Earth Hour tonight will be long after bedtime for many little kids so their lights will already be turned out. But there are other ways to participate and promote kindergarten readiness, too.
During the day, taking a walk in the park or around the neighborhood is one way to celebrate the earth. What’s the weather like? Is there any wind? What kinds of plants and animals do you and your child see? Expanding children’s general knowledge and experiences gives them a basic foundation to build on.
See if you and your child can collect a few different rocks, for those past the everything in the mouth stage. Check out their shapes, use them for counting and making groups.
Is there a plant-a-tree project in your community this weekend? You and your child may be able to use the city bus or other public transportation instead of the car.
These are just a few suggestions for things to do that will help your child establish a life long connection to nature. What are some other ideas?
I’ve been resisting doing a kindergarten readiness post on great children’s books about spring because there were so many and I just couldn’t choose. Then today on the Teach Preschool blog Deborah highlighted a book that can be used for Spring, April Fool’s, and Easter. I was glad I’d waited so I could share this funny story with you.
Duck & Goose by Tad Hills tells the story of a duck and goose who find a brightly colored egg. But they both want it. The two of them have to figure out a solution that works for each of them. Only there’s still a problem–is this round shape an egg? This book also talks about some important social and emotional skills like cooperating and negotiating. Duck and Goose learn to accept and appreciate each other. Such skills are valuable for kids and make coping with their peers much easier.
Reading stories to kids is one of the very best activities for helping children become powerful learners. Because books are a concentrated form of language, they are ideal for stimulating language development and much of our learning during our entire lives is done thru language. Children who have been read to at home have an easier time at school when it comes to learning to read. When you are reading this story to your child, check out the cover. Asking your child some questions encourages interaction: What two animals are there? What are they doing? Do they look friendly? As you read the story watch your child’s eyes and face for understanding. Pause and ask your child to predict what might happen next, etc. What are some other things that are round?
These same strategies can be used for any book. Your child likely has some favorites that you are reading over and over already. Are the two of you having a ball when you share stories?
Q. What tree goes Meow in the spring? A. The willow tree with catkins. Catkins is another name for pussy willows and pussy willows is another way to explore some kindergarten readiness and learning fun. If possible, find some pussy willows that you can show your little one and share a tickle with the soft fuzzies. This easy art idea kept 2 little hands busy for quite awhile as she explored painting, touching and gluing.
The first step is to protect the table or floor and your child’s clothes with some paper and a paint shirt or old t-shirt. Then let your child paint a tree on a stiff paper or cut-out side of a cereal box. Our set of paint dabbers doesn’t have brown so I squeezed some blue into a dish first to mix with orange. Then, I just mixed both orange and blue in the dish and Little Lee used q-tips, making big circles and little circles. Talk with your child about the shape of the tree: is it round? is it flat? does it have arms? etc. This will help your child observe what a tree looks like to paint. Once that part is done, it needs to dry. The next step is gluing on some cotton pieces. (Separating a long cotton batting chunk into smaller sections doesn’t look like it would be hard but my grownup hands were needed to help the kidlet ones tear it up.) I just squirted some glue into a plastic tray to make dipping easier. Then the glue needs to dry, too.
Using tools and practicing fine-motor skills are obvious skills learned. But there’s also observing, shapes, creating, organizing, language and patience involved as well. We explored science and nature using the pussy willows. To extend the learning, ask your child to think of other things that are soft such as feathers, quilts, marshmallows, pillows, and more. What things are not soft? Lego on the floor is not soft especially on barefeet and mustaches can be prickly even though they tickle under chins just like pussy willows. What are some other learning activities and spring fun with pussy willows?
What’s at the end of the rainbow? There’s some learning, fun and, of course, kindergarten readiness too. I saw this idea on the blog Hands On As We Grow and loved it: http://handsonaswegrow.com/2012/03/colors-a-rainbow-toy-hunt.html
First, draw a big rainbow on a large piece of paper. (I was told my rainbow looked like a cave.) Show your child how to match the color of a toy and put it on the right track. Learning colors is a complex thinking skill. There are many variations to each color and many different objects may have the same color. In order to learn color kids need to see lots of things that are that are a particular color and lots that are not, gradually figuring out which shades go with which name.
Many kindergarten readiness checklists include being able to name at least some colors. This gives teachers an idea of a child’s level of thinking skills. Kids who are having difficulty learning colors may be struggling with other concepts, too. There is no doubt that learning colors is a challenge for young brains.
This activity also needs kids to sort objects using colors and then match them to the right part of the rainbow adding to the challenge and the fun. Coloring on the big paper added even more. Isn’t that a lot of treasure at the end, middle, and beginning of this rainbow?
Spring is the time for planting and today’s kindergarten readiness fun is planting some math. Math is somewhat like a seed; it’s ideas that get planted in kids brains that grow into all kinds of connections. For kids to learn that numbers mean how many they first need to understand that one number means one more item. This is called one-to-one correspondence and is the foundation for number learning. Children may be able to say numbers in order but may not necessarily figure out that each time they count that means one more. Kids need to understand this 1-to-1 relationship first so they can link one number and one object.
For kids to grasp this idea they need to have lots of play experiences with one to one matching. This play activity uses an egg carton (with 2 end spaces cut off to make 10 instead of 12) and some seeds. We’re pretending that each egg space is a little pot and “planting” 1 bean seed in each space. Kids need to be beyond the putting everything in mouth stage. After fun with beans, Lee wanted to do it again using beads and then with more beans. Each time, every pot got 1 more.
Math is about numbers but it is also about relationships. Putting one object in one space is like creating a relationship. Lee had fun playing with the seeds and ‘pots’ and was building her understanding of math at the same time. Playing and learning is another great relationship. Do you think your child would enjoy this activity, too?
1 little, 2 little, 3 little seeds to plant…and to learn about, not just for kindergarten readiness. Planting seeds is one of those activities that kids can do over and over and somehow it never loses the magic. Bean seeds are a favorite to plant because they grow quickly and are big enough to see changes. Soak a few seeds for an hour or two or overnight. There are a few ways to plant them. A clear plastic glass with a bit of dirt will work and make it easy to see the roots. I saw this idea of using a paper towel roll to make little pots by folding the bottom edge over a little bit but I love the idea of putting the seed in a plastic bag and taping it to the window. We dipped a paper towel in water and tucked it in the bag, too, to keep the soil moist.
There’s lots of learning about seeds, plants, caring for them, growing, cycles, sun and more. While this isn’t specific information that kids need to learn before kindergarten doing a project and watching how it turns out are basic developmental as well as kindergarten readiness skills. Children practice being patient even though it is very hard and are rewarded with green sprouts that reach onward and upward, just like we hope our little kidlet sprouts do. Do you agree we’re not just planting seeds but planting learning, too?
Weekends are special times for fun and learning, and kindergarten readiness can piggy back onto your activities. With more time than during the week, how about cooking up some fun? Spring is a great time for playing in the mud–right in your very own kitchen. This mud is made of yogurt and a little chocolate milk mixed together. The next ingredients are favorite fruits. Because bananas are soft, they are easy for little hands to slice with a plastic knife. Big hands sliced the apple and peeled the orange. This big apple slicer cuts the apple into a flower shape. Fruit pieces taste extra yummy when dipped in the mud.
The kitchen is a great classroom. Kids can learn lots of readiness for kindergarten and life skills when they are cooking and ‘helping’. Here are a few of these skills: creating, planning, organizing, using visual details, measuring, counting, sequencing, comparing and more. Language skills include questioning, explaining, and learning specific vocabulary such as stirring, mixing, ingredients, etc. There’s some basic safety lessons and the responsibility of cleaning up after cooking, too. Just having places where things go introduces kids to a basic system of organization. Plenty of grownup activities depend on having a system. Besides math, language and thinking skills there’s valuable social skills like sharing and working together. Can you and your child cook up some learning?
Exploring the sense of touch is a great kindergarten readiness activity for babies to older children. This morning we saw pussy willows and were able to bring a few home to touch and feel. They were so very soft and not just for fingers; I rubbed them on L.’s cheeks, too. To extend the activity we went on a treasure hunt around the house to find more soft things. We talked about how things felt and used other words like fluffy, scratchy, cozy, hard,etc. L. put some soft things on a pillow. (A few toys even got picked up off the floor and put away because they didn’t ‘belong’.)
Making a group of things that are soft involves lots of thinking. Kids have to hold the concept of soft in mind and then objects have to be judged and compared to see if they belong or not. Making groups and categories also makes brain connections.
Touch sensations help children develop awareness of their body. The sense of touch is also important for language and safety and how things feel can also impact emotions. Lovely as the pussy willow feels, a hug feels even better. What does your child like to touch and feel?
Encouraging kids to draw also encourages kindergarten readiness. Wee little ones start out with random squiggles and scribbles that develop later into recognizable shapes and objects. Some kids love to draw and their talent shows at the age of 3 or 4! For other children (and many adults) drawing can be a struggle. Drawing has lots of different kinds of learning.
Pictures and drawing are another form of communication, just like words and speaking. Children are interpreting and representing their view of the world. They are learning how to use tools such as crayons, pencils, paints, either real ones or in the case of this picture, digital ones. As kids explore making images, they are also developing and practicing small muscle coordination. Drawing requires both thinking and attentional skills.
SPRING by S.C.(age 5)
Making pictures is a step before writing and helps reinforce the connection between meaning and print. In addition, making pictures on paper is good practice for making pictures in the mind or what is called visualizing. Even though drawing is very much a visual activity, there is still lots of language as children talk about their pictures, practice the vocabulary for colors and engage others in conversation.
These are only some of the early developmental and readiness for kindergarten learnings. This wonderful picture of spring also shows the care and pride that went into creating it. Does it make you smile, too?
The calendar says today is the first day of spring although the sun crossed the equator yesterday; that gave me the idea for today’s kindergarten readiness activity. The Equator is the mid-line of the planet. Our bodies have an imaginary mid-line too but it goes from the top of the head to the nose, tummy button and all the way down to between our feet. The body’s midline is critically important when it comes to the brain.
We all know that there are 2 sides to the brain, the left and right. When 1 part of the body such as the hand or foot crosses over this mid-line to the other side of the body, the brain also starts to cross-connect. These new brain connections help the two sides of the brain to work and to organize together. When babies are little they will use their right hand on the right side of their body and their left hand on the left side. Soon they can organize their brains and coordinate their bodies to explore moving and crawling. Crawling involves crossing the midline as a hand moves on one side but the knee moves on the other side. That takes lots of brain power and cross connecting.
Parents and caregivers can help kids of all ages develop this skill. With babies we can move their arms for them as we dress them, change them and play. With toddlers we can show them how to cross their arms to give themselves a bear hug and how to sit criss-cross applesauce. For older kids we can play clapping games. Of course, crawling and running are two movement activities that help kids develop their thinking so kids need time and space to move. They can do that all by themselves; we only have to reorganize the house and yard so there’s safe spaces for them to move and try not to get tired out just watching them!
Have a great first day of spring. What brain-body activities can you and your child do today that cross the Equator…er mid-line?