Developing Art Skills in Preschoolers

Making art is a joyful process for kids but it goes beyond that to develop a range of skills. Art serves as the gateway to writing as it prepares kids to hold pencils, recognize shapes and symbols, and recreate them using controlled movements.

This apart, art develops creativity and imagination in young children and allows them to relate to the environment through their senses and observation. Better fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination are other benefits. They also learn about cause and effect.

By the time your little ones get to preschool and prepare to step up to kindergarten, they must be familiar with a variety of art materials.

Colors!

Preschoolers should be able to recognize primary colors. You can teach this with the help of preschool games online and picture storybooks that use bright colors and simple shapes that appeal to young kids. Kids can be asked to name the color that you point at.

ArtArt!” by Angie Garrett is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Tools of the Trade

Children should be given crayons, thick chalk pieces and markers that will allow them to practice their fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination. They can have free rein with their coloring tools as they learn to use them. You can tape plain sheets on a table or large brown paper on the walls so that it is easy for kids to express their artistic voices with ease as they turn into graffiti artists. The chalk pieces can be used to scrawl on sidewalks or the driveway. Play dough is another way in which they can exercise their fine motor skills and create fun stuff.

Kids can graduate to using pencils and paint brushes. They are also ready to use child-safe scissors and glue. This can be turned into a combined activity. Kids can draw and paint on a sheet of paper, snip it into smaller pieces and glue them on to another sheet to create a piece of art!

Chalkartchalkart2” by nugent is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Scribble Scribble

By the time kids get to preschool, they will move beyond illegible scribbles. While one of the first shapes they will learn is a circle before they move on to creating lines. Preschoolers will also start creating symbolic drawings like people and will be able to express what it is that they are drawing. This indicates that their thinking skills are developing. This is also the time when they begin practicing letters.

 Art Day

art day” by jlib is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Sensory Art

Preschoolers will enjoy working with different kinds of art and mixing up different material. Finger painting, using cut vegetables dipped in paint to make prints, and drawing on textured surfaces can all be exciting for a preschooler. Again, this kind of experimentation will expand their imagination. They learn what happens when they mix colors or try to color the surface of a coin with a crayon.

Watercolours

WP_20140214_11_18_03_Pro” by Gina Lee Kim is licensed under CC BY 2.0

By practicing art as a process and as play, preschoolers can reap its benefits!

3 Fun Kids Online Games that Comply with COPPA

Your child probably spends a significant chunk of his time playing online games – do you know anything about them? Are they suitable for kids? Do they have any educational content? How do they rate for violent or sexually explicit content? Do they safeguard their young players’ privacy? Most parents have legitimate concerns about all of the above issues – that’s why we put together a list of kids’ online games that comply with COPPA (Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act.)

This federal law regulates the online collection of personal information of children aged 13 or below; spells out what websites must include in their privacy policy; details the safety and privacy responsibilities of website operators and specifies instances where parental or guardian consent is mandatory for allowing children 13 and below to use the site.

Here’s a list of COPPA-compliant kids online games your child will love!

Kids with LaptopKids heart OLPC (no matter what the critics say)” by Tim and Selena Middleton, licensed under CC BY 2.0

 

JumpStart

Developed by – Knowledge Adventure

Price – Free, but subscriptions / memberships available

Let your little one embark on a great interactive learning adventure with award-winning games that combine fun and education in equal measure! The site is designed for kids aged 3 – 12 and offers a safe and controlled environment where kids can learn the alphabet, polish their math skills and master science concepts in addition to many other school subjects. Players get an online avatar (known as a Jumpee) that can be completely customized and that accompanies them on their online adventures. Your Jumpee not only plays games, it can also interact with other online players, though this is entirely optional.

NASA Kids’ Club

Developed by – NASA Education

Price – Free

Now, kids can explore the mysteries of outer space from the comfort of their own room. They can also get real info about current space missions, look at NASA photographs, name asteroids, play games in a clubhouse and move into the final space frontier with Angry Birds. All the pages on the site are user-friendly and easily navigable – your child can quickly find what he’s looking for, from the easiest games (level 1) to the most difficult ones (level 5.)

Club Penguin

Developed by: Club Penguin Entertainment

Price: Free, but subscriptions / memberships available

This is a popular massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) where kids can pick a cartoon penguin avatar and explore a virtual world set in a winter wonderland. Players can choose from the wide range of mini-games to earn coins and use them to buy stuff from the Club Penguin virtual store. With a free membership you can play a limited version of the game or purchase a subscription to get unlimited access.

If you’ve stumbled upon other great COPPA-compliant kids’ online games, I’d love to hear from you!

5 Quick Preschool Games and Activities for Winter

Winter is perhaps the only season when we are as happy to spend time indoors as we’re to step out in the snow. That means winter is an ideal combination of indoor and outdoor games for little kids too. Here are a few quick preschool games and activities that will keep the kids engaged during their winter holidays.

4269396864_b8c6cda9f1_z
Image Source – http://www.flickr.com/photos/pinksherbet/4269396864

Indoor snowman

With just a few packets of corn flour and shaving cream, you can make a fun snowman at home. Besides corn flour and shaving cream, you will also need a small box and a few embellishments like buttons, twine, etc. to decorate the snowman. Empty the packet of corn flour and the can of shaving cream in the box and allow your preschooler to mix them with her hands. Mix them together until they form a crumbly powder that sticks together if you roll it into a ball. Let the child touch-play with the snow to understand its texture. Help them knead the snow into small balls and make a snowman. Decorate with buttons, twine, small bottle caps as hats, etc.

Snow pearls

Discover the precious ocean jewel right at home. Get a packet of clear water beads, white paint, glitter, and peppermint extract. Mix white paint in water and soak the beads in water overnight. Add peppermint extract to the water for a wintry scent once the beads start to grow. Once the beads have fully grown, place them in a freezer overnight. They’ll be ready to play with the next morning!

Freeze!

How about playing a round of ‘Freeze’ when you have your child’s friends over on a play date. In case you don’t know the rules to play this game, choose some of your kids’ favorite tunes and turn up the volume. Ask the kids to dance until you stop the music. When you do, they will have to freeze in whatever position they were dancing in, even if it’s a leg in the air or a hand on their hips. Keep a timer handy to ensure nobody moves for thirty seconds. Whoever does is disqualified.

Simon says

This classic game can be given a wintry touch with ease. Call out winter related tasks such as ‘Simon says touch your gloves’, ‘Simon says stand next to the fireplace’, ‘Simon says stand like a snowman’, etc. The kids will be eagerly waiting Simon’s next command.

Dead penguin

Have all the students stand in a line. Play their favorite music and turn up the volume just link in the preschool game of Freeze. Everybody will have to act like a dead penguin once the music stops. You go around trying to make each of them laugh or giggle. Whoever falls to your tactics gets disqualified. Continue to play the preschool game till you have a winner.

These preschool games and activities will be wonderful to engage the little ones with and channelize their energies.

Simple Cooking Games and Kitchen Activities for Young Children

My five year old loves to “help” out in the kitchen, but it was pretty hard to let him do so without wrecking the place or hurting himself. For years I let him play online cooking games because they are fun and absolutely non-messy. Turns out, there ARE some simple, safe and most importantly, FUN ways to let him indulge in his hobby without turning my hair gray. Here are four great kitchen and cooking games for young children.

2359056682_a3c274b575_zCooking with Soren No. 2” by fotologic, licensed under CC BY 2.0

Handling Groceries

The next time you go grocery shopping, hand over each item to your child and ask him where it goes – pantry, refrigerator, cabinet, etc. This works well for very young kids, even those as young as 2 or 3. As your child grows older, he can help place the groceries in the appropriate places; he’ll be proud and happy to be entrusted with this responsibility!

Food Geography

Today’s kids have no idea where their food comes from – and I mean this is in the geographic as well as an environmental sense. Your little one needs to know that some foods come from trees, some from the ground and others from animals. Gather together an assortment of foods – milk, fruits, pasta, eggs, cookies, etc. – and ask him where he thinks each one comes from. Another fun game is to show him a collection of common as well as exotic fruits – apples, bananas, oranges, kiwis, mangoes, pineapples, etc. Take a world map and point out the places where each fruit originated from and how it is grown. Your child might like to sit at the kitchen table and draw the fruits using paper and crayons.

Fun with Pots and Pans

It’s easy to keep your toddler amused with this simple cooking game. Just spread out a varied collection of pots and pans on the kitchen floor and give him some wooden spoons to make some noise with. He might get creative with pretend play or create some highly original “music.” Whatever he does, it’ll free you up for chores or keep him busy and happy on a rainy or snowy day. This age-old kitchen activity is never known to fail!

DIY Shakers

Bring out your little one’s creative streak with this simple yet fun cooking game. Collect some empty lidded containers, some pasta and a spoon and invite him to fill the containers with the pasta. Have him put the lid on securely and decorate the “shakers” using pretty stickers or crayons. Your DIY shakers are ready for service!

Cooking games help kids learn about nutrition, boost their self-esteem and offer family time and bonding – that’s why I let my child play in the kitchen as long and as often as he likes.

Creative Ways to Teach Life Skills

When we were growing up there was a lot of emphasis that was laid on academics. But once we got out of our homes and started jobs, we realized they only took us so far as we need more than a solid foundation in academics to survive jobs and life. So we know our kids need to be taught life skills to help them tackle the world. The good news is that these skills are teachable and there are many ways in which we can do it.

Life Skills Kids Need to Learn

Some of the skills kids should learn include:

  • Problem Solving
  • Home Management
  • Teamwork
  • Communication
  • Handling Emotions

Teach with Movies

I often take the movie route to get my kids to learn certain life skills like problem solving, out of the box thinking, leadership and friendship. More recently, it was Penguins of Madagascar. The scenes may not be realistic – like the scene in Venice where the penguins use oars in the chase scene. I don’t expect my kids to be caught in a similar situation (at least I hope not) but it does show kids that we can go beyond the obvious and find different ways to solve problems.

“My Spirit of Adventure” by Peter Lee is licensed under CC BY 2.0
My Spirit of Adventure” by Peter Lee is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Teach with Apps

There are many apps out in the market that are tailored to teach life skills like how to handle emotions, manage money and collaborate with others. I am just scratching the surface here. You can try out Calm Counter – Social Story and Anger Management Tool that offers tips to kids on how to deal with emotions. Rory’s Story Cubes is a great way to teach kids creativity and to encourage them to work together. By the time kids are seven years old, it is time to inculcate the value of money and how to save; Savings Spree is an educational game that aims to teach kids how to save.

“24/52. Emotion” by Daniel is licensed under CC BY 2.0
24/52. Emotion” by Daniel is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Teach with Activities

Gaming can again help with spatial skills. LEGO also helps here. You can also teach responsibility by getting kids to start gardening. We have a little patch where kids can grow plants and it is wholly their responsibility. When the plants start wilting the kids know they have been slacking off. You can also host a cooking party – cooking is an important life skill and a party would call for kids to work together.

“Money – Savings” by 401(K) 2012 is licensed under CC BY 2.0
Money – Savings” by 401(K) 2012 is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Life skills cannot be learnt from a text book, the skills have to be acquired with practice. So don’t forget to create opportunities for kids to exercise their life skills.

My Furry Friends – 3 Fun Games Featuring Animals

Children love animals and for good reason. Pets teach responsibility, offer companionship and share a deep and loving bond with their kiddie owners. But not all of us are lucky enough to have animal companions in childhood. Ask my daughter what she wants for Christmas, and pat comes the answer – “A puppy!” In fact, a quick peek into any five year old’s bedroom will show you just how much real or imaginary animals figure in his life – in the toys, TV shows, storybooks, movies, music, clothes, décor and sometimes even the food he loves. That goes a long way towards explaining the spate of online and video games featuring animal characters and their immense popularity among kids.

So I decided to do a quick round-up of three cool games that revolve around furry, feathered or four-legged critters.

1. Animal Crossing: New Leaf 3DS

The fourth title in the Animal Crossing series, Animal Crossing: New Leaf is a highly rated life simulation game for the Nintendo 3DS console. Players control a character who has just moved into a new town populated by animals who speak and behave like human beings. Upon entering the town, you are mistaken for the town mayor by the villagers who hang on to your every word and are ready to do your bidding.

This gives you the power to pass laws and ordinances and plan the town’s layout. As mayor, you are in charge of planning public works projects and raise money to fund them. The townsfolk include the mayor’s canine personal assistant; a couple of alpacas who run a recycling shop, a skunk who works as a shoe accessory salesperson, among other eccentric and extremely lovable characters.

This highly customizable game has no levels or points; all you have is a huge variety of places and activities that you can personalize according to your taste. Design a garden or build a museum or chat with the neighbors or hang out at a café; you can shape the game according to your mood.

 

2. Penguins of Madagascar: Dibble Dash

If your child is excited about DreamWorks’ Penguins of Madagascar, here’s a mobile game that offers a healthy learning environment along with a chance to play along with the hilarious penguin foursome we last saw in Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted. The free-to-play penguin game released this month on Google Play and iOS and will soon be available on Facebook, Amazon and Windows.

Players help Skipper, Rico and Kowalski navigate a number of obstacles; protect them from Dr. Brine’s octopus accomplices, nimbly ducking the mutant-creating goo released by their foes. But rescuing is not your only job; you must restore them to their cute and quirky selves by solving math problems involving addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. Playing the penguin game daily gets you special rewards and the privilege of sending in-game challenges to your friends.

Dibble Dash is an educational runner game but it’s so much fun, you’ll probably forget you’re doing math.

 

3. Animal Planet: Vet Collection for Nintendo DS

If your child dreams of becoming a vet, this interesting mini game collection by Animal Planet gives him a virtual taste of what it means to be an animal doctor. Players travel extensively across the world in their quest to become a great veterinary doctor, volunteer at pet clinics and treat a great variety of exotic as well as domestic animals in different settings. Players can choose from a wide range of memory games, puzzle games, matching games as well as action and dexterity games, all of which have different difficulty levels.

Virtual vets are allowed to utilize 60 kinds of procedures such as cleaning, bathing, medicating, operating and engaging in post-operative care to treat their animal patients. But best of all, you can interact with each of your patients after every successful procedure and make sure they are well taken care of.

And now, my little girl is demanding an animal-themed video game for Christmas!

Which 3 Educational Game Apps Do Parents Totally Love?

I depend heavily on online educational games and apps to teach subjects and life skills to my children. Over time, I have concluded that children love to learn with a gaming approach more than anything else! These are some of the online apps that I use with my children day to day.

Online Games
Image Source - Steve Elliott

iBiome-Wetlands

The educational game presents students with the challenge of building a balanced biome to progress to the next level. They will have to identify environmental factors, distinguish between producers and consumers, and understanding predator/prey relationships in order to set up a successful biome. Experienced ‘scientists’ can experiment with their ‘biomes’ by manipulating the number of species, flora and fauna, etc. and recreate biomes.

Besides reading explanatory texts, students are required to drag floating objects such as plants, animals or environmental factors to their matching category circle to complete each level. In case the player fails to match an environmental factor to its respective category, it floats off the screen resulting in a lost round.

The high quality animation and graphics of the educational game are a few additional takeaways. The virtual biomes can be seen filling up with animated life at each stage of creation all through the game thus providing the users with an enhanced user experience.

The absence of any third party advertisements or in-app purchases makes the game a favorite with children and parents can rest assured their children won’t be directed to external website while playing iBiome-Wetlands.

My First 10monkeys Math App

My First 10monkeys Math App is a great galactic game that’s math-themed. During the play, children will encounter planets, flowers, and, a host of silly monkeys with whom they can make music, complete patterns, and enjoy multiple mini games! The simple design of the app and the myriad of skills that the game develops in children make it a worldwide favorite with parents, children, and teachers. Some of the features of the educational math game include 7 exciting mini games, catchy background music and sound effects, fun, silly monkeys, and an easy-to-use user interface.

The 7 math skills that children can practice and develop with the game are counting, comparing, geometry, number recognition, patterns, measuring, and sharing. Each mini game is based on a different math skill therefore making the process of learning and reinforcing the learning a lot easier. For example, the mini game on sharing requires kids to choose number pairs that add up to a given number, while the comparing mini game requires them look at a series of objects to see which has the ‘least or the most of something’. The hints at crucial junctures (when the player repeatedly faces a difficulty) keep the kids engaged with the game and they don’t tire out or exhaust easily.

The app encourages free play so kids can move between the seven different concepts and aren’t penalized for not completing a game. Some kids might find the only text-based instruction text a little difficult to follow and that is where they might need adults to assist them. Otherwise, the game is a breeze and invites exciting edu-play!

Thinkrolls

The first feature that draws users to this educational game is its cute, rose pink icon! Just as the name suggests, adorable ball-shaped characters roll through a variety of mazes and cross hurdles as they move on. For example, the first chapter has crackers in the form of obstruction which have to be selectively eaten to clear the path; deciding which cracker to eat is a sub-task in itself! With each chapter, the game introduces new challenges as obstructions such as fire and ice, gears, jelly, rocks, balloons, wooden crates, and more!

The educational game that boasts of both easy and difficult levels for kids introduces kids to the basic principles of physics. While chapter one improves children’s reasoning skills, the second chapter helps teach kids about gravity, height, and distance. The third chapter presents balloons as the obstructions therefore teaching kids about gravity and other complex science topics. Rocks are used to teach kids about density and falling speed, jelly to introduce elasticity and bounce, fire/ice to introduce temperature, and gear-based elevators to teach kids about movement.

The inbuilt parental lock keeps kids from accessing other apps from the developer which may or may not be age-friendly. The gradual way in which the educational game builds the challenges so that kids get a lot of time to familiarize them with each level is commendable!

Make the most of these educational games and apps to punch your children’s virtual world with desired safety, robust security, exciting adventures, and a lot of learning!

Nailed it – A Pinterest Success Story!

My sister is the creative one of the family. Her house is a DIYers paradise. She takes up Pinterest projects and makes them look better than the ones on there while my attempts are more humble failures. She has a playroom for her kids with one chalkboard wall and one whiteboard wall that are filled with the kids’ masterpieces. These children are guaranteed to grow up with their creative potentials at max. It’s difficult not to be so hard on yourself when you compare yourself to a sibling who is good at everything. I mean, I am still trying to teach my kids the alphabet and failing miserably at it.

skeleton-pinterest-fail
What an average Pinterest attempt by me would look like!

Not to be deterred (and by a pure stroke of luck), I found a bunch of wooden clothes pins in the garage. One of the little stray pins had an alphabet written on it that led me to a brilliant idea, if I can say so myself. My daughter’s understanding of the English alphabet is limited and so in order for her to get more practice, I put up a rope from wall to wall in my study. From this line, I hung up age appropriate words. Then, I arranged all the clothes pins I rescued found and started writing the letters on them. I must say, I have mad sharpie skills! Her aim was to find the right clothes pin and pin it under the right alphabet on one of those word sheets.

Source - https://www.pinterest.com/pin/187603140703411394/
Source – https://www.pinterest.com/pin/187603140703411394/

Confused? I would be too. So I looked for the idea on Pinterest and sure enough, a more proficient parent blogger than I has already completed the project with style. Here is the instructional – Clothespin Fun

There are always degrees of talent. You are always better than someone or worse than someone. That day, when I saw my daughter putting the right pins near the right letters, I felt like a big Pinterest winner. Next attempt, that melted crayon art. Wish me luck!

Word Games for Preschoolers

“Learning the alphabet on a jukebox” by Ruth Hartnup is licensed under CC BY 2.0
Learning the alphabet on a jukebox” by Ruth Hartnup is licensed under CC BY 2.0

You know how active and curious preschoolers can be. By creating the right learning atmosphere – one that is engaging and fun – we can tap into the huge potential preschoolers have to absorb everything around them. There is no time like now for word games to be introduced to preschoolers because language is such an important function!

These games are so easy to access that there is no excuse for you not to get your little one started on them. All you need is paper and pen to whip up a game right out of thin air. Of course, there are also numerous board games, and in this day where technology is at our fingertips, online word games are also within easy reach.

Preschool games can help kids develop a range of skills, even if a particular game is focused on one main subject. A numbers game can help unlock more than a mathematician in your child. It could also help him improve his motor and social skills!

The advantages of word games include improving language skills, as preschoolers can improve their vocabulary, spelling, reading and comprehension with these games. It also helps them learn to think and communicate better.

So, what are the types of word games that are out there?

Online Preschool Games

Online preschool word games are a good bet here as they are categorized as easy, difficult and moderate, and most games are designed in such a way that when kids finish playing them, they are rewarded. The sense of achievement builds their confidence and encourages them to get better.

Scrabble

This board game needs no introduction. It is a classic word game and is also available online. Kids can form simple words from an assortment of letters available and play against a timer. There are also several variations that one can choose from.

Word Scramble

Kids need to play against a timer if they play Word Scramble online. This is a word game that has jumbled letters that have to be rearranged to form a valid word.

Hangman

Hangman is a word game that has many variations. You can use this fun game to teach kids not only regular words, but also proverbs, phrases and more. Depending on the word/phrase used, the players are allowed to make around 10 guesses.

Spelling Bee

In the Spelling Bee, kids can look at an image or listen to an audio recording and spell out the word. Preschoolers can start off easy with simple words like cat, bat and so on.

Word Search

Another classic word game is word search or word find, in which a player has to find specific words in a grid of mixed letters. This popular game will also help your preschooler learn spellings.

Crossword Puzzles

Another popular word game, crossword puzzles involve a grid with some boxes shaded. Based on the clues given, kids can fill in the white squares with the correct set of words. It is a great game to help develop vocabulary and problem solving skills in kids.

These are some of the popular games out there that your preschooler can try out, but word games are not restricted to these and you will see that your preschooler will be spoilt for choice!