Sunday, July 29, 2018

Finger painting!

Does finger painting bring back childhood memories for you?  It does for me, and they're all good ones!  I loved the smell of the paint, the cool, slick feel of it, the bright colors mixing together...  Which no doubt influenced me to offer finger painting pretty frequently as a teacher.  I wanted my students to have those same fond memories, and I think they will :)

Finger painting is one of the few art experiences that really does work best with a smock of some kind, because the kids really lean into the tray of paint more than they do in any other painting activity. I generally avoid smocks, as they often discourage a child from participating, and honestly I haven't found any that actually keep paint off the kids!  But our school had t-shirts made for a fund raiser, so I took some of the leftovers, a couple sizes too big for my kids, and turned them into finger painting smocks.  T-shirts aren't foreign to kids, so they aren't as disturbed at putting them on!

My favorite way to present the finger paints is on a big, round, shallow tray.  Ask them what colors they want, and where they want their blobs plopped down.  Then let them go to town!

Of course you can also add paper.  I often don't bother--it really is about the process, not a product--but sometimes they ask for it, and sometimes it's just fun to show them how they can make prints.  Just let them do their own thing, and everything turns out great :)

Not to be dismissed is fingerTIP painting!  This is great for kids who don't want their whole hand covered in paint.  We put a wet rag nearby for anyone needing an extra wipe now and then :)

So many benefits come from finger painting:  Color mixing is science!  Stress floats away!  Finger and hand muscles get stronger!   Awareness of cause and effect grows!  Self-help skills abound at clean up time!  Sensory integration occurs!

Do you have fond memories of finger painting?  Share them in the comments below!

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Little Pig

I didn't use flannel boards for the first 10 or so years of teaching.  I can barely remember that time of my life!  Thank goodness I was introduced to them--they added so much to my circle times, making them WAY more fun and engaging for both the children and me.

Here's an example of a perfect little flannel board game (and I got this pig version of the idea from the amazing Kathryn!)  This can be played with toddlers up to five year olds, or even older, I'm sure.  The original version of this game that most people know is called Little Mouse, and it features a mouse and several houses of various colors.  I've got a post on it here and for lots more variations and explanations of how to play, click right here!

But for this version, we're using pigs.  And yes, a stack of pancakes.  I love both of those things, but I only eat one of them ;)

Watch them in action below :)


**Before I go further, you might be asking "Why should I play this game?  What's the value?  Sure, it's cute, but is it worthwhile?"
Well of course it is!  As you play the game, kids are either learning colors, or their color knowledge is being reinforced. Count how many pigs you have left to guess, and you're adding even more math into the mix!  You're exposing them to rhyme and rhythm.  Critical thinking and observation skills abound!  They're building language skills as they chant along or simply listen.  And very importantly, they are having fun!**

Here are various chants you can use with this game:

*Purple pig, purple pig, let me see...
Do YOU have some yummy pancakes for me??

*Pancakes, pancakes, playing hide and seek...
Are you under the purple pig?
Let's take a peek!

*Pancakes, pancakes, not very big...
Are you under the purple pig??

Kids love guessing where those pancakes are hiding.  You can make this super simple by having  a bit of the pancakes sticking out from behind whichever pig you've hidden them under.  This is great for toddlers just getting used to the game.  But they catch on quickly!  You can have the kids cover their eyes as you hide the pancakes, or turn your flannel board around so they can't see your tricky methods...

Have you played this game or another version of Little Mouse/Little Pig?  Drop your ideas in the comments--I'd love to know!

(Below is my original set. Cute--but oh so labor intensive!  I've since come up with the adorable set above, with the laminated pancakes that don't cause eye and hand strain to create!)

five felt pigs and felt pancakes 


Saturday, July 21, 2018

Painting with Rolling Things!

I'm always touting the fine motor benefits of a good old fashioned art activity.  Those tiny muscles get worked, challenged, and built by holding onto thin or thick paint brushes, by spreading or drizzling glue, by placing small scraps of paper carefully onto the paper...

But it's not all about fine motor!  Art activities can build gross motor skills, too.  Vehicle painting and using rolling sponges and other rolling tools are two easy ways to build the larger muscles of the arms, as well as core stabilization.  

To get the most out of those benefits, provide large work spaces and larger pieces of paper when you do these activities.  Group paintings are great for this--simply tape a huge piece of paper onto a large table, provide several plates of paint with a vehicle or paint roller nestled on top, and watch them go!

Giving the kids their own individual trays works well, too.  I like to cut large pieces of paper and present them on a long tray, which really encourages that back and forth motion from one end of the paper to the other.

There are all sorts of painting tools available for this sort of activity.  You can use rollers intended for painting, and I liked to mix it up with stamp rollers as well.

Do you love rolling tools for art?  How have you tweaked this activity for your classroom?  Share in the comments!

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Early Literacy in the Dramatic Play Area

Reading books with children is certainly one perfect way to enhance early literacy skills, and I love, love, love children's books!  But there are a zillion other ways to provide early literacy opportunities in the classroom (or at home).  Today I'm sharing just a couple of ideas for your Dramatic Play area.

A well-equipped Dramatic Play area has child sized furniture and accessories for pretend play endeavors and escapades.  Think dress up clothes, baby dolls, play food and dishes.  There might be doctor's kits and stuffed animals to take care of; toy or real cameras and phones; accessories like watches, bracelets and sunglasses; purses and bags for imaginary trips to the moon or the beach.  Among other benefits, these props encourage creativity and socialization--which in and of themselves also enhance early literacy by building vocabulary and conversation skills.

To add an even more direct early literacy element, you only need a few extra props!  My favorites are a can or cup of thick, stubby pencils, a container of notepads and loose paper, and old computer keyboards.  Place them on shelves (labeled with pictures so they can be put back at clean up time--another early literacy tool!) and let the children play.

What I love about simply providing these tools, rather than doing some sort of teacher-led, potentially developmentally-inappropriate activity, is that the children can use them in open-ended, self-directed ways.  This naturally leads them to learn more, because they are engaged in something they have chosen to do themselves.  Aside from the obvious letter recognition that may occur with the keyboards (especially as you interact with the children during play), simply providing them with these tools is exposing them to the idea that written communication is important and a needed part of life.  This is enforced even more as you ask them to take your order at a restaurant, or write out a prescription for you at a doctor's office, or write down directions on where to meet them at the beach trip...  And of course as they play with these tools on a regular basis, they learn how to manipulate them, their fingers gain strength, and they learn to love writing even before they are capable of doing it!

What are your favorite ways to sneak early literacy into your classroom?  Do you have pencils and paper in various areas of the room?  I'd love to hear your ideas--drop them in the comments below!

Want more preschool stuff?

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Simple Math Activities

Math is an area that can sometimes be a struggle when it comes to including it in a preschool curriculum.  Some teachers can feel intimidated or unsure of how to provide opportunities to develop math skills in a developmentally appropriate way.
It's important to realize that math is all over the place--you don't have to do "projects" to help children gain math skills.  Your engagement with the kids as they use the simplest materials can help them gain math concepts like one-to-one correspondence, sorting, and patterning.  Below are some examples of incredibly simple materials that build math skills naturally through play.

The shape sorting puzzle above is a math bonanza on its own, and combined with teddy bear counters it goes even further.  Children can sort both the blocks and bears by color and size; they can line them up and begin to create patterns; they can put all the red things together, or all the small things together, or create a pile of just blue and yellow, a line of alternating blue and green...  The list goes on and on.  See how they're working with the materials on their own, and enter their play at that level.  Then as they're ready, you can begin to make suggestions, or simply model another idea to get them thinking.

Even toddler toys like the linking ducks above provide math opportunities, over and above the obvious fine motor skills involved.  "Oh, it looks like you have three blue ducks in your line.  Can you help me count them?  1, 2, 3.  Yep!  You've got three.  I wonder how many yellow ducks we can add to your line?"  

Adding colored bowls, plates, or even pieces of colored paper to a set of counters adds another element of math.  Children might choose to sort by color into the coordinating bowl/plate/paper.  They also might not--and that's fine! It's all about providing the opportunity, not doing things the "right" way.  Commenting on what you see is a great way to simply make children more aware of things.  "Hey, look!  You put two purple animals in a purple bowl, and you put one purple animal in a yellow bowl!  I wonder where you're going to put that blue animal?  We have five bowls to choose from..."  Using math language really does occur naturally when you involve yourself.  Open-ended questions are the way to go, as it encourages thinking and language development.

What are your favorite math materials?  How do you encourage math skills in a developmentally appropriate way?  Comment below--I'd love to hear your ideas!

Want more preschool-related stuff?

And if you liked this blog post, you might like my other blog:

Monday, July 2, 2018

The Wind Blew

Pat Hutchins is one of my favorite children's book authors, so I loved making this set to go with her book The Wind Blew.  As with all story sets, if you know the book well enough you could use the set without the book at all.  Or, as you read the book you can add the pieces to your board. 

I would also put the pieces out for the children to use independently.  It's so cool to watch and listen to children re-tell stories.  Sometimes they remember it in a completely different way than I'd interesting to see how they understand and interpret the world!

I personally didn't use themes for my classroom or my story times, but I know that some people love to! Whether you're using a theme or just throwing ideas into the mix when the mood inspires you, here are some weather related ideas for you:

Books:  If you're looking for other weather related books for preschoolers, Here's my Pinterest board on that subject!

Make Rain:  Fill a clear cup about halfway with water, top with shaving cream, and let the children use eye droppers to drop liquid water color on top of the shaving cream. Once that "cloud" gets too full, it will start to rain!

Stormy paintings:  Provide shades of gray, white and blue paint along with black, white, blue or gray construction paper.  Add foam paint or shaving cream to the paints to inspire a cloud-like effect!

Storm Dancing:  Pass our scarves and play Vivaldi's Storm!

Shadow drawing:  Take the kids outside on a sunny day and trace their shadows with sidewalk chalk.  Go out again later, have them stand at the base of the drawings, and notice how their shadows have changed position!

Sun Art:  On a sunny and not too windy day, take construction paper and a basket of small toys outside.  Spread the sheets of paper on the ground in a sunny spot, and ask the children to decorate the papers with the toys.  Leave them outside for an hour or more.  Have the children remove the toys, and see what amazing artwork the sun has made!


Want millions of flannel board ideas?

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Cutting Rainbows

Do you have kids who struggle to cut with scissors?  It's so tricky!  It can be really frustrating for some children, and the more they are shown the "correct" way to hold them, the more frustrated they become.  Sometimes their little fingers just aren't ready for this difficult task.

I think it's really important to ease children into activities like cutting with scissors.  One of the easiest ways to do this is to provide opportunities to use safe scissors in a variety of ways, with little or no pressure on showing them the right way to hold and use them.  Let children become familiar with the feel of scissors in their hands, encouraging them to hold them however they want to so that when they are ready to be shown the traditional grip, they already love scissors and won't feel intimidated.

One of the ways I've done this in my classroom is to cut "rainbows".  This is a fun and appealing way to get children familiar with scissors.  They don't have to coordinate two hands at once since they don't have to hold the paper, and they can try various methods to get that snipping just right!

Eventually, with practice like the rainbow cutting above, as well as other low-pressure opportunities, children will be ready for gentle guidance on holding and using scissors with one hand.  Your Open Art table (or writing center, or cutting table, or whatever you may call it) will be full of children independently cutting to their heart's content.  Save your scraps--you'll need them for all those capable cutters!

What methods have you used to help kids who struggle with scissors?  How do you introduce kids to challenging tools?  I'd love to read your comments and ideas--leave them below!

Want more preschool-related stuff?