Saturday, 31 March 2012

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Three Bear Family

Many children are attracted to teddy bears. Thus, these bears are fantastic tools for helping children to learn about colors, both naming and sorting, counting and many other Maths activities in a fun way. They are value for money, because they are suitable for a wide range of age groups and grow with the child. It is good to sit with your child and teach him what to do with the bears before you leave him with this toy. You can get them from Amazon:





Here are some fun and educational ways you can use the bears:

Fine motor skill training - pincer grasp (From 1 year old)

If your child is not ready for sorting or counting, simply letting your child play with the bears by picking up the bears, getting the bears to stand upright, is good practice for fine motor skills because of their small size.

Warning: Not for toddlers who are still mouthing.

Montessori Activity (From 1.5 year old)

When your child could pick up the bear by hand, you can increase the challenge by letting him pick up each bear with a tong.

Teach colours and sorting (From 1.5 year old)

You can talk about the colour of the bears with your child. You can place all the bears in a bowl, and ask your child to sort them by colour into each cup with the same colour.
Teach size (From 1.5 year old)

You can talk about the sizes, which one is Daddy Bear, Mommy Bear and Baby Bear.

Counting (From 2 years old)

Ask your child, for example, to get you 5 blue bears. Get him to count them, as he gets you the bear.

Talk to your child about the total number of bears (50), and that there are ten bears in each of the five colors. When cleaning up, count the bears as you put them away

For older children, when cleaning up, you can ask your child to put them into the plastic bag by colour and ask him how many there are each time each bag is completed. For example, say, "Now there are 10. Now there are 20. Now there are 30.

Props for trucks (From 2 years old)

Our Little FECS loves to use them as "cement" in his cement mixer truck.  

Language (Playing I Spy) (From 2.5 years old)

You can use them to work on your child's language skills (both expressive and receptive). For example, you can put the bears around the house and then say, "I see a bear on top of the table!" And your child has to go and find them. You can use them to work on workds like "beneath", "between", "inside", "in", "under", "near", "over", etc. Your child will have fun hunting down the bears based on your instructions all around the house.

When sorting, they work on numeracy words like "few" "many" "most" "all" "some" and "none." For example, ask your child to put a "few" in the cup, or to find "all" the bears and put them on the plate.

You can discuss the similarities and differences with the bears.

Patterning (From 3 years old)

You can make patterns with the bears together with your child.

Weighing (From 3.5 years old)

You can put the bears on a scale and weigh them. Ask your child how many baby bears equals the weight of one papa bear?

Counters to Teach Maths (From 4 years old)

You can use the bears as counters for Maths to teach addition and subtraction, multiplication and division.

Obstacle Course (For ADHD children)

According to a review in Amazon, you can make obstacle course with a loop of climbing through things, jumping over pillows, running down the hallway, etc. in which you put 10 bears in a cup at the beginning of the course and an empty cup at the end of the course to collect the bears as he takes one through each round. You can set up the cups all over the biggest room of your home and have your child running around the house to sort the bears into the appropriate cup.

Monday, 26 March 2012

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Montessori Activity: Teaching Letter "C" with Lego



Age: from 4 years old

Objectives:
1. To teach the letter "C"
2. To teach word recognition, which is the beginning stage of learning to read.
3. To teach spelling in a fun way
4. To expand the child's vocabulary

Materials:
1. 1 container with Lego letter bricks (in the quantity sufficient to spell the name of the items you gathered).
2. Container with 3 - 5 small miniature toys or things that start with the letter C such as cup, cow, carrot, clip, cottonwool, comb, etc.
3. 1 Lego building plate
4. 1 tray

Directions:
1. Tell your child that today you are going to focus on the letter "c" and that all the things in container start with the letter "c".

2. Take the letter "c" bricks and put them vertically on the lego building plate.

3. Select one of the items and spell its name with the lego bricks from the container, and say to your child, for example, "This is a cup. It is spelt c-u-p. It starts with the letter "c". Place the cup next to its spelling. (For younger children, stop here with just one word. For older children, proceed on.)

4. Select the next item, for example, cow. Spell its name with lego bricks and place the object next to its spelling. Say this is a cow. It is spelt c-o-w. It also starts with the letter "c". Place the cow next to its spelling.

5. Select the last item and repeat.

6. Remove the toys and ask your child to match the toy with the spelling.

Tips:
If you don't have the Lego letter bricks, you can substitute it with letter magnets and white board.

Additional Information:
Although this is probably too advanced for Joshua now, I just thought of this idea, and I have got to record it down in my blog, before I forget. You can get the Lego letter bricks from amazon:


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Montessori Activity: Teaching Pattern Recognition to Toddlers




Age: From 2.5 years old

Objectives:
1. To reinforce visual discrimination.
2. To refine eye-hand coordination.
3. To teach colours and shapes.
4. To get the child ready for Maths.
5. To teach logic.

Materials:
1. Pattern blocks enough for the pattern card
2. 1 Pattern card

Directions:
1. Introduce your child to the different shapes e.g. triangle, square, trapezoid, diamond, hexagon, etc.

2. Show your child how to form the same the pattern on the pattern card.

3. Invite your child to try.

4. Once he has successfully done so, encourage him to form the same pattern below the pattern card.

Additional Information:
Joshua (3Y11D) tried this for the first time today. He could do the simple design easily. I should probably have let him try this at a younger age. This is a good way to teach pattern. The next time, I will pick a slightly more complex design for him to try.

I am very happy that I bought the pattern blocks as it is fun and educational. I could not find it in Copenhagen (perhaps I did not try hard enough), but I got the pattern blocks from amazon:


Confessions of a Homeschooler have the most simple, cool and beautiful cards. You can download from her blog here.

Sunday, 25 March 2012

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Danish Mushroom Sauce


Adapted from my father-in-law's, Hans', recipe

Ingredients:
- 250g Oyster mushrooms (Østerhatte)
- 250ml cream 38% or 9% (piskefløde eller kaffefløde)
- 1/2 cup red wine
- 1/2 cup beef stock
- 1 clove garlic chopped
- 1 TBS cooking oil
- 1 tsp soya sauce
- salt to taste

Directions:
1. Heat pan with oil and fry garlic until golden.

2. Add mushrooms and fry until fragrant.

3. Add wine and beef stock and let the alcohol evaporates.

4. Simmer on medium low heat, add the cream and stir.

5. Add soya sauce and salt to taste.

Additional Information:
It is the season for oyster mushrooms. We have Florian's cousin over for dinner this evening. We decided to make mushroom sauce to go with the roast beef, salad and potatoes.

Saturday, 24 March 2012

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How To Organize Your Child's Toys & Your Teaching Materials



The Lego bricks can be frustrating for children, as it takes them time to find the bricks they wanted. Being a neat freak, I have to think of a way to keep them organized. The goal is fast and easy retrieval, when the child is at play or at work, especially for a working mom like me. It is also much more efficient when the child learns in an clear and organized environment. I found inspiration from the men's worktool organization system from Black & Decker. That's how Florian organized his tools. So off we went to the hardware store, and I got myself some organizers.

For some, it gives them headache to have to organize and tidy up such materials, but it gave me hours of pleasure sorting them into the compartments and a great stress reliever to see the things fall nicely into its place. It takes initially time to establish such a system, but maintaining the system and cleaning up will be easy later on, which is a time saver. So the initial investment is worth it.

Here are some tips from my experience:

1. Choose transparent containers for ease of overview.

2. Choose standard size containers with standard size pocket compartments. It makes the organization much easier as well as storage.

3. Choose preferably an organizer with 26 pockets to fit all the letters.

4. When organizing numbers, take into account the symbols "+-x/"

5. For these Lego Education 9530 and 9531 sets, the size 26 x 22.5 x 5 cm work best.

You could also get something similar from Amazon:


Friday, 23 March 2012

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Montessori Activity: Training Ability to Listen to Sounds (3A)

Idea from the book "Phonemic Awareness in Young Children"

Age: From 2.5 years old

Objective(s):
1. To stimulate the development of phonemic awareness in children.
2. To train your child's ability to focus their attention on specific sounds of interest

Materials:
Recording of various sounds such as:
- Birds chirping
- Buses passing
- Cars
- Clock ticking
- Dog
- Water dripping from tap
- Fan turning
- Footsteps
- Hair-dryer
- Motorcycle's engine
- Ocean waves
- Rustling of tree leaves
- Scissors cutting
- Swallowing
- Train
- Voices
- Washing machine
- Wind

You can download for free evaluation of the sounds here: www.sounddogs.com

Directions:
1. Start by talking about the difference between listening with eyes closed and with eyes open.

2. Ask your child to close his eyes and listen for a few seconds or 1 minute (depending on the age of your child. For younger child, start with only a few seconds and gradually build up). Your child will listen to the sounds in his surroundings or play the MP3 player.

3. Thereafter, invite your child to name the different sounds that he heard. He will quickly learn to listen actively.

Tips:
Repeat this game in a different location.

Additional Information:
According to the book, "Phonemic Awareness in Young Children" by Marilyn Jager Adams, Barbara R. Foorman and Ingvar Lundberg, the goal of this game is to develop the child's linguistic awareness in a way that cognitively prepares them for learning to read and write. The children are asked to listen to many everyday sounds. Through this game, the children will discover that if they pay attention and listen, they will b e able to hear sounds around them.

This book provides even a suggested schedule on how to introduce the phonic activities for kindergarten children. The whole program takes about 8 months. I highly recommend this book:



You can buy ready recorded sounds for convenience from Amazon below:


or you can download for evaluation for free from this website, which is what I do, since Amazon does not sell to our geographical region:

http://www.sounddogs.com

This year, I am focusing on Maths and Language with Joshua. I believe that this game can be started with younger children of 2 years old, but I didn't have the time to explore that then, being a working mom, as our last year curriculum concentrated on Montessori Practical Life.

This game is actually very similar to the Montessori's Silence game. Joshua had tried this today for the first time. I tried to make action to go with the sounds, incurring lots of giggle and laughter from Joshua. He found it fun. He could guess the sound of cars and voices of people easily from the recording. He could not guessed so well the sounds of birds, thinking that they were ducks. He mistook the sound of waves to be the sound of cars. He guessed correctly the sound of scissors cutting only after I made the cutting handsign to go along with the sound. Similarly for the sound of wind. He could not gues the sound of footsteps and clock. After listening to the recording of clock, we went to his playroom to listen to his clock. It made him more aware and interested in listening to the real clock, after this activity. After today, I think it has made him more aware of the different sounds in our surrounding. I am following the suggested programme schedule by this book and will be repeating this again soon.

References:
Phonemics Awareness in Young Children by Marilyn Jager Adams, Barbara R. Foorman and Ingvar Lundberg
http://www.sounddogs.com/


Wednesday, 21 March 2012

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Having Fun Learning Counting Through Board Games



Age: From 3 to 7 years old

Objectives:
1. Provide a fun and meaningful way to spend time as a family.
2. Provide a fun way to teach Maths and counting

Directions:
1. Spread the cards face down with the dots upwards on the table.
2. You take turn to pick up a card based on the roll of the dice.
3. Look at the number of ladybirds at the back of the card, and count them.
4. Put the card you got aside and repeat step 1 - 3 until the last card is taken.
5. Count and total up the number of ladybirds on your cards at the end of the game. The person with the most number of ladybirds wins.

Additional Information:
Neither Florian nor I played much board games, when we were children. Board game is actually a very good way to develop the children’s concentration skills and attention span, which at the same time, is fun. Thus, I wanted to introduce Joshua to board game at an early age to cultivate his interest for educational board games.

However, it was difficult to find one that is suitable for very young children. I am very selective and would only pick board game with a wholesome and educational value. I was really excited to find this! This is an excellent educational game for 3 years old up. I have also bought an extra set for my niece.

It is a Maths based game that teaches counting, and very easy and fun for young children. In addition, it teaches taking turns and observational skills. What I like best about it is its simplicity. It would be perfect is the dice is bigger in size for 3 year old though.

This was Joshua's first board game. Joshua (3Y19D) tried it this morning for the first time and we had a lot of laughter and fun. It got him to do a lot of counting today. He was counting the dots on the dice, the dots on the cards and the number of ladybirds. We had a lot of laughter and fun, especially when he got the card with zero ladybird on it! This was just the way I want him to remember his first experience with board game - with fun and laughter and not with frustration or boredom. I thank God it went really well!

I bought this game of ladybird board game from Amazon:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Orchard-Toys-009-Game-Ladybirds/dp/B000A42CMA/ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top




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Montessori Activity: Teaching Pattern Recognition with Marbles/模式识别




Age: From 3 years

Activity Duration: 10-15 minutes

Objective(s):
1. To get the child ready for Maths.
2. To teach logic and number pattern recognition.
3. To train the child’s fine motor skills.
4. To revise colours in a new way.
5. To encourage counting.

Materials:
1. 1 container containing marbles of 5 different colours of 7 marbles each
2. 1 suction pad
3. 1 pair of tweezers (optional)
4. 1 tray

Cost:
1. Suction Pad: 10 DKK (2.23 SGD or 1.78 USD) from Tiger
2. Marbles: 7 DKK (1.70 SGD)

Directions:
1. Demonstrate by making a row of marbles of a certain colour, e.g. blue.

2. Start each of the rows with a new colour and ask your child to fill the row with the respective colour.

3. As your child does it, he may comment on the colour and start counting the marbles. If not, you can take the opportunity to comment on the colour and encourage him to count the marbles.

Additional Information:
Pattern recognition is one of the basic Maths concept, along with sorting ability. I have been exploring ways to sensitize Joshua to patterns, and slowly getting some success. This is one of the easiest pattern, and today (3Y16D). I got the level of difficulty and challenge right. Joshua could recognize the goal and the pattern and he went on to complete the whole pad on his own.

However, we were missing a light blue marble to complete the last slot, otherwise it would be perfect. I was thinking that we would just live with it, than buying a new bag of marbles, which I was tempted to. But Florian actually suggested that we will go and buy another bag of marbles so that we have the last light blue colour marble. So... maybe... I will just do that :-)

You can get the materials from Amazon:

Monday, 19 March 2012

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Montessori Activity: Transferring Marbles Onto Suction Pad with Tweezers





Age: From 2.5 years old

Activity Duration: 5-15 minutes

Preparation Time: 3 minutes

Objectives:

1. To train the child’s fine motor skills.
2. To teach the concept of squeeze and release.
3. To teach the names of different colours.
4. To teach counting.

Materials:

1. 1 suction pad
2. 1 container with marbles
3. 1 pair of tweezers
4. 1 Tray

Directions:

1. Demonstrate by transferring the marbles one-by-one from the container to the suction pad.

2. Encourage your child to try.

3. Talk about the colours and count the marbles during the game. Give a lot of praise when your child succeed.

Cost:

Suction pad 10 DKK (2.23 SGD or 1.78 USD) from Tiger

Additional Information:

J (3Y0M14D) tried this for the first time today 19 March 2012. He could do it rather well, although it took him some effort to complete the whole pad and required some concentration. However, he concentrated and completed it. He wanted to do it again on his own, while I continued my own chores. He commented on the similarity of the tweezers and chopsticks and that the pair of tweezers worked like chopsticks. He managed to work on it for 15-20 minutes, I think. Compared to when he started at 2 years old, at 3 years old, he is now able to work harder and longer on his Montessori activities, and it is very rewarding to see the progress. It is training his concentration. My efforts of persevering for the past 1 year has paid off, and I just want to thank God deeply.


I bought my soap pad in Denmark, but the rubber suction soap holder is available in Amazon:

Thursday, 15 March 2012

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Montessori Activity: Teaching Counting with Pom Poms




Age: From 2.5 years old

Objectives: To teach counting objects in a fun way

Materials:
1. 1 counting worksheet (Confessions of a Homeschooler has a fantastic one you can download here)
2. 1 bowl containing pom poms
3. 1 pincer
4. 1 tray

Directions:
1. Demonstrate by putting one pom pom on the label called "One" and two pom poms on the label called "Two", saying, "Joshua, this is one, it gets one pom pom... this is two, it gets two pom poms This is three, how many pom poms should it gets?"

2. Encourage your child to try to do the same for the remaining labels "Three" to "Five".

Additional Information:
15 March 2012 - Florian gave Joshua tried this today (3Y10D) and he enjoyed it, but he did not
complete it.
 
 
References:

You can also buy the pom poms from Amazon:



Wednesday, 14 March 2012

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J Summary (3Y9D) - Making Homework a Privilege Activity



If I can and have the energy, I will accompany J to do homework each evening before he goes to bed. Just like bed time reading, this has become a very cosy Mommy and Josh time together and part of the bedtime routine. Doing homework is one of the methods I am using to develop J's concentration power (another good method to train concentation power and attention span is learning the piano). But it has to start from young. I use preschoolers' activity books for his homework.

J went up to bed late this evening. So he had to go straight to bed. No bed time reading and no bed time homework. He pleaded with me. So I relented. I told him that he was only allowed to do 1 page of homework, and got a "Yes Mommy" from him. I allowed him to choose. He chose the Kumon Mazes. He completed his one page. Time to close the book. He did. I mentioned that because he had used his time to watch TV, there was no time left for books and homework. So next time, he has to come up to bed early, so that he could have time to do his homework. He has to make a choice when using his time. Next time he should not watch TV.

He began to cry a little and said repeatedly in Mandarin, "Next time I don't want to watch TV anymore. Next time I don't want to watch TV anymore. Next time I don't want to watch TV anymore."

I had use this "bad" TV watching incident for good. Homework becomes very precious and a privilege. So instead of nagging him, "go and do your homework", I have turned it into something precious to be pursued. I related this story to Daddy. He said to just wait and see how long this love for homework will last.

It probably would not last, but I will enjoy it while it lasts. I acknowledge that this method would not work on all children, as most preschoolers when given a choice between watching TV or doing homework, would certainly choose to watch TV.

Updates:
This evening 15 March 2012 (3Y10D), J remembered. He didn't watch TV. He prepared all the preschool activity books for bedtime. He chose the Kumon My First Book of Tracing and went on to complete the whole book. He got his certificate of completion this evening.



You can see more pictures here:

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Night Time Toilet Training Chart


Joshua pasting a small sticker star

Age: From 3 years old

Materials:
1. 1 sheet of monthly calendar
2. Stickers

Directions:
1. Stick the monthly calendar on the wall.
2. Show your child the calendar and the stickers.
3. Before your child goes to bed, let him go to the toilet for the last time to prevent any accident during the night.
4. Explain to your child the evening before that he gets to stick a sticker, if he stay dry the next morning.

Additional Information:
Joshua had been staying dry for some evenings now, although it wasn't consistent. We decided to try to train him off diaper at night, but with the diaper on, and the aim is that the diaper stays dry. Florian thought of this activity. I explained to Joshua the night before the concept of the night time toilet training chart. He understood it, but protested that he could not keep his diaper dry.

This morning, while Florian was in the shower, Joshua woke up. Joshua went to the toilet himself, undressed himself and went to the potty. He took a sticker and stuck it onto one of the boxes of the chart. We checked the diaper, and saw that it was wet. So Joshua decided to reward himself with a sticker anyway. But we told him that it was very well done of him to take the iniative to do all these and so he got to keep the sticker.

Updates 17.3.2012:
Joshua had been peeing in his diapers for the past few nights, so he hadn't a chance to get a sticker star yet. However, he wanted to have a sticker. Each morning, he has been very good and independent in off the sleeping bag, going to the toilet himself, undressing himself, etc., so Florian thought of a way to reward that. He gets a smaller star for taking the initiative and doing all these things on his own in the morning. He only gets a big star, if he keeps his night diaper dry. So far, he has many small stars, but no big star yet.

Aaahhh, apparently someone else has similar idea as Florian. Our printed calendar is less fanciful, but does the job. But you can buy more fanciful ones from Amazon:

Sunday, 11 March 2012

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Denmark National Museum/Nationalmuseet


Age: From 3 - 12 years old

Denmark is a very children friendly country and this is also reflected in their museums.

The Danish National Museum has a section for kids called Børnesmuseet - The Children's Museum -  and it is the most fantastic place! Here is a showcase of the Danish's approach to learning and childhood - The children get to learn about history and culture of the Danish civilization, as well as the immigrants' culture in Denmark, namely, Pakistan and Turkey. Kids can play their way through history at the Children's Museum. Here Amy was playing at the real life size exhibit complete with toy food!

The best thing is that it is totally free! A great place to bring overseas guest with children and a great time to kill time in door during winter, or when the weather is bad.

You can see more pictures here:

http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10150613833548348.391119.705043347&type=3&l=1da97947f6

You can read more about The Children's Museum here:
http://www.nationalmuseet.dk/sw31067.asp

Opening Hours:
The Danish National Museum is open from Tuesday to Sunday 10am to 5pm. The Children's Museum (Børnenes Museum) closes at 4.30pm. It is however, open on New Year's day, 2nd Easter Day, Constitution Day, 2nd Pentecostal Day, 2nd Christmas Day and Monday in week 42. The museum is closed on 24 Dec. 25 Dec. and 31 Dec.

Address:
Ny Vestergade 10
Postadresse: Frederiksholms Kanal 12,
1220 København K
Tlf: 3313 4411
Informationen (direkte): Tlf. 3347 3850

The Children's Museum is located near the entrance. Turn left immediately after entering the museum and then turn right. You will see a glass door and the sign "Børnenes Museet". Enter.
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Montessori Activity: Developing Your Child's Interest in Mathematics with Lego Mosaics Fun




Age: From 3.5 years

Activity Duration: 10-15 minutes

Objective(s):
1. To get the child ready for Maths.
2. To teach logic and pattern recognition.
3. To train the child’s fine motor skills.
4. To encourage creativity

Materials:
1. 1 container containing the Lego bricks for  building mosaics
2. 1 Lego base plate
3. 1 Inspiration Card

Directions:
1. Show your child how to build the mosaic picutures using the Lego bricks.

2. Encourage your child to try.

Additional Information:
Some parents prefer to let their children build Lego model from blank, without any inspiration sheet. I do both. I actually believe that having the inspiration sheet would inspire the children to think of new ideas. No one creates something out of totally nothing, apart from God Himself. Creativity comes from inspiration from what had been created from generations ago and also from the nature God has created. Thus, I gave Joshua the Inspiration card.

As in reading, experts advise that it is important to start encouraging the love for books from babyhood. I believe that this is the same with Mathematics, and am trying to do the same.

My only regret is that I had not done the same for my nephew, when he was a young child. It could have helped him to overcome his ADHD and to develop the love for learning. Although he had learning difficulty, he is very creative with Lego and enjoys playing with it. I could have made use of Lego to teach Maths. Back then, I knew very little about child development. But I am not giving up on my nephew yet.

This is an excellent gem from Lego Education which I bought. It is available in Amazon:



Updates:
 
11 & 13 September 2013:






15 September 2013: J suggested by himself to play with LEGO:





23 April 2014 (5Y1M18D): J suggested playing with this toy, and used his imagination to create graphics which were not from the instruction sheets.
 

 
References:
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