Monday, August 6, 2007

Miscellaneous Preschool Ideas

Take your children (even the young ones) to "real" Art Museums

I have to admit that my inspiration for the following idea came largely from the book For the Children's Sake by Susan Schaeffer Macaulay. When my daughter was three and my son just a year old, we decided to take them to the Huntington Library, Museum & Gardens in Pasadena, CA. Several days ahead, we introduced my daughter to two paintings - Pinkie and Blue Boy - which are displayed at the museum. We knew these would be appealing to her and copies were readily available in an old museum brochure. Now the Huntington is particularly suited for children (at least as far as museums go) since there are extensive gardens and lawns where some running around and exploring can be done when your three year old starts thinking that all the pictures look the same. Anyway, we took our time and didn't rush or push her and after awhile she asked to go look for Pinkie and Blue Boy. It was with a great deal of satisfaction that, after searching through several rooms, she identified them herself. She wanted to know the full names of the children who posed for the pictures and we spent a great deal of time in that room - because she was so interested. We also played a really quiet game of "I Spy". I whispered in her ear a simple description of a painting and she'd point it out. Naturally we had to purchase postcards of her favorite paintings at the gift shop afterwards.

Art "I Spy" At Home

We've collected a rather generous supply of small reproductions of great paintings, architecture, statues, stained glass windows, etc. We find these on Christmas cards, calendars, magazines, etc. We have also purchased some nice postcards from Art Museum gift shops and Dover Publications. We've laminated them (for longer wear) and my children really enjoy playing "I Spy" with them. We spread them out on the floor (in a reasonable quantity) and take turns describing one of the pieces and having someone else guess which one we're talking about. For example, for a picture of Washington Crossing the Delaware I might say "I spy with my little eye a painting of some men crossing the river in a boat." Depending on the age and capabilities of your children, you can make the descriptions more complex. It's also fun to have the children take a turn describing the pictures.

Map Puzzles:

We found an old wooden U.S. map puzzle at a garage sale when my children were very young, glued the edges to a piece of Masonite, and have gotten lots and lots of mileage out of it. These puzzles are also available at Teacher Supply stores and warehouse or discount stores. I prefer ones that have each state as one puzzle piece, but usually they'll at least group Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut together. Many of my children have become interested in this puzzle when they were still toddlers. I would distribute a few puzzle pieces to the child (or children) and tell them the name. When there are only a few missing (and you start with really obvious shapes like Texas and Florida) the children can often find the right place by themselves. As they become more experienced, they can take more and more pieces each time and will start to learn the names of the states and perhaps even the capitals. When my son was 2 1/2 he really enjoyed playing with it, so we left it out on the coffee table. He'd bring me a few pieces at a time and ask me the name. One day I decided to keep track of how many he knew by asking him to bring me particular states and was amazed to discover that he knew the names and shapes of 37 of the states! We later bought a handmade World Map Puzzle from Michael Olaf. It was rather expensive, but I think it was worth every penny. You'd be amazed at how much geography an adult can learn from trying to put the world map puzzle back together after the kids have taken it all apart!

Fun Kiddie Math

Metal lids from frozen Orange Juice cans make great math "counters" for preschool and kindergarten. The large size is safe for younger siblings and they tend to stack nicely (great for skip-counting). The metal has a nice sound and feel to it.

contributed by Alicia from Wisconsin

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