Tips for Helping Preschoolers with Self-Regulation Skills!

Welcome to the Wednesday #TeachECE series.  Each Wednesday throughout the year, we partner with other Early Childhood professionals to offer you tips, suggestions, and activities designed just for ECE.  This week’s articles are centered around a BODY theme for use at home or in early childhood classrooms.  Earlier this month, I had a chance to poll parents, childcare providers, and ECE Educators in our closed FB group (The Preschool Toolbox) about the most important skill they believe preschoolers should have or acquire; hands down, the answer was body self-regulation.   While each child is different, there is one similarity among all children:  improved learning and behavior requires strong body awareness and self-regulation skills.  Today, we’ll explore how intentional and integrated practices can help your own preschoolers manage emotions, thoughts, and actions.

Tips for Helping Preschoolers with Self Regulations Skills


Disclosure:  please note that this post and others within this blog contain affiliate and/or distributor links.  Please see the ABOUT page for full disclosures.

As with other developing skills, self-regulation begins early and at home.  When parents model self-regulation skills and invite kids to practice and internalize appropriate responses to their environment, kids will garner skills that are important for learning and eventually in the workplace and larger community.  While many parents and teachers know that self-regulation is important, guiding young kids to regulate responses to sensory stimuli can be challenging.  The tips below will provide a basic format for gently guiding young children to internalize important self-regulation skills:

  • Make sure that every child is aware of expectations for behavior at home and at school.  Preschoolers need consistent expectations, a routine they can count on, and sufficient sleep to employ emerging skills.  I’m going to say the last one again, SUFFICIENT SLEEP – LACK of sleep is the number one negative behavior trigger for many preschoolers.  Self-regulation skills are easier for young children when they know exactly what to expect from their environment. Discuss and role play the expectations:  Do we hit other children or adults when we are angry?  What do we do when we are angry instead of hitting?  For non-verbal children, biting can be one negative response to environmental stimuli.  What can we do instead of bite?
Hand Sign Suggestions from

Hand Sign Suggestions from

Showing children appropriate responses to varying situations and observing/monitoring successes and challenges at home and in the classroom can give parents and teachers a heads-up to triggers and what areas need work with various children.  Teaching non-verbal children basic hand signs is often an effective way to help them communicate positively (for basic signs, check out  Keep routines for preschoolers as consistent from day-to-day as possible.  Activities and events will change, but the daily routine should remain the same (including naps and bedtimes).  A visual timetable is valuable to help preschoolers understand daily routines whether at home or in the early childhood classroom.

Managing Big Emotions in Preschool

  • When a child’s behavior is less than desirable and big emotions erupt, preschoolers are not in a place to learn new skills.  Learning different skill sets and responses have to be taught when kids are calm and practiced daily by integrating into everyday activities.  Role playing throughout the course of daily interactions helps kids remember appropriate responses to the environment.  Many teachers (and parents) want kids to learn in the moment of big emotion, but it rarely happens.

Self Regulation Skills in Preschool

  • Find a safe spot where the child can calm down first.  Set up an area at home or in the classroom, where the child can manage emotions.  Make a mental plan for big emotions that occur in public places.  At times, the safe place at home or in the classroom has to be apart from the other children (especially if kids are apt to throw toys or harm another child/adult).   This area can be equipped with soft music the kids can listen to, soft toys/dolls to play with and to improve communication, sensory bags or calm down jars, acrylic hand mirrors to provide a visual of body language, word and picture cards to help kids express themselves, and deep breathing picture cards that will remind kids how to calm their body – we have our kids place their hands on their tummies, breathe in through their nose to see if they can feel their hand move on their tummy, and then breathe out slowly through their mouths.  We also practice deep breathing daily so it can be an automated response that kids can draw upon as necessary.  Make sure the other children know that the safe area is not a play area, but only for children who need to use the private space in order to calm down and be alone.  Note:  for children that cannot calm without an adult present, stay close, but ask that they employ skills you have been working on and model again if necessary (deep breathing, meditation, looking at emotions/feelings cards, looking in the mirror for visual body clues, listening to calming music, playing with a sensory squish bag, etc.). The goal is to scaffold developing skills and withdraw direct adult intervention to encourage self regulation as skills grow and kids mature.
  • Follow-up – once a child has stopped the undesirable behavior, discuss and role play ways that the child could make better decisions in managing emotions, thoughts, and actions.

Tips for Encouraging Self Regulation Skills in Preschool

  • If you have a child that is struggling daily, engaging them multiple times a day in discussions about “trigger scenarios and transitions” is extremely helpful.  Role playing the scenario with a peer beforehand will help kids have tools when the need arises.  What transitions or trigger scenarios can you identify at home or in the classroom for your own kids?

With a LOT of practice, patience, and perseverance, parents and teachers can guide our preschoolers to acquire the self regulation skills necessary for a successful beginning to the primary years and beyond!

For more ideas and suggestions, you might also like:

Making Friends in PreschoolBe sure to check out the other articles and activities from the Early Childhood Education Team below:

How Does Your Temperature Change After Exercise? Fun Science Experiment for Kids from Capri +3

Let’s Look Inside a Bone by Tiny Tots Adventures

Moving My Body Gross Motor Game from Life Over C’s

Thumbprint Addition from Rainy Day Mum

Where is the Heart? Body Identification Game from Still Playing School



Posted in 5 Senses Theme Activities, Back to School for Preschool and PreK, Parenting and Values | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Mystery Mitten Tactile Counting Game for Preschool!

If you are new to the Wednesday articles from the #TeachECE Team, we wish you a warm WELCOME!  Every week, we partner with some amazing blogs to bring YOU new ideas for playful learning at home or for use in the classroom.  This week’s activities are centered around a MITTEN THEME for preschool.   Gather some real mittens and come play a tactile mystery mitten counting game to encourage early math intuition with tactile support!

Mystery Mitten Tactile Counting Games for Preschool


Materials needed:

  • 10 Mittens – any color (ask your students, solicit parents, or mittens can often be found at dollar stores or Goodwill)
  • Large Tray
  • Counting Manipulatives (bear counters, keys (real or pretend), wooden beads, Unifix cubes, small blocks, or Magnetic numbers)
  • One printable 1 through 10 cards (laminate and cut out) – print here:  1 to 10 Number Cards

Mystery Mitten Counting Games for Preschool

Prior to the activity: 

Decide what numbers your children will focus on.  If the children do not have a good understanding of the numbers 1-5, work with those numbers until the kids have confidence with one-to-one correspondence and subitizing skills before moving on to the numbers 6-10.  Set out 5 mittens and randomly place counters in each mitten that correspond to the numbers 1-5 (or 6-10) – see photo above.

Set each of the filled mittens randomly on a tray.  Ask the kids to feel each mitten and try to figure out the number of items in each of the mittens by TOUCH ALONE.  Once the kids think they have a guess at how many counters are inside the mitten, they should sort through the numbered cards and place that numbered card on top of the individual mittens.

Mystery Mittens Sensory Counting Games for Preschool

Have the kids take out the counters in each mitten (one at a time) and count the number to see if they were right!  For very young children, attach a copy of the numbered cards to the backside of the mitten (or sticky notes work well, too).  As the children count the items, they can turn the mitten over to see if they got it right.

Mitten Theme Math Activity for Preschool

Extension Activities: 

  • Have the kids sort the mittens in correct number order 1-5 or 6-10 after feeling the number of items inside the mittens.  Lay the corresponding numbered card below the mittens and then count the items inside the mittens to see if they are correct.
  • Fill a pair of mittens with matching numbers of items.  Make another pair of mittens with a different number of counters inside. Randomly place the mittens out of on a large tray or table.  See if the kids can find the matching pairs of mittens by touch alone.  As the kids gain confidence, add more pairs of mittens to the center or activity tray.
  • Fill mittens with counters that correspond to the numbers 2-7.  Invite the kids to count and sort the mittens into a number line starting with a number other than 1.  Again, the kids should count with touch alone, add the number cards (printed above), and then count the items inside to see if they were correct.

For MORE ways to play and learn with a MITTEN THEME, please visit the wonderful resources below!

Mystery Mitten Letter Sound Game by Growing Book by Book
Mitten Letter Matching on a Clothesline by Mom Inspired Life
Pass the Mitten Storytelling Game by Capri + 3
Mitten Matching Activities for Preschool by Life Over C’s
3 Hands-On Mitten Activities for Preschoolers by Tiny Tots Adventures
Number Bonds 0-10 by Rainy Day Mumm
The Mitten Experiment by Powerful Mothering
Mitten Sight Word Games by The Educators’ Spin On It



Posted in 5 Senses Theme Activities, Extension Activities for "The Mitten", Math, Winter Theme Activities | Tagged , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Arctic Animals Preschool Science: Blubber and Ice Explorations!

For those of you who are new to the #TeachECE Wednesday activities, WELCOME!  Each Wednesday throughout the year, we partner with the Early Childhood Educational Team  to offer you, our valued readers, playful learning suggestions for use at home or in the classroom.  This week’s activities are centered around an ARCTIC TUNDRA theme.  Come explore a simple science experiment with “blubber” and ice that will help preschoolers visualize how polar animals survive in the extreme temperatures of the Arctic!

Arctic Animals Science_Blubber and Ice in Preschool

Background Information for Parents and Teachers:  Animals that live in the Arctic region (Arctic Ocean, parts of Canada, Russia, Alaska, and some Nordic Countries) are known as Arctic animals.   Arctic animals have special adaptations that allow them to survive on the frozen tundra in this unique region of the world.  One of the special adaptations is BLUBBER.  Blubber is a thick fatty tissue just under the skin of many arctic animals such as seals, whales, and polar bears.  The fatty tissue not only keeps the animals warm in the extreme cold, but it serves as a fuel source when food is scarce.  To help preschoolers visualize the insulating properties of blubber, try the following simple science experiment!


Disclosure:  This post and others within this blog contain affiliate and/or distributor links.  Please see the ABOUT page for more information.

Show the children on a world map where the Arctic region is located in relationship to where they live.  There are also some wonderful maps online if the children have access to technology.  Ask the children if they know what blubber is?  Some of the children may already know, but many will not.  Discuss what blubber does and show the children some of the Arctic animals that have blubber.  We have several of the Safari Ltd Arctic Toobs that are great for playful learning and Arctic explorations.

Inquiry for the investigation:  Given the same room temperature, which ice cube will melt faster – the one coated in shortening OR the uncoated ice?

Materials needed:

  • Ice Cubes
  • Two Bowls (per student or small group)
  • Shortening
  • Timer or Digital Stopwatch
  • Paper and Pencils or Markers
Blubber Coated Ice - Arctic Experiment for Preschool

“Blubber” Coated Ice Cube Balls

Invite the kids to place 2-3 ice cubes in each of the two bowls.  In one bowl, have the children surround the ice cube in a thick coating of shortening (fair warning – it is messy, but our kids did great)!  Set the bowls out on a table and start the stopwatch.  Have the kids record the starting time on a sheet of paper.   Invite the kids to periodically observe when the ice melts in each of the two bowls.  Record the time that the non-coated ice melts on the recording sheet (indoors it took our non-coated ice cubes an hour and 3 minutes to fully melt).  Come together as a group to discuss why the ice coated in shortening took longer to melt.  The shortening acts as blubber (protection/insulation) for the ice in this simple experiment.

When the uncoated ice melts, cut into the blubber coated ice. What will the kids find?

When the uncoated ice melts, cut into the blubber on the coated ice. What will the kids find?

As the children are waiting for the ice to melt, teach them a simple song about Blubber and Polar Bears:

Bear is Sleeping (sung to Frere Jacques)

Bear is sleeping, bear is sleeping,

Nice and warm, nice and warm.

Blubber keeps bears cozy, blubber keeps bears cozy,

When it’s COLD, when it’s COLD!

MORE Arctic Tundra Learning Activities from The Early Childhood Education Team:

Arctic Animal Sensory Writing Tray by Fun-A-Day

Home-made Books: Tundra by Powerful Mothering

Arctic Animals Writing Prompts by The Educators’ Spin On It

Why Are Polar Bears White? | Animal Adaptations on the Arctic Tundra by Raising Lifelong Learners

Tundra Animal Sharing and Halving by Rainy Day Mum
Arctic Edition, Mother May I Gross Motor Game by Tiny Tots Adventures

Arctic Animal Matching Games by Life Over C’s

Science Fun-Learning About the Woolly Bear Caterpillar by Capri + 3

Arctic Preschool Letter Hunt by Learning 2 Walk

Polar Bear Sound Activity by Growing Book by Book

For more WINTER activities, please see the WINTER category here on the blog!

Some items we also use in our classroom that your children might enjoy.


Posted in Ocean Theme Activities, PreK, Science, Winter Theme Activities | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

Snowman and Santa Handmade Ornament Crafts for Kids!

If you are new to this blog, then WELCOME!  Each week we collaborate with the #TeachECE Early Childhood Team to offer playful activity suggestions that span all learning areas.  This week, you’ll find awesome handmade gift ideas that kids can make!  The Snowman and Santa Ornament Crafts are fun to create and make adorable gifts from kids to family and friends!

Snowman and Santa Handmade Ornaments Crafts


‘Tis the season for crafting!  The snowman and Santa ornaments are FUN for kids to make and easy enough for even the smallest of crafters to create for a memorable gift to family and friends.

Santa and Snowman Books

Prior to creating the ornaments, take a few moments to share a special Santa and/or snowman book with your kids.  A few of our favorites:

Santa Handmade Ornament Craft for Kids


Materials needed:

Invite kids to fill the clear ornament with the red glitter balls.  If using plastic ornaments that open, just pour in the glitter balls and close shut.  If using top loading ornaments, place one glitter ball on top of the opening and gently push the glitter balls through the opening with the eraser end of a pencil.

To make Santa’s belt:  The kids should cut one strip of black construction paper that will fit around the ornament.  Glue dots will hold the paper strip on the ornament.  Any left-over paper can simply be cut away.  Cut a square from the gold metallic paper to resemble the belt buckle and glue it on top of the black paper belt.  If desired, older kids can cut away a “square inside the square” for a more authentic looking buckle.

Snowman Ornament Craft for Kids to Make and Give


Materials needed:

Have the kids place the miniature marshmallows inside the ornament and close.  The eyes and mouth for the snowman can be made by hole punching the black craft foam.  Attach the black circles to the ornament with liquid glue or glue dots.  The nose can be cut from the orange craft foam.  Younger children will need assistance cutting the nose for the craft.  Attach the nose with glue dots or liquid glue to the ornament.  Add a festive ribbon for a hanger and the kids will have a wonderful handmade ornament for gifting this holiday season!

Your kids might also enjoy:


Learning and Play with The Mitten by Jan Brett

For more awesome ideas for creating handmade gifts with kids, please visit the wonderful suggestions from the Early Childhood Education Team below!

Cinnamon Sugar-Kid Made Gift by Capri + 3

 Memory Jar: Kid Made Gifts by Life Over C’s

Gift Tag Memory Game byMunchkins and Moms

DIY Crayon Lip Balm byRaising Lifelong Learners

Fill the Ball: Kid-Made Christmas Ornaments by Mom Inspired Life

Gingerbread Snowflakes: Kid-Made gift for friends byRainy Day Mum

Easy Kid Craft Ideas: DIY Picture Frame byLearning 2 Walk

Posted in Christmas Theme, Craft Kits for Kids | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Winter STEM Activity for Preschool: Evergreen Tree Building Challenge

STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) activities compel preschoolers to use cross-disciplinary tools and critical thinking skills to solve a basic problem.  By integrating STEM activities into normal daily routines, preschoolers can gain new knowledge that they can take with them beyond the classroom or home environment and apply to problems found in their everyday world.  Come explore the FUN of Winter STEM with an Evergreen Tree Building Challenge designed just for preschoolers!

Winter STEM for Preschool Christmas Tree Building Challenge

WINTER STEM ACTIVITY FOR PRESCHOOL:  Evergreen Tree Building Challenge

Objective:  To encourage preschoolers to use critical thinking skills and cross-disciplinary tools to gain new problem solving knowledge that can be applied to the everyday world.

STEM Skills Presented:

Science:  Preschoolers will use skills within the scientific method to solve a basic challenge inquiry.

Technology:  Preschoolers will watch a video of the life cycle of an evergreen tree.

Engineering:  Preschoolers will engineer a basic Evergreen tree (Christmas tree) using simple supplies.

Math:  Preschoolers will use mathematical skills (estimation, same/different, lines, patterns) to build the Evergreen tree and gain knowledge of mathematical relationships in the challenge.

Background Information for Parents and Teachers:

Christmas trees are conifers.  A conifer is a needle-leaved tree that produces cones.  Conifers are called EVERGREENS because when the needled leaves fall off, they are always being replaced with new green needles.  The usual 6-8 foot Christmas tree can take 10 years or more to grow.

Winter STEM Evergreen Tree Building Challenge for Preschool

STEM INQUIRY: Preschoolers are asked to build a simple Evergreen tree using only the simple supplies below.

  • Green Playdough
  • Craft Sticks
  • Stars or other decorations (optional)

The kids will ask HOW to build a tree.  Try to answer their questions with open-ended feedback to allow them to use critical thinking tools to solve the problem independently.  It is truly amazing to watch young kids creating, thinking, and learning through play.

Some of our own preschool designs:

Evergreen Tree STEM Building Challenge for Preschoolers

STEM Christmas Tree Building Challenge for Preschool
Christmas Tree STEM Activity for Preschool

Building Challenge Wrap-Up:  Have the kids come together to share their creations.  Invite the kids to explain why they decided to construct the tree in the manner they chose. If any of the kids made improvements to their initial designs, ask them to share why the improvements were necessary.  In the photo above, one 4 year old decided to “stabilize” the tree with another outside craft stick.  The reinforcement was a necessary improvement to allow the tree to stand independently.   Show the kids the video below on the Life Cycle of an Evergreen tree and discuss the stages from seed to adult tree.

Winter Theme

For playful learning with preschoolers this winter, see all the activity suggestions in the Christmas or Winter Thematic Units here on the blog.  All units come with literacy, math, science, art and craft activities, foods/food crafts, pretend play, and large motor suggestions for FUN and learning all winter long!

For more STEM activities for WINTER with kids, please visit other great suggestions from the #TeachECE team below:

Snowball Catapult Alphabet Activity by Mom Inspired Life
Winter STEM Activity – Build a Snowflake by Fun-A-Day
Winter Inspired Tinker Tray by Still Playing School
Make a Peppermint Stick Straw (and Sip Fresh Orange Juice!)by Capri + 3
Gingerbread House Construction Ideas by The Educators’ Spin On IT

Posted in Christmas Theme, PreK, Science, Winter Theme Activities | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Gingerbread Man Rhyme and Candy House Craft for Preschoolers!

If you are new to this blog, WELCOME!  Each Wednesday throughout the year, we partner with the #TeachECE team to offer activity suggestions centered around a weekly theme.  This week, come play to learn with us as we explore a NURSERY RHYMES theme!

There are few things as captivating for preschoolers as a COOKIE that leaps from a baking sheet and RUNS AWAY!  The Gingerbread Man Rhyme and Candy House Craft are FUN activities to extend the adventures of the bold little cookie with your own preschoolers at home or in the classroom!

Gingerbread Man Rhyme and Candy House Craft for Preschoolers (2)Gingerbread Man Rhyme and Candy House Craft for Preschoolers!

Disclaimer:  This post and others within this blog contain distributor and/or affiliate links.  Please see the ABOUT page for full disclosures.

51vc6s-vOrL._SX432_BO1,204,203,200_Preschoolers LOVE the story of The Gingerbread Man!  Read the book and invite kids to share the main events of the story.  The Gingerbread Man rhyming chant and candy house craft are great ways to extend the story and promote early literacy, name recognition, and fine motor skills.

Materials needed:

  • One printable Gingerbread Man Rhyme and Candy House per student/craft
  • Various collage materials – suggestions:  fabric scraps, ribbon, real candy, construction paper, candy stickers, marshmallows, pom-poms, buttons, or any other materials readily available at home or in the classroom.
  • Liquid Glue, Poster Putty, and/or Glue Dots.
  • Scissors
  • Crayons or Markers

Print one copy of the Gingerbread Man Rhyme for each student.  The kids can write or stamp their names on the line provided.   Read the rhyme several times to the kids (insert a different child’s name each time) and ask them to say the rhyme with you.

Gingerbread Rhyming Chant and Candy House for Preschool“I’m the GINGERBREAD MAN as DELICIOUS as can be!  I live in a CANDY HOUSE that __________(insert a child’s name) built for ME!”

The kids will love hearing their names and will even ask to put parents or teachers names into the rhyme!

Set out a variety of collage materials/candies/stickers and invite the kids to decorate their candy houses as they wish!  The gingerbread man houses make great bulletin board displays for the holidays.  They also make great class books when finished.  The children will love looking for their name and created house.  These are truly child-designed crafts that are so FUN!

Extension:  Teach the children the Gingerbread Man Song below. 

Gingerbread Man Song (Tune: Do you know the Muffin Man)
Oh, do you know the Gingerbread Man, the Gingerbread Man, the Gingerbread Man?
Oh, do you know the Gingerbread Man, who ran and ran and ran?
He said, “Catch me if you can. If you can, if you can.”
He said, “Catch me if you can,” then ran and ran and ran.

I can run like the Gingerbread Man, the Gingerbread Man, the Gingerbread Man.
I can run like the Gingerbread Man, now catch me if you can!
~Author Unknown

Gingerbread Theme Main PhotoFor an entire Gingerbread Theme, please see the Gingerbread Thematic Unit for Preschool and Kindergarten here on the blog.

 Gingerbread Man Activities your kids might also enjoy:

Gingerbread Cookie Cutter and "Splatter" PaintingsGingerbread Crafts, Math, and Pre-Writing Lines FREE Printable

Gingerbread Theme Pre-Writing Free Printable

Gingerbread Activities for Preschool

Free Printable Gingerbread Man Alphabet/Pictures for Literacy Games

For MORE ways to engage kids in playful learning with NURSERY RHYMES, please visit the links from the Early Childhood Educational Team below:

The Three Little Kittens Rhyming Mittens by Growing Book by Book

Printable Preschool Nursery Rhymes Journal by Fun-a-Day

Cow Jumped Over the Moon Craft by Still Playing School

I Wish I May I Wish I Might – Star Headband by Capri + 3

Old MacDonald’s Farm Sensory Bin by Tiny Tots Adventures

Nursery Rhyme Sorting Activity by Munchkins and Moms





Posted in Christmas Theme, Gingerbread Theme, PreK, Preschool Themes | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

5 Senses Theme Activities for Preschool!

If you are new to this blog, WELCOME!  Each Wednesday throughout the year, the Early Childhood Education Team develops collaborative activities centered around themes for use in ECE.  This week, we’ll share our own activities to promote sensory knowledge using ALL 5 Senses.  Be sure to check out the other great activities from the #TeachECE Educators that are linked at the bottom of this post!

5 Senses Theme Activities for Preschool

5 Senses Theme Activities for Preschool!

Exploring The 5 Senses in Early Childhood will help preschoolers identify and discover the body parts that are used to gain sensory information:  Eyes, Ears, Nose, Mouth, and Hands.

The activities suggested below will offer opportunities for hands-on play with the senses of:  Sight, Hearing, Smell, Taste, and Touch.  Through play and experimentation, the children will develop an awareness of how The 5 Senses are used to gain knowledge about their world.

Introduction to The 5 Senses:

Sensory-Mirror-DiscoveriesIn order for children to explore The 5 Senses, preschoolers must be able to locate the 5 primary body parts that provide sensory information:  Eyes, Ears, Nose, Mouth, and Hands.   Allow for plenty of time for play with mirrors.  Ask the children to identify the different body parts they see in the mirror.  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 with magnifying glasses, but they are gaining important information).

Exploring the Sense of SIGHT in Preschool:

  • Nature Walk Recording Sheet – Take the kids outside so they can use their sense of sight to locate the various items on the recording sheet.  It’s free to print and FUN to do!
  • Christmas Lights – looking at Christmas Lights is a simple activity to promote visual information.  Print the recording sheet below and complete together when you get home or back in the classroom.


Exploring the Sense of SOUND in Preschool:


  • SOUND Discrimination: Invite children to use their sense of sound to ask critical thinking questions?  WHAT/WHO is making the sound, WHERE would I hear that sound, HOW is that sound created, and/or WHEN have I heard that sound before?  Free printable cards and games for playful learning!

Exploring the Sense of SMELL in Preschool:


  • Christmas Smelling Jars are a FUN way to invite kids to see which SMELLS they like or dislike.  Free recording sheet for preschool and kindergarten is here!
  • Lavender Pre-writing Practice – free printable with a lovely lavender paint to enhance sensory play with the SENSE of SMELL!


Exploring the Sense of TOUCH in Preschool:

Exploring the Sense of Touch with Braille Alphabet Names in Preschool

  • Explore the Sense of Touch by learning about the Braille Alphabet with a sensory name activity!

Exploring the Sense of TASTE in Preschool:


  • Make fun snacks with a variety of textures for kids to explore different taste sensations!  Set out apple slices, banana slices, chocolate chips, miniature marshmallows, and cheese sticks for the children. Set out a  picture of an umbrella and have the children try to use the snack materials to re-create the photo.  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!

The-5-Senses Theme for Preschool, Home Preschool, or ChildcareFor MORE ways to play to learn through ALL 5 Senses, see the 5 SENSES THEMATIC UNIT here on the blog!  The unit is a large theme with over 100 ways to gain sensory information through:  literacy, math, science, arts and crafts, large motor, dramatic play, and foods/food crafts!

Please also take a moment to visit the links to other 5 Senses activities from the dedicated #TeachECE Team below!

Number Sound Boxes by Munchkins and Moms
My Five Senses Book by Still Playing School
Writing Letters in a Sugar Cookie Sensory Tray by Mom Inspired Life
Winter Theme Alphabet Sensory Bin by The Educators’ Spin On It
My Christmas 5 Senses Book by Life Over C’s
Exploring the Senses Using Cardboard Tubes by Capri + 3


Posted in 5 Senses Theme Activities, PreK | Tagged , , , , , | 7 Comments

Candy Cane Counting Sticks in Preschool!

This week the #TeachECE Early Childhood Team is sharing activity suggestions for exploring the numbers 6-10.  If you are new to The Preschool Toolbox and missed the article on how to establish REAL relationships with the numbers 1-5, you can see it here!  We use many activities to explore numbers and integrate basic math concepts throughout our preschool days.  The Candy Cane Counting Sticks are just one way to combine playful learning and fine motor skills into a seasonal math activity that is also FUN!

Candy Cane Counting Sticks for PreschoolersCandy Cane Counting Sticks for Preschool! Candy CanesFree Printable Candy Cane Counting Sticks Toppers – Candy Cane Counting Stick Toppers

Materials needed: Wikki Stix (at least 10 per child), Candy Cane Counting Stick Toppers (linked above), pony beads (red/white), scissors, and markers/crayons (for labeling the candy cane template).  Note:  please supervise young children who still mouth objects closely as pony beads are a choking hazard. 

Prior to playing the math games: Print the Candy Cane toppers to heavy paper. Have the children cut out the candy canes (assist younger children with cutting) and laminate for durability. The Candy Cane toppers will adhere to the Wikki Stix (no glue will be necessary).

5 Math Game Suggestions for the Wikki Stix Candy Cane Counting Sticks:

1. One-to-One Correspondence: Label the Candy Cane toppers with any numbers the children have had introduced and put them on top of a Wikki Stix. Ask the children to place the corresponding number of pony beads on the Wikki Stix.

2. Number Order: Label 5 of the Candy Cane toppers with the numbers 6-10 and put them on top of the Wikki Stix. Have the children place the candy canes in the correct number order – 6-10.

Label the Candy Cane toppers with the numbers 1-10 and place the candy canes on top of a Wikki Stix. Have the children place the candy canes in the correct number order (starting at a number OTHER than 1).

3. Ten Sticks and Skip Counting: Label 10 Candy Cane toppers with the number 10 and put the printable toppers on Wikki Stix. Have the children place 10 pony beads on each of the Wikki Stix. These counting sticks make great “10 bars” for counting to 100 by 10’s. For younger children, label the Candy Cane toppers with various numbers for practice with skip counting by 2’s and 5’s.

4. Number Words: Write number words on the Candy Cane toppers and put on top of a Wikki Stix. Have the children place the corresponding number of beads on their Candy Canes.  It helps the children understand that the number name refers to a specific quantity of beads.

5. Patterning: Write any basic pattern on the Candy Cane toppers (for example: write AB on one of the Candy Canes. The children must then choose two colors of pony beads [the first chosen color is “A”; the second chosen color is “B”] and alternate the colors when placing them on the Wikki Stix.) The picture above shows a simple AB pattern (2 colors) on each of the Candy Cane counting sticks.

Hint: Print the Candy Cane toppers and laminate before cutting out. Dry erase markers can then be used to change the numbers/activities as the children gain confidence and activities are exchanged throughout the season.

Christmas and Gingerbread Themes for Preschool and KindergartenCome visit our CHRISTMAS or GINGERBREAD THEMATIC UNITS to learn through play this holiday season!

For MORE ways to play and encourage INTUITIVE MATH skills in preschool, please see:

5 and 10 Frame Activities for Preschool and Kindergarten

Intuitive Math – Greater Than, Less Than or Equal To

CANDY CANE and Playdough Math Ideas for Preschool and Kindergarten

For other creative ways to encourage math skills through playful learning, visit the wonderful suggestions by the Early Childhood Educational Team below:

How can I teach numbers 6-10 and Writing? by The Educators’ Spin On It

Fine Motor Number Building Challenge by  Fun-A-Day

Turkey Counting Rhyme by Growing Book by Book

Acorn and Squirrel Clip Cards by Rainy Day Mum

Numbers Prewriting Activity by Tiny Tots Adventures

Free Printable Counting Game by Life Over C’s 


Posted in PreK | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Reindeer Noses Playdough Math Mats for Preschool: 1-to-1 Correspondence

Reindeer Noses Playdough Math Mats for Preschool REINDEER THEME for PRESCHOOL!

Each Wednesday throughout the school year, we will share activities centered around various topics of interest to preschoolers.  This week, the #playfulpreschool blogging team has developed learning ideas with a REINDEER THEME!  Please take a moment to browse all the wonderful activity suggestions that are linked below for your convenience!


 Reindeer Nose Playdough Counting Mats

Objective:  To offer opportunities to playfully practice 1-to-1 Correspondence in order to learn how a certain number relates to a specific quantity of objects.

The goal of 1-to-1 Correspondence is to help young children gain confidence not only with number recognition, but to help them move beyond basic recognition and toward the question: How many items make up any specific number?

Materials needed:  Red Playdough (to incorporate a sensory experience try the Peppermint or Apple Spice Playdough) and the printable files linked above.

Prior to the activity – laminate the counting mats (or cover with clear contact paper) for durability.

Place the playdough out on a table or a tray as an invitation to play.  Demonstrate for the children how to tear off a piece of playdough and roll it around in the palm of their hands to form a ball (a reindeer “nose”).  Younger kids may wish to only tear small pieces of  playdough to use on their mats.  Tearing and rolling playdough balls, while FUN, builds important fine motor strength and control for preschoolers!

Playdough Math for Preschool 002Set out the lower numbered playdough mats to begin.  Invite the children to count the number of circles in one of the boxes and then place the corresponding number of playdough balls (reindeer nose) in each of the boxes.  Remind the children to count out loud as they place the playdough balls on the mat. Preschoolers will often count ahead of physically placing the balls in the circles OR count slower than the number of balls placed on the mat.   Observe the children to find counting successes or where errors are made. Young children need a great deal of practice with the numbers 1-5.  Please don’t feel the need to move on too quickly.  The number 5 is an important math anchor; having substantial practice with the numbers 1-5 will help with all future math concepts.  As the children gain confidence in counting accurately, larger numbers can be introduced.

Reindeer Theme Math Mats for Preschool

 COLOR, COUNT, and CLIP – Reindeer Nose Math for Preschool!

Print the Reindeer Math Mats (linked above) to heavy paper and cut apart the reindeer number cards and the boxes with circles (see photo above).

Materials needed:  12 clothespins labeled with one number (1-12), crayons, and the reindeer cards/circle boxes from the printable.

To begin:  choose any 3 numbers that the children are familiar with and lay those reindeer cards/circle boxes out in random order on a tray or a table.  Invite the children to color the circles in boxes to resemble reindeer noses.   Encourage the children to count the number of circles as they color each one on the individual cards.

Count, Color, and Clip Reindeer Math Activity for PreschoolWhen the children are finished coloring the reindeer noses (circles), invite them to match the number of circles to the numbered reindeer card.  The children can then choose the corresponding numbered clothespin and clip the two cards together (see photo above). Again, begin with lower numbers until the children are very familiar with the numbers 1-5.

The REINDEER NOSES PLAYDOUGH MATS are a great way to encourage 1-to-1 Correspondence skills!  The children will play and not quite realize all the important skills under construction!

For MORE ways to encourage MATH through PLAY, see our MATH SERIES for Preschool and Kindergarten!

Intuitive Math:  1-to-1 Correspondence and Subitizing

Intuitive Math:  Subitizing and 5/10 Frames

Intuitive Math:  Part-Part=Whole

Intuitive Math:  Greater Than, Less Than, Equal To


Swat the Letter: Reindeer Preschool Literacy Activity from Learning 2 Walk

Alphabet Activities: Reindeer Roll from Growing Book by Book

Reindeer Preschool Activities with Play Dough and Songs from Life Over C’s

Palm Print Reindeer Craft and Poem from Capri +3

Racing Reindeer Number Line Activity from Mom Inspired Life

Reindeer Christmas Snacks for Kids from Fun-A-Day

Reindeer Math Games for Preschool Learning from The Educators’ Spin On It


Posted in Christmas Theme, Math, PreK | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 18 Comments

The Giving Tree – An Attitude of Gratitude in Preschool!

Gratitude Activities for Preschool

‘Tis the season of gift giving, thankfulness, extra kindnesses, and appreciation for others.  Helping preschoolers develop an “attitude of gratitude” begins early and at home.  When adults MODEL (MODEL, MODEL) expressions of thankfulness and gratitude, children will naturally absorb and try to imitate all that they see and hear.  Gratitude, when incorporated early, then becomes a natural DAILY expression.


This week’s #playfulpreschool theme offers activities for preschool children centered around the theme of:  GRATITUDE!  We hope you will take a moment to visit all the activities to help your children not only THINK about gratitude, but to find ways to actively participate in expressions of thankfulness.  Gratitude must be an ACTIVE term for young children.  In the words of William Arthur Ward, “Feeling Gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.”

Disclosure:  This post and others within this blog contain affiliate links.  For full disclosures, see the ABOUT page.

The Giving TreeThe Giving Tree:  An “Attitude of Gratitude”

We read The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein with our preschoolers during the holidays and again in the spring as we near the end of our school year.  We discuss, model, and ACTIVELY PRACTICE gratitude in our classroom each and every day of the year.  Read the book to your children, but leave the book’s interpretations open for the children to discuss.  You’ll find amazing insights from children as they give their own views on the tree who loved the little boy!

Invite your children to discussions about the book:

  • How did the boy treat the tree?
  • How did the tree show LOVE for the boy?
  • How do you think the tree felt as she gave almost ALL that she had?
  • Do you think the boy was grateful to the tree?
  • How do you think the boy felt at the end of the story when he was a old man?
  • Why do you think the tree GAVE almost all that she had to the boy/man?
  • Do you think the boy/old man changed his heart at the end of the story?

By asking questions, the children will begin to formulate their own ideas about thankfulness, giving, gratitude and how we should treat others.  It’s a powerful book to read and discuss with young kids.  I’ve shared the book with our own kids for over 26 years and am still inspired by the pure love, kindness, and wisdom of preschoolers.

The Giving Tree:  Gratitude Evergreen Tree Craft for Preschool!

The Giving Tree Gratitude Craft for Preschool One of my favorite quotes from a student many years ago:  “I don’t have any money or gifts to give because I’m just a KID; my Mom and Dad do that!” :)  Gratitude, Giving, and Thankfulness require our hearts!  Brainstorm with the children things they already have that they can GIVE to another to express gratitude (friendship, hugs, a smile, cooperation, support, good manners, helpfulness, etc.).  Make a gratitude evergreen tree this holiday season to encourage daily acts of gratitude from the whole family!

Materials needed:  mounting paper (any kind of heavy weight paper), cotton ball, a clothespin, green paint, paint tray or paper plate, yellow sticker stars, small red pompoms, and a marker or the labels linked here – Gratitude is Evergreen Labels

Have the children clip the cotton ball with the clothespin to use as a painting tool.  Set out paint trays and paper.  Invite the children to paint the paper with the cotton ball clip.

The Giving Tree Evergreen Craft for Preschool

Allow the painted trees to dry thoroughly before cutting the paintings into Christmas Tree shapes.  The children can then add the sticker stars and the gratitude labels (linked above).  Set out a jar of red pompoms – each time you see a child showing gratitude, being thankful, or giving to another, have them place a red pompom on the tree (tip – poster putty works great for sticking the pompoms on the tree).  Soon the gratitude tree will be filled with red pompom “ornaments” as a visual for the children of things they can (and DO) give daily!

Gratitude Tree Craft for The Giving Tree Book in Preschool

Activities for Gratitude and Thankfulness for Young Kids


You might also like:   28 Ways to Encourage ACTIVE PARTICIPATION in Gratitude and Thanksgiving!


Life Cycle of a Christmas Tree 001To incorporate science into your activities, see LIFE CYCLE of a CHRISTMAS TREE – just as gratitude goes on and on, so does the circle of life.



For MORE great resources to help your children learn about GRATITUDE, see:

Literacy Activities:  Giving and Being Thankful Ideas from Growing Book by Book

Teaching Kids Thank You in Different Languages from Still Playing School

Thankful Rocks:  A Visual Reminder to Be Thankful from Mom Inspired Life

Gratitude Sensory Bin from Learning 2 Walk

Gratitude- Put Your Best Foot Forward Footprint Activity from Capri +3

Gratitude Sensory Jar from Tiny Tots Adventures

Non-Verbal Ways to Show Gratitude from Live Over C’s



Posted in Christmas Theme, Literacy, Parenting and Values, PreK, Preschool and Kindergarten Skills | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Story Book Advent: North Pole Santa SPY Scope Craft for Kids!

Santa Scope for Story Book Advent


We are honored to join Rainy Day Mum’s Story Book Advent collection for some of the best in kids’ activities to accompany special holiday books!  We hope you’ll find new inspiration for books to read and fun activities to do with your kids this December!

Disclosure:  This post and others within this blog contain affiliate links.  Please see the ABOUT page for full disclosures.

Can You See What I See?:  Night Before ChristmasCan You See What I See?:  Night Before Christmas by Walter Wick is a picture puzzle search and solve book that will keep kids entertained and THINKING this December!  In true “I-SPY” spirit, this book captures the attention of young readers and compels them to interact.  The pictures are beautiful and kids (of ALL ages) will love searching for items hidden within.  Some of the items are located easily and some are a bit more challenging!  Our kids LOVED this book so much, we bought more of the Walter Wick titles.  It’s a wonderful book to encourage reluctant readers and a great gift for Christmas!


Walter Wick has some great hidden items within his book, but the greatest FIND of the season would be SANTA himself!  Come create an easy SANTA TELESCOPE disguised as the North Pole to spy on the jolly ‘ole fellow this Christmas Eve!

Materials needed:  one cardboard tube, one clear plastic ornament (per child), red/white wrapping paper or construction paper, tape, red ribbon (one foot per craft), cotton balls, and a hole punch.

Give each child an empty cardboard tube and invite them to wrap the tube in white/red construction paper or wrapping paper.   Take the hanger off of the clear plastic ornament and have the children stuff the ornament with cotton balls.  Before replacing the ornament’s hanger, lay the red ribbon across the ornament and insert the hanger (the hanger will keep the ribbon in place.   Have the children hole punch each side of the cardboard tube near the top.   Turn the cotton filled ornament upside down and thread each end of the red ribbon through the holes (from inside to outside) of the cardboard tube.  Tie the ribbon loosely in a knot or a bow in back of the cardboard tube.

Santa Scope Craft for Preschool and KindergartenTo spy for Santa, simply slide the ornament off the top a little and peer through the open end of the scope!  We hope your kids get a glimpse of Santa this year!

For more Christmas Activities centered around books, see:

The Polar Express – Extension Activities for the Book

The Snowman Storybook by Raymond Briggs

The Mitten by Jan Brett – Activities to Accompany the Book

This post is just part of a collection of great books with activities for Advent from Rainy Day Mum!

Story Book Advent on Rainy Day Mum

Posted in Christmas Theme, PreK, Storytelling with Young Children | Tagged , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Candy Cane Learning Activities for Preschool and Kindergarten!


There are few treats that symbolize Christmas in the way that candy canes do!  If you have not read “The Legend of the Candy Cane” you can print it here.  We’ve gathered a collection of candy cane suggestions for activities across all learning areas in Preschool and Kindergarten.  We hope you enjoy creating, exploring, and playing with us this Christmas!

Candy Cane Fine Motor Craft

Candy Cane Fine Motor Craft – encourage fine motor skills by creating this adorable candy cane craft from School Time Snippets!

Candy Cane Peppermint Playdough

Candy Cane Peppermint Scented Playdough – this is a great playdough for sensory play at Christmas from Love, Play, and Learn!

Candy Canes Marbled Scented Craft

Peppermint Scented Marbled Candy Cane Craft – a wonderful sensory experience for young kids (they make great displays at home or in the classroom, too) – from Simple Fun for Kids!

Candy Cane Circle Time Game

Candy Cane Circle Time Game (plus additional activities for playful learning) – “Who Stole the Candy from the Candy Cane Jar” by Teach Preschool!

Candy Cane Sensory Math for Preschool

Candy Cane Math – encourage kids to count by 5’s with our own sensory candy cane counting game!

Candy Cane Patterning

Candy Cane Patterning – a great way to reinforce basic patterning concepts from School Time Snippets!

Candy Cane Science for Preschool

Dissolving Candy Canes Science Activity – a wonderful experiment to try with young kids!  Note:  if your kids love science, see all the preschool science experiments from Science Sparks!

Candy Cane Christmas Ornaments

Candy Cane Christmas Ornaments – I love the use of letter beads to encourage literacy in this craft from Artsy Momma!

Candy Cane Beginning Words

Candy Cane Beginning Words and Letters – invite your children to play with candy cane beginning sounds and sight words – free to print here on the blog.

Legend of the Candy Cane Cookies

Legend of the Candy Cane Cookies that Kids Can Help Make – a melt-in-your-mouth cookie that is perfect for Christmas!

Disclosure:  this post and others within this blog contain affiliate links.  For full disclosures, see the ABOUT page.


Candy Cane Books for Preschool


The Legend of the Candy Cane by Lori Walburg

Candy Cane Christmas by Helen and David Haidle

Santa And How The Candy Cane Came To Be

J is for Jesus by Crystal Bowman

The Candy Cane Story (a Christian Version) by Amy Floyd Gillette 

For more Christmas Activities for Preschool and Kindergarten, see the Christmas Thematic Unit here on the blog!

Posted in Christmas Theme, Literacy, Math, PreK, Science | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Life Cycle of a Christmas Tree Craft for Preschool!

Whether you have an artificial or real Christmas tree at home or in the classroom, learning about evergreens is fun science for kids!  The simple Christmas Tree Life Cycle craft below will help preschoolers learn how conifers grow from a seed to an adult Christmas tree!

Life Cycle of a Christmas Tree 001

Christmas trees are conifers.  A conifer tree is a needle-leaved tree that produces cones.  Conifers are often called evergreens because as the needled leaves fall off, they are always being replaced by new green needles.

  •  The PINECONES shelter the seeds and protect them.  Christmas tree farmers remove the seeds from the cones and plant them.
  • As the seeds grow, a SEEDLING is produced that grows into a YOUNG TREE.
  • Christmas tree farmers tend to the young trees for 3-5 years before they are replanted into the fields.  Most ADULT TREES require an average of 10 years to develop into the 6-8 foot trees used for Christmas (that is a lot longer than other crops the children are familiar with)!
  • When the Christmas tree farmers sell a tree, they will plant 1-3 more to make sure the fields are always full of Christmas trees.

Remind the children that as the conifer’s seeds are dispersed by humans or animals, the LIFE CYCLE then repeats itself.

Materials needed for the paper plate craft:  1 paper plate per student/craft, 1 printable for labels/pictures/- LIFE CYCLE OF A CHRISTMAS TREE, scissors, crayons or markers, and glue sticks.

Invite the children divide their paper plate into four sections by drawing a line down the middle of the paper plate (vertically) and across the paper plate (horizontally).  The lines do not have to be perfect, but should divide the paper plate into four sections.  Our kids used Wikki Stix to make the sections on the paper plates.

The children can cut out the 4 boxes from the life cycle printable (linked above).  Starting in the upper left-hand corner, have the children glue the pinecone/seeds picture in that section.  The upper right-hand corner should contain the seedling picture.  The lower right-hand corner contains the young tree.  The mature (adult) tree is then glued in the lower left-hand section of the paper plate to complete the life cycle craft.

The paper plate craft is a simple science craft to do during December!  As an extension activity, we collected pinecones to see if the children could find any seeds on the scales.  We counted our seeds, looked at them through magnifying glasses, made a seed collage, and did a sink/float experiment with the seeds and cones.  We’d love to hear what YOUR children do with this activity!  Please leave us a comment or send us a picture:  [email protected]!

 Books to accompany the Christmas Tree Life Cycle:

Mr. Willowby’s Christmas Tree by Robert Barry

Merry Christmas, Geraldine by Holly Keller

Why Christmas Trees Aren’t Perfect by Richard H. Schneider

For more Christmas Science Activities, our Christmas Theme is now available via this blog!

Posted in Christmas Theme, Science | Tagged , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

My Name in Christmas Lights – free printable name recognition activity for #preschool & #kindergarten!

Name in Lights


The Name in Christmas Lights Activity is a fun craft/literacy activity to reinforce letter and name recognition in preschool and kindergarten.  The name activity is just one of 17 suggested literacy activities that are a part of the Christmas Theme now available here on this blog. You can download the entire Christmas theme here, if desired.

Materials needed: Name in Lights.pdf (download here – Name in Lights), scissors, crayons or markers, and glue. There are two ways you can complete this activity:

 1. Print off page two of the Name in Lights.pdf (one for each student). Cut out the desired colored lights from the pdf file (pages 3-10). Children will need to count out the number of letters in their name and then choose that many lights of their desired colors. For example, in the name “Kylie” there are 5 letters, so the child would choose 5 different colored lights. Next, glue the letters on to the paper labeled “My name has ___ letters.” When dry, the child can use a crayon or marker to write one letter of their name on each of the lights. Finally, use a black crayon or marker to draw a “string,” connecting all of the lights together.

 2. You can also use the pictures of the lights as a template to cut out the “lights” from colored construction paper. Students would continue the activity as described above by gluing the construction paper “lights” onto their paper and then writing the letters of their name on each of the bulbs. Finally, students can use a black (or any desired color) string to glue onto their paper connecting the lights to form a “string of lights.”

Here are more ideas for Christmas literacy or see our other themes here!  We hope your children enjoy playing and learning with us this December!

Posted in Christmas Theme, Literacy | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Candy Cane Math and Sight Words for Preschool and Kindergarten!

Kids love to play with (and eat!) candy canes.  The activities below can be done with real candy canes (leave the wrappers on for games) or the children can twist red and white pipe cleaners together to make candy canes for use at home or in the classroom.

Candy Cane Counting by 5’s – Candy Cane Number Flags  Blank Candy Cane Flags 

Materials needed:  Red or White Play Dough (or peppermint homemade dough – see recipe below), 15 Candy Canes or ones made from red and white pipe cleaners, Candy Cane Flags Printable (linked above), and tape.

Have the children make 3 large balls (per student) from the play dough and pat down into circles (see photo above.)  The play dough circles will serve as a “base” for each group of 5 candy cane flags when counting.  Print the candy cane flags (linked above) and laminate for durability.  Have the children cut out the individual flags (assist younger children).  Help the children tape one flag to each of 15 candy canes (print the blank flags file to use larger numbers for older children.)  *you can also have the children tear off small pieces of poster putty to adhere the flags – it is easier for younger children to use the poster putty than to tape each individual flag.

Have the children first make a number line of the flags on the floor or a table.  Begin with the number 1 and continue through number 15 (for younger children print an extra copy to lay out on the table and have the children “match” their numbers to the one already completed.)  When the children have counted all 15 flags and placed in numerical order, have the children count out five flags (in order, beginning with 1-5) to stick into each of the play dough bases.  When finished there should be 3 groups of 5 flags in the play dough bases:  1-5, 5-10, and 10-15.  Have the children count by 5’s verbally to 15: 5, 10, 15. Using a separate sheet of paper, have the children make tally marks for each group of 5.   There are blank flags for use with larger numbers, if desired.

Peppermint Play Dough Recipe

5 cups flour
2 1/2 cups salt
3 Tablespoons cream of tartar
10 Tablespoons vegetable oil
Red Food coloring
Peppermint Extract (2 tsps.)
Glitter, if desired

Combine the water, salt, cream of tartar, and the peppermint extract.   Next, add the oil and the flour. Stir well. If desired, add the glitter. The mixture will be stiff and a bit crumbly. Turn the dough out onto a table lined with waxed paper and knead until the dough is smooth (if still crumbly, add a few drops of water while kneading). Separate the dough in half.  Add 15 drops of red food coloring to one half of the dough (if they dough still looks pink, add more food coloring until the desired color appears.  We have also use red Koolaid with good results.)  Keep the play dough separated in two gallon size plastic bags.


Candy Cane Sight Words – Candy Cane Sight Words

Print the Candy Cane Sight Words (linked above) for your students and use them often to aid in recognizing high frequency words. Sight word recognition is useful to enhance reading fluency and reading comprehension. Try incorporating the words into daily activities such as word walls, word sorting, and word games.

Activity example:  Print two copies of the Candy Cane sight words.  Laminate the cards for durability and cut out the individual cards.  Have the children attach the cards (with tape or poster putty) to real candy canes or candy canes made from pipe cleaners.  Distribute the candy cane sight words to the children.  Place one copy of the sight words face up on the floor or a table. On a signal, the children must go find the matching sight word on the floor, hold it up, and read the word out loud. Younger children can say the beginning letter of their cards only. Continue the game until all cards have been found or until the children lose interest.  There are extra cards in this file for additional sight words that the children may be working on or that you would like to introduce.

The file also includes a sight words checklist (last page of the file) that the children can fill out.

For more Christmas  Activities, you can download the Christmas and Gingerbread Theme via this blog!

Posted in Christmas Theme, Gingerbread Theme, Literacy, Math | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Christmas Math and Sensory Ideas for Kids!

Christmas Math Activity for Preschool

Christmas “Roll a Block” Tree – Christmas Roll a Block Tree Template

Materials needed: Small square green/yellow foam blocks (or cut the squares from the Christmas Roll a Block Tree Template.pdf linked above), one foam block labeled with just the numbers 1 and 2 on all sides (if you do not have foam blocks, you can label several index cards with the numbers 1 and 2 and put face down in a “draw” pile.)

The children take turns rolling the foam die (or picking a card) and place that number of blocks in position to form the Christmas Tree. The tree building continues until all blocks are in place and the last yellow “star” block is added. This activity works well for partners or as an individual building exercise.   Younger children can follow the template pattern.

Invite the children glue separate cut out squares onto the template as they draw a card or roll the die. Older children can create larger trees using similar patterns. Label the die (or index cards) with larger numbers if more blocks/template squares are used.

Gingerbread Number Order – Gingerbread Number Order

Materials needed: Gingerbread Number Order.pdf, scissors.

Print off the Gingerbread Number Order.pdf (linked above) and cut apart each of the gingerbread men.  Laminate for durability if desired.  Invite your students to place all the gingerbread men in order from 1-10.

Extension idea for younger children: Print off two copies of the Gingerbread Number Order.pdf and play a memory game where the children have to try to find the matching numbers on the gingerbread man’s bodies.

Extension idea #2: Students can use the numbered gingerbread men to go along with the song/fingerplay:  10 Little Ginger Kids (see below).

10 Little Ginger Kids (Tune: Ten Little Indians)
One little, two little, three little ginger kids,
Four little, five little, six little ginger kids,
Seven little, eight little, nine little ginger kids,
Ten little gingerbread kids.

~Author Unknown

Christmas Sensory Gel Bags

Christmas Colored Gel Sensory Bags

Materials:  Colored Hair Gel or Clear gel/food coloring, gallon size plastic bags, assorted shapes and objects for the children to make “imprints”, and duct tape for sealing the bags if using with many children.

Place the gel &/or food coloring inside a gallon sized plastic bag.  Mix the food coloring (if using) by gently squeezing the bag to distribute the color.  Seal the bags with duct tape for durability if using with larger numbers of children.

Set out a tray with assorted shapes and Christmas items (or other themed objects). Demonstrate for the children how to press firmly into the gel bags to make an imprint. Remind the children not to scrape metal objects (like cookie cutters) over the bag, but to press into the gel.  Set out plastic rolling pins for the children to “clear” the imprints to make new ones.  Some children just like to “squish and squash” the bags to watch the gel bubbles move about.  We make individual bags for the children’s tables during the holidays and use them for “Christmas Calming Moments” when needed.  When our children use small finger muscles to squeeze the bags and visually explore the bubbles moving around, it can help relieve some anxiety that comes with “Christmas anticipation.”

For more MATH, science, and sensory ideas, download the Christmas and Gingerbread Themes via this blog!

Posted in Christmas Theme, Gingerbread Theme, Math | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Christmas Literacy Activities for Preschool!

Christmas Literacy Ideas for PreschoolChristmas Letters and Position Words – Christmas Positional Words

LETTERS:  Print all the pages of the file linked above for your children.  The children can color Santa and the present pictures on page 3, if desired.  Ask your students what letter/sound the word S A N T A begins with.  Say the letters with your children and practice the sounds each of the letters make.  Invite the children practice stamping (have very young children stamp the letter on the line below each letter in the boxes) or writing the letters in the boxes below the word S A N T A on page 1 (repeat for the word P R E S E N T.)  The children can cut apart the individual letter boxes and try to spell the words SANTA and PRESENT (for very young children, spell the words for them using letters from the boxes and see if the children can find the letters and place on top of the words.) The children can also play a matching game by shuffling all the individual letter cards and matching the letters from the individual boxes to spell each of the words.

POSITIONAL WORDS:  Have the children cut out all the positional words on page 2 of the file linked above.  Say the position words for your children and demonstrate the position using the Santa/present pictures on page 3 of the file.  Read the sentence (pg. 2) to all of your children and let them decide, as a group, which position word card would best complete the sentence.  After playing as a group, invite the children to partner with a peer and use the Santa and present to play position word games.   Lay the sentence strip out on a table or a floor along with the individual position word cards.  One child must place the Santa/present in a particular “position” (i.e. next to, beside, etc.).  The second child must then try to choose the card that completes the sentence and read the sentence out loud.

For mixed-age groups, invite the younger children to position the Santa/present.  The older children must then look at the position and find the appropriate position word card to complete the sentence.

Christmas Positional Words in Preschool and Kindergarten

Christmas Color Words and Item Match – Christmas Color Word Match

Christmas Color Words and Matching

Materials needed: One Christmas Color Word Match.pdf for each child and scissors.

Print the Color Sentence Strips/Pictures on heavy paper and laminate for durability if desired. Read the sentence strips to all of the children and discuss the colors that are used. Have the children cut the word strips and pictures apart (pre-cut or assist younger children).  Encourage the children to lay the sentence strips out on a table and place the picture cards face down. The children must then pick up a picture card, one at a time, and place next to the corresponding sentence strip. For example, “The star is blue” sentence strip would be matched up with the pictures of the blue star.

Extension idea: Reverse the directions and have the children look first at the picture card and try to determine which sentence strip it goes with.

Children follow color text to recognize letters and color a Christmas Tree

Christmas ABC Tree – Christmas ABC Tree

Materials needed: One Christmas ABC Tree.pdf and crayons or markers (blue, red, yellow and green).

Print the Christmas ABC Tree.pdf for each of the children. Read the instructions to the children and have the children color the tree according to the color/letter indicated in the text. Older children might use other colors of their choice and add separate shapes/letters to their tree. Finish coloring the tree green. The trees make nice displays for the classroom when mounted on red construction paper.

   For more ideas for literacy, math, or science, see the Christmas or Gingerbread theme downloads via this blog!



Posted in Christmas Theme, Literacy | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Halloween Counting, Sensory Sorting, and Flavored Pumpkin Seeds!


Halloween Eraser SortingHalloween Math Ideas for Preschool and Kindergarten

Materials needed:  Miniature Halloween erasers and an ice cube tray (it doesn’t have to be a Halloween one, but it makes the games more “festive.”)  Local craft and dollar stores usually carry similar items.

Number the bottom of the ice cube tray with the numbers 1-10.  The erasers are very small and can be transferred from the container to the tray with fingers, tweezers, spoons, etc.  Change the transfer utensil to keep the children interested in the game.  For younger children, ask them to count out loud as they transfer the erasers.  For older children, write the numbers 10-20 on index cards.  Have the children shuffle the cards and place, number side down, on the floor or table.  The children will take turns turning over a card and counting out that number of miniature erasers.  The game is over when all ten cards have been used or the children lose interest.

Additional use for erasers:  Have the children create patterns with the erasers.  You can print the blank pattern strips here or have the children lay them out on a table.  For very young children, start a simple AB pattern for them and see if they can extend the pattern. You might also complete one entire line of the blank pattern strips and see if the children can copy the pattern to their own blank strips.  Blank Pattern Strips

Halloween TPTB 002Halloween Sensory Sorting Bins 

Materials needed:  Beans (we used kidney beans, but any variety will work; other suggestions might be: rice, pulled cotton for a “web” effect, moon sand, or moon dough), and miniature erasers

Put the beans (or other desired material) in the bottom of a plastic bin or sand table.  Stir the miniature erasers around and bury some of them.  Set out 3 containers so that the children might sort the erasers as they find them:  1) bats 2) spiders and 3) pumpkins (or other characters in the eraser set).  The children can use tweezers to pick up the erasers, small tongs, spoons, plastic forks, measuring spoons, etc.  After the children have sorted the erasers into the 3 bowls, let the kids count each bowl to see how many of each kind of eraser was found.


Orange Flavored Pumpkin SeedsKoolaid Flavored Pumpkin Seeds

Our kids didn’t care for regular pumpkin seeds last year so we tried something different last week. We put 1/2 a package of orange Koolaid into a zippered qt. size bag and added just enough water to make a liquid – approx. 3 tablespoons.  We then let the kids gently squeeze the bags to distribute the color among the seeds.  The Koolaid worked much better and faster than regular food coloring/alcohol (plus they are EDIBLE.)  After coloring the seeds, we strained them to get rid of excess Koolaid and put the seeds on a foil lined baking sheet.  Blot the seeds dry with a paper towel and bake in a 375 oven for 15 minutes – turning once.  The seeds can be left overnight to dry also, but the oven gave the seeds a crunchy/slightly sweet taste and the kids loved them.  Next time, we are going to try GRAPE Koolaid for our pumpkin seeds.

For more ideas for Halloween, see the Fall Thematic Unit or for other fun activities see Preschool and Kindergarten Themes for Active Learning and Play!

Posted in Fall Theme Activities, Halloween Theme for Kids, Math, PreK, Preschool Themes, Sensory Tubs | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment