Crozet Play School

Kids at Play in Crozet

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Glow in the Dark Discovery


Last week I had the pleasure of teaching my first inservice for a nearby preschool.  It was such a humbling experience to be up in front of a group of peers, and showing them different things I do in my classroom.  They were most interested in learning about sensory play, so I spent a couple of hours pulling out a bunch of my favorite materials.  Down in the bottom of the bin I uncovered my “glow in the dark” rice.  I had done a number of glow in the dark activities in the past.  It is funny how you forget all of the things you do from year to year!  My black light lamp had broken last year and I just forgot about it.  I decided after my inservice that I would get some new black lights and pull out all of my fun materials.

The first thing I grabbed was my set of fluorescent paints.  My assistant Melissa and I offered the children a few of the color options for each paint set.  It was interesting to see if they noticed that some of the paints had a brighter glow than the other paint sets.


These paints are actually a set of finger paints, and it is a good thing!  Many of the children couldn’t resist the temptation to paint themselves (sometimes all the way up their arms) with the paint.  They would do this to see their own body glow in the dark!  They also would paint their hands, and then press them to the paper.  They loved seeing their handprint light up on the paper.



The children have continued to go in and out of the art room to paint additional pieces with the glow in the dark paint.  I am planning to leave them out for a few more days for the class to enjoy.

I also set up the rice table with the glow in the dark rice.  A few years ago I dyed a batch of rice with the different fluorescent paint colors, and it is still glowing very bright under the black light.


It is more difficult to see who is playing with the rice, because it is dark around the sensory tub.  But, at one point Melissa and I noticed ALL of the children surrounding the tub.  That rarely happens!  They just loved it!IMG_1989.JPG



Outside of our dark room we also played with lentils and a doggie set!  It is from constructive play things and the children were really drawn to it.  I thought it would be a great addition to the vet clinic that was set up in the dramatic play area.


We had Yoga this Wednesday and yoga remains to be one of my favorite days of the week:



We also learned about Mat Man this week from the Handwriting Without Tears Program.  Mat Man uses the wooden pieces from the HWT program to help the children learn how to draw their body in more detail.  It also gives them more awareness of their physical body. We will begin to transfer this concept to paper through paint, drawing, and art.





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Christmas at Crozet PlaySchool



Even while we were focusing on our letters each morning, the classroom was filled to the brim with lots and lots of Christmas fun!  The first week in December the children walked into the art room to find Playmobil Santa had landed in our art room on a pile of white cloud dough!  The cloud dough was filled with silver glitter for some added sparkle.



Table Invitations:



The tables were filled with fun invitation to decorate Christmas trees in a few different ways.  We had a felt tree, a tree on the old Light Brite, and a mini Christmas tree with little ornaments.  They got a chance to decorate and re-decorate their trees throughout December. 




Sensory Play:



For some themed sensory play we had a large tub filled with fake snow.  Then I filled it to the brim with snowman cups, Christmas  goodies, and present boxes.



We also had fun digging into the hot chocolate sensory tub.  I dyed rice brown last year and also added chocolate extract to made it smell like cocoa.  I was surprised to find that the rice still smelled great when I opened the bag from last winter!  I added some holiday spatulas, cotton balls for marshmallows, and cups and plates. 


Process Art:




We also had a lot of fun working with a new art process.  Buggy and Buddy highlighted this technique on her website, and I thought it looked fun and the end product was beautiful.  First we filled a tray with Sta-Flo (liquid starch).  Then each child dropped acrylic paint onto the Sta-Flo starch.  After swirling the paint around on the pan each child laid their watercolor paper onto of the starch.  It was quite drippy and messy, but we embraced it!  After the papers dried I cut them into Christmas tree shapes, and we glued them down onto white paper.  I thought the end product was lovely and each tree was so different.






We also made some Candy Cane puffy paint.  We mixed glue and shaving cream and red watercolors for some puffy paintings.




We also found our names hidden inside of ornaments while we watercolored!





Special Events:




We also had fun celebrating L’s 5th birthday!  Thanks to his mom for these fabulous Olaf and snowflake cookies! 













The kids worked on these beautiful Christmas tree ornaments for their parents.  I hope they were surprised when they opened their gifts!  Each child planned out their tree, and they are each so different.  I helped them with the sewing, but they quickly caught the hang of it.  Then we sewed the tree closed and added stuffing to the inside.  Of course they each wrapped up their tree for their parents to open.




Learning Trays:



I also saw this simple coloring idea on Buggy and Buddy.  I made a sheet for each child and they added all of the details.  E even added a string of lights behind her tree. They were really drawn to this activity.  Sometimes coloring books have so many details, and think the simplicity of the coloring paper made it fun for them.




We also had some fun holiday themed learning trays, too.  They worked on moving the holiday erasers into a gingerbread men muffin tray.  They also got a chance to make icicle ornaments with these fun glittery pipe cleaners. 





Sensory Play:



After reading The Grinch Who Stole Christmas we made some fun glitter “grinchy” gak.  We loved exploring this glittery gak. 








When they had so much fun filling the Christmas coloring pages, I left the invitation to fill in Christmas trees and gingerbread men on the chalk board.  E went to town filling it out one morning.




All in all it was a very Happy Christmas in our classroom!

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Exploring Colors


Over a series of days this month we have been talking about colors, color mixing, and different shades of colors.  Colors, painting, and art are an underlying theme of our school days.  The children often label objects first by color, then by shape or size.  I wanted to draw on this common interest and explore colors even further with the classes. 


One of the first activities we did was a color experiment from the book Freight Train.  We read the book and talked about all of the different freight cars and their distinct colors.  Then I showed the children the basic color wheel.  We talked about when two colors mix they will sometimes change colors.  I made different cups filled with food coloring and then made little “rainbows” with the paper towels to connect the cups.  The results were so exciting to see!  The kids went back to check on their rainbows over and over again throughout the morning.


The two most obvious color changes were the red and yellow, to make orange, and the rainbow on the back of the tray blue and yellow made green.  One rainbow did turn purple, but it was so dark it was difficult for the children to see the purple.  It was a great experiment and I am sure we will do some more color mixing science exploration sometime soon!


Another fun sensory activity we did was a color mixing car wash.  There were a lot of steps in our car washing process. 

First we sprinkled baking soda on our cars for our “soap.”

Then we sprayed vinegar on our cars and watched them fizz and bubble up!

Our next step was shaving cream to get our cars nice and soapy.

Lastly was some drops of blue and yellow food coloring.

The drove their cars all around the car wash and turned the shaving cream green right before their eyes!




I repeated this activity with my other group and we mixed red and yellow food coloring to make an orange car wash!  We will definitely play car wash again!



Over two different days I called students in to the art room to create their own paint colors.  I had a variety of paints available, along with white and black.  Children chose their colors and then mixed them in small paint pots.  The results were recorded on our class color mixing sheet that is still hanging in the art studio.  Each child got to name their paint too!  Some of the names were:

purple grape

pink cherry

green apple

orange blossom




Of course we had to paint with all of our new paint choices!  And boy did we PAINT….








Another part of our color unit has been our brightly colored sensory rice bin.  The first week of our color exploration I filled the bin with colored rice, ice cream boxes and lids, ice cream cones and lots of bright pom poms.






This sensory bin was visited by both classes again and again.  There is nothing quite like running your hands through a large bin of rice, scooping, pouring, talking, making ice cream, and learning through play. 



You can tell by the series of pictures just how busy their hands were scooping and pouring!






This past week I removed the ice cream buckets and added some colorful ABCs to the rice bin.  They have been busy making abc ice cream this week! 




We also made some very colorful spider webs using white crayons and watercolor paints.  We talked about the lines and circles on a spider web.  Then the children drew their interpretation of a spider web using a white crayon.  Just like magic the lines of the crayon began to appear once they painted over the paper using water colors.  I love the mixtures of their spider webs.  We will be repeating this activity again soon.








Happy Thanksgiving!  

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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!