The Growth and Giggles Blog

Ideas for helping parents and their preschoolers.

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Kirby & Christen

Kirby & Christen

  For more about Kirby, read here.
  For more about Christen, read here.

Posted by on in Physical Development
Balance Boosting Bonanza   In an earlier article on gross motor development, we focused on the upper body as the development stages go from the head down (and the core outward). Today, we would like to revisit gross motor early intervention with a focus on strengthening balance. This is a task that can easily be accomplished in the small moments of daily routine such as while waiting - give the child the challenge to stand on one foot, switch feet, put arms out to the side to help them balance, etc.   We have touched on this topic before in the blog so we'll put some links as well as some additional ideas here for you: put a long piece of yarn on the rug making straight lines, then curvy lines along with more ideas listed under pretend balance beams using large steps and small steps (more difficult) have the child make their own design (spiral?) from...
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More Ways to Strengthen Finger Muscles   As mentioned previously, children today are learning to type but their hands aren't strong enough to write or do other tasks like being able to eat without spilling on themselves which is a skill that requires hand strength and coordination. People want and need to write legibly and quickly. Arts and crafts, the playing of musical instruments, cooking, measuring....all parts of life require finger strength.     Here is a list of some ways to build finger strength: climbing trees or jungle gyms folding clothes (make a matching game out of the socks) crawl through toy tunnels or cardboard box tunnels pretend to be animals and crawl around sweep with a child-size broom wash the car (or make a car wash tunnel with a garbage bag cut into strips - this can also be seaweed that they can crabwalk through on the ocean floor) cooking! stir, knead, cut, roll play with...
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Fine Motor Progression: Developing Small Muscles The most common use of fine motor muscles today may be learning to use a keyboard which is a wonderful skill to have but has the touchscreen surpassed that, or voice commands? We urge you to not forget to work on the development of finger and hand muscles in your wee ones. There is a fine motor progression we will follow to give you a better idea of how to work your way into this. In all of these activities, it is important for the adult to participate with the child in the activity before letting them do it on their own while the adult is involved in something else nearby. At around the age of six months or as soon as they can sit up, sit them next to the drawer where the plasticware is kept and let them take everything out and put it back in again. This will...
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Strengthening the Large Muscles aka Gross Motor Early Intervention Strengthening large muscle groups (gross motor skills) helps with balance, strength, eye-hand coordination, eye-foot coordination, and overall body coordination (proprioception). This can be done in many ways and starting from an early age. It is important to help your child learn to be aware of where there body is in space. As we go through some techniques to developing these skills, there is a general guideline to remember: Children develop from the head down and from the center of the body outward...the head develops before the feet and the shoulders before the hands. In all of these things it is important to remember to never tease a child by calling them a clutz. Even if they have these tendencies, early intervention can help with that. From early on, eye-hand coordination can be developed with the use of a mylar balloon hanging from above (on a mobile, etc.) so that the child can watch it....
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Posted by on in Learning Games
Sight Word Spectacular As mentioned before, Kirby believes that teaching sight words and phonetics together is the best way to set kids up for a future of reading well. In this post, we'll cover some sight word games to play and the words to use when making these games. When making your own sight word cards, it is important for us to start by mentioning that young eyes need the sight words written very largely (1-2 inches high). The muscles of young eyes are learning how to focus on things. Another helpful tip is to write mainly in lower case letters on pieces of cardboard or another sturdy card paper.  In choosing which words to begin with, use the names of family members including the child's name with upper and lower case letters. Write the child's name, then Mama (use upper and lower case m with Mama to make it easier), and the names of...
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Pre-reading Fun: Alphabet Hotel Expanded! However abstract learning letter names and sounds can be, normally children can do it. It is not too different and equally abstract when a child who has never been to a farm looks at a picture of a cow and says, "Cow...mooo." As you may have read in the previous post, the Alphabet Hotel homemade game can be a great way to get your child learning letters. Now, we'd like to give some options to grow this tool into a toolkit! When you sense that a child may be interested in reading, start with games like Alphabet Hotel. It can be played by different ages and levels of pre-reading children. A two-year-old may play by matching the letters while an older sibling can name the letters as they match them, and an even older child can give the name and sound that the letter makes. If a child is not interested, leave...
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Developing a Reader: the world of pre-reading The first step in pre-reading is reading to your child as they grow inside and can hear what your saying, the rhythms and sounds of reading. When they are born, start naming whatever they are looking at (get other people to do this too). Name whatever they hold...if it's a rattle, name it but if they shake it, say "shake". Once the child learns the sounds to make their own "sound language" treat those as real words. For example, in giving the child the choice of milk or juice to drink, pronounce each option very correctly then if they respond with "mmmm" say, "You want milk." You will know if this is not what they want as they will show you with their unhappiness. At that point you can respond with, "Oh you want juice." This is real talking for them at this stage. A lot of children learn the alphabet...
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Meeting Learning Challenges Head On Does your gene pool have learning challenges in the mix: ADD/ADHD/autism/dyslexia? Studies of children diagnosed with autism show that early intervention has helped to the point that the autism was undetectable. There are also early intervention techniques for physical challenges. Almost any problem that presents itself in childhood can be helped if we work with the child in fun and helpful ways. Involving as many senses as possible in the learning process including physical activities is a key factor. If the body can move while learning, by the time a child is school-age the brain will have made all kinds of new connections. Maria Montessori, the first female doctor in 19th century Italy, saw children labelled "mentally retarded" and believed they could learn. She broke everything down into small components and taught using the body through doing activities that laid the groundwork for math, language, and all other learning. After Montessori...
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Growing Families: Avoiding Sibling Rivalry Working toward avoiding sibling rivalry is really teaching a life skill. As your family grows, there are ways to prepare older children for the arrival of the newest addition and to get them through the toddler years when baby becomes a little explorer. It is important to be truthful when preparing the older sibling for the arrival of a younger sibling. Try to avoid saying something that would be confusing like, "the baby will be so much fun to play with!" The baby won't be playing with anyone for a while. More helpful things to say might be, "We will need to be gentle with the baby's tiny little hands. I could use your help at bathtime. Would you like to wash her feet?" When baby comes, teach the older child how to hold the baby explaining how to support the head. Sit with them and read a story together.  The older...
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Finding Focus: Ways to Increase Attention Span The development of the ability for delayed gratification can be done from an early age. Increasing one's attention span will eventually affect many aspects of life from saving money to controlling a temper or facing temptation to do the wrong thing. It is important to start at the beginning. The fact is the younger the age, the shorter the attention span. Infants have needs that should be met immediately. They need to know that their needs will be taken care of and this is exactly where they should be at developmentally. Toddlers have enough ability to wait with distraction or accept help to accomplish the thing for which they're waiting. Preschoolers can be stretched to increase their ability to wait with some help. If you're curious where your child's attention span is at, try this little test... Place a raisin or M&M under a cup making sure your child sees what...
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Posted by on in Parenting
Travelling with Littles Travelling with children can be a special time, even on a road trip! The kids have the potential to triple their vocabulary on a week-long car trip if that's what is chosen to work on. Relationships among family members can improve with interactive car games. Whether infant, toddler, or early elementary, littles can have fun and leap ahead in cognitive development and fine motor skills while en route to your holiday destination. While technology is a very handy tool to have when travelling, make sure your children are not on their devices the whole travel time. Pack a backpack/travel bag per child that they may fill with their travel treasures. Elementary age children can usually make independent choices on what to leave and what is important to bring. This may include dolls (with add-ins of ribbons, pieces of fabric, etc.) that would be useful for making up stories so be sure...
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Posted by on in Learning Games
Complex Hoops In our final hoop installment, we'll look at how to use hoops to teach more complex ideas while keeping it user-friendly for children. Preschoolers cannot think with adult logic but they can grasp more intellectually by using tangible objects, for example using hoops to learn sorting.  When using hoops to teach sorting make sure only two varieties (colors/shapes) are being used. For a 2 year old, place the hoops on the ground next to each other and present a group of circles and squares that can be sorted into the hoop for circles and the hoop for squares. The same could be done with two colors. In general, most two year olds can grasp this concept. For three year olds, it is always best to start with two varieites. If this is easy, move to three options to sort and so on with four varieties of color/shape, etc. When the child...
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Posted by on in Learning Games
Making and Using HOOPS: Part 2 How to Use a Hoop: Place the hoop on the floor, one for each person (including parents), and take turns telling each other how many body parts to put into your hoop. Be creative: elbow and knee, bottom and two hands, etc….any two body parts. This aids in learning inside/outside and number of parts. (Parents/grandparents: only do what you can safely do. If you have any concerns, check with your doctor.) Kukla is a Turkish game most commonly played by making an O in the dirt and piling up rocks in the center. This can also be played indoors with a hoop and homemade bowling pins or a pile of blocks inside the hoop. Once the pile is set, use bean bags or rolled up socks (socks are one of the safest indoor balls) to throw and knock it down. If anything is knocked down, everyone yells in unison “Kukla!” We...
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Posted by on in Physical Development
Making & Using HOOPS: Part 1 Ways to Make a Hoop: Buy a hula hoop. Garden hose: Make different sizes on your own using and old garden hose. Cut in preferred lengths, bend it, buy dowels to connect the ends (take a small piece of hose to the store as a sample so the dowel will fit exactly). The dowel should be cut into 1-1.5 inch pieces. Stick both ends of the hose tubing into the wooden dowel until stuck together, then tape over that seam with clear or duct tape (hint: if children can see the seam, they may want to take it the tape off).  Coat hanger: Stretch out a wire coat hanger using pliers, leaving the twisted part intact. Cut off the hook and turn down the stump. Make the remaining part of the hanger into a hoop then tape over the sharp twisted part. Clear tubing: Buy clear, plastic tubing from a hardware...
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Posted by on in Learning Games
Math Fun Today’s activities will be toward benefiting pre-reading and pre-math skills. We will get the body and senses involved. It is important to remember to set up everything so there will be minimal clean-up afterwards. (For instance, on top of an old shower curtain or sheet.)   Finger Painting with Shaving Cream Find a dark surface (for example, table, play table cloth). Spread out shaving cream. (Don’t do this activity if the child will put it in their mouth. Warn them not to. It’s gross!) Have them draw the number in the shaving cream with their finger. If you are doing “Number of the Day!” have them make that number a few times. Then have them turn it into a picture. Have them make that number of dots. Turn it into a picture. Turn it into that number of lines, or squiggles, etc., and then into a picture. As long as they...
Tagged in: learning games Math
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2 Quick Ideas to Help with Balance & Leg Strength 1. Put pieces of masking tape (approximately the length of the child's foot) : one piece for hopping and two side-by-side pieces for jumping along a path. Wherever you put the two pieces, direct your child to "Jump!" and when they get to the single piece of tape remind them to "Hop." This course can be as long or short as you like, indoor or outdoor, from the kitchen table to the bathroom to brush teeth after a meal, etc. This activity is growing muscles in your child's body, teaching the ability to balance (especially when hopping), and learning to follow directions is a benefit as well. 2. There is also the option of doing one long straight tape line on the floor (or yarn/ribbon/rope could work as well) in order to give the child a pretend tightrope or balance beam. Walk forward and backward, put on some music and do...
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Posted by on in Parenting
Magic Listening Mist Materials:      Spray Bottle (the more whimsical, the better) Water + drop of mint oil or mouthwash   Anytime children need to be focused and giving attention one can whip out some Magic Listening Mist! This is a simple tool, easy to make, and very easy to apply. As used by some kindergarten teachers, spraying a little scented mist into the air at the appropriate time can be a way of triggering little imaginations and therefore producing more attention. Beware of overuse or use when not needed as some of the magic slips away under these circumstances. However, when instructions are being given for the next task at hand, this little item can be very useful. Notice the scent added to the water? We often do things with the other senses while leaving out smell. It is very powerful and another gateway to the brain! The aroma of mint can...
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