Saturday, December 31, 2011

Looking Forward to a NEW Start

By Dr. Ellaine Miller

READY? GET SET...................... GO!!!!!!!!!!!!
For the final blog entry for 2011, I thought it would be appropriate to present a few New Year’s Resolutions to consider. When making changes in your life or program/classroom, I have found that people are more successful when they choose one thing at a time to change, master that task, and then choose another thing to change. Remember, as you progress through the year with your changes, you may have to backtrack and revisit a previously mastered task and re-master it. This is OK!!!

Many of the “resolutions” listed below can be broken down into smaller items to make change easier. Good luck and have the happiest and most successful New Year yet!

    Take care of your self.
      Do something to improve your own health and wellbeing so you have the energy and ability to care for others. When you are healthy and feeling good, you are more capable of attending to others’ needs. Try to make one or two small health-related changes as once. Pick one change, be consistent with meeting that challenge, then choose another. And, choose something realistic. Here are some suggestions that start out small and can grow into significant positive impacts on your wellbeing:

· 1. Stop drinking soft drinks (including diet drinks).
· 2. Walk purposefully for 10 minutes most days of the week. After mastery, walk 15 minutes and continue to increase until you are at 40 minutes/day most (5 out of 7) days of the week.
   3. Add one fruit or vegetable to your meal/snacks daily.

+++Find one stress-causing thing in your life and eliminate or decrease its effect on you.+++

     Get moving. Offer as much active play and physicality to learning as possible. Let children stand up to do their “seat” work. Encourage cross-body motion activities (like painting at the easel) to build the brain’s corpus-collosum.  Play games to enhance and support learning that require children to move about the learning environment. Take children outside to play/learn. Remember, there is no bad weather, only bad clothes. (Dr. Thelma Harms)
Check out the Let’s Move campaign – & Sesame Workshop’s Healthy Habits for Life --


     Support children’s curiosity. Set up safe ways for children to explore and experience new things. Help children inquire about new things. Set them up to be scientists and explorers and “discover” new concepts. Check out Dr. Alison Gopnik’s research on infant brain development to learn more --

Take/make time to talk with children daily. Have meaningful, relevant conversations. Use lots of words. Build their vocabulary. Teaching children how to read by sounding out letters (phonics) and decoding is important, but if they don’t know the meaning of the words they read, it is pointless.  
Check out for some compelling statistics about literacy. Our own Dr. Danny Brassell's article here earlier this month addresses this topic of parents supporting language in the everyday world of exploring together. His article is one for your files as well.

    Encourage children’s self-help and problem-solving skills. Our country and world continues to need people able to address important problems and resolve issues like global warming, poverty, famine, warring nations, diseases, etc., etc. It’s important to have worker bees, but without idea people and developers, the work will either be meaningless or nonexistent. Dramatic play opportunities are important for fostering this way of thinking with young children. For more information go to

Best wishes on your resolutions for 2012!!!

Friday, December 30, 2011

Leger Godt I Danmark!

Honestly, I don't think that there is a commercial toy more universal and open ended than LEGOS!

They are great hands on manipulatives for young, concrete learners. 

Did you know.... Legos come from Denmark? (Danmark if you are in Denmark).

The first lego toys did not look like the bricks we play with today, in fact some of the first lego toys were made from wood. You can see a couple of them in the photos above and below.

The word LEGO is actually made from combining two Danish words,
 "leger" which means to play and
"godt" which means good/well.

The original Legoland is located in Billund, Denmark.
It is an amazing place to visit.
There are oodles and oodles of  all creations made from legos!
But, you don't have to visit Legoland to appreciate and enjoy playing well with legos!

Legos are great for building structures as high as you can....

They are also great for making pyramids....

You can be creative and make all of your own critters with legos....
Or, you can "read" and build according to the directions.
Legos are fun for everyone :).

There are so many things you can do with Legos! In addition to using them in our childcare classroom, we also use them to homeschool! They are great manipulatives for exploring math and science! You can find one of our car building science experiments here.
We have also used a big pile of legos to estimate, sort, count, and graph. They are fantastic tools for
teaching multiplication and area. Of course, not all of these concepts are developmentally appropriate for preschool aged children, but for those of you who work with mixed ages like I do, Legos are great for ALL ages!

I couldn't resist in sharing about Legos with you, being that I am celebrating the holidays in Denmark. Don't forget to play well, as we look to the new year!

 More About Amy

Amy Ahola is the owner/operator of Child Central Station, group home daycare and educational toy store in Marquette, Michigan.  She has been running her own business since 2005. Prior to that time, Amy worked in a childcare center and public school. In addition to her childcare business, Amy also provides educational training sessions. Amy earned a Bachelors of Science in Psychology from Northern Michigan University and a M.S. in Training, Development, and Performance Improvement.  For more information about any of her programs, please visit Child Central Station or Find her on Facebook

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Literacy Routines in the New Year

It’s almost a new year which means it’s time for fresh starts. For many parents that means getting organized and renewing those helpful family routines that keep the home running smoothly. I don’t know about you, but I tend to let things slide during the crazy holiday season.

We all know that establishing literacy routines at home is just as important as an early bedtime or regular teeth brushing. (And kids will agree that playful, family literacy activities are WAY more fun than going to bed early or brushing teeth.) Reading, writing and playing with words at home is key to supporting skill development, and of course, lots of family bonding happens when we snuggle up to read a bedtime story or play word games during family game night. So this January, consider all you’re already doing to build literacy into your home routine, and maybe even add something new to your line up. Here are our family favorites… 

  • Bedtime Reading: I’m guessing that's a favorite for you too. We try to save the last hour before bed for some kind of reading. Sometimes we all sit together and read our own books, sometimes we listen to an audiobook, but most of the time we read aloud to the kids. It’s the perfect way to help everyone wind down for sleep, and daily read aloud time benefits children in so many ways. It helps improve attention span, problem solving, vocabulary, imagination and self esteem and tons more. It's the best, most important literacy routine on our list.
  • Reading, Reading and More Reading: We often read during lunchtime because it keeps everyone at the table long enough to eat a whole PB&J. And a bucket of books in the bathroom is key to potty training success.
  • Storytelling: As we tuck our boys in at night, we often tell stories. Our favorites are the “Brave Stories.” The main characters, named after my sons, use their brains and talents to get out of tricky situations. We use these to help our kids visualize themselves solving problems, but the kids just think they're fun adventure stories. My husband also tells the best scary and gross stories, and he does the most hilarious version of The Three Little Pigs. (At least it's hilarious if you're 2, 4 and 7.)
  • Daily Writing: I have a goal to find little opportunities to write to or with my kids at least once a day. It can be as short and simple as a note in the lunchbox, scribbling with my three year old, or showing my kindergartener a way to remember the difference between lower case d and b. We write in nightstand letter notebooks and our family list notebook. We compile sports stats, create new books in the Harry Potter series, and write about anything and everything else my kids are into at the moment.
  • Little Literacy Surprises: Last year at this time, I used a water soluble marker to write the morning schedule on the bathroom mirror to help my kids get back into the school routine after Winter break. The kids were pretty shocked to see that I would actually write in marker on the mirror! (It didn’t occur to them that it was washable.) Before school started in September, I got out a little chalkboard and wrote messages before school each day. When one of our kids does something especially wonderful like cleaning up without being asked, we sometimes surprise him with a little note of thanks. Jokes in the lunchbox and an extra book after bedtime are other fun ways to surprise kids with literacy fun.
  • Play with Words: We have magnetic letters on the wall, foam letters in the bath, and letter and word blocks in the toy bin, so the kids can make words and messages as they play.
  • Read and Write in the Car: Sometimes you need an activity to pass the miles. This free printable is full of quick and simple games and activities that support literacy and keep the passengers happy on the way to ballet lessons or grandma’s house. These are also handy while you’re waiting for food to come at a restaurant or waiting for big brother at soccer practice.

We definitely don’t do every activity on this list every day, but by including them in the lineup on a fairly regular basis, we’re able to squeeze in a little fun reading, writing and word play into even the craziest days.

What are your best tricks for making literacy routines part of your family’s busy schedule?

Erin Wing writes about creating a print-rich home at

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Tie Dye Coffee Filter Snowflakes

I’m Melissa and I blog over at The Chocolate Muffin Tree  and I’m excited to be part of this collaboration at PreK and K Sharing.  I am a former Elementary Art teacher who loves creating Art with my 5 year old daughter and sharing it with the world.  I’m excited to inspire more and hope you check out my blog for a ton of Artsy ideas for kids! 

I’m sharing a project that my daughter I did recently to get us in the mood for the winter season: Tie Dye Coffee Filter Snowflakes!  Here is the finished product.

For this project you’ll need:

Coffee Filters
Water based markers in cool colors (blues. greens, violets)
spray bottle with water

To create the snowflake first fold the coffee filter in half.

Then in half again.

If you want (and you think your children can cut through more layers) fold again.

Then cut on all the sides while the coffee filter is folded. We mostly did triangles which are the easiest shape to cut.

Then open up the coffee filter and it should look like a snowflake. Now you are ready to add some color.  Leave white showing and mostly outline the cut holes and go over the folded lines like this.

Lay the decorated snowflake on some newspaper (because the color will go through) and spritz with water from a spray bottle.  Do not over water or the color will completely run out.

After you have sprayed the snowflake,  let it dry for a couple hours.   You can display them on a window with tape or however you would like.

I LOVE this project because it is SUPER EASY and had beautiful results!  If you like this  
idea be sure to check out these:

Click here for Tie Dye Coffee Filter Snowflakes with Heart Shapes
Click here for Tie Dye Coffee Filter Easter Eggs
Click here for Tie Dye Coffee Filter Fall Leaves

Once you start thinking about all of the possibilities for snowflake fun and exploration the opportunities are endless. Here's a whole different concept, which combines simple materials and fine-motor work. The potential is endless: pattern or random it's fun in the making!!

Click here to see the process, more examples and close ups!!
Editor's note: Scott recently addressed coffee filters as snowflakes, but had his unique twist from the point of creative freedom -- the tug between what we as educators have on our agenda + the spirit of the children's vision. He also addressed the 'responsibility' in the clean up process. If by chance you missed his spin, just click back right here. I'm fascinated to see how these two professionals have approached a similar idea and have put their own stamp on the process and outcome. -- Debbie

While I've got my editor's hat on, I added this post to a linky for Thrifty Thursday and TGIF.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Getting Organized with Deanna Jump!

Pin It

Monday, December 26, 2011

The After Christmas Tree: A second season of giving

By Laura Eldredge

Well ... it's officially OVER! It's the day after Christmas, and all through the house ... (fill in the blank!). All the time and preparation to decorate and make holiday memories is finished ... all that's left is the cleanup!! In particular, there's the TREE! It has to come down eventually - and if you have a live tree, sooner than that!

I grew up in the land of artificial Christmas trees, and thought it was great. But moving to New England (Connecticut) and marrying my husband brought a new tradition ... the LIVE tree. It smells glorious ... but oh those needles! One year the tree we had dried out so quickly, it fell ON Christmas Day. But I digress.

One other new tradition we started at our home was the "After Christmas Tree" - taking the tree outside and decorating it with edible items for the birds and squirrels to eat. All those stale Christmas cookies? They go right onto the tree!! I like extending the life of the tree (and letting the needles fall OUTSIDE, rather than on my carpet!).And wouldn't you know - there's a delightful children's book to go with this idea called "The After Christmas Tree" by Linda Wagner Tyler.

The story illustrates how a family (saddened by having to take out the tree after Christmas) invite friends over for an after-Christmas party. Among other things, they create pinecone bird feeders and string popcorn and berries with which to decorate their tree for the birds and animals, so they have enough food through the winter. I love how the tree no longer looks sad at the end, and enjoys it's "second season of giving.''

Whether you have a Christmas tree or not, children can still be inspired to give to back to nature by decorating trees in their backyards or on the school playground with edible treats. During one "Christmas in July" activity that we did at our preschool summer camp, we read this story and made biscuit bird feeders to hang up outside.

You need:
  • biscuits
  • peanut butter or shortening
  • birdseed
  • straws
  • yarn or string

First, make biscuits according to package instructions (or buy them pre-made). Then, push a straw through the middle of the biscuit (this is where you will feed the yarn or string through for hanging).
Next, have children spread peanut butter (or shortening, if there are allergies), onto the biscuit and then have them roll it around in the birdseed.

Then, hang your feeders on your Christmas tree (or ANY tree) outside! Children can really learn a lot about nature by watching the birds and small animals who come by their tree for a nibble. Maybe give them a journal and have them record the types of birds (by color) and animals that come by!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

An Open Letter for the Holidays + Teachers

Dearest Debbie and Each and All of My Friends who LOVE and CARE FOR our children:


Chanukah Candles

Christmas Candles
Source: via Julie on Pinterest

These beautiful holidays of lights--Chanukah, Christmas, Kwanzaa - are always filled with layers of memories and messages.  Yes, sparkling trees, glowing menorahs, flickering candles and gifts of all sizes and wrappings abound but the brightest flames of all are the shining sparks of wisdom that help us remember the true gifts we share.  Gathered from decades of being with young children in settings across the country, my resolutions for the coming year are rekindled by memories such as these.
Kwanzaa candles

Our long ago program director, Linda, was looking out of her living room window and watched in
frozen shock her young almost four year old son picking EVERY flower in the garden.  As she opened the door for him, she tried not to show her dismay at the deflowering of her beautiful, hard-earned work.
          "Darling," she said, "You didn't have to pick ALL the flowers in the garden for me, you could have just given
me one flower."
          "Mommy," he explained as he poured the flowers over her, " I love you too much for just one flower. I love you more than all the flowers."
Judy, one of our most beloved subs in our early childhood program, awoke one morning feeling very low, a real downer. She arrived at  the classroom of three and a half year olds with a heavy step and low energy. As she walked into the classroom, Josh welcomed her with a loud, enthusiastic greeting,
         "Hello GORGEOUS!" It made her day!

Dawn taught mostly children of poverty, dysfunctional families and transient addresses for many years in an urban school system. She was a devoted and committed teacher who felt a deep commitment to her chosen profession.  One day, one of her young students, who also had a speech challenge, stuttering, came up to her and said,
      "Mi...Mi...Miss Heyman, I  I  I have have a ri-ri-ri-riddle for you!"
      "What is it, dear?"
      "Wha-wha-what what has two two legs and says l-l-l-love you?"
      "I can't guess, tell me the answer."
       He pointed to himself and with a great smile said, "M-m-m-m-meeeeeee!"

So Debbie and Friends, You can guess what the blessings of the season and all seasons, this holiday and all holidays and all the every-days are......... yes, love!  Theodore Roethke wrote,"Teaching is the one profession that permits love."

In our so high technology driven era, with communication systems beyond the imagination and gaps-in-communication larger than ever (I still use smoke signals), with media dominated by mean spirited programs, speeches, video games, harsh campaigns, instant signals of alarm and violence, it is so easy to get lost in the tangle.

But, we, who are called to this "work", this sacred calling, have so much to remember and to keep at the top of our New Year's resolutions list. Our children NEED us more than ever. For so many of our most precious young children, we are the only safe, welcoming, loving  place they know. Not all of them are as fortunate as our flower child described above.

We have minimum effect on situations often beyond our control: home environments, family relationships, unemployment, dangerous neighborhoods- but we have GREAT control over the space we share with the children. And when that space is warm, welcoming, loving, encouraging, exciting and safe-at-any-speed for every child,  we are sharing the greatest gifts possible with each other and our youngest students.

It's always the season to keep our promises to strengthen ourselves, stay loyal to our beliefs and 
values, articulate to families, to administrators, to community, our way of "teaching in the key of life" so our children learn to be lifelong learners through every joyful path-- through fun, song, play, story, projects, books, trips, poetry, tricks- every way possible to help children succeed and love learning--to teach us to love with all the flowers and to remind us that the best way they learn is when we share our time and space with love.  

Happy holidays, dearest Debbie and Friends.    
Love and Peace,  Mimi
Mimi Brodsky Chenfeld

P.S. Friends, Teaching in the "Key of Life" is totally consistent and in harmony with Developmentally Appropriate Practices!

Here's another glorious image from Pinterest on a possible way to create artfully lit candles.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Reasons for Nursery Rhymes

Did you know that scientific research has proven that one of the best indicators of how well children will learn to read is their ability to recite nursery rhymes upon entering their kindergarten year?  Although this is true, fewer and fewer children begin school having heard nursery rhymes, let alone being able to recite them.  As this trend became more and more obvious a few years into my teaching career, I made a scientific based decision to start using nursery rhymes as the basis of my literacy curriculum.  The chosen rhymes became the foundation of everything else I did in the classroom:  my themes and phonological skills, as well as social concepts taught came directly from the nursery rhymes. Both classic and modern nursery rhymes naturally lend themselves to a balanced literacy program, but also to a differentiated instruction and a multidisciplinary approach in teaching.  Teaching with nursery rhymes benefit students who have a wide range of learning styles, abilities and interests.  My kindergarten students are filled with excitement and anticipation when a new rhyme is being introduced.  They know that, along with the many different literacy concepts they will be learning, will come opportunities for hands-on exploration, music and movement activities, science and math extensions, art projects and many other exciting opportunities. 

Did You Know This
Interesting Brain Research?
The only information that people hold in their memory, with word-for-word accuracy, from childhood is songs and rhymes.  Human brains are uniquely wired to learn through music and rhyming with little to no effort because the rhythms of sound have such a profound effect on cognition.  Children are able to develop expressive and fluent oral language, hear and distinguish sounds, and understand concepts about print much earlier than their visual systems are able to track and decode printed words.  Children begin developing the neural pathways and can become confident “readers” at a young age, so it is vital to expose children to well known rhymes and songs as early as possible.  This repeated exposure will accelerate oral language development and naturally build phonemic awareness, all while a child is delighting in the sounds of language and projecting that to the joys of print.  Prolonged rich and varied experiences with oral language are vital for children to reach their potential as readers, writers, speakers, and thinkers.

Knowing that “scientific studies have shown that children who have heard and recited nursery rhymes in their younger years end up being better readers and doing better in school when they get older”, have you recited or read a nursery rhyme with a young child today?
I have additional information AND a nursery rhyme freebie listed on my blog.  Come on over and check it out.  Make sure you follow me at my blog as well so you don't miss my future freebies:

Mrs. Miner's Monkey Business Nursery Rhyme Post

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