Saturday, March 31, 2012

Alternative Easter Basket Ideas

Next week many children will receive a visit from the Easter Bunny. I would like to suggest some fun alternatives to a basket filled with candy that will also help develop skills. If you don't celebrate Easter the following suggestions are great ways for children to develop skills
while having fun.

Sidewalk chalk: You can find a bucket of sidewalk chalk relatively inexpensive
and it is a fun way to work on fine motor development. Children will enjoy spending hours decorating your driveway with colorful creations. sidewalk chalk is a fun way to work on writing the letters in your child’s name.

Bubbles: All children love bubbles and they are a fun outdoor activity. Believe it or not blowing bubbles is a great way to develop oral motor skills, which helps young children with articulation development.

Pipsqueak maker: Crayola makes a marker called pipsqueaks. These markers are small and work on development of the perfect grasp. They force children to use their alligator fingers.

Coloring books: Sometimes we forget about things as simple as a coloring book and some new crayons. Coloring also works on the development of fine and visual motor development. Children should take their time and try to stay in the lines and work on using all the small muscles in their hands.

Children’s books: At stores like T.J. Maxx and Marshalls your can find lots of great board books or quality children’s books for a few dollars and what better way to end every evening then cuddling up with your little one and reading a book.

8 to 10 piece interlocking puzzles: Puzzles are another fun way to teach children visual perception skills. Developing strong visual perceptions skills will help with learning letter and writing skills.

Balls: Again another simple toy that children love to play with. Kicking, running, catching and rolling all great ways to develop both fine and gross motor skills.

Of course, a basket would bee complete with at least one chocolate bunny,

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Food Shopping With Your Preschooler’s-learning-skills-while-shopping/

Today while I was food shopping I noticed a lot young families that were very stressed by the idea of trying to food shop with their young children. As I walked by them I smiled to myself thinking thank God those days are over for me, but it also reminded me of how much fun I had shopping with my girls. Grocery stores are a wonderful place to teach young children many skills. They are naturally categorized and provide many learning opportunities in each aisle.


I found this blog post by: Rachel Speal. Rachel is an educational therapist who has over 20 years experience working with kids and adults of all ages. Her specialty is disabilities on the autistic spectrum, and language delays. You can find more hands on learning games at her site Teaching the Future. It reminded me of some of the fun games I use to play with my children while food shopping.

Understanding that any time can be a great time to foster your child’s learning will help you make the most out of routine activities. Use the tips below to learn how you can take an everyday activity like going to the grocery store, and use it to boost your child’s development:

Improve your child’s categorization skills in the produce department.

Next time you go to the store, instead of simply letting your child put the produce in the bag, ask your child to help you “choose an orange vegetable to put in the bag.” As your child searches among the produce for something that is both orange and a vegetable, she’ll be sorting, learning the names of all of the vegetables, and practicing her problem-solving skills.

Other examples are “find me 3 fruits that are round,” “find me 2 things are juicy and sweet,” or “show me all the fruits that have seeds in them.”

Exercise your child’s matching skills in the dairy aisle.

Ask your child to close his eyes. Then choose an item, and walk a bit away from the place where it was found. Tell your child to open his eyes. Handing him the item, ask him if he can put it back where it belongs.

This is an activity that not only boosts his visual discrimination skills, but his visual figure-ground skills as well. Visual figure-ground in particular, is an important skill that isn’t practiced very often. It’s important, though, since it will help your child keep his place when reading, and organize his written work on paper.

Strengthen your child’s visual memory in the canned goods aisle.

Next time you enter the canned goods section, challenge your child to use his visual memory. Ask him to find a particular product – for example Chef Boyardee Spaghetti O’s- and give him a time limit in which to find it. If he finds it before time runs out, choose another item, and ask him to try and beat his best time.

You can also have your child look at one specific section carefully. Give him up to 10 seconds to look at all the items on the shelf carefully, and then ask him to close his eyes (or turn away) and name all the items he remembers seeing on the shelves. He can name brands, types of products, or even prices.

Sharpen your child’s auditory memory in the frozen foods section.

In this activity, your child exercises his memory muscles by collecting a variety of items. You simply name anywhere from 3-5 items to start with, and ask your child to find them. The catch: your child has to find everything in the order it was given, and he can’t use a written or picture list.

TIP: You can make this game easier by asking for general items: a gallon of ice cream, a pack of frozen green beans, etc. You can make it harder by adding more details- the more details you add, the harder it gets. So you could ask your child to pick up Rocky Road ice cream from Baskin-Robbins, 2 packs of Green Giant sweet corn, and 1 Sicillian pizza.

Practice everything at once with an X-treme shopping spree.

This is an activity kids absolutely love. It makes them feel like they’ve just won a million dollar shopping spree in their favorite supermarket.

How to play: Give your child a written or picture list of items. You’ll write the list almost as if it’s a quiz show; “Put 3 green vegetables in the cart. Next go to the dairy aisle and pick up the yogurt with a goat on it.” The key to doing this right is choosing activities similar to the ones above.

In order to stretch your child’s new skills, you’ll give your child a time limit to finish shopping. You can have an older sibling go along with them, while you wait for them at the checkout counter. If they finish in time, they get to choose a favorite treat or dessert at the end.

The only disadvantage to this game: your child will want to do it every day. So to keep things reasonable, explain you can only play once a month.

Enjoy shopping — and learning – with your children!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Read it Again“Read_it_again”
As the parent of a preschool child, you don’t need to push your child into academics early, but you can enjoy letting a book lead you to new places with your child.
To capitalize on your child’s desire to read a good story over and over again, think ahead. Select a book of the week and intentionally read the same book each night. Young childrenoften become intense on a particular topic like trucks, colors, or animals. Use the searchable database on the “Parent” section on the Reading is Fundamental website ( to find books on topics that peak your child’s interest. A librarian near you would love to help too.

Here comes the fun, story-stretching part. Take a minute to preview the book that you chose for the week and write down a few things that you find interesting in the story. Think broadly:
  • How did the artist make the illustrations? If they are photos, read the book and take your digital camera a take some pictures together. Point out that this is how the artist in the bookmade the book that you just read. That’s it.
  • Does the book use rhyme? Point outthe rhyming words. See if you (together) can come up with more rhyming words.
  • How does the book use color? Are the colors soft or loud? Introduce those words for talking about color. Or point to a color and ask your child to find something that color in the room.

I think that you get the idea. Do not make this complicated or overly educational. The goal is more to enjoy your child’s tendency to want to read the same book again and again. The primarypayoff is that your child comes to see that you can get something new out of a book each time that you read it—which is a crucial part of becoming a successful learner. Another payoff is that you aren’t quite as bored by reading the same book repeatedly.
Here is an example of how you might extend Sam McBratney’s Guess How Much I Love You:

  • Get out a tape measure and measure how wide your child’s arms reach and compare it to how wide your arms reach…you’ll probably end up measure a lot of other things too.
  • Carefully page through the book together. After reading it, count how many mushrooms there are. You could count butterflies too.
  • Talk about the moon. How it can be full and circle-shaped or slim and crescent-shaped. (And sometimes not there at all.)
  • Have your child describe his own going to sleep routine.
  • Draw a simple tree shape and describe the simple parts of a tree—the trunk, branches, leaves, and roots.
  • Tell your child just how much you love him and why.

Choosing a good book and thinking about how to stretch it for a few nights does take some forethought; it also creates books that will be family favorites forever.

By Anne Oxenreider

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Emotional intelligence and preschoolers

Emotional intelligence involves understanding your feelings, managing your feelings, motivating yourself, and productively persisting in the face of setbacks.

Emotional intelligence, as Daniel Goleman stated in his book of that title, may be more important than IQ. As parents, we have a responsibility to help our children become aware emotional beings who believe they can develop their emotional intelligence by working at it. Again and again, our children need to hear these basic messages: wisely see and accept challenges, be proactive, and learn from the mistakes you make.

We are our children’s emotional coaches; we can teach thinking skills involved in emotional intelligence. Gone are the days when we thought, for example, a very angry person was just born that way and we might as well accept it. Yes, we are born predisposed to a certain temperament, but our brains are constantly rewiring and changing as we learn and grow. A person’s genetic makeup may lean toward shy or outgoing, optimistic or pessimistic, moody or even-tempered. But we change and we can intentionally stretch and grow; we are not defined solely by our genetic makeup.

Emotional coaching relies on a warm and nurtured relationship between you and your child. A close, open parent -child relationship makes it easier and more natural to teach emotional skills, and it’s the foundation upon which your child learns.

Everyday interactions can build and strengthen your relationship with your child:
Hugging and touching frequently.
Enjoying fun, relaxed time together.
Sharing about your daily experiences.
Listening carefully and empathetically.
Respecting and validating your child’s feelings.
Explaining your own feelings in an age- and situation-appropriate way.
Providing positive examples of managing emotions and motivation.
Teaching specific skills is important, too. You can, for example, name your child’s feelings while she is learning to understand them - "You feel sad that daddy had to go to work, you wanted him to stay and play". As she matures, you can ask her to talk about her feelings while you listen. We can teach children to understand that at first onset, our strong emotions flood powerfully over us. If we can wait about 90 seconds for the flood to subside, we have the ability to choose whether to let the emotion remain very strong, to do something productive to change the situation, or to just let the emotion pass by. That’s how our brains work.

Another skill you can teach your child is how to use self-talk.
Self-Talk Matters
Guide your child to be aware of the importance of how he talks to himself. Put-down messages such as “I am so dumb” and “I can’t do this” serve to lower self-esteem and make things harder for us. Positive messages such as “I am pretty thoughtful” and “If I stick to it, I can do this!” help to bolster our confidence and chances of success. Of course, we all make mistakes and none of us is perfect, but we can keep a positive tone when we talk to ourselves about improvements we will work to make.

So when you hear your child put himself down, suggest a more positive statement and remind him that self-talk matters. You could try something like: "Hey, I just heard you tell yourself you are dumb. You may have made a mistake-- just like the rest of us do sometimes -- but please don't put yourself down. How about you tell yourself something like, “Hey, Me, I just made a mistake. I’ll do what I can to fix it, and next time I’ll do it better!”

Encourage positive self-talk by asking your child to give himself a pat on the back when he does a good job - "Nice work sharing with your friend. That took some careful thought, and you should be proud of yourself. Feel free to say to yourself, “Nice sharing, Me!”

Having high emotional intelligence has been found to help kids feel more positive, more in control, more equipped to manage their emotions, and basically more able to manage the bumps in life’s road. Emotional coaching is not a simple job, and most of us did not get specific training about how to go about it. We can keep learning, be respectfully involved in our children’s emotional lives, listen without judging, and coach empathically. Another opportunity for practice is probably right around the corner!

By Dr. Maria Chesley Fisk - Dr. Fisk is an educational consultant, speaker, and author of Teach Your Kids to Think: Simple Tools You Can Use Every Day.