Sand & Water Fun for Infants and Toddlers

As an Early Care and Education Consultant and Trainer, I am asked to conduct workshops on a variety of topics for infants, toddlers, and preschoolers.  My main goal in presenting at conferences and trainings (and also in writing this blog) is to share ideas and activities to use with the children in your care.  I have been asked to present my workshop, “NO CHILD LEFT INSIDE! Extending the Curriculum Outdoors” for Infant and Toddler Teachers.  The program coordinator specifically asked me to focus on the sand and water table and the sensory materials that can be included for this age group.

Is your sand and water table buzzing with activity or is it stagnant like the water you always seem to have in it?  Perhaps your sand and water table is closed because you think it creates a mess.  Whether you need to rekindle interest in your sand and water table or remind yourself about the value of sensory play…read on to discover the sensory learning opportunities found in the sand and water table.

The sand and water table can be equipped with two basins or tubs side by side or it can be one large table.  Whatever the configuration, most of these tables can be used inside or outdoors. Sensory play, sometimes known as “messy play,” happens in the sand and water table.  It is a center for exploring with your senses, experimenting, scooping, and pouring, squeezing and smushing (building fine motor skills and eye-hand coordination for handwriting), sharing and turn taking.  Children can watch chemical reactions, mix colors, repeat observed phenomenon, and try new things.  Sensory play promotes spatial awareness, mathematical thinking, and scientific exploration and discovery.  It also is simply a great way for children to relieve their stress.  Sensory play can be very soothing and relaxing to a young child.

Ideally, the items in the sand and water table should be switched out every week, though there are some materials (i.e., water) that need to be emptied daily. What you can and cannot include in your sand and water table depends on the children and the different policies of your program about the use of food during play and explorations, as well as concerns about children’s food allergies and sanitation.  Some of the items listed may be problematic for toddlers and those children who insist on putting everything in their mouth, ears or nose.  Provide close supervision and use only larger items for the very young.

Materials, Ideas & Activities for the Sand & Water Table:

Depending on the contents of the sand and water table, add small shovels, rakes, sand and water mills, small watering cans, squeeze bottles, sifters, sand molds, buckets, plastic or rubber animals, small people, boats, vehicles, kitchen utensils (wire whisks, slotted spoons, scoops, tongs, tweezers, funnels, mixing cups, basters, ladles, muffin tins, plastic cookie cutters, ice cube trays, sieves) and a variety of containers to foster complex sensory play.

I think it’s important to have two sand and water tables—one for inside and one for outside.  That way, depending on the weather and your setup, some kind of sensory activity can be available for the children to explore.  Infants and toddlers rely on sensory input to learn about their environment. Sensory play helps build neural connections that support thought, learning, and creativity.  It supports language development, cognitive growth, fine/gross motor skills, problem solving/reasoning, and social interaction.  Sensory experiences are like food for the brain.  With a little bit of planning, sensory play in the sand and water table can happen everyday!

Discount School Supply® Product Recommendations:
Best Value Sand & Water Activity Table and Lid (SWTAB, SWTABL)
Neptune Sand and Water Table with Lid (NEPTUNE)
Sand & Water Buckets (BUCKSET)
32 Ounce Bubble Solution (BUB32)
Bubble Wands (BUBWNDS)
Small Shovels (SMSHOV24)
Watering Can (WCAN)
Colorations® Easy-Grip Dough Cutters (EGCUTTER)
Sand & Water Mills (MILLSET3)
Pour and Measure Play Set (POURPACK)
Funnels (FUNNELS)
Excellerations® Fun Foam Fishing Set (REELFUN)
Sailboats (SAILS)
Sturdy Scoops (FUNSCOOP)
Super Classroom Sand Set (SDSET)
Sandtastik® White Play Sand (PLAYSAND)
Soft Touch Cute Baby Sea Creatures (BABYSEA)
Soft Touch Cute Baby Wild Animals (BABYZOO)
Soft Touch Cute Baby Farm Animals (BABYFARM)
Soft Multicultural Career Figures (HELPER)
Small Multicultural Career Figures (PEOPLE)
Bathing Dolls (BATHSET)
Primary Toddler Dish Set (DISHSET)
Magic Nuudles™ (ALLNU)
Kinetic Sand ™ (KINSAND)
Colored Play Sand (CSANDALL)
Sparkling Sculpture Sand (BLINGSET)
Shape it!™ Sand (MOONSNST)
Small Gotcha Nets (NETS)
Gator Grabber Tweezers (GATGRABS)
Medium Insects & Spiders (INSECTS)
Foam Wooden Blocks (WDFMBLK)
Foam Tabletop Unit Blocks (FOBL)
Tree Blocks with Bark (TRBLK)
Tree Blocks without Bark (TRBLKNB)
Chubby Land, Sea & Air Vehicles (CHUBBY)
Fun Dough Scissors (DSCISSOR)
Colorations® Tissue Paper Grass (TGRASS)
Super Safe Plastic Droppers (12SSD)
Colorations®
Liquid Watercolor Classic Colors (13LW)
Colorations® No-Drip Foam Paint (BFP)
Colored Macaroni (SMAC)
Colored Rice (RRIC)
Colorations® Washable Finger Paint (CWFPS)
Colorations® Sensory Sand Finger Paint (SANSET)
Fabric Squares (FAB)
Jumbo 2” Pom-Poms (LGPOMS)
Craft Fluffs (FLUFFPK)
Wood Craft Rounds (WOOD50)

Rubber Duckie, You’re Number One!

Rubber Duckie, you’re the one, You make bathtime lots of fun,
Rubber Duckie, I’m awfully fond of you…

Whether you spell it “Ducky” or “Duckie” (as in the Sesame Street song), the rubber duck squeaked in to become a 2013 inductee into the Toy Hall of Fame (along with the ancient game of chess).  Officials at the National Toy Hall of Fame (located inside the The Strong—National Museum of Play in Rochester, NY) say anyone can nominate a toy and thousands of suggestions come in every year.  An internal committee of curators, educators and historians chooses the finalists and then a national selection committee votes for the winners.  Longevity is a key criterion for getting into the hall. Each toy must be widely recognized, foster learning, creativity or discovery through play, and endure in popularity over generations.

Rubber ducks have been recognized as the quintessential bathtub toy since 1970 when Ernie, the cheerful orange Muppet on Sesame Street, first sang the catchy ditty “Rubber Duckie” to his best bath buddy. The song rose to number 16 on Billboard’s chart of hit tunes and, 43 years later, kids still sing the praises of their water play pals.

Not only the bathtub but the water table is a natural place for rubber ducks to reside.  Excellerations™ Letter Learning Ducks from Discount School Supply® are a great play prop addition.  The product includes:

  • 26 plastic ducks—each with an upper and lowercase alphabet letter on the bottom
  • 26 alphabet duck-shaped cards—each with an upper and lowercase alphabet letter on one side of the card and a corresponding picture that begins with that letter on the opposite side
  • Mesh drawstring bag to store ducks
  • Activity guide filled with great game ideas for 2-7 year olds

Activity Ideas for 3-5 year olds

  • Fill the water table and place the Letter Learning Ducks in the water.  Encourage children to find the duck that has the first letter of their name.
  • Place the Alphabet Duck Cards on the floor or on a table with the letters facing up.  When a child finds the duck with the matching letter, have him place the duck next to the matching alphabet card.  After everything is matched, sing the alphabet song together.
  • Add some no tears bubble bath soap to the water and have the children stir up some bubble bath fun for the rubber ducks.

Objectives & Learning Outcomes

Physical Development:

  • Fine motor control—Muscle strength in the hands and fingers and coordination of the eyes and hands is promoted when children play with the ducks

Social & Emotional Development:

  • Playing cooperatively and sharing ducks
  • Explore social roles as they give the ducks a bath

Language Development:

  • Children discuss their observations and experimentation as they manipulate the ducks
  • Children expand their vocabularies as they learn words like sudsy, splash, bubble, pop

Cognitive Development:

  • Understand cause and effect relationships—predicting what will happen when soap is added to the water
  • Recognizing beginning letters in familiar words and names (preschool standard)
  • Matching words with the same beginning sounds (preschool standard)
  • Recognizing all upper and lowercase alphabet letters (kindergarten standard)

Discount School Supply® Product Recommendations:
Medium Best Value Sand and Water Activity Table (LWTAB)
Excellerations™ Letter Learning Ducks – set of 26 (LLDUCK)

Excellerations™ Get Up and Go! Dice

I am passionate about putting into teacher’s and children’s hands materials that promote physical activity and learning.  Excellerations™ Get Up and Go! Dice does just that and is a quality product from Discount School Supply®.

The Excellerations™ Get Up and Go! Dice set includes:

  • 2 dice with pockets on all sides
  • 20 different movement activity cards
  • 12 numeral cards (2 each of the numbers 1-6)
  • 12 dice dot cards (2 each of the dots numbering 1-6)
  • 12 blank cards

The two large seven-inch vinyl-covered foam dice have pockets on all six sides that hold activity and number cards.  Insert six different activity cards in each of the pockets on one die.  On the other die put the numeral cards, either showing the dots or the numeral.  Depending on the developmental skills level of the children, I use the numeral cards for numbers 1, 2, and 3 and the dot cards for numbers 4, 5, and 6.  Young children may not recognize the larger numerals, but they are usually able to count the dots or “pips.”  Did you know that the dots on dice are called “pips?”  The word “pip” commonly means a “spot” or a “speck,” and perhaps that’s why the dots on dice, as well as dominoes, are called pips.  Don’t shy away from the big word, i.e., “pips” for “dots.”  It is very common for adults to simplify their language when talking to young children.  Throwing in a new word now and then is a great opportunity to build vocabulary! If you’re going to explain what something is, you might as well use the proper word the first time. Children may not always pick up on those big words, but they certainly won’t if they don’t ever hear them.  So go ahead, use words like “identical” instead of “same” and “pips” instead of “dots.” You’ll be surprised at what the children will pick up on when you give them the chance!

kids stretching

Here is a fun favorite activity that I like to play indoors or outside.  You’ll find more ideas in the Activity Guide that comes with it.

Roll the Dice for Exercise

How to play:

  1. Sit children in a large circle.
  2. One child is chosen to roll the dice.
  3. Child with dice stands up and rolls the dice into the middle of the circle.
  4. The child identifies the activity to be performed and the number of times to perform the activity by counting the pips or stating the number shown on the die.
  5. All children in the circle stand up and perform the activity that is lead by the child who rolled the dice.  All the children are to count as they perform the movement.
  6. When finished, the child who had rolled the dice gives it to another child who continues the game by rolling the dice and leading the group in the movement activity that is shown on the movement die and counting the number of times they are to do the activity (as shown on the number die).
  7. The game ends when every child has had a chance to “Roll the Dice for Exercise.”

Suggestions & Variations:

  • If the child who rolled the die has difficulty counting, let the group count the dots or pips out loud on the number die, as the child points to them.
  • Take pictures of the children doing a favorite movement activity (i.e., jumping jacks, jogging in place, etc.) and adhere it to a blank card.  This personalizes it to the group of children in your classroom.
  • This activity is also a great one to use when children are in transition –i.e., waiting for the bus or their group’s turn, etc.

Objectives/Learning Outcomes:

  1. Physical activity: any bodily movement produced by skeletal muscles that results in energy expenditure
  2. Gross motor skills: using the large muscles of the arms, legs and trunk
  3. Cooperative play: games and activities that the participants play together rather than against one another
  4. Listening skills: ability to follow verbal directions
  5. Language development: speaking, communicating
  6. Mathematics: number sense of quantity and counting; one-to-one correspondence
  7. Social emotional development: taking turns; promotes children’s self-esteem and confidence

Get active, get moving, get healthy…and start rolling the Excellerations™ Get Up and Go! Dice.  Everyone will be a winner!

Giggles & Wiggles!

SK giggles wiggles 1

Music, Movement & Creative Activities for Circle Time

Circle Time, also called Group Time, Rug Time or Meeting Time refers to any time that a group of children come together for activities that involve everyone. It’s a special time to share songs, fingerplays, chants and rhymes, flannel board stories, puppets, play rhythm instruments, read a story, and participate in movement games, relaxation activities or whatever else that particular day may bring.  Circle Time provides for a listening time, a time to develop attention span, promote oral communication, and a time for learning new concepts and skills. It’s a time for auditory memory, sensory experiences, socialization, and a time for FUN! Circle Time can be a complex, dynamic interaction among adults, children and resources used.

I will be giving a presentation, “Giggles & Wiggles! It’s Circle Time,” at the 2013 NAEYC Annual Conference & Expo in Washington, DC at the Convention Center on Friday, November 22, 2013, from 10:00 AM – 11:30 AM.  Techniques and props for presenting music, movement, and creative activities will have you up off your seat and on your feet!  Have fun, get inspired, and learn how to make your group time more active and enjoyable for you and the children!

Get more ideas by joining me for a mini version of “Giggles & Wiggles” happening in the Discount School Supply® booth(booth #1922) before every spin on the “Wheel of Fun” in the Exhibit Hall.  We’ll be singing, moving, and even giving away Circle Time props.  See you there!

SK NAEYC 2013

Discount School Supply® Product Recommendations:

Angeles® Rainbow Block Carpet (RNBRD6)
Double-Sided Story Board (VELTTS)
Felt Story Sets, Books & CDs (STORYCD)
Rhythm, Rhyme & Repetition Books (RRRBKS3)
Excellerations™ Claves Classroom Set (CLAVESET)
KIDSPLAY® 8-Note Handbell Set (OCTAVE)
Big Mouth Animal Puppets (FUNPUP)
Excellerations™
Counting Pop-Up Puppets (CONPUP)
Excellerations™
Get Up and Go! Dice (GODICE)
Easy Store Music & Movement Kit (BOOGIE)
Rainbow Dancing Wrist Bands (RNBW)
Excellerations™ Toddler Movement Scarves (MOOVIT)
Juggling Scarves (JUGGLE)
Circle Time Fun Set of CDs (CTIMEFUN)
Hamilton™ AM/FM CD Player (BOOMBOX)

The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything!

I’m putting together a list of “Books That Move You” for an upcoming presentation I will be doing for the California Library Association State Conference in November (I’ll make sure to share that list in a future post).  The title of this blog is the title of a really great and interactive book I’ve read to my preschoolers every October.  It’s become a Halloween classic, though the word “Halloween” never even enters the text.

The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything, by Linda Williams and illustrated by Megan Lloyd is about a little old lady who goes out into the woods to get some herbs, spices, nuts and seeds, but stays out until nightfall. Walking home she meets a pair of shoes that go CLOMP! CLOMP!  “Get out of my way, you two big shoes! I’m not afraid of you,” she said.  She kept on walking down the path, but the shoes clomp-clomped behind her. She meets more clothing: a pair of pants that go WIGGLE, WIGGLE, a shirt that goes SHAKE, SHAKE, two gloves that go CLAP, CLAP, and a hat that went NOD, NOD. She tells each one “Get out of my way! I’m not afraid of you,” but they all follow her, making their noises.  When she got near her cottage, the Little Old Lady encounters a very huge, very scary pumpkin head that goes BOO! BOO! The Little Old Lady runs home, hearing all those sounds behind her.  When she’s back inside her cottage, a KNOCK, KNOCK, challenges her to open her door. Again, the shoes, pants, shirt, gloves, hat and pumpkin head try to scare her.  When she bravely proclaimed, “You can’t scare me,” the unhappy pumpkin head asks, “What shall become of us?”  But she had an idea.  The little old lady gives them all something useful to do.  She found a place for them in her garden, as a scarecrow, where they could scare all the birds away.

Students can participate in the reading by getting up and moving to the words. I encourage them to:

“Stomp their feet” like the two shoes that went CLOMP, CLOMP

“Wiggle their legs” like the pair of pants that went WIGGLE, WIGGLE

“Shake their shoulders” like the shirt that went SHAKE, SHAKE

“Clap their hands” like the two gloves that went CLAP, CLAP

“Move their head up and down” like the hat that went NOD, NOD

“Say “Boo, Boo!”” like the scary pumpkin head that went BOO, BOO!

We also act this out as a play with used children’s clothes that I find at the local thrift shop–a pair of hiking boots, a white shirt, a black top hat, a pair of white gloves and a plastic Halloween trick or treat pumpkin (jack-o-lantern) bucket. Don’t forget the little old lady props–a hat, shawl, apron, and a small basket with a handle.  Each of the seven children in the play gets the appropriate prop(s) for their part.  The remainder of the children in the group who are not in the play, but watching the play, participate by chanting and acting out the story with their body parts. The little old lady dresses up in her clothes.  The child who is the pair of shoes, holds the small pair of hiking boots (one in each hand) and stomps them on the ground when he hears his part CLOMP, CLOMP; the child who is the pair of pants holds the pants with two hands and WIGGLE, WIGGLES them from side to side; the child who is the shirt holds the shirt with two hands and SHAKE, SHAKES it up and down; the child who is the pair of gloves puts them on his hands and claps them together when he hears his part CLAP, CLAP; the child who is the hat puts it on his head and moves his head up and down with a NOD, NOD; the child who is the pumpkin head holds the jack-o-lantern bucket and moves it back and forth in front of his face saying, BOO, BOO!  In the story when the little old lady is sleeping (actor who is little old lady pretends to sleep), the children place the items on a children’s coat rack or clothes tree to make the scarecrow.  If you do not have a small clothes tree (I used one I had in the Dramatic Play Area), lay the clothing on the floor to make the scarecrow.

The children love this story and can’t wait to have a part in the play.  We read it over and over again. It is both scary and fun!  The text has lots of repetition and sounds/actions, making it a perfect cumulative story for an interactive read-aloud.

A Whale of a Role Model!

I feel very fortunate to live near the ocean in Santa Cruz, CA.  It continually inspires me to venture outside and enjoy all that it affords.  It is a place of beauty, incredible wonders, and home to the greatest diversity of life on earth.  This week, humpback whales can be spotted not far from the beach.  They are joining herds of sea lions and flocks of birds to dine on the abundant anchovies that are present in the bay.  In the photo below taken by Chris Elmenhurst, you can see a mother humpback teaching her baby calf how to feed on the tiny green fish. The whale mother and her baby will share the strongest of bonds for one year with the mother preparing and strengthening her newborn for the long migration up the coast.  It’s common to see a baby trying to perform a good breach over and over and then have mom come up unexpectedly to show junior how it should be done.

Photo by Chris Edinger at Surf the Spot - click photo to view more photos.

Photo by Chris Elmhurst at Surf the Spot – click photo to view more photos.

While I was watching the humpbacks, I also spotted a mother and son exercising together on the beach.  I couldn’t help but notice the correlation between the mother whale with her calf and the mother and son lifting weights.  Just as the mother whale role models for her baby, so does a physically active parent role model for her child.

sharron whale 2

Parents who encourage and endorse physical activities in their own lives are more likely to pass on these good habits to their children.  Research shows that children who exercise do better in school, control themselves better, and have fewer behavior issues. More good news is that children who lead active lifestyles are likely to remain active as adults and pass on their healthy lifestyle habits to their own children.

Consider the following benefits of regular physical activity for growing children:

  • Promotes healthy growth and development
  • Builds strong bones and muscles
  • Improves cardiovascular fitness
  • Increases flexibility
  • Improves balance, coordination and strength
  • Assists with the development of gross motor and fine motor skills
  • Provides the opportunity to develop fundamental movement skills
  • Helps to establish connections between different parts of the brain
  • Improves concentration and thinking skills
  • Provides opportunities to develop social skills and make friends
  • Reduces feelings of depression, stress, and anxiety
  • Improves sleep
  • Promotes psychological well-being, including higher levels of self-esteem and self-
  • concept

Whether you’re a parent or a teacher, be a role model. Show children physical activity is important by enthusiastically participating in it!

The Mirror Game!

sharron mirror game 1

Why It’s a Great Game!

Objectives & Learning Outcomes

Social Emotional Development:

  • Learning to cooperate
  • Accepting others’ ideas
  • Taking turns

Cognitive Development:

  • Replicating physically what the eyes see (developing visual sensitivity to change)
  • Developing focus, attention, and concentration
  • Learning about the concept of mirror reflection

Physical Development:

  • Practicing a variety of nonlocomotor movements
  • Developing spatial awareness (an awareness of space, relative distance, and relationships with space–experiencing personal space)

sharron mirror game 2

How to Play

Set Up and Materials

  • Available indoor or outdoor space
  • Children paired up and scattered in the space
  • Music
  • If desired, demonstrate the concept of reflection using a mirror

sharron mirror game 3

Directions

  1. Partners face each other at arm’s distance apart.
  2. Ask one child to be the “leader” and perform simple movements in place and his partner (the second child) to imitate the leader as a mirror reflection.  For example, if the leader  waves his right arm, the “mirror” waves his left arm in the same way, duplicating the movement as if he is looking into a mirror.
  3. Start the music–fast or slow.  The use of slow background music might help keep the partners moving slowly at first.
  4. Go from simple (only one body part moving) to complex (more than one body part moving at the same time).
  5. When the music stops, partners change roles, with the leader becoming the mirror and the mirror becoming the leader.

Suggestions & Variations

  • Children will mirror better if they watch each other’s eyes rather than extremities.
  • Ask the leader to move slowly enough so the mirror can follow.
  • Have the players do the activity while sitting.
  • Combine the activity with streamers or scarves.

sharron mirror game 4

Discount School Supply® Product Recommendations:
Rainbow Dancing Wrist Bands (RNBW)
Juggling Scarves (JUGGLE)
Daily Fitness 4 CD Set (MOVEMENT)
Circle Time Fun Set – 3 CDs (CTIMEFUN)
Hamilton™ AM/FM CD Player (BOOMBOX)
Look At Me Mirror Kit (LOOKATME)