Monday, June 30, 2014

diy beaded fireworks

This is a patriotic take on a project I originally posted for Valentine's Day. You can turn this into a fun color sorting project by having your kiddos sort out the red, white, and blue beads from a random bead assortment. I picked up my beads a few years ago from a craft store. You can use assorted beads, pony beads, or perler beads even. If your beads are clear, you will want to stick with white, pearl, or silver pipe cleaners.
*pipe cleaners
*assorted beads
*plate or tray for sorting 
Step 1: Sort out the colors you wish to use, for the fireworks we used red, white, and blue beads.

Step 2: Hook one end of a pipe cleaner.

Step 3: Thread on a bead and push it to about two inches from the hooked end.

Step 4: Continue adding beads. The opalescent pipe cleaners are bulkier than the foil so beads with smaller holes will not thread onto them.

Step 5: Thread on a small tight fitting bead when you are about an inch from the end. This will keep the beads from falling off.

Step 6: Twist up the end tail for added protection and hang in a happy place!
 For kicks you might try using one of those GIANT pipe cleaners and larger wooden beads or painted pasta noodles. Ooh...that has given me an idea!

Saturday, June 28, 2014

mini fourth of july round-up!

the little tweaks we do: an observation

When you work with a lot of children you will find that some really like to get into the materials. They are the ones that always seem to have paint on their bodies and play dough in their hair. They are whole body explorers and boy, do they explore. 
You will also find a good number of children who prefer to not get their hands dirty and while it may look like the whole body child is playing more and getting more out of the process it only appears that way.  The child who prefers things orderly, or perhaps is sensitive to different textures is also playing...and learning. It just manifests differently. They are both playing fully and processing as they work.
These two photos were taken moments apart on the day I first introduced baking soda and vinegar to the children. All of the children were engaged and excited in the investigation. As the fun grew louder and um...bigger, one of the children began to back away. This child often enjoys getting elbow deep in paint but the noise level during this activity was a bit too much. I did not want this to be a defining moment where this child might abandon investigative activities due to noise and perhaps carry that around with them so I asked if they would like their own tray to work on in a different area of the classroom. They nodded that they did and a happy child trundled off to a quiet corner to investigate at their own pace.

Much of my work as a teacher is simply observing. To an outsider it might appear that we aren't really doing much at all but we stand or sit and we watch. We constantly make mental notes as to what works, what doesn't work. Who prefers quiet, who loves to sing. Who likes to build, who enjoys puzzles. We watch and observe and take photos and document all that is going on so that we can prepare an environment that meets the needs of all of the children. Some children need to be challenged in their play, others need to build confidence. As we observe we figure out who needs what and it is truly a joy to be a part of it all. Each day brings new discoveries and each group of children makes the classroom feel brand new.

Friday, June 27, 2014

investigating the lid bin

It took me months to save up enough lids for an impressive lid bin. When I introduced it to the children we were all sitting in our kitchen area enjoying our lunches. I brought out the lids which I placed in a sturdy shallow wicker and wire basket. I held the basket/bin under the table and shook it. I asked the children if they could guess what I had. I did this so long ago I forgot what their guesses were. I placed the bin on top of the table and the children were very excited. Who knew? We talked about the shape of the lids, the various colors and how some of the lids had words on them. I told the children the bin would be in our block area if they would like to investigate and immediately upon finishing lunch they swooped down on it. There was stacking and sorting, nesting and counting, design making and patterning. There was a single purple lid that allowed one of the kiddos to complete a "beautiful lid rainbow". All the busyness and exuberance makes my heart go thumpity-thump.  The children enjoy working with the bin and are extra delighted when they find a cap in their lunch or snack bag. Now we have more than one purple lid for more rainbow making. This is preschool math at its best.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

investigating vinegar and baking soda

Back when we did our bubble print trucks, we found we had a lot of leftover watercolor paint in our happy rainbow bowls. I added a hefty dose of vinegar to each cup then gave the kiddos access to baking soda. Minds were blown! There was dumping, scooping, eye-droppering, and of course pouring. It was a spectacular mess and the children loved every minute of it. I am happy that I managed to cover the table top with butcher paper. Our junky clean up towel mopped up the floor. The children went home with fingers tinted in all sorts of colors. Absolutely spectacular!

Friday, June 20, 2014

freight train sorting

Really, this is vehicle sorting on a Freight Train inspired felt train but it was set up to go along with our week of Freight Train by Donald Crews. I use the rainbow in class a lot. I think it is a really great tool for color recognition, sequencing, math, color theory and so much more. We used these vehicle counters and the children spent a lot of time at our sorting center. The felt pieces also made an appearance at our felt board. Train pieces were drawn by the mister and cut out by me. They match the colors and cars in Freight Train.

Other Train books we read:

Locomotive by Brian Floca
The Little Red Caboose by Marian Potter
Trains by Gail Gibbons
Chugga Chugga Choo Choo by Kevin Lewis
I Love Trains by Philemon Sturgess

Thursday, June 19, 2014

snails in the classroom

What more can I say? Snails in the classroom, one of my favorite things and now one of my classroom's favorite things. The Sunday morning before our week of snails, I armed myself with a plastic resealable bag and stepped out into the yard a few minutes after the sprinklers turned off. Snails like moisture and I had to get to them quickly before the mister did them in as they are ferocious eaters and chomp on most everything in the garden. Snails will keep in a container in your fridge for about a week. Add a leaf or two of lettuce or cabbage and seal it up and they are good to go. We kept misting bottles (to keep our mollusky friends comfortable) at the science table along with magnifying glasses and a small mirror. The children enjoyed watching the snails wake up from the refrigerated slumber and counting them throughout the day to see if they were all there (we had one adventurous fella who often strayed away). The children learned about the parts of the snail and habitats. At the end of the day, we returned the snails to their rinsed out bag and gently placed them back in the refrigerator. Don't forget to rinse out the bag so that the poor things will not have to wallow in their own poop. Also, snail poop is hysterical to children. Hysterical! We kept our friends for a week and liberated them to our play yard in the canopy of our enormous succulents.

We also read a lot of books about and starring snails:

Swirl by Swirl: Spirals in Nature by Joyce Sidman
Snaily Snail by Chris Raschka
The Snail and the Whale by Julia Donaldson
Are You a Snail? by Judy Allen
Snail Where are You? by Tomi Ungerer
Slow Snail by Mary Murphy
Oscar and the Snail by Geoff Waring

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

sprouting sunflower seeds: part 2

We began our sprouting jars at the end of our week with the plan that we would be able to plant out our seeds the following week. I took the wee jars home over the weekend and when I brought them back on Monday, sure enough, they were ready to plant out!

*potting soil
*small scoops
*half an egg carton per child
*rimmed trays to work on
*spray bottles/misters

Step 1: Before we began, I opened  out our classroom jar and spread out the damp seeds onto a tray. I then sat down with the children and discussed what had happened to our seeds over the weekend and invited the children to investigate.We then compared fresh seeds to our sprouted seeds and listed how they were different on a large sheet of paper.

Step 2: When the children were ready they came over to the planting center and retrieved their jar. The first thing they did was scoop potting soil into their egg carton.

Step 3: Once their cartons were full of soil, they removed the rim and mesh from their jars and either shook or scooped their seeds out and spread them along the top of the potting soil. Many of the children chose to use their hands for this part.

Step 4. When planting sprouted seeds you do not need to cover them in soil. They can rest lightly on top of the soil as their roots are already developed. You do however need the soil to be damp so pass out those spray bottles and let the kiddos go to town!

Step 5. Once their seeds and soil are full saturated, set in a semi sunny place and keep an eye on them so that the soil does not dry out. The children would revisit their seeds throughout the day and spray them with glee. At the end of the day we would pour water into the trays to keep the cartons wet overnight.
Step 6. Sunflower sprouts appear to grow crazy fast! Once they reach about two inches high, they can be planted outside. If you wait too long they will be a bit root bound in the cartons but that is okay as the carton can be planted directly into the ground. While the children chose their perfect spot and dug their perfect holes, the adults in the classroom gently separated the cups in the carton and helped the children plant out their seeds in our play yard. I do not have any photos of this part and sadly we lost most of our sprouts to a crazy record breaking heat wave but we do have three flowers growing in the yard. Before the heat wave came, the children would check the status of their flowers every day. Once the sprouts began failing do to heat and some over watering by our young enthusiastic gardeners we brought that information into the discussion and now the children as about the temperature and ask which plants are okay or not okay. Awesome learning all around!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

impromptu scissors work

On the day I had planned for us to begin our sprouting jars I realized I had forgotten to bring tulle to use on our jars. Standing in our classroom kitchen I spied our container of bath scrubbies I had an a-ha! moment and pulled one down. I sat myself down at one of our wee tables and was about to begin cutting when the door opened and the first kiddo of the day walked in. He immediately walked up to me and asked what I was doing. When I told him what I was doing and why he decided he wanted to do it too and so off to the art center he went in search of scissors. He sat there quietly cutting and exploring the plastic mesh for more than 30 minutes. So involved was he that he attracted the attention of another student who wanted to do it as well and so we brought down the scrubbie container and set up a cutting station at the art table. I love it when things like this happen!

Monday, June 16, 2014

sprouting sunflower seeds: part 1

 Back in the fall we spent a week investigating all things sunflowers, in March, we sprouted our own seeds to plant in our play yard. The flowers are growing taller everyday but have been so very slow to bloom but that's okay, the children love watering them and talk often of the time they sprouted their seeds. Sunflowers are awesome an awesome bloom. They produce edible seeds and their tiny sprouts are also edible. We set up an area for the children to create their sprouting jars and got to work.

*sunflower seeds (organic optional)
*small jars such as jelly or baby food
*tulle or mesh from a citrus bag or bath scrubbie
*rubber bands or canning jar rings
*small scoops or spoons
*small pitcher of water
*containers for seeds

Step 1. Pass out a small jar for each child. We used 4oz jelly jars with the lid removed and rings set aside. 

Step 2. Have children scoop 1-2 small scoops of seeds into their jar. If you wish for the children to enjoy and sample the sprouts, use organic seeds, otherwise you can use black oiled sunflower seeds used for bird feed which can be found for in 5 pound bags for under $10.

Step 3. Have children pour water into their jars as full as they can. 

Step 4. Place a small square of netting, tulle, or mesh over the top of the jar and add rim or rubber band to hold the netting in place. 

Step 5. Place in a cool dark area of the room and replace water every six to eight hours. We placed our jars onto a rimmed tray so that I could take home and babysit. After the first day, you will pour out the water but continue to rinse every six to eight hours. Seeds should produce a tiny little root/tail in about two to three days. The rinsing is especially important if you are going to be sampling the sprouts/micro greens as the rinsing will help keep anything else growing on your greens.

If you are interested in sprouting seeds for food or fun, check out this nifty info page from The Sprout People. I have found their website to be very helpful and informative.

Friday, June 13, 2014

flowers at the sticky easel

I dismantled a bunch of our play flowers so that the children could arrange flowers on our sticky easel. I added a paper vase and a few pipe cleaner stems and let them have a go at it. This is a nifty activity to invite both solitary play and companion play. A lot of dialogue happens here and it is really fun to watch. Many of these flower parts traveled back to our play dough table, some even made it into our play kitchen and ended up on pizza and in salad. I love seeing what they do with the materials we put out.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

flowers and play dough

This project is not really that different from our flower arranging center yet the children play with it differently. They arrange and display their bouquets and work those fine motors to fill the pails with play dough. We used the same playdough as we did for Monday's flower play. The appearance of the arranging looks different so the children approach it as a different activity, it's really cool and super pretty!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

investigating cornstarch and shaving cream

One box of cornstarch, 1 can of shaving cream. Add some eyedroppers and liquid watercolor and a small spray bottle or two and watch those little minds at work. We used cookie sheets as work stations. Four sheets for four kiddos. They could go as long as they wanted or they did not have to investigate at all.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

fower petal art

This project came from one of my co-teachers and the children really loved it. The results are really pretty even if they do fade over the months. This is not really a keep but still great work for fine motor and discussing design elements with children. My co-teacher used cardboard cake rounds with the centers cut out. I repurposed cereal boxes. We had originally covered the children's art with another layer of clear contact paper but the moisture trapped inside quickly aided the flowers in molding and it was not pretty so you only need one layer of contact paper.

*clear contact paper
*cut cardboard frames from old boxes, cereal boxes, or cake rounds
*assorted flower petals and leaves (we used roses and other edibles)

Step 1. Assemble frames. Cut a square or rectangle of cardboard and carefully cut out the center.

Step 2. Cut a sheet of clear contact paper slightly larger than your frame, attach sticky-side up with the blank side of the cardboard facing forward/top. Trim excess contact paper.

Step 3. Set out flower petals for the children to adhere to their sticky frames. Young children end ot explore by putting things in their mouths, for this reason, it might be best to stick with edible flowers such as roses, nasturtiums, geraniums, and flowering herbs. Go for what is in your garden or better yet, have the children bring in flowers and plants to share. They can dismantle/dissect them a day or two before this project. Store petals and leaves in a bag in the refrigerator.

Step 4. Hang in a window so that the light shines through. Have fun!

Monday, June 9, 2014

flower arranging with preschoolers

The children in my classroom love florist foam. They LOVE it. If I do not glue or tape it down, they will grab that green block up into their little hands and squeeze and squish away until every little last foamy bit is scattered across our carpet. It makes sense, the foam has a delicious texture and a satisfying bite when smooshed. The smooshing also raises the energy level in the classroom which quickly shifts concentrated play into chaotic play. For this reason, our older blocks will appear outside for all the smooshing (and running around) they want but the inside blocks are anchored down so that the kiddos can poke things into them. We reuse shipping styrofoam for toothpick/golf tee, and feather poking but the floral foam comes out for flower arranging so that the children do not have to push so hard. And really, with the flowers, they don't. Some children approach the set up and jab one flower into the mix and dash off while others will sustain 20-30 minutes or more of arranging and rearranging. It's really sweet and lovely! I have used these flowers for all sorts of projects over the past three years!

*small basket w sides 3"-4" high
*1-2 blocks of floral foam
*double stick tape, masking tape or glue
*faux flowers with stems trimmed to 6"-8"
*shallow tray, basket, or plate

Step 1. Adhere foam to baskets.

Step 2. Trim flowers with wire cutters so that they do not tower over the basket. You want them sized for small hands.

Step 3. Arrange flowers on tray and set next to basket

Step 4. Allow play to begin!

Friday, June 6, 2014

a {floral} invitation to play

A lot fo flower cookies were made. We're talking oodles of them. After the cookies were" eaten" the children began making pizzas. If you keep the stems of your flowers you can reattach and put them to some other use. The dough was homemade and tinted green with plants from my garden. The flowers came from the dollar store...$3 worth...not bad, not bad at all.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

bubble print trucks

We were reading Truck by Donald Crews and I wanted some sort of truck art/craft. We had already painted with cars both on paper and on tinfoil so I thought pulling our our rainbow bowls and adding liquid watercolor, soap, and water to the mix would be fun.We used bendy straws to create our bubbles and yes, we did have a young'un suck the soap right up but do you know what? He spit it out and looked at me with his lips all blue and I said "Ah, you got soap in your mouth." He nodded and I asked if he remembered how to blow bubbles using our bubble wand. After he nodded I explained again that we were going to blow through the straws to push air into our mixture. The air would help create bubbles and that once we got a nice hill of bubbles we would plop our paper on top to create a print. He was unsure and dubious of it it so I say with him and demonstrated how you can feel the air come out of the bottom of the straw. After a few tries he tried it again and was SO EXCITED to create bubbles! I know some people prefer to poke a hole in the straw to prevent kiddos from drinking up soap but I find once they do they work really hard and not doing it again. I use a gentle soap from J.R, Watkins and our liquid watercolor is non-toxic. I also make sure to use clean containers for those kiddos that just have to taste it. Here's what you need:

*small containers
*about a half cup of water per container
*hefty squirt of liquid watercolor (you can also use powdered tempera)
*squirt or two of liquid dish soap
*straw per kiddo
*large white paper cut into the shape of a truck
*plastic/vinyl tablecloth optional (it gets messy)

I used our small rainbow cups so offered up six different colors in rainbow order. There was a lot of dialogue and negotiation between the kiddos to see who would work at which bowl first.

Step 1. Set out bowls with water, soap, and watercolor

Step 2. Hand kiddos straws and explain that you will be BLOWING air through the straw not sucking up/drinking the bubble solution. If you need to demo do so. Have the kiddos blow into the straws while placing hteir pother hand underneath. Ask what they feel.

Step 3. Place a truck shape near each kiddo or set aside and wait for when they are ready. I drew my trucks freehand but you may be able to find templates online. You can use rectangular paper or any shape you like. We did trucks because we were on week two of a transportation unit.

Step 4. Have kiddos blow their bubbles. Before it gets too crazy make sure they know that first they will make their prints then they can get all wacky with blowing the biggest bubble mountains ever.

Step 5. When the children are ready, hand them their truck shape and tell them to place it over their bubble mountain. Many will be thrilled with the results and continue over and over again. Some not so much but that's okay too.

Hang trucks to dry for display or take home. This bubble explorations gets super messy so do not do this on carpet. You may even wish to do this outside. Once the kiddos were finished with their prints, I was loathe to waste the watercolor in the bowls so turned the activity into another fun soon!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

diy fluffy beaded clouds

I have to admit that this was one of my favorite projects from our cloud study. They came out so cool and the children really focused on the shape of their clouds calling out the name of the cloud they were making.....stratus! thunder! daddy! It was fantastic! Here's what you need:

*cotton or poly fiberfill
*pony beads and/or cut pieces of straws

Step 1: Have kiddo pull off a fluff of the fiberfill. They will shape their cloud by gently pulling and tugging at the fibers. The children in my class are three so there was a lot of not-so-gentle pulling and a lot more of squashing but it all works out, it does!
Step 2: Depending on the age of your kiddos they can make their pipe cleaner hanger or you can. I made the hangers for my class by bending the top of a pipe cleaner into a hook shape then twisting it back onto itself to create a circle. Add a blob of glue to the straight end of the pipe cleaner and insert it into the fluffy cloud mass.

Step 3: It's beading time! I demonstrated how to wrap the pipe cleaner around your finger to create a twisty bit that could then be beaded. I really wanted the children to bead their beads slowly and with more fine motor work and function than usual so I added the twisty bit. Doing so made for more thought out selection of beads (believe it or not) and the children took more time to work. Sure, some of the pipe cleaners got straightened during the process but it was all good. Older kiddos could think of a pattern for their beads even.**

Step 4: Add a blob of glue to the top of each beaded pipe cleaner and have your kiddo insert it into their cloud. Hang to dry or set aside to dry then hang in a happy place and enjoy!

**I set out beads for the children to string onto their pipe cleaners. At another center we had been cutting paper straws to add to our St. Patrick's Day sensory bin and a few of the children wanted to use the straw pieces as beads so another method was born. Don't ya love that?

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

a happy cloud song

(to the tune of Frere Jacques)
Clouds are floating, clouds are floating
Way up high, in the sky
Cirrus, Alto, Stratus
Cirrus, Alto, Stratus
Way up high
In the sky

In the classroom we use pom-poms as our clouds and float them over our heads. We also read our classroom cloud books (these two are faves) and explored our cloud photographs (a matching game I made from photos I took while on the BIG road trip).

Monday, June 2, 2014

clouds on the sticky easel

I installed a sticky easel in our classroom months ago and the children love sticking things to it. I can get pretty themey with classroom fun and so of course I set up some cloud play on our sticky easel. Here's what you need:

*plain paper or white board backed easel
*clear contact paper
*basket full of white and/or fluffy stuff such as cotton balls, make up pads, coffee filters, pipe 
cleaners, etc.

Draw an assortment of clouds on your paper or white boards. Carefully measure, cut, and peel your clear contact paper and tape it to your board sticky-side out. Pop a basket or bowl of items for sticking, step back and enjoy!