Aldersgate Preschool

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Using Dice with Preschoolers

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While walking through a classroom I noticed children playing a game with dice and pompoms.  I loved that the kids were practicing lots of one-to-one counting as well as writing numerals and using their pincer grasp.  This non-competitive game provided lots of learning opportunities while reinforcing concepts surrounding the fall season.

I thought I’d share some additional fun ways to use dice with young children.

(Click on the photos for a link to the websites.)


Oriental Trading offers these larger foam dice.  The larger size allows children to touch and count the dots with greater ease.


At Stir the Wonder blog there is information about this very toddler appropriate first experience with dice.  I love that the children are physically manipulating the blocks as you count the number you are adding.  How tall can you build?  This could be played with any kind of stacking blocks as well.

You can also extend this idea to more physical activities.  Jump, clap or hop the number the die shows.  Run as long as it takes for someone to count to the number on the die.  Drop pompoms or balls into a basket or through a paper towel tube to correspond with the number on the die, etc.


The Measured Mom blog offers this game page free.  Matching the die face to the printed one is a good introduction.  You can count the dots as you are looking for matches.


One Perfect Day blog has an in-depth post that includes a variety of ways to practice a variety of math concepts using dice along with loose parts (small items like stones, pompoms, beads, etc).  I love the idea of children actually moving items to represent the same “picture” they see on the die.


Inspiration Made Simple blog has this fun game connecting dice to the parts of a robot.  There is a free download included in the post.

These ideas should provide many hours of good number fun.  Keep on rolling!


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Board Games…. Not Boring at all!

With this heat I thought you might all enjoy reading this post our previous Assistant Director, Shelly, posted back in 2012.  Have fun playing some board games!!!


Earlier this week, I spent some time watching our Blue a.m. class kids as they played some simple games: Zingo, Memory, and Avalanche.  It was fun to watch them and see how much fun they were having!  It caused me to wonder, how often do we enjoy board games with our own children at home?

There are so many benefits to playing games:

* social emotional: Children need to learn about winning and losing.  Sometimes we win and sometimes we lose and that’s okay.  Losing can be tough but it’s a great lesson!

Games also allow us the opportunity to learn about taking turns.  We practice patience and qualities involved in sharing when we do this.  We also learn about cooperative play… so important in life!

* fine motor: Strengthening our hand muscles, eye/hand coordination, and isolating our fingers are all important in getting us ready to properly hold and use writing utensils and scissors.

*cognitive skills: Recognizing the amount of dots on a die, one to one counting as they move a game piece across the board, learning to recognize numbers, colors, shapes, are all great practice.  It’s pretty neat, too, to see how children learn to “strategize” from a very young age.  Games also teach about the scientific concept of cause and effect: if you do this, then this will happen.

Some of our favorite games up here at the preschool are:

*Zingo                         *Avalanch Fruit Stand                   *Hi-Ho Cherry-O

*Operation                 *Candy Land                                    *Chutes and Ladders

*Bingo                         *Memory

There are lots and lots of other great games out there.  While places like Toys R Us and Target are good places to find games, I encourage you to also check out these great sites and stores:

As we hear so often, “the best thing you can do for your children is read to them,” I feel just as strongly about playing games.  When you are reading to them, you are connecting with them and spending quality time together.  The same is so true about playing games.  Games are a great way to bring families together!


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Summer is coming!

With summer quickly approaching many of us (grandparents included) are racking our brains for ideas of things to do.

Do you remember the simple things you did as a child?  I certainly do.  It was always great to have some easy go-to activities that didn’t require much set up.  Here is a list of some of those with a few more in-depth fun ideas as well.

  • Bug hunt – check under rocks and logs
  • Look for pictures in the clouds
  • Play with shaving cream
  • Play on the preschool playground
  • catapults-to-make-with-kids Make catapults
  • Make a wish on a dandelion
  • Necklace of clover  – just tie stem around the head of the next one and continue on until you have the length you want
  • Car trails and tracks in the dirt
  • Chalk on the sidewalk or on the wood fence
  • 0233153f46ad73ee4d1d9e17110af105 Make a bubble station
  • I spy
  • Follow the leader
  • Write letters in the dirt
  • Squirt guns
  • Blanket fort – inside or out
  • Watercolor painting outside
  • Collect rocks
  • rocket  Make paper and straw rockets
  • Animal hunt – hide plastic or stuffed animals around the yard
  • Sun bleach prints – lay objects on a colored paper and check it later to see if the sun has faded the parts not covered
  • Water play in tubs – paint brushes, dish soap bubbles in tubs, bike or trike wash, baby bath, wash plastic toys, plastic tarp and water for a slip and slide, turkey baster and other kitchen gadget play, wood or Styrofoam pieces for boats, lego boats, spray bottles and/or sponges (yes, this means the players will also most likely get wet), add some ice cubes (colored ones are even better)
  • Make sand or mud pies
  • a2e9c00e2fe7858ec38299624eaa2a15 Make wood roads and ramps
  • Make paper airplanes
  • Play hide and seek
  • Make up “knock knock” jokes
  • Sand tunnels for matchbox cars
  • Read books in the shade of a tree
  • Create an obstacle course
  • Water-Painting-Writing-Practice-for-Kids Chalk and water painting letters
  • Play tic tac toe with nature items
  • Catch fire flies
  • Sprinkler fun – try dancing through it, jumping, crawling under the spray . . .
  • Visit all the parks within 5 miles of your home
  • Paint rocks or sticks
  • Play in the rain – it’s a GREAT time to let the kids enjoy some puddle jumping!
  • Have some fun!!!!



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Launch Boards are fun!

Launch boards are a lot of fun!  Kids of all ages enjoy them and they will use them over and over.

We are including these in our fall fundraiser.  Your purchase includes one launch board and a small bean bag.  Don’t feel limited to only launching bean bags.  Balls of all types are fun.  Scarves, stuffed animals  . . .  all offer a variety to the fun.  Hmmm, I wonder what would happen if you launched a roll of crepe paper?

Here is a short video showing two adorable guys playing with one.  As you can see, even the little guys will do this over and over!

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(click on the photo to go to the video)

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Welcome to a great year!


What fun.  We are having a great second full week!  As I walk through all the classes I’m already seeing so much interaction, learning, possibility . . .   I snapped a few photos on my phone to share with you – can you believe all the cameras are in use in the classrooms as the teachers take photos to share with you throughout the year!  Here is just a sampling of what I saw.

(By the way, you are welcome to stop in and get a photo of your child in front of our chalkboard door in the office if you would like. )


As children learn to trust others outside their family circle, the build confidence in themselves.  Trust is the foundation of all meaningful relationships.  Also, through these positive experiences children learn to be more open to exploration and new experiences in the future.


Safety and self-help:

It’s the little things that add up to a safe space.  As children learn our routines it creates a safer environment for them.  Our staff are always vigilant but giving the children (even young ones) the skills that create a safe transition, etc. is so very helpful.  We have our Discovery Days and Preschool Lite kids “put their bottoms on the wall” as their way to line up.  This is a concrete direction for them so it is easier to follow.  This might be a great safety strategy for you in public as well.  “Put your bottom on the car while I get the stroller out.”


Movement (and fun!)

What?  They play with balloons at school?  That’s not learning???  Yes, actually, watching a balloon as it moves through the air is great eye-tracking practice and that’s important for reading.  Also, experiences that encourage children to twist, stretch their necks up, turn upside down, jump, etc. all support the rapid vestibular input to their brain.  Here’s a wonderful article about the importance of this.


Sensory and art:

Art is just one area in which children can use their creativity.  An article I read recently on the blog Inquire Within related creativity to innovation in this way:

  • Imagination – the power to bring to mind things that aren’t here in the present.
  • Creativity – applied imagination.  The process of putting your imagination to work and having original ideas that have value.
  • Innovation – putting original ideas into practice.

This makes us realize how important it is to nurture the creativity in our children.

Stimulating the senses sends signals to children’s brains that help to strengthen neural pathways  important to all types of learning.  And, those scooper tools are just cool and fun to use (they also provide great fine motor coordination practice.)


Reading, reading, reading:

I can’t say enough how important the exposure to books is for young children.  It is by far the most significant support toward helping children grow into successful readers.  Independent reading and being read to everyday are both incredibly valuable!


Hands on learning:

How much more impactful is the number and measure of 30 gallons of water (which happens to be how much an elephant drinks in a day) when you are hauling, pouring, matching, watching . . .  These experiences will be in these kids brains for future scaffolding once they are introduced to volume and other math terms and concepts.  By the way, the kids also saw how much water they should drink in a day.  It was much less than an elephant (1.5 liters) but still more than probably most get – isn’t that true for so many of us.


Yes, it really is going to be a GREAT YEAR at Aldersgate Preschool!


“Natural” Play!

“Look, there is a pumpkin growing!”  “Where, Where?”

Last week your kids excited explored the volunteer vines that have graced our playground.  In the fall last year we brought in some of the left over pumpkins and gourds for the kids to play with on the playground.  As they “got squishy” we threw them into a blank space in the mulch.  Happily, they sprouted into vines this spring and now we are seeing their fruit.  The kids are exploring the natural process and having great discussions.  There was great debate over what had caused the broken, somewhat chewed off, section on one gourd in particular.

I took great pleasure watching them explore.  I also enjoyed the struggle two boys were having as they moved all the heavy stuff: tires, boards, orange cones.  I’m not exactly sure what the plan was or why they needed to do this but, they did.  Their concentration was natural.   Their excitement over a completed task was heart-felt!

I recently came across an intriguing video that has stayed with me – it’s actually a commercial.  Nature Valley filmed several generations from a couple of families as they talked about how they played.  What they did.  How their days were filled.  What brought joy to their childhood.

How would you answer the question, “What did you play when you were a child?”  I wonder, are your kids getting the chance to experience some of those same kinds of play experiences?

While I know this video shows children older than our kids ages, perhaps you can use this as motivation as you make choices:  choices for your child as he or she grows, choices about play, choices about time spent, choices about your family values. I hope you will take a few minutes to watch this.Untitled-1



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Loose Parts Play – It’s easy and it’s valuable

I recently enjoyed a blog post from  that talks about loose parts play.  What in the world is that?  Basically it involves letting the kids play with “stuff.”  While this article is written with the Early Childhood educator in mind, I hope you will take a few minutes to read about this basic and easily provided play experience.  After all, you are a child’s first and best teacher!  Summer play (both inside and outside) would be a great time to incorporate some loose parts.

Loose Play: Inspiring Play in Young Children

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We have often marveled at the long hours children can spend playing with simple materials like boxes, rocks, shells, sand, or water. Our observations have led us to question the conventional wisdom of providing children with sophisticated toys. As you’ve probably noted yourself, children are often more interested in the packaging than in the toys themselves.

Children usually prefer play that stimulates their curiosity and gives free reign to their imaginations and creativity. We believe that one of the best ways to enhance their natural curiosity is to introduce a wide variety of the materials we call “loose parts” into their play settings.

What Are Loose Parts?

In early childhood education settings, loose parts mean alluring, beautiful, found objects and materials that children can move, manipulate, control, and change while they play. Children can carry, combine, redesign, line up, take apart, and put loose parts back together in almost endless ways. The materials come with no specific set of directions, and they can be used alone or combined with other materials. Children can turn them into whatever they desire: a stone can become a character in a story; an acorn can become an ingredient in an imaginary soup. These objects invite conversations and interactions, and they encourage collaboration and cooperation. Put another way, loose parts promote social competence because they support creativity and innovation. All of these are highly valued skills in adult life today.

Loose parts possess infinite play possibilities. They offer multiple rather than single outcomes: no specific set of directions accompanies them; no single result is inevitable. Unlike a jigsaw puzzle, whose pieces are meant to be fitted together in a specific way to make a single picture, loose parts can be joined in many ways. A scarf, for example, can become a blanket to swaddle a baby, a platform for a picnic, a fishing pond, a cover for a fort, or a veil covering the face of a bride.


Origin of Loose Parts

Children for generations have used found materials in their play from rocks and sticks to tin cans and wire. In his article “How NOT to Cheat Children: the Theory of Loose Parts,” the British architect Simon Nicholson coined the term “loose parts” to describe open-ended materials that can be used and manipulated in many ways (1971). Nicholson saw people of every age as potentially creative. Environments, he believed, offer many ways for children to interact with variables such as gravity, sounds, chemical reactions, concepts, words, and people. For Nicholson, the richness of an environment depended on the opportunities it provided for making connections. “In any environment,” he writes, “both the degree of inventiveness and creativity, and the possibility of discovery, are directly proportional to the number and kind of variables in it” (30). Take, for example, a beach: it is filled with loose parts—rocks, shells, beach glass, plants, feathers. When children play in such a setting, they can move around, making use of any or all of the found objects, devising spaces and structures that can entertain them for hours. This isn’t only fun but it also helps them develop higher levels of critical thinking and creativity.

When an environment is rich in loose parts, children are likely to discover multiple ways to manipulate them and new ways of thinking or processing the knowledge learned by playing with the materials.Children can use flat tree cookies to serve as a sturdy base for a tall tower, stepping stones to lead them safely across an imaginary river filled with hungry alligators, a steering wheel for their race car, or a lily pad to shelter frogs. They become more creative and flexible in their thinking while satisfying their ever-growing curiosity and love for learning.


The Value of Loose Parts

Children prefer loose parts. Anyone who has watched children play with toys or playground equipment knows that they quickly tire of things with a sole purpose. Once they’ve mastered the key function of an object—pushing the button to make a figure pop up or climbing a ladder, for example—they are ready to move on. The intrigue and the challenge are gone. In other words, children make their play choices based on how much variability those materials offer. A stick is a richer choice than a slide because it can become a fishing pole, a spoon for stirring a concoction, a magic wand, or a balance beam for snails. Loose parts offer almost numberless variables, prompting children to create their own stories.

With so many materials available for ECE classrooms, you need to make choices that maximize children’s development and make sense financially. Today, teachers are often expected to provide classroom materials out of their own pockets. Happily, loose parts can often be had for free, and they offer a bonus: they encourage you, and the children’s parents, to reuse, renew, and recycle. Write a note to the children’s families asking them to collect potentially rich materials around their homes to add to the classroom. Provide a list of suggested items (small boxes, jar lids, buttons, fabric). Also, post your list in the classroom or distribute it at school events.

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 Loose Parts Support the Curriculum

Loose parts offer many possibilities for open-ended learning. Especially in ECE programs where standards and ditto sheets are threatening to take over, advocate for loose parts as they support the acquisition of skills that children are required to demonstrate when they enter kindergarten.


Children acquire their first math skills and numerical concepts when they manipulate small loose parts, like blocks and bottle caps, by sorting and classifying, and combining and separating them. They learn one-to-one correspondence when they make connections among loose parts. Once they begin integrating loose parts into their games, you commonly hear them start to count and see them arranging the parts in specific sequences, patterns, and categories by color, type, number, and class. Loose parts lend themselves to classification. The concept of measurement becomes clear when children play with tools like cups, sticks, funnels, and sifters. Measurement, equivalency, balance, spatial awareness, conservation, and logical classification are precursors to higher mathematical skills that loose parts readily support.

Physical Science

Loose parts help children investigate and actively construct ideas and explanations about physical properties of the nonliving world. Children gain deeper knowledge of how things work when they can experiment with stacking boxes, tubes, and bottles. They can also test multiple hypotheses involving gravity, force, weight, distance, and height with these materials. Children learn that things move in many various ways (motion) through playing with loose parts that can be pulled and pushed to start, stop, or change their movement. Wooden boards, gutters, and balls help them investigate inclines and gravity. Prisms and open-ended materials that are transparent, translucent, or opaque on a light table or overhead projector help children experiment with color, shadows, and reflected or refracted light.

Language and Literacy

Loose parts promote language development when children use them as props to engage in rich conversations and storytelling with peers and adults. Describing the items they manipulate, children can test new, complex words and engage in productive arguments that increase their critical-thinking skills. They make connections between loose parts, the books they have read, and the stories they have heard. They use loose parts to plan and draw their ideas and interactions. Ample, continuous use of loose parts helps children improve their memories, vocabularies, and literacy.


Children often express their ideas and feelings through art. An open art studio offers them tools and materials for telling their stories. Adding loose parts to the art area can enhance their creativity and help them extend their ideas and questions. When loose parts are added to your art center, they offer children invitations to draw, sculpt, collage, explore, and extend their ideas. Such opportunities shouldn’t be confined to the art area though. Fill your indoor and outdoor settings with open-ended resources to encourage creative expression everywhere. Children’s sense of beauty can be as easily seen in their arrangements of sticks lined up side by side, wooden planks propped symmetrically against a lodge, rock mosaics laid in sand, and pinecones arranged in spirals.

Movement and Music

Music and movement captures children’s attention and hearts. Movement for children mostly takes place through self-directed, self-initiated play as they freely move their bodies. Movement possibilities with loose parts such as scarves, hoops, and ribbons are endless, and provide opportunity for children to improvise. Musical play often means hitting items as hard as possible to see how they sound, and loose parts offer almost limitless opportunities to explore sounds that can be exuberant, random, noisy, and chaotic or quiet, gentle, and focused. Almost all children will naturally have the ability to interact with music.

We hope that you are inspired by this book to add more loose parts to children’s play. When you provide loose parts and have an open mind about how they may be used, the children will surprise and delight you with what they create and learn.

This article is excerpted from Chapter 1: Daly, Lisa, and Miriam Beloglovsky. 2015. Loose Parts: Inspiring Play in Young Children. Minnesota: Redleaf Press.

Read the book!