Olympics

We wanted to hand out medals at our end-of-year picnic, so we chose an Olympics theme for the last week or so of school. With the Summer Games happening in London this year, we thought it was a great time to get the twos (well, threes now) some background knowledge so that they could enjoy the games with their families this summer.

We’ve had a lot of sports books out from the library this year, and this was no exception. Petra filled up the book nook with titles on summer sports. I went online and found some nice clips from past Olympics and a video of this year’s torch-lighting ceremony in Athens.

Several of the little boys were fascinated with the freestyle wrestling and we had a lengthy if basic conversation about how this was stuff for watching, not doing. I explained that the Olympic athletes had special training to keep from getting hurt. Maybe I should have just skipped that sport altogether, but in my defense, those were some fascinated kids.

We did two craft projects relating to the Toddler-Made Olympic TorchesOlympics. I didn’t get a picture of the first one, but it was pretty basic. We took Styrofoam cups and dipped them in different colors of paint and made our own pictures of the Olympic Rings. I did this with one child at a time so that we could talk a little about the whole thing while we worked.

Petra came up with this amazing torch craft. Basically, it’s a Styrofoam cup with the bottom cut out and taped to a paper towel roll (masking tape). The kids wrapped the torch body in tinfoil and then glued in the tissue paper to be the flame.

When their parents came to pick them up, we sent them out of the door holding their torches while we sang the Olympic theme. “Dah DAH dah dah dah DAH dah.”

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The Birthday Gift

I got a Cricut Expression for my birthday last year. My mom thought it would be way cooler than using die-cuts, and so far, she’s been right. It’s a good thing I left all my yarn in storage, though, because this hobby takes up almost as much space.

 

I don’t want this to become a blog all about using the machine though. So my goal is that if I talk about a craft or activity we did where I cut shapes with the machine, I will have an alternative version that you can do without the machine.

 

This is definitely not a time-saving machine. Frequently I do little nitpicky things I wouldn’t even think about doing by hand, or make pieces and parts that I would just go to the craft store and buy.

 

Take this craft, the pizza plates. (Good for a pizza theme unit or for the letter P). Pizza Plates made with oregano paint

 

I cut out lots of tiny shapes to be the pepperoni, the olives, and the green peppers. I could probably have used foam shapes, or pompoms, bits of ribbon, or pipe cleaners, or any of a dozen other things I have in my classroom. The main idea with the pizza plates is that they are multi-sensory, so I mixed the paint with oregano in a cup before we painted it onto the plate. Use a thick brush so that you pick up the oregano and get it on the plate right with the paint.

 

The kids were pretty good at identifying the oregano as a pizza smell. “Yum!” said one little guy, rubbing his tummy. For me, a good project uses several senses and can inspire great conversation.

Celebrating Thanksgiving with Twos

Thanksgiving is an interesting holiday to teach toddlers about. We wanted to avoid the “first thanksgiving” myth. There was a harvest feast in Plymouth in 1621, but there was also a great deal of bloodshed between the pilgrims and their neighbors, the Wampanoags. There are some things I just would rather avoid entirely than sugar coat.

Instead, we focused on the food and family and thankfulness aspect of the holiday. We had two great books: Give Thanks for Each Day and Thanks for Thanksgiving. I also made up a little piggyback song.

Thanksgiving Song (to the tune of Frere Jacques)
We are thankful, we are thankful.
Yes we are! Yes we are!
For our friends and family, for our friends and family;
Near and far, near and far.

My teaching partner had dire memories of uneaten feasts in past years, so I suggested that we do a lighter, kid-friendly menu. The parents didn’t need to bring anything in, so there were no hurt feelings when the kids refused to eat laboriously prepared stuff.

Thanksgiving Feast Menu

  • Turkey Sandwiches:
    • White bread, butterball turkey slices, cheese singles.
    • Cut into interesting shapes with metal cookie cutters. (We had trains and dinosaurs.)
  • Corn Puffs
  • Capri Sun No Sugar Added Apple Juice
  • Turkey Cookies Ala Betty Crocker
    • Bake shapes at home, decorate at home.
    • Let kids assemble the parts at the feast.
Nothing like the pictures from Betty Crocker!

There was something almost every child wanted to eat, and one of them ate his neighbor’s untouched turkey sandwich.  They all loved the puffed corn, which is a much safer food choice for little eaters than popcorn.

My teaching partner made adorable bonnets and hats for them to wear, but I don’t have any photos of those that don’t show the children’s happy faces. You’ll just have to take my word that it was a really wonderful Thanksgiving.

The Bean Game

Entertaining my twos is way easier than entertaining the older kids. I snagged a bean from a sensory box the other day and started doing this activity with individual children in the class.

Put simply, grab a bean, a coin, pompom or something. Show the child both hands (palms up) with the bean in one. Close your hands slowly and ask, “Where’s the bean?” The child points to the hand you just closed, and you open it to show them. Then put your hands behind your back and switch the bean (or don’t) and ask again. You will get a lot of giggles when the answer is wrong, and a happy smile when it is right. 

There’s more than just easy entertainment going on here. The child is learning to make a prediction about where the bean is going to be, and that’s a really important part of the scientific method. Sometimes toddlers and preschoolers aren’t very happy when they make incorrect predictions, and the giggling and fun of the bean game teach that it’s fine to make predictions that are wrong – the game isn’t ruined and we keep on playing.

Carrot People

My co-teacher is frequently the one who has awesome craft ideas for working with the twos. She’s got eight years experience working with them and often has a better idea of their capabilities than I do. So I was pretty excited to come up with a project she liked.

We do a new letter of the alphabet each week, so last week was C.

We gave each child a large popsickle stick and a sponge and some orange paint. We had them do both sides, and then put them away to dry. After the usual round of hand-washing (I would kill for a big low sink that two or three kids could use at once), we did something else. Later, we had them glue on a little green crape paper (you could use a lot of different things for this) for the carrot top and added a pair of comical sticker eyes. With one set of the twos, we tried using small pompoms for noses, but they didn’t stay on very well. In the future, we might use small self-adhesive foam dots for that.

The children really liked their carrot people. I also thought that if you wanted you could cut up some brown paper bags, and put small holes in them so they could pull the carrots out of the dirt.

The original suggestion for this project came from the Artstarts book.

Circle Time Songs

Circle time or morning meeting is common in a lot of different classrooms. To make it more interesting, you can sing these piggyback songs with the kids. I learned them in a SEDOM Autism classroom, where they were posted with Boardmaker symbols on the walls, but Boardmaker is a luxury I can’t afford.

Greeting Song (sing for each student)
(to the tune of Frere Jacque)
Hello (student), hello (student)!
How are you? How are you?
We’re so glad to see you!
We’re so glad to see you!
Here at school! Here at school!

Days of the Week
(to the tune of The Addams Family)

Days of the week (clap, clap)
Days of the week (clap, clap)
Days of the week, days of the week, days of the week.

There’s Sunday and there’s Monday,
There’s Tuesday and there’s Wednesday.
There’s Thursday and there’s Friday.
And then there’s Saturday.

Days of the week (clap, clap)
Days of the week (clap, clap)
Days of the week, days of the week, days of the week.

Weather Song
(to the tune of Clementine)

What’s the weather, what’s the weather,
What’s the weather everyone?
Is it rainy, is it cloudy?
Is there snow or is there sun?

Season Song
(to the tune of This Old Man)

Winter, spring, summer, fall.
There are seasons four in all.
Weather changes.
Sun, and rain, and snow.
Leaves fall down and flowers grow.


Jump Jump (sung for each student at the end of the day)
(to the tune of B-I-N-G-O)
There were some friends at school today,
And one of them was (student)
Jump! Jump, (student)!
Jump! Jump, (student)!
Jump! Jump, (student)!
We’re glad you came today!
Update: Dr. Jean seems to be the source of many of these songs, so I want to give her credit. She’s a wonderful resource for early childhood teachers.

Where Did All These Munchkins Come From?

My college education(s) did not exactly prepare me for the work I found this fall. My early childhood classes were before I started on the second bachelor’s degree, so I don’t have a lot of those resources still lying around. As for the recreation leader thing? Uh, a few of the things we did in my class on teaching adaptive physical education might apply.

I’m a good teacher, though. I love kids of all shapes, sizes, colors, and abilities. I love challenges and the opportunities they present for growth. So when faced with two positions that had not really been in my employment plan, I refused to panic.

I picked up child development books at used bookstores. I got Dr. Jean’s Preschool Teacher Survival Guide. I dug a dusty old box of children’s books out of the back of the basement. I rummaged through the doors of my memory for the games we played at Girl Scout Camp. I found tag games on the internet, and started buying strange odds and ends at the grocery store, the craft store, and the drug store.

The first few weeks have gone pretty well, actually. All the people I work with have lots of experience with the kids and have been really helpful. And I’ve found some things the kids really enjoy.

What kids really enjoy, by the way, is dodgeball. They will play dodgeball until the whole group is black and blue and in tears, if you let them. This is the last time this blog will mention dodgeball.