March 2011 archive

Stuffed Animal Overload

I have a very vivid memory of myself as a five year old running into my mom’s room, trying to convince her that I needed to sleep with her because there was just not enough room in my bed.  When she walked me back to my room to see what I was talking about I showed her all 20 of my stuffed animals tucked under my covers too snug to move them.  Of course at that point my mom figured out a way to re-arrange them without completely crushing my hopes that they could all sleep in my bed, but she made sure that I stayed in my own bed. 

I know you might be considering purging your stuffed animal collection, but before you give them ALL away, here are a couple ideas of how you can teach your little ones two important math skills:

1. Measure those Teddy bears:  Two important standards to teach young children when it comes to measurement is to measure with “non-standard” units and to measure with “standard” units.  Some non-standard tools for measuring would be tape, cubes, your hands and feet, or yarn (as pictured below).  Standard measuring tools would include rulers, yard sticks, measuring tape, etc.

So, help your child measure his/her stuffed animals, and then compare which is longer, shorter, taller, etc.

2.  Sequence those stuffed animals:  This would be a perfect activity for following up measuring your child’s stuffed animals.  Simply ask your little one to put them in order from smallest to biggest, or shortest to tallest. 


Find Your Rhythm

My 10 month old loves to drum on everything.  If he gets a hold of any object that resembles a stick, he will bang it against the ground, a chair, or even my head.  He dances to music and he even sings a note or two with his eyebrows raised as if he is trying to hold the note as long as he can.  There is so much brain research that links music and movement to better storing and recalling of information.  And it is amazing how the love of music is ingrained in children, from the time they are born!

So, today we are going to talk about a simple activity that falls on the 3rd step of the reading ladder….Syllables.

Compound words are the easiest syllables to hear so we should start there: like foot-ball (football), ice-cream, space-ship, and other fun words to break apart and put together.

Then, there are short 2 and 3 syllable words like “prin-cess, ti-ger, di-no-saur.”

Finally, there are longer words that have more syllables and can be harder to stay on track when you are clapping or tapping these 4+ syllable words: “cat-er-pill-er,”  “cin-der-el-la,” etc.

So, all that being said, this is going to help your little one start the process of hearing parts of words and playing with words which is going to pave the way and help your little reader develop an awarenss of sounds which will eventually help them sound-out words….are you with me?!?

mckayla sand toys

When I teach this I find two stick-like objects I can click together (spoons, chopsticks, drumsticks, or in the picture the student is holding wooden dowels I bought for Super-cheap at lowe’s).  Then I start by letting my little one play with them because otherwise they will never pay attention.  So at first I give about 5 minutes of chaotic free play (with safety boundaries of course).  Then, I say I am going to tap my sticks together to hear all the words in the word “ice cream.”  I tap during the word ice and cream and then say ooohhh- listen again and tell me how many words you hear in the word ice cream.  Hopefully they hear 2 haha unless counting is something that you really need to start working on 🙂

Then I will do this same thing a few more times with compound words, letting them tap with me.  I repeat this little activity with “how many parts are in your name?” Then mommy’s name, daddy’s, etc.  And keep going until your little one is ready to move on to something else 🙂

Have fun!

Alphabet Art

Letters carry so much significance, and at this point in your child’s life, your little one is living in a world of ABC’s. Some people ask me when you should start teaching letter sounds because it can be a little confusing: Do I teach my little one A /a/ apple, the whole alphabet, all the letters and their sounds at once? And when are they ready? Lots of questions or maybe just a lot of trial and error, but there is a lot to teach and sometimes it does get a little crammed together.

Well, being intentional to help your little one learn their letters, sounds, and picture associations (like apple, alligator, etc.) is absolutely praiseworthy….you are already SUPER MOM (or dad).

But here are some tips about teaching these things that can be taught together, but should also be taught separately. What does that mean? Well, it is great to teach the whole alphabet, reading ABC books, and talking about the sounds they make as well as the pictures on the page, BUT it is also great to focus on ONE letter at a time. Not one lesson or the other….BOTH are necessary.

Today’s activity is actually a link to one of my favorite teacher’s Alphabet Art Books. Very hands-on and interactive, and I LOVE it, BUT I want you to make this book ONE page – ONE day at a time. Some people spend a whole week doing a “letter study,” but I am asking you to just wait a day or two before you create art for the next letter. In the meantime, encourage your little one to look for the current letter EVERYWHERE. Play “I spy” with the letter or sound “I spy the letter A” or I spy something that starts with /a/ (when a letter is in “//” you make the letter sound instead of the letter’s name.

Alphabet Art Book

Teaching Positive Behaviors – Dramatic Play

The other day I observed a two year old hit his 8 year old brother in the face while playing at a toy table in a waiting room. I thought to myself “Okay, that’s pretty normal for a two year old to communicate with hitting (initially) because the two year old hasn’t had many opportunities to LEARN how to communicate in other ways (yet!). When I see things like this happen I think about what I would say for a consequence and then what I would do or say later to make a teachable moment out of that occurrence.
But in the waiting room, before I could really think about anything, the child’s mom (or grandma) JUMPED up and got in the little boys face, hovering over the little boy yelled, “I’m going to hit you in the face!” Then she picked him up by the arm and plopped him down in the seat, and told him something about being bad. When I looked this BABY in the eyes all I saw was a product of what behaviors he will CONTINUE to learn (from his mom) and practice, the “unwanted” behaviors, because he really hasn’t learned any other way to respond when he wants something.

This COULD HAVE been the first of MANY lessons on how to share, play nice, take turns, use words instead of hit, ANYTHING, but instead it was a lesson on how to respond in frustration and impatience, as modeled by the mom.

Please don’t get me wrong Mommy Teachers, I DO NOT want this post to be filled with momma-bashing comments and harsh judgments on moms that might have been caught on a bad day. I want this discussion to be one where we talk about POSITIVE approaches to teachable moments like these.

So, here are some tips for teaching 2’s,3’s, and 4’s when they make poor choices:

1. In the instance, approach it Super Nanny Style:

Get on their eye level, firmly but not volatile telling them “We do not hit our brother, we use our words. So if you hit or you are ugly to him again, you will sit in time out while your brother plays and you will not be able to play at all.” And then, FOLLOW THROUGH with this consequence if the behavior occurs.

2. LATER ON that day, in your own home, use a stuffed animal, puppet, doll, etc. to teach your child a lesson about their behavior. Just as adults learn the right approach to communication through the advice or instruction from a counselor (someone from the outside looking in), you will set up (the SAME scenario) with the puppet/stuffed animal to TEACH your little one the right choices to make. Kids have to learn these appropriate behaviors through teaching and EXAMPLE.

Below is my video EXAMPLE of a scenario you might create with you little one and a puppet to help teach your little one how think of other ways to solve the problem. I chose the scenario of the hitting sibling. James, Casey’s little one, was such a GREAT contributor to this video. I wish they lived close by because I wish I could film every video with him! This was the only video we took of this puppet show so I didn’t correct any of my word choice or dialogue so that you could see an unscripted,  authentic interaction.

Hundreds ch-ART

My sister Ali shared an activity that she and her 5 year old, Kaylee, worked on together for a Kindergarten class assignment. Today, we are going to simplify the activity for our 3 year olds OR use the activity for our 5 year olds. My sis is an AWESOME Mommy Teacher to both her 5 year old and her 2 year old girls.

Here is Ali’s description of the activity for your 5 year old,
but stay tuned for my modification for your 3 year old:
“This was for her 100th day of school; it was a home/family project that Rick, Kaylee’s dad, joked was more of mommies’ project. The assignment was to find 10 items around the house in groups of 10 and glue those things in groups on a poster board. The school gave examples like pennies, paperclips, etc.  Kaylee is very creative and I always call her “My Little Picasso” (which she got very mad the first time thinking I was calling her a bad name), but she wanted to do more colorful and unique items for her project.  For learning purposes, any small items would work and not take as long as we took, but she was “creating art” so to speak and the 2 hour project began.  We ran around the house finding a huge variety of items, jewels, sugar packets, even cut-up glass tile samples.  We counted each item up to 10 and spread them out in groups on the poster board. I was prepared for her to just start gluing them down when she said she wanted to make pictures out of each… put the bougainvillea tree flowers into a heart, the colors into a sunset, the sugar packets into a sun with rocks as the face in the sun.  The only input I had was the ‘K’, ‘R’ paperclips for her name, and the jewels in the shape of the flower. When everything was glued down, we counted by 10’s and 1’s to 100. It was really fun to do together because she was not only learning, but was being creative at the same time.

They also had another assignment that same week to hug 100 people. It could be the same person on the list several times (like moms, dads and siblings), but basically giving a hug to someone who needed it.  She must have given over 40 hugs to the staff and even customers at Lupe’s Restaurant and the dentist… she is already a social butterfly, but it really put a smile on everyone’s face too, amazing what a hug can do!”

I LOVE this whole assignment and this is the kind of hands-on project that really creates a sweet opportunity for shared learning and chances to BUILD on what your child already knows. If you have a 3 year old, collect as many groups of 10 things as your little ones attention span can handle….which might only be ONE group of 10…..and that is fine; consider it their work of art because you want quality more than quantity. Don’t try to do too much at one time; leave plenty of room for brain breaks (movement, outside playtime, music, snack, etc.). Finally, MODEL counting the objects by ones up to the number of objects you collected. And you can go ahead and INTRODUCE modeling counting by 10s if you collect more than one group. But make sure your little one has mastered counting to 10 by 1’s first (one object at a time).

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