Saturday, October 29, 2011

Questions and Answers

I've already done a post about the importance of talking to your child constantly. This post will cover the importance of questions and answers. I don't have photos of asking questions, so these will have to do.

What's that?

As soon as the children could answer (verbally or non-verbally) we started asking questions. While this starts simply, "Do you want more broccoli?" It soon changes to helping them label the things around them, "Where is the book?" As they become more verbal, we start asking open ended questions, "What happened?" or "What would you like to do now?" This helps develop their expressive language, while the closed questions often allow a child to use only their receptive language.

I'm not sure I like this...

For example, if you have two blocks and ask "Which one is yellow?" They can point or just repeat yellow while showing you which one is yellow. You have given them all of the information. This is an example of receptive language. If you ask, "What color is this?" They must search their memory for the correct word. The first clue is color, so they think of all the color words they know, then they have to figure out what color it is and state the correct word. This is expressive language and it's a much higher verbal skill.

Where are we?
When relying on expressive language, the answers often come slowly. I'm sure you have watched a child thinking. It's almost like you can see the process inside their heads. It is extremely important after asking a question to wait for the child to answer. If you answer for them (or more likely if an older sibling answers for them) then they stop trying to answer.

He's soft!

This is something most teachers have been trained to do because it doesn't come naturally. Especially if you are normally working with a group of students. There are always a few in the group who will answer quickly and you can move on. When dealing with students in small groups or one-on-one it can feel like a long time for no answer. In our world of constant noise, even a few seconds of silence seem to drag it out. Yet it is extremely important to wait. Those students who take longer to answer need these types of questions even more. I worked at a school where we set the goal to ask each child at least one question that would cause them to think for 8-10 seconds before they could answer each week. This is a great example of individualized education.

Monday, October 24, 2011

What not to do

We do not sit on the train table.

We do not stand on the train table.

We do take photos as proof before re-childproofing the table.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

How kids are different

We do art at least 5 times a week, though usually it's more often. The kids love it and it develops their fine motor skills, creativity, and confidence. Once they started speaking I started asking them open ended questions about what they had made. Prompts like: "Tell me about your painting." and "What does it look like to you?" Each piece is completely different, even when the kids are given the same materials and instructions. Most of our projects are open ended and I don't tell them what they are making, but before holidays I do have more "instructed" art projects.

This first project was painting that they did in September, so around 23 months old. They picked the color of the paper, chose 5 paint colors, and used small paintbrushes to create whatever they want. When they finished they told me about their paintings.
This is my daughter's painting. She said, "The paint uh pink white bunny cow uh no car." Aren't you glad she cleared that up for you?
This is my son's painting. He said, "Blue paper with eggs green. The dinosaurs in the water. No paint up the top."

Dictation is important to do with children. It teaches that you are listening to them and that you can write words. For an adult this seems obvious, but the connection between spoken word and written word is one that has to be made for young children. Just as reading makes the connection that written word can be spoken the reverse that spoken word can be written is amazing to toddlers especially. It's also fun to have documentation of how their language improves, their vocabulary grows, and their interests change.

Here is a Halloween project we completed earlier this week (the kids are 25 months). I cut out triangles and squares from black paper and gave them orange paper. I told them we were going to make jack-o-lanterns. I did not have an example. They could not see a jack-o-lantern from where they were working, but have seen them around the neighborhood. Once again they have very different takes on this project.
This is my daughter's jack-o-lantern. She was very precise about where to place each piece.
This is my son's jack-o-lantern. He was also very precise. He described the 3 eyes and the 2 noses (the second nose is the triangle in the top right corner) as well as the mouth.

My daughter's looks like someone told her exactly what to do and where to place each piece. My son's is more unique. Both are equally wonderful. If you have ever walked into a preschool you are likely to see either a class full of artwork that looks perfect (teacher done) or a class full of unique (child done) art. Developmentally it's better if the child does art the way they want it to look, unique AND perfect.

Another project we did this week was to make skeletons. Once again I told them we were going to make skeletons and gave them the black paper, glue, and Q-tips. I did not tell them where to place them. I did curl one Q-tip for each child and they both decided to make it the head. There was no example and they could not see an example of a skeleton while working on it.
This is my son's skeleton. Just a bit symmetrical - he gets that from his father. :)
This is my daughter's skeleton (glue is still wet). She told me it's made from a head and many hair bones. Unique and I love it. Though I do realize we need to read more about skeletons and bones since she clearly missed part of the concept. I don't need much encouragement to bring in another Science concept.

I hear many times how wonderful it must be to have twins who are so much alike. I'm not sure how to respond to this. My kids are nothing alike - you can even see this in their art. Talk to them or play with them and you will see they have even less in common. I love that I have twins, but I love them as individuals, not as a unit. I love them for their differences and even in the few things they do have in common.

Monday, October 17, 2011


We do a lot of activities for each holiday and I thought I would highlight some of the ones we do for Halloween. We start by visiting a pumpkin patch. Luckily, the church across the street from us has one that we can get to by walking. We let the kids wander around playing with the pumpkins. We talk about the different colors, shapes, sizes, and weights - all great math concepts.

Pumpkins, pumpkins, everywhere

We take our pumpkins home and the real fun begins. We float the pumpkins in the bathtub with the kids to learn about buoyancy. They love that they can easily move the pumpkin in water, especially one that is too heavy for them to move otherwise.

We are working together, but still can't get it to move.

We open the pumpkin and let them help clean it out. This is a new experience for the first few years, since they aren't likely to remember what happened a year before. The idea of sticking your hand in where you can't clearly see, feeling the heat from the inside of the pumpkin (they have been sitting outside), and then feeling the slime is more than most kids can handle. We still encourage them to try.

 I love playing in slime!
I needed more encouragement.

We also let them paint their own pumpkins. While I usually don't get photos of the kid doing messy art, my husband happened to be home this day, so we have one photo. This is another great texture experience and having their art displayed outside is unique and intriguing.

Close supervision is required when finger painting with toddlers.

Other Halloween ideas for kids over 18 months old include cooking some pumpkin seeds, planting pumpkin seeds, making pumpkin pie, hammering golf tees into the pumpkin, and letting the kids carve the pumpkin. There are many great art ideas you can find online as well. What are some of your favorite Halloween activities?