art · STEAM · teaching thoughts · topic


Did you ever wonder why teachers in the early years allow, encourage children to play with playdough? Often times parents see playdough as messy. It sticks to things, it gets on the rug and won’t come off. It gets under your nails and often times it smells strange. So why oh why do teachers want my child to play with it?

I’ll tell you why… it’s good for your child. Click here to read NAEYC’s (National Association for the Education of Young Children) article Playdough Power.

Benefits of playdough:

  • fine motor development
  • independent play
  • creativity
  • vocabulary
  • peer interactions
  • sensory play
  • dramatic (imaginative) play
  • science (cause and effect, textures etc)
  • math (size, thickness, number etc)

Ways to encourage and extend playdough play:

  • add tools (plastic knife, dowel for a rolling pin, cookie cutters)
  • read a story before playdough play to encourage play based on story topic
  • add toys (cars, construction vehicles, dolls/plastic toys)
  • provide kid size kitchen tools (pans, fork, knife etc)
  • natural products (rocks, sticks, leaves)
  • provide items to make textures (combs, strainers, buttons etc)

Ways to save your sanity

  • teach your child to clean up the playdough! use the playdough ball to pick up the smaller pieces
  • provide a mat, table cloth or cookie sheet for the playdough to be played on to contain the “mess”
  • provide bins for playdough toys to be collect into at the end of play
  • have your child think of the items to put into the playdough

Make your own playdough and you control the smell!

Basic no cook playdough recipe

  • 2 cups of flour
  • 2 Tbps of oil (cooking, baby oil, coconut oil etc)
  • 1/2 cup of salt
  • 2 Tbsp cream of tartar
  • 1- 1.5 cups of boiling water
  • color
  • scent (optional)
  1. Combine flour, salt and cream of tartar in a bowl
  2. add in oil
  3. Put color and/or scent into 1 cup of boiling water
  4. stir to bring together into a sticky ball. if it is too dry and won’t combine add up to 1/2 additional cup of boiling water, but add it slowly or you will put in too much
  5. when it is a sticky ball, let it cool for a bit
  6. roll it out onto the counter and then kneed the dough for a few minutes until the stickiness is gone. This is an important part in pulling the dough together. after a few minutes if it is still really sticky, add more flour
  7. store in an air tight container when not in use and it should last about a month

Colors and scents:

  • kool aid packets is a great way to add both color and scent to dough 2 packets added to the dry ingredients should give the color and smell you are looking for
  • food coloring (gels add more color than liquid)
  • extracts- vanilla, mint, orange, lemon
  • spices- cinnamon, apple pie spice, pumpkin pie spice

family activity · STEAM · story · teaching thoughts · writing


Who doesn’t love cookies? I love cookies. I love to eat cookies. I love to bake cookies and I love to share cookies. Here are two “stories” from the same author about cookies, sort of? These books are more of a dictionary of sorts… each page defines a word such as considerate, cooperate and other life lesson words. The author ties these words to enjoying cookies.

Sugar Cookies, Sweet Little Lessons on Love and Cookies, Bite Size Life Lessons by Amy Krause Rosenthal

I love to introduce children to cooking and baking. My own sons were in the kitchen helping starting around age 2. Check out this post from BBC goodfood on kitchen skills by age. Remember as always, age suggestions are just suggestions, you know your child best and there may be things they are ready for before the age suggestion or maybe they aren’t ready yet. But it gives you ideas of what kiddos can do in the kitchen.

Here is a link to a cookie recipe on my other blog. It is very simple and young children can help with almost every step. Cake Mix cookies Have your child help you choose the cake mix flavor, think about mix-ins and frostings to go with your cookie flavor. Then let them help. The can easily pour the mix into the bowl, pour the eggs and oil out of a measuring cup (I crack the eggs into my liquid measuring cup to make it easy for children to pour them in) and stir. Older children (5 and up) can also often help scooping the dough to form the balls. Younger children (and up) can help flatten the dough before baking.

While the cookies are baking, have your children write our recipe cards. Talk through the steps of making the cookies. Don’t worry if they don’t get all the steps. The key is to get things in the right order. You can’t put the frosting on before you bake the cookies. You can’t bake them before you mix them.

art · family activity · letter of the day · story · writing

Letter of the Day- Pp

Can you believe we are already up to the letter Pp? This was a hard one to pick… people, popcorn, pancakes, penguins, so many great Pp words. So what did I pick?

I would typically say… Who doesn’t love pizza? But, I know there are people who don’t. My youngest son would not even touch pizza until he was about 11 years old. But, the nice thing with pizza is everyone can make it their own. He started eating pizza without sauce, but now he loves a good slice of pizza– preferably with bacon or meatballs.

Jack Hartmann’s Pp song

Printing the letter Pp

Captial P- start at the top, straight line down, jump back to the top, curve to the right and back to the middle

lowercase p- straight line downnnn, back up on the same line (almost to the top), curve to the right and back to the middle

Today’s activities– Pizza!

Pizza Day by Melissa Iwai- A young boy and his father gather the ingredients to make a pizza! This book show the child and his father going through all the steps to make homemade pizza.

**So… make pizza! At home, I make Alton Brown’s pizza dough, this needs to be made the night before, but is soooo worth it if done correctly. But, when I made pizza with my students in class we used this recipe:

Biscuit Pizzas (makes 8 individual pizzas)

  • Can of Grands buttermilk biscuits
  • Pizza sauce
  • Mozzarella cheese
  1. Preheat oven to 375
  2. Roll out biscuits until flat
  3. Top with sauce and cheese
  4. Bake for 10-15 minutes

This is a great activity as your child can do ALL the steps by him/herself. And, trust me they will love the process of making their own pizza. My students gobble these up.

While we talk about making pizza, here is the Pizza Party Song from Super Simple Songs. This also talks about the steps for making a pizza

**This easily leads into a simple expository writing activity… yes you read that correctly! Writing, or in the case of most preK kiddos drawing, the steps to a process is expository writing. We typically have the children demonstrate 3 or four steps at this age.

Fold the paper into quarters, your child should be able to do this with limited assistance, just remind them to “iron down the folds” so you see the lines. Have your child illustrate and label (or tell you what to label) to show the steps needed to make a pizza

Here’s one more song… this one is funny Silly Pizza Song by Signing Time. What would you put on a pizza if you can put anything on a pizza? Sing along with some crazy pizza toppings.

**Have your child draw a picture of pizza. You can either have him/her draw real toppings or crazy ones you heard in the song. Have your child count the number of each topping they used on the pizza and write it on the page.

family activity · letter of the day · STEAM · story

Letter of the day- Mm

Today we are half way through the alphabet. I hope your child is enjoying this letter review… and I hope you are enjoying these activities together!

Jack Hartmann Mm song

Printing the letter Mm

Capital M– start at the top, draw a straight line downnn, jump back to the top, slant down, slant up, straight downnnnn (This one is tough as the children want to pick up the pencil between each of the slanted lines. Some struggle with the V shape in the middle and make it more of U than a V.)

lowercase m– draw a straight line down, up on the same line almost to the top, curve and down, trace up the same line, curve and down. (The challenge seen in this letter often is they do not trace on the middle line but make a u shape in the middle so it looks more like a wavy line than an m)

If You Give a Moose a Muffin by Laura Joffe Numeroff — a beloved favorite book. What happens if a hungry moose comes by? You give him a muffin! But, what happens next?

Draw a timeline to show what happened in the story, or make up your own cause and effect story.

Molly the Muffin Fairy by Tim Bugbird– What happens when you make rock hard muffins? Read along to see what Molly and her friends do

Time to bake! Baking with children is a great way to enjoy time together. AND, your child learns math, to follow directions and so much more.

Jam muffins (based on The Recipe Revival’s Peach Jam Bread recipe)

  • 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup butter, softened
  • 2 eggs
  • ¾ cup jam (I used peach jam)
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla
  • ½ cup buttermilk (don’t have buttermilk? make it— 1 tsp of vinegar in your milk and let it sit for short bit)
  • ½ cup fresh fruit chopped into small chunks (I used blueberries)
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, salt, baking soda and cinnamon. Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl beat the sugar and butter until smooth.
  4. Add the eggs in one at a time while mixing. After both eggs are added, beat for an additional minute.
  5. Add in the jam and vanilla and mix until combined.
  6. Slowly alternate the buttermilk and flour mixture while mixing until just combined.
  7. Fold in the fresh fruit.
  8. Scoop batter into lined muffin pan
  9. Bake at 350 for 22-25 minutes .
  10. Let the muffins cool on a wire rack for 10-15 minutes before removing from pan.

What can your child do to help with this recipe??

  • pick the flavor the the jam and fruit
  • help measure dry ingredients
  • whisk dry ingredients together
  • help chop fresh fruit with a plastic knife (depending on type of fruit)
  • put muffin liner into the muffin pan
  • scrape the mixer bowl
  • help scoop mixture into the pan
art · family activity · letter of the day · story · topic · writing

Letter of the day– Cc

C is for cookies. This is a term we have heard for years thanks to Sesame Street. I choose this letter because it is typically not the connection that is made in schools, and I have a simple yet tasty recipe to share.

Jack Hartmann’s letter C song.

The letter Cc is a key letter in alpabet writing. You need to know how to correctly form the letter c in order to form lowercase a, d, e, g, o, and q and capital G,O, Q. It also helps in the forming the Ss as well.

Capital C – Start almost at the top, curve up, around, down and up

lowercase c- start almost at the top (under the dotted line if you are working on lined paper) and then curve the same exact way

The challenge of this letter is getting the children to not start the the exact top. They also struggle with the direction of the curve. This in addition to the fact that most children want to start at the bottom and not at the top. Practice hand over hand, and over and over again… it is all about muscle memory.

Today’s activity: cookies!

Mmm Cookies by Robert Munsch — Robert Munsch is one of my favorite authors. There is a lot of humor in his books

Cookie’s Week by Cindy Ward

“Mmm Cookies” is about making play dough cookies. This is a great opportunity for the children to get creative. Provide your child with play dough and encourage him/her to make cookies. You can provide cookie cutters, but it is not necessary. Provide a rolling pin (small dowel or pvc pipe works too) and a plastic knife. The use of play dough is great for fine motor development and the more you encourage your child to use their fingers/hands and arm strength to manipulate the play dough.

“Cookie’s Week” is a great story for sequencing and/or retelling the story. You can divide a sheet of paper into boxes and have your child illustrate the different events in the story. Or, better yet, have your child create his/her own version of the mischief that Cookie could get into for a whole week.

Confetti Cake Mix Cookies

My sons have helped out in the kitchen since they were about 2 years old. This recipe is one of the first they learned to master independently. Your child can do most of this recipe with limited assistance.

cake mix
2 eggs
1/3 cup oil
  • Cake mix— I used confetti this time, but you can use most flavors
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/3 cup oil
  • frosting- optional
everything in one bowl
mix together. dough will be very thick and sticky
bake until the edges are golden
  1. Preheat oven to 375
  2. Put cake mix in a bowl
  3. add eggs and oil
  4. mix with a spoon
  5. dish onto pan
  6. bake 6-8 minutes
  7. cool
  8. frost if wanted

This recipe can be translated into lots of combinations here are a few of our favorites:

  • vanilla cake mix with chocolate chips (with or without chocolate frosting
  • devils food cake mix with peanut butter chips (with or without vanilla frosting)
  • spice cake with cream cheese frosting (my personal favorite)
  • lemon cake with lemon or vanilla frosting

letter of the day · math · STEAM · topic

Letter of the Day– Bb

While it isn’t fresh berry season here in PA, there are lots of berries in the stores. This is a great opportunity to introduce your child to some tasty berries.

If your child enjoyed yesterday’s Jack Hartmann video, here is his letter B video

Printing the letter Bb

Capital B- start at the stop, straight line downnnnn, back to the top, bump to the middle, bump to the bottom

Lowercase b- start at the top, straight line downnnnn, up on the same line half way, bump to the bottom

Today’s activities: Berries!

The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry and the Big Hungry Bear

Blueberry Mouse

berry survey

Favorite berry survey: Have your child create a survey sheet. Then they can poll family members or even their stuffed animals. Have your child ask the people “Do you prefer strawberries, blueberries, raspberries or blackberries?” Then your child will color in the graph accordingly. Children love creating surveys as they get to know new information about people AND practice graphing at the same time. This is a great activity to complete when calling extended family members.

berry patterns

Berry patterns: Have your child draw, or even better use real berries, to create patterns. Have your child name the pattern as they make each pattern. Remind them that a pattern is something that repeats itself.

Make mixed berry sauce– can be made with fresh or frozen berries

Mix Berry Sauce

  • 2 c. mixed berries
  • 1 lemon
  1. put berries into the sauce pan over high
  2. zest and juice the lemon adding both to the pan
  3. once it comes to a boil, reduce the head to low and let the mixture simmer
  4. stir to assist in the breaking down of the berries
  5. remove from the heat and let cool
  6. serve over pancakes, yogurt, ice cream… whatever you want/need a berry sauce