Rachel Miller, Holly Homer, and Jamie Harrington of Kids Activities Blog and Quirky Momma bring the FUN of science explorations to everyday play in their newest book, the 101 coolest simple science experiments. The book comes complete with colorful photos and simple instructions that invite kids to use critical thinking skills, explore outcomes, and have FUN doing it! If you are a parent, childcare provider, childcare center or classroom teacher, the book is must have for your own resource library!
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Have your own kids try DISSOLVING INK explorations (from the Kitchen Chemistry Section). For FULL instructions, see here!
Our own kids are experimenting with various kinds of catapults (from the Physics and Making Things Move section) and testing which constructed catapult will successfully launch an item the farthest! The catapult building lesson (pg. 63) is an inquiry and solution-based experiment that is fun for kids, but it also provides the opportunity for kids to gain knowledge that can be carried beyond the classroom (or home) to solve problems encountered in the larger community.
As the kids build the initial catapult from the book, they will begin experimenting on their own with various construction materials and developing their own ideas!
Catapult Design inspired by the 101 Coolest Simple Science Experiments by Holly Homer, Jamie Harrington, and Rachel Miller
The 101 Coolest Simple Science Experiments will challenge your own kids to critical thinking about how things in the world work through simple explorations! Be sure to pick up your own copy today and join us for a summer of playful learning and FUN!
If you are new to the Wednesday #TeachECE series, we WELCOME you! Each week, we partner with other early childhood professionals to offer playful learning activities centered around a weekly theme. This week, activity suggestions revolve around a RAINFOREST THEME. Come play to learn in preschool with FUN Tree Frog Math Games to encourage developing skills!
Prior to the activity – print the tree frogs, laminate for durability, and cut out each frog. Print as many of the lily pads as necessary for the numbers your own children are learning or currently working on (laminate the lily pads, cut them out, and number with a dry erase marker). Tape the lily pads onto a table, large tray, or a work mat before introducing the activities below.
Math Game Suggestions
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One-to-One Correspondence: invite the kids to count out the number of tree frogs that correspond to the number on the lily pad. The kids should place the number of frogs on the lily pad (remind preschoolers to count out loud as they place each frog on the corresponding numbered lily pad).
Subitizing: place a predetermined small number of tree frogs on top of a lily pad. See if the kids can tell how many frogs are on the mat without counting the individual cards.
Addition: invite the kids to place the corresponding number of tree frogs on two of the numbered lily pads. The kids should then count the total number of tree frogs on both lily pads for practice with basic addition. Begin with lower numbers until the kids gain confidence.
Subtraction: set a pre-determined number of tree frogs on top of one of the printable lily pads. Invite the kids to roll a die and TAKE OFF the corresponding number of tree frogs from the lily pad. The game is over when all the tree frogs have been removed.
Plus 1 or Plus 2: have the kids roll a die one time and place that number of tree frogs on a lily pad. To do mental math, invite the kids to add (+1) or (+2) to the number of tree frogs on the lily pad. To self-check, have the kids physically add (+1) or (+2) tree frogs to the number of frogs on the lily pad and count again to check their answer.
Skip Counting: practice counting up by 2’s or 5’s by placing the appropriate numbers of tree frogs on several of the lily pads. Tip: making a number line (1-20) will help kids have a visual when beginning skip counting skills.
If you are new to the #TeachECE Wednesday series, WELCOME! Each week we partner with other Early Childhood professionals to offer you, our valued readers, activities and suggestions centered around a weekly theme. This week we’ll focus on SPRING STEM ideas to encourage your own kids at home or in the classroom!
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 spring STEM with a Flower Construction Challenge in Preschool!
Spring STEM in Preschool: Free-Standing Flower Construction Challenge
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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.
Skills Presented in this Simple Challenge:
Science: Preschoolers will use skills within the scientific method (observing, communicating, comparing, organizing, and relating) while planning, constructing, and documenting learning in the playdough flower challenge.
Technology: Students will use digital cameras to photograph their own flower designs and print the photos to share with peers.
Engineering: Preschoolers will construct a free-standing flower from simple supplies that exhibit early attempts at engineering.
Math: Preschoolers will use mathematical skills (estimation, same/different, lines, patterns) to construct the flower and gain knowledge of mathematical relationships in the challenge.
Discuss the STEPS for STEM SUCCESS before the challenge and while the kids are constructing their own designs:
STEM INQUIRY: Preschoolers are asked to engineer a basic free-standing flower using only the simple supplies below.
Playdough – commercial or homemade
Craft Sticks – 10 per student
The kids will ask HOW to construct their flowers. Try to answer their questions with open-ended feedback to allow them to use critical thinking tools to solve the problem independently. Invite the kids to draw a picture of how they want their flower to look. It is truly amazing to watch young kids creating, thinking, and learning through play.
Documentation of Learning and Use of Technology: As the kids construct, have them take digital photos of their constructions to print and share with their peers. Kids will often develop “new” ideas from looking at photos of other flower constructions.
A few of our own preschool free-standing flower design photos:
Building Challenge Wrap-Up: Have the kids come together to share the photos of their flower creations. Invite the kids to explain why they decided to construct their flower in the manner they chose. If any of the kids made improvements (adjustments) to their initial designs, ask them to share why the improvements were necessary. In the photo above, the student initially had too many playdough petals on his flower. The flower was heavy and caused his construction to topple over. The child reduced the amount of playdough used for the flower portion – what a beautiful flower he designed! As the kids look at the various photos, ask students what they would change in their own flower design (if anything) if they had the opportunity to do the challenge again. STEM challenges in preschool invite kids to think critically, play, gain new knowledge, and explore how that knowledge can be used in the future.
We hope your own kids enjoy playing and learning with STEM challenges! For more SPRING STEM activities from The Early Childhood Education Team, please check out the awesome suggestions below!
Welcome to the Wednesday #TeachECE series! Each week throughout the year, we partner with other early childhood professionals to offer tips, activities, and suggested play ideas for your own kids at home or in the classroom. Winter weather can be challenging for staff and students. We try to get our kids outside twice a day, but when the weather doesn’t cooperate, indoor large motor games are a must to get little bodies MOVING! Come “Walk in the Jungle” with us and explore music and movement, listening skills, and a sequencing activity designed just for your own preschoolers!
Walkin’ In the Jungle Large Motor Music and Movement Game for Preschool!
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If your own preschoolers have not been introduced to “Walking in the Jungle” on the Animals CD by Super Simple Songs, you’ll want to try it! Our own kids ask for it almost daily and it’s a great song to get kids moving their bodies and listening! The song includes large motor movements: walking, stomping, jumping, and skipping (for preschoolers, skipping often looks like gallops or sliding as they learn to skip). In each verse, the children must LISTEN to the sound an animal makes and guess which animal the sound belongs to before it is revealed. Our kids now SHOUT the names of the animals as they now know which animal comes next in the song. Whether it is a frog, monkey, toucan, or a tiger, the kids delight in knowing what sound each of the animals makes! The song introduces walking forward while counting, stopping, and then stepping backwards, too. Play the song through once for your children and ask them to just LISTEN to the words, sounds, and what movements are included. Play the song again and ask the kids to try each of the movements within the song.
Sequencing Cards to Accompany Walking in the Jungle by Super Simple Songs
Tape or Poster Putty (poster putty works well with 3’s as they can tear off tiny pieces to adhere the cards to the craft sticks)
Print one set of the sequencing cards for each of the children. Laminate the cards for durability or if laminating supplies are not available, clear contact paper works well, too. Have the kids tape each of the sequencing cards to a craft stick or a straw. Play the song, Walking In the Jungle, and invite the kids to LISTEN and hold up the animal card that corresponds to the SOUND that animal makes as it is introduced in the song. Keep the cards and invite the children to sequence the cards without the music by the MOVEMENT that corresponds to each animal: WALKING=FROG; STOMPING=MONKEY; JUMPING=TOUCAN; and SKIPPING=TIGER. You might also wish to print two copies of the cards for a simple animal matching game.
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.
5 TIPS for TEACHING SELF REGULATION IN PRESCHOOL
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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 healingoliver.com
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 healingoliver.com). 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.
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.
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.
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:
Be sure to check out the other articles and activities from the Early Childhood Education Team below:
We’ve had over 49 inches of snow so far this winter! Our preschoolers (and teachers) are anxiously awaiting spring’s arrival! Just in the last month, we’ve gone from -23 degrees to a stormy 50 degrees outside today! Our kids can finally see the grass peeking out from beneath all of the melting snow! To celebrate the warmer temperatures, we made stained glass umbrellas and played with sunshine math. We hope your children enjoy crafting and learning with us this spring!
Materials needed: One umbrella template per child or craft (linked above), blue and yellow tissue paper, scissors, glue sticks, and clear contact paper.
Prior to the craft: Cut out the umbrella from the template including the hole in the center. The blue and yellow tissue paper should be cut into squares (see photo above). Younger children will need assistance with cutting.
When the template and opening is cut, place the umbrella onto a piece of clear contact paper (sticky side up). Invite the children to use the tissue paper squares to cover the opening in the umbrella. Once the children are finished, cover the entire umbrella with another sheet of clear contact paper. Older children can cut the umbrella shape out, but younger children will need assistance.
The stained glass umbrellas make wonderful spring weather crafts to display at home or in the classroom!
Materials needed: One sunshine math printable (linked above) per child, two dice, and bingo dot markers (or small items/manipulatives to cover the numbers).
Invite the children to roll 2 dice, count the number of dots, and cover the corresponding numbered sun with the chosen manipulative (or mark with a bingo dot marker). When the children have rolled all of the numbers except for the number 1, have the children roll just ONE die until the number 1 is rolled.
For younger children: Have the children roll only one die to begin the game; it will allow the children to concentrate solely on the numbers 1-6. As the children gain confidence with counting and number recognition skills, add the second die to work with the numbers 1-12.
The wet chalk kite crafts are a fun activity to do indoors or outside! 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).
Invite the children use the Wikki Stix to make any design desired on the white paper (if you do not have Wikki Stix at home, painter’s tape will work to make chalk resist kites also). 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.
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 (Yarn or String will work for the kite tails, but the children will need to tape the bows to the string).
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 – invite the children write or stamp the bows with the letters that make up their names and place the letters in the correct order on the kites tails.
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 ways to play and learn with young kids, check out our learning themes! Each theme is available as an instant download with songs, fingerplays, math, science, literacy, food crafts, arts and crafts, gross motor suggestions, and an extensive book list for PLAYFUL LEARNING at home or in the classroom!
If your kids are as stir crazy for spring as some of the adults I know (myself included), why not use that momentum to bolster their classroom learning? April is Mathematics Awareness Month, so in honor of this and the new warmer season, we bring to you Springtime Math Learning Centers. These activities will get students out of their seats and actively into learning and reinforcing their math skills.
Learning Centers are separate work areas where students tackle an activity on their own or in small groups. These areas typically include a sign or poster for the center, have clear directions (including expected behavior), and involve a set time frame. Here are few additional tips and a quick guide to help walk you through your first learning center experience.
Center groups should generally not exceed five (5) students.
Review the materials and any reporting that the students will be responsible for.
Have a planned phrase that you will use to get the attention of your entire class. An example for younger students could be “1,2,3… All eyes on me!”
Center areas can be placed around the room, including rug areas, reading nooks, or in a space outside the classroom.
Allow plenty of time for orderly cleaning of each center.
Free Spring Math Center – Basketball Addition
Spring Math Learning Centers
The following examples are learning center ideas to use in your class or during larger math events. They contain easy, colorful activities for practicing elementary addition skills, along with fun games and folder activities. Included: Each learning center activity comes with a teaching instruction sheets, including directions and the materials needed.
6. Lego Counting Circle – Give students a series of numbers and let them brainstorm how many shapes they can make using the given number.
7. Creative Graphing – This is the same concept as the Lego circle. Using a piece of large graphing paper, give students a number and let them create, using various colors, different spring shapes and designs with that number.
8. Pattern Play – Give students a set of shapes that they need to cut out, color, or create using various art materials. Depending on the age, you may want to pre-make the shapes, or have younger students stick to drawing.
Note: If working with younger students, cut and laminate the math counters before your students work at the station.
The options for learning centers are endless, and they can easily adapt to any subject or topic that you are teaching. This includes language arts, science, sports, the holidays, and more. If you’re looking for ideas, abcteach has an abundance of great learning center, the literacy center, and reporting activities. Check us out! And if you have any questions, or don’t find exactly what you need, please let us know. We’re here to help.
About the Author:
Lindsey Elton has been working with the abcteach team since 2009. She currently manages the abcteach blog and other social media, and is a key contributor to marketing and membership initiatives. Lindsey is the daughter of two educators, with whom she collaborates regularly for their classroom knowledge. She has a passion for languages, sustainability, and empowering the community.
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!
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?
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!
Children love to discuss the weather and observe weather patterns in their own cities and towns. Below are a few suggestions that will help the children understand the changes that occur as many climates transition from Winter to Spring.
Materials needed: 1 Poem (linked above) for each child, 1 Lion or Lamb Recording Sheet for each child, and stickers or markers.
Introduce the concept of “Lion or Lamb weather”. Which animal makes a loud sound?…which a softer sound? Name several types of weather and ask which animal it would be…Lion or Lamb? What is the weather like today? Is it like a Lion or Lamb? What would the phrase, “In like a Lion and Out like a Lamb” mean? Read the poem (linked above) with your children and discuss today’s weather. Which weather is stronger…weather like a Lion or Lamb?
Print the recording sheet and have the children place an X or a sticker in the boxes of the Lion or Lamb Recording Sheet (linked above) to represent the type of weather for each day in March. Print the poem (linked above) and have the children circle all the letter L’s they find on the page.
Puffy Paint Lions and Clouds
Puffy Paint Lion
Materials needed: liquid glue, unscented shaving cream, yellow food coloring (we improvised and used a little yellow tempera as we were out of yellow food coloring), mixing bowl and spoon, large plate or platter (can do individual plates for each student), Wikki Stix or black pipe cleaners for the facial features, yellow construction paper, and pencils.
Mix the glue and shaving cream in a large bowl. We used 1/4 glue to 3/4 shaving cream ratio and it worked well. Some puffy paint recipes call for equal parts of shaving cream and glue, but the paint does look “puffier” when you use MORE shaving cream. Experiment to see which ratio you prefer for different crafts. We made ONE huge Lion for our classroom, but the children could do individual ones, if desired.
Mix the glue/shaving cream and add drops of yellow food coloring until desired color is reached. Place the mixture on a plate or platter and spread into a circle. Have the children cut strips of yellow construction paper (we cut each vertical strips of standard construction paper into four smaller strips.) Demonstrate how to curl each piece of construction paper around a pencil. Let the children work together to create the lion’s mane. We used black Wikki Stix for the facial features, but black pipe cleaners would work too.
Puffy Paint Clouds
Materials needed: liquid glue, unscented shaving cream, mixing bowl and spoon, craft sticks, and blue construction paper.
In a large mixing bowl, mix liquid glue and shaving cream in the ratio desired (see instructions above for the Puffy Paint Lion Craft). Have the children use spoons to transfer the puffy paint from the bowl to their sheets of blue construction paper. Our kids used craft sticks to spread the paint mixture into clouds, but the kids can use their fingers, too.
Let the clouds dry overnight. Send the paintings home in a gallon-sized zippered bag if doing the craft in the classroom. This craft makes really puffy clouds that are great for display during your weather theme!
We hope you and your children enjoy learning about LION or LAMB kinds of weather at home or in the classroom!
I am often asked by teachers and parents how to teach scissor skills to preschoolers. Young kids need plenty of practice with fine motor activities to develop the small muscles required for cutting. We introduce scissors to our 3’s, but do not formally work on cutting skills until the 4th year. By the time most kids are four (reminder that not every child will develop at the same pace), they are ready to begin cutting and have the fine motor control necessary to have success!
The Ultimate Guide to Scissor Skills in Preschool
Cutting with scissors takes patience and practice. Make a tray activity for each of the children as the kids will develop skills at various paces and trays can be differentiated for each child. Label the tray with the child’s name so they can practice during downtime or center activity times, if desired. It is also helpful to include an envelope in the tray where the kids can save precious cuttings.
Prior to cutting: Invite the children to hold the scissors in their dominant hand with the thumb up (place a small piece of tape around the thumb hole as a reminder). Have the children practice opening and closing the scissors WITHOUT paper to help them gain confidence. Observe the children to note which child needs additional help and practice before moving on to actual cutting. The child should be able to open and close the scissor with ease before adding paper (or other materials to cut).
Trays (to contain individual cutting practice sheets, scissors, and envelopes)
Envelopes (to hold cuttings)
Paper (vary the weight as skills progress – copy paper, heavy paper, light weight cardboard (such as cereal boxes), tissue paper, etc.)
Permanent Marker (to create lines for cutting)
Scissors (Fiskars brand is, by far, the best brand for preschoolers – there is nothing more frustrating than to have good cutting form and poor quality scissors that fail to cut).
Step One: Cut “fringe” on the bottom of a standard weight piece of paper. Preschoolers should practice opening the scissors and making just ONE cut before moving across the paper. Practice until fringe can be cut all the way across the paper by moving the scissors and opening and closing to make the cut.
Step Two: As the kids are able to make the fringe cuts, progress to cutting straight lines. In order to cut multiple times, the kids must open the scissors fully and move them forward before cutting. It isn’t as simple as it looks! In the beginning, most preschoolers will tear the paper as they forget to OPEN the scissors before trying to move up the paper line to cut. We practice saying or singing, “OPEN, CUT, OPEN, CUT” so it becomes routine. Start with shorter lines in the beginning and then progress to cutting longer lines as the kids gain confidence and skills. Parents and teachers can also tape “lines” as a guide. The tape will help serve as an edge when cutting (we use colored tape as it adds a little flair to cutting practice).
Step Three: Cutting Zig-Zag lines is no easy task as they must turn the paper and keep thumbs up while doing it to cut well. Remind kids to watch the tape to make sure they have their hand in proper position. Practice over and over and the kids will catch on!
Step Four: Progress to circular shapes when the kids have mastered the scissor skills above. Again remind the kids to keep thumbs up for good scissor form while turning the paper to cut circular shapes.
As the kids mature and fine motor skills develop, the kids will have great success! Squares and rectangles with corners can be introduced as the kids further develop scissor skills. Be sure to note all the cuttings in the envelopes as they are precious pieces of paper that make a milestone in each preschooler’s development!
For more Tips, Practice Sheets, Seasonal Ideas, and Suggestions for Encouraging Scissor Skills, please check out all the wonderful activities below!
Cutting Grass by Simple Fun for Kids – see how adding texture can enhance cutting skills!
Cutting Shapes from Coloring Books by Mama Smiles – an inexpensive way to cut more difficult shapes.
STEAM Education integrates the arts into STEM by recognizing that individual creative expression and quest for knowledge is an integral part the disciplines of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math! STEAM Education compels kids to use cross-disciplinary skills to gain new knowledge that they can apply to their everyday world. Come explore how integrated learning can be EXCITING and FUN for kids through a STEAM Mondrian-Inspired Playdough Challenge for Kids!
Mondrian-Inspired STEAM Playdough Challenge for Kids!
Background Information for Parents and Teachers:
Piet Mondrian, “Composition C (no.iii) with Red, Yellow and Blue” (1935), oil on canvas (Private Collection)
Piet Mondrian (1872-1944) was a Dutch painter considered by many to be the founder of abstract art. In his artwork, “Composition C (no.iii) with Red, Yellow and Blue” (1935), Piet Mondrian used red, blue, and yellow colored squares and rectangles with black lines and white spaces to create art he considered harmonious and pure. The artist moved from France to New York during WWII and became very productive near the end of his life. The colorful grid-like block patterns in his later paintings were reflections of the fast pace of the city and the “boogie-woogie” jazz music he adored. For more examples of Mondrian Art, see here.
Introductory Discussion with Kids:
Open discussion by showing the kids a picture of Piet Mondrian’s Composition C (no.iii) with Red, Yellow and Blue (photo above) and asking the following questions:
Why do you think Piet Mondrian left white spaces in his artwork?
What shapes did Mondrian use in the Composition C (no.iii) with Red, Yellow, and Blue?
Do you like the painting? Why or why not? Remind students they do not have to like an artist’s work, but they must always show respect for the artist in their responses.
Mondrian-Inspired Playdough Challenge
Objective: Kids will use cross-disciplinary STEAM skills to plan, design, and engineer Mondrian-inspired color blocks with playdough.
STEAM Skills Presented:
Science: Students will explore Mondrian Art through individual (and/or collaborative) use of skills in the scientific method: observing, communicating, comparing, organizing, and relating.
Technology: Kids will use digital photography, video clips, and iMovie to document learning.
Engineering: Students will construct hands-on Mondrian-inspired color block art that exhibits early attempts at engineering.
Arts: Kids will design and construct Mondrian-inspired art that reflects the student’s creative expression.
Math: Students will explore geometric shapes, measurement, lines, primary colors, and patterns in creating Mondrian-inspired art.
Set out the simple supplies on a tray or table as an invitation for the kids to create. Show the kids a photo of the Mondrian color block painting again for inspiration, but allow the kids to formulate their own plan for design and construction.
Playdough (Red, Yellow, Blue, and White)
Square and Rectangle Shapes or Cookie Cutters
Plastic knives (if not using cookie cutters)
Challenge Inquiry: Kids are asked to plan colors and design a 4-6 color Mondrian-inspired block pattern using just playdough and the squares/rectangles. The time limit for the challenge is 15 minutes. The kids will ask HOW to make the color block patterns. Try to respond with open ended questions to allow for critical thinking and creative expression.
It is truly amazing to watch kids use inquiry, exploration, critical thinking, and predictions to formulate creative solutions to simple problems! Our kids all chose different color block patterns and numbers of squares/rectangles to complete the challenge. We used the same supplies, but each color block construction was as unique as the child that created it!
Invite the kids to take photos and video clips of their playdough color block constructions or color block patterns they might find in their own communities. To create the trailer shown, our kids took digital photos and loaded them into an iMovie Trailer template. The kids had great FUN, but they also gained awesome technology skills along the way!
Color block patterns occur often in art, textiles (see: the Mondrian-inspired dress by Yves Saint Laurent), and in their own communities. When kids are exposed to the concept of color block art through simple STEAM learning, they gain the knowledge to begin formulating ideas about how their everyday world is connected to a larger universe.
For MORE STEAM Explorations for Kids, please see:
Be sure to visit the OTHER great STEM activities that are part of the