Valentine’s Day Rainbow Wall

valentine heart muralWe needed some extra happy cheer in our playroom after a week of cold, gloomy weather. My kids had fun making something cheerful for their playroom while working on fine motor skills, color recognition and counting. Oh and cooperative projects like these were always the very first thing I’d set up for my class ( and now my kids) when bickering started popping up. Working together has a great way of allowing them to work out their differences and feel like a team again.

  1. Gather your materials. You will need some contact paper ( or craft paper with double stick tape ) , many sheets of all different color paper, a heart punch, and markers in every color of the rainbow.valentine's day rainbow craft
  2. Start by pinning the contact paper to the wall sticky side out. I prefer contact paper because it allows kids to change where they put a heart if they don’t like their original placement. I pop the paper on with the backing still on then peel. I find it way easier than putting in on with the sticky already exposed. valentines day rainbow
  3. Next punch out a whole bunch of hearts. My kids helped with some but I did most of the punching . valentine's day rainbow craft mural
  4. Draw the rainbow with markers directly on the contact paper.valentine rainbow mural
  5. Set up a heart station ( ours was a plate and a stool) by the contact paper.valentine's day rainbow activity for kids
  6. Let them at it.valentines' day color matching activity for toddlersMy daughter liked taking her time finding the exact right spot for each heart. My son liked gathering a handful of one color and adding them on in a bunch.valentines' day heart mural for kids Clearly they weren’t having any fun at all.valentines' day heart mural for cooperative play
  7. My daughter fizzled out about half way through, if I was making this for just toddlers I’d make a much much smaller rainbow and maybe larger hearts as well. My son and I had a race to see which colors could be filled in first. I was reminded how much I love just working on something like this with my kids. It really does make you feel more like a team and is by far the number one reason we do projects together. He counted each color to see which won and noticed that of course the first few colors would have more than the last few. I love it when learning like that comes so naturally in a self directed way.valentine's day heart mural counting
  8. All done. Now our gloomy winter weather can’t bring us down. Valentine's day heart mural for preschool

Sticky Wall Christmas Tree Mural

My kids love sticky murals and this one was a big hit with my toddler. This Christmas tree craft is fun to make and the best part is that you can keep adding to it for the days and weeks ahead.Also now our playroom has it’s very own Christmas tree that doesn’t need to be watered and is safe for kids too!

  1. Gather your materials. You will need some green wrapping paper ( ours is glittery and awesome but messy when cut), contact paper, tissue paper in various colors , buttons ( optional) , a pencil, scissors and painter’s tape.
  2. Start by cutting out a Christmas tree from your wrapping paper.
  3. Trace onto the backing of the contact paper.
  4. Tape the tree to your wall using painter’s tape. Place the cut out contact paper on top and hold and peel. Tape it to the wall with more painter’s tape as your peel the backing off. The contact paper should be sticky side out.
  5. Invite your decorators. Give them the tissue paper and have them rip, crumple and stick it on.
  6. This was OK for my son but this activity really appealed to my 2 year old, she LOVED it.
  7. Add some buttons!
  8. Talk about colors and shapes while they work. She even found a googly eye in the button jar and added it on. She was so proud of her tree she wanted a picture with it.

Christmas Books

Stick Man by Julia Donaldson tickles my funny bone and my son thought it was funny and full of adventure too. Stick Man is a happy stick who loves with his stick family until a dog grabs him and he ends up far from his family but determined to get home. As the seasons change he is used as many things from a sword, a bat and even an arm for a snowman. After that he ends up in a fireplace just as a certain jolly old guy gets stuck in the chimney. This is a unique story we both enjoyed , you will never look at another stick in your child’s hands without wondering what it’s been turned into .

How Santa Got His Job by Stephen Krensky is a fun and surprisingly practical story about Santa and how he developed the skills needed for his one of a kind job. It starts with Santa as a young man and as he keeps bouncing from job to job he acquires skills like going in and out of chimneys as a chimney sweep with ease and without getting dirty, develops a relationship with reindeer as a zoo worker and gets chubby eating all the food at a all night diner gig! There are more but i don’t want to spoil the story. My son loved it, especially once the elves showed up, which was when the toys did too! I know when i was a kid I wanted to know how Santa got his job, and there are movies dedicated to this so this book jumped on the bandwagon and did a great job , it’s very cute!

Bear Stays Up for Christmas by Karma Wilson is such a heartwarming story about friendship. Bear is hibernating but his friends wake him up to celebrate Christmas. It’s not easy at first , Bear is super sleepy and wants nothing more than to cuddle back up and fall back to sleep. They get a tree, decorate it, hang their stockings and sing carols. When all the other animals snuggle in and go to sleep Bear stays up. He is busily making gifts for all his friends, he is so busy he doesn’t even notice Santa coming and filling the stockings. He delights in the friendship and when his friends present him with a lovely quilt, he snuggles under and goes back to sleep happy and filled with friendship. This is such a wonderful book , I love it’s focus on friendship and the excitement of giving gifts!

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Spring Mural – Cooperative Project For Kids

We are digging murals lately so when my daughter refused her nap for the third day in a row instead of breaking down and crying like I wanted to I grabbed some paper and we made something.  This mural like our alphabet wall mural isn’t finished in one sitting, in fact I leave things to add to it out until it’s removed weeks later. I love having on going art projects that grow and change over the course of a few weeks. There is no wrong way to do this just choose materials you have, that are safe for whatever age or stage of development your kids are at and have fun!

  1. Gather your materials. You will need a large piece of paper for the wall, I love craft paper but the underside of extra wrapping paper will do too. We also used painter’s tape,  glue sticks ( avoid with kids who may put them in their mouths, those suckers are choking hazards) , scrap paper , pom poms, double stick tape… these are just what we used you can add in whatever you can, just try to mix a few materials together. I love handing my kids something new and saying ” How could we use these for this project?” and watching the wheels turn.spring preschool activities
  2. Put the paper up. Grab some construction paper and start ripping . I just sat by the mural while my kids were playing with their usual favorites in the playroom ( Duplo and board books) soon enough they came by to see what I was doing.ripping paper
  3. The plan turned into a garden so we added the stems first and the kids went straight for the glue sticks. Garden wall mural  Oh and yes I ripped the stems at my son’s request, he had a hard time ripping them in long strips. I want to make sure parents know there is no issue with helping your kids create. I get emails asking ” Do you ever help?” at their request of course! I try not to do anything my kids can do on their own but if they get frustrated and ask for some help of course I will. Projects aren’t tests to see what they can do it’s time to work as a team, especially ones like this that is meant to be collaborative. They had fun adding the paper. ripped paper flowers
  4. My daughter stuck to one side of the mural. We aren’t sure of her creative vision – but both my son and I thought that her collage looked like a butterfly! flower art project
  5. I was giddy when I heard my son call me back over ( I’d gone to the book nook to read with my daughter) to see how he discovered he could glue ends of paper down but make the middle pop out at you. cooperative art projectIn true 5 year old boy fashion these were named ” Missile attack flowers” .
  6. This is how it looked for days ( you can even see it in the background of a few previous posts) spring flowersA few days later when we were in the playroom and they were busy playing I grabbed the double stick tape and pom poms and set them out. Soon I had two kids creating once a again.

I think when we return from our holiday we’ll get another material out and see how it fits with the paper and pom poms. What do you think we should add next?

Books About Flowers

Planting a Rainbow by Lois Elhert is a wonderful book to use for teaching about flowers and colors. The illustrations are bold and bright, perfect for little curious minds. I have always liked this book because you can sit down and dive into it reading each flowers name on every page , or browse it more casually with a younger child simply noting the colors.

Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes is a lovely book about having confidence, loosing confidence and regaining it in the end. Chrysanthemum is a little mouse who loves her name until she goes to school and is picked on for it being out of the ordinary. Who can’t relate to this? I know I can . Thankfully my son  has yet to experience this all too common, but still so heartbreaking experience . I love that I have a book like this to share with him and open up about it before it happens. Ultimately Chrysanthemum learns to love her name again and regains the confidence she once had. Another fantastic book from a consistently wonderful author.

Zinnia’s Flower Garden by Monica Wellington is really useful not just about teaching about flowers and gardens, but also about patience and the annual cycle of a garden. Zinnia plants and waits, waters, enjoys her flowers, then they die, she collects the seeds and plans her garden for next year. I love that the main story is perfect for my almost 3 year old but there is much more for older children with longer attention spans. There is a little journal with notes about what’s happening with her garden, and various facts about plants as well. Like in so many of her books the author celebrates hard work and her characters take great pride in what they do. A fantastic message for readers, big and little. I also love the mix of illustration and photographs in this book especially, it gives the illustrations depth and a really interesting look.

Alphabet Wall Mural

For about 3 weeks we’ve been writing on our playroom wall, well on paper attached to the wall. Both my kids, friends who have come by and even my husband and I have contributed to this on going mural.  My daughter loves to write on vertical surfaces and she is just starting to point out letters in books and other print so I figures we could fill both those needs and create a cooperative project for my son and her as well.

  1. Gather your materials. You will need some painters tape ( don’t buy the cheap stuff, I did and it’s cheap for a reason), butcher block ( aka craft paper), marker and then the materials to decorate  things like crayons, markers, stickers…
  2. Clear a large wall space, part of the magic of a mural is it’s size so to make a simple project like this super make it big. Hang the paper up.
  3. Write out the alphabet . I thought I had it spaced well but poor little z got almost no space.Alphabet wall mural
  4. Add kids.  Sometimes I ask her to find a letter and color, often I just put the crayon jar on the floor and watch.
  5. We added stickers . My son put them on the matching letter, and directed my daughter where to put them too.  Stickers are great little fine motor exercises especially peeling them off their original sheets.
  6. Now every time we are in the playroom ( many times a day) someone adds something. Not sure how long we will leave it up but for now we are having fun with it. Below is the mural today- check out all the stars on the letter S, it’s my daughter’s favorite word these days!

Alphabet Books

Alphabet Under Construction by Denise Fleming is a wonderful example of what an alphabet book should be. Perfect for toddlers and preschoolers learning their first letters, the text is short , the letters are front and center and the illustrations are fun and interesting. My son loves this book, I grabbed it at the library after remembering how much my Pre K class loved it too.Many alphabet books are too long to read entirety at circle time or in one shot with a toddler but this my 19 month old will sit through Z every time. {This review is from when my son was 19 months old in 2008. His love of this book was really a jumping off point for his love of letters in general. I wish I could say I taught him his letters but really reading this one particular book over and over at his request probably did the trick. }
 

Chicka Chicka ABC  by Bill Martin Jr. and Jim Archambault is a fantastic board book with the perfect amount of text for a toddler. The illustrations by Lois Ehlert are so bright and bold that even very young babies will respond to it!  Of all the alphabet books we have at our house this is the one my daughter who is 19 months grabs the most. She loves the way the text leads whoever is reading it to a sing song voice , especially her brother who practically sings it to her. It’s a great first alphabet book for toddlers.

Al Pha’s Bet by Amy Krouse Rosenthal is a rare find. An alphabet book that can keep a 5 year old who says alphabet books are for babies, completely engaged. The story follows Al who has bet himself that he can win a contest ordered by the King figure out an order for the brand new 26 letters that were just invented. In a string of adorable events and a little chance the alphabet as we know it is put together. My son thought it was hysterical that P was put in the line up after Al went pee. It’s a cute idea for a book and abstract enough to be a bit of a challenge for preschoolers but just the right level of interest for kids that think they know it all when it comes to the alphabet.

Fine Motor Friday

Mini Mural !


When I was teaching Pre-Kindergarten we often did murals for two reasons, the first being cooperation, the second for the benefits that working on a vertical surface offers. Fine motor development is crucial for learning how to write. We often take our hand ,wrists and arm muscles for granted because we use them for so much but young children are still developing and strengthening theirs, this is a great exercise for them.

  1. Gather your materials. You will need some paper, crayons ( you’ll want washable) , and some stickers.
  2. Pin or tape the paper on your wall our child’s eye height. Painter’s tape is perfect for this, because it also gives your child a boundary to know not to color past. I keep forgetting to buy more!
  3. Start with the crayons.
  4. Next offer up some stickers. When they are peeling off the stickers they are also working out the muscles in their fingers, Use larger ones for beginners and smaller ones as they master the skill. My son worked on his mural on and off for an hour and a half, lots of practice with very little prep!
* I know that writing on the wall seems scary but the same way that your child learns not to draw on the table, they will figure out that the crayon is only supposed to touch the paper. A less scary thing to try is to use your magna doodle on the wall , or a felt board is great too*