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Infant - Month #37

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Spatial Prepositions and Household Chores

By Mary Perrin, edHelperBaby

  Encouraging Your Child's Thinking
           Have you ever asked your child to obtain an object for you and he was unable to locate it?  The object might have been literally right under his nose and he still could not see it.  As he continued to look, you gave him clues.  For example, as your son was looking for the stereo remote, which was on the floor just to the left of the arm chair, you may have told him to look just to the other side and under the chair.  Did he truly understand your hint?  He may have continued the search by looking on the chair, behind the chair, and maybe even eventually on the floor; all the while you thought to yourself that it might have been more worth your time to have gotten the remote yourself.  Most likely he was having a difficult time understanding the spatial prepositions you provided him.  The following activities are designed to assist your child in becoming more familiar with object positioning.  The concepts of beside (right and left), up, down, inside, outside, on, under, etc. are typically concepts that children gain an understanding of by having conversations with others.  But don't rely on conversation alone to develop your child's understanding of this important concept.  A few fun and quick activities like the ones outlined below will give your child the opportunity to develop good logic and reasoning skills, therefore, building a foundation for higher level thinking.

       A Helpful Tip:  Speak clearly and eliminate any expectations that your child will be able to successfully "read between the lines."  Don't assume your three-year-old will be able to make inferences the way you do.  You have had years of practice and you probably most likely have a good understanding of the difference between literal and figurative language which your youngster doesn't yet.  Let your words guide his discovery.  A few more words from you will give your child the support he needs to develop new meaning and understanding.  For example, when Jack was drawing a picture of his family, he was unsure where to draw the dog on the page. Instead of saying, "Put the dog anywhere you want," it would be more beneficial to him if you added some guiding words such as "I think I might place the dog between the legs of two people or I might even put him on the end beside your brother's shoes."  Just adding a little more detail will encourage him to think and respond more critically.


  Critical Thinking Activities
           Sidewalk Chalk Creations:  Use sidewalk chalk to create a picture using basic shapes.   As you work with your child, use prepositions to describe the placement of shapes, pictures, etc.  Also become aware of any hesitations he may have and questions that he might ask.  He will be able to provide you with clues as to what prepositions he understands and those that he is still a little unsure.  Deliberately use the clues he provides you to deepen his understanding of the prepositions he has failed to demonstrate mastery of during your playtime session.  It may be fun to not reveal the final picture but instead see if he can guess what he is drawing as he continues to draw.  After he has a good idea of the process, allow him to direct you as you draw according to his specifications.  Here are two drawing ideas to get you started.
  • Draw a man watching television while eating a bowl of popcorn.  Draw a couch (rectangle).  Draw a stick man sitting on the couch.  Beside the man draw a bowl (circle).  Draw eight little circles inside the popcorn bowl.  Draw a television (square) near the edge of your paper.  Make a V on the top of the television for the antennae.  Then draw a dog on the floor next to the television.
  • Create a house.  Draw a square.  Place a triangle on top of the house (roof).  Draw a rectangle inside the square (door or window).  Draw a rectangle on the triangle (chimney).  Draw three clouds above the house.  Draw a flower beside the house.  Write your name under the picture of the house.

       Preposition Grab and Go:  Encourage your child to locate ten to fifteen medium-sized objects.  Give him a laundry basket and tell him that all the items he collects must fit inside the basket, but they also must not be too small, either, since you will be playing a game with the toys he chooses, and you will need to be able to find them once the activity is done.  For added fun and physical activity, play this game outdoors.   Set the basket in front of you.  Call out a toy or two and give it a location.  For example, call out "Darth Vader battles Luke Skywalker beneath the slide."  He will grab both action figures from the basket and run to place them beneath the slide.  Look to make sure he places the figures accordingly.  Make the objective harder each time.  Use words like on the other side, underneath, beneath, over, around, behind, in front of, etc.

       Picture Discoveries:  Look through a magazine or photo album with your child.  Ask your child questions about the pictures you are viewing.  Ask him to locate objects as you give him clues or encourage him to tell you, not to point to, where to find an object as you pretend you cannot find it.  Listen to his words.  Is he able to use spatial prepositions as he gives you directions for locating items in the picture?  Also, encourage him to compare two items.  His comparisons will enable him to make important connections between objects and use spatial words appropriately to do so.  For example, "The bird is next to the nest," and "The car is inside the garage."


  From a Parent's Perspective
           Ava loves to play with sidewalk chalk.  Before beginning the activity, I gave her ample time to just play.  I often find that by giving her time to express herself freely first, she is much more attentive during guided playtime.  She recognizes about ninety percent of her shapes.  Since there is a difference between sight recognition and being able to mentally recall the shape, visualize it, and draw, I went ahead and had the shapes drawn out on a piece of paper.  This helped her tremendously.  We connected the process of drawing shapes to a letter writing activity we had previously done by using the vocabulary words, zips, zooms, and circles to help her create the shapes/picture.  She was willing and successful at creating the pictures.  With a little more practice we will be able to be more successful at switching roles. She understood what she was supposed to be communicating to me but had a hard time communicating which shapes to tell me to use.  In the end, she told me to draw a castle with a princess inside the window, a draw bridge in front of the castle, and a fire-breathing dragon flying over the castle.  At that point, I came to the conclusion that maybe she has seen the movie Shrek a few too many times, but nonetheless was able to successfully master the concept of spatial placement.  Practice and patience will endure eventually, and she will be able to play both sides without difficulty.


  Parenting 411
           It is never too early to involve your child in household chores.  Having responsibilities around the house will enable your child to develop a sense of pride and ownership over accomplishing even the smallest tasks.  You don't need to start giving your child an allowance or use bribery to get your child to help out.  Helping out around the house should be a shared effort.  There are so many things your three-year-old can do around the house.  With a little creativity and spirited tone of voice the most dreaded task can become fun for all involved.  The following is a list of a few different ways to get your child involved in common household tasks.  Remember, too, that if you always pick up after your child, he will never learn to pick up after himself, so teach him well now while he is still young and moldable!
  • Dusting:  Turn on some upbeat music, give your child a hand duster, and dance and sing as you dust the staircase, the end tables, etc.
  • Laundry:  Ask your child to help you sort clothes into piles by color.  If you have a frontload washing machine, he can place the laundry into the machine and push the power and start buttons.  Set the chime to loud.  When he hears the chime, he can place the clothes into the dryer with your help.  Then when the dryer chimes, he can empty the clean clothes and help you fold and/or hang up the clean clothes.
  • Laundry:  Matching socks can be a breeze with help from your little one.  Place all the unmatched socks into a pile.  Place the laundry basket in throwing distance.  Ask your child to find a match, hand it to you to fold, and then you can hand it back to him to shoot into the basket. (I had extra change, and before matching socks, I obtained my daughter's piggy bank.  For each shot she made, I blindly picked out a coin and she placed it into her piggy bank.  This was fun for my three-year-old and my six-year-old alike!)
  • Dishes:  When emptying dishes from the dishwasher, pull all the sharp objects out of the silverware caddy.  Hand the silverware caddy to your child and he can sort the silverware into the drawer.
  • Dishes:  If you have a low drawer of cups and other child-size dishes, your child can take his dishes out of the dishwasher and put them away.  A lower drawer in the kitchen will help your child become more self-sufficient when he needs a drink of water, a small plastic bowl for collecting tomatoes from the garden, or a spoon for his afternoon snack.
  • Sweeping:  A small hand-held broom might be hard for your three-year-old to coordinate; however, a small battery operated hard surface sweeper will do the trick.  Crumbs under the kitchen table are inevitable.   Show your child how to operate the battery operated vacuum.  He will enjoy sweeping up after himself after he eats.  Make it part of his duties after he eats.  He takes his plate to the sink, throws his trash away, and if he has made a mess on the floor, he can quickly sweep it up.
  • Mopping:  Involve your child in mopping the floor.  You don't need to have an extra mop to make him feel part of the action.  Create one by attaching a wet hand towel to a broom. (My daughter loves Cinderella.  I told her that we were going to pretend we were Cinderella.  I prepared a bucket of soapy water, got two towels, and we headed down to the floor.  We sang Cinderella songs and talked about the movie as we cleaned the floor like her favorite fairytale princess does in the movie.  She loved every minute of the cleaning action because I focused the task around her interest.)


     Number Sense Activity

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