Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Block Play, Learning Socialization and Self Control

It is always interesting during block play to see the different directions the children take. H was very focused on stacking blocks horizontally, and repeated this large stack several times.

While this time, G, who just turned 2, was extremely focused on vertical stacking of the small cylinders and rectangular prisms. He did this over and over again, consistently hitting the 5-high stack.

Usually the block area is a safe zone where children can build their masterpieces undisturbed.

I had the little ones out and about during this group session. It's good for the children to realize that they CAN re-do something if it gets knocked down and how to handle the disappointment and frustration in a controlled environment with the expectation that that will occur.

The 11-year-old joined us, and it was a good lesson for him, 
as well.

 The activity was also geared to the little ones' social skills that we don't knock down other people's creations, but we can build our own and knock them down all we want.

Social: tolerance, acceptance, fortitude, self-control, resiliency
Math: logic/reasoning, counting
Science: balance, physics, symmetry, architecture
Fine motor: placing blocks
Gross motor: placing blocks
Tags: blocks, play, social, development, toddlers, preschool, daycare, child, care, center, area

Seahorse Paper Plate Craft w/template

I couldn't find a good seahorse template for this craft, so I made one. It works on a normal size paper plate. I printed it out on cardstock for them to trace around.  Be warned, it isn't easy getting it to form to the contours of the plate, so this is one you'll have to help even older preschools with holding to trace.

The line is also fairly difficult to cut, so we used teacher-assist scissors.

The children chose the color of paint and painted both sides on consecutive days. On the afternoon of the second day, we embellished. It was one of the children's ideas to do the glitter on the tails. I offered sequins for the body, but they wanted to do finger painting instead.

Really, the opportunities for embellishment are endless and completely open to whatever resources you have on hand and the artistic direction of your students/child. 

These looked really cute hanging up.


Art: artistic expression, painting, cut, paste, multi media, 3D art
Science: discussion of why the seahorse tail is curled
Fine Motor: trace, cutting curves, paste, paint, placing embellishments
Tags: ocean, sea, theme, unit, preschool, daycare, child, care, art, craft, seahorse, paper, plate, trace, cut, glue, paste, paint, sequins, glitter, finger, template, printable, free, kid, kids

Sharing - Don't Drive My Corvette

A mother and I discussed sharing this morning. She said that she told her son to share his toy and after he handed it over to the other child, he cried uncontrollably. 

I said, if you had a brand new Corvette and someone told you that you had to "share" it with the person next to you, how would you feel? "Hell no!" comes to mind. And if someone took off in it? Yeah, you'd cry uncontrollably as well.

A toy in a child's hand is his brand new Corvette. He worked hard to get it, is working hard to keep it, and loves it at that moment. He shouldn't have to share it. That toy in the corner? Well, that's more like an old garden tool in the back of his shed. Yeah, it's his, but he really doesn't care, and if he does, then he shouldn't and he should be willing to share it. But that one in his hand? Yeah, that's his Corvette. We don't share our Corvette.

I DO allow toys from home. Toys from home DO NOT HAVE TO BE SHARED. Period. Personal possessions need to respected by the child and put away into a secure spot when not in use. Personal possession needs to be respected by the other children. It is a huge learning opportunity. " We don't want children growing into thiefs, and teaching respect for the boundaries of another's possession is vital to a child's understanding of societal and legal rules regarding ownership. This is true at home as well. Prized possessions should be put away when other children are invited to come over to play and anything given as a gift or bought with the own child's money should be off limits to other children and siblings.

We often have expectations of children sometimes 

that WE can't meet on a good day.

Milton from Office Space LOVES his stapler. No sharing.

I use these definitions of "share" for this discussion from

2. To allow someone to use or enjoy something that one possesses: Being in daycare taught the child to share. 

(laughing that THIS was the example)

3. To use or enjoy something jointly or in turns: There is only one computer, so we will have to share.

Do we ever really SHARE? Really? In the altruistic sense of the word? I don't think so. We negotiate. We give in order to get: friendship, acceptance, reciprocated giving, a future gain, a feeling of righteousness, etc. Older children and adults see the VALUE in sharing, the benefit to this choice of behavior. 

Young children see it only as something they ought to do, are expected to do, or made to do. This leads to frustration and anger. Tantrums. We wonder why.


No human behavior is performed without some concept of benefit. Yet we have this expectation in young children. Sharing will naturally occur as children mature and gain the understanding of the benefits of sharing with others. As in, "There is only one computer, so we will have to share," which is for mutual benefit. If I don't share, I may not get to use it at all.

Forcing "sharing" is unnecessary. I'm sure many of you reading this are aghast. However, no child should have to give up a toy they have in their possession through legitimate gain, i.e. not taking from another child or inappropriate source. 

"...we think we’re teaching our kids to share, or at least to take turns, but when we force our child to give a coveted object to another child – or worse yet, wrest it from his grasp – we’re teaching our child that he really isn’t safe in this situation, because someone may grab his toy away at any time – even his usually trustworthy mommy! He may well adopt this aggressive behavior towards others, but at the very least he will find it more difficult to feel generous about sharing." - Aha Parenting
However, RULES, which children have little issue with if applied consistently and fairly, should dictate appropriate turn-taking time lines (timer set if another child wants a turn), and rules of behavior, such as if you put it down or leave the area, then another child may utilize the toy or space and the first child must wait his/her turn. These do not apply to the child's personal possessions. In a sibling situation there needs to be "family" toys and the child's personal possessions and a clear distinction made between them. Family toys need turn taking and appropriate sharing. 

I purposefully place my preschoolers into situations with limited resources or role play scenarios that facilitate sharing and sharing lessons in a supervised setting. This enables me to point out the benefits of such behavior and give the children realistic time frames they can understand, such as, "Let me push A three more times and then you can have your turn." Note that I don't say, "A turn," I said, "YOUR turn," as in, it is a right. Such a simple context change, but it makes it much more personal and valid to the child.

Children are caring and social. What we usually term "sharing" is often normal social interaction of companion play. A child asks for a turn, another child gives it and vice versa. It doesn't have to be forced. If a child must be FORCED to share, then the boundaries are crossed, the child has a far greater emotional stake in the object or activity, and SHOULD NOT HAVE TO SHARE.
Tags: child, development, sharing, preschool, toddler, daycare, care, emotion, tantrum, parenting, discipline

Friday, August 24, 2012

Transportation Theme Pre-writing Freebies

As we begin our TRANSPORTATION theme this week, beginning with TRAINS, the preschoolers have completed their train pre-writing worksheets during free-choice play. 

While I'm not a big fan of "worksheets," they love these pre-writing activities which are basically just coloring sheets on which I encourage them to try to trace on the line and color within the lines. Those that can, will usually choose to work on that skill. Those that can't, at least begin to understand the concept and can chew on it until they are ready and willing to execute it. 

Set of four, train, boat, airplane, and car. I will have additional freebies over the next three weeks of this theme.
Tags: art, writing, child, Transportation, care, Car, Theme, kindergarten, Airplane, boat, preschool, Train, daycare, worksheet, coloring, unit, childcare, coloring book, prewriting, fine motor, printable, free, kid, kids

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

A Little Loose Parts Play

"Look, Miss Connie, I made an A for ME!"

Almost 28 months, playing with loose parts in the construction zone. Totally independent activity. I've never done this with them. We are just starting on letter identification and formation. I had to grab the camera.

"Well, I can make an H for me, too!" 

"Well, I can sit on a circle!" 
It's a little harder to make a G with loose parts.

Today's big thing, besides making letters with our few left-over PVC pieces, was holding them up to our eyes and spying out as pirates. There were a lot of "Aaaargh!"s going on. Even little L got in on it.

We took advantage of the overcast morning and played outside until lunch. Love these kind of days.

Ocean Aquariums Craft

This is not a quick craft, but it does turn out awesome and has a ton of skills utilized. 

This craft has been around for a long time. I've been doing it for ten years, so there are many variations. 

Here's mine.

The first day we painted our background plates. The children were given a choice of green, blue, and white paint. They chose a palate with blue and white paint to use and mix as they pleased. Later, the girls insisted on having some purple as well.

The second day they added ocean themed foamies, and some of the blue gravel from our sensory bin,

Followed by torn strips of green tissue papers along the bottom.

I tried a lot of different plates and bowls and lids before finding one that fit perfectly between the cut outs, leaving at least a 1/4 inch overlap. Given that these children are all a young 3 or younger, I cut the inner circles out myself. That skill I felt was beyond them without folding the plate in half, which wouldn't work. I cut  right at the bottom of the scallops to allow as much viewing room for their art as possible.

 The third day, they traced around a butterfly birthday plate onto vinyl and cut that out.

They put glue around the inside edge and pressed the vinyl circles onto it.

We used the DELUXE weight vinyl that I got at Walmart for $2.47 a yard in the fabric department. Not every Walmart has a fabric department. You can obviously purchase it at any fabric store, but you can also get vinyl at the hardware stores. Just make sure it says CLEAR and HEAVY WEIGHT.  It's good for a lot of things, including toddler spill mats. 

Later that day, after the glue had dried, they put glue around the outside edge of their ocean scene 

and attached the two sides.

The children chose the length of their string and cut it. I tied a double knot in one end and stapled over the string to hold it on, along with stapling the other 3 corners for extra security.

Then I tied a loop on the other end for hanging.

I just saw yesterday a similar one that had the outer ring painted silver with Cheerios spaced around it also painted gray to look like a submarine porthole. If I would have seen that earlier, we probably would have done that. 

If you don't have foamies, I have also seen Goldfish crackers used, fish cut outs and other items. I just really like the variety of the foamies, the ocean animal discussions they create, and obviously, I have a LOT of them to use. I do wish I would have had some small shells for them to add, but I only had large ones. 

If the child pops the vinyl out, just run a bead of glue along the edge and lay it vinyl side down until dry. If using the heavy weight vinyl, it will fall down and adhere with no problem.

I've seen this listed as for ages 6+, but as you can see, even my 18-month-old was able to do a modified version, and the 2-3 year olds were able to do most of it just fine with some supervision and a little teacher assistance as needed.

If you don't staple the sides together north, south, east and west, then don't plan on them holding together long with just school glue.


Art: paint, cut, paste, creative expression, trace, mixed media, filling in a space
Math: long/short, circles, top/bottom, up/down, 
Science: ocean habitat and animals
Fine Motor: cut, paste, paint, trace, pulling stickers from foamies, placement of items, tearing tissue paper, 
Social: following directions, sharing resources, waiting turns
Tags: ocean, sea, theme, unit, childcare, child, daycare, art, craft, cut, paste, glue, aquarium, paint, painting, kindergarten, homeschool, kid, kids

Monday, August 6, 2012

Starfish Texture Craft w/Template

The children enjoyed making these cute starfish crafts.

I created this TEMPLATE  available for FREE at TPT.

for them to trace and cut out from tan construction paper or cardstock.

 Then they painted it with glue.

added Rice Crispies,

pressed them into the glue some, and allowed it to dry.

Easy Peasy.

Then they glued it to cardstock and cut out and added the header. The background could be painted, colored, or collaged. We just had done that with other projects for this theme and went simple on this one.

Art: unusual media, trace, cut, glue, paint, color tan
Math: star shape, lines of symmetry, 5
Social: sharing resources, following directions
Science: animal camoflauge

Other ideas for the  TEMPLATE:
  • Trace and cut out from sandpaper. Use cut out as an ocean scene embellishment or for a rubbing craft.
  • Trace and cut out from sparkly gold cardstock to use as a hanging ornament for an under the sea theme
  • Trace and cut, cut in half  under side arms and place onto a paper bag as a puppet, add google eyes
  • For an ocean theme, cut out in quantity and add numbers, letters, sea animal pictures, sight words, etc. Laminate and use for sorting or games either as table work or on the floor. Stomp the Starfish.
The orginal for this craft is at All Kids Network that I found via Pinterest. They used pastina pasta, the small star shaped one, but I could not find it easily locally so I changed to Rice Crispies. I also wanted to use a template that was easier to cut out in quantity and was a little more symmetrical for my purposes than theirs, so I created my own.Tags: ocean, sea, theme, craft, unit, art, cut, paste, glue, puppet, template, starfish, animal, math, science, s, childcare, child, care, daycare, preschool, kindergarten, printable

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Book Hospital

Our theme and circle time stories are read as a group, with a lot of questions, movement and discussion. 

Library time is a specific activity where the group reads at the table, while I read to each one individually a book of their choice. This is a chance to cuddle and read a very familiar book with my full attention and no interruptions.  

As I came to the table after reading to the last child, the children were showing me some MORE books with damage. Our Book Hospital bin was getting pretty full, and many more books were showing signs of wear that asked for some preventative treatment. I figured it was time for some surgery. 

Isn't this a cute label? I couldn't come up with anything I liked more, so I downloaded it from Kindertastic. Since we have some fairly large lap books, and we have a lot of books that get a lot of love, our bin, from the dollar store, is only slightly smaller than a laundry basket. 

It isn't often that we have book issues in the preschool room with the regular books, just the occasional tear, but here in the toddler/early preschooler room, the board books get pretty abused by little ones just learning how to treat them properly. 

The board books are always available for them to read at the table, however the are kept up on a shelf so the little toddlers can only get to them under supervision. Cloth and vinyl books are always out.

This may seem like a relatively DUH post, but I've been doing this for awhile, and it is still an art to repair them and an effort to keep the books constantly in good condition. Most of these books are nearly 10 years old, some are 20 years old from my oldest son, and some are even [gasp] in their forties from my childhood. Since I have no intention of retiring from doing child care anytime soon, these books could potentially be used by these children's children one day, if they are taken care of properly. 

With board books and hardback book covers, the top printed layer often comes loose and de-laminates. Given that I want these books to last a lifetime, or as close to that as possible, I choose to use an acid-free spray adhesive [Elmer's Craft Bond is my choice] whenever possible. I simply spray one side, 

and smooth from the attached side out with a wooden ruler with a firm pressure to eliminate all air bubbles.

If the spine is broken, often it gets cupped. Before adhering, I fold it to cup out, rather than in towards the book spine. This will help it sit down rather than cupping up and not adhering. I spray it and place a rubber band around the spine until dry. 

Once dry, I tape the spine. As soon as a book starts to show wear around the spine, I tape it. I should do this to all of them initially, but new books are always a high interest and I seem to be unable to get it done.

To tape the spine I use a heavy duty packing tape. I know there are some archival quality library tapes out there, I just haven't gotten any yet. The acid-free adhesive is easy, as I always have that for scrapbooking, but the tape I just haven't gotten to locating and buying yet. 

I place the tape about 1/2 inch over the top face spine edge of the book and cut it to length. It is important for it to be as straight along the edge as possible. 

To smooth it over on smaller books, I firmly press with both index fingers over the top of the taped edge. Usually this will not create any fold or bubbles in the tape. The heavier the tape, the less likely it is to wrinkle.

For bigger books, I will smooth from the middle with both thumbs, working it firmly and smoothly in both directions.  Trim the ends even as needed.

 A book that was falling apart, now looks and reads just fine. 

While I'm glad the children will be able to continue to read these familiar stories, I'm also glad that I was able to rescue over $50 in books today. These ranged in price from $8-$5 a piece, and those were the prices on them. Replacement cost would be higher. 

A few of the books today any sane person would have thrown away. But of course the ones in the worst shape, are almost always the favorites. 
Tags: library, book, hospital, repair, preschool, daycare, child, care, childcare, kindergarten, books, board books, rescue