Category Archives: Water Table

Tie Dye Ice Sculptures

This is something we do every year in January.  The ice sculptures always turn out so cool!

To do this activity, we ask each child to bring in a uniquely shaped piece of ice.  We get all kinds of fun ice from creative families.  For example, we get ice frozen in balloons, rubber gloves, Tupperware, jello molds, bowls, and cups among other things.

They bring their ice into school and put it in the water table.  At play time, we give the children kosher salt to sprinkle on the ice and watch the effects, making little craters in the ice.  Then, after the ice has melted a bit, they can use the salt and press two pieces of ice to gether, fusing them together. Their coldness re-freezes the parts that have melted and makes the pieces of ice stick together.

After the children have had some time to create their sculptures, we give them  eye droppers (great for fine motor)and liquid watercolor paint to color their creations.  The results are beautiful!

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Simple Christmas Ideas for All Around the Classroom

Today I’d like to share with you some festive things my preschool does to make Christmas a special time in the classroom as well as help teach the real meaning of Christmas.  Again, most of the credit here goes to my wonderful director who had been implementing these great ideas for years.  

Workbench

During Christmas, our workbench turns into “Ornamentation Station,” where the children can make Christmas ornaments to their heart’s content.  The Ornamentation Station is so much fun that I wrote two separate posts about it.  You can find them here- Ornamentation Station (Part One) and Ornamentation Station (Part Two).

Dramatic Play

The most important place in our classroom during the Christmas season is our manger where we keep our baby Jesus doll (a special doll we only bring out during Christmas).  The children are invited to sit in the rocking chair and rock baby Jesus and take care of him.  On the ceiling above the Baby Jesus, we hang a star to remind the children of the star that led the Magi to the newborn king and to mark it as a special place in the classroom.  This is one hands-on way we love to use to teach the kids about what Christmas is really all about.  Plus, there is nothing more precious than to see a child rocking the baby Jesus to sleep!

Our Christmas tree is another way we make our classroom festive for the children.  We set it up with the kids, and the kids get to decorate it with shatter-proof ornaments, ornaments they make at the “Ornamentation Station“, plus mittens they bring in to help needy families.  At home, kids don’t always get to decorate the Christmas tree however they want, so this is a great opportunity for them to decorate and re-decorate however they like!

Literacy and Writing Table

The writing table is one of our favorite areas of the classroom, especially at Christmas time.  The following idea is a hit with the kids year after year.  Plus, it’s a great use for old Christmas cards!  Simply take the front off of the Christmas cards, then give the children scissors, glue, stamps, and construction paper cards.  We also provided Christmas-themed word cards.  The children are free to cut out the pictures, glue them to their cards, stamp, write, and create their very own cards!

In addition to "Merry Christmas," we provided words such as "mom," "dad," "grandma," "grandpa," and "Santa."

This next idea is a new one, and it turned out to be so much fun!  I found these great alphabet Christmas tree printables at prekinders.com (Go here for these and other Christmas printables).  We gave the children transparent magnetic bingo chips to cover the letters following the color key at the top of the page.  Then, once they had decorated the whole tree, they could use the magnet wand to clear the Christmas tree!  They had so much fun doing this!  Of course if you don’t have the magnetic chips, you could use any sort of bingo chips or small circles to play.

Water Table

One thing that is fun to put in the water table for Christmas is a miniature Christmas tree with tiny ornaments, beads, and garland.  It is fun for the kids to put decorations on the small tree; plus it’s good for building their fine motor control!

Please leave your comments and share any other great Christmas ideas you use in your classroom!

Soup’s On!

Here is an activity we did during healthy foods week.  It was a simple, last-minute idea that turned out to be a huge success!

I was not sure what to put in the water table, and finally decided to let the kids make pretend soup!

Our set-up looked like this:

I put out whisks, ladles, spoons, measuring cups, pitchers, salt and pepper shakers and large pots.  I filled the pitchers with water.  I also gave them some pasta noodles, beans, oregano, and corn starch (for coloring).

Then, I let them go at it!  The kids loved making soup!  I think they especially like using real utensils and ingredients.

At first I thought I may have put out too many utensils, but I turned out to be wrong!  We had about nine kids around the table for most of playtime!  I saw a lot of teamwork, social interaction, and conflict resolution go on around the water table that day.  Not to mention the kids had a blast!  Just goes to show, sometimes the last-minute ideas are the best ones of all!

Have you had any last-minute successes in the classroom?  I’d love to hear about them!

Dancing Oobleck!

Here’s the post I promised you (and one I’ve been very excited about writing!):  Dancing Oobleck!

Right about now you may be asking yourself “What is oobleck?”  Oobleck is a Non-Newtonian Fluid.  Which basically means it is a substance that can be both a solid and a liquid at the same time.

In preschool terms it is that cool stuff you can make with cornstarch and water that you can form into a ball when you press on it, but drips through you fingers when you let go.

How To Make Oobleck:

The day before we did this experiment, we had made dough in the water table using flour and water, which made for great predictions when I pulled out another white powder (cornstarch) and asked the children to guess what would happen when I mixed it with water.

After the children made their predictions, I went ahead and mixed the solution.  My method is usually to mix until it is the right consistency, but if you prefer to measure, it is about one part water to two parts cornstarch.  Once I had it mixed up, the children realized it did not make dough.  In the bowl, it displayed liquid qualities.

The words solid and liquid have become part of the children’s vocabulary from exposure to these words through other science activities.  So, I asked the children if I had made a solid or a liquid.  They said liquid.  Then I asked them what they thought would happen if I slapped the oobleck with my hand.  Expecting it to act like a liquid, they guessed it would splash all over them, and braced themselves as I went to hit it!

With pressure, it is a solid.

When there is no pressure, it is a liquid.

But my hand hit the oobleck as if it were a rock.  We then had a discussion on how this acts as both a solid and a liquid.  When pressure is applied, it acts as a solid, but when the pressure is released, it acts as a liquid.  We also let a toy sink into the bowl of oobleck and saw how it acts like quicksand.  The toy got stuck and was very hard to pull out!

Then we moved on to the best part:  making the oobleck dance!

How To Make Oobleck Dance:

Oobleck “comes to life”  making little mounds and worm-like forms that move up and wiggle around when it is set on a speaker cone with a tone of a certain frequency. I had seen this on YouTube before and had been wanting to make it happen for a good, long time.  So I was very excited when I finally decided to try it with the preschoolers.  It took a lot of prep time and figuring out before I could do it with the kids.  I had so much fun being the scientist at home, tweaking and  experimenting until I figured out how to make it work!

I happened to have an old stereo lying around, which worked perfect for this experiment.  I popped the plastic cover off the front of the speaker to reveal the speaker cone on the inside.  On this speaker, the cover would pop right back on, so it would be possible to do this experiment without ruining the stereo.  It can, however, be quite messy, so I would recommend using a stereo you can devote only to oobleck dancing if you can.  The experiment can also be done using a subwoofer, but we had better luck with the speaker.

The hardest part was figuring out what frequency I needed to make the oobleck dance and how to get the tone from my computer to play through the speaker (I even tried rigging a set of headphone speakers to connect the speaker directly to my laptop.  It didn’t work.)  After a bit of researching, I found out the oobleck moves the best with lower frequencies, around 20 hertz or so.  I also found a tone I could download, burn to a disk, and play through the stereo.

I later found out the tone I burned to a disk was actually a wave; it moved up and down in frequency.  As you can see in the video, the oobleck dances better at certain points in the sound than it does in others.  I think the oobleck will dance better with a steady, static tone at the right frequency.  That is what I will do next time I do this with the children.  You can find free tone downloads here.

I set the speaker on its side and covered the speaker cone with plastic wrap.  Then we were set to go!  I told the students one of the best things about oobleck is that it loves to dance; but it has a funny taste in music!  I poured some of the oobleck onto the plastic-wrap-covered speaker cone, turned on the tone, turned the volume up, and watched the oobleck take on a life of its own!  This gave us a great opportunity to talk about sound waves and vibrations.

We noticed the oobleck moved best when the plastic wrap was tight, so I held it extra tight with my hands.  It was so much fun listening to the kid’s reactions as the oobleck formed little finger-like shapes and moved around on its own!  We also added some liquid watercolor to the oobleck and watched as the dancing oobleck mixed the colors together.  Unfortunately, I did not get a picture of this.

Squeezing oobleck to make it solid.

After the lesson, I put the oobleck in the water table to let the kids play with and explore.  I also put a few small toys in with it, so they could see how easily toys can get stuck inside.  Many of the children really enjoyed getting their hands in the messy  oobleck (while some preferred to use spoons to play with it), and I heard a lot of great science vocabulary coming out of their mouths as they played!

Letting oobleck drip through fingers as a liquid.

A few kids even asked for a re-play of the dancing oobleck during playtime.  That is when we shot the video.  By this point, the oobleck had dried out a bit, so the reaction here is not as good, but still really neat!

For more oobleck fun, check out these videos:

Running across a pool of oobleck

Kids playing in a pool of oobleck

Maybe some day we will fill a pool with oobleck!  But for now, I am happy with our oobleck dancing success!

Note:  Do not wash oobleck down the drain!  It will settle and clog the pipes.  When you are done, just scoop it up and plop it in the garbage!

Thanks for reading!  Please leave any comments on your thoughts or experiences with oobleck!

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!

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!