Toddler Activities, Uncategorized

Learning Songs: Singing The Scales

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Most people know the classic Do, Re, Me for singing the scales, and there’s also an alternate version that can go both up and down the scales to further the tonal distinctions. Learning the scales is important for musical ability and cognitive development, but also for experimenting with more nuanced social cues. When talking to other people, different tones can indicate different meanings. A lower tone of voice can indicate seriousness, a higher tone might be more playful. When understood in conjunction to other social cues, such as a smile or gesture, a toddler can understand when another kiddo is asking to play even if they speak different languages by the tone of voice being used. Just like they can understand a stern voice might mean stop, or a soothing voice tone is all about comfort.

Do Re Mi 

Doe A Deer, A Female Deer (touch all fingers to thumb to create a deer face)

Ray A Drop Of Golden Sun (spread fingers wide to indicate the sun)

Me, A Name I Call Myself (point to self)

Fa, A Long Long Way To Run (have two fingers run along opposite palm)

Sew, A Needle Pulling Thread (pretend to pull a threaded needle)

La, A Note To Follow So (“roll” hand away from mouth)

Tea, A Drink With Jam and Bread (pretend to drink a cup of tea)

And That Brings Us Back To Doe, Doe, Doe, Doe (make deer face again)


This alternate version goes both up and down the scales, and you can point to each body part mentioned:

On My Toe

Is A Flea

Now He’s Climbing

On My Knee

Past My Tummy

Past My Nose

On My Head

Where My Hair Grows…

On My Head (now scales will go back down)

There Is A Flea

Now He’s Climbing

Down Over Me

Past My Tummy

Past My Knee

On My Toe

Goodbye Flea

Both of these are fun little finger plays and easy songs to sing at any moment in any day!

 

Toddler Activities

Invitations To Play

Play is the way children learn, so it’s obviously an important part of each day. I know in my house, play can go from fantastic! to wtf is going on around here?! in about five seconds flat and that’s when I know there needs to be some focused time to recalibrate our energy. That’s when I invoke the simple invitation to play.

Invitations to play, or provocations, don’t have to be complex or messy or even a lot of materials. They can be as simple at the one shown above, some transportation stacking toys on a wooden tray. Basically, a provocation is a term used in the Reggio Emilia model that means to help expand or encourage thoughts, discussion, or creative thinking. In a classroom setting, it would probably be open-ended materials connected to what the children have been learning and talking about; if gardening is the hot topic, then there might be an activity with flowers, or seeds and a magnifying glass, or some pictures of plants growing, or a book about gardening set out in a special place where children can explore the medium on their own or in small groups.

At home, I like to set out invitations to play (as I call them) for my two-year-old at times when I know he’ll want to do something different or when things are getting hairy. I have lots of manipulatives (mostly open-ended materials that can be used to build specific skills) and a few special trays stored away that only come out for these invitations so it can help to frame the activity and let him know that something special is about to happen. I don’t keep them out for too long, just enough time until I feel like he is at the end of his focused attention and ready for the next adventure (even if that’s just dinner or bath or a trip to the grocery store).

These play invitations can be incredibly helpful on so many levels, including:

*Building independent play skills

*Encouraging creative thinking and conversation

*Increasing focus and attention

*Recalibrating energy levels

*Deepening cognitive thought

Setting up an invitation to play in your home can be so easy while also bring so much richness to your child’s day! Some tips:

*”Frame” the materials with a special tray, small rug, or placemat, or whatever you have available and only use that when it’s time to invite some special focused playtime. I also have a small toddler-sized table that I put the provocations on, but a coffee table or even the floor work too!

*Have some manipulatives and/or other simple materials that are kept out of the everyday rotation to pull out just when needed. I have some bins with all kinds of different manipulatives and interesting objects, but it doesn’t need to be limited to materials. Sensory objects (like play dough, sand, water, shaving cream, etc.) can also be a fun invitation to play, or art projects. Leaves, grass, flowers, or other natural items found on a walk or in the yard can also be sweet for building, making indoor fairy or gnome homes, or just exploring with a small magnifying glass. Anything that isn’t used on the regular (or indoors) will spark some interest! They don’t always have to be open-ended either, things like puzzles, paper and scissors, weaving and lacing materials, and books have a specific use and purpose, but can still give that focused, independent time while also giving them a chance to think deeper about a topic. (Yup, even toddlers can think deeper about things!) Materials like the stackers that are pictures are also a two-fold material, the stacking part is a given but the objects themselves can also be used as cars that are driven around the tray, to set up a construction site, as building blocks, whatever! They open themselves up to being a creative material when a toddler or preschooler is left to their own devices.

Other simple ideas could be:

Fabric scraps (and a glue stick)

Small blocks

Different lengths and textures of yarn

Cards and envelopes

Buttons (with supervision)

Flowers, leaves, and other nature items

Tea bags

Cotton balls and Cotton Swabs

Literally anything alongside a magnifying glass can be interesting!

Muffin tins are also a great source of fun for invitations to play since they can provide lots of open-ended scooping and sorting time.

*Try a little each day, even if it just once a day for five minutes. Focus and attention will increase gradually for some kiddos, especially younger toddlers, and some days even five minutes is a huge win!

* Connecting the invitation to something you know your kiddo is interested in is always a help. My Bub loves anything trucks these days so we’ve been doing a lot of that, but it could even be something you just chatted about over breakfast. Your kiddo noticed the leaves were falling? Great, bring some of them in with a glue stick and some cardboard. Whatever! I don’t always connect the invitation with something we’ve talked about or are interested in because it’s good to introduce new things too, but I like to have at least a few that are a direct connection to something I know my two-year-old is interested in or thinking about during his day.

*Challenge yourself to let your kiddo explore without your help or ideas. The invitation to play isn’t like a party where you both RSVP, it’s for them to check out something on their own without adult intervention or input. You can sit at the table with them, and chat if they start talking, but give them some space to do their thing.

What do you think you’ll invite your child to play?

Toddler Activities

Counting, Numeral Matching, and Dump Trucks

IMG_5741.JPGSo, my two-year-old is super into trucks and lately we’ve been doing a lot of counting, so one muggy morning I wanted to combine those two things but didn’t have much in the way of time or supplies. With my son’s help, I made a quick number matching game and a counting game with one of his faves: dump trucks. (Which are super easy to draw, so win-win.) He was able to play with these for quite awhile, then brought them into his indoor sandbox.

All I did to make these was draw a bunch of dump trucks and cut them out, then drew the “boards” on some scrap paper, which literally took under ten minutes. I honestly think cutting things out was the longest part! My son liked them so much that I’d love to re-create them for the felt board, and will post about these games again briefly when that project is done. Because I’m the at-home/working/pregnant mom of a two-year-old that doesn’t like to nap, so obviously I have a ton of time to make felt board games. (Insert sarcastic eye roll here.) Ha, ha.


As simple as these math games are, they do introduce (or reinforce) some basic foundational math ideas. One important aspect of early math concepts is known as one-to-one correspondence. This is when a child can point to objects and count them in order.

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For very early learners, having both the numbers written on the bottom and the pre-drawn boxes can really help with beginning counting, numeral recognition and understanding, and learning that one-to-one correspondence. The boxes help kiddos figure out how many are there while still grasping those counting and recognition skills. Once all the trucks are in place, it’s much easier to point to each one while counting. (This could take many, many tries and this activity is a success if one truck gets in each box the first time!)

The repetition of counting “one,” then “one, two,” then “one, two, three” is also incredibly helpful for toddlers since repetition is often their best way of learning. (Ever wonder why your two-year-old says the same thing a million times, or wants to read the same book over and over and over until you can recite it in your sleep? When you feel like your brain is starting to melt from all this repetition, just remember this is how they are learning….if you can before the brain melting, that is.)

One note on this game, I wrote the numbers on a separate piece of paper not just because of space, but because I wanted to remove them at times. I think it’s great to practice counting both with and without numerals being a part of the visual because sometimes less is more when learning new things! I also wanted to give my kiddo a chance to count all the trucks, since he’s really enjoying counting to ten and is all about including all the trucks all the time.

As they progress through this activity, you can further challenge them by taking away the pre-determined boxes:

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Two other math concepts are numeral recognition and matching. Numeral recognition has two parts, knowing “how many” and also what the actual written numeral represents, i.e. the number one stands for one dump truck. This concept is similar to early literacy in that children start to recognize that the letter A is a symbol for specific sounds that can begin the word “apple” or “alligator.” Generally speaking, early learners are taking in both of these ideas around the same time which can be helpful in the learning process and is sometimes referred to symbolic representation.

(Side note: Although related in their cognitive functions, symbolic representation can be different from Piaget’s theory of symbolic function, which also begins around age two. Symbolic function is best represented in dramatic play, where a child can pretend a box is a fire engine or that they are making tea using an old cup. A two-year-old knows what a fire engine or a cup of tea are, and can use another object to symbolize them. I will write more about this in another post on dramatic play, since it is such an important part of child development…and because I love me some dramatic play time! Tiny tangent over.)

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So, back to matching and numeral recognition. Having a small board like this where the dump trucks can park next to their numbers can help with both of those ideas. Matching the written numerals can create a cognitive connection so the numerals become more recognizable and familiar. Also, I think that taking away the counting aspect can make it easier for some early learners to focus on the actual numerals when just starting out. Again, less can be best when first introducing big ideas.

Whew! So that’s some early math talk. But all these different learning aspects (literacy, art, science, math…) are interconnected and pretty interesting when you start seeing how your kiddos brain works!

Oh, and please see my previous post if you want some simple counting songs. Music is deeply connected to learning and soothes the savage beast…which could be a cranky toddler or the tired parent of said cranky kid.

Hope your day is filled with fun learning love!

Toddler Activities

One and Two: Simple Counting Songs For Learning Early Math

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We’ve been super into counting songs (and dump trucks, obvs) in our house these days! Simple finger-play songs like these help familiarize little ones with numbers and counting, obviously, but also with other early math concepts like addition. Here are two finger-plays that are so easy you can sing them in your sleep, as I do most nap times. Yawn.

Now One More

Sung to the tune of Where Is Thumbkin?

Where is One? Where is One?

Here I am, Here I am (Show one finger)

We’re so glad to see you, so very glad to see you

Now One More, Now One More

Where is Two? Where is Two?

Here I am, Here I am (Show Two Fingers)

We’re so glad to see you, so very glad to see you

Now One More, Now One More

IMG_5745 2.jpgCounting small blocks while singing 

Continue until ten, or twenty, or until you or your kiddo falls asleep, whatever! Sometimes in less sleepy times, I use props (like blocks or finger puppets) instead of my fingers so that we can lay them out and count them after the song ends. Counting  one to ten, then counting down from ten, also adds the idea of subtraction, especially if you remove a prop with each number. For most early learners, addition and subtraction are easier to understand when using concrete objects like blocks or clothespins or spoons, whatever you have around. It can also help reinforce one-to-one correspondence (when your kiddo can point to each object he or she is counting) and the ideas of  quantity (basically understanding which is “more” or “less”).

Side note: More and less also can help with social skills, as sharing and equality come into the mix: “You have four trucks and Jolie has none. You have more. Can you share the trucks?” Not to say this will always work, of course, but it’s worth a try when sharing gets hairy!


Two Little Blackbirds: The Counting Version

Two Little Blackbirds, sitting on a shoe (Use one finger from each hand to represent a blackbird)

One named One and one named Two

Fly away One, fly away Two (fly the blackbirds away one at a time)

Come back One, come back Two (fly the blackbirds back to the middle)

Two Little Blackbirds sitting on the floor (continue finger movement throughout song)

One named Three and one named Four

Fly away Three, fly away Four

Come back Three, come back Four

Two Little Blackbirds, sitting on some sticks

One named Five and one named Six

Fly away Five, fly away Six

Come back Five, come back Six

Two Little BlackBirds, sitting on a gate

One named Seven and one named eight

Fly away Seven, fly away Eight

Come back Seven, come back Eight

Two Little Blackbirds, sitting in a den

One named Nine and One named Ten

Fly away Nine, fly away Ten

Come back Nine, come back Ten

(You can find another version of Two Little Blackbirds in a previous post)


                                                          PS Want more number and math games for early learners?  I’ll post about some quick and easy counting games I made for my two-year-old in literally five minutes with limited supplies (paper, a scissor, and a few markers.) Yup, the dump trucks from the top photo are pieces to the game.

Toddler Activities

Eggplant Stamps

I know potatoes and apples are usually the big ones when it comes to making stamps for painting, but I really like using eggplant tops because they have a fantastic little handle on them that is just the right size for grabbing and leaves hands pretty mess-free. (Another low-mess tip for stamping, paint the stamp instead of smooshing it into a pile of paint.) I also love the fact that we aren’t using something that would otherwise be eaten, these tops were headed for the compost anyway (and using natural paints means they can continue their journey to the compost once the art is complete.)

After we stamped to our hearts content, my son helped me cut up the rest of the eggplant so we could roast it for dinner. He was pretty excited to see the eggplant used in two different ways, for art and for deliciousness. Two fun projects with one material, and we got to spend almost the whole afternoon immersed in eggplant. Score! Both of these projects build fine-motor skills, hand-eye coordination, and cognition and art is always good for the creative process (which has been shown to help boost mathematical and scientific thinking, so get your art on!)

Finding other “food tops” are great for stamping projects, like a pepper or end of a cucumber. I also like to cut the core out of the apple and just use that, instead of just slicing a whole apple in half. That way you can snack while you paint and still send the core to the compost. What else do you use for stamping in your art projects?

 

The eggplant leaves help to give the art texture.

Toddler Activities

Little Bunny Rabbit: A Song For Building Cognitive Skills

Whoo hoo, it’s song #1 in this learning songs series!

This easy little finger-play song is great for building concentration and focus, and most little ones think it’s so much fun to play! It has a similar concept to the song Bingo in that you’ll substitute a hand motion for song lyrics.

For Little Bunny Rabbit, you’ll sing the whole song through once or twice using both the hand movements and words. Then you’ll sing it again, swapping out words for only the hand movements. (For some kiddos, it might be best to sing it through a bunch of times first to give them a chance to get to know it better.)

Little Bunny Rabbit:

Little Bunny Rabbit (make bunny ears) had a fly upon her/his nose (point to nose)

A Fly Upon Her/His Nose. A Fly Upon Her/His Nose (point to nose every time)

Little Bunny Rabbit (make bunny ears) Had A Fly Upon Her/His Nose (point to nose)

So She/He Swished It And S/He Swashed It (“swish” your hands by your nose)

And It Flew Away! (hands can be wings, flying away)


After singing it a time or two, leave out some words but keep the hand motions:

Little (make bunny ears) had a fly upon her/his (point to nose)

A fly upon his/her (point to nose)/ a fly upon his/her (point to nose)

Little (make bunny ears) had a fly upon her/his (point to nose)

So she/he (swish and swash hand by face) and she/he (swish and swash hand by face) and it (make hands fly away)


Here are the words without the hand motions, just to make it easier to read (with female pronouns, but feel free to change it to the pronouns you use with your child):

Little Bunny Rabbit had a fly upon her nose

A fly upon her nose, a fly upon her nose

Little Bunny Rabbit had a fly upon her nose

So she swished it and she swashed it and it flew away!


Make this song your own by using your child’s name instead of the word “Bunny” and whatever pronouns you use with your child. You can also make up your own hand movements, or add new ones. I usually do one for fly and swap that in and remove the word fly on the second sing-through. Whatever makes it more fun for you and your kiddo!

This song will help build important cognitive skills, including focus, concentration, listening, and memory, all while increasing motor planning skills and strengthening the fine muscles in the hands and fingers. Hop on, little bunny!

Toddler Activities

Learning Song Series

 We sing a lot in our house. Like so much that we should start a family band and take it on the road. I just love to sing finger-play songs, or instructional songs (the clean-up song is big in our house), or I’ll just make up little ditties about whatever is happening in the moment to make it more exciting or interesting for my toddler. (And really, for me too, especially as I do boring chores like that fifth load of laundry with him. Or when I’m sensing one of us is about to have a meltdown. Those moments need a little levity sometimes!) When I was teaching full-time I would sing when I got stressed or overwhelmed to make my mood lighter and I find it still works for me at home, most of the time. It’s also a super easy way to build a multitude of skills, including language, cognitive, math, and social, all while keeping kiddos on task or alerting them to common rituals and transitions.

In addition to the Bookworm series, I’ve decided to add a song series that can help with skill building and transitions in your daily routines. It doesn’t matter if you are a classically trained musician or can’t carry a tune to save your life, most kids respond to music and singing with joy, and it can make things so much easier, so go ahead and sing to your hearts content!

silhouette of man holding guitar on plant fields at daytime
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