Thursday, May 23, 2019


It’s almost summertime and that means the planes will be full of some happy children, some screaming children, some bored children, and some entertained children!  It befuddles me how some parents don't have a clue when it comes to interacting with their children.  This is a blog I wrote several years ago, but you might want to share it with your families.  What a missed opportunity to just hand an electronic device to a child and miss a wonderful conversation and memory!

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure when you travel with children.  And if you’ll read these tips, I bet your fellow passengers will thank you for being on top of the game!  Take advantage of the one-on-one time with your child by giving them 100% of your attention.  After all, isn’t that what children want most from adults?

Planning Ahead
Several days before the trip start talking about your adventure and give details about what is going to happen.  Have children close their eyes as you describe the trip – checking in at the airport -  going through security -  waiting for your flight to be called – getting on the plane and fastening your seatbelt – taking off – looking out the window – landing – how much fun you’ll have on your vacation, etc.  Explain that there are many other people who will be sharing a small space on the plane and that everyone needs to be respectful and use their best manners and quiet voices.  The pilots and flight attendants are there to keep everybody safe, so you will have to listen carefully to them.

Let your children pack a bag full of special objects that they want to carry on the plane.  (You’ll have to give some guidelines for this so they don’t try and bring their entire collection of stuffed animals.)  A few books, a tablet and markers, a card game, a bedtime buddy or blanket, and some healthy snacks should do the trick.  You might also suggest a change of clothes, tissues, and bandaids in case of emergencies.
Note!  I did not suggest a computer or IPad.  Parents, you can pack this in your bag and save it for emergencies.  Too often children play with these while waiting for their flights to take off and then they are bored by the time they get up in the air.

After going through security, walk around and look out the windows at the other planes.  Look at all the passengers and guess where they might be going.  Talk about special things that your child hopes to do on the trip.   If the flight is delayed you can play “I Spy,” “Tic Tac Toe,” “Hangman” or another quiet game.  Oh, and don’t forget a last minute stop in the restroom!

Taking Off
When boarding a plane, you’ll find most pilots enthusiastic about meeting children and letting them take a “peek” inside the cockpit.  Can your child find her own seat?  Once seated, encourage your child to explore her space.  (It’s fine to open and shut the window shade a few times, look in the seat pocket, talk about the airsick bag, etc.)   Playing with the flight attendant call button is NOT ALLOWED!  When the boarding door has closed, then everyone must buckle up!

Up in the Air
Once you are in the air, it’s time to open the backpack and read some books, play a game, draw some pictures, or eat a snack.  Too often children have gone through their bag of tricks before they get in the air.   If a beverage is served, show your child how to put down their tray and discuss their selection.  Keep on talking and engaging your child.

O.K.  Now, it’s time to get out the iPad or computer and watch a movie.  Wait until the last possible moment to do this.  This is like the 8th inning stretch on the plane.  (I might also recommend a bag of M & M’s – for emergencies only!)  Before you know it you will hear those magic words, “Please make sure your seatbelt are fastened.  We will be landing shortly.”  

Remember, YOU are the parent and you are directing this event.  With a happy, positive, attitude you’ll have a great flight and the other passengers will as well!  How many opportunities do you have to give your child 100% of your attention?  That may be the best part of your trip! 

Wishing you happy travels!

Wednesday, May 22, 2019


How about a “fishy” tale today?

You will need a file folder and 2 orange, 1 red, 1 yellow, 1 blue, and 1 black sheets of construction paper. Trace a fish shape on one side of the file folder and cut it out. Color around the fish so it looks like an ocean. Tape the sides of the folder together. Cut the construction paper into 7” x 9” rectangles. Place the construction paper behind the fish cutout in this order: orange, red, yellow, blue, black, and orange. Glue the words to the story to the back of the file folder so you can read it as you remove one sheet of paper at a time. Encourage the children to join in on the chant.

Once there was an orange fish named Mitch who could change his color with the swish of his tail.  All he had to say was:  
            I’m Mitch the fish.
            I swim and I swish.
            And I can change my color
            If I wish.

One day he was swimming around on the ocean floor and he saw a red lobster.  He thought it would be fun to be a bright color like the lobster so he said:
            I’m Mitch the fish.
            I swim and I swish.
            And I can change my color
            If I wish.

Suddenly he turned red.  (Remove the orange sheet of paper to make Mitch red.)  The lobster said, “I’m the only sea creature who can be red.  I’ll snap at you!”  So Mitch decided he didn’t want to be red anymore.  Just then he saw a yellow starfish and he said:
            I’m Mitch the fish.
            I swim and I swish.
            And I can change my color
            If I wish.

And with a swish of his tail Mitch turned yellow. (Remove the red paper to show the yellow.) The starfish said, “I’m the only creature who can be yellow. I’ll prickle you!” So Mitch decided he didn’t want to be yellow anymore. Mitch saw a blue whale and decided it would be fun to be blue so he said:
I’m Mitch the fish.
I swim and I swish.
And I can change my color
If I wish.

The whale said, “I’m the only creature in the sea who can be blue. I’ll spout water on you!” Mitch thought it might not be a good idea to be blue, so when he saw a shark he decided to be black and he said:
I’m Mitch the fish.
I swim and I swish.
And I can change my color
If I wish.

Well, you know the shark didn’t like Mitch being black and he said, “I’m going to get you!” Finally Mitch said:
I’m Mitch the fish.
I swim and I swish.
And I can change my color
If I wish.

And he turned back into being an orange fish again. Because being yourself is the very best thing that you can be!

Flying Fish
You can make a little flying fish from a strip of paper cut 8 ½” x 1 ½”. Cut slits halfway through near each end as shown. Hook the tabs together, toss it in the air, and watch your fish fly!

Tuesday, May 21, 2019


Children are fascinated by the thought of going fishing. Although, most of them won't actually get to put a worm on a hook and catch a fish, they'll still have fun with these activities.

Have You Ever Been Fishing?   (Tune: “Turkey in the Straw” - Keep on Singing CD)
Have you ever been fishing (Pretend to fish.)
On a bright and sunny day, (Circle arms like the sun.)
When you see those little fishies (Fold hands and wiggle.)
Swimming up and down the bay?
With their hands in their pockets (Put hands in front.)
And their pockets in their pants. (Put hands in back.)
All the little fishies do the (Hands on hips and wiggle.)
Hoochie coochie dance!

*Sing fast, faster, and super duper fast!

Catch a Fish
Staple an 18” piece of string to the end of straw. Let children make fish out of construction paper and tie to the other end of the string. They can use these as they sing the song.

Catch and Eat
Give children a pretzel rod, some gold fish crackers, and a spoonful of peanut butter. Children dip the end of the rod in peanut butter and then catch a fish. 

Here's a poem to say as they fish:

     Down by the ocean,
     What did I see?
     Five little fishes smiling at me.
     Along came (child’s name)
     With a fishing pole one day.
     He/she caught a fish and ate it right away.

Fish Finger Play 
1, 2, 3, 4, 5, (Slowly hold up one finger at a time on right hand.)
I caught a fish alive. (Clap hands together as if catching a fish.)
6, 7, 8, 9, 10, (Hold up fingers on left hand.)
I let it go again. (Open palms and pretend to release.)
Why did you let that fishy go? (Shrug shoulders.)
Because it bit my finger so. (Hands on hips.)
Which finger did it bite? (Shrug shoulders.)
The little finger on my right. (Hold up pinky on right hand.)

Hint! Talk about double meanings of words by explaining what a "school" of fish means.

Paper Plate Fish
You will need paper plates, brad fasteners, markers, and crayons for this project. Cut a triangle out of the paper plate to be the mouth of the fish. Attach the triangle to the back with the brad fastener to make the tail. Color with crayons or paint with water colors.

Hint!  Tie in "greater than" and "less than" with the fish's mouth.

Five Little Fish
(Tune:  “Down in the Meadow in the Itty Bitty Pool” - Silly Songs CD)
No little fishies swimming in the sea,      (Hold up fist.)
Splishing and a splashing           (Pretend to swim.)
And a rocking to the beat.
Here comes a little fishie, (Wave.)
Oh, say, “hello.”

One little fishie swimming in a row.   (Hold up one finger.)

One little fishie… (Hold up one finger.)
Two little fishies… (Hold up two fingers.)
Three little fishies… (Hold up three fingers.)
Four little fishies… (Hold up four fingers.)
Five little fishies… (Hold up five fingers.)

*Choose 5 children to act out this song.

*Make fish puppets from old socks.  Glue on googly eyes, fins, and a mouth as shown.  Let wear these as they act out the song.

*Make fish out of felt and use on a flannel board to demonstrate addition and subtraction.

Go Fish Game
Everybody knows the “Go Fish” card game, but you can play a similar game to reinforce skills. Tie a 3’ string to a stick. Tie a magnet to the other end of the string. Cut fish out of fun foam or construction paper and write letters, numerals, words, math facts, or whatever skill you are working. Insert a brad fastener for the eye of the fish and spread out on the floor. The children take the pole and pretend to catch a fish. Can they identify the information on the fish they catch?

Monday, May 20, 2019


If you can't beat them - then join them!  I know you've definitely got a room full of monkeys this time of year~

Caps for Sale
This was always one of my favorite books to read to my class. It was such fun to let the children be the monkeys and act out the tale. We did this in the classroom as well as outside on the playground equipment.

Monkey on a Swing
Cut a sheet of paper as shown. Roll down the top section and staple to make the monkey’s head. Decorate with markers or crayons. Glue on a tail. Staple the monkey’s hands to a straw and watch him swing.


Compare and Contrast
Get several copies of Curious George books. Compare and contrast George’s adventures. How are they alike? How are they different? Could those adventures really happen?

*Show a video of a Curious George book and then read the paper version.  Let children vote on which one they like best.  (You might be surprised!!!)

Five Little Monkeys 
Five little monkeys jumping on the bed. (Hold up five fingers.)
One fell off and bumped her head. (Touch your head.)
Momma called the doctor and the doctor said, (Pretend to hold a phone.)
“That’s what you get for jumping on the bed!” (Point finger.)
No little monkeys jumping on the bed.
They are sick with broken heads!

*Change the number of monkeys in the song. Children will also get a kick out of saying, "Five little mommies jumping on the bed..."

Monkeys and Alligator  (Dr. Jean & Friends CD)
Five little monkeys swinging from a tree, (Hold up five fingers.)
Teasing Mr. Alligator, “Can’t catch me.”
Along came Mr. Alligator quiet as can be,
And snatched a monkey right out of that tree!
Four little monkeys… (Hold up appropriate number of 
Three…two…one… fingers on hand.)
“Missed me, missed me. (Stick thumbs in ears and tease.)
Now you gotta kiss me!”

Monkey Tail Sandwich
You will need:
     Hot dog buns
     Peanut butter (or substitute)

1.  Wash your hands.
2.  Spread peanut butter in the bun.
3.  Peel the banana and insert it in the bun.
4.  Yum! Yum!

Hint!  We usually made these with half a banana and hotdog bun because it was too big for the children to eat for snack.

Sunday, May 19, 2019


Some things like animal crackers never go out of style!

Animal Crackers 
By Dr. Holly
Lions, and tigers, and bears, oh, my!
In my box that’s what I spy.
Take them out.
Should I run?
No, I’ll eat them!
Yum! Yum! Yum!

Pass out an animal cracker to each child. Encourage them to write descriptive sentences about their cracker. I see… I smell… I feel… I hear… I taste!


Tag Along Book
Cut the front and back off a box of animal crackers. (Be sure and leave the string attached.) Cut paper the size of the box. Give each child a sheet and ask them to draw a zoo animal or write a description of a zoo animal. Put their pictures between the front and back of the box and staple to make a book.
Hint! This is called a tag along book because they can hold it and it will tag along with them!

Use zoo animal plates for simple addition. Children make sets in each ear and then join them together and count the sum. You can use math counters, buttons, popcorn, or cereal.

What does it mean to be a carnivore? Herbivore? Omnivore? What are you? Do some research to find out eating habits of different zoo animals.

Use animal crackers, toy animals, or pictures to sort zoo animals. Ask children what sorting rule they used. Can they think of another way to sort the animals?

Put Me in the Zoo
Do a language experience chart where children fill in the sentence:
If I were in the zoo I would be…
Let them draw pictures of which animal they would like to be. Why did they choose that animal?

Zoo Treats
You will need graham crackers, animal crackers, and peanut butter to make this snack. Children put a small amount of peanut butter on the graham cracker and stand animal cookies up on it.

*You can using icing or cream cheese for children with peanut allergies.

Saturday, May 18, 2019


I love to go to the zoo.  Our family is actually going to the San Diego Zoo for vacation this summer.  I can't wait!!!  Whether you take a field trip to the zoo or an imaginary trip on the internet, I've got some activities that children will enjoy.  Many of these ideas could be adapted to literature (poems or riddles about zoo animals) or informative writing and science (habitats, body covering, babies, food).

We’re Going to the Zoo
(Tune:  “The Bear Went over the Mountain”)
We’re going to the zoo.
We’re going to the zoo.
We’re going to the zoo.
Won’t you come, too?
The elephants swing their trunks.  (Stick out one arm like a trunk
The elephants swing their trunks.   and stomp from side to side.)
The elephants swing their trunks.
And we can do it, too.

*Insert other animal names and these motions:

Kangaroos jump around…  (Bend elbows like paws and jump.)
Bears put all fours on the ground…(Put hands and feet on ground and walk.)
Giraffes walk on tippy toes…(Stretch neck and walk on toes.)
Zebras gallop to and fro…(Gallop in place.)
Snakes slither and wiggle…(Wiggle as you go up and down.) 
Penguins wobble and jiggle…(Palms out by sides and wobble.)

Guess Who?
Let children take turns pantomiming different zoo animals as their friends try and guess who they are.
(I couldn't resist using this picture. My mother made this lion costume for my son when he was four. K.J. and Kalina both had fun playing in it when they were little.)

Zoo Animal Puppets
Let children create their favorite zoo animal from a lunch bag, paper plate, craft stick, or envelope.

Animal Cheers
Seal of Approval – Extend arms in front of you and cross them over each other.  Clap as you make a barking noise.
Elephant Cheer  - Stick one arm out straight from under your chin.  Put top lips over bottom lip as you blow and make a trumpeting sound.
Snake Cheer – Palms folded together next to your chest.  Keeping them together wiggle them out as you make a “Ssssss” sound.  Stick your tongue quickly in and out of your mouth.
Tiger Cheer – You’re GGGRRREEEAAATTT!  (Stick fist in the air.)

Imagination Bag
Give each child an empty lunch bag.  Demonstrate how to open the bag and ask them to do the same.  Explain that you are going to take an imaginary trip to the zoo.  Ask them to look in their bags to see what they can find.  Encourage children to name the animals in their bag as they create an imaginary zoo on the floor in front of them.

Matching Game
Make a matching game where children match up mother zoo animals and their babies.  Can they tell you the names for the different animal babies?  
*You could also play a memory game with these cards.
Hint!  I found my pictures at google images.

Friday, May 17, 2019


Whether you teach summer school, work at a camp, or have children at home, a major goal will be to encourage them to read and write this summer.  Here are some ideas to share with parents to help their children FALL IN LOVE WITH READING!

Explore Your Library
The library is a magical place that will open a world of books to children. When children get to choose their own books, it’s a powerful hook to get them to read. Most libraries have summer reading programs, as well as puppet shows and special events.
*Hint! Let children decorate a cloth bag to store books from the library. Keep it in a special place to encourage children to be responsible.

Noises Off
Have a quiet time each day when all devices are TURNED OFF. If you don’t make this a priority and routine, it won’t happen. Not only should you expect your children to read, you need to enjoy a book and be a good model for them. In the book THE SMARTEST KIDS IN THE WORLD, an interesting finding was that parents who read with their children and modeled reading had a positive impact on academic success.

Rabbit Trap
“If you want to catch a rabbit, you have to have a rabbit trap.” And, if you want children to read, you have to create a unique place where they will want to read.
*Let children decorate a cardboard appliance box to be a “book clubhouse.”
*Put pillows and stuffed animals in a small plastic pool so they can “dive in” and read.
*Make a tent and let them read with a flashlight.
*Brainstorm other places that would be fun to read.

Treasure Hunt Story
Prepare clues that will lead to a “treasure story.” (This is a special book that you have hidden outside.) For example:
1. A treasure hunt is so much fun. Near the swing is clue number one.
2. Clue number two should be easy, too. At the top of the slide is something for you.
3. Clue number three you will find in a tree.
4. Now it’s time for clue number four. Look for it by the storage door…
Tape the clues around your yard or playground ending with the spot where the “treasure story” is hidden. Encourage the children to help you read the clues and follow the directions. Find a shady spot outside and enjoy reading the book.

Paper and Pencils
*How about a spiral notebook or diary where you encourage children to write each day?
*Give children paper and envelopes to send letters to relatives and school classmates.
*Involve children in making shopping lists, chore charts, and other print activities.
*What child won’t want to write if you give them sticky notes to make labels and reminders?
*Clipboards and markers are good for a car trip or walk in the neighborhood.

Busy Box
Fill a shoebox or plastic tub with scrap paper, pens, pencils, markers, hole punch, scissors, glue stick, stickers, lunch bags, envelopes, silly putty, etc. When you have to fix dinner or need a break, get it out and encourage children use their imaginations.

Chalk Talk
Chalk can provide endless writing and reading opportunities.
*Children can decorate a paved surface for a birthday, Father’s Day, or other event.
*Children can practice writing words or drawing shapes.
*Draw a hopscotch design with chalk on a paved surface. Write letters or numerals in each section for the children to identify as they hop and play.

Reading and writing should be a JOY, not a chore. The trick is finding the right book that they will WANT to read and finding something they WANT to write about.
Happy reading and writing!!

Thursday, May 16, 2019


One more of those silly camp songs for you today! 

The Beaver Call
Chorus: F-f-f, f-f-f, f-f-f-f-f-f-f.
(Extend arms and open and close fingers.
Put your top teeth over your bottom lip as you /f/.)

Beavers one, beavers all, (Cross right arm in front and then left arm.)
Do a little beaver call. (Chorus)

Beavers two, beavers three, (Pretend to climb a tree.)
Let’s chew up the beaver tree. (Chorus)

Beavers four, beaver five, (Pretend to dance.)
Do a little beaver jive. (Chorus)

Beaver six, beavers seven, (Wave your arms and look up.)
Let’s fly up to beaver heaven. (Chorus)

Beavers eight, beavers nine, (Extend arms stiffly like Frankenstein.)
Do a little Frankenstein. (Chorus)

Beavers ten, beavers ten, (Extend arms and open and close fingers.)
Let’s be beavers once again! (Chorus) 

*Go to and put "summer 2014" in the search engine to download a free version of this song.

How Can You Find Out?
Ask children what beavers do. How can you find out?  You can go to the library, look on the internet, ask a friend, ask your parents, etc.

      Why do they have such big teeth? 

      How do they use their tail? 

      Where do they live?

      How do they help the environment? 

      What does it mean to be "busy as a beaver"?


Here's a video about beavers that your class will enjoy.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019


Here are two long camp songs. They were great to keep the children engaged 

while they waited, washed their hands, got ready to go home, etc.  

Several years ago when K.J. came home from camp he sang “Little Cabin in the Woods” to me. Do you remember that one? I sure do, but not many people sing it any more. It’s a long song that’s good to sing while children wash their hands or get ready to go home. Each time you sing through the song you hum a verse and just make the motions. By the end of the song you are quietly humming the whole way through. I’ve changed the words a little from the original version because it might not be "politically correct" these days. (We used to say, "Help me! Help me! Help me!" he said. "Or that hunter will shoot me dead."  It's much kinder just to take that little bunny inside and keep him warm.)

You can sing with me on this new video:

Little Cabin Video

Little Cabin in the Woods
Little cabin in the woods.
(Make a square in the air with index fingers.)
Little man by the window stood.
(Hand over eyes.)
Saw a rabbit hopping by
(Two fingers up like ears and hop hand.)
Knocking at my door.
(Knock in the air.)
“Help me! Help me! Help me, please.
(Throw hands up in the air.)
For it’s cold and I might freeze.”
(Wrap arms around self and shake.)
Little rabbit come inside
(Motion “come.”)
Safely you’ll abide.
(Stick up 2 fingers on one hand and stroke with other hand.)

Here's another good old song that's kind of gone by the wayside.  Maybe people don't like the "boppin' them the head thing."  You know, it's just a silly song so don't take it too seriously!

Here's another new video for you:

Little Bunny Foo Foo
Little Bunny Foo Foo    (Hold up 2 fingers for ears and hop.)
hopping through the forest
scooping up the field mice  (Pretend to scoop something with right hand.)
and boppin' them on the head.  (Hit right fist with left hand.)
Down came the good fairy and she said,  (Wiggle fingers down.)
"Little Bunny Foo Foo,  (Point finger.)
I don't want to see you
scooping up the field mice
and boppin them on the head.
I'll give you 3 chances  (Hold up 3 fingers.)
and if you don't obey me,  (Point to group.)
I'm going to turn you into a GOON!"  (Open hands with drama.)

The next day -
Little Bunny Foo Foo...
I'll give you 2 more chances...

The next day - 
Little Bunny Foo Foo...
I'll give you one more chance...

The next day -

Little Bunny Foo Foo 

hopping through the forest

scooping up the field mice

and boppin' them on the head.

Down came the good fairy and she said,

"Little Bunny Foo Foo, 

I didn't want to see you

scooping up the field mice

and boppin them on the head.
I gave you 3 chances
and if you didn't obey me,
So I'm going to turn you into a GOON!


Moral of the story:  HARE TODAY - GOON TOMORROW!

Tuesday, May 14, 2019


Over the next few days I'll share some videos of camp songs that I sang long ago.  
They just might help you get through the last few days of school with a smile!
And, they might entertain your children while you finish packing and filling out reports!


Can you imagine sitting around a campfire and singing? Talk about a vanishing activity! No electronic device…no big screen…no musical instruments…just an engaging song and friends! My daughter and I were reminiscing that nobody sings like that any more.  If you ever sang around a campfire as a child, it's a happy memory you will never forget.

The great thing about children is that you can still give them that special memory in your classroom or out on the playground.  One day we built a fake campfire out of sticks.  (I would have had the fire marshall after me if we built a real fire.)  The kids found sticks, stuck marshmallows on the end, and pretended to roast them in the fire.  It was hysterical, because they were totally into the experience.  We then sang some of our favorite songs. 


Yogi Bear  (Tune: “Camptown Racers” JUST FOR FUN CD)  You can sing along with me on this new video:

Camp Song Video

I have a friend that you all know
Yogi, Yogi. (On “Yogi” hold arms out like a tummy.)
I have a friend that you all know
Yogi, Yogi Bear. (On “Bear” make circles with thumbs and index fingers
and put them on your head.)
Yogi, Yogi, Bear.
Yogi, Yogi, Bear.
I have a friend that you all know
Yogi, Yogi Bear.
Yogi has a little friend
Boo Boo, Boo Boo… (On “Boo Boo” put hand down low as if patting
his head.)

Yogi has a Ranger Friend,
Joe, Joe… (Pretend to salute on “Ranger.”)

Yogi has a girlfriend,
Cindy, Cindy… (Fluff hair on “Cindy.”)

They all live in Jellystone,
Jelly, Jelly… (Wiggle all over on “Jelly.”)

Baby Fish
Long before "Baby Shark" I was singing about "Baby Fish."

Baby Fish Video

Baby fish, do-do, do-do-do-do, (Open and shut index
Baby fish, do-do, do-do-do-do. fingers to the beat.)
(Sing twice.)

Momma fish… (Open and shut hands.)
Daddy fish… (Open and shut arms.)
Giant whale… (Extend arm and leg to make whale’s mouth.)

Activities: Make up other verses, such as one about uncle fish, grandma fish, etc. Have the children suggest arm movements to do for the different fish.

(Tune: “Sailing, Sailing, Over the Bounding Main” - Happy Everything CD)
Swimming, swimming, (Pretend to stroke arms.)
In the swimming pool. (Take index fingers and make a square in the air.)
When days are hot (Pretend to fan self.)
Or days are cold, (Rap arms around your self and shiver.)
in the swimming pool. (Make a square in the air.)
Back stroke, (Stroke arms backwards.)
Side stroke, (Swim to the side.)
Fancy diving, too. (Palms together and pretend to dive.)
There’s no place (Shake head “no.”)
I would rather be
Than in the swimming pool. (Make a square in the air.)

*The second time through hum the first line as you make the motions.
Third time hum the first two lines and make the motions.
With each verse omit the words and hum as you make the motions until you are just humming the song.

Here are some other favorite campfire songs:

Found a Peanut
Coming Round the Mountain
The Wheels on the Bus
Chica Boom Chica Boom

Monday, May 13, 2019


Need just a few more ideas to make it until the last day of school?  I've got ideas each day this week to keep your kids busy, engaged, learning, and having fun!

What better place to do REAL writing about REAL experiences than outside on the playground!

Cut 5" off the top of lunch bags.  Give children scrap paper and markers to decorate like a camera.  (Oops!  Some of them might not know about cameras any more so you might need to explain that to them!!)  Punch holes and tie on string so the camera can be worn around the neck.  Cut 4 1/2" squares and place inside the camera.  Take children on an nature walk and invite them to take "photos" of things they see.  When you return to the classroom ask them to draw their favorite thing on the paper in their camera.  Next, ask  them to write or dictate a sentence about their "photo."

*Note!  Tie this into science themes by having them take "photos" of signs of summer, animal homes, living objects, and so forth.

Opinion - What I Like to Do Outside 

Make blank books by folding two sheets of paper in half and stapling the side. Give children the books, something to write on, and inspire them by sitting under a tree on the playground. 

Descriptive – My Senses 
Prepare a worksheet with the following: 

I see _______. 
I hear _______. 
I smell _______. 
I touch ______. 

Give children a clipboard and encourage them to explore the playground as they fill in the blanks (write or draw pictures). Let children share their findings with classmates and then put their pages together to make a class book.

Narrative - Cartoon 

Prepare cartoon frames for children with 3 or 4 sections. Have them use the cartoon frames to illustrate something they have done outside. Demonstrate how to add dialogue bubbles so the characters can talk.

I Wonder Research 

Make “thinking pads” for children by cutting paper into fourths and stapling several sheets together. Explain that you will take a “wonder walk” on the school grounds. If they see something they’d like to know more about, they can draw a picture or write it on their thinking pads. Let children share what they recorded when you return to the classroom. Brainstorm how they can find out more about their topic. 
*Let them do “research” with their parents for homework.


Sunday, May 12, 2019


Phyllis Doerr is a veteran kindergarten teacher in Newark, who is sick of the status quo. In this WASHINGTON POST article that came out this week, she writes about why so many kids “are doomed right out of the gate,” and she provides a road map to remedy the problem and make early learning joyful again. 


I once watched a kindergarten teacher pass by my classroom door, struggling to move a large wooden play kitchen toward the exit of our school building in New Jersey.

“What are you doing?” I asked my colleague.

“Moving this out of my room — we have no time for play!”

My heart sank.

To all who love and care about kindergartners

Dear parents of young children, kindergarten teachers, elementary school principals, district and state superintendents, university education program professors and administrators, and any person who cares about the education and well-being of our youngest learners:

Have you ever watched a 5- or 6-year-old child play? Have you seen a little boy cradle a baby doll, pretending to be a daddy? Or watched a team put together a giant floor puzzle? Or observed a pair of students work together creating a magnificent cityscape with blocks that includes a bridge? Or seen a little girl don a chef’s hat and apron and happily serve pizza to her customers.

Kindergartners should love and be excited about school. Their first year of formal education should be … maybe even a magical year. Early education expert Dorothy Strickland, a Rutgers University professor and researcher, said that a child’s first learning experience determines a child’s attitude toward school for years to come. She maintains that the primary focus of kindergarten should be executive functions such as problem-solving, organizing, sequencing, conflict resolution, decision-making, and reasoning.

There is an important debate taking place over questions such as: What is age-appropriate to teach in kindergarten? What are the most appropriate teaching practices in the kindergarten classroom?

As kindergarten registration gets underway in the United States for the 2019-20 school year, let’s consider these questions: Which methods are working to achieve the goal of best educating young children? And which are not serving our goals for the education of our youngest learners?

These days, words that you will hear some educators and decision-makers use when discussing the question of what should be taught and how in kindergarten are: rigor, stamina, technology and standardized testing. Oh, and data.

I would argue that joy, character-building, social emotional learning, recess, multi-sensory/hands-on/interactive learning and multiple intelligences are more appropriate terms when it comes to discussing the kindergarten learner. Integrating these methods into instruction in the kindergarten classroom will result in better “outcomes.“

Things are not going well

As a kindergarten teacher for 10 years, I am surrounded by teachers both in my school and other schools. And I talk to parents in and out of my school. I am finding out that things are not going well for many kindergartners.

·      Recently on a plane, a kindergarten mom sat next to me. She lamented that she was pulling her child out of the expensive, private school her daughter was attending. The mom was upset that the school planned to hold the child back in kindergarten another year because she was not reading sentences.

  A friend who is a mom of twins in kindergarten is panicked because her son is not reading proficiently, and the teacher has discussed keeping the child back. She instructed the parent to work harder with this child at home so they could bring him up to speed.

  A fellow teacher is very concerned because her son is losing interest in school. In kindergarten!

  A worried parent on an advice blog geared at helping parents raise their kids wrote: “My son is having a really rough year and it’s breaking my heart. He went to preschool for two years and did awesome! The teachers thought he would do great and I never had any behavior complaints. Kindergarten has been a nightmare. This year he’s having a hard time reading and writing. He says he hates school and he’s totally uninterested. I’m constantly getting phone calls that he’s distracting the class and acting out.”

The truth is, it is not that hard to do things right in kindergarten; to do things in such a way that optimal learning is accomplished and the child experiences joy, growth and even wonder.

Thanks to hundreds of child psychologists, researchers and experts in the field of early-childhood education, we have always known what makes a kindergartner flourish. John Dewey, Jean Piaget, Lev Vygotsky pointed the way in the past, and more recently, early-childhood education experts such as Strickland, Nancy Carlsson-Paige, Pasi Sahlberg and James F. Christie have added to our knowledge.

This has not changed over time because the brains of 5- and 6-year-old children have not changed. Psychologists, researchers and educators who have done the work for a very long time point to the same conclusion.

Kindergartners will not thrive as long as we continue to push developmentally inappropriate concepts, like: 

  Reading too soon.

  Writing too soon. (They have been out of the womb five years and many of their little fingers cannot yet grasp a pencil.)

  Making them sit for long periods of time. (Kindergartners can typically attend to a task that is of interest for 10-15 minutes, according to most reputable sources.)

  Forcing so much time engaged in academic areas that no time is left for creativity, building, constructing, pretending, imagination, music and movement, social skills practice and so many other activities essential to the healthy development of the young child.

So what should we do?

Based on my experience (and lots of research done by passionate, dedicated professionals) kindergartners will thrive and love school when we:

  Integrate instruction based on multisensory learning.
              Kindergartners learn with their five senses — exploring, creating, building, testing, sorting, organizing, pretending, moving, singing, chanting. Sitting still and listening for long periods of time is not how they learn. In fact, it is the opposite of how to best teach a kindergartner and is guaranteed to shut them down to learning.
  Stop over-testing and teach with the premise in mind that testing is not teaching.(The curriculum my school uses includes a test on singing “Old MacDonald.” You read that correctly. A TEST. The child is to be given a SCORE on how they sing the song.)

  Teach foundational skills in kindergarten in math and language arts,not complicated, developmentally inappropriate concepts that are largely beyond a 6-year-old’s reach. By all means, expose them to lots and lots of books!
  In literacy, teach letters and sounds and pre-reading skills.With some exceptions, the brain of a young child opens the door for more proficient reading in first and second grade — not in kindergarten!

  Stop making 5- and 6-year-old children take tests on computers.For many, the results are completely inaccurate because of the vehicle. Young fingers don’t work well on the keypad yet due to small-motor immaturity.

  Bring back a balanced approach to teaching kindergarten.Learning through play in kindergarten should be a primary method of learning. Play is a child’s work.

  Include an hour of outdoor play in the school day.Children are meant to be outside. Watch how they blossom in the classroom when they have enough time outside.

Major research spells it out

According to a major 2018 study by the American Academy of Pediatrics:

The most powerful way children learn is on playgrounds and in playrooms…Play is brain building, a central part of healthy child development, a key to executive function skills and a buffer against the negative impacts of stress.

It is mind-boggling that in our current climate, major research had to be conducted to reiterate what 100 years of research has concluded and recorded in papers, textbooks, and articles by the thousands. Kindergarten-age children learn best through action-based, hands-on activities that engage their five senses.

Yet we continue to push practices that have been proven ineffective and counterproductive for most students. If Strickland is right, and I believe she is, our youngest learners are doomed right out of the gate.

What could be driving this trend in American early-childhood education? Why are we administering instructional practices that have been proven by every bit of research for years to be the WRONG way to teach kindergartners? Why on earth have, as Carlsson-Paige asked, teachers and other professionals who are concerned about poorly designed standards and an over-focus on academic skills been shouting into deaf ears for years?

One can only guess.

A road map to kindergarten success

To best illustrate what will most definitely open the kindergartner to learning and set the tone for their entire educational experience, I would like to borrow a profoundly important document from brilliant teacher, child specialist and pre-eminent teacher trainer, Jean Feldman.

I believe that when we adhere to the Kindergarten Bill of Rights, which is in effect a plea for a balanced and developmentally appropriate approach to teaching kindergarten, we will no longer hear that our youngsters are disinterested, hating kindergarten, acting out and “failing” because they are not yet reading. We will instead see excited, happy children, whose minds are open and fertile for learning and who enthusiastically look forward to school. Should it be any other way in kindergarten?

Kindergarten Bill of Rights by Jean Feldman

  Kindergarten children have the right to the pursuit of happiness.

  Kindergarten children have the right to wooden blocks and a housekeeping center.

  Kindergarten children have the right to play dough and puzzles.

  Kindergarten children have the right to hold hands with their friends and play games.

  Kindergarten children have the right to free play outside.

  Kindergarten children have the right to sing and dance and be silly.

  Kindergarten children have the right to explore with paint, crayons, markers, glue, scissors and to make a mess!!!

  Kindergarten children have the right to have books read to them … many, many books.

  Kindergarten children have the right to go on field trips.

  Kindergarten children have a right to a quiet time every day so their brains can process information.
  Kindergarten children have the right to think school is the most wonderful place in their world.

  Kindergarten children have the right to think that they are capable and worthy.

  Kindergarten children have the right to hopes and dreams.

Kindergarten children have the right to smiles and hugs.