Crozet Play School

Kids at Play in Crozet

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Let’s Talk Turkeys




We had so much fun this week making lots and lots of turkeys!  We made these adorable clothespin turkeys using cardboard and painted clothespins.  They are great because the feathers can get moved all around, AND it works in a great deal of fine motor pinching practice at the same time!


Then we made these beautiful “Salty” turkeys as I called them!  First we drew a turkey outline with glue.  Then we covered the entire picture with a huge layer of salt.  After we dumped the extra salt off, the children used droppers and liquid watercolors to paint the turkey.  This is an art project and a science experiment rolled into one!  They were fascinated with watching the paint spread out through the salt.  Some of the colors even mixed on the salt to make new colors!

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I tried to take a lot of pictures, because this art is very fragile.  Once the salt, glue and paint begin to dry the salt starts to fall off.  It definitely isn’t art you can hang on the wall.  I tried something new this year, and I sprayed the turkeys after they dried with an acrylic coat of spray, but they still were falling apart.  We will send them home (sorry about the mess), but they probably won’t last too long!




We also made beautiful turkey patterns using this homemade felt puzzle!






One of my favorite projects this week was making these Thanksgiving Day Centerpieces.  First they filled little glass jars with rice, pipe cleaners, and bits and bobs.  They were so creative with this project, and each one turned out so unique.

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Our final products!  We will definitely do this again!



This is a picture from our rainy day walk this week.  It is so hard to get everyone to look at the camera!


This is little M taking her turkey painting very seriously.  Ms. Brittany drew these awesome turkeys for the kids to paint at the easels.



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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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Birds that Don’t Fly


We have had a fabulous time discussing Penguins at school.  I haven’t had a chance to share all of the wonderful things we did during our Penguin unit.  The first few days we looked closely at pictures I had printed from Antarctica images I found online.  We talked about how different this environment looked compared to where we live.  The pictures were hung up on our Penguin chart for children to look at further during choice time.  We read some fabulous Penguin fiction and non-fiction books. 


The children especially liked the book, The Emperor’s Egg pictured below.  After reading the book we waddled, huddled, dove, and acted like the penguins we had been reading about.  I also found a very large plastic Easter egg.  Each child tried holding the plastic egg between their feet just like the Daddy Emperor Penguins.  Above is a picture of D standing in front of our drawing of the Emperor Penguin.  We measured each child and of course me too to see who was taller than the male Emperor Penguin.  Only I was taller!  Very interesting!




We did two different penguin art projects.  One was stamping the penguin with sponges.  At the end of the stamping the children glued on the penguins eyes, beak and feet. 


Below is a picture of our invitation to paint a penguin.  I had black, white, and orange paint set out for each child.  Then I collected some of our non-fiction penguin books for them to look at more closely while they were painting.  Once many of the children got started with their painting they kept talking about the Macaroni Penguin.  I didn’t have a real photograph of one, but I did have Eric Carle’s book with the Macaroni Penguin inside it.  I quickly grabbed the book, and a few of the children painted a macaroni penguin instead.  I need to take a picture of their paintings, because they are quite impressive! 




A few weeks ago I made a large “Artic” Sensory bin.  The children were mostly interested in the penguins and the Polar Bears.  Here is L looking in the water and finding different animals to look at more closely.



I also had Polar Bears out with the acrylic ice cubes as a table invitation.  I decided they might look really neat on the light table, so I shifted the bears to the light table for a few days as well!




After our artic bin had been explored, I changed it to just a penguin sensory bin.  I still had water, penguins, Styrofoam to be ice burgs, but I added gems to be fish for the penguins and a sorting try to sort the gems or penguins into. 



Another table invitation to play was the Emperor Penguins from Safari Ltd, Epsom salt, gems, acrylic ice cubes, and paint brushes.  The children did a lot of exploring with this tray!  They made it snow on the penguins, painted or made trails in the salt with the paint brushes, and also used the gems to enhance their play stories.




Here is P exploring another table invitation that was set up during our Penguin unit.  I have the Play Mobil Penguin Zoo exhibit.  This was a hit!  Every child took a lot of time to play with this tray!  There is a dish that slips into the Penguin tray and can be filled with water.  They fed the penguins, slide them down the slides, and even visited the zoo as the little boy. 


We also sorted types of Penguins using a penguin matching game I made.  They loved learning the different types of penguins and where they lived in the world!

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Art Our Way at Crozet Play



Art is such a vital part of any early childhood program.  I spend a lot of my time thinking and searching for creative ways for my little ones to have fun in our art studio.  Each week my goal is to provide ample opportunities for kids to explore art freely, without an ending product in mind.  Often time art in the preschool years can be very “product” focused.  What I mean by that is there is usually an outcome that the teacher is hoping the children produce by following a series of steps. 


When we allow children to make their own decisions about their art we are empowering them.  We are showing them that we respect their ideas about their work and give them room to make mistakes by not having the pressure of a final product in mind.  Teachers and parents who respect children’s ideas help them to learn to think and solve problems for themselves. Children who feel free to make mistakes and to explore will also feel free to invent, create and find new ways to do things.


The photo above shows children working freely at the easel.  I have two easels set up daily for their use.  Right now we are keeping the easel materials simple with dot art, markers, and colored pencils.  Children can pop into the art studio any time during free choice time and work at the easels.  I will pull the paper down to a clean fresh spot every once in a while, but they even enjoy adding to each other’s work.  



You may have noticed that lots of the art coming home is just what I have described, open ended opportunities to try out the different art materials in the room.  Above was the set up for our fall leaves painting.  The table had many different colors to choose from along with different sizes and shapes of leaves to use for stamping. 




Below is a picture of our first few days of school when we were just learning to explore the dot art paints.  It takes time to “open” up the materials for exploration.  Children need to know how to care for the materials, put the tops back on and keep our room clean before they are allowed to freely use them during choice time.  They have mastered dot art, so it is always available to them now.




Another process art activity was our “stained glass windows.”  Children were giving a variety of paint choices to use.  I showed them how they could put a big dollop of paint on the waxed paper.  Once their paper had lots of dots, we took a bottle top and squished the paint to make the larger circles.  This also created a see-threw look to them when you hang them on the window.  You can see how different this explanation and outcome ended up from child to child.





This is another example of freely exploring materials.  I had watercolors, large pieces of watercolor paper, and flowers out for inspiration to paint a picture.  This was the first time both groups used the water colors.  I didn’t give any instructions, other than how to care for the materials, when to change the water, and how to use the water to get the paint from the paint pallet.  Every child visited this table, who wouldn’t want to sit down and create?!



This is M from my younger group working on her painting.  You can see her progression from start to finish through these two pictures.  She stayed at this activity for much of the morning.  Younger children also love to explore colors, paints, and color mixing.  M mixed her colors so much both in the tray and on her paper.  I didn’t stop her or tell her what to do.  When she was finished I just used a baby wipe to clean the paint colors for the next child.  This is all part of respecting their decisions, and allowing them the freedom to explore without giving them a right or wrong way to do so. 






Below is a painting activity we did outside.  Children were given large bowls filled with shaving cream and sand.  Then we added liquid watercolors to each bowl.  They did all of the mixing and the painting.  The texture of this paint was really neat.  It was puffy from the shaving cream, yet gritty from the sand.  You can see from the series of photos below how engaged they were in this activity.  Some of the children stayed painting for most of our time spent outside.  It was very messy and fun!  The paint just crumbled off the paper once it dried, so it didn’t get to go home with the kids.






Rolling out a large piece of butcher paper also is fun to paint and explore as a group.






It is also fun to incorporate art into themes in the classroom.  Below are some examples of our apple stamping activity.  Children were given a few different paint colors, along with an apple cut in half for stamping.  It was interesting to see who mixed colors, and which children were more precise with their art.





This was a simple invitation to glue that I had out for the children over a number of days.  They had cut up pieces of cardboard, glue and paint brushes, and then a few different art supplies to glue down.  I provided cut up paper squares, yarn, and sequences.  Over the past few weeks many children have done this activity, and some of them have come here a number of times to explore with the glue.  The more glue the better!



If you would like to do open ended process art at home here are the first two books that I would buy:


Mudworks by Mary Ann Kohl is a wonderful book packed full of different types of art experiences using clay and dough.  There are pages and pages of simple dough recipes.  Mary Ann Kohl is one of the pioneers of process art in the early childhood curriculum.


First Art  by Mary Ann Kohl is another go-to book for beginning process art.  The ideas are supplies are simple, and have lots of things you can find around your house. 


I hope you all will try out some process art at home too! 


Our Promises to Each Other


We have spent the first few weeks of school spending a great deal of time establishing our classroom rules and routines.  This is a long process with little children.  They thrive when they know just exactly what is expected of them.  We began this process by discussing what each and every child’s hopes and dreams are for the school year.  Some of the dreams children told me were:

“I want to play a lot”

“I want to make new friends.”

“I want to learn more about the Calendar.”

We talked about everyone’s hopes and dreams and how hard it would be to make sure everyone’s dreams come true without some rules in our classroom.  I read the book, “David Goes to School” by David Shannon.  It highlights a little boys experiences in school and all of the things we shouldn’t be doing when we go to school.  Then the children brainstormed a long list of rules while I wrote them down.  They included:

“No throwing our snack plates.”

“No hitting.”

“No throwing toys.”

“Clean up”

“No being mean.”

Most of the rules started with NO, which is usually how children view rules.  After a few days I showed the children how to turn the NO rules into positive rules.  We settled on three promises at Crozet PlaySchool:

Take care of our classroom.

Be nice to our friends and our teacher.

Listen to our friends and our teacher.

I had the children recite these promises out loud and then they each signed the promises.  We will constantly go back to these rules again and again in the upcoming weeks of school.  Ask your children if they remember what our promises are to each other?  Hopefully they can share with you some of their experiences with this rule/promise making process.

Part of establishing our rules is establishing the routines of the classroom.  This includes; cleaning up, where things belong, how to wash hands, use the potty and all of the other pieces of the classroom that allows things to run smoothly.  Both groups have truly enjoyed the dish washing routine every day.  We eat our snack on glass plates, along with drinking from fun colored espresso cups.  The children help me pour their water each day, and as the year progresses I am going to allow them to do it without my help.


After snack I set up a dish washing station.  They each come over with their dishes and scrub them in the tub.  Then they dry them off and place them in the pile to be used the next day.


L and D are working together to finish up their dishes.

In my last blog post I talked about setting up Invitations to Play around the room.  Some of the invitations to play this week included a new play dough theme and watercolors.  Both were equally popular!  I also took some time to switch out the sensory bins to more a fall theme for the children.

An Invitation to Paint with Watercolors:  large watercolor paper, water cups, fresh picked flowers from Ellie for inspiration.



M and D exploring the watercolors.  They spent a great deal of time on their artwork.




Invitation to Play:  Apple Cinnamon Play Dough

I made a fresh batch of home made play dough for both groups.  It is my favorite play dough recipe, super soft and easy for little hands to squish and form into shapes!  I dyed the play dough red and added cinnamon extract.  It is quite a sensory experience, both groups really enjoyed it!  I also had a large pie dish to inspire some apple pie making, along with laying out apple tree play dough mats for the kids to explore.  They rolled the play dough into little balls to make apples for the apple trees.



Later in the week I added some gem leaves and green gems to the play dough tray.  The children loved using the gems in the play dough.




Our new “Woodland Forest” themed tub was introduced this week.  I included birdseed, wooden tree blocks, tubes, moss pieces, and then some wonderful Safari Ltd. animals.  There is a fox, two deer, two owls, a chipmunk, and a raccoon.


The second sensory tub that I have set up right now is an apple collecting tub.  There are split peas, red pom poms, buckets, scoops, and pine cones. 



I have slowly started to do more and more painting with the groups.  After some trial and error I found that painting with one or two children at a time is best at this point in the year.  The kids got to create some stained glass artwork with wax paper and paint.  First they dotted big spots onto the wax paper.  Then they took a bottle cap and smashed the paint to spread it out on the paper.  The effect was quite lovely!


We also started talking about fall right around the corner!  To kick of this unit of study I made some fall guessing bags.  The children got blindfolded and had to reach into a paper bag filled with a fall item.  They had to use their sense of touch to guess what was in the bag.  They were all stumped by an apple, a pine cone, leaves, and mittens.  Ask your children what happens during the fall season?  Will it get warmer or colder?  What types of foods and plants are harvested in the fall?  We also discussed the life cycle of an apple tree and completed an apple tree life cycle with cards.  On Thursday and Friday the children got to do apple stamping by dipping cut up apples in green, yellow and red paint.

Mr. Chris also finished our wonderful new chalkboard wall!  Here is D giving it a try on Tuesday:


We also enjoyed a lot of time outside this week.  I introduced many of the garage toys to both groups this week.  We talked about safety in the alley and what the expectations are when we are playing beyond the fence.  Everyone understood and listened well!  We had a great time throwing balls, stomping on the stomp rockets, and pushing cars around in the driveways!


I have to end with some pictures of the children playing in the dress up bin.  It is by far the most popular activity in the classroom right now with my older group.  They really come up with some complex story lines to perform.  I am proud of their creativity and love for imaginative play.





It was another wonderful week with kids!  I am looking forward to this upcoming week too!  We will be making our own mini apple pies, yummy!