FIRST Day of Preschool

sunny-tablewith-wordsA new semester has brought a new group of students.  Today they all took their first step into preschool class.  Most were pretty timid upon walking through the door.  A few tears were shed during the first hour, but they were easily assuaged with a little comforting.  My philosophy with my students is to entice them out of their shell rather than push.  In preparation for first day jitters, I had each parent send me a family picture ahead of time.  When the children came into the classroom, they took off their coats and hung them up.  Then they were told to go to the photo table and find their family.  Hah!  Here’s a task they could not fail.  They KNEW the answer to this test!  You could see visible relief on their faces as they marched themselves and “their family” over to our table to choose a seat.  I try to have Mylar balloons for each student this first day of class.  Who doesn’t love a Mylar balloon?  They make the atmosphere feel fun and festive right off the bat.

 

WELCOME ACTIVITY
The students found a seat they liked, propped their family photo against their balloon’s weight and proceeded to engage in doing wooden puzzles.  Very few preschoolers can resist the draw of bright wooden puzzles, but I had one today.  He was particularly nervous and could not be drawn out by the lure of puzzles.  Luckily, he was excited to see my shape-sorter ball on the table as well.  This was a “puzzle” he could enjoy.

SCHOOL SKILLS HOUR
Once all the kids had arrived and had sufficient time to explore the puzzles, we welcomed the class and went around the table with each student holding up their picture and telling us about who was in their family.  We noticed that some of our students were the oldest in their family while others were the youngest.  Some had both older and younger siblings.  Two families had all boys and one family had all girls.   I asked students to raise their hands if they had 2 kids in their family, 5 kids, etc.  It was a great time to compare how our families were similar and different.

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After everybody got a chance to share about their family, we brought out my Snail’s Pace Race game.  This is probably THE BEST preschool game around.  I like to think of it as a preschool version of the Kentucky Derby, but without the betting.  Theoretically, it is a non-competitive game, but kids can always find a way to compete.  Playing games is a wonderful way to teach a child so many skills, not the least of which is, “How to be a good winner/loser.”  We went over that lesson, and then I took note of the behavior of the children.  Do they have their colors down? (Yes!) Can they play by the rules?  Do they take turns nicely?  Does anybody try to cheat?  The kids took turns rolling the color dice and moving the snails and we all cheered for each snail as it crossed the finish line.

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Mylar Balloons with Tiny Solo Cup Baskets

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Stones kept our balloons anchored until we were ready to do our experimenting with them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The night before, I’d weighted the Mylar balloons by tying them to tiny Solo cup “shot glasses” which I’d melted holes into by using an ice pick which I’d heated up by holding it over the flame of the stove.  Just as I’d hoped, the shot glasses were not enough weight to hold the balloons down, so I added a stone to each cup to keep the balloons weighted. Back to our school time —  I had the children remove the stones from their cups and we spent several minutes delighting in letting the balloons go and trying to catch them before they got away.  Then I laid an assortment of small items out on the table — toothpicks, Q-Tips, little Lego people, hairbands, tiny pom pom balls, fish and teddy bear counters.  I challenged the students to experiment with what it took to keep their cup down.  We found about 4 toothpicks was enough for one boy.  Another discovered that if he put two pom poms in, the balloon sort of floated mid-air.  Some kids had fun just seeing how full they could stuff their cups with all the trinkets.

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One little bear made this balloon kind of jump around. It took two to anchor it securely.

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With no added weight, the balloon would float to the ceiling. With just the right amount of added weight you could get it to hover.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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We folded baby wipes then painted designs on the top layer, and reinforced the design by adding extra paint where needed on the bottom layer.

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Unfolding brought squeals of delight.

 

 

 

 

 

 

ART PROJECT
For our art project, we made “tie-dyed” squares.  I got the idea here.  We found it much easier for 4-year-old hands to just fold the baby wipe into quarters rather than twisting and wrapping rubber bands around them.  We painted them with these wonderful liquid watercolors.  While this meant we had to turn our folded wipe over and reapply some of the colors to the backside, I think the results were just as satisfying.

SNACK TIME
Snack time was  another learning experience.  Besides apple slices, we gave the children graham crackers and a little pot of peanut butter and instructed them how to use their plastic knife to spread the peanut butter.  Next they were offered mini chocolate chips, chopped pecans and coconut flakes to sprinkle on top.  Some had never tried coconut before but found they liked it.  This led to a conversation about how even though new experiences (like trying coconut or coming to the first day of preschool) might seem a little scary,  if we are always afraid to try new things, we will miss out on so much in life.

GROUP GAME
Our group game involved sitting around in a circle on the floor and taking turns rolling a ball across the circle to each other.  As we rolled the ball, we had to shout out our name.  Simple as this was, the kids anxiously waited for their turns and seemed to really enjoy the activity.

FREE PLAY
Now, the last hour of our day, it was time for free-play.  Today’s stations included playing with our tunnel, wooden blocks, rubber animals, stacking cups, this Fisher-Price gumball machine (which, even at 4 years old, these kids can’t seem to get enough of),  throwing sock balls to try to hit a Mylar balloon tied to a chair, and a story time corner.  We also brought the wooden puzzles back out for those who didn’t get enough of them earlier in the day.  All play stations got lots of activity.  Free play is a vital part of the preschool experience.  After spending over two hours in the classroom following directions and mostly staying seated, these kids need time to roam and explore.  It’s a wonderful social experience where kids learn to take turns, share toys, cooperate, create and, in some cases, stand in line.

Blocks, animals and cups? The possibilities are endless.

Blocks, animals and cups? The possibilities are endless.

When the parents showed up to pick up their “experienced” preschoolers, they were met with happy faces and chattering children anxious to share about their day.  In order to enhance this communication between parents and children, I send home a take-home letter listing all that we did that day and post pictures to our private group page.

Five Senses Day at Preschool

This week at preschool we learned about our five senses.  It was a touchy, smelly, tasty, visual and auditory extravaganza.  When the kids arrived, they were given cheap white paper plates and were told they were going to make it into a pizza.  As we waited for the other classmates to arrive we began coloring the outer edge of our plates a golden brown.  This would be our crust.  Once all the kids were present and had completed coloring their crusts, we put a dollop of red finger paint “sauce” on the middle of their “crust” and they got the delightfully tactile experience of spreading it around the crust with their hands.  We felt the sauce was a little too red and so we added some yellow to smear in.  (We learned about red and yellow making orange last week.)  It helped just a little.  We should have done some hand print art while we were at it but instead we just wiped all the “sauce” off our hands with our ever-present box of baby wipes, then washed the “cleaned” hands in the sink.  In ignorance, we set our pizzas aside to dry.  Apparently finger paint doesn’t dry too quickly.    We’ll get back to the pizzas later … because they turned out GREAT!

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Blinking Eyes
While the pizza sauce “dried”, we started working on our “blinking eye” models.  My assistant did all the folding for us as this would have been too difficult for the little guys.  I gave the children a selection of skin tone colors and told them to choose any skin color they wanted to color the eyelids.  After they colored the skin, we added black eyelashes.  Then we unfolded the paper and I drew light pencil circles in the correct location.  The children were instructed to outline the iris in black and color in the pupil except for the shiny spot.  Next they were allowed to choose any color they wanted for the iris color with the only limitation being they had to find a lighter and darker shade of the same color.  I had them color the inner part of the circle with the lighter shade and the rest of the circle with the darker shade.  This gives the eyes a fairly realistic look which was quite pleasing.  As the final step, they were to add a few black lines radiating out from the pupil to the edge of the iris.  These lines got rather bold, but adorable.  Then we folded the paper back to its original form and showed the kids how to blink their eyes by pinching the corners in back and pushing together and forward to open the eye and pulling out and back to close it.  We also discussed how being able to blink is what keeps your eyes lubricated and safe from dirt getting into them.

Next we tested our sense of hearing by shaking old pill bottles (Thank you Mom.)  which I had covered with construction paper and filled in sets of two with various ingredients such as oatmeal, rice, salt,  a single chocolate kiss, buttons, pennies.  The kids had to shake a bottle and then try to find its partner by listening to the sounds of the other bottles as they shook them.  After that, we did the same thing with “Smelly bottles” — paper covered pill bottles again, but this time covered with tissue so we could smell but not see the ingredients.  These bottles contained such ingredients as dry oatmeal, brown sugar, cinnamon, cocoa, ground coffee and black pepper.  At first I tried just putting essential oils on cotton balls so I wouldn’t need to hide the ingredients, but in testing them myself, I was surprised at how difficult it was to tell the difference between rather distinct smelling oils.  I wasn’t too surprised to learn how quickly this put my olfactory system on overload though, so I decided to go more the food route with the kids.  I was too lazy to cover the bottoms of the bottles and it didn’t take the kids long to figure out how to self-check their guesses.

Our sense of touch was the next to be tested.  We had two activities.  We put 5 pennies on a dish for each child, then buried them in rice and had the kids close their eyes and find the pennies.  Next I brought out cloth sacks and put a familiar object in each child’s sack.  I used our reusable cloth Christmas sacks, but a large sock would work just as well.  They were to use their sense of touch to figure out what was in their bag.  Once they got the hang of it, I moved to more difficult items.   After they’d found quite a variety of objects, I put all the objects into one sack and we passed it around assigning each child a particular object to go fish out of the bag.  This proved to be a bit more difficult than identifying the single object, but it was not too difficult for them to accomplish.

Pizza Time!  

We brought our paper pizzas back out along with all the toppings.  Sadly, the sauce was still quite wet.  No matter, we just drizzed glue all over it and then sprinkled our pizza with “cheese” and then real Italian seasoning to make it smell like pizza.  Next the kids topped their pizzas any way they please.  Their inner pizza chefs sprang to life as they created their masterpieces.  I cut all the ingredients out of paper except for the sausage which was cut from felt and the onion bits which was a white raffia ribbon cut in bits. When the kids finished topping their pizzas, we drizzled them with more clear school glue just for an extra measure to make sure all the ingredients stay attached.  The results were stunning.

Snack Time! — finally a chance to play with the sense of taste!
We tasted salty, spicy, bitter, sour and sweet.  The kids were more adventurous in tasting things than I expected.  Most of them even tried nibbling the parsley.

108_2034 108_2038 - CopyFor salty I used a sprinkle of pumpkin seeds.  The kids were offered a choice of a lemon slice or a dill pickle for sour.  Most tried and enjoyed both.  For bitter, they tried both parsley and my chocolate concoction.  I mixed straight cocoa powder with some coconut oil.  One of the girls tasted it and said, “This is Mom chocolate!”

108_2039We decided a little sprinkle of sugar vastly improved the taste for a kid’s palate.  No, I wasn’t teaching them that adding sugar to food made it taste better; I was demonstrating that a little sweetness can take away bitterness.  Speaking of sweetness, we used applesauce for this taste.  The kids cleaned me out on this one.  For spicy I wanted to use nacho flavored tortilla chips, which I did, but for the dairy-free kids I found some spicy crackers that were both gluten and dairy free.  The kids did not know that spicy play dough was waiting on the table for their playtime or I doubt they would have dawdled through snack time as leisurely as they did.

Active Group Play

After snack we usually try to do something active.  Today I tied in out theme of senses for this activity.  Lacking an old fashioned ticking timer, I downloaded a ticking “bomb” app on my tablet and hid it in various places.  The kids had 30 seconds to find it before it “exploded”.  We had to adjust the volume a few times to make it a little more difficult to find, but even still, it never took them the full 30 seconds to find it.

Play Time!
108_2053There were a few other choices, like some musical toys, a prism and our wave bottle (half colored water, half corn oil), but for the most part they wanted to play with the spice-scented play dough for the rest of the afternoon.  This was the first time I’d tried this recipe, and I love it!  It was a bit of a work out stirring six double batches (By the way, doubling the recipe worked 108_2043just fine.)  but it really only took about 5 minutes per batch. Don’t let the cooking part scare you — really.  It was a wonderful texture after I kneaded it for half a minute. I used a variety of spices to both color and scent the dough.  They smelled wonderful and I was delighted with the natural colors I got.  The center one is beet powder, then clockwise starting with the bright yellow, which is turmeric, followed by sage and thyme, cocoa powder, dill and cinnamon.

We brought out all our play dough tools and used our rhythm sticks as rolling pins.  The kids didn’t do much with the cookie cutters but when I brought out the little pie pans their eyes lit up and a little bakery sprang to life.

That brought us to the end of a very sensory day of preschool.  Thanks for stopping by to check us out.  Go here to read about some of our other preschool adventures.