Music Learning for Kids

Music Learning for Kids

Music learning for kids is excellent for so many reasons! Research shows that it stimulates the brain, improves mood, boosts memory, reduces stress, and more.

Additionally, it has many positive benefits for toddlers, including increasing their sensory development, improving literacy, building coordination and confidence, developing vocabulary, and so much more. If you want to learn more about the benefits of music in the classroom, check out our CCEI blog.

While the benefits speak for themselves, one thing that might not be as apparent is how best to incorporate music into the classroom.

When it comes to music learning for kids, many teachers often wonder when to start music lessons, the best lessons to begin with, how to incorporate instruments, and so on.

Below is everything you need to know to make sure you’re making the most of music learning for kids.

When should I start music lessons for kids?

The great thing about music learning for kids is you can’t start too soon. A child experiences many musical milestones before they turn one year old, including moving their limbs in response to rhythmic sounds (even briefly) and smiling when they hear music.

So, while your little ones might be a few years off from formal or structured musical training (mainly because their hands and minds aren’t quite ready for complex instruments), it’s never too early to introduce music learning for kids. That’s why it’s essential to incorporate some musical activity into your lesson plans daily.

By laying this groundwork, you’ll not only build a foundation for a lifetime enjoyment of music, but you’ll also help them reach various developmental milestones much more quickly.

What are the best lessons to start with?

So now that you have a good idea of when to start music lessons, the next question you’re probably asking yourself is how do I incorporate music into my lesson plans?

Below are ten activities that are a great starting place when thinking about music lessons for kids.

  • Alphabet Song: Set to the tune of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, this is a staple of everyone’s childhood and one of the most accessible lessons to incorporate when beginning music learning for kids. Not only will it help your kiddos learn their ABCs because of the singsong nature, but it gets them comfortable with rhythm and melody.
  • Build DIY instruments: An arts and crafts lesson AND music lesson? Sign us up! DIY-style instruments are a great option when it comes to music lessons for kids. It’s also a great foundation before introducing actual instruments (more on later). If you’re looking for inspo, Tinybeans has a great roundup of simple homemade instruments you can build with your class.
  • Classroom concerts: While field trips to musical performances might be a little too difficult to coordinate at this age, that doesn’t mean you can’t bring entertainment to your classroom. Depending on where you live, any individuals or small ensembles might be willing to visit your classroom and perform for your students. And if nothing else, you might find a parent or family member of a child or colleague who’d be willing to come in and perform. Whatever you do, make sure the performance is brief, so your class doesn’t lose interest. And one more thing, make sure you and your style write a thank you note and send your visitor thanking them for sharing their talents!
  • Dance party: Movement is an integral part of the music. With that in mind, play music and let your class free dance to it. Not only will this help with their rhythm (and eventually learning more complex musical lessons), but it will allow them to work on their gross motor skills. And best yet, they’ll burn off excess energy. Also, it’s excellent to incorporate all different types of music to broaden your students’ worldviews.
  • Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes: Like the Alphabet Song, this is another classic that should be in every teacher’s repertoire. Not only does it get your classroom singing, but it also helps them learn parts of their body (and gets them moving while doing so).
  • Instrument matching: This is one of our favorites because it’s fun, simple, and a great foundation when incorporating music learning for kids. The purpose of this activity is to introduce instruments and the unique sounds they make. Begin by holding up pictures of tools and playing recordings of the instruments at the same time. As your class learns which instruments make which sounds, you can ask your students which photo belongs to each instrument when they hear the corresponding sound.
  • March to the beat: This is another simple activity to incorporate into your music lessons for kids. You can either use a drum (we love REMO’s line of drums and percussion instruments for kids) or clap. For this activity, have your students walk, march or hop in time to a steady beat. As they get better at matching your tempo, you can increase and decrease the tempo making it even more interactive. This is also an excellent activity to incorporate into transitions.
  • Music during transitions: As you know, toddlers don’t like changes because it means switching from one activity to another (likely before they want to) and involves multiple steps that might be difficult for kids to understand. So, please take the opportunity to create a song and sing it every time you make a transition. Not only is this the perfect opportunity to get the class singing, but it will also make transitions easier since music is fun and attention-grabbing.
  • Name that tune: Play traditional and popular nursery rhymes and have your class guess the song’s name. For this one, it’s essential to start with accessible melodies and work your way up so the class doesn’t lose interest or become discouraged.
  • Nursery rhymes: Chanting these ditties helps children develop their rhythm (making them an easy addition to music lessons for kids). Additionally, they provide easily digestible learning opportunities, which allow toddlers creativity, literacy, and more.

What instruments should I introduce first?

While DIY instruments are a great way to incorporate music lessons for kids into your curriculum, you should also consider adding real musical instruments to your classroom.

And the good news is you don’t have to break the bank to do this; there are various great options for every budget.

At a minimum, consider musical egg shakers (like these), rainsticks, kazoos, tambourines, and the like. It’s also essential to add melodic instruments such as toy xylophones.

There are several simple drums (like the REMO ones linked above) if you have the budget. We especially like their line of frame drums that can be played with a hand or mallet.

Finally, if you’re musically inclined, you might consider bringing in a keyboard, guitar, or ukulele that you can play for your students. When you incorporate more sophisticated instruments like these, you can also teach the importance of and how to care for more delicate instruments.

Music learning for kids should be one of the most critical components of your lesson planning. If you’re interested in learning more about incorporating music into your curriculum, our Music in Early Childhood course is perfect!

This one-hour beginner-level course was written by leading early childhood education expert Rae Pica. It provides an overview of the importance of music during toddler years and how it can become part of your curriculum and children’s lives. Explore and learn more about our 150+ other courses.

One-inch Sandbox Ideas

One-inch Sandbox Ideas

There are few developmental tools in a teacher’s toolbox as easy, enjoyable, and beneficial as sensory play.

Combine that with your student’s natural love for the outdoors and sand, and it’s no wonder why more and more programs are adding sand playing into their weekly lesson plans.

But, not all child sandbox explorations are created equal.

At ChildCare Education Institute, we’re dedicated to giving childcare pros like you the training and tools you need to help your students grow and develop.

That’s why we’re sharing these sandbox ideas that will have your tots learning and loving every minute!

Gardening galore.

The best sandbox ideas incorporate things you’re already teaching in the classroom, and this one does just that! Start by introducing your students to flowers and plants and teaching them how they’re grown. Then, give your kids mini shovels, rakes, and rocks and send them to the sandbox to practice “planting” as they’ve learned. After sand playing, please allow them to put their new skills into practice by planting small succulents that can live in the classroom.

Order up.

Playing pretend is a great way for your students to improve their creativity, language, and communication skills —thankfully, plenty of sandbox ideas incorporate it! Turn your sandbox into a restaurant by giving your kids old plastic bowls, small pie plates, and other kitchen utensils. Then, have them “cook up” different items and share them. Your students will love this fun take on sand playing, and it’ll give them the chance to mingle with their classmates.

Sandcastles.

Let your students show off their creativity — while also teaching them the basics of building — by hosting a sandcastle competition. Give your students the tools they need to develop, including shovels, buckets, and small pails of water, and let them create whatever their heart desires. If you have a large class, try separating your students into groups and having them work on joint castles. That way, they’ll be able to practice their teamwork skills simultaneously.

Archeological digs.

By planning a fun child sandbox hunt, teach your students about dinosaurs and archeologists. Start the day by reading a dinosaur-themed book to your students, so they know what types of creatures they’ll be “hunting” later in the day. Then, when it’s time to go outside, hide plastic dinosaurs and related toys throughout the sandbox. Give each student a small shovel and a bucket for gathering, and send them out to explore. Once recess is over, invite your students back inside and ask them to share their findings with the class. For bonus fun, end the day by showing a classic dinosaur movie such as The Good Dinosaur or Land Before Time.

Under construction.

This sandbox idea is another fun way to introduce professions to your students. Start by showing your students the machinery often seen at construction sites. This includes trucks, tractors, cranes, and more. Then, invite them out to the sandbox to play with toy-sized versions. While playing, please encourage them to mimic how the items are used in real life. For example, if one of your students is playing with a dump truck, have them work with another child to fill the backup with sand, “drive” it across the box and unload it. Pass out hard plastic hats for recess to help your students feel extra immersed.

Magnet magic.

This fun sand-playing activity turns your child’s sandbox into an active science experiment! Before your students go outside, hide tiny metal objects or coins underneath the top layer of sand. Then, give your students small magnets and have them gently brush the surface until they pick up an item. Once everything has been found, bring your students back inside and walk them through the science behind the “magic” they saw.

Volcanic explosions.

Another one of our favorite science-themed sandbox ideas is to create a volcanic eruption for your entire class to see. First, ask your students to work together to create a large pile of sand in the middle of the box. Let them know this represents the base of the volcano. Then, have them step back while you fill the volcano with vinegar. Have your kids count down from five, and then pour baking soda inside to start the eruption. Once the explosion is over, bring your students back inside from their sand playing and show them kid-friendly videos of what it looks like when real volcanoes erupt.

Letter searches.

Use sand playing to teach your students literacy by hiding large foam letters throughout the sandbox. Then, have circle time outside and review your classroom’s sight words. When you get to a new comment, pick a student to hunt for the word’s first letter in the sandbox. When they find the note, have them bring it back and tell the classroom what letter it is.

 I am feeling beachy.

When it comes to sandbox ideas, there aren’t many as fun and immersive for students as this. Teach your kiddos about different ecosystems and places by turning your sand area into a makeshift beach. Put up an umbrella in one corner and spread shells along one edge. If possible, put a smaller water bin behind the covers and fill it with plastic fish and sea-themed toys. Then, invite your students out for a day at the beach. Have them note the things they see and let them share their observations when you’re back inside. Finish the lesson by reading one of these books.

Want to learn more tips and tricks for making the most of your classroom time? Our online courses can help! Explore our 150+ courses — and see why we’re No. 1 for training early childhood educators.

 

Preschool Behavior Management

Preschool Behavior Management

As usual, your preschool classroom is buzzing with activity. One group is playing with blocks in a corner, one girl is quietly looking at a book at a table, and another group is finger painting in the center of the room. As you survey the room, you lock eyes with the kids in the middle and watch in horror as one child smears blue paint onto another’s face.

In seconds, your room has erupted with screams and streaks of flying paint. You spend the next twenty minutes wiping away tears and spilled paint while trying to keep the paint flinger from inflicting any more damage. How did the classroom get so chaotic so quickly?

You can’t predict when your students will misbehave, but you can come up with preschool behavior management strategies to help you figure out how to deal with difficult preschoolers in the classroom.

How do you know you’re managing preschool behavior in your classroom effectively? Start by understanding that although they’re all around the same age, your kids are growing and developing at different rates. You’ve likely already encountered temper tantrums, separation anxiety, and bathroom issues amongst the students in your classroom, so you know kids deal with these difficulties at their own pace.

To manage unpredictable preschool behavior in your classroom, try to determine why some of your kids act out instead of focusing on their behavior. Although preschool kids can find it hard to control their emotions at times, know that your kids are trying to communicate with you in some way – even when they’re acting up. They’re still learning to use their words, so use yours to get to the bottom of what’s really going on. Observation is key, so keep an eye on what triggers the child’s difficult preschool behavior. Does the child need more structure than others? Do transitions make the child uneasy? Does the child find the classroom environment overwhelming? Ask yourself these questions (and others as they occur to you) as you figure out how to deal with difficult preschoolers in the classroom.

Another key to effective preschool behavior management involves discerning the difference between an emotional outburst and acting out. Children’s emotions should always be respected, even when it results in bad preschool behavior. Make sure that you validate your little ones’ emotions by providing support and comfort. If necessary, you should also communicate with the child’s parents to figure out if the behavior stems from a traumatic incident like a divorce or death in the family.

Once you’ve discovered the possible causes of a child’s difficult behavior, you can use preschool behavior management strategies to help you navigate how to deal with difficult preschoolers in the classroom. Positive reinforcement goes a long way here: Instead of shouting “No!” or “Don’t!,” use your words to communicate and model how your kids should behave. Instead of saying, “Don’t throw that paint!” try saying, “Please try to share the paint so everyone can make beautiful pictures.” The key is to make sure the child learns what’s right instead of pointing out what’s wrong. As a teacher, learning how to deal with difficult preschoolers in the classroom means learning what will help a child remember how to behave properly.

Below are eight preschool behavior management strategies you can incorporate into your classroom:

  • Set clear expectations for good behavior. You can do this verbally or with a visual aid, like a list of classroom rules on the door. You can also engage parents to help reinforce these rules. Make sure you also set clear consequences for bad behavior. Remember to explain what bad behaviors caused the consequences so the child understands – and make sure you’re consistent with those expectations at all times.
  • Reinforce good behavior with positive feedback. A high-five is nice, but remember that you’re trying to teach your little ones how to behave, so be clear about what they did correctly. Try saying things like, “thank you for raising your hand during story time” or “I appreciate the way you helped clean up that paint spill.” Being specific helps children remember what the good behavior was instead of simply knowing they did something right.
  • Turn your classroom into a democracy. Give your kids a say in what happens in your classroom from time to time. Let them decide what they want to do and they’ll feel safer to explore and learn on their own. Do they want to learn about dinosaurs today? Do they want to watch a movie? Would they rather play word games instead of having story time? Letting the kids have a vote teaches them more about collaboration and reinforces their own interests, which fosters learning. When kids are engaged, they behave better.
  • Plan out transitions. Moving from one activity to another tends to throw children off-balance, which can lead to acting out. Anticipating your kids’ reactions is a key aspect of preschool behavior management, so make sure you let the children know that a transition is coming in advance so they can mentally prepare themselves. You can play a song that acts as a cue to start the transition, or speak more softly than usual to grab their attention. You can also get your little ones to help you set up or decorate your classroom for the next activity. No matter what you do, keep them engaged and busy.
  • Use posters that model good behavior. Children respond well to visual aids, so posters can help you with preschool behavior management. We’ve already discussed posting class rules, but you can post photos demonstrating good behavior throughout the room to reinforce what following rules looks like. You can also use posters that demonstrate other behaviors like sharing, washing hands, or book handling.
  • Make your classroom a great place to learn. Try separating your room into sections – storytime, playtime, mealtime, and the like – and set up rules for each area. Keep quiet areas away from the activity-centered ones so your kids don’t get uneasy. When kids know how to behave in these specific areas, preschool behavior management becomes much easier.
  • Let your kids burn off excess energy. Set up an exercise or play area so your kids can get rid of the extra energy that can easily turn your classroom into chaos. Try incorporating active lessons into your lesson plans; for example, a game like alphabet yoga teaches children simple poses that correspond to each letter. You can also take advantage of recess and/or playtime to help your students calm down.
  • Become a safe space for your kids. Sometimes, kids just need support. Use positive reinforcement and calming body language to let your kids know they can come to you if they’re upset. Kids know who makes them feel safe and secure, so become that person for them.   

Learning how to deal with difficult preschoolers in the classroom isn’t hard to do, but you might have to get creative with your preschool behavior management strategies. The key is to understand why your students act out and make sure they learn how to behave properly. If you give your students a safe place to explore their own interests, they will settle down and become productive little learners.

If you’re interested in learning more about these topics, ChildCare Education Institute offers courses on classroom management, conflict resolution, the foundations of positive guidance, and more designed to facilitate successful preschool behavior management. With a little help (and some positive reinforcement), you can figure out how to deal with difficult preschoolers in the classroom with ease.

Outdoor Learning Activities for Children

Outdoor Learning Activities for Children

Spending school hours outside sure sounds like fun. What could be better than an entire day examining plants and flowers, looking for bugs, or learning about different types of clouds? There are many benefits of outdoor education, let’s dive in and see why!

Learning in nature has several benefits for children. Studies show that walking and playing in natural settings helps kids lower their stress levels, reduce anxiety, become more focused, and even reduce ADHD symptoms. If that isn’t enough, research also shows that outdoor learning makes kids more motivated to learn and more willing to learn independently – even once they’re back inside your classroom. In fact, researchers have found that schools with lots of green space have higher graduation rates and standardized test scores, regardless of the socioeconomic status of their students.

Why does outdoor learning provide these benefits? Research suggests that students feel more connected to their world while learning in nature. They also suggest that they feel energized by natural sunlight and the exercise they get while they’re outside – and that they look at these outdoor learning experiences as special treats that keep them engaged. This is key because these studies also suggest that students who don’t get motivated by traditional indoor learning gain the most from the benefits of outdoor education.

There are many advantages to outdoor learning, but how can you make sure that your students reap the benefits of outdoor education? When it comes to learning in nature, there are numerous  activities to choose from that will keep your students interested and engaged. Try these fun outdoor learning lessons:

  • Plant a class garden: This is a great way to teach your students about plant science. You can have your kids put down the soil, teach them how to insert the seedlings, and then observe how they grow. If you play your cards right, your students will be able to eat the (literal) fruits of their labor!
  • Take the kids on a nature hike: Not only is this a great way to get in some exercise, it can also provide a great lesson in observation. What do they see? What do they hear? You can help your kids look for certain animals, trees, rocks, or flowers, or listen out for birds.
  • Build a bird feeder: This is an activity that your class can do as a group. Make a bird feeder by tying a string around a pine cone, spreading mashed banana all over it, then rolling it over a plate of birdseed. Once you’re done, hang the pine cone from a nearby tree branch. Your kids will love observing the birds as they feed.
  • Teach your students about gravity: Kids love figuring out whether objects will sink or float in water. Present a list of random objects and have your little ones predict which ones will float and which will sink. Record their observations, then dunk each one in a bucket of water and see how many they predicted correctly. Then, have them observe each object to figure out why it floated or sunk. Eventually, their predictions will become more accurate.
  • Create compost: Teach your students how to make compost for their class garden. It’s easy: All you need is a large glass jar, some dirt, a few fruit and veggie scraps from lunchtime, some old newspaper, a cup of fresh water, and a permanent marker (you can have the kids gather the scraps and dirt from your class garden). Layer the soil, newspaper and lunch scraps (in that order) until you’ve nearly filled the jar. Pour the water into the jar and close it tightly. Once you’ve punched a few small holes in the lid and drawn a fill line to the top of your compost, stick the jar somewhere sunny and have your students observe how the contents change.
  • Run some numbers: Take your students outside and write basic numbers on the pavement outside in sidewalk chalk. Ask the kids to spread out and grab a stick of chalk. Assign each child a number to write on the pavement with the chalk. (Make sure they write the numbers out as large as they can, so everyone can see them). Call out each number and let the children run to each one you call. Then, have them stand in place on the number until you call the next one.
  • Hunt for bugs: Have your students go outside and see how many different bugs they can identify. If you like, turn it into a contest! You can also do this with rocks and bring them back to your classroom to paint as an art project.
  • Stack some rocks: During your next class nature hike, have your students collect rocks of different sizes. Show the kids how to stack and balance the rocks to make stone sculptures, then have them build their own. This will spark your students’ creativity and provide a cool lesson on gravity as well.
  • Make sandcastles: If your school’s playground has a sandbox, you can teach your students how to mold sand into something solid and turn it into a sandcastle. They can observe the texture of the sand and how it changes when it’s wet, and they can admire their building skills as that sand transforms into a structure.

The fact that you’re teaching your students about nature doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re limited to science or math lessons. If you want to use nature to teach your students about art or even words, try these simple outdoor learning activities:

  • Play games with sight words: Make a set of flashcards featuring sight words, or words that preschoolers can recognize without sounding them out. Then go outside with your students, a bucket of water (a spray bottle also works), and some sidewalk chalk. Write out the words on your flashcards on the ground and show the flashcards to your students (make sure they repeat the words after you). Then, see if your students can identify the words you’ve written on the ground. When the kids see the words on the ground, let them splash water on them. The kid who makes the most splashes wins!
  • Design an alphabet hunt: Take a set of foam letters and hide them around your outdoor play area. The game ends when they’ve found and assembled the entire alphabet.
  • Hunt for colors in nature: Print out a color wheel or write out a list of colors. Have your students head outdoors with you and find the colors in a natural setting.
  • Make Play-Doh nature imprints: Hand your students a handful of Play-Doh and go outside. Have them make imprints of tree bark, branches, flowers, rocks, or whatever they can find. Once you come back in, pile up the imprints and have your students guess the object that made each one.
  • Gather flowers for an art project: You can do this during a nature walk, or use it as a fun activity on its own. Have your kids look for certain flowers and have the little ones paint over them. Try having your students make cute flower collages or painting them as a “still life” art project. You can also identify flowers and the differences between them.
  • Paint with bubbles: Have your students paint bubble art masterpieces! Start by combining water, dish soap, corn syrup, and food coloring in some containers. Tape 4-6 drinking straws together and hand a set to each child. Have the kids place the straws into the solution you made, then blow into the straws. As the bubbles form, have them blow them out onto a canvas or piece of paper. All the colors and bubbles will combine to form a one-of-a-kind print that the entire class can enjoy.

The benefits of outdoor education go far beyond doing cool stuff outside. Learning in nature opens your students’ eyes to the world around them and awakens their powers of observation. They can learn about plant life, the sky above them, the rocks on the ground, and even the animals that share the outdoors with them. As a teacher, you can use all of these things and more to fuel your little ones’ creativity, open their minds, and kickstart a lifelong love of learning.

At CCEI, we offer a number of courses to help you incorporate these sorts of activities into your curriculum, such as outdoor learning and fostering a maker mindset in young children. You can also take classes like discovering life science with young children and outdoor STEAM activities that give early childhood educators like you the tools to literally open the world up for your students.

Visit ChildCare Education Institute to learn more about the offerings above, as well as CCEI’s entire catalog of courses.

Teaching Children Book Handling Skills

Your little ones are becoming quite the readers! Yes, your charges might be all of three years old, but you’ve already spotted several budding bookworms. Once upon a time, you could pull out a random, age-appropriate story and read uninterrupted until naptime. Not anymore. Now, you’ve got a bunch of inquisitive toddlers who grab at your book as you try to read, attempt to trace or sound out words over your shoulder, close the book when your back’s turned, or even read along with you.     

Some of those may seem more like rebellion than the actions of book-loving tots, but those storytime interruptions actually represent the first signs of literacy in children. No, toddlers can’t necessarily read full sentences yet, but their ability to understand the simplest things about books – how to hold them up correctly, how to handle them with care, what those squiggly lines on the page mean, what a page is in the first place – is an important first step on the road to literacy.

This process of figuring out how books actually work (or, what literacy experts call book handling) doesn’t seem like much for a child who may be tackling The Very Hungry Caterpillar in a few short years, but this is a key aspect of print awareness that children must master before the work of learning how to read can begin.

Teaching proper book handling skills means understanding the role print awareness plays. Print awareness is a catch-all term for the basic rules that govern early childhood literacy and how children learn to understand words. These rules make sure that readers and writers alike understand how text on the page should be read. At its core, print awareness means that children understand words and letters on a page – even if they have yet to learn what they are – relay a message. Book handling is but one of these rules. If they can understand that words have meaning, they will soon be able to understand how to use books to get to those words, which will lead to being able to understand exactly what those words mean. That, in essence, is learning how to read.

To fully master print awareness, children should also have an instinctual feel for the way print is oriented on the page; for readers of the English language, that means knowing words flow from left to right. Adults can see this instinct in action if a child can tell that a book or page is upside down and tries to fix it. You may also see a child take more control over the reading process by trying to sound out words, tracing words along the page as you read, turning pages, or even snatching a book from you in an attempt to figure everything out without your help. These developing instincts show burgeoning print awareness in children – and those attempts to grab your book and read along at storytime shows that they’re learning the concept of book handling. (All that grabbing may also make it a good idea to show them how to care for books properly.)

Research shows that children develop many aspects of print awareness on their own before the age of three. This makes sense: kids see printed words all around them from birth. Even if they can’t necessarily read a stop sign, they know that big block letters on a red octagon usually means “stop.” They can probably figure out that a printed list at a restaurant means “menu” and that printed pages in a bound book can tell a story – even if they can’t read it themselves. When they’re able to access books on their own, their newfound print awareness lets them know that books should be read and handled in a certain way. It all seems instinctual, but can parents and child care professionals actually teach book handling skills?

The good news is that your children’s emerging print awareness should make teaching book handling skills fairly easy – especially if you already have a classroom filled with books. Placing books in a child’s toy box along with all those dolls, toy trucks, and stuffed animals encourages little ones to explore a book as thoroughly as any other toy. And if the child sits down to “read” one of those books during playtime, you’re already on the right track.

Another key to teaching book handling skills is to surrender a bit of control over storytime. If a little one wants to grab the book and turn the pages, let it happen! Just make sure that you encourage the child to be gentle to teach proper caring for books. If you’re not quite ready for that, make storytime more of a bonding experience by sitting next to the child and tracing the words as you read aloud. Eventually, the little one will make the connection between what you’re tracing and what you’re sounding out – and will probably try to figure out how to pull off that cool little trick independently. As children get older, you can point out the most important parts of the book, like the front cover, title, illustrations, and page numbers.

You can even point out the author and illustrator’s names and explain how those people brought the book to life. If you haven’t done so already, this is a great time to explain how to take care of books.

You can also teach children book handling skills by expanding the child’s print awareness. By helping your little ones understand that letters form words and words form sentences, you’re encouraging them to interact with letters, words, and sentences as much as possible – and what better way to do that than reading books? You can do this by adding some alphabet blocks to the class toy box so kids learn to turn letters into words independently. You can also point out printed signs and their meanings inside and outside the classroom, which may make children excited to encounter more printed words on a page. Furthermore, you can decorate your classroom with word walls and alphabet displays to drive home the importance of the written word.

Sometimes, using more of a hands-on approach to book handling might work best. Instead of commanding the room during storytime, try giving your students a copy of the same book and reading it as a group. You can use it to go over every part of the book together, from the front cover to the back. You can even drill down on identifying things like page numbers, and demonstrate how to properly hold a book and turn its pages. Eventually, your students will be able to identify words and capital letters. Here are some other activities you can try:

  • Act out the books you read during storytime to further demonstrate the connection between spoken and written words.
  • Use books to help children recognize words that are important to them.
  • Help your students create a list of their favorite words from their favorite storytime books and place them on a word wall.
  • Go beyond alphabet blocks and use magnetic letters and word/alphabet games to demonstrate the relationship between words and letters. You can go a step further and find alphabet blocks and games with both uppercase and lowercase letters.
  • Quiz students on finding capital letters and specific words in the books you read in class.
  • Ask your students to predict a book’s story by looking only at the front cover.
  • Bring in a newspaper or magazine (keep it short!) and have students look for certain words or punctuation marks.

You can also try putting together a class library, as long as you set out clear rules for students on caring for books they check out. As they begin to evolve from simple print awareness to being able to decipher words on a page, they’ll need to learn more about how to take care of books, which may lead to a couple of lectures about dog ears and crayon marks. In any case, by kindergarten, your students should be able to:

  • Identify all the parts of a book, including front/back cover, title page, spine, illustrations
  • Hold a book correctly
  • Recognize how text should be read (left to right, and top to bottom)
  • Know the relationship between spoken and printed words
  • Understand that printed words have meaning
  • Understand the importance of caring for books
  • Know the difference between letters and words, and between words and sentences
  • Understand how punctuation marks means a sentence has ended
  • Identify when to start and stop reading
  • Know that stories have a beginning, middle, and end

For many children, the road to literacy begins with a series of simple discoveries: what letters are, how those letters form words, how those words form sentences – and that all those things have meaning. That spark of print awareness often leads children toward learning more about how those words and sentences form the stories they love. Teaching book handling skills (and how to take care of books) involves taking that emerging print awareness and channeling it toward the printed page.

Understanding the basics of the printed word teaches kids to seek words out wherever they can, which means learning as much as they can about books and how they work. Book handling skills involve far more than caring for books. Learning to turn pages, fix upside-down books, and recognize a book’s basic parts may seem inconsequential, but these tiny realizations (and yes, caring for books) are the first steps in a process designed to turn your budding bookworms into refined readers.

Teaching children to read isn’t always easy, but CCEI courses like Environmental and Functional Print , The Read-Aloud Process: Building the Components of Literacy, and Storytelling for Enrichment, Early Literacy, and Fun can help you help your students become the best readers possible.

Visit the ChildCare Education Institute to learn more about these courses as well as our entire catalog of professional development offerings!

Language and Literacy Activities for Preschoolers

Language and literacy activities for preschoolers is one of our favorite topics because developing language and literacy skills in your students offers a number of important benefits. It supports their cognitive development, improves their creativity, builds their language skills, helps improve their concentration and problem solving skills and the list goes on.

And fortunately, teaching ABC’s can be as easy as, well, ABC. Plus, it’s a lot of fun!

There are a number of easy, fun and engaging literacy activities for preschoolers to help your students become strong readers and communicators. Below are 10 of our favorite language and literacy activities for preschoolers that will help your kiddos develop skills that will serve as a foundation for their entire educational journey.

Read Aloud to Them

First and foremost, read aloud to them. Yes, it’s easy and likely something you’re already doing, but its importance can’t be understated.

Reading to your class is probably the single most important way to build literacy skills in preschoolers. And while they might not understand everything being said, it’s a critical first step for helping them understand the written language.

As a rule of thumb, toddlers enjoy books that rhyme and have a good rhythm. Repetition is something else to look for. While selecting age-appropriate books is important, just like anything else, don’t be afraid to introduce more challenging books. Also, make sure the books you choose cover a wide range of topics. Not only will this keep them engaged, but it will help broaden their horizons by introducing subjects they’re unfamiliar with.

In addition to a wonderful preschool literacy activity, this is a great way to bond with your students, which is important to their development. Plus, a regular reading period gives them something to look forward to.

Kick the Alphabet Cup

This simple, fun activity from Fun Learning for Kids helps children identify letters and sounds. As a plus, it gets them up and moving. And best yet, it’s easy to set up and only requires a small ball, plastic cups and a marker.

You simply write a letter on each cup, line up the cups on the floor and have your students kick the ball to knock over a cup. You then have them pick up the knocked over cup and have them sound out the letter.

At first, you might have to sound out the letter with them. As they progress and learn their letters, you can instruct them to kick over a specific lettered cup, e.g. “now, can you kick over the ‘A’?”

Additionally, in this activity, as well as all the others, it’s a great idea to have them trace the letter as they pronounce it. This practice is wonderful for helping develop fine motor skills and eventually, handwriting.

Sing a Song

Not only does singing help communication skills, but kids love it. Partially because our brains are pre-programmed to appreciate music. Additionally, singing is closely related to cognitive development and when you incorporate it, it helps lessons stick better by reinforcing letter names and sounds.

There are a number of great ABC songs, including the classic, easy-to-follow Alphabet Song.  If you want to take a deep dive into other options and expand your repertoire, there are countless ideas on the internet, and one of our favorites is Jack Hartmann’s Kids Music Channel.

Regardless of the songs you sing, this is one of the best language and literacy activities for preschoolers. And don’t worry if you can’t carry a tune – your students won’t care!

Alphabet Playdough

This activity from No Time for Flashcards not only helps improve literacy skills, but it’s also a great sensory activity. Simply grab some playdough and alphabet cookie cutters and you’ll be on your way.

Give your students a glob of the putty and the cutters and let them loose. As they begin to press out letters, you can verbalize what they’re doing, e.g. “look at that, you’re making a ‘B’.”

Then, you can then instruct them to pick out specific letters and make molds as they learn and develop a better grasp of the alphabet.

When it comes to literacy activities for preschoolers, this one can’t be beat.

Scavenger Hunt

For this preschool literacy activity, have students take turns pulling out toys from the classroom toy bin. As they pull out an item, ask them to identify it. For example, if they remove a stuffed bear, you can say, “that’s a bear, and bear begins with ‘B’.”

As your students become more familiar with letters and the alphabet, you can ask them to find an object in the toy bin that begins with a specific letter, for example, ask them to pull out an object that begins with the letter ‘B.’

Finally, you can expand this activity in a couple of ways. First, you can ask them what color the object is or if it’s a toy animal, what sound it makes. Second, you can encourage your students to make up a story with the item, since storytelling is also an important part of building literacy skills.

Storytelling

Speaking of storytelling, this deserves its own place in the list of language and literacy activities for preschoolers.

In addition to reading your students stories, it’s also important to have them practice storytelling. This helps them build confidence and strengthens their ability to communicate their thoughts, feelings and ideas. It also helps them develop their creativity.

There are several amazing language and literacy activities for preschoolers that can help them develop their storytelling skills.

One of our favorites is using a prompt jar. Simply write easy words on pieces of paper or use pictures, and put them in a jar (for this activity, at this age, animals work well). Have your students take turns selecting prompts and telling a story based on what they select. If a student gets stuck, that’s perfectly fine. After all, at this age, they likely won’t be able to create complete sentences or complex sequences. If they do need a little help, you can always offer suggestions like, “what sound does your animal make?” and “show us how your animal moves.” And don’t be afraid to join in the fun!

Recite Nursery Rhymes

Nursery rhymes are an excellent preschool literacy activity and fun way to get your children using words since they’re easy to learn. Also, because nursery rhymes are made up of patterns, they are easy for preschoolers to grasp, and they help them develop an ear for language.

You likely have a nice collection of nursery rhyme books already, but if you want to branch out, Bilingual Kidspot has a great list of nursery rhymes here.

Play I Spy

This guessing game has been around for ages and is one of the first activities children learn to play.

Play I spy, and say, “I spy with my little eye, something that begins with a ‘B’.” Then see if your students can identify the object. They’ll likely miss and grab something that begins with a different letter, and that’s OK. Simply, in a re-affirming way, correct them.

This is a perfect preschool literacy activity since it also helps them build their vocabulary. Additionally, it’s a good exercise for teaching students how to take turns.

Go Fish

When exploring literacy activities for preschoolers, How Wee Learn shares a great version of a learning card game, which also happens to be one of the easiest and oldest ones in the book.  Also, since all you need is paper, scissors and markers, it makes for a quick, simple activity if you’re crunched for time.

Mail a Letter

This is our own take on another No Time for Flashcards activity.

During an arts and crafts lesson, have your students draw pictures, such as simple shapes or animals. Then, take each drawing and put it in a sealed envelope and on the outside, write the letter (both uppercase and lowercase) of the image. For example, if the picture is of a cat, label the sealed envelope with a “C c.”

Then use a cardboard box to make a classroom mailbox. During your next literacy lesson, have students take turns pulling out the envelopes. As they remove them, you can say, “that’s a C,” (or ask them to identify the letter based on ability) and have them open the letter and remove the drawing, and say “‘C’ is for cat.”

This preschool literacy activity is a fun way to teach letters while also incorporating art. As a bonus, your kids will be excited to open the letters and see what’s inside!

If you’re looking for other resources for language and literacy activities for preschoolers, we offer a number of professional development courses related to this topic, as well as curriculum development and more.

In all, ChildCare Education Institute offers 150+ online courses in both English and Spanish that can help you incorporate literacy activities for preschoolers into your lesson plans.

Visit the ChildCare Education Institute for more information on all our offerings and to see why tens of thousands of early childhood professionals just like you trust CCEI for all their professional development needs. CCEI offers more than just language and literacy activities for preschoolers, learn more today!

5 Tips for Lesson Planning for New Teachers

If you’re a new teacher, there’s one thing all your seasoned colleagues will tell you if they haven’t already: lesson plans can make or break your school day (or week or even year). After all, it’s true what they say: an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!

A lesson plan is a roadmap for ensuring you cover everything you need to during your day in order to make sure your students meet all the goals of preschool education, including language, social skills, cognitive goals, and more.

Additionally, for early childhood education pros, lesson plans are critical because toddlers crave structure and predictability, and by making sure your day is mapped out, you create a more structured environment (which provides children with a sense of safety and helps reduce anxiety in your classroom).

Below are five lesson planning tips to help you use your curriculum and creativity to create plans your students will love.

Begin With the End in Mind

First and foremost, consider looking at the educational outcomes you want for your students (what they ideally will learn by the end of the year in order to be set up for success the following year), and work backward with those in mind.

This is one of our favorite lesson planning tips for a number of reasons. One, this will help you set clear, measurable learning goals. Two, this strategy is beneficial for mapping out how much time you’ll need to complete each lesson. By mapping out your time, it prevents you from dragging out certain lessons or trying to cram others in. And three, starting with the end in mind will better help you plan for assessing your students’ progress.

Understand How You’ll Assess Student Achievement

Assessment is a key ingredient in ensuring students meet their education goals. That’s why it’s imperative that lesson plans for new teachers incorporate assessments.

Assessment is the process of gathering info about a student – either during learning activities or observing them through play – and then using that information to plan age- and developmentally-appropriate activities for the classroom moving forward on a daily, weekly and monthly basis.

Know Your Strengths and Weaknesses

Like anything else, we gravitate towards the things we do best or prefer (and shy away from the things we don’t do as well or like as much).

The reason this is one of our important lesson planning tips is so you can understand yourself when creating your lesson plans.

As a child, you might have enjoyed art tremendously while shying away from math. Now, when it comes to classroom instruction, you may subconsciously focus on or spend more time with arts and crafts over math. And that time can add up over the course of the year, meaning less time spent on other subjects.

Just remember, you want to be aware of how much time you’re dedicating to various subjects and activities and try your hardest to ensure the time is split evenly.

Get Creative

More than any other grade in school, you have the flexibility to let your creativity run wild when lesson planning for toddlers. Not only is this one of the more fun aspects of lesson planning for new teachers, but it’s an extremely valuable strategy.

For instance, say you’re dealing with a classroom full of energetic students who can’t seem to sit still. Instead of forcing them to remain in their seats while you learn about animals, have them move around the room, imitating the animals you’re learning about.

Talk to Your Colleagues

As a new teacher, you might subscribe to the “fake it ‘til you make it philosophy.” After all, you don’t want to come across like you don’t know what you’re doing.

That’s why it’s important to understand that it’s OK if you feel like you don’t know what you’re doing because everyone’s been in the same boat as you.

Also, don’t be afraid to look to your peers for input and suggestions. After all, everyone is there for the same reason: to see the kiddos reach their goals. If you’re hitting a roadblock or just want some advice about a particular lesson plan, reach out and collaborate with your fellow educators.

Interested in learning more about lesson planning for new teachers? ChildCare Education Institute has you covered with a number of quick online courses!

For instance, our Bright Beginnings: Age Appropriate Activities for Infants and Toddlers course covers the importance of developmentally appropriate and individually appropriate activities in the classroom.

And our Active Learning Experiences in Early Childhood course covers practical methods for integrating movement, active involvement, and group games across all curriculum areas, including art, language arts, mathematics, music, science, and social studies.

Visit ChildCare Education Institute to learn more about all our 150+ courses and see why 99% of users would recommend us to a friend!

Can Students Benefit from Using Social Media in The Classroom?

When you think about using social media in the classroom, preschool centers might not be the first thing to come to mind. But, incorporating social media into early education can have a number of benefits for both your students and staff.

At ChildCare Education Institute, we’re dedicated to providing early childhood professionals like you with the resources and tools you need to be the best possible educator. As a result, we’re constantly keeping up with industry trends and evolutions — including the pros and cons of social media in the classroom.

We’re sharing what we’ve learned in this brief guide in hopes that it helps you decide whether or not social media is something you’d like to incorporate into your next preschool lesson plan.

How can using social media in the classroom benefit students?

While most of the benefits of social media in the classroom primarily apply to older students (including building communication skills, engaging with news sources and more), there are still some that are relevant for students in early childhood care.

For example, social media can be a great way to introduce new concepts to kids in an engaging way — or to reinforce existing concepts visually. Let’s say you’re teaching your students about zoo animals. Incorporating a YouTube video featuring monkeys and elephants is an easy way to help visual learners in your classroom process the information in a new way.

By incorporating digital media into your lesson plans, you can also help spur your students’ creativity. For example, showing them a Facebook video about a child finger painting might inspire your students to make their own creations both in the classroom and at home.

Using social platforms can also be an effective way to introduce your students to the concept of diversity and cultural competence. With social media videos, you can show your students how children of other cultures live. It can also be a great way to spark conversation about how people of all cultures still share a lot of common ground despite their differences.

Finally, as we continue to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic, digital media offers students the important ability to be able to continue their learning even when they can’t be in the classroom for instruction. Thanks to social media, students can watch videos at home and/or take part in distance learning using platforms like Zoom and Google Meet. They can also keep in touch with their classmates to continue building and strengthening their personal relationships.

How can social media in the classroom benefit teachers?

As a teacher, you can reap a lot of benefits by using social media in the classroom. For example, utilizing center or classroom accounts on Instagram and Facebook can be an easy way to keep parents informed and engaged about what goes on during their child’s school day. Social media can also be a great way for preschool directors to attract new students and share messaging about what makes their program and staff unique.

Finally, digital media allows educators like you to be more creative with their lesson plans without having to put in additional work. For instance, if you’re planning a lesson around different places in the world, you can easily source a video with clips of different locales and include it in your presentation. Before social media, you would either have to create that video on your own, or you’d have to stick to a purely auditory presentation.

Are there any downsides to using social media in the classroom?

As with any learning tool, there are certainly pros and cons of social media in the classroom. One of the biggest downsides is that children could easily access content that’s not appropriate for their age and stage of life. That’s why it’s important that any social media use in the classroom is closely monitored. We recommend that you always oversee use (rather than allowing students to surf the platforms freely). But, if you’re planning to include any digital media in your free play centers, be sure to install content blockers or parental controls ahead of time.

Another potential downside to social media in the classroom is overuse. Before building out your lesson plan, take a look at the daily recommended screen time for your students’ age ranges. Then, ensure any screen time you allow kids during the day doesn’t exceed the maximum limit. For most preschoolers, the recommended daily limit is one hour.

While there are pros and cons of using social media in the classroom, most of the downsides can be eliminated with proper monitoring and planning.

How can I incorporate social media into my preschool classroom?

As we’ve alluded to, there are a number of ways you can incorporate digital media into your daily classroom routine. The first (and perhaps easiest) is integrating YouTube videos into your lesson plans. Whether it’s a catchy song to help your students learn basic math skills or a wacky science experiment to help them grasp STEM concepts, these videos are a fun way to keep students engaged and add another layer to your curriculum.

Music streaming services like Spotify or Pandora are another easy way to incorporate digital media into your classroom. If your lesson plan has a theme, try creating a music playlist that matches. Then, while your students are working on independent assignments, play the music in the background. This can help further immerse students into each theme and can help them stay focused on their tasks. These services are also helpful to use during music time when introducing new instruments or genres of music.

Finally, as a teacher, you can incorporate social media into your classroom by creating private Facebook groups or Instagram pages for parents to follow. Then, you can share fun videos and photos of your students throughout the day on your page, along with information about upcoming events, at-home activity recommendations and important deadlines.

Want to learn more about using social media in the classroom? We have two online courses that can help!

For more information about best practices, we recommend taking a look at Technology and Social Media Policy in the Early Care and Education Environment. If you’re interested in reading more about how digital media is reshaping child development, try The Child’s Digital Universe: Technology and Digital Media in Early Childhood.

All of our courses are available 24/7 from any device — and earn you IACET CEUs at no additional cost. To learn more about our offerings, and to get started, click here.

How to Teach Spanish to Preschoolers

It’s no secret that learning a second language can have a myriad of benefits for children — but did you know it can also help them better understand their native tongue?

At ChildCare Education Institute, we’re dedicated to helping educators like you get the training you need to set your students up for success, both in and out of the classroom.

That’s why we’re sharing our top tips on how to teach Spanish to preschoolers, and why exposure to Spanish words for toddlers the language can be so beneficial for your students.

Why should you include Spanish in your curriculum?

Enhanced language skills aren’t the only benefit your students can gain by learning a second language. Studies have also shown that bilingual students have better problem-solving skills, cognitive abilities and abstract thinking skills.

Additionally, students who learn a foreign language early in life tend to perform better in math, reading and standardized testing later on.

Finally, toddlers who pick up a second language are more likely to develop increased empathy skills. In fact, when you expose your students to a new language, you’re also exposing them to other cultures and building a backbone for future lessons on cultural awareness and diversity.

What should the lessons look like? 

Start with the familiar

The easiest and most effective way to start Spanish lessons in your classroom is to introduce a few words or phrases for terms your students already know and understand. For example, if your students are already familiar with colors, start them with a lesson on the Spanish words for colors. This will help them more easily connect the new vocabulary with their existing understanding. It will also help provide them with context that can help with comprehension.

Include physical props

As you’re introducing new Spanish words for toddlers, try incorporating real objects or visuals that you can show your students in-real time. Going back to the color example, have different colored objects (or posters) that you can point to and pass around as you introduce the word. If possible, use these props the first two or three times you introduce a word to your kids to help them with comprehension and recollection.

Rely on repetition

Repetition is an important concept in preschool classrooms, and Spanish lessons are no exception. Start each new lesson with a review of your previous terms and concepts to help students become more familiar with the vocabulary and confident in their knowledge. This can be done through group review sessions or individual review activities/worksheets.

Get your students moving

To keep your students engaged and active, incorporate movement into your Spanish words for toddlers lesson plan for when possible. For example, if you’re teaching your students the Spanish words for different parts of the body, have them stand up and point to the body part as you say the word. This will keep them engaged in the lesson and will help them put the word in context with its meaning. You can also incorporate movement by taking regular “wiggle” breaks during the lesson. During this time, students can get up from their seats, jump and wiggle about, and then return to their seats feeling focused and ready to learn more Spanish words for toddlers.

Incorporate unique activities

Once you’ve introduced a set of Spanish words for toddlers to your classroom, guide your students through unique and fun activities that involve the words from their lesson. These activities can include songs, games, videos, stories – whatever you think will best resonate with your kids. Whatever activity you choose, be sure to keep it short (so you can keep your students’ attention) and try not to pick the same type of activity every time. We’ve found that the most effective and enjoyable lessons include a combination of individual/quiet activities (like worksheets) and movement-based activities.

Find a routine and stick to it

As an early childhood educator, you know firsthand how important routines are for your students and your program as a whole. Your Spanish lessons are no different. Set aside a specific time each day (or each week) that will be dedicated to helping your students work on their Spanish. Then, try to structure each lesson as similarly as possible. For example, you could open each lesson with a quick review session, then go into new word introductions, then into a group activity and round it out with an individual activity. This will help your students know what to expect each time they start a lesson.

What are some popular activities to include?

As we mentioned earlier, one of the most effective tips for how to teach Spanish to preschoolers is to include engaging activities that allow them to put what they have learned into practice. Some of our favorites include:

  • Spanish Color Word Mats: These interactive mats from Look We’re Learning are a great way for your students to practice matching Spanish words with the colors they represent. The best part? They also double as a fun fine motor skills activity!
  • Spanish Yoga: With these yoga cards from Fun For Spanish Teachers, you can help your little ones work on their Spanish, practice mindfulness and get active all at once. Each pose represents a different word that can be called out in Spanish for your students to recognize and then mimic.
  • Bingo: Once you’ve introduced your students to the Spanish words for numbers, create randomized bingo cards using the numbers 1-10. Then, create pieces of paper with the Spanish words for each number and call them out. Your students can practice comprehension and mark off the numbers on their bingo cards as you call them out.
  • Sing-alongs: Get your students singing and dancing with videos from Canticos, a free channel with bilingual songs made just for preschoolers.
  • Storytime: Bilingual board books are a great way for your students to hear the vocabulary words they’re learning in context and understand a story in both languages. Some of our favorites include ¡Me gusta cómo soy! by Karen Beaumont, Me gusta cuando . . . by Mary Murphy and ¿Cómo estás? by Angela Dominguez.

How can parents help?

Parents can be a helpful resource when it comes to helping your students master Spanish. To show families how they can get involved and to encourage active participation, we recommend creating “How to teach your child Spanish at home” packets that you can give to each student. Inside the  “How to Teach Your Child Spanish at Home” packet, include a rough timeline for when the students will be learning what sets of words, activities they can do with their child at home and links to resources they can take advantage of (including YouTube videos, songs and more).

Want to learn more about timely classroom topics like how to teach Spanish to preschoolers and how to create a multicultural environment? Or perhaps you’re a parent and want to know how to teach your child Spanish at home? Our online courses can help! Click here to explore our catalog of over 150 courses in Spanish and English.

5 STEM Activities for Toddlers

Do you know why you can’t trust atoms? It’s because they make up everything!

*Pause for laughter*

While our science humor might be a bit silly, one thing that isn’t is incorporating both indoor and outdoor STEM activities for toddlers into your curriculum.

There are a number of reasons you should promote STEM education among your students. First, STEM in early childhood education curriculum encourages curiosity, exploration, discovery and problem-solving, which will serve your students well throughout their schooling. Second, math and science tend to be the courses that give kids trouble later in their educational journey, so it’s important to give them a strong foundation early on.

At this age, introducing STEM projects for toddlers, as well as STEM concepts, should be a top priority. After all, your kiddos’ brains are like sponges and are primed to absorb new information. That’s why we’re sharing five of our favorite indoor and outdoor STEM activities for toddlers below.

Coke and Mentos

Volcano projects are always fun, and this is perhaps the most well-known one. If you’re not familiar with it, all you do is drop three to four candy Mentos into a plastic bottle of Coca-Cola, stand back and watch the explosion happen. It’s a simple project, and your students will be fascinated by the fizzy reaction. Also, you likely want to consider adding this to the list of outdoor STEM activities for toddlers since it can be quite messy.

Cloud in a Jar

We love this weather-themed STEM activity from Gift of Curiosity. There are two different variations, both of which require easily accessible materials. Regardless of which one you choose, this is one of our favorite STEM projects for toddlers since it demonstrates how clouds are formed.

Coding a LEGO Maze

In this activity from ResearchParent, children learn the basics of coding, a skill that is becoming more in-demand every passing day. This exercise is super easy to prepare and only requires a printable, which can be found at the link above, as well as LEGO or DUPLO blocks.

Pipe Cleaner Counting

Here’s a super easy and fun activity from Laughing Kids Learn that will help teach your kiddos counting and ordering. As a bonus, it also helps with motor skill development. Here’s the gist: children add beads to pipe cleaners then count. It’s that easy! And while this might seem simple, it’s a great activity to help your students develop their numeracy skills.

Building with Marshmallows (or Jelly Beans)

Last but not least, is one of the most popular engineering exercises for kids. Here, you simply give kids toothpicks and marshmallows (or jelly beans), and let them build structures. Lemon Lime Adventures perfectly describes how to conduct this classic engineering stem projects for toddlers as well as older age groups. One note, since you are dealing with toddlers, you want to pay close attention since toothpicks are sharp. We also prefer marshmallows instead of jelly beans since they are larger and easier to insert the toothpicks.

Are you ready to incorporate these indoor and outdoor stem activities for toddlers into your curriculum? If so, ChildCare Education Institute has you covered with a number of courses.

For starters, check out STEM in Early Childhood Education. This two-hour beginner level course covers basic info about STEM education so you have a foundation and can promote the development of science and math skills in young children.

We also offer STEAM: Enhancing STEM Education with the Arts, another two-hour beginner level course. This one offers tools and insights necessary to enhance STEM related learning outcomes through the integration of a wide variety of art activities.

So what are you waiting for? Click HERE to learn more about these offerings, as well as CCEI’s catalog of 150+ courses in English and Spanish that can be taken anywhere, anytime.