The Simplest Way to Teach Gratitude This Holiday Season

by Jessica Peters | Lakeshore Professional Development Specialist

Thank you—a great message during the holiday season, but an amazing message for every day.

Being grateful and able to express gratitude to those in your life who make you happy, love you, help you and take care of you starts as early as the toddler years. Showing gratitude can be done in many ways—verbally, with gestures such as a hug but also with written notes.

Kids are going to get gifts over the holidays. What better way to teach the concept of gratitude (and practice handwriting!) than to have them write thank-you notes?

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Realizing when someone has done something nice for you and showing appreciation can be taught in classrooms and in the home. Adults can and should model as well as encourage various ways to show gratitude.

As kids get older and enter preschool classrooms, they can start to say thank you in notes and cards. Learning to say thank you and show gratitude is a large part of development and helps the growth of social-emotional skills, language skills, cognitive skills, literacy skills and fine motor skills. Saying and hearing thank you increases a child’s connection to others and increases the child’s sense of belonging to a community. Studies have shown that people who are able to express gratitude also have more empathy, tend to be more optimistic and experience less stress. Understanding the feeling of gratitude, being able to label that feeling and knowing what prompted that feeling are all social-emotional skills. When you feel grateful, highlight that feeling for a child and explain why you are grateful. Modeling this feeling is the best way for children to begin to understand and experience gratitude. When you see children doing something nice for each other, highlight those moments by asking the child if she feels grateful. If so, did she let the other child know? The more we practice showing gratitude, the more it becomes second nature.

It’s easy to say thank you to someone who gives you a Christmas gift, but what about someone who does something for you on a regular basis? Even as adults, we often miss opportunities to show when we are grateful. In order to encourage reflection, brainstorm with children to remember all the times in a day when someone does something for us that makes our day a great one (cleaning the classroom, cooking our food, etc.). Talk with children about ways you can let those people know that you are grateful. Could you write a thank-you note? Could you tell the person—or maybe even give him a hug or applause? At the snack or dinner table, have everyone say two things or name two people they are grateful for from their day. Over time you can add to this by saying how the child did—or will—show their gratitude.

Writing thank-you notes is also a wonderful way to develop fine motor writing skills as well as cognitive and literacy skills. In a writing center, have thank-you card templates children can copy. With art materials children can paint a picture to turn into a thank you, or create a thank-you card with art materials, stamps and writing materials. In the toddler and early preschool years, drawing a picture with a message dictated for an adult to write can be a very meaningful thank-you note.

Expressing gratitude offers a sense of joy for the giver—and the recipient. What a great way to build lifelong memories and connections!

7 Quick & Easy Ways to Keep Kids Learning All Winter Long

by Dalaney Sotolongo | Lakeshore Senior Product Developer 

Winter brings lots of opportunities to learn and explore the outdoors, but frigid temperatures often mean that kids are stuck inside—sometimes for days on end! To keep boredom at bay, check out these terrific winter activities that help kids to make the most of their time indoors—while also exercising creativity, encouraging scientific discoveries and more!

Upcycle Holiday Wrapping Paper Rolls

Save the rolls from holiday gift wrap and use them to create fun characters! Provide your child with basic art supplies like construction paper, markers, glue, collage materials and scissors to create winter-themed characters like a snowman and penguin…or their favorite storybook characters. Display the finished characters as wintertime decor—or use them to act out a scene from a story!

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Discover Gingerbread Geometry

Help your child build a gingerbread house using graham crackers and icing! For young children, precut the crackers into various shapes, including squares, rectangles and triangles. Invite your child to identify the shapes as you stick them together. Challenge older children to figure out the surface area of the house by calculating the area of each cracker and adding them together! (Hint: To find the area of a triangle, multiply the base and height and divide by two. To find the area of a square or rectangle, multiply the length and width.) As you build, encourage your child to choose where to place each graham cracker piece to develop problem-solving skills. When you’re done, work together to make a simple graph to show how many of each shape you used.

Enjoy a Marshmallow STEM Challenge!

After sipping some hot cocoa, rally the family to build constructions with marshmallows and toothpicks! For added fun, provide challenges for the whole family to try. Who can build the tallest skyscraper using the same number of pieces? Who can include the most shapes? Whose structure can withstand being blown by a fan? STEM activities like these draw upon children’s natural curiosity, stimulate their creativity and encourage problem solving in a super-exciting way.

Try a Cinnamon & Sugar Word Search

Fill a bowl with sugar and cinnamon to create a sweet and spicy mixture. Write winter-themed words on pieces of construction paper, using simple words like “hat” and “yam” for younger children and multisyllable words like “snowman” and “cinnamon” for older kids. Hide the words in the wintry mixture and invite your child to find and read each one. The multisensory experience of sight, touch and smell actually helps your child make connections that support the learning process! To boost even more skills, have your child trace the letters in each word; this strengthens fine motor control and provides printing practice, too.

Capture Holiday Memories

Gather up photos, drawings, cards and other mementos from family festivities. Provide your child with a blank scrapbook or make your own using thick construction paper. Invite your child to arrange the mementos in the order they happened and then write captions for each one. In addition to preserving cherished memories for years to come, children develop sequencing and writing skills—and exercise their creativity!

Create a Winter Sensory Bin!

Grab a variety of textured objects, put them in a tub—and you’ve got a sensory bin! Sensory bins allow kids to explore their sense of touch, which is a key component of cognitive growth. Infants and children use their senses to process information and understand the world, but people of all ages can benefit from sensory stimulation. Engaging the senses actually boosts brain activity, making it easier to learn and remember information. For this activity, gather a variety of winter-themed tactile materials such as Speedy Snow or white rice, natural objects like twigs and pinecones, plus animal figurines and play vehicles. Arrange them in a shallow bin to create a winter scene—and let your child explore! In addition to free play, you can also encourage your child to act out a scene, describe textures and compare objects—boosting language development, social-emotional skills, fine motor control and more!

Construct a Cozy Fort

Building a blanket fort is not only fun, but it also promotes creative problem solving! Encourage your child to sketch a plan for a fort and then try to build it. There’s a good chance the fort won’t be perfect at first, which encourages kids to troubleshoot and revise their design—just like real engineers! If your child runs into problems, avoid offering direct solutions. Instead, ask leading questions that inspire critical thinking and perseverance. For example, “I noticed the sides keep falling down. How could you make the fort stronger? Is there another material that might work better?” The completed fort will make the perfect setting for imaginative play, and the small, enclosed space can also have a calming, regulatory effect on some children. Want to double the learning fun? Put some books inside for a private reading corner!

Finally, here’s one more bonus tip: Be sure to get in on the fun! Your time is the most important gift you can give your child, so set aside a short block of time each day to enjoy these activities together. You’re guaranteed to have just as much fun as your child!

5 Classroom Crafts for Multicultural Holiday Celebrations

Guest Blog by Chelsey | Instagram @hipsterartteacher | Photography by Photo By Bokey

I was super-excited when Lakeshore reached out to me to share some DIY holiday craft ideas for the classroom. As a longtime K–12 art teacher, I wanted to come up with projects that are unique, colorful and fun, so I enlisted the help of my Instagram following to find out what types of projects teachers are interested in—and home decor was the winner! Here are five multicultural holiday projects that you can easily make in your classroom using Lakeshore materials.

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1. Elf Emotions Garland

The emoji trend is big right now. This DIY garland is perfect for displaying in the hallway at school or for hanging above the fireplace at home.

You’ll need: Yarn Laces with Tips, Make-A-Face Sheets, glitter, green and red construction paper, Felt, Glitter Pom-Poms-Class Pack, cotton balls, Tacky Glue®, hot glue, scissors, markers, pencils, Project Templates

Directions: Using the Project Templates, trace and cut three elf hats per student out of red or green construction paper. Use Tacky Glue to draw patterns on the hats, sprinkle with glitter and set aside to dry. Give each student three Make-A-Face Sheets. They come in a variety of People Colors®—perfect for every student in your class! With a pencil, students should draw a silly emoji expression on each face and then use markers over their pencil markings.

Tip: Print a sheet with emoji faces to help guide students as they draw. Remind students that the face should fill and be centered on the face sheet.

Glue a construction-paper hat to the top of each face shape. Hot-glue a glitter pom-pom to the top of the hat. Using Tacky Glue, attach cotton balls along the bottom edge of the hat where it meets the face.

Using the Project Templates, cut three elf hats out of felt in the same colors as the construction-paper hats. Cut two small holes near the top of each hat for stringing, being careful not to cut too close to the edge. Lay a length of yarn on a table or the floor and string all three felt hats onto the yarn so that they are evenly spaced and centered. Hot-glue an elf face (with its decorated hat) to each felt hat. Your elf garland is ready to display!

2. Stacked Present Boxes Ornament

These mini presents make a festive ornament, magnet or picture holder!

You’ll need: Wooden Craft Cubes – Class Pack, ribbon in various sizes and colors, acrylic paints, paintbrushes, Tacky Glue, hot glue, scissors

Directions: Use only the largest craft cubes for this project—you can use the remaining cubes as math manipulatives! Paint five faces of the cubes with acrylic paints. (The bottom won’t show, so you don’t need to paint it.) Encourage students to use the colors that represent the holidays they celebrate.

Have students paint the cubes with two coats to really make the color pop. Once the cubes are dry, students will wrap a thin piece of ribbon around four sides and glue it in place. Hot-glue the ribbon to the cubes. For the cube that will be on top of the stack, leave a gap between the ribbon and the top of the cube so you can thread another ribbon later. Then hot-glue the “boxes” together. (I like to have the presents off-center so each one stands out.) Lastly, cut a piece of ribbon, wrap it through the gap on the top present and tie a knot at the end.

3. Santa’s Beard Wall Hanging

I was inspired by the macramé wall hangings I’ve seen on Pinterest—and parents will love displaying this one each year!

You’ll need: White and pink Pom-Poms, Wooden Craft Dowels, white yarn, paper plates, tan acrylic paint, green and red construction paper, cotton balls, black marker, hot glue, Tacky Glue, scissors, Yarn Laces with Tips, Project Templates

Directions: Creating the Beard: Holding the end of the white yarn in your hand, wind the yarn around your elbow and back up to your hand five times. Cut the ends you have in your hands and keep the yarn folded. Follow the images below to attach the yarn loops to a wooden dowel. Repeat this process until there are seven tied loops on the dowel. Then give Santa’s “beard” a trim! Cut the yarn at an angle on each side to form a point in the center. Center the beard on the dowel.

Creating Santa’s Face: Using tan acrylic paint, have students paint the back side of a small paper plate. This will be Santa’s face. Line up the dowel so that the beard is slightly below the halfway point on the plate. Hot-glue the dowel to the plate.

Using the Project Templates, cut a Santa hat out of red or green construction paper. Glue the hat on top of the paper plate with Tacky Glue. Also using Tacky Glue, attach cotton balls along the bottom edge of the hat where it meets the face. Hot-glue a white pom-pom to the top of the hat and a pink pom-pom (Santa’s nose) above the beard. Have students draw two “U” shapes for Santa’s closed eyes. To hang, cut a long piece of yarn and tie it to each end of the dowel.

Tip: Hot-glue the ends of the yarn so they don’t slide off the dowel.

4. Hanukkah Felt Garland

This festive garland holds “gelt” (chocolate coins) for each of the eight days and nights of Hanukkah!

You’ll need: Felt; yellow, blue and white construction paper; Yarn Laces with Tips; Peel & Stick Jewels; scissors; hot glue; hole punch; Dreidel Template

Directions: Using the Dreidel Template, trace and cut three yellow, two blue and three white dreidels out of both construction paper and felt. Punch a hole in the top center of each construction-paper dreidel. Evenly string each paper dreidel onto a length of yarn, alternating the colors to create a pattern. Hot-glue each felt dreidel on top of a matching construction-paper dreidel so that they are lined up. Cut three yellow, two blue and three white rectangles (for the gelt pockets) out of felt using the template. Hot-glue three edges of each rectangle to a matching dreidel, keeping the top of the rectangle open to create the pocket. To capture the light, attach Peel & Stick Jewels along the edges of each pocket. Your garland is ready to hang!

5. Kwanzaa Ear of Corn

During the celebration of Kwanzaa, an ear of corn (Muhindi) is placed on the table for each child in the family. You can also make this fun, easy craft to celebrate Thanksgiving!

You’ll need: brown and green construction paper, yellow tempera paint, Magic Craft Noodles, green tissue paper, scissors, paper plates, cotton balls, hot glue, Corn Templates, hole punch (optional), ribbon (optional)

Directions: Trace and cut two “cobs” out of brown construction paper. Pour a small amount of yellow tempera paint onto a paper plate. Have students dip a craft noodle in the paint and stamp it onto each cob. The noodle will disintegrate as students stamp, which will give the corn texture. (Students may need two noodles to complete this.) Allow the corn to dry for 24 hours. Students will then trace and cut a “stalk” out of green construction paper. Prompt students to fold green tissue paper in half, bunch it up and hot-glue it onto the construction paper to give the stalk some dimension.

Once dry, hot-glue one side of the two cobs together to create a pocket. Students will “stuff” the pocket with cotton balls to make the corn three-dimensional. Once the pocket is full, hot-glue the other side to close it up.

Hot-glue the green stalk to the front of the corn. To make the corn into a wall hanging, punch a hole near the top, string a piece of ribbon through the hole and create a loop.

I can’t wait to see your creations! Happy holidays!

 

7 Tips for Entertaining Kids During Holiday Gatherings

Guest Blog by Nadia | Lakeshore Blog Ambassador from Fun with Mama

With the festive holiday season quickly approaching, you may be wondering how you can entertain the little ones while still giving yourself some ample and much needed adult time. Here are some fun suggestions on how to keep the kids entertained during holiday gatherings—whether you’re hosting at home or celebrating somewhere else. An added perk is that many of these activities encourage learning, creative play and opportunities for children to socialize even more during these events!

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1. Bring your own toys.

Bringing a few of your children’s toys from home is a great way to help them feel a bit more comfortable—especially if your gathering is someplace they haven’t been to before. Choose toys that are easy to transport, don’t make a mess and can be used without a lot of setup. A favorite of ours is the Dot & Learn Activity Pack, filled with fun and educational activity pages that combine art and learning. From counting and number recognition to the alphabet and rhyming, there are so many activities that my daughter enjoys!

2. Create a sensory bin.

You could theme the bin according to the holiday or according to your child’s interests. All the kids at the event would naturally be drawn to the bin, and it would be a wonderful social boost for your child too.

Here I created a winter-themed sensory bin using Lakeshore’s Speedy SnowWashable Sensory Beads, the Classic Forest Animal Collection and the Little Hands Fine Motor Tools. I also added a funnel and some paintbrushes to encourage more creative play. It is always a good idea to add in cups, spoons and other tools. We love that the Little Hands Fine Motor Tools set includes tools that work on a child’s fine motor skills at the same time.

3. Set up a craft station at the gathering.

We love these Pop & Wear Letter Beads to give to friends and family. They are easy enough for younger kids to use and they don’t have to worry about holding a string to string the beads onto. It’s super-convenient that there’s no string needed. You just pop the beads together! Children can make gifts for their friends or family using the kit.

 

4. Bake together in preparation for the gathering.

While this may not be something you do during the event, baking in preparation will get kids excited about the upcoming gathering, and they will be so happy when family and friends eat their special creations.

We used The Amazing Chef Cooking Set, which provided all the tools we needed (minus the ingredients) to create a special cake. It’s a great way for kids to practice important skills, like measuring ingredients, cracking eggs,  peeling and slicing, and more!

5. Create a cookie-decorating station at the party.

We baked cakes before the party using the Sweet Treats! Letter Molds, and then I bought some icing for the kids to decorate the treats with. I love how simple this was to prepare and that the icing packaging kept it from being messy.

You could extend this activity by having the children spell out holiday-themed words.

6. Have a parent-and-child dance-off.

My kids and I love having dance parties. This makes for the most wonderful giggles and family memories. Put on your child’s favorite music. Add in some funky costumes and hairstyles. Then dance! You could also play freeze dance, a wonderful way to help develop a child’s auditory processing skills, build teamwork and have fun!

7. Create an activity idea jar.

Task each adult attending the event to come up with one activity idea for the kids. Write down the ideas, put them in a jar and have each child draw an activity from the jar.

I hope these activities inspire some love of learning at your next gathering. Happy holidays!

5 Ways to Bring Kindness Into Your Classroom

Guest Blog by Michelle | Lakeshore Blog Ambassador from Apples & ABC’s

Parents and teachers love to focus on reading, writing and math, but it’s just as important to teach social skills! Here are my favorite ways to bring kindness into the classroom.

1: Start the year with kindness.

To set the tone for the year, I like to teach kindness, friendship and inclusion as early as possible. This year, I started by talking about how we should treat each other in the classroom. Then we discussed feelings. I used Lakeshore’s Moods & Emotions Mirrors to provide examples of different emotions.

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The children shared what makes them experience the feelings on the mirrors—proud, angry, happy, shy, sad and scared. Then my students flipped the mirrors over and practiced expressing these emotions!

All the kids said they feel sad when their friends are mean to them. This was my chance to discuss ways to make our friends happy instead of sad!

We talked about ways we can spread happiness and make everyone feel like part of our big classroom family!

2: Read about kindness.

The Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister is one of my favorite ways to spark discussions on friendship and kindness. In the book, a little fish learns that sharing his beautiful, shiny scales with others makes him happy.

I love the big book version because its giant size lets the whole class easily see the pictures. I invite kids to come up and point to the text, and we do fun activities, such as picking out sight-words.

As I read, I pause to check for understanding…and to discuss how the pretty fish feels after sharing his sparkly scales. Then I ask the kids to talk about how they feel when they share. I also like to remind them how wonderful it is to spread kindness and make friends at school.

3: Play interactive games.

Encourage your class to practice sharing with an interactive game, such as the Lakeshore Magnetic Fishing Set. We played during small-group time so I could show students how I wanted them to work together.

We sat in a circle, and each student got a turn to fish. We practiced counting the fish (including the total we had in the end) and naming the colors with each catch.

As we played, we talked about sharing and waiting patiently. We even cheered for our friends while waiting our turn.

I loved seeing my students take pride in rooting for each other!

4: Create task cards.

Kindness task cards are a great way to help older students learn social-emotional skills. I created these cards after witnessing some not-so-kind behavior in my class last year. The cards feature 16 different scenarios that actually happened in my class…and that I wish I could go back and change.

To play, students draw a card, read the scenario and then respond with an idea for showing kindness. The cards also come with editable slides so students can invent their own scenarios. This is a great circle-time activity. I like to use colored containers to keep the cards organized and easy to put away.

5: Work kindness into your decor.

I love to hang kindness quotes around the room—it’s one of my favorite ways to set an expectation for positive behavior. I use quotes as bulletin-board titles and as accents to fill space on the wall.

Quotes are great reminders that we are one giant family and need to support and respect each other.

Academic success is very important, but so is treating others with respect and kindness. We want our classroom to be a safe place where we “stick together,” build each other up and can be ourselves.

You can grab these Bulletin Board Templates in my Teachers Pay Teachers (TPT) store. In addition, here’s a great lesson plan for teachers: First Day Friendship Building.

5 First Learning Activities for Toddlers

Guest Blog by Susie | Lakeshore Blog Ambassador from Busy Toddler

Do you ever wonder what to teach toddlers? How do you get them ready to learn about the world?

Don’t worry—learning activities for toddlers don’t have to be complex or “fancy.” Play is the best way to help toddlers learn. I keep activities light and simple by focusing on five basic areas: sensory play, sorting, artistic expression, gross motor development and fine motor control.

There’s nothing better than a quick, easy toddler activity, especially one that is full of learning!

Sensory Play

Sensory play is incredibly important for toddlers because it lets them learn while they explore and engage with the world!

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I put together my favorite sensory activity using a bag of rice and a few scooping tools, such as Lakeshore’s Stack & Nest Sensory Toys. The setup is simple, but it will help toddlers build problem-solving skills and learn about capacity, cause and effect, and spatial awareness. Yes, little ones can get all that from a bin filled with rice!

Here’s my own toddler building fine motor skills as she pours and plays!

Sensory bins make a perfect early learning activity for toddlers!

Sorting

Sorting activities are worth their weight in gold! Sorting is a complex skill—one that toddlers will use throughout their lives.

Sorting is powerful! When toddlers sort, they analyze data, make decisions and organize objects by attribute.

A “toy sort” is one of my favorite activities! I like to use a variety of shapes and colors, so Lakeshore’s complete set of Classic Hardwood Learning Toys is perfect! To set up, I removed the pieces from the boards and placed them onto a cookie sheet to keep the pieces contained.

Then I challenged the toddlers to sort the pieces and place them back on the boards. Finding the right place for all the different shapes and colors takes focus and concentration, so this is a perfect learning activity!

Artistic Expression

Open-ended art activities are an important and valuable part of childhood—and that includes toddlers. That’s why I like to think beyond sitting and coloring when I prepare an art activity.

To shake up art time, hang paper right on a wall. This helps toddlers build up their arm muscles and gets them moving as they create. What an easy way to make art time even more valuable!

Gross Motor Development

Gross motor skills are used for big movements, including running, jumping and climbing. There are tons of fast, easy and exciting ways to help kids boost gross motor skills. You could have a dance party or set up an obstacle course outside.

To prepare a quick gross motor activity, I love to cover our family room with pillows and have my kiddos run around. This activity promotes balance, problem solving and spatial awareness.

Fine Motor Control

Fine motor skills are used for small movements—usually those involving hands and fingers. As toddlers grow, their fine motor skills naturally improve, but it’s important for toddlers to actively practice these skills since they’ll need them for writing and other tasks throughout their lives.

I love to promote hand and grip strength with transferring activities. Using a pair of tongs, my daughter moved the soft-sewn pieces from Lakeshore’s Learning Letters Washable Activity Book into an adjacent muffin tin.

As my daughter transferred the pieces, I talked to her about the letters on the pockets of the book. I love incorporating additional skills, such as alphabet knowledge, into a simple activity!

Remember—learning activities for toddlers don’t have to be extravagant. Play is the most important ingredient in any toddler learning activity!

Lakeshore Awards Philadelphia Teacher with Dream Classroom

by Victoria Montoya | Lakeshore Director of Public Relations

I recently had the pleasure of taking part in our Complete Classroom Giveaway Contest’s BIG REVEAL—the moment we presented one deserving teacher with a brand-new classroom! We received thousands of essays from amazing, hardworking teachers across the country, each with a unique story that they hoped would earn them a fully furnished $15,000 classroom.

Meet Ms. Lynch, Grand Prize Winner

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Ms. Lynch is a kindergarten teacher at S. Weir Mitchell Elementary, a 100-year-old school in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Her essay won our hearts and scored top marks in all criteria from our judges. This kind, talented and incredibly dedicated teacher builds strong connections both inside and outside the classroom. In her winning essay, Ms. Lynch wrote, “I am a huge believer that no teaching can get done without a strong, solid foundation. That foundation is built on trust. Children are more intuitive than adults when it comes to reading people. I need to build authentic relationships with my students before I can teach them.”

The Transformation Begins!

Within hours of sharing the exciting news with Ms. Lynch, our team of classroom design experts was ready to get to work. The new school year was right around the corner, and we wanted Ms. Lynch’s classroom to be ready to welcome a new kindergarten class of bright, young faces.

Ms. Lynch told us she wanted to create a warm, inviting learning space filled with colorful furniture, ample seating and lots of hands-on materials to support her students. She dreamed of having plenty of STEM and sensory materials, a bustling dramatic play center and a comfy, inviting reading area. Our team met with Ms. Lynch and created a custom 3-D layout of her new classroom, complete with a list of products specifically selected for her students.

Bringing the Classroom to Life

And now, without further ado, we’re incredibly excited to share the experience of bringing Ms. Lynch’s dream classroom to life!

Here’s where it all started…

On delivery day, the Lakeshore team took care of everything! They unloaded the boxes, assembled the furniture and set up the materials.

We knew we wanted to add color to brighten the space, so we brought in the A Place for Everyone Classroom Carpet, Rectangular Kids Colors™ Adjustable Tables, Kids Colors™ Stacking Chairs and even some Wobble Chairs to add a flexible seating option. Then we topped each table with coordinating classroom caddies filled with supplies to give students everything they need to create, draw and write. To encourage hands-on learning, we arranged tons of engaging math and language materials in a Classic Birch 20-Cubby Storage Unit.

Creating a Cozy Reading Space

For the perfect chill-out space, we created a relaxing library and listening center consisting of a Classic Birch Help-Yourself Bookstand, cozy pillows and seats, and our Comfy Couch Listening Center. We also filled a Help-Yourself Book Bin Storage Center with a variety of leveled fiction and nonfiction books, including our It’s a Multicultural World! and STEM Stories Hardcover Libraries.

Dramatic Play

Ms. Lynch believes in the importance of play and creative expression.

“I believe that early childhood educators owe it to students to be able to play and explore,” she told us. She especially loves having her students act out their favorite stories.

We created a vibrant dramatic play center to capture the imagination, inspire creativity, and boost language and social-emotional skills. Ms. Lynch’s center includes a Pretend & Play Market, a Butcher-Block Table and Chair Set, a Help-Yourself Dress-Up Center and our Lakeshore Career Costume Set.

To see even more of Ms. Lynch’s classroom transformation, check out this video of all the special moments along the way—including the final reveal of the Complete Classroom!

Seeing the excitement on Ms. Lynch’s and her students’ faces was the only thank-you we could ask for. It was truly a pleasure working with Ms. Lynch and the helpful administration at S. Weir Mitchell Elementary.

On behalf of the entire Lakeshore team, we want to thank Ms. Lynch for all she does to make an impact on the lives of her students. Here’s to the start of an amazing school year. We hope this new space will be enjoyed for many years to come!

Lakeshore is the exclusive provider of the Complete Classrooms® service, which includes complimentary classroom design, delivery and installation for new and expanding school programs throughout the country. To learn more, visit www.LakeshoreLearning.com/CompleteClassrooms.

Classroom Decor Ideas Students and Teachers Will Love

by JoAnna Rowe | Lakeshore Retail Marketing Manager

Are you excited yet overwhelmed by all the classroom decor options out there? Then you’ve come to the right place! We’ve browsed countless themes and color schemes to bring you the only list you need to decorate a classroom that’s fun and engaging for everyone.

Our collections are available in our stores only—so you can experience the colors and designs firsthand…and coordinate on the spot with Lakeshore’s friendly staff. Click here to find a store near you and plan your visit.

Pete the Cat Collection

Get your cool cats ready to learn with a Pete the Cat theme!

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Decorating Tips:

  • Welcome students with a decorated door. We spruced up our door with a homemade Pete the Cat, musical notes and blank CDs!
  • Play with color. We combined yellow and teal Fadeless® Paper to create a bold color scheme.
  • Accent store-bought decor with handcrafted elements. We crafted giant buttons from paper plates and pipe stems. The buttons really brighten up our calendar and welcome board!

Woodland Friends Collection

Bring a touch of the outdoors into your classroom to inspire young imaginations!

Decorating Tips:

  • Add texture. We made bushes and trees out of tissue paper and layered a grassy border over the bulletin board.
  • Incorporate personal touches. Have your students bring in photos to post on the bulletin board. We placed kids’ pictures over tent-themed bulletin board accents to bring our “happy campers” message to life.

Kindness Theme

Always in style, kindness is a great theme to incorporate into your classroom decor!

Decorating Tips:

  • Add a hands-on element to your bulletin board. Our bulletin board encourages kids to write ideas for showing kindness. We even added little buckets to collect their ideas! To attract kids’ eyes, we selected a vibrant Rustic Pencils Border and used Superbright Tagboard for the message.
  • Use leftover materials to create finishing touches! We designed a banner using leftover tagboard and hung it over the bulletin board.
  • Display books related to your theme. We used Neon Connect & Store Book Bins and Plastic Book Baskets to create an inviting display of books about kindness.

STEM Collection

STEM thinking will come naturally to the whole class with this decorating theme!

Decorating Tips:

  • Create a bulletin board that inspires. Our bright bulletin board reminds kids to use STEM thinking. Plus, kids go crazy for the scientist with wacky hair! We even set out a write & wipe board for displaying a STEM question of the day.
  • Provide design materials to encourage creative thinking. Place miscellaneous materials in your STEM area so students can make their own inventions. You can even teach students the basics of the design process with our Design & Play STEAM Kits, which allow kids to create, customize and test real-working vehicles.



Dr. Seuss Collection

A classic Dr. Seuss theme never fails to make kids smile!

Decorating Tips:

  • Stretch your bulletin board sets. We started with the Dr. Seuss Giant Cutout Bulletin Board Set and added lite blue Fadeless® Paper, a Poppy Red Chevron Border and tissue-paper flowers. We even cut out our own letters to create on-theme messages!
  • Help kids get to know each other! Using the Dr. Seuss School Selfie set, we created a bulletin board to help kids learn who’s who.

Visit your local Lakeshore Learning Store for these collections—and more!

Starting School: Tips for a Successful Transition

by Jenna Sekerak | Lakeshore Professional Development Specialist

People have always said that kids grow up fast, but the idea really hits home when it’s time for kindergarten. The first days—and even months—of school can be hard. Parents struggle with seeing their babies growing up, while children worry about navigating their new lives as students.

During this emotional time, children look to their parents for comfort. Luckily, there are plenty of ways parents can ease kids’ fears! Here are some of our favorite tips for making the transition to kindergarten as smooth and enjoyable as possible.

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Before Kindergarten Begins

Get to know the unknown.
Visit school before the first day. Be sure to meet the teacher, see the classroom and walk around to help kids get to know their new surroundings. If you’re lucky enough to meet other families, we recommend setting up playdates. Allowing kids to establish friendships with classmates will help them feel a sense of belonging.

Establish a routine.
The National Association for the Education of Young Children suggests starting a school routine early to ease the transition from free summer days to jam-packed school schedules.

Before the first day of school, do a practice run to see exactly how much time kids will need for each step of the routine. Watch for areas where kids need more support or practice, such as getting dressed and tying shoes.

Start a storytime tradition!
Read a story every night to comfort children with happy thoughts, soothe them to sleep and help them adapt to an early bedtime. You can even use Lakeshore’s Story Wands to initiate engaging conversations and increase listening comprehension.

Story Wands

Prepare for school with educational games.
Playing educational games as a family helps kids get ready for school, and it proves that education is important to you! Lakeshore’s Are You Ready for Kindergarten? Game Show® covers all the bases. Kids get to become game-show contestants and win pretend cash when they answer questions correctly. When you’re done playing, you can enter the results online to get an assessment and free activities to help kids build skills where needed.

Another great resource to help children develop skills for kindergarten is Lakeshore’s Transition to School Backpack. It features a three-month calendar filled with skill-building activities!

Transition to School Backpack

At the Beginning of the Year

Engage in conversations.
Ask children about their days and have them share what they learned in school. To get more than a one-word response, ask children open-ended questions that begin with “how” or “what.” If children respond with a short answer, follow up with another question, or use a teacher’s favorite prompt: “Tell me more about that.”

For example, if your son or daughter tells you their day was “fine,” keep pressing and ask them to share their favorite part of the day. This will demonstrate your sincere interest in hearing about school!

Throughout the Year

Establish—and stick to—an after school routine.
Once school is in session, it’s important to establish an after school routine. Check kids’ backpacks and school folders each day for communication from the teacher and for papers that need to be signed and returned.

Help children grow accustomed to nightly homework by setting up a dedicated work space. If children don’t have any assignments, reinforce what they learned in school with our Family Engagement Packs. Each pack includes easy-to-follow instructions and materials for hands-on games that get parents involved with the learning process. This kind of at-home family participation can have a positive impact on student achievement!

Family Engagement Language Packs – Preschool-Kindergarten – Complete Set

We hope these tips help make the transition to school easy! Don’t forget to encourage children to share ideas, ask questions and try new things! And most of all, don’t forget to enjoy watching your young students flourish!

References:

  1. Strasser, Janis, “Transitioning to Kindergarten,” National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). Accessed August 2017, https://families.naeyc.org/learning-and-development/child-development/transitioning-kindergarten
  2. “Saying Goodbye to Preschool and Hello to Kindergarten,” National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). Accessed August 2017, https://families.naeyc.org/learning-and-development/child-development/saying-goodbye-preschool-and-hello-kindergarten
  3. “Twenty Ways You Can Help Your Children Succeed at School,” Colorín Colorado. Accessed August 2017, http://www.colorincolorado.org/article/twenty-ways-you-can-help-your-children-succeed-school

Four Ways to Implement Cross-Curricular Instruction

by Jenna Sekerak | Lakeshore Professional Development Specialist 

The climate of education is changing. Facing demands from rigorous state standards and high-stakes testing, teachers nationwide are racing to cover more subjects and skills than ever to help students succeed in school and in life. Today’s students are expected to master good old-fashioned reading, writing and arithmetic while also developing 21st-century skills in critical thinking, collaboration and problem solving.

How can teachers hope to cover all these standards, subjects and skills, you ask? Through cross-curricular instruction!

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According to a long-standing definition from Heidi Jacobs, cross-curricular instruction is “a conscious effort to apply knowledge, principles and/or values to more than one academic discipline simultaneously. The disciplines may be related through a central theme, issue, problem, process, topic or experience.”

The demand for cross-curricular instruction signals the end of subject compartmentalization (for example, spending 15 minutes on history and then 30 minutes on math) and calls for lessons that let students think critically across multiple disciplines. After all, to meet 21st-century demands, we must plan 21st-century lessons!

But don’t worry—it’s not as hard as it sounds! Here are four ways you can easily use cross-curricular instruction in your classroom—and get students building important 21st-century skills!

1: Start with STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math)!

Get started with cross-curricular instruction by encouraging students to use skills in four different subjects—science, technology, engineering and math—to solve problems and develop critical thinking with Lakeshore’s Real-World STEM Challenge Kits. In addition to covering multiple disciplines, the kits take the tedious planning and preparation out of whole-class cross-curricular instruction. Teachers don’t even need to decide where to start or figure out what materials to gather—each kit comes packed with everything students need to complete the challenges. Plus, detailed lesson plans make it easy to focus students’ learning and explain the STEM concepts behind each challenge.

Real-World STEM Challenge Kit – K–Gr. 1

As an added bonus, each kit includes careers cards that help kids connect what they learned during the challenges to the real world. The cards might even inspire kids to consider studying STEM disciplines as they move through school and life! This is important because the U.S. Department of Commerce expects STEM occupations to grow at a higher rate than other positions in the future.

2: Graduate to STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math).

Integrate even more focus areas—including art, STEM, literacy, creative expression and social-emotional development—into your cross-curricular instruction with a comprehensive STEAM kit from Lakeshore. Our Fairy Tales STEAM Kit combines classic stories with hands-on STEM and literacy activities that students are sure to love! Students read the stories, animate the puppets, answer questions and complete each STEM challenge—building language, creativity and even engineering skills as they go.

Fairy Tales STEAM Kit

3: Try project-based learning.

Project-based learning is another great way to get students using skills from multiple subject areas. I love this type of learning because it provides hands-on, relevant learning that doesn’t feel like just another assignment—and it benefits students at all levels. According to research from the Buck Institute for Education, project-based learning helps students boost important critical-thinking skills, including synthesizing and evaluating information.

Lakeshore’s ready-to-use Whole-Class Project-Based Learning Kits allow the entire class to dive right into meaningful, real-world projects. Teachers simply introduce a topic to the class by posing a question about a real-world problem. Then students conduct research and apply what they learn to create a project, such as a digital slide presentation or a newsletter. And a one-of-a-kind project isn’t all students have to show for their work! As they complete projects, students develop skills in researching, reading informational text, writing using evidence and working with peers!

Whole-Class Project-Based Learning Kit – Gr. 1

4: Combine STEM and project-based learning.

Once you’ve implemented a few separate STEM and project-based learning lessons, why not try combining the two? It’s easy with our Global Challenges Project-Based STEM Kits! The kits help students develop skills in many content areas—college and career readiness, digital literacy, technology, science and engineering practices. That may seem like a lot to absorb, but a project-based approach could actually make information easier to understand and remember—studies have shown that project-based learning boosts students’ performance on content knowledge assessments.

Each kit includes an attention-grabbing card that introduces a modern-day problem. Students have to use STEM and research skills to create a meaningful project designed to solve the problem. As students work through each kit, they’ll build and test a model home that runs on solar power, create a working solar still to desalinate water and build a working oil containment boom.

Global Challenges Project-Based STEM Kits

We hope these ideas take some of the stress out of implementing cross-curricular instruction this year—and we know your students will love these engaging new ways to learn!

References:

  1. “Cross-Curricular Connections in Instruction: Four Ways to Integrate Lessons,” by Melissa Kelly, last modified March 31, 2017, https://www.thoughtco.com/cross-curricular-connections-7791
  2. U.S. Department of Commerce, Economics and Statistics Administration, “STEM: Good Jobs Now and for the Future,” by David Langdon, George McKittrick, David Beede, Beethika Khan, and Mark Doms, Issue Brief #03-11, Economics and Statistics Administration (Washington, D.C., 2011), http://www.esa.doc.gov/sites/default/files/stemfinalyjuly14_1.pdf
  3. “Summary of Research on Project-Based Learning,” University of Indianapolis: Center of Excellence in Leadership of Learning (2009). Accessed July 2017, https://www.bie.org/object/document/summary_of_research_on_pbl