Kids Kindness Project + Picture Book

I had the opportunity to meet art director and author/illustrator Ann Koffsky when I attended Highlights Foundation “Jewish Symposium 2022: An In-Community Experience for Jewish Creatives” in October. She wrote the adorable picture book What’s In Tuli’s Box? When I read it, I knew just how I wanted to tie it in with a preschool class project.

In honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, our theme was Kindness. Our project? Tzedakah boxes! Prevalent in Jewish homes, Tzedakah boxes collect extra coins to be donated to those in need. What an important lesson, in addition to a hands-on, tactile activity, for preschoolers.

The children painted glue on containers, chose colors of tissue paper, and stuck the tissue paper to the gluey containers. They practiced dropping coins in the coin slots, listened it jingle, and discussed the kind acts that they–even as young as they are–can do.

Tzedakah is the Hebrew word for philanthropy and charity. It is a form of social justice in which donors benefit from giving as much or more than the recipients. So much more than a financial transaction, tzedakah builds trusting relationships and includes contributions of time, effort, and insight.

Learning to Give

Review of What’s In Tuli’s Box

In this charm­ing pic­ture book for young chil­dren, Ann D. Koff­sky presents the con­cept of tzedakah through the char­ac­ters of a kit­ten and her moth­er. With kinet­ic images and bright col­ors, chil­dren learn that a sim­ple box pro­vides not only an oppor­tu­ni­ty to climb and play, but is also a means to con­tribute to char­i­ty. The book’s sim­ple text mim­ics the way a child learns from her par­ents about an impor­tant mitzvah.

For par­ents and care­givers con­sid­er­ing the most effec­tive way to intro­duce the con­cept, Tuli the kit­ten pro­vides one answer: con­crete expe­ri­ences and few abstrac­tions. Tuli is as active as a tod­dler, and just as focused on explor­ing her world. Koff­sky begins with Tuli becom­ing inter­est­ed in a box labeled tzedakah. Nei­ther this nor its slit for deposit­ing a coin means any­thing to her. Through touch­ing, push­ing, and lis­ten­ing, she dis­cov­ers the box’s phys­i­cal qual­i­ties, while her moth­er offers more infor­ma­tion. The box is not a toy, she comes to find, although the clink­ing sound of a coin drop­ping would seem to sug­gest that it is.

Koff­sky com­bines feline and human char­ac­ter­is­tics with sub­tle humor. While the char­ac­ters look like real cats, their facial expres­sions of curios­i­ty and affec­tion, cou­pled with the mother’s pur­ple pock­et­book, add a dif­fer­ent visu­al ele­ment to the sto­ry. Gen­tle expla­na­tions from Tuli’s moth­er con­firm what the kit­ten has learned, but also extend the pos­si­bil­i­ties. Tuli is final­ly ready to hear that the coins are meant to help those in need. As moth­er and child rest their heads against one anoth­er, young read­ers fin­ish the book with a sense of sat­is­fac­tion. Tuli’s ener­getic activ­i­ty has become a path to empa­thy, and to the reward of her mother’s pride and love.

Emily Schneider for The Jewish Book Council
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Chanukah Menorahs, DIY Kids Crafts for Preschoolers

Aren’t these DIY Kids Craft menorahs adorable?

Shout out to my co-teacher Hannah who found inspiration for our Doodlebugs (a little younger than 2 yo’s) and Seedlings (2 yo’s) classes on Pinterest.

The Doodlebugs made Paper Plate Menorahs by painting paper plates gold, painting a big piece of paper blue (which we cut into candles), and scrunching orange tissue paper to make flames. We stapled the flames and candles to the paper plates and added yarn for hanging.

Yarn Wrapped Menorahs required hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills. The Seedlings wrapped yarn around popsicle sticks to make candles, painted cardboard gold to make menorah bases, brushed glue on flames, and sprinkled glitter on the glue. You know what we found out? Covering glitter with Modge Podge cuts down on glitter shed. Yay!

If you think math is too told for preschoolers, think again! We spent the last few weeks counting candles and flames in addition to going over the calendar and days of the month. When you get to the end of a month, there are a lot of numbers to count. Our little sweethearts are wide-eyed and enthusiastic about the calendar and the songs that go with it.

Preschool is on break for now. When we come back we’ll transition to all-things-winter.

Happy Chanukah!

Autumn Kids Crafts: DIY Fall Wreath

Inspiration Wreath
Inspiration wreath at Michael’s.

Guess what hon? Twinkl, an online educational resource for teachers and individuals, reached out and asked to include one of my DIY Kids Crafts on their site! “This children’s craft idea features in Twinkl’s Absolutely Amazing Autumn Ideas.”

This Autumn Kids Craft:  DIY Fall Wreath is evergreen, so I’m re-posting this kids activity from the time I taught “Creative Minds,” an After School Enrichment class at Wyoming Elementary School in Millburn, NJ. The 3rd to 5th graders wrapped burlap around wreath forms, hot glued ends, chose leaves, berries, and fruit, and secured them with coiled wire. They tied ribbon as flourishes and added twine for hanging. Fun!

Here’s what you need and how to make your own.

wreath supplies
Wreath supplies

DIY Fall Wreath Supplies

  • Wreath Form, whatever size you want
  • Burlap, amount depends on size of wreath form
  • Coiled Wire, used to secure floral spray before gluing
  • Wire Cutters, we used two sizes, one to trim floral sprays and one to trim coiled wire
  • Hot Glue Gun and extra glue sticks for glue gun
  • Floral Decorations, such as floral sprays (leaves with berries and fruit), colored beads and leaves
  • Ribbon
  • Twine, knotted and looped for hanging
  • Scissors

Directions:

  1. Before cutting burlap from roll, loosely wrap around wreath form to check how much is needed. Allow extra to tuck end under. Cut burlap from roll.
  2. Wrap burlap around wreath form. Tuck end under and hot glue. This will be the back of the wreath.
  3. Decide how to arrange decorations. Some may have bendable stems. If so ,wrap around wreath form.
  4. If floral sprays, berries or other decor have long, unbendable stems, cut off with large wire cutter.
  5. Using coiled wire, secure smaller decor such as leaves and berries to wreath form. Secure to wreath form by criss-crossing wire until decor is secured. Twist wire in back and tuck ends under.
  6. Secure floral spray with wire and hot glue. Hot glue leaves so they cover wire and lay flat.
  7. Hot glue colored beads and individual leaves.
  8. Tie ribbon and glue if needed.
  9. Find top of the wreath. Create a hanging loop with twine.
Coiled wire wrapped around stem in a criss-cross fashion.
Coiled wire wrapped around stem in a criss-cross fashion.
Hot glueing, watch your fingers!
Hot glueing, watch your fingers!
Pretty!
Pretty!
Seasonal!
Seasonal!
Love it!
Creative!

Pre-School Play (Dough)

New pre-school year = new batch of DIY play dough.

The kids love its’ texture and elasticity, and so do I. (Is that a surprise, coming from a potter?) Sure, name-brand, non-toxic Play-Doh can be purchased, but I find the substance I make handles better and doesn’t dry out as quickly.

The easy recipe from The Best Ideas for Kids is made with only a few ingredients: flour, cream of tartar, salt, vegetable oil, and water. This year, I added yellow food coloring and vanilla flavor.

Whenever the kids play with play dough–and I mean, every single time, all year long–this is the conversation:

Another Adult: “What will happen if they eat it?”

Me: “Don’t worry, it’s non-toxic.”

Another Adult: “Seriously, will the kids get sick?”

Me: “We could make cookies out of this stuff!”

Hon, do you think this year I should make a sign that says “Add eggs and bake!“?

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup flour
  • 2 teaspoons cream of tartar
  • 1/2 cup salt
  • 1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 cup water
  • food coloring

Instructions:

  1. In a large bowl, combine flour, salt and cream of tartar. Mix well.
  2. In a separate bowl, add food coloring to the water. Then add the colored water and vegetable oil to a large pot. Mix together.
  3. Add the dry ingredients to your pot and mix.
  4. Cook over low to medium heat until the dough starts to form and becomes drier, stirring often.
  5. Once the mixture starts to form a body and looks fully cooked, take it off the heat. (Tip: Spoon it onto a plate or surface to cool.) Let the dough cool first before touching. 
  6. Once cool, knead the dough for 5 minutes to make the dough soft. If your dough is not soft, continue kneading for another 5 minutes. If you find it is still too dry add a little bit more oil and knead in.

Tips from The Best Ideas for Kids:

How to Keep Playdough Soft

First wrap your playdough in saran wrap then store in an air-tight container. You’ll notice that playdough will go hard if left out – so the less air that can get to the playdough when storing, the longer it will last!

How Do I Make Playdough Soft Again?

If your playdough dries out and turns out to be a little dry after making it, try adding in a little more oil first. You can knead the oil in with your hands. You can also knead in a little bit of water.

Easy DIY Kids Crafts: Father’s Day Cards Made by Little Feet

Little Feet Leave a Big Message!

One of my preschool classes made Father’s Day cards with handprints, while the other made Father’s Day cards with footprints. This Easy DIY Kids Craft is a homemade greeting card is so cute for preschoolers and elementary age children.

The footprints were a challenge. When the kids stepped on the paper without assistance, their feet slid. When I held the paper to their feet, the print didn’t get their toes. What worked? Making sure paint was evenly distributed (it tickled!) and guiding each child’s foot to the paper to make a quick print. Whew!

If you have texture mats (as a potter, I have a collection of them) kids can make impressions of bricks or pebbles. If not, they can draw or color a path to be cut out and placed next to the footprint.

Add the message, “Thanks for making a path for me to follow” and “Happy Father’s Day,” sign name and date and the card is ready to go!

Sweet Feet!

Supplies:

  • construction or cardstock paper in white and another color
  • paint and paintbrush
  • magic markers, colored pencil or crayons
  • glue or double-stick tape
  • optional: brick or pebbles texture mat

Directions:

  1. Using paintbrush, paint foot. Make footprint on white paper. Let dry. (Note–it may take several tries to get a full footprint.)
  2. optional: using colored pencil and texture mat, create a brick or pebbles impression. OR, draw or color a path.
  3. Cut a strip out of path. Glue or tape path by footprint.
  4. Write or print out, “Thanks for making a path for me to follow” and “Happy Father’s Day!”
  5. Write child’s name and year.
  6. Glue white paper on to background paper.

Easy DIY Kids Crafts: Father’s Day Cards Made With Little Hands

Easy DIY Father’s Day Cards!

Preschool may have ended, but my students still have a present to give–adorable, easy DIY Father’s Day cards where their handprints transform into leaves on a tree. This idea is fun for preschoolers and elementary age children. I think my students’ dads will like the message, “No matter how tall I grow, I will always look up to you.” Sweet!

Supplies:

  • construction or cardstock paper in white and another color
  • green paint and paintbrush
  • magic markers, brown and other colors
  • scissors
  • glue or double-stick tape

Directions:

  1. Using paintbrush, paint child’s palm green. Make two handprints on white paper. (Note-it may take a few tries to get a good print.) Let dry.
  2. With brown marker, draw tree trunk and branches.
  3. Add “No matter how tall I grow, I will always look up to you.” Write child’s name and year.
  4. Glue or tape white paper onto background paper.
  5. Write or print out “Happy Father’s Day!”

Easy Preschool Project for Mother’s Day

Sweet Sentiments

The Mother’s Day cards my preschoolers made are sooooo cute! One class decorated their cards with flowers and the other with hearts. Although me and my co-teacher assembled the cards, the two and three year-olds participated by painting, coloring and letting us know what they love most about their moms. These Mother’s Day cards are quick and easy to create, and they translate easily into cards for other people and holidays–think Father’s Day, grandparents, note to teachers, caregivers, etc.

Flower Card Supplies:

  • construction paper
  • non-toxic paint in two colors–green and whatever color the flower will be
  • paintbrush
  • markers
  • scissors
  • crayons

Flower Cards Directions:

  1. Fold construction paper in half. Inside, write personalized note in marker. Child colors inside of note with crayons.
  2. Paint child’s hand the flower color. Make a handprint on front of card. Wash hand.
  3. Paint a separate piece of paper green. Let dry.
  4. When green paper is dry, cut out two leaves. Draw stem. Glue leaves to base of stem.
  5. Write or print out, “Your love and care helps me bloom.”

Heart Card Supplies:

  • construction paper in two colors
  • scissors
  • markers
  • crayons
  • glue

Heart Card Directions:

  1. Fold construction paper in half. Inside, write personalized note in marker. Child colors inside of note with crayons.
  2. Cut a heart out of contrasting construction paper. Child color with markers.
  3. Glue heart to front of card.
  4. Write or print out, “I love you with all my heart.”

Easy DIY Kids Craft: Rainy Day Spring Scene

At preschool, we were asked to come up with an Easy DIY Kids Craft or Activity using only supplies found at home. Our ideas were compiled into a “Cooped-Up Activities” resource for parents.

Hon, hoping Spring blooms very soon.

RAINY DAY SPRING SCENE

Supplies:

  • paper
  • aluminum foil
  • cotton balls
  • baking cup
  • markers
  • scissors
  • glue

Directions:

  1. To make a grey sky, cut aluminum foil and glue to top of paper.
  2. To make rain clouds, glue cotton balls on top of and below grey sky.
  3. To make an umbrella, fold baking cup in half and glue together. Place umbrella on paper and glue down. Count to 20 while pressing so umbrella sticks to paper.
  4. Draw outline of umbrella handle and color in.
  5. Cut raindrops out of aluminum foil. (This is challenging as they are small and stick to fingers.) Glue raindrops under clouds.

Easy DIY Kids Activity: Ice Painting

Winter Lessons, Exploring Ice

Both my two year-old class and not-quite-two kiddos loved exploring ice. Some were tentative about touching it and some reached right in. Each child had his/her own tray of ice in addition to the large tray. What does it feel like? What does it do when it’s being held? What’s dripping on the floor? Is it hard or soft? And what sound does it make when you shake the tray? So fun!

Directly related to exploring ice is Ice Painting. Though Ice Painting may seem like a winter-only Easy DIY Kids Activity, it’s a great science-related lesson any time of year–think water/ice, liquid/solid, and hot/cold. Here’s what you need:

Supplies:

  • ice tray
  • craft sticks
  • water
  • watercolor paints or food coloring
  • paper

Directions:

  1. Add either watercolor paint or food coloring to water and stir.
  2. Pour colored water into ice tray. Set craft sticks in ice tray sections. Freeze.
  3. Pop sections out of ice tray and paint with “ice paint.”

Note: Ice paint will melt as it’s being used which adds to the experience. Partly used sections may be re-frozen and used again.

Easy DIY Kids Crafts: Father’s Day Footprint Art

Credit for this “foot-tastic,” Easy DIY kid’s craft goes to Etsy’s “Mama Don’t Blink.” My pre-school class was used to hand crafts, but taking off shoes and socks was new. Painting feet elicited a bunch of, “That tickles!” Fun!

Step 1. Gather supplies: paint, white paper and either construction paper or cardstock, hard surface such as a clipboard, newspaper to catch drips, paintbrush (a foam paintbrush worked well), chair, washcloth or wipes to clean feet, glue or double-stick tape, marker.

Step 2. Sit child down. Paint bottom of feet. Clip paper to clipboard to create hard surface. Press feet against paper, angling feet to create a heart. Let dry.

Step 3. Glue or tape dried feet-heart to construction paper or cardstock.

Step 4. Write, “I” above feet-heart and “you DADDY from the tip of my nose to the tip of my toes!” under feet-heart. Date.

Step 5. Add fun messages to the back of the picture.