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Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Fun Flowers

One of the teachers at our preschool does a great spring craft with cupcake papers. She makes a very cute display of a spring garden.

The craft is very easy to make and it really looks adorable. You will need cupcake liners large and or small, a piece of paper, glue, and crayons or markers.

The children put the glue on the paper where they would like flowers to be. Then they place cupcake liners on top of the glue. Sometimes you can put a small cupcake liner inside a larger one to create a more dramatic effect. After everything is glued on the children can take markers or crayons and decorate the picture. It really is quite cute.

While I'm here, I did forget to mention that a good staple to have in your home for crafts is glue. I like glue sticks. Mostly because there is much less mess, and much less drying time.

Have fun!

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Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Learning Fun is in the Cards

Learning games seem to be ever so important to parents, but some can be extremely expensive. A parent doesn’t have to spend a fortune to sit down and have some good old fashioned fun with their child and learn at the same time. In these games, the kids will be having a great time, and also be learning. The children don’t realize that they are learning, they just think it’s fun—and having fun is the best way to learn.

First let’s take a deck of regular playing cards—don’t cost too much. You can do so many things with them. Many of the games you play, you can play with your preschooler just tweaked a little. I wouldn’t be teaching them poker, although, my mother-in-law taught my son how to play a mean hand of poker—and this was before he entered kindergarten.

Anyway, children can play Concentration, Go Fish, War, maybe Gin-Rummy depending on their abilities. Each game can be manipulated to fit your child’s age. First let’s take Concentration or as we call it “Match.” The number of cards I would use in the game definitely depends on the age of the child. A younger child would have fewer cards than an older child. In the beginning I only use number cards and then later add the “letter” cards. I would just arrange the cards on the table and start matching.

Go Fish would be played the same way you were taught, but again the number of cards used would be lessened as per the child’s age, and in the beginning a match would constitute 2 of the same number gradually increasing with the child’s age. I always make the draw deck a “fish pond” by just messing the cards in a circular motion.

Finally, War is a little more advanced in that it helps to teach numerical value—which card is worth more. Again, I would lessen the amount of cards used; start with cards having numbers, and later graduate to more cards, and “letter” cards. If you’ve never played War before, each player gets an equal amount of cards, and then each player puts one card in the center. The player who laid down the highest card wins all the cards. The player at the end of the game with the most cards wins.

In each of these games you have helped teach your child colors (red & black), shapes (hearts, diamonds, clovers, & clubs), numbers, and then letters (J-jack, Q-queen, K-king, and A-ace). Also, in War you have taught greater than, lesser than, which has more, and even counting. If your child is not sure which card has more, have them count the objects on the card. You have done all this with some simple card games—and didn’t spend a fortune.

Uno is another great game that has many of the same concepts involved. I haven’t bought an Uno game in quite a while so I’m not sure of its cost. Again, the child’s age would dictate the amount and type of cards you would use. For younger children you could start out with just numbers, or just two types of colors, I wouldn’t use the word cards yet. Have the children just match the cards with the same colors, later have them match the cards with the same numbers, then later you can have them match either the number or color. As they grow, add more cards, add the cards with the directions (now you’re teaching reading). Here again, you have taught, colors, numbers, letters, and later words—all with a game of Uno.

And yes, we do always have a winner and a loser. Sometimes they win (quite often), sometimes I win (not quite as often), and sometimes we tie. It’s a life lesson. It usually goes pretty well as long as they win the first couple of times.

Holding cards can be difficult for the children too. I know there are some products that can be bought in a store that help hold cards. Or, I just have them lay the cards out in front of them upside down—for Go Fish or Uno games, and they just keep peeking. If the child is really young I would have them put them face up—try not to cheat too much.

Well there you go and you didn’t break the bank. So grab those cards, sit down, and let’s learn!

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Friday, April 18, 2008

It's Mine!

We’ve all heard it. Golden silence followed by the high pitch wail of “It’s mine!!!” Which is than answered with the same sentiment, “It’s mine!!!” The phrase that causes us all to cringe. If we didn’t have to deal with it, we probably wouldn’t. But inevitably, it’s is a situation we all take care of sooner or later.

Sharing is extremely difficult for young children. If you think about it, it can be quite difficult for us as well. How many of us will find some excuse not share that last piece of chocolate cake with someone else? Or to explain in some round about way that you can’t let someone help you because you have it all under control? Not that you actually do, but this way you don’t have to compromise. It’s hard, and if it’s hard for us, imagine a preschooler who thinks the whole world belongs to them.

Preschoolers are naturally self-centered individuals. Hey, they have been totally doted on their whole existence and it’s worked well so far. To find out that it will not continue forever is really going to take some getting used to. Sharing is not a skill that comes naturally. It has to be taught just like the ABC’s.

This year has been quite a year for us in the sharing department. For our three-year-old class, our first few months are devoted to realizing that there are others around, but not enough of one toy for everyone. I had a little girl this year that was sure that anything she touched during the course of the day was hers. No matter how long ago she touched it, she would become extremely upset is someone else touched it. For example, she might have been playing with a doll; she put the doll down and moved on to the blocks. If she turned around and saw someone else with that doll, “AAAHHH! She’s got my doll.” This has been an ongoing work in progress. She‘s gotten better, but most of her playthings travel around the classroom with her.

At school we have found it easiest to use a timer. It is much easier for the children to be able to see something tangible and know a specific result will occur at a specific time. Generally, it works pretty well. The user of a certain plaything is usually pretty good at handing that item off when the timer rings. Does it work 100% of the time? Does anything we try? We have one little boy that no matter how hard we try, those trains are not coming out of his hand. With him it helps to make sure that he has more cars of the train then the other person. It’s not easy, but you can’t give up.

You also should realize that waiting for the toy is just as hard as giving up the toy. We get asked quite often, “Is it time yet?” It is good to have the timer so the children can “see” how much longer they have to wait. They may not understand how long it’s going to take to get to 0, but they know the end is in sight and the coveted item will soon be theirs.

I know it’s hard, but just keep at it. It’s like toilet training (which we won’t get in to). You keep trying and trying, and eventually it happens. Now, I have to go get that piece of cake out of the fridge before someone comes home.

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Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Make Some Play Dough

One of the teachers at our preschool had a great recipe for play dough. It’s easy to make and keeps for a decent amount of time. The only thing I find is that if I make it 5 times, 3 times it comes out great and then 2 times it will be super sticky. Good luck


2 cups of boiling water
2 ½ cups of flour
½ cup of salt
3 Tbl. Oil
1 package of unsweetened Kool-aid

Put the last 4 ingredients in a bowl. Mix in the boiling water. It’s really hot and you need a spoon at first. After it’s pretty much mixed together as a ball, dump it on the counter and knead it. Knead until it feels like play dough.

I store mine in a Ziploc bag. This play dough usually smells pretty good, you don’t have to worry if your kids decide to eat it. Have fun.

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Sunday, April 13, 2008

Spring has Sprung

I would like to share with you some spring activities that the children find fun. We are finishing up our spring unit at school, we had a great time.

We always begin our unit with a nature walk around the preschool campus. We are located in a local church and the church’s campus is very conducive to outdoor activities. When we first start our spring discussions we will go outside and look for some new flower blooms, buds on the trees, robins, worms, bugs, and the forsythia bush. The children have a great time because it is usually our first time outside in quite a while. Getting your preschooler out to look at the newness around them is great for everybody.

We usually follow up our walk with a planting. Great fun! The kids just love to get in the dirt. We usually always plant in stryofoam cups. I have a pack of marigold or zinnia seeds and we look at the seeds to get an idea of what we are starting from. The children throw in some dirt, a few seeds, and water. Then we cover them in plastic and wait. You can not imagine the wonderment on their faces when they come back to school and see those shoots coming out of the dirt.

Planting is always fun and easy for children. At home I have a small garden that my preschooler loves to help me with. If you can’t plant an outside garden, plant some flowers in cups, get a small window box and throw in some dirt and seeds. Another planting activity I have seen which is cute, is to take half of an eggshell, draw a little face on it, throw in some dirt and grass seed and create some egg people. It may seem trivial, but they love it. You don’t have to go all out to impress a preschooler. Sometimes the less fuss, the more fun.

A trip to a local nursery is great fun for the children too. We go and look at all the beautiful plants, and flowers. It’s fun because we get to see what our plants will look like when they grow big, and we also get to see some plants that are new to us.

Some other activities that may take place during this unit are: making forsythia plants, the children use markers and yellow and green tissue paper. The children will draw some branches with their markers, then crumble some tissue paper and glue them to the branches. We also make some pussywillow bushes, again using markers to make branches and then we mix some gray paint, but you can also use a stamp pad. We have the children make the pussywillows with their thumbprints. We always paint a beautiful garden of flowers also to emphasize all the beautiful colors that arrive in spring. Children’s handprints can be used for many different crafts during the year. A robin or a flower can be a spring handprint creation. For the flower the children would paint a green stem then we paint their hand with their choice of color, and then press the hand on the paper. The robin involves tracing the child’s handprint horizontally. The thumb is the top—like a wing, and the fingers are the back wings. An eye is drawn near the top of the palm curve, in front of the thumb, and then the bottom of the palm is colored orange for his orange belly. Oh, and don’t forget the beak. The rest of the bird is colored brown.

All these activities are ones that you can share with your preschooler during our wonderful season of spring.

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Friday, April 11, 2008

Preschooler at Home?

I know there are millions of us out there with preschoolers at home. Many time parents wonder, "What are some good materials to have at home for my preschooler?"

I think it is important to have some craft material. It doesn’t have to be anything extravagant, the basics are good. Definitely, you will need paper—I think my little one has already depleted a forest. Drawing paper, construction paper, scrap paper—very important to have around. Also coloring books are good. Then of course, you will need those ever important crayons. Markers are great too, the children really love how bright the colors are with markers, but they can be messier than crayons. Paint is another good medium to have. I opt for the watercolors—easy clean up. With watercolors I can give the kids the paint, brushes, and paper and let them go. When dealing with tempera paint, there is a bit more supervision involved. At the school when we do a craft with tempera, it is more of a teacher supervised activity, but if we do something with watercolor, I can put these at one of the independent stations. Sure things get wet, but at least the children and area aren’t a whole different color if I leave them alone.

Of course, you are also going to need some glue. I really like glue sticks because there is a lot less mess associated with them, and the drying time is much quicker, but any type of glue will work.

Next on the list is an item that isn’t always popular—scissors. Young children need as much practice as possible with scissors. In the early years they don’t have to cut out anything specific. They can cut newspapers, magazines, old flyers, junk mail, just watch the hair. It is mostly the aspect of allowing the children to become comfortable holding the scissors, moving the scissors, and cutting something. Scissor skills are a very important part of our three-year-old program. We like the children to leave this class being comfortable and successful with scissors. When you give your child scissors, I love Fiskars they work really well, just let them do want they want. Try not to be too directive—they could become frustrated. Your goal is to allow them the time to enjoy using scissors.

Our next item is another one that parents don’t always cherish—play dough. Children love play dough and it does wonders for their motor skills. Kneading, pounding, rolling, pressing, molding,--all valuable skills in the development of a preschooler, and all skills that play dough promotes. Sometimes parents seem to forget that motor skills are just as important as academic skills; that is where play dough comes in. I know it’s messy, I know it gets everywhere, I know, I know, but they love it and your only young once.

The final item I think is really important is books. Children love books. Some of us may look at some of the books our kids seem to treasure and we get this confused look on our faces. I can’t tell you why they would love that book with the goofy pictures and two words per page, or, on the same token, the encyclopedia with a thousand words per page and great pictures, but they do. Sometimes I just watch in wonderment when a child is looking at a picture book by themselves and they are just so enthralled at what they are experiencing. And the excitement they get when you ask, “Would you like to read a story?” that can be priceless. Those couple of minutes that you are reading their favorite story for the 10 millionth time, they’re cuddled up next to you or in your lap, you’re coming up with some voices you never knew possible, it’s great. It’s time you cherish, time that doesn’t come around often enough, and time that is hardly ever seen after a certain age. Enjoy!

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Thursday, April 10, 2008

What is Preschool Playbook?

Today I take my first step into the blogging world. I thought I would start with a quick introduction. My name is Trish and I have been a preschool teacher since 1986. I hold a BS in Early Childhood Education and have been employed for the last 20 years at one of our hometown preschools in Pennsylvania. At this school I teach the three-year-old class and am also the director of the school. It is a position I really enjoy.

Personally I have five children of my own, our youngest one being a preschooler himself, until September that is. My fifteen minutes of fame came in July of 2007 when I was interviewed for an article in a national magazine called Wondertime. It was very exciting. The interview lasted about one hour and was full of wisdom and insights. The article came out, and finally near the end was a one liner from me—did I really say that?

Anyway, I thought it might be nice to put a blog out there that dealt with some issues concerning preschoolers. I know these little ones don’t come with manuals, and I also know I don’t have all the answers—you should see my kids, but if someone can find one thing that helps them along the way, I would feel satisfied.

I hope you enjoy your reading and your preschooler.

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