Toys laying abandoned.

Are your kids bored of their toys? Are they disengaged and uninterested? Try rotating their toys.

Toy rotation is highly beneficial in preschools, daycares, day homes and even in everyday family life.

Benefits of toy rotation

  • After a toy is packed away for a length of time, children become excited to play with it again because they haven’t seen it for so long.Child surrounded by toys
  • Putting away some toys for rotation may leave your child with less toys to play with. Believe it or not, this can lead to deeper engagement with the few toys that are available. With too many toys a child may bounce from one toy to another, rather than fully playing with any one toy. Sometimes less is truly more.
  • Having fewer toys available also shrinks the amount of mess a child can make with their toys at any given time.

How long should toys be available?

The answer depends greatly on your child, your child’s age, and the toy itself. Because the recommended length of time is so situationally dependent, watch how engaged your child is. When they show signs of being less engaged, it’s time to rotate. Be aware, leaving toys out, until your child is bored, may significantly decrease their excitement at seeing those toys again later. Therefore, try to do the rotating on a high note so they will associate good memories with the toys for next time.

Older children, such as elementary aged children, may be able to regulate the rotating themselves. Store all their toys on a shelf. Allow them to get out and play with only one or two types of toys at a time – perhaps the cars and the blocks. When the elementary aged children realize they are getting tired of the toy, they will ask to get out a different type of toy. Have them first clean up and put away the toy they are tired of, then they may get out the next toy. In this way, they can take some responsibility for rotating their own toys.

What about at preschools and daycares, etc?Child playing with wooden blocks

I have been a part of preschools and daycares who rotated their toys once a week, every other week, once a month, or never. Where the toys were never rotated, the children were extremely bored. They engaged in very little meaningful play and often misbehaved.

I personally would recommend rotating the toys every week or two. Some toys, such as large wooden blocks, may not need rotating as often, while other toys, such as puzzles, may only engage each child for one sitting and therefore benefit from frequent rotation.

Toy rotation in preschool and daycare settings comes with the benefit of providing a good toy washing routine. Every time new toys are set out, the old ones can be washed and left to dry before being packed away.

Does toy rotation make a difference?

My years of experience have given me reason to enthusiastically say “yes!” Have you seen the difference toy rotation makes?

Letters being covered by cloth

This simple game is fantastic for engaging your preschoolers. It makes your children think hard as they try to solve the exciting mystery of what’s missing!

The game itself is extremely basic, yet the modifications and ways of using it to teach specific vocabulary are nearly endless. It can be played with a group of children or just one child.

Why play?

Children love this game! Not only is it fun and interactive, but it also makes your children think hard. Our brains, like our muscles, need exercise and stretching to make them strong. This game provides an excellent brain-stretching exercise for kids, and for adults too. I’ve often been amazed at how quickly my children are able to learn the skills needed to play this game well. You’ll soon find yourself needing to make it harder and harder to keep them challenged.

Not only that, but this game is also a great opportunity to provide a review of the vocabulary your children are learning, whether letter names, or colours, or various zoo animals.

How to play

  1. Collect various unique items.
  2. Show the children the items and review their names.
  3. Cover the items with a blanket to hide them from the children’s sight. While they are hidden, remove one of the items.
  4. Uncover the items and encourage the children to guess what’s missing.
  5. Repeat until all the items have disappeared

Various office supplies under cloth

 

Zoo animal cut outs under cloth

 

Farm animal toys under bandana

 

Foam letters under blanket

 

Tips

Make it engaging:

  • Be excited about figuring out what’s missing. If you’re excited about it, your children will be too.
  • When your children guess right, celebrate with them. When they guess wrong, be encouraging. Learning that it’s okay to make wrong guesses will help them succeed in school and life.
  • Try to play at a level where your children can guess correctly 75% of the time. You want it hard enough that they have to think, but not so hard that they become discouraged and give up.

Which items to choose:

  • You can use just about anything to play this game!
    • Small plastic toys such as farm animals
    • Paper zoo animals that you printed and coloured
    • Random craft/office supplies such as glue stick, pencil, paintbrush, etc.
    • Small cars or construction vehicles
    • Magnetic letters
    • Small blocks of various colours and shapes
  • The more similar the items are to each other the harder the game becomes. Beware that it also becomes far more tricky if the children are unfamiliar with the right words to name the items.

Make it easier:

  • Use fewer items. For a class of two years olds, I often start with only 4 items the first time I play with them. Once they understand the game and are guessing well, I might use more items the next time we play.
  • Use items the children are able to name well. Something like an ostrich is harder for the children to recall that it is missing and to produce the name as a guess.
  • Use items that are very different from each other.
  • When you remove an item, leave its spot empty to help them recall what’s missing.
  • Each time, before covering the items, review the names of the items to help the children memorize them.
  • For younger children, when I get down to one item left, I like to ask them which item they think will disappear. Then I proceed to make the final item disappear.

Make it harder:

  • Start with more items.
  • Use more challenging items, such as the letters of the alphabet or more unusual animals.
  • Use items with fewer differences such as all the items are dolls, but their outfits are different.
  • Remove more than one item per round.
  • After removing an item, rearrange the items before revealing them to the children.

Use it to teach concepts:

    • Each time an item is removed, review the names of the remaining items before covering them again.
    • Choose familiar things for most of the items, but add one or two unfamiliar items. Leave the unfamiliar items until closer to the end so the children get lots of practice saying those names.
    • Choose items that focus on one particular topic. If you want to focus on colours, select items that are identical (or nearly identical) other than their colour. If you want to work on shapes, select items that are nearly identical in colour so that the shape is the most prominent difference.

Bonus Tip

Do you have grandkids or nieces and nephews whom you can’t be with in person right now? Try playing this game while having a video call with them. You don’t even need a blanket since you can turn the camera away while you remove an item. Have fun letting them try to guess what’s missing!
I hope you enjoy playing this game with your children! What items did you use?
Title "5 Types of Storytime Seating" on colourful background

Circle time. That point when the entire class gathers around the teacher for songs, stories, and activities.

This can be a tricky part of the day for the teacher, as the children wiggle and get distracted by their friends. Different seating arrangements can help eliminate certain distractions. Also, different seating arrangements work better in different environments and with different budgets. Here are some pros and cons of 5 unique types of storytime seating for preschoolers that I’ve used. 

Note: the images included are for your reference. They do not indicate any partnership with or recommendation for those specific carpets and/or companies. The links are not affiliate links.

  1. Small carpet (with no individual spots)

  • This could be any rug you have around that is big enough for all the children to sit on. I have seen blankets or bamboo mats used as well.
  • Pros:
    • Use what you have, rather than buying a new expensive rug
    • Can fit a large number of children on a smaller space since there aren’t individual spots to sit on
    • Gives the children a defined area to sit during storytime
  • Cons:
    • Beware, rugs with very colourful designs can make it hard to spot toys, thus making clean up difficult and stepping on toys more likely
    • Children may jostle for position and argue since there are no boundaries providing needed personal space
    • Children are likely to crowd into multiple rows causing added distraction
    • Children have a hard time seeing what the teacher is holding since they are not arranged well
  1. Carpet with multiple rows of individual seating spots

  • These carpets can be square or designed to fit into a corner like a slice of pizza. Often, if all the spots are filled, you will end up with three rows of children directly behind each other.

Preschoolers sitting on corner circletime rug Children sitting on large classroom carpet

 

  • Pros:
    • Typically specifically designed for school type settings
    • Often high-quality carpets that will last several years
    • Often include an educational element such as shapes, or numbers
    • Children have specified spots to sit on with the goal of having the seating well-spaced – not too close and not too far
    • Multiple sizes designed for different numbers of children are available
  • Cons:
    • Often expensive
    • May be hard to clean
    • Can cause difficulties with children kicking those in the row in front of them
    • Back row of children often are not as attentive to the teacher
  1. Large oval or rectangular rug (with seating spots)

  • These are very standard storytime seating for preschools to have. There are many different designs from letters to woodland animals and more.Children sitting on rug for circletime
  • Pros:
    • No back row of children meaning the teacher can see all the children and the children are not distracted the same way as those with multiple rows
    • Many beautiful designs to choose from, including educational themes
    • Are large enough to accommodate many children
    • Individual spots on the rug for children to sit on
    • Typically specifically designed for school type settings
    • Often high-quality carpets that will last several years
  • Cons:
    • Your classroom must have a large open space to set this rug
    • Difficult to find a place for the teacher to sit where all the children can see (some may be behind another child along the side)
    • Depending on where the teacher sits, some children will be sitting a considerable distance from the teacher making it difficult to see what the teacher is holding, or for the teacher to hear the child talking
    • Most are very heavy if you have to move them
    • Can be difficult to clean
    • Typically expensive
  1. Individual story spots or carpets

  • Story spots come in a wide variety of shapes, sizes, and colours. They may be individual sized squares of carpet, or circle shaped cushions. They could even be laminated pieces of paper. The thing that makes them all fit in the same category is that they are one spot per child and that they are movable.Child sitting on story spots
  • Pros:
    • Spots can be rearranged to whatever shape fits your space.
    • Can be stacked on the shelf during playtime allowing more space for toys
    • Might be machine washable
    • You choose how many to use rather than always having 12 spots if you only have 10 children.
  • Cons:
    • Spots are not secured to the floor allowing children to move them around which can be distracting
    • Creates an extra task for the teacher (or children) to set them up and put them away every day
    • If used on hard floor, the spots may be slippery if stepped on
    • Can be expensive
  1. Tape

  • Rather than buying a rug, take a roll of masking tape and put it on the floor in a large “u” or semi-circle around the teacher’s chair. The children will sit on the tape. (Alternatively cut pieces of paper and use clear tape to secure them to the floor)
  • Pros:
    • Inexpensive
    • Can be placed in any shape, according to your needs
    • Can adjust length of tape to accommodate any size of class
    • Children do not argue over getting their favourite colour or letter
    • No second row (unless you want to make one)
    • No heavy rug or stack of story spots to deal with
  • Cons:
    • Children may pick at the tape and pull it off
    • Lack of individual spots means the children sometimes sit too close to each other causing irritation
    • Leaving the tape down for several weeks, or during deep cleaning, may leave lines on the floor
    • Tape will need to be replaced from time to time as it wears out or the children pull it off
    • Not ideal on hard floor as it does not protect children from hard surfaces or cold floors

That’s a long list of pros and cons to consider. If you were to ask me which storytime seating for preschoolers I prefer, I would likely say using tape is my preference. However, this, of course, depends on the program and the space available.

What is your preferred storytime seating for preschoolers? Can you think of pros or cons I didn’t include in this post?

Muffin packed in preschool snack box

5 tips from a preschool teacher

Do you have a preschooler? Do you pack snacks for them? Then you’re in the right place. Keep reading to discover five useful tips I’ve learned from observing the preschool snack packing techniques of countless parents.

Please keep in mind that each individual is unique. Use discretion when deciding which tips will be useful for you.

  1. Involve Your Child

    • Children enjoy and benefit from having opportunities to choose. Try involving them in picking what to have for snack, but keep the options limited. For example, you could ask them if they want an apple or a banana. Or you could ask if they want white cheese or orange cheese. Be sure that the choices you give them are all ones you are happy with them making.
  2. Limit the Options

    • Deciding how many food options to pack in your child’s snack can be tricky. Not enough food leaves them hungry. At the same time, did you know that sending too many options can cause a child to eat less? Of course, this depends on the child’s personality. Some children become overwhelmed or indecisive when presented with too many options. Sending two or three decent sized food choices is often better than six.
  3. Offer Healthy vs. Unhealthy Options

    • Many parents complain to me that their children only eat sugary processed food. If given the option, the majority of children will eat the sugary and/or processed treat in their snack first. This may leave them with little appetite or no time to eat the healthy options you packed for them. If this is a concern for you, try packing only healthy options such as fruit or vegetables and perhaps some crackers. Most children will be happy to eat healthy snacks, if those are the only options you provide.
    • Note that if the child has learned to expect a sugary snack, it may take a few days for them to decide to eat the healthier options.
  4. Send Two+ Food Groups

    • While we’re on the topic of the options to pack for snack, one preschool I worked at insisted that parents include at least two food groups in the snack. Food groups include: fruit, vegetables, grains, dairy, and meat/alternatives. Including options from at least two of these food groups is a great rule of thumb in providing a wholesome snack.
  5. Change Things Up.

    • Rather than sending the exact same snack every day, try changing it up from time to time. This suggestion, again, depends on your child. Some children prefer the exact same snack every day, while others quickly get bored of repetition. Eating a wide variety of food is a healthy thing to do.
    • To keep from getting stuck in a snack-time rut, keep a list readily available, like my 11 Quick and Easy Wholesome Preschool Snack Ideas.

Have you tried any of these tips, or do you have others to add? Leave a comment.

Child wearing winter clothing: coat, mittens, hat.

 

This is one of my favourite winter preschool songs. My preschoolers enjoy its full-body actions and snowy day application. I recommend it for children ages 2-4.

It’s cold outside today, it’s cold outside today,

Brr, brr, it’s cold outside, it’s cold outside today.

 

I put my coat on, I put my coat on,

Brr, brr, it’s cold outside, I put my coat on.

 

I put my snowpants on, I put my snowpants on,

Brr, brr, it’s cold outside, I put my snowpants on.

 

Boy in winter gear sledding

Additional verses:

  • I put my boots on
  • I put my mittens on
  • I put my scarf on
  • I put my hat on

Actions:

  • As you sing “I put my ____ on” move as though putting that item on.
  • When you sing “It’s cold outside today” and “Brr, brr, it’s cold outside” hug yourself tight and rub your hands on your arms as though cold.

 

This song can be sung sitting or standing. I like to sing it standing up because the actions then become full-body. Pretending to put on boots and snowpants provides a good opportunity to encourage children to reach for their feet and stand on one foot. Many of the actions encourage hand-eye coordination and body awareness.

 

Tips:

  • Encourage the children to guess, based on your actions, which item they will put on next.
  • Keep this song for especially cold days when the children arrive bundled up. This gives the song real-life application.
  • Use this song as a high excitement song to help burn some of the pent up energy which often exists on days too cold to go outside.

What is your favourite winter preschool song?