Plunger Painting

For a new painting experience try “plunger painting”.

Just get a new plunger, some paint and paper. I like to pour the paint into a container that has a lip around the edge to keep the paint inside. This is a large muscle activity so it can be easier to do this painting outdoors.

IMG_4297 plunger paint


Before painting with the plunger,  introduce the plunger to children. Children can experience how a plunger works. Demonstrate how to push the plunger down and how to pick it up. Now, it is time to give the plungers a try on their own.

Each child gets to dip the plunger into the paint. Then a child sets the plunger on the paper that’s on the floor, ground, or sidewalk. The painted plunger can be set on the paper several times before more paint is needed.


IMG_4243 plunger painting


Remember the list of items to have to provide a variety of materials in the art center? Well, the plunger meets that need.

When finished, count the number of circles. How many circles are there? How can you tell? Are they all the same size, same color, or different?

It takes self-regulation to just dip the plunger one time and then set it on the paper several times before getting more paint.

The social-emotional skill of following directions is evident. Depending on the number of children, they take turns and cheer for other children enhancing that feeling of community!

Children use large muscles to do plunger painting. Back muscles, arms, shoulders and even legs get involved.

Language skills are enhances with new vocabulary words: plunger and suction.

This so simple but alot of fun!








Posted in Art, Colors, Language, Motor Development, Outdoor Play, School readiness, Self-Regulation | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

New Foods

Put a smile on when toddlers and preschoolers are offered healthy meals and snacks. We can’t go wrong when all the foods being offered are all healthy. But what if they won’t try it?

IMG_4261 eating

Young children will often try new foods in their own time – not ours! That time of trying out foods and finally eating the new food is often longer than what we adults want. Good research has shown that children naturally are not sure about a new food placed in front of them. Research also shows that children may need to see a new food more than eight times before they venture forth to taste it.

Does the environment make a difference? Yes! A relaxed environment with support from the adults does help. Toddlers and preschoolers do NOT want to feel pressure to try new foods. Children will feel more comfortable trying a new food when they see other children and adults eating the food.

While at the table, draw attention to the new food and suggest they try it. The conversation can include what kind of food is served, what color it is, if it’s hot or cold, how the food is prepared, if the child(ren) eat the food at home or other places, and where it comes from. Keep the table conversation child-directed and focused on the children’s interests. For one listening in, they will hear children talking more than adults.

Remember! Just like adults not every child likes the same foods.







Posted in Environment, For Teachers & Parents, Manners, Meal Time | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Collage With Cotton Balls

For a quick collage with cotton balls project you only need a tray, construction paper, cotton balls, and glue. Any color cotton balls will do.

IMG_4248cball art

There is no teacher direction as to where to glue the cotton balls on the paper (except to glue on the paper!). Children look at the paper and problem solve and plan how and where to place their cotton balls on their own paper.

IMG_4249 cottonb art

Adults/teachers/parents get to do 2 things in our role: observe and ask questions.

Observe during this activity to see if children:

  • glue one cotton ball at a time onto the paper
  • create patterns with the colored/white cotton balls
  • create shapes with the cotton balls
  • glue cotton balls on top of other cotton balls


Questions to encourage thinking:

  • How do the cotton balls feel?
  • What can you use besides glue to make the cotton balls stick?
  • How much glue does it take to make them stick?
  • When I cut the cotton ball in half, how many do I have? How do you know? Are you sure?

IMG_4250 cotton art

In addition, children may:

  • create a 3 dimensional form
  • explore the soft texture
  • arranging cotton balls
  • contrast
  • create patterns

So fun! I’d love to hear how you like and use this collage with cotton balls activity!





Posted in Art, cognitive, Colors, kindergarten readiness, Language, Math, Motor Development, School readiness, Self-Regulation, sensory | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Green Zucchini Squash Pizza

Hurrah for zucchini time. Since there is so much zucchini in the garden, I brought some in for the young preschoolers and toddlers to make their own individual pizzas. We are making green zucchini squash pizza today.

IMG_4190zuccini slices

First thing is to wash and slice the zucchini. Washing the zucchini is a job the toddlers and preschoolers can do well. As they wash conversation is extended so we have back and forth discussions with me, the teacher, extending and questioning ideas. For example, I ask how many zucchini there are to wash. After the child answers I ask how do you know? And then, how many do you have washed so far? If you wash one more, how many will you have washed? This early mathematical language helps children build math competence.


IMG_4196 toppings


Now for the toppings. Meat, green peppers, cheese, onion, and cilantro are all available. Choose what you and the children like or you want the children to try.

We count how many pieces of cheese there are and then show that same number with our fingers. There are 2! This helps children to see multiple representations of the number 2.


Each child puts a zucchini slice, that is round, on the pan and choose what toppings they want on it. Making choices will help young children develop self-regulation and autonomy. Identifying what each food item is develops language and conversation is expanded to include classifying if it is meat, vegetable, or milk product.

IMG_4192 meat and cheese

A little cilantro is chosen for this zucchini pizza.

IMG_4194 with cilantro


After going in oven on broil for a few minutes, the cheese melts. Yummmmmm…..what a great smell! This melted goodness is enjoyed by each child.

IMG_4195 melted with cilantro


IMG_4197 cooked and yum


Because each child makes their own or several green zucchini squash pizza, they are more likely to eat it, too!  Clean up is easy, too.


What can be learned?

There has been opportunities for math, numbers, conversation, language, fine motor development, autonomy, and social skills.






Posted in cognitive, Colors, Inclusion, Language, Manners, Meal Time, sensory, Shapes, Super Science | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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 , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 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 , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 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