Wander luster and mommy to 2 firecrackers. Ever since my little ones were little-er, We’ve been following #montessoriinspired #learningthroughplay and #learningfromnature activities.
By parenting each of my girls the way she learns best, and at her pace- taking cue from her interests and abilities, rather than some set curriculum- I have discovered they have learned to #observe #imagine and #create way beyond anything a school could teach.
I follow, with Miss A1 and A2 a story based #journalling curriculum, which involves #reading #imagining #recreating and #conceptbuilding activities that I put together based on 21st century skills and aimed at stimulating multiple intelligences.
This curriculum is also available for purchase on my website www.thinkalternate.in
Here is the post in response to numerous DMs asking for a checklist for ages 3 to 4.5 -5 years of age (or pre-kindergarten years). Typically a child would enter kindergarten (the year before grade 1) ; which is known by many different terms in different places (call it nursery, lower kg, or preschool if you may)
If you’d like the list of goals for preschoolers (ages 2 to 4 years) you can click here
Ever so often I’m asked what can be done with pre schooler at home- to keep him/ her engaged, learning and growing. And so very often I’m compelled to say – NOTHING, REALLY!
A child as young as 2 years who is absorbing everything from his/ her environment, leaning from observation, mimicking his/ her surroundings needs very less “engagement” ; what he or she will learn from attention that a caregiver pays And the way he/ she is communicated with, matters more than anything else.
You may be offering a shelf of activities, or trays to entice him, a fancy set up or a hard earned DIY, what really matters is how you INVOLVE YOURSELF WITH THE CHILD.
Here you may find a list of checkpoints (or goals, if you may) that you could work on with your child ; so that by the age of 4 years, your child is ready for the next set of (age appropriate) checkpoints
Having said this please remember this very important point that Magda Gerber has made :
What are the checkpoints to keep in mind with a Pre Schooler
For a child aged between 2 years and 4 years, one may keep in mind these points
I’ve listed here resources from around the web to put together a week long (or month long- depending how deep you would like to dive into this topic) unit study on peacemakers of the world; starting with definitions and children’s interpretations of peace, art and song stimulation to understand peace and then moving on to looking through the life and works of peacemakers around the world.
The focus then shifts to India, and we pick the life and work of Mahatma Gandhi to study deeper, while touching upon the history and Geography of British India and the Freedom Struggle (suited best to beginners, ages 6 years and up)
We introduced plant study to my elder daughter at the age of 2.5 years of age. And we have returned to it every January, consecutively for 3 years now, each time learning a little more, increasing depth and width of exploration with every iteration.
Other than nature observation, reading books became our window to what we cannot see most obviously- root systems, what happens inside a seed, what trees from long ago looked like, how different species adapt to different climes; and books have become our go to- to base our explorations around.
A couple of explorations we go back to year after year at the start of this themed study are nature flat lays and color palettes:
1. Collect fallen branches, leaves, flowers and feathers and rocks. Brainstorm with your child to build a flat lay of any idea that inspires you or any theme that you want to drive home by means of real-life learning
2. Create color palettes of nature’s elements around you. Carry a color disc (template in our curriculum) and draw or collect stones, bark, leaves, flowers and insects that represent the season or ecosystem around you.
Following nature observations is nature inspired art– and there are no limits to what you can create. Have a look at some creations we made with sticks, flowers and leaves!
Then we read. Our go-to book and all-time favorite is The Tiny Seed by Eric Carle.
The Tiny seed is indeed about the smallest seed in the lot, that is blown across landscapes and ecosystems- every time its size offering it some advantage as opposed to what we may have first set out to think. Exploring seasons and varied climes along the way, it finally settles, survives and though a little late, it thrives! A beautiful, giant of a flower blooms and sets out seeds- off they go on their journey again and the cycle continues.
Our plant study follows this beautiful journey – from seed to blooms; along the way we learn about seeds, make some seed bombs to germinate in our backyard, build a dispersal themed board game, study seasons, and how they influence germination, conduct experiments to observe germinating seeds and then look deeper at roots, shoots, leaves, flowers and fruits- and finally we work through a survival map to see who does indeed, survive?
From Seed to Blooms- appropriate for ages 4 to 6 years and above: based on the book The Tiny Seed by Eric Carle
Which child today has not heard of Eric Carle? His children’s picture books have topped charts for years and continue to remain on the top of the wish-list of new parents as well. Amongst so many Eric Carle books that we own, read and love- a clear favorite stands out, for the sake of its simplicity and its nature of capturing the imagination of toddlers and early learners alike: The Very Hungry Caterpillar.
The Very Hungry Caterpillar: A short story about a caterpillar that emerges out of an egg, eats everything in sight and grows into a large caterpillar, that wraps itself in a cocoon and stays there for a while, until out emerges a beautiful butterfly. How sweet is that? Perfectly paired with illustrations in Eric Carle’s unique style and packed with punches of science, numeracy and language building prompts.
This book is available in many formats:
interactive board book,
touch and feel book,
as well as hardcover
and paperback book
Pick the format that works well for your child’s age, sensory requirements and learning style. No one shoe fits all. No two children will take the same learning back from a book. Choose wisely, especially when an overwhelming amount of information is out there.
Introducing the Book:
Toddlers will typically flip through the pages, mesmerized by the color and shapes that make the artistic illustrations by Eric Carle, and interact with the books in their own unique ways. As a parent and facilitator of their learning, one must sit back and observe their interaction with the book- for it will open up windows to their mind and offer you clues to their learning style.
An early learner at the preK-K level who has been read to many times, will now be able to repeat and retell the story while flipping the pages. This is your cue to now initiate this book as a learning resource and discussion starter. There are many strategies to introduce a book to a child as a learning resource. The very first step is to discuss the book cover and title.
This is how I would begin: Discuss the title of the book, look at the image of the caterpillar on the cover, and ask open ended questions- prompting curiosity and leading to newer questions, without offering answers. We would then follow this with looking through Eric Carle’s illustration technique used across his works: Using tissue Collages, and trying to replicate this technique to illustrate our own hungry caterpillars (or any other picture for that matter, depending on the child’s interest)
Scholastic lists out an interesting opening order for this discussion (found here) where the discussion touches upon what might have been in the mind of the author while designing this cover.
Open Ended Learning Via Journaling
Our curriculum is open ended. There are no right answers, just directions to lead a child to explorations across disciplines using creative thinking, critical problem solving, collaboration and computational thinking (21st century skills). Each child will learn and explore at his own pace and hence, a journal or scrapbook becomes a more open medium of expression than the tight spaces of a worksheet or workbook.
Using a journal allows the child to link forward and backwards to topics of interest, pick and choose activities from the list as per his choice and interest and leave room to come back to these explorations at a later point in the future. Journals are a powerful form of self-expression and journaling for kids is sure to become a powerhouse of ideas.
Let’s look through the index of activities that our curriculum works around. Of course, I must add here that the sequence of activities follows the story line, however it is not necessary to follow the sequence but follow the interest and readiness of the child. That’s the beauty of using open ended learning methods. You can skip forward and loop back depending on the learning curve and style of every unique child. Find the entire curriculum here
While tandem homeschooling my girls, I discovered that it was absolutely essential to involve the two of them in one another’s activities. So as the younger one likes to involve in higher aged group arts explorations and sensory play, so does the elder one enjoy being the teacher/ instructor in lower aged group activities. As I began to introduce the English Alphabet to my 2.5 year old, the elder one enjoys the simple set ups as well, but she did demand a higher challenge on the theme as well. Thereby came the Nature exploration series : the first in the series being Ant Explorations.
How do you initiate nature explorations and learning?
1️⃣Step 1 observation. Allow for space to observe life around you. What you may consider a pest may be a great learning opportunity within the 4 walls of the house in itself.
2️⃣Step 2. By allowing questions and encouraging curiosity. As a mother I know as well as you how absolutely annoying the question “ why” can be. But more often than not, these “whys?” Are opportunities to initiate child led explorations and learning. Allow that space. Even if you can’t answer it right away, make a note of it with your child so that whenever you find the mind space to set up an activity, you may.
3️⃣Step 3. Journalling. You don’t always need paper to journal. Imagine the floor to be a huge squared sheet, a graph paper if you may. Explore, hands on, bent down on your knees, eyes and mind wide open.
You can photograph, make notes and journal on paper later on.
4️⃣Step 4. Read read read. The more you read, the more you will know. Very aptly said, by Dr. Seuss. And reading more will lead to more questions, deeper understanding and a clear path of what next?
Nature observation includes requirement of a few essentials : OPEN EYES, KEEN EARS, A SENSE OF SMELL AND A TON OF WONDER. You may also keep along magnifying glasses (to look at things close up) and binoculars ( for things that are too far away), a camera, notebook, field guide and pencils.
Ants appear in large number in spring. When temperatures begin to rise, it’s time for egg laying, and so the ‘foraging for food’ exercises begin in greater numbers. Do you know any more signs that herald the onset of spring?
Choose to read about ants, maybe a story book about ant behaviour and anatomy or simply go around on an ant hunt, follow them around, observe their activities, hunt for an ant hill! Any or all of these initial activities sparks interest in observing and starting conversations about ants and allows for curious minds to be activated.
Journalling doesn’t always have to be on paper. There are so many ways to learn, and it’s best to follow the child. However, the same topic, revisited in a different way opens up new perspectives and brings wonder to a child’s mind.
Here is the anatomy of an ant colony #diorama built using ragi flour, beans, pasta, peanuts and leftover flowers from a bouquet.
Learning about ants and their life cycle, behaviour and lifestyle all rolled into one.
Find the 10 page pdf printable on our webstore under the title A as in Ant – one of 52 nature learning prompts that’s under preparation for ages 6-10 year olds.
Spend a morning collecting data. Put of food for forager ants to collect. Keep washable markers or watercolour pens ready. Each participant must follow and trace the path of one ant each. Follow and trace these patterns till a nest is located.
Next, look for an ant or group of ants carrying food. How is their track different from the forager ants? How do ants collaborate and cooperate to carry large chunks? What all do they collect? How do they find their way home? How do ants communicate?
In pic: 6 year old and 2.5 year old tracing the paths of foraging ants and ants that have found food, leading all the way back to the nest. We discussed and modelled what happens if an ant gets lost, how they carry large chunks of food, how do they know where to go and then completed the activity by journalling all about the experience.
Have you checked our Ant study Printables on the webstore as yet? Link in bio to download the 6 page ant study and journaling prompts.
March has been the month that annually celebrates women. The International Women’s Day is celebrated across cultures and continents in March. For the longest time, I have wondered why we need a day to celebrate women – what does Women’s day mean? Is it gifting a day of peace and rest to a woman, or flowers and cakes or is it just a namesake celebration to make one feel good about being a non- male?
I often wondered what this even meant, until I had a daughter myself, and then I hoped for a second. As a mother of two girls, I saw first hand that the idea of being a non- male at birth itself is a a celebration in some cultures / ideologies ; while unfortunately in some it is a curse.
And once you have been hit by the reality of being a mother, to a girl child or a boy child, you get shaken into becoming a decision maker for the smallest of actions and words that may mould the child’s thoughts and actions. From the gender equality examples you set at home, when you share the workload with your partner, or you hand in hand parent with your partner, you set lifelong paths of belief systems in your children about equality, power positions, cooperation, collaboration and problem solving.
So, coming back to celebrating women. This topic has become more and more relevant to me over time as questions and thought processes of the girls have evolved and my answers have had to be conscious and well researched. Which has led to me realising that the power consciousness and gender equality in the world has still miles to go, and all this thought change starts with small steps and choices at home.
The pandemic of 2019 that is ongoing has shown us in action the learning from biology about genetic diversity. A more diverse gene pool offers a population higher opportunities to survive stresses in the environment. And extending this also to the idea of world leadership, making decisions with respect to response to the pandemic has shown that “diversity in leadership makes a difference, and the pandemic response in countries led by women has captured the headlines. Yet, research on the theme of this year’s International Women’s Day, “Women in leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world”, reveals that only three countries in the world have 50 per cent or more women in parliament. Globally 119 countries have never had a woman leader as a Head of State or Government. At the current rate of progress, gender parity will not be reached in parliaments before 2063, in ministerial positions before 2077 and in the highest positions of power before 2150.” Source : UN Women
So we started to work through stories of women in history, so that in a world where we need to maintain balance, to make conscious steps to tilt the scales towards equality, so that we may build power, at home.
Starting off the Women’s History Month studying Frida Kahlo
Additionally, linking here to a special offer for readers: a 30 percent discount on this wonderful combination of books from Sadhya Treasures, using the code ThinkAlternate30 Click here to order these books
Here you will find snippets of what this study looks like and our recommendations for studying the life and work of this living legend
Next we study Lt. Gen. Madhuri Kanitkar, AVSM, VSM , the highest ranking woman officer in the Indian army.
Think Alternate recommends these 9 books to complement bird study for ages 4 to 6 years. From Seed to Blooms journalling curriculum is available to purchase for 4 to 6 years olds (beginner module) here
February is the time of the year when the season changes, the sun shifts a bit northward, the temperatures rise a notch, tiny buds begin to appear, seeds sprout and the feeling of wholesomeness is all around you. The air is filled with sweet fragrance of blooms, sounds of birds and buzz of bees. The general emotions we then begin to associate with February as it ushers in spring are those of Hope, Fulfilment and Love.
Spring in fact, in India is also the season of leaf fall. Deciduous trees start to drop leaves to direct their energy and resources to flowering- which is their safety net to ensure seed formation and propagation. It does also appear from studies that bright attractive flowers on bare trees may attract pollinators from afar and is therefore an advantageous strategy to go by.
Keeping all these observations in mind, let us talk of our favourite spring nature inspired crafts that you may adapt to your themes of plant study, season study, nature study
1. Nature inspired flatlay
Top of our list is creating an outdoor nature inspired flatlay. Collect fallen branches, leaves, flowers and feathers and rocks. Brainstorm with your child to build a flatlay of any idea that inspires you or any theme that you want to drive home by means of real life learning
2. Painted Sticks Bouquet
Collect fallen branches and twigs. Note the node from where they have detached from the plant. Are their smaller nodes along the stick? Is the stick smooth or rough? Can you spot lenticels along it? Lenticels are small holes used to exchange gases (breathe)
Paint these sticks with bright bold colours. Let the child lead the project. For thicker sticks, choose multiple colours or shades of a colour and make patterns like dots or stripes of an added dimension
Display in a vase or clear bottle. This sticks bouquet looks gorgeous as is, but you may choose to attach some flowers (real or paper flowers) with crafting wire or string around a string of fairy lights to give it a touch of oomph.
3. Splatter painted sticks
Draw an outline of any shape you like and cut sticks to the length to fit within the borders. Offer the child the opportunity to fit in the puzzle with the pieces – put the correct sized sticks in the right location in the shape.
Next offer some acrylic or glitter glue paints to splatter the spins around and see magic being created.
4. Make seed bombs
What better activity to inspired by nature than to return to nature? Make some seed bombs to spread around on barren lands, fields, gardens or even just backyards.
Make seed bombs with paper egg trays 🌱
Soak a paper egg tray in water overnight.
Once well soaked, drain the excess water and make a mush of the tray which should easily crush between your fingers. No need for blending but do so if you prefer a thick purée.
The important step now is to squeeze out as much water as possible from the mixture. Use a sieve and apply pressure. If there is too much water, the seeds you place in this will start to germinate.
Once fairly dry, roll into a cup shape and stuff with seed mix. You may use seeds from the kitchen, wildflower seeds, fruit seeds or flower seeds bought from the nursery.
Put these bombs out in the sun to dry.
Drop these seed bombs in gardens, fields and backyards. Enough water, air and sunlight- and these will sprout to beautiful little saplings soon enough.
Let’s teach our children the value of sowing seeds.
5. Pencil shavings art
How are pencils made? With wood, graphite, lead and clay. To talk about the source of where these tools children use in day to day life is important as is humbling. To understand that tress are more giving than we have ever noticed or realised and make way into the smallest items of day to day life is an eye opening experience for a young child.
When you sharpen your pencils, collect the shavings instead of throwing them out. And then these may be used to make a whole array of crafts. Our favourite for February is the pencil shavings heart- showing some love to the trees from where the wood has been sourced.
Think Alternate recommends these 9 books to complement bird study for ages 4 to 10 years. Birds in your backyard journalling curriculum is available to purchase for 4 to 6 years olds (beginner module) here : Birds in your backyard and for 6 to 10 year olds (advanced module) here : Birds in your Backyard (advanced)