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Tuesday, October 16, 2018

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Letter J Free Printable Minibook Alphabet Series

It's time for the next free printable minibooks! Each minibook focuses on a letter of the alphabet perfect for preschoolers, toddlers, and kindergarteners! Today's book is the Letter J!

Each book is full of about nine coloring-book style pictures that start with the featured letter. You just print them off, cut out the pages, and staple them together! Or, even better, let your preschooler or kindergarten kiddo cut out the pages! They get to practice writing their name on the front page, trace the letter on the front page, and see the letter again on each page in the minibook!

If you want to play with the pages more, you could print two sets, paste them on construction paper, cut them out, and play memory or matching games. It just reinforces the sounds that J can make as you remind your children that all the words in this book start with J. My preschoolers LOVE "reading" their books after they color them! You could also display the pages, though my kiddos are not willing to part with theirs!

If your child isn't ready to focus on letters and the sounds they make, you can still print the little books off and just use them as coloring books! Everyone likes a free preschool printable, right?!

I will be sharing about one a week, so if you follow along you can get them all free! You can click HERE to see the whole collection! And if you don't want to wait for them to come out weekly, you're welcome to click HERE for instructions on buying the whole set at once.

Happy Educating,

Have you seen HEEP? It is a preschool homeschool curriculum! Learn more here!

I may share at any of these parties!

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Wednesday, October 10, 2018

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Preschool STEM With Sculpey Clay

Preschool STEM is a subject I am passionate about...and it is much more simple than many people think! Do you want an easy way to schedule daily STEM activities? Have you ever used Sculpey Clay? Today, I'm sharing a way to give your preschoolers unique STEM experiences they will LOVE!

To start with, let's quickly review what STEM is! STEM activities integrate learning in science, technology, engineering, and math while letting your children investigate, create, or engineer something. STEM activities are memorable and powerful because they involve more than one subject and, often, more than one sense (auditory, sight, sound, touch, taste, vestibular). They also put your kiddos in charge of their own learning: your preschoolers do the investigation, creation, or engineering!

It is amazing for preschoolers and older kids (click here for an awesome clay project for older kids)!

Preschoolers LOVE STEM projects...and sometimes mine don't even realize that that's what they're doing! If you have building toys, and you invite or challenge your kids to design something, they are doing a STEM activity! The problem solving, trial and error processes, and satisfaction from completing their project will carry over into other aspects of their lives. This may be the hardest part for some parents and teachers: do not solve their problems for them! Kids are smart, and the satisfaction they get from solving their own problems is impossible to duplicate any other way!

I recently discovered that clay is an incredible tool that preschoolers love! Clay for children is often overlooked, but it can be used for STEM projects at home AND in daycare or preschool settings! 

When I first organized our clay classes, I did not expect our preschoolers to get as much out of it as our elementary and middle school kids. After all, they are younger. Boy, was I wrong!

Before our classes started, my preschoolers helped me "test" a few projects, and I very  quickly learned that clay is something preschoolers can appreciate and use in ways that no other tool or material will quite replicate.

Let me tell you some of the benefits that I discovered from using Sculpey Clay with our Preschoolers!

Benefits for Preschoolers from Using Sculpey Clay:

1- Sculpey clay strengthens fine motor skills in preschoolers' (and older kids!) fingers! We are always looking for ways to strengthen fine motor skills because strong fingers enjoy writing more, and we want our kids ready to write in kindergarten and first grade.

2- Rolling and working Sculpey clay doubles as an early writing exercise! It helps develop grip and coordination that work with the fine motor skills mentioned in #1 to make writing easier.

3- Working Sculpey clay is a very satisfying sensory experience for children. I have three "sensory-seekers" and one "sensory-avoider," and they all loved the feeling of folding, squishing, and manipulating the clay with both their fingers and other tools.

4- Sculpey clay creates an outlet for imagination! My preschoolers made fairies, fairy houses, boats, butterflies, and butterfly houses, and more. After they were cured, the kids took their creations and played games with them that lasted for hours. Literally. I saw fairies solving problems, going for boat rides, flying together, and so. much. more! I could write a whole article just on this!

5- Working with Sculpey clay as a group created a safe place for the kids to interact with each other while focusing on their own project. They shared colors, passed tools back and forth, took turns with cookie cutters, and talked about what they were making. We started doing this at least once a week because the social skill exercises were so healthy!

6- Creating with Sculpey clay became a self-directed STEM activity! The first time we used it, I gave the kids some instructions because I thought they would need hovering attention to have a positive experience. I was wrong! They needed very little instruction, and they gave themselves their own STEM challenges! They are solving problems and engineering! They decided what they wanted to make, how they wanted it to look, and set about working on it! I have seen preschoolers now mix colors deliberately, build houses using slabs, and make small, detailed sculptures like fairies that required far more attention to detail than I thought they were capable of! Seriously. Mind blown!

Now that you all want to share Sculpey clay with your preschoolers, let me give you a few tips to using it for your own STEM learning!

Tips to Using Sculpey Clay for Preschool STEM:

1- Use Sculpey Premo Clay! I know I'm totally biased, but this is a fact: not all clays are created equal! I love, love, love Sculpey Premo because it is oven-bake, does not dry out on the counter, and is very high quality. If your kids make something paper thin, it will still cook up, and not fall apart. (It will be bendy, though, so I encourage my kids to make it a little thicker!) If they make something an inch thick, it will still cook up and look amazing! You can't "over-cook" it if you're working at the right temperature, so you don't have to worry about it burning. AND (bonus!!) Sculpey is so awesome that they created a special discount just for my readers! If you happen to be reading this in October or November, you can use the code POWOL20 to get 20% off an online order!! Just click here!

2- Teach your kids to condition the clay. You need to condition clay so that it is nice and flexible. For my preschoolers, I showed them how to roll it out with a rolling pin until it is paper thin, fold it up, and then roll it out again. The other way to condition that most of my young kids liked, is to pinch of a little piece, squish it flat with your fingers, roll it back into a ball, and then squish it flat again. It's important for them to be able to condition their own clay; otherwise, you'll need to condition it for all your kids every time they want to make anything...and no teacher or parent has time for that! ;)  

3- Let them get to work! Don't hover, and don't do everything for them. They will make things happen!

4- A little clay goes a long way! 2 ounces is enough clay for 4 children to make a fairy, a necklace medallion/pendant, a snake or other animal, a boat, or about a million other things! If you're making a big project you'll need more, but it takes longer to condition larger amounts of clay. I would put out 1/2 ounce out for each kid, but not limit the kids to one color...see #5!

5- Put out 1/2 ounce per kid. They come in 2 ounce packages. Get 2-3 colors, open each package, and cut the package into 16 squares. Tell the kids they can have 4 squares in whatever colors they want. I also like to put out rolling pins and 1-2 cookie cutters.

6- Put out a cookie sheet for kids to put completed projects on. Let them know that when they are done, you will cook them, and they will harden so the won't squish or break.

7- Cook the projects at 275 degrees Fahrenheit for about 45-60 minutes if they are about 1/4 inch thick. For every additional 1/4 inch, add an extra 40 minutes in the oven. This is a little bit longer than the packaging recommends, but it worked better for us. NOTE: While it is hot, it is still a little malleable. It needs to cool completely to finish curing.

8- If you ever need to re-attach a piece of clay (we might have had one fairy head pop off during some vigorous fairy play...) use Sculpey's Bake & Bond. It is amazing stuff! It is like it turns into cement when it cooks!

That's it! So how do you schedule it? We have been using it in two ways:

1- Rotations/Centers: This was one of my favorite teaching methods when I was a public school teacher, and now I use it as I homeschool my own kids. Set up 3-4 high-interest "stations" that your kids can work at independently. The final station is with you! Set a timer for 15-20 minutes, assign a child to each station, and get to work! When the timer rings, rotate! I love this because it gives me 1-on-1 time with each child, and they get time to work and create on their own...and a Sculpey Clay station has become our new favorite rotation!

2- Quiet Time: Our house goes into Quiet Time for an hour and a half every afternoon that we are home while the baby naps. Clay is one of the kids new favorite quiet activities...especially on days when we don't do rotations!

How could clay solve some of your scheduling challenges? Do you want a daily dose of STEM? Give it a shot! (Use the 20% off coupon!)  I'd love to answer any questions you have! 

Have you used Sculpey Premo before? Do you want to try it? I'd love to hear your experiences!!

Disclosure: Sculpey provided Premo clay for us to experiment with in preparation for this post. As always, I only share my opinions and I ONLY recommend products I absolutely LOVE!

Happy Educating,

Have you seen HEEP? It is a preschool homeschool curriculum! Learn more here!

I may share at any of these parties!

Never miss another post again!  Sign up for our weekly updates newsletter and get links to all our posts once a week in your inbox!  Sign up here!!

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Saturday, October 6, 2018

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Apple Cinnamon Rolls - No Added Sugar!

Since I started eating sugar-free (okay, it's actually just no sugar added), one of the things I have missed the most has been cinnamon rolls. I just really love the sweet, soft pull-apart bread and sticky filling! Well, we picked about 35 pounds of apples yesterday, and I thought apple cinnamon rolls would be so, so yummy...maybe even delicious enough that I wouldn't need to add extra sugar! And I was right!!  Since I will be making these again, I wanted to write down how I did it! Plus, when I shared it on Facebook I had two friends ask for the recipe almost right away...so, here you go!

Apple Cinnamon Roll Recipe:

I started with Robyn's Cinnamon Roll recipe here, and changed it so that I didn't need to add sugar. I've been working on developing sugar-free desert recipes for about 4 years now, and this is definitely one of my favorites!

It makes two cookie sheets of cinnamon rolls and 3 loaves of apple cinnamon roll bread!

I'll start with what I used, and then give you some notes as I go along. If you've never made cinnamon rolls before, you should read through Robyn's recipe because she has some great step-by-step tips. This is what my apple cinnamon roll recipe ended up being and some notes on what I did at each step:


Cinnamon Roll Dough:
* 3 cups warm unsweetened vanilla almond milk
* 5 Tablespoons yeast
* 1 cup honey
* 1 cup Smart Balance (or salted butter)
* 6 large eggs
* about 12 cups white, unbleached flour

Cinnamon Roll Filling:
* Smart Balance
* Cinnamon
* Pureed dates with a little bit of apple juice concentrate
* small, chopped apples
* raisins

Cinnamon Roll Frosting:
* 1 brick cream cheese
* about 1/2 cup Smart Balance
* about 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
* 1-3 Tablespoons pureed dates + apple juice concentrate
* about 1 Tablespoon Splenda, honey, or another sweetener

1- Chop 3-5 apples. I made the apple pieces about the same size as peas. (Alternatively you could do this while you wait for the dough to rise during step 5.)

2- Make your pureed dates. I put about 2 cups of dates in our blender, added enough water to cover them, and pureed them. Then I added about 3 Tablespoons of frozen apple juice concentrate and blended that up with the dates. This makes an amazing, super sweet sugar substitute that tastes fantastic! Set this aside.

3- Make your cinnamon roll dough. We use almond milk for almost everything, so that's what I had on hand. I warmed two cups up in the microwave for 1 minute. That got pretty hot, so I added 1 cup of cold almond milk. That was the perfect temperature for yeast, so I added that and the honey next. I let the yeast grow for about half an hour while I played at the park with my super duper helper! 

4- Pour the milk, yeast, and honey into a Kitchen Aid bowl. Add the Smart Balance (or use salted butter) and eggs. Start mixing it slowly with a dough hook while you add the flour. Normally I like to use whole grain flour, but since this was a dessert, we used white, unbleached flour. I used a little more than 12 cups, but we live in by D.C., and it's a little humid here. You might need more or less, depending on where you are and how humid it is. You want to add enough flour that the dough gently pulls away from the edges of the bowl as it kneads...but you want to let it knead for at least 5 - 10 minutes. 

5- Pull the dough hook out, sprinkle flour on the top, and cover it gently with a kitchen towel. At this point, we went to the playground again. When we came back, it had risen so much that it needed punching down! Generally you want the dough to double at this point! It was okay, though, because my little preschooler had a blast helping the dough "get back inside the bowl!"

6- I kneaded it a few times and divided it into thirds. Take one of the thirds, knead it a little, and then roll it out into a huge rectangle about 1/4 inch thick. Spread Smart Balance on the whole thing. Then sprinkle cinnamon *everywhere*! If you want to use a spatula or spoon to spread it, you can. I spread my dates/apple mixture out in little plops...it gets squished everywhere when you roll it up.  Finally, sprinkle some raisins and apple pieces on the top.

7- Roll the dough up tightly and slice it with a piece of dental floss. I sliced them about an inch thick, and then patted them down on a greased cookie sheet so they were closer to 1/2 inch thick. 

8- Let them double in size--this took about 20 minutes.

9- Cook the rolls at 400 degrees for about 10 minutes. Pull them out JUST as they are starting to brown--you don't want them toasty!! Nice and soft! Let them cool on the pan and then frost, if desired!

Now go back to Step 6...you still have 2/3 of the dough you made! At this point, I was done cooking, so I kneaded the rest of the dough a few times, and then divided it into 3 pieces. I repeated Step 6 with each piece, but instead of cutting it into cinnamon rolls, I rolled the dough up tightly (with all the goodies from Step 6) and squished it into a bread pan. These also need to double in size, and then cook for about 40 minutes at 365 degrees. Make sure the bottoms of your loaves are a nice brown...loaves take longer to cook! Brush the tops with butter when they come out of the oven. Remember not to cut into your loaf until it cools all the way too! This is super important because you have so much moisture in these loaves.  ;)

10- To make the frosting, beat together the cream cheese, butter, and vanilla. Add the sweetening to taste, and smear it on your rolls!

My youngest preschooler was my biggest helper with this project...she actually stayed with each step! Preschoolers love cooking, and it is full of sensory, science, and math for them!

Happy Educating,

Have you seen HEEP? It is a preschool homeschool curriculum! Learn more here!

I may share at any of these parties!

Never miss another post again!  Sign up for our weekly updates newsletter and get links to all our posts once a week in your inbox!  Sign up here!!

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Wednesday, September 26, 2018

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Autumn Trees & Leaves Preschool Art + Science Project

These Autumn Trees & Leaves preschool art projects turned out so stunning that they make me love with fall even more!! We always do a leaves theme, and I have a preschooler and a kindergartener right now that both really love arts and crafts. This was the perfect way to tie a little science into their art and mix in the fall season!

The supply list seems a little long, but they are all really common items...you just have to run around the house and gather them all up!

* canvas board (we used 5"x7", but you could use any size...that's just what we had at home!)
* paint (we used blue, yellow, orange, and red)
* yarn
* cotton balls
* q-tips
* permanent markers (we used black, brown, and red)
* yellow felt (you could use red or orange or even green!)
* scissors
* real leaves
* tape
* glue

Cut little leaves out of the felt. These were very simple...I cut about 50 in 2 or 3 minutes. Gather everything together.

(I like to read Leaf Man before we start our leaf projects!)

We started out with a brief science lesson and leaf observations. We talked about how the "veins" move food and water throughout the plant and we looked at where the veins were in a leaf. 

Then we used permanent markers to draw veins on the felt leaves. Even my 2-year old did a great job of putting veins on her leaves!

At this point we set the leaves aside to "make the forest."

I taped one end of the yarn to the back of the canvas board, and we wrapped the yarn around the board 5-6 times, making wider "trees" in some spots and narrower trees in others. I helped them tape the other end down as well.

I put paint out for them, and we had a brief color mixing lesson--I couldn't find any green paint today, so we used yellow with a dot of blue to make our own green.

Then the kids used a cotton ball to dip in the paint and "dab, dab, dab" on their canvasses! A lot of the dabbing turned into smearing "rainbows," but they all look marvelous anyway the preschoolers did it!

When they finished painting, we took off the yarn! Everyone loved how their "white trees" appeared!

I got the idea for using yarn-wrapped canvasses to make negative-space trees from The Pinterested Parent here!  I wanted to add leaves in, though, and made a couple other changes.  

Next we glued on the leaves that they made at the beginning of the lesson! I LOVE how this brought the project to life with a 3-dimensional feeling! It also gave a lot of movement to the trees--the girls talked about how some of their leaves were hanging on to the trees, others were falling through the air, and others were stuck to each other! Some even made it all the way to the ground!

My 2-year old (who thinks she's a lot older than a preschooler!) and I added dots and lines to some of the trees to make it look like bumpy or peeling bark. My kindergartener decided that she wanted her trees to have brown bark, so she used the brown permanent marker to color over all her white trees! 

It was completely opposite what I imagined, but I still love the effect it had! Seriously, I am waaaay in love with these leaf art - science projects!! I want to try making a grown-up version!

Are you doing a leaf theme? Or celebrating fall and falling leaves? I'd love to hear about your favorite projects! Be sure to check out our other leaf themed activities here!

Happy Educating,

Have you seen HEEP? It is a preschool homeschool curriculum! Learn more here!

I may share at any of these parties!

Never miss another post again!  Sign up for our weekly updates newsletter and get links to all our posts once a week in your inbox!  Sign up here!!

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Saturday, September 22, 2018

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{FREE} Preschool Leaves Shadow Matching

The first time we went to a park here in Virginia we were surrounded by huge trees with gorgeous leaves...and we didn't know what they were! It took us a few minutes to figure out...but I am including it in this fantastic leaves shadow matching freebie for you! It is perfect to help your preschooler (or any aged kiddo...or adult!) learn to recognize some common tree names and leaves!

There are 10 pictures of real leaves and their matching shadows (technically silhouettes)...

Do you know them all?

They are all common in Virginia, but most of them occur all throughout the United States. Of course the one that was at that park is less common in Houston, where we lived before Virginia!

The 10 leaves include the following:

American Beech
White Elm
White Pine
Honey Locust
White Oak
River Birch
Tuliptree / Yellow Poplar

I printed them on normal paper and then "mounted" them on construction paper so that we could play memory/matching games with them easily.

You can also sort them, put them in a science center, pop a hole on each one and string them onto a keyring...or anything else you want! They are perfect for Montessori bins!

Our older kids have used them for matching and identifying trees and even our toddlers  enjoyed matching the shadows!

Do you have a favorite tree? Do you have a guess which one we discovered grows naturally in Virginia, but not in the western United States? It was the American Beech! Such a cool tree! Do you have one near you?

Are you doing a FALL or LEAVES theme?  Be sure to check out our leaf activities for preschoolers!!

Happy Educating,

Have you seen HEEP? It is a preschool homeschool curriculum! Learn more here!

I may share at any of these parties!

Never miss another post again!  Sign up for our weekly updates newsletter and get links to all our posts once a week in your inbox!  Sign up here!!

Read More