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Friday, May 30, 2008

Beautiful Butterflies

At this time of year we start thinking more and more about the world outside our window. A very popular craft and theme at this time is butterflies. I have a couple I want to show, but I will do it in two different posts.

The first butterfly is fun and turns out very pretty. I find it goes very good with teaching that butterflies are symmetrical; the same on both sides. For this craft you will need:
construction paper, scissors, paint, glue, and decorative items.

First you will need to take a piece of paper, fold it in half, and draw a pattern of a butterfly. Depending on your preschoolers scissors skills the pattern can be as basic or intricate as you like.

After you have drawn the pattern, have the child cut it out, remember to keep the paper folded. Then after it is cut they will open it up and tah-dah-they have a butterfly--wings the same on both sides.

But of course, a butterfly needs to be beautiful. This is where the paint comes in. Have the child put paint on half of the butterfly--it helps to fold back the other wing so they can't see it. When they have made the desired effect, fold the two sides together and have them help you press like an iron. Then open the butterfly and see the beautiful patterns that were made--the same on both sides.

After the paint has dried, it's time to add the body. I used some different things, paper, felt, tongue depresser, markers, wiggle eyes, pipe cleaners, etc. You can use anything your heart desires.

Your done--now you have created a beautiful butterfly garden to have in your home.

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Sunday, May 25, 2008

Been "Board" Lately?

That's right--board--I spelled it correctly.

When my oldest was young we used to sit down everyday and play a board game. I'm not quite sure what happened, but my youngest doesn't get that opportunity as often. It's quite sad too because there is so much benefit in playing a board game.

The closets in our house were always full of games--Candyland, Chutes and Ladders, Trouble, Hi-Ho Cherryo, Monopoly, Scrabble, Sorry, etc, the list goes on and on. Today, I am searching everywhere to find a game--but eventually I find one and we sit down and have a good time.

If you get a chance, go find those games, pull one out, and sit down with your preschooler and have a good time. Just like card games you teach so many things. There is colors with, counting when moving spaces, even adding when using more that one dice. There is also the aspect of building the attention span. One day you may play a game for 5 minutes, the next day 10, and eventually you may even finish, and have fun doing it! Sometimes it takes patience, but you will be doing your young one a huge favor in the long run.

My favorite game by the way: it's called SPLAT by Milton Bradley. I don't see it anymore, but I still have most of the pieces and my youngest still loves to play it. My oldest, who will be 21 in October, got the game when he was three. You make playdoh "bugs," travel around the board by rolling the dice, then when you land on a special spot, you pick a card and if any bug is on the color of the card you get to squish the bug and they have to start over. It's pretty fun and the kids love squishing those bugs. If you come across the game, pick it up. It's fun.

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Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Jiggly Jellyfish

With summer just around the corner thoughts of the beach are high on everyone's list. I'm not quite sure why, but my son LOVES jellyfish right now. I just saw two very cute jellyfish that I thought I would pass on.

The first jellyfish my son made in his class. They used one large paper plate cut in half, white crepe paper strips, markers, glue, and wiggle eyes. The teacher cut the plate in half. Then the children glued the crepe paper strips to one half of the plate(from the cut edge), then they glued the second half of the plate on top of the first. The children decorated the jellyfish with markers and then added wiggle eyes.

The second jellyfish was very colorful. You would need a coffee filter, markers, water sprayer, small styrofoam dessert cup, glue, and strips of waxed paper. I saw these jellyfish hanging from the ceiling of our local kindergarten teacher's class. They really looked great. The children colored the filters with marker then sprayed them with water so the colors ran together. After the filter dried it was glued to the bottom of the dessert cup--so that the filter hung over the cup--finally the strips of waxed paper were crinkled up and glued to the inside of the upside down dish and hung down like tentacles. I don't have a picture of this one so I hope you can envision the finished project from the instructions. They were really adorable. Have fun!

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Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Save Time in a Book

The end of our school year has arrived. This is our last week at our school. Everything is going home. There is always one item that we send home at this time that is a huge hit with parents. It is called the ME BOOK. Throughout the school year we keep a book at school with different activities in at, then at the end of the year we send it home. Parents really enjoy it. It is a wonderful keepsake of the past year.

The ME BOOK is very easy to make. You can make one at home any time. Our ME BOOKs for the 3yr and Pre-K class are very similar. Our first page is done in September; we weigh and measure the children, then add a hand and foot print. The Pre-K usually stamps their prints and we trace the 3s'. We follow that page with a My Family page. The 3's have different pictures of moms, dads, sisters, brothers, pets, etc. to choose from then glue them on. The Pre-K class actually will draw their family. If you are doing something like this at home, you can even cut from photographs. Our final page at the beginning of the year is a Favorite Things page. The 3's and 4's usually pick from an array of magazine pictures.

All the above pages we start in September because that is our Who Am I unit. The rest of the pages are added at various times of the year. For the three-year-old class we add an I Know My Colors page-we make a color caterpillar; I Know My Shapes page-we use the four basic shapes to create a house and tree; I Can Write My Name page-we do this at three different times of the year. First we stamp our name, then we trace over dots to create our names, and finally we will try to write our name on our own. We then have an I Can Cut page where they had to cut some pieces apart to create an object. Finally in May we will weigh, measure, and do hand and footprints again to see how big the children have gotten. We finish off the book by adding photographs taken during various times of the year of the children--this is our School Days page.

The Pre-K class has a book that is very similar. Their books are a little more detailed. They have various I Can Write my Name pages throughout the book at different times of the year. Their last name page includes first and last names. When Pre-K does a food discussion, they make a favorite foods page-usually on something to make it look like a meal. During careers they add a When I Grow The children usually draw something on this page. There is a favorite story page, I Know my Address page, and an I Know my Phone Number page. Finally, the book will end similar to the three year olds' books with a May weigh and measure and photographs from the year.

Our "books" aren't put together too fancy. We use lots of construction paper, glue, and then we have a heavy duty stapler that brings everything together.

These books are great to go back and look at years later when your children are in middle school, high school, even college. Use your imagination. Any event you feel is important in your child's life can be documented in this book to save for years to come.

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Saturday, May 10, 2008

Take Care with Child Care

I was just at a birthday party with my preschooler and the conversation has left me a bit saddened.

As I have written, I am the director and a teacher at a nursery school. My philosophy is that children are coming to our program to learn and grow and we will help them do that with fun and positive experiences. Today I listened to some stories about places that parents have their children and my heart just broke.

One parent that is now in our school transferred from another school. She had seen some signs in her child pointing to low self-esteem and just plain discontent with herself. The parent had no idea where these ideas were coming from. So one day, she decided that she would stick around her child's school, unbeknownest to the staff. What she heard and saw was just unacceptable. This parent witnessed an aide telling the children they were slow, or stupid, messy, bothersome, etc. The parent was appalled. When she went to the "people in charge," she was told it was too much trouble to fire her, they would have trouble finding someone else to hire for her spot. So it's okay to allow someone to take care of children and crush them like bugs? She got her child out right away.

Another parent had her child in a daycare situation. She came to pick him up one day, he was under a bench crying with wet pants, teachers didn't even know he was there--didn't know he was wet, and didn't help to care for him after she was there--offered her nothing. On two other occasions she came and the child had a mark on his face. First time she was offered an explanation and asked to sign an incident report. Second time, she asked what happened, no one knew, and they wanted her to sign a report--she only signed it because it stated that the teachers were unaware that something happened. She felt at least that way it was documented people weren't on top of things.

I just find it unbelievable that these types of things are going on in places where people are CARING for children. I know having many children around can be trying and exhausting, but if that is the line of work you go into, you have to expect that, and summon patience and understanding deep within yourself. If you work with children remember: you are helping to shape the ideals of young people. Your job is to present things positively,help to raise positive and happy people. A childcare worker or teacher is tested everyday. One must find their special way to deal with these situations. Mine, I know it's not for everyone, but I pray the rosary everyday on the way to work for patience to deal with each situation that is presented to me that day.

And parents, PLEASE, stop in to your preschool or daycare unexpectedly. Find out what a normal routine really is really like. Watch the interaction between teachers and children, and don't ever ignore something you think is strange or different. You are your child's only advocate. PLEASE, always remember that. No one else will ever love, care for, or stand up for your child like you, so do it. Don't be embarrassed to stand up for the rights of your child and yourself.

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Friday, May 9, 2008

Water, Water Everywhere!

It's rather ironic that I am writing this today. As I write this it is pouring outside. Granted the article has nothing to do with rain, nor does this statement have anything to do with it either, but it was just an observation.

Anyway....the warm weather is just around the corner. I don't know about you, but here we have had a glimpse of those hot summer days to come. It will be inevitable, those little ones are going to want to get wet!

Water. When you think about it, it is really irresistible to the touch. Whenever you see a river, lake, fountain, puddle, pool, etc.--you want to touch it. Why? I have no idea, but little ones are the same way too. They love to play with water.

It's a great medium for the children to enjoy too. I know it's not always easy to have a pool available, or even outside areas for water play, but it is a good idea to allow them to have some time to play with water.

My children love to fill the sink in our down stairs powder room and play in that. I have had many different "people", "animals", and the likes swimming in our sink over the years. Does the room get wet? Well of course, but just grab a towel and dry it up. My guys usually do a pretty good job of keeping the water only around the sink. I, of course, can't guarantee that will work for you.

Another fun clean activity is to give the children a bucket of water and a paintbrush and let them "paint" away. They can paint anything: trees, sidewalks, windows, the side of the house, the car, the deck, the list goes on and on. This is an outdoor activity the kids will love. They can paint anything. Give it a few minutes and everything is dry.

I like to fill a bucket or small pool and give my children some things to squirt each other with. Yes, we do use water guns, but I know they are not always popular. Other items I would use would be cleaned out spray containers; from like Windex, hairspray, etc. Or, you can use clean empty dish soap dispensers. They may not spray as far, but it sure is fun to squirt that water out.

Then there is always the sprinkler. I don't know, I have yet to figure out the fascination of it--it is usually freezing when that water hits you, but they love it. Set it up in the backyard and they are good to go.

Please always remember water play does need supervision, especially when there are large buckets or pools involved. Always best to be safe.

So, get some old clothes and go get wet.

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Sunday, May 4, 2008

Look in The Mailbox

In this day and age, resources abound. If you’re looking for something, you go out to the internet, type in what you are looking for, and you are inundated with so much material you usually end up with your head spinning.

When I first started teaching I had a few places that I got my best ideas. First and foremost were from my veteran colleagues. Everyone was always so helpful and quick to point out ideas and projects that worked great. I will always be thankful to these people.

Another place was of course from many of the resources that college had introduced to me. During my college years I had built up many of my own “idea books” to look back on.

But, as the years rolled on, I was always looking for new and improved ideas. One source that I really love is a magazine called The Mailbox. This is a magazine that is touted as “the idea magazine for teachers.” I love it. One would get 6 issues during the course of a year—each issue contains ideas for 2 months. The last time I subscribed to the magazine it was $24.95 for the year.

As I looked at the website for The Mailbox I found that if you subscribe to one of their magazines, you are entitled to many of their online resources. But, don’t be discouraged if you don’t. They have a place that you can register to get some free ideas. I did this to see what was required to register. It was name, address, phone number, email, and then they asked for your areas of teaching. If you are interested in doing this you can put in preschooler, home teacher, and the year your preschooler arrived as your first year of teaching. I don’t believe you have to be a teacher to enjoy all the wonderful ideas Mailbox can give you. By registering, you are entitled to free print outs, ideas, polls, etc.

The magazine is extremely helpful. It contains themes and usually all aspects of the theme—songs, crafts, stories, reproducibles, etc. The magazine also contains many other activities for the appropriate months: games, crafts, songs, stories, kitchen fun, etc. I really love it.

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Friday, May 2, 2008

Stop and See the Cows

In today's world where bigger is better, we don't always remember that our little ones love the little things. We take for granted all the beauty of our surroundings because it has been there "forever."

We have forgotten how much the those "little" things actually mean to young children. For instance, on my way to work, I have to take my four year old to his grandmom's house. And yes, we are often late and hurry, hurry, hurry. But, I do always make it a point to stop and see the cows. On the way to grandmom's there is a farm and the barn is right on the road. The cows are there usually just looking around. We stop to say "Hi," and my little guy thinks it's the greatest thing. I think the cows find it pretty interesting too. All we are doing is looking at cows from the car and I have made his day. It probably took me about 1 minute tops.

Since we have "been around so long" sometimes we forget that preschoolers have only been here a few years. You know that squirrel you have seen ten thousand times during your lifetime? He is still a wonder to a small child. The birds, ducks, blooming flowers, worms, all the small stuff, it's a great pleasure to small children.

So, next time your zooming around and you spot that squirrel, or pass those cows, take a minute and let your preschooler enjoy the moment.

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