Monday, February 28, 2011

Blocks Aren't Only for Building

I volunteered last Wednesday and it went well. I was supposed to help out in the infant room, but since there were only two babies there, they sent me over to the toddler room. Those kids ranged from sixteen months old to two and a half. They didn’t have any structured play time, but they did a creative activity with shaving cream that the kids loved. They squirted a few blobs of shaving cream on the table and added different colors of paint. The kids loved mixing the colors and making a mess.

We looked at a lot of books. One they enjoyed showed the different parts of a truck. I wish I remembered the title, but it had mostly pictures. It was filled with different textures for the kids to explore. On one page there was a mirror, bumpy textures for the windows, round sand paper shapes for the wheels etc. As we went through the book, I labeled the parts of the truck and the textures. The kids would usually repeat me and took time to feel each texture. They especially enjoyed looking at themselves in the mirror. They didn’t notice it at first until I pointed it out, but after that, they’d stop longer on that page.

One of their favorite things to play with were the foam blocks. One boy figured out
He could sit on one and jump up and down. I grabbed his hands and he liked jumping
while holding my hands. A few other toddlers grabbed a block from the pile, came
over and said, “My turn.” A little girl found another use for the blocks. She liked to sit on them and rock back and forth. She said she was rocking the boat. She grabbed my hands and she realized she could rock faster and go farther back. When she’d almost hit the floor, she’d pull herself up. Sometimes she couldn’t pull herself up fast enough so I’d help her out. The boys joined in, but they quickly got back to jumping.

Then they found smaller plastic blocks that you can put
together. A little girl started building a tower and a boy came over and knocked
it down. They both laughed and other toddlers came over to see what they were doing.
The boy and girl built the tower again and started to fight over who should knock
it down. Eventually, one of them knocked it over and they all started laughing again.
Now the problem was who was going to rebuild it. I gave the two toddlers the same
number of blocks and told them to put one block on at a time. They liked doing that
and now they could both build the tower and knock it down. They did this several
times while their friends watched. It was nice to see them actually sharing the blocks
because usually toddlers don’t cooperate like that. Most of the time, they want the
toys all to themselves which I saw a lot throughout the day. It’s normal though.
They are starting to learn to share and take turns. Later on, one of the little girls found a smaller set of plastic blocks. She sat on the floor independently and worked on her building. It was only three or four blocks high, but she brought it over and said, “I made a tower!” I told her it was a great tower and she brought it back to add to it. They seemed to have trouble fitting these blocks together. They have shapes on the top and you have to turn them just right to make them fall into place. It was challenging enough for them, but not too challenging to the point where they’d give up.

They also had fun pushing big trucks around and riding bikes. They kept crashing
their bikes into me. I had to remind them to be gentle with the bikes because that
could hurt. I showed them how to slow down and bump into me gently, but then they
decided to play bumper bikes with each other. I had to stop that because I thought
they’d fall over or hurt each other when they crashed. Finally, they decided that the bikes would be perfect to knock the tower over. The toddlers who were building the towers didn’t like this. They wanted to knock their tower down by themselves. I tried to stop the bike each time before it destroyed the tower. Sometimes it was successful and other times not. I told the boys that their friends didn’t want them to knock their building over, but they thought it was so fun. Eventually it was okay because the other toddlers started laughing at the boy on the bike hitting the tower. These toddlers have discovered that blocks aren’t only for building.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Weekly Favorites for February 27, 2011

Here are my weekly favorites.

Seashell Matching Game
A seashell memory game good for a beach/ocean theme.

Kitchen Science Freezing and Melting
A great science experiment using food.

Pretend Cotton Candy Craft
A cute cotton candy craft.

Discovery Bottles
Discovery bottles made by children themselves.

Dr. Seuss Birthday Celebration: Cat-in-the-Hat Snack
A cute Cat-in-the-Hat snack.

Incredible, Indulgent Sensory Activities
A few sensory activities that make the whole room smell good!

Salt Dough Shamrocks
A neat St. Patrick's Day gift idea.

Fabulous Floam!
A recipe for floam.

Fun Food Friday Swimming Fishies
A cute homemade lunch.

Balloon Yoyos
How to make balloon yoyos.

Our February Poem
A poem for February with props to help the children remember the poem and act it out.

Babies in the Sensory Table
An important activity for babies even though it can be messy.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

A New Look

Play2Grow now has a new look. I also have a new blog button if anyone wants to link up to me. What are your thoughts on the new template?

Friday, February 25, 2011

Marshmallow Sorting

Here’s an activity I had thought of for Valentines Day, but instead of using only hearts, I decided to make it a shape sorting activity instead. I used an egg carton and silicone ice cube tray with hearts. I had the regular round marshmallows and the strawberry heart shaped marshmallows. This is a really simple activity for preschoolers, but toddlers could do this as well. You could add more challenge for preschoolers by having them count the marshmallows or by adding other foods of different shapes to sort. I had counted out the exact amount, but for a little snack, you could add some extra for them to eat. This activity is good for fine motor skills, classifying and learning about shapes.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

TEN: (The Education Network)

Kate from An Amazing Child asked me if I could share her new networking website that she has created with my followers. It’s called, TEN: (The Education Network.) It’s a networking site where parents, students, childcare providers and teachers can all come together and share ideas. Its set to launch on March 1st, but it’s already up and running if you want to register and look around. It’s easy to set up your profile and add your information. It’s free so why not check it out? You can also follow the site’s progress on Twitter.The following is a description of the site from Kate, the owner.

On March 1 we will be launching our free open-share network dedicated to progressive
early childhood education. It is called TEN: (The Education Network.)
TEN will allow you to form groups (whether it be online groups or actual playgroups),
share ideas and resources, meet other people in your local area, and organize events,
participate in discussion forums, upload activities and photos and more.
TEN differs from facebook in that it is a network dedicated to early childhood education.
All members have a common interest and bring with them a wealth of knowledge and
ideas. TEN offers your followers the opportunity to meet and share ideas with other
people in one place and will allow you to further
grow your community. You can link-up with other like-minded people and groups from
around the world and share ideas and activities.
TEN is an education network. It is designed to bring parents, teachers, daycare providers
and students together in order to create a sharing community for the benefit of our
children. It is a free service. Please stop by and have a look.

Activities for Dental health Month

Since February is dental health month, here are some activities we did last year.
Give the kids an Oreo and let them use mirrors to see how their teeth look after eating it.
Then give them an apple slice and have them look at their teeth again.
The children’s teeth should be cleaner after eating the apple. Explain that some foods stick to our teeth more especially sweets and that it helps to brush our teeth after eating these foods. This was a lesson that stuck with the children. They mentioned it several times during snack time over the following week.

Place a hard boiled egg into a jar of Coke or Pepsi for 20-30 minutes. You could also do this as an overnight experiment, but we chose to only soak the egg for a half an hour. The kids noticed that the egg was stained brown. Explain that the shell is like teeth and that staining and cavities can happen to our own teeth if we don’t brush them. This lesson had stuck with a few of the children as well. We explained that soda was really bad for teeth. One of the teachers brought soda and the kids were quick to point out that soda was bad for your teeth.
There are other variations on this experiment I hadn’t seen. You can use a toothbrush and toothpaste to try to get the egg back to its normal color. It removes some of the stain.
Other variations are to soak eggs in different liquids and compare them. Some liquids to try are water, Coke, orange juice and vinegar. (see link below)

We took this tooth picture, made copies and let the kids cut them out and paint them with toothpaste. Some kids chose to cut their’s out and others didn’t. The kids painted with toothbrushes. They enjoyed the smell of the toothpaste. We had three tubes at the table and the kids could squeeze out their own toothpaste. Some kids had big globs of toothpaste on parts of their tooth and others had lines of it covering their whole tooth.

We also took copies of this same tooth picture and laminated it. The kids drew on them with dry erase markers and then cleaned them off with toothbrushes and water to simulate brushing teeth.

Dramatic Play
We had some toothbrushes, toothpaste boxes, a plastic tooth set and some other dental props in the dramatic play area. The kids enjoyed taking apart the teeth set, brushing it and putting it back together.

Some other ideas for books and activities can be found here.

Monday, February 21, 2011


This year has brought a lot of changes for me. In January, I decided to quit my job. I don’t want to be too specific here. I’ll just say that I wasn’t fired and it had nothing to do with the kids. I felt that I wasn’t going anywhere as a substitute at this particular place and rather than drive myself nuts, I needed to move on. I’m happier now, but I miss the kids.

Because of my experiences at this last job, I spent a lot of time asking myself whether early childhood education was the right field and then if not, what was? I looked around and most degree programs in other fields didn’t interest me. In 2009, I applied to a counseling program, but since they only accept 40% of their applicants, I didn’t get in. I thought of trying again, but I missed this years deadline for fall and would have to wait another year to reapply. I had found an online certificate in play therapy, but you have to be licensed to actually practice play therapy so I thought of waiting and reapplying to do the counseling program. Then after I got a license, I could specialize in play therapy. Around the same time I had found the certificate, I found another online
masters program through Walden University. It’s an online university and I didn’t know much about it and still don’t other than what they have written on their website. So far, I’ve taken the demo course that shows you how their system works. I’ve taken online classes before so it wasn’t difficult.
The program that I applied to was early childhood studies. It’s broader than early childhood education. It included more administration, advocacy, and research type specializations. I chose the teaching and diversity specialization.
I talked to an advisor and she told me that people have gotten jobs in social service
agencies, program management and of course regular jobs in early childhood settings after getting this degree. After a few E-mails with her, I applied and it took me
a few days to get everything together, but last week, I was accepted into the program. So I’ll be working on this program for the next two years. It’s completely online and I’ll be taking one course at a time.

On Wednesday, I will start volunteering at another preschool. I don’t know what room I’ll be in yet. I’ve asked to work with the infants and toddlers which they seemed fine with but we’ll see. I know some places would rather not have volunteers work with the babies, but the director seemed happy with it. I figured this would be a way to get more experience while I’m not working plus I don’t have any hands on experience with infants or really young toddlers. It’ll be a new place with new people and maybe some new opportunities. I’m only expecting to have fun with the kids and to build my reference list. I met with the director last week and she seemed nice. She was impressed with my resume and portfolio and asked if I’d also like to be on the substitute list. I said that was fine with me. Today, she called again and told me there was an opening and had already set up a time for me to meet with the director of the other center. For now, this place has two centers and will possibly have three by the end of the year. The job would be in the infant room. I told her that I didn’t have experience with infants which she already knew, but she said the other director didn’t mind and that she liked my resume too. I’m not getting my hopes up since there would be plenty of other applicants who are more experienced and then I’d be disappointed if I didn’t get it. I’ll look on the positive side. I would still be able to volunteer, substitute and I’d have school to keep me busy.

Other than that, there will be a change for the blog in the next couple of weeks. I have ordered a custom template from Simpley Fabulous Blogger Templates. The blog will have a new look and layout. There will be more content and activities related to infants and my volunteering. I will also continue to post preschool activities that I’ve done in the past or planned. I have a bunch written down already that I’ve been meaning to post. My camera is fixed enough to take pictures and there is a new one on the way so I will be able to post pictures again. I hope you will still enjoy reading the blog. I’d like to thank all my followers. I have more followers than I thought I’d ever have. I appreciate all your comments and thank you for reading the blog.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Weekly Favorites for February 20, 2011

here are my favorites for the week. Enjoy...

Jello Stickers for Valentines Day
How to make Jello stickers. You can make these for other occasions as well.

Felt Play Food Cupcakes Craft
Another cute cupcake craft.

Sand Dough
A no cook recipe for play-dough with sand added.

Bubble Counting Fish
A counting game with fish and pretend bubbles.

Chocolate Play-dough
An activity with chocolate scented play-dough and an empty box of chocolates.

Bath Tub Puffy Paints
A recipe for bath tub puffy paint.

Homemade Play-dough Recipe & Notes
A recipe for play-dough, tips and a list of themes.

Things Frozen in Ice Experimentation
A great idea for a sensory table activity.

Baby Play Mirrors
A fun activity for babies.

10 Reasons to Love Play Based Learning
I like this post. It makes complete sense.

Ice Cream Play-dough
Another great play-dough post.

Gianormous Squishy Crystals
A neat science activity.

The Science of Fire
Another neat science activity. This one requires adult supervision!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Valentines Sensory Tub

Here is a Valentines sensory tub for February. I put a bunch of random things in there. Most were heart shaped, but others were flowers, pink or loosely related to Valentines Day.
There are little jewelry boxes, a cute little bag, pipe cleaner hearts, jewels, flower candles, rubber duckies with hearts on them, a flower bouncy ball, a red glass heart, a cookie cutter heart, heart shaped key chains, flower key chains and a pink cupcake. I also included some envelopes and pencils. Inside the envelopes are heart and rose stickers, small pieces of blank paper and some sticky address labels. They can pretend to write letters trace some of the hearts and flowers or just make cards with the paper and stickers. I used shiny stones as the base, but didn’t have enough of them. I figure there’s quite a bit for them to explore. They can put some of the jewels and stones in the bag or boxes, squeeze the duckies, pretend to send mail, squeeze the stress cupcake, compare and sort the different flowers, compare the textures and sizes of the objects, pretend to give Valentines etc.

I only have one picture of this tub. I was in the middle of taking pictures and carelessly and stupidly dropped the camera on my kitchen floor. Now, the lens is frozen outside of the camera and the button that you press to take the photo won’t do anything. I feel really horrible about it since it was also my boyfriend’s camera and it was the one that we found that was the easiest to use. There won’t be many pictures on the blog for a while until I can buy a new one. Anyway, I hope you enjoy the sensory tub idea. I know Valentines Day has passed, but it's still February.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Weekly Favorites For February 13, 2011

Here are my favorites for the week. there are a lot of great Valentines Day ideas.

Heart Fruit Roll-Ups
A homemade recipe for fruit roll-ups.

Plant Care for Tiny Green Thumbs
Great ideas for teaching children on how to care for plants.

February Sensory Tub & Play-dough
A sensory tub filled with pink things for Valentines day and sparkly strawberry scented play-dough.

The Lazy Teacher's Chocolate Hot Coco Play-dough
A simple way to make hot coco play-dough if you are low on time.

Bring Nature Inside
Ways to use natural materials inside and not just in the science area.

How to Dye Rice & Pasta
A quick tutorial on how to dye rice or pasta.

How Many Estimate and Count
A simple math activity using random items from around the house.

Hershey Kiss and Science Experiments
A cute Hershey Kiss craft and science experiments using ice and snow.

Baby Play Material Box
A simple and inexpensive play idea for babies.

Cave of Wonders
This is a neat idea for a play area.

Ten Ideas for Valentines Day
Some fun things to do on Valentines Day can be found here.

A Box Full of Simple Things
Teacher Tom also has some Valentines Day ideas.

Hammering Fun
Have fun while learning the skill of hammering.

Heart Fishing
A Valentines Day heart fishing game.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Gerbil Sensory Tub

What’s in the tub:

Hamster/gerbil food,
Water bottle,
ABC blocks,
Chew sticks,
Cardboard tube,
1 gerbil,
Exercise wheel,
Measuring cup,
and aspen shavings as the base.

This sensory tub is very similar to the hamster one. The only differences are the gerbil and the cardboard tube. Our gerbils love cardboard tubes so I thought I’d include one. Other things you can include are small paper bags, pieces of cardboard, tissue boxes, pieces of paper, wooden houses, scoops, extra bowls etc. It all depends on the size of your tub and how many kids are there. Since the gerbil was so big, I decided to have the wheel next to the tub.

Since plush gerbils are hard to find, some substitutes are mice, rats or of course, hamsters. I know TY makes them as beanie babies and Aurora makes rodents as well. You can usually find some good bargains for small stuffed animals on Ebay. I have never seen a plastic critter or rodent set, but if you could find something like that, it’d work even better. This particular gerbil is handmade and was customized from a picture of our first gerbil named, Fudge. I wish I still had the link to the person who made him, but I can’t remember her name. She specialized in making plush cartoon type rodents. To make it more realistic, you can include a pair of gerbils since gerbils should almost always live in pairs.

Some other base ideas include shredded paper or sunflower seeds. Gerbils love to chew on and nest in shredded paper and ours love eating sunflower seeds. Cheap sunflower seeds can be found at feed stores. I think a 5 lb bag costs $3.00 at our local feed store. They also have cheap bird seed, hamster food, guinea pig food or other types of seeds if you wanted to use any of those as a base. I hope these ideas have been helpful.
Here are photos of our gerbils that we’ve had over the past five years.
Mozart, Sophie and the brothers, both called Fudge have all passed away. Our current gerbils are brothers called, the Brownies.

The girls, Mozart and Sophie
Fudge eating sunflower seeds!

Light Brownie loves the wheel!

The Brownies together.

Guide to Gerbils as Pets
Gerbil Coloring Pages

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Melting Hearts

What you’ll need:

Tray of ice cubes,
Bowl of colored water,
A small amount of salt,
Extra bowls for pouring and transferring,
Small spoon
And an eye dropper.

For the ice cubes, I chose heart shaped for Valentines Day and I colored the water red.
The purpose of this activity is to compare ways of trying to melt the hearts. Will the water, salt or water and salt together melt the hearts faster?
Another thing about this activity is it’s great for fine motor skills while scooping and squeezing the eye dropper.

On the top left, there are the ice cubes. Next to them is the red water. On the bottom left, there is the salt, and then the empty bowl that the salt can be transferred too and finally on the bottom right corner, there is the other empty bowl for the red water. The water is transferred with the eye dropper and the small spoon is used for the salt. The kids can take apart the ice by themselves. That is one of the things I like about silicone trays is the ice is easy to take out because it doesn’t stick.

What happens when red water is added to the hearts?

What happens when salt is added to the hearts?

Finally, what happens when you combine everything?

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