education

  • What are the ages and stages of child development? (Bonus chart!)

    Get the ages and stages development chart here!!

    During the first 3 years of life babies and toddlers are making 1-2 million neural connections a minute.  Mind blown! During those years they go through massive growth and hit multiple milestones a month.  

    But what milestones should your baby be meeting at every age?  Understanding the ages and stages of development can not only help you understand your child’s behavior but it can also help you set realistic parenting expectations.  

    A Brief History: What are developmental milestones?

    Developmental milestones are simply skills that children learn by a certain age.  It helps pediatricians and parents know that the child is growing and learning at the same rate as his peers.  Missing developmental milestones could mean the child has a developmental delay and needs special intervention to help them catch up. 

    Milestones include things like smiling, pointing at interesting things, crawling, and even lying.  They cover areas of physical development, mental development, and social development. 

    Do the First 7 Years of Life Really Mean Everything?

    “The first years are the most important in life of every child as they set the basis for overall success in life.” – Tanja Radocaj, UNICEF Representative 

    But are they?  Could early childhood trauma, developmental delays, and illness really determine whether a child has a successful and healthy life? 

    Honestly, this isn’t so clear, it is more of a gray area.  What we do know from recent studies is  that the first 7 years of a child’s life do hold an important part of their development, but your child’s fate isn’t sealed on their 8th birthday. 

    We should strive to make a loving, secure, and stimulating environment for young children, but if they face hardship or go through a traumatic experience they can still go on to lead full happy healthy lives with the right interventions. 

    What is the most important stage of child development?

    In the first 3  years, a child’s brain is developing at a seemingly lighting speed.  In fact, in the first 3 years of life, babies and toddlers are forming 1 million neural connections every minute.  

    That’s why babies and toddlers need to have a nurturing environment including a healthy diet, learning experiences, and healthy, loving relationships with caregivers. 

    What are the 5 Stages of Child Development?: The Ages and Stages of Child Development & Milestones At a Glance

    Child development is broken down into 5 stages, infancy, toddler, preschooler, school-age, and adolescent stages.  Each stage has a specific set of milestones and skills that the majority of children reach at that age. 

    Stage 1: Infancy/Baby (Birth – 18 Months) – Infant Developmental Milestones

    The infant stage is the first 18 months of your child’s life. During this time babies communicate their needs mostly through crying and it is on the caregiver to meet all of their needs.  You can find a full list on the CDC website. The milestones your child should reach during this time include: 

    • 2 months
      • May start smiling 
      • Looks for Parent
      • Coos
      • Turns head toward a sound
      • Pays attention to faces
      • Begins using eyes to track movement
      • Gets fussy when bored 
      •  Holds head up
    • 4 months
      • Likes to play
      • Smiles 
      • Starts mimicking facial expressions
      • Babbles
      • Responds to affection
      • Reaches for toys 
      • May roll over from tummy to back 
      • Pushes up on elbows
    • 6 month old
      • Knows familiar faces 
      • Likes to look at self in mirror 
      • Responds to the emotions of their caregiver
      • Takes turns babbling with parent
      • Responds to name
      • Shows curiosity 
      • Begins to pass things between hands
      • Rolls in both directions
    • 9 month old
      • Afraid of strangers
      • Understands “no” 
      • Likes to play peek-a-boo
      • Uses a pincher grasp (using thumb and forefinger to grab things) 
      • Makes lots of sounds may start saying mamamama  and dadadada
      • Stands while holding things
      • Crawls (may look different than traditional crawling) 
    • 1 year old 
      • Shy of Strangers 
      • Has favorite toys 
      • Cries when a parent leaves 
      • Responds to simple request
      • Waves bye-bye 
      • Says mama or dada 
      • Tries to copy words you say
      • Looks at a picture when you say the word (looks at a picture of a ball when you say ball) 
      • Bangs things together
      • Pokes thing with finger 
      • Pulls themselves up to standing 
      • Starts cruising 
    • 18 months old
      • May start having tantrums 
      • Plays pretend 
      • Becomes clingy in new situations
      • Says several words
      • Says no and shakes their head 
      • Points to things 
      • Understands what household items are for
      • Pretends to feed dolls or stuffed animals 

    Stage 2: Toddler Development (18 Months – 3 Years)

    Toddlers are inquisitive and developing brain cells at the fastest pace of their life. Toddlers make huge jumps from barely talking to having full sentences and elaborate imaginative games.  Here is what to expect with milestones with your toddler

    • 18 months old
      • May start having tantrums 
      • Plays pretend 
      • Becomes clingy in new situations
      • Says several words
      • Says no and shakes their head 
      • Points to things 
      • Understands what household items are for
      • Pretends to feed dolls or stuffed animals 
    • 2-year-olds
      • Copies other people 
      • Gets excited to be with other children
      • Maybe more defiant 
      • Says 2-4 word sentences 
      • Repeats words 
      • Begins to sort shapes and colors 
      • Can complete rhymes, may memorize lines in their favorite book
      • Can follow a two-step direction 
      • Builds a tower of 4 or more blocks
      • Can kick a ball
      • Walks up and down stairs 
      • Throws a ball
    • 3-year-olds 
      • Shows affection for siblings or friends 
      • Takes turns 
      • Shows concern for someone crying
      • Doesn’t have separation issues with parents
      • Understands location words like “in” and “on”
      • Plays pretend games with many types of toys
      • Does a 4 piece puzzle
      • Can turn doorknobs
      • Climbs easily 
      • Pedals a tricycle


    Stage 3: Preschooler Development At a glance(3 – 6 Years Old)

    Preschool is a time of wonder and imagination, children’s imagination blossoms and games but also cognitive ability grows to get ready for more traditional ideas of learning, like learning to read and do math. 

    • 3 year olds 
      • Shows affection for siblings or friends 
      • Takes turns 
      • Shows concern for someone crying
      • Doesn’t have separation issues with parents
      • Understands location words like “in” and “on”
      • Plays pretend games with many types of toys
      • Does a 4 piece puzzle
      • Can turn doorknobs
      • Climbs easily 
      • Pedals a tricycle
    • 4 year olds 
      • Enjoys trying new things 
      • Plays family 
      • Imaginative games become more complex
      • Cooperates with other children 
      • Sings a song from memory 
      • Tells stories
      • Can say full name
      • Begins to name colors and numbers 
      • Understands the idea of counting but may not count in the correct order 
      • Uses scissors 
      • Plays board games 
      • Can hop on one foot
      • Can catch a ball 
    • 5 year olds 
      • Likes to sing and dance 
      • Becoming even more independent 
      • Tells a story using sentences 
      • Speaks very clearly 
      • Can count 10 or more items
      • Prints some letters or numbers 
      • Draws shapes like a circle, square or triangle
      • Hops on one foot for more than 10 seconds 
      • Uses the potty by themselves 
      • USe a fork and spoon easily
      • Can do a somersault
    • 6 year olds 
      • Speaks in longer sentences (5-7 words) 
      • Start understanding jokes and puns, especially using words with double meanings
      • Begin to sound out words
      • Focus on a task for about 15 minutes 
      • Know times of day and understand things will happen later or happened in the past
      • Know day from night and left and right 

    Stage 4: School-Age Children Development (6 – 12 Years Old)

    School-age children seem to go from a babyish kindergartener to a sophisticated middle schooler who has big ideas and strong opinions.  These are some developmental milestones you can expect at each age 

    • 6 to 7  year olds 
      • Speaks in longer sentences (5-7 words) 
      • Start understanding jokes and puns, especially using words with double meanings
      • Begin to sound out words
      • Focus on a task for about 15 minutes 
      • Know times of day and understand things will happen later or happened in the past
      • Know day from night and left and right 
      • Practices to get better at things they like
      • Rides a bike 
      • Likes to paint and draw
    • 8 to 9 year olds 
      • Dresses, baths and does other self care tasks by themselves
      • Can use tools like a hammer or a screwdriver
      • Can take on more responsibilities 
      • Understand money
      • Can tell time 
      • Can name months of the year and days of the week in order
      • Read books on their own 
    • 10 to 12 year olds 
      • Start developing a sense of identity  (may try on many different identities during this discovery) 
      • Girls start early puberty along with an increase in emotions 
      • Begins to handle conflict better
      • Begins to question Authority 
      • Can struggle with friendship and feel excluded 
      • Have strong relationship with family
      • May sound more like an adult than a child in vocabulary and thoughts 
      • School subject matter becomes more complex 
      • Looking for people who listen to their ideas and take them serious 
      • Play looks more active like playing sports, riding bicycles, and skating 
      • Have attention spans that can be very long when working on things they enjoy 

    Stage 5: Adolescent Development – The Teen years(13 – 19 Years Old)

    During the teen years, not only do children’s bodies develop quickly, but their cognitive development moves into even more adult thinking. 

    • Early Adolescence 13-14 years old (also defined from 10-14 years old) 
      • Significant physical growth, multiple growth spurts 
      • Increase in sexual interest
      • They understand and start to think in abstract way
      • They start becoming very aware of morals
      •  Become concerned with appearance (looks, clothes, haircuts) 
      • More moody 
      • Peer group is more influential 
      • Pulling away from parents and family 
      • Increased stress about school or social life
      • Feelings can feel larger than life 
    • Middle Adolescence (15-17 years old)
      • All teens will have completed puberty by the end of this stage
      • Females will stop growing but males may continue to grow 
      • A strong sense of self is coming together
      • Start thinking about and making long term life plans
      • Increased drive for ind
      • Independence 
      • Less conflict at home
      • Strong concern about body image 
      • Spend less time with parents and more time with friends 
      • Learn work habits 
    • Late Adolescence (18-19 years old)
      • Brains start to finish developing the frontal lobe 
      • Think rationally about ideas 
      • Firm sense of identity  and plans for the future
      • More acceptance of physical appearance 
      • Has a clear sexual identity 
      • Start thinking about serious relationships and future long term partners
      • Has serious intimate relationships 
      • Philosophical and idealistic 
      • Relationship with parents is reestablished 
      • Has a small group of friends with strong bonds

    Get the ages and stages of child development chart here

    I made these handy reference guides for you to keep track of your child’s milestones, Use them to talk to your peditrician about any concerns or just stay on top of what milestones are on the horizon for your child. 

    What are examples of developmental delays?

    If your child is not reaching their milestones you should bring it up to their peditrician. Your child may have a developmental delay. 

    There are many types of development delays that could be affecting your child. 

    Some developmental delays include: 

    1. Cognitive Delays-These usually do not become apparent until after the child begins school. This could be from a brain injury due to illness or accident. Shaken baby syndrome and seizure disorders can also cause this type of delay. 
    1. Motor Delays- These delays could gross motor skills of the large muscle groups, like arms and legs. Fine motor skills could also be affected which affect the hands and fingers and can cause issues with writing, tying shoes and even brushing their teeth.  Motor delays can be caused by genetic physical conditions but they can also be caused by underdeveloped areas of the brain. 
    1. Speech Delays- Speech delays come in two areas, receptive and expressive speech delay. Receptive delay is when the child struggles with understanding words and concepts. Expressive delays are when a child struggles with verbal speech, including decreased vocabulary or even no speech.  Speech delays can be caused by weak muscles in the mouth, brain damage, genetic syndromes, hearing loss and even a lack of stimulation. 
    1. Social, Emotional and Behavioral Delays- These delays can be caused by disorders such as autism spectrum disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.  This may look like understanding social cues, making friends, playing with other children, extended tantrums or meltdowns, 

    Can a child with developmental delays catch up?

    If your child is behind now on their developmental milestones, they can still catch up. Developmental delays are not set in stone and for many children the right interventions and supportive parents and caregivers can mean that they can catch up to their peers.  

    How can I help my child with developmental delay?

    If you are concerned with your child’s milestones not being reached, ask your child’s doctor to do a developmental screening on them.  

    If your child is diagnosed with a developmental delay you can help your child by getting them all the interventions they need. Sometimes that means advocating for your child even when their doctor, therapist or teachers are not doing everything you think they should be doing. 

    The next step is finding a support group for families going through the same challenges. It is always nice to have someone in the trenches with you when you are struggling and you can also look for families who are further along with their child’s diagnosis for wisdom. 

    Now you get to become the expert on your child’s delays and how it affects them. Reading not only blogs but also research articles and talking to experts can all help you learn a lot about your child’s delay.  

    Lastly remember that your child is still the same child they were before they were diagnosed with a delay. Now they have a label that can get them the interventions and resources to live up to their potential. 

    What happens in a developmental screening?

    Most doctors do routine developmental monitoring and screening during well child checks. Typically you get a questionnaire about your child and your doctor does a quick test on them to make sure they are developing on schedule.  

    If your child is showing any red flags or you have serious concerns, your doctor will refer your child to a specialist who does more specific testing around the area your child is showing a delay. 

    Remember this is not a judgement on your parenting and is not reflection on how much you love or care for your child. It is simply finding out if your child needs interventions to help them to get back on track and have the successful life they deserve. 

    Keep in mind that every child develops at their own pace and as long they are meeting milestones within 2-4 months of the predicted age range then they are most likely on track!

    Interested in getting your little one to play independently?

    Check out my Purposeful Playspace e-course to learn how to create a space for your children that invites them to playin ways that are more engaging, purposeful and independent.

    Want more information about how play impacts your child’s development?

    Check out my e-book: Simply Play: Everything You Need To Know About The Most Important Part of Childhood

    Love this post? Check out some of the articles below.

    What are the stages of play? Jean Piaget’s Theory of Play!

    How can a theory published in 1936 still help you to understand your children and how to encourage them through their cognitive development?  While Jean Piaget’s Theory of Play is closing in on its hundred-year anniversary it is still used in education and psychology to understand the stages of children’s development.  And I can help…

    What are the ages and stages of child development? (Bonus chart!)

    Get the ages and stages development chart here!! During the first 3 years of life babies and toddlers are making 1-2 million neural connections a minute.  Mind blown! During those years they go through massive growth and hit multiple milestones a month.   But what milestones should your baby be meeting at every age?  Understanding the…

    Are Pikler triangles worth it? abso-freakin-lutely

    Are Pikler triangles worth it? abso-freakin-lutely So what is this magic triangle that seems to be in every playroom on Instagram?  It’s a Pikler triangle and there are some great reasons why so many moms are falling in love with them.   You may be wondering if Pikler triangles are worth it? And I say abso-freakin-lutely. …

    Episode 5: The Psychological Importance of Play + How to Recover from Helicopter Parenting

    On this episode of Play. Learn. Thrive., clinical psychologist Sarah Mundy shares with Alanna insights about the importance of play in the development of confident, self-motivated, independent kids. In addition to being a core element of emotional and intellectual growth, play has been recognized internationally as a fundamental right of children. Sarah highlights clinical experience…

    Risky Play: What Parents NEED to Know

    Risky Play Children have an innate need for risk-taking. In addition, children who are encouraged to take risks at a younger age are able to better manage risk once they have gained more independence. A lack of ample opportunity to take risks may increase fear and inappropriate aggression, as well as limit the ability to…

    Read More

  • Why big kids need play, too

    Why big kids need play, too

    Renowned educator Maria Montessori described 12-18 year olds as budding social justice advocates. Children in this stage are developing who they are and how they can be of service to the world. Pre-teens and teens are deep thinkers. These adolescents are very serious and dedicated to figuring out what the world is about and how they fit into it. Physical and mental changes make this can be an exciting and challenging time for youth. They need opportunities not only to blow off steam, but to play and develop their creativity. Yes, big kids need play, too!

    Socialization and Play

    Many teens and tweens have their own devices to connect to others digitally. Unless it’s during structured activities, clubs, or organized sports, teens rarely have unstructured “play” time. As kids become more independent, it’s unlikely for parents to push this free play. Although big play groups may not be appropriate at this time, encouraging your older kids to connect with their peers offline when it’s safe to do so is so important for their mental health and well-being.

    Exercise and Play

    In our current pandemic society it is even harder for young people to have opportunities to play with their friends, and it is increasingly important for the adults in their lives to make space for them to let their play muscles get exercise. Getting kids off their devices can take a little maneuvering or persuading sometimes, but it’s not always hard to distract them from their digital presence. Encourage your tweens and teens to get outside, hang out with neighborhood kids (when it’s safe), and explore. Let go of the fear that they will get in trouble or get hurt. Riding bikes, taking a walk in a nearby park, or going fishing are playful activities that get the body moving and teens playing! Play some music at home and have a dance party. All of these activities will help your older children play and move.

    Tinker and Play Like a Child

    It is pretty hard for anyone to eschew bubbles. In addition, it would be a challenge for a teen to ignore dry ice in a kiddie pool and a few PVC pipes and a hose. A refrigerator box and a can of paint, a giant piece of wood and spray paint, stickers and an old dresser, and water squirters are all things that would likely captivate a teen if a willing adult started in on it, quietly…and offered encouragement. There are few young adults that wouldn’t be ready to start creating and playing with materials if you started a Rube Goldberg machine with some ping pong balls, dominos, cardboard and masking tape. A tray with some nuts and bolts and magnets on the coffee table might be enough to get a digital addict to put the device away for longer than you might think possible. Fill a kiddie pool with sand and pretend you’re at the beach. Spray each other with the hose. Or simply run through a sprinkler. Sometimes all it takes is permission to encourage sensory and constructive play.

    Pretend Play

    Youths are often natural dramatists, we see this as parents when their hormones rage and their feelings are strong. Kids are also so creative and want to put on a show. There’s a reason TikTok is so popular! Channel this ability into doing some fun drama games. Charades can be corny for youth sometimes, so have the kids come up with some guessing games that incorporate creating characters and personalities based on celebrities or family members. Make your own rules to make it personal and laugh together. Finally, have them just act out their own skits or plays. Parents know how important it is for children to be children. Older kids can have a hard time remembering this, especially with the weight of the world on their shoulders during the pandemic. Make some time to bond with your big kids and make PLAY a regular part of your DAY.

    Interested in getting your little one to play independently?

    Check out my Purposeful Playspace e-course to learn how to create a space for your children that invites them to playin ways that are more engaging, purposeful and independent.

    Want more information about how play impacts your child’s development?

    Check out my e-book: Simply Play: Everything You Need To Know About The Most Important Part of Childhood

    Love this post? Check out some of the articles below.

    What are the stages of play? Jean Piaget’s Theory of Play!

    How can a theory published in 1936 still help you to understand your children and how to encourage them through their cognitive development?  While Jean Piaget’s Theory of Play is closing in on its hundred-year anniversary it is still used in education and psychology to understand the stages of children’s development.  And I can help…

    What are the ages and stages of child development? (Bonus chart!)

    Get the ages and stages development chart here!! During the first 3 years of life babies and toddlers are making 1-2 million neural connections a minute.  Mind blown! During those years they go through massive growth and hit multiple milestones a month.   But what milestones should your baby be meeting at every age?  Understanding the…

    Are Pikler triangles worth it? abso-freakin-lutely

    Are Pikler triangles worth it? abso-freakin-lutely So what is this magic triangle that seems to be in every playroom on Instagram?  It’s a Pikler triangle and there are some great reasons why so many moms are falling in love with them.   You may be wondering if Pikler triangles are worth it? And I say abso-freakin-lutely. …

    Episode 5: The Psychological Importance of Play + How to Recover from Helicopter Parenting

    On this episode of Play. Learn. Thrive., clinical psychologist Sarah Mundy shares with Alanna insights about the importance of play in the development of confident, self-motivated, independent kids. In addition to being a core element of emotional and intellectual growth, play has been recognized internationally as a fundamental right of children. Sarah highlights clinical experience…

    Risky Play: What Parents NEED to Know

    Risky Play Children have an innate need for risk-taking. In addition, children who are encouraged to take risks at a younger age are able to better manage risk once they have gained more independence. A lack of ample opportunity to take risks may increase fear and inappropriate aggression, as well as limit the ability to…

    Read More

  • Social Emotional Learning In Your Home

    Easy Ways to Incorporate Social Emotional Learning Into Your Home Routine

    Now, perhaps more than ever, the letters S-E-L are on everyone’s lips. Parents, teachers, students, children, and families are experiencing stress and anxiety at this time. It’s often hard to know where to begin. Social emotional learning can help the whole family manage feelings, maintain relationships, and adjust positively to change.

    We know that kids learn best through play. their development hinges on active involvement. So how can we bring social emotional learning into our home routine?

    Gratitude helps social emotional learning

    So much research has been done on the power of gratitude. People who practice gratitude experience the following:

    • better physical health
    • more optimism
    • increased resiliency

    To begin, gratitude is a mindset, and it may or may not require a shift in your family dynamics. A great time to practice gratitude is before a family meal.

    Coming together and talking about your day and what you’re thankful for is perfect social emotional learning practice.

    Like everything our kids learn, modeling is powerful. Check your own words and actions. First, make certain you are saying ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ in your daily activities. Next, be specific when you thank someone. For example, say “Thanks for making dinner!”

    Practicing gratitude as you go about your day is a great example for kids and will feel natural after a while. Notice your surroundings in the backyard with your kids. Are you grateful for your trees that give you shade? Your tomatoes that are growing so well? Make a point to say it out loud!

    Kindness is Key

    Have a kindness contest. Download a pre-made kindness printable or make your own and hang it on the fridge. Kindness activities might include things like ‘let someone else go first’ or ‘do an extra chore’. Set an individual and a family goal for how many acts of kindness you want to complete each day. Even better? Try to do an act of kindness without getting caught!

    Turn Taking and Patience

    Patience is a challenge for many of us, regardless of our age. Playing a game of Monopoly, Candyland, or UNO is a fun way to incorporate a host of skills, including taking turns. Board games also offer opportunities to practice winning and losing gracefully, as well as having conversations and maybe even using strategy. Taking turns is a great way to practice social emotional learning.

    Mindful Breathing

    Children can benefit in so many areas of their lives by practicing mindful breathing.

    Among other things, mindful breathing can:

    • strengthen self-control
    • lower anxiety
    • improve emotional regulation skills

    One way to practice mindful breathing is to ‘cool off the pizza’. To do this exercise, tell the child to pretend there is a hot slice of pizza in front of him. Have him take a deep breath in through his nose (to smell the pizza) and then slowly and steadily blow on the ‘pizza’ to cool it off.

    The behaviors currently filed under ‘social emotional learning’ have been around forever, in the form of manners, good citizenship and self-awareness. Regardless of what these skills are called, life is much easier when they are worked into our home routine!

    Interested in getting your little one to play independently?

    Check out my Purposeful Playspace e-course to learn how to create a space for your children that invites them to playin ways that are more engaging, purposeful and independent.

    Want more information about how play impacts your child’s development?

    Check out my e-book: Simply Play: Everything You Need To Know About The Most Important Part of Childhood

    Love this post? Check out some of the articles below.

    What are the stages of play? Jean Piaget’s Theory of Play!

    How can a theory published in 1936 still help you to understand your children and how to encourage them through their cognitive development?  While Jean Piaget’s Theory of Play is closing in on its hundred-year anniversary it is still used in education and psychology to understand the stages of children’s development.  And I can help…

    What are the ages and stages of child development? (Bonus chart!)

    Get the ages and stages development chart here!! During the first 3 years of life babies and toddlers are making 1-2 million neural connections a minute.  Mind blown! During those years they go through massive growth and hit multiple milestones a month.   But what milestones should your baby be meeting at every age?  Understanding the…

    Are Pikler triangles worth it? abso-freakin-lutely

    Are Pikler triangles worth it? abso-freakin-lutely So what is this magic triangle that seems to be in every playroom on Instagram?  It’s a Pikler triangle and there are some great reasons why so many moms are falling in love with them.   You may be wondering if Pikler triangles are worth it? And I say abso-freakin-lutely. …

    Episode 5: The Psychological Importance of Play + How to Recover from Helicopter Parenting

    On this episode of Play. Learn. Thrive., clinical psychologist Sarah Mundy shares with Alanna insights about the importance of play in the development of confident, self-motivated, independent kids. In addition to being a core element of emotional and intellectual growth, play has been recognized internationally as a fundamental right of children. Sarah highlights clinical experience…

    Risky Play: What Parents NEED to Know

    Risky Play Children have an innate need for risk-taking. In addition, children who are encouraged to take risks at a younger age are able to better manage risk once they have gained more independence. A lack of ample opportunity to take risks may increase fear and inappropriate aggression, as well as limit the ability to…

    Read More

  • Socratic Seminar = Critical Thinking

    Socrates was an incredible Greek philosopher and thinker and his way of thinking has been a huge part of education for a very long time. Of course, children are naturally curious. That is an incredible attribute, but as children grow older, social norms begin to deteriorate that curiosity and self doubt creeps in. No need to fret though, there is a great resource for helping to change the way children think: Socratic Seminar.

    What is Socratic Seminar?

    First, Socratic Seminar involves the process of critically thinking, talking and reflecting. The seminar is when a group of students come together to discuss an open-ended question that could have multiple perspectives and solutions. This is all about arousing curiosity, engaging in problem solving skills and critical thinking through conversation, reasoning and in the case of our youngest children, this can all be done through play!

    Socratic Seminar for Younger Children

    The basis of a socratic seminar is questioning everything. Again, children are naturally curious. We all know the age when a parent hears the word “why” at least 100  times a day or even in a minute! Well, here’s where the socratic thinking comes in-don’t answer them! Restate the question back to your child. Allow them to reason out loud with you. Let them think for themselves! 

    Even toddlers are pretty great problem solvers. Think about it. If they want to know how something works, they try it. We have all seen food thrown on the floor as they are engaging in cause and effect reasoning. Their young minds are already processing this information, so allow their brains to think more critically by talking it through with you. For example, if your child asks “what is this?”, don’t answer them! Instead help them analyze what it looks like: color, texture, where they found it, what it looks like it does, etc. Ask them to use their senses. See if it reminds them of anything. Children will think critically about the answers to the questions they have rather than relying on someone- a parent or a teacher to just give them the answer!

    Opportunities for Socratic Thinking

    Critical Thinking Toys

    By giving children toys that allow them to be creative and curious we allow for the Socratic method to be at work. Passive play isn’t building our kids into critical thinkers. Watch your kids build. Then ask simply, why did you add that block there? One of the great toys we’ve talked about before are magna blocks. They are great for a range of ages. What would happen if you move this block? It is all about questioning to allow them to explain their thinking and improve their ability to think on their own in a more critical way. 

    Questioning

    Some more simple ways to increase Socratic play are by using a game like 20 questions. It requires minimal set up and is nothing more than critically questioning until an answer is found! This Is the basis of Socratic play! You could also use various scenarios, (appropriate to the age of your children) and have them solve the problem of the people involved. It could be as simple as, “A friend took the toy you want. What do we do now? Why?” Then continue questioning, “Was that the right choice? Are you still friends?” These allow children to understand the independent thinking process, but also gives them the ability to see why they feel certain ways. 

    Pictures

    Now talking goes a long way, but why not bring in a picture. Question everything about it. How did this happen? Why are they there? Why do you think that color was chosen? Think about your journalism questions and the 5 Ws and How! Those simply guide children to discovering information on their own. 

    Storytelling

    Storytelling works in the same way. When kids create stories or use imaginative play, engage with them in a conversation about why they chose that name for their doll or why they chose to cook eggs in their toy kitchen. If a child is asked to do a chore, don’t tell them how to do it, ask them how they think they should do it. Obviously, sometimes you have to step in, but again allowing them to think the problem through builds critical thinking for the future! You never know, you might have a future president or CEO on your hands!

    Overall, let your children play, think, create, and talk about the why and you will be using the Socratic Seminar techniques to build critical thinking in children! How will you use Socratic thinking and play with your kid

    Interested in getting your little one to play independently?

    Check out my Purposeful Playspace e-course to learn how to create a space for your children that invites them to playin ways that are more engaging, purposeful and independent.

    Want more information about how play impacts your child’s development?

    Check out my e-book: Simply Play: Everything You Need To Know About The Most Important Part of Childhood

    Love this post? Check out some of the articles below.

    What are the stages of play? Jean Piaget’s Theory of Play!

    How can a theory published in 1936 still help you to understand your children and how to encourage them through their cognitive development?  While Jean Piaget’s Theory of Play is closing in on its hundred-year anniversary it is still used in education and psychology to understand the stages of children’s development.  And I can help…

    What are the ages and stages of child development? (Bonus chart!)

    Get the ages and stages development chart here!! During the first 3 years of life babies and toddlers are making 1-2 million neural connections a minute.  Mind blown! During those years they go through massive growth and hit multiple milestones a month.   But what milestones should your baby be meeting at every age?  Understanding the…

    Are Pikler triangles worth it? abso-freakin-lutely

    Are Pikler triangles worth it? abso-freakin-lutely So what is this magic triangle that seems to be in every playroom on Instagram?  It’s a Pikler triangle and there are some great reasons why so many moms are falling in love with them.   You may be wondering if Pikler triangles are worth it? And I say abso-freakin-lutely. …

    Episode 5: The Psychological Importance of Play + How to Recover from Helicopter Parenting

    On this episode of Play. Learn. Thrive., clinical psychologist Sarah Mundy shares with Alanna insights about the importance of play in the development of confident, self-motivated, independent kids. In addition to being a core element of emotional and intellectual growth, play has been recognized internationally as a fundamental right of children. Sarah highlights clinical experience…

    Risky Play: What Parents NEED to Know

    Risky Play Children have an innate need for risk-taking. In addition, children who are encouraged to take risks at a younger age are able to better manage risk once they have gained more independence. A lack of ample opportunity to take risks may increase fear and inappropriate aggression, as well as limit the ability to…

    Read More

  • How to Teach Reading at Home

    Simple Ways to Teach Reading Skills at Home

    As a parent, you want your child to love to read! You want to make the best choices and raise them to be the best version of themselves. However, it is hard to know where to start. Reading must be learned, so let’s give our children the advantage we want them to have with these simple ways to teach reading skills at home.

    First, reading has a few components. Reading can be broken up into vocabulary, phonics, fluency, and comprehension. With our little ones at home, parents can absolutely work on comprehension skills, build vocabulary, and model fluency. When kids are ready, phonics practice comes into play, too.

    Vocabulary

    To begin, sometimes we take for granted that our kids just know what we are saying. Yes, most likely they are getting the gist of what you are saying, but know this. If you use a word they have never heard before, it is as simple as asking them if they know what it means before defining it for them. Children learn language from parents as you have probably seen when your mini-me has used an expression or phrase you consistently use!

    This becomes essential to teach reading at home because vocabulary can impede comprehension and fluency.

    Easy ways to ensure vocabulary growth:

    • If you are listening to music, or watching a television show, stop and talk about words you hear. Make it a game. Children are innate learners. They love to play. Let them listen to the world and bring back to you words they heard and make them memorable and they will learn them!
    • Another way to simply build vocabulary is through cooking with children! Cooking or baking is an amazing way to introduce vocabulary that may not come up in other parts of your day. You are also reading from a cookbook, looking at ratios, and proportions, and following a sequence for a recipe. Have conversations about what happens if you don’t follow the correct order and how sequence is important! These are all great ways to build reading comprehension when you are teaching reading at home.
    • Other simple ways to build vocabulary and word recognition are going over the calendar and the weather each day. Writing the words out for sunny and cloudy also allows children to begin understanding letters have sound relationships! Then get outside and enjoy the sunshine or jump in the puddles!

    Phonics

    If you want to teach reading at home you need to understand the importance of phonics.

    There are a gazillion toys out there that say letters and look like letters, but most children aren’t going to learn their letters from an electronic toy repeating it to them. These aren’t true educational toys.

    Activities to learn letter recognition and phonics:

    • Sing the ABCs. Let children hear the letters of the alphabet.
    • Allow children to play with magnetic letters. Put them in a sensory box and let them match them to a list.
    • Start having them trace the letters with a crayon or pencil and learn their names in print. If they don’t quite have the grip for a writing utensil, practice, but start by tracing with their finger.
    • Flashcards work well, but most importantly, remember children have to learn letter sound relationships to learn to read. Knowing the alphabet and playing with letters is exceptional, but allowing them to also play with sounds is really a precursor to reading.
    • Underline the words as you read aloud to your child. This helps them build the connection between words and sounds.
    • Use chalk and make it a game. Write letters and have them find where you wrote them!

    Fluency

    Before we know how to read, we learn what it should sound like. Fluency is all about how clearly a story is read and the flow of what you are hearing. This is why we love nursery rhymes and music! When reading, inflection and emphasis are very important. When you read to your children, give the characters voices! Make the words dance for your children. Our children’s spectacular minds are absorbing this everyday.

    Simple tips to make sure children are exposed to fluency during their playtime during the day:

    • Have books available in play areas.
    • Make a game with books. Take a few favorites and hide them. The first book found is the one they read for story time!
    • Have siblings read aloud too.
    • Listen to audiobooks. (A great, easy tool to build reading skills).
    • Encourage children to be storytellers and listen to the way they tell their story! This could be done through drawing pictures too.
    • Make story time a priority each day!

    Comprehension

    Finally, as adult readers, we often focus only on our understanding of what we have read. The other parts really do matter because without them it is more difficult to be a well-rounded reader. Of course, comprehension is where children understand the story, learn a lesson, make connections, and think about the character’s actions, so definitely important, and can absolutely be done without knowing how to read on their own.

    There are some really simple tricks to help with comprehension at home even before children are reading on their own.

    • Model your thinking. When reading to kids, comment how you really love how the characters solved the problem or how you have been in similar situations. Meta-cognition is so important when it comes to sharing with your kids how you process and think through reading.
    • Ask your children if they liked the character, the setting, and what they would do if they were in the book.
    • Allow them to pick books they can connect with. If you are reading a farm book after being at a farm, encourage the children to connect the book with the farm they visited.
    • When kids are playing pretend, watch them use the same scenarios that come up in the books! Asking thoughtful questions can ensure comprehension.
    • Look at pictures! Beginner readers actually use the pictures to help them understand. After reading a book, children can draw a picture of their favorite part.
    • If you are watching a movie or television show, ask them to tell you what happened. That is simply summarizing and an easy way to encourage that skill to be developed for reading readiness.
    • Compare books by the same author. Kids often love the same types of books and this is a great opportunity to think a little deeper.
    • Ask open ended questions. It could be as simple as what would you do if you were in that situation?

    Teach Reading Skills with Play Time

    Our children’s ability to read becomes a priority in every parent’s life. We hate to see our children struggle. Use some of these simple ways to build reading skills at home while they play to prepare children to be thinkers and make the process of learning to read a little more seamless!

    Interested in getting your little one to play independently?

    Check out my Purposeful Playspace e-course to learn how to create a space for your children that invites them to playin ways that are more engaging, purposeful and independent.

    Want more information about how play impacts your child’s development?

    Check out my e-book: Simply Play: Everything You Need To Know About The Most Important Part of Childhood

    Love this post? Check out some of the articles below.

    What are the stages of play? Jean Piaget’s Theory of Play!

    How can a theory published in 1936 still help you to understand your children and how to encourage them through their cognitive development?  While Jean Piaget’s Theory of Play is closing in on its hundred-year anniversary it is still used in education and psychology to understand the stages of children’s development.  And I can help…

    What are the ages and stages of child development? (Bonus chart!)

    Get the ages and stages development chart here!! During the first 3 years of life babies and toddlers are making 1-2 million neural connections a minute.  Mind blown! During those years they go through massive growth and hit multiple milestones a month.   But what milestones should your baby be meeting at every age?  Understanding the…

    Are Pikler triangles worth it? abso-freakin-lutely

    Are Pikler triangles worth it? abso-freakin-lutely So what is this magic triangle that seems to be in every playroom on Instagram?  It’s a Pikler triangle and there are some great reasons why so many moms are falling in love with them.   You may be wondering if Pikler triangles are worth it? And I say abso-freakin-lutely. …

    Episode 5: The Psychological Importance of Play + How to Recover from Helicopter Parenting

    On this episode of Play. Learn. Thrive., clinical psychologist Sarah Mundy shares with Alanna insights about the importance of play in the development of confident, self-motivated, independent kids. In addition to being a core element of emotional and intellectual growth, play has been recognized internationally as a fundamental right of children. Sarah highlights clinical experience…

    Risky Play: What Parents NEED to Know

    Risky Play Children have an innate need for risk-taking. In addition, children who are encouraged to take risks at a younger age are able to better manage risk once they have gained more independence. A lack of ample opportunity to take risks may increase fear and inappropriate aggression, as well as limit the ability to…

    Read More