Coding Games for Preschoolers

According to an answer on the popular question-and-answer website Quora, the term ‘coding’ can be defined as the following:

‘Coding, in the simplest of terms, is telling a computer what you want it to do, which involves typing in step-by-step commands for the computer to follow.’

It need not necessarily refer to software geeks typing endless blocks of code day in and day out, which requires immense expertise. The key phrase in the above definition is ‘step-by-step’; and hence, educators the world over are trying to introduce this ‘step-by-step learning method’ in preschool classrooms. This is primarily because STEM – science, technology, engineering and math – are considered to be the essential elements of success in the near future.

Did you know that MIT and Tufts University have developed an introductory visual programming language called ScratchJr that aims to teach programming skills to young children by means of interactive stories and games?


Caterpillar” by arking is licensed under CC by 2.0

Another example is the ongoing ‘Hour of Code’ program with preschool kids at the Ann Reid Early Childhood Center in Naperville, a part of a global movement. Preschoolers are asked to provide directions to a caterpillar – left, right, jumping ahead a fixed number of spaces – which is a precursor to learning how to code in later years. Kim O’Neill, learning commons leader at the school had this to say, “We’re teaching these skills through play. This is how our students learn best.”

Among the variety of educational preschool games available online today, the recently released Hopster Coding Safari is another instance that aims to teach children as young as two years old simple pattern recognition and algorithms. An added bonus is the fact that it is based on the key computer science standards for the UK and US curriculum and has been topping the app store charts since 2013 across 36 countries around the world.

A common underlying feature across all these coding games is the fact that they are hands-on and interactive. The preschoolers need to think and plan what to do, then they provide directions (which are akin to coding at their age) and finally see results happening in front of them as a result of their step-by-step actions.

Believe it or not, physical building blocks function as the very basic coding toys for kids and are finding their way into a number of educational apps on devices. Other popular coding toys are Think & Learn Code-a-Pillar from Fisher-Price meant for ages 3-6, The Dot Creativity Kid that introduces kids to the basics of coding skills and even Lego Boost that allows children to build different models that tend to come alive if fitted correctly.

For those parents and teachers who don’t know where or how to begin, here’s what Marina Umaschi Bers, a professor of child and human development and computer science at Tufts University suggests: “Start with what the child wants to do, not with what the technology can do. Make a card for grandmother’s birthday or a slideshow of your last vacation. Sometimes using Word can be very powerful.” (You can read the full post here.)

Happy coding!


Play Dough Easter Eggs & Bunnies

Back in the month of August, we talked about fidget spinners and play dough as quiet time activities for preschoolers (you can read the full post here). I’ve been especially swamped with work the past couple of weeks and now that Easter is upon us, I’ve decided that the best (and easiest) way to celebrate it with our tiny tots is to use the tried-and-tested play dough again!


Easter Bunny With Basket” by GDJ is licensed under CC by 2.0

Here are a couple of fun ideas for Easter:

  • Easter bunnies: Get your preschoolers to get hold of their favorite color of play dough and roll it up into a ball. Stick on some googly eyes (or even old buttons would do), 2 feathers or ice-cream sticks on the head for the ears and a groove for the happily grinning mouth.
  • Easter eggs: If you have egg-shaped cookie cutters, this could be a fun activity for your kids. Show them how to roll out the dough (as you would actual dough), cut it out and then decorate it with whatever trinkets (or even differently colored dough) you can lay your hands on.

These seem to be the easiest of the lot and so we’re going to go ahead with them. Got any more ideas which can be added to the list? Happy Easter!

3 Ideas for Preschool Science Worksheets

How soon is too soon when it comes to introducing your preschoolers to worksheets of any kind? Well, the earlier the better, especially if you are able to create a sense of curiosity and inquisitiveness in a preschooler with regard to a certain subject. The best subject to start with could be science, particularly animals and plants, since kids tend to get easily fascinated by them and also associate them with the real world.

Let’s consider a situation wherein you visit a zoo with your little one. It could be a good idea to get back home and introduce her to an animal worksheet, in which she needs to identify and name the different animals or point out the different parts of their body or simply color up the animal in the worksheet. Connecting real world science (here, biology) to actual science learning by means of a worksheet could go a long way in reinforcing learning in your child.

Here are three examples of preschool science worksheets that could come in helpful.

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Cat Line Art” by gammillian is licensed under CC by 2.0

The Parts of An Animal: This simple worksheet could double up as a coloring worksheet for preschoolers as well. For instance, the basic outline of a fish is drawn on a page, with four arrows pointing to different parts of its body. The corresponding body parts are written in a random order at the bottom of the sheet – tail, scales, fin and gills. On similar lines, it could be a donkey with simple body parts like ear, eyes, nose, teeth, stomach, tail and legs marked out. Once the children identify the correct body parts with each arrow, they can go on to color up the worksheet in their favorite shades.

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Eyes Ojos” by mediobit is licensed under CC by 2.0

The Five Senses Worksheet: This could be a simple ‘match the columns’ worksheet. The left column would contain the five sense organs drawn out – eyes, ears, nose, tongue and skin. The right column would contain images corresponding to each of the senses, but in a haphazard order. For example, food in a bowl (tongue), a bell ringing (ear) and so on. The goal of this type of worksheet is to enable the kids to associate the senses they use with carrying out a particular task.

The Living vs Non-Living Worksheet: As the name goes, this tried and tested worksheet can also double up as a fun coloring activity for preschoolers. A number of different objects/creatures are drawn on this type of worksheet – it could be anything ranging from a fish to a tap, a cat to a ball of wool, a snail to a spoon and so on. The kids need to classify the given objects into living and non-living. They could be asked to color the living in a particular shade and the non-living in another.

This list could go on and on; the possibilities are endless.

Early childhood education experts have suggested that preschool years are the prime time to learn something new (read the full article here.) Why not try ramping up your preschool kid’s education by means of exciting science worksheets? Do you have any ideas that could be added to this list?

Decoding the Super Blue Blood Moon for Preschool Kids

An epic, rare trilogy is set to occur on the 31st of this month, popularly being referred to as the super blue blood moon. We as adults can fathom the meaning behind those words – super moon to indicate that the moon in its orbit is at one of the closest points to the earth, blue moon to mean the second full moon of the said calendar month and super since it’s going to be a lunar eclipse too.


Lunar Eclipse” by GDJ is licensed under CC by 2.0

But how can we introduce kids as young as preschool to make sense of this phenomenon, or simply the sky with all its heavenly bodies, for a start? Here are some ways.

Slime experiment: Kids love anything messy and slimy, so why not use slime to teach them about the galaxy? Simply add about ¾ cup of liquid starch in a bowl, some organic food coloring, glittery transparent glue and some acrylic paint in your preschooler’s favorite color and mix it all together. Knead it up like dough and your glittery galaxy slime is ready! Using the right colors and glitter can make it pretty fascinating to play around with and talk to your kids about what a galaxy really means or may look like. Get small cardboard cutouts or erasers in the shape of stars and let your little one adorn her galaxy while you fill her in as she plays. Just put the galaxy slime in a re-sealable jar and store for future use.

Light & Shadow experiment: Get hold of two ballsone large (to represent the earth) and a smaller one (to represent the moon). The assumption here is that kids should be aware of the fact that both the earth and the moon are spheres, with the former much bigger in size than the latter. Next, in a dark room, shine the light of a torch or a flashlight (the sun) on the smaller ball (the moon). Now ask your child to place the ‘earth’ (larger ball) in between the sun and the moon. Explain that the earth has come in between the sun and the moon when all three are in a straight line and hence the moon is not visible. This is a lunar eclipse.

Don’t worry if the preschoolers don’t seem to get the hang of it in the first go. Come to think of it, it wouldn’t have been easy for us as well back as kids when someone told us we were living on a constantly rotating ball with a ball of fire giving us energy as heat and light, and yet another smaller ball that was moving constantly around our ball! Sounds complicated? Well, it was at one point of time and then we eventually got it all sorted out. It is never too early to introduce your little ones to the wonders of space and science, for instance through solar system worksheets like these. The deeper science behind it – they’ll learn that by and by as they grow up. It is a good idea to utilize opportunities and celestial events like these to bring up the topic for your budding astronomer.

The ‘Magic 8’ for Preschool


Font” by Prawny is licensed under CC by 2.0

What are the characteristics that distinguish a mediocre preschool classroom from an excellent one? The prestigious Child Development journal that covers developmental psychology of children from their early years in the womb right up to adolescence has come out with a new study in this regard. This was carried out by a team from Vanderbilt University over a period of two years.

Researchers have come up with a list called ‘The Magic 8’ – eight classroom actions that can determine a student’s success in the preschool years.

  1. Reduce time spent in transition – from one activity to another, since preschoolers aren’t gainfully occupied during the transition phase.
  2. Improve level of instruction – through open ended questions to gauge what they’ve learned.
  3. Create a positive climate – using positive, encouraging language.
  4. Increase time teachers listen to children – which will also help preschoolers speak and open up more frequently.
  5. Plan sequential activities – like completing a puzzle.
  6. Promote cooperative interactions between children – to encourage them to learn along with their peers and know what teamwork is all about.
  7. Foster high levels of child involvement – by asking questions, answering them and talking out everything.
  8. Provide math opportunities – for better grasp of the basics of math from an early age.

The basic goal is to get preschoolers to interact more with their teachers and/or guardians in an open environment. This would foster creativity, help their inquisitive minds to ask more questions and thus make for a better learning environment. (Read the full report here.)

2 Quiet Time Activities for Preschoolers

Parents and teachers of preschoolers are well aware of the fact that the terms ‘preschoolers’ and ‘relaxation’ have nothing in common and can’t go together. Neither do those little tykes relax for a minute, nor do they let their exhausted parents catch a shut eye any time of the day. What’s more, if and when they do relax, it’s always right in the middle of the day when the parents’ are right in the midst of their chores and can’t afford to rest.

Not many know (neither did I) that August 15 was National Relaxation Day; a simple excuse to take a deep breath, put your feet up and just relax (or at least make an attempt to). Made me think up of a couple of hands-on activities apart from the usual online games to try and keep your hyperactive preschooler gainfully occupied for a while. Here you go.

Fidget spinners

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Hand” by Devolk is licensed under CC by 2.0

As of May 2017, each one of the top 10 best-selling toys on a leading e-commerce website was something that could be held in the hand, spun or simply fidgeted around with. And now, small, colorful, ball-bearing devices called fidget spinners seem to have taken the world by storm quite suddenly. Originally meant to act as an antidote for nervousness or an outlet for fidgety people to keep their hands and mind temporarily occupied, these spinners have become popular with kids as well. Why? Well, they are funky to look at, can be spun around, pressed or rattled in various ways and makes sounds at times. Kids get to keep both their hands occupied with the toy and it manages to hold their attention, if only for a short while at least.

Though some schools are already considering banning the toy since it is a ‘disruptive distraction’ of sorts, the pluses and minuses of using it aren’t evident since there hasn’t been specific scientific research on the subject yet. Why it could work for you? Well, young kids have a lot of energy which needs to be let out. Talk of killing two birds with one stone – kids will hopefully keep busy fidgeting, while you could get a breather of sorts.

Play dough

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Children” by elkimmelito is licensed under CC by 2.0

I came across this quote somewhere and it rings very true – Kindergarten kids are like little tubs of play dough; open up the lids, add a pinch of imagination and just watch what they become! Perhaps that’s why preschoolers and kindergarten kids love to get their hands messy with this material that can be molded into so many different shapes, sizes and creatures.

Play dough is the perfect example of tactile learning; as kids squeeze and squash, poke through with a blunt plastic knife or pat and roll the dough into a flat shape, all these activities help in the building up of fine motor skills in young minds and improve hand-eye coordination as well. There is no right or wrong way to play with play dough – this open ended toy has endless possibilities and can keep preschoolers happily squishing and squashing for hours at a time!

Do you have any quiet time activities that keep your preschooler busy? Our readers would love to know about more fun activities that your kids enjoy.

3 Fun Summer Story Books for Preschoolers


Cartoon” by Prawny is licensed under CC by 2.0

Mama, Is It Summer Yet? (by Nikki McClure)

A long winter, then the onset of spring and finally the warm summer days – flowering trees, nesting squirrels, ducklings and swallows all around – all these and more paint a pretty picture in this cut-paper art book, ideal for preschoolers and kindergarten kids. This is the story of a little boy who keeps asking his mother time and again: ‘Mama, Is It Summer Yet?’ with the gradual unfolding of the seasons.

Sea, Sand, Me! (by Patricia Hubbell)

If you’re heading to a beach vacation this summer, this is the ideal book to carry along for your preschooler. It talks about simple pleasures like collecting fascinating seashells, playing about in the waves and building sandcastles with new-found friends on the beach. Splashed with lots of color and rhymes on its pages, this is what the perfect sunny summer day looks like in the format of a book.

Dear Zoo (by Rod Campbell)

A captivating read for preschoolers, this picture book has pets of all shapes and sizes hiding beneath the flaps on its pages. The kids will love peeking at the lions and elephants hiding behind the flaps opening in all directions – up, down or side to side. Because isn’t summer all about fun things to do like going for a visit to the zoo?

Picture Books: Yay or Nay?

A picture book is a story book meant primarily for younger kids, in which the illustrations take up as much (if not more) importance than the pictures do. Introducing children to the wonderful world of reading and story-telling, even if they aren’t ready to comprehend letters and words yet, are the primary goals of picture books.


Picture” by WokinghamLibraries is licensed under CC by 2.0

A good number of them line up our bookshelves at home too. There’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle which introduces kids to colors and counting while narrating the story of a fruit-eating caterpillar; then there’s The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein; The Little House by Virginia Lee Burton with beautiful drawings and my favorite The Snowman by Raymond Briggs.

A recent study by a group of psychologists from the University of Sussex came to the conclusion that more than one illustration per page in a picture book could result in poorer word learning among preschoolers. Co-author of the study Zoe Flack had this to say: “Luckily, children like hearing stories, and adults like reading them to children. But children who are too young to read themselves don’t know where to look because they are not following the text. This has a dramatic impact on how well they learn words from new stories.”

The study was undertaken on three-year olds divided into two groups. One group was read out stories from books that contained one illustration per page at a time, while another group had illustrations on both pages from the book they were read out from. The former group turned out to eventually learn twice as many words as the latter group did.

I, on the contrary, tend to think otherwise. Say, your child loves playing these dragon games online. That will not mean they are ready to pick up and read Cressida Cowell’s How to Train Your Dragon from cover to cover, does it? It’ll take time till they reach that stage and picture books pave the way. These story books can be interactive in more ways than one and tend to pique the child’s curiosity in many ways. I remember reading out ‘Begin Smart, Who Am I?’ to my little one a couple of weeks ago. It’s a fascinating mask-cum-picture book with animal faces on each page and holes punched in through the eyes. So we would open it and hold up a page, while my naughty little tyke would try to emit sounds of that particular animal, peek through the pages and ask me, ‘Who am I?’, accompanied by much laughter.

Take another example. Alphabet by Matthew Van Fleet is another brilliantly interactive book. It takes the kids on an exciting wildlife safari as it traverses the alphabet from A to Z. Kids can pull-up tabs, open flaps and even scratch and sniff select pages to get a sensory feel of the story. According to me, these books pave the way for a kid to turn into a better reader in future. One, the pictures help young minds analyze the story being narrated better. Two, kids love drawing, coloring, painting and anything that is vivid or bright and pleases their eyes. Picture books work precisely in that direction. Three, read-alouds are very effective in children learning words more easily as they can comprehend them better when they hear them being spoken out loud. And this is speaking from personal experience. Last but not the least, the ‘fun’ factor is what eventually matters with preschoolers, right?

For those of you who are saying ‘yay’ and nodding their heads vigorously as they read this, here is a list of the Top 100 Picture Books for Kids in the 21st century – take your pick. Picture books or not, my kids will (fingers crossed) turn out to be passionate readers as they grow up. After all, I assume it’s in their genes!

Preschoolers and Pre-Math


Numbers” by Clker-Free-Vector-Images is licensed under CC by 2.0

Did you know that the basic math we introduce our preschoolers to has a corresponding name of its own? It is known as ‘pre-math’. Pre-math refers to  introductory math, such as counting numbers from 1 to 10, learning to differentiate between the sizes (big and small) of similar shapes, determining which number comes before/after another and also being able to pronounce the number names correctly.

I recently came across the results of a study published in the Journal of Experimental and Child Psychology, which evaluated the math skills of 112 preschool kids ranging between the ages of 3-5 years. The difference in their math skill set upon entering and leaving preschool was studied and psychologist Dave Geary had this to say:

“What we found was that kids who were a little bit delayed in the learning of the meaning of these number words really weren’t very fluent at processing numbers when they hit kindergarten.”

To put it in a nutshell, there was higher probability of preschoolers doing well in math if they entered kindergarten after grasping two basic concepts – words that are associated with numbers along with the quantities they represent. For instance, the term ‘two’ would mean a pair of things, such as their shoes. The key here is to begin with very few items so that preschoolers comprehend numbers easily; for instance, according to Geary:

“So you start with one and you add one more – how many is that? Or you start with three and you take away two, how many is that?”

Sounds pretty straightforward? Well, it may or may not be, depending on the attention span of your preschooler. In the following weeks, let’s talk about fun ways to introduce preschoolers to ‘pre-math’.