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.
We were starting back from Christmas break with a space theme, which goes along well with our Bible lesson about the three kings following the star. Then, on top of the crazy cold weather, we had a glancing blow from that super storm which resulted in a two day week. Not much time for space. I will be giving the kids one last day to play with a few things on Monday before moving on, however.
You can see our space theme sensory bin above. I used black beans as the base. I also included some glow in the dark stars of various sizes as well as the space themed tube. I have included links to similar items below. I get a small commission if you order through my link. I picked up the space tube at Michaels or ACMoore and I am unsure where the stars came from since my director picked them up. I know our pack did not have as many as the example I found online, but they look like the same kind.
So it was the first day back after Christmas break and we had snow dough on the art table and space sand on the writing table. They are nowhere near each other, but near the end of the day I found snow dough in the space sand. I picked out the big pieces and decided the rest were stars. See what we were doing with it below.
I found the cards for this activity at Homeschool Creations. The black sand I found at a dollar store as well as the metal pan. If you do not see black sand at your local dollar store, you can also try your craft store. The smallest size container I see through Amazon is here. I have also heard of people dying sand, but my experience has not been successful at this point.
Above you can see a quick phone shot of one of my questions for this space theme week. It was interesting to see that not every kid thought they would like to live in the space station. Maybe if I had put “visit” the answers would have been different.
Below you can find a few of the items in my shop that I used in my class for my space theme. Please don’t laugh at the cover to my space word wall; it is the very first item I listed for sale in my shop and I no longer have an editable file because my computer crashed shortly afterwards. I am quite disappointed that we did not have time to play my space path game and will figure out some other time to pull it out soon.
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.
I was finalizing my lesson plans when I realized I had no idea where my Christmas sensory bin material was. I took a look at last year’s plans and remembered that I had thrown it all away because it was looking rather tired. It had been a long weekend and my brain was not working so I headed over to Dollar Tree to gather some materials since I needed some inexpensive ornaments for our classroom tree.
I picked up red and white paper shred, meant for gift wrapping. I also picked up these long stretchy cords in green and gold that were meant to be used in crafting wreaths. I cut them into pieces. I also purchased a couple Christmas tree shapes trays and several Christmas boxes that could open. In addition there were some Christmas erasers and a couple sets of Christmas ornaments that were shaped like presents in two different sizes.
Since we had much less time than usual in our classroom this past week I will be using this bin again this week. To change it up a bit I am adding some jingle bells, a magnet wand, and a couple tools for picking up items.
I did have to remind students that the small present shaped ornaments were not to really be opened since all that was inside was a piece of styrofoam. A couple did get opened anyway, but after a reminder we made it through the week with only two casualties out of twenty ornaments.
I wanted to use some sensory writing in my writing center during my fall theme, but had not found exactly what I wanted in my stash or online. I ended up using the clip art I had purchased for my calendar sets to make some alphabet cards that I can use in several different ways, depending upon where I want to use them. I had thought I was going to use a more fall themed salt or sand in my center, but I forgot to check for supplies and ended up using green. The kids did not care at all about having a fall color sand or salt and someone was at this center all week long.
I got the idea for using the clothes pins from Play to Learn Preschool. With this center there is always a bit of salt or sand on the table and floor by the end of the day, but a little bit of reminding how to gently shake the tray to clear it makes it be less and less each time you pull it out.
We did a few crafty projects for our fall theme. One of them involved baking soda paint and vinegar drops for a science twist. First, I let the students pick which leaf they would like to paint. I found some leaf templates online and enlarged them a bit. Students chose the color of baking soda paint, which was baking soda, water, and liquid watercolor. Note that the paint needs to be stirred frequently.
Once students finished painting they got to add vinegar for some fizzy leaves. Once these dried I cut them out and we put them up in our fellowship hall windows to help decorate for our Thanksgiving Feast.
Another of our crafty activities involved giving students various sized strips of brown paper to create a tree. Once the tree was created, students could use the end of toilet paper tubes to dip in fall colored paint to create leaves on the trees. The leaf idea came from here. I enjoy this activity because every student’s project definitely looks different than anyone else.
My sensory bin was filled with fabric and foam leaves. I also had a leave shaped tray as well as acorn and pumpkin shaped colanders. In addition I had table scatter in the shape of leaves, acorns, and Indian corn. Students had fun sorting as well as searching through the leaves for all the hidden treasures. I could have easily added an alphabet set from my Fall Alphabet Centers to this as well, but wanted to keep it more open ended for this week since I was using them in my writing center already.
I had space on my pocket chart for many of the words in my Fall Themed Word Wall set. This could also be used in my writing center for word writing, depending upon what I have done in that center the week before. I try to rotate the types of activities in each center so that kids don’t start ignoring a center because it always has the same basic activity.
I was happy to see several students have success with my Fall Word Building activity. I have introduced using the letter tiles (affiliate link) at least one other time with my students, but had much more interest in using them with this set. They use the letter tiles to spell the fall words. In the set there are options to simply match letters, match capital to lowercase, or to spell with only the word under the clip art. Since my students do not have much experience yet, we used the lowercase set to match letter to letter.
I pulled out Sneaky Snacky Squirrel (affiliate link), which is always a hit. The only thing you need to watch is that some kids want to really jam those acorns into the logs. I had to take the log from one child who had jammed them nearly all the way through.
Finally, another hit this week was our Personalized Fall Books. I was hoping these would be a hit, especially after the work it took for me to figure out how to make them so they would be easy for everyone else to make their own later. I used these in small groups. We took turns sharing what the picture was and reading what our sentence said after I helped the first child figure it out. They really enjoyed being able to read a book with their own name on each page. I look forward to using more of these with my students and have plans for more in my shop soon. (I already have the Winter and Spring ones ready.)
As promised, I am sharing the marble painted apples and pumpkins that we created during the apple and pumpkins themes. Students had a great time rolling their marbles back and forth through the paint and only a few got away.
I am always looking for new activities for my easel and felt board. I discovered the suggestion to use milk filters for printing for felt boards on Making Learning Fun. In this case I printed a puzzle for pumpkins week. The one thing you have to watch is that these can get messed up if they get wet.
Table scatter can often be found in craft stores, the dollar store, or the dollar spot. I had some pumpkin table scatter that I paired here with pumpkin theme ice cube trays from the Dollar Tree. I put two different kinds of tools to grab the pumpkins with for fine motor practice.
For this center students need to choose a number and then count out that many pumpkin seeds. This set of cards can be found at ChildCareLand. I placed this center next to the spot where I have my number posters so that students could use it for reference if they were unsure of the number. I modeled how to use the number posters to help them as well.
I made Pumpkin Slime, which seemed to be great for the first few days. This recipe had Borax in it and I think the last time I made it I used liquid starch instead. It worked great at first. I added pony beads to it, which the kids loved picking out. However, something happened the Thursday evening of this week to change the consistency of the slime. The first kids to get into the bin could not get the slime to let go of them. It took a very long time to figure out how to get the slime off of them, so I had to close down the bin for the day. I am not sure if there was a change in weather that caused the slime to change or what, but I think I may try a liquid starch recipe the next time.
Our letter focus this week was the letter B. When I do dot marker activities with my students I like to have a few different options. Dot markers tend to be a popular center and students are at a variety of levels in their alphabet awareness at this point in the year. For students ready to start listening for the B sound I use my Alphabet Letter and Sound Search pages. I also found a few other letter B dot marker activities, including the one pictured above by RoyalBaloo.
I always make play dough for my classroom. For this time of year I made orange play dough with pumpkin pie spice added to it. I put it in individual slide lock bags with my students’ names on them. This way students need to use name recognition to find their own play dough. They also need to be responsible for their own play dough as well as keeping their germs to themselves. The play dough mats shown are from Living Well Mom. I did have several students create pumpkins to go on these mats, which is great since occasionally students just ignore the mats and play (which is fine as well.)
For this pumpkin alphabet match I only chose the letters we had focused on so far this year. This way there were not too many to spread out and get confused over at this point in the year. I found this set at This Reading Mama. I wish the lowercase letter a was a different font for this set, but since I did not cut apart the capital and lowercase letters for my set it works out okay.
For science we had several pumpkins on hand to explore in different ways. At first we checked out the outsides with a few ways of measuring the pumpkins. One of the days I had a bin full of water so that the students could explore sinking and floating. Our final day involved exploring the insides of the pumpkin.
These are a few of the activities we completed during Pumpkin week. What is your favorite pumpkin related activity in your classroom?
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…
We spent two weeks on our Community Helpers theme. One of our crafts involved mixing paint to make a fire. I showed my students red and yellow paint, putting some of each on the paper. I placed a piece of plastic wrap on top of the paint and asked them to mix the two colors to make a fire to put out. We discussed how we started out with yellow and red and then I asked them what other color they saw when they were finished. The next day we painted hands blue after gluing on a hose. Students used their blue hands to make water come out of the hose to put out the fire. Activity was inspired by this pin.
Thanks to another teacher I received these small red cups. I placed foam numbered flames with hot glue onto each cup after discovering that sticky tack definitely does not work. Students sprayed the cups to put out the fires. As the sensory bin was used it got more difficult to place the cups in stacks due to the fact that the cups slide around in the water.
These community helper puzzles were a great find at the Green Valley Book Fair. I love that they are self checking; they will not go together unless they are in the correct puzzle.
In addition to community helper activities we also worked on letter C activities. My students are very interested in everything dot marker, so I put together many different dot marker activities for my students. The one pictured can be found here.
Our pretend play has been an Auto Shop. Printables for this are from Pocket of Preschool. I discovered a few things this year that were not an issue last year. I tried a different method of raising up the car this year. The cubes worked okay, but one student tried to kneel on one of them. So, we ended up sliding the two crates directly under the car, which actually allowed two spots for the students to lay under the car at a time.
I also discovered that my students liked twisting the pipe cleaner wires around the crate instead of into the car. I did not complain since it was still great fine motor work for them.
I also discovered that my students liked dumping things into the car and sometimes needed help getting things out to put them away.
Next we will take the car and turn it into a tractor for our pumpkin patch.
We start our day with our Question of the Day. I usually have questions that go along with whatever we are studying, so this past week we have had several questions about community helpers. I thought this one would be one that everyone would say yes to, but that was not the case. Learn something new about my students every day. My community helper themed questions can be found in this set.
To go along with our question, I had put out the play house with laminated flames stuck to it. I also found a set that was meant for play dough play and used it instead to attach to blocks for some block area fun. One of my students had all the fire fighter blocks balanced on the fire truck block and slid it across the carpet to put out the fire.
Our writing center focused on the letter M during the week. We used the Alphabet Stamping Set with some ink pads and my alphabet stamps from Melissa & Doug. This writing center will return in a few weeks with another letter. I like to switch up what is in the writing center and then circle back to something familiar in a few weeks with another letter or theme.
This is a center that I did not expect to be as huge a hit as it was. Part of the reason is probably that I found a couple of different punches that were easier for my beginning of the year PreK students to use. No luck finding a photo of the ones I used online, but the students could line up the letter in the shape and then punch using their thumb and two fingers. There is a similar type punch here. I had a few try out the hand grip hole punch, but we need to work up to that one. You can find one of the hole punch sets here.
I am discovering more about the group of students I have this year. I had several who were interested in trying out the first set of count and clips I put out this year. I have found that some years kids really enjoy these and other years they get ignored. Happily this seems to be a good year for these if this past week is any indication. Students count the bandages and then clip the clothespin to cover the correct number. This set came from Making Learning Fun.
For our sensory bin this week I chose rocks and aquarium gravel. I also used construction vehicles. This makes for a loud sensory bin, but the kids loved playing with it all week. In the past I have used rocks with sand, but since we used sand during the first week of school I wanted to give them a different experience.
And just to keep it real, a look at the bin after a day of play.
What are some of your favorite community helper theme centers?