Friday, November 21, 2014

Simple Gifts - Teacher Elaine

With the holidays approaching, you may be thinking about gifts to get your children.  So many of the toys these days seem to be big on bells and whistles (and your checkbook) but fall short on creativity.  I suggest that you try to find things that are multipurpose and unstructured that can be manipulated, changed and stimulate the imagination.  As teachers, we are starting to notice that children need more modeling for open-ended activities that are so important for their development.

Puzzles are always a good choice.  We have a group of children in our older class who work on puzzles every day, either individually or with a group of friends.  

A set of blocks is another good option.  Research shows that block play stimulates building skills in intellectual, social, physical and language development.  

You might want to consider putting together a tool kit including a small hammer, nails, scrap wood or large pieces of Styrofoam covered with burlap, C-clamps and goggles.  We had the children hammer golf tees into pumpkins and they loved it! 

Some other ideas:

A sewing kit with various beads, colored yarn, wire and chenille stems. 

A box of clay or play dough (recipe is in your handbook) containing various cookie cutters, garlic presses and rolling pins.  

A recipe box filled with simple recipe cards (you can draw symbols instead of words for the younger children).  

A crystal growing kit – Mrs. Stewart’s Bluing has easy directions on the bottle.  Make a science activity book with simple experiments like mixing baking soda and vinegar “explosions”.

An “Imagination Station” art box filled with things like corks, bottle caps, feathers, pompoms and stickers. 

An easel, tempera paint, brushes, paint cups and squeeze bottles.  Our older class loves to mix colors and experiment with different painting techniques.  

Make or purchase card or board games that practice skills such as sorting, memorizing, classifying, adding and subtracting.

Last but not least, books for important quiet time for children to have by themselves or to share with family. 

We have used these ideas in our classroom.  They are fun, inexpensive and child-directed.  Give some of them a try.  I wish you a relaxing, peaceful season to come filled with simple pleasures.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Art in the Classroom - Teacher Jennifer

When our children walk into the classroom each day, they will have multiple opportunities to become engaged in the *process* of art, which will ultimately lead to a product that is unique and beautiful!  The goal of our art program at Small Friends is to encourage and inspire children to use an ever-changing variety of materials that will enhance different areas of development.  Some examples of types of learning that occur through art are:

  • hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills
  • math skills (shapes, sizes, lines, and space)
  • science (color mixing)
  • inventing and decision making
  • participation in group projects
  • imagining, sequencing, and arranging
  • strengthen descriptive language skills while describing what they are seeing, feeling, and experiencing
  • experiencing sensory pleasure and integration through using different materials
Our classrooms at Small Friends offer three different, yet consistent areas for children to create their own masterpieces each time they come to school.


The easel area will meet each child developmentally where he/she is at.  Some children will be more interested in exploring the materials and space of the paper, while others will consciously mix colors and create a “picture.”  Some children use markers to draw, while others will forgo the paintbrush to experience painting with their hands!  The easel  is a very safe place to express oneself artistically, while at the same time, work the small and large muscles of the arm.  Descriptive language emerges as children describe their art!  The children can even use their bodies as the easel!

This student is experimenting with drawing lines and using many different colors.  Did you know that there are 80 stages of “scribbling” that emerge before a child learns how to write letters?

Not only is finger painting therapeutic, it is a great way to strengthen hand and finger muscles!  When it is MESSY, it is FUN!

Our older class has the opportunity daily to squirt many colors into cups to make the “perfect” color to use on the easel.

This student had a “starter” shape on the easel that she turned into a sunflower!

Our bodies make beautiful canvases!


The art table offers a different experience each school day!  As teachers, we plan activities that are age appropriate, inviting, and interesting.  When planning an activity, we try to answer the question, “What will the children do?” instead of, “What will the children make?”  By doing this, we allow ourselves to focus on the process of art! We love having parents help at this table because creating art is a very relaxed environment to interact with all of the students.  Many visual, auditory, and kinesthetic opportunities emerge at this table while our parent helpers bond with the children in the class!  The art projects can coincide with themes emerging in the classroom and literature shared at group time or through observations in nature. Integrating unusual tools to work with and methods to create allow the children to lead the art experience!  Here are a few examples:
After reading Pete the Cat- I Love My White Shoes, our younger class enjoyed stepping in “mud,” “blueberries,” and “strawberries” and walking across long sheets of white paper.  The bubble wrap attached to the bottom of the boots enhanced the auditory and kinesthetic art experience as it “popped” while the children walked and made colored footprints!

Using unusual items to paint with adds a whimsical feeling to the art experience along with creating beautiful shapes and patterns on the paper!  By “swatting” the paper, many large and small muscles were used in the arms.

By using a straw and the child’s own breath to move liquid paint across the paper, many problem solving skills needed to be accessed.  How should I position my body so that the straw and paint line up?  How hard to I need to blow to move the paint?  How close do I need to put the straw to the paint?


The self-help art area of the classroom allows the children to explore and experiment with different materials on their own terms.  From using crayons and markers to tearing masking tape off the holder, children are learning how to manage and manipulate the materials around them.  Picking up pom-poms, tearing sheets of tissue paper, and stringing beads are all great ways to work on strengthening fine motor skills.  Learning how to open, squeeze, and judge how much glue to use is a very valuable process!  As children are given freedom to explore, their skills and abilities to manage and creatively use the materials will build over time.

With these three art areas in the classroom, we hope to create a well-rounded and varied art experience every day children walk in the door!  Just like with many things in life, *process* art is all about the journey, not the destination!  The art journey each child takes is beautiful to watch!

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Getting Creative in Classroom B! Teacher Rebekah

This month we read a story by Ruth Brown called A Dark Dark Tale. In this story you walk towards a big dark house, through the doors, up the stairs to find a mouse hiding with a candle lit.   Not only did it help put us in a Halloween mood but it helped set the stage for our kids to think about what kind of Haunted House they would like to build. On the next school day our older class got to pick pieces of wood to do just that.

The first thing they did was write their names on their boards and glue pieces of wood to build their haunted homes. Our parent helper helped get those creative juices to flow by holding the book and showing some illustrations.

This project helped the kids think about what is needed in a house, walls, floors and roofs. They had to determine which blocks would be good as floors and which for roofs. And with that which shapes could hold the weight of the other. So many great moments of critical thinking, math, geometry and fine motor skills.

On the second day of the project our kids got to paint and decorate their spooky haunted houses. These are the very creative results from our very happy architects and builders!

Halloween was fast approaching after our Haunted Houses so we decided to set out the face paints and let the kids create something on their hands, arm, or face. The kids really enjoyed looking in the mirror and seemed very intent and concentrated while they used the paints!

A fun song that the kids have enjoyed this month was “Skin and Bones”. Here is our class singing the chorus getting ready to yell “Boo”!