Friday, September 30, 2016

Books n Play for Pre-K 9/28/16

I haven't written about a session of Books n Play for Pre-K in SO long, and since this week's class was my last one for a while, I decided that it was time for a post.

I've written about this program many times in the past, but I've never blogged about my dinosaurs theme before! Coincidentally, this week's theme was just that... dinosaurs! A real crowd-pleaser, I must say. My group was small--only six kids--but they were a really great, attentive, and rule-following six kids (unlike how they were the last time I blogged about Books n Play for Pre-K), so I was happy!

As usual, I opened the program with our Hello Song (still, as always, A New Way to Say Hello by Big Jeff), and then I moved on to books and songs. The first book I read was The Super Hungry Dinosaur by Martin Waddell (which I read with a raspy, throat-hurty dinosaur voice, obviously), and then Dini Dinosaur by Karen Beaumont. The kids liked both, definitely, but I'd actually go as far as to say that they loved The Super Hungry Dinosaur. The whole room was completely attentive as I read it, totally engaged!

Then we sang a song that I found online called All Around the Swamp. Basically it's a dinosaurs version of Wheels on the Bus. I modified it a tiny bit and this is what we wound up singing:

The Pteranodon's wings went FLAP, FLAP, FLAP… All around the swamp.
The Tyrannosaurus Rex said GRRR, GRRR, GRRR… All around the swamp.
The Triceratops’s horns went POKE, POKE, POKE… All around the swamp.
The Stegosaurus tail went SPIKE, SPIKE, SPIKE… All around the swamp.

The kids were very eager to move onto our crafts and play time. I had a lot of good stuff for them this week, if I do say so myself. As usual, this part of the program lasted for about 20-25-minutes. Here's what I had out:

The craft table:

1. "Fossil" making (aka play dough and a bunch of shells) *
2. Construction paper, crayons, and colorful, foam dinosaur stickers to make a prehistoric scene (see picture below)
3. Stuff to make the Stegosaurus Puppet from this set of free printable dinosaur puppets on
4. Trace a Dino Footprint free printable, also from

And here's what was at the toy table:

1. Sand box and dinosaur fossils to dig up**
2. Dinosaur puzzles
3. Dinosaur "eggs" + matching sheets and crayons ***
4. Dinosaur bones kit + matching and measuring cards ****

* Fossil making with play dough and shells is one of my favorite prehistoric activities. It's a true process over product kind of craft and I like how it's just totally different from the usual coloring or drawing. For this, all I put out were shells, play dough, and paper plates (which you don't really even need if your tables are covered). It's pretty self-explanatory, I guess:

The kids liked this and I think the little siblings might have liked it even more. Plus, it's a good sensory activity!

** I've used the sandbox (and other sensory bins) a bunch of times before in Books n Play for Pre-K and usually, the whole program basically revolves completely around it. Like, the kids eye it before the play time starts and pretty much have to be peeled away from it after it ends. Thank goodness we have covers for these bins or I would have no control at all in the room. Here is some quality dino diggin':

Coupled with the sandbox, I used this Dino-Dig Excavation Kit from Lakeshore Learning. Because our sandbox isn't exactly huge (and neither was our group of kids), I only buried 8 dinosaur skeletons for the kids to dig up and, since they're so young, I didn't even bother with the paint brushes.

*** The dinosaur “eggs” I had are a total mystery to me. I seriously have no idea how they were made (or why they smell kind of funny), but I got them on loan from our county library system and they're really cool! Basically, they're colorful plastic dinosaurs living inside Easter egg-sized, clear plastic homes, with a texture similar to that of an un-started bar of soap. To go with them, I made some match-up sheets to encourage the kids to examine the eggs and play with them a little. I think it worked pretty well, although only one or two kids wound up doing it.

Some "egg-xamining" in action:

**** The dinosaur bones kit + matching and measuring cards were also a loan from our county library system. They're super-cool, but didn't get a ton of attention during the program (but, to be fair, they were competing with a sand box). Basically I received a canvas bag filled with pretty realistic-seeming (both in weight and in texture) dinosaur bones and some cool cards to match them up with to make different dino parts or measure the different bones. STEM central.

At the end of play/craft time, I wrapped up with one more book: Dinosaur Vs. The Library by Bob Shea, which went over ALMOST as well as The Super Hungry Dinosaur, but nottttt quite.

What worked least: I don't know if there was really anything in this program that I'd say "didn't work", per-say. It was really a great group! However, I think for the amount of time and brain-power that I spent trying to find and learn All Around the Swamp, it wasn't super-appreciated. Mostly the kids were ready to move on to the toys and crafts at this point. But now that it's in my repertoire, I'm happy to have it. So no big deal!

What worked best: The Super Hungry Dinosaur by Martin Waddell was SUCH a hit! I highly recommend it for the ages 3-5 crowd! They seriously adored it.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Back(packs) to School

A few weeks ago (before school actually started), I did a program called "Back(packs) to School." There's not a lot to say about; it almost isn't even worth a blog post... except that despite how completely simple the whole thing was, it went really, really well!

This was for kids entering grades 1 through 5, and the books I picked were PERFECT (if I do say so myself). I read two of them: Frankie Stein Starts School by Lola M. Schaefer (a story about fitting in but from a cool, kind of gothy, monster perspective) and Jake Starts School by Michael Wright (a story about first day jitters with super funky illustrations and, BONUS!, it also includes a fart).

The kids seriously loved both books. They didn't even try acting bored to be cool (which at least a few kids usually do in this age group), but fully embraced the storytime! It was awesome.

Then we moved on to the craft: decorating canvas backpacks (these, from Oriental Trading) with fabric markers. Simple, no frills, and a crowd-pleaser!

Here are a few of the finished products:

Aaaaand the last finished product pictures I want to share can be seen at the top of the post. I did take a picture of this sweet kid (who also has a sweet family) solo-- but then he specifically requested a selfie with me. And even though I am 8-months pregnant and haven't seen a picture of myself that I've liked since Valentine's Day, I had no choice but to oblige. How do you say no to a selfie like the ones above?

What worked least: Nothin'. This was easy to do, easy to set-up, and the kids genuinely had a great time! I always worry that I'm going to have lots of clothing disasters when I use fabric markers, but with a steady record of firm, pre-craft warnings under my belt, so far so good. Hopefully I didn't just jinx it!

What worked best: Again, this program was so simple that there weren't a ton of elements that could go wrong. The books worked and the craft worked! A+ for Back(packs) to School!