Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Two new movement songs

Two songs we added to our movement ribbon/song basket today:


Shake it, shake it, shake it

Shake it like it's hot!

Shake it, shake it, shake it

Give it all you've got!

(give different directions for shaking it)

-switch hands

-behind your back

-big circles

-tiny circles


Let's go fly a kite

UP to the highest height.

Let's go fly a kite

and send it soaring!

UP to the atmosphere

UP where the air is clear

Oh let's go fly a kite!

For this song, right before the word "up" we pause and lower the ribbon to the floor, then as we sing "up" we pop up and raise the ribbon high. During the rest of the song we wave the ribbon high in the air.

Toddlers and preschoolers enjoy both of these songs--preschoolers always love any song sang extra fast, so if I want to add a little bit of difficulty for my older ones, we just repeat the song, going faster and faster!

For infants, help them hold the ribbon stick and do the movements. Or you can do the movements and let them watch you!

From these songs children acquire important positional words (up, around, high, etc.). They use their large muscles, exercise their wrists, follow directions, move to the rhythm, and practice crossing the midline. All of these movement skills are actually so important for acquiring reading and math skills later on! And the songs are oh-so-fun!!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Bottle Cap Recycled Caterpillar (or snake...)

Q had a little "spring party" last week with a couple of her friends her age. For a project we made some little bottlecap snakes/caterpillars with a stash of caps (milk caps, soda caps, etc.) I'd been saving.
Here's now:
*drill a hole in each cap big enough for the string to go through
*tie a bead on the bottom of the string
*have your child help thread caps on the string, all going the same direction
*end with a large wooden bead
*tie off the string, leaving lots leftover for pulling
*draw a face on the caterpillar/snake

It makes a GREAT clicking sound when dragged. My 2.5 year old loves pulling it around, and I can image a "just walker" would REALLY love this! A great way to practice balance while walking with an object.
Non walkers (younger infants) would need the pull string left off to prevent choking. They would enjoy manipulating the caps and examining the various sizes and textures. The pull string could be added later on by just tying it onto the wooden bead.

Preschoolers could make a "pattern snake," using the caps to repeat a pattern of their choosing. The caps could also be painted with a permanent acrylic craft paint!

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Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Sponge Work

One great Montessori-inspired activity I love is sponging water from one container to another. I set out a little tray with 1 bowl full of water and 1 empty bowl, as well as a small sponge (I cut the regular ones in half). Q then submerges the sponge in water, holds it over the empty bowl and squeezes. We always work from left to right (print awareness--the way words and letters run). This promotes fine motor skills, hand and wrist strength , concentration, practical life skills, sensory and tactile exploration, and arm strength.

Sometimes I add a little bit of peppermint or lemon extract to make the water smell nice, and I always let Q choose if she wants warm or cold water in the bowl.

In Q's dish cabinet I put out a little container of sponges. She puts one on the table when she eats to clean her fingers, face, or any spills that may occur. Sponges are more managable for toddlers because even if they are sopping wet they aren't drippy, and they fit better in small hands. They also hold more liquid for cleaning spills.
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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Rainbow "wind thingy"

Last night we needed a good project after dinner.....So we made a pretty rainbow decoration to hang above our picnic table.

1) get a stick

2) Tie a piece of twine to each end.

3) Find ribbon in the colors of the rainbow. You can either loop them over or just tie them onto the stick.
(initially I had planned to use all different ribbon types in the colors, but I stumbled upon a baggie of ribbon in all the colors in my ribbon stash, so we decided that would be perfect!)

4) I went ahead and cut them so that red was the longest, orange a little shorter, etc. with purple being the shortest, to vary the movement of them and also to begin to teach initial concepts of length and sequence.

Q helped me unwrap the ribbon spools one by one and we talked about the colors as we tied them on. She had fun running around the yard with the finished project before we hung it up, and she chose the spot where we hung it. We've already enjoyed watching the ribbons dancing in the breeze!

Infants--would love to watch the pretty could also hang this inside over baby's area..... Talk about the colors with baby as you show him each strand of ribbon.

Preschoolers--they could complete this task independently. Tying the ribbon is fabulous fine motor practice.

For an extension of the fine motor, you could also let your child thread matching beads on each ribbon--red beads on red, yellow on yellow, etc.
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Rainbow Ribbons

To go along with our current "Rainbow" unit, I made a new movement wand--I went through my ribbon box and found ribbon/yarn in all the colors of the rainbow. I threaded them through a large wooden bead, and then jammed the bead onto a pair of chopsticks that haven't been broken apart well. I shoved the bead down as far as I could get it to go, and voila! We will have lots of fun waving our ribbons as we do movement activities and dancing!

Oh yeah, I also took a lighter and gently burnt the ends of the ribbon by running the ribbon NEAR the flame so they would melt a little bit and not unravel.

Infants would love playing with this colorful wand! Older infants could wave and shake it themselves as they work on grasping skills and hand-to-hand transfer of objects. For younger ones, you could wave it for them as you sang songs to them. You could also take it outside, hold it up and watch the wind move the ribbons.
The bead has never come off for us, but you could squeeze a little superglue, elmers glue or hot glue into the bead top before you slid it down the chopsticks if you want it to be extra secure.

If you don't have chopsticks you could buy a dowel at a hardware store or Hobby Lobby that fit inside your bead.......

This wand can be used to encourage movement, especially movement across the body (crossing the midline--for more info click here) which is a necessary skill to master before children can successfully read and write. The wands can also encourage rhythm awareness, body coordination, and imaginary play. The movements used to move the wand also develop the wrist muscles necessary for writing.
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Monday, March 21, 2011


Every year at Easter/Springtime we get out our eggs to add to our learning materials. For the past two years I used large wooden eggs bought at Michaels or Hobby Lobby (you can get a pack of 4 for $2.99 and with a coupon for 40% off they always have....a steal!) I love eggs made from natural materials instead of the yucky plastic ones.

Last year I dyed a set of wooden eggs for easter. I need to find the pictures to post.....

The past two years I've just put out a few eggs and cut a cardboard egg carton into 4 or 6.

This year I bought Q a set of 12 paper-mache eggs (brown cardboard). (and in my easter stuff somewhere I actually have 6 we can fill one of the BIG egg cartons next year!!)

This can be modified for infants--just put out a couple eggs and a smaller carton (cut down).

For preschoolers/older toddlers--put out a dozen!

Q has fun playing with her eggs and incorporating them into dramatic play. The visualization that occurs when she takes out/puts in eggs to the carton is also starting to teach her concepts of numbers, addition and subtraction.

For infants the eggs are great for encouraging motor development, as well as matching and spatial awareness--as they fit the eggs into the compartments.
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This is a terrific "traditional" preschool/toddler craft that we love to usher in spring!

We used old fashioned clothespins, but any type would work.

Q painted each one a different color with watercolor paint. (no pics because I was helping her hold the pins as she painted.)

After they dried, we raided my tissue paper stash, folded up a square (about 6X6 in?) and shoved it in the opening....I fluffed them several different ways to get varying wing shapes. We hung these in our doorway.....LOVE how pretty and light and airy they are and the ambiance they bring to our learning room!

Q was so proud to show Daddy her butterflies!

For infants--make one or two or a whole flock to hang above their crib, changing area, highchair, etc.! You can use these to introduce the concept of butterfly (and teach them the sign, while you're at it!), vocabulary such as wings, fly, and you can talk to them about the what, where, and why of butterflies. Then point them out to your little one when you're outside!!

For Preschoolers--allow them to make these independently--they can add more elements, such as drawing on eyes, pipecleaner antenna, etc. They could also paint or draw on their tissue paper to look like a particular species of butterfly.
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Spring Tree

Our learning room tree bloomed this weekend! There are green leaves and pink blossoms budding out everywhere, and several birds decided to make the limbs their home!

To make pink blossoms:
Cut a 1 inch X 8 1/2 inch strip of pink paper.
Roll it up from end to end .
Gently push your finger in one end so the top widens.
Tape the end down to secure.
Thread onto branch.

For leaves--
I cut green scrapbook paper and burnished the edges with a brown stamp pad.

We also added a pretty pink Japanese lantern I felt looked so springy!

We're spending lots of time noticing changes outside--the leaves budding, flowers on trees and in the grass, birds in our yard....Matter of fact, we have a male cardinal in our yard that is constantly singing while we eat dinner outside, so this weekend I picked up a fake cardinal for our learning room tree so it would match our outside friend!!
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We made snakes for St. Patrick's Day, even though I didn't yet explain to my little one the legend of St. Patrick and the snakes....I think she will be ready to enjoy it next year. For this year we just had fun making snakes!

First I cut out a large circle from white paper.

I let Q pick two colors of paint (more colors tends to mix all together and make brown). She painted her circle. I worked with her on the concept of covering ALL the paper with paint so no white shows. This is an important skill that is necessary for many art projects to look good.....and a beginning artistic concept.

Then I cut the circle in a spiral shape to make the "snake."

We glued on googly eyes and made a pink paper tongue to add.

Q loves her snakes and we hung them in our dining room next to our Happy St. Patrick's Day sign!

For Infants--make several smaller, bright colored snakes (maybe each snake a different solid color) and hang from a mobile for them to watch. You could also cut fabric, felt or foam the same way, which would be more durable for little hands to hold!

For preschoolers--get a snake book (library!) and let them choose a particular species of snake to replicate. In that case you may want to cut the white paper into the snake shape first, and then let them paint! You could also orally tell or find a book with the story of St. Patrick and the snakes to share with your children.
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More crowns....

We made St. Patrick's Day crowns last week (I know, a little late posting this, sorry....) First I cut out a general "crown shape" from white paper. Then I twisted pipe cleaners into clovers to glue on. We used bottled glue and glitter to finish adorning our crowns. Pipecleaners could also be used to make Easter Eggs, flowers, etc. These crowns are so much fun to make and toddlers and preschoolers LOVE making headgear!!
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Nature "Crown"

I made Q a nature crown, taking advantage of all the green stuff starting to poke up around here! We took a walk around the yard and picked "stuff"--bits of different plants....and I twisted them together, did some looping and voila! A crown for my princess! I didn't have to use any string or wire since I found some good vines, but you might need some twine or yarn or thread to help hold your crown together if you can't find great vines. I also stuck in some clover flowers and other "weedy" flowers we plucked from the grass.

For us this was mostly used for a springy photoshoot.....

Preschoolers could make their own crowns! Cover a table with craft paper, line the middle with greenery found on a walk and go to town!!
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Tuesday, March 1, 2011


I cut some big clovers out of green paper. (To get my template I googled "shamrock cookie cutter," copied a picture of one into Word, resized it to be really big, printed it, cut it out, and used it to trace and make more on green paper).

I put out green, yellow and white paint and Q had fun painting the clovers. Once they were painted I gave her two shakers of glitter and showed her how to shake it onto the wet paint. We'll hang our pretty shamrocks in the dining room window!

This was a fun and simple art project to start off the month!

Preschoolers could have fun painting, as well and could perhaps do the tracing and cutting themselves. For infants--what about making a few shamrocks to hang from a string above the changing table, crib or play mat for baby to watch them move in the breeze! You can talk with baby about the shape and the color--providing excellent vocabulary!

PS) Whenever I don't have the color paper I want, I just paint on newspaper we keep in our recycle box. It wrinkles up a bit when wet, but once it dries I flatten it down with a book on top of it for about a day and it does great!