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…
A trip to Dollar Tree helped me find a bulletin board background in an unexpected spot. I have used plastic tablecloths from Dollar Tree for my bulletin board background before and loved them because they were so easy to put up; the static made me almost not even need to staple them. This bulletin board background is not a tablecloth, though. It is supposed to be a shower curtain. I put a construction paper frame behind my students’ work so it does not feel too busy.
I have two sets of my pet words cards, one full sized that I use in my pocket chart, and this half sized one that I have for my writing center. To make the half sized one I chose to print two to a page, which makes it a great size for small pocket charts or to put on a ring for the writing center. I like having the photos of the animals next to the words when possible as opposed to clip art, which can work great for games and other activities in the classroom.
We start our day with our Question of the Day as students enter the classroom. My pocket chart hangs on the outside of the bathroom door, which is near the entrance of the classroom. I place the student names on the top of the lunch bin cubbies, so that students can pick up their names after dropping of their lunches. My pet themed questions can be found in the Question of the Day bundle or this set.
We got this set of Melissa & Doug pet puzzles last year. They are a bit challenging for our students so we photocopied a finished puzzle for students to lay the pieces on top of to complete the puzzles. I discovered this past week that it was a better idea to have the puzzles in separate containers instead of the container the puzzles came in; otherwise the pieces get all mixed up easily.
Since we did not have much play dough time during the last week I made sure to have some this week with some pet themed play dough cutters as well as some play dough mats that I found at Sparklebox. The students do not always use the mats to make what is suggested, but it does sometimes give them some ideas.
Last week our dramatic play was mostly grooming and feeding, so with Pets Week, I added in the light table for x-rays as well as some veterinarian tools like a stethoscope, eye dropper, shot, and thermometer. I found several of my x-rays here. I printed them on transparencies and then laminated for sturdiness.
These are just a few of the pet themed activities that we did during Pets Week. What are your favorite pet themed activities?
For PreK this past week we had a Homes theme. Along with that, we talked about the first four days of Creation, when God created our earthly home. We use Cross Connections for Early Learners for our Bible lessons.
One of our activities involved using the families counters. I used a clip art house from one of my favorite clip artists, Zip a Dee Doo Dah Designs, to create houses for this activity. I just printed the houses on the appropriate colored paper and laminated for durability.
Another sorting activity involving some fun clip art was also in my room. This one involved sorting furniture and fixtures into the correct rooms in a house. You can find this clip art from Dave’s Simple Teaching.
For our sensory bin we worked with the idea of each of the first three days of creation. For the first day I put in black and white beans to represent day and night. I later added cotton balls and blue streamers for day two of creation. I also added toy trees and plants for day three. In the next week we will add to this bin with things from the remaining days of creation.
Since our pets theme is coming soon, we switched to animal care in our dramatic play area. I used several items from Pocket of Preschool’s Vet Dramatic Play set to create this area. For this week we were only focusing on grooming and feeding of our pets, with x-rays and vet visits coming in the future.
The labels are really a must for dramatic play. It really helps the students clean up when it is time and keeps things from getting chaotic. The kids did have a little problem with the purple sponge matching a red sponge label. Maybe I will look for a red sponge for next year.
I matched the color pom pom for food to the main color of the animal for easy sorting at clean up time. Last year the students never thought to actually open the fish food container since when you pop it open it does not look open. This year they have figured it out and have opened it and stuffed and re-stuffed the pom poms in the container.
For some reason I only have photos of the letter T pattern block page, although I also had out the letter F one as well. We had T the week before and letter F this past week, so I put both out for the students to work on, along with a train and fish pattern block. The letters come from Confessions of a Homeschooler. As with all printables that need to be an exact size, watch your settings when printing. You usually want to print actual size to make it work with your blocks.
For our letter F we also did our letter book in small groups. This week we used the gray scale book with just the word. We will work our way up to using the ones with the entire sentence. I want to also make a set of the color books for our library, especially for during our review weeks.
We have a rhyme every week on our pocket chart. This past week’s was Little Miss Muffet. I found the cards to match the poem at Sparklebox. We read the poem during the week with a pointer. If the poem has a song, we usually sing it as well. Soon, we will start looking for our letter of the week in the poem as well.
There are many other activities that we worked on during the week in PreK, as those of you who work in a preschool know how full a week can be. Next up will be our Pets week. What themes are you working on this month?
Since I am using an ocean theme for my classroom this year, I thought a Shark Tank dramatic play area would be a fun way to start the year. I also know that we will not be doing a separate ocean theme week this year, so I do not need to save this pretend play idea for later in the year.
Thanks to a past Vacation Bible Camp we had made duck tape portcullis pieces that we had saved. These work out perfectly to be a pretend shark tank. To make this, we stuck silver duck tape sticky sides together in a grid pattern. These are hung from the ceiling with fishing line to make them low enough for my students to look through the holes at the sharks and other ocean life.
A coworker put together most of the supplies for this dramatic play. Oxygen tanks are made from large soda containers, flippers are made from foam sheets, an old camera is the underwater camera, and some inexpensive goggles finish it off. I added a foam shark hat from ACMoore for the shark to wear.
Since dramatic play is a favorite area I always want to make sure I get some literacy development in this center. This time we have labels for where everything goes with both the picture and the word. We also have badges for friends using this center to wear.
Preschool graduation has come and gone. Now is the time to clean and rearrange my preschool classroom. I was fortunate enough to have a great helper along with two preschool student helpers work on scrubbing down all of the chairs, tables, and shelves in my classroom.
The chairs were in a lovely circle around the circle time rug to dry, thanks to my young helpers who pretended it was a castle. I stacked them so I could do my rearranging and vacuum all the bits of Magic Eraser from the rug.
The photos in this post show the aftermath. Now I am ready to start rearranging to get ready for Art Camp next week. My preschool has three day camps each week of June; I will be teaching the first two this year. I will be using three easels, although only two were in the room when I snapped some photos.
The corner will become the ice cream shop. Thankfully we already had a bin full of items to create the shop that we have used in other years and I will be adding just a few finishing touches to it before camp starts.
I will be spending tomorrow morning in my classroom, hoping to get most of the way ready so that I won’t have too much to think about when next week rolls around and it is camp time.
Does your school do anything different in the summer months?
This year we have had an entire week dedicated just to penguins. I was excited to bring out my life size penguin creations that I have saved from when I taught sixth grade many years ago. (See, there is sometimes a good reason to save things.) I have fond memories of teaching middle school and love seeing my current students measure themselves against an emperor penguin.
If you notice there is a small photo of the penguin nearby. This is just one of many photos of real penguins hidden around the room for our penguin search dramatic play. I found the penguin photos here. I created a check sheet for the students to carry around the room on a clip board, along with binoculars and gloves, to search for many of the kinds of penguins. Along the way nearly every student became an expert at putting on winter gloves.
Besides searching for penguins, my students could also go ice fishing. Inside were laminated fish with staples in them to make them stick to the magnetic pole. (I gave up on having any type of magnet stick to laminated items a while back. Staples are much cheaper and don’t fall off.)
I had some penguin counters to use with this spinner game, so I added it to my math and fine motor area. You can find it here. I like finding games that I can use fun counters with since the three dimensional counters attract the students even more than any clip art can.
This is how this puzzle was left at the end of the day, but I did have several students work through getting the puzzle into order from eleven to twenty to make the penguin picture. It did help to have some numbers drawn along the side of the board. I laminated and put magnets on the back of this puzzle. I am finding that my students do better with these types of puzzles on the magnet board because they do not slide around as much when they are trying to line them up next to each other to complete the puzzle. This puzzle comes from here.
My director bought us some insta-snow to try out, so I added it to my sensory bin, along with a tube of penguins. I found photos to match the penguins in the tube and hung them above the bin. Several students matched them up and asked me the names of the different penguins while playing.
We also had some sensory play at the writing center with baking soda and white hair conditioner. I used some penguin and fish alphabet letters I found here to have students choose which letters to write, although many tried out letters in their names instead. The students enjoyed this so much that I promised to move the baking soda and conditioner over to the large sensory bin the next week so they could play with it in other ways, rather than just flattening it and drawing letters.
At circle time we used the pocket chart to go through the emperor penguin’s life cycle. We also read some books and tried balancing bean bags and balls on our feet to pretend to be a daddy penguin. The cards at the bottom were photos of opposites in Antarctica. I was able to go through these cards with a few of my students during centers time to introduce the idea of opposites.
One of my fine motor activities included using our poke pin. I found this penguin, which several of my students started to work on but did not finish. I think that preschoolers probably need smaller poke pin projects if we want them to complete them. I just encourage my students to work on them and come back again another day add some more holes. I also had some half sheets of letter review available for students who wanted a smaller poke pin project.
These are just a few of our penguin centers. We also did our sponge penguins again. You can see an example of that from last year. We also ended the week with black and white day and a penguin snack.
Do you have a penguin week in your preschool? What is your favorite activity?
We often do a hibernation theme in January. This year we focused mostly on bears, but also included discussion of other animals that hibernate through our question of the day, some hibernation songs, and books that we used.
I decided to use our tent to act as a cave to go along with our hibernation and bear theme. When I found a few different ideas online that related to We’re Going on a Bear Hunt, I knew our pretend play would revolve around that book. I found printable signs to hang around the room for each place in the story. I also discovered a map that was meant to be used for retelling the story, but we used it as our actual map, finding each place in the room as we searched for the bear in its cave. In addition, I found some story retelling puppets that I trimmed and laminated to make badges to each child playing would know which part he or she had. The photos of each item will lead you to where I found these items.
For our fine motor and math center I discovered a winter themed Cariboo game and a roll and cover game. My students had enjoyed Cariboo in December so I decided to pull it out again with these winter themed cards. Since I had a few students out during the week I was able to spend some time playing the roll and cover game with individual students to check on number sense.
We worked on a few crafty projects during our hibernation week. The easel was set up on one side with q-tips, white paint, and black paper. The students enjoyed experimenting and did well writing their names with the qtips when they were finished. We also painted a box with a heart on the lid to go along with our study of the visit of the three wise men. We put a heart inside that said, “I give my heart to Jesus” after discussing the gifts the wise men brought and what gift Jesus really wants from us.
My students really enjoyed several of our songs during this week, including:
Bear Hunt by Steve Songs
What is your favorite hibernation activity for preschool?
This past week I prepared my room for my PreK students to come have a Sneak Peek on Friday. Since I was keeping my ocean theme from last year I just had a few updates to work on to make things fresh and new.
I needed to reprint my welcome sign since I did not have time to laminate it last year and the spots where the sticky tack was attached to the paper had that greasy look to it. Now that it is reprinted and laminated I won’t have to worry about that in the future.
I had to do some work to my birthday display as well. The sign had to be trimmed and laminated, names had to be added to the birthday bags, and a few bags came down since I currently have a few less students this year so far. Will try to get a finished photo this week with the sign above it as well.
I start the year with my ocean theme calendar, but switch up the number cards throughout the year to work on different patterns and to go along with themes or seasons. The calendar set can also be found in my Ocean Decor Bundle.
Since I did not have to start from scratch with my ocean theme I had some time to work on my dramatic play Pizza Shop. I purchased Pocket of Preschool’s Pizza Restaurant set to help me add to what we already had available at school. I love that she has all the labels as part of her set. Labeling everything really helps with clean up since students know where things are supposed to go.
I bought the green containers and the pizza pans at Dollar Tree as well as the measuring cup and measuring spoon. I think that trip just about used up the gift card that a lovely parent gave me as an end of the year gift.
I set up a quick craft to help decorate the dramatic play area with help from my students. During the Sneak Peek I had paper pizzas with toppings to glue on using glue sticks. Besides being a simple activity that will help decorate pretend play, it gave me an idea of how my students use glue sticks. I can already note which ones need a few pointers.
Here is the Pizza Shop display with the pizzas my students made at the Sneak Peek. The Pizza Shop sign comes from Sparklebox. That one was already in our pizza prop box so I just had to put it on the bulletin board.
Here is a glance at the pizza pan full of toppings, some from a couple sets we already had, with some additional toppings I made with suggestions from Pocket of Preschool’s set.
Now to get ready for the first day of school this week.