The Importance of Play through the Senses

Each week at Counting Down to Kindergarten, I will have a sensory bin set out. Sensory bins provide opportunities for the children to interact, negotiate, and problem solve with each other. They use communication with each other, and with help, expand their vocabulary.  Also, while playing at the bins, the children are exploring the properties of the materials through their hands and sense of touch, and exploring concepts such as flow, sinking or floating, and viscosity.

Much of the learning in preschool is embedded in play. I usually hide letters or numbers in the sensory bin for the children to find and match with a poster that is usually set along side it. This way, as a child finds a letter, the parents or teacher can explain what letter it is and what sound it makes. This type of learning is very natural and is easily absorbed by the child. The sensory bin also helps calm an anxious child as playing with the materials is soothing to him/her. I have found, as a preschool teacher that the sensory bin or reading to a child helps comfort the child in transitional periods such as separating from parents, starting something new, or the child is shy. So you can see why sensory bins are such an important element of our program. So much learning and reinforcement of concepts can be accomplished through sensory bins.

To read more about the importance of play through the senses click here and here.

Dramatic and Cooperative Play Helps Develop the Whole Child

The element that I would like to focus on this week is the dramatic play/ cooperative play element of the program. For example, depending on the theme, I set up a flower shop, a grocery store, a pizza shop, a castle, or we play with life-sized building blocks. This also includes any time the children take toys off the STEAM cart and play together. Dramatic play is where the children take on roles and by doing so, they gain an understanding of social studies, develop their language with words pertaining purchasing items and running a store, and develop the very important social and emotional skills such as taking turns, sharing, and dealing with emotions when they don’t get their way (self-regulation). Cooperative play creates an opportunity for the children to work together and to learn to negotiate and speak kindly to each other. When considering kindergarten readiness, the social/ emotional aspect of readiness is very important. The ability to negotiate and speak kindly to each other, take turns, and self-regulate are integral skills that children need to have practiced before entering kindergarten. This skill, along with fine motor skills, are even more important than academics, if you can believe it. That is why I include this element each week. I also do not mind if it becomes the hit station, while all the other stations sit empty, because of the skills the children are learning at this station and how important these skills are to the developing child.
I will always have counting, name exercises, and letter matching every week, so they will always have an opportunity for those skills, plus, these skills can always be practiced at home as well, but dramatic play/ cooperative play is special to this environment and the children should be encouraged to spend as much time as they want at this station.

To learn more about dramatic play and cooperative play, click here, here, and here.

Tabletop Activities: Our Many Stations

In Counting Down to Kindergarten, we have many tabletop activities for the children to choose. These include our matching games, sorting games, and additional fine motor games. Most weeks there will be a letter station, math concept station, name station, sorting station, and fine motor station. For example, I always have something out for the children to sort. The reason behind this activity is that it builds their cognitive functioning overall, but in particular, they are exercising their mathematical skills of matching, recognizing similarities and differences, and organizing the objects into groups. I usually have a letter matching station as well. My motivation behind this station is to give the children exposure to the letters and to see if they can match uppercase to uppercase, and some weeks, matching uppercase to lowercase, which is a stretch for some of the children. Most of the times, I also have the letters on matching backgrounds to give the children extra help. Sometimes the activity will focus on fine motor skills such as beading or taking stickers off the paper and creating a scene with them. This type of activity focuses on developing their fine motor skills and their cognitive development. They are using their fingers to peel the stickers off the sheet and placing them on the paper. The peeling of the paper really takes delicate fine motor skills and placing the sticker takes mental planning. Another example of this is an activity of matching beads to colored feathers and threading the beads onto the feathers. This is another example of exercising their fine motor skills as well as continuing to build their color matching skills. We also have tabletop activities that help the children with their names and I go into more detail about this in a previous blog.

To learn more about the importance of sorting click here, and if you would like some sorting ideas, click here. To learn more about developing your child’s early literacy skills, and specifically letter recognition, click here.

Developing Fine Motor Skills

In Counting Down to Kindergarten, the art project and playdough stations are the main builders of a child’s fine motor skills. The first and foremost goal behind these stations is to help develop the child’s fine motor skills and build hand dexterity. Many articles online and academic journals state that a child who enters kindergarten with much experience building their fine motor skills will feel more successful in kindergarten (click here and here for the latest research). In fact, it is the second most important factor that many kindergarten teachers state as a determiner of kindergarten readiness (the first being the social/emotional skills of negotiation, getting along, sharing and using kind words). Many people think that fine motor skills is the ability to write with a pencil. It is in part, but there is so much more to fine motor skill building. If we, as teachers and parents, can get the children to use their hands in a myriad of ways, then we are building optimal fine motor skills.

When children are engaged in activities that help develop their fine motor skills, they also are developing many other skills: self-regulation (self-control), cognition (creating art and considering design), coordination, language development (talking about what they are doing and using vocabulary), dexterity, and following directions (following the steps in each project). This is where the playdough and art element of our projects come into play. We enjoy open-ended art projects each week using numerous materials and art mediums. The playdough station helps give strength to the child’s hands, develop their coordination with cutting, rolling, and forming the dough, and builds their cognitive skills by planning what they are building and carrying it out. It is also one of the ultimate sensory experiences. I scent our dough so it has a fun smell, the child uses his/her vision to play with it as well as its pleasant to look at, and they are touching it repeatedly. Many senses are involved in playing with playdough. It seems to me that each child really enjoys spending time at these stations and that is wonderful because of the skills they are developing.

Here are a few articles that stress building the child’s fine motor skills (click here and here). Click here and here for simple art ideas to do with your child at home. Click here for the playdough recipe that I use (I also add a packet of Kool-Aid drink mix to color and add scent.)

The Importance of Circle Time

Let’s talk about the circle time. At our circle time the children are working on and learning many skills, all of which are helping them with their readiness for their academic life beginning with kindergarten. The biggest skill the children are practicing is self-control and self-regulation. These get practiced when the child sits in his/her spot and listens to the teacher and to the instructions. The child, to the best of his/her ability is learning to quiet him/herself and control his/her body. Every child develops the ability to do this at his/her own rate. Practicing this every week helps the child develop these skills.

Another part of circle time that helps your child with his/her development is the singing, rhyming books, and finger plays or movement activity. These are important because the singing, rhyming, and finger plays help the children with the development of their phonemic awareness skills. These are simply the understanding that words are made up of separate sounds. Singing helps draw out the separate sounds and rhyming helps the child in the future with learning word families. Finger plays and movement help the children develop and refine their fine and gross motor skills. Additionally, as children are read to, they increase their print awareness knowledge, that is, they learn the parts of the book, how to turn pages, that the words and pictures work together to tell the story, and left to right orientation.

Circle time is also a wonderful opportunity to introduce and practice certain academic concepts. Usually, these concepts touch on curriculum areas such as early literacy, mathematics, science, and social studies. Some concepts that I teach during circle time are letter and number recognition, one-to-one counting, shapes, patterns, size, sorting and categorization, order, comprehension, comparisons, and print awareness.

To learn more about the importance of circle time, click here

Name Recognition and Name Writing

Children entering kindergarten really should be able to recognize their name. We emphasize this skill when the children sign in by placing their name from the out board to the in board. This skill is also emphasized by our name station. Usually, each week, one station is dedicated to the children constructing their name. One week, it may be using magnetic letters to construct their name, and the next week, the child has to find the letters of their name written on blocks and the child has to put the blocks together in the corresponding order. The purpose of the station remains the same while the activity varies. The station is designed to help the children recognize their written name and find the letters of their name, and place the letters in the correct order. Some weeks, the station will feature practice sheets for the child to practice writing his/her name.

This skill is a necessary preschool skill as children entering Kindergarten will be expected to write their names on all their worksheets and art work. At Counting Down to Kindergarten we feel the responsibility to prepare our students as much as possible for Kindergarten and this station really helps. As our students get closer to Kindergarten, I emphasize name writing practice and provide the students with practice sheets to take home. As the children master their first names, I have them participate in the same activities but using their last names.

For ideas to help your children practice name recognition, click here for ideas. For ideas to help your child to build or write their name, click here.

Welcome to Counting Down to Kindergarten!

Welcome to our Counting Down to Kindergarten Preschool. This Schuylerville Public Library program is dedicated to helping our young children reach all their academic potential by offering a free preschool here at the library. This class meets twice a week and requires registration. You can register in person at the library. The class is taught by me, Jenny Edwards, a preschool teacher with a degree in Early Childhood Education and also the author of this blog. I have over ten years experience teaching preschool, have taught in a variety of school settings, and I am a mother if six children.

This program features the academic and social skills your child will need prior to entering Kindergarten. Each week is based upon a theme. The program has a set routine: First, there is a circle time where Miss Jenny reads stories, sings, teaches finger plays, and gives instruction to the whole group. Then, the children and their parents break up and explore the various stations. The stations also follow the theme, and each station focuses on developing various preschool level skills. Some of these skills are: early literacy, name recognition, letter recognition, counting, number recognition, name, letter, and number writing, playing cooperatively, taking turns, exploring through the senses, fine motor skills, and art exploration.

This program is designed for children ages 3 to 5. If your child is almost 3 and turns 3 during the session, feel free to register him/her. Siblings are also welcome to attend. You can register in person at the library. When you register, Miss Jenny will email you as we get closer to a new session beginning. If you have anymore questions you can email Miss Jenny at