During this time of year, as early educators, we struggle with how to incorporate the Holidays that are so important to our students, while still managing to be inclusive, unbiased, and religious free. Often times we feel as though we cannot “celebrate” anything in the classroom, or we need to touch on every possible holiday to be considered inclusive. And yet so many of these holidays are religious in nature, but we certainly can’t teach that at school. It can be such a headache!
My advice is always to be inclusive of all family traditions. Sometimes this might mean polling your families to see what their traditions are at home. Invite family members in to share a special story or special activity that is important to their family. If a child brings a book from home, read it! Your families will feel included, and your students will feel pride and ownership over their family traditions. With young children who are just so excited about this time of year, it can almost be more harmful to “ignore” their excitement. It is perfectly ok to incorporate their excitement into classroom lessons, particularly when they initiate their thoughts.
There are still tons of activities that you can bring into the classroom that don’t have any ties to particular holidays. One of my favorites are candy canes! The possibilities are literally endless…be sure to stock up on peppermint extract and red food coloring!
Today I am showcasing some of my favorite Science and Sensory activities with a Candy Cane theme. Enjoy!
Growing a Jeweled Rose has this awesome Candy Cane Science Experiment. All kids love baking soda and vinegar, but she gives it a Candy Cane Twist! By adding red food coloring and peppermint extract to the vinegar, there is a delicious peppermint smell and a lovely red hue! The children will be delighted to see the bubbles erupt as they drop vinegar onto the baking soda.
Fun-A-Day created this easy, but totally fun Sensory Bin! She used red colored corn kernels, white Navy Beans, and peppermint extract. And then she added extra tools, like cupcake liners, measuring cups and scoops. Adding the colors and scent bring these fun sensory beans to a whole new level! I can just imagine the children making their pretend cupcakes, entertainment for hours!
Over at Teach Preschool they presented their preschoolers with the Question “What will happen to the Candy Cane if we let it sit in warm water?” And then the used the power of observation to see what would happen! Such a simple idea, but visual learning is the best kind for children at this age!
Every child needs to experiment with Oobleck at least once! Why not make it a Candy Cane version? Science Sparks takes the regular oobleck recipe and adds red food coloring and peppermint extract to add extra sensory elements to this already fascinating concoction. Children will be entertained, amazed, and curious as to why this goo can be a solid one minute and a liquid the next. And it only takes 2 ingredients (in addition to the red food coloring and peppermint extract).
Sensory play doesn’t always have to be messy, but it sure is great sometimes! This “paint” recipes is sure to be a messy and fun time for children of all ages. Obviously you won’t be using the bath at school, but you could still do finger painting, or paint brushing on large paper. This recipe calls for shaving cream, peppermint extract and red food coloring. If you decide to paint on paper, if you add a little bit of liquid glue it will dry just like puffy paint. Kids of all ages would love this, and it will smell great!
Fall is definitely upon us, whether we are ready or not. As we were out walking the dog today I came across the biggest perfect pinecone. Immediately I knew I had to save it and bring it to school for the Preschool classroom’s science area. I can already see the kids with magnifying glasses in hand ready to explore. But first, I need to find out how to remove the sap, my hands were covered!
This prompted me to search around a little for some activities we would be able to do with the preschoolers surrounding pinecones. I know that as we delve farther into fall they will be all over the place, we can take them for walks and gather pinecones galore. But what will we do with them? Here is a round up of some of the activities I found that I know we will be trying.
First I hopped over to Preschool Powol Packets and checked out their article on Pinecone Experiments and Exploration. They gathered pinecones, and other materials on a walk, and then thought of questions such as: Will they float? Can you close a pinecone that is open? Will the size change? They put them into a bowl of water to see if they could answer their questions. What a simple way to introduce cause and effect for children!
Next I visited Science Sparks and checked out their pinecone weather station. After a little research they found that when it is dry pinecones open up, and when it’s going to rain they close down. So they placed four pinecones on a visible window sill outside as a weather station. I think that this is an awesome visual and hands on activity for children. I know our friends would eat this up, they would be checking out the window every day! Can’t wait to give this one a try as well.
Up next was Lemon Lime Adventures and their article on Why do Pinecones open up? Their experiment used three different scenarios. Adding a pinecone to Cold Water, Warm Water, and just air. Once again this is an awesome visual for children to really see what is happening. They can make predictions about what they think will happen, and then check back later to see if they were right. Usually making hypothesis and predictions like this will lead to more questions and experimentation. What a great way to get the learning wheels turning!
And finally I visited Teach Preschool, one of my favorite blogs to check out their Pine Needles in a Bottle. I think that this will make an excellent addition to our sensory bottle collection. How easy is this? They literally added pine needs, glitter, and water to an empty water bottle. That’s it! But the effect is unreal! I love how she incorporated different sizes and shapes of water bottles to see how it changed the perspectives. The curves of the water bottle naturally magnify the pine needles. So simple, all free materials, this is definitely happening!
I think I found a pretty good round up of science activities. The best part is that they all include little to no prep time or materials. These will be excellent follow up activities to a nature walk outside, where we can observe the changes in our environment and gather supplies.
What other science activities do you like to incorporate with your young curious minds?
As I continue to explore sensory ideas for the kids, I came across a fluffy looking foam. Now my Pre-kindergartners are happy as a clam with a “car wash” or baby bath activity. So I knew that they would love this foam. It’s even safe and great for younger toddler age friends.
SO here is all I needed…a hand mixer, dish soap, and liquid water colors. I’m sure that food coloring would work just as well, but if you haven’t seen Liquid Watercolors before, check them out! I love discount school supplies brand, but I’m sure there are others out there.
Hand mixer, dish soap, and water colors…so simple!
The fluffier you want your foam, the less water you add. I added just a little soap to the bottom of the bowl, and added about 3 cups of water and a few drops of water color, and put the mixer on high.
Lot’s of bubbles!
Before long the foam starts to thicken up. This is also a step that you could have the older kids help you with. Turn it into a science and math project! Make the measurements, and then predict what will happen to the liquid once you start mixing it together.
I did a variety of colors, and dumped them into our larger sensory bucket. The kids loved the rainbow effect!
Add in different tools and materials for the children to explore a variety of ways
This was ocean week, so I added some sharks and whales, and second bucket with plain water for rinsing. We used cups, spoons, watering cans, measuring cups, funnels, and all kinds of other exploratory tools. The kids had a blast! It can get messy, but that’s ok! And the best part is, this was totally free! I had all of the necessary ingredients right in my kitchen.
Look how foamy and fluffy this looks. The kids couldn’t wait to get their hands on it!
If you decide to experiment with some sensory fun, let me know what your kids think!
As I’ve said before in other posts I work in Early Childhood. A great way for children to learn is through the different use of their senses, so we are constantly looking for new sensory activities to try. I saw a recipe for a new type of play dough with only two ingredients, how hard could it be? So I decided to give it a try with my pre-kindergarteners. I can honestly say that this is one of the absolute best home-made play dough recipes I have found. It is incredibly soft, easy, and mess free.
Two simple ingredients, hair conditioner and corn starch. How easy is that! And the best part is that it turns out the best with the cheap $1 conditioner, and smells amazing!
Two basic ingredients for a simple play dough
For the most part I don’t use real measurements, it ends up being the whole bottle of conditioner and the whole box of corn starch. This is a great opportunity to let the kids help out and practice using measurement tools like measuring cups.
Added math lesson, measuring cups!
Turn it into science! What happens when you mix a dry powered with a wet liquid?
So, dump them all together…and mix!
Kids will love getting their hands dirty!
This is another great sensory lesson for kids. How does it feel as you are mixing it together? What happens when you mix a dry solid with wet conditioner? What are some words you can use to describe what you feel? How about what you smell?
The end result is the silky soft play dough. You can mold it, roll it, and shape it. It has the added benefit of being incredibly hydrating for you hands, and smells great! Here are some pictures of what we were able to do:
Cutting the play dough
Feel how soft it is!
We like to roll it out nice and smooth
You can easily shape and mold it
All kinds of different shapes, we can use cookie cutters and play dough tools
As you can see it is very smooth and easy to shape. For the most part it is pretty mess free, no more mess than normal play dough would create. If you are looking for a fun, cheap and easy sensory activity I would strongly encourage you to give this conditioner play dough a try. You won’t be sorry! I love how much control the kids can take when following this basic recipe, and they are entertained for hours with the end result. Two thumbs up!
** Please note, this is NOT a sponsored post. All opinions are my own **
Have you ever heard of Kinetic Sand? Advertised as “sand in motion”. This is pure sensory GOLD! This is some of the best stuff I’ve come across. Therapeutic and relaxing for adults and totally safe and entertaining for kids.
We try to incorporate all kinds of sensory activities in our Early Childhood program. This sand is way more fun than just your average sand. It can be molded into sold forms, similar to wet sand, but it can also easily shift and slid around with out the normal sandy mess. So hard to describe, you just have to try it for yourself!
Here is a video to try to give you a better idea:
While the kinetic sand box doesn’t actually tell you their secret recipe, I have seen a few online. I would love to see if we can recreate our own version at school. I like the recipe here, and here. And you can also find it on Pinterest. Let me know if you give it a try, or if you have any other favored sensory activities for young children.