February is dental health month, but sometimes it’s hard to find a way to teach dental hygiene to young kids. It can seem like a difficult concept to talk about, but I have come up with several ways to make kids realize the importance of their teeth and how to care for them.
Archive for Teaching
Many times of the year can stump you for ideas of things to keep your kids busy learning and having fun. Don’t forget all the cool and awesome fall stuff there is to do with kids.
Here are a few that I have done or am planning to do with my kids this fall:
Collecting leaves (you can iron them between waxed paper and it will coat them with enough wax so they won’t get brittle and make art with them such as leaf garland).
Make fall suncatchers with this retro craft.
Make leaf collages or leaf glitter.
Make a leaf tree.
Learn about composting.
Make stamps from pumpkins and stamp paint.
Visit to a fire station or have a fire truck come to your daycare.
Visit to a police station or have a police car brought to your daycare.
Visit the park.
Sing some fall leaf songs.
Paint pumpkins or carve them.
Call the health department and ask if they have someone that can come and talk to the kids. In my town, they will send a dental hygienist to teach the kids about brushing their teeth!
Rake a pile of leaves and jump in it!
Visit an ambulance station or have an ambulance brought to your daycare.
Make leaf rubbings with paper over a leaf and then draw with a crayon.
Have an art party.
Have a teddy bear picnic?
Make caramel apples.
Have a sports day and learn a sport or celebrate one the kids like.
See if the library has a story time person that comes out, ours does!
Make the kids a fall ice tower and let them excavate it. So many science lessons in this.
Have a color day every day of the week. Everyone can wear that color and you can do an art project using it too.
Bob for apples.
Save up your empty boxes, paper towel tubes, and empty cans and bottles that are washed out and let kids create instruments, castles, houses, buildings, roads for cars, tunnels for cars, tall stacks, or whatever their minds can create to make with them.
Churn homemade butter from cream.
Puzzles, even homemade. Let them draw a picture and then cut it into puzzle shapes so they can put it back together.
Make homemade mini books.
Make a seed collage with dried corn seeds that you take off the cob or other seeds you have saved.
Have a tea party.
Play Hide and Seek, Ring Around the Rosie, Duck, Duck, Goose, or Simon says.
Visit a pet store.
Make applesauce or apple cider.
Decorate the front door.
Rent a movie or books from the library or attend their story hour program.
Make up a play.
Put on a puppet show.
Make a scavenger hunt for them to hunt outside (for very little kids, you can make the list of what to find from pictures so they can match a rock to a picture of a rock, etc.) Here’s a fun one!
Build a fort.
Do some upcycling projects.
Have a picnic inside.
Make slime or playdough in fall colors. Here’s even a recipe for one and a scavenger hunt for it. I spy playdough style.
Here is another playdough that is cinnamon scented! Fun sensory experience.
Make up jokes.
Play restaurant or store.
Make bird feeders.
Play with balloons.
Make stick horses and ride them. You could even put on a rodeo.
Play I Spy.
Read a story and act it out.
Read a story and do an activity inspired by it like “Give a Mouse a Cookie” and then make cookies.
Watch bugs under a magnifying glass, (study entomology)
Play tic tac toe.
Let the kids cook lunch or snack. Check out the blog for tons of kid friendly recipes we have cooked.
Get the kids in the kitchen for sensory experiences.
Take a nature walk.
Make discovery bottles with fall items.
Make a collage with nature items you find.
Learn tree identification.
Make paper airplanes from your scrap paper.
Rent a movie and have popcorn.
Have a pillow fight.
Write letters to grandparents.
Play card games or dominoes.
Play board games.
Build with blocks.
Play at the mall.
Play hide and seek.
“Camp” in the back yard.
Make up an obstacle course.
Make up songs.
Have a dance party.
If you use your imagination, there is no limit to what you can come up with that your kids will think is tons of fun. Think about the fall season and what is available for less at that time. Halloween stuff can be bought and used after Halloween is over. It’s a great time to get cheap dress up clothes! Apples and pumpkins are much less expensive when they are in season in the fall. Think about how to get free and inexpensive materials. You can do a lot with a little when you use your imagination!
Check out these other great FALL ideas from some other bloggers:
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A big draw for getting kids in the garden for me, is showing them where their food comes from. This year, we did a cool experiment with wheat to see how it’s grown and how it becomes bread. Click here to see how to grow it.
When I first began growing food with my kids and I asked them what they wanted to grow, I got answers like spaghetti and hamburgers. Kids today are so far removed from the process of growing and producing food, they have no idea where it comes from. I think that is a dangerous thing for our society.
Producing food is a skill people need for many reasons. It helps you relate to the process and how much work it takes to produce food. It also gives people a skill to use in case our food system fails. This is a very real possibility with our current food system. Another important reason is the food supply is very unhealthy and unsafe. People who can produce their own food can grow healthier food. Growing your own food is an important skill to have.
I make the kids homemade bread in a bread maker like this:
Make your own food, so you know what’s in it.
To insure they have the most nutritious food possible. I make pancakes, muffins, cookies, and most of their other bread products here as well. Most of these foods are 100% whole wheat from freshly ground flour. I do use some unbleached organic white flour in their pizza crust, some cookies, and I use it for pie crust and a few other things, but well over half of their bread products are made with flour I grind myself. I use store bought pasta, tortillas, crackers and some cereals. Click here to see my recipe for bread.
Why do I go to all the trouble to make their food from scratch? Our food supply is full of GMOs, pesticides, herbicides, preservatives, and other chemicals. So much that it is literally killing us. Click here to see why I don’t serve my kids store bought bread. Look into it and you will see how important the quality of food you feed your children really is. Click here to see a report about pesticides in our current food supply. Click here to see a report about chemicals added to our current food supply.
Food looses nutrients quickly.
Freshly ground flour loses 70% of its nutrients within 72 hours of grinding. So the flour we purchase at the store, is rapidly becoming devoid of nutrients. I want my kids to have all the good health they can, so I strive to give them what it takes to do that. One way you can keep your flour nutritious longer is to freeze it immediately when you buy it and keep it in the freezer until you need it.
Growing our own wheat.
This year one of our experiments in the garden was to grow our own wheat. We planted some of the local wheat berries I buy for making flour and watched it grow. Wheat needs to be planted in Oklahoma by November 31st according to my cousin who farms wheat, so we made sure we did that. It grew all winter and was ready to harvest in early summer when the heads were golden brown and starting to bend down to the ground. I remember helping farm wheat as a kid, so I knew that part.
We cut our heads of wheat off with scissors and beat them on the inside of a bucket until the seeds came out. This is called threshing and it was a ton of fun. Then we had to winnow the wheat or clean it of all the hulls and things that were in the seeds. You can do this by laying your wheat out and blowing it or placing it front of a fan. The chaff blows out of the wheat and your berries are left.
We got a few cups of berries from our little patch of wheat. The next thing we did was run them through the wheat grinder and make flour. The kids were fascinated with the texture of the flour. It was a fun sensory experience.
Making bread from wheat we grew.
Next we tossed the flour and the other bread ingredients in the bread maker pan and let the bread maker do all the work. When it was done, we punched it down and put it in a bread pan. After the second rise, we baked it and had it as a side dish with meatballs and veggies for lunch. The kids thought it was delicious and ate the whole loaf.
I loved how when we talked about the wheat berries and I asked the kids what we could do with them if we didn’t grind them into flour, they said, we could plant them. They knew they were seeds. I love all the things they are learning in the garden. It’s an amazing place to teach so many things to your kids. Click here to see more benefits of gardening with kids.
I’d love to hear what your kids are learning about the food supply; please comment with anything you are experimenting with.
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At Little Sprouts we love the Summer Games. There is so much to learn from them. I love using the Olympics to talk about our country, our flag, our national anthem, geography, doing your best, practicing skills, reaching for goals, and working hard for success in life.
You can put on a great Summer Games event for your kids or family without spending a ton of money.
Having fun doesn’t have to be expensive. You can make everything you need with what you have right at home.
First you need to think up some games. We do a mini Olympics here at daycare for every Summer games, so we have done many different games. This year we had rubber band archery, straw javelin, Olympic ring toss, 5-meter dash, downhill sliding, and balance beam competitions. In years past we have done tricycle-athon, weight lifting with wrapping paper tubes with pie pans on the ends, basketball throw, relay races and all manner of other games we created for the event. Use your imagination.
I made number tags for the kid’s backs and pinned them on. I just made up random numbers and printed out a bunch of different ones with the rings on them. The kids thought that was really cool.
I try to think of things we already have the supplies for or things we can make with what we have. Having events for the kids is fun, but it’s not a good idea to eat up all your profits with fancy things. The kids don’t need it and they have just as much fun without it.
Years ago I bought a cd of Whitney Houston’s rendition of the Star Spangled Banner and another cd with Olympic music on it. We have used those cds for each Summer Games event. When the kids arrive in the morning, I greet them with the games theme song you hear on tv between each piece of coverage of the games.
This year, we followed arrival with a Summer Games breakfast of muffins and apple rings. I just cut the apples into rounds and poked the centers out with the apple corer. Easy peasy and fun.
After breakfast, we did a parade of nations or here it was a parade of USA. The kids held small flags and walked in to the games music again. They loved it. I recorded them with my phone and let them watch it and they begged to do it over and over again. I explained how we were representing our country and showed them our town, then our state, then our country on a map. We are a part of something bigger here in Oklahoma.
Next we did an opening ceremony. We have watched snippets of the games on television and we used the music and dancing ribbons to create our own opening ceremony. We have been practicing. This gives the kids good physical activity and they also have lots of fun.
After the opening ceremony, we headed outside with our Summer Games torch I made from discarded things around the house. I used a paper towel tube, some painter’s tape, a solo cup, and a lid to a sour cream container along with some orange tissue paper from a gift bag. I just cut the tube and then made slits in it so it would attach to the lid, and taped it on with the blue tape. Then I cut an x in the bottom of the lid and the cup and stuffed the tissue paper through to make the flame hold in the torch. Then I trimmed the cup shorter and attached it to the lid with more tape. I put a few staples in for good measure.
Not only does making my own torch save me money, but it also keeps those supplies out of the landfill by using them again for something new. We took turns running around the playground and passing the torch off as we each made a lap around the play area. I explained to the kids how the torch is run for each games. This is so cool and they learn more about geography through this exercise.
Once the torch has traveled around, we begin the games.
This year, we did some activities outside and some in because it was dreadfully hot. We began with the balance beam exercises outside. Each child got to participate in any way they wanted. They practiced balance on the edging of our play area and they made up their own routines. Next we did the downhill slide where each person performed their desired techniques on the swing set slide.
The next event was the 5-meter dash in which all the kids participated at the same time. They are 2-4 years of age, so we don’t have winners and losers. They just love to run and its even more physical activity for them.
We came inside for a big drink of water and finished the games inside. We did the rubber band archery competition and saw how far we could shoot a rubber band. Next we did the straw javelin to see how far we could throw the straw. Lastly, they did a ring toss with Olympic rings. Everyone had a great time.
I bought gold medals for each of the kids from a trophy company, but you could easily make them yourself with construction paper, ribbon and cheerios for some rings on the front. We had a medal ceremony. I called each child’s name and gave them the medal and then we saluted the flag and sang the National Anthem with Whitney. She knocks it out of the park. The kids love singing our USA song.
Lastly, we played Olympic music again and used our flags to perform a closing ceremony. It was tons of fun and I was able to post pictures and short videos for parents to see how much fun we had. The parents loved it too. Pictures and videos are another way to get parents involved in your daycare. Click here to see how important parent involvement is in your program.
I had made lunch that morning and put it in the crock pot so I wouldn’t have to worry about a bunch of cooking. We had a nap after the games, and then snack when we got up was more rings to finish our celebration.
I hope you will put on an event to celebrate the Summer Games this year, there is still a week left to show the kids what it’s all about and then make up an activity of your own. It can be as simple or complicated as you’d like, but it teaches them so much. The Olympics are so special and it’s great to see your country being represented in front of the world. USA USA USA!
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There are a ton of fun parties you can have with your daycare kids without breaking the bank. I like to keep a party as simple as possible to cut down on waste for the environment AND hassle for me. Kids will have just as much fun with a pack of side walk chalk and some homemade popsicles.
When I need supplies for my daycare parties, I always turn to Oriental Trading Company because I know they will have what I can afford. I can order it quick and have supplies for the whole summer. They have tons of cool stuff for any party and plenty of fun party favors for the kids to have a treat to take home.
We have several parties planned at Little Sprouts this summer. We have had an art party and a water party already, but we have more coming up. Click here to see how to throw a fun art party. Oriental has tons of cool art supplies for your little artists to enjoy.
We have more water parties on the agenda. I love to give the kids bubbles. (I zip tie the bottle of bubbles to the chain link fence to keep them from dumping them all out the time). I love to have reusable water guns too. We are not supposed to have toy weapons at daycare, but Oriental has tons of water squirters that aren’t shaped like guns. They have sharks, ladybugs, even lemons.
For our last water party, we made homemade, fresh squeezed lemonade and froze it in reusable popsicle containers. They were delish. Along with some cubed up watermelon, they kept the kids hydrated while we played outside for hours. You could make a lemonade theme for your water party. Oriental has a ton of fun lemon themed things. So fun.
We are planning a teddy bear picnic for friendship week. Click here to see our last one. All the kids will bring their favorite stuffed animal to eat with them and we will have a picnic outside. I could even get little teddies to send home with each child. We could do a luau themed teddy bear picnic. I could have leis and grass skirts for the kids to wear. The possibilities are endless!
At the end of summer at Little Sprouts, we are going to have a back to school bash. We are going to have bubbles, sidewalk chalk, and fun games and puzzles. I spotted some fun back to school pencils to send with my kids who are leaving me for school this year. I’m going to grab a pack of those.
Don’t forget what’s coming up at the end of summer this year, the Olympics! We are going to have our own mini Olympics here to celebrate just like we do every time the summer Olympic games are played. We can get US Flags AND multi country flag decorations from Oriental. I am planning to teach the kids a ton about colors by using all the colorful flags from all the countries. I’m going to talk to them about our country and what it means to live here while we celebrate the games. This is a great opportunity to teach them about getting along, cooperation, sportsmanship, friendship and so many other things the games are about.
We are going to get red and blue star shaped bubble necklaces, red white and blue everything for our USA team to use in our Summer Olympics. It’s one of my favorite things to do and I cannot WAIT until August when we get to do it. I love watching the Olympics, I love playing games like them, I LOVE everything about them. I love passing that on to my kids. We will come up with some games to compete in so keep your eye on the blog to see the post about our Little Sprouts Olympic games. We are going to have gold medals we can get from Oriental as well. How much more fun could that be! USA, USA, USA!
This suggestion is based strictly on my opinion. I will receive products free of charge by the company to provide my suggestions. No other type of compensation was received. All ideas and opinions are my own. I do regularly buy from Oriental.
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Do you think play matters anymore for kids? Over and over again I hear parents saying they want their kids to learn. They mean flash cards and learning to read. Over and over again I try to stress the importance of free thinking and free play where the child directs the game or activity they are doing. That is the best form of learning.
Modern day school in this country is NOT developmentally appropriate. We start teaching kids to read as early as they enter school when study after study has told us over and over again that children are not developmentally ready to read until age 7 or 8 depending on the child. And the child who cannot keep up? We say they’re behind.
We keep pushing kids faster and faster to do everything earlier and earlier. We take more and more of free play time and anything creative in school and we give them more and more work, more homework, and more testing. We don’t even teach art here in Oklahoma public schools until the 5th grade when children’s creativity is determined by age 8! If no one creates, who will be the architects, the engineers, the artists, and the musicians of our future? We place importance on who can finish first and learn it the earliest, but guess what we are getting instead of smarter kids? Mental illness, depression, anxiety, behavior problems, obesity, and poor physical health as well.
I love watching kids create, build, direct, explore, and really master skills. It’s so satisfying to watch a child learn to care for their own needs and their own environment. At Little Sprouts it’s one of our top priorities to teach kids to be independent so they can have success in school. I want my kids to be able to think for themselves, come up with their own ideas, know right from wrong, build great relationships, stand up for themselves, and take care of their own needs. I want them to succeed.
When my daughter was young, I thought the best thing for her was for me to do everything for her, but in reality, me taking her plate to the sink every night after dinner did NOT teach her to carry and dump her lunch tray at school…she dropped it. Me doing everything for her did NOT teach her to care for her own needs at school…she was frustrated.
The most important school readiness skill for children is social skills. Children need to be able to build and nurture relationships to find success in their school future. Children need to be able to say no and stand up for themselves. Children need to be able to share and be kind to others too.
Guess how they learn all of those important things? Through play! Play is children’s work. It’s what they do to act out and figure out life. There are so many things kids can do in a session of self-directed play that will build a successful future for them. Ask Mr. Rogers, he knows what’s up!
We as caregivers need to offer children lots and lots of time to explore and figure things out. We need to guide them with gentle kindness when they get off track. We are here to teach them the way to go. Most of a child’s day should be engaged in activities they choose and direct.
Crafts are fine some of the time, but there is so much more to be learned when children are allowed to CREATE on their own and direct their own talents. I recently downloaded this e-book off of Amazon and I loved all of the fun play activities that could be self-directed by the kids. One of our favorites so far was salt painting. You mix equal parts of salt and boiling water. Stir until the salt dissolves in the water. Then the kids paint with it on dark paper and when it dries, the salt forms small crystals that shimmer in the light. We called it Elsa paint because it looks like ice crystals. (and who’s not into Elsa right now?)
Click on the book below to check out The Undeniable Power of Play on Amazon. You’ll be glad you downloaded it. It’s chock full of fun activities for the kids to do (and you will enjoy them as well)
Study after study has been released about the importance of free play for learning. We have cut out so much recess, music, and physical education in schools that there is scarcely any time for kids to play at school any more. We are not teaching anything; we are preparing for tests all of our school hours. It’s a shame. Our kids and our future will suffer for it.
Kids AND adults benefit from free play time during our day. Even as adults if we don’t play it can cause serious behavior and health problems. Click here to see the importance of play for adults and children for health.
Not only does The Undeniable Power of Play give you tons of fun activities to help kids play, it also has lots of information on the importance of play and the meaning of play. Be sure to check it out.
Behavior problems are on the rise, health problems are on the rise, we are headed for big trouble. Take the time to make play a priority in your life and your children’s lives. We have to do something before it’s too late.
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There are so many things kids can do that don’t cost a ton of money. I’m super cheap so i love a good idea that doesn’t cost a ton of cash. Childcare is not a lucrative business. A lot of them are even free, so why spend a ton on activities when you can make up your own stuff on the cheap and have just as much fun or more. I LOVE a good deal and saving money! I also LOVE a bunch of happy, engaged children. Here are a few things you can do to fill your summer time with your daycare kids, kids of your own, or whoever might be needing entertaining.
- Click here to see some super cool upcycling ideas to keep your kids busy this summer for not a lot of green!
- Visit to a fire station or have a fire truck come to your daycare.
- Read. We do a summer reading program at my house every summer. The kids LOVE reading!
- Visit to a police station or have a police car brought to your daycare.
- Visit the park.
- What do your daycare parents do for a living? Is there something they could bring to teach the kids?
- Call the health department and ask if they have someone that can come and talk to the kids. In my town, they will send a dental hygienist to teach the kids about brushing their teeth!
- Call an animal rescue operation and ask them to bring animals to your home and teach the kids about them.
- Have a sprinkler party. Click here to see how to throw an awesome water party.
- Visit an ambulance station or have an ambulance brought to your daycare.
- Have an art party. Click here to see one.
- Have a teddy bear picnic. Click here to see ours.
- Have a sports day and learn a sport or celebrate one the kids like.
- See if the library has a story time person that comes out, ours does!
- Have a color day every day of the week. Everyone can wear that color and you can do an art project using it too.
- Use recycled squirt bottles to spray water for wet fun.
- Exercise. Use a video like Elmocise or make up your own workout to lead the kids. My awesome husband is a personal trainer and he does a P.E. class with the kids every Monday morning before he goes to work.
- Save up your empty boxes, paper towel tubes, and empty cans and bottles that are washed out and let kids create instruments, castles, houses, buildings, roads for cars, tunnels for cars, tall stacks, or whatever their minds can create to make with them.
- Make kites out of brown paper bags from the store.
- Finger crochet from thrift store yarn.
- Make homemade playdough and let them play with it for hours.
- Puzzles, even homemade. Let them draw a picture and then cut it into puzzle shapes so they can put it back together.
- Make homemade books.
- Paint a rock or make pet rocks.
- Play in the rain.
- Have a tea party.
- Visit the nature center, they are usually free.
- Play hide and seek, ring around the rosie, duck, duck, goose, or simon says.
- Visit a pet store.
- Play house.
- Play school.
- Rent a movie or books from the library or attend their story hour program.
- Make up a play.
- Put on a puppet show.
- Make a scavenger hunt for them to hunt outside (for very little kids, you can make the list of what to find from pictures so they can match a rock to a picture of a rock, etc.)
- Build a fort.
- Have a picnic outside or inside.
- Dress up.
- Thumb wrestle.
- Make up jokes.
- Play restaurant or store.
- Walk barefoot in the grass.
- Make bird feeders.
- Play with bubbles.
- Play with balloons.
- Do sidewalk chalk.
- Make stick horses and ride them. You could even put on a rodeo.
- Skip rocks.
- Have a bike parade.
- Play I Spy.
- Play Frisbee.
- Read a story and act it out.
- Make sensory bottles.
- Read a story and do an activity inspired by it like “Give a Mouse a Cookie” and then make cookies.
- Vacation Bible School.
- Library story hour.
- Splash pad water play at the park.
- Plant seeds in a garden or in cups.
- Bird watch.
- Watch bugs under a magnifying glass, (study entomology)
- Play tic tac toe.
- Play outside.
- Collect rocks.
- Climb a tree.
- Have a mini Olympics at home. Make up events, score charts and prizes like medals.
- Make waterslide with your hose and slide.
- Let the kids cook lunch or snack. Check out the blog for tons of kid friendly recipes we have cooked.
- Take a nature walk.
- Make a collage with nature items you find.
- Learn tree identification.
- Make paper airplanes from your scrap paper.
- Play Twister.
- Rent a movie and have popcorn.
- Have a pillow fight.
- Write letters to grandparents.
- Make ice cream.
- Make popsicles.
- Go swimming at the local pool
- Visit a farm or have animals brought from a farm.
- Play card games or dominoes.
- Play board games.
- Build with blocks.
- Play at the mall.
- Go on a hike.
- Play kickball.
- Play hide and seek.
- Ride bikes.
- “Camp” in the back yard.
- Go bowling.
- Play with water balloons.
- Fill buckets of water and throw wet sponges.
- Play soccer.
- Put on a sports camp.
- Play football.
- Play baseball.
- Make up an obstacle course.
- Make up songs.
- Lay on a blanket and watch the clouds.
- Have a dance party.
- Try nature weaving.
There are a million different things you can do for free or cheap that will keep your kids healthy, happy, and content throughout the summer months. Add your ideas to share with all of us.
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Are lesson plans your biggest fear or biggest heart ache? Do you love working with kids but choke at the idea of deciding what to do with them? A little pre planning will make your life so much easier and it’s not as hard as you think.
At Little Sprouts, I make a basic plan for my lessons for the entire school year. This helps me stay on track and stay organized throughout the year. If I do a month or a week at a time, I tend to lose focus and fall off the wagon many times throughout the year. This plan is not best for everyone, some people get too overwhelmed with thinking of planning a year at a time, but it’s not the detailed plans, just a lose outline of what you’ll work on.
My number one quote is and has always been, if you don’t keep the kids busy, THEY will keep YOU busy. This is not a pleasant thing. Have things planned to do with them!
The first thing you need to do to get started is find something to plan on. I use free printable online calendars, but you can use a spreadsheet or whatever works for you. I’m a pen and paper girl. I like it that way. I print out a calendar for each month from August to May. I check the public school calendars and choose a date I want to start and end my preschool season.
Next you need to make a list of all the things you’d like to cover. At Little Sprouts, we use one day for letters, numbers, colors, shapes, working on our names and that sort of thing. We use one day for creative, open ended art and jamming tunes with instruments and dancing. We use one day for science projects, and we use one day for math activities or crafts. We don’t do many crafts, but we do a few, so most weeks, this day is for math. We have fun Fridays where we have a lot of extra free play and sitting around reading, laughing and talking. We get to do this most days, but on Fridays, we do it more.
Take home papers
I do a lot of activities that involve taking something home because parents like to see and be involved in what their kids are learning. If they don’t see anything coming home, they will naturally assume learning is not taking place. So I try to keep parent involvement in mind when planning what we are doing. We don’t take home a paper every day, but a lot of times we do.
Planning dates for lessons
Now that you have your basic blueprint of what you want to cover and something to record your ideas on, go through the calendar and mark off any days you are closed for holidays or vacations. If you have school kids, you can mark the days school is out so you can plan something that is more appropriate for the older kids as well as the younger ones.
This is the first year in 20 years I have not had any school agers after school and on breaks and I am AMAZED at how much easier lesson planning has been. I am glad I made the decision not to keep school agers anymore, because as I get older, it gets harder and harder to be everything to everyone. Two years ago I stopped taking infants and children under the age of 2. It has helped me so much not to get burned out.
I love babies, but I just want babies only, preschoolers only, or big kids only. Not all three. It’s too hard and requires SO much equipment and supplies to cover all of those age groups. I find ages 2-4 the absolute most fun, so that’s what I’ve decided to focus on from now on. Preschool is for me.
Back to the lesson plans. We have the days set we need and what we want to cover each week, so now we have to set a routine for the day. Routines cannot work out 100% of the time, but if you have a structure in place it will make your whole day go more smoothly. Start with meal times and nap.
At Little Sprouts, we have breakfast at 8:30, lunch at 11:30, and snack at 3:00. We used to have a 4:00 snack for after school, but we don’t need that any more. Our nap is from about 12:45 to about 2:45 most days. Of course it just depends on what happens if that is totally accurate. If you’ve done daycare for any length of time, you already know that.
I open at 7:00 and close at 5:00. It takes me around 30 minutes to make breakfast and lunch. Snack just takes a few. So from 7:00 to 8:30 when we eat breakfast, we have free time. Before I have to start cooking, I mostly answer the door to let people in and sit and snuggle on the couch with the kids.
I’m a morning person but not everyone is and some kids need some extra time to wake up. They can play in the playroom or the living room or hang out with me and just be still if they want. I get up at 8 and start breakfast and they can still play or chill.
We get finished with breakfast around 9 most days. In the summer time we go outside right after breakfast so we can avoid as much heat as possible and still get outside. My temperature range for outdoor play is the same as the public schools, 40-90. If it’s 39 we stay in, if it’s 91 we stay in. Sometimes it’s 91 by 10:00 or even earlier, so to get as much time outside as we can, we go out as soon as we can.
If it’s winter time, we wait until around 10:00 to go outside so it has time to warm up a little. In the winter, we have activity time inside at 9 and in the summer we have outside time at 9. If it’s a rainy day, we just have free time inside instead. Kids love being outside and it’s so good for them, we do as much out there as we can.
If it’s garden picking day (click here to read about our garden activities) we go pick vegetables first and then have free time in the play area. Sometimes the kids just want to play in the garden and they can do that too. Sometimes we have other activities in the garden as well. It’s a great classroom for us.
At 10 we come inside, wash our hands, get a drink, and have activity time from 10-11. At 11, I let the star of the day (a different child gets to be the star each day and gets to choose certain things throughout the day, sit in a special chair, be in charge of the water in the bathroom, and say a blessing over our meals) chose a movie from my VHS collection to watch while I make lunch. It helps them start to wind down, keeps the mishaps down and helps me focus more on what I’m cooking for them.
I don’t let them watch TV because I think commercials are horrid for children. Images being blasted at them for more more more are just gross. If they ever watch TV here, it’s OETA public television, no commercials.
Anyway, back to lunch making. Lunch is at 11:30 and we finish eating and cleaning up around 12-12:15 each day. Everyone goes potty, washes up and gets ready for bed. We all snuggle together on the couch and have story time and sing songs and finger plays. After story time, the kids get on their mats, I get each of them a stuffed animal to snuggle, I give them a hug and a kiss and tuck them in and they go to sleep.
I usually have to wake them up for snack and then we got potty again, put our beds away, get our shoes on and get our stuff together and they start going home. Kids trickle out for the next two hours so we have free play in the living room until they leave so we can watch for parents. We can do puzzles at the table, draw or whatever the kids want to do.
So now we have an hour a day, four days a week to do special activities. You can see that we already have covered a lot of stuff in our daily routine. There are so many teachable moments during free time where we can talk about colors or count or talk about our names.
We have a check in and out system that has a foot for each child that they “clock in” with. They take their foot from the bye bye spot to a slot that shows they are present for the day, at the end of the day they put it back in the bye bye spot. It has their name on it and helps them get familiar with their name.
Now we need to make a list of all the things you want to teach the kids or set up for them to do. If you have core curriculum requirements, list them now. I am a big advocate of school readiness so I like to focus on a lot of skills that will help them find success at school. Fine and gross motor skill building, self-help skills, pre-reading skills and things like that are my focus.
Work on ABC’s
Spelling their name
Writing their name
Saying their phone number
Learning their parents’ names
Playing with Magnets
This is just a short list of examples. Make a list that goes along with your goals for teaching your kids.
Next we can think of some themes we want to use. For instance, you could do apples in September, pumpkins in October, and butterflies in May, whatever you think your kids will be interested in and is current for the time of year it is. Write those themes on each page of your calendar or spreadsheet. This gives you a basic outline of what you’re doing.
At Little Sprouts, we do each theme for two weeks. If the kids are bored with it, we scrap it and move on. If they come up with something they are interested in, we do that instead of what I have planned. The outline just gives us something to keep us moving forward.
Now take your sheet and write one of the areas you want to teach above each day of the week. At Little Sprouts we have “learning time” on Mondays, crafts or math on Tuesdays, music and free art on Wednesdays, and science on Thursdays.
Now I can go to my list of things I want to teach and plug them into each day on my calendar. For pumpkins I can have the kids mix red and yellow playdough or paint to make orange, I could cut open a pumpkin for them and let them gut it and cook the seeds, or cook the flesh and make a pie, or make paint or ink stamps with the flesh and let them do art.
I can plan it out and then the kid’s interests can take it in any direction we want it to go. The kids might want to play with magnets every day for a week and not do anything with a pumpkin. That’s okay, they are learning. And I promise they will learn a whole lot more from something they are interested in than something you want them to be interested in.
Plug in something for each day on your sheet until it’s full. The internet is a wonderful resource for spaces that you have that might be blank. There are hundreds of preschool websites to help you come up with activates. Please make sure all of your activities are not cookie cutter, closed ended craft projects.
Kids need to learn how to create, not just follow directions. Following directions is important as well, they do have to go to school when they leave you and they do need some skills to help them find success when they get there, but most of your time should be spent letting kids explore their own interests.
You can keep your list of activities and use them from year to year. Spending a few hours in the summer planning out your year’s activities will help you so much. You can make a shopping list for any supplies you need and put it on the back of each page of your calendar so you will have everything you need when the time comes. You can also print out any sheets you may need and have those ready as well. Being prepared is the number one best way to find success in your day!
Do you have any great secrets for planning your school year right?
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Water sprinkler parties are one of our favorite things at Little Sprouts! During the summer at Little Sprouts, our days are different than during the school year. We do preschool lessons daily when school is in session, but in the summer, we have a variety of different types of experiences. We spend a lot more time outside and a lot more time in the garden. We do crazy fun weeks like sports week or pajama theme weeks. And we have regular special events.
Last week our special event was a water party. Kids LOVE the water and they love to play in it, but in Oklahoma we are prevented by DHS regulations from having any type of wading pools. So we pull out the sprinkler and set it up on the slide to make our own water slide, we get out the water squirting toys, and we fill up the water table. I spend a few minutes before the kids come, putting some water in some buckets for them to pour, scoop, and splash. I also set up bubbles and bubble blowers for their enjoyment.
I have the parents send the kids to daycare dressed and ready to get in the water and send dry clothes to change into. That gives us almost an extra hour to play outside that I would be changing everyone into their swimming suits. Then when we come in, I help them get their wet clothes off, dry off, and get their dry clothes on before I begin preparing lunch.
You don’t have to spend a ton for the kids to have fun in the sprinkler.
Each water party is a little bit different, but this time, this is what we did:
We had buckets of water the kids could pour and scoop, including a water wheels toy they could make spin. We had bubbles and all kinds of bubble blowers.
We had the sprinkler set up for running through which made a fun mud puddle to splash in under the swing set. The kids could slide and swing in the water if they wanted to.
Kids absolutely LOVE getting wet and splashing their friends. They love making mud puddles and splashing around in them, and they love planning for special days. You don’t have to go a lot of expense or trouble for kids to have a blast on special days. The only thing it requires is for you to be excited. Kids that I keep of any age have always loved water play days, from babies even up to 12 years old. Who doesn’t like to play in the sprinkler? I know I still do. Do you remember splashing around in the sprinkler as a kid? It’s pure delight, like dancing in the rain. We could all use a little more dancing in our lives!
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It’s hard to get your families together to get to know each other at daycare. It also can be hard to plan a fun Easter celebration for your family that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg or work you to death preparing.
At Little Sprouts we celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus with a big Easter blow out. Parties are a great way to get families involved in the daycare. I ask a parent to tell the Easter story, we hunt prize filled eggs, and then enjoy lunch together. I make a main dish and each family brings a dish to go with it. Doing a potluck party lets other people get involved in the cooking and makes it much easier for me.
This year we had different lunch meats and cheeses with loaves of sliced homemade bread and cheese dip and tortilla chips. Families brought avocado, black bean and corn dip, and desserts. Only three families were able to come, but we still had a great time, and the kids who attended made a huge haul on eggs!
Each year at Little Sprouts, we have an Easter Resurrection party, a Gingerbread decorating party (click here to check it out), and a Garden open house (click here to check it out) for the families. Parents and siblings are invited to join us for family fun. We also have a Mom’s night out for Moms only (click here to check it out). Parent involvement is of paramount importance. When families are invited to be a part of the child’s education, they gain so much. Seeing kids interact with their friends, seeing you interact with their children, and spending time at the facility are all great ways for parents to get more information about what goes on in their children’s daily experiences. And kids LOVE when Mom and Dad come to see their school!
Preparation for the party was a cinch this year. I made a few loaves of homemade bread and sliced them up and put them in the freezer, then I visited the deli for lunch meats and cheeses and dumped together some queso in the crockpot and made iced tea the morning of the party. Then we head out to “hide” the eggs before people come. Any time you put out homemade bread, it’s a winner.
A month or so before the party, I start stuffing Easter eggs. I fill some with candy, some with toys and some with dollars. I did about 700 eggs total because I like the kids to get a lot of eggs. I didn’t realize they would get THAT many eggs this year, but I’m still glad I did it. I usually put about 20 one dollar bills in the eggs, two 5 dollar bills and a grand prize of a 10 dollar bill in one egg. I don’t put the prizes in the gold eggs so no one knows where they are. I’m sneaky like that! The toys I did this year were little fuzzy chicks and bunnies made of pom poms. The kids always love those. I also had a couple of big eggs I put match box cars in. Everyone got a lot of good stuff. I love watching the families open the eggs and see what’s inside.
After they empty their eggs, they dump them in a big plastic tote so I can reuse them the following year. I don’t care if they take some or all of them, but most parents appreciate not taking them home and having them all over the house with all the other eggs the kids hunted at church and home. When I was the children’s Pastor at our church, I recycled the eggs there too and no one seemed to mind. I hate the thought of throwing all that plastic in the landfill and then wasting my money to buy more the next year. I just say keep them if you want them but if you don’t want them, I will take them. Then people do what they want.
Another thing we do to save waste is use real plates to eat on. I have plenty of paper plates, but why use them when it just takes a minute to wash a few plates? I don’t have a lot of silverware or glasses so we have to use some plastic, but I keep it as minimal as possible whenever I can. Our dishwasher broke the night before the party this year, and it still just took a few minutes to wash up the plates we used at the party. Just because you throw a party doesn’t mean you have to throw all of your eco-friendly habits out the window. My families thought it was odd at first to see real plates, but they are used to it now. No big deal.
When everyone arrives, the kids gather around the story teller. I usually offer resurrection eggs to the person telling the story and most of the time they use them. They are a dozen plastic eggs each filled with a little part of the Easter story such as a rock, a cup, silver coins, or whatever. The reader tells the story as the kids open the eggs to show the part of the story and it illustrates what happened during the crucifixion and resurrection. I think it’s a great hands on way of sharing the story with the kids that helps them remember what Jesus went through. Our story teller did a great job this year. Of course you don’t have to include the story, but I’m not about the bunny, I’m about my Savior, so for me, there’s no reason to have an Easter party without the story.
Then we head out to the hunt. This year our regular hunting area was very muddy, so we used our expansion garden (click here to see what the expansion garden is) to “hide” the eggs. It was a dry and is enclosed with a fence so the kid knew where to hunt. The raised beds made it kind of like an Easter maze so that was cool. With the mass of eggs per person we did have a few small complaints about aching backs and such, but who would have known it would be so strenuous to find all the eggs.
Next we head to the back yard to check out our spoils and then it’s time for lunch! It’s a super fun day for everyone and I keep the fuss to a minimum to make it fun for me as well. I want to have a laid back day full of joy instead of anyone killing themselves to make sure everything is perfect. After everyone leaves we clean up the mess and it’s all over. It’s such a fun way to help families connect and to spend time with parents. I can’t think of anything better.
How do you celebrate Easter with your special people?