Thursday, January 31, 2013

Cylinders, The [Unexpected] Topic of the Day

Having a child-led teaching philosophy means that when a random question moves us in a new direction, we flow with it.

My facility project du jour is organizing the pantry. When I emptied a cardboard cornmeal container in the morning into one of my fancy dancy new plastic containers, I cleaned it out reasonably well and tossed it into the dramatic play area, to be played with until mutilated beyond recognition. Any viable container is initially disposed of in this manner. 

An empty cardboard container is one of those loose parts with endless play doll bed, stuff it up and carry your treasures around, something to step on and crush, put blocks inside and the lid on to make a great shaker, and of course, use it as a drum in multiple fashions by hitting the lid, or bottom, banging it with blocks or crayons or a variety of other improvised drumming accouterments.

Today, Miss H brought the cornmeal container back to me a few minutes later and said,

"Miss Connie...What shape is this?"
"That, my dear, is a cylinder."
"Oh." And she walked off, with me thinking that was the end of it.

"Miss Connie!! I want a cylinder, too!"

"Me too!"

And again, one of those cherished teaching moments blossomed from nothing into a wonderful opportunity.

Luckily, I had several containers I could manage to part with for them. So we got out the bigger ones, pawned the smaller ones off on the little kids, and I took the paper labels off so they could personalize them with coloring.

Miss A & Mr. G 32 months, Miss H 3 1/2
What can you do with a bunch of empty cardboard cylinders? Well, through the day we:
  • Colored them
  • Created a drum corps
  • Compared/contrasted
  • Sorted by size large to small and small to large
  • Counted and ordinal counted
  • Grouped by size
  • Experimented with how they could be nested
  • Stacked them as high as possible, using help as needed [before knocking them down of course!]
  • Stacked them in a graduated pyramid
  • Played store

These children now know, undoubtedly, what a cylinder looks like, feels like, and operates...and all we did was play. Tags: math, shapes, geometry, kindergarten, preschool, child, care, daycare, childcare, homeschool, gross motor, fine motor

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Infant Food Introduction Check List

I've had this Food Introduction Check List on my client site for a while now, and have decided to make it public. The parents and I coordinate the food introductions to their infants in conjunction with their pediatrician's recommendations. 

I consider food introduction to be simply a muscle building exercise and learning activity for the first few weeks. It really doesn't matter what they are given when most of it will end up NOT going down. I hear a lot of talk about rice cereal being a waste because of its low nutritional value, but its good aspect is that the consistency can be easily manipulated to an infant's preference. Some like their first foods runny, some like them thick. It also takes on the flavor of whatever it is mixed with, which is usually breast milk or formula, so the infant accepts it readily as it tastes familiar. It is also cheap, so if most of it gets everywhere BUT in the stomach, it's not a big deal. 

 Eating is a learned process and
as with any learning,
takes practice!!

The tongue is the last muscle in the human body to fully develop. Sucking, eating and babbling all help to form that muscle and enable an infant to eat and speak well. Eating, however, requires a full mouth movement of the tongue, and enhances tongue muscle formation greatly. 

Avocado is the best brain food for baby, so early and often on that one. Sweet potatoes are a super food, providing a holistic punch of vitamins and minerals. These are my two favorites for starting and keeping as constants in an infant diet.

Remember that breastfed babies are used to a constantly changing taste in their milk. They usually readily accept new foods on taste, but may not on texture. Formula fed babies, however, have had absolutely no variances in taste their entire lives. They are usually less ready to try different foods and may reject them more often. Remember that tastes are LEARNED. They are all new to your infant. If s/he rejects your offering, try to get at least a taste into his/her mouth. It may take 10-12 introductions before your infant will accept a food. 


Remember that you didn't like coffee or alcohol the first time you tasted it, either. As I always say,


Don't limit your infants taste experiences simply because they don't immediately take to a specific food. For more information on this, check out my blog post Picky Eaters Are Created

Food is THE ONLY complete 5-senses experience. Every time an infant experiences a new taste or texture, they build new brain connections. It is a wonderful, rich learning experience that you can provide.

Tags: infant, toddler, food, introduction, checklist, list, picky, eater, first, foods, solids, solid, best, baby

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Inexpensive Manipulative

Manipulatives and toys don't have to be expensive. Often, the simpler the better, and even more often, the most inexpensive items can be the ones that thoroughly enchant children and provide them with endless hours of imaginative play. 

The best example...and empty cardboard box, of any size, but especially one large enough for a child to get into.

I had noticed on Pinterest a mom took toilet paper tubes, cut them in half, and had her toddler place wiffle balls on top of them. 

So when I saw a bag of smaller wiffle balls on 70% clearance in Target's dollar section, I went ahead and grabbed them for .90. These looked to be just the right size to fit into an egg carton. 

They were. Actually, the little ones had to work at getting them in and out, and began to use some logic/reasoning skills when they realized they could dig their little finger into the holes for leverage. Excellent for teaching 1-1 correspondence even though they aren't aware that they are learning that while doing it.

But then I thought of the next older child in our group, and thought I'd do similar to an Easter activity I have where I placed colored dots in the bottom of the egg carton and the children matched the plastic eggs to the color dots. Coloring the balls was overwhelming, so I decided to just add a circle of color with my Sharpies to up the difficulty.

Then I thought of the preschoolers who are working on 11-20 at the moment, and hated to waste that 18 hole carton for I added 1-18 to the balls and the carton for them to number match and work on number recognition, number order and left-right convention. When we get to number words, I'll add stickers to the bottom over the written numbers for matching.
Mr. G 33m
So this very simple, inexpensive, throw-together game, now serves every age from infant to preschooler. It has three levels of difficulty built into it. Surprisingly, even though it's been a free-choice activity for everyone for a week now, all of them are still using it regularly.

It is also serving the purpose of teaching the littlest ones not to throw inside. Because if they do throw the balls, then it gets put away.

Miss N 18m & Miss H 13m
I always open it so that the balls are on the left and the holes are on the right, even for the little ones, to reinforce the left-right convention.

I will add that I had several different types of egg cartons to choose from, and this type was the best one for being able to easily have the balls available and contained in the lid, Dutch Farms brand. Other ones had a  lot more inserts in the lid that made it inconvenient. I just turn it upside down to open and the balls are on the lid. 

For the older children, I make sure to mix the balls up well before giving to them so they aren't perfectly pre-aligned.

Tags: infant, toddler, ball, wiffle, counting, manipulative, fine, motor, color, matching, number, order, egg carton, free, inexpensive, cheap, home-made, home, made, recycle, recycling, game, learning, tool, 1-1 correspondence,