The Growth and Giggles Blog

Ideas for helping parents and their preschoolers.

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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in learning games
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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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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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 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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Math Principle #2: One-to-One Correspondence When teaching the math principle called “one-to-one correspondence”, it is important to involve physical development, fine motor skills, gross motor skills, and making it something they delight in – all at the same time! Then they will get it much faster. Count while Eating They can count each cheerio, or each green bean. Before they realize it, they are understanding subtraction! It gets the brain wired for math as a toddler. They may not know it, of course; but one day it will click. Tick Tock Game Also mentioned in our previous post on math, this game can be used to teach one-to-one correspondence. It involves the body and balance. When they say the number, lift a finger and have them jump. As a rule, only go as high as they are old (until the age of 5). Counting Steps Also, again, count when going up steps. Always go in order....
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20 Learning Games for When Mom or Dad is Exhausted Parents of preschoolers are tired people. Caring for little ones is exhausting work. We have the best intentions of providing enriching activities for our kids, but when exhaustion sets in, good intentions go out the window. To help you plan for those times when you need something your child can do while you are lying down or sitting, here’s a list of 20 activities. Finger paint in shaving cream spread on a cookie sheet. Play with play dough. Read. If you’re reading a well-known book, try changing some of the words or sentences and let your child have fun catching your “mistakes.” Play Chutes and Ladders or Candyland. Put on music and let your child dance. Try giving her a bean bag and challenge her to dance with the beanbag on her head, between her knees, or on her elbow. Play “red light, green light.” Play a following directions game. Give...
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Posted by on in Learning Games
What do I do with a Sandbox? When my oldest daughter was 15 months old, her dad built a sandbox. I (Kirby) knew it was going to be perfect! I could hang clothes out to dry while my toddler blissfully discovered pouring and measuring and building and dumping. Montessori had come to my house! I gathered up my basket of wet clothes, led my little girl over to the new sandbox, and headed for the clothesline. But she just stood there, staring at the sand and looking puzzled. Then it hit me—she didn’t know how to play with sand. So I abandoned my laundry and we spent time making mountains together and filling up her dump truck, pouring water onto the sand, and digging holes. After that, she knew what to do, and she knew how much fun it could be. It’s not just kids who haven’t learned how to play with sand. Lots of parents don’t know...
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Posted by on in Learning Games
Games to Play with String If you’re looking for a versatile toy with tremendous developmental benefits, a simple length of string, rope, or yarn is the way to go. Here are some games you can play with that string that address various areas of a child’s development. Many of these can be played anywhere! Keep yarn or string in your purse or pocket to pull out when your little one is getting bored and needs something fun and challenging to do. Balance and Coordination String, yarn, or rope makes a perfect balance beam. Stretch the string out on the floor, and show your child how to walk on it, putting one foot in front of the other. Your child can do lots of fun things on a balance beam: Walk on a curvy or zigzag line Balance on one foot on the string Do an arabesque (or scale) Jump zigzags back and forth across the string...
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Teaching Your Child Early Writing Skills “One of the best predictors of whether a child will function competently in school and go on to contribute actively in our increasingly literate society is the level to which the child progresses in reading and writing. Although reading and writing abilities continue to develop throughout the lifespan, the early childhood years—from birth through age eight—are the most important period for literacy development.” -- The International Reading Association As you can see from the above quote, writing skills are crucial for ensuring success in school and life. The good news is that activities that teach writing are things that kids love to do! The first step to learning to write is strengthening finger and hand muscles. For ideas on how to do this, see this post. Even while you are still working on hand strength, you can begin a progression of building writing skills in your child. A great way to...
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How to Make Grocery Shopping a Learning Experience Grocery shopping with preschoolers isn’t easy. We get goal-oriented about shopping and feel frustrated that our kids are slowing us down. But grocery stores offer a wealth of stimuli for a child’s brain, and shopping is a great opportunity to help your little one learn and grow. Below are some ways you can engage your child while getting your shopping done. Name everything. Everything you buy, hold it up and name it. Let your child hold, feel, and smell items. This will help your child’s vocabulary explode. Work on colors. Once your child knows lots of nouns, you can begin to work on colors. Hold up a banana and say, “Yellow. Yellow banana.” Do this with anything that has a clear color. Show your child something red, and then say, “Can you find anything red?” Let them name everything they can find that’s red. Play “I Spy.” Keep in mind that...
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How to Make a Travel Activity Book A travel activity book is a spiral notebook filled with learning games and fun activities for times your child needs to do something quiet, like in the doctor’s office, waiting rooms, or during car trips. It’s a combination of activities drawn onto pages, games held in envelopes stapled into the notebook, and blank pages for creative fun. Grab a notebook and let’s get started! Envelope games Pipe-cleaner people. In one envelope put in pre-made pipe-cleaner people, bits of cloth for clothes, and plain pipe cleaners for making props. Playing with posable pipe-cleaner people is great for your child's finger muscles and fine motor skills, and it makes for fun pretend play. You can tie pipe cleaner people onto a car seat for a preschooler so if your child drops them, he can pull them back up again. Tangrams. This doesn’t actually have to be tangrams. Just cut out a variety of...
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The Counting Worm Game for Teaching Numbers A counting worm is an engaging game for teaching numbers to preschoolers. Make your counting worm out of an egg carton. Cut one strip of 6 cups. This will be your worm. Draw a face on one end, and add pipe-cleaner antenna if you want. Write the numbers 1 through 6 on each of the bumps on his back. Be sure to write neatly and clearly since your kids are just beginning to learn their numbers. Cut a second strip of 6 cups apart into individual cups. This will be your worm’s “clothes.” On the back of each of these cups, draw dots, 1 through 6. Draw them in the same pattern that dots are drawn on dice. The numbers are easier to recognize in that pattern. Start your game with a story. Say, “This is the counting worm. He’s getting ready to go to school, but he needs your help...
Tagged in: learning games Math
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Learning Games to Play in the Car Does the idea of a car trip with small children fill you with dread? Road trips don’t have to be torture. In fact, they can be an immersion learning opportunity for your kids. If you fill your time in the car with fun games and activities, you can expect your children’s vocabulary and knowledge to grow exponentially in a short time while you cultivate fun memories and a strong relationship. The real challenge of road trips is keeping kids entertained. Here are some ideas that will engage your kids and help them learn and grow at the same time. Play rhyming games. Let the youngest child say a word and have everyone else say a word that rhymes. Try to come up with as many rhymes as possible. Read Piggle by Crosby Bonsall, and play “Piggle” by saying four words that rhyme, mixing up real words and nonsense words. Play I...
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Games to Play with Bean Bags Bean bags are fun learning materials for babies, preschoolers, and even older children. The easiest bean bag to make is to fill a child’s sock with popcorn, beans, or rice, and then tie a knot in the end of the sock. For babies, give them a bowl full of bean bags and let them pull them out and put them in. Say “out” and “in” as they move the bags. This is good for eye-hand coordination, hand strength, and learning the concepts of out and in. As children become able to stand, bean bags work great for throwing games. For ways to teach throwing skills, see this post. A first step is just to have your toddler stand over a bowl and drop the bean bag in. Next, you can teach the throwing motion. Have your toddler or preschooler hold the bean bag and swing their arm back and forth. Tell...
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