Category Archives: early education & play

Art Lesson: Eric Carle Inspired Textured Collage (1st Grade)

Our Eric Carle inspired under the sea collages with 2nd grade last year, were such a success, I decided to take them a step further.

Eric Carle creates his collages using tissue paper he has painted and printed to create interesting patterns and textures. This was a two-part lesson. In the first lesson we created the tissue paper designs and in the following lesson made Eric Carle inspired collages.


Lesson 1


  • Tissue paper
  • Acrylic paint
  • Paintbrushes
  • Objects to print with – pine cones, corks, q-tips, toy cars, plastic duck feet, textured balls, sponges, bubble wrap.

I showed the children a slide show from the Eric Carle website showing how Eric Carle paints his tissue paper.

We looked at examples of the different patterns and textures Eric Carle uses in his books.  I showed them how to create different patterns and textures on tissue paper by using different brush strokes and printing with a variety of materials.

The children created their own. Some children were a little confused and painted pictures onto the tissue paper. Perhaps this would have been avoided if I didn’t provide paintbrushes.

Each child created at least one patterned sheet.

Lesson 2


  • Painted tissue paper
  • Plain tissue paper
  • Glue sticks
  • Drawing paper
  • A pencil
  • Scissors

I showed the children a slideshow of Eric Carle creating a collage of the hungry caterpillar.

Each child had a piece of plain paper. They were asked to draw a simple outline drawing big enough to fill the page. I drew some examples – a butterfly, a caterpillar and a mountain scene and an example of a picture that wouldn’t work with lots of small things and details.

Eric Carle collage

The children drew their picture and used their printed tissue to fill in the picture like Eric Carle. We added plain coloured tissue paper and tissue paper squares and circles.  To finish the children drew in details with marker.

This was a wonderfully calm and focused lesson. The children really found the collage work therapeutic.

The finished products

In a play based setting I would spend a week focusing on only creating the tissue paper. The tissue paper designs would be  used the following week to explore collage and would remain as  a permanent resource to explore the techniques further.  I would  read lots of  Eric Carle books  and display examples of his pictures around the setting.

If you want to have a whole project about Eric Carle you might be interested in some of the other things we have tried.


Pink is For Boys: Book Review

(This Post contains Amazon Affiliate links: if you buy a product using these links, I receive a small commission)

If you have been waiting for a book for young children that challenges and encourages discussion about gender stereotypes, then add Pink is For Boys to your library.

This timely and beautiful picture book rethinks and reframes the stereotypical blue/pink gender binary and empowers kids-and their grown-ups-to express themselves in every color of the rainbow. With the help of a diverse cast of characters, readers are taken through the spectrum of the rainbow demonstrating that gender does not dictate their favourite colour or hobby.

My family loved it. My teenager asserted ‘ this is great’ and my younger girls said ‘I love this book’. It feels refreshing and not at all preachy. The text is understated, follows a familiar pattern and is clear in its message, without being too obvious.  I love the illustrations, the children reflect diverse cultures and look like they are having loads of fun. My only criticism (and this may only be true of my advance review copy) is that the shade of yellow chosen, looks more like lime green.

Using Pink is for Boys in the Classroom

I can imagine using the book in school or preschool to open discussions about gender stereotypes. It would be a lovely introduction to an art or writing project describing their favourite activities entitled ———- is for boys and girls.  You could encourage children to bring in photographs of themselves doing activities traditionally attributed to a singular sex and talk about their hobbies. Start your discussions from the things you hear children say, or try one of these prompts.

  • Are there any boys who go to a dance class? How does it feel to be in a class with only girls? Would it be better if boys were in the class? What stops boys wanting to go to dance class.
  • Do any children play sports where only girls or only boys are allowed? Would they prefer mixed teams?
  • What would they say are boys toys and girls toys? Is there a difference? Should there be a difference?
  • Do boys and girls play different things at recess? Have you ever been told you can’t join in because of your gender?

Coincidentally, when my youngest came home from school today she told me a group of her friends go to girl scouts. ‘I wish I could go to boy scouts’ she said ‘Why can’t I?’.  Wouldn’t it be great if it were no longer segregated and children could simply go to scouts!  This would be a great talking point for kids – make a list of activities that are segregated by gender. What kinds of activities are they and why do the children think they are segregated. Do the children think these activities should be segregated or inclusive? Older children could write a piece of persuasive writing explaining their views.

Pink is for boys is written by Robb Pearlman and illustrated by Eda Kaban . It is recommended for children aged 4-8 years.

It is released in the US on 5th June 2018 for $17.99 and in the UK on 28th June 2018 for £12.99 pre-order is available.


How to Find Treasures for your Classroom with Goodwill Online.

Disclaimer: Payment was received for writing this post and a gift voucher to try out what Goodwill online has to offer. All opinions are my own.

Teachers make the best treasure hunters. An early years teacher will always find a use in the classroom for bizarre objects you would otherwise throw away and they’re always on the lookout for bargains. If you have a list of weird and wonderful objects you have always coveted, then Goodwill Online could be the answer to all your wishes.

A few weeks ago, I was invited to visit Goodwill to find out more about their online auction site ( think Ebay, but where the money goes to a worthy cause) and learn tips about how to win an auction bid. We were given a chance to look around and I was amazed by all the cool things for sale.

A huge selection of musical instruments.

Bulk bags of Russian dolls

russian dolls goodwill online

Rock collections


Old curiosities

and a whole warehouse of books


Tips For Thrift Store Treasure Hunting

Tip 1: Patience and a long list is a virtue. Dee Arneberg, America’s top treasure hunter from Spanaway, never enters a thrift store with a specific item in mind. The key to brick and mortar thrift store treasure hunting is a large wish list and multiple visits to many sites over time.

As fun as it may be to spend hours browsing interesting items, teachers are short on time so use the PERSONAL SHOPPER to help. The personal shopper allows you to set up alerts for items you are looking for and get emails every time one becomes available in the Goodwill inventory. Let’s say you were looking for Lego ( which by the way they often auction by weight) then you would enter Lego into your personal shopper and an email would notify you as to which new Lego was available.

Search key words and try properly and improperly spelled words, to catch typos that might lead you to a treasure no one else has found. Program the personal shopper to scan both item titles and item descriptions and create your keyword list accordingly.
Tip 2: Comparison shop to know the treasure’s market value. Develop your list of online comparison sites such as E-bay and specialty sites for specific categories to know the market value of an item.
Personal considerations – such as a collector looking for the last item to complete a collection – can create an artificially high auction sale, so know your item’s value and
how much you are willing to pay.
Tip 3:  Household donors will often donate categories in groups,so check to see if one specific Goodwill is listing a group of luxury fashion brands or vintage lamps, or collectibles – all indicators of an estate donation of similar items. With knowledge of a specific Goodwill treasure chest, you can call up the inventory from that region and find other obscure items of interest!
Tip 4:  Knowing how to maneuver the site allows you to know how many bidders you are in competition with. You can also activate a cyber ‘proxy” to always
top the leading bid up to a confidential limit you establish. And if you
really want the specific item, plan to be online during the final half an hour
of the auction, as that is when new competitors and a flurry of
bids come in. Real-time bids go down to the last second on some
items so you want to be ready to override your proxy bidder if you
simply must have an item.
Tip 5: When you lose, you still learn … about the field of regular
competitors who are interested in your categories. Each completed
auction lists the bid history which reveals the beginning/end letters
of an email which you can track as unique and learn that bidder’s
tendencies over time. As an example, those same nine bidders for
say “vintage board games” will have two or three who bid in the final minutes and are willing to spend X% of retail market value. Learning the field will sharpen your competitive edge in the final frenzied minutes of some bids. And don’t worry, most of the time another of the same item will surface over time and you will have another shot.
Tip 6: Support your local Goodwill. Each participating Goodwill has a virtual “storefront” where their current auction items are listed ahead of the offers across the rest of the site. Each Goodwill maintains their own auction inventory and benefits only from their item sales. Goodwill’s local online helps support an $8.9 million career training and initial job placement effort across 15 counties in our region.

Watch out for shipping and handling costs and remember to add the price of shipping to what you are prepared to pay. Shipping varies according to weight, size and distance of travel but can also vary according to the chosen carrier. One of the items I ordered, had priority shipping, so the shipping costs were greater than other items using ground delivery. If you support a local Goodwill you can eliminate shipping costs altogether.
Tacoma’s operation is prototyping several new attractive features such as one-cent shipping, and an instant purchase price for an item (“buy it now”). Every local Goodwill offers pickup at their operations with only a small service charge eliminating shipping costs altogether.

My experience of shopping with Goodwill Online

Firstly, be warned, it is highly addictive and you may find multiple items you simply must have.  I decided to ask my personal shopper to look for puppets as this is my children’s current fascination.  I wasn’t prepared for the search to bring up such amazing quality puppets and it was really difficult to choose the ones I wanted most.

My first bid was for a Muppets Wotnot puppet. I am a huge muppet fan and after a little research, found that FAO Shwartz in New York, used to have a Wotnot Studio where fans could go and make a custom puppet. The reserve on the puppet was $9.99 and postage and handling around $10.  As this is a totally unique item, I wasn’t certain how far I would go with my bid but 5 mins before the auction ended, I joined the auction and decided to try a maximum bid of $35.  I was really pleased to win the item at this price.

puppet muppet

An even better surprise was when the puppet arrived. It totally surpassed all of my expectations. It looks just like a muppet, was larger than I expected and came complete with original booklets and receipts.

My 2nd puppet George was bought for $9.99 and I was the only bidder.  There were a number of similar puppets available at this time so I decided on my maximum bid a few hours before the end of the auction.  If I didn’t win the item, I would bid on a similar one later. The postage on this one was more that the puppet so be careful to check before bidding.


By this point I had to begin to be really selective about the puppets, as there were so many great ones. I decided only to bid on unique items or collections of puppets. I chose a Big bird and Bert puppet and my girls chose a pair of girl puppets because they wanted more female puppets. Both of these were won for under $20 with postage.

Just when I thought we were finished a 1970’s Kermit and Miss Piggy puppet came up on my personal shopper search. We have a Kermit puppet and a good Miss Piggy is hard to find so I couldn’t let this one pass. With an extra Kermit we can turn one into the evil Constantine.

Now I must stop looking at puppets because each new one that arrives is as irresistable as the one before.

What other interesting things could teachers find?

  • Building blocks
  • Overhead projectors
  • Old typewriters
  • Outdoor play equipment
  • Toy cars/trains in bulk
  • Globes
  • Beakers and test tubes
  • Maps and charts
  • Balance scales with weights
  • Shells
  • and my personal favourite, browsing the vintage section to find weird and wonderful old  objects like washboards, apple corers , record players, old cameras etc.

If you don’t want anything for your classroom or preschool Goodwill online is also the perfect place to find unusual and unique gifts for the people in your lives who have everything. I think this will be my go to place from now on.

How to Make Jim Henson Inspired Hand Puppets

Following our visit to the Jim Henson exhibition and the girls fascination with puppet play, they wanted to try making hand puppets.

When they were younger we watched this inspirational video from the 1960’s, where Jim Henson talks about making muppets.

We made a few puppets from old tights with foam pieces for the mouth. The girls didn’t like the foam mouths as it restricted their fingers.

This time, they are a little older and have their own ideas (always better than mine) for making puppets.

The first puppet was made with a sock.  We used a sock from an aeroplane wash kit. They followed the steps on the video and I helped them with ideas.

How to make a Sock Puppet

  1. Cut an oval of cardboard and fold it.


2. Place the cardboard inside the sock and secure with an elastic band to make a mouth.

making a sock puppet

3. Add eyes. We used adhesive Velcro strips to join on our eyes and nose.


4. Add a nose. We used a pompom.

making a sock puppet

5. Add hair.  Use wool, string or fur. This was also joined on with Velcro but you could also stitch it on.

how to make a sock puppet

Step 6: Add a tongue. We made a paper tongue and glued it on but you could also use felt or fabric.

how to make a sock puppet

My daughter named her Izzy. I think she is an amazing addition to our puppet collection.

Here she is in action.

How to Make a Puppet from an Envelope

The Jim Henson video also inspired them to make a puppet from an envelope.

1.  Fold the envelope into a beak shape and decorate it.

puppet making

2. Glue the envelope head onto a sock. We used double sided pads used for sticking pictures to the wall.

how to make a hand puppet

3. Wrap material around the sock .

How to make a puppet

4.  If desired add clothes and make hands using sticks and cardboard. American Girl doll, or build a bear clothes work well.

how to make a puppet

They decided this one should be called Pierre.

Here is Pierre in action.

Square 1 Art Lesson: Lions Inspired by LeRoy Neiman(1st Grade)

Each year, at school we have a Square 1 Art Fundraiser. Last years theme was water. My Kindergarten and 2nd Grade classes painted themselves under umbrellas in the rain . The previous year 1st grade created oil pastel monsters. This year the theme is ‘Be Wild and Wonder’.

LeRoy Neiman’s lions encapsulate both aspects of the theme perfectly and are bright and bold so fit the criteria for square 1 art projects.

Step 1.

Draw the outline of the lion’s face.

leroy neiman lions

We made sure, the face was a good size and talked about different shapes for the face. This shape was similar to LeRoy Neiman’s lion and makes the lion appear as if it is looking sideways.

Step 2.

Draw the lions eyes, nose, mouth and ears.


We tried out different shaped eyes and noses. Once the children were happy with their drawings, they outlined them in black sharpie.


Step 3.

Paint the Mane. I showed them how to make sweeping brushstrokes, starting at the edge of the face and moving outwards.  I encouraged them to use lots of bright colours and to try not to mix them too much.

1st grade art

Some used straight lines

square one art project 1st grade - leroy neiman lions

Others chose curved lines

1st grade square one art lesson - leroy neiman lions

And some let the lines move in different directions.

Step 4.

Paint the face. We looked at Neiman’s use of colour – how he used light colours on the nose and chin and darker colours in the shadows. Again, I encouraged them to keep the colours distinct to make a patchwork effect.

Leroy Neiman lion

Step 5.

Once the paint is dry, outline the features again in sharpie (this helps it to show up when the art work is reproduced by Square 1) and paint a watercolour wash for the background.

square one art lesson inspired by leroy neiman lions

This child didn’t want to outline the lion’s face, preferring to let the face and mane merge into one another.

Square one art project inspired by Leroy neiman lions

Some chose heart shaped faces

Some filled the whole page with patchwork colour

Some added ears

and some preferred lions without ears.

I love how individual they all are. Bright, bold and full of personality – perfect for a square one art project. I can’t wait to see how they look once their are printed onto keepsakes.


Young Puppeteers: Puppet Play Inspired by the Jim Henson Exhibition at MoPop

My love for Jim Henson’s creations isn’t a secret. As most children of the 70’s and 80’s, I grew up watching Sesame Street, The Muppets and Fraggle Rock. I love the Muppet Movies new and old, I cried buckets when I watched the documentary ‘Being Elmo’ and my greatest ambition is to sing on Sesame Street some day.

My love affair with puppets began when I was nine years old and bought Snoopy and Charlie Brown marionettes with my Christmas money.  I joined the Pelham puppets club, who would send me magazines with short play scripts in them. My granddad made me a wooden puppet theatre with a hand painted back drop and curtains you could open and close.  I would perform the plays with my friends and remember making costumes for my puppets and performing a show about a witch for my Brownie pack.

Being an early years teacher, gives me the perfect excuse to continue buying puppets as an adult. I love the way young children respond to puppets and they are invaluable props for my parent and toddler music groups.  My girls have inherited most of my collection and added some of their own.

I have been looking forward to the Jim Henson exhibition at MoPop since the summer.  We decided to save our visit until the winter when the wet weather often drives us indoors. The Jim Henson Imagination Unlimited exhibition continues until 25th February, so there is still chance to visit.

The first part of the exhibition explains Jim Henson’s early career. Jim Henson started out by manipulating his puppets to sing along to  music tracks. At the exhibition, you can choose a puppet, and a track and record the puppets miming along to the music.  The girls were totally captivated and loved watching themselves on the screen. It was difficult to drag them away.

The other sections feature Jim Henson most famous creations.  The journey begins with Sesame Street.  I was very exited to see Ernie and Bert, Grover and the Count.

The girls learned about the generic  blue puppet used in Sesame Street to create multiple characters. The puppet is blank and features are stuck onto the face to change its appearance,  according to the requirements of the script.  The girls played at creating different characters.  We have a similar puppet at home, made by playskool. The girls have made additional features from felt with Velcro attached.

My favourite part of the Muppets section, was a fascinating video explaining how Miss Piggy and Kermit were able to ride bicycles in one of the muppet movies.

The girls loved showing off their theatrical poses and seeing their favourite character, Beaker.

The final section showed exhibits from The Dark Crystal, Labyrinth and Fraggle Rock.


Outside of the exhibition was a muppet stage set up with miniature instruments. You choose your puppet, a piece of muppet music and create your own puppet show. The girls thought this was wonderful and they were surprisingly good at it.

This inspired them to make a puppet show at home. They often make puppet shows on the stairs, peeking over the bannister. This time, we made a screen from our photo backdrop.  The girls went to town customising it and spent the next few days writing a muppet show, full of jokes, magic, music and dancing.

My favourite was four puppets singing along to the Pentatonix sugar plum fairy.

The song features Kermit, the wotnot, and one of our favourite puppets, a Melissa and Doug ballerina named Peh .The girls called her Peh because when she dances her hair falls in her face, so to get it out of her eyes, she tosses her head, saying, ‘peh’.

We have a few recent additions to our collection.

Melissa and Doug chef

Melissa and Doug cowboy and his cow.

A giraffe

And a cute cat.

We’re now adding even more to our collection, as I’ve discovered Goodwill online is great place to find unusual puppets at great prices. I’m a little bit hooked. I recently won an amazing Jim Henson puppet ( more on that to come soon).

I love how the puppets have inspired them to create stories, costumes and props. They have also become interested in how puppets are made, what makes a particularly good puppet and how to be a ventriloquist. I’ll share some of their home made puppets in a future post.

Disclaimer: this post contains Amazon affiliate links. If you purchase products via these links, I receive a small compensation.

Breathe Like a Bear: 30 mindful moments for kids to feel calm and focused – Book Review

I used to be a mindfulness sceptic. Being mindful, seemed like a short-term fad, soon to be replaced by another buzz word. My views changed last year, when one of my children had a teacher who promoted mindful activities. My daughter blossomed during that year, from struggling to cope with anxiety when things didn’t go her way, to recognising  her emotions were taking over and seeking ways to overcome them. It didn’t stop her rolling her eyes when we talked about being mindful but the strategies helped her to focus, make friends and practice self-control.

book about mindfulness for young children

Throwing my scepticism out of the window, I decided to review a new book promoting exercises for children to practice mindfulness, “Breathe Like a Bear”. I’m glad I did, because this really is a great book. It is beautifully presented, resplendent with Anni Betts’ vibrant illustrations and contains a variety of simple, fun exercises that won’t make you feel like you are leading a meditation session. The activities are developmentally appropriate for children young and old and might even be useful visualisations for parents and teachers.

“Breathe like a Bear” is written by Kira Willey, a children’s music artist and kids yoga expert. Kira provides enjoyable, engaging activities children will love. The book’s focus  on fun, rather than lots of explanations about the mindfulness message, makes it especially appropriate for young children.

The first section focuses on calming, for when children feel they can’t sit still. It is difficult for children of any age to sit still all day and many children become agitated after a period of time. These exercises are designed to encourage children to slow down. They would  be perfect for those days when children have boundless energy but can’t get outside to let off steam. The title “Breathe like a Bear” comes from one such activity. The children pretend they are a hibernating bear, breathing slowly in and out through their noses. Each section has a variety of exercises and encourages you to choose the one you feel most comfortable with. You may need to try a few to find what works best for your child or class.

mindfullness activity for children

Section two promotes concentration and focus. There are a mixture of activities in this section. Some are slow visualisations focused on breathing and others involve following actions, movement and sound. I particularly like how varied the activities are.

Section three comprises exercises that stretch the imagination. I think these are my favourites and can imagine using them during a rest time for young children, or to calm an older group when they get noisy or over excited.  They would also be useful for bedtime. They could be read to children before they sleep or recorded to play in  children’s bedrooms.

Section four is for energising children when they are feeling sleepy or lethargic. These would be great for the start of the day, to wake children up or during a lull later in the day. The exercises include moving your facial muscles, clapping hands, making twisting movements with your body and creating various sounds.

midfulness for children

The final section is relaxation for when we are feeling stressed. Stretching like a cat or scrunching and releasing sound deeply satisfying to me.

If mindfulness is your thing, I believe you will love this book. If it isn’t, why not try it anyway? You may become a convert, just like me. My next stop is to investigate Kira Wiley’s music, if it is as beautiful as her book, I’m in for a treat.

Amazon Affiliate link for Amazon US  Breathe like a Bear available from Dec 2017 priced $10.99

Amazon Affiliate link for Amazon UK Breathe like a Bear available from 13th January 2018 priced £11.99

Disclaimer: links in this post are affiliate links, meaning if you order via this link I will receive a small percentage of the purchase price. No payment was received for writing this review. I received a complimentary review copy of the title.