Crozet Play School

Kids at Play in Crozet

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Doctor Knows Best


We have been learning, talking, and reading about the human body for over a month now.  The children have learned about the skeletal system, circulatory system, and some of our major organs.  I haven’t had a chance to share all of the amazing inquiries and investigations we have done on the blog yet…But, I wanted to share a special field trip we took on Monday. 


One of our parents happens to be a local doctor with a family practice.  He invited us in for a visit and let us explore all of his tools!  In the picture above M was the first brave one to let the doctor look down his throat. 


He even let the doctor show how to use the tongue depressor to look really deep down your throat!


Everyone was really nervous about the blood pressure machine, so I broke the ice!



Then E decided it must not be that bad!


Then we went off to test the scales.  Everyone was right around the same weight and height!  Everyone except our littlest peanut M who happens to be our youngest friend.  This brought up some discussion about why she weighed the least and was the shortest!





Some of us gave the eye chart a whirl, and we talked about what happens if you have eye trouble.  Which doctors help us with our eyes and our teeth, etc.!


Then we were all very interested in listening to our hearts and lungs!  Every child participated in this and seemed to loosen up with the doctors.  It was so nice to be in the office without the pressure of shots or being poked and prodded.  I hope this visit will help the children feel safer with their own doctors and know that they are always trying to keep them healthy!


One of their most favorite organ systems was the digestive track ((of course!!))  So we all took part in listening for stomach gurgles.  I love seeing their intently listening faces.



Then we spent a great deal of time looking through the doctor’s anatomy book.  The children were fascinated by the drawings and diagrams.



Overall the visit was such a success!  Other topics the doctor discussed was staying healthy, hand washing, growing bones, healthy habits, exercising and eating, and much more! 


We owe M’s father a big THANK YOU for taking his time out to show us all about his profession.  I know the children have been talking about it all week!

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Featuring Fall


Throughout September we spent a great deal of time talking about the weather, but here and there I have been incorporating fall based play opportunities here and there.  We spent a great deal of time discussing fall last year.  We learned about apples, pumpkins, life cycles, and much more.  Since my group of children is the same this school year, I wanted to discuss some new topics.  Of course the seasons and temperature changes were another part of our weather discussions. 


Play Dough:


These are some pictures from my fall play dough tray that I had out for a few weeks.  The tray had wooden acorns, acorns on toothpicks, leaf cookie cutters, and leaf gems.  I can never, ever get enough of play dough.  I am constantly blown away by the children’s continued interest in play dough, and the things they create.  They loved pushing the wooden acorns deep into the dough, such great fine motor work!




Then I moved the play dough tray inside of the classroom.  I added red cinnamon scented dough to tray, and it renewed an interest in the dough again.  I also added scissors, because they love rolling and cutting the dough into pieces.


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Sensory Play:


The oatmeal table came back out this fall.  I love oatmeal and cinnamon sticks in the sensory table!  The child loved scooping it and sending it down through the paper towel tubes.  This year I added a bunch of handfuls of chestnuts (thank you Max’s family), and three beautiful leaf votive I found at the dollar store. 




Light and Shadow Play:



The light table has a continued interest this year.  I keep trying to add new and interesting materials to engage the kids and keep them coming back for more!  This year I put silk leaves, leaf gems, and popsicle sticks on the light panel.  The children made patterns, and loved looking at the details on the leaves.


Of course there is always something interesting to create with the overhead projector!




Invitation to Play:


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This was a wonderful fall invitation to play that was left on the tables for a week or two.  The tray was filled with woodland animals, flaxseed, cinnamon sticks, grass balls from the craft store, and wooden pieces.  The children came back to this tray day after day.  The flax seeds were a new sensory material for us, and they enjoyed scooping them, and moving them around on the tray.  The animals were always


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Outdoor Art:





I recently purchased some plexi-glass boards from Lowe’s for a cheap outdoor easel.  I set up this painting invitation with the boards, paints, and squeegees.  They of course went right to town experimenting with the paints and this new form of a paint brush!




Learning Trays:



This year I am trying to introduce more and more games into our learning trays.  The company “Blue Orange” makes some of my most favorite games.  If you are looking for a great Christmas gift that doesn’t require batteries, their games are my #1 pick!



Pengoloo is a simple memory and matching game.  Children roll the colored dice, and try to find a penguin with the matching egg color.  If they find a match they get to place the penguins on their iceberg.  They are learning their colors, using their reasoning skills, and of course learning about turn taking.  This game was a hit with everyone.IMG_4930





Here is a simple color match you could set up at home!  I painted toilet paper tubes different colors, and then stacked them in a line for some popsicle stick sorting.  You don’t even need to paint the sticks, you can find colored sticks at the craft store!




Another great and cheap fine motor activity: skewer the beads!  I simply stuck cooking skewers in the play dough and put a bowl of beads in the learning tray.  They went right to work filling up their sticks. 







I pre-wrote children’s names on paper in another learning tray.  They could use stickers or dot art to trace over their name.  Most of my crew chose stickers of course!



Lastly, these aren’t the greatest photos, but we had the Duplo blocks out for about three weeks.  Last year the children mostly loved driving the trucks and trains around the classroom.  This year they worked together to make some of the most creative castles, train sets, and playgrounds.  I snapped a few photos of their work, but this type of creativity went on and on for weeks.  They were making elaborate Duplo trains to take around the classroom.  I have truly enjoyed seeing how much they have all grown since last year, and how this has affected their play and use of materials!


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The Great Nature Adventure!


It already feels like ages ago, but just a few weeks ago we went for a long nature walk on the trails right by school!  We are so lucky to have little oasis like these so close to us for a little retreat.


Each child got a bag to collect their goodies while they were walking.  They picked up sticks, rocks, strips of bark, acorns and even a snail shell!


We stopped a few times along the way to talk about what we saw.  The mossy trees were always an attraction to stop and feel the tree!



The biggest attraction was the creek, of course!  There were a few perfect spots to stop and throw rocks, watch the water, and climb on large rocks next to the creek.







Once we made it back to school, we had a lot of nature items to use!  The first thing we did was pull the large stick inside that the children found.  I laid it on a piece of paper with different sets of acrylic paints.  They went to town painting it over two days.  They would sit down in different groups and work on all of the different sides and edges of the stick.







I wanted to use a variety of the materials at the same time.  I made a clay invitation using small lumps of clay, beads, and their bags of nature items.  They were so interested in the clay and it’s properties!  We used clay only a small number of times last year, so it was neat to see them so interested in this art form.


The results of their nature clay sculptures were fantastic!  After their clay dried Ms. Lori walked around the room and had each child talk about and describe their clay sculpture.  The stories and names of the sculptures varied as widely as the children’s interests.  Some children said they created race cars, fairy worlds, the beach, and some made themselves with the clay.  We displayed our work on the block shelf for a few weeks.





Their final nature sculptures on display in the classroom:



Another art invitation I offered was painting bark and their leftover nature items with the acrylic paints.  With the nice weather we have been having, I was able to set this invitation up outside for children to paint under the deck. 



One of the last nature crafts we did after our nature walk was making fairy wands.  This was a great fine motor activity!  They had to slide the beads onto the sticks and then I wrapped them in ribbon.  The fairy wands turned out great, but I learned the hard way that the weight of the beads and ribbon caused the wands to snap easily.  My girls broke their wands very quickly!  It is about the process, right?!!




After we finished the large branches I covered the paint in modge podge to seal in the paint.  They have become pieces of art for our classroom, and I have incorporated them into fairy play in the block area.


I can’t wait for our next great outdoor adventure!

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New Snack Routines




In some of my earlier blog posts I talked about lots of changes in our classroom routines this year.  One of the biggest changes we made was about our snack routine.  Last year the class learned how to serve themselves snack, set the table and wash their dishes. 


This was such a great learning process for them, but I wanted snack to be more of a part of our morning choice time, than a designated time for everyone to eat.  My thinking behind these changes were a few reasons:

  1. 1.  To empower the students to choose when they were hungry and wanted to eat
  2. 2. Allow them to learn how to serve themselves different snack items (this is a lot of fine motor work, pouring water, scooping food, and the feeding process)
  3. 3. Snack isn’t as big because they are just eating the designated amounts of food (last year they often ate quite a bit because it was more of a social event)




Learning how to “serve” themselves has proven quite challenging at times.  Yogurt, peanut butter, and other snacks can be tricky to scoop and pour.  I often find them helping each other if one child is more confident with the snack preparation.



There are cards are placed on the table with the ingredients.  After I took these pictures I re-did the cards with picture clues as well so they knew what was written.  Ms. Lori thought to draw dots under the numbers as well to help them count “how many” of each item they should take.





It is amazing how much learning takes place while they are eating:

1. fine motor work

2. communication skills

3. cooperation skills (working together and helping each other)

4. math skills (counting the items to serve themselves)



Another aspect I love is seeing the children eating with different people each day!  Last year they always wanted to sit next to their buddy for snack time.  Now they end up eating when they are hungry and visit with new friends.  It has proven to be such a great set-up.  I truly think the children feel very empowered too!





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The Mud Kitchen


The first few weeks of school have been really HOT!  I decided to switch our schedule around a bit these first few weeks, to better accommodate our outside time and the heat wave.  We have been playing outside for the first portion of the morning before heading inside for morning meeting and the start of our day.  The weather has been cooler from the 8:30-9:45 time frame and the preschool is shaded in the early morning which provides even more relief from the sticky heat!


I have been working hard to re-vamp our outside play area.  I have added a number of new features to our outdoor preschool space.  One of my favorite new areas is the mud kitchen.  I spent some time collecting old pots and pans from my house and thrift stores.  Then I was able to get two pallets from Home Depot for free!  Chris spent one afternoon putting the kitchen together.  He cut the two pallets in half and drilled them together in a 90 degree angle.  Then he drilled hooks across the back of the pallets to hang up the smaller parts of the mud kitchen.  The results were fantastic!


Unfortunately I don’t have a lot of actual “mud” in our backyard.  To solve this problem I put a large tub of potting soil next to the kitchen.  The children can add water to the tub to make it nice and muddy for scooping. 


I am sure you are wondering, Why MUD?  Which is the exact same question my husband asked me while he spend the afternoon putting this together.  Here are some of the many reasons that playing with mud is great for preschoolers (and kids of all ages for that matter!)


1. Mud is the perfect sensory experience.  It can be dry, wet, soggy, clumpy, drippy, rough and smooth.  It provides endless options for experimentation and discovery. Children use information that they gain from sensory experiences, like playing with mud, to make sense of the world and understand how it all works. Mud is a great medium for this sort of sensory play because it provides so many different options.




2.  Creative expression and invention.  Mud can be anything, mud itself, mud pies, soup, pasta, balls, and anything that a preschooler’s imagination can come up with.  It is the perfect place to let their imagination run free.




3.  Cooperative Play Possibilities:  The mud kitchen is the ultimate place to play and role play.  You can hear the children saying, “let’s cook dinner.”  “let’s have a restaurant.”  “what are you making?”  “I am making muffins.”  The children even made the little space in the front of the pallet the oven.  They were pretending to bake and push buttons on the oven door.




4. Growing affection for our Earth and connectedness to nature.  There is no doubt that many of our children spend more time indoors or playing indoors than they do just playing in nature or with simple materials.  It doesn’t’ get more simple that a pot of mud, old pans, and some sticks.  In the picture above M is stirring some soup with a long stick.  Playing with mud gives our children a chance to connect to our Earth and their surroundings.  Children are naturally less stressed when they spend time outdoors too!



5.  Finally, there is also research that playing in the dirt is helpful for the building of children’s immune systems!




Thank you Chris for building us such a great mud kitchen, and I hope it gets lots and lots of use this year!

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Environment as the Third Teacher

I place a large emphasis on my classroom learning environment.  This includes layout of furniture, types of materials, and display of materials.  One of the important aspects of a Reggio Inspired Curriculum is the school environment.  I want to provide lots and lots of choices, but at the same time have the space feel clean and uncluttered so play can happen.  I spent a great deal of time this summer reorganizing the preschool space.  After spending one year teaching in the space, I quickly realized what areas were too crowded or unusable by the children. 




One of my main focuses was on our block area this year.  Over the course of the school year last year I had collected many blocks and loose parts to add to our block area.  The problem was making all of those materials available all of the time for the students.  Last year I would switch around the classroom every two weeks, so the block area would change bi-weekly.  I really wanted a space in the classroom that would be exclusively block play that could be out year round.  My solution was to take the two doors off of my sideboard and fill them up with all of our new block loose pieces!  This area is now in the front of the classroom right when you enter the room too!



A platform for building, mirrors, haba car blocks, ramps and gutters, pipes and poles are now located in the front of the classroom.


Below you can see the shelf filled with the new large “hollow” block set that I purchased this summer.



A view from the door of the classroom.  The large hollow blocks are now right next to the train table.  This old train table will change throughout the year.  Currently the fairies and sea shells and tree blocks have been on the train table.  The train table drawers are filled to the brim with smaller unit blocks.


To the left of the train table is my old side board.  Chris removed the doors and it is now filled with all of my “loose parts.”  There are wooden cars and trucks, street signs, rainbow blocks, professional people, window blocks, horse trailer, horse stable, battery candles, and all of the wooden princesses and super heroes I made this summer.







Now the students can have access to these building materials all year!



A closer look at our fairy house, tree blocks, and sea shell investigation area.




This view shows our dress up area that is now filled to brim thanks to a generous neighbor who dropped off a large trunk of old play clothes.  The favorite pieces of our new collection are wallets, fans, and the clown hat!






This year I really wanted to do something to honor each child’s birth day.  I stumbled across this idea online, and I loved it.  I hung up a letter representing each child on the classroom wall.  On the child’s birthday they will paint and decorate their letter.  It will be a beautiful reminder as the year progresses!DSC_0113DSC_0114DSC_0115

Our loft is still the same and is one of the most popular parts of our classroom!  “Playing House” as the children call it, is a deep part of our classroom activity.




Our new calendar/meeting area is revamped this year!  I made a ABC card for all of the letters we found at the end of the year last year, and hung them up underneath our calendar.  It serves as our classroom’s ABC strip!






After much discussion during morning meeting we finalized these three rules as our classroom rules.  Gentle hands, take care of our school, and be kind.  Very simple, yet they incorporate our daily life of the classroom.  Each child signed their name on the list of rules. 


Everyone also had a meeting with me to discuss what their hopes and dreams are for this school year.  I love their pictures and goals for 2014!


The children also helped me create and write our classroom job list!  I have a picture of the job and movable pictures of the children to the right of the job.  Their job switches once a week.  Everyone has to help…unless you are on vacation!




Another big change is our art studio.  I really wanted more materials accessible during the morning.  I moved one of my leaning shelves into the art area, and now we have a lovely display and writing area.  Now they always have access to paper, stickers, dot art, scissors, glue, markers, chalk, hole punches, pencils, and so much more! 









I have a lot of pictures and exciting things to share about our new and improved outside space as well!  I know that your children have loved playing and exploring the new space these past few weeks, and it brings me joy to see them interact with the materials every day. 

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A New Year, New Friendships, New Beginnings



I wanted to share some pictures from our first week of school!  It already seems like ages ago that we met up again in our sweet school to meet new friends, visit with old friends, connect, play, get messy, dance and have fun!


The first weeks are always spent working on routines, establishing classroom culture, and easing back into the classroom basics.  Many of the areas of the room weren’t open the first few days of school.  We opened one area at a time and talked carefully about how to play, care for, and clean up each area in our classroom.  The first day of school was focused on our new and improved block area.


We built an amazing road:








Most of the students stopped back by the invitation to add more gems to our classroom branches.  We now have a beautiful branch filled to the brim with beads!




Sensory Play:

We explored with ice the first week of school!  The children were given glitter star ice cubes, salt, colored water squeeze bottles, and other tools for exploring the ice cubes.



At first I thought the ice cubes were the most exciting part of this sensory tub, but pretty soon Ms. Lori and I realized that the squeeze bottles were actually the best part of this activity.  These kids loved to squeeze the water, refill the bottles, and repeat the process again and again.  I started the morning with many different colors in the bottles, but by the end of the day the water was a glittery blue.  They didn’t seem to mind what color was in the bottle as long as it was ready to squeeze!









I love the ice, glitter, and squeeze bottles.  It added such a fun element to a simple water sensory tub.  The large bottles I purchased from amazon, they are restaurant bottles.  A fun addition to your play at home!


Play Dough:

The first few weeks of school we have been playing with coconut play dough.  This year I added mini popsicle sticks, mosaic pieces, mini shells, and gems.  I always love to see their creations in the dough!








L’s creation!




It is always important to be dressed as a fairy princess when you are working with your play dough!


Process Art:

The first week of school Ms. Lori brought this amazing crayon melting machine to our art room for the children to explore.  It heats up on a low temperature and melts the crayon pieces.  The children “painted” with melted crayon on sea shells and onto paper plates. 






Look at that smile!  I swear M is giggling in the background!



A few pictures of the children interacting with our wonderful Ms. Lori the first few days of school!



One of the mornings we did a combination of process art and sensory play!  I filled a tub with shaving cream, added ice cubes of paint, bowls, scoops, and popsicle sticks and paint brushes.  The children loved mixing the melting paint into the shaving cream!


New Routines:

We have started a number of new routines this school year.  This year we have “Classroom Jobs.”  The children are very excited about these jobs and have been taking them very seriously.  They helped me create the list of classroom jobs:


Plant Caretaker

Song Stopper (turns off the ipod for me!)

Light Manager (turns the lights on to the overhead and light table before choice time)

Line Leader

Play Dough Bagger (Bags up the play dough at the end of the morning)

Trash Collector (looks for trash under tables after snack)

Loft Manager (checks the loft after choice to see if any toys have been left up there!)

On Vacation


I will take a picture of our new Classroom Jobs sign that the children wrote!


D and M enjoying our light area together!






Just had to end of this hilarious picture of “practicing lining up.”  This was the closest I got to all of them looking at me!


We’re off to a great start!