Sunday, April 6, 2008

Science for Preschoolers: Part II

Well now that we've had a few discussions about science, you may agree that it seems a little less intimidating and whole lot more fun! Knowing that your child learns best by engaging in activities that allow some level of independent discovery or observation, asking questions and discovering the answer or maybe having to start over again. One of the most important aspects to remember for science of preschoolers is the following: Please, Please Please follow your preschoolers lead! If you carefully observe what interest your child and provide opportunities for your child to explore it more and find the answers, the more your child will feel confident in his own abilities and the more enthused he will be. You will also find out the different topics that your preschooler is interested in which will carry over into other subjects like reading and math. Allow your preschooler to use real world or household items to explore such as cardboard tubes, rocks, shells, flashlights, small appliances, locks and keys, bugs and magnifying glasses, compasses, whistles, measuring cups, measuring tapes, mirrors, nuts and bolts, screwdriver, seeds and potting soil, cotton balls, aluminum foil, wax paper, sponges and buckets, and old name a few. This will provide your child with the "real world" experience and open the door for questions and problem-solving...Hey that's what real scientist's do!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Science In The Great Outdoors!

Have you ever notice how a child lights up when they get outside? When I was a child, going outside was the highlight of the day. What wondrous things out there in the great big world to explore and observe! Speaking of observing... a big part of being a scientist (adult or child-sized) is acquiring observation skills. Observation is a skill because it takes time to learn and to do it well. This means that your child will need plenty of practice going out and observing the world that she lives in. While your child is observing, they may ask you some questions. This is a distinct opportunity to encourage problem-solving and thinking skills. Give your preschooler an opportunity to tell you what she thinks is happening. In general, find out what their answer would be to their own question. After you have an idea of how she processes then you can praise her efforts and provide her with additional information if necessary. The following is an activity that preschoolers enjoy and it will yield their very own nature book after all of their explorations. It's a win-win activity! Rub-it Book Activity What you will need: ~Several thin sheets of paper ~Several crayons ~Flat items found on a nature walk ~Several Ziploc bags ~Hole Punch ~Yarn Directions: 1. The best and first part of this activity is taking your preschooler out for a nature walk. Ask your preschooler to find leaves, flowers, bark, and twigs to collect. Once your preschooler has had a blast finding all sorts of cool things, tell her that she gets to keep her treasures to take home. 2. Once home, have your preschool take out a sheet of thin paper and place it over the first item. 3. Next, use the side of a crayon to rub across the paper and the image of the item will appear. Trust me when I say, your preschooler will be delighted by the effect and eager to continue with the remaining items. 4. After your preschooler has completed her rubbings of all the items, place each item along with it's rubbing in a Ziploc bag. 5. Punch holes in the bags and tie them together with the yarn. Wallah...Preschooler made nature book! Discuss the texture, color, and uniqueness of each item often with your preschooler. Who knows, it may just become her favorite book!

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Magnificent Magnets

Preschoolers love science! Nothings more fun than hands-on discovery of new things. One very simple yet exciting object for preschoolers to explore is the magic of a magnet. What could be better than playing with a magnet, how about playing with two magnets! The following are a few science activities using magnets that your preschooler is sure to love. Magnificent Magnets Science Exploration What you will need:
  • Two magnets
  • Shoe box lid
  • Small objects that will stick to the magnet and some that will not
  • paper cut out figure (can be characters of a story, such a the Three Pigs)
  • Glue
  • Paper clips

Now that you have collected all of your items, you are ready to have fun with magnets!

1. First, spread out all of the small objects that you've collected and explain to your preschooler that some of the items on the floor will be "attracted" by the magnet and some will not.

2. Next, have your preschooler experiment with picking up items with the magnet. It may be interesting to hear what your preschoolers hypothesis is on why some items are attracted and some are not. These types of conversations are always fascinating and I encourage you to ask questions. Also, be sure to point out the common denominator of the objects that are being attracted if your preschooler misses this point by sheer excitement.

3. While your preschooler is engrossed in trying to find all of the things that will stick to the magnet, take a few minutes to glue a paper clip to your paper cut out figures. While that dries for a few minutes, ask your preschooler to try to pick up another magnet with there magnet. Discuss the differences between trying to pick-up the other magnet using opposite sides.

4. Now that your paper clips have had time to adhere to the cut-out figures, ask your preschooler to help you put on a magical show. Place your cut-out figures face on top of the shoe box lid (paper clips touching the lid). Next, have your preschooler put there hand underneath the shoe box to move the characters...magic!

I'll be back next week with more on science for preschoolers!

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Science for Preschoolers: Part I

Typically thinking about science may conjure thoughts of glass beakers, periodic tables, and scientific methods. However, science for the preschooler is a bit more simplistic in nature. You can still expect your preschooler to use six crucial thinking steps to utilize science. The following is a list of the six thinking levels. 1. Your preschooler is able to discover! This may be the most exciting step and the most natural because it is a preschoolers' full-time job to discover. As the parent/teacher, you can encourage your child to think about what she is discovering by asking questions about what it is she is discovering. 2. Gathering information is something that a preschooler seems to do just as naturally and goes hand in hand with discovery. Preschoolers love to ask questions and that gives parents the okay to ask questions as well. You can ask "why do you think...?" questions to get a good idea of how your preschooler views the world. 3. Understanding is the next thinking level of science for a preschooler. Again asking questions of your preschooler but these questions are more of the "why did that happen?" or "what did you notice?" questions. 4. Experimenting is a level of trying new things with an activity, some variation. This is a perfect opportunity for asking the child about their observations of the comparison between the two scenarios. 5. Evaluating ideas accessing the different scenarios. You would ask "What would happen if we try this?" to encourage the child to explore different hypothesis in their mind. 6. Adjusting is the last level and this happens when a hypothesis or what they thought would happen, did not turn out quite the way they expected. Now the questions that are relevant are again "why do you think....?" You can observe these levels of thinking in your preschooler as you create situations for them to learn from. I will be posting some age-appropriate science activities next Sunday, as a part of a four part series, to give you some ideas of everyday things that can be used for scientific exploration.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Creating The Right Environment

Many moons ago, I use to be a teacher assistant in a Montessori School. On the first day, I observed the class where I was to be working. I remember walking in and thinking how something was missing. Ahh....It was the gigantic teachers desk that usually takes center stage in a classroom. I also noticed how all of the children were moving about without "permission" calmly and busily working. The Lead Teacher picked up a rain stick and walked over next to me. Then she turned the rain stick over and all of the children immediately packed away their activities and came over to a circular shaped rug and took a seat. She did this to introduce me to the students. It was the most amazing thing that I'd ever seen! I'd worked in many schools and daycares, but never witnessed something so natural and phenomenal. I began to take notice of how peaceful and interested the children all seemed about learning. I also began to realize that the learning environment played a huge role in the way that these children learned and learned so quickly. As a homeschooling mamma, I had to incorporate many of the lessons learned from that experience into my daughters learning. I believe that in carefully preparing a learning environment at home, it will foster a lifelong love of learning. I talk to parents all time whether homeschooling or not, about the importance of embracing and incorporating education in everyday life activities. There's a lesson in all things! With that said, here's five tips for how you can create the right environment for optimal learning:
  • Model Behavior ~This is a, write lists, show your children how you calculate how much you pay for bills, read labels while grocery shopping, etc.
  • Provide Educational Opportunities ~Purchase quality toys and activities that provide rich learning experiences, Make sure paper and writing utensils are readily available.
  • "Child-Friendly" Your Home ~Go through your home and make sure that learning materials are easily accessible and neatly displayed.
  • Go Outside ~I can't express enough how important it is to take the kiddos out doors. WARNING:the questions that will come up can keep you researching for awhile.
  • Encouragement ~Encouragement does not mean let them try and then take over. Instead guide them if they need help. Show them once or twice, but let them learn to do it for themselves.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Overlooked Learning in Pretend Play

I LOVE to watch Sunshyne work hard at pretend play! She comes up with these elaborate scenarios with layers of imagination. I think about the thought that has to go into her mini "soap operas." How did she come up with what happened next? Why did she use a particular item to represent something needed for her setting? These are all questions that keep me interested and delighted at Pretend Play. Many times parents of young children overlook the importance of pretend play and how their preschooler is learning from the experience. Well, today I'm here to help you better understand and appreciate what's happening during this process. I'll even give you a few tips on how to get involved and offer new learning experiences for your little one. First of all, lets talk about some of the valuable skills that your preschooler is learning through pretend play. Language skills is BIG here! They are being able to practically apply new words that they've learned and play with word arrangements in a non-threatening environment....what better way to learn new things? Intellectual skills are also being developed. Like I mentioned earlier, your preschooler is having to think about what will happen next. They may come up with a logical ending to a situation (this is normally for the older child). They may have some silly things going on to add humor. Dramatical outcomes or deal with some emotional issues. Speaking of emotional issues...they are also developing social-emotional skills. Again, they can explore anger, annoyance, sadness, guilt or any number of emotions in a non-threatening arena. They may also ask a friend to get in on the fun which adds a new facet to pretend play and extends the social-emotional piece. They can practice sharing and diplomatic negotiations about the scenarios. Lastly, the obvious gross and fine motor skills involved with moving around and manipulating small objects to accomplish effects and settings. Wheww...that's a lot of learning! Now, here's those tips on how you can get involved and offer extended learning experiences. I have been collecting empty water bottles, milk containers and food boxes for about 3 months now. Yes, my husband thinks I'm crazy...but I have a purpose! I want to teach Sunshyne about money and currency exchange. I was thinking that turning my dining room into a general store would be a great hands on way to learn. You can use this same concept to teach your preschooler many lessons. If you have a house full of ordinary household stuff, you can teach through pretend play. Here's some suggestions: Dress Up Tea Party-Teaching Manners and courtesy ~You will need: Old hats, scarves, shirts, jewelry, shoes, dresses, glasses, teapot, cups, and maybe some homemade cookies to make it special! Shoe Store-Money, measurements, matching ~You will need: Old shoe boxes, old or too small shoes, stuffed animals or dolls, play money (can be homemade), measuring instrument. Beauty shop-Hygiene ~You will need: Dolls (preferably with hair), stuffed animals, combs, brushes, empty shampoo bottles, towels, mirror, hair dryer (optional-maybe for older children). Zoo-animals, biology, nurturing, environmental issues, compassion for animals ~You will need: Stuffed animals, boxes for cages, maps (can be homemade), animal books, empty pet food containers. Note~This one can get elaborate if you want to encourage learning about habitats and plant life as well, just add the silk plants or paper made ones to the scene! Well, that's it for this week. I hope that you find this post helpful in getting your imaginative juices flowing. As always, feel free to comment or share your child's pretend play experiences with us!

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Music and Movement

Happy New Year!!!!!!!!!! Today has been filled with the sounds of my little Sunshyne singing and enjoying music. She loves to sing and learn new songs. She even asked for new batteries for her old toy microphone to put on a pretend concert. I love to hear the sound of her little voice belting out tunes of old. Some of my childhood favorites that are now hers ~You are my Sunshine ~Twinkle, Twinkle little star ~If You're Happy and You Know It ...Just to name a few. Ironically, one of my colleagues asked me to assist him in teaching a music and movement class next week and I thought how interesting a topic that would be to start out the new year here with you. While I was sitting here deciding which angle I would take for the training, I came up with more than a few interesting tidbits to share with you. Of course, I realize that this is blog and not one of those 1200 word articles that I love to read, but never seem to find the time to do... much more than look at the pictures and skim the first two sentences of each paragraph. I decided to write as much as I could and I promise not to get offended if you only skim the first few sentences...I'm an adult, I can take it. I decided to talk about the importance of music in the lives of preschoolers and any age really, but this age is one of the most fun to watch. Music is truly universal! Have you ever noticed that children, both young and old, can learn the words to a song with very little effort? With that in mind, I believe that you can teach a child just about anything if it is put to music. When words, rhythm and repetition are all combined together, you have the recipe for learning! The following are some suggestions for you to make the most of your musical experience with your toddler or preschooler.
  • Play music that is appropriate for the mood you are trying to set
  • Encourage your child to get up or move her body parts while listening to music
  • Make up songs to replace the words for added language skills building
  • Purchase or make instruments to use along with the music
  • Sing a special song together that includes your child's name
  • Record your child's musical experience either by video or audio recorder
  • Use finger plays, and encourage your child to follow the directions of the song and get a bonus practice on sequencing. (eg. Give a Dog a Bone, and Head and Shoulders)

Well, that's it for today, I am going to leave you with the words to one of my new favorite songs...

Five Little Monkeys

Five little monkeys sitting in a tree,

Teasing Mr. Alligator

You Can't catch me!

Along came Mr. Alligator

As quiet as can be

And he snapped that monkey right out of that tree!

Count down till there aren't anymore monkeys left or you can say that the last monkey says "you missed me!"

Feel free to share your comments on music and movement or anything that you've read here.