Thursday, November 17, 2011

I Swear the Paint is Washable...I Think!

Bubble Paper Mitten Print
 Famous last words of the early childhood's washable paint.  You usually say this in response to a parent's statement of, "She's wearing a new Gymboree outfit...don't let her get messy today."  When I hear those things from a parent I want to run straight to that child's cubby and immediately put them in their extra set of clothes so as not to soil the "good" clothes.  Yeah, yeah...we have aprons and smocks to protect the kids from paint and other messes...but truthfully we forget to pass them out until the kids are elbow deep in fingerpaint.  And the aprons...well kids tend to get messes under them for some reason and the apron kind of seals in the mess.  I have added liquid soap to my tempera paint in an effort to make it more washable but let's face it...there are certain colors of tempera that stick more than and purple are the worst.  I remember being in a classroom where a teacher was using wet wipes trying to remove the color from a little blonde boys buzz cut...he decided to explore the paint as if it were shampoo...probably felt pretty cool.

Today in my curriculum class we had our "Art Exploration Day".  For the entire session they were able to take their time exploring different art materials.  They were reminded that it was all about the process and that there was not a set "picture" to produce...I must say it was a relaxing and enjoyable hour...we even streamed in children's music while we "worked". 

As I would with little kids I gave a few instructions that helped keep them safe...from burns and cross contamination of germs (you'll understand this later).  They were told that they could use as much of the materials as they needed or wanted...I even had to make a run to our preschool classroom to get more butcher paper.  I had supplies in place in case of a mess...which is what scares some people about working with young children...and paint...and glue...and that dreaded STD of the art world...glitter!

Here are the stations that were set up:
    Pop Art in Action
  1. Pop Art--for this you need cups of soapy water with different liquid watercolor (or any thinned paint--food coloring stains and should be avoided)...a package of straws...white construction paper...and a trash can.  The object of this is to blow through your own clean straw (germ cross contamination alert) into the soapy colored water mixture until your bubbles come up over the rim of the cup.  At this point you remove the straw and place your paper over the bubbles...popping the bubbles which leave splattered bubble prints on the paper...pretty nifty!  Some cool science concepts here--force of air, color mixing, bubble chemistry, and so on.  If you have a child like my little Elizabeth who confused sucking with can poke a few pin holes in the straw near the blowing end to prevent sucking it up and drinking soapy colored water.
    Hard at work sculpting!
  3. Model Magic Sculpting--this isn't overly messy but super fun.  I used to make all kinds of doughs and clays for my kiddos to sculpt things out of...but when Model Magic came out it just added a new dimension to preschool sculptures.  And no I am not a paid spokesperson for Crayola's Model Magic.  Today the girls were given real sculpting tools and allowed to create any 3 dimensional piece that struck their mind...the pieces are now drying in my office.  If you are not familiar with Model Magic it hardens to the consistency of a dried marshmallow.
    Working on warming tray.
  5. Crayons on the Warming Tray--What a cool way to see the effects of heat on wax!  For this I use a warming tray, paper, hot pads, and a remnant box of crayons--preferably naked know with the paper peeled off.  When I do this with kids adult supervision is necessary the whole time...but with my big girls they were on their own.  It is such a cool feeling to draw and feel the wax melt into the paper.  This is usually the most popular station during Art Exploration Day.  Glitter and metallic crayons are the crayons melt really will get a slight burning smell but nothing too horrible.  These can be hung in windows because they almost become transparent.
    Ice cube painting
  7. Ice Cube Painting--Another favorite...simply freeze colored water (again, thinned paint or watercolor is less scary than food coloring) in an ice cube tray with popsicle a popsicle...just don't eat them!  The kids simply choose a "pop" and paint on their paper with it.  Absorbent paper works the best for this...we used newsprint and the water pooled a little today.  Great science concepts with the properties of water here!
    Bubble Paper Mitten finished paper.
  9. Bubble Paper Mitten Painting--For this one you have to get some bubble paper and make mittens...just a rectangle piece folded over big enough to slide your hand in...tape it shut so that there is only one opening and turn it so the "bubbles" are on the outside.  Plates with tempera paint are provided and the artists simply choose a color, dip their mitt, and basically pat large sheets of butcher paper.  The color combinations are always interesting especially when the colors start blending and are layered.  The finished sheets can be cut into different shapes kind of in the style of Eric Carle's creations.
    Working on Tissue Paper Suncatchers.
  11. Tissue Paper Suncatchers--this is the easiest and less messy of all the activities.  Cut contact paper in a workable size and provide a variety of tissue paper, sequins, or any other collage "junk".  This is great practice for kids in tearing or cutting when they choose their different colors of tissue.  The kids just add their colored tissue and items to the sticky side of the contact paper...these can be stuck directly to a window when they are finished or another piece of contact paper or colored paper can be added to seal off the piece of art. 

Finished warming tray product

The activities were shared with my class because they are a little different but not too scary messy.  These activities can be done by an individual or small groups of kids.  The materials needed are not hard to come by...the warming tray is the trickiest...I borrow my sister's each time I plan this activity.  I hope that my students see the possibilities that await in these different activities.  I hope it sparks them to try something a little messy...I remembered to bring up wipes, paper towels, and we had newspapers under the drippy items to model the teacher's role.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

There is a time to dawdle...


Cause to feel completely exhausted; wear out.
The state of being completely exhausted or worn out: "I'm tired, worn to a frazzle".
verb.  fray
noun.  exhaustion - weariness

It has been a fast paced few weeks with lots of pockets full of stress that unfortunately brought me to an ugly adult tantrum.  Now I didn't kick and scream and throw myself on the floor but I did sulk and blow through some kleenex.  This week has been much better in many areas...better in part through reflection of my life.  Before you quit reading because you think I am simply venting I will change to my topic of dawdling.

I often tell my students that we, Americans, tend to try to hurry children up...we cannot wait for them to walk, to talk, to potty on the potty, to recite their ABCs, the list goes on.  Listen to parents or teachers talk to children...we often hear "don't dawdle", "hurry up", "come on", "we're late", and so on.  What is the rush?  Are we in a race?  Maybe I, or we, can learn a few things from children's lolly gagging.

If we think like kids and stop to pet a caterpillar every now and then I think our sanity would be better preserved.  Here are some things that we might "see" if we took the time to slow down and smell the dandelions:

  1. We might notice the holes that the very hungry caterpillar ate in a leaf on a tree.
  2. We might be able to find enough change in little hidey holes to buy a grande vanilla frappa mochachino.
  3. If we unlace and relace our tennis shoes we may find that they actually fit better using every other lace hole.
  4. What if while digging a hole in the sandbox I did end up in China... discover a dinosaur...or realize how relaxing sensory play is?
  5. If I slow down I can walk with my shadow.
  6. I can talk into my office fan in my coolest Darth Vader voice.
  7. I can out build catapults with a 4 year old.
  8. I can beat a 5 year old at Pokemon memory.
  9. When I don't scurry through life I notice the tile floor, in a fence, in the grooves on my pen.
  10. When I slow down and take a breath I can sort out what is bothering me and decide if it is really worth all the stress...and chances are we have created the stress and the short breather helps us work past the stress.
I am not ashamed to say that I have decided to follow through on my declaration of stating there is a time to dawdle...I have already cancelled my class for Friday and turned in my absence report.  It was tempting to write in my reason as, "personal dawdling day" but I may want to do it again and I'll need a fresh new reason for that day.

Monday, November 7, 2011

NAEYC Conference Update!

I hate to brag...but part of my job does include going to the NAEYC Annual Conference with the preschool teacher and students from our Early Childhood Student Organization.  Conferences serve many purposes--to stay in touch with new information in the field, network with other like minded people, and to inspire or re-inspire. 

This year we took 5 students and one graduate to Orlando, Florida.  When people asked where we were going I usually told them under my breath because when you mention the city of the big mouse everyone tends to think you are going on a vacation rather than a professional trip.

I spent a lot of time in workshops but all I learned did not happen while in sessions.  Many things can be learned simply from the environment.  Here are some things that I learned:

  1. Early childhood teachers love Vera Bradley bags...I have never seen so many patterns in all my life!
  2. Early childhood teachers will sit anywhere at anytime.  I bet if you attended a banking conference you wouldn't find bank presidents sitting in the concourses eating lunch on the floor.
  3. The freebies in the exhibit hall are like gold...much like the swag bags given away at the award shows for presenters.
  4. Preschool teachers will throw elbows for a free pen, piece of chocolate, or post it note pad.
  5. A bar full of preschool teachers is an interesting sight.
  6. Give a child care provider a free frisbee and she will try to get 9 more to give to her kiddos or make a cool game.
  7. Early childhood people are not afraid to stand up and sing and dance in a session or again to get more free stuff.
  8. Although we tell our children not to talk to strangers, early childhood teachers make new friends quite quickly.
  9. Early childhood people will talk about poop, pee, and boogers to anyone.
  10. Only preschool teachers would be concerned about people with peanut allergies when the nuts are passed out on the airplane.
  11. Early childhood people are still amazed at Mentos and Diet Coke...thank you Steve Spangler!
  12. It is possible to obtain over 10 pounds of freebies in the exhibit hall...and preschool teachers know how to do the math to insure that their bag still doesn't weigh over 50 pounds for the return flight home.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Preschool Kids + Candy Corn = Two of My Favorite Things

They really are two of my favorite things...but not in combination.  I have loved preschool age kiddos for some time...always something new when you work with little kids.  My love for candy corn comes from a few different directions--first, I love fall and what candy epitomizes fall better than candy corn; second, it sounds healthy with the "corn" part and it is fat free.  Each of these favorites stand alone...not to be least not while I am on duty. 

I love Halloween.  I hate what it does to little kids.  The main thing that drives me crazy is as soon as the big box stores clearance out the back to school supplies they begin decorating in orange and black and stocking all the Halloween goodies...everywhere little kids turn they are bombarded with mini Butterfingers and scary masks.  They love it and they fear makes them nervous and excited...and too much candy...well that makes them super excited, sticky, and eventually sick.  Because I do enjoy Halloween I was somewhat disappointed when I found out we didn't "celebrate" Halloween at my first teaching job.  What?  You mean we are going to rob little kids of this holiday experience? 

We did have an evening Halloween event for the families that first year...and I saw why it is best to keep things bland when it comes to holidays and little kids.  It was a chaotic mess.  Kids were acting like the characters they were dressed as...parents were frustrated that expensive costumes were being stained with chocolate or worse...torn.  Instead of enjoying this event it caused a lot of stress on the families.  After this event I partially saw why we didn't incorporate Halloween into our planning for the whole month of October.  The next day sealed the deal, the kids were still pumped up from the party...some still wearing capes, fake tattoos, and I swear some still had chocolate drool around their mouths.  This is when I vowed that I would not be the cause of overloading children with such a commercialized holiday. 

After this baptism into preschool Halloween, I focused more on the fun of the season rather than the holiday.  I did plan to have pajama party day on the school day closest to Halloween so the kids had something a little different for the day but it didn't pump them up the way a traditional pajama party did.  This solved the dilemma of parents wanting to send their child to school in costume...although some pajamas are made to look like a superhero complete with cape...which is easy to detach and leave in a cubby...funny how a cape can change your personality.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Exhale....the Licensing Visit is Over!

It is that time of year again...we just had our license renewal inspection today.  We have known that it was coming since August when we filed the renewal paperwork.  Then about a week ago the licensing agent called and verified our operating hours and our whacky university schedule.  We are confident in our program and know we are doing what we need to do...but knowing someone is coming in to inspect sends us all into a nervous frenzy.  But by 3:30pm...our almost 2 hour visit was over for the year.  We exhaled and smiled.  This is just  preparation for when we are up for our accreditation site visit...anytime and the end of March 2012. 

As I relax after the good visit I think of all that could have been...what if all the crazy days some how all got combined and that was the day that the licensing lady pulled up to visit.  I am going to take a trip down memory lane and reflect on some of my past crazy times. 

So glad she didn't visit when:
  • J chewed all the feet and tails off the animals in the block area.
  • I had to remove a Polly pocket shoe from P's nose.
  • I hit my head so hard on a shelf that I had to send a child to get me an ice pack.
  • I caught a running mouse with a butterfly net in a classroom.
  • I trapped bat number one...and bat number two in butter tubs on the celing of the playground patios.
  • I picked up the dead baby skunk (on the playground) with my gloved hands to show the kids how cute and non-stinky they were.  The mama skunk had been trapped and removed days earlier...her den filled in with gravel...only to have the strongest of her babies crawl out only to die on the playground.
  • Two children at naptime commented, "Hey, Mrs. T's asleep", darn cold medication and music by Enya...if I was asleep I wouldn't be able to recall this information...would I?
  • We tried flour in the sand the classroom...can you say "ghost children"?
  • J ran into the rock wall and bled on my white shirt before they stitched him up.
  • When I carried a child back to the center from a walk while she screamed, "I hate you" to me and everyone that walked by.
  • I called a child's parents to have them come take him to the emergency room after a fall...he complained of his side hurting...we were afraid he broke a rib...turns out he was so constipated that the fall caused pain...expensive way to figure out you need more fiber in your diet.
  • I hid a toddler size doll in a co-worker's backseat.  :)
  • B told me he liked my "bwreast"..."Oh, you like my dress?"...."No...your bw-reast".  Guessing my dress enhanced that area that day!
  • I finally beat K playing Pokemon Memory only to have her dad walk in while I was gloating over my win.
  • E demonstrated the birthing process during circle time...complete with legs up and Lamaze words to describe my thoughts.
  • Mr. Critter (classroom hamster) had escaped for the umpteenth time.
  • J brought me a live scorpion in a yogurt container.
I am sure that there are more moments that I have blocked out...and I know there will be many more to come.  I am certainly glad that I am in a field where every day is truly an boring desk job for us early childhood people!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Ooops....Things They Didn't Tell the Preschool Teacher!

I remember my first job working in a classroom of 3-5 year old kids.  I was fresh out of college with my degree in hand and confident that I knew what I was doing.  I also remember the long hours I spent getting my room just right for my first group of kiddos.  Everything was going to be perfect!  I survived my first day with a few battle scars.  I quickly learned that while I knew what I was doing with young kids...I did not know all the little details that you simply cannot gain without experience. 

Fast forward to today...I teach college age students how to work with young I tell them everything they need to know?  Probably not...experience is so important.  Many great "lessons" are learned spending time in early childhood settings with real live children.  Some of those great lessons are learned from mistakes and a lot of trial and error. 

Over the years I have compiled a list of some of those things that no one tells the early childhood teacher.  I am going to share my list here.  It is broken down into 3 sections:  "What to do", "What to know", and "What to have".

What to do:
  1. Check children's file (without prejudging)--although I swear boys whose names begin with a "J" are out to get me.
  2. Send a note/email to introduce yourself to the families--tell them who you are and why you are going to be so awesome!
  3. Send a note to the new children--kids love to get their own mail!
  4. Let parents know what to save throughout the year (toilet paper tubes, grocery store bags, baby food jars, coffee cans, egg cartons, etc.)  NOTE:  You may have to request storage space for all the "junk" that filters in.
  5. Remember to greet children and families each day!  We get wrapped up and sometimes forget this one.  Oh...and be cheerful!
  6. Make labels for everything--cubbies, shelves, cots, supplies, your personal books, your extra kleenex stash (#7 on a later list).
  7. Stock up on supplies--this may lead to hoarding but if the things are used I figure it all balances out.
  8. Tour the building with children for emergency drills and exits before the real drills. 
  9. Introduce all staff to children--so they have a name for the "trash man".
  10. Plan as many displays as you can early on--bulletin boards, documentation panels, etc.
  11. Make early and positive contact with families.
  12. Tell families, "I won't believe everything your child tells me about your home life, if you won't believe everything your child says happens at school".
  13. Start a newsletter and make it a regular--keep track of ideas on your calendar for future editions. 
  14. Join an early childhood professional organization--it doesn't have to be a national organization but it should act as a support group.
  15. Get enough rest, eat well, and exercise (activity on playground counts).
What to know:
  1. That is it okay to mistakes...and how to laugh them off!
  2. Parent-Teacher Conference dates.
  3. How to defend play...this is important to remember in conjunction with #2.
  4. Other important program dates--professional development days, program wide celebrations, Dr. Suess' birthday!
  5. Where to go for advice...program director, mentor, friend, university advisor, web site.
  6. Rules about field trips, fundraising, holiday parties...what do you mean we cannot pass out Valentines?
  7. Dress code--avoid things that require dry cleaning or Spanx.
  8. The whereabouts of the licensing regulation book and accreditation materials
  9. Keep lesson plans from year to year.  You may want to do them again or use as a reminder that it sucked the first time so don't waste your time.
  10. Planning is great and very important but flexibility trumps planning!
What to have:
  1. A first aid kit for your classroom in addition to a program wide kit--I am not going to the main office for a bandaid for an invisible boo boo on little Jeremy's finger.
  2. A personal emergency/beauty bag:  headache medication (for rhymthn stick days), allergy/cold meds, cough drops, toothbrush/paste, deoderant, hair ties, hair brush, mirror, feminine needs. nail file, lip gloss/chap stick, etc.
  3. A lotion that takes you to your happy place--your hands will be so dry from all the washing and sanitizing!
  4. Baby wipes--works wonders for stain removal and for removing crusty snot from preschoolers noses.
  5. Extra underwear and clothes in children's sizes--garage sale finds and clothes left over from previous kiddos work well here.
  6. Teacher's smock/apron--don't say I didn't warn you!
  7. A stash of extra kleenex and toilet paper--I'm not saying you will run out and have to use construction paper...but you will run out!
  8. A camera and a fully charged battery!
  9. Disposable combs/brushes and hair ties or barrettes...for the kids!
  10. Cheap toothbrushes and kid's toothpaste--in case someone gets sick or they need a quick brush--either they keep or toss the brush.
  11. Extra shoes for walks and rainy days...Mr. Roger had the right idea when he changed his shoes.
  12. Sweater, sweatshirt or jacket for when it gets cool outside or chilly at naptime.
  13. A stuffed animal or pillow for a child who may have had a rough night.
  14. A spot for your things--it will make you feel more at home.
  15. Two days of emergency lesson plans or backup activities--great for a substitute or when the current days plans don't go well.
  16. A teacher's seat, stool, bench, rocking chair...we all need our own spot...and kids think it is extra cool to be able to sit in our spot.
  17. A pretty picture or fake floral arrangement to brighten your day!
  18. A class photo with all the kiddos in it...this may change frequently!
  19. An emergency stash of chocolate for the teacher...enough said.
  20. An emergency stash of Smarties or gummies for the will thank me later!
  21. Bag or box of rainy day games, puzzles...special things that are not out all the time.  This is when a bag of jacks comes in handy!
  22. Writing instruments and post its placed strategically around the room for jotting down observations or for reminder just have to remember where you put all the notes.
  23. A notebook to jot down funny comments from children--we all could write a book someday!
  24. Creative storage space. 
  25. Patience, eyes in the back of your head, four sets of hands, and a lot of love!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

'Twas the Night Before the First Day of Preschool

'Twas the night before the first day of preschool...and all through the houses are anxious parents getting their little ones ready for their big preschool debut.  Our preschool begins for the year tomorrow and I know everyone is excited...parents, kids, and staff (maybe not the janitor)! 

Open house last week was a success!  The room looked great and we had all but 5 families visit.  Parents were looking around and asking questions.  The kids were checking things out as we explained that there would not be so many big people and loud voices on Monday. 

As a parent, I have dropped off my kids for many first days--child care, preschool, and school.  And because it is my parental duty I have in my head how I want my "little" one taken care of in my this blog is dedicated to my descriptions of how we as early childhood professionals will take care of your little one.

"Hi, my name is Mrs. T.  I'll take [insert child's name here] from you and we'll have a great day.  Tell mom/dad bye and let's go play."

I promise...
  • to get your child engaged quickly as you leave so they don't notice (too much) that you are gone
  • to console and wipe your child's eyes as they briefly cry after you leave...I will even hold him/her on my lap...or pat their back while they lie on the floor
  • to call you and let you know that your child calmed down right after you left and they are now putting a puzzle together with a new friend
  • to serve a yummy snack that makes your child think this is the best place to be...pudding and graham cracker sticks should do it...we'll save baby carrots and hummus for a new day
  • to read a bazillion books to your child to make them feel special and help them learn to love books...we may even read the same book twice
  • to teach your child a song that he or she will sing for the rest of the day...a song that you might not know all the words to and your child inserts his or her own version of the words in the car on the way can ask us about the song tomorrow...we'll be happy to write down the words for you to sing with your child
  • to allow your child to use things you shy away from using at home:  glitter, paint, playdough, scissors, and markers...we welcome messes at is hard to scare us
  • to stop the tire swing and let your child get off before he or she gets "spin sick" and vomits
  • that the dirt and markers will wash off with a bath...we like to leave evidence of the good time experienced by your child
  • to have so much fun that your child who didn't want to come to preschool doesn't want to leave to go home
  • to have so many activities planned that your child crashes out cold right after dinner...unless they are still singing the song
  • to love your child while he or she is in my care!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

I ♥ Junk!

This is the first week of the fall semester and I did one of my  favorite activities with my early childhood curriculum class.  Since these students are aspiring early childhood professionals they are aware that most jobs in this field are not going to make them multi-millionnaires.  Since they are aware of this fact I can show them how to be creative (even if they swear they are not) and cheap when it comes to creating wonderful learning materials/activities for children.  It is also a great activity to reinforce the ideas of recycling and repurposing. 

What can I do with a handful of caps?

As an early childhood person I am always looking at alternative purposes for basically everything I see...that empty applesauce cup...a random unused door containers (my favorites) get the idea.  So for this activity I bring in a bag full of junk!  Each student selects an item and brainstorms all the possible uses of the item in relation to young children.  After a period of time we share the results and everytime I get new ideas...and I have done this activity for more than 10 years and have used every item in the bag with young children.  I actually think that a field trip to a dollar store or garage sale could be a fun useful activity for my student teachers. 

If you are wondering the kinds of things in the bag of junk then click on the "Wordle" gadget on the right hand side of the blog screen.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Smells like Back to School

I think I have an school supplies.  I know that my love for school supplies began with my first cardboard school box.  I remember for many years during elementary school getting into my new school supplies to organize them in my cardboard school box.  I loved the feel, smell, and excitement that the new school year brought.  I still to this day enjoy it!  I am probably the only person that while in graduate school still got excited for new pens and notebooks.  I often joke that I got into education for the supplies.

During the past few weeks the stores have been stocking their back to school aisles.  For many this signals the sad end to a short summer.  For me it signals the excitement of a new semester.  I truly understand the whole academic calendar idea...for me a new year truly does begin in August.  I have been picking up a few items that I might need for the new semester.  My kids groaned when I finally got my hands on a supply list for their district.  For the most part I had all the supplies on hand for my new 3rd grader.  I was disappointed that my new 7th grader is list-less...time has come to determine his own needs and sadly he does not share the "supply gene" of his mother.  I was also made fun of because I stocked up on tape for my label maker so my kids supplies can be beautifully labeled...well at least the 3rd grader...I have learned that it is embarassing for all your supplies to be labeled when you get to junior high.  On the same note we are only shopping for one new lunch box...junior high kiddos brown bag it. 

I suppose I should squeeze the last few drops out of my summer vacation...and I will...but I will be on the look out for cool post-it notes and stickers (yes, my college students still get stickers).  I will be posting more as my semester begins...signaling a new year to "wake up and smell the crayons."

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Smells of Summer...from the nose of a child!

I am a smelly person...let me restate that...I am a person who identifies with smells around me.  I am the person who stands in the health and beauty aisle at Target and smells 10 bottles of shampoo before I can make my choice.  I can catch a whiff of Victoria's Secret Vanilla shower gel and be transported to my summer in England.  While I was enjoying my third day of my summer vacation a smell wafted through the backyard and took me back to simpler times...the smell...honeysuckle.  I started thinking about when my identification with smells began...I have to believe that my love of certain smells began in childhood...which made me think of my favorite summer smells that take me back to those easy breezy summer days as a kid.  So here are my favorite summer scents in no particular order:
  1. honeysuckle
  2. cotton candy--freshly made...not the bagged kind
  3. firework smoke
  4. incoming rainstorm
  5. fresh cut grass
  6. hamburgers/hot dogs cooking on the grill
  7. dust from:  drive in movie or ballpark
  8. chlorine--not a favorite smell but it evokes good feeling
  9. sunscreen--particularly thick goopy zinc oxide--layered right on the nose
  10. peonies
  11. lemonade
  12. Popsicles
I am sure my list could go on and on...but my time is short this evening...I get to go and enjoy some of my favorite smells while at the little league ballpark tonight!

Friday, April 29, 2011

Starting Small

Today my early childhood curriculum class finished watching "Starting Small" a video about teaching tolerance in early childhood classrooms.  I just wanted to share the link and the idea behind this program.  The program is available free to educators from Teaching Tolerance--A Project of the Southern Poverty Law Center (temporarily out of stock).  Though the program is more than 10 years old it still has wonderful ideas about how children learn about how to live in our society.  The video makes me smile, laugh, and tear up all in the same hour.  I highly recommend this program. 

Along the same idea of helping children learn about themselves and others is another great resource for early childhood of my favorite books...Roots and Wings--Affirming Culture in Early Childhood by Stacey York.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Preschool Planner or Hoarder?

My experiences as an early childhood teacher have turned me into a semi-hoarder.  For the past few weeks I have been assisting the clean out of the storage cabinets and drawers in the preschool and it has helped me come to the conclusion that early childhood people hoard things.  We don't hoard in the sense that we are going to get a documentary show dedicated to us...but we are hoarders all the same...actually I would watch a show like that because it would give me ideas on what I need to "save" for preschool use.  Those of us in the field have even trained our significant others to watch out for the good stuff for husband has held up empty food container and asked if I needed it for school...the receiving office on campus has called to see if I wanted the boxes that held the music department's new tubas...mmmmm....yes please! 

Early childhood people are not typically listed on the Fortune 500 we may be a little on the frugal side.  I actually find it thrilling to come up with new uses for what others may think of as "crap".  I have a workshop presentation that I frequently do at conferences that is dedicated to creative ideas that can be done with inexpensive items...often junk or recycled items.  I also come from the school of people who like to make games and activities for kids...that way it targets exactly what I want it to.  While I was looking through a Lakeshore catalog the other day I actually marked a page with a sticky note that read "make this".  As an opening activity in my curriculum course I take in a bag of random items and have my class brainstorm things they could do with the items in a preschool classroom.  It is a fun activity that opens our eyes to the possibilities that ordinary items hold.  My student teachers have fully caught the preschool hoarding bug because they are forever asking each other to save water bottles and toilet paper tubes.  I feel that I am doing my small part in saving the environment by encouraging hoarding by future early childhood professionals. all the money that they will be making (ha, ha) they can tuck under their mattress because they can teach for cheap!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Rainy Day + Leftover Easter Candy = Tired Preschool Teachers

Everyday I pass by a book on my file cabinet at work titled "Never, Ever Serve Sugary Snack on a Rainy Day" by Shirley Raines (love how her last name fits the book title and I love the messages in the book). is the day after Easter and we have been dealing with a crazy amount of rain here in the what should preschool teachers expect on a stormy Monday after Easter? 
  1. Kids are always tired the day after a holiday because of the unusual schedules that accompany family holiday events...therefore...they will be grumpier than a normal Monday.
  2. The day after a thunderstorm the kids are also tired because they didn't sleep well the night before with all the thunder, lightning and candy basket guarding.
  3. Someone is bound to have a tummy ache the day after and candy filled holiday--Halloween, Valentine's Day, and Easter.  It is probably a good idea to avoid vomit inducing activities on the day after a sugar holiday--spinning of any kind should be avoided.  Snacks and meals served to preschoolers on during their candy-hangover should be bland on taste and color.
  4. In order to keep up with the kids it is always a good idea for preschool teachers to keep a steady flow of sugar (and/or caffeine) in their own diet following a also helps prevent the inevitable sugar crash especially if said teacher has overindulged in his or her own candy basket. 
  5. If preschool teachers have their own children at home they also did not sleep well because of imported campers in their beds or on their bedroom floor.
  6. If teachers do not have their own children...rainy Mondays after a sugar buffet typically make it really, really hard to get out of bed which equals tired, sluggish zombie teachers. 
  7. Sometimes preschoolers "forget" about rules over a regular weekend...expect this slip of memory times four after a holiday weekend...the kids have been indulged by many people and who could blame them for trying to keep it going at preschool?
My list could continue but I would rather focus on positive things for the rest of the evening. last thought...could you name three things that would make a rainy Monday after Easter even worse?  Birthday cupcakes with blue icing, a surprise visit from the licensing representative, and a fire drill.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Dandelion Cookies

Spring is here and so are my favorite yellow "flowers"...dandelions!  What preschool age kid doesn't love to pick these little golden gems?  Each spring when I was in my classroom I would make dandelion cookies with my kiddos...I cannot even begin to remember where the recipe came from or else I would give proper credit...most likely a Mailbox magazine circa 1996. 

Today in my college level preschool/kindergarten curriculum class we were talking about "cooking" in the classroom and all the wonderful skills and concepts that children gain from such experiences. "big" girls made their own dandelion cookies today.  Here is what you need:  vanilla wafers, white frosting, coconut flakes, and yellow food coloring is optional.  You can tint the frosting and coconut yellow to resemble fresh dandelions or you can leave it white to resemble dandelions that are ready to "blow".  They are simple to make--spread icing on a few vanilla wafers and dip icing side into coconut.  I remember pigging out on the leftovers at naptime back in the day...I have leftovers in my office fridge right now calling my name. 

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Fashion Victim or Early Childhood Teacher

Why has working with little kids has changed my ideas about fashion?  Long ago in my undergraduate program my favorite college professor and later mentor mentioned that you can always tell who taught early childhood by their macaroni and wooden bead necklaces.  I laughed as did most of the class...then years later I found myself wearing a food coloring dyed ziti necklace that was strung on rainbow colored yarn.  I always wanted to be the "cute" teacher...sweaters or vests (egads...that dates me) to match the seasons or holidays...I managed to have most of the mainstream holidays covered about a year into my first teaching job.  I owned socks that matched almost every theme I did in my favorite were my farm socks that matched the wooden barn pin that I would wear on a red plaid jumper...with white Ked's type tennis shoes...Stacy and Clinton would haved bashed me in three way mirror.  I don't dress this way anymore...nor have I even dug out pictures to show my students what will eventually happen to them. 

I have learned a few fashion tips along my journey:
  1. Forget about wearing black pants--children will runny noses will leave glistening trails of snot on your legs when hugging you.
  2. Don't wear light colors or white...lesson learned carrying an easel painting to the drying rack when the gust of a running preschooler caused the painting to "fly" into the front of a white and yellow daisy printed jumper...some paint washes out better than others...unfortunately I found out which colors don't.
  3. Keep different shoes around for the playground...I was teased by colleagues that I looked like Mr. Rogers when I changed my shoes before going outside...but playground dust can be deadly to cute shoes.
  4. Consider keeping an extra set of clothing around...just in case...however if someone pukes on you sometimes it just feels better to go home and sanitize yourself before putting on your extra clothes...and chances are like the kid's extra might be missing essential pieces or they are now too small. 

Monday, April 18, 2011

Why smell the crayons?

When I decided to begin a blog dedicated to my experiences in early childhood education/development I thought about my favorite things...which for someone who has spent the past 16 years working with or near young children incorporates many sensory elements. Therefore, my first post is dedicated to my favorite things about young children...from a sensory side. 

My favorite things in the world of early childhood:

  • Smells
    • the back of a baby's neck
    • play doh
    • a new box of crayons
    • plastic doll hair
    • Lincoln logs
    • shaving cream
    • baby wipes (clean)
    • bubble solution
  • Tastes
    • black cherry Kool-Aid
    • fish sticks
    • 3 cent grape gum
    • M & M's
    • bubbles (not meant to be tasted but it always happens)
  • Touches
    • new smooth paper (the teacher in me)
    • sand in the sensory table poured over my hands
    • smoothed out play doh
    • bubble paper
    • Pat the Bunny
    • when a baby reaches out and touches me
    • preschooler hugs
  • Sights
    • sleeping children
    • block towers
    • children chasing bubbles
    • bright eyes during story time
  • Sounds
    • belly laughs of a baby
    • giggles of a preschooler
    • Twinkle Twinkle Little Star sung by a 2 year old
    • ABC song
    • "Mama"
I love that everyday is new and different when young children are involved...and this blog will help me capture my current experiences and recall those from the past.