Safety first: learning your phone number

April 18, 2010

What happens if your child gets separated from you in a store or at the park? Does he know your name? His name? Your address? Your phone number? Of those, his name and your name are easy to learn because he hears them every day. But, what about your cell phone number?

In trying to figure out an easy way for my son, nearly 4.5 years old, to remember my cell phone number, I started trying to think of songs he readily knows. “Happy Birthday” came to mind as one that he knows well, and likely most kids his age do too!

Give this a try to the tune of “Happy Birthday” if your cell number is 469-123-4567:

My mom-my’s cell phone

is four-or six nine

one-un  two three-ee

four fi-ive six seven

To help commit this to memory, I’ve written my cell phone number on a piece of paper that we keep at the kitchen table, and when we pass the table or sit down for meals, we sing the song together. He thinks it is pretty funny but understands it is important because this number is how he can reach me if he ever needs me.


Daytime in China: Where does the sun go?

January 21, 2010

When I was in 3rd grade, my grandparents gave me a globe. I still have it, many, many, many years later. Yes, the political boundaries on it are wrong. It still has East and West Germany, and many other things that have changed since the early 80’s. It is still perfect, however, for answering the question of “Where does the sun go when it sets?”

I believe in giving kids factual answers to their questions, not made-up ones. No, the sun does not go to bed, the earth rotates on its axis so that when it is nighttime here in the USA, it is daytime in other countries, like China. Saying “Goodnight” to the sun is a-ok, but as kids grow toward their preschool years, it is time to learn what really happens.

All you need for this is a flashlight, a sticker, and a globe, and a curious little kid.  It works best if you do this activity in a room without direct sunlight so your kiddo can see the flashlight’s beam when it is turned on. Help your child find where you live on the globe, and put a small sticker (or post-it note) on your “home.” Now, ask your child to hold the flashlight and shine it on your “home” — that’s daytime. Ask your child to stay very still and keep the flashlight pointing straight ahead. Turn the globe so your little one watches the “sun” pass across the globe as it spins.  Talk about what’s happening. Pick another country, like China, that is on the opposite side of the globe. Talk about how when it is daytime at home, it is nighttime in China, and vice versa. So, the sun doesn’t go anywhere — we do. Take turns being the sun and rotating the globe. Watch your child make the connection!

I realize this does not take into account the earth’s rotation around the sun, etc., but it is factually accurate enough for the preschool level!


Coupons, scissors, oh my!

November 15, 2009

Here’s a trick we just discovered today! This morning I was sitting at the kitchen table clipping my coupons and my almost 4-year-old son asked if he could help. I handed him the stack I’d already cut from (which still contained plenty of coupons we wouldn’t use), we got his scissors out, and he went to town!

Those coupons are perfect for kids to cut up (not to mention they’re free)! The coupons themselves are outlined by short, straight lines, perfect for learning how to cut along a line, and the pages are full of other things that kids love to try to cut out… food items they like, people, letters, etc.

One of the skills that kids should learn before kindergarten is how to use scissors. It is not only good for manual dexterity and hand-eye coordination, but it is a pre-writing activity too.

Before you know it, you’ll have a coupon-clipping, bargain-hunting child on your hands!


Learning How to Disagree

September 22, 2009

It seems that children tend to reach the age of truly disagreeing between years 3 and 4… It is important for them to learn that it is o.k. to disagree, but that there is a respectful way to do it. This requires an open mind on your part as the parent, to allow your children to state their own points of view when they differ from your own. However, I think the investment is worth the effort!

I’m working on helping my nearly 4-year-old child learn how to disagree respectfully. Though there a million things pulling me in every which direction, I’m working on teaching myself to give him my full attention so that he knows I respect him, what he thinks, and what he has to say. Yes, he’s only 4, but this is a crucial time when he’s learning how to treat others. Jumping up and down, yelling, and using mean words or tones of voice will not get my undivided attention, but talking with me in a calm “indoor” voice will.

I am trying to remember to validate his opinion (the fact that he has one), even if I disagree, because I want him to think for himself. He is expected to be able to explain his position, and if it seems reasonable, I may change my mind. Sometimes there are things that he knows that I don’t, or aspects of an issue that I haven’t considered. Of course, some things are non-negotiable, like hand washing before eating, or choosing mint chocolate chip ice cream over strawberry sherbet.


Learning the 3-C’s of good health

August 13, 2009

The City of Arlington has launched a city-wide campaign at the start of this new school year to try to avoid Swine Flu problems this year. They’re advocating the 3-C approach: clean, cover, and contain. Clean your hands, cover your mouth when sneezing or coughing (with your arm, not your hands!), and contain the virus (stay home if you’re sick)! I think this is a technique that should be taught to all kiddos as they grow up. No need to “tough it out” if you’re sick. Stay home and get better!

For tips on helping kids learn how to wash their hands, check our earlier post on this issue.


Running, walking, moving with a map

August 11, 2009

Part of our regular routine in the mornings is to go for a run or a walk. The kids ride in the double jogger and I do the work. Well, I’ve decided it is time for them to do some of the work too! I’ve printed several different running routes of different lengths and have labeled them with their mileage and named each one. The maps have been put into plastic sheet protectors for safe keeping, and my 3.5-yo son is going to be our navigator! To keep things fun, I’ve mapped out several different “new” routes for each mileage I need to accomplish, and we’re going to work together to read the map and figure out where we need to turn. We’ll bring the maps with us on our runs and I’ll let him pick which route based on the mileage of the day. He and I both have a passion for maps, and my kids are my best cheerleaders when I’m running, so this is a win-win! (Google Maps is a great free program to use! You can drag & drop your route and even save your maps!) I can’t wait to try this same approach for future road trips…


Monkey see, monkey do – Model reading!

June 26, 2009

As the old saying goes, “Monkey see, monkey do. Monkey does the same as you.” To help develop a love of reading in your children, model your own love of reading — even if you don’t really love it. Sit down with a book, a magazine, or the newspaper, and enjoy some reading time on your own. Let your child see this.

Here’s a challenge for today: At some point today, tell your kiddo that it is reading time. Set the timer for 10 minutes and grab something to read – anything! Sit down where your child can see you, and read.  Encourage your child to do the same. Eventually, it will catch on and you’ll really grow to appreciate the quiet time!

Show your child there’s an alternative to TV, video games, and computers that engages your brain!


Alphabet BINGO for car trips

June 23, 2009

Ah, the fun of car trips with little kids… “Are we there yet?” “I have to go to the bathroom!” “I’m hungry.” “She’s crossing the line!” “No, that’s mine!”

We’re about to pack up and trek across several states to visit some extended family. This is our first road trip with children that will be longer than 6 hours in transit, so I’m brainstorming things to do in the car with them aside from turning on the DVD player.

Here’s one I came up with that will be easy to make and fun to do, and your kiddos will learn something along the way!

Using any paper you have handy (be resourceful and use the backs of scratch paper!), draw a BINGO board – a 5×5 square with 5 rows of 5 squares each. You don’t have to measure or be precise — this isn’t going to be graded. Write one letter in each square. Find a washable crayon or a sheet of small stickers (those garage sale dots would be good or the really inexpensive sheets of “Way to Go!” stickers that teachers use). Toss it all in a big ziploc bag or envelope, and pack it in your bag of car activities.

You can play Alphabet BINGO any way you’d like. You can have your kids look for any letters they see, specify billboards, signs, or license plates, or even identify real things they see that start with the letters on their boards. Have them call out the letters they see and say out loud the sound(s) the letter makes. Be sure to bring along some extra paper because they’ll have so much fun playing this that you may need to make more boards while on the road.

This can extend further for kids who can write their letters. Let them help make the boards!

When you’re on that road trip this summer, or even just a short drive across town, whip out the BINGO boards and start playing!


Home-made cards from your kids

June 19, 2009

If your kiddo is big enough to wield a crayon, he/she is big enough to make home-made cards to send to loved ones! I found a pack of blank cards & envelopes at Hobby Lobby in the stamp aisle. The pack was originally $5.99 but I had my trusty 40% off coupon, so we got quite a steal on 50 blank cards & envelopes!

Whenever we have a need to send a thank-you note or card from our kiddos, I whip out these blank notes, and let them go to town using whatever they want to design the card — crayons, washable markers, stickers, stamps, paper/scissors/glue stick, etc. No two cards are the same! They design the outside, and I write the message on the inside.

The recipients just love these cards, and I love the fact that my kids have fun making them and they’re SO much more affordable than the personalized note cards I used to order for them.  🙂


An attitude of gratitude

June 18, 2009

Saying “thank you” to someone for something nice is definitely a trait worth praising. Once your child has mastered this, take it a step further…

As young as you can, start going around the dinner table each night and have everyone share something he/she is thankful for that day.  Your child might start off by naming things that might be silly, or whatever he/she sees when looking around the room. This is a good chance to toss back that infamous question of, “Why?” to get the conversation rolling. (Goodness knows you probably hear that question enough during your day!)

This exercise is not only good for developing that attitude of gratitude that everyone could certainly use, but also helping to develop your child’s memory recall. You can talk through your child’s day together, and use the conversation to help jog his/her memory of what he/she did that day. This might help with the, “I don’t know” or “Nothing…” answer you might get when you ask, “What did you do at school today?”

Eventually, you’ll hear your little one giving thanks for many things… and tomorrow’s answer might be, “I’m thankful for you.”

(I’ve read this idea many places, so I’m not sure to whom I should give credit.)