Magnetic Hearts

After magnetic rocks were found in the desert centuries ago, people have tinkered around with them and found all sorts of inventive ways to use the push and pull of polarized materials. You’ll find magnets everywhere these days, even colorful magnetic alphabet letters.

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For this activity, your little ones learned about what magnetism is and how it works.

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First, it was explained that when magnetism was first documented, the Greek philosopher Thales of Milletus (585 BC) noticed that a certain stone (called lodestone) stuck to metals made with iron. Other materials, such as rubber and wood, didn’t have that effect. Your little one would soon discover why! They were then handed a magnetic wand. Next, it was explained that some things would stick to the magnet, while others would not.

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Following this, students were given a variety of different materials, noting how some stuck to the wand, while others fell off. Lastly, your budding magnetic masters were given a plastic bottle filled with pipe cleaners in the shape of hearts, watching with glee as they stuck to their wands!

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Dancing Conversation Hearts

This activity allowed all of us to become scientists! Using baking soda, vinegar, water, and conversation hearts, we learned how to make candy dance!

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Students first added a tablespoon of baking soda to their bowls, stirring, and watching it dissolve with the water. Then they carefully picked out a conversation heart and dropped them into the solution. Holding a ramekin, your little ones slowly poured in about 1/4 cup of vinegar.

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Then we sat back and watched with super excitement as the hearts began bobbing up, down and all around the cup. When baking soda is added to the solution, carbon dioxide gas bubbles begin forming.  These gas bubbles stick to the conversation hearts, pulling them up as they rise to the surface. When the gas bubbles burst, the hearts fall back down until enough bubbles form to pull it back up again. The up and down movement makes it appear as though the hearts are wriggling and dancing.

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Manipulating Hearts

Manipulative play is great for young children eager to learn how the environment around them works.

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As children play with manipulatives, they grow an understanding of spacial recognition, concepts of size, shape, and weight, hand-eye coordination, and fine motor skills.

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We use manipulatives to teach a variety of different things in our classroom.

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For this activity, we used plastic and paper hearts to create the letter H.

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Writing can be especially frustrating for the young child, as they are still strengthening the small muscles in their hands.

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Manipulatives allow them to create letters without the frustration.

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Engineering with Candy Hearts

Young children are naturally curious.

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They wonder what things are called, how they work, and why things happen.

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The foundations of scientific learning lie in inquiry and exploration — these are the tools of active learning.

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Fostering young children’s sense of curiosity about the natural world around them can promote a lifelong interest in it.

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To do so, children need to observe things first-hand as much as possible.

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The younger the children, the simpler and more concrete the activities need to be.

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For this activity, we used gummy hearts and toothpicks to create structures. This enabled your little ones to become engineers!

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Though engineering may seem like a daunting task for the preschooler, we use problem-based learning to introduce such concepts.

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Problem-based learning allows students to control the direction and pace of their learning by means of problems that are centered around an open-ended challenge.

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Activities that promote investigation, creative critical thinking, and hands-on subject matter are central to problem-based learning.

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Counting Hearts

Using candy hearts, we learned about measurement, counting, and numbers! To begin with, each child was given five paper hearts with various numbers written on them.

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They then placed a number of candy hearts onto each paper, counting as they did so. After this, we talked about what the various numbers look like. Lastly, we recounted our hearts to double check our answers!

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By counting, young children gain an understanding of concrete relationships.

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Students also learn that each object gets one number. In gaining insight of these relationships, they acquire a basic understanding of the abstract.

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Children at this age also need such experiences to relay abstract concepts.

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They may look at a number on a piece of paper, but not make the association between that number and an amount.

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Red Tinsel and the Letter H

Children (and adults) learn best and retain the most information when they engage their senses.

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By giving children the opportunity to investigate materials with no preconceived knowledge, they develop and refine their cognitive, social and emotional, physical, creative and linguistic skillsets.

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For this activity, we searched for hearts and letter Hs in bins of red tinsel.

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Once these items were located, your little ones were directed to place their Hs onto Hs that were drawn on the sidewalk, and their hearts into heart-shaped bowls.

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The primary cognitive skills sharpened by this sensory play were problem solving and decision making; students were presented with a problem and various materials with which to find a solution.

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This activity also allowed your budding writers to be in complete control of their actions and experiences, which boosted their confidence in decision making and inspired their eagerness to learn and experiment.

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This kind of sensory play also teaches kids about cooperation and collaboration.

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As the children work together or side by side, they learn to understand someone else’s viewpoint.

Shaving Cream and the Letter V

Prewriting activities for preschool children below are a great way to build essential, foundational fine motor skills.

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These skills will include hand strength, directional movement patterns, and effective hand position, which will then facilitate making lines, letters, and shapes.

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All development comes in predictable stages. Before a child can write, he must have the prerequisite fine motor skills necessary to use his wrist and hands properly and effectively. For this activity, we used shaving cream, food coloring, and our fingers to trace the letter V, for valentine! Students initially combined the shaving cream with their food coloring, and then added this mixture to their trays. Using their fingers, they traced the letter V, going from up to down and left to right.

Exploding Hearts

Preschoolers are actively engaged in scientific learning, both inside the classroom and out. As they ask questions and seek answers to their “how” and “why” questions, they are beginning to practice scientific investigation. Science is also a way to find out about the world through exploration. Children are investigators by nature. When their natural desire to investigate is nurtured,  young children develop scientific minds.

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In our classroom, we create environments that engage the senses of our young students and allow them to sort and classify, handle, observe, and ask questions, which is how they construct ideas about the physical and natural world.

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For this activity, we used vinegar, baking soda, and plastic hearts to create exploding hearts! Introducing chemistry to young children at the beginning of their academic journeys is very exciting and aids their capacity to grasp more elaborate scientific concepts later on. Chemistry also provides an exciting supplement to their learning as they perceive and learn about predictable actions. Lastly, experiments conducted independently make them more meaningful to your little scientist!

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Valentine’s Playdough

You can squish it through your fingers. You can roll it into a ball. You can do pretty much anything with it! It’s playdough! But did you know, playdough can also provide valuable hands-on learning experiences to support your child’s growth in the classroom? Playdough can provide enjoyable and satisfying experiences for young children, but it is not just a “fun” activity. In our classroom, we use this pliable learning tool to address early learning standards and observe your little one’s progress in numerous areas of development.

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When young children manipulate playdough, they compare and contrast objects, actions, and experiences. In their experimenting, children come up with their own ideas, satisfy their curiosity, and analyze and solve problems. These are all skills that help children learn and succeed in school.

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This seemingly simple material can also provide integrated learning experiences in the following cognitive areas.

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Because of the interactive nature of playdough use, children need to listen, understand the communication of others, speak, and practice their oral communication skills as they mold and manipulate their playdough constructions.

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The tactile experience of manipulating playdough helps children develop a deeper understanding of how matter changes (physics) and encourages them to use scientific thinking as they observe changes, make predictions, and talk through differences in the materials they are using.

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Mixing up a new batch of play dough with adults is one way in which playdough engages children in mathematical learning as they measure and count recipe ingredients.

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Discussions about shape, relative size (greater than, equal to, or less than), height, length, and weight provide additional opportunities for children to develop mathematical understandings.

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The fine motor skills needed for writing and drawing are refined as children roll, poke, and shape their playdough creations.

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For this particular activity, we used playdough to create a variety of Valentines-themed baked goods.

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Students were given cookie cutters, plastic knives, cupcake holders, cake stands, jewels for “sprinkles”, and their imaginations to bring about an array of delicious goodies! We worked with our friends, displayed our creations, and did it all over again!

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Rainbow Loom Sorting and Patterning Activity

A loom is a tool used in weaving to help knit threads together to make a single piece of cloth. Loom technology is ancient, dating back at least to ancient Greek society. Since the invention of mechanized looms, large scale fabric production has become much more common.

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With a little creativity, the loom serves several developmental purposes for the preschool child. Using pipe cleaners adjusted into the shape of a circle, your little one sorted and created patterns on their looms. This taught your little ones important skills like focusing on a task and following directions.

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And planning color combinations and deciding how to use them in different patterns also stimulated creativity. This goes along with persistence, and it’s an important skill for young children to have as they enter their school-age years.

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As children learn, they will rarely succeed the first time, and will need to be patient to keep trying again. Not becoming frustrated and knowing how to work through setbacks–which can definitely happen as learn how to make different and more complicated patterns on the loom–is an important skill for preschoolers to develop.

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Putting all those tiny pipe cleaners together also requires some good fine-motor coordination.  What will something look like when it’s created using a pattern? How does an object or a shape appear when it’s turned upside down, sideways, and rotated? When working with the loom, students developed all these skills as they created the patterns they wanted to make. And being able to visualize things is an important skill in math, which makes the loom a deceptively fun math-related activity.

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