Crozet Play School

Kids at Play in Crozet


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The Great Pumpkin Investigation

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We have soaked up the last few moments of Halloween, and the children enjoyed coming to school in their costumes to share or their favorite dress up from home.  I loved watching the children move about the classroom with their costumes!

Learning Trays:

Our learning trays are changed once a month, or sometimes a bit more frequently.  There are 12 trays for the children to choose from in the classroom.  I try to have the trays focus on math, literacy, fine motor, pouring/scooping, or sensory play.

This month the children have really enjoyed exploring the new “sorting circles.”  The circles are opened up, and then they sort the pumpkins into “Big, Medium, and Small.”

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B had no trouble sorting pumpkins into the correct category of “Big, Medium, and Small” in his Transformer Bumblebee costume!

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H was also able to get a bunch of sorting accomplished while donning his fireman get-up!

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Fairies and Princesses also did a great job with the new sorting circles!

Below is a picture of a fine motor tray.  There is a thick sensory material called “floam” lining the bottom of the tray, and then pumpkin toothpicks.  The children have to use their pincher grip to get the toothpicks into and out of the floam.

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Then they all sat together and worked on pushing the pumpkin toothpicks into the thick container of green foam.  This is great fine motor and pinching work.

Preschool Math:

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A new table invitation this week was a squirrel counting game.  I used the acorns we collected a few weeks ago as the manipulatives.  The children had to roll the dice and then feed an acorn to each squirrel until all of the squirrels got some food.  They played this again and again throughout the week this week!

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Below is another whole group counting lesson we did that went along with the Halloween fun!  I made a large poster with pumpkins, and numbers inside of the pumpkins.  They used mini Halloween manipulatives to put the correct number of manipulatives inside of each pumpkin shape.

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This is a picture of our pumpkin investigation that we worked on together as a class over the course of a few weeks.  This investigation incorporated Math and Science goals throughout the lessons.

The class looked closely at our “classroom” pumpkin and gave me describing words to tell what the pumpkin looks like, how it feels, and information they may have already known about pumpkins in general.

Then we “guessed” how many lines were on our classroom pumpkin.  This was the first time we had discussed estimation and guessing as a math skill.  Many children weren’t sure how to even give a best guess…for example many people chose numbers that were very small even though we could see lots of lines on the pumpkin.  This is an advanced thinking skill, and you can practice it at home with your child.

“How many steps do you think it will take to get to the car?” Give some guesses and then test out your answer.

“How many pretzels are left in the bucket?”

“How many pairs of socks do we have in this pile?”

Try to pick examples with smaller numbers when you are just starting.  If your answer is in the 100s or even over 50 it is going to frustrate them.  Then as they gain confidence you can increase the estimation amount.

We used this same strategy to figure out “How Tall is our pumpkin?” and then we measured it with uni-fix cubes. As well as “How wide is our pumpkin” and we cut pieces of yarn to wrap around the pumpkins circumference.

Often times I will cover concepts well above their comfort zone, or talk about things that are brand new to them.  But, hopefully over time and repeating the lesson in new ways these concepts will solidify.

Lastly, we took our pumpkin outside and hammered it with golf tees!

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Preschool Sensory Play:

I set up a pumpkin washing station outside complete with mini pumpkins, gourds, brushes, and lots of bubbles.

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I also dyed a batch of spaghetti noodles in lots of different shades to play with on the light table….gooey, spooky, and oh so fun!

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We have begun to play with the classroom train tracks, and are beginning to build confidence with new tracks around the room…

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And lastly, when you are spiderman it is always important to take some time to listen to a book…

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That might be one of my favorite pictures from the week!  Thank you to A’s mom for visiting us on Monday!

Happy Halloween!

 


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Creating Community

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We have spent the past month focusing on our classroom community!  Using the Responsive Classroom approach to building community, I use morning meeting, guided discoveries, and a number of steps to create our classroom rules.  I don’t just tell the students what the rules of our school are, we work together to come up with rules and procedures to help our classroom time run smoothly.  It is a long process, but it ensures that the children are invested in the classroom rules.  They also are very aware what each rule is, and how it applies to our day to day classroom activities.

(The picture above is A and L working on cutting straws in our cutting tray).

 

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First we read a few books about children that don’t like to follow rules: 61P6MBGGK0L._AC_US160_.jpg

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These are some of my favorite books for talking about Cleaning, Caring about our school, Rules, and Getting in Trouble.

 

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After we have read a number of books like this, I ask the children to generate a list of rules:

No Throwing ~ D

No Pushing ~M

We don’t throw books ~ W

Don’t throw blocks ~ H

Don’t touch friends ~M

No hitting ~ B

No touching friends ~A

Walk inside the school ~ B

Play kindly ~ A

Play gently with dolls ~M

Clean up toys ~J

Don’t play rough ~B

Don’t throw food ~ H

No throwing the rice ~M

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The children generated this list over the course of a few days.  We decided that this list was just TOO long and had TOO many things to remember.  Ms Melissa and Ms Clare didn’t want to spend all day telling everyone “No!” just like the books.  Over a few sessions we narrowed our list down to:

Be Kind

Use Gentle Hands

Take Care of Our School

These rules are clear, concise, easy to remember, and most of all they are what we SHOULD be doing, not what we SHOULDN’T be doing.  It is much better to ask friends to “be kind” then “don’t be mean, that’s not nice.”

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We also read a series of books that encourage friendship, kindness, and how we should treat each other at school:

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While we have been working on community each day, we have also continued to explore the different sections of the classroom through “guided discovery.”  Children are beginning to get the flow of the classroom, feel at ease, and understand the materials at hand.  They are also learning how to tidy up when we are done!

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I have begun to look more closely at children’s interest and play.  I hope to see some topics and ideas emerge in the next few weeks to delve into for our first project.

 

 


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Light and Letters

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Our beautiful classroom got a much needed face lift and I took some time to rearrange a ton of furniture in the room.  Many of the children have been building lots of building, ramps, moving the tubes around, and I felt they just plain needed more building space.  I moved around my train table area and brought out both of the wooden platforms that I have for building.  I also moved the projector out the light area to add another element to the building environment.

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It didn’t take them long to start exploring our new area!  B got busy moving around the color paddles to see how they looked projected around the room.

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It didn’t take long before B had an audience to see how they colors looked when they were manipulated on the overhead projector.

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The light also provided a very soft glow that made it the perfect spot for building.  I love seeing the whole group working on a building together.  Above they made a large building with the unit blocks, LED candles, and the large animals.  They spent a great deal of time here during the morning.

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After the next few days I added translucent letters to the overhead projector, and it was interesting to see how the letters added a new level of play to the projector.

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Immediately they loved to see all of the letters on the ceiling.  Each child wanted to see “their letter” on the ceiling.  As soon as their letter was projected they would climb up to the loft to touch their letter on the ceiling.

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After we explored the letters on the overhead for a few days, we also explored the letters in  our names using paper and pencil.  These little crayons the kids are using are called “flip crayons.”  They are purposely made very short and encourage the correct pencil grip when children are using them.  We made these name puzzles by cutting strips of paper and using one piece per each letter in their name.  Each child they wrote their letters down the strip of paper as many times as they could to practice their letters.  Once they were finished we mixed up the pieces and they put their names back together again.

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It was neat to see children’s names start to appear all around the room in different places.

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Clay Work

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As soon as we returned from our wonderful holiday break I brought out clay as a new material in the classroom.  The materials provided with clay were cardboard pieces, clay tools, beads and gems.  Clay is a great fine motor manipulative for preschool children to work with!  It takes more dexterity than play dough, holds its shapes, and dries to make a permanent piece of art.  They were very interested in this material, and the table was quickly crowded with little clay workers.

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The first time this invitation was set up I didn’t give the children any direction on what to make with the clay.  I allowed them to work with the clay as they wished, creating anything they pleased.  I helped students if they wanted to roll the dough, but otherwise I let them create whatever they wished.

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Once each child finished their work, we took time to transcribe a story about their work of art.  They each had stories to tell about their clay.  It was fascinating to hear all of the stories, ideas, and tales about their clay pieces.

Some children loved squishing beads into the clay and using the clay tools to make marks in the clay.  Other children were intent on making “something” with the clay: people, gingerbread men, cupcakes, and lots of other fun ideas.

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J above is making different marks in the clay using a variety of tools.

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C in the picture above is in the beginning stages of his gingerbread man.

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H in the picture at the table made a wonderful piece that was his sister with the clay.

 

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This is a picture of one of D’s siblings!  It was so neat to see them making clay creations for and about other people.

The following video shows a display I made of their clay work, and how unique all of their pieces were!

 

 

 

 


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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!

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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.

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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!

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


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Painting on the Light Table

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We had so much fun with this project last week I wanted to dedicate a whole post to it today!  I purchased this amazing and large light panel from another preschool over Christmas break.  I was excited to try some new activities with it, since our light panel is rather small and not great for large art projects.  I laid a piece of plexiglass overtop of the light panel, and then protected the wooden edges with Saran Wrap (just in case!).  I gave each child a few large scoops of finger paint.  They chose the color combinations they preferred, and got straight to mixing their paints on the panel!

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Children love to finger paint, and usually can spend long periods of time doing just that!  But, when I added the light table to the finger painting experience they really went to town.  Each child seemed to take their time, have more deliberate mixing techniques, and use their fingers in different ways to create lines, circles, and curves in their painting.  These marks were made more apparent because of the light panel shining through!

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As each child started to paint they began to realize that they were changing the color.  Almost each child would exclaim in the middle of the activity, “I’m making PINK or I’m making PURPLE”  It is so fun to watch these experiences unfold, and to revisit some concepts we discussed in the beginning of the year like colors and color mixing.

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Once each child had painted for quite awhile on the light panel I then asked them if they could create lines, circles, squiggles, or a pattern of some kind in their paint.  Then I laid a white sheet of paper on top of their design and we created a print from the pattern they made.  We would repeat this same thing two or three times.

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Then I would clean up the plexiglass for the next child to start anew.  It was so neat to see a line begin to form and the oohs and aaahs while they watched their friends paint on the panel.  Such anticipation for their change at painting!

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I love the picture below I caught of M showing me her sticky, messy fingers!  “Look Ms. Clare!!”

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We will definitely be painting on the light table again very soon!  More updates coming later this week as well!

 

 


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Pumpkin Spice is in the Air

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Yummmm!  Pumpkin Spice is in the air at Crozet PlaySchool!  We have been enjoying our very delicious smelling pumpkin spice play dough for two weeks.   Along with the great smelling dough I laid out pumpkin gems, leaf gems, laminated fall pieces, and large silk leaves on popsicle sticks.  The combinations are endless!

Sensory Play:

IMG_1077I loved stopping by throughout the morning and seeing what creations had been made in the play dough.  Little pumpkin patches, forests, and lots of leaves on the  ground.
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In another sensory tub we have been playing with is oatmeal, acorns, pumpkin dishes, and cinnamon sticks.  I also placed some different sized spoons for scooping and pouring.

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The pumpkin washing station was out this week, and C and J had a great time getting their hands nice and soapy.  They used the sponges to squeeze, create bubbles, scrub pumpkins, and hunt for gems under the bubbles.  Water play is always a popular sensory experience, and adding bubbles makes it even better!

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J cleaning her pumpkin off with soap.

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C getting nice and soapy and cleaning his pumpkin off with a mesh brush.

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On the tables this week we had an assortment of pumpkins and gourds, along with shades of colors to aid in drawing these objects.  This area definitely wasn’t very popular, and we only had a few children sit down and do some drawing.  I will continue to offer these opportunities though, in hopes that it will spark their interest.  Ms. Brittany even drew an example for them as seen below, but we didn’t get a lot of visitors.  As teachers it’s important to realize when some things are hits and misses and learn from them!  I ended up taking this provocation down and creating the pumpkin washing tub (shown above) which was MUCH more popular!

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This isn’t really on the table, but I thought I would include it in this category.  I try to offer different activities on the magnetic board every two weeks.  This was something that I put up at the last minute a week ago, and the kids LOVED it!  We talked about our self portraits a long time ago, and I thought this would be good to revisit the idea.

I taped two heads onto the magnetic board that look a bit like aliens:)  Then I used a variety of magnetic eyes, noses and mouths for them to make their own silly faces.

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Process Art:
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I love working on collaborative art projects that the whole class gets to be a part of and enjoy!  This beautiful window installation was made with leaves we found outside, sequence, and contact paper.  The children ran around outside looking for the best leaves we could find that hadn’t gotten too crunchy.  Then we stuck them all over our contact paper, and added lots and lots of sequence. IMG_0984

M and D hard at work squishing down the leaves to make sure they would stick!IMG_0998

The results were stunning!

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Brittany helped the children while I was away paint bubble wrap using finger paints.  Then they pressed a sheet of paper onto the bubble wrap.  Once it dried we wrapped the paper around a paper towel tube, and filled the tube with dried corn.  The corn shakers were loved by everyone.  I hope they haven’t exploded anywhere at home!

Enjoying the outdoors:

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Trips to the pond to check on the fish!

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Splashing in the rain!

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I enjoyed seeing these fall leaves and pumpkins on the overhead projector this week too!

Happy Fall!


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For the Love of Loose Parts

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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.   

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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.

 

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Such concentration by L to put on his last piece!

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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!

 

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

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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

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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.

 

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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…

 

 

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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.

 

 

 

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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.

 

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

 

 

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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!

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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.

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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! 

 

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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. 

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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!

 

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I hope to share more of our recent adventures soon!


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A New Year, New Friendships, New Beginnings

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I wanted to share some pictures from our first week of school!  It already seems like ages ago that we met up again in our sweet school to meet new friends, visit with old friends, connect, play, get messy, dance and have fun!

 

The first weeks are always spent working on routines, establishing classroom culture, and easing back into the classroom basics.  Many of the areas of the room weren’t open the first few days of school.  We opened one area at a time and talked carefully about how to play, care for, and clean up each area in our classroom.  The first day of school was focused on our new and improved block area.

 

We built an amazing road:

 

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Most of the students stopped back by the invitation to add more gems to our classroom branches.  We now have a beautiful branch filled to the brim with beads!

 

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Sensory Play:

We explored with ice the first week of school!  The children were given glitter star ice cubes, salt, colored water squeeze bottles, and other tools for exploring the ice cubes.

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At first I thought the ice cubes were the most exciting part of this sensory tub, but pretty soon Ms. Lori and I realized that the squeeze bottles were actually the best part of this activity.  These kids loved to squeeze the water, refill the bottles, and repeat the process again and again.  I started the morning with many different colors in the bottles, but by the end of the day the water was a glittery blue.  They didn’t seem to mind what color was in the bottle as long as it was ready to squeeze!

 

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I love the ice, glitter, and squeeze bottles.  It added such a fun element to a simple water sensory tub.  The large bottles I purchased from amazon, they are restaurant bottles.  A fun addition to your play at home!

 

Play Dough:

The first few weeks of school we have been playing with coconut play dough.  This year I added mini popsicle sticks, mosaic pieces, mini shells, and gems.  I always love to see their creations in the dough!

 

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L’s creation!

 

 

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It is always important to be dressed as a fairy princess when you are working with your play dough!

 

Process Art:

The first week of school Ms. Lori brought this amazing crayon melting machine to our art room for the children to explore.  It heats up on a low temperature and melts the crayon pieces.  The children “painted” with melted crayon on sea shells and onto paper plates. 

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Look at that smile!  I swear M is giggling in the background!

 

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A few pictures of the children interacting with our wonderful Ms. Lori the first few days of school!

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One of the mornings we did a combination of process art and sensory play!  I filled a tub with shaving cream, added ice cubes of paint, bowls, scoops, and popsicle sticks and paint brushes.  The children loved mixing the melting paint into the shaving cream!

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New Routines:

We have started a number of new routines this school year.  This year we have “Classroom Jobs.”  The children are very excited about these jobs and have been taking them very seriously.  They helped me create the list of classroom jobs:

 

Plant Caretaker

Song Stopper (turns off the ipod for me!)

Light Manager (turns the lights on to the overhead and light table before choice time)

Line Leader

Play Dough Bagger (Bags up the play dough at the end of the morning)

Trash Collector (looks for trash under tables after snack)

Loft Manager (checks the loft after choice to see if any toys have been left up there!)

On Vacation

 

I will take a picture of our new Classroom Jobs sign that the children wrote!

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D and M enjoying our light area together!

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Just had to end of this hilarious picture of “practicing lining up.”  This was the closest I got to all of them looking at me!

 

We’re off to a great start!