Welcome to Paula's Preschool and Kindergarten! My class blog is the place I share information about some of the fun learning activities we are doing at school. I hope to provide parents with insight into what we are doing, and why, and to share ideas with 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!

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Rest time routines

If you are a parent, you probably have some kind of bedtime routine with your child.  I hope it involves snuggling up to read some favorite stories, and I bet it includes a bath, teeth brushing, and  a goodnight kiss.  We create these routines with our children both for their sake and for ours: children do best with routines.

It makes sense if you think about it.  There are so many things children don't know: What will be for dinner?  Where are we going? Why? Who? What?  A routine lets them know what is coming next, and gives some structure to their days.  It lets them prepare themselves for what is next.

Teaching 3-5 year olds, we needed a rest/nap time each afternoon.  What started out as a pretty simple routine - use the restroom, read some books, then lay down on our nap mats - later became a much more satisfying routine that worked beautifully.

See?

About 10 years ago I read an article in Exchange magazine about "pillow talk".  I'd always had some quiet one-one time with my boys at bedtime, and we had some of our best conversations in the quiet of a darkened room at the end of the day.  To help them find peaceful sleep, we had "happy thoughts" each night.  Each boy would tell me 3 good things about their day.  This sounded a whole lot like "pillow talk".

A few years later, I was trying to figure out ways to calm a child who took forever to close eyes and sleep (and then couldn't be woken for hours!), and saw an article about the soothing scent of lavender.  If you've deal with a child like this, you know you'll try just about anything!  I bought a bottle of lavender scented lotion, and started offering that to everyone at rest time too.

Anyway, here's the routine that evolved. 

First: everyone used the rest room, and picked one book to read.  Yes, everyone.  With 12 students in the class we had to limit the books to fairly short ones, and occasionally we had to do fewer, but most days we had 12 stories!  I'd read the more exciting ones first, and save the calmer, slower, or musical books for last.  It's really nice to end with a song!

Next: everyone went to their mats.  I closed the blinds both to make it a little darker, and to eliminate all the exciting things to be seen outside.

Then: I turned on quiet, calm music, grabbed that lavender lotion, and went from child to child, offering hand lotion and asking for happy thoughts.  Almost everyone had something nice to tell me each day, and it often started, "Mommy and daddy and brother and...."  As they talked they'd rub the lotion into their hands, and we'd have a few special moments, just the two of us in a room full of friends.  Having an adult's undivided attention, even for 30 seconds, is a powerful and often coveted thing in a preschool classroom!  I'd end our minute together by offering a kiss on the forehead.

When everyone had been tucked in, the room was dark and smelled of lavender, and sweet music played, I'd sit on the couch with a book until they fell asleep.  Yes, some children would invent reasons to wiggle, talk, or need the bathroom again (twice!).  No, it didn't always go as planned.  But almost every day we managed to get 12 children to sleep for at least part of the rest time. 

Maybe some elements of our routine  will help you to calm your kiddos and find some peaceful moments in your day.  I hope so!

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

How to make a pumpkin pie (and teach math, language arts and life skills)

How to make a pumpkin pie (and teach math, language arts and life skills)

You probably already know I love to cook with children.  Yes, it can be messy.  Yes, it's a challenge to manage everyone when your hands are in batter, or eggs, or... well, nothing at all.  Still, it's a fantastic experience for the kiddos, and can cover a LOT of academics while seeming to be only a prelude to eating.  Cooking is fun!

Cooking, by it's very nature, involves reading (the recipe),
measuring (ingredients),
counting (eggs, spoons of spice),
personal hygiene (hand washing, averting your sneezes),
environmentalism (recycle those empty cans, compost the peelings) 
and self help skills (clean up your messes).
Don't forget cool things like learning to use the can opener,
or watching how a bread machine works.

To take that learning just a little further, we often wrote class experience stories, such as our annual "How To Make a Pumpkin Pie" book.  As we enjoyed our cooking experiences, I would take pictures, and when all was said and done, we'd sit down together as a class and brainstorm all the things we had done.  Everyone would tell me the things they remembered, and I'd write them on a chart, then we'd put them in order from first to last.  I would type up the sequence of events the children had generated, and print photos of each activity along with the words.  Slipping everything into page protectors and then a bradded folder made for a quick and sturdy book.   I always put those books in our classroom library, because it's fun to go back and revisit the experience, and it's fun to look at pictures of you and your friends doing fun things - so the kiddos were motivated to read these class books over and over again.

Another perk to making our class experience books was looking back on previous years, seeing our big brothers and sisters doing the same activities when they were little, or seeing friends who had graduated to "big kid school".

In case you've never made a pumpkin pie before, here's how it's done:

Wash your hands.
How to make a pumpkin pie (and teach math, language arts and life skills)
 Crack two eggs into a bowl.
How to make a pumpkin pie (and teach math, language arts and life skills)
How to make a pumpkin pie (and teach math, language arts and life skills)
Add 3/4 cup sugar, 
How to make a pumpkin pie (and teach math, language arts and life skills) 
1 teaspoon cinnamon, 
How to make a pumpkin pie (and teach math, language arts and life skills)
1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon ginger and 1/4 teaspoon cloves.
How to make a pumpkin pie (and teach math, language arts and life skills)
How to make a pumpkin pie (and teach math, language arts and life skills)
Stir it all up!
How to make a pumpkin pie (and teach math, language arts and life skills)
Add a can of evaporated milk,
How to make a pumpkin pie (and teach math, language arts and life skills)

How to make a pumpkin pie (and teach math, language arts and life skills)

How to make a pumpkin pie (and teach math, language arts and life skills)
...and stir up some more.
How to make a pumpkin pie (and teach math, language arts and life skills)
Add one can of pumpkin, or the equivalent of home made cooked pumpkin if you are an overachiever.
How to make a pumpkin pie (and teach math, language arts and life skills)
While one friend is stirring, other friends hold the bowl steady. We all get turns stirring!
How to make a pumpkin pie (and teach math, language arts and life skills)
When it is really well mixed, pour it into 2 uncooked pie crusts.  The canned pumpkin recipe says to use one deepdish pie crust, but we've always found there to be too much mix to fit.  While the filling is delicious baked in a pyrex bowl without any crust, I liked to use 2 pie shells, so each child had a pie of their own.
How to make a pumpkin pie (and teach math, language arts and life skills)
Bake at 425* for 15 minutes, then reduce temperature to 350* for 40-50 minutes.  Cool on a wire rack, then serve or refrigerate.
How to make a pumpkin pie (and teach math, language arts and life skills)
Each year at Thanksgiving, each child made their own pumpkin pie to take home to their family Thanksgiving feast.  Can you imagine the pride these children felt when their families served food they had made?

Yes, it can be messy.  Yes, it's a challenge to manage everyone when your hands are in batter, or eggs, or... well, nothing at all.

Wishing you a Thanksgiving full of pie, children and laughter!


Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Thankful for the memories


Preserving Thanksgiving memories, with Paula's Preschool and Kindergarten
I'm an imperfect person - aren't we all?! - but I am so grateful for one small thing I definitely did right.  I recorded some of the marvelous things the boys said when they were little, and I am ever so thankful!

For Thanksgiving 2001 I cut out lots and lots of paper leaves, and even added a touch of watercolor paint to them, to record what not only my own children, but also my daycare kiddos, were thankful for.  I thought these leaves would be just right to decorate the Thanksgiving table with, and I still dig them out for the holiday meal.

It's a small thing, but so often the small things turn out to be the big things.  The boys were 2 and 7 years old at the time, and thankful for the cutest things: each other, puzzles and games, playing in the leaves, and "for our army men that died in war saving us."  These faded scraps of construction paper encapsulate my memories of yesteryear, and the innocence of childhood.
Preserving Thanksgiving memories, with Paula's Preschool and Kindergarten
A couple of years later I repeated this project, but used precut foam leaves.  Again, these are treasures beyond measure.
Preserving Thanksgiving memories, with Paula's Preschool and Kindergarten
My (then) 8 year old was thankful for his alarm clock!  Ha!  At 20, I don't think he cares for it in quite the same way... well... for that matter, now he uses his cell phone.  Wow, some things really do change.  My (then) 5 year old has outgrown Zoobooks and markers, but we are all still thankful for friends, food, and Star Wars.  :-)

We are all older, and the things we are thankful for are different, but I'm going to break out this activity again, and this time I'm going to join in and make a note of the things I'm thankful for too.  Family, friends, work that I love, and memories of small boys who have grown into fantastic young men.

Happy Thanksgiving!