Teach Kids How to Spread with a Knife with Blocks and Shaving Cream

Learning to spread with blocks and shaving cream

Want a super activity that will help to teach toddlers and preschoolers how to spread with a knife? Use building blocks and shaving cream! This fun and easy activity helps to strengthen fine motor skills and co-ordination, and helps prepare children for spreading butter on toast and making peanut butter sandwiches!

Recently, while preparing some crackers and peanut butter for snack, I got thinking about teaching the children how to spread butter and peanut butter and such with a knife.

I wanted an fun and engaging activity that could fill a morning – a play-based activity that didn’t involve actual food, so I mulled it over for a few days.

Learning to spread with blocks and shaving cream

This morning, I was looking through all of my shaving cream posts, and I had a lightbulb moment. I thought “Hey!  Shaving cream is spreadable, and it’s most definitely fun and engaging!”  The hooligans LOVE playing with shaving cream!

All that was left was to figure out WHAT we could spread the shaving cream on.

It didn’t take long to come up with the answer: foam blocks!  The hooligans could work on their spreading skills while building structures!

Let me just tell you – this activity was FABULOUS!

Not only was it a great activity for teaching spreading skills, it was a wonderful construction activity, it incorporated messy play, imaginative play and fine-motor development, and at the end of it all there was some water-play as well.  Could it get any better than that?

Let me show you all the fun!

Supplies Needed:

foam blocks, shaving cream, bowls, pate spreaders

For your conviencience, this post contains affiliate links. As an Amazon associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.  

  • foam building blocks
  • foaming shaving cream (not gel) – canned whipped topping or foaming bath paints could also be used
  • small pate spreaders or plastic knives
  • flat work surface (tips to protect your work surface below)
  • small bowls

Prepare Your Work Surface:

To start, choose a flat work surface.  If it’s something like a plastic tray, a baking sheet or a table that you’re not too fussy about, you’re good to go.  If you’re concerned about the surface of your table however, I would advise protecting it first with a table cloth or towel just to be safe.  I’m not entirely sure what effect shaving cream might have on it, so it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Doing the Activity:

STEP 1: Place the blocks in the middle of the table.

STEP 2: Fill a small bowl with a generous squirt of foamy shaving cream.

STEP 3: Give each child a pate spreader or plastic knife and let them know that they’ll be working on their “spreading skills” while building structures.

For the benefit of the youngest hooligan, I did a little demonstration.  Ok, maybe it wasn’t entirely for her benefit.  Maybe, just maybe I couldn’t resist.  It all looked so inviting and fun!  Whatever the case may be, I dipped the spreader into some foam, scooped it up, spread it on a block, and “splat”, Ismushed the block to the table to start things off.

toddler stacking blocks spread with shaving cream

Everyone followed suit, dipping into their bowls of shaving cream and carefully covering a block with foam.

The fun had begun.

spreading shaving cream on blocks

Spreading, dipping and stacking ensued.

teaching spreading skills with shaving cream

According to their conversations, some were baking cupcakes, some were building towers, and some were building cities.

toddler spreading shaving cream on a foam block

What fun!

Open-ended building always sparks so much creativity, and adding the shaving cream just took it to a new level.

And their fine motor skills got a work out, manipulating the knives, turning those blocks over and over to coat them with shaving cream, and then of course, critical thinking was required to plan, stack and build their creations.

foam blocks and shaving cream structures

This activity was such a winner in my books, and one that we’ll repeat over and over I’m sure!

Teaching my little ones how to use a knife for spreading couldn’t have been any more fun.

And how did we end our morning?  The kids had fun washing all of the shaving cream off in a big bow of water.

washing blocks in shaving cream and water

If you have a favourite activity that teaches spreading skills, I’d love for you to leave a suggestion in the comments below!

Be sure to check out all of our shaving cream activities and our structure activities before you leave!

for FREE crafts, 

activities & recipes!


20 Of The Best Zoom Tools For Teachers

20 Of The Best Zoom Tools For Teachers

20 Of The Best Zoom Tools For Teachers

by TeachThought Staff

What are the best Zoom tools for teachers?

Whether you’re doing quick mini-lessons with 2nd-graders or lecturing to college students, Zoom is a powerful teaching tool for online learning.

While there are many alternatives to Zoom, for now, it remains the standard for video streaming and conferencing for remote teaching and learning. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be extended and improved with a few tweaks, add-ons, tools, or existing feature use.

So here we are–a collection of some of the best Zoom tools for teachers and schools. Some of the following Zoom tools for teachers are features of the Zoom platform itself, while others are external apps that integrate with Zoom, and still others are Google Chrome extensions.

Another way to think about this list is a collection of tools, features, resources, and related ways to improve the overall experience of Zoom for teachers.

20 Of The Best Zoom Tools For Teachers

1. Google Drive for Zoom

With this app, you can transfer your Zoom recordings and transcripts to your Google Drive account.

2. Whiteboarding

The native Zoom whiteboard feature will allow you to share a whiteboard that you and other participants (if allowed) can annotate on.

3. Virtual Backgrounds for Zoom

The Virtual Background feature allows you to display an image or video as your background during a Zoom Meeting. This feature works best with a green screen and uniform lighting to allow Zoom to detect the difference between you and your background. You can also upload your own images or videos as your virtual background and can use Virtual Background in a Zoom Breakout Room as well.

4. Enable or Disable Recording

Depending on the purpose of the Zoom meeting, you may absolutely need it to be recorded or absolutely cannot allow recording. That’s where enabling or disabling recordings come in.

5. Room Polling

According to Zoom, the polling feature for meetings “allows you to create single choice or multiple choice polling questions for your meetings. You will be able to launch the poll during your meeting and gather the responses from your attendees. You also have the ability to download a report of polling after the meeting. Polls can also be conducted anonymously, if you do not wish to collect participant information with the poll results.” This obviously useful for quick-and-easy formative assessment.

You can read more about room polling here.

Note: You can download room poll data as well, which you can read about here.

6. Screencastomatic

A third-party tool for capturing any video stream–screencasts, webinars, lectures, office hour consultations, conferences, meetings, etc. There are both free and paid versions and a photo stock library as well.

7. Annotation Tools

While better online whiteboard options exist, if you’re in Zoom and want to stay there, enabling annotation tools (for yourself or viewers) is a useful Zoom tool for teachers and students alike. You can read more about it here.

8. Wikipedia Search

The Wikipedia Search chat app for Zoom allows you to search for Wikipedia articles directly from your Zoom Chat channels and share them with other users in the channel.

9. Prezi Video

Prezi Video is a visual communication tool where you overlay your visuals on screen next to you, so you can hold more engaging video conferences with students. When you host video meetings with students, you no longer have to choose between sharing the screen or maintaining a personal, human connection for improved engagement. Overlay your visuals directly on screen next to you and experience more engaging, impactful, and interactive Zoom video conferences.

10. Push To Talk

This built-in Zoom features allows you to remain muted throughout your Zoom meeting and hold down the spacebar when you want to be unmuted and talk. This is likely more useful for students than teachers.

11. Waiting Rooms

The Waiting Room feature allows the host to control when a participant joins the meeting. As the meeting host, you can admit attendees one by one, or hold all attendees in the Waiting Room and admit them all at once. You can send all participants to the Waiting Room when joining your meeting, or you can allow participants from your Zoom account and participants at specified domains to bypass the Waiting Room.

You can also customize the waiting room–to clarify the purpose of the room for students, for example.

12. Keyboard Shortcuts For Zoom

While some keyboard shortcuts don’t seem like shortcuts at all, some of the following may actually help your teaching.

13. Translate It

This Zoom app is designed to translate text into different languages though as of publishing time, we haven’t had a chance to test it out.

14. Zoom Scheduler via Google Calendar Chrome Extension

Schedule Zoom meetings directly from Google Calendar with this Google Chrome Extension. (You can find more Best Google Chrome Extensions For Teachers.)

15. Automatically Schedule Meetings (including recurring meetings)

Zoom allows you to schedule meetings with multiple occurrences, so that each occurrence uses the same meeting ID and settings. You can schedule these meetings in daily, weekly, and monthly increments. You can also set a recurring meeting to be used at any time. Meeting IDs for recurring meetings expire 365 days after the meeting was last started.

You can read more here.

16. Take attendance with usage reports

If your Zoom meeting has registration or polling enabled, you can generate a registration or polling report for to take attendance or for other documentation requirements. The registration report contains the following information of registered participants:

  • First and last name
  • Email address
  • Date and time of registration
  • Approval status

17. Schoology Zoom App

Securely create, manage and launch Zoom meetings from within your Schoology environment.

18. Screen Sharing

Among the most useful tools for Zoom is screen sharing–especially when Zoom is used for training or webinars. Meeting participants can annotate on a shared screen as a viewer or the one that started sharing your screen.

18. Microsoft Teams Zoom App

If you use Microsoft Teams in your classroom, this app allows you to start, schedule, and join Zoom Meetings directly from your Microsoft Team space.

19. Nearpod Zoom App

Integrate Zoom into Nearpod to easily start Zoom meetings from within your Live Participation Nearpods and have your students join both with one code.

20. Breakout Rooms

On the Zoom video streaming platform, Breakout Rooms are a way to break a larger meeting into smaller meetings (as few as two and as many as 50).

21. Rewatch

Rewatch is a private & secure video channel for your Zoom recordings. It organizes and transcribes your team’s recorded all-hands, training, and recurring meetings—all in one place. Every Zoom recording is automatically transcribed so the content is readable and searchable by your team. It’s never been easier to quickly find what you’re looking for.

20 Of The Best Zoom Tools For Teachers

Math Has Prepared Me Poorly for This Pandemic

Graph of Coronavirus deaths in Italy.

Here are two representations of the horror of this pandemic.

First, a graph of coronavirus deaths in Italy.

Graph of Coronavirus deaths in Italy.

Second, the obituary page of a newspaper in the Italian city of Bergamo, first from February 9 and later from March 13.

Both of these are only representations of this pandemic. They point at its horror, but they aren’t the horror itself. They reveal and conceal different aspects of the horror.

For example, I can take the second derivative of the graph of deaths and notice that while the deaths are increasing every day, the rate of increase is decreasing. The situation is getting worse, but the getting worse-ness is slowing down.

I cannot take the second derivative of an obituary page.

But the graph anesthetizes me to the horror of this pandemic in a way that the obituaries do not. The graph takes individual people and turns them into groups of people and turns those groups of people and their suffering into columns on a screen or page.

Meanwhile, the obituaries put in the foreground the people, their suffering, and their bereaved.

Math has prepared me poorly for this pandemic—or at least a particular kind of math, the kind that sees mass death as an opportunity to work with graphs and derivatives.

For students, it has never been more necessary to move flexibly and quickly between concrete and abstract representations—to acquire the power of the graph without becoming anesthetized to the horror that’s represented much more poignantly by the obituaries.

For teachers, there has never been a more important time to look at points, graphs, tables, equations, and numbers, and to ask students, “What does this mean?” and particularly now, “Who is this?”


Two relevant quotes here.

  • “A single death is a tragedy; a million deaths is a statistic.” Commonly attributed to Joseph Stalin.
  • “Statistics are human beings with the tears wiped off.” Paul Brodeur, quoted in Mukherjee’s Emperor of all Maladies.

2020 Apr 10

Another example. It’s one thing to see a graph of unemployment, and another to see the lines for the food bank.

2020 May 25