Thursday, October 16, 2014

Our Classroom Chores

I will work with joy, my task is now begun
I will work with joy, until my task is done
Persistence and pride, purpose unfolds
As I work hard to reach my goals
I will work with joy, my task is now begun
I will work with joy, until my task is done.
- Shea Darian


Classroom chores are an important part of our day at Seedlings.  We work together to care for our shared space so we can take pride in our school.  The most important aspect of our chores is that we work with joy - while also singing the song above.  Do you grumble about your housework? You are likely passing that distaste for chores along to your child without intending to do so.  Seedlings students LOVE chores, so much so that they argue on a daily basis about who gets to do what.  Here is a look at a few of our daily tasks.

Laundry

I doubt many people use a wash board these days, but it is a wonderful tool for children.  There is a very specific sequence to follow when doing our laundry, which is a memory-building exercise that involves concentration and patience.  Each place mat is rinsed, scrubbed, rinsed again, wrung out and hung to dry on our child-sized drying rack.  All that squeezing and scrubbing is excellent for finger strengthening and fine motor skills needed for writing.

Dishes

Yes, we could just put our snack dishes in the dishwasher and call it a day, but why do that when we can take an opportunity to play in a tub full of soapy water?!  In case I haven't mentioned it previously, we use real glass bowls, plates and jelly jars as glasses for snack and the children very carefully wash those dishes after snack time.  Of course, the point here is not to get the dishes clean and they are rewashed after class.  Washing dishes is another concentration exercise and serves as a reminder that we have made a mess that requires cleaning up in order to move on with the rest of our day....and, again, tub full of soapy water....enough said.

Dusting

We do a variety of dusting and sweeping activities throughout our week.  We have a wool duster (pictured above), two child-sized dustpan and brush sets and a few child-sized Norwex cloths for when the classroom needs a good wipe with a wet cloth.  I can honestly say that dusting is my least favorite chore, but the children love it, especially when I break out the wet cloths!

Mopping

I have a bit of a Norwex obsession.  I love that I can clean my home and school without the use of chemicals and that I can allow my students to clean without compromising their health.  The kiddos especially love my mop, which has a convenient telescopic handle that brings the mop down to a very small size that most of the children can handle with ease.  Mopping gets all of the large muscle groups moving and working together and is excellent for balance and overall coordination....and my floor is always clean!

Vacuuming

Yes, that is a real vacuum...with the telescopic handle down, it's a nice child-sized tool.  My only complaints about it are that it is quite loud and a bit heavy for the younger children.  We aren't able to vacuum as much as I'd like because someone is always sleeping in my house and again, it is quite loud, but we do get to bring it out on occasion and I just make sure I leave enough time for every child to have a turn!


In addition to our formal 'chore time', the children are also responsible for cleaning up their work when they have finished, clearing their dishes after snack, cleaning up their own spills, pouring water at snack time, pushing chairs in, and straightening up as needed.  My goal is always to help my students become confident, self-sufficient little people and giving them responsibilities only moves us closer to that goal!




Friday, October 3, 2014

Healthy (ish) Edible Play Dough

As part of our 5 Senses theme, we worked quite a bit with play dough.  We got a surprise for our eyes with our Color Surprise Play Dough; we had fun with touch with our Silly Textures Play Dough; we used our noses for our Aromatherapy Play Dough with Essential Oils and we finished out the month with edible play dough - every child's favorite!!!

In preparation for the week, I researched tons of edible play dough recipes, but most were full of sugar in a variety of forms.  My little Bear is a child who doesn't really understand the meaning of 'just a small taste' and I knew I didn't want him eating a giant glob of sugar as the first activity of our day, so I thought about other recipes I could use to make a somewhat healthier version of a classroom favorite.

Before I share my recipes, I would like to advise AGAINST eating an entire ball of play dough.  What I told my students was, "Tiny tastes are ok, but the play dough is still for playing."  Of course, as predicted, Bear ate his ball of play dough about three minutes after I gave it to him, but I didn't feel too terrible about it since it wasn't made entirely of horrible ingredients. :)

We started with a recipe I've been using for years, Peanut Butter Play Dough.
1/3 c. Honey
1/2 c. Dry Milk Powder
1/2 c. Peanut Butter
 
This recipe makes enough for three children.  I divided it and placed it in plastic baggies in the fridge overnight.

Next up, I tried my hand at a Strawberry Coconut Play Dough.
 I'm pretty sure I just lucked out on this one since I was making it up as I went along.
1 pkg. Strawberry Jello Mix
(next time I'd only use 1/2 the pkg or less)
1/2 c. Honey
2 c. Coconut
(I used dried coconut chunks that I pulverized in my Vitamix, but if you try this one, you might want to just try coconut flour or some other form of coconut - flakes, shredded, etc - which may also result in a different texture)
1/4-1/2 c. All Purpose Flour
(to help with stickiness)

This one made enough for 5 kiddos.

Finally, I made Peppermint Play Dough
1 c. Dry Milk Powder
1/2 c. Honey
1 c. All Purpose Flour
1/2 c. Coconut Oil, melted
A few drops of Peppermint Extract
Peppermint Candy Pieces

This recipes made enough for 6 children.

And on our final day of edible play dough, I finally managed to get a picture BEFORE Bear ate all of it!



Thursday, September 25, 2014

Aromatherapy Play Dough with Essential Oils

Time to take a look at our scented play dough!!


I always start with my favorite basic recipe:

1c. All-Purpose Flour
1c. Water
1/2c. Salt
1T Oil
1T Cream of Tartar

Add food coloring and scent of your choice

Mix all ingredients in a saucepan and cook over medium heat until the dough comes together in a ball and is no longer sticky.  Knead the dough for a few minutes until smooth.  Play!

Here are the variations we used:
Add 2-3 drops of Lavender Essential Oil and purple food coloring.  
Lavender can have a calming effect and it smells light and fresh.

Add 2-3 drops of Peppermint Essential Oil and green food coloring (I used the neon green).
Peppermint is refreshing and uplifting and can even soothe upset tummies - it was my morning sickness cure of choice during all three of my pregnancies. :)

Add 2-3 drops of Geranium Essential Oil and pink food coloring.
I have to be honest here and say I have never used my geranium oil except for making play dough, so I can't really speak to its health benefits.  I do know it is wonderful for the skin, however, and has an amazing smell!

Take a look at our other activities from this month, Colors! and 5 Senses!

Sunday, September 14, 2014

5 Senses!

We're moving into week 3 of our lessons on colors and our 5 senses, so we still have lots of fun in store, but I want to share a few activities we've done so far.

Colorful maracas for a hearing-inspired craft.


Textured paint - just add Epsom salt and end up with some lovely sparkly art!
So pretty!

Remember our Color Surprise play dough??  
It got a face lift when I added some googly eyes, rice, glitter, salt and sequins.

My wonderful friend, Amanda was kind enough to dig into her fabric collection and provide me with a variety of textured material.  We spent some time touching and describing each fabric to work on our descriptive language skills!

This is part of a Scent Sort Match Up Kit I purchased.  The kit comes with 30 different scent jars and cards, so I broke them into more manageable groups of 5 for the children to use independently.  These can get tricky, but we'll be expert smellers by the end of the month!

This week, we will be coloring on some textured paper I had left over from my scrap booking days.


Coming soon.....scented and edible play dough!!!



Friday, September 5, 2014

Colors!!

After this week, I can officially say #1: I'm exhausted and #2: I'm in LOVE with my new curriculum!  It's always tricky writing an entirely new curriculum from scratch and then attempting to implement it when neither the teacher nor the children have experienced it before, but after working out all the kinks in August, we've settled nicely into a routine and we're really starting to get into learning through play!

September at Seedlings is all about colors, 5 senses, descriptive language and finding out more about our friends and how we are alike and different.

We had a veritable color explosion this week, here is a look at what we did!

One of our sensory tables was completely filled with RED items!  I will switch the color each week, so we will also have a blue table, a green table and a yellow table this month.

Our other sensory table was filled with rainbow rice, which, of course, only looked like this for three seconds before it became this:
Still lovely!  And the most popular place in the classroom this week!

Part colors, part 5 senses; I created a rainbow water xylophone for a bit of musical fun.  A feast for eyes and ears!

Our second most popular activity this week was our color mixing tray.  I'm pretty sure I reset this tray about 15 times per class, but I was so thrilled every time I heard, "I made green!!" from that area.  This one will be switched out each week so we can create all of the secondaries and by the last week of September, the kiddos will have all three primaries to work with.

We start many of our days with play dough.  Everyone loves play dough and it's a great way to get the kiddos involved and talking immediately.  Our 5 Senses theme this month offers loads of options for play dough additions and this week I opted for Color Surprise play dough that I saw posted a while back here.  We start out with white dough with a surprise inside and as we play, we see it begin to change.
Eventually, the whole ball of play dough is a solid color.  I started with just primaries for my first class, but because I have multiple classes and different kiddos each day, I wanted everyone to have a chance to make a new color, so we eventually ended up with a fun mix of doughs.
Next week, these fun colors will be getting added textures!

Stay tuned for a look at our 5 Senses adventures later this month!!


Friday, August 29, 2014

Emotional Intelligence in Preschool

Emotional intelligence sounds like a really fancy shmancy thing to be teaching at the preschool level, but it's actually quite simple and something most people probably do without even realizing it.  At Seedlings, we work on emotional intelligence every single day, but this month, it was a major focus as we got into the swing of the school year.

Part of increasing our emotional intelligence is recognizing feelings, in both ourselves and others.  We accomplished this in a variety of ways this month, here is a look at a few of the tools we used.

The Excellerations My Feelings Chart was a big help.  We took turns making faces and talking about how the person was feeling and what could have caused those feelings.  The very best thing about this chart was that every child used the eyebrows as mustaches - awesome!!  :)

 We used these People and Emotions Photo Learning Cards to spark discussions about feelings and what might cause them.

We made our own Feelings Books, which gave the kiddos good practice making happy, sad, angry and scared faces and talking about all the things that make them feel certain ways.



Of course, the best way to practice and improve emotional intelligence in preschoolers is through personal experiences.  Sometimes we have disputes among friends and that is a wonderful opportunity to point out how each child looks and have each child explain how he or she is feeling and what caused those feelings.  We can also find ways to comfort each other if we are feeling sad, scared or lonely.

We're off to a wonderful start towards emotional intelligence at Seedlings!!



Friday, August 8, 2014

Body Awareness in Preschool

We're learning all about ourselves this month at Seedlings!  From bones and organs to remembering to ask before hugging and finding words to say, "No thanks, my body is mine," we're exploring and playing our way to some serious body awareness.

One of our most popular activities was play dough body parts and faces.  As the week went on, they got more and more complex, even including the skeletal system in some cases!
These fun people and faces also open an avenue for discussion about diversity and similarities and differences among our friends.

Also offered this month are some 5-layer puzzles by Hape.  I have both the boy and the girl puzzle and the kiddos adore them!
We got a good look at bones with our Foam Skeleton Floor Puzzle.  
In our art area this week, we had a chance to make silly faces with magazine photos.

Most of our activities were presented as a group lesson and then placed in the classroom for free exploration.  Our new format has improved the children's awareness of the offerings in the room and has given them confidence in their abilities to complete the activities as instructed and then expand upon them with play and creativity.

Our first week went amazingly well and I'm looking forward to more playful academics with my new friends and seasoned students!  :)


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