Summer camp centers during our cooking camp needed to be mostly self led. I did get brave and put out my brand new Summer Qtip Painting because I had a feeling that several of the kids at camp would enjoy the challenge since the camp was mostly students who would be entering preschool or PreK in the fall, not moving on to kindergarten.
Other than ending up with quite a few papers that did not have an owner, this center was a great success. One thing that definitely helped were the color coded cotton swabs that I discovered at my local Dollar Tree. I did end up needing to clean up one set midway through camp when one camper decided that the science experiment of color mixing was very interesting.
I was pleased to see that some of the campers even decided to try tracing the words at the bottoms of the sheets. During the year in PreK I would probably have my students use a different writing implement to do the tracing part.
For summer cooking camp I knew sensory bins would be a hit and keep those who were not cooking very occupied. I also did not want something that was a challenge to clean up. My coworker had seen suggestions online for making the funnel contraption so I knew we had this to pull out of our closets. I chose the colorful died beans because they would be easy to see on the dark rug beneath the bin. The scissor scoopers were already in my stash, but I would love to pick up a set like the ones on Amazon from Learning Resources (aff. link.)
One sensory bin was not enough for the first week of camp, so I also set up one with a sunflower seed bird seed mix, magnets, and magnetic alphabet letters. The magnets (aff. link) are from Learning Resources. The magnetic alphabet set was one I had in my stash, but you can also find one here (aff. link) that I also own.
I realized that we had not pulled out the Cranium Fort set this year, so each day we started a building for the students and let them try to add to it. The older students spent more time building and the younger ones sat in it. This set is no longer manufactured, but you can see a link to it here (aff. link) so you know what it is in case you fall upon it at a yard sale or somewhere.
In addition to these activities and our cooking we also had out some puzzles, Potato Heads, Lego Duplos and our Ice Cream Shop Pretend Play. These kept our full house of preschoolers very busy during our cooking camp.
One very popular center during Bugs, Spiders, and Insects week was the Build a Bug Center. I gathered a bunch of shapes on a tray, along with glue sticks. I had construction paper available for students to create a bug. I also made scissors available in case a student wanted to cut any of the shapes before gluing. One student created four different bug art pieces at this center during the week. I quickly filled up my bulletin board. You can see the first batch below. The last set (which somehow escaped my camera) looked increasingly like specific insects as we discussed more about them as we went through the week.
In our science center we continued to observe our caterpillars as they each turned into a chrysalis. We also did some observation of these insects from a Lakeshore set called Real Bugs Discovery Kit. (aff. link) Some students also completed the Bug Observation Form that I printed from Sparklebox. Several kids asked me if those were real bugs.
We created a several day craft to walk through the steps a caterpillar takes to become a butterfly. You can see our caterpillars above. I gave the students each a clothespin and a bin full of pom poms along with liquid glue. They chose the colors they wanted and glued the pom poms on the clothespins. I helped put the eyes on this time.
The next day we wrapped yarn around a cardboard tube to create the chrysalis. We put the caterpillar in the chrysalis and then used markers to color a coffee filter, which we then sprayed with water. Finally, when dry, we had the caterpillar grab its wings and emerge from its chrysalis. They are currently hanging all around the room with the butterflies clipped to their chrysalis as if they just emerged.
We played a small group rhyming game with a ladybug theme during our bug week. I placed half the ladybugs in the grass, which is a drying rack for baby items that I picked up as a special buy at Aldi. I found a very similar one on Amazon. (aff. link) My students each received a few ladybugs and then took turns choosing a ladybug from the grass. They then all looked at their ladybugs to figure out which person had the ladybug that rhymed to make a match. You can find these ladybug rhyming cards on TPT.
Our dramatic play for our insect them was BeeKeeping. I utilized some pieces that one of my coworkers had put together last year along with some printables from this Honey Bees Dramatic Play set. I always want labels for everything in my dramatic play because it helps with literacy development as well as clean up. The beehive above is a file box. (aff. link)
Inside the beehive there are hanging file folders that are covered with artwork of beehives and some with painted bubble wrap. The artwork helps the students fill out the checklist that is also part of this set, so students need to look carefully at each part of the hive to check for danger.
I laminate my inspection sheet and have a dry erase marker and eraser available at the center for students to complete.
To be a beekeeper we needed gloves, a hat with netting, a smoker, and some tools to gather the honey. Next year I will probably add some kind of white shirt to be the beekeeper’s clothing.
You cannot have bees without some flowers for them to gather nectar from, so I pulled out this set for students to water. They also had fun taking them apart and putting them back together in various ways. This set was found at Toysrus and was called the Mix and Match Flower Garden. A similar set that does not have the base can be found here. (aff. link) I actually have it as well as use it during our gardening unit.
For checking out more about bees in our pretend play area, I have this book. It is called Honeybees, An Amazing Insect Discovery Book. This book has some great photos for students to look at while in the pretend play area.
We start each day with our Question of the Day, so Pond Life week started with questions about turtles, frogs, and dragonflies from my Animals set. I like having questions with photos, especially for students who may not have seen any of these creatures in real life.
On our fine motor and math table we played Feed the Frog with black pom pom flies. I found the trash can at the local Dollar Tree, but they do not currently have them in stock. I have seen other versions that use a parmesan container as well. I would like to get some plastic flies (aff. link) to go with this game. I had students roll the die to see how many flies to feed the frog with the tool.
I made a spinner for this path game so there would not be competing dice on the same table. Students move their frog along the lily pad path to the finish. These frogs (aff. link) look like the set I have used in several places in my classroom, including this game. I also used the frogs in my sensory bin with water and pony bead and pipe cleaner tadpoles with green foam lily pads.
I used these ABC Turtles from maketaketeach, along with letter tiles for some work on letter sounds. This is a center that mostly required some assistance from myself or my assistant to at least get them started with the activity since many know their letters, but are still working on letter sounds.
For the Pond word building students had to be able to match up lowercase and capital letters. You can find the cards for this at A Teaching Mommy, along with several other printables for this theme. I try to have my students sometimes match lowercase to lowercase and sometimes capital to lowercase or lowercase to capital letters when we use the letter tiles.
My writing center had a die with letters on it to practice writing on this sheet from PreKinders. However, a couple girls ended up doing the heart grid above during their time at this center. I promised to take a photo of it for one of the girls.
We are watching our caterpillars grow, so they are on the science table, along with frog life cycle stamps, some Pond Life words and some magnifying lenses. Pond Life words were found at Sparklebox. This is a UK website, so be sure to check wording and spelling for printables there.
I put out our Pond Life puzzles for my students to work on the large rug. These are challenging puzzles, with no picture underneath, so are good for this time of the year. The puzzles are say Excellerations by Discount School Supply on them, but I cannot find them anywhere online to share a link.
I could have used my frog themed calendar this month as well, but chose to use the insects set instead since I really like all these cute insects in this set. We are also growing our caterpillars into butterflies as well as doing an insect theme this month. If you really have a hard time deciding which calendar numbers to use each month, please check out my bundle.
During story time we used several pond animal themed books. There are affiliate links to them below so that you can get a closer look at them by clicking on the book covers.
This version of Five Little Ducks is a board book with cut outs. I usually use this one during farm week and read the next one during ponds week.
The illustrations by Ivan Bates in this version of Five Little Ducks are really cute. I like how each duckling has something to give its mother when they return.
Jump! is one of those chain stories. Each animal jumps because of a larger animal. The version I have also has Spanish in it.
Frog and Toad stories are fun to share at this time of year because students are better at longer stories. They also enjoy hearing stories that involve characters they know.
It’s Mine! by Leo Lionni is all about some frogs that are selfish and how they learn not to be. I channel my inner three year old to read the lines of the selfish frogs.
This one has some great photos of frogs without filling the page with too many words for a preschooler to handle.
This year we decided to focus on kites and wind in our spring theme week in preschool. Besides making paper bag kites to fly outside during one of our windy days and blowing paint through straws, we also did several centers with kites, wind, and springtime weather as our theme. I found the kites shown above at Confessions of a Homeschooler. I attached chenille stems (affiliate link) to the kites and added pony beads (aff. link) for this activity. Chenille stems are a bit easier for students to add beads to than yarn. This was a popular activity.
Also on my math and fine motor table was this umbrella grid game from PreKinders. I added one of my foam dice and some flat blue glass beads (aff links). I purchased my beads either at the dollar store or with a coupon at a craft store. For advanced players I would suggest they make a pattern as they play with the different shades of blue.
My students really enjoy painting with water on the dark side of my easel, so this time I found directions for drawing a kite and let them try it out with a paint brush. Sometimes they create the kite, and other time they paint their own ideas. I am not sure where this direction sheet came from; if anyone has seen it please let me know so I can give proper credit.
For the other side of my easel I chose to put up a felt board and have students play this roll and put together game. I printed the pieces on milk filters and cut them out to use on the felt board. The milk filters I linked you to are smaller than the ones I purchased, but I do not see 15 inch ones available currently on Amazon. I cut them down to fit in the printer as an 8.5 by 11. After posting this, I finally discovered where I found this game.
Managed to take a photo of my question of the day when the early morning sun was hitting it. Hopefully next time I will remember to photograph it at the end of the school day. This question comes from my spring set and is also included in my Question of the Day bundle.
I combined something I had already printed from PreKinders with my new Spring Alphabet Centers cards for my writing center. I put six of my alphabet cards in the foam pocket die (aff. link). Students roll the die and write whichever letter comes up until they have filled all the squares. Students can also play this in pairs and take turns writing. I switched out the cards during the week to practice different letters.
Since my students still like qtip painting, I pulled out these printables from 1+1+1=1. As you can see, one student worked on her patterning while painting. The students all seemed to want to finish the rainbow at the bottom of the sheet as well.
I am using the free Spring calendar numbers from my shop this month. They are also available in my Calendar Bundle. Be sure to let me know if there are any calendar number themes not included as I would like to add a couple more sets to the bundle.
For one of our science activities I set up a wind experiment with straws and objects from the classroom to blow. I used an IKEA bin to limit where the items would get blown. I used straws cut in half and labelled each straw with a student’s name so that we could avoid sharing straws and germs. The items I used matched up with this free printable. Most of my students who tried out this center did not necessarily bother with filling out the sheet; if I had an assistant I would probably have the assistant guide students in completing the sheet.
Since our healthy habits theme was coming up soon, I decided to switch to a Pizza Shop for our dramatic play. We had not had a food related theme in a while. Printables for this theme came from Pocket of Preschool. I also followed several of her suggestions for creating pizza toppings. The pizzas on the bulletin board were created by students.
The toppings are old spice containers with appropriate colored paper shred inside. I did have to explain to one student that he could not actually shake it out.
Keeping the pizza shop toppings put away nicely when finished does require good labelling and containers. One also needs to model and help in the first day and remind afterwards to have the shop look like this at the end of the day. There are plenty of times that there are pizza toppings everywhere, but there are also beautifully created pizzas and students using the menu to mark what toppings they would like. We even had our pastor come in and order a pizza from our students. They loved it and the look on their faces was priceless when he pretended to leave the room with his pizza.
A new favorite book I discovered relating to kites and wind was Stuck by Oliver Jeffers. This has the perfect four year old sense of humor in it. The kite gets stuck in the tree and the kid keeps throwing things in the tree to knock it down.
We also read Curious George Flies a Kite:
What are your favorite books for preschool related to wind and kites? I am always on the search for more books.
We have been having literacy themed studies in our early learning center lately, including a study of nursery rhymes. Above you can see one of the science based activities that went along with Humpty Dumpty. My students were given some blocks, a Humpty Dumpty Easter egg with some washers inside to make him magnetic, and a magnet. They built walls, put Humpty Dumpty on the wall, and then tried to make him walk along the wall with the magnet without falling.
As you can see, different students had different ideas about how to build a wall for Humpty Dumpty. I also sent home a bag with instructions to fill it with something that would keep Humpty Dumpty safe. We then recited the Humpty Dumpty rhyme, tossing the bag with the raw egg and whatever they brought to keep him safe off the wall (preschool shelving.) The kids loved waiting to see whether each egg made it or not. This year we had some break and some not, which is great. One year none of them broke so I let the kids put an egg in the bag with nothing so they could see one break.
When I looked at my past lesson plans I could not immediately remember what I had done for a sensory bin with Nursery Rhymes. Then I saw the sheep and the cards in my box of Nursery Rhyme stuff and realized what an easy bin this is. I just poured in our art supply box of pom poms (Amazon referral link) in, along with some cards and sheep from Making Learning Fun and a few tools for fine motor practice and I was set. We did not play shear the sheep as suggested. Instead they filled their sheep with wool based upon how many pom poms the sheep suggested. Of course, the students also made up their own games all week as well, including lots of different types of sorting.
To go along with our literacy theme the dramatic play area was turned into a library. One of my coworkers created much of this last year, with help from Play to Learn Preschool’s set. This was a great way to get students to remember our library shelf by moving it into dramatic play and adding opportunities to share stories with one another with big books and felt pieces for retelling.
Felt pieces were placed in the blue bin below the easel. I switched them out based upon books and rhymes we had been doing during circle time.
Students were very excited to check out library books and take them home. Most students were good about bringing books back quickly, but we did have a few who needed some reminding. This is good practice for when they go to elementary school and need to keep track of school library books.
After the first week of Nursery Rhymes I added the puppet show to the library. Our pastor was kind enough to build this for our school. I placed puppets in the center that went along with our nursery rhymes and Bible stories so that they could retell them with the puppets. It also helped give them ideas and reduced the temptation to turn the puppets into boxing gloves.
We have been using our Nursery Rhyme Calendar during our literacy weeks. I chose to use the Hey Diddle Diddle version with an ABCD pattern.
During our Nocturnal Animals week I pulled out the bat building activity that I created last year. It was inspired by a bat counting craft on Fantastic Fun and Learning. I painted the parts of the egg carton black and put colorful eyes on the bat bodies. Wings are craft foam with puffy paint (referral links) letters. I chose to use three different colors for the letters to make it easy for me to give a hint to a student who was having trouble finding a match. I could tell them that it needed to be the same color.
The owl number matching activity was from KidSparkz on TPT. I sometimes use this tabletop pocket chart (referral link) for matching games for my students. It tends to draw some of their attention when just placing the cards on the table would not.
For my easel this time we had letter matching magnets. You will notice that some of the letters are capital and some lowercase for some mixed practice. Looks like this one is not still available online due to being updated. I do have an Alphabet Magnets set that I use at other times that you can find here. Mine is based upon working on just a handful of letters at a time.
My timing was not the greatest for this sensory writing activity since we had done something similar recently with our winter theme, so this one was not quite as popular this time around. I do try to avoid doing similar activities on back to back weeks for the most part. I found the word cards here.
About this time of year is usually the right time to open a post office in dramatic play. My students love making cards and letters for each other and manage to practice lots of fine motor control and alphabet formation in the process. Most of the printables for the dramatic play area came from this set from Primary Delight. I had a blue bag that I used puffy paint to write the word “MAIL” on for the postal worker bag.
The mailbox came courtesy of our class photo company a few years ago. It was where unwanted photo packages and payments were to be delivered. Afterwards I painted it blue and put the label on it. The kids loved filling and emptying it.
Each student has his or her own mailbox for mail to be delivered. Some of the mail was junk mail donated from home and other mail was created by the students. In addition we had some boxes that I put velcro on with the matching velcro on a laminated label. Students enjoyed attaching the labels and deciding who would get the package.
A few books we used for nocturnal animals included:
Owl Moon by Jane Yolen
Stellaluna by Janell Cannon
We also read several nonfiction books about various nocturnal animals. Any favorite books about nocturnal animals that you love and would like to share?
This year we only had a week for transportation as opposed to two weeks last year, so I had to squeeze in my favorites. Besides the bin full of train tracks from IKEA, my sensory bin was one the favorites of the week. I put some packing “peanuts” in the bin along with some plastic vehicles for filler. I used my Transportation Sort cards in the bin. I laminated the cards and placed several staples in each so that the magnet fishing poles (Amazon affiliate link) could catch them to sort.
I was fortunate to find a Melissa & Doug Magnetic Picture Maker (Amazon affiliate link) on clearance a few years back at a craft store. Although my students may not have completed the pictures, they did enjoy using the magnet to move the little circles. I will pull this out later in the year when they have more stamina and a bit more fine motor control to see how successful they are.
My students still love anything related to dot markers and dice, so the Transportation Roll and Graph was completed by several students. Some even kept rolling until all of the vehicles won. This roll and graph is made to go up to five instead of ten to meet the stamina of my students.
Something else my students really enjoyed this week was the Transportation Qtip center that I somehow managed not to get in a photo.
Since we had several weather issues and some health issues in my home, I did a quick train station pretend play area. My photo does not include the extra box that ended up being the engineer’s car. The students have been very busy with the simple area, buying tickets, driving the train, handing out tickets, climbing in and out of the train, and fixing the train.
There are many activities to practice fine motor skills in preschool, especially during the Christmas season. As you can tell by the branch of the Christmas tree with all the ornaments sharing the same branch, this tree is in my PreK classroom. Since I purchased a new tree for my home this year, I brought in a four foot tree for my dramatic play area, along with some ornaments that I picked up at the Dollar Tree.
I could put out qtip painting practically every day of the year and I would have students working at this center. I don’t put qtip painting out every week, but do put it in my rotation since it is always popular. This set of Christmas Qtip Painting is found in my shop. It has several options, including this type, one in color, and one with no clip art, just the dots. The words are in a gray shade so that they can be traced if you have kids at that stage of development in your classroom.
For some mixed practice with the alphabet, I put out this stamping set. I am embarrassed to say that I realized there was a title on some of the pages that said a different stamping set, but I fixed it when I printed out mine and noticed it. I was very pleased that one of my students who has suddenly figured out how to write without a fist grip was interested in doing these sheets two different days during the week. He did a great job finding the correct letter to stamp and did great with attempting to write the letters as well. We have free choice centers for most activities, so it was great to see a student who is making some growth in pincher grip skills work on this center more than once during the week.
A week full of apple activities in my PreK classroom involved crafts, sensory fun, fine motor play, and two tasting experiences. We also had our dramatic play Pumpkin Patch, which carried over from Farm week and continues through Pumpkin week.
The sensory bin for apple week includes a base of split peas. I made apples from pipe cleaners so that they were magnetic. This idea was found at Modern Preschool. I also added cinnamon sticks for my students to rub together for added scent. Apples are both from a local craft store as well as Attributes Apples from Learning Resources. Somewhere along the way I picked up an apple shaped colander and ice cube tray to add to my collection.
I ended up switching out the apples in the coverall game for the Attribute Apples, since they seemed to stand up better and not roll around as easily for little hands. These games come from Recipe for Teaching.
We also played this apple spinner graphing game with linking cubes. Students who played did fairly well. I think the cubes were easier to keep in place than pom poms while spinning. I found this game at Playdough to Plato.
This set of apple orchard magnets were meant to be used with play dough, but since I am always looking for new ideas for my easel, I decided to use them this way. You can find them at LifeOverC’s. I was happy to discover that the large binder clips would allow me to have a couple small containers on this side of my easel to hold magnets or other items.
I was excited to use my brand new alphabet magnets this week, so I decided to put up these d words on the other side of my easel for the week. Of course, one “d” disappeared on the first day of the week. Still happy with the magnets and may end up getting another set sometime soon. The only thing that would make them perfect is if the t was straight on the bottom. The printables come from This Reading Mama. I cut apart the pages and laminated for use on my easel.
My students love to use Qtips to paint. I found these sets on 1+1+1=1. I put out apple colors for painting. I also put out the letter D qtip painting since that is our focus letter of the week.
I have a few students who will sit at a cutting center and go through pages and pages of cutting. Once we are finished cutting I add these to the scrap bin for scrap bin art. Scrap bin art means getting out the scrap bin, glue, and scissors and letting them just create whatever they want. Other times I let students take home their cutting in an envelope or set it up for students to glue their pieces down like a puzzle or in a pattern when finished. This set is from This Reading Mama.
My students made these pumpkins during farm week to add to our pumpkin patch. They are attached with clothespins so that the students can practice some fine motor skills to pick a pumpkin during pretend play.
The front of the hayride is our car from the auto shop, with just a larger hole in the top so kids can climb inside. The hay ride area has hay that students cut in it. The walls have our corn stalks that students painted the week before.
My students love pretending with the real popcorn machine. This was given to me personally and we do not use it enough for real to justify keeping it. However, knowing that I use it every year in dramatic play makes me find a place to store it. The cookies hiding out on the lower shelf were made by me. I will have to find a close up to share another time.
My youngest wanted to go to IKEA recently, which caused me to upgrade my cash register. There were several other things I would have liked to buy for my preschool class, but I kept it to just this. My students happily worked with paper from the scrap bin to make lots of money for the drawer. I am happy to say that this register does not eat money like my last one did. The last one would get money stuck inside so that I had to unscrew the bottom to rescue it.
We start each day in PreK with a question of the day. Most of them relate to the theme we are working on in class. My students’ parents really like to wait to see which answer their children will pick before they leave for the morning. You can find farm themed questions in this set or in my Question of the Day bundle.
One of the many farm themed books we read during our farm theme is Rosie’s Walk. I found this path game at Making Learning Fun and braved using our large laminator to create it. I used this as a shape review game. I also printed the felt board pieces from the same sight for my students to use in the library corner during the farm theme.
For another sorting and fine motor activity, I had my students match up horse clothes pin legs to laminated colored bodies. I used permanent marker to color the legs since paint does not seem to stay. I used this in assessing my student knowledge of colors as well as pincher grasp. I found the printable horses here.
I try to use my easel in different ways, so for the farm theme I used one side with pattern block patterns. I put contact paper on top of the print outs and gave the students foam pattern block pieces (affiliate link) to stick to the contact paper. It stays sticky enough to be used for a couple weeks, if interest stays. I switched out a couple of the pictures for the second week to renew interest for those who had already tried it the first week. Some of the pattern block pages come from PreKinders and the alligator, which goes with our letter that we were studying, comes from Jessica’s Corner of Cyberspace.
For my farm themed sensory bin, I used a filler of bird seed. I created fence pieces with hot glue and two sized of popsicle sticks. I also added letters to sort the animals. We had some lincoln logs to create a barn as well. As a preschool teacher, I am sure you can imagine what it looks like at the end of each day (or even a few minutes after the kids get to school.) Many of the animals come from a farm themed tube, but others are ones that my youngest daughter outgrew.
One of the fine motor activities that my PreK students enjoy is using the large poke pins. For our farm theme I found a poke pin pig from This Reading Mama. I also pulled out a letter A poke pin page from this set of Miss Helen’s Hippos. I have a few cork board sheets stacked on top of each other to help keep from getting tiny holes in the table.
Another resource I used from Making Learning Fun were these letter tile cards. You can find the letter tiles on Amazon (affiliate link). It did take some work to get them to print out correctly for me because I did not have the size paper suggested. Not sure which story these corresponded with since I printed them out quite a while ago.
During our first week on the farm I had my students work on creating items that would go into our Pumpkin Patch the following week. We created pumpkins from paper bags. Students cut leaves for plants, cut popcorn pieces for the popcorn machine, and cut hay for the hay ride. I was able to have each student take a turn so I could assess everyone’s cutting skills at this point in the year. All of these cutting ideas come from Pocket of Preschool’s Pumpkin Patch dramatic play set.
Next I will show you how the Pumpkin Patch turned out…