Friday, September 30, 2011

Vehicles explore the clayscape

(The hardware store has these great bins that are for mixing cement in for just $5 that cost way more at the school supply store.  I used one of these to hold the clay and a small amount of water.  The clay rinses right off of the vehicles--as opposed to playdough, which sticks inside the nooks and crannies. A quick rinse or soak and the cars are like new!)


This is a story about a book

The library can be very overwhelming for someone like me.  

So many choices! So many authors! So many subjects!

I usually take one or two sections and thumb through for the books that jump out at me.  I might, on my way to check out, stop by a favorite author, or look up a favorite title.  

This week, I was thumbing through a section of books, I came across this one:

I thumbed through it and saw that it was a story about a wolf who keeps trying to sneak up on a pig to eat him, but the pig, by no effort of his own and completely unaware of the wolf, slips by unharmed in each situation.  At once I put the book back. "They already play too many games based on Abiyoyo, Jack and the Beanstalk, and big mean bears. They don't need another book with the antagonistic bad guy!".

Then I took it back off of the shelf and into my heaping pile of books to check out.

Isn't that exactly the reason I should check that book out? What if--what if--they like this book more than any other in the batch? What if the element of risk and fear that is driving their imaginary play is exactly what they need right now? What if I just listen to the children's cues and go with it, rather than trying to resist the recent "bad guy" theme of their play?  What if I put this book back on the shelf and lose the opportunity to find my next favorite children's book?

Well, I put a dozen library books on the bookshelf this morning and guess which one was THE most popular book?  Suddenly!!!! The problem solving and figuring out of the plot that is required to really comprehend this book is at the perfect level for the four-year-olds in my group.  Plus, this book plays on their latest enactments of the three little pigs, which have driven countless team work and problem solving situations in the classroom.  I really couldn't have asked for a better book in our classroom this week.

Oh, and you should have heard the conversations that they had about this book.  Small groups of children would huddle around it, talking about each page.  It was beautiful.

They enjoyed it.  I enjoyed it.  'Nuff said!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Oldies but goodies-Vegetable prints

What with this cleanse that's having me practically consume my body weight in veggies each week, it made perfect sense to use some of the extras for a quick and easy art project.

As it turns out, celery hearts and okra make very cute flower shapes.

Try it yourself (since I didn't get any good photos this time!).

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Another Craft Stick Game


Practice pincher grip, explore fulcrum point, identify patterning.

Or, as Ak saw fit, make dragon flies instead.

I'll be the first to admit, those that followed Ak's lead and made dragon flies use their craft sticks WAY more than the kids use my craft stick game in the classroom.



One day at Beansprouts Preschool, the children discovered that PVC pipes make great straws--for blowing bubbles in the water table!

Guada added some soap and the bubble-fest was on!

That afternoon, we made these:

By doing this:

We taped two straws together, hoping that the soap solution wouldn't travel that far upwards in the case of an accidental suck (it worked like a charm!)

And while some kids chose to make prints, 

Others thought it would be more fun to dunk the entire paper in the colored solution 
(and rip it to shreds, of course)

In honor of this emergent bubbly curriculum, we put suds and sponges in the water table:

And a lot of washing of arms went on there

We wanted to do some blow-painting
but thought it would be fun to use a balloon pump, 
just to see if it worked

It did, sort of.

Our final product (after eight children worked on the same one)
turned out quite unexpectedly

More bubbly activities:

-Good ol' baking soda and vinegar

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Craft Stick Activity; Collage Tray

Inspired by my latest find on Pinterest (and also Leslie's craft stick puzzles):

Can be adapted to many themes and many levels of ability. We have four sets of three sticks.  In this game, they build picture components as well as contextualized words.

I've noticed that if I introduce a new little something each day, the kids get into a rhythm of pulling activity trays off of the shelf to do independently (or with other children).  I also stole this idea from the blogosphere:

a miniature collage strip activity 

The way I see it, if I bring just one new thing a day, and a few of the new things hook in a few children at any given time, then introducing new works into the classroom really is an easy and highly beneficial classroom management strategy.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Height Chart

We had a lot of fun doing a height measurement chart with the kids today. The kids chose yarn and flower colors and we saw just how much they've sprouted!

Inspiration for this chart came from Learning and Teaching with Preschoolers.  They also link some other very interesting looking measurement activities!

I was also inspired by their basket of measuring tapes, so I included the only one that I could find and added some strings, some taller and some shorter than their bodies.  Let's just see what happens.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Oldies but goodies-Silly putty

Have you had your dose of silly putty lately?

It's been SO long since I've made a batch of this stuff that was this perfectly stretchable consistency:

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Rubber Bands

When I found a bin full of rubber bands in the storage area (thank you, Leslie!), I thought we should make a "work" out of them.  Hmmm...

I came up with this:

Some cylinder blocks, some wooden blocks, some rubber bands, and there you go, hours of fun.  Those balls were covered with rubber bands and for some of the kids, the fun part was peeling them off.

 They liked it so much that I want to buy a set of rainbow colored rubberbands (most of ours are brown) to add the dimension of pattern-making.  My friend (or his preschoolers, not sure which) had the idea of allowing the children to rubber band two cylinder blocks together. It's trickier than I thought it would be for them to double up a rubber band around the smaller blocks.  The said friend also added many different shapes of blocks, so I'll be trying that, too!

Fun fact: a big pile of rubberbands is, like, the easiest thing ever to clean up.  So offer the rubber bands in ample quantities!

The bottom line is respect

For those of you who don't know Beansprouts, it's a preschool program that I run from my home.  We have twelve children per day and we are a full-day program.

My husband, who is so supportive of having a business that makes such an ginormous impact on our home, commented to me the other day, "The kids at Beansprouts act like little adults."

Wow.  I was stunned. Stunned that the difference in these children is that noticeable to the layman.  All I could say was, "We treat them with respect. If we treat them like babies, they'll act like babies." We cited several of our family members that fall into the latter category.

When I think of the preschools that actually want kids to act like adults, say, certain highly academic-focused preschools where children wear uniforms and their thirty minute recess is their only playtime, I think of kid prison.  In fact, I've heard that the recess time at those preschools is like the wild kingdom--dog eat dog, kids gone wild.  Those kids need to play, too, despite their parents' agendas.  Yet they are stuck inside doing worksheets and lessons! 

The children at Beansprouts, as with any high quality environment that values children and their play, have created their own community with a sense of respect for one another.  Even the most self-centered or self-willed of the children have deep connections with their peers.  The teachers model respect for each other and respect for the children, valuing most what children bring to the table.  Children are active participants in their preschool experience and learning.

When teachers treat children's play as a priority, play truly becomes the work of the child.  Children take their work very seriously.  It is during play that the child opens up the most to learning experiences.

 These children were trying to figure out what creature lived in the bottom of the hole.  Was it a crab or a spider? As they conversed, they had a very interesting dialogue about the attributes of both creatures as a way to deduce which creature was biting their hands.

The mud pie kitchen is a place where children come together and create meals or movie snacks or, more often than not, dessert.  These children had to work out some disagreements about what they were making (and for whom), but they did so with no teacher intervention necessary.  That takes a LOT of practice!  

PVC pipes are one of our favorite loose parts.  Children practice fine and large motor and also must plan and figure out sizes and angles and geometric properties of objects that are sometimes much longer than their own bodies.  

This guy had the all-important, self-appointed job of sucking up unwanted debris in the yard.  He asked the teachers and his classmates what they didn't need any more, and sucked it up.  Complete with sound effects and motor controllers, he got the job done. 

This five gallon jug is our sandbox self-serve water supply.  It serves two purposes: to provide water, and to allow the children to see the water level going down, promoting concepts of conservation and waste.  When children don't have to ask the teacher for water, it makes for a more fluid (pun intended), autonomous, uninterrupted cycle of play.

These three are painting.   Everything about this activity feels like a big job for the children.  For one, climbing up that slanted dirt is no small task for those little legs, and second, using actual paint brushes elicits the feeling of a very important job.

For me, the bottom line is respect.  If I work at a job where I'm not taken too seriously, I will treat my job as such--not too seriously.  But when I am acknowledged, considered a valuable part of the team, and treated with authentic interest, I rise to the occasion.  That's what we offer here.  And we take their work as seriously as they do.

Little adults? Maybe.  

Valuable community members? Yes!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Listen to the Water

Long ago, a preschool dance teacher introduced me to the song "Listen to the Water" (we like Charlotte Diamond's version from the "My Bear Gruff" album).  We incorporated sign language into this song during our water week last week to make a really fun circle time activity! I used this website to learn the signs for the words:
saw (like 'see')

The children like the song so much that they ask for it as well as sing it together outside regularly during their play.  Of course the most natural movement is the swaying back and forth to the rhythm of the song that we all do together in unison.  Seeing them love this song makes me love it even more!

Signing the words fast enough to keep up with the song (even though we do very few signs) is challenging enough for them to feel really, really good about themselves when they can actually do it. I always comment on how beautifully they do it because there are often children who give up if they think they cannot succeed.  I think this acknowledgment has made it so that we get 100% participation during the song, which in our group is rare.  There are always a few listeners.

Here's a fun version of the song, and it's always fun to incorporate the children's ideas into the lyrics:

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Our Sandbox, a.k.a. The Beach

We loved what we saw after moving the beach dramatic play items to the sandbox. 

Check out Ta catching some waves! A natural born surfer, that kid!

Oh, those guys in the background? 
They're just fishing.  
Leave it to Sa to find the longest fishing rod!

I'm pretty sure we must have taken this picture at the actual beach:

Beach towels and everything!

Evidence of a fun day at the beach:

And it wouldn't be a trip to the beach without some food in the cooler!

Wrestling is good for children.

Originally published Sept 2010 Many of our parents seemed shocked when they came to pick up their children from Beansprouts and found the...