Thursday, September 29, 2016

Sanitizing Toys and Materials In Preschool

Affiliate links have been added for your convenience.
Sanitizing toys and materials in preschool is important...and it is different than cleaning or disinfecting toys.  Know the difference and reduce the risk of flu and illness in your program.

Each year (and each week), the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) posts their Weekly U.S. Influenza Surveillance Report.  
This report shows data regarding the movement and spread of the flu.  
In week 51 of 2014 (week ending December 20, 2014), for example, the flu reached what was considered the epidemic threshold.
The past several years have shown high levels of flu activity in December:  the level of activity that we used to see earlier in the season.  Because the flu is spread through sneezing and coughing, spaces where people are together hold a higher risk of spreading the flu as well as other illnesses.
This means.......mhmmmm......our preschool programs and our homes.

Preschoolers Are Learning To Share Everything-
Including Germs!

Preschoolers are adorable.  They are typically caring, lovable and learning to share.......EVERYTHING!
They are learning to share toys, hugs and kisses as well as coughs and sneezes--all of which include sharing germs.
Remember that awesome ice cream sundae the children made in dramatic play?  
Remember that it looked so delicious they forgot it was pretend and actually put the spoon in their mouth?
Remember those blocks they used to build an awesome house with?  It seemed all of your little construction workers were sneezing a symphony while building. 

It is your job to keep the germs at a minimum in your classroom.  
Germs are shared through coughing, sneezing and drooling!  

I HIGHLY recommend a "Wash Me" bin for every classroom!  

Any toys that were mouthed, sneezed or drooled on goes in it throughout the day.

Sanitizing toys in the Wash Me bin daily will help reduce the spread of germs.

Cleaning, Disinfecting & Sanitizing Toys In Preschool

When did you last spend time cleaning, disinfecting or sanitizing toys and materials in your classroom?

Before any of us can answer this question we need to be clear on the difference between the three terms.

CLEANING Toys In Preschool

The Process:
Cleaning refers to any process that removes visible dirt, debris, food, etc. from a toy.  
You do this by washing or scrubbing the toy or area and rinsing it off.
The Purpose:  
The purpose of cleaning is to remove dirt and debris.
However, cleaning does NOT kill germs.  To kill germs, you need to sanitize preschool toys.
This is typically what we do to the tables and chairs, the dishes and items in dramatic play or even the baby dolls.  
You might sometimes place all the toy cars in a bucket of soapy water....swish them, give them a quick wipe down and rinse.

SANITIZING Toys In Preschool

The Process:  
Sanitizing refers to treating or cleaning with a product that kills at least 99.9% of germs.
You do this by using a product that lists on the label that it kills germs.  Many times you might wash the table and chairs and then follow up by sanitizing.
The Purpose:  
The purpose of sanitizing is to kill bacterial germs or contaminants with the goal of reducing the number of them on the toys or materials.  
Cleaning and sanitizing preschool toys are not (separately or combined) considered disinfecting!

DISINFECTING Toys In Preschool

The Process:  
Disinfecting refers to treating or cleaning with a product that is listed to kill 100% of the germs listed on the product's label.
The Purpose:  
The purpose of disinfecting is to kill pathogens that may be on products.
A Little Diversion...
Wow!  Really?!!  YES!  Really!  I found this on Pinterest.  
Well, coffee beans work to dilute the smell of overwhelm in candle stores, why not for this?  
A teacher told me to be sure to scoop it with your dustpan and don't use your vacuum... for the obvious, long-term, smelly reasons! 

So, Which Process Should Be Done?  And When?

It will depend upon the toy, material or area.  Also, check your state regulations.  Some states specifically list the products approved for child care settings,
Below is a simple chart to give you some guidance.  
It is important to stay on top of cleaning and sanitizing preschool toys to reduce the risk of the spread of illness in your program.
Below are the bleach to water ratio for Clorox Bleach solutions for sanitizing and disinfecting.

We make a bleach/water solution in a 1 quart spray bottle like this one.

It is a plastic, spray bottle. What I like about this one is that it is heavy duty and chemical resistant.

Cheap spray bottles will deteriorate after a while and the sprayer will stop working. This one lasts much longer for us.

To make the bleach/water solution:  Mix 2 tablespoons of bleach with 1 quart of water in the spray bottle.  

To disinfect toys:  Use ½ cup of bleach per gallon of water.
To disinfect food contact surfaces:    A weaker solution is needed: Use 2 teaspoons bleach per gallon of water.


It is imperative that you do the following with your bleach/water spray bottle:
1.  Mark It.

Mark the name of the contents of the bottle with a permanent marker.  Mark it Bleach & Water.
2.  One Bottle-One Purpose.

NEVER, EVER use this bottle for anything else except for bleach and water solutions in the future.
If you make a mix using a different chemical, use a different spray bottle.
Some chemicals, when mixed, are TOXIC and DANGEROUS.  Don't take a chance.
3.  Fresh Daily.
Make a fresh batch of your bleach/water solution every day.

It will be very tempting for you to use the same bottle for a few days.
It may seem like a "waste" to empty it out each day.

However, if you do not make it fresh, you are only going through the motions of disinfecting and sanitizing preschool toys and materials and THAT is a waste of your time and defeating the very purpose of making the solution to begin with.
Bleach, once mixed with water, loses its effectiveness and breaks down in 24 hours.  So, even though the bleach smells strong the next day, it is NOT strong.  Make it a point to pour it out at the end of each day.
4.  Out of Reach.

Of course, this solution must be out of reach of the children at all times.  

Other Solution Options

Some centers use commercial disinfectants that are EPA approved. 
An effective and popular one is Diversey Alpha-HP Multi-Surface Disinfectant Cleaner.
It has a light, citrus scent. It comes 2 in a case (each one being a 1.5L Spray Bottle).

It is important, however, to check with your director and/or state licensing agency to confirm that this, or any other product, is approved.

A Schedule for Sanitizing Toys In Preschool

Below is a suggested schedule of when to clean the main items and areas in your classroom.

Sanitizing Toys Summary:

Cleaning, disinfecting and sanitizing preschool toys are an important task we need to do on an intentional schedule.  
Put a process into place, if you don't already have one, to stay on top of this process.  
It will reduce the risk of flu and illness in your program.
Sources:  CDC
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 

Friday, September 23, 2016

Drawing on Mirrors

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

We love to draw. We draw on paper and on paper plates. We draw at the easel. We draw with pens and pencils and markers and crayons. We draw with dry erase markers.

We love to use the small dry erase boards to write and draw. But we recently used mirrors as the surface for drawing.

Dry erase markers on mirrors (Brick by Brick)

Small hand mirrors are easily acquired at discount stores or the dollar store. We used our regular dry erase markers and erasers.

Dry erase markers on mirrors (Brick by Brick)

We write and draw just like on the dry erase boards - circles and loops and designs.

Dry erase markers on mirrors (Brick by Brick)

We can also draw "on" our faces (the reflection not the actual faces!).

Dry erase markers on mirrors (Brick by Brick)

The reflection gives a different dimension to what we are drawing or writing. 

Dry erase markers on mirrors (Brick by Brick)

Plus it's just fun to do it!

You can also draw on a large stand-up mirror or a large mirror on the table, floor, or ground outside!

Visit my Dollar Store and Dumpster Pinterest Board and my blog for more repurposing ideas.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

What Educators and Parents Should Know About Neuroplasticity, Learning and Dance by Judith Hanna, PhD

Happy Fall!

Since this PreK and K Sharing blog began in November 2011,  I have written many posts on the subject of dance and its countless benefits to children.  I came across this article, written in January 2016, that I wanted to pass along to early childhood educators.

I don't usually reprint entire articles for my blog, but this one is easy to read, succinct, and really shines the spotlight on the importance of dance as a vehicle for learning.  Please take a few minutes to read this fascinating article by Judith Lyne Hanna, author, dance educator, and California-certified teacher.

Keep on Dancin',                                    Connie with Dance Students



What Educators and Parents Should Know About Neuroplasticity, Learning and Dance

Dance. Is it merely art?  Is it just recreation?  Think again.
Dance is now being studied as a pathway to enhance learning.  And, scientists say, educators and parents should take note of the movement.
Recently at the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience annual meeting, more than 6,800 attendees paid rapt attention to renowned choreographer Mark Morris as he answered questions about the relationship between creativity and dance.
Scientists are turning to dance because it is a multifaceted activity that can help them—and ultimately educators and even parents– demystify how the brain coordinates the body to perform complex, precise movements that express emotion and convey meaning. Dancers possess an extraordinary skill set—coordination of limbs, posture, balance, gesture, facial expression, perception, and action in sequences that create meaning in time and space. Dancers deal with the relationship between experience and observation.
The brain hides from our sight the wondrously complex operations that underlie this feat. Although there are many secrets to unravel about the power of the brain and dance, advances in technology– such as brain scanning techniques and the experiments of dancers, dance makers, and dance viewers– reveal to us the unexpected.  Research shows that dance activity registers in regions of the brain responsible for cognition.
More than 400 studies related to interdisciplinary neuroscience reveal the hidden value of dance.  For instance, we acquire knowledge and develop cognitively because dance bulks up the brain. Consequently, the brain that “dances” is changed by it. As neuroscientist Antonio Damasio points out, “Learning and creating memory are simply the process of chiseling, modeling, shaping, doing, and redoing our individual brain wiring diagrams.”
Dance is a language of physical exercise that sparks new brain cells (neurogenesis) and their connections. These connections are responsible for acquiring knowledge and thinking. Dancing stimulates the release of the brain-derived protein neurotropic factor that promotes the growth, maintenance, and plasticity of neurons necessary for learning and memory. Plus, dancing makes some neurons nimble so that they readily wire into the neural network. Neural plasticity is the brain’s remarkable abil­ity to change through­out life. (As a septuagenarian, I’m dancingflamenco, belly dance, jazz, and salsa!)    As a method of conveying ideas and emotions with or without recourse to sound, the language of dance draws upon similar places and thought processes in the brain as verbal language. Dance feeds the brain in various kinds of communication.
Through dance, students can learn about academics—and themselves–including sexual, gender, ethnic, regional, national, and career identities. Moreover, dance is a means to help us improve mood and cope with stress that can motivate or interfere with concentration and learning. Influenced by body senses, environment, and culture, the brain “choreographs” dance and more.

Fodder for the Brain

The brain is comprised of about 100 billion electrically active neurons (cells), each connected to tens of thousands of its neighbors at perhaps 100 trillion synapses (the spaces between neurons where information transfers can occur). These atoms of thought relay information through voltage spikes that convert into chemical signals to bridge the gap to other neurons.
All thought, movement, and sensation emanate from electrical impulses coursing through the brain’s interconnected neurons. When they fire together they connect and reconnect, and the connections between them grow stronger in impacting our perception, our comprehension, and different kinds of memory.
If a pattern is repeated, the associ­ated group of neurons fire together resulting in a new memory, its consolidation, and ease of retrieving it. Neurons can improve intellect, memory, and certain kinds of learning if they join the existing neural networks instead of rattling aimlessly around in the brain for a while before dying.
Brain research has given us many insights for dance and other kinds of knowledge. Illustratively, we can apply what psycholinguists have found about learning a second or third verbal language to learning more than one nonverbal language—that is, another dance vocabulary (gesture and locomotion) and grammar (ways movements are put together), and meaning. Children who grow up multilingual have greater brain plasticity, and they multitask more easily. Learning a second or third language uses parts of the brain that knowing only one’s mother tongue doesn’t. Students who learn more than one dance language not only are giving their brains and bodies a workout; they are also increasing their resources for creative dance-making.

Connection for Education

So, what is the relevance of dance for educators and for parents? First, if one of the goals of education is to enhance procedural learning, then dance certainly helps. In traditional (blocked) approaches, the learner is encouraged to focus on mastering a particular dance movement before moving on to new problems. By comparison, varied practice (interleaving) that includes frequent changes of task so that the performer is constantly confronting novel components of the to-be-learned information is more effective.
Second, dance can be offered in multiple venues to promote cognitive growth, including arts magnet schools and academies, regular secondary schools, universities, and community and recreation centers. Venues may have their own dance faculty. Performing arts organizations, nonprofit operations, and dance companies offer dance education, often as partners with academic schools. Illustrative dance programs, some established in the last century but continuing to develop, show how dance education promotes skills for academe, citizenship, and the workplace. Principals can reach out to those offering dance classes and establish invaluable partnerships.
Obviously curricula and assessment vary in school settings. Dance may be a distinct per­forming art discipline with in-depth sequential exploration of a coherent body of knowledge guided by highly qualified dance teachers. Or dance may also be a liberal art, complimentary to or part of another subject. Brief introductions to dance may fill gaps in school curricula. Historical serendipity, leadership, teacher interest, parent involvement, and economic resources affect how youngsters experience dance.
Society privileges mental capacity—mind over matter and emotion. Talking, writing, and numbers are the media of knowledge. However, we now know that dance is a language, brain-driven art, and also, a fuel for learning subjects other than dance. In short, dance is an avenue to thinking, translating, interpreting, communicating, feeling, and creat­ing. As a multimedia communication that generates new brain cells and their connections, dance at any age enriches our cognitive, emotional, and physical development beyond the exercise itself and extends to most facets of life.

Friday, September 16, 2016

September Songs - Keep the HAPPY Going!

Sticking your head to the floor - with bubblegum?
    Happy September to all from Miss Carole of Macaroni Soup!  By now some of the routines of school are humming, others are still being assimilated into the day.  The one thing that shouldn’t get lost in the mix is a commitment to keep the music flowing.  For some students, the little song or chant that you’ve put in their heads is a comfort.  For some it’s a joyful outburst!

Miss Chris is in bubblegum pink on the right!
   I recently saw a post on my FaceBook page from a teacher who’s been using my music for about 15 years.  Miss Chris – I’m talking about you!  Miss Chris’ classroom sings a lot. They move a lot. They’re really good learners!  In this case she posted, Made it through the first week of preschool with our new favorite song, Sticky Bubblegum, Carole Stephens , we sang it today 3-times in a row! Can't wait to hear the next CD!!!

   Why would Miss Chris sing the same song THREE TIMES IN A ROW? I’m guessing:
1. The kids said “Do it again!” when they finished.
2. They heard it the first time to get how it goes. They enjoyed it the second time because they now understood the pattern and words.
3. They did it the third time because they knew what to do and that’s truly when the fun kicks in!

Toe to nose?  Got it!

 SO, remember, just because YOU are tired of a song or activity, keep doing it.  Your typical preschooler needs to hear something 4-6 times before it is theirs and they can reproduce it with joy and abandon!  For K’s, that number is 2-5 times.  So even though you are thinking “I can’t do that song again” –

               Oh Yes You Can!

Clapping side to side!

   What’s the “Sticky Bubble Gum” song?  Well, aside from being the title track of my very first recording, “StickyBubble Gum …and Other Tasty Tunes”, it’s one of the all-time most popular songs I sing!  It’s a quick zipper song (same song over and over, just insert a new body part to stick to another body part!)  Learn it, and you can keep the class listening for what to do next.  Here’s my version:

Sticky sticky sticky bubble gum
Bubble gum, bubble gum.
Sticky sticky sticky bubble gum
Sticking my hands to my shoes – Un-STICK!
Sticky Bubble Gum lover!

    Sing it again (and again and again), changing what body part sticks to what.  I stick elbows to knees, toe to nose, hand to someone else’s hand, back to someone else’s back, and head to the floor.

  I always use “Head to the Floor” for my final verse.  The children know that when I do that, it’s the end. Final. Kaput!  Plus, while they are in that position – head stuck to the floor, I give them a direction for what to do when they Un-Stick!  Usually it’s “when you say ‘Un-Stick’, sit down criss-cross applesauce, eyes on me!”  This exit strategy means we’ll be ready to move on to the next activity in an orderly fashion.

sticking hands to shoes!

MOVEMENT:  Clap hands on the beat from one side to the other during this song.  Children whose brains are ready to do cross-lateral movement will, those that aren’t ready will clap directly in front of them.  Model where to stick their hands – to their shoes – and then pull hands off with a gleeful “UN-STICK!”

What’s next?  (That’s what my students usually ask!)  Well, you could do “The Wiggle Song” from last month’s blog.  OR a circle dance like “B-I-N-G-O”, from last month’s blog.  

OR how about a rhythmic chant?  First, ask if anyone has ever been camping?  Did they sleep in a sleeping bag?  Was there a tent?  What sounds did they hear? 
    This is a great time to practice taking turns by raising a hand to signal that a child has an idea.
    Take the first idea (unless it’s totally inappropriate, in which case you can suggest one to get things started.)  Hear the rhythm HERE, and it’s on my H.U.M.: Highly Usable Music cd.

Great howling!
I was lying in my sleeping bag
I couldn’t get to sleep
When the winds began to howl –
And the bugs began to creep
So I rolled to the left
And I rolled to the right
And I heard every sound that you hear at night!
Owls:  Hoo, Hoo, Hoo!

This is a scaffolding song.  Ask for another sound to add, 
start at the beginning and add the new sound, then do the last one, too!  Like this:

…And I heard every sound that you hear at night!
Bats:  Fl-ap, fl-ap, fl-ap!
Owls:  Hoo, Hoo, Hoo!

Urban students may hear traffic/car horns, people talking, etc.  Rural students may hear cows mooing or coyotes (even if they haven't ever heard a real one, it’s a favorite sound because kids love to howl!)
walking hands on legs

MOVEMENT:  Gently tap alternating hands on legs for the first 4 lines.  Then lean to the left, lean to the right, and go back to tapping for the last line, ending on “night!”

This chant can also be enjoyed with shakers – eggs, maracas, bottle shakers (check out my FB page for a video tutorial of how to make Bottle Shakers.)  But teach the chant several times before adding instruments.

Teachers practicing blowing bubbles!

Have a wonderful September.  I’ll be all over Illinois and Iowa, and in North Carolina, too!  Check my website Events Calendar to see if I’m coming to your state!  If not – why not?  Call me and we can talk about the possibilities for a Professional Development workshop, Family Concert of other event in your area!
   October? California here I come!
   November - Indianapolis!

Yours for a Song!
“Miss Carole” Stephens

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Montessori-Inspired Spider Math Activities Using Free Printables

By Deb Chitwood from Living Montessori Now 

Many young children are frightened of spiders ... and many young children love spiders. Spider activities can be helpful in either case. Of course, Halloween is another good reason for spider activities. 

So, today, I'm sharing ideas for free spider printables and Montessori-inspired spider math activities. I had a post here in 2013 with Montessori-inspired spider activities using free printables. I couldn't resist adding some more spider activities today except with the focus specifically on spider math activities. And I have a post at Living Montessori Now with free spider printables

You'll find many activities for preschoolers through first graders throughout the year along with presentation ideas in my previous posts at PreK + K Sharing. You'll also find ideas for using free printables to create activity trays here: How to Use Printables to Create Montessori-Inspired Activities

At Living Montessori Now, I have a post with resource links of Free Printables for Montessori Homeschools and Preschools.  

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links at no cost to you.  

My Spider Counting Book My Spider Counting Book TrayFree Printable: Spider Counting Book from Fun-a-Day 

My Spider Book (Image from Fun-a-Day)

For this activity, I used a Multicraft tray, washable stamp pad, and Crayola Twistables for drawing the spider legs. Use a stapler or whatever form of binding you like to make a book. 

Younger children could just make one page if they prefer. This printable is simply cute ... and so are the fingerprint spiders. So this is a great activity for young children with a fear of spiders.

Spider Counting and Transferring Activity

  Spider Counting and Transferring TrayFree Printable: Spider Numbers (part of my subscriber freebie pack, so just sign up for my email to get the link and password … or check the bottom of your latest newsletter if you’re already a subscriber) 

For this activity, I used a Multicraft tray, plastic spiders, toast tongs, and Bambu large condiment cup to hold the spiders. There are 72 spiders in the package, so there are plenty for this and the DIY spider cards and counters. 

This activity works well for younger children who are working on counting and transferring skills. Just choose one number and the corresponding number of spiders. 

Counting and Transferring Spiders 

My 2¾-year-old granddaughter, Zoey, loves transferring objects with tools like toast tongs. She thought this was lots of fun. 

For our floor work, we always use a Montessori Services hemmed work rug

DIY Spider Cards and Counters DIY Spider Cards and Counters Free Printable: Spider Numbers (part of my subscriber freebie pack, so just sign up for my email to get the link and password … or check the bottom of your latest newsletter if you’re already a subscriber) 

For this activity, I used a a Multicraft tray, 55 plastic spiders, and a Melissa & Doug wooden box to hold the spiders. 

Spider Cards and Counters Layout 

I like to lay out my numbers and counters in the traditional Montessori way of rows of two counters with a left-over counter centered below the bottom row. This gives a visual impression of odd and even. For more about creating DIY numbers and counters and a link on how to present the lesson, check out my DIY Cards and Counters post.  

Spider Web Lacing 1-25 Spider Web Lacing 1-25Free Printable: Spider Web Lacing 1-25 from Making Learning Fun 

For this activity, I used a bamboo plate holder and black yarn (7" x 25 plus a bit more). One of the plastic spiders could be added to the finished web. 

This is an advanced lacing activity but very cool!  

Spider Skip Counting Puzzles

Spider Skip Counting Puzzles
Free Printable: Spider Skip Counting Puzzles by Kim from Life Over C’s at Creative Family Fun 

For this activity, I used a pencil box to hold the puzzle. There are a variety of puzzles in the pack, so pick the level appropriate for your child or students.  

Roll and Draw Spiders Game Roll and Draw Spiders Game Free Printable: Printable Roll and Draw Spiders Game from Childhood 101 

I like that this is a mixture of math, science, and drawing. I think this would make a nice multi-age cooperative game by having one game board where the younger children can count the dots and older children can draw the spiders.  

Spider-Themed Puzzles for 2-Digit Addition Spider-Themed 2-Digit Addition Free Printable: Spider-Themed Puzzles for Double Digit Addition from Life Over C’s 

For this activity, I used a multicraft tray, piece of felt, golden beads from Alison's Montessori (you could use the tens and colored bead bars if you prefer), a Montessori Services basket to hold the tens, and a smaller container I have for the ones.

 Layout for Spider-Themed 2-Digit Addition 

(Note: The layout doesn't show the step of putting the tens and ones together to find the total.) I would have the child complete the puzzle after adding the beads as a control of error (way to check the work).

More Free Spider Printables

Go to my post at Living Montessori Now for links to free spider printables from around the blogosphere: Free Spider Printables and Montessori-Inspired Spider Math Activities. And be sure to subscribe to my email list if you'd like to get an exclusive free printable each month (plus two more awesome freebies right away): Free Printables.

Helpful Post with Animal Classification

Montessori Animal Classification

Montessori Animal Classification

Halloween Posts at Living Montessori Now + Halloween Pinterest Board

Montessori at Home or School - How to Teach Grace and Courtesy eBookIf you'd like to focus on manners with children, please check out my eBook Montessori at Home or School: How to Teach Grace and Courtesy! It's written for anyone who'd like to feel comfortable teaching manners to children ages 2-12. I'm also one of the coauthors of the book Learn with Play – 150+ Activities for Year-round Fun & Learning!
Happy fall! :) Deb - Siganture
Deb Chitwood
Deb Chitwood is a certified Montessori teacher with a master’s degree in Early Childhood Studies from Sheffield Hallam University in Sheffield, England. Deb taught in Montessori schools in Iowa and Arizona before becoming owner/director/teacher of her own Montessori school in South Dakota. Later, she homeschooled her two children through high school. Deb is now a Montessori writer who lives in San Diego with her husband of 41 years (and lives in the city where her kids, kids-in-law, and toddler granddaughter live). She blogs at Living Montessori Now.
Living Montessori Now Button
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...