Category Archives: Milestones & Learning

Shaping Preschoolers’ Geometry Skills

Shaping Preschoolers’ Geometry Skills

Written by: Clarissa Alfes

STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) has become a hot topic among early educators and families in more recent years. Many adults are wondering how to support children’s learning and excitement for STEM. Research suggests that engaging with geometry and spatial activities is a good starting point!

What is early geometry
Early geometry, also called ‘spatial sense,’ is an understanding of space and shape. Spatial sense includes knowing spatial objects such as shapes and lines, their relationships and positions in the spatial world (e.g., “next to,” “shorter,” “corner,” “left”) and transforming the objects in space (e.g., manipulating blocks or rotating shapes in your mind.) Spatial abilities are foundational for STEM and inquiry-based learning and are one of the key areas of early math development that families can work on at home.

Play with Toys
Playing with certain toys builds young children’s early math skills. Toys such as puzzles, blocks and shape tangrams provide an opportunity for children to explore and learn through play. This play has been linked to stronger geometry and spatial skills in young children. Toys for play-based spatial learning are:
1. Puzzles. Talk with your child about the edges and curves on the puzzle pieces and about the shapes of the pieces as you work toward completing the picture. 
2. Blocks, Legos & Lincoln Logs. Ask your child to build structures using descriptions such as a “tall tower” and to recreate structures based on blueprints or models you build.
3. Tangrams. Support children to get creative in fitting shapes together and forming images. Challenge them to see how many different scenes and shapes they can create with the same tangrams.
4. Magna-Tiles. Have your child match designs that you construct and create patterns in the tiles. Support them in building 2D and 3D shapes while you label shapes, sizes and provide directions such as “on top of.”
5. Many others!
Bonus: try giving your child a problem to solve or creating a story that goes along with the spatial play. Evidence shows that adding storytelling to block-play makes the play more effective for early spatial learning (and language skills too!)

Spatial talk in everyday activities
Early geometry skills can be shaped through spatial “math talk,” when adults narrate during play and everyday interactions. Caregivers can name shapes they see in objects, use location words and gestures such as “below” or “left” and describe features of objects such as “curvy” or “short” during play and everyday activities. Activities to try with your child include:
1. Going on a shape hunt in the car, house or grocery store.Name shapes, sizes and features of objects you see in the environment (e.g., stop sign, cereal box) and ask your child to do the same.
2. Drawing, origami and painting during art time. Follow step-by-step directions of animal origami to create 3D forms together and spend arts and crafts time drawing shapes, lines and grids while narrating how they relate to each other. 
3. Playing maze games and Tetris. Have your child race to solve games in the quickest way possible then see if they can solve the visual-spatial games in other ways too. Encourage your child to explain how they solved the problems and to use their own ‘spatial math talk.’
4. Following and drawing maps. Read maps with your child to complete a scavenger hunt, talking about directions while you walk between locations. Suggest drawing maps to familiar places from memory, including discussing landmarks and distances.

Museum Store
Imagine’s Museum Store is stocked with educational games and toys, many of which help develop math skills. The Museum Store is open during regular Museum hours and Museum members receive 10% off of purchases. You can stop in and shop without paying Museum admission. Our friendly staff are always happy to help you find the perfect gift.  

Why Reading to Your Child Matters

reading to children

Why Reading to Your Child Matters

Written by: Kayla Polk

Shared book reading is an important educational activity in the home. Not only is it important, but it is enjoyable and fun!

What do you need to know about reading books with your child?

1.Quality and quantity of book reading interactions are important
Evidence shows that the quality and quantity of shared book reading interactions are important. Frequent parent-child book reading is associated with improvement in children’s language skills, early literacy skills and reading achievement in school. It has been recommended that parent-child home reading should begin at birth. Try reading with your child for 15-20 minutes per day, every day. The quality of the book reading interaction is also important because warm and supportive behaviors from parents are related to positive child behaviors, including focused attention, emotional outcomes, positive mood and enthusiasm for reading. Warm and supportive parent behaviors include emotional support, shared enjoyment, animated facial and vocal expressions and child encouragement.

2.Interactive book reading builds children’s language skills 
Good book reading is when the child is actively involved during reading. Because shared book reading can improve a child’s vocabulary, it is important for parents to interact and read withtheir child rather than only reading totheir child. Before you begin reading a story, introduce the author and illustrator and ask your child what the author and illustrator do. You can also talk about the parts of the book (front cover, spine, back cover). To be more interactive during reading, you can encourage your child to talk about the pictures in the story, respond to your child’s comments and questions, ask questions about the story, ask your child to predict what is going to happen next, connect the story to your child’s personal life and talk about the meaning of words. 

3.Shared book reading increases imagination
Reading aloud with your child can help them to become more curious, and can help them to experience places they have never been and things they have never seen. Imagination leads to invention and creation. Try introducing your child to new topics through books. For example, maybe your child has not yet learned about the lives of horseshoe crabs. The book Moonlight Crab Countshows children how they can be scientists while learning about a mother and daughter who observe horseshoe crabs on the beach. 

Examples of how to encourage shared book reading (adapted from Parental Influence on Child Interest in Shared Picture Book Reading by Camilo Ortiz, Rebecca M. Stowe, and David H. Arnold, 2001):

• Let your child pick the book and follow your child’s interests when selecting books.
• Use examples during reading that are related to your child’s interests.
• Ask questions throughout the story and encourage your child to ask you questions.
• Use sound effects and different voices for the characters.
• Take your child to the public library.
• Praise your child for their participation, questions, answers and listening.
• Pick books that are appropriate for your child’s age.
• If your child does not seem interested in reading with you, try again another time.
• Read in a comfortable, quiet, relaxing environment. 
• Make sure the reading time is not rushed.
• Sit close to your child while you are reading.

For book recommendations specific to your child’s age range, click the following link! https://www.cbcbooks.org/readers/reading-lists/

Reach Out and Read serves children and families through pediatric partners by providing literacy information and books to families. Use the following link to see if there is a program near you! http://www.reachoutandread.org/resource-center/find-a-program/

Visit Imagine’s fun and interactive story times. Story Times are offered in English and Spanish. Click the link for upcoming titles and times. https://www.imaginecm.org/programs-camps-events/storytimes/

Growth Mindset and the Power of “Yet”

Growth Mindset and the Power of “Yet”

Written by: Caitlin Courshon

Using decades of research, Stanford researcher and professor Carol Dweck explains that people have a tendency to view intelligence from one of two competing perspectives: “fixed mindset” versus “growth mindset.”

A person with a fixed mindset tends to view talents and abilities as unchangeable. For example, you may hear your child say any of the following:
“I can’t read that word!”
“I’m not a math person.”
“I’ll never get this right!”

By contrast, an individual with a growth mindset tends to believe that they can improve their abilities over time with practice. For example, you may hear your child say any of the following:
“I love a challenge!”
“Puzzles are really difficult for me, but I’m going to keep practicing.”
“That book was tricky for me to read, and I worked really hard to make it to the end.”

Watch this brief video that explains some key differences between fixed and growth mindsets.

Research shows that students who have a growth mindset tend to value learning, remain positive when dealing with setbacks and believe that the harder they work toward a goal, the better they will become. For more information, watch Carol Dweck’s TED Talk on “The Power of Believing that you can Improve,” in which she explains the importance of growth mindset through her years of fascinating research.

How do we teach children to adopt a growth mindset?

1.Teach your child about the brain
Ask your child, “Did you know that your brain is a like a muscle?” Then watch this brief video and explain the concept of neuroplasticity, which is the brain’s ability to constantly change and grow. 

Teaching your child about how the brain works and reminding them that they can change their brain through practice is a great start to encouraging a growth mindset. You can use videos, books, coloring sheets and physical models of the brain to make this information engaging and interactive!

2.Praise your child’s process, not their intelligence 
Instead of praising your child for their talents, try to provide specific praise about their process, such as the effort they showed, the strategies they used, their focus on work or how they improved or learned from a mistake.
Instead of: “You are such a talented artist.”
Try: “I really like the details of your painting. I can tell you worked really hard on it.”

Instead of: “Wow! You got 10/10 on your test. You are so smart!”
Try: “Wow! You got 10/10 on your test. You studied a lot for that test, and I’m proud of you for working so hard.”

Instead of: “Nice job getting that math question correct!”
Try: “You tried a lot of different strategies to solve that tricky math question. That was great to see!”

3.Use the word “yet”
The word “yet” can be very powerful when it comes to teaching children about how to re-frame their fixed mindset. For younger children, check out this Sesame Street “Power of Yet” music video

Child says: “I can’t read that word.”
You say: “You can’t read that word just yet! Let’s sound it out together.”

Child says: “I don’t know how to do addition.”
You say: “You don’t know how to do addition yet! Would you like to practice together?”

Child says: “I’ll never get this right!”
You say: “Not yet, but with lots of practice, this will get easier.”

4.Be the growth mindset role model
What better way to teach your kids how to adopt a growth mindset than to model one yourself? Show your child what it looks like to work hard when you encounter a challenge, the importance of practice and how to learn from your mistakes.

In the words of Carol Dweck, “If parents want to give their children a gift, the best thing they can do is to teach their children to love challenges, be intrigued by mistakes, enjoy effort, and keep on learning.”