Making Crystals with Preschoolers

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In honor of Valentine’s Day, we decided to create beautiful crystals!  The kids designed their own shapes and were able to take home a gift for a loved one.

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President’s Day with Preschoolers!

We were invited to a play-date with two other kids just about the same ages as mine (two and three).  I wanted to think of something that we could do that would be fun, crafty, and have a President’s Day Theme.  We had four kids altogether so combining that fact with the theme of presidents, I knew that I wanted to do something with Mount Rushmore.  I figured out that we could make our own Mount Rushmore with masks! Yeah!  Here is what we did….

I needed 4 paper plates, four popsicle sticks, glue, a book about Presidents, and construction paper to cut out the facial features

I needed 4 paper plates, four popsicle sticks, glue, a book about Presidents, cotton balls, and construction paper to cut out the facial features

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I cut out the middle of the plates and attached a stick to each one.

After finding pictures of the  different presidents, I started to cut-out the different facial features to add to the masks.  Abraham Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt anyone??

After finding pictures of the different presidents, I started to cut-out the different facial features to add to the masks. Abraham Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt anyone??

The four Presidents before the glue and cotton balls.  Yes, I had trouble making Thomas Jefferson, but that is ok, it still worked.

The four Presidents before the glue and cotton balls. Yes, I had trouble making Thomas Jefferson, but that is ok, it still worked.

All packed up and ready for our play-date!!

All packed up and ready for our play-date!!

When we started our activity, I read my copy of “So You Want to Be President?” By Judith St. George. In case you are unfamiliar with this book, it is a book about different facts about past presidents and the requirements of becoming a President of the United States in the future.  I think that the book is perfect as a whole for upper elementary-age students, however, younger children can enjoy parts of it.  I put sticky notes on all of the pages featuring the presidents from Mount Rushmore, George Washington, Teddy Roosevelt, Abraham Lincoln, and Thomas Jefferson.  I also included the page on the pets that have lived in the White House and the beginning and end of the book.  When I read the book the older two kids seemed really interested, the one and two year-olds, not so much.  After reading the sticky-note sections, we looked at a picture of Mount Rushmore on the internet.

Then we picked which kid was going to create which president’s mask.  We decided that the tallest person would Abraham Lincoln and then just randomly choose the others.  Then we got to work…

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Teddy!

Teddy Roosevelt!

The finished masks.  They looked so cute!

The finished masks. They looked so cute!

The real Mount Rushmore

The real Mount Rushmore

Our Mount Rushmore!

Our Mount Rushmore! (Apparently, George Washington doesn’t like to get his picture taken.)

Overall, I thought that the project went really well!  The kids learned about Mount Rushmore (Field Trip!), what it takes to become President of the United States, different facts about past President’s, and familiarized themselves with the names of four of them.  I think that it pretty good for four kids under four! Enjoy!

Preschool Theme: Valentine’s Day

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Today we had such a great time with our Valentine’s Day theme!  I packed just about as much as I could into our hour and a half.

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One half of the centers

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The other half of the centers

First, we started out with our book of the day.  I read, “I Love You Through and Through” By Bernadette Rossetti Shustak (See my review here).  The kids really enjoyed this book!

After reading the book, we did our gross-motor activity.  I wrote different tasks on a bunch of different hearts.  I wrote things such as “waddle like a penguin” and “walk backwards.”  I laminated the hearts so they could be reused. I placed the hearts in a circle on the floor.  The kids walked in a circle, stepping on hearts, while I played music.  When I stopped the music, the kids stopped, picked up the heart that they landed on, and acted out whatever it said.  The kids really seemed to enjoy it, however, it did get a bit confusing when trying to get all of the little ones to walk around the circle (I was too wrapped up in this to get a picture-sorry!!!).

A Few Notes:

  • I laminated the hearts, which was good and bad.  They will last longer after being stepped on, but they were a bit slippery and when we played this later in bare feet, the hearts stuck to us.
  • I took this one home and we played it with our family, four people, and it was so much fun!  My husband and I participated and our kids loved it!  My daughter loved watching her dad “dance like a ballerina.”
  • This activity could easily be adjusted to other themes.  The hearts could be different shapes, the tasks could be reading a sight word or making an animals noise.

Centers:

I made another passport for this class.  It was really useful for parents this time and I also found it useful in my planning.  I made the passport before preparing everything and then I referred to it as I went along to make sure I didn’t forget anything.  Here are the centers that I offered:

  • Complete the Pattern.  I found an awesome packet here.  The blog is called Over the Big Moon and it is so awesome!  A lot of the different printables I used today, I printed from this site.
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I laminated the “What Comes Next?” sheet and had clothespins available for kids to pin the next object in the pattern

  • Make a Necklace (Fine-Motor/Pre-Writing Skills). I cut out a ton of hearts and hole-punched them.  I also cut some string.  The kids had to put the string through the hole in the hearts and create a necklace.  The kids really liked this one and most of the necklaces were given their mothers-Awww!

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  • Matching The Upper and Lower Case hearts together-For this center, I printed off all 26 upper and lower case letters (and laminated them) and the kids had to match them together.  I found that this was a bit much.  There were a ton of letters.  I suggested that the parents find a couple matches and play memory and try to find the pairs.

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  • Worksheet Station. I had a bunch of the sheets from Over The Big Moon printed out and colored pencils available for kids to use.  I printed off the “Find the Difference” and “Pre-Writing” sheets.  I also printed extras so parents could take them home and work on them.

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  • Sequencing Hearts by Size

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  • Valentine Sort. Another activity from Over the Big Moon, the kids have to sort children and Valentine gifts.
  • Graphing with Conversation Hearts.  I bought a bag of the hearts and put them in a bag with a scooper.  I printed off a graphing sheet that I found here.  I also printed a sheet to analyze the information found.  When a child came to this station, they took a scoop of candy and sorted the candy by color.  They laid the heart directly on the chart.  When finished, they decided which color they had the greatest amount and which they color they have the least.

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  • Arctic Animals Slides on Laptop. Ok, this may seem a bit weird, but I forgot that I made a slideshow on PowerPoint about different Arctic animals for last week’s class and I forgot to have it available to the kids-oops!  I put pictures and text to go along with different Arctic animals and I had it set so kids push a space bar to advance the pictures and the text.

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  • I also had an assortment of Valentine books available for the kids to read, play dough (grape flavored from Kool-Aid), and magnetic puzzles.

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Craft.  We made “Mr. Heart Men” (that is what we called them)

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For this craft I needed the following for EACH Mr. Heart Man:

  • One giant heart
  • Four, about 1 ½ inch wide, long strip
  • One mouth
  • Two hands
  • Nose (I had stickers from the dollar store)
  • Two feet (I used hearts)
  • Eyes (I used googly eyes)
  • Glue

First, we took whichever four colors the kids wanted for the arms and legs.  Then we folded them accordion style.  We glued those to the body.  Then we glued the hands and feet, mouth and eyes.  Here is what the end result looked like.

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After our craft and our snack was completed, we passed out Valentine’s.  My kids helped me make mine.  We took toilet paper rolls and bent them to make a heart shape and dipped them in red paint.  We stamped the “heart” on paper and wait for it to dry.  When it did I cut them to create bookmarks.  I made a hole and attached strings.  Here is what they ended up looking like:

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These came out so cute!

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Hard at work!

“I Love You Through and Through” By Bernadette Rossetti-Shustak

through and through

With Valentine’s Day coming up, I thought that I would share a popular book around our house about love.  It is entitled “I Love You Through and Through” by Bernadette Rossetti-Shustak.  It is not exactly a board book, but close.  The pages are thicker than usual and the cover is puffy.  The background of all of the pages remind me of tissue paper with specks of color.  All of these details add to the charm of this book.  We bought this book originally for my daughter and it was her absolute favorite book, and after my son was born it quickly became his favorite as well.

A young boy and his teddy bear are the characters of this book and the reader/narrator is telling the child what they love about them.  The illustrations, by Caroline Jayne Church, are adorable.  The little boy really reminds me of my son.  For example, on the cover, the boy is holding his bear high in the air and his belly is hanging out of his shirt (I love big baby bellies!).

The narrator loves the child inside and out.  They love the child no matter what they are feeling or what they are doing.

A favorite part for my kids is when I read about the different body parts that I love.  The book reads “I love your fingers, and toes, your ears and nose.”  I always tickle each body part as I read it and my kids crack up!

The final line of this book is the best and just pretty much sums it up “I love you through and through..yesterday, today, and tomorrow too.”  Ahhh..how perfect?!?!

If you are looking for an adorable book to tell your children (probably about 5 and under) just how much you love them, I highly recommend picking up “I Love You Through and Through” By Bernadette Rossetti-Shustak.  Enjoy!

A Few Notes:

  • There is a simialar book, in format and illustrated by Caroline Jayne Church, entitled “How Do I Love You?” that features a little girl
  • The price listed on the book is $8.95, but at the time of writing this post, I found it online for about $5-well worth it.
  • The book would make a great gift for Valentine’s Day, birthdays, and for new parents.
  • There is an app based on this book by Scholastic.  Here is an overview (looks cute!):

Finding Fun Ways to include Literacy: During the Holiday Season

In our house we don’t do the Elf on the Shelf, our elves send activities and trinkets to our doorstep almost every day.  Yesterday, the elves left two blank cards with envelopes, stickers, and pens.  There were also instructions for our kids to write their own letters to Santa.  The kids were really excited!

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It looks like he is really writing

At this age, it is both important and fun for kids to “act out” the different components of literacy.  Here they are able to “write” a letter about something that they are interested in-getting presents!!  My daughter quickly and excitedly took to the task.  She read us her letter as she wrote out the words.  Then, we transcribed what she wrote so she could see what the correct words look like.   We explained how we use certain letters to make words, so Santa can understand what it is that she wants for Christmas.  My son, being only one and a half, only used the stickers.  My daughter and husband helped him write what he wants, or at least what we think that he wants 🙂

My daughter was really concentrating...

My daughter was really concentrating…

We write to communicate and what better way to communicate with someone, than write a letter to someone!  We write a lot of letters in our house.  It is so much fun for my daughter to see that she can tell someone something by changing her spoken words into written words and than they can write her back-how exciting!?!?

Ta-Da!  Her finished product!

Ta-Da! Her finished product (can you tell which side she wrote?)!

We took the letters to Santa’s mailbox, so he could get them just in time for Christmas!  This was a REALLY fun family project!

Mailing Their Letters!

Mailing Their Letters!

Christmas Book Review- Part Two

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“The Christmas Magic” By Lauren Thompson

My daughter just turned three so this is her first Christmas that she is starting to understand.  I am so excited about introducing the beauty and magic of the season.  “The Christmas Magic” fits the bill for books that portray Christmas in a loving, mysterious light.  It is a beautifully written and illustrated (watercolors, maybe?) book.

I picked it up at the library because I liked the cover (am I allowed to say that??).  The cover features Santa wrapped in a blue cloak looking up at the stars.   He has his reindeer by his side and star on his hat.   Inside, Santa has a pointed moustache and is wearing bunny slippers

The Scholastic Website characterizes the text as “quiet” and I completely agree.  The story takes the reader through Santa’s preparations as he waits for the magic of Christmas to arrive.  Santa prepares the gifts for the children “for Santa loved them all.”  I personally prefer the gifts being given to children out of love and not in a threatening manner.

Web Resources:

http://www.scholastic.com/browse/book.jsp?id=1275060 -This is the Scholastic Website that has the interest level listed at Pre-K-2.  It also features a book trailer if you would like to get familiar with the book

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“Auntie Claus” By Elise Primavera

“Auntie Claus” is a fun holiday book featuring a bit of mystery as well.  The story begins in New York City, with the “Kringle” family who is so obsessed with Christmas that they keep “a Christmas tree up all year round.”  The daughter, named Sophie, is the main character.   Sophie grows increasingly suspicious of her Auntie Claus who disappears after Halloween and returns on Valentine’s Day of every year.  She says that she is going on a business trip.  Certain events transpire and Sophie learns a secret about Auntie Claus and learns a lesson about Christmas.

This book is geared toward older children.  I read this one with my daughter and she really liked looking at the pictures, but I do not think that she understood the entire story.  Some of the vocabulary and humor are better suited for elementary-aged children.

Web Resources:

http://www.eliseprimavera.com/books/auntie-claus This is the author’s website.  It features interesting artwork, audio excerpts, and a quiz.  It also gives information on the sequels of “Auntie Claus.”

– Here is an interview with the author, Elise Primavera.

Smaller Gifts Under $20 Part One: Pre-Readers (About 3 years and under)

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Whether you are looking for stocking stuffers or a birthday gift, there are many options out there that can be fun AND educational.

Here are a couple of suggestions for Pre-Readers and Writers:

ilove you through and through

  • Board Books- At this stage, children should get familiar with books.  They should start to understand how to hold them (right side up) and also how to turn the pages to make your way to the end.  Board books are a great way for young readers to handle books on their own.   The pages are thicker so they are easier for those little fat fingers to turn.  They also make it harder for kids to rip.  I can’t tell you how many pages of books have been ripped by accident in this house.  I will be posting a guide to buying board books soon.  In the meantime, here are a few of my favorites…
    • “Moo, Baa, Lalala” by Sandra Boynton,  I love her board books.   They are so cute and usual feature rhyming or repetition which is so helpful to readers at this stage.
    • “I Love you Through and Through” by Bernadette Rossetti Shustak, I have read this book about a thousand times.  It is a favorite in our house.
    • “Good Night Gorilla” By Peggy Rathmann , This classic book is really fun as a board book at this stage because they are also learning the names of animals.  The gorilla and mouse are really cute as well.

goodnightgorilla

  • Photograph Books- Along the same lines as the Board Books, books that allow you to insert your own photographs are a great way for children to learn how to handle and turn the pages of a book.  I strongly suggest any kind of personalization for teaching little ones and what better way to personalize a book than put pictures that your little one can recognize.  The possibilities with this book are endless.  You can put pictures of your friend and family, their favorite toys, animals you saw at the zoo, really anything that your child is familiar with.  Here is an example of one available from OneStepAhead.  It is for really young children and holds 12 photos and features different textures.  It can also be personalized with your child’s name.
  • Puppets- Pre-Narrative writing for kids at this stage entails hearing and telling stories.  You can show your child how to stories are developed.   I used to do this all of the time with my daughter.  I would say “once upon a time there was a ….” and she would make up a character.  I would provide most of the details to the story and once in a while I would have her add a character or a setting or a detail.  When we were finished, I would repeat what we came up with and viola, we would have a complete story.  Doing this with puppets is a fun and engaging way to begin your child writing.  The puppets would give your child a visual to your own story.   The next stage would be your child using the puppets to make up their own stories by themselves while playing independently.  Here are some puppets from Melissa and Doug.  You could really make up some great stories with these characters!  If you are looking for a stocking stuffers, you could always go with finger puppets!
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  • Alphabet/Phonics Kits and Games- There are a lot of  fun games out these that expose your child to letters and their sounds.  Some are magnetic, so they are interesting to kids at this age and they can play with them while you are working in the kitchen.  We received one as a gift and my daughter loves it!  It is called “Fridge Phonics” and it is from Leap Frog.  I personally had a hard time keeping all the letters together, so if you decide to purchase this one, it might be a good idea to have a plan, or bucket, or whatever to keep them all together.  We have had it for a year and we are down to about 17 letters.
    • When looking for a picture of our magnet alphabet from Leapfrog, it seems that they have an upgraded kit that includes a bucket!  They read my mind!  I think that this just about the same thing as what we have, except it includes numbers 1-10 and it isn’t magnetic. Here is a link to their site.  Bad news-It may not fit in a stocking anymore.

Getting Ready for The Nutcracker Ballet

This year, just after my daughter turned three, we decided to try adding to our holiday traditions by attending The Nutcracker Ballet.  My daughter loves dancing and music, however, she tends to get scared often (actually VERY often).  I thought that if I overload her with the story of The Nutcracker it would get to a point where she knew what was going to happen, making it less scary.  I decided to share some of the strategies and materials that I used, as well as some that I am planning to do in the future.

Ok, my first step was to go through all of my boxes and boxes of books that I have in my basement from my classroom.  I found an absolute gem that I forgot I bought.  It is called “The Nutcracker” by Susan Jeffers.  You can find it here.  This was by far the best component to our little Nutcracker unit.  This is a beautiful book.  I have a full review here.  My daughter and I fall in love with it!  I can’t even tell you how many times we read it (and it isn’t short by any means).  This started her obsession with the Nutcracker.  She loved him!  Yeah, this just might work out after all!

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Next, I went to the good ol’ trusty library to see what they had for us.  They had a lot of informational books that may be useful in the future or something that I would actually like to look through when I get the chance (HA!).  I do think that maybe next year, these can be books that I would leave in her room and she could look through them herself and see all of the different photographs and drawings that they have in them.  One was by DK Publishing book, entitled, of course, The Nutcracker.  I also picked up Auntie Claus: Home For the Holidays.  I am not familiar with the series at all.  It was a fun book about a little girl who is playing the Sugar Plum fairy in her school play.  Again it was fun to read, I think especially for older kids who may get some of the humor better, but it wasn’t what I was looking for.  I also picked up a few more books, none of which I feel are worth mentioning, either because they were not about the story of the nutcracker, or I just didn’t care for them.

nutcracker cd

At the library, I also checked out a couple of CD’s of the music from the show.  I played them in the background of our playtimes and the kids loved them!  Every so often they would just start dancing.  It was so cute.  One of my personal favorites is here.

At this point, my daughter really liked the music and understood a bit about the story.  Next, I wanted to introduce her to the concept of seeing a show in person and I also wanted to show her what a nutcracker was.  On my ipad, I found an app that is FREE (because I am super cheap and refuse to pay for apps) called The Oregon Ballet Theatre Presents The Nutcracker.  It seems to be part of their program that they hand out, but you are able to watch a couple of the performances.  This was really fun, yet a bit confusing for my daughter because one of the ballerinas wasn’t wearing a tutu (how dare she!!).

To take care of the actual Nutcracker, for whatever reason, was a bit more difficult.  I could not think of where to buy one.  I checked a couple stores that I happen to be at anyways and they didn’t have them.  We did venture to one of the large home improvement stores, and viola!  There he was, OUR NUTCRACKER, and all glittered up nonetheless!  We took that bad boy home and put him right on the mantel where he belonged.  I am sure that this time of year and after the holidays you can get great deals on these.  Maybe I will pick up one in a few weeks at a bargain for next year.  Upon further investigation, I found that there are some really funny ones out there!

Ok, so we read our books, listened to our music, and had our own Nutcracker, we were good to go!  My daughter was very excited for the show and she ended up loving it.  She seriously wasn’t scared at all!  It really goes to show the more you can expose and prepare children for certain situations through the trusty pages of books and such, the more prepared and successful they can be!  I use this method all the time with different experiences, such as going to the doctor, starting school, whatever it may be.  I will be sharing more of my ideas and resources on this matter with you, so stayed tuned!

Here is my little girl and some dude going to the show (just kidding, it's my husband!)

Here is my little girl and some dude going to the show (just kidding, it’s my husband!)

Here are some more ideas (I haven’t tried them yet) that I have tucked away for future use regarding The Nutcracker…..

-I’m thinking next year, because my daughter has some knowledge on the subject, we can get crafty!!  Here is a kit that you can buy, where you can paint a nutcracker yourself which would be fun.  I really like these ballerinas from goodideasforyou.com here.

-There are several coloring books and stickers and such out there that may be nice to have around the house.

-I do also believe that next year will include a movie of some sort.  We actually had one from the library, that we never got to, but next year I will probably be checking those out as well.