Death in the Family, Planning for Summer and Art Easel Ideas

Welcome to the fourth issue of the Preschool Plan-It Primer, a free monthly newsletter from Preschool Plan-It!

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May, 2011 Issue # 4

In This Issue:

Affects of the Death of a Family Member on Preschoolers

Tips & Timesavers: Summer Planning and Organizing for Teachers

Interest Center Focus: Art Easel Ideas

What’s New? Search It, Find It, Plan It!

Death in the Family

A death in the family- whether it be the death of a grandparent or other family member- creates a huge sense of loss for the entire family. Young children are even less equipped to cope with death and do not necessarily go through the same grieving process as adults do. Many preschool children do not understand death. Our preschoolers need time, patience and understanding during this time as they learn new coping skills.

It is important as caregivers and teachers, that we develop a relationship with our preschoolers' families. With a trusting relationship formed, parents and teachers can work together as a team in the best interest of our preschoolers!

Here are some tips for helping preschoolers and their families during this time:

1. Tell the preschooler that the family member has died (use the word died—not went away or is gone or went to sleep) and will not be coming back. At this age, they do not need long, drawn out discussions. Give them a simple, brief explanation based on their age, remembering that their attention spans are not that long. Too much information can confuse them or will be so much that they tune out and do not understand what you are saying.

2. Tell the child why the person died, but briefly. “He was very ill or very old.” There is no need to try to guess what the child is asking you. If they ask “Was she sick?” that is what they need to know right now. Answering simply “Yes, she was very sick.” is enough for now.

3. Assure the child that they did not cause the death.

4. Let the child talk about the person or the death in their own time. Asking often how they feel about the death is difficult for children. It is something we ask each other as adults: "How are you doing? How are you feeling about this today?" However, as we know, preschool children are just learning how to identify their emotions (angry, sad, happy) and with their experience with death being limited at this age, are not quite sure how to feel.

5. Help the child remember their loved one by drawing pictures or making a memory book out of their pictures.

6. The child may or may not talk about the person or the death for some time.

7. Some behavior changes might be seen in response to the death such as changes in mood, toileting habits, play habits and sleep disturbances.

8. Ask parents to keep you updated on how the child is reacting to the death so that you, with the parents, can work as a team and help this child through this in a consistent manner.

9. Contact your child's pediatrician and/or the local Hospice Center for advice and resources. They are very helpful and informative about helping children deal with death of a pet or of a person. In addition, many funeral homes have books and booklets for children regarding death and the funereal process.

10. There are many books available about this subject. There is an extensive list of books on my website as a resource. It is important that you or the parent read them first before reading any of them to the child to be sure that the book is appropriate for that individual child and is in agreement with the family’s beliefs about death.

For more detailed information about this subject and an extensive book suggestion list,

CLICK HERE to go to the Death of a Family Member website page

TIPS and TIMESAVERS: Planning For Summer

Do you work a full year or does your program close for the summer months?

If your program is closed, how do you prepare or close up your program so that you are ready to hit the ground running in the fall?

If you work a full year, what do you do differently during the summer months?

I’d love to post your ideas in June’s Newsletter! Please email me at with your summer plans!

I currently work a school year only. We close up our classroom, so to speak, after the end of the year celebrations. Our program is a church ministry. Our classroom is a dedicated space for our preschool during the school year but is sometimes used in the summer for church programs.

Therefore, closing up our classroom consists of putting all materials, manipulatives, games, etc. away in our closet—everything except for the tables and chairs. Nothing else is left in our room.

For many years, I worked in a year round program. Summer was different! We didn’t want it to feel like “school”! Sure, we still planned based on themes and worked on concepts and skills. However, we wanted it to be fun much less structured and laid back.

We would choose one or two overall themes such as Sports for one month and Oceans for another. We would theme our room to go along with that theme and then add activities that had more of a summer feel to them.

As often as possible, we had an outdoor classroom: water play, the art easel, musical instruments, etc. outside instead of in. We were limited in the amount of time we had outside because the area was shared with other classrooms and age groups.

We also called certain activities by different names. Instead of Morning Circle or Morning Meeting, we had Campfire Time. We had a campfire made out of sticks and rocks and pretend paper flames where we sang songs, read a story and talked about what we would do today.

We asked the children what types of things they wanted to do during the week. They became a large part of the planning!

What do you do in the summer?


The Art Easel does not just have to be for paint! Although paint is the primary medium used at an easel, let's get creative and find ways to attract the children who don't typically use the art easel or the art table for that matter!

Of course, it is an easel where most times painting as a form of art is offered. However, it can be much, much more! You do not ONLY need to have paint and brushes at your art easel, although that is the most popular item in my classroom (and most other preschool classrooms!). The most common items used in at the art easel are paint, large or small paint brushes and paint cups.

Placement of your Art Easel should be near other active interest centers. This center typically will have two to four children using it at one time (if you have a two-sided art easel) and they do love to talk and ask questions about each others creations!

For ideas on how and where to set up Interest Centers in your classroom, check out the Classroom Design Page BY CLICKING HERE

Keep in mind that paint gets EVERYWHERE! On the walls, on the floor and on the children! It is therefore best to not have this center in the flow of main traffic in your classroom so that the children walking by do not slip. If possible, place the Art Easel on a floored area, not carpet. If this is not possible, place a large mat or tablecloth underneath it. In addition, hang a shower curtain or plastic tablecloth to the wall behind the easel...just in case! ;)

What do children learn when using the Art Easel?

Activities at the Art Easel help children develop in many of the same areas they would at your Art Center or table such as:

Become more creative while using the materials.

Understand their knowledge about how to use the various materials and tools that you provide.

Build self confidence as they put their own ideas into action and make decisions as they use the materials.

Develop small motor control and coordination.

Learn about color, size and math as they experiment with color mixing, patterns and counting depending on the materials available.

Plan It!

Be sure that part of your classroom curriculum planning includes deciding on activities for your Art Easel. There are many concepts and objectives that can be met in this area!

For ideas and activities for the Art Easel to go along with specific THEMES, go to the Main Themes Page BY CLICKING HERE

To read about what children learn at the Art Easel, how you can prepare the area and other ideas for materials to use here, go to my Art Easel Interest Center page BY CLICKING HERE

WHAT’S NEW? Search It, Find It, Plan It as Preschool Plan-It!

The following pages were added to the website during the past month:

THEMES Arbor Day Theme Page

Bugs and Insects Theme Page

Caterpillars And Butterflies Theme Page

Cinco de Mayo Theme Page

Easter Christian Theme Page

Memorial Day Activities Theme Page

Mothers Day Activities Theme Page

National Day of Prayer Theme Page


Art Easel Interest Center Page

Death In the Family Page

Comments? Ideas for future newsletters? Feedback? This newsletter is written FOR you, so I'd love to hear from you. Just reply to this zine and tell me what you think!

Until Next Month,


Comments? Ideas for future newsletters? Feedback? This newsletter is written FOR you, so I'd love to hear from you. Just reply to this zine and tell me what you think!

Until Next Month, Cheryl