February 11, 2013

9 Hearts - 7 Ways to Learn



Holidays are loaded with opportunities for teachable moments.  Amidst all the festivities and decor, children will be having fun learning without even realizing it.

These nine simple hearts are your key to a host of Valentine's Day related learning games.

1.  Learning to wield a writing utensil begins at an early age by practicing fine motor control.  As children grow, their writing transitions from large, full-arm strokes toward small finger and wrist movements.  Encourage fine motor development by printing the heart picture above, and having your child color each of the hearts (they don't have to be the same).  Begin with the large ones, then medium, and finish with the small ones to naturally guide your child's hand to using smaller, more precise hand movements.

If your child can cut out the hearts without changing their sizes too much, have them do so before beginning activities 2-4.  Otherwise, cut them out yourself, and practice cutting at another time.

An important aspect of children's cognitive development is learning to sort objects or situations according to any characteristic (size, color, shape, type, etc.).  This skill is essential for foundational understanding in science, math, literacy, art, music, and more!  The next three activities relate to this skill called seriation.

2.  Order the hearts from smallest to largest, and then from largest to smallest.  Name them small, medium, and large, or little, middle, and big.

3.  Mix up all the hearts in a pile.  Then sort them by size, placing all the small ones in a pile, all the medium ones in a separate pile, and so on.  

4.  Mix up all the hearts again.  Now sort them by color or design.  This one can be tricky as all children will color the hearts differently.  If there are a variety of colors, gently guide your child through the process of sorting blue from orange from red.  If they're all pink, it is perfectly acceptable to put them all in one pink pile.  

If all the hearts are ALL the colors, here are some ideas.

Ways to sort by design:  
     -Do some have dots and others have lines?  
     -Are some scribbled and others colored neatly?  
     -Do some have a lot of the paper showing through and others have none at all?

The point of sorting is to note the differences between items in a group.  The surprise at the end is now you've matched them according to their likenesses.  

Be sure to help your child notice now that the hearts are sorted by color, they are no longer sorted by size (unless of course they colored all the small ones red, but you will have fun figuring this out!).

5.  Have your child line up all the hearts in a straight horizontal line.  Now, together, count them pointing to each one as you count it (this action with the counting reinforces one to one correspondence).  When you're finished, count them one more time, but this time use ordinal numbers. Beginning on the left, point to each heart one at a time in sequence, and say, "First, second, third, . . ."  Can your child think of a time in the day we count by first, second, third, and so on?  

Possibilities could include: 
     -When waiting turn in line.
     -When ordering the events of the day.
     -When describing what to do before going to the park.

6.  It is important for children to practice using position words to describe things they see or make.  As your child plays freely with the hearts, narrate her play with position words such as:  above, below, under, over, left, right, in front, and behind.

     -"The pink heart is above the blue heart."  
     -"The small, red heart is way below the medium, orange heart."  
     -"The purple heart flies to the left of the great big, yellow heart."

7.  Make a story with the hearts.  Attach arms and legs made from paper scraps, draw faces, pretend they are people, animals, or just heart creatures.  Make a heart creature home, neighborhood, family, pet, city, or even a heart creature workplace.  Use your imaginations and have fun!  

Encourage your child to initiate the ideas, and encourage him as needed.  Be sure to prompt your child to share aloud the story in his head.  Storytelling helps children learn to read and comprehend what they read.  Consider laminating (with stick-on laminating sheets) the pieces so your child can retell the story again and again. 

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Your child probably does not have the attention span to do all of these activities at once.  Try the ones you think your child will enjoy most.  Then, later in the day or the week, encourage your child to play more heart games.  Repeat olds ones and add in some new ones.  Enjoy!

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