Mondrian-Inspired STEAM Playdough Challenge for Kids!

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

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, “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.

STEAM Mondrian Playdough Challenge for Kids

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.

Mondrian STEAM Playdough Challenge Supplies

Materials needed:

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.

Mondrian-Inspired STEAM Playdough Color Block Challenge for Kids

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! 

Mondrian STEAM Playdough Challenge from The Preschool Toolbox on Vimeo.

Digital Technology and Documentation of Learning

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:

STEAM Education in Early Childhood_Exploring Tessellating Shapes

Be sure to visit the OTHER great STEM activities that are part of the

#28DaysofSTEM series from Left Brain Craft Brain!

STEM series




Posted in Artists and Masterpieces, PreK, Technology for Preschool and Kindergarten | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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 , , , | 5 Comments

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 , , , , , , , | 8 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 , , , , , , , , , , , | 12 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 , , , , , , , , | 7 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 , , , , , , , | 3 Comments