Thursday, May 25, 2017


Feeling a part of something bigger than ourselves is an important part of life.  We accomplish this through family, friends, church, community and country.  When children feel that they ‘belong’, it helps to define a purpose in life.  

Even the US Army knows that music is the BEST way to teach anything, including Patriotism, which is why songs and marching music are a big part of any military group!

Studies have shown that children who feel connected are less disconnected when they reach the teen years.
During this time of year, instill patriotism in children, a pride in their country.  
Memorial Day in May
Flag Day in June
Fourth of July
Patriotism helps us feel connected to other Americans.  This connection is important during times of need, such as those we face with the floods, tornadoes or fires.   When we see other Americans as part of our extended ‘family, we care enough then to reach out and help. 
There are many cute, patriotic songs children can sing.  It isn’t important they understand completely, but it is important to put the concept there.

Read a book about the flag and let children make flags.

May I suggest Debbie Clement's book?  Red, White & Blue   

Song suggestions:
 “I Wave My Flag”  video
Songs At My Fingertips/Music with Mar.
  song "I Wave My FLag"
            “Proud to Be An American”                Music with Mar.
            “My Country ‘tis of Thee”
Some have set the Pledge of Allegiance to music, including me.  Let children march and sing.  It is interesting what they "think" the words are.  (***Children before the age of 6 should not be forced to rote memorize lyrics.  It should happen through repetition and fun involvement.)

Enjoy.  And, please, send me our ideas.  Sharing is good :)

Like the Brain F acts  Find Mar. on Facebook
Or, at the website Music with Mar.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Art Outside

Hi! It's Scott from Brick by Brick. I love to repurpose materials—use materials in ways different from their intended use. Today I'm thinking about repurposing things for art outside.
Here are some fun outdoor art experiences that we did last summer. I'm thinking it's time to try some of these again.

Flyswatter Painting

Flyswatter Painting (Brick by Brick)

Buy plastic flyswatters from the dollar store. Pour paint into shallow containers or dishpans. Dip flyswatters in paint and hit the paper.

We hung the paper on our playground fence. Kids enjoyed hitting the paper. I would advise having several stations for this activity. And it can be messy, so make sure kids are wearing appropriate clothes and stand back when not painting.

Spray Bottle Painting

Spray Bottle Painting (Brick by Brick)

Fill plastic spray bottles with liquid watercolor and spray away. You can also color water with food color and use that, but the color isn't as vivid.

Make sure the bottles are filled with paint. Bring more to refill the bottles. Our kids loved this and wanted more.

Draw with Chalk and Spray Water

Chalk Drawing (Brick by Brick)

Drawing with chalk on sidewalks or parking lots is a favorite outdoor activity. Bring spray bottles with water, buckets of water, and large paintbrushes. Using these can make the drawings "disappear."

Spraying Water on Chalk Drawing (Brick by Brick)

Children enjoyed exploring the different types of activities - drawing, spraying, brushing. Choose an area that will get rain or can be easily sprayed off with a hose. We drew on a covered area and it took a while for the "evidence" to disappear.

Plastic Cups and Fence Sculpture

Plastic Cups in Fence Art (Brick by Brick)

Repurpose plastic cups of various colors. (Mine were again from the dollar store.) Kids can insert the cups in a fence to create a sculpture or overall pattern. Our kids really enjoyed this different activity. It looked like an art installation after we were finished. I liked the "come and go" nature of this activity. Kids would place one or two cups and then leave; later they would come back and add another one. Other kids would play on the playground for a while and then try the art. And others stayed with the art for a longer while.

Plastic Cups in Fence Art (Brick by Brick)

Make sure you try the cups in the fence before using with the children. Our cups were just a little too big. Some children had difficulty making them work. (But the crushed sides added some different elements to the sculpture, too.)

Art belongs outside as well as inside. What art experiences have taken you into the great outdoors? What have you repurposed for this outside art?

Monday, May 22, 2017

Dance Story about the new book Hoot & Honk Just Can't Sleep, by Leslie Helakoski


I had the delightful experience of attending a Highlights picture book workshop a year ago, led by authors Leslie Helakoski, Darcy Pattison, and Kelly Bennett.  All three have written wonderful and playful picture books for young children.

At the time of the workshop, Leslie was looking forward to the Spring, 2017 release of her most recent book, Hoot & Honk Just Can't Sleep.  It was released this past March, and has received fantastic reviews. 
 Here are two samples, the first from Night Owl Reviews:

“Hoot & Honk Just Can’t Sleep” by Leslie Helakoski is a wonderfully whimsical hardcover children’s book that depicts the issues that result from two bird eggs inadvertently switching places after a storm. The vivid drawings are accompanied by succinct words that describe a gosling hatching in an owl’s nest while the rightful resident hatches in the nest the gosling’s egg came from. Not only is there an issue with the diet and the sleep cycle, but the surroundings just aren’t quite right for each new hatchling.

This is a great book for teaching a child about different species of animals and the concept of diurnal and nocturnal lifestyles. The cute rhymes convey the story that is portrayed in the pictures but my literal mind can’t help wondering whether there are truly blue owls and how each chick could be restored to its natural habitat, lol.

And from WEtap Media, LLC:

Dark sky. Wake or doze?

Some eyes open. Some eyes close.

"Some chicks like day, others like night. Some sleep in the dark, and some in the light. Hoot, an adorable owlet, and Honk, a fuzzy gosling, have just hatched—but their eggs got switched and now they’re in the wrong nests. Will they find their way home? Leslie Helakoski’s gentle, lilting verse and irresistible illustrations make the perfect bedtime story as they capture two adorable babies exploring the world for the first time."   


I have created a dance story to accompany this lovely book. The entire movement activity is below. It is also available on the author's website, along with many other enriching activities, such as a song, owl and geese fact sheets, and a teacher guide:  Leslie Helakoski Books
Bringing stories to life with music and dance can nurture early literacy and language skills, such as:  

·       Sequencing
·       Making predictions
·       Identifying with different characters
·       Exploring the setting and background
·       Vocabulary acquisition
·       Listening skills

A dance story can be a very short activity (10 minutes or so), or can be expanded into a much longer one. It can also be used as a fun presentation for parents and friends. Children enjoy revisiting the book, and through a parent or teacher's movement prompts, and the children's own kinesthetic responses and ideas, the explorations that result can be energetic, creative, and enriching movement studies.  This book inspires many opportunities for playful movement.

Hoot & Honk Just Can't Sleep Dance Story


Music (optional):  
              1.   Classical or New Age musical selection
             2.   A livelier instrumental piece, such as Bluegrass, for the free dance at the end of the activity       

         A space large enough to move freely

How to Present the Dance Story

First read the book to your audience of children. Using any or all of the following prompts, guide the children through the movement ideas. Allow plenty of time between each prompt for the children to respond and follow where their imaginations lead them. If you have music, play the first selection softly in the background.

Movement Prompts:

Sway like the grasses in the picture on the first page. What else moves when the wind blows? Can you flap like a kite? Can you swish like blowing leaves? Can you bend like the trees in the story? Can you fly like a bird on a breeze?  

A storm is coming! Clap your hands to make thunder. Can you make zigzag lightening shapes with your body? What would it feel like to be a cloud that fills up with water? You get so full that the water turns into rain and it begins to fall!

Imagine that you are a drop of water coming from the cloud. First you are a light raindrop. You are carried along by the wind, whirling and tossing up and down, and side to side. Now you are a big heavy drop, falling quickly to the ground with a big plop. Imagine that you make a big splash. 

Now imagine you are one of the little eggs from the story. The wind blows hard. You roll and tumble out of your nest into the soft grass.
Now that the storm is over, the mother owl and goose look for their lost eggs. Can you crawl through the tall grass and see if you can find it? Imagine you are the goose. Swim and waddle. Now fly and swoop like an owl. Look all around for your lost egg! 

Imagine you are a tiny bird inside an egg. You have to wait until you are ready to hatch. When you are ready, take your little beak and begin to peck to get out. It is hard work! You have to peck until one wing can poke out.  Now peck some more, and try to push your other wing out. Now push your little feet to finally break free from the egg. Try walking around on your brand new legs. Try flapping your little wings! Open and close your beak!  What sound would a baby bird make? Now walk, flap, and chirp!

Why is it hard for Hoot to sleep at night? He is wide-awake when mama goose and the goslings are sleeping. What does he do?  He can't close his eyes, and he listens to the night sounds. Open your eyes wide, be very still and quiet, and listen for sounds. 

How do you feel when you are not sleepy? Do you feel fidgety? Let's fidget as much as we can. Fidget your face. Fidget your shoulders. Fidget your arms and hands. Fidget your legs, and your feet. Now fidget everything all at the same time!  

Imagine that you are Hoot, with lots of energy when night comes.  
Hoot goes exploring. Walk through the woods in the moonlight, through the fields, and up and down a hill. Suddenly, you see some other baby owls who are also awake! Go to them and look at them carefully. Then you look up, and see your owl mother! Give her a big owl hug. What would it feel like to go to sleep with the other baby owls, and be snuggled together safely in the nest?

Honk is in an owl nest!  What do owls eat?  Do you think a gosling would like to eat a mouse? What do you think baby geese would like to eat?

When the baby owls are wide-awake at night, Honk wants to sleep!  He gets up in the morning when the owls are sleeping. He goes exploring in the bright sunshine. Let's walk through the woods, through the fields, and up and down a hill. Look, there is a pond!  What does Honk do?  He sees some other goslings. Can you jump into the water, and use your little webbed feet to paddle around the pond? Swim to the other goslings. Dunk yourself upside down in the water – with your tail in the air! Swim around the pond, and dunk your head with your tail in the air a few more times.

This time, bring your head up, and see mama goose looking at you! Follow her home and cuddle up with her and the other babies. You are safe and snug in the nest.

Finish the Dance Story with a free dance to allow the children to further explore any parts of the story they wish. Play the livelier musical selection, and ask them to dance about their favorite parts of the story. Finish the dance by asking the children to freeze in the shape of an owl flying, or a gosling upside down in the pond.

Freeze in the shape of a gosling upside down in the pond!

Keep on dancin',                 


Monday, May 15, 2017

Montessori-Inspired Zoo Activities Using Free Printables

By Deb Chitwood from Living Montessori Now 

I'm so excited today! I have Montessori-inspired activities for a popular theme with young children ... zoo animals. At Living Montessori Now, I have a list of free zoo printables. The free printables include my latest subscriber freebie (a Montessori-inspired zoo pack), which is now expanded to cover additional concepts and a wider age range! 

Here I'm sharing a number of Montessori-inspired activities using the free printables. These are great ways to complement a trip to the zoo ... a perfect warm-weather field trip! 

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.   

Shelves with Zoo-Themed Activities 

Shelves with Zoo-Themed Activities 

My shelves with zoo-themed activities include a free hand-painted printable zoo culture card designed by The Montessori Company. You’ll also find Montessori-inspired zoo numbers and letters (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) 

The books on my top shelf are all Montessori friendly. They're Zoo by Gail Gibbons, Life-Size Zoo, More Life-Size Zoo, and A Children's Zoo. My 3-year-old granddaughter, Zoey, especially loves Life-Size Zoo and More Life-Size Zoo. Another favorite zoo book that she's loved for a long time is One Gorilla (a Montessori-friendly counting book with fascinating realistic pictures. It's in our book basket). 

I also have a handmade book: Little Letter "Z" Book on the middle shelf.  It uses a free printable: Little Letter "Z" Book from The Measured Mom. Check out my "Simple Easily Rotated Activity to Teach Letter Sounds to Toddlers and Preschoolers" to learn how we use these letter books, which Zoey loves. 

You could mix your zoo-themed activities among your shelves according to curriculum area. Or you could have a special zoo area something like the one pictured. My shelves this month have a mixture of skill levels, although they're mainly for 3-5 year old pre-readers. 

You'll find a couple of more advanced activities below. If you’re a homeschooler, just choose the activities that work for your child’s interests and ability levels. If you don’t have room for all the activities you’d like to do, just rotate them.

Zoo Culture Card (on Shelf with Life-Size Zoo and More Life-Size Zoo Books)

Zoo Culture Card with Life-Size Zoo Book and More Life-Size Zoo Book 

I'm happy to share with you a beautiful hand-painted zoo culture card from The Montessori Company. You can use it on your shelves to introduce a zoo theme. I’m hosting the free printable as an instant download at Living Montessori Now. You can always access the free zoo culture card here. The description says: “At the zoo we can learn about animals from all across the world and see them up close safely.” 

Animal Pattern Matching Animal Pattern Matching  

Free Printable: Animal Patterns from Mumma Diaries 

For this activity, I simply used a Montessori Services basket with the printables - super easy! I did omit the cow and ladybug patterns because of the zoo theme. 

For a toddler, it would be wonderful to use this activity with large Schleich animals or Safari Ltd. animals to match each of the patterns. 

Wildlife “I Have, Who Has” Game Wildlife "I Have, Who Has" Game  

Free Printable: Wildlife “I Have, Who Has” Game from PreKinders 

This was another super-easy activity to prepare. I just used the printable along with a Montessori Services basket. Games like this can be a fun way for children to work together at home or in a classroom. 

Subtract the Animals at the Zoo Subtract the Animals at the Zoo Tray Free Printable: Zoo Pack Update (part 5) from 3 Dinosaurs. There are also printables for counting the zoo animals (perfect for younger children), adding the zoo animals, and greater than/less than in the pack. For multiple ages, you could have more than one of the printables on the tray. 

For this activity, I used the subtract the animals printable, 10 animals from the Safari Ltd. Wild TOOB, a Montessori Services basket for the animals, and a small bamboo condiment cup for the numbers. 

Subtract the Animals at the Zoo Activity

Zoo-Themed Teen Number Cards with Montessori Bead Bars

Zoo-Themed Teen Number Cards with Montessori Bead Bars 

Free Printable: Zoo Animal 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 piece of felt for a table mat and bead bars from the decanomial box in a Montessori Services basket. (My bead bars, which I love, are from Alison's Montessori. You can get them on Amazon, although I haven't personally used materials from those companies.) 

You could make this into a game by placing the number cards in a stack upside down. Then the child draws a number card and matches the bead bars. 

Zoo-Themed Teen Number Card with Montessori Bead Bars 

This is a great extension for children who are working on place value using Montessori bead materials. 

Letter Z Object Basket with Mystery Bag and Blindfold Letter Z Object Basket with Mystery Bag and Blindfold Free Printables: Zebra Letters for Letter Z Object Basket (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) 

I used the "z" sandpaper letter, another tactile letter "z," a magnetic letter "z," a sandpaper numeral 0, a zebra, a zipper, and a laminated photo of Zoey  for the/z/ sound. Zoey has so much fun with this activity!

Using Letter Z Objects with Mystery Bag and Blindfold

If you'd like ideas for teaching phonics, check out my DIY Beginning Montessori Phonics post. 

We used a Montessori mystery bag and blindfold for interest and to work on the stereognostic sense. I got the basket, mystery bag, and blindfold from Montessori Services. 

Zoo-Themed Beginning Sounds and Word Building Zoo-Themed Word Building Basket  

Free Printable: Zoo Pack Update (part 6) from 3 Dinosaurs 

Free Printable: My 1" Movable Alphabet (instant download available in manuscript, D'Nealian, or cursive) 

For this activity, I used a Montessori Services basket and a small bamboo condiment cup for the letters. This is a fun hands-on way to focus on beginning sounds and word building. 

I cut out 4 of the easiest words to build. After simply identifying the beginning sound for each picture, the child will have built a word!

Zoo-Themed Word Building

Vertebrate Classification with Safari Ltd. Figures Vertebrate Classification Tray with Safari Ltd Figures Free Printable: We’re Going to the Zoo Unit Study and Lapbook by Ami Brainerd at Homeschool Share 

For this activity, I used a multicraft tray, the pieces from the printable cut apart, and 5 different types of vertebrates. I used figures from the Safari Ltd. Rainforest TOOB plus a fish from the Safari Ltd. Rainforest TOOB

Older children could have a number of different species to match while younger children can match figures such as the ones pictured that are obvious matches although not necessarily the same type of fish, bird, etc.

Vertebrate Classification Layout with Safari Ltd Figures

Zoey really loved this activity and enjoyed having me read the different attributes of each classification. 

Zoo Creative Writing Zoo Animal Creative Writing Tray Free Printable: Zoo Creative Writing Printables (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, the printables, a pencil, and a pencil sharpener for an added practical life activity. Advanced preschoolers on up can write their own story, while younger preschoolers can dictate a story for you to write. They could use the "Tell about your favorite zoo animal," or "Tell about your trip to the zoo," after a zoo trip. 

More Free Zoo Printables 

Go to my post at Living Montessori Now for links to free zoo printables from around the blogosphere: Free Zoo Printables and Montessori-Inspired Zoo 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

More Zoo Activities and Resources at Living Montessori Now

Montessori at Home or School - How to Teach Grace and Courtesy eBook

If 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!
I hope you have some zoo fun this spring and summer!
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 42 years (and lives in the city where her kids, kids-in-law, and 3-year-old granddaughter live). She blogs at Living Montessori Now.

Living Montessori Now Button

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Sunflowers for Spring

Hi! It's Carolyn from Kindergarten: Holding Hands and Sticking Together.  We need a little sunshine here in Upstate NY, so I thought today I would share some sunflower ideas for the end of the year.

As my sweet class is getting ready to think ahead to first grade, I like to plant sunflower seeds with them.  We talk about the fact that when their flower is grown and blooming, they will be ready for first grade and a brand new year of school.

This is a cute story we read to go along with our planting. 
Image result for the sunflower that went flop

I wrote this poem to go along with their plantings.  Feel free to use it if you'd like to!

I could read and reread this book. It's beautifully written and so sweet.  Every time I read it, I find another little gem and detail in the book.  It takes you to such a wonderful, peaceful place. When my children were little, we did lots of the activities in this book. 

Sunflower House is another sweet book that gives children other fun ideas for planting at their own house!

Plants are magical for children of any age.  When you can combine activities with planting, it's just a bonus. 

Wishing you all a fun, sunny spring!

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Preschool Graduation Programming Ideas & Tips To Keep You (and your Preschoolers) Sane!

by Cheryl Hatch from Preschool Plan It

Preschool concerts and plays can either be fun and enriching or stressing and full of dread for your preschoolers - and for YOU! It all depends on your focus!  I am a firm believer that we should not "do" programs just because "the families love them".  

Don't get me wrong, I am all about group fun with the children so long as THEIR needs are our main focus and consideration when planning them and NOT to please families or "show off" our teaching abilities to get 24 children to comply with a program!  ;)

If you are considering a concert or a play as your end of the year program, I have a lot of information to help you plan!

1.  Keep Your Focus!

When planning any type of program for your preschoolers, look at each group individually.  

2.  The "Wiggles": They HAPPEN!

You can COUNT on your children getting the wiggles during their program!  

Be prepared!  Let's plan for them!  

Have a list of activities, songs and music/movement ideas to break up your program!

3.  Musical Concert Ideas

Looking for concert ideas for your program?  You need not look further than your preschoolers' favorite songs from the year!  

Encourage them to list their favorite songs from the year and sing those!

We've had a "Preschool Movin' and Groovin' " themed end of the year concert that highlighted some of our favorite Greg & Steve and Dr. Jean songs.

We've also had a "Farmyard Fun" themed concert where the children sang their favorite animal songs and, of course, Greg & Steve's Chicken Dance medley!

I have details of these and other concert ideas here!

4.  Act It Out Play Ideas

We've had many years where the children acted out their favorite stories!  How about a "Preschool is Hoppin' " program where the children act out stories you read during the program such as Jump, Frog, Jump by Robert Kalan and It's Mine by Leo Lionni? 

You can find more details to these and other act it out play ideas here!

I hope these articles help you to plan a program that will be fun for the children, families and you!

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, May 1, 2017

Finding your TRIBE of #TeacherFriends: Support, Encouragement + FREEBIES

CONGRATULATIONS! You're coming down the home stretch. The end is in sight. ALL of the hard work over the course of the year is paying off. Cue the joy. Right? 

And yet. You are quite possibly exhausted. Your to-do lists have to-do lists. You see everyone else creating HUGE fan-fare celebrations and concluding ceremonies worthy of a magazine spread. {That is the curse of too much blog following. It looks so easy on 'their' site.} 

Does the thought of perusing on Pinterest make you feel like you may just puke? It seems those other classrooms appear to be perfect, all while the teacher is modeling the latest seasonal ensemble..... perky and bright, all while you crawl to your car at the end of the day, manage to get home and then fall asleep in your garage. 

Let's face it. There are a LOT of pressures on teachers these days. SO MUCH PRESSURE>>>>>>SO MANY EXPECTATIONS>>>>>>

Now more than ever, it is important to find your "tribe." Your people. The folks on your channel. The ones who get you. Who get your priorities. The ones who sing your kinda song. The ones with answers to the questions that nag at you as you are attempting to fall asleep. 

And that's where Twitter is incredible. With the right hashtag, the right questions and a quick click -- you can be connected to a person with your long-sought answer. 

Finding your people, building your Professional Learning Network (PLN) does take both willingness and I will admit, there is some time that will need to be invested. Maybe that can be a goal for your summer... to join the edu-connected and start tweeting. 

Nearly three years ago, I had the idea that encouraging teachers to find each other -- in a supportive setting would be "fun." Little did I EVER realize that we would be gathering every Tuesday night! 

Take a look at our upcoming calendar of guests who will lead the chat, on a topic where they are both passionate and knowledgeable. The only thing to remember is to use our hashtag in EVERY tweet.

Now is the perfect time for you to attend a chat or two, so that by our BIG anniversary party at the end of June, you will be an old hand at tweeting in a chat! 

Last summer for our anniversary party, we gathered up a total of $7000 worth of prizes. 

AND BELIEVE IT OR NOT!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 

We have already started gathering the goodies -- ahead of time. 

***I am living proof that planning ahead and taking a step of two can get major projects accomplished. 

We have our first dozen prizes in and organized and ready for your enticement. 
Trying new things is a lot easier when there are door prizes!


One winner will get all three of my picture books. 
Someone else will win a SKYPE visit -- to be used next school year. 

Plus we will pick two winners to receive $25 worth of my digital downloads. 


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