What's New in the Atelier!

Do you have a child between the ages of 3 and 5 years?  Are you looking for a way to provide authentic, play-based learning opportunities while still meeting your child’s developmental needs?

Do you want to start Reggio-inspired project based learning, but don’t know where to begin? Are you looking for ways to provide the preschool experience at home? Or are you looking for a way to enrich your child’s learning in addition to their daily early childhood program? 

THIS is the coaching group for YOU!


I want to help you set up engaging PLAY invitations

You may be on the fence about this next school year.  This is one step you can be confident to take.  Whether or not you send your child to preschool, or you keep them home, Atelier @ Home will help you provide meaningful and individualized learning experiences for your child. 


     What will I get for my $33 monthly investment?
*  Weekly personalized calls.  We will talk about your child’s interests and brainstorm invitations for exploration.  I will guide you through a Reggio-inspired project with your child and will show you how to embed the weekly early learning standards into the project.


Why Jessica?

I have been studying early childhood education for 17 years.  I was an intervention specialist in a public preschool, before transitioning to a preschool special education supervisor.  During my time working in the public preschool classrooms, we implemented a Reggio-inspired approach.  In 2017, I completed the University of Toledo doctoral program and earned my Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction with a focus in early childhood special education. For the past five years, I have served as an assistant professor at a state university in the early childhood program. 

In the spring of 2019, I achieved a career-long dream of visiting Reggio Emilia, Italy.

I climb up on my soap box any chance I can get to advocate for children’s right to play. I know that many families are being faced with the tough decision of whether or not to send their child to preschool this year.  Preschool may not be an option due to closures. I KNOW there are other options for “online preschool” or “packaged preschool curriculum” out there.  I have seen it.  I could whip one of those up, too.  But, I would not be able to stand behind that.  My teaching philosophy does not support cookie-cutter learning.  I believe that each child is unique.  That is why this program coaches the parents to meet the individual needs of your child. 

How it works:

At the beginning of the month, we will meet for our first individual call where I will learn about your child. Together, you and I will begin to brainstorm directions for your child’s Reggio-inspired project.  You will share with me the toys and materials you have in your home.  I will coach you on ways to set up these materials in inviting play centers.  Through our private Facebook group, you will receive weekly observation recording sheets.  These will record how your child is authentically using that week’s standards during their play and project work.  Each week, I will release 2 videos of me holding a read-aloud.  These read-alouds will focus on that week’s standards.  It is your choice whether or not you want to show these to your child or if you would like to recreate what I do with your own book and materials. Each month will feature 2 Q&A Facebook Live videos in the private group that you can participate in or watch the replay. 

I can’t wait to start this journey with you! The Atelier @ Home program will give you the confidence you need to engage in play based learning with your child at home. You and I will team together to facilitate your child’s learning through a project that is individualized just for him/her!

Join Jessica’s Atelier @ Home September Group TODAY.  It closes on the August 28

Authentic Name Writing Activities

Let's experiment.  Grab a piece of paper and write your name 5 times.

We could even get REAL creative and ask you to "rainbow write your name" (use a different color of pen each time.  Fun?  Okay.  Now I want you to do this every day for a week.  Still fun?  Imagine if you are 4-years-old and I ask you to do this every day, before you can go play.
I think you would start to despise this. What is the point of this activity?  To practice writing your name, right?  Is there a better way?  I think so!

Give children authentic opportunities to write their name!

Authentic opportunities means that they are writing their name for a purpose.  You can still do this often, but the reason changes.  You can have children (either in your home or classroom) write their name only for more than just the sake of writing their name.


When you provide lots of materials and opportunities for children to write and draw, they will natural begin to make marks and letters.  You can see more about the development of writing here

After children make a masterpiece, ask them to sign it!  Remind them that artists sign their work.  You can even read one of my favorite books!  At the end, Vashti asks her new friend to sign his creation. 

Address envelopes and sign cards

A well stocked writing center is a must for both the classroom and home.  Pick up a box of envelopes the next time you are at my favorite store, The Dollar Tree, and have these available for children to write letters back and forth.  Save old Christmas cards and left over Valentine's Day cards for children to sign their name to. 

Sign-up Sheets

Sign-up sheets can be used for a variety of things in both the classroom and home.  Sign-up for dessert!  Sign-up for a turn on the swing.  Sign-up for lunch choices.


This one of my favorite alternatives to the "signing-in" activity that is seen in most preschools.  Set out 2-3 containers.  Label the containers with different choices.  Here I used the choice of song.  Invite children to write their name on a piece of paper (remember you can use a variety of sizes of paper) using their choice of writing utensil.  After they write their name, they drop it into their choice bucket.  After everyone votes, I will take all the names out...lay them in a row for each choice.  Instantly we have a floor graph.  We will listen to the song that had the most votes first.  We will still listen to the second song...don't worry :)

Did you catch the replay video?  You can watch it here. 

Are you looking for other letter activities that promote play and exploration?  Check out this post!

What other ways do you incorporate name writing authentically into your day?

Instead of Worksheets...Do THIS to Learn Letters!

You know how I feel about worksheets and workbooks, right?

You might have been surprised to find out that I bought a handful while I was at the Dollar Tree the other day.  Some of you thought maybe I lost my mind and bought glitter.  But I assure you, I dislike workbooks even more!

It might have been the only purchase from Dollar Tree that I thought I might regret :)

So WHY did I buy them?

I am actually very excited to show you that you do NOT need them!  You can use some of the other treasures I bought from the Dollar Tree to play and learn with letters!

What is wrong with the workbook?

Workbooks/worksheets are close-ended.  This means that there is only one right answer.  For young children (preschool and kindergarten) we should be promoting thought and exploration.  As soon as we tell a child that they are wrong, their motivation is stifled.  Just imagine for a moment, the scenario below: (I am the one who filled this out, I couldn't bring myself to subject my children ;) )
Parent: Write the letter G.
Child: (Copies the capital and lower case letter)
Parent: Make sure you stay on the line.  This G is not touching the bottom line. 
Parent: Circle the picture whose name begins with g.
Parent: Yes, guitar and gum are right.  Mouse does not start with g.  It starts with M.  Why didn't you circle the next one?  It starts with G.
Child: Mmmmm-monkey.

Okay, the child is NOT wrong with the gorilla/monkey and gate/fence examples.  Do you see how this would be exhausting for a child?  Do you like to be told that you are wrong?  This is more of a "testing" tactic versus a learning experience.

Workbooks do not promote active learning.

Active learning requires 5 core elements:
1. A child should have MATERIALS.
2. A child should be able to MANIPULATE those materials.
3. A child should have CHOICE during the activity.
4. The activity should promote child THOUGHT and LANGUAGE (talking about their reasoning).
5. The activity should allow for adult SCAFFOLDING (this is supporting the child's exploration, helping them to the next level).

Workbooks do not meet these 5 core elements.  I'm not even sure they include any of them.  What do you think?  

So what can you do instead?

You are here because you want your child to learn about letters.   How can we give children opportunities to play with letters, but in a more hands-on and developmentally appropriate way?

Dollar Tree is redeeming itself here.  Look at what I bought:

Wooden Letters and Ice Cube Tray
I found the letters in the craft center.  I love including these in my loose parts collection. I grabbed a few ice cube trays just to give my children a place to sort the letters.  Children can come up with their own sorting categories: letters in their name, letters that have straight pieces, letters that have curves, etc.

Pool Noodles and Paper Towel Holder
I took 2 pool noodles and cut them into pieces.  I wrote capital and lower case letters on each with a permanent marker.  I had to squeeze the paper towel holder with a pair of pliers to make it skinnier for the noodles to fit.

After lots of exploration with the materials, you can use this to begin working on the child's name. This is a great way to begin to explore the child's name.  Set out just the letters in the child's name on a tray.  See if they can build a name tower.

Letter Beads
These can also be found in the craft section.  You can include pipe cleaners for the child to string them on.  We actually dropped a few into each ice cube tray and filled with water.  We are going to "excavate the letters" tomorrow.  

Wood Blocks and Tweezers
The small wood blocks are from the craft aisle and the tweezers are in the school aisle.  I used a paint pen to write the lower case letters on each block. We made "alphabet soup" by pouring all of them into a large bowl.  I invited my children to pick out a cube using the tweezers.  A way to extend this is to invite children to write what letter they found on the mini-etch a sketch board. 

Alphabet Stamps
This is not a Dollar Tree find, but you can get the ones pictured here. I love stamps because it is still supporting fine motor development, but it is a little easier than a paper pencil task.  You can obviously use stamps on paper, but you can also stamp into rolled out playdough.  Get a great recipe here

Speaking of playdough, here is another great post with a letter invitation. 

You can see all of these activities in action on this FB video.  Go here to watch it!

Q & A Session: Conflict Resolution and Time Out

 Did you catch the replay of the first ever Q&A Facebook Live Session?  You can check it out above.

Some highlights from today's discussion:

When should you step in when conflict arises?
In the video I talk about moving closer to the children, creating proximity.  This gives you, as the adult, a first row seat to what is going on.  Is everyone safe?  What actually is happening?  By getting close, we are able to see both sides of the conflict while making sure that everyone is okay.  

Then, you need to wait and see what solutions the children develop.  Remember that sometimes their solutions do not make sense to the adults in the room :) If both children are in agreement, the solution is a success!

Why is the brain important in regards to behavior?
I demonstrate the hand model of the brain developed by Dr. Siegel. This model will help us facilitate young children's behavior development as they move from flight/fight responses to more sophisticated behaviors. 

What are my thoughts on "time-out?"
I approach the subject of using time-outs.  I do not feel that is a one-size-fits-all approach for behavior issues that arise.  The reason is that the time-out does not teach the child a new, appropriate skill.  Time-outs do not take the function of the behavior into consideration.  If you want more information about the functions of behavior, check out this video and head to the 10:30 mark. 

I do think that calming corners or spaces are very beneficial.  This is never used as a punishment, instead it is used as a strategy for regulation.

What other questions can we tackle in the next Q&A?  
Make sure to leave them in the comments or email them to me at branchandblossomatelier@gmail(dot)com