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.

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3 Fun Summer Story Books for Preschoolers

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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.

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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

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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’.

Teaching Preschoolers Basic Table Manners

The words ‘preschooler’ and ‘messy’ are synonymous with each other, especially when it comes to the dining table. Kids love getting their hands (and feet and arms and face and everything else) messy and gooey. However, there are some basic table manners which they can be reminded of time and again from an early age.

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Child” by speaknow is licensed under CC by 2.0

According to parenting coach Lisa Bunnage, “Toddlers need constant reminding to behave. It’s all a game to little ones, so it’s up to parents to set the mealtimes rules right from the start.”

It could begin by washing hands alongside them before coming to the dining table. If kids observe you doing it before every meal, they’ll do it too. Next comes using words like ‘Please’ and ‘Thank you’. For instance, ‘Ketchup’ from them should not elicit a response from you, except for a gentle reminder to put it like ‘Please pass me the ketchup’ followed by a ‘Thank you’. Needless to say, it will take considerable prodding and reinforcing efforts on your part but eventually they’ll get used to talking a particular way.

Slightly older kids should be taught to help in clearing the table after a meal. Even if they aren’t tall enough to reach up to the kitchen counter, they could simply carry the dirty plates to the sink and hand them over to an adult. Lastly, washing hands after a meal needs to be emphasized the same way as before beginning a meal.

The key is to set realistic expectations and gently remind them about their table manners at each mealtime. Preschoolers are avid observers and fast learners; in no time, they’ll be perfect little gentlemen and gentlewomen with regard to table etiquette!

4 Engaging Easter Picture Story Books for Preschoolers

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What is Easter? (by Michelle Medlock Adams)

A nice little Easter board book for preschoolers with fun illustrations and rhymes which are good to read/sing along. It talks about everything from jelly beans to Easter eggs, chocolate bunnies to the story of Jesus Christ. A wonderful way to introduce your preschoolers to what Easter is all about.

Ollie’s Easter Eggs (by Olivier Dunrea)

This is a story narrated by means of pictures and revolves around Easter eggs – gathering them, dyeing them in different colors, hiding them and eventually looking for them. It talks about colors of all sorts through fun characters in the tale – Gossie, Gertie, BooBoo and Peedie.

Spot’s First Easter (by Eric Hill)

Like all other ‘Spot’ books, this one is a classic too. An enjoyable lift-the-flap story which reveals the spots where the elusive Easter eggs are hidden.

Little Bunny’s Easter Surprise (by Jeanne Modesitt)

A wonderful tale of family love and surprises on Easter. The watercolor illustrations in soft pastel hues are the icing on the cake.

3 Ways Poems & Rhymes Help Kids in Learning

When I try to recall my earliest memory, this is what comes up – me as a four-year-old, standing on the school stage amongst a group of kids all belonging to my age group, with all of us acting out the nursery rhyme Twinkle Twinkle Little Star playing backstage with music. I vividly remember the simple steps even today. I also recall that we were all dressed in blue – girls in sky blue dresses and boys in sky blue shirts and dark blue trousers.

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

So today, when I came across an article on the importance of nursery rhymes and poems in the overall development of a child starting from as young as preschool, I realized I had never looked at it from that perspective. Hence, it seemed an interesting subject to share with like-minded parents here. Leave alone just worksheets, studies and online games that are educational, here is how poems and nursery rhymes too are helpful for our children.

Nursery rhymes narrate a story with rhythm

Mary had a little lamb, little lamb,
little lamb, Mary had a little lamb
whose fleece was white as snow.
And everywhere that Mary went
Mary went, Mary went, everywhere
that Mary went
The lamb was sure to go.

Remember this evergreen rhyme which talks about Mary and her little lamb? It has a musical lilt to it, with several words being repeated time and again to aid in the child’s memory development, and the story progressing to how her little white lamb follows her to school and makes the children laugh and play. This is a tale in itself which is sure to capture a young kid’s imagination. Add to it actions or motions and it becomes a fun activity for kids to incorporate movement into the musical story. Preschoolers may not understand each word of a poem, but they will definitely take to the musical beat and sing or act along.

Poems help to build vocabulary

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

Chubby cheeks, dimple chin
Rosy lips, teeth within
Curly hair, very fair
Eyes are blue – lovely too.
Teachers pet, is that you?
Yes, Yes, Yes!

Not many preschoolers will know what ‘chubby’ or ‘dimple’ means. However, if you act out the above verses with them, pointing to each part of the body mentioned in the lines, it serves a double purpose – one, kids get to learn about the different parts of their body; two, new words are introduced into their world, which they have not come across earlier. They are very unlikely to forget these easily, since the nursery rhymes learnt in the early years more often than not manage to stay with us throughout our lives. A catchy rhyme does the trick in helping kids remember words easily, thus helping them develop memorization skills too.

Rhymes make dry facts colorful

One, two
Buckle my shoe,
Three, four
Open on the door,
Five, six
Pick up sticks,
Seven, eight
Lay them straight,
Nine, ten
A good fat hen,
Eleven, twelve
Dig and delve,
Thirteen, fourteen
Maids a-courting,
Fifteen, sixteen
Maids in the kitchen,
Seventeen, eighteen
Maids a-waiting,
Nineteen, twenty
My plate’s empty.

Simply counting down from 1 to 20 can be a pretty dry exercise. Making that same counting turn into a nursery rhyme will have kids captivated, especially if they act it out, as in One Two Buckle My Shoe. Another similar instance is the traditional poem called Thirty Days Hath September to remember the number of days in the months of the Gregorian calendar. This way it’s a win-win situation all along, with children learning new words, important facts and having fun all the while too.

Feeling a sense of nostalgia after all these years? Just hum along with these popular nursery rhymes all of us sang and danced to as kids. Each one of them brought a smile to my face!

A New Year Resolution for Preschoolers

‘Children are made readers on the laps of their parents.’

These are the words of Emilie Buchwald, an award-winning author of children’s novels. I couldn’t agree more with her words. A simple ritual like reading out bedtime stories to your kids from colorful picture books to help them relate to the story better can go a long way in inculcating the joys of reading in them at a later age.

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Learning” by PublicDomainPictures is licensed under CC by 2.0

Speaking from personal experience, here are 2 wonderful books for preschoolers. These may not be figured as classics in any list but they are ideal to introduce your kids to the world of books.

Lost and Found (by Oliver Jeffers): A lost penguin shows up at a little boy’s door. Now the little boy must help by taking the penguin on a journey back to its home at the South Pole. On the way, there are delightful stories to be told. A warm tale of friendship narrated in the form of a picture book.

My Teacher is a Monster! No, I am not. (by Peter Brown): Teachers are actually normal people and not monsters. But kids seem to think otherwise at times. Bobby is also one such child who considers his teacher to be a monster. But he changes his mind when he runs into his teacher outside of school.

So why not make a New Year resolution on behalf of your preschoolers and read aloud a story to them every night before tucking them into bed? After all, it’s never too early to make a reading resolution.

Happy New Year!

The 10 Best Story Books for Preschoolers

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Still Life” by Oldiefan is licensed under CC by 2.0

The Very Hungry Caterpillar (by Eric Carle): A fascinating story of a caterpillar turning into a butterfly, eating a humongous amount in the process.

Just Me and My Dad (by Mercer Mayer): A father and son go camping and bond together in the midst of nature.

Strega Nona (by Tomie de Paola): The title translates into ‘Grandma Witch’. The story is about a woman who has magical healing powers and cures the people residing in her town of various ailments.

Madeline (by Ludwig Bemelmans): A classic, humorous tale of the protagonist’s bravery when she gets appendicitis and needs to get her appendix removed at the hospital.

The Dot (by Peter H Reynolds): Beautifully illustrated, this self-discovery story of a young school artist who is convinced that she cannot draw will teach your preschooler the secret behind converting an ‘I can’t’ into an ‘I can’.

The Snowy Day (by Ezra Jack Keats): Every page holds something new in this tale where a little boy goes through an exciting day filled with footprints in the snow, a snowball as well as snow angels.

Petey’s Listening Ears (by L R Knost): Petey and his stuffed friend, Beans, are having a difficult day. His mommy and daddy help him to make the right choices and feel better.

If You Give a Mouse a Cookie (by Laura Numeroff): If you give a mouse a cookie, he’s going to ask for a glass of milk. When you give him the milk, he’s going to ask you for a straw. Then a napkin… and so on.

Me and My Dragon (by David Biedrzycki): A little boy wants a fire-breathing dragon for a pet and talks about how he would take care of it.

Beautiful Oops! (by Barney Saltzberg): Flaps, tears and splotches aren’t all that bad…After all, a torn piece of paper may just be the beginning to something much bigger!