As adults, we can quickly pick out the longest, tallest, shortest, heaviest and smallest items but as with so many abstract concepts, these have to be learned by our little ones. Learning about comparative size is made all the more complicated because objects seem to change. For example, take an egg and a chicken - the egg is small, the chicken is large. Now add an osterich, suddenly the chick is small and the osterich is big. How did that happen? The chicken didn't suddenly shrink!
We are exposed to different sized objects every day. Talking about different sized objects will instil these abstract concepts. Many picture books also explore concepts of size. Look out in your stories and in the real world for examples and talk about them with your toddlers. Play games - take different toys and sort them by size, sort pieces of string or balls. Talk about the size order of food items on your plate - sliced carrots are bigger than peas, but smaller than boiled potaties. All of this will help them to cement their understanding.
Vegetables are REALLY interesting...no, really! Babies will eat anything that is fed to them, and aren't discerning about vegetables. Most toddlers will eat most vegetables too and not question them, but as they grow older, and perhaps helped by peer pressure as their social networks grow, children might decide that they don't like certain, or even any, vegetables.
Is it the colour? ...the texture? ...the taste? There are a multitude of reasons why children may begin to turn their noses up at vegetables, but do what you can to fight their reluctance and try to keep vegetables firmly on the agenda.
One way to make vegetables interesting is to have children think about them properly. Make a vegetable chart and depending on how old your children are, order them in different ways.
The youngest children will be able to order by size or to sort them by colour. Older children might be able to start with the sweetest through to the most bitter. You may even be able to teach them about seasonality. Although most vegetables are now available from the supermarkets all year round, there is a pattern of seasonality at which point differet vegetables are available. Perhaps you don't know yourself? In which case, spend time with your older children looking at the seasons of vegetables. Work out which are traditionally available in spring, summer, autumn and winter!
This is a great activity to use up some of the Christmas packaging you might have and also have a go at making some cardboard cookies to play with.
Take some brown corrugated card packaging and cut out lots of varied cookie shapes. Talk about the shapes you are cutting: are they round cookies, square cookies or heart shaped. Then, cut some white paper into the same shapes to make the cookies toppings. Think of some fun things to put on top. Draw chocolate sprinkles, raisins, cherries, grapes, and so on, onto each of the pieces of paper. Make sure you do a few of each. Using some tape, stick the toppings on the cookies.
Ask your child:
- What are the colours of the toppings?
- Sort them into groups that are the same
- Count each group and then count all the cookies
- Sort them into groups of the same shape
- Ask for 4 cookies with different toppings
- Look at three cookies together with different toppings and then hide one. Try to guess which one is missing
- Ask who would like to eat which cookies. i.e. Granny would like the lemon one, Mum would like the chocolate one
- Lay out the cookies on the floor to make a big shape
Learning the concept of big and small may seem quite simple, but in fact, learning about size is a part of mathematical concepts. Here are a few activities for the children to try out to help them learn sizes:-
Teddies and Wellies - Line up some wellie boots or shoes and grab a few different sizes bears and dolls. Try putting the dolls and teddies in each of the pairs of shoes. Predict whether the toys are too big or too small to fit in!
Dress-up time - Take a selection of hats, shoes and coats that belong to different members of the family. Try them on and decide if they are too big or too small!
Messy time - Make some hand prints with other children or do some yourself. Look at the prints together and say which are bigger and which are smaller. Measure them with a tape measure if you have older children or cut them out to compare them.
Story time - Read Goldilocks and the Three Bears and act out the story using chairs, different sized bowls etc.
Tubs and pots - Take a few tubs and pots of different sizes. Look at them and compare them. Fill some with water. Transfer the water between them to see which hold more and which are bigger than the others.
Books - Go to a bookshelf and look at all the books. Compare the sizes of the books and sort them in size order. You'll end up with a tidy books shelf too!
Maths and counting and numbers may not be your preferred subject and it may bring back memories of dreading the maths lessons as school and struggling over homework, but it doesn't have to be like that! While hard sums are a long way down the line for our children, it's a great idea to get them in the swing of counting and using numbers, even when they are small, so they are confident when they get older. It will serve as vital building bock for future maths.
Here are a few simple way of incorporating numbers, counting and sums into your toddler's life. You'll see how easy it is!
- Count together at every opportunity: Count when drying toes and fingers, when marching up stairs, when passing trees, when stepping along the road to nursery, when passing cars in the street. Make it something you do at least once on every outing! It needn't be counting to 100; just to 10, and then 20, is a great start.
- Sort things: Arrange things in order and sort into groups. Mix coloured bricks or trains and cars and ask them to sort them into piles. All yellow bricks here and all red bricks there! Sort the washing together, sort the food after shopping: fruit here and vegetables here.
- Cooking: Make a cake together and mix in spoonfuls of raisins or cherries, measure and mix together to make a delicious cake. Or simply cut vegetables and count a few for each person at dinner.
- Shapes: Go round the house naming shapes, or when out for a walk spot things that are a particular shape: rectangle letter box, round, sign, square garage.
- Compare Size: Find the big book and the small book. Ask which is widest, which is longest? Sort books or other objects into size order.
- Patterns: Teach patterns and talk about patterns. Sort coloured blocks and make patterns with them or look at patterns on clothing or in books.
- Bath time: Even in the bath measure and pour water into little jugs. Talk about full and empty.
Making learning fun is the fundamental ideal of ToucanLearn, it's fun and learning for you and your little ones!
When it comes to pretend play, children are perfectly happy to mix toys made to different scales - size just isn't important to them! Your toddler might hold a tea party for a few dolls and teddies. The participants may vary in size from very small to really large, but your toddler will be oblivious to the variation. They might have a small, dinky china tea set, complimented by plastic or wooden cookies and slices of cake that dwarf the tea pot - but size doesn't matter. They may sit around a blanket on the floor offering enough room for the whole family to enjoy a picnic round, but scale is really of no consequence!
During pretend play, children will happily play with lots of different toys, all made to different scales, but they are as contented as can be! Indeed, they'll even happily mix toys from different paradigms, such as dinosaurs on a farm, a shop that sells anything under the sun, or serve pizza for afternoon tea!
The important point is that children partake in pretend play. As they play with objects and act out little scenarios either on their own, with siblings or friends or with you, they are practicing all sorts of different actions which help them develop their motor skills, they will practice language as they talk through each scene, and learn how objects made from different materials act and how they can be handled.