Learn, Motivate & Reward With ArtSkills Products From Dollar General

Back in my preschool teaching years I loved shopping for bulletin board items, incentives, stickers, and all the fun goodies I could find for my classroom. Now, as a mom, I get to continue using them with my young children. ArtSkills sent me their whole line of products that they sell in Dollar General and I was impressed with the quality and variety of what they have. Check out all the items below!




The Little Artist Work Frames will be great for all the pieces of art Lucas creates on a daily basis. I think both my boys will love playing with the “I Spy” Spinner and it’s color coded so they can use it by themselves even though they can’t read. We will use the Incentive Charts with the stickers to reward good behavior, helping out around the house, and sharing. The puzzles and lace & learn cards are small enough to be portable so we will be taking them on vacation with us to keep the children busy in the hotel room.

What is your favorite item above?

(Disclosure: As stated, I received the line of items to review but all thoughts are my own.)

The Gardner School {Tour Recap}

(Disclosure: I was compensated for my time touring the school and for my social media efforts but all thoughts are my own. When it comes to childcare I would only recommend somewhere that I would feel comfortable bringing my own children.)

Early Childhood Education and care is very important to me. Having two preschoolers myself and working with young children for years both as a volunteer and as a professional I have a good idea of what a quality learning environment looks like. With that said, I feel confident in being able to recommend The Gardner School, an educational preschool for children six weeks to five years. The school’s first location was in Tennessee, and it has since spread to other states including their newest locations in my home state of Illinois. The Gardner School will open four locations in the Chicago area, the first of which is in the suburb of Warrenville. I got a sneak peak at the school before it’s opening and wanted to share some of the pictures I took {but not all, I got a little too excited to be back in a classroom that I took way too many pictures!} and my thoughts on the preschool. The school actually opened on Monday, March 18th, so call them for a tour today!

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First, let’s start with safety since that is the most important thing on every parent’s mind. With all of the safety concerns regarding schools lately, parents will feel confident knowing that visitors have multiple locked doors to go through to reach the children. Along with a locked door at the entry of the building which lets people into the lobby and to the front desk, every family gets a security code that they have to enter to go through another set of doors which leads to the hallways with the classrooms. Another great safety feature is a live feed of the classrooms in the lobby so that the family members can watch what goes on in the classroom. {This is also a great feature for those who have children who cry when they leave. You can see that 99.9% of the time your child stops crying the second you leave. As a Pre-K teacher this happened all the time and I would have to reassure the parents that their child would be fine but with the live feed parents can see their child really is okay.}

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The center has lots of natural light which is great. Each room is spacious so there is plenty of room for the children to move around.

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The classrooms are fun which is important since I believe that children learn through play. I can imagine that children will be so excited to go to school every day. I mean seriously, look at the picture above! Not just books on a bookshelf in the library area. There’s a tent they can read in, a nice comfy seat, puppets, and some felt board pieces so they can retell the story. I love reading areas like this.

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The home living area of the classroom was full of items that encouraged imagination as well. Each classroom had a kitchen area, some dress up clothes, and lots of other items that would help them pretend.

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The block section had lots of room for multiple children to build at the same time. This was nice because I can attest to the fact that if an area like this is too small the children end up knocking each other’s creations over, which is no fun. I think the addition of vehicles, buildings and animals in this area will make it an area where so much more goes on than just building towers.

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If there is one area in the classroom that is my favorite it would be the writing area. The one above was pretty empty when I took this picture, because the school hadn’t opened yet, but I imagine it is now full of papers, envelopes, stickers, writing utensils and the like that will make children want to write. That excites me so much! I also like that there’s room for multiple children. In my old classroom I had one seat at the writing table and all the kids loved the area but there wasn’t the ability to do writing activities with friends so I think the fact that there are a few chairs is awesome. I also liked that the classrooms had computers so they can play educational games.

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I spy lots of paints! This easel is nice and big, with space for four children. I think they will have fun painting and drawing at the easel.
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Each classroom has a sensory table. The contents in these tables will vary throughout the year, but they will all give the children a chance to use their different senses and experience different textures. We have a sensory table at home and the boys love it!
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Children have plenty of opportunities to explore and learn with science and math activities. There were also lots of different ‘table toys’ that they could play with solo or with a friend that work on fine motor skills.

On the subject of learning, the school uses a curriculum called ‘The DLM Early Childhood Express’ for Preschool, Pre-K & Kindergarten Readiness. According to the website, “each lesson begins with a FOCUS strategy that prepares children for the instruction and helps them focus their attention. The DEVELOP strategies that follow present the instruction. Children then participate in several PRACTICE activities, which allow them to apply and make sense of what they have just learned. Finally, they are encouraged to REFLECT on what they have learned and on how they will use the new information.” I think this is a great way for children to learn new concepts. They also use two programs I’m not familiar with but that I was interested to learn more about: Handwriting Without Tears and Growing With Mathematics. You can learn more about all of the curriculum (including the infant curriculum) on their website here.

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The fun doesn’t end in the classroom! Look at this outdoor area. The climbing structure is nice and large. I like that it’s surrounded so children can’t easily fall off. There was plenty of room to run around and burn off energy as well. Okay…now on to my favorite area of The Gardner School…

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How absolutely amazing is that!? Back when I worked at the daycare, I loathed rainy days or days that were really cold (which here in Chicago means being cooped up all winter long). Lots of children in one room for hours? Not fun! This area is a heated “outdoor” type space where children can be active and still stay warm and dry.

Since this center has so many fantastic areas I wanted to share some of my other pictures with some collages:


Fun areas of the classroom




Outside the Classrooms


Spaces for parents to connect

If you are looking for childcare in the Chicago area you should look into The Gardner School. There you will find a safe place for your children to stay when you can’t be with them during the day. You will find highly qualified teachers, a sound curriculum, and classrooms that are perfect for learning. When this school opens I expect one will hear lots of laughter and excitement all throughout the building!

Kindercare Offers Boredom Busters for Winter Fun

KinderCare Winter Science Camp:

The secret’s about to get out: science is a blast! At the end of December, 1600 KinderCare Learning Centers across the U.S. transform into Winter Science Camps that give preschoolers through school-agers a chance to unlock the mysteries of the natural world. Split into eight 1-day segments to better meet the needs of busy families staying in town for the holidays, Winter Science Camp uses age-appropriate activities and a lively, hands-on approach to get kids excited about what they’re learning. From fish to flowers, from robots to recycling-each center’s camp covers chemistry, earth science, and physics. Among many activities, younger campers will get to be “science detectives,” solving a series of science mysteries by using touch, smell and hearing. Meanwhile, school-aged kids will be busy experimenting with colored dyes, creating everything from paper to volcanic eruptions, building balloon rockets, and more. Kids can attend all eight days of camp, or drop in for a day or more. For more information about how KinderCare Winter Science Camp makes science as fun as it is smart, visit http://www.KinderCare.com/wintersciencecamp.

Winter Reading:

There is nothing better than snuggling up with your child and a good book. Reading to a child on a regular basis is by far the best way to encourage a budding reader.   From the earliest ages, parents are encouraged to begin a reading routine with their children. Building on its robust literacy curriculum and teaching expertise, KinderCare is now providing parents with a comprehensive reading guide  (available at http://www2.kindercare.com/uploadedFiles/Documents/a_guide_to_reading_to_your_child.pdf) that incorporates tips on reading to infants, toddlers and preschoolers as well as recommended age-appropriate book titles.   Some tips include:

o   You can help cultivate baby’s interest in books by choosing ones that capture his or her attention such as board books, pop-up books, etc. Your child will want to see these again and again.

o   While reading together, ask questions about the pictures. Children are delighted in finding objects on the page. If they’re saying ‘da’ and pointing at the dog, say, ‘Yes, that’s the dog,’ If the child says ‘ball,’ follow up with, ‘That’s a blue ball.’ You’ll be giving them additional language for their verbal bank.

o   Ask your child open-ended questions about the story you are reading, such as “Why do you think that happened?”

Play Time

The colder weather outdoors offers a good excuse for good old-fashioned indoor play time. Play is the natural work of children and essential to learning. Through play, children develop social skills, the ability to solve problems and the courage to express their ideas. The following are some quick tips for educational and fun family playtime:

o   For infants, playing peek-a-boo will help baby recognize your voice.

o   To help infants and toddlers develop fine motor skills, provide a variety of soft, easy-to-grasp toys, such as soft blocks or plush toys.

o   Blow bubbles with your child and watch them have a blast as they chase and catch the bubbles  – both reinforce motor skills and hand-eye coordination.

About KinderCare

With more than 1,600 centers located in 39 states and the District of Columbia, KinderCare Learning Centers, an accredited early childhood provider, offer a range of educational programs and after-school care for infants as young as six weeks old to school-aged children through age 12. For more information, visit www.KinderCare.com.


(Disclosure: This is a sponsored post however I did work for Kindercare as both a teacher and as an Assistant Director and I believe that their programs are wonderful for young children.)