Thursday, June 23, 2011

Jammin' J

I get asked all the time what my opinion is of "letter of the week" type programs. Here's my stand. I'd love to hear opinions in the comments after you read this.

I, personally do not see a problem with isolating a letter and saturating learning with it, or a couple of letters that have a common bond (like "boring letters" or "letters that curve" or "letters associated with apples" or whatever).

What I do have a problem with is months worth of pre-planned experiences.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Inspiring Imaginations: Dragon Hunting

Over a month ago, I added Where's the Dragon by Jason Hook to our collection of books. This gem of a book quickly became a favorite and was requested daily during our pre-nap "we love books" time. This is a 30-45 minute section of time that the children are all cozy with their pillows and blankets and I read any book they request.

I had lots of ideas of how to bring this book alive, but the children never gravitated towards this particular storyline during their play. So, I decided to wait until the right moment to plop something into play time that would spark their imaginations.

Friday, June 10, 2011

This "Plop" Got GLOWING Reviews!

Want to know how to brighten up a cloudy, dreary day? GLOW stick bracelets will do the trick!  Usually available at the Dollar Tree for ....wait for it............ONE dollar, and most recently in the ever-so-lovely dollar section of Target! They come in a tube of for the low, low price of $1 you get 15 bracelets. I, happen to have bought 5 tubes and we used them all this morning! I'll save you the brain draining task of math...that's 75 glowing sticks!!  ***Just found them at Michael's Craft store today (June 12, 2011) 15 for $1***

It began as a simple plop. After all the toys had been picked up, I silently went to work closing the blinds, then turned off the lights one by one. The children were all watching eagerly as they had no clue what was coming.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Whoops to Wow

On the same day that I plopped the natural clay  natural clay, I also got out the chalk, cheese graters, bucket of water and paper for some chalk shaving art. The children were all familiar with these materials so I just plopped this a ways away from the clay play and walked away.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Plop Your Way to Amazing Clay Play!

I am honored to follow the lead of children. I used to be a planner, and had children follow my lead....but every time I would let go of that lead, ever so slightly, amazing ideas would transpire. Finally, after years and years of transitioning, I have truly accepted my role as a follower. I have found a happy place where I can still do a little planning and then I follow. I call this plopping. I plan a plop, then follow where the children take it.

My planned plop to get the week started? Natural clay. I bought it at Michael's Craft comes in a plain white box and runs about $7.00, but I used a 50% off coupon and got it for the lovely cost of $3.50.  I'm not talking about Crayola clay, or any other name brand -- this is just "boring" old gray natural clay. This stuff is be warned before you pick up the box, the box is not all that large, I was shocked by how heavy it was. 

I plopped the chunk of clay in a large tub with a smidgen of water in the bottom just to keep it moist. I also added the ice cream scoops (these things are great for EVERYTHING...I found mine at the Dollar Tree), and about 50 sea creature beads in the tub as well. Off to the side, I had a fairly good sized bucket of warm water for washing hands.

Instantly, there was a curious group gathering around the picnic table. The usual question "what is this?" was asked, and I explained and encouraged them to feel it.I commented on how soft and smooth it felt. I then took a piece of plastic lacing and sliced the clay into about 3 large chunks. (use about 1 1/2 feet of plastic lacing and hold it like you are ready to floss your teeth. Using a sawing motion, cut through the clay, flipping it over half way through.)

Within seconds, there was a "turtle island" created and slides with water and fish beads enjoying a slick ride. The stories they were telling were priceless and the sharing and cooperation that was going on was very impressive.

It didn't take too terribly long for another discovery to be made. Hands covered in clay, outside on a hot, windy day will dry rather quickly. Dry clay on your hands makes you feel like you are a monster!! It is hard to move your hands too! Then, when you put your monster hands in the warm water, they instantly feel soft again. This was done again, and again and again.

The very last discovery made with the clay was the joy of creating holes in it. Ty and Cole were so proud of the holes they had worked very hard to drill with their thumbs. Ty was so proud as he yelled across the yard "Hey Nita! Look! We made volcanoes!"  As I came across to see, I knew exactly what I would "plop" out there next. Colored vinegar, baking soda and pipettes would add an entirelyl new level of discovery!

Colored vinegar, pipettes, baking soda and a spoon

The very beginning of the volcano fun

The "volcanoes" with baking soda in them awaiting the colored vinegar!


Awesome for eye-hand coordination and strengthening
 those oh-so-important muscles needed for writing!

I cannot begin to tell you how exciting it was to create volcanoes and watch the pretend lava flow. The colors were gorgeous against the drab gray clay. Since it was so incredibly windy out, I scooped the baking soda into the holes, but they did the drilling, and the vinegar themselves. 

Having explored baking soda and vinegar in her hand before,
and knowing how cool it felt, Ella wanted to try it again

When the clay was so full of baking soda and vinegar,
 I dumped it out and rinsed it all with water.
We then smoothed it out and started all over again!

Recall how all this learning began? A simple plan: plop clay in tub and step back. The results: a morning so filled with learning it was simply awe inspiring!

Here's a closer look at the learning the children led themselves to:
Literacy:  vocabulary, story telling, spatial awareness (necessary for letter recognition),and pre-writing (the clay is very hard to manipulate, it requires great large and small muscle strength and coordination).
Math: one-to-one coorespondence (at one point, a group was making homes for each fish, carefully placing one fish into each home), counting, measuring
Social Skills: taking turns, sharing, cooperating to achieve a similar goal

I invite you to go and buy some natural clay and plop it. Here's the not set up what my group discovered. Please, step back and let your children explore and make their own discoveries!!  THEN....share what happens in the comments below!!  I would love to hear what direction your crew took the clay!

Miscellaneous Tidbits:

1) a bucket of plain, warm water will wash away the clay from hands with ease
2) if you end up using baking soda and vinegar with the clay, rinse it off and cover the remaining clay with plastic to be played with again
3) Add lots of water to make a clay time I an planning on  plopping a pitcher of water and paint brushes with the clay -- we will also be wearing swimming suits and the sprinkler will be on....I'll let you know how it turns out!!  I'm anticipating some monsterous fun!!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Inspiring Imaginations: The Ice Cream King

The simple discovery of a wonderful book called The Ice Cream King by Steve Metzger led to amazing imaginative play for my daycare kids!  This discovery was made on an otherwise uneventful Saturday afternoon while browsing through Barnes and Nobles.  On my way home, I had some errands to run at Target. While there, another discovery added to this first....vanilla flavored lip balm.

Immediately, the gears started turning.

That Monday I plopped The Ice Cream King. We read it again, and again and I do believe 2 more agains. When all the "read it agains" had subsided, I took out our mystery bag (handy drawstring bags I found at Ikea for $3 which was a wonderful discovery for a non-sewer like myself). I shook the bag. We passed the bag around the circle. What could possibly be inside?

(Recall the vanilla lip balm? Well...they also had chocolate, banana split, strawberry, blueberry, mango tangelo and many, many more ice cream topping sounding names. The gears turning came up with the following which has been a daily activity since the very first time we did this over a month ago.)

I reached in and pulled out the vanilla and chocolate lip balms. I called up the first child and said, "Would you like chocolate or vanilla ice cream today Mam?"  This child played along, "Vanilla please". I opened the vanilla lipbalm and rubbed it on the back of her hand. Then asked her if she would like a topping, she did, and so she reached into the bag to pull out a topping.

As each child anxiously awaited their turn, the children who had their "treats" were "sharing" with each other, offering bites of their delicious smelling deserts.

I had also picked up some ice cream scoops at the Dollar Tree, and my friend Jenn had picked up some ice cream cone shaped bowls and spoons for me about a month prior to this (funny how the perfect purpose always pops up!).  So now, we needed some imaginary ice cream to play with!

We mixed together flour and baby oil, adding just enough baby oil to make a playdough like substance in a large tub...all hands were involved!

We then added ONE Liquid Watercolor color at a it a special name. For example, yellow was banana split, red: strawberry etc.  The wonder of adding Liquid Water Color to oil soaked flour is the water soluable coloring will not mix in the flour. It forms tiny little speckles...just like sprinkles on top of ice cream!  So by the time we were finished adding coloring, we had a delicious looking tub of ice cream!

This photo was taken before we went crazy with the coloring....note to self (and you), stop at this point!

The ice cream scoops and bowls were added and the kids took it from there for days of fun! 

Notice how dark the mixture is in this photo? That's what happens if you add too much coloring.  We had made a batch a few months ago by accident (that's how we discovered the Liquid Watercolor sprinkles)...we were making the flour and oil mix and I wanted to change it up a bit, oil soaked flour is very blah looking, it's fun to play in, but it's blah.  So we were just experimenting, I had no clue it would "sprinkle" it up like it did.  So anyway, the second time we did it, we wanted to see what would happen if we added lots more color.  What happens is it gets more of a sandy texture -- still fun to play with.  Just mess around and have fun exploring different combinations!

The flour and oil mixture never dries, and , I don't believe it builds mold -- (as least not yet, and we have had this sitting around for a month and a half now!)

Imaginations were sparked even more with the plopping of sliced swim noodles and cut up PVC pipes. My friend Jen had called to tell me what her crew did with this mixture of items, and so I had to try it with mine -- we ended up having the same results, which doesn't always happen!

Just look at what they thought of!!  How clever!

  SAFETY NOTE: make sure your pvc pieces are at least 4"inches long to avoid a choking hazzard.

Notice Elsie selling her ice cream treats?  The rest of the kids were making money out of construction paper, and counting out the correct amount to give to her.  Elsie was walking around yelling "ICE CREAM!  GET YER ICE CREAM!" They were ordering by "scoops" and she was handing them their requests accordingly. So much math and language being explored right alongside imaginations soaring -- I LOVE it!!

After two weeks of imaginary ice cream play, we enjoyed an ice cream party where the kids got to scoop out and create their own ice cream treats! 

All of this from the simple "plop" of a book!  Go!  Inspire imaginations!!  Plop something and follow where the children take it!