Category Archives: Books

Having a Blast with Birthdays

Literacy

One of our favorite things to do when the kids are learning about the letter B is talk about birthdays!  One story we really like is “The Secret Birthday Message” by Eric Carle.  In the story, the little boy has to follow the secret birthday message on a kind of scavenger hunt to find his birthday surprise!  As some added fun, we print copies of the message and hide pictures of the book around the room.  The children then get to follow the clues to find the surprise, just like the boy in the story!

Dramatic Play

In our dramatic play area, we set up a birthday party with pretend birthday cakes, party hats, paper party plates and cups, and balloons.  The kids love taking turn pretending it is their birthday and having a party!

Art

This year, I wanted to try something different at the art table for birthdays.  What I came up with were these fun three-dimensional birthday cakes.

They are made from upside down paper bowls.  To make the frosting, I mixed one part glue with one part shaving cream and then added a few drops of liquid watercolor.  This concoction dries thick and foamy, and really looks a lot like real frosting!  After spreading on the “frosting,” the kids decorated the cakes with foam shapes, candy sprinkles, and cut-up pieces of straws as candles.  Of course, you could use any collage materials you have on hand to decorate the cakes.  The kids really got into making these.  I almost felt like I was watching Cake Boss there for a while!

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Good, Clean, Fun with Ivory Soap Clouds

Today was another one of those “I-saw-it-on-Pinterest-and-had-to-try-it-myself” kind of days for me at preschool.  I’ve had this idea pinned for a while now, and since today was White Day, I thought making Ivory soap clouds would be the perfect science experiment.

I brought a microwave down from the kitchen and put it on the counter next to our circle time area.  I started circle time by doing a flannel board for the book “It Looked Like Spilt Milk,”  which talks about all the different shapes clouds make and all the different things they can look like.  Then, I took out the bar of soap (we had to talk a little bit about what a bar of soap is; most of the children were only familiar with liquid soap).  I told them that this kind of soap has little pockets of air inside of it.  We also talked about how when air gets hot, the molecules move away from each other and expand.  I had the children make predictions as to what would happen if I heated the soap up in the microwave.  They had some really great guesses.  Some thought we would see the air bubbles come out of the soap, some thought it would melt, some thought it would expand in the microwave but then get smaller when we took it out.

Then I cut just a small piece of the soap off, put it on the plate, and put it in the microwave.  I set it for 2 minutes, but the reaction was over in about 1 minute.  The air bubbles expand and cause the softened soap to enlarge in puffy mounds.  It ends up looking like a big fluffy white cloud. Once it stops growing, it doesn’t do much else, so it doesn’t hurt to leave it in the microwave longer, but there’s not much point in it, either.

During play time, the children had a chance to come over and I helped them make their own soap cloud.  This was nice because they got a chance to see the process up close better than they could at circle time.  I reminded them to be careful and not touch the cloud until it has cooled a bit because it is a little hot when  you take it out of the microwave.  To go with the story, I had them tell me what they thought it looked like once it came out of the microwave and I wrote that on the paper plate.  That way they got to take home their soap clouds and I told them they could use in their bath tonight.

Crafty Crayon-Melting Creativity

This whole melting-crayons thing is all over the internet right now.  On Facebook, on Pinterest, I have seen it just about everywhere.  I have also seen all different variations on this project:  adults melting crayons on huge canvases as art to schools in Phoenix leaving the crayon projects outside in the hot sun to melt.

At any rate, it just seemed to cool not to try.  I, of course, took my own variation on it.  First of all, I wanted to be sure each child had the opportunity to experience this science-art hands-on.  Which meant they would not just watch the crayons melt, but they would make it happen.  Second, I wanted the children to choose their crayons to put more free-choice into the project.  Third, while I wanted each child to be able to make their own creation and be able to take it home, it was not exactly in my budget to run out and buy each child their own brand-new box of Crayola crayons and a canvas (Between two classes, that would be about 30 students and since I like to make art myself at home, I know canvases can get expensive).  However, we did have a large bag of used crayons on hand at the preschool, and there is always plenty of construction paper.

This activity worked really well for the week the children were learning about the letter C.  We talked a lot about crayons and colors.  Also, since we are a Catholic Christian School, we did a lesson that day about something else that is made of wax and begins with C – candles.  They learned about and saw first hand what candles are used for in church.  But I digress.  Back to the crayons.

We’ve been talking a lot about liquids and solids with the children, and we’ve been exploring these properties in different ways.  This time, I pulled out a crayon and we talked about it.  Is it a liquid or a solid?  What is the crayon made out of?  What happens to wax when it gets hot?  After discussing, I pulled out a hair dryer and we tested the kid’s theory of what would happen when I heated up the crayon. Sure enough, the wax started to drip.

We told the children we would be doing art and science at the same time.  I absolutely love when art and science meet.  Those are my favorite kind of activities (and often the children’s favorite, too).  At free play time, we set up two hair dryers, one for each side of our easel (we discovered very quickly that we needed to plug them into different outlets if we wanted the both to be running at the same time!).  That way two children could work at once.  We let the kids choose about four or five crayons and tape them to the top of the paper.  We did not mess around with hot glue or anything like that.  As long as the crayons still had paper on them, the tape worked just fine.  We put the crayons at the top to get the full effect of the dripping.  Next time, though,  I think I might let the children tape the crayons any way they want to and explore what happens!

It took a good bit a patience for the children to wait for the crayons to get hot enough to melt, but once they did, the kids got so excited!  “Wow, look, there goes red crayon!”  “Now blue is dripping!”  And because anything of this nature becomes a race to children:  “I think green is going to win”

The students were really good scientists for this project, making all kinds of observations about what was happening with the crayons.  They noticed one hairdryer made the crayon wax drip down the paper, while the other splattered the wax more (it had a stronger blower).  Some used both thick and thin crayons and noticed they melted at different speeds.  They noticed different colors melted faster than others.  They even noticed certain crayons (the cheap ones) although colored, melted clear.

I found it to be a very fun, educational and successful project.  To go along with this project, in addition to the candles in church lesson, we read “The Crayon Box That Talked” by Shane Derolf and talked friendship and teamwork.  The children also had a lot of fun color mixing with paint at the art table.

Have any of you tried this crayon project with your children?  How did it work out in your classroom (or home)?  Post your comments and let me know your tips and suggestions!

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.