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Sunday, August 30, 2009

Updating My Centers

I have been very busy trying to update the block and family center at our school.

For the family center, if you remember, the course I was taking recommended having a specific entering and exiting point. Our family area was wide open, no real defined boundaries. I tried to take what we have and create a specific place for it. We used to have all of our kitchen "appliances" along the wall. I moved these to create a new "wall." I also separated the area into a kitchen area and a "living room" type area with seating. I bought two chairs for the seating area. On my wish list is a small desk and a table for some books. There is still not quite a "definite" entering and exiting spot, but I have narrowed it down and made it look like it's own specific place.

The block center was another huge undertaking. We have always had our wooden blocks in a big bin--they didn't get played with much. The course talked about putting them on shelves with markers on the shelf for when they need to be put away. I went to the craft store and bought some foam pieces with a sticky back. I cut the shape of the block out of this foam and stuck it on the shelf. One shelf area contains all the wooden blocks and our cardboard "bricks." The other shelf contains more of our connecting block. Here on my wish list is a new supply of wooden unit blocks. I really didn't know we had so few until I saw them on the shelf.

I think both areas worked out really well. They look so nice and inviting. I hope the children enjoy them.

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Friday, August 28, 2009

Meet the Teacher Night

At our school we have an evening right before school starts where the children come to see the room and meet their teachers. We call it an Open House as they may come anytime within a certain time period.

Some years ago, when I was on maternity leave, the teacher for the 3-year-old class came up with such a cute idea. It works really well, and I still continue it today.

She created a scavenger hunt type of game for them to do with their families. When the children arrive we introduce our selves and welcome them to the class. We then have a paper with some objects on it that we give them. They are not as much objects as they are places in the classroom.

The family takes the paper and travels around the room looking for the specific spots listed on the paper. At each place I have some small stickers. When they find the spot, they take off a sticker and place it on the paper. After they are finished they bring it back to me and I give them a name tag to wear on their first day of school and a small snack to eat later.

This helps ease the children into the room, plus it makes them walk around and see the many different places there are to enjoy themselves.

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Thursday, August 27, 2009

A Special Sitting Spot

So, what is my big new project? Every year we make what we call "name shapes" for the children to sit on during gathering time, or circle time. We used to make them out of construction paper and then laminated them, we then had to make new ones in December and again around March/April--they took a beating.

A few years ago I found some great shelf paper that was colorful and sturdy. I cut shapes out of them and taped the children's names on with clear duct tape. They actually worked pretty well--if you don't count having to try to get the sticky duct tape glue off your scissors, fingers, etc. I was able to use these shapes for about 3 years. This year I needed new ones.

Before I could go to the store to look for new shelf paper I found some vinyl mats that came with our new rug we purchased a few years ago. They seem sturdy and are very colorful. With the hopes of using these mats I came up with this idea.

I took a picture of each mat. I then put them on my computer and made a print out of all the mats. I then glued the print out to some poster board. I cut them apart and ran them through the laminator--we all know how that went.

My idea is to put the mat cards in a bag. When the children come to circle time, they will pull out a card and find it's match. That will be their special sitting place during circle. Since there are 14 children in the class, we can change the sequence of mats. I thought it would be a fun matching game to start off our time. Let's keep our fingers crossed.

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Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Word Family Strips

This activity might be a bit above the beginning preschooler, but I thought I would share it. The project actually came about because I am trying to help my youngest with sight words. He can sound the words out, but still does not have them down by sight.

Yesterday I had my daughter sit down and write out all the words she could think of in different word families. These are words with common endings: -an, -ad, -et, -in, -at, -it, -up, -ed, -op, -ar, -en, and-id, etc. It's amazing how many words you can actually come up with, and I'm sure we probably missed a few.

Next I got a large piece of poster board and started some cutting. I made 12, 3x5 cards out of it and 12 long strips measuring 1 1/2 inches wide. On each card I wrote one of the word endings. Then on a strip I wrote letters to make words with that ending. I then cut slits in the cards at the beginning so that the strip could slide in and move up and down. As the strip moves it makes different words. It is a bit time consuming, with lots of cutting, and in my case, measuring. I'm always trying to make things equal up, but I thought they came out neat and they were fun and easy to use.

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Sunday, August 23, 2009

Outside Centers

My last look at centers happens to be using the outside to set up centers. I must say I am a bit old school and never actually thought of the outside as a place to put centers--it was usually recess time!

I think the centers Ms. Cornwell talks about sound so fun. She does state that outside centers require a bit more "work." You will need storage space, plus time to set up and dismantle if need be. This is where outside centers would be a challenge for us. Our facility is located on the second floor of an old church. It takes a bit of a walk to get to the play area. Then, there is no storage for us on the first floor level, which would make it difficult to be carrying items up and down--(and I am no spring chicken). Outside centers is a place where I would need to get creative.

So what are some centers mentioned?

A place for mud, sand, and water. In this center one would need tubs, pumps, buckets, sprinklers, paint brushes, cans, shovels, etc. Just a fun place to let the children enjoy water and mud. Are you envisioning what I'm envisioning?

A woodworking center. This center works inside too, but since it can get noisy it may be better outside.

A laundry center. Here you would need to put up a child height clothesline, have some clothes pins, a washtub, washboard, Ivory soap, and some doll clothes. Put everything together, the children have a great time, and the dolls have some clean clothes!

A service station for wheel toys. This would be like a car wash station. Another place you would need water. You would also want some buckets, soap, and rags. Again, a dual purpose, great time, clean toys.

Some other fun items to have for the outside are hula hoops, a parachute, wheel toys, climbing apparatus, and a place for dramatic play. One center was even able to transport blocks inside and out which added a new dimension to block play.

So if you can muster up some vigor and creativity, try one of these fun centers and watch the faces light up!

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Thursday, August 20, 2009

Anti-Bias Education: A Guest Post

I was recently contacted by a gentleman from Rasmussen College. He asked if some of the Early Childhood Education faculty would be able to occasionally contribute a guest post here at Preschool Playbook. Jeff and I have been communicating back and forth and we have decided to give this a try. I think it might be a valuable way to get some information about Early Childhood issues and practices out to all.

The first guest we have at Preschool Playbook is Kelly Lee Kist. She has written an article concerning anti-bias education. At first sight this sounds like a heave topic, but I thought Kelly presented it very well, and the article is thought provoking. At the end of the article is Kelly's bio. I hope you enjoy your reading. Thanks Kelly!

Is Anti-Bias Education A Myth?

My students and I are discussing what it takes to work with families in our Dynamics of the Family class. It has been enlivening to watch as the students begin to put their base knowledge of Early Childhood Education to test while considering the child’s larger and most important world: their family and culture.

Not a week goes by that doesn’t send me scurrying for my pen to write down an important thought or shared concern we all have so that I may do further research and thinking about this ever personal and deeply challenging topic that underlies the conversation: Bias.

What is Bias? A dictionary will tell you many meanings, the two I am focusing on are: (source:

· Influence in an unfair way; "you are biasing my choice by telling me yours"
· A partiality that prevents objective consideration of an issue or situation

Consider these for a moment in the context of Early Childhood Education.

How do children learn best? -Modeling.

Who do they watch first and foremost as their models? -Teachers and family members.

The above definitions almost read like an order of events. If a child is influenced by what YOU think and feel, won’t they then be partial to YOUR way of thinking and won’t that then prevent their objective consideration of events?

Simply put: If you always scrunch up your nose when you see or smell pork, will your child want to avoid pork? Of course! When they learn more language will they be likely to think of pork as “bad” or “wrong”? Most certainly!

Now put this into the context of a parent or care giver who is uncomfortable around issues we all struggle with like sexual preference or racial differences or religious beliefs. One can quickly see that for young children, the world is a maze of ideas and opinions – biases, if you will – that are not their own. However, to a young child who is merely absorbing parent and caregiver ideas these biases feel as if they are truths.

Can you see the danger here?

In considering excellence in education we always have to consider the individual needs of the children if we hope to be effective. We must leave our own, personal, biases at the doors of our classrooms in many instances. And, on the surface, that seems logical to almost everyone in our field and our context.

Just try and believe that when it comes to something you have a personal bias toward and it can quickly become difficult.

A great example I know has to do with my own son. During a recent presidential campaign he heard a political ad supporting the candidate that I did not support.

I had never directly discussed politics or presidents with my then young son, but he heard me talking about my opinions to others. This political ad was, admittedly, rather intriguing and when it was over he piped up from the backseat: “Mama? Did you like that ad?” I remarked that I thought it was clever, yes. Then, after a pause he asked, “Mama? I can’t remember. WHO do we wish will become President again? Was it the guy in THAT ad? Because, can we like that ad if it’s not our team?”

Who do WE want to become President? OUR team? I was flabbergasted that he knew so much about it all and just dumbstruck that this child of an Early Childhood Professional would be so biased! He considered no other criteria than what his parents thought was right.

I felt the weight of a thousand pounds descend on my shoulders as I contemplated this reality and wondered how in the world I would ever raise an open-minded and non-biased citizen of the Earth with a start like this!

It is profoundly important to remember that young children will be biased according to the thoughts and feelings of their family and culture, period. There is no escape from enculturation, and actually, this a good thing.

It presents a challenge only when we forget it and try to behave as if this wonderful melting pot of a country we live in is not a beautiful mix of both difference and similarity.

So, you can see why we get so excited in my class each week. We begin to discuss matters of the lives of children and the ideals and best practices of a pre-school context and before we know it we are debating religion and discipline and skin color and all of the many different ways our clients will challenge us to be unbiased and welcoming in our classrooms and offices--no matter what shape their family holds and no matter what biases they have learned.

Unbiased and welcoming? To every child? What a beautiful world that will be……

Kelly Lee Kist
Title: Adjunct Online InstructorRasmussen College Online

My name is Kelly Lee Kist. I have been an Early Childhood Educator since I enrolled in Community College at age 17. I started my own preschool as a young adult and, through the years, found my time spent in educating teachers and parents as enriching and important as my time with the children. After two decades of Preschool Teaching, Mentoring and Development I left my school and the non-profit agency, The Seasons Way, in good hands in California and relocated to the Twin Cities to raise my son and focus more exclusively on adult learners. I am delighted to join the Rasmussen team and grateful for every opportunity to connect, reflect and learn in my work and in my life.

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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Secondary Centers

(Photo courtesy of Mircrosoft Clipart)

I know it's been a while, but I still haven't finished sharing all the information about centers. In my course "Learning Centers," written by Maxine Cornwell Edwards, there is a plethora of information. I have already shared with you the primary centers that Ms. Edwards recommends for every childcare facility: block center, family center, cooking center, art center, and the quiet center. Today I wanted to write real quickly about secondary centers.

Ms. Cornwell states that not all facilities have space for secondary centers, but with a little creativity they can be incorporated. She says sometimes all it takes is a table and chair with a few props.

As mentioned earlier, the art center is NOT the craft center. So, one center that would be a secondary center is the craft center. The craft center is very similar to the art center except there is a lot more, well, junk. There are egg cartons, popsicle sticks, spools, fabric, etc., you know the list could go on and on. The trick here is not to overpower your center with stuff.

Another way to incorporate secondary centers, I feel, is to add them occasionally. Here is where those lovely "prop boxes" come in. You may have heard of them before. I know I saw a great post about them somewhere--but where?

In my course "Making Learning Fun," by Clairece Feagin, there is a list of prop boxes and materials that could keep you changing centers weekly. A prop box would have a theme, and be filled with items pertaining to that theme. When you want to set up a secondary center, you bring out the box for a while and transform an area for new play and learning.

Prop boxes engage children in mostly different types of dramatic play, but they also incorporate many areas of learning and, of course, fun.

Here are some suggested prop boxes from my course book: Housekeeping, Office, Beach Part, Flower Shop, Bakery, Repair Shop, Veterinarian Box, School Box, Grocery Story, Restaurant, Hair Salon, Sports Shop, Doctor/Nursery Box, Post Office, Police Station, Fire Station, Camping, Dentist, Circus, Nature, Zoo, Carnival. I am sure you can come up with more.

I hope to add at least 4 new prop boxes to our school this year. My idea is for each class to pick a theme, then we will put it out to the parents to help us fill the box. By the end of the time period we have some new boxes.

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Monday, August 17, 2009

Cupcake Cake

Hi everyone! Yes, I am still here. I am sorry I have been low on posts. Everything around here is a bit low right now, I guess it's those last few weeks of summer. I am low on ideas, low on supplies, and low on umph. I think the kids are wearing me out. But, I am still here and still looking around. When I find something good, I'll be sure to share it.

I pulled this creation off yesterday. It was my son's birthday party with family. We were actually celebrating three different family birthdays so I said I would do cupcakes instead of a cake. The birthday is Sunday and on Saturday I got this idea that, "Maybe I could create something with the cupcakes."

During one of the children's birthday parties at school last year they brought in this great fish cake. It turned out it was a cake of cupcakes. I thought it was really neat, but not something I could do. Well, guess what? It wasn't that hard.

I used one cake mix and two containers of pre-made icing, (remember I am not a kitchen aficionado). I made mini-cupcakes with the cake batter. I then got a long piece of cardboard and covered it with aluminum foil for my "tray."

Then next step was to take all the cupcakes and make a shape with them. My son loves dinosaurs, so I shaped a T-Rex--no patterns, no pictures to copy, etc., just a general shape.

Then I colored the icing green and iced over all the cupcakes. You use more than the regular amount of icing because you are filling in space also. After the cupcakes were iced I drew and eye, teeth, and claws with decorating gel.

I thought he looked great, but so did everyone else, so I thought I would share. Try it. It's not hard and sooo easy to eat and serve--tastes great too!

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Tuesday, August 11, 2009

3-2-1...To the Moon!

One of our most popular summer camps has always been Space Camp. Unfortunately, we were unable to run it this year. The teacher for that camp always had such wonderful ideas for the children and they loved it. The children would come back year after year saying, "I remember when Space Camp." We missed it this year.

The children always finished up the week by making rockets and shooting them off. So I got the information from the teacher and thought I would share it with you.

You will need:

toilet paper roll
construction paper
hot glue gun
Alka Seltzer
35mm film canister

Before I begin I would like to talk about the film canister. We had two different kinds at our house. One kind had a lid that went on the outside of the top rim. DID NOT WORK WELL.

The other lid pushed down inside the canister. This film canister worked great. The other canister leaked and all the water and fizzy stuff came out so it never took off. I know these canisters are from a brand of film that we bought at Wal Mart in a green and white package. I'm sorry I'm not sure of the name. It wouldn't be inexpensive as I always buy the least expensive film.

Give each child a toilet paper tube, and piece of construction paper, I cut my paper to 4x6 1/2. Let the children decorate the paper any way they like. We used marker which ran quite a bit during take off. The kids didn't mind, but just an FYI.

While they were decorating I cut some circles about 3 1/2 inches in diameter for the nose cone. I then put a slit to the middle of the circle and shaped it like a cone. I used tacky to hold it together.

When the children are done decorating, let them glue the paper to the toilet paper roll. We used tacky here again. I just think it holds better.

The last two steps were mine as they involved the hot glue gun. First I put some hot glue around one rim and stuck on the nose cone. Next I put tons of hot glue inside the tube at the opposite end to hold the film canister in for the fuselage. Let everything dry.

For take off you will need a container of water, Alka seltzer, (the fizzy kind), and your rocket. Put about 1/2 of an Alka seltzer tab in the canister. (Sometimes I just threw in a whole one). Then using another film canister, fill it about half way with water, then pour it into the rocket's fuselage. Quickly pop the cap on the canister--easier said then done. Set the rocket on the ground and--BLAST OFF!

I found the more water I used, the lower peak height of the rocket. Good luck and have fun. The kids love watching the rocket blast off.

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Friday, August 7, 2009

Cooking With Children Help?

(photo courtesy of Microsoft Clip Art)

Hi everyone. I am looking for a little help. This coming year at school I want to incorporate working with food much more often. I am keeping an eye out for very simple, maybe even non-cooking recipes, that I can make with the children.

A little while back, a site I visit very often had listed some sites where one can go to get easy kids' recipes. I commented and thanked the person, saying that I was very interested in checking these sites out for the upcoming school year. Well, you know what happened. I thought I saved it, but I didn't. Now I can't find that site with that great list on it.

If you are the person that wrote that wonderful post, could you please let me know. Also, please feel free to leave a great site or recipe in my comments that I could try with the children. We don't have an oven, but I can bring in my toaster oven. We have a microwave, and I will probably be looking into a hot plate. The simpler the better.

I thank you so much for all your help! Trish

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Thursday, August 6, 2009

Watery Watermelon

This fun little craft turned out pretty cute so I thought I would share it with you. It IS messy so be ready.

For this craft you will need:

red, green, black paint
large coffee filter (I used a paper towel)

This craft calls to use a large coffee filter. I couldn't find a coffee filter, so I tried a paper towel which I thought would work well, and it did. The first step is to take the article you are using and cut it into a watermelon slice shape.

Now you want to dampen what you are working with. You don't want to SOAK it. Get it wet, squeeze it out, then open it up.

Time to paint. I used my fingers to paint everything--always fun. First paint the green around the edge for the watermelon rhine. It is easiest to paint from the inside to the edge--that way the edge doesn't keep folding in. Next it's time to take the red paint and make the yummy part of the watermelon. Again, going from the center to the edge works best. Finally dipping a finger in the black paint and dotting the watermelon adds some great seeds.

I thought it looked pretty good when it dried. Remember you can't really eat it!

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