Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Summer Fun - Bugs

Well, I'll admit, it's been a while. I have been running around like a crazy person this summer and haven't had much time to blog. Now that the summer is coming to a close, I wanted to write about some of the fun things we did this summer.

This summer, we learned all about nature beginning with one of my favorite subjects: BUGS!

We learned all about these creepy crawlies and what makes them tick. We practiced our drawing skills by drawing pictures of bugs, tried (unsuccessfully) to create an ant farm, and made our own awesome diagrams of the inner workings of an ant mound.

Prior to working on the diagram, I showed the children pictures of the inside of an ant mound and how the different chambers served various functions. I kept it pretty simple: Worker aunts are at the top of the nest bringing in food for the queen and rest of the colony. Just below the workers live the larvae. The queen is in a chamber in the center of the nest, and food storage is at the bottom.

Here is what we did...


  • Peel and stick shelf liner paper
  • Construction paper
  • Crayons or markers
I took various colored pieces of construction paper and pre-cut them into various sizes of ovals and tunnels. I taped the sticky paper up on the wall with the sticky side out, and organized the children into teams of two. Then, I invited them to stick the construction paper tunnels and ovals onto the paper connecting the tunnels and chambers (i.e. ovals) any way they wished. Finally, we drew in pictures of aunts, larvae, the queen, and food stores. I think they turned out great!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Space Bottles

To kick off our space and science theme, we made space bottles. It's sooo simple and so cute.

Here's what you'll need:

  • Mini (12 oz) soda bottles
  • Faceted colored beads of various sizes
  • Silver glitter
  • Blue food coloring (optional)
  • Corn syrup (this is what gives it the floating effect)

First, I removed the labels from the bottles, and used Goo Gone (the greatest invention for moms next to the magic eraser) to remove the sticky residue. Next, I filled them about halfway with water, and closed the top for the children to finish up the following day.

I placed out a few bowls of multi-colored beads, and allowed the children to place however many they wanted into the bottle. Next, I helped them pour the glitter in the bottle. I found that if I let them do the food coloring, they made it too dark so I asked them if they wanted one drop or two of food coloring and did it for them. Finally, I placed the corn syrup over the hole and they squeezed it into the bottle until it was full. They put the tops back on and shook the bottles like crazy to mix everything. After class, I hot glued the tops on because I felt it was too dangerous to do with the children around, especially with my 1970's glue gun.

I did help the children more with this project than I usually do. I'm a big proponent of process over product, and although I had the children do as much as possible, I did have to help a lot or they would not have turned out right. Like I said, normally I wouldn't care about it "turning out right" but this was less about artistic process, and more about the children making their sensory bottles that, I hope, they will be able to enjoy for a very long time.

Anyway, I think they turned out great, and it was a really fun way to kick off our space theme!

Grain and seed collage

Okay... so remember that comment about sharing my utter failures. Well here's one you can definitely sink your teeth into.

This project started out as your typical grain and seed collage. I put together a mixture of grans and bird seed I got at the store, and had the children spread glue on a paper plate any way they wanted. Then they sprinkled the seeds onto the plate, and dumped the excess off so the seeds stuck to the glue creating a design on the plate.

Here's the thing... this was cute, but kind of blah.

So I had this inspiration! I thought it would look really neat if the children painted their collages. The following class, I gave the children a mixture of glue and paint in red, blue, and yellow. Well, as is often the case, the children just didn't follow my idea of what they would do. They mixed the paints, and spread it on very thickly creating what I have dubbed... "Vomit on a plate."

I figured it wouldn't be a very good idea to post an image of them for the sake of anyone who is unfortunate enough to be eating as they read this. ;)

In closing... don't try this one at home kids.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Cheerios Bird Feeder

The idea here is that you are making simple bird feeders, while working on the children's fine motor skills by having them thread Cheerios onto yarn. This sounds simple, but like everything involving children... it is not as simple as it seems. :)

Here's what you'll need:

  • Colorful yarn
  • Cheerios
  • Small bells
  • Glue
The important part is the preparation. You will need to cut the thread to the length you want, and tie the bell onto one end. The bells provide a stopper for the Cheerios, and are supposed to jingle if a bird picks at the string. Here's where it gets tricky. Most yarn is just too soft and thick for little fingers to thread a Cheerio onto. Either you will need to be careful to buy stiff thread or maybe twine, or you can do what I did. I applied school glue to the ends of the strings - rubbing it in with my fingers - then hung the strings up to dry. Once the glue was dry the ends of the strings were hard enough to act as needles for the children to thread the Cheerios onto. Also, you have to make sure you are using "real" Cheerios. The cheap generic brands tend not to have regular sized holes which can create frustration for the children.

Once you have everything prepared, the actual activity is super easy. I took the kids outside so I could leave it to the squirrels and birds to clean up any mess. I placed bowls of Cheerios in the center of the tables, and let them thread as many as they wanted onto the string. Once finished, we hung them on a tree outside our classroom window so we could see if any birds ate from our feeders.
I don't think the birds have figured out that these are food yet..
If nothing else, it looks really pretty. ;)

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Animal Books

This is a project to help improve the children's motor skills (cutting , folding , gluing, and stapling), but even more so, it is meant as a literacy activity. Through this project the children created their own books with pictures, and told stories to accompany the images. This is a tall order for three year olds, but the children proved once again that they are capable of doing amazing things with just a little bit of scaffolding.

My kids are still in the early stages of representational drawing, and I really wanted to work on their cutting skills, so I made this animal sheet. It has a number of animals for them to choose from, they just have to follow the lines with the scissors to cut them out. I made it this way because they have a tendency to snip around the edge of the page, and I wanted them to start cutting through the paper.

Click here to download the animal cutting sheet

All of the images were downloaded for free online.*

Next, I helped the children fold two pices of paper and staple them on the fold to create a book. They pasted the cut-out images, one to each page, in the book. I placed wax paper between the pages to keep them from sticking together. Once the glue was dried, the children could color the images.

Finally, I asked the children to name their books and tell me stories based on the pictures that were inside. I was very impressed with their stories, and wrote them on the inside of their books. Here is an example of one of the the books.

The child wrote:
Cow is moo.
Duck is quacking,
and dog is ruffing.
And the elephant is swinging his trunk,
and the seal is going in the water.

There is another story one of the children wrote:
My giraffe reaches out his neck and get leaves,
and my seal swims.
My snake does climb to trees and he goes like this on the ground (acted out :) )
Doggie licks and we pet him.
My turtle's my friend too.

I had another one who sang all of Old Mac Donald, and another who named her snake lion and her gorilla princess, and said they liked to play games on the computer. :)

All of them were original and soo cute. This activity is definitely a keeper.

One caveat....
I gave myself 2 days for this project, but it took much longer. I still haven't gotten all of the children to dictate stories to go along with their books, but most have. I would reccomend that you give youself a couple weeks to work on this while doing smaller daily activies.

*Web sites

Monday, January 31, 2011

Hibernation Day

This is just a bit of a spin off of pajama day.

It was really simple. I set up a couple tents, some stuffed animals, and some pillows; and the kids came to school dressed in their PJ's, with their favorite stuffed animal, and maybe a pillow or blanket.

We talked a lot, and read a ton of books, about hibernation. My favorite is Bear Snores On. I love books that rhyme, and that one is masterfully done. We also read: Time to Sleep; Sleep, Black Bear, Sleep, and we looked at books like Animals that Hibernate and Animals in Winter.

We also watched a live video of hibernating bears online. The video was from the North American Bear Center. It wasn't exactly a thrill a minute (it's a pretty dark picture), but when you did get a glimpse of the bears it was neat, and I think it help to solidify the idea of bears hibernating.

Unfortunately my T/TH class got the raw end of the deal on this. The bears hardly budged the entire class. All they could see was a big brown mass. The MWF class got a number of great views of the bears though so I think the other guys were just unlucky. I'll try to put it on for them again sometime.

Anyway, It was a lot of fun. I will definitely do it again next year. :)

Friday, January 21, 2011

Polar Bears!!

This is a project we did as part of a unit on winter and polar animals.

To create the template, I took the picture I found of a teddy bear outline, ( inserted it into word, and wrote "My polar bear's name is.." underneath it.

For the class... I gave the children just the glue and the template to start off, and I showed them how to cover the entire inside of the template with the glue. Next, we used medium sized cotton balls to stick to the glue. Once most of them were finished, I talked to the group about what the bear was missing. With a little encouragement they figured out that he needed eyes, a nose, and a mouth. I then set out some plates with various materials on them: cut pieces of string, buttons, pom poms, and googly eyes, and let the kids go for it.

Now, I realize that these aren't your typical polar bears, more like polar bears from planet X, but I'm really not interested in cookie cutter artwork. I think forcing children to adhere to some adult idea of what is "right" just stifles them creatively. Not to mention having 12 polar bears that look exactly the same sounds kind of boring to me.

I have these displayed in the room right now, and they are pretty hysterical. I have some with 20 eyes on them, and others with nothing but buttons.

The children got pretty creative with the names they gave their bears as well. We had our fancy bears: Gabriella and Eala. Our islander bears: Tiki and Jaga. Our country music bear: Hank-O-Mise. Our traditional bear: Snowflake. Our big bear: Tiny. And last but not least the undefinable (and my personal favorite): Chicken. :)

Pasta Snowflakes

Like many of my projects, I adapted this idea from one I got online. It is quite simple actually... You give the children pasta wheels, and have them glue them together with regular school glue, give it a day or two to dry, then paint it with white paint and silver glitter. Once they're dry, you can tie a string on one end to make them into ornaments. (I didn't do this since it was past x-mas time when we did it).

(These really weren't this shinny... it's just my flash.)

They turned out cute, but here are a few tips for anyone wanting to try this:
  1. Do this on wax paper. You don't want to have to pick them up until they are dry, and once dry they will just stick to anything else.
  2. School glue really does work, but try to make sure the children glue them in a bunch, not a line. I had some that did really neat designs pasting the wheels end to end, but they fell apart when I tried to remove them from the wax paper. An idea may be to draw little circles on the wax paper and ask the children to fill them in. I didn't do that.. it's just a thought.
  3. I used the small pasta wheels because I thought it would be a good fine motor activity for them. It was, but I do think they would have looked much grander if we had used the larger ones. I also think they probably would have been easier to paint.

All in all... it was a cute 2 day project the kids really enjoyed.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Penguin Number Game

I got the printout for this on The idea is the same. You place the number of goldfish crackers on the penguins belly to match the number on its fin. However, I wrote the number on its belly instead, and placed dots in specific spots on the numbers. Why did I do this? Well... as a child I remember being very frustrated when I was told that I couldn't count on my fingers so I developed my own system of counting on the actual numbers. This was something that helped me immensely as a child, and something I would like to pass on to my students. You see, by counting on the numbers the children are connecting the physical amount that the number represents to the numeric symbol. My hope is that this will help them to identify numbers, count using numbers, and as one parent pointed out, in the future write numbers.

Here is the sheet I made:

I told them we were feeding the penguins, and the the penguins needed the number of crackers listed on their bellies. I made sure to that the children were counting the fish as they placed them on the dots. The children really took to this activity. It might have been the fact that they got to eat the goldfish once they finished :)

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Okay... So this started out with the idea being that we would split up into teams, make walls with the large cardboard blocks, roll toilet paper into balls, and have a snowball fight. Instead it was more like a tearing, throwing, rolling, jumping, diving, super-crazy free for all.

And it was sooooo much fun!!

I had each child bring in one roll of toilet paper and we went crazy ripping and trowing it all around the room. The kids had a ball, and so did I, but there was one problem... lint. Holy &*^%) the lint!! It was so thick that I had to make the kids go outside to let it settle because it was starting to make us cough. Then, cleaning it up was ridiculous. I basically vacuumed the entire room.

I realized after the fact where I went wrong. You see, with my first class it wasn't so bad, but a lot of those parents had forgotten to bring in the TP, and I used some cheapo toilet paper I had on hand. I did, however, remember to send and email out to parents the night before my second class to remind them to bring a roll for their child so they all remembered. Well... I guess I have some families with sensitive tushies because I got some really high-class TP. And as you may know, the softer the toilet paper the more lint it creates. So my advice to anyone who would like to do this with their class is to get the cheapest, roughest, just short of sandpaper toilet paper you can find and go nuts! :)

Play-doh Snowmen

This is such a simple idea, but it touches on so many important concepts: fine motor skills, ordering by size, and producing representational art.

For this activity I made white playdoh. (To make white play-doh, just follow the Homemade Play-doh Recipe and omit the food coloring). I also used some red play-doh that was ready to be replaced.

First, we talked about how a snowman looked. I drew a picture on the white board showing how a snow man was made up of three balls that got progesivly smaller as they were stacked on top of each other. Then, I showed (i.e. reminded :) ) the children how to roll play-doh into a ball by rolling it on the table. One at a time, we rolled the play-doh into 3 balls (small, medium, and large), and stacked them up largest to smallest. Next, we rolled the red play-doh into a snake, and placed it around the snowman's neck like a scarf. Finally, we added pipe cleaners for arms, and drew the faces on with marker. Here's one that a little girl in my class did. So cute!!

Tip: Place them on wax paper and give them a couple days to dry. They harden nicely but are very fragile.

Shape Firetruck

This was an activity we did as part of a unit on safety and community helpers. This activity was adapted from an one I found online. The online project called for painting a fire scene with the shadow of a house in front. I had two problems with this: 1. I would have to make the house for it to look right since the kids are too young to cut out windows and such, and 2. it seemed a bit morbid to me. So I figured out a way to make it less morbid, but also create a project the would help the children learn how the things we see are made out of shapes.

First, I had the children paint a white piece of paper with orange yellow and red paint. I told the kids to really glob the paint on. Then we placed saran wrap over the picture and rubbed it around to mix the colors, then quickly pulled it off in an upward motion to create the look of fire.

Next, I created some shapes that the children could use to make a shadow form of a fire truck. I made circles (wheels), squares (the cab), a large rectangle (truck), and a long rectangle (ladder). Then I showed the children how they could use these shapes to make the image of a fire truck, and let them past it on their paper. I think they turned out great!!

I know, I know.. I'm a creative genius. :P

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Number Train

This is an activity that's super-fun, but is also really good for number recognition.

First, I cut up blank index cards and numbered them 1-5. These were the "tickets." I made enough that every child in my class could have 5 tickets, but my class is small so this worked. (With a bigger class, it might be best to hand each child only a couple of tickets and rotate). Then I wrote the numbers 1-5 on full index cards.

For the activity, I told the children that we would be riding the number train, and handed out tickets. I held up my large ticket for number 1, and said "Boarding train number one. " Then I collected the children's tickets while doing the whole train conductor thing - saying "all aboard" and stuff like that. The children made a train by holding onto the shoulders of the person in front of them. I was the engine, and the children were the cars. We went once around the room making train noises, then stopped back at the "station" (i.e. blocks center) where the passengers on train #1 got off. This process was repeated over and over until all the trains (1-5) were boarded.

It was a ton of fun and the children wanted to do it over and over again.