Friday, September 30, 2011

Fall Craft #2 ~ Arm Tree w/Fingerprint Leaves

by Carrie Wells, Ed.D.

Our Fall bulletin board is growing!

  • brown paint
  • orange paint
  • yellow paint
  • red paint
  • small bowl
  • paintbrush
  • piece of construction paper, color of your choice
To make the tree trunk and branches: First, paint your child's forearm and hand with brown paint. Then place on paper.

To make the leaves: Swirl together orange, yellow, and red paint in a small bowl. Encourage your child to dip his/her fingers in the paint and use fingerprints to make leaves on the fall tree.


Kinda messy but lots of fun!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Apples Everywhere! Apple Crafts and Apple Cake

by Carrie Wells, Ed.D.

Today we went to the Apple Harvest Festival at Flamingo Road Nursery. We got to try some delicious food, like cider, different types of apples, focaccia, cake, smoothies, and dips. 

We bought a bag of assorted apples to make our own apple crafts and apple dessert!

Apple Seed Art - Colors & Counting

Apple Stamping

The Beginning of Our Fall Bulletin Board

Then I decided to combine two different recipes and add my own touches to make a cake with apples.

Apple Spice Crumb Cake
For the cake:
1/2 stick plus 1 teaspoon unsalted butter
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 large egg
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 cup pecans, coarsely chopped
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 cup raisins, soaked in rum
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup peeled, cored and chopped apples
Crumb topping:
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease an 8” x 8” baking dish with 1 teaspoon of the butter.
In a large bowl, cream together the remaining ½ stick of butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, spices, and salt. Add to the wet ingredients, alternating with the sour cream and vanilla.

Fold in the apples, pecans, and raisins.

Pour into the prepared baking dish, spreading out to the edges.

To make the topping, in a bowl, combine the sugar, flour, cinnamon, and butter, and mix until it resembles coarse crumbs. Sprinkle the topping over the cake and bake until golden brown and set, 30 to 35 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool at least 10 minutes. Makes about 9 servings

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Fall Craft #1 ~ Handprint Bat with Bouncy Ball Web

by Carrie Wells, Ed.D.

Handprint Bat with Bouncy Ball Web

  • Lid from a large container (or a box)
  • Black craft paint
  • White craft paint
  • 2 bouncy balls (or large marbles)
  • Black construction paper
  • White construction paper
  • 2 small wiggly eyes
  • Paint brush
  • Scissors

To make the web: Begin by cutting a web shape out of black paper. Place in box lid. Put white paint on bouncy balls and place on paper. Encourage your child to roll the balls around to make the spider web. 

To make the spider: Paint your child's fingers and part of her palm black. Make a handprint on white paper, flip the paper, and make a second overlapping handprint. When it dries, glue wiggly eyes.

To assemble: Cut out the spider and paste on the web.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

My Loves

by Carrie Wells, Ed.D.

Bryce Cody Wells born 9/17/2011 @1:24 pm. He weighed 8 lbs 15 oz, 21.5 inches long.

Lydia loves her new baby brother

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Guidecraft Review ~ Moon & Stars See, Store, & Take-Along

by Carrie Wells, Ed.D.

As you may have seen in previous posts, instead of creating a baby nursery for our new one on the way, I decided to make it more like a toddler classroom. We never used a crib with Lydia, so why get one for baby #2? I like bold, primary colors, so we decided to go with an outer space themed room. We painted the room a beautiful bright blue and looked for coordinating pieces that captured the space theme. Fortunately, Guidecraft makes some beautiful bold-colored, outer space themed furniture.
Guidecraft sent me the Moon & Stars See, Store, & Take-Along to review for free!

We purchased the Moon & Stars Stack Shelves on Amazon for just $72 + Free Shipping. 
This is how the room looks with the two shelving units and other themed items.
The Moon & Stars See, Store, and Take-Along is very simple to assemble. It took less than 30 minutes. It is on wheels, so it can easily be moved to different locations throughout the house. It comes with 6 large, lidded bins that are clear so you can see the contents easily, but are highlighted by the three bold, primary colors to coordinate with the shelves. Each bin can hold toys containing multiple pieces, like a set of blocks, a tea set, small vehicles, etc. The bins have handles so they can be moved to different areas of the house or taken on road trips. The top shelf does not contain bins, so you can stack larger items. I placed our puzzle rack on that shelf along with a large drum filled with instruments and two other toys.

In order to organize our toys even further, I photographed the contents of each bin, cropped the photos, named each photo, and printed a label to place on the front of each bin. The bottom row of bins contains our Mega Bloks, Guidecraft Sand Blocks, Crystal Bead Blocks, & Rainbow Blocks (all three fit in one bin), and a Birthday Cake Play Set. 

BUY IT! Along with the Moon & Stars See, Store, & Take-Along, Guidecraft makes several other colorful, coordinating Moon & Star items, such as a Table & Chair Set, Toybox, and Media Carousel. Each piece is well-crafted and great for a child's bedroom, playroom, or classroom.

* I received the aforementioned product for free to review. The opinions expressed are honest and provided without monetary compensation.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Guidecraft Educator Review #2 ~ Eco-friendly Manipulatives

Imagine my surprise and amazement when all of these beautiful eco-friendly Guidecraft manipulatives arrived at my front door! These toys represent all that my blog is about - "green" products for young children. Some of the most notable features are: minimal packaging used to contain the toys, they are made from eco-friendly rubberwood, colored with low VOC aniline dyes, and contain distinct shapes and colors. Each toy comes with an activity guide with multiple activities. At just $25 - $30 each, these toys are a great investment for parents who want their children to learn through fun, colorful, and engaging activities. All seven toys state Ages 2+ because the pieces are large (not choking hazards), but the skill sets required to appropriately manipulate the toys and understand the cognitive concepts vary greatly. This also makes them great "green" toys - they can be used for years, not just one particular stage of development.

Lydia is just 2, so I decided to open up the 3 toys that I thought would be most appropriate for her developmentally: Gradient Sorter, One to Four Sorter, and Shape and Color Sorter. She was so excited to see each toy, she completed each one multiple times, asking for "more" each time we finished.

Here's Lydia completing the One to Four Sorter independently:

Here's Lydia completing the Gradient Sorter independently:

These toys are appropriate for older children as well. Here's my 10-year old niece Kayla using the Fraction Cups to solve math problems that require her to add fractions:

Here are a few suggestions I have for teaching children to use these toys:
~Place all of the manipulatives in a small basket or surface to the left of the board/base. Because we read from left-to-right, this is a good way to prepare children to work in that direction.
~Refer to the activity guide for suggestions beyond just completing each activity independently.
~Feel free to modify activities based on your child's interests and developmental abilities.
~Toys such as these are great for incorporating language. Instead of having your child complete each activity, have your child take each activity apart. Here are some examples. For younger children, you may ask "Can you take out the green triangle and put it in the basket?" or "Can you hand me the red heart?" For older children, you may ask "Can I have a shape that has 4 sides, but is not a diamond?"
~Frustration often leads to learning. We frequently intervene as soon as our children look frustrated with a situation, but then they may not learn to manipulate each piece properly. Allow your child to explore 'wrong' answers to figure out where each piece really goes independently.
~To make things more challenging, place multiple puzzles in one bin together. Your child will have to sort the pieces and then complete each individual puzzle.

BUY IT! You can purchase any of the Eco-Friendly Guidecraft Manipulatives for just $25 - 30 each.

WIN IT! What's great about this Guidecraft Educator group is that each month, one of us will be hosting a giveaway of the product that we have all reviewed. Visit Teach Preschool for a chance to win a set of Eco-Friendly Guidecraft Manipulatives for a special child in your life! This contest is open to the US and Canada. 

* I received the aforementioned product for free to review. The opinions expressed are honest and provided without monetary compensation.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

The ABCs of Teaching Preschoolers ~ L is for Library

by Carrie Wells, Ed.D.

Introduction by Deborah Stewart, M.Ed. of Teach Preschool:
This post is to celebrate the 20,000 members who have joined Teach Preschool on Facebook and the wonderful bloggers who share their amazing ideas and insights each day. As a special thank you to each of you who care for and educate our youngest learners, the bloggers and I have put together "The ABC's of Teaching Preschoolers". Be sure to visit my fellow bloggers and check out the fun and insightful tips they have prepared especially for you.

The letter I chose is 'L' for 'Library'. A library, whether in your home or classroom, is so much more than just a collection of random books thrown on a shelf. An early learning library should inspire children to want to explore stories, ask questions, manipulate items, and use their imaginations.

Here are some suggested supplies/materials to start your classroom or home library for your young learners:
A variety of books: Books can be organized by theme, a child's interests, or a certain sound you are focusing on teaching. I suggest including pop-up books, books with sounds, paperback, board books, hardcover books, books with stickers, books on tape/CD, big books, etc. I am expecting baby #2 in just 3 weeks, so all of the books in my daughter's library are about babies and big sisters.

Themed objects: If you choose books with a particular theme, put together a basket of items that go with that theme. This allows the child(ren) to explore the same topic in a variety of ways! I put a basket full of baby dolls next to the library for Lydia to play with while looking at books.

Manipulative toys: Included within a library can be felt storyboards, alphabet puzzles, magnetic letters, letter/word games, puppets, dress-up clothes, and other literacy-related items. These objects allow young children to practice early literacy skills beyond just looking at books.

Photo albums: This is a great way to personalize a library. Include pictures of your child(ren), family members, favorite toys, animals, transportation, etc. Anything that can stimulate interest and conversation. The children can also use personal photos to make their own books that can be placed in the library.

Seating options: Children should be able to sit comfortably while engaging in literacy activities. Your library may include area rugs, table/chairs, bean bags, rockers, pillows, blankets, and any other comfy seating options for little ones.

Organization: It's important to keep items within the library well-organized and easily-accessible. You want children to be able to reach everything to explore objects and books independently. It helps to label containers with pictures or words and to have a variety of colorful bins/baskets for easy clean-up.

Writing area: After reading books and looking at pictures, children may want to draw pictures and write their own stories. Place paper and age-appropriate writing utensils in an area that is accessible to the child(ren). I like the Crayola Pip-Squeaks for ages 2 to 4.

Whether you are building a library for your preschool-age child at home or your students at school, remember to personalize the books, activities, toys, and decor. Young children love seeing their favorite books in the library, their artwork posted, and their favorite toys within reach!