Crozet Play School

Kids at Play in Crozet

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Celebrating Dr. Suess


We had such a fun week celebrating Dr. Suess and all of his wonderful works the first week of March!  We started our celebration by creating our own “Cat in the Hat” inspired hats.  Then I painted each child with a kitty face!  They sure did look like some cute kitties.

Dr. Suess Inspired Art


Another activity the children did was Dr. Suess inspired paper art project.  The invitation had strips of paper, glue sticks, and some Dr. Suess books opened for inspiration.  I modeled how to put a little bit of glue on each end of the construction paper, and then hold them down to create an arch.  They got right to work, and the paper art turned out very colorful!






“Yertle The Turtle” Book Study

The second book we read over a few days was “Yertle the Turtle.”  This book is about a very mean king that wants his throne to be higher and higher, even if it hurts the other turtles in the pond.  It is a creative book about rights for everyone, even the turtles at the bottom of the pile.  The children loved the story and we read it a number of times!



We also made an Anchor Chart after reading the book.  An anchor chart is a way to categorize different parts of the story and discuss the beginning, middle, end or problem/solution.

After the book we created ‘turtles’ using rocks and acrylic paints.



Cooking up Alphabet Soup

Lastly we cooked some delicious ABC soup!  We used Dr. Suess’s ABC book as our inspiration.  We added carrots, celery, onion, alphabet pasta and chicken broth to the pot.  Most of the kids gobbled it up!




I’m so glad to have my computer back!  More blog posts coming soon!


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More Winter Fun

We have been spending a lot of time exploring some of the new play areas in the classroom!  I wanted to share some of the other winter fun we have had besides just melting ice!

Sensory Play:

They have enjoyed the winter tub filled with rocky, white snow, arctic animals, and lot of fun scoops!



I also made a batch of play dough using Hair Conditioner and cornstarch!  It is a really soft dough, with a mint scent, perfect for a penguin playground!



We also had a new tub, called the “Tinker Tub”. It was filled with styrofoam, rubber bands, golf tees, and pipe cleaners.  They enjoyed pushing the golf tees into the foam, making “candles” attaching rubber bands, making “medicine droppers” and all sorts of other creative things!



I saved some white Gak from December and we used it with letter tiles to find letters and make our names.


Once we found all of the letters in our name, we squished up the Gak and tried to find the letters inside the giant ball of Gak.  The last challenge was to put our names back in order after finding the letters!


Process Art:

We got to explore print making with a large plastic sheet and a brayer!  We spread out paint on top of the plexiglass and then the children used different materials to make marks in the paint.  Lastly, we pressed a piece of paper onto the paint to see what image showed up on the paper!IMG_1649.jpg

Some of us simply made marks in the paint…IMG_1712.JPGIMG_1675.JPGIMG_1676.JPG

While other children drew letters in the paint…


And some children drew images of themselves or their family…


Each child’s piece turned out very different and so unique!


We also got out the watercolor paints and painted some beautiful paper!  The paper had the outlines of Matrushka dolls.




Preschool Literacy:

All throughout the week we did different lessons with our Handwriting Without Tears ABCs!  It was a great way to jump back into school after our break!  In the picture below three children are working together to put a small portion of the alphabet in order.  The HWT cards have a puzzle on the front to connect the letters in order, and then when the child flips the card there is a sandpaper letter to touch and feel.

I loved seeing three children, all different ages, and all working together to put the alphabet in the correct order.  Older children were helping the younger children, and so much learning was taking place from all of the groups.


We worked on this project over a series of different days so the children got mixed into many different learning groups by the end of the week.  You can tell by the multiple photos of children working with different partners!


Lastly, I don’t have any great photos of our Vet Clinic, but here are some videos of the children playing “vet” last week:

More winter fun will be coming soon!



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Getting in the Spirit

We have just started to break away from all things turkey related, and begun to talk about the many holidays around the world!  It is fun to discuss each family’s traditions, and what we all do the same and do differently this holiday season.  One thing everyone can agree on at morning meeting is December is a month of fun, festivities, and special time with family.


We opened a big batch of “hot cocoa” rice outside in the sensory tub.  I made a batch of rice by dying it brown and adding chocolate extract.  Then we added cups and cotton balls for the marshmallows.  It has been fun watching the children play pretend with tub while the weather has been warmer.


Sensory Play:

The children and I made a batch of “snowy” gak in the art room on Friday.  We mixed a giant tub of glue, water, glitter, and borax.  This batch turned out great (sometimes we aren’t so lucky).  The children got busy squishing in gems, snowman, reindeer, and lots of mini holiday treasures.



Process Art:

We made a beautiful set of votive candles for everyone to take home to their family.  The children used modge podge to cover the votives with tissue paper and gems.  This was such a fun project, and each individual candle turned out very unique. I’m so proud of all of their hard work, and willingness to work hard to complete projects.


Yoga with Ms. Kay:

We always enjoy when Ms. Kay comes for yoga, but last week we played some games at the end of yoga.  The children pretended to be water, rain, and storm clouds.  They danced to the music with their “water” scarves.  I got some great action shots!


We love you Ms. Kay!  This was the perfect activity on our rainy morning!

Preschool Literacy:


This past week we did some fun activities to learn the letters in our name.  I am starting to transition to using upper and lowercase letters when writing their names.  We used glue to write their names and covered the glue in salt.  After dumping off the excess salt the children dipped paint brushes into watercolors and dabbed them onto the salt.  It is so fun to watch the colors spread through the salt.  Their names turned out beautiful!  Such fun process art!IMG_0242.jpg


Then we played “hidden names” with watercolors.  I drew each child’s name on a piece of paper using white pastels, and then they water colored on top of the paper to find their names!  It was sweet to watch them squeal with delight as they uncovered their letters.



More holiday fun coming soon!





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Signs of Fall

We have interwoven signs of fall throughout our past few weeks in the classroom.  The weather has been a bit warmer than a normal fall, but we are beginning to see all of the beautiful changes all around us!

Below are some pictures from our first batch of Gak in the classroom!  A few of the students helped me make the first batch of the year, and it was a huge hit!  Gak is a mixture of water, glue, liquid watercolors, and borax.  It is stretchy, slimy, part liquid and part solid.  It is a great sensory tool in the classroom, and a fun medium other than play dough.

Sensory Play:


Below is W breaking apart the Gak and putting it into cupcake liners.


M was showing other students if you held up the Gak it would stretch longer and longer.


I added some leaf gems to push, squish, and hide inside of the Gak.


Process Art:

We used real apples to make a rolled art project.  I added a few dabs of paint to a large box, and the children rolled the apple around and around to “paint” the apple.  They thought it was really silly to paint an apple with an “apple paintbrush”!


Preschool Math:


Of course after all of our apple cooking, we had to taste test three different types of apples.  We tried Red Delicious, Golden Delicious, and Granny Smith.  After everyone had a chance to taste and vote for their favorite apple, and then we analyzed our results.  Which apple was our favorite?  Which apples had the most votes?  Which apple had the least votes?

Preschool Science:

Signs of Fall


We have been going on quite a few walks in this beautiful weather!  On one of our walks we decided to travel down to the creek and check out the “rapids.”



On the way to the creek we discovered a ‘wooly bear’ caterpillar.  He curled up into a ball once we walked past. The boys were trying to decide why he was curled up?


There was a big investigation of the caterpillar and a lot of discussion of where he was going!




We collected two large baskets of acorns, and used them to fill up our sensory tub.  To add another dimension to the tub, I put the top with different sized holes that my Dad made for me last year.  It is so fun to watch the children dig in through the holes, and fill the buckets up with lots of acorns.




The sensory tub inside the classroom was filled with birdseed, tree blocks, and forest animals.  This tub has been a busy place the past week!


Preschool Literacy:


We have been doing a number of finger plays and fall songs!  Many are very simple, but the children love to do them again and again.  I will do my best to post a video of our songs this week!

Pumpkin ABC Hunt

After morning meeting this past week we have done an ABC pumpkin hunt!  The children each got an ABC hunting sheet and a clipboard.  Then we pulled the ABCs out of the jack o’ lantern and tried to find the Capital or Lowercase Matching letter on their paper.  Once they found the match they covered it up with the Dot Art marker.




We have also begun to do small lessons from the Handwriting Without Tears Program.  The children have learned a few of the songs, and I have slowly started to introduce the materials in a small group and whole class setting.  Children were able to use the wooden pieces to create their “special letter” for the whole group.  Then as a small group I worked with children on their entire first name and their last name (for those that are ready).  We built their names using wooden pieces, and then we drew the letters on the Handwriting Without Tears chalkboard.




Light Exploration:

I put gems, apples, and sticks on the light panel.  Two little buddies worked for a long while creating apple trees and apple houses on the light panel.


Process Art:

Children have also been busy creating all around the classroom during choice time. They have been busy painting…



This group loves working with paper, scissors, stickers, washi tape, and oil pastels.  I have been leaving one table open for creating with the art supplies, because it is usually busy each and every day!

Thank you to one of our moms who donated all of the fun paper for coloring!  The children have really enjoyed it!


Lastly, children were given a variety of materials to decorate pinecones.  They used the glue to add pom poms, yarn, and sequence to make beautiful pine cone creations.


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Fun with Letters



We have jumped back into January with a bang!  We picked up where we left off in December discussing our letters.  Each morning we continue to read a book associated with the letter we are concentrating on that day.  After talking about the way the letter is formed, we will look inside of our sound box and see what items represent that letter’s sound.   


I have also been trying to incorporate a whole language letter approach into lots of other parts of our morning activities.  The picture above shows one of the games we played at morning meeting last week.  I had post-it notes with upper and lower case letters on the ground.  Then each child used a piece of yarn to find the matching lower case letter on the floor.  It was like a giant matching game with yarn!




Last week we had a discussion around the magnetic board about our letters.  One side of the board was labeled “Letters with Holes” and the other side was labeled “Letters without Holes.”  After I modeled a few examples I called on each child to pick a letter and place it in the correct category.  This really got the children analyzing the formation of the letters and how they are made.  After we completed the activity, I moved all of the letters to the bottom and invited everyone to move the letters around during choice time later that morning. 



I made a batch of plain gelatin in muffin tins, and hid our transparent letters inside of each muffin container.  I popped out all of the gelatin and left it in the art room to explore with kitchen knives.  They were really interested in this new texture and freeing the trapped letters.





Of course we wrote some of our letters in our learning journals.  The “F” is much easier to form than the letter “G.”  Therefore I gave some starting points and guiding dots to help some of the class with their letter G.  They have come a long way, and many of them are displaying such wonderful pencil grip and fine motor control.  It must be all of the play dough and tweezers work we have been doing!



Ellie helped me get our “I Spy” wall hung up.  Each child has been bringing in environmental print to share that they have “spied” letters on the cover.  I will share a picture of our completed “I Spy” wall soon.


We are back to school, and it has gotten off to a great start!

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Beginning our Letter Exploration



In the beginning of November I started a letter exploration with the whole class.  I have used a variety of medias and learning styles to introduce the letters and their sounds to the class.  In the picture above I made a parking lot out of blue painters tape on the carpet.  Then I put a piece of tape with the upper and lower case letter in each parking spot, and a matching car with the letters taped to the top.  Many of the kids went nuts over this.  You could expand this idea in many ways, by making the parking spots have only upper case letters, and the cars have lower case letters, or numbers, etc.  It gets the children playing, moving, and learning all at the same time!



I also introduced the letters in a more traditional way.  Because many of the students in my group are familiar with most of the letters, I decided to read one book each day that had a focus letter.  The first morning we read “Alligator Baby” by Robert Munsch.  Then I made an alphabet box that has one letter in each drawer.  Each drawer holds a number of little charms or items I have collected.  In the picture above you can see all of the charms that start with the letter A:







After building the letter A with our wood pieces, we pulled out each charm and said the sound for A while labeling the charms.  The final part of our project was to make a letter A craft.  We made the A into an alligator!  So far we have discussed the letters A-N in the past two months. 


I have enjoyed the combination of approaches when talking about each letter.  With combing the phonics part of the letter study, it allows children that already may know how to write or form the letter a more advanced way to learn. 



I made this glittery gel writing bag too.  While the children are at choice time I have been calling them over to make the letters out of wood pieces, trace the letters in the bag, and draw the letters in the learning journals. 




One of our learning trays has been this alphabet monster (a baby wipe box in disguise!)  They can put the letters in the box in alphabetical order, or simply pick up a letter, name the letter and then feed it to the monster.




We also ate a delicious letter snack!  Sarah (one of my preschool moms) told me about these pretzels you can make yourself.  We made the dough, and then each child rolled and formed the dough into the first letter of their name.  It was fun and yummy!


Golden brown out of the oven!


Gluing down fruit loops or stringing fruit loops is always excited to this group!  I wrote out their names using the different colors of the fruit loops.  Then they had to find the correct color and glue it onto their letters in their name. 


The finished products looked great!



We also made a hop scotch that was all of the letters of the alphabet!



This week we also had pattern blocks and felt pieces on the tables to explore.  Lots of neat creations were made.









These next photos are just some of the things we did while we were studying letters, or moments captured around the classroom.


The trains were a lot of fun the past two months.  They made endless different train tracks.


This was group art project outside.  The paints were made of clear hair gel, liquid watercolors and confetti.



The mud kitchen continues to be a hit!



The purple rice bin was filled with gems, hearts, test tubes, and ice cube trays.



Another art project was an simple invitation of metallic pens, popsicle sticks, and washi tape.  They had so much fun coloring the sticks and covering them with different styles of tape.







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For the Love of Play Dough


We cannot get enough of play dough at school right now!  We love it so much that I wanted to do a post simply about play dough and the importance of this wonderful sensory tool.  As an early childhood educator I truly believe that “play” is young children’s “work” in preschool.  Through play a variety of goals are being reached, worked on and incorporated throughout their play experiences.  By highlighting something as simple as play dough I can better show you exactly how much can be learned through play.

When children are all around the play dough table one of the greatest outcomes is building a sense of friendship and community.  Because children are immersed in a sensory activity that is familiar to them they instantly start talking about what they are working on with their friends around them.  You will hear them saying, “I am making an apple pie”  “I am squashing this play dough down.”  “I am making a snake”  This builds a sense of community and also each child’s own language and vocabulary from these discussions around the play dough table.

Usually I will provide a theme to the play dough and slowly add to it day by day.  The first day I offered the red play dough I put it out with apple tree mats, rolling pins, spoons and scissors, and a pie pan to mimic making apple pies.  Once children have played with the new dough and these materials I slowly start adding or taking away objects to encourage their play. 

Just by offering the play dough in the color red is important too.  It gets us all talking about the color word red, and all of its characteristics.  They also start talking about the smell of the cinnamon, the fall, what other fruits or objects are red in color, etc.    Lots of other vocabulary words start to be discussed while playing, “This smells yummy” “This play dough is soft”  “I turned mine into an apple.”


Many math concepts are learned by playing with play dough.  They can count the apples they made, they can compare and contrast sizes, and start learning many geometric concepts.  You will hear these phrases:  “I made mine the same size.”  “This one is bigger.”  “This piece is heavier.”  “I squished my play dough on top of this piece.”  The important mathematical words they are emphasizing are; up, down, over, under, top, bottom, inside, outside, in front, behind.


This picture shows P rolling her piece of play dough into a snake and then using the scissors for cutting the play dough apart.  This is building her scientific knowledge of the cause and effects of materials.  If I pull or roll the play dough what will happen?  How can I take this object and turn it into something else?  What will happen once I cut this piece of play dough?  How many pieces can I make?  The concepts keep building and building on each other!


This picture shows L squishing the play dough with her fingers.  Play dough offers a lot of opportunity to build children’s fine motor strength.  Fine motor is the coordination of small muscle movements in hands and fingers.  Children need to build this strength so they can properly hold pencils, markers, scissors, hole punchers, and staplers.  Every time L is squishing the play dough down she is slowly building this very important muscle group!


In the first few weeks of school I had a coconut play dough tray out for exploration.  I added these fun sea creatures to the play dough tray for an added element.  These sea creatures gave the children lots of vocabulary words to work on and discuss.  “Where should I put my star fish?”  “What is this grass stuff?”  “What’s a coral reef?”  It was fun to see them working together to explore the sea life pieces and how they each used them differently in their play dough. 

Many of the children started to act out little scenes with their sea creatures.  This is building the foundation of early literacy and pre-writing skills.  Children begin this by acting out or dictating stories through play.  This is then transferred to paper and pencil writing as they grow older.


Along with the sea creatures I also had gems out for the children to put in their play dough.  I put clear and white gems to go with our coconut and beach theme.  In the above picture you can see that C spent a great deal of time squishing all of her gems down into the play dough.


This picture shows the amount of concentration and care that M is taking to cut her play dough apart.  Play is work for them!  It takes a lot of muscles and brain power to cut apart the play dough.


Overall play dough covers all of these learning concepts in the preschool:

social and emotional development (cooperation, self-control, building social relationships)

creative arts (art and dramatic play)

language development


mathematical concepts (numbers and operations, geometric concepts)

literacy (print awareness and pre-writing)

physical health (fine motor skills)

This is an impressive list of concepts we learn through playing with play dough!  I have had a number of parents ask me about my play dough recipes and where I find all of my added materials for my play dough.  I am going to include my basic home-made play dough at the end of this post for you to make at home if you wish!

I am always on the lookout for great things to add to my play dough trays!  Many of the gems and items I find at craft stores such as Michaels and Jo-Anns.  The gems are usually in the flower areas for making flower arrangements.  Some of the rocks I have found at Lowe’s or in the gardening area at Walmart.  The little leaves that I added to the red play dough were actually part of a pumpkin and fall set for Michaels.  I just removed the pumpkins for now and only included the leaves with the apple play dough. 

Other items that I love to include on the play dough tray are: 



pieces of sequence

natural materials such as sticks, rocks, sea shells, acorns, nuts, spices, sticks of cinnamon


craft sticks for cutting or slicing or writing marks/letters in the dough

cupcake liners (silicone cupcake liners work best)

candles for pretend play

textured rolling pins found here @ discount school supply

straws long and cut apart straws

potato masher or other kitchen tools for making marks in the dough

toy cars and trucks for making marks in the dough

pom poms


animal figures or plastic people figures for imaginative play

 I will share more of my play dough tray ideas as the year goes on! 

The Best Play Dough Recipe: 

For my parents, this is the play dough recipe that I have used for this school year.  This is my Favorite play dough recipe. It super soft, easy for children to manipulate, and cooks up quickly.   Mix the wet ingredients over the stove, mix the dry ingredients in a bowl, then slowly combine while heating on the stove.  Once it starts to pull away from the pan and stick together put it on a piece of wax paper to cool down.  If the color isn’t fully mixed don’t worry!  Once you start to knead the play dough together the color will disperse throughout the dough.  This dough will last roughly up to four months!  I just keep my play dough in a large ziplock bag when we aren’t using it.

2 1/2 cups flour
2 1/2 cups water
1 1/4 cup salt
1 1/2 Tablespoons cream of tartar
5 tablespoons oil (vegetable or canola)


Apple pie play dough: add red food coloring and cinnamon extract while cooking the dough

Coconut play dough: add coconut extract while cooking the play dough

Chocolate or Mud play dough:  substitute one cup of cocoa for one of the cups of flour, keep the rest of the recipe the same!  it will cook up smelling like chocolate and looking like mud!

Lemon play dough:  add lemon extract while the play dough is cooking and dye the dough yellow

Add glitter to your play dough for some added fun!

Have fun “playing” at home too!