~ early education care ~ where our play supports our learning

March 28, 2016
by countryfun
Comments Off on Milk to Plastic?

Milk to Plastic?

Sometimes you see something in your resources and you just have to try it. We had a lot of building happening here this morning along with a observation of a pair of Mallard ducks that visited our bird feeders. I thought I could bring in a little science experiment. If it worked we could use it for building/modeling with. If not then it’s a different type of learning.

This experiment came from How Wee Learn. It about the process of turning milk to plastic. She has been very successful in doing this within her K class.

I try not to use food as part of our play, but I also hate to waste food. I have some milk that is beyond date and will use most of it for baking, but thought could use the remainder for this experiment. Where I use vinegar as a cleaner I always have that on hand. Small group this morning so perfect time to pull in a science experiment.

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As gathered supplies we expanded language, worked on following directions. We smelled the milk and vinegar – good sensory! Measured out milk and into microwave. As numbers got low enough we watched and counted down. Measured again for the vinegar. Compare measuring tools and counting each TBLSP. Then it was taking turns as we used a fork to mix.

Now the observation of change in matter/ chemical reaction between the vinegar and milk. I did not explain why this happened because this young group really wouldn’t understand about milk protein. We just noticed solid and liquid.

We discussed how to get the water out and decided needed paper towels. We used our muscle power to push down until no new wet spots occurred. Then we explored our “Plastic from Milk”.

Ours was a lot of crumbs. It didn’t stick together really well, so we used for sensory and descriptive words – soft, rubbery, squishy, cold…..

We thought about why maybe we didn’t get a ball of plastic? Our milk was skim milk without much fat. We think the fat is what makes the milk balls that squishes together for the plastic ball. We’ll try whole milk or cream next time and test that thought out.

Sometimes it’s good to have an experiment not work as expected. It provides that opportunity to test your thoughts, ideas, make changes and try again. Learning from failure is as important as from success.

April 10, 2015
by countryfun
Comments Off on Unexpected Lesson: Birds vs Ducks

Unexpected Lesson: Birds vs Ducks

We are always open to taking advantage of the unexpected events that happen around our space, especially in our outside environment. Today was no exception. I was checking out the birdfeeders, when I did a double take because I thought I saw 2 ducks out there eating seeds and corn. IMG_2125

Now each Spring a dip in the field next to us floods with the melting snow and ducks come in before heading to area lakes and ponds, but I’ve never seen them at the feeders. I think the unexpected multiple inches of wet snowfall left the field pond slushy and here was an alternative food source.

DSC06434I immediately let the children know we had special visitors at the feeders and they came quickly to the window. When I asked them who the visitors were they answered “Ducks.” I began asking questions to stretch the learning from this event. Questions like:

  • “Where did the ducks come from?”
  • “How did the ducks get here?”
  • “How many ducks do you see?”
  • “What is different about the ducks?”

Their answers lead to other questions like:

  • “Why can’t ducks sit in trees?”
  • “Why do you think the smaller duck is brown?”
  • “What do ducks and birds both have?”

Their answers were so thoughtful and leading to further learning.

Mallard Pair from Country Fun Child Care on Vimeo.

While watching the ducks until they left, I decided we needed to get the points from the conversation down, immediately thinking Venn Diagram. Two items with common and different parts we could compare and chart while keeping the conversation going.

DSC06435I asked if they wanted to make a science chart about what they know about birds and ducks. With a strong “Yes!” I got some paper and markers and we settled in as a group.

I explained this chart has 3 parts where we can write down about birds in one, ducks in another and what both have in the middle. I also told them this special science chart was called a Venn Diagram, because I think it’s important to expose them to mathematical and scientific terms when we can.

As you can see we filled in our chart quite nicely with all our observations about what is similar and different about Birds and Ducks ~DSC06438

I also had some help with the writing by my inquisitive 1 yr. old. Cap on so help welcome.

Now having the markers out lead to wanting to use them for drawing, so it was off to the art tables. I got out a variety of coloring tools and paper before I hung up our Birds vs Ducks Venn Diagram.DSC06439 DSC06441  DSC06440

Now this pair of ducks visited us multiple times over the day, so we had more conversations about them being a pair and that became “mommy and daddy duck”. At the end of the day we decided to see if we could see their footprints.


* Update: 9am Friday and the ducks are back at the feeders. Will need to get some more seed out after they leave. Wonderr where conversations will lead today?

May 14, 2014
by countryfun

Travels with Charlie: MAINE Footprint Lobster #bookingusa

We so enjoyed being involved with Booking Across the USA (Trip 1) last year. It was fun to connect with others from across the other states. So many new books and fun activities to explore. So when Booking Across the USA Trip 2 was announced we jumped at the chance to participate again.  50 bloggers sharing activities related to their state with all ideas being inspired by a new series of books! What’s not to like about this?

We got our learning started with a new book: Travels with Charlie – Travelin’ the Northest by Miles Backer. Who says you have to start every book on the first page? Not me, so we started the reading with our own state of Maine and continued through the Northeast comparing these other states to ours. (Future Venn Diagram) This series and discussion opens up a way to develop an understanding of the USA in the preschoolers here.

My original idea was to combine reading this book with all the questions that have been raised as we prepare to head off to various schools for K next year. I figured we could start from the big picture – Earth, heading to USA, to Maine and then our homes in our towns. We are still doing that, but will be expanding into making personal books about Maine.

This simple activity takes coffee filters, markers (not sharpies), white art paper and water.


  1. Color, scribble is best, onto the coffee filter with the markers. We viewed the earth as seen from space on our iPads to figure out the colors and what those colors represented. – Our choices were: blue, green and brown. the empty spaces would give us white.
  2. Place filter in middle of the white art paper (we used drawing paper, construction paper and copy paper all worked fine), start spraying with water. Really get the coffee filter wet. You will see the colors start to blend and parts of the filter will lift (do not push down). Leave everything in place until it dries.
  3. Once dry lift up filter, reposition on the paper and spray well again. Let dry. This can be done multiple times, but we only needed these 2 color areas.
  4. Using a clear circle shape place where you like the Earth image, trace around. Cut out saving remaining paper for the USA outline to come.

We have completed the earth and background for the USA outline, but the discussions have shifted our focus just now. The children want to know more about Maine.


In answer to their interest I headed to the library in search of books about Maine. Little did I expect to have such a large and varied collection of titles to explore and chose from.

Needless to say the idea I had for the initial project has also evolved and will not be completed in time for the link up today (the 14th). I will definitely link up once done or you can check back here or on one of the other social media connections I use.

~~~~~~~~~~~~   ~~~~~~~~~~~   ~~~~~~~~~~~~

Allowing the children to direct what books we explored next, they chose the Moose stories. DSC04510 (Never imagined I’d find a use for the jar of dried moose droppings we have sitting on a book shelf. It was fun to show the children, discussing size, shape and how we could see the fibers from the plants that moose eat.) However, it’s been the books about lobsters (Lobsterman by Dahlov Ipcar, open below) and islands that have engaged the children the most.  DSC04517 islands

I pulled together materials for a simple and fun activity I’ve done in the past – a footprint lobster.

PS- Live lobsters are brown. They turn red once cooked. The children chose to do red, not brown. That is the color used most in advertising here, so they think of lobsters as being red.


  1. copy paper (we’ll be cutting out), thin red paint and wipes
  2. paint bottom of one foot
  3. place carefully on one short edge of paper, pressing down firm. (Watch out that the toes are to the edge.)
  4. wipe foot clean
  5. paint palms of both hands
  6. position hands over heel area, finger together, thumb out, place and press down
  7. wash hands
  8. let dry
  9. cut out lobster


Chose background paper (we used 9″x12″ blues from the textured paper stash). Have book open to the page with clear example of the lobster’s body.

  1. lobstercut out rock shapes (more textured paper)
  2. glue down rocks then place and glue down lobster
  3. color arm section where claw attaches to body
  4. glue on eyes and antennas (cut into 2 pieces, does not stayed glued as well when folded)
  5. add 8 legs (“L” shape)
  6. lines for tail section
  7. label body parts


These will be added as a page to our Maine books.


November 18, 2013
by countryfun
Comments Off on Finishing Up with Pumpkins

Finishing Up with Pumpkins

We have finally finished up our lessons with pumpkins. Over the years I have found that pumpkins are great for learning about a plants life cycle and pant parts. There are so many uses for pumpkin and lessons can go in many directions. It all depends on interest and taking hold of opportunities.

This year there has been a lot of prior discussions on recycling, composting, and rotting. Now I know what a wonderful mess a Jack-O-Lantern turns into, but most children do not see theirs once Halloween is done. Our garden pumpkins were not great this year, but definitely good enough to do a bit of exploring with.

To top our lessons off I found this new book while on my lesson search. It was a perfect fit with it’s wonderful real photos and scientific information. For me this book was a non-fiction find, even though it’s story is told in 15 voices. These voices added to our discussions and knowledge gained.

Here’s the cover of this new book. Can you see why I knew it would catch the children’s attention from the start?


Here’s a quick look at our pumpkin observations over the last few weeks.

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November 6, 2013
by countryfun
Comments Off on Exploring Pumpkins Online

Exploring Pumpkins Online

As part of our exploration of the pumpkin it was important to understand it’s life cycle. I have the paper sequence cards, the color sheets, etc., but I really like using youtube resources to support this type of lesson. The children are engaged observing, listening and questioning. They see all the stages in a short time period and can relate these to what was observed from our backyard garden.

Our first video is about the life cycle and shown for open discussion within the group. This one was chosen because it wasn’t about “Jack-o-lanterns”, but just the pumpkin.

The next video again shows the life cycle. There is a song accompanying the slides which involves the children in a totally different manner. We use a lot of singing to reinforce what we are learning. Music and children just go together.

By using these different videos, exploration of real pumpkins, books and paper activities we have a pretty solid understanding of a living items life cycle and needs for growth.

September 25, 2013
by countryfun
Comments Off on Our First Potato Harvest

Our First Potato Harvest

Every year we have done a garden we try something new. This year it was potatoes which we were late planting and probably could have tried harvesting sooner.

I had a vegetable broth soup base loaded with odds and ends of vegetables and figured a good way to use up was to serve around some cheesy mashed potatoes.

Now I have potatoes from our farm share, but the weather was great and thought it might be a perfect time to try our own potato harvest. Could we have just gone out and dug. Sure, but where’s the fun in that.

So, I posed a question asking “What to do if need potatoes for today’s soup?”

Solution: the garden


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As you watch the video I’m sure you can pick up how potato and tomato keep mixing on our tongues.

We had so much fun uncovering our potatoes. Will definitely plant again.

PS- We left the other trench for “Big Jim” to harvest. Sharing the fun!

June 21, 2013
by countryfun
Comments Off on An Obstacle Course = Learning

An Obstacle Course = Learning

So much learning occurs while children play.

They may not realize it, parents may not realize it, but I find myself always checking off in my head what learning I see happening. Maybe this is because I totally believe that play equals learning.

The obstacle course today was a great example of this. The videos here only shows a small part, but I hope you get a view of what I mean.

During this play I observed communication, listening, personal/social development (self control, self concept, self competence), problem solving, initiative, persistence, reflection scientific process, creativity, motor skills.

Science with ring toss, frisbee throw, balance, body movement, figuring out speed vs points.

Technology was with the usage of their personal iPods for timing and music. Mine was the iPad for photos/video.

Engineering was how they set up the course to take advantage of the space and equipment available. Building a tower of cardboard boxes as high as could.

Math really came into the activity for the older children with the timing and point tallies for each run. These were then averaged out to see how each did. Following multiple runs the numbers were compared.

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