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.

Home School Help – Tending to Toddlers and Preschoolers


Balancing Teaching Your Older Children with Tending to the Younger Ones

Balancing Teaching Your Older Children with Tending to the Younger Ones

It is very easy to neglect your toddlers or preschoolers while trying to carry out your home school responsibilities. Younger children without a doubt, create a challenge for any mom, especially the home school mom.  We are torn between guilt and frustration as our younger children wander aimlessly about through their day, trashing the house and interrupting our teaching efforts. This post is to remind you that you are a family first, and a school second.

If you have read my earlier post on LESSON PLANNING, you will find that to be a great start in being able to make more time for your young children.  School-aged children with a weekly lesson plan in hand have far more direction and need far less of Mom’s constant attention.  In addition to making out a plan for your students, make out a plan for your pre-schoolers (even toddlers) as well.  How detailed you want to make this is up to you, but it should have at least these two things:  Every day you should have at least one special play activity scheduled.  You should also schedule at least one older child per day to spend an hour of playtime (or reading time) with the younger ones.  (Write their assigned time right on their school lesson plans.)  These two items alone could well give you two hours a day to focus on school without neglecting the little ones.  In addition, schedule time for you to spend with your younger children.  If you don’t consciously schedule it, it often gets forgotten.  I know it may not be possible to spend a large chunk of time, and maybe you can’t even get it in every day, but at least a few days a week plan an activity alone with this child.  It could be as simple as reading a book, playing hide and seek for 15 minutes, or letting them help you put groceries away.

Assign each older child at least one hour per week where they are scheduled to play with their preschool siblings.

Assign each older child at least one hour per week where they are scheduled to play with their preschool siblings.

Make sure each of your older children has at least one hour a week (each having their scheduled day/s) assigned to playtime with their younger siblings.  It would be best, but not necessary,  if these hours were scheduled at the same time each day.  Little ones thrive on routine.  It might also come in handy to give students a ½ hour assignment to play with the baby at those times when their brain needs a break.

It might come in handy to give students a ½ hour "assignment" to play with the baby when their brain needs a break from the books.

It might come in handy to give students a ½ hour “assignment” to play with the baby when their brain needs a break from the books.

Now, about those daily special play activities – Pick at least one item each day that is done only on that day of the week, during school time.  You can even call it their  “school”  if it helps.  A sample schedule might look like this:

Monday:  stringing beads

Tuesday:  playdough

Wednesday:  pattern blocks

Thursday:  popcorn play*

Friday:  painting

* By Popcorn Play I mean buy a 25# bucket of popcorn seeds from Sam’s Club and set it aside just for play use.  Dump it into a large, wide container (We’ve found a plastic toboggan to work particularly well, otherwise and underbed storage container will work nicely.) and let them play with it like sand — measure, pour, make roads, bury things.

You could even plan one activity for the morning and one for the afternoon.  The child should be where you can keep an eye on him, but try to plan activities that he can do without much assistance.  By allowing these activities only on the assigned days, it keeps the interest level high and your child will play at the activity much longer, thereby developing a healthy attention span.  Also introduce you child to daily chore assignments, and allow him to sit in on school when possible.  My 3 year olds loved to cuddle up on the couch when we were reading aloud even if they had no clue about what was being read.  It’s just a nice “belonging” thing to do.  If my boys were playing phonogram Bingo, we gave the preschooler a card and they’d tell him where to put the marker chips.  If they were using math manipulatives, their younger siblings were right beside them building things out of the same manipulatives.  Always let them sit in on fun stuff like science experiments and art projects.  And finally take full advantage of their naps!

I will write what could be a sample schedule, and then I will list lots of activity ideas.

8:30 chore time (some simple but contributing tasks)

9:00 free play or joining in on school activity

10:00 assigned morning activity (This would be the special activity chosen for that day of the week.)

11:00 play with sibling

12:00 lunch and recess (Get fresh air!)

1:00 nap

2:00 assigned afternoon activity (a second activity done only on this weekday)

2:30 Mommy Time!

3:30 free play

4:00 play with siblings while Mom makes dinner

You will note that I have included “Free Play” periods.  It’s very important that children are allowed some freedom in their day.  There should be times when he can explore, learn to entertain himself, or play as he desires.  The opportunity to do so is sadly lacking in today’s overly structured, schedule-packed society, and it’s not fair to the children.  Also, PLEASE, don’t plop that tot in front of a screen!  Granted, there are lots of wonderful things to explore TOGETHER on the internet — caterpillars morphing into butterflies for example — but really, REALLY limit the time your young children sit in front of a screen, be it TV, computer, tablet or phone.  And as much as possible do screen time along with your child rather than using it to babysit for you. That being said, I will now go ahead and list suggestions for things to do during the scheduled part of the day.

IDEAS FOR ASSIGNED ACTIVITES:

  • playdough

    Bring bath toys in the kitchen for water play time.

    Bring bath toys in the kitchen for water play time.

  • pattern blocks
  • popcorn play  (like sand play, only with popcorn kernels)
  • puzzles
  • play with water (much like the popcorn – Place a vinyl tablecloth on the kitchen floor with a plastic dishpan full of water.  Supply the child with a baster, funnel, cups, strainer and small toys to strain and let them have at it — under supervision, naturally.  When they are done, grab the mop and you’ll get a cleaned floor out of the bargain as well!)
  • sorting activities (sort by color, size, texture, category, likes/dislikes, …)
  • drawing / coloring
  • cutting, pasting & stickers
  • Duplos
  • Fisher Price Little People, Imaginext, or Adventure sets (These collections are easily built via rummaging.)
  • rubber stamps
  • digital books (This is one of my few suggestions for being in front of a screen.  Make this the exception and not the rule for reading time.)
  • listen to music (dance with streamers or bop a balloon to the music)
  • blocks (At about 1 year old, my boys particularly enjoyed dropping cube-shaped letter blocks through the hole in a plastic cereal container.  Eventually they moved on to building towers, then zoos and cities.)
  • toy animals (the hard rubber type – great for sorting, setting up a zoo,  or playing “survival of the fittest”)
  • matchbox cars
  • play food / dishes
  • practice cutting skills with old magazines (I am told by enrichment teachers that a number of our 7-8 year old students still cannot handle a scissors properly.  You need to give them practice in this skill.  There are plenty of “safe” scissors available.)
  • roller-skating in the basement (assuming you have slow kid’s skates!)
  • chalk on basement floor (a wet mop will take care of it)
  • build a blanket tent and look at books or camp with stuffed animals inside
  • wash windows (a spray bottle full of water and a rag)
  • math manipulatives (Pattern Blocks, Unifex Cubes, balance, Cuisenaire Rods, links, counting bears, dominoes, geoboards, fraction circles, etc.)
  • Tending to Preschoolers

    Math manipulatives can be used creatively.

    costume box

  • special videos (use sparingly)
  • puppets
  • obstacle course
  • decorate graham crackers with frosting and sprinkles *
  • make snack kabobs with toothpicks, mini marshmallows, pinapple chunks, cheese cubes, raisins, etc. *
  • magnetic letters or other magnets
  • look at photo albums
  • rhythm instruments
  • paint-with-water books
  • bean bag toss
  • weighing and comparing items with a child’s balance
  • practice dropping clothespins or pennies into a mason jar.  Count how many you get in.  Do it from a standing position with the jar on the floor or kneel on a chair and balance your arm on the chair back.

*allow them to serve the snacks they’ve prepared to their older siblings – if they dare eat them!

Okay, that’s enough to get you going.  Choose five or ten activities and assign each to a day of the week.  You may use additional activities  for Mom or Sibling time.

Don’t cast that child aside.  He will grow up all too quickly and is at a very precious age right now.  Be sure your home school doesn’t leave him a casualty.  God Bless your efforts.