Tag Archives: water

The Preschool Pirate

It could be all this writing about imaginative play that has got me thinking about pirates.  Or maybe it was my 4-year-old’s comments about “the pirate species”.  (“You know mom, guys with eye patches and swords – the pirate species!”)  Either way, I thought I’d share some pirate fun with you!

  While I wouldn’t recommend pirates as an overall “theme” for a preschool curriculum (not a lot of directly applicable learning objectives unless plundering is on your list)  it can be used to teach some great elements within another theme.  I like to add it in as a fun twist within another unit like water or oceans or something like that.  I personally like to add it in at the end of the unit, as a celebration! 

So whether you’re looking for ideas to use within a curriculum, or just some fun ways to play and learn with your little buccaneers, here are a few suggestions:

Make an amazing pirate ship from cardboard using plans and fasteners from Mr. McGroovy.  (This site is definitely worth checking out for a variety of prop ideas for dramatic play or a special event!)  If you’re feeling a little less ambitious, just grab a map, a telescope, and a compass, hop aboard your couch or bed and let imagination set sail!

Make a Pirate Snack Mix and use a variety of math concepts – as well as your taste buds!

Have a Treasure Hunt, or play this Treasure Task game!  Following those clues builds cognitive skills and really helps children get into the role of the swashbuckler!

Hunt for pennies in sand and shells in the sensory bin, or fill plastic eggs with pennies and bury them in a larger sandbox outside.  Builds sensory and large motor skills, and it’s loads of fun!  You could also hide beads as “jewels” and then bring them in for a stringing activity!

Read one of these great pirate books:

Shiver Me Letters: A Pirate ABC

Shiver Me Letters by June Sobel is quite possibly my favorite alphabet-based story.  Just fantastic!  Couple it with the Pirate Snack Mix, or bury small letters in your sandbox or sensory bin for a twist on the digging activity above!

Pirate Pete's Talk Like a Pirate

Pirate Pete’s Talk Like a Pirate by Kim Kennedy is such a fun read, full of wonderful vocabulary and great story structure.  Just be sure to use your full repertoire of narrative voices to bring each character to life!  (And don’t forget Talk Like a Pirate Day (September 19th)!)

How I Became a Pirate

How I Became a Pirate by Melinda Long (and illustrated by one of my favorites, David Shannon) is a fanciful tale of, well, how a boy becomes a pirate, of course!  An inside look at the life of a pirate, and a few reasons why it’s more fun to simply pretend!  Follow up with a treasure hunt, or by making a picture map of your room or play yard!

What are your favorite pirate adventures to share with your little scallywags?

Top photo by borja.

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Filed under book activity, Building Readers, dramatic play, Learning through Play and Experience, Recipes - Edible

Safe Fire-Free Ways to Have a Blast With Your Children This Fourth of July

Fireworks are off-limits in many areas this summer because of the fire threat it poses to foothills, forests, and even neighborhood underbrush.  Even if fireworks are allowed in your area, you’re bound to have some children who want an exciting hands-on experience, but aren’t quite old enough for the fire power yet.  Here are three fun fire-free “blast-off” experiments you can incorporate into your Fourth of July Festivities.  And you don’t even have to wait until dark!

Canister Rockets


I’ve yet to meet a child who doesn’t love film canister rockets!  Check out my instructions on how to construct them.  You’ll also find how to make this extra special by adding a little color.  When you’re done blasting off, you’ll have a colorful fireworks mural!

Good Old Steve

Mentos and Diet Coke have become a classic!  There’s a tool that makes Steve Spangler’s Mentos Geysers even easier.  Check it out!

Rocket Balloon

This is a big favorite around our house!  All you need is a straw, a balloon, tape (painter’s tape or masking tape works best, but as you can see, I’ve used a few different kinds), string, and two anchors (chairs, trees, poles, people, etc.).  First, run the string through the straw.  Next, attach each end of the string to your anchor object.  Chairs seem to work best because you can tie your string and then scoot them back to tighten your line.  Third, blow up the balloon (but leave it untied – just pinch it) and tape it to the straw, with the neck of the balloon pointing away from the direction you would like the craft to move.  Finally, let go of the balloon and watch it fly!  

Experiment with different amounts of air in the balloon.  How will it change the distance travelled?  Compare the flight of this balloon to another that is simply let go without a string as a guide.  A great science experiment, and a lot of fun!  You could also amp up the festivity factor by adding streamers to your straw and/or balloon.  (I’ve also wondered about adding glitter inside your balloon, but I haven’t tried it yet.  Let me know if you do!) 

These activities not only offer a fire-free blast, but also create science discussions about propulsion, pressure, force, and movement.  How could kids not get excited about learning?

(*You could also use these activities as part of a space or transportation unit!  Or for any other day you want to have some fun exploration!)

Have a safe and sane Fourth of July!

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Filed under Learning through Play and Experience, science activity

Moving Water

Here’s a quick and easy, yet fascinating , activity for your sensory table.  (Find how to make your own here.)  Inside the table, place two smaller containers.  (I used the shoebox size storage containers here.)  Fill one box with water.  You may want to add a little coloring to make the water more visible as it moves.  Leave the other box empty.  Provide a variety of tools including scoops in varying sizes, funnels, basters and eye-droppers, and clear tubing (available at hardware stores).  One of my very favorite sensory tools is created by inserting a funnel into the tubing.  You may want to do this yourself, or see if the children come up with the idea!  With a variety of materials present, ask the children how they can move the water from one container to the  other.  As they experiment, talk with them about how the water moves and its other properties.  Also talk about the various tools.  Use their names, and compare their sizes and the amounts of water they are able to move (math).  Challenge them to use more tools or a combination of tools by simply saying, “How would you use ____ to move the water over?”  Using the tools improves fine motor skills as well as increases science knowledge  as they experiment with how they work.  There’s just something about water that invites little ones to explore!  So follow their lead and discover something new about water as it moves!



Filed under Learning through Play and Experience, science activity, sensory activity

Bubble Paint


 For the truly brave preschool teacher or parent, looking for a creative art project, I present bubble painting!!  This can be a messy project, but very unique and with many opportunities for developmental growth.  Directions first, benefits later.

First, take your standard tempera paint and water it down a bit more than usual and add some dish soap.  Place it in a fairly shallow dish, such as a small pie tin, and use a straw to bubble up the mix until the bubbles pile on top.  Place a sheet of paper on top of the bubbles and press down until the paper is resting on the paint container.  Lift up the paper and you’ll see the prints left by the bursting bubbles!  You really do need to practice this yourself first, to be sure you have the right paint consistency and the right container.  Some containers just seem to spill over more easily and others never seem to build the right amount of bubbles on top.  So practice ahead of time.

As you can probably guess, this activity takes a bit more teacher involvement than say, a playdough art activity.  You need to make sure the children wear smocks, first of all.  Next, you need to make sure that each child gets a new straw, and that each straw is thrown away after use.  Particularly this time of year, and even more so this year, you do not want children sharing straws!  I’ve tried labeling them in the past so that children who leave the activity can come back again later, but it turns into too much of a headache.  I would recommend just chucking each one after use.

When the children begin the activity, remind them that they are not sucking the paint up like a drink, they are blowing bubbles, like when they bubble up their milk.  Remind them to do it gently so that it doesn’t just spray all over, but so that it bubbles.

DSCN2622Be ready for messes with plenty of rags, and keep in mind that as long as they are not being intentional or destructive in their messes, making a mess (and learning to clean it up) is just part of the learning process and not something to be scolded. 

I like to do this activity in the fall as I talk about pumpkins because I think the end result looks a bit like a pumpkin patch.  You may also want to use it as part of an exploration of water or air, or while talking about self-care skills such as bathing.  You could also do this activity, using several different colors and making the prints one on top of the other for a really cool effect.

In addition to being a great creative activity, this project encourages scientific inquiry as the children explore the properties of bubbles.  The controlled blowing is also ideal for building oral motor strength and control which aides in articulation.

So smock up, grab some rags, and have some fun!


Filed under Create, language activity, Learning through Play and Experience, Recipes - Nonedible, science activity, sensory activity

Do Pumpkins Sink or Float?

wet pumpkin ckolezal

Sink or float is a classic preschool activity.  You gather an assortment of items and have the children guess which will sink or float, and then test their hypotheses.  (It made me laugh not too long ago when David Letterman added a gag segment called “Will it Float” with a huge pool of water and random items for the members of the audience to make predictions about.  I’m guessing he’d been to his little boy’s preschool the day he came up with that one!) 

This fall, consider adding pumpkins to your list of items to test.  What do YOU think?  Sink or float?  You may need a larger bin  for testing pumpkins (I’ve used a bath tub in the past), but it will be well worth it.  You may want to just add a pumpkin to the list of other items you usually test, or you may want to do an exclusive pumpkin test. 

Gather a variety of sizes of pumpkins.  Talk with the children about which is the biggest, smallest, etc. and even line them up in order (great math work here).  Then have the children share their hypotheses about each pumpkin.  Will it sink or float?  Why do they think that way?

Are you still wondering if they float?  They do!  In fact, I once used a huge, 25 pound pumpkin, and it still floated!  (They don’t float on top of the water, obviously, but they bob with about 1/3-1/2 of the pumpkin above water.) 

Many children will think that your mini pumpkin will float, but that the huge pumpkin they can’t even lift will not.  Talk – very briefly- about density.  Density is what makes something sink or float, not weight.  It’s about how the weight is spread out.  Sometimes I even make the connection between balloons and pumpkins, floating both in the water for the visual effect.  They are both made up mostly of air on the inside.  Having more empty spaces makes something less dense and that makes it easier to float.

Now I certainly don’t expect each child to come away knowing that an object must have a density of less than 1 gram per cubic centimeter in order to float.  But I think it doesn’t hurt to expose them to the vocabulary and concepts, to get them thinking and applying in future situations.  This activity obviously builds science  knowledge, but perhaps more importantly than building specific knowledge about floating and density, is that it gives the children experience with the scientific method.  As they ask questions, make hypotheses, test their hypotheses, and discuss their findings, they’re learning how to learn!  And that’s a skill that always keeps kids on top!

For more favorite fall activities, click here!

Photo by cdolezal.


Filed under Learning through Play and Experience, science activity

Shape Scoop

scoopKids love to scoop!  It’s great for their hand-eye coordination and both large and small motor skills.  Cut shapes from craft foam (or find pre-cut ones, non adhesive of course)  and set them floating in your sensory table  or bathtub.  Give the kiddos fish nets to scoop with (you can find them very inexpensively in almost any pet store or pet supply aisle of a grocery store or Wal-Mart).  As a bonus, when the foam is wet, it will stick to smooth surfaces, so your children can create pictures as well!  Talk to them about the shapes and colors they’re using to increase their awareness of shape and color names and characteristics.  (“Wow!  You made that house by putting the red triangle on top of the yellow square!)  Happy scooping!

For more Welcome Weeks activities, click here!

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Filed under fine motor skills, Large Motor Skills, Learning through Play and Experience, sensory activity

Preschoolers Painting with Water – Can it get any easier?

dscn11802It seems too simple for many adults to consider, but from a child’s point of view, painting with water is a fascinating activity!  Paint cups filled only with water and a brush transfer disappearing patterns on chalkboards or sidewalks.  The consistency of the medium causes any excesses to find their own course of least resistance, giving every masterpiece an abstract flair, while also giving the artist a front row seat to the evolving shape created.  Combine the water painting with chalk for a unique creative experience as the two media are combined.dscn0938

I often introduce painting at the easel by having the children paint with water.  Together, we can work through the processes of brush control, keeping the paint at easel, and keeping the lids on the containers, without the mess of actual paint.  It’s almost like training wheels for little artists! 

For older children progressing along the writing spectrum, I sometimes write words or letters, or even shapes, on the chalkboard with chalk and then invite them to trace over the lines with the paintbrush and water.  This is a great activity for building hand-eye coordination and motor control.  Additionally, science and sensory skills are supported as the children observe, and then intentionally use, the properties of water. 

Painting with water is a great activity when you’re trying to balance out messy projects that require more supervision in your classroom, or when you need an outdoor activity, but have little time for cleanup.  For something so simple, painting with water is an activity that always gets high marks from the children!

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Filed under Create, Learning through Play and Experience, procedure/organization, sensory activity