Friday, January 29, 2016

February: So Many Preschool Themes- So Little Time!

Hi all!  

I’m so excited to be sharing with you all for the first time here on the PreK & K Sharing Blog!  

I am Cheryl Hatch, aka Miss Cheryl, from Preschool Plan It.  I love everything preschool and especially anything theme related!  Choosing just one to share here took me far longer than I care to admit! 

When planning themes with my team, it used to take us a long time to choose which themes we wanted to run for the month of February in our classrooms!  We would think about Valentine's Day and National Dental Health Month.  How do we choose?  And, what about Ground Hog Day?  And Presidents’ Day?

We decided not to choose!  The themes all work together! 

We started planning our months to include Dental Health (for National Dental Health Month) which is a great theme to discuss with Valentines Day and all that candy!  

A Post Office Theme was incorporated to include the delivery of our Valentine's Day cards. 

And finally, we’d add some discussion about Ground Hog Day and Presidents’ Day the day after those holidays.

Here are some of my favorite activities to go along with each theme.  

Dental Health Theme: The "Tooth" Experiment
This is a popular activity in many classrooms. 

We begin this theme with many activities about teeth.  We might chart who brushes their teeth, who brushed their teeth this morning, how often to brush teeth.  

We have, in some years, provided toothbrushes and toothpaste (donated by a local dentist who came in as a classroom visitor!) and practiced tooth-brushing.  We would end the theme by providing certificates that stated the children knew 3 ways to keep their teeth healthy!
During our discussions, we would begin this experiment as a large group, usually at Circle Time.

We would discuss cavities, what causes them and how to prevent them (specifically discussing sugar and candy with Valentines Day coming up).  Here’s the experiment:

1.    Crack open an egg (white shelled egg).  Clean the inside well.
2.    Place ½ of the egg shell in one jar and the other ½ in a different jar.
3.    Add cola to one jar.  Pour enough in to cover the egg shell.  Discuss the amount of sugar in soda.

4.    Add water to the other jar, pouring enough to cover the shell.
5.    Let both jars sit for the day in a place where the children can observe them.  Ask the children what they think will happen and record their predictions on chart paper.
6.    After a few hours, or near the end of the day in full day programs, check on the egg shells.
7.    Remove the egg from the water jar and discuss any changes (none!)
8.    Remove the egg from the cola jar and discuss the changes.

9.    Use a toothbrush and toothpaste and gently brush an area of the cola egg (carefully-the shell is now very fragile!).

10. Discuss the changes and their thoughts on what they have seen and apply it to the importance of tooth brushing.

The Rubber Egg

Of course, we must do this activity each year!

Use 2 clear cups, 2 eggs (in white shells, not cracked open), vinegar, cola
1.    Place the eggs, unopened and uncooked, in separate, clear jars.
2.    Cover one with cola.  Cover the other with white vinegar.
3.    Predict what will happen over time.  Let sit and observe for 2 days.

The cola egg will be discolored.  (showing what happens when we don’t brush.  Brush
this shell with a toothbrush and toothpaste).

The vinegar egg will lose its shell, showing what happens when the acids from foods
continually build up on our teeth if we don’t brush, eventually damaging our teeth.

Here's my YouTube demonstration:

Valentine's Day Theme Activities

For Valentines Day, there are so many activities to choose from!  

I have over 50 on my Valentine's Day Theme, so it was difficult to just choose 2!

Here are two of my favorites!

Textured Coolness  And Heart Tic-Tac-Toe!

Textured Coolness: This is an activity named by one of the children in my class years ago.  He called it “Coolness”.  It is a sensory bag of sorts and a twist on “Goop”!  The children love making their own!

The children measure the following into a seal-able baggie:

  • 5 tablespoons of corn starch
  • ½ cup of water
  • 1 drop of food coloring or paint

Seal the bags and let them mix!  

This is what’s known to many as Goop. 

It feels somewhat hard in the bag.  

But as they hold the bag, their body heat melts the mixture into….. mhmmm…..Coolness!

But wait!  There’s more!

Now have them add 1-2 tablespoons of oil (vegetable oil, olive oil, whatever you use).

As we know, oil and water don’t mix.  Therefore, when the children place the sealed bag on a flat surface and “write” on the bag with their finger, the oil pushes the mixture away.  It, too, is coolness!

Heart Tic-Tac-Toe

This activity can be used in so many ways!  Create a fun board and laminate.  

Your children can then use:
Hearts for playing pieces:

Have them cut out hearts (either free-hand as best they can or by tracing and cutting the hearts out). They then print their names on each heart.  Laminate their name heart and use those!

Dry-Erase Markers:  Give your children low-odor, dry erase markers to use on this game!

Post Office Theme:  Shades of Blue!

Post Office Preschool Theme

Valentines also leads us to talk about how the mail is delivered. 
Enter, our Post Office Theme!

We typically combine these to themes at the same time.  Our Dramatic Play area becomes a Post Office.  Our Writing Center has so many envelopes it appears to have exploded! 

Note:  We had SO many envelopes donated to us from parents and from our local drug store!  We asked parents, a month in advance, to send in any unused return envelopes they receive in the mail from bills or from junk mail.  We also asked the manager at the local Walgreens’ if they might save extra envelopes from their Greeting Card section for us throughout the year.  We received a call a month to pick up envelopes!! 

We also ask parents (and the drug store) to save boxes for us!  We use them throughout the classroom for mail boxes, packages to deliver in Dramatic Play, and we paint on them!

There are many fun activities for this theme, but the favorite is usually Shades of Blue.  You can have this at the Easel and/or at your art table.  The postal uniforms are officially blue.  Therefore, we provide blue and white paint. 

The children LOVE being color scientists and seeing how many shades of blue they can make.  Just provide plops of blue and white paint.

The children then help us rip up some of the boxes we’ve had donated to use as our canvas to paint on!


And there you have it, our mish-mash of February Themes!  

Of course, you can also add in an activity specific to Ground Hog Day as well as the day after Presidents’ Day to talk about why we had the day off from school!

I have over 145 free theme pages on my website with activities for all of your Interest Learning Centers!  Here are the links to the theme pages mentioned here:

Ground Hog Day Theme                                  
Friendship Theme

Valentine's Day Theme                                    
Post Office Theme

Dental Health Theme                                       Presidents' Day Theme

Happy Planning!


About the author
Cheryl Hatch has taught and directed preschool programs for over 20 years.  She is the Creator and Owner of Preschool Plan It, a website dedicated to sharing preschool themes, activities, articles and training with early childhood educators.  She volunteers as the coordinator and teacher of the MOPPETS program in her town (a preschool program for the M.O.P.S.--Mothers of Preschoolers Program).  She has her undergraduate degree in Early Childhood Education.  Cheryl has been an active, integral member and leader within the Teachers.Net Early Childhood community for many years, moderating live chats and providing peer support on the Preschool Teachers Chatboard. You can read Cheryl’s articles, activities and themed preschool lesson plans at 

Monday, January 25, 2016

What is the Value in Valentine's Day?

Valentine's Day is coming soon.  And, as with most of the other holidays in early childhood, there are those who say "Don't celebrate it" and others who are fine with it.  Well, here's my opinion.  (If this isn't your first time to one of my blogs, you know that I'm not shy when it comes to giving one.)

Children notice what is going on around them.  They see the decorations, the cards, the flowers and candy; and, they want to be a part of it.  It isn't the holiday that should present any issues; it's the way it is presented.

When I discuss Valentine's Day, I tell the children I get excited to let the people I love know how much they mean to me.  I make sure that we also talk about how you should let people you love know as often as you can; it's just that this day is set aside for especially doing that.

    Then, we sing this song..........

                       Five Valentines

after which, we discuss, "Who was given Valentines in this song?", "Who would you give a Valentine to?" (You can use this opportunity to graph people's answers.)  After that, we make Valentines.
                                             Here's a simple pop-up card to make.


In this video, we learn to sign "I love you" and "Happy Valentine's Day".  The finger signing would be too fast for most children.  It's there so it can be seen.  The shortened form of "I love you" is easier to teach and they LOVE learning it.  My children especially love when I throw the kiss at the end.   (And, I love catching the ones they throw back!)

Remember to always let the people in your life know you care about them.  Sometimes, Mr. Froggy gets 'tired' of waiting for a hug.  Will you send him one now?

Maryann "Mar." Harman
Music with Mar., LLC        Find me on Pinterest, Facebook and YouTube

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Straws in the Block Center

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

Sometimes I like to experiment and just put different things in a center or see what the kids will do. Their imaginations and creativity seems boundless. 

One day I put straws in our blocks center. I didn't have a preconceived idea of what they would do. In fact I had just bought the straws on a whim. 

The kids played with them in different ways. They scooped them with the buckets I had there. They "poured out" the straws. They stacked them inside the buckets like pencils in a desk cup.

straws in the blocks center (Brick by Brick)

In another part of the center, one of my builders was creating an elaborate block structure. When the other kids left the center, he went over to the straws and began to play with them.

Then, slowly, he began to incorporate the straws in his structure.

straws in the blocks center (Brick by Brick)

straws in the blocks center (Brick by Brick)

He looked for just the right place to put the straws. Careful work and rearranging until everything was just right.

straws in the blocks center (Brick by Brick)

straws in the blocks center (Brick by Brick)

Repurposing can give us resources to use in different ways. Repurposing can trigger curiosity and creativity in the children we teach.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Snow Day!

It looks like this mid-winter blog post is happening on a snow day for lots of children and parents!  So I thought I would offer a few indoor activities to keep the children busy, and their imaginations active, to supplement the outdoor play in the cold and snow.

Winter Fun:  Draw and Dance

After playing outside, draw a picture of all of the things you did:  Did you make snow angels?  Did you build something with the snow, such as snowballs, a snow fort, snow people?  Did you sled ride or go down the hill on a saucer?  Did you make footprints in the snow?

Once you have finished drawing about your outside adventures, find a space where you can dance about them!  Some fun musical choices for accompaniment are Snowy Owl by Debbie Clement, Cozy Bug Twist by David Jack,  and Frosty the Snowman.

Indoor Snowballs

Shower scrubbies make wonderful indoor snowballs!
I like to use items that I already have around the house for creative movement play.  The shower scrubby pictured at right is one such item.  I buy them in packs when I find them on sale, and scrubbies made from recycled plastic are often available.

Using one scrubby per child, put on some music and ask the child or children to try to throw it up in the air and catch it.  See how many times they can do it in a row without dropping it.  Now have them toss it back and forth to another child and do the same thing:  How many times can you throw it to each other and catch it without dropping it?  

Now try the same two activities above, but try to do them in time to the music.  Feel and clap the beat first, and then try to toss the snowball to the beat.  See how long they can do that without dropping it!

If you have access to a large number of scrubbies and you have a group of children, give each one a scrubby and put on some upbeat music.  Ask them to do a snowball dance using the scrubby as a prop.  At the end of the dance, they can all throw the scrubbies in the air at the same time to make a blizzard.

Dance a Blizzard!(the children in this photo are using home-made snowflakes, made by tying strips of netting together)

Make Snowflakes, then Dance and Freeze in Snowflake Shapes!

Cut out several snowflakes using computer-type white paper.  

Put on some upbeat music and ask your child or children to dance about the falling snow.

Stop the music, hold up one of the snowflake shapes, and ask the children to make that snowflake shape with their whole body.  Repeat several times, using all of the snowflakes one by one.  When the music is finished, ask the children to freeze in their favorite snowflake shape to end the dance.

Make yourself into a snowflake shape!
Happy snow day and keep on dancin',


Monday, January 18, 2016

KINDNESS - Be Kind, Teach Kind

How to Be Kind, How to Teach Kind

Ms. Brigid here, from Merit School of Music  in Chicago. Thank you for joining me!

The title to my post may give the impression that I know what the answer is. Actually, I’m asking for your input. What songs, books, and activities do you use to support kindness in your Pre-K and Kindergarten classrooms?

Please use the "comments" feature, or write me directly:

As the temperatures dropped into the single digits, making recess impossible and post-school outside time unthinkable, kiddos have been coming to class displaying a higher degree of grouchiness and grousiness than usual. Meaningful and sincere kindness is being consistently modeled and encouraged in these classrooms, yet there is (sometimes) a spectacular disconnect.  

One of my schools (K-8) is involved in a “one school, one book” project, using R. J. Palacio’s book, Wonder, as a springboard to stimulate a discussion about kindness, compassion and empathy…and much more. After finding out about the book from a favorite Second Grade teacher, I checked it out at the Skokie Library and read the deeply moving story in quick order. It’s prompted a respectable amount of reflection, and I keep returning to a precept by Dr. Wayne W. Dyer promoted by a character in the book,  Mr. Browne, an insightful English teacher: When given the choice between being right or being kind, choose kind.

Choose to smile. Give the benefit of a doubt. Don’t rush to judgment. Look for, expect, and believe in the best. Help a stranger. Help a friend. Open a door. Open your heart.

Choose Kind: Two words easy to agree with, but harder to live. I’m not one for making New Year’s resolutions, but I’m going to let them be my guide this year.

Merit School of Music, Chicago
Call on Merit School of Music! Our onsite school is in the West Loop. We work in the schools throughout the area providing band, orchestra, percussion, choir, early childhood, and general music instruction with project-based units including Recorder, Music and Storytelling and Songwriting. We do great work! YoYo Ma is a supporter!

Chicago Families
Please come to Merit’s Storytime sessions. It’s free, fun, and facilitated by singers and storytellers Amy Lowe, Irica Baurer, Janet Janz, & Brigid Finucane. Stories and songs start at 11am, and we end with time for family networking. Storytime is be offered once a month on the 2nd Monday. The next session is February 8, 2016.

I am continually inspired by the Children’s Music Network (CMN) community, an international group of socially conscious musicians, educators, librarians, families, songwriters and good people, who “celebrate the positive power of music in the lives of children by sharing songs, exchanging ideas, and creating community.” Please visit CMN, and find a gathering in your region.

©2016 Brigid Finucane  * 847-213-0713 *

Blog History

June 2015. Summer Songs

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Snow Around the Clock - Let's Dance!

    Hello from snowy, cold Chicago! It's Miss Carole of Macaroni Soup, and I've got a lively dance for you to warm up your students AND encourage them to listen to instruction.

   I recorded "SNOW Around the Clock” on my Season Sings cd, but you could use any lively music that you can stop and start. No, it’s not a freeze dance exactly, but it does have an element of “freeze” – to listen for the instruction. On a wintery day if you can’t get outdoors, this activity will get some of the wiggles out!

The song (yes, the original which I recorded with permission was sung by Bill Haley, new lyrics by me):

"Freeze!  Blue!"
1-2-3 o’clock, 4 o’clock – SNOW!
5-6-7 o’clock, 8 o’clock – SNOW!
9-10-11 o’clock, 12 o’clock – SNOW!
When is it going to stop?  FREEZE!

I’ve got snow on my hands, snow on my toes
Everywhere I look there’s more snow snow snow!
I’ve gotta shake my hands and shake my feet
I’ve gotta shake snow off to this jazzy beat
I’m gonna shake’n’shake’n’shake from my head down to my feet!

   You’ll need:  colored circles or shapes in 4 or 5 colors.  I picked up the 6” fun-foam dots pictured here in the clearance bin of a teacher store - cheap!  You could use construction paper, but it probably won’t be good for more than one use. You could also buy the foam and cut squares or circles.

I invite the children to name the colors we’ll be using, then help place the dots on the floor. The rules of the game:
1. You can dance anywhere without stepping on a dot while the music plays.
2. When the music stops, listen for the teacher to call out a color.  
    (I pause the music until everyone has found a dot.)
3. Put one foot on a dot of the called color. Dots can be shared.
4. When the music resumes, DANCE!  Repeat sequence.

Be-bop together!
   It’s that simple! Some children dance together. Some solo. Everyone has fun!
   I love it because we share, we listen, we communicate (“Hey Martin – there’s room for you on my dot!”) AND we are getting our brains and bodies fired up with Active Music!                          Hooray!
   At the end of the dance, each child brings me 1-2 dots and we’re ready to sit and do something less active, but just as exciting – a fingerplay, song with motions or sing-a-book. How about The Snowy Day, by Ezra Jack Keats, with a Snowball Freeze Fight in the middle?  Check out my FEBRUARY 16, 2014 BLOG for that one – it’s my claim to fame!

   "SNOW Around the Clock" is also fun at home or for a birthday party!  Come on, let's have fun and celebrate winter - whether you live in a snowy part of the country or not!

    I'm working on booking a tour in Colorado at the beginning of July! Want to have a Macaroni Soup concert at your camp, library or summer school program?  
...AND I may be heading to Upstate NY at the beginning of May - call me if you'd like to bring fun and learning through music and movement to your town!

Yours for a Snowy Song!
Carole Stephens

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