Africa Resource List

Books

  • Collections:
    • Stories from Around the World
    • National Geographic Book of Animal Poetry: 200 poems with photographs that squeak, soar and roar!
    • Around the World in 80 Tales
  • A South African Night
  • Africa is Not a Country
  • African Princess: the amazing lives of Africa’s royal women
  • Amazing Africa: projects you can build yourself
  • Bringing the Rain to Kapiti Plain: a Nandi tale
  • Emeka’s Gift: an African counting story
  • Home Now
  • I lost my tooth in Africa
  • Jambo means hello: a Swahili alphabet book
  • Mama Panya’s Pancakes: a village tale from KEnya
  • Mirror
  • My name is Blessing
  • My rows and piles of coins
  • Owen and Mzee: The True Story of a Remarkable Friendship
  • September Roses
  • The Butter Man
  • The Elephant Keeper: caring for orphaned elephants in Zambia
  • The Lion’s Whiskers: an Ethiopian folktale
  • Voyage to the Pharos
  • Water Hole Waiting
  • Why Mosquitos Buzz in People’s Ears: a West African Tale

 

Movies

  • Zarafa (highly recommend!!)
  • Binta & the Great Idea
  • The Lion King

TV

  • Wild Kratts
    • season 1: 1, 3, 10, 17, 18, 23, 25, 26, 27, 30. 35, 40
    • season 2: 1, 2, 3, 4, 6
    • season 3: 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22
    • season 4: 4, 5, 23, 24
  • Amazon Prime:
    • New Dimension Media:
      • Nelson Mandela
      • South Africa
      • Ivory Coast: My House on the Ivory Coast
      • Burundi: Nsengiyuma in Burundi
      • Morocco: Djalil in Morocco
      • Ivory Coast: Lasso and his Balafon
      • Senegal: Cheik in Senegal
      • Senegal: Nialle in Senegal
    • Continents of the World: Africa
    • Travel with Kids: season 5 episode 12 & 13 – South Africa
  • Netflix:
    • Planet Earth: Fresh Water. Deserts, Great Plains
    • Queen of Katwe
    • BBC Earth: Africa
    • BBC: Nature’s Great Events

 

Audio

  • Book:
    • Nelson Mandela’s Favourite African Folktales (HIGHLY RECOMMEND)
  • CD:
    • Ella Jenkins: Multicultural Kids Songs (a Smithsonian Folkways CD)
    • Best Multicultural Songs for Kids
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We’re Planting Seeds Today!

I had some very excited preschoolers today: it was seed planting day! We kicked off the day with a story by Eric Carle: The Tiny Seed.  The illustrations are classic, captivating and perfect for a read-aloud. We counted seeds (and then subtracted as each seed met its own destiny) and observed sizes, colors and discussed the process of seed dispersal.

Today we incorporated a yoga story into our learning. You’ll find our cycle of poses in the slideshow below, thanks to the image library from Kids Yoga Stories. Like our Eric Carle story, we started as a tiny seed (Child’s Pose) with our foreheads touching the floor. We practiced deep and slow breathing, quiet resting to get ready to grow. We decided what kind of seeds we wanted to be: yellow, green and rainbow. Then I “rained” on these Tiny Rascal seeds with a tickling of my fingers on their back and they extended their arms as their shoot popped out of the casing into the soil (extended Child’s pose). Growing upright into Lotus Mudra pose, we puffed out our chest to try to feel the sunlight then extended our shoots upward, out of the soil as we became seedlings (Fox pose), lifting our bottoms off our heels and stretching toward the sun. As our roots spread into the soil around us (horse pose) we straightened our bodies and felt the warm sun on our stems and wiggled our toes into the dirt. We became trees, resting one heel on the top of the other foot (or for a couple of experienced yogis, full tree pose) then reached out into the wind, blowing our branches gently around. Our branches grew buds as we touched our thumbs to each fingertip in turn. The buds turned into flowers and we moved down into flower pose, remembering the colors we had chosen in the beginning. We took a few deep breaths, moving our petals as we breathed in and out. Then, just like in The Tiny Seed, our flowers died and dropped seeds back onto the ground to grow into new plants as we moved back into Seed pose and finished with another round of breathing.

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Once we’d regrouped from such a nice yoga session, we gathered around the magnet whiteboard to get some visual reinforcement of a seed cycle. We learned that beans are seeds themselves and what a bean plant looks like as it grows from a seed to a pod-bearing adult plant. They each took turns adding a stage to the cycle and worked hard to form a circle to complete the life cycle process. Life Cycle magnets can be found here.

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The completed life cycle of a bean plant.

 

The Montessori seed puzzle was a big hit today. We learned the names of all the seed parts and everyone had a turn to put it together.

 

At this point my Rascals were ready to learn about the microscope. VERY. READY. I introduced the microscope and reviewed each part’s name and function. We discussed the microscope rules and then jumped in. I had four test tubes, each with a different seed inside, on display and ready for the Rascals to study. I used purple cauliflower, carrot, pumpkin and pea seeds for a variety of colors, shapes and sizes. First, we identified without magnification any features of the seeds that were immediately obvious. Then, starting with carrot seeds, I emptied the contents of the test tube into the viewing field and set the eye piece at the least magnification (farthest) setting. Each child took a turn observing at the least and then the highest setting for each kind of seed, noting the differences as they were observed. They were delighted to discover that carrot seeds are oval, pea seeds are wrinkly and purple cauliflower seeds are purple! I love seeing these kids find joy in learning new concepts, and the microscope really set the Rascals’ gears turning.

Our last activity before snack involved seeds we could eat! First, we learned a new song to the tune of Heigh-Ho the Derry-o! from one of my favorite preschool resources for themed chants and tunes.

graphic by HooliganMama

 

I’ve found that the little calendar numbers found at teacher supply stores make great counting aids when learning to count to 30, as they usually have a fun graphic or something easily tied to whatever theme you need. The numbers for this activity have a bee on the reverse side for future insect or pollination lessons! Today we discussed numerical ordering, which numbers come before and after, and then counted roasted pumpkin seeds beneath each number to ten.

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We took a break for snack and enjoyed apples (seeds in the middle) and yogurt-peanut butter dip. While the kids ate I took advantage of the time to read aloud.   I had chosen a few pages in a couple of different books that focused on some information about germination and dispersal to read to the kids while they ate so I knew I’d have most of their attention.  I love to read to kids while they eat- it’s one of the few times you’ll catch them sitting in one place with (mostly) quiet mouths and is a great opportunity to squeeze in a little more learning.  We read excerpts from Lift-the-Flap book of First Questions and Answers: How Do Flowers Grow?, My First Book About How Things Grow, DK Publishing’s Eyewitness Visual Dictionary of Plants and a short passage from Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman.  One observant Rascal pointed out that both dandelions and sunflowers are yellow, but the sunflower grows its seeds in its middle, which is brown. The Rascals were engaged and especially loved the flap book, mostly when I told them that birds do, indeed, help to plant seeds… by pooping. (Giggles and hilarity ensue!)

 

{The disclaimer is this: I used to sell Usborne books to take advantage of the discounts on their awesome kids non-fiction resources, so you’ll see them a lot throughout our lessons here at H4H. It honestly became something of a necessity because we use them so much here that a discount was needed! I no longer sell, but I am happy to link you to someone that does if you’re interested in anything you see in any of our lessons. The books are truly well made and curated. }

Tummies full and brains re-energized, the paints came out and we turned our focus to painting pumpkin seed pots. We set them to dry while we got to work starting seeds in soil. Each rascal got their very own pair of gardening gloves today! I set up our “water table” (without water) on top of a vinyl tablecloth in the school room and placed the bag of dirt in the middle. Everyone got a scoop and an 18-cup cardboard egg carton and got to work. I gave instructions : one scoop in each cup, then poke a hole with a pencil in each dirt scoop, then one seed in each hole. Tuck the seeds in with another scoop of soil on top, then gently pat everything down to tuck them in. I provided cups of water and syringes to work on a new skill: two handed vacuum suction. It was tough, but after a while, everyone became a master at pulling up water into the syringe and gently pushing it out to give each tiny seed a few drops. Spinach, pea, carrot, purple cauliflower and radish seeds were available to plant today, though I think everyone chose pea and carrot. After our egg cartons were all full and watered, our pumpkin pots had dried and were ready to be planted too. We filled these 3/4 full with several scoops, then dropped 1-2 seeds in and covered them up, watering them in the same way as the tiny seeds.  For only being 3 years old, I fully expected a huge mess but they were very tidy in their work!

 

Once these were done, I had a letter matching activity ready for them to work on until everyone had finished. This was simply made: upper- and lowercase letters on a sun cut-out (again, from a teacher supply store) and then cut apart in different ways so each set was a self-checking puzzle. I used letter stickers for legibility and uniformity purposes. This was a low-key activity but the independence was needed at this point. We had a lot of cooperative and curated lessons today and the quiet, focused way they worked through this simple matching was an obvious nod to their need for some quiet-thinking time.

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I think it’s important to note that while it may seem that we get a lot done, our mornings are just that: A LOT. Some days are more creative than others and involve a lot of free-thinking. Others, like today, involve a lot of new information and me talking for instructional purposes (like how to plant a seed). Sometimes it can be overwhelming and someone will need a break. And that is ok! Rascals are always free step away from the activity and sit by the bookshelf and look through a book if they need a little break, as long as they do so quietly and without disrupting others in the process. Sometimes we have a mama come sit for a little while while a Rascal gets comfortable- that’s ok too! I continue on with the activity and usually give them five minutes, unless they rejoin us before then, before I check in to see if they need any help or encouragement. Whenever they do decide to come back to the group, I’ll acknowledge with a smile or a “We missed you!” or “Thanks for coming back to play” and we continue on about the day. This very thing happened today, and the Rascal did a beautiful job of quietly moving away, choosing a book and regrouping by herself for a few minutes before coming back to plant some seeds. Being three can be overwhelming, its so important to give some space to these little people, too.

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An Orchestra of Rascals

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“Art is about the messy and marvelous business of coming to your senses – and also, to the senses of the world.” -Michael Leunig

A loud, noisy, messy and magical day in the Rascal Preschool today. We learned about the Orchestra! We, of course, started with our usual lively rendition of the ABCs.

Our story for this theme was Boom Bah by Phil Cummings; a fun tale about an animal band. A musical story involving several instances of onomatopoeia, it led to lots of discussion about instruments that can be made from household objects, words that sound like the noise they describe, and introduction to new instruments the Rascals had not yet seen.(“What’s that twirly one?!” “A French Horn.” “It looks like a bowl of spaghetti.”) It has a great rhythm and opportunities for movement like tapping toes and nodding heads.

Next, we consulted the Picturepedia (one of my absolute favorite children’s non-fiction resources)

for an explanation about orchestras and my Rascals made some awesome unsolicited connections between the instruments included in an orchestra and the instruments we use to sing our ABCs from our very own music box. So, we each chose an instrument and then marched out to the piano and took turns playing. The Rascals chose to play fast or slow, quiet or loud, with one hand or two and created their own tunes- accompanied by their friends on other instruments.

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Next, we spread out on the floor of the school room and I introduced instrument cards for each of the major instruments in an orchestra. (Instrument cards can be downloaded for free here.) I then defined the four main classifications of instruments and how you can tell each apart. We learned the sign for musician and music and then jumbled up our instrument cards in the middle of our little circle. The kids would choose a card from the jumble in the middle and we looked it up using YouTube on the tablet to see how each one was held, played and what it sounded like. The favorite instruments were cymbals (another onomatopoeia word: CRASH!) and harp. They really were mesmerized by the quick and nimble fingers of the harpist. As we learned about each instrument, we classified them into their groups and moved our bodies based on the tone and tempo of the music we heard. We also noticed the conductor! We practiced moving our arms to conduct imaginary orchestras- fast, slow, big and small. We’d never used any electronics aside from classical playing in the background so to have a tablet with musical instrument videos at our fingertips was *the coolest* thing.

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Next up: painting dance party! Perhaps one of the most popular activities yet. I prepped for this by taping easel paper for each child to the wall and pre-writing their names to avoid confusion later. I instructed the kids that we were going to listen to several different songs and for each song they could use a different color and paint applicator (brush, stamp, fingers, etc) but they had to wait to change colors for each new song. I’m glad I was explicit in the beginning, it really made the process go smoothly and I was easily able to identify which colors each kid still needed to use- there were six in all: purple, red, blue, green, yellow, orange. When the music first began, I told them that they should feel free to move their bodies if they felt the urge. It was really awesome to watch their processes and how they felt the music through their art.

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BEFORE/ IN THE BEGINNING…

Once they had gotten through a few of the colors, I invited their moms to come observe the activity and the kids were eager to share the experience but remained focused on their work. Our song choices today included:

  1. The Instrumental version of Dr. Dre’s “Still Dre”
  2. University of Maryland Marching Band victory song (this was hugely popular, I had to replay it twice!)
  3. Mighty Mighty Bosstones, “Impression That I Get”
  4. Debussy, “Clare de Lune”
  5. Fitz and the Tantrums, “Handclap”
  6. Rimsky-Korsakov: Flight of the Bumblebee played on the violin by (the AMAZING) Katica Illényi
When we had finished the six rounds of process painting, they wanted to paint more, so I left on some big band music and cleaned things up a bit, prepping to move outside for our instrument-making activity. And let me tell you, there was (still is, three hours later as I write this) quite a lot of clean up.
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Only a portion of the AFTER
Outside it was chilly, but we’ve just built a new playset and the kids were anxious to try it out. We started by filling plastic eggs with either rice or dry kidney beans to prepare our own maracas (“shaky eggs”) and sealed them with glittery washi tape. I drew attention to the different sounds the beans vs rice made and also that covering the holes on the whistle would change the tone of the sound that played as they blew. I also had musical foam stickers to decorate their own flutes. Once they’d gotten their fill, or when they needed a break, they’d run out some energy or slide down the new slide and maybe find their way back when they wanted. We had some fruit for a snack and eased out of the day.
These three year olds are really growing as we complete more preschool days. I realized that they were self-motivated and quite able to wash their own hands without help now, were very courteous with taking turns when it came to paint choices and brushes, considerate on the playset and their conversations whilst painting were precious. I so enjoy watching these kids grow together. Up next: seeds!!

[I’d like to give heaps of credit to Annie Bobbit of The Walters Art Museum, our very favorite art teacher. My KindyKid and Rascal attended Art Kids class there this week and it just so happened to be themed “Music and Movement,” a happy coincidence to my lesson plan today! She taught us the signs for musician and also contributed to the playlist for our painting dance party today. I mean, who doesn’t love instrumental Dr. Dre!? She is a wonderful teacher and inspires me all the time. Thanks, Miss Annie!]

Rascal Hearts

Preschool Rascals happened to meet on Valentine’s Day this week so our theme was hearts! Not candy hearts, but heart shapes and the heart in our very own body. Hearts, lungs, bones, brain and lots of other body parts were discussed today. And poop. Because everybody poops!

After we sang the ABCs (with gusto!) we discussed things we noticed on the cover of our book of the day. This is such a wonderful book for storytime with preschoolers. It encourages body movements by pretending to be each animal, hones observational skills in finding all the ways hearts are used to build the animals and math skills in counting them. We had so much fun with this story.

Our snack today was plain sugar cookies, good’n’processed and straight from the tube.  I really aim to keep the Rascals as involved as possible in the process of cooking/making their snack and while I do try to keep things as wholesome and healthful as possible, sometimes ease of use wins. So, each child got a plastic butter knife and a section of dough and they practiced slicing and safe knife skills. We did this right after opening storytime so the cookies would have time to bake and cool for decorating later.

Once the cookies were safely in the oven, we headed back to the school room and got out the Big Book of the Body (by Usborne- an awesome resource for this age!) and learned about each of our main organs, singing a chant for each organ in turn to help us remember their function. We started with our heart! The chant was very simple with a basic rhythm and we repeated it three times, at least, for each organ. Keep in mind that I REALLY simplified the function of each organ for these to be memorable and in a good rhythm.

Our heart pumps the blood

Lungs are for our breath

Our brain helps us think

Stomach churns our food, churn churn churn it up

Small Intestines digest the food

Large intestine makes the poop (giggle, giggle)

Kidneys make the pee (howl with laughter)

I broke out one of my favorite hands-on learning resources to help us reinforce what organs are and how they help our body. The organ apron is always a huge hit! After we repeated the chant for each organ and placed it appropriately, we’d find its location on our own body and say the chant again.  This is an expensive resource, but we use it anytime we talk about anatomy and its been worth every penny.

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After wrapping up discussion about organs, we moved on to talk about our skeletons and how they give our organs protection and support. I used a felt skeleton and we sang “Dem Bones” which was a HUGE hit. [As a note, I always feel terrible about teaching not-entirely-correct information in the interest of ease of learning. I strongly believe in honest and accurate information that is age-appropriate but NOT dumbed-down. For instance, there is no “foot bone” that is connected to a “calf bone” nor is there an “arm bone” connected to a “hand bone” because that is all ridiculous. These kids remembered every line of the song after the first time we sang it and it occurred to me that I should remix it a bit for more correct learning.  Alas, “the femur bone’s connected to the pelvic bones at a synovial ball-and-socket joint and supported by cartilaginous and muscular tissues, now shake dem skeleton bones” doesn’t have quite the same ring to it.] Everyone got a turn to build the skeleton as we sang and these friends were rockstars at shaking their skeleton bones.

For our creative project today, I traced the upper portion of each kid onto butcher paper and hung it on the wall. I had pre-cut two lungs and a heart for each Rascal to glue on their body in the appropriate location. The location was open to interpretation (I sometimes feel as if my heart is outside of my body, or in my throat, don’t you?) but they loved talking to each other about how big their lungs get when they take deep breaths and the sound their hearts make when pumping blood. They chatted as they colored their bodies and drew faces and boogers and poop and such, and I had some stickers out for them to use as well.

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At this point, our cookies were cool so when they’d finished their self-portraits, I provided homemade cream cheese frosting (cream cheese, a dash of vanilla and a little powdered sugar whipped together with a handmixer by two Rascals) and some berries for decoration. We discussed the shapes of the berries, specifically that they resembled hearts, and the kids worked on strengthening their hands by squeezing the frosting through their own frosting bags and pressing the berries on top.

 

I had more activities planned after this, for letter recognition & formation and grip strength/practice, but snack took a while and they were ready for some free play, so we rolled with it and wrapped up our day. I’ll include the list of other planned activities below.

 

  1. Letter erasing: use water and a paintbrush to trace letters on a chalkboard to erase them
  2. Dot tracing: use a q-tip and paint to dot along the letter shapes
  3. Letter tracing: this can be done several ways, but I planned to leave it open to the child to choose how they wanted to work. I put a little shaving cream into a ziploc bag and provided our favorite letter cards to either be placed above the bag as a guide for drawing the letter (using the trace-write technique) or slip the card under the bag, which was taped securely to the try along the zip-top, and trace through the shaving cream to reveal the letter.
  4. Usborne’s Look Inside Your Body: a lift-the-flap book with some excellent graphics and information; a fun read!
  5. Lung science: following the project from Living Life & Learning using paper bags (I still plan to do this with my Rascal and KindyKid)
  6. Listening to heartbeats and tummy sounds with a stethoscope
  7. The Foot Book and singing “head, shoulders, knees and toes”
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I don’t have many pictures of me and the Rascals, as I’m the one usually taking the pictures. But one of the mamas grabbed this moment of us and it makes my heart so happy!

 

 

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***Disclaimer: I’m currently using a backup phone and so picture quality is seriously lacking. Apologies, pals!

Space Cadet Rascals

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Outer space is one of those subjects that can be overwhelming because there is just so much cool and interesting information to learn. One of my Rascals requested to learn about the moon and space, so I put together a dynamic lesson covering the very basics and we had so much fun!

We started by reading a classic with a twist. In regular instruction for my own kids we incorporate Spanish language learning daily, so we happen to own a copy of Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown in Spanish. I thought it would be interesting to introduce some basic Spanish vocabulary and phrases to my Rascals, and they loved it. I focused on learning “moon” (luna) and “good night” (¡buenas noches!) as well as “stars” (estrellas). They really enjoyed hearing a story they knew so well in a different way. While I am not a fluent speaker, I am well able to read children’s stories correctly and I’m really happy with how this lesson went. I think I’ll be incorporating more Spanish vocabulary into Rascal lessons going forward.

I decided to save myself some time and effort in creating original material and purchased a “teach my preschooler” kit about outer space based on the good reviews it received. I found it on sale and I must say, I only had one complaint about it that had nothing at all to do with the content- which was just what I wanted for my group of 3-4 year olds. The kit came with a poster showing a simple layout of our solar system (very easy to study and decipher) as well as a small book with basic identifying information about each planet- including Pluto- and a linear puzzle that, when assembled, puts the planets in order from the sun. The planets on each puzzle piece are also able to be removed to show the planet name underneath, thus creating a puzzle within a puzzle. [My complaint with the kit is that the linear puzzle pieces seemed to have warped into a curve slightly and so the puzzle doesn’t lay flat, which was really frustrating for my preschoolers- and me!]  The kit also came with flashcards showing the planet in illustration form on one side and the name in basic manuscript on the other. We used this kit in so many ways today! First, we read the book. For each planet, we used our bodies to demonstrate its features. For instance, when we read about Neptune we waved our arms in the windy atmosphere and we made our bodies as big as we could when learning about Jupiter, the biggest planet of all.

After we finished reading the book, we studied the poster, pointing out each planet and counting its place in the order of the solar system. The poster isn’t too big, but just the right size for a small group study with enough detail to easily identify each planet. We came back to the puzzle and flashcards later to reinforce what we learned.

Since the same group of Rascals attends our class almost every time, I wanted the kids to have a bag of their own to bring so they can safely transport home whatever art or project they create while here. Kind of like a school bag! I thought today would be a fun day for this project, so we used neon puffy paints and some cheap paintbrushes and cookie cutters. I pre-wrote their names on the bags so they’d be dry and neat by the time the kids decorated. They had a good time choosing colors and getting creative. I made sure to do this in the beginning of our time today so the bags had enough time to dry a little before they needed to be moved to go home. We brought the poster with us to The Big Table and used it as inspiration for swirly planets and color choices. We practiced holding paintbrushes properly, taking turns, using encouraging words with friends and classmates, setting personal boundaries and respecting others’ space, and other necessary social skills involved when working within a group.  These kids have a pretty fun relationship going, but being three is hard sometimes and they made an obvious effort today to be kind to each other while being firm about their own autonomy as well. Generally, I try to let these kids work things out among themselves, sometimes offering word or phrasing guidance to help them communicate more effectively with each other, and sometimes serving as a pure referee, but today it was awesome to watch them use their skills so well with each other. There were lots of manners, but also lots of respect when a friend said “No.”

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These kids love painting and art, so while I readied a watercolor activity I passed out black construction paper, simple star stickers and white chalk for the kids to freehand create galaxy collages. Chalk is a fun medium to use: the diameter is similar to common writing instruments to reinforce grip position but it has a different texture and leaves different kinds of marks on surfaces. I had prepped another painting project using salt, glue and watercolors the night before for them to explore when they finished their bags while I prepped snack. They thought it was really cool to have “bumpy pictures” and watch the watercolor spread across the salt tracks. This was so easy and the continued practice with paintbrushes for grip strength and early writing skills was an added bonus. The science of the interaction between the watercolor and the salt made for a quieter-than-usual activity as they carefully watched the colors.  We talked about the sounds some letters make, specifically the letters that begin each child’s name. Each child had a picture with their personal first initial to work on. Another reason I love watercolors is the specific order in which they must be used- paintbrush to water, then paint, then paper- otherwise the colors will not be as vibrant or the brush will be too dry. I think learning to do an ordered skill like this is important for later applications, like tying shoes or when learning math. While here, each child is also responsible for cleaning up their spot and washing their hands as much as they are able.

[As an aside, I am proud to see how much more independent they have become since the beginning of this Rascal journey: they now reliably wipe up spills and use enough soap and water to reasonably clean their hands, taking initiative to do these things on their own upon completion of messy activities.  When we first started, I spent a lot of time demonstrating and helping and repeating prompts to enforce these important personal responsibility skills and now they almost always do clean up on their own, only occasionally asking for help reaching paper towels.]

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Next came a pre-snack chat about moon phases. We learned new vocabulary: waxing, waning, gibbous, crescent, new and full moon. We revisited our Spanish vocabulary word luna as well.  I brought out a felt moon for each phase as a tactile reinforcement and discussed the cycle of a moon phase each month. Then came Oreos. Yum! I’ve done Oreo moons with KindyKid before, but Oreos are delicious and they really are the perfect way to learn moon phases for little kids. Especially hungry ones! We matched each Oreo to its felt moon and reviewed the new vocabulary again. Everyone ate Oreos and “blue planets” (blueberries) while we looked at the solar system poster and moon phases some more.

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While the Rascals feasted, I mixed the ingredients for our science experiment: bouncy balls! I used the recipe from The 36th Avenue and while it took a little longer than 10 seconds, they turned out pretty well! They looked like little planets and the kids loved watching the goo transition to a more plastic solid. A fun little experiment, for sure!

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Their perfectly chubby toddler hands proudly holding their bouncy balls

 

To wrap things up, we traipsed back to the school room and I gave each child their own letter comet puzzles. This is a simple clothespin task, building hand strength but also practicing upper- and lowercase letter matching. Each capital letter was written on a clothespin and lowercase letters were scrambled across several colored jumbo craft sticks (comets).  A star sticker was placed on the pinching end of the clothespin to help identify where the matching letter could be found. This activity can be used in several ways: to match letters, to match colors, or to just practice pinching! This puzzle also works on sequencing and matching skills. It was super easy to create and the kids love having their own puzzles to do. We spent a very brief amount of time on this today, so they took the puzzles home as “homework” to work on until next time.

We circled back to our main theme and took turns connecting the planets in the solar system kit puzzle, reviewing the main attributes of each. While the puzzle didn’t lay flat, they did really well! We did a final review by matching the flashcards to the corresponding puzzle piece (matching and sorting are important early math and reading skills!) and learning the first letter of each planet. Finally, instead of singing the ABCs with instruments as usual, we did a quick verbal review of the things we learned today and sang a rousing rendition of Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star. We had a busy day!

 

Skills practiced: matching, sorting, phonemic awareness, grip and hand strength, social awareness skills, body autonomy, personal responsibility, cardinal numbers, sequencing, counting to 10, colors, measurement, body awareness and control, yoga

Vocabulary: waxing, waning, gibbous, crescent, new moon, full moon, orbit, solar system, planet names

Spanish:
La Luna –  the moon

Estrellas – stars

¡Buenas Noches! – Good night

 

 

 

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Antarctica and the Arctic

We spent the whole month of January casually exploring the continent of Antarctic and the Arctic Circle. It was the perfect transition from the holidays back into the full swing of things and our usual daily routine. My Kindy Kid loves Arctic foxes and baby seals, so she really enjoyed this unit. I used a lot of fun manipulatives and more printables than usual, and we watched lots more documentaries (and regular movies and YouTube on the TV) than usual because it also happened to be very cold outside a lot. And, well, we were in hibernation mode. I’ll include a full list of resources at the end of the post.  The basis of this unit study is from our main curriculum, Around the World Kindergarten from Build Your Library.

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Our assigned read-aloud for this unit was Mr. Popper’s Penguins by Richard and Florence Atwater. I chose to download the audiobook from Audible to listen to during lunch times to change things up a bit and I’m so glad we did.  The kids would color while I made lunch, and then their mouths were full of PBJ and fruit so talking was minimal and listening was maximized. We would usually get through two chapters a meal and be able to discuss what happened after each chapter. I really loved the time we shared with this story; without fail they would ask to keep listening and I’d have to say “you’ll have to wait for tomorrow!”

I chose to focus a lot of our time on penguins and polar bears for this unit. I did try to utilize virtual Antarctic tours and documentaries about the bases there and my kids were just not into it. So, we went back to animal study because that truly is where their hearts lie. We began with penguins: learning the life cycle, completing an animal profile page, utilizing penguin counting mats with penguin erasers, a penguin Can/Have/Are (CHA) chart, and watched lots of shows about penguins.  

Then we moved on to polar bears. We read Ice Bear by Nicola Davies and Knut by Craig Hatkoff, learned about endangered animals, did an animal report and a CHA chart. Surprise! We also watched some videos about polar bear cubs. I found some really fun Arctic animal graphing sheets KindyKid loved.  We wrapped up animal studies by completing a polar bear vs. penguin comparison report (building up to Venn diagrams- my fave!) and making polar bear and penguin puppets.

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To round out this wintery, cold unit study, we did some mini-units on seasons, hibernation, and citizenship, did a lot of art (snow painting!) and played a lot of games. Despite the casual atmosphere, we continued to do our daily reading curricula.

 

Resources

Seasons and Science

After almost a month-long break for the holidays, Preschool Rascals were back with a special kind of energy. This was one of those days I’ll be chalking up to working on social skills and having fun instead of meeting academic goals– and that’s totally ok because these kids are just three and their job is to play and have fun!

* Today’s Pro Tip: one marshmallow per kid.

We started the day with a rousing rendition of our typical ABCs & instruments, then moved right into our theme story.

Abracadabra, it’s Spring! is a super interactive book, with flip pages revealing the changes occuring in Spring. Each Rascal had a turn saying the magic word and opening the page to reveal the beautiful illustration. There are lots of counting opportunities to be had within the illustrations and the colors are vibrant and inviting.

Next, we sang a months-of-the-year song, which, admittedly, went awry when I tried to add in some lap-tapping to the beat. Oh well, they all did absorb that at least there are some months. Names of months are arbitrary anyway, right?

To get bodies moving, we attempted to play hopscotch using the months of the year as blocks. I color coded the months according to season for some visual clues. It was game over when I said we’d be using marshmallows as our stones. They had zero interest in anything else but delicious treats and only just humored me by hopping haphazardly down the game so they could eat their treat at the end. But! They did get some wiggles out and worked on body coordination and movement planning. I’ll do hopscotch again when we can be outside and use an inedible pebble.

Next we studied the seasons pictures in the Our World (a My First Reference book by Usborne) book and talked about the differences in each season. I found some really great season cards over at Planting Peas and we used finger paints and puffy “snow” paint to make the trees seasonally appropriate. The Rascals love to paint and get messy, and we haven’t done a really messy project in a while, so this was a great way to get their hands dirty. We talked about the weather in each season, the order of the seasons and what animals do in each season. Then I laminated the cards when they’d dried a bit for the kids to take home.

After they’d finished their cards, we moved back to the school room again and things went a little bonkers. First, I passed out marshmallow shooters I’d made from a plastic cup and a balloon. We talked about the safety rules (don’t point at people/faces) and then discussed force. The more you pull on the balloon, the harder the force on the marshmallow and the farther it will shoot. If you only give a little tug, it won’t put much force on the marshmallow and it may not even come out of the cup. Then, each kid got a marshmallow and went to town experimenting with how far they could shoot the marshmallow “snowballs.” They got pretty good! The giggles were plentiful while we played with these. Also, masses of marshmallows were consumed. Masses.

Our next marshmallow physics activity involved levers and fulcrums. I made spoon catapults, with the spoons attached at varying lengths. (I had made these before, but there are some good instructions here) This activity was a little trickier to master for some because it involved a little restraint. Eventually, most got some really good launches. My intention was to measure the distance of launches, but I think I’ll hold off until we can make an outdoor catapult. More masses of marshmallows were consumed.

Finally, we broke out the new light tablet! We explored bug x-rays and translucent magnets, which was perhaps the single most focused the children were the entire morning that didn’t involve marshmallows. All in all, a hectic, but really fun first Preschool Rascals of the new year!