Learning Tools for Junior

From using games to teach language to the abacus to teach math, get your hands on these learning tools for your little one.

WORDS CHRISTEL GERALYN GOMES

By the age of three, your little one is absolutely marvelling at everything around him. He’s soaking up so much information so quickly. By this time, your child is questioning the why and how of things, which makes this period of life the perfect time to let him in on as much as you possibly can. New and novel stimulation is always welcome, so here’s a list of tools you can use to help your three to six-year-old come to grips with to the great, big, mysterious world.

Abacus: Math    
The wonder of the abacus is that it presents to your child double and triple digit numeric relationships visually in a concrete bead-based system. When children first learn to count on their fingers, it’s hard for them to really comprehend relationships between numbers. Teaching your child how to use the abacus is a wonderful way of presenting relationships between numbers to your child. She will also love the satisfying feel of clicking the beads. In general, the earliest age to start your child on the abacus is five years old.

Clap-a-name: Language
This is a great game for very young learners at three to four years of age that’ll help with understanding syllables in a word. Say a word like “cat” or “reindeer” and clap your hands at each syllable. With “cat” you clap once and with “rein-deer”, twice. Take turns with your child. When she’s gotten the hang of it, you can mix it up a bit by singing to the tune of B-I-N-G-O. Make up lyrics and have your child try to as well. For example, sing: “There was a girl who had a piano and Cathrine was her name-O. Cath-rine, (clap at each syllable) cath-rine, cath-rine, cath-rine, and cath-rine was her name-O.”

What’s in the Box?: Language
If your child is a little older, you can focus on expanding her vocabulary by using descriptive terms. All you’ll need are some of your child’s toys or any other items she is familiar with, a cloth to cover what you pull out of the box and any kind of reward system like candy or stickers. Pick an object and describe it: “It’s orange. It swims in a bowl. It has a tail and big round eyes.” Sneak in new vocabulary whenever possible like “gills” or “scales”. Correct guesses win your child a reward. Then it’s your child’s turn to describe and it’s your job not to guess too quickly, letting your child get into as much detail as possible. As her vocabulary reservoir grows, add new toys and better descriptions. You can even create vocabulary lists beforehand and create a reward system for every time your little one uses one of the vocabulary words.

Rotate and Roll or Flabby Physics: Material Understanding
Googling the titles above will take you to online games that will help develop your child’s understanding of cause and effect. By the age of three, children have a grasp of actions leading directly to consequences. They know not to drop glass because if they do, it shatters. They know that if they throw an object harder, it flies further. The above games develop your child’s reflexes, sense of timing and aim and it’s a good activity to put your child on when you need that half hour of peace and quiet.

Paint it!: Colour Appreciation
Give your child a labelled colour chart, paper, paint, a few brushes and a bucket of water to wash the brushes. Tell you child to experiment with mixing colours together to try and replicate all the colours in the colour chart. Start off with the easy secondary ones like green and orange and purple. Then move your child into more difficult tertiary shades like “peach” and “turquoise” or “deep purple” that may require the mixing of more than two colours. Activities like this help your child develop a sense of colour and an appreciation for distinct shades. Who knows, you might even be grooming a future Picasso!

The Memory Game: Memory
You can either buy this game or make your own set of cards. The original game comes with 24 picture pairs and 48 cards. The cards are shuffled and placed face down on the table. One or more players get to play. At each turn, one player flips over two cards. If they match, the player wins that pair and can go again. If they don’t, flip them back over and it’s the next player’s turn. The player with the most number of pairs at the end of the game wins.

River Jump: Imagination and Motor Skills
This imaginative journey is good for one or more kids. You’ll need to place a blue towel or sheet on the floor in front of your child. Tell her it’s a river full of crocodiles and she needs to jump to safety! Give your child paper and crayons and get her to draw other things that are in the river. Paste the drawings on different parts of the sheet and draw rocks as “safe zones” to jump on. You can also have more than one river in the room – the more the merrier!

Books about journeys over water – such as Jump, Frog, Jump! by Robert Kalan – or in forests are a great accompaniment to read out loud. Ask your child what she sees and where it is. Don’t forget to watch out for croc’s big teeth!

Happy Family: Please and Thank You
This one’s a classic and great to get the words “please” and “thank you” stuck in your little one’s brain. Play the Happy Family card game as a family and constantly check for missing pleases or thank yous which mean the offender has to give back the card and skip her turn!

Grouping: Categorisation
This is a fun activity if you’re willing to take your child for a long walk or to the beach or the park. Go hunting for pebbles, pretty stones, shells, acorns or other odd things you find on the way. Back home, tell your child to organise them into groups, however, she likes. Tell her the ones that are somehow similar should be in the same group. Your child might naturally sort according to size, shape, texture or colour. Ask her why she put objects in her groups together. Get her to point out what she’s noticed about the objects. Talk about how they feel in your hands, how big they are or the colours. This is an excellent way for your child to learn categorisation.

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