Blog

Discover practical ways to nurture your child’s development. This blog includes ideas and strategies parents can use to develop young minds and foster growth.

 

Let Your Kids be Imaginative!

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April 15, 2019

How are you allowing your young children to express their creativity and artistic talent?

There is a difference between completing a craft and doing a true visual art project. Crafts tend to have a predetermined end result. While there are benefits when you do crafts with your little ones, it is also important to allow for their own freedom of expression. Let them create whatever they want on occasion and try not to always be concerned about the end product. Instead, give them a chance to use their imaginations and make their own decisions.

The process is important and kids will learn through experimentation. Therefore, ask open-ended questions such as, “How can we make an animal?” “What materials would you like to use?” “What colors would you like to include?” “What if we used this design?” “Do you want to create a pattern?” When children are able to make these types of choices, they will be more likely to enhance their creative abilities.

Some of the arts include drawing, painting, coloring, printing, sculpting Play-Doh, creating a collage, using textiles, modeling, printmaking, stringing beads, and just about any other construction. When your children engage in these activities, teach related vocabulary and talk about the basic elements and principles of art, including:

  • Shapes: Connect artwork with math terms. Talk about symmetry or include geometric shapes such as rectangular, circular, linear, or curvy designs. It is helpful to use an anchor chart that kids can use as a reference. (An anchor chart is a graphic representation displaying the various shapes.)
  • Texture: Some creations will be soft and fuzzy, while others will be coarse or smooth. Connect your child’s creations with the senses and include many different words to describe texture.
  • Color: The primary colors include red, yellow, and blue. Secondary colors are an equal mixture of two primary colors, resulting in green, purple, and orange. When you use a lot of complementary colors (such as red with green), you can create a vibrant look. Contrast light colors with dark, bright with soft, and point out the warm colors of a beautiful sunset or other images.
  • Space: Create and examine both two- and three-dimensional shapes. Discuss elements such as foreground and background, perspective, and illusion.
  • Emotion: When looking at pieces of art, what thoughts come to mind? Is it calming? Is it vibrant and cheery? Do the lines on a face indicate anger, sadness, or happiness?
  • Structure: Does the art work rely on repetition? Is it balanced? Is it proportional or symmetrical? What types of patterns are visible?

Make connections between art and other subjects. You can easily connect art with math by talking about geometric shapes or counting objects in a photograph. You will automatically connect it with literacy as you include new art-related vocabulary words. There is a lot of beauty in science, and you can point out the symmetry, shape, array of color, and texture of a flower while introducing its biological structure.

Do these things and you will indeed help to develop imaginative little minds!

 

Creating a Culture of Learning

Diverse children enjoying playing with toys

April 11, 2019

Possibly the most important factor to a child’s cognitive and social-emotional development is the culture and climate you create in your home. It isn’t time at preschool, or hours of schooling once they reach elementary school.

In actuality, children spend most of their time with parents, siblings, and friends. If you run the numbers, from birth to age 18, kids are in school only about 15 − 20% of their life. They are sleeping for quite a bit of time, which then leaves about 40 − 50% of life with family and community members.

Here are the top things caregivers can do to create an environment of growth.

  • Be aware of peer interactions. If your toddler’s friend screams when she doesn’t get something, then your toddler will likely adopt a similar behavior.
  • Allow for creativity.
  • Incorporate play with a variety of materials (e.g., rocks, sticks, toys, dolls, clay, or many other objects you possess in and around your home).
  • Continually comment on the actions you observe: “I like how you shared.” “Take turns with that toy.” “Let her play with that first.” “You made a kind choice.” “I like how you asked for my advice.”
  • Ask questions: Who, what, when, where, how, why, what if?
  • Point out positive and negative behaviors.
  • Make connections between previous experiences and new knowledge.
  • Explain what good behavior looks like and then encourage proper actions.
  • Encourage your little ones to seek assistance from adults when appropriate.

Kids will learn by what they hear and see, so we would be remiss if we didn’t stress the importance of limiting television viewing and screen time. Many shows do not deal with social-emotional issues properly, and your children often develop inappropriate social responses because of what they watch. If you do allow your child to watch television programs, then be sure to prescreen them to ensure age-appropriate content.

There are many broadcasts that actually teach proper social behavior, and they will be of greater benefit if parents talk with children regarding what is seen on the screen. Furthermore, learning is solidified when caregivers connect television programs with everyday experiences. For example, we once saw an exhibit on butterflies at our local nature center. Later, while watching a documentary on the same topic, we were able to tie together what we learned at the exhibit with the documentary.

Identify what is developmentally appropriate by continually providing different experiences and by teaching your young kids new ideas. Even if they aren’t ready to master a concept or skill, try it anyway. Oftentimes, simple exposure (without striving for mastery) is beneficial. Be patient. While some abilities and skills will develop more gradually, some will simply emerge at a given—and perhaps surprising—time. Support from and interaction with parents, siblings, family members, and friends will be the conduit through which children’s cognitive abilities and social emotional growth will strengthen during the early years.

 

Setting Your Little One up for Success

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April 6, 2018

Parents have an incredible opportunity to help children learn foundational knowledge and skills during the first several years of life. All infants (0 − 12 months), toddlers (12 − 36 months), and preschool-aged children (3 − 5 years) are acquiring, organizing, and processing information. Caregivers simply need to nurture these naturally occurring processes.

By incorporating thoughtful activities and providing opportunities for growth, you will develop confident and knowledgeable kids who will succeed in school. Without a doubt, your involvement and life experiences can increase your children’s cognitive development, abilities, and skills.

How do babies, toddlers, and preschoolers learn?

Simply put, babies, toddlers, and preschoolers learn through interactive play. With young children, play and learning go hand-in-hand and active engagement will foster development in all areas—cognitively, physically, socially, and emotionally.  For example, kids learn problem solving skills while playing with blocks. They learn about science when playing in the sand on the beach. They learn fine motor skills when dressing dolls.

In fact, developmental psychologists have determined that when caregivers play with their toddlers and stimulate their minds through discussion and experiences, children are likely to earn higher grades in math and reading when they are in the fifth grade.

So provide as many different experiences as you can for your children. Perform investigations together about color, size, texture, and weight of objects. Schedule play dates with other parents. Be a part of a group to develop a sense of belonging. Provide opportunities to help and serve others.

Have many conversations and ask questions about your child’s environment. What does she observe? What does she like? What does she dislike? How was her day? What was her favorite part of the day? These types of discussions will help to intellectually engage and challenge your preschooler.

Play with your young children, create experiences, and constantly engage in discussion with them and you will indeed set them up for success!

 

Creative Expression: Fostering Artistic Talent & Appreciation

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April 3, 2019

It is essential to provide opportunities for your little ones to participate in the arts at a young age. As early as infancy, cultivate artistic expression and creativity by singing, dancing, moving to the beat of a song, and drawing with your baby.

As your children grow older into toddlerhood, integrate the visual and performing arts when you talk about educational topics.  Create fun representations of numbers and letters, draw pictures of scientific ideas, turn a piece of literature into a play, and look at pictures of people from different cultures.

Strive to create a mindset where exploration, imagination, and creativity are valued!

 

Social Studies: Understanding Culture & Society

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March 30, 2019

Young children are developmentally able to begin learning fundamental ideas about social diversity, government, economics, history, and geography. Parents simply need to connect each topic with preschool experiences and activities.

At age one, babies begin to notice differences and similarities of people within their immediate surroundings. As toddlers, they become aware of race and gender differences and notice how others might speak, dress, or behave differently. When between the ages of four and six years old, children are able to sequentially order historical events in their own lives.

Also use children’s literature to expose your little one to diverse people groups and to others who have lived in a different time period or setting. Discuss the experiences of people in the story, and examine how they are similar or different from your child’s.  These types of early activities will teach your young kids about many of the basic elements of social studies.

 

Literacy: Laying the Foundation

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March 25, 2019

Reading to your young child each day is one of the most effective things you can do. The amount of learning that takes place while your little one sits cuddled in your lap in the afternoon, or before bed, is remarkable. Before she is even aware of what is happening, you are teaching her how to hold a book and turn the pages correctly. You are communicating information about written symbols and story structure.

Learning to read is a continuum. You build knowledge every time you read to and interact with your little one. Every experience and every conversation moves him closer to becoming a reader. Even toddlers who look at a simple book that states “I see a tree, I see a book, I see a heart,” where the pictures match the words on each page, is engaging in valuable pre-reading skills. They are recognizing how letters and words have meaning, and pictures can provide clues.

So as soon as your child is born, create a culture that values language development. Interact with your newborn. Regularly talk with her, read and share fun stories, and display letters and words around your home.  Do these things and you will indeed begin to lay a foundation.

Here’s an activity to get you started:  Make your own ABC book using construction paper and pictures. Find a bunch of pictures in a magazine (or print them from the Internet) beginning with each letter sound. Use uppercase letters and glue the corresponding pictures onto the construction paper. Then bind all the pages with staples or string!

 

Science: Explore & Discover the World

toddler wearing whit cap on green field

March 15, 2019

Children begin to engage with their environment and develop basic understandings of scientific phenomena as early as the infant months.  Here are some ways you can create early science experiences with your kids:

  • Read children’s books about science.
  • Use pictures that represent scientific ideas.  For example, pictures of the human body, trees, and flowers are all fun to show babies.
  • Engage in science experiments.  When you plant flowers, observe bugs, and roll balls, you can have science discussions.
  • Connect everyday experiences with scientific ideas.  When you take a stroll in the park, you can listen to the birds and talk about the pretty color of the sky.
  • Talk about how things often change.  Plants and people grow, the wind blows the leaves off the trees in the fall, and the moon looks different at night.

Exposure to these types of scientific concepts during the early years will create a foundation with which kids will build upon for subsequent development!

Here’s another fun science activity for toddlers:  Use crayons or colored pencils and draw pictures of each season with your child. Be detailed and descriptive as you draw and color. Here are some ideas…

  • Summer: Green leaves and grass, bright blue skies with a few puffy white clouds, people outside playing, farms growing corn and beans.
  • Fall: Leaves turning colors on the trees and falling to the ground, pumpkins on the porch, wind blowing flags, grass turning brown.
  • Winter: Bare trees, lawns and bushes covered with snow, footprints in the snow, snowmen in the yard, people dressed up in warm clothes.
  • Spring: Flowers blooming with many colors, grass turning green again, birds flying through the air, dark clouds with rain and rainbows.

 

Math: It is as Easy as 1, 2, 3

multicolored abacus photography

March 10, 2019

When can you begin talking about numbers and geometry with your little ones? Children as young as 18 months old begin to learn fundamental concepts. They may not develop complete understandings that young, but their little brains are able to begin to think about math concepts.

To help build a foundation, one of the most important things you can do is foster a positive attitude. In fact, according to one survey, about 30% of the American population would rather clean toilets than do math problems! Be careful not to pass on this mindset or any of your own phobias.

Instead, talk about how math is useful and worthwhile and then work diligently to instill confidence. Start during the infant years to build math knowledge and you will indeed raise a math genius.

Here’s an activity that will help your toddler with number recognition and teach one-to-one correspondence!

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Create, print, and cut out two sets of cards, one with the numerals and the other with the corresponding number of items on it. Mix them up, and then ask your child to match the picture card with its numeral while laying them in order. Using different shapes will help teach geometry, too.

 

Education Begins at Birth

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June 30, 2018

From birth to age six, children have an extraordinary capacity to learn. Our new book, Education Begins at Birth: A Parent’s Guide to Preparing Infants, Toddlers, and Preschoolers for Kindergarten, offers advice to parents on how to maximize potential and raise smart kids. If you are a parent of an infant, toddler, or preschooler, this is the perfect book to help you foster your little one’s intellectual, physical, emotional, and social development.  It includes essential tips, strategies, and practical things you can do to:

  • Create early educational experiences in your home.
  • Encourage discovery through play and investigation.
  • Nurture a life-long learner.
  • Establish an environment that values growth.
  • Inspire curiosity and creativity.

Jeff and Annie Wiesman teach parents how to create a language-rich environment where young children learn beginning concepts in math, science, literacy, social studies, and the arts.  They include a wide variety of engaging activities and a detailed description of what you should teach at different developmental stages. Use the ideas included in the book and you will help your kids develop essential skills for success in school and beyond.

Now available to purchase at www.amazon.com