Saturday, February 26, 2011

Car art and favorite links

On Friday we revisited an old favorite: art with cars.  Not too long ago we did painting with cars, (see the bottom of the entry here), so this time we colored with cars.  I just put a little tape around a marker, put it in a whole of the waffle block cars, and secured it, then gave them a large sheet of paper on the floor to use.  Like all art activities that involve cars: it was a hit.

In other news: here are a few links that I have stumbled upon in the last few weeks that have proved good reading.

Not Just Cute: The Disembodied Mind (an article about technology and child development by Amanda Morgan)

Teacher Tom's Blog: Way to Go You're a Genius (an article about IQ, self esteem, praise, and everything in between by Tom Hobson)

Irresistible Ideas for Play Based Learning: Smothering a Candle (a great science project at home. since we would not be allowed to do it at school)

Friday, February 25, 2011

B is for Baking Blueberry Banana Bread

Most of my class is at an exciting phase of phonological awareness.  They are starting to put things together; starting to understand how letters make sounds and those sounds make words.  They are on the verge of being able to stretch out words to make guesses as to how to spell them.  They love to look for letters everywhere- on posters, on signs, in books- everywhere.  They are starting to recognize words or guess at words; just yesterday a child saw the word "Same,"  and said to me that has "S- A, like Santa!"  It is an exciting, exciting part of their learning.  They are absolutely fascinated with letters and words printed and written.
Today,  we made Blueberry Banana Bread to cover many bases.  I started by making a sign with the recipe on it and hanging it up on a board where we were baking.  Before we started baking we examined the recipe- I read them the ingredients and the instructions and then they pointed out things they noticed.  They noticed all the "B's" at the beginning and launched into a partial recitation of the "Berenstain's B Book,"  they told me about all the numbers they could "read" that talked about measurement, and some other things like the "T" for "tablespoon" is like "T" for "Tommy" in our class, etc.
Then the best part- making the blueberry banana bread!  Baking really does hit so many bases in preschool- there's measurement, motor involvement like pouring and stirring, literacy, and sensory! For mashing bananas, (and in other recipes for mixing),  I give them gloves and let them get right into it with their hands.

Here's the recipe we used (if you are interested).


  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 medium ripe bananas, mashed
  • 1 cup fresh blueberries (or 1 3/4 cup of frozen blueberries, thawed) 


  1. In a bowl, combine the flour, baking soda and salt. In a large mixing bowl, cream the shortening and sugar. Add eggs and vanilla; mix well. Beat in bananas. Gradually add the dry ingredients, beating just until combined. Fold in blueberries.
  2. Pour into a large, greased loaf pans. Bake at 350 degrees F for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks.

We ate our bread for snack, (it came out really well!), and I sent them each home with two pieces of the bread in a ziplock bag with the recipe.  This class often asks for recipes- even for things that are prepared by the cook in the kitchen for their meals to take home to their parents! 

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Building experiences

As teachers and well educated parents, we know that when children build they are not really just playing.  When children build they are gaining spacial understanding, learning about principles of gravity, engaging creativity, and learning basic principles of, well, building.  They are not naming these principles, but rather simply learning from trial and error; they have no scholarly understanding of these things- but they have a real understanding.  Building is also often a social activity, requiring cooperation, and  resolution skills.
As teachers and parents, we know these things and so we give the children blocks to build with and look for new building experiences for them.

Here are two building experiences recently offered in our classroom:

The first idea is from Bev Bos.  A simple idea- building with hangers.  In the first trial- I hung a hanger from the ceiling and left a bin of hangers for them to use.  They got right to it, but eventually it turned into a game of swinging the hanger to knock the other hangers off.  Still a learning experience, but it made me a little nervous about some one getting hit with the hangers.  Of course no one did, we took precautions and they made a game of falling to the floor and "ducking" whenever someone swung the hangers.
None the less, I thought maybe we should come up with another option, so I took the clothes off the rack from the dress up area and put a couple hangers on the rack to create the environment.  I liked this much better.  Unfortunately, they did not.  They fiddled with it for about 20 minutes, revisited it once for 20 minutes more, but after that it sat just like this for the rest of the day.

The next idea is from Lisa Murphy.  On the table I put out an assortment of small blocks in various sizes, large and small Popsicle sticks, and shaving cream.  Without instruction they immediately started using shaving cream as a building aid.
Some of them used their fingers to spread it, some used popsicle sticks to spread it and some of them didn't spread it at all- just put some on and squished another block on top.

Some children built a structured creation.

Others leaned on the adhesive quality of the shaving cream to make a less structured creation.

Still others weren't interested in it as an adhesive- they used it to cover block structures that they built.

The kids were nuts over the blocks and shaving cream- it is definitely an activity we will repeat soon, as I have daily requests for repeats since the first!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Treasures from the secretary

One day, I made a trip up to the office to ask the church secretary if she had a empty box we could use- she led me into the office to get me a box, and there I saw a treasure of all treasures- a box FULL of poppers (aka bubble wrap) in all different sizes!  I carefully asked "are you going to use those?"

"No," she answered, "do you want them?"  Did I want them? Why, yes; Yes I did.  "I have a whole bag of them over here," she said "take as many as you want."  So I took all of them.  Treasure!
The children used most of it in a half an hour popping frenzy!  It was fantastically fun.

A few weeks later she came downstairs bringing a hard plastic packaging thing that she thought one of the classrooms could use.  I was lucky enough to run into the director first in her search for someone who wanted it.  Of course we did!
I knew as soon as I saw it that it would be great for prints; So today we used that and some of the left over bubble wrap to make prints.

For anyone unfamiliar with printing, it is really simple.  Allow the children to paint the object, then put  a clean sheet of paper on top of it, press, lift, and presto! A beautiful print.  
In the past I have also used the plastic candy holders from the inside of valentines day chocolate for prints (take out, flip upside down, and paint) and they have come out really well.

Here are some samples from the day:

Several children chose to do only one, but two of the girls made a dozen or so a piece.  
Hope you enjoy!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Incredible, Indulgent Sensory Activities

Here are a few fantastic smelling sensory activities that both you and your children are bound to adore!

This first idea is from a Bev Bos conference, and is absolutely fantastic!  Set out a few heavy duty mortars and pestles with various delicious smelling things to smash or grind up.  Today we used coffee beans, dried rose petals (which should be easily found after Valentines Day), whole cloves, whole hazelnuts, and cinnamon sticks.

In general I let them use as much as they want, but today I had to ration the cinnamon sticks a bit so that everyone could have a couple (since there were only a few left).  Without fail every single child does this activity whenever it is presented.  It is quite popular with the children and the parents as well.  The parents always comment on how great the room smells after the kids have been working on such a project.                                

After they are done smashing or grinding up all of their treasures I bag it up and label it "a special scent made by Susan" or whatever that child's name is.  Some parents have put it in a cup or a dish and left it somewhere in the house as potpourri.

During the holidays this year I put somethings that they smashed up (cinnamon sticks, whole cloves, whole nutmeg, all spice berries, star anise, and other "holiday smells") in little tiny white paper bags, folded them over and put a string through two holes punched in the top and had the children give them to their parents as car air fresheners.

 It was a cute and easy Christmas Present for them to give their parents and I had a lot of positive feedback about them.    There are a lot of other things you can give them to grind or smash- including cocoa beans, lavender, fresh or dried herbs, and much more! It seems so simple, but the really adore it and it smells fantastic.

When we were done with the coffee beans I added some coffee beans to the beans in one of our sensory bins!  Again, the smell was delicious! This bin contains a visually mesmerizing assortments of beans and dried vegetables some of which include pinto beans, black beans, kidney beans, white lima beans, split peas, yellow split peas, red lentils, black eyed peas, giant fava beans, indian corn, and coffee beans!  The kids love running their hands through it and I have often spotted adults who can't help themselves from doing the same!  They also love the sound of the beans running through the mill, or being poured in the wooden or metal containers we have.  For more sensory bin ideas that include coffee beans check out this post by Teacher Tom or this post by Mary Lea (aka Pink and Green Mama).

The next idea came from the the Ooey Gooey Tooey Book by Lisa Murphy aka the Ooey Gooey Lady.  For years I have put Oatmeal in the sensory bin, but had never thought to add cinnamon (even though I EAT it in my oatmeal on a regular basis).  In any instance I put two large containers of oatmeal in the bin and added a half a cup of cinnamon, a half a cup of salt, and a little nutmeg because I had some and love the smell.  Thus far it has had rave reviews.

They have enjoyed playing in it and smelling it, and one poor little fellow even ate some.  Today, (of their own designs), they got the clip board and "wrote down"  the ingredients for oatmeal cake and then "baked it,"  putting a little literacy in the mix.  The first day I put it out, I caught some of them putting their faces almost down in it to better take in the smell!

Another hit recently was putting babies with soap, water, and sponges in the sensory bin for "baths."  Any soap can be used, but to infuse your room with a pleasant smell baby shampoo is nice to use or Lavender baby shampoo (by Johnson and Johnson) like we used today.  It smells absolutely beautiful.

Some other things that might be useful include cups (especially ones with spouts) to pour water over the babies and rinse them off, and little hand towels for them to wrap their babies in when they are done bathing (these were after thoughts, so I will use them next time).

If you liked these sensory ideas, here are some links to other posts:

5 more sensory bin ideas


Monday, February 21, 2011

2 Simple (and cheap!) Ideas to Spruce Up Dramatic Play

The "dramatic play" area in our room is among the most popular, (this is not to imply that dramatic play only happens in this area, only that it is the area where you find babies, dress up clothes, the iron, the kitchen, and more), and it is especially so this year. We have a class of nearly all girls this year, (eight girls and four boys), and in general girls are more likely to spend sustained amounts of time in this area;  I have one boy in paticular this year who loves this area and plays there everyday, and boys do like to play in this area but usually (with one or two exceptions) it is the girls who spend hours and hours in this area.  This being said, I am always looking for little things to switch in and out of the area to grab their attention and to open up their little imaginations.

1.  Recently I purchased some Mardi Gras masks from the Dollar Tree and the kids have had an absolute blast with them.

two girls all decked out for the (masquerade) ball

Don a flapper style dress and a mask and you can fly like a bird!

I am not sure what the purpose of this outfit was, but it's is cute!

Some of the boys wore the masks and tied blankets around their shoulders to be super heros!

2.  There is no end to the number of ways that kids can use a basket! I think this one was like 5 dollars

I love that they preferred to use the basket as a table to the actual table!

Sleigh ride! Yes, they were singing Jingle Bells!

Here the basket is being used as an "escape-"  a place of her own away from the others...

and here we have a "turtle!"