Playing to Learn with ROCKS in Preschool!



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

Nature Crafted Dominoes Collage


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

Rainbow Rock Dominoes

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

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

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

Classic Rock Dominoes

Materials needed: Rocks and Markers or Chalk.

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

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

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

Playing to Learn with Rocks in Preschool

Other suggestions for playful learning with rocks:

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

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

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





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

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

Yerkes Observatory

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

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

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

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

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

That night –

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thus began our journey into grief.

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

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

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

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

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

To that we can all say: AMEN!

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


Posted in Parenting and Values | Tagged , , , | 13 Comments

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

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

Healthy Habits with Foods in PreschoolHealthy Food Habits for Preschoolers!

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

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

Choose My PlateThere are 5 Main Food Groups:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MY MENU – Good Foods for Preschool Menu Activity

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

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

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

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

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


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

Polar Bear Activities and Books for Preschool!

This week the #PlayfulPreschool Team is back with a POLAR ANIMALS THEME designed just for preschoolers!  We hope your own kids enjoy playing to learn with us as we continue offering free resources for use at home or in the classroom!

Polar Bear Math Game for PreschoolPolar Bear Math for Preschool!

Disclosure:  the post below contains affiliate links.  For FULL disclosures, please see the ABOUT page near the top of this blog.

Materials needed:

Bear Tracks Math Game for PreschoolPaw Print Bear Tracks.pdf – download and print here: Bears Math Activity for Preschool

Small plastic polar bears or colored bear counters

One die (we use large foam dice for many math activities with our preschoolers).


Glue or Tape

Construction paper

Cut apart one (or more) strips of the Paw Print Bear Tracks (linked above).  Glue or tape the paw print strip onto construction paper and laminate for durability if desired.

Invite the children to place a bear on the paw print farthest from the bear cave photo. Roll the die.  Move the bear one paw print for each number rolled on the dice. For example, if your child rolls a “3,” they would move their bear 3 paw prints forward.  Keep rolling and moving the bear until it gets to the bear cave.

For older children, have the child continue rolling the die until they get their bear to the bear cave with an exact roll.

Extension:  set out number or number word cards.  Have the children draw a number or read the number word to move the bear instead of rolling a die.

Polar Bear Books for PreschoolPolar Bear Books for Preschool!

The books below are some of our own favorite titles:

Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do You Hear? by Eric Carle

Polar Opposites by Erik Brooks

Polar Bear Night by Lauren Thompson

Little Polar Bear by Hans de Beer

The Snow Bear by Miriam Moss

The Polar Bear’s Gift by Jeanne Bushley

Polar Animals Large Motor Game for PreschoolPolar Bear Large Motor Game for Toddlers and Preschoolers! – Large Bear Paw Print

The polar bear large motor game is a great way to get kids MOVING inside this winter!  Print several copies of the LARGE BEAR PAW PRINT.pdf (linked above), laminate for durability if desired, and then set out materials to make a bear cave (for our game we used a small table and brown wrapping paper for just the front of the cave).   The ends of the cave were open and allowed for free movement in and out!

Randomly tape the large paw prints in a circle leading to and away from the created bear cave. We discussed different movements that the kids might do to get from one paw print to another:  bear crawling, baby crawling, hopping, jumping, frog jumping, giant steps, etc.  As the kids come to the cave, they have to duck and crawl through then continue on their journey!  It’s a simple and FUN way for kids to play and practice various large motor movements!

Please take a moment to visit other resources and suggestions for a POLAR ANIMAL THEME from the #PlayfulPreschool Team!

Polar Animal Literacy Activities:

Walrus Dive for Letters from Capri + 3
Polar Bear Paw Walk Preschool Alphabet Game by Growing Book by Book

Polar Animal Science and Sensory Activities:

How do Animals Stay Warm by Rainy Day Mum
Penguin Sorting Sensory Bin by Powerful Mothering
Arctic World by Learning 2 Walk

Polar Animal Movement Activities
Polar Animals Gross Motor Games by Still Playing School

Polar Animal Math Games and Activities:

Polar Bear Math Game by The Educators’ Spin On It
Counting to 5 with Penguins by Life Over C’s
Polar Animals Mega Blocks Puzzle by Tiny Tots Adventures




Posted in PreK | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 14 Comments