Extending Learning at Home

While your child is experiencing a jam packed day of learning, discovery and academics at school, parents play a huge role in setting the foundation for successful learning. We know that it can be hard sometimes to think of fun learning activities after a long day at work or school. So we’ve come up with a few fun things that children of all ages will enjoy!

I Spy

(Cognitive development)

Not just a road trip favorite, this game is easily modified for different age groups. For younger children you can spy colors, shapes, and numbers. As your child gets older add in specifics such as- “I spy something purple and fuzzy that can fit in my hand.” To help with letter sounds and recognition in pre-k and kindergarten you can ‘spy’ things that begin with sounds. “I spy something that starts with this sound-mmmmm” or ‘I see a letter that comes before 5 and after 3” are just a few examples. This game doesn’t require any prep or materials, and can be vastly entertaining to play at home or in new environments.

 

NomNom Noodles

(Fine motor)

Some food is for eating, and some food is for playing, and luckily enough, noodles can be both! Cooked and uncooked noodles are great sensory for younger children who can squish, squeeze, pinch, and mash to help strengthen hands and arm muscles. As they get older, they can string noodles together on yarn or string to make necklaces, or use small amounts of water to stick noodles together to make a noodle castle. All that careful stringing, poking, pinching and threading helps keep hands strong for pencils and scissors.

 

Silly Songs

(Language development)

You may not be a world famous singer, or even the least bit musically gifted, but to your child you are the biggest and brightest star in their world. Singing to, with, and about your child can help strengthen their language, introduce new vocabulary, and expand on words and concepts that have been previously formed. Children love nothing better than when you get silly with them, and singing about their soft curly hair, stinky feet, or big blue eyes, gives them good descriptors to expand vocabulary. When singing try to use words that are just a little more advanced than their current language skills, introduce new silly words with different sounds, and try to use past, present and future tense.

 

As always remember to have fun, these first few years are the best!

Be a STEM Superstar!

  1. STEM topics are not silos.Good STEM programs integrate the concepts of science and math with the tools of technology and then apply them as engineering to problems in the real world. For example, an activity to measure the speed of a toy car can involve the science concepts of speed and acceleration with the technology of a timer and the math of Speed = Distance / Time.
  2. Make activities relatable and tangible.Making concepts relatable and tangible to young people involves them in the learning. At the start of an activity, use open-ended discussion questions to draw out existing knowledge and experiences. You can explore friction as the next science topic, or you can challenge the kids to make a skateboard roll further. Which sounds more interesting? The second approach allows young people to draw on their own experiences and provides a personal investment in the discoveries.
  3. Inspire curiosity and critical thinking.The entire collected knowledge of the world is now available in our pockets via our smartphones. Young people no longer need to just know facts and figures; they need the critical thinking skills necessary to interpret and use that information. One of the most important benefits of STEM is that topics are taught against a background of analysis and questions. Learn the art of asking open-ended questions and use discrepant events to pique curiosity.
  4. Learn by doing.STEM learning begins with play and exploration. One of the key advantages of the afterschool environment is the ability to provide small-group, hands-on, inquiry-based learning in a nontraditional setting. Choose hands-on activities where materials are provided for small teams to explore, experience and experiment with.
  5. Make connections.Learning does not take place in compartments. When you learn a new idea, you do so in the context of what you already know. For example, if exploring the concept of friction, connections can be made to slipping on ice. Drawing existing knowledge or experiences provides a framework of understanding and improves retention. It also provides the groundwork for then applying concepts to new problems and challenges.
  6. Inspire collaboration.Create an atmosphere of teamwork. Actively teach and role model teamwork skills. Promote an inclusive, respectful, relaxed environment that supports new ideas and questions. The control of the learning process should be transferred to the young people. Create new roles and rules for your groups that stress responsibility.
  7. Celebrate failure.We often learn more when something does not work than when it does. Promote an atmosphere that rewards risk taking and experimenting. Failure is a natural part of experimenting and taking risks.
  8. Facilitate, don’t dictate.The old model of teaching facts from the front no longer provides the skills needed in the 21st century. Provide problems not answers, encourage questions and celebrate experimentation. Be prepared to deviate from your lesson plan, depending on where the kids’ investigations and decisions take them.
  9. Process the STEM experience.Ask open-ended questions that encourage everyone to discuss and reflect on what they have learned. Keep evaluation child-centric and experiential by designing activities that assess knowledge by applying it to new scenarios. For example, an activity on friction can be evaluated by challenging the students to race wind-up cars, where the wheels spin ineffectively until more friction is created.
  10. Be a role model.Be passionate about experimentation and enthusiastic about what the young people are learning. Be a cheerleader for STEM: Draw connections to real-world benefits and careers. Evolve as a learner yourself, and pay attention to the art of teaching. Ask yourself: Are your activities inclusive, gender neutral, relatable, inquiry-based and fun?

 

http://naaweb.org/professional-development/item/460-10-tips-become-a-stem-superstar

 

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Bringing up Bookworms

In today’s techy world, it’s easy to forget the importance of books when we have digital screens. However more and more research is showing the benefits of raising children who love books. Whether digital or not, books, stories, and reading with children should be a top priority both in school and at home. Since we’re a bit partial to a good old fashioned, cover and spine type books, here are just a few things to keep in mind!

  • Have you read a story today?
  • Have you told a story today?
  • Have you listened to a story today?
  • Can your child name the parts of a book?
    • -Cover
    • -Spine
    • -Title Page
    • -Author
    • -Illustrator

 

Story time can happen anywhere, inside, outside, upside down! (Well, maybe if you were Dr. Seuss…) So get out there and read, listen, look and learn with your child.

 

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