Thursday, September 11, 2014

diy toddler gift {for around $10}

There is a crazy cute young lady in my life that celebrated a birthday back in February. Due to crazy schedules (both mine and mama's) it took a few months to get together and this little gift I cobbled up waited ever so patiently for its new home.
It's like a super pretty busy basket...wait it is a super pretty busy basket. Most of the items inside can be found at your local dollar or discount store. The most costly items in the basket were the bowls and that is only because at a $1.99 each I purchased three of them (how could I not?) at my local World Market.
Now here is the thing you may or may not believe...two of these items are cat toys. Cat toys! Who knew? 

*The little rattan (heehee...that one is for you Za!) balls were in the pet section at my Dollar Tree. They come 4 to a pack and I bought a few packs because I really liked the colors and I may have made a garland out of them (I really need to photograph the August and soon-to-be September bed). They are perfectly sized for little hands and too big for little mouths. I thought the balls would be fun to pair up with the bowls as they are a perfect match. They also roll there.  

*The clothespins I had in my stash so I am not including their cost in this diy. I included six and tied them with a length of velvet ribbon for texture. Loose ribbon is not safe for wee ones so make sure it is retied  and quadruple knotted to some other object so that kiddo can touch and feel but not chew and swallow or get tangled in it.

*The pom-poms are also cat toys and not a recommended size for wee ones unless you know the wee one really well. They were another happy collection of color and they sparkled.
*The wee wooden bowls are from World Market and cost $1.99 a piece. I use these in my classroom all the time and they are just so great for sorting, stacking, and dramatic play. They are also simply beautiful and it doesn't hurt to have beautiful things available for little hands to play with.

*The basket was a thrift store find and cost me fifty cents. Fifty cents! For reals! If you are not a thrifter you can find small baskets of a little less quality at your dollar store. I highly recommend thrifting though. It's good for both your pocketbook and the environment so why not?

*The little soft doll was something I made for a swap years ago. I made a bunch of them for the shop as well but they did not sell so now I gift them. I may have a few left and can list them if you think it is something you are interested in. Just give me a shout! 

*I bought the poms to use with a small container for fine motor play. The container used to house peanuts in it. The nuts were added to our giant jar of trail mix and the canister was thoroughly cleaned. If you are gifting this to a household with a nut allergy, find a different kind of container. Even though this has been cleaned out there is always a possibility for contamination. Better to be safe than sorry. I went for the smallest I could find with a lid so that it would fit in my basket. After washing and drying, the container was covered in happy paper. The lid had a hole cut into it just a smidge smaller than the poms. The plastic of the lid is super soft so the cut edges are smooth and will not bite little fingers. If your lid is testy, use washi tape around the inside edges to soften it up.

*Lastly in the basket is a quartet of washcloths also from the Dollar Tree. The cloths can be used for peek-a-boo and/or stuffed into the basket, etc. Wash them in a gentle organic soap (Dr. Bronner's is a lovely brand) before gifting.
This little bottle of fun did not fit into the basket but I really wanted to include it because it is fun and pretty! I used a Martinelli's blood orange juice bottle because it's what I had on hand. The beverage is super tasty and often on sale at the market and is both small and double walled (another classroom crinkles all on its own). All the bits of happy inside came from home...rice, beads, sparkly pipe cleaners, and buttons. Give the inside of the cap a dose of tacky glue before putting on to hold it in place and keep the happy bits safely away from the happy kiddo.
There you go, hopefully a basket full of inspiration for you to make for your own wee one or as a gift for another. Just make sure it is safe, age appropriate and allergen free. Happy almost Fall!

Friday, September 5, 2014

classroom set up for the first week...

color sorting w shape buttons
little blue and little yellow bead stringing for fine motor
little blue and little yellow pom pom sorting
loose parts: circles
little blue and little yellow curler play...a little green too
natural parts; circles
extras on the block shelf
circle printing and paint fun
crystal connectors and cylinders
little blue and little yellow at the art table
books on color
our new snack tray

Can you guess which book we are reading?

Friday, August 29, 2014

a new school year means a newly organized classroom

the view from the door
It took us hours and hours to get this room to look like this. It's the same room as last year but good golly did we do an overhaul. We removed some furniture, added a few small tables, and rearranged the whole shebang. While we do have a nice budget for our preschool it goes to big wishlist items such as a light table or block shelf so a lot of our furniture is a bit mismatched but you can't be too choosey can ya? The blue table here replaced a taller rainbow table and we love having it there.
the view from the reading corner
Our classroom and school used an old elementary school so we have amazing windows and space. I mean look at all that natural light! The white shelving units are from Ikea and had blue doors on them last year. We relocated the items we were storing in them and pulled the doors off to create a math shelf and a science shelf. The backside of each shelf will soon hopefully have magnet boards on them. The coffee table was in the a-go-go garage and is now a small world table. The rug came from the old casa de a-go-go and adds a bit of color to the grey carpet. The playhouse in the way way back there was sold to create more space in the room and put a little moolah back into the budget.
the art shelf
The art shelf is a work in progress but I love having the art supplies out all the time. I covered the back of the shelf with brown paper because there were a bunch of flower stickers stuck all over the place.
another view
 On the shelf for the first two weeks the kiddos will find glue and gluesticks, colored pencils, sharpeners, markers, pencils, beeswax crayons, gemstone shaped crayons, paper, and traditional crayons. Phew! The art table is next to and in front of this shelf for easy transfer of supplies. On the table is a lazy susan which currently is holding cans of yellow, blue, and green markers for our week of Little Blue and Little Yellow.
the reading corner
 Our reading corner used to be on the other side of the room where the play kitchen now is. The bookcase is new and we finally got the canopy hung. I would love to not have an ABC rug but that will be for a later project. I would also love to switch out our pillowcases to match other elements of the room. There are a bunch of orange pillows at Target that I am adoring right now. The Alphabet cards are from K & Company and have nifty animal facts written on the back.
the play kitchen
 Here is our play kitchen. Out went all the plastic toys and food and in came the fabric, glass, wood, and stainless steel. This little area sees a lot of play. It's a bit trying to keep organized but al that happy play is worth it.
the artwork wall
 The brown paper here is covering two long white boards. I am so happy to have them covered up. we will be putting photos of the children on this board and their art will be rotated here throughout the year using washi tape covered clothespins that have magnets glued to the back. This took me far too long to put up. Phew!
view into our kitchen area
Here is our kitchen area. This is where all the play dough play, easel painting, cooking, and concoctions happen. We also eat our lunch here before heading out to our adjoining play yard. Last year only one of the cubby areas with hooks was a vailable for use as the other was used for storage. The mister installed shelves on the bottom for us and now we have official cubbies. Just don;t look in the cabinets yet, they still need a bit more work. One holds our pantry items such as flour for cloud dough, baking soda, vinegar, shaving cream, and snacks for us teachers...of course.
another kitchen view
Last year I made a few organizational-like changes to our kitchen such as putting in a hook or two for our broom and dustpan and adding an art wire across the top of the entryway (fine, I didn't do it myself, the mister did, but it was my idea).  Before that, the broom was always in a different place and  artwork space was at a minimum. We now create classroom garlands with the kiddos' artwork and hang them along the wire. It adds a bit of flair to the room. The white shelf unit there used to be in the middle of our room. It held art supplies and blocks. The shelves are pretty deep and the unit is taller than the kiddos so we were super happy to move it to where it is now to act as storage for all the plastic shoebox sized bins we have that hold art/craft materials such as pipe cleaners, beads, coffee filters, etc. The other side holds puzzles and games. I made the curtains from a Target tablecloth and a couple of tension rods.
our kitchen counter
 Here is where we set our snacks, wash our dishes, and place art trays ready to go out. Last year it got super cluttery so this year I asked the mister to install a couple of shelves for us. We also added hooks under one of the shelves to hold our mugs. The shelves closets to the wall hold cleaning supplies and spray bottles while the other two shelves are for cups and plants. The plate rack was moved from the center of the counter to the right side of the sink and above the sink there is a three tiered hanging baskets that holds dishtowels, plastic clips, sponges, and a few other odds and ends. Not pictured is the mini fridge and microwave which have a hanging clippy thing that we clip damp dishtowels to for drying.
the paper shelf
 The paper and paint shelves used to house all sorts of art supplies and all of the bins for collage and the like. It was a mess and got very cluttered. We now have one side dedicated to paper and the other dedicated to paint. I found the white paper holder on the left at Micheal's on clearance and mister made the paper holder on the right out of cardboard. The trays are used for wet and messy art and as drying racks for wet and messy art. The stripy bin (a gift from the divine Ms. Za) holds tiny notebooks and is often added to the art shelf. The basket hold paint chips which also get added to the art shelf. The purple bin holds scraps of construction and scrapbook paper. It's so organized! I love it!
paint shelf
 I got a bit wacky with our paint shelf but I love how every type of paint has its own space. Most of the baskets and bins came from home. The tempera paints gets used daily and I like to store them in rainbow order as a conversation piece for the kiddos. They totally notice later i nthe year, when one is out of place. The basket on the top shelf holds baby food jars with the rest of my glass collection on the left. The children love when they get to use the glass jars and bottles.

This is the basket I put on top of the mini fridge. We tend to drop our water bottles, keys and phones up there and it gets jumbled and messy. The basket helps solve the mess and holds supplies we use everyday such as tape, scissors, and markers. It also holds my snack as you can see.

So, that's it. A mini tour of my newly organized classroom. I hope you had fun. I'm quite happy with it. Phew!


Wednesday, August 20, 2014

making twirly art {using what you have}

I think it is safe to say that I am not the only preschool teacher who holds onto odd bits of scrap paper and other flotsam and jetsam I come across.  In my classroom one of the children's favorite activities to use the salad spinner to make art. Sometimes we use coffee filters in our spinner but with some prep time, I find that the centers of paper plates work best for durability. After I cut out all those circles I am left with a pile of paper plate rims that have just enough curl and twirl in them that I came up with this project that the children call twirlies.
All you need is a paper plate rim, any size, paint, and glitter. When the art is going to be super messy, I will lay put a sheet of wax paper for the children to use as an art mat. Wax paper is great for sticky gooey art projects because you can move the whole shebang to a safe place for drying and the art (mostly) won't stick to the paper. The wax paper also keeps any glue or paint from drip dropping all over your tabletops or, in our case, windowsills.
My kiddos absolutely adore glitter...and paint...and sweeping up with the dustpan. I keep the dustpan on our counter between the refrigerator and microwave and each kiddo in my class knows where it is stored and freely uses it to clean up the riff-raff that falls on our floor. They also return it to its spot when they finish. I think this young lady spent more time engaged in sweeping up than she did sprinkling glitter all over her twirlie. The finished twirlies were hung on our art wire across our room and/or under our windowsills, the children chose where they wished for them to be hung and were quite proud of their creations.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

diy patchwork pots {and planting in the classroom)

 I don't know about you but my class really likes to dig in the dirt. They so enjoyed planting out their sunflower sprouts that when the opportunity presented itself for another garden project I jumped right in. We ended our school year with a Shakespeare celebration that involved the entire student body. From my wee threess to our graduation class, our students got up on our outdoor stage and performed  their interpretations of Shakespeare...Julius Ceasar to be exact (also a smidge of Sophocles' Antigone). Wanting our youngsters to be able to take part, we decided to teach the preschool, Jr. K, and Kindergarteners a verse from A Midsummer Night's Dream. To assist the youngsters in understanding the verse, we brought in the plants from our verse for the children to touch and explore. One of our plants was wild thyme and after our program, we planted it out into our own pots to take home but first we had to decorate those pots!
The first thing we did was paint the outside (and for some, the inside) of our pots white.  This was done over the course of two days. The pots sat for awhile on our windowsill while we explored others areas of interest for awhile. When the kiddos were ready, we brushed on precut tissue paper squares using a bit of liquid starch. This too was done over the course of two days. On our last day of school the children each got to plant their wild thyme into their pots. We reviewed the concepts of sequence, order, and steps and the children talked a lot about when they planted out their sunflower sprouts.
I did not get a chance to seal their tissue covered pots so when the tissue gets wet, it gets a little sticky but they sure do look nifty, don't ya think?

Monday, August 18, 2014

making smoothies in the classroom

One of our activities for our week of the Very Hungry Caterpillar we to make fruit smoothies. The children were very excited at the idea and talked a lot about when we were going to do it.
On smoothie day, each kiddo brought a piece/type of fruit to class. I notified parents ahead of time and asked them to not bring bananas as I worried that each kiddo would bring a banana, I would supply those.  I also brought along a few other types of fruit that I thought would be fun to explore. We did not stick with the fruit from the book as I wanted the children to decide which fruit they brought to class. We had strawberries, blackberries, apples, peaches, plums, oranges, apricots, and kiwis. A cornucopia! The children were very excited to get started as they were going to cut their own fruit with real  (butter) knives! Each piece of fruit was introduced and we talked about the visual characteristics. I talk a lot about us being detectives of the world and how we use our five senses to mete out clues. We used our eyes to give us visual clues to determine what kind of fruit we had. We see an orange is round and of course orange. We then use our nose to smell the fruit before we cut it, we use our hands to touch and then we use our mouth to taste, etc. Some of the fruit was new to the children and we would guess what color the inside was and write down our predictions. There was a lot of excitement, vocabulary, community, etc.
I found this really awesome blender at Target for $15. It makes a 16oz drink and you can drink from the base if ya like.IT is not a very loud blender but still loud enough to unsettle my sound sensitive student so before using it we talked about the sound a blender makes and she took some time to decide if she wanted to be in the kitchen with ears covered our out, etc. We put in our fruit wit ha few ice cubes, a smidge of pineapple juice to help get things going and the children took turns blending away. It was thrilling! When the smoothie was deemed finished, the children took turns pouring their drink into their own cups.  Making a smaller smoothie is crucial as all that fruit in those little know.
Here is this photo again showing the scale of the blender. I love it and the children were so serious when they were blending their smoothies. It was a delicious smoothie made more than enough for our small group. If you have room in your class to store a small blender I would highly recommend it. Though, I do have to admit I take my blender home to store and use as I find it makes much better smoothie than our large Oster!