Tag Archives: preschool

It’s First Friday!

Well here it is!  There were so many great questions and so little time!  I’ve supplemented with some links below.  Please add your links and input in the comment section as well!

(By the way, on my computer the video seems a bit smoother over at YouTube for some reason.  It won’t hurt my feelings if you watch it there– just promise to come back and join in the discussion!)

On-Task Behavior and Developmentally Appropriate Practice (0:10)

As a parent, how do I know what is DAP in my child’s various classrooms? (1:27)

Resources for Developmentally Appropriate Practice:

Basics of Developmentally Appropriate Practice by Carol Copple and Sue Bredekamp

DAP Statements from NAEYC

DAP: What Does it Meant to Use Developmentally Appropriate Practice (From right here at NJC!)

Should food be used as sensory or art medium? (4:22)

Letter of the Week Dilemma (8:33)

Why Don’t You Teach Reading?  A Look at Emergent Literacy

A Culture of Literacy: Teaching Preschoolers the ABC’s and More  (More articles linked there.)

Preschool Tattle-Tells (10:23)

How do I stay consistent with my child’s behavior when I know it’s caused by physical factors? (11:50)

Parenting with Positive Guidance: Building Discipline from the Inside Out

Children and Nature  (14:01)

Why Our Children Need Nature

Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv


Children & Nature Network

The Grass Stain Guru

Add your links and tips below as well!  And keep those First Friday Questions coming to notjustcute@hotmail.com, with Q&A in the subject line!
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Filed under Ask Me

High Quality Early Education: Dollars and Sense

Let me start off by making one thing clear.  Young children deserve a high quality early education because it is our responsibility as adults to care for them and give them what they need.  It’s a matter of moral responsibility.  Children need quality experiences to be whole and healthy and to meet the outer limits of their grand potentials, both as children and as adults.  That said, there have been a series of interesting articles recently, coming from unlikely sources.  It’s not NAEYC or Zero to Three issuing these papers, it’s economists and business leaders. 

These writers are getting attention for pointing out the overall return on investments into early education.  It’s all broken down by dollars and economic growth.  That may not be my first motivator, but I figure you have to find whatever common ground will get people involved in advocating for children.  If someone needs to see dollar signs and numbers to help them realize that the early years are not just cute, there are definitely dollar signs and numbers to be found.

In general, the research points out that, *gasp* children who receive high quality early education are more likely to be productive members of society over a lifetime.  One study found the investment to be worth more than 10-fold over a lifetime!  For every dollar spent in the early years, there’s a $10 return.  This rate of return appears to steadily decline over a person’s lifetime.  So, money put into high school programs have a much smaller rate of return.  It all goes back to the old adage, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” 

Additionally, I found it interesting that many statements in the articles point to the fact that the benefits of preschool are not just academic.  In fact, many of the cognitive benefits even out over time.  As found in the Perry Preschool Experiment and the report from the Society for Human Resource Management (links below), the benefits of preschool are largely about social skills: team building, self-control, and motivation.

I found these articles extremely interesting (particularly the one about the $320,ooo kindergarten teacher — you just might find me back at the nearest elementary school when that one comes to fruition).  If you’re looking for some weekend reading, check these out!  Then think about what you can do to advocate for children— whether that’s in your own home, your own school, your community, or the world. 

 “Meeting the Workforce Needs of the Future…Means Meeting the Developmental Needs of Young Children Today”  – Society for Human Resource Management

“The Case for $320,000 Kindergarten Teachers” –  The New York Times

“How Preschool Changes the Brain” – Wired

Top photo by Anissa Thompson.

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Filed under Article

Spiders Vs Insects- Breaking it Down for Preschoolers


Spiders and insects are often lumped together, but there are some significant differences that even young children can begin to recognize.  Noting the difference between insects and spiders isn’t just important for discerning between the two “in the wild”, but the act of comparing and classifying is perfect for practicing logic, reasoning, and science skills. 

This three-part activity may take a lot of words to describe here in the blogosphere, but it’s really quite simple, very effective, and loads of fun!


To start, you need to be prepared with playdough and pipe cleaner segments.  Use them to create as you discuss the parts of an insect, and then of a spider.  Let’s start with the insect.  (Find more info on insect body parts here.) 


Point out that insects have three  body parts (head, thorax, abdomen).  Create three balls with the playdough and connect them together, looking a bit like an ant.  Explain that sometimes these body parts are similar sizes, but sometimes they look differently.  For a beetle, the thorax is smaller and the abdomen is longer and wider (manipulate playdough accordingly).  Or you may have a very long and skinny abdomen like a dragonfly.  But every insect has three body parts (go back to three fairly equal balls like an ant). 

Another characteristic of all insects is six legs.  Insert the six pipe cleaner  segments as you count them out.  Lastly, most insects have a set of antennae for smelling or feeling (insert another set of pipe cleaners or toothpicks).  Add that many insects also have wings and discuss a few examples.  Now you have a lovely ant-like sculpture.  Set that one down and let’s get to the spider!


For your spider discussion, follow in a similar way, narrating and building as you go, showing how the parts may differ for different types of spiders (big round abdomen or long skinny abdomen, etc.).  A spider will have two body parts (the cephalothorax, or head, and an abdomen), eight legs, and usually eight eyes (I create the eyes by pricking the dough with a toothpick, leaving eight holes).  Spiders will not have antennae or wings.  You may want to include other spider facts you can find here.

Map It Out

Now that you’ve discussed the difference between the two, map it out on a Venn diagram.  These diagrams are great for sorting information with young children.  A Venn diagram teaches sorting and classifying in a very visual way.  (If you need a quick refresher on Venn diagrams, click here and scroll down to “Example”.)  Children are usually very quick to catch on to this logical, graphic organizer.

When doing Venn diagrams with preschoolers, I usually use two hula hoops or a very large embroidery hoop and just lay them on the floor, though you can also buy Venn diagram pocket charts like this one, or just draw circles on a white board.  Then, place your two creations, one in each circle to represent their own side of the diagram.  Then sort index cards with words and pictures into the parts of the diagram.  I used these for my cards, but you may want to make different ones depending on the additional information you deliver:

Has 8 legs./Has 6 legs. (Spider/Insect)

Has 3 body parts./Has 2 body parts. (Insect/Spider)

Needs food. (Both)

Is alive. (Both)

Can have antennae and wings. (Insect)

Can have 8 eyes! (Spider)


As the culminating activity, have the children create their own insects or spiders.  Each child gets a lump of playdough and access to toothpicks, pipe cleaner segments, and tissue paper or wax paper (for wings).  Explain that they might want to create something they’ve seen before, like an ant, or a black widow spider, or a butterfly; or they might want to create a new kind of insect or spider that we’ve never even heard of!

As they create, talk to them about what they’re making, incorporating some of the information you’ve presented (“Oh, I see you have 8 legs on your creature!  Does that mean it’s a spider?”), but keep in mind that these are their own personal creations.  Assess the children by talking with them, not just by looking at what they’ve made.  Some children will create a picture perfect spider with two body parts, eight legs, eight eyes, and a set of chelicera to boot!  With that child you may simply point out those attributes and ask if it is indeed a spider.  Another child may have a creature with eight legs, a set of wings, and three body parts.  With that child, you may point out that this is a very unique creature!  It has both insect parts and spider parts!  Then ask the child to point out which is which along with you.

Now you’ve not only gone over specific scientific information, practiced some counting, sorting and categorizing, and done some finger-strengthening creating, but your lucky children each have an insect, or spider (or spider-insect) to take home as a lovely pet! 

For more bug-themed ideas, check out this brainstorm! 

Ant image by rick1611.
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Filed under Create, fine motor skills, Learning through Play and Experience, science activity

Eric Carle Author Study: The Grouchy Ladybug and The Very Clumsy Click Beetle

The Grouchy LadybugThe Grouchy Ladybug always catches me off-guard, because it seems to be missing the “Very”.  You know, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, The Very Lonely Firefly, The Very Busy Spider, The Very Clumsy Click Beetle, and…..The Grouchy Ladybug.  I guess he’s just a little grouchy.

Well, this ladybug, who’s feeling a little bit grouchy, lands on the same aphid-laden leaf as another ladybug, who’s not feeling the least bit grouchy.  One ladybug suggests they share, the other insists they’re all for him (I’m sure you can guess which was which).  The rest of the story follows the grouchy ladybug as he goes from one creature to the next, each bigger than the one before, trying to pick a fight.  He ends up trying to pick a fight with a whale, whose tail smacks him all the way back to that same aphid-laden leaf.  There, the polite ladybug offers again to share, and this time Mr. Grouchy realizes his life is much easier when he tries to get along. 

I can see where some might shy away from this book, as each page includes the dialogue, “Do you want to fight?”  But I think you can really turn that around and talk about how grumpy the ladybug is being, that he’s making poor choices, and that he’s having a bad day because of those choices.  I like to point out how much more cheerful the ladybugs are when they’re sharing with each other.

In addition to highlighting social skills, you can easily use this book to focus on a variety of math skills like size (with the animals in gradually increasing sizes), time, and number recognition.  You can throw in a science discussion as well, as you talk about the relationships between the aphids, the leaf, and the ladybugs.

While there are plenty of directions you could take for your activity, here are two I’ve used.

Counting by 2’s Ladybug Style

Draw a simple ladybug shape and put the same number of black dots on each side.  Make corresponding number cards.  Use the cards as a counting and matching activity, to reinforce counting by twos, or basic addition.  I like to set out the number cards, and then give the children the ladybugs and have them find the right “home” for the ladybug.  By watching how they accomplish this task, I can learn a lot about their math skills.

Number Time


I’ve also made these simple clocks to use as an extension of this story.  (Each page begins with the time, on the hour.)  I used a sturdy Chinet plate, wrote numbers (somewhat unevenly, I now notice) around the edges of the back.  Then, I drew the minute hand, pointing at the 12, and inserted a movable hour hand using a brass brad. 

You can use this quick clock to work on telling time on the hour, but I think the major skill here is simple numeral recognition.  I may give a clock to a child and ask her to show me 3 o’clock.  Or I may do the reverse, showing her the clock and asking for the time.  In either instance, the child is learning about telling time, but she’s also making critical connections between the written and spoken labels for each numeral.

The Very Clumsy Click Beetle (Eric Carle's Very Series)The Very Clumsy Click Beetle tells of a poor soul, trapped on his back, desperately trying to flip back over.  With some coaching from an elder Click Beetle, and  a lot of perseverance, the young whippersnapper finally finds his feet on the ground.

Take the opportunity to talk about patience, practice, and persistance with this story!

After reading, do some movement activities! Naturally, somersaults are at the top of the list!  (Make sure that you have the children attempt the skill one at a time to avoid collisions!)  You could also do an obstacle course with a low balance beam, tunnels for crawling, and a hula hoop as a target for one big, long jump!  Throw in some expressive movements, by challenging the children to move like spiders, butterflies, or grasshoppers.  Activities like these use large motor skills, support physical development, and truly help children make active connections to reading!

Find links to all the Eric Carle activities in this unit.

For more bug-themed ideas, check out this brainstorm! 



Filed under Building Readers, Large Motor Skills, Learning through Play and Experience, math activity

Butterfly Noodles

Isn’t it funny how children are much more interested in eating something when it’s has a fun name?  I have a hard time getting my children to eat Farfalle Alle Erbe Panna Rosa (a tasty little recipe from my sister-in-law you can find here), but if I call it “Butterfly Noodles”, they’re all over it!

Particularly when we’ve been talking about bugs, I like to serve up some butterfly noodles for lunch or as a snack.  You can serve them a million different ways!  Ok, a million may be an exaggeration, but you get the point – they’re versatile!  You can go with plain, just cheese, sauce from a can, family heirloom sauce recipe, chopped fresh tomatoes and basil – whatever it takes to get the kiddos to eat it, and you to feel like they got something healthy out of the deal! 

For some extra fun, I like to mix up a box of farfalle (bow-tie) noodles with a box of fusilli (spiral) noodles for a stellar favorite around here, known by the gourmet name of “Butterflies and Caterpillars”. 

Bring your little ones in the kitchen with you for all kinds of developmental benefits as they help prepare their own snack or meal. 

With this snack, I often talk to the children about whether or not they would really want to eat insects.  Most say no, but then we talk about how, in some places and cultures, insects are eaten!  Most children are more than happy to simply pretend.  And so am I.

For more bug-themed ideas, check out this brainstorm! 

Top photo by Patrick Moore.


Filed under Learning through Play and Experience, Recipes - Edible, Snack Time

Eric Carle Author Study: The Very Busy Spider and The Very Lonely Firefly

 The Very Busy Spider

Eric Carle’s The Very Busy Spider will always be one of my favorites because it was one of the first books I regularly read to my first son.  It’s a simple story of a spider slowly building a perfect web as the barnyard animals come one by one to invite her to play.  By the end of the story, the web is finished, the pesky fly has been caught, and the spider is ready for a good night’s sleep.  The patterned text is great for reading with young children – invite them to join in with you! 

True to his hands-on approach, Eric Carle created a raised spiderweb that can be felt as you run your fingers across the page.  You can encourage the children to examine how the web was made as it grows gradually from page to page.  Point out to the children that a spider’s web is usually very well designed.  Talk about the types of lines in the design, and the steps the spider went through to create the final web.

After reading the story you can help the children create their own webs by soaking white crochet string in liquid starch and then having the children arrange it on wax paper.  You could even shake some glitter on to give it that sparkly dew look.  After drying overnight, the webs should be stiff and can be peeled off of the wax paper!  Don’t expect the children to make their webs look like the one in the book – these are their own webs to spin!

This book is a great opportunity to talk about spiders, their traits, and how they build webs and why.  The activity also encourages creativity and small motor skills while reinforcing story comprehension.

The Very Lonely Firefly

Fireflies are simply enchanting!  The Very Lonely Firefly captures that mystique as it follows one solitary firefly looking for the lights of other fireflies.  He travels past candles, flashlights, and fireworks before finally finding a group of friends.  This book features a light-up page to bring in Eric Carle’s flair for special-effects.

After reading, have your children become fireflies!  Start out by making simple antennae using sentence strips or poster board (they can decorate with crayons if they wish) and pipe cleaners.

Next, comes the fun science part!  Talk about how and why fireflies glow (there’s great information inside the cover of the book, as well as in this video).  Basically, fireflies glow because of a chemical reaction; glow sticks work on the same principle.  So if you have a safe dark place, go there with the children and have them watch as you activate a glow stick, snapping the inner barriers to cause a chemical reaction. (Be aware of anyone who might be afraid of the dark.)  I like to buy the necklace glow sticks and let the children wear them, along with their antennae.  They look like fantastic fireflies!  If you have an open space, free from obstacles and perhaps with a little light for safety, you can have the children act out the story, trying to find their friends in the dark by looking for their lights!  Story-acting is wonderful for comprehension, and the kids love it!

fireflies in a jar by jamelah.

Enjoy exploring the world of bugs through Eric Carle’s eyes!

Previous Eric Carle Book Activity: The Very Hungry Caterpillar

Up Next: The Grouchy Ladybug and The Very Clumsy Click Beetle

For more bug-themed ideas, check out this brainstorm! 

Web photo by josowoa.

Firefly photo by jamelah.


Filed under book activity, Building Readers, Create, dramatic play, fine motor skills, language activity, Learning through Play and Experience, science activity

Everybody Does the Monster Boogie!

Laurie BerknerLaurie Berkner has a great monster song that just compels your little monsters to get up and dance!  You can download Monster Boogie on iTunes, and you can listen to it with a little animated video on YouTube here.  One of the great things about Laurie Berkner’s music is that you almost instinctively know how  to dance to it just from the elements she uses.  At the beginning, the music is staccato, and so we march with our scariest monster faces.  Then during the boogie/wiggle chorus, we dance and wiggle as only a silly monster would.  Often the roar at the end is the favorite part!  Music and movement activities are great for transitioning, building large motor skills, as well as enjoying the creative and interpretive aspects of music.  As an extension, you can have the children create drawings of a monster party with all their favorite monster characters boogying down!

For more favorite fall activities, click here!

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Filed under Learning through Play and Experience, music and movement activity