How do kids learn? Through exploring the world around them, of course!
Babies like to put every item within reach into their tiny mouths, just to see how they taste and feel. Toddlers enjoy ripping and breaking things, just to see how they are made. Preschoolers ask "why?" on average every fifteen seconds, just to figure out how things work. Isn't it fun having these small scientists in our lives? Because that is exactly what they are -- endlessly inquisitive little minds hard at work understanding this world they've been dropped into. Our children have discovered so much from all that hands-on investigating, and there's even more that we can explore with them.
These are some of the skills that experts have identified as essential for preschoolers to learn along with a few ideas to help you help your children learn even more about the world around them.
To help your child learn to use tools and objects to construct and create ...
... try creating Paper Mache Maracas.
Take a small balloon (water balloon size) and fill it with a handful of small beans or rice. Then, fill the balloon with air to create the base for the paper mache. You will also want to cut or tear many strips of newspaper before you make the paper mache paste. To create the paper mache paste, use 2 parts water to 1 part flour. (If you make a lot of paste to use in future projects, you might throw in a tablespoon or two of salt to prevent mold.) Mix the water and flour together to make a paste; stir until the lumps are all gone. Then, boil the paste mixture over low heat and stir until thick and glossy. You are ready to begin making the paper mache maracas! Help your child take the newspaper strips and dip them in the paste. You should cover the entire balloon with the paper-mache newspaper strips. Then, add a popsicle stick for a handle. Attach the popsicle stick to the bottom of the balloon, near the knot, and affix it with more of the paper-mache newspaper strips. Let it all dry. When the maraca is completely dry, pop the balloon by pressing a needle through the newspaper next to the stick. You and your child are now ready to decorate! Get our your paints, markers, stickers, etc. and have fun. When your maraca -- or maracas -- are done put on your favorite music and play along.
To help your child acquire an initial understanding of the living world ...
... build a Nature Collection together.
Children love to collect various items on an outdoor walk. Next time you go on a walk with your child, bring a bag with you. As your child collects leaves, acorns, and rocks, put them into your bag. When you arrive home, you and your child can sort and count the different outdoor 'souvenirs.' To begin a nature collection, give each different type of thing its own jar or bowl that your child can add to on future walks.
To help your child identify practical measures for conserving energy and resources ...
... teach them why Recycling Matters.
Gather the family and visit a nearby recycling plant. Be sure to call ahead to make arrangements for a guided tour. Help prepare and educate your child on recycling by checking out relevant books at your library and reading them together in preparations for your tour. Be sure to incorporate this lesson into your home life, too. Kids love looking for the recycling numbers on the bottom of plastic containers and helping to sort the recyclables into different bins.
To help your child learn the four seasons ...
... make a Spring Collage.
Go on a nature walk and pick up wildflowers, leaves, twigs, feathers, and other signs of spring in a paper bag. Next, help your child write "spring" on a paper plate. Then have him or her glue on the spring items to the plate. A pretty reminder of this season of growth.
To help your child develop an initial understanding of the material world ...
... create Wind Spinners.
To get ready for the activity, begin by cutting the top and bottom off an empty and clean two-liter bottle. Then, help your child to paint bright slanted stripes in alternating colors. Allow paint to dry. Once the paint has dried, cut the painted plastic tube into a spiral. Trim the end so that is squared, then use a hole punch to make a hole for hanging. Hook a fishing swivel through the hole, then hang your wind spinner outside using heavy duty string. Kids love watching the Wind Spinner twirl around.
To help your child identify the five senses and associated body parts ...
... play the Five Senses Game.
This is a great activity for kids to do on a car trip. Name an object that you see while driving, for example, a tree, a cow, a tire, etc. Have your child describe it using the 5 senses: what does the object look like, does it make a sound, what would it taste like, etc. This encourages your child to think creatively and analytically about the things around him.
To teach your child the basic parts of plants and what plants need to grow ...
... create a Nature Book.
Go on a nature walk with your preschooler. While on your walk, collect leaves, stones, flowers, and bark. Let your child pick up different objects that represent the nature in your area. Put one of each nature item in a quart-size ziploc bag and seal. Label each bag with a Sharpie (e.g. "Yellow flower"). Tape the bottom side of all 4 bags together with colored painters tape. Now you have a book where you and your child can read and "open" or unzip the pages. Not only will you build your child's vocabulary and reading skills, but you can also learn about all the different trees and flowers in your neighborhood.
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