“Mommy/Daddy, why is the moon following us?” With this question, a child lets us know she is thinking about how the world works. We can respond in ways that encourage her scientific thinking. Think of how you might respond. Do you think it’s adorable? (It is! But the question also shows your child is thinking!) What can you do if you don’t know the answer? (Don't worry. Your child just might want to share something that intrigues her.) Enjoy discussing the questions your child asks. Encourage her to share her perspective and observations.
2. Explore and find the answers together.
You don’t have to be your child's encyclopedia and quickly try to answer all your child’s questions. Responding with “What do you think?” or “I don’t know but we can find out together” can stimulate more thought and additional questions. Explore and find the answers together.
3. Give children time and space to explore.
Children learn science through trial and error. They need time to experiment, try things out, and think on their own. Wait before jumping in with "correct" answers. Give your child the time and space to explore and discover on her own.
4. Accept that explorations are often messy.
Whether it’s outdoor exploration with mud and sticks or indoors with water, children are likely to get dirty when they explore materials. Dress children in old clothing and tell them it’s ok to get dirty.
5. Learn from mistakes together.
If an experiment goes wrong, take advantage and investigate with your child to see what went wrong. A mistake can lead to all kinds of possibilities and it provides opportunities for you and your child to refine your ideas, understanding, and hypotheses.
6. Invite curiosity.
Science learning begins with curiosity. Observations and questions can create a climate of discovery – key to scientific learning. Children can learn a lot about science even at bath time. Let your child ask her own questions but you can also stimulate curiosity. For instance, when seeing a rubber duck float in the water, invite him to think by saying, “I wonder if the soap will also float?" See what questions she asks and what experiments she tries.
7. Support further exploration.
Intentional adult interactions with children can extend their learning. When the moment is right – maybe when she’s done exploring on her own, offer a suggestion to extend her exploration. Guide your child by asking questions like, “What might happen if we try this?”
Share some things you find while exploring, - a beautiful striped rock, for example. This lets your child know there is always something worthy of our attention and investigation.
8.Encourage children to record their observations.
Writing, drawing, or taking photographs are all ways to record observations - an important scientific skill. Such records allow children to keep track of what they saw, heard, questioned, or discovered. When you notice your child is interested in something (like the moon, leaves changing on the trees, or the growth of a plant) you can suggest ways for them to record what they have observed. “Do you want to draw that?” or “Do you want to take photos?” or “Do you want me to help you write down what you noticed?”
9.Make good use of your electronic devices.
Take pictures of a stunning butterfly, record frog sounds, use a website or app to learn more about a specific phenomenon or creature.
10.Use items you have at home to experiment and explore
You don't need to spend money buying science supplies. Here are some science questions your child can consider using materials you might have at home.
Question #1: How does water move up a plant’s stem?
What You Need: celery, water, food coloring.
Directions: Put a celery stalk or carnation stem in water that has some food coloring in it.
Science principle: Children can see how the colored water travels up the stalk or stem and might notice how a specific part of the celery stalk (called the xylem) draws the water up from the roots just like a straw.
Question #2: How does changing the angle of a block impact the speed of a ball?
What you need: Rubber ball, small toy cars, and long block or plank
Directions: Experiment how fast or slow the ball or car travels down a plank as you adjust its angle. You can do this by changing the height of the plank and testing the speed of the ball.
Science Principle: Children can see that items will roll at different speeds depending on the angle of the block. Try different kinds of items - a tennis ball, a super ball, small cars for example, to explore whether the size, weight, or material impacts the rolling speed.
Question #3: What will sink and what will float?
What you need: Objects you can put in the water (e.g., rubber toys, corks, coins, keys, rocks) and a plastic bucket or large bowl
Directions: Invite your child to put a few objects in the water and see what happens. Then, discuss the concept of “floating” and “sinking”. Ask, "Do you think this one will sink or float? What makes you think that?"
Science principle: Children can explore how size, weight, or other properties of an object determine if it sinks or floats and how quickly it sinks to the bottom or rises to the top.
About the Author: Yi-Chin Lan received her PhD in curriculum and instruction from the University of Texas at Austin. She is currently working as a postdoctoral research fellow at National Taiwan Normal University. Her research interests include parental involvement in children’s science learning, pre-service and in-service teachers’ beliefs about science teaching, out-of-school science learning, etc. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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"The world has entered an era of the most profound and challenging change in human history. Most of our children are not prepared, and we know it.
Parents around the world see the change and know that the traditional three R's -- reading, writing, and arithmetic -- are necessary, but not enough. Their children need to become far more responsible, creative, and tolerant of differences. They need to increase their ability to think for themselves, take initiative, get along with others, and solve problems.
Business leaders are not finding people whose skills and character match the demands of today's global economy, including strong communication, teamwork, analytical, technology, and organizational skills. They need young people who are self-motivated, creative, and have a strong work ethic.
How will we bridge this ever-widening gap? The Leader in Me is the story of the extraordinary schools, parents, and business leaders around the world who are preparing the next generation to meet the great challenges and opportunities of the twenty-first century.
In 1999, the A.B. Combs Elementary School in North Carolina was on the verge of being cut as a magnet school and needed to find new ways to educate its students. Teachers and administrators began teaching practical, principle-based leadership skills -- with remarkable results. In a short time, the number of students passing end-of-grade tests vaulted from 84 to 97 percent. Simultaneously, the school began reporting significant increases in students' self-confidence, dramatic drops in discipline problems, and striking increases in teacher and administrator job satisfaction. Parents, meanwhile, reported equivalent improvements in their children's attitudes and behavior at home. As news of the school's success spread, schools around the world began adopting the mantra to "develop leaders, one child at a time." Business and civic leaders started partnering with schools in their communities to sponsor teacher training and student resources. Each school and family approached the principles differently, but the results were the same -- attentive, energized young people engaging in the world around them.
The best way to prepare the next generation for the future is to emphasize the value of communication, cooperation, initiative, and unique, individual talent -- for nothing undermines confidence more than comparison. Whether in the classroom or at home, it is never too early to start applying leadership skills to everyday life. Drawing on the many techniques and examples that have already seen incredible success around the world, The Leader in Me shows how easy it is to incorporate these skills into daily life. It is a timely answer to many of the challenges facing today's young people, businesses, parents, and educators -- one that is perfectly matched to the global demands of the twenty-first century."
"It's evening in the forest and Little Owl wakes up from his day-long sleep to watch his friends enjoying the night. Hedgehog sniffs for mushrooms, Skunk nibbles at berries, Frog croaks, and Cricket sings. A full moon rises and Little Owl can't understand why anyone would want to miss it. Could the daytime be nearly as wonderful? Mama Owl begins to describe it to him, but as the sun comes up, Little Owl falls fast asleep." - Source
Grade Level: Preschool+ "One of our own student's bedtime favorites, this book is a great companion to your child's night time reading routine. Full of simple yet vibrant illustrations and memorable storytelling that follows a little owl on his nighttime journey, all the while meeting with lots of fun and interesting critters!" - GA Staff
Young children sometimes behave in challenging or confusing ways. You may occasionally have thoughts like:
“Why does she keep pinching her brother’s nose?”
“Why does he put his snack in his hair?”
“Why does she cry when it’s time to put shoes on?”
At first glance, young children’s behaviors can be downright baffling!
Preschool teachers are taught that all behavior is communication and we are trained to observe, document, and analyze children’s behavior to understand what they are “telling” us. With a few tips, you too can start observing your child’s behavior like a pro.
Looking for patterns
Any behavior that occurs over and over is happening for a reason. If you can find the pattern in the behavior, you can figure out how to stop it.
The first step is simply to write down what happens. At first it feels weird, right after your child puts a gummi bear up his nose, to pull out a pad of paper and write it down. The problem is, our memories are terrible. Simply making a note of what happened can help you see patterns you may not notice otherwise.
A few years ago the children in my classroom were getting into too many fights. I didn’t know why, so I started writing the incidents down. At the end of three days I looked at my notes and saw “9:20, fight over Legos; 9:50, fight over Legos; 10:00, fight over Legos...” I didn’t have a problem with fights in my classroom; I had a problem with fights at the Lego table! Once I saw the pattern, I could make a change to improve things. I brought in twice as many Legos and put them at a bigger table. Ninety percent of the fighting stopped right there!
Whatever the challenging behavior is, just start writing it down. You might be amazed what you find.
The ABCs of behavior
To up your game from simple note taking, try what teachers call the “Antecedent-Behavior-Consequence” model—or simply ABC for short. Don’t let the big words put you off. Antecedent just means “what happened right before,” behavior means “what happened,” and consequence means “what happened right after.” Basically, ABC means don’t just write down what happened—write down what happened right before and after too.
The antecedent is whatever was going on around your child right before she, say, dumped her milk on the couch—again. Was she getting ready for school? Listening to music? Perhaps it was when you left the room to get her teddy bear or told her to put her shoes on. Simple stuff, right? But such observations can be a gold mine for figuring out what’s causing a behavior.
I worked with a family who said their 28-month-old would “start screaming, all the time, for no reason.” But after a few days of writing down the ABCs, the parents realized that their son started screaming only if he was left alone in a room—a pattern they hadn’t noticed before. Armed with this knowledge, they would tell him, “I’m going to go to the bedroom to get a sweater and come right back. Do you want to come with me, or wait here?” Over a few days the screaming all but stopped.
The consequence is whatever happened right after the child spread jam on the wall. Did you yell at him, and he cried? Did you send him to his room and when he wouldn’t go, carry him up and close the door? Or did you tell him that’s not okay, help him clean the wall, then read a book together? The consequence is often more emotional to write down than the antecedent but just as important to finding the pattern.
A teacher I know once worked with a child who frequently dumped milk or juice on his clothes at snack and lunch time. Once she started writing down the ABCs, she realized that every time the child did this, several teachers would rush to his side, talking to him and cleaning him lovingly. The teacher guessed that the behavior was a bid for attention and care in a crowded classroom. She started giving him more attention when he behaved appropriately, and gave only minimal attention when he dumped his juice. The negative behavior disappeared in a week.
Write it down!
Some teachers seek graduate degrees just to refine their observational skills, but you’ve got the bones of it right here. When you’re stuck with your child’s challenging behavior, write it down, along with what happened right before and what happened right after. When you see a pattern, you can work on changing it.
This method is incredibly simple, but surprisingly tricky—the first time you do it, it’ll feel really weird. But I promise it gets easier and the payoffs can be huge. That teacher you secretly call “the toddler whisperer”? She started off right where you are. With a little observation and a few notes, you’ll start understanding what’s going on in your child’s head—and things will get a little bit easier.
Jarrod Green is a preschool teacher, college instructor, and child behavior consultant in Philadelphia, PA. His work focuses on helping children, families, and teachers work together to meet everyone's needs. For more information and articles by the author, visit his website at http://jarrodgreen.net
"Willy Wonka's famous chocolate factory is opening at last! But only five lucky children will be allowed inside. And the winners are: Augustus Gloop, an enormously fat boy whose hobby is eating; Veruca Salt, a spoiled-rotten brat whose parents are wrapped around her little finger; Violet Beauregarde, a dim-witted gum-chewer with the fastest jaws around; Mike Teavee, a toy pistol-toting gangster-in-training who is obsessed with television; and Charlie Bucket, Our Hero, a boy who is honest and kind, brave and true, and good and ready for the wildest time of his life!" - Source
Age Range: 8 - 12 years
Grade Level: 3 - 7
"Really quite a fantastic read, channeling the hopes and wonders of children all over through a bright and whimsical tale of the enigmatic Willy Wonka, his Chocolate Factory, the lovable Charlie and a famous golden ticket!" - GA Staff
The Little Mouse, The Red Ripe Strawberry, and THE BIG HUNGRY BEAR
by Don and Audrey Wood, Illustrated by Don Wood
"First published in 1984, a picture book in which the Little Mouse will do all he can to save his strawberry from the Big, Hungry Bear, even if it means sharing it with the reader. The Little Mouse and the Big Hungry Bear are known and loved by millions of children around the world. Little Mouse loves strawberries, but so does the bear...How will Little Mouse stop the bear from eating his freshly picked, red, ripe strawberry." - Source
Age Range: 1 - 3 years
Grade Level: Preschool and up
"Join a cute little mouse in this story, unique in that the narrator speaks to the main character, while he thinks of silly and inventive ways to protect his special strawberry!" - GA Staff
School classrooms are busy places where young children learn all sorts of things, including social and emotional skills such as how to express feelings and how to work together with friends on a project. Here are some suggestions for helping your child develop social and emotional skills at home.
Puppets. Teachers sometimes talk with children about conflicts and help them think about solutions while using puppets and families can try this technique at home. Puppets are a great way to introduce children to feeling words like happy, sad, angry, and children will sometimes talk to puppets about their feelings. Puppets can also help in discussions about challenging topics, like getting to bed on time.
Think out loud. When your child hears your thinking process, it helps her understand how to cope with frustration and solve problems: “Whoops. My favorite shopping bag has a hole in it. I’d better take another one with me to the grocery store.”
Read bedtime stories. There is something magical about this end-of-the-day routine that makes it the ideal time for talking about feelings. Discuss the characters and events in the story. Invite your child to share her thoughts and feelings by asking questions: “What do you think he should do? How do you think she feels? What would you do if you were this character?”
Do a job together. Instead of asking your child to do a chore alone, do it with her. The two of you might fold laundry, set the table, rake leaves, or paint a wall. Help your child join in by shortening the handle of a broom to make it child-size or providing a small paintbrush or roller.
Play games. Card and board games and outdoor games such as tag or hop-scotch offer built-in opportunities for helping children learn to take turns, cooperate, handle frustration, and more. While playing games together, focus on fun instead of winning or losing.
Prevent potential problems. Before a friend comes to play, help your child put away toys he does not want to share. Before taking a bus to the zoo, provide a step-by-step explanation of what you will do: “We will wait at the bus stop for 5 minutes, then get on the bus and sit together and watch the sights go by for about 30 minutes [explain this as the length of one episode of a favorite TV show]. Then we will walk three blocks to the zoo and tour the lion house before anything else!” During the trip, remind your preschooler of what will happen next.
Source: Adapted from the Message in a Backpack, Teaching Young Children 4 (4): 12
The Peaceable Forest: India's Tale of Kindness to Animals
by Kosa Ely, illustrated by Anna Johansson
“Once,” says the old man to the animals, “a hunter lived in this forest. Your grandparents lived in fear of him. The twang of his bow sent them running. Then something happened to change that forever . . . ” In this ancient parable from India, a forest-dwelling hunter learns that cruelty has consequences and that compassion has rewards. When the hunter meets the wise man Narada, “Do unto others as they would do unto you” takes on a very concrete meaning as the sage leads the hunter on an imagined journey in which the hunter becomes the hunted. When the hunter realizes how his actions affect other living things, he has a change of heart and begins to live in peace with the animals he once pursued. Kosa Ely adapts this traditional Indian tale into an inviting narrative that presents the universal golden rule in a new and appealing way. Anna Johansson’s richly detailed illustrations evoke the animal kingdom and enchanted forests with fine lines and luminous colors. The Peaceable Forest is the ideal picture book for inspiring young readers to respect life in all its forms." - Source
Age Range: 5 and up
Grade Level: Kindergarten and up
"The Peaceable Forest is a beautifully illustrated journey into the lives of forest animals and that of a hunter who must undergo a challenge of thought. This book shares an engaging piece of India's rich cultural and folk story-telling history. We hope you'll delve into this gem and enjoy the beauty of the art and story presented which can surely open the doors for insightful discussion to children and adults alike." - GA Staff
The Secret Garden
by Frances Hodgson Burnett
"After losing her parents, young Mary Lennox is sent from India to live in her uncle's gloomy mansion on the wild English moors. She is lonely and has no one to play with, but one day she learns of a secret garden somewhere in the grounds that no one is allowed to enter. Then Mary uncovers an old key in a flowerbed - and a gust of magic leads her to the hidden door. Slowly she turns the key and enters a world she could never have imagined." - Source
Age Range: 8 - 12 years
Grade Level: 3 - 7
"Magic isn't just wizards and spell books, it is all around us in the pure serenity of nature, in the friendships we cultivate and in the kindness we share. The Secret Garden is a delightful story, a true classic, full of unexpected wonder and demonstrates the powerful transformation of life in nature that we see everyday. While it may have been published in 1911, it nonetheless is relevant to readers today, especially to those of us swept up in the modern world of hi-tech devices. A must read!" - GA Staff
Let’s face it—life is busy! Between work and life responsibilities, the days pass us by in the blink of an eye. Many parents worry that they don’t spend enough time with their children, wondering if this will lead to developmental delays. Some parents feel guilty about working full time, or experience anxiety about choosing to work out at the gym or go to dinner with friends. Social media posts from stay-at-home parents who are able to take their children to the local zoo or work on colors and the alphabet with them only add to this anxiety.
But have no despair! A recent study in the Journal of Marriage and Family questions the impact the amount of time mothers spend with their children has on the academic achievement, behavior, and emotional well-being of their children. This is not to negate the importance of time spent with children, but rather, to reinforce the point that quality of time is much more important than quantity of time. Children need high-quality time with parents and caregivers—that is what is most beneficial to children and what can have a positive effect on them as they grow. It isn’t about endless hours of time—it’s about how you choose to spend that time that truly matters.
As parents and caregivers, we can make choices to ensure time spent with our children is high-quality. Here are nine tips for busy families:
Have a daily “connect” time with your child. Do this face-to-face, if possible; but if this isn’t an option, create a routine for doing so in other ways, such as leaving a note in your child’s lunch bag, posting a note by his toothbrush, or writing an encouraging saying on a shared whiteboard in the house.
Create a special ritual for you and your child—something that can be done every day. For example, let your child choose and read one book with you at bedtime.
Tell your child you love her every day. And tell her how important she is to you and how she makes you feel.
Reinforce positive behavior. For example, if your child completes his chores without your asking, acknowledge it with words of appreciation—even if you don’t have the chance do so until the next day.
Make and eat meals with your children whenever possible. If time is limited, look for simple meals that require very little preparation, or grab a healthy snack such as an apple and sit for a few minutes and chat with your child.
Schedule time for doing an activity of your child’s choosing. Be sure to follow through and complete the activity without any distractions.
Play with your child, even if it’s during bath time or outside before you drop her off at preschool. Every little bit of time makes a positive impact!
Laugh and be silly with your child.
Turn off technology when you spend time with your child. Try not to text, answer calls, scroll through social media, or watch television.
Meaningful connections are about quality of time, not quantity of time. Keep it simple and connect with your child in ways that make sense for your lifestyle and relationship. Each connection has a lasting impact and provides the support and reassurance that your child needs.
Jessica Alvarado has spent over a decade in higher education and is currently an assistant professor at National University, working with students in their early childhood education programs. When not working, she enjoys spending time with her husband, son, and family.