Thursday, September 2, 2010

Exercising Vocabulary Skills

My younger daughter is picking up vocabulary at a much faster rate than my older daughter.  Plus she seems to learn words in a different way.  My older daughter picked up single words - and she liked to abbreviate those words.  In fact, we still call the remote control the "mote" because that was how she referred to it.  However, my younger daughter seems to pick up words in phrases.  Moreover, she will not abbreviate but will, in fact, use the entire word even when Mommy does not.

This tendency lead to a moment of humor when several days ago we were talking about Winnie the Pooh.  I asked her if she would like to play with her Pooh Bear.  Knowing that I was abbreviating, she smiled at the bear and proclaimed, "Shampoo!"

I know that when your children are young it is important to repeat what they say expanding and correcting as necessary.  However, she was simply so cute I couldn't bring myself to correct her.  So Winnie the Pooh has been christened "Shampoo."  I try to correct her language most of the time but calling a bear Shampoo will not hurt her in any grammar classes I know so we will continue to let that error slide.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Fine Motor Skills and Sticker Art

A preschool teacher informed me that one of the best ways to develop fine motor skills is through sticker art.  As I've watched my little ones develop I've seen the truth of this born out.  So I thought I'd share a couple of sticker projects that I've done with my girls.

Our focus at the time was animals and their habitats.  Because my girls are both very young we started very simply with water, land and air.  We had a different color construction paper for each element which I encouraged them to decorate appropriately.  Clouds were added to the sky and lily pads to the water but nothing to the land.  I think they were in a hurry to get to the stickers.

For stickers I used the Eye like Stickers: Animals book.  The stickers are reusable and came in a variety of types and sizes.  (A side note on reusable stickers - at this age it is a totally ridiculous concept.)  Also, stickers are organized by color rather than type so you don't have to worry about working with a page of stickers and only using one of your habitat papers.  For younger children you will want to remove the sticky paper around the actual stickers until they are more experienced.  Also, be prepared to put a number of stickers back together again.

After that more basic lesson we went into more details about animal habitats.  Our next sticker project involved drawing a farm complete with a barn, stable, chicken coop and pond.  We used the Lift Stick & Learn Farm Animals book.  I particularly liked this book because it has sticker sheets specific to each page of the book.  Your child matches the appropriate sticker to its shadow and when you are done you have a book that explains farm life to children as well as a 'can you spot these' section for each page.  And, of course, there are additional stickers which you can use in your own farm sticker project.

My daughters both enjoyed playing with the stickers though I'm uncertain how much my younger daughter learned from the experience.  But if nothing else it helped develop her fine motor skills.  I hope it works well for you.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Human Anatomy for Preschoolers

As I've mentioned I'm a biology major so I love sharing the world with my daughters.  And when they wanted a new coloring project I'd recently found a picture of the human body with the major organs labeled.  It seemed a perfect opportunity to introduce some new ideas to my daughters.

Since my younger daughter is not yet two I didn't really expect her to get much out of the dialog, though she did have fun scribbling all over her picture with a variety of different colors.  But my older daughter wanted to talk about the picture.  First she wanted to know how come we could see the person's insides.  Then I told her the names of the organs along with a few basics - like the fact that the heart pumps blood and the lungs bring in oxygen.  But mostly my little girl wanted to know what color each organ was so that she could color it accurately.  And she wanted to see pictures of what they looked like.

In a few days I think I'll revisit the lesson - cement what she learned.  Even if it is only that the heart pumps blood and the lungs breath in oxygen that's a very good start for a soon to be four year old.  If she continues to enjoy the discussion next time we might pursue it more in the near future.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Learning About Frogs

Having graduated with a BA in biology I feel that it is never to early to spark your child's interest in the world around her.  This being the last day of frog month I thought I'd tell you about our frog unit.  I was actually a little surprised how much my daughter enjoyed learning about frogs.

I introduced the unit by reading the book From Tadpole to Frog (How Things Grow) which has plenty of pictures and simple text with my daughter.  My daughter loved it.  We must have read that book every night for two weeks, which for my daughter is amazing.  Normally she wants a new book every night.

We also visited the National Geographic Kids website and read about Red-eyed Tree Frogs.  There are a variety of pictures for your child to view while you read them the factoids about tree frogs.  The site also has a video so she can see the frog in action.

To reinforce what she'd just learned in her book and on the website she colored the life cycle coloring page while I talked with her about what she was coloring.  And because she was learning to write the letter F at the time we also colored the F is for frog coloring page.

In order to round out our unit on frog we sang Five Green and Speckled Frogs and played the Leaping Lily Pads.  The lily pad game is easy to play and a good way to encourage your preschooler to burn off a little energy.  Gather up some "lily pads".  We used pillows.  Scatter them about the room and have your child jump across the "lake" without falling into the "water".  My daughter liked to spread the "lily pads" further and further apart to see how far she could jump.
Five Green and Speckled Frogs
Five* green and speckled frogs
Sat on a speckled log
Eating some most delicious bugs
Yum!  Yum!
One jumped into the pool
Where it was nice and cool
Then there where four green speckled frogs
*Count down until there are no green speckled frogs
 Something else that looked like fun, but I never got around to trying myself, is creating a frog puppet.  DLTK has all the information you need to complete the craft.  Also if you'd prefer a book that matches more specifically the focus of the video and coloring pages you might consider Tree Frogs (Let's Investigate).  I've not read it myself but it is the same age target as the one I read with my daughter.  If you do try it let me know how it works for you and your child.

Whatever activities you choose for your frog unit (emphasizing the color green is a good choice if you're still working on colors) I hope you enjoy sharing the wonders of nature with your child.

Number Discrimination

Today I thought I'd focus on numbers.  Mostly because I found a really great deal on a sticker numbers workbook for my daughter--just a buck.  Walmart was blowing them out.  I don't usually by workbooks there because the selection is lousy but every now and again they'll have some great deals.  Anyway back to the learning my youngest daughter is only just beginning her work on number discrimination, but my oldest daughter has been working with numbers for quite awhile now and one of the things she loves is color by number pictures.  They are ideal for teaching a child to differentiate between the different number shapes.

It's not difficult to create your own color pages.  However, it can be time consuming.  So here are a couple of websites you can try:
  • The All Kids Network features a number of coloring pages ideal for preschoolers.  They also have some popular characters as color by number pages but those pages tend to have numbers in very small print.
  • The Coloring website features a large number of coloring pages by both number and letter.  However, many of the pictures have very small spaces to color.
  • Crayola has a few color by number pages.  However, some use crayola color names and some introduce the concept of odd and even.
  • Print Activities has several color by number pages which I like.  The pictures are all made using geometric shapes so the numbers are easy to see and the shapes easy to color.
Also if your child is familiar with the computer or you want to begin introducing the computer try the Up to Ten site.  The site has a couple of color by number online games:  Daisy (featuring a man's voice) and Marcelino (featuring a woman's voice).

Finally, if you are following the Ready for Kindergarten program the target I was aiming for was matching number shapes.  At one your child should be matching shapes 1 through 3, at two your child should match 1 through 6, at three your child should match 1 through 9 and by four your child should be matching shapes 1 through 12.

My daughter and I have been working on color by number pictures together and at age three she is already matching two digit numbers.  I hope they work as well for your children.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Learning to Print

When I introduced my older daughter to writing it went smoothly and easily. She loves to color and was coloring before she was even two years old. We bought her the Big Skills for Little Hands: I Can Color! book to encourage her. After that we moved to the Kumon workbooks starting with the My First Book Of Tracing workbook before moving on to My First Book Of Uppercase Letters and now My First Book of Lowercase Letters. She's been learning well from the workbooks and she loves earning the certificate at the end. However, the cost of the workbooks can add up - especially as the number of children multiplies.

So I was excited to find a website that offered traceable preschool worksheets. Print Activities features all the upper and lower case letters as well as the numbers 1 through 10. The letter worksheets show pictures with labels of words that begin with the featured letter. On the bottom half of the number worksheets is a circle the correct amount number game. However, you are getting what you pay for to some extent.

There aren't any worksheets for pre-writing practice (vertical, horizontal and diagonal lines, and curves and circles). Moreover the uppercase and lowercase letter are on the same worksheet. And the labels on the bottom half of the alphabet sheets are written in all uppercase letters.

The worksheets are useful for review. Or with a little manipulation of the sheets (so only uppercase or lowercase is showing on each sheet like above) they can be used to introduce the letters. Just take care to present them in a logic order for writing. I suggest starting with L, T and H before introducing letters with diagonal lines. Introduce all the straight lined letters before beginning on curves and circles. I hope you find the link useful.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Animal Nursery Rhymes and Songs

Nursery rhymes are key to helping children identify phonemes (the individual sounds in words), which is probably why the fifth target in the Ready for Kindergarten program is singing, chanting and rhyming. Parents should be singing and reciting to their children from birth and by the time your child is four years old she should be able to recite 6 to 10 nursery rhymes.

There are a huge number of nursery rhymes out there and with access to the Internet you can pretty much find them all. However, that sheer volume can be overwhelming. So, I'm only introducing a couple of animal songs that my girls like to help you get started. These also have the added advantage of teaching animal sounds and animal habitats.

Old McDonald
Old McDonald had a farm
e i e i o
And on his farm he had a cow
e i e i o
With a moo moo here
And a moo moo there
Here a moo
There a moo
Everywhere a moo moo

The song can be repeated with different animals and sounds substituted for the bold words until you run out of farm animals. Or, as is the case with my younger daughter, you can continually sing about the same animal until your child gets bored.

Bubble, Bubble, Pop
All the little fishes are swimming in the water
in the water
in the water
All the little fishes are swimming in the water
Bubble, bubble, bubble. Pop!

This song can also be repeated with different animals substituted for the bold words for example little crabs are walking, green kelp is swaying, blue dolphins are playing...or whatever you and your child can think up. Also during the bubble section of the song you get to create a bubble with your hands gradually growing it bigger with each successive bubble until it pops. My older daughter is very enthusiastic about the popping.

For those of you interested in a more structured nursery rhyme program (that is one that focuses more intently on moving your child into ready) A-Rhyme-A-Week is a nursery rhyme program designed to encourage early literacy. Moreover, if you have access to a printer their website will provide everything you need to follow the program.

Enjoy singing with your children. As my girls should be waking from their naps at any moment I shall be doing the same.