A Christmas Tree for the Preschool Classroom

Preschoolers love the excitement of the holiday season and love to share the fun with their friends at school. One way we have celebrated all month is by incorporating a classroom Christmas tree into our dramatic play area. Sometimes at home, some holiday decorations are too delicate for young children to handle, so we created a tree that could be touched and decorated with no fear of destruction.

ClassroomTree

Since space in the classroom can be limited, a contact paper Christmas tree was the way to go. First, we adhered a constructionpaper tree to the wall, then covered it in contact paper. During our Invitation to Play time, we offered the students decorations of all sorts: sequins, rhinestones, stickers, yarn, popsicle sticks, and more. Each day, the tree looked different as the students added and subtracted decorations. They sometimes worked individually, and sometimes as a group.

Our classroom tree was a festive way to learn about cooperation and social interaction and work on their fine motor skills.TrioTree

GirlTree

BoysTree

GirlsTree

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The Importance of a Child’s Gift

When a child gives you a gift, even if it is a rock they just picked up, exude gratitude. It might be the only thing they have to give, and they have chosen to give it to you. -Dean Jackson

The holidays are a time for giving, and though it may seem that our preschooler’s wish lists are endless, they also want to give. They typically don’t have money to spend, so they often make us gifts or simply choose something they find and make a present out of it. However small, it is important to accept these gifts with joy and remember to appreciate that it is the thought that counts.

This month at Square Roots Preschool, we have been working on teaching our students the importance of giving in many ways. One of the ways we are supporting these giving spirits is to help them make holiday gifts for parents and family members. These gifts have included clay ornaments, tree ornaments made from popsicle sticks, paint, and glittery things, and holiday pictures. The students have had a wonderful time spreading holiday cheer and can’t wait to GIVE what they have created with love to those they love.

Gift

Learning About Anti-oxidants

We always incorporate a nutrition discussion during snack time, and we are lucky that one of our parents is a registered dietician. Christine Reese, MS, RD, comes to the classroom about once a month and speaks to the students about an aspect of nutrition. Some of the concepts can be quite complicated, so Ms. Reese simplifies the lesson and provides colorful, interactive visuals to help the students retain the information. The children look forward to her talks and to the delicious snacks she brings! Ms. Reese sends home a handout filled with detailed information for the parents.

One of our students moves the skeleton's joints, helping to understand that anti-oxidants help our joints.

One of our students moves the skeleton’s joints, helping to understand that anti-oxidants help our joints.

Our letter of the week was “Oo,” so Ms. Reese discussed anti-“O”xidants. She provided us with valuable information:

Anti-oxidants are substances that help fight free radicals. Free radicals are elements produced in our bodies every day, for a variety of reasons. Normal bodily functions, such as breathing and generating energy; lifestyle choices, like smoking, excessive drinking, and even exercise; and external factors like environmental pollutants, pesticides, and x-rays, all create free radicals. If these free radicals are left alone, they attack healthy cells and cause damage to DNA, blood vessels and other tissues, leading to conditions such as early aging, cardiovascular disease, cataracts, arthritis, loss of cognitive function, and even cancer. This is a process called oxidation, and anti-oxidants protect healthy cells by binding and neutralizing the free radicals. For example, when you slice an apple, oxidation causes the apple slices to turn brown. However, rubbing the slices with lemon juice prevents oxidation from occurring, and hence prevents the browning/damage.

Fortunately for our preschoolers and us, nature provides numerous anti-oxidants:

Vitamin C–Necessary for growth and repair of body tissues; important to collagen formation, which is a protein found in skin, tendons, ligaments, blood vessels; helps regenerate vitamin E. Can be found in strawberries, peaches, kiwi fruit, citrus fruit, bell peppers, broccoli, potatoes

Vitamin E–Stops the formation of free radicals when fat cells are oxidized; prevents blood from clotting within blood vessels. Can be found in nuts, seeds, oils, spinach, wheat germ, peanut butter

Carotenoids (beta-carotene, lycopene, lutein, zeanxanthan)–Protect vision and eye health; maintain skin health. Can be found in tomatoes, sweet potatoes, winter squash (acorn, butternut), carrots, watermelon, guava, mango

Glucosinolates–supports liver in detoxfying cancer-causing chemicals. Can be found in brussels sprouts, broccoli, broccoli sprouts, kale, collards, bok choy

Catechins–Aid in the repair of damaged DNA; inhibit oxidation of LDL-cholesterol. Can be found in tea, dark chocolate, apple, grapes, raspberries, avocados.

Anthocyanins–Modulate cellular pathways and signaling, which may prevent cancerous cells from forming or growing. Can be found in purple or concord grapes, purple onions and cabbage; purple peppers and potatoes; eggplant; blueberries and blackberries.

Ms. Reese talks to the class about anti-oxidants while Ms. Taryn helps with the visual aid.

Ms. Reese talks to the class about anti-oxidants while Ms. Taryn helps with the visual aid.

Something else anti-oxidants have in common is that they are mainly found in plant foods, especially colorful produce, and is why nutrition experts often tell us to feed our kids a rainbow of foods every day. There are no specific daily requirements at this time, perhaps because researchers are still learning about them, but also because there are so many. When it comes to actual food, you cannot eat too many anti-oxidants, however, it is possible in some cases to consume too much in the form of supplements. Therefore, at this time, it is best to get anti-oxidants from food, especially because they appear to work best when they come from food. For example, anti-oxidants and other food constituents work synergistically to protect healthy cells and fight damaging free radicals, whereas supplements taken alone do not have the other food constituents in the just the right amounts to help them out, and can easy overwhelm our cells. In addition, no single anti-oxidant can offer the protection of anti-oxidants working together, and typically more than one anti-oxidant is found in each plant food.

Ultimately, the “more matters” slogan for fruit and vegetables is applicable for a variety of reasons, one being to ensure adequate anti-oxidant consumption for better long-term health, and as parents and educators, we can plant the seed for preschoolers now.

Small Preschool Classes: What are the Benefits?

Preschool is often a child’s first real experience with peer socialization, a fun, yet possibly overwhelming time. Research shows that smaller class sizes with a lower student/teacher ratio are better for young children because each student gets more individual attention. We feel that a smaller class size is a more comfortable transition from home to the elementary school years for most children. What are some of the benefits of a small preschool class size, and why is individual attention so important during the preschool years?

• Teachers are better able to identify a student’s strengths and areas where improvement is needed, so they can help address the needs of each individual in the class.

•  Smaller classes are usually less stressful, as fewer conflicts arise.

• Children in smaller classes tend to work well as a group and bond closely to one another, which makes for a secure environment.

• Smaller preschool classes are of benefit to a less-confident child who may get lost in the shuffle of a larger class.

• Children in small classes don’t get sick as often because there are fewer children spreading germs.

• Smaller class sizes offer more individual teacher/student interaction.

• Teachers who instruct fewer children can better-tailor lesson plans to meet the needs of the students and may even provide some individual lesson plans for students who are excelling or need more work in a particular area.

• Having fewer children in a classroom allows the teacher to better determine each individual student’s learning style.

• Smaller class size allows for more hands-on learning, as these activities require more attention from the teacher.

• Smaller classes offer deeper language development because the teacher can more closely monitor social interactions.

The National Institute for Early Education Research states that

When groups are smaller and staff-child ratios are higher, teachers provide more stimulating, responsive, warm, and supportive interactions. They also provide more individualized attention, engage in more dialogues with children, and spend less time managing children and more time in educational activities. Studies also provide evidence of a link between class size and overall quality of the classroom.

At Square Roots Preschool, we never have more than six students in a class, well below the minimum staff child ratio of 1:13 for three-year-olds and 1:15 for four-year-olds. We feel that our small class sizes not only offer educational benefits, but also a family-like, close-knit environment for our students.

More information on the benefits of smaller class sizes for preschoolers:

NIEER Preschool Policy Matters: Class Size: What’s the Best Fit? 

13 Indicators of Quality Child Care, Staff Child Ratio and Group Size Indicator

High-Quality Preschool: Why We Need it and What it Looks Like

Studying the Letter “N” With Napkins

This week we spent time studying the letter “N” in all sorts of ways. We created newspaper art and made newspaper Ns, we did a number toss, made dancing noodles, worked on our fine motor skills with nuts and bolts, and played net catch outside, among other enriching activities.

We, of course, learned the sound of the letter N and practiced writing it, but we also used an everyday activity to reinforce the letter concept. At snack time, we use NAPKINS! Napkins aren’t just useful for learning the letter N and wiping our fingers, they can do so much more.

Ms. Taryn talks to the students about shapes while passing out napkins.

Ms. Taryn talks to the students about shapes while passing out napkins.

Every day at snack time, Ms. Taryn asks the students what shape their napkin makes, and then, as they unfold it, what other shapes it makes. The napkin can be a square, triangle, diamond and rectangle (and if we crumple it into a ball after snack time, it might be a sphere). We reinforce the opposites “small and large” by taking our small square to a large square when we unfold our napkins. The students unfold their own napkins and clean up after themselves after snack time, so this whole napkin business also gives them a sense of responsibility, pride, and accomplishment.

Napkins can be important tools at home, too! Preschool aged children can help with family meals by counting out the correct number of napkins for the people sitting at the table. Napkins are a perfect thing for young children to work with when first setting the table because they won’t have to handle sharp utensils or breakables. You can ask your child to fold each napkin into a triangle or a rectangle or even unfold it completely to make a large placemat. If you use napkin rings, see if your child can roll the napkin into a cylinder shape and insert it into the holder. All of this is great, too, for building fine motor skills. Your child will likely feel pride in being able to contribute to family meal preparations.

Everyday objects and tasks may seem mundane to us, but can be a wealth of skill building for preschool children at school and at home.

UnfoldNapkin