Preschoolers Build a Birdhouse!

And I’m not talking about the cute milk carton style birdhouses either. I’m talking about a wooden birdhouse, complete with…

wait for it…

real nails!

A little over a year ago, I would’ve looked at someone like they were crazy if they even suggested giving three/four year olds a hammer and nails. But over the past year I have seen preschooler do some amazing things, all it takes is a little trust and guidance.

Before the start of the school year last year, my supervisor and I took a little road trip to a place called Ren’s House, right outside of Harrisonburg Va. http://www.renshouse.com/ My rockstar CDA advisor was our guide for this mini trip, and promised we would be amazed. She was not wrong. We saw many marvelous things at Ren’s House. My favorite (as you can see from my post on Mud kitchens) was the mud kitchen/ water pump/outdoor sink duo. That entire playground was a wonderland. Butterfly gardens, outdoor easels, simple machines, a music wall, and much much more. One thing in particular caught my eye outside. It was a stump, with hundreds of nails hammered into it. This was my first encounter with the idea of letting preschoolers learn with real tools. I walked around the rest of the tour with the idea in my head. Would that be something I’d be comfortable doing? What a thought!

Later in the tour, inside the classroom, I noticed an actual woodworking table. No way that was for the kids, I thought. No sooner than I thought that, the owner of Ren’s House started explaining that it was for the kids! Then she said the magic words, in all the years she had been running the classroom, with the wood working table, no kids had been seriously injured. A knick here and there, maybe, but not what you would imagine could happen with sharp tools and small children. Let me just note that she had a full tool table, hammers, nails, saws, etc. And no accidents! That was the moment I realized it really is all in the teaching of the subject.

Fascinated, I immediately figured out how to incorporate a wood working center into my curriculum. Hesitant, but optimistic, I set up a table with plastic play tools and golf tee’s to start with. Children spent hours hammering the plastic golf tee’s into the back of our block shelf (that had pre-existing holes). Later I added cork board, and they hammered golf tee’s into the cork. Then I traded out the golf tee’s for small nails, then switched the plastic hammers for wooden mallets. Cautiously working our way into a full wood working experience. Just like the teacher from Ren’s House said, the children did wonderfully with the real materials.

Fast forward to now, as we are talking about camping and the outdoors. We decided to make a bird house. And we wanted to do it using real wood and hammers. So that is exactly what we did.

I pre-glued the pieces together, and pre-started a few of the nails that would be hammered in for the children to help guide them. But I honestly don’t think I  really had to do that, because before too long they were placing and starting their own nails all on their own. In fact I think some of them would be able to build their own birdhouse or similar structure with out my input at all! (color me impressed!) The children were so into the project that we took the nails and hammer outside and started making our own tree stump of nails!

The tree house is not done, I will update this post when we paint and hang it. But here are a few shots of the tiny hands at work!

I am so inspired by this project that I am wondering what we should do next. A squirrel house? Maybe eventually the kids can make their own club house! (ok, don’t get carried away) But you never know!

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Retail Representatives Visit Preschools!?

Wait, What? Did you know that some companies will send out their HR reps to schools to help promote their brand? It’s true. And it makes sense, because it is practically free advertising! And the kids LOVE it.

I can’t imagine as a grown up, how exciting a visit from “The Costco Man” is. I can try though. Supermarkets, stores, anywhere other than home… is an adventure. Possibly even an amusement park! Especially places like Costco, who we had visit today. I’m a grown up, and Costco feels kind of like an amusement park. Sometimes there are even kiddie rides there!

We had been talking about our home town and state for about a month, and we discovered that the children had a certain fascination with Costco. So much so, that some children went home and persuaded their parents into buying memberships! So on a hunch one of our teachers called Costco to see if they can send us stickers, or any promotional materials we could use in the classroom. What they offered us instead blew our minds! They said they could do a school visit! Before long, we had the whole thing set up and started telling the children about it. They became very excited. So excited, that when the Costco Man showed up today, their cheers were so loud that we could hear them in the front lobby!

The Costco Man was great with the children. He asked them questions about their visits at Costco, and what they liked to eat at the Cafe. Then he handed out sale flyers for the children to look at. I watched the children identify different items on their flyers and some pretended to talk about buying them and “sales”. Then the Costco man handed out fruit snacks to everyone and promised to bring by stickers for them too!

I am still in awe over how star struck the children were over “The Costco Man” and glad that we were able to align the stars to make that magic happen for them.

I wonder what is next?

Mock Camping for Preschoolers!

CampingArea

Instead of doing themes for the summer, we decided to use one big over-arching theme or idea to cover our entire summer program. We did this to become more project oriented in our planning, and to provide the kind of flexibility we strive for within our program. (And in my opinion, what all early childhood programs should strive for, we are working with children, flexibility is vital!) To cover all the bases of what we wanted to do and where we anticipated the children would take those activities, we chose the theme “Trek Around Va”. We planned activities that would encourage map skills and early literacy, as well as activities that advocated pretend play and creativity.  The kids had the opportunity to explore different parts of Virginia, and where they wanted to “go”. These places included Luray, Washington DC, the Beach, Roanoke, Richmond, and of course a dozen or so places in our home town. To learn more about some of the activities we did on our Trek, please click HERE or on the hyper-links listed above. (If there are no hyperlinks, please check back as I will be adding them as we go!)

One Virginia centric activity, that everyone seems to do, is Camping! The transition into camping from learning all about the beach was seamless! The underlying connections between the two revolved around fish and well, you can camp on the beach if you want! I love when transitions like these happen, and they keep the activities open ended enough that if we needed to explore the topic of the beach or ocean again, we’d be able to without  missing anything! (always look for a way to enrich the activity!) To start things off we set up a tent on the playground. Not a kiddy tent, a real, fully functional tent. And of course, the kids helped! I let the children explore the tent and a few camping items on the first day, just to introduce the new topic, and they loved it! The next day was water play, so my team and I put our heads together to make a complete camping inspired water play. Next to the tent we added a mock fire pit. This was very easy. You can pick up a grill replacement grate at Lowes for $10! (or maybe you already have one lying around or found one at a yard sale) We layed the grate over two pieces of wood, placed sticks between the pieces of wood and under the grate, then the children and I collected rocks to make a fire wall on either open side of the pit. Here is a picture! CampingFirepit

Once the fire pit was made, we pulled out pots and pans and started using it! Then the children all changed into their bathing suites, because the next part gets messy! Fishing! We made fish out of felt, and added paper clips to the tips so that they could be picked up with magnetic fishing pools. (which we also made, aren’t we just so resourceful!) We put all of the fish into a baby pool, and the children fished them out!

CampingFishing

After the children caught the fish they took them to the fire pit and cooked them up! Yummy! We also added a hanging flower pot hook to the camp site so children could hang a pot of food, a kettle, towels, lanterns, or whatever they wanted from it! Children also brought over logs, buckets, and tires to sit on around the fire! How adorable!

CampingCookCampingAreaPlay