an early education learning space ~ where play equals learning

November 19, 2014
by countryfun

Cooking with Apples and Children

Our local apple orchard is about ready to close it’s doors for the season, so that is when I make sure to purchase at least a half bushel of mixed apples for making homemade apple sauce. Apple sauce is super easy to make and fun for the children to help with, so we always make a small batch together.

Using the apple peeler it doesn’t take much to get a saucepan of apples on the stove.DSC05806 DSC05808 Add a dash of lemon juice (to lessen oxidation), a bit of water to help the juicing start and keep apples from sticking and burning on the bottom. Now for lots of chances to take turn stirring. When the apples start to soften bring on the masher.

Having a mix of apples is also the perfect time to to an observation and taste testing.

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What have we explored so far: shape of apples, stem vs blossom end, apple structure, a new tool, sharing, motor skills with stirring and mashing, language, sensory and lots of counting. The best year in and year out is the “star” inside each apple. I explained the “star” comes from the blossom and it’s five petals (also a star).

This year I also picked up some apple cider for a new cooking experience: Apple Cider Syrup. DSC05810 I found a simple and tasty recipe at The Craft Patch. This we did while the applesauce was cooking down. More sensory and experiencing matter changing – sugar dissolving and butter melting. How heat and cornstarch thicken a liquid.

The syrup and homemade apple sauce will be perfect with some gluten-free buckwheat pancakes from Gluten Free Foodies. This pancake mix was from scratch which provided another opportunity for cooking lessons. For most children the food they see is already made for them, I believe it’s important for them to understand where the food they consume comes from. All the cooking together we do does this. Having children with food allergies and sensitivities in care by cooking together we start to understand why some foods are safe for some and not others. We also learn that if we change out a non-safe item in a recipe we can still make tasty foods we can all enjoy together.

November 17, 2014
by countryfun

Playing with the ABC’s

I love when a young learner finds their interest in the letters of the alphabet beyond just singing the song. That interest is shown in wanting to copy words found around the classroom, pointing out special letters in books reading, naming letters that star words we are talking about, adding additional words that start with the same letter, and playing the same ABC game over and over.

To support that interest and the emerging learner of even younger learners I have been trying to introduce new letter activities on a steady basis.

Two that have been enjoyed recently and repeatedly follow.

The first is a simple stamping with letter cookie cutters. The second is stenciling with cut-out letter stencils. Both activities started with a discussion of colors and color blending. Then letters from their names were used. Last was free choice of letters.

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The next activity could be said to have “popped” into my head. I was smiling as I rescued a nice circular piece of wood when cleaning out the garage. It was left-over from an engineering project of my college age son. It was too good to throw out and I knew I’d find a way to use it. Then came the “pop”. I had previously seen an activity come through on Pinterest from the Billings School Kindertips folder (now pinned to my ABC activity/games board) that showed ABC cards spread around a circular table top. The children sorted out ABC letters from the classroom to correspond with the letter cards. Now I’ve always done ABC paper plate wheels where you match up clothes pins, so this idea was really just taking it to the larger game play model, but without seeing that pin I might not have gone there.

The construction of the game was also a fun activity as I had help reminding me which letter needed to be written in the next space. The upper and lower case formation was also checked-on :). “R” could not wait to play, so out came a donated bag of mixed/matched magnetic letters. Lots of naming letters, coming up with words that start with each letter, labeling colors and up and down movement. The movement is what makes these larger games great to use with young children. It doesn’t get much better than learning while you’re moving.

 DSC05790  DSC05789DSC05791 We ended up with a wonderful rainbow sunburst of upper and lower case letters. To put away we counted the number of letters for each of the alphabet letters as we put them into the storage container. It was surprising how many had the same number of letters.

Both as a teacher and recycler, I couldn’t waste the reserve side of the wooden circle. That has our numbers through 15, plus twenty. Great for magnetic numbers, but even better for tower building.

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When older sibling arrives after school it becomes a team effort  and when completed “R” needs to “picture it”. IMG_1881

November 5, 2014
by countryfun

10 Actions That Show You Care

Across the years of providing care some simple truths have emerged for me about developing a trusting relationship with children. You have to show them that you are genuine in your caring for them. There are as many ways as individuals to accomplish this, but for me I have my basic 10 that seem to cover all ages and personalities.

It’s good to share this periodically, especially as the busy holiday season approaches, stress builds, and we often forget what is really important in our lives.

10 ways


October 24, 2014
by countryfun

Oh, Paper Bag Masks – Simple and Fun!

Sometimes the simple, old ideas are the best. I have tons of ideas/directions for fancy masks and Halloween projects, but today the old stand-by was the right choice.

Paper Bag Masks

I always make sure I get at least one load of groceries in paper bags each season. They have so many uses. Today I pulled a few to turn inside out and make available for turning into Halloween masks for the creative play party that suddenly occurred.DSC05645  DSC05648DSC05653

Of course, one didn’t want a mask, but wanted a butterfly costume. Paper bag still works just cut open flat and fold in half. Draw on wing outline to be colored in. DSC05647DSC05649

Trim excess bag off, staple outline adding a little newspaper stuffing. Wings set now so can be worn cut 2 lengths of yarn thread through 4 holes to make simple arm straps.DSC05651DSC05652

Then it’s time to cut out the eyes. Shoulder cut-outs let the mask sit well on the head.

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Creative half hour with markers and crayons leads to a morning playing trick-or-treat with mask, costumes and Halloween music.

October 20, 2014
by countryfun

One Chicka Chicka Boom Boom Game

“R” has a strong knowledge of all her letters, so that just means I need to keep coming up with creative ways to review with her. Being the only preschooler I have at this time means we often have an audience as we do a project and that’s ok as it supports their learning.

Today I used a favorite book – Chicka Chicka Boom Boom – to pull together a game that will have many ways to use.

All you need is an oatmeal container, brown and green construction paper, scissors, marker, glue and letters. I have a large collection of magnetic letters that we pulled from for this project.

This project changed from my plan, but the original purpose remained – reviewing letters.

I figured “R” would pull a letter, name it and I’d write it on the tree base. Nope! “R” wanted to do it herself and since we are currently beginning working on letter formation had to come up with another option, so frustration would not take over. She asked for stickers. Good idea as I have learned to always have a supply of letter stickers on hand.

Then “R” decided had to be in order (alphabetical order) just like the book.

I had pictured random letters all over the container. “R” pictured them in order placed along the top edge. What matters is the lesson purpose and giving value to her voice in her learning. Doing her way brought other skills into the original lesson.

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The project turned out great and we’ve played multiple times, as it hasn’t made it’s way home yet.

October 9, 2014
by countryfun

Uppercase Lowercase ABC’s

The booklet we made today was a free printable from Kroger’s Kindergarten which I originally found on Pinterest. It’s pinned in my General Fall theme board.

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The booklet was a super hit, which found us reading it in many different ways. We ended with “R” reading the letters and me coming up with words that worked for the letters like: “noisy nuts, angry alligator”.

September 29, 2014
by countryfun

What Makes Green?

Preschooler knows colors, so reinforce knowledge of color blending using 3 primary colors.

Expose the under 3′s to colors and names.

As the leaves start to change colors around here, it’s a perfect time to start playing with colors. We started today with the question “What makes GREEN?“ (I had out a jug of red, yellow and blue paint waiting to see what they would say.) “YELLOW and BLUE!”

I poured their choices next to each other onto a plate (equal amounts) and started to swirl them together. (I wanted the children to see the green happening.) When they saw green they got excited. Once mixed completely I asked if they liked the color we now had. “No it’s blue, not green.” “What do you think we need to do to get our green?” “Add yellow!”

A touch more yellow and mix. “Do you like this green?” “Yes.”

Now to use our green paint.

Love adding sensory into activities, so we painted a palm with green paint and stamped our palms down on a large piece of green construction paper (I had precut into an circular/oval shape). Once no longer leaving color when stamped down, we repainted the palms, repeating until paper covered with hand prints.

Time to glue on a brown rectangle of construction paper and for more sensory – crumple up small squares of red tissue paper and glue onto the green handprints.

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What do you have?

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Apple trees!

Very timely for our area with the U-pick orchards open for the season.


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