"In this classroom, relationships are fostered, families are respected, and children are honored.
In this classroom, nature's gifts are valued and children's thoughts are captured.
In this classroom, learning is alive and aesthetic beauty is appreciated." -Unknown

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Transportation Unit: Making a Box Car

We've been working on a Transportation unit at preschool lately and I wanted to create cars the kids could race around in themselves. Out of that desire our Box Cars came to be.

My family had recently moved so I just happened to have some boxes lying around the house. I took four that were approximately the same size into the classroom. I folded all the flaps inside the boxes and invited the kiddos to paint the outside of all four boxes. 

After two coats of paint were dry, I unfolded the two side bottom flaps and using a small plate, drew a circle shape on them with part on the side of the box and part on the flap. Using a boxcutter, I cut off the remaining flap that wasn't part of the circle and painted the "tires" black. 

Kiddo volunteers painted some small paper plates yellow to be our headlights.


I found some foil heart-shaped mini tins in the cabinet and asked for some helpers to paint them red to be our taillights/brake lights.

After all the paint was dry, I stapled the headlights to the front of each box and the taillights/brake lights to the back of each box. I folded the remaining flaps inside the boxes for extra sturdiness. When we went outside we put out some cones for an obstacle course and they were off!

Maneuvering a box as you would weave in and out of cones was a spatial challenge, but one that the kiddos seemed to enjoy.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Community Helpers: Preschool Style

We have been embarking on a Community Helpers/Careers unit this month. We've been learning about many jobs and the tools used with them. 

Our Science area was set up with dental equipment and we used some of the tools of the trade for art projects. Pictured above is some of our dental floss art and below is our toothbrush painting. 

Everyone loves brushing Mr. Mouth!

We played Spot's Spots. Each friend would roll a
dice, then place the number of pompoms on Spot
that came up on the dice.

Vehicle play-dough cutters are a hit!

Construction vehicles in sand in the sensory table

Lots of community helpers to play with in the
block area made for lots of fun scenarios.

Community Helpers Bingo found at www.prekinders.com
made for lots of conversation about the roles of each job.

With dramatic play set up as a post office
there were lots of opportunities to write
friends' names and letters to them.

I created a name card with each friend's photo
and name on it.
They love dropping letters into the mailbox.

Lots of rescues taking place at the firehouse.

Doctor dress-up clothes and stethoscopes got us all listening
to each other's hearts. They'd listen first, then go for
a run, and come back for another listen. 

I put out individual notepads in the post office and
they immediately started wanting to take their
friends' food orders. Little different than what I
intended, but it got them writing. Success!

Pulled out the police officer uniforms and they
 began writing tickets to "lawbreakers".

We've been blessed with so many parents willing
to visit and share about their jobs.
We still have a few more parents scheduled to come in to share as we move into our Transportation unit and we are having a blast!

Monday, February 11, 2013

10+ Favorite Preschool Posts

Today marks one year since I began the For the Children blog and can't believe all that's happened in that year, but before I get all mushy, I wanted to highlight the 10 posts that have been viewed the most this past year along with a few of my faves.

Coming in at #1: Preschool Time: Welcoming Parents and Helping Them Feel Connected. http://msbarbarasblog.blogspot.com/2012/08/preschool-time-welcoming-parents-and.html As of this date, this post has received 4,719 views and it came out on 8/9/12. I believe this served as a guide for educators and providers of practical means to really connect with families. This post continues to get lots of traffic. 

Preschool Time: Welcoming Parents and Helping Them Feel Connected
#2: Our Top 5 Outdoor Musical Activities with Children was all the rage for awhile. http://msbarbarasblog.blogspot.com/2012/03/our-top-5-outdoor-musical-activities.html This post was a hit with all of our friends who are passionate about outdoor play for kids and doesn't surprise me as being among the top contenders. 

Our Top 5 Outdoor Musical Activities

#3: Christmas, Preschool Style is one of our most recent posts, but still managed to have a huge following. http://msbarbarasblog.blogspot.com/2012/12/christmas-preschool-style.html It highlighted some of the seasonal activities we were busy doing in our program.

Christmas, Preschool Style
#4: 10+ Ways to Know It's a High Quality Program is one of my favorite posts. http://msbarbarasblog.blogspot.com/2012/07/10-ways-to-know-its-high-quality-program.html This post had the most photos included in it and was one I had wanted to do for a long time. I had been asked many times what parents should look for when trying to find the best fit for their child's needs and put lots of effort into compiling and expressing the information. I feel that this served as a guide for educators and providers, as well as for parents. 

10 Ways to Know It's a High Quality Program
Another fun one we included came in at #5: Tissue Paper Rainbow Art. http://msbarbarasblog.blogspot.com/2012/05/tissue-paper-rainbow-art.html This was such a fun activity and one that always revealed surprisingly beautiful results. 

Tissue Paper Rainbow Art

#6: How to Lure Them In served as a guide to setting up the activities and environment in an aesthetically pleasing way to entice the children to check it out. http://msbarbarasblog.blogspot.com/2012/02/how-to-lure-them-in.html In the post we shared how to set up provocations and how to use natural materials to enhance the activity. Another one of my faves.

How to Lure Them In

#7: Preschool: Cutting with Scissors was another fairly recent post that received lots of attention. http://msbarbarasblog.blogspot.com/2012/09/preschool-cutting-with-scissors.html In this post we discussed providing children with the opportunity to use scissors, how to teach them scissors safety, as well as our Mr. Smiley approach to helping with the proper hold while cutting. 

Preschool: Cutting with Scissors

#8: We Tip Our Hats to You, Dr. Seuss!! This post wasn't about an activity we had done in our classroom, but was a glimpse into the world of Dr. Seuss through the traveling exhibit "The Art of Dr. Seuss: A Retrospective and International Touring Exhibition". http://msbarbarasblog.blogspot.com/2012/02/we-tip-our-hats-to-you-dr-seuss.html We were extremely fortunate to have this exhibit visit us locally and was honored be able to share some of the highlights of it with you. 

We Tip Our Hats to You, Dr. Seuss!!
#9: Flower Petal Sun Catchers was another one of my favorites. In it we shared how to use fresh flowers, paper plates, contact paper, and glue to create a beautiful display in your window. Each sun catcher was uniquely different and dazzling. http://msbarbarasblog.blogspot.com/2012/05/flower-petal-sun-catchers.html

Flower Petal Sun Catchers
And completing our top 10 list at #10: Kool-Aid Dying Play Silks: A Colorful Adventure. This was another favorite of mine. I'm always amazed at how beautiful the colors come out and love the process of creating something so vibrant that I know will be a hit with the kiddos. This wasn't an activity to do with the children, as there would be some safety concerns, but served as a tutorial for adults. http://msbarbarasblog.blogspot.com/2012/08/kool-aid-dying-play-silks-colorful.html

Kool-Aid Dying Play Silks
There are two more posts that didn't make the most viewed list, that are quite meaningful to me. The first is It's More Than JUST Buttons. This post was dedicated to my Grandma Stout. She wasn't a lady of high education, but possessed a loving heart and a dedication to spending time with me and truly listening to me. She inspired me in such a way, that I believe my love for teaching probably stemmed from the time we spent together. This post has received some of the most comments so far as it prompted others to share stories of individuals who inspired them, also. http://msbarbarasblog.blogspot.com/2012/02/its-more-than-just-buttons.html

It's More than JUST Buttons
The other post that I knew I wanted to share is purely for sentimental reasons. It was my first one. And It Begins... It's a very simple blog post. I shared my heart and passion for the kids and teaching. http://msbarbarasblog.blogspot.com/2012/02/and-it-begins.html

And It Begins...
I really had no idea what I was getting myself into. I knew I loved seeing new ideas and wanted to share with others. I knew I wanted to promote high quality standards and developmentally appropriate practices. I knew I wanted to do something creative and inspirational with all the photos I was constantly taking. 

I just needed a little nudge that I received from my friends: Shannon Small Wonders Preschool of Fall RiverJula Redding Cooperative Preschool, and Christina. Thanks, friends!!

I had not thought of creating a Facebook page for the For the Children blog, which made a huge difference in our following and has given me the opportunity to post lots more photos than I'd include in a blog post, until talking to a friend I made during this process, Jackie from Happy Hooligans. Jackie patiently walked me through the process and invited me to join her at two different Facebook groups for more inspiration and information. Thanks so much, Jackie!! 

I had never heard of PicMonkey, but love the difference it makes with the titles of my posts and the ability it gives me to watermark all my photos to link back to my blog. Thanks, PicMonkey!

I've met lots of amazing people along this journey and look forward to continuing this adventure with you. Thank you for walking this path with me. 

As I click on the Publish key, we had 36,270 visits. I'm humbled and honored. Here's to many more!

Much love,  


Monday, February 4, 2013

Penguin Mania

We began the month of January doing a winter study, then branched into learning about emperor penguins. We use the GEMS (Great Explorations in Math and Science) guide. These guides are part of Lawrence Hall of Science's curriculum (the public science education center at the University of Science at Berkeley, CA). You can go through a GEMS training and then check out the kits, but even if you don't have access to the kits, you can still purchase the guides and use them effectively. More info can be found at www.lhsgems.org.

We transformed the science table with emperor penguin images,
a baby penguin and egg images, books, "snow blanket", a stuffed
penguin, and smaller penguins on the icebergs.

We began the unit with a "what do we know" listing.
Children shared what they thought to be facts about the
penguins. During the course of study we determined which
things were true, partially true, or learned new information.

We did an experiment to help the children understand the concept of
the insulation that penguins, walrus, and the like have to make them
able to survive in the icy waters. We placed shortening in a ziploc, then
inserted and inverted ziploc inside the bag and zipped them together.
The child placed one hand in ice water and the other in the "insulated" bag
to feel the difference.

We did another experiment where the child held a ziploc bag of
ice in a hand, then transferred it on top of a ziploc filled with cottonballs
in the other hand and discussed the differences.

We used the small penguins, a placemat, and foam blocks to
create penguin math stories and the penguins walked on the
ice and swam in the water.

We froze blocks of ice then placed them in tubs of water complete
with penguins and fish. The children were able to move the penguins
around and have them swim in the icy water to catch fish.

I placed some of the penguin images out along with coordinating
paints and encouraged the children to look closely at the image
and then paint "what they saw".

Each child created their own penguin by drawing on eyes,
gluing on feet, beaks, and flippers. We placed stuffing inside
and the baggy penguins were used to do penguin role-plays.

I presented a drama about the penguin father caring for the egg.

The kiddos pretended to be penguins then huddled together to stay warm.

I love seeing how their little penguins turn out.

I purchased aqua gems (like aquaballs except they're cubes) from
Michaels, then froze them to look more like ice.

The kids practicing trying to walk with the egg on their feet.

The kiddos learned this poem along with motions
and we discussed predators and prey, rhyming words,
and exclamation points.

Each child got to be measured next to the life-size
emperor penguin poster.
We had so much fun and the kiddos learned so much. They are still talking about how the parents regurgitate the fish for the baby's food. What a fun unit!!