Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Cats Week for Preschoolers - Part 1

I love cats. Always have and always will. My kids are also big cat lovers, especially my daughter. As I write this, she is happily cuddling a dozen plush cats in needless to say, when Cat Week arrived, she was very excited! We had a "pets" topic last year and she liked it but I felt that choosing only one pet would allow us to do more than touch the surface this time so I picked kitties. Below, you will find a few activities enjoyed by my 4 year old.

Practical Life - Using a Medicine Dropper
The poor kitty cats are sick. Each needs some medication added to their bowl of milk. Each card in front of each cat indicates how many dropper-ful needs to be added to each bowl. By the way, instead of using milk, I simply put some diluted white paint in each bowl and the fluid medication was simply water. 

Art: Painting a cat
This was simple and fun. I didn't feel like painting a lot of toilet paper rolls to show my daughter how to make her own step-by-step as you would see in a Montessori school so I simply did it along with her. First, we painted the tube black. Once dried, we added the white dots (we used Q-tips) and stripes. Then came the pink paint for the nose and mouth and finally the black dots for the pupils. I chose to bend the top a bit to illustrate ears but my daughter decided not to. Her cat was scared by fireworks she said and thus was crying and had his ears bent backwards. :) I first saw this on Pinterest (and they looked much more professional but hey, I never said I was an artist! :))

Holding a pencil is not hard for my daughter and she loves to imitate her big brother when he writes so to fulfill her desire, I always try to have a packet for her to write on. For this theme, I picked up a free copy of 1+1+1=1's printable pack. It contained lots of pages but I chose only the relevant ones of course. The cute cards you saw above with the numbers also came from the pack!

Math: 1:1 correspondence
This concept is fun to me but seems a bit stale/boring for my preschooler. I guess she gets it and is ready to move on to more novel stuff...Anyway, each cat needed a bell toy. I had just enough cats for the quantity of bells of course.

How many cats? A stamping activity
Cute paw stamps? Check! Pictures with lots of cats? Check! Kids love using stamps and since my daughter was the only one using these cards, I thought it'd be fun to stamp the quantity of cats in each picture instead of using clothespins or objects. The paw stampers are from Oriental Trading Co. and they were already in our stash as we gave them away as birthday favors. I made the cards myself and they ranged from 1 to 8. My daughter can easily count that far but reading numbers above 5 is still challenging so this proved a bit difficult for her.

Language - Feed the make who made this letter sound
We've been working a lot on letter sounds lately and using the Sandpaper Letters almost daily. We've worked our way from s,m,a,t, to c,r,i,p, and finally have arrived at b,f,o,g. As a way to review their sounds, I try to make little games and activities. Here, I found a picture of a yawning cat and wrote a different letter on each tongue. I pre-cut little felt circles and called them cat treats. When my daughter heard me say a letter sound, she'd find the cat and feed it a snack. She loved the concept! 

Picture Story - Talking about a Picture
Although any cat picture could work, I wanted to use one where my daughter appeared. The photograph is actually old so she didn't remember much about where and when it was taken. Not a bad thing. She eventually found the answer through my questions anyway. My goal here was to see what she could tell me about the picture. Who was there? What were they doing? Where could they be? Was it winter? How can we tell? What happened after the picture was taken? Did the cat go away? Why was the cat at the playground anyway? And so on.

Math : Ordinal Numbers
Using a few of her plushes, I organized a "contest" and prepared ribbons for  1st, 2nd, and 3rd place. Quite demanding in the contest department but my daughter loved the ribbons! We had a cat race where I made them slide on the floor to see who got the farthest, we had a jumping contest which involved throwing the plushes, and so on.

Booklet: Parts of a cat
Somehow, my kids are not really fond of coloring. Even coloring small body parts of a cat seemed like a mighty chore. My daughter still managed to finish her cat booklet though. Included were the head, body, tail, whiskers, eyes, nose, ears, paws, etc.

Adding Whiskers
Directly from Kidssoup in their freebie section was this sheet I've used with Adrian before. The worksheet is quite simple: read the number and add that amount of whiskers. It was tough. My daughter, although she can count far cannot necessarily read numbers that high. So she drew whiskers and added more or erased a few after counting.

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Monday, January 19, 2015

Fashion Week for Preschoolers - Part 2

When I came up with the "Fashion Week" theme, I thought it'd be better than simply having a "clothing" theme. It was "more broad" in a way. I knew with a theme like that, I'd be able to include buttons, but also hair accessories, shoes, and so on. Speaking of shoes, I totally forgot to add the "shoe polishing" activity to our week! In retrospective, I think this theme would have been better if it had been a bit more limited...

Decorating a letter/name with buttons
I initially thought my daughter could decorate her name with buttons but then I thought again and well...names can be lengthy. In the end, I offered an array of letters we have already mastered the sounds of for her to embellish. She really liked this activity by the way.

Pin Punching a tie
Let's face it: it could have been any clothing item but the tie is somewhat straightforward work. A skirt would work well too. If you choose to do this work as well, carefully supervise the children: this size of pin is not only prickly, it is also definitely a choking hazard!

What's Missing? - Jewelry box visual discrimination
This was definitely very challenging. Not sure why. The idea was for her to look at the content of the jewelry box and then identify what went missing after I closed it. I initially thought it was too difficult because there were too many pieces so I reduced it to 4 items but even that was very hard and mostly left to luck it seems. My 6 year old son loved this box though. :) We'll give this another try with other items at a later time I think.

Lacing - Making a necklace
Hmm. A commercial activity! Too easy to put together! :) Love Melissa & Doug. From Melissa & Doug but not pictured, my daughter also dressed up some magnetic dolls.

Punching to make motifs in a shirt
Yet another punching activity! This one required different muscles though. :) It's a simple paper punch for corners so maybe the shirt was not the best clothing item to "embellish" but it still looked neat.

Fabric Swatch aka Color Tablets
My kids never cared much for color tablets. They'd much rather have the colors be presented to them as something else. Here, these felt squares were "fabric swatches" being matched by color for example. No problems here. All these colors are well mastered. I thought about putting out a fabric box as well but couldn't find new and interesting fabric...

Sock matching..and "rolling"
This activity was great on so many levels. First, it was a matching activity but since I gathered socks from various family members, it also gave us an opportunity to review the terms "small, medium, large". For a bit of practical life fun, we also rolled the socks into balls. Once we had lots of little sock-balls, we used the laundry basket as a target and proceeded to throw our sock-balls into it. This was a much loved activity as you can imagine.

Throwing sock-balls into the laundry basket

Fine Motor: Hair elastic on corks
What a nice presentation is makes in stores when all the accessories are on holders! With that in mind, I had Zahavah organize her own pony tail holders on these corks. It was the perfect size. Had it been too big, it would have been hard to stretch the elastic and hold the cork at the same time.

Making a bracelet with a toilet paper roll
I had seen this bracelet activity earlier this year on Happy Hooligans and thought it'd make for a nice craft during for Fashion Week. Now I wanted the paint to be shiny so I added corn syrup to the tempera paint. I do think I went a little overboard with the syrup...The paint was not so thick anymore and was kind of runny but my daughter loved the glossy finish. For decoration, we had gems and glitter pens.

The final masterpiece!

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Thursday, January 15, 2015

Fashion Week for Preschoolers - Part 1

Don't you hate it when you have an idea for a theme and it just doesn't pan out as well as you thought it ought? This was one of those themes I was sure would be great to explore and would offer an array of possibilities for work stations and now, I just feel "meh" about it. It wasn't bad by any means but it wasn't great either. My daughter, who loves her school hours, loves most everything though so this week was just fine for her...which is what really matters! :)

Sorting buttons
I like these buttons. They all look like flowers and are so colorful. Even better, they come in different sizes too! For this activity, we only worked on sorting them by color but in the future, we could take it to the next level! To help with the color sorting, I provided yogurt cups in purple, blue, green, orange, yellow and red.

Language: Bingo with button chips
Bingo is loved here and now that my daughter has learned more letter sounds, it makes for good practice to hold a letter sounds bingo! It's great for reviewing letter sounds of course but it's also a good opportunity for children to see how letters are sometimes written differently from the Sandpaper Letters. For example, at first, the printed "t" caused a bit of confusion but she eventually figured it out. If you too want to make your own bingo cards (I make some for sight words for my first grader so it really is a lifelong learning tool), you can use the free bingo generator from Osric like I did.

Practical Life: Hanging Laundry
This was most definitely the favorite this week. I offered two sizes of clothespins: the traditional ones (bigger but harder to control) and the medium ones (smaller but easier to pry open) as well as doll clothes for hanging. My little one loved doing her own "laundry" and repeated the activity several times. Finally, the clothespins are catching on!

Hanging laundry...again, and again, and again

Winter Hat Craft
Now this came from an idea I pinned a while ago. Using scrap felt pieces and cotton balls, the idea was to make a cozy winter hat. I put my finished model in view and that was it! Easy craft for everyone. Once again, we focused on using liquid glue and controlling the amount squirted out. We also learned to fluff up cotton balls to make them less round. My preschooler tried to cut through the felt by the way but it was very difficult as it was thick so I provided her with strips. The original idea used ribbons mostly as well as coloring. Just as pretty. We just tend to use what we have on hand. :)

Practical Life: Removing lint
I miss having kitty cats but...I don't miss finding their hairs on my clothes. In the meantime, I have young children who constantly make the dust come out of who knows where so this practical life activity was perfect to introduce the lint roller. I provided a "travel size" one to make it easier for little hands to manipulate. 

Seasons 3 Part Cards
I always liked these 3 part cards. They came as a free printable with my purchase of a KHT Montessori album. I printed a set for use on our Morning Circle Time Board and kept a set as 3 part cards. This was our formal introduction to the seasons but they had been informally "visited" during calendar time and well, through life of course! After this work, I encouraged my daughter to check out the clothing sorting activity...

Sorting for the seasons
Piled up on our couch were a few clothing items to be sorted by seasons. Some fitted more than one of course but it made for a great discussion. Why do we not wear wool socks in the summer? Why would I want a pair of tights in the fall?

Count & Match : buttons and numbers
Loved this idea when I first saw it on Mrs. Lee's Kindergarten. My set didn't turn out nearly as pretty as that classroom's but it did the job just fine. Printed some sweater and pants clipart. Stuck some stickers on the sweater and penned some numbers on the pants. The work? count the "buttons" on the sweater and match with the pants adorned by that number. We only went up to number 5 but next year, we could add numbers and make these outfits cuter...and bigger possibly.

Practical Life: Velcro Frame
Well, I never bought the dressing frames as you can see. They're essential life skills work sure, but each frame runs around $12 and they can be handmade for much less. Here, I took a weaving hoop (I believe that is what it's called...) and inserted a velcroed jacket. The material was thick so it didn't work that well but my little one knows how velcro works anyway... :)

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Monday, January 5, 2015

Christmas for Preschoolers - Part 3

Wow. I didn't realize we did so much during these two weeks of Christmas activities. This warrants a THIRD post on the subject. I guess in a way, it makes up for not writing any Christmas posts for the last few years, right? Enjoy and pin away for next Christmas!

Ornaments and stars matching
This was very easy to put together and fun to do for my daughter. She counted the ornaments on the trees and then added the star featuring that number on top of it. Simple and educational. Thank you Erica for this free printable!

Homemade Christmas card/art
I originally saw these as beautiful Christmas cards in a GREAT Red Ted Art article about buttons (loved SO many ideas there) and thought it could easily be turned into a simple gluing activity. Glue sticks are easy to maneuver but liquid glue in a squeezing container can be harder because little hands need to control the pressure and the movement. For this, I pre-draw the lines and bows and greeting. My preschooler simply had to choose buttons, apply liquid glue and press the buttons in. She quickly realized that too much glue would show through the button holes and that too little would mean the buttons wouldn't stick.

Roll a Santa
Big dice (a Learning Resource product) are a big deal here. I originally purchased them for my first grader to do math subtraction and stuff like that but they come in handy for my youngest too. Who doesn't like giant foam dice after all? Donna Glynn at Teachers Pay Teachers made this cute game where each number on the die will help you build  a Santa. My daughter loved it and highly recommends it!

Nativity Craft - Stained Glass Window

I always hesitate when it comes to craft. Don't get me wrong, my kids love crafting BUT, I find it hard to turn crafts into Montessori-type crafts where the child can simply follow a few easy steps just looking at a progression chart. On top of it all, many crafts are not developmentally appropriate for preschoolers (think: you do most of the work or prep). The craft pictured above did require me to cut several openings prior to my daughter doing the work but as for the rest, it can be done by a child. Cutting silk paper squares (or even tearing them up for that matter) and sticking them on a piece of contact paper is doable. My daughter loved the nativity scene and the colorful squares sticking. She did it all herself and was very happy with the result. Thumbs up from Zahavah and kudos to Housing a Forest for sharing this idea! P.S. I found the image on Pinterest!

The result of the craft in our window

Jingle bell bracelets
Using the biggest bells I had and of course some sparkly pipe cleaners, I showed my daughter how to make her own jingly bracelet. It looks easy but it's actually a tight fit. The bells don't have a big hole and the sparkly pipe cleaners bend and have so much "sparkle" that they are thicker than the average pipe cleaner...I wanted to put out another sound matching activity with the bells but until I get more glass containers, I'll wait. It was hard to match the sounds with the plastic containers I thought.

Patterning with Christmas stamps
Ah...Patterning is still completely escaping my daughter. We tried and put it away again. In time!

Gingerbread play dough cookies
Like I said, I skipped making gingerbread cookies this year so this was the closest the kids came to decorating some. I made a batch of brown play dough, provided a small play dough cutter (where in the world are my gingerbread cookie cutters anyway?) and some decorations: beads, buttons, gems, glass pebbles, small Santa hat, etc. This was a great tray that came out many times over the two weeks it was out there.

Pattern Blocks - Christmas Themes
I promised myself I would remember the existence of those this year. I remembered seeing them during the year and had made a note of downloading these from PreKinders when Christmas neared. Aren't they neat? Head over to PreKinders for your own set of Christmas pattern cards. Younger students like to put the tiles (made mine with foam) on top of the picture. Older kids like to make their own next to the picture.

1:1 present and bow
For years I've had a decorative sleigh with "fake" presents in it. This year, the children were happy to finally get their hands on them despite the fact that they are nothing more than wrapped boxes. The activity was quite simple...Each present needed one bow on top! 1:1 correspondence at its best.

Decorating a Christmas tree
Here is something my kids love to do. You'll see many versions of these in Montessori schools as well. I was fortunate enough to buy a mini tree a few years ago back in Denmark and kept it as a family decoration. We usually put tiny glass ornaments on it but if a preschooler is going to decorate this itty bitty thing, it had better be with some unbreakable ornaments. Not wanting to invest in plastic ones, I relied on a big "seller", namely, the sparkly pompoms and sparkly pipe cleaners. My daughter of course reminded me that a star was needed on top of the tree so I'll be handcrafting one for next year I guess! :)

Nutcracker clip cards
I looked and looked for a printable like this but didn't find anything I liked, so I made my own using clipart. I only had tiny clothespins so we used those for this activity. My daughter was not thrilled. The tiny ones are hard to work with and required a lot of patience. Note to self: must buy big Christmas clothespins! :)

Measuring with red rods
I am not sure why but some classic Montessori materials rarely make their way out. I think my kids love thematic activities so much that they forget/don't like the classics anymore so I have to get inventive. For this activity, Zahavah had to measure Christmas presents. Mind you these were straight from under the tree so getting to "touch" her presents was already a big deal to her. She did have fun measuring the length and width of each present. Sometimes she also measured the height. 

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