Learn Shapes with a Santa Collage

Learn Shapes with a Santa Collage

Shape recognition is a basic math skill that will greatly benefit your child as she moves into the kindergarten classroom. Disguise a lesson focused on these important shapes as a special holiday art project, and she won’t even realize she’s learning! This shape collage featuring St. Nick himself is a simple (yet educational) art activity that will encourage your young child to identify shapes, explore the part to whole relationship, and experiment with an artistic process!

What You Need:

  • Construction paper in holiday colors (red, green, etc.)
  • Pencil or crayon
  • Markers
  • Scissors
  • Craft glue
  • Cotton balls

What You Do:

  1. Create shape templates for your child. Include a circle for Santa’s head, a square for his body, a triangle for his hat, and thin rectangles for his arms and legs. Before beginning this art activity, help your child identify each shape by name.
  2. Ask your child to trace your shapes onto her own paper using a pencil or crayon.
  3. Help your child cut the shapes out using children’s scissors.
  4. Invite her to arrange the shapes onto a separate sheet of paper in the form of Santa’s body. Explain that this part of the project is similar to putting together a puzzle; she will need to mix and match the different shapes together to create his body!
  5. When she has the body parts arranged correctly, she can gently lift up each shape and glue it to the paper.
  6. Invite your child to use markers to create eyes, a nose, a mouth, and buttons for Santa’s suit. Have her glue cotton balls onto Santa’s face for the beard and on top of his hat.

After completing this activity, encourage your child to continue building her shape recognition skills! Introduce more shapes such as ovals and octagons, and challenge her to create new and different collages with them.


My Shape Book

My Shape Book

At the beginning of the year, kindergartens spend lots of time on shape recognition. more often than not, kids are introduced to shapes in preschool, but in kindergarten, they’ll start learning more about the way our world is made up of all those shapes. Here’s a great way for your child to get ready for the new challenges in a kindergarten classroom. Back in preschool there were lots of books to teach kids about shapes. Now’s a fun time to switch the roles. Help your child make her own shape book.

What You Need:

  • Construction paper in bright colors
  • White card stock paper
  • Marker
  • Scissors
  • Several 5×8 index cards
  • Digital Camera

What You Do:

  1. Take a walk with your child around your home and look for shapes.  You can help point out windows, or doors, or pictures, and trace your finger in the air around the object to help her visualize the shapes.
  2. Ask your child what shape she sees.
  3. Write the name of the object along with the a picture of the shape it represents on on an index card, and then tape it up.
  4. For example: “Door” would be an example of a rectangle.
  5. If your child knows the letter sounds, have her help you write the word. Have her sound it out phonetically.
  6. For example: Your child may only write “D-R” for door. Many kids do this—vowels are among the hardest letters to understand and use. Let your child misspell at this stage – there will be plenty of time later for corrections! If this is too challenging, however, don’t fret: let your child dictate and you can write the object’s name in clear block letters.
  7. Now take a photograph of your child next to each one of those shape locations, and make a book!
  8. Help your child make a cut-out of each shape, out of colored construction paper. Make sure to cut the shape no larger than 3×3 or so.
  9. Each page of the book will be a piece of white card stock paper, oriented horizontally. Glue the cut-out shape onto the upper left hand side of the page. On the other side of the page, help your child glue down the photo of her standing next to that particular shape in your home. Do this for four or five shapes, and you’ve got a shape beautiful book!
  10. Take one extra piece of blank paper, and help your child make it into a cover. Write “Shapes in My House” on the front, and have your child add decoration—whatever she likes! Make sure she signs her name as the author, too!
  11. Bind your book by stapling the left hand margins. This is sure to make your teacher’s day!

When you and your child are finished with the book, before she gives it to her teacher, go over the book with her and she how well she can recognize and identify the shapes in her home. You can do this activity without making a book any time you like with your child, to help giver her a leg up on those important kindergarten skills.


Fun and educational activities for November

Fun and Educational activities for November

As the days get colder, it is sometimes nice to have a few indoor activities on hand to occupy your little one. It seems especially appropriate to tie these activities into the November Thanksgiving theme. And, of course, let’s make sure that your child has the opportunity to practice important school readiness skills while he is having fun!

  • Handprint turkeys provide practice with number writing and fine motor control. Ask your child to place his non-dominant hand on a piece of construction paper, spreading his fingers apart. With his dominant hand and a pencil, your child will trace around his thumb and each finger. (You may help with this step, if necessary, although precision is not required to have an adorable “turkey” shape!) Then ask your child to color the handprint, using the thumb as the head and neck of the turkey and his fingers as the feathers. He will need to sdd the bottom of the body and the legs. He can write the numbers 1 – 5 on or above each finger to show how he counts.
  • I Am Thankful list allows children to dictate their ideas or write alone using inventive spelling. This activity helps children practice early reading skills as well as fine motor skills. Sit with your child and discuss the things in his life for which he is thankful. He may dictate these words to you or try to write them himself by listening to the sounds he hears in each word and writing the letter that represents each sound. Then direct your child to draw a picture next to each word on his list. Pictures help children “read” the words on the list at a later time and provide opportunities to practice manipulating pencils and crayons.
  • Bead necklaces are a nod to Native Americans that celebrated the first Thanksgiving with the Pilgrims. Ask your child to create a necklace using small pony beads, found at any craft store. Children will practice color recognition, creating patterns, and fine motor control as they string the beads onto the lace. Your child may even practice sorting the beads into like-colored piles before he begins lacing. I suggest using tape to secure one end of the lace to the the table to help your little one control the lace and avoid losing his beads.
  • Woven construction paper placemats can dress up your holiday table and provide fine motor practice as well. First prepare the materials for your child. Cut strips of 9”x12” construction paper about 1.5 inches wide and 9” long. Then, using another color of construction paper, cut lines about 1.5 inches apart and 11” long. (This will allow for about a half-inch border on the side of the paper.)  Ask your child to take the individual strips and weave them up and down through the cuts on the large piece of construction paper. If the first strip started with a down motion, the second strip should begin the opposite way by coming up through the slit. As your child completes weaving a strip, use a glue stick to secure that strip in place. After each strip is woven into the larger piece of construction paper, slide it to touch the previous strip to create a solid, woven pattern. This is a challenging activity for young children, so be ready to watch and offer some gentle guidance as your child works.
  • Tracing Thanksgiving pictures is another way to decorate your home while giving young children important practice manipulating pencils, crayons, and scissors. These pictures can be found in magazines, on holiday cards, and on School Sparks worksheets. After your child has traced the picture, ask him to color it and then cut it out for more fine motor practice. Consider decorating walls or windows with his pictures.
  • Baking assistance will require your child to use his auditory processing skills as he helps you in the kitchen. Of course, choose an uncomplicated recipe and allow your child to be as independent as possible while he follows your verbal directions. This is also a great way for children to practice counting and measuring skills!  I suggest placing items on the counter to the left of the bowl so that your child moves from left to right as he adds the ingredients. This reinforces the direction that eyes move when reading.

Have a wonderful and fun-filled November!

Circle Time Hints

Circle Time Hints


KEEP IT SHORT. As important as Circle Time is, we get the best results when it is brief. Likewise, we don’t necessarily have to start the day with Circle Time. In fact, there can be several group meetings throughout the day.

START WITH THE CHILDREN. Take cues from careful observation of the children. When we see children losing interest in our planned activities, it’s time for us to do something different. When we discover a new interest, Circle Time is a great place to begin a project that builds on it.

BE READY TO GO. Circle Time stays dynamic when we are prepared and have the materials ready. If we are going to dance, we can have streamers on hand for everyone and all the songs cued. Reducing the amount of time that children have to wait for activities or materials contributes to our success.

STAY CALM DURING CHANGE. Transitioning in and out of circle time can sometimes be chaotic. To get children’s attention, we can whisper or talk quietly. If we want to help children calm down before a story, we can sing a song that starts off energetically and then ends more slowly or quietly.

BE PROACTIVE WHEN A CHILD HAS A HARD TIME. If a child has trouble adjusting to circle time, we can ask an assistant to sit nearby. A gentle touch or encouraging smile may be all that is needed. We might involve the child in passing out materials or singing a song. It’s okay if some children don’t want to participate in some activities. By offering that child a choice to join in or to read a book quietly, we help him feel in control within our limits.

BE FLEXIBLE. By aiming for a balance between repeated and novel activities, we can maintain a dynamic learning experience. While we can always make room for the children’s favorite songs and stories, we can make it a goal to introduce new topics to expand the children’s world.

Above all, we can make Circle Time a safe place to be, a place where children feel safe to say something and know that no one will tease them, a place where children can explore, learn and grow in a caring community.


Circle Time will be different across age groups in both the amount of time spent in the group and the complexity of activities. It is important that we know where children are in their development, for each age group has its definite patterns:

Infants can be brought together for a short period, a song or short game. The best activity with infants is a more individualized experience with an emphasis on repetition, such as Peek-a-Boo.

Toddlers can be engaged in Circle Time for a few minutes, sharing participatory activities such as a song or story.

Preschoolers might spend fifteen minutes in Circle Time, especially if there is a mix of listening to a story and then responding to some open-ended questions. Engage preschoolers in a music or movement activity or become the scribe as the group invents a story.

Kindergarten children may spend 25 minutes playing language games, singing, creating a graph, anticipating in a shared reading or writing activity, or planning a project or a study. All children can participate in activities such as taking apart toys to learn something about the science of wheels and motion.

The size of our group tells us a lot about what we can do in Circle Time. When we have a group of five instead of twenty, we can customize experiences to challenge children individually. If Circle Time is going to be with a larger group, we can make it our goal to have total participation. For example, if we are learning about rocks, there should be enough rocks for everyone to explore. Being prepared and having the materials at hand for this larger group will make Circle Time an active experience for everyone.


How Nursery Rhymes help development

How Nursery Rhymes help development

Developing oral language through nursery rhymes

Nursery Rhymes contribute to the foundational skills young children need in their oral language development. 

Ask any kindergarten teacher about what they wish incoming Kindergartens knew, and you will hear most of them include Nursery Rhymes in their list. They are fun and engaging for young children, and provide a bonding experience when they are read together.

A sense of togetherness

There is a sense of togetherness that Nursery Rhymes provide. As a new mom, I found myself singing Nursery Rhymes when I needed a little song to get a smile out of a little one. When my child  was in preschool, he would come home singing a Nursery Rhyme and I’d chime right in. They were songs and poems that we both knew. Suddenly, we had a common connection between home and school. As a teacher, I find myself using Nursery Rhymes with my pre-k students all day long. When I need to get their attention, I sing Nursery Rhymes. When we practice rhyming words, we chant Nursery Rhymes. When we need a familiar story to retell in our reading lesson, we use familiar Nursery Rhymes. In the first week of pre-k, I’m able to sing several songs with my students who are familiar with Nursery Rhymes. Students who are unfamiliar, learn them quickly and chime in. In just a few short days, we become a team and Nursery Rhymes help develop that sense of togetherness.

Foundational skills in oral language development

We know that listening comprehension comes before reading comprehension. Long before kids can read sight words or sound out unknown words, they are listening to songs, stories, poems, and rhymes. As they are listening, they are developing their comprehension skills. As parents and caregivers read Nursery Rhymes with their children, it’s a great time to ask kids about what is happening in the story, what they think will happen next, or even act out the story they hear.

Creating mental images, based on stories they hear, can be challenging for kids but can strengthen listening comprehension. Television tends to make mental images for us. Kids can sit down for thirty minutes, be entertained with a great story, and see the visual right there on the screen. When they are singing a Nursery Rhyme, for example, there may not be a visual for them to look at. Asking kids what is happening in the rhyme, having them close their eyes and make a picture of it, or pretending to make a movie in their mind will strengthen their listening comprehension.

There might be new language and vocabulary that kids run across when they are listening to Nursery Rhymes. Talk about these words and point them out! Kids will also be introduced to alliteration (a string of words beginning with the same letter), onomatopoeia (words that represent a sound, like woof or honk), and rhyming words. As children are chanting or singing Nursery Rhymes, they learn how to articulate words, practice using pitch and volume as they read and sing, and they are pronouncing words over and over while having fun!

Dramatic play using nursery rhymes

One of my favorite ways to learn about Nursery Rhymes is through dramatic play. Rhymes, songs and stories can quickly be turned into plays, puppet shows or felt board stories. All of these reenactments help deepen listening comprehension. 

Puppet shows are terrific way for your child to retell a story or Nursery Rhyme. Using a store-bought puppet show is fine, but there are very simple ways to create your own puppet theater. Draping a blanket over a coffee table or a few chairs can provide enough space for kids to hide behind, with their puppets or stuffed animals. If they are acting out Hey Diddle Diddle, The Cat and the Fiddle, and don’t have a cow to jump over the moon, use a toy horse and just change out the word. Point out that they’ve just created an adaptation of a Nursery Rhyme and that authors do that all the time! Printing characters onto cardstock and attaching them to popsicle sticks is another way to create characters quickly. It’s fast, easy, inexpensive, and the possibilities for characters and props are endless.

Kids can also just act out a rhyme. Grab a tuffet, a fake spider, and a bowl, and suddenly you have little Miss Muffet happening right in your living room. It’s a great chance to develop those higher level vocabulary skills too, since we don’t often call our “low to the ground pillows” tuffets anymore. Acting out Jack and Jill can be quick, simple, and fun too. A pile of pillows will make a great hill to tumble down. Kids will be able to internalize the new word, tumble, and it may even become part of their vocabulary.

There are many great reasons to use Nursery Rhymes in your daily routine. Aside from providing foundational skills for oral language development, these rhymes are fun and engaging for young children. It’s a time to connect with your child, provide a home-school connection, and simply have a great time learning together. There are plenty of Nursery Rhyme CD’s out there too, so the learning and fun doesn’t even need to stop when you’re in the car! One word of caution – many of these Nursery Rhymes were written during a very dark time in history, and some of the rhymes themselves can be a bit dark and scary. Steer clear of those! We don’t want kids having nightmares of someone cutting of the tails of the 3 Blind Mice with a carving knife. Stick to fun rhymes like Jack and Jill or Little Miss Muffet. And by all means, if you are acting out Jack Be Nimble with your child, and jumping over the candlestick, make sure it’s not lit! Other than that, have fun!