Monday, August 23, 2010


I had my first preschool "Playtime" class at my house this last week and fell instantly in love with these little two's and nearly three's. I had forgotten how much I love that age and miss their cute little voices and questions. It took me back to my own little munchkins at that age and how I was a mother to them.

In preparing for this class, I have thought a lot about the little minds of those tender years. They are sponges. They are soaking it all in and they crave information. They constantly ask questions and although it may drive a mother crazy, they are thirsty to know all the mysteries of life. It is our job to feed those little minds, to unload our knowledge into their inquiring minds as the window of opportunity allows. The brain of a child absorbs the most information from birth to the age of 7. After that, learning is different; slower. I am a firm believer in talking to your children all the time - pouring information into their cute heads. It is more than reading a story at bedtime, it is constantly feeding them words and mental pictures.

To create a captive audience of busy one, two's and three's, you need to form a bit of a distraction. When you change diapers, they are at your mercy. I would choose this opportunity to name the body parts with them. By the time they were out of diapers, they knew everything from where there ears were to the clavicle and sternum. Why limit them to eyes, ears and noses? They are capable of so much more if we allow it. When they are trapped in a car seat, they are ripe for information. Talk about the colors of the street lights; the letters of the stop sign, colors of cars, etc. Turn off the radio and cell phones. They should never be learning about colors for the first time in kindergarten. I am always surprised that in kindergarten, they have to teach colors during the year. They are 5 for pete's sake. They have had 5 years to learn that. Our jobs.

For my little playtime class, I pulled out the old tricks. It is no secret that two-year-olds have ants in their pants. To get them to sit for a few minutes and learn is always tricky. I pulled out the little, round bean bags and passed them around to each child. I put it on their heads and told them to hold out their arms and balance it. They thought that was a great game. Now, they were still. Their eyes were on me and they didn't move so the bean bag would stay in its place. We then looked at letter flash cars and colors. They repeated with me what they saw. At the end, I performed my greatest stand up act ever; the dramatic sneeze which flung the bean bag off my head with gusto. They giggled hysterically like I had just told the best joke ever. They all did the same thing and we had to '"sneeze" several more times. Little did they know that it was all just a ploy to get their attention. Great trick.

Constantly naming items, labeling their colors, beginning letters of the word and counting objects all help their brains process and learn. It helps their brains start to see words instead of just seeing a picture. For instance, when they see a toy car, if you have labeled it with them many times and given it the letters, C-A-R, when they see that toy, they will see the letters in their head. This will help them read when it is time and give them that advantage later. I learned in a speed reading class that our mind can see a word and know it instead of having to look at each letter and think about the sound that it makes. By knowing a word, you can look at it and instantly know what it means. When you are old enough to know lots of words, you can just look at a whole sentence at a time and know what it means without looking at each individual word. Try it sometime. When I learned that, I could read a book in about 1/3 the time and completely comprehend what I read. That saved me in some college classes. Teaching little ones this trick early on can dramatically help their reading skills and we can start this by teaching them how the word looks by labeling their world around them. They do this with autistic kids all the time since their minds work a little differently. You will often find an autistic classroom with labels everywhere; a light switch, a door, a table, etc. --- all with words spelled out and attached to the item. Most of the time, we wait to teach children how a word is spelled until they are ready to read. Why not teach them early on so when they are ready to read, they already know a multitude of words?

I think we undersell these little minds. If we feed them in abundance when they are little, they will have a much bigger appetite when they are older. They will crave information and they will learn how to process it.

How I miss a little two year old in my home. I am so glad I get to have a play date once a week to get my fill. Thanks for sharing them!


The Lees said...

I wanted to ask how your class was going! It sounds so fun. Hannah is doing preschool this year, otherwise I would have so loved to have her in your class! These are some great ideas I'll have to try. I love the idea of labeling everything. It is going to look funny, but I think I'm going to do it in Hannah's room!

Shari Goodman said...

You do so great with Hannah! She is one smart cookie! you feed that little sponge with super smarts!

Jessie Brown said...

Jolie had a blast her first day of school. She came home and wouldn't stop talking about all the things she did and all the fun she had. She is so excited to go every week and play with her friends. Thanks for being so awesome with them.

Anonymous said...

It's interesting to hear someone else talking about these things. I constantly talked to my kids when they were little (newborn on up) mostly because I needed conversation! I have seen first hand how this works. I wanted them to know about the things around them. I may sound biased but I have very intelligent children. Two have been valedictorian of their classes and one graduated #4 without ever opening a book! We should all talk to our kids.

Rita said...

Livy loved her first class and she really loves to learn. They really are little sponges at this age, I always try to keep that in mind. So excited to have her in your class:).

wendilee said...

I wish Garrett could be in your class so bad. I love to hear little tricks like this. You are so great and those little two years old are so lucky to have a little slice of you each week.

Connie Lee said...

Shari started her own pre-school with the neighborhood kids when she was5 years old. She made lesson plans, and used turned over plastic bins for their desks. Her favorite Christmas present was a plastic case with school supplies all neatly organized inside its drawers and shelves. She was just born to be a teacher. I am glad that these little ones get to experience her expertise.