Bag of Tricks: Shaving Cream

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Add variety to the day. Change it up. Throw in some shaving cream.

Shaving cream. It is a great art medium. Shaving cream has the right consistency for smearing and drawing (and I’m not talking about that stuff that starts as a gel and turns into a white puff). And the stuff is fairly cheap and you get a lot out of one can. Highly recommend Barbosal for classroom activities.

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Spray some shaving cream in a bag. You won’t need that much. Seal the bag (double-checking that it is sealed). Try to draw something, then decide if you need to squeeze out some shaving cream and/or air. Once done with that, press flat on a table.

The baggies will want to move around when children start “drawing” on them. Use tape to secure the baggy to the table. This is especially useful for children who are still learning to use two hands for two different tasks.

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I would explain to the kiddos about what it means to press gently, with a finger and hand, warning about too much pressure causing the bag to burst. Demonstrate during large group or shortly before having children sit at the table. Have the children show you how they press gently by showing their hand and fingers pressing on the baggy.

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After that, it’s up to you where you want to go. Demonstrate letters or numbers. Draw shapes. Make faces. Whatever the children make, I’d have a camera nearby for documentation purposes. Print and post pictures to the wall.

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When all the children have done the activity, you can toss the bags (or do something eco-friendly if you can think of something). Easy-peasy.

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Bag of Tricks: Binder Clips

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If you have time to visit other preschool classrooms and programs, you really should.  Spend a half hour in another teacher’s room and you walk out with a bunch of new ideas.  A couple years back, I walked into a classroom’s block area and saw binder clips to hold student pictures.  The binder clip pictures were used as block project place holders, so that the structures would be saved for the next day and those students could continue their work.  However, to me, they pictures like game board or flat action figures.  My mind started racing with a rush of creative juices.

I went back to my school and was eager to implement the new tool.  My class was studying castles and we had a list of all the places where we saw them: Mario brothers, Minecraft, you know, your classic castles.  My plan was to print out Mario brother characters, cutout, laminate, put them in binder clips, and students would have options for fantasy play in the block area.

Directions

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Get medium-sized binder clips.  The one in the middle.

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If you have a picture that is going a direction, make sure the other side has the picture going the other way.  Two of the same picture, and the picture will always be going right or always going left.  Frustrated kiddos.

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Place your picture in the binder clips.  Remove the metal sidings.

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Now your picture can stand.

Sure enough, the children were enticed and engrossed in pretend play.  They used blocks to create “levels” for Mario, Luigi, Yoshi, and Princess Peach to navigate.  They pieces were such a hit that I created a special box to keep them in.

Of course, you can put anything in the binder clips: children’s pictures, family pictures, characters from books, movies, etc.  Children use these as if they were block area action figures.

Bag of Tricks: Paper Plates

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Paper plates are a versatile resource for preschool teachers.  I’ll show you one activity I know: paper plate fish.

Materials
2 paper plates
scissors
stapler
crayons/markers

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Get two plates.

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Put the two faces together.

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Cut out a triangle piece, then put the pieces to the side.  The gap is the mouth.

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Staple the two plates together, but leave a space at the other side.

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Put the triangle pieces inside, then staple, making a fish tale.

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Color in the fish.

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Enjoy, and don’t forget to do the other side.

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Okay, it’s not the same.  In fact, this was my first coloring attempt.  I call it my Aztec Warrior Guppy!

Bag of Tricks: String

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You don’t need a fancy, sparkly, technological, pricey, multitasking toy to have a quality learning experience for a preschooler.  Most of the time, the best teaching material is how you use the items around you.  Teachers call this “being resourceful.”  Allow me to demonstrate.  Here’s some string.

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String – or yarn – that I found in my house has loads of learning experiences built right inside.  It is up to you and your students to unlock them.  I’ll share with you a little bit from a past circle time:

Teacher: Boys and girls, please place the string on your lap.

Students: (place string on lap)

Teacher: Look at me with your eyes and watch me.  (Places string on ground).  This is my string and it is magical.  I can make this string into any shape I want.  Watch me first. (Makes circle).  This is a circle.  Can you copy my circle?

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Students: (making circles)

Teacher: Very nice boys and girls.  I see lots of beautiful circles.  Okay, everyone wiggle their string out and put back on your lap.

Students: (wiggles string in different directions, then places on lap)

Teacher: First, watch me with your eyes. (Makes a square).  This is a square.  Can you copy my square?

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Students: (making squares)

Teacher: You guys are so awesome.  These are wonderful squares.

Continue making some other shapes.  Once your children have the hang of it, you can start expanding the activity to other shapes like…

DSC05482A banana… or a really, really, really old phone!

DSC05486You can also use your hand – or bear claw – and push the yarn between your fingers…

DSC05487...and then pull back and reveal an outline of your hand.

Now, if you look back, my square is not perfect.  Well, your preschooler’s first attempts won’t be perfect either.  The point is not perfection.  It’s about having fun and getting as close as you can.  They’ll get better as their fine motor skills develop (then, they’ll start making their own creations).

String, who knew?

Bag of Tricks: Sidewalk Chalk

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Sidewalk chalk is my favorite teaching tool to use.  If you can draw it, you can play it, with imagination being your only limitation.  One of my favorite uses of sidewalk chalk is for the game “Walk the Line.”

Get sidewalk chalk and some open cement or black top space.  On the ground, write “Start” and a starting line.  From here continue drawing a continuous line for as long as your arm can endure.  The line can be straight, wavy, or zig-zagged.  They can criss-cross and overlap.  The line can include all of these elements.  The longer, the better.  When you’re finished, write “Finish” and a finish line.

DSC03993 Open sidewalk space at a public park.

DSC0399420 pieces of sidewalk chalk at the dollar store.  Good investment.

DSC03996Start line leading into a straight line.

DSC04010Wavy line

DSC04027Zig -zag line

DSC04014Finish line at the end.

Tell your child to stand at the Start line and “Walk the Line,” keeping both feet on the chalk.  Keep walking to the finish.  In fact, you should walk the line first as a demonstration.  If you’ve done an interesting line, your child will want to do it again.  If you praise the child as their walking, they’ll walk more.  If you place the finish line right next to the start line, you’ve created an infinite energy-sapping loop, insuring yourself a cranky child who’ll be ready for a nap.

During this game, your child is developing physically and mentally; balancing on the line and figuring out how to navigate the course.  Like I said, it’s all up to your imagination.  And, and if you can’t think of any interesting lines, ask your child to draw their own… and you walk it.  You can “Walk the Line” at any public space because it makes the game visually fun, plus the chalk will eventually wash away.

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