Thursday, July 31, 2014

Professional Conferences

For me, summer is the season of conferences. Each June, the organization I manage hosts a state-wide conference for family child care providers in Alabama. In July, the National Association for Family Child Care has their conference. This year it was in Florida. Both events take a tremendous amount of effort to put together, but the benefits are amazing!

Focus on Family Child Care Conference 2014

Research examining the benefits of attending workshops clearly shows that participants do not retain the information nor put it into practice. So, why attend a conference? Isn't it just a bunch of workshops all concentrated in one space? Well, yes, but..... Research also shows that being part of a professional network impacts caregivers in positive ways. For example, self-worth, professionalism, leadership, and intentionality have been shown to increase when caregivers are part of professional development programs and networks. Conference participants get a different sense of connectedness and involvement when attending sessions in this larger venue.

Often preschool educators are limited to the same-old-same-old when it comes to getting those required training hours. Conferences provide opportunities to network with a more diverse group of people with common work environments, exposure to new ideas, and access to new resources. Conferences also provide opportunities for professional growth. Not only can you attend a conference, perhaps you would like to present at one! Here are some of the benefits of attending a professional conference.

Wide Variety of Workshop Topics

Creative Movement & Active Play

Natural Science on a Shoestring Budget

Building a Creative Curriculum

Leadership and Association Development

Networking Opportunities

Vendor/Exhibitor Hall

Meet New People
Vermont, Alabama, Vermont

Alabama Friends

Opportunities for Professional Advancement (be a presenter)
First time co-presenters at state conference.

High Quality Keynote Speakers 
(You never know who you might make a life-long professional relationship with!)
Debbie Clement & Alabama provider Patricia Frederick

Jim Gill

Win a Prize
DCI gifted $500 to a state association at NAFCC's conference this year. Alabama won!

50-50 Raffle winner!
Be Recognized for Achievements
Alabama's accredited providers at the Accreditation Celebration June 2014

Have Fun and Be Happy!

There are several conferences that happen each year that you might consider attending:

Zero to Three
National Head Start Association
Your Regional or State NAEYC Affiliate
State Conference
Local/Regional Conference

I encourage you to seek out and actively participate in conference experiences. You can google child care or education conferences or the an acronyms listed above to find a conference near you. NAFCC even has a new "sponsor me" program to help you get funding to attend! What conferences have you attended and what benefits have you received from participating?

Dr. Ellaine B. Miller, PhD, is the Managing Director for the Family Child Care Partnerships program at Auburn University.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Learn the Alphabet - Book & Boogie style!

By Laura Eldredge

For those teachers and parents preparing for {GASP} back to school in a little over a month, we have a fun A-B-C "Book & Boogie" for you and your children! "Book & Boogie" brings together stories with a music and movement dance to reinforce the story theme and extend learning.  

A-B-C up the coconut tree

BOOK:Chicka Chicka Boom Boom” by Bill Martin

The alphabet story we chose is one of our favorites, “
Chicka Chicka Boom Boom“, with all those lower case letters racing to the top of a coconut tree. The story helps children begin to recognize upper and lower case letters, while enjoying the rhyming text.

Kids already know this story?! GREAT! They can help point out and name the letters ... and all yell "Chicka Chicka Boom Boom" at the appropriate time.

Boogie to the Alphabet

SONG:Alphabet Boogie“, Kidzup Educational Music

Don't stop at the story ... keep going and boogie! Tressa makes it easy by breaking down some choreographed movements that teachers and parents can use in the video clip below. But feel free to make up your own moves as well. What a fun way to learn the alphabet!

More online videos are available which provide story ideas, music choices and simple dance choreography can be found on our website, at


Laura Eldredge is co-founder of 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

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Kids Using Glue Guns?

It's Scott from Brick by Brick. I love to repurpose materials—use materials in ways different from their intended purpose.

This time I don't want to talk about using something for a different purpose. I want to focus on letting kids use things that are usually kept from them.

Kids love to use real tools. Let's think about two of those "tools."

Glue Gun

Glue Gun (Brick by Brick)

One of my favorite "don't use that with kids" items is a hot glue gun. Teacher Tom was the first blogger/teacher that I read using these with preschoolers. I bought some and waited for the right opportunity to pull them out. 

We have made wonky frames at Christmastime for the past several years. I tell kids that the end of the glue gun is hot and the glue coming out of the end is hot. That if they touch it, it will be very hot. We put out a small bowl of water so if a finger gets into the hot glue, it can plunge directly into the water. A  couple of times that has happened. 

"It's hot," I say. "Yes," the child says. Then we go back to work.

I can't tell you how excited the kids are to use them. And to tell parents that they got to do it.

Teacher Tom repurposed my thinking and I'm not going back.

Glue Gun (Brick by Brick)


A stapler isn't the same as a glue gun. But many times kids are told to leave it alone, to not waste the staples.

But my kids love it when it is out. We will use lots and lots of them sometimes. But that's okay.

Stapling (Brick by Brick)

They will staple all four sides of their books and not be able to open it. But that's okay. (They've learned about the "permanent" nature of stapling, at least.)

I keep a stapler in my bag. If someone asks about it, I'll pull it out, even if I didn't plan for them to use it that day.

I've seen kids that are 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8 that love to use the stapler. Sometimes, they surprise you - instead of making a fish book, I had a friend make a fish chain.

Fish Chain (Brick by Brick)

At some point, my thinking about staplers was repurposed. It's not just for adults; it's a tool for kids, too. 

What has changed in your thinking about certain items and kids? Have you repurposed your thinking about using glue guns, staplers, or other items with young kids? Tell me about it. Maybe my thinking needs some new challenges.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

5 Budget-Friendly Ways to Enjoy Summer "Stay"cations

Hi! I'm Ayn and I am a Ga. Pre-K teacher, serving 4 and 5 year olds in an inclusive setting. I share my classroom adventures on my blog, little illuminations

**Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links.**

As I browse my facebook lately, I am seeing post after post from parents ready for summer to end. Parents are simply running out of ideas to keep kids busy without spending a bunch of money. Of course, parents want the kids to have fun and enjoy the break, but these days spending a ton of money on each outing is just not feasible. Today, I'm sharing 5 low-cost/free outings parents and children can enjoy together. Along with each outing suggestion, I'm recommending a great children's book correlating to the trip.

1. Visit the library. Most libraries have a storytime, and many provide puppet shows, plays or children's activities---all for FREE!!! 
I took a preschool aged group to our local library and we saw a fantastic puppet show after hearing a story. Our library has a playground, so after the show was over, we had a picnic and played on the playground for the afternoon. (The bonus was that on the way home, I overheard some of the kids talking about how this was one of the "best field trips EVER!!"

Two of my favorite books about visiting the library are "Library Lion" and "Lola At The Library".


2. Visit your home improvement store for craft day! Home Depot (and other home improvement stores, as well, I'm told) has a great Kids Workshop each month for a very nominal fee. They also give the kids a builder's apron with the craft project. The kids may make bird houses, tool boxes, bug catchers, etc. and learn some valuable lessons about tools and basic woodworking. Our kids got to make this really cool bug catcher!

"The House I'll Build For The Wrens" is a great rebus read-a-long that comes with instruction on how to build a birdhouse!

3. Visit your local state park. Many state parks offer free or low cost programs for kids. We went to Mistletoe State Park, here in Georgia and heard a nature talk, learned about what a forest ranger does, participated in a nature walk/scavenger hunt, made a craft with found items, had a picnic and played games. 

The Nature Center at Mistletoe State Park has displays that children are encouraged to touch and explore!

This baby rattler was one of many of the indigenous snakes on display.

The children learned about the beavers' anatomy and habitat.

Taking turns at the bird watching station.
There were several types of birds that were just right outside the viewing window!
The bird houses played the song of the type of bird that it housed.

A baby fawn.
One of many learning games in the center. The children pulled the pegs and revealed indigenous birds and tree-dwelling animals.
The habitat display, filled with taxidermied animals from the area. We were assured that all animals were found already dead and that none were killed for display.  
More birdwatching on one wall and local fish identification on the adjacent wall. 
A river otter and pelt.
A raccoon! We learned the raccoon mask is one of its adaptive traits. 
Wild rosemary growing along the path of our nature hike.
It was quite fragrant!
The box turtle is one of the types of turtles found in our area.
Our nature hike. We took along a little bag to pick up specimens.
This group made a fish windsock from recycled materials and sticks found on the walk. The younger group made a nature collage with their specimens (not pictured).
We played several games with water sponges and toys to help us cool down. 

There are tons of great books about nature, but one of my favorites is "We're Going On A Nature Hunt". It's told in the same way as "We're Going On A Bear Hunt" and kids easily pick up the rhyme and read along!

4. Visit a ceramics shop and paint pottery! We visited our local ceramics shop Artsy Me, and painted tiles that will be gifts for the parents. Most shops charge by the item you purchase and provide the paint and firing services at no extra charge. 

Tomie dePaola has a wonderful book about individuality in creating art called "The Art Lesson".

5. Visit a local history museum or historical spot. We visited the Augusta Canal and National Heritage Area. We took a Petersburg Boat tour of the canal and visited the Augusta Canal National Heritage Area Discovery Center to learn more about the history of our area and the important contributions of our area during the Civil War. The children were shocked to learn about hard work, long hours and poor conditions that many of the child laborers endured back then. For a virtual tour, click here. On the boat tour, we learned about how the canal actually works, its importance during the Civil War, as well as learning a lot about the local flora and fauna. We saw many birds, turtles, fish, insects and even some river otters! 
The children got a chance to try some of the work that the mill children did daily in very poor conditions for very little pay. They discovered that it was hard work!
Getting all the bobbins for weaving placed on the frame correctly was quite tricky, especially while racing the clock!

Getting a safety talk as we start the journey down the Augusta Canal on our Petersburg Boat. These boats are replicas of the boats used to transport goods up and down the Augusta Canal to the Savannah River.

This image from is an artists' rendering of the boats in action during the Civil War.,_Georgia

It's great fun to wave at folks in town along the Augusta Canal!
Augusta Confederate Powderworks manufactured and supplied gunpowder
to the Confederate Army during the Civil War.
Wood ducks out for a swim on the canal.
River otters play and swim as we pass by in the Petersburg boat.
The two recommendations for reading to kids about museum visits are "Franklin's Class Trip"and "Miss Malarkey's Field Trip".  "Franklin's Class Trip" is about the beloved turtle "Franklin"'s field trip to the museum. Zany Miss Malarkey takes her class on a museum adventure in "Miss Malarkey's Field Trip".

What is your favorite "go to" spot for free or low cost activities for kids? If you have a great free/low cost daytrip suggestion, I'd love for you to share it in the comments! 

Stop by and visit me anytime at or visit the little illuminations fanpage on facebook! And be sure to check out PreK+K Sharing EEE!

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