Brains DOUBLE TAP TO ZOOM WITH PHONE OR TABLET 600 Activity Ideas for Young Children Birth to Age 5 Suzanne R. Gellens COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL DOUBLE TAP TO ZOOM WITH PHONE OR TABLET Building Brains COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL DOUBLE TAP TO ZOOM WITH PHONE OR TABLET COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL DOUBLE TAP TO ZOOM WITH PHONE OR TABLET Building Brains 600 Activity ideas for Young  children suZAnne r . gellens COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL DOUBLE TAP TO ZOOM WITH PHONE OR TABLET Published by Redleaf Press 10 Yorkton Court St. Paul, MN 55117 © 2013 by Suzanne R. Gellens All rights reserved. Unless otherwise noted on a specific page, no portion of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photo­ copying, recording, or capturing on any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher, except by a reviewer, who may quote brief passages in a critical article or review to be printed in a magazine or newspaper, or electronically transmitted on radio, television, or the Internet. First edition 2013 Cover design by Jim Handrigan Cover photograph © Blend Images Photography/Veer Interior design by Percolator Typeset in FF Celeste and Bliss Illustration on page 8 by Shawn Thomas Printed in the United States of America 19 18 17 16 15 14 13 12   1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 An earlier version of this book was published as Activities That Build the Young Child’s Brain, © 2007 by Suzanne R. Gellens. The tips for preventing sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) on pages 55–56 were originally published in the online article “Reducing the Risk of SIDS” by the American SIDS Institute; Reprinted with permission. Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Gellens, Suzanne.    Building brains : 600 activity ideas for young children / Suzanne R. Gellens.        p. cm.    Includes bibliographical references and index.    Summary: “Building Brains expands young children’s learning with six hundred brain-based,    developmentally appropriate activity ideas. It combines the latest information on brain development    with activities that support children’s learning and enrich any early childhood curriculum.”    — Provided by publisher.    ISBN 978-1-60554-117-4 (pbk.) 1. Early childhood education—Activity programs. 2. Creative activities and seat work 3. Child development. 4. Learning, Psychology of.   I. Title.   LB1139.35.A37G46 2012   372.21—dc23                                                             2012007940 Printed on acid-free paper COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL DOUBLE TAP TO ZOOM WITH PHONE OR TABLET This book is dedicated to the memory of my husband, Paul, who listened to me as I talked through the book, and to the memory of Beth Moore, my dear friend and administrative assistant, who typed and formatted multiple versions of the book and helped me translate my ideas into coherent sentences. COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL DOUBLE TAP TO ZOOM WITH PHONE OR TABLET COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL DOUBLE TAP TO ZOOM WITH PHONE OR TABLET Contents ix Acknowledgments 1 Introduction 7 Chapter 1   Brain Development 13 Chapter 2   Development of the Senses 25 Chapter 3   Emotional Development 39 Chapter 4   Social Development 53 Chapter 5   Physical Development 69 Chapter 6   Cognitive and Language Development of Infants and Toddlers 85 Chapter 7   Cognitive and Language Development of Preschoolers 121 Chapter 8   Emergent Literacy in Preschoolers 137 Chapter 9   Lessons to Be Learned from Brain Research 141 Glossary 143 References 146 Photography Credits 147 Index 158 About the Author COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL DOUBLE TAP TO ZOOM WITH PHONE OR TABLET COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL DOUBLE TAP TO ZOOM WITH PHONE OR TABLET Acknowledgments Over the years, I have read books and attended numerous conferences and workshops. Often I would go back to the classroom and try out the ideas and modify them to fit my teaching style. The activity became part of my repertoire, and I made it my own. I changed the focus to meet the needs of the children I was teaching at the time. I owe a debt of gratitude to the many people who originated the ideas and gave me the flexibility to adapt them to use with the children in my classes. I have been fortunate to have many mentors. They are too many to list, but to each of you I say thank you for giving me the strength, knowledge, and courage to forge ahead and try new avenues. You helped me hone the attributes to be a leader, and for this I am extremely grateful. You encour- aged me to succeed on every level I tried and let me know that I could expand my horizons even more. Thank you to the many people who aided me in completing this book. I am indebted to many lead- ers in the Florida Association for the Education of Young Children who gave me content suggestions, proofread the document, and pointed out errors in organization and grammar. I am grateful to my children and three grandchildren for letting me watch them grow and develop. These observations renewed my interest in and wonder at this process called learning. Thank you also to the staff mem- bers at Temple Emanu-El Early Learning Center in Sarasota, Florida, for giving me a place to initiate my ideas and to Dr. Bernard Maria, whose friend- ship, knowledge of brain development, and guid- ance I value. All have made my vision a reality! COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL DOUBLE TAP TO ZOOM WITH PHONE OR TABLET COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL DOUBLE TAP TO ZOOM WITH PHONE OR TABLET Introduction Neurons. Axons. Serotonin. Synapses. Dendrites. How do these have any application to my daily interactions with young children? How do I use the knowledge gained by brain research to improve my teaching? Many knowledgeable providers in the early care and education field are pondering these questions. It is important for parents and teachers to know the biology that surrounds learn- ing so they can evaluate the environment and make changes to improve the potential success of chil- dren. This is called brain-compatible learning and means you apply the lessons learned from brain research to plan and create an optimal atmosphere for learning (Gregory and Parry 2006). Brain research confirms much of what educa- tors have been espousing for years: that the early years are the important years for learning. These beliefs have long been held; now science has vali- dated them: • When a child has a choice in selecting her own activities, involvement is increased. • All children’s senses need to be stimulated— though not at the same time—in an enriched atmosphere. • Activities presented to children should match their stage of development and their interest level. • Activities that develop the physical, social, emotional, and intellectual aspects of each child are the most effective. • There should be a balance between activity and rest: between quiet learning and active learning. • Children need a loving, stress-free environ- ment for optimal learning to occur. Young children do not learn in a vacuum. Every moment has opportunities for learning, and the environment surrounding the child affects what is learned and how. What educators knew to be best practices has been confirmed in the last twenty years through scientific exploration of how a child’s brain operates. From the moment of conception to birth and through the early years of life, the brain is evolving to create new connections based on what children are learning. And learning creates a brain that is more equipped to learn! • Every situation is a learning experience. • Children need to be nurtured and have physical contact with other people. • Children learn through their interactions with people and the environment. • Play is an essential component to learning. • Hands-on activities result in lifelong learned skills. 1 COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL DOUBLE TAP TO ZOOM WITH PHONE OR TABLET Just as a leaky faucet drips to fill a pan or sink, a steady stream of information flows from the child’s surroundings, is transmitted to the brain through the child’s senses, and builds and builds—leading to learning. This stream of information eventually pours into the river of existing information. This river of information eventually pours into an ocean of knowledge. But reading, writing, and arithmetic are not the only lessons that children learn; they also learn the essentials of human society: to com- municate and get along with others in a socially acceptable way, to be motivated to learn and have good self-esteem, and to learn academic subjects and to apply the knowledge to their lives. They learn how to move in space and to apply the prin- ciples of investigation and processes to relate one idea to another. Children’s development depends on their inheritance of genes plus their interactions within their surroundings. Learning begins the moment children are born and continues through- out life. You are there to guide, help, and move the child from one stage to the next. About Brain Research It is important to remember that brain research is a relatively new science frontier, and that scientific information about the brain changes rapidly. What is discovered today may be updated with new break- throughs tomorrow. Twenty years ago, researchers understood that babies are born with 100 million brain cells and would never manufacture more. 2  i n t r o d u c t i o n Today there is growing evidence that brain cells are created under certain circumstances; for example, some mothers experience brain growth in the first months after giving birth (Sohn 2010). Some of the original reports equated all brain cells and neurons with each other. Now we know that glial cells, or “glue” cells, keep the environment of the brain free from waste and bring nutrients to each neuron or brain cell. Glial cells make up about 90 percent of the brain’s mass. Neurobiologists have begun to understand glial cells’ role in growth and develop- ment of the brain. Brain cells called mirror neurons have recently been identified. Mirror neurons help young children—and all people—mimic the actions of others. When we see someone yawn, we feel the urge to yawn. This effect might suggest that mirror neurons are at work. Newborns will copy a tongue thrust; small children watch adults and copy their reactions to events. This imitation of a seen behav- ior, again, may be evidence of mirror neuron activ- ity. Most people smile when seeing someone else smile. Mirror neurons play a major role in each person’s ability to empathize and socialize. People depend on others’ facial expressions as interactions occur (Society for Neuroscience 2008). A new scientific field called fetal origins is bringing new information to light about the time between conception and birth. We know that smok- ing, alcohol, poor nutrition, and certain drugs affect the newborn’s brain and physical development. We also are learning about the effects of maternal depression and traumatic events—such as war, death of a spouse, poverty, or terrorist attacks, among other things—on the developing fetus. Newborns whose mothers experienced depres- sion or traumatic events while pregnant may have higher levels of stress hormones in their blood. Their babies are more likely to be fussier, harder to soothe, and have sleep problems. As they grow, these children are more disposed to be impulsive, are more hyperactive, and demonstrate emotional and behavioral problems. In addition, longitudinal research shows that negative fetal environments can lead to adults who suffer from mental illness, heart problems, and diabetes (Paul 2010). COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL DOUBLE TAP TO ZOOM WITH PHONE OR TABLET Toxic Stress New science exploration has shown that children who are in neglectful, abusive, or harmful environ- ments (children who do not have secure attach- ments to their caregivers) exhibit toxic stress. Toxic stress is when the body senses a threat and remains at a high level of vigilance for prolonged periods to protect itself. This high level of vigilance means the child’s brain floods with chemicals, his heart rate speeds up, and his muscles grow tense; all the systems of the young child’s body stay activated and on alert for weeks and months. Toxic stress affects brain development, the wiring of the brain, immunity, and the ability to learn, as well as the emotional and social well-being of the child. Chil- dren need to feel safe to grow up healthy in both body and mind. Quality adult-child interactions in a quality child care environment can help ame- liorate stress and meet the social and emotional needs of children. A caring, nurturing adult can help relieve out-of-control bodily reactions. Adults can help children deal with adversity and become resilient. Early care and education personnel have the advantage of their relationships with families. You can direct families to resources such as screen- ings, assessments, and protective services. Early intervention with professionals can protect chil- dren from the stresses in their lives (AAP 2011a). The scientific exploration of the brain is dynamic and ongoing as new instruments are developed to watch the brain as it functions and learns. The best way to keep current about new brain research is to belong to a professional early childhood asso- ciation. Such associations keep members informed through bulletins, research journals, position state- ments, and online resources. Furthermore, the Internet provides reviews of current findings in articles and scientific journals, and television pro- grams often focus on new findings and suggest books and programs or videos. Caution, however, has to be exercised. Many people who don’t under- stand how infants, toddlers, and young children learn give advice on how to apply the research. Products that are purportedly based on current brain theory pop up in the market, but some of these products can be harmful. Stay informed. Talk to coworkers and colleagues and share information. Attend local, state, and national conferences and workshops geared toward parents and teachers of young children. These resources can give you practical tips and help you learn how to revise your curriculum and try new ideas. Also, use com- mon sense about what is good for young children. Teaching now includes a better understanding of how children learn, but what we have known for years about best practices and how adults should relate to young children is still valid. Check out the information thoroughly before drastically changing your practice. Once you are sure of the advantages, try the new technique and decide if it makes a dif- ference for the children in your care. Developmentally Appropriate Practice It is important for early care providers to ensure that everything is appropriate to the child’s age COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL introduction  3 DOUBLE TAP TO ZOOM WITH PHONE OR TABLET and stage of development. The media promotes bombarding young children with flash cards and videos or pushing academics because young brains are developing quickly. Ads for products that claim to teach a baby to read or that show two- and three- year-old children naming all the capitals of every state in alphabetical order or the chronology of US presidents look impressive; but this is an inappro- priate use of the research. Young children can mimic and repeat back almost anything when enough time is devoted to teaching it. Yet the material has never really been learned and is quickly forgotten without daily rep- etition and reinforcement, especially if meaning is not connected to the memorized material (Sousa 2006, 2008). In essence, it is a waste of the adult’s time and the child’s effort. We must be diligent in not pressuring young children to memorize facts. Young children need to learn with their senses, through hands-on play. Rote memorization of lists is of little value because children forget the infor- mation quickly. This practice can also be harmful if it creates inappropriate and stressful expectations for children. Likewise, claims of foods fortified with un­proven additives to increase brainpower have little validity. This is a sales gimmick. We have to be intelligent consumers and not believe every pitch to fortify, speed up, or increase brain development. Setting up an enriching learning environment and intentionally guiding children’s interactions with objects brings about learning. Children suc- ceed when they have quality relationships with an adult and a developmentally appropriate curricu- lum. Knowing the influence that careful planning, a thoughtful curriculum, and enriching activities can have on the outcome of each child is exciting. Early care and education professionals and families do make a difference in the lives of children each and every day! How This Book Came to Be The Carnegie Corporation of New York had a task force that published Starting Points: Meeting the Needs of Our Youngest Children (Carnegie Task Force on Meeting the Needs of Young Children 1994). A grant provided training in the new science of brain research for a small group of early child- hood educators. I was fortunate to be selected to learn about the research and was tasked with trav- eling around the state of Florida spreading infor- mation about the results of the research to early childhood providers. After each workshop, teach- ers would tell me they understood brain biology but couldn’t see how that would help their daily teaching. So I began researching books, videos, and articles looking for directions on how to apply this new information. I found nothing. During this time, Dr. Bernard Maria, who was at the McKnight Brain Institute at the University of Florida, and I served together on an advisory council on early care and education. Together we decided that both early childhood providers and parents needed this information on how children learn. We envisioned a “brain bag” with all kinds of information in different formats at different 4  i n t r o d u c t i o n COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL DOUBLE TAP TO ZOOM WITH PHONE OR TABLET educational levels that could become a library of information on the brain. I received a small grant to write and publish the book, giving adults activi- ties that they could easily replicate in their homes and schools to help utilize and apply the brain research. Part of the money was used to develop and distribute the brain bag. Running an accredited preschool with a qual- ity educational component presented in a devel- opmentally appropriate manner lent itself to the creation of the book. Every activity in the book had been part of the curriculum. The words flowed, the ideas coalesced, and in 2000 the book was written. After it was published by the Early Childhood Asso- ciation of Florida (later called the Florida Associa- tion for the Education of Young Children), I began doing workshops to show teachers and parents how this knowledge could help them teach chil- dren more effectively. I believe I have made a dif- ference in how children are taught today. The book you are now reading has been revised and updated to incorporate the latest findings. How to Use This Book This book was written to include the most current brain research on infants, toddlers, and preschool- ers and to offer multiple ideas and suggestions on the best environments and appropriate activities needed for a child’s brain to grow to its full capac- ity. If you truly use a developmentally appropriate curriculum and if you are a nurturing person, you most likely already meet the children’s needs. You will probably find that you needn’t change many aspects of the existing environment to bring the benefits of brain biology studies into your early care and education setting. It is important, how- ever, that you recognize the need to apply the infor- mation from the latest brain research to make your teaching the best it can be. This book contains a description of interest areas in the child’s surroundings and includes over six hundred ideas to help you understand the application of brain research in planning activities. Some of the suggestions describe one activity to use COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL introduction  5 DOUBLE TAP TO ZOOM WITH PHONE OR TABLET for a day or two. Some of the ideas, such as talking to toddlers about what they are doing, are meant to be practiced every day. Use this book as a refer- ence guide. After writing your weekly lesson plans, assess whether you have activities that engage all the senses and reach all areas of potential growth. Determine which interest areas need more focus and choose an activity that will enhance the chil- dren’s learning while playing. This book was designed to be used by classroom teachers, family child care providers, and any per- son who is involved with young children, includ- 6  i n t r o d u c t i o n ing parents and families—please invite them to use the book, too. The ideas have been collected over the years from educational colleagues, early child- hood conferences, books, and articles, and they represent best practices. All have been successfully used with young children. If you are new to the field, this book will give you a multitude of ideas to expand children’s learning. If you have a great deal of experience, the book will reinforce what you already know and perhaps remind you of forgotten extensions. You will enjoy using these activities in children’s environments. COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL DOUBLE TAP TO ZOOM WITH PHONE OR TABLET ch Ap te r 2 Development of the Senses Humans learn through their senses. The senses bring external information about the surrounding physical environment to the brain. External stimuli are received and conducted by sensory receptors in the eyes, the ears, the nose, the skin, and the tongue and are transmitted to the brain. The stimulation from the senses causes the wiring of the brain to take place. The senses are: • Hearing • Seeing • Touching • Tasting • Smelling • Kinesthetic sense (moving and balancing) 13 COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL DOUBLE TAP TO ZOOM WITH PHONE OR TABLET developMent oF the SenSeS:  the inFant and toddler YearS how senses Develop in infAnts AnD toDDlers Before birth, the brain makes connections from the receptors in the eyes, nose, mouth, skin, and ears to specific areas in the brain designated for sight, smell, taste, touch, and sound. This process contin- ues after birth, when sensory exposure dramatically increases. Repeated stimulation helps the infant learn; that is, it helps the infant form a series of con- nections between neurons in different parts of the brain. Right after birth, infants will respond to loud sounds with a startle reflex. If they hear the same sound over and over in the environment over a period of time, they learn to either ignore the noise or respond appropriately to the sound. Newborns will turn their heads toward a person talking. Mir- ror neurons fire when infants see someone perform a movement, such as a tongue thrust (sticking out the tongue) or smiling, and this can cause neurons to release electrical impulses—this release is known as firing—and the infant will make the same move- ment. Mirror neurons fire not only for movement but for feelings as well. When infants see an expres- sion of feelings, their neurons for those feelings also are fired. Said another way, when a young child sees someone who is scared or crying, the child may express and experience similar feelings (Iacoboni 2008). This may lead to empathy for others (Carew, Goldberg, and Marder 2008). Children use all the senses together to interact with their environment and to gain control of their bodies. When a child sees a ball, she sees the color and the shape and feels the surface texture. She hears her caregiver ask if she wants the ball. She reaches out with the appropriate hand and bal- ances her body as she tries to grab it. She feels the smooth, cool surface of the ball. She brings it up to her mouth to taste it and to feel the texture with her lips and tongue. She smells the fabric. All the senses work together in order for the child to expe- rience “ball.” 14  c h a p t e r   2 Developing the refined use of the senses requires more than just brain wiring working in concert. Children have to learn how to interpret the input from the senses. The ability to use our senses devel- ops during the early years. Experience teaches us about the sensory input. Children need a multitude of activities that engage their senses if they are to understand the stimuli around them. When deaf adults have a cochlear implant and can hear for the first time, they must learn how to listen and to interpret the signals their brains are suddenly experiencing. Just like all other areas of learning, the environment for young children has to allow them to explore and learn from their senses. hearing The sense of hearing is refined very rapidly, and its circuitry is complete in the first few months. Just as with smells, infants learn to recognize familiar voices and are soothed by them. They enjoy toys that make noise or music, and are fascinated with the sounds of their own voices. As early as two months of age, infants start babbling. Then they COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL DOUBLE TAP TO ZOOM WITH PHONE OR TABLET refine this repetition of vowels and consonants to repeat the sounds heard in the language spoken in their proximity. Infants respond to higher frequen- cies; thus it is important to talk to infants using infant-directed speech, commonly known as par- entese (or motherese or caregiverese), a singsong, higher-pitched speech that attracts young children. To learn language, it’s not enough for you to just talk nonstop in a singsong voice; young children need to hear task-centered talking accompanied with appropriate facial expressions and gestures or pointing. Task-centered talking, a term coined by David Sousa (1998), is a running narration about what the child is doing or what is being done for them (feeding, dressing, or bathing). It helps young children hear the rhythm and cadence of language as well as exposes them to vocabulary and syntax. It describes what children see and what is happen- ing in their environment. It helps connect meaning to what is happening around them (Sousa 2006). Hearing is a sense crucial for spoken language acquisition. Children’s hearing should be checked periodically by a physician, especially if their lan- guage skills do not meet developmental milestones. i n Fa n t   &  t o d d l e r  a c t i v i t i e S support hearing ›   use words and simple sentences to describe what  infants and toddlers are doing and to describe what  you are doing with them, whether diapering,  dressing, or taking a walk. Your voice patterns will  establish a beginning for understanding language.  use task-centered talking. ›   use a singsong and higher-pitched voice to hold  infants’ attention and help them learn language.  Sometimes talk normally and sometimes whisper to  let infants hear the difference in volume, speed, and  pitch of language. ›   echo infants’ and toddlers’ verbalizations back to  them to help them learn. infants babble the vowels  and later the consonants of the language spoken  around them. echoing reinforces their attempts at  verbalization. ›   play music that is restful before naptime and livelier  during playtime, but don’t have music on all the  time. infants can block out continuous music, much  as adults stop hearing background music. Music  boxes offer a pleasant sound as infants look at  mobiles or a baby gym. ›   Sing to infants often. Sing using a high voice, then  repeat using a normal or low voice. don’t worry if  you can’t carry a tune. infants will love the sound. ›   use nursery rhymes to let infants and toddlers hear  the cadence and rhythm of rhyming words. exagger- ate and vary voice pitch in reciting nursery rhymes. ›   have a variety of rattles, balls, and toys that make  a noise when they move. this encourages the child  to shake, roll, or pull to hear the noise. ›   Many toddlers enjoy a jack-in-the-box and respond  to both the sound of the music box and the sound  as the box opens and the clown pops out. Windup  toys often make sounds. ›   When you hear environmental sounds like a fan,  thunder, or the washing machine, mimic the sound,  and explain what it is. encourage older infants and  toddlers to repeat the sound. as you read books or  play with toys, incorporate sounds such as a duck  quacking or a car rumbling. Seeing At birth, infants can see only things that are about eight to twelve inches away from their face, just the right distance for them to see the face of the person holding them. And even then, that face is blurry! Their eyes are receiving visual informa- tion, but their brains have not yet developed the receptors needed to see clearly. Their eyes develop rapidly, and soon they learn to identify caregivers by sight. After a few months, infants can follow moving objects and turn and look when they hear a sound. They can see objects that are farther away, see the differences in colors, and begin to acquire COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL d e v e l o p M e n t   o F   t h e   S e n S e S   15 DOUBLE TAP TO ZOOM WITH PHONE OR TABLET depth perception. Later in infancy, interacting with brightly colored toys helps develop their network of synapses or brain connections. This skill refine- ment continues until about six months, when the brain connections are complete and infants’ vision is about 20/25 (Heiting 2010). From this point, infants are working on hand-eye coordination and judging distance to objects. Physicians know that eye problems, such as congenital cataracts, extreme nearsighted or farsighted vision, or eyes that turn outward or inward, need to be dealt with as early as possible. Correcting eye complications early allows the connections between the eyes and the brain to develop. i n Fa n t   &  t o d d l e r  a c t i v i t i e S support seeing ›   describe what the infant sees. Simple one- or two- word descriptions are suffi cient for a young child.  as the toddler begins to point, identify what he is  pointing to, fi rst using one or two words and then  again in a short sentence: “Ball. You see a big ball.”  as the child matures, increase the length of the  description. ›   Keep a pleasant, animated face to give infants and  toddlers a feeling of security. ›   provide colorful posters or pictures placed at eye  level. describe what the child sees. Be careful not  to overwhelm infants and toddlers with too much  visual stimulation. ›   read books and other printed material to children  right from birth. Make it a time for cuddling and lap  sitting to help instill a love of reading. if the story  is long, keep it short and simple by “reading” the  pictures as you point to them rather than the  written words. add gestures, such as pretend eating  or smelling a fl ower. older infants will imitate the  motions, building a better understanding of what  they see. 16  c h a p t e r   2 Smelling Infants have a heightened sense of smell and taste. In the beginning, infants identify people through sound and smell. They respond to the smell of their mother and her milk and root for the breast. They identify a comfort toy or blanket by its smell. Sometimes adults try to replace a comfort object with another toy or blanket that looks exactly the same. Infants can tell the difference in the smell and often will not accept the replacement article. i n Fa n t   &  t o d d l e r  a c t i v i t i e S support smelling ›   provide familiar-smelling blankets or toys when a  child is upset; the familiar smell may provide  comfort. ›   Speak of odors using descriptive words to help  children learn smells. identify the smell of different  foods, a dirty diaper, or fresh-cut grass. ›   demonstrate to older infants and toddlers how to  sniff at a fl ower or a piece of fruit. encourage them  to imitate you. describe the smell. COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL DOUBLE TAP TO ZOOM WITH PHONE OR TABLET ›   read sniff-and-smell board books. as they get older,  provide scented markers. Just be careful they are  nontoxic and don’t go into mouths. ›   When out for a walk, take time to let toddlers hold  and smell new items, so long as the item is safe.  if you pass a bakery or other business emitting a  smell, use descriptive words such as “sweet,” “sharp,”  and “icky” as you talk about the smells. ›   add lavender and other soothing aromas to hand- washing or bathwater to help infants and toddlers  relax. ›   describe and comment on the taste when new foods  are introduced. continue offering the same food for  a while, so children can become familiar with the  taste of that food. Make interesting comments that  describe the texture they are feeling plus the sweet,  salty, or sour taste. ›   connect the temperature of different foods with the  taste. Soon very young children will learn about cool,  cold, warm, and hot. touching  tasting Infants use taste to learn about their world. They have more sensory receptors in their mouths and on their tongues than anyplace else on their body. A very young child mouths a doll with her tongue and lips, tasting the skin and hair, feeling the smooth plastic of the skin in contrast to the rough strands of the hair or the terrycloth body. It is dif- ficult to separate what an infant tastes and what an infant feels when an object goes into her mouth. Since everything goes into the child’s mouth for exploration, it is important to make sure all toys are too large to be swallowed and don’t have any loose parts. Taste is intertwined with young children’s nutrition. Infants who are breast-fed often refuse formula. As they grow and are introduced to new foods, the taste buds take on a new role. It often takes patience to help a child learn to eat new foods—sometimes a new food needs to be offered ten times before a child will like it! Touch is highly developed at birth. Infants love skin-to-skin contact and respond to patting and hugging. Premature infants are often put into kangaroo care, during which they are held skin-to- skin with the mother. Infants are calmed by mas- sage; feel secure when swaddled; and feel love and nurturance when appropriately held, hugged, and touched. These types of touch have positive effects on infants’ growth and development and their emo- tional security. Young children who are not held, cuddled, and hugged may not make the necessary brain connections and may not bond with their caregivers, which can lead to mental health prob- lems at an early age. As infants mature, they reach out and touch everything in their proximity. They also explore their bodies using this sense. Hands as well as objects go i n Fa n t   &  t o d d l e r  a c t i v i t i e S support tasting ›   Make sure everything within reach is clean and  sani tized, as infants put everything into their mouths. COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL d e v e l o p M e n t   o F   t h e   S e n S e S   17 DOUBLE TAP TO ZOOM WITH PHONE OR TABLET into their mouths. While being held, infants often stroke the adult holding them. This is an important beginning step of socialization. i n Fa n t   &  t o d d l e r  a c t i v i t i e S support touching ›   touch infants and toddlers often. in the beginning,  take an infant’s hands and touch your nose, cheek,  fi ngers, and so on as you name what the infant is  touching. allow young children to explore you by  touching your face and hands. describe the feel of  skin to the child. ›   help infants explore their own feet and hands. as  they put them in their mouths, they will also be  experiencing the feel and taste. they explore all kinds  of surfaces and experience textures with their  tongues. ›   provide a variety of objects and textures for them to  feel. use textured blankets, balls, and other commer- cial products designed for an infant’s touch, or  collect a mix of textures from around the environ- ment to provide variety. Guide very young children’s  hands to feel objects as you talk about them. rub  soft blankets on cheeks and arms. ›   hold infants and toddlers often. hug and cuddle  them. this behavior demonstrates love and helps  with bonding and feelings of security. ing balance—is dependent on touch and sight and comes with experience. Today many infants are carried in car seats and baby carriers or pushed in strollers for convenience. Pick up young children often and hold them close to your body. Personal touch not only helps the child feel secure, it also is important to their growth and development and aids bonding. Infants become aware of their move- ments and the position of their arms and legs. This sense develops slowly and helps infants reach out to grab toys, roll over, sit up, crawl, stand, and walk. i n Fa n t   &  t o d d l e r  a c t i v i t i e S support the kinesthetic sense ›   rock infants and toddlers as you hold them, which is  very comforting. rocking upset children is very  soothing. ›   provide open space for infants to move. they fi nd  pleasure in moving their bodies as they roll over,  rock on their knees, or crawl. as infants become  mobile, they will enjoy the feel of walking, climbing,  and running. ›   dance together with music. Be gentle with young  children, but help them feel the rhythm as you rock  and sway to music. once they are up and walking,  hold toddlers’ hands to dance; however, they will still  enjoy being picked up to dance. ›   teach infants and toddlers to hold and cradle dolls  and stuffed animals. this will give them comfort and  help them learn how to give good touches. ›   allow infants to be in a baby swing for a short time.  take young children to the park and help them  gently swing. as they get older, increase the inten- sity. add descriptive words to the movement. ›   Massage infants and toddlers using established  infant massage techniques. explore books and  websites devoted to infant massage. ›   help toddlers balance on one foot as they get dressed.  teach them to hop or jump. ›   use steps to help toddlers climb. Make sure you are  holding a hand or standing behind them at fi rst to  help them climb safely. the Kinesthetic Sense The kinesthetic sense—or knowing where the body is in space, feeling body movement, and maintain- 18  c h a p t e r   2 COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL DOUBLE TAP TO ZOOM WITH PHONE OR TABLET developMent oF the SenSeS:  the preSchool YearS how senses Develop in preschoolers Perceptual development, or the development of the interpretation of sensorial information (sound, sight, touch, taste, and kinesthesia), doesn’t just hap- pen the way that growing taller does. Children have to be able to interpret the signals their eyes, ears, skin, nose, and body bring to them and to use the information. This ability is a kind of intelligence. Like all other knowledge, sense stimuli have to be experienced in a variety of ways to bring meaning to the sensation. Just hearing a noise is not enough. The ear may hear the sound, but unless the brain interprets the information and relates it to some- thing, the sound is meaningless. Understanding a sound comes from knowing its cause or source. All children should have daily activities that stimulate every sense. Activities for an older child often limit sensory input to seeing and hearing. Yet, only through the interplay of all senses can a child learn to the fullest. The exception to this would be taste: most older children do not put objects in their mouths to taste them. They rely on their other senses for information about the objects. They mainly use their mouths and tongue to taste, not feel as infants and toddlers do. Often adults must incorporate sensory activities into the preschool environment to ensure that all senses are stimu- lated every day. Conversations during snack- and mealtimes need to hone in on the taste and texture of foods. Preschoolers can be encouraged to identify smells and textures of their foods. If the stimuli are not naturally in the classroom, bring them in so that the senses aren’t neglected. Children will delight in exploring temperatures and textures of foods such as a smooth apple, a cold banana, or a bumpy orange rind with their tongues. Some foods are sticky, some soothing, and others crunchy. Your imagination and creativity can expand on these ideas. hearing Hearing is refined during the preschool years. Lis- tening skills are very important for language acqui- sition. Vocabulary and enunciation are dependent upon listening. Hearing the phonemes and syl- lables in words is directly related to the ability to read. Illness and infections affect hearing, so chil- dren need to have their hearing checked annually. p r e S c h o o l  ac t i v i t i e S support hearing ›   use task-centered talking to describe activities as  children go about their daily routine. use simple  sentences for younger children; expand and make  the sentences more complex using descriptive  vocabulary as children grow. ›   use tone and pitch to express feelings. COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL d e v e l o p M e n t   o F   t h e   S e n S e S   19 DOUBLE TAP TO ZOOM WITH PHONE OR TABLET ›   Make music an integral part of every day. Sing to  boost language acquisition. Singing a simple set of  directions lends some fun to learning a necessary bit  of information. Give simple directions that are age  appropriate to help children be successful in their  listening. Start with one direction. When a child can  easily follow, add a second direction, then a third. try  to keep the activity positive and fun. ›   provide activities that introduce a variety of sounds.  use words that not only identify the sounds but also  are descriptive, such as “loud,” “soft,” “blasting,” and  “quiet” to increase both understanding and  vocabulary. ›   avoid exposing children to noisy atmospheres for  prolonged periods. Some children react to loud  noises with out-of-control behavior. Make sure  headphones and ear buds do not have loud music  blasting into the child’s ear. prolonged exposure  results in hearing loss. Seeing Even though the circuitry of vision is completed in infancy, visual discrimination continues to develop over time. Acuity, or the ability to see not just the object but also the details of the object, improves with age. Children need the ability to distinguish between spaces, lines, and shapes to be able to iden- tify letters. They need to focus on the differences between similar letters like “p” and “b” so they can read the difference between “pear” and “bear.” They will have to learn the difference between pastel blue and navy and distinguish between the shape of a seashell and a jellyfish before deciding to pick it up. All these visual clues have to be learned. From age three, children should have their eyes checked periodically. Only through a visual screen- ing can amblyopia, or “lazy eye,” be diagnosed. If not treated, the child could lose sight in that eye. ›   provide quiet periods as well as times with purpose- ful listening activities. Quiet can be very relaxing. ›   Spark interest with toys that make sounds, such as  balls, cars, and trains. help children mimic the  sounds as they play. listen to instrumental record- ings and help children identify and imitate the sound  they hear. ›   point out environmental sounds. help connect the  sounds to the object making the noise. discuss  the different pitches and tones they hear. ›   listen to children when they talk. this models  listening skills for them. ›   play taped stories and music to hone listening skills. ›   Be silly and creative with known nursery rhymes.  change the pitch of your voice and encourage the  children to follow as you sing “itsy Bitsy Spider”  and “Great Big Spider” or “i’m a little teapot” and  “i’m a Great Big teapot.” 20  c h a p t e r   2 p r e S c h o o l  ac t i v i t i e S support seeing ›   describe what children see, both real objects and  pictures. Make the descriptions more complex as  children grow older. ›   point out colors, objects, and shapes in the surround- ing environment. help children see the variety of  what can represent “blue,” “hat,” or “dog.” ›   teach children how to recognize body language and  connect it to feelings. examine faces, arm gestures,  and stances. connect feelings to the movements so  they can see the difference between anger and  pleasure. try to keep a cheerful, positive appearance  to give them a secure feeling. ›   provide a variety of colorful, culturally diverse posters  or pictures placed at eye level to entice and delight  children. Show various family confi gurations and  community helpers. talk about what they see. Give  children a descriptive vocabulary linked to what they  are seeing. Match the sentence structure to the  child’s maturity. COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL DOUBLE TAP TO ZOOM WITH PHONE OR TABLET ›   read books and other printed material often. the  more children see print in a meaningful situation,  the more they are prepared for reading. read with a  child on your lap or sitting close by. pleasurable  reading activities lead to later enjoyment of reading. ›   vary repeated activities by adding visual surprises.  place colored cellophane over the fi sh tank or hide  colored rocks in the sand table. add food coloring to  water, glue, or homemade playdough. ›   put a drop of washable food coloring inside a home- made playdough ball. the color appears as the child  kneads the ball. place food coloring in a glass of water  and add a fl ower or celery stalk. the color will travel  up from the water into the object. ›   provide magnifying glasses for children to examine  fl owers, leaves, and shells. let children look through  a kaleidoscope. talk about the differences when  looking at an object with and without sunglasses. ›   identify the aroma of different foods as they are  cooked and eaten to create knowledge of smells.  the senses of smell and taste are closely related. ›   teach children the smell of books as you read or the  smell of dirt as you garden, which helps them  cement the object’s odor into memory. ›   use markers and sniff-and-smell storybooks with  scent added. Supervise closely so these do not go  into mouths. ›   add activities to the curriculum to foster olfactory  knowledge. add spices to a collage, add a few drops  of peppermint extract to the water table, and use  naturally scented hand cream after washing hands.  Be mindful of children who may be extra sensitive to  smells, and do not use artifi cial fragrances. ›   place a cotton ball with drops of an extract on it in  an empty spice bottle with a lid with holes. Glue the  lid to the bottle to prevent removal of the scented  cotton. Smelling Smell is learned in the infant and toddler years but honed in the preschool years. With experience, chil- dren can learn to distinguish the smell of a fresh apple and a cooked apple or a musty book and a new book. Descriptive vocabulary helps them to define smells. The goals are to see something and know what it smells like and to label the smells in their immediate vicinity. Call children’s attention to aromas associated with rain, cooking food, or paint. Encourage smell- ing flowers, leaves, and dirt when outside. Don’t ignore environmental smells. tasting Children improve their skill at identifying the taste of foods. With experience tasting a large variety of foods with accompanying descriptive vocabulary, they will be able to look at a food and know its taste. They can identify what they do taste. Getting preschoolers to try new foods is often difficult. They may model the likes and dislikes of others without really tasting the food. Challenge them to try a taste and assure them that as they mature, their tastes should change. p r e S c h o o l  ac t i v i t i e S p r e S c h o o l  ac t i v i t i e S support tasting support smelling ›   take notice with young children of odors in their  immediate surroundings. link odors with descriptive  words to help them learn smells. identify the smell  of rain and of fi ngerpaint. ›   create times during snacks and meals to discuss and  compare the taste of foods. this helps make the  connections in the brain so children eventually know  the taste of a food from seeing it. describe the foods  they are eating. COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL d e v e l o p M e n t   o F   t h e   S e n S e S   21 DOUBLE TAP TO ZOOM WITH PHONE OR TABLET › › Encourage children to experience and taste a variety of foods. It is okay for children to dislike some foods. Use descriptive language to identify the taste: “You like sour foods. Pickles are sour, just like lemons.” › › Cook with young children. This is not only fun; it also provides opportunities to distinguish the taste and texture differences of a raw carrot from a cooked carrot. Children enjoy eating foods they prepare.   See pages 61–63 and 96 for more about cooking with children. › › Include salty (pretzels), sweet (fruit), sour (pickle), and an occasional bitter (radish) food for children to experience. Keep the activity fun, and never force children to taste new foods. Touching Preschool children can identify objects by touch alone and thus sharpen their knowledge of the feel of surfaces. This doesn’t happen in isolation, but rather in a carefully sequenced interaction with their environment. The more opportunities they have to feel different textures with descriptive vocabulary, the better they will be in discerning differences. Just as you comment on the colors of items in their environment, try also to talk about the feel of something: “This leaf is green and feels smooth, but this brown leaf is scratchy and crumbles easily.” “Can you feel the veins in this leaf?” When you show interest in an attribute, the children will be interested too. › › Offer a variety of foods from different cultures. Discuss how soy sauce is salty and salsa is spicy. › › Compare the tastes of some of these foods: Sweet and dill pickles or black and green olives Oranges and tangerines, lemons and limes, or pink and white grapefruit Green and wax beans or pinto and black beans 22  C h a p t e r 2 COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL DOUBLE TAP TO ZOOM WITH PHONE OR TABLET p r e S c h o o l  ac t i v i t i e S support touching ›   touch and hold preschoolers appropriately and often.  hug and cuddle them and provide lots of lap time.  describe the feel of the child’s skin as you rub her  face or arm. ›   add varied textures to the environment. Smooth and  rough materials as well as hard and soft toys teach  concepts as the children play with them. provide  plastic, metal, wood, corduroy, velvet, and burlap to  compare the textures. use descriptions to help  children move the information into memory. ›   provide a feely box so children can identify objects  by touch not sight. ›   connect words to the surfaces of objects as children  touch and feel. increase descriptive words as children  get older. play matching games based on the  textures and shapes of different objects. ›   teach young children to touch, hold, and cradle dolls  and stuffed animals. these skills will translate into  empathy with peers and younger children and later  on into parenting skills. ›   paint with warm fi ngerpaint and add ice to the water  table for a different experience. ›   place rounded pebbles, sand, potting soil, and water  in individual tubs that children can walk in. help  children walk barefoot through this maze of textures.  this “feely walk” is best done outdoors near a hose  to wash off feet. ›   help young children learn how to touch other  children in a socially acceptable manner. use songs  and games to teach good touches. the Kinesthetic Sense Kinesthetic knowledge allows preschoolers to race around the playground, participate in creative movement exercises, and dance. They learn how to balance their bodies and know the positions of their bodies in the surrounding area. Young chil- dren find pleasure in moving their bodies and have a difficult time being still. Moving feels good and is enjoyable. As they gain control of their arms, hands, fingers, legs, and feet, they strengthen their understanding of their bodies in space. Give them the freedom to move by eliminating time sitting in chairs or on rugs on the floor. Expect the children to be moving so they feel good about not sitting for long periods. Children often learn best when they can move and interact with both people and objects in their immediate vicinity. ›   play with cornstarch dissolved in water to excite the  touch modality. experiment with getting the correct  consistency by adding a little water at a time to a  box of cornstarch. it can be picked up and then  dripped back into the pan. this is fun, and cleanup  is easy. ›   vary the contents of the water and sand table. add  potting soil and containers to fi ll. talk about the  difference in the feel of sand and water. on another  day, add water to the soil to create mud. talk about  the feel compared to the dry dirt. place gravel or  small rocks for a different feel. COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL d e v e l o p M e n t   o F   t h e   S e n S e S   23 DOUBLE TAP TO ZOOM WITH PHONE OR TABLET Move in a circle or spin slowly around. Bend down  and jump up. turn around with arms in the air. Fly like  a bird or a plane. p r e S c h o o l  ac t i v i t i e S support the kinesthetic sense ›   put movement together with music. add a rhythmic  beat to the action. Swaying, hand motions, and  creative movement are stimulating to many parts  of the brain simultaneously. ›   include opportunities that promote balance, such as  putting on dress-up clothes and walking on a painted  line, a log, or a low balance beam. play games that  have children stand on one foot, put one arm on the  fl oor, and other activities that rely on body balance. ›   provide opportunities to swing and slide to help  children develop control of their bodies as they move.  hold hands and sway back and forth and side to side.  ›   use creative movement exercises freely. utilize the  many creative movement songs and videos available  to help children learn where their bodies are in space. ›   teach simple dances. play lively music, and let the  children create their own dance. ›   use tumbling mats for somersaults and body rolls.  offer gymnastics and acrobatics on rainy days. ›   run with kites or paper plates on a string. play sports  that have children swinging a bat or a golf club,  kicking a ball, or running bases. ›   challenge children to use their bodies to form letters  or numbers. cloSinG thouGhtS Children are born with sensors that send signals to the brain that enable sight, smell, taste, hearing, and a kinesthetic sense of where their body is and what position it is in as it moves. The senses are the only way our brains have to receive outside information. Children must gain experiences with each as well as gain an understanding of how to recognize and use their perceptions. Children accomplish this learning through opportunities that teach them how to interpret the sensations. Sensory input is necessary for physical, emotional, social, and intellectual growth. All of a child’s abilities are related to the use of his senses. When planning an enriching environment, make sure you vary the sensory input offered daily. It is easy just to have children listening to the same music or listening to surrounding talk and naturally occurring environmental sounds. It doesn’t take much to provide a variety of colorful toys and books for children to see. It does take time, however, to ensure that sensory offerings are balanced and there are daily opportunities to hear new sounds or variations of known sounds. It does take planning to point out multiple, minute details for children to see, to enhance the smells available, and to discuss a variety of textures and tastes. The effort taken to enhance the sensory environment is well worth it. The reward is children who are constantly engaged in extending their sensory learning and curious about the world around them. 24  c h a p t e r   2 COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL DOUBLE TAP TO ZOOM WITH PHONE OR TABLET Over 600 brain-building Early Childhood Education / Activities activity ideas Young children’s brains develop connections at a rapid rate, and the experiences and environment you provide play major roles in how learning takes place. Blending what is known about early childhood brain development with ideas that support careful planning, a thoughtful curriculum, and meaningful activities, this resource provides valuable information to help you help children reach their full potential. Building Brains includes • Experiences that drive young children’s growth; engage all senses; nurture social and emotional skills; enhance motor skills; and support cognitive, language, and literacy development • Information to help you apply brain research to activities as you plan your curriculum • Ideas to provide a rich, experience-based, developmentally appropriate environment “A must-have for every early childhood professional’s library!” —Charlene Gross, Director, The Oaks Early Learning Academy “Practical knowledge with facts about how the brain is developing in our youngest children and many great ideas for teachers.” —Barbara A. Backus, MS, Instructor, Early Childhood Education, Pinellas Technical Education Center “This book has come to my rescue many times while planning fun learning activities for my early childhood courses.” —Janice Sean, PhD, Early Childhood Education COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL Suzanne R. Gellens has served as the executive director of the Florida Association for the Education of Young Children for more than sixteen years. She leads educational workshops throughout Florida and is the author of many articles for a variety of early childhood journals. Suzanne holds a master’s degree in special education. ISBN 978-1-60554-117-4 $29.95