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. 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!


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!


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!


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!


Preschool, Picasso, and Shapes!

Today we dove straight into Cubism! The transition from surrealism to cubism was very smooth. I think that the concept of cutting paper to create images, both from the magazines for the surreal faces project, and now with cutting shapes, paired with reading and discussing Eric Carle books and illustration process, really cemented the concepts that we are trying to teach. Just making a note of that for future reference and thought.

The children looked at two different Picasso paintings at circle time, one of which was the painting “Three Musicians”.


In past years I have used the book “The Three Musicians: A Children’s Book Inspired by Picasso” by Veronique Massenot as a teaching resource. This year I did not have a copy so I continued without it.

The children spent some time looking over the painting and picking out shapes they saw. We made a list of all the shapes we found. Then we pulled out the white board and shape magnets, and together made a Picasso inspired face!

It’s adorable….

I left the board and the magnets out for future exploration.

Then some children were interesting in making some independent abstract art. I put out paper, scissors, and glue and let them create!

Here is some of what they have come up with so far:

Top Left: “My Baby Brother” Top Right: “An ATV” Bottom Left “A Lion” Bottom Right “A Train”

Can you see it?

Teaching Surrealism to Preschoolers

A few years ago I did an end of the year art show with our group of preschoolers. And it was AMAZING! We talked about Picasso, Warhol, Da Vinci, Salvador Dahli, Kandisnky, and Van Gogh! I am currently revisiting this lesson and pulling from it for our end of the year “Premier”. I decided to start things off with Surrealism!

We are coming off of two weeks of poetry for National Poetry month, so to make the transition easier (and to not completely stop and start topics) we blended the two together. We read the poem “Mr. Moody” by Shel Silverstein, which cleverly makes you think you are going to see an illusion, but you do not, so the poem itself is an illusion! Then we looked at optical illusions, like the ones here:

To better understand the concept of illusions we turned to surrealism and the power of the imagination! We did this by constructing faces made of different parts. First we all cut out a variety of eyes, noses, and mouths to chose from. Then we picked out individual parts that we would like to use in our face and put them together! The faces we came up with were silly, and even though they had all the parts to them that the face does they were not quite right. They were rather irrational, Surreal!


If you like this project there is also a very clever Montesouri inspired project that uses the same principles! Check it out HERE!  We might even try it!


Happy National Poetry Month!

I found (and wanted to share) this Amazing Poetry Unit Online! Check it out Here.

I have always loved Shel Silverstein. My Nanny bought me Falling Up when I first moved to Va, and I was instantly in love. I would spend hours reading and re-reading his poems and staring at the illustrations. So when I found this unit online I jumped right on it.

What is amazing about how this unit is layed out, is that it is very easy to follow, and gives the teacher a lot of room to enhance, chance, and alter it’s parts. I did not do every activity with the kid, but I did use many of the writing prompts in class. Since I teach preschool the majority of my kids can not write, although some have started mimic writing so that is VERY exciting. Even so, these prompts encouraged and inspired the children to create amazing stories and poems. The way it works is that you read the poem of the day and talk about the parts of the poem. Does it rhyme, what is the poem talking about, what is the purpose of the poem, and so on. Then you practice rhyming and theme words. For example, we did poems about sound. What sounds do you hear now? What sounds do you hear at home? What sounds do you hear in a restuarant? Asking these questions helped the children think critically and creatively to come up with mimicking and descriptive words for the sounds they heard, and we made a list. Then from there we individually worked on our poems by using the list of words we had previously made. Some children were able to expand and create even more words for their poem, while others strictly used the list. Once they have chosen the words they would like to use, we then start to build the story. Where would you hear a sound like that? What would happen to make that sound? What makes that sound? And so on. From there the story just comes together. What is really amazing is that during this process the children will listen to their poems, and each others poems and hear things that rhyme and even restructure their stories so the rhymes fit. (this happened more than once and left me AMAZED) Here are a few examples of some of the poems they came up with. Enjoy!

A Magic Hat by Mahi

My Hat is Magic

My Hat is Blue

My Hat is Big!

My Hat is fast and it’s leaning too!

Lighting Bolt Jet Pack by Sam

There is a lighting bolt jet pack

I wear it on my back 

The lighting bolts are red and blue

and they shoot lasers! Phew Phew Phew!

Arrrr my Mates! by Cameron

I forgot my treasure

I left it on my pirate ship 

But it made me kinda happy

Because then it sailed away

It turned left and it turned right

Then I chased my ship! 

And found my Treasure! Alright!

Allergies by Noah

Once I forgot there were nuts in my cake!

There was one pecan on top and I did not take it off

It made me really really sick

Sick like this, Cough, cough cough. 

Our Imagination Tree

We set up an Imagination tree in our classroom! At first we just put out wire and beads for the children to explore and decorate with. Then the children begun to add items of their own. Protip: if your children are younger, under 4, pipe cleaners are a better choice over wire for them to manipulate. And it adds color to their masterpiece!

Our kids added paint color samples, charms, buttons, and even an ornament. I am going to keep the tree up for a little while longer but am amazed at how diverse and intricate it has become already!

What do you think?

imagination tree