Get Outside: Learning with Endless Benefits

Written by: Emily (Emma) Edgren


Gabriela Bento and Gisela Dias (2017) researched the importance of outdoor play for young children’s healthy development. They found that there are many benefits to cognitive and physical development that come from outdoor play. The influence of time and space in play experiences in a child’s daily routines fulfills the needs that most children who spend the majority of their time inside aren’t getting.

Contact with the outdoor environment offers a wide variety of unique experiences to capture children’s attention and interest. With the use of items such as sticks, rocks, flowers, dirt, water, and leaves, children can expand their curiosity and their drive to learn. These materials are more meaningful than the limited options commercial toys offer. These are open-ended material that evoke the use of children’s imaginations. Through outdoor play there is a sense of discovery and adventure. Their exploration is driven by fascination and this is where meaningful learning happens while creating a connection with their environment. This is unlike a traditional classroom setting. When children engage in outdoor play, their bodies become their learning tool (Bento & Dias, 2017).

There is an important factor when it comes to risk. Adults can become overwhelmed and consumed with the worry that something bad will happen to their child when they are outside. This is a n0-brainer; parents want the absolute best for their children. The piece of information that they are missing is how important the concept of risk is to the development of their child. The outdoor environment opens the door, wide open for special opportunities; opportunities for children to exceed their personal limits. These are moments of exploration, climbing, jumping, or using a new tool. This type of play, though risky, promotes the learning of important skills; skills like, persistence, entrepreneurship, self-knowledge, and problem-solving (Bento & Dias, 2017). Even more importantly children will experience moments of failure and success in the outdoor environment.

The type of socialization that happens out in nature is different too. The types of connections between children and adults (or peers) is different compared to a classroom setting. Adults are able to gain a deeper understanding of children through organic observation. The open and unpredictable environment that the outdoors provides for the children, allows for a more meaningful connection between children. Children become the teachers and learners in the outdoor setting. In order to accomplish tasks, children will work together on a joint goal and combine their skills to accomplish different tasks (Bento & Dias, 2017).  The outdoor environment also creates an environment where children can choose whether or not they want to participate in play with a group of peers or go off on their own and explore. The space is more open and children won’t be in such a confined space where children run into each other often in the classroom. Not to mention a big win of playing outside strengthens children’s immune systems! Who doesn’t want a stronger immune system?


The first goal for cognitive development based on the book The Creative Curriculum for Preschool by Diane Dodge, Laura Colker, and Cate Heroman (2008) is learning and problem solving. This is when a child is purposeful about getting information and using the information that they have gathered. This happens through observing events around them, asking questions, making predictions, and testing possible solutions (Dodge, Colker, & Heroman, 2008). This goal can be easily met through outdoor play. Through outdoor play children are gathering so much information about their surroundings while making judgements and predictions on the world around them. They are observing what events happen in nature and asking questions to further their cognitive skills.

The next cognitive goal is thinking logically: Gathering and making sense of information by comparing, contrasting, sorting, classifying, counting, and recognizing patterns (Dodge, Colker, & Heroman. 2008). This goal is another one of the goals that can be easily met and worked on through outdoor play. Children are exploring and gathering up items that they find outside. This can allow for a learning opportunity to take a look at the objects and compare the objects by classifying them, sorting them, and recognizing patterns if there are any. Maybe children even begin to compare and contrast which stick is the biggest, or which rock is the heaviest. Either way children are expanding the way they think and gaining new skills through this outdoor play.

The last goal for cognitive development is representing and thinking symbolically. This happens when children use objects in unique ways and portray the world through charts or pictures. This allows children to really use their imaginations and explore abstract ideas (Dodge, Colker, & Heroman, 2008).  As mentioned above, objects and items that can be found in the outdoor environment are open-ended materials. Open ended materials are materials that can be used for anything and everything. This is where a child can really expand their imagination and creativity. They can also use these objects in new and unique ways while gaining a new perspective on the world around them.

For physical development there are two goals: Fine motor skill development and gross motor skill development. For achieving gross motor control children need to move their large muscles in the body, especially the arms and legs consciously and deliberately. Gross motor control also involves balance, stability, running, jumping, hopping, galloping, and skipping. Other skills include throwing, kicking, and catching as well (Dodge, Colker, & Heroman, 2008). There is no doubt that the development of these skills can be supported through outdoor play. Jumping from rock to rock, climbing trees, running around with your friends, and balancing on top of rocks. Throwing a ball to your friend. Lifting up a rock to look for a bug. These are all gross motor developing activities that take place in an outdoor setting. The outdoor setting is very important to the gross motor development of a child.

Fine motor skills are achieved by using and coordinating the small muscles in the hands and wrists with dexterity. The development of these small muscles helps with the ability to perform self help skills and their abilities to manipulate small objects and tools (Dodge, Colker, & Heroman, 2008). This can be done through play outdoors. By working on zipping a jacket to go outside and tying their shoes. Using small tools to do garden work like a hand shovel. Even using the small muscles in their hands to pick up a tiny bug that they found will work on their fine motor skills.


For this week’s activity we are going to focus on outdoor play. Keep it simple families. Take a walk around the neighborhood, the park, or your backyard. Let your child’s creativity and interests lead the way through their exploration of the outdoors. Along the way collect items that spark the interest of the child and that they are interested in exploring further. Once the walk is complete, work on some cognitive skills through comparing items, contrasting items, and sorting your items that you found. In addition, work on language development through asking open-ended questions that allow your child to describe what they see, what they feel, and why they picked it up. The question possibilities are endless and will only take their learning to the next level.

Now go get outside and have fun!!


Bento, G. & Dias, G. (2017). The importance of outdoor play for young children’s healthy development. Porto Biomedical Journal, 2(5), 157 – 160. doi: 10.1016/j.pbj.2017.03.003

Dodge, D. T., Colker, L. J., & Heroman, C. (2008). The creative curriculum for preschool. Washington, DC: Teaching Strategies.


Creating Curiosity in Nature

Written by: Lauryn Baily

Nature gifts children; it creates an environment that values respect, compassion, and curiosity.  These characteristics learned in nature teach children how to treat others and respect the environment around them. Nature doesn’t require structure in order to create learning opportunities; learning in nature can be done during a walk to the store, watching leaves from a window, or wherever else your child shares a curiosity with (Goldstein, Famularo & Kynn, 2018). Research has shown young children who are connected to nature, even within urban environments, have stronger emotional resilience, experience less stress, are less likely to become hyperactive, and possess stronger social skills (Flouri, Midouhas & Joshi, 2014). When these spontaneous moments occur, and time allows, asking questions is a great way to foster your child’s wonder and learning further to observe, generate questions, conduct experiments, connect science with the real world and build their understandings of everyday concepts (Goldstein et al., 2018).

 The following questions can connect your child to nature as well as extend their curiosity during everyday routines:

  • What are you seeing, hearing, feeling, smelling?
  • How can you change this? How can you make this move? 
  • What animals or bugs live here?
  • What can you see from here?
  • Does this plant (tree, animal or bug) look similar to that plant (tree, animal or bug)?
  • Is this older, younger, bigger, smaller than this?
  • How does this affect us? (Dodge et al., 2008)

Questions should promote children to ask why, explore cause and effect, compare/measure/classify and learn sequences in nature (Dodge et al., 2008).

An activity that establishes time for learning and opportunity, while involving these questions, can be done through nature collection at a park, on a trail, on a neighborhood walk, in your backyard or in a forested area. Establish boundaries with your child about what items to search for and where to search. Discuss what it means for plants to be alive. Encourage thoughts about where wildflowers are growing. This may be somewhere you can simply observe, rather than picking the growing plant.

Moss is also something that while is alive on trees, can be found dried around tree stumps. Large rocks and fallen trees can be homes to small critters. Bringing varied items together such as pine cones, pine needles, dried moss, leaves, grass and rocks helps children to “explore the properties of the world around them, notice changes and make predictions” as they are learning about the earth and the environment (Dodge et al., 2008, p. 145). Have your child record their discoveries. Recording child’s discoveries, serves as a connection to literacy. Perhaps, create a graph that records how many items are a certain color, a certain property, shape or texture (Dodge et al., 2008). Following below is an outline of specific learning objectives supported in this nature collection activity.

Respect and care for environment and materials

Talking about how we take care of the world around us is important. As discussed before, plants that are alive can create an opportunity to talk with your child about respecting and caring for delicate parts of our environment and conversation about how we must leave no trace so others after us can enjoy beauty as we did. Teaching respect for our natural environment and asking how we are affected by the environment around us, leads to a deeper understanding and responsibility of nature (Dodge et al., 2008).

Explore cause and effect

Simply noticing characteristics creates curiosity, leading to questions such as “what will happen if?” and developing experiments (Dodge et al., 2008). Families can promote this objective by asking their children:

  • What happens if you pick this up? Turn it over?
  • What did you notice?
  • How can this change?

Classify, compare, or measure

This is a great time to incorporate a recording method.  You may encourage creating a graph, a narrative record of what your child has noticed, or allow your child to record their findings using their own creativity. Sorting objects will help support children as they are learning patterns and relationships (Dodge et al., 2008).

  • Sort objects by one or multiple properties such as; size, shape, color or texture.
  • Ask questions such as:
    • What is different between these two leaves?
    • Which object is bigger, smaller, smooth, rough or sharp?
    • How many different colors/sizes/shapes do we have?

Overall, connection to nature is not only a learning experience for children, but a huge component to supporting their overall well-being (Flouri et al., 2014). Learning and playing in nature creates connection of your child’s personal interest and enjoyment. More playing equates to discovering new ways of engaging in nature. Relaxing and enjoying unstructured time together, can be the most valuable experience of all.


Dodge, D. T., Colker, L. J., & Heroman, C. (2003). The creative curriculum for preschool. Washington, DC: Teaching Strategies.

Flouri, E., Midouhas, E., & Joshi, H. (2014). The role of urban neighborhood green space in children’s emotional and behavioral resilience. Journal of Environmental Psychology40, 179–186. doi: 10.1016/j.jenvp.2014.06.007

Goldstein, M., Famularo, L., & Kynn, J. (2018, November). From Puddles to Pigeons: Learning about Nature in Cities.


Managing Screen Time

Written by: Jacob T. Smith

A year ago, no one planned on being stuck in their homes uprooting the norm of society in order to protect them and their loved ones. However, many have managed to adapt work, school, and even social gathering to a home environment, using video chat, articles, and videos. Computers have allowed many to continue their lives with work and education, but many have begun to worry that the increased screen time will have a negative effect, especially for young children. However, studies have provided mixed results on what technology has on children’s development. One such study, saw when a group of 5-6-year-olds played with digital flashcards and educational games, they had a low level of cognitive attainment afterwards, but if given proper instructions to the tasks on the devices, the children had high levels of interaction with them (Yilmaz, 2016). For young children, learning through technology is pretty new territory, as stated by Lilia Mcmanis in Young Children. A study showed that only half of surveyed preschool teachers integrate technology into their lesson plans, with a huge factor being that much of the required information is being hidden behind fees (Mcmanis, 2012). However, it doesn’t mean there are not good factors as well, with there being many low cost or even free websites, that can provide information for young children. The important thing is to find a good balance of screen exposure in your families’ life, which can vary.

Here are few tips which can be a good starting point:

(1) Set a schedule

Decide on a set time for screen time in the morning and evening, for a mix of education and recreational time. This is to prevent a dependence on screens for entertainment, diminishing their creativity and concentration. Also, make sure to uphold this schedule at a constant rate. While there will always be times where the schedule might not always work, so just do your best to limit exceptions. This will help to make sure that the benefit of a schedule is reduced due to the irregularity.

(2) Provide variety in activities

At the beginning of the day, sit down with your child and brainstorm what activities they would like to do today, writing or drawing pictures on a white board or piece of paper. Then place it someplace at their eye level. Once screen time is done, help to gather the necessary material for their activities and place them in a spot which they will be able to reach. If they would like to go outside for a bit or just want to talk, plan out some time, to avoid conflict with any other factors of daily life, such as work.

(3) Know where your children explore online

Do some research on a few websites that would be appropriate for children, with topics that they show interest in, or ones they specifically ask to go on. Once you find videos, activities, or games that you approve of, create a folder or playlist, which you child can explore during the free screen time. Make sure to check on them from now and then. Children are curious, occasionally wander from what you have looked into and this is fine, but occasionally there are misleading videos and sites that end up in the wrong section, so do your best to try to help them avoid these pitfalls.

(4) No screens during meal time

Eating together is a crucial bonding experience for families to come together, strengthening relationships. It also allows children to create pleasant experiences with certain healthy foods, making it easier for both parties so they are able to get the right amount and mixture of nutrients for a child’s development. Looking down at a screen, minimizes or even takes away these benefits. Make sure that all devices are turned off and away from the table, which also goes for guardians’ phones and computers as well. It’s important for role models to emulate this behavior and allow them to connect with their children face to face and not to the backside of a laptop.

(5) Take regular breaks

Eyes, just like any muscle, can get tired when in use. Staring at a bright screen for hours can be harmful to the eyes and the bluelight these devices produce can have a negative effect on a person’s mood and sleeping habits. Around every half to an hour on a device, you should stand up and stretch. It’s especially important for children, who are still developing. Sometimes they can be too engrossed with what they are doing, so make sure to check on them. Ask if they need to use the bathroom, get a drink, or simply just a breath of fresh air, reminding and not forcing, and even if they don’t, just take 5-10 minutes to stretch along with them.

(6) Spend Time Together

Humans are social creatures, and when we feel alone, we will try to find substitutes or distractions in its place. Everyone is busy with life and it can be a struggle to find time to come together without the constant pings from work, however this can be all a child needs; a ear to listen. Just with meals, help children make pleasant experiences away from a screen. Play games, go for a walk, or even just have a conversation with them. Even the smallest moments can make a difference for them and in turn, it can be easier for them to take a step back from technology on their own.

Once this situation comes to an end, we want to be able to come back to our norm, but some pieces will change. The importance of technology is included and it can be a challenge to tear away from it, but that’s why this paper was made. Not to demonize or praise technology, but simply make it easier to manage in a child’s life. So remember to take some time to break off from the small, bright screens and enjoy the world and people around, creating memories with your child. Stay safe.


Mcmanis, L. D., & Gunnewig, S. B. (2012). Finding the education in educational technology with early learners. Young Children, 67(3), 14–24.

Yilmaz, R. M. (2016). Educational magic toys developed with augmented reality technology for early childhood education. Computers in Human Behavior, 54, 240–248.


Mother Nature Knows Best: The Sensory-Rich Environment

Written by: Katibelle Dicker (Spring 2020)

If you are a caretaker of young children you are likely familiar with the popular trend of making slime and other DIY sensory activities. This may be in part due to the reported increase in concerns of children displaying sensory processing issues coming from parents and other professionals in the pediatric field (Hanscom, 2014). While at-home sensory activities are engaging and beneficial play for children, they can be costly, and time-consuming to put together. There is another option, a no-cost, even greater developmentally rich, and family-friendly alternative, and that is mother nature.

The Importance of Sensory Exposure on Early Childhood Development

When children enter the world, they begin trying to make sense of their environment, this is done through input to their five senses; sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch. Sensory play also includes balance and bodily awareness or movement. Sensory play is a vital part of early childhood development because it builds nerve connections that act as pathways of communication in the brain, refines sensory thresholds, and improves physical, cognitive, social-emotional, and language development (Goodstart, 2016).

Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD)

More recently, professionals in early childcare settings have noticed an increase in sensory processing issues amongst children. Hanscom (2014) mentioned in her blog:

According to many teachers, children are frequently falling out of their seats in school, running into walls, tripping over their own feet, and unable to pay attention. School administrators are complaining that kids are getting more aggressive on the playgrounds… (para 5)

When children have SPD they may struggle to gauge their strength potentially turning harmless play into misinterpreted acts of aggression, experience underresponsiveness to touch which may cause a child to fall from their seat, or run into a wall, or become increasingly sensitive to sensory stimuli such as a button on their pants, which may become overly distracting from any form of learning (Berk & Meyers, 2016).

Ditching Sensory Bins and Getting Children Outside

Many parents and early childhood professionals have been proactive towards this issue by encouraging sensory play at home, in the classrooms, and inside the clinics. Typical sensory play involves shaving cream, kinetic sand, textured balance beams, tables filled with assorted materials, etc., but often overlooked is the most sensory-rich environment that we have to offer… the outdoors! While there are plenty of ways to mimic sensory experiences inside the home, none of them comes close to the amount of sensory input that is provided in nature. The outdoors are filled with colors of all shades, objects of varying textures, sounds of different wildlife, smells of plants and trees, and more that simply cannot be replicated indoors.

Getting Families Involved

For the families of young children, there is a great opportunity and need to bring children out into nature to explore and investigate the world around them. Taking children camping to explore the different tactile objects such as pine cones, or fallen leaves around the campsite while smelling the juniper trees and hearing the birds chirp is a great sensory experience for a little one, not to mention an enjoyable getaway for the whole family. Having children helping out in the garden in the backyard gives them visual input from the bright colored flowers, acoustic input from the sounds of the lawnmower, and tactile input from the different potting soils used.

Nature can be exceedingly beneficial when it comes to sensory development, but there are also plenty of additional developmental areas that can be addressed and improved outdoors. By having a child go for a hike they are working on their cognitive development using problem-solving skills to assess which rock is stable enough to walk on and which rock looks dangerous, they are working on their physical development by balancing on narrowing paths or safely moving from one side of a stream to the other (Hanscom, 2014). Social-emotional skills are developed as the child shows a sense of independence and ability to adapt to a new environment, and language development increases as children identify unfamiliar objects and wildlife, expanding their vocabulary (Dodge, Colker & Heroman, 2008).

In addition to all that developmental growth, nature provides a great opportunity to teach children to engage in mindfulness, focusing on the present with a lack of judgment (Goodstart, 2016). Other benefits to outdoor play are the money that will be saved on Elmer’s glue and baking soda, healthy outdoor habits that children will develop early on, as well as the opportunity for positive interactions between the familial unit during family-friendly activities.

Outdoor play provides a multitude of sensory-rich experiences, a crucial aspect to each area of early childhood development, and with the increasing number of children presenting signs of SPD, it is time to step outside and allow mother nature to step in.


Berk, L. E., & Meyers, A. B. (2016). Infants and children: Prenatal through middle childhood (8th Ed.). Upper Saddle River, N.J: Pearson/Merrill Prentice Hall.

Dodge, D. T., Colker, L. J., & Heroman, C. (2008). The creative curriculum for preschool: College edition. Washington, D.C.: Teaching Strategies

Goodstart Early Learning. (2016). Exploring the benefits of sensory play. Retrieved from

Hanscom, A. (2014). NATURE IS THE ULTIMATE SENSORY EXPERIENCE: A Pediatric Occupational Therapist Makes the Case for Nature Therapy. Retrieved from


Creating an Engaged Environment with Children Through Song

Written by: Bella Seymour (Spring 2020)

In this range of activities, your child will be able to experience music through their body, as well as through cognition, and emotional regulation. They will also learn independence as they make their very own instruments!

What will children learn? Children will practice fine and gross motor skills, pattern building, and emotional awareness and regulation.



  • Drums: can include Tupperware, pots/pans, metal containers, cans, and boxes (*These can be muffled with a towel for any child who is hearing sensitive*)
  • Drumsticks: wooden or plastic spoons
  • Shaker: dried foods (i.e., beans, popcorn) or pebbles in a container with a press-on lid OR a bottle with a twist-off cap (*Twisting a bottle can be a beneficial fine motor skill for a child to develop, with scaffolding*)

A Speaker/ Phone to play songs

Dancing + Movement

Compile lists of songs you know that are “sad” and “happy” sounding. These factors usually have to do with whether the song is in a major or minor key. Major key is happy sounding, cheerful, and peppy. Minor is gloomy, sad, and sorrowful. It is innate to hear emotions in a song.

Some recommendations:

  • Ode to Joy by Beethoven                          
  • Prelude in C Major by Bach

Minor song examples:

  • Summer by Antonio Vivaldi
  • Fur Elise by Beethoven

During these songs, I would take time to have the children physically express how the song makes them feel. Leading by example might be helpful; dance to whatever your heart’s content. Leading this with moving words, such as “gallop, smooth, fast, slow, small, and big” will aid in expanding their musical vocabulary.

Making Music

I find that using rhyming words is a smooth introduction for children to create music. For example, a phrase to begin questions like “biggity biggity biggity bance, how do you like to dance?” and then repeating it a few times. The easy thing about this phrasing is that you can change the end word for it to rhyme. Like replacing it with ‘bing and sing!’

Making music will become even more thrilling for the child with the instruments you have already created. It can involve:

  • Singing, with the child playing an instrument to your voice
  • Child leads by playing a beat on their instrument, and singing could be added onto that

The syllables in words can really be focused on here during song-making. Tapping, playing, or clapping to the syllables of a string of words can stimulate the child’s further awareness of syllables later on in their development.

Play Back to Me

In order to introduce these new and unheard vocabulary words that come from music, a good way to have the child feel autonomous and learn new words would be a playback sort of activity.

  1. Have the child, using their instrument of choice, play a rhythm.
  2. Say, “I am going to play the rhythm you just made!” and replicate it with your hands, or your instrument.
  3. Go back and forth, with the child giving you rhythms and you playing them. Maybe switch off and ask them to play a rhythm you create!

How are these activities going to benefit my child?

For parents at home wondering what dancing and banging drums has to do with their child’s overall development, here are a few helpful tips!

Firstly, a helpful guide for you to know the overall goals of your child and their peers in their development is a guideline called the Creative Curriculum. This was developed by a company called Teaching Strategies and is an over-arching list of some of the achievements you should strive for your child. Many schools will be using this in their classroom to meet the needs of their students. There is a list of goals for every grade, however, the one I use is the preschool Creative Curriculum. They are numbered and are clumped together by development types. Social, physical, cognitive, and language development are covered by this curriculum.

Here, I have listed some of the verbatim goals from the Creative Curriculum, so parents and family members can see the ease of using this to format activities at home!

For their cognitive development: they are recognizing patterns, as well as repeating them. They explore cause and effect with instruments. They also are, through music, taking on pretend roles and situations.

For the child’s physical development: they are demonstrating basic locomotor skills through dance. They also show hand-eye coordination when using instruments. They will also show balance while moving.

For the child’s language and social development: the child shows they can listen to and follow oral directions. The child also demonstrates care for materials.

  • Rhyming is a pivotal point in a child’s early literacy growth. A study done by Laurie Harper from the University of Rhode Island (2011) suggests that children who have been amply exposed to rhymes (specifically nursery rhymes) show higher phonological awareness and a sensitivity to individual phonemes (which are distinct sounds in words).


Dodge, D. T., Colker, L. J., & Heroman, C. (2008). The creative curriculum for preschool: College edition. Washington, D.C.: Teaching Strategies

Harper, L. J. (2011). Nursery rhyme knowledge and phonological awareness in preschool children. The Journal of Language and Literacy Education [Online], 7(1), 65-78.


Making Math Fun with Baking for Preschoolers

Written by: Jodi Buresh (Spring 2020)

Involving Kids

Getting kids into the kitchen to bake is not only something they love to do but it is a great learning environment.  It’s safe, entertaining and most of all delicious.  It’s also a great way to bond and create lasting memories with your child.  You will be teaching critical math concepts, eliminating pressure, and fostering a love for deep learning.  The important thing to remember is to let your child lead; be there for support and scaffolding.  Baking is full of developmentally appropriate learning opportunities, one-to-one corresponding, colors, shapes, measuring, weighing, and fractions.  Baking is so much more than math; there is reading and science involved too!

National Standards

The national standards in mathematics describes what children should learn in preschool.  The key components are: Number concepts, patterns, relationships, geometry, spatial sense, measurement, data collection, organization, and representation (Dodge, Colker & Heroman, 2002).

One-to-one Corresponding

Counting with your child the number of ingredients you have out for your recipe is a great way to work on one-to-one corresponding.  One-to-one correspondence means linking one, and only one, number with each item in a set of objects (Dodger, Colker &Heroman, 2002).  I have found it helpful to have your child touch each ingredient as they count them.  That way your child learns to link one, and only one, number to each item.  If your child counts an item more than once, you can support them by having them count an object and move it to one side.  You can also include quantity, by asking them how many ingredients do they have for their recipe.  Comparisons, are a good one to use, you can ask them, “Is the flour bag bigger or smaller than the baking soda box?”

Measuring and Weighing

Baking is all about measuring and weighing out ingredients.  For preschool-age children, get them familiar with measuring cups and spoons.  It is important to use the correct vocabulary.    Your child will learn more by using the materials themselves.  Hands-on learning is always the best.  This would be a good time to introduce comparing ingredients. Comparisons involve knowing the meaning of ‘more than,’ ‘bigger than,’ ‘less than,’ and ‘same as.’  An example would be, “Is there more flour than sugar?”    

 Color and Shapes

Kids love to learn about colors and shapes.  Here is a fun way to get them involved in the kitchen.  If you are baking cookies, you can talk about that they are in the shape of a circle.  You can ask if we could make other shapes out of the cookie dough.  Children first, learn to recognize simple shapes like squares, triangles, and circles (Dodge, Colker & Heroman, 2002).  They will build on their knowledge and start to connect that because the shape has 3 sides then it’s a triangle.


Baking is a great way to start to introduce fractions to your child and fractions are a huge part of baking.  You can start out by showing your child what a whole and a half are.  Once you feel they understand the whole and half concept you can move on to fourth and thirds.  The two key ways for children to understand fractions are hands-on experience and visual (Nelson, 2015).  Baking is both hands-on and visual; it’s a win-win.  Depending on the age of your child and their knowledge of fractions you could teach them how to double a recipe or convert the recipe to a small batch. 

Getting into the kitchen will be fun for both you and your child.  Children love seeing what they have made and they are even more excited to eat what they have made.  You will be teaching them important life skills and having fun at the same time.  Baking is learning!


Dodge, D. T., Colker, L. J., & Heroman, C. (2002). The creative curriculum for preschool (4th ed.). Teaching   Strategies

Nelson, K. (December 9, 2016). 5 ways to make teaching fractions way easier. Retrieved from


Exploring the World: Design & Diary your own Path

Create a Map with Me

Exploring Development

This activity allows children to foster literacy, mathematics, and cognitive skills while creating a map. Through this activity, children will learn the importance of written language, the purpose of print, several components of mathematics, what maps are, what a map is used for, and how to use a map.

Introducing Geography

Help children create a map. Use blocks, recyclable parts or a paper and pencil.  Create a route from a neighbor’s home to your own. Explain that symbols represent real objects (Montessori Mapping Activities, 2012). To better explain a symbol, create a map key (Fig. A).

Figure A

Notice that a compass rose may be found on a map, labeling North, East, South, and West. To remember North, East, South, and West remember the phrase, Never-Eat-Sour-Worms.

Words to incorporate:

Map                                                    Equator

Globe                                                 Ocean

Compass Rose                                Country

Latitude                                             Nation

Longitude                                          Hemisphere

Nourish a child’s interest by watching the short film below.

How Does their Mind Work?

Cognitive development allows children to make sense of the world around them (Dodge, Colker, & Heroman, 2008). Through an exploration of mapping, children will:

  • Learn and problem solve
  • Think logically
  • Represent and think symbolically

Have you heard a child repeatedly ask, What will happen if? Why? Why? Why?  That is because children are fascinated by cause and effect; they want to know why things happen (Dodge, Colker, & Heroman, 2008).

Learning and Problem solving

Creating a map will require children to draw on everyday experiences and apply their knowledge to similar situations (Dodge, Colker, & Heroman, 2008). Ask child, how would you get from our house to ___’s house? Allow them to demonstrate.

Logical Thinking

Creating a map is a great opportunity to encourage children to show awareness of position in space. Use phrases like, put this next to, place this blow this, write this above this…

Use numbers and counting. In my map there are five cars and four houses (Fig. B). Encourage children to use one number for each object. Practice counting five objects on your map, then ten objects. This will help children to understand numbers, practice one-to-one correspondence, and to classify objects (Dodge, Colker, & Heroman, 2008).

Figure B

Representation and Symbolic Thinking

Through this process, children are learning to make and interpret representations. They practice:

  1. Drawing or constructing and then naming what it is
  2. Drawing or building a construction that represents something specific
  3. Planning, then creating increasingly elaborate representations

Are they Listening?

Help children to understand and follow oral directions. Integrate one-step directions and two-step directions. Ask child simple questions. What color is that polka-dot? (Fig C)

Figure C

Encourage children to add their own writing to the map. Adults can assist language development by writing letters and words on a separate page for children to copy. If there is something a child has to say but is not able to communicate that through written language have them tell you what they would like you to write. This creates an opportunity to follow the text from left to right with your finger when reiterating what you’ve written to help your child gain knowledge of print (Dodge, Colker, & Heroman, 2008).

Comprehension can be fostered by asking open-ended questions and encouraging children to retell stories. Encourage child to retell a story about a time they used a map.

Tip: Pausing at the end of a sentence to let children join in, asking open-ended questions, and helping children make connections to prior experiences are all effective teaching strategies for developing comprehension skills (Dodge, Colker, & Heroman, 2008).  

Children may demonstrate comprehension by:

  • Asking questions or making comments
  • Explaining, “We use a map when we go on a road trip,” after doing Explore the World: Design and Diary your own Path activity

This is Enjoyable

Maps can be used to discover new things! Maps provide direction. They have even helped miners find gold. Who uses maps?Everyone. Maps are a universal tool used by people across the world despite their language or culture.

Audience: Families, Teachers, Center Directors, College faculty, Students, Policymakers, Researchers

Age: Preschool

Topics: Cognitive Development, Language Development, Art, Mathematics By Kaylei Lewis, B.S. Human Development

By Kaylei Lewis, B.S. Human Development and Family Science: Child Development Anticipated graduation: June 2021

Once, I use used a map to plan a camping trip that led me down the Eastern Coast of Australia. I traveled 1,109 miles using my map every step of the way. I found it rewarding to do away with technology, using a printed map to the best of my abilities.  

While navigating the waters steering a commercial fishing vessel in Southeast Alaska, I used a map to plot my way.


Cunningham, S. (n.d.). Taking Time to Grow Series: Writing Letters to Loved Ones. Retrieved May 8, 2020, from

Dodge, D. T., Colker, L. J., & Heroman, C. (2008). The creative curriculum for preschool (College ed.). Teaching Strategies. 

Montessori mapping activities Intro to geography for kids. (2012, September 23). Retrieved May 8, 2020, from

The Geography Song Globe vs Map Song. (2015). Retrieved from


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