Friday, April 18, 2014

a more meaningful Easter egg hunt

I got to host our Easter day for our preschool group, and I wanted to do something a little more focused on Christ for our Easter activities, to teach them the actual story of Easter. I came across this fabulous idea to put items and scriptures inside plastic eggs that tell the story of Christ's crucifixion and resurrection.

I've seen this idea on Pinterest and many other blogs, so I most definitely can't take credit for it. But I adapted it a little bit (there are quite a few different versions) - either for objects that I had available, or ones that I liked better than the ones suggested. I also discovered that some of the scriptures listed didn't really match up with the objects. So I found scriptures that I thought matched better, and made a nice little printable to share!

You'll need 12 plastic eggs, an empty egg carton (optional, but it helps keep the eggs, and the kids, organized), and sharpie to get started. Just number the eggs 1-12, and then number the slots in the carton as well.

Here are the 12 items I used for my eggs:

1. cracker
2. 3 dimes
3. rope/twine
4. red cloth (I used a piece of ribbon)
5. cross (I made mine with two little sticks and some glue)
6. nail
7. dice
8. black paper/cloth
9. strips of white cloth (I used gauze bandage)
10. spices
11. stone
12. empty

For the scriptures that go with each item, click the image below for the printable. I just cut them apart, and folded them up to fit in the eggs with the objects. 

We didn't read the scriptures for our preschool group (I thought that might be a little too long for a group of 3-4 year olds) but I hid the eggs around the house, and had them find them, and when they found one they had to go match it to the right number in the egg carton before they could go find any more. This kept them from wanting to open them all up right away. Then we opened them in order, and I just summarized what each one was for.

I really enjoyed doing this activity. It's a more interactive way to tell the Easter story, gets the kids a bit more involved, but still keeps the focus on Jesus. I definitely think we'll do it again next year!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

A Letter a Day Preschool Unit - A through E

I've written before about our little preschool group, and wanted to share some of the curriculum with you!

One thing I like about our curriculum is that it's fairly simple - for most days you can just use paper, crayons, glue, or other things around the house to do all of the activities. It's hands-on and fun, and doesn't require a whole lot of prep time for the moms! But the kids are still learning and having fun, which is the goal.

We decided to start with working on the alphabet, doing an alphabet intro and then a letter a day - which worked out perfectly for our entire fall "semester!" We started in September, and finished a few weeks before Christmas, with the letter P even landing on the week of Halloween for "pumpkin!" (We meet twice a week, and the schedule worked out perfectly)

Before reading the story each day, we introduced the letter and theme to the kids. For example, for the letter A you might hold up the book, and point to an apple on the cover, and ask the kids what they see ("an apple!") "Today we are learning the letter A, and apple starts with A." Point to the A in the word apple so they can see what it looks like. Have them make the A sound with you. Doing this helps reinforce learning the letter, not just learning about apples or whatever that day's theme is.

We also stamped, wrote, traced, or put a letter sticker in their notebooks where they do their art/craft activities for each day to help them learn what each letter looks like. (The notebooks are just drawing pads I got from the dollar store.)

The books I have listed for each theme are based mainly on what books we had available either from my own shelves our from our local library. There are lots more for each topic if you can't get these ones! But I like to list a few for each day so whoever's teaching that day has some to choose from, depending on what they (or the library) have, or what books they like better.

I think the whole alphabet in one post would be a bit… overwhelming. So I'll just do the first few today, starting with our alphabet intro day.

Alphabet Intro

Books: Dr. Seuss's ABC's by Dr Seuss, Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin Jr, or any other alphabet book

Sing/teach the alphabet song
Alphabet matching game - print out two copies for each child and cut one up to have them find the match; or print one copy for each child and use alphabet magnets/stickers/cookie cutters to match. Alternate versions - for kids who already know their letters, have them match capital and lowercase. For kids who don't know their letters at all, give them only one page, or a half page, to match.

click the image for the full downloadable set of capital and lower case alphabet squares
Use construction paper and letter stickers to decorate the cover of their notebooks. Help the kids find the letters to spell their names so they'll know which book is theirs.

Jack's "a letter a day" preschool notebook, with his name, and a train sticker of course!
Snacks: alphabet cookies (they sell them at Trader Joes, but you could probably find them other places too)

A - Apple

Books: Ten Apples Up On Top by Theo Lesieg, How Do Apples Grow by Betsy Maestro

Apple stamps - cut apples in half horizontally (so you can see the "stars" in the middle) and use them as stamps with paint

We used "apple stamps" to stamp inside the letter A, and counted and glued apple seeds onto the A

Here we used "apple stamps" and a letter A cookie cutter as a stamp
Count apple seeds to practice counting
Size sequencing (e.g. smallest to biggest) or color sorting with apples or pictures of apples
Check out the apple unit for other ideas and printables

Snacks: apple slices

B - Balloon

Books: Where Do Balloons Go? by Jamie Lee Curtis, A Ballon For Isabel by Deborah Underwood

Sort balloons by color/size/shape
Play balloon games - passing to different people (e.g. pass to someone wearing blue), counting how many times they can bounce it without it dropping, etc
Sensory balloons - fill balloons with things likes flour, rice, beans, etc. and have the kids feel and talk about the texture and guess what's inside
Cut out different shapes (e.g. circles, ovals, hearts) from construction paper, and have the kids glue them in their books and draw balloon strings. You can use this to practice/learn shapes

Balloon experiment - fill an empty water bottle about 1/3 full with vinegar, add a few tablespoons of baking soda, and put the balloon over the mouth of the bottle to watch it fill up

The balloon experiment is lots of fun! A few tips: use a funnel or a rolled piece of paper to get the baking soda into the bottle. And get the balloon on as fast as you can so the gas from the baking soda and vinegar actually fills the balloon!

C - Cloud

Books: Little Cloud by Eric Carle

Cloud watching
Make cotton ball clouds - glue cotton balls onto blue paper

Rainstorm in a cup - fill a clear cup about ⅔ with water, then top it with shaving cream, and drip about 5 drops (approximately) of blue food coloring onto the shaving cream to drip through like rain (it takes a few seconds, so be patient before adding more food coloring)

The kids loved making clouds and rain! They got so excited when the first "raindrops" came through the clouds.  (I forgot to get a picture when we did the cloud experiment, so this picture is from ehow.)

Make and play with cloud dough (4 cups flour, ½ cup baby oil) (it's like play dough, but a really cool texture)

Snacks: marshmallow "clouds," cottage cheese, drop biscuits

D - Dinosaur

Books: Dinosaur Roar by Paul and Henrietta Stickland, Danny and the Dinosaur by Sid Hoff, Three Little Dinosaurs by Charles Fudge, I Am a Tyrannosaurus by Anna Grossnickle Hines (and tons more!)

Dinosaur sorting with toy dinosaur figures or pictures (sort by size, color, herbivore/carnivore, walk on two or four legs, etc depending on what your kids are able to do)
Fossil dig - hardened salt dough with toy dinosaurs inside (make salt dough a day or two ahead of time and put the toys inside. Let them harden, and have the kids use forks or something similar to "dig" the dinosaurs out of the "rocks." For a "salt dough" recipe that works well for fossils, check out the dinosaur egg idea over at Projects for Preschoolers)
Make fossils - Make salt dough and use toy dinosaurs to make dinosaur footprints in the dough and let it harden into fossils
Letter D dinosaur - turn a capital D on its side and give it spikes, legs, tail, etc
Check out the dinosaur unit for more activities and printables

E - Elephant

Books: What Elephant by Genevive Cote, Elephant Families by Arthur Dorros

Make handprint elephants - thumb is trunk, fingers are legs, then draw on ears, eyes, tail

You can trace their hands or use paint to make handprints. It mostly worked… but then he wanted to practice writing E's all over his elephant!
Elephant train - have kids make "trunks" with their arms and form an elephant train, stomping and trumpeting around like elephants

Snacks: peanuts, animal crackers

I'll post the next few letters soon! You can keep things really simple, even just having the kids color or draw pictures that go with your letter and theme. Or you can do some of the more elaborate activities too.  One of the things I try to keep in mind when planning activities for each day is to have a few different types - something "crafty," and something more physical or sensory. But the kids are learning and having fun, so mission accomplished!