Lending Library for Early Math Games

How many of you have libraries in your centers that allow families to check out books? Often, centers (sometimes classroom teachers) offer both children’s books and adult books focused on child rearing and education, to families for borrowing.

Wouldn’t it be great to create a lending library filled with math games as well?  You could begin with a small collection of simple board games like “Chutes and Ladders” and “Candyland” and expand the collection as needed.  It might be nice to attach a clipboard to the box so families could jot down notes about their game experience, or so they can suggest modifications or extensions to game play.  I would also create small bags of extra “pieces” such as dice, chips, spinners and markers just in case these go missing.  You might want to include decks of cards with directions for playing “Memory” or “War.”  A few sets of “Uno” might also be fun.

As you introduce these games to the children, you can make them available in the lending library.  That way, the children can go home and teach their families about the game, the rules, and how to play. Some families may not know these games, or know that they are good choices for young children.  They may think that games such as these require reading or more sophisticated skills than they do.  Presenting them as available options may open them up to family game play and another fun way to support their child(ren)’s development.

Now that the summer is here, so are the garage sales.  Make sure to check out the garage sales in your neighborhoods as they are often filled with old board games, dice, decks of cards, dominoes, adding machines and other fun math materials.  The entire list above can probably be put together for twenty dollars, especially if you get lucky at those garage sales or your local Dollar Store.

How to Speak to Parents of Babies About Math

Most parents who have infants in child care are hoping that they will be loved and nurtured, held and rocked, sung to and responded to.  I would imagine that parents of children this age are not really thinking about math yet even thought they are definitely thinking about language.

I have frequently written about consistency as the foundation of mathematical concepts in infancy.  How can we explain this to parents so it makes sense to them?  Sometimes it is best to model behaviors for others so they intuit what we are doing and adopt the behaviors themselves.

Therefore, when an infant is dropped off in the morning, greet the child the same way each and every day.  This consistency will be communicated to the parents, simply by doing it.  Ask the parents the same series of questions each morning, in the same order, if possible, to model the same thing.

As time passes this subject would be a great idea for a newsletter.  You could explain the ideas that infants learn about sequencing through the sequential patterns of the events of their days.  This helps support something that we as ECE professionals have known forever; that consistent care matters.

Cool Poster For Parents

Parent Math PosterSomeone posted this the other day on my Facebook page and I couldn’t wait to share it.                                       Some of these ideas are clearly for older children, but the intent is awesome.  The only thing I would change is that the title would be “Ways a Grown-Up Can Help With Math” since not all children live with parents and remembering to be as inclusive as possible should always be the goal.

Museums For All

This past winter I was asked to be on the Advisory Board of the Chicago Children’s Museum, located downtown at Navy Pier.  I had been serving on the Tinkering Board of the museum for the three years previous, so this was new to me.  Yesterday, we had our board meeting and lo and behold, I learned about a whole new opportunity for children, families, and child care providers

Did you know that any Illinois family receiving either WIC or the Link Card qualifies for admission to the museum for up to 6 people for three dollars?  That’s right.  You read me correctly.  That is three dollars for the group, not per person.  All you have to do is show your card, have a child under 15 years old with you and pay three dollars to spend the day at the museum.  You can’t beat that.

For more information about the Museums for All program and commonly asked questions, click here.

Teachers Plus Parents Equals Success For Young Children

I am always looking for winning combinations…Peanut butter plus jelly equals gooey deliciousness.  A sunny day plus a half day of work equals a good long walk with my dogs.  These are win-win situations that make me very happy.  Me happy plus anything, equals a better day for everyone!

I like to think of parents as allies and friends.  I also consider them colleagues, as they are really in the same business that we are, educating children.  Although they might not have the same training that we do, they are deeply invested in the lives of their children both in the present and in the future.  They may make decisions based on culture and intuition more than we do, but their intentions are pure.

It is impossible to separate the child from her home, her family, and her life outside of care.  Incorporating this fundamental belief into your practice with children will change and grow your interactions with children tremendously. This means that as teachers, we must see children in these complex contexts and remind ourselves of this unique part of our work.

There are several questions that teachers should ask themselves frequently.

1.  What does this child bring to my classroom that is unique and special?

2.  How can we celebrate the uniqueness of each child in my program?

3.  How can I include families in more meaningful ways in their child’s early care and education?

4.  How can I improve my own communications skills to better serve the families in my program?

5.  What assumptions do I make about the children in my care and by extension, their families?

6.  How can I let go of my assumptions and simply honor the families I serve?

Some of us become more forgiving as we gain experience.  Some of us become more jaded and cynical.  Try to put yourselves in the first category and add yourself to parents to create a winning combination.

Speaking “Math” to Parents

How frequently do you engage the parents in your program about math?  This is one of those things that seems so simple, but in practice really hard.  Parents are usually in a hurry, dropping off or picking up – trying to get somewhere else.  The time for conversation is limited so are we really going to fill it with “math”?

The Math at Home site offers a Parent Newsletter for every math lesson posted.  They are easy to download and edit so you can tailor them for your specific program.  These letters provide a meaningful way to engage parents in a conversation (albeit a one-sided conversation) about the math curriculum you are exploring in your program.

If you go to the tab “Find a Math Lesson” and then search for an activity, you will find the “Share with Parents” tab off to the right side of the page.  The letter will download to your computer in a Word format (.doc) so you can put it on your own letterhead and make any changes.  Each letter also offers ways for parents to support the same concepts at home.

Modeling for Parents

I learned a lot about caring for my own children by watching their teachers in the classroom.  I was lucky.  As a member of a parent cooperative, we had consistent opportunities to be in the classroom as parent volunteers, to help out on field trips, and to accompany the children to the playground.

It was very early on in my parenting life when I realized that even though I thought I knew a lot about children, I really didn’t.  I was young (ish) and had been through a lot of school.  I had been a teacher for a few years but none of that added up to knowing about children.

I was one of those moms who called the pediatrician every time Noah peeped, looked funny, or cried for no apparent reason.  Nothing I read in the books and nothing I had done with other people’s children had prepared me to be a mom.

We did OK.  We figured it out.  We gutted it out.  But once we enrolled the kids in a quality child care center, I really began learning about caring for young children.  I don’t even think the teachers were aware of how much of an impact they had on me as a mom, and on the other parents.  Without expressly doing anything, they modeled behaviors, affect, language, systems, and practices that were effective and enlightening.

The message here is that you should always remember that parents are watching you.  Even if they don’t ask, or let you know that they don’t know, they need help and support.  The simple act of squatting down to speak to a child at eye level, will model a “best practice” for parents.  Before you know it, they will adopt those behaviors as their own.

Helping Parents Remember or Stop Making Turkey Centerpieces in Preschool

What are your earliest memories?  Not the memories you think you remember but actual memories?  Sometimes, we think we remember people or events because we have heard the stories of those happenings throughout our lives.  But they are actually false memories, fleshed out with details by older relatives and then supported with photographs.

Most of us can only remember back to our 5th or 6th year, with only flashes of memories from before that.  That means that what adults think they remember from their preschool years are actually memories from kindergarten and later.  They have very specific memories of making turkey centerpieces for Thanksgiving, and sitting at tables doing worksheets. They remember lining up, putting on their coats, sitting quietly, going to the lunchroom and opening their own milk.  They remember beginning to read, to count, and to compute.  I too, remember all of this as clearly as if it were yesterday.  But I know that these memories are from school, not preschool.

This is one explanation why many parents have expectations of their children that are unreasonable.  Their actual memories of their first school experiences are from kindergarten, not preschool.  It is our job to help parents know what 0-5 year old typical development looks like.  We have to remind them what 2 year olds actually do and what they are learning to do.  We can reassure them that their 3-year-old is developing as expected and will eventually learn his letters and how to read (but it is fairly likely that it won’t happen this year.)

For many people their only frame of reference for what this period of the lifespan looks like is their own – so it stands to reason that they have unrealistic expectations because their frame is faulty.



Another article about Math at Home (not the site – but actual Math at Home)

Thanks to my friend and colleague Carrie Nepstad for sending me this article from KQED.org.  The title, How Adding Math to a Child’s Routine Can Advance Achievement, gives you a pretty good idea about the context, but it may even be one of those articles that you actually copy and give to parents because it describes the value of incorporating math strategies at home.


Where the wild integers are

Where the wild integers are

The article focuses on a new IPad app called “Bedtime Math” which is designed for children and parents to work on together.  The math is embedded into a story problem that needs to be solved.  Parents and children can choose the problem of the day and work through the math.  There are questions for wee ones, little kids, and bigger kids.

Check it out.


Starting Strong – Communication with Families

It is always a good idea to set the stage for family involvement from the start of the year, establishing practices that will support a family centered program in everything you do. The key to doing this well is by creating a many-faceted system for communication that includes, but is not limited to: newsletters, phone calls, informal conversations at the beginning and the end of the day, parent-teacher conferences, and opportunities for involvement in and out of the classroom.

One of the highlights of the Math at Home website are the lesson plans.  They are thoughtful, well-written, extremely detailed, and flexible.  In addition, there are “Parent Newsletters” included with each one, that can be edited to fit your program and your families.  If you haven’t checked those out yet, you can take a look here.