The Growth and Giggles Blog

Ideas for helping parents and their preschoolers.

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Teaching Kids About Race, Disability, and Other Differences Between People “Mommy, they're talking funny!” “Why does she walk like that?” “Why is his face brown?” “What’s wrong with that lady?” Why is it that kids always ask those questions so loudly? People usually understand that our little ones are just discovering the world, rather than being prejudiced, but it can still be mortifying when they ask awkward questions! Can we do anything to pre-empt these kinds of questions? How do we respond to them? How do we cultivate the respect for diversity that we want our kids to have? Dealing With the Questions Preschoolers aren’t really capable of thinking inside their heads. Pretty much everything that goes through their brains comes out of their mouth. (You’ll see this as kids learn to count. Even if you tell them to count quietly, they will mouth the numbers because they can’t do it internally.) So when they encounter something they haven’t seen before, you can...
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Posted by on in Discipline
The Toys Are Being Mean! “My son (2.5) is finally into imaginative play. However, the characters aren't always nice to each other. They say things like "you're not my friend". Sometimes they are really bad and get put into the corner. Do I intervene when the characters are being mean and saying things I wouldn't let my son say?” Sometimes our sweet babies come out with words and behaviors that we haven’t taught them. It can be upsetting, and we wonder, “Do I need to nip this in the bud? Or should play be correction-free territory?” Preschoolers like to “try on” words and actions that they have observed—whether from siblings, preschool, the playground, or tv. Imaginative play can be a safe place to do this experimentation. It doesn’t mean they’ve internalized the behaviors, or that they’ll start talking like that all the time. So, the first thing to do is to keep watching over the course...
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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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Build Pre-Writing Skills from Birth Through Preschool The ability to write, once a child is old enough, largely depends on the finger and hand strength and the coordination he has developed in his early years. You would think this would happen naturally, but teachers and physical therapists are seeing more and more children whose hands and fingers are not up to the task. Even in third and fourth grade, teachers are sending home notes asking parents to please help their children to do tasks which develop finger strength. Good news! There are many fun activities from infancy on that you can do with your child to prepare him for success in this important area of life. Tummy Time Giving your baby tummy time from her newborn days is an important part of developing needed strength. (If your little one is no longer an infant, and she didn’t get much tummy time, don’t worry! Read further down.) As babies...
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How to Help Your Distractible Child Follow Directions Does this sound familiar?    “Evan, put on your pajamas.”    “Take off your pants and put on your pajamas.”    “Evan, put down your LeapReader and put on your pajamas!”    “Evan, what are you supposed to be doing right now?”    “I don’t know.” Preschoolers, and even many elementary schoolers, are highly distractible, and that can make it hard for them to follow your directions in a prompt manner. This can be frustrating for parents, who just want their kids to do what they ask! Here are some strategies for working with a distractible child to maximize cooperation. Give a heads up. A few minutes before you want an instruction carried out, let your child know what’s coming. Say, “In five minutes, when the timer goes off, it will be time to stop what you’re doing and get your pajamas on.” This is especially true if your child is...
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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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Textures for your Toes So often we think to let children feel textures with their hands, but we seldom think to let their feet experience new textures. Feeling textures with the feet is great for toddlers and preschool aged children. It stimulates the nerve endings in their feet as well as working on balance. And it is fun. How Do We Play? Place several textures in a row on the floor. Examples: Soft spongy foam from packing or bubble wrap. The large bubbles make a loud bang when popped, so avoid those for toddlers and young pre-school aged children. It can frighten them and ruins the experience. You also could use a mesh bag that oranges come in, a terry cloth towel, clear cellophane that makes crinkly sounds when  stepped on, fuzzy fabrics like velvet and fake fur, the bottom of a Styrofoam egg carton, or clean meat trays. Tape them down to avoid slips and falls.  Have all ages walk  barefooted on the...
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Posted by on in Uncategorized
Bubbles in a Cup Bubbles in a cup is a great summer activity for outside. It teaches concentration and attention span, strengthens the muscles of the mouth, provides a science lesson, teaches following directions, and is lots of fun! Materials:  Towel to soak up spills if inside Tray under the cup or bowl Flat-bottomed bowl or cup – one per child A little Liquid detergent for dishes in water Straw – one per child (for bubbles that float, add a little cooking oil) Procedure: 1. If inside, put down a towel on the floor under their work. 2. Squirt dishwashing liquid into the bowl.  Not much is needed. 3. Add a little water – maybe 1 inch). 4. Hand them a straw (If they do not know how to blow, blow air through a straw onto their arm, then let them try.) 5. Let them blow bubbles galore – the bubbles may overflow the bowl.  They’ll love it! 6. Warn them not to...
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Activities and Classes for Preschoolers Structured activities and classes for preschoolers abound these days. Amid the dazzling array of opportunities, how do we know what choices are beneficial for our kids, and how much is too much? A good rule of thumb for preschoolers is to use their age as a guideline for the number of group activities a week. A two-year-old probably can’t handle more than two classes a week (this includes religious services/Sunday school), and a three-year-old shouldn’t have more than three a week. It’s also important to know your child’s personality here. Are they energized by being around people? Do they do better in smaller classes or just doing activities with one other friend? Follow your child’s lead. Art, music, and sports can all be fabulous for preschoolers. The important thing is that they be physically engaging, age appropriate, and focused on experience rather than outcome. Look for activities that provide tactile learning...
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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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Posted by on in Uncategorized
Games to Play with Hula Hoops Hula hoops are great tools for developing physical skills, and they are lots of fun too! A preschooler probably won’t be able to use a hula hoop for its intended use yet, but there is still a lot they can do with one.  Here is a list of games and learning activities for hula hoop time. Lay the hoop on the ground and use it as a target for a bean bag toss. Put a series of hoops on the floor, and have your child follow directions to hop from hoop to hoop. They can jump with both feet, step, hop on one foot, etc. Use a hoop as a round balance beam. They can walk one foot in front of another around the circle, or they can stand on the hoop with their toes pointing toward the inside of the circle and side step (step, together, step, together.) Side-stepping in...
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Teaching Your Child Ball Skills—Part 3: Throwing Now that you’ve been working on catching and hitting with your little one, you may want to move on to throwing skills. Obviously, your baby has probably been tossing toys around since he could sit up, but you’ll want to work with your preschooler on how to throw properly and how to make the ball go where he wants it to. The best place to start is with underhand throwing. Use something squishy that your child can easily grasp. A rolled-up pair of socks is perfect for this. Have him hold onto the “ball” and swing his hand backward, then forward, and back again. Then have him swing his hand back and hold it there, then forward and hold it there. This helps develop control. Explain that when he swings his hand forward, that’s when he lets it go. When he has practiced swinging his hand forward and letting go, then...
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Teaching Your Child Ball Skills—Part 2: Hitting Hitting a ball is a great activity for developing eye-hand coordination, and it lays a foundation for many sports activities as your child grows. As a bonus to you, this section provides some great games your child can play while you are cooking dinner or otherwise occupied! Have you noticed how fascinated little ones are with balloons? Batting a balloon is a perfect early step to learning how to hit a ball. Start with a helium balloon anchored to the ground by a string. (Tie it to something heavy.) Show your child how to hit the balloon and then wait til it pops back up again before he hits it again. This helps him follow its progress with his eyes, work on depth perception, and develop a sense of timing in hitting a ball. Once your child is batting a helium balloon well, tie a regular balloon to the top of...
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Teaching Your Child Ball Skills—Part 1: Catching Did you know that you can work with a newborn on ball skills? Ok, she’s not going to be playing catch with you right away, but playing ball involves a complex group of skills, some of which you can be helping your child develop from infancy. Here is a sequence of activities that you can work on with your child as she grows to help her develop coordination, strength, and motor skills that will benefit her all her life. Two notes: as with all activities, stop before your child gets bored or tired. Very short spurts of these activities are fine—in fact, great! Second, if your child is not a baby any more, it’s not too late! You can still play these games together and use many of the same activities to teach a preschooler or elementary schooler to catch. 1. Tracking with the eyes. You know the saying, “Keep your...
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Teach Your Preschooler Colors Colors are one of the first things that parents think about teaching their children. Teaching your preschooler colors can be a lot of fun. You should wait to introduce colors until your child has a solid vocabulary of nouns. A preschooler’s brain is wired to learn the names of objects before learning to describe those objects. Kids have what is called the “language explosion” between 18 and 24 months of age, during which they will be learning lots and lots of nouns. Work with their brains during this time by naming everything, and by not confusing things by adding adjectives. After about the age of two, your child may be getting ready to learn colors. The best way to kick off this process is by having a “red day.” (Really, it can be any color you want.) Pick a color, like red, and focus on it. Have everyone wear red. Pick...
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Dealing with Bickering Few things can grate on a mom’s nerves like constant fighting. You want your kids to be best friends with each other, to play well together, and to love each other, but you may be at a loss as to how to deal with the inevitable bickering. The first step to dealing with a fight is to help your kids calm down. When emotions are running high, kids are not capable of problem solving. You may need to separate the children, not as a punishment, but as a break to help each one regain some equilibrium. Do you know what calms your children down? Is it being alone or cuddling with you? Do they feel better when they sit down with a book or doll or when they listen to music? Does it help them to have a comfort item? If you ask your children to take a break in their...
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Reading to Your Wiggly Preschooler You’ve heard that reading to your children is important for their eventual success in school and in life. But your preschooler just won’t sit still to listen to you read! In order to have success at reading to your little ones, you need to have the right goals for your reading time. For infants, reading is about hearing the intonation of your voice. They aren’t going anywhere, and they don’t understand the words, so you can read whole sections from your own books if you want. Once your baby starts getting busy, reading is about vocabulary building. Vocabulary for babies and toddlers is all about nouns. At this age, you should be looking at board books together and naming only one object per page. No adjectives—just “ball,” “truck,” or “book.” They need to understand names of objects before you add colors, shapes, or sizes to those objects. Your toddler will want...
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