Friday, 29 November 2013

Winter Wonderland

It's the most wonderful time of the year, and at STA we have embraced it whole-heartedly with our new theme! It's winter, the means snow, snow, more snow, and a little bit of Christmas cheer. We've filled our classrooms with everything the kids need to explore the holiday season.

It starts right when you walk in the door with our reception desk all dressed up as a cozy fire place. We have a pretty little Christmas tree and a mailbox set up for letters addressed to a very important person.

Our Tree Room has been decorated with ever more trees to turn it into a coniferous forest, we'll check back to see if any little hands have added decorations to the trees in a little while. Our colour theme this month is white and blue so our easel has been set up to allow the kids to explore those colours with paint.

The sensory table has been re-vamped with cotton balls, styrofoam packaging, and lots of snow flakes.

We have a present wrapping station with lots of paper, tape, scissors, and old shoe boxes for the kids to practice wrapping, and maybe even unwrapping, gifts.

In our imaginary play area the kiddos can choose some fun winter activities to try out. We have icy looking blocks that can be used to build an igloo, a few shovels and some imaginary snow to practice shoveling a sidewalk, and lots and lots of toboggans.

For even more imaginary play we've set up an elf work-shop with aprons, hats, and lots of tools across the hall in the Rainbow Room.

Our special homemade play-doh comes in blue and white for this theme. We've added silver and blue sparkles and some peppermint essential oils to give it an extra frosty sensory experience.

Our Sun Room has turned a little Frosty with a snowman makeover. There are snowballs hanging from the season in our reading nook that's been filled with lots of wintery themed books.

Our OTs came up with this super cute game of snowman bowling.

We even have a snowman themed felt board where the kids can build and then dress up and decorate their very own snowman.

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Shopping and Learning

This is an outing week at STA. We try to take the kids on at least 2 outings a month to practice skills and activities and have some fun in a different environment. Sometimes our outings relate to a particular theme and other times we just work on exposure to activities that our families may do on evenings or weekends. This week we're going to the mall. We're visiting SouthCentre because it's close to us, has some great kid friendly stores, and has easily the best winter decorations (and a special visitor from the North).

Every group will do something a little different based on the skill set and coping skills of the kids but for the most part we try to target certain activities that the kids may have to do if they go shopping with Mom and Dad. We try on clothes (like the incredibly stylish hockey jersey above) and shoes in one of the department stores. In addition to all of the coping that goes along with trying on clothes this also gives the kiddos a chance to practice zipping up jackets, pulling on sweaters, tying shoes, and everything else that is needed for getting dressed.

While walking around the mall we encourage commenting on things to increase socialization skills. This Christmas tree sparked lots of "Wow! Look!" conversation. For the groups that are able to see Santa we can go stand right under the tree and practice playing the waiting game. Not all of our kids are able to wait in line and not all of them want to sit on the lap of a strange man, but for the ones that this activity is appropriate for it was very exciting.

One of the best part of SouthCentre's Christmas experience is that they have cause and effect toys on display in the waiting area. Lots of buttons and levers for the kids to push and pull while they wait.

We always make a visit to the happiest place in the mall and stop by the Disney Store. They have a wonderful colouring area set up for the kids and lots of interesting toys to look at. The biggest lesson that we learn at the mall is that there doesn't always need to be a toy purchased and our kids get to practice enjoying and then leaving the Disney Store without us having to spend a fortune on new toys.

Monday, 25 November 2013

D is for Drawing... on the windows

Last week I walked into one of our classrooms to find something amazing all over the windows.

 In a previous post we talked a little bit about Animated Literacy and how we use a multi-sensory approach to expose the kids to letters and how to read, write, and pronounce them. One of our kiddos and his staff chose to explore the letter D using window markers. Window markers are great because they are a) super motivating, when else can you draw on the window? and b) super washable.

This little guy showed us what a smarty he is by imitating a drawings of a dinosaur and dog and then independently drawing a dog the next day (you can see his work in the black). He also practiced printing the letter "D," amazing!

The green dinosaur and blue dog were drawn by our staff. She used simple shapes to demonstrate how they can be used together to create a whole picture. You can also see that she printed the word "Dinosaur" clearly for our kiddo to copy, his version contains all the letters but is a little more abstract to the right of his dinosaur. Skills like printing in a line, correctly spacing letters, and printing in an appropriate size will all come along but for now we are celebrating the success of a smattering of letters, dinosaurs, and dogs all over the STA windows.

Friday, 22 November 2013


Friends are such an important part of childhood and school. At STA, our kiddos make friends and play together just like other children, sometimes it just takes some practice to learn how to play and interact. We currently have a group of "big kids," our mostly 5 and 6 year olds, that love to play together. It's wonderful to watch them spontaneously create imaginary play scenarios between Spiderman and Ironman, or to run away and rescue each other from an adult that has turned into a scary monster. They are learning to take cues from other participants, communicate their ideas and desires, and use their imagination.
Not all of our kiddos are quite there yet. It takes a lot of language skills and an ability to cope with following another's agenda to engage in play of this kind. For the little ones that need to learn how to play and interact we like to use resources like turn taking games or crafts where resources need to be shared and requested. Some of our kids are encouraged to show a completed craft or a cool toy to a friend, this helps them to initiate a conversation or social interaction. During the days it is always important that our kids get lots of opportunities to play and work together. We absolutely love to see them make friendships and connections with each other.


Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Friendship Wreath

Today, during the circle portion of Kids Club we started practicing the singing the “Reindeer Pokey” for our performance at our Christmas party. The children did a great job participating by doing the actions. It was somewhat familiar because last week the children were practicing the original “Hokey Pokey”. Each child wore a set of reindeer antlers, which was very cute!!

We read a book about painting called "We Are Painting" as a fun transition into our fun painting craft. During the book I tried to engage each of the children by asking them questions or give them a direction (e.g., “What color?”, “What doing?”, or “Show me the..?”).
Then during craft the children put on paint shirts and got to get a little messy. They each choose a color and stamped each of their friend’s paper wreaths. They turned out great!!

Friday, 15 November 2013


One of my favourite things to do at STA is to go downstairs at the 3:15 when all of our peanuts have gone home and take a look at all of the art that has been created during the day.

Many school readiness skills can be practiced through art and craft projects. Skills like cutting and gluing require more than just scissors and glue. The kids need to understand concepts like spreading glue or how much glue to use, then they need to be able to sequence picking up the glued paper, turning it over, and pushing it onto the other piece. Cutting requires a lot of hand strength, hand-eye coordination, and motor skills to cut on a line. Rather than having our kids sit at tables and practice cutting boring shapes and lines we turn them into art and craft opportunities.

Lately, the trend seems to be snowmen. Perhaps our staff were inspired by the recent and upcoming weather in Calgary.

These snowmen have all involved cutting or drawing circles, gluing objects, and following instructions from an adult or teacher. The interesting thing about all of these snowmen is that each turns out totally different from the rest. It could be googley eyes, cotton balls, glitter, real branches, or hand drawn details but every snowman is different from the next.

In the end, each kid practices a skill that every teacher who has ever had to hand back work before can appreciate; they write their names somewhere on the sheet! Not all of the kiddos are quite ready for printing so they get some help from their staff but in the end all of the art work gets a name and the kids get to practice taking responsibility for and labeling their work.

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Eyes, Ears, Mouth, and Nose

An important part of All About Me is learning about our bodies. A lot of our kids are still learning to identify their body parts so this has been a perfect opportunity to practice that skill. Most of our crafts have been focused on faces lately, this allows the kids to sort out where eyes go in relation to mouth, or that ears go on the side and a nose goes in the middle. In Kids Club we've been singing Head and Shoulders... and Elephants Have Wrinkles to help with identifying all parts of the body. For gym time we've been doing a lot of the Hokey Pokey to work more on identifying and also body awareness.

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

My name is ____ and I like...

  • dinosaurs
  • animals x2
  • the water table
  • cars x2
  • crafts
  • letters
  • bubbles
  • music x3
  • chocolate
  • to sleep
  • Play-doh
  • Wolverine
  • tickles
  • drawing
  • my brother
  • Angry birds x2
  • Buzz Lightyear
  • colouring
  • elephants
  • my friend
  • to sing songs
  • hats
Last week in Kids Club we made self-portraits! Below each we included a box where the kids could practice writing or identifying the letters in their name and then pick one thing that they like. For the kiddos who have stronger language skills we were able to ask them "What do you like?" or "What do you like to play with?" and for the kiddos who aren't quite there yet we had the staff identify one highly preferred thing. The kids got to reflect on their physical appearance by selecting hair and skin colour and then adding on eyes, nose, and a mouth. Most of our faces came out happy, a couple were undecided or sad, but all of them were beautiful!

This week we are making collage faces that show different emotions. We have prepped eyes, noses, and mouths for happy, sad, mad, and surprised faces. The kids get to build each face and practice making expressions themselves while they glue and piece together the pictures.

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Pink and Purple Play-doh

We have started working on incorporating Animated Literacy into our days at STA. Every two weeks we will introduce a new letter and focus on activities that promote exposure to that letter.
Currently we are playing with the letter P. Today we used pink and purple Play-doh to talk about "P" and the sound it makes and words that start with it. We passed out Play-doh, picked a colour, and started to play. We used our fingers to poke and pinch it. Then pulled, pushed, pressed, and patted it and finally put it back in the pots.

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

November Obstacle Course

Our big gym has received a make-over too! Thanks to our amazing Occupational Therapy team we have a fun new obstacle course to play on.

Our obstacle course continues with the All About Me theme and targets body awareness in general. The different areas work on building strength, coordination, and balance in a fun and engaging way for the kids.

Start off by balancing on stepping stones...

Then climb the gym mats and jump into a crash mat...

Next is more climbing and then rolling down a ramp...

Jump up and high five the wall!

Balance on this curvy balance beam...

Crawl or walk through the rainbow tunnel...

Then finish it off with some throwing practice, try to hit the bad piggy from Angry Birds.

As always, our gym activities allow us to target more than just motor skills. There are lots of opportunities to talk about different colours or practice counting and we encourage the use of action words (run, jump, walk, hop, step, roll, throw, crawl, etc.) to help develop vocabulary and an ability to follow directions.

Monday, 4 November 2013

All About Me!

Our November theme is All About Me!

This month our classrooms will focus on activities, games, toys, and lessons that teach the kids what makes each of them special and unique. We are starting out by talking about body parts and identifying personal characteristics but will also explore concepts of preferences and activities and even differences in each of our families. Over the next month we hope to help our kiddos learn how to identify all of what makes them so special.

We have changed over the toys and added some fun new activities to help explore the new theme.

Our sensory table is full of beads of all shapes, colours, and sizes. Our kiddos can search for a tiny person that shares their hair colour, the first letter of their name, or a handful of beads that they find appealing.

We have a self-portrait studio where the kids can use a mirror to examine their features and then re-create what they see on the artist's easel.

Our imaginary play area has been turned into a dentist/doctor's office where we can learn about health and self-care.

And we have doll's and houses galore for the kids to explore different roles (mom, dad, baby, etc.) and play.

It's going to be a fun month learning all about ourselves!

Friday, 1 November 2013


Theme rotation is happening downstairs today. Come Monday, we will have a brand new November theme to play with and explore.
Our number board is complete for this month though. So today, we introduce you to the number 3.

The concept behind the number board is all about exposure to a new number each month. We try to represent the number in all the ways that our kids may come across it in their daily play or school activities.  This board will (hopefully!) target all the levels that our kiddos are currently at with their numeracy skills. Some of them will be extremely adept and will benefit from the addition in the upper left corner while others will be working at identifying their numbers and can see the big yellow 3 and pair it with the hand showing three on the opposite side. We have a couple that might be able to read "t-h-r-e-e" and a lot that are practicing counting using one to one correspondence so they will benefit from elephants, base ten cubes, and tallies.

The board is just a visual exposure that our staff can use to spark a conversation about the number. When we pair it with songs like Three Blind Mice, or stories like The Three Little Pigs, we can allow out kids to learn through multi-sensory play and interaction. This will help them establish a greater understanding and stronger meaning of their numbers.

How many ways can you think of representing the number 3?