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:
watercolor paints or food coloring
Add either watercolor paint or food coloring to water and stir.
Pour colored water into ice tray. Set craft sticks in ice tray sections. Freeze.
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.
Some preschoolers don’t mind getting their hands sticky, gluey, and dirty, while others pull their hands back when introduced to unfamiliar textures. Example: glueing feathers to outlined hands to create turkeys. Observation: some kids spread their fingers to be outlined and some have to be prodded. Most kids didn’t mind sticking feathers to a gluey surface, but others will only touch the surface lightly and then hold up fingers in a way that says, “I don’t liking this feeling.”
Despite the different tolerance levels, all the kids love playing in the water table. They enjoyed the floating pumpkin pieces and, similarly, the water-table-as-a-giant-sensory-bin is a hit! It’s filled with pinecones, colorful blocks, gear-like connecting pieces, and measuring cups and shovels. I can’t wait to create different texture combinations using pasta, snow, ice, and assorted found objects.
Playing with different types of textures, tastes, and objects help your child build new ways of talking about the world. Suddenly, the tree is more than a tree, it’s a sapling with smooth bark, or it’s a pine tree with rough bark and a sharp pine scent. Water isn’t just wet, it can be rough (waves), slippery with bubbles, or cold and translucent when frozen. Fine motor skills are those that require the ability to use and coordinate small muscle groups and are important for writing, shoe-tying, buttoning, and zipping, among other things. Sensory play often involves using and building fine motor skills by exploring things using pinching, pouring, and lacing movements.
Halloween may be over, but the pumpkins still have a purpose. Before you throw away your jack-o-lantern, here’s an idea–cut it up into pieces. One of the directors at my preschool suggested this easy, fun and educational kids activity, and the kiddos loved it.
My co-teacher and I cut up our classes’ pumpkins and placed the pieces in a water table. Don’t have a water table? A big plastic bin, large sink or even a bathtub will work.
Our two-year olds had a blast scooping, filling, pouring and experimenting. The blog Miss Ashlee’s Class suggests ways to enhance the activity. Older kids could discuss the parts of a pumpkin, hypothesize whether they think the pieces will float or not, learn about density, and record observations.
I like roasted seeds and nuts (do I sound like a squirrel?), but have never tried sweet roasted pumpkin seeds. When we were scooping pumpkins and saving the seeds for our two preschool classes, my co-teacher Hannah said she loved the seeds with cinnamon. Mind blown! What planet am I living on? How did I not know about these? Hon, here’s a healthy, vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, dairy-free, paleo-friendly, kosher recipe from Joy Food Sunshine that I must try!
Happy carving, scooping and baking!
Roasted Cinnamon Sugar Pumpkin Seeds
Tips Before Roasting Cinnamon Sugar Pumpkin Seeds
Pumpkin seeds must dry completely before roasting. Remove the seeds from pumpkins and rinse thoroughly, discarding any stringy orange pieces. Drain seeds by lining a large baking pan with paper towels, spreading seeds evenly in a layer, and letting sit for 24 hours. At the 12 hour mark, change damp paper towels for dry ones, stir to air out pumpkin seeds.
3 cups pumpkin seeds dried for at least 24 hours
3 Tablespoons coconut oil or butter (or vegan butter)
1/2 teaspoon pur vanilla extract
4 Tablespoons granulated sugar (or coconut sugar to make paleo)
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon sea salt
Preheat oven to 325°F. Very lightly grease a large baking pan, set aside.
In a small bowl, mix together sugar, cinnamon, and salt. Set aside.
Melt coconut oil or butter in a large microwave safe bowl or on the stovetop in a 4-quart pot.
Remove from heat and stir in vanilla.
Mix in pumpkin seeds until they are all evenly coated.
Add dry ingredients to the pumpkin seeds and mix until all they are evenly coated.
Spread pumpkin seeds on your prepared baking pan in single layer.
Bake for 25-35 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes. They are done when they start to brown.
To test for doneness: remove a few seeds from the pan and let sit on the counter to cool. If they harden up the seeds are done. If they remain soft, return to the oven, checking them after 5 minutes. Continue baking in 5 minute intervals until done.
Once seeds are done, transfer them from the warm pan to another pan lined with parchment paper to let cool.
Yield: 3 cups
Store pumpkin seeds in an airtight container for up to 1 week.
Creating snowmen or other snowy scenes using a shaving cream/glue combo is snow fun because it engages several senses. The kids smell the shaving cream, listen to the can, feel the texture, and see the color. What ratio of shaving cream to glue to use? According to KiwiCo Corner, “Mix one part shaving cream with one part glue. The mixture ends up thick and goopy–and dries up puffy, like snow!” The “snow paint” can be applied with paintbrushes, sponges, spoons or hands. (Two year-olds like to use their hands. LOL!)
As recommended by a Three’s teacher, I outlined snowmen, glopped “snow paint” onto the snowmen sections, and handed out spoons. Each child picked buttons and a construction paper hat, scarf, eyes, and carrot nose. Fun!
Next multi-media and textured project: Winter scenes of green, felt trees on black construction paper, snow made with both silver glitter and Q-tips dotted white paint. Winter spirit!
One of my favorite things is to Raku fire with my teacher and potter extraordinaire Peter Syak. In a (small, masked and socially distanced) ceramic class this summer, Peter introduced the extruder, which is like a giant Play-Doh machine, but for clay.
I made seven bowls: three small ones without feet and four large ones with feet. My carving needs a ton of practice, but I like how some of the pieces came out.
Though Raku pottery is generally not food-safe, it’s safe with “dry” food such as candy, nuts, and pretzels.
The Copper Blue Luster glaze is beautiful, and I always like the crackles that show up when using Clear Glaze.
It may seem obvious to say pumpkin carving is an easy and fun kids activity, but if you teach preschool (ahem, my wonderful new job), you might think pumpkins, knives, and carving don’t mix with ten super wiggly, touch-everything, curious two year-olds! What does work? Carving open a pumpkin and letting them feel and scoop out what’s inside.
Eight children reached right in, touching and exploring. (“Mushy, gushy!”) The textures were new to them–which showed on their faces–but they dug out the wet, stringy pulp and seeds anyway. Fun!
Two kids wanted nothing to do with this strange mess and backed away from the pumpkin. Funny!
Later in the week, my co-teacher managed to make use of time when the kids were sitting still. She carved shapes into a face. What a great way to learn!
At home, we carved pumpkins, also. It was a first for my daughter’s boyfriend from California. Hands on all around!
“Simchat Torah (Rejoicing with the Torah) marks the end of the annual cycle of weekly Torah readings and the beginning of the new cycle. It is a joyous holiday that celebrates the Jewish love of Torah and study. Simchat Torah is celebrated by taking all the Torah scrolls out of the ark in synagogue and spending the evening dancing, singing, and rejoicing.” (https://toriavey.com/what-is-simchat-torah/)
The 2 year-olds in my preschool class made their own mini Torahs and flags. For the flags, they decorated paper with stickers and then glued the paper onto popsicle sticks. For the Torahs, they finger-painted thin strips of paper. After the paint dried, I hot-glued each end to wrapping paper rolls cut into small tubes. The ends were rolled up and their Torahs were closed with pipe cleaners. They loved waving their flags and showing off their Torahs to the cantor, rabbi and other classes. Fun!
because I haven’t met a kid who doesn’t like cookies!
Every child I’ve ever baked with likes cracking eggs, measuring ingredients, handling an electric mixer, and making “their own” cookies. (Math lessons built it, especially when doubling recipes!) Plastic placemats create individual work surfaces. What did my K-2 After School Enrichment students do while waiting for the cookies to bake? They worked on original crosswords puzzles, word searches, or played board games. Blokus is a favorite!
Happy baking, hon!
2 3/4 cups (385 grams) all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup (227 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature (the Joy of Cooking recipe calls for 1 cup butter, but we thought it was too much)
1 1/2 cups (300 grams) granulated white sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup (66 grams) granulated white sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (190 degrees C). Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
2. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, salt, and baking powder.
3. With an electric mixer, beat together butter and sugar until smooth, about 2-3 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each egg. Scrape down sides of bowl. Beat in vanilla extract. Add flour mixture and beat until dough is smooth. If dough is soft, cover and refrigerate until firm enough to roll into balls.
4. Shape dough into 1-inch (2.54 cm) round balls.
5. Coating: In a large, shallow bowl, mix together sugar and cinnamon.
6. Roll balls of dough in the cinnamon/sugar mixture and place on prepared being sheets, about 2 inches (5 cm) apart.
7. Then, using the bottom of a glass, gently flatten each cookie to about 1/2 inch (1.5 cm) thick.
8. Bake cookies for approx. 8 – 10 minutes, or until they are light golden brown around the edges. Remove from oven and place on wire rack to cool.
Yield: About 6 dozen cookies
Store cookies in an airtight container, at room temperature, for about 10-14 days.