Jelly Beans & Playdoh - Easter Leftovers

This year, after Easter, I somehow ended up with several bags of extra jelly beans ... I obviously thought I hadn't purchased them more than once! What's one to do with so many leftover sweets... ?

We played with them of course!

First, I put a bunch of big & little jelly beans in a tray with some toothpicks. I showed my 3 1/2 year old how to push the toothpicks into the jelly beans and connect them to make shapes. This was pretty difficult for him to accomplish & he poked his little fingers more than a few times. However, he was very interested & motivated to figure it out. He did eventually figure it out -- with close supervision, there were no major injuries and plenty of fine motor practice & early engineering going on...

A few days later, we added a bowl of jelly beans to some homemade Kool-Aid play dough... and made lots of interesting foods...

Here are a few of our creations...

The jelly bean color same off on our play dough as we played & the whole activity was sticky, but yummy smelling & tons of fun!

The Very Hungry Caterpillar - DIY Interactive Book

A while back, I picked up a sticker book version of The Very Hungry Caterpillar and then completely forgot about until I found it last week. Since a single stickerbook doesn't last very long in classroom of preschoolers, I made it into reusable interactive book - just like this Interactive Farm Book that I made last year!

Cardstock paper
Laminator & Laminating Sheets OR self-adhesive laminating film
Velcro w/ adhesive

How To: 
1. Carefully take the stickerbook apart at the binding - Before starting, examine how the book is put together; you may only need to remove a couple of staples from some books. Other books are bound more securely and require a sharp utility knife or heavy duty paper cutter. However you deconstruct your book, just remember how it all goes back together!

2. Remove stickers & adhere to cardstock paper, then cut individual stickers out leaving a small boarder. I left more border on the smallest stickers to make them easier to pick up and manipulate.

3. Laminate each page of the sticker book & all of the cut out stickers. Leave some space around the stickers so that another border can be included, ensuring that each sticker is completely sealed in the laminate. If you do not have access to a laminator, you can use self-adhesive laminating film or even packaging tape.

4. Add Velcro to the inside of the book & the back of the stickers.

5. Finally.... you're ready to read & play with your new interactive book!

Tips & Tricks: 
  • This project works best with stickerbooks that have larger stickers. 
  • If using a book with small stickers, leave extra laminate border & use poster putty for adhesive instead of Velcro. 
In my classroom, we use this book in addition to the picture book to work on expressive & receptive vocabulary, comprehension, retelling and early math concepts. I really love this kind of interactive book for kids who aren't especially interested in reading - it provides a new, exciting & hands on way to experience books for children who don't like reading!

Resource List: Keeping Hearing Aids on Young Children...

It's surely no surprise that keeping hearing aids (HA) and/or cochlear implant (CI) on little ones is a near impossible feat...
According to research reported by Anderson & Madell (2014), only about 10% of children achieve full time hearing aid wear (defined as 12 hours/day) & 40% of children wear their hearing aids 4 hours or less per day!! These numbers make me want to rip my hair out... if the kids aren't wearing their equipment, then they aren't hearing ... and if they aren't hearing then how will they ever to listen & speak? Figuring out how to keep the hearing equipment on little ones is an ongoing struggle and continues to be the #1 discussion that I have with caregivers.

The Anderson & Madell article linked above has some really awesome printable brochures for families that are full of fantastic ideas for how to keep hearing aids on children birth-kindergarten. Their list of retention ideas is also great -- they include parent ratings of different products & lots of detailed information about the development of listening skills from infancy through kindergarten age.

Below, I've compiled my own list of resources for products to help keep hearing aids on young children including commercially produced, handmade & DIY solutions ... in terms of ages, the effectiveness & appropriateness of the solutions listed will vary greatly from child to child - again see Anderson & Madell (2014) for a parent review of effectiveness & suggestions by age group. Now onto my list...
Most simply, there are four primary categories of 'hearing equipment retainers' for children:
  1. Caps/Hats
  2. Cords/Clips 
  3. Headbands 
  4. Adhesive/Tape
Caps & Hats
For very young children, one of the first suggestions frequently is a tight fitting 'pilot' cap style hat that covers the ears & hearing equipment and ties securely. This makes it more difficult for babies to pull their hearing aids out... but not impossible! Look for a tight fitting cap made of light weight material & strings long enough to tie securely.

Commercially Available Pilot Caps: 

Handmade Pilot Caps: 

DIY Options:

Cords & Clips
This options is pretty simple -- a cord (i.e. string) of some sort attaches to the child's hearing equipment and then is secured to the child's clothing. If the equipment comes off, it doesn't go far!

Commercially Available Options: 

Handmade Options:

DIY Options:
Dental Floss & Safety Pin
Sunglasses Holder & Safety Pin

Headbands for behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing aid & CI's are specially designed with loops and/or pockets to hold the behind-the-ear portion - that is often too heavy for the tiny ears of an infant or toddler. Look for light weight materials and avoid covering the microphone area of the HA/CI.

Handmade Options 

DIY Options 

Toupee/Wig & Medical  Tape 
Toupee/wig and medical tape are adhesives that are specially designed for use on the skin - but can potentially be irritating to sensitive skin. Toupee/wig tape (i.e. double sided tape) can be trimmed to size then placed on a BTE hearing aid or CI processor - on the side that rests against the head. Medical tape (i.e. single sided tape) can be placed over the earmold portion of the hearing aid - over the entire outer ear. Used alone, adhesive options are not especially reliable, but are a nice addition to other methods. (affiliate links below for your convenience)

Toupee/Wig Tape

Medical Tape

Anderson K, J Madell. Improving hearing and hearing aid retention for infants and young children. Hearing Review. 2014;21(2): 16-20.

Peeps Play: Easter Sensory Bin

We made a stop at Dunkin' Donuts recently & my son saw those donuts with the Peeps on top. He insisted that he just HAD to have one... I caved & his new obsession with Peeps began. Here's the infamous donut before he gobbled it up... all except for the Peep!
The first time (hey, don't judge!) he had this donut, he ate the Peep then freaked out because he ate it - thanks Dunkin'! A few days later, we got another one of these ridiculously sugary confections & my son promptly took the Peep off & set it aside. He carried that little marshmallow bird around all day. Things started to stick to it. It was a little lopsided from being smooshed a few too many times. Then he started to dry out... I eventually threw it away - two days later! 

This is how the idea for our Peeps Sensory Bin was born...

I got out the Kool-Aid beans from a few weeks ago, added a pack of plastic Easter Eggs, some jelly beans that we played with yesterday, a handful of green plastic grass, and some bowls & spoons. Oh, and of course - a few beloved Peeps!

My son enjoyed filling & emptying the eggs. We compared the sounds of eggs filled with dried beans, jelly beans, plastic grass & squishy Peeps. Then he ran to the bathroom to get his boat -- for the Peep to drive:

He made a Peep nest -- complete with jelly bean eggs. "Shhh, Mama! The eggs is sleeping"

Then he went right on to make Peeps soup!

I'm glad he's not so fond of eating the Peeps for now... that's less of a sugar high that I have to deal with! He did, however, figure out that the jelly beans are yummy to eat, not just sensory bin filler.

In the News: Hearing Aids Improve Outcomes...

Well.... yeah! A recent study indicates that when children with hearing loss wear hearing aids, their speech & language abilities improve - seems kind of like a no-brainer, but it's a little piece of tangible evidence to support what many speech, language and hearing professionals have known for years. The more that kids wear their hearing aids, the better they do!

The study looked at a relatively small group of 180 three to five year old children with mild-moderate and moderate-severe hearing loss - the study did not include children in in the severe-profound range.  The researchers collected information on speech, language & articulation performance, hearing loss degree and hearing aid wear time. Two important facts were noted in their results:
  1. Children who received the most benefit from their hearing aids showed higher speech & language scores. 
  2. And, duration of hearing aid wear improved outcomes -- especially in children who received the most benefit from their hearing aids. 
These results provide a strong rationale for children with a mild hearing loss to receive & wear hearing aids - as they stand to benefit the most! For children with a moderate-severe hearing loss, it provides support to double & triple check hearing aid programing in order to ensure maximum gain - the more access to sound that these children receive from their hearing aids, the greater the potential long term outcomes!

Whether you're a parent or a teacher, the next time you hear (or think): 'He does fine without his hearing aids - why fight this battle?' remember this study! As a teacher who deals with this issue frequently, I often counter with my own question: How much better could he do if he could hear like you do?  

Check out the Reuters article for more information or the original article from the JAMA Otolaryngology - Head & Neck Surgery.

Doyle, K. (13 Apr. 2014). Hearing aids for kids could improve speech and language. Reuters Online. Retrieved from:

Tomblin J, Oleson JJ, Ambrose SE, Walker E, Moeller M. (2014). The influence of hearing aids on the speech and language development of children with hearing loss. JAMA Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. doi:10.1001/jamaoto.2014.267.

Listening & Language Games: What's in the Bag?

What's in the Bag? is a simple & entertaining guessing game that I frequently utilize in my preschool classroom... It's great because the possibilities for play are endless! The game can be easily modified to meet the individual needs of all of my students with very little effort on my part & it targets a wide variety of developmental & early learning skills including: vocabulary development, listening skills, speaking skills, social-communication, turn-taking, self-control and tactile perception.

What you'll need: 
A bag that you cannot see through
Collection of 5-10 small objects that fit inside the bag

There are many different ways to play, but he most basic instructions are as follows:
  1. Put the items in the bag - all, a few or only one at a time - you decide! 
  2. Take turns reaching into the bag - don't peek! Try to identify an object by feeling it before removing it from the bag. 
  3. The player to guess the most items correctly before removing it from the bag wins! 
Now here's where it gets fun... the possibilities are endless...

Practice Listening - Use objects that have sounds associated with them - we frequently use items from a collection of listening toys including objects like: cow/moo, butterfly/uffuff, baby in cradle/shhhh, ice cream cone/mmmm, airplane/ahhhh, ghost/oooooo, bee/eeeee, snake/ssssss, boat/buhbuh etc. Once the kids have a few minutes to explore the toys & practice the sounds, we put all of the items in the bag. The bag keeper will name an object OR make the sound associated with the object. The students must listen, then try to pull the correct item from the bag without looking. Once all the items have been removed, the items are cleaned up in the order the bag keeper dictates - so the students must continue listening in order to figure out which items have been requested by the bag keeper.

Practice Asking Questions & Giving Clues - Have a player choose an object to put inside of the bag. When we play this version at school, I have my students choose from a limited selection of items, so that the possibilities are a closed-set (i.e. only a limited number of possible answers). The bag keeper either gives clues OR answers questions posed by the other players. I usually have the bag keeper give 3 clues OR each player may ask 3 questions before guessing. If no one guesses correctly, we reveal the item & give another child a turn to be the bag keeper.

As the teacher, I'm often the 'bag keeper' when we play any version of this game, which allows me to modify game play based on each child's individual strengths & needs from turn to turn. I really love this game, as there are few small-group games that allow for listening skill practice along the entire hierarchy (detection, discrimination, identification & comprehension) in addition to expressive language skills practice.