an early education learning space ~ where play equals learning


May 16, 2013
by countryfun
Comments Off on Listening and Young Children

Listening and Young Children

We teach our children so many other skills, but do we really think about teaching them to listen?

How often do we as parents and teachers complain about children not listening?

The art of listening is something they’ll use throughout their entire lives and while it usually takes a back seat to learning how to talk, walk, ABC’s… it’s just as important a skill. In some ways maybe even more important.u18822434

There are many fun ways to “play” while teaching listening skills. On any of the activities below be sure to comment on what a good listener they are. That makes the connection to the value of listening. That is the teaching.

  1. Talk with your child about ordinary things that may happen during the day and question them on things you both hear. For example- talk about the sounds you hear as you are outside like birds, airplanes, traffic.
  2. Read books aloud to your child asking questions about what they think will happen next. At the end of the story, question them about events in the story to see how well they were listening. No “yes” or “no” questions, we want information shared.
  3. Play games that encourage listening skills, such as “Simon Says,” or “I Spy.” Games like this can also help make car trips easier for everyone. Yes, even “Simon Says” – just do smaller motions like: turn your face to the window, rub your nose, tap your lips….
  4. Sing one of your child’s favorite songs together. Sing again (which children love to do) and change important words in the song to see if they notice. They will point out your “mistakes.”

Now listening skills are not just about the fun or play activities. There are other components, that as adults we need to use when talking with young children which will foster good listening.

  1. Kneel down to eye level. It’s easier to talk to someone when you are on the same level or can look them in the eye. Getting down to their level makes it more likely they will focus and listen to you. If it’s hard to kneel down, adapt – pick them up, sit in chairs. What’s most important is that you’re eye to eye, or on a similar level.
  2. Speak at a steady pace, in a normal voice, in a language your toddler can understand. Don’t dumb down your language (baby talk), because they understands more than you realize. If your words sound like gibberish, they’ll likely ignore you.
  3. Say it once. If your toddler doesn’t respond, gently show them the way or how to follow your directions. Saying it over and over means they don’t need to listen the first time. That is not a behavior pattern we want to set in place or encourage. Make sure your directions aren’t too wordy – one or two steps. Toddlers have a short attention span, and you’ll lose them if you don’t get to the point.
  4. Keep your word. If you tell your toddler that they must eat a good meal or they can’t have dessert, stick to it. One important part of a toddler’s development isn’t just listening to what you say, it’s also important that they know you mean it and will consistently follow through.
  5. Control your yelling. It’s often better to drop your voice tone or whisper to get your point across. When they are ignoring you, it’s tempting to yell to get them to do what you want. However, if you yell too much, your toddler could learn to tune you out, or just see this as normal. Save your yelling for times when you really need it, like when you notice your toddler is about to run out into the street. We keep telling them not to do something to another child they don’t want done to them. Do you like being yelled at?
  6. Listen to your toddler.  This seems like such common sense, but so often we do not truly listen to them. Especially at a young age, children like to be just like their mom or dad. Good role models are needed in developing good listening skills. The other benefit of listening to your young child is supporting the development of their personal sense of self-worth.
  7. It’s also good to have conversations with your toddler, even if their vocabulary isn’t completely understandable. These “pretend” conversations build strong communication skills that your toddler will use the rest of their life. Repeat what you hear them saying. Take the opportunity to expand by adding a descriptive word. This not only works on listening skills, but increases their vocabulary.

It all seems to come down to being involved and interacting with purpose with our children. Enjoy them.

I wonder what you’ll hear?

May 15, 2013
by countryfun
Comments Off on Self-Esteem… Emotionally Healthy

Self-Esteem… Emotionally Healthy




Children who like themselves develop the confidence to try new things. The greater your child’s self-esteem, the more willing they will be to try something new and continue without giving up. It’s a skill that increases your child’s success in school and in life! When you celebrate the things that make your child special, you help increase their confidence.

  • Praise your child for trying new things even if they do not succeed at the start. Be positive and patient.
  • When praising your child begin your statement with “I like…”. Keep the praise specific and truthful.


January 27, 2013
by countryfun

A Little Catching Up

Last week was not a good one for getting posts on our activities up, but believe me we stayed good and busy inside while the cold raged outside. This post will try to catch up on some of the activities we enjoyed this past week.

It’s been all about snowmen, snowflakes and mittens this month. This week we finally got around to using our class snow storm project as a background for our “construct a snowman challenge”.

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Too cold to make snowmen outside and wanting some “larger” movement means using some of our large sheets of paper and spreading out around the playroom and kitchen for enough floor space. Drawing on large paper is a totally different experience and uses one’s motor skills and muscle groups in a different way.

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Thought you might enjoy seeing how “school” happens when the school-age are leading the play.

Taking advantage of our earlier darkness and using the light box. Can you tell we have been doing a bit of work with “patterns” recently?

Yes, we get silly (what fun would it be with kids all day if you didn’t get silly?) and it often involves stories we are reading together. Tacky Penguin  is a perfect story to get silly with especially on a cold Friday (at the end of a cold week). The kids were having so much fun singing Tacky’s song I thought I’d try to get it on tape. (It was way better without the camera running, but you’ll get the idea.)


With mixed ages it’s also about finding time to be sure the developmental needs of everyone are being met. Placing beads on sticks is great fine motor practice for young ones. What I hadn’t expected was it becoming a birthday cake. Love seeing imagination in action.

We also managed to get in lots of practice with finding similarities and differences or matching between our homemade snowflake and mitten games and some iPad apps. 


May 17, 2012
by countryfun
Comments Off on Algebra Anyone?

Algebra Anyone?

Most of us probably think of algebra as high school math, but it all starts with developing an understanding of how numbers work and their value develops. Around Country Fun we are always talking numbers and relationships. I want children to learn that numbers are fun and can be played with. This week we have been doing most of our lesson work around number value and the symbols for 0 – 10. We have been building, playing cards, making games, using counting sheets…….

I work on developing the one-to-one correspondance first, so children can clearly count objects at hand. Then it’s all about the fact that the symbols are always in the same order, 2 always follows 1, 3 after 2, 4 after 3…….when working on number value/counting. This is true if counting 1-10 or 90 – 100. I work to help them understand that each number really means “1 item plus the total of the items that come before it”. If you have the symbol 3 that means you have two items and add one more to get the value of three.

This understanding leads into addition, subtraction and even simple multiplication. This understanding is allowing C (K next year) to be successful with basic addition and subtraction fact practice on the iPad. 

As part of my observations for child assessments,  I have been trying to use video more. I feel it shows the setting, process, skills, verbal and physical responses, and interactions in real time. These are not professional edited videos. The following 13 min. video is an example of one of this week’s lessons. We are building towers to show the “1 more” for 1 – 10. C is past this (counting to 100 regularly with strong symbol recognition), so I had him practicing on a new math app – Kindergarten Math.


March 30, 2012
by countryfun
Comments Off on An All-Purpose Carrier

An All-Purpose Carrier

This group of boys are always carrying things around. As part of this some of these special things are lost or at least temporarily left behind here.

I am always trying to think of ways to help learn organization, and responsibility.

With all the Easter baskets around I got the idea to recycle some larger cracker boxes into a All-purpose Carrier.  To start we opened up a larger cracker box, cut it in half, turned it inside out and using hot glue reformed the box into 2 half boxes. I then cut down the 2 smaller sides a little to make handles.  You could leave with 4 high sides, but I figured these carries would be used for holding/transporting lots of cars and action figures.

To finish, first the foam letters were stuck in place. They had so much fun going through the box and sheets looking for letters. It was interesting to listen to them naming the ones they were picking up. A good informal assessment of what they know.

Then fluorescent paint was stamped on with our shaving brushes to get texture.



That letter interest changed what I had originally planned to do, which was to remove the letters for a stencil look. These were perfect as we left them and 4 happy boys took their carriers home.  




February 23, 2012
by countryfun
1 Comment

Developing Language

Providing care for children at different ages means there is great variety in the language abilities here. Providing care for infants and toddlers means there is always discussion about how a child’s language is developing. So the question is how do children learn language? The simple answer is from hearing it. That means as soon as they are able to hear they are learning about language. Children are constantly listening to the language used around them. Especially for those that have started to talk we know this, since they often pick up very quickly the last word we would like them to. They also use words without having an understanding of what they might mean.

Our infants and toddlers are comparing, thinking about, and storing all this word knowledge until the day they start to use it. For most children developing language is a natural or normal process. For others they may be missing a piece and will need support in the future.

As parents, you can support your child’s language development by using some very simple techniques or strategies.  These strategies are used daily in conversation with your children while at Country Fun. Even while using, remember to provide your child a chance to explore or experiment with their own language. Not everything needs to be guided or corrected by us for language to develop. However, if you develop a concern regarding your child’s language at any time, it is important to seek professional advice. Early intervention is key.

  •  Talking about what you are seeing, hearing or doing when you are with your child. (“I’m zipping up your coat.” “Mommy is using a spoon to mix the brownies.”) I always think of this as describing what I am doing. I also think this is often the hardest of the techniques for parents to do.
  • Talking about what your child is seeing, hearing or doing. (“ You have the blue cup.” “Let’s count how many rocks you have. One, two…..”) You are not asking questions, but stating what is. You might think of it more as describing. You are modeling good language. [often referred to as parallel talk by speech therapists]
  • Simply describe an object that your child is playing with, hearing or looking at. (at a farm stand: “Look at all these vegetables.” “ There are green peppers, red tomatoes and big orange pumpkins.”) This is where I think of adding that 1 “rich word” to build their future vocabulary. Again it’s not a question like “What do you hear?”, but rather “I hear an airplane. Let’s look to the sky above to see it.”

If you stop and think about how you talk with your child, you will realize you are probably already using these strategies, especially if your child is just beginning to use words.

However, I think it is important to remember these strategies through the early elementary grades. Our children need to have good language patterns, structure and a rich vocabulary shared with them as they are developing their reading and writing skills. The richer the oral language we expose them to the better.

So, before you ask or answer a question, think about an extra descriptive word you could add. Or maybe a less used verb – strut, not walk.


February 22, 2012
by countryfun
Comments Off on Block Play

Block Play

I always find it interesting how children will focus on one building material for a length of time, ignoring all the others. For that reason I have lots of different kinds of blocks for building.                  I try to have 3 different kinds available at all times, switching out as interests indicate.

The attention has recently shifted to wall building with our cardboard bricks. It’s been months since these have had more interest than just being pulled off the shelf.

The boys have been working hard at figuring how best to construct their walls to actually stay up.

    They are getting there.

What happens during block play?

Block play often involves dramatic play as in when the boys built their wall up and waited for me to “blow it down”.  Or when they made separate castle walls.

We know building with blocks involves developing concepts in science and math. There might be counting out blocks and patterns. There is definitely work with some of the laws of physic – balance and gravity. Through their exploration with blocks, children learn how to make that wall steady, how to balance weight equally, how to adjust for height. They are also learning about three-dimensionality, measurement, and geometric shapes. They are classifying and mentally visualizing relationships.

Wow! That’s a lot for just playing with simple blocks. But we’re not done with our learning….

Often block play is not done in isolation, but as part of a group which supports positive social interaction. There is also a deep use of language that is not part of what I would consider common conversation. All motor skills are involved.

So much happens developmentally when playing with blocks. Block play also grows or changes through repeated use and with the influence of age and past experience. Blocks are materials that can be used by all ages at the same time.

If I was limited to just 5 toys or pieces of equipment, you can be sure that blocks would be on that list.




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