Ways to use fine motor skills and communication

100_7922  Lacing cards are a great way to incorporate fine motor skill practice.  It is also an opportunity for a Teacher or Parents to role model and guide a young child during their first tries at this task.  Once the child has mastered the concept it is a great way for the child to continue to develop those small muscles in their hands and wrists. 🙂

Lacing cards are also a good lead in to learning how to tie shoe laces on children’s shoes.  The key to remember for both tasks is that it takes time.  Allow your child time to experiment and practice.  Be there to guide and support and not criticize.  

Lacing cards are also a task that allows the Teacher or Parent to dialogue with children about anything of interest to the child.  Asking open-ended questions such as, “What are you thinking right now?” or “What other ways do you think you can use laces?” are a couple of questions that can stimulate a child’s mind and cause him/ her to think about things they may never have really thought too much about.  Give children time to think once you’ve asked a question and take the time to really listen to his/ her answers or their questions.  Children are better communicators than we think once we really listen to them.  The key to children communicating effectively with each other is slowing them down and helping them develop the social skills needed to listen to their peers in the same way they listen to adults they respect.

100_7884   100_7915 Using small wooden dolls to encourage reading and telling stories is also another way of utilizing fine motor skills and communication.  This time the dialogue can be about stories the children currently love and can’t get enough of, or stories they’ve never heard until today.  The children may be inspired by the stories a Teacher or Parent reads and they may use their dolls to act out the characters.  More creativity and detail can go into a child’s inspired representation of a story if given the chance to allow their ideas to emerge.  Teacher’s and Parents are scribes until the child is older and can write for themselves.  Fine motor development happens as children create the world the doll lives in as he/ she creates the story props.  Recyclable materials come in handy for encouraging a child to continue with his/ her creative story telling  and fine motor development.  Once again deep and enriching learning is happening when children are allowed to explore, create, question and implement ideas encompassing fine motor and communication development.  

100_7924  Remember to always look at your recyclable pieces as a “loose part and intelligent play thing”.  If your not sure of what this term means, take some time to research this and let me know what interesting things you find out! 🙂

Heidi Scott, BA & MIT  The Marigold School of Early Learning 

Serving children ages three to five years! 


The joy of a wooden tool bench and more!

100_7894  This is another addition to the building and construction area!  I prefer wooden toys that really do what they claim.  I also enjoy the fact that the tools all work and are just right for young developing fine motor muscles of children ages 3-5. 🙂

100_7893  This particular learning set is one the children could have worked on as a cooperative team to put together.  Instead I put it together and that is how I judge whether a toy is a toy or an actual learning tool.  When you are out searching the stores for toys that are also educational keep in mind that you should play with it first.  If you take the time to play with toys/ educational materials before you give them to your child, you will have a much broader understanding of how versatile or not your purchase is.  You will discover quite quickly if it is just a toy for entertainment purposes only, or if there are many learning experiences packed in the gem you found.

100_7891  This wooden tool bench is perfect for two children to enjoy.  Three could use this as a small group, however if tools are popular I have another possible solution.

I have a standing area for one or two children to explore a plastic version of tools as well.  So even though plastic is not my first choice, this will do if tools are the popular item of the moment.   When setting up extra materials that are popular with the children I always take into account their actual physical play patterns.  This way I can set up interest areas based on where they would naturally explore.  This may or may not work even with my considerations taken into account, but at least it is a good try for capturing their curiosity and encouraging deeper thoughts.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 100_7895


As you can see the children are once again able to engage in mathematical learning experiences that incorporate communication if working as a team or small group.  Each is also exploring shapes, spacial relations, eye-hand coordination and developing fine motor skills while thoroughly enjoying themselves! 🙂

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Heidi Scott, BA & MIT  The Marigold School of Early Learning

Colorful Counters

100_7874  My new wooden dolls came in this great divider and I thought it was perfect for my new colorful counters!  Reusing items you already have is not only more cost effective but easier on our environment as well. 🙂  

100_7872  Using colorful counters to incorporate shapes and letters are a couple ways of using this very versatile tool!  I roughly drew some common shapes on the perimeter of the paper and then used the counters to outline, then I made a capital letter “S”.  This would be an example for children of a more close ended provocation.  However, it is only close ended if the children do the same thing with their attempts or if this turns them off to trying.  Most young minds will take note of what they see and do exactly what they want, which is what I want, so it is a win, win situation for all.   🙂

100_7873 With this provocation I am incorporating both mathematics and literacy.  Children can either continue with making shapes, separate the colors for each shape or move on to letter formations.  More creative minds will use the counters to create more imaginary pictures and if they are in the mood to share I can scribe their ideas, explanations and stories.  One thing to always remember is that when you become a young child’s scribe you are capturing a child’s imagination and showing him/ her your respect for their thoughts.  You are also helping that child develop an appreciation and understanding for literacy.  Children value their own words more and want to learn about letters and words with more intensity if they are learning literacy through their own creative  and purposeful thoughts.  Never underestimate a child’s imaginative stories or real life explanations for his/ her thoughts.  A child’s own words can be just as powerful if not more so than books at certain points during their young development.

100_7951 This is also another example of how to use small learning spaces to their maximum.  Two provocations are set up for standing work, counters and painting.  Just think about how often you see your child standing and engaging in an art or craft project.  Think about how often you offer him/ her a chair and they refuse by pushing it away.  Sometimes children learn better by standing and allowing their whole being to be involved in the learning process rather than sitting in a more confined and restful pose.  We want children to literally be active learners because they are by nature.  So why not set up a learning environment that supports how they naturally learn. 🙂


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Heidi Scott, BA & MIT  The Marigold School of Early Learning

Create your own Doll House!

100_7924 I’m so happy I was able to purchase some new wooden dolls!  Boxes are a good example of how children can use recyclable materials to create a doll house complete with garage.  The stamps are one way the children could decorate the doll house to add a more personal and home like feel for their little dolls.

If I were to set this up as a provocation I would arrange the boxes as I have, but I would have held a brief meeting to brainstorm the children’s ideas for each step they would want to take in creating the doll house.  I would then ask each child what he/ she wanted to be responsible for and provide them with the materials and space to complete their creative idea.  An example of a child’s idea would be of painting the boxes first.  Another example would be drawing  and painting a scenery for the doll house.  Some of the children may want to create small furniture and so through our brainstorming meeting we would use smaller recyclable materials and tape to make their ideas come alive!

There are so many wonderful ways to stimulate a young child’s mind and encourage deep thinking using mathematics, art, language, literacy, communication skills and cooperative group work to come up with an emergent project in which all who wish to participate can.  This project could take one day or the entire week depending on how involved all of the children or just a few children become as this project unfolds.

100_7925    100_7864


Heidi Scott, BA & MIT  The Marigold School of Early Learning

Emotional Stability

     I am using the term Emotional Stability as a way to clarify the difference with a well used early learning term and one that I have been consistently observing for the past twenty years.  Emotional stability is not the same as the well used term social /emotional development.  Emotional stability referrers to how a child behaves and what the child discusses with his/ her family in regards to their time at preschool.  When a child shows emotional stability in a preschool environment that child’s body language shows their happiness and comfort level.  That child also verbally expresses the joy they feel each time they see their friends, the types of play they engage in and even if they like their teacher.  As the parent or caregiver you may observe how respectful and kind your child is when interacting with his/ her friends in their learning environment.  You may see how they express their happiness and the types of play they engage in when they are emotionally stable in that environment. You may also notice your child asking you when they get to go to school again.  These are all but not limited signs of a child happy and satisfied with their first school experience.  These are also signs that you have made the right decision with the early learning school you chose for your child. 

     When a child is not emotionally stable in their early learning environment he/ she will show aspects of anxiety, their body language will indicate a consistent reluctance to going to that environment and they will not verbalize very many positive aspects of their experience.  In fact they will most likely complain about the children they do not get along with and will be angry about things not going there way.  Their anger also may be a sign that they miss you, their parent or primary caregiver and they are not as comfortable at their early learning school as they are with you at home.  The child simply may not be ready to be away from home and in a larger group setting just yet.  He/she may need to take smaller steps like joining small classes like gym, music, art, dance etc. before enrolling in an early learning preschool setting.  Sometimes with a larger group atmosphere over stimulation can cause the child to not enjoy the experience and to feel uncomfortable  and overwhelmed.  

     If your child is exhibiting a strong reluctance to going to preschool you may consider observing their body language while they are at school and really taking a moment to listen to what they are telling you about their experiences.  From there you can decide to give your child more time to adjust to the new experience or you can step back and allow them to engage in smaller group play programs that only run one to three days a week.  Also, when you visit your child’s preschool please take the time to assess how you feel about the environment.  Does the preschool you have enrolled your child in feel warm, friendly, and do you observe the needs of the children being met in that environment?  I encourage all parents to take the time to research and decide on the type of early learning environment you want your child to experience.  Remember that any form of preschool whether it be play-based or academic is your child’s very first school experience.  It is not a bad reflection on your ability to choose a good preschool program if your child is not comfortable there.  Remember that we are all different and have diverse needs.  Sometimes your child’s personality is what determines whether a learning environment is right for him/ her.  Yes it is not their decision to enroll, it is yours, but you know your child and it is okay if you keep looking till you find the right fit.  

     Please be aware that these are simply my own observations from being an early learning Teacher for many years and for having a keen interest in what I call emotional stability in relation to early learning environments.  There are many more points I chose not to include in this post.  So please know there is much more to this topic than this one simple post.

    What are your opinions on emotional stability in early learning environments and what have you witnessed with your own children’s preschool experiences?  Please share! 🙂


  *  (Special Note: The emotional stability I am referring to is not emotional well being that comes from being raised in a warm loving family, that is a separate issue and I am not addressing that topic in this blog post.)

Heidi, The Marigold School of Early Learning

Flexible Small Spaces

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Standing interest area for small spaces is a great solution for those of us with small schools! 🙂

I have magnetic dolls and puzzles set up for the right side of the shelves, which could possible have two or three children on that side.  On the left side is construction which can have up to four children.

Simple provocations or materials of interest can be easily set up and as a facilitator and Teacher the observations can be very informative!  Sometimes I have found that young children will interact with children they don’t normally play with if interest areas are set up similarly to the one above.  We can’t always assume the friendships that will be made when a child is young and learning so many aspects of social/ emotional development.  It is a good reminder to not prejudge children and make the assumption that we, the adults, know more about the child’s choices in friends.  Sometimes the friendships made will surprise us!  And small spaces can encourage friendships that may never have developed in a larger space. 🙂

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My reading corner is small and only has space for two children at a time, which is exactly the way I want it for now.  Reading and enjoy books can happen in large and small spaces and with several to only a few children at a time.  Picture books with bright vivid detailed illustrations help to bring out a child’s natural curiosity in reading. 🙂

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Small spaces like the reading corner are also easy spaces to change if we as a group decide we need to use the area for a display space for say, a rocket ship or small home built from boxes etc.  Don’t ever  feel limited just because you have a small preschool.  Keep an open, flexible and creative mind and trust your young students to help plan how to use those spaces. 🙂

If you also have a small preschool or home where either your students or children play, please let me know the creative things you have done to keep the space full of curiosity, joy and wonder! 🙂

Heidi, The Marigold School of Early Learning


I can’t remember the name of this plant, but I saw it at a friend or family’s place a few years ago and I really liked it.  So the following spring I bought my own plant.  I usually try to save the tags, but for some reason I did not save this one.  When it rains the leaves stand up and when it is sunny they seem to lay down. 🙂

school pics 002

It is just now flowering and as you can see the flowers are super tiny and a yellow-green in color.  This plant loves coffee fertilizer too! 🙂

I also should mention the soil is more sandy and drains really well, so I like to water this plant every other day.  If the soil is still wet when I go to water it, then I just leave it one more day.  It likes a spot that drains well.

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I have three spider wart plants, above, and they traveled!!!!  I didn’t think they could!? At least I thought they needed some assistance with relocating or starting a shoot elsewhere.  I didn’t know where they are located that the conditions were such that they could move on their own.  Anyway there is one in my small planter box, one by my window and one tiny guy out in my lawn!  I will have to dig that one up and put it in a better spot or else it won’t make it.  Does anyone else have this happen with plants you didn’t actually move or plan to?

I finally got around to planting my seeds yesterday.  So I can’t wait to see which ones actually come up this year.  I planted pansies, marigolds, foxglove and poppy.  🙂  I looked for my burgundy sunflower seeds and couldn’t find them.  So when I do I have a spot I will plant those too.  Last year I planted sunflowers late and they did come up, but they were not quite as tall as they would have been if I’d followed the directions and planted them earlier in the spring. 🙂

Please share the types of spring/ summer flowers you enjoy seeing year after year or the new ones you have added to your gardens!  I would love to read all about them! 🙂

Enjoy your day! 🙂

Heidi, The Marigold School of Early Learning

Flower, Paint and Crayon Provocation

This may look daunting, but just wait, I will explain. 🙂

school pics 003      I set up a lavender rhododendron, purple and pink tempera paint (washable), two different paint brushes, green and brown crayons, small rectangular paper and finally blue play dough.  I also made sure there were half filled jars of water with rocks at the bottom for weight. (No tipping 🙂 )

school pics 004  The idea behind this is for the children to explore a provocation with a multiple layer of artistic materials.  Due to there being more materials to work with and the table being much more busy than with just one provocation, I like to have a class meeting to inform the children of items they will use.  Then I like to generate a discussion with the children to find out from them what kinds of ideas they have for those materials.

Here are some ideas we came up with:

* making flowers out of the dough and painting the dough.

* counting the round dough and writing the numbers with the crayons and then painting over the crayon.

*painting the flower and using the dough as a name tag or marker for the kind of flower each person paints.  Then using the crayon to add the stem and leaves.

*making flowers out of the dough and using the paint to outline the flowers.  After that adding the stems and leaves with the crayons.  Asking Ms. Heidi if she would write our words for our pictures. 🙂

*Ms. Heidi can write our words for our stories. 🙂


school pics 004

The above picture is of my red rhododendron.  About two years ago I trimmed it way back and it came back strong and healthy the next year, however this year it seems to have a problem.  The leaves have a spotted yellow color instead of the nice solid green.  Does anyone else have this issue with rhododendrons?   My rhododendron shrubs are all older plants, yet I’ve always heard they can live super long if they have proper fertilization and care.

The whole bush is blooming strong with really nice large flowers, but it just looks unhealthy to me.  If there is an organic fertilizer that is better for this type of flower please let me know in the comments. 🙂

I would love to have students enjoy the flowers disease free if possible. 🙂



Thank you so much I appreciate any advice on this subject! 🙂

Heidi, The Marigold School of Early Learning 

Canterbury Bells Question?

Heidi's School Pics 007   Sorry for the blurry picture, but my camera refused to focus on this flower. 😦                                                                                                                              

This is my canterbury bell plant.  This will bloom in a blue-purple shade and it seems to only bloom every other year for me.  Is this true of any of you who have this plant too?

I thought it had died and a different flower had popped up, which was I believe a balloon flower, lavender in color.  I love this flower too yet the balloon flower does not seem to pop up every year either. And I don’t remember ever planting the baloon flower, just the canterbury bells.

I can hardly wait for the canterbury bell to bloom!  I love how they look so much like little bells and how bright and vibrant they are among other flowers. 🙂   I am thinking of buying more plants in a range of colors and putting them in different spots just because they are so unique and tall enough to be a nice background for shorter plants.  

Have any of you planted canterbury bells and what colors?  Do they only pop up every other year or is that just an issue I’m facing?  Please comment on my page and let me know your thoughts. 🙂

Heidi, The Marigold School of Early Learning