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Why and How To Use Center In Your Classroom Part 5 – Season Center Ideas!

Centers for seasons learning and skill practice are perfect for young learners and can add so much depth and layers to what you’re teaching in your classroom. Skills like pencil grip, using scissors, print awareness, shape and color recognition can all be a part of centers focused on each season. The bonus for your students is that they’re soaking up what’s new and different as each season comes along.

One of the first years of teaching preschool and PreK, one of my students said, “I’m gonna miss winter so much!” The realization hit me then that maybe these young learners don’t know that winter will come again next year! So, every year since, as seasons come and go, that’s a part of the teaching of the seasons – they’ll be here again next year.

Fall Themed Centers for Your Classroom

Sorting leaf colors for our Fall Center Activity!

Let’s start with what’s out there for fall themed centers. Apples and leaves are just kind of a must and a given for young learners. For sure your students most likely know what an apple is or what a leaf is – but have they seen bowls full of apples of different colors all at one time? Have they picked up leaves of different colors inside their classroom? Those are both pretty fun!

Send a note home to parents to bring in 3-4 apples by a specific day – count the apples as they come in before that day, and keep a class tally up on your bulletin board or white board – there’s some math and science learning there. Use the apples for a sorting center, labeling bowls or baskets for red, green, yellow, and multi-colored apples.

Circle time is the perfect opportunity to teach patterning with apples. It’s fun to get down on the floor with your students and go over a simple pattern – red, yellow, red, yellow, red, yellow. Open up a patterning center after teaching patterning and see what pattern your students can come up with on their own or working together. Remember you may have to pick up a few apples to even out or have enough of each color apple.

Every fall for years, my husband and I collect leaves over a weekend to use in centers in my classroom. We’re very lucky to have many trees in our yard to collect about 4-5 different kinds and colors of leaves that have fallen off of their trees, and we take walks to pick up more. There’s an elementary school just up the street, and there’s pretty yellow ginkgo leaves on trees in the front. They are beautiful and perfect to use in fall themed centers.

Using these leaves and construction paper for each leaf color, and kids can sort the leaves by placing each on the same color of construction paper. Remember to put out construction paper colors like pink, purple, black, white and blue – the bonus here is realizing there are no pink, purple, black, white or blue leaves!

Winter Themed Centers for Your Classroom

Ice and foam animals in our sensory table for Winter Center Activity!

Winter centers are my favorite to gather up supplies and set up for my students. There’s two centers I set up every year – one is using a sensory table and the other is an open-at center. You know, from reading my other posts, how much I love, adore and use-all-the-time any open art center so let’s start with this one!

For winter, it’s a build-your-own snowman center! Luckily, I have easy access to a die cut machine to cut out circles for the snowmen. I also cut out black and white hats, boots, and scarves clip art so kids can color those any way they want with colored pencils. I cut out carrot noses and have wiggle eyes out, too. So the snowmen don’t get too large, there’s just half sheets of construction paper for kids to build their snowmen on. Place letters for the word SNOW out also – here’s great print awareness!

I rarely put out markers for young learners, as they don’t build muscle strength for writing. There’s plenty of kid-size colored pencils available. Add in some fancy blade scissors, glue sticks, a few mini-size glue bottles, buttons, sequence and even snowflake stickers, and this center is ready to go!

Inside the sensory table, I place ice cubes – lucky me again, there’s a full-size kitchen with a huge ice machine just down the hallway! Add in toy cars, people from any doll house, construction vehicle toys and even foam blocks for kids to use on the ice cubes. A few years ago, I found a set of foam winter animals with icebergs. If you have any plastic animals, they can join in the ice cold fun! If you don’t have a sensory table, use a large bowl or tub instead!

Spring Themed Center for Your Classroom

Spring centers are usually bright and cheerful! Plastic Easter eggs, flower foamies or paper spring baby animal clipart can be used for patterning, sorting by color, grouping – you get the idea!

Bringing in real flowers in a vase and setting out large, white construction paper with paint and brushes is great fun so kids can paint colorful spring flowers using the flowers in the vase for inspiration! This is a really popular center every year in my classroom. (I use this same center in the fall with sunflowers and link in Van Gough as school is just starting, too!)

Summer Themed Centers for Your Classroom

During summer camps, I bring in my collection of real shells from travels and some store bought shells for a beachy, summery center. This is a good center to talk about smooth/rough, shiny/dull, small, medium, large shells. Add in some books from the library with lots of photos of real shells, and you have a compelling center for your young learners!

Let Me Know!

I’d love to hear in the comment section what kind of seasonal centers you use in your classroom! I’m always looking for new, fun, great ideas!

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Please add your email on the homepage to be notified when Why and How To Use Centers In Your Classroom – Part 6 is posted. In the final post in this series, you’ll discover how and what to use in centers for toddlers!

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Click image to visit Honeycomb Printable Preschool on Teachers Pay Teachers to purchase this Pack!
centers

Why and How To Use Centers In Your Classroom – Part 4 Kids Holiday Craft Project Centers

There’s a different kid of energy and hum in my classroom when holidays come around. Kids just love the decorations at home and at school – they know something’s different, and they are all in! When holidays are upon us, I set up holiday project centers where my students can practice their skills while creating kids holiday decorations and special art pieces for their homes and our classroom.

My very favorite kids center is an open art center. Kids can dive into what’s out on the table to think and create anything they choose. The open art center is almost always set up in my classroom. For your holiday art center, just keep the theme for each holiday by using holiday colors – red and green for Christmas, black and orange for Halloween – with the paper, holiday theme die cuts, paint or glitter glue. You can even color the glue they’re using and have small paint brushes available to use with that glue. Bring out holiday punches, stickers, foamies, and fancy scissors. You will have kids creating art masterpieces they can take home to decorate their house for the holidays!

Sometimes in class there’s a student or two who just won’t go do art – they’d rather play in the kitchen or with the construction vehicles that are out. I usually don’t make the open art center a “Have To” activity, but during the holidays the holiday project center is a “Have To.” And I do find the kids who don’t automatically drift toward the open art center end up staying and creating holiday projects just as long as their friends in class. They just need a nudge to get there!

What To Add to Your Holiday Centers

What other supplies can you use for your kids holiday project center? Cookie cutters are the first thing that comes to my mind as a great supply to use in your preschool and PreK holiday centers. I have a stash of holiday cookie cutters in a large tin in my kitchen – Halloween, a Turkey or two, and a couple Pilgrims for Thanksgiving, loads of Christmas cookie cutters, a Nutcracker set for Christmas, too. There’s even a few bunnies and baskets and flower cookie cutters for my spring and Easter holiday centers.

So how do I use cookie cutters in my classroom? I set up a holiday project center with paint on paper plates or a plastic container using holiday colors – black and orange for Halloween, lots of bright cheerful colors for Easter and Spring, red and green for Christmas, and paint with glitter mixed in for the Nutcracker cookie cutter set. Kids use the cookie cutters to stamp to their heart’s content at this center! Remember smocks and maybe stick close by if this is a new center idea for your students – they’ll need their stamped art work put somewhere to dry, new pieces of paper and more paint.

Kids Holiday Project Centers. Preschool and PreK Holiday Crafts. Use cookie cutters for crafts. Why and How To Use Centers In Your Classroom. Honeycomb Printable Preschool.

Another Halloween Art Center I love is mixing paint. Set out large white pieces of paper, with paint brushes and yellow and red paint bottles ready to go. As students come in, I pour some yellow and red paint on a piece of paper and give them a brush to mix the paint to make orange – there’s some science in there, too! Once the paint is dry, I trace a pumpkin shape on the painted part of the paper for older preschoolers and PreKers to cut out. I cut out the pumpkin shape for early learners. Your students can then draw faces or glue on cut out jack-o-lantern face pieces.

Classroom Art for a Cooperative Center

Another fun idea is creating a cooperative classroom art project center. Mix orange jello with water at Halloween or add glitter to white paint like snow at Christmas, and kids can just finger-paint or use paint brushes on a huge piece of butcher paper to make their classroom art piece to hang on a bulletin board. Add plastic forks, Q-tips, straws to blow through or small pieces of paper kids can lay on the watered-down jello or sparkly paint to make prints. Fun times at preschool!

Preschool Holiday Decorations

You can send these preschool holiday art decorations home mounted on a sheet of construction paper, or cut out a paper frame and add the art to the back for more of a decoration kids can put out in their homes! Add the student’s name and write the date on the frame. Chances are if you go a step further with your students’ art work, parents will keep these treasures for their kids!

Kids Holiday Projects. Kids Holiday Crafts. Honeycomb Printable Preschool. Why and How To Use Centers In Your Classroom.

Remember you can have engaging, skill-related center work out for your students without paper worksheets. Look around your classroom, supply room, or in your own home for easy-to-put-together Holiday Centers!

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Center Resources from Honeycomb!

Holiday and Seasons Activities for Toddlers, Preschool, PreK and Kindergarten. Honeycomb Printable Preschool at Teachers Pay Teachers
Click the image to visit Honeycomb Printable Preschool on Teachers Pay Teachers
Classroom Forms for Assessment and Center Work. Honeycomb Printable Preschool on Teachers Pay Teachers
Click on the image to visit Honeycomb Printable Preschool on Teachers Pay Teachers

centers

Why and How To Use Centers In Your Classroom Part 3 – Use Unexpected Items in Unexpected Ways!

I have a confession to make – I love manipulatives! I have only a few, though, from using points from the Scholastic book sales from my classroom. I’ve been pretty picky choosing the sets I get – fall acorns and squirrels, frogs, and there’s even a set of puppies. But really, for the most part, I’ve never had the budget to buy the many I’d love to own.

Instead, I’ve found unexpected items to use for the centers I plan in my classroom. It’s pretty creative and fun to think of different things that my preschoolers and PreKers will find interesting and maybe even weird or funny. There’s been a giggle or two and lots of smiles from kids when they see what’s out for them at center work when they come into their classroom.

I’ve heard, “Why are there so many shoes and socks, Mrs. Weide?” Yep – you read that right. Shoes and socks! But more about that later.

The very best feedback, though, has been when parents tell me they’ve used unexpected items of their own at home at the request of the preschoolers and PreKers. All that learning and sharing going on at home – I love it!

Look Around Your School for the Unexpected!

What can you find at your school that your student would think was different or something maybe they haven’t seen before? Look from a different angle in your supply room – skooch down and look up or to the side. Do items look different from that angle? What would your students think about those things? Look in cabinets – what would kids find interesting? Is there at kitchen at your school? I’ve been lucky to have a full kitchen and a full size gym at the my school. How about different kids of spoons from the kitchen – wooden spoons, slotted spoons, large, small, plastic . . . you get the idea. How about things that don’t go together to put out for patterning or color sorting – trucks and tea cups from your kitchen center?

Use spoons from your kitchen at home or at school for classroom centers in preschool or PreK. Honeycomb Printable Preschool

Paper Die Cut Shapes

For a few years in our supply room there was a box with about 200 large envelopes inside, and they came in six bright, cheerful colors. I’d used some for Mother’s Day gifts, but it seemed nobody else ever used them. On a particularly dreary, rainy day in Oregon, those cheerful envelopes called out to me. I grabbed a few of each color, took them into my room with no idea how to use them.

Then it hit me – right there, on a back table, was a shape center all ready to go. That table was calling out for these cheerful envelopes! I placed a few colored envelopes on the table, left only paper die cut shapes with the same matching envelope colors on the table, and there was the shape and color center for the day! Not only did kids match up the colors, I modeled putting the paper die cut shapes inside the envelopes. Shapes, colors AND muscle strengthening for writing while placing the shapes inside the envelopes!

Here’s another hint for center setup with the die cut paper shapes: Hide the shapes around your classroom, and as kids are arriving ask each student to find a colored shape. For instance, “Cassie, can you find an orange rectangle?” Not only can you use this as an assessment for colors and shapes, kids can place the shapes on a table, and they’re helping to set up the center work for the day.

What’s At Home To Use In Centers?

Did you know there’s a treasure trove of center supplies right in your own home? Lids from energy drinks, juice lids, twist lids from salad dressing, ketchup, mayo, BBQ sauce, and even milk containers.

Use bottle caps for color recognition and color sorting in classroom centers for preschool and PreK. Honeycomb Printable Preschool

Not only can you use the lids for counter manipulatives, color matching, sorting sizes of lids, patterning, you can add a small piece of blue tape to each lid and draw shapes, letters, or numbers on them. Use these for different letter and number recognition centers, matching, sorting, and patterning center work in your classroom. Remember to use blue tape so you can peel it off, and you’ll be able use the lids for another center.

There’s letters and numbers to cut out from any box of cereal or mac & cheese. There’s letters on labels from any can of soup, green beans or corn. Use these letters and numbers for recognition, matching uppercase and lowercase letters, practice with spelling names, placing numbers 1-10 and backwards from 10-1.

Use tumblers or wood blocks to teach kids advanced shapes. Classroom center activities. Honeycomb Printable Preschool

How about using plastic tumblers (cylinders) from home and wood blocks (cubes) from your classroom block center for a 3-D shape center. So easy, and early learners can totally pick up on these advanced shapes. Another idea – use an empty egg carton, and kids count twist tops from applesauce pouches as they put them in each space.

Shoes and Socks!

Remember the shoes and socks I mentioned earlier? Well, here’s the story: We were learning about the nursery rhyme There Was An Old Woman Who Lived In A Shoe, so I brought in 16 pairs of shoes and socks from my home! We used these in centers for patterning, counting, sorting colors, sorting sizes, and measuring “how many shoes are you long?” learning. Those centers were So. Much. Fun!

Fun Centers In Your Classroom

Even though cute, bright, cheerful manipulatives are out there to purchase, there’s no need to spend your classroom funds for these. I’m betting your students, and you as their teacher, will actually have more fun together using just “stuff” from around your school or home. Your students won’t learn any better or more quickly, or be less engaged, using unexpected items in unexpected ways in your classroom centers!

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Please add your email on the homepage to be notified when Why and How To Use Centers In Your Classroom – Part 4 is posted. In the fourth post in this six-part series, you’ll find out how to use holiday theme center work to keep your students engaged in learning.

Holiday and Seasons Center Activities for Early Learning, Preschool, PreK and Kindergarten. Honeycomb Printable Preschool on Teachers Pay Teachers
Click the image to visit Honeycomb Printable Preschool on Teachers pay Teachers
Classroom Forms for Preschool and PreK Centers and Assessments. Honeycomb Printable Preschool on Teachers Pay Teachers
Click the image to visit Honeycomb Printable Preschool on Teachers pay Teachers
centers

Why and How To Use Centers In Your Classroom – Part 2 Centers As Assessment Tools

My affection for using centers in my classroom grew even more when I realized the centers I had planned and set up could also be used as assessment tools! Not only was I getting more mileage out of the centers, but my students were familiar with these centers so it wasn’t something new and different which made the assessment process more comfortable for everyone.

Planning and setting up centers for skills like letter and number recognition, color recognition and matching, and shape recognition are skills every preschooler or PreKer needs anyway, and teachers need to assess these skills for each student periodically. So, it makes sense to use the already-set-up-centers to your advantage for assessments, too.

Preschool and PreK Assessment Recording Sheets Honeycomb Printable Preschool
Assessment Recording Sheets from Honeycomb Printable Preschool

Setting Up Centers to Use for Assessments

How I rearrange the center a bit for an assessment is to prepare the center, bring my assessment recording page, and find something to write with. Not much different than just getting up the center to begin with. In my classroom, there’s just me with 10 students. So, getting the other 9 students engaged with activities is a must before I start the assessments we’re doing that day.

Easy Center Assessment Recording Sheets

Rather than having just one recording assessment sheet for each skill for everyone in the classroom, I’ve found it easier to have one recording sheet with multiple assessments for each individual student. This is great for an overview of where each student is in their learning altogether in one set of assessment sheets.

Another tip is to use one portion of the recording sheet for multiple assessments. For instance, set up a center for color recognition and color matching to assess those two skills at the same time. On the recording sheet, use a check mark for each color recognized by your student. Then also ask them to place a color item on the same color paper, and you’ll use an “M” for matching on the color portion of your assessment recording sheet.

Preschool and PreK Assessment Recording Sheets Honeycomb Printable Preschool
Assessment Recording Sheets from Honeycomb Printable Preschool

As an example, when I set up this center to begin with, I placed out colored items like Legos, cars, paint brushes with colored handles, etc. I also placed out half sheets of construction paper with the same colors. So, part of the learning of this center is color recognition, and the added skill is matching – that a red Lego would go on a half sheet of red construction paper.

Take the Assessment Recording Sheet a Step Further

If you want to take the assessment further using the same recording sheet, assess for patterning using colors. On the recording sheet, use a “P” for a correct pattern your students make. Or write the pattern, such as “ABC ABC” for a correct pattern created by your students. Remember to start early learners off with the pattern – do one set of the pattern and see if they can repeat it one or two times more.

Save Money – Save Time – Save Energy

By using the center already set up in your classroom, assessments will go smoothly and will be done in a shorter amount of time. Plus, since these centers have been up for a while, or off and on a few times, before the assessments, your students will be familiar with the tasks of the assessments. So, nothing new or out of the ordinary to bring on stress or a sense of being uncomfortable. Another plus – you’re saving yourself time and energy and possibly even some funds to use elsewhere in your classroom!

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Please add your email on the homepage to be notified when Why and How To Use Centers In Your Classroom – Part 3 is posted! In the third post in this six-part series, you’ll get great ideas for centers and how and where to look for unexpected center supplies!

Center Resources from Honeycomb!

Holiday and Seasons Center Activities for Early Learning, Preschool, PreK and Kindergarten. Honeycomb Printable Preschool on Teachers Pay Teachers
Click the image to visit Honeycomb Printable Preschool on Teachers Pay Teachers
Classroom Forms for Centers and Assessments. Honeycomb Printable Preschool on Teachers Pay Teachers
Click the image to visit Honeycomb Printable Preschool on Teachers Pay Teachers
centers

Why and How To Use Centers In Your Classroom – Part 1 Why I Love Centers!

Watching 3-year-old Emerson move from one center to another, to playing with cars, to the kitchen area, and back to another center one morning early in the school year made me very happy. I was about to dance a jig or break into song or something!

color matching and color recognition activities for preschool centers Honeycomb Printable Preschool
Color Matching and Recognition Activities for Preschool Centers!

Why Use Centers for the Hesitant or Shy Student

Walking into the classroom at open house, Emerson was animated, talkative, and full of energy. I had no expectation he would come to school the first few weeks hesitant and basically scared. He balked at everything once school started. And I do mean everything – painting, singing at music, playing in our full-size gym, sitting to hear a story and even eating snack. In 20 years of teaching, I’d never had a student not want to participate as much as Emerson.

So, just a couple weeks into the new school year, as usual, I started placing center work around the classroom. The centers I had set up are independent centers, even though this class was filled with 3 going on 4-year-olds. Centers are great for these early learners as much as any older age group. I was so thankful centers were out as it was this center work that finally helped Emerson forget he was scared and learn to embrace all the great fun-ness of preschool!

Not only was Emerson participating in the centers and catching all the learning there, he was – more importantly – interacting with his fellow classmates! There was laughing, talking about what they were seeing and doing, and even cooperation among these friends – with Emerson right there in the mix. I seriously attribute his about-face to those centers placed out around the classroom.

Why Use Centers for the Let’s Do This! Student

Color matching and recognition activities for preschool centers. Honeycomb Printable Preschool
Color Matching and Recognition Activities for Preschool Centers!

Switching gears for a minute and thinking about the kids who readily and excitedly come into the classroom – these kids absolutely need, and will power through, any independent centers you have out and available.

I’m thinking of Sabrina, who happened to be in Emerson’s class. She’d come in chomping at the bit to get going at school. Centers were perfect for her! She had an energetic and fun personality and, since she was an older 3-year-old, her fellow students would gravitate toward her while she was flowing from one center to another. They would all have fun working and learning together!

Sabrina would often pretend to be the teacher, with her friends as her students. She’d combine supplies from centers – color matching tiles, foam letters, write and wipe sheets – and she’d run her own version of circle time. So, the center supplies I’d put out had a second use for my students to come up with another way to use them. I remember, at the time, wondering if Sabrina would become teacher and use centers in her classroom herself!?!

Plan Center Work Before School Starts

classroom center work planner sheets for teachers. Honeycomb Printable Preschool
Classroom Center Work Planner Sheets for Teachers from Honeycomb Printable Preschool!

There’s no need to wait to see where your students are skill wise before you plan out and use certain centers in your classroom. Using centers that build skills around colors, shapes, letters, numbers, pencil grip, matching and patterning are universally skills kids ages 2-6 need to learn. Over summer and holiday breaks from school, plan centers around these skills. Write your ideas in your teacher planner, collect your supplies, set them up, and you’re ready to go.

Remember to get your centers going early in the school year. It’s a great tool to get kids – whether they’re shy or ready to go – comfortably moving around the classroom and meet and get to know their fellow classmates. They’ll soon come bounding into the classroom ready for fun and learning without even knowing they’re learning!

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Please add your email on the homepage to be notified when Why and How To Use Centers In Your Classroom Part 2 is posted. In the second post in this six-part series, you’ll get great ideas on how you will be able to use centers as assessment tools!

Center Resources from Honeycomb!

Holiday and Seasons Center Activities for Early Learning, Preschool, PreK and Kindergarten. Honeycomb Printable Preschool on Teachers Pay Teachers
Click on the image to visit Honeycomb Printable Preschool on Teachers Pay Teachers
Classroom Forms for Centers and Assessments. Honeycomb Printable Preschool on Teachers Pay Teachers
Click on the image to visit Honeycomb Printable Preschool on Teachers Pay Teachers

felt board sets/flannel board sets · Uncategorized

Fun with Kids Felt Board Sets!

When I was a little girl, my kindergarten teacher had felt board sets out all the time. Mrs. McGregor was a really good teacher (she was also my second grade teacher – lucky me!) and she always explained how to use the felt pieces. She’d show us all as a class how to sort and match colors and shapes, sort like objects together (which is really science!) how to pattern, and just to count all the felt pieces. I made sure to play with those every day! I adored felt board pieces and all the things you could do with them! 

When I first started teaching students in my classroom and music to 40 3-4-year-olds twice a day, one of the first things I wanted for my classroom and music was felt board sets. I knew the kids coming into my class would love them. And I would secretly love them just remembering being in Kindergarten myself! 

Kids Felt Board Sets - Learn and Teach Preschool Colors. Preschool Color Activities. Color Sorting and Matching.

As I started looking around for felt sets, however, they were super expensive and weren’t very creative. I could find sets for themes or holidays, which could only be put out during certain times of the year – not very cost effective. And I still couldn’t find felt board sets for kids to learn in a creative, independent or teamwork way or to use with songs at music time.  

As it happened, around the same time, I literally stumbled across how to make felt board pieces! So, first for music, I started making flannel board pieces and sets to go along with the songs I was teaching, and then as learning tools in my classroom. 

Now, through Honeycomb Preschool’s Etsy shop, we’ve put up the same kind of kids felt board sets I’ve used in my classroom and at music time! There’s lots of learning here for classrooms and at home for your toddlers and preschool-aged kids! Remember, too, these are great to take in the car, appointments, during quiet time, or to Grandma and Grandpa’s house! 

Preschool Colors Felt Set – 

Kids Felt Board Set to Learn Colors. Learn 10 Preschool Colors. Color sorting activities. Use at Music and circle time with Honeycomb Preschool Color Songs Pack on Etsy.

Made with photos of objects for kids to see real-world connections to colors, this set is perfect to use at music time or circle time! This flannel board set is a companion set to the Color Songs Pack in our Etsy Shop. These are great to use to sort colors (math) and to scientifically categorize items – things we eat/don’t eat, animals/not animals, nature made/manmade . . .

Spring Flowers Felt Set – 

Spring Flower Felt Board for Kids. Preschool shape activities. Preschool number activities. PreK number sense activities. Color flowers.

The bright colorful flowers will draw kids into this felt set where they will match numbers or shapes on pots and flowers, or sort colors, or sort flower shapes! There’s also plenty of gardening containers and pots to create their own garden, remembering to count all those flowers as they set up their garden scene! 

After explaining how to use the felt pieces – maybe at circle time – watch your students learn and grow using these felt board sets created for kids – and maybe the kid in you, too! 

Look for these in our Honeycomb Preschool Etsy Shop:

Preschool Color Songs Pack Honeycomb Preschool on Etsy. Teach preschool colors with songs and activities.
Color Songs Pack
Preschool Colors Felt Board Set. Teach and Learn Colors. Color sorting and matching activities. Color Songs.
Colors Felt Board Set
Spring Flower Felt Board Set. Preschool Shapes activities. Preschool number activities. Preschool colors activities.
Spring Flowers Felt Board Set

Uncategorized

Learning From Nursery Rhymes

Kids love nursery rhymes because they’re full of silly words and rhymes, they have animals acting like people, funny names for the characters, and they’re catchy to say. But did you know nursery rhymes are filled with teaching and learning opportunities?

Language Development

When we talk to young children, we use voice inflection, pitch, volume, and the rhythm of language to communicate emotions and ideas. Kids begin to understand the concept that letters – consonants and vowels – have sounds, and that by putting those sounds together we make words. Using the rhythm of language and speech patterns in nursery rhymes, kids are practicing enunciation and pronunciation.

Calling My Language Bank

Nursery Rhymes are filled with vocabulary not often heard in every day communication. Having a large vocabulary helps with reading comprehension because kids are developing a language bank to call upon when they’re learning to read. Words will make sense when they’re reading, and kids can picture a mental image of what they’re reading.

Rhymers Are Readers

Rhyming teaches kids how language works, and in turn how reading works. Kids who can rhyme better understand the connection between print and sound, which is crucial to proficient reading. Many nursery rhymes have fingerplays and movements with the same directional movement as the order of written word – left to right and top to bottom. Knowing these directional movements will naturally help when learning to read – no second guessing where to start. 

Get Moving

By acting out the nursery rhymes in dramatic play, kids are using their whole bodies to move in big ways or different ways they would normally move in. Kids also use their imagination and are being creative when acting out nursery rhymes. By reciting tricky speech patterns, young children use their mouth and tongue muscles in coordination, which again goes back to practicing enunciation and pronunciation. 

Nursery Rhymes to Math Concepts

Nursery Rhymes are filled with math-related words – many, few, plenty, large, medium, small and more. These math vocabulary words provide a rich foundation of knowledge and help preschoolers grasp abstract math concepts even at such an early age. Preschoolers love to count – it makes them feel like they’re big kids! Many nursery rhymes have counting in them. What better way to teach counting than a fun song or poem! 

Cognitive Development

Nursery Rhymes often follow a short story with a beginning, middle and end – a story sequence. Kids will naturally learn this concept of a story sequence which will help them to follow along when someone is reading to them and when they’re learning to read themselves. Learning nursery rhymes requires memorization and recall, and provides lots of opportunities for developing strong mental imagery. 

Tongue Twisters and Noisy Sounds

Kids learn alliteration – for preschoolers this means tongue twisters like Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers. Kids learn onomatopoeia – words for sounds – like honk, splash, zap, thump. Kids love words like this! 

Social/Emotional Development

The characters in nursery rhymes present many different emotions and find themselves in many different situations. Preschoolers will begin to identify their own real emotions from knowing nursery rhymes, which in turn encourages empathy, sympathy, and an understanding of the emotions of the people around them. There are some pretty silly nursery rhymes out there, and kids will explore humor and discover their own, unique sense of humor! 

open-ended art

Children’s Open-Ended Art

There have been many days teaching preschoolers where I’ve put aside the planned lessons for the morning or afternoon because my students were so engaged with the open-ended art table there was no way to stop them from creating! I love those kind of days! You might be considering all the learning that’s being abandoned because of crafts – some of my fellow teachers may agree with you, to my dismay!

Choices, Imagination and Creativity

But there’s this important fact: The amount and scope of the learning young children are soaking in with open-ended art is vital to their development!

Choices, Imagination and Creativity

Open-Ended Art is focused on individual expression rather than a perfect final product. So, preschoolers may create their unique image of a green bunny, a pink flying hippopotamus, or a spaceship with wheels driving down the street!

Children’s Open-Ended Art requires creative thinking, exploration and experimentation. These are linked to leadership skills and successfully meeting challenges throughout life.

In Open Art there is:

  • No step-by-step instructions 
  • No sample for kids to look to on how to create their art
  • No right or wrong
  • No time limit – creating one piece of art can spill over into several sessions
  • No leading from adults with suggestions on how or what to create
  • Totally self-directed by the artist using free expression
  • Exploration of “what’s there to create with” whether it’s materials, tools, or textures
  • Experimentation of how to use and manipulate materials, tools and textures
  • Unique and original created art entirely from a child’s own choices, imagination and creativity

Critical Thinking Skills

Kids will often start open-ended art with an idea in mind – a mental picture of what they want to create. They’ll create using their favorite color, or create with a favorite pair of scissors. In one of my classes several years ago, there was a three-year-old who was fascinated with car washes. He would create his idea of a car wash at the open-ended art table over and over again using different colors, materials and tools. Each car wash was different depending on his mental image that day. Another student loved butterflies, and he would fold small pieces of paper into wings for his butterflies! 

The critical thinking skill development in open-ended art would go something like this: There’s a mental picture of what kids want to create, and the question and problem for them to solve is how to follow through with a plan to create that mental image with what’s available to use.

This plan involves a step-by-step process – not instructions – but a process. What should happen first and in what order to create the intent of the mental picture takes mental planning. In turn, this involves problem solving, independent choosing, and initiative.

Through open-ended art, a child learns to take risks by showing originality in creative thinking. Children learn trial and error and cause an effect through open art creation.

Cognitive Development

For preschoolers, thought processes of remembering, problem solving, decision making, cause and effect are all part of their cognitive development. Another way to look at cognitive development in preschoolers is to remember your preschooler is learning to understand and reason things out about the world around them, what happens in the world around them, and why do things happen in the way they do in the world around them.

How does open-ended art factor into cognitive development? Here are a few examples. 

  • When kids use a crayon and push down hard to color, the lines are darker. Lightly color with the crayon, and the line is lighter. That’s the cognitive development of cause and effect. 
  • Decision making skills relate to cognitive development through open-ended art by kids choosing which tools and materials to use. Deciding to mix paint colors, using scissors with fancy blades versus using scissors with straight blades, using paint rather than crayons.
  • The cognitive development of trial and error is how to create the mental image of their art using different tools and materials in a new way, using more color, or using one color, creating a bigger or smaller version of their mental imagined art. 

Added Benefits of Open-Ended Art-

There are math skills involved with open-ended art – sizes, shapes, comparing, and spatial reasoning to name a few. By asking children how they created their art or how they used a tool to create their art is building their language and communication skills and their vocabulary bank. Practicing those fine motor skills and learning through the five senses are both a part of open-ended art learning, as well. 

Life Skills

Cooperatively cleaning up the open-ended art supplies, and leaving the supplies out and not being bothered by the mess, are both life skill learning here! It’s more fun, and cleaning up goes quicker together as a team effort. Learning to leave a messy area out for a time, and not having to see a perfectly clean area all the time, is a mental life skill. 

Try Children’s Open-Ended Art

Whether you’re a teacher with a classroom full of children or a parent wanting to keep your children busy at home, you’ll be building young childrens’ critical skills and cognitive development by giving them opportunities to create through open-ended art! 

math

What is Subitizing for Preschoolers?

What is Subitizing?

For preschoolers, subitizing is the ability to see a small number of objects and, without counting, instantly know how many objects there are. Okay, you’re questioning whether a preschooler can grasp this concept – I get it. But for years most of the 3-5 year-olds I’ve taught have been able to catch on to the concept of subitizing after consistent practice. 

Why Teach Preschoolers Subitizing?

Subitizing is a number sense and number arrangement skill which will greatly assist kids later in school when they’re learning addition, subtraction, and multiplication. Knowing how to subtilize makes the process of addition and subtraction quicker by not having to count. The ability to recognize the number of objects that appear in sets without having to count speeds up the understanding and process of multiplication.

How To Teach Subitizing –

Playing games with dice is a great way to practice subitizing – kids won’t even know they’re learning a sophisticated math skill! Group crackers or grapes into sets – count sets for a time and then start asking “how many,” without counting. 

Subitizing Snack!  

One of my favorite ways to teach subitizing is to use whatever you’re having for snack. Let’s say it’s apple slices and crackers – sort into two groups and ask, “How many?” for both groups of snack. And, as a bonus, you’re practicing sorting skills with your preschooler all while just sharing a snack together! 

playdough

Playdough is a Learning Superhero!

Playdough is a must-have, powerful learning tool! Not only is it fun, it’s a serious learning opportunity for your kids. Here’s some more good news: if you sit down and squish and pound and make a worm or two with a batch of playdough alongside your preschooler or toddler, the learning – and fun – goes a lot further.

Playdough Imagination

Creativity and imagination are on full display when playdough is involved. Kids seem to gravitate toward making “food” with playdough, so you’ll see lots of cookies with tiny rolled bits of playdough for chocolate chips and cakes with long strips for birthday candles made from playdough. Kids become bakers, chefs, or even a demonstration teacher explaining how to make the perfect pizza. Long, rolled-out playdough will, for sure, become worms and balls of playdough a snowman. Playdough is perfect for being creative when it becomes something else. Playdough is perfect for imagination when kids become someone else.

Talk, Talk and Talk Some More!

Use language-rich description words with action as you’re creating next to your preschooler or toddler. Smoosh, flatten, chop, slice, sticky, smooth – you’re using words to describe senses here, and young children learn through hands-on experiences using their senses. How about creating the same thing twice – one big cookie and one small cookie.  Here kids are learning opposites vocabulary with a visual. The more words toddlers and preschoolers have tucked away in a vocabulary bank, they better readers they will become.

Social-Emotional Learning and Playdough

When you sit down with your kids and create with playdough, there’s communication involved. When you give praise for what they’ve accomplished, kids feel like they’re capable of creating things that are worthwhile and amazing. Ask your toddler or preschooler, “Tell me how you made that!” They’ll use words and actions to describe to you how they made their creation. By explaining what they did, they’re using words in speech which reinforces what those words mean. And kids will be using logical thought to communicate a step-by-step process. Not sure what your toddler or preschooler has created? Don’t guess! Instead ask, “Tell me about your creation. What did you make?” Again, they’ll explain to you what they made – and you won’t make a wrong guess!

Playdough and Writing – A Must for Muscles

Playdough strengthens muscles in the fingers all the way up through the shoulders, which is just what kids need to hold a pencil correctly and write letters with strong, bold lines. This goes a long way, too, for scissor skills – its takes muscle power to cut out projects with multiple pieces or large shapes. When kids use cookie cutters, a plastic knife (if they’re ready for that), or a rolling pin, they’re practicing hand-eye coordination for writing later.

Math Tools and Playdough

Bring in some kitchen measuring cups and measuring spoons to use with playdough. Introduce the concept of whole, half, teaspoon and Tablespoon. You’re teaching sizes of kitchen tools – a life skill concept.
Use shape cookie cutters and a plastic knife to cut the shapes in half. Lots of vocabulary here! If you cut a square in half, what shape does it make? Now you’re teaching geometry!

Science Skills and Playdough

Your preschooler or toddler will be watching what you make – or what other kids make – and begin to think about the science concepts of observing and analyzing what they’re seeing. Maybe they can picture a different way to make something, or what they think would be an easier way to create what they see. They’re practicing trial and error and cause and effect science concepts here.