An Alternative to Toddler Tunes

We are a busy family.  Even during the week, I try to line up some activity every morning, whether it’s a trip to the playground, a visit to animals at the farm, a weekly library trip, or a playdate.  My kids and I are both happier if we have an “outside the house” activity.

Which means that we often spend short amounts of time in the car, traveling from one place to another.  Does this ring a bell with anyone?

I’ve long since given up trying to listen to “my” music when Preschooler is in the car.  She prefers rockin’ to her own toddler tunes, and I prefer a happy passenger.  It’s just not a battle worth fighting.  Besides, like many mothers, I’m used to tuning out the background noise.  If I wasn’t, I wouldn’t be able to make it through the day.

My husband, though, has a more difficult time tuning out the excess.  And he can’t stand listening to the same nursery rhyme cd for the tenth time in a row.  Trying to find a balance that would keep everybody happy, I tried something new…and had great success.

A trip to the library shelves revealed that there are, in fact, audiobooks for the preschool/early elementary age group.  For the last couple days, we have been listening to audiobooks in the car, and you know what?  Preschooler loves it!  We’re currently listening to a series of Bernstein Bear stories, and I also have a couple of early reader books, and one classic picture book.  Wouldn’t it be nice, as she got older, if we could dive into chapter books that we could listen to together?

I also want to pull together a couple of the audio-with-book kits, so that she can “read” along with the cd. Add that to the to-do list.

This doesn’t mean that the music cds are gone for good.  I’m sure we’ll be back to those again in a little while.  But in the meantime, this is a nice alternative, and she’s getting to hear a few stories while I drive in peace.

Which means I might actually get to have a thought of my own.

Who knows what I can accomplish now!

All the World’s a Stage…Er… Classroom

A few days ago, I introduced you to Preschooler and asked for some helpwith letter and number recognition.  I got advice from a few sources, all of which pretty  much said the same thing.  Just keep at it.  Repetition, repetition, repetition.  So we are.

Then, over the last couple days, I discovered two new teaching aids in unusual places:

Parking garages

On a weekend errand, we parked at the far end of the underground parking garage, and as we were walking toward the entrance, Preschooler points to the column at the end of the row, and announces, “Look, Mama!  That’s an ‘M'”  And thus began the game.  We identified the letters on each row that we passed.  She was so excited by this, that we enthusiastically played it again after completing our time in the store.

The lottery

Preschooler watches Clifford on PBS every afternoon before naptime.  Immediately after the cartoon ends, the midday lottery comes on.  You know, the one where the balls pop around in the machine and then fly up the tubes to be announced by a lottery “official”?  You see where I’m going with this, right?  A few days ago, I realized this could work in our favor.  I mute the television (so that the answers aren’t given away, and she has some think time), and then we identify the numbers on the ball as they pop up.  Once again, she is ridiculously excited about this “game” and it takes an extra 2 minutes out of my day.

And you know what?  I think the kid is holding out on me.  She knows alot more than I thought she did.  She just likes to learn and share in her own way.

There’s a lesson for me there, too.

Planting Seeds

The weather has turned here, bringing highs of 75 and beautiful sunny days.  Who knows how long this will last, so we’ve been taking advantage of this time and spending several hours each day outside (BONUS: longer naptimes!!)

Yesterday, we took a trip to the hardware/garden store and brought back potting soil and seeds.  This morning, after Baby’s nap, we all went outside and planted the seeds that will (hopefully) grow into some bright flowers.

(I say “hopefully” because I have the most non-green thumb you can imagine and my flowers never seem to thrive.  But, every spring, I get optimistic and give it another shot.)

There was also a deliberate lesson here in sequencing and following directions for Preschooler.  She is a strong-willed little girl, and following directions is something we struggle with daily right now.  My plan was to combine something she really wanted to do (plant flowers) with a lesson on how important it is to do things in the right order, and the way she was told.

Together we:

  • added soil
  • dug holes for the seeds
  • put a few seeds in each hole
  • covered the hole
  • added more soil
  • watered the soil

We also talked about how we’d have to water the seeds every day, and how, after many, many days, the seed would turn into little plants, and the little plants would grow into “pretty blue and pink flowers”.

I know, cute story, but I do have a point.  When I taught, I had otherwise very intelligent fourth and fifth graders who could not correctly describe a sequence of events to save their lives.  We assume this is an inherent skill, but it’s not.  Nor, actually, is following directions.  Both are important literacy skills.  So important, in fact, that in many states it’s included in the curriculum standards at the elementary level.

So here’s an opportunity to “plant seeds” for future learning.  Sometimes, teaching reading skills doesn’t have to involve a book, or an app.  Sometimes, it’s just about digging in the dirt, and talking while you do it.

And did I mention the longer naptimes?

Just making sure.

(See?  Even the tiniest learners can take part)