Sunday, March 31, 2013

What We're Up to in April

Happy Easter!  Although the holiday is now behind us, I waited until April to roll out our Easter and Spring activities.  March was all about rainbows, shamrocks and other Irish inspirations, and I really wanted Easter to have a full month as well - so here we are, a bit late, with Easter fun.

As Seedlings evolves, I try to work in as many educational philosophies as I can, recently, I've created a 'Montessori-inspired' area in my classroom and while I don't kid myself that I'll ever actually own true Montessori materials, I make my best effort based on activities commonly found in Montessori classrooms.  I roll in some Waldorf, Reggio and the Miss Lindsey special - shake it up - and our shelves are filled with colorful and creative invitations for the children.

This month's writing salt is yellow and scented with lemon essential oil.  It's light and refreshing and gives the children an exciting new way to practice early writing skills.
This tray is a variation on the opening and closing activities of the Montessori method, the children can put the flower gems inside the eggs, count, sort, pattern, shake, you name it!
Sorting and matching are always more fun when you add tongs!!
Pink play dough scented with geranium essential oil gives this 'create an egg' invitation a little something extra for the children to discover as they play.
The sewing basket was added to the classroom just a short while ago and the children loved it immediately.  I've sent quite a few fabric scraps with buttons sewn onto them home to Moms and Dads and I couldn't be more proud of those little hard-working fingers!  I've refreshed the basket, adding new felt scraps, buttons and embroidery floss.
Our Easter/Spring sensory tub is back, this year residing in storage bin on the block table.
Each month, I rotate the materials on our art shelf.  This area is always open for the children to create whenever the mood strikes.  For April, I've added multicolored pom poms, a rainbow of tissue paper squares, sequins, and spring-themed self-stick foam shapes.  I also trace seasonal or theme-related shapes for the children to cut and decorate - this month, I've made egg shapes on sheets of craft foam.

Happy April!!

Friday, March 29, 2013

Our Water Wall - Part 1

I've been wanting to create a water wall for quite some time and it wasn't until my husband said he could bring home some wood scraps from work that I finally had an inexpensive way to get it done.  It's going to be an ongoing project as I collect the materials I need to add more waterways, but I thought I'd document the process just to show how easy it really is.

I used some funnels and tubes I found at the dollar store to make the first set of waterways.  Just a few holes with a drill, some cable ties and voila!
My son wanted to dive in right away, so I had to think quickly about how I was going to collect the water at the bottom.  I grabbed the tub from my sensory table and filled it up to get him started.

He decided it would be easier to get his bathing suit on and just jump right in, so he did.
I had to place some blocks under the tubes, so they would stick out enough for the water to make it into the sensory tub; a problem I hope I can correct by adding some more bottles and containers as well as smaller catch buckets.  
I leaned the whole thing up against our little climber/slide, so the kiddos could pour from the top, but he hasn't discovered that yet.  I'll wait for that exciting day!  Until then, though, he seems satisfied enough with the preliminary results.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Sensory Play for the Un-Perfect

I've been in the Early Childhood Education field in one way or another for more than half of my life; if you count my early babysitting business, that would make it about 21 years.  Throughout those years, I've taken college courses, attended conferences and completed required continuing education hours on a variety of child-related topics.

Recently, I've gotten involved in a program which supports in-home care providers like myself with resources and training.  I attended my first of (hopefully) many of said classes this past week and I must say, it was by far the best training I've been to in my entire education career.  It was all about sensory play and it was completely hands-on!  For nearly two hours, I got to act like a kid and just play with a wide variety of materials: goop, gak, doughs, sensory bags, sensory/discovery bottles, etc.  Although I've used all of these things in my preschool classrooms for years, there is something about being surrounded by other people who are as passionate about children and about learning how to provide new and amazing experiences for children as I am that heals the soul and inspires creativity.

Needless to say, I had big plans for class the next day!  I had purposely left our water beads from the previous day out with the hope that they'd dehydrate and we could start a discussion about what happened and what we could do next.....unfortunately, as is the way of things in Miss-Lindsey-World, that's not quite how it turned out.  The water beads did not dehydrate, they became a strange water bead jelly-like substance....hmmm, what to do with that?  Add some more water to it and wait and see what the kids make of it.

Everything started out just beautifully, they were scooping, transferring, pouring, and otherwise manipulating in a myriad of ways.

When I told my parent helper for the day that I was going to go inside and begin preparing our fruit salad for snack, things went a bit awry.  The children decided they should make fruit salad as well.  And their fruit salad definitely needed some cinnamon.

A little dirt/dust from the yard and voila!  Cinnamon has been added!

Mix, mix, stir, stir, shove some in a test tube for later experimentation.
Fruit salad, anyone?

Come on, now, we've all seen those pictures on Facebook, Pinterest and blogs of gorgeous invitations for sensory play.  The materials are placed beautifully in glass bowls on a pristine table surrounded by fresh flowers and perfectly placed mirrors for maximum reflection of ambient light.  Also, I'm fairly certain every blogger out there has taken photography classes.  Makes the rest of us feel a bit like underachievers, doesn't it?  I jest, I'm an avid follower of aforementioned bloggers and shall forever strive for such aesthetics.  However, at this moment in time, here I am shedding light on the real world of sensory play - it's messy - and not in a pretty, colors-always-blend-into-a-perfect-secondary kind of way.  Eventually, given enough time and enough children, everything is brown.

Sooooo, my solution for this particular kind of brown??
Rainbow Bubbles!!!  Inspired by my friend Liz over at Fit Kids Clubhouse.
Once the interest in fruit salad had waned a bit, I added some liquid dish soap to the water table and invited the children to swish it all about to make as many bubbles as they could.  When the table was completely filled with bubbly goodness, I drizzled liquid water color over the top and the children were immediately fascinated and couldn't wait to get their hands in there, swishing and swirling.

 Surely this activity is going to turn out exactly as expected!
And right when I thought I'd hit the sensory jackpot......the children remembered that today, for them, was all about cooking and that perhaps I'd done them a favor by adding a new and interesting ingredient.
 An ingredient that goes very well..... fruit salad.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

A New (Give and) Take on Sharing

One of my amazing co-op Moms, Jamie, posted this article on sharing on my Facebook page and I quickly realized that since starting the parent co-op at Seedlings I'd lost sight of the way I wanted to handle sharing squabbles amongst the children.  I find a lot of inspiration on Teacher Tom's blog where he clearly describes what sounds to me like an amazingly effective way to handle sharing issues not to mention everything else that could possibly happen in a preschool classroom.

Best intentions aside, having another Mom present during class time poses a unique set of circumstances and I find myself entering 'Mom mode' and exiting 'teacher mode' more often than I'd like to admit.  No matter what anyone says, no matter how tolerant and understanding and patient we all want to be as parents, there is some little voice deep inside of us that tells us our children must act properly at all times when other parents are around.  This voice is seriously misguided and obviously hasn't ever really interacted with children since it's been locked up inside your head for who knows how long.  We should probably all just tell that voice to shut up.

I've noticed over the past five months that the only problems that seem to pop up are between my 3 1/2 yr old and the child of the parent who happens to be there that day.  With only my two children and four other students, two Moms create a lot of problems disguised as solutions, so I decided to test a theory.  Last week, I had one day in which no parents were signed up to work in the classroom so I prepared myself not to speak unless absolutely necessary during the entire class period, which is 2 1/2 hrs long.  Obviously, I would still direct the rhythm of the day ensuring that we would make time for songs, snack, stories, etc., but I would not intervene in any non-dangerous play situation unless I was asked to help by a child.  And so the day began...

My son has certain toys he's not required to share, they are his and he is allowed to decide if he'd like to bring them out during class time to share with his friends or if he'd like to wait until after class to play with them.  Part of this collection of certain toys are a few random cars that we've picked up here and there.  They don't really fit our typical requirements for the type of toys we generally surround ourselves with (more about that in another post), so they reside in a cabinet that is an eclectic mix of recyclable items, goodie bag toys, tins, bags, boxes, strings and other things that children can't get enough of and most parents can't wait to sneak into the trash.

Today, he decided to share the cars.  When I saw them come outside, I was immediately disheartened.  Most times, he will play with these types of toys himself for a while, claiming that he will share them, but when another child shows interest, he changes his mind and decides to put them away. Yes, he has found a loophole in our rule about his toys and though I've tried to think of a way to close it up, I just haven't found one yet.  I told myself to keep quiet and watch.  The first thing he did was hand one of the cars to his friend.

When another friend came over and asked to play, he went inside and got her another car.

They built a road out of blocks, they traded, they said things like, "Can I have the bus now?" and "I'm still using this one."  They took turns driving on the road, they drove on the patio furniture, they drove in the water table.  They drove on the work bench, adding another friend to the mix....yes, that's right, four children, three do the math on that one.

They discovered that the tops of our old spice jars fit perfectly over the school bus tires and they took turns giving the bus new tires and filling the cars with gas.  Eventually, the game was down to two friends with just the school bus.

And they worked it out.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Recognizing Something Special


She always has her blanket, even outside.  I might suggest she leave it in, but she usually pretends she doesn't hear me.  I might suggest she leave it on the porch lest it get dirty, but she just shakes it off when it drops and continues on her way.  It's her something special and while I usually ask that things like this be left at home or in backpacks, it never causes a problem, so it stays. 
When she decided to climb to the top of the slide and 'ride in the car' with her friend, she handed him the blanket and said, "Here you go."  He's never really had a something special, just a variety of things that are special for a few days until the next item becomes the special one.  I wondered if he knew that this was her special thing.  He took it and said, "She gave this to me to put on the porch for her."  He tossed it onto a small table from a foot or so away and said, "Right there is fine."  And he turned around to go back to playing.
Before he was off the porch, he paused, turned around and went back to the blanket.  He picked it up, and placed it down gently on the table, smoothing and straightening.  "There we go," he said, "that's better."

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

What We're Up to in March

 This month's writing salt is green and glittery.  Numbered shamrocks and pennies provide March's counting activity - Inspired by To the Lesson!

Our new sewing basket and a spring floor puzzle

 Color mixing water transfer activity and beaded rainbow, also inspired by To the Lesson!

Working hard sewing buttons.

Close-up of color mixing activity.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Gelatin Rainbows

March has become one of my favorite months living in Arizona, I suppose that's because it's fairly reminiscent of early spring in Pennsylvania where I grew up.  I love the chilly mornings and sitting in the warm sunshine with my coffee watching my little ones play.  I also love rainbows, something we hear a lot about in March and something I've seen more of in my few years in Arizona than my entire life prior.

I really wanted a blog-worthy post to kick things off, so I decided to pull out a project I did three years ago when I first moved into my new home and had a huge, bright preschool space in which to work.  I had a grand total of two students at the time and my first son was only 5 months old.  Little did I know then that I probably should have taken some notes.....ahhh, hindsight.

And so, without further ado, my *almost* blog-worthy post: Gelatin Rainbows

You will need unflavored gelatin, pipettes, liquid watercolor and a light table (I covered mine with a white trash bag to keep it mess-free).  I followed the directions on the gelatin and made about 4c. which I placed into four separate containers - here's where hindsight would have been nice - don't follow the directions, reduce the amount of water, probably by about 1/2c. and you may want to try spraying the inside of your containers with cooking spray - the reason for that will be quite clear very soon.

Moving on... I assembled all of our supplies before class so we could get involved before the kids headed outside, which is where they've been spending most of their time lately.  I put the liquid watercolor in ice cube trays and set everything up on the covered light table.

Remember when I said spray your containers with cooking spray?  Yeah, here's why...
That's what my first attempt at removing the gelatin from the container looked like.......FAIL!  Ok, so let's try this again...
Ahh, better, so time to get the kids involved, I explained that we were going to 'inject' the gelatin with rainbows of color....a quick demo....and....go!!!
And here's where I noticed that maybe I should have reduced the amount of water in the gelatin recipe....
See all that liquid watercolor around the bottom of the gel block?  Ummmm, that's not supposed to happen....there are supposed to be these cool tunnels of color in one of those space-age ant hills they sell now.....
See? Rivulets of color!!!  Not whatever is happening here.....
Ok, so not exactly what I had in mind, but still way cool, yes??  The kids thought so.
The first thing that threw them for a loop was the ONE pipette I gave them.  I will admit that I'm just a tad obsessive when it comes to keeping paints separated when in bowls/trays/etc.  Once the paint is on your paper, have at it, but keep my pretty tray untainted, please!  Anyway, the point of this exercise IS mixing colors, so one pipette it was.  I even had one kiddo ask, "What if I want a different color?"  Oops, time to simmer down on the cleanliness, Miss Lindsey!

Once they got the hang of it, they really got into it. "Look at!  We're making rainbows!"  "What color is this?? Oh! Blue!"  "Are we making holes?"

There was also quite a bit of talk about color mixing, "I made darker red mixed with purple!" "I made green: I dipped into blue and then into yellow and it made into green!!"  "Miss Lindsey, orange and blue makes brown!"  Ok, so that last one might not be on the standard color mixing lesson plan, but it was one he'll probably remember because he discovered it himself.

After a bit, they were ready to move beyond the rainbow-making and wondered what it would feel like.  Someone ventured a guess, "I think it's gonna feel like to me....gooey stuff."  Probably not too far off, but then they decided to find out first-hand....
After a few minutes of squishing and smooshing, they were ready to head outside, but I promised that our next adventure into gelatin rainbows would be Rainbow Gelatin Sensory Tubs.  Perhaps another post on that to come!

Miss Lindsey

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