Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Cupid has visited the playroom!

I always put this little glittery sign up in my classroom every year. Q is enjoying it now this Valentine's Day!
This little tin is great for opening/closing (fine motor) and holds nesting heart cookie cutters in different textures. We may use some of the cookie cutters to trace with crayons. For older children using playdough and clay, they would be great to use to stamp into the dough. They are also very fun to use as paint stamps!!
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These are Q's valentines from family and friends last year. I mounted them on construction paper, laminated and tied them into a book for her to read. She is enjoying it again this year!
Basket of heart-shaped cookie cutters that will nest inside one another (seriation)
Heart suncatcher hanging in our Winter Tree.
Laughing lion Q got last year for Valentine's Day. I always put away her holiday toys after the holiday because it's so much fun to see them next year when they've been gone a whole year! They lose their magic if they're always around.
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Picnic Wednesday

Every Wednesday (well, most...) we have "Picnic Wednesday." Sometimes if we're busy on Wednesday or it's super yucky outside (we're tough, so it has to be pretty much pouring) we have to bump it a day or two, but we are pretty faithful picnicers. Why? It gives us a chance to have a relaxed meal, lets us enjoy being outside, and it is fun! We have had picnic Wednesday at parks, playgrounds, restaurants that seat outside, our kitchen floor, and often our backyard--either on a blanket in the grass or at our picnic table.
I make it easy, so don't go envisioning a cute little wicker picnic basket with matching plates, napkins and silverware, a gingham tablecloth and fresh-squeezed lemonade. Nope. We don't even do sandwiches. I throw some stuff into a bag along with some paper plates and we go to town. This means we usually eat pretty healthy, though! We usually bring a couple different fruits and veggies which we cut/peel at our picnic location. Pretzels (just bring the big bag and dole em out to places), hummus, pickles, cheese, yogurt....yum! We also bring our Nalgene water bottles. When I get home I just shove everything back into the pantry or fridge and feel happy I didn't spend money or the earth's resources on thrown-away plastic bags. :)
Sometimes we bring books to read on the blanket when we're done. Sometimes we look at the clouds. I usually try not to bring play "stuff" because that teaches Q that she needs to always have "things" around to entertain her. So our buckets and shovels and bikes stay home. We just enjoy whatever is available...pinecones, sticks, rocks...this often leads us to see them in new light and find fun games to try, like throwing sweetgum balls off the top of the timbertown!
Make your own Picnic _______.
(this is the inside of our bag last week at our picnic--wheat thins, pretzels, hummus, peanut butter, yogurt, tangerines and an avocado)

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Monday, January 11, 2010

Beginning Writing

Lil Q has started insisting on doing some writing whenever she sees Mommy doing such. Today I was compiling a meal plan and grocery list and she wanted to do some writing work of her own. So we got the crayons, a pencil and some scrap paper and she set to work!
I need to figure out a system that works for our house to collect scrap paper that is accessible for Q's writing work. That will be tumbling around in my brain this week...
She got a chubby pencil and some chubby crayons for Christmas.....Good timing!
I could definitely tell today that crayons spread across the table (and eventually floor) were not going to work out.
So I made THIS tonight.

Made from a small block of wood I found in the garage. Definitely a function over form piece, but it does the trick! I drilled holes with M's 1/2 inch bit. In the near future I will paint around each hole with the color of the corresponding crayon so it will help Q practice her colors, as well.
With this crayon holder, I can teach her to take one out at a time and to replace it before choosing another. There is a bigger hole in the middle to hold pencils and pens and eventually scissors.
When I taught preschool we had a separate one for crayons, colored pencils and markers.

If you are interested, Home Depot has a scrap box in the lumber section with pieces of wood for free or less than a dollar and they will cut them for free. Take your cute kid and the crayons or markers you want to use and explain to the friendly Home Depot worker what you are doing and hopefully they will be helpful!
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A little tangerine work.....

Clementines are in season. I just bought 3 #'s of them for a great price at the grocery. Here is some tablework using this fruit that can be modified for any age from infants to elementary!

When working with fruit, the first step is to wash it. If you have real little ones, you may want to wash it yourself ahead of time (without them seeing you, of course) as they are still in the learning stages and their washing might not be thorough enough. This is especially a consideration if your child will put the whole tangerine or the peel in their mouth (and both of these are great sensory exploration activities).

For infants:
Peel the tangerine with them watching. Put a small bowl of peeled rinds out for them to explore. Allow them to mouth the peels but watch to be sure they don't choke on small pieces. The rind is rather bitter, so they will probably not chow down on it, but ya never know! Talk about the feel and the smell and color and even the taste. Benefit--your baby will smell sooooo good when they are finished exploring! If your baby is sitting up you can sit across from her and roll the tangerine like a ball. Q played this game with her aunt as a baby and LOVED it!

For toddlers:
Show them how to place the tangerine in the water bowl (white bowl below with water and a tiny bit of soap or whatever you use to clean citrus), rub it with their hands and then dry it on the towel.
You can start peeling the fruit and allow them to pull the rind the rest of the way off. Q enjoyed doing this today!
They may want to squeeze the sections and watch the juice run out between their fingers.

For preschoolers:
*teach them to wash the fruit
*teach them to peel the fruit (you may have to get it started for them or give them an object to poke in the skin to get a spot to start peeling
*the peel goes in one bowl and the fruit goes in the other--see below
*if they are old enough they can even section the fruit once peeled
*talk about the rind, the fruit, the pulp, the skin....can you find where the stem was attached?
*what shape is the orange (hint-NOT a circle! It's a 3-d figure so it's called a sphere!)
*point out that clementine's don't have seeds but most other citrus does
*talk about the size, taste, texture, color, weight, and any other properties you can think of
*How much juice is in a tangerine? Predict how many spoonfuls and then try it!
*Can you paint with tangerine peel?
Here is a good sensory activity:
-could be done in sand, dirt, woodchips, whatever!
-lightly bury fruit peel and see if child can find all of them!
-when finished ask child to rebury the peel and it will serve as compost!

There are so many options with this activity and it would be great to stretch it out for a whole week! It costs VERY LITTLE, encourages healthy eating and promotes cognitive, fine motor and practical life skills.
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Thursday, January 7, 2010

BIG books

I checked this BIG book (shown next to Snowman for comparison....) out at the library. Big books are a fun alternative and provide more detailed illustrations due to their size. Try one out with your little reader! PS) You can reserve big books from any other libraries in the county and they will ship em to your library for free! It's amazing!
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Need for green....

I always incorporate some plants in my classrooms. Our learning room has a great windowsill that gets sunlight that I can't wait to cover in neat plants...once the little one grows out of eating dirt! For now we have our plants out of her reach for safety reasons. This baby pine tree has just taken residence on top of the book shelf. How can you bring plants into your home? Teaching children to care for plants is a great way to give them responsibility. A small spray bottle works fabulously for watering the plants. Even my 2-year olds took are of all the plants when I taught toddlers. Give it a try!
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Look who's on our branch!!

These are just a few. So cute, huh! I hold Q up and she gently touches each one and I tell her the name and the sound it makes (if I know...what do foxes and rabbits and hedgehogs say??)
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January Work Shelf

Detailed below.....
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Brown Bear Work

Tonight I just finished up the last work item I plan on adding. I cut felt animals that match a few of those featured in Brown Bear by Bill Martin, Jr. and Eric Carle. I just went with four of them for now, and may add more later, depending on how Q does with them. We will practice matching the felt animals with those in the book, talk about the animal sounds, examine the colors, and see if she can name the animals. This book also offers predictive text which is fun and useful for preliteracy skills.
I made the felt animals by tracing those in the book with thin white paper, cutting out the paper, tracing onto felt, and cutting again!
I have my templates if anyone wants to borrow them.
If you don't have a feltboard, you need one! Get a piece of cardboard and some felt (I would just do one light color or solid black. Mine is two colors because it was a hand-me-down). Get some spray adhesive from the glue section at any craft store or walmart craft section. Spray cardboard, smooth felt across, and then cut with about a 2-inch border that you'll fold over and spray adhesive again!
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Shaker song for instruments

Shake, shake, shake, shake
Shake your shaker!

Shake, shake, shake, shake
Shake your shaker!

Put it on your ___________ (name body part).

Participants shake their instrument during the "shake" parts and then place it on the named body part.
It's a great way to introduce new body parts. Older children can take turns naming the part.
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What's the deal with all the trays and baskets?

Two big reasons for putting all work on our work shelf in trays or baskets:
1) It allows the child to carry the work all at once from the shelf to the table or carpet. Some work (anything involving water!!) is tablework and other work can be done on a rug. Have a large basket or shelf in the room where you store one thin rug for each child. Teach children to roll these up from left to right before storing in their spot.
-children should be taught to carry baskets or trays with both hands.
-teach children to restore the work to the same spot where they got it
-I teach that only one basket or tray of work may be out for each child at one time. If they want to work with something else, they clean up and put the tray they were using back first.
2) It contains the work. All work should be kept on the tray (as long as this is feasible with the particular work) and this solves the problem of multiple children getting items mixed up, keeps pieces from being all over the floor or room, and helps maintain and teach organization.
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January Learning Room Curriculum

The forest has come to the learning room! I am basing the curriculum loosely on a forest animal theme. At this point we still include several different items that are of high interest to Q, as these allow her to develop through her interests. However, we have our winter tree decorated with winter animals, so that is our theme! The display shelf holds two small ceramic bear salt and pepper shakers. We practice "gentle touches" and I allow Q to hold the bears sitting down on the carpet. We locate their body parts.
I found this phone when cleaning out a closet and Q loves playing with it. She has learned (thanks to Oma!) how to make pretend phone calls and she loves for us to talk on the phone. Through my research into play in grad school I have become a firm believer in trying always to either use real objects or allow children to pretend a generic object is something else (ie: pretend a block is a phone). For toddlers, they are typically unable to engage in higher-level pretend play, so they do best with real objects.
This is a scissor holder that wasn't being used to hold scissors. I found some twister bolts(bolt with washer and nut) in Matt's garage that would't fall through the holes but could be put in and out. This activity requires pretty extensive pincer grasp (between thumb and first finger) or the child to push up on the bolt from the bottom and then grasp the top with the other hand. Both excellent fine motor skills that will prepare children for cutting, painting, writing, etc. (older kids love twisting the nut off, taking the washer off, and then putting it back together again....put this out for tablework in a little tray!!)

Nesting bowls....teach sizes and early properties of circle circumferences (note--this set had about 8 bowls. I just limited it down to four so she could get the idea but not be overwhelmed by too many pieces....also helps make clean-up less frustrating for her.)This is a one-to-one correspondance activity. I am working with her on taking out each rock (one at a time) and then piling them on her left side. She then moves one rock into each compartment. If she puts more than one, I redirect her to move it to another empty compartment. I will soon begin pointing out that empty compartments have "zero rocks." A solid understanding of zero is something many kids do not have, and even toddlers can begin hearing this word. Try to use it as much as you can! We count the rocks after we put them all in the compartments. I got the little compartment from our Christmas decorations--it holds some ornaments. Well, used to!
We are working to add music time every day! I am NOT a musically inclined person and so I have to really work to think of musical work to incorporate. I will have to rely on some other sources to give me ideas, I know! I am trying to be sure to expose Q to this, however. She got these little bells for Christmas--well, she got one and I got the other in our stockings! We sing songs and shake them. One of our favorite is "Shake your Shaker." I will post the words soon! She is loving the Annie Kubler books that are children's songs with illustrations of babies on each page acting out the movements or doing the signs. We read these books and then sing the songs! Some we are singing right now: Eensy Weensie Spider, Baa-Baa Black Sheep, Head and Shoulders, Row, Row, Row Your Boat....Then some other random favorites. I also check out LOTS of cd's from the library from all sorts of genres. She listens to music as she falls asleep for naps or at bedtime. Her last cd was Queen music set to lullabies! Strange, but intriguing. :)
These are forest animal cookie cutters from Ikea. Moose, hedgehog, fox, squirril, bear....Each one is in a "pocket"--pockets from pants that my mom and I have saved over the years. Q takes them out and puts them back in and we talk about each animal and the sound they make as well as some body features...tails, horns, etc. (socks could also be used for the same purpose! Or small paper sacks, or envelopes....use your imagination!)

Q loves taking things out of a wipes box and putting them back in again. Toddlers love to open/close and taking items in/out. I had a new container in mind to use this month, but she is still loving the wipes box, so we stuck with it. I used some pieces from a couple different animal puzzles that were forest animals. There is a snake, an owl, a rabbit, and a chipmunk peg puzzle pieces. I also included a larger wooden black bear. It does not fit easily in and out of the box and Q has to do some manipulating to fit him in and out. I wanted this to help her learn how to manipulate objects, as this will likely help her learn to manipulate puzzle pieces.
The shape sorter stays...still working on getting her to twist and turn the shapes to fit them in the holes. She likes taking the lid off to put them in and out.
We kept her Itsy Bitsy Spider by Annie Kubler out, as she got a spider glove puppet for Christmas!! We sing the song and I wear the puppet. She is not into putting it on her hand yet, but loves for me to do it. Soon I know she will be ready to wear it herself! We have begun to talk about the body parts of the spider and will count his (or her?) legs.....We have seen some spiders outside and talk about how they are like the spider in our song.
We continue to work on the large peg puzzle.....

Two bears and a bobcat....
A winter book we are enjoying. It has a little bird on different places throughout each page. Q loves to "find the bird." This is an early literacy skill that teaches children that each page stays with the same main theme in books. Mercer Mayer books are great for having spiders or crickets on each page....Also it teaches Q to look closely at each page, which will later turn into closely examining features of letters and words. It allows her pride as she "reads" the book in her own way!
I checked out some "forest-ish" books from the library and keep them on the top shelf of the bookshelf for us to read and take picture-walks through together. I included both fiction and nonfiction to expose Q to both genres.
I used a piece of a tree trunk (found it by some neighbor's curb when we were out running and toted that thing home!!) I put little felt pads on the bottom to prevent scratching. It is a little seat for Q to read some animal books kept in the basket.
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