The Versatile Blogger

I am honored and excited to note that I have been given The Versatile Blogger Award (VBA) by Suzanne down at My Buddies and I!  I want to thank you, Suzanne, and encourage everybody to check out My Buddies and I.  It’s a really sweet blog about her day care (check out her yard- it’s a great play-space!).

The VBA Rules require that I now pass on the award to 15 excellent blogs.  My awards for Versatile Bloggers go to (in no particular order):

Play-Based Classroom. Never underestimate the power of play!  Amen to that!

Dr. Jean.  Dr.Jean is wonderful when it comes to preschool/preK/Kindergarten ideas.  If you haven’t visited her site before, it is definitely worth a look!

E is for Explore.  Tons and Tons of great activities for kids/classroom.  Especially love the how they often combine science and art!

Almost Unschoolers.  I found lots of great games and projects here that she does with her kids for homeschool.

Teacher Tom.  Teaching and Learning from Preschoolers.  If you haven’t seen Teacher Tom’s blog yet, please check it out.

Housing a Forest.  Filled with  ideas for art, crafts, science and games.  She does all kinds of great things with her kids at home!

1 2 3 Kindergarten.  A blog with lots of great activities for kindergarten readiness!

Steve Spangler Science.  We truly are Steve Spangler groupies.  If you haven’t discovered him and his great science yet, it’s not too late!

Teach Preschool.   I especially like the M&M paint idea I found here!

Rushing to Read.  Some good children’s book reviews.  Great if you are looking for a good book for your kids!

Frugal Family Fun Blog.  Fun and cheap things to do with kids.  Many ideas!

Adopt a ‘Do-Cute Girl Hairstyles. A must-see if you have a little girl in your life.  Lots of really cute, really easy hairstyles!

Delia Creates.  Some really cute sewing ideas here, plus some really fun kid activities!

Jill Cataldo- Super Couponing.  Jill has a great couponing blog.  I use it every week to save money on my grocery bill!

Klique Social Media Marketing.  Looking to expand your business using social media?  Klique can help you with interactive webpages, blogs, Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, and YouTube.  “Klique” on the link to check out their blog.

Congratulations to all the winners!  Check here to see the VBA rules.

Finally, I’d like to share 7 things about myself.

1.  I am married to my best friend.  I know this sounds cliché, but we were friends for over ten years before we got married!

2.  I (still) dance: ballet/pointe, jazz, tap and other.

3.  I like to paint.

4.  I am a Catholic, and I love it!

5.  I live in a small and adorable apartment with a bay window that overlooks a park with a gazebo.

6.  I love Fiestaware.

7.  I super-coupon and make my own cleaning supplies.

Thanks for reading and please take some time to check out the links above!

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.

Play Dough Snowmen

January is a busy month at the preschool.  This is the month us teachers write-up the student evaluations and have conferences.  With all this to do, I unfortunately have not had time to keep up with the blog.  But… I do have about 5 drafts waiting to be written or finished.  There are so many great things to write about and so little time to write them!

I’ll start with a simple fun idea to get the (snow) ball rolling.  We put these little snowmen kits at the play dough table.  They included buttons, ribbon scarves, little hats, google eyes, pipe cleaners, and sticks.

Then, we put out our home-made white play dough and let the kids create!  The kids had so much fun with it!  Our three-year-olds especially loved creating these little miniature snowmen.  Here are some of their creations.

Ornamentation Station (Part Two)

Here’s a continuation of festive Christmas ornament ideas for preschoolers to make at the Ornamentation Station!  To see Part One, click here.

Beaded Hearts

This is an adorable little ornament that really turns out beautiful.  Also, beading is great for building fine motor control; plus the children get practice with patterning.  You start with pipe cleaners bent into a V shape.  The children then bead each side of the V.  Here we used green pony beads and red wooden beads (the wooden beads we cut off of a string of garland).

Once they have beaded up both sides, they can twist it secure and bend the end down to make a heart shape (they may need your help with this part).  We finished by using short pieces of pipe cleaner to make hooks.

Scratch-Off Paper Ornaments

These are simple ornaments that are easy for little hands to do.  We used scratch-off paper, the stuff that has rainbow colors underneath when you scratch off the black on the top.  We used our Ellison die cut machine again to make a variety of shapes the kids could choose from to make their ornaments.

Some kids will draw or make designs.  Others will just scratch the whole thing off, which might not be very artistic, but is great exercise for their little fingers!

Beaded Candy Canes

I will end with an easy-to-do classic – beaded candy canes using pony beads and pipe cleaners.  Again, it’s great for building fine motor strength and patterning skills.  Plus, its something the kids can do on their own.  And while we adults might find an idea like this a little tired or over-done, the kids have only been around a few years, so to them its brand-new!

I’m always looking for more great ideas!  If you have any ornaments you love to make with children, please leave a comment and share your ideas!  Thanks!

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!

Ornamentation Station! (Part One)

During Christmastime, our workbench transforms into “Ornamentation Station,” a festive place where little elves can create all kinds of adorable Christmas Tree ornaments!

Usually the ornaments are something very simple that the kids can create independently.

The following are a few examples of ornaments the kids could make at the Ornamentation Station.

Cinnamon Gingerbread Men

The gingerbread men were made by using sandpaper and our Ellison die cut machine, but they could easily be made by cutting the sandpaper into gingerbread man shapes using scissors.  We put cinnamon sticks at the table as well as stick-on buttons or other decorations.  The children simply rub the cinnamon stick on the sandpaper gingerbread men to make it smell wonderful, then decorate it however they would like.

Paper Balls

 

This one required a little bit more assistance from the teacher, but was great for some of the older kids as it promotes fine motor control, following step-by-step directions and patterning.

At this point I have to admit that I got this idea from Martha.  Yes, I saw this Martha Stewart ornament on Pinterest and loved it!  The idea is simple.  I provided the children with paper strips with holes punched at each end, as well as some brass fastener brads.  First, they decorated the paper strips using markers (if they wished).  Then, they secured their series of  paper strips with the brads on each end of the strip (they needed the most help with closing the brads).  Then they fanned out the paper to make it into a ball.  I helped them tie a length of yarn to it so they could hang it from the tree!

Stay tuned for even more Ornamentation Station ideas!

Where Has Thanksgiving Gone?

Dear America,

What have you done with Thanksgiving?  Where has it gone?

It is not merely the “season opener” for Christmas-time.  Now, don’t get me wrong, Christmas is a truly wonderful and meaningful holiday.  I cannot downplay the significance of our savior and God humbling himself to come down to earth and become human, to come to us as a helpless baby born in a stable.  In the spirit of what Christ gave to us, Christmas is a season of giving.  However, as a result of being a season of giving, it is also a season of receiving.  And it seems receiving is the aspect of the season that gets focused on way too much.  All the commercialism you push, America, takes advantage of that.  And it’s in that commercialism that we are losing Thanksgiving.  Children especially can get caught up in all the gimmie-gimmie-gimmie of the Christmas season.  What are we teaching them if we don’t stop and say “thank you” for all the numerous blessings God gives us everyday?

Christmas is important, and we need to teach children (and ourselves sometimes, too) the true meaning and spirit of Christmas.  A good way to start is by celebrating Thanksgiving in its own right.  Not just as an oppurtunity to get together, eat a lot of food, start our Santa lists, and get excited that Christmas is coming, but as a time to give thanks to God for all He has done.  To take a break from all the “I wants” and instead say “Thank you for what I have.”  After all, America, this is your holiday.  Own up to it.  It’s a beautiful thing.

So please don’t put up your Christmas decorations after Halloween.  Take time for Thanksgiving; it’s worth it.

Thank you America.

With Love,

Me