Thursday, February 25, 2010

I love playing outside

I will be the first to admit that our center does not have the fanciest playground in the world. It's limitations begin with the fact that we are located in an industrial park and the yard is sandwiched between our building and the building next door. A tall wooden fence circles the entire yard. (I actually don't mind the fence - as you can see, it makes a great chalkboard and easel.) The yard is anchored by a large wooden play structure with swings. There is also a Little Tyke's play house and a Little Tyke's play pirate ship play structure. We have a wooden boat (which is meant to hold sand - but we use it for imaginative play), several riding toys, and a plastic see saw. The entire play yard floor is covered with mulch. Okay, you may say, that doesn't sound so bad. But here is the big negative for me: there isn't a tree in sight. No plants. An errant weed pops up now and then but the kids grab them up lickety split (we are lovers of seaweed salad, of course).

Someday when I grow up and open my own center (yes, Jen, I promise that one day I really will be grown up and brave and ready!) I will have grass to run on and trees to lie under and a lovely area for making mud pies and musical instruments to play songs on and those cool tree cookies to climb across and . . . I'm sure it will be just as wonderful as it has been in my mind for all of these years. But until that day is here I vow to be content with my little play yard in the industrial park. And this is why . . . Today those scrumptious littles of mine just made me want to scoop them all up and give them a great big group hug as I watched them outside. One group gathered in a corner and after setting up chairs for spectators, they put on a show for each other. The audience clapped and cheered for whoever was in the spotlight. Another group commandeered the boat, reeling in sharks from "the high seas." In the house, mulch (always a favorite play toy in our yard) became food and money as some enterprising young ladies opened a bakery/ice cream shop.

Those littles are always teaching me what's important. Friendship. Imagination. Cooperation. Fun. And you know something? They don't miss that imaginary play yard in my head one bit.

Monday, February 22, 2010

check out what's growing in our garden

South Florida has a long and somewhat confusing growing season and I'm just getting into the swing of it after living here for seven and a half years. Many things are being planted right now because our nights are fairly cool and our days are warm but not hot. I brought up the idea of planting a garden in our play yard and the littles can't wait to start. I'm trying to recruit some green thumb parents to help out but so far no luck. I'd like to do a raised garden but I think that may have to wait until next year unless I get a huge bonus at work! So - we're starting on the small side with a container garden this year. The littles voted on strawberries and lettuce and tomatoes.

In the classroom we are: reading about plants, examining plants, painting flowers and painting with flowers, learning about the parts of a plant, and comparing different types of flowers. Today we set up a new garden center. I brought in plastic pots, silk flowers, garden gloves, little garden tools, and a toy wheelbarrow. Our process art table this week is full of grocery bags, paint, small paper plates, colored macaroni, pipe cleaners, Magic Noodles, colored pom-poms, and buttons. The littles are hard at work creating the most magical flowers and gardens. I love spring - even in Florida!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

what's for lunch?

How about some "freshly caughted fish and seaweed salad"?

Friday, February 5, 2010

i love the dollar store, but . . .

Yes, I'll admit it. I am addicted to the dollar store. I find the most amazing things for my classroom there. Bubbles and huge bubble wands are a staple. But I also love the dollar store for all sorts of baskets and things to organize our room, sponges, baby wipes, holiday items, tape, glue sticks, ribbon, odd kitchen items that are fun to use in the art center, office items for the writing center, and the list goes on and on and on. A few weeks ago I found a simple supermarket math game aimed at young elementary students. With a few tweeks, I turned it into a memory/color matching game for my littles. There is just something about the dollar store (and flea markets and garage sales) that gets my creative juices flowing.

Okay, here is the but. I do not like the dollar store for art supplies. I'm a little bit of an art freak, I admit. I wait for sales and coupons but I try to buy real watercolor paper for the littles. They use quality paint. They use real brushes and not the plastic ones with yucky brushes that don't hold paint. Well . . . yesterday I saw some pretty neat looking markers at the dollar store. They said they were non-toxic. They claimed they were water-based and washable. And . . . they were a disaster. Every one of my littles went home covered in marker. I ruined my favorite pants. My hands (which I wash oh-let's-see 100 times a day) are still black. And to top it off, the colors were muddy and unappealing. Oh dollar store markers, you lured me in with your stylish chunky shape and attractive packaging but I won't be fooled again.

making rubber stamps

About 20 years ago I taught a summer art program for elementary age children. One of the projects I remember loving was making rubber stamps. Back then I had to order the material for the stamp from an art supply company and we attached it to wooden blocks. But while walking through Michael's a few nights ago I found sticky backed foam & realized it looks very similar to what I had used. So today the littles and I raided our stash of lids to use as a base and I let each of them draw a heart. I cut a piece of foam to cover the top of each lid and then cut out the hearts and attached one on top. We're going to use these for a little friendship project next week. I'll try to remember to post an update.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

roots & wings

When Leslie was the only preschooler in my life I couldn't even fathom what life would look like for us when she became a teenager. I didn't know that we'd be living in Florida. I wouldn't have thought I'd be teaching preschool. Back in those days I lived in a mostly blissful state. I truly got up each and every day and gave thanks for our beautiful life. I didn't take any of it for granted. I had spent six years taking my temperature, getting shots, having surgeries, and wishing on every star in the sky. I wanted to be a mama more than anything in the world. I can't even describe how it felt when I finally held Leslie in my arms for the first time. The closest I can come: love at first sight. She was an easy baby, an agreeable toddler, a language loving preschooler. I wanted to show her the world. I wanted to keep her safe. I wanted to give her deep, strong, loving roots that would carry her through this life.

Fast forward to 2010. I am now the proud mama of a high school freshman and we are moving into territory that feels a little unstable, a bit otherworldly. Leslie has grown into the most lovely young woman. She is confident in who she is. She is gracious and funny and creative and thoughtful and smart. And she is doing what all teenagers do - taking those first tiny baby steps away from us and out into the world. I know that this is normal. I know that this is right. But it's scary. I'm not ready. I need more time. Oh, I know she wants to try out those wings. And she should. I'm really trying to remember that the roots are strong and will carry her where she needs to go. And when she needs a soft place to rest and the wings are tired, I'll be here to be the landing and push her back up into the sky.

crayon/watercolor resist

These Silky Crayons are great for watercolor resist art. They have the consistency of lipstick, are a little messy, and glide over any paper so smoothly. What more could a 4 year old ask for?
You can just use water as a wash and the color will run. We used liquid watercolors and the results were nice and vibrant once they dried. (Sorry I didn't get photos of the final product.)

One of my littles asked me: Why do you always take so many pictures of the table?! Ha - they are so observant!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

art from the recycle bin

Raided my recycle bin at home and the basket in the classroom this morning. My littles are pretty good about recycling at school so they were very interested in knowing why I was retrieving things from their bin. They were excited when they found out we were going to use all of the "junk" to create paintings. I showed them how to dip the items in paint and press it on paper. Some things made a better print if they painted the object with a paintbrush and then pressed it on the paper. One little painted the entire salt container and then rolled it down his paper. The results were cute and the process itself was a huge hit. The art table was the most popular place in the room today.