Zucchini Chips

I have some wonderful zucchini growing in the garden and thought I’d try a recipe a friend of mine shared and see if the preschool children would eat it. They are zucchini chips – instead of potato chips. It sounded so easy that I thought “I can do this!”

IMG_4189 zuccini

So, here is what I did. First I washed the zucchini. Children can wash zucchini. Another chance to play in the water, too.

Next, I sliced the zucchini in what I hoped were even thickness slices.

IMG_4190zuccini slices

Now I put them on the dryer and spritz a bit of olive oil and a bit of sea salt on top. It took about 6-8 hours to dry depending on how thick the slices were. I took them out when they were slightly crispy. I decided to try some other toppings so I tried garlic, then my own dehydrated onions and salt, and then one with a bit of taco seasoning.

IMG_4198 Zuccini chips

Good news! So far, most everyone from preschoolers to adults have liked them. I am thrilled! What a fun way to eat zucchini and it’s so easy that the preschoolers can help, too!

Enjoy making the zucchini chips!


Any learning?

  • fine motor skills when washing the zucchini
  • listening when being given guidance
  • social emotion when following directions
  • sorting the seasoned chips
  • eye-hand when sprinkling the seasoning on top
  • sensory experience when tasting along with language and vocabulary when describing how they taste
  • autonomy when doing their own special job
  • social when taking turns
  • cognitive when being persistent to finish the task
  • identifying the colors and shape
  • math – of course, we compared the sizes, tastes, and counted

(Thanks Karla for the idea!)




Posted in cognitive, Colors, Language, Manners, Math, Meal Time, Motor Development, School readiness, Self-Regulation, sensory, Shapes | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Observing Trees

We have a huge tree outside and several more trees of different sizes. Young children love to look at the huge tree and feel it. Why not use the tree for observation and learning? This observation activity lasts for as long as wanted.

First, pick a tree to observe and notice what color is the bark. “Bark” is a new vocabulary word for some preschoolers. Does the tree have leaves today? What color are they? Are any leaves on the ground or just on the tree branches.  How do you know? “Branches” is a new vocabulary word also.

IMG_0007 trees blog

Someone has the idea to take a picture of the tree. I can put that picture on the laptop so the children can see it or print it off to hang in our room.

Another day, observing a tree involves putting paper on the trunk and using a crayon making a “rub” art of the bark on the tree. Now the art can be displayed in the room or hung on the fence.

IMG_4186 tree blog

During outdoor play, individual children will notice something about the tree and come to me with a comment or we’ll both go look at the tree together. Sometimes several children will join in. It could be a small insect or just the way the bark is shaped.

Still, another day, a few small twigs from a branch has fallen on the ground after a wind storm. We gather the twigs touching them and noticing how they feel. For this tree, they are smoother than the bark on the trunk. We measure them. Which one is big, which one is small. We put them in order from smallest to biggest. We vote on them to see which one we like the best.

On our last day of formally observing the tree, the children bring paper outside to draw a leaf or any part of the tree.

IMG_4187 tree blog

The preschool children have developed a better understanding of trees and especially a tree they see everyday. They also developed their observation skills, found other plants and insects, fine motor skills, language through conversation about the tree, vocabulary, compared and sorted, and did a community vote.

Do you have a tree in your playground or neighborhood to observe?




Posted in ABCs, Art, cognitive, Colors, For Teachers & Parents, Language, Lesson Plans, Observation, Outdoor Play, Super Science | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Strategies to Encourage Thinking Skills

Looking for ways to encourage young children’s thinking skills is both so exciting and rewarding. I feel this is important so preschoolers can increase their ability to understand the many ideas in their world and in their everyday living.

In order to do this it I need to be willing to step back and give preschoolers the opportunity to solve problems not me give them the answer. I need to give them time to experiment so they can figure out how things work. I need to appreciate the time a preschooler wants to observe before acting. I can help them develop thinking skills by letting them build on their curiousity.

Here are some examples I like to do to give thinking skills opportunities:

1. When I read a story, I ask questions that are open-ended. I might ask,”How did that make the boy feel?” Then I might ask, “What makes you think that?” These type questions give a chance for preschoolers to really think about what happened instead of just asking how many boys are on this page. I can ask the preschooler to show me the feeling on our class feeling chart. Another question could be “What do you think will happen next?” A fun question for thinking about prediction.


2.  When blowing bubbles, a child lifts the bubble wand up and brings it to their mouth.  I might ask,”Tell me what happened when the wand came up. Where were the bubbles?” “Why did you put the wand into the container? How else could you get bubbles?” I can also ask questions about the size of bubbles and the size of bubble wands.


IMG_3465 Bubbles


IMG_3466 bubbles


3. In the block center, children are lining up all the cars. I can ask the children to look out the window and see all the cars lined up in the parking lot. “Have you seen cars lined up another place before?”  We can make a list of all the places where cars are in groups or lined up.


I can hurry through activities or take time to intentionally ask meaningful questions that will encourage thinking skills. I can find opportunities at meal time, circle time, small group time, outdoors, and just all through the day!





Posted in cognitive, kindergarten readiness, Language, School readiness, Self-Regulation | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Teaching Stop and Go

This is a game that can be played in the car, inside, or outside in the yard.

Just cut two circles: one green circle and one red circle. In fact, depending on the child’s developmental goals, the child may cut out both circles or you cut one while she cuts the other.

IMG_4163 red and green light


When inside this can be played with some cars or trucks or without. Hold up the green circle and say something like “My car can go now because the light is green.” Then show that “My truck has to stop now because the light is red.”

IMG_4162red stop

When playing outside in the dirt or sandbox, take some cars and the circles and do the same activity. Hold up the green one for go and the red for the trucks and cars to stop.

Extend this activity when driving in the car or on the bus. Referring back to the child’s previous experience, remind the child you talked about red lights and green lights with the cars and trucks inside or outside. So, watch for a red light or green light. When you stop at a red light say something like, “I stopped the car because the light is red.” If you want to give the child a red and green circle to hold in their hands they can hold the red circle up now.

Then, when the light turns green the child can hold up the green circle and you can say “I am making the car go because the light is green.”

IMG_4161green light

A few things a child may learn developmentally by participating in this activity:

Physical Small muscle development when cutting out circleGrasp using small muscle when picking up the circle

Use small hand movements

Uses arm movements to hold up circle


Social Emotional Following directionsApplies rules in similar situations

Completes task

Cognitive Identifying colors red and greenUses symbol to represent something not present

Imitates adult actions with circles

Language Asking questionsAnswering questions

Comprehends language

Retells which sign to use





Posted in cognitive, Colors, dramatic play, Imitation, Language, Motor Development, Observation, School readiness, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Red, White, and Blue Smoothies

A fast enjoyable way to feed young children some healthy fruits is to make smoothies. Smoothies can help provide young children lots of good food in just one little cup. Think of drinking a smoothie like giving a bunch of vitamins in a cup!

Since it’s almost the 4th of July, I am making red, white, and blue smoothies.

IMG_4137fruit for smoothie

We look to see what we have on hand and the ingredients include:

a few strawberries

a few black raspberries (they are in the back garden and substitute for blueberries today)

a handful of almonds


apple juice

ice cube


Mix up in the blender, pour in the cup and the children will want more before you get yours drank!

IMG_4139 smoothie

Take a minute to mix ingredients and freeze for a quick smoothie another day.






Posted in Colors, Holiday, Meal Time, sensory, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Giving Preschoolers Responsibilities

We know that children grow when they are given responsibilities. Whether a child is at preschool or at home, we look to give responsibilities throughout the day. Young children trust the adults in their lives to guide them and teach them.

IMG_3204 ryan and Alec hand

The question is, then, when is a good time during the day to give a preschooler responsibilities and what is an age-appropriate responsibility?

To give children support for autonomy and leadership through responsibilities, try some of these ideas:

At mealtimes

  • children set the table
  • children clean up their own spills
  • children clean up their area (or assist)
  • children choose the topics of conversation at mealtime

During Free Play time

  • children help add more crayons to the art center
  • children recognize each other’s good deeds
  • children makes own choice of what to paint and clean up behind self
  • children choose what to write to a family member


  • children have a job in the classroom which may include: feed the fish, water the plant, be the line leader, be the line caboose, set the table, choose a book, be the library monitor, and more

Group Times

  • children choose book to be read
  • children choose the song to sing
  • children count how many children
  • children lead the activity
  • children demonstrate movement
  • children take attendance


  • children draws the name of the person who is next
  • children chooses and holds up the sign
  • children announces clean-up time
  • children rings the bell
  • children checks a center to see if it’s ready
  • children gives another child a cue

Most of these activities are consistent and predictable in a daily routine. Making decisions to enable children to be as independent as possible in an activity supports children taking on responsibility. Being responsible is one way to help a child get ready for school and life.






Posted in Art, Blocks, Books, cognitive, Environment, For Teachers & Parents, kindergarten readiness, Movement, Music, School readiness, Self-Regulation, Transitions | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Toddlers, Sand, and Shovels

I went to the “beach” with a couple toddlers and their families. These toddlers are so much fun! The toddler is full of energy and curiosity. Today, especially as both toddlers enjoy their first time on a sandy beach.

IMG_4086 anson sand 1


Developing motor skills allow these toddlers to move about on their own, to explore, and test what they already know about the world.

In this new environment both toddlers insisted theywalk on the sand unassisted. Both boys eyed the shovels and buckets and immediately went to work digging up the sand. Their mothers demonstrated putting the sand in the bucket and they imitated those moms perfectly!

IMG_4089 anson and tristen


A sense of independence is shown by both toddlers as a way of gaining autonomy. They were in control not their mothers.

Each toddler would show their shovel to adults or the other toddler just to look at – not to share.

The best part was seeing the smiles and seeing their eyes light up when they looked at each mom!

IMG_4087 Anson sand

This may look like just a couple toddlers having fun but there is great learning happening!


Cognitive Development Demonstrate curiosity through physical exploration with the sand and shovel. Vocalized with people.Deliberately explores with the sand and water.
Physical Development Changed position of body for coordination to bend and dig in sand.Coordinate arms, hands, and fingers to accomplish task.Eye-hand coordination by grasping shovel and manipulating shovel.
Social/Emotional Development Shows an interest in interacting with others.Looks to caregivers for help to solve problems.Uses behaviors that are socially acceptable.
Language Uses sounds and gestures to communicate.Responds to spoken language requests.Uses sounds for a variety of purposes. 




Posted in ABCs, cognitive, Imitation, Inclusion, Language, Outdoor Play, Self-Regulation, Terrific Toddlers | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Counting Five

Ask a preschooler and they will usually count as high as they can. Children often count aloud in sequence but miss understanding the numbers 1 – 5.  Consider some activities to support preschoolers learning number and operation knowledge starting with 1 – 5.

I find 5 animals to count. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5!

IMG_3619 5 animals


Strong math skills help preschoolers be successful later in school. So, make sure our preschoolers:

  • know the number word sequence when counting from 1-5
  • touch each object one time and label it with a number in order using one-to-one correspondence
  • keep track of the objects they have counted
  • can tell you the last number counted is the total number of objects in the group

Counting 5 cups from left to right: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.

IMG_3620 5 cups


Count 5 pencils:  Count each pencil once and only once.

IMG_3621 5 pencils


Count 5 glue sticks: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5   Each number word means a set number of items.  Here “five” means 5 glue sticks.

IMG_3622 5 gluesticks


Count 5 blue bears:  The last count word “five” is the number of items in the group.

IMG_3623 5 bears


Number concepts are the foundation of mathematics. Ensuring a child understands what “Five” really means they gain a sense of numbers. Enjoy supporting preschoolers understanding 1 – 5. It’s more than rote counting!




Posted in Blocks, cognitive, Imitation, Math | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Counting Steps With Toddlers

Counting steps is an easy way to introduce toddlers to counting.  Take a toddler’s hand in yours and say to them that you are going to count the number of steps it takes to go to…..the door (for example). Then say a number with each step you both take. Start by  counting steps 1 , 2 and then 1, 2, 3 until you are up to five steps.

IMG_3459 steps Ryan Alec

Be enthused and excited about counting. The toddler will catch your enthusiasm and ask to count steps over and over and over again! Vary your steps by taking big steps, small steps, teeny tiny steps, and jumping steps.

So, where to count to? A few ideas include a door, a chair, a toy, the table, the bathroom/changing table and more! Follow their lead. I’m sure the toddler will have an idea of where to walk and count.

What will your toddler learn?

When your toddler hears number words referring to steps, they begin to make note of their meaning. They may try to count steps on their own using this new skill. It’s okay if they get the numbers out of order; they need to practice. Other learning may include: listening, imitating, counting, names of numbers, number order, language, one-to-one correspondence, gross motor, and relationship building with YOU.






Posted in cognitive, For Teachers & Parents, Imitation, Language, Math, Motor Development, Movement, Terrific Toddlers | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Caring For Each Other

One of the important roles of a teacher/caregiver/parent/adult is to build strong relationships with children and build an atmosphere of caring and belonging.

Caring is an important part of each young child’s school readiness preparation. Young children who feel a caring atmosphere develop a trust with their teacher/caregiver/parent/adult and children in turn are more aware of and respond to their peers’ needs.

IMG_0249 ry and colleen

Define what caring means with preschoolers. Write the words so they can see them. They may say caring is being helpful, kind, and being nice. Expand their vocabulary with words like respectful, thoughtful and understanding.

We need to model what these words mean. Children need to see the caring actions so they understand what behaviors are caring. A teacher can smile and hug a child each day but the child needs to see the teacher being caring: respectful, cooperating, empathizing. Label those caring actions when see in the classroom and/or home. For example, “Josh, just gave his car to James to play with. That was being kind.”  or “Maria helped Anna stack the block on top so Anna would have a very tall building. That was cooperating.”  or “When you picked up Sara’s scarf for her and put it in her cubby you were thoughtful.”

When adults model caring be sure to model  the words “Thank you”, “You’re Welcome”, “Please”, “Excuse me”, and “I’m sorry”.

IMG_0251 ryan and colleen

One bit of great news is that a caring atmosphere will rub off and soon more and more children will practice caring behaviors!

There are many resources and research to support this. One that I enjoy is http://csefel.vanderbilt.edu . Try it!





Posted in For Teachers & Parents, Imitation, School readiness, Self-Regulation, Terrific Toddlers | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment