Monthly Archives: October 2011

Simple Halloween Ideas for All Over The Classroom

Here are some simple but fun things we have been doing in the classroom for Halloween.  Some of these activities are so simple, you could implement them in the next few days.  For others, however, it might be too late for them this year.  But please feel free to tuck these ideas away for next year!

Dramatic Play

The week before Halloween, we like to prepare the children for the holiday with some role-playing opportunities.  For some of the youngest students, this is their first real experience with Halloween (or at least the first they can remember).  These are some of the things we do to help the kids become comfortable with the customs of Halloween (as well as just have a good time)!

In addition to our regular dress-up clothes, we provide a variety of Halloween costumes the children can try on. Tip: Pick them up on sale after Halloween or at garage sales over the summer!

We also provide some trick-or-treat bags and some pretend candy (laminated candy wrappers). When the children role-play it helps them get the hang of the process (ie. say "trick or treat," say "thank you," etc) so it's not so foreign to them when they do it for real. Plus, the kids really enjoyed doing this!

Workbench

Many of the students (especially the boys) really benefit from having fresh and interesting things to do at the workbench.  This is what we did at the workbench to celebrate Fall.

Toy hammers and plastic nails (or golf tees) make for a great seasonal activity at the workbench!

Water Table

Our water table is seldom ever filled with only water.  Here are some of the things we did for Halloween.

This is one of my all-time favorite activities! We call this "Mr. Pumpkin Head"! Just poke three holes down the middle of a pie pumpkin (one each for eyes, nose, mouth) and two on each side for ears and arms (although you can see here, we only did arms). For the tiny gourd pumpkins, you just need two down the middle. Then add Mr. Potato Head pieces (or mini Potato Head pieces for the small gourds) and let the children create! So much fun!

Our 3 year-olds love to snip, and really benefit from the practice. So, we filled the table with orange and black scrap paper.

Then the children cut or tore the paper.

Writing Table

The writing table is at the center of our classroom, and for good reason!  It is one of the most important areas of our room.  We like to fill it with interesting free-choice activities that will get the children excited about writing!  These are a few things we have done for the Halloween season.  For the idea below, we give our thanks to Dr.Jean!

We made these books out of left-over (un-used) napkins and scrap paper. Add some seasonal writing utensils and the kids just can't help wanting to come over and draw pictures or write words in them! We provided meaningful Halloween-themed word cards for those children who enjoy copying words.

Boys dressed as superheros, writing in pumpkin books! Awesome.

One girl's inventive spelling and illustrations in her napkin book! Love it!

At the writing table, we put out all kinds of pumpkin and leaf shapes and writing/coloring utensils for the children to explore. Anything that gets the younger kids to make marks on a paper and improve their fine motor skills is a good thing!

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Glue-Goo Galore!

Today we tried a really fun experiment with glue.  It is “G Week” in our classroom, so this fit right in rather nicely.  Plus, with Halloween coming up, I thought it would be fun to play with goo (it was)!  Of course, this activity could be done any time of the year.

We made the “Glue-Goo” solution (I’ll explain how below), which is really fun to play with by itself.   Then, for even more excitement, we placed it inside a colander hung from the ceiling and watched what happened.

I first heard about this great idea from the “Ooey Gooey Lady” (yes, she is as fun as she sounds!).  Then I saw really great pictures of the fun in action at a blog called Play-Based Classroom.  It looked like so much fun, I just had to try it out in my classroom!

I changed the experiment a little by changing the mixture.  The ladies mentioned above used something called “Flubber”- a mixture that includes glue and borax.  Instead of flubber, we made a very similar solution using glue and liquid laundry starch.  This is commonly called home-made silly putty.  We, of course, in honor of “G Week” called it Glue-Goo.  I would like to try it again another day with the “Flubber” recipe. 

We started by mixing the solution with the children.  I like doing this part with the kids so they can see and experience the transformation.  I picked up the gallon of glue and started pouring some into the water table and watched as the kids’ faces’ looked a bit shocked and excited at this.  Then I took out the liquid starch and started pouring some of that in, fielding questions as to what it is and what it is used for.  At this point you might be wondering if I measured or how much of each component I used.  To answer, no I did not measure, I’m more of an “add a little of this and little more of that till it’s just right” kind of girl.  That being said, it’s about 2 parts glue to 1 part starch.  We also added some paint right out of the bottle.

It will start out really sticky, which some kids really enjoyed (while others really didn’t)!  One girl asked me to not put any more starch in, so it could stay sticky.  Another girl just said “ew!” and asked me how she could get it off her hands.  When the substance has become well mixed, it will be somewhat smooth and slimy, and only a little sticky (like silly putty).

Catching the drips!

Once we had it all mixed up, I put some of it in the colander and left some of it in the water table for the kids to play with.

It took a bit of time, but it slowly started to drip teardrop-shaped balls and as those tear drop fell down, they pulled long spider-webby, hair-like strings down with them.  This gave us the opportunity to talk about another G word: gravity!

You can see here that we have two different batches, the bright orange and the lighter orange. The brighter orange was thicker and did not string out from the colander.

We left this up all day, even through snack time so we could watch the effects.  The children were so interested in watching the strings coming down that they didn’t even touch it very much after play time was over.

Look at those strings!

All and all, a fun day with sensory experiences, chemistry, physics and phonics!

Bubbles, Bubbles, Everywhere!

You already know how much kids love bubbles (and let’s face it, you probably love them, too).  What could make bubbles even more fun?  These great experiments and activities we did brought bubbles to the next level and intrigued students, parents, and teachers alike!

We did these activities the week the students were learning about the letter B.  It made a real nice tie-in between the letter sound and all the fun things we were doing in the classroom.  We started by reading the book “Bubble Bubble” by Mercer Mayer.  The little boy in the book makes magic bubbles in the shapes of all kinds of animals.  Then we asked the children if they thought we could make magic bubbles and told them we had some experiments to find out.

Experiment 1:  Shaped Bubbles?

The first experiment was simple.  We had made some bubble wands out of pipe cleaners in different shapes: square and triangle are some simple ones to make.  I asked the children to make a prediction (yes, I used this word.  I believe the more we use vocabulary with children, the more they will understand it and use it themselves).  They guessed what would happen if I made a bubble using a square-shaped bubble wand.  I got all kinds of responses.  In fact, after reading the story, one child thought maybe a dragon-shaped bubble would come out!

Unfortunately, we cannot make a dragon bubble.

Of course, after trying it out, we found that no matter what shape our wand, the bubbles will always come out round.  This is because of surface tension; the wall of the bubble will automatically make the shape with the least surface area it can.  I told the kids the air inside the bubble pushes out evenly on all sides, which makes the bubble a circle (or technically a sphere, but we won’t get into that).

Experiment 2:  Popping Bubbles (and Putting Things Inside Bubbles)

The next experiment got a little more fun.  Now I asked the children what makes a bubble pop?  They decided that things that are sharp are what will pop bubbles.  We tested this with a pencil.  Sure enough, the pencil popped the bubble.  But wait, what if we try something that is not sharp?  Next, we tried a toy that had smooth edges.  It popped the bubble, too.  We decided that it must not be sharpness that pops a bubble.  I told the kids that bubbles most often pop not because they touch something sharp, but because they touch something dry.  Bubbles are wet  and they need to stay wet, but when they touch something dry, that dry thing absorbs (we’ve been using this word with the children a lot at school and many of them understand what it means now) a bit of the bubble’s water and makes a hole in the bubble.

So then the fun began; I showed the kids what would happen if I tried to pop the bubble with the same pencil I used before, but this time I dipped it in bubble solution and got it nice and wet first.  The pencil went right through the bubble!  We tried this with the toy, too, and then our fingers!  We had bubble solution in our sand and water table, and let the kids try this themselves during playtime.  They had so much fun!  One girl was so excited to show me the bean she put inside her bubble!

Experiment 3:  Bouncing Bubbles and “Boo” Bubbles

Okay, this one was really more of a science activity than an “experiment,” but it was really fun for everybody!  We owe our thanks here to SteveSpanglerScience.com for showing us these really neat things we can do with bubbles.  To be honest, we have really become a bunch of Steve Spangler groupies around here.

*Please remember to use caution when doing this activity!*

We made our own contraption with a pickle jar and some tubing (actually my boss’ husband made it).  We gave each of the children a sock, which worked the same as the glove in the video.  We blew these little smoke-filled bubbles all over and let the kids catch them and bounce them in their hands!  An interesting fact:  since the CO2 is so heavy, these bubbles go down instead of floating up like most bubbles do!

Look at the bubbles bouncing!

A few things to remember:

1.  Never touch dry ice!

2.  Do not fill the water past the hose or seal off the jar in a way in which no air can come out.

When we were doing the experiment, something somehow got clogged and we felt the pressure building up in the jar!  We had to take the lid off and let the air out so there wouldn’t be an explosion!

Since hands-on, self-guided exploration is so important to young children, we made sure there were opportunities for bubble exploration in (and outside of) the classroom, including the art table and easel, the sand and water table, and outside on the playground.

Bubbles is one of my favorite things to do with the kids (especially with the dry ice bubbles).  In addition to the kids’ own excitement about the activities, they fed off my enthusiasm.  Children can always tell these kind of things.  The more you are interested in something, the more likely it is that the kids will be interested in it, too.  This was one of the great examples of how fun and learning can (and should) go hand-in-hand.