Early Learning

How to Steal a March #15: Helping Kids Ask Questions

Helping kids ask questions will give them an advantage. Thomas Berger said, “The art and science of asking questions is the source of all knowledge.”
help kids ask questions
Despite the astonishing number of questions kids ask a day–some estimates are more than 300–asking questions is really quite complicated. Brains have to organize the correct order of words, change the voice from regular speaking to go up at the end, and use specific words. Could it be that kids use the word Why because it works for asking a question so easily? Besides why, there’s how, when, what, and where to add to the list. It’s quite a challenge to learn and remember which word to use when and where.

help kids ask questions

Our example is part of the learning process and gives kids a model to copy. We can also use books and stories with questions to give them more examples, like Richard Torrey’s fun book “Why?” The pages have tricky questions, such as “Why do feet stink?” or “Why do crackers have holes?” You can follow the Why? book with another one by the same author, “Because.”

help kids ask questions

Asking the question is only part of the package. Besides the wondering, kids have to be able to trust that we will answer their quesion. They are not only asking for information, there is another underlying question, that is, “Am I important enough to answer?” Whether or not our answer makes sense to the child, our reply means  “Yes, you are important enough.

help kids ask questions

Another way to say having an advantage is the expression to ‘steal a march.’ Since it’s the month of March, using this expression is a fun play-on-words. Helping kids ask questions is another piece of early learning and development. It gives them a critical tool they can use to explore and understand the world as well as contributing to their sense of worth. For a play-of-the-day, have some fun with questions, not just serious ones, but the sillier the better. Do you have any questions?

How to Steal a March #12: Imagination Gives Kids An Advantage

We all want our kids to have the best, including learning and opportunities, and imagination gives kids an advantage. It helps them “to steal a march.” In the words of Einstein himself, “Imagination is more powerful than knowledge.imaginative play

Are kids born with a talent for imagining? That’s hard to say because we can’t see how the brain works, but we do know imagination can grow and expand with opportunities and stimulation, with practice and nurturing.

One of the ways to encourage imagination is with books and stories. Children’s books are bright with colors. Images and words dance on the page and in the mind. Besides reading books, we can also tell stories. Do you and your child ever take the bus? Together, the two of you can imagine what might happen if the street turned into a river and the bus became a boat. Perhaps, a river of chocolate syrup or spaghetti sauce. Stories can happen anywhere and anytime.empty box pirate play

Got a big, empty box at home? A box has unlimited possibilities for imagining. Plain or covered with crayon colors and stickers, it can be a rocket ship, boat, fort, hideout, car, bus, train, store, pirate galleon, restaurant, space ship or anything else a child may think of. Plus, it can transform into something else in mid-play.

A sidewalk can be a direct road to an imaginative journey. Add some chalk for drawing along the way. A blanket fort creates a whole new world, right in the middle of this one.blanket fort

Surprisingly, boredom impacts imagination. If kids are always busy and have things to watch and do around them, there isn’t time for the journey inside where imagination lives. When kids are bored, with nothing to do (insert whiny voice), they turn inwards and think of things themselves. We can see the transformation on their faces as they go from bored to actively engaged.

The development of imaginative skills is valuable in grownups. Companies and countries need innovative and creative people. Imagination gives kids an advantage, now and later. How do you encourage imaginative play for your child?


How to Steal a March #11: Helping Kids Learn to Make Choices

Making choices is a skill, and during the early years is the best time for helping kids learn to make choices. Kids need opportunities and experience, as well as our example and guidance.

kids can be friends with boredom

Have you ever noticed how kids will play with anything? It’s every bit as likely a child will play with sticks, rocks, bits of paper, plastic containers, raw pasta, buttons, empty bottles and other items in the recycling basket, as s/he will play with cars, dolls, puzzles, and other toys. As adults, we often forget that play is in the child, not the toy. In addition to that, there’s a critical reason kids will play with stuff: the child gets to control the play. With non-toys, kids get to make up the play. They have the choices and the control.

Jeff A. Johnson at Explorations Early Learning quotes authors and early childhood teachers Lisa Daly and Miriam Beloglovsky, “Nothing gives children a greater sense of power than being in control of the materials they are using. Because loose parts are open-ended, children can make choices and decisions about how to use them–and learning to choose well is part of social-emotional development. ” Now that we understand what’s going on in a child’s mind, we can better support and encourage play and making choices.helping kids make choices

Loose parts are small, numerous items that kids can interact with in various ways. They really can be almost anything. One mom shared how her son had used several tampons to load as logs on his dump truck. Anything. While I was doing some spring cleaning, Little Sister found several items in a drawer, including a small bear that had come off a birthday cake decoration, a tissue, a cotton ball, comb, and other bits. She set these out in a flat basket and made a home for the little bear. Next, she placed the bear in various spots in the basket and pretended the bear moved things around. She was making choices constantly as she played. Her voice changed as she called me to come see and then decided she was done. Check what you have available for loose parts play. Kids will have suggestions too. As in this case, sometimes helping kids learn to make choices means staying out of the way.

Usually in a day, there are several times when kids can choose. What to wear is an opportunity for helping kids make choices. So kids don’t end up wearing just a swimsuit and rubber boots for going to the store, we can give them three or four options and let them pick the one they want. When setting the table, kids may be able to choose the color of their bowl or cup. Any time during the day, ask your child to go pick out a book and then you can sit down and share a snuggle and a story. You might want to ask your child why s/he chose that particular book. You can suggest some unrelated reasons, such as, “Did you choose this story because it smells good?” Kids will usually come up with a better reason.

reading books and storiesKids will imitate others around them. We can tell our reasons for the choices we make. “I think the sky is cloudy and the wind is chilly so I am going to take a sweater, just in case.” Of course, kids seem to choose not to follow our example when it’s sensible, and to do exactly what we do when the choice isn’t so great.

Choices affect all of us our entire lives. Helping kids learn to make choices is a way to give them an advantage, or in the words of the old expression, to help them “steal a march.” Can today’s play-of-the-day for your child include making choices?

How to Steal a March #1: Words Build Brain Power

March Fourth sounds just like March Forth–what a fun play on words; for kids words build brain power. We might think words and action are opposites but brain-wise, the activity of words in the brain is mighty. Some fascinating research counted the number of words young children hear in a year. This, of course, varies … Continue reading How to Steal a March #1: Words Build Brain Power

Kids Need Routines – Helping Kids Make Friends with Routine

Monday starts the week’s routine; did you know kids need routines? This post explores why and since it’s friendship month, making friends with routines. A routine functions like an invisible security blanket. It wraps around a child giving a sense of comfort and familiarity. Kids know what’s coming next, instead of always being surprised. It’s … Continue reading Kids Need Routines – Helping Kids Make Friends with Routine

February Heart Connections: What Is Your Child’s Favorite Object?

The month of February invites us to connect with the heart; to start, what is your child’s favorite object? What’s yours? Choices give clues–and practice. Recently, I registered in a video challenge event. Each day, for 30 days, we create a short video and share it with the group. This helps to get past the … Continue reading February Heart Connections: What Is Your Child’s Favorite Object?

New Year’s Resolution: You Are Your Child’s Greatest Learning Resource So Take Care of You

Today’s new year’s resolution is brought to you by the letter Y: you are your child’s greatest learning resource so take care of you. While this sounds next to impossible for parents, especially when comes to the issue of getting enough sleep, it’s far too important to ignore. And we all need to be there … Continue reading New Year’s Resolution: You Are Your Child’s Greatest Learning Resource So Take Care of You

V= AdVENTURE: For the New Year Have Adventures with Kids

For the new year, have adventures with kids. Today’s post is still in alphabetical order because V=adVenture and we can do them every now and then. In a way, new year’s resolutions are also a sort of bucket list. Where would you and your child like to venture? Here are some ideas, some from an … Continue reading V= AdVENTURE: For the New Year Have Adventures with Kids

T = Trust: Parents, Educators Need to Trust and Let Kids Play

This post was inspired by play-expert Jeff A. Johnson at Explorations Early Learning. The message is parents, educators need to trust and let kids play. It seems parenting and teaching are balancing acts. There’s so much we would like to do for kids, but at the same time we have to let them learn for … Continue reading T = Trust: Parents, Educators Need to Trust and Let Kids Play

S= Social Skills: Developing Social Skills A Priority for Kids

Do your long-term wishes for kids include being happy and having friends? From an early age, we need to make developing social skills a priority for kids. More and more we are finding out the huge impact that social skills are having on children. So much so, that children’s social skills will even influence their … Continue reading S= Social Skills: Developing Social Skills A Priority for Kids