We did have 2 inside days with the inversion and storm.

 Large Group 
We read "Merry Christmas Mouse" and "If You Take a Mouse to the Movies" with my stuffed mouse as incentive to listen quietly (we passed it to good listeners as we read). We wrote our favorite Christmas traditions in our journals, then instead of small group, our Mom helper helped us make salt dough hand print ornaments. Their favorite part seemed to be helping make and mix the dough. They each rolled them out themselves too and did a great job!
 Day 2, we celebrated St. Lucia Day and read about and looked at pictures of how they celebrate in Sweden. For small group, we split into boys and girls to make our hats. The boys made cone "star boy" hats and the girls made candle wreaths. I wanted to get a group picture, but as they finished we were getting coats on and such and just run out of time.

 Day 3 was all about Christmas trees (this is the day we had the counting trees in small manips, the styrofoam trees in art and trees for snack). We read "The Best Christmas Tree Ever" and then made our name trees. Man, these kids are SMART! I had their trees cut with the letters of their name, and they had to spell out their name to make their tree. Then they used their markers to decorate their trees with ornaments. Without prompting, they started comparing names and counting how many letters each person had, who had more and fewer, and which letters were the same and different. I never had to lead the conversation or butt in, yet they were doing all sorts of great learning from each other!
 Day 4 was about finishing our service project for The Road Home. A HUGE THANK YOU to all of you for donating. We were able to go above and beyond my original plans, and add a few extra items to each kit, plus have boxes of donations beyond just the Hygiene kits, so thank you! During snack, I started the movie, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, and they gathered on the floor to watch once they finished. I then called them over one at a time, so they could each pack a kit. They were very thoughtful in picking things they liked the best. Each kit had: shampoo, soap or body wash, washcloth, comb or hair brush, tissues, hand sanitizer, toothpaste, tooth brush, flossers, chapstick, a toy, plus a crocheted stuffed animal (hand-made by my Grandma, the Great-Grandma of 4 of our students). The bags were even hand made by one of our preschool grandmas so the kids have a good bag to keep!
We had to cut the movie short (skipped some scenes to end it quickly, but I explained them all and they got to watch the ending). We played 2 active games (it was needed on a day we skip outside play). The first was finding Gingerbread Men and Women around the preschool, by searching for the ones that matched the ones I had. The second game was this one from Pinterest. They LOVED it and I highly recommend if for getting some wiggles out! We then passed out some presents, and did small group before heading home on a crazy snowy day!

Small Group
The first week we skipped it, for help in large group activities.
The second week, we made candy canes with pipe cleaners and pony beads. It was a good fine motor activity, and patterning activity to practice our math skills.
My group made handprint Christmas trees.

Saturday, December 7, 2013


Dramatic Play
We blasted off to space in our rocket ship and rocket packs. They had so much fun and played so well together, I kept it out both weeks, although I had only planned on using it the first week.
Week 2 I added other cardboard vehicles. I transformed diaper boxes into cars and planes. I learned that spray paint does not cover them, but at least turns the baby heads different colors :) I simplyt attached elastic straps for their cars and some wheels. My daughter did point out that Daniel Tiger's cardboard cars looked better. I guess I was just leaving more room for imagination (which ended up being good, instead of lazy, because some kids pretended the cars were trains).

Dramatic Play carried over here, but the first week it was smaller, so I had out a variety of large cars, trucks, trains, and boats.

I also added this shape game week 2.
We played with lots of cars!
We drove cars on playdough.
We drove cars through paint.
We drove cars through shaving cream.
And took one break from the cars to make rocket packs too. One of the kids mentioned making one with his mom and adding stickers. So I checked my "beautiful junk" stash and had enough for a rocket pack for each kids. I added some felt flames and a little coat of spray paint, then they got to dress them up with space stickers.

Small Manips
I had a cool felt play area, perfect for this unit, dropped off on my porch from a neighbor this week! It fit perfectly on our new round table too. The kids loved it.
We played with transportation lacing cards (thanks Dollar Tree).
We played with transportation file folder games (thanks to cards from Dollar Tree).
Week 2, I had a different car rug out with the big chunky cars, planes, trains, and boats.
We also played with a Thomas matching game.
We re-enacted The Little Engine That Could with the flannel board story.
We had a book on cd, called Big Heli and Little Heli.

Transportation and construction stickers.
Transportation stamps

We had some inside days with temps below 10 degrees, and the days we did go out were snow days!

Our 2 transportation-related snacks were:
Banana Airplanes
Each child got half a banana, pretzel sticks for wings, and mini colored marshmallows for windows and they each creatively created their own airplane.
We watched part of a Mighty Machines movie about Airplanes as they ate.

Apple Boats
Each child got half an apple and pretzel sticks to make a sail and put it together themselves.

Large Group
Day 1, we learned and read about Boats, then played Will It Float? with many classroom objects. It was fun making predictions, then charting our results.
Day 2, we read about different types of transportation, then wrote in our journals about different types we've used and like.
Day 3, we read The Little Engine that Could, then retold the story with our flannel board.
Day 4, we read about construction vehicles, and made patterns with vehicle cards.

Small Group
Week 1: Transportation Math
Our mom volunteers helped the kids practice counting with dump trucks by counting blocks into them. I found it here on pinterest. We had the printable dump truck, but they liked using a real truck.
I helped them practice patterns with these cards that are also a free printable. I was very impressed that EVERY child can correctly extend a pattern. I tried to have the older group create their own patterns and we weren't as successful, but they tried and I'm proud of where they are, cuz they're right where they should be. We'll keep practicing!
Week 2: Transportation Literacy
Our mom volunteers helped the kids play this letter parking game. I wrote the alphabet in "parking stalls" on box lids, and the kids drove cars into the stalls that matched the letters the moms had on flash cards.
I practiced letters and sounds with them at our "alphabet center." We've used it to practice our small and capital letters, but today we used pictures to sort by beginning sounds. To tie it into transportation, they "flew" a big airplane to the chart with their picture, and had to land it in the right letter.

Friday, November 15, 2013


We had a lot of fun learning new things for our Music week. It pushed me out of my comfort zone, but it was good for us and the kids really enjoyed it!
Dramatic Play
The kids have been begging to have the kitchen back out, since the first week of school. I love making new and elaborate dramatic play centers, but sometimes they just want to play housekeeping. So, we had the kitchen, washer and dyer, plus all the babies back out. Kids all love playing "house" and it's fun for them to be able to act out and play the things they also see and do.
For the second week, I was thinking along the lines of the Arts, since we were learning about Music, and decided to pull in some Theater, with our Puppet Theater. The first day we had it out, I put it in our "Small Manipulatives" area (Large Group area too)so we could keep out the housekeeping things, but it was a big hit, and we didn't have enough room there. So, the second day, I did pull out the kitchen things and put the Puppet Theater over there. We had some great shows, brought chairs over for our audience, and it was a hit the second day too!
The first week, we had out Mega Blocks again, because I have a Mega Blocks piano that plays music, and they can build with it.
The second week, I moved the instruments over here for more room, and added our dancing ribbons and scarves by the mirror. They loved watching themselves dance!
Small Manipulatives
Since the book on cd was such a big hit during Halloween week, I found some more music ones at the library for the kids to listen to and read, that were out at the cd player all week.
I also had the instruments in this area the first week. We had a drum for about 30 minutes each day, but it was loud enough, that I could only stand them playing it the first half hour. I was glad I gave them to chance to play on it. Kids love banging drums and being loud!
We also had some number and counting puzzles in this area the second week.
We played with the Nursery Rhyme felt board stories too.

We started the week with bubble wrap painting, where they painted pieces of bubble wrap, then stamped it onto their papers.
The next day they made drums. I helped them attach the construction paper they wanted, then they decorated with markers, stickers, and glue and sequins.
Another day we just enjoyed painting with water colors.
The last day we made kazoos. I used toilet paper rolls with wax paper held on with a rubber band. We learned with the first 2 kids, that if you paint the paper, the wax paper doesn't vibrate and make the same sound anymore. What a great way to learn a lesson, instead of me just telling them. They told the other kids and showed them their first kazoos, and no one else tried painting the paper.
We had beans and cups in the sensory table.
I also took advantage of the fall weather (and a new table graciously donated by a wonderful preschool Grandma), and took some glue and paper outside for "nature art." They had a blast! We had it out several days and they really liked it. They were surprised I let them glue anything they wanted. Art is all about the process, and creativity, so why not! They glued leaves, sand, dirt, beans from the sensory table, and rocks (which they learned didn't stick).
We also enjoyed a new area of our playground, which has been covered up by leaves so they didn't notice it before. They realized we have some fun climbing rocks and were building towers from rocks and playing fun make believe games out here.
I took advantage of what could be our last warm weather days this fall, and pulled out our tents and tunnels for a week too. The kids played ants and tag in them, and had lots of fun!
We had 2 "musical" snacks. Our first was peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and we read a book to learn the song, Peanut Butter and Jelly. If you don't know it, here it is:
First you take the peanuts and you smash 'em, you smash 'em. (repeat)
CHORUS: For Peanut, Peanut Butter, and Jelly. (whisper jelly) (repeat)
Then you take the grapes and you mash 'em, you mash 'em. (repeat)
Then you take the knife and you spread it, you spread it. (repeat)
Then you take your mouth, and you eat it, you eat it (repeat)
Our next "musical snack" was Rice Krispies cereal and milk. I told the kids their cereal would "sing" when we added milk. They were silent as I poured, and you could hear it popping all over! They loved it and had seconds to hear it again.
Large Group
First, we learned one of my all-time favorite preschool songs, The Music Cantor by Dr. Jean.
Chorus: I am the Music Cantor, I come from Slavic Lander. Eekon Shpeela, Eekon Shpeela.
I'm the viola. I'm the viola.
Vi-o-vi-o-vi-o-o-la, Vi-o-vi-o-o-la! (while playing viola)
I'm the piano. I'm the piano.
Play, play, play, play, play, play, play, play. Play, play, play, play, play play. (while playing piano)
I'm the viola. I'm the viola.
Vi-o-vi-o-vi-o-o-la, Vi-o-vi-o-o-la! (while playing viola)
I'm the tuba. I'm the tuba.
Oompa, oompa, oom-pa-pa. Oompa, oo-oo-oompa. (while playing tuba and bending knees up and down)
I'm the piano. I'm the piano.
Play, play, play, play, play, play, play, play. Play, play, play, play, play play. (while playing piano)
I'm the viola. I'm the viola.
Vi-o-vi-o-vi-o-o-la, Vi-o-vi-o-o-la! (while playing viola)
I'm the bagpipe. I'm the bagpipe.
Nee-nee-nee-nee-nee-nee-nee-nee. Nee-nee-nee-nee-nee-nee. (Plug nose for nasal sound, wiggle throat with index finger to change voice)
I'm the tuba. I'm the tuba.
Oompa, oompa, oom-pa-pa. Oompa, oo-oo-oompa. (while playing tuba and bending knees up and down)
I'm the piano. I'm the piano.
Play, play, play, play, play, play, play, play. Play, play, play, play, play play. (while playing piano)
I'm the viola. I'm the viola.
Vi-o-vi-o-vi-o-o-la, Vi-o-vi-o-o-la! (while playing viola)
I'm the radio. I'm the radio. Click.

They absolutely loved this song, especially the bagpipes!
We learned the word, rhythm, and practiced different rhythms each day, like slap, clap patterns, or moving to slow and fast rhythms.

Day 1, we read about different instruments, then we shook our sillies out with eggs shakers, using Raffi's book and song:
Gotta shake, shake, shake my sillies out. Shake, shake, shake my sillies out. Shake, shake, shake my sillies out, and wiggle my waggles away!
Gotta clap, clap, clap my crazies out. Clap, clap, clap my crazies out. Clap, clap, clap my crazies out, and wiggle my waggles away!
Gotta jump, jump, jump my jiggles out. Jump, jump, jump, my jiggles out! Jump, jump, jump my jiggles out, and wiggle my waggles away!
Gotta yawn, yawn, yawn my sleepies out. Yawn, yawn, yawn my sleepies out. Yawn, yawn, yawn my sleepies out, and wiggle my waggles away!

Day 2, we learned about speed and tempo of music, and also that music expresses feelings. I played some music and we talked about if it sounded fast or slow, and happy or sad. Then we danced with our dancing ribbons (awesome dollar store craft with shower curtain rings and a spool of ribbon) to different types of songs. We moved fast and slow, and I tried to show them how to move with the music and the mood of the music. It was so fun to watch them all move and express themselves.
It was fun to have the ribbons out the next week, and they'd ask for music and dance more.

Day 3, we continued day 2's lesson, but instead of dancing to the music, we painted to it. I had a mural in the hallway (linoleum is easier to clean than carpet) and they painted to the music. I was using a movie's soundtrack this time and one song was so slow and sad, and one child begged me to change it, so we did and found happier music. Some kids just painted, not paying attention to the music at all, while others I watched go slowly with the slower songs, and speed up with the up-tempo ones. We now have a beautiful art piece hanging above dramatic play!

Day 4, we had free choice singing time, to get more time to practice and sing all the songs we've learned so far, and we also had a mom come in and show us her daughter's violin, and let each child try playing that. It was definitely a highlight of our week!
We had another mom visit during snack the first week to show the kids her guitar and let them each play it. Thanks to both of these moms! The kids talked about those 2 things (and playing the loud drum) more than anything else after this theme was over!

Small Groups
We made egg shakers. The volunteers of this group were awesome, filling eggs with cotton balls, or overfilling, to show them how it effects the sound. The kids got to choose from lentils, rice, or beans for their shakers, then decorate them with stickers. The different items didn't effect the sound too much, but just allowed them to have a choice and control, which preschoolers love.
I played Instrument Memory and Bingo with the kids, to learn instrument names. We also learned that instruments come in families, and what those families are. We sorted our pictures from our games into those families. They may not remember them all, but a first exposure to the vocabulary is a start!
We made rubber band instruments. We had wonderful "beautiful junk" donated by all of you, including tissue boxes, shoe boxes, cans, and other containers the kids chose from. They all made different sounds so they enjoyed choosing their favorite, and again decorated with stickers.
I read and discussed Sounds All Around with my group, then we played a game. I had 8 cool whip containers (thanks again to your beautiful junk donations) filled with 4 different objects. Since they couldn't see inside, they had to shake the containers and try to find their match by listening to the sounds.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Happy Halloween!

 I had so much fun dedicating a whole week of learning to Halloween! This is a holiday and theme that the kids are just obsessed with and love, so we couldn't not have fun!

Dramatic Play
How to make something Halloween-ish, but not scary at all? I thought about sticking to the spider web game from last year, but remembered my castle from last year's Fairy Tales unit!

So, I gave the castle some new paint (since we learned too late last year that the cheapest brand IS the cheapest), and added a small Halloween touch. Seriously, 2 signs and a welcome mat. Not scary at all, but still Halloween! I even added a few friendly ghosts and bats from the ceiling.
The castle was a hit, but mainly for what was inside....costumes! All kinds. Almost my whole collection. There were witches, clowns, pumpkins, dragons, knights, princesses, ballerinas, animals, cowboys/girls, safari people, and I think that may be it. Plus random wigs and hats. They had a blast!
They changed and changed over and over and become such fun characters. I loved seeing them dress up, head over to the writing or reading center awhile, then back for another costume change. They needed a way to hold swords and one kid suggested a belt, so I made him a yarn belt and pretty soon everyone had one. They used them to carry swords, stick horses, wands, and artwork. Very creative kids.

On actual Halloween, they were all coming in costume, so I had the spider web on the floor with bugs, plus the headbands and hats from There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Bat (we did it in large group last time), plus the blocks were in there too. They had fun playing again, but not as much fun as they did with the costumes, plus they were all drawn to playdough on day 2.

Day 1 we made egg carton bats courtesy of this pin.
I knew it wouldn't take long and wasn't sure how much interest it would hold (all who wanted to try did it first, then moved on. When art isn't open-ended, it doesn't last), so I had a sensory activity to try too. Thanks to a mom's suggestion (and a rainy day so I couldn't put it in the sensory table outside), we did spaghetti and green jello with Halloween bugs and other toys. It was a huge hit. My girl stayed the whole 45 minutes (in costume, of course) and the others came and went, but it was always a busy area. They love slimy sensory experiences!
Day 2 we had orange play dough with Halloween and Fall cookie cutters.

Small Manips
We played with fall pattern cards (squirrel, leaves, apples)

Spider web lacing cards

We had Halloween stickers and foamie shapes

and Halloween stamps

We had 1 rainy day, which gave us extra large group time for pin the tail on the black cat and lots of songs.
On Halloween we had pumpkins in the sensory table and a few kids gathered some seeds, but none of them would touch it. It's my 5th year doing this, and the first year the kids wouldn't play in it!

Large Group
So fun. We sang 5 Little Pumpkins and Spider on the Floor from the Raffi cd (they asked to do them over and over, especially the spider one). We did a Halloween poem each day, and they all got to participate in playing a part as it built up.
Day 1, we read There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Bat, and the kids wore headbands to help tell the story.
Day 2 we made these candy corn torn paper pictures off of pinterest, and it was awesome! I didn't expect them to do as well as they did, or to enjoy it and spend as much time on it as they did. I expected something quick that they didn't necessarily love, but they took their time on their art. Tearing paper is such a great fine motor skill, and it should be encouraged! Making art out of it is just a plus. We also squoze in a very quick game of Don't Eat Frank before we headed home.

Small Group
The volunteer moms helped teach the pumpkin life cycle by helping the kids create pumpkin "time lines."
My group played a phonics game, but we tied in Halloween because the cards were on pumpkins. I reviewed some letters and sounds with them and identified which pictures started with which sound. They then got a pile of cards with 3 different sounds, and had to sort them with the 3 letters. I was very very impressed with how well they did!

So fun. Again :) We made this cute mummy dogs from this pin, but ours were a little less cute. They made their own and loved doing it. They loved them and wished and begged for seconds!
On Halloween we had healthy snacks of pumpkins and ghosts from this pin.

My favorite moment of Halloween week is when a child asked me to play the cd with its book. I don't have a reading center with headphones, so when I have a book on cd, it just gets placed in front of the cd player if they want to listen to it. As soon as it started, they all came over. They probably went through it at least 4 times, but some listened more. It was fun to see them all huddled around the book in their costumes, intently listening!
This is a group of readers! I change the books out in the reading center each theme, and they flock to them. I get asked to read a story every day and I love it. Once I sit and start reading, they just flock over, and I usually have at least 7 of the 9, if not all of them, for at least 1 story. Then they all start pulling books and we just read and read until I realize clean up time has passed. It's awesome. I love reading to them, and love that they're hearing lots of these stories I can't fit into small and large group.