For Presidents’ Day we had a George Washington themed classical Backyard Preschool day. I typically get my ideas from A Year of Playing Skillfully, but they were all flower and Valentines for February. My aim is to please my most wiggly nephews and engage them in learning. Flower shops and decorating playdough chocolates was not going to cut it – unless we ran it all over with monster trucks at the end. Not a bad idea, but possibly upsetting to the few girls in the backyard who would have worked hard at making pretty stuff.
For the art of the month I chose the action oriented but must see classic painting Washington Crossing the Delaware. The art, questions to ask about the painting, other art to compare it to, the library list, and the classic music selection, are all available on my Learning Placemat in the Never a Doll Moment store. The placemat format keeps the ideas in front of us all month, making review simple, quick, and efficient!
I like to start a preschool morning with a sensory activity. Keeping off the President’s Day theme I hid coins in a tub of “slime” and the kids had to dig them out. Next they took their coins to the art table where they made rubbings of them with plain white paper and crayon pieces. This brings out the president’s face on each, helping us identify each one.
Then the coins were carried over to the science table where a coin cleaning experiment was performed on them. These directions from Playground Parkbench are great. Our “science mom” went a step further and explained that substances like soap and ketchup that cleaned the money so well because it had ions that attracted the dirt (making a bond). She talked about hand washing with soap instead of plain water doing the same type of action.
Finally, we brought our coins to the story time blanket and identified which president was on each coin. That led us to talk about George Washington and the art on our placemat. What was it like that cold winter and what happened before and after the dramatic scene in the painting. We pretended we were rowing on the boats, too. I told them a bit about George the General, before he was president, keeping it preschool style brief.
With little instruments to shake and tap, always a hit with the preschool set, we learned the song Yankee Doodle Dandy. We even discussed what some of the funny lyrics mean. Singing a new song several times through is a must! We talked about how the British meant the song as an insult, but the Americans joined in the joke and were able to laugh at themselves. I solicited responses about how they felt when they were insulted and how humor changes those angry feelings.
Some of this month’s artwork involved comparing paintings of roses. We read the book A Sweet Smell of Roses by Angela Johnson. We smelled roses petals and talked about the insults the little girls in the book endured and how they responded. Ignoring insults is another good strategy! Proverbs says it is to a man’s glory to overlook an offense.
Our last activity was stamping (washable paint) roses on construction paper, using the cut off bottom of a celery stalk. It is amazing how, when you cut off the bottom of a celery stalk, that end looks like a rose! I put a different color paint in each bowl with a celery stalk bottom for each color, to avoid accidental color mixing. We reserved a couple of celery pieces to use as a leaf stamp.
And then we sliced the rest as an ants on a log snack, topped with peanut butter and raisins. With a few careful paring knife slices my teenage older daughters created a strawberry “rose” for each kid.
During sensory, art, and snack time we played our classical music selection of the month, Waltz of the Flowers. We reviewed the previous month’s selection during free play, at the end of the morning. Tchaikovsky’s pieces are usually very danceable, which I strongly encourage. My classical listening suggestions are probably the least utilized and most important components of my classical/Charlotte Mason focused educational resources. It really is as easy playing the piece from You Tube on your phone or asking Alexa to play it for you. Then just listen as you go about your day. Listen, listen, listen, and always ask questions about the music!
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