This week’s news has been all about making choices. Candidates have dominated the airwaves. Do kids need to learn the skill of making choices? They sure do!
As adults, we are constantly faced with choosing, and some of our choices affect millions of other people. The skill of making choices is first developed as a child and practiced all life long.
Choosing for kids starts out with Yes or No. We’ve all had experiences with kids who say no to everything, even ice cream, although they soon change their minds. But choosing is really only the start. After that, there is dealing with the choice. Children’s reactions to choices, even their own, can vary from delight to temper tantrums. No wonder having to choose can be overwhelming.
Some children make choices based on their first impulse. There’s no pause to think if it’s a good decision or not. Others will wait for someone else to choose and copy that choice. A few children are almost frozen by even a few possibilities so choices have to get made for them. Some kids have a strategy of choosing everything, but that doesn’t really work either. Choosing is not easy at all.
We can support children as they learn this skill by giving them opportunities to choose. Instead of asking a child what s/he wants to wear today which is a huge amount of possibilities, we can guide the choice: “Do you choose to wear your red pants or blue pants?” Kids may be able to select the color of the bowl for cereal, pick out a book, or decide on which fruit for snack. Later on, choices can be more complicated.
There are a few games that we can show kids how to play to help make choices like Eenie, Meenie, Miney, Mo and Rock, Paper, Scissors. Talking outloud about our own choices gives children a model to imitate. Stories, books, and conversations can also be part of the learning curve. Can your child have some fun and play today with the skill of making choices?
Lego and Duplo can be considered as a sort of “gym-equipment” for building brain muscles. They help kids develop thinking skills and kindergarten readiness as they play and have fun. Part 1 talked about the strategy of problem-solving; this part will look at decision-making.
It’s obvious that problem-solving is an important skill or strategy, but decision-making? What’s hard about that? Well, think of a time when you were too tired to make a decision, maybe about something as simple as whether to make toast or eat the bread as is. You knew that making a decision would require some brain energy that you just didn’t have. Plus, there’s the learning that comes from making good decisions and the lessons from ones that have not been successful. Decision-making is not easy and effortless.
As kids play with Lego, there are tons of decisions. The first two pictures in Part 1 were construction by boys. Here are two that girls have made. There have been choices about what bricks to put where, whether to build out or build up, which parts are important, if something is okay as it is or can be changed without affecting other parts. Lego has limitless options and somehow the brain has to ignore a tremendous number of them as it decides what to do. These two Lego towns are different because the kids have made different decisions.
For some children decision-making can be overwhelming. They wait for others to decide what to play with and what to do. Some are so eager they make decisions impulsively without pausing to check if it’s a good choice or not. Other children may want to choose everything all at once and some get locked into a decision and find it very difficult to change their choice, even if it’s not working. Decision-making, like so much else, needs practice and experience. Play-time with Lego and Duplo gives children a tremendous opportunity to try making decisions. They get immediate feedback about their choices and can adjust their decisions right away.
As your child plays can you see and hear how s/he makes decisions? Can you think of other ways that Lego and Duplo help with life skills?
Parents and caregivers often ask what young children need to know before kindergarten; this is the 14th in a series of blog posts on kindergarten readiness and early learning basics. No matter the age of your little one, this will give you a general picture of what to do as your child’s very first teacher.
Eenie, meenie, miney, mo, may be one way to decide, but to help children with kindergarten readiness, we need to give them good strategies for decision making.
When some children arrive at school or daycare, they are hesitant to make any decisions on their own. Making choices such as selecting what toy to play with or where to sit on the rug or what to eat first at snack time are so difficult that some children will wait for a decision to made for them. Other children want to choose everything so only spend a minute or two at any one activity so they can quickly move to the next and the next and the next. Others may not have either of these challenges.
Young children need practice making their own choices and, in a typical day, there are likely many opportunities for them to do just that. They may be able to choose what items they want to wear, or at least select ones from several alternatives. Which foot wants the sock first? There may be two different colors of towels to use for drying hands. What color of block will go at the bottom of the tower? Does snack go on a plate or in a bowl?
Letting children choose is not always easy or appropriate. Of course, it often takes much more time. Sigh. Also, making decisions may not be an issue at home, so parents may be unaware until kids are in a more independent situation. In any case, part of the kindergarten readiness package includes being aware of how children cope with the challenge of making decisions. Are there some ways that your child can practice this today?
Over the weekend, a tub of rocks of all colors, shapes and sizes was both super fun and super learning for kindergarten readiness. The rocks were sold by the bag, as many as could fit in the bag and the top still close were allowed. Several children and families filled bags and it was interesting … Continue reading Kindergarten Readiness Rocks! Choosing Rock Treasures