Teddy Bear Counters


It’s been three years since I retired, and I know lots of things have changed in Kindergarten.  I recently took a look at the core curriculum for Kindergarten math and I realized that children are now expected to enter Kindergarten with some of the skills we worked on in my class.  While I was teaching I knew that some children came into kindergarten counting, recognizing numerals, one to one correspondence, able to name shapes, and understanding patterns; but not all children had those skills.  While we explored and played games with math manipulatives all children gained confidence and competence in these skills.  The math games we played were great practice for early math skills, and the children loved playing them!  So when I was thinking about Christmas presents for some preschoolers who are very special to me, I decided to put together some games using Teddy Bear Counters and colored tiles.

Bear sorting set

I bought sets of Teddy Bear Counters and matching sorting trays from Learning Resources.  Here is a peek at the games I put together.

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The children I plan to give these to range from 3 to 5 years old.  I tried to include a range of things they would think are fun and also help them gain important math skills like sorting, counting, numeral recognition, one to one correspondence, concept of number, simple addition and subtraction, measuring, counting backward, skip counting and concrete graphing.  Some games will be just right to play now, others will be good as they get a little older.

I am happy to share these games and activities, most will probably be familiar to any of you early childhood teachers.

Sorting Bears – basically I suggested that parents encourage their child to play with the teddy bears and practice sorting by color.  In my class I realized that most children could easily do the task, but sometimes they were not familiar with the word “sort.”    I also suggested using comparative language like most, least, and equal or the same.

Counting Bears

Bear Game

I found this game board online and thought it would be great to practice counting the dots, and putting the correct number of bears on each gameboard bear.


I suggested starting out with a simple AB pattern.  I always introduced an AB pattern by naming the colors:  i.e.  red, blue, red, blue.   But I wanted the children to know that you could use any terms to “read” the pattern, including alphabet letters.  After the child shows that he or she understands what a pattern is I suggested moving on to more complicated patterns.

One of the most popular games in my Kindergarten room was BEARS IN CHAIRS.  Over the years I had several parents come in to ask where they could buy this game!  Basically the children make a pattern with the colored tiles and keep it going to form a shape like a game board.  Then they choose one bear, roll a die and move their bear from one chair (tile) to the next as they count to the number they rolled on the die.  This game is great for 2 – 4 players, but one child can even play it alone.  As children gain confidence with patterns they can make their tile game board more complicated.  You could even use 2 dice that they would add together to make the game more challenging.

Jumping on the Bed

Bears in bed

For this game I suggested asking the child to count out 10 bear counters and place them on the bed game board.  Then you sing the song “Ten Bears in a Bed” and remove one bear at a time.

My Turn, Your Turn

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This was another favorite game in my classroom.  Two children play using only one game board and sharing one teddy bear counter.  They begin by placing the bear on the star in the middle of the board.  Then they roll a die, one child moves the bear toward the right side of the board, the other child moves the same bear toward the left side of the board.  Play continues until the bear goes off the board in one direction.  I made this strip by gluing together 2 of these pattern strips.  You could make it as long as you like, but be sure to have an uneven number of squares and put a sticker or mark in the middle.

my turn your turn printable

Bears in Caves

Bears in Cave

I loved telling math story problems with my Kindergartners.  It is so much fun when each child has a set of materials to manipulate as they listen to the story.  In my directions I suggested giving each child a small amount of bears and a gameboard.  Then I would tell a story and the children would move their bears in and out of the cave, practicing very simple addition and subtraction problems.  Check out the directions I am including if you need a suggestion of a story to tell.

In my class we often told stories like this using manipulatives we could eat like goldfish crackers, teddy graham cookies, Froot Loops, etc.  At Halloween I could sometimes find Count Chockula cereal with ghosts and goblins that we placed in a simple haunted house.  The kids really love these games!

Measuring Bears

It can be fun for the children to practice measuring by lining up a row of bears to match the length of simple things around the house like a pencil, book or favorite toy.

Bear Counting Game

Using the same bear game board you can play another game.  The children take turns rolling a die.  They place a bear counter on the gameboard bear that matches the number they roll.  If they roll a 6, they place a counter on the bear with 6 dots.  You can allow them to keep putting counters on until all the numbers have been rolled, or you can say they can only put one counter on each bear – so if they roll a number that matches a bear that already has a counter they lose a turn.   Not all young children are ready to play a game where they lose a turn.

Bear and Crocodile

I was looking online for a simple number line that the children could use to pracitce naming numerals, counting forward and backward, and simple skip counting.  I found this cute crocodile number line.

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Crocodile number line

I also included the largest hundreds chart I could make, to give the children a chance to move bears along the numbers, and notice patterns in counting.


Graphing Bears

I also suggested scooping out bears and sorting them into a graph configuration.  It is a good way to compare and practice all those important words like most, least, same.

In my Bear Game Gift Kit I also plan to include some tongs – the kids love using them to pick up things like the bears, and it is great fine motor practice.  I got these big ones at a dollar store.  The small ones are from Lakeshore.

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I ordered a set of these big foam dice from Oriental Trading – they were good and cheap!

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In school I always had plastic tiles, but I found the foam ones are a lot less expensive and should work great with kids at home.  I ordered mine along with the Teddy Bear Counters from Learning Resources.


Here are the game directions that I made into a booklet to include with these math materials.  I hope the kids love them!   Maybe you are still thinking of a different kind of gift for a special child you know too!

Teddy Bear Game Directions

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Teddy Bear Game Directions 5

Teddy Bear Game Directions 4

Teddy Bear Game Directions 3

Teddy Bear Game Directions 2

Fire Safety

I’m so excited because we leave tomorrow for DisneyWorld!  Owen will miss a few days of preschool and their unit on Fire Safety, so I thought I might have a chance to share a few things with him, just to introduce the topic.

I already shared a lot of my Fire Safety unit, if you are interested just type “fire safety’ into the search bar.  I always think a song is a great way to help children remember facts, so I wanted to sing this song with Owen.  I found it at do2learn.com/games/song/firesafetysong/song.htm.  On their great site you can hear the song, but if you don’t remember the tune I just sing it to a sloppy rendition of the Farmer in the Dell.

Song 1

Song 2

I think this song does a good job introducing and explaining basic fire safety rules very simply.  I wrote out the words for Owen (have I bragged about what a super reader he is?) and also made a chart of the basic rules.

Fire song


I thought he might also miss out on a discussion of Stop, Drop and Roll, so I made another chart for him.  I am cutting out some orange felt “flames” that I can stick onto the kids’ clothes.  We will practice what they would do if their clothes ever caught on fire.

stop drop

I sing that to the tune of Three Blind Mice.

We all had a great time at the Commerce Township Fire Safety Open House last weekend, even though it was a rainy day!  Lily was the only one willing to squirt the fire hose, but we all had fun!






This year our local library (Commerce Township Community Library) is offering special children’s programs that emphasize Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, they use the acronym STEM for these story times.   Our family had a great time at the first program which was based on BUBBLES!  This enriching evening made me think about how well bubble experiments could fit into science units about states of matter.

Miss Betsy, one of the children’s librarians, started out by discussing a few characteristics of fiction, and read a fun story that went with the Bubbles theme!


Later she talked about non-fiction and read another great book.


She also shared a cute poem about bubbles, using the flannelboard.


Betsy used round felt circles, to represent the bubbles.  When she put them on the flannelboard she gave the children a chance to count along with her, reinforcing one to one correspondence and left to right tracking.  The children also practiced counting backward as she removed the bubbles while they recited the poem together.

Next the children went to the tables where materials were set out for them to experiment with bubble blowing.  Each child was given a small aluminum pan containing bubble solution, and a cone rolled out of regular xerox type paper and fastened with tape.

She told them to dip the large end of the cone into the solution quickly (so it wouldn’t get too wet) and blow into the smaller end.  It was so fun to watch them try it out, they worked great!  I had never tried a bubble blower like this!



One of the challenges of a library program like this is the wide variety of the children’s ages and abilities.  Also, even though they require preregistration, they never know for sure how many children will actually show up.   They stated that the program was developed for pre-K to 1st graders, but all ages were welcome, the children who came ranged in age from 2 to about 8.  All the children were able to use this cone and blow great bubbles!   My grandchildren are 3 and 5, and they loved it!

After the children played for awhile Betsy asked them to touch a bubble with their finger and notice what happened.  As expected, the bubbles popped.  Then she asked them to try poking a small (coffee stirrer type) straw into the bubble.


Okay, so I am no scientist, but I did not know you could poke a straw into a bubble without breaking it!  It works best if the straw is dipped into the bubble solution first!

Next each child was given a recording sheet and asked to predict what kind of bubbles they would make by using bubble blowers of different shapes.  They drew their predictions on their chart.


After predicting, she passed out bubble blowers made from pipe cleaners that were twisted into the shapes on the chart.


The kids had so much fun trying them out!


Then Miss Betsy read an excerpt from a book about bubbles that explained why all the bubbles were round, regardless of the shape of the blower.

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It was such a fun evening!  I loved the relaxed atmosphere, the children could take their time playing with the materials and making their own discoveries!  Owen had fun making a bubble land back in the bowl of bubble solution.


Here are a few more books about bubbles.



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Each family was offered a recipe for Bubble solution to make at home.

bubble recipe

We are looking forward to another fun STEM story time soon!

A Fresh Look at “ME”

I received a very nice email from a talented reader in Australia, named Lavinia.  She told me that she really liked my book Special Me, but she asked if I minded if she redid it with updated text and graphics.  I am always happy to share, and she sent back her revised copy for me to share with you! If you would like to see my original book please click on Me Book Under the Categories on the right side of your screen. cover 5 1 name 2 colors 3 birthday 4 hand 5 foot 6 tall 7 family 8 TV 9 grow up  Lavinia also created different covers for you to choose from: cover 4 cover 3 cover 2 

Here is a link to open a pdf version that is easy to print:

I am Special

Lavinia sells things on Teachers Pay Teachers but she agreed to offer her adaptation of my book for free. Here are a few pages that she used to explain the book, including thumbnails of what the children did to complete my original book. Lavinia 1 Lavinia 2 Here is contact information if you are interested in what else Lavinia is up to!  I really appreciate the great job she did giving this book a fresh new look!  Hope you do too! Lavinia email

Small Group Organization


i-knowDuring my teaching career I was always searching for the very best way to run my classroom.  Sometimes I even wished that someone would just tell me how I had to organize my day, but I didn’t really mean it.  The truth is, there is not one right way to do things.  Every teacher has to find what works best in his or her individual classroom, based on personality, teaching style, volunteers, space available, administrative restrictions, specials schedules, and a host of other variables.  Sometimes even a certain group of children thrive better with a different set up.  Over the years I tried lots of different ways to organize the day, but I am going to share what worked best for me.  One of my readers, Debbie asked for some information about how I used small groups and volunteers – this is for you!  Hope I don’t bore or overwhelm the rest of you – skip to the parts you think are interesting!

As a teacher I understood that my primary responsibility was to teach the district curriculum, which was based on State Benchmarks, and developed from National Standards.  We had defined curriculum for Language Arts, Math, Social Studies, and Science.  Music, Art, P.E. and Health were taught by “specials” teachers.  During my last few years of teaching my district had adopted several programs that we were required or expected to incorporate into our schedules:  Everyday Math, Reader’s Workshop, Writer’s Workshop, Handwriting without Tears, and Making Meaning; and some teachers were using Daily 5.   Each of these fine programs comes with specific lesson plans, sometimes even encouraging teachers to use scripted dialog to teach.  But as a Kindergarten Teacher I felt a huge responsibility to honor who the individual children are in our classrooms, and to use what I know about how children learn best.

When I switched from teaching half day Kindergarten to Full Day I was so excited because I felt like I had more time to teach the fundamental requirements in a way that worked well for me.  That isn’t to say that I didn’t struggle with fitting things in, interruptions, all the assessments that were required, and the huge range in my students’ readiness for what I was teaching.  Of course if I used every bit of each teacher’s manual for all those programs it would be impossible for me to get through the day, not to mention those little 5 year olds who begin the year so excited about being in school.  For the most part those programs should be tools to teach the curriculum that is required.

I know that children learn best when they are actively engaged with multisensory activities in a safe, fun environment.  I also know that it is easiest to learn when children can make connections and relate new learning to what they already know.  For those reasons I loosely organized my school year into thematic units, incorporating holidays and seasonal changes along with the study of units like:  ME – (5 senses, families, homes, feelings, etc).;  Animals –  (living vs. non-living, body coverings, habitats, etc).; Transportation (push and pull, float and sink), Weather, Ecology (earth materials), and lots more.  Using units like this allowed me to easily incorporate Science and Social Studies objectives, expose the children to rich literature and non fiction books, and it also gave lots of opportunities for hands on fun.

Oh, I do fully realize the ever-increasing pressure for reading and writing.  I also know that some districts are requiring 2 hour blocks of time set apart strictly for literacy activities.  I think you can do it all, and still use topics of learning that engage and motivate the children.   The most important thing I tried to keep in mind was that everything we did in my classroom had to be directed by the curriculum.  Whether we were acting out the Three Little Pigs, trying to sink paper boats by filling them with metal washers, or investigating how the tree outside our window looked when the leaves were changing color, we were always covering curriculum benchmarks.  When I first came around to this realization I had to look carefully at all the activities I introduced.  Some things were fun and cute, but really not connected to the curriculum.  I know that language development and fine motor skills can be enhanced during any activity where children are supported, encouraged and scaffolded by a caring adult.  But with the increased demands for reading and writing I became much more selective about the lessons and activities in my room.

I felt that the children in my class did their best work and were most ready for learning in the morning.  Many children were very tired in the afternoon, especially in the beginning of the school year.  So I structured my morning differently than the afternoon.   The afternoon was usually more low key, especially for the first half of the school year.  I always tried to get as many parent volunteers as possible and I scheduled them to come in the morning when the children had the most energy and focus.  I asked for volunteers who could commit to coming every week or every other week.  I often had parents who wanted to come once in awhile, or once a month, and they were always welcome, but I found out that those parents sometimes came along on a field trip, attended a program or class party, or some special event instead of helping in the room.  Also, parents who commit to coming regularly get to know the children and routines and really contribute a lot to working with small groups of children.  Sometimes the best use of a parent volunteer was asking her to run interference so I could concentrate on working with a group or doing assessments myself.  Volunteers who were good at that would help keep children on task and answer questions or solve problems so I would not have to divert my attention from the children I was working with.   Some parents were more comfortable than others with different activities, and as I got to know the regular volunteers I could sometimes plan my lessons and schedule activities for different parents based on what they liked to do with the children.

Here is a form I used for Parent Volunteers.  I included it in my First Day Packet.

Volunteers Needed

I know it’s taking me a long time to get around to talking about how I organized small groups, but what those groups were actually working on is the most important part.

I began each day with routines and rituals that helped build a collaborative school family environment.  I wrote about those in another post on this blog.  The more you include, the longer circle time lasts so I saved the Calendar activities, which are an important part of Everyday Math – until the end of the morning or right after lunch.  During morning circle time I always introduced or reinforced what we had been learning about.  It always included a read aloud and interactive reading and writing,  I also introduced and modeled exactly what the children would be doing for the rest of the morning.  Usually there were about 4 required “jobs” that everyone would do.  I knew that I needed to differentiate for children of various abilities and readiness, I did that through Reader’s and Writer’s Workshop, by having different expectations of children at varying levels, and by sometimes including different activities.    I ended circle time by making a list on my easel of the jobs the children would be completing that morning.  I used sight words and lots of pictures.  I encouraged the children to take responsibility for completing all the work, but I also kept check off lists to keep track.

first name check off

I laminated charts like this and put them on a clipboard so I always had one handy.  I often used this type of list where I could make a note about the child’s work or behaviors I noticed.  It was the easiest way I found to do anecdotal record keeping.


I also gave these to volunteers to write down anything they noticed, if a child struggled with an activity or went above and beyond what was asked, etc.  I punched holes in these and kept them in a binder, it was really helpful to get an overview of how a child was doing.  If I noticed I had not made notes on a certain child in awhile I would star their name and be sure to make some notes as we worked.

My classes always made many books, completing a page for a book was usually one of the activities.  They also did many drawing and writing responses to literature, recalling facts from informational texts, adding their own ideas as a take off to literature.  Sometimes they made a construction paper project to go along with their writing and drawing because I think cutting and assembling projects is great for fine motor development and following directions.   I modeled everything I asked them to do to be sure they understood before I sent them to work in their groups.  Sometimes they also might be doing a science experiment or math activity.  Everyday Math has many math games, and I also used lots of old activities from Math Their Way.  At the beginning of the year we also made several Alphabet Books.  Sometimes they completed a page in those books too.   I realize that explaining and modeling all these activities during circle time can be overwhelming for some teachers.   Some people I worked with were much more comfortable doing one activity at a time, but I guess I am a bit of a multi-tasker.  I did this for many years and my kids always did great, we were able to accomplish much more.  I did all I could to help them including the list with a sketch of what they were to do, I put my examples up for them where they could see and remember what to do.  Of course I built up to doing several activities, I didn’t start the school year doing as much.

My children had assigned tables of 5-6 children because I found that sitting with the same group for several weeks was the best way to help the children get to know each other in our large class.  I put a different shape and different color on each table, red circle, yellow triangle, green square, etc.  I could call a group by their color “Red table please line up.”  They usually ate snack at their own table, and always sat at their table as we got ready to go home in the afternoon.  Sometimes the children did all their work at their own table – they would get the materials they needed for each job and bring them to the table, or I would have baskets of materials on the table for them.  Sometimes I would call them away from their table to sit with me individually or with a group.  Sometimes a parent might call a group to complete a task or do an activity too.  Other times the children moved from table to table as they worked.    That depended on what the tasks were and whether I had volunteer help that day.   I would often pick one activity and work with small groups of the children at a time.  Sometimes both a volunteer and myself would be working with small groups while other children worked independently.  Sometimes the volunteer would oversee one activity while I monitored the rest.  The BEST was when I happened to have more than one volunteer (I was blessed!) and we could each work with small groups.  Children gain so much more from any activity when a caring adult is interacting with them.  Regardless I asked each child to show their work, read their own writing, read the book we were making, etc. to an adult before they put it away.  Reading these child created books, and reading their own writing, was what made these activities valuable.

When I worked with a small group of students I chose my group for different reasons.  Sometimes I worked with children of similar abilities, sometimes I wanted to be sure there were role models in the group.  Sometimes I wanted to be sure that my group didn’t have too many children who needed a lot of help – I usually worked with those children individually or in smaller groups.  A lot of it depended on the task or activity I was doing.  Children not only have a wide variance in their ability, but also in the pace that they work.  Different activities take a different amount of time too, that is why rotating stations never worked well for me.  There were always those children who were not finished, or those who had been done a long time.   Other times my groups and activities were very flexible.  If there was a chair available a child could come over to work, when they were done they moved on to another job.  Check off lists helped me be sure that each child completed the assignments.  When they were done they independently got their snack, then after they cleaned up they chose a center to work/play at.   I would ask volunteers to monitor some of these activities, I would oversee others.  Again the children always showed their work to an adult before they were done.   In the morning most of the centers in my classroom were usually available – we used a clothespin chart to limit the number of children at each center.  If you want more details please look at the post I wrote about Free Choice Centers.


During the afternoon I was usually alone in my classroom with the children.   We used that quieter time for Reader’s Workshop, Writer’s Workshop, Literacy Centers and Math activities.  The children experienced many math activities in small groups in the morning too.   At the beginning of the year I alternated between Reader’s and Writer’s workshop.  Later we sometimes had time for a block of each during the afternoon.  There were also some times that I changed and began my day with Reader’s Workshop, then moved on to regular circle time.  I have another post about Literacy Centers and the types of activities that were available.  All of those activities could also be chosen during free choice center time.

I had a series of cubbies under a large chalkboard where I kept the materials for literacy centers.  Some of these changed, others were more permanent.  I also had shelves containing tubs of books that were sorted by genre or theme.  The baskets were labeled as well as the shelves they belonged on.

Getting Ready for Kindergarten!.007

Getting Ready for Kindergarten!.006

In the afternoon I seldom allowed the children to choose among all the centers in our room.  Usually they were limited to only literacy centers – which included things like reading the room, writing the room, the writing center, our library, listening center, as well as the games and Handwriting Without Tears materials.  There were lots of opportunities to read, write, listen and speak in different ways.

Other times the children were restricted to just math materials in the afternoon.  Again, math tubs were always a choice in the morning, but by limiting choices in the afternoon I knew all children were finding time to use these materials.  Here is how I organized and stored math tubs.  The children took out the tubs and carried them to the carpet or a table to work.  The top 2 baskets A and B contained books that we were working on.  The tubs with numerals were the math materials, the shelf numbers matched the tubs in size and style so it was easy for the children to put things away.  The shelf on the far right was a mailbox – each slot was labeled with a child’s name.  I had 2 sets of those in my room to accommodate all the kids.

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It took a lot of time to introduce each of the centers – free choice centers, math tubs and literacy centers – in the beginning of the year.  I took time to explain and model every thing in our classroom before the children used it.  I brought each math tub and literacy tub to the whole group at circle time and talked about how to use and care for the materials.  Often I chose one game or activity to use in small groups in the morning before it was available for everyone to choose at the centers.  During the year when I changed an activity or added a game I would take time to model and explain it first.  I learned that taking all that time, especially in the beginning of the year when it is SO hard for them to sit still, is really worthwhile.  It makes a huge difference in how independently the children can use the materials and clean up!

It takes some experimentation to find a system that works best for you.   Nothing works wonderfully all the time with all the children.   I tried to always think about giving children opportunities to make choices every day as well as challenging them cognitively.  I wanted them to have time to work closely with a small group of other children and an adult, to be able to participate in whole group activities, and I also expected them to learn to work independently some times.  It’s a lot to ask of a little 5 year old!

Pat the Bunny Party!


Please indulge this blessed Nana while I share a little more about my precious grandchildren!

We recently celebrated Nora’s first birthday with a Pat the Bunny party!   Her Mom made these cute invitations, using fiberfill under the bunny cut out.

We planned a game for each page of the book.  I was thinking that many of these activities could be used to reinforce 5 senses too!

Directions for games10

Directions for games2

Please overlook the chewed on bunny page, Nora did a little teething on my book!

Pat bunny times

I got these giant fly swatters at the Dollar Store.


Directions for games 3


Sharpies worked well for decorating the outside of the styrofoam cups.

Directions for games4

Here are the pictures we used to match the smells.

I used baby food jars to make the smelling containers.  I punched holes in the lids and covered them with a strip of construction paper.

smell pictures


Directions for games5

I found these stick on glasses, mustaches, etc. online and bought an unbreakable mirror at the Dollar Store.


scratchy face dirWe made cut outs on the ends of a large cardboard box for the children to climb through.  On the inside of the box we attached bubble wrap, sandpaper, corrugated cardboard and cotton batting for the children to feel.


Directions for games6

Here are the pages for the books we made.  I just stacked all the pages and cut through them all and stapled them to make individual books for each child.  Some of the guests could do their own writing, parents wrote for the others.

Book to read

Book to read4 

Book to read3 

Book to read2 


Directions for games7 


Directions for games8 

Okay, I was stretching things a bit for the Bye Bye page!  Put they liked knocking down the cans. 



Nora had a wonderful time at her party – oh, and she loved her new wagon too!


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Happy 4th of July!


You can’t start off any holiday better than with delicious donuts!  We enjoyed ours while waiting for our local small town parade!  Later in the afternoon we had a family party and I decided to share the games we played.  All of these were very simple, fast games – nothing that new or exciting but the kids had lots of fun

I hadn’t really intended to make a check off sheet, but when Owen arrived he asked me to make a list of all the games – so I couldn’t resist!  I found a booklet of 4th of July stickers at a dollar store, so the kids put a sticker on their chart when they finished each game.


The games were set up all over our backyard and driveway, and the kids and parents went off to do them any way they chose.

Bucket Brigade

Water fun is always a hit!  Lily loved filling and pouring the water, and she always wanted to pour it into the same tub as Mommy!  That way they both win!







Car races I thought I had a bunch of these ramps that I brought home from school but I couldn’t find them.  Luckily, my in-house handy man nailed together these ramps in just a few minutes.



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Float and Sink

My original idea was to use margarine tubs or paper cups and put pennies in them to make them sink.  When I was gathering materials around the house I found these cardboard food containers from Gordon Food Service, like they use for nachos, etc.  So we used those with the little people from Fisher Price toys.  They loved this game!



Tower of Cups


One of our guests took the direct route and just pushed the bean bag into the pyramid of cups – it was very effective!


We all had lots of fun!  I hope you had a wonderful, fun and safe holiday too!


The Pout-Pout Fish!

Pout Pout Fish I am so grateful to the Kohl’s Cares Program, because they are sharing so many wonderful, quality books for only $5.  I hadn’t had a chance to read this new book they are offering, and I just love it!   It is so much fun to read stories that have a catchy refrain that makes children want to join in and chant along. You just can’t help but join in … “I’m a Pout-Pout fish, with a pout pout face, so I spread the dreary wearies all over the place!” refrain The illustrations are really engaging too.  The colors are bright and the characters have personality.  The story is told in rhyme, and includes some great new vocabulary words like tentacles, grimace, and locomotion.  But my favorite part of this book is the way it shows how your feelings affect other people. Young children are usually very egocentric, it can be difficult for them to see another point of view, or understand other people’s feelings and reactions.  In this story. while the Pout Pout Fish was spreading dreary wearies all over the place, other ocean animals were trying to encourage him to cheer up.   The whole idea that when you have a “pout pout face” you ARE spreading dreary wearies is a good introduction to a discussion about how our feelings, and the way we act affects other people. I thought it would be fun to make a chart – or list – of other types of feelings, and what you would be spreading if you were experiencing those feelings.  Here are a few ideas … chart You could recite the chant, replacing Pout Pout like this: I’m a Giggle Giggle Fish, with a Giggle Giggle face so I spread lots of laughing all over the place. You could also encourage them to think of positive behavior traits too – a Friendly Friendly Fish, or a Sharing Sharing Fish, etc. Here are some clipart pictures of fish. If you click on the pdf link after the pictures you will find enlarged copies.  You could laminate these, or put them on necklaces and pass them out to children.  They might work in pairs or as a whole group to think about what trait each fish has – friendly, pokey, angry, helpful, etc.  and then what they would “spread all over the place.”    Then they could chant the phrase from the book about their fish. Fish page1 Fish page2 fish pics     Later the children could choose what kind of fish they would be and create it by cutting out a construction paper fish or drawing a picture.  Then they could think and write about what they would be spreading “all over the place.”   Here are a few samples of writing papers you might like to use. writing1 Or you could post their writing next to fish they draw or make: 2 on pg I noticed that the children in my class often had trouble filling in the blanks with this type of writing – if they couldn’t read all the words they weren’t sure what they were supposed to write, and where to write it – so I like this form a little better. Writing no pic   I’ve been having fun reading this book to my grandchildren!.  I hope you get a chance to pick up a copy at Kohls and that you’ll enjoy reading it to the children in your life too!

More Fun with The Very Hungry Caterpillar


Our community library hosted another great family event this week, this time all the activities were based on Eric Carle’s book The Very Hungry Caterpillar.  Last year I shared some of the ways I used this wonderful picture book with my Kindergarten classes, check out the link under the Insects section if you are interested.  After this terrific evening I have more great ideas to share.   The kids loved getting to meet the giant caterpillar, and they even got a chance to dance with him!  And I got a shameless opportunity to share a picture of my youngest granddaughter!

One of the children’s librarians began the evening by retelling the story of The Very Hungry Caterpillar using a flannelboard, felt food pieces and a wonderful sock type Caterpillar puppet.  The felt pieces all had large slits cut in them so they fit over the sock caterpillar on the librarian’s arm.  Very cute!

After that parents and children were free to explore all the projects and activities that had been prepared and set up around the large community room.  It was very well organized and clear instructions were posted on each table giving directions for the craft or game.  Oh – and one of my favorite ideas – they set out adhesive name tags for the children to wear, and they were all punched with several holes, I heard several parents and children laughing and enjoying how the caterpillar must have nibbled on them!


The first activity my grandchildren decided to do was making Hungry Caterpillar bookmarks.  They used red and green Bingo markers to make their caterpillar on a strip of card stock, then they used a hole punch to make nibble holes, and a hole to tie a ribbon at the end.  I loved having kids use hole punches in Kindergarten, I think it is a great way to help develop hand strength which is so important for fine motor control.  They had a new kind of hole punch for the children to use – they were easy to squeeze and most of the children were able to punch independently.  I am sure I need one of these!


Here is 2 year old Lily’s bookmark!


The librarians had made large cardboard cutouts of some of the foods that the caterpillar ate.  They were cut out of corrugated cardboard and painted.  The parents held them up and the children had so much fun crawling through the holes.

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My favorite project of the evening was making butterfly wings!  The project had been prepared ahead of time by cutting open brown grocery bags, they were shaped so they were larger at the outsides and a bit narrower in the center.


On the back of the grocery bag, the inside of the wings, they attached 2 handles, one on each end.


The set out glue sticks and small squares of tissue paper, along with crayons to decorate the wings.  They decorated the sides of the bag that did not have the handles.  Glue sticks are by far the most convenient, but a lot of the tissue paper squares fell off because the children didn’t press them into the glue.  I used to use watered down glue and paint brushes, the tissue paper adhered more easily, but sometimes they had to be left to dry awhile and that would not work for the library program.

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But the most fun part was using the wings when they were done!  The children held onto the handles and the wings went across their back.  When they moved their arms the wings flapped in and out!  It was so cute!

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Another fun idea was making pompom caterpillars, glued onto a spring clip clothespin.  The jiggly eyes had already been glued onto the red pompoms.

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The children had fun “feeding” the hungry caterpillar a variety of colors and sizes of pompoms.  This encouraged even my little ones to recall the food from the story – they called the purple pompoms “plums,” the red ones were “apples,” etc.

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The children used dry erase markers for the final activity.  I loved the idea of gluing large pompoms on the ends of the markers as erasers.

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They provided a laminated paper with the numerals 1 – 5.  The children needed to remember the foods at the beginning of the story, and draw them.  Then they put on a cute caterpillar glove (another great idea – the caterpillar was made of felt and glued onto the pointer finger of the glove), and pointed to each food as they retold the story.  At the bottom of the page there was a butterfly that was covered with dry erase marker and they had to rub off the marker to reveal the butterfly.


So I see the fruit on this paper were not drawn in the right order – of course that wasn’t done by my grandchildren!  Mostly because I prompted them!  It might have helped to have a copy of the book close by in case children needed to check out which food came next, but it really didn’t matter anyway – the whole idea was to think about the story and to have fun!


It was such a fun time!  Thanks and hugs to the Commerce Township Community Library, and all the dedicated, talented librarians who provide wonderful programs like this for our kids!


Seeds and Flowers!

Our local libraries have been presenting some great FREE programs for children!  Last night my son and I took the kids to a Spring themed pajama night.  I always wish more parents knew that these great opportunities are available.  These programs include movement songs, stories, crafts, snacks and sometimes even parachute play!   What a great way to introduce children to some of the types of activities they will engage in when they go to preschool or kindergarten.


This cute flower project made me think about some of the wonderful books I loved sharing with my kindergartners.

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flower seed books3 flower seed books2 flower seed books1 During the spring we always studied seeds and the parts of plants.  That usually included planting some quick growing seeds so the children could watch this exciting process and take home a small flower.

Dr. Jean has a fun song to the tune of Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes.  It introduces or reinforces the parts of a flower.

Of course the children touch their head, body, stick out their arms for leaves, and their feet for the roots!

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You can find this song on Dr. Jean’s CD – Kiss Your Brain

We made this project using the children’s hands to trace the roots and flowers, then again with their fingers close together for the leaves.


The children wrote a short phrase about the job of each part of the plant.

Here are the details of the cute project the children made at the library.  I loved this because the children could pull the pipe cleaners down for the roots, and push them up to simulate how the flowers grow!  They always love to make a project they can play with!


They started out with a 3 oz. paper cup that already was wrapped with paper, and 5 small holes were punched in the bottom.  You could easily make this with fewer flowers, 3 would still be great!


They provided stickers to decorate the outside of the “flower pot” and the little flowers with holes inside were precut – probably a die cut.  Older children might cut their own flowers too!

The children poked one end of the pipe cleaner through a hole in the cup and put a flower on the other end.  Adults helped the little ones bend the ends of the pipe cleaners to keep them in place.


Next they stuffed small strips of brown tissue paper into the cup around the pipe cleaners to make it look like dirt.


With the pipe cleaners pushed all the way up the little flower pot will sit on the table.  The kids loved pulling the flowers down into the pot and pushing them up to “grow!”

Here are the directions that were posted on each table.

directions  I love simple, inexpensive projects that the kids can play with!   You might want to check out your local library and share the information about great programs like this with the families in your class!  Thanks to the Milford Public Library for a fun evening!

Happy Easter!  Happy Spring!

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