Thanksgiving - Pilgrim and Indian Handprint Art

During the month of November we begin to talk about Fall, Thanksgiving, and visiting family. I wanted the children to make a displayable card or a place mat to take home to their family.
I decided to make the face of a Pilgrim and an Indian using each child's hand print.

Place the colors you want to use for the Indian's feathers on their fingers and a brown dividing line just under the fingers. Use a cream color on the palm of the hand for the face of the Indian. Do not put any paint on the thumb.

For the pilgrim, we painted the fingers with black paint and cream color again for the palm of the hand. No paint on the thumb.

After they dry add some eyes, mouth, hair, and other features to complete the look of their faces.

Glue a white rectangle with cut out in the middle for the pilgrim's hat. You can finish it off by writing the child's name and year. Maybe a quote of what the child is thankful for. If the child is a little older they can write their own name and year on it.

Potty Trainning: Starting on the Right Track

     Parents sometimes need a little help with potty training their child. A lot of questions come up like: How do I know he's ready? At what age do I start? What if she has a lot of accidents?

     Guiding your child to use the toilet takes a little work and commitment. Most children will not let you know that they have to "go". Even a newly potty trained child that knows how to use the toilet will sometimes have accidents. You have to send them to the toilet to "try" and go. Most of the time, the toddler will "go".

Some of the signs that your child is ready to start potty training are:
  • Speaks in full sentences.
  • Stays dry for long periods of time.
  • Goes  pee-pee in the potty when they try it.
  • Asks to be changed as soon as their diaper is wet or dirty.
  • If your child is beginning to pull pants up and down on their own. ( you can begin working on this skill with them before you begin potty training)
Some children will be ready to begin potty training from just before 2years old and some will be after their 3rd birthday. Look for signs of interest in the toilet. If they mention things like "my friend goes to the potty", or asks "what's mommy doing in the potty?" Take advantage of this moment and talk about how she will get to use the potty too soon.

Here are tips that I have used in my classroom that will help you:
  • Every time you change their diaper, sit them in the toilet to try and pee-pee. If they go, you want to applaud them, praise them, or give them a small reward like a sticker. You can even make a chart for them. This will encourage your child to do it again as she knows she will have a positive experience and be very proud of herself. If the child does not do anything thing after 3 or 4 minutes let them know how proud you are that they tried it. If the child does not want to sit in the toilet because he seems scared wait a few more weeks to try again. Getting them their own toddler size training potty usually works best as it is less overwhelming than the "big toilet".
  • If they have an accident, don't make a big deal about it. But as you change them and clean up the accident, remind them that pee-pee and poopy go in the potty. Sometimes it takes a few accidents for them to realize that they don't like that feeling of being wet and messy and they will get trained faster.
  • If you have a child that has predictable bowel movements, sit them in the toilet at these times.
  • At the beginning of potty training, send him to use the potty every thirty minutes. Avoid asking them if they have to use the potty because most likely the answer is going to be "no".
  • Have the child wear loose, easy to take off clothes. Dresses for girls is ideal and elastic pants for boys. You do not want the child to get frustrated messing with buttons, zippers, and tight pants as they are trying to go to the bathroom.
The important thing is not to pressure the child and always be positive about it. Make it a fun and happy experience from the beginning. Go shopping together for underwear and a training potty!

Teach Your Toddler to Listen and How To Talk To Others

It is part of a toddler's  development to learn to listen and follow simple directions. We want them to be able to have eye contact, pay attention, do what we ask them to do, answer questions and learn how to talk to others. Here are some tips:

  • Children learn a lot by listening and watching others around them. Talk to your child in your normal tone of voice. Baby voice or cute little made up words will not teach them to speak the correct way. Talk politely, children are listening and will model what they hear.
  • Get down to their eye level. This gets their attention, helps them focus on what you are saying, and establishes eye contact. If your child looks away or is distracted, stop saying what you were saying, tell them to look at your eyes, and then continue talking. For a younger toddler you can say "find my eyes please", then tell them thank you and continue talking to them.
  • Give your child a chance to speak, answer,or ask questions. Telling your child: "clean up the toys", walking away and expecting them to do it, may not work. Toddlers love to ask "why?". A short explanation like "we are getting ready to have dinner so I need you to clean up your toys first", answers his question and let's him know that you did not ignore him.
  • Give your child choices. Toddlers love to say NO and to ignore us when we are calling them or asking them to do something. It may be as simple as "do you want to clean up the blocks first or the cars?". It helps them feel powerful that they get to make the decision of what to clean first and at the same time
    Child playing with blocks
    they are doing exactly what you asked them to do.
  • Do not tell your child what you want them to do in question form if there is no choice. Saying "why don't you get dressed for school now?" is not a good question if you really need your child to get dressed for school because you are giving them the chance to say no. Tell them what you want them to do. If there is a choice, then give them just two choices. You can say "it's time to get dressed for school. Do you want to wear the blue shirt or the red shirt?"
  • Give them a warning. You can tell your child something like "five more minutes and then we have to sit for dinner". This helps the child get ready for that transition. Help avoid a sudden change that may upset him because it caught him off guard as he might have been concentrating on something and having fun.This warning gives them a sense of security as they now know what is coming next.
  • Model the correct way of speaking as well as being respectful. Use words with your child like please, thank you, and excuse me. Use a nice and friendly tone of voice. If they "forget" to say something respectful or nicely,  remind them and then ask them to say it again in a nice way. If they forget important words like please or thank you,  remind them so they can say it again the correct way. 
Toddlers are super smart and they are able to learn to listen, follow directions, and how to talk to others at this early age. In fact the toddler years are the crucial period when they learn the foundation of social skills that will enhance their childhood, adolescence, and adult years.

Sensory Play: Exploring Things From Nature

Children learn through their sense and by playing, exploring, and discussing what they discover. Nature is a big part of our world and nature is all around us. Children are curious about things they see when they take a walk through a park or even on your backyard.

I collected various items from nature and put them in a basket for the children in my classroom to explore. I collected rocks, seashells, sticks, wood pieces, and different types of seeds. The basket was placed on the table for them to explore everything in it and to play with them.

Basket full of things from nature.

I was very curious to see what these two and three year old children would do with everything in that basket.

Seeds, dry flowers, rocks, seashellThe children immediately started touching and observing each item. This gave me a great opportunity to ask them some open ended questions to help them work on their language and vocabulary development.

My questions were: Where do you think this one came from? What could you do with it now that we have it in our classroom? How does it feel? (the texture) What does it smell like? The children gave me good answers and some of them said full sentences. A two year old boy said, "This seed smells like perfume."

One of the girls started to make a face using seeds. She explored the things in the basket some more and then added a V shape stick for the mouth. She added, "Now she is smiling like me!" Love it! They can get so creative.

Face made using a stick and three seeds.

Some of the bigger seeds had little seeds inside of them so the children started shaking them and listening to their different sounds.

I noticed one of the boys started sorting them out by putting rocks, together, sticks, seeds, etc. Great pre-math skill.

Sorting items from the nature's basket.

We discussed and looked at all kinds of rocks. Some were smooth other bumpy and rough. One of the girls pointed out that she liked the shiny one.

This nature basket has become a real success. Anyone can do this at home too, and it's free!

Go ahead and go with your toddler on a nature walk and collect some things. Observe, explore, and discuss what you found. Your toddler will have a great learning and play time experience with this simple sensory adventure.

Easy Homemade Costumes for Pretend Play Using Pillowcases

Toddlers love to dress up and role play. The more items they have the more their imagination expands.

It is good to have some store bought costumes of princesses, policeman, nurses, and others. But children's imagination goes even further. They will use blankets and pretend it is a super hero cape or they wrap it around their body and imagine they are wearing a ball gown.

There is a very simple way to add to their dress up collection. It is easy, inexpensive or even free, and there is no sewing required!

Collect some pillowcases you do not use anymore and you can easily turn them into costumes. You can add your own creative touches to it, but here are the basic steps.

Take a standard size pillowcase, any color or print, and cut the border on the opening of it. Put this aside for now.

Make a decorative border by cutting strips in the opening creating a fun fringe finish. This will be the bottom part of their costume.

Open the pillowcase and cut along both side seams.

On the remaining side that is closed, cut a semi circle. Make sure it is  large enough for your child's head to fit through it. The child can now slip the costume over their head.

Take the pillowcase border you cut off during the first step and cut it open creating a long strip instead of leaving it as a close circle. This strip can now be used around the waist as a belt or tie.

You can combine different colors and prints to create different looks. All from a few pillowcases!

Arts and Crafts Time: Toilet Paper Roll Octopus

During circle time we have been talking about animals that live in the ocean and reading books about many sea creatures. We decided to collect some toilet paper rolls and have the children have fun by making them into octopuses.

Toilet paper roll octopus is a fun art project that is part art and part project. In other words, the toddler gets to express their creativity and also learn about following simple directions and doing things step by step to achieve a finished art creation.

 Materials you will need:
Toilet paper roll
Tissue paper (different colors)
Paper towel

  • Have pieces of tissue paper already cut in little pieces for them for their first step.
  • Put glue on the toilet paper roll and have the child glue the pieces on it any way they want and any colors they want. Let them be creative and use their imagination.

Let the child know that it needs to dry until the next day and then they can turn it into an octopus. 

  •  Your next job as a parent or teacher is to apply Mod Podge over the whole roll. You can buy Mod Podge at arts and crafts stores or, my favorite, you can make your own. Let it dry over night. This will flatten and seal all the tissue paper they have glued on the roll.
For the easiest Mod Podge recipe visit:

After it has dried you need to cut strips half way through the toilet paper roll into 8 tentacles.

  • The toddler is now ready to glue Cheerios on all tentacles.

  • Put a paper towel inside a small piece of tissue paper and slide it from the bottom of the octopus to the top until it looks like its head. You can put a little piece of tape inside to hold it still.
  • They can put eye stickers, googlie eyes, or draw their own.
  • Draw a smile on it, let the glue dry completely and it's done. Your toddler made a colorful and cool looking octopus!
octopus art

Toddlers Playing with Play Dough: Stressful or Stress Relieve Activity?

I am a preschool teacher and I tell parents all the time about how much fun their child has playing with play dough (modeling clay) at school. 

Parents, in general, are grateful that we have this kind of simple activity, but they have questions about how to do it at home, too. The most common inconvenience is how to deal with the mess of little pieces of play dough all over the place.

It may even become a little stressful for the parent, while for the toddler, it is a stress relieve activity!

Here are some of the benefits for your child to have fun with play dough and some guidelines for you, the parent.  

Playing with play dough is a wonderful sensory activity for your growing toddler.

  • First of all, it promotes creativity. Even if they do not realize it, their brains are wandering, looking for ideas. And later, wondering, admiring their achievements.
  • It is a calming activity. The softness or hardness of the play dough in their hands and fingers is a soothing and curious experience. Exploring how it feels and changes as they handle the play dough is fascinating to a toddler.
  • It helps strengthen their fingers, hands, and wrist muscles. They can pat it, squish it, roll it, pull it, mold it, cut it, and more! 
  • It helps in the development of hand eye coordination which is the ability of the eyes to direct attention and the hands to execute a function or a movement.  
  • Confidence builder. There is no right or wrong thing to make with play dough. It opens a whole world of imagination; it can be anything they want.
  • It's a learning activity. Break it in to pieces and work on counting. Have different colors and learn colors. Use play scissors and work on cutting safely.
Playing with play dough just requires some preparation so that it will not end up being a stressful activity for parents at home or teachers at preschool.

  •  Have a small designated table for play dough. A child size table is best so they can sit upright and not on their knees to reach the top of the table. You can buy a plastic placemat just for play dough playing and teach your child that is where the play dough needs to stay.
  •  Give them plenty of play tools and gadgets to explore play dough with.
  • Play with your toddler or sit with them and ask them what they are making. Listen to how their imagination expands.
And most important, give them praise, make positive remarks. It will bring a smile to their face as their self esteem grows! 
You can go buy play dough together at the store or you can make your own play dough at home. There are a lot of easy recipes for making play dough on the internet ( has some great recipes). Either way it will be fun for your toddler!