I love highchairs. 

Of course, they are the best place to feed a child, but for the same reason they are a wonderful place to tear paper, look at a book, scribble, count crayons, play with a toy, finger paint with pudding or paint, play with clay and stack blocks!

Supported upright position, upper body control, freedom of movement and focus-  
Pieces stay contained on the tray, crayons don't roll to the floor, little brothers can't reach your stuff and distractions seem to disappear.
When a highchair is pulled up to a kitchen table to make a bigger work space, the beginner's attention is still centered! 
Stay tuned for more ways to use this glorious piece of furniture. Tell me, what activities do you use your highchair for?
- Karen


Our modern Thanksgiving is a wonderful and warm holiday that everyone can take time to celebrate together. Young children relate well to the holiday and the gathering of friends and family. Preparation of feasts (great or small) and decoration of the house (grand or simple) are memories in the making.

Spending a few weeks in school creating these little books is a nice way to settle down a class after Halloween and welcome the winter ahead. This set of reproducible lessons will help your beginners draw that special day, with lots of detail. 

"A visit to my grandparents" or "when everyone came to visit" makes a meaningful storyline for each child to share when family visits to your classroom around the holidays. And children will love to read their whole family a story they have created around this special holiday. There are many language skills that can be practiced and demonstrated in this activity. For more ways to use drawing in the classroom visit see Tell Us A Story.

The short stories below were written and illustrated by Pre-kindergarteners and were shared with their grandparents when they visited our classroom before the Thanksgiving Holiday. The kids were very proud and their grandparents were thrilled! It was great to see them  sitting on laps and reading their own stories to adoring relatives all at once... a joyful noise!

There are many possibilities for story lines in these lessons. A favorite story has been about visiting grandparents with cousins... playing in the snow, eating dinner, going out to see the stars then having hot chocolate and a bed times story. It helps children create a comforting narrative. This packet can be found at TPT



This is the time of the year when our children study the Pilgrims and the Wapanoaog Indians and their harvest celebration of a first long and difficult year in the new world.And this year your students' Thanksgiving illustrations can be as ARTiculate as their writing.

This packet of little drawing lessons will enable your students to recreate the scenes in historic detail. There are many uses for these drawings. To illustrate an essay or report by your students They can write and illustrate a journal about their lives as an Indian girl or a Pilgrim boy.

Each child could draw one figure and write about it.
For example: a deer and the many ways the Pilgrims and Indians used the deer they hunted for food and clothing or how they planted and utilized corn. How they built a cabin it can be a simple or complex as the 

Or everyone can use the shelter drawings and call it My Home...

Which ever you choose, your student will have all the 
visual information they need to be confident.

By drawing these historic events, children are better able to imagine what it might have been like. Here is a packet of 17 reproducible and historically accurate drawing lessons for your students - from Pilgrims and Wampanoag people to cabins and wetus. 

Simple lessons based on geometric shapes they already know will allow for highly individual expression. People will be attracted to a bulletin board with fine writing and good art and your students will take pride in their visual expression. 

Parents can support homework and Home-Schools can create an exciting in depth group project.


For higher grades there are instructions for creating these accordion books written on the computer then illustrated with colored pencil or marker. Short stories are a great way to reinforce planning and narrative. Or each child could write a chapter in a longer story the class composes.

DRAW! The First Thanksgiving drawing packet can be purchased as an e-packet at TPT and is a great investment for your classroom for years to come. For more ideas for using narrative drawing in the classroom please visit


I purchased these balls at different places, different times. I found the large red one at the grocery store and the yellow and blue at different drug stores. They're light and the bumps make them perfect for little hands. Once an ed specialty toy, they are so wonderful that now they're everywhere, even in the drug store toy section...  

At first we just rolled them on the floor of the upstairs hallway... a hallway keeps the ball with in reach, even when we miss. 
We bounce them off the floor and the walls. Great sensory and motor play, also exciting and fun! The balls are light and washable so they won't harm the walls.
Then our beginner learned primary color names. Here is the blue one, find the yellow one... we practiced with the balls.
Finally sizes: Find the big red one, please get the small yellow one...
And along the way: holding, letting go, rolling, catching, tossing, following directions, social interaction and lots of laughing when we missed or cheering when we succeeded. You can learn a lot from inexpensive bouncy balls...

Now, I'm on the look out for "smallest" orange, green and purple.


Scribbling is fun and can be a very powerful fine motor activity for your beginner. There are skills to master in every stage.

Picking up each crayon and putting it back is learning. You can say  "one, two, three..." to set up the audio pattern for counting in the future. Begin with three crayons. The high chair is a perfect setting for scribbling... good seating and a contained work surface. A safe place to practice her skills while dinner is cooking. 

PRACTICE: dump/count/dump/count... (click on pic)

At first, just seeing that a line tracks her hand movement is fascinating. Holding a crayon or piece of chalk while pushing down to draw a line is a skill worth practicing. 
At first she realizes that this stick can make lines when she moves her hand and pushes down. That is enough for now. There is a connection for her between her actions and the result, cause and effect!

A few months later... there are intentional lines to be made. Up and down, circle and side to side are lines you can encourage by saying "let's go round and round..." She can be a bit more intentional. You verbalize the concept of "round and round" or "up and down" for her. 
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This simple activity demonstrates to your beginner that she is in control and that she can do what she wishes.
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A black board is just wonderful for drawing... lines are bold, there is just enough resistance so that it is easy for your beginner to control her drawing.
We are using sidewalk chalk which is just the right thickness. Also, she can erase with a small piece of sponge and get more motor practice. This black board was mine as a child, it's heavy slate and stays put. It used to be part of an easel that is long gone, another example of the art of saving stuff you might need in the future!
These actions are the equivalent of practicing a back hand in tennis. Your beginner learns how it feels to make round, up and down and side to side movements... she is developing motor memory.
Soon, when she learns to draw shapes, she will know just how to move. Round and round for circles, up and down/side for rectangles.


Paper tearing is a wonderful thing... and when the torn pieces are glued onto a collage they become an art project. Making a project keeps the activity intentional, not random, and shows your beginner that she is learning a useful skill. 

In this activity we practiced fine motor skills by tearing and pasting, plus planning skills by deciding where to put the pieces and what size each piece should be. 
We also identified colors by choosing and naming the color to tear next... "Which color do you want to tear next?" and sizes, "Can you make that piece smaller, it's too big."

Construction paper is just right for tearing, but you can experiment with other paper. We began with pieces of brown paper bags, pre-cut to a manageable size. Used wrapping paper is good, next birthday save the paper, cut it into approx. 6"x 6" pieces and make a birthday collage! or after any holiday... as always, when you gather  materials,  consider the result. 
Beautiful materials make beautiful art.

At this point you want your beginner to learn the feeling of her arms moving in opposite directions. First demonstrate the movement by tearing. Then gently move her arms while she holds the paper, so she can feel her arms moving in opposite directions. This movement may take some practice and is vital to paper tearing success. Most children try to pull the paper apart horizontally which rarely works.
You can help by making tiny tear in the paper, 
but be discreet, so she doesn't think it's necessary every time.

Then there is the glue stick... a great invention and worth every penny because it is easy to use, nothing is wasted and the result is neat. 

My beginner practiced opening and closing the glue stick for a while. 
Everything new is interesting and worth a thorough investigation.

Teach her to put the glue where she wants the paper to go OR on the torn piece.

This simple paper collage combined new two skills and produced an attractive and satisfying result that the beginner was very proud of.  
For her, it was a real achievement and  
she couldn't wait to show her mom and dad when they came home!

We'll be saving birthday wrapping paper...

I see what you mean...

Visual and written language are symbiotic yet we teach our children to write, but not how to draw. Since visualization is basic to human communication, creativity and progress I often wonder why we treat basic drawing as an after thought. 

Visual expression frequently supports or inspires writing by providing context, mood, details etc. Writing supplies clarity, definition and sometimes generalization. Both are dynamic and both are expressive. They are most powerful when used together. Since we use abstract code based language to write, we often find it necessary to add pictures. We ask our children to illustrate essays and stories, but never really teach simple figures.

Thinking in pictures enables us to visualize original ideas, and share them with others. Think about the birds nest inspired Peoples Stadium in China. Do you think the designers just walked into the government Olympic committee and said, “We want to make a beautiful building based on the idea of a bird’s nest.” Or did they use many, many original drawings to communicate their unique vision?

To visualize an idea you must be able to think in pictures. Usually, people think in pictures then describe the pictures in writing (usually with an illustration or a diagram.)

To express a truly original idea you must be able to draw it. Clipping wont do. You wouldn’t expect an author to create a novel out of  “sampled” sentences from other author’s work. An original Idea cannot be expressed from clip art. In both these cases you would be limited by what has already been expressed.

So, we should be teaching our children to draw a wide range of simple figures, skill that enables Pre-k children to create stories...

They should become ARTiculate. This is visual expression as language, simple but very important and largely ignored by education. This is very different than creating fine art. 

Artists see shapes in everything... that's how they begin. Then they add details such as shading, perspective, color…

DRAW! is a book of easy, reproducible art lessons to help kids and teachers visualize, realize and share their unique ideas. To think conceptually. 

The lessons are based on simple shapes which everyone already knows, they are meant to provide information not style or personality, that will come from the artist.

I asked teachers, "Do you teach your students to draw?" Usually, I received a puzzled look, as if I had asked, "Do you teach your students to cook?" Then, I realized that teaching drawing has been out of favor for at least 30 years. Some people even thought that teaching a child how to draw a cat was stifling creativity, as if creative thinking was accidental. Picasso knew how to draw! 

I has been my experience that when children draw a cat, they want their picture to be understood as a cat. Perhaps a red cat with blue stripes, but the basic cat parts should be there. So, I designed a system to give the correct visual information they needed to express the idea of cat in the simplest possible form. It made them happy to be able to express this idea and their cats expressed their individual personalities wonderfully.

When they were confident that their painting would be understood, they became very creative... good skills foster creativity. This is a wonderful way to teach visual learners who are comfortable with the basics, no confusing extra visual language.

I've used this method successfully to teach children to observe, visualize and to express themselves as they move naturally towards writing, because they eventually discover that it is more efficient to write cat then to draw a cat. After all, a drawing is a hard copy of an idea. And the word cat is an encoded short hand, a generic symbol for a complex idea that everyone who has experience with cats understands.

This method continues to be used and is still popular with children and parents. When I finally realized that teachers didn't know how to teach simple drawing (and yet asked their students to illustrate everyday ) I decided to create a tool for classrooms Pre-k to 6th grade. 

There are 145 pages and over two hundred little lessons in DRAW! which can be purchased as an e-book at TPT or at as a soft cover book.

Visit Tell Us a Story at for more information and ideas for using drawing in your classroom or with your beginner at home... also see Teacher Downloads for Thanksgiving and Halloween drawing packets...

Upside Down In The Middle Of Nowhere

...perfect title, beautiful book!

This tender and inspired middle grade book, which will be released by Chronicle Books in April, is universal and timeless. 

It is about a young girl whose family gets caught up in hurricane Katerina and her struggles to survive.

I'll remind you again in April. Look for this book to become a movie...

My friend Julie is a wonder. She has written a classic story for families or middle grade history school classes to read together. I love this story and you will too.

DRAW! Halloween...

Drawings by Pre-K students...

Try this packet of 18 downloadable, reproducible drawing 
lessons is available at Teachers pay Teachers.