Sunday, September 30, 2012

In All Seriousness- LET THEM PLAY!

Amy Ahola and Denita Dinger, September 29, 2012 Let Them Play Twin Cities

I'm not sure that you realize exactly who you are looking at in the photo above, so I'll help you out. After all, most of you have never seen a photo of me with my real hair! You're looking at the 30s (the 2 of us who share posting on this site on the 30th of each month)... yup, that's right-- Denita Dinger and I spent the day together at the Let Them Play event in the Twin Cities last weekend! 

If you ever have the opportunity to attend one of these AMAZING events, I strongly encourage you to go! Denita Dinger and Jeff Johnson put on a fabulous day of hands-on learning fun, a full day of PLAY and provide you with all of the tools you need to understand all of the learning and the value of real play!

 Play is so important to ALL of us. Taking the time to not only spend the day learning about the value of play, but also actually playing with the materials is essential to being able to support children in their explorations. As a child, it is important to be able to use open ended materials and to experiment with a wide range of ways in which to use them. As a teacher, to prepare for the children you too need to take the time to investigate the possibilities!

 I learned and re-learned so many things from Jeff and Denita!
I had never thought of using straws filled with vinegar to make mini volcanoes in a mountain of baking soda!

 We love to play with magnets, but I had never heard of Ironwood before.... and I loved all of the sculptures and structures to play with while exploring magnetism

 If you don't have an AWESOME vacuum of play, you are totally missing out!

 Who knew that chunks of pool noodles and toothpicks could be so inviting and engaging!

 Plungers + Crossbows = WIN WIN for all ages!

 If you build it... it will eventually fall.......
(You can find the video of this final product on Facebook)
And don't forget... when all else fails, there are always bubbles!!!

I hope you enjoyed a sneak peek into my day with Denita and Jeff. I also hope that you are all taking time to PLAY! for more information on upcoming LET THEM PLAY events in your area, you can visit Jeff's Website, Explorations Early Learning or follow both Denita and Jeff on Facebook.

Explorations Early Learning Facebook Page (Jeff and Tasha Johnson)

Play Counts on Facebook (Denita Dinger)

Let Them Play on Facebook 

For more ideas and understanding of the importance play you can also check out the LET THEM PLAY An Early Learning (Un) Curriculum book they recently published through Red Leaf Press.


 More About Amy

Amy Ahola is the owner/operator of Child Central Station, group home daycare and educational toy store in Marquette, Michigan.  She has been running her own business since 2005. Prior to that time, Amy worked in a childcare center and public school. In addition to her childcare business, Amy also provides educational training sessions. Amy earned a Bachelors of Science in Psychology from Northern Michigan University and a M.S. in Training, Development, and Performance Improvement.  For more information about any of her programs, please visit Child Central Station or Find her on Facebook

Friday, September 28, 2012

Healthy bodies, brains and bellies part 1

Healthy Bodies, Brains and Bellies Part 1
Hello everybody, today I am going to speak from my heart and talk about a touchy subject.  There is a crisis in our country, the food we eat and the lack of exercise we allow can lead to childhood obesity, ADHD and many more things.  It is scary how many children are overweight and the long term damaging effects obesity can cause.  There are many factors that have contributed to this crisis:  fast food, modern conveniences, television, and technology.  Even if a child has a high metabolism they still need to eat healthy.  It is sad how many chemicals and dyes are in our foods these days.  The more color it has the more a child is drawn to it and wants to eat it.  I strongly believe that a lot of the behavioral and medical problems that we deal with in children can be attributed to their food. 
In part one I am going to discuss healthy bellies and how we can make healthy eating fun! 

Healthy eating at home prepares kids mentally and physically for their day.  Create a healthy home environment by offering your kids nutritious options for family meals, lunches and snacks.  Healthy eating isn’t always enough.  You also need to educate your family on why and how to eat healthy.  I will be the first to tell you it is not easy to stay the course with healthy family eating.  It is a battle that requires constant planning and dedication.  Over the last year since my daughter was diagnosed with ADHD I have been on a quest to figure out what diet works for her and our family’s busy schedule.  When I started researching food dyes I was shocked at how many foods had them in it and what the negative side effects were.  Here are some articles on food dyes Click Here and Here, when you have time check out this research on food dyes.  We try to only allow “school lunch” for our kids once a week.  This gives me better control over what they are eating.  As a busy family there are definitely days when we do eat unhealthy foods.  But there is also a balance.  Recently our family has been trying to eat more "clean".  We try to eat no processed foods, dyes, low sugar and only brown pastas and breads.  Since we began "clean eating" and taking Advocare products I have personally lost 40lbs, my husband hasn't had any migraines and my daughter with ADHD has improved her focus.  The question is how do we make healthy eating fun?
One way to make healthy eating fun is to have a “mascot”.  The very hungry caterpillar is a great mascot.  He ate healthy and it helped him grow.  Reading together will also aid in family bonding. 
Allowing children to help with food prep will get them exited to eat more healthy.

Here comes the fun part!  What can we put in our kids lunches and what can we give them for snacks that is fun and healthy?? 
I like to start every “fun” project I do with a theme.  It organizes my brain and helps me come up with better ideas.  We have weekly themes at preschool so you could use the same themes or come up with your own family themes.  After you come up with themes you should plan a menu.  Start with a week’s worth and include your kids in the planning and shopping.  This will be a great way to educate them on cooking, family time and healthy eating. 
Here is my fun snacks and foods pinterest page for ideas.  The ideas on this page are not all healthy but there is a wealth of healthy kid lunch ideas.
I hope you enjoyed these fun ideas!!  Let me know if you would like more information on My weight loss journey!
Rachel Supalla
Director Discovery Kidzone Montessori School

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

What we can learn from APPLES!

By Laura Eldredge

My previous post this month talked about learning experiences with farms and apple orchards ... whether you can actually take a field trip, or bring the experience into the classroom.

Let's talk about how the learning can continue as we focus on a teacher's favorite fruit ... APPLES!

photo of: PreK+K Sharing: What we Learn from Apples

APPLE Literacy

Oh, as far as books go ... there are LOTS of great ones to choose from! Here is one selection you can use to teach children about the apple life cycle. The book "How do Apples Grow?" by Betsy Maestro discusses and colorfully illustrates how an apple grows from a bud, to a flower and into a delicious apple.

A couple of other favorites?  How about:

The Apple Pie Tree by Zoe Hall
Up, Up, Up! It's Apple-picking Time by Jody Fickes Shapiro
How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World by Marjorie Priceman
Johnny Appleseed by Steven Kellogg


Graphing, estimating, counting, patterning ... young children can use apples to have fun practicing these math concepts.

One fun ideas is to read the book "Ten Apples Up On Top" by Dr.  Seuss.  Then, take a headshot picture of each child and have print them.  Each child can glue the picture of themselves onto a piece of paper, or use the free printable sheet below.

photo of: How Many Apples up on Top Printable

Give each child a collection of multi-colored apple cutouts or stickers. Help children identify a pattern with the colored apples and have them repeat the pattern as they glue the apples on top of their picture.   Finish the project by having the child count how many apples are on top of their head, and writing under each picture “Sarah has 8 apples on top!

More math favorites?  How about ...

photo of: Apple Taste Test Graph on the Bulletin Board at PreK + K Sharing
Apple taste test GRAPH

APPLE Science

There are so many ways to explore the concepts of science with apples ... using senses of sight, sound, smell and taste (yum!).  One of my favorite activities (that the children look forward to every year) is learning how apple cider is made from apples. Children can observe and experiment with how apples turn from one form to another (a solid to a liquid). 

We talk about things that we can make to eat from apples (applesauce, pies, etc) -- and how apple juice and apple cider are made differently (apple juice is made from apples that are skinned, cooked and filtered - apple cider is made from whole raw apples that are compressed). 

photo of: Apple processor at school for Apple Studies Unit

I cut up different types of apples into slices and put them into the juicer (skin, seeds and all).  The children gather around and watch as the apples are compressed and juice comes out on one side and the skin and apple pulp comes out on the other.  Each child gets to sample - and we talk about how it smells and tastes.

More science favorites? How about ...

Apple observation:  Observe changes to apples when they are cut and exposed to the air.

Make discovery bottles out of seeds:  Cut open different seeded fruits - scoop out and compare the different types of seeds.  All them to dry and put into discovery bottles for further observation experimentation (which are largest, which are loudest, what colors are the seeds, etc).

photo of: Comparison of Seeds: Science for PreK + K Sharing


APPLE Round-Up

There are SO many ways to explore apples!  For more apple-inspired ideas, do an "APPLE" search on SEEDS idea search:

Or check out our "APPLE" Pinterest board for ideas from around the web!

photo of: Pinterest Board on Topic of Apples via PreK+K Sharing

Late breaking interruption from the editor. I just had a little roundUP of Apple goodies, including some Apple bulletin boards that would be another series of inspiration on this theme. Click here to go over to RainbowsWithinReach.

photo of: Apple Projects for Back to School (Preschool thru Kindergarten)
RoundUP of Apple Ideas

Laura Eldredge is a teacher and curriculum coordinator at a NAEYC accredited early childhood program in Connecticut. She also co-founded the website The SEEDS Network, as a way to provide early childhood professionals with ideas and resources that support them in their quest to provide quality care and education to our youngest learners. She blogs at

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Back-to-School Letter of Encouragement from Mimi

Dearest Debbie and Our Family of Wonderful Friends Who Love and Care For Our Children,

photo of: Mimi Brodsky Chenfeld, Queen of Fun Offers Encouragement at PreK + K Sharing

Uh oh! It's THAT time again! Zip up! Bundle Up! Rake those leaves! Turn on the heat! Return sleeveless shirts, sandals, funky hats and tie dye shorts back into the summer closet! Autumn! Plunged back into reality after the sunny season of outdoors, walks, campfires, festivals, car trips, picnics...the fun of summer!

Back to tighter schedules, benchmarks, parent conferences, curriculum guidelines, assignment deadlines, staff meetings...add to the list of stressful events and times, federal, state, local legislation (often passed by folks who rarely see young children) that impacts all our lives 
(example: Ohio's new law just passed calling for holding back all third graders who do not read up to third grade level by the end of their third grade.)

How on earth do those of us spending our waking hours with our youngest students keep our beliefs, faith, courage, strength and spirit with the bombardment of pressures from all directions heavy on our little shoulders?

photo of: Happy Smiling Face Painted by Young Child
Happiest Face Painting from Happy Child

It is a miracle that our profession -- that I describe as a 'sacred calling' -- is rich with awesome individuals who know that our time with our youngest students is precious and vitally important. Thank you research for supporting the importance of early childhood education . Folks like you who create environments of welcome: colorful and creative, safe and loving, are where our children learn to love learning! No matter what is going on outside of our 'world' with the children, you stand strong in your belief about enriched, imaginative, playful, delightful education that directly connects to all curriculum strands. Our children, with you, are learning important lessons by heart!

Our Debbie, Rainbow Girl, takes her songs, books, laughter, fun to teachers and children in ALL seasons! Wherever SHE is, her spirit brightens all who share time with her. People like Dr. Gay Ward at the University of Wisconsin at River Falls and her fabulous colleagues are planning a
beautiful conference titled, 'The Joyful Journey- Teaching In the Key Of Life.' I'm honored to be part of that delightful event that will strengthen participants in their committment to keeping the promise of playful, joyful learning experiences for their children.

photo of: Autumn Quote: Always do Your Best

We are all on a 'joyful journey' and when we forget that path, we break trust with those who need our steadfastness and affirmation the most. This autumn and in the winter months that follow, I hope each and every' one of you keeps the lights of wonder, curiosity, adventure, courage, creativity alive and well no matter the other 'weather' happening around us.

AS long as you and the children stay on the 'joyful journey' together, they will fall in love with learning....and with YOU. Good luck! 

Peace and Love, Mimi
             books: Teaching In The 'Key of Life'
                       Teaching By Heart
                        Celebrating Young Children and Their Teachers
                        Creative Experiences For Young Children

Monday, September 24, 2012

Kinder Class Management (and a freebie to help you get started.)

For years, teachers have been looking for the golden ticket, the magic trick, the key to creating a classroom that is managed and handled and  . . . dare I say . . . 'under control.' Many have claimed to have the answer, but here is what I have learned . . . classroom management isn't black or white, it isn't one way and not another . . . it really is a hodge podge of this and that and whatever works for you and the group of little ones that YOU share a space with.

Many years ago I fell in LOVE with Love and Logic.  I think I only had one infant child at the time, but I was doing a paper on management and came across this parenting program that also worked in the classroom. I bought the cds and books and even made my husband listen to them.  I love that there are choices and logical consequences.  It has been a blessing in my own home and in the classroom. Students who refuse to complete work have a choice.  I might say, "listen, you can finish your work now with the rest of the class or you can do it during learning centers this afternoon when everyone else is having fun. It really doesn't matter to me. I'm happy with whichever you choose." Love and Logic really gives a great foundation for management without making it personal or getting upset with the child. There really is so much to it and I'm no expert, but I encourage you to check them out. (Here's my confession...sometimes I even use it on my husband.  'Honey, would you like to fold the clothes or do the dishes?" Works every time!)

I also use a bit of Whole Brain Teaching as well.  That's right, I can "classity class" with the best of them.  I think Whole Brain Teaching is perfect for kindergarten, because it is so responsive and physical.  Multiple intelligences and learning styles aren't just for learning . . . you also need to consider them with managing kiddos as well.  If you have visual, physical and verbal cues . . .  you can reach everyone. It's funny that when I started using Whole Brain Teaching techniques I practiced them on my three boys at home to see how it would work. That was well over a year ago. Last night when there was a bunch of kids at my house and I needed their attention , I wasn't getting anywhere by saying 'hey kids' so I said "class class!!!!" Every single kid stopped what they were doing, looked and said 'yes, yes'.  It worked so well in my class last year that my neighbor teacher had her kids asking to use some of the techniques.  I find that by changing it up and making it fun I have the best response.  Make sure you give Whole Brain Teaching's site a gander.  There is a ton of resources and freebies on their website.

One of the things they talk about with Whole Brain Teaching is classroom rules.  I've adapted some of theirs and created my own.  I found a cute way to display them from Mrs. Ricca's blog and I believe she has a set of freebies there as well.  They are so cute, but I needed my own rules and I wanted some different colors so I made a set of my own.

You can download a copy if you'd like by clicking on the picture above. I have hand motions that go with the rules and much of these ideas and things you can find right back at the Whole Brain Teaching website.

If you have different rules you'd like to add, I have an editable version you can download for free by clicking on the picture below.

I also have a color system for those little monkeys that need reminders on their behavior.  This is my monkey tree.  If your monkey is on the green leaves of the tree, you are following directions and behaving as expected in kindergarten.  Now if you need a little help, a warning or reminder that your behavior should change, your monkey might land on the yellow bananas.  If the behavior continues, your monkey goes to brown and you own me time from learning centers (I never ever take recess away . . . kinders need to move and I totally get that with three boys of my own at home) and finally, if your behavior continues to decline . . . you'll fall off the tree and owe me 10 minutes of center time and a note goes home to a parent. 

These are the little postcards I had made up through Vista Print for monkeys that fall off the tree. It explains the color behavior system on the back and there is a space where I can write a note explaining what happened to have their child's monkey fall off the tree.  I think I ended up using about 7 of these cards last year.  I'm hoping for the same kind of luck this year as well.

Finally, I think that one of the best management tools I use is finding ways for all kids to find success. What I have found is that when my kinders find ways to be proud, their behavior tends to reflect that.  For that reason, I celebrate in small ways successes that are important to 5 and 6 year olds. I have a Shoe Tiers Club, 100s Club, Mileage Running Club, Ball Word Champs (This is for a sight word recognition system I use) and even a Quicker Zipper Club.  There isn't always a reward involved with these successes.  Usually it's just the right to put their name on a poster. But they LOVE it.  I would love to find even more reasons to give kids a little 'atta boy' when they need it.  What kinds of things do all of you celebrate and how?  I'd love to get some new ideas or hear how your management styles works.

Drop me a line.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Repurpose Old Technology

Hi! It's Scott from Brick by Brick. I love to repurpose materials—use materials in ways different from their intended purpose. Repurposing, reusing, and recycling are important for the world and are great ways to have fun resources for little or no cost.

In today's world, we have lots of outdated technology. New devices are always coming out; upgrade and you have old technology lying around. Repurpose some of that for your kids to use.

typing on laptop - Brick by Brick

If you have upgraded (or just quit using) a computer or laptop, allow your kids to use it. We have an old laptop that has basic word processing software. Occasionally we will bring the laptop to the classroom and allow kids to type on it. 

typing on laptop - Brick by Brick

When we first did this, I thought the kids would want to type their names or other words they knew. No. They just wanted to type and type and type. Make the font large enough so kids can see what they are doing (around 24 pt or so).

Bookstore setup - Brick by Brick

If you have a laptop or computer that doesn't work at all, bring it anyway and let kids use it in their play. I watched a child type and type on a keyboard for 10 minutes or more.

typing on keyboard - Brick by Brick

Note that the keyboard is just lying on the table...not connected to anything. She had a great time. Then the keyboard became a part of the kids store play (which is what I had intended originally).

homemade computer - Brick by Brick

Or use a box to create your own display. Punch a hole in the back and insert the keyboard cord into the box. You can even print messages and tape to the box if you want words displayed.

talking on phone - Brick by Brick

Bring old landline telephones for kids to use. My kids like using the phones with cords. Provide lots of notepads and pencils. Kids like to take notes.

telephone message - Brick by Brick

(Note: If you bring old cell phones, make sure the batteries are removed. Cell phones will still dial 911, even if there is no service plan.)

You could even bring old radios, clocks, and other items for kids to take apart. Make sure you have a place to put all those small pieces that come out. (I love this post from Irresistible Ideas for Play Based Learning - taking apart clocks.)

How have you incorporated old technology into your classroom?

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Dancing Statues! DANCING THROUGHOUT THE DAY Part 6: A Movement Exploration That Addresses Social Studies

September 22, 2012

Hello EC Community,

One of the wonderful aspects of the art of dance/movement is that it can be used to teach virtually any subject.  This activity incorporates a lively movement game with the learning of important national landmarks, which can supplement a social studies, geography, or history lesson.  I like to add one or two local landmarks too whenever I present this activity to children or to teachers to use in their classrooms, which personalizes the lesson. You might want to incorporate a field trip to the local landmarks! 

In this activity, the kinesthetic learning happens as the children attempt to make the shapes of the landmarks with their bodies.  The sentence I just wrote reminds me of an aspect of creative dance that is extremely important and that I repeat often:  The process is what is important in this type of kinesthetic learning, not the finished product.  If the children see a picture of the landmark, think about how they might make that shape in their bodies, attempt to make the shape, and then repeat the attempt several times (all the while having fun!), this is the important part of the activity.  So, if the children attempt to make the shape of, say, a bridge or a statue, and it doesn't look anything like the object, don't worry -- they are learning!

Dancing Statues! 

Adapted from One, Two What Can I Do?  Dance and Music for the Whole Day  (Redleaf Press, 2006)
by Connie Bergstein Dow, with music by Debbie Clement

Make yourself into the shape of the St. Louis Gateway Arch!

What You Need

*Any space will do!

*A fun instrumental musical selection (such as an instrumental from one of the two CD's by Debbie Clement which are included with my book)

*Pictures of the Statue of Liberty, Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial, St. Louis Gateway Arch, and any local landmarks you wish to incorporate

What You Do:

Show the children pictures of the landmarks and help them recognize and name them (adding any information you wish about the history and geography of the landmarks).  Try showing them in random order until the children can recognize them visually.

If you have a small space, the children will perform the activity in place.  If you have a larger space, the children can move about the shared space as they dance.

Now tell the children:

(Part 1):

We are going to dance about these statues and landmarks!  When the music plays, you may dance freely.  When I stop the music, I will call out the name of one of them, and you will make the shape of it in your body.  You will hold that shape until the music begins again.

Continue this game until you have gone through the list of statues several times, and the children are engaged in the activity.

(Part 2):  

Now we are going to play this game a different way.  This time we will do it while we are each standing in one spot.  Stay on your spot, and listen while I call out the names of the statues one by one.  You make the shapes as soon as I say them.

Call out the names of the statues one by one, in random order, and ask the children to make the shapes in succession.  Then ask the children to try it faster.  Repeat, using a faster tempo each time.

(Finish the activity)

Take the shape of your favorite statue, and try to hold that shape as long as you can while you melt to the floor!

Next up in the DANCING THROUGHOUT THE DAY series: 

A Movement Exploration That Addresses Science

Keep on Dancin',


Copyright 2012, Connie Bergstein Dow

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