Communicating with Parents

This past year I finally bit the bullet and gathered e-mails from parents to communicate via e-mail and I’ve been kicking myself for not doing it sooner.

What held me back was laziness and fear. I didn’t want to spend the time entering the e-mails, but in all honesty, it took less than an hour. (I’m so foolish sometimes.) The fear came from thinking I’d be overwhelmed with parents asking all kinds of questions, and I didn’t want to be tied to answering all those e-mails. Well, they don’t. There are a few parents who write often, but for the most part it is fairly quiet. I was honest at the start of the year that I only check my school account during a short time in the afternoon when I’m free to look at the computer. (Those precious 15 minutes at naptime.)

If you are familiar with the concept of a Daily Journal, this has translated very nicely to a Daily E-Mail. I write a very brief description of what we did during the morning and attach 1 or 2 photos. I encourage parents to use it to have conversations with their child that evening. It gives them something more specific to ask about rather than, “What did you do today?”

Note: I always send group e-mails to myself, with the parent group entered in the blind carbon copy line to preserve privacy.

Simple Shepherd Costume

This is an accompaniment post to the Preschool Christmas Gift for Parents post.

Let me just say this: Fleece is your friend.

I am not a seamstress by any means, but a simple shepherd costume for children is crazy easy to make.  All you need for this one is a CHEAP fleece blanket and some yardage of felt in a contrasting color.  Wal*Mart often has fleece throws for around $3, and you can’t beat that.

I apologize in advance for not having any measurements.  I’m a ‘just wing it and it’ll be fine’ kind of person.

1. Fold the blanket in half. You might be able to get two costumes out of one throw, depending on the size of the children that will wear it.


2. Cut out a big ‘T’ with the fold at the top.  You’re basically making a big shirt.  Make sure the part that will go around their trunk has enough room for you to stitch seams and still fit easily.


3. Sew up the sides.  You don’t have to hem the edges of the sleeves or bottom because it’s fleece!


4. Cut a ‘T’ in the top for their head to slip through.


5. Turn it right-side-out to hide seams. Or don’t – it doesn’t really matter.

5. Cut a long strip from the felt to use as a belt.

Done! You could stop right there, but if you want to get fancy (and not lose the belt), you can stitch the belt to the back of the costume so it’s ready to just be tied.

For the head piece, cut out a big rectangle of fleece or felt that’s another color. Cut out another long strip of felt (in a different color) and stitch it about 10 inches along the front of the rectangle.  If you  set it back an inch it will look nicer when tied.


Done! Enjoy your costume! It will last for years.



Preschool Christmas Gift for Parents

We have been doing the same gift for parents for the past 3 or 4 years, and have the whole process down to a science.  For approximately 25 children, plan on a week plus a day to get this all done.

To do ahead of time:

1. Make a shepherd costume.  (We have 2 for faster photographing.)  You can whip up one yourself or follow these easy costume plans.

2. Buy a bunch of plain wooden frames from Michael’s.  They are usually $1.  If you can’t find them, look for some other cheap frame option, such as a cardboard frame from Hobby Lobby.  (Only buy them when they are 50% off, though.)

There are three parts to this whole process, which is why you should give yourself plenty of time. A week and a half before Christmas break is not too soon to start.  You can be working on these three parts at the same time if you have an aide.


I have a manger that I made several years ago that collapses and stores well throughout the rest of the year.  You can find plans for it here, or you can just use a wooden or cardboard box.  Truly, whatever you use will be fine.  We dress the child as a shepherd, give them a stuffed sheep (ours is a puppet) to hold, pin a dark blanket on the wall as a backdrop, and snap away with a digital camera.  Take several poses so you have a good selection.  You can either print them out yourself or at a store.

Here’s a final sample:


(The tree in the background is our housekeeping tree.  You can read more about that here.)


Ahead of time, unwrap the frames and save the little cardboard insert.  That comes in handy to provide backing for the photo.  (Optional: I cut pieces of transparency sheets as the ‘glass’ for the photo since the frames don’t come with any.  It’s not necessary, but it’s nice.)

I let the children paint the frames with liquid watercolor since it dries quickly and is more like ‘staining’ the wood.  They love this part and it’s very ‘child-created’.


The easiest way to do this is to fold a large piece of 12 x 18 paper in half and let the child decorate one side and on the other side write TO MOM AND DAD FROM (Name).  The writing part is an excellent time to see who can copy letters on their own and who needs help.  You can always dot the letters and use your Name Cards for those who need help.

The decorated side can be done many ways.  I have a nativity stamp that we’ve used one year, or you can teach them a simple way to draw a nativity scene and read about it here.


Ok, some things you need to so on your own: 1) Glue the bottom and sides of the papers and weigh them down while they dry. 2)Get prints of the children made. 3) Round up some ribbon and a hole punch. 4) Pre-assemble the photo and frame.  I’ve had the children help with this in the past, but it’s really just them watching me work, and that’s not helping anybody.

When it’s time to wrap them, I have the child punch two holes at the top, put the frame in, and thread a piece of ribbon through then we tie it.  It sounds simple, but it takes a whole day to get everyone’s done.

(Optional: This year I had them tell me the Nativity story and I printed it up to put on the back of the photo. It was a nice touch, but it was quite a bit more work.)

Merry Christmas!

Mother’s Day Present

This idea was stolen from a great Valentine’s Day idea.  Take a photo of each child holding up a a crayon in their fist,  right at the camera.  Print, make slits at the top and bottom of their fist and thread in a small fake flower.  Have each child decorate a folded piece of construction paper, writing their own variation on “I love you, Mom” / “Happy Mother’s Day”.  Have them make a To Mom From (Name) envelope out of recycled envelopes.


I had some plain hand sanitizer (alcohol-based) to get rid of and another teacher asked about ordering some colored rice.  Having plain rice on hand – viola’!

colored rice for preschool

In a jar, I put 4-5 squirts of sanitizer and  several drops of food coloring.  I scooped in a couple of handfuls of rice, stirred it up and spread it out to dry.  I normally do this with a tablespoon or so of rubbing alcohol, but this worked great!  Each batch of color was dry within half an hour.  (And think how clean it is!)