Friday, May 30, 2014

cloud cookies in the classroom

I picked up two cloud cookie cutters through Amazon that we had been using at the play dough table for awhile. After a thorough scrub down, I brought them home and used them on a batch of store bought sugar cookie dough (NTS make your own dough next time) and brought them into school for the kiddos to decorate. Each child was given a small resealable bag that had a small spoonful of unsalted butter already inside. Spoons were brought out and each kiddo got to scoop a spoonful or two of powdered sugar and a drop or two of food color of their choice. In some cases, two colors were mixed...magic! We snipped off one corner of each bag and the children squeezed their frosting out onto their cookies. They were given plastic knives to spread the frosting and a smattering of large confetti sprinkles to decorate with. All kinds of fine motor action going on! The children love cooking and preparing food in the classroom and enjoy eating what they prepare even more!

Thursday, May 29, 2014

beaded play dough clouds

Our children created these awesome beaded play dough clouds from two different types of homemade dough (I was inspired by this lovely cloud from love from ginger). I had originally whipped up a batch of this cornstarch clay but when they wanted to make more and we had run out of the clay, they used our regular old classroom dough with satisfying results. We used these cookie cutters and your average pony beads. Everything was left to air-dry for a few days (a few of our fluffier clouds took a week or so).
The children also made a few clouds without beads. They used the tips of our paintbrushes to punch holes near the top of their clouds. Once their clouds had hardened they painted them with classroom tempera paint and added a hefty dose of glitter. We love glitter! I threaded the clouds with blue embroidery floss and then we taped them to our window frame in the classroom to enjoy.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

stormy collage art

This is what happens when I set out paper plates, cotton balls, glue, liquid watercolor, and eye-droppers. I also added a shake or two of glitter to the paint. The kiddos loved this process. The green tongs up there were actually a part of our pom-pom sorting activity but one of the kiddos decided to use them on the cotton balls and then their glue bottle which prompted the other children to clamor for their own tongs of course. It was fun all around and the art looks fantastic up on our wall! 

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

rainbow cloud sorting

I made these rainbow clouds using an extra large cloud punch and craft foam. The colorful bowls are a favorite thrift score. We use them for all sorts of classroom fun; color sorting, dramatic play, and paint vessels to name a few. A diy note and tip for you...craft foam does not play well with a paper punch. When punching, use a sheet of paper (I  think I used a magazine page) under the foam. This will trick the punch into thinking it is punching plain old paper and not the too-pliable craft foam. I also glued a handful of cloud shapes to blank blocks. These were used at the play dough table and were a hit! Enjoy!

Monday, May 26, 2014

sewing cloud pillows

Sewing cloud pillows with kiddos is not much different than sewing mittens. The children first drew their pattern. I had a few hesitant cloud artists so we talked about clouds and what shapes they were made of. Did they have angles or curves? Clouds were drawn as blobs, squiggles, and/or circle. I explained I would cut around their cloud shape to create their pattern. For those that were more scissors adept they cut their own cloud shape out. Next they pinned their pattern to the felt and I cut it our for them. Cutting out two layers of felt in a cloud shape is pretty tricky so this should be done by an adult. The children selected their embroidery thread and once I threaded their needle they got to stitching. Use a contrasting thread so the kiddos can see where they are sewing. We try to focus inserting the needle always from the same side so they can poke up or poke down.
Once they finished the curvy parts of the stitching they removed their pins (they LOVE this part, the pin cushion is fascinating to them and they will often pull out the pins and replace them over and over again) they pulled and gathered bits of fiberfill and stuffed them into their clouds-to-be. After their clouds were suitably stuffed they got back to sewing! Ta-da!

Friday, May 23, 2014

clouds in a jar

*small clear lidded jar
*1-2 drops of food color or liquid water color
*water in a pitcher
*1 tablespoon baby oil
*clear glitter

Place a drop or two of color into your jar.  You only want the color to tint the water, not saturate it with color. Next have your kiddo pour water into their jar. The water will turn blue and the children will be delighted. You can pre-measure the oil or have your kiddo pour about a tablespoon of oil into their jar as well (we used a capful of oil). Hand them a shaker of glitter and let them go wild. Add the lid, shake and enjoy! The glitter gathers around the oil creating small cloudy shapes in the blue water. It's really cool!
We also made clouds by adding color to the water and adding a cotton ball that had been pulled at (to stretch it out). Cool!

Thursday, May 22, 2014

weather pick play

Back in the fall I was totally inspired by Twodaloo's  Fall Fine Motor Activity. I immediately made a set of Fall picks and the kiddos have been happily sticking things into foam ever since. These weather picks were made from a sticker set found at the dollar store and punched paper clouds using this cloud punch (the x-large isn't all that large). The stickers were stuck back-to-back and the clouds were glued to the picks (I used these picks with a flat top). The foam is a hard foam ball cut in half. The items were set up on a piece of shelf liner cut into a cloud shape. These were a hit!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

painting cloudscapes

The children in my class love to paint and we always have paint and paper on the easel ready for them. When we set up tabletop provocations we use a better quality paper primed for whichever type of paint we are going to use. When using watercolors I use watercolor paper that has been trimmed of perforations if needed. For our cloudscapes, the children drew their clouds with fat white crayons and then painted with a variety of blues and greys which had been watered down at different levels. Some of the children drew fat circles for their clouds while others scribbled circles across their paper. We had a selection of cloud photos on the table for inspiration. When using watercolors with the children we carefully explain the importance if treating the paintbrush and paper gently as well as keeping the rinse water clean so as not to muddy the colors. When the children want to do color mixing we switch out the paintbrushes and paper  and sometimes even the paint though eyedroppers make for great tools on color mixing watercolors!

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

diy cloud necklace

We had a two week run with all things clouds. One of our projects was making cloud necklaces. The children pulled a piece of fiber fill from a larger source and then used a darning needled threaded with embroidery floss to lace it for their necklace. They were so happy and proud. Next time we do this we will use a heavier weight of thread maybe even a button or something to weigh it down. Ta-da!

Monday, May 19, 2014

Going on a Bear Hunt: 8 fun activities

There should have been 9 up there but I totally missed our scissors work project. But here ya go, 8 fun activities to go along with We're Going on a Bear Hunt.

1. Hands on story retelling using found photos, a cookie sheet, and a plastic toy bear. The children loved this and it is a great tool for sequencing and memorization.

2. Landscapes using paint and other elements.

3. Painting with natural elements.

4. We're Going on a Bear Hunt Discovery Bottles. Great for retelling the story, sequencing, and investigation.

5. Natural Elements for the play dough fun and for painting on.

6. Classroom Bear Hunt. Set up areas for the grass, river, mud, etc. We taped streamers to the sides of our train table and used colored carpet squares along with tactile sensory bins. Our cave was our playhouse covered in blankets with a large stuffed bear inside. During our walks to and from the playground we would recite the sounds for each element and use our bodies to act out the parts. Fun!

7. Nature walk bracelets. We did not go on a bear hunt as some of the children voiced concern over finding a real bear (we do have bears in our community) so we went on a nature walk looking for tall grass, forest sticks, mud, and flowers instead.Then we ran like silly all around the play field looking for dandelions and chasing grasshoppers.

8. Painting and washing rocks because water play is a favorite thing with many three year olds.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

landscapes with preschoolers

For our week of We're Going on a bear Hunt, the plan was to create a landscape for each element in our story. But we all know how sometimes things do not always go the way planned so we only got to two landscapes but really it was because the children had so much fun with the paint and supplies. We did tackle mud and snow through our sensory bins using potting soil from our yard, and insta-snow in the classroom. For the record, I am not a fan of the insta-snow, it's a sensory thing for me....ack!
Here a small selection of what the children created. Some were painted up on our easel, some at our art center, some a little of both. The green landscapes were made with paint and crepe party streamers. I had put the paint out in small cups with a variety of paintbrushes (some too large for the cups!) to see what the children would do. The blue landscapes all have the added element of epsom salts, clear glitter, and plastic wrap. Some of the landscapes were painted with our tempera paint while others were painted with our liquid watercolors.

scissors work inspired by Going on a Bear Hunt

The children really love cutting things. Scissors work is a favorite activity and so I thought I would change it up for our week of We're Going on a Bear Hunt. Usually, we cut paper but we have also cut yarn, play dough, and straws. This time around, I set up a station for cutting the tall, wavy grass with daylily leaves as the grass, scissors, and an empty powdered cheese shaker. Some children cut the grass and dropped it into the shaker, others used their grass on their landscapes and some decided not to cut at all and simply fed the grass into the shaker. All kinds of fine motor skills happening here!

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Going on a Bear Hunt: painting with natural elements

The children in my classroom really love the story We're Going on a Bear Hunt. We often reenact it throughout the week when someone is reminded of the swishy-swashy of traveling through grass or the stumble-trip of hiking through the storybook forest. We talk about natural elements around the classroom and in our community. While we do not really have snow, we do have creeks, the ocean, tiny rivers, forests and tall grass so all of the elements in the story are very familiar to the children. One of the activities I had set up at our easel was painting with sticks, leaves, grass, and flowers. We decided to use these paintbrushes to create our grass and/or landscapes so the children, after discussing the colors found in the tall, tall grass and dark forests, decided on green and yellow.

There were many returns to the easel. Some children used each paintbrush on a separate part of their painting, others mixed it up while others focused on just one brush. The focus and attention they exhibited was a treat to behold and extended to the children to who prefer to roll and fold up their very wet and paint-sticky paintings. So much investigation going on!

We're Going on a Bear Hunt: painting and washing rocks

For our week of We're Going on a Bear Hunt we filled our classroom with a plethora of natural elements. On one of our tables I set up a basket full of natural objects along with paint for the children to explore. There were sticks, pieces of bark, and of The first kiddo to hit up the center painted up a rock then asked for some water to wash it off. Soon we had a washing center and the children turned their art table into a tactile experience. This is truly process at its best. Once one kiddo began the investigation, the others followed suit. They were really surprised to find that unlike with the rocks, the paint did not wash off the branches and sticks. We talked about absorption and the kiddos really embraced it. It was really cool!

Friday, May 16, 2014

cocoa center in the classroom

It's been so so hot lately that I cannot even muster any cocoa fondness save for the fact that the children love when we have a cocoa center. Plus, it's gotta be cocoa weather somewhere, right? Our last cocoa center was in March on a rainy day. The set up is a plate with a ceramic mug, an open packet of instant cocoa, a spoon, and a small container of marshmallows. There is also a pitcher of warm water on the table. We do not have any allergies in our classroom so are able to use good old fashioned instant cocoa. We talk about the difference between cocoa recipes and the children love to share how they make it at home. We warm up our water in the microwave and transfer it to a plastic pitcher sized right for smaller hands. Before we begin the children name the items they are going to use and then together we talk about the steps or sequence of cocoa making.  They love adding their water and stirring it all up and often time will continue adding water until they no longer really have cocoa but it's all good and they own it!

Things learned at the cocoa station: vocabulary, patience, motor and math skills.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

a little light table fun with Crystal Connectors and Constructive Playthings

Not long ago I was approached by Constructive Playthings to do a product review and I of course agreed. Being able to peruse their lovely catalog of developmental playthings, making a list, and sending it off  was a lot like writing a list for Santa. Each and every item on my wish list is something I think would benefit any child-full exploration time. I wasn't certain which I would get but I wasn't picky. When it was revealed I would receive a box of Crystal Connectors, I may have danced a wee jig as I do love an open ended building toy almost more than my kiddos do.

Back in April, before we got our own light table in the preschool room, I was able to borrow one from our Jr. K. I was very excited to see what the children would do with it and even more excited to add a little pizazz via Crystal Connectors as they are made of a sheer acrylic, perfect for light table play.
I plugged in our table and arranged a small portion (the box comes with a whopping 300 pieces) of the connectors on top and waited to see what would happen.
There were a lot of "ooohs" and "aaahs" as the children scurried to the light table to investigate. I teach threes and they are really into asking a lot of questions. "What are these?" "How you do it?" "I did it!" "I made green!" and "It's a flower!" were just a few of the exclamations flying around the room.
The children began by connecting a piece into each crevice on a large piece which resulted in the above mentioned flower. From there they began planning the colors they wanted to use, some using all of the same colors, some using one color for the center and another for each outer part. There was even a fair amount of patterning going on!
They built dragons that looked like dragons! They made a garden. They used the smaller pieces as magic coins to buy fairy food, and they stacked them up as tall as they could.
We talk a lot about color mixing and rainbows and one of the children discovered that she could mix the colors and make a rainbow. Which she did. It was all so really fun and cool.
The one thing I found was that while I was really excited about the light table and the connectors, the children were more excited about the connectors and I would often find the whole pile of connectors on the carpet amongst a wee pile of children building and planning their newest design whether it was a space ship or my favorite, a bicycle with no pedals.

My mind is swirling with all the fun developmental ways you can implement Crystal Connectors into your day. From math and engineering, to art (a few connectors ended up in our stamp pads and our play dough) and dramatic play, I think Crystal Connectors are a fantastic investment for your classroom and/or your family!

Thank you to Constructive Playthings for the opportunity to play with something new, the preschoolers at our school had a grand time! You can visit Constructive Playthings via their website and their Facebook page, have fun!

Sunday, May 4, 2014

playing catch up!

I know that this blog has turned into a preschool blog of sorts and I do hope you stick with me as everything we do in the classroom can be done at home as well whether you have one kiddo, two kiddos, or a party full of kiddos. That said, I was trying to write out our classroom shenanigans in the order we did them but the end of the school year is fast approaching and I want to get all the summery goodness on here before it is fall so I will be jumping ahead a bit to share with you all the fun we have had in our classroom. Stay tuned!