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Getting Gross with Your Children

Balancing Act
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While many of the activities in Teach Me Mommy are geared toward creative arts (painting, sculpting, singing, and so forth), I’ve decided to write a few posts about physical activities that you can do with your preschooler to encourage the development of the grosser parts of life.

Of course, by “gross”, I’m referring to gross motor skills or your child’s ability to control his or her own movement. Does she understand simple space directions of forward, backward, up, down, and sideways? Can he walk through an obstacle course and steer himself visually so he avoids running into the obstacles? These are a part of developing total gross motor skills and the first step is body awareness.

Body awareness concerns the child’s knowledge of his own body and the body parts. Can the child touch and identify head, eyes, nose, ears, shoulders, arms, elbows, hands, body, chest, legs, knees, ankles, and feet? Does the child have an understanding of two sides of his body, a beginning awareness of right and left?

The concepts can be developed with a little help at home. This help does not have to be a highly structured situation. They can be taught as an everyday part of living with just a little effort on the part of Mom and Dad and even older brothers and sisters.

When attempting to help your child develop these skills, do your best to avoid becoming overly serious. A light mood, an element of play, add much to the enjoyment of learning‐we are not strength training or preparing your child for the Junior Olympics!

To begin, start with some general body manipulation exercises:

Arm swings

  • Have your child raise his arms and swing them in a full circular swing. Encourage the movement to come from the shoulder keeping the elbows as straight as possible.
  • Have them swing one at a time
  • Go forward, go backward, make small circles then larger ones

Form a body ball
Have your preschooler like on her back. Direct her to quickly coil into a ball with her hands encircling her knees Have her return to a supine position. Have her roll around in this ball position.

Have your child pretend he is an airplane taking of for flight. Have him lie on his stomach with his arms and hands out to each side as airplane wings. Have him raise his chest and legs of the floor and arch his back.

Cat Stretching
Have your child kneel on her hands and knees. Ask her to pretend she is an angry cat and arch her back as a cat does (Backbone curving upwards). Next, have her pretend she is a happy, relaxed cat and let the stomach curve downward.

Reaching for the Moon
Have your preschooler stand with his feet astride stretching arms forward and upward gradually raising up on his toes in his attempt to stretch and reach for the moon.

Play Jack-in-the-Box
Have your child get in a squatting position placing her hands on her head. As you say the following rhyme, on the last line, your child springs into the air stretching her body from her fingertips to her toes.

“Jack in the box
Closed up tight,
Open the cover,
And see what’s in sight.”

Rolling Log
Have your child lie on the floor on his back with arms above his head and legs together. Have him roll like a log across the rug.

How’d that go? Did you demonstrate the actions by getting down on the floor too?

Good! I’ll have more physical activities for your preschooler next week!

What do you think?

Better TV Watching

With the weather getting colder and the days shorter, it’s often easy for children to start spending more and more time watching TV. Rather than give up, here are some simple things to make this a good activity in your preschool child’s life:

  • Decide together home much time they can watch TV a day.
  • Practice selective television viewing by going over the television guide in your Sunday paper and deciding in advance what you’re watching and when.
  • Watch your child’s television programs with them. This will allow you to make suggestions and to have discussions about what is being shown, making the activity more interactive and less passive.
  • Help your child to understand the difference between the world on television and his real world.
  • Use television viewing as a springboard to reading. For instance, a TV show about wild animals could prompt a visit to the library to find books on these subjects.
  • Help your child to avoid watching TV while eating a meal by having family meals away from the TV. A 2002 study from The Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center showed that children who eat meals in front of the TV spend more time watching TV—more time than it takes to eat their meals. They believe this promotes overeating and minimal activity and thus increases the risk of childhood obesity. The children in the study who watched more than 2 hours of TV a day weighed more than the children of the same age who watched less than 2 hours of TV a day.

So while TV may be an unavoidable part of most children’s lives, these simple ideas can maximize the positives and minimize the negatives.

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Teach Me Mommy Online Preview at Google Books

For folks who want a better idea of the preschool activities contained in Teach Me Mommy, I’m excited to announce that we’ve been accepted into Google’s Book Search program.

If you go to that link, you’ll see dozens of excerpted chapters and activities from throughout the book, all for free. Pretty neat, huh!

What do you think?

Election Night Dinner Vote

After you’ve taken your children with you to vote, you can teach your preschooler about the basics of representative government by holding your own “election” activity at home.

Maybe there is a family decision that can be made through a vote. Do it by ballot and make a production of it, making sure to explain the concepts behind it.

For instance, you might choose to have an “election” about the dinner menu for election night. Give your child a chance to “nominate” food choices and even debate the pros and cons of each. Create fun ballots and allow each child to vote for their preferred meal. It’s a great way to reinforce the concepts you are teaching as well as get them excited to have some “power” at the polls—not to mention “winning” and having their favorite food for dinner.

What do you think?

Take Your Kids to Vote

I Voted
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As election day approaches (November 4th at least here in the United States), a great way to teach your kids some basics of representative government, is to not only talk about the election, but also take them with you when you vote.

Most U.S. states allow children under 16 to go with their parent or guardian into the voting booth—what an exciting way for them to observe democracy first-hand!

Explain what you are doing and why it is so important and how they will one day be responsible and lucky enough to vote for themselves. My kids love to get the “I voted!” sticker when they join me at the polls, and they proudly wear them all day.

Voting is one of the greatest privileges citizens can enjoy, so check your state for the exact rules and take your children with you to vote this November.

What do you think?

Mini Caramel Apples

Caramel apples are another family favorite in autumn, but sometimes they are just a little too big for the little ones to manage. Here is a simple way to make your favorite treat, but sized just right for your preschooler.

What you’ll need:

  • 2- to 3-inch lollipop sticks (toothpicks are too little, popsicle sticks are too big)
  • A melon baller
  • Granny Smith apples (1 apple makes about 8 mini-caramel apples)
  • Butterscotch or peanut butter chips
  • Sprinkles, chopped nuts or whatever you like (optional)
  • Small paper candy cups or wax paper

What to do:

  1. Use your melon baler to extract a ball of apple (with the peel intact).
  2. Pat the apple chunk dry and push the stick through the peel into the apple.
  3. Melt the chips (follow the package directions) and swirl the mini apple in the melted chips.
  4. Have your child roll the mini caramel apple in his or her choice of sprinkles or nuts.
  5. Place on wax paper or mini paper cups to set.

Yum, yum!

What do you think?

Apple Tasting Party

keeping the doctor away for weeks
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One of my very favorite things about fall is the harvest of many delicious foods, particularly apples in all their varieties. One fun way to celebrate the apple is to hold a family apple tasting contest. This is a tradition my sweet aunt started a number of years ago and I think your preschooler will enjoy it too.

What you’ll need:

  • An assortment of different apples—try your local farmer’s market to find varieties beyond Red Delicious or Granny Smith
  • Toothpicks
  • Caramel dip

What to do:

  1. Invite family and friends over for a fun night of apple tasting—you can even ask them to bring their own apples for even greater selection.
  2. Cut each apple into small, bite-size wedges—remember, you’ll be sampling a lot of apples so don’t make them too big or you won’t have room to try them all!
  3. Provide some caramel or other sweet dip. One thing we’ve noticed is that some apples have a much different taste when paired with the caramel versus eaten alone, so try both and compare.

One thing we do to make it even more fun is to encourage each person to vote on their favorites. Each year we tally up the vote and crown a new reigning champ for the families’ favorite apple. What’s yours?

What do you think?

Leaf Placemats

Yellow leaves
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Ah, there’s nothing like a crisp autumn day for going on a walk with your preschooler. Next time you go out with your child, collect some pretty autumn leaves and make some very practical placemats.

What you’ll need:

  • Clear Contac paper
  • Autumn leaves (look for a variety of colors and species)

What to do:

  1. Cut two pieces of clear Contac paper 12” x15”.
  2. Remove the plastic from one piece and lay it down, sticky side up.
  3. Choosing pretty, bright leaves, have the child lay them on the plastic.
  4. Strip the backing from the second piece and lay it on top of the leaves.
  5. Now have the child rub his hands over the entire surface to seal the two pieces together.
  6. You can use a pair of decorative, scrap booking scissors to cut around the edge to make an attract appearance to the leaf mats.

This is a great activity use in conjunction with Chapter 6, Day 2: Fall Leaves of Teach Me Mommy

What do you think?

Halloween Bag O’Lantern

What you’ll need:
A brown paper lunch bag; pencil; scissors; string or yarn; flashlight

  1. With the bag flat on a table, draw two eyes, a nose and a big smile with funny teeth (like you would on a jack o’lantern) on one side.
  2. Opening the bag up, cut the features out of just one side.
  3. Gather the bag around a flashlight, using the yarn or string to tightly attach it. (Make sure you can reach the on/off switch).
  4. Stand the bag up in a window, and it will shine like a jack o’lantern without the danger of a burn for little ones.

What do you think?

No-Bake Choco-Butter Cornflake Cookies

As you think about what cookies to take along for National Good Neighbor day, here is a handy preschool-friendly recipe to try:

What you’ll need:

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup corn syrup
  • 5 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 1 cup peanut butter
  • 5 cups corn flakes

What to do:

  1. Combine sugar, corn syrup and cocoa powder in a large pot and heat just to boiling.
  2. Remove from heat and stir in peanut butter.
  3. Stir in corn flakes and pour into 9×13 pan.
  4. When cool, cut into brownie-sized bars.

Although these are great for sharing, be sure to make enough for yourselves—they are delicious!

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First Time Here?

Teach Me Mommy is a preschool activity guide by Jill Dunford. You can order it here or at Amazon.com.

Inspired by the book, this website is a place where anyone can share preschool activities, games, learning ideas, and teaching tips to help young children learn and grow.

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