Salt tray mazes

In our classroom, we have used salt trays in many different ways to promote handwriting skills.  Come discover how our preschool children also used their engineering skills to create their own salt tray mazes…

Salt tray mazes by Teach Preschool

The inspiration for this activity came from our very own big cardboard box maze.  You can read all about it here.  After playing with our large cardboard box maze as a group, we wanted the children to be able to recreate their own personal-sized mazes to explore…

Salt tray mazes by Teach Preschool

This activity is super simple to set up.  First set out trays or shoe box lids.  These mini art trays are available from Discount School Supply or United Arts and Education.  Add just enough salt to cover the bottom of each tray.  Lastly, set out straws that have been cut down to a variety of lengths.  Before the children were set loose to explore this activity on their own, we demonstrated a few ways that they could create their mazes…

Salt tray mazes by Teach Preschool

We also shared with the children a few tips and reminders about how to play with the salt trays.   We reminded the children that this isn’t a scooping and pouring activity.  Throughout the school year, we give the children plenty of opportunity to scoop and pour with a variety of sensory materials.  This isn’t one of those opportunities.  Instead, we asked that they use the salt just for writing or drawing or tracing with their fingers.  We showed the children how to gently shake or tap the tray on the table to “erase” the salt lines that they created.  With a few guidelines in place, the children are free to explore writing and drawing in the salt trays as they wish…

Salt tray mazes by Teach Preschool

Some children enjoyed laying the straws out in various patterns, while others focused on creating shapes…

Salt tray mazes by Teach Preschool

Some of the mazes that the children built were amazing!  The colorful straw mazes were complete with dead ends, forcing their little fingers to backtrack to find an alternate route…

Salt tray mazes by Teach Preschool

These salt tray mazes were a lot of fun for the children to create.  Activities that promote fine motor skills and explore engineering concepts don’t have to be time consuming or costly…

Salt tray mazes by Teach Preschool

You can create amazing opportunities for exploration with simple things found around your home or classroom.  What fun everyday materials have you been exploring with lately?

Salt Tray Mazes by Teach Preschool

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Links to grow on:

Feather tip salt tray writing by Teach Preschool

Counting activity: A maze of numbers by Hands On: As We Grow

Moon dust sensory writing tray by The Imagination Tree

Salt tray heart printing and writing

We brought out our salt trays for the children to explore this week and will continue to bring them out over the rest of the school year at different times.  This week, we invited the children to explore salt tray printing and writing…

Salt Tray Heart Printing and Writing by Teach Preschool

It always seems, now that I look back, that January is a good time to introduce the salt trays.  Up until this time, we spend time in the sand and salt and through other means of play scooping and pouring and digging (and we will continue to do so) but by this time of the school year the children are more ready to focus and use the salt trays for printing and writing…

Salt Tray Heart Printing and Writing by Teach Preschool

I always discuss the salt tray process  with the children first to give the children a few boundaries and understanding of why the salt trays are out and how they are to be used.  The children easily understand that the salt trays are different than when we play in the sand table or our other sensory tray play…

Salt Tray Heart Printing and Writing by Teach Preschool

To invite different types of printing and writing, I like to set out cookie cutters with the salt trays. This week, we were talking about hearts so I set out heart shaped cookie cutters along with the salt trays…

Salt Tray Heart Printing and Writing by Teach Preschool

I have found that if the children can blend a little creative printing along with the salt tray writing, that it stays more interesting and inviting to give the salt tray a try…

Salt Tray Heart Printing and Writing by Teach Preschool

Some of the children like to print their names in the salt while other enjoy printing with the hearts while others prefer a combination of both…

Salt Tray Heart Printing and Writing by Teach Preschool

It is important to keep in mind that you shouldn’t overfill the tray with salt. A shallow amount of salt in the tray produces a better result when the children are using their fingers or other tools for writing or drawing or printing…

Salt Tray Heart Printing and Writing by Teach Preschool

It is also important to remember that if the children are asking for more salt in their trays, the chances are that they are wanting to scoop and play with the salt versus print or write in it.  If they really need to scoop and play – offer up a second table for this purpose so the children will keep the salt tray process focused on writing rather than on sensory type play…

Salt Tray Heart Printing and Writing by Teach Preschool

My students really took their time with the salt tray writing this week and we will continue to add gradual changes to the process or materials so they will stay interested in the salt tray writing process…

Salt Tray Heart Printing and Writing by Teach Preschool

We did not have a “right” or “wrong” approach to the writing and printing process. It was and is and will continue to be an invitation to explore the writing and printing process…

Salt Tray Heart Printing and Writing by Teach Preschool

As the children print or write in their tray, they simply erase their work by giving the tray a little shake…

Salt Tray Heart Printing and Writing by Teach Preschool

The shake-to-erase method is partly what makes salt tray writing and printing such an inviting process. With a little shake, the writing or printing disappears and you can begin again…

Shake and Erase Hearts

I am excited to bring back the salt trays and like last year, we will expand on our use of the salt trays over time…

Salt Tray Heart Printing and Writing by Teach Preschool

And every good salt tray experience almost always ends up with the best handprints ever!!

Salt Tray Heart Printing and Writing by Teach Preschool

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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

Six unique ways to use scrap wood in preschool

I have it from a good source that you can visit most residential home building sites and ask nicely for some of their scrap wood and they will give it to you.  In fact, bring a box because often times there is a lot of scrap wood available….

But there are a few things to consider…

  • Some of the boards that we collected have been cut into smaller pieces by my husband so they would work better for our class.
  • If you ask really nice, you might be able to get the construction site workers to cut their scrap wood down for you too.
  • Ask the construction site workers to tell you the differences in the types of wood or explore with them on your own a bit to see how they will work for you.
  • Some wood on constructions sites (not all) is “treated wood” so you will want to see if they have wood that is not chemically treated for most things you do with the children.
  • You should plan to keep a set of sanding sponges or some sand paper handy so you can smooth up the rough edges where needed.

I taught my students how to sand their own boards for some of our projects and for other projects, I lightly sanded the boards myself. We spent time in my class talking about how to handle the rough boards, how to pull off splintered pieces from the board, and how to sand the boards.  My students are so capable when it comes to the scrap wood – I think it is because it is considered a special type of wood that they get to create with and explore…

Scrapwood sanding and painting

For this process, we set out scrap wood, sanding sponges, and Colorations Liquid Watercolor Paint.  You could probably use any kind of paint for painting wood but the watercolor paint lets the children still see the grain (lines) of the wood while still adding color.  The children sanded their rough edges (which really were not that rough) and then painted all over their boards any way they wished…

Scrapwood geoboards

I made these geoboards last year from scrap wood.  You can see how I made them by clicking on this title: “I made my very own Geoboards!”. My students play with the scrap wood geoboards almost daily. One of my goals this year is to let my students make their own geoboards from scrap wood.  As soon as I get enough boards collected in the right size and thickness, we will give it a try…

Outdoor play with scrapwood

Another way my students love to explore scrap wood is to take it outdoors and build with it.  We haven’t used hammer or nails for our building as of yet. Instead, we used the scrap wood kind of like over-sized and unusual-shaped building blocks to stack or arrange.  While exploring the scrap wood outdoors, my students have learned to think about what they are doing. They consider whether a boards is balanced or if it will hold their weight or if it will be sturdy enough to stay in place as they continue to design their structure.  Using scrap boards for “loose parts” play is a great process for building teamwork and collaboration…

Scrapwood drawing boards 

To promote writing and drawing, we set out scrap wood and markers and a few measuring tools.  The children in my class love to draw on scrap wood. Their imaginations will get them using the wood for the unexpected like making their own keyboard/piano and is a fun way to practice writing their names…

Weighing scrapwood

I like to blend the scrap wood with a variety of tools like these scales for a little scrap wood weighing…

Scrapwood Journals

In our outdoor classroom, I made a few scrap wood journals for the children to write on.  I used a staple gun to attach scrap paper to the boards and introduced leaf rubbings on this particular occasion.  If the children wished to tear their drawing or paper off the board to take home they were invited to do so.  Adding more paper to the board is simple to do as needed.

Of course there are many other ways to use scrap wood in preschool. Perhaps you have some ideas you have tried with your preschoolers or things you have made for your preschoolers using scrap wood.  If so, leave a comment below and share your scrapping ideas with us! We are always looking for more ways to explore our scrap wood!

Ants in the salt tray plus more

Soon I will be introducing my prek students to the use of a salt tray as a tool to promote prewriting skills but to introduce the children to writing in salt, we explored ants in the salt tray…

But before I tell you about our ants in the salt tray, let me back track just a bit to share with you the wonderful book (recommended to us by Mrs. T, one of our grandparents) that we read about ants…

“Hey, Little Ant” by Phillip Hoose, Hannah Hoose, and Debbie Tilley is about an ant that spends the entire book giving reasons why the little boy should not step on him.  Super cute book that leaves the children with the question of what would they do? Would they step on the ant?

After reading “Hey, Little Ant,” we extended the circle time discussion on ants by singing “There’s an Ant Crawling on the Floor” available here and having ants crawl on us during the song…

Then we looked at a few ants on a log….

And took a very quick peak at the life cycle of an ant as we passed the magnifier jars around the circle…

Each of our magnifier jars had one toy in it which represented one stage of the life cycle of an ant inside…

And we had ants on a log for snack time…

And finally we were off to explore our ants in the salt tray….

The children used their fingers to draw ant tunnels in the salt and the tweezers to put the ants in and out of the tunnels or in most cases, just in and out of the salt…

We set out all the materials we had used in during our morning discussion for the children to explore as well…

A simple pre-prewriting experience for the children to explore and, as always, a good work out for those fine motor skills is always an important aspect of preparing young children for the writing process…

But wait – we also drew our own ants on a log too! But I will show you that process in my next post!

Available on Amazon

 

 

Be sure to check out all the Life Cycle Kits!

Links to Grow On

Writing in Salt by Teach Preschool

Ant Art by The Chocolate Muffin Tree

Ants on Anthills by Moments of Mommyhood

Tools for play inspire the desire to write

Mrs. Courtney and I spend a lot of time working out which tools for play we want to make sure we put together for the kids to use in our classroom….

Our primary goal in planning each day is to come up with different processes that not only promote growth and development, but also inspire growth and development…

Along with any process or play activity, we consider what type of growth and development might be inspired by this process and what kinds of tools for play can we add without it becoming too cluttered on the table and yet still keeping it interesting and inviting for the children…

Part of inspiring children is to bring in processes that the children are already showing an interest in. My students have been asking me to set out the telephones for play since the very first week of school so I went and dusted them off and we set them out in our outdoor classroom…

The telephones inspire conversation and imagination and role play all by themselves but I wanted to also inspire the children to do a little writing so I added clipboards, pencils, and paper to the table as well…

The telephones partnered with the clipboards, pencils, and paper did indeed inspire the process of writing in my classroom….

Some of the children are writing numbers and letters that I can recognize and others are not yet at the point where their writing can be “read by the teacher” but the important thing to keep in mind is that the children, regardless of developmental readiness, are each inspired to write something…

Available on Amazon

Links to Grow on

Everyday Dramatic Play by Teach Preschool

Sticky paper shape tracing in preschool

Often times, when I watch my preschoolers try and trace an object, I find them struggling to hold the object in place.  One idea to introduce the tracing process to young children is to have them trace objects on the sticky side of contact paper…

Set out contact paper, sticky side up, on a table.  It will be best to tape or secure the edges of the contact paper to the table so it doesn’t move around or pop up as the children trace their shapes…

Invite the children to firmly press the flat side of a cookie cutter or stencil on the contact paper then use a marker to trace the shape…

We used permanent markers to trace our shapes.  I know that many of you are not too sure about using permanent markers and you will need to use your best judgement. However, I must say that we used permanent markers all throughout our school year and the children did a wonderful job using them, taking care of them, and not writing all over themselves in the process…

Many of my students decided it would be fun to color the insides of their shapes. How the children chose to explore this process was left completely wide open…

A simple way to help hold the tracing tool in place while working on those fine motor skills!

Please note: The use of permanent markers should not be used if they emit a strong odor at this can make them not feel well. This activity may work with other kinds of markers or crayons but I have not tried it yet. Our markers did not have a strong odor.

By | August 14th, 2012|Categories: Reading and Writing Readiness|Tags: , , |3 Comments

Writing with light and shadows

On occasion, I like to pull out my overhead projector for the children to enjoy a little exploration of light and shadows.  On this occasion, I invited the children to explore the overhead projector in a number of ways…

To start out, I set up the projector so it pointed to a large wall and covered the wall with white paper to use as our projecting canvas…

While some of the children arranged shapes (plastic gems) on the projector the other children used a crayon to try and trace the shapes on the wall. As you can see, our light was a little bigger than our paper so we had to try and find the shapes that were actually on the paper before drawing…

The children also used the light and paper on the wall to try and draw their own shadows…

This was particularly challenging since the children had to figure out how to stand out of the way of their shadow and still draw around their shadow all at the same time…

There are many ways we can explore light and shadows with the overhead projector but this was the children’s first time to explore with the overhead projector so for today, the children focused primarily on using their eyes to follow the shadows and their crayons to either trace or to mark the shadows…

Super simple and very fun too!

Available on Amazon

 

Links to Grow On

Art Project: Overhead Projector from Tinkerlab

S is for Shadow from Preschool Daze

Using the Overhead Projector from Teaching Two and Three Year Olds

Reading with young children: a picture walk

There are many ways to promote reading skills at home or in the classroom setting. Today, I would like to share with you the process of taking a picture walk…

Selecting quality books

Before taking a picture walk it is a good idea to choose children’s books that have interesting, meaningful, and simple illustrations that capture young children’s attention and will promote conversation about what is happening on each page of the book…

Start with the cover 
Start with the cover of the book and use the illustration on the cover of the book to promote conversation about what the book might be about. “While exploring the cover of the book, use language like “cover” and “spine” to familiarize young children with the features of a book.” (Vanessa Levin)…

Take a picture walk

A picture walk is simply going through the pages of the book before reading it aloud with the children and using the illustrations to determine what is happening on each page of the book…

One goal of a picture walk is to help children draw connections between the words on the page and the illustrations they see on the page.   As young children grow familiar with a book they enjoy, they will use the illustrations to help them recall information about what is happening in the book or what the words say in the book.

A second goal of a picture walk is to help young children gain meaning from the pages of the book. As young children look through the pictures and express their thoughts about what they think is happening in each picture, they begin to build their reading comprehension skills (Vanessa Levin).   Through a picture walk, young children are able to discover that the book goes beyond just words on a page – it is instead a story that has meaning, action, and characters that they can get to know and love…

After we take a picture walk and read a book together, I make sure to keep the book available in our classroom library for the children to read on their own.  Because we have read the book together and explored the pictures together, I find that when my students “read” the books on their own time, they will naturally look through the pictures and talk about what is happening on each page. I love listening to their versions of the story as they take their own picture walks…

I also find that by modeling a picture walk for my students, that they often want to be the “teacher” and lead their friends through a picture walk too…

Starting early

Don’t forget that picture walks can begin even with our youngest learners.  This is my grandson and I taking our own picture walk…

Special Thanks

In preparing for this post, I asked my good friend and fellow blogger Vanessa Levin of Pre-k Pages to share some of her thoughts on this topic as well. Thank you Vanessa for your help and support!

Books from Amazon

   

Links to grow on

Pre-K Literacy Reading Workshop from Pre-K Pages

Ten Tips for Read Aloud Learning from Teach Mama

Taking a Picture Walk from Hands and Voices

Early Reading Strategies: Picture Walk from 1,2,3 Teach With Me

 

Writing in salt

Adding a salt tray or salt box to your classroom is a wonderful way to promote pre-writing skills and I have been exploring different possible ways to keep the salt trays interesting and engaging for the children in my classroom but yet still keep the children primarily focused on the writing process…

I have written about the use of a salt tray before in the post titled, “Printing in the Salt Tray in PreK.” After writing that post, I received an email and photo from Nancy Ernest, one of my readers, that said…

Nancy’s Salt Tray

“We use a salt tray in our classroom and encourage them to use just their fingers in the tray (vs sensory table when it has sand which is whole hand). Our salt tray has only about 1/3 cup of salt in it so that they get a visual of what they “write” in the tray. Having a dark color on the bottom of the container is valuable. Dark colored cake pans or cookie sheets work fine. And yes it does take some self control for them not to put their whole hand in. It happens but they gradually work towards appropriate use.”

In an effort to apply Nancy’s advice and to make the process interesting for my students, I changed up the process for my pre-k students and they really enjoyed the change….

The first thing the children do when they come to the table is choose a color of construction paper for use on the bottom of their tray…

Next, the children pour one scoop of salt on their piece of construction paper…

Then the children either use their hand to spread the salt out just a bit or they lightly shake the tray to spread the salt out on their paper…

Then the children use their writing tool (we used stiff paint brushes) to write with in the salt…

In between each writing process, the children can flatten or shake the salt again and then start writing again…

If the children wish to change the color of paper they are writing on, they simply pour the salt back into the salt box, select a new color of paper, place a new scoop of salt back on the paper and start again…

I found that by using only one scoop of salt on the paper, the children were better able to see their marks in the salt….

By adding the process of selecting their own color; scooping and spreading the salt; then sifting the salt back into the salt box when finished, the children stayed more engaged and interested in the overall process of writing in the salt tray…

Books from Amazon 

Links to Grow On…

Sensory: Salt Trays, Stencils, and Salt Art from Creativity My Passion

Salt and Watercolor Painting from An Indiana Mom!

How to Teach Your Child to Write Their Name using a Salt Sensory Tray from Creative with Kids

Rainbow Salt : Inspiration Surrounds Creativity Abounds

By | March 16th, 2012|Categories: Reading and Writing Readiness, Sensory Play|Tags: , , |5 Comments