Crozet Play School

Kids at Play in Crozet

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“Egg”stravagant Spring Time

Our bird study blended right into a big discussion all about “eggs”.  We talked about eggs, we painted eggs, we played with eggs, and of course there was some discussion of the Easter bunny too!



R joined our class for the last few months of school, and she has blended right in with the group perfectly!  She is full of excitement, and art projects seem to be her passion right now.  She enjoyed this contact paper project I presented on the easel.  I cut out shapes and provided the outline along with cellophane paper to fill in the shape.  The result was just beautiful in the art room.


This art project is great for fine motor development, and using an easel for preschool art actually has many benefits.  Another wonderful blog that I read frequently, Small Potatoes, describes 5 wonderful benefits of easel art in this blog post.  This blog is a wonderful resource for play tips, sensory activities, and art inspiration at home.

Table Invitations:


One week children found this on the classroom tables.  These are actually little drink glasses from the dollar store.  I turned them upside down and wrote upper case and lower case letters on the glasses.  Children matched the lower case letter to the uppercase letter on the light table. 


I love providing unique materials that engage the kids in new ways.  This is a long bath mat turned upside down.  Children had to use the tongs to move the marbles from the bowl to balance on the suction cups of the bath mat!



Exploring Sense of “Self”:  I presented this table invitation to encourage students to learn to draw themselves.  I have been doing small mini lessons with the Handwriting Without Tears program to encourage self portraits and develop their ability to draw their bodies and faces.  They have come a long way since the beginning of the year!  I love seeing their self portraits, and the details they choose to include…




Play Dough:


We explored some lovely spring colors with our play dough last month!  I made a large batch and then split it into purple, pink and blue.  On the play dough tray I provided spring gems in bright colors, flower gems, and then an assortment of cookie cutters including sheep, bunnies, and eggs.


Learning Trays: 


Our learning trays this month have been filled with all sorts of different interests.  The picture above shows a counting tray I created.  Using small play dough cakes, I would place a number in the play dough and the child would match the correct number of matchsticks to the number.


This was a fun egg and sound guessing game.  I filled plastic eggs with different loose parts from around the house.  The child would shake the egg and try to guess what was inside based on the sound of the egg.  Some of the items were easy to distinguish like the pennies and paper clips, and some were more difficult like the plastic tags and links.


R is exploring a learning tray of fettuccini pasta and a small colander.  This would be a quick and easy exploration to set up while you are trying to cook dinner!




I printed out each child’s name and they placed an assortment of stickers overtop of their letters.  It was great fine motor and letter practice!


We played with this learning tray a few times as a whole class, and then I put in on the shelf for individual exploration.  Each child would crack open an egg to find a letter inside.  Then they matched their letter to the ABC sheet provided.  Just adding the opening of the egg created so much excitement to a simple letter puzzle!


Sensory Play:




Our Easter Sensory Bin:  green Easter grass, eggs large and small, bunnies, and carrots.




This water sensory tub was a huge hit for most of the week!  I created it using the liquid watercolors, gutters cut in half, a second tub to catch water, funnels and cups.  They loved watching the water splash, move, and fill up again and again.  In the picture above M and L are pouring the water while L is entranced by it sliding down the gutters!




Both age groups were super involved with this water activity.  It will be repeated again I am sure!

Dramatic Play:




For some wonderful spring themed dramatic play I created a “Flower Shop” for the kids.  I provided a shelf filled with cups, pots, and loose flowers, a store front, cash register, money, paper and pens for note taking.  This was a busy flower shop, and the children enjoyed making flower arrangements for each other.



Process Art:




This past month the children created a wonderful group art project using a very large sheet of contact paper.  I laid the paper out on the table and provided lots of spring colors to stick anyplace they wanted.  The results were so pretty, and I love seeing it hanging on our doorway everyday.




I drew a bunch of blank eggs on the chalk board wall and waited to see if they would fill in the eggs with different designs!


One of my favorite projects this past month was a super sized egg!  I got the idea from Fun at Home With Kids’ blog about a big Easter Egg.  I changed our eggs slightly and provided the textured rolling pins for the students to make large scale designs for their eggs.  Here is L in the middle of making her Very Large Egg!




The children painted wooden eggs with our liquid watercolors, we added them to the Easter Sensory bin and played hide and seek with the eggs outside.  The hide and seek game was such a great way to reinforce colors, counting, and more and less than. While we were playing I would hear,

“We need one more blue”

“There aren’t any pink eggs in the carton, help me find them”

“Only one more egg left!”





We paper mached paper eggs with tissue paper and modge podge!


I had so much extra tissue paper we used some to do some bleeding tissue paper art work!


And just for fun we made Easter bunnies using Easter colored marshmallows.  They got to eat a few marshmallows when they finished their bunny too!


That just about covers all of our “Egg”stravagant Spring exploring!

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Tweet, Tweet



Over the cold winter months the class and I would take walks around the neighborhood to get some fresh air.  While we were on our walks the students started noticing the bird nests in the empty trees around the neighborhood.  These nests brought a lot of discussions about birds, where they went during winter, and what happened in those nests we noticed in the trees.  After a few days we headed back out with some sticks and plastic bags and we took down some of the old nests for inspection.  They were fascinated by how the nests were built and the materials the birds used for building.



After all of this excitement about birds I set up a bird sensory bin for the students.  I filled it with bird seed, nests, felt birds, and little wooden bird houses.  I also found some fake bird eggs at the craft store.  The sensory tub provided a new level of interest around birds, their life cycle, and their habitat.


Table Invitations:



I noticed that many of the children were taking the birds out of the sensory bin and lining them up along the edges and making up stories about the birds.  After two weeks I removed the birds from the sensory bin and put them out on the table for further pretend play.




Through books we studied the life cycle of the bird.  I offered another table invitation for baby chicks.  I provided rice, little chicks, gems, and plastic eggs for exploring.



I created a bird puzzle from felt and then made labels for the bird puzzle.  We worked on this puzzle as a whole group, and then I offered the puzzle as a table invitation for them to work on independently.


I also created this bird matching game.  It was out on the tables for a few days, and then I put it in one of the learning trays for students to match up the types of birds.

Pretend Play:



The children were pretending to be birds during choice time, so I created this large bird nest.  I used a kiddie pool, covered it with brown paper and filled it with shredded paper and large plastic eggs.  I put this large nest up in the loft, just like a bird makes her nest up high and out of sight.

Process Art:


We created little paper bag birdies in their nests using brown paper bags and pom poms.


The children also made bird window art using tissue paper and contact paper.




During this bird study we re-read “Five Little Ducks” a number of times.  I also have the felt board pieces to match this story, and the children have heard it before.  To give them a chance to practice the story at home I offered this painting invitation.  They painted their rocks different colors for the mommy and the five baby ducks.  Then I added little eyes and a beak. 


Each child got to take home their ducks to sing and practice the story at home.




We also painted wooden bird houses with acrylic paints to take home too!


Extending their Interest:



We created homemade bird feeders!  These are the easy, old fashioned feeders: toilet paper rolls, peanut butter, birdseed, and yarn.  We hung some of them on the trees by school and some children also took their bird feeders home.


It was almost as if the birds knew we were interested in them, because a robin made her nest right under the deck on top of the columns of the preschool.  I was brave enough to take some pictures of her eggs for the kids.  After the eggs hatched the children figured out if they stood on the chairs on the preschool patio they could see the chicks waiting for their mom to return with food.  Just this week my T/TH group got to see the baby robins on the swing set, having just left their nest.  They flew off and it was a hot topic for the group!


Displaying our Learning:



At the end of our discussion on birds the children put the life cycle of the bird in the correct order in their learning journals.  Then they drew lines to connect each part of the life cycle.  I dictated their understanding of the bird’s life cycle on the page for each child.

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The Snowy Day or should I say Snowy Days….


We have missed a lot of school this year due to ice, snow, or a combination of the two!  I decided to embrace all of this winter weather by doing a few more snowy and icy activities mixed in our Valentine’s Day fun.  The first science experiment we did was an Ice Experiment.  We started by talking about ice and what happens to it when it starts to warm up.  We also discussed all of the plow and snow trucks and why they sprinkle salt on our roads. 


After our discussion I told the children that we were going to see what happens when we add lots of salt and water colors to large blocks of ice.  Here is a picture of the hypothesis the children had when we added salt to our ice blocks:


Some of their thoughts were the salt:

was not going to stick

it was going to melt the ice

turn the ice into water

dissolve it


Some of the new words we discussed as a class were:





The M/W/F group also put their learning down on paper.  In the picture above of our hypothesis there are all of the learning journals from the students.  I drew the shapes of the ice for them, and they drew the colors and spots of the cracks in the ice.  I recorded their thoughts in their journal too.


After that great discussion we got to work! I set up our station with three different ice blocks, cups of salt, water colors and pipettes. 


Both groups thoroughly enjoyed this activity.  I am always pleasantly surprised when you present children with engaging “invitations” the amount of time they will spend exploring, talking, and playing in them.  The T/TH group below actually made their ice crack open quickly because they spent a lot of time pouring salt on their ice.  They asked me for salt refills a number of times. 


After they salted and painted their ice over and over again we carried the ice blocks outside in the snow.  We looked through the ice and studied the grooves and cracks the salt created.  Once the ice was dumped outside the last step was stomping on the ice to break it down into small bits.




children at work!


One morning after snow I created a snow ice cream station for the kids.  I pulled out the scoops and ice cream dishes I found at the dollar store, and scooped some snow onto a large tray.  They spent a ton of time making snow ice cream for each other.


I am somewhat of a Pinterest fanatic.  I use it for almost all of my planning and a way to organize my ideas for school.  You can follow me on Pinterest here if you are looking for fun things to do with your kids.  Even if you aren’t on Pinterest you can still flip through my boards to see lots and lots of goodies. 


I found this art idea on Pinterest for The Snowy Day under my Winter Wonder boardThe Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats is a famous children’s book and a Caldecott Winner.  If you click on the title it will direct to to purchase the book.  In the book Peter sets off to explore the new fallen snow.  When he returns home he wants to save some of the snow, so he packs it into a snowball and puts it in his pocket for later.  He is sad when he later looks inside his jacket to find the snowball is gone. 


As you can see this was the perfect book to read to go along with our “snowy” theme!

After we read the book children got to use a variety of paint brushes and sponges to make snow on their art work.  Then they glued an outline of Peter onto their paper.  This was a great follow up activity to The Snowy Day.



I hope we are at the end of all of our snow and ice adventures!  I am ready to move on to all things spring!

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Crozet PlaySchool Vet Clinic is Open!



Dramatic and pretend play has been an ongoing thread in our classroom.  Children have been dressing up, playing kitchen, having shows and dance parties, acting like good and bad witches, good and bad fairies, and on and on since almost the first week of school.  I have been wanting to extend their dramatic play to other areas and bring about new ideas for their pretend play.


I noticed when the children had been playing in the loft, often times many of them are “sick.”  I also had a large bucket with stuffed animals on the loft and the animals would get “sick” during their play up on the loft.  I thought they would love to have a Veterinary Clinic.  We opened it last week, and the kids jumped right on board with their pretend play. 




They quickly began to administer medicine and of course shots too!   Here P is giving her bunny rabbit a shot.  I gathered up fun supplies from the dollar store such as q-tips, cotton balls, dog collars, food bowls, and leashes.  I added these props to a large bucket of pretend doctor toys that I already had.





The kids would wrap up their animals in scarves to take care of them.  It was so sweet to see how loving they were with their sick animals.  Below M has wrapped up his monkey with bandages on his legs and arms.  P has a whole sheet of paperwork filled out on her teddy bear about his illnesses.  They also got such a kick out the the REAL dog treats that I had found at the dollar store. 



D has all of his animals lined up for inspection.




I think K was just as intrigued by all of the flashlights I included with the doctor supplies. 



The whole area was visited daily by all ages!  I think we will continue to see lots of different pretend play centers emerge this year as their play scripts get more and more advanced.  They are such an exciting group of kids!


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!


And We’re Off!


Our first week at Crozet PlaySchool was a success!  There were a few tears from some of my younger friends, but we quickly dried our eyes and got in on the first week of exploring and fun! 

As a former first grade teacher I was able to attend a week long workshop called, “Responsive Classroom.”  It is a wonderful community building philosophy that focuses on direct modeling and positive encouragement to create a safe and happy classroom environment.  The foundation of responsive classroom is the morning meeting, which starts each day on a positive note.  After children entered the classroom this week, we sat down for our very first of many morning meetings!  They learned this week how to safely greet their friends with a handshake or a high five.  We practiced each other’s names and learned what our favorite foods are for each friend!  They were given a challenge on Friday to see if they could remember one friend’s name and their favorite food.  Some of them were able to!  The second part of morning meeting is the “activity.”  This is usually a fun thinking game, a silly song, a dance, or a team building type of activity.  We got to do two different movement songs from Greg and Steve this week, and the kids thought they were both quite fun and silly!  We also learned a new song called, “I’m a Martian.”  Be sure to watch for your children dancing around like little martians soon!

Next we had our first “guided discovery” for the block area. 

Goals of Guided Discovery
  1. To excite children about classroom materials
  2. To help children explore materials with confidence and imagination and build a repertoire of constructive ways to use the materials in their academic learning
  3. To enable children to make independent and purposeful choices
  4. To establish and teach norms and routines for the use, care, and storage of materials

The classes were very excited to try out the block area after we had a lengthy discussion about our blocks.  We discussed what we can do with blocks, how we treat our blocks, where they are found in the classroom, and we took a tour of the block area so we would know how to clean them up.  Once we covered blocks thoroughly, I gave children the opportunity to use the blocks through open ended play…


L made his puppy dog “lovey” that he brought from home, his very own dog house with a swimming pool.


P and L quickly got to work with the blocks and the animals to create a classroom vet to take care of sick animals.


L was the first to try out our smaller colored blocks.  He spent a great deal of time working on his creation.


M was very interested in our big building blocks, he got right to work as well!


C was working on a type of road, and helping M to create with the large sized building blocks.


Another part of blocks is our “tree blocks” and fairies and dragons area.  They are free to create on top of the train table with these items.  It was an instant place for block building!

IMG_1706Another fun part of our block area is our felt and scarves.  Children can use the felt to create a roof, places for animals to lives, make a fast flowing river, the possibilities are endless.  They didn’t waste any time using the scarves and their imaginations!


A closer look at P and L’s animal area!  They became fast friends!


K got right to work the second day of school in the tree block area.  He was fascinated by all of the dragons.



M and L were busy working on his dog house and “pool” area.


L was already organizing the animals for the grassy area. “These animals eat and live in the grass.”


Another big part of our morning this week was snack time.  After a bathroom and hand washing break, we all sat down for snack.  I showed the children how to set the table with our real glass cups and plates for one another.  Then we carefully poured our own water (with Ms. Clare’s help) from a beautiful white pitcher.  My M/W/F group loved helping with snack prep and clean up that I hardly had to give directions on Friday, they knew just what to do!



G dried his eyes and sat right down for snack with his new friends!

We got to enjoy a beautiful week outside too!  We were able to get outside each morning and enjoy the play set, the sand box, and my sweet little T/TH group figured out that the little brown pebbles are perfect for digging under the play set!  I quickly ran back to the classroom to find some more trucks and scoops so that everyone could join in the fun.



The second guided discovery we had after we came back inside was our first activity on our “Play Trays.”  The play trays are large white finger painting trays that I use to lay out different sensory activities.  It was so fun to see the children get so excited for our coconut play dough.  I offered them play dough, a rolling pin, a small bucket of sea shells, gems, and under the sea creatures.  They got right to work exploring the play dough and all of its possibilities.



C was very busy with the play dough and the gems.  She pushed the gems into the dough to create a design.



L was working hard to roll out his play dough.


M showed his friends how to use the pointy edge of the shell to create a hole in the play dough.


L searching for just the right shell for his play dough.



P enjoyed the animals that went into the play dough.



D was very busy with his play dough.   He even posed with his creation for me.



G was squishing the shells into the play dough.




E and L were having big discussions about what to do with the play dough.

Our M/W/F group also had time to have guided discoveries for the sensory tables and the kitchen area.  They were so busy in the mermaid lagoon.  Some children didn’t leave this choice for the rest of the morning!




E and M were discussing the kitchen, and what they should start cooking first!


The sand dough table was also opened on Friday too!  We didn’t play with as much as the mermaid lagoon.  We’ll see who visits it next week!


All in all it was busy and fun first week of school!  Our themes right now are community building, establishing routines and rules, learning to clean up/take care of our classroom, and summer fun.  Many of the sensory activities were sand and summer based since it is still hot outside right now!

Our first FULL week of school starts tomorrow, wish us luck!  Best, Clare