Crozet Play School

Kids at Play in Crozet

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Fizzing Watercolors


We tried a fun science experiment this week that is extremely cheap and simple to set up!  Parents can do this at home for just a few dollars, and it provides lots of fun!  I filled an old egg crate with little amounts of baking soda.  Then I made small bowls filled with vinegar which I colored with liquid watercolors.  Then the students used the droppers to drip into the different compartments.  Not only did it fizz, bubble, and make a reaction, it also provided a chance to do some color mixing.



In addition to the science skills that are being explored, the children also had to really focus and concentrate to get the vinegar into each of the different areas using hand/eye coordination and fine motor skills.




The standards that are being met are:

  • predict changes to matter when various substances are to be combined
  • observe and conduct simple experiments that explore what will happen when substances are combined


Doing this activity on the light table just added an element of sensory input, and often will encourage a longer attention span from learners.







Everyone really enjoyed this activity, and they were extremely focused when they were working with the science materials.  I’m proud of how much they have learned this year!

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Light and Shadow Project Revisited



We have experimented with a few different set ups with our light and shadow project.  This year I tried a new approach to the overhead projector.  I moved the projector to a high traffic area in our classroom, and hung up a sheet to give the students a nice clean image from the blocks and projector.  Then we stacked blocks on top of our platform to observe the change in shadows and colors on the screen behind the blocks.



Of course we got busy playing with the blocks, adding different materials, putting up the tea light, and peg dolls.  They got right to work.



Later on I added the color lens basket to the overhead area, and this is what they did with all of the color disks.  They also started to dance on the platform in front of the projector.



We explored penguins on our light table this January!



Played with gems, magnatiles, interlocking blocks on the overhead as well.



The creations were quite spectacular!



In February we explored pink dyed salt on the light table with heart gems and little glass cups. 



M always seems to be one of our most avid light explorers!


I am excited to introduce a shadow puppet theatre this month to go along with our fairy tales unit.  They always enjoy exploring light and it’s fascinating qualities in the classroom.  There truly are so many ways to use the light table and the overhead projector!

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Witches, Brews, and Fizzes



We had so much fun celebrating Halloween this fall!  In between our study of the human body, I tried to squeeze in some spooky Halloween fun.  The purple glittery play dough was a hit.  The addition of witches fingers made the Halloween play dough tray a lot of fun.



After reading the book Ten Timid Ghosts I found this great activity from No Time for Flash Cards blog


First we read the book, and a witch scares the timid ghosts out of their haunted house.  First we matched the numbers on the haunted house to the numbered ghosts hanging on the side. 








Then I put some simple addition facts on the haunted house.  For most of the students this was the first time we have talked about addition and the concept of adding two numbers together.  I laid out little ghost manipulatives, and each child got to come forward and add their ghosts together.  They did a great job counting, adding, and using one to one correspondence when they were counting up their ghosts.





Another fun math activity was our pumpkin counting board.  We matched the correct number of ghosts and pumpkins to our big poster board.



For some sticky fun, I made a batch of gray and blue oobleck on trays in the art room.  The oobleck is a mixture of water, cornstarch, and liquid watercolors.  They had fun using the spoons to mix up the oobleck or their hands!



The trays looked like this at the end of the morning!





We also used lentils, kidney beans, black beans, and coffee beans to make some super spooky “Monster or Witch Hands.”







The weather was still fairly mild the week before Halloween.  I took advantage of the warmer temps and set up a colorful witches brew outside at the sensory table.  I had test tubs, basters, buckets, and lots and lots of colorful water.




We played this over a couple of mornings and it never seemed to get old!



We also made some witch faces!  Each child colored a coffee filter and then sprayed it with water.  Once the coffee filters were dry we glued them onto a paper plate.  Each child added all of the facial features and they even used folding skills to make crinkly or curly hair.



I think the children’s favorite part of Halloween was snack!  Each day I made a set of instructions for them to create their own Halloween themed snack.


I placed the instructions with pictures on the table for the children to follow and make their own snack food.  Of course we don’t usually eat these treats normally, so the children thought this was extra special!







This snack was a pumpkin pudding with crushed Oreos!



Donut spiders!




The kids had fun making some simple stamping crafts.  They made candy corn and stamped ghosts using potato stamps.







The biggest treat was the fizzing spider experiment.  I found this great idea from Fun at Home with Kids.  I made a mixture of baking soda. water, and liquid watercolors.  You form the baking soda into balls and then freeze them until you are ready to use them.  Then I got a large tub and filled it with vinegar.  Each child got to put one spider in at a time and watch their spider fizz and pop.  Leo even had fun exploring the vinegar after the project was done!


Each spider had a plastic spider hidden inside.  They kept calling them their spider babies!




I am hoping to get back on track with my seasons and blog posts soon! 

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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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What’s the Weather?


Within the first few weeks of school, one of our students began talking about some of the big summer thunder storms that had rolled through recently.  He drew a picture of a large cloud on our chalkboard and called it the “thunder factory.”  That got me thinking about what the children  already knew about storms and rain clouds.  We had a large group discussion about the weather and each child had thoughts about the rain and big thunder storms.  Everyone in the class has previous experience or specific stories to go with this topic.  I thought it would be great to explore it further!




I found a series of science experiments and art projects online that correlated with learning about rain, rain clouds, and different types of weather.  We started our discussions with rain, since that is where the idea began.  First we made a large scale rain cloud.  I filled a large mixing bowl with water and then topped it with shaving cream.  We put drops of blue liquid watercolors into the shaving cream and watched it “rain” before our eyes!






We painted our own rain clouds using cloud cut outs and a mixture of shaving cream and glue for the puffy paint.


Then they each got a chance to make their own mini rain clouds!



For the first time we did the Ivory Soap Experiment in the microwave upstairs.  The children went upstairs with Ms. Lori two at a time.  First they drew a picture of a normal bar of Ivory soap.  Then they heated the soap up in the microwave for 1 to 2 minutes and watched it expand.  Afterwards they drew a picture of the changed soap in their journals.  Lastly, we had to feel it and explore it once it had cooled!





Another science experiment we tried was to make it “rain” in a bowl.  Ms. Lori filled a glass bowl with steaming water.  Then we covered the top of the bowl with a plate and lots of ice.  The effect was condensation inside and outside of the bowl.  This was a little more of an abstract experiment, but some of the group was really interested in watching the changes take place in the bowl.



A wonderful rain sensory activity we did was with an old aquarium.  I found this idea from the Teach Preschool website.  She has so many wonderful and easy ideas to implement.  I place a large tub filled with cotton balls and tweezers.  The aquarium was filled with plain water that I tinted blue.  Children could use their hands to move the cotton balls or the tweezers.  They enjoyed bringing up large collections of the cotton balls and watching it rain over and over again.  The series of photos below are some of my favorite pictures from this whole weather study.  Such hands on learning, and focused play!

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We also set up a rain station outside in the sensory tub.  Thank you parents for all of the clear lids.  I used one of Chris’ tools to hammer in lots and lots of small holes in the plastic lids.  The children loved experimenting with the tubs, making lots and lots of rain. 



L and L had a lot of discussions about large rain clouds, and if you had one cloud on top of another cloud how much rain will fall.  Love their thinking!




I didn’t capture a lot of pictures, but I had the class sort picture cards into different weather categories: stormy, foggy, windy, cloudy, and sunny.



We also made a beautiful rainy weather art project.  First the children painted with watercolors onto a outline of an umbrella.  After the picture’s dried I made a mixture of water, glue, and blue coloring to create a rain effect over the umbrella.  Each child dropped the blue glue on the top of their umbrella and then held the paper upright to cause the glue to drip down the front of their picture.




We also did wind paintings with straws and watered down paint.




One of our last provocations was a clay prompt.  I gave each child a small amount of clay, wire, beads, gems, and pictures of clouds and storms.  The results were fabulous.  I had each child describe what they created after they were finished with the clay.



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Ocean Adventures ~ Exploring the Sea



My children and I spent two weeks at the beach this summer, and I really wanted to kick off the school year with all things “beachy.”  Most of the children in the classroom have some relationship to the beach, memories from the beach, or have played in the sand.  All children seem to be fascinated with ocean animals as well!  They are so vastly different from us, I can see why! 


This post is packed full of some of the activities we did about the ocean the first two weeks of school. 


Sensory Play:


One of the sensory tubs, that is actually still open this week because it was so popular is the mermaid lagoon.  The addition of Ariel and lots and lots of seashells has made this a popular place.






Some of the children gathered around the mermaid lagoon:







Ocean Cloud Dough:


Cloud dough is a wonderful silky smooth sensory material.  It is a combination of flour and oil that makes a substance that will hold its shape, but can be manipulated easily.  I added blue powdered paint to our cloud dough to make it more ocean-like!  I added large sea shells and larger ocean animals to the cloud dough.  Bringing the sensory tubs outside has really allowed the children to enjoy them in the beautiful weather.








“Frozen Ice Castle” Sensory Tub

The first week of school Ms. Lori and I had a lot of fun watching the children interact with this Frozen themed sensory tub.  I froze different sized blocks of ice in the deep freezer each night.  Once choice time started Ms. Lori would pop all of the ice blocks out and let the children play with the Frozen movie characters in the sensory tub.  I added silver beads, charms, and snowflake beads to the water to add to their imaginative play.  M probably spent two full mornings at this tub, and it was so sweet to see her playing pretend on her own for such long periods of time!  That is the exact purpose of these tubs!









Small Group Activities:






Last week I called over children one at a time to work on their number sense.  This is the first time they had a chance to use the “links” which was a learning process in itself to get them linked up.  Here is a picture of L with his linked up number lines.  I had number cards with a hole punched in them.  They have to create the correct length chain and attach it to the number card.  Each child had a chance to work on this activity with me last week.







Exploring our Materials:




I have enjoyed watched the children really interact with the materials so far this year.  They have gotten out more of the blocks and manipulatives in the block area then ever before.  It may be their growth and development from last year, but the easy access to the materials is helping aid this interest.


M spent a lot of time last week working with the rainbow blocks.  Here is one of his master creations.  I love seeing the younger students watching in awe at his building skills!




We added some new materials to the light and shadow area this summer as well.  I also added a book shelf to store the array of materials I had accrued last year for this part of the classroom.  The shelf holds Widgets, Blockus blocks, ABC see through pieces, flashlights, magnitiles, X-rays, and these new insect blocks.  They are quite creepy, but the kids have enjoyed examining them!





The fairies and their friends have also been an exciting new discovery the past two weeks.  M had lined up all of the peg people on the fairy house, and was arranging the blocks underneath.


Unfortunately I didn’t get a photo of the process that went into creating this fairy world.  M and E spent a good part of the morning creating this land.  Everything had a purpose.  The line of trees to the bottom were the “dark forest.” And the bark painted yellow was the bridge to the rainbow to get through the dark forest.  It all had a part in their play.  After they were finished creating, MH had another story line going with snails and them disrupting the fairies.  Not long after C and MR were intrigued by their set up and came to play.  They joined right in, and I loved seeing their work.  We actually left it out to be played with again this week.




Open Ended Art:


Last week we did one ocean themed art project, but for the most part I provided open ended art activities in the classroom.  One of the MOST popular ones was this bottle cap canvas.  I had three large bowls of bottle caps, a blank canvas, and two glue bottles.  They really enjoyed squeezing the glue and flipping over the caps to find a perfect space on the canvas.  They used up all of my bottle cap stash, so if you have bottle caps send them in!  I know the children would enjoy doing this activity again!




The art room was back in a big way last week too! Both easels were opened again, and the painting, painting, and more painting has begun!



For a new art process that we didn’t explore last year I covered cardboard boxes with aluminum foil.  Then I purchases Sharpie paint pens.  They offer a really neat drawing experience because of the texture and sheen, as well as the crunchy noises when you draw on the foil.




We Love GAK!



One child discovered the joy of cutting gak and it spread around the classroom.  Everyone stopped by the gak table last week to try their hand at cutting gak.




LP also figured out how to shred gak using the hammers to shred the gak up.  We really spent a lot of time exploring our ocean gak!



Last but not least, here are the pictures of our sand casting in the sand box.  What a neat process and the results were stunning.  I can’t wait to do this again!




After the children added their stones to their hole in the sand, Ms. Lori and poured plaster of paris into the holes and allowed them to dry.  Then we lifted the plaster out of the sand to reveal their art.  I love how different and unique each sandcast turned out!




I know that was quite a post, but we have been so busy the past few weeks!  Soon we will be sharing all of our weather activities!

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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!