Christmas Tree Play Dough

The evergreen fir tree has traditionally been used to celebrate winter festivals (pagan and Christian) for thousands of years. Pagans used branches of it to decorate their homes during the winter solstice, as it made them think of the spring to come. The Romans used fir trees to decorate their temples at the festival of Saturnalia.

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Nobody is really sure when fir trees were first used as Christmas trees. It probably began about 1000 years ago in Northern Europe. Many early Christmas Trees seem to have been hung upside down from the ceiling using chains (hung from chandeliers/lighting hooks). To create our own version of the early Christmas tree, we created our very own using play dough and jewels!

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Using play dough helps a child practice using certain physical skills with the hands when they manipulate the dough with their fingers. Children can practice skills such as pinching, squeezing or poking while they play with the dough. Lastly, using play dough helps a child practice using imagination and other cognitive abilities such imitation, symbolism and problem solving. This helps our little ones learn more about their environment as they make and mimics everyday objects with the play dough.

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Turkey Nests

Wild Turkeys live year-round in open forests with interspersed clearings in 49 states (excluding Alaska), parts of Mexico, and parts of southern Alberta, Ontario, Manitoba, and Saskatchewan, Canada.

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Turkeys in northeastern North America use mature oak-hickory forests and humid forests of red oak, beech, cherry, and white ash.

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They nest on the ground in dead leaves at the bases of trees, under brush piles or thick shrubbery, or occasionally in open hayfields.

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To help us understand the world of the turkey, we created our very own turkey nests!

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Turkey Feather Ts

There are so many ways to strengthen pre-reading and pre-writing skills that have nothing to do with books or worksheets!

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Young children can easily become frustrated with writing, because their gross motor skills are developing faster than their fine motor skills.

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It is not until they turn five or six that they can truly master writing implements.

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But… that doesn’t mean that they still can’t have fun with letters! In Miss Carrie’s class, we like to think outside of the box. For this activity your little ones were encouraged to read and write in a very special way.

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Because our activities relate to a theme (in this case, Thanksgiving), we tend to keep them within certain parameters.

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This particular week involved learning all about turkeys and the letter T. This was a two part activity. First, students were given play dough that they were told to roll into two separate rolls.

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Then they connected each roll to form a T. Next, they placed feathers into the T. Lastly, they added feathers, googly eyes, and a pipe cleaner (for the beak) to create letter T turkeys!

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The Floating Mayflower

Young children enjoy learning about how things work.

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By participating in science activities, they are learning important critical thinking and observation skills.

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These activities also promote their inherent sense of curiosity about the world.

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For this activity we experimented with sinking and floating.

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Using blocks and sails (toothpicks and paper), we recreated the Mayflower, and then placed them in water to observe whether they would sink or float.

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It took a little time, but eventually everyone figured out how to balance their boats so that they would stay afloat!

The Common House

The first house that Pilgrims built in America was called a Common House. It was used to store food and provisions.

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During the first winter in America, it also served as a hospital. The construction of this building was simple. The Pilgrims first used logs and then sticks to make the walls.

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Sand, clay, water and straw were then mixed together to cover the walls, and the roof was made of reeds and wild grasses.

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Within a year after landing in America, the Pilgrims had built seven houses and four other buildings.  For this activity, your little one created this exciting structure using a variety of materials.

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They were then given some pilgrims they used to recreate the story of its construction.

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Young children love to create stories and scenarios that apply recently acquired knowledge. Their imaginative brains are constantly conceiving plots and characters for even the simplest of things. This tendency for creative story building can be incorporated into any curriculum.

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Turkey Baster Water Transfer

Using turkey basters, plastic bowls, a plastic turkey, and colored water, we practiced moving water from one container to another!

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This activity incorporated several developmental tasks.

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It enabled your little one to formulate ideas based on quantity and space.

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It also helped your little one improve coordination.

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Lastly, by transferring the liquid among the different compartments, your little one was given the opportunity to estimate how much should be poured into each compartment so that the amounts were equal.

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This was a two part activity.

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Following the transfer of water into another container, each student then saturated a plastic turkey with water!

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Flint Kernel Counting

Flint corn, or Indian corn, is one of the oldest varieties of corn, a type that Native Americans taught the early colonists how to cultivate. Its kernels, which come in a range of colors including white, blue and red, have “hard as flint” shells, giving this type of corn its name.

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Flint corn kernels contain a small amount of soft starch surrounded completely by a larger amount of hard starch, which means the kernels shrink uniformly when drying and are dent-free and less prone to spoiling (and therefore ideal for autumnal décor). Despite its tough exterior, this type of corn can be consumed by livestock and humans, and is used in such dishes as hominy and polenta.

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Using flint corn kernels, tweezers, and ice cube trays, we continued to hone our fine motor skills! For this activity, students grasped kernels and counted them as they placed them into the correct compartment. Using tweezers helps your little ones continue their mastery of the pincer grasp, and placing the kernels into the trays encourages concentration, and hand eye coordination. Young children often have difficulty in manipulating a variety of utensils required for fine motor control, but providing them with this variety helps improve awareness of their hand.

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Mayflower Building

Hands-on learning is an integral component in early childhood education.

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The manipulation and experimenting of materials provide a reference of learned concepts, and enables young children to construct meaningful experiences that aid their ability to commit new information to memory.

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For this activity, your little one learned about shipbuilding in colonial America. To tie this in to our Thanksgiving theme, we discussed how the pilgrims sailed to the United States on a boat called the Mayflower.

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They also learned that they were at sea for sixty-six days and landed at Plymouth Rock in the year 1620.

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Using styrofoam blocks, blocks, small boxes, and “sails”, we created our own version of the Mayflower!

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We then added small people as our pilgrims to supplement our play.

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Cornucopia

We have all come to recognize the cornucopia as a symbol of Thanksgiving or the fall harvest and many of us use one to decorate our  dining room tables as the centerpiece to our traditional feast. There is more, however, to this horn-shaped figure than meets the eye. Its name, entered into the English dictionary in 1508, originates from two Latin words; Cornu meaning “horn” and Copia meaning “plenty”. Hence the nickname Horn of Plenty, which in most cases today refers to an abundance of something.
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In ancient times and in cases associated with Thanksgiving, it refers to a horn-shaped basket or hallowed out gourd filled with fruits and vegetables gathered from a good harvest and sometimes may contain flowers for added beauty.
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To incorporate the cornucopia into our Thanksgiving curriculum, we used magnets. We did this by attaching magnetic food to the inside of magnetic cornucopias.
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By placing the food inside a fixed space (a cone-shaped cornucopia), your children practiced representation (making mathematical ideas real by using objects – the magnets), spatial sense (practicing position, size, and space), and estimation (how many magnets will fit inside?).
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