Tuesday, September 30, 2014

diy straw whistles {panpipes}

This was another one of our musical instrument activities to accompany The Listening Walk. I think the whistles were even more popular than the drums! Grab some straws and washi tape and try this at home!

For this project we used extra thick Boba straws in super happy colors, washi tape, and kiddo sized scissors. The children each cut two straws into two pieces and then arranged them from smallest to largest or as they kept saying smallest to tallest. I love the vivid colors of the straws coupled with the happiness of the tape. There are a few tutorials out there that involve taping up the bottoms of the straws or adding small holes to create different pitches. We did neither of those and still the children adored their whistles!
I mean. look at them! Soooo happy!

Monday, September 29, 2014

mini watercolors with preschoolers

The children painted up these mini masterpieces to go along with our Mother's Day gifts. I cannot post enough how much I love liquid watercolors and kiddos!
We do a lot of painting in my classroom. Much of the time what begins as a glorious riot of color ends as a thick blob of brown. Even the watercolors tend to get so crazy-mixed on their paper that the color is one big muddy mess and the paper has been carved into by the immense pressure three year olds feel a paintbrush needs to have applied to it. This is a process that most all children who paint go through and it while it needs to be played out I also feel young ones can learn and develop gentle nuances when it comes to painting special pictures or with special materials.
I manage this by introducing with awe in my voice how very special the paint or paintbrush or even paper is. These mini masterpieces were created using liquid watercolor fro Colorations. The brushes used were your run-of-the-mill classroom brushes but the paper, aah the paper is super fancy heavy weight watercolor paper (I cannot remember the weight or the name). I only bring out the special paper for special projects and the children know this and treat it with much reverence. By keeping the size of the paper small, the children can focus on creating their masterpiece without tiring out attempting to cover the entire surface of their paper. Before we begin we talk about colors and wonder what the receiver's favorite color is (this is a really great exercise in thinking about others and what they might like. There are many a-ha moments when the children realize that they like pink but their Mom may like yellow. There is a great deal of dialog that follows when we talk about what others may like or enjoy). From there we talk about cool colors or warm colors and develop a two to three color palette that when mixed will not be muddy. When we paint on our watercolor paper I do not water down the liquid watercolors but allow them to be used in their full strength. We place the colors into a small white plastic paint palette which we only use alongside our special paper. Their creations never fail to make me swoon. I cannot wait to delve into the special materials with my new group of students!

Sunday, September 28, 2014

the very hungry caterpillar button string

We spent a week exploring the concepts found in Eric Carle's The Very Hungry Caterpillar. One of our most popular activities was this gorgeous handmade button string that included all of the components from the story. This was an item that I discovered already in our classroom from the previous year. I cannot remember if my co-teacher had made it or a parent volunteer. Either way I am so grateful and happy that we have something as lovely as this for our children to explore.
The focus the children invested in this activity was astounding! Button snakes are excellent fine motor activities for young ones.  This one in particular is extra special as you can practice order and sequencing with your children. Questions can be asked about the order and the children can use the book as a reference tool as well. All sorts of lovely vocabulary words can be introduced. I now have a list of other button snakes I want to make for our class!

Saturday, September 27, 2014

painting with {rubber} ducks

For our week of Over in the Meadow we explored a variety of critters that may live in a meadow, listened to the song by Bob Neary, and read a few different versions of the story.  Each day we talked about which animals might live in a meadow and which of those were our favorites (frogs appear to often be a crowd-pleaser). One of our centers involved painting with an assortment of rubber ducks, frogs, and fish. The children really enjoyed exploring these materials in this way.
The scrub brushes were purchased from The Dollar Tree, while the other items were already on hand in the classroom. Next year I hope to acquire a broader collection. The best part of it all? Washing off the paint with super sudsy water!

Friday, September 26, 2014

playdough with natural elements

 For our week of The Listening Walk I whipped up a batch of cornstarch clay to mix things up at our play dough table. To go along with the simple beauty of the cay I added a tray of natural elements such as rosemary, lavender, small pebbles, and shells.
Small squares of cardboard were also set out to use as place settings for the clay and to keep the area looking neutral and natural. Our wooden rolling pins got a lot of use as did our small mortar and pestle.
The children especially loved using this cookie stamp (we used it without the device, just the stamps) to make their own natural cookies to share and to sell. We had a very productive bake shop going on!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

diy noisy tree

It looks like our fall apple tree has taken up permanent residence in our classroom. From apples to snowflakes to hearts the children love hanging bits of pretty on our tree. Our tree is made of two large sticks stuck into gravel and dirt. The tree takes a wee beating when the kiddos decide to pull the sticks out of the pot so I may need to go back to the drawing board and figure out something a little more permanent and a little less heavy.
For our week of The Listening Walk I set up our noisy tree by adding a small basket of noisy ornaments. There were bells on pipe cleaners and a disassembled dollar store bamboo wind chime ready to be placed on display. The best part? Being able to play the tree with a wooden spoon once all of our noisy ornaments were on it.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

painted nature collage

 This fun activity accompanied our week of Over in the Meadow. The children brought in their own box lid and assortment of natural items to share with the class. I had a basket of additional sticks, shells, and rocks just in case some of the children decided not to share.
 The children first create a nature collage on their box lid using the natural items we had accumulated in the classroom. We left the table set up all day so they could return to it whenever they wanted to. Some even decided to add to it the next day even.
 A few days later we set up an art table in our small classroom yard. A little bit of white paint was added to our colors to mute then a bit and help them pop on our natural items once they were dry.
I think they are quite lovely don't you?

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

fun with pencils

 For many years I organized an international swap group that had over 1000 members. We exchanged swap packages each month. Over the course of five years I received all sorts of fun and nifty items. I also received a ridiculous amount of pencils and not being one for throwing away useful (and not so useful) things I held onto them until I could figure out a better use.
Enter a classroom of three-year-olds! I set up a bamboo utensil box with a variety of pencils for sorting and a tray with a pencil sharpener and smencils. The children sorted the pencils by color (math), counted the pencils (more math), arranged the pencils (spatial intelligence), and sharpened the pencils (fine motor) for days and days and days. One industrious youngster figured out a way to stack the pencils (awesomeness). Who would've thought?

Monday, September 22, 2014

classroom estimation station

 At the end of the year we wanted to study estimating and numbers with our kiddos. I went through my pinterest boards for ideas and was delighted to find this gem from No Time For Flashcards.

I teach three-year-olds who are not yet writing and decided it would be fun for them to draw what they spied in the jars. You can do a search online for a mason jar template. I do not remember where I found mine but it was from a site for personal use only.
The children made predictions, drew their prediction, counted pom poms, and then verified their answers.The following day we we added other objects to the jars such as glass jewels, small plastic insects and lizards, or beads. Our wall of estimations grew quite full. The children were super proud and returned to our Estimation Station many times over the course of two weeks.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

diy balloon {shaker} drums

We spent a week with the book The Listening Walk. We talked a lot about our senses especially our sense of hearing. So, for the week we set out to make as many musical instruments as possible (which wasn't that many but the heart and soul was there). Our first foray into instrument making was our balloon drum/shakers.
The children painted their cans first. We added a bit of soap to the paint to help it stick to the cans but that did not work too well so we had to add a coating of mod podge. The parts of the can that did not get mod podged flaked a lot. I'm thinking maybe some glue added to the paint will help. Tucking that into my cap for next year. After the cans dried (the next class day) the children did some scooping, pouring, dropping, and dumping of assorted noise-making elements such as popcorn kernals, dried beans, cut straws, and lentils.
 After selecting a balloon, we cut off the bottom and S T R E T C H E D the top portion over the cans (this part took a lot of help from me). We used these happy polka dotted balloons.

And then it was time to put on our rock n' roll mix and get to it! The children loved both shaking and playing their drums...they even asked if they could hold them for rest time. We had so much fun!

Saturday, September 20, 2014

fizzy ice fun in the classroom

Back in May we had some seriously hot weather for our town. The kiddos got a bit lethargic and so I brought out a class favorite and added a bit of ice to the mix.
 The kiddos love mixing colors and experimenting with baking soda and vinegar. They spent about 30 minutes noodling around. We began with ice cubes and watercolor and then a couple of drops of vinegar was added along with a smattering of baking soda. There were a lot of Oooooohs and Aaaaaaahs.
They become so involved they don't even complain about the scent of the vinegar. They were also completely happy with their first color choice and did not ask for other colors like they usually do. Yay for science!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

diy toddler gift {for around $10}

There is a crazy cute young lady in my life that celebrated a birthday back in February. Due to crazy schedules (both mine and mama's) it took a few months to get together and this little gift I cobbled up waited ever so patiently for its new home.
It's like a super pretty busy basket...wait it is a super pretty busy basket. Most of the items inside can be found at your local dollar or discount store. The most costly items in the basket were the bowls and that is only because at a $1.99 each I purchased three of them (how could I not?) at my local World Market.
Now here is the thing you may or may not believe...two of these items are cat toys. Cat toys! Who knew? 

*The little rattan (heehee...that one is for you Za!) balls were in the pet section at my Dollar Tree. They come 4 to a pack and I bought a few packs because I really liked the colors and I may have made a garland out of them (I really need to photograph the August and soon-to-be September bed). They are perfectly sized for little hands and too big for little mouths. I thought the balls would be fun to pair up with the bowls as they are a perfect match. They also roll nicely...so there.  

*The clothespins I had in my stash so I am not including their cost in this diy. I included six and tied them with a length of velvet ribbon for texture. Loose ribbon is not safe for wee ones so make sure it is retied  and quadruple knotted to some other object so that kiddo can touch and feel but not chew and swallow or get tangled in it.

*The pom-poms are also cat toys and not a recommended size for wee ones unless you know the wee one really well. They were another happy collection of color and they sparkled.
*The wee wooden bowls are from World Market and cost $1.99 a piece. I use these in my classroom all the time and they are just so great for sorting, stacking, and dramatic play. They are also simply beautiful and it doesn't hurt to have beautiful things available for little hands to play with.

*The basket was a thrift store find and cost me fifty cents. Fifty cents! For reals! If you are not a thrifter you can find small baskets of a little less quality at your dollar store. I highly recommend thrifting though. It's good for both your pocketbook and the environment so why not?

*The little soft doll was something I made for a swap years ago. I made a bunch of them for the shop as well but they did not sell so now I gift them. I may have a few left and can list them if you think it is something you are interested in. Just give me a shout! 

*I bought the poms to use with a small container for fine motor play. The container used to house peanuts in it. The nuts were added to our giant jar of trail mix and the canister was thoroughly cleaned. If you are gifting this to a household with a nut allergy, find a different kind of container. Even though this has been cleaned out there is always a possibility for contamination. Better to be safe than sorry. I went for the smallest I could find with a lid so that it would fit in my basket. After washing and drying, the container was covered in happy paper. The lid had a hole cut into it just a smidge smaller than the poms. The plastic of the lid is super soft so the cut edges are smooth and will not bite little fingers. If your lid is testy, use washi tape around the inside edges to soften it up.

*Lastly in the basket is a quartet of washcloths also from the Dollar Tree. The cloths can be used for peek-a-boo and/or stuffed into the basket, etc. Wash them in a gentle organic soap (Dr. Bronner's is a lovely brand) before gifting.
This little bottle of fun did not fit into the basket but I really wanted to include it because it is fun and pretty! I used a Martinelli's blood orange juice bottle because it's what I had on hand. The beverage is super tasty and often on sale at the market and is both small and double walled (another classroom favorite...it crinkles all on its own). All the bits of happy inside came from home...rice, beads, sparkly pipe cleaners, and buttons. Give the inside of the cap a dose of tacky glue before putting on to hold it in place and keep the happy bits safely away from the happy kiddo.
There you go, hopefully a basket full of inspiration for you to make for your own wee one or as a gift for another. Just make sure it is safe, age appropriate and allergen free. Happy almost Fall!

Friday, September 5, 2014

classroom set up for the first week...

color sorting w shape buttons
little blue and little yellow bead stringing for fine motor
little blue and little yellow pom pom sorting
loose parts: circles
little blue and little yellow curler play...a little green too
natural parts; circles
extras on the block shelf
circle printing and paint fun
crystal connectors and cylinders
little blue and little yellow at the art table
books on color
our new snack tray

Can you guess which book we are reading?