Tara's Toyland Home Daycare

Where Learning is Fun and Friendships Flourish


Jack Be Nimble

Posted by tarastoyland on September 7, 2019 at 6:20 PM Comments comments (0)

During our Nursery Rhyme unit we did the rhyme Jack be Nimble.  First we jumped over candle sticks changing the rhyme to match the name of the jumper.  Then we changed it from candle stick (which rhymes with quick) to different objects and came up with rhymes for those new things.  For instnace "Miss Nora be nimble, Miss Nora be fair, Miss Nora jump over the daycare chair"  This was SUPER tricky so we had to figure out our rhymes first.  Rhyming is a prereading skill and essential for success in finding word patterns.  Next we had a lesson on fire.  We talked about fire safety by doing science experiments with actual fire.  What does a fire need to burn?  How hot is a fire?  What puts out a fire? What burns in a fire? We explored all of these questions and then ended the lesson with roasting marshmallows over an open fire (the fire on the stove).  The children all concluded that fire shouldn't be played with as it can burn wood and paper and houses are made of wood and paper. 

Using Memory Game to scaffold learning

Posted by tarastoyland on August 22, 2019 at 3:15 PM Comments comments (0)

This past spring I had a set of 4 girls that were going off to kindergarten in the next school year.  They did their kindergarten screening test and one parent said that their daughter knew the letter sounds but not the names.  So when she was shown an S she made the s sound instead of saying it was an S.  Obviously she knew the letter by sight and the sound it made but she needed to know the name too.

It just so happened that this girl really loved playing Memory.  But she wanted nothing to do with learning her letter names.  So, I made a memory game that was matching upper case to lower case letters.  Worked like a charm! By the end of that week she knew all her letter names, and so did the newly turned 3 year old and the not yet 3 year old.  Since all the kids caught on so quick I added to the game, I put pictures in the mix so they could match apple to apple, or apple to A or apple to a or A to a.  This twist kept the kids interested.  I searched GoodWill for enough versions of the game so that every child had a copy of ABC Memory to have at home.

Now two of the girls really were way past just letter sounds, they were ready to be blending.  So I made those two girls a set of phonetic word cards and pictures.  There was pen and hen, pig and peg and leg - all were very similar and tricky but they also were experts in no time.  It was really great to see the fun the kdis had with this.  BUT I must admit by the 50th game of Memory in a week, I was kinda over the whole thing!  

Art - process or product or both?

Posted by tarastoyland on August 1, 2015 at 11:40 PM Comments comments (0)

I love art.  I actually was an art teacher at a school for two years.  I have a minor in art and an art education endorsement.   I love to do art, I love to look at (most) art, I love how there are great stories behind famous art, I love to do artsy things.  

I also firmly believe that art can be used to teach almost every concept there is in early childhood education.  It can tie the curriculum together, it can make all the parts of a lesson become solidly formed in the child's mind.

In the early childhood field there is a debate on what is the way to teach art.  Or if it even should be "taught".  There are three camps usually in this discussion:

1. Art is when things look exactly like the teacher wants them to look.  The goal is to have the children learn how to follow directions and to make parents happy that their child is creating things and that the teacher is 'teaching".  The teacher cuts out all the needed pieces and shoes the children how to put those pieces down to create the desired end result.   Every art project looks the same when it is completed, just like the teachers. I personally call these "cookie cutter art" because they all look the same like cookies come off an assembly line all the same.  Personally there is very little children get out of this type of art.  There is a small place for this in the middle elementary grade levels where you are testing reading comprehension or listening skills but other then that they are nothing but time wasters.  I do not call these art.  They are crafts.  Crafts are where every project looks the same, art is unique and different.  The first creation is art, the copies are crafts.  This has no place in early childhood education in my opinion.  Occassionally I will be given a kit to make foam something or others and will help the children do it.  I tell the parents this is not art, this is my doing something and giving it to the children.  Because the children can not do it themselves usually.  I once had a boy who went to the public preschool for special education classes come home with this type of "art" - all nice glued perfectly when the child couldn't even hold a crayon - obviously there was NO learning going on, and he had nothing to do with the project at all.  It was purely a parent pleaser, and personally if I were the parent I would be the opposite of pleased.

2. Process art - This description is not mine - 

As you can see this is very free form.  Children are given supplies, they create.  I do let children use tape, glue, scissors, markers, crayons, etc. to do whatever they please during free play time.  Process art is all about letting the children discover what the materials can do and not interfering in any way, it is  art where the making of it is more important then the end product - the exploration, the freedom is what is essential.

3. Process art with a Product end -  There is a happy medium, it's not a hard thing to integrate -the children create unique things where they also learn skills and apply other subject area knowledge into their projects and have projects where the parents can recognize what is being taught.  This is the type of art I believe is best to do with preschoolers.  It allows for children to be creative, to do individual unique projects yet have something to take home that is worthy of being put on the fridge.  Pick a theme, any one, now pick something that has to do with that theme (fairy tales - sticks/straw/bricks, bean stalks/beans, crowns/jewels/swords) now pick an art material - paint, crayons, markers, glue/tape/staples, playdough - combine the two things in some manner, or just have them use any art material and then cut the end result into a theme based shape. Process art CAN be representative and still accomplish the goals of art. I was trained as an art teacher, there are reasons to do things that TEACH ART CONCEPTS and still are process art, you can have the end result match your theme, you can TEACH and do process art.   To teach them HOW to do a thing is just as important, no, MORE important then letting them just do whatever... in order to know how to go further with an art concept you need to be shown HOW to use that material. I teach when I do process art and it is STILL process art.  I also apply the lesson of the day to the art project.  When we learn about planets we may learn how to do balls out of playdough to be planets, and snakes out of playdough to be the rings on those planets.  When learning about flower parts we may use an actual flower as our paint brush.  Applying the theme into an art project allows all the subject areas to tie together.

How it works - In order to show how I take a lesson and make it into an art lesson I will show you projects done by the daycare children and I will describe how the process was done, what skills were taught and what lesson was reinforced. 

we were learning about outer space, we talked about how stars aren't really this shape but rather spheres like our sun.  That they were hot balls of gas, and since they were so far away we saw them as just points of light.  We sang Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, counted out stars and talked about how planets are spheres as well.  Then the children got to use small litle nails to push into the hole of the buttons and decorate the star or planet however they decided.  This worked on fine motor skills and while they were working we talked about the sizes of buttons they were using, the colors and when they were all done we counted how many buttons they had used.  Each child had a unique creation as you can see. 

This is crayon melting art. Each child picked out which crayons they wanted and which order to put them in.  After they had put them down in the order they wanted I hot glued them to the canvas.  then we used a hair dryer to melt the crayons.  While they were melting we talked about how the wax got hot and became a liquid.  When it got cold it became a solid again.  This was the xmas present for the parents.

The children painted paper plates that I had cut to be turkey shapes however they wanted to.  After they were done we added google eyes, wattles and beaks.  This day we had read turkey books, looked at pictures of real wild turkeys and learned some other facts about turkeys.

another turkey project we did that day - they painted a paper towel tube, I later cut it to look like a turkey.

we had been studying trees, to make these the children painted their arm and hand then put them onto the paper to be the trunk and branches.  Then they used different colored glues to glue down buttons.

We did these during our Halloween party, this was the first project we did with the nails and buttons and it is one they kept asking to do again which is why we did the stars and planets one.

We were talking about Halloween and how we go door to door saying trick or treat.  The kids were playing pretend trick or treating.  So I came up with this project - we talked about the shapes you see on houses - then I cut out those shapes and they created houses.  The love doing stickers too so I let them go wild with stickers too.   This was a group of 4 yr olds so I also was talking to them about realism - people have to walk on the ground, pumpkins don't just float in the air, bats and birds do go in the air.

We learned about plants, parts of a plant, read plant books, talked about seeds and leaves.  Then the children collected plants in the yard and we came inside and used them to paint with.  The next picture is using a huge leaf they found, I had them paint the leaf then we pressed a piece of paper onto the painted leaf.

I'll add more blog posts later featuring the art work the children create.  I try to do at least one project per day.

Circus Theme

Posted by tarastoyland on June 9, 2015 at 3:45 PM Comments comments (0)



*We started today by watching a Kid's Songs video about the circus. While we watched we listed what we saw, heard and what we would have smelled, touched and tasted.


We also learned that unicycle means one wheeled because uni means one. We made our own unicyclists.


Then we popped popcorn and talked about why it popped (it has a tiny drop of water in it and the heat made the water expand then burst). We sand a fun popcorn song that had us jumping and exploding. Lastly, we did an experiment to see if you could add a cup of popcorn to a full cup of milk or water and if bread worked the same way. This was to teach us about how there is space between the molecules of water, that popcorn dissolves in liquid and that when you combine two substances the resulting volume is not the same as both original volumes combined. First we predicted what would happen and despite all the online things saying that the milk wouldn't overflow, it did. Then we tried it in water and we fit the whole cup plus a handful before it started overflowing. Last we did it with milk and bread and that one overflowed much sooner then the popcorn and milk one did. The pictures of this are all below.

*today we were lions jumping through rings of fire, strongmen picking up heavy weights and tightrope walkers high up above the crowd!



*besides reading the cool circus book with pop up pages,  we talked about things you find in a circus, we made unicycle riders (and talked about uni means one, cycle is wheel, and then we played a popcorn popping game using pom poms to be the popcorn and the popcorn bucket to be the catching apparatus

*a parachute looks like a circus tent, so we played parachute play activities, we also made acrobats that tumbled down a ramp (reinforcing our ramp skills)

Here are the popcorn science pictures, I didn't take pictures of the popping of the popcorn


Posted by tarastoyland on June 7, 2015 at 3:15 PM Comments comments (0)

We just finished up our Rainforest theme.  I had been wanting to do this theme for a super long time but never had a time when it seemed right.  I had a really good time with it. I liked how I was able to combine  reptiles, bugs, plants, animals, and so much more all in one unit.  Those are usually my spring themes separately so it ws neat to combine them.  

Here are my daily updates I posted for the parents during the unit:


Today we learned that the rain forest has four layers. We concentrated on the bottom most layer - the underlayer. This is the ground layer, it's dark, there are lots of leaves and it's wet and there are lots of snakes and bugs. We did snake painting then added a caterpillar, butterflies and other bugs. We read a LOT of books about bugs and snakes: That Bug, Hello Bugs, Bugs!, Spiders are Special, The Spider and the Beehive, Spiders Spin ,Insects Number Find, Ten Busy Buzzy Bugs, and Big Bug Little Bug.  Plus Snakes Long, Longer, Longest and talked about those terms using plastic, stuffed and wood snakes we have out for play time.  We sorted and identified plastic bugs. Whew! Busy day as usual. We will do a different layer of the rainforest each day and create a complete forest by the end of the unit.


*we read a lot more rain forest books and discussed the layers of the rain forest some more, the kids were very excited to make the creatures you find in a rain forest and we added them to our diorama we are making



The kids went to the jungle/rain forest today. They saw snakes, bugs, monkeys, tigers and lots of alligators. They built a campfire also . Oh, this was all in the front yard by the way,



we were playing outside and it started to rain - the kids were thrilled when I pulled out the rain ponchos and let them keep playing - especially because they were a zebra poncho, a tiger poncho and a giraffe poncho! Went perfect with our jungle theme



*today we read Chameleon's Colors then watched videos of real chameleons... one video we found out was a fake one though (the sunglasses one)


We made chameleon's, talked again about the layers of the rainforest, finished our diorama (the kids cut out 4 leaves together and were amazed that cutting ONE time made 4 things, miracles of folding paper, lol),

Outside time

Posted by tarastoyland on May 20, 2015 at 9:55 AM Comments comments (0)

I love when the weather warms up enough that we can play outside for hours at a time.  I have a facebook page that is only for parents of enrolled kids and relatives/friends they want to let read the things I write.  This is a great tool for me to share tidbits of our day, tell the parents what we did that day in preschool and share pictures of our day.   I was looking back at some of those old postings and thought I would share a few that had to do with outside.  If the post contained names I just left the first initial.



May 18 at 11:23am ·



.what a wonderfully relaxing spring day today is!! We spent it outside in back. C and A were finding rolly pollies in the sand box and collecting them. They counted them and were doing adding and subtracting all on their own while they were discussing them. Now C and the boys are eating turkey and muenster cheese sandwiches and comparing different colored tomatoes to see if they taste different. Then off to nap. 


May 20, 2014 at 11:51am ·

we went for a super long walk today
First we had to learn the safe way to stay with Miss Nora, we can run to the next driveway but not into the actual driveway area in case there is a car backing out or pulling in.
Along the way we saw a snake, it seemed to float along the sidewalk. We also saw ducks and a family of geese. We listened and heard the birds. We saw cattails, and at lunch our corndogs looked just like them. We pet two dogs, found a fishing lure and talked abo...ut that, tried to find any turtles or frogs/toads but they must have been hiding in the mud and we picked dandelions.
When we were at the pond we looked at the water, one pond had nothing on top of the water the other pond had lots of green algae. We took some pond water and algae back to the house to look at under the microscope but it was hard to see anything in the water. It was fun seeing our clothes, skin, hair and green beans under the microscope though. We used an eyeclops which projects the magnified image onto the Tv screen.
We read a book about water too.

the kids played in the sand that is now deep enough, they helped me hang the swings... ok, really C cried and cried for me to get the baby swing hung, then everyone else whined till I got the others hung... they helped me build the picnic table (really!). I was afraid I was going to have to throw out one of the little climbers cause the plastic was cracked. Then I realized only ONE panel was cracked and it still worked with that panel taken out, so we reassembled it and tried it out. M loved feeling the wind and trying to eat grass before I got it out of his fingers. It was a wonderfully relaxing and fun outside day. Nap is ending pretty soon, then we will be back out there again.

cutest thing !! - M was playing football with me when S arrived. So M threw it to S, who caught it and threw it back. Then S ran about 20 feet away and held out his arms to catch it.  M threw it, S got it and M ran 20 feet away and put out his arms. They did this for about 30 minutes!

LOTS of outside time today!! If it wasn't for so much mud we would have stayed longer, but the little guys kept getting muddy then complaining to ME about it!!










May 10, 2011 ·





water play kinda got carried away - make sure you have extra clothes here - today I had to use my stash of extras, but it was worth it to have so much fun in the hose!!


We played outside till it started raining, then we played inside. We talked about what you wear in the rain. We used markers on raincoat pictures then observed what the rain did to our marks. S loved this so much he did 4 of them! We talked about big/small and numbers/sizes using clothes and used real socks for matching

Today's Discovery!

Posted by tarastoyland on April 22, 2015 at 9:50 AM Comments comments (0)

The kids opened up the water table to find a surprise! The seeds they had played with in the dirt/mud had sprouted. And they were HUGE. The third picture is the seed in a bag on the window which you can see is no where near that big. We discussed what may have made the seeds in the table grow so much more then the ones on the window. We decided that the window is colder and that maybe the lid being on had something to do with making a good environment and that the dirt probably had a lot to do with it. I can't believe how much these seeds grew in such a short time!!


Pirates theme

Posted by tarastoyland on April 13, 2015 at 4:40 PM Comments comments (0)

We had started a Pirates theme when I came across this HUGE box. I dragged it home and went to work creating a pirate ship.  The kids loved steering the ship, sailing on the high seas and exploring for treasure.

Decorating treasure chests and showing off our pirate hooks

Inside of Me Theme Unit

Posted by tarastoyland on April 7, 2015 at 3:05 PM Comments comments (0)

We had a super time learning about the things inside of our body like blood, muscles, bones, tendons and organs.  There were lots of science experiments during this unit.  

Here are two kids exploring blood, well, not real blood, but a model of blood.  The red water beads represent the red blood cells that carry oxygen to our body parts.  The white ping pong balls represent the white blood cells that attack germs.  The pieces of red craft foam are the platelets in our blood - they help form scabs and clots.  Last the red liquid is like the plasma which is what helps our blood slip and slide through our body.  I explained that this container would be like one drop of blood enlarged a whole bunch.

To learn about how digestion happens we used a peanut butter sandwich.  First we cut it with scissors, this like your teeth cutting into the food to chop it up in little bits.

After it was cut up we added some milk, because we have milk with our sandwich, and water to be our spit.  The fancy word for spit is saliva.  Then we used a masher to mash up the whole thing like our molars would do.

When it was all mashed up it was poured into a baggie, just like going down our esphogus into our stomach.  Then we added a can of soda pop to show how the stomach acids work on the contents of our stomach.

The last step is our intestines - the liquid coming out the sides is the nutrients our body uses, the rest that is in the stocking is the waste parts - they come out when we use the bathroom.  This was such a wonderful way to learn about how the food travels through our body - the kids really enjoyed all the unit, and unfortunately I forgot to take pictures on some days!

Outer Space Theme Activities

Posted by tarastoyland on March 19, 2015 at 3:35 PM Comments comments (0)

We had so much fun learning about outer space.  Here are some pictures from our unit.

Very blurry picture of the solar system mobile we made.  We talked about the size relationships of the planets and the sun, it was hard to imagine so we found some youtube videos that showed how big the sun is compared to our planet.

Sun painting

I found this idea on pinterest and LOVED it so much!!  The yellow ball is the sun, it lights up one side of the moon and the other side is dark.  The child puts their head  in the middle and turns to look at each moon and they can see the phase of the moon.  One issue I had during this unit was a book that I had bought from Scholastic that said the wrong information about why the moon has phases.  I can't believe that the book was allowed to be published with such wrong information.

I have a set of Toy Story aliens and the kids found lots of ways to play with them.

Playing toy story aliens version of kerplunk

We made moon dough and then the kids used the astronaut play set to pretend they were on the moon, we talked about the moon rover, how many people have landed on the moon and watched videos of the moon landing from 1969

Our model to show how the moon goes around the earth, and the earth goes around the sun

Outer Space Theme

Posted by tarastoyland on March 15, 2015 at 7:25 PM Comments comments (0)

I had so much fun getting ready for the Outer Space Theme!  I got the loft all spaceship looking by covering it in foil, putting up black garbage bags to make it more enclosed and dark and covering the things up there in foil too.  On the play kitchen I duct taped a light up ABC toy to be their control panels, put a circuit board inside the oven so they could "fix" the rocket and attached another circuit board to the outside.  I also hung LED light strips that changed colors.  The kids LOVED it!!