The Week of the Young Child™ focuses public attention on the needs of children from birth through age 8, and celebrates the early childhood programs and services that successfully meet those needs. Established by our partners The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), this year’s weeklong celebration hails from April 16-20. As in every year, designated themes accompany each day to make your celebration that much more meaningful! Here at Child360, every week is about young children – so we put a Child360 spin behind each daily theme, sprinkled with the developmental aspects that tie it all together!
Kids and music are a natural fit, and the NAEYC emphasizes that musical activities help children develop math, language and literacy skills. Child360’s Eliana Mancilla and Dominique McMillan tell us that music is, indeed, an excellent way of exposing children as young as three months to important STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Math) concepts.
Our recommendation: Use an empty shoe or tissue box to make a rudimentary “box guitar,” by wrapping rubber bands around the box. “Especially with [very young] children, we want to incorporate all five of their senses, providing a visual, something they can feel, hear, and something they can taste,” explains Mancilla. “Making something is always fun for children, and also builds fine motor skills,” says Mancilla “plus children can see and feel the actual vibrations that produce sound.”
Bonus activity: Ask children to draw or paint their interpretation of music they’re listening to. To incorporate elements of math, Dominique McMillan suggests, “Children can count musical notes, keeping time by clapping, using drumsticks, or stomping feet.”
Cooking together—reading recipes, measuring ingredients, etc.—is a fun and delicious way to connect simple math (arithmetic, fractions) with literacy skills. Mancilla points out that cooking also introduces children to technology and science, such as the molecular and chemical reactions of heating raw foods.
Our recommendation: Use food as a teaching tool. “Put an orange in a child’s hand to teach color, shape and texture. Older children can do more complex exercises, like listing foods that are green (or round), for example,” says Dominique McMillan.
Tip for Parents: Food-related activities are a great springboard to teach lifelong healthy habits, and both our Family Engagement Specialists agree that giving your child agency is crucial. Ask them to choose from several healthful options, and let them be part of the process of selecting fresh produce, then washing and prepping “their” veggies for the family meal.
Work Together Wednesday
When children build together, they explore STEAM concepts and develop their social, motor and literacy skills.
Our recommendation: Stimulate their natural engineering tendencies. Eliana Mancilla recommends giving children an open-ended engineering problem they must solve with ingenuity: “Using just newspaper, create a structure that is three feet tall.”
“Engineers want to find out how things work, and find solutions to physical problems,” she says. “Children are natural born scientists, always observing and asking how things work and why.”
Creative art-making is always a joyous learning experience for children, where they can use their hands and their imaginations in limitless ways. Our experts point out it also has a social-emotional aspect, as children learn to express their feelings in complex ways.
Mancilla and McMillan see Artsy Thursday as the perfect day to explore the Theory of Loose Parts, an integral part of their ECE workforce training; the theory explains how materials with no explicit purpose empower creativity in adults and children—this philosophy has been largely embraced by child-play experts and playspace designers!
Our recommendation: Begin by collecting different buckets of “loose parts:” One bucket for objects from nature (twigs, pebbles, shells), another for household objects (fabric, empty water bottles or pool noodles), perhaps a bucket of crayons, paper pads and other art supplies. Once your collections are complete, let the Imagineering begin! You could ask your child to build a time machine, a robot helper, or even their perfect house. Remember—the items have no right or wrong use and can be utilized any way a child imagines!
Engaging and celebrating families is at the heart of supporting our youngest learners, since parents are our children’s first and most important teachers. Strong family relationships foster social-emotional skills and make children more confident in the school setting.
Our recommendation: “Highs and Lows” conversation starter, a suggestion from Dominique McMillan’s own family. “When we have a Friday dinner together, we do something I call our “Highs and Lows,” [where everyone] shares what was really great—and what was not-so-great—about their week.” Children and adults all participate, and the safe and loving atmosphere builds children’s confidence in their own emotions.
Tips for Parents: To foster conversation with your child, remember that shared physical activity has been shown to lubricate conversation. When you’re out for a walk or bike ride together, children find it easier to open up and express themselves with others.
Eliana Mancilla and Dominique McMillan, are Child360 Family Engagement Specialists with a wealth of experience in empowering ECE programs with interactive learning and family participation to reinforce education outside the classroom setting.