to shamelessly plug

Psst — I started a teaching blog over here:

Screen Shot 2013-04-21 at 10.11.47 PMI’d love if you could check it out :)


TO PLAY: [in the pretend, chocolate-scented mud]

Dear preschool teachers (and moms),

Are you desperately craving 20 minutes? Maybe to begin to pack up your room because every planning period (and morning, and afternoon) from now until the last day of school is devoted to a staff meeting full of overly logistical information that could just be emailed out? I feel you. And this sensory table will change your life. The idea is from this amazing blog, and I used the opportunity to pilot my first run of homemade gluten-free play doh. I made two batches: the first using this recipe (and just substituting 3/4 cup of cornmeal and 3/4 cup of rice flour for the flour) and the second using this recipe (which I tripled, and added a cup each of rice flour and cornmeal and then a half cup of cocoa powder). I liked the way the first recipe came out better. I added coffee beans I bought at Target and these trucks from Toys R Us.

We haven’t even added the blocks yet, so I’m hoping I have enough engagement with those to pack up another center tomorrow :)

TO DO: cooking with kids

Usually I’m a day behind the curve, struggling to catch up, at least this past year. Before teaching, I was usually right on-time, if not five or so minutes early. I guess that’s the way life goes :) I must be catching up to my old self, because last night I put together an easy-to-follow guacamole recipe for my 3-year-olds to make today to celebrate Cinco de Mayo.

Wait. Are you shocked that I’m cooking with 3-year-olds? I have so many Montessori foundations at my teaching core, and there is so many awesome moms who blog all about their own cooking experience. I love this article about cooking with preschoolers and these Montessori-inspired ideas on Modern Parents Messy Kids (and I totally want this book).

Anyway, to save you the trouble of collecting clip art to make a kid-friendly recipe when you are convinced cooking with your 3-year-olds is an awesome idea: GuacamoleRecipe

[Avocado photo via]

hunker down

One of my 3-year-old students has all of the early warning signs for autism. It’s my first experience working with a child who likely has autism, and I’m happy to try any strategies other teachers and educational professionals are willing to share. I was thrilled to stumble upon this post about weighted lap bags, and thought it sounded easy enough to try myself.

I went to Petco and bought a large dog toy (originally with squeakers) and a 5 lb. bag of aquarium gravel. I tried to find a dog toy for “hunting,” because that meant it would have less stuffing to pull out. I grabbed a pair of sharp scissors, needle and thread.

There were four squeakers in my toy, so I cut the seems on the side of my lion’s limbs (I probably only needed to cut one, and could cut out all of the squeakers from one hole, but I didn’t realize that until later). Teddy Roosevelt, my dog, was obsessed with just these squeakers, but I was a little nervous about him choking, so I kept a close eye on him.

Then I sewed up all of the other holes but one, where I would pour the gravel. I had WC hold the lion while I slowly poured in the gravel. My student, A, is small, even for a 3-year-old, so I only used about 3 pounds of the gravel.

Since the weight of the gravel is more than the original design had considered, I then sewed along the inside seems to reinforce them.

Now I’m just hoping the sensory input from the lion helps A focus on the carpet!

counting up

If I wanted to be the next cliche in the blogosphere, I would rename my blog to “eat. teach. love [to shop, especially].” Mostly because that would help me keep my thoughts organized, and I’m a really big fan of organization. So, to teach…

My students and I are opening a bakery in our preschool classroom, and we have been talking a lot about cookies! This morning, we read Mr. Cookie Baker by Monica Wellington, talked about how to bake cookies, and cut and decorated our own sugar cookies. I bought store-bought pre-made dough from Target (it was already proportioned!) and a huge set of cookie cutters on sale at Michaels. The students cut the cookies with their number cutters, and then had to put that many chocolate chips on the cookie (exposure to numerals and counting and creating sets). I brought them all home to bake.

[Forgive the aluminum foil; the store-bought cookie dough is wheat-based, and I am very gluten free!]

Tomorrow, I’ll move the cookie cutters to one of our sensory tables (in the bakery) with playdoh. I’m still trying to figure out what to use as “pretend” chocolate chips (besides playdoh). Any ideas?

surprise hits

As an inner-city preschool teacher, I don’t usually like surprises. Except for when I stumble upon a lovely book I had never heard of in my neighborhood library, and I end up liking it as much as the kids.

Some of my favorites from this year:

For when your amazing teaching assistant (or a friend from your class) has to leave your class mid-year: City Dog, County Frog by Mo Willems (Yes, this should have been obvious. Everything Mo Willems writes is a smash hit!)

For when you (and your kids) just need to smile at the end of a long day/week/month: Spoon or Baby Pea by Amy Krouse Rosenthal

For teaching your kids to stand up for each other (especially against the big 4-year-olds on the playground): One by Kathryn Otoshi

For teaching respect of one another’s backgrounds (especially older students-probably kindergarteners): The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi