Thursday, January 28, 2010

"My Impenetrable Cereal Box Fort" Part Two

Our annual Pajama Party is always a lot of fun. We sang and played 'Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed' and 'Roll Over'. This always brings lots of smiles and laughter. The Pancake Song? Here are the words and it is sung to the tune of "Ham Bone, Ham Bone, Where You Been?"---
Pancakes, pancakes hot off the griddle.
Pancakes, pancakes for your middle.
Eat 'em with syrup oh so sweet.
Pancakes they're so good eat.

We start off singing this slowly and then sing it faster and faster.

The TTH class had a special guest. Billy came and made pancakes for the kids. What a talented guy! You can see the T-Rex above but there was also a motorcycle, a couple kitty cats, a monkey, a Micky Mouse, a couple flowers, a princess, a few giraffes, a John Deere tractor and a Hannah Montana pancake complete with microphone. It was so amazing. He also brought his guitar and sang 'Green Eggs and Ham'. Unfortunately, I do not have the artistic or musical talent Billy has so the MWF classes get plain old circles. Sorry!

Our MWF classes also looked at the cereal boxes and learned how they were the same and how they were different.

It was a fun (exhausting) week but we love it!

Monday, January 25, 2010

"My Impenetrable Cereal Box Fort" Part One

Forts are great for young children. Sheets over the kitchen table, couch cushions and pillows provide hours of fun. This is our second cereal box fort construction.I saw the cereal box fort in the April 2008 issue of Family Fun magazine in the 'My Great Idea' section Credit goes to Alicia Grazioli in Northville, Michigan. Alicia's directions? Lots of boxes and lots of hot glue. I was unable to find the article in the Family Fun website. After some searching, I did find a detailed explanation of how to build a cereal box fort at

These directions are pretty detailed but you will get the general idea. Here are some helpful hints-
*Have friends, neighbors, relatives and co-workers help you save boxes. I'll save boxes for you.
*Our cereal box fort measures 4'6" x 6'10" and will hopefully hit the ceiling soon. So far we have used 270 boxes. You people have eaten a lot of cereal. Thank you!
*The right location is key-we have a wall and a cabinet that helps support the fort. We only built three walls.
*One of the reasons we used so many boxes is that I glued two boxes back to back on the bottom three rows so the walls are wider at the bottom. We have forty five children using this fort and it is pretty solid. You might not have to have three double rows but I would recommend one double row of boxes on the bottom.
*Unlike the web directions, I did use lots of glue because of the number of children using the fort. I put a bead of glue like a caulk line along the seams of the boxes (this was a high temp glue gun and would be an adult job).
*Because the boxes are not uniform, there will be gaps, holes and little windows. It's not about architecture so don't worry about it. These little windows are part of the fun.
*Create a door. Connect boxes about four or five feet up.
*Create windows. The children asked about windows and next year our fort will have windows.
*When your children are tired of their fort recycle the boxes.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Mitten

The Mitten is a classic Ukrainian tale retold and illustrated by Jan Brett. First, I read the story to the children and then we retold the story. I covered one of our tables with a large colorful afghan. The children took turns crawling into 'the mitten' with the last child crawling in and tickling the bear's nose. Achoo! Off came the afghan and children tumbled out everywhere! We had a lot of fun but we are also working on reading comprehension. I asked the children lots of questions about The Mitten. What was little boy's name? What color did he want his mittens? Why did his Baba not want to knit him white mittens? We talked about knitting and things you might knit. We identified the animals crawling into the mitten and learned new words like 'talon'. Why was the mitten so stretched out at the end of the story? You get the idea.

Occasionally, when you read to your child try discussing what you have just read. Don't quiz them but ask them questions about what they read and heard. Get their opinion-what did you like about the story? Was there anything you didn't like? Look at and discuss the illustrations. Jan Brett has beautifully illustrated books with lots of details. She is one of my absolute favorite children's author and illustrator.

Jan Brett has a great website with free coloring pages, activities, a complete list of her books and lots more. Check out and under "Make Your Own" are several activities for The Mitten you could do at home with your child.

Friday, January 15, 2010

March of the Penguins

Our preschoolers often create cute crafts for you to display on your refrigerator. Do we create crafts just for your "Frigadaire Gallery"? No...there is definite purpose to creating the crafts.

Creative art and crafts are different. The creative art space in our room is just that-creative. We do not tell the children what to do with the materials. We provide a wide variety of materials for them to use and let them have at it. Each painting, drawing and collage will look different. We are not concerned with the final product but want the children to enjoy the artistic process.

A craft is very different. All the children receive the same pieces. With slight variations, all the children's final product look very much the same. Our purpose in creating crafts with the children is for them to listen to their teacher and follow a specific set of directions. Sure it's chaotic at the beginning (mostly because glue is everywhere) but as the children develop an understanding of listening and following directions, we create crafts with more and more pieces. Look at the number of pieces on that penguin...that's a lot but they did great!

As we give directions, we are constantly reinforcing basic concepts. We discuss the shapes and colors of the pieces. We use positional words like top, bottom, above, below, between and inside.

When your child brings home a craft, talk about the colors, shapes and where things are located. Oh, and don't forget to hang it on the refrigerator!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Ice Ice Baby!

Considering the temperatures outdoors have been in single digits and there is a long weekend coming up, I thought ice sculptures might be a fun activity for brave and adventurous moms (No, no...not crazy. Adventurous!) I attempted to do ice sculptures with the children last year indoors and had epic failure. I think the key is creating the sculptures outside (not possible with fifteen children). Older children may enjoy this activity with younger siblings.

I saw and saved this idea from Family Fun magazine many years ago. I checked on their website and although the picture and directions are different from what I have, the basic concept is the same I decided before I posted this idea to attempt an ice sculpture on my deck.

I used any Tupperware, Glad, Zip-loc, empty butter, Cool-whip, sour cream, cottage cheese container I could find in my kitchen. I sprayed each container very lightly with cooking spray. This made removing the ice much easier. I also tried using small plastic soda bottles and two liter bottles with the tops cut off. This created a great shape but were difficult to remove outdoors. If you want that cylinder shape I would suggest thawing those pieces indoors for easy removal. Also, the Family Fun activity suggested using the freezer. I don't know about you but there is no room in my freezer for twenty plus plastic tubs. I put all the containers on my deck in the morning and they were frozen by the next afternoon. Fill all your containers with water and stick them outside. So much easier.

Now to assemble your sculpture-the Family Fun directions have you using a spray bottle to spray a little bit of water to adhere the ice blocks. Didn't happen. The snow is so light and powdery that I placed snow between the blocks and then did a quick spray around to mortar the blocks into place. That seemed to work pretty well. I had a lot of fun creating my ice sculpture. I'm not sure what my neighbors thought.

A few suggestions-unmold all the ice before you want the children to get started. Make sure they wear water proof mittens/gloves or have extra gloves and mittens on hand in case they get wet like mine did. Monitor the amount of time they spend outdoors in extreme cold. Have hot chocolate and marshmallows ready when they come inside!

Friday, January 8, 2010

Polar Animals

Timing is everything! What a great week to study polar animals. Our pre-k students spent the week learning about polar animals. Here are some of the things we talked about-where the North and South Pole are, the North Pole and South Pole are covered with snow and ice, the North Pole and South Pole are really cold all the time, we identified polar animals and where they live, learned penguins live at the South Pole and polar bears live at the North Pole.

Today I asked the children, "How do polar animals keep warm?" After a variety of answers, I told them polar animals are covered in blubber. This brought lots of giggles especially when I asked them to say the word 'blubber'. I had a five gallon bucket filled with ice and water. Yes, it was very very cold. Then one at a time, each child had an opportunity to put their hand in the water. After they quickly pulled their hand out, I told them I was going to 'turn them into a polar animal'. Each child chose a polar animal and told me where that animal lived. Then I covered their hand in 'blubber'. Inside a large zip-loc bag I have put lots of shortening and another zip-loc bag is inside the shortening bag (because really who wants to be covered in blubber). The children put their hand inside the blubber and then put their hand back into the water. Now they can feel how blubber keeps polar animals warm.

Want to do more? Go to the library for books on polar animals!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Happy New Year!

I was putting dates on our family calendar for the frig and began to think about how long we have had a family calendar. Well, I am pretty sure I started setting it up when my oldest was in preschool and kept asking, "How long until....?" or "When is the ....?" Ever happen in your house?

Well, we still have a family frig calendar that helps keep track of where everyone is, where they are supposed to be and who is doing what and where. I buy the large desk top calendars (available at most discount stores and office supply stores). I bought this style when my kids were little so I could write down events and the words would be fairly large and easy to read.

I drew pictures and used stickers for visual word clues (don't like to draw? use clip art) or use your computer to create a calendar for your child. As the kids got older and things became busier, I used a different color for each of us. Really. I am pink, my husband is green, one of my sons is red and the other blue. Don't want a gi-normous calendar on your frig? Put it in your child's room. Make sure it is located in a place that they can look at daily and mark off the days.

The idea is to create an additional opportunity to put the written word with meaning into your child's every day life. Post dance class, music lessons, sports practice and games, karate lessons, holidays, birthdays, family events and special events at school.

Then when they ask "How long?" or "When is?" you can say "Go count the days and tell me."

Enjoy a busy and fun filled 2010!