Telling the time requires a complex set of understandings; while it isn't something that preschoolers will pick up easily, you can begin to sow the foundation by learning the language of time and looking at clocks. Time is an abstract concept, that we have a precise name for every minute, every second even, that has fallen in history is a wild concept to grasp.
Start talking about time during the day, note that "It's eight o'clock, let's have some breakfast", "It's ten o'clock, let's have a snack", "It's half past twelve, let's have some lunch", and so on. Young children will begin to understand that there are names for points of the day, and that certain things happen at those points. If you have a chiming clock at home or you live within earshot of a town or church clock, then start to observe the 'bongoing' and have your little ones tell you what hour it is.
Look at a toy clock face and look at where the hands are pointing. Again, even a 'hand' 'pointing' to a number is a concept that has to be understood. Move the hands and show how they point to different numbers, this will help your little ones understand what you mean. Of course, they also need to be able to recognise their numbers up to twelve, and again, a clock face is great for counting and learning these numbers.
Familiarity at a young age will help your children to learn the rest of time telling more easily in due course. They will probably only really grasp this when they reach six or seven, but introduce them to clocks and the language of time and they will begin to understand the whole process.
History records Isaac Newton as a genius but most toddlers can tell you what will happen if you drop a ball! OK, so gravity wasn't merely the observation that things fall, so much as the reasoning as to why, but introducing such basic concepts to young children genuinely is laying the foundation for a scientific education. Next time you are bathing your little ones, take some time out to look at floating and sinking. Add a number of waterproof toys into the bath and see which ones float, and which ones sink? Can you find objects that float when they are bobbed on the surface but that sink when filled with water?
Bathtime presents a fabulous opportunity for little ones to explore water and its properties. Make sure that as well as experimenting, you talk with your little ones; discuss what they are observing and if you can explain it simply, then do so.
Pumice stones are items that you naturally expect to find in a bathroom. Pumice is extraordinary - it is volcanic in origin, created when superheated rock is spewed from a volcano that then cools very rapidly - usually because the volcano errupted underwater. Although it is a rock, it floats in water, so it's a wonderfully confusing item to play with at bathtime, and when you've had enough fun watching it float, you can use it to scrub your little ones clean...good, practical fun!
When the weather permits, spend time with the children outdoors, if you don't have a garden, taken them along to a park. As well as outdoor games, try taking some of your children's favourite puzzles and board games to play outside too - being outside adds another new dimension to the games. Here are some fun games to play outdoors:-
Pin the Bug on the Daisy: This is a version of pin the tail on the donkey only using a big drawing of a flower and some stickers. Draw a big daisy flower with a stalk and leaves on wallpaper. Hang it up and blindfold the children getting them to try and stick their sticker nearest to the yellow centre of the daisy.
Hunt a Bug: This is a scavenger hunt game game which is easy and fun! Each child gets a list of five things (draw each one) they need to find: a branch, a red curly leaf, a pine cone, a dandelion flower, a feather etc. They then have to go off in pairs and them.
Bee Landing: Draw a small bee (or find a picture of one) and stick it to some blue tack or play dough to give it weight. Draw a large sunflower outdoors with pavement chalk. Blindfold each child and get them to throw the bee and see who gets nearest to the centre of the flower!
Mr and Mrs Pots: Turn empty flower pots into flower pot people. Paint on faces using poster paints, and glue or tape on hands and feet made from twigs or rope. Loop a long string to the top of the pot and you have a garden puppet! Why not put on a show?!
Landing on Leaves: Draw a large leaf for each child and get them to colour it in. Place one on each chair. When the music starts each child must fly like bugs around the chairs and when the music stops they must find a leaf to land on.
World Book Day falls today and is celebrated in more than 100 countries - it really is 'World' Book day! Publishers around the world come together to promote reading and literacy in a special day designated by UNESCO. Why don't you join in the fun at home with your little one's? It doesn't matter if they're too small to read, you can read with them or you can enjoy looking through picture books together. Why not take it further and have some bookish fun:-
Encourage your little ones to enjoy books and stories and that will help them learn to read in time...
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.
Listening is a hugely important skill as it helps children interpret instructions. Given that early schooling is highly verbal, it is essential to master listening early on. Here are some games to help improve listening skills with your children:-
Colour Story: Give each child a different coloured building brick. Tell a story and weave the colours into the story. Each time a child hears there colour, have them wave their brick in the air.
Name that Sound: Make sounds and have your children name them. For example, make a siren sound, the noise of an aeroplane, horses hooves, birdsong and so on.
Shopping Game: Take up to 20 store cupboard food items or play food and lay them out on the floor. Tell each child a list of three items that you want from the shop and have them walk over to the food, pick out their three items and bring them to you. Play rounds increasing the length of the list each time.
Simon Says: You must know this old classic? Instruct children to perform an action prefixed with 'Simon Says...'. 'Simon Says "Touch your nose"', 'Simon says "Twist around"'. Any command without 'Simon Says' must be ignored.
Happy Endings: Tell the first part of a story and have your children each make up a different ending to the story. Either read from a book, or make up your own short stories.
Maths would appear to be one of those subjects that you can either do, or you can't, some love it whilst other hate it. Marcus de Sautoy is Professor of Maths at Oxford University, he LOVES maths and he's brilliant at it! He is one of those people who can explain really complex ideas in ways that ordinary people can begin to understand. In 2006, he delivered the Royal Institution Christmas Lectures, bringing accessible maths to an audience of school aged children.
In one of his TV documentaries, de Sautoy distilled maths into a single, basic concept - the study of patterns. Our ability to discover patterns (whether in abstract numerical groups or physical real world objects) leads us to being able to solve problems, a fundamental reason for learnbing maths. While we usually think of maths as the adding and subtracting of numbers, numbers merely act a labels to more abstract concepts.
Of course, this is a vast oversimplification of maths, but it's premise is in fact and not fiction.
EYFS 2012 introduced Mathematics as one of the 'Specific Areas', breaking down further into Numeracy and Shapes, space and measures. While the specific areas are aimed at older and more develeoped children, you can be sowing the seed for good numeracy early on by encouraging that great foundation of maths - pattern recognition. Babies can learn and spot patterns from a very early age and evidence suggests that stimulating these skills early on will assist numeracy skills during their early years.
Play games that encourage pattern matching such as pairing cards, playing memory games, grouping items into 'classes' and counting items in collections. All of this will encourage cognitive development that will assist numeracy in their early years.
Dice originated in many cultures at different times and dice games have entertained many civilisations including the ancient Greeks, Romans and Egyptians. Dominoes are believed to have evolved from dice in China in the middle ages. Today they are as popular as ever and are great for playing matching and counting games with your little ones.
Buy sets of large dice and dominoes to play with your little ones (you can even buy garden sets). Observe the different numbers of spots, look at matching pairs and count up the spots across two or more dice, or one or more dominoes.
Play 'collecting' games where you have to roll particular number combinations with the dice. For example, roll three dice and see if you can roll a consecutive 'run' (ie. 1 - 2 - 3, 3 - 4 - 5 etc). It may take a few turns but you'll get there eventually. Play 'memory' games with dominoes. Take out all the doubles, lay them around the floor, and see if you can turn up double one, then based on tiles you have looked at, double two, then double three. See how few turns you can use to pick up the whole run in order.
Dominoes are also great for building with and will help practice fine motor skills. Build pyramids and walls, or just play classic domino toppling. How long a line can you make, and topple, with a single set of dominoes?!
As we move into autumn, a number of wild animals will settle down and hibernate for the winter. Hibernation is a topic that young children will cover early on in their schooling, but there's nothing to stop you giving them a head start and talk with them about hibernation yourself.
The topic introduces changes in seasons as well as different animals. You may or may not be familiar with animals that hibernate. In the UK you can expect the following to hibernate during winter:-
Many insect also hibernate, including:-
Some animals hibernate in their natural habitat but do not in a domestic setting, such as hamsters and mice.
Some insects survive the winter in different forms, either as eggs (only hatching in the spring), nymphs, larvae or pupae - none of which technically hibernate.
Use the internet with your little ones to find pictures of animals that hibernate, talk about how these animals and insects sleep during the winter, and learn what they all look like.
Weather makes for a great long term project, especially at this autumnal time of year when the weather is quite changeable. Observing the weather ticks a number of EYFS boxes, particularly in Communication and Language and Understanding the World but you can also extend it into Literacy by having your older toddlers write weather symbols, and you can easily create counting games based on weather observations.
You can buy some really good weather and calendar charts, but you can make them yourself at almost no cost. Just create a chart on a large sheet of paper covering the days of the week and cut out some weather symbols stuck onto card. Have your little ones select the right weather symbols to match the current weather.
Because the weather can change, they can add symbols for each type of weather during the day. It may start off sunny, cloud over and then rain before clearing up again. Instill observation in your little ones by encouraging them, proactively, to add a symbol to the weather chart each time they observe a change outside.
When your children start school, and quite possibly in earlier educational settings, they will begin to learn how to read. Learning to read is a complex and challenging task but is such a vital skill that the more practice and the more little ones can be encouraged to read, the better. As a parent, you will play an important role in the journey to becoming a reader, but the overall burden falls on the teachers working with your children.
There are various approaches to learning to read, and you will probably hear different terms. Most methods are based on on of two fundamental approaches:-
Phonics: requires words to be broken down into sounds in order to help sound out whole words.
Lexical: reading teaches recognition of whole words.
Since 2005, the UK government has stipulated a phonic approach to learning to read, employing a particular model known as synthetic phonics. This encourages words to be broken into phonic sounds which are then blended together in order to sound out complete words. Other phonic and lexical approaches play their part - for example, teachers will encourage the learning of 'high frequency words' so that young children can recognise some of the most common words in the language.
The emphasis on synthetic phonics does not mean that other approaches to reading are invalid, and as a parent you do not need to worry about the intricacies of different learning models. The best contribution that you can offer as a parent is to ensure that you read regularly to your little ones, and that you support them in their reading when the time comes.
If a picture tells a thousand words, how many does a video tell? One of the great things about the internet is that you can quickly find video to help illustrate almost anything you want. The next time your little ones ask you something, such as "how many legs does a butterfly have?", "how high does a kangaroo jump?" or "how fast does lava flow?" , instead of just spouting an answer, turn to the internet and find some video that illustrates the answer.
YouTube is probably the best known site for videos in the world. You will find short clips illustrating almost any point you care to imagine. Besides YouTube though, there are many other really good sites with high quality video that can be used for educational purposes. Here are a few video archives that you can search and access without having to register:-
If you want to use video in your setting, be careful not to breach any copyright rules. Don't copy the video onto your own computer or download to place on your onw website, make sure that you simply link to videos or embed them in ways that are encouraged and allowed.
Why not set yourself an ongoing project to discover a topic in detail, looking for illustrative video to help you learn along the way?
Numbers surround us wherever we go and this makes for great opportunities when teaching your littlest ones their numerals. When you are reading, look for page numbers or other numbers such as in the price or other publishing information. Ask your little ones to look at the page and point to a particular number. When you are in the kitchen, ask your little one to look around the room and find numbers perhaps on a calendar or a clock, or displayed anywhere else.
Having your little ones look about and pick out numbers will help them to learn to identify their numbers and cement their knowledge. Stay just with single numerals rather than whole numbers that are higher than nine.
Make sure you learn zero as well as other numbers because zero is important for learning longer numbers such as 10 and 100. Also explain what zero is because it is slightly more complex than other numbers. If you have one apple or two apples, the number is obvious, but if you have no apples, it takes a little more abstract thought to equate that to zero. Of course, once they get it, it will be completely obvious to them!
Children learn very quickly which foods are 'good' for you and which are 'bad', fresh fruit and vegetables are good, chips, crisps and sweets are bad. Find a home or cooking magazine and cut out a library of pictures of different foods. Look at which ones are healthy and which ones are less so. Explain to older children why each food is good or bad, and explain what goes into processed foods such as jam, fish fingers, chips or butter.
You may not have thought about it, but so many foods that we eat today are processed in the sense that they are factory-produced. This doesn't automatically make them bad for us although processed foods do have a propensity to have higher levels of salt, fat or sugar, even all three!
Older children can be taught about salt, sugar and fat levels in food. Explain how to read the nutritional breakdown found on nearly all products and have them start comparing different foods. Take a nutritional value, such as salt, and explain that high salt levels are less healthy than low salt levels. Pick out five products from your kitchen cupboard and have your little ones place them in order of salt content, from low to high. Reiterate which end is more healthy and which are less healthy. Do the same for fat and sugar levels too.
This exercise will quickly teach about food health in a basic way as well as an ability to understand quantities, and it's fun to play along the way!
It's never been easier to make video - most of us now walk around with a video recorder in our pocket...a mobile phone. If you haven't got a swish mobile with video capability then unless your still stuck on a traditional film camera, the chances are that you can record video on your camera. Use video as a tool to engage your little ones. Older children can make their own 'film' - have them record a scene that they play out amongst themselves. Record younger children singing or acting, or just playing. Demonstrate how you can record and play back. If you can show your video on a television then do that - that is certain to delight the children!
Record older children as they learn to read and record them explaining concepts to you. For eample, ask them what a volcano is, or how rain occurs. Really clever kids might know the answer, but if they don't, you might get some really funny explanations.
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