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Classroom Activities for Infants & Toddlers

Since yesterday's article discussed how important physical activity is for the proper mental and physical development of infants and toddlers , I thought today it would be appropriate to offer some classroom activity ideas that you can do with the children in your charge.

One of the oldest, and a perennial favorite of children, is peek-a-boo. You can play peek-a-boo several different ways. You can use your own hands and put them in front of your face and say, "Peek-a-boo" or you can use the child's hands. You hold their hands and put them in front of the child's face, and then open them up and say, "Peek-a-boo."
Yet another way is to use a stationary object like a large book or blanket. Hide behind the object and then say, "Peek-a-boo." The blanket is fun to use right after nap time when they're still waking up and kind of giggly. Using the book allows you to segue from a passive activity (reading to the children) to a physical activity (peek-a-boo).

Interesting Objects Help Babies Learn New Words

Researchers at the Infant Lab at Temple University in Philadelphia have found babies can learn new words if they are associated with objects that catch their attention,

"They hear every word," said Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, professor of psychology at Temple University. "And they are also paying attention to the things that are interesting to them."

Previous studies showed babies as young as 10 months old may understand about 10 words. But Infant Lab researchers wanted to figure out how these infants actually learned words. They tested more than 75 babies, showing them a series of objects and attaching made-up names to them. They would ask the babies questions, and then track their eyes to gauge their responses.

So, could the babies remember the names?

Gauging Proper Child Development

This developmental guide provides a framework for measuring a child's cognitive (mental), physical and social growth. It is important to realize that any given child may develop certain skills sooner or later than the time frame of this guideline and still have perfectly normal development. No two children are alike and this checklist is a guideline not a hard and fast set of rules.

Cognitive and Speech Development

In the first two years a child's cognitive development focuses on exploration, identification and simple problem-solving. Children explore their toys and surroundings, show preferential affection for primary caregivers and start to solve simple problems, such as finding a toy.

By age 2 a child has moved past babbling and has started acquiring vocabulary and responding to specific words and directions.

Incidental Science

Incidental science springs from the concept of incidental teaching. The concept holds that opportunities abound where we can impart knowledge to children while they are in the midst of other activities and, because this knowledge pertains to what they are already involved in, it is received with interest and enthusiasm and thus likely to be retained.

What follows are examples of common occurrences that incidentally provide a chance to teach some science.

A child finds a bug. You can ask how many legs it has and let them know that all insects have six legs. Show them what an antenna is and tell them what it does and how. Discuss where the bug lives and why. Talk about what it eats. If you have any books about bugs, see if you can locate the bug the child found in the book. You can compare and contrast it with other bugs and discuss the differences and commonalities. You might even use this experience later in an art class by having the children draw the bug.

Some children might notice and remark that a plant is drooping or grass has gone brown. This provides a chance to explain the importance of water to plants and animals, the rain cycle, the oxygen that plants provide us and other plant and weather facts.

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