an early education learning space ~ where play equals learning

February 23, 2015
by countryfun

Another Snow Problem

It’s getting harder and harder to have all this snow (problem 1), yet it’s too cold (problem 2) day after day to spend much time outside playing in it. Winter kids want to play in the snow……….

Need to solve the “no playing in the snow” problem.

Solution: bring inside

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Follow up with our poem app for a poem about out inside snow experience.

February 19, 2015
by countryfun

Hug Monster

Wrapping up a week of heart related activities available to play with, I pulled out my dollar store gadget box, paint and pink papers. After each child that wanted to explore made a choice of paper I took my scissors to them. For fun I tried to cut around the perimeter before the children counted to 10 twice. Almost made it. Figured a fun way to practice counting and pushed me to cut quickly and slightly messy.

Paint onto our lids and time to explore the textures the different gadgets made.DSC06246  DSC06247


Once dried I asked if anyone wanted to make a “Hug Monster?” Round of “Yes!!!” and “What’s a Hug Monster?” My answer – “Can you show me how you would hug a friend?”  “What does Cookie Monster or Grover look like?” Took off from there labeling body parts, fur, big eyes…..

I cut out desired eyes, mouth, nose parts from our scrap paper box. (Each folder in the box holds a different color of paper to make it easier at selection time.)

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I showed how to take long strips and accordion fold arms.

Then a heart was chosen from the hearts left over from other activities this past week.

Glue everything where desired and you get:

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What would you need for your “Hug Monster”.

February 8, 2015
by countryfun

Love Those Little Unifix Cubes

Unifix cubes are a material I find children of all ages love to play with. I do keep them up and away from daily play, because of infants in care, but with direct supervision even infants can have fun with unifix cubes.

I love to teach with them, so they often find their way into the space. Check out the learning fun we had  today when the cube box came into the space.

Understanding patterns is a foundation concept for mathematics. Unifix cubes allow us to build great pattern towers in a small space, working individually or in group.

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Then you can branch off to just building the biggest tower you can. That means you have to solve a couple of problems: how to keep a tower from breaking apart and how to get up high enough to place the cubes. DSC06184 “R” solved by bringing over a chair and asking for me to hold the tower.

Lets sort and then build our own patterns. DSC06186 and build……DSC06190 and build DSC06193 until taller than myself. Another opportunity to problem solve: how to measure against myself? DSC06196 “M” solved this by laying his tower on the floor and laying down next to it. Once he could see blocks past his head he knew the tower was taller than he was. Used the wall of the fort to be sure measured from the same starting point.

They make a wonderful sensory tub for little hands. The interaction between ages is great for a little one who wants to do what the rest are doing.

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What about counting to 100 by 10’s……..DSC06187 That means lots of counting with some addition and subtraction.


Picking up and stacking or making a finger pattern is great for fine motor.



January 29, 2015
by countryfun

A Yarn Obstacle Course

Today was  a perfect day to switch up our play space. One of my goals currently is to bring in new ideas and activities to switch up the play. To really involve the children I wanted an activity that they could help construct.

Obstacle courses are great for this, but I needed a new approach. Time to try tying the room up in a web for an obstacle course.

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January 18, 2015
by countryfun

How I Evaluate Apps for Our Usage

It’s been a few years now of following other educators using iPads in their classroom and exploring a variety of apps across my mixed ages group (primarily used by preschools). Others have shared their “Technology Evaluation Toolkits”, so of course I have grabbed bits and pieces that work for my purpose, but I also realize my usage is also different so that has also been considered.

I started here:

  • the ease of use
  • how it engaged a child
  • did it support learning goals
  • does it offer custom settings or different levels
  • feedback – encouraging, appropriate for child’s age, how it corrects
  • information is correct

Here is what I have added:

  • approaches to learning (attention, flexible thinking, persistence)
  • Social-Emotional (cooperation, collaboration)
  • appropriate cognitive skills
  • usable by non/pre-readers
  • bias free / gender neutral
  • clear choices and ease of navigating, independent usage after introduction by adult
  • skills build as develop competency
  • support creativity
  • content and graphics appealing to children
  • activities match appropriate attention span levels
  • ability to have multiple players
  • adds to variety of apps
  • no to limited in-app purchases

All apps are accessed on my laptop and I set up the iPads from there. The iPads may have different apps loaded on them, depending on who is using them. With the different apps I can better meet the interests and skill levels of the different children in the program.

There are also always 2 ebooks or interactive stories on the iPad.

I have found having a core group of apps always loaded on the iPads and then rotating others in depending on interests and academic areas working on at the time works best for me. Core Apps will cover math, science, literacy, social-emotional, creativity on the iPad and at apps that the children just keep going back to over time and introduction of new apps.


Leo’s Padleo's pad  Cookie Doodle 2013-02-08_1631 Spot the Dot 2013-02-08_1635  Bugs&Buttons2 bugsbuttons Soundrop dropMath Bingo  math Kindergarten BingokbingoLetterSchool 2013-02-08_1641


New additions:

Rocket Speller rocket Free/ Little Big Thinkers ~ This app is described as a spelling app for 3-7 yr. olds. It is a spelling app that shows an image and the word spelled out like many other apps. The difference for my group is they have to place a second set of letters over the first spelling out the word. The reward is making your own rocket once enough words are completes. For me I appreciate that my youngest are using this and building letter awareness. When you click on a letter the name is provided. They are also getting awareness of lower case letter forms. My older school-age are using this app while covering up where the word appears and trying to spell themselves and then self checking.

ChatterPix Kids chatter Free/ Duck Duck Moose ~ This app has totally opened the creative doors for all ages here. Take a photo of whatever you wish + Place a line somewhere on the photo + Record up to 30 seconds = You get a digital story with the line turning into a moving mouth while your recording plays. We’ve been exporting to the iPad camera roll and going from there. For my youngest it’s about taking photos and just saying silly words. Hearing themselves back is such an experience. My older are drawing pictures and recording stories about them. The biggest project was taking 1 photo and reusing it for each character to record separately. Once exported they edited in iMovie and ended up with a 2 minute pieces. I’m planning on using for assessments by mouthing the children when pictured with a project they have completed as they expound on their project. 

January 14, 2015
by countryfun
1 Comment

Making Our Own Body Part Game

I’m always on the look out for sites that will support the development of learning materials I can use with the children in my program. I do not purchase a curriculum, but prefer to construct my own around the interests and needed skill set of the children currently in care. My two go to sites are: 1) Pinterest – great resource for free and low cost materials and ideas, and 2) TeachersPayTeachers  where I continue to find free and low cost materials I can use as is.

Google Drive is my on-line depository for most of my curriculum materials – copy, store and print as need. Not only easy to use, but quicker and less physical storage space needed. Also great for sharing with parents and other early childhood educators.

Every now and then I have to do a wider on-line search to find the resources I need to complete an ideas for a lesson. Yesterday, I wanted an active body part game, but didn’t want to hand draw body parts and have no available flash cards. I found a site that let me pull pictures and print out a sheet/picture. I then copied the sheet, cut up the images and made 3″x3″ flipcards. I labeled each image (of course with help). Having the preschooler help with the labeling allowed her to see the connection between letters, words, writing, and language. Laminate the cards and we were ready to play.


The first way we played was to chose an image on the sheet and then flip a card. You had to try to connect the 2 body parts picked. On the ones that we could not directly connect the children started to find other ways like touching a friend or placing hands on the 2 parts. Lots of  up and down moving, wiggling and laughing.

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The next game try was to just flip 2 cards and try to connect the body parts. School-age involved now so even more movement. Lots of laughs when the younger remembered and solved one set by placing hands on the 2 body parts and standing there staring at the older ones twisting themselves around without success, until they saw her:)


The new site I just chanced upon in a search for images of body parts to make a game is: LessonPix. I’m exploring with a free trial, before I spend $36 for annual membership. The site was developed by a special ed teacher and her husband with IT background.

  • Create custom materials such as Bingo, picture cards, coloring sheets, etc.
  • Clip art library with 1000’s of pictures
  • Use your own clip art or photos for custom materials
  • Download our clip art for your personal use in Word Documents, PowerPoint, etc.
  • Ideas on how to use LessonPix at home, in the classroom
  • Request pictures not available in picture library.


January 13, 2015
by countryfun

Snaps of Our Days

A good part of my day is spent observing. This means I am watching and noting what individual children are doing, what groups of children are doing, how the space is working for the activities of current interest, what are those current interests…..just to start. I have found that having visual documentation of what I am seeing helps greatly in this. Many of the photos and video taken are posted separately for more detail about the activity or project.

But every now and then I like to just provide you with some of the snaps I’ve taken throughout the last few weeks………………..

Snow play means angels and shovels for toddlers and preschoolers…

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Playing Doctor…….learning how the tools work….

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Building forts……..DSC06074  DSC06076

Building towers…….

DSC06018 DSC06024  DSC06020  or exploring balance …..DSC06035

a visit from a hawk (to the feeders we watch daily)…..DSC06014

art & math – shape collage …DSC06033

math & science – shape graphing…DSC06048

sound exploration…DSC06007

body parts movement game (helping to get it made, so we can play)…DSC06064

lot’s of kitchen time…using tools, tasting, set-up and clean-up ….DSC06070

Little People are still of major interest…


Fixing the climbing gym is a close second…


Learning to watch out for and include the littlest one who is now totally mobile….



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