Friday, March 14, 2014

The Currency of Kisses: Introducing the Concept of Change to Young Children

     As I was tucking in my 4- and 2-year olds in for naps, I asked if I could give them 4 and 2 kisses, respectively.  As I was counting kisses (see "Pucker Up, We're Counting Kisses, I purposely gave too many.  Instead of stopping at 4 kisses, I gave my older daughter 5 kisses.  It was her job to figure out how much change (in the currency of kisses), I should receive.  She returned my 1 kiss.  I repeated the same idea with my 2-year-old by giving her 3 kisses and asking for 1 kiss in return. She gleefully obliged.

     This got me thinking about the difficult concept of money and change, and how young children can start to get a grasp of it at a very early age, if the context is set in a fun and non-threatening way...kisses.  I tried giving my 4-year-old 6 kisses and asked her how much change I should get if she were only supposed to receive 4 kisses.  She counted up from 4 to 6 and happily gave me 2 kisses change.  We stopped there for today, but the possibilities for extensions are endless.  My husband has been trying to introduce the concept of profit to the girls for a while now, and it's just too abstract of a concept when there's no currency attached to it.  They understand and can count kisses, and therefore are getting the idea without even knowing that they're getting it.

     Try over-giving kisses and letting your child give you your change.  The worst outcome is you bond with your baby over kisses.

  • You can also try short-changing your child on kisses and asking how many more she should receive. 
  • If you kid is not a kisser, try exchanging hugs or handshakes. 
  • If you want to challenge your kids by counting with 5s, try giving high-fives and asking for change.   Or, introduce multiplication and division by asking for 15 and have your child figure out that that would be (3) high-fives.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Silly Putty Turned Serious Learning!

It's raining here and we're stuck inside.  No problem -- time for some indoor fun (and learning).

Today, my 2 year old and I were exploring the magic of Silly Putty, and I saw a perfect opportunity to practice our shapes, numbers and letters, while (you guessed it) having fun!   We took turns the rolling the Silly Putty into "sticks", that we then shaped into different letters, numbers and geometric shapes.  The best part was "sticking" them to the front of our cabinet doors in the kitchen.  I have to admit that it wasn't just my 2 year old who was loving this.

We even got the 6 month old involved when we made a Silly Putty "stick figure" and started introducing Stickman's ears, nose, mouth, etc to her.

If you don't have Silly Putty, any sort of play dough (homemade or store bought) or clay should produce the same effect!

If you have older kids, have them sound out new words that you make out of the Silly Putty, or have them practice their latest math concepts.  This tactile form of learning is a great way to make old (dare I say "boring") concepts seem fun and exciting!

Going on a road trip? Let them bring a hardback book as their "desk" and roll out the Silly Putty right in their laps!

Silly Putty turned serious learning!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

When it Comes to Questions for Kids, Open Up!

The more we get kids to talk about the things that are important to them, the more we are helping the - intellectually and in self-confidence.   One way to get kids talking is to simply rephrase your question from "closed" to "open".  It's simple, and takes no time at all.  With just a quick change to the type of question we pose, we're telling our kids that we are really interested in what they have to say.

For instance, if you want your child to tell you about his day at school, a closed question would be something like, "Did you have a good day at school?"  or "It looks like you had a great day, right?" Those are "closed" because the child can answer the question with a simple, "Yes" or "No", and go right back to watching TV.  "Do you feel like this book is hard or easy?" is another closed question because the child can answer the question with one word -- "hard", or "easy".

"Open" versions of the first questions are, "Tell me about your day today in school?" or "What are 3 things that happened today that were good or bad."  The "open" questions are going to elicit much more detail, time and thought from your child.
An "open" version of the second question might be, "What is this book about?" or "What is your (least) favorite part of this book?"

Get kids talking to get kids thinking!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Beneficial Buddy Reading

When I taught 5th grade, one of the activities that we used to do quite a bit was "Buddy Reading" to the kindergarten kids.  It truly was a mutually beneficial (symbiotic, anyone?) relationship between the two vastly differently-aged kids...and something I highly recommend for parents with kids of multiple ages.  It's as easy as asking the older child to "be the teacher" to the younger child.  The older child (OC) will most likely love having the responsibility of being "in charge" of the younger child(ren) (YC), and will take his role very seriously.  The YC will love this because chances are good she looks up to her big brother and wants to be just like him.  (Added bonus is that it buys you 5 minutes to load the dishwasher!)

If your older child is not quite old enough to read the story, he can still teach the younger child by pointing out colors and identifying animals, cars, trucks, trees in the book.  If you only have one child, let her be the teacher to your pet dog or cat, or even a stuffed animal.

Changing up normal reading time makes it that much more exciting, and letting your child be the teacher will add even more fun to reading.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Bringing Math into March Madness

Never mind the complicated algorithms needed to get team seeds and brackets, here's a great way to sneak in a little math with your kids while rooting for your favorite teams.  Give your kids a possible score (let's say 14) and ask them to figure out different ways the team could have reached a total of 14 points (i.e. 2 points + 2 points + 2 points + 2 points + 2 points + 2 points + 2 points). Then follow up with, "Hey, that's 7 groups of 2 point shots, [7 x 2]..."  What a beautiful way to bring multiplication in!  Next, ask if there is another way the team could have gotten to 14?" (i.e. 3 points + 3 points + 3 points + 3 points + 2 points)

Simplify it a bit by saying that your team has, say, 6 points.  Then ask how many more points the team needs to get to reach 10 points.  Or, compare your teams score (let's say 10) with the opponent's score (let's say 15).  How many MORE points does your team need to score to beat the opponent?

Complicate it a bit by asking questions like, how many groups of 2 point shots did our team get if it has a score of 42?  How many 3 point shots did we get if the team has a score of 42?

Let the Madness be an inspiration for more Math!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Two Gorillas: One Gigantic and the Other "Teensy Tiny"

We went to the zoo this morning.  It was a blast.  My 2 year old can't get enough of the gorillas, snakes and turtles...but really, we find ourselves back to the gorillas multiple times per visit.  There's more to learn at the zoo than I could possibly begin to share, but I distinctly heard my 2 year old use the word "gigantic" to describe one of the gorillas (the "Grandpa").  She then told me that the baby gorilla is "teensy tiny".

While I'm not sure you'll find teensy tiny in the dictionary, per se, I am sure that my daughter is ready for words other than big and little, and chances are, so is yours!  Instead of using the same words over and over again to describe the size of things, try expanding your child's vocabulary with synonyms.  For instance, you could say, "Wow, Katie! That Grandpa gorilla is so big.  He is gigantic." I know Katie already knows that "big" means, so using it in context, along with having the giant gorilla right there helps her figure out that "gigantic" means "extremely big".  Contrast it with, "Look, Katie, that baby gorilla is so little next to his Grandpa.  He is tiny/small/teeny/miniature."  Kids will have a blast using the new words, and because it is such a natural integration into their vocabulary, it doesn't feel forced or stressful.

Now, of course, you don't have to be at the zoo to introduce new words to your kids.  You could just as easily use a "gigantic bus" and a "tiny ant".  Try using words like "gorgeous" instead of "pretty", and "delicious" instead of "good" (when describing food).  For older kids, see if they can come up with their own synonyms for familiar and overused words.