Monday, December 15, 2014

Christmas Sensory Bin

I was told, and I quote, 
"This is the BEST sensory bin we have EVER had! It's SO pretty, too!"

It's also been one of the most played. I have to take it away, because they will play with it for HOURS. Seriously, if left down, it would be played with by someone one for the entire day.

What's included:

  • OLD apple cinnamon potpourri, so the oils have faded and the scent is just a hint of its original
  • Pine cones
  • Cinnamon sticks
  • Jingle bells of multiple sizes and colors for sorting*
  • Plastic candy canes*
  • Red tinsel*
  • Green curled ribbon
  • Bell garland*
  • Ornament garland*
  • Styrofoam packing chunks
  • Fabric snowflakes*
  • Chunk of fake pine garland
  • Snowy pine tree minis*
*From the dollar store

I really wanted some real pine bough, but I could only find them for $25, so...NO.

Note that all of these children are around 3 or older. Several items would not be age appropriate for children who still put things in their mouths.

Of course the tinsel became a boa first off..

They've been playing with this for the last two weeks now, so it's showing it's wear today, but often all you see is the "pretty" pictures of sensory, not the activeness of the activity.

The fine motor work of making "snow" out of the Styrofoam was a lot of work and one of the better fine motor activities they have done. They are STILL working at it, two weeks later.

They love scooping and stacking the jingle bells, placing them in containers to jingle, and using the scoop for centrifugal jingly movement.

With the leavings from mass deconstruction, they decorate the mini trees for Christmas.

A LOT of sorting has been going on, and off course, play feeding me some jingle bell soup.

While we have our standard containers they play with, I love seeing how they improvise. The bells are mostly used as vessels that get filled then poured one into the other.

I was also served some jingle bell ice cream.

It may be a mess, but hey, that just shows how much brain building it's been accomplishing.

Sensory is WONDERFUL! 

Follow Connie -'s board Christmas Theme on Pinterest.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Child Care/Daycare Assessments

I've been asked to share my assessments and those that I use.

Assessments are snapshots of a child's current ability to perform a certain skill. This can show normal development, regression or advancement in the different areas.  It can also identify areas of concern or where additional support may be needed.

Providers see children for many hours every day, can compare them to current and former students, and see them in a variety of motor, cognitive and emotional/social situations. Often providers are the first to notice a potential developmental issue. Assessments give an additional, unbiased, tool in determining developmental growth.

Parents are often resistant to being told that there may be something wrong with their child, even if they feel in their gut that this is true. Please seek assistance in presenting concerns to them, and do so delicately and factually, without opinion or unprofessional diagnosis.

If not trained, then please do not rely on any informal assessment as an indicator of developmental concern. If you feel there is some indication that a child is delayed, then please provide the parents specific things you have observed and assessment results, and encourage them to ask their pediatrician and/or to take their child for professional assessment.

In the United States, developmental screenings are free through the school districts and if concerns are found, resources are made available for professional interventions.

These are the types of assessments I utilize and have included below:
  • Developmental Profiles
  • ASQ
  • Journal Assessment
  • Preschool Skill Assessment
  • Reading Assessments
  • Multiple Intelligence Assessment
  • Giftedness Assessment
  • Autism Assessment
  • Learning Styles Assessment
  • Personality Assessment
Since my formal education is in Human Resources, I have master's level classes behind me in creating, implementing and utilizing assessments. I'm sure that's why I have always used them since doing care. It was just something I KNEW to do.

HOWEVER, please keep in mind that every child is different, develops at a different rate, and has personality traits that drastically impact each one's progress. Additionally, children often take two steps forward, one step back, a cha-cha to the left, and a polka to the right as they meander or zip or leap along the path of development. That path, though, is linear. All children follow a very prescribed path of development. Only their steps along it vary.

Note as well, that a child's brain focuses on EITHER motor skills or language skills at any given time, and not both at once. For most children, it switches between the two skill sets regularly, so that their motor and language skills stay in relative sinc as they mature. Some children, though, may be so focused on one or the other that they become exceptional at motor skills and seem delayed in language, OR they become exceptional in language and seem delayed in motor skills.

When the brain is focusing on one area or the other, a child may seem to LOSE some of the other set of skills. For instance, they can stop speaking as well or as often when learning a new motor skill. Or, they can seem to become clumsy as they focus on new language skills. This is normal. As long as a child is noticeably progressing in one area or the other, there is usually no reason for concern in the pre-school years.


Developmental profiles specify the type of development that is usually observed in an average child at a specific age in the areas of motor, cognitive, language and social/emotional growth.

As I said, development is linear. Children normally progress at a very steady pace along the developmental path. That progress can be assessed through developmental profiles/checklists.

Mine are set up for 3 month, 6 month, 9 month and 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7 year evaluations. Since mine are a compilation taken directly from three texts, I can not publish them. However, there are others out there available for your use. 

While mine are much more in-depth than this one from Syracuse University, I think it is a WONDERFUL one for providers to use, especially since it is based in part upon ASQ and is relatively short and easy to complete.

If you would like to explore the subject more, and create more in-depth assessments like mine, this is the book that I own and would HIGHLY recommend. It is pricey, but you may be able to get your local library to purchase it for you to borrow.

Since this was a text book I had when I went back for some Early Childhood Education college credits, it's simply just what I have always used. I felt it was important that I make my own developmental assessments that went farther than age 5, since my students have historically had skills FAR beyond what was covered in a normal checklist. Hence the need for me to have profiles up to age 7.

My current pre-k students are 4-5 years old and are working at a 2nd grade level.  I've been able to track that advanced progress since they arrived as babies, noting skills they may be accomplishing one to two years ahead.

For instance, little Miss H just turned 3, but has been swinging independently on a swing for over 6 months. That is a developmental checklist item for age 5. By having all the developmental profiles/checklists, I can mark off that skill and the date at which I first observed it and the date when I viewed it as mastered.


Unlike the developmental profiles/checklists that you can use at any time and track progression over the years, the Ages & Stages Questionnaires are very simple, accurate professional assessment tools conducted at very specific ages. 

ASQ certification is being offered to child care providers through a very short training session. This is one of the assessments most often performed through the school districts and is offered by some pediatricians.

Even if you aren't trained, this one is pretty idiot-proof, and this link has them all, 2 months through 5 years, broken down by 2 month intervals through age 2 and pacing farther out through age 5. It also includes a listing of intervention activities. It's a good one for the parents as well. Some states mandate that the ASQ be conducted by child care professionals on the children in their care. I can see this being expanded to other states.


Scheduled journaling provides a snapshot of a child's fine motor and cognitive advancement.

We journal every Monday starting as soon as they can hold a crayon and not eat all of it. They draw a picture and when done, I ask them to tell me about it and journal their response at the bottom. Above my desk I keep these two assessment matrices for reference.

From HeidiSongs:
From Susan Donley:

This topic was covered thoroughly in my writing post, so you can get more information there.

For assessment purposes, though, I am looking for leaps in development as they start including in their drawings lines, circles, shapes, letters, recognizable figures, recognizable scenery, signage, notes, etc. and assessing whether their progress is in line with development for their age.


My initial preschool assessment was based upon the first one my son had received from kindergarten. Since my goal was to have my students kindergarten ready when they graduated pre-k, I felt that was a good starting point.

Since then, it has been DRASTICALLY overhauled, since I teach a lot of skills that were not on it. Even now, I am tweaking it to add even more skills that these children are accomplishing that previous students have not. It is always a work in progress. The Progress Report, cutting assessment sheets, and all master assessment sheets are available for FREE via my TPT Store.

On the back side, I have the children draw a self portrait and write their names. On the side, I note the physical features they point out. The goal is to have a self-portrait with at least 5 identifiable features before kindergarten. At the bottom, I have room to make notes.

I also do 2 cutting assessments.

The second one, is a cut and paste activity. On this one, in addition to the cutting, I am assessing their placement choice in how they utilize the space given on the assessment sheet.

To do these preschool assessments, I have master assessment sheets that I have in a binder, such as this one for identification of numbers 1-20.

We do these over several days, and I always ask if they WANT to do them and let them choose which area they want to do. Between subjects, I ask if they wish to continue. I make it pretty fun, and they like to show off what they know. If they get them all correct for two assessments in a row, I consider the item mastered and will not assess it again.

On the Progress Report form is a place for how many of the 120 graphemes the child knows I did not include a list. If you know what it is, then you probably don't need one, and if you don't, then you probably need to read up on it some. Debbie Hepplewhite has a good listing of the 44 phenomes and 120 graphemes to reference. Most of these are covered in the Now I'm Reading! series that we use. She also has some wonderful teaching resources at her website Phonics International.

Additional information is included with the file. It is a Word file, so you will need that program to open.


I use the emergent reading program I Can Read! by Nora Gaydos and am aware of where the children are at any given time while doing this program. Once completed, they move on to more advanced readers. While Grade Level Equivalent and Lexile scores of the books they read can give some indication of a child's reading level, often at the preschool level they simply prefer books with more pictures, or books of a certain genre, or to not push themselves. So, their actual reading level can be masked.

The reading program All About Reading just happens to have FREE reading assessments for each of their levels, pre-reader through level 4. I just tested one of my pre-k students by having her read all of the bold words and phrases in a particular assessment and checking the other criteria against what I have observed her knowing. It was a very good tool.

The assessments are about half way down the page.

Sonlight curriculum also has a good reading assessment. It is a single assessment that builds in complexity until the child reveals their level.


If you are simply wondering if a child has all the components in place to be successful in kindergarten, there are many checklists available for this assessment. This one from seems to be pretty inclusive.

Just Google "kindergarten readiness checklist" for a ton more options.


All children have different strengths and weaknesses. Laura Candler has a FREE multiple intelligences assessment available at her TPT store. I used this on my son and it was nice to have my suspicions confirmed. It's easy to use.
Free Multiple Intelligence test for kids - includes directions and a short video that explains how to administer it to your students.

Mrs. Hugh's Place also has several downloadable pdf files on multiple intelligence.


It is often not possible to assess for giftedness in the preschool years and most school districts will not do so until at least half way through first grade.

Usually giftedness shows itself through speaking and reading at a very young age in comparison to the norm. However, this chart gives some other good indicators as to whether a child may be gifted.


Early signs of autism can often be detected in infants as young as 6-18 months. For example, if a baby fixates on objects or does not respond to people, he or she may be exhibiting early signs of an autism spectrum disorder.
Older babies and toddlers may fail to respond to their names, avoid eye contact, lack joint attention (sharing an experience of observing an object or event by gazing or pointing), or engage in repetitive movements such as rocking or arm flapping. They may play with toys in unusual ways, like lining them up or focusing on parts of toys rather than the whole.
 - Autism Science Foundation
An early assessment tool that can be used as early as 6 months is the head lag assessment. The link includes information and a video of how it is done. While this is not at all something that I would discuss with parents or use as a basis to form a strong opinion, in doing this at 6 months, I can see if there is an issue with motor control, work with that, and if it doesn't correct, then I keep in the back of my mind that this could be a potential issue.

Many providers wonder if a child is showing signs of potentially having autism. Again, most parents do NOT want to hear that there may be something wrong with their child. This is more to make sure that YOU are possibly on the right track and can begin to make note to the parents of specific, observable behavior that may indicate an issue. This is the full FREE Modified Checklist for Autism in Toddlers.


While I try to incorporate ALL learning styles into my teaching, if I feel that I'm just not reaching a particular student, I will do a learning style assessment to ensure that my methods are appropriate for that child, or if I need to tweak my teaching to better address that particular child's learning. This one is from Scholastic for ages 3-5 years old.


I LOVE this Harkey-Jourgensen Early Childhood Temperament Sorter for ages 4-8 personality assessment by Parenting by Temperament. I think every time I've done it, it has come out spot on for the child. It uses the same types as the Myer's Briggs Personality Type that is usually given in corporations. It just gives an additional insight into a child's temperament and the website is excellent for guiding you when your personality may not be the best match for the child in your care, and how to handle issues that may arise.

It is also good for parents who may have a personality type drastically different from their child. They can see that their child is different, not JUST acting up.

There is also a teen and adult version, also FREE.

Phonological Awareness has games to teach specific sounds.
Reading Rockets has excellent information on how to read so children will learn.
The Child Whisperer 4 personality types of children.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Busy Bags - Advanced PreK/Elementary

My pre-k students, ages 4 1/2 - 5 1/2 years old, do not nap, but the younger ones do. The pre-k's formerly went into the preschool room, but they have SOOOooooo lost privilege due to inappropriate conduct. 

So now, they are stuck doing quiet activities within my direct sight. 

I do not want this time to be wasted, and I need them engaged so that boredom doesn't nudge them towards more inappropriate behavior.

These children are gifted and/or advanced for their age, so the classic preschool busy bags just won't cut it. I want busy bags that:
  • Hold a (fairly) unique activity 
  • Work a specific skill set at multiple levels
  • Have more than one mode of play
  • or Be dynamic, each play being different 
  • Are appealing visually and through play
  • Can be contained within about a 1 square foot area
  • Fit easily within a quart sized Ziploc
  • Do not require adult assistance beyond initial instruction
They have access to file folder games that use laminated manipulatives. I wanted the buys bags to be different.

So far, they LOVE them! They would play with them other parts of the day, but are only allowed to during nap time.

Each one works fine motor skills, so I did not list that under SKILLS. Most also work logic/reasoning, but...I'm kinda partial to that one.

Here's the ones we have so far and those pending. Each one is explained, in order, below.
  1. Alligator Chomp
  2. Build and Add
  3. Butterfly Symmetry
  4. Card Facts
  5. Color Links
  6. Fish and Chips
  7. Frozen Flakes 
  8. Geo Board
  9. Pumpkin Faces (seasonal)
  10. Puzzle
  11. Race to Odd & Even 
  12. Ribbon Weaving
  13. Silly Sentences Punctuation
  14. Sounds & Count 
  15. Stick Figures
  16. Write the Facts
  17. Tanagrams
In the works, I'll add to post when completed:
  • Animal Habitats
  • I Know Instruments
  • Food Group Gulp
  • Fraction Fun
  • Musical Notation
  • Types of Terrain
Includes: Craft foam alligator, numbers 2-10 playing cards
Instructions: Children children place 2 cards down and place the alligator greater than or less than to CHOMP the bigger number. Used cards are placed in a discard pile and new ones drawn. Advanced: use 2 cards added or subtracted for each side.
Notes: This may seem rather easy, but they like it, and it teaches a new skill. I have more advanced versions in mind for the future.
Skills: Visual quantity identification, greater than/lesser than, 1-1 correspondence counting, logic/reasoning

Includes: 11 each of 2 colors of unit blocks, laminated activity cards, dry erase marker
Instructions: Follow instructions for building, add, write the sum in the box Advanced: write the number that comes before and the number that comes after on either side of the box.
Notes: This was a free download that I can't find. If I do I'll add the link, but you can definitely see how it's done. This is a little easy for these children, but it's good practice for writing their numbers.
Skills: 1-1 correspondence counting, logic/reasoning, word problems, writing, math vocabulary

Includes: 1 cream felt play mat, pattern cards, felt pattern pieces
Instructions: Choose a card, place it in the middle of the felt mat, use the pattern pieces to mirror the design on the card.
Notes: There is a free download for this activity, but I decided to make my own so I could change out the pieces or increase the complexity to keep it interesting.
Skills: Symmetry, logic/reasoning, visual/spatial, observation, geometry

Includes: 2 sets of cards 1-10, laminated addition/subtraction card, dry erase marker
Instructions: Choose 2 cards, if doing subtraction place the higher number card on the left, place them above the add/subtract card, write the equation Advanced: use 2 cards added together to create each number.
Skills: Number identification, writing, 1-1 correspondance counting, creating and solving equations

Includes: 1 set of color cards, 1 set of color links
Instructions: Choose a card, collect and button that link, choose another card, and add that link to the other one. Advanced: put the cards in alphabetical order prior to putting the links together.
Notes: It may seem rather easy, but keeping the links going in the correct direction is more difficult than you'd think.
Skills: Color words, color identification, logic/reasoning

Includes: 6 each of 3 colors of poker chips, pattern cards
Instructions: Choose a card, create that pattern, extend that pattern until you run out of chips
Notes: These go from the simple AB pattern to AABBCC. These kids are whizzes at this, but it's good reinforcement.
Skills: Patterning, logic/reasoning

Includes: 2 game boards, 1 die, 6 each of two colors of chips
Instructions: 1-2 player, roll the die and cover the number rolled, if the number is already covered, lose that turn. Advanced: use 2 die and you have create a double, add, or subtract.
Notes: Yeah, not that challenging, but they love it, so it keeps them BUSY. For the younger ones we place the die in a small plastic container with a lid to keep it contained. Free download from Activity Mom.
Skills: 1-1 correspondence counting, number vs. quantity, number identification, taking turns


Includes: 1 geo board, 2-3 of each size of rubber band
Instructions: Have fun
Notes: I purposefully placed just a couple of each size/color rubber bands into here. When they have access to a LOT of rubber bands, they just go nuts with them and start tossing them about. Fewer resources make them more precious, and the children have to work harder to create interesting designs. I was going to include cards for them to match, but right now they enjoy just creating their own designs. Cards may come later. There are a ton of them out there.
Skills: geometry, grid manipulation, logic/reasoning, creative expression, architecture

PUMPKIN FACES (seasonal)
Includes: Pumpkin face cards, pumpkin face mat, pumpkin face pieces
Instructions: Pull a card and make a matching face. These range from easy to hard.
Notes: Harder than it may look, as the pieces often need to be flipped and rotated
Skills: Logic/reasoning, geometry, visual/spatial, observation

Includes: 1 puzzle
Instructions: Put it together
Notes: Changed out regularly, harder puzzles have a picture included, but all their harder puzzles are now missing pieces, thus the busy bags...
Skills: logic/reasoning, visual/spatial

Includes: 1 play mat, odd and even number cards
Instructions: Choose a card, place it on the appropriate odd or even side. First side to be completed WINS! Advanced: Put the numbers in numerical order when done.
Notes: They truly treat this as a race with one side winning. I can change the cards out frequently to keep it interesting and advancing. It is self-correcting. To hinge the two sides, I laminate them separately and use heavy duty packing tape on the back side of the seam.
Skills: Odd/even, logic/reasoning, number recognition.

Includes: 1 cream felt play mat, pattern cards, felt pattern pieces
Instructions: Choose a card, place it in the middle of the felt mat, use the pattern pieces to mirror the design on the card. Advanced: Create rainbow order.
Notes: A seemingly simple activity, but it works a lot of higher-thinking skills
Skills: creative expression, logic/reasoning, patterning, sensory stimulation

Includes: 1 cream felt play mat, pattern cards, felt pattern pieces
Instructions: Choose a card, place it in the middle of the felt mat, use the pattern pieces to mirror the design on the card. Advanced: Some sentences are questionable between an exclamation point and period, leaving it open to their reasoning.
Notes: I think they like this better because they helped create the silly sentences.  
Skills: Reading, grammar, punctuation, logic/reasoning

Includes: 1 set of cards, red/green/blue clothespins
Instructions: Choose a card, place a green clothespin on the beginning sound, a red clothespin on the ending sound (if applicable), and a blue clothespin on the number of items in the picture Advanced: when I make these cards, I increase the difficulty by putting very similar sounds on the same card, making them work a little harder for it.
Notes: We have sets of these cards for all our themes. The newer themes include beginning sound, ending sound and number. These are changed out monthly at minimum. It takes a good amount of clothes pins. This amount only does half of the cards, then they have to take them all off to do the other half. I just put a dot on these ones with sharpies, but they aren't hard to paint.
Skills: Phonics/letter, 1-1 correspondence counting, number/quantity, logic/reasoning, observation, visual/spatial

Includes: 2 each of 4 colors of craft sticks, design cards
Instructions: Choose a card, create the design, or create your own design
Notes: The cards range in difficulty from fairly easy to very difficult. Even I find this one challenging if trying to get all the over/unders correct.
Skills: Logic/reasoning, observation, visual/spatial, trial/error, patterns, geometry

Includes: Set of uppercase tanagram cards, tanagram blocks to create all the cards
Instructions: Choose a card, re-create with tanagram blocks, or create your own design Advanced: make your own cards without the shape indicators, or just black/white.
Notes: The tanagram cards are a free download. I printed them out with the multiple page option on my printer so that they were smaller. I wanted these children to create FROM the cards, not ON the cards. Since the blocks have a tendency to drift off, I put the quantities needed on the front of the bag for easy inventory and re-stocking. There are a lot of free tanagram cards out there.
Skills: Geometry, visual/spatial, logic/reasoning, symmetry, counting, creative expression

Includes: 1-12 bead circles, laminated addition/subtraction fact writing card, dry erase marker
Instructions: Choose a bead circle, move some of the beads to each side, write the fact. Advanced: write all the facts in the family.
Notes: The child can do as many or as few facts as they wish with a single circle before moving on to another. The circles are made with pipe cleaners cut in half and hot glued into the wooden bead after putting on the pony beads. I tried to make them colorful. The number is written on with sharpie.
Skills: Fact families, addition/subtraction, observation, logic/reasoning

In there right now, I also have a number writing cheat card, since we haven't been working on writing for very long, and they want to write RIGHT.

I also have a couple of seasonal I Spy books in there.

Busy Bags are not ALL they do during naptime. They also read books, and magazines, 

do educational apps on the iPad,

and color, among other activities.

But most importantly, 
they are QUIET so the little ones can get their rest.
Tags: gifted, advanced, homeschool, homeschooling, daycare, child care, preschool, pre-k, elementary, early, child, children, math, science, language, literacy,