Tuesday, February 14, 2012


I am so excited to tell you that this year's U.P. Early Childhood Conference (UPECC) to be held on April 13 and 14, 2012 at Northern Michigan University in Marquette Michigan will be bringing Jeff A. Johnson and Rusty Keeler as the keynote speakers this year!!!! (Most of you know, I am on the conference board....)

Jeff A. Johnson, of Explorations Early Learning has been a huge inspiration to me and our childcare program for years. Jeff has a great webpage, blog, and quite a following through his Facebook page. He has written a number of great books, One of my favorite is:
Pure Genius!
I've never seen Jeff present, I have however watched a number of his youtube videos... 
I'm super excited to have him coming to our area to share his enthusiasm and creativity with all of us!
I really hope you can make it to the conference!

Jeff has also recently made some AMAZING posters! (There are more on his website)
I don't know how much "stuff" Jeff will be bringing to the conference, but my tip for you is... 
ORDER EARLY, you can hop on over to: Explorations Early Learning and visit the web shop!

AND..... Rusty Keeler from the Earth Play Network is also coming!!!!

Rusty is a HUGE advocate for outdoor natural play. 
He has traveled the world to help build and design natural playscapes. 
You can read Rusty's blog, visit the Earthplay website

Rusty also has an amazing book out on Natural Playscapes:
You can find all kinds of goodies over at his webstore too!!!!

I hope to see as many of you as possible at the conference!!!
We have a great line up of workshops in addition to the keynote speakers....
More information about the conference and registration can be found at:

Friday, February 10, 2012

Bubbles, Bubbles, BUBBLES!

The bubbles are coming, the bubbles are coming!!!

Sometimes, the simplest things are the best.
Bubbles are a prime example! 

Much like dancing and good music, 
if you need to turn the mood or the day around... 
bubbles tend to do the trick!
They are fun to chase, fun to pop, fun to blow...
Children of ALL ages seem to LOVE them!
We blow our bubbles everywhere...

Inside (a little extra soap on the carpet never hurts, 
especially when you run the carpet cleaner frequently)

Outside- in all seasons bubbles are BIG fun!
In the winter snow, you can really see all of the colors in the bubbles as the light hits them... 
AND if it is cold enough, the bubbles freeze and shatter like glass when you pop them!

EVEN... in the car!!!
I like to keep a small container of bubbles in the car for those long rides. 
They are a great way to keep infants, toddlers, and travel weary children entertained!

There are so many fun things you can use to blow bubbles, here are a few:
Potato Mashers
Hat Driers
Plastic Berry Baskets
Pipe Cleaners
Onion Bags

but when I see a good clearance sale I do buy some from the store!

Have you been blowing bubbles lately?
What are your favorite ways to blow bubbles/items to use? 

Thursday, February 9, 2012

100+ Ways To Paint!!!!!

On the 30th of each month, I blog over at PreKandK Sharing. 
This is a collaborative effort involving a number of early childhood professionals. 

This past month, I shared a bunch of ways in which We LOVE Paint! Then, I asked (you) the readers to link up ways in which you paint or recipes for homemade paint. There are now over 100 ways to paint listed!!!

Do you have a great painting post, or idea for painting? 
The linky is open for another couple of weeks! (2/29/2012)

Some of my favorite so far include:

I love how they just used what they had and dove right into the process!

SO... If you are looking for some great ways to paint and enjoy the process of art, 
Hop on over to

PreK + K Sharing
And check out all of the GREAT ways that you can paint!

This article also inspired a GREAT Discussion on Product vs. Process. Do you have a blog post or interesting article worth reading in regard to product vs. process???? I'd love for you to link it up!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Promoting Independent Dressing- Montessori Inspired

One of the biggest roadblocks teachers talk about in regard to having daily outdoor play is dressing. 
"It takes forever to get all of the children dressed."
"By the time I get the second one ready, the first one has already started taking off their clothes!"
"It is just way too much work to get everyone ready, for such a short time outside"

IF you are one of "those" teachers, I'm here today to tell you, GET OVER IT! Put your big girl/boy panties/underwear on and stop making excuses! There are so many ways that you can encourage children to become independent about dressing themselves!

Many of the activities/options I am going to share with you today are Montessori inspired. I do not use a full Montessori curriculum, but there are definitely pieces that I integrate into our program every day.
The first, simple activity: How to put on a coat.
First, lay the coat out in front of the child with the hood or the collar at their feet.
Then have the child reach down and put their hands/arms into the arm holes.
With their arms partially in the arm holes, have them raise their arms up above their head. This causes the jacket to flip up. (Most of my children do this as they stand up to give it a little more umph!)
TA DA!!! The jacket is on!
I have had children as young as 18 months master this skill.  Children are always watching an observing. IF you put your jacket on this way, they are much more apt to catch on and become independent about putting their own coats on.

Here is a quick video that shows the technique in action, quick and efficient!
(I apologize that you need to tilt your head, I'm not sure why it turned or how to fix it!)

Another great way to encourage independent dressing is to provide LOTS of practice!

      • Put clothing in a basket for children to play with. Make sure to collect pieces with buttons, snaps, zippers, velcro, et. 
      • Use "real" clothes in your dress up area  and for your baby dolls with various types of closing mechanisms
      • Allow children to "play" with their coats, boots, shoes, snowpants
      • Buy/Make Dressing Frames
      • Try to provide other materials that will be helpful for dressing (I have some puzzles, lacing cards, lacing shoes, etc...)

We made a couple of dressing frames today. 
You can buy them (in most cases they are quite expensive though!)
We started off with some document frames from the Dollar Tree ($1 each)
Remove the glass, the cardboard backing, and the pieces of metal that hold the glass in place.
Needle-nosed pliers work great!
Then you will have a wooden frame that looks like this:
The reasoning behind using a wooden frame is to help stabilize the fabric. Some of the fasteners are much easier to manage when the material is taut. (Some people also cut the clothing so that the frames can easily be stored like puzzles and come out more uniform when complete.)
Then, you will want to attach some clothing/material with at least one type of fastener for children to practice. I like to keep my clothing in tact. I think it is more "real" for the children to see what they are practicing on. Some people prefer to trim the clothing and attach it securely to the frame. I use infant/toddler clothing that I either had as extras,or picked up second hand. There is no need to spend a lot of money to make great dressing frames.  This pair of jeans was less than a dollar at one of our second hand stores. I chose them because they have a zipper, a snap, they came with a belt, and the pockets have velcro!

I use a handy-dandy staple gun to secure the clothing to the frame. 
Make sure you are using staples that are not so long that they shoot through the other side of the frame! Each frame will need 4-6 +/- staples to secure the clothing.
The child can then practice opening and closing all of the fasteners available. 
You can use the same technique for shirts, jackets, etc. I recommend making quite a few different frames for your children to explore with!
These frames have BIG buttons (on the left) and small snaps on the right
Coat zippers are also a great option for a dressing frame!

If you are looking for commercially created items, you can search for dressing frames or dressing vests, and I'm sure you'll find quite a few options!

How do you help promote independent dressing?

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

365 Days of Play!

We're still on track with our 365 day photo challenge!

Here are the glimpses into our playful days from the past week:

Day 22: If you're going to play with a fire truck... You might as well wear a fire hat!

Day 23:  Snow Cakes!
Day 24:  On Our Way Outside to Play!

Day 25: Cardboard Classic

Day 26: Dane is reading

Day 27:  GEOBOARDS! "Look, I'm making squares!"

Day 28: Hula Hoops!

Have you been playing?
Are you up for the 365 Challenge?

We are joining in on the challenge proposed by Donna over at Irresistible Ideas for Play Based Learning on their Facebook page. 

We are capturing one photo, one second a day to share with you our 365 days of play! Each day, the photos are being posted to our Facebook page, and once a week, I'll share updates here on the blog.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Paper Bag Challenge

Today, we are participating in the Paper Bag Challenge hosted by Tinkerlab.
(If you remember, we've done this before with magazines and cardboard boxes.)

Keeping with our child-centered philosophy, I plopped a giant pile of paper bags down in the middle of the floor and asked the children if they wanted to create and if so, what other materials did they need.
None of the three children who worked on this project opted to create together or make the same thing :). YEAH for creativity and giving the children an opportunity to venture off on their own, to enjoy the process and control their own products! 

(By the way, there has been an interesting series of posts over at PreKandK Sharing in regard to product and process for children. It is well worth the time to hop on over and check out the series of posts, We LOVE Paint, Children's Art Process vs. Product, and Making the Transition from Product to Process Focused Art.)
        "A" decided that an opened paper bag would make a fantastic canvas and she asked for some paints! She explored the canvas with liquid water colors and tempera paints. 
She completed a wonderful mural.
"D" decided that cutting the bags was a lot of fun. 
He spent most of our time just cutting, and cutting and cutting.
The sturdiness of paper sacks really makes cutting a bit easier than regular paper.
When he was done cutting, he assembled a ship! Complete with wings and a window.
Dane went to work straight away. You all know how much he loves critters.
He asked for some markers and created a dragon puppet.
He colored it in and used 2 tongue depressors to help strengthen and make it a stick puppet.
"A" and I tinkered a bit with some scraps of paper, twisting and folding it to make a rose! 
She decided that it  need some color and painted it up with some liquid watercolor.
(If you want a general idea of how to make a rose from a strip of paper, click here.The video shows the technique with Quilling paper, but you can easily use the same method with larger strips of paper.)

So, with all four of us tinkering and creating, we came up with a myriad of different things!

How would you create with a paper bag?
Join in on the challenge, you can find all of the details over at Tinkerlab!

You can also take a look at all of the ideas that some of these other participants made:
Paint Cut Paste, Imagination SoupHands On: As We Grow, Child Central Station, Putti Prapancha, Irresistible Ideas for Play-Based LearningTeach Preschool, The Chocolate Muffin Tree, Nurture Store, Small Types,Make Do & FriendThe Imagination Tree, Toddler Approved, Red Ted Art, Kids in the Studio, Rainy Day Mum, Glittering Muffins, Sense of Wonder, Mom To 2 Posh Lil Divas, Come Together Kids, My Creative Family, Kitchen Counter Chronicles, A Mom With A Lesson Plan, Angelique Felix, The Golden Gleam, Clarion Wren, Living at the Whitehead's Zoo, Let Kids Create, De tout et de rien, PlayDrMomCreativity My PassionKiwi Crate, Tinkerlab
Then, link your post up below:

My friend died

 I learned a hell of a lot from Dan Hodgins.  He was mentor, a friend, and a "bone shaker" for many of us in the field of Early Ch...