Tape Town!

Tape town

Commerce Township Community Library presented another fun family activity called Tape Town.   They filled the entire multi-purpose program room with colored tape that was used as roads for match box szied cars.  Throughout the room they set up all kinds of fun towns!

tape town 1

tape town 2

tape town 3

tape town 5 

Our girls LOVED Fairy Tale Town!

tape town 6 Owen’s favorite was hands down the Monster Truck Rally!  They created small foil cars by pressing squares of foil over a car and carefully removing it.  Then the children used small Monster Trucks to crash over them!  Who wouldn’t love that?

tape town 4

At each town they displayed several books that were related to the town.  It was so fun to see the children playing and parents reading throughout the room!  Another great evening!

Books

 

Our Snoopy Library!

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I have wanted to have a Little Free Library in our yard for a long time.  If you aren’t familiar with this idea, check out http://www.littlefreelibrary.org for an explanation and lots of photographs.  The whole concept is to provide a watertight, weatherproof box of some kind, and fill it with books.  Then people in your neighborhood, or visitors, can borrow a book.  There is no check out system, if someone decides to keep a book that is fine, I am just happy to encourage people to read.   Some people will bring books back, others might even donate books to the library.

We live on Beagle Drive, so my husband built a Snoopy mailbox many years ago.  We really love to watch families walking with strollers or with kids on bikes who stop and enjoy looking at Snoopy.  Now we hope they will pick out a book to enjoy too.

Owen wanted to help put up the new library.

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So we put it into the wagon for him to wheel out to the front of the house.  Lily and Anna got into the action too!

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They lifted it onto the post, and screwed it on the little platform.  It does rock a little bit, so Mr. Fix It is working on a stabilizer!  He assures me it CANNOT fall off, but it does move a little.

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We ordered a customized sign, but decided we should add a coat of polyurethane before we nail it onto the library.

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We added this little paved brick area because I wanted people to be able to park their bikes or strollers off the road while they look at the books.  Then I couldn’t resist this cute little bench!

I can’t wait for our first “customers!”

 

Easter Fun

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We had a wonderful Easter celebration on a delightful sunny day!   The best day to get all the grandchildren together ended up being on Saturday.  Owen likes to see an agenda of the activities that I plan, so I typed it up for him (and to help me remember!)

Easter activities copy

Bunny hats were the first thing on the list.

hats

I wanted to make a variation on a traditional egg hunt for a few reasons.  The range in ages gives the older kids a big advantage in a regular egg hunt.  The parents really didn’t want the kids to get tons of candy inside the plastic eggs, and the kids all participated in a couple of other regular egg hunts at other parties and in the community.  So I decided to make it into a clue hunt.  I numbered and decorated 6 paper lunch bags, and filled enough eggs for each child to open one at each stop.  Since Max is so little I just put 4 eggs into each bag.  There were a few pieces of candy in each egg, and there was one egg that contained a written clue inside each lunch bag.

hunt JPG

I gave each child a little bucket to carry to hold their eggs and the candy that spilled out when they opened them up.

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We just handed them the first bag of eggs, and the clue inside one of those eggs led them outside.  They went to places like the swing set, under a tree, in the mailbox.  Owen read the clues and they all took off running for the next destination.

hunt read

They ended up back inside where they found bags full of prizes.

hunt end

The next activity was our Easter Parade.  I got out crepe paper streamers, foam Easter shapes, artificial flowers, paper plates, and other supplies.  They had fun decorating the bikes, wagons, stroller, and even our son’s wheelchair that was part of the parade!

parade

They had a great time waving to all the cars that passed by.

We came back inside and made Tumble Bunnies, a craft I found on Pinterest.  I precut the shapes and the children colored them, then we folded and taped them with 2 marbles inside.  The directions recommended using a textured surface but the ones we made did great flipping over going down these ramps.

tumble bunny

ramp

Here is the template I got from Pinterest.  I found it on many sites there.

Tumble Bunnies

We went back outside to play with our parachute.   We played with balls I got at a Dollar Store, and each child took a ball home.

parachute

 

Back inside we played a Memory Game.  I set out a tray of things like a plastic Easter egg, a bunny, a jelly bean, a crocheted egg, just things I found in my Easter decorations.  The children looked carefully at the tray, then they turned away and I removed one thing.  They tried to figure out what was missing.

I included another old favorite activity – Froot Loop necklaces – they love to make and eat these!

froot loop A

We played a game of Hot Potato – passing around a bunny shaped bean bag, and trying not to be the one holding it when the music stopped.

We also did a cooking activity that I found on Pinterest too.  We used Grands Biscuits, some recipes use refrigerated crescent rolls or frozen bread dough, but they are all basically the same.  I loved this activity because it gave us a chance to tell a very simplified story of Jesus and the resurrection.

Each child rolled out one biscuit to about a 5 or 6 inch circle.  We painted on melted butter with a basting brush.  Then we put a marshmallow – which stood for Jesus, in the center of the circle, and sprinkled on a mixture of cinnamon and sugar.  We gathered up the dough to seal the marshmallow inside.  I told the children that Jesus rose from the dead and was not inside the tomb the next day.  We wondered together if the marshmallow might be gone too.  We sprayed a baking sheet with nonstick spray and dipped the biscuit bundle in more melted butter and placed it on the tray and sprinkled it with more cinnamon and sugar.   We made enough rolls for each family to take a tray home, and bake them for Easter morning breakfast.

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They turned out great!  One of my favorite parts of Easter this year was a text message my son sent.  Lily was so excited she yelled “Yook!  Jesus isn’t there!  (Still perfecting the L sound!)

Of course we had to dye eggs too!  It was a great celebration!

egg dye 2

 

I hope your family enjoyed a wonderful, safe and fun celebration too!

 

Some Kids Won’t Say Sorry!

Martha

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I bought this book in honor of one of my grandchildren who is often pretty resistant to saying “I’m sorry.”  I know that refusing to say sorry is not that unusual, and that the issue can become a battle of wills – which no one wins.  In Samantha Berger’s book, Martha’s family deals with the problem by leaving her out of fun activities and she decides to give in and apologize.  I thought this book could be followed by brainstorming and writing about a time you should say “I’m sorry.”  Here is a writing paper you might like to use.

sorry

sorry

The whole issue made me think about what is really important here.  I believe that children need to realize that their actions affect other people.  They need to develop compassion and learn to care about how other people feel.  I’m not sure rattling off an insincere “sorry” really accomplishes those goals.  But there is another part of the problem, apologizing is considered good manners and common courtesy.  When a child refuses to apologize adults might look at him as uncooperative and even unkind.

I came across a blogpost that suggested requiring a child to do or say two kind things to make up for one unkind action or word.  Here is a link to the post in you would like to read about it:

http://kidlutions.blogspot.com/2009/10/when-sorry-doesnt-cut-it-put-downs-and.html

I think you will have to copy and paste it into your browser because I don’t know how to insert a link (sorry!)

I think this idea has some merit – it offers good opportunities to talk about how the other person feels, and what the child did or said that was hurtful.  It also encourages helpful and kind behavior.  But it doesn’t really help the child conform to the social expectation of apologizing.  It kind of sounds like if you do something nice it makes up for doing something hurtful.

In my Kindergarten classroom I often used role playing for situations like this.   Sometimes I would take on a role and exaggerate it myself.  I might ask a child to pretend he did something unkind to me, and then refused to say “I’m sorry.”   I would tell the child that I didn’t like what they had done.  I would tell them that it was hurtful.  I got into my role and acted a little silly, to make the kids laugh and get involved with the role play.  Then I would stop and ask the class what the other child should do.  Then I would prompt the child to say he realized he had done something hurtful and wouldn’t repeat the behavior.  Sometimes I would re-play a scenario that happened in our classroom.  Role playing several times helps children become comfortable with the language.  It raises the expectations of the class that we will treat each other kindly and be helpful and not hurtful.  It gives the children a chance to practice saying “I’m sorry.”

I still think the bigger issue is helping children learn to treat each other, and adults, with compassion and respect.  Role playing can help with this.  I also took every chance I could to talk about how characters in a story were feeling, in the classroom I would take the opportunity to talk about how children felt when there was a problem over a toy or an issue on the playground.  This is something I brought to parents’ attention too, young children are naturally egocentric, but we can help them begin to think about other people’s feelings by talking about characters in books and on television.

Here are two other books that I used in my classroom.

Bucket

Heartprints

Our school adopted the Bucket-Filler program one year.  This book uses the idea of filling or emptying other people’s buckets when you are helpful or hurtful.

Heartprints, by P.K. Hallinan, really emphasizes how people can help other people feel good by doing acts of kindness.

I love both of these books and used them every year with my Kindergartners.

I just heard of a resource book called Say Goodbye to Whining, Complaining, and Bad Attitudes… by Scott Turanksy and Joanne Miller.   The emphasis of this book is helping children learn to honor other people.  I am fascinated with this idea.  I looked up the definition of honor – it is to regard someone with respect.  I love the idea of teaching children not only to tolerate each other, but to honor each other.  I haven’t read the book yet, but the reviews were very positive.  Here is a link to copy and paste if you are interested.

http://www.amazon.com/Goodbye-Whining-Complaining-Attitudes-Your/dp/0877883548/ref=pd_rhf_gw_p_img_1_W2NX

So what are they doing about my little grandchild who refuses to say sorry?  They are practicing at home.  They are noticing every time anyone else says they are sorry and talking about it.  They are encouraging and praising.   They are appreciating all the wonderful things he does do, and loving him just the way he is.

Building Children’s Brains

brain work child

I am very excited to share a wonderful resource with you.  I’m sure you are all familiar with some of the extensive brain research that has impacted how we teach, and even how we relate to children in the last few years.    I got permission to share an audio recording with you that explains brain development in very understandable language.  Dr. Joan Lessen-Firestone, the Director of Early Childhood Education at Oakland Intermediate School District here in Michigan, presented this information and the CD I received was sponsored in collaboration with the Michigan Association for Infant Mental Health, the Michigan 4C Association, and the Michigan Council for Maternal and Child Health.  Dr. Firestone is a wonderful teacher, and I have listened to this information again and again.  I also made copies for my adult children before they had babies of their own.

01 Building Brains 1

Dr. Firestone gave me permission to share this information.  I hope you will listen to it and share it to help build a basic understanding of brain development.

I have been thinking of all you teachers so much the last few weeks, with many of you working on report cards and holiday celebrations, and then with the devastating events that have overtaken the news.  I wish you all a wonderful and peaceful break from your jobs, and special times with your families.  I know you never really quit thinking and planning even when you aren’t in school each day, but please take time to enjoy your blessings.

Merry Christmas!

Delightful Dinosaur Day

Dinosaurs are fun!

I am always on a campaign to bring more fun to early childhood.  I am very familiar with the amount of curriculum and expectations that govern the time young children spend at school, but I just really believe that teachers need to advocate for play and fun.  I shared a book we made about dinosaurs in an earlier post, now I am sharing a parent/child activity day that my kindergartners loved.  I think these parent/child days are one of the most effective ways to educate parents about how children learn and things they can do with their child at home.  If you are new to my blog, please check out other parent/child activities like Cowboys, Outer Space, Transportation, Oceans, and Pirates.

Here is our invitation:

INVITATION

When I planned these special days (or evenings) I tried to include activities from many areas of the curriculum, language arts, science, math, and social studies.  We usually began the day by showing a little of our every day circle time routines, then we did a fun song, story or poem that got parents and children actively involved.   For Dinosaur Day I passed around a basket that contained simple dinosaurs cut from construction paper, and everybody took one – parents and kids.  Then as we sang this song, they stood up and did the motion.

Tune – If You’re Happy and You Know It

Printable version:

If you have ..

Then we did an enthusiastic version of  Dino Pokey (think Hokey Pokey!)  I really encouraged parents to get up and do this with the kids.  I always practiced it the day before with the children.
 Dino Pokey

Here are some very simple clipart pictures of these dinosaurs:


5 dinos clips

Next I quickly went over the activities that were available, passed out a check off list, and gave each child a paper bag to collect his/her work as they went between the classrooms.  We usually decorated the bags ahead of time.

I repeated this parent/child activity many times and usually changed a few activities, but here is a simple description of the activities from one year.

description of activities

I also found a list of things to do in my files, so I thought I’d share that too!

I printed directions for each activity and posted them on 3 sided signs on the tables containing the materials for the project or game.  Here is a picture to show what the 3 sided signs looked like:

I didn’t save all of these directions, but here are a few.

activity directions

Some activities required a recording sheet, like Bronto Boats.  The children placed small dinosaurs in different colored boats, after predicting which boat would hold the most dinos.  They recorded their results on this paper (2 on the page).

Bronto Boats

We also play Dinosaur Soduku

Dino Soduku

The kids made up a dinosaur story with a beginning, middle and end.

Here is an assortment of dinosaur clipart:

dinos clipart

More clipart

 

This boy was tossing beanbags into the swampy basket!

Check out the stegosaurus hat – they glued spikes to a piece of adding machine tape that went down their back and was fastened to a headband.  We put a stegosaurus head on the headband.

Here are a few more resources that I found in my files.  I hope you find something you might be able to use.

dinodictionary[1]

Here are a few songs and poems about dinosaurs!

I hope you find some time to play dinosaurs with your class too!

 

Parent Education

I went to college because I wanted to teach young children.  I have always been much more comfortable singing silly songs, reading stories or playing with puppets in front of a class of 4-6 year olds than speaking to a group of eye-contact avoiding adults who are secretly checking their email messages.  But still I felt responsible to share information with my Kindergarten parents about basic child development, how children really learn, and child management strategies; along with keeping them updated about what their child was learning and how they were progressing at school.

Parenting is very hard work, and many parents don’t have much support or easy access to information unless teachers of young children educate the parents too!  Oprah Winfrey often says that when people know better, they do better.  I think the best way to teach anything is to SHOW, not TELL.  Parents who volunteered in my classroom sometimes told me that they learned a lot just by watching circle time, that was such a special thing to hear!  Two or three times each year I asked every child to bring an adult to school for a half day.  I called these Parent/Child Activity Days.  They were always based on a theme and the activities the parents and children participated in covered lots of subject areas of our curriculum.  First we went through some of our morning routines – calendar, morning message, etc. so parents could see what their children did each day.  When I planned the activities I always included a cooking project, large motor play, reading and writing for a reason, constructive play, science experiments – including charting information, math games, art experiences, etc.  By coming in to school and interacting with their child the parents could see how the children learned by doing.  Over and over I would hear parents say “We could do this at home!” about an activity they particularly enjoyed with their child.  Under the Theme section of my blog I have shared some of these parent/child activity days.  I have a few more that I will still post.  I loved these special days or evenings, and families told me they did too.  But not all parents were able or willing to participate.  I knew that I had to share information in lots of different ways.

The most basic thing I told my parents was to read to your child.  You really can’t tell them this enough.  I love this poem and often posted it where parents would see it.

Read to me

There are lots of ways to encourage parents to read to their children.  You could send home ideas of books children might love – especially around holiday gift giving times.  You might want to include a little description or excerpt as well as giving them the titles and authors.  You could attach a note with suggestions of good books along with book order forms.  I found that when I read and reread a book – and it became a classroom favorite, many kids asked their parents for their own copy.

I sent books home as often as I could.  I tried to set up a system of sharing books overnight that the children could manage independently – because I just never had time to check books in or out.  Of course, you lose a few …  but I think it’s worth it.  I don’t remember where I got this list of 100 suggested books – I think it was from a public library.

Here is a copy if you would like to print it:

100 Books to Read in Kdg

Just like everything else, you have to think through your motives – sometimes my goal was just to get parents to read wonderful, exciting, fun stories to their children.  I wanted them all to fall in love with reading.  Other times I wanted them to read simple, emergent stories with sight words that the children would recognize, or a repetitive pattern for the children to chime in.  I wanted parents to understand different components of a read aloud – from left to right progression of print, using picture cues, making connections, understanding the story elements, and retelling main events.  I knew that the more children are exposed to reading, the better readers they will be.  Children are so lucky when they have parents who take the time to read with them.  I tried to reinforce and encourage and praise parents as much as I could!  I think it helps to acknowledge how busy they are, and how difficult finding time in their schedules can be.

Quite awhile ago I wrote a post about Kindergarten homework, I shared monthly read aloud game charts, and suggestions of things parents can do with their children through each month.  Just search Kindergarten Homework if you would like to take a look.  Along with those calendars and charts I also sent home information that might be helpful for parents.  One year my professional goal was parent education, and that is when I developed these handouts.  Much of the information I shared came from a class called Playful Literacy and You, by Dr. Kara Gregory.  I tried to put some of her ideas into a form that might help parents of young children understand how children learn and things they can do to help.   I sent one of these handouts home about once a month.  The first year I used these I gave each parent a folder with a label on the front to collect these papers through the year.  I was hoping that might make them value the information more, and even if they didn’t read it right away they might take a look at the folder later.  I am happy to share these with you.

13 Reading to Your Child

1 Play and Literacy

2 Play and Literacy

3 What is the best way to learn

4 Play and Playful Learning

5 Six Kinds of Play

6 Understanding Language

7 The Uses of Language

8 The Development of Conversation

9 -Support. Oral Lang. Dev

10 Strategies to Support

11 Phonological Awareness

12 Print Awareness

14 Handwriting

16 Dev. Written Lang

I wish you all a wonderful school year, filled with excited children who are ready to learn, and supportive parents who want to be partners with you in this terrific journey!