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.

Read More →

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.

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

Read More →

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!

Read More →

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!

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!

Read More →

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

Classroom Organization: Tips & Tricks from Real Teachers

Posted by JoAnna Rowe | Lakeshore Retail Marketing Manager

Have you started thinking about organizing your classroom for the new school year? It’s hard not to during back-to-school season, right?

To help you set up the best classroom ever, we reached out to a few of our teacher friends in the hopes that they’d share some insider secrets. We hope you find these tips and tricks on classroom organization as helpful as we did!

Michaela, Especially Education

I’ve always dreamed of turning my small special education classroom into the Pinterest-worthy learning space of my dreams, so I was thrilled to discover that my Lakeshore Learning Store had plenty of resources to help me best use my space. It took lots of work (and rearranging), but now my classroom is just right. Here are some tips I learned during my organizing adventures:

Read More →

Tip 1: Segment small spaces with room dividers.
On Instagram, I field tons of questions about my Easy-Clean Room Dividers! They keep distractions to a minimum and help segment my small, boxy classroom. Our dividers have endured quite a bit of wear and tear since we purchased them, but they’re still in excellent condition. (They may be lightweight, but they’re also tough!)

These are an absolute must in any special education classroom! They even come in Calming Colors®.

Tip 2: Make storage bins your friends!
One of the easiest ways to bring organization into the classroom is with storage bins. I use bins for just about everything: storing picture books, individualizing independent work, organizing completed work and more. I always consider durability when I purchase classroom items, so Lakeshore bins are the only bins I buy.

Tip 3: Choose fade-resistant paper.
I love bulletin boards, but I despise setting them up. Butcher paper is my archnemesis!

I used Fadeless Paper® back in August, and it lasted all year—so I only had to set up my board once.

And why stop at bulletin boards? I also use Fadeless Paper to hang window banners and decorate my classroom door.

Tip 4: Save time with magnetic letters.
When I discovered this Classroom Magnetic Letters Kit, I knew I had to have it. I love everything about this set: the red vowels, blue consonants, easy-access storage box—and multiples of each letter.

These have saved me so much time—and stress—during small-group instruction since I don’t have to search through a bucket full of jumbled letters.

Marine, Tales from a Very Busy Teacher

A teacher’s work is never done! Even during summer break, I am constantly thinking about ways to rework my classroom. This summer, I’m rethinking my classroom organization with some of my favorite Lakeshore products—and these clever strategies:

Tip 1: Use clear boxes to create classroom centers.
Centers help me keep my classroom routine running smoothly! To create them, I simply label clear bins, fill them with supplies and place them in my classroom library for students to access at any time.

I even have some centers prepped and stored so it will be easy to switch things out as my units change!

Tip 2: Brighten up with neon book bins.
When I saw these Neon Connect & Store Book Bins, my teacher’s heart was so happy. These colors fit my classroom theme and provide a bright feel, and the interchangeable labels make organization easy. They’re also incredibly versatile.

Tip 3: Organize technology with pocket charts.
I love using pocket charts for more than managing assignments! I use the Polka Dots Storage Pocket Chart* to organize classroom technology, including headphones, headphone splitters and more. I even label each pouch so students know exactly where to find materials.

Tip 4: Organize data with pocket charts.
I love using the Chalkboard Brights Pocket Chart* to organize classroom data on an informal level. The chart is my “ticket out the door” system for formative assessments. I set up the pocket chart in an easily accessible location and record the day’s lesson objective in the top space. Then I use bright sentence strips to write those objectives in the form of a question and have students record answers on smaller sentence strips that can be placed right in the chart.

Jodi, Clutter-Free Classroom

To succeed in the classroom and enjoy my work, I seek out ways to save time and get organized! Here are some tried-and-true organization methods that worked well for me as an elementary teacher and continue to make my teaching days run smoothly as a homeschool mom.

Tip 1: Simplify the distribution of materials with supply caddies.
With handy compartments and built-in handles, these caddies make it easy to give students what they need—whether they’re working on the floor, at a desk or at a table. Using caddies is so much easier and faster than having students find and gather items themselves!

Having everything ready and organized will even decrease off-task behaviors and distractions—and increase student engagement and success.

Tip 2: Set up project centers and workstations.
Many teachers think they don’t have the space for project centers and workstations, but Lakeshore’s Heavy-Duty Paper Trays & Lids make organizing and managing centers easy in classrooms where space is limited. Each stackable plastic tray holds papers and supplies, and the lids are perfect for keeping materials contained and organized. I even have my children use the sturdy lids as work mats.

Tip 3: Practice color-coding!
Color can be much more than a decorative touch! Color-coding is a proven method of organization; it makes it easy to find things students need quickly. Here are some color-coding tips:

• Use colored tape on the spines of books and journals.
• Coordinate notebooks, folders and binders to match your color system.
• Use color-coded containers for storage, collecting work and housing related materials.

Who’s ready to start organizing? Click here to find a store near you and plan your visit.

*Available in stores only.

Create the Perfect Environment for Social-Emotional Learning

by Jenna Sekerak | Lakeshore Professional Development Specialist 

Children need strong social-emotional skills to thrive in school—especially during critical early years.

However, many children enter kindergarten without essential social-emotional skills. In order to gain a better understanding of this problem, researchers Rimm-Kaufman, Pianta and Cox surveyed more than 3,500 kindergarten teachers. The findings were startling, with teachers citing that many students had difficulty following directions, struggled to work in groups, possessed poor social skills and experienced trouble communicating.

These skills, while nonacademic, impact a child’s school readiness. Children with challenging behaviors are more likely to struggle in school, while children who are emotionally adjusted have a greater chance of early school success.

What does all this mean? It’s important to foster the development of social-emotional skills to help students succeed not only in school, but also in life! These tips will help you embed social-emotional learning into your instruction.

Read More →

Tip 1: Create a calm, organized atmosphere.

According to teacher and education expert Megan Dredge, “Your classroom environment speaks to your students before you utter a single word. What is your classroom saying?”

Don’t underestimate the power of your classroom environment! Your space needs to welcome students, keep them engaged and get them excited to learn. If your classroom or schedule is disorganized and chaotic, your students will respond accordingly.

Create a classroom environment that is calm, organized and predictable by developing consistent routines and procedures that produce stability in the classroom. Doing this helps students know what to expect and how to prepare. I love using charts to establish routines. Some of my favorites are Lakeshore’s Daily Schedule Chart and Literacy Centers Management Chart.

It’s also important to organize materials where students can access them and put them away. Resources like the At-Your-Seat Storage Sack and Classroom Supply Caddies are perfect for ensuring that students’ supplies are always within reach.

Tip 2: Develop and model rules and expectations.

As you set clear rules and expectations, involve children in the process to help them better understand the rules and why they are important. Keep the rules simple, clear and positive. I recommend setting no more than five rules—sometimes less is more!

No one likes to be told what not to do! Instead of creating a list of don’t rules, find a positive directive that achieves the same result. Consider the difference between “Don’t talk out of turn” and “Raise your hand to talk.”

To help children master the rules, make sure they are clearly displayed on a bulletin board or chart, such as the News & Rules Charts.

Tip 3: Provide opportunities for children to build relationships.

Communication and collaboration are crucial 21st-century skills, but they don’t develop automatically. Help children strengthen these skills by modeling clear communication, demonstrating positive collaboration and providing opportunities for interaction. Get started by setting the tone for your students and providing examples for how they should behave.

After you’ve set clear expectations, give children the chance to practice their communication and collaboration skills! Pair children up and model proper greeting techniques and good listening skills—including making eye contact, smiling, nodding to show understanding and asking follow-up questions.

Sentence stems provide support for students starting a discussion or responding to a partner. Pick up some Accountable Talk Reading Discussion Starters and a Let’s Get Talking! Prompt Box to help students enjoy enriching conversations!

Tip 4: Teach students conflict resolution skills.

In many cases, students lack the skills to resolve conflicts with others. In fact, many student conflicts that could be solved independently end up requiring teacher intervention and interrupting valuable instruction time. Teaching students about conflict resolution enriches their social skills and saves time in the long run!

KidsHealth®, a top provider of physician-reviewed content on children’s health, recommends discussing potential conflicts in everyday events and allowing students to explain how different reactions can de-escalate the conflict or make it worse. This will help kids make better choices when real conflicts come up!

Plus, there are plenty of products that make it easy to teach social-emotional skills. Lakeshore’s Social-Emotional Learning Kit for Kindergarten-Grade 1 is a great way to help children understand emotions, relationships and conflicts. The Social Studies Leveled Readers help students learn about fairness and following rules. There are even Moods & Emotions Mirrors and a Moods & Emotions Poster Pack to help students understand what different emotions look like.

We hope you’re excited to set students up for future success by establishing a classroom focused on developing social-emotional and behavioral competence. Just remember to be explicit in your teaching, patient and positive—and continue to model, model, model!

References:

  1. Rimm-Kaufman, S. E., Pianta, R. C., & Cox, M. J., “Teachers’ judgments of problems in the transition to school,” Early Childhood Research Quarterly (2000): 15(2), 147-166. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/222299485_Teachers’_judgments_of_problems_in_the_transition_to_school
  2. “Facts About Young Children with Challenging Behaviors,” Center for Evidence-Based Practice: Young Children with Challenging Behavior (2003). Accessed June 2017, www.challengingbehavior.org
  3. Raver, C., “Emotions Matter: Making the Case for the Role of Young Children’s Emotional Development for Early School Readiness,” Social Policy Report of the Society for Research in Child Development (2002): 16(3), 1-20. https://www.cde.state.co.us/cpp/emotionsmatter
  4. “Cool Teaching Quotes by Yours Truly,” last modified April 13, 2013, http://www.megandredge.com/cool-teaching-quotes-by-yours-truly/
  5. “PreK to Grade 2: Conflict Resolution,” KidsHealth® in the Classroom (2016). Accessed June 2017, http://classroom.kidshealth.org/prekto2/personal/growing/conflict_resolution.pdf

Outdoor Activities to Boost Math Skills

by Ron Mohl | Lakeshore Lead Educational Presenter

For kids, outdoor play is a nonstop adventure! As they frolic in the fresh air, their senses are heightened and their attention is sharp—they open up to new experiences. That’s why engaging outdoor moments provide a golden opportunity for helping kids build a stronger relationship with math. Here are some skill-building math activities kids can enjoy while having fun outside.

Read More →

Let’s Predict!

Kids make an immediate and personal connection to learning when they guess what might happen during an upcoming activity. Guessing also helps kids become persistent explorers and problem solvers. Before kids head outside, have them make predictions they can test as they play. Try out these questions to get started:

How many animals/bugs will you see?
Kids can use binoculars to find birds and magnifiers to search for bugs in the grass or garden.

How many bubbles can you make?
Using the Lakeshore Big Bubbles Kit, encourage children to estimate the number of bubbles they can make each time they blow through or wave a bubble wand. Ask kids if they think they can make more bubbles on the next try by changing their technique. You can even have them predict the size of the biggest bubble they can blow.

How long will it take to dry?
Spray water on concrete, a sidewalk or a wall. Set a sand timer and have kids guess if the wet area will dry before or after time runs out. Try a variety of time increments to mix things up!

Measure It!

Kids get plenty of practice using rulers and other standard measuring tools in school. They can practice nonstandard measurement while having fun outside!

What’s the measurement?
This activity works with any nonstandard measuring tool. I personally love starting with feet—the kind with toes! Have children use the length of their feet to measure something outside by counting the number of toe-to-toe steps it takes to go along a fence, around a tree or around other landmarks outside. They can also measure using household items, like a ladle or paper towel roll.

How many claps from here to there?
Have kids count handclaps to measure how long it takes to run, skip, leap or gallop from one point to another. Ask them what they reach faster—the swing set or the basketball court. (Remind them that fewer claps indicate a faster journey!) Tip: Set the pace of the clapping to help children stay consistent.

Game-Hoop Sorting

Finding and gathering items in nature is the perfect way to introduce classification and sequencing. Have kids start by gathering items like leaves, rocks and pinecones. Then extend their play with these math ideas:

How would you classify these items?
Lay a game hoop on concrete pavement. Then use chalk to divide the inside area into “pizza slices.” Have kids use each “slice” to sort nature items into different groups by size, color, texture, etc.

How should we arrange these items?
Next, draw a line on the pavement and have kids sort their items from large to small, soft to hard or light to dark. This form of organizing helps kids work on their ability to put items in order.

 Get Moving with Math!

It’s easy to enrich gross motor activities, like jumping and leaping, with math practice to help kids build balance, muscle and math skills at the same time. Here are some ways to get kids moving:

What’s your next move?
Create an obstacle course! Put up signs to prompt kids to repeat a physical pattern (touch your toes, hop, crawl, touch your toes, hop, crawl, and so on) as they move between two different points outside. Test children’s recall by using a game hoop or other marker to replace one of the movement prompts to see if they can remember the missing move.

How do you do that move?
Break down any move—like a jump, hop or leap—into its separate sequential moves while modeling ordinal counting with children. For example:

Jumping
1. Bend your knees.
2. Blast off with both feet to go up.
3. Land on both feet.

Leaping
1. Stand on one foot.
2. Thrust forward, leading with the foot in the air.
3. Land on the foot that was in the air.

How long is our train?
Have children create human trains by lining up together based on characteristics you call out. You might say, “Line up if you’re wearing blue…if you’re a girl…or if you have buttons on your clothes!” Then have kids count off how many of them are in the train.

As the weather warms up, try any—or all—of these activities! Children will never look at math practice the same way again. Have fun!

References:
1. Angela Oswalt, “Cognitive Development: Piaget Part III,” MentalHelp.Net, last modified June 9, 2010, https://www.mentalhelp.net/articles/cognitive-development-piaget-part-iii/.

Learning Through Sensory Play

by Patti Jo Wilson | Lakeshore Professional Development Specialist

Sensory play isn’t just about touch. It’s about engaging all the senses children use to learn about the world. In fact, the more senses children use during an activity, the more learning potential it has. Sensory play can even help babies meet developmental milestones!

Follow these tips to infuse any space with opportunities for infants, toddlers and preschoolers to enjoy sensory play at school or at home.

Read More →

Sensory play for infants:

  1. Stimulate visual development using secure mobiles babies can swipe, bat and grab.
  2. Play soft, soothing music to nurture babies’ hearing. Be sure to avoid harsh, sharp and loud sounds. You can even purchase CDs made just for little ones, like Singable Songs for the Very Young.
  3. Provide a wide variety of soft sensory toys. For example, our star-shaped beanbags are perfect for sensory play because they incorporate textures and colors little ones love. If you’re caring for nonmobile children, take the toys to them.

Sensory play for toddlers:

  1. Set up stations for sensory play. You can use full-sized units, like our Toddler Sand & Water Table, or simply place a variety of sensory objects in a craft tray filled with dry rice. Try to include items that stimulate as many senses as possible, like Stack & Nest Sensory Toys featuring bright colors, bold patterns and fun-to-touch textures.
  2. Add soap and different types of sponges to your water play area. Toddlers will love playing with the soapy bubbles and squeezing the sponges.
  3. Play a variety of sounds and have children guess what they hear. You can even group sounds into categories to make the guessing easier.
  4. Introduce dough play! There are plenty of store-bought options, like Lakeshore Dough or Theraputty™, and it’s even easy to make your own.

Sensory play for preschoolers:

  1. Set up a secondary sensory table to provide even more opportunities for kids to explore. Stock it with open-ended sensory items that can be left out for long periods of time, like our Nonhardening Modeling Foam or our Tactile Letters.
  2. Turn a nature walk into a tactile scavenger hunt. Ask kids to collect objects that are smooth, rough, heavy, shiny, squishy, etc.
  3. Set out shaving cream to help kids explore touch and smell. Children love squirting shaving cream out of the can and squeezing it between their fingers!
  4. Have children take off their shoes and explore with their feet while walking on sensory mats, like our Silly Shapes Sensory Mats. You can even use the mats for seating!
  5. Let kids paint with their fingers! Change up the texture by adding glitter or picking up some of our Foam Sensory Paint.

Sensory play at home:

  1. Help babies respond to sensory stimulation by massaging them after their baths. Rhythmically massage their arms, legs and torsos using a baby-safe lotion or oil.
  2. Help toddlers collect items that have different textures (like bubble wrap, flannel, aluminum foil, kitchen scrubbers and sandpaper) to put in sensory books they can feel and explore.
  3. Poke holes in the tops of small containers and fill them with items that smell different (bananas, vinegar, vanilla, etc.) so children can explore with their noses.

Find our top picks for sensory play here, and start filling your space with opportunities for exploration today!

References:

  1. “Infant Massage for Babies with Sensory Impairments,” California Deaf-Blind Services, last modified 2011, files.cadbs.org/200001096-b825fb91fa/Infant%20Massage.pdf.
  2. “Why Infant Massage?,” Infant Massage USA®, accessed 2017, http://infantmassageusa.org/parents/parents.php.
  3. Thompson, Stacy D. and Raisor, Jill M., “Meeting the Sensory Needs of Young Children,” NAEYC 2013. Accessed 2017. https://www.naeyc.org/yc/files/yc/file/201305/Meeting_Sensory_Needs_Thompson_0513.pdf.
  4. “Growing In Sync Children,” NAEYC, accessed 2017, http://www.naeyc.org/tyc/article/growing_in_sync_children.
  5. “Why Sensory Play is Important,” The Spruce, last modified September 1, 2016, https://www.thespruce.com/why-sensory-play-is-important-2086510.

2017 Blog Ambassadors

by Victoria Montoya | Lakeshore Director of Public Relations

We are thrilled to introduce our 2017 Lakeshore Learning Ambassadors! These moms and teachers share our passion for finding creative ways to help children learn. We can’t wait to read all the brilliant ideas they’ll share as they join us in our mission to help children reach developmental milestones and achieve educational goals—while still having fun!

Follow our blog for their tips, tricks and activity ideas, and make sure to visit their blogs to learn about the experiences they’ve had using Lakeshore products with kids.

Read More →

Apples and ABC’s, Michelle Griffo 

A passionate teacher with 10 years of experience, Michelle has taught kids in kindergarten through fourth grade. She loves creating engaging classroom environments where all students can develop emotionally, socially and intellectually. Michelle is also a blogger at applesandabcs.com, where she shares teaching tips, teacher style and curriculum for the primary classroom. When she’s not teaching or blogging, she’s busy being a mommy!

Favorite Activity with Kids:
Michelle loves having kids play with sensory bins because they incorporate all her favorite things—bright colors, a hands-on element and an academic focus.


Busy Toddler, Susie Allison 

Welcome back! Susie is the blogger behind Busy Toddler and a busy mom to three busy kids. That’s a whole lot of busy! Making it to naptime each day is a big deal in her house—a house full of kids under the age of four! Susie loves finding easy, simple and creative ways to keep her little ones active throughout the day. Her activities are engaging and fun, and—most importantly—they can be re-created in seconds using household items. A former elementary school teacher, Susie’s goal is to share activity ideas with other parents and help them make it to naptime, too.

Favorite Activity with Kids:
Susie prefers sensory-based activities. Susie loves inviting her kids (and their friends) to get a little messy and have a ton of sensory fun playing with JELL-O®, finding foam letters in cornmeal and more.


Mom Inspired Life, Danielle Buckley 

Danielle is a stay-at-home mom with two kids, ages three and six. As a former elementary teacher, she enjoys the opportunity to educate her own children at home. She loves creating fun and playful learning activities that engage and excite her kids. She started the website Mom Inspired Life three years ago because she wanted to inspire parents and teachers to make learning fun!

Favorite Activity with Kids:
Science experiments top Danielle’s list of activities! She’s learned that nothing excites and engages children as much as scientific exploration, from growing plants to combining baking soda and vinegar to create a reaction.


Munchkins and Moms, Clarissa Hooper

Welcome back! Clarissa is a master bubble blower, accomplished mud-pie baker and dedicated home-preschool mom of two boys. She’s also a learning-through-play advocate! Teaching her boys in fun and creative ways is her greatest passion. In her spare time, Clarissa is the writer behind Munchkins and Moms, a blog where she shares playful learning activities for toddlers and preschoolers.

Favorite Activity with Kids:
Clarissa loves taking her kids on field trips, which include visiting museums, touring a local bakery and more. She loves the opportunity to learn on the go!


Fun with Mama, Nadia Tayob 

Nadia is the mother of three wonderful kids! She has two girls (ages 3 and 8) and a boy (age 10). She started her blog, Fun with Mama, to celebrate the magic of childhood from a mother’s perspective. On her blog, Nadia shares parenting tips, activity ideas and pointers for encouraging creativity at home. She is passionate about early childhood education and believes that children should have a dedicated art area at home. Nadia loves spending time with her kids and creating intentional, play-based learning opportunities.

Favorite Activity with Kids:
Nadia loves simple activities that are engaging, challenging and full of fun. She once threw plastic letters into a tub of water. Her daughter caught them with a strainer, saying each letter out loud and giggling the whole time.

4 Tips for an Engaging Toddler Learning Environment

by Ron Mohl | Lakeshore Lead Educational Presenter

Toddlers make new discoveries everywhere—especially in their own learning environments! When you create a nurturing space filled with excitement and wonder, you can help toddlers develop social-emotional, language, motor and cognitive skills. Follow these four tips to create an engaging learning environment that sets toddlers up for success through play.

Read More →

Tip 1: Encourage choices to foster independence.

Furniture can be especially helpful to toddlers’ physical development. Toddlers might try standing and walking at any moment. Support their curiosity and independence by filling your environment with super-sturdy units with rails, like our First Steps® Double-Duty Storage Center. Toddlers can use the furniture to pull themselves up and maintain balance during their first steps.

Keep your space stocked with safe materials toddlers can easily grab and use. For example, our Soft Seats make it easy for little ones to choose where they want to sit in a play area.

Tip 2: Help toddlers soothe themselves.

The ability to self-soothe is important to the social-emotional development of toddlers. Make sure your environment includes areas where toddlers can get some privacy while remaining in view, like our Toddler Treehouse Hideaway. Areas like this help toddlers soothe themselves until they’re ready to play with others.

Tip 3: Facilitate sensory learning.

Sensory exploration helps toddlers engage with their environment and connect to learning. Look for sensory materials that make sounds, look stimulating and feel interesting and inviting. Here are some examples:

Tip 4: Be a play partner!

Increase the value of play by getting involved! Join children on the floor and describe actions and objects to help build vocabulary. You can even make the experience more comfortable with our Backpatter’s Seat.

As toddlers play, ask open-ended questions. If they’re using our Community Play Carpet, you might ask:

  • Where in town can we park our cars?
  • Where in town do you want to work?

Allow for conversations that have back-and-forth exchanges. Even if you get a simple coo or goo in response to a question, show respect by following up with a reply.

Perfect your learning environment! Check out our new catalog to find developmentally appropriate materials for infants and toddlers.