Early Literacy Station: Sewing

Our fourth station at Art for Early Literacy, sewing, is a recent addition. It was added because much to my surprise, sewing is quite a popular activity with many of the children. At this station, I provide yarn dispensers, scissors, paper beads, fun foam sewing cards and brightly colored paper tubes that have been hole punched.

Children practice their scissor skills by pulling out a piece of yarn from our yarn dispenser. Then they can work on their hand-eye coordination threading their needles with yarn and then sewing on various cardboard and fun-foam sewing cards. They can also make necklaces with paper beads and pieces of straws.

Early Literacy Station: Manipulatives

The manipulative station at Art for Early Literacy includes several activities.

The children can manipulate the felt pieces used in this week’s storytime or play with the felt shapes and letters provided for open-ended play. Our felt board is 20 feet long and 4 feet tall, so there is room for lots of collaboration. This activity is a favorite for the toddlers who very kindly practice leaving my felt alone during storytime. They appreciate their chance to explore the materials.

I like to provide a manipulative activity on the floor that is appropriate for toddlers and babies. Activities in this category include blocks, latches or simple puzzles.

I also like to provide at least one activity that is more appropriate for children preparing to enter kindergarten such as advanced sorting activities, letter recognition and more complicated puzzles.

When there are fewer children around, we do not set up this station until halfway through art time to permit the children to focus on the “art” activities. However, when there are many children around, we may set up extra toys early on in the program.

Manipulatives are rotated out every few weeks. New manipulatives and activities may be introduced as a game during storytime after they have been available for play for a week or two. I will also play with children and their caregivers during art time and help them scaffold up their play to learn new skills. I do not tell the children or parents that certain activities are designed for older children but allow them to explore and learn where their interests lie.

Early Literacy Station: Scribble

Our second station, the scribble station consists of two activities.

The first activity is a table covered with kraft paper. Crayons, markers, colored pencils or wet chalk are normally provided here. There may be textures or tagboard letters hidden under the paper. Materials provided for scribbling vary monthly, textures change weekly. The favorite mark making devices here are my handmade crayons. They are lego block crayons created by melting down some of the old broken crayons in a silicone candy mould. Not only are they fun to color with, they stack nicely and make a nice conversation piece for the little ones. We often change the colors of the kraft paper on the tables so that the children can experiment with mark making and how the colors change on different surfaces.

The second activity of the scribble station is our giant chalkboard mat. The mat is a large canvas drop cloth painted with chalkboard paint. Children explore here primarily with sidewalk chalk. When the mat is covered in chalk, I sometimes provide large brushes and water and allow them to paint away the chalk. The chalk mat is a favorite among the toddlers as a way to explore art and refine their gross motor skills. Picking up all the pieces of chalk and putting them back in the chalk bucket is also a favorite activity. The older children enjoy practicing their letters or working on large scale pictures.

What is Art for Early Literacy

Art for Early Literacy is the name of my public library program designed for preschool children, ages 0 – 5. The program teaches early literacy fundamentals using art as its primary focus. The Art for Early Literacy program is designed to impart early literacy skills, introduce children to art concepts and give children of multiple age an interest levels a chance to explore at their own pace. This weekly program is quite popular and regularly draws a crowd of 30 – 60 children and caregivers.

Key components of my program:

  • A short story time encouraging children and caregivers to come together as a group.
  • Stations that allow me to scale up or down depending on the number of participants and are appropriate for children between the ages of 0 and 5.
  • Non-objective art activities that allow children to explore materials and techniques and learn through trial and error.
  • An environment that encourages children to collaborate, share and explore at their own interest and ability level.
  • Art stations that provide a feeling of continuity while allowing children a variety of explorations as materials are rotated.

The program is designed as a short story-time, approximately fifteen minutes long, followed by an open exploration of our multiple art stations to round out the rest of the hour. My mini-storytime is designed to be appropriate for multiple age groups. We discuss our letter of the week, read two books, sing a few songs, work on a flannel activity or finger play and practice spelling a few words. Storytime is where I introduce new art concepts. It is also where I review the rules for art class and explain the structure of the program to new participants. At the end of story time, I make sure that every family has a ticket which will tell them their starting art station. Then I demonstrate our featured art project and let the children loose to make art.

Currently I provide six to eight different activities which are roughly divided into five stations. At arrival, families are given tickets that indicate their initial station. It is the parents’ job to interest their children in the initial activity. When the child is ready to move on, the parent then looks for an open spot at another station and moves the child in the appropriate direction. I have found that the tickets prevent the attendees from bunching up around the featured art station. The five station categories are: featured project, scribbles, play-dough, needlework and manipulatives.

The featured art project rotates every week. This is also the only project that they get to take home. The rest of the stations feature materials that are changed biweekly or monthly. This allows children the chance to gain mastery and revisit skills. However after a few weeks, we change the way children are interacting with the material so they can expand their horizons and look at the materials in a new light. For more information on my stations, I invite you to read my blog posts: storytimes, featured art project, scribble station, playdough, sewing, manipulatives.

Five minutes before the scheduled end of the program, I sing a “clean-up” song and everyone helps put the materials away and clean up the mess. I have been told that clean-up-time is a favorite among many of the children and they certainly are enthusiastic helpers.