Monday, July 27, 2015

Fingers and Numbers

We know how important it is for numbers to be meaningful. A child can't just say, "three," as there needs to be meaning attached to the number word. A child should have a concrete picture of what 3 means. Many years ago, we discouraged children from using their fingers to "do" math. Now, we recognize the importance of fingers to help children attach meaning to numbers. Children can and should count on their fingers. But you can take this a step further.

Trace a child's hands. Cut them out. You will likely need to do this as most preschoolers do not have the fine motor abilities to cut out more than a line or a simple curve. Once the child's hands are cut out, put them down.

Together, turn over each finger and count. Be sure to do this from left to right as we want to train a child's eyes to move in this direction.
Label the fingers and have children count and look at each numeral. This gives meaning to numerals/numbers.

Invite children to explore and count out loud by turning over the fingers. You can even play a game where children respond to questions like, "How many pets do you have? How many noses do you have?" This question and answer "game" allows children to see the correspondence between number and numeral. Math has meaning!

Family Connection:
As a follow-up, encourage families to walk around their communities. Count the number of fences, blue cars, or people they see. Children can use their own fingers to show the number of objects they spot.

Standards Alignment:
NAEYC - 2.F.02, 2.F.04, 2.F.11
Head Start - X.A.1, X.A.3, X.A.5.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Easy Literacy Ideas from the International Literacy Conference!

Hello from the International Literacy Conference in beautiful St. Louis, Missouri. We are brimming with energy and new ideas to share with you during the next year. Stay tuned for lots of information over the next few months as we bring you the latest and greatest to help you develop literacy, in all its forms, with your preschoolers.

Here are just a few tidbits to try this summer:

Prior to reading a book, most children look at the cover and may talk about its contents. Help children to look at the back of the book, too. Often picture books contain key details about the story or characters on the back.

You can create the atmosphere of a book in the room. If reading about a storm, have children clap their hands to mimic thunder.  Is the book set on a farm? Encourage them to bleat like sheep. Interact with books to help children understand setting.

To further develop vocabulary, children can act out words. Crackle? Roar? Shiver? Act these words out. Children can be encouraged to remember their favorite new word each day by calling it a “Million Dollar Word.” Remind families to ask children about the “Million Dollar Word” of the day.

After reading a book to children, close it. Ask children to share their summaries by starting them with the sentence, “I remember…” This encourages them to put information in their own words.

Remember to do and encourage lots of singing in your classroom. This not only promotes an understanding of rhyming words, key to phonemic awareness, but also allows children to hear fluency “in action.”

All of these easy suggestions are helpful for English language learners too!

Stay tuned for more literacy ideas…

Monday, July 13, 2015

Nature Helps Develop a Speaking and Listening Vocabulary

We all know the wonders of nature and how exciting these can be for children. We can encourage and support this love for Planet Earth by taking children on neighborhood walks and playing “I Spy.”  You can begin by saying, “I spy with my little eye something that is green.” Continue by describing the object you see. Children are sure to have fun playing this game. But it is more than a game as it also gives children valuable practice with listening and speaking skills. When it is the child’s turn to guess, important practice in listening to details results. When it is the child’s turn to give clues by saying, “I spy with my little eye…” he or she must find appropriate vocabulary to describe a chosen object.

You can extend this game by encouraging children to look for the most unusual environmental object around. If you feel comfortable, let the child take a photo of the “treasure.” When the walk is over, your child can look at the photo and use the visual to remember details about frogs, eggs, or beehives, etc. They can point out features in their photo and share with other family members or friends. The photos below, taken on nature walks with young children, show how vocabulary can be developed as you remember these “finds” and discuss them.

This child found part of an eggshell from a hatched bird. He asked for his photo to be taken and used the picture to describe his treasure. He described the color of the shell, the size, and repeated the word half when retelling the story of his "find." This made math vocabulary concrete. 
This section of a hive was found. It resulted in guesses about what the cells were made from and ideas about how it was constructed.
As you can guess, this creature ended up teaching the word, camouflage. Ideas about how animals use camouflage were discussed.
You can also encourage children to look at websites such as those offered by Explore. Their cams show a variety of wildlife and children enjoy watching and can even snap a photo using the camera icon. These photos can be printed and shared with others. See their many offerings that allow a window into nature here.

Standards Alignment:
NAEYC - 2.D.04, 2.D. 06, 2.G.07.
Head Start - IV.A., VIII.A., VIII.B.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Helping a Child Overcome a Fear of the Dentist

Many children have a fear of visiting the dentist. What can you do to make this visit less stressful and even enjoyable for your child? Following are some steps that we have found worked for children, even those who seemed terrified at the prospect of walking into a dental office.

We suggest a family member visit a children’s dental office to talk with the office staff about their child’s fears. Often the receptionist is happy to greet the child by name when he or she takes a tour. This puts many children at ease.  Take note of the waiting room for items that will catch your child’s attention. Are there special books, trucks, games, or stuffed animals that will appeal to your child? These can be discussed when you describe the office to your child. Often pediatric dentists will offer small prizes, balloons, etc. This will often be an incentive for your child.

Next, make plans with the office staff for your child to simply tour the facility. Your child can play for a bit in the waiting room, see the special chairs, and hopefully note that other children seem happy.  Often just experiencing the office, without the stress of having to open their mouth, will help many children. 

Playing with an oversize toothbrush to clean a stuffed animal's teeth is a fun experience!
For those children who are exhibiting extreme fear, begin by scheduling an appointment where a hygienist simply brushes their teeth. Your child can understand what it feels like to sit back in the chair, perhaps wear silly sunglasses as the light shines in their eyes, and hopefully gets a choice in toothpaste flavors.   Letting children have choices makes them feel empowered and helps lessen fear. 

Although scared, this child agreed to sit in the chair because he could put on silly sunglasses.
When the appointment is over, play dentist with your child at home. You can be the patient and your child role-plays as the dentist or hygienist. You can set up a pretend dental office with stuffed animals as patients.

We have seen these simple suggestions turn a terrified child into one who asks, “When can I go the dentist next?” And that is what we want!

We encourage preschools, daycare centers, camps, etc. to share this post with families.

Standards Alignment:
NAEYC – 2.K.01, 2.K.05
Head Start – I.A.1, I.B.1