Crozet Play School

Kids at Play in Crozet


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Eggstra Fun!

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We had a great time incorporating some Easter themes into our days in April.  Above is a picture of an activity we had out on the light panel.  The children could crack open an egg, find the letter on the Handwriting Without Tears ABC chart.  We have used this chart for various activities throughout the year, so the children are familiar with the organization of the letters.  They enjoyed the cracking of the eggs as much as the letter hunt!

Table Invitations:

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One of the art invitation was an egg wrapping station with yarn and poster board egg shapes.  I cut small slits on the edges of the eggs to allow the yarn to hook and wrap.  Then I offered them a variety of colors and scissors for each child to switch colors during their wrapping.  This project encouraged the development of hand-eye coordination.

 

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I made a little “Chick Village” play tray for the children.  They could use the paint brushes to sweep the rice for the chickens, or move the rice to different areas of the tray.  The little wooden frame provided a house area for the Mama and baby chicks to live.  This was a simple set up that provided lots of open ended play.

Easter Themed Play Dough:

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We also had a beautiful batch of yellow dough that we added many Easter themed materials to go with it!  The children had cookie cutters, spring gems with flowers, carrot eggs and much more.  They were very creative with their play dough creations!

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Process Art:

Egg decorating is one of my favorite activities!  I love to try different techniques each year, and the children are always up for a creative way to sue the art supplies.  The first technique we tried was shaving cream and watercolors.  I will admit this technique was a bit of a bust.  The best eggs were in the first batch.  They truly had a very marbled look to them, but as the children continued to mix the eggs in the cream they lost their marbled look.  This would be a good technique if you just had one or two kids that were dying, but it didn’t lend itself to many kids in the classroom.

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Although the puffy shaving cream is always a hit!

The second day we tried a new technique of dripping watercolors onto the eggs.  They turned out beautiful!

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These turned out so bright vibrant!  I loved the colors and how they popped on the egg shells!  Squeezing and squirting the liquid watercolors is always a satisfying process for the children too.

Marbled Eggs:

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The children had so much fun with the shaving cream, I wanted to do another project with it!  We used the shaving cream to create a marbled technique on card stock!  First I made a layer of shaving cream on tin foil.  Then the children picked the colors they wanted to use to drip acrylic paint onto the shaving cream.  After they swirled the paint in the cream, we pressed the card stock onto the cream.  After it sat on the card stock for a few minutes we scraped it off!  The results were just wonderful!  Unfortunately, I completely forgot to get a picture of the final product:( I know the kids and parents loved them!

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IMG_4871.JPGEgg Wrapping:

On a whim I purchased a bunch of paper mache type eggs at Walmart.  Then we added sharpies, washi tape, and scissors to wrap, cut and decorate the eggs.  This was one of the most popular activities, and the children created many eggs throughout the week.  I am sometimes surprised how the simple things are the most fun for the group.

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Egg Hunts:

We ended all of our Eggstra Fun with a giant Egg Hunt outside!  Thank you to all of the parents for supplying eggs that were filled with fun treats and surprises!

 

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Letters, Letters Everywhere

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We have tried to incorporate letters into many of the learning activities this late winter.  We have done a number of letter activities that the kids have loved!

These pictures are from some beautiful letter names the children made with sequence pieces, and glue.  They had to work very diligently to get the many pieces of sequences on their name. Each name turned into a work of art, and the kids were very proud of them!

 

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Here is a video of some children working on their names:

Light Play:

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On the light panel I used small pink glasses to write upper and lower case letters on two sets of glasses.  The children had to find the lowercase match from around the edge of the light panel to match to the uppercase letter in the center of the light panel.

Below are some pictures of D and J matching up the letters on the light panel.

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Some of our glasses cracked so we added in new colors and alphabet letters:

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Large Group Lessons:

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In our large group circle time, we have done a series of lessons from the Handwriting without Tear Program.  I also added some sorting letters activities at the end of our circle time.  I pulled out the large sorting circles, and we studied the letters together as a whole group.  The first sort we did was: Letters with Straight Lines & Letters with Curved Lines.  These lessons allow children to take a closer look at each letter, what components make up the letter and how it is formed.  After I sorted a few of the letters first, I had each child come to the front of the room to be the ‘teacher.’  They sorted a letter or two for their friends, and the children watching got to check their answer!

Below B is examining his letter before sorting:

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A short clip from our sorting lesson:

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After we finished the activity I cleaned up the letters, but left the sorting circles out for choice time.  Below is a picture of J and she sorted the entire alphabet by herself!  I love when they extend our group learning into their class time choices!

Here is a video of J sorting her letters:

J posing with her circles:

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Lastly we used our mini chalkboards to practice our letter writing!  The Handwriting without Tears chalkboards use mini pieces of chalk to encourage the correct pencil grip, and give students just the perfect amount of space to practice their uppercase or lowercase letters:

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Everyone holding up their different letters:

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In our play time area I set up a very large parking lot with the matchbox cars and the garage.  Each car had a letter written on the top of it with tape, and then they had to park the cars in the corresponding parking lot!

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Sensory Play:

I set up a large kinetic sand tray with our ABC stamps for the children to explore.  They could dig in the sand and press the stamps into the kinetic sand to see the impressions of the letters.

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Dinosaurs and Letters:

A few of my students just love dinosaurs!  I thought I would incorporate both of these ideas into a sensory table.  I added sand, plastic dinosaurs, and then some salt dough letter cakes I made with my students a few years ago.  The letters are pressed into the cakes, and are fun to uncover in the sand!

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More of our past February activities will be shared soon!  I will slowly be catching up with our posts over spring break since my computer is back:)

 

 


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Creating Community

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We have spent the past month focusing on our classroom community!  Using the Responsive Classroom approach to building community, I use morning meeting, guided discoveries, and a number of steps to create our classroom rules.  I don’t just tell the students what the rules of our school are, we work together to come up with rules and procedures to help our classroom time run smoothly.  It is a long process, but it ensures that the children are invested in the classroom rules.  They also are very aware what each rule is, and how it applies to our day to day classroom activities.

(The picture above is A and L working on cutting straws in our cutting tray).

 

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First we read a few books about children that don’t like to follow rules: 61P6MBGGK0L._AC_US160_.jpg

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These are some of my favorite books for talking about Cleaning, Caring about our school, Rules, and Getting in Trouble.

 

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After we have read a number of books like this, I ask the children to generate a list of rules:

No Throwing ~ D

No Pushing ~M

We don’t throw books ~ W

Don’t throw blocks ~ H

Don’t touch friends ~M

No hitting ~ B

No touching friends ~A

Walk inside the school ~ B

Play kindly ~ A

Play gently with dolls ~M

Clean up toys ~J

Don’t play rough ~B

Don’t throw food ~ H

No throwing the rice ~M

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The children generated this list over the course of a few days.  We decided that this list was just TOO long and had TOO many things to remember.  Ms Melissa and Ms Clare didn’t want to spend all day telling everyone “No!” just like the books.  Over a few sessions we narrowed our list down to:

Be Kind

Use Gentle Hands

Take Care of Our School

These rules are clear, concise, easy to remember, and most of all they are what we SHOULD be doing, not what we SHOULDN’T be doing.  It is much better to ask friends to “be kind” then “don’t be mean, that’s not nice.”

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We also read a series of books that encourage friendship, kindness, and how we should treat each other at school:

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While we have been working on community each day, we have also continued to explore the different sections of the classroom through “guided discovery.”  Children are beginning to get the flow of the classroom, feel at ease, and understand the materials at hand.  They are also learning how to tidy up when we are done!

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I have begun to look more closely at children’s interest and play.  I hope to see some topics and ideas emerge in the next few weeks to delve into for our first project.

 

 


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Clay Work

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As soon as we returned from our wonderful holiday break I brought out clay as a new material in the classroom.  The materials provided with clay were cardboard pieces, clay tools, beads and gems.  Clay is a great fine motor manipulative for preschool children to work with!  It takes more dexterity than play dough, holds its shapes, and dries to make a permanent piece of art.  They were very interested in this material, and the table was quickly crowded with little clay workers.

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The first time this invitation was set up I didn’t give the children any direction on what to make with the clay.  I allowed them to work with the clay as they wished, creating anything they pleased.  I helped students if they wanted to roll the dough, but otherwise I let them create whatever they wished.

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Once each child finished their work, we took time to transcribe a story about their work of art.  They each had stories to tell about their clay.  It was fascinating to hear all of the stories, ideas, and tales about their clay pieces.

Some children loved squishing beads into the clay and using the clay tools to make marks in the clay.  Other children were intent on making “something” with the clay: people, gingerbread men, cupcakes, and lots of other fun ideas.

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J above is making different marks in the clay using a variety of tools.

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C in the picture above is in the beginning stages of his gingerbread man.

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H in the picture at the table made a wonderful piece that was his sister with the clay.

 

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This is a picture of one of D’s siblings!  It was so neat to see them making clay creations for and about other people.

The following video shows a display I made of their clay work, and how unique all of their pieces were!

 

 

 

 


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What Makes us Unique?

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We finished our study of our own uniqueness! This went hand in hand with our beautiful self portrait work that we started the first few weeks of school. You can see more about our initial invitations to look more closely on this blog post about the Developmental Stages of Children’s Drawings.

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I laid out this same invitation of the black and white photo with a piece of transparancey paper over the top of the photo. Then I offered the children sharpie paint pens to “color in” the different parts of their faces. It was so interesting to see how they each filled in their picture in unique ways based on their development and understanding of themselves.

Then each child got the chance to create their own paint colors and paint the exterior of a cereal box. Mrs. Brittany worked so hard to cut each box out carefully to create a shadow box for their portrait. Then we put the transparency into the box and glued it together to create a 3D effect for the art work. I found the amazing idea for this project from the MerriCheri blog.

The final portraits were amazing!!

Then the children started talking about their hands, and we decided to take pictures of our hands one morning. Can you find your child’s hands in the following pictures? It is so neat just to see how unique even our hands are from child to child!

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We also measured ourselves over the course of a few days, to create this beautiful wall full of our heights. This was a great source of conversation and interest about who is the tallest, shortest, etc.

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Lastly, we looked closely at our eyes to see what each of our sets of eyes looked like! With the cut out pictures, some children were even having difficulty finding their eyes on the board.

I also made a “Whose Eyes are These?” book for closely inspection.

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In other news we still have been very, very busy building large and complex houses, towers, castles and more.

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This is H’s very tall, tall building!

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M and C worked over the course of a morning on this intricte castle area.

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We have also been digging all of the new loose parts around the classroom. They have turned into treasure, horse food, spaghetti, rocked, stones, and more details for our block building area.

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Lastly, I had these cork circles set out with a variety of buttons and gems to create faces and patterns as one of our table invitations last week.

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It was extremely popular and you can see the variety and complexity of arrangements that were made on the cork circles. Giving children a defined space to create is enticing for them to explore.. It creates a boundry and they love to fill it in with the different loose parts.

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More to come soon! We have been busy!


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Gak, Clean Mud, and Much More!

We have been introduced to so many new play experiences this first month of school! I apologize, but this will be a long post full of photos. I have been trying to focus on one exploration at a time in my past blog posts, but I wanted to use one post to quickly catch you up on all of our happenings!

We have been adding new materials to our classroom each week. Every time we add a new material we have a guided discovery about that material. My goal for the guided discoveries are to show everyone what the new materials are, how to care for them, how to clean them up, and where they are stored in the classroom.

As a disclaimer, I do my best to take lots and lots of photos around the classroom in the mornings. Please don’t get discouraged if you don’t see your child in lots of the photos. I promise there will be posts with lots of pictures of everyone as the year goes on. Some days just get busy and I don’t have as many chances to take photos.

Process Art:

I opened the easels this week! We discussed painting in the classroom, cleaning up, where to find smocks, how to put on smoack, and where to find paint brushes. I only put yellow, red, and blue paints at the easels. We these three colors the children have been seeing lots and lots of color mixing happening while they paint on the easels.

J and A are working on a collaborative painting!

Loose Parts Play:

This was an activity the children had access to outside last week. I painted an old train table with chalkboard paint and then I added chalk and lots of loose parts. I drew different lines and swirls onto the chalk board. Then they were offered a bunch of different loose parts to put ontop of the lines. They could lay them out in a pattern or add them in a unique way to the lines. This activity develops counting, math skills, fine motor skills, reasoning, spacial awareness, and creativity.

Many of the children took the lead and made their own lines or areas to create unique designs with the chalk and the loose parts!

Light and Shadows Project:

I gathered up all of my color blocks and window blocks into one location for a color provocation on the light table! I also added some color chain links!

Play Dough:

We have loved our new play dough, which I dyed yellow and added a lemon scent to it! We played with it outside on the tables and also for a few days inside the classroom. Other items on the play dough tray were cut up straws, yellow gems, yellow play dough liners, and little cups and a little pitcher.

The cut up straws were used a lot and a great source of interest to their play dough creations.

I love the above photo of D pretending to pour some play dough lemonade!

H was very interested in the textured rollers, and creating different impressions on the play dough.

M worked for a good part of the morning on a giant lizard made out of dough!

I love Ts use of the straws in the above picture!

Our First Batch of Gak:

We worked together to make our first batch of Gak. Gak is a mixture of glue, water, and a few tablespoons of borax. It turns into an interesting slime that is a great texture for sensory. It stretches and moves, but it doens’t leave any residue on hands, which makes it perfect for little children that don’t like to get really messy. We will be making lots of Gak this year, so I was happy to see they liked their very first experience with it!

Stir, stir, stir! They thought it was turning into “purple brains!!”

Once it was mixed completed, I separated the Gak into different piles for each child and gave them a few gems to squish into their Gak.

C is working intently on a huge pile of Gak and gems.

J spent a lot of time outside exploring the Gak and watching it stretch when we held it up really high.

Sensory Play:

J and A helped me make our first batch of “Clean Mud.” First we shredded two bars of white soap. Interestingly enough, J and A LOVED the white soap pieces. They spent a long time scooping them and pouring them. They offered such a fabulous smell too!

The second step was to unroll an entire roll of toilet paper. Lastly, we added a large pitcher of warm water to make the clean mud nice and foamy and squishy. As soon as it turned into mud J and A walked away from the activity. This clean mud is very squishy and will leave their hands feeling wet and foamy. They were not interested in messy hands! They sure did love making the mud with me though!

Our finaly product of clean mud!

My father came over a few weeks ago and made this fabulous top to our sensory tub. It is a wooden board with many different sized holes cut into the top of the board. I added black beans and many different types of scoops underneath the board. This new sensory top added an inviting level of interest to an average tub of beans. They got busy pouring, scooping, reaching, and trying to figure out this new table!

 

Sensory tables offer so much in the area of open ended play, but they give the children lots of chances to practice pouring, scooping, measuring and judging capacity. They also get the children talking to each other, comparing notes, and sharing their equipment. You can see from the photos how busy the sensory tubs are each morning!

Block Play:

We have had a lot of new block play going on these past few weeks. I put the mirror on the floor for some added interest, and D got right to work stacking animals ontop of the mirror. We discussed their reflections in the mirror.

I also made these block people for the class. These blocks were a wonderful springboard into imaginative play and also allowing the children to get to know each other better.

They worked a few mornings on different houses and areas for the people in our class to play and stand.

M and H spent the better part of the morning creating an elaborate home with their block people. Then they acted out play dates with their block people. One child would be sleeping and the other child would ring the doorbell and wake them up for a play date! The picture below shows just how large their home area became with the blocks.

Of course the large tubes and ramps have continued to be a daily play material.

Many of the children started playing with the little stuffed animals that they found in the loft. Mrs. Brittany and I got out the hollow blocks and made a pet home. Then the children added many details to the home including beds, blankets, food, and a play area for their pets.

Then J and M spent a long time creating the huge doggy obstacle course. Once they finished the obstacle course their doggies had to jump, leap, and scramble over the top of the course to complete the mission. It is amazing to see something as simple as a stuffed animal lead to such imaginative play!


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March Madness

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We had so much fun on St. Patrick’s Day this year!  The kids came into the classroom to find that some little leprechaun vandals had left a mess in our classroom overnight.  There were gold coins, rainbow yarn, and green confetti all over the place.  Then some of the students noticed a clue located on our bookshelf. 

 

We worked together, read the clues, and used our thinking skills to determine where to go next!

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We ended up finding chocolate coins and treasure hidden in our trashcan!  The leprechauns sure know how to be tricky!

 

During our morning meeting we had a “lucky hunt” around the classroom.  Each child was given a hunt paper and had to find golden coins hidden around the classroom.  Then they had to race back and try to fill up the lucky hunt papers as quickly as possible.  This was so much fun that we played it a few times!

 

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We also found some very green gak in the art room on St. Patrick’s Day.  Gak is still a favorite in our classroom, and we loved sticking the gak full of coins, shamrocks, and green gems.

 

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In March we opened a new construction area in the classroom.  It included our golf tees and foam board, with real hammers and goggles.  This is such a great activity for everyone in the class.  Holding up the hammers and pounding them into the board is great muscle building for our arms and hands.  Also getting the chance to use real tools is enticing and empowering for children.

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New in our construction area were vests, hard hats, and all our construction vehicles.  The vests and hats have become a permenant part of our dramatic play area of the room.

 

 

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We played with pasta, tubs, scoops, and bowls in one of the sensory tubs.

 

 

 

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After reading Goldilocks and the Three Bears a bunch of times we got to act out the story using the sensory tub.  I filled the tub with oatmeal, added three bears and a goldilocks.  Then I put the furniture from our doll house to act out the beds and chairs.  They always know just what to do when they see these activities around the classroom.

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Last year we spent a great deal of time discussing rainbows, colors, and color mixing.  I still did a few projects that included rainbows this spring.  We painted rainbows on a large sheet of paper.  Before they started painting I put a rainbow piece of contact paper on their sheet.  Once their paintings dried, I peeled off the contact paper to reveal an opposite rainbow picture.  They were very confused about the process, but once they saw me peel off the contact paper the whole idea made more sense to them!

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We also finger painted rainbows with our glitter filled paints.  Each child decided if they wanted their rainbow to run across the paper or in an arch.  After our rainbows dried we taped rainbow yarn to the bottom of the paper and turned it into a windsock.  They loved taking them outside and seeing them blow in the wind.

 

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This winter was filled with a lot of snowy days, and we have loved adding the addition of yoga into our monthly routines.  The children are quickly picking up on the poses, terms, and the breathing elements of yoga.  They are so flexible and can quickly move from one position to the next.  I am in awe of their attitude to embrace new ideas and jump into yoga feet first!  We will continue to have Ms. Kay visit us throughout the spring too!

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Ms. Kay begins each lesson with an affirmation that we repeat a few times before an after our yoga exercises.  Then she guides the yoga session by reading a book that usually has animals in the story.  Each animal leads the children to the next pose they are going to encounter.

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Moose ears and breathing right to left

 

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Whale pose: laying on belly and lifting arms and legs

 

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Wolf pose:  downward dog with a leg lift to be the wolf’s tail wagging. 

 

Ms. Kay is so creative, and makes yoga fun for the kids!