Friday, January 29, 2016

Books n Play for Pre-K 1/27/16: A Mixed Bag

Yay, Books n Play for Pre-K! I've written about this program so many times before but it's different every time that I do it and sometimes, the mood strikes and I just straight up wanna write about it again. Wednesday's group was, quite literally, the young and the restless. I had a chatty collection of moms and a justtttt barely eligible collection of kids. It wasn't my smoothest of programs, but I'm really proud of the cool stuff I did and I wanted to show it off. And also, I write about successful programs a lot. And unfortunately, once in a while, one isn't as successful, and those programs deserve attention too (maybe even more attention, really). So, without further ado... Books n Play for Pre-K, 1/27/16, AKA Books n Play for Pre-K, A Mixed Bag:

Wednesday's theme was colors. I leaned on some book stand-bys this week, although I did try out a brand new song, thanks to As usual, first up was our Hello Song (still A New Way to Say Hello by Big Jeff... always A New Way to Say Hello by Big Jeff), and then I read Dog's Colorful Day by Emma Dodd (coupled with corresponding "spots" that I made [contact paper covered card stock with tape for sticking] and our adorable Golden Retriever puppet from Folkmanis). Then I read Pete the Cat, I Love My White Shoes by James Dean. The kids were SO good during these books--super-smart and good at counting, singing, and color identification. A PLEASURE, despite being the young and the restless. For my song, I introduced the color song, an adorable find from It's not only cute and easy-to-pick-up-on, it's interactive too! Here's how it goes:

I had the kids put their fingers on their heads, smile, frown, etc. I'm not sure if they all got the concept entirely, but either way, everyone had fun. Here they are stomping with all their might:

Then it was time to break off for 20-minutes or so of crafts and play. Here's where the chaos started. This is usually the highlight of the program for many of the kids, and maybe it's because of that that I have high expectations for myself regarding what kinds of stuff I put out...and maybe it's because of THAT, that I get annoyed when it's more chaotic than it should be. So when, for whatever the reason, the kids were super antsy, I found this part of the program to be just really frustrating.

Here's what was at the craft table:

1. Dog from Dog's Colorful Day coloring sheets and do-a-dot markers (see below) *
2. Pete the Cat, I Love My ____ Shoes coloring sheets (similar to the ones that can be downloaded here)
3. Blank rainbows printed on card stock + water colors, paint brushes, and water
4. Hand print color mixing (as seen here from De Mello Teaching) (see below) **

And here's what was at the toy table:

1. Early Math Activity Jars from Lakeshore, set up for sorting the balls by color (see below) ***
2. Colorful wood blocks
3. Color sneaker matching game from
4. Chromatography Science Experiment! (see below) ****

* The Dog's Colorful Day print-outs are from I put these out with dot markers (like these), so the kids could dot-up dog like in the book. Whenever I use these print-outs, I always think "eh, just an easy extra thing to put out," but then, they wind up being one of the kids' favorite activities! That knowledge alone should teach me to keep it simple (but it doesn't). Anyway, the kids love using the dot markers! And I think the story-tie-in makes this one especially exciting for them. Also, the dot markers are pretty un-messy so we all like that! Here's some pictures of dotting fun:

** The hand print color mixing has been hit or miss. I've had success with it in the past, but on Wednesday, it didn't really work. I am blaming this again on the younger age of the kids. Here are pictures of the this craft when it was done successfully over the summer:

Look how cute it was! But, unfortunately, on Wednesday...a totally different story. The littler ones b-lined straight for the paint and, before I was even able to explain what they were supposed to do, they just went at it. So we have: the young and the restless + paint + no direction = A MESS. Then, once the haphazard painting started, it was impossible to get make it go away. Everyone freely painted landscapes, scribbles, and sweepingly long versions of their names. I tried to right it, but they were in too deep. At least they enjoyed it.

*** This is the Early Math Activity Jars from Lakeshore set up for sorting the balls by color:

The kit itself allows you to sort balls, cubes, and pyramids by color, shape, and number. But I decided to keep it simple and just put one kind of sorting activity out. This went over better than I'd expected! In particular, I had a little brother who couldn't pull himself away from the sorting jars.

**** I was really excited about this chromatography experiment! I got the idea for it from the Science Buddies kit that I borrowed from the Suffolk Cooperative Library System. Unfortunately, most of the science experiment stuff in the kit was too old for my crew, but, after a good amount of testing different things out, I was able to take their version of a chromatography experiment and modify it to work for the 3-5's.

Here's how you do the experiment: 

1. Take a piece of paper towel and dip it in water (not until it's totally saturated, but wet enough). 
2. Use a black marker to scribble a big splotch on the paper plate. Not all black markers work! I had two different ones that I used and I found that Mr. Sketch worked the better.
3. Use the wet paper towel to “wipe up” the black splotch. 
4. Wait a few seconds, then watch what happens on the paper towel. 

Spoiler: There are colors! Red and blue and black! It's cool! Here is a picture of some results:

I think the small number of kids that did the chromatography experiment were into it. And I think one or two of them even "got it," like, understood that the point of it was to see that the color black was actually made up of many other colors. Unfortunately, not a ton of kids were interested in trying the experiment, so it went largely ignored. So disappointing!

At the end of play/craft time, I wrapped up with one more stand-by story: Mouse Paint by Ellen Stoll Walsh. This is when the chatty moms were at their chattiest. I actually had to shush them, which is totally awkward for me. Any tips on shushing noisy moms would be greatly appreciated!

What worked least: Ugh! I'd say the hand print color mixing--or lack there of, was probably my biggest disappointment of the program. However, it worked great over the summer! Don't dismiss it! With the right group, it can be a great activity.

What worked second-least: The chatty moms. Please, folks, any tips for shushing them in a non-awkward way would be welcomed. Let me also say that I can't really use a "set up the ground rules at the start of the program" type method. These patrons were late, and, in general, lateness is something I'm pretty easy-going about. What I need is something to-the-point and maybe even funny that I can say quickly, mid-book, to the offending chatters.

What worked best: Time to be positive. Dog's Colorful Day by Emma Dodd and Pete the Cat, I Love My White Shoes by James Dean have always worked well for me. They probably always will work well for me. Can't go wrong with the stand-bys! Also, my new color song from was awesome! Highly recommended!


  1. Thank for your sharing this! It's actually really inspiring to read about programs that don't go according to plan, makes me feel like I'm not the only one who sometimes watches stunned as as well-planned programs descend into chaos! ;)

  2. I kind of go for full awkward mode and just remind the chatty grown ups to help me set a good example for listening. But I do it in a sing-song voice, so that may soften the blow.