Here are two more ideas for teaching the young I got from interactions with my eldest daughter over the last few days. Maybe some of them will work for you, too.
LITERACY: We read to my daughter early and often. We’ve encouraged her to get books from libraries, picked up big stacks (for cheap!) from consignment sales, encouraged her to make up stories to tell us and play with her dolls, and now to write on her own. It doesn’t matter to us how good they are; she should be creative and explore. Very early, she fell in love with the Fancy Nancy books by Jane O’Connor. What we found so cool about the books as parents was that Nancy kept introducing “fancy” words in place of more common words. It was great for her early vocabulary, and we jumped on these experiences with Fancy Nancy to promote our eldest’s vocabulary at every opportunity. One example was that whenever we asked her to get something, we requested a “courier.” She started asking us to write the fancy words down for her. Then she started trying to make up some of her own stories. Now she has 100ish MS Word documents (some no longer than a paragraph or two) in my Dropbox folder (so she can pick up her writing from anywhere) of all sorts of stories at different stages. She saw me typesetting some mathematics with MathType and asked me to show her how to do the same. Some of her Word docs are full of nonsensical math symbols. Doesn’t matter. She’s exploring and learning technology and writing.
This weekend, she was writing a story and tried to use “inappropriate”. She knew something was wrong because her spelling was underlined in red. By the time she called me over, she somehow had gotten to “inpropriate” and wanted to know how to correctly spell it. Of course, I didn’t tell her. I did point out that there was a “sneaky double p” and I slowly pronounced the word for her. She inserted the extra p beside the first and then tried between the n and p first a u, then an e, and finally an a. I was so psyched that I hadn’t taught her about right clicking and choosing from the dictionary’s suggestions. Here, the word processor identified a misspelling, and my daughter caught it. Rather than jumping to an easy answer, I encouraged her to try different options, to figure the thing out on her own.
Obviously, this isn’t a perfect fix. Once she spelled any word correctly (not necessarily the one she intended), the red underline would go away. But that seems like another great learning opportunity for later when she asks me to read her stories or when I ask her to read them to me. I think my next step is to uncheck the autocorrect feature in my word processor!
As to other books, Fancy Nancy was one daughter’s delight. Find what fits the children around you. If the kids don’t encounter new words or ideas, keep reading for its own sake, but FIND BIGGER BOOKS!
SCIENCE & MATH: I had forgotten just how cool magnets were. They’re all around you, but for kids, they just rock. Yesterday, I was playing with my daughter on a wooden train set with different pieces of track that could be deconstructed and rebuilt in any configuration. There are SO MANY great opportunities for visual-spatial/geometric development here! Ask lots of “what if” or “I wonder if” questions. Can you close the track with just 10 pieces of track? I wonder if it can be done with other numbers. What are the fewest pieces of curved track you need? There are two pieces which split a single track into two; so can you close a track using only one of these pieces, or must you have two of them? (A great networking question!)
You can see the toy we were using in profile in the 35 second video clip below. She had been playing with the cars’ magnets to pull the train cars together as a unit. Today, I was inspired to show her a couple tricks. After she played with them, she wanted me to film her doing both tricks–that’s the clip below.
- First, I set two of the cars apart on the track with opposite poles facing each other. When I moved one very slowly close to the other, you should have seen her jump when the untouched train moved “all on its own” to connect with the one I was holding!
- Then I reversed the car so that the same poles were facing each other. I told her I thought I could move the car without touching it at all! Her eyes were wide open!
She spent the next 30 minutes showing everyone in the house her new tricks!
I’ve opened the door to magnetic fields. We’ll walk through that one later. Wonder is enough for now.