How to Make Flannel Board Activities FAST!

As a mom to two busy teenagers, time to make beautiful triple layer flannel board activities is just not in the cards. Watch the video below to find out my trick that saves me time, but still brings the flannel board activities alive for kids.

As far as finding felt pieces for your flannel boards, you’ve got two choices, make them using my idea in the video (or cutting awesome flannel board pieces) or buy them.

For those with time on their hands, check out this blog on making felt pieces using freezer paper.

If you are like me and finding the time to get crafty doesn’t happen, I either purchase my flannel pieces from Little Folk Visuals or find images online, laminate and affix velcro to the back. Works like a charm!

I have gotten the most mileage out of the Farm Flannel Board set from Little Folk Visuals. The set seems to have all the flannels I need for a lot of stories. If my story or activity require additional pieces not included in the set, I can easily make them with the flannel I have on hand.

My Flannel Board Box

If you’d like to learn how I made my flannel board box used in the video, check it out here.

Happy Flannel Boarding!

5 Benefits of Circle Time

There are many unique learning benefits to having children learn together in a group setting.

It may seem like a simple daily ritual within the classroom, but when you look closer, there is so much learning happening just beneath the surface. No matter what you call it (circle time, morning meeting, ect.) this gathering is extremely valuable for the development and education of your children.

The 5 benefits we will explore in this post are community building, social skills, emotional skills, physical development, and language development. Read on to find out how circle time can aid your students’ development in these crucial areas

1. Community Building

What is the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the word “community”? Is it your town and the people in it?

Maybe it’s a group of people you know from a social or volunteer group. Often times when people come together for a shared cause, there is a sense of belonging and connection.

Our preschoolers experience the same thing when they are in circle time. Circle time allows our class to come together for a shared experience.

The act of coming together will help them to build a sense of community and belonging in the classroom.

2. Social Skills

Circle time offers a great opportunity for students to practice their social skills and social competencies.

Social competencies refer to skills like self-regulation, interpersonal knowledge, and self-identity. During circle time, children see others practicing these skills, or maybe even struggling with these skills.

Seeing and understanding the experiences of others will help them develop the social skills that will be vital to forming healthy relationships with others and with themselves later in life.

3. Emotional Skills

With the social aspect of circle time comes the emotional aspect. Interacting and collaborating with other as a group will bring about new feelings that children can learn to address and understand during circle time.

One great example of this is when passing an item around the circle for each student to hold for a little while before passing it to the next student. Students will feel excited when they see this object, and may reach and try to take it right away.

However, they begin to develop impulse control and learn to wait their turn. They get to see others playing and enjoying the item, helping them develop empathy. Then when they have had their turn and it is time to pass the item to the next student, they begin to understand that it is ok for things to come to an end and sometimes it is time to move on, even if we wish it would last just a bit longer.

Learning these skills early in childhood sets your preschoolers up for success as they grow and continue in their education.

4. Physical Development

While dancing and movement activities during circle time may just look like play time, it is truly play with a purpose. Children are more willing than adults to try new things, so it is the perfect time to introduce them to new movements.

Physical activity during circle time promotes healthy growth and development, a healthy body composition, a the development of motor, concentration, and cognitive skills. The mind and body are one, so when students are given a chance to move their bodies and practice physical skills like balance and body awareness, they come back to circle time ready to sit and listen.

A great trick to use in circle time is after having your students sit for a listening activity, offer them a chance to stand and move with a movement activity. This will keep them engaged and eager to see what will happen next in circle time.

5. Language Development

During circle time, students are gaining exposure to vocabulary, speech, rhyming patterns, and sentence structure. All of this valuable information is preparing them to be readers later in life. Songs are a great way to practice these things, as a familiar tune might be just the thing that helps your students feel confident enough to try singing or speaking with you.

Communication skills are so valuable, and our children are able to practice them when they themselves talk. It may feel like an interruption when your children start talking during circle time. However, when they talk about something related to the activity, they are forming connections between this experience and their own world. The other children in the circle are also able to learn more about the student who is talking, helping them build community. If you feel like your circle time is getting off track because all your students want to share their thoughts, try using something like a talking stick to keep everyone focused and listening respectfully.

The learning opportunities created by circle time and group music making are like no other within the classroom. We know facilitating an engaging circle time can be challenging, especially when children all have their own unique needs and interests that need to be addressed.

That’s why we here at Musically Minded strive to create activities that will keep your whole class engaged and excited about learning.

We even include full activity guides with each of our downloads so you know exactly how to use each activity. Visit our store and check them out! Music adds such a unique element to your circle time. When participating in music, there is no wrong answer, so students are free to explore and engage in any way they like. We would love to hear which activities have been most popular with your students, and how circle time has changed the way your students learn!

Circle Time Success

Don’t Forget the Music!

All great teachers know that fresh ideas aren’t just great for kids, they get teachers excited too! If you don’t have Musically Minded’s Circle Time Success CD, it’s time to grab your copy today!

You might also want to check out the activity guide book for the Circle Time Success. That’s where you’ll find the step by step directions on how to teach all the songs on the Circle Time Success Album.

Oh wait, there’s more!

Then there’s the visuals that really bring the songs to life! Check those out here.

If you are still not sure if the Circle Time Success album is for you, just check out all the learning you’ll find and you just mind change your mind.

circle time songs

Transition Songs for Preschool

transition songs for preschool
When children are deep in play, they tune out sounds around them. Need to get their attention? Start singing!

Transition songs are songs that can be used to help your students move from one activity into the next.

They send the directions of what you are asking the students to do, but by using music rather than your speaking voice, the children are more likely to pay attention.

Why Does Music Work So Well When It Comes to Transitions?

Because music is processed in many different parts of our brain. If that thought intrigues you, check out Your Brain on Music to learn more.

With transition songs, we are giving the direction we want our students to follow in a song rather than using spoken language which they’ve been hearing all day. Because it is something “different” in their environment, the alerting network tells the brain to pay attention rather than tune it out.

The Best Times to Use Transition Songs

transition songs for preschool
By adding an action to a transition song, students will be even more engaged as they wait for others to join.

Transition songs are your secret tool to use many times throughout the day. Below are a few of those occasions.

  • When you need to get everyone’s attention during free play and give a direction
  • When you need to regain the attention of your students if you lose it at circle time
  • To quickly explain what to do next ie. line up, wash hand, sit down etc.

Check out some of favorite transition songs and give them a try in your class! Remember, you can always write them yourself using a piggy back tune! Not sure what that means? Learn more here.

We’re Cleaning Up

preschool clean up song

This simple song will make clean up time a breeze! Your students will immediately recognize this song when you play the recording or sing it in the classroom. It’s that auditory cue that says it’s time to put our things away and move on to something new!

The song can be used at the end of free play or to clean up shakers, scarves etc. at circle time.

Make it a Game!

Children love challenges. Challenge them to see how quickly they can clean up the room. The recording of the song is about 57 seconds long. Can they clean up by the time the song is finished? If not, put it on repeat and keep a movin’!

Let’s Make a Circle

Classroom transition song

Let’s Make a Circle is a great song for transitioning to circle time. Clapping along to the song while singing gives them that added layer of engagement. Before you know it, everyone is at circle time and ready to begin!

For You and You and Me

circle time transition song

When passing things out to a large group, it can take some time. If you sing at the same time though, they’ll stay engaged as their brains process the words in the song.

I always say, “be the most exciting thing in the room” and that goes for transition time too.

Taking Turns

At circle time it’s so much fun to pass something unique around the circle. Children get to build impulse control, patients, and awareness of other all at the same time.

But sometimes children don’t want to give up their turn. That’s where “Takin’ Turns” does the work for you. Listen to the song below and you’ll hear the short transition music that happens indicating to the child that it’s time to pass it along.

This auditory cue makes managing taking turns a breeze!

Best way to use it:

  • Explain to the children you will be passing around an object and each person will be given an opportunity with it.
  • Everyone will be allowed to hold the object while the song is being sung. They will pass it to the person next to them when they hear the four repeating taps.
  • Turn on the recording (or sing the song a cappela and clap 4 times to indicate the time to pass). For larger groups of children, hit repeat on the song!

Transition songs are an incredibly valuable tool in the classroom, and we hope that these will help your circle time run smoothly. Do you have your own transition songs you use in your classroom? Tell us in the comments!

How to play digital tracks on your phone or Ipad with video tutorial

Let’s be honest. You have no time to waste finding that CD with that one song on it that would fit perfectly at circle time. Why? Because that’s a recipe for “adios teacher, I’m off to play with the blocks!”

A few months ago I shared 3 Reasons Why Preschool Teachers Shouldn’t Use CDs. But I failed by not “showing” you how to play songs on your digital device.

Let’s change that today!

Below are the 5 steps to make it happen. If you are a visual learner, then watch the video just below the steps.

Step 1. Click here to access Beautiful, Bountiful Birds audio file and activity guide. It is a great song to teach bird sounds and it will be a perfect one to practice putting songs on your digital device.

Step 2. Check your email to access the songs in Google Drive.

Step 3. Move it to a new or existing folder in Google Drive where you know you can quickly find it.

Step 4. Download or open the Google Drive app on your phone.

Step 5. Find the recording where you saved it in Google Drive and play it!

Step 6. Connect a speaker to your phone or digital device where the song is stored. If you don’t already have one, I really like this bluetooth speaker I found on Amazon. Click here to check it out.

Video Tutorial

Ready to see the steps in action? Simply click on the video below.

3 Ways to Use Music as Medicine ESPECIALLY in Times Like These!

“Where words fail, music speaks.”

-Hans Christian Andersen

It’s no secret that our world is experiencing unprecedented times and our lives are filled with so much uncertainty.

How do we stay positive and productive without letting the never-ending negative news get us down?

Enter music as mental medicine.

As an early childhood music educator, my days are filled with singing and dancing, playing my guitar and ukulele and listening to loads of music every moment of the day. But a few weeks ago, all that was taken away when the schools where I had been teaching were closed due to the pandemic.

The first few days home I found myself glued to my phone reading every article possible on this terrible virus (you too??). I’d fall asleep with the television telling me about new cases. It was no surprise that my sleep suffered and my dreams turned to nightmares because of what I had been filling my mind with.

After several days of this, I knew something needed to change. I was exhausted, scared and no fun to be around (just ask my family).

I walked into my office ready to take on a mind-numbing task to take my mind off of it all when I saw my ukulele sitting there all cool, calm and collected. (Don’t worry, this email is not about convincing you to learn to play the ukulele, put if you are interested, I’ve got a class for that! Click here.)

That’s when it struck me, I haven’t had any music in my life! Well, that had to change.

I quickly realized that I could replace the time I had been spending absorbed in my phone with music. It had been there all along, waiting patiently to comfort me and take my mind off of my current obsession.

I picked up that ukulele and began to play. It didn’t take long before a sense of peace came over me. Time seemed to stand still and all that was going on in the world around me was forgotten. It was just my music and me.

I still find myself watching a bit too much news, but I’ve also done a better job of balancing it with the positive energy that music brings and I so encourage you to give it a shot for your own mental health.

At this point you may be thinking, but I don’t play an instrument so how can I tap into the benefits of music?

Here’s the great thing about music, you don’t just have to produce it to reap the positive mental benefits. If you too have been sucked into the never-ending negative news and need a break, I’ve made a list of three ways you can begin tapping into the power of music to increase your overall mental health not only now, but any time life throws a curveball.

If you are interested, head over to my blog.

3 Ways to Use Music as Medicine

  1. Turn on music that makes you dance! We all know that when we move our bodies we feel better. Why? Because movement stimulates the release of endorphins. Endorphins are chemicals our body produces to relieve stress and pain. While we can get this from a vigorous walk or aerobic workout, dancing seems to release even more endorphins than typical aerobic movement. Take Action: Choose a song or playlist that makes you move your body. Grab a partner or go it alone. Don’t forget the old saying that’s really true now, DANCE LIKE NOBODY’S WATCHING! This is probably not hard to do these days since most of us are alone or with our immediate family;)
  2. Trigger happy memories with a favorite song. Every one of us has at least one song that’s tied to a positive experience. Whether it’s the song that accompanied the first dance at your wedding or the music you listened to in high school, music has the ability to trigger memories that are so strong it makes you feel like you are right back in that moment. Take Action: Think back to positive times in your life and recall a song or two you were listening to a lot during that time. Turn it on and let the memories come flooding back.
  3. Create a bedtime playlist – While many of us may not be setting our alarms at the moment, our internal alarm may be scheduling wake ups on your behalf. If you’ve found yourself wide awake at 2 a.m., it may be time to take a look at your bedtime routine. Rather than looking at your phone until sleep finally arrives, try turning on calming music. It naturally slows down your heart rate and breathing, lowers your blood pressure, and oftentimes your muscles relax. All of these lead to a perfect recipe for slumber because these biological changes mirror some of the same changes that your body undergoes when you’re falling asleep, making music the perfect preparation for restorative slumber. Take Action: Since everyone’s music preferences are different, create a playlist filled with music you love. But be sure to choose music with a slow tempo as that will elicit the physical responses that will benefit your sleep. These slower tempos are more often found in jazz, classical and instrumental music.

May music be the medicine that calms your nerves and lifts your spirits.

Sing-along Songs All About Food

This week we are learning all about food, yum!

Kids love this theme because it is so meaningful. And when a topic is meaningful, they make connections.

To make it extra fun, I used a chef puppet to introduce many of the songs. This was a great way to capture their attention as they couldn’t wait to hear what my chef had to say!

Check out a few of my activities below. Then download the activities (along with links to the recordings) for your next food themed circle time!