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In August and September many of our children transitioned to preschool or kindergarten. To highlight this transition and the methods we use to help kids with this transition we look at two providers Vivian Collins from North County area and Georgene Mason, Gabo’s Schoolhouse in the Delmar Loop area. As you gear up for the new school year, check out these low-cost, back to school activities St. Louis area providers are using to make transition into the school year exciting and fun in. As new and returning students arrive providers are working on finding the base learning children are accomplishing.

Two issues especially confront providers: separation anxiety and assessment screenings for children. Separation anxiety is a challenge returning and new students face. Activities such as the Kissing Hand below help deal with leaving family. Other activates help children ease into the school year and allow teachers to assess where children are at, so they can plan effectively and facilitate parent/teacher communication.

Don’t forget to tune in next month when we highlight another of our STL Educare providers as they explore specific assessment tools for children and having conversations with parents about effectively making referrals for assistance.


Funding for STL Educare is provided by the Missouri Department of Social Services, Children’s Division, Early Childhood and Prevention Services Section

Back to School Activities:

1. Harold and the Purple Crayon Playdoh: This project combines reading comprehension and fine motor skills in one activity. Read the book Harold and the Purple Crayon. If you don’t have this book it is available as told on YouTube. After reading/listening to the book, ask what things Harold drew and write them down for children. Then make Purple Crayon Playdoh:

Ingredients: 2 ½ crayons chopped up, 3 cups flour, 1 1/2 cup salt, 2 Tbsp. cream of tartar, 2 Tbsp. oil and 2 cups water


Steps: First, chop up crayons. Exact amounts don’t matter. In a large bowl, mix together the dry ingredients

Next, heat oil in a pan. Add the chopped crayons. Stir until the crayons are completely melted. Slowly stir in 2 cups of water while stirring. Certain types of crayons will either make a clumpy goopy looking liquid. Other types will make a smooth liquid once the water is added. Either way is fine. Just keep stirring. Slowly, stir in the dry ingredients. The dough will pull together in a ball over the heat. Once the dough pulls together, dump it out onto a cutting board or counter. Let the dough cool until you can tolerate kneading. Knead the dough for a few minutes until smooth. (Note~ the waxy texture of this dough will create a spa-like experience while kneading) Use playdoh to recreate scenes from the book. Younger children will love the feel of this playdoh. Fine motor skills are strengthen by kneading the dough. Add scissors for more skill building. This activity provides a great opportunity for journal writing/drawing.

2. Paper Tunnels: This activity build eye-hand coordination and planning. Using construction paper and tape (painter’s, masking or washi). Cut some paper in half, others whole. Fold ½ inch on either side for tabs and tape the tunnels to a hard surface to form rainbow tunnels. Children drive their cars through the tunnels. Expanding on this: put a color chart to tell children which car to drive through next. Add numbers to top of tunnels to have children plan a trip through the tunnels in numerical order


Advance: cut toilet or paper towel rolls in sections. Decorate, place a number or shape on the top. Attach to a cardboard box lid. Place a pom-pom ball in the lid. Have children make the ball roll through the tunnels in order or shape. More? Have older children add the numbers the ball rolls through for addition practice.


3. Colors and Patterns Busy Bag: Busy Bags are simple and engaging learning activities that young children can do on their own. All of the materials for the activity are stored in a plastic bag or pencil pouch so they are easy to use. For this Colors and Patterns Busy Bag, children will practice identifying colors and creating patterns using simple materials. Materials: Large Popsicle Sticks, Dot Stickers, Markers, Pom-poms

Process: Color the dot stickers to match the colors of the pom-poms. Stick the colored dots on the Popsicle sticks to create simple patterns

HOW TO PLAY: Place the pom-pom on top of the dot stickers to match the colors and create the pattern.


EXTEND THE LEARNING: Let your child color the dot stickers and place them on the Popsicle sticks to create his or her own patterns. Have your child pick up the pom-poms with tongs and place them on them on the Popsicle sticks to develop fine motor skills.


4. Cupcake Liner Preschool Letter Recognition Activity: Materials: cupcake liners and ping pong balls. Preparation: Write capital letters at the bottom of the cupcake liners and then write lowercase letters on the ping pong balls. Playing: have children place ping pong balls in correct cupcake liner. Extend by using tongs. Older children can spell their name by matching up cupcake liners and ping pong balls.

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5. Name Spelling Puzzle: Take pictures of the children individually. Add an one inch paper to bottom of photo and spell child’s name. Cut the photo so each piece has a letter on it. Then children can practice “spelling” their name by putting the puzzle together. This is a great activity for name recognition, letter recognition, self-esteem building and community building in the classroom and children can exchange pictures and practice spelling each other’s name.


6. Fine Motor Work Station: Creating patterns, swirls, squiggles and zig-zags with buttons, children will have so much fun playing with this fine motor work station what you will need: colored card, marker pen and assorted buttons. If you do not have button, you may like to use gemstones, string, stones, pebbles, bottle tops, pompoms, shells or other small tokens for this activity. It also promotes fine motor and coordination skills as children are picking up and placing glass gems onto the paper using the pincer grip action. One each sheet mark a pencil stroke to practice such as zig-zag, straight lines curving lines or concentric circles. Be sure the lines are dark and wide so children can place buttons on the lines. This activity is great for sorting and classifying the colors or size of the buttons. Children can create patterns, rainbow colors or only used one color for each line. The creativity and imagination is endless

Learning Opportunities: Creativity and imagination, Fine Motor Development, Hand-Eye, Coordination and Control, Concentration, Language development – swirls, patterns, zig-zags and colors, Mathematics – patterns

7. The Kissing Hand: Read the book “The Kissing Hand” link to YouTube reading book aloud https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aFYlphrlAys this story talks about missing mom when starting to school. It looks at ways mom encourage her son to reach out for new experiences while being comforted by parent’s kisses. Make a kissing box. Materials: small box for each child, construction hearts (child can make own or have precut) Markers and decoration materials, glue.


Process: Have children decorate their box. Place hearts in the box. Talk about how by

remembering people you love helps you feel less lonely or afraid. Children can take a heart out
of the box whenever they feel they need a special “kiss”.

8. How Many Drops Does That Drop Hold?: This can be done as a team or individual. As a team; children take turns adding a drop of water to the circles. As an individual; the child keeps track of the drops and completes the experiment. Draw different sizes of circles on a piece of paper. Laminate or cover with a sheet protector. Have some small cups of water and use the primary food coloring colors. Then children drop a drop of water from a dropper. Keep count of how many drops fill the circles. Children can predict how many drops it will take. A good chance to use prediction and documentation

9. Sand/Salt Writing Trays: These are simple activities children can use as a fill in activity or a choice activity. Fill a tray with sand or salt. Have a writing tool (Popsicle stick, pencil, stick, etc.) available and a stack of alphabet cards. The child copies the letters in the salt/sand. You can use letters, numbers, shapes or designs for the children to reproduce. For a sensory boost add food coloring and/or fragrant oil to the sand or salt. What you’ll need: Salt, Purple food coloring, Lavender essential oil, Plastic bag, Tray Begin by pouring about 1/2 cup salt into a plastic bag, one drop of food coloring, and two drops of essential oil. Seal your plastic bag and squish until everything has been mixed well.


10. Sort and Count Bottles: Use old bottles and pom-poms for simple counting and sorting math games and motor skills fun! With lots of ways to play and learn, these are a great addition to the math area at home or school. Using small water bottles add colorful masking tape with a drawn number on the tape. Children use pom-poms to put that many items in the bottles. Skill development includes: math: recognizing numerals, counting using 1:1 correspondence, sorting and matching by color, counting up to 10 and beyond motor skills: using control and precision to pick up and drop small materials, pincer grasp, hand/eye coordination.


11. Parent Involvement: Ask parents to be members of the pencil sharpening club. Put pencils in a pencil holder and send home with a pencil sharpener. Great way to get parent volunteers who can’t volunteer during the day.


12. Parent Activity Bags: Help collect loose parts materials for your classroom.

You can find the bright colorful bags at the Dollar Store. Print and laminate requests on tags and tie onto the bags with some ribbon. This way the tags can be removed & saved for next year & replaced with new tag assignments for multiple subjects.
The first tag instructions: Please help me find 5 items to put in my activity bag to share with my class. These items need to be something that can be left at school such as: Acorns, buttons, milk caps etc… We will be sharing, sorting, comparing & counting all our items. Remember only 5 items of the same thing.

13. Parent Involvement: The parents will write their hopes and dreams on ribbons. Using an embroidery hoop, parents will tie their ribbon to the classroom hoop. It becomes a school home connections and children can find their parents hopes. “What are your hopes and dreams for your child? Not only for this year but for life. Write them on a ribbon leaving room for one end to tie around the hoop. We will be creating a chandelier with this hoop and keep it in our room as a reminder of your dreams for your child


14. Family Link: send home a brown lunch bag and ask the family to draw pictures of themselves on the outside of the ag along with writing their names and then using the blank slips inside the bag, write things about their family that we can’t see on the outside such as: I love apples, my mom likes to draw, etc. Return bags and share them then make a display.


Related Articles and Resources:

Multiple Intelligences approach to helping kids to listen: https://www.pre-kpages.com/how-to-get-kids-to-pay-attention/

Importance of rhyming songs and nursery rhymes: https://theimaginationtree.com/the-importance-of-rhyme-in-early-literacy-development/

The Importance of Experiential Learning in Early Childhood: https://www.melbournechildpsychology.com.au/blog/play-experiential-learning-early-childhood/

Let’s Talk, Read, and Sing about STEM! Tips for Infant/Toddler Teachers and Providers: https://www2.ed.gov/about/inits/ed/earlylearning/talk-read-sing/stem-toolkit-infant-toddler-teachers.pdf

Let’s Talk, Read, and Sing about STEM! Tips for Families with Young Children: https://www2.ed.gov/about/inits/ed/earlylearning/talk-read-sing/stem-toolkit-families.pdf

Let’s Talk, Read, and Sing about STEM! Tips for Pre-School Teachers and Providers: https://www2.ed.gov/about/inits/ed/earlylearning/talk-read-sing/stem-toolkit-preschool-teachers.pdf

Books dealing with anger and anxiety: https://carrotsareorange.com/childrens-books-about-emotions/

Missouri Early Learning Standards: https://dese.mo.gov/early-extended-learning/early-learning/missouri-early-learning-standards   

Information on becoming a Licensed Child Care Provider in Missouri if you care for more than four unrelated children in your home: http://health.mo.gov/safety/childcare/licensed.php

Information for becoming a Registered Provider in Missouri if you care for four or less unrelated children in your home: https://dss.mo.gov/cd/child-care/child-care-providers/in-home-child-care-providers.htm

Information for becoming a Licensed Exempt Provider in Missouri: https://dss.mo.gov/cd/child-care/child-care-providers/licensed-exempt-child-care-providers.htm

Sign up for STL Educare trainings http://www.stleducare.org/trainings.html