Sunday, June 26, 2011

More Math Play

We’ve been thinking about how to give our babies the necessary brain wiring in order to learn math. If you have a 6 month to one year old baby in your home or in your care, I hope you found containers and things to put in containers for baby’s play time. This activity helps baby learn to judge volume.
You may have expanded on my suggestion and have given your baby two or three different containers with objects they can enjoy putting in and dumping out. Now I will ask you to find two or three sets of safe objects that are all alike. For instance, one set could be wooden blocks, one set could be plastic rings, and one set could be small pieces of fabric. You need only three to five of each set to begin this adventure in beginning geometry. What is this all about? It is about beginning classification and set theory.
Have you noticed that when a baby is learning to talk and they learn the word, ‘doggy’, for the family pet, they will for a time call all furry things with four legs by the same name. In a sense, ‘doggy’ is the baby’s classification for animals. How cute it is to see an eighteen month child squeal with delight at seeing a cow and naming it, ‘doggy’. At this time in development they are beginning set theory. All animals are ‘doggy’ and everything to drink is ‘water’.
The three containers and the three sets you have provided will give your child practice in deciding for him or herself if the objects have similar attributes. Please do not insist that all the rings go in one container and the blocks in another. This learning takes place from within your baby not by your example. You certainly can say, “I’ll put the block with the other blocks,” but for your baby to eventually learn this sorting game, he needs to discover the common features in the blocks, the rings, and the pieces of fabric all by himself. The game is not over at age three or four. We continue to use classification and set theory all through our lives and as our brains develop, so does the complexity of the classification we are able to work with.

I see three – 1, 2, 3.
Three little bunnies  Reading the funnies.

I see three –1, 2, 3.
Three little kittens  All wearing mittens

I see three –1, 2, 3.
Three little frogs  Sitting on logs.

I see three –1, 2, 3.
Three little bears  Climbing upstairs.

I see three –1, 2, 3.
Three little ducks riding on trucks.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Playing at Math

     When I look back at the seven years of Bringing Up Baby, I noticed I have not spent much time sharing information about the development of mathematical skills. Babies, equipped only with basic wiring of their brain, eventually learn math. They do this by moving about freely and exploring horizontal and vertical surfaces. The experiences they gain in moving about gives them the necessary prerequisites for learning math.
The development of the concept of object permanence is another prerequisite for learning math. Babies, beginning at about seven months, love to drop objects off of the highchair tray. They love to look to see where these objects have fallen. Soon, they will enjoy dropping objects in a container. This is the era of dumping and filling. Baby is not actually measuring how much goes into a certain size pot, but rather learning that some pots hold one block and some pots hold many.
Your baby does not actually count how many blocks go in the big pot but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t. It is great fun to sit with a baby who is playing the ‘put in and dump out’ game and count how many go in. Parents are great at expanding children’s thinking by adding language such as counting and labeling. “One little pig goes in, two little pigs go in, three…oh oh, all the pigs are out!” By adding language to the game, allowing baby to take the lead in the filling and dumping, you are setting the stage for a brilliant math mind!
There are some other pre-math thinking processes that will be developing right along with this concept of volume. We will explore some of these next week. In the meantime, find a few different size pots and some toys that can go in. If you’ve enjoyed the Winnie the-Pooh story of Eeyore’s birthday, you will recall his two favorite presents. They were a ‘Useful Pot to put things in’ and ‘Something to put in a Useful Pot’. Eeyore happily spent his birthday putting a deflated balloon in and out of the empty pot saying, “It goes in and out like anything.”

My red balloon goes
sailing, sailing, sailing.
My red balloon goes sailing
Over the hills and down and pop.

Pretend to blow a balloon. Reach both arms overhead to indicate a large balloon, sway from side to side as you sing. Give a big clap to pop the balloon.  Choose additional colors to expand the child’s concept development and language.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Playing at being an Artist

Our recent discussions have centered on the importance of play for young children. One of the points last week was about setting the stage for creative play to evolve.
For very young children in the learning to walk stage, you might organize your kitchen cupboards so that your child can open the door of one cabinet and play with the pots and pans and utensils you know are safe. As you see that the pots you have chosen are no longer interesting, change the contents of that cabinet or add more items.
For preschoolers, you might set out a series of sizes of cardboard boxes and watch what evolves over a few days. When the boxes are not interesting, you might add markers, glue, and paper to decorate them. Your child will go from engineer and building contractor to artist with only a little different stage that you set.
Setting the stage for play can also be going for a walk. I still fondly recall my two young neighbors, armed with their wooden guns and wearing plastic gloves so they could ‘hunt for trash’. Their mother set the stage for play by taking the boys for a walk just down their driveway and road. She helped by carrying the trashbag, giving the boys gloves to wear.
I invite you and your children to enjoy the stage that will be set at Falge Park (or the lower level of the library in case of rain). Area artists will be playing, using their minds and talents to create art this Saturday, June 18, from 9:30 to 4:00 and the public is invited to walk around and talk to the artists as they create. Cheryl Willingham, a member of the Rusk Area Arts Alliance, is setting up a parallel activity for children. I think the experience for children will be much like the toddler in the kitchen. Children will see artists painting and the stage will be set for them to play at being an artist. I will be there, playing also, and I hope you can come too!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

More ideas on free play

Last week we talked about the value of providing that our children have enough time to play. Often parents feel they must schedule activities throughout the day, leaving little or no time unscheduled. Yet, from infancy, children are driven to play with almost anything at hand. They learn much from unscheduled playtime and the most important thing they learn is to use their minds to create. During childhood they created (if given the time) rich, imaginative worlds. In adult life these same people are the creators of works of art or discoverers of scientific breakthroughs. These are the people who imagined outer space as a child and who take us there as adults. They are the ultimate free-play thinkers.
Our grandparents and great-grandparents did not worry about whether or not children played. Of course they played! Play was the blessing and the work of young children. Today, there is much more pressure to provide for and enroll children in many activities from lessons to sports. Of course these activities can be good, but they also can sap all a young child’s energy, leaving no time for using their minds to create play. I suggest that we need to provide a balance.
1) Set the stage for play. For very young children, rotate the kinds of toys they have in their play space--typically your kitchen or living room. Give toddlers a few items for them to use their imaginations—a plastic cup, plate, and spoon; some blocks; or some boxes to crawl into. For preschoolers, you can add paper and crayons; an old telephone; or dress-up clothes.
2) Observe how the props for your stage are working and modify. For the toddler with the play dishes, you can add a pot and spoon or a plastic tub with a little water and dish soap sitting on a towel. For the preschoolers, you will be able to add paints or scissors or some real tools. Spend as much time as possible outside where an entirely new play will evolve.
3) Provide ample time for the play to evolve and most importantly—use the television or computer only for those special shows or activities. Think about how much time your child sits on the couch. Turn the TV off. Children do not learn to use their minds by being a couch potato!

This is the farmer who plows the field.
This is the farmer who plants the corn.
This is the farmer who harvests the beans.
This is the farmer who milks the cows.
And this is the farmer’s little girl, who feeds the chickens and finds the eggs and picks some flowers for her mother. (or) And this is the farmer’s little boy
who feeds the calves and pets the cows and brings the milk to his mother.

Original chant by Eileen L. Ziesler
Character creation by Steven Baye

This chant is similar to the fingerplay, This little piggy went to market.  Start with the thumb for the first farmer. Use the pinkie finger for the little boy or girl.