Welcome to Paula's Primary Classroom! This blog is where I share ideas for teaching and learning with families, friends and other early childhood educators. Please don't use the photos or text of this blog without permission, but please do use any ideas you find useful. Thank you for stopping by!

Sunday, January 10, 2021

Top 10 Proven Preschool Activities for Pp

Number 1: PLAY!

If you do nothing else this week, please let it be play!  Of course, almost everything I suggest is about playful learning because it is essential for children, and pretty darned important for grown-ups too.

Number 2: Pizza

See, learning about the letter P is fun AND delicious!  You already know I love to cook with children, and what's better for this week than making and eating pizza?! 

Depending upon how much time I want to spend on this, and on the age and skill level of my kiddos, I've had them help me make pizza dough (I cheat and use the bread machine), or I've used something as a pre-made crust.  Both work beautifully, are fun and fairly easy, and you end up with something delicious that your children will want to eat.  Today let's talk about letting children make their very own mini pizzas by using half an English muffin as a crust.

 I like to put out pizza toppings for the children to choose, and invite them a couple at a time to come and assemble their pizzas.  If you want to really talk about the sound of Pp, consider offering pepperoni, peppers, and pineapple along with any other toppings you want.  

It does take a few minutes for a preschooler to scoop up the ingredients they want, and to spread them on their pizza.  They're making decisions, estimating how much they want of each ingredient, and working their finger muscles as they arrange the toppings.  This is a fine motor, sensory, life-skill, healthy eating experience, and that's definitely worth the time it takes!

Make sure you know who's pizza is where on the baking sheet, because they WILL want THEIR OWN pizza!  Bake it until everything is hot and the cheese is starting to turn golden, and then.... well, your child will help you figure out what comes next!

Number 3: Pigs in a blanket

This is another fun cooking activity for your little ones, and you'll just need a can of biscuit dough and some mini sausages.

Let the children cut the pieces of biscuit dough in half, and squish each half.  Lay a sausage on the dough, then roll it up.

Lay them on a baking sheet and bake according to the directions for the dough.  YUM!

Again, if you're not sure what comes next, ask your children, they'll know it's time to eat!

Number 4: Picnic

You might be thinking a picnic takes a lot of planning and preparation, but when you're dealing with children, simply taking your meal outside to eat equals a picnic!  I like to keep a picnic blanket handy so we can make a picnic in just moments.  Have a large box from a delivery?  Instant picnic table! 

There's something magical about getting outside to eat - and of course, once they're done eating, it's time to PLAY!

Number 5: Puddle Stomping!
 

This is one of my all time favorite preschool activities, and one I think most of my former students remember well, even many years later.  I have a couple of pro-tips to help make this activity go smoothly, even with a group of children.

- Plan ahead.  Before you ever head out the door, make sure you have towels and dry clothes handy for afterwards.  Is your child wearing something that is okay to get wet, or do they need to change into play clothes first? Is the puddle in a place that's safe for bare feet? 

- Set limits.  Is splashing okay?  Are you getting full body wet, or just feet?  What space do you expect the children to stay in?  By thinking this through ahead of time you save yourself having lots of tired, wet children making a mess in your house afterwards!

I like to have the children take off their shoes and socks inside, and then head out. We run, we stomp, we splash... then we look for earthworms that have been washed out, and gently rescue them from the puddles.  We run around some more, and we notice how different everything looks when it's wet.  Take off your shoes and stomp right along with your child - I promise, it's fun!

Number 6: Penguins

Read about them (here's a post about penguin books), craft them, act like them, there are so many awesome ways to include penguins in your learning! Did you know Emperor penguin daddies keep their unhatched eggs warm on their feet? 
Penguins DO waddle, but they also like to slide on their bellies, which is called tobogganing.

They live in colonies or rookeries, and their chicks are fluffy and gray - NOT black and white.  

These are pictures of our penguin rookery - the patterns and instructions are available in my TeachersPayTeachers store here if you're interested, or for a penguin craft and games for learning letter P, check out this resource:

Number 7: Pirates

I've blogged about our pirate activities several times - check those posts out here, here and here!

Number 8: Hand prints and foot prints, of course!

As always, you can find the original inspiration for each of these, and many more ideas for similar crafts on this Pinterest board.

Number 9: Puzzles

Do you and your littles do puzzles together?  Puzzles require children to look for similarities and differences in shape and color, to rotate pieces, to work their finger muscles, to think about what the picture is supposed to look like, and much more.  Start with puzzles with 4 or 5 pieces, and work up to more complex ones.  You can usually find puzzles at resale stores or garage sales for very little money, and your local library may also have some in the play area that you can use while you're looking for books!

Number 10: Letter crafts

Make the letter-sound connection by creating letters that go along with some of the letter Pp activities you're doing this week.  We added penguins to pink or purple lower case letter p, and turned the upper case P into a pepperoni and peppers pizza pie. 

Have a great week friends - peace!

Sunday, January 3, 2021

8 Outstanding Options for Over-the-top O Activities

What's so outstanding about letter Oo?  The variety of options for learning activities!  From oceans to outside time, baking oatmeal muffins to sorting ovals to lovely hand print art, there's so much to do!

Let's start with oceans and octopi... octopuses...the octopus.  You probably have some favorite ocean themed books - and of course so do I!

If you're wanting to learn octopus facts, I love Gentle Giant Octopus by Karen Wallace, and so do my students.  Just for fun?  Octopus's Garden, by Ringo Starr.  Bonus points, it includes a sing-a-long CD, so you and your littles can learn (or relearn) the song.  While you're at it, check out the gorgeous illustrations in Inky's Amazing Escape by Sy Montgomery and Over in the Ocean by Mariann Berkes.  

I haven't get read Manfish A Story of Jacques Cousteau by Jennifer Berne, but a study of the ocean is incomplete without learning about him, and again, the illustrations look awesome!

Many years ago I made an ocean tent to go over a card table - super easy to do - and my students have had a lot of use out of it!  I found a couple of panels of ocean fabric that measured the same size as my card table, and added some plain blue fabric for the other 2 sides.  I put a cord through the top hem, and tied it onto the card table.  It takes about 2 minutes to put up or take down, and folds quite small for storage. (I was inspired by tents from https://www.etsy.com/shop/missprettypretty ).  Just add ocean stuffed animals or other toys for some fantastic pretend play!

 Your littles might also enjoy working on patterns with ocean animals - here's a fun way to do that:

and early readers will enjoy this FREE reading center - click here to download it!


If you're in the mood to do some cooking with your little ones, AND you want them to eat healthy foods, try the oatmeal muffin recipe I wrote about here. Look at all the delicious ingredients: 

Remember to let your little ones help you cook - they're spending quality time with you, learning life skills, and if they help you cook something, they're more likely to try eating it.  Want more?  They're also developing fine motor skills, counting scoops, measuring ingredients and learning vocabulary - they are learning.

If you've been reading my blog for long, you know I also love to do hand print art with my kiddos, and letter O is no exception!  Here are 3 fun ideas: otter, owl and ostrich!  


The ostrich came from CreativityTakesFlight.com, the otter was uploaded to Pinterst without credit, and I'm not sure about the owl either.  As always, you can find more hand print and foot print art ideas on this Pinterest board:

Don't forget to add outside time to your letter Oo activities!  This is so open ended, you're sure to have some favorite outdoor ideas - or brainstorm with your children and try something new!


It's always a good time to revisit shapes and other math concepts; we broke out some magnetic shapes that include ovals.  As you can see they're fun for sorting, or making patterns, or simply look for ovals and other shapes in your environment. 

Finally, here are two great picture book characters for the letter O: the giant squid from I'm The Biggest Thing in the Ocean (by Kevin Sherry) and Olivia (from the series by Ian Falconer).  I came up with both of these crafts, which encourage lots of fine motor skills (cutting, gluing, even painting).  I hope you and your little ones enjoy them!
 

Click here for a quick tutorial on how to make the squid from  I'm the Biggest Thing in the Ocean, or get everything ready made for labeling, graphing, measurement AND this activity in my TeachersPayTeachers store.

Here are the shapes your child will need to cut out and assemble to create Olivia...

... we think she's pretty adorable!  

Have an over the top outstanding week of O activities, and come back next week for penguins, polar bears and positively perfect ideas for letter Pp!  See you then, Paula



Sunday, December 6, 2020

Letter S is Stunning in the Spotlight

 It's stunning, it's super, it's spectacular, it's...

...the letter Ss!  Timed just right for December and Santa, S is a smash hit every year!

It's all too obvious, but S for Santa really is a favorite.  With plenty of Christmas and Santa crafts and activities available, it's easy to find some that appeal to you and your students.  Many people schedule a visit with or to the jolly old elf, and we're no exception, but that's not your only option!

My big event to start our letter Ss week is to have the children dress up and pretend to be Santa.  I didn't go buy an expensive Santa costume - you can put one together pretty easily with just a little creativity!  For my costume I found a larger kids shirt and elastic waist pants at a resale store.  I sewed on some white fleece around the arms, bottom of the shirt and pant legs, added my own snow boots and black belt, a cheap Santa hat.... but what to do about a beard?  I found a piece of white fake fur, and just tucked it into the hat!  Ta-da!  Lots of little Santas!  Each child had a turn to put on the costume for a photo, which we put in our alphabet photo albums.  While we were taking turns putting on the costume we sang holiday songs - you could also add ringing bells in time with the music to keep little hands happily occupied while waiting for a turn.

We also make hand print Santas, which we print onto our large letter S craft.  You'll need red, white, and skin toned paint.  If you look at the Santa print in the picture above, you can see the center of the palm is Santas face, the fingers and around the edge of the hand is white for hair, and the thumb and face of the hand is his red hat.  It's easy, fun, and painting little hands is a lovely sensory experience and an opportunity to talk about the cool, slippery paint, the tickly sensation, and to introduce great vocabulary words about the experience!

You know I like to offer the children options for their hand prints - for one thing, not everyone celebrates Christmas and Santa, and another reason is that children so seldom have a say in things that having a choice helps them feel powerful - and more likely to cooperate when I can't give them choices.  

One of the other options is to paint snails - and this one isn't so easy to look at and understand, so I'll explain.  The brown part of our snails is made by painting the curved outer edge of our hands, from the tip of the pinky finger down to the fleshy part by our wrists.  We use a second color to paint the same area but with our hands fisted, and that sort of circular fist print makes the snail's shell.  When it's dry the children can use markers to add the swirl in the shell and stems for wiggle eyes.  (If you haven't taken a close look at a snail with your child, this is an excellent time to do so, so they know what they're trying to draw!)

Our other hand print option is to make a swan.  For this one we created the background first - blue for a pond, green for the plants surrounding it.  I like to offer the children tissue paper to add details - it's very inexpensive (I save it after gift giving occasions), and is fun and easy to tear.  Tearing is a great fine motor workout, so we're developing little fingers with a recycled material while encouraging artistic expression and learning our letters.... is that a win-win-win-win? Why yes it is!  Once our background is complete we make a white hand print for the swan's body and neck, then the children add a little more neck and a head.  As always, we add final details when the paint is dry.

To continue the Christmas theme learning, I created a Christmas patterning center.  With 4 AB, 4 ABC and 4 AAB / ABB patterns to continue, there's something just right for each child.  I seldom use worksheets with preschool children, but for those who do, and for slightly older children, I included 15 differentiated cut and paste activities. It's a fun way to bring some math to our seasonal learning!


If you do letter Ss in December, or at least during the winter, you may have another easily available, free, fun material on hand - SNOW!

Of course you're going to spend time outside in it, but there are also going to be inside times you want to make engaging, and painting on snow is a HUGE hit!  We simply filled pie pans with snow, then let the children use droppers to add water color paints to their tray of snow.  It's awesome to see how the color quickly leaches down through the snow, leaving a lightly colored area where the paint was.  This is a fun time to practice mixing colors - because your children are going to do it anyway!  If you offer primary colors (red, blue, yellow) someone will notice the combinations that result in secondary colors (purple, orange, green).  If not, you can act surprised to find green snow when you didn't offer green paint, and ask the child(ren) how they made it.  They'll figure it out and proudly tell you all about it!

Be prepared for this activity to last much longer than you think it will.  Also be prepared for large puddles of paint water - have old towels on hand ready for the inevitable cleanup.  The first time I offered this activity it lasted 2 hours, and older siblings who were arriving with parents at pick-up time joined in and stayed to play.  Thank goodness there's plenty more snow outside and you can easily refresh their snow over and over again!

If your little ones are super excited about snow, and want to know more, check out this snowy learning packet!

The non-fiction booklet explains how snow forms - at a level little ones can understand.  It's fun to graph their favorite snowy activities, and to measure with snowflakes.  Our favorite is probably using pattern blocks to create symmetrical snow like creations.  These are all easy ways to tie in science and math learning along with our letter study!

I haven't talked about our lowercase S at all yet!  S looks like a snake to me, so I like to read a book about a snake (my go-to is Keith Baker's Hide and Snake), then we make our own snakes.  The snake in the book we read has lovely patterns on it, so it's a natural step for the children to make patterns on their snakes too!  We do this with colorful foam shapes - and I have an important tip to make this go smoothly: have the child choose 2 or 3 shapes ahead of time, and find multiples pieces of each.  If they want small yellow triangles and big pink circles, they should find at least 5-8 of each BEFORE the glue comes out.  Put all the other shapes away out of sight.  It's so very hard to make a pattern when there are a kazillion brightly colored pretty shapes in front of you - who can choose?!  Trust me on this one, I did this craft with groups of children for about 15 years... and have learned from the children.  :-)  Once you have just the needed pieces in front of you, get out the glue, and help your little one say the pattern outloud, pausing expectantly at the end so they'll fill in the next shape: "Red, blue, red, blue, red...?"

As I said before, not everyone celebrates Christmas, and even if all of your students do, it's important to include other cultures and ways of doing things, because in our great big world there are many right ways of doing things!  December is the season for Bodhi Day, Hannukah, Kwanza, Omisoka (New Year's Eve), Boxing Day, winter soltice, Yalda and more!  Both Bodhi Day (December 8) and Hannukah (sunset December 10 - 18) will be celebrated this coming week.

To my friends who are celebrating - Happy Hannukah, and blessed Bodhi Day. 

Much love,

Paula


 

Sunday, November 29, 2020

Rocking with Rudolph is Really Remarkable

It's almost December, so we're going to skip ahead a few letters - because rocking December with Rudolph really is remarkable!

Have you sung the reindeer version of Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes: Hooves, Belly, Antlers, Nose ?

It's so much fun!

 There's also our Rudolph hand print, inspired by HandprintCreations.com and funhandprintartblog.com.  I found the robin idea at creatingreallyawesomefunthings.com , the rocket at CraftyCrafted, and I think I came up with the raccoon myself... but it's been a long time, and it's so hard to remember!  There are also other reindeer hand prints on my handprint Pinterest board if you want to check them out.

The Rudolph hand and foot print ornament included below is one of my all time favorite preschool Christmas crafts!

 I did this every year when my children were little, and have a progression of Rudolphs, slightly bigger each year as the children's hands and feet grew.  Please please, when you do these crafts make sure you put your child's name and the year on the back, I promise you'll treasure them all the more for it!


 The fun What's Up Rudolph? craft was inspired by this one on Artsonia.  If you haven't visited Artsonia yet, why not?!  It's a free site, full of wonderful art ideas for children of all ages, and it allows teachers to safely upload children's art into an online gallery.  Parents can even order merchandise with their child's artwork on it!

For this project the children cut out rectangles, triangles and circles, then assembled their projects.  It was a great fine motor / scissor skill activity, and they were thrilled that the results look so lovely!

Our letter R craft also incorporates Rudolph the red nosed reindeer, because the children absolutely remember the sound to associate with the letter this way!

Finally, I wrote a short song about the names of all the reindeer! You can see it on YouTube,

or click here for the printable booklet.

That's it for this week - I hope you and your little ones have lots of fun, and I'll be back next time with S is for Santa.






Sunday, November 22, 2020

Nine things you need to know about N

Number 1: Nutcrackers

Since I'm writing this post in late November, it's a great time to think about holiday decorations and activities, and nutcrackers come to mind!  The nutcracker art project I'm showing here was all about cutting and pasting and shapes.  As you can see we've used a variety of rectangles and some circles to create our nutcrackers, and then decorated them with markers.  One of the lovely things about doing this project in my preschool was that the children could do it 2 or 3 years in a row, with different results that showed off their improved scissor and drawing skills.


Number 2: Names!

Learning their name is a big deal for a child - being able to identify it, read it, and write the letters is something that takes a long time, but since their name is THE most important word in the whole world, it never gets old!  For our snowmen names we cut out circles (one for each letter plus one for the head) and glued them down, wrote one letter on each circle, and decorated the snowman.  We did a similar project with green triangles that stacked to make a Christmas tree - but you could also practice writing it with different pens, pencils and markers, stamp it, find the letters on a cereal box, etc, the possibilities are endless!

Number 3 and 4: Nests and Narwhals

Yes, I really did teach the kiddos about narwhals.  It's easy to find a short video on YouTube about them, and then to talk about how awesome they are!  The hand prints were inspired by these from Red Ted Art - she has SO many awesome ideas, you should definitely check out her blog!

The first nest was inspired by this one from Crystal and Co. but I later modified it by printing the side of a hand from the tip of the pinkie finger to the wrist, and I think it looks more nest like this way.

Number 5: Nuts

Clearly this isn't a good activity if you have a child with nut allergies.  For those of you who can use nuts in the classroom, I found a bag of mixed nuts in the shell one December, used it for sensory play for a while, then later was still able to shell and eat the nuts.  This was one of my first sensory bins to put together, and because the nut shells felt very wood-y, I included other wood like craft supplies: clothes pins, corks and popsicle sticks.  They started out all sorted in small boxes (as you can see) and were used in various ways.  I initially put them out with cardboard tubes, and the children slid them down, discovering that the nuts rolled and the sticks and clothes pins just slid down.  Unfortunately some of the children decided the cardboard tubes made good arm cannons, so I decided to cut holes in a box and secure the tubes in the box for more purposeful play. (Yes, that's Paula talk for let's not pretend to kill each other.)  Sometimes we dumped the nuts down the tubes, sometimes we sorted, sometimes they ended up in the toy farm. Overall it was a good introduction to sensory bins for both me and the children, as we all learned something.

 

Number 6: Numbers

Sure, your child can count to 10, or maybe 20, isn't that everything they need to know about numbers?  Well, no.  Once children have the counting sequence memorized it's time to start counting objects.  Can they point to one object as they say each number?  Do they know to stop counting when they run out of objects to count?  Can they read the numbers and show you the correct number of fingers (apples, erasers, legos, etc.) to match the numeral?  This Christmas themed counting activity covers numerals and number words up to 20, and is a fun way to practice numbers. 

As they get a little bigger, you'll want your children to learn your phone number.  I've found that chanting it together regularly makes it so much easier to remember!  When my boys were little we'd recite our address and phone number every time we pulled into the driveway, and they had it memorized just in time for us to move to a new address. (You win some, you lose some)!


Number 7: Letter Nn crafts, of course!

For the uppercase letter N, I put out number stickers and challenged the children to put them on their letter in number order. The lowercase n was on either black paper, and decorated with stars to represent the night sky.

 

Number 8: Noise

The good news is, you don't even have to plan for this activity, chances are that your little one(s) will make plenty of noise anyway!  This is a good week to provide musical instruments (outside is really best) or to have your child make their own noise makers.  Not into noise?  Substitute in Nature - there is always something to explore and discover outside!

 

Number 9: Nine little reindeer song

I wrote this counting rhyme several years ago, perhaps your littles will enjoy singing it with me!

That's it for this week!  See you next time for the letter Oo.  Until then, have a lovely week, a delicious Thanksgiving, and stay safe!  

Paula