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Homemade Play Dough

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The Apple Tree Learning Centers

Squishy squashy fun!

What kid does not love play dough? The Apple Tree Learning Centers has not found one child who does not like play dough! Squishy, cool, bright, and so fun to play with.

Even better, it helps develop fine motor skills and imagination Instead of going out and buying commercial Play Doh, try making it at home!

Its super easy, inexpensive, and a perfect project for the kids to help with. We love making our own play dough here at The Apple Tree Learning Centers, and after trying a handful of different recipes we finally found a winner.

This play dough comes out in beautiful, soft shades, smells delicious, and feels the closest to store bought Play Doh of all the recipes we’ve tried.

You will need:

  • white flour – 1 cup
  • warm water – 1 cup
  • salt – 2 tbsp
  • cream of tartar – 2 tbsp
  • cooking oil – 2 tbsp
  • Jell-O – 1 3oz pack

Even though it makes for a longer process and a lot more clean up, our teachers at The Apple Tree Learning Centers have found that the little ones have a great time doing the measuring and mixing! They learn so much from helping in the kitchen, and it’s really fun for them. Keep mixing until most of the lumps are gone.

Cook over medium heat, stirring continuously until it thickens into a ball of dough. This step does take a little while. Just keep stirring, you’ll know it’s ready when you won’t be able to stir anymore.
Once it has finished cooking, place the dough onto a silpat matt or floured cutting board and wait for it to cool.

Once it is cool (at least 20-30 minutes) let the little ones knead it, adding in flour until it is no longer sticky (about 1/2 cups). At this point, you can add in extra food coloring to make the colors more vibrant, or even add glitter.
This recipe makes a lot of play dough. You could easily cut the recipe, and there would still be plenty to play with.

Now let their little imaginations run wild. The children at The Apple Tree Learning Centers will literally spend hours playing with their play dough if they could. We love seeing what games they come up with, and what tools they pick out to use with it. We don’t have special play dough tools, we let them rummage through the center and use whatever plastic container or other child safe object we find. Ms. Tammie our center Co Director always brings in a variety of coffee creamer lids because they are perfect for pre writing skills.

When you are finished playing, store in the refrigerator in an airtight container. It will keep for at least a few weeks in the refrigerator, with daily use. If at any time it starts to be a little sticky, just add more flour.

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Get Your Irish on for Saint Patrick’s Day Celebrations!

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shamrock by slfGet Your Irish on for Saint Patrick’s Day Celebrations with us here at The Apple Tree Learning Centers!

Even if you aren’t of Irish heritage this is a wonderful day to celebrate and learn about the culture. The Apple Tree Learning Centers teaches children various cultures to help them understand the importance of cultural diversity. For families St. Patrick’s Day offers a wide range of different options that can easily be adapted for kids of all ages from toddlers through to teens.

Of course, green is an essential element of this day, so designing a family T-shirt that is green in colour and features different St. Patrick’s Day symbols such as shamrocks, leprechauns, pots of gold or even those magical rainbows is a fun activity before the event. The Apple Tree Learning Centers will be using various symbols to help the children identify these symbols as part of the St. Patrick’s Day festivities. Learning about the Irish symbols and learning their meaning is a great activity for children that they can share with the rest of the family.

A Treasure Hunt

Kids of all ages love to look for treasure, so why save this activity just for Easter? Moms and Dads can hide gold wrapped chocolate coins around the house and yard and let the children go searching for treasure.

If chocolate isn’t a good option for your family consider buying gold gift wrap or foil and individually wrapping healthy snacks for the kids to find. You can also buy some plastic coins and spray paint them gold for a real treasure hunt.

Gold coins can then be traded in for special prizes that are, of course, located in Mom’s and Dad’s lucky pot of treasures. You can include coupons for Mom and Dad to do special activities for the kids such as cook a favourite meal together or have Mom or Dad clean the kid’s rooms for a day.

Make an Irish Meal

Food is always a great way to celebrate a culture and there are a lot of iconic foods associated with the Irish culture. You may want to prepare a traditional meal of corned beef and cabbage or put together a hearty beef or lamb and vegetable stew matched with Irish soda bread.

Colcannon, a vegetable casserole that features potatoes, cabbage, parsnips and leeks is a wonderful side dish or perfect for a vegetarian main course. Finish off the meal with the classic Irish apple cake that is not too sweet and you have the perfect ending to a wonderful day.

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Free Play or Soccer Practice?

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The Apple Tree Learning CentersThere has been plenty of hand-wringing in recent years about the “overscheduled child.” With after-school hours increasingly dominated by piano lessons, soccer practice, and countless other planned activities, many of us have a nagging sense that kids are missing out on something important if they have no time for unstructured play.

The Apple Tree Learning Centers found new research from Germany that suggests these fears are justified. It finds people who recall having plenty of free time during childhood enjoy high levels of social success as adults.

A team of three psychologists from the University of Hildesheim, led by Werner Greve, conducted a survey of 134 people. Participants were presented with a list of seven statements and reported the degree to which they conformed with their own childhood experiences (that is, ages 3 to 10).

Our teachers are aware that free play allows children to develop the flexibility needed to adapt to changing circumstances and environments—an ability that comes in very handy when life becomes unpredictable as an adult.
The statements included, “Looking back, I tried many things and experimented a lot by myself”; “From time to time, I set out on my own or with friends to discover the neighborhood”; and “My parents always were in fear that something could happen to me, so they did not let me do many things by myself.”

They also expressed their level of agreement or disagreement with 10 statements designed to measure “social success.” These included “Friends come to me for advice”; and “If something goes wrong, I have friends by my side that support me.”

Additional tests measured their ability to be flexible in light of life’s setbacks, and their overall level of self-esteem. The researchers found a significant positive correlation between ample time for free play during childhood and adult social success. Free time as kids was also linked with high self-esteem and the flexibility to adjust one’s goals. Free play, they argue, allows children to develop the flexibility needed to adapt to changing circumstances and environments—an ability that comes in very handy when life becomes unpredictable as an adult.

The Apple Tree Learning Centers works with their High Reach Curriculum. The curriculum allows teachers to have a structured and step-by step lesson plan, but the free time is a daily activity that never has a set schedule, and the children love it!

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“I’m Bored!”

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Are your children BORED? The Apple Tree Learning Centers Can Help!

The next time you’re waiting in line or hanging out at the park this summer, look around you. You’ll see a bunch of parents texting, tweeting, Facebooking, or Instagramming on their smartphones. Chances are, you may also see a few smartphone-less children looking miserable.

The Apple Tree Leaening CentersIt might be our fault as adults. We adults have forgotten how to handle boredom. We’re never bored, because: technology. So it makes sense that our children—who follow our lead and are on their iPods or iPads or iPhones just as much as us—get used to always having something to attract their attention. They need something to do. 

These are monsters of our own making. We over-schedule and over-plan for our children so that they never really have any downtime. The problem with this is that they never really have any unstructured time. They don’t learn how to deal with boredom. It’s important for children to learn how to handle time on their hands. 

When some of your children come up to you and say, “I’m bored,” try to be prepared with a few responses. Here are a few of our dos and don’ts for responses:

1. “Wow. That’s really sad for you. Try to find a way to fix it.” Then turn around and walk away into another room. It sounds extreme, but it puts the burden of solving their boredom in their hands—not yours, and its ok, they are smart and they WILL figure it out. (Try to say this nicely.)
2. “Nice to meet you, Bored. I’m Mommy.” This isn’t helpful at all. 
3. “That’s so exciting! I can’t wait to see all the things you discover by being bored.” This one sounds good on the surface, but it can also be scary. Who knows what I’ll find later as a result of them curing their boredom?
4. “Well, you can clean the bathroom, do the laundry, bathe the dog, and organize the playroom.” This one is ideal. It usually gets a rousing “No way!” as they scamper off to find anything to do but chores.
5. “Then let’s find something for you to do in your bedroom.” Our suggestions would include things like changing the sheets, dusting, cleaning the blinds, picking up toys, or organizing the closet. This will probably be met with eye-rolling and moaning, followed by immediate disappearance.
6. “Oh good. I needed someone to help me clean up outside.” Being outdoors might change the way they see their situation and have a different scenery.
7. “Only boring people get bored. Interesting people find something to do.” Definitely a don’t!
8. “Read a book.” Which doesn’t always help. But it’s still a good, healthy, educational option.
9. “Maybe you should take a nap.” Perhaps children are bored when their body and minds are tired.
10. “The world if full of things you still have not done, use your imagination” This one is definitely one for you and them to remember. You can make such great memories out if new adventures. Try lending them a hand provide some tools for them to dream big!

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What you need to know about Secondary Drowning

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As summer time sets in here in Tucson, there are dangers to be aware of. This time of year families spend more time in rivers, or pools. Accidents and drowning’s increase as well. Parents need to be extra alert during the time their children are near these areas. Be aware of the surroundings and have a plan in case something does happen.

The Apple Tree Learning Centers teaches children how to be cautious and inform an adult if anything abnormal is occurring. Drowning is a big issue and it happens often, but secondary drowning is something parents might not even notice.

Secondary drowning can be difficult to recognize since the victim appears to be OK right after a near-drowning event. Your child may breathe in a very small amount of water and seem like he or she has successfully expelled it through coughing. In secondary drowning, the water may fill up some of the oxygen-rich pores of the lungs, which reduces the ability to oxygenate blood as it passes through.

The heart does not slow down significantly with this process, but rather very, very slowly, so your child will still be able to talk and walk. The only symptoms may be a sudden change in personality or level of awareness as the blood oxygen level drops over time.

So if your child has experienced a near-drowning experience, watch for a sudden change of personality or energy level. You can save your child’s life if you act quickly and get them medical treatment immediately.

We hope this brings awareness to all who read this. Never doubt yourself and if you feel something is just not right, it probably is not. It is better to be safe than sorry in these type of situations. Teach your children to be careful and to keep away from the deep of the pool.

The Apple Tree Learning Centers wants to make sure this never happens to another child, so pass this on and please share with those who you think might need to know.
Enjoy your summer and be your children’s teacher. Teach your children something new every day!

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Activities & Play Ideas for Kids of All Ages!

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The Apple Tree Learning CentersFeeling frustrated with cranky or bored kids? Having a few play ideas up your sleeve can work really well to help break the tension.

Here at The Apple Tree Learning Centers we understand that redirecting your children with purposeful play and giving you time to breathe and finish whatever it is you are trying to get done.

The Apple Tree Learning Centers provides you simple activities and play ideas that you can call upon whenever you feel your children need distraction or re-direction. We encourage you to sit down and make a list of 10-20 easy-to-pull together activities that are suitable for ALL or EACH of your children.

The Apple Tree Learning Centers

Invent your own game!

Your list will be unique, just as your children and their interests are unique –no children are the same! Your activities should be governed by the ages and developmental stages of each of your children.

If you are not sure where to start, check out the lists of activity ideas that we have included below (we have used some of these at the child care center) – we have sorted them according to developmental stage.

Once you have written it down, put this list somewhere that you can refer to it quickly. You might like to also collect all or some the items needed for each activity.

If you still find it impossible to find activities for your children, feel free to ask any of our child care center teachers. They will be more than glad to help you find the right activities for your child.
For babies and toddlers:

  • Active Baby Play Activities
  • Tape Loops
  • Create a treasure basket: see these examples – exploring sound or exploring shiny things
  • Sticky art
  • Create a photo play purse
  • Start Out With Water Play

For toddlers and preschoolers:

  • 5 Ways to Find 5 Minutes of Mom Time
  • 3 Simple Imaginative Play Ideas for Tots
  • 6 Ways to Play with Toy Cars
  • Box and tape construction
  • Play dough is a tension breaker. Providing a different set of ‘tools’ to work with helps to keep play dough interesting for children who play with it often.
  • Get Little Bodies Moving

For preschoolers and bigger kids:

  • Downloading a new audio story works really well. The added benefit of audio stories – they have to be still to hear them!
  • Make a set of simple puppets
  • Make modeling clay pictures
  • Painting with water colors: once children know the process for painting with water colors it can be a nice, quiet activity.
  • Set them a 30 minute challenge.
  • Cooking: set them the task of making afternoon tea.
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Simple Things to Do and Enjoy!

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Have toddlers? A preschooler or two? And are you looking for simple things to do?
The Apple Tree Learning Centers is listing some favorite activities to do with those kids under five. Those days when you have little ones in your home are certainly some of the busiest years — but also some of the sweetest years as they have an exuberance and joy about them. Enjoy!

Tucson Arizona Child Care

Bocks rock for young children!l

1. Blow bubbles.
2. Invest in a good go-to book of ideas. The series Five in a Row. Highly recommended.
3. Crayons and paper.
4. Markers and paper for those of you who love to live a bit boldly.
5. Paint and paper for those of you ready to practically ready to bungee jump through the day.
6. Let them help you bake.
7. Teach them to crack an egg. Expect a mess, but a joy filled preschooler!
8. Teach them how to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
9. Make hopscotch in your kitchen.
10. Go for a walk.
11. Chase shadows.
12. Go for a walk, chase shadows, blow bubbles, and have a race.
13. Go on a nature hunt.
14. Work on reading.
15. Work on reading and painting.
16. Teach the letters of the alphabet.
17. Work on writing the letters of the alphabet.
18. Make a treasure hunt.
19. Institute nap time. Or at least rest time.
20. Have a friend come over.
21. Read books.
22. Read more books.
23. Have them “read” the books to you back.
24. Act out the books.
25. Go swinging.
26. Rest in the grass, on a non-rainy day, and look at the clouds.
27. Listen to music.
28. Dance in your living room.
29. Listen to their stories.
30. Let them pick out lunch.
31. Take them to the bookstore.
32. Take them to the library.
33. Sort through your toys.
34. Play with blocks.
35. Make patterns with the matchbox cars.
36. Practice counting. Use simple things.
37. Practice adding. It’s just like counting, just make them add the two groups together.
38. Let them wash dishes in the sink.
39. Let them help fold towels.
40. Take them for a drive.

Tucson Arizona Childcare

Read! Books are a big open window for a child’s imagination!

41. Take them for a drive while you go to get coffee.
42. Take them for a drive while you go to get coffee and let them order a their own hot cocoa or apple juice.
43. Go to the garden center.
44. Let them push the cart when you shop.
45. Play dress up.
46. Let them use glue. And if you’re bold get out the glitter!
47. If you use glitter have them shake it in a pan so the glitter doesn’t get everywhere.
48. Do simple science experiments with them.
49. Plant a garden.
50. Talk about the seasons.
51. Trace their hands and write down things they say in them.
52. Watch a movie. Media is okay. Freedom.
53. Fill a bird feeder.
54. Get a bird feeder kit and make a bird feeder.
55. Run, or at least let them run.
56. Have a no smiling contest!
57. Teach them to fold socks.
58. Teach them how to put away the silverware. No sharp knives, of course.
59. Take funny pictures with them.
60. Take funny videos.
61. Make maps.
62. Learn about clouds.
63. Make model clouds.
64. Play Legos.
65. Tell a story with Legos.
66. Let them help you dust.
67. Teach them how to say I love you in different languages.
68. Look for red (choose any color) things in your home.
69. Play catch.
70. Tape their name on paper and have them color around it.
71. Pick flowers.
72. Pick flowers and give some to your neighbors.
73. If you can’t pick them, go to Trader Joe’s and buy some for $3.99.
74. Count to 100.
75. Teach counting by twos.
76. Let them help you wash the walls.
77. Teach them to tie their shoes.
78. Teach them how to set the table.
79. Make a fort. With pillows!
80. Let them play with flashlights.
81. Make shadow puppets on the wall.
82. Bring a stack of books in the living room and read them all.
83. Let them take a bubble bath.
84. Go to Target.
85. Play with chalk outside.
86. Draw chalk roads and a town for them to play in.
87. Play hide and seek.
88. Let them play with the pots and pans and measuring cups.
89. Play Memory.90. Act out different animals.
91. Get out the playdough.
92. Have them tell you their favorite things.
93. Hold them.
94. Simply sit and watch them. They grow.
95. Give yourself a gold star. Kids under five take work!!!

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Welcome to Mr. Ray’s Music!

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Arizona Tucson Day care

Appreciation of music starts early

The Apple Tree Learning Centers welcomes Mr. Ray’s Music to its school curriculum! Ray Funk will offer an all-inclusive music program at The Apple Tree Learning Centers. Mr. Ray is a classically trained musician (voice and guitar) and a graduate of Northern Arizona University’s School of Music. He has 40+ years of professional musical experience including 22 years as a staff singer with Arizona Opera. Mr. Ray has been teaching in Tucson preschools for 23 years.

Numerous psychological studies conclude that children learn best during the early stages of development (1 – 5 years) and music greatly facilitates this necessary growth. Music lessons at these ages actually “wires” young brains connecting neuro pathways (of which there are trillions)! Early Childhood Learning Standards include five areas of development: adaptive, social-emotional, communication, physical and cognitive. Included in Mr. Ray’s vast repertoire are songs that facilitate independence and personal responsibility (adaptive) and identify emotions and increase knowledge of self (social – emotional). Singing requires listening to words and repeating them which enhances oral language development, speaking and (communication) skills. Many songs involve actions and movement (physical). Math skills are addressed in the areas of number sense, patterns and geometry. Finally all songs work on a child’s ability to recall information (cognitive).

Mr. Ray’s approach starts with the “Book of the Day” from a great collection of song based story books. Mr. Ray discusses whatever the subject matter is and he talks about the pictures and ideas in that particular book as he sings. There are many opportunities for the children to sing along. This is always a big hit because “a picture is worth a thousand words”. Whenever possible, monthly curriculum themes are included in the lessons.

Mr. Ray occasionally incorporates a piano as part of the music experience. He plays “Name That Tune”, count notes, sing and match notes, compare higher or lower sounds and do general ear training. The keyboard is always a big hit! All ages really seem to focus in and stay centered. Typical attention spans are greatly expanded with these exercises.

Next, it’s time for some guitar music! Sometimes the children make requests and sometimes Mr. Ray picks the songs from a huge repertoire of material! Many songs are Echo Songs which are easily singable. Mr. Ray usually does several of those and then it’s time for dancing/movement. The kids do lots of jumping and dancing. Many of these songs involve taking directions for movement.

Finally, Mr. Ray winds the kids down (and stay friends with the teachers) with some finger plays and maybe a sleepy time song.

Mr. Ray’s Music is included in the children’s tuition at The Apple Tree Learning Centers. Stop by and hear the children and Mr. Ray sing and dance!