Use bubble wrap to paint colorful fall trees! Watch the video or read the instructions in the blog post for more information about this fun fall craft for kids. [More]
From reducing anxiety to improving flexibility, yoga can positively affect kids’ lives. Learn more about the benefits of yoga for children in this blog post. [More]
Get activity ideas for throwing an end-of-summer bash for your students! There are plenty of ways you can say goodbye to summer with the children in your care. [More]
Help children learn through sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell with these sensory play activities. Be sure to check out our ideas for fun ice experiments! [More]
There’s a long list of children’s books that have become treasured classics. Check out our picks for classic children’s books you must have in your classroom. [More]
Astronomy can be something fun and exciting to study with your students (or your own children) during the upcoming summer months. From stargazing to studying the phases of the moon, there are lots of things to learn and discover about our solar system. [More]
Trees and flowers are blooming, sunlight is more abundant, grass is turning green again, and a variety of creatures are buzzing and moving around. Use all the changes spring brings to provide plenty of fun learning opportunities for your students. [More]
It can be hard to clean up when you have a classroom full of preschoolers or kindergarteners drawing, painting, or crafting. Once the last line is drawn or the last brush of paint is applied, you’re often left with a pretty big mess to clean up. [More]
According to the American Community Survey, immigrants make up over 13 percent of the U.S. population. As a result, many first-generation, American-born children grow up speaking both English and their parents’ native tongue as well as participating in both American culture and that of their family. [More]
Are some of your preschoolers going to kindergarten at the start of the new school year? Make sure children are getting the support they need at home and answer any questions parents may have with these tips on helping parents prepare their children (and themselves) for kindergarten. [More]
Children love to play and build things with blocks, but blocks are often an underappreciated and underused learning tool in the classroom. Keith Pentz, National Early Childhood Specialist for Kaplan Early Learning Company, has worked in the education field for more than 35 years and strongly believes that block play can have a much bigger role in the classroom learning environment. [More]
The dramatic play center is one of the most important components of a preschool or kindergarten classroom. It’s where young children engage in creative play, learn about their community, role play various careers and situations, develop and practice life skills, and gain experience with items and tools they’ll use as adults. The items you include in the dramatic play center will have a large impact on what children learn as they play in the learning center. Any of the items featured in the list below would be great additions to your dramatic play center:
1. Dress-Up Center with Mirror
This four-sided storage center provides lots of space for storing dramatic play items. The storage unit features a mirror, four storage shelves, and three double hooks for hanging dramatic play clothes and costumes.
2. Carolina Market
Children will love selling fruits, vegetables, and other foods with the Carolina Market! The stand features a dry-erase board for children to write prices and specials and a large counter for them to display items for sell.
3. Go Green Market Set
The Go Green Market Set features nine fruits and seven vegetables that children can carry in two reusable, eco-friendly bags. Great for shopping play or as an accessory for the Carolina Market!
4. Lifestyle Dream Kitchen
The Lifestyle Dream Kitchen has a compact, realistic design that includes kitchen appliances, storage drawers, cabinets, and other features. A 27-piece accessory set is also included.
5. International Food Collection
Children can learn about food from around the world with the pretend food sets in our International Food Collection. Choose from African, Asian, Hispanic/Latino, Japanese, and Italian food sets, or you can choose the complete set of five.
6. Four Food Groups
Help children learn about food groups with this set of pretend food! Children can choose foods from each food group to create a healthy meal.
7. 14” Lots to Love Babies
These popular baby dolls are 14” tall and have moveable arms and legs and heads that turn. Children will love taking care of these dolls in the dramatic play center!
8. Dramatic Play Costumes – Career Set
These realistic dramatic play costumes are sure to be a hit with the children in your care. Children can dress up as a firefighter, doctor, nurse, police officer, or pilot.
9. Handyman Tool Set
Encourage little carpenters to practice their carpentry skills with this Handyman Tool Set. The set includes two power tools, a toolbox, and various tools and accessories.
10. Occupation Puppets
Children can come up with their own plays and scenarios with these Occupation Puppets. The set of eight puppets includes a postal worker, police officer, doctor, vet, firefighter, chef, farmer, and construction worker.
Browse our Dramatic Play section for a variety of dress-up clothes, pretend play kitchen and food sets, puppets, accessories, and more! Our Insights and Inspirations article “How to Set Up Your Preschool Dramatic Play Learning Center” is also a great resource for planning and organizing your dramatic play center.
Children love to experiment with sand and water, which is why the sand and water center is often one of the most popular areas in a classroom or center. If you’re looking for ways to create new sand and water experiences for the children in your care, we have some great ideas! Based on a list featured in Judy Fujawa’s (Almost) Everything You Need to Know About Early Childhood Education, here are some manipulatives you can place in a sand and water table to create fun sensory experiences and encourage open-ended play:
Pebbles, rocks, shells, etc.
Water (warm, cold, colored, soapy, etc.)
Sand (dry, wet, colored)
A messy art project
Various frozen ice forms
Birdseed (then scatter to feed the birds)
Goop (half cornstarch and half water mixture)
Various sand/water accessories (toys, molds, funnels, sifters, etc.)
Outfit your sand and water table with a variety of play sets and kits, sand accessories, and water accessories. You can also read “How to Set Up Your Preschool Sand and Water Learning Center” for additional information on creating a sand and water center that children will love!
Looking for a Sand and Water Table?
Check out our Insights and Inspirations article about choosing a sand and water table for a list of questions you should consider. We’ve also added a brand new sand and water table to our selection this year! A unique steel activity frame that attaches to the table gives the Kaplan-exclusive Sand and Water Exploration Table a nontraditional twist! You can hang a variety of sand and water accessories on the frame for easy access and storage. Be sure to visit our Sand & Water section to browse our other tables and find the best fit for your classroom!
Guest Post by Kaila Weingarten, MS Ed
When I first attended a training and heard about having a school readiness action plan, I asked the presenter, “What would I include in that?”
He couldn’t enumerate exactly what to put in.
So over the next few weeks, I did my research and compiled a list. This became a wonderful loose-leaf resource to have. I used it to train new employees, to inform key policyholders on school readiness, and of course, to brag during our federal reviews.
Let’s review how you too can compile this important document, a requirement for Early Head Start and Head Start agencies.
If you have a mission or philosophy statement, it provides a nice start.
The number one item is your school readiness goals. Additionally, you should include a blurb of how these came about. Make sure to state who was involved in creating these goals. You’ll want to mention parents, board/policy council members, and anyone on your School Readiness Leadership Team. Talk about the thought processes behind your goals. Did you have specific community or cultural needs in mind? Make sure to mention how your goals align with your curriculum, assessment, Head Start Early Learning Framework, your state’s early learning guidelines, and the expectations of the local schools.
Another aspect to discuss is how your program combines school readiness and the Parent, Family, and Community Engagement (PFCE) Framework. The Head Start Parent, Family, and Community Engagement (PFCE) Framework is the guide used to promote family engagement in school readiness and includes the child outcome, “Children are ready for school and sustain development and learning gains through third grade.” In order to get to the child outcome, there are seven Family Engagement Outcomes for the program to consider. An example of how we meet outcomes in our program would be the weekly school readiness activities that are based on curriculum and sent home to parents. Get more family engagement ideas from the book Partnering with Parents.
Your action plan is also a great place to keep your school readiness status update as the years go by. This update is how you apprise your policy council, board, and community three times a year, after you’ve analyzed your data.
Of course, you’ll want to write a curriculum overview. Explain your curriculum. Be sure to include any secondary curriculum such as a literacy curriculum, social-emotional curriculum, or home-based curriculum. A good place to get an overview may be through the curriculum website or resource book. Describe how you implement the curriculum and how you ensure it’s done right. Do you observe classrooms or train teachers?
What tool do you use for ongoing child assessment? How do you use it? Be sure to include your timeline for completing, aggregating, and analyzing assessments. According to Head Start regulations, this must be done at least three times a year. What are your systems for data aggregation? What reports do you analyze? A comprehensive list will create a complete picture of what you do.
Write about how you provide professional development for staff, in relation to school readiness. How are your management systems involved with school readiness? How do you train them and inform them of updates and changes? How do you train new personnel?
Let’s not forget about individualizing. How do you individualize for children? Do teachers write goals for children that are based on the assessment and/or Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP)?
Transition is a hot topic. How and where do children transition to? If you are an Early Head Start agency, do children automatically transition to Head Start? What’s your plan for ensuring a smooth transition process? Who directs the transition process? What services, placements, or supports does the family want for their child after the Early Head Start program? How does your program help the family decide on a place that will be best for the child? How are you trying to create seamless services for all of the Early Head Start/Head Start families in your program? How do you keep in touch with local communities and schools to ensure that your school readiness goals match their requirements?
In our program, the parent coordinator contacts parents six months prior to the child’s birthday to discuss transition. They talk about possible options that would meet the child’s developmental needs. We then walk parents through the process of applying to their preferred school. We have children visit a Head Start/kindergarten classroom and meet the teacher. They can also take a tour of the school. Teachers talk to the children about the transition. In addition, we meet with local schools to talk about how to best help the families. We also hold workshops on transitioning for parents, to help them understand how to get children ready for school. All of these aspects help create a smooth transition process.
Have you figured out what tool to use for teacher-child interactions? What do you use to measure this? Are you using tools such as the CLASS, ITERS, or ECERS? Have you checked any of them out?
You’ll also want to add your state’s early learning guidelines, additional websites and/or books you reference to, and any curriculum sheet that’s helpful in understanding your school readiness system.
Good luck in creating this resource!
Are the children in your care starting kindergarten next school year? If so, you’re likely looking for ways to help children and their families make the transition to kindergarten. Here are a few tips and resources to help you get started:
1. Send Activity Sheets and Transition Kits Home with Children
Activity sheets and transition kits can help children learn the math skills, reading skills, and other academic skills they need for kindergarten and school success while also helping you bridge the school-home connection. Our Transition to Kindergarten: Ready to Read Kit and the Transition to Kindergarten: Math & Literacy Kit both include a clear backpack filled with activities and family engagement materials. On Track to Kindergarten features weekly activity sheets that you can make copies of to send home with children. The weekly activities are a great, easy way for parents to help their children learn at home.
2. Incorporate Transitioning to Kindergarten into Your Lesson Plans
Children are usually pretty apprehensive about starting kindergarten, so it’s important that you take the time to address their concerns and to reassure them about the upcoming change. Try to read books about change and positive thinking, such as I Knew You Could!, during storytime and encourage discussion on how children are feeling about starting kindergarten. Planning activities that will reinforce skills and prepare children mentally and emotionally for kindergarten is one of the best ways to make the transition easier for children and their families.
3. Help Children Build Their Social-Emotional Intelligence
Helping children learn to write, read, count, and problem solve are prominent learning goals in preschool, but helping children build their social-emotional intelligence should also be an important goal. As Pam Schiller discusses in her book Seven Skills for School Success, social-emotional intelligence “is a crucial determinant” of school readiness. Research has identified the following seven characteristics as critical for school success:
Capacity to Communicate
Helping children develop and strengthen these seven characteristics will help them be successful learners now and in the future.
4. Tour an Elementary School and Kindergarten Classroom
Taking children on a tour of an elementary school or a kindergarten classroom can help settle any nerves children have about starting kindergarten. Another great option is to have a retired or current kindergarten teacher come to speak with students. You could also ask kindergarten teachers to take pictures or videos of their classroom setup for you to show and discuss with the children in your care.
5. Make Sure Parents Know About Kindergarten Registration and Screening
Each community has different requirements for kindergarten registration and screening (your community may be one that doesn’t require screening), so it’s important that you make sure parents know how to proceed with enrolling their children in kindergarten and know what to expect at a kindergarten screening. Send home reminders about kindergarten registration and screening dates in your community or let parents know where they can find that information.
Be sure to read our Insights and Inspirations article “Helping Kids Transition to Kindergarten” for additional tips and resources on helping children have a smooth transition to kindergarten.