From Shapes to Trucks

During our truck study, I use a variety of shapes and colors for children to choose from and make their own trucks. We talk about trucks, how they look, the number of tires on a truck, the back and front of trucks, the colors of trucks and more.  There are also scissors and paper available in case a child wants to make their own shape.


IMG_4010 truck art

Some children choose to cut out their own circles for their truck tires. Each child’s truck is unique. One child watches the others before starting on his truck. He likes to get ideas from others before beginning.


IMG_4008 truck art

Here is one truck with a big yellow back.


IMG_4003 truck art

There is no right or wrong. This child put a triangle at the front of her truck.

What learning can happen with this activity?

Emotional – choosing their own designs and papers for trucks helps a child feel good about himself and her choices

Cognitive – labeling the shapes and colors. Are the tires on top of the truck or under the truck?

Language – talking about the type of truck. Where will it go? What will it carry in the back? Who will drive the truck?

Physical – fine motor skills are being developed as a child picks up the construction paper pieces, puts glue on the paper, presses the shape on the glue, writes their name, and cuts their own shape.


This is a great time to encourage and acknowledge the wonderful choices each child makes!





Posted in Art, cognitive, Colors, Language, Math, Shapes | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Gel Sensory Writing

With a little container of hair gel and a sealable storage bag, I made a fun gel sensory writing activity.

IMG_3964 writing gel container


I make this during a time when children can choose to watch me. They were curious. What am I doing? What is that stuff? Is it for them? I love all the questions.


IMG_4005 gel writing X

When it is finished, I demonstrate the basic of how to use the gel sensory writing bag. Using my finger I drew an “X”. I put a white paper underneath so the “X” shows up clearer.  Ooooh! This looks fun. Everyone wants a turn so I make several bags.


IMG_4007 gel writing

Children, with encouragement, write the letter their name starts with, write numbers, draw shapes, and just squiggles! I observed and noted the children who found this activity soothing and calming.

The bags only last about a week due to the amount of use. They are easy to make and I am glad they are used and enjoyed.


What learning can happen? Here are a few:

Fine motor – Use of the finger for drawing increases the physical development and control of the muscles

Manipulative Skill – Some children hold the bag still with one hand while drawing with the other hand

Approaches to Learning – Child’s engagement and persistence ability increases.

Social – Cooperatively takes turns without adult supervision.

Classifying – Identifies numbers, shapes, and letters.

Prehandwriting – Draws recognizable letter, shape, numbers.






Posted in ABCs, cognitive, Colors, literacy, Math, Motor Development, Outdoor Play, sensory, Shapes, writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Rice Sensory With Dinosaurs

This toddler loves dinosaurs. So, a hunt starts to make a fun sensory experience for him and some other preschoolers using rice and dinosaurs. Look at this awesome dinosaur found in his room!

IMG_2509 blue dino for rice


Soon several dinosaurs are found. Using a tub that is already available, rice is added and the dinosaurs hidden in the rice. Other toddlers and preschoolers gather round to play in the rice and find the dinosaurs.

IMG_2295 rice tub


This is experience is so fun but let’s not forget all the learning that happens.  As children explore, literacy is expanded as vocabulary is introduced: pressure, gritty, excavate, etc.

Number concepts are taught as children count how many dinosaurs they find. Words such as more, less and same are used to describe quantities during the play. Measurement is taught as children observe how long each dinosaur is and compare their sizes.

Visual art is available by the photographs I take of the children playing in the dinosaur rice table and then displaying the photos for the children to see. Additionally, photos of  the dinosaurs that are in the tub can be displayed while playing.

At first the children are satisfied just finding the dinosaurs, then their play turns to Dramatic Play as they rely on their imaginations to roam through the desert, find food, or hide. Their play is now reflecting team efforts to build in shared play.

Fine motor skills are enhanced as they look for dinosaurs, pick them up, and move them around.

While the toddler and preschoolers play, I observe how each child plays and what interests him.

Talk about the colors of each dinosaur. Not all are a true green or blue. There are differing shades of color.

Be sure to include the specific learning you want to encourage on your lesson plan.

“I found one!” is a fun response to hear. It’s a great time for building a child’s sense of self and accomplishment.

IMG_2294 rice tub



Posted in Colors, Language, Lesson Plans, Math, Motor Development, Observation, sensory, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Colors for Science in Recycled Bottles

I started making a collection of bottles with colored water for the Science / Discovery area. They are pretty easy to make and it’s amazing how much toddlers and preschoolers alike use them!

IMG_3441 2 color water bottles

I chose to use a smaller size soda bottle. I washed it out and dried it before adding the water. Most the bottles have food coloring or water color tinting and water.  The blue bottle above has oil, water, and blue coloring. It’s fun to shake and see the water and oil mix and then separate.


IMG_3382 color bottles

In the green bottle to the left, I added water beads. I only filled it up about 1/3 with water beads before adding water and coloring.  I put a few red items I had in the red bottle. The children enjoy rolling the bottle and looking at what is in there! I used hot glue to glue the lids. I want the children to be able to carry them around without the lids coming off. They held up well with alot of children using them every day.


My role as a teacher, parent, and/or caregiver is to provide interesting science activities for children. These bottles are interesting to children.  My involvement is required in any “classroom” setting. I am there to support children’s learning. I can simply interact with each child as they explore the color bottles, talk with them about what they see, help them to reflect on what they are doing as they turn the bottle over and what they see happening. I can encourage children notice the color, think about what is in the bottle, and count how many items they bottle may have in it. I can encourage greater thinking with asking why something happens. This open-ended question allows the child to think about what they see and think about what they already know and connect that prior learning to how it applies here. I can encourage them to notice that the bottles’ contents are not the same and wonder why?

Science is so fun! These bottles add alot of wonderful color to your science area.



Cathie J


Posted in cognitive, Colors, School readiness, Super Science | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Easy Heart Snack

Hungry toddlers and preschoolers want a snack. Here’s a quick snack with some great developmental skills to encourage. Only 3 ingredients: bread, fruit (we chose strawberries), and cream cheese. A bread board, knife, and heart shape cookie cutter were the needed tools.

IMG_3960 easy heart snack


Each child has their own slice of bread. Using the cookie cutter each child builds those fine motors skills by pressing or pushing the cookie cutter through the bread. We talk about “pushing”; it’s not the same as “pulling” increasing vocabulary.  Some preschoolers may recognize push and pull as opposites.

IMG_3961 easy heart snack 2

Using a knife, each child spreads (another vocabulary word for some children) some cream cheese on their heart-shaped bread. Then they choose a fruit to put on top. We only had strawberries but other times use other fruits, including fresh fruit.


IMG_3962 easy heart snack 3

Yum! Snacks that a child puts together himself are the best! Especially getting to practice the fine motor skill of spreading the cream cheese and picking up the fruit with tongs or fingers. While eating, some discussion about the flavors, textures, and shape reinforces cognitive skills. Great snack for Valentine’s Day or when studying the color red.







Posted in cognitive, Colors, dramatic play, Holiday, Imitation, Language, Motor Development, Observation, Terrific Toddlers | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sorting Red Shapes

The season for red is here. Today, I’m thinking of Valentine’s Day but red is also used at other times of the year where I live. It’s also a major color at 4th of July, Christmas and just other exciting times. It may even be a child’s favorite color.

IMG_3951 red valentine shape sort

I used some foam shapes: squares, rectangles, circles, and hearts. Putting them all in one container, I encourage the toddlers and preschoolers to either pick up a shape with their fingers or use the tongs. (Depending on the child and their developmental goals.)

Each child sorted the shapes, then used a little graph and put some shapes under the shape name. This gives a child the opportunity to look at the problem and think about how to solve it. Some children are persistent in sorting shapes and some need more encouragement. It’s okay if a child tries putting the shape under another shape name until they find the right one.

The children compare the shapes. All the squares are not the same size and that’s true for the other shapes, too. They can measure each shape if they want to. They can put 2 or more shapes together to see if they are bigger than the biggest shape. They may also count all the shapes or each group of shapes. Be aware that a child may decide to pretend with one or more shapes make believing it is something else. All this is cognitive development – what a celebration!


IMG_3952 red valentine shape

What can we do as teachers, parents, and caregivers? Our role is so important. We can observe as each child plays taking note of abilities and interest. We can also follow a child’s lead and join in the play. We can remember that there is more than one way to use a toy. Allow for the child to be creative and celebrated.



Posted in cognitive, Colors, dramatic play, Holiday, kindergarten readiness, Language, Motor Development, School readiness, Self-Regulation, sensory, table toys | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Red, White and Pink Sorting Tubes

Valentine’s Day is coming up on February 14th. It will be here before I know it. So, to get started I chose to use 3 TP tubes and cover each of them with a Valentine’s Day related color: red, pink, and white.  I put the color name on the each tube so all children could see that letters make words, words have meaning, and these are the words for the colors: white, red and pink. This activity categorizes by 1 feature – color.

IMG_3953 sort white pink red


I want to have objects for the toddlers or preschoolers to match the color of the object with the color of the tube. Then the child will use their fingers to pick-up the object and drop it into the matching tube. The child could also use the tongs (depending on what the fine motor goal for their development is or what their interest is). First I put out a variety of buttons. All will fit inside each tube.

IMG_3954 red pink white sort

Then I chose the red, pink and white pom poms out of my supply of pom poms. Each child’s development tells me how many pom poms to have out. If I  am working with a child to increase their knowledge of a certain number – say 7 – then I would have either a total of 7 pom poms or 7 of each color. That way we can count and reinforce that number.

IMG_3955 red white pink sort

As teachers, parents, and caregivers we give children many opportunities to work with concrete objects and invite children to have learning experiences that they can manage. Children are organizing information with this red, white, and pink sorting tubes activity. Organizing helps children to make using and tracking information possible. So much learning with a simple activity!





Posted in cognitive, Colors, Math, Motor Development, School readiness, Self-Regulation, sensory, table toys | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Puzzle Letters

Look what I found at the store! These are the cutest foam stickers. I chose to focus on the letters with my preschooler grandson. I set out a whole pile for him to explore, move around, touch and feel. The foam is great for texture and sensory. He liked them as much as I did.

IMG_3784 puzzles letter pile

I liked all the colors of these puzzle letters. I know that when preschoolers are exposed to a variety of colors, touch, and language it helps their brains be flexible for learning.

To provide more experience with “letters make words”, I wrote the name “Matthew” on a paper and the preschooler found the letters that matched the written letters and set each puzzle letter under each matching letter. The most important letters to preschoolers are the ones in their names.

IMG_3782 puzzle letters


He was enjoying these little puzzle letters so I drew a graph with straight, curvy, and both. He finds letters and decides if the letter is made with all straight lines, curvy lines or if the letter has both straight and curvy lines. Look all the letters he found. This is a great time to talk about the letters, the colors of each color puzzle letter piece, and count how many are in each category.

I like these puzzle letters. They help provide a rich environment of opportunities so the number of brain connections increase!

IMG_3783 puzzles letters


With all the letter choices, he kept going back to the letter “u”. He spent time focusing on putting the puzzle letter “u” pieces together. Here he has 3 pieces together. When preschoolers are not hurried they come with their own extensions of the given activity.

IMG_3788 puzzle letters good u


If you can’t find these puzzle letters at a store near you or on-line, make them from cardstock, the insides of cereal boxes, or food boxes. Today, we interpret representation for letters, demonstrate a knowledge of the alphabet, and understand that letters make words.




Posted in ABCs, Art, cognitive, Colors, literacy, Motor Development, School readiness, Self-Regulation, table toys, writing | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Measuring With TP

This may sound silly at first, but we decided to measure a few simple items with TP – toilet paper!  Read on!

First we got out a roll of toilet paper. My preschooler grandson wanted to first measure my foot. So, here it is with the TP wrapped around it. We noticed that TP was perforated (what a vocabulary word!) and counted how many squares it took to go around my foot.

IMG_3796 tp measuring  my foot


Yes, there is learning that happens here! Next we saw how long his sister’s foot is using TP squares.  This might sound super simple and silly but it was alot of fun! After all, the focus of measurement activities is to develop an understanding of the principles of measurement. What better way to develop the understanding that with items around the home or classroom.

IMG_3797 tp measure foot


Next, we tore off 2 squares of TP.  I wrote the number 2 on a paper and put next to the two squares – after all, children learn with multiple experiences. The written letter two gives a visual to the word two. 

IMG_3798 tp measure 2



Using the TP, the preschooler learns concepts such as longer and shorter.  The preschooler learns here by using non-standard measures such as his hand shown here.

IMG_3799 tp hand


Excited to explore more, he finds his toy wrench. This time the squares are separated to show the 2 more precisely. 

IMG_3800 tp measure wrench


A marker! What child does not get excited about markers – especially permanent markers. We observe, measure and talk about the marker being shorter than the wrench. Here we have the start of a conversation about 1/2 of a TP square. 

IMG_3801 tp measure marker


Finding a pen, the preschooler measures it and discovers that 3 squares of TP are needed. During this activity, the teacher/caregiver/parent talks about location and position of the items. Each item is “on top of” the TP. We talk about distance using words such as “far” and “next to”.

IMG_3802 tp measure pen


His sister wants her arm measured. Then we measure the preschooler’s arm and compare. I use multiple opportunities to measure items the children are interested in to help build competence in math. I say “Look, her arm is 3 squares long.” 

IMG_3806 tp measure arm


All through this activity, I ask open-ended questions: “I wonder how many squares of TP the wrench is?” I encourage observation and model observation. I celebrate success and give time for the preschooler to think about his observation and express what he sees instead of me telling him. 



Posted in cognitive, Imitation, Language, Math, Observation, School readiness | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Numbers and Pom Poms

Preschool teachers, parents, and caregivers all cultivate mathematics into each preschoolers’ life by using many opportunities during the day to provide experiences and build confidence in math. With a few yellow pom poms, a tray, and a number chart this experience with number concepts extends young children’s mathematical thinking.

IMG_3807 pom poms


The child is to match the number with the needed number of pom poms in each row. This preschooler wants to start by putting 1 pom pom under each number. He then put another pom pom on the number 2 line. The child is using his fingers to pick up and move the pom poms which builds his fine motor skills. Tweezers can be used, if wanted, to pick up the pom poms.

IMG_3808 pom poms


Here the 1, 2, and 3 are complete.  He understands what “2″ means and that “2″ can be represented by 2 pom poms and the word “two”. This is a type of simple graph which helps preschoolers to visually organize information to see relationships. It’s an extension of sorting.

IMG_3809 pom poms


He places another pom pom. By using just one color of pom poms, a preschooler can concentrated on the task and is not distracted by multiple colors. He can visually see the relationship between more and less with this activity.

IMG_3810 pom poms


Number concepts develop as preschoolers and toddlers get to explore and manipulate materials. Conversation and communication during this activity helps their mathematical thinking develop and gives the adult more information as to their development.

Children can count by rote to ten but may not understand what the number symbols represent. This is one activity to help number symbols have meaning. Here number symbols are being linked to a quantity the child can see.




Posted in cognitive, Colors, Math, Motor Development | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment