Wednesday, December 28, 2011

sensory table, Christmas style

My sensory table has been hit and miss with my students this year.  With past groups of kids it's been a hot spot, needing a timer and refereeing for turn taking.  But this year is different... same activities, different kids... hmmm...

FINALLY, my Christmas mix was a hit (and I didn't have much faith in it when I put it together)!

  • Wrapping paper (cut into smallish pieces)
  • Garland (also cut into smaller strips)
  • Bows and ribbon
  • $ store bauble ornaments (plastic so they won't break easy - I'd say they're unbreakable, but with preschoolers you never know...)
  • Plastic candy canes (also found at the $ store and I need more!) 
  • Bell ornaments

What I observed:
Lots of sorting, hiding, finding, crumpling, AND...

Bell Banging, using the plastic candy canes for percussion (accompanied by beautiful singing)
Gift Wrapping

Ornament Creating
(using the candy canes as hangers)

Tracing???... someone took the candy canes on a field trip to our art table for some tracing time - great idea!
So glad that this mix worked for my students.  Now to come up with some new ideas for next week...

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

simple personalized ornament

In the past I've been much more elaborate with a craft for the kiddos to make their parents as a keepsake.  This year I had a very hard time feeling inspired or finding the time for the students to put their gifts together.  After combing the web for ideas, I settled on a simple paper craft for the students to make.  I am actually pleased by the results, but am hoping I'll find more time next year to actually wrap our gifts and be able to give them out to families at our program.

Our ornaments:  (Inspired by

#1: We had fun finger painting with red and green paint.  The dried paintings were multi-tasking art projects; from the large paper I cut out 2 stars (one for our school's bulletin board, and one to take home)  and a small 3"x3" square for our ornament.
#2: I cut out 4"x4" squares of red poster board for the backing.  The slightly larger square also created a border for the painted square.  I wrote each student's name and date on the back of the square with a metallic marker.

#3: The students glued the 2 squares together and added two pieces of ribbon, criss-crossed to looked like a wrapped present.

#4: When the "presents" were dry I added a student picture to the middle.

#5: I hole punched the top and put a piece of pipe cleaner through the hole.  I fashioned half of the pipe cleaner into a bow for the top of the present and the other half into a loop for hanging.

#6: We gave them away to smiling families!

Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 24, 2011


We had some inchworm fun to help learn about letter "Ii".  Thanks to Deborah from Teach Preschool I had some activities at my fingertips - great for a busy time of year : )

Big "I" with Inchworms - Hiding in the Grass (Inspiration here) :  We glued small green rectangles on our capital "I's".  We tried to glue the worms bending, but most of my students liked the ease of gluing them flat.  

After we were done with the glue, we painted grass for the worms to hide in, using the tines of a fork.

Find the Inchworms! (Inspiration here):  I can't believe I've never thought of using pipe cleaner and magnets together - great combo!  For this center, I put some grass (green and brown gift bag filler, found a the dollar store) in a container.  I added some inchworms (green pipe cleaner) and magnetic wands. 
My kiddos LOVED this activity.  I'm going to bring it back in a few weeks and add some magnetic alphabet letters to the mix for some review fun. 

Other activities in our classroom:

Nativity Building Center:  I've had a plastic Nativity set mixed with our blocks for the last four weeks and it's still a popular spot to play.  Every once in a while baby Jesus disappears (he's a hot item!) but he is eventually retrieved to place in whatever version of a stable is being constructed. 

Christmas Card Art:  I had a huge bag of Christmas card fronts donated to our school.  I put the cards, construction paper, scissors, glue and markers out at our art table for the kiddos to be creative with.  My smallest students are just getting comfortable with using scissors and glue so it was great practice for them. I love seeing their creativity start to blossom when the use of art tools becomes more familiar.

Friday, December 23, 2011

measuring up

One of the math focuses in our curriculum is an introduction to measurement. The following are some activities I've used in our classroom to introduce measurement concepts.

Full & Empty:  To demonstrate the idea of full and empty I put the containers from our balance scale on a tray with corn to pour from container to container.  As the students played we would ask from time to time which container was full or empty.  We would also challenge them to make one full or empty.

Heavy & Light:   We played with our balance scale and sized elephant counters.  While students explored we talked about how the scale worked, showing which container was heavy or light.  I also encouraged my older students to sort the elephants by color to see which group was the heaviest. 

Long & Short: 
Play dough mats.  I drew a long and short rectangle on a piece of paper and put the paper inside a page protector.  I encouraged the students to make the play dough match the lines, to make one piece long and one piece short.  Some of the students used scissors to cut the play dough to size.
Measuring with Yarn:  This is one of my favorite length activities, although it takes some patience on the students part to wait for everyone to be measured.  It might be a good idea to measure everyone with a length of yarn as they come in the door in the morning, but it was fun to watch everyone get measured too.  
I cut a length of yarn to match each students height.  I wrote their name on a piece of tape and attached the yarn to the wall.  After everyone is hanging we compare the different lengths, seeing who is long and who is short!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

horse play

This year is galloping by!  We did a little horsing around with letter "H" this last week:

"H" Horses: This project was a little too teacher labor intensive (lots of cutting - I think I'll do something different next year). 

I did like having the kiddos use scissors to cut the yarn and glue onto the horse's mane and tail.   
 Horse Play: I've been seeing all these ideas on blogs about setting up miniature pretend play areas.  I gave it a whirl with our plastic  horses.  (The blue tray was the quickest container that I could come up with that was a good size.  I think a box lid with some 2-3' sides would work well too. ) I taped green construction paper on top, added plastic trees, fence pieces from our farm sets, a little green tinsel (for grass) and our small plastic horses.  

My 3's didn't care much for this activity - they pulled things off the tray and wanted to carry the horses around the room.  My 4's, however, have been playing with the tray for 3 weeks now - it's a hit!

Other games we're playing:

Star Count and Match:   (idea from the Mailbox Numbers for Little Learners book)
  • Felt board
  • Felt stars
  • Number flash cards
For this game we sat in a circle around our felt board.  I had the students close their eyes while I put a certain amount of stars on the board.  Then they opened their eyes and I chose someone to count how many stars.  

After we counted I put two number flash cards out and we chose which number matched the amount of stars.

Bean Toss: (idea from

  • Tray /felt
  • Cup 
  • Lima beans (painted on one side)
Toss the beans on the tray, sort the white from the red.  Which is more? Which is less?   Which color wins?

 Block Stack, More & Less: (also from
  • Blocks (same size and shape)
  • Die
We played a version of a block stack game a few weeks earlier, so the kids were familiar with the concept.  We rolled the die, counted the dots and stacked the corresponding amount of blocks.  Then we rolled the die a second time, made another stack of blocks and compared stacks.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011


Hanging on the Line: Simple turkeys that my students could put together on their own... inspired by this blog

How crazy is it that we do all sorts of cute turkey activities during Thanksgiving season and then try to translate the cute turkeys into what's for dinner?  My kiddos don't get it and I don't get it either...

Here's a look at our cute turkeys (anyway) and  some other Thanksgiving activities...
Hand Turkeys (inspired by this blog):  I had about 15 lined up on my counter at one point, soooo cute!
  • Cardstock (to trace hands)
  • Feathers
  • Markers
  • Glue
  • Orange triangle cut outs (for beaks)
  • clothes pins  (these could be painted or colored with marker too)
My students were able to do most of this project on their own too - I just traced and cut out the hands.

Turkey Math

Magnetic Turkey/ Triangle Count: Give each turkey the correct number of triangles to match their number!  (Our shape focus this month is a triangle.)
Turkey Number Match: This game was passed on to me by a fellow teacher (I'm guessing it's from the internet somewhere...)  The turkey bodies have a number on them and matching numbered tail feathers.  This game can also be used for color sorting.

Our teepee (with a fire blazing underneath)!  I added a few dress-up items too (Native American head bands, fringed t-shirt).  We talked about what kinds of food the Native Americans would have cooked while we played here (no processed food here : ). 
Corncob Sensory Bin: I've seen this activity multiple places on the web.  The kiddos love to pick the corn off of the cob.  When the cobs are clean...
We paint with them! (Note: in past years the kiddos have loved to paint with the cobs - this group of students, HOWEVER, did not - they ran the cob across the paper a few times, set it down, and finger painted instead - you just never know!)
 Turkey Baster Squeeze:  (Inspired by a painting project here.)  I decided not to actually paint, but to use colored water (I mixed a little paint in the water).  We squirted on trays to let the students experiment with the basters a little more.  I don't think a piece of paper could have held up to all the squirting we had going on!  I also added smaller pipettes to experiment with.  
Left-overs:  As my students gain skills in using our classroom tools (glue, scissors, etc.) I like to turn them loose on creative art projects.  One day I put out all our left-over turkey pieces and let them create whatever their hearts desired!

All in all we had a great Thanksgiving season in our preschool.  I'm thankful for great kiddos to spend my days with!

<3 Eileen

Monday, November 28, 2011

got your goat?

Anyone out there have any good goat activities?  Our animal friend for letter "Gg" is "Gomer Goat".  I had plenty to do this week so I wasn't able to dig very deeply into more activities, but I'd like to find more in the future.  I think I might need to invest in a copy of "The Three Billy Goat's Gruff" for next year.  

Letter "G" activities...

"G" Goats (I think these are pretty hilarious) I found the idea here.
  • Cut outs of the letter "G", horns, ears, and beard
  • Large wiggle eye (you might want to do two - I can never get the preschoolers to understand the concept of putting one eye on an animal art project - ha!)
  • Glue
I give the students the pieces, show them an example, and let them glue as they choose. 

For an alphabet review game we played  "Throw it in the Garbage" (great mix of fine and gross motor skills!).
  • Garbage Can
  • Paper scraps with alphabet letters written on them
To play:
  • Pass out the letters written on the paper to the students.  
  • Take turns naming the letter
  • Crumple and toss into the garbage can.  

When we all had a turn, I dumped the can and students chose a piece of paper again.  
  • Uncrumple the paper to find out what letter is hiding inside!
  • Crumple it back up again.
  • Toss into the garbage.  
(This was in my lesson plans from last year, but I know I just saw it on a blog recently too - can't remember where!)

Other activities this week:

Craft sticks (letter recognition, math, fine motor skills):  I put craft sticks and flash cards out at a center area for students to use to make shapes and letters.  I saw a lot of really neat designs/letters from my older students and my youngest students thought it was great fun to grab them all in their hands and drop them (they do make a cool sound... as well as a mess).
Table Setting (one-to-one correspondence, social studies):  During the month of November I add place mats to our housekeeping area.  To make the place mats, I traced the toy dishes (as they would go on a set table) on a large piece of card stock.  Then I decorated and laminated the mat.  Looks like a healthy meal!.  

Friday, November 25, 2011

goin' fishin'

There are so many things to do in the classroom at this time of the year.  I'm afraid  I try to do too much so the kiddos can experience it all - at least I keep them busy!

For letter "F" I pulled out our magnetic fishing set.  I used the toys for a group game as well as a center.  I purposefully use one fishing pole to encourage sharing and taking turns - the rule is catch 1, pass the pole to a friend.  (Multiple poles get tangled or turned into weapons anyway, so it solves that problem too : )

Love that this student sorted out all the pink fish : )
Our "F" project ended up taking a back seat because we had so many other things going on this week.  A few students were able to put one together though.  I went super simple, using left-overs from past projects.  We glued fish cut-outs on the large "F" and I had some "F Fish" words that we glued on also.

Other skills we are working on:

Associations (language skills): I put out a game that has pictures of objects that go together.  The pictures are puzzle cut so only the correct pictures fit together.

Block Stacking (number recognition, one-to-one correspondence, and fine motor skills):  We played it as a group game and I tried to use it as a center, but it wasn't very popular.
  • Turkey number flash cards
  • Alphabet blocks
To play: Turn the flash cards upside down, flip over to see how many blocks to stack

Opening and Closing Containers (fine-motor skills):
  • Various containers, some with lids, some without (I even included lids that did not fit on containers)
  • Small Animals

The most popular activity I witnessed was finding all the bugs and putting them into the screw-top containers.

Easel Painting (fine motor, color discrimination, art!):  I introduced easel painting to the kiddos.  Because it was the first time for many, I only used 2 colors (red & yellow) so they could get used to the process and so we would not have an overwhelming mess!  Most of the paintings were one orange blob, but a few of my students (especially the ones who had multiple turns) actually painted pictures.  My goal is to have the easels out more frequently so the kiddos can become more creative with their painting.