For the past few days, I have been gluing magnets to the back of just about anything I could think of.  :)  From craft sticks, to pom-poms, to pipe cleaners, we now have loads of new magnets!  Why?  We got a new giant magnet board (actually an oil drip pan from the automotive section at WalMart) that we have been having lots of fun with!
     Magnets are a great science material for kids to explore.   And they have just had so much fun doing it!  They have done lots of experimenting to figure out what magnets will and won't stick to...and were really excited when they discovered that some of the magnets will stick to other magnets!  :)
     And with the variety of magnet toys we have, there has been some great creativity, counting, cooperation, planning, and teamwork!
     Today I used an idea that I saw recently on both House of Baby Piranha and Teach Preschool.  I set out the markers and some sheets of paper with various wiggle eyes already glued on. I love giving the kids a tiny suggestion and seeing how many ways they can all branch off of it from there.
The kids' creativity produced a lot of great monsters...
...and even a robot!
Since tomorrow is Groundhog Day, today we had some fun exploring light and shadows... a great way to make the events of the day relevant to kids!  First we used our hole-punches to punch holes in some cardboard tubes...
Just look at how hard these little hand muscles (which need to be built up and exercised in order to be ready for writing) are being worked!
Next, we darkened the toy room, passed out some flashlights and got to work!  :)
     A couple of the kids have been very interested in the letters of their names lately, so today I set out a pile of all the letters in each of the kids' names.  They sorted through them to find "their" letters.
     Next, they glued the letters down onto their papers like a puzzle, trying to get them in the right order to spell out their names and were very proud of their work!
     As I played our newest photo slideshow movie yesterday for the kids, they watched with almost constant repeating commentary of, "We should do THAT again!  We should do THAT again!"  What a great gift it was for me to be reminded of how much fun they had with the activities pictured from our past year together.   Although we'll have to wait a while to recreate some of the photos (like swimming, which several of them asked if we could do today! :) ), we were able to cross one off the list today.  I filled up the spray bottles with water and liquid water color and they set to work painting the snow in the backyard!  I always know it's a winner when they add that day's activities to their list of "Thank you God for..." at our lunch time prayer as they did today.  :)
     We had lots of fun experimenting with candy canes today!  Before we could get started experimenting (or eating!), we had to use our fine motor/pre-writing muscles to open up the individually wrapped candy canes!  And while we unwrapped, we watched this short video about how candy canes are made.
     We talked about what happens to a candy cane when we suck on it...though we had to really think about it since most of the kids didn't have the patience not to chew them!  Then we talked about what we thought would happen to the candy canes when we put them in each of our four bowls: one with ice water, one with warm water, one with boiling water, and one with vinegar.
The kids noticed right away that the candy canes in the hot water turned the water red quickly.  The candy dissolved in the warm water next, with slower results in the cold water and the vinegar.  Next, I pulled out some baking soda and we added that to the bowl of vinegar.  We got the exciting fizzy reaction we are used to from that fun combination, but other than that it didn't do much to the candy.
     Next, I asked the kids what they thought might happen if we put some candy canes into the oven.  "They would get hot!", "They will get bigger." (I'm sure that guess comes from watching baked goods rise in the oven, so there was some great thinking going on there!)
So, we tried it and the answer is: they get bendy! :)  We put our mini candy canes in at 225* for about 8 minutes and when they came out, if we moved slowly and carefully, we could bend them into different shapes!
We had lots of fun playing with our candy today! :)
     I'm back!  The new baby and I are, so far, adjusting well to merging our days with all the other kids... I'm glad to report that the first couple of days back have gone really well! 
     Today the kids made some festive trees using strips of green paper cut to varying lengths.  It was great practice using the pre-math skill of judging biggest to smallest, as they had to compare the rectangular strips to get them in the right order to make a tree shape.  They also had to use their visual-spacial and visual planning skills to lay the strips in a way that would allow them to fit the whole tree onto their paper.  Of course, for the younger ones we didn't worry so much about those things, and instead let them focus on the fine motor skills of  picking up the papers, applying glue, and placing them down to make a much more "abstract" tree!  :)  
     We then placed a foil star sticker at the top and used some Q-tips dipped in white paint to add some snowflakes!
Today we used painter's tape and foam stickers to create some resist paintings.  The kids made pictures, letters, and designs using the tape and stickers (and worked really hard at peeling the backs off the stickers and learning how to rip the tape off the roll - great fine motor work!), and then used watercolors to paint around their designs.
Once they were done painting, most of the kids peeled off all of their designs to see the picture that it left underneath!
    Most days I try to set out something in our environment that is new for the day and invites the kids to explore it as a self-led activity.  Today's invitation to play was a tub full of fuzzy craft pom-poms, some varying sized ice cube trays, and a jar of tweezers and clothespins.
    The kids really enjoyed this one and as you can see, as soon as it was discovered, they all gathered in close to check it out!  Right away they started doing what I had planned for them to do with these materials (which is not always the case!), and used the tweezers and clothespins to pinch the pom-poms and drop them into the compartments of the trays.
    The tools they were using are great for developing their fine motor skills, and they even worked in a bit of patterning, which is a pre-math skill, as well as pre-reading.  And the kids kept coming back to the tub to play some more throughout the day, so this will have to be a new one to add into our rotation!
    We have been having a lot of fun with the color green this week, including a couple of different ways to see how we can make green.  First, we started with a tub of blue and a tub of yellow water beads, and the kids mixed some of each together for us to observe.  Since the water beads absorb and release moisture, they all exchanged their colors and we ended up with a bowl of green water beads!
    Today, we played with some big clear bags of paint.  Each bag had both blue and yellow paint inside, so as the kids drew and wrote with their fingers on the bags, they mixed the two colors together to make green!