Tag Archives: early childhood

Get Crafty–Early Childhood Activities for School or Home

One of our new books, All About Me!  is filled with simple, creative ideas to help you learn more about your Pre-K or K children and allow them to learn more about themselves.   The author, Brenda Strickland, has been teaching a classroom filled with enthusiastic preschoolers for many years and every activity in her book is one she has done with her students.  They work!

Luckily, my grand kids came by to help me try out a few of the activities in the book for you.  Colton just turned four and Shelley will be six next week.  We decided to make the “fancy” nameplates first.  It was great way to explore the shapes of different letters.

I know, you’ve probably seen Pasta Makes Perfect before, maybe even many times before.  But if you are four, it is a big deal to get to use glue and different colored art materials (just like the big kids), and there is a lot of eye-hand coordination involved—as well as learning the letters of your name and your classmates’ names.

Activity 1—Pasta Makes Perfect

We used tri-color pasta, but sequins, beads, or buttons will work just as well.  The more colors the better!  We gathered glue, cardstock, and a clean, damp sponge so that they could periodically wipe the glue off their fingers if need be.  Some children don’t mind getting gooey, but for others it is a big deal.

Here are the steps we followed:

Colton Pasta Craft complete1. We started with good-sized nametags.   I wrote their names and left a little extra space in between each letter.  I think I should have left a smidge more.  Pasta takes up space!

2. Using our “pointer fingers” we traced each letter and said its name.  We paid attention to curves and straight lines.  We compared long and short lines.   We talked about capital letters and lower case ones, too.  But, really, Colton just wanted to get to the “art part.”
3. It was time to add the pasta to each letter.  There are a few ways to do this.  You can have little ones squeeze glue into a small plastic cap or tray and they can then dip the pasta (one at a time) into the tray and then place it on the letter lines, or you (adult) can add glue to one letter at a time for them.  Older students can squeeze their own glue onto the lines.  By the way, Shelley wanted me to let you know that she can already read.  She was just showing her little brother how to do “school things.”

4. It is best to add the pasta one letter at a time.  We found that the smaller, broken pieces of pasta were great for rounding those curves on some letters!

5. Finally we let the glue dry completely.  It has to be invisible (clear) before you can pick up your name!  Did you know it feels different to trace a “pasta letter” than a felt pen letter?

Activity #2  Roll-a-Body 

Next, we decided to work at the easel and play Roll-a-Body.  We took turns doing individual drawings but this can be done with a partner or in a small groups, too.  The key is to have someone who can read and help with counting the dice.  In our case, Shelley read to Colton, and grandma helped add the dice.  Teamwork!

  1. To start, draw a circle for a head and a tall rectangle for a body.  (Assist if needed.)
  2. Roll two dice and add the totals.  (Children who are waiting for their turn can practice rolling and adding dice.)  We counted the dots on each die and then tried to add them, 4 + 5 = ?.  If we didn’t know the totals, we went back and counted all the dots on the two die to get our total.
  3. Next we checked our list to see what we were supposed to add to our drawing.  Shelley rolled a 5 and added hair, a 4 for a mouth, 6 for arms, and then 8 for hands.
  4. Then a 9 was rolled.  Nine was tricky because we had to figure out where to draw the feet before we had legs since we hadn’t rolled a 7 yet!  Good time for a little critical thinking practice.  Hmm…how far down should we put feet. We kept rolling until we had added all pertinent body parts and then added a tiara instead of a hat.It was a ballerina after all. Colton, too, finished his “roll-a body.”  Since his feet were wearing swim fins, he added a pool!

Roll a body Complete


There are many more wonderful activities in All About Me!  Hope you will try them out.

Project-Based Learning for All Grades

Project-based learning is a daunting concept to many, and it can be a lot of work to get started, but boy is it fun!  Take a look at these young learners at the Auburn Early Education Center in Auburn, Alabama and see what I mean.

Five-Year-Olds Pilot Their Own Project-Based Learning


Wasn’t that video great!  The students were so engaged and enthusiastic—and so busy DOING!  There is no doubt that many, many teacher hours went in to setting up the activities and guiding students toward learning, but the teachers too, were enthusiastic.  What teacher wouldn’t want to go to work every day if they could blend all subject areas into exciting student-driven projects?  And think of all the standards being met across the curriculum!

Back to the video example of PBL.  Where is the “learning” you say?   Both the cruise ship to Africa and the trip to Brazil by plane required research in the classroom as well as participation in teacher-directed group discussions.  These lucky students also got to go on a field trip—a rare hands-on, authentic experience.

The projects and reenactments required students to put what they had learned into practice, and to collaborate to build what they had seen and learned about. The creativity was there in every thing they constructed.  Critical thinking was evident in their use of their creations and as play continued, in communicating to revamp the ways they used the materials, and in the “scripts” they developed.

The more students buy into this type of hands-on learning, the more they add.  Those that have traveled bring their experiences and share it, mimicking the various workers they came into contact with.  Did you see them checking passports?  What about the captain at the beginning of the flight discussing turbulence?  You can bet they spent time discussing what that word meant, and perhaps even acting it out.  These experiences and activity-specific vocabulary build knowledge.  I bet every kid in that classroom can explain the how and why of security checks, and the purpose of a passport.  They also spent time counting passengers, writing, reading…the list goes on!

In real-world situations and in business, there is often more than one right answer or solution to a problem or situation.  This is certainly noticeable in the STEM subject professions—science, technology, engineering, and math.  The reality is that these subjects demand a great deal of creativity.  The high achievers in these fields, often thought of as  “geeks” or “nerds,” are actually some of the world’s most creative thinkers.  They are the ones who wonder “what if….” and come up with new approaches and solutions to problems, and new inventions.

So what do we do to help our students be more prepared, creative, and yes, competitive, in the real world?  Where are the new ideas and products going to come from?  How can we help students be globally competitive in STEM subject areas as well as in real-world experiences?  Project-based learning of course!

PBL may look or feel chaotic at first, but with proper planning, these cross-curricular, group-centered activities meet a myriad of standards while allowing students time to hone 21st century skills including the all important 4Cs—Critical Thinking, Creativity and Innovation, Collaboration, and Communication. What’s more, many teachers find that when students’ increased engagement in meaningful (to them), hands-on PBL tasks there are fewer discipline issues—now who doesn’t want a focused classroom filled with enthusiastic learners!

Project-based Learning—Where to start?


(www.edutopia.org) offers many insights into PBL in the form of articles, discussions, blogs, and shared ideas from educators.  The video you just watched can be found on their site too!

Ted ED-Lessons Worth Sharing

(www.ed.ted.com) offers an array of lessons that be customized to suit individual classroom needs.  Use the videos for ideas or present them directly to students.

You Tube for Schools


Buck Institute for Education

(www.bie.org) walks you through PBL and offers examples of PBL lessons and videos to use to get started.

Also, check out the article, Bringing STEM Into Focus by Jean Moon and Susan Rundell Singer at Education Week

Kid Tested, Teacher and Parent Approved

As a former teacher and as a mother of an energetic preschooler, I am always looking for new learning products that will excite and entertain my son.  Some of my favorites are the workbooks from the Ready-Set-Learn series.  I really think that these books are must-haves for parents of young children. There are so many titles to choose from that cover several different skills.  So far for my 4-year-old, I have bought Preschool Activities, Preschool Fun, Alphabet, and Beginning Math.  We skip around and work on pages out of each of them in random order.  Jack likes choosing the pages.  Each workbook comes with 180 stickers and a reward chart to track progress.
After completing each page, Jack loves to put one sticker on the finished page and one on the racetrack reward chart, and then he can’t wait to start on his next page.  He is getting so much practice with academic skills all while loving every minute of it.  It makes mommy so happy, too!  I always keep one book in the car and one at Grandma’s house.  I love taking them with us to restaurants because they keep him seated, quiet, and engaged—and it always impresses those waiting on our table!  I also buy them for other kids as birthday presents.  They’re only $2.99 each, so I can’t pass up the great deal.

Here are some sample pages from Ready-Set-Learn: Preschool Activities and Ready-Set-Learn: Beginning Math PreK-K