Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Playgroup - The Carrot Seed

Our first day back at playgroup for the new term!  Today we read The Carrot Seed and The Enormous Turnip.  We had quite an interesting discussion on what we could make with all those giant vegetable, none of which sounded very appetizing!!  Then we headed off to do our activities.

We had fun making our own gardens with our playdough and some home-grown herbs and flowers.

There was lots of digging and sorting in our sensory box.  It was made with lots of sunflowers seeds as a filler and then miniature flowers and insects to plant and find.

We made some beautiful pictures with our vegetable printing.

Then we "planted" some vegetables and buried them in the dirt!

Of course a garden day wouldn't be complete without planting our own seeds to take home and grow.  Hopefully we will have some sunflower seedlings to plant when it starts to warm up!!

And we were lucky to have a visit after playgroup from our brand new cousin, Seth.  Lots of cuddles all around!!

Monday, July 21, 2014

What's On the Shelf? July- Dinosaurs

Preschool this year has been a hodgepodge of bits and pieces and trying different things to see what works and what doesn't.  Mainly because my preschooler is very different to his older siblings.  He has some unique needs and consequently, what worked for them doesn't always work for him.  So it has taken us 6 months but I finally think I have found what will work best for him.  The bonus of this is his 2 year old brother can also join in.

So we have moved to doing monthly, Montessori inspired thematic units and getting rid of all the sit down "schooly" type work that my big kids loved at his age.  I moved around all our toy storage and turned out two 8 cubed storage shelves into our Montessori work shelves.

Our new plan starts with circle time for all four children.  We sing songs, read a story and do our Bible lesson together.  Then the older two go off to do their independent work and the two littlies and I head off to the toy room and spend about and hour playing/working together.

Our theme for July has been Dinosaurs.  Below is a look at the items on our shelves for this month.  As well as the items pictured we also have an art and craft table with playdough, paints, dot paints and lots of collage and boxes that are available to all the children whenever they are feeling creative!

This is our new set up ready for our Dinosaurs theme.  The shelves on the left contain activities mostly aimed at Sam and the one on the right is for Nathanael.  I don't stop them using the others, but when I sit down to do an activity with them I will choose from the appropriate side.

Our salt dough dinosaur fossils.  First we made imprints of various dinosaurs into the salt dough.  Then we cooked them and then finally we use them to match the dinosaurs back to their imprint.  we also use it to talk about the different characteristics of each dinosaur and learn their names.

Scooping activity.  I tend to change this every other week, using different bowls, spoon and filling to keep it interesting.  Nathanael loves this and the pouring activity at the moment.

As mentioned above, our pouring activity.

Threading cotton reels.  Samuel makes patterns with the different colours like abab or abba etc and Nathanael just threads them

Adding peg "spikes" to our stegosaurus for 1 to 1 correspondence.  Samuel patterns them as the pegs are in two different shades.  Nathanael just pegs them on any old way.

Cutting dinosaur tails.  Samuel is way beyond this in terms of cutting but he thinks it is hilarious to cut up dinosaur tails!

Developing fine motor skills by transferring pom poms with the tongs.

Matching dinosaurs to our 3-part cards.  Nathanael just does the toys to pictures.  Samuel matches the words too.


Practicing our numbers by counting dinosaur eggs and pegging the correct number and then matching upper case and lower case letters.

So far this has been the favourite.  Cleaning dinosaurs with a toothbrush in some dish detergent and then drying them.  Our dinosaurs have never been cleaner!!

Feed the dinosaur counting game.

We still have a letter box which has nothing to do with the theme.  I change this box each week to another letter.  It has sandpaper letters and salt try for writing, a few little puzzles for each letter, books, pictures and other odds and ends beginning with the target sound.

This box looks really boring, but is for our I spy game, learning to identify initial sounds in words.  It is actually a favourite despite its sad appearance.

Cutting and sticking dinosaur pictures.

Our foam dough, dinosaur sensory box.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Small World Sensory Play

I love making up sensory boxes and Small worlds.  Sometimes I'm not sure who enjoys them more, me or the kids!!  Nathanael loves the sensory aspect of the scooping and pouring and running his fingers through whatever the filler is, Samuel is really getting into the imaginative play aspect of the small worlds. The big kids, who at 8 and 10 are of course too old for these now, can often be found setting up imaginary play or just scooping and pouring and enjoying the sensory aspects.  Of course if questioned they are only doing it for their little brothers!!!!

Sensory boxes are such and easy way to play.  You can use almost anything you have on hand as a filler.  We have used coloured rice, pasta, beans, aquarium rocks, play sand, foam dough and water among many things.  Then it can be as simple as adding in a few spoons and containers for scooping and pouring, or as complex as gathering matching toys and items to make a small world theme.

Sensory boxes have so many benefits. For example, the child's senses get a work out as they listen to the rice being poured into a tin, they feel it as they run their hands through the box.  They can smell the different spice added to the mix. They also help develop, language, imaginative play and social skills as children act out stories and negotiate sharing of items in the box.  Fine motor skills get a work out as they manipulate the medium and tools of the day.  Cognitive skills are developed as they learn about content related to the box which could be colours, shapes, name of animals, parts of plants and is only limited by your imagination.

But are they messy, you ask?  Absolutely!!!  you will see in some of the photos below just how messy they can get.  We usually set ours up on a big rug so any spillage can be tipped back in.  The rules are: all mess must stay on the rug, no throwing, no dumping.  If they can't follow the rules then the box gets packed away.  Usually they are pretty good at keeping their tipping to the rug but anything that is accidentally spilled or trampled elsewhere can be easily vacuumed up when they are finished.

Here are a few of the sensory boxes we have used over the years.

Some of our boxes are as simple as chucking some coloured rice, a few counting bears and some spoons into a box.

Our Arctic box was made with cotton wool, sparkly pom-poms, gemstones and some arctic animals.

For Autumn we used coloured pasta, little spikey seed pods, some orange glass stones, fabric leaves and lots of insects.  This led to all sorts of imaginative play and sorting.  Of course, I forgot to mention the baby always ends up in the box!!

Dinosaur boxes are always a hit around here.  This one was made using cloud dough which is simply flour and baby oil.  It makes the softest, silkiest moldable and squishable dough and smells divine!  Add some food colouring to make land and water, throw in a few dinosaurs and other accessories and you're done.

We make Easter boxes every year.  Sometimes they are filled with coloured rice, sometimes Easter grass and then whatever Eastery accessories we can find.

This farm box uses split peas as a filler and then a variety of farm animals and vehicles.  You can see that the filler doesn't always stay contained but is mostly on the rug.

Ocean boxes are always fun.  Sometimes we add water, sometimes we leave them dry and just use aquarium stones and gems.

Our snow box is made with Snow foam dough.  Which is bicarb soda and shaving cream.  This stuff is awesome!!!!!  It moulds and crumbles like wet sand but is sooooo soft.

Once we were done playing with the animals in our snow box we removed them and I gave the kids some containers with vinegar and food colouring with some eye droppers and let them at it.  They absolutely loved this.

So, what are you waiting for?  Go and make a sensory or small world box now!!