Friday, June 12, 2020

Thank You for a FANTASTIC Year

Readers Discuss Monarch-Butterfly Migration - The Atlantic

Our school year started on September 3. And then it started all over again on March 13.

This has been a year none of us will ever forget. 

I cannot imagine getting through this time without each and every one of you.

To every extraordinary teacher, for going above and beyond in ways you could never have possibly imagined, meeting the challenges head-on, successfully, day after day, inspiring each other in the process: thank you.

To every family, for being there for us with your kind and supportive words, for your patience as we learned something new, your donations, and your faith in us: thank you.

To the synagogue lay leadership, for working with us to overcome challenges none of us could have anticipated and for supporting us in our mission: thank you.

To the staff at the synagogue, for everything you have done, day in and day out, to help me personally and to enable the preschool to operate virtually: thank you.

Finally, most importantly, to the children, for sharing your smiles and your laughter and for brightening our days when we needed it most: thank you.

Have a wonderful summer.

See you next year!

Friday, June 5, 2020

Summer Time Outdoor Play Spaces

We've always known that young children should have opportunities to play outside as often as possible. Now we're learning that being outside during this particular time helps mitigate the spread of coronavirus. Since most of us will spend most of the next few months at home, there's no better time to think about finding or creating outdoor place spaces for your children to enjoy this summer. No matter how small your yard, opportunities abound.

The National Wildlife Federation has created an incredible and comprehensive guide for families: Nature Play at Home, A Guide for Boosting Your Children's Healthy Development and Creativity. The guide explains the social-emotional, physical, and cognitive benefits of outdoor play and includes beautiful photographs and simple directions. Here are some examples of what you'll find inside:

1 Shovel level of difficulty 

"Loose Parts (natural and not) include almost any found object or play material that increases play and learning. To start, gather some of nature’s loose parts already present in your yard. Children’s creativity is driven by anything that can be manipulated, changed, or moved around. Rather than purchasing toys for your children play to with outdoors, consider recycling and reusing everyday objects and taking stock of what nature provides for free!"

Nature Play at Home: Creating Outdoor Spaces that Connect Children ...2-4 Shovels level of difficulty
"Adventure Pathways create opportunities for repeated exploration and adventure, even in relatively small yards. Pathways can be simple: a footpath around the edge of the site sneaking around trees and bushy plants. Complexity can be added with logs, stumps, rocks, stepping stones, and other obstacles to balance, jump or clamber around. A looped pathway is more enticing. To a child it feels like it leads to a secret place. In larger sites, other settings along the path increase the sense of adventure and mystery. Settings such as backyard habitat, gathering places, grass mazes or fairy villages work well along a pathway."

4 Shovels level of difficulty
"Vine Teepees are structures of six poles, six to eight feet long, made of bamboo, sturdy branches, or painted PVC. The poles are secured at the top and covered with climbing vines. Teepees create mysterious, natural, private, child-sized spaces."

Another very similar and fantastic resource is Nature Play at Home by Nancy Striniste. For more on loose parts, perfect any time of year, check out Loose Parts, Inspiring Play in Young Children by Lisa Daly and Miriam Beloglovsky.

Have a great summer!

Friday, May 22, 2020

Such a Busy Week!

Memorial Day, Bike Day, and Shavuot, Oh My!

Celebrate Memorial Day on Monday
  • Make an American flag cake (and explore shapes, counting, patterning, and fractions at the same time -- if you use strawberries instead of raspberries you can cut them in half or in quarters)

Join Us for Bike Day on Wednesday
  • Check your weekly email for all the details!

Celebrate Shavuot on Friday

Friday, May 15, 2020

STEAM Challenge - A House for the Three Little Pigs

This activity will keep you busy all week!

Read a variety of Three Little Pigs books. Ask your child how the books are the same and how they're different. Ask which one is their favorite and why. Act out the story together. Have them tell you the story in their own words. Write and illustrate a family version of the story together.

Take a walk around your neighborhood and notice all the different kinds of houses. What do all houses have in common? How are some houses different from other houses? When you get home, draw pictures of the houses you saw. Draw a picture of your own house. Draw a picture of your dream house.

Ask why the pigs' straw and stick houses blew down but their brick house didn't. 

  • straws, skewers, craft sticks, toothpicks, pencils, crayons, wood pieces, sticks, coffee stirrers, leaves, paper cups, etc.
  • tape, binder clips, rubber bands, glue, paper clips, staplers, etc.
  • scissors
  • Legos, blocks, K'nex, etc.
Build different kinds of houses using different materials. Predict which ones will blow down (and why). Test out your theory by trying to blow the houses down! Use your breath, a paper fan, or an electric fan.

When the houses fall down, try re-building them so that they don't blow down the next time. Keep trying!

Remember, it's not about building a strong house the first time. It's about figuring out why some houses fell down and others didn't. What kinds of materials are strongest? Which design is sturdiest? 

It's also about overcoming frustration and realizing that we've learned something even when our experiment has failed. We learned what didn't work. (Thomas Edison usually gets credit for that quote.)

As always, the best questions to ask during this process are: Why do you think that happened? What would happen if . . .? 

Have fun!

From: Making and Tinkering with STEM, Solving Design Challenges with Young Children by Cate Heroman (NAEYC, 2017)

Friday, May 8, 2020

Staying Busy with Stuff You Have at Home

Literacy: Name Game
  • On index cards, write each letter of your child's name
  • Mix the cards up and have your child put them in order
  • Once they've mastered their first name, play with their last name, their middle name, and family members' names
Numeracy: Egg Carton Counting
  • Write the numbers 1-12 in the spaces in an empty egg carton
  • Give your child raisins, cheerios, or other small items
  • Have them fill the spaces with the correct number of items
Problem Solving: What Will Grow?
  • Talk with your children about how plants grow
  • See what they know and fill in the gaps in their understanding
  • Conduct an experiment to deepen their understanding
  • Fill cups with dirt
  • Plant orange and apple seeds, unpeeled garlic cloves, chunks of potatoes, beans, etc.
  • Also plant dried fruit, cereal, egg shells, cheese, etc.
  • Make predictions and see what happens! 
Motor: Hot Lava Game
  • Spread pillows or small towels around the floor
  • Have your child jump from pillow to pillow (or towel to towel)
  • Don't fall in the hot lava!
Arts and Crafts: Painting Without a Paintbrush
  • Paint (or print) with toothpicks, cotton balls, Q-tips, cut-up sponges, plastic spoons or forks, bubble wrap, yarn, magnetic letters, etc.
Music: Make a Shaker
  • Decorate an empty water bottle and fill it with beans, popcorn kernels, buttons, pony beads, etc.
  • Cut a paper plate in half and staple the edges together, decorate, and fill with same as above
Drama: Clean Out Your Closet AND Create a Dress-Up Corner
  • Your child will LOVE dressing up in your old skirts, scarves, dress shirts, jackets, ties, costume jewelry, hair accessories, and shoes and playing with your old briefcases, wallets, purses, keys, and cell phones
Social-Emotional: Plan a Party
  • Involve your child in planning a ZOOM party
  • Who to invite?
  • When to meet?
  • Where to meet? (everyone's backyard or kitchen, a nearby park?)
  • What to eat? (everyone makes a fruit salad? or pizza?)
  • What to sing/play/or talk about? What's the theme?
With thanks to The Preschooler's Busy Book by Trish Kuffner for the inspiration

Friday, April 24, 2020

Not All Screen Time is Created Equal

I've known that I wanted to write about screen time for awhile now, so I was very happy to see this article in this morning's New York Times. Catherine Price hits on all the points I'd wanted to make, and more.

Our notions of screen time have changed dramatically in the past six weeks, as have our notions about just about everything else. I've come to realize that not all screen time is created equal. There is a huge difference between spending time talking with grandparents and connecting with preschool friends on ZOOM and mindlessly playing video games. Watching a high quality television show together as a family can be a meaningful experience, whereas everyone staring at their own screen during dinner most certainly is not. Using the internet to find information or learn a new skill is not the same as watching YouTube videos all day.

Price explains this by talking about the 3 Cs: consumption, creation, and connection. "Once you’ve identified your screen time 'essentials,' it’s time to think about your leisure time (or what passes for it these days). Identify which of these 'C's feels good to you, and in what doses. Then brainstorm ways to do each both on- and off-screen. Bonus points if you ask yourself what kind of consumption, creation and connection makes you feel the best."

Bottom line: Don't worry too much about screen time right now. It's how you engage with the screen that matters more than how much time you spend doing it.

Go To Preschool/Kindergarten with ACPS every day

Go to Storytime with the Met every Thursday

Visit the Cincinnati Zoo

Visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium

Visit Mount Vernon

Have you found other good virtual tours or online experiences? Please share in the comments section below.

Thank You for a FANTASTIC Year

Our school year started on September 3. And then it started all over again on March 13. This has been a year none of us will ever forg...