Saturday, December 27, 2014

Preschool Pinecone Science and Math

The holidays are a wonderful time for families to support learning in fun and natural ways. 

Go for a walk. Collect pinecones. This is a perfect opportunity to talk about the different kinds of trees: those that stay green all year long and those that shed their leaves. Ask children to tell about the trees. Have them explain their observations. 

Children may even collect pinecones that are on the ground. 

When you get home, children can line-up the pinecones from largest to smallest. Have them tell about this sequence. This is a good vocabulary builder!

Standards Alignment:
NAEYC: 2.C.03; 2.D.06; 2.G.02; 2.J.05
Head Start: I.D; III.C.; VIII.B.; XI.B.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Evergreen Trees: Art and Science

In the autumn most of us talk about the changing trees, the colors, and the falling leaves. Now that it is winter, this is a wonderful time to point out the differences in tree types. Invite children to look at those trees with bare branches; the ones that just a few months ago sported vibrant colors. Then have them look for trees that are still green – the evergreens.

Develop vocabulary skills by having children talk about the differences between the evergreen trees and deciduous (those that lose their leaves) trees.  How motivating as those that celebrate Christmas will be decorating an evergreen tree!

We suggest having children collect pinecones that have fallen from nearby evergreen trees. Below is an integrated art and science project that will help children understand that evergreen trees keep their needles all year long.  It is a project that preschool children can complete without adult hands needing to intervene. We love this type of project as it is truly child-created. The bonus? Fine motor skills are practiced and refined!

Collect a few pinecones.

Color a paper plate green.

Paint the pinecones green.

Gently tear apart cotton balls. Glue the cotton to the paper plate. 

Glue the pinecones to the winter scene.

Now have children describe their winter scene and what it tells us about evergreen trees!

Standards Alignment:

NAEYC: 2.C.03; 2.D.06; 2.G.02; 2.J.05

Head Start: I.D; III.C.; VIII.B.; XI.B.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Living Things

Children are natural scientists. They love to observe and should be encouraged to talk about their observations. We can help guide them to “discover” many key concepts. Asking questions and having children sort objects into categories helps in science learning. This has the added benefit of helping develop oral vocabulary and even pre-reading skills.

Go for a walk around the school neighborhood or playground. Ask children to find the living things. When you go back into the room, ask children to draw one of the living things they saw. Have children show their work and verbalize why this is a living thing. Responses such as these are age-appropriate observations:

  • It moves.
  • It grows.
  • It needs food.
  • It breathes (actually exchanges gases like in the case of plants)

Have children look around the room for representations of living things. Examples include stuffed or plastic animals, plants, the children, pictures in books of fish, etc. Children can bring their items to circle time and verbalize their reasoning for why the item represents a living thing.  This helps develop new vocabulary.

We also like to incorporate movement and have children show how a plant moves or talk about the needs of animals for food and air. Some concepts are likely to be beyond what a preschooler can easily understand but we think it is helpful to introduce vocabulary such as a plant gives off oxygen, the air we need. It takes in carbon dioxide.

Children can then circle items on a worksheet such as the one below to identify living things:

For more on a unique living things, see our Weekly Activity, "Sand Dollars." It is a good way to integrate literacy skills with an unusual living thing. Sign up in the white box with your email.

Standards Alignment:
Head Start: IV. C; VI. B.; VIII. B.; XI. A & B.
NAEYC: 2.B.04; 2.D.04; 2.D.07; 2.G.02; 2.G.08.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Good Morning: Social, Sequence, and Science Connections!

We can never underestimate the importance of the beginning of the day. Whether you are a family member or teacher, the way a child starts his or her morning usually sets the tone for the remainder of the day.  This can be combined with other key learning goals to set the stage for a happy and productive day.

Before bed, look at the weather forecast together. Plan appropriate clothing based on this prediction.  Ask your child what clothing is right for cold weather, rainy weather, whatever is in the forecast. This will help develop vocabulary and will assist your child in making decisions.
Sometimes children become attached to one piece of clothing. You can help your child by narrowing choices. Show 2 shirts, etc., and let your child make the final decision. This will decrease problems in the morning.
You can also sequence morning events with your child. For example, you can say, first we will get out of bed, and then we will go to the bathroom. You will next brush your teeth. You will then get dressed. Finally you will eat breakfast before we go to school. This often gives children comfort and confidence, as they know what will happen. It decreases tensions in the morning.

Mornings are busy times for educators. But setting the tone for the day is essential.  We need to be available to our children as they walk in the door. Sit in a small chair or bend down to greet each child. Listen for any anxiety or trouble as children tell you about their morning.  Often problems can be solved right at the classroom door! We suggest putting out fun, meaningful, and child-friendly activities so that teachers can focus on individual greetings rather than on managing the group.
Many times families want to tell you something important and often believe the morning is the time to do this. While we want to hear from those at home, we encourage them to write a note or call/email with any information other than an emergency. We have found that when we explain to families the importance of the morning greeting as a tone-setter for the day, most families are more than willing to let the non-essential information wait until later.
This is also a good time to help child use new words or even tell you about the “sequence” of their morning. If it is snowing, you might want to have individual children describe their outerwear. You can even have them tell you about getting ready. For example, “Tell me what you put on first – your coat, boots, mittens, or hat? What did you put on next?”  This has the benefit of establishing a personal connection with each child, encouraging verbalization and discussion using sequence words along with understanding the relationship between weather and appropriate clothing.

For more on weather and appropriate dress, be sure to sign up for our free activities. Just enter your email in the white box! 
Standards Alignment:
NAEYC: 2.A.07, 2.B.01, 2D.03, 2D.06, 2G.04
Head Start: IIA., IIB., VIIIB., XI. A.