July is often a month families enjoy beach visits, so this month we chose to learn about beaches, underwater creatures and the ocean. There were plenty of opportunities to learn both inside and outdoors.
Our circle time activities for the month centered on starfish, turtles, and fish. The children's favorite was a fingerplay about starfish because they got to take turns picking up my hand at the end and pretend it was a starfish. The fingerplay went like this:
Five little starfish swimming in the sea,
Floating and crawling as happy as can be.
The first little starfish crawled behind a rock to hide;
The second little starfish caught a wave for a ride.
The third little starfish looked for something to eat;
The fourth little starfish found a treat.
The fifth little starfish crawled through the sand
Where a little child like YOU picked it up in her hand!
The children had a great time creating sailboats during a guided art project. They tore and then layered tissue paper to create waves and clouds, then added construction paper to make the boat.
There was also plenty of time for process art throughout the month. The children enjoyed coloring with crayons and painting with finger paint. You can see some of the masterpieces below. I believe process art is so important for the children- it allows them the opportunity to experiment with the effects of pressure, grip, color, layering, and more all without the expectation of an end product. It is through process art project that children stretch their creativity and learn to become confident in their choices. You can see the pride they take in their work!
We spent the hottest afternoons building with lego blocks, and the children created everything from towers to farms, cars to lakes. While I helped the children with the execution of some of the more challenging structures, we all had fun working and playing together as we created an ever-changing set of scenes and scenarios. We created tractors to haul hay when animals were hungry, waves for boats to ride, and flower-filled fields for dogs (and sheep) to romp in. We pulled in our underwater theme as we created an aquarium for fish to float in and took little pretend people whale watching in a boat.
Legos are wonderful, open-ended toys that appeal to and meet the developmental needs of a variety of ages. Best of all, they are fun and the children get very excited when the big bin of blocks coming into the daycare. The smaller children work on simply aligning and stacking the blocks, while the older children make whole lego worlds that are only limited by their imaginations!
Mid-July, the children and I celebrated a special daycare tradition- our annual picnic day. In the morning, the children and I played at packing the picnic basket with pretend food. Later, we worked on our letters as we played a variation of the classic "I'm going on a picnic and I'm bringing..." game. We thought of foods that began with a variety of letter sounds.
We packed up our picnic basket with sandwiches, watermelon slices, and lemonade... but the weather did not cooperate! The children and I settled for an indoor picnic in the daycare room, and since we always eat in the kitchen at the table, it was special indeed! Just as we would do outside, we set down a blanket to sit on, ate finger foods off our plates, and sipped our lemonade. The best part was eating the sweet, juicy watermelon slices without having to worry about ants crashing our picnic party!
We were later able to replicate our picnic on a smaller scale as we took a few opportunities to enjoy our snack out on the lawn.
Our outdoor adventures in July was often centered around water play. The children and I enjoyed doing our toy-washing routine outside. We rubbed and scrubbed our toys in warm, sudsy water...
... carefully adding toys one at a time....
... and using our hands, sponges, and brushes to clean the toys well.
The children loved the extra freedom they had to splash as much as they wanted as they cleaned, and it was great fun to cover the toys in suds!
As you can see from the pictures of the children washing their toys, they love helping out with other daily routines like adding our fruit and vegetable scraps to the compost bin. They get a great boost of self-esteem from feeling that their efforts are valued, and I'm happy to back them up with lots of praise!
We spent a span of several days exploring a variety of underwater creatures swimming in an "ocean" of soft, slippery water beads. The water beads added an extra layer of sensory input to our underwater ocean, and the small and detailed animals we used were lots of fun for small hands to grasp. We talked about the shapes of the ocean animals, counted the legs of the starfish and octopus, noted the way that sea mammals' tails are made to go up and down while fish have tails that move side to side, and looked for the sea mammal's blowholes and the fish's gills.
Most fun of all was pretending to swim the animals through the pretty blue water and feeling the water beads.
The water beads must be handled with a gentle touch or else they break, so they were a great reason to practice fine motor control.
When we weren't playing in the water, we observed changes taking place in our flower garden. Now the marigolds, cornflower, alyssum, morning glories, and poppies that we started from seed in the early spring are in their prime and we have a colorful garden. We call it the "Rainbow Garden," and I think the name is quite suitable!
The children spent some time practicing their racquet-swinging skills as I tossed balls for them to try to hit. We also spent time through the month observing insect visitors to the various gardens, picking vegetables we have been nurturing (and sometimes eating them!), and literally taking time to smell the roses.
The children and I did our best to make it to the park from time to time. Once we got there we all enjoyed playing hide-and-seek and using the variety of park equipment.
There was a special birthday celebrated near the end of the month- one of the daycare children turned three years old, so of course we celebrated with cupcakes and the happy birthday song. It's an honor to care for children over the course of several years as well as a blast celebrating their special day!
As usual, we spent some of the cooler days going on nature walks. Graduating to walking along delights the younger children who used to ride in the stroller. We always find a variety of interesting things to look at including butterflies, beetles, and blackberry bushes.
One bittersweet moment occurred at the end of the month- one of the children who has been in the Blue Sky Daycare family graduated on to preschool. We celebrated her big move by letting her choose an special activity to do all by herself. She wanted to make cupcakes with blue frosting (combining her favorite color and favorite food!), and so we did, complete with a cupcake apron and all. This child's development from an infant to a patient, self-confident preschooler is astounding and I am just as proud of her as she is of herself! The cupcakes were a sweet final activity that everyone enjoyed, and my memories of the time spent with this child will be even sweeter!