Thursday, 20 November 2014

Who Wants Some Cocoa?!

We were "blessed" with a snow storm last week. Although most adults I know were not too impressed, the children were ecstatic! Once the snow melted a bit our back yard was filled with snow, slush, puddles, and mud. I noticed a few of the children filling up pots and pans with muddy slush and stirring it. Before I could ask what they were up to one boy yells, "WHO WANTS SOME COCOA!??" Everyone stopped what they were doing and booked it to the boy. "Be careful it's hot you guys." He told them, and the children were blowing on their "hot cocoa" so they wouldn't "burn their tongues." 

Soon after, everyone was at the hot chocolate puddle making me delicious cups of cocoa. I only had two cups and they started charging me.. It started off costing $2 which I thought was pretty good, but the next cup was $5! (Talk about inflation!) I asked them their recipe and they told me, "You just make chocolate hot." I asked, how do you do that? "On a stove." 
                           As I continued to watch them cook their hot chocolate I decided we needed to make hot chocolate "for real life." (As the children would say) I went out and bought the supplies we would need to make it. I considered making the cocoa from scratch but I decided that would be a project for another day. I had a bag filled with a kettle, marshmallows, cups, spoons, and hot chocolate for outside and once the children spotted it they went CRAZY. "How are we going to make hot chocolate outside?" I explained we were going to build a fire. 

Everyone ran outside and grabbed rocks, sticks, branches, etc. and began building a fire right away. It was pretty wet outside so we discussed that we were looking for dry pieces of wood. We had discussions about fire safety, and the children worked together to get a bucket of water to keep near the fire before it started. 

We twisted pieces of paper nice and tight to put on the bottom and found branches, sticks, and scrap wood to build a 'teepee'. I lit the fire and the children cheered! I explained we had to collect more supplies to keep the fire going. Once we had a steady fire the children filled up our kettle, and we put it on the fire. Immediately someone asked, "IS IT READY YET?" Somebody replied, "No, it has to boil!" We then continued by giving our estimates on how long it would take to boil. 

6 days.
3 weeks.
1 minute.
10 minutes.
an hour.

We didn't have a timer, but it was close to 10 minutes when the kettle began to whistle. We had to let the cocoa cool down before we could drink it and that was complete torture. (working on that delayed gratification!!)

                                                      'FINALLY'..... hot chocolate time!! 

The warm cocoa was such a nice treat on a chilly day, and what made it even sweeter was that we could make it together! To extend the interest I made up some hot cocoa paint for the kids to try out.

Shaving Cream
Hot Cocoa Mix 
* I tend to never measure anything; just use your personal preference. 

The entire art room smelled of sweet delicious chocolate, and the children were very appreciative of the marshmallows they could sneak! 

I can't wait to see what else we can do with hot chocolate! 
- Leslie Dionne 

Friday, 31 October 2014

Horse Play

The four year old group has been horsin' around for over a week now! We were all outside playing when I noticed a few galloping around on sticks yelling "giddy up!"I watched them for quite a while making the sound effects, skipping all around, and even stopping to let their horses take a water break. The next thing I notice was a child stopped at a hay pile with the stick in it. "Hey look! My horse is eating hay!!" she said. 

When the other children noticed her doing it they all ran over and let their horses have a bite to eat. 
The next day the horse play continued right when we went outside. The children decided we needed to make a barn for the horses to live, so we went straight to work! 

We grabbed a bunch of supplies from the woods and under the shed. They helped each other carry the really heavy pieces and brainstormed where each piece should be placed. There were a few debates as to where the door should go, but they worked it out fairly quickly. Someone spotted the bricks from inside the shed and decided they were a MUST. (I had to agree!) I told them they could use the bricks, however they needed to carry them over. One by one the children grabbed a brick, carried it over to the construction site, and carefully placed it where they thought it should go. When they were happy with their finished product they brought the horses over to show them around. Once they brought over buckets of hay, grass, and water the horses approved of their new living quarters!  

The following morning I thought I would set out a little table with horses before everyone arrived. I didn't have much time, but thought simple was best and they could extend on it later. 

The children played with it for most of the morning, but just as I suspected someone said, "We need a barn for the horses to sleep!" 
We began digging through our recycling bin to find cardboard to build the actual barn, and used scissors, glue, markers, and paper to decorate it "just right". Watching them work so diligently on  the barn inspired us to take our horses from outside and jazz them up. The children told me what they needed to make a horse. "We're going to need ears, hair on the neck, and a tail." I got cardboard, yarn and scissors and brought it outside. The children cut pieces of yarn off and tied the strands onto the tail and they hot glued the ears on. 

 I showed a few of the children how to tie knots and once they got it down I was chop liver. They finished up the horses and off they went riding around the play ground. After running around for a while they would take a break at the barn, feed the horses, get a drink, and off they would go. 

The horse play is still going on and we have gotten into pretty big discussions about horses. The children told me horses eat hay, grass, apples, and carrots, and that "they definitely don't live in Montreal, because it's too cold." (ha!) Next week I have a really big surprise for the group and I can't wait to do the next blog post about it!! 

                                                                   - Leslie Dionne 

Friday, 24 October 2014

All About The Poms

Lately the toddlers & 2's groups have been all about the Poms! I brought a big bag in on Monday, and we have incorporated them into our play for the entire week because they seem to really enjoy them! The fantastic thing about pom poms are that they are inexpensive, different sizes and colors, and can be used for  hundreds THOUSANDS of things! This may be a little over dramatic, but the real point here is that pom poms are a staple in early learning.

I began by placing the pom poms in little bowls and had card board tubes, spoons, and empty tissue boxes scattered around. (All of the toddlers recent favorite things!) The three of them sat down together and began exploring them. It was interesting to see that all three became engaged in different explorations. One child kept dropping the poms through the card board tube, one tried scooping them up with the spoon (after unsuccessful attempts she picked up the pom and placed it on her spoon; yay problem solving!), and another liked throwing them EVERYWHERE (and dumping them on his head.) Afterwards they helped pick up EVERY. SINGLE. POM POM. I held out the bag and they dropped them in one by one. I would say "quick! get it!" and point; they would run at full speed to the poms, laugh, and come put it in the bag. 

The next day we tried putting out different size brooms and the pom poms again. The toddlers often take the broom and "sweep" the floor so we thought this would be a way to extend the invitation. We gave them smaller brooms that we have, and they played the with bristles. I think if we gave them our actual broom they may have swept them up. 

To continue on with the pom poms I decided to create an invitation that was a little on the Halloween theme. I covered our giant mirror in sticky spider webs and put the pom poms out. The children bee lined it straight for the mirror and pointed. I didn't say anything, and they started putting the pom poms on one by one. 

The two year old group spotted the web so they joined us. They figured out that you could throw them at the web and they would stick. 

They would pick up the different ones and say what color it was. They new most, but we practiced black, orange, and green. One little girl came over and yelled "Spider Food!" She placed the spider in the web and started feeding the spider all the pink pom poms. "He still hungry, he wants more!" She said, and she would pick more pink ones off the web and feed the spider. 

It's always rewarding as an educator to see an activity extend for longer than a day. It's even more rewarding when you see the benefits and learning of play. Hand - eye coordination, fine motor skills, language development, color recognition, sensory, gross motor.. (to name a few) were all major parts of this play! I wonder what we'll do next?!

- Leslie Dionne 


Monday, 6 October 2014

Pumpkin Spice Paintings

         It's that time of year again where the leaves are full of magic, the air is crisp, and pumpkin spice is finally in season again! I wanted to give my toddlers an invitation to paint, but since they love to EAT EVERYTHING I knew I had to make it edible. And because I knew they were going to be eating it, I decided to make it Pumpkin Spice flavored so not only would it smell delicious, but taste delicious.


1 Cup flour
1 1/2 Cup water
1/3 Cup sugar
1 tsp. vinegar
pumpkin pie spice
(cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, etc)
food coloring (optional)

Combine all ingredients in a medium size bowl and stir until mixed well. If you want to make different colors just separate the paint before adding food coloring. I didn't measure the spices, just added what I thought was enough. 

As soon as I brought the bowls into the room "my babies" sat down at the table to see what I had for them. I was surprised to see them actually dipping their paint brushes in the bowl and painting it on their papers! 

But just as i expected the paint brushes quickly turned into spoons and they began eating the paint... They started kicking their feet and saying "mmmmmm" with every taste. After it was all gone there were some tears, and they tried eating it off their papers! (I guess we can say this recipe is toddler approved!) 

I was very happy with how this invitation turned out; easy to make, easy to clean up, age appropriate for all children, and smells delicious! I look forward to making some more soon and letting the preschoolers try it out and see what they think! 

                                                      - Leslie Dionne 

Thursday, 25 September 2014


As soon as the children hit the dirt at the end of the road on Monday they booked it for the frog pond. "Hey, Mud Puddle!" they began screaming at the swampy mud that stood before them. If you ever read "Mud Puddle" by Robert Munsch you know that an innocent little girl keeps being "attacked" by a mischievous mud puddle. After she's been cleaned up from the muddy mess, she has a new plan to out smart the mud puddle and calls him back by yelling "Hey, Mud Puddle!"
We read this story the other day so I wasn't surprised to see them searching for that sneaky mud puddle. It wasn't until someone took a step in that ever so inviting mud that the real fun began. The squishy, gloppy sound effects caught everyone's attention and before i knew it I had eight Little Munchkins jumping in the mud. 

They jumped, they laughed, they fell, and they got STUCK. "Oh no!! Help me, the mud monster won't let go." Screamed one little girl. All the children ran over to help their friend from the mud monster, but they couldn't get her out. "What are we gunna do guys?" The children brainstormed together and decided they would all pull at the same time to get her out. Once she was free they stared at the mud looking for signs of the monster.  

       Once they "saw" the eyes they ran away screaming and then insisted I tell them a story about a mud monster. We all sat down together and they listened wide eyed as I told them about the mud monster I once encountered. (They LOVE "spooky" stories.) We then continued with a discussion on what we would do if we saw a mud monster. This is what they told me :

"I'd put a ton of tomatoes on his head." - R.T.
"Throw a tree at him." - C.G.
"Punch him in the eyeball." - S.C.
"Punch him in the face." - I.M.
"Throw him in the mud." - J.G.
                                  "Throw a banana at him." - N.P.                                                         

( I think it's pretty safe to say no one should ever mess with these kids! )

Next, I asked them what they thought Mud Monsters liked to eat. This is what they said: 

"Cannonballs and dirt." - R.T.
"Only mud." - C.G.
"Flowers."- S.C.
"Garbage." - J.G. 
"FIRE!" - I.M.
"Rocks." - E.H. 


After the big discussion I asked if we should go back and look for more mud monsters. They were a little more cautious when approaching the mud this time. One boy said "Look there he is! I'm gunna stomp him!" He ran in and began stomping the mud. The children laughed, and they were all back in the mud full force playing the mud monster game. When we got back to the center they were telling all of the younger children about their morning adventure. At quiet time some of them drew pictures of what they thought mud monsters looked like. 

Why This Matters: 

The children used team work, cooperation, & problem solving to help each other escape the mud.
Imagination/pretend play is necessary for social, emotional, language, and thinking skills. 

- Leslie Dionne

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Writing with Sand Paper

This invitation was inspired by a previous blog post from last year "Facts About Tracks". The original activity evolved into the children writing their names and different letters so I decided to focus on that this time. I decided to use cornmeal for a different texture (the children thought it was sand) and put out stamps, letters, and chop sticks. 

"Look at all these letters! I am definitely going to spell my name here" said one little girl as she sat down at the table. 

Together the two friends helped each other find the letters in their name, and tried using all of the materials on the table. They discovered that the stamps were too big to fit their whole name, so they stuck with the chopsticks for quite some time. 

The trick with doing any activity like this is to have pieces of paper available so the children can "erase" their markings. Most of the children remembered from our previous activity to lay the paper on top and smooth the sand out. 

The children REALLY seemed to enjoy this activity. Usually when I come back from lunch the tables are picked up for snack, but this table was still going! It's very rewarding to see children engaged in an activity you put out, especially when they're learning so much! (Letter recognition, Literacy skills, Fine Motor skills.... to name a few!) 

-Leslie Dionne