by Jane Cleere Johnson, Editor for knowonder!
Perhaps that title sounds like it should be in the fiction section of this magazine. If it sounds like a story title, it is! It all began when I was expecting my third child in three years.
My oldest, Amy, was two years old, and the baby was seven months old. I was ill. You know the kind of ill, where you hope your sweet husband cleaned the toilet bowl because you are going to be spending a lot of time in there leaning over the porcelain throne? I could barely move without a typhoon sized wave of nausea washing over me. My two year old wanted, needed, and deserved to be active.
But there I was lying on the couch, hoping the baby Becca-boo, would just sleep a bit longer so I could rest in my debilitated state. I’d read to Amy. We’d sing the alphabet song together. She’d watch Sesame Street. But she needed to be up and around, moving and learning. I didn’t even let her go out into our fenced backyard because I was too ill to get up off the couch. So, one day, or probably in the middle of the night, after getting up with the baby, I had a great idea. I put Becca back to bed and crept into the kitchen. Still nauseated but determined to provide my daughter with some fun learning experiences, I stayed up and prepared materials. These materials were simple and now, with the advent of internet clipart would be even easier to make.
First I drew two copies of each upper case and each lower case letter of the alphabet on individual pieces of construction paper. Next I drew pictures to correlate with each letter; just like you’d find in an alphabet book, but very simple. I taped (we didn’t have ticky-tacky back then), the capital letters on the walls all around the main area of our house. I made sure the letters were down low enough that Amy could take them off and bring them to me.
When Amy got up in the morning, and after I gave her a good breakfast, (probably consisting of graham crackers and a sippy cup of milk, you know the days). I took my position on the couch, but this time I was armed! I told Amy she was going on a treasure hunt. I had her glance around the room at the letters on the wall and told her we were going to play a matching game; the letters were the treasures. I showed Amy the letter “A.” She knew it right away. She ran around the room until she found the matching capital “A.” Letting out a squeal of delight, she said “I found it mommy, I found ‘A’.” We continued this game for a long time; Amy never tired of taking a new letter from my hand, running around the room and finding its match. She didn’t know all of the letters of course but she learned to recognize them quickly and was telling me their names within a few days of doing this activity.
As soon as Amy mastered matching capitals to capitals, I had her match lower case to lower case. Then she progressed to matching upper to lower and finally, as we worked on sounds, she was able to match letters to pictures. This was an amazing activity that I used many times throughout the years with my children, even when I wasn’t ill. I expanded on the concept as I had my children, and later those in my daycare, match baby and adult animals, colors to colors, as well as color names to colored construction paper, and small shapes to corresponding large shapes.
As a mother of six children, daycare provider for several more and now teacher of hundreds, I know that children need to move. Since those days over twenty years ago I have discovered research based practices that support my feelings about movement. I recommend Jean Blaydes Madigan and her website at actionbasedlearning.com. I recently had the pleasure of studying her methods in university level physical education for teachers course. Her manual, Thinking on Your Feet, 200+ Activities That Make Learning a Moving Experience, though generally used by teachers, serves as a valuable resource for parents who would like to add movement to the learning experience. So, get those brains going! Get those juices flowing! Get up and learn!
Another great game I dubbed Pennies for Picking up. This game makes cleaning fun, gives children responsibility, and allows them to use fine and gross motor skills. You will need:
+ A bank
As the children place the toys in the toy box make sure they count. They can pick up one toy at a time, or two, or a whole bunch while counting as they go. Then they get to come over to you and count out the amount of pennies; one for each toy. Then they get to put the pennies into their bank. I began this activity with Amy when she was only twenty months old; with careful supervision. This made her excited to put her money in her bank, not in her mouth!