Tuesday, October 21, 2014

diy alphabet tiles

Last June we spent a week with Chicka Chicka Boom Boom. In preparation, we brought out all of our alphabet puzzles, magnets, and fun. I wanted to add another alphabet element and a light bulb hit when I spied a pack of felt letters at our local craft store. I was able to purchase the letters for under five-dollars and while I wish they were in a different color I went for the yellow instead of navy blue.

To make your own alphabet tiles hit up your local hardware store for some wood floor samples. Home Depot carries samples that are about four inches square. I grabbed 26 in a variety of stains and checked with a clerk to make sure it was ok to take this many as they are free! I explained that I was a teacher and they were super cool about it.
Once I got home, I stacked my tiles in a not-too- random pattern, grabbed my felt letters and rifled though them until I had the entire alphabet by my side and got to sticking.
In no time at all I had a happy set of letters to share with my classroom. The children were really intrigued. At three going on four, the children are very interested in spelling their names. I explained that we only had one of each letter and that we might not be able to spell everyone's name with the tiles but that we could using our magnet letters.
The children took turns looking for the letters in their names and lining up the tiles in random patterns. It's a start. Yay for emergent literacy!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

painting on a sphere round 2

Howdy! Last year's painting on a sphere project was so fun I had to do it again (with a few tweaks). This year while we did mix it up a little, we kept the basics the same. Last year we used cardboard, this year a large sheet of foam core cut into six inch squares worked as our base. Instead of a waxy ball we used a flat bottomed wooden sphere from the craft store. I glue the spheres down ahead of time and set each bit up on a sheet of wax paper in a tray that had an edge  (such as a cookie sheet) as the kiddos love to squeeze as much paint as they possibly can.
To paint on a sphere or a cube or a car or some other object all you need is a sturdy base to secure the item to, a couple of squeeze bottles, wax paper, a cookie sheet or tray with a lip, and tempera paint or acrylic paint.
Adhere the item to be painted to your base with a strong glue (we used Tacky Glue). Place base and item on top of a sheet of wax paper in a tray. Fill your bottles only half way (kiddos will squeeze as much as they have) and try for colors that will mix well together such as blue, yellow, and green. Once you set it all up call your kiddo to the table, grab a camera and let the fun begin.
When it is time to let the art dry, set it in a dry sunny window if you can and allow to dry overnight. The next day, peel off the wax paper and flip over to allow the wet paint on the bottom to dry (use another clean sheet of wax paper under the art to keep your surfaces paint free).
If your kiddo gets a wee bit too enthusiastic filling the tray with paint up to the brim, gather up a fresh tray with a sheet of wax paper on it and transfer the painty mess on over. Set the now paint filled tray onto the table, at a sheet of paper and a couple of paintbrushes and have a painting party.
We're still adding to our spheres six weeks later (they now weigh at least three pounds each). Please note, the paint will most probably dry darker than it was when wet and often it will crack which is why I take oodles of photos of the process. The children love to do their squeezy art and i love watching them squeeze away!

Monday, October 13, 2014

book nook: little blue and little yellow

Our first week of school was full of all things blue and yellow to go along with the book Little Blue and Little Yellow by Leo Lionni. Here are five fun things we did in the classroom that you can do at home.

1. Color Mixing: Grab three small glass container such as juice glasses or baby food jars. Fill each a third of the way full with water. Leave one jar clear with just water, in the other two add liquid food color or liquid watercolor so that you have two jars each filled with their own primary color. Add a pipette or eyedropper and let your little scientist get to mixing. Have a towel nearby as some kiddo prefer to pour.

2. Circle printing: Gather an assortment of cylinders and/or tubes  (we used empty bean cans and paper towel tubes) for your kiddo to print with. Fill a tray, plate or cookie sheet with blue and yellow paint. Set out a large sheet of paper and let yer kiddo print away. The more they print the more the paint mixes and soon they will have three colors to print with.

3. Play Dough Mixing: Whip up your own play dough in blue and yellow (or other combo of primary colors). Set out rolling pins, cookie cutters, and citrus juicers (The Dollar Tree is where we found ours) and let the magic happen. Chances are your kiddos will squish away until their blue and yellow play dough turns green. We did this a lot in class often retelling the story as we played (And they hugged and they hugged until they turned green). Click here for the scrumdilly-do! recipe.

4. Pom pom sorting: Pick up a pack or two of pompoms from your local craft store or dollar store. We used a collection of poms pulled from a variety pack and from a single color pack purchased at Michael's (we purchased one blue and one yellow). Find two small bowls or baskets similar in size. Use the bottom of each bowl as a template to cut out a small circle of colored paper to place inside. We used blue and yellow but you can use any colors you like. The paper we used was from a scrapbook pack we have.

5. Circle sorter puzzle: This one is something you need to buy. I found ours on Zulily but you can find them online as well.

Not pictured is shaving cream color mixing, painting on a sphere, paper plate painting, curler stacking, pipecleaner and bead bracelets, blue and yellow collages, and blottos.

Friday, October 10, 2014

fine motor tree fun

The lovely Za gifted me this whimsical tree last year thinking I could surely use it for something (and it was in MY colors). I had wanted this tree but could not justify purchasing it because I had no idea what I would do with it. Skip forward a month or two when the tree arrived and I happened across a pack of mini hair clips from the Dollar Tree. Serendipity struck!
The clips matched the colors on the tree perfectly and all I had to do was pop the whole shebang onto one of my favorite trays (a plate really) and let the kiddos explore.
Mastering the tiny clips was not an easy task for my littles. It took a little practice to strengthen up those pincer fingers so that they could open the clips long enough to clip to the tree.
Matching the clips to the colors was an added bonus for the kiddos that needed a push to attempt something a little harder. It's a given that we big people can do something like this but the littles are still learning about the world around them. To try this at home without the fancy store bought tree you can use small sticks and branches from outside. Pop the branch into a vase and add hair clips or perhaps use small sticks that the kiddos paint up first. Once dry pile the sticks onto a tray with hair clips in a small dish alongside and see what magic may happen. Don't have access to sticks? Try pipecleaners!  Have older kiddos that can use more of a challenge? Have them wrap the pipecleaners with embroidery floss or yarn. There all sorts of ways you can incorporate this activity at home. Have fun and share what you come up with!

Thursday, October 9, 2014

pom poms & golf tees {working those fine motors}

Through my years of working with kiddos I have found that they absolutely LOVE poking things. What better investigation to set up than golf tees and styrofoam. Play dough is great too but lacks the satisfying punch that styrofoam gives. These foam pieces were scrounged from a local electronics store, it never hurts to ask your local shops for cast off items such as cardboard tubes, boxes, and/or styrofoam. Years ago I would set this up with small hammers but the kiddos would get so hammer-happy that the poor golf tees would splinter to pieces. Now we use pom poms to entice the kiddos to poke the tees into the foam and carefully balance a pom on top.
Set up is so ridiculously easy you can do this at home...place a neutral colored tray or basket next to the foam piece and add a collection of poms and tees. I absolutely adore these square malamine plates from Target. The colors are so happy that you will not need to explain anything to the kiddos, they will get right to it working those fine motor skills.
An added bonus to using the brightly colored tees is the color matching that can happen which I did not even think about until one of my students showed me her hard work. I was blown away! You gotta love what they come up with. If you do not have foam you can use play dough or sand and if you do not have pom poms you can try marbles, flat backed jewels (which most dollar and craft stores carry for a buck or two) like these or beans even. Have fun!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

diy kiddo blended {herbal} tea

Oh! I think this was my most favorite activity of the year!The children were tickled to spend a day investigating all things tea. We set up our tea set in the play kitchen, painted with tea, sampled tea and then made our own blends complete with hand drawn labels. The tea enthusiasm carried out to the ned of the school year and that little tin tea set got a BIG work out!
I gathered an assortment of dried kid-friendly herbs used for tisanes at our local natural market. If you have a Whole Foods or other natural market or co-op in your town, check out their bulk bins. A small scoop goes a long way and the cost is well under a dollar. We did this activity after we sampled our teas. I set out the dried herbs on our table using jar lids as holders. I wrote on the table with a dry erase marker labeling each herb so that I could remember which was which and add an element of print to the activity (one of my kiddos is a reader).
I held up each lid and anounced the name of the herb. From there we talked about what we saw. The children described the herbs with a lot of enthusiasm and loved leaning over the herbs to take in the scent. They use their pinching fingers (at first) to add bits to their tea jars (empty spice jars from World Market) and soon ended up scooping and pouring large portions into their jars. Make sure you clean the table before you begin. Some of the children grasped and scooped whichever herb was closest while others purposefully chose what they wanted, how much, and when. It was all sorts of cool!
After they filled their jars, we put the lids on and brought the markers and labels out. I used these Martha Stewart labels which I found at Michaels. They have a lot of heft and are pretty with a bit less tack then mailing labels (so that the jars can be reused for some other purpose). After the kiddos decorated their labels they named their teas and I wrote the names over their art. We had Daddy Tea, Spring Tea and E's Tea to name a few.

The Nitty Gritty:
*dried edibles and herbs such as spearmint, rose, and chamomile
*clean empty spice jars like these
*shallow dishes or lids for sorting
*blank labels like these

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

painting with tea

As a part of our tea study we put away the paints and painted with bags of tea instead. The colors were so pretty and the room smelled quite fruity. The children experienced a number of senses as they painted with the bags.
I get to class up to an hour before the kiddos arrived so was able to heat up some water in the microwave warm enough to help the tea develop but cool enough that the bags would be cool to touch when the kiddos arrived.  You can do this with your kiddos at home as a science experiment by placing small containers of water containing a tea bag each outside in the sun. The children could make predictions on how long the tea would take to turn the water a happy color, what color each tea would turn the water, and what the breed tea would smell like. We used single-serve applesauce containers for our tea (the kiddos love saving their containers for our room).
I covered a table with white paper and popped the tea paint within reach on top. I am an avid tea drinker and friends send me tea so did not spend a penny but if you are looking to purchase tea for such a project basic black and green tea are different enough in color and scent to engage your kiddos (especially if you pick up a blend such as jasmine or pumpkin spice chai) and are easy enough to find at your grocery or dollar store. The red tea up above is a rooibos from Mighty Leaf. I really like Mighty Leaf as the fabric bags make it easy to see all the pretty inside. If you find you are without tea, to save some moolah I recommend a variety pack such as this (I am not affiliated with the company, I just really like their tea)!

What you need:
*2-4 varieties of tea in bags
*water for brewing
*heat or the sun to help brew the tea
*time (about an hour) to let the warm/hot tea cool
*small clear containers such as custard cups or clean single-use applesauce cups
*white paper, the thicker the better