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It’s been a while…

24 May

It has been far too long since I have blogged. Time just flies. I feel like I blinked and my kids are all growing up so fast…my baby just turned 4. In the last few weeks, I have realized that all the special moments with her as my little baby are almost behind me. I have made the conscious decision to make sure I enjoy all the moments that much more—with all of my kids, not just my 4 year old.

In these last few weeks, I have had the opportunity to sit and watch my kids from the sidelines. I have watched them in school performances, and just sat back and watched them at home.

My “first baby” is now in the grade that I taught when I first entered the world of teaching. Second graders seemed so old then! How can I have a second grader who does research, reads complicated books, and writes stories?! How is it possible that my first grader who did not read with confidence, suddenly reads with expression and total comprehension as she devours her favorite new series, Roscoe Riley? How can my 4 year old suddenly correct ME when I read her favorite books and skip a word?

Of course my kids have grown as people: emotionally, socially, and in other areas. Since this blog focuses on our children as learners, that is what I have been thinking about most as I observe them.

This past week, what has become obvious to me is how my kids have begun to teach each other. So, in the spirit of getting you more free time while at the same time fostering your kids’ emotional and intellectual development, I am going to give you a tip: make your kids take over your role at bedtime.

If you have older children, have your older children put your young preschooler to bed. If your preschooler is your oldest and you have a baby, have your preschooler try to put your baby to bed. If you have a preschooler or a toddler and no others, have your child put YOU to bed.

It seems silly, I know. This past week my oldest decided to put our 4 year old to sleep. It was helpful for me, since I was able to spend the time with my middle daughter. It was helpful to me, since I only had to put TWO kids to sleep and not three. But most of all, it was helpful to the two of them.

For my oldest, she was able to apply so many of her skills:

-she felt really old, mature, and responsible

-she was able to practice her own reading with expression and keeping it interesting for her audience

-she actually worked to teach her little sister to read! She read her one of our favorite books (Baby Happy, Baby Sad by Leslie  Patricelli) and made sure to point out the repetitive text

For the youngest:

-she learned a new book from a different teacher

-she felt mature and responsible, too. Mom was not present!

Above all, they bonded. In the way that reading is so special for parents and children, it is as special for kids to share this with each other. Sometimes, parents can be in the way of truly positive interactions between siblings. (Don’t get me wrong. Feel free to spy from the hall.)

This can work with any age children. I have been doing this with my kids since my oldest was four. You would be amazed at what your kids can do. (Just don’t forget to try to stand in the door to take a video. It is guaranteed to warm your heart!)

Let me say this again: try this to save yourself some work! Use the extra time to kick up your feet and curl up with a book of your own. The dishes in the sink will wait until tomorrow morning. I promise.

noname-1

 

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Let’s pretend!

22 Mar

Does your child rush to the dramatic play area in preschool (and beyond)?

Do you ever think, “That’s great, but s/he never does that at home”? Well, try this idea to freshen up the play that happens at home–courtesy of one of my favorite blogs: http://imaginationsoup.net/2013/03/25-diy-pretend-play-kits/

I love these ideas for so many reasons. As I have mentioned in previous posts, play is key to children’s developing minds. It is how they make sense of the world around them. It is how they explore concepts and emotions, and how they understand roles they see in the world around them (parents, teachers, doctors, siblings, and even animals).

In creating these kits, kids are active participants in their own play. They are able to call upon their emerging literacy and math skills as they create. And above all, they are using their imagination. Depending on their ages, you may be able to just drop the idea and run. I plan to try to suggest the idea and leave my 8,6,3 year olds to their own devices. They will love it more when they have complete ownership.

Years ago, my oldest daughter was learning about flowers in preschool. Her teachers created a flower shop–complete with seeds, cash register, and fake flowers. My kids came home and recreated and extended the shop with what they could find at home. They filled envelopes with rice (called them seeds), made a cash register out of a cereal box, and wrote signs all by themselves. The creation took 3 days’ worth of play. The play: a whopping 12 minutes. At the time I remember thinking: “Can’t they just play???” But now, thinking back, I realize they did incredible “work” and the process was what mattered to them.

Dramatic play is how our children come to understand the world around them.

Dramatic play is how our children come to understand the world around them.

A friend recently shared with me something that Mr. Rogers said:

“Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood.”

So, if you are home with your kids this week or next, consider creating a DIY Kit with your kids and then just let them play. If all goes well, you can go make yourself a cup of tea and reach for a good book.

You can always count on numbers to provide hours of fun (pun intended)

27 Jan

In today’s blog I would like to explore another tip. We have been focusing on social and literacy skills that your child needs to be a confident, happy, and successful kindergartener. Today I will touch upon number skills.

Just as it is important to talk to your child so s/he develops language and social skills, it is important that you count with your child so s/he develops number sense. Your children listen to every word you say, so you may as well make it count. (No pun intended, I promise.)

Counting with your kids is fun, crucial, and easy to do.  It is one of the most valuable educational space fillers you can do in such a short time. A minute a day can make a huge difference.

Here are some ideas I have done with my kids:

  • Count steps as you walk
  • Count buttons or snaps as you dress
  • Count buses or trucks as you walk or drive
  • Count babies at the supermarket
  • Read number books
  • Count out snacks as you prepare them
  • Surround your child with numbers: magnets, bath toys, blocks, and board or card games that involve counting and can be modified (such as UNO, BLINK, snail’s pace).
  • If your games use dice or spinners with numbers, be sure to have your child read the number or count the dots him/herself. It is good practice.

When my youngest was 2, she was able to count to ten and recognize numbers to ten when they were written. This was nothing I sat and taught her explicitly. She learned first to count by rote, but then was able to read the numbers when she saw them. How did that happen? When she learned to count, she was ready for the next step and was attuned to the numbers when she saw them around her. She watched us all play UNO, and in time even joined in.

As I am sure you know, any time you spend with your child is fun for him, no matter what it is. And when your child is having fun, you do too! You can sing your numbers, count backward or forwards, or even use numbers to pass time.

My three year old and I do a counting game whenever we have a moment of down time. I showed her once, and she asks for it all the time. She even taught her friend on a playdate the other day. Who knew it would be so fun for her? I will share it with you. It is simple, really. You and your child (or children) alternate saying numbers IN ORDER out loud. When someone makes a mistake, you correct it and begin again. Also, you need to start again if someone blurts out a number when it is not his/her turn. (Numbers and social skills in one game!) There are no cards necessary for this game, so it is easy to play in the car, at restaurants, in bed, the bath, etc.

You can also modify this game. Start with a number other than one, use it to teach your older kids to skip count by 2’s, 3’s, and 5’s, or count backwards. I used to have my 25 second graders sit in a circle and see how quickly they could count by 2,3,5’s. You could do it with your whole family around the dinner table. It is great fun, and never gets old. Give it a try!

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