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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Easter” by Pezibear is licensed under CC by 2.0

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!

Fun Paper Craft for National Aviation Day

August 19 was celebrated as National Aviation Day in the country. We chanced across this fun paper craft which seemed just right for the occasion. A word of caution: It involves using a pair of scissors so adult supervision is a must.

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Image courtesy: AZ Coloring

What you need:

  • A pair of scissors
  • A hot air balloon template printed on construction paper
  • Colored macaroni
  • Glue
  • Crayons
  • Glitter

What to do:

  • You could either print out a hot air balloon template if a printer is available or better still, draw it by hand on thick construction paper (even a roughly uneven one would do).
  • Cut it out carefully using the pair of scissors.
  • Using the back of an old pencil or a glue brush, ask your child to spread the glue evenly across the surface of the cut-out balloon.
  • Now the kids can sprinkle on the colored macaroni and glitter randomly on the surface.
  • Allow the glue to dry up.

Punch a hole at the top and hang it up in the kids’ room or put it up on the refrigerator, as the artistic craft of the month. It’ll add color and cheer to the room!

4 Enjoyable Summer Learning Activities

It’s that time of the year again when learning and school and classes and homework all take a backseat and the kids are at their hyperactive best. In such times, here are four enjoyable summer learning activities that can help your little ones keep in touch with learning throughout the holidays.

You can find magic wherever you look. Sit back and relax, all you need is a good book.

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Portrayal” by PublicDomainPictures is licensed under CC by 2.0

Researchers have found that a mere ten minutes reading time on a daily basis can do wonders for kids’ reading skills. You could begin with a short story time session before bed, with a colorful picture story book for young kids. Try making it interactive and engaging while reading the story out loud and it’ll be something your kids will look forward to every day.

We’re having a picnic & we would love for you to come. So put on some sunscreen & let’s have some fun.

The young generation today does not go out to play outdoors like we used to back in our childhood days. Let’s try changing it for the better. Head out for a picnic on a sunny day, armed with bats, balls, Frisbees and kites. Talk about nature while you are at it and turn it into a science lesson – why is the sun so hot? What makes the leaves and grass green? How do larvae grow into butterflies?

Our perfect companions never have fewer than four feet.

True that. Try keeping a pet at home if you don’t already have one. Entrust your kids with the work of caring for them, which is a full-time job, instead of simply sitting indoors and playing pet games like these on their tablet to while away time on a holiday. What’s more, apart from learning to be responsible, children will learn life lessons from their pets. Dogs, the loyal companions that they are, love to play and prance around; hence the kids will always be up and about on their toes, fit and healthy. Cats love to have fun with toys as well – kids can help in clearing the clutter their pet cat creates and keep their room neat and clean.

Kids playing sports should be about learning the game they’re playing and having fun doing it.

The benefits of learning an outdoor game or a sport are innumerable – children learn how to work together in a team, what sportsmanship actually means on the field, hand-eye coordination and the like. While unstructured free play is a good way to begin with toddlers, older children would do well learning something akin to karate (keeps limbs and body agile apart from being a useful tool for self-defense), swimming (helps maintain a healthy heart and lungs) or even soccer (increases bone strength with all the sprinting involved). The idea is to have fun and spend time sweating it out with teammates.

Once these activities are a part of your kids’ summer holiday routine, they will be so busy that the summer will be over before you know it!

2 Fun Preschool Activities for Mother’s Day

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Mother” by Prawny is licensed under CC by 2.0

‘God could not be everywhere, and therefore he made mothers,’ wrote Rudyard Kipling. There could never be a truer statement.

Come Mother’s Day, and kids the world over try to do their bit in order to make the day special for their mums. Why not inculcate this feeling in kids from an early age? Dads and teachers can play an important role here and help preschoolers make their mothers’ Mother’s Day special, by indulging in some handmade crafts with the children and making it a fun kid games activity to be enjoyed together.

Make a beaded necklace for mom

When it comes to preschoolers, there are two things which you just cannot go wrong with – one, getting their hands messy and two, playing around with paints and colors. This beaded pasta necklace activity is a pretty common craft for preschoolers which has a bit of both (messiness and colors) and will make a perfect gift for moms.

The easiest way to go about it is to get hold of these things – uncooked pasta (it could be either penne or macaroni or even both for a more quirky necklace), a ziplock bag, some hand sanitizer, food coloring (the kids’ favorite colors) and a thread to string the pasta ‘beads’ on. The best part about this activity is that preschoolers can do it all on their own. Ask the kids to add the uncooked pasta into the ziplock bag and add some hand sanitizer into it. Zip it up, then shake, shake and shake. Unzip and let them add their favorite food color into it. Zip it up again, then shake, shake and shake. Unzip once more, let the pasta out on a tissue paper and allow it to dry for about 30 minutes. Once dried, all the kids have to do is thread the beads together and voila! They have a beautiful, colorful necklace to present to their mums.

Other alternative and relatively more elaborate methods to make the same can be found here and here.

A handmade greeting card is something she’ll always treasure

In the present era of e-greetings, handmade (or even handwritten) greeting cards are a rarity; and hence, all the more special. Dads need to help their preschoolers with this activity in order to make Mother’s Day all the more exceptional for mums.

There are a variety of templates available online – heart shapes, bird and flower outlines, so on and so forth. These could be printed out or else, an adult could decide and sketch a pattern of their own, the outline of which could be the kids’ stamped fingerprints. To make the card extra special, dads could add a photograph of mom and the kid in the middle of the (say) heart-stamped fingerprint outline of the card.

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Hand” by Efraimstochter is licensed under CC by 2.0

Another interesting idea is to use both handprints and thumbprints on a card. Take a sheet of thick construction paper and fold it into half. Allow your child to paint their full palm with a bright color (say red or pink) and stamp it onto the paper. Now the thumb can be painted green and the said thumbprints stamped in a line onto the paper below the handprint would make the stalk of a flower. An easier method could also be to simply draw the outline of your kids’ hands onto a sheet of paper and let them fill in color using crayons or paint with a ‘Love you mom’ written in squiggly letters underneath. Rest assured, mums will treasure this handmade/handwritten card forever.

Behind every good kid is a great mom. Needless to say, Mother’s Day should be something she fondly remembers as well as looks forward to, year after year 🙂