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!

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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.

 

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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!

Rainbows

Today we did a quick one day study of Rainbows! Inspired by some Skittles, I threw together this afternoon unit using mostly library books we had checked out and not yet read. (That happens when you check out 60 books at a time!)

They started by watching the read-aloud version of “A Rainbow of My Own” by Don Freeman and talking about the watercolor-like pencil illustrations while I arranged our Skittles on a white plate.

Next, we talked about the color wheel using our Big Book of Colors and learned about prisms. I read All the Colors of the Rainbow, which we had found at the library, and we made observations about the order of the colors in a rainbow. I showed them the ROYGBIV acronym, which they found hilarious, and we arranged crayons in rainbow order. I brought out our Skittles and we slowly poured hot water around the edges. We watched as the color dye bled toward the middle and noticed what colors were made when they began to mix. We’ve done this before, but it hasn’t lost its magic!

We explored color mixing using our rainbow glitter blocks by holding them up to the light, which we’ve done before in the natural course of play, but discovered a more intentional play with them through this lesson. (I can’t wait for our light tablet to arrive!)

I had previously purchased rainbow art scratch paper, which is always fun. Unfortunately, we seem to have lost the included scratchers and only had one to share between the girls, but they did a lovely job of taking turns. They had a good time discovering the colors underneath the black and talking about things that could be made out of rainbows (rocks and surfboards, apparently). They especially liked practicing writing letters on this paper as it makes each letter a rainbow.

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We concluded by watching one of our favorite rainbow songs and I read another book aloud while they finished up their scratch art. I love our library, and this story was a gem- a perfect fiction story to end our afternoon! We loved the tie-in of days of the week and our five senses and the illustrations are just beautiful.  Enjoy!

Rascals are for the Birds

Ornithology is such an accessible study for all ages. Birds can be observed anywhere! With the leaves falling off the trees and the beginning of winter, bright red cardinals and cheeky finches are much easier to spot.

Our feature activity on the Big Table upon Rascal arrival today was magnets! I love using scrapbook containers for sensory activities since they come with a built in lid. For Bird unit, I mixed birdseed and discs from our magnet kit (these kits are AMAZING and perfect for preschoolers!) together, then provided a wand to collect the discs. This was a big hit!

We started our day with our usual instrument play and ABCs, then dove right into our book of the week. Feathers for Lunch (by Lois Ehlert) is such a perfect story for preschoolers. The pictures are dynamic and there is so much to talk about on each page. I’d recommend reading it several times, as the story gets a little lost if all the other elements are also discussed. I’d read just the story the first time through to really capture the rhyming and lovely rhythm, then be sure to identify the noises another time, and the birds yet another time. There is really just so much!

Once we finished Feathers for Lunch, I noticed that there were LOTS of wiggles, so we did a movement poem about baby birds in nests that got us moving arms and legs and fingers. I found the poem in one of my favorite preschool resources and I’m glad I planned some movement activities because we sure needed them!

I utilized a few different Montessori printable resources for this lesson, but the favorite was the movement game from Trillium Montessori preschool pack. (found here) Each card in the stack had a direction to follow, such as “find a door and knock on it two times” or “wave hi to a friend.”  Easy to follow but fun and interactive. Once the kids were wiggle’d out a little and ready for a little more focused learning, we sat together in front of the sorting chart and got down to business. We had a lot of fun classifying objects into groups based on their “fly” or “not” ability. Did you know that carrots can fly?! Just kidding! This was a great thought-invoking activity, because some of objects are tricky: a chicken, hot air balloon and frog proved to need further clarification. Frogs can jump really high so it’s like they can fly, and a hot air balloon “floats” (as I was told) and doesn’t really fly.

 

We then moved to the math center and worked on skills including counting to twenty, adding one, and one-to-one correspondence as well as matching sets. I love our math chart as it has so many functions and encourages movement while learning.  We used food cards to count sets and match, but there are other types of objects on the counting cards included with the chart as well. The Rascals really liked putting the number card in the corresponding pocket and helping each other put things in order correctly. It was a joy to watch them work as a team.

Next, I heard some rumbly tummies, so we gathered at the big table for our snack. I really wanted some kind of nest theme, and happened upon waffle cone BOWLS (!!!) which perfectly held our eggs: melon balls and grapes! The kids were so excited to eat their “chew nests.”  While they snacked, I read Nest  by Jorey Hurley and we talked about the changing seasons, growing process of baby birds, and the goings on in each picture. A simple read, it was a great snacktime read-aloud choice.

 

 

Once we cleaned up, I arranged our nest activity: an invitation to create their own bird nest using natural materials including moss, clay and feathers. For my preschoolers I used playdoh because I had enough on hand for everyone, but my Kindergartner used modeling clay when she completed this activity. I found some great wrens and robins for each child to make a home, and they each named their bird.  Bob, Eva and Superhero Powers each had lovely nests as unique as their names. I set out lots of books open to nest pictures (resource list coming) and found an awesome bird call video on YouTube so we could listen while we worked. The Rascals had some great conversations about nests among themselves while I quietly sat by in case they needed anything.

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It was an easy transition to painting with feathers as the feathers that weren’t used in nest-building were re-purposed as paintbrushes. I simply rolled out kraft paper and set out paints in the trays and they got creative. I wrote their name in Sharpie in front of them and gave them the option of tracing it with paint using fingers or feathers, which they all worked hard to do before promptly making handprints and color-mixing puddles. They let me know when they were finished, we washed up and moved the party outside for bird feeder activities.

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Outside, we set a funnel and measuring cup up and took turns pouring birdseed into the new feeder. I’m not sure what kind of seed we used (it looked like a basic mix including sunflower seeds) but we had suet for woodpeckers as well. My favorite rascal comment of the day was referring to suet as “birdie guacamole.” This was a great activity for motor planning, estimation skills, and eye-hand coordination as well as building hand and wrist strength. Then we all worked together to pick a spot to hang the feeders and “plant” the hooks on which they’d hang. We even got to use a hammer to hammer the post into the ground!

 

 

I had other activities planned, which I will list below, however these Rascals were wiggly today so I adjusted our lesson plan to accommodate their needs and we had an awesome time. Milestones were reached for some of the kids and some had easier days than others, but we had a great time! I have expanded lessons for the rest of the week for my Kindy Kid, which I’ll post with a resource list once we’ve completed the mini-unit.

Other activities:

  • Wingspan measurement and wings craft: Using a roll of paper (we like kraft paper as its a little thicker and able to withstand paint), have your kid lay down with arm outstretched and measure their “wingspan.” Compare their wingspan to those of common birds in your region. You could also mark their span, and cut that length, then cutting wing silhouette along the bottom and have the kid decorate their wings. You can punch holes and secure to arms with ribbon. [I plan to complete this activity with my kids this week. Will update!]
  • Track birds at the feeder and use watercolors to illustrate them as they eat.
  • Write a story about the birds at the feeder using either a handmade book or pre-assembled book like these. We love writing our own books, and at this age, the child will dictate as I scribe, then illustrate themselves.
  • Count! Use a tracking chart to count how many birds you see at your feeder. I love this one from Tanglewood Hollow as it is simpler for preschool age with lots of space for recording.

Caps for Sale

We used more materials than usual for this lesson, which required much more money, time and prep-work than I was expecting. However, it proved worth the effort as the Rascals seemed to learn a couple new concepts today and it was really cool to observe the seeds of learning planted. We focused on a lot of fine motor skills, math and science concepts with this lesson.

All because of a barrel of monkeys.

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I love Caps for Sale for so many reasons.  You truly can cover so many subject areas using this story without even seeming to try. And the illustrations are so visually interesting that it easily holds the attention of even the squirmiest child.  I tried to plan a lesson that would provide a little bit of everything and provide lots of movement, as the weather has finally turned cold and I knew outdoor exploration wouldn’t be on the schedule.

We started with some prompting practice, wagging fingers and repeating key phrases like “You monkeys, you!”  I read through the story, making sure to note the order of the colored caps, and any physical cues within the text (“stood very straight” is a good one). We stood up and stomped, wagged our fists, and made the monkey noises with all our might. It was a great way to get up and move our bodies in conjunction with the story.

After we read through the story, we practiced following directions by folding our own paper hats. This simple introduction to origami was fun- the kids were mostly able to complete the folding themselves, only needing a little help to press the crease to secure the fold.  The kids were proud of themselves for making their own blue cap. Pro tip: make sure to have tape nearby to secure the folded hats!

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Once we made our own hats, I brought out the sensory box. I had filled the box with the leftover leaves from our alphabet hunt on Leaf Day and the ten monkeys from our Barrel of Monkeys. Our monkeys happen to be orange, which blended well with the fake leaves and provided an extra bit of tricky task-work to find them in the box. We used tweezers to pull out those cheeky monkeys and put them into their barrel.  Tweezers are awesome for building hand strength! Once we gathered all the monkeys, we transitioned to a new task.

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I had a small wooden jewelry tree set up on a new tray. I distributed the monkeys to each kid and they hung them at their discretion on the branches of the tree. Then, I gave each child their own Peddler Peg Man and checked cap that I had made in preparation for the lesson. They were delighted by the mustaches! I spread some red, blue and gray “caps” (painted wooden buttons) around the tray and the children practiced balancing the caps on their Peddler’s head. The Peddlers have spherical heads and it took a little fiddling to get their hats to be level enough on which to balance buttons.  One Rascal balanced seven buttons! This simple activity was lots of prep, but worked on so many important skills: color sorting, ordering, fine motor skills, story sequencing, social interaction, reading comprehension and more. Each Rascal got to take home their Peddler and his checked cap, as well as a handful of assorted caps to practice balancing.

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The Rascal tummies were growling at this point, so we took a break for some bananas! Each child peeled and sliced their own banana with a butter knife. They worked hard to hold their knives properly and safely slice their snacks. They then we used fun tiny forks to eat the little pieces.

Once hands were washed and we were all ready to move on, each child got their own Rainbow Name snake to weave their names. I used a mustache ribbon to tie in to our story today, and the kids thought it was hilarious to hold it up to their face and give themselves mustaches. They weaved the ribbon through the letters of their name, in rainbow order as a little hint, working on fine motor skills as they went.

Our last two activities were a challenge, but incredibly rewarding. First, I gathered every hat I could find in our house and our friends brought hats too. We added them all into a bin and then tried to see how many hats we could balance on our own heads like the Peddler. The kids thought it was most fun to balance the hats on my head. I had to issue a couple of reminders about how we respect others’ bodies, but generally this was a fun physical manifestation of today’s story. The cowboy hat makes things tricky!  I utilized the Caps For Sale felt story alongside this activity to reinforce ordering and counting skills.  Once they were ready to move on, I brought out our balance scale.

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“I have how many hats on my head?! WOW!!” -this is my shocked face.

The balance scale proved to be an excellent science experiment for these curious kids. I tasked them with gathering small objects from around the school room for us to weigh. I prepared for this lesson by creating a document: Monkey balancing [Click the link for the free PDF]. I clipped the chart to the easel and we got to work. Each child had the opportunity to choose something to balance. We balanced (weighed) one item at a time, each time using our orange monkeys as the measurement unit. We measured how many monkeys a crayon, three buttons, a green paintbrush, an orange paintbrush, and some other small items weighed by placing one item into a scale bucket, and then counting how many monkeys it took in the other bucket for the scale to balance. I used phrases like “weighs as much as” and “balanced with” and we paid close attention the indicator arrows and everyone gave a big holler when they matched up, showing the items in the buckets were equal. This scale is a top five favorite tool in our school room and I highly recommend it for any early education schoolers. The kids loved estimating how many monkeys each item would weigh and then recording the data. They found it fascinating that two paintbrushes of the same size weighed different amounts of monkeys (the paintbrushes were made by different manufacturers). We probably could’ve balanced things all day, however I ended the activity once I could tell the Rascals were impatient to pile lots of things into the bucket. I really want to give them opportunities to explore this concept on their own (indeed, to have the chance to pile things in!) but feel that would best be done individually so each child can work at their own pace. So, I plan to have the balance scale out on the Big Table as a free play item, accompanied by a random assortment of items and measuring standards, when the kids arrive for the next few playschool days.

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We wrapped up this playschool lesson with another jam sesh to the ABC song using our instrument box, and then cleaned up and gathered the take home materials. A busy, fun day!