Crozet Play School

Kids at Play in Crozet

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Loose Parts Play



This week I got a large tray, added black paper to the background, and then added a large helping of Epsom Salt.  the children then used a paintbrush to draw their names or favorite letters in the salt.  Epsom Salt is great for this activity because it is nice and thick, and stays put after they moved it around on the tray.

Each child had a visual example of their name either in all Uppercase letters if they are just learning their letters, or Uppercase and Lowercase letters if they are ready to incorporate upper and lowercase.  I also included some examples of our favorite words “Mom” and “Dad” which is great for every child to learn after they have mastered their name!



We also worked with Bristle Blocks on our other table this week…IMG_2215.JPG

Some of our friends got a chance to do some glue and salt painting.  We didn’t to everyone, but next week everyone will have a chance at this fun painting process art.


I got caught up in Yoga this week, but finally captured some pictures of the children relaxing in their Savasanah…


At the end of yoga this week Mrs. Kay lead us through a fruit meditation.  Each child got one clementine and we thanked the Earth, rain, and sun for growing the fruit and bringing it to us.  It was a wonderful way to be mindful of our food and how it gets all the way to the grocery store.

This week I placed a large assortment of loose parts to add to our play and block areas.  The children got right to work playing, building, and pretending with:

mini led candles

fabric squares

beaded necklaces

wooden place mats

long ribbons

“Loose Part Play” is a unique way to incorporate Reggio Inspired play into your school or home.  Loose parts are simply everyday materials that can be collected and used for alternative purposes through play.  I love loose part play, because there isn’t an intended goal with the pieces.  They can be used in any which way that the child sees fit to become part of their play scene.  They are usually cheap or even throw away materials that get a second life through the classroom!  It really falls under the saying “they liked the box more than the present.”  Children truly see a multitude of possibilities when they play with materials.  They love to imagine one items as something entirely different.  It lets the play continue and grow without limiting it to the parameters of a boxed toy.




Lastly, H and D spent a long time working together create an very in depth Arctic world with the light panel, animal figurines, and colored boxes.




First H had a big plan for the penguins and they were all living on the iceberg.  Then the polar bears joined in the play, but they had to live on the outside edges.  Then D got involved and the scene grew and grew.  I was proud of their collaboration, ideas, ability to share and work together, and continued focus on the project.




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There’s No Such Thing as a Gruffalo


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Julia Donaldson is my new favorite children’s author!  I was introduced to her by one of my Mom’s during Halloween.  She came to our class dressed as a witch and read “Room on the Broom.”  That book became an instant favorite, and then I found her Grufflo books too!  My own children LOVE these stories, the element of the Grufflo, and the tricky mouse.  The mouse is able to trick all of the forest animals, and convince them that he is the scariest creature in the “deep, dark wood”!  He even scares the Grufflo.  I think children love when the underdog wins!


After reading the book we re-created the book using our wooden platform, tree blocks, and little figures to represent all of the characters.  I had the puppets for the mouse and Grufflo.  C had the great idea to add rocks from our nature table, and M thought we should add felt to represent the creek and river.  We acted out and re-told the story using the props, and the children played with the items as well!



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We also read the second book, “The Gruffalo’s Child” in which the Gruffalo’s baby learns an important lesson about the little mouse.


After all of this discussion about the Grufflo, I thought it would be great to set up an invitation for the kids to make him using clay and loose parts.

I gave them a variety of clay tools, wooden sticks and beads.  The results were awesome!  Below D made the Gruffly and used the wooden sticks to make his arms, claws on his feet and horns on his head.  I had the book propped up for the children to refer to the picture if they wanted to.


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T working with the clay above.  She rolled out the clay to form really, really long legs of the Gruffalo.  I love the way she used all of the wooden picks to make his belly.

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A above added a variety of eyes to her Gruffalo, and then decided to change her creation and put in lots and lots of wooden sticks all over his body.

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C was one of the few children that wanted his Gruffly to stand up on the cardboard.  He asked for help getting his clay to stand up tall, and then he got straight to work adding details to his face and body.

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At the end of the week we let everyone come to school in their PJs and we had a Gruffalo viewing party.  There is a short 25 min movie on Netflix that is based on the book.  We gathered on the couches in my family room area and snuggled up for popcorn and a movie.  Many of the children said they watched the movie at home as well!


It was so fun to dig in deep with this story!  Happy Reading!

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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.


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!


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.


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.


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


This is H’s very tall, tall building!


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


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.


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.


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.


More to come soon! We have been busy!

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For the Love of Loose Parts


Our love of Magnatiles is just never ending!  The children have built with them flat on the ground, and are now experimenting more and more with taller structures.   


These photos were taken one morning when they were all working together on a number of different buildings in the classroom.  They were actually locking up our large collection of lalaloopsy dolls inside of the Magnatiles.  I love the variety of buildings they created.



Such concentration by L to put on his last piece!




We have been having fun with more loose parts in the classroom too!  I pulled out a new set of Duplos that make cupcakes, ice cream cones, and cakes.  They went right to work making lots of sweets with the Duplos.  I was surprised when the moved the Duplos over to our puppet theatre, and set up their own bakery.  I love when the move the materials around the classroom to create new play spaces.






The train table was recently filled with some new toys and loose parts.  We got a new box of Janod Wild West wooden pieces, a Magic Cabin teepee set filled with Native Americans, and colorful blocks.  These new loose parts created a lot questions about cowboys and Indians and their tools, history, and how they lived.



This isn’t a great picture, but one of the loose parts that the children are drawn to again and again are our mini battery powered tea lights.  This is a little runway strip they made in the family room with the tea lights, blocks, and peg people.



These last series of pictures were from a recent pretend play activity with our unit and hollow blocks.  They were pretending that a tornado was coming to Crozet PlaySchool, and all of the blocks were protecting the house.  L was apparently calling for help and protecting the house at the same time!



They even wanted to protect the ladder going up the stairs!


I love seeing them utilizing all of the loose parts in the classroom.  They are always full of ideas of how they are going to use the materials in the classroom, and I can’t wait to see what they think of next!

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Exploring “Loose Parts” in the Classroom





This year one of my goals was to have more “loose parts” in the classroom.  The theory of loose parts is ingrained in the Reggio Emilia Approach.  To some it may look like clutter or just stuff, but loose parts are a magical part of play.  I got this wonderful list of loose parts and their uses from Let the Children Play blog


Why Loose Parts?
There are many reasons why play spaces should include a multitude of loose parts, including:

  • Loose parts can be used anyway children choose. 
  • Loose parts can be adapted and manipulated in many ways.   
  • Loose parts encourage creativity and imagination.
  • Loose parts develop more skill and competence than most modern plastic toys
  • Loose parts can be used in many different ways
  • Loose parts can be used in combination with other materials to support imagination
  • Loose parts encourage open ended learning.
  • Children choose loose parts over fancy toys.




All of the reasons for loose part play can be found in these pictures I have compiled from the past few months.  The bottoms of the castles are placemats from World Market, unit blocks, peg people, and led candles.


Imagination, building, balance, creativity, play at work…







The beauty of loose parts is they can be combined, moved, stacked, dragged, and transformed.  There aren’t any rules, buttons, right or wrong ways to play with loose parts.  The above picture shows window blocks, unit blocks, our large hollow blocks, and Mr. Bones were all part of the creation the children were working on.





The next two photos show a sensory and loose parts area I set up this fall.  There was rice in the sensory bin, rocks, pumpkin and corn gems, lots of animals, and pieces of felt to move about.




These photos show how much the area changed over the course of a morning:




The pumpkins were dredged up, and were placed in the barn.  Lots of horses and animals joined up inside the barn too.  The great thing about loose parts and free play in the classroom is allowing the materials to stay put.  One child can start working with something and then another child can change it later or pick up where they left off!




The following photos show the children’s interest in marbles and tubes.  This has been an on-going interest in the group.  We decided to bring the tubes and gutters outside to play with them on the swing set.







I set up our tree branches on the train table.  I left of a variety of materials including silk leaves, play dough, gems, wall putty, and pumpkins.  The children worked with the tree on and off throughout the morning and the end product was lovely! 




STEM building with marshmallows and toothpicks was left on the tables in October.  I found really fun candy corn marshmallows at the store.  The children got busy building 2D and 3D shapes with the toothpicks.  They were engaged and creative, and I was surprised by all of the different shapes and designs they made. 



I was looking for new and interesting ways to use our wooden Rainbow set.  I saw the idea to lay the pieces on their side to make different rooms or areas.  I set up our little hospital unit with a waiting room, operating room, doctor’s offices, and patient’s beds.  They got busy using the blocks and the Playmobil set in a new way!



I hope to share more of our recent adventures soon!

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More Spielgaben Exploration


This past month we pulled out our Spielgaben math manipulatives and I took the long dress up mirror off of the wall and placed it on the floor for some open ended exploration.  Instead of offering the entire tray of shapes, I sorted the shapes ahead of time into three bowls: squares, triangles and diamonds, and circles.  These loose parts lend themselves to exploration and creativity so easily!



D spent such a long time working with the materials on the mirror.  First he organized all of the circles at one end of the mirror.  The circles come in three sizes and they can fit inside of each other.  Once he figured this out he then looked for smaller circles to fit inside of the larger circles.



At the other end of the mirror I made a simple flower using the diamonds and a stick from the other boxes.  D was inspired by my flower and started to make new creations apart from the circles.  You can see from the photo his lines extending similar to a flower but then off of the edges.  The children were fascinated with the whole idea of the mirror on the floor.  They spent a great deal of time studying their reflections and the looking at the lights on the ceiling that appeared in the mirror.  I spent most of my time observing and guiding the students with the materials.



In another area I put a piece of Styrofoam out with dowel rods pushed into it.  I saw this idea from the blog Twodaloo.  The kids found this a little tricky, because if they loaded up one of the dowel rods it would immediately tip over.  It was a lesson in balance, weight, and fine motor skills. 



Then I changed the activity slightly and put the bowls on our tables, along with smaller mirrors that gave each child a defined area to work with.  I started by only offering them the three bowls with the pre-sorted shapes.  It didn’t take long before they were requesting the other parts of the Spielgaben set!  I found myself digging the other two trays out of the closet.  There is something very appealing about the sticks that are all different lengths that the children love.



Recently I posted about L and the amazing road scene he created with the Spielgaben set.  In his most recent encounter with the materials he combined the smaller shapes with the larger unit blocks that I have in the classroom.  The picture below shows a train that he made from the combination of the two materials!!



I must constantly remind myself that we shouldn’t limit them with their ideas or expectations for play.  I catch myself saying or thinking “We are using this right now, not that” or “These pieces are for this area only.”  Sometimes we can limit their learning and play by not allowing them control of their interactions.  L is a perfect example of this! 


I can’t wait to get these materials out again!  Each time we use them surprising things happen!