Top ten toys for the preschool classroom

In case you happen to be considering getting a gift for your child’s classroom or you happen to be putting a wish list together for your own classroom, I have put together a snapshot of what I would consider to be the top ten (store-bought) toys my own students really enjoy playing with in my classroom.  I use the word “toys” kind of loosely here because when I purchase any type of toy for my classroom, I try to be selective and think through how my purchase will promote different types of development. With that in mind, here are the top ten toys I find most engaging or meaningful to the children (ranging from ages 3 to 5) in my preschool classroom…

Magnatiles

Magnatiles are simply wonderful. My students use them to construct tall towers and they can be fun for a child who wants to work alone or for a group of children to collaborate together. We have the Magna-Tiles Clear Colors 100 Piece Set

Gears

Get some critical thinking and engineering going with a set of gears! There are different types of gears, I recommend Gears! Gears! Gears!® Beginner’s Building Set as a good place to start and I also recommend that if you choose to buy more than one set of Gears, that you do not mix the type of gears you buy…

Cootie Bug Game

Don’t forget about simple games like the Cootie Bug Game for the classroom.  Games like this allow the children to explore the process of playing a game without it becoming too much of a win-lose proposition…

Oh, and as a bonus – what I also like about games like the Cootie Bug Game  is that we are able to use the cootie bug parts for playdough as well! Double the fun:)

Puppets

My students love puppets. We have a broad variety of puppets in our classroom from people puppets to animal puppets to puppets from the dollar store and more…

Straws and Connectors

We keep a basket of Straws & Connectors in our classroom year round and it didn’t take long before my students figured out how to connect their straws together for creating long lines and over a little bit of time and lots of play, they began to build much more complex structures…

Blocks

We are always adding different types of blocks to our classroom. This simple set of colored wooden blocks is what gets used by far the most in our classroom.  The children often play with them on the floor for building and construction and I like to use them on occasion for some of our planned table top activities…

Block Accessories

We are also always adding different types of block accessories to our classroom. This Guidecraft 42 – Pc. Roadway System has been a real favorite in our classroom…

Puzzles

My students love all kinds of puzzles but we started off the year with different types of wooden chunky or 3D puzzles which the children really enjoyed and proved to be just the right challenge for all the ages of students in my classroom as well…

A second type of puzzle my students love to pull out for not only puzzle play but for dramatic play as well are these Sorting Food Tray Puzzles

Magnetos

My class enjoys playing with these really cool magnets called Magneatos.  We find they stand up best if you play with them on a magnetic board versus just a table or the floor…

Baby Dolls

My students enjoy playing with baby dolls all throughout the classroom.  I have a set of these simple hard body babies that I keep in the classroom. The children use them for play in both our indoor classroom and for water play in our outdoor classroom…

and just as a little bonus…

Easel

This last item wouldn’t really be considered a “toy” but a quality made easel with two sides (chalk and dry-erase) is a must for any preschool classroom…

Don’t Go Away – More Top Ten Toy Lists are below!

Be sure to check out these bloggers for more Top Ten Toy lists!

This holiday gift guide is being cohosted by…

Fun Gifts Beyond Toys by No Twiddle Twaddle
Book + Toy Companion Gifts by What Do We Do All Day?
Best Art Supplies for Kids by To Train Up a Child
Gifts to Inspire the Imagination by The Pleasantest Thing 
Gifts for Your Backyard Explorer/ Gifts for Your Animal Lover by Blog Me Mom
Educational Games by True Aim Education
Basic/Traditional Toys by Creative Playhouse
Therapeutic and Fun Gift Ideas for Child Development by Creative Learning Fun
Top Toys for Babies by B-InspiredMama
Top Toys for Curious Kids by KC Edventures
Educational/ Headache Free Toys for Christmas and Hanukkah by CAUTION: Twins at Play
4 Gift Ideas for Everyone: Want, Wear, Need, and Read by Home Learning Journey
Gifts that Inspire Pretend Play by Connecting Family and Seoul
My Favorite Books and Toys for Preschoolers by Mama Miss
Educational Toys for Preschoolers by The Freckled Homeschooler
Montessori Inspired Toys by Smiling Like Sunshine
Gift Ideas for Older Kids (9-12) by Kitchen Counter Chronicles
Toys for the Classroom by Teach Preschool
Gift Ideas for Budding Readers by Mom 2 to Posh Lil Dives
Stocking Stuffers: A Teacher’s Top 10 by Kindergarten & Preschool for Parents & Teachers
Book Ideas for Everyone on Your List by Pragmatic Mom
Toys that Stand the Test of Time by Mamas Like Me
Top Board Games for Kids and Families by Coffee Cups and Crayons
Home Made Gifts Children Can Make by How to Run a Home Daycare
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By | November 29th, 2012|Categories: Christmas, Holiday Ideas|Tags: , , |9 Comments

Storybook games

Anytime I find a children’s book that is really well written and I know my students will enjoy it – I try to think of ways to expand on that book.  One way I expand on a children’s book is by coming up with a story book game…

In my previous post, I shared with you how we read “Pete the Cat: by Eric Litwin. As part of the reading experience, I thought it would be fun to play a game using shoes or shoe prints or shoe cut-outs in some way…

I settled on construction paper shoe cutouts and stuck them to our circletime area carpet using clear contact paper…

Of course as soon as the children started trickling into the classroom door, they went right over and began to play on the footprints.   This is part of what I want to see as well. I want the game to have an open ended – free play aspect to it so the children can make up their own games throughout the day….

I’d like to tell you that I already know what we are going to play as a group with my story book game mat, but I don’t always know until after I get it all set up and sometimes, not until the children are sitting on the floor with me and it is time to actually play the game…

All I know for sure is that I want the game to be inviting, open ended, related to our story book, and hopefully fun and active for the children too!…

In this case, once I had all the children on the story book game mat, I realized that we wouldn’t be able to do a lot of quick movements because there were so many of us so we played “Pete the Cat” says – kind of like “Simon Says.”…

The children loved it. I tried to keep all the children moving at the same time in different ways like touching their toes, standing on one foot, and turning around.  And in between getting all of the children moving, I also called out individual names for a little color recognition practice by saying things like “Pete the Cat wants Harrison to stand on red shoes!”…

But for most of the day, the children played on the game mat in their own way which is exactly what I hope to see!

Questions you may have

  • I don’t leave the contact paper on the floor (carpet or tile) for too many days because it can leave a sticky residue over time and be very difficult to get up off the carpet or floor.
  • I used clear packing tape to secure the edges of the contact paper at either end of the game mat.

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Our new white shoes

We have been reading many of the “Pete the Cat” books by Eric Litwin and the latest book we read was “Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes.” …

In this book, Pete the Cat takes a walk in his new white shoes and along the way steps in a pile of strawberries and more  which makes his shoes turn different colors…

The fun part about reading Pete the Cat books is the way each book is repetitive, predictable, and invites the children to join into the reading too…

After reading our story, the children went off to explore their own white shoe and a little shoestring art. At one table the children found white shoe shapes cut from cardboard and crayons…

On the other table, the children found white shoe strings and liquid food color…

The children decorated their shoes with the crayons…

And used the watered down liquid water color to dye their white shoestrings different colors…

Some of the children used the paint brushes to dye their shoe strings and others dipped the shoestrings in the liquid water color…

We had the table covered with several layers of paper towels so in the process, we had beautiful tie dyed paper towels too!  One child enjoyed the liquid water color so much that he stayed to dye the paper towels for a little while longer using a dropper…

Once the children finished with a shoestring, we wrapped it up in a dry paper towel and wrung it out for a few minutes.   Then each child laced his or her own shoestring through the holes in his or her own decorated shoe….

Every shoe turned out a little different and all were simply beautiful…

Questions you may ask

I got the shoestrings from the Dollar Store – I only needed one shoestring per child.

The cardboard I used was left over from the DIY Table Top Puppet Stage. (I used the left-over pieces cut out of the center of the stage for the shoes).

I used Coloration Liquid Water Color from Discount School Supply which is washable from the children’s hands but is brilliant in color.  I have also used Sargent brand as well.

We used Crayola Twistable Slick Stix to color our shoes.

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By | November 26th, 2012|Categories: Children's Books|Tags: , , |4 Comments

Reading “The Popcorn Book” by Tomie dePaola and more popcorn action

The bloggers of the Virtual Book Club are celebrating the works of Tomie dePaola this month and so my class has been reading a few of his books including our most recently read book titled, “The Popcorn Book”….

“The Popcorn Book” by Tomie dePaola has two stories going on at one time.  One story is about two children going through the process of making a bowl of popcorn and the second story is about the history of popcorn….

I focused more on reading the story of the two children making popcorn and as we read along, we stopped along the way to take a picture walk on the history of popcorn…

Popcorn is such a wonderful resource to read about and explore in the classroom.  To extend our reading of “The Popcorn Book,”  we had popcorn for snack and we filled our sensory table with popped popcorn as well. We had lots of popped popcorn – just like the children in the story did…

Some of my students used the measuring cups and bowls to scoop and pour popcorn and many of my students also chose to  create their own popcorn sensory bottle to take home with them…

In addition to exploring popped popcorn, my students also explored unpopped popcorn…

At the discovery table, my student enjoyed exploring and picking off the kernels of corn from the corn cobs we set out…

Trying to get the corn to come off the cob took some figuring out for the children. They tried scissors and tweezers and their fingers and finally decided that the best way to get the corn seeds off the corncob was to start by breaking the cob in half…

Once the corn cobs were broken in half, the corn seeds were much easier to pluck off the cobs….

And as a fun addition to the reading of “The Popcorn Book” by Tomie dePaola, we also learned a little popcorn fingerplay which goes like this…

Five little popcorns sitting in a pot

One got hot and it went POP!

As the children count down from five to zero, they all jump up on the word “Pop!”

We end with…

No more popcorn sitting in the pot

They all got hot and they all went “POP!”

So this was our fun day of exploring “The Popcorn Book” and real popcorn in our outdoor classroom centers. Don’t go away – see the linky at the end of this post for more great Tomie dePaola books and activities!

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Up and coming authors that will be shared in the Virtual Book Club include the following…

  • November 19th- Tomie de Paola
  • December 17th- Jan Brett
  • January 21st-David McPhail
  • February 18th-Dr. Seuss
  • March 18th-Julia Donaldson
  • April 15th-David Shannon
  • May 20th-Leo Lionni
  • June 17th-Gail Gibbons
  • July 15th- Jez Alborough
  • August 19th-Donald Crews

VirtualBookClub

To see more ideas from the other participating Virtual Book Club just check out the linky below! Remember, if you are viewing this post by email or in a RSS Reader, you may need to click on the title of this post to view the linky from the blog post…

Participating Bloggers

Toddler ApprovedMom to 2 Posh Lil DivasRainy Day MumReading ConfettiInspiration LaboratoriesPlay Dr. MomMommy and Me Book ClubKitchen Counter ChroniclesTwo Big Two LittleCreative Connections for KidsThe Golden GleamJuggling with KidsTaming the GoblinCrafty Moms ShareReady Set Read 2 MeFamiglia and SeoulThe Good Long RoadThe Educator’s Spin On ItImagination Soup3 DinosaursRoyal BalooBeing A ConsciousParentNo Twiddle TwaddleCrayon FrecklesThe Pleasantest ThingAdventures in Reading with KidsSmile, Play, LearnCreekside LearningOur Feminist Playschool, and Teach Preschool!

Tomie dePaola Virtual Book Club Linky

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  1. Link up only posts inspired by Tomie dePaola that share children’s book inspired crafts, activities, recipes, etc. Any other posts will be deleted.
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  3. Add our Virtual Book Club button to your post if you’d like.

 

DIY table top puppet stage and The Three Little Pigs

My students LOVE puppets and puppet shows so I made a few quick DIY puppet stages for the children to play with and introduced the stages to the children by presenting the story of “The Three Little Pigs”…

We have been talking about houses so “The Three Little Pigs” folktale is always a good fit for a housing unit since it includes the discussion of three different types of housing materials…

I collected what I needed for our puppet show including a bundle of sticks, some straw, and a brick and placed it all in a story telling bag. Oh, and of course I had three little pink pigs which I picked up at our local Deals store (kind of like a Dollar Store) and for after our puppet show, I decided to read this version of “The Three Little Pigs” by Paul Galdone which is based on the original folktale.

Now that I had all my materials together for the story of The Three Little Pigs, I also needed a puppet stage so I cut out a table top stage from a piece of science board which I also purchased at Deals. I started by cutting the cardboard science board in half (which gave me two table top stages)…

Next, I cut a hole in the middle of each stage and Mrs. Courtney helped me paint the back of each one.  I made three total for our puppet show and a few extra for play.  I painted one red (for brick), one yellow (for straw), and one brown (for wood)…

Instead of telling the original folktale to my students, I told a different version of the story – the one where all the pigs end up in the little brick house together and live happily ever after.  In the original folktale, the first two piggies actually get eaten up by the wolf but for the puppet show, I really didn’t want to have the big bad wolf eat my pink pigs…

The children played the role of the Big Bad Wolf. Each time it was time for the wolf to “huff and puff and blow the house in” the children would huff and puff and blow one of our puppet stages off the table and onto the floor. Then that little piggy would run over to his brother’s house and ask if he could stay with him…

Eventually, all three little pigs ended up in the brick house together only our wolves were not able to blow it down no matter how much they huffed and puffed…

After our puppet show, we read the original folktale of “The Three Little Pigs” by Paul Galdone and then compared the book version with the puppet show version.  My students decided that the wolf was not very nice at all and that if I let them play with my piggies, they would treat them much better than that mean old wolf…

The children have requested a return of our Three Little Pig Puppet show every day since I presented it and I am now preparing our next puppet show which I hope to share with them very soon.  In the meantime, the children have explored the puppet stages and our box of puppets on their own – creating their own puppet shows for each other…

Puppetry is a great way to promote story telling and to foster language, imagination, communication, and more. If you haven’t given puppetry a try – let me encourage you to do so!

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By | November 24th, 2012|Categories: DIY, Story Telling|Tags: , , , , |8 Comments

Our Thanksgiving chart

Before heading off to enjoy our Thanksgiving feast, we took a few minutes to share what we were thankful for…

As each child chose something to be thankful for, I printed their word on a sticky note and added a picture….

I gave the children their thankful notes and invited them to add their notes to our thankful chart…

We left more pads of sticky note paper on the table so the children could add more thankful notes to our chart throughout the morning as they wished…

Some of the children drew pictures on their notepads…

And others “wrote” words of thankfulness…

A very simple way to share our thoughts of thankfulness with each other!

 

I hope you have many things to be thankful for too and have a very

Happy Thanksgiving Day!

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By | November 21st, 2012|Categories: Holiday Ideas, Thanksgiving|Tags: , , , , |2 Comments

Sticky tube turkeys

You can add just about anything light in weight to a sticky tube but since we are still on our turkey tangent – we made sticky tube turkeys in our classroom this week….

To make a sticky tube, gather up empty paper towel or toilet paper tubes and wrap them with contact paper – sticky side facing out.  We stapled our contact paper to the tubes and had them ready to go before the kids arrived.  We just needed one quick activity to complete our day and this was it!…

To make a sticky tube turkey, the children found feathers and googly eyes on the table and simply stuck them on the tubes…

If they didn’t like where an eyeball or feather was placed, they could easily take it off the tube and stick it back on again in a new place…

We didn’t set out beaks or feet but you certainly could add more items for the children to decorate their tubes than we did.  Our students were happy just adding feathers and googly eyes and we had many other things going on that day so we kept it very simple…

Ok – so maybe they look more like owls or birds or fuzzy monsters but in any case, a sticky tube has lots of possibilities!

Oh – and lighter weight items like tissue paper, fluffy feathers, construction paper scraps, and small googly eyes work best – heavier items tend to fall off the sticky tube 🙂

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Feather tip salt tray writing

We are just beginning to introduce salt trays as a prewriting activity to our students…

Before introducing the salt tray as a name or letter writing activity, I let the children spend time exploring the salt trays or sand trays in different ways such as scooping, pouring, brushing, and moving the salt around in other ways and with other tools…

Some of the children still preferred to hide their names in the salt or play with the salt in other ways besides writing and we will continue to provide opportunities for other types of salt or sand play as we begin to redirect the salt tray writing to just a focus on some type of writing or drawing…

Today, we set out feathers for the children to explore the salt tray writing process…

The children used the stick end of the feather to write in their salt and the feathered end to erase their writing and start all over again…

We often change the writing tool to either go along with something we are exploring or just to keep the writing process interesting…

I thought the children did a terrific job at their first salt tray writing experience!

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By | November 20th, 2012|Categories: Reading and Writing Readiness|Tags: , , , |6 Comments

Goin on a turkey hunt

We have been reading a variety of books about Thanksgiving and in many of our books, the authors show the historical story of how the Pilgrims sailed across the ocean and came to a new land only to find that they didn’t know how to survive in this new land.  What the children have found most interesting in these books are the Indians who made their own bows and arrows and taught the Pilgrims how to hunt for food.  Building on the children’s interest we made our own bows and arrows and then went on a turkey hunt…

We had to brainstorm what we would need to make our bows and arrows and the children easily decided that we could make them from sticks – so off they went to gather sticks.  The children had to find sticks that were long and perhaps had a bit of a curve or arch for their bows and then shorter sticks for their arrows.  This meant we had to do lots of searching, comparing, and collecting of sticks for our hunt…

We also needed turkeys to hunt.  Each child threw together a paper bag turkey but we noticed that we had flat turkeys and no hunter wants to eat a flat turkey…

The children took their paper bag turkeys outside to fill them up with leaves. While we were stuffing our turkeys with leaves, one of my students asked me, “Mrs. Stewart, Do turkeys eat leaves?”  What a great question!…

Once our turkeys were stuffed and the ends were tied off, the children went back outside and hid their turkeys…

And finally we went back to making our bows and arrows…

The children wrapped their bows with a special kind of tape (which I will share more about soon) while Mrs. Courtney and I tied a large rubber band on the ends of each bow to make the string of the bow…

Here is a look at a few of our completed bows…

Now that we had our bows ready to go, the children went outside to gather more sticks for their arrows and hunt for their turkeys….

I was a little worried that we might have kids accidentally shooting each other with their arrows but I didn’t have to worry because we spent most of our time just trying to figure out how to hold the bow and the arrow in the right position in order to get the bow to spring up into the air.  This was quite challenging and most of the children did not have the coordination to get an arrow to shoot anywhere at all.  The entire turkey hunt preparation and adventure was lots of fun for the children and the children loved the adventure of it all and so did I!

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By | November 19th, 2012|Categories: Holiday Ideas, Thanksgiving|Tags: , , , |1 Comment