Aldersgate Preschool

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Make this Christmas Season Meaningful

I usually write a post about toy options we suggest for your kids for Christmas.  I looked back at some of my old ones and to be honest, I think those posts cover the options really well.  You can find those options HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE and HERETHIS ONE is specific to books we like as gift options.

Instead, today I will write a little about traditions that would enrich young children’s (and your family’s) lives as we look forward to Jesus’ birthday.

Advent Calendar

The last couple of years I have prepared an advent calendar of activities for my grandkids.  (This might be a great suggestion to your kid’s grandparents as it does take a little preparation.)  I try to include activities that are very quick, days that give little treats, activities that encourage active play, activities that include art and finally activities that point to the true meaning of Christmas – Jesus birth!

I am including PDFs of the list of ideas I created to print for their calendar.  Feel free to click on them to download them for  your use if you like.  Just an FYI, they are not in date order.

advent activities_        advent activities year 2

I also found this kindness activity list.  Just double click on the image and you can download it.

(Unfortunately I’m not sure of my source for this.  If anyone knows, please contact me so I can add it to this post.)

Light a candle at dinner time each night. 

Have each person take a turn sharing something about them: favorite thing to play, something good they did that day, something they would wish for, say something they love about the other people at the table, sing a favorite song (or sing different Christmas songs – by the way, our songs we are learning at school will soon be on our website for your listening enjoyment.  :), list people you love, a favorite memory, . . .

Read a Christmas book

This is something you could make a special time for each evening.  Some of our favorites that focus on the story of Jesus’ birth include:

Christmas in the Barn  by Margaret Wise Brown

The Donkey’s Christmas Song  by Nancy Tafuri

The First Night  by B.G. Hennessy

The Friendly Beast  an Old English Christmas Carol, illustrated by Anna Vojtech

Mouse’s First Christmas  by Lauren Thompson

The Nativity  illustrated by Julie Vivas

The Pinetree Parable  by Liz Curtis Higgs

The Stable Where Jesus Was Born  by Rhonda Gowler Greene

That Special Starry Night  by Jeff Carnehl

Who is Coming to Our House?  by Joseph Slate, Ashley Wolff

Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star  pictures by Lesley Harker

The Giving Manger

This is an advent kit you can purchase.  I’ve seen it advertised many different places this year.  I love the idea of it.  You put the empty wooden manger in a visible spot in your home.  Through Advent you fill the manger with hay (placed with every act of service someone does) and finally you add baby Jesus on Christmas day.  You can read more about it on their blog HERE.   The menu bar will also take you to where you can order the set if you would like.

Celebrate with a pretty table

Your kids can take turns setting the table with whatever they decide makes it feel festive.  Perhaps old birthday napkins, home-made napkin holders (just cut up a paper town tube and let the kids either draw on it or apply stickers), special dishes, . . .

Christmas Blessings to those we love

Each night (or once a week), call someone you love and have the whole family sing them a song.

Connect through KindCraft

This local group has ongoing project of service for others.  They have a facebook group that you can find HERE.  This is how they describe themselves on the group page:  We have a heart for serving our community with our families. Our goal is to provide families with opportunities to serve once a month. We believe it is so important to teach our kids about compassion, empathy, & the importance of making a difference for someone else.

Hide Baby Jesus

Yes, I really suggested you hide Baby Jesus.  I started this one day (a long time ago), just as a joke with my kids.  I took the baby Jesus from our Nativity set and hid it in a little artificial tree that was nearby.  This then lead to a pretty consistent thing we did for the following years.  I liked to compare the kids to the Wisemen as they were searching for the Messiah – baby Jesus.

Blessing Jar

Thirty Handmade Days, a blog written by Mique, focuses on craft projects.  Don’t worry though, you don’t have to be too crafty for the blessing jar.  Mique suggest putting toungue depressors with things we are blessed with into a jar.  Each day you pull out a stick and then count how many of those things you have in your house.  You can read more about it HERE.

Here is a beautiful video about all the blessings we have in our everyday lives.

Okay, so that is a lot of ideas.  Some are very simple and others are more complex.  Honestly, you can do none of these and still take moments to remember to true reason for the season.   I don’t write this to put more pressure on you in this already busy time.  It’s just about taking time to pause amidst the hub bub of the holiday and be mindful of the gift of Jesus and our many blessings.

I wish each of you a joy-filled Advent season and a beautiful Christmas.

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Kindness is contagious!

Isn’t it amazing how just taking time to focus on something seems to manifest even more of that.  That is how I feel about our Kindness Campaign.  It is amazing how often I see children do kind things or hear a teacher talking about a kind action.


Our teachers are sharing the kindness strips that our families send in during their circle time.  The children just BEAM when their kind deed is announced.


Again, I LOVE IT!

Our kindness chain is sure growing!


Perhaps this focus has even helped you become more aware of kind actions all around you.  I sure hope so.

One little guy make cookies and took them to the Police Station to thank them for keeping us safe.

Today I noticed a little guy in the Blue class giving a thumbs up to his friends as they were performing a play of The Three Little Pigs.  I know that made them feel great.  He got to add a link to our chain.

I’d love to see any of the kindness activities your buddies are encouraging the children to do.  Please drop us an email or add it as a comment to this blog post.

As another way to carry the kindness focus into the homes you may want to pick up a couple of books about kindness from the library.  I found this wonderful blog post about books that encourage kindness.   HERE   I hope you enjoy some from it.


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New Year’s Resolution – taking a cue from our toddlers

My niece posted on Facebook about her New Year’s resolution.  She was taking a cue from her toddler.  I loved the idea.  There are so many things we can learn from our little ones.  Here are her ideas.

This year, perhaps we should all strive to . . .








(I love how honest and up-front children are with what they need or want. Couldn’t we all learn something from that. For this post, though, I am going to interpret this as a child being intent on what he is doing. I love watching a child “struggle” to figure something out.)





(While we see the need for this it’s not a part of our day we take pictures of.  Somehow I am sure you can visualize this without a photo.) 


(I added this one.  We do this a lot around here.)

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We’ve received so much!

At this season of gifts concludes, I am reminded of so many ways our preschool is blessed.  This school year is no exception.  We have truly received some wonderful gifts.

Early this fall Marcus Nameth (Ms. Robyn’s son) gifted us with two amazing magnet ball walls.  He made this for his final Eagle Scout project.  I know he spent hours researching the best balls, glue, etc. to make the project most successful.  And it is!  The kids on both playgrounds enjoy discovering how the balls will move through the pipe tracks, dependent on the way the tracks are positioned.  What a wonderfully thought provoking play experience.  Plus, they have fun too!  We are so grateful that Marcus chose us as his Eagle Scout recipient.  Thank you Marcus!


Yesterday our teachers got to have some great fun.  We visited Lakeshore Learning, an educational children’s toy store that you can find out about HERE, for a teacher training.  Then they “worked” hard playing “Santa” for our school.  Actually, they had a blast choosing just the right things that will fill a need we have.   It was also interesting to find out which of our staff members are good at math and could figure out how to make the most of our money with the coupon discount they were offering that day.  I just stood back and watched them getting so excited about it all.

All this is possible because of YOU!  We used fund raising money to make these purchases.  So, thank you!

And finally as we prepare to leave for our Christmas break I cannot help but think about the greatest gift we’ve ever received.  God chose to become human.  He chose to humble himself to our limitations so that he could give us the gift of salvation.  That sweet baby in a manger is truly our King.  I pray each of you feel surrounded by the love of Christ as you celebrate this Christmas!

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Find Rudy (Inspired by the Find Momo books)

{I wrote this during the last couple of weeks of school but never posted it. I hope you enjoy it t

This past Christmas my husband and I got a new puppy.  His name is Rudy.


He is a king Charles cavalier spaniel and poodle mix, a cavapoo.  While he can be ornery as all get-out, he is smart.  He learned very quickly to sit and stay.

I promise this will relate to preschool soon.

Also, at our house we love the Find Momo books by Andrew Knapp.


Since our grandchildren call my husband Momo, these books caught my eye at Half Price Book Store. Andrew and his border collie dog Momo travel all over and take amazing photos with Momo “hiding” somewhere in the photo.  Here are a couple samples of his work.


Do you see him hiding in the bottom right corner?


Did you find Momo in this one?  Look under the guardrail.

As you can see, he takes beautiful photos.  (Sorry, the quality here isn’t as good as his originals.)

Here is a link to his website.

Anyway, with Rudy’s ability to sit and stay, my grand kids and I decided to use Andrew’s photos as inspiration and make some of our own “Find Rudy” photos.  Here is one of our first efforts.


Some days I surprise my grand kids by texting a new “Find Rudy” photo to them.  This was one they liked.


As you can see, my photos don’t rival Andrew’s but we are having fun.  My friends on Facebook also seem to be enjoying them.

Here comes the preschool tie-in.

These past two weeks Rudy has joined us at preschool.  The Blue and Purple classes have pet visits.  These pet visits provide a great chance for us to connect even more as a school family as we meet animal family members, to learn about some pets, to practice speaking in front of others and probably most importantly, and to practice asking questions for new information.  I was happy to have Rudy visit with each of these classes.


On the days he was here, he joined me in greeting the children.  He gave them high-fives as they arrived.  Rudy would have loved to jump all over the children and lick their faces but even Rudy has to learn about personal space and school appropriate behaviors.


Giving high-fives was still a lot of fun.  While he was here I took some time for a couple of “Find Rudy” photos at preschool.

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We even took a “Find Rudy” picture with one of the classes.


With technology, these kinds of things become even easier.  Is there something you could start taking photos of using your phone?   Perhaps you can do a Letter Hunt – (i.e. capture the M for McDonalds.)  Do you have collections of things you could take photos of and then create an I Spy book?  You could go to an area like downtown and take photos of interesting architecture you see.  (perhaps you could even find shapes or letters in the spaces.)

A friend mentioned Chatbooks as a fun app for quickly organizing and ordering phone photos as small books.  I haven’t tried it yet but plan to do that with my Rudy pictures.


What a fun way to be creative with our kids (or grand kids!)  We would love to see what you come up with!


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Thankful for families, Thankful for play

Think back to your favorite times with your extended family as a child.  I’m sure you remember food.  Somehow that is always an important part of our gatherings.  My guess, though, is that you remember playing next.  Playing with your cousins and hopefully playing with grandparents, aunts, uncles, mom and dad.

I went around the classrooms today to snap photos of their Thanksgiving activities.  The first two classes I visited (Blue and Red) were busy playing group games.  At first I thought, hmmm, I’m surprised they aren’t doing something more “theme” oriented to Thanksgiving. Then, I got to thinking that this game play is often times at the core of our Thanksgiving experiences.  We play together.




Our younger classes were busy playing as well with blocks, play dough, dolls, balls made from scarves . . . . and more!  What I loved most was that many times I saw adults playing with the children.


By the books we read today were about giving thanks.   My heart fills with gratitude and thanks for each of you, our families.  I pray you have a wonderful Thanksgiving and that you get a chance to play!




Honoring Jennie Nichols with a new award for our staff

Many of you generously donated toward our end of the year DVDs last year knowing that the funds we raised were going to the Nichols family to help with Jennie’s medical expenses.  I am sad to say that Jennie died on June 20th.  Jennie was 14 years old.


Jennie Nichols attended Aldersgate during her toddler and preschool years (as did her brother Graham.) Her mom, Kelly Nichols, was on our preschool board.  The family also attended Aldersgate United Methodist Church.  Jennie battled osteosarcoma for two years.  For those of us that knew Jennie we were sure she would win the fight against one of the most deadly childhood cancers.  She was that tough. She was that strong.  Physical and emotional strength, however, was not enough to beat bone cancer this time.

Many of us followed Jennie’s journey through her facebook page.  One of the most poignant moments was when Jennie stated that she now understood a quote that hadn’t made sense to her before.


(link to site by clicking photo)

And Jennie danced!  She let us all join in her hard journey while making us laugh with her wit.  She even named her IV pole and gave it a personality.  Jennie is a true inspiration for me as I face different hardships.  I wish I had her wit.  I wish I had her determination.

After Jennie’s death, Kelly received a gift of several yellow umbrellas with Jennie’s name surrounded by a heart printed on it.  She gave some to us at preschool.  We are putting them to good use.

We have established the Jennie Nichols “Dancing in the Rain” award.  Each year we will be honoring a staff member that most embodies this spirit.  Here is the certificate they will receive.

Jennie Nichols dancing in the rain award

I was happy to present this award to Michelle Loe at our last staff meeting.  As many of you know Michelle gives of herself so easily.  She loves and welcomes everyone she meets.  Michelle loves every child (and adult) unconditionally.  Michelle is always the first person to reach out in support when one of our staff members has a burden in their own lives. A few years ago I personally received her loving care and attention as she cooked meals that would fit a specific diet I needed to follow in preparation for my thyroid cancer treatment.  This is just one example of how Michelle reaches out.  Michelle is also affectionately known as the “mom” of our staff.  She does many of the drudgery jobs (shopping, dishes, laundry, etc.) that help our preschool run without a hitch.  She does all this with a smile!  Michelle is a shining example of what this award represents.  I know she doesn’t like the limelight but be sure to say something to Ms. Michelle next time you see her.  She deserves this recognition along with the small gift of thanks that accompanied it.


One final note about Jennie’s story.  The Nichols were blessed to be able to pay all their medical bills and still have some additional funds left in their medical account.  Recently they used the funds to make a payment toward the Zach Sobiech cancer research fund that supports research specifically for osteosarcoma.  Their gift helped the fund reach their $1,000,000 goal.  How cool is that!  Here is a wonderful article about the payment reaching the goal and more about this effort.


It is especially fitting that all this is happening this month.  In case you didn’t already know, September is Childhood Cancer Awareness month.

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Love Letters – What I love

love letters

I hope you have enjoyed our focus on literacy throughout the month of February.  Tonight I am going to cheat a little and not actually hand write this – and I’m going to write one more Love Letters even though February is technically over.   As I have prepared our different “Love Letters” posts I have pondered how I might respond to the question “What do you love?”  Here’s just a sampling of my list:

I love

to hear children happily engaged in play

to watch a teacher bend low bringing two children together to talk about how they feel and how to share those emotions in a positive way

to taste our yummy snacks (please don’t tell Ms. Donna that I sneak one now and then)

to tell silly stories about things that happen at preschool like the little girl describing the block area this way, “Well, there’s 100 pounds of messy back there.”

I love

to reminisce about when my own children were preschool age (believe it or not these days will pass much quicker than you can imagine)

to delve into discussions with the staff about how or why we do things the way we do and possibly should we be thinking about a new idea someone read about

to be spontaneous and silly with the kids (amazingly they even think I am funny)

to watch a child work hard at a task – often with the tongue held just so

to tell a story with children that you know has 100% of the time captivated children in the past – stories like Pete the Cat -I love my White Shoes, Three Little Kittens, Caps for Sale, Wide Mouth Bullfrog . . .

I love

to hear from families about their children “playing” their guitars (or “bittars” as one little guy always called his) and singing at home

to watch 3, 4 or 5 year-old children wait for a friend at curbside arrival and then walk in together chatting just like they will when they are in high school

to hear the giggles

to listen to large motor in the hallway as the children say things like “Wow, he is a good lava walker.”

to take those much needed breaks – I hope everyone finds their own way to take a breather when you need one

to know after a conversation with a teacher that we truly are always looking out for what will best serve each child

I love

to talk to my grown children and know I took time to play and talk and listen and realize they know I now value their input and relationship

to know that our staff have things covered when I’m not quite up to par and need to come in to work a little late – and they cover my curbside duties whenever I ask

to laugh and play with my co-workers – I was so bummed to have to miss our staff “Christmas” party we just had in February – I know there were lots of laughs

to see a “lightbulb” moment when a child has a new understanding of an idea or concept

to connect with parents and families in a way that builds a loving, fun community and to watch families build lasting friendships

to have deep conversations about God and Jesus with an ever inquisitive young child, “Do you think God has eyeballs?”

I love

to listen, to  laugh and to sing

to play, to learn and to grow

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My Christmas List – batteries not included

We are making lists.  We are all searching for the perfect gift for everyone on our list.  We hope we can find toys for our kids that are exciting and fun!  We also hope we are giving them gifts that will sustain their interest, encourage creativity and cognitive thought, last as a go-to toy for years to come and so much more.  Personally, I also look for toys that don’t include batteries.  Toys that are child driven.

With tomorrow being Cyber Monday I wanted to share a few ideas that might just be on sale then.  Click on the photo for the link to one site where you can purchase the item.  You may want to shop around tomorrow to see if another site is offering it at a lower price.

Here’s a list of some that I would recommend.

For  toddlers:

I would definitely go with some of the standards:

41-E0O75V-L DOLLS (soft body and no noises)  This one is from Melissa and Doug.  I have found this company to carry very quality and interactive toys for all ages.

download                 STROLLERS & GROCERY CARTS  Little Tykes brand has held up well for us.

71XwJk7baGL._SL1500_     CARS (again, no noises and fewer moving parts)  These are sturdy and the kids will love pulling them back to watch them zoom forward.

71CntjHlE-L._SL1500_ BALL TOYS  I was surprised to see how many of these now have music and other sounds.  I would opt for a more basic option.


For building and construction play:

WOOD BLOCKS:  These would definitely be my top 10 list of toys for kids!


For those of you worried about how to store these, we keep them in an old suitcase that even looks nice in my livingroom.  Afraid your girls won’t like them?  Consider adding some furniture or characters.

furniture  furniture

dog dogs (they also have cats and other animals)

LEGOS/DUPLOS:  These have been around for years and there is a reason.  The larger Duplo blocks are great for the younger kids and the traditional Lego’s have infinite possibilities.  I’m excited to know Lego is introducing the new Lego Juniors sets.  These are offered in a variety of play scenarios:

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SQUIGZ:  I always try to include some things that are new.  There are always such neat new toys!  These look very interesting and have gotten great reviews.  (We don’t have these yet but you can be sure they are now on our preschool list for future purchases.)  This link is to the deluxe set (as with most things, I’m think you need enough to make the play really fun) but there is a starter kit as well as other extending sets such as Squigz Benders that look interesting.


Other building sets we enjoy are:  Magna Tiles,  WedgitsGears


For Arts/Crafts & Sensory Play:


MARKERS, CRAYONS, CHALK   We encourage the children to use pipsqueak sized items.  The shorter length encourages the children to hold the item closer to the writing area which applies the most successful amount of pressure.


Do-A-Dot Art Daubbers  Kids of all ages enjoy these – and they are very low mess.


PAINT, WATERCOLORS, FINGER PAINT  I know, it’s messy, but it is so worth the risk of a little spill.  Purchase several of those cheap vinyl table cloths to put under your child’s chair while he or she creates.  These are from Lakeshore Learning.  I like their items however we purchase most of our art supplies from DISCOUNT SCHOOL SUPPLY.


TAPE  I know it sounds so basic but tape can become lines, roads, decoration, letters . . .  It’s also good fine motor work to tear it & scissor work to cut. (This and similar rolls can be purchased at Target, Walmart, etc.)


COLLAGE MATERIALS  A collection of different papers, ribbons, buttons, pipe cleaners, rhinestones, google eyes, tongue depressors, and more can supply hours of fun!


KINECTIC SAND  This wonderful feeling sensory material molds well without being wet.  It never dries out.


For Dramatic Play


REAL WORKING CASH REGISTER   I think the name says it all for this one.


DOCTOR KIT    If you don’t already have one, you need this.


MAIL BOX  This was popular while it lasted at preschool.  Hopefully with less continuous use it would hold up to your children’s wear and tear.

For Playing Games

In addition to the traditional games such as Candyland and Hi Ho Cheerio we have a few we especially enjoy.


TEDDY MIX & MATCH  There are a variety of ways to adapt this game to various ages.  I began using these in play with my granddaughter when she was just two years old.  I will do a blog post soon with ways to adapt toys and games like this one.

download (2)

MAISY GAME  This game encourages children to find their different color items to fill their board.  We also play it a variety of ways.  Watch for that blog post soon.


OH RATS!  This is an old Discovery Toys game – it’s worth the hunt.  Every person has a puzzle with one piece of each color.  If your spinner lands on a color you have already filled you get to yell, “Oh rats!”  It helps a child handle the disappointment of not getting to fill another piece.


SPOT IT JR  I haven’t played this game but it seems like it would encourage visual discrimination at an appropriate level for young players.

While I was researching for this post I came across a couple of games I would heartily endorse for older kids.  I couldn’t resist including them.

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For Large Motor Play:


TUNNEL  This pop up tunnel is always a hit when we get it out at preschool.  It would be great on those long winter days.



TRAMPOLINE   While we don’t have this specific model, a trampoline that can be used indoors is a great way for children to continue building hose large motor muscles throughout the cold weather and all year long.



BILIBO  We don’t have these yet but they are on the list.  They look really interesting.  There is a video tab to see a whole host of uses for this unusual toy.


PLASMACAR  Again, we don’t have these …. YET.  It looks and sounds exciting.  There is a video you can watch to see it in action.  (UPDATED:  We had a few families try this and unfortunately it didn’t seem to work as well as we hoped for our preschool aged children.  It seems this would be best suited for early elementary aged kids.)

Hopefully you’ve gotten a couple of ideas from this post.  Happy Shopping!