Crozet Play School

Kids at Play in Crozet

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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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The Mud Kitchen


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


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


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


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


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




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




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




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



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




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

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Getting Creative Indoors

We have had more below freezing, snowy, windy and just plain yucky days this winter!  More days than I would like to count!  I decided to purchase some items for the children to do in the classroom to get out some energy and to get moving indoors. 


I purchased a large parachute with lots of fun balls and bean bags to make playing that much more fun!


We danced with the parachute, made a “bubble world” by floating the parachute over our heads and sitting inside, we sang our ABCs while walking with our parachute, and much more.  One of the most popular games was called “Popcorn.”  We counted up from 0 to 10 and then popped our popcorn around the classroom.  The laughter and giggles were contagious…

Parachute Play


I hope that this was the last snow of season and we get to play outside more and more! 


It was warm enough the other morning for a long walk around our neighborhood and a visit to the creek.


Cheers to spring!