Sunday, September 17, 2017

Finding Loose Parts on Amazon

While we love loose parts we find, make, and scavenge from local sources, sometimes it is nice to be able to click on Amazon for loose parts. I have bought some things for specific kits and such in the past. Here are some picks that I drool over--click on any picture to take you there. I often find similar stuff at our local craft stores. I like to browse after holiday sales for good deals.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Fabric as a Loose Part

Someone recently asked me about durable fabrics for an indoor play cafe--isn't that a cool concept?!

Here was some insight I shared--I look forward to hearing your ideas and what is working in your situation! I find there are various fabrics that work well in different situations. And one of my bigger criterion is price point--I really like FREE--it's always nice to repurpose or use something that would otherwise be going to the dump.

What to Do with a Box: A Book Review

We found another cardboard box book! Here is a list of other books about cardboard and tools to help that have been helpful for us. I always like a good read aloud to get the juices flowing as we start a session.

 In What to Do with a Box by Jane Yolen & Chris Sheban, the box becomes a library, palace, nook, and more. You can unlock it with a key (imagining this as I've seen kids do this before!), invite dolls for tea, and paint and color in it. It becomes a racing car, a boat to sail to Paris, and a plane for adventures!

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Shelling Beans

We recently went to a friend's house and explored her wonderful garden! If you don't have your own garden, I find the most gardeners would love to share their pride and joy with you, as well as some of their harvest, especially during tomato and zucchini harvests. :-) 

I noticed she had beans on a trellis and asked if our nature preschool group could shell them after they are dried. She was ecstatic and it turns out that she had a small barrel of dried beans from last year that still need shelled. She hasn't taken the time to do them all so just goes out and shells a few at a time for whatever soups or other foods she is making. 

Monday, August 14, 2017

Pokemon Party!

There is something about planning things that I LOVE to do! Even better when I get to collaborate with others for it. My boys are in the middle of a string of birthdays. My now 5 year old wanted to have a Pokemon party--of course we love nature, outside, and loose parts, but they do watch television, read books, and have toys/games. Anyway, I remember my students way back when I taught 4th grade almost 20 years ago in Japan loving Pokemon as well--it has really had some staying power!

For the invitations, I just found an image online and put the party information on top. These were easy to text or email to mommas. :-) 

Sunday, July 30, 2017

The Button Box

Don't you love buttons? I recently found this box of buttons for $5 at a garage sale--it was even all sorted and separated in little baggies. I thought we'd explore a bit as we read The Button Box (again) and we started opening a few buttons and putting them in a divided, recycled cookie tray; however, children had other ideas and I'm pretty open to following their lead.

Soon all these little baggies of carefully sorted buttons were in one big pile. And then we started sorting again! We found buttons that had four holes or two holes or just a shank.

The Button Box shows a boy opening his grandmother's button box and sorting through the treasures. It also shows how buttons could come from shells, wood, deer antlers, and more. He makes a string and button toy, counts his "gold" as he puts them back, and then ends with a little history on buttons. I also played with my grandmother's button box. Do people still have button boxes? I hope so! Our button box actually had antler/bone buttons, too. So neat to see the connections from the book! 

We found some that the boys looked like eyes and separated out the shiny ones! 

Some ideas to extend the buttons from the book: 
Sort, count, create pictures from buttons, puppet eyes, etc. 

Sort by:
-family connections
-seashells, sand, wood, antlers

Ask, “Are they alike?”
As children get older you might chart types of buttons even, bringing in a math component if they are interested. I was surprised even my 8 year old and almost 11 year old were enjoying these as well. My youngest (almost 5) spent over an hour with these today. I'll leave them out this week for them to peruse as they'd like!

Interested in Loose Parts and Books? Find my list here

Buy the book "The Button Box" here! (aff link)

Here is a video of the book. Here are some other extension activities as well. 

How do you all use buttons? 

Friday, July 28, 2017

Nature Preschool Planning in an Outdoor Classroom

In many types of spaces, we do a little planning for our learning experiences. I have heard many say to "just let them play"; however, most spaces also need to meet learning standards and such. Even in an emergent learning setting, a little planning can help us pull things together for success. I have used a planning sheet similar to this for the last 5 years I have done a nature preschool group. I also use a similar approach to event planning using an outdoor classroom.  Our basic rhythm for our group is to have a gathering activity (or more), craft/art, a story time, hike, wash hands, edible craft (snack), and then open options centered around our areas of the outdoor classroom. We try to do as much as this outside as possible, but do have some moments inside as well. Below is a very sketchy example of seeds. Children are free to participate or not and we follow the children's needs and interests, as well as any seasonal or unexpected finds when we are outside. We may not get to all of these options and it is okay if the children do not do each option. Having a variety allows the needs of all children be met.

Since I typically do programs at a place where other activities are happening, I schlep a lot of stuff around. This helps me remember everything I need. See some examples of the results of this under "Nature Preschool" on the blog.

I use a few resources to help in planning:
Growing Up Wild
Environmental Experiences for Early Childhood
Pinterest Boards:

Here are a few examples of how our activities turned out. Honestly, there is usually enough that could work for a week at a time; however, we just had one morning a week for a couple of hours.
Oh Deer!
A Natural Holiday
Exploring Trees
Sensational Senses
What's Bugging You? 

Here are some events planned using a similar sheet:
Fairy Wings and Wild Things
International Mud Day

Find the planning sheet here. Let me know how you use or modify it--I love seeing how others use similar stuff!