Thursday, October 31, 2013

invitation to play: pumpkins and creepy crawleys

Four felt pumpkins and a bag of Halloween rings with the ring-parts snipped off. I set it up to see what they would do.
Sorting, counting and naming of colors all happened. The children also talked to each other about their favorite colors or their favorite critter. The purple bats were a top favorite.
One child pulled me over to talk about what he discovered after sorting out all the creepies. He said that there were the most spiders and that most of them were black but a lot were orange but that only one was purple. We had been working on counting, grouping, quantities, and subitizing and seeing that he was taking it all in and using it was so cool. So cool!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

one elephant went out to play...

For our week of Elmer we focused on colors, squares, and elephants. One of the songs we sang a lot was this one and since the children really enjoyed it, I set up this invitation to play.

We sang the song up to five elephants and then the children tried placing all ten elephants onto the web. The elephants were purchased from Amazon and I am very happy with them. They connect trunk to tail and the children loved connecting them and playing with them. I often found them in the dollhouse.

One child connected the grouping on the left and told me he made a big circle. He then connected the four on the right and told me he made a little circle. We were joined by another child who said "That's a square! That's a square of elephants".  She then leaned over and read out the numbers and told me that there were ten elephants. It was really awesome.

I often send the children home with their own mystery bag (more on mystery bags later). During our week of Elmer, they had their very own assortment of elephants and a small spider's web to play with. We had a lot of fun.

spin art spiderwebs


Tuesday, October 29, 2013

making apple pie and the best kitchen gadget ever

We did three weeks of apple themed books in the classroom. As I was planning out our days I really wanted to make apple sauce and apple pie. I figured I could use a crock pot to make sauce but how could we bake pies? The school does have a kitchen but I wanted the children to be able to see the pies get made and so, after discovering the pie making capabilities of the cupcake maker I discovered one on super sale and snatched it up. We were going to make apple pie in class! Each kiddo would get to make their very own tiny apple pie. I was super excited!

To make things easier and to allow for more play time, I used Trader Joe's pre-made pie crust (it is super tasty). The children each got a chance at using the rolling pin to roll over the dough...large motor skills!

And then use the crust cutting tool to cut out  circle, shape recognition!

I didn't turn the maker on until we were ready to bake so the children got to select which batter well they wanted their pie to bake in and got to place their crust into the well then use the push tool to press it down after they dunked it into some flour so it would not stick. They then added a few scoops of cooked apples (I made this at home) into their bottom crust (some chose one scoop while others did two, three or even four). Here the children learned new vocabulary words, methods of baking, and used hand-to-eye coordination to place their crust evenly into their wells and drop their apple filling on top.


 After they used the other side of the crust-cutting tool to cut out a smaller circle for their top-crust (more vocabulary and shape recognition going on) they used their "pinching fingers" to pinch up a small amount of sanding sugar for the top (fine motor skills).

The pies baked up in ten minutes and made the room smell delicious for the remainder of the day. We shared our apple pies with the Jr. K class at lunch time and there was nary a crumb left. We are totally going to make pumpkin muffins and corn bread in November!

Monday, October 28, 2013

an invitation to play: felt leaves sorting

This little wooden box was another thrift outlet find. I hot-glued the tiny clothespins onto the back and popped a different colored felt leaf into each one and a sorting activity was made. The leave came from either Michael's or World Market and they are tricky to grab with a clothespin as they tend to stick together. They have been sorted and played with for two weeks now. I find them in lines, piles, and arranged around our pom-pom apple tree.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

better than whack-a-mole


The children had as much fun removing the golf tees as they did walloping them with the mallets.

Friday, October 25, 2013

another apple tree (minus the apples)

This tree was a group effort. I cut out the trunk and an assortment of "branches" and popped them onto a tray. After gluing down the trunk onto a large sheet of paper I invited the children over to build an apple tree.

We talked about the trees in our stories (most recently The Seasons of Arnold's Apple Tree) and I asked if this tree needed some branches. One of the children spied the pile of cut brown paper on the tray and hollered "There are some branches!" And so, armed with glue sticks, the children set to adding branches to the tree.

Once they were satisfied with the branches, I brought out paint (they chose green and yellow) and a couple of stubby dish scrubbers (kind of like this but from the dollar store) to use as stampers for the leaves. They stamped away until lunch time and we hung our tree up to dry before adding our apples. We still have yet to add apples and we might not get to it. I have it tacked up to our easel in case anyone wishes to apple-it-up.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

the wormy apple game

I found this small red colander at the dollar store and thought it looked a bit apple like. Add a construction paper stem and leaf, a handful of pipe cleaners, and some wooden cubes and an invitation to play was made.

 Don't ask me how to play it, they just do and it is fantastic!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

our classroom apple tree

Back when I was working on my lesson plan for our apple fiesta (three weeks of apple books and play) I spied this awesome pom-pom apple tree on pinterest. I hopped on over to Two Daloo, the original source and found a brand new blog to love.  This was one of those "I have to do this projects"...

And so I did...

I searched and searched for a budget friendly tree to sue but could not find one. Luck happened upon us in the guise of a windy day that dropped a large tree branch on our neighbor's lawn.

After more than a dozen eye-rolls, I convinced the mister that dragging the branch back to the garden and then trimming it down would totally work. It did! We trimmed two portions of the branch and propped them into a clay pot partly filled with soil and gravel. This way the tree is easily "broken-down" and can be re-used over and over again (oh if I had the time I would have made Halloween poms)!

The children loved hanging apples on the tree and then picking them. I keep finding the happy little poms in the play kitchen tucked into pots, cups, and muffin tins. 

The time spent making the poms was totally worth it! Now I need to find small pine cones...

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

apple printing for our apple unit

Most schools will do some sort of apple for fruit theme during the school year and many will do fruit printing as a part of their art and enrichment in the classroom. It's fun, it's simple and for the most part it is pretty.

Aside from the pretty though there is a lot going on. Firstly there is language. When I set up the activity thechildren often run over and ask questions:

What's that? What's this? What are you doing?

After they ask questions, we cut the apples open and talk about what we see, smell, taste, and feel.  They often tell me they have apples at home or they like green paint or that they have a dog.

The process of dipping the apples into the paint, lifting them and then pressing them to paper is not as easy for a three year old as it is for an adult. The apples are cold and wet, which often surprises the children and many will not wish to continue. In those instances brushes and or sponges are offered up and made available. Other colors are added if the children ask for them but for this particular project we chose red and green to go with the apples we had on our flannel board.

Some children get the hang of it quickly and happily press away while others make a few prints then discover how cool and wet the paint is in their hands discarding the apples and diving in with all fingers squishing and swiping the paint on their paper. Other children are happy to print with the fruit but do not want paint on their hands. I set out a damp sponge for them to wipe their fingers on. Sometimes the sponge becomes the brush and sometimes it is used to wash the paintbrushes.

What I love about setting up any project or center is seeing how the children approach it and what they end up doing with it. It's never dull, that's for certain!

Monday, October 21, 2013

the nature and science table

The preschool class I teach is fairly new to the school I teach in. Our children are three-going-on-four, many of them are new threes and school is a new experience for them. Along with the usual preschool suspects of creamy tempera paint, waxy crayons, and colorful blocks, we like to bring in new objects from home and nature to share with the children.

Our nature table began as a mish-mash of wooden boxes from the thrift store, sea-shells scavenged from our shelves, and rocks selected from our gardens. I purchased the magnifying glasses from a dollar store hoping their sturdiness would withstand the wild abandon of a three or four-year old at play. So good.

As the children move through the various classes held in our room over the course of a week, we teachers gather to brainstorm on new ways to engage the children and to talk about what their interests are. The room is shared between myself, and two other teachers, none of us actually working with the other so our small moments are greedily grabbed and gabbed at whenever possible.

While it would be lovely to be able to all work together all the time, I am always thrilled when I discover something new in the classroom along with the children. The one area that changes the most is our nature and science table.

The rocks and shells are still there. New boxes are added...fall leaves both real and man-made are brought in...acorns make an appearance, new jewel-toned glass jewels spill into the bellies of the large shells that are scattered about along with seed pods pulled from our late summer gardens. It seems there is always something new yet familiar waiting to be explored. Even the children have begun to bring in precious rocks and stones or sticks and leaves.

I discovered the quite nifty laminate tiles at the hardware store sometime last year. They are about four inches square and I picked them up for a coaster project but I think they are quite happy hanging out on the table hosting the various objects the children delight in arranging. The natural colors of the laminate with the faux-woodgrain switch it up a bit. It's something small and budget-friendly (free even) that elevated our hodge-podge of seed pods to small works of art.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

glitter and spice


Each month we feature a nursery rhyme for the children to learn. September had us chanting, reading, and singing I Had a Little Nut Tree. To give the children a little boost in what I like to call dot-connecting, I whipped up a batch of our autumn play-dough scented with cinnamon and nutmeg with a dash of silver and gold glitter to make it shine.

Along with the play dough, I had set up a scent center with small squares of sand paper, a cinnamon stick, and a nutmeg.


The children enjoyed rubbing the spices across the sandpaper and then smelling the spice scent that appeared like magic. They noticed that the play dough smelled the same and then enjoyed rubbing the dough on top of the sand paper to see what would happen.


Both the cinnamon stick and the nutmeg made an appearance with the dough....many times....

We also painted with silver and gold paint where we used our fine motor skills to remove our cut paper scraps from the green box and then press them onto the sticky-glittery paint.