Sunday, March 2, 2014

More March Montessori-Inspired Fun

It's March again here at Seedlings and it's time to share a few more fun activities we have lined up for the month.

Here is a look at the invitations that were offered to the children last year.

I've brought back a few of last year's activities, with a few small changes and additions:


Our book selections include a few Dr. Seuss favorites as well as some theme-related choices.

The shamrock and penny counting activity is back - this was a huge hit last year!

Our Peter Rabbit floor puzzle is also back, along with a fun rainbow puzzle donated by a parent earlier this year.

Our Montessori-Inspired Sound Bottles are also making a comeback.  Monkey was thrilled to see these returned to the classroom and he immediately taught Bear how to use them!

Bear is finally old enough to understand when I ask him not to put everything in his mouth (though he still tries), so I've added a fun St. Patrick's Day transfer activity to the classroom.  I found a few shamrock necklaces at the Dollar Tree and cut them apart so the tiny shamrocks could be transferred from bowl to bowl with either the tiny spoon or the tweezers.  The mirror trays in the room help to add some variety and, if we're lucky, some reflections that may even lead us into discussions and activities on light and rainbows!

Last, but not least, I've added these little color-mixing gnome families to our block area.  I'm interested to see how these are used over the next few weeks.

March happens to be my favorite month for lesson-planning.  Something about shamrocks and rainbows and fairies and St. Patrick's Day fun brings out the kid in me.  Incidentally, March will also be my last month teaching before my new little Seedling arrives and I take a few weeks off to recover and get to know the little one.

More spring and summer activities coming soon!




Friday, February 7, 2014

Play-Based Math All Year


Contrary to popular belief, there are many ways to provide opportunities for math exploration in preschool that are far more effective than the ubiquitous worksheets we find in many mainstream preschools and the vast majority of kindergartens.  Children are hands-on learners and math is full of abstract concepts that simply can not be grasped by staring at a flat piece of paper or by memorizing pages and pages of math facts.

Here is a look at a small sampling of math activities that have been offered to Seedlings students:

Marshmallow snowmen.  Draw happy little faces on a few large marshmallows and give a kid some tongs and what's he learning?  Not only an awesome fine-motor activity, but one-to-one correspondence!  One happy snowman per muffin cup.  Or expand: Three in the top row, three in the bottom row, how many all together?  Turn the pan the other way and you have three rows of two!  Now we're doing sets, with preschoolers!

February pattern matching for Valentine's day.  I have no idea where I found these cards, but there is a similar version in the 'File Folder Games' section at Preschool Printables, which is a great site for finding lots of ideas, many of which are free!

More Valentine's Day fun with a hand-made number game.  Count the appropriate number of beads and place them on the felt hearts.  There are a zillion ways to expand on this activity: Which has the most? Which has the least? Comparing numbers, larger, smaller, evens, odds, adding, subtracting, etc.

I can't take credit for this one.  This is actually my basket of traced hearts for the kiddos to cut out as needed and a bunch of homemade crayons.  This little guy thought it would be fun to put a crayon on each heart - more one-to-one correspondence - child-directed!

March counting activity with pennies.  Just like the February hearts, but with the added element of money, so now we're talking cents!  Have older kiddos?  Turn it into a money lesson!

Here's a fun one for Easter time - hide the flowers in the eggs.  One flower per egg - or maybe not - who has more?  How many will fit?  Let's make patterns with eggs or flowers or, heck, eggs AND flowers!

Need to make something?  Play dough, other sensory material?  Make it with the children.  Cooking is the best hands-on math activity.  If you mess up and it doesn't come out quite right, even better,  ADD something else until it's fixed.

I found some Easter erasers at the Dollar Tree and made a sorting activity.  Match the shapes and count or make patterns or a whole host of other applications.

Here's our counting tray for May.  Butterflies with numerals and the appropriate amount of dots along with some flower-shaped buttons to keep it festive, fun and seasonal!  Even though the children have the opportunity to explore a counting activity each month and each activity is almost exactly the same as far as skills go, changing it out monthly keeps them interested and learning.

Another sorting, matching, counting opportunity.  These plastic 'jewels' are also different geometric shapes, adding another complex math skill to the mix.  And I love tongs, in case you hadn't noticed! :)

Tangrams are a class favorite!  These are a set from Melissa and Doug.  Use them with the accompanying boards for shape matching and discussions or just let the kiddos create their own pictures, patterns and designs.

Another one I can't take credit for.  Blocks, plain old blocks.  Sorting is a fundamental preschool skill and can be done in a variety of ways.  This little one went with sorting by shape with the added bonus of a balance lesson.

In September, we do lots of apple activities.  This one is a favorite.  Sort the pom-pom apples (made a bit more difficult with the addition of tweezers) into the correct bowl.  Counting, patterning, adding, etc can all be part of this activity as well.

If you are really stuck for ideas, the easiest thing to do is just give the kiddos a set of numbers.  These are magnetic numbers and letters that also happen to include plus, minus and equals signs if you are really inclined to teach math facts.  I'm not really inclined to do so, and the children play as desired.  You can see some sorting happening on the board if you look close enough.

If you don't have any sensory materials you need to make, pop into the kitchen and make some actual food.  Here we are, back to cooking, and he's really making sure we have the right amount of cereal for our special snack.  At Seedlings, we bake fresh bread every week and make other cooking projects that require class participation and measurement twice per month.

Unifix Cubes are probably something you recognize from when you were in school.  If you want to do some directed teaching, these even come with a handy booklet of activities, but I like watching the magic unfold on its own.  This little one spent quite a bit of time building one tower and then holding the two towers next to each other to see which was taller.  Then she'd add cubes to the shorter tower to make them equal and begin the process again by adding to the first tower.  She talked herself through the whole process using words like 'taller', 'shorter', 'the same'; naming colors and counting.


And there you have it, a full year's worth of math activities for preschoolers - and again, this is just a SMALL sampling of what can be done just by using what's already around your home.

Many years ago when I was just starting to see Early Childhood Education as a career, I was sent by my boss (who also happened to be my Mom) to a conference to hear a woman I'd never heard of talk about preschoolers and play.  Only later did I come to realize that I'd spent the entire day with one of the most influential people in the Early Childhood Education field: Bev Bos.  I still have, and refer to often, the amazing manual I received that day full of ideas, activities and articles, but this quote stuck with me and has guided me in the way I approach creating activities for my students from that day forward:

"If it hasn't been in the hand...and in the body...it can't be in the brain!" -Bev Bos








Friday, January 10, 2014

2014: New Year, New Rhythm

If you know me, or you've read this blog, even a little bit, you know I LOVE and embrace change.  Learning to embrace change, especially that over which you have no control, is an acquired skill.  It has taken many years and quite a bit of hardship for me to understand that flexibility in the face of any major or minor variation is a wonderful trait to have.

The most recent modification at Seedlings has been the closure of the afternoon preschool classes, leaving only three mornings per week of work for me and school for my boys.  My first thought was, 'what in the world am I going to do with all this time?  I'm going to go insane!'  But after careful consideration, I realized that all of this free time would only be a plus for our family and for the preschool.

I began by slightly altering our daily rhythm, both for school and family.  Our preschool day now looks like this:



8:30am-9:00am
Arrival and Snack Preparation
9:00am-9:30am
Nature Walk 
9:30am-9:45am
Circle Time and Stories 
9:45am-10:15am
Play, Explore and Discover Time 
9:45am-10:15am
Art and Handwork
10:15am
Clean Up and Hand Washing
10:15am-10:30am
Snack
10:30am-10:45am
Independent Reading and Classroom Chores 
10:45am-10:55am
Music and Movement
10:55am-11:00am
Closing Circle and Goodbyes

The times are an approximate guide, I never watch the clock, I usually just feel when it's time to move on to the next activity.  I also added a new snack rhythm as follows:

Monday - Fruit Salad
Wednesday - Bread
Friday - Vegetable Soup

It has only been one week, but I've already seen the children, especially my own and those who attend all three days adapting to the new rhythm.

We've also adopted a new-ish family rhythm for after preschool.  Monkey and Bear have lunch and then Bear goes for his nap, while Monkey has 'rest time' either in his room or we snuggle up together on the couch for some quiet time together.  Monkey's rest is shorter than Bear's nap, which leaves time for games, books, etc.  He's always had difficulty sharing me with other children, even though he absolutely loves having them around.  His difficulty usually manifests in less than desirable behaviors, which causes a less than desirable reaction from me.  Getting special time with me each day after class has helped us connect and has made our school days easier.

Having my afternoons free has also left me with much more time to prepare and plan for the upcoming school days, which means more fun and in-depth activities for my students.  I no longer feel like I'm scrambling around trying to balance household chores, family commitments, extracurricular activities and preschool planning.  Overall, my stress level has been greatly reduced - probably a good thing since baby #3 will be shaking things up in less than 3 months!

This week, I even attempted my first in-class wet felting project.  I've never tried it with the children before because I was constantly worried about running out of time, but with so much preparation, it went off without a hitch.  Here are some pictures from my favorite project of the week!


And now we have the amazing masterpiece decorating our classroom and reminding us that slowing down and simplifying are ALWAYS good things!

Have you made resolutions this year?  I'd love to hear what's in store for you!


Friday, December 20, 2013

Jingle Bell Painting!

There are some projects that are just too awesome not to repeat every year, jingle bell painting is one of those projects.

The children LOVE the process - so much so that none of them even cared what their painting looked like at the end - they were satisfied completely with the process alone; and parents LOVE the finished product!

The process is easy-peasy, you'll just need any sort of box with a lid, paper, paint, glitter and some jingle bells of any size.  Start with paper inside of the box and add some paint drops.


Add some glitter - any type will do.  No worries all you despisers of glitter (I am one of you), the mess is contained in the box!


Toss in your bells and you are ready for the fun part!


Put the lid on your box and start shaking, rolling, turning and moving any which way you'd like!









When you've sung 'Jingle Bells' enough, and feel you are finished, you'll have this, which is even lovelier in person:



On a related note, we also did Marble Painted Candy Canes this week.  Follow the same process using an open pan - beware of flying marbles!




Sunday, December 15, 2013

Change is Good: A New Look for our Classroom

I've never and I mean NEVER, met a preschool teacher who doesn't love moving the classroom furniture around to give the students a fresh perspective.  Not only does change help keep things interesting for the teacher and the kiddos, it also helps to prevent unwanted behaviors, make space where it is needed, provide different play experiences for the children, etc, etc.  The reasons for change are endless.

Personally, I've always wanted a Waldorf-Inspired classroom.  It has been my goal since I began moving toward the Waldorf philosophy years ago.  The only problem with that goal is that Waldorf appeals to a fairly small community of parents and in my current location, it is practically unknown.  Montessori is much more popular, though because the title 'Montessori' can be used by anyone, it is sometimes difficult to find a TRUE Montessori program.  I am neither Waldorf nor Montessori trained, and so I pull bits and pieces from each and find myself with a fairly balanced and appealing program.  I do have a very-far-in-the-future goal of becoming BOTH Waldorf and Montessori trained, but that shall have to wait until I no longer have itty bitty ones at home.

It could be because the holidays are approaching and I find that to be a wonderful time to de-clutter or I could just be nesting, but I've emptied out quite a bit from the classroom, including the huge bookcases that used to reside in each corner.  Everything has been brought down to the children's level and is looking fresh and bright!


I hope the children enjoy the new set-up when the see it for the first time this week!

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Holiday Fun!

Here is a quick look at what we've been busying ourselves with so far this month.  The children have been working like busy little bees preparing gifts for their Moms and Dads, but those are top secret, so take a look at some other fun we've had!

Cookie Cutter Prints

Gingerbread Play Dough

Our Gingerbread Man Decorating Tray has been popular...

So we decorated some to take home!

So cute!

Our water activity has also been a hit!

One of our cooking activities this month was Chocolate-Covered Pretzels.  The children loved stirring up the chocolate with the pretzels and then dipping them in sprinkles!


One project that I do EVERY year is Shaving Cream Paint Snowmen - they always turn out too adorable for words!  Just mix some shaving cream and a little white glue and pile it onto your paper.  Add accessories and let dry.  The paint will stay puffy after it's dried!!


Check out this masterpiece!


I've just given our classroom a mid-month make-over, so stay tuned for new classroom pictures!


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