Thursday, November 4, 2010


This is such a fun and easy sensory activity for little ones. Best of all, it's completely non-toxic. The neat thing about goop is that it feels solid when you pick it up, but melts in your hands. The children were so fascinated by this (at least the ones that would get their hands dirty :P) that they kept playing with it for probably 45 or more minutes.


  • Cornstarch
  • Water
Yes, that's all! You will need a lot of cornstarch. If you can get a big bag of it at a wholesale club - do it. I let my membership slide so I had to get 6 boxes for each class at the supermarket, and it still wasn't quite as much as I would have liked

  • You will want to start with a little bit of cornstarch in the sensory bin (approximately 2 cups). Ask the children to describe how it feels.
  • Next, add and equal amount of water, and have the children mix it until the cornstarch is mostly dissolved.
  • Continue adding cornstarch and water until your sensory bin/ table is filled and it is the consistency you like.

Depending on the ratio of water to cornstarch, the goop will behave differently. Play with it and explore how it feels. It's super fun!

***Tip: Do this outside. It gets really messy, but is a breeze to clean up with the hose.***


This was a great activity that I wanted to share. I did it for Halloween, but you could also do it for Thanksgiving.

I got a large carving pumpkin and placed it in my sensory bin (outside - this gets messy). First, I asked the children what was inside the pumpkin (teasing them that it was full of kitty cats or bunnies, etc.). Next, I cut open the pumpkin and we all removed the insides and placed it in the sensory table for them to explore. We talked about how the pumpkin insides felt - wet, slimy, slippery etc. and worked together to separate the seeds from the stringy goop. (I reserved a few seeds for us to plant in the garden.) I explained to the children that we were going to cook the pumpkin seeds, and filled up a pot to boil water on the stove. We boiled our seeds for 10 minutes on high heat. Afterward, the children helped me stir butter into the seeds, spread them on the pan, and sprinkle salt over them. We placed the seeds into the oven (275 degrees) and cooked them until browned.

Later we took the reserved seeds and insides, and planted them in the garden in the backyard. We'll see if they grow. :)

The great thing about this activity is that it was like a million lessons in one:

  • We predicted what was inside the pumpkin
  • Used our vocabulary to describe how the pumpkins insides felt
  • Worked our fine motor skills removing the seeds from the stringy insides
  • Discussed how water boils (I asked them questions like: "how do we boil water? and "What does water look like when it's boiling?" I also showed them what the water looked like when it was boiling)
  • We talked about stove and oven safety
  • Learned about how butter melts when heated up
  • Counted the number of minutes to boil the water and cook the seeds
  • Saw how the seeds changed when cooked
  • Planted the seeds in the garden.

***And when we were done with the pumpkin, I got a bunch of tees and we beat them into the pumpkin using plastic hammers - a good gross motor activity. ***

Overall, this was an awesome activity. My only complaint is that the seeds took too long to cook, and they weren't finished before the children went home. My oven is a little strange (gas) and sometimes recipes take longer than they should to cook in it. Next time, I will have to cook them at a higher heat.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010


I thought I would take a moment to share my centers with other teachers (or parents) who might be looking for ideas on how to put together an attractive and economical classroom. I've had a ton of fun putting these classrooms together. My goal has been to make something beautiful and whimsical, but also functional. I hope you like them. :)

I have two rooms that I use for my school.

THE BLUE ROOM - The main classroom is what I call the "noisy room" and contains the dramatic play, blocks, art, and music centers.

DRAMATIC PLAY- The kitchen was a gift from Santa for my kids a year before I started the program. It is, by far, the most expensive thing in the room. The dress up clothes are hung up on command strip hooks. They're cheap and easy to move around. They can, and will, pull the drywall off your wall if pulled too hard as you can see in this picture. I will fix it...eventually. ;) I also use crates a lot to hold things. They're tough, cheap and don't look to bad when used sparingly. For the small figures, animals, cars trucks etc. I organized them into separate bins with labels I created using clip art.

ART - In my art center, I have an easel (one is all I have the room for) and a shelf full of art materials that the children have free access to: play-doh and play-doh tools, paper, markers, paints, recycled art materials, tape, white and colored glue, scissors, stickers, and of course, paper.If you look at the top of the image you will be able to see the little foil stars suspended from the ceiling. These cover the ceiling of the entire room. They are simply stars cut from foil and hung using fishing wire.

MUSIC - My radio is the only thing off limits in the room, for obvious reasons, but the children have free access to a range of musical instruments. The larger instruments are on the shelf and the smaller ones are in the crate. They can also use headphones to listen to music if they wish. You can see on the side of the shelf where I took a page from a torn touch and feel book and taped it there for the children to enjoy. I actually took apart the entire book (after Olivia destroyed it), cut it up and taped the pages all over both of the rooms.

BLOCKS - I got these Melissa and Doug blocks (2 sets) with coupons at A.C. Moore. I just couldn't find a better deal anywhere else. The shelf is just a simple book shelf. I placed the blocks next to the dramatic play area so the blocks can be incorporated into the children's play with the small figures and vehicles.

THE RED ROOM - This room is called the red room for obvious reasons. It is also the quiet room. It contains the manipulative, reading, writing and science centers.
READING CORNER - This is my favorite spot in the whole school. This is where the children can go read a book or get away and snuggle with a stuffed animal. I created the space by turning my old china cabinet to the side and attaching a piece of cloth to the back. The couch is actually a toddler bed with a folded mattress pad on the bottom and pillows lining the back. The canopy is one that you would put over a child's bed.

WRITING - My writing center is simply my old coffee table with different sized markers, pens, various kinds of paper and stencils on it. I used a Closet-maid shoe storage cubby for mailboxes. Since my students are still at the pre-reading level, each of their mailboxes is labeled with their names and a symbol they each got to choose before school started. Children can recognize a simple symbol more readily than they can a name so they are able to tell who's box is who's, at the same time they are learning that written symbols can have abstract meanings.

MANIPULATIVES - Manipulatives take up a large portion of the red room. This is probably because I don't separate them into math, language, etc. I have puzzles and games available in the china cabinet to the right of this shelf. My manipulatives vary from Mr. Potato Head to Montessori's Pink Tower.

The children use the manipulatives how they wish. If they want to build the tower from largest to smallest - great. If they want to put the blocks into cups and pretend they're tea - that's cool too.

I rotate the materials on low tables to encourage the children to try new things and to keep up their interest. In this picture I have magnablocks on the small table and number peg cards and dressing boards on the longer table. The shelf is for displaying artwork and setting art to dry.

SCIENCE - My science center is small. Really, the outside area is the best science center in my opinion. I also do a lot of science related projects with the children, but I have this center available to them all the time. In my science center, I keep plants, binoculars, magnifying glasses and items for them to look at (shells, rocks, bark). I also have a kaleidoscope and some VERY cool magnets.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Ice painting

This was sooo much fun! It's messy though. Remember to put paint shirts on the kids, and be prepared with paper towels and spray cleaner.

First you have to make the ice cubes. Here's what you'll need:

  • Ice cube trays
  • Popsicle sticks (you can get small ones or break them in half)
  • Aluminum foil
  • Liquid watercolors (This is the key. Using food coloring does not turn out nearly so bright and colorful. I have only found these at Discount School Supply.)

Here's how to make them:
  1. Take the ice cube tray and fill each section 3/4 of the way full with the liquid watercolors. I used red, yellow, and blue so the children could see how those colors blend to make secondary colors. One tray will go a long way. I used one for about 10 kids, and I had a good bit left over.
  2. Next fill each section the rest of the way with water.*
  3. Place the foil over the entire tray pressing it down so you can see the divisions between the sections.
  4. Finally, push a popsicle stick through the foil in each section (you may want to pierce the foil with a knife first). The foil will hold the sticks up straight until the water freezes.
  5. Let it freeze overnight.

The activity:
Before you begin, explain to the children that these are paints and must not be eaten. They're non-toxic, but do temporarily stain the skin. Twist the tray to release the cubes, and place them in a small container in the middle of the table for the children to share. These totally bleed through paper, but are pretty easy to clean off of hard surfaces. Clothes, however, well that remains to be seen. :P

Here are a few of the pictures. The lighting isn't the best. They are even prettier in person!

* Be careful to leave a little space at the top, or you'll have nothing but brown ice cubes. ;)

Freezing water

This was a wonderful idea, (stolen from Sid the Science Kid) poorly executed. This is definitely one of those activities where YOU can learn from my mistakes. Here's what I did....

The children and I put a bunch of fruit (i.e. grapes and strawberries) in a large Tupperware, filled it with water, covered it, and placed it in the freezer. We talked about what we thought would happen to the water and fruit. Some of the kids said they would turn into popsicles. I thought that was cute. :) The following class, I took the container out of the fridge and dumped the, now, big block of ice into a large bin. Then, the children felt the ice, and gave me ideas of how we could get to the fruit inside. I got ideas like: put it in the pantry, put it in the closet, melt it with cold water, melt it with hot water, etc.

Good so far, right? Here's where things start to fall apart.

We decide to melt it with hot water. So I gave each child a cup of water to pour over top of the ice, and I had a large pitcher. We counted one... two.. three.. and poured. Oops! The ice melted, but not enough to release any fruit. I had to go back to the sink (all the way in the kitchen) about 5 times. Meanwhile, the children were getting bored. Finally, all the ice melted, and we got the fruit. The grapes were wonderful, but the strawberries were mushy - I probably should have anticipated that. I also probably should have anticipated that getting a huge bin full of water out of the room might be difficult. I picked it up, one side gave way and - SPLASH - it went all over the floor. I raced to the sink to dump what was left, spilling much more water in the process, and proceeded to race around the room trying to clean up all of the water before someone fell. In the end, the kids really enjoyed it. I, on the other hand, did not.

However, I can learn from my own mistakes!!!

I did a few things differently with my other class. First of all, I did it outside - MUCH BETTER! Second, I was prepared with a couple pitchers. The strawberries still stunk though. Next time, I will only use grapes.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Learning About Seeds

We are currently learning all about plants, and I wanted to help the children learn about seeds in a way that was fun and hands-on. This was definitely it.

I purchased some fruits and vegetables at the store: tomatoes, green beans, lemons, oranges, cucumbers, and grapes. After talking about how plants grow from seeds, I sat the children down at the table and told them that we would be looking inside all of the fruits and vegetables to see what kinds, and how many, seeds they had. One at a time, I showed them a fruit or vegetable and had them take turns guessing how many seeds were inside it. Then, I cut it open, and we counted the number of seeds to see who was the closest..... then we ate them.

The children had a ton of fun guessing the number of seeds and eating the yummy fruits and vegetables. Not only was it a fun way to learn about seeds, but we got to make predictions and practice counting as well. :)

***A great book that we read to go along with this activity was "A fruit is a Suitcase for Seeds by Jean Richards."***

Living vs. Non-living Things

This is an activity we did to learn to distinguish between living and non-living things.
First, at circle time we talked about the traits of living things: They need air, water, food, and they grow (they also reproduce, but I wasn't sure I wanted to get into this discussion with the kids so I mainly stuck to the other 4. :) ) Next, I held up pre-cut images (with the pictures facing away from the children) and the children each took turns choosing an image, telling the class whether it was living or non-living and placing it on our board under the correct grouping.

The children did surprisingly well distinguishing between the two.

Next, we looked at 3 flowers that I planted, and three rocks I placed in small dishes. I told the children the one flower and rock would get plenty of sun and water, another rock and flower would get no water, and the last flower and rock would get no sunlight. Then, I asked the children to predict what would happen. Now this is where it gets interesting... Most of the children knew that with the proper light and water the flower would grow, and without it the flower would die. However, they thought the same thing would happen to the rocks. Even after I asked them if the rocks were living things and they said "no."
We have been watching these silly flowers and rocks for a week now, and I have to say that those are some pretty darn resilient flowers. They look way too good! I'm hoping they start to wilt a little soon or my lesson may be kaput. :P As soon as I see them start to noticeably wilt, we'll discuss our findings, and I'll have the children plant them outside.

Here is a picture of our science table with the flowers and rocks. The big red thing is the construction paper shielding the one flower from the sun. The other piece of paper is covering the rock.

This is such a cool activity, but I have 2 issues with it:
1. I tried to squeeze this all into one day and it really should have been two. It was a bit too much all at once.


2. I'm afraid that by the time these flowers actually start to wilt the children will have completely forgotten why we had them there in the first place. We'll see....

This is a neat activity we do pretty-much every day for circle. What makes it so great is that it accomplishes so much in such and easy, fun way.

Here is what you do:

  • Make some flash cards with simple action words written on them in bold print. (Large index cards should be fine). Some ideas for words are: jog, jump, hop, wave, twist, freeze, spin, kick, wiggle, tip-toe, crawl, and clap.
  • Have your students stand up during circle, making sure they have a bit of room so they aren't hitting each other.
  • You hold up the first word and say the word ( jump). Then, count together from 1-10 as you perform that action.
  • Next, you hold up another word and say the word (spin). Then, count together from 10-20 as you perform that action.
  • You continue holding up a new card and saying that word every tenth place until you count to 50. The goal is to eventually work your way up to 100, and be able to hold up the cards with out saying the words. Right now we're counting to 50, but I hope we will eventually work our way up to 100.

This activity is great for three reasons:
  1. It helps the children learn the sequence of numbers from 1-50 and eventually 1-100. Of course, this is rote knowledge, but it is a necessary step in learning how to count.
  2. In the morning some children are pumped and need to get their energy out, and others are still half asleep. This exercise wakes up the sleepy ones, and mellows the hyped up ones.
  3. By using the word cards you are helping the children connect the letters with the words, the words with actions, and eventually (hopefully) teaching them some sight words.

Circle Time Songs

It has been soooo long since I posted. I'm sorry. There have been so many things that I've wanted to share, but lack of time (and complete and utter exhaustion) has made it extremely difficult. I am pressing along though and hope that I can get my act together enough to keep up with this a little better from now on.... I hope :)

I have a new circle time song that I wanted to share. I totally stole it from another teacher (not really stole, she shared it with me, but it's more fun to say stole). It's super-cute and the kids have really responded well to it. I use it to lead into circle time. I start out slow so the children can join in with the movements. Here it is:

(Sung to "Do your ears hang low?")

Can you clap, clap, clap?
Can you snap, snap, snap?
Can you wiggle, wiggle, wiggle?
Can you slap, slap, slap? (hand on thighs)
Can you wrap your arms around yourself and give yourself a hug?
Can you sit down on a rug?

I also made up my own greeting song because I couldn't find one I liked. This one is sung to "Row, row, row your boat". The kids and I sway back and forth as we sing it.

Hello and good morning.
How are you today?
Come along and join with us.
It's time for fun and play.

(I say "Hello to" as I go around the circle signaling the children to say their name when it is their turn, then I come back to myself.)
Hello to Name,
Hello to Name,
Hello to Name,
Hello to Mrs. Courtney,
Hello to everyone!

How are you today?
Come along and join with us.
It's time for fun and play.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Modeling Behavior with Puppets

Here is another technique I've been using to model appropriate behavior for the children... Puppets! Kids love puppets! You would be surprized at how even the most figity child will stand at attention when you pull out a puppet. I have a bunch of puppets, but the two I've been using the most are Princess Penelope and Prince Peter (I just made those names up - nifty huh?). I use these puppets to model scenarios, and ask the children what they should do. Here are a couple little shorts I did with the children:

Scenario 1 - Penelope tells the class that she wants to play with Peter's toy. She asks the children what she should do? Should she take the toy, or ask to play with it? The children say that she should ask. When she asks to play with the toy, Peter says that he wants to keep playing, but she can have a turn in 2 minutes.

Scenario 2 - Peter wants Penelope to play with him so he goes and pulls the ribbon on her hat. Penelope gets upset and hits Peter. I ask the children how they could have done this differently? We decide that peter could have asked Penelope to play, and Penelope should have told Peter not to pull on her hat because she didn't like it.


One thing I've noticed through all of my reading is that there is very little out there on classroom management for preschool teachers. So I thought I would post on here some of the interesting things I've used to help the children learn to get along with each other and function in a classroom setting. One of the most important and trying issues a preschool teacher must deal with is hitting. Though it is upsetting for us, as adults, to see our children hit or get hit, it is really normal for this age group. Young children just don't know how to express themselves verbally and hitting, pushing, and yelling at one another is often a result of this. It is our job as teachers and parents to help them learn alternatives to these behaviors. Am I an expert at this? Absolutely not, but I am learning. Here is one activity I've done with the children that I thought was really great:

We began by reading the book "Hands Are Not for Hitting" by Martine Agassi. In this book, the author describes what hands are for like painting, playing, sharing, caring, hugging etc. After we read the book, we threw out some ideas of what hands are for, then the children moved onto centers. As they worked, I pulled them out one by one to make hand prints on pieces of construction paper. The following class, I asked them to tell me what hands are for, and wrote their responses beneath their hand prints. Then I hung them in the room. Now when a child hits I will often say to the whole class.. "Hands are not for..?" and they will say "Hitting!". The I will say, "What are hands for?" and they will respond with things like playing or painting. Here is what the project looked like when finished.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Nature Art

This is a super simple, but fun project, that works really well with a mixed age group like mine. It's simple enough for even toddlers to do, but creating the collage is is an enjoyable challenge for even the oldest preschoolers.

I did this project as part of a study of nature for Earth Day. I gave each child a basket, and asked them to collect natural items found outdoors (i.e. leaves, flowers, pine needles, etc.). I hung contact paper* on the easels outside, and invited the children to stick the items they collected to the paper any way they wanted. The results were beautiful!

*Contact paper is a paper used normally to line the inside of cabinets. It has a printed side and a sticky side. This can be an especially useful material when attempting to do collages with very young children. You can find it in any home improvement store.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Homemade Play-doh

This is the only homemade art recipe that has ever worked for me. (I have to say it may just be me). I won't even elaborate at the disaster that was my attempt at making finger paints my first week teaching - think rotten eggs and an entire Kindergarten and Pre-k evacuated. Oh yes. I did that. :) This recipe, however, is awesome. I love this play-doh. It gets softer as you work it, molds perfectly, and is completely safe (though not too tasty) to eat. Thank you to my friend Heather for sharing it with me.

Here's what you'll need:

  • 2 cups of flour
  • 1 cup of salt
  • 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 2 tablespoons oil (I used canola. I wouldn't advise using olive oil)
  • 2 cups of water
  • 1+ tablespoons of food coloring

  • Mix all the ingredients in a sauce pan adding the food coloring last. (I found that this worked best if I stirred everything up a bit before turning on the stove.) DO NOT PREHEAT!
  • Heat over medium to medium low heat stirring constantly. This will get tough. Keep a partner on hand to switch off with.
  • The play-doh will start coming off the side of the pan a little. Stir just a minute or so longer.
  • Remove the play-doh from the pan and lay it on the wax paper to cool down enough to touch.
  • Knead until smooth
  • Once cooled seal in an airtight container or Ziploc bag.

Itsy Bitsy Spider

This activity was a hit with my 2-3 year old class. The younger ones needed a little help with the pipe cleaners, but it was a great way to work their fine motor skills, and teach them a little about spiders.

What you'll need:

  • Give the children a palm (your palm) sized chunk of play-doh.
  • For older children you can have them work it into a ball, but you will probably have to help the younger ones. Wrap their hands around the play-doh to show them how to mold it, and then show them how to roll it in their hands or on the table to help round it out.
  • Next give them eight pipe cleaners and have them stick them into the top of the play-doh any way they want.
  • Once they're finished, flip over the play-doh, spreading the pipe cleaners to the sides, and have them push it down with the palms of their hands.
  • Finally, place a bowl of Cheerios in the middle of the table and let them press as many as they want down into the top of the spider. They will probably eat more than they place on the spider, but that's all part of the fun.

Here's what one of our final ones looked like. I personally like color, but you could definitely use black play-doh and pipe cleaners if you want a more traditional looking spider.


This is a neat way to get kids writing and spelling. It started out with Sebastian writing little notes to his sister telling her not to touch the TV, stove etc. (She's only 1 1/2 and obviously can't read, but we didn't mention that :) )All we did was take 2''X3'' index cards and write labels on them for items around the house, then attached them to the items with tape. He already knew his letter sounds pretty well so this was a fun way of working on more complex phonics.

Through this activity we reviewed:

1. The "oo" sound in book
2. The "ll" sound in wall
3. The "sh" sound as in trash
4. The "ch" sound in chair
5. The "ck" sound in clock
6. The "st" sound in stove
7. And the silent "e" in gate.

It was so fun, he had no idea he was learning. ;)

Saturday, January 16, 2010

The Super Secret Mystery Box

I've had a lot of fun doing this with my class, and the children have really gotten into it. The best part about it is that it is so easy to adapt to various age levels. All you need is a box - think large shoe box - with a hole in the side big enough for children to easily put their hands into and take things out of, but not so big that they can see into it. That's the whole super-secret mystery part. ;)

There are three ways you can use the super-secret mystery box:

1. This first activity is good for children ages 2 to 3 who are still working on basic verbal skills. I incorporate the letter of the week into the activity, but it is only in an effort to expose the children to letters and their sounds. At this age, the focus is really on getting them to talk, talk, talk. :) The children simply reach into the box, and name the item they take out. This week I placed a baby doll, book, bear, ball, and bananas (plastic of course) in the mystery box and the children took turns taking the items out, naming them and placing them in the "B" box. The "B" box will stay out until we do the letter "C" next week. However, the likelihood that the items will actually remain in the box that long is not too good.

2. For older preschoolers, you can place one item in the box, and have the children take turns feeling it and giving a one word description of it (long, square, rough etc.). Then ask the students to guess what it is. This is a great way to get them to think about the properties of things. The difficulty with this activity is finding an object that lends itself to a lot of descriptions. With a large class, it would be best to let all the children touch the item, then call on a few to describe it. You could also give the children a chance to make multiple guesses as to what it is, and see who's right.

3. Another way to challenge your older preschoolers is to place items in the box and ask them to simply guess what they are - only by touch. This might be a good follow-up to the 2nd activity, or you can slowly work your way up to more and more difficult items over time as the children get better at it. This activity is fun in that each child can be given a different item to feel.To start out, you could set out simple objects that might be in the box for the children to see, and have the children take turns guess which one they find in the box. Then, you can place more and more complex objects in the box over time to challenge them. My son loved this activity. He couldn't get enough of it, and I thought it was really fun too. My husband and I got so into it, we were trying to trick each other with some really tough choices, and were even guessing the letters on Sebastian's wood blocks. I totally won! ;)

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

First Day of School!

I'm happy to say that we had our first day of school today, and it went really well! I am so lucky to have such a neat group of kids!

This is the activity we did for circle time:

This activity was based on the book "Oh My Baby Little One" by Kathy Appelt (A wonderful book for the first day of school).

On the bulletin board I had written a line from the book that said "This love will always be with you" and placed cut out hearts all around the classroom with excerpts from the book written on them for the children to find. After we read the book, I helped the children search the classroom for the hearts. As each heart was found, I read the words on it to the children, and placed it on the bulletin board. This made for a really sweet display once all the hearts were assembled around the quote on the board.

Although I think this is a cute first day activity, the children were (as I expected) too excited with all the new toys to really get into it. Not to mention, being a class of 2 -year-olds, it was their first such experience. I think it was a fun first activity for them, but an older class would probably really get into it.