Monday, May 25, 2015

The Difference Between Wants and Needs for Preschoolers

“I need a Popsicle!” How many times do families hear about these kinds of needs from their young children? You can help children understand the difference between a need and a want, yes, even at their young ages!

First, be sure you are always modeling the correct use of the terms. A need is something like water, nutritious food, a place to live, comfortable clothing, clean air, along with proper heath and dental care. We can all make a difference by saying things like, “We need food that will make us strong.”  When it comes to that Popsicle or ice cream, use words like, “This is not something that we need. It will not help our bodies. It is a something we want.” Of course all children have wants and we can allow these but you will have fewer tantrums in stores if you help children understand the vocabulary.

One age-appropriate way to do this is to use animals in your activities and in your discussions about needs. Walking outdoors can be helpful when learning the difference between a want and a need.  You can point out birds that are looking for earthworms. Having a discussion about birds that NEED to eat worms is a way to help children understand needs. Talk about other animals that need to eat other food.

Show children pictures such as the ones below. You can print these and have children add the needs of each animal such as food, shelter, and proper habitat. This invites children to think about what animals really need. Not to mention, it stimulates critical and creative thought. They have the opportunity to consider the needs of various animals. 

You can then ask a child, “Do you really need a Popsicle or do you want a Popsicle?” the next time he or she is on the verge of a tantrum!

Standards Alignment:
NAEYC – 2.A.10; 2.B.02; 2.B.03; 2.D.06; 2.G.06; 2.L.10.
Head Start – I.B.4; II.A.1; VI.A; XI.B.1.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Creating and Seeing Simple Patterns

We often ask children to create and finish patterns, as with the cubes shown below.

The simple ABAB (red, blue, red, blue, red, blue, etc.) is easiest for children, especially if you end on the “B” part, like the blue cube and children must begin over. 
This is a simple ABAB pattern that preschoolers should learn to make and complete.
It is more difficult for children to continue the pattern if it ends on the A part (the red cube) as shown below. Often children redo the A and begin the pattern anew. This age group tends to start from the beginning. Below is a typical error made in patterning by preschoolers. 

You can see (in the break) where the child wanted to start the pattern new, from the red cube.
Saying the pattern out loud, “Red, blue, red, blue, red, blue…” often helps children find errors in finishing a pattern. Using interlocking blocks like these are helpful for making patterns.

But we can also invite children to see the patterns in nature. This develops observation skills. Encourage children to look for patterns in nature with questions like, “Do you see a pattern in the number of petals each flower has?

 Or, “Do you see a pattern in the color of the leaves?”

You can even encourage children to create and/or imitate sound patterns. They can use sticks and other items they discover on a walk to make their own patterns.

Children can create their own sound patterns. Families can play along!
Standards Alignment:
NAEYC – 2.B.04.; 2.F.08.
Head Start – IV.A.; X.D.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Planting Seeds: An Integrated Learning Experience

This time of year is a perfect time for helping children to understand sequence in a NATURAL way.  Planting seeds lets you use the important words: first, next, then, and finally. Children have a hands-on experience each day with observing their plant sprout and grow along with verbalizing its natural course of development.

First have children plant seeds in cups. * This is a good opportunity to talk about all the natural things a plant needs: air, soil, sunshine, and water.

Next observe the plant. When will it sprout? Have children make predictions. This gives them a real experience with time passage and the meaning of a day and a week. Make a chart of children’s predictions. It helps to let children know it is just fine to have made an incorrect prediction. The important part was taking the guess. This helps children learn an important lesson about how science works. 

Then watch the plant grow. What an opportunity to integrate measurement into this experience! Children can measure their plant using cubes or other handy items. Compare and contrast by stating, “Charlotte’s plant is 3 cubes taller than Elizabeth’s plant.”

Finally watch the plant bloom. Did you plant flowers or vegetables like beans?  Make the connection that bean seeds produce beans. Marigold seeds produce marigolds.

As you observe the plant, encourage children to draw a picture of each stage of development. You can put these together in a sequence book at the end of the experience.

*I always like to plant a few extra seeds.  When I was in kindergarten, my seed never sprouted. I still remember my disappointment. You can always change a cup after the children leave if a seed doesn’t “cooperate.”  

We encourage you to print out our drawings and have children add details like the sun, rain, etc. to show what plants need to grow. You may want to ask them to draw cubes to show the measurement of their own plant.

Standards Alignment:

NAEYC – 2.D.03, 2.D.06, 2.F.05, 2.G.02, 2.G.03, 2.G.05. 
Head Start – VIII.B., X.E., XI.B.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Kids Can Make a Difference!

We hope you will read emphasize to your children that children CAN make a difference in our world. Many children think of ways to raise money or awareness about important issues in our world. We suggest you read the book, Nights of the Pufflings by Bruce McMillan, which is one story that illustrates how children can make a difference in their community. It tells how children in Iceland help young puffins to safely make their way to the sea.

Talk to your children about ways they can help in your community. Involve families in this discussion, too. Often it is easier and faster for adults to just do chores or tasks themselves than to include children. But it is important to allow children to help. They want to do this! It often takes patience on our part but it teaches children the importance of helping others and gives them a sense of pride.  Recently I watched as a parent took the time to explain to his four-year-old son how to roll the paint on a fence and then stood back while the child diligently did this. He cheerfully painted. Then he helped his dad clean up. He took great joy in telling the neighborhood how he painted the fence. I know his dad could have done the job quicker (and likely without as much mess), but he was teaching his son something important – the sense of accomplishment one gets by helping!

If you are a family member, make a list of ways you and your child can help your community. Get the mail for an elderly neighbor. Sweep the sidewalk for someone. Participate in community events like various “Runs for a Cause.” Your child can hand out water or snacks to participants. What else can be done?

Teachers can involve children in cleaning the playground, sorting books in a classroom library, or wiping tables. Children love to help! My own son came home crying from pre-school one day, as he was never asked to clean the tables. When I talked to his teacher she explained that he was always dressed so nicely that she didn’t want him to get dirty. But, soon he was thrilled when he became a table “cleaner.” We need to encourage and build on this natural desire to help others. It builds involved citizens! 

Standards Alignment:
NAEYC - 2. B.02, 2.B.06, 2.B.07.
Head Start -II.A., II. B., IV.C.