Frugal and Playful Learning with Sticks in Preschool!

Young kids love to be outside!  Playing in nature is one of the best ways to encourage healthy development in children.  With a little inspiration, parents can capture the child’s love of nature and promote playful learning with…STICKS!  Gather some sticks in the neighborhood or your own backyard to provide frugal and fun learning opportunities at home!

Playful Learning with Sticks


Sticks are AMAZING to young children!  Children love to use sticks as pretend play props, to dig in the dirt, to toss in the air, and yes, to hold as they run.  Children often hear, “Don’t run with a stick or you’ll poke an eye out!”  While some activities are not as appropriate as others for safety reasons, there are many fascinating activities children can do with sticks!  Invite your children to collect sticks of various shapes and sizes.  Ask your child questions about the sticks and encourage them to share (for example:   Are all the sticks the same?  What is different about each stick?).  Ask the children how the stick feels – is it smooth, rough, or a bumpy stick?  By asking questions, parents can open the doors for increased vocabulary and communication skills.

Playful Learning Activities with Sticks

Stick Rhythms

Keeping a beat and creating rhythm patterns are an important part of growth and development for young kids.  Learning rhythms and patterns will help reinforce the cadence necessary for early reading skills.

Materials needed:  Sticks and an empty oatmeal container or margarine tub.

Help your child break a stick into a size that is easily handled (a piece similar to a short drum stick).  Clap out a pattern and invite your child to “echo” that same pattern by tapping the container with the sticks.  As your child gains confidence in hearing the various patterns, try clapping the syllables in the names of family members.  Your child can then tap back the syllables with sticks on the container.  To practice keeping a beat to music, play your child’s favorite music and invite your child to tap the container along with the rhythm of the song.

Stick Names or Letters

First words and letters are a crucial part of early literacy for children.  Some of the first words that a child will know are the names of family members or their own.  Using sticks to create names will capture the interest of your child and help cement letter concepts in a hands-on way.  Small sticks also work well in creating letters for the sensory name train here (train and engines are free to print).

Name Train Free Printable

Materials needed:  sticks.

Help your child break longer sticks into smaller pieces.   Invite your child to create any letter they know with the stick pieces.  For younger children, make any letter in the child’s name and see if the child can re-create the letter using the sticks.  Older children can practice making their names or other words they know using sticks.  As an extension activity, kids can also try creating letters or their names in dirt or sand by using a stick as a writing tool.

Stick Numbers and Tally Marks

Incorporating early math skills into daily routines is necessary for a good math foundation.  Using sticks to count and create numbers is a fun way for kids to learn as they play.

Materials needed:  sticks.

Again, help your child break longer sticks into manageable pieces.   Invite your children to count various items they see while playing outside (examples:  4 flower petals, 10 leaves, 2 trucks, 5 rocks, etc.).  Have your child create any number with sticks.  For a younger child, an adult (or older child) can create a number with the sticks.  The younger child would then try to re-create (copy) that same number with sticks.  Older children can create numbers independently.

It is also fun to make tally marks with sticks and introduce basic counting in sets of five.  Invite your child to place four sticks close together on the ground or a table.  Count each stick out loud as they are laid side-by-side.  The fifth stick then goes diagonally across all four sticks to create one set of five (see photo above).    As your child gains confidence in creating the tally mark set of five, other sets can be made to encourage counting by 5’s (see here to print a tally mark rhyme to chant as your child discovers counting with sticks).

Exploring playful learning in nature offers powerful opportunities for children.  With just a little creativity and imagination, parents can enhance natural play and provide playful learning activities right at home.  

If you missed the first post in the nature series on Playing to Learn with ROCKS, you can see it here!  Next week, we’ll be sharing playful learning in nature with LEAVES.  Be sure to check back or subscribe to the blog on the right!


Your kids might also enjoy creating a stick family – “We are FAMILY – we always STICK together!”

Posted in Earth Day Activities, Fine Motor Skills for Tiny Fingers, Outdoor Play Activities, Preschool and Kindergarten Skills, Trees and Leaves Theme | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Playing to Learn with ROCKS in Preschool!



Young kids love to be outside! Playing in nature is one of the best ways to encourage healthy development in preschoolers. With a little inspiration, parents and teachers can capture the child’s love of nature and promote playful learning with items commonly found in their own backyard or neighborhood. Gather some rocks, leaves, sticks, and a few simple materials for playing to learn this spring at home or in the classroom!  This post is part one of our 3-part nature series:  PLAYFUL LEARNING with ROCKS.

Nature Crafted Dominoes Collage


Rock dominoes are easy learning crafts to create with kids! The domino crafts below will enhance color recognition and basic counting skills as the children play.

Rainbow Rock Dominoes

Materials needed: Rocks, Tempera Paint (assorted colors), Paintbrushes, Paper Plates or Paint Cups, and old T-Shirts (or paint smocks) to protect clothing.

Rainbow dominoes are simple nature crafts for kids to create. Assemble all the supplies as an invitation to play! The children can paint both ends of a rock the same or different colors. As the children paint, allow time for discussions of colors and color choices. The painted rocks need to dry thoroughly before playing the domino color matching game below.

To play a domino game: Set all of the colorful rock dominoes out on a table or the ground. One child must choose a domino to begin and then lay that domino on the ground or table. Play then passes to another player who must lay a domino with one matching colored end next to the domino already in place. The game continues until all rainbow dominoes have been used or until no dominoes can be matched to those that have been played. The game can also be played as a single player game.

Classic Rock Dominoes

Materials needed: Rocks and Markers or Chalk.

Invite the children to draw a line down the middle of several rocks with the markers. On each side of the midlines, have the children make dots that correspond to the numbers 1-6 (see photo above). The children can then play a domino game by matching the number of dots on one domino end to the corresponding number of dots on one end of another domino.

The classic rock dominoes will help incorporate early counting and number skills into everyday play!

The rainbow dominoes are not only fun to make, but are great for introducing colors and color matching activities.

Playing to Learn with Rocks in Preschool

Other suggestions for playful learning with rocks:

  • Story Stones – encourage the children to use markers to draw on the rocks. When the children are finished, have the children share what they created. Older children may wish to draw on several rocks to sequence the events of a created story. Extension: use clip art or old magazine pictures and glue to the rocks. Have the children look at the picture (or pictures) and tell a story about what the picture is about.
  • Rock Letters and Beginning Letter Sounds – Create a rock alphabet by labeling rocks with letters of the alphabet (Note: markers or chalk work well for labeling).   Younger children might match a lowercase labeled rock to an uppercase labeled rock or begin to learn the sounds associated with each letter.   Older children can create beginning words with the lettered rocks.
  • Sorting and Ordering Rocks – Invite the children to collect rocks of various sizes, shapes, and colors. See if the children can sort the rocks in groups by color, shape, size, texture, or weight. The children might also order the rocks from the smallest to largest or from lightest to heaviest.

For MORE great spring learning, see the Spring and Spring Weather Theme designed just for preschoolers!

You might also enjoy activities for playful learning with STICKS!  Gather some sticks in your own neighborhood and play to learn with us!





Posted in Literacy, Math, Outdoor Play Activities, PreK, Preschool and Kindergarten Skills | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Healthy Food Habits in Preschool: Sorting and a Paper Plate Project

This week the #PlayfulPreschool Team is offering thematic activities centered around HEALTHY HABITS in preschool!  Encouraging preschoolers to develop good food choices will help build a foundation for a lifetime of sensible eating.  We hope your own children will enjoy the healthy foods activities to encourage good habits at school and at home!

Healthy Habits with Foods in PreschoolHealthy Food Habits for Preschoolers!

Teaching kids to make good food choices isn’t always easy! Today, we have more processed and sugar laden foods than ever before.  Teaching kids about good food choices and allowing them some input into menu planning will help “plant the seeds” for a future of sensible eating habits.

Families with young children are busy and need a simple plan for encouraging healthy eating and menu planning. The old food pyramid (and measuring foods to ensure healthy nutrition) isn’t practical in daily application. A better way to encourage kids to choose the right kind of foods is found in Choose My Plate. Choose My Plate provides a visual to get kids thinking about what foods should be eaten and how a healthy meal plate should look.

Choose My PlateThere are 5 Main Food Groups:

  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Grains – rice/pasta/whole grain cereals and breads
  • Dairy – milk, yogurt, and cheese
  • Proteins – leans meats, seafood, poultry, eggs, beans, and for simplification, I’ll add nuts/seeds and nut butters (almond, cashew, peanut) in this group.

Oils should be limited to healthy oils and used in moderation. Sweets are an occasional treat that can be enjoyed SOMETIMES, but not excessively.

Choose My Plate Paper Plate Learning Craft for Preschool – Discussion and Paper Plate Craft Labels

Materials needed: one paper plate per child/craft, old magazines with photos of various foods, glue sticks, markers or crayons, yarn or string, hole punch, and the printable labels –one set for discussions and one set of labels for each child’s paper plate craft (linked above).

Healthy Food Sorting Game for PreschoolPrior to creating the craft: Print the labels and laminate for durability if desired.  Cut out the labels and arrange on a table or the floor. Discuss with the children what kinds of foods belong in each of the 5 food groups. Invite the children to tear or cut various pictures from old magazines and discuss what food groups the pictures should go under.

Randomly mix the magazine pictures and invite the children to sort the photos into the food groups independently.  Come together after sorting to discuss which food pictures the children chose to place under each of the food group categories.

Give each child a paper plate and invite them to draw a line down the middle of the plate (vertically). Assist the children in drawing the dividing lines for the fruit/vegetable half of the plate and then the grains/protein half (as shown in the CHOOSE MY PLATE photo above).

Choose My Plate Paper Plate Craft for PreschoolInvite the children to gather photos of foods that correspond to each of the categories on the paper plate and then glue the pictures into each of the 4 sections.   Remind children that drinking milk with meals or having cheese/yogurt at snack time is a great way to fulfill the dairy needs for their growing bodies.

To finish the paper plate craft, have the children punch two holes near the bottom of the paper plate.  Thread yarn through the holes in the plate.  Invite the children to pick a picture of one sweet and one fat/oil to add to their craft.  Hole punch the magazine pictures and hang from the plate.  Remind the children that fats/oils/sweets can be eaten sometimes, but not excessively.

MY MENU – Good Foods for Preschool Menu Activity

Choose My Plate and Menu Activity for PreschoolExtension Activity:  Encourage kids to think about the food groups on the plate in the paper plate craft. What foods would they like on their own menu?  Print the menu (linked above) and invite the children to consider what foods from each of the food groups they want to eat.  Younger children can glue pictures of foods on the lines of the menu; older children may wish to write or stamp words or beginning letters for the foods/food groups they choose on the lines provided.

There are 4 lines on the printable menu for each of the 4 food groups on the paper plate craft: Fruits, Vegetables, Grains, and Lean Meats.  Again, remind kids that the DAIRY requirement can be met by drinking milk with meals or by having yogurt/cheese at snack times.

Hang the menus and paper plate crafts in the kitchen or in the classroom to encourage healthy eating habits daily!

Be sure to visit the wonderful activities and suggestions below for MORE ways to inspire preschoolers to develop HEALTHY HABITS!

Teaching Children About Feelings Vs. Behavior by Capri + 3
Letter Match Tooth Cleaning Game by Rainy Day Mumm
Brushing Teeth Song by Growing Book by Book
Elephants Toothpaste by Learning 2 Walk
Nutrition: Sorting and Categorizing Food by Mom Inspired Life
Asthma Action Plan by Tiny Tots Adventures
Hand Washing Sequencing and Song by The Educators’ Spin On It


Posted in Fruits and Vegetables Theme Activities, Picky Eaters, PreK | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

Nuts and Seeds Theme: Listening Games with Sensory Sound Shakers for #PlayfulPreschool


Nuts and Seeds Sound Shakers

Each Wednesday throughout the school year, we will continue offering learning activities along with the brilliant #playfulpreschool blogging team.  This week’s activities are centered around a Nuts and Seeds Theme for Preschool.  If you have missed the previous theme-based activities, they are linked for your convenience below.  Also, please take a moment and visit links to additional Nuts and Seeds Theme resources from the Playful Preschool Team for learning inspiration at home or in the classroom!

Discriminating Sounds with Nuts and Seeds in Preschool

The Sense of Hearing (Sound)

The Sense of Hearing  is powerful learning for preschoolers!  In order for the children to explore sounds, they must be able to locate the primary body parts that provide sensory sound information: the EARS!

Introductory (Circle Time) Games:

  • Mirror Play – Invite the children to look for their own ears in a mirror.  Note: hand held mirrors are durable, but supervision is necessary with young children if using real glass. The children can also partner with an adult or siblings/peers and use magnifying glasses for discoveries of other body parts that provide sensory information. Children will think it’s silly to look at each other, but they are gaining important information!

Sensory Mirror Discoveries

  • Listening Chant – Invite the children to LISTEN by saying:  “Close your eyes (NO PEEKING!) and open your ears, listen carefully to the sounds you can hear!”  Some of the children will want to make sounds instead of listening.  Remind the children that the goal is to listen for sounds coming from the environment, not the sounds they can make.  It takes a little practice, but the children will love playing this game.  After a few seconds of listening, have the children open their eyes and share what sounds they heard.  The listening game can be played indoors or outside (weather permitting).
  •  Loud/Soft Sounds – Brainstorm with the children places where LOUD voices would be appropriate or where SOFTER voices should be used.   Chart the answers the children give and add to the list as the children become familiar with loud and soft sounds.

Nuts and Seeds Cracking and SortingNuts and Seeds Sensory Sound Shakers

Materials needed:  assorted seeds or nuts, any container (we used glass salt/pepper shakers, but cardboard tubes sealed with waxed paper and a rubber bank will work great, too).

Note:  when making sound shakers with children who still put objects in their mouths, supervise closely.  Seeds and nuts are a choking hazard.  Please also note any children who have allergies, especially peanut/nut allergies.

Prior to the sound activities we incorporated cross-over lessons by inviting the kids to shell or crack some of the varieties of nuts as part of our practical life center.  Set the nuts and seeds out on a table or a tray and demonstrate for the children how to crack the shell of the nut open with a nut cracker. Most preschoolers will need to use both hands with a nut cracker or their hands/fingers to crack or open the shell.   Nut cracking is a wonderful fine motor challenge for preschoolers!  Note – leave some of the nuts/seeds in the shell to create a range of sounds for for the children to hear.

To make the Sound Shakers:  for additional fine motor practice, set out various transfer tools that the children can use to move the seeds/nuts from a tray into the various sound containers (ex:  spoon/melon scoop/tweezers/chop sticks/small tongs).  Each container should only be filled half-way with nuts or seeds.

Nuts and Seeds Sensory Sound Shakers 011

Sensory Sound Shakers with Nuts and Seeds

Sound Games to Try With Preschoolers

  1. Begin with just two of the sound shakers.  Hold a hand towel over the sound shakers (one at a time) with one hand and shake the container with the other hand.  See if the children can determine what KIND of seed/nut is placed inside the shaker using only their sense of hearing.
  2. One at a time, invite the children to shake the containers to determine which container makes the LOUDEST or SOFTEST sound.  With younger children, limit the number of shakers until they gain confidence discriminating between the sounds.
  3. Make matching sound shakers and have the children locate the matching seed/nut containers by listening to the sound the container makes.  Note:  this activity works best using the cardboard tubes to hold the seeds/nuts as the children cannot SEE what is inside the container.  The children then can only rely on listening skills to match the shakers.
  4. Invite the children to order the sound shakers from the softest to loudest (or loudest to softest) sounds (see below).
Nuts and Seed Sound Shakers and Listening Games for Preschool

Ordering the Sound Shakers from LOUDEST to SOFTEST

Come together after exploring the sound shakers for discussions about the sound discoveries.  Some examples of questions to explore with the children:   What seeds/nuts created the louder sounds?  Did the shells on the nuts/seeds make a difference in the sound?  Did the louder sounds bother any of the children? Sometimes loud sounds (sirens, thunder, workplace machinery), when heard repeatedly, can cause stress and anxiety for children, teachers, and parents.   Softer sounds are usually more pleasant to hear for longer periods of time.

Playing with different sounds is not only fun for preschoolers, but it provides great opportunities for important sensory learning!  For more playful learning with all 5 Senses, see the 5 Senses Thematic Unit here on the blog!

We gave our FB group a “sneak peak” of this activity and while they didn’t quite guess how the containers were used, many offered great extension activities for the nuts/seeds.  Come join us and learn from other professionals in ECE on Facebook.

Plan Your Nut and Seeds Learning Week With Activities from the #PlayfulPreschool Team

Colorful Pumpkin Seed Names by Fun-A-Day
Nuts to You!: Squirrel Feeder by Mom Inspired Life
Number Word Punch: Counting Nuts by Tiny Tots Adventures
Turkey Patterns with Pistashio Shells by Still Playing School
Seed and Letter Sensory Bin by Growing Book by Book
Growing Seeds by Learning 2 Walk
Exploring Chia Seeds by Powerful Mothering
Nutty Science–A Lesson in Buoyancy by Capri + 3
3 Fun Activities with Seeds for Preschoolers by Life Over C’s
Easy Sight Word Acorn Game by The Educators’ Spin On It

All Playful Preschool Themes





Posted in 5 Senses Theme Activities, Fall Theme Activities, PreK, Trees and Leaves Theme | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 20 Comments

The Senses of Sight and Sound: Upcycling Crafts and Lessons for Conservation Awareness

In order to get our kids thinking about conservation this spring, we will combine some of our sensory lessons with conservation awareness.  The activities/lesson plan suggestions below will offer opportunities for hands-on play with the senses of Sight and Sound.  Through play and experimentation, the children will gain an awareness of conservation and how their own senses provide important information about the world they live in.

Introduction to the Senses of Sight and Sound

In order for children to explore the senses of Sight and Sound, they must be able to locate the two body parts that provide sensory information: the EARS and EYES.
Circle time:  Pass a hand mirror around the circle of children. Invite the children to look for their own eyes and ears in the mirror.   Note: hand held mirrors are durable, but supervision is necessary with young children. The children can also partner with peers and use magnifying glasses for discoveries (the children will think it’s funny to look at each other through magnifying glasses, but they are gaining important information about themselves and others).

Riddle and Chant:  After passing the mirrors around the circle, introduce the following riddles to the children. 1. When I looked in the mirror, I spied two things – one on each side of my nose; they help me see all things! (What are they? – EYES). 2. When I looked in the mirror, I spied two things – one on each side of my face, they help me hear all things! (What are they? – EARS).


The Sense of Sight and Conservation
Discuss the word UPCYCLE with the children – when we upcycle, we use materials that would otherwise be thrown away to make something new and useful.  Brainstorm with the children items that are often thrown away as trash, but might have another purpose if upcycled and re-used. Some suggestions might include:  juice cans might become pencil holders, plastic bottles can be upcycled into rain gauges, juice boxes make great play cameras, or bubble wrap can be made into a great painting tool.
In the activity below, the children will create binoculars from upcycled cardboard tubes. Parents are often willing to save cardboard tubes and send them to class for the activity below.

Cardboard Tube Binoculars 001

Upcycled Cardboard Tube Binoculars

Materials needed:  Two cardboard tubes per student (or one paper towel roll cut into thirds), any decorating materials desired (suggestions:  markers, crayons, scrap paper, tissue paper, construction paper, or paint), glue sticks or poster putty (to adhere items), hole punch, tape (to hold the two cardboard tubes together), and a piece of string, Super Wikki Stix, or yarn for the “strap” of the binoculars.

Invite the children to create by assembling all supplies necessary on a table or at a center.  Have the children decorate two cardboard tubes in any manner desired.  The two decorated tubes should be taped together in the center.  Hole punch the outside of each tube and thread a piece of string or yarn through the holes (to resemble the strap of the binoculars) and tie the ends to the holes (younger children will require assistance in tying the string).

If the weather permits, take the children outside on a scavenger hunt with their binoculars to look for discarded items that might be re-purposed.  The children might also play “I-SPY” with their binoculars for other items commonly found on a nature walk.  Kids that are encouraged to participate and play in nature will often develop a sense of responsibility toward the environment.

What can your children find with their upcycled binoculars?

What can your children find with their upcycled binoculars?

Nature Walk Scavenger Hunt – Nature Walk Items

Ask the children to remember some of the items they see with their binoculars while on the walk outside.  Print the Nature Walk Items sheet (linked above) and have the children use crayons or markers to circle the items they found with their binoculars.

*Note – the second page of the recording sheet file is intentionally left blank.  Brainstorm items that the children might find on the nature walk that could be upcycled (ex:  papers, plastics, Styrofoam, sticks, grocery bags, cans, etc.).  Have the children cut pictures of items that can be re-purposed out of old magazines to glue in each of the blank squares.  Take a walk outside with the created binoculars to see how many of the items the children can find.

Children that are taught early to recycle, upcycle, and re-purpose items gain an awareness of the importance of conserving materials and resources.

The Sense of Hearing and Conservation

The Sense of Hearing is powerful for children.  Encouraging the children to gain an awareness of different sounds, including the sound of their own voice, will help
“plants the seeds” for discussions on hearing conservation.

Circle Time Suggestions:

1.  To invite the children to LISTEN, say the following:  “Close your eyes and open your ears, listen carefully to the sounds you can hear!”  Some of the children will want to make sounds instead of listening.  Remind the children that the goal is to listen for sounds coming from the environment, not the sounds they can make.  It takes a little practice, but the children will love playing this game.  After a few seconds of listening, have the children open their eyes and share what sounds they heard.  The listening game can be played indoors or outside (weather permitting).

2.  Many young children are not aware of how their own voices sound.  Use a digital voice recorder or video the children saying a few words one by one.  Play the sounds back for the children and ask if the children can identify WHO is talking just by hearing the voices.  Can the children identify their OWN voice?

3.  Brainstorm with the children places where LOUD voices would be appropriate or where SOFTER voices should be used.   Chart the answers the children give and add to the list as they think of more ideas.

Upcycled Sound Shakers

 Upcycled Cardboard Tube Sound Shakers

Materials needed:  Cardboard tubes, waxed paper (cut into squares to seal the ends of the tubes), rubber bands, and assorted manipulatives (examples:  beans, rice, Unifix cubes, small bells, small seashells, paper clips, or pony beads).  Note:  when making sound shakers with children who still put objects in their mouths, supervise closely.  Small manipulatives can be a choking hazard.

Place waxed paper over one end of several cardboard tubes and adhere with rubber bands.  Have the children fill the tubes with each of the chosen items.  When filled, close the cardboard tube by placing waxed paper and a rubber band over the open end.

Sound Games:

1.  Begin with just two of the cardboard tube sound shakers.  Have the children shake one of the tubes and try to determine what item is placed inside the tube using only their sense of hearing.

2.  One at a time, invite the children to shake the tubes to determine which tube makes the LOUDEST or SOFTEST sound.

3.  Make similar tubes and have the children try to locate the matching pairs of tubes by listening to the sounds of the tubes.

4.  Ask the children to order the tubes from the softest to the loudest sound.

Come together after exploring the sound tubes for discussions:  Which of the sound tubes are more pleasant to hear than the others?  Do the louder sound tubes bother any of the children?  Remind the children that very loud sounds can damage the sense of hearing.  Some sounds, when heard repeatedly, can create stress or anxiety in adults, animals, and children.

By offering opportunities to gain an awareness of conservation through sensory explorations and play, teachers and parents can help “plant the seeds” of environmental care and responsibility in our youngest children.



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Wet Chalk Kite Crafts and Learning Games for Young Kids!

The wet chalk kite crafts are a fun activity to do indoors or outside this spring.  The kites make a great craft to display, but the bow activities will also enhance early math and literacy skills.   

Wet Chalk Kites

Materials needed:  One square piece of paper for each child, chalk (drawing chalk works best for this activity, but sidewalk chalk can be used), any color of Wikki Stix, and small cups (for water).

Have the children use the Wikki Stix to make any design desired on the white paper (see photo above).  The children should choose several colors of chalk to use on each of the sections of the kite.

The children can then dip the chalk into the cups of water (the water will make the colors brilliant).   The children can color each of the sections as desired.  The Wikki Stix will keep each colored section of the kites separated.

When finished coloring each section, the children can remove the Wikki Stix and allow the kites to thoroughly dry.

When the chalk kites have dried, the children can make kite strings by attaching a long strand of Wikki Stix to the bottom of the kite.

Learning Activities to Accompany the Kite Crafts

Bows Template – Kite Bow Template

The Kite Bows file (linked above) can be used in many ways to enhance learning with young children when combined with the wet chalk kite crafts above.

HINT:  Laminate the kites after drying and use a dry erase marker for some of the learning game suggestions below.  The bows can also be laminated for use with the different games, too.

CVC Words – print the bows file and label each bow with  different vowels.  Label one of the kites with two letters (for ex:  C _ t).  The children must then find a bow that could be used to make a word.  In this example, the children would find a bow labeled with the letter “a” to make the word Cat.  **The bows will adhere to the Wikki Stix kite “string” so no glue will be necessary.

Sight Words – label the kites and bows with any sight words the children have had introduced.  Place all the bows face down on a table or the floor and have the children find the bows that match the words on each of the kites.  We have also used the kites for word families (see -ar word family kite pictured below).

Names – have the children write or stamp the bows with the letters that make up their names.

Patterning – label each of the kites with a pattern the children have had introduced:  AB, ABC, AABB, etc.  The children can then use the different colors of bows to create patterns on the Wikki Stix kite strings.

Numbers – label the kites with different numbers the children are working on.  The children must place the number of bows on the kite string that corresponds to the number on the kite.  Addition/Subtraction:  label the kites with a simple addition or subtraction problem.  The bows should be labeled with the sum to the problem.

Letter Recognition:  label the kites with an uppercase letter(s) and the bows with a lowercase letter(s).  The children must find the matching letters and place them on the kite string.

Color Recognition:  print two copies of the bows and place 2 or 3 colored bows on one of the kites.  The children must find the matching colored bows and place them on the kite string.  For older children, label the kites with a color WORD and have the children place the corresponding bow on the kite string.

Additional Crafting – the kite bow file also contains an additional paper bow template.  Our older kids used the template with Wikki Stix to make paper bows.

We hope your kids enjoy the kite craft and the kite bow extension games this spring!  If you have additional suggestions for games, please leave us a comment below to share with others!

For MORE Spring Theme Activities for Preschool and Kindergarten, we have ready- made theme activities to download and print here on the blog!






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Math Games for Preschool and Kindergarten: Greater Than, Tally Mark Rhyme, and More!

Spring Counting Game at Abc Teach

We’ve spent the last week collaborating with our friends at Abc Teach to bring you fun ideas, learning centers, and games for Math  games at home or in the classroom.  

According to a study by David Geary, Curators Professor of Psychological Sciences at the University of Missouri, “Once students fall behind, it’s almost impossible to get them back on track. We wanted to identify the beginning of school knowledge needed to learn math over the next five years. We found that understanding numbers and quantity is a necessary foundation for success as the student progresses to more complex math topics. In order to improve basic instruction, we have to know what to instruct. These are the factors that make a difference in the first-grade above and beyond intelligence and other abilities.”

We hope that some of the suggestions below will assist you in selecting activities for your children that will build basic math foundations for a lifetime of successful learning!

Greater Than or Less Than? – Great than or Less than

The greater than or less than game is a fun way for children to identify whether one group of objects is greater than or less than the number of objects in another group.

Materials needed:  One game file (linked above) per student, one die, any counters (we used chicks just because we found them on sale after Easter), and Wikki Stix.

Print the game file for each child.  Have the children roll a die and count the number of dots.  The children should then place the corresponding number of counters in the first box on the game page.  The die should be rolled a second time to determine the number of counters to place in the second box.  For larger numbers, more dice can be rolled.

As the children look at each of the two boxes of counters, they must determine if the first box of counters is GREATER than or LESS than the second box.  For younger children, play the game with an adult the first few times.  HINT:  it is helpful for the children to make tally marks with the Wikki Stix to determine if the first box has more counters or less counters than the second box (see photo above).

The children can then form a greater than > or less than < sign from the Wikki Stix and place it between the two boxes of counters.

Helping preschoolers and kindergartners understand that there are relationships between numbers and specific quantities will assist them in forming important math connections!

The Tally Mark Rhyme – The Tally Mark Rhyme

Teaching with rhyme is a powerful learning tool for young kids! Combining rhyme with a hands-on sensory tool will help cement the tally mark concept for years to come.

Materials needed:  One tally marks rhyme file (linked above) for each student, scissors, and assorted Wikki Stix.

Print The Tally Mark Rhyme for each of your children.  Say the rhyme and demonstrate for the children how to make a set of tally marks.  Practice the rhyme with your children as they make their own tally marks.  The Wikki Stix are easily cut into pieces with safety scissors, but younger children will need assistance.

Tally Marks are a fun way for children to practice counting up by ones and skip counting by 5’s.

Wikki Stix Kites for One-to-One Correspondence

Our math post at Abcteach offers many activities and games that will help introduce basic math concepts to young children:

  • Creating 10 bars with Wikki Stix and Pony Beads
  • Kites Roll, Count, and Color Free Printable
  • +1 or -1 Game for Young Children
  • Skip Counting Suggestions
  • Odd/Even Recognition

We hope your children will enjoy learning and playing with math.   By offering early math “stepping stones,” our children will have the opportunities for future success!

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St. Patrick’s Day Play, Crafts, and Science for Kids!

If you are looking for PLAY suggestions for St. Patrick’s Day, please take some time to explore the links below.  Our many thanks go out to the awesome bloggers who were willingly to share their own activities…with you!

From Parent Teach Play - “St. Patrick’s Day will be here before you know it!  While it’s sort of a “little” holiday in the grand scheme of things, it’s one of my absolute favorites to celebrate with the kids!!  It might have something to do with my affinity for rainbows…To help you prepare this year, here’s a round-up of some great St. Patrick’s Day activities for kids, with a heavy dose of rainbows!”

This is one of the most comprehensive collections of St. Patrick’s Day Activities we’ve seen. Please take a look to find great activities for the classroom or at home!


Hunting for Treasure Sensory Bins – Growing a Jeweled Rose

Hunting for Treasures is a wonderful post for toddlers and preschoolers.  Please click the picture or the link above to see how you can design a treasure hunt for sensory play at home or in the classroom!

Shamrock Sprouts, Credit Card Art, Shamrock Crystals and MORE – Housing a Forest

This is a great science activity for St. Patrick’s Day.  Click the link or picture above to see instructions for creativity and PLAY on St. Patrick’s Day!

Extend St. Patrick’s Day Fun to week long PLAY with Leprechaun Letters from Fun at Home with Kids

We love the Leprechaun Letters; your kids will, too!  Click the link or picture for more details!  Additional suggestions from Fun at Home with Kids can be found at:   Rainbow Scavenger Hunt and Rainbow Discovery Bottles or Rainbow Spaghetti Sensory Play for Infants/Toddlers!

Rainbow Craft for Toddlers and Preschool from Leah Inspired – this is a simple craft, but will help tiny fingers gain small muscle control!  Sometimes the best in PLAY, comes in simple packages!

Click the link or picture above to find inspiring suggestions for play!

This is one of our favorite Irish Blessings!  Check out the Falala website  for a little history on St. Patrick!  May YOU and YOURS have a FUN-FILLED and BLESSED St. Patrick’s Day!

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Spring and the 5 Senses: Activities for Preschool!

Spring is a magical time for kids!  After the winter, everything begins anew!  Take your kids outside and watch for signs of Spring’s arrival.  Observations over the course of only a week can provide the children with great fun and many learning experiences about Spring and the 5 senses!

Spring Nature Walks – Nature Walk Record Sheet 

Materials needed: 1 nature walk record sheet.pdf per child, 1 clipboard per child, crayons or markers. Take your students outside on a nature walk so they can use their sense of sight to find and record the items listed on the worksheet. As each child finds one of the items, they can circle or cross off the item from their list. When you return back home or to the classroom, discuss the things the children found (compare and contrast the items that each of the children found.) One child may not have seen a tree, but others may have.  See if the children can recall what kind of items they found. For example, one child may have crossed off the vehicle after seeing a blue car. Another child may have seen a red van. This activity can lead to a large follow-up discussion.

Extension: Depending on the season and your location, your students might be able to find different items or objects. Use the blank record sheet to write, draw, or glue pictures from magazines of things you want your students to find.

What can your children HEAR?  Have the children close their eyes and try to determine what they hear when outside on nature walks!  Turn up your speakers and close your eyes…listen carefully, what do you hear in the video clip below?

Rain Sticks

Set out an assortment of beans, rice, and small items in containers. Ask parents for assistance in gathering enough toilet paper rolls or paper towel rolls for each child to make a rain stick. Have the children decorate the tubes with markers, crayons, fabric strips, collage materials, etc. (seal one end of the toilet paper roll with wax paper (doubled-over for strength) and a rubber band prior to setting out for the children.) Have the children fill or spoon beans, rice, and/or small items (beads, shells, etc.) into the tubes until they are approximately two-thirds full. When done filling the tubes, help the children seal the final end of the tube with wax paper (again, doubled-over) and a rubber band.

Extension idea: Have the children bring the rain sticks to circle/carpet time and listen for the different sounds they make. Is one rain stick softer or louder than the others? Do they really sound like rain or something else?

Have the children gather several items in a bag.  Bring the items inside to help the children explore the items with their sense of touch.  What do the items FEEL like?  Help the children brainstorm words that describe what they are feeling.  Are the items rough, smooth, bumpy, scratchy, itchy, soft, hard, scaly, etc.?  Glue the different items on a poster board and write the descriptive words underneath each of the items found.

What do your children SMELL on the nature walks?  Again, have the children close their eyes and use their sense of smell to find things in nature.  Collect a variety of items to have the children smell (some suggestions:  tree bark, grass, flowers, berries).  Go outside after a spring rain and ask the children to describe what they smell.  Brainstorm words that describe different smells – fresh, musty, moldy, woodsy, etc.

Make a Spring Senses Sensory Bin where the children can explore items from your nature walks.  Set out magnifying glasses, tweezers, rocks, twigs, paper or real flowers, dirt, different textured ribbons, and grasses in a large bin or drawer.  Let the children explore different items using their senses of touch, smell, sight, and hearing.  *Watch for children with seasonal or other allergies as tree bark, flowers, and grasses (among other items in nature) can make allergies worsen.

Umbrella Snacks for Spring

Set out apple slices, banana slices, chocolate chips, miniature marshmallows, and cheese sticks for the children.  Post a picture of an umbrella and have the children try to use the snack materials to make an umbrella.  Have the children describe the TASTE of their umbrellas (are they crunchy, sweet, sour, bitter, etc.)  It is a fun activity for snack time and the children will amaze you with their creations!

For More Activities for Spring and Spring Weather, see the Spring Weather Theme here on the blog!


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St. Patrick’s Day Mini Theme for Kids (Part 3)!

 This is our last St. Patrick’s Day Mini Theme Post – we hope you have enjoyed some of the activities and will share them with your children in March.  If you have missed the previous two posts, please look under the St. Patrick’s Day Category to find more activity suggestions.

St. Patrick’s Day Patterning – St Patricks Day Patterning

Materials needed:  One Patterning file (linked above) for each child, scissors, and glue sticks.

Print the patterning file for each of your children.  On the first page, the pattern is started for the children.  The children should cut out the three pictures at the bottom of the first page and decide where it should be placed to complete the patterning boxes.  Have the children glue the pictures into the appropriate boxes.  Page two of the file has pictures and blank patterning boxes for the children to experiment and play with different or more complex patterns.

St. Patrick’s Day Scavenger Hunt

Tell the children they are going on a classroom (or house) color hunt for GREEN items.  Give the children bags to collect their “treasures” in.  Allow ample time for searching (assist younger children who may not know their colors) before calling the children back to the rug or carpet area.  Have the children pick one or two items from their bags to share with the rest of the class.  After sharing, have the children place all their items into a bucket or bin for observations and sensory explorations.   *We set out different green counters, beads, blocks, etc. in the classroom for the children to find before our scavenger hunt started.   After sharing and placing all the items on a tray, the children found that we had many duplicate items.  They began designing patterns on their own!

Mini Pretzel Shamrock Pops

Materials needed:  Mini Pretzels, white chocolate bark (almond bark), green food coloring, green sugar decorations, waxed paper, craft sticks (to turn the pretzels), and lollipop sticks.

Melt the almond bark according to package directions.  Add drops of green food coloring and stir until the desired color is reached.  Dip the pretzels, one at a time, into the melted coating. The children can use craft sticks to turn the pretzels in the coating.  Transfer the dipped pretzels to waxed paper.  Arrange the pretzels to form a shamrock (slightly overlap so the melted bark will act as glue.)  Dip one end of the lollipop stick into the melted bark and place in the center of the pretzels.  Decorate with green sugar before the coating is dried.  Allow the pops to set thoroughly before removing from the waxed paper.

We hope you have a blessed month of March!

May the road rise to meet you,
May the wind be always at your back,
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
The rains fall soft upon your fields and,
Until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand.

~Traditional Irish Blessing

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St. Patrick’s Day Mini Theme for Kids (Part 2)

 If you have not had a chance to view (Part 1) of the St. Patrick’s Day Mini Theme, you can visit it here.

Literacy – Shamrock -AT Words – -AT Shamrocks 

Materials needed:  Clothespins, a basket to hold the clothespins, one -AT Shamrock file (linked above) for each child, and a permanent marker.

Print the file (linked above) onto heavy paper for each of your students (laminate the shamrocks for durability, if desired.)  Read each of the words to your children.  Remind the children that the words belong to the same word family (the -at family) and that they are rhyming words.  Once the children adapt to changing the BEGINNING letter sound, word families are FUN!

We sing “made up” silly songs to get the children into the habit of changing the beginning letter to form new rhyming words (ex: to the tune of “Farmer in the Dell” – “The Rat Sat on the Mat, The Rat Sat on the Mat, Hi, Ho, the Dairy O, The Rat Sat on the Mat!”)

Have the children look through the basket to find the matching clothespins for the letters on their shamrocks.  Once the clothespins are clipped to the shamrock cards, the children can practice writing each of the letters (or only the BEGINNING letter) onto a separate sheet of paper or index cards. *There are BLANK shamrocks at the end of the file for use with any other word families or sight words your children may be working on.

-AT Shamrocks and Clothespin Letters

Extension:  The  Shamrock  Game

Print several copies of the -AT words cards and cut apart.  Keep the word cards in a pile for the children to choose from.

Have the children form a circle.  The game is played similar to “Drop the Hanky.”  Choose one child to be IT and have that child pick one -AT shamrock card from the pile.  The “it” child walks around the outside of the circle carrying one shamrock -AT word card (picked from the pile).  When ready (we make a limit of TWO times around the circle), the “it” child must drop the shamrock behind the back of another child.  Both children then run around the circle to claim the empty spot.  If the first child to claim the empty spot reads the the dropped -AT word card correctly (younger children can try to name only the BEGINNING letter/sound), he/she gets to keep the card.  If not, the card is returned to the bottom of the word card pile.  The child still standing, must then choose another child to be “IT” and take that spot in the circle.  

Play continues until each child has had a turn to be tapped or be IT.  At the end of the game, count the number of shamrocks held by all the children in the circle.  The next time the game is played, see if the group can BEAT the total number of cards they “earned” from the time before.

Fingerprint Rainbows 

Fingerprint Rainbow and Pot of Gold Art Craft

Materials needed:  Tempera paints (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet), white cardstock, black construction paper, glue sticks, scissors, and small gold (pretend) coins.

Let the children use the tempera paints to fingerprint each of the colors into a rainbow. Allow the fingerprints dry thoroughly before adding the pot and coins.  Have the children tear or cut the black paper into a shape to resemble the pot.  Glue the black pot near the bottom of the rainbow.  The children can use glue, tape, or poster putty to put the coins on top of the black pot.

Visit our blog again this week as we will continue to post activities for the St. Patrick’s Day Mini Theme for Kids!

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St. Patrick’s Day Mini Theme for Kids (Part 1)!

Our next few posts will contain the contents for a St. Patrick’s Day “Mini Thematic Unit” for Preschool and Kindergarten.  Celebrating St. Patrick’s Day with young children can be a lot of FUN!  Remember to keep facts simple, but do not underestimate the power that little “seeds of knowledge” have for younger children.  We only discuss St. Patrick with our preschoolers once a year, but many children will remember discussions, activities, and songs for many years to come!

Simple History of St. Patrick

Saint Patrick went to Ireland to help teach the people about Christianity.   St. Patrick used the shamrock (have a paper shamrock to show the children) as a symbol of the Trinity (God, the Father; God, the Son; and God, the Holy Spirit).  March 17th is the day St. Patrick died and the day we celebrate his life and Ireland.

Mini Theme Suggested Activities:

I’m Looking Over a Four-Leaf Clover by Art Mooney  (words by Mort Dixon, music by Harry Woods, 1927)

I’m looking over a four-leaf clover,

That I overlooked before.

One leaf is sunshine, the second is rain,

Third is the roses that grow in the lane.

No need explaining, the one remaining,

Is somebody I adore,

I’m looking over a four-leaf clover,

That I overlooked before.

St. Patrick’s Day Sensory Bins

 St. Patrick’s Day Sensory Bins are fun to explore!  In this bin we used green coins, gold crosses, shamrocks of different textures and sizes, floral necklaces, balls of different textures, green buttons with different textures, glow bracelets, foam sunglasses, shredded paper, ribbons, and a miniature hat to entice the children to come and PLAY! *Supervise children carefully when using small items in sensory bins!

St. Patrick’s Day Science Activities

Flavored Milk “Taste” Test Experiment for Kids!

Tasting Experiment – St. Patrick’s Day Flavored Milk Tasting Experiment 

Materials needed:  Milk, water, or another liquid that flavoring can be added to, different flavors for the children to try:  we chose strawberry, vanilla, mint, chocolate, and cherry flavoring for our experiment (*please note any allergies among your students before doing this experiment in the classroom), cups, cupcake liners (to shield the color from the taster), straws, pencils or markers, and one recording sheet (linked above) for each child.

We did this activity as a small group group activity.  Pour a small amount of liquid into the cups and have the children close their eyes while adding different flavors to each of the cups.  The children can “taste test” as many cups as time allows (the recording sheet allows for up to 5 different flavors.)  Put the cupcake liners over each of the cups and poke a straw through the center of the liner.  Have the children taste test each of their cups (one at a time) and predict which flavoring was added to the cups.  The children can record their predictions and whether or not they liked it on the recording sheet above.

Add different flavors to white chocolate and have the children guess what flavorings were used!

Extension Activity:  Make flavored chocolate spoons for the children to taste test.  See if the children can predict which flavoring was added to different chocolate covered spoons.

Come back and visit our blog this week as we post St. Patrick’s Day literacy, math, art,  a food craft, and a large motor scavenger hunt for use at home or in the classroom!

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The Day My Daughter Died: A Mother’s Journey Into Grief #pulmonaryembolism

Yerkes Observatory

Christina, my precious daughter, this is for you in an effort to provide AWARENESS of DVT and Pulmonary Embolisms.

It has been 17 days since my 30 year old daughter left this earth. In my mind, and often in my dreams, I replay the events leading to her death. It is a natural part of the grieving process, but one that also leaves many earthly questions. I tell Christina’s story to raise awareness of pulmonary embolisms as they are not uncommon and when misdiagnosed or assumed to be anxiety attacks…they are deadly.

After Christmas 2014: Christina broke her foot carrying Christmas decorations to her basement. She went to our local prompt care and they put her in a boot and made her a doctor appt with a podiatrist “as soon as he could get her in” which was almost 2 weeks out.

Within the next week, Christina was complaining of her calf hurting and I asked her to call to get her appt moved up. The podiatrist could not see her for another 6 days.

Worried, I called another office and asked them to see her. Christina confirms the appt and is scheduled for the very next day. I’m relieved that finally she can see someone soon. Christina would never make that appointment because:

That night -

Phone call from my son-in law. I need you to come. The EMT’s are here and they think Christina is having a bad panic attack; I thought it was a seizure of some kind. It’s been 45 minutes now and she isn’t calming down.

My arrival: Christina is in their bedroom on the bed not fully conscious. The EMT’s stand at the end of her bed seemingly annoyed that she is not calming down from her panic attack. They did not suspect a pulmonary embolism even with the broken foot. I try to talk with her, but she is asking to go to the hospital. I’m looking to the EMT’s for some direction and getting none.

I ask the EMT’s for oxygen for her as she is sweating profusely and cyanosis is apparent to me in the blue tinge to her lips. They tell me they cannot give her oxygen until she calms down as “it won’t go in!” Minutes elapse…I tell the EMT’s that I have not witnessed a panic attack like this and she is not calming down – could they please give her something; they tell me they have called in for something. They administer a sedative via her nose to help her calm; my son-in-law removes the boot from her broken foot.

Within minutes Christina rolls to the side. I look at the EMT’s and say, “Guys, she doesn’t look good.” They assure me that it is the sedative at work and relaxing her as one of them checks her wrist for a pulse…tries to get an IV in unsuccessfully. Minutes elapse…another EMT arrives and asks, “What do you want me to do?”

Now, one EMT is bagging oxygen and they load her in a sling to carry her to the ambulance. They are stepping on her hair and my mother’s heart is breaking as I yell silently, “Please don’t step on her hair!” In my mother’s heart, I knew she was gone, but they assured me it was the sedative.

Moments later I gather some of her things she will need at the hospital and ask my son-in-law which hospital we are going to. He doesn’t know so I try to find someone in the ambulance to tell us. As I round the corner, they are doing CPR on my daughter inside the ambulance. I have taken CPR classes for 29 years and even when the EMT stepped in front of the window, I could see the rhythmic movements.

At the hospital, we ask for updates, wait, ask for updates again, and wait. Finally a man in blue steps into the waiting room and states, “She’s expired.” That is all, just expired…and left. That very day a firefighter from our town died from an embolism…same cause, same result.

Thus began our journey into grief.

As Christians, we know that she is safe and in the loving hands of God.   We, her family on earth, are left to carry on in a world that is now void of her beauty. We will make it with loving friends, family, and God by our side carving a path to lead us forward to future joy.   Questions remain and I hope that by our story, we can raise aware of pulmonary embolisms and deep vein thrombosis. For anyone who has suffered an injury to the lower extremities or had recent surgery, it is necessary to watch for symptoms –they often mimic the symptoms of an anxiety attack. Not always do they come in any specific order, but in many EMT forums for emergency response, “LOAD and GO” should be automatic; do NOT assume anxiety only.  Heparin can be effective when administered promptly. Christina did not get the chance, but if we can save even ONE life through knowledge and awareness, she would want it.

From a mother’s perspective, I question human error and free will. It shakes the foundation of a FAITH that I have long had. Does God plan the death of each individual or can human error and our own free will aid in the process; God willingly accepting those of faith when we arrive and when humans fail? It brings to mind the taboo subject of suicide: will God accept into his Kingdom when humans or human error ends a precious life?

I now belong to a club I didn’t wish to join: the bereaved mother’s club. Many before me have asked those same questions and our FAITH requires us to believe that God called her home. There were MANY things that went horribly wrong in those two weeks. It may or may not have made any difference for Christina, but would more training on deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolisms save another life? I have no doubt it would and it should.

A quote from Christi’s sister: “We are all visitors to this time, this place. We are just passing through. Our purpose here is to observe, to learn, to grow, to love…and then we return home.”

Christina’s response: “and if we could all find a wealth of tolerance, acceptance, and empathy, wouldn’t that make this journey all the sweeter?!”

To that we can all say: AMEN!

You were a loyal and devoted wife, daughter, granddaughter, sister, and friend, Christina. Your beauty is missed and much needed in our world.


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