My Favorite Fall Books for October

 What are your favorite fall books?  

Here are just a few of mine!  These are the books that I will be using for the October Atelier@Home read-alouds! 

Are you interested in joining our Atelier@Home program?  Visit this link for more info!

You can get your own copies of these books below!  See my referral links: 

Dollar Tree ABC Banner

 Isn't this alphabet banner the perfect addition to our art and writing center in our home atelier?

As part of the Atelier @ Home program, I have six play based learning centers set up in our home.  I hung this banner above the art and writing center so that my children can reference the alphabet when making projects.  


  • 2 Felt banners from Dollar Tree
  • 1 paint pen

How to Make: 

  1. Write both the capital and lower case letter on each felt banner strip.  
  2. Then thread the string provided through each letter strip.  I put all 26 onto one string.  
  3. You should have 10 leftover strips!  You can make a number line.  I on the other hand made a mistake on 2 letters, so I didn't have 10 left over :)

Hang in your space!

I would love to know if you tried this project!  Have your children referenced it while working?  

Are you looking for other letter learning activities? Check this out: 

As grownups, we often forget what the world looks like from a child's vantage point.


This is true in so many forms.

🏫I ask my pre-service teachers to actually sit on their knees in their classroom space. What do they see? What is at eye level to the children they are serving? What does the environment show the child?

🧸 What interests the child? What is he really good at doing? How can you use these to build his confidence and motivate him to learn?

🧒🏽What developmental stage classifies the child the best? Is the child in the preoperational stage where everything relates back to her?

The next time your child is encountering a new experience, literally get done on their level. What do you see, hear, smell, taste, feel? And then, think about your child as an individual. How do you think they are uniquely experiencing this experience? You might just experience something brand new ❤️

Self-Regulation begins in Infancy

We talked a lot about behavior on the page recently. We know that in order to prevent negative behaviors, children need to learn about their emotions and how to self-regulate.
If you have a baby, you might have tuned me out thinking that behavior topics are just for older kiddos.

The truth of the matter is that self-regulation BEGINS in infancy.

Don’t let others tell you that you will “spoil your baby.” Responding to your baby’s cries and signals will NOT spoil him or her. Being consistently available will promote healthy emotional development as your child grows!
Don't panic if your baby is crying before the scheduled time to eat. Feed him.

Don't panic if your baby wakes before the scheduled wake time. Hold her.

Forming a secure attachment for now and the future is much more important than maintaining a schedule in the present.

"The development of self-regulation begins in infancy. When caregivers consistently respond to a baby's signals and cries, the child will become better at regulating emotions in the future." -- Jessica Branch

Research also tells us that if an infants needs are not met or if the caregiver is unpredictable or unavailable, that they child will learn innappropriate ways to manage feelings. This may continue into the school-age years.


Fall Dollar Tree Find Play Invitations


Does anyone love the Dollar Tree more than me?  I'm not sure that is possible :)

There is still time to head to your local DT store to get these supplies!  You won't be sorry!

Fine Motor Pumpkin Play

5 Little Pumpkins Poem Basket

Fun with Fall Leaves

Paleontologist Dinosaur Sensory Bin

Complete List: 

  • Foam pumpkin
  • Pipe cleaners
  • Drinking straws
  • 2 packages pumpkin clips
  • Fall leaves
  • Permanent marker
  • 2 packages of bones
  • 2 bags of beans

Happy Shopping!  What was your favorite play invitation?

Wikki Stix Letters: Letter Worksheet Alternatives


My child is NOT enjoying his kindergarten worksheets that are assigned for at home work.  We have found that giving him choices, has definitely helped! 

We just purchased these Wikki Stix, and they have been a hit! (referral link).

These wax covered strings are great to build with and stick together without leaving a mess.  They can be reused over and over.  I suggest giving your child plenty of opportunities to build and play with them, before asking them to complete letter work.  

I just love how Brickston made little feet for his structure.

Next, I gave him the choice to make this letters with a crayon or with the Wikki Stix.  He chose the stix!

Just like with the quill writing, I sent a picture to his teacher when he was finished.  She said that counted as a completed worksheet!

Do you want more ideas?  Click on the picture below!

Writing with a Quill: Letter Worksheet Alternatives

As you know, my kindergarten child has been struggling to complete the letter writing worksheets required by his school for virtual learning days.

I have started to offer him choices on how he would like to practice writing his letters.  Today, he chose to write his letters using a feather and liquid watercolor.  

Brickston said it was actually kinda tricky!  He really had to think about how to hold the feather so it wouldn't drip. 


Craft feathers (snip off some of the fluff down by the stem)
Small amount of liquid watercolor (my favorite is by Discount School Supply)
Paper towel for clean up
Letter model

Brickston actually painted right on his letter worksheet.  I just took a picture of it when he was done and sent it to his kindergarten teacher.  

He was much more willing to participate given the new material! 

Looking for other choices, click on the picture below: 


How We are Coping with Virtual Learning Worksheets


My school-age children are enrolled in a hybrid model currently.  I have a son who is in kindergarten.  He attends in-person school two days a week and has virtual work the other 3 days. 


Regardless of how we all feel about the current pandemic or the educational options, we can all agree that the virtual options are all new to both the children and the teachers.  My son's kindergarten teacher is AMAZING.  She holds a Google Meet with all the children on Mondays.  During this meeting, she engages the children in a variety of activities depending on the week.  They listen to her read a story, they sing songs, they watch science experiments, practice guided drawing, and more.  

On the other virtual days, the children are asked to complete a mix of online activities and some worksheets.  Let's be honest, we all know how I feel about worksheets...but I knew we would be facing them in kindergarten.  What I didn't know was how much my son would dislike them.  Tears. Hiding. All of the things.  

I know why teachers are assigning worksheets.  The options are limited on what they can send home.  Supplies are limited at the school.  They know that parents' work schedules all vary.  Worksheets appear to be on equal ground.  

I knew this was not the way that my son learns the BEST.  He resisted anytime I opened his folder.  So, instead I began giving him choice on how he wanted to write his letters.  

This has been a game changer for us...and I hope it is for you, too!

I let my son choose between making his letters:
  • in a salt tray
  • by writing with a quill
  • by etching them into play-doh
  • with Wikki Stix
  • with paint
  • on a chalk board
  • on a dry erase board
  • in shaving cream

5 Little Pumpkins Story Basket


I have always loved the 5 Little Pumpkins poem.  I remember learning it when I was in preschool!  This story basket included Dollar Tree pumpkins for some hands-on retelling. 


  • 2 packages of clip-on pumpkins from the Dollar Tree
  • Cardboard cut to look like a gate
  • Slips of paper with "1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th" written on them
  • Basket
  • Printed poem

How to Play:

Using the printed poem, point to the words as you read them. My family uses this version with bats instead of witches. 

Next read the poem while modeling with the props.  Clip the correct ordinal number (1st-5th) under the pumpkin as you read it.

Want to hear me read the poem?  Go here

Reading Center:

Place the poem in your reading center with the basket of materials close by.  Children can take turns retelling the poem using the pumpkins.  Or they can make their own poems using the pumpkins!

Clay Self Portraits

Here is a new twist on traditional self portraits!  

Children love themselves!  We know, according to early childhood theorists, that young children first focus on themselves before focusing on others.  Traditionally, we ask children to represent their likeness through drawing.  

In this invitation, we are giving the children the opportunity to sculpt a portrait out of clay.

Using different materials to represent the same thing in different ways requires flexible thinking.  This is a great cognitive skill. It also requires different fine motor movements, which is ultimately great for building those writing skills in the future.

What you need:

  • mirror for each child (I bought ours at the Dollar Tree)
  • air hardening natural clay (you can get some here at this referral link)
  • paper to use as a base
  • small bowl of water
  • clay tools, optional (you can get some here at this referral link)

How to Play:

Give each child a mirror and a piece of paper as a base.  Cut a small slab of clay for each child.  Encourage children to look at their faces.  What do they see?  Eyes?  Ears?  Nose?  Can they make that with the clay?

You may want to show children how to make spheres and coils out of the clay.  If they ask for tools, you can give them traditional tools or toothpicks.  

Take a photograph their finished product!  The clay will self-harden but it often become brittle and breaks easily over time. 

I love watching the progression of understanding as children discover their reflection and how to represent this using the clay.  
Girl making faces in mirror

Girl looking into mirror

Girl smiling in mirror
Quinlan first picked apart her slab of clay to make smaller pieces.  She almost seemed to be more interested in her reflection than she was in making a representation.  After spending several minutes (about 5) exploring what the inside of her mouth looked like, she created this...

Quinlan combined all the small pieces of her clay to create the outline of her face.  She knew she needed two eyes.  She decided to make a coil for the left side of her face, because her hair covers her ear on that side. 

Everyone in the family took turns making their self portraits.

Do you want to see the children in action? See the video below:

Clothes Washing Sensory Table Invitation


This play invitation was always a favorite at play group! And it is so easy to set up!

Sensory tables provide children with opportunities to explore the properties of matter.  Sensory tables are extremely versatile.  You can fill them with liquids, semi-liquids, and solids.  Every material offers children different tactile experiences. 

What you need for the Clothes Washing Invitation:

  • Sensory table or dish bins
  • Clothes line, yarn, or rope
  • Clothespins
  • Doll clothes
  • Tear free shampoo
  • Water
  • Soap dispensers

Setting up the Invitation: 

Plan to do this activity outdoors.  It does get wet!

1. Put a few drops of tear free shampoo into the sensory table and fill.  This will make lots of bubbles (but the bubbles will not irritate children's eyes).

2. Place doll clothes in a basket nearby.

3. Fill the soap dispenser with more tear free shampoo.

4. Tie yarn or clothesline between two chairs.  I flipped a child's table upside down and wrapped yarn around the legs to make a clothesline/drying rack.  Clip the clothespins on the line.

5. Invite your child to wash the clothes and dry the clothes on the rack.

How does this invitation support children's development?

Children use their sense of touch as they squish, squeeze, and wring out the clothes.  Fine motor skills are strengthened as they wash, fold, and hang the clothes on the line.  Children will have the opportunity to sequence the steps in the washing process and to communicate that with their play partners.  This may spur some dramatic play episodes.  You just might want to bring out your plastic baby dolls!

Have you tried this invitation?  If so, I would love to see your pictures on Facebook or Instagram.  Be sure to tag #branchandblossomatelier

Phase 2: The Project Approach


Phase 2 is also known as the Investigation Phase.

During this phase, the adult’s role is to provide first-hand experiences related to the child's interest topic. If you want to see more about Phase 1, go here

Phase 2 takes the most time of the three phases of project work.  This phase helps children to develop their ideas and deepen their understandings.

Field Work

Before visiting the field site, the children should review their list of questions that were developed during Phase 1.  Are there new questions they would like to add?  Ask the children to think of ways that they can record their findings.  Children can record sights, sounds, smells.  They can write numbers, tally marks, diagrams, and take photographs. 

While at the field site, children can be shown objects and events.  Children will use their chosen recording methods to document their findings.

One of my favorite projects was the restaurant project when I was preschool teacher.  We took the children to visit a local restaurant.  They wanted to know how many tables were in the restaurant, how the food was made, and how they rolled the silverware.  The children first ate lunch at the restaurant, and watched the servers take food and deliver the meals.  One group of students took photographs, while others drew diagrams of the layout of the dining room.  Some children visited the large refrigerator and took a tally of how many cans they found inside. Some children used our digital cameras (this was back in the early 2000's) to take photographs of things they wanted to remember.

Once we got back to the classroom, each group shared their findings with each other.  


Some of the children's questions may be best answered by experts.  Children can determine what questions they want to ask the expert.  They can draw pictures of the questions they want to ask to help them remember.  Ask the children how they want to record the interview answers.  They may want to video tape, audio record, or make notes.  


Upon returning from the field site and interviews, children should have multiple opportunities with multiple different materials to represent or show what they discovered.  This may mean acting it out or retelling the experience in the dramatic play center.  What materials do the children want to do this?

Children may want to re-draw their diagrams.  They may want to construct models using clay. The options are endless.

Secondary Sources

There may be some questions that were left unanswered.  Or new questions may have arose after the field work and interviews.  Secondary sources can answer some of these.  These can be books, pamphlets, videos, websites, etc.  

Cutting Box: Dollar Tree Materials

 Y'all challenged me to find items at the Dollar Tree that would help with cutting skills.  I was ready for the challenge!

I already knew that the Dollar Tree has my favorite beginner scissors.  They have a lever you can flip to make them self opening.  They are not the sharpest scissors in the world, but do cut paper well. 

Materials to buy: 

  • Scissors
  • Plastic container
  • construction paper
  • drinking straws
  • beaded party necklaces
  • play dough
  • hair bonnet or shower caps

Invitation to Play:

Cut strips of the construction paper or cut the paper in half.  This is more manageable for little hands.  Place the paper strips, necklaces, and drinking straws into the plastic container.  Invite your child to cut the materials.

The straws work well because they are stiffer and stay still while cutting.  You can also use paper straws (and Dollar Tree has those, too!).  The necklaces are a new and fun material to cut.  They are a little tricky to cut with the beginner Dollar Tree scissors, and work best with the Fiskar school scissors.  You can get a pair at this referral link.

I probably would not put the play dough into the cutting box with the other materials, unless your child makes sure to put it back into its container (it will dry out).  Children love cutting play dough.  It is a different consistency.

What's the deal with the shower cap?

I'm not sure you can get your child to wear the shower cap every time they play with the cutting box, but it is worth a try!  I have 4 children, and none of my older three have ever cut their hair.  Well, the youngest has a new layer in the back :(  The shower cap provides just an extra bit of time for the adult to catch the hairdresser in training.  It would also be great if you are using a cutting box or cutting table in a classroom.  It will prevent Sally from snipping off Cindy's pigtail!

 Want to watch a video about the Cutting Box?  Go here.