Monday, March 31, 2014

Use Your Words!

“Use your words.” It’s a statement that families and teachers often use when dealing with upset children. But, as we all know, this is often easier said than done. We use our words but how can young children, still in the egocentric stage of development, tell us how they feel rather than resorting to actions? And these actions can range from hitting to crying loudly so you can’t reason with the child.  How can we get children to use their words?
            One of the key things to remember is that our understanding, as adults, about this statement is different than a child’s understanding. We need to help children know what the statement means before they become upset. When children are talking in a normal and calm situation, you can reinforce the idea of using words by simply saying, “I like the way you are using your words.” For example, if a child says, “I would like more potatoes,” you can compliment him for using his words.
If you notice two children in a classroom sharing crayons, help them see that this is what you mean when you say, “use your words.” You can reinforce whatever you see by saying, “It makes me feel so happy when you use your words to ask for the yellow crayon.” This gives children an important background in what the phrase means.
You can also teach children an important sentence to fill in with feeling words. In the scenario above, the child could say, “It makes me feel happy when you share your crayons.” I often give children the starter phrase, “It makes me feel ____________________________ when you ___________________________.” We practice this phrase, even in calm times.

            When a situation escalates to crying or yelling at another child, you can ask the angry child to explain how he feels. So, for example, a child might say, “It makes me feel mad when you won’t share the glue.”  If you have practiced this enough times in a calm situation, chances are better that the child will know what to say in a tense moment.

            So, develop background in helping a child know what you mean by the phrase, “use your words” and practice saying “it makes me feel _________________ when you _______________.” Preschoolers are then more likely to talk about their feelings rather than resorting to tears and negative actions.  Of course, nothing is perfect and a developmental stage is a developmental stage but we can try!

This child has a background in “using his words.” He has something to draw on when he becomes upset.  His mother will coach him when he is crying uncontrollably.

             This child is upset in the grocery store. His mother gave him the phrase, “It makes me feel angry when you __________________” and he tearfully finished it for her by saying “won’t give me a cookie.” She was able to resolve the issue and continue shopping. 

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Wild or Pet?

Children love animals. Homes, classrooms, and daycare centers have many stuffed animals on shelves and in cubbies. Use these much-loved toys to help children learn more about the world around them. Stuffed animals can be used by children to classify. Ask children to make groups of animals. One such grouping can be wild animals versus pet animals. We encourage children to gather a group of various animals as shown in this picture:

This child collected his bears and dogs.
Ask your child to verbalize the difference between a pet animal and a wild animal. If your child has a pet, talk about what kinds of things need to be done to care for this animal.

Talk about how people feed pets. They take them to a vet and keep them safe. See how many examples your child can give about taking care of pet animals.

Encourage your child to find all the examples of pet animals in the grouping of stuffed animals. Have your child then talk about wild animals. Talk about where wild animals live and how they find food. You may want to encourage an environmental sense of responsibility by discussing the role of humans in protecting wild animals and in preserving their habitat.

This child groups all of his "wild" bears together. He talked about how bears like to eat berries and fish. Even at his young age, he wants to be sure bears "have what they need to live."
After your child groups the stuffed animals into two or more categories, get out books to find more examples of wild and pet animals. Have your child point out the differences he or she sees, using the illustrations or photos in books. This is a good way to introduce children to the idea that books can help us learn new information.

This child points out a pet dog. This shows him the connection between text and the activity, an important literacy background skill.
Informational text is appealing to many children. Books such as R Is For Raccoon, A Northwoods Alphabet Book by Lesley A. DuTemple, illustrated by Susan Robinson, help children distinguish the differences between wild and pet animals. 

Monday, March 17, 2014

Noisy or Quiet?/ Loud or Soft?

As spring approaches in many areas, it is the perfect time to get children outside - and why not do it with a purpose? Help children increase verbal skills and develop vocabulary along with observing the natural world. First walk outside. Invite children to listen for loud sounds. What does a child classify as loud? Perhaps it is the sound of a crow calling, "Caw, caw, caw!" It may be a sound such as a fire engine blaring through town on the way to an emergency. These are all opportunities to increase expressive language.
What does your child do when a loud sound is heard? Talk about how some things are noisy while other sounds are quiet.
Share the joy of natural sounds with children. This child is listening for the quiet rustle of the wind in a bush.
Add favorite books to the experience by asking children to find pages that illustrate the vocabulary: loud/soft (or noisy/quiet). This child found a much loved page in the classic children's book, Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown, that reminds him of the quiet sounds of nature. The little old lady is whispering, "Hush." Ask children to point out words such as whispering and hush that describe the experience. This increases vocabulary.

Finding matching experiences in books helps children connect with literature, an important literacy skill.
Here, the child finds a page in a Llama, Llama book by Anna Dewdney that reminds him of loud or noisy sounds.

Talking about sounds and then finding similar experiences in books is a rich family activity for all to enjoy. The added benefit? Children learn more about the world around them, increase vocabulary, and connect with books!

Monday, March 10, 2014

Going Green!

What better way to go green than to help your child appreciate the concept of re-using materials and to create some St. Patrick’s Day shenanigans at the same time! Even if you don’t have a much-loved leprechaun book, you can enchant your child with a story. Describe the antics of a leprechaun who hides treasure in your neighborhood, school, or town. Make it fun by using your child’s name in the tale. Encourage your child to picture the story as a movie in his or her mind. It is important that children learn to appreciate the art of storytelling, especially in our world of constantly streaming videos.

Then really go green by asking your child to collect materials from both inside and outside your house to create a trap for the mischievous leprechaun. This is a wonderful way to get your child excited about re-using and recycling in a developmentally-appropriate way.

This child collects fallen pine needles to re-use in a leprechaun trap.
Encourage problem solving and creative thought by letting your child design the leprechaun trap.

Use your collective imaginations: What can be a trap?
Problem solve: How can this be put together?
Ask your child to determine where the invention should be set. You may even want to think about leaving your child a note or a “treasure” from the leprechaun inside the trap!

Encourage your child to think creatively and to explain his/her thinking about how to catch a leprechaun!
And the best part of going green for St. Patrick’s Day? Taking a walk to look for leprechauns or other signs of a green spring in your neighborhood!

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Science Meets Verbal Skills: Day Sky/Night Sky

We are constantly striving to help you make the natural world a part of a child’s everyday experience. Nature is a classroom that is age-appropriate and meaningful for our preschoolers. As we develop a child’s observational skills and abilities to compare and contrast, the world outside of a home or school becomes a wonderful classroom.

Talk with your child about the ground and the sky. Have children point to the day sky. Together, name what can be seen such as the sun, clouds, or even precipitation. You can take this further and discuss the way the air feels (hot, warm, cold) and what this means for the clothes we wear.

Encourage children to describe what they see in the day sky.
Peek out the door or stand in the yard at night. Encourage your child to see and listen. What can be seen? What can be heard? Your budding scientist is improving her/his oral communication skills by describing the night sky.

It can be a wonderful bonding experience to share observations about the night sky. Use the word observation, too! Children delight in knowing "difficult" vocabulary words.
Later, have your child use art to “report” their findings. Provide paper, cut out stars, clouds, a moon, and sun.  Encourage your child to create pictures that accurately depict what was observed. Have fun by conversing about the experience. Encourage contrast statements like, “I saw a sun in the day sky. There was a moon in the night sky.”

Talking about the art is important!

Children can observe the moon every night and marvel in its changing shape!
Finally, connect to literature by sharing books such as Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown or nonfiction text about your area such as Chesapeake Bay Walk by David Owen Bell.

Favorite childhood books are more meaningful when children can connect personal experiences to them.