Get Your Child Started With Math: Teaching Measurement

Do you have some paper clips? Toy trucks? Blocks? Shoes? Crayons? Juice boxes? Soup spoons? Then you have the perfect tools for measurement! How many crayons do you think it will take to get from the end of the bed to the bureau? How many paper plates? If you have a number of things all the same size, you can measure distances – the fun way.

Think about some of the things we need to know in order to measure objects and distances. We know that the tools of measurement must all be the same length, they must touch each other end to end, and there must be a beginning point and an end point of what is being measured. So how can you get your preschooler interested in learning this? Think really hard (use that exaggerated thinking expression – squinting eyes, thumb and forefinger on chin) and say, “Hmmm. I wonder how many crayons it would take to get from the bed to the closet. Wanna find out?”

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Teach With the End in Mind

Many times children don’t know what the end goal is. We teach them many things during the day that are seemingly unrelated before eventually being able to use that information in a functional way. For many children, keeping the end in mind greatly increases learning of the skills that are needed in order to produce that goal. An engineer friend of mine said that he had four years of calculus in college. But it wasn’t until the fourth year that it really made sense and he knew why he needed to know it so well. Often we need to begin at the end in order for learning new tasks to make sense to youngsters.

We often spend time breaking down goals into small, manageable chunks for children. This is a wonderful strategy, but we must also always keep reminding the child of the end goal. Putting toys away, finishing up what he is doing, and getting his jacket out of the closet are all means to the end, which may be something like getting ready to go with Daddy to pick Mommy up from work. Work backwards from the goal and have your child figure out what he needs to do. Then, once your child becomes accustomed to thinking like this, you will be amazed at his independence.

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How Does Your Child Pay Attention?

Since young children need to attend to so many things for physical, cognitive and emotional development, they need to practice watching and listening. And since we know that all children have their own learning styles and needs, it is important for you to observe and understand your child’s specific style. Doing so will not only help you to understand your child better, but it will also help you to provide the right environments for his learning. Just as you focus better in certain situations, so does your child.

You can begin to observe how your child attends to sounds and activities very early in infancy. Since babies are generally most attentive to people’s faces, be sure to use lots of facial expressions along with vocal intonation to elicit attention from your infant. Then watch his face light up and smile. At 3 to 6 months watch her turn her head toward sounds and look closely at toys, and by 1 year notice her eyes looking toward objects you point to and talk about. Watch your baby closely during these stages. What does she attend to most? Does he focus better in quiet environments, or can he also focus on specific sounds with background noise? Does she watch and listen better when she is interacting with only one other person? Does he experiment more in physical activities when he is with other children? Is she happier when she is imitating the speech or actions of one adult? Does he seem fidgety or anxious with a lot of physical action going on around him? By 2 years does she play with her favorite toy for longer periods of time? What does he find interesting? What objects does she love looking at and examining? By 4 years of age what is he exploring in his environment? Is he playing by himself, playing with others, and listening to directions – all at once? By this time he should have good control over his own focus and attention, even in a somewhat noisy and busy environment.

The ability to sustain attention is not only an important developmental skill for learning; it is necessary for what we call “working memory,” the ability to remember a lot of information at once in order to perform a task. For instance, when learning to spell his name, a child will need to remember what each letter looks like, the sequence of the letters, and how to form the letters with the muscles of the fingers. When learning to read, she has to remember what words look like so she doesn’t have to sound out every word from the beginning. She also has to remember the content of what she has just read in order to understand the rest of the sentences. Just think of how much attention to task this requires.

So you can see the importance of providing the right environment for your child to pay attention to sights and sounds. Every place and every time is a new adventure in which your child is learning about his world. Every place and every time is building the foundation. Know what helps him to pay attention, and provide him with plenty of it. It’s a very important way for you to know and to offer the best for this incredible little individual.

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Your Curious Toddler

Has your toddler reached that age when she can’t seem to stop asking that one question that you knew would be coming some day: WHY? If so, then she is well on her way to using language to gather information about everything she notices around her. And isn’t that what we do every day? Of course, you might Google the answers to your questions. But if you had an authority standing right there, like Mommy or Daddy, wouldn’t it be a lot more convenient to just ask?

Between two and three, toddlers seem to discover the use of the word why. Since it is difficult to formulate whole sentences that begin with why, and it’s not necessary, this famous word of two-year-olds is usually uttered all by itself.

Mommy: I’ll do the dishes a little later.
Emma: Why?
Mommy: Because I have some work to do right now.
Emma: Why?
Mommy: Because I have to prepare for a meeting tomorrow.
Emma: Why?
Mommy: Because there will be a lot of people there for me to speak to.
Emma: Why?
Mommy: Because they’re interested in what I’m doing.
Emma: Why?
Mommy: Okay, that’s enough. Now let Mommy get started with her work.

But very soon your child will begin to ask “wh” questions other than “why” (who, what, when, where, and how). It will be very difficult for him, though, to concentrate on using the question inversion, changing the order of the noun and verb (“Where is Bobby?” rather than “Where Bobby is.”) while focusing on these question starters. So how can you help him? When your child asks a question like this, you can just repeat the sentence changing the grammar as a model for the correct syntax.

Michael: Where Mommy is?
Dad: Where is Mommy? She’s at the store.
Michael: When Mommy’s coming home?
Dad: When is Mommy coming home? Pretty soon.
Michael: Why Mommy’s at store?
Dad: Why is Mommy at the store? She is buying some things for dinner.

And when your toddler is starting to ask questions, recognize that she has come to another very important milestone. She is not only seeking answers (and, as is the way with toddlers, seeking some attention), but she is also on her way to having real give-and-take conversations. Soon you’ll no longer have to just talk “at” your child (giving directions, explaining things, etc.), but you and she will ask, answer, and clarify – almost like adults. Just wait until she’s four, and see what you’ll be talking about!

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How to Choose a Preschool

Your child deserves the best care in all ways, every day. So whether you are hiring a caregiver (babysitter, nanny, friend or relative) or looking for the best nursery or preschool for your little one, you expect to leave him or her with someone loving, responsive and knowledgeable – someone your child will look forward to being with every day. But how will you find the best preschool experience for your child?

When deciding upon an excellent preschool setting for your child, it is wise to ask a number of questions and to observe closely. The Joy of Language contains a section titled “Choosing a Preschool or Caregiver,” and a comprehensive observation list has been developed from that information. Some of the characteristics of excellent settings, like certification and professional development, will not apply if you choose an independent caregiver. Please read and think about this section carefully, though, so you can become a good interviewer. Then, after your child is in the care of this person or persons, be sure to observe them interacting with your baby, toddler or preschooler often This is a partnership, so the communication between you and your child’s caregivers is essential. Please download this survey survey and take it with you as you visit child care centers you might be considering, and take good notes so you can compare preschools or home care sites before making a decision.

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Choosing a Preschool Questionnaire

Babies Become Expert Communicators

Your baby’s first cry is the beginning of his connection to others through vocal communication. Did you react to your newborn’s cry? Of course you did. And you probably responded with some vocalizations of your own – something like, “Ooohh!” Newborn babies don’t initially cry in order to communicate, but very soon they learn that parents respond to their cries, and a meaningful connection begins.

Crying is such an important part of language development. Babies do not cry to make your life unbearable; they cry because they are in distress and they need to be attended to. When this is your baby’s only way of communicating, it is important for him to be able to trust that you are listening. Babies need to feel that communicating their needs is effective, and they can be comforted by that feeling. And very soon they learn alternate means of communication: eye gaze, pointing, and vocalizing.

Another important aspect of communication will begin for your baby in just a couple of months – eye contact. The vision of a newborn is extremely poor, approximately 20/200. In fact, even the vision of a 1-year-old is not totally clear. But making silly faces, holding a teddy bear in different positions where baby can find it, and hanging mobiles over his crib all prepare baby for eye contact. A 2-month-old might not see clearly; however, he can recognize faces of primary caregivers.

At this point, he will become fascinated by facial expressions – such an integral part of the way we communicate feelings. When you hold your baby so he can see your face, or when you lean over his crib and smile, he is studying one of the most important aspects of human communication. It is so exciting to see that your baby is captivated by your face, your voice, and even your walk.

Your baby is now making all types of sounds, watching you, and listening to everything you do and say. He is learning quickly to use vocalization and eye contact to communicate very effectively with you, his greatest teacher.

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