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Archive for the ‘Extending the Learning at Home’ Category

How to Set Up a Child’s Room for Playful Learning

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By Lee Scott, Contributing Writer and Goddard School Educational Advisory Board Member

Setting up a child’s room can be so much fun, but it can also be overwhelming. Don’t worry – you likely already have more than you need. Do not stress over how educational each toy is or feel like you need to fill up the room. I recall my nephew as we were setting up his room. He lined up all his trucks on a shelf and announced, “Auntie Lee, just leave the blocks and trucks. You can sell the rest.” He was four.

The two most important things are safety and fun. The learning part will come as your child explores, imagines and plays. Here are some tips to get you started:

  • Use colorful bins or tubs and sort toys your child can easily access;
  • Create a reading nook by placing books on a low shelf or bin. Add a soft place to curl up and read;
  • Place a small plastic mirror on the wall at ground level – it’s a wonderful addition for infants and toddlers;
  • Add art and science or math spaces in an area that can be made messy and then easily cleaned up again. For art projects, have a variety of papers, paints, crayons and other materials on hand. For math and science discovery, measuring cups, bowls, rulers, dried foods like pasta and even food scales are wonderful resources for hands-on learning;
  • Think about what toys are safe for your children at their current age levels. Place those within easy reach and let your children dump them out and play away;
  • Create a dramatic arts area where your children can dress up, play pretend and use recycled food items to expand their understanding of the world around them;
  • Add new items and rotate older ones out occasionally. Later, bring some of the older ones back;
  • Blocks, puzzles, board games and stacking toys are always a hit;
  • Introduce new toys one at a time and add items that might give your children a challenge. For example, if they can do a 10-piece puzzle, add a few 15-to-20-piece puzzles into the mix;
  • You don’t have to create a designated space for technology since it should enhance other learning experiences. Instead, take a tablet outside for a photo or video-making session, help your child create an e-book in your reading nook or look up steps to create a robot in your science area;
  • Avoid clutter as it can be overwhelming and inhibits creativity and exploration.

Most importantly, don’t forget to have fun as you set up this space, and be sure to keep an eye out for what fun learning experiences your children have there!

Travel Without Traveling: How to Explore the World With Your Family From Home

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By Jennifer Jipson, Ph.D., Contributing Writer and Goddard School Educational Advisory Board Member

I recently received a text in which I was prompted to do a series of calculations, and the resulting number would determine where I would travel on my next vacation. The list included exciting destinations near and far, but number nine on the list was Stay Home. With the magic of math, everyone ends up with number nine. Funny but frustrating!  I really enjoy traveling, and I know that experience with travel helps children learn about other places and people, helps them develop important skills like self-regulation and problem-solving and contributes to their growing confidence and curiosity. Unfortunately, the current global health pandemic limits tourism, but with a little creativity and planning, families can stay safely at home while still reaping many of the benefits of actual travel. In the example below, I share an approach to planning virtual vacations in a way that will provide your family with powerful learning opportunities and cherished memories.

Imagine a trip to San Francisco in which you visit the Exploratorium, the Bay Area Discovery Museum, the Golden Gate Bridge, Chinatown and Ghiradelli’s chocolate factory all without leaving your home: no stress, no meltdowns, no expense, and no packing! This type of travel is exactly what a friend of mine is doing with her children, and we can all do it too! Here’s a sample itinerary for a trip to San Francisco. Your family can adapt it or create your own travel plans to other destinations. For example, my friend invited her older children to help with planning activities, and they’ve gone to London, Japan, Paris and San Francisco all in the last month.

STEAM Project Day: The Golden Gate Bridge and Bay Bridge – Look at pictures of the Golden Gate Bridge and Bay Bridge online. Talk about how they are similar and different. Set out a variety of materials, such as paper towel rolls, popsicle sticks, Legos, cups, paper and whatever else you have for children to use to make their own bridge. You can find ideas online to inspire you at https://preschoolsteam.com/bridge-building-activities-preschoolers/. Measure how long you can make a bridge before it collapses. Put pennies on your bridge to see how many it can hold before it starts to sag. If your bridge falls, ask your children why they think that happened and what ideas they have to make it stronger. These types of questions engage children in science practices which support their inquiry and critical thinking. Science practices are a core component of the Next Generation Science Standards.

Cooking Day: Dinner in Chinatown – Watch a short video about Chinatown, such as this read-aloud of a storybook at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-dQVcX6sASA ).  Plan a menu for a dinner inspired by Chinese cuisine and cook it together. Lee Scott, Chair of the Goddard Educational Advisory Board, recently wrote a fantastic article about cooking with children that will help you get started. You can find it here: https://community.today.com/parentingteam/post/why-cooking-with-kids-is-worth-the-effort-and-how-to-get-started

Museum Day: The Exploratorium – This science center is chock full of hands-on, inquiry-based science exhibits. Their website offers an alternative experience with a menu of science snacks that provide ideas for interactive activities that families can do online or with common materials from around the house. Explore options together, or pick out a few in advance to do with your child. These activities will help children learn science principles, as well as engage in science practices. Best of all, they’re fun to do together!

Pretend Playday: The Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park – Gather your stuffed animals, dolls and family members and have a tea party in your own Japanese tea garden. Find a tranquil spot in your yard or a neighborhood park, and lay out a blanket. Serve tea or juice, and talk about the things you notice in the nature around you. Spending time in nature promotes better mental health for both children and adults by reducing stress. This positive impact is found even with small doses of time outdoors.

Treat Yourself Day: Ghiradelli Chocolate Factory – Watch a video about how chocolate is made here: https://www.pbs.org/video/kidvision-pre-k-how-chocolate-is-made-cfvz1o/). Make yourselves chocolate sundaes or brownies, and celebrate the fun of exploring San Francisco from your home. One of the most well-known benefits of family travel is the strengthening of family bonds. As you eat your treat, start making plans for where you’ll go next!

At its best, travel fills us with wonder and offers quality family time, and at its worst, it exhausts us. Thanks to technology and our own creativity, we can indulge our wanderlust by visiting exciting new places without leaving home. Have fun and share your adventures with us by posting your trips to Facebook and Instagram and tagging The Goddard School.

Simple Activities to Practice Thoughtfulness and Empathy for Others with Young Children

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Increased amounts of time spent as a family at home provides a great opportunity to help your children understand their roles within your family as well as in the larger community. This article will outline three simple activities that can help your children practice thoughtfulness and empathy both within and outside your home.

Activity One – Messages for Your Community

Have a conversation with your children about members of your community who are essential to our everyday life, such as the sanitation workers, healthcare workers, grocery store workers and postal workers who deliver your mail. Then head outside with some sidewalk chalk and assist your children in creating messages that essential workers from your community might see as they head to work or do their jobs. Your children can leave messages for the mail delivery people near the mailbox or a note for the sanitation workers by where you set out your trash cans. The message could say, “Thank you for all you do” or “Have a great day.” They could draw uplifting pictures, such as smiley faces or sunshine and flowers. This will help your children consider other members of their community and how they can play a role in thanking them for all that they do.

Activity Two – Daily Chore Charts

Talk with your children about taking responsibility for some daily tasks while they’re at home all day. This might include chores, such as making their beds, getting dressed on their own, helping to care for a family pet or assisting with outdoor yard work. Take time to explain why each task might be helpful to another family member or help your children have a better day. Work with your children to create a chart that outlines the daily tasks that you have discussed. Set aside time each day for your children to complete their daily chores. This can be especially helpful during times that you might need to get something done and need your children to be occupied. You can create a goal for them, such as completing all the assigned chores for a full week earns them a reward, like a special dessert or an allowance.

Activity Three – Daily Reflection Art

Set up a space in your home with art supplies where your children will be comfortable working independently. Toward the end of each day, ask your children to draw or paint their favorite and their least favorite activities or moments of their day. Once your children are finished, discuss their artwork with them and why each moment was their most favorite or least favorite. This is a great opportunity to help your children feel comfortable discussing their emotions, understanding how their behavior affects others and discovering how to improve their behavior and their experiences day after day.

Encourage your children to consider their well-being and actions and the well-being and actions of others, which are important factors in fostering their social and emotional growth. In all activities, practice listening actively and being truly present with your children as you navigate your new daily routines together.

Gardening with Your Children

Even as an adult, I am awed by watching seeds germinate. I check my pots every morning in case a squash plant has grown an inch overnight.

As you begin your spring planting this year, plan ways to include your children. They will also be amazed by how seeds Boy Gardeninggrow into plants. You can talk about life cycles, nutrition and the environment. This helps them learn concepts in science, but you can also help them learn about math, language and other subjects.  Some specific examples of these lessons include the following:

Let them get dirty.

Let your children play in the dirt, especially if they are under three years old. It is important for children to explore the texture of the soil and the plants. They will learn how to mold soil, to change its shape and volume and to contain a mess within a safe space for free exploration. These types of hands-on experiences help children make concrete connections to words and experiences.  Sensory based play and exploration will cultivate your children’s physical development, especially the important small muscles in their hands and the tendons in their fingers.

Teach them how to nurture.

Your children will love taking care of plants and watching them grow. Preschool age children enjoy jobs that create a sense of responsibility.  Working in a garden helps them see the fruits of their efforts, leading to a sense of pride and accomplishment. Talk to your children about the needs of the plants including food, water and sunlight. For children who are three years old and older, you can begin a conversation that compares what plants and people need to live. Your children can learn fundamental social and emotional skills like empathy, communication, cooperation and learn to identify and express feelings while gardening.

Incorporate math.

While gardening, your children can learn fundamental math skills like patterns, sequences and numeracy. Consider the following activities.

  • Patterns
    You can plan the garden with your children by grouping similar seeds together. You can plant the vegetables in rows or you can plant the flowers by color. Once the garden is growing, you can help your children to notice patterns by asking questions like these: “Which plants have thick stems? Which have thin stems?” and “How are these two plants the same?”
  • Sequences
    Track the growth of plants with your children over time. Ask them questions about the order in which parts of the plants grow. You can ask, “Which leaves grow first?” or “What grows before the flower blooms?”
  • Numeracy
    While observing your garden, ask your children to count the different parts of a plant as it grows. For example, you might ask, “How many leaves are there now?” Model and use comparison words like bigger, more than and faster.  Measure the plants with your children and talk about how much they are growing.  You can graph the height of plants over time together. Clear flowerpots can let you observe and measure the growth of roots, too.

Develop literacy.

Always engage in conversations with your children. Read books about gardens and teach them new words about plants. Teach them the language necessary to speak about how plants grow. Ask open-ended questions like “What do you see happening?” or “What do you think the garden will look like next week?” to encourage them to think and communicate about their surroundings. Use a photo album or a three-ring binder with page protectors to create a book about your gardening experiences.  You can review past experiences and encourage verbal and written language skills by reading it together. Your children can also use their creative skills to draw illustrations and decorate the cover.

At the end of the summer, we hope that you will have a beautiful garden and an enthusiastic, blooming gardener.

How to Get the Most Out of Parent-Teacher Conferences

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By Jennifer Jipson, Ph.D.

Contributing Writer and Goddard School Educational Advisory Board Member

If you haven’t already, you will soon receive an invitation to meet with your child’s teacher for a parent-teacher conference. These meetings are intended to complement the brief daily interactions that happen at drop-off and pick-up by providing an opportunity for a more focused and extended conversation about your child. These conferences are an essential building block of positive home-School relationships. When parents and teachers work together as partners, children benefit academically, socially and emotionally. To take the best advantage of the meeting, recognize that you and your child’s teacher share the common goal of nurturing your child to be a curious and confident learner who interacts well with others. This perspective will set the stage for productive conversations about your child’s progress, strengths and challenges.

When interacting with your child’s teacher, plan to spend time sharing information about your child and actively listening to the teacher’s perspective and advice. Each of you has expertise relevant to your child’s learning and development. By taking a collaborative approach, you can work together to identify how best to inspire and support your child as an individual. As you prepare for your part in this conversation, think about the following factors:

  • What would you like to know about your child’s experiences at School? It’s typical in parent-teacher conversations to focus on individual children’s learning progress, but you should also plan to ask about your child’s friendships, classroom behaviors, activity interests and general mood at School. Your child’s views matter too, so find some time before the conference to find out who your child plays with at School, what they like to do and what they think about their teacher;
  • What would you like your child’s teacher to know about your child’s experiences at home? As a parent, you have unique knowledge about your children, and you have a long-term investment in their well-being and success. Sharing your understandings about your child’s skills, temperament and interests can help inform the teacher’s guidance strategies. The teacher also can benefit by knowing more about changes in family circumstances that might affect your child’s experiences at School;
  • What can you do to facilitate your child’s learning at home? Learning extends beyond the classroom and happens anytime and anywhere. Identify ways to build connections between home and School activities to reinforce and enrich the learning that is happening in both environments;
  • How can you make the most of this opportunity to learn about your teacher’s perspective on your child? Focus on listening for understanding instead of listening to reply. Celebrate your child’s achievements, and strive to understand the teacher’s view when talking about areas of need. You may check your understanding by paraphrasing what you hear the teacher saying. This will show a willingness to understand the teacher’s point of view, and it will provide a chance for clarifying any areas in which communication may not have been clear.

As you plan for your parent-teacher conference, keep these tips in mind and approach the conversation as a dedicated opportunity to engage with someone who also wants the best for your child.

Save, Share, Spend Piggy Banks

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Teach your children how to be savvy with their money.

It’s never too early to teach your children about financial responsibility and the benefits of saving, sharing and spending money. Whether it’s a special treat they receive from the tooth fairy, money they are awarded for completing their chores or simply loose change that they find around the house, it’s time to get smart with what happens after they get the money. All children resort to happily stuffing their money away, but it’s important that they know what to do with it before stashing it in the bellies of their piggies.

It’s always a good idea for a child to have a piggy bank, but it’s time to revamp this old-school classic. Instead of putting all the money into one container, break it up into three parts, teaching your children how to spend, save and share their funds. Constructing a save, share, spend piggy bank is something that you can do with your little ones right at home. This project will help your children realize the importance of money and how it can be used in many ways.

You can use the Save jar as a rainy-day fund or for helping your children save money for something they really want to buy. The Spend jar is for spending money wisely on things that they are ready to purchase, and the Share jar is for giving back to the community or donating money to the cause of their choice. The goal of the different jars is to teach your children the hard work of saving money and the importance of using their funds wisely and effectively.

Materials that you’ll need

  • Three pint-sized Mason jars;
  • Three labels of your choice;
  • Chalk or any color paint marker.

Directions

  1. Remove the lids from the Mason jars and screw the metal bands back on.
  2. Secure one label to the middle of each of the jars.
  3. Write “Save” “Share” “Spend” separately on each label with chalk or the paint marker.
  4. Customize the piggy banks! Include your children’s names and let them decorate the jars.
  5. Display the piggy bank jars where you and your children can easily see and access them.

 

Spooky Science Fun

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By Lee Scott

Contributing Writer and Goddard School Educational Advisory Board Member

Fall has certainly arrived, and pumpkins are everywhere. Families are planning costumes for Halloween parties and decorating their homes. We thought it would be fun to provide a couple of spooky science experiments that are easy to do at home in keeping with the “spirit” of the occasion. Children love to get messy, and these hands-on activities will tap into their curiosity while they are learning.

Spooky Volcano – You will need a soda can or bottle, modeling clay, paper, vinegar, dark food coloring, dish soap and baking soda.

  1. Cover the bottle with the paper and the clay. Leave a hole at the top. Let it dry.
  2. Add one cup of vinegar, a few drops of the food coloring and a tablespoon of dish soap to the bottle.
  3. Put a tablespoon of baking soda in a bit of paper towel and push it into the can. The spooky volcano will erupt once the paper breaks down. Spooky!

Magic Images – You’ll need white paper, watercolor paints, paintbrushes and a white crayon.

  1. Your children can draw a scary face or pumpkins on the paper with the crayon.
  2. You can make a few more by drawing a witch or a ghost.
  3. Swap drawings, and have the other person paint over the paper with watercolors.
  4. The scary images will appear!

Ask questions while trying out these experiments.

  • What did we see?
  • What do you think will happen?
  • How can we experiment with the volcano or the paint?
  • What happened in our experiment?

Asking these questions while you experiment will support your children’s scientific-thinking skills.

 

Five Family-Friendly Ways to Explore the Voting Process

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Becoming familiar with the election process can help set a foundation for children to learn how casting their votes can make a difference. Your children will need you to explain vocabulary words including election, nominate, voting, campaign and ballots in an age appropriate way.

1. Vote for your favorite dinner 

Explain to your children that you will nominate two dinner choices and hold an election to determine the winner. All members of the family should participate. Allow enough time for your children to make campaign posters to show why they think their candidate (dinner choice) should be selected. This activity can be a great way to incorporate math skills by asking one of your children to count the ballots.

2. Vote for a bedtime story 

Choosing just the right bedtime story can be a long process for some children. Provide your child with a few options earlier in the day, and later have him cast a vote for his choice before the bedtime routine begins. This can help set a foundation for the importance of voting, while reducing the time it takes to select a story.

3. Hold a debate

The next time your family is contemplating a decision, whether it’s which spot to vacation this summer or whether it’s to get a pet, you can hold a debate among family members. This encourages children to organize their thoughts and be confident when voicing their opinions.

4. Plan for a movie night

It can be a challenge for all family members to agree on a movie. Encourage each family member to give a speech saying why the movie that she prefers should be the winner. After hearing everyone’s input, take a vote to see which movie wins. Explain to your children that sometimes the outcome does not reflect their choice and that they must make the best of it.

5. Create a rainy day list

Be prepared with a rainy day roster of activities. Create a list of things that your children can do on a rainy day. Encourage each child to vote for an activity. When the activity is complete, ask each child what she enjoyed about the activity and if she would want to do it again. This is a good way to incorporate how democratic policies are sometimes beneficial and at other times need to be looked at in a different way to be made better.

Four Steps to Creating a Beautiful Children’s Library in Your Home

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When it comes to your home, every child’s personal library should be a happy place to retreat to. Refreshing your child’s library space isn’t a lengthy process, and it can be done quickly. If your child’s library is collecting dust or is simply needing a makeover, try these four tips to start building a beautiful children’s library right in your own home.

Clean out the clutter. A fresh start is often the best way to inspire a new vibe to your reading area at home. Remove all the books from the shelf and start to sift through them. Divide the books into two piles, books your children read often and ones they do not read often. You can toss out the books your children have outgrown or never touched; put them in a bag and donate them or give them to family or friends.

Always add new books to your children’s collection. Board books, concept books, fairy tales, picture books, rhythmic books and early readers. Figure out what you don’t have and explore from there. Make sure you have an assortment of various books so you can build a multifaceted collection for your children. Try to incorporate pieces that have a range of difficulty levels, an assortment of genres and a diversity of cultures and authors. In this way, when one of your children is in the mood for a different type of book to read, there will be many options.

Make their library fun and inviting with a warm atmosphere. Consider relocating the library to a place where it will get the most use. Whether it’s in their bedroom, playroom or family room, you want your children to be able to feel they can easily access their home library and stay a while. Motivate them to search and grab by putting books low on the shelf or at their eye level so they can take books easily and often. Don’t forget to create a reading nook with a comfy chair, bean bag or a soft rug for an inviting space for them to lounge and hang out once they have found books to delve into.

Continue to nurture the collection and reading space. As your children grow, continue to keep their library relevant, up to date and aesthetically pleasing. Clean out and add new books as their interests and reading levels change over time. Continue to add to their collection. Don’t be afraid to swap out old furniture, artwork and decor to keep them interested and curious. You always want to keep them fascinated about exploring their space. Sometimes rearranging and adding a few great books is all that’s needed.

5 Family Traditions From Around the World Worth Trying

Celebrate the first day of school, the German way.

The kickoff to first grade is a big deal in Germany, as my American family learned while living in Berlin. The weekend before our daughter started first grade, we joined a celebration called Einschulung. Her school welcomed students with an assembly; afterward, families gave the children Schultüten—large paper or plastic cones filled with school supplies and sweets. When we moved back to the United States, we replicated Einschulung for my son. We invited our family over and asked them to bring a small school-related gift, like a notebook or pen. We made him a Schultüte, and the older kids put on a play about what school is like. It makes the children feel responsible, grown-up, and proud to be going to school.

Sara Zaske is the author of Achtung Baby: An American Mom On The German Art of Raising Self-Reliant Children. She Lives in Moscow, Idaho.

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Honor your ancestors, the Japanese way.

Traditional Japanese homes have a small family altar, or butsudan, as a sign of respect for elders who have passed away. When I go back to my family’s home in Japan, I still feel a spiritual connection to my ancestors as I make offerings at the butsudan—a bowl of rice, flowers for my grandmother, a can of beer for my grandfather. It feels truly healing. To set up a memorial, pick a quiet spot, put out photos, flowers, and other offerings, and tell kids about their ancestors. If we don’t mark our history, we may lose an important part of who we are.

Candice Kumai is a chef and the author of Kintsugi Wellness: The Japanese Art Of Nourishing Mind, Body, and Spirit. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Share your culture through stories, the Trinidadian way.

In Trinidad and Tobago, where I grew up, storytelling happens anytime, anywhere—not just at bedtime. We might be driving to the beach or walking to my grandmother’s house. People often tell folk stories about mythical creatures called jumbies to help explain things people don’t understand, such as a sudden illness. Regardless of where you come from, there is a benefit to telling traditional stories. At some point, I realized my kids, who were growing up in the U.S., had no idea what our folklore was, so I started telling them jumby stories. Telling these stories helps the children preserve their culture.

Tracey Baptiste is the author of Jumbies, part of a fantasy series for middle schoolers. Born in Trinidad and Tobago, she now lives in northern New Jersey.

Care for all animals, the Indian way.

To show gratitude to animals, families in southern India feed cows and birds during the annual Hindu harvest festival of Thai Pongal. Children learn that all species are interconnected and interdependent. I’ve followed this tradition in both India and the United States with my daughters. In Bangalore, I used to take my young daughters to a nearby shed to feed the cows. We also fed birds by placing fruits and grains on banana leaves and putting them out on our terrace—something we also did surreptitiously at our New York City apartment. Pick a day for an annual visit to a petting zoo, butterfly garden, family-friendly farm, or horse stable where you can feed the animals or help care for them. It’s a way to teach children about having compassion for all beings.

Shoba Narayan is the author of The Milk Lady of Bangalore: An Unexpected Adventure. She lives in Bangalore, India.

Exchange personal poetry, the Dutch way.

In the Netherlands, families exchange not only gifts but also poems during Sinterklaas, the Dutch winter holiday season. Older children and adults each draw a name and write a poem about the recipient. The poem usually has puns and is funny—the more mischievous and personal, the better. On “gift night,” people sit in a circle with hot drinks, and everyone reads the poem they receive out loud. I’ve learned that the real gift is the love that goes into the poem. You’re taking time to compose something special, letting someone know what they mean to you.

Rina Mae Acosta is a writer, photographer, and coauthor of The Happiest Kids In The World: Bringing Up Children The Dutch Way. She lives in Doorn, The Netherlands.

 

This article was written by Betsy Rubiner from Real Simple and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.