The Act of Hand Washing as a Learning Opportunity

The most effective way to avoid illness and infection is frequent, thorough hand washing. But, let’s face it, proper hand washing is not the forté of most preschoolers, nor is it their favorite thing to do. The abstract idea that germs they can’t see might affect them or others adversely is a tough one to communicate. So what can we do?

The first step is to teach your child how to wash her hands properly. Use warm water, soap, and scrub all areas of the hands, remembering the nails and between the fingers. How long should you wash? Try a simple song to help your child time herself. Things to Share and Remember highlights a great one:

song card 2_thumb[2]

 

Remind your child to wash her hands before eating or preparing food, after going to the bathroom, after outside play, or after coughing or blowing her nose.

Preschool-aged children love to create and admire their art, so work with your child to create your own reminders for your bathroom mirror. Small signs attached to the mirror that remind the family to wash their hands and the proper steps in order to do so. Your child can draw a picture and/or copy the words “wash hands.” Consider laminating the sign(s) so it holds up to bathroom moisture.

Allowing your preschooler to “own” their hand washing skills and feel confident will help them remember to wash their hands, and this activity helps teach word recognition, labeling, and proper hygiene.

Further reading:

A Lesson in Hand Washing

Our Roll-call Tree: Pre-reading and Name Recognition

RollCallTree

Our Roll-Call Tree: Pre-reading and Name Recognition–Square Roots Preschool

Every morning at the beginning of circle time, we sing our welcome song and do roll call, which is also in the form of a song. We sing for each child present while that child plays the tambourine.

Ms. Taryn holds up a name and asks the class who’s name it is. With a little bit of practice, not only can the students recognize their own name, but also the names of other children in the class. And we know they’re not cheating by recognizing only the first letter because multiple students’ names begin with the same letter. They’re reading!

Once the students determine whose name is on the card, they get to carry their own name to our roll-call tree. All the names on the tree represent the students present in class that day.

This activity helps with letter recognition, name recognition, and builds reading skills. Plus, each of the students feel confident and welcomed by being the superstar with all of the attention for a brief period as everyone else sings to them and they hang their name on the tree.

And we all know who’s present!

Related reading:

Taking Charge of Chores Helps Develop Reading Skills

Learning Measurement by Splishing and Splashing

LearningMeasurement

Learning Measurement by Splishing and Splashing–Square Roots Preschool

 

When preschoolers are given the opportunity to experiment with part/whole relationships, they begin to understand measurement and basic fractions, as well as building toward addition and subtraction skills. A fun activity to help them learn the concept of measurement can be done in the bathtub or water table or–during hot summer months–in a pool.

Give your child a set of plastic measuring cups (these sets can often be found at the dollar store) and a small bucket. Let him experiment filling and pouring the water. This act is often a favorite of young children and can keep them occupied for long stretches of time. Ask questions such as “How many small cups does it take to fill up the big cup?” and “How many big cups does it take to fill up the bucket?” Your child will begin to understand that a whole has many parts.

Ask your child to put the cups in order from largest to smallest, or vice versa. Ask “Will it take more of the small cups to fill the bucket or more of the large cups?” and “Can you predict how many big cups will go into the bucket?” Then count together and see.

This activity helps children learn arithmetic, prediction, counting, estimating, and part/whole relationships. You and your child can continue to reinforce this concept in other ways, such as with apple or pizza slices.

When children are having fun, they learn concepts faster and better…they don’t even know they’re learning!

Related reading:

Teaching the Concept of Volume

Caution: Young children should never be left unattended around water.

Measuring cup image source: eco-friendlycookware.com

Taking Charge of Chores Helps Develop Reading Skills

When preschool-aged children see that everyone in the family contributes to chores and has a responsibility, they feel part of the family and a sense of pride by being part of the team. You can take this a step further by allowing your child to be “in charge” of the chore chart, developing pre-reading skills at the same time.

Help your preschooler make a simple chart of responsibilities, such as cleaning up toys, setting the table, feeding the family pet, or doing the dishes. Cut out a photo of each family member and label them with their names. Let your preschooler place the picture next to the chore that each person will do. Each chore can have a picture and a name, as well. Your child will feel pride in helping to designate who will do what and will develop her reading skills, name recognition, and classification.

You can then ask your child to hold one of the family member’s photos and talk about all of the jobs that that family member does. (This is a good one to help with appreciation of others, too!) Then ask your child to read the names of the family members without their photos.

Soon your preschooler will know how to read all of the family members’ names as well as some basic household chores!

Help Me Read the Mail

Children will begin the process of learning to read long before they are actually reading. Asking your preschooler to help you sort the mail is a fun, interactive way to boost those pre-reading skills.

Ask your child to sort the mail into different categories. These categories might include magazines, letters, envelope color, type of stamp, size, or person whom the mail is for. This process of sorting helps with sorting, classification, and letter recognition. Experiment with different ways to sort the mail, and your child can even play “postal worker” by delivering the mail to the appropriate person in the family.

Let your preschooler open the junk mail and pretend to read it to you. See where her imagination takes her. You can also have her fill out forms (often junk mail comes with order forms) or circle all of the “red” items in a catalog. All of these tasks help boost reading skills and help boost confidence and enthusiasm for reading.

We recently set up a “post office” in our dramatic play area. The students wrote letters, read mail, delivered packages to each other, sorted mail, made and pasted stamps, and categorized mail by type. They had a fantastic time and didn’t even realize they were boosting their pre-reading skills in the process!

Play Pretend Grocery Store to Introduce the Concept of Money

Mastering the concept of money is more complicated than we might think. Children need to understand numbers, measurement, and basic fractions to grasp how money works. They may see it every day, or maybe less so, now, since debit and credit cards are more the norm. Since money and its exchange is such an important part of life, beginning to learn about it at an early age is important.

You can play pretend grocery store at home to have fun and teach the concept of money. First, gather safe empty food containers and label each clearly with a price. Start by using prices between one and ten cents. Give your child pennies, dimes, and nickels and let him select and purchase items from your “store.” Help your child recognize the numbers in the price and count his money to make sure he has enough for the items he wants to purchase. Make change, if necessary.

Then reverse the roles so that you are the shopper and your child is the grocer. If you give your child more money than is needed for the items, it will give him an opportunity to correct the mistake and provide change. Count together to make change.

As your child grows and understands the concept of money, you can introduce larger and more complex dollar amounts, so this is a game that can be played well into the elementary years.

Learning with Laundry

Ordinary household chores can easily become fun learning opportunities for preschoolers. Laundry sorting is a great chore to share with your preschooler. Classifying and sorting pieces of clothing by their similarities helps young children with math skills, preparing them for learning addition and subtraction.

Your preschooler can pull all of the socks, for example, out of the laundry basket and match them. He can sort shirts from pants or white items from dark colors. He can also sort clothes that belong to each family member and deliver them to the appropriate rooms. Asking your child about how many socks and how many pairs of socks there are. Knowing the difference between one sock and a pair of socks is an important concept. T-shirts or other items can be counted, supporting the concept of one-to-one correlation.

Learning with laundry supports your preschooler in learning arithmetic, classification, size, sorting, and matching. Not to mention, you might have a lot more fun folding the clothes with a little helper!

Teaching the Concept of Volume

Our class recently did a seemingly magical experiment to teach the concept of volume.

Ms. Taryn presented the students with four containers of water, each container a different size and shape. One container was short and fat, one was tall and thin, one was a pint glass, and one was pinched in the middle, vase-like. The students looked at the containers full of water and predicted which container held the most water, and then the next most…

Volume

They were all in agreement and very confident. Then we brought out the measuring cup. Each student had the opportunity to pour a container of water into the measuring cup. What were the results?

Container one had exactly one cup of water in it.

Container two had exactly one cup of water in it.

Container three had exactly one cup of water in it.

Container four had exactly one cup of water in it.

Wait. What? How could that be?

We talked about how even though the containers were different sizes and shapes, they all held the same volume! The students were shocked and amazed, much like a magic show. They learned by seeing for themselves the importance of measuring, how things may not always be as they seem, and the concept of volume.

What Doesn’t Belong? Learning Classification

Children learn to classify objects by understanding the attributes of objects, being able to identify them, and knowing the vocabulary to vocalize their thoughts. “What Doesn’t Belong?” is a fun, simple game to help build the concept of classification. It involves learning about similarities and differences, vocabulary development, observation, and abstract thinking.

In order to play, name three items for your child, two alike and one different. For example, you might say “t-shirt, skirt, bike” or “apple, banana, broccoli.” Ask your child which “doesn’t belong.” It’s important to ask the child “why” he chose a particular object so he can practice verbalizing his reasons.

“What Doesn’t Belong?” can be played at home using actual objects and observation, or can be done anywhere without tangible objects, requiring the child to picture the items in her head.

To take it to the next level, name critical attributes of an object and have your child name the object. You might say big, small, yummy, stinky, slow, squishy, and so on. To make it easier, use just one critical attribute, such as “big.” Your child can name anything big. To make it more complicated, name two or three attributes of a particular object and see if she can guess what you’re thinking of. “Name something big and gray.” Your child might say “elephant.”

These games are great to play in the car or while waiting for your food at a restaurant.

Crawling is Not Just for Babies

crawling

Crawling is typically the first means of locomotion that babies learn and master. By the time a child begins preschool, however, walking is probably his main mode of getting from point A to point B. Still, crawling plays an important role in a preschooler’s development.

Crawling helps with trunk strength. Preschool is likely a child’s first opportunity to learn to sit still for any length of time. Though those periods are typically much shorter than will be asked of a child in kindergarten or elementary school, sitting in preschool is vital to prepare them for longer periods of sitting during their approaching school years. It is common for preschoolers to wiggle a lot during these times of sitting, and we usually chalk it up to limited attention span. That is partially true, but another reason it is difficult for them to sit still is because their trunk strength is still developing. It may be simply uncomfortable for a child to sit up straight for more than brief periods. Crawling helps strengthen a child’s core muscles, those muscles that stabilize the shoulders, girdle, spine, and pelvis. If these core muscles are not developed well, a child may have difficulty sitting upright at a desk because the muscles will fatigue easily.

Crawling is a gross motor skill that helps develop fine motor skills. When a child has a stable trunk and is able to sit, his hands are then free to practice desktop skills, such as writing and cutting. When the foundation is strong, more can be built upon it. This trunk stability makes the shoulders and arms stronger, which is necessary to strengthen the wrists and fingers. The development of all of these components is vital to master fine motor skills that require finger strength.

Crawling gives the brain a workout. It requires that the child use alternating sides of the body at the same time (right arm/left leg and left arm/right leg), which is important to brain development. The movement of crawling helps to increase communication between the two sides of the brain. In order to have the physical coordination that crawling requires, the two sides of the brain are forced to communicate, strengthening pathways that link the brain. Building and strengthening these pathways is important for young children because as they learn to read and write, crossing between the two sides of the brain is required to move smoothly from one side of the paper to the other.

There are a variety of activities that encourage crawling in preschool. At Square Roots Preschool, we play in the following ways:

• Floor activities: We set out a variety of activities on mats on the floor. Children crawl around the mats to access different aspects of the activity, and since the activities are placed close together, the students often crawl between activities.

• Tunnels: Crawl-through tunnels are inviting and fun. They require that children crawl to get from one end to another. A cardboard box “obstacle course” or “fort” works well, too.

• Make-believe: Preschool-aged children love to pretend to be animals. This activity often demands crawling on all fours.

It’s amazing that one activity can do so much for physical and cognitive development. Crawl on, preschoolers!