Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Board Game Bonanza

Playing board games with your little ones can be so much fun - and such an unexpected learning tool! Along with things you might think of - counting, letters, colors, etc. - game-playing is also GREAT for practicing social skills and language skills!!

To plan some game time, first you need to pick out some fun, engaging, and visually appealing games to play - little ones love to see lots of pictures and colors. When it is set up right, they can "read" what is going on, even before they can actually read words :)

Some first favorites are Candyland and Chutes and Ladders, both of which are labeled for children as young as three years old. They involve moving along a path on a game board, with some counting, one-to-one correspondence, and unexpected turns here and there. Your child will get practice following directions, taking turns, and being a "good sport"- all great things for them to learn!

Another fun option is Zingo, a Bingo-type game, where they have to use visual discrimination to cover their cards, to match the pictures/words shown. They get to fill up their whole card and will have a great time doing so :) There are other versions of this game which highlight numbers, sight words, etc., but the first one is all about pictures.

Any one of the Memory games offered at stores or online will help your child with this same skill, as well as recall and position words. With so many Memory games out there, your child will have no trouble finding a favorite to pick from :) They turn over two cards at a time, looking for matches, and then have to remember where the matches are as the game progresses.

Charades for Kids can be so much fun for children - and get them talking and acting things out! These are great ways to grow your child's language skills, both when it's their turn and when guessing what others are trying to show. All the cards have both pictures and words to choose from, so even non-readers can play!

There are Spot It cards for many different skills - alphabet letters, shapes, numbers - and they all help with visual discrimination and language skills - make sure you're talking with your child while playing! Any opportunity to engage in new vocabulary with your children is GREAT!

I recently saw a card game called Dr. Seuss "I Can Do That!" that looks like kids would have a blast playing! Each card has a different, sometimes very silly, activity to do that will get your children up and moving! It's on my list!

Get some games together, and get going! It will be great time for conversation, socializing, learning, and, most of all ....

Having fun!

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Think It - Make It - Try It!

Scientists have questions, try to figure out ways to answer the questions, come to conclusions, and record their information. Sounds like every young learner I've ever met!  So, let your kiddos know that they ARE real scientists ... and watch them get to work!

To get started, you can put together an assortment of materials that might be useful - and definitely will be appealing. At first, the children might just want to tinker with each of the materials but, before long, they will start to see possibilities for using them in different ways. The idea is to provide this "makerspace" where they can have a thought and then test it out :) For example ... What would make this ball roll faster? Farther? Hmmm....

PVC pipe, in varied widths and lengths is a great place to start. Your local hardware store may even have it pre-cut into shorter lengths - two feet is a very workable length for little learners. I made sure to include two different width sizes (1 1/2" and 2"), as well as different joints that fit one or the other - or both! My scientists had to figure out which would work together and which wouldn't! It has been the workings of many experiments in velocity, friction, air pressure, etc., all by 3, 4, and 5 year olds.

A standard set of unit blocks, as well as any Duplo or Lego sets are great to have around, too. They can be used in conjunction with each other, as your child sees fit. Simple things like shoelaces, twist ties, and velcro strips make great connectors when building. Ping pong balls, available in colors and 6 to a package, were a big hit from my local dollar store!

Small cars, marbles (depending on the age of your children), and any small, light balls are all terrific tools for testing theories on speed and direction. Make sure that they are within reach and at eye view, so that inspiration hits :)

The idea is to introduce these elements but then STEP AWAY. Let the children formulate questions and try out hypotheses through interaction with this variety of resources.

Ask how, what, and why questions to help steer them, if they are stalled.

Maybe they want to see how to make the cars go faster or farther. How could you make that happen? What could you use?

Maybe they want to roll a ball so it goes farther than before. What would help with that? How can you use it?

Prompting to problem solve is the way to go!

My crew wanted to roll ping pong balls farther and faster - so they built this .... on their own!

See what your little scientists can come up with!

Have fun!