Saturday, February 15, 2014

Valentine's Day

I am so glad I decided to dedicate whole weeks to the holidays this year. It's too hard to try to fit them into another theme, and it's fun to celebrate with fun learning activities. I just somehow forgot to take any pictures...

Dramatic Play/Blocks
It has nothing to do with Valentine's. I couldn't really think of anything that did. I had requests from some kids to have out stick horses, so I got them out, along with cowboy hats and vests. To go along with that, I also put the barns and farm animals in the block area. And again, due to popular demand, I had out the doll house and people.

We made TP tube hearts. I also had paint brushes out so they could just paint with the red and pink paint too.
I'd had requests for glue and glitter the week before too, to make valentines, so when things slowed up with the painting, I pulled out the glue and glitter and the art table was busy the rest of the day. It was a messy, but fun day of art!
Thursday, we made our bags to collect our valentines in. There were die cuts, stickers, and stamps. There was also paper for them to make valentines once their bags were done.

Small Manips
We did a valentine puzzle, ordering numbers 1-10 to make a picture. I found it here.
We also made valentine and heart pictures with beads. Found here.

We had valentine stamps, die cuts, and colored paper to make valentines.

The first day we got our sugar fix by decorating and eating heart sugar cookies.
The next day we tried to be healthier (mainly since they'd be getting their valentines today), so we made healthy pink smoothies with berries, bananas, and mangoes. We also added heart shaped ice cubes.

We only had 1 outside day with bad weather, but snow is melting, and we're already getting spring fever over here!

Large Group
We learned the song Skidamarink.
Day 1, we read a book called The Best Thing About Valentines, and learned that the nest thing is having friends to exchange valentines with. We then sorted and graphed conversation hearts. I introduced graphing by looking at our weather graph we do daily, then we graphed some hearts as a large group. We reviewed the instructions several times (sort, graph, show teacher, then eat) and I was SO impressed at how well they followed them. Every single one of the, sorted and graphed their hearts with NO HELP! I was very proud of them!


Day 2, we read Franklin's Valentine, then passed out our valentines. I attempted this last year one at a time, while they waited. Not great. So this year, I put my mom skills to use, and did what I often do when I need to get something done, I turned on a show. It was educational, though! I tried to find a good valentines movie and couldn't, so instead we watched an episode of Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood about friendship. It worked like a charm, and I was able to help each child pass out their valentines, then we went home (we did small group first today).

Small Group
We made tissue paper hearts. It helped with small motor skills (scrunching the tissue paper), and also reviewed their number recognition. I got the idea here.

We did a phonics activity, focusing on beginning sounds. I got it here

Friday, February 7, 2014


We had a fun and productive few weeks learning about friendship. It's one of our most important themes, since the main reason parents put their kids in preschool is to learn social skills. It's also a little difficult as a theme, since it's based on skills I'm trying to teach them each day.
We learned the word cooperate, and practiced cooperating in our play and clean up times. They did awesome!
Name Writing
Our name writing practicing is going really well, and each morning they have remembered to move their bus and come write their name with me. We're working on starting all letters from the top, and I'm already seeing great improvements. They're even more willing to write their names on their own now in art and the writing center.

Dramatic Play
I got out the tents and tunnels, since winter time is making us a little stir crazy, and needing some more active play! They have a blast playing in them, and I love watching the games they play and the great imaginative things they come up with!

One of their dinosaur castles, protecting the baby dinos from an impending volcano:

Since the kids have been begging for dinosaur toys, they came out this week! I only planned on it for 2 days, but each day, they'd ask to have them out the next day, so they were out all 4. I set out the book, The Mine-o-saur, so at least it went along with our friendship theme. It was great having the book there, and I ended up reading it to them all several times during their play, and it's an awesome book about a dinosaur who's selfish, then learns to share to make friends.
Their dinosaur play is fun to watch too. They built them homes, castles, and nests with the blocks, and took them into the tunnels on trips and to bedtime. Great imaginative play this week.

We painted with frozen paint. I just freeze it over night in an ice cube tray with popsicle sticks. It's kind of like a crayon at first, then once it starts melting, it paints more like paint. They liked it, and made quite a few pictures at the beginning, but the tents and dinosaurs won most of the attention this day!

We played play dough with capital ABC stamps and scissors. I love scissors and play dough. It's a great way to master the cutting skill, and strengthen small motor skills, and it's easier than paper to start out.

We had another sensory play day with trays of baking soda and cups of colored vinegar with droppers. The droppers are another great small motor skill. This was a huge hit, and they were amazed by the fizzing and bubbling they made when combined! It was also fun to watch the colors mix. And of course, my child figured out that when you add enough vinegar, it makes a sticky dough. That was a lot of fun for many of the kids, and they played here until they were all just colored blobs!


We painted with ABC stamps. Even with all the fun art we do, sometimes they just want to paint, and they had a great time.

Small Manips
We did ABC floor puzzles.

We played with the number peg puzzles.

We threaded ABC beads.

We did a letter rubbing activity, so they could rub the letters onto their papers. I have these alphabet cards I laminated, then traced over the letters with puffy paint. I use them for the kids to trace over the letters to practice their formation and learn their name and sound (it's a powerful tool, to combine the senses, in touching the letter, saying it, and hearing it). I showed them how they can also use it for the crayon rubbings and they enjoyed that.

The first day, we carried over our Jan Brett theme with Gingerbread Friends. For snack, I shared the original Gingerbread Boy story, then we made gingerbread people. I wanted a healthier snack, so we cut them out of bread, them toasted them, and added some jelly or cinnamon/sugar. This was one of their favorite snacks, and I've already had several requests for toast again!

Small Group
Week 1, our volunteer moms read the book The Crayon Box That Talked. It's about crayons who can't get along, until they realize they're all important. The kids then each got 1 crayon, and had to work together to make a picture. Tuesday's group was really sweet and wanted to give their picture to one of our friends who was home recovering from tonsil surgery.
I continued practicing numbers and counting with the kids with a game with our math "friends."

We rolled our giant dice, then, the kids had to each count out that many "friends." It was nice for me to be able to work with them one-on-one on this important skill.

Week 2, our volunteers helped the kids with their number recognition by reading the book Chicka Chicka 123, then the kids found and glued numbers 1-10 on their trees. Nothing to do with friendship, but number recognition is something we're really working on right now.
My group played with our math "friends" again to practice more sorting and patterning. We've done a lot of this, but I was reminded how much I need to use the proper vocabulary with them. When I explained we were going to sort them, they were all confused. Once I explained what sorting was, they got it and did great, but I need to use the word sort more, so they recognize what it is they're doing.

Large Group
Day 1, we read Gingerbread Friends by Jan Brett, and watched a Sesame Street clip about what friends are and why they're important. We had a great discussion, then played a Gingerbread people game. It was the same one we played over Christmas, and they were excited to see the people hidden all over the room. I showed them a Gingerbread man or woman, then they had to find its match hidden in the room. This time, I told them we were working on cooperation, so once someone found it, they needed to help their friends come find it. No competition to be first, but cooperation to help each other. They did really great at working together and not arguing!

Day 2, we read a book about cooperation, then cooperated to build a Lego tower. First, the kids each got their own pile of blocks and were told to build the tallest tower they could, and they weren't allowed to share. They didn't love that rule, and thought it wasn't nice to not share. They all finished their towers, and thought they were pretty small.  I asked what we could do to make a bigger tower, and they all wanted to share. We pooled the blocks together, stacked our towers, and had to help each other hold it steady, and we learned to cooperate. We then wrote in our journals about ways we can cooperate. We had to skip outside time because of rain today, so we had extra time and made Get Well cards to cheer up one of our classmates and friends who had her tonsils out.

Day 3, we read a book called Making Friends by Fred Rogers. It had a lot of good discussion points, like about how hard it can be to play with friends who want to do different things and how to do that, or what to do when you're left out by your friends, or get in a fight with friends. We spent a lot of time talking about these situations, and role playing what we can do in those situations. Often, these are things I tackle during play time (seeing someone left out, or someone trying to join and doesn't know how, and kids fighting or having a hard time sharing, etc), and I think it has the most impact when it's actually happening (one of the reasons the free play time is SO important in pre-k), but how to deal with these situations is something that needs to be taught and role-played.
When I help children in these situations, I try to not solve the problem for them, but talk through with them what they can do, then offer the support they need to do it. (For example, Tommy won't share that toy Billy wants, so I go over and help Billy ask Tommy if he is done with the toy yet, and if not, if he can play with it when you're done, and other situations close to that.) This is what we role play too. Role playing can be powerful. I've seen it work with my daughter, who gets frustrated easily when she doesn't get her way with friends, and I've seen her leave, and take deep breaths to calm down before coming back to work things out. This is something we've had to practice over and over for her to finally start doing it! Role playing with your children can offer them a powerful problem-solving tool.

Day 4, we read a book about being selfish and it had so many great discussion points. The kids had lots to talk about and we role played too. It ended up taking up most of our time so we couldn't do our activity, since we fit in show and tell. I didn't mind though, because they were right on topic and it was a productive lesson about selfishness and sharing!

Outside time this week was cut short because of bad air quality, and rain/snow, but the days we got out were fun. We enjoyed more coloring the snow with these food coloring/water bottles and that's always a hit. The snow is also low enough to swing on the swing set some more, and they always like sledding. They also searched the yard for deer footprints, and loved discovering that the birds have eaten almost all their bird seeds! It's fun to see the scratch marks in the peanut butter where they were eating.