Early Childhood Education Curriculum Series

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

I spent the early years ( and many years after ) of my teaching career in early childhood.  While I was working on my teaching credential I was teaching preschool in the am and running the after care in the afternoon.  Then straight off to night classes about 45 minutes from my home and job.  It was tiring but packed full of valuable learning experiences.

I fell in love with teaching during this time right after my undergrad degree!  

dramatic play, sequencing, fine motor skills preschool kindergarten

I have learned a lot over the 26 years that I have been an educator and I will continue to  make learning and growing a priority in my life.  

One of the things that I was able to see a direct relationship with in my teaching was working with fine motor skillsIf I was able to build them up in a child I was able to see a direct relation to their improved writing/drawing skills. 

I knew the time I spent preparing fine motor activities for them was going to pay off big time when it came to them holding a pencil, scissors, etc.

That is one of the reasons that I developed my GROW product series on TPT.  My desire as is yours I suspect since you are here reading this is for your students' growth.  We want to celebrate the growth of our students in all areas:  SEL, academic, etc.  In order to do that we need to give them the TOOLS they need to experience that growth so that's how my GROW series evolved.  

Anything that I see as a 'growth' promoter for young learners is included in this series.  I cover fine motor skill actitivites, social activities, pre reading activites and more. 

Below is just a small sample of my grow series that I have started, I have products in my store currently that I am changing covers to and adding to this series.

Pokey pin art - builds fine motor skills and confidence ( not shown but available in my store )
Tracing - builds fine motor skills and confidence - preparing your student for future success in writing, grasping etc.
Dramatic play centers - build social AND emotional skills in young children.  Learning to take turns, delegate and accept 'jobs' within the roles of dramatic play.  Learning to be disappointed when they didn't get a role they wanted right away.  Talking, interacting, imaginative play are all so VITAL in kids  nowadays and lacking in my opinion.
Sequencing pictures - a great pre reading skill as children are learning to navigate stories/events have a beginning, middle and an end.  
Sensory bins ( not shown but availabe in my store )- Perfect for using their pincher grasp to pick up the sight words or cards in the bin amongst rice or paper or cotton balls, etc.

dramatic play, sequencing, fine motor skills preschool kindergarten

This series is a work in progress/growing series, if you are interested in these just look for the GROW symbol on covers in my store or click the GROW series in my product categories to find more.  
Remember these products will be perfect for PRESCHOOL, PREK, TK, KINDERGARTEN, SPED and possibly FIRST GRADE.

You can find them in my store here.

happy teaching xox

Student numbers and decor

Monday, June 15, 2020
Decor, management, room set up...there's always so much to think about during summer.  Teachers typically don't turn our brains off very well and yes these thoughts run through our head.  

I'm headed into my 27 th year of teaching - don't worry I started when I was 10.  ( haha )  I've come to realize for myself at least that I like to have 'accents' more than a real theme.  Don't get me wrong, I've done a bee theme, owl theme, Hollywood theme, chevron theme ( so trendy 10 years ago ), and so on and so on.  

I've tried to be aware of what my students need, yes this is our space and yes it's my second home for sure so it needs to be something I like too but what do my students need?  

When I had bees hanging all over the ceiling I thought it was darling...of course the fire marshal not so much.  But, I had a little friend that only wanted to look at the bees and when someone opened the back door and they swayed a bit - his eyes were glued on them even more.  You can forget the math lesson I was trying to teach.  That's when it hit me.  Some kids don't need all that stimuli, it's just too much for them.

After that incident I started to observe my students more, especially the ones that I knew had ADD.  Time and time again I saw their distractions and it made me sad.  

So, I decided to hang less and accent more.  Rather than having bees or superheros hanging from the ceiling, I had a few main pieces of a theme in my library or on my desk.  I added it to their name tags and desk cubbies.  I found little ways to include a theme that was more based on colors than big repetitive objects.

There are so many ways to include a 'theme' without going over the top with one.  For instance, I have a friend that loves llamas, she has a llama bulletin board in the hallway, llama bunting in her window and a few llama pieces ( job pieces, student numbers etc. ) but nothing overwhelming.  

That's pretty much how I have evolved into a giraffe themed room.  It's really more of a black/white polka dot with turquoise accent room with some giraffes thrown in here and there.  It shows off my love for giraffes without overwhelming my ADD kids.

If you need student numbers that can be a perfect way to carry your theme in a non  intrusive way I have several to choose from in my store. 


student number cubby labels

So - just something to think about....consider a color scheme first that you love.  Then if you want to have a theme you can add in a few accent pieces to incorporate it.  These student/cubby/calendar numbers are perfect to add some accents to match your theme.  

Don't see what you like??? Find me on fb or instagram and DM me with an idea to match your theme and I'd be happy to create it for you!
As always...happy teaching!


Fine Motor Skills

Monday, March 9, 2020

Fine motor skills are defined as the coordination between small muscles, like those of the hands and fingers, with the eyes. Fine motor skills involve the small muscles of the body that enable such functions as writing, grasping small objects and fastening clothing.   Your child's mastery of fine motor skills will allow them greater independence. 

These skills are so important in your child's development and anytime you can give them added practice will benefit them.  Whether you are reading this as a young mom or a preschool teacher I hope I can answer some questions you may have regarding the importance of this skill.

Why is it so important?  Fine motor skills are essential to have in place to be successful at everyday life skills.  For instance tying your shoes, holding a pencil, cutting, coloring, writing, etc.  These are all academic examples, but also brushing one's teeth, eating (cutting with a knife, using a fork) , buttoning and unbuttoning clothing and playing are all examples of when and how fine motor skills can be used in everyday life.

It's important to carve out time in your toddler's, or young child's life to build these skills up and strengthen them.  Some examples include:
*informal play time ( legos, blocks, dressing dolls,puzzles, etc. )
*coloring, gluing, painting
*touching, clapping, fingerplays
*using zippers, straps

Other ideas:
* teach your child or student how to properly perform the 'pincher grasp'. Examples:  picking up cheerios, turning knobs, switches, dials etc.

* give them opportunities to squeeze something.  That is a different sensation with the hands.  Give them a wet sponge and squeeze it over the sidewalk, also give them a paintbrush and a pail of  water.  They will have a blast painting the sidewalk and it will dry and disappear.

* teach your child finger plays...they are a lost art.  With you tube and videos and songs it seems the old nursery rhymes have gone out the window.  BUT research has shown that rhyming carries a lot of importance and is a precursor to being successful at reading.  So, look up some finger plays and get busy.  The itsy, bitsy spider is a great one to start with and here are a couple others you might like:

fine motor skills for kids

Some other ideas that are very helpful are having your student or child practice cutting or tracing things, I have some things to help you as well:

fine motor skills tracing practice

fine motor skills tracing practice

fine motor skills tracing practice

These packs are perfect for 'little hands' you can find them here:  https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Preschool-tracing-and-much-more-1130867

Have fun with your child/student and make these skills fun through play and some structured practice time too.

Happy teaching!

Clever Badge

Saturday, February 29, 2020

Ahh...technology, it's hard to get away from in this day and age.  I was born in the 70's so I grew up playing outside till the street lights came on and I have amazing memories of being outside playing all day long.  

I have what you would call a LOVE/ HATE relationship with technology - I love to hate it.  Just kidding, kinda.... I tell people I could write a thesis on how technology is the downfall of families and ruining society.  But that's for another blog post...

As a teacher I have to incorporate technology even when I believe some old school ideas work better, it's frustrating at times.  I get it - there are multiple ways to use technology today and in some ways technology has made my job so much easier for sure!

My mom taught when I was growing up and she couldn't type into You Tube letter a and have an amazing, engaging video pop us that includes a song that sticks in kids heads and helps them remember letter a.  

Research comes alive nowadays because kids can virtually see an animal in their habitat live and write about what they experience as if they were right there with them.

But when admin tells me they want me to use technology ( for much of the day ) when I know full well that some of my students are going home to watch You Tube and play Fortnight unsupervised for another 4 hours I just can't do it!  I can't sleep at night knowing my students have been in front of a screen for 7 hours in a day ( my time plus their time ) NO WAY will I ever feel comfortable doing this and being okay with it.

But with all that being said, it's inevitable that they will have some screen time at school and in my 11 ish more years of teaching ahead of me there will probably be more before I retire.  UGH! 

 My district has made my students' lives even easier by providing clever - a website that allows kids to log into all their different sites and accounts with one swipe of a QR code.  Remember the...

button?!!?  Yep well it doesn't get much easier than that.  The clever site is quite popular and many districts have decided to go with so their students have easy access to the sites they log into.  I created these badges for my students a few years ago and they have been a big hit!  So, I thought I would create some that you can easily use as well.  

clever badge

This pack includes directions on how to add your own school mascot, name and QR badge.  Click here to get a closer look:  

Hope you find it helpful...
happy teaching

Starbooks Cafe Dramatic Play + more dramatic play sets

Play is such an important part of formal and informal schooling!  The benefits of playtime are many and sadly it's losing its place in school. By shortchanging 'playtime' kids are losing out on some of the following life skills:  social/emotional skills, cognitive, and even physical skills.   It's a precursor to relationships, problem solving, and so much more.  Playtime actually works on children's neurological development.  Sadly, some children are spending as little as 4 hours a week playing outdoors due to the rise of technology and increased demands on the family/ increased expectations on school aged kids performances as well.

Here are some top benefits of play for kids:
* builds their imagination
* boosts a child's brainpower
* has been found to help children cope with stress
* increases happiness
* builds language and vocabulary skills
* builds self confidence
* allows children to express their emotion
* helps children be more sociable

These are just some reasons of many to promote play time in the home or school ( although much of the latter loss is directed by increased rigorous standards, etc. )

Starbucks is a familiar landmark among people of all ages ~ I mean you can find one on practically every corner....am I right?!?!  So this scenario probably wouldn't be a stretch for your young ones to engage in I'm sure.  Offer some tips and model some ideas for them and let them go at it being creative and silly and imaginative.  

You can bring in fake food, ask Starbucks to donate some cups        ( they have done this for me in the past ).  You can purchase plastic ice cubes that look like ice at the Dollar Store.  There are lots of options, white felt can look like whipped cream too.  White pom poms could be marshmallows...the ideas are endless.  You can probably find a green apron and visor from Amazon, thrift stores   
( of course always wash first ), or maybe you have a  family member that can sew.

 Here is a peek at this fun, dramatic play center in action...

Just print, laminate and set up.
Starbooks cafe dramatic play center
They will love pretending to eat and drink as well as scan a gift card or pay for an order.

Starbooks Cafe dramatic play

Signs will help them know where to go to do what...great for following directions.

Starbooks Cafe dramatic play

Teaching your students or child how to go through the order taking process and checking off items in their inventory would be fun and engaging for them.  

Starbooks Cafe dramatic play
AND just ADDED to my STORE:  BULLSEYE Dramatic Play Center ....same fun idea but shopping.  Who doesn't love shopping and coffee?!?!

Target shopping dramatic play center

Target shopping dramatic play center

Target shopping dramatic play center

Target shopping dramatic play center

If you are interested in having this play center for your home daycare, preschool or kindergarten you can grab it here:  

Here are a few more sets I've completed for your young explorers.

Turning your classroom into a detective/police play area has lots of fun options for oral language and creativity!


This play set is probably the easiest low prep/high yield set to use in your home or classroom.  Most of you already have lots of books, stuffed animals, puzzles etc at home to easily convert your fun area into a bookstore.  You're all set with this pack and some books and things you already have on hand for fun learning and exploring and role playing to happen.

Bring in a tent and create a fake campfire with art supplies and you are all ready along with the printables included in this pack to have an engaging center for your little campers. 


For more fun ideas follow me on my social media by clicking the icons at the top of my page here.

Happy playtime for your little ones,

Sensory Bins

Thursday, February 6, 2020

I have ALWAYS wanted to teach kindergarten!  In fact, when I wrote my final paper for my credential it was all about my 'dream job' of being a kindergarten teacher.  25 years in, guess what!?!  I have NEVER taught kindergarten.  

I think I was so drawn to it because before I started my credential program and after college I had a preschool job teaching 4 year olds.  Oh my goodness y'all they were the most precious things ever!  It was that job that made this girl - BA in Psychology turn to teaching and go after her credential and masters in education.

My new position has me teaching 20 ish minutes of intervention for  kindergartners 3x's a week and I LOVE it!  I mean, ok, ok, let's be real.  I have ummm 6 kids in a small group in the hallway.  I don't have 20+ something kids that I have to corral and teach and do all the things with so I'm not really even close to the same playing field as my hard working, dedicated k teachers.  BUT, I still LOVE my time with them so much.  It's the highlight of my day for real.

sensory bin options

I have discovered sensory bins and bags and lots and lots of hands on stuff that I have fallen in love with and use all time.  It certainly helps that this little intervention group is super appreciative of anything I bring and begs for more time with me.  But the creative side of me is dying with happiness to work with them and create fun, engaging things for them to do.

I wanted to share some ideas you can do to create sight word bins AND they don't have to be #pinterestperfect ~ ~ I promise you will still get #allthelove.

I started with large containers - and large tupperware pieces to create my bins.   As I started to create multiple bins and running out of space I came to the realization that you can use just about anything with 5 year olds.  In fact - today I used my daughter's shoe box!  Yep, and they didn't even notice or care that it wasn't anything fancier.  So, save some money and save old shoe boxes.  If possible save shoe boxes, label them and keep the same monthly pieces in them so you can just pull them out next year and not have to move, re create or re do any.  #ideal

Also here's a list I created of all the things you can easily include in a sensory bin that you may or may not already have available in your home.

sensory bin winter ideas

sensory bin winter ideas

Valentines sight word sensory bin

*tissue paper for gift bags cut up
* rice ( even better if you dye it with vinegar and food coloring )
* beans
* cut up straws
* Easter grass
* gift filler ( shredded paper )
* beads
* buttons
* popcorn kernels
* pom poms
* cotton balls
* pasta
* styro foam shapes
* birdseed
* pet store fish rocks
* buttons
* water beads 
* craft beads
* split peas
* cornmeal
* coffee grinds
* oats ( which can actually be dyed )
* marbles
* leaves
* shells
* feathers
* packing peanuts
* chickpeas ( can be dyed )
* shredded coconut ( can by dyed )

*** WARNING ***  Many of these items are considered choking hazards.  Please keep your child or students supervised at all times if setting up a sensory bin.

Just add in some sight word flash cards, letters on seasonal shapes to spell out sight words or even cvc words you want them to read/blend.

I have had great success with using several of these items to create engaging bins that they dig through, or use tongs with etc. to hunt for letters or sight words.  Just remember if it's tactile and engaging A) they will  be more motivated to participate
B) often times engaging multiple senses will help things 'stick' for those kids that need to use multiple modalities when learning and exploring.

Have fun trying out new items and if I missed one that you love to use drop it in the comments below so we can all benefit from it.
Happy teaching... 

Small Group Engagement Made Easy

Saturday, January 25, 2020

Engaging ALL of your small group students - ALL of the time.  Sounds a bit daunting right?!?!  Especially if you are herding cats working with kindergartners - I mean.
Well I have found there are ways to keep all your students engaged even if you are playing a game and it's not their turn.  Yep, it's possible friends and the conversations that were happening at my small group table throughout the game made my heart so happy!  Things like:  "I remember how to spell that word without even looking at the fly it was a spelling word last week."  OR 
" Wait, I know that first part it's an 'h' brother. " etc.  I love when they recognize word patterns, chunks, etc. in their reading or spelling.

student engagement with sight words

We started out by playing our fly swat the sight word game.  
At first glance, kids have to take turns swatting sight words with a swatter and reading them.  
What are the other kids doing?!?!  Well,  when we play this game first we roll the die!  I know, I know it sounds strange - it's not a board game but for real.  
Child A - rolls the die.  They swat words in front of them on a plaid placemat of course that many times as they read them aloud.  Next, that child spells the word(s) out with their magnetic letters and then they write the word(s) on their white board.  Not only does this take #allthetime until their next turn but it gives them a multisensory experience with their sight words : 
visually~ seeing them, 
auditory ~ saying/hearing them, kinesthetic ~ spelling them out with magnetic letters OR you can use my squishy bags or salt boxes even.  Then lastly writing them...see the secret here, all this takes a while.  They are staying engaged by doing these, focusing on the sight words they read and while they are waiting for their turn they are so BUSY doing the other things their turn comes up again quite quickly.  

sight word game ideas

sight word game ideas

If you don't have a die like this you can also use a sand timer and see how many they can swat and say before the sand timer runs out.  Also I like the die because with the write on numbers I can control the numbers on there.  If I stick to smaller numbers it's not as overwhelming as it would be if they had to swat, say, build and or write 5 or 6 words as they would on a regular set of dice. 

sight word game ideas

We do it with several of our sight word games/activities.  Here they are picking snowflakes out of a winter sensory bin and after they pull one out and say it I had them write it 3 times.  They are proud to say and write it, it reinforces the word and again it takes time so they are engaged and before they know it - it's their turn again. 

sight word game ideas

I love these sight word sensory bins because they also put a focus on fine motor skills.  I was surprised at how much trouble some of my students had with working the tongs to grab a sight word snowflake. This activity is working so many things at once developmentally for them. 

sight word sensory bin

I hope these ideas can be used in your classroom, just a write on die ( from Dollar Tree ) some tongs, a sand timer, white board and magnetic letters can make your time more efficient and engaging for your littles with games you may already have in your classroom!

Happy teaching!