Archive for the ‘Teaching tips’ Category

Isn’t it amazing what sponges our little ones are? The amount of knowledge they can soak up never ceases to amaze me, and I’m often reminded that we should be continually taking advantage of this insatiable desire to learn, learn, learn.

Here’s one way to do just that. Grab one of those wipe-off, World Map place mats we all have. Put it in front of your child and show her the continents. Name them. Find something she can relate to on each one.

See this? This is Australia. This is where those cute little koala bears live. And kangaroos. And wallabies. Look how small Australia is, compared to the other continents!

And this one here? This is Africa. You know how we always pray for Ashley and Mikayla? This is where they’re doing their mission work. Aaaaaashley…..Aaaaafrica. 

Know why we like to speak Dutch so much? It’s because we learned it when we lived here, in this continent. It’s called Europe. We rode our bikes everywhere when we lived here.

When we Skype with Uncle Kelcy, we’re talking to him in China. That’s here, in Asia. Look how BIG Asia is!

You get the idea. Don’t just tell your child the name of the continent—tell her about the penguins that live in Antarctica, or trips you’ve made to this place or that, or relatives she knows who reside in other areas of the world. Or, point out well-known landmarks that she can associate with each place. Make each continent more than just a colored blob on a map.

Once you’ve gone over the basics, it’s time to start the game. Choose a small snack your child loves. It could be mini-marshmallows, cereal pieces, raisins, nuts, or even m & m’s. They key is to make it small, because she’s going to be eating several of them and they need to fit on your map.

For my daughter, I chose her favorite candy, Skittles. What can I say? I wanted this to be motivating…and it was!

teach continents with candy

Just take one of the snacks and put it on any continent you choose, and ask your child to name it. The rules are simple: If she can do it, she gets to take the snack and eat it. If not, give her the correct answer and move it to another continent and keep playing. You will be amazed at how quickly she will pick up on those names!

Once my daughter had the continents down pat, I decided to move on to learning the states, but since there were so many I changed the reward to Nerds candy–much smaller. (Because I’m just not sure the sugar rush from learning all 50 states with Skittles would be worth it.)

I also taught her a little song I made up to help her remember the continent names, even when she wasn’t looking at a map. We sang it to the tune of “If Your’e Happy and You Know It:”

There are seven continents in our world.

There are seven continents in our world.

North and South America,

Europe, Asia, Africa,

And Australia and Antarctica. 

(Yes, it fits. Work with me here.)

We sang the song over and over while looking at a globe. And during bath time. And while riding in the car.

I based this prize aspect of this activity on an awesome idea I found on Grasping for Objectivity, and you can use this same method to teach all kinds of things to your young (or older) child. Yes, that’s right. As soon as my 12-year-old daughter saw what we were doing (read: saw the candy), she wanted to get in on the action, too. Be sure you up the challenge factor for those older kids!

And once your little one learns the continents, you can move on to oceans, U.S. states, and other geography subjects. You can also use this method to teach the presidents, plant parts, or whatever else you have a place mat for. The possibilities are only as limited as the place mat selection at the dollar store (or Target’s dollar spot), right?

And if you’re trying to decide which subject to study concurrently, may I suggest tackling the importance and methodology of good teeth brushing?

Enjoy learning together!


Although my methods have changed some throughout the years, my goal for Kindergarten has been the same with all four of my children:

Make school fun.

It’s the first year of “formal” school, and while I know they’ll learn loads of new things along the way, the most important thing I want them to pick up on is this:

Learning is enjoyable!

Loving learning!

Let your child be the teacher sometimes! (Visuals are from Keeping Life Creative.)

If I push too hard and teach them that academic learning is drudgery, they’ll pay for it for years to come, and so will I. So why not take this year to set the stage so they can be lifelong learners–and love the process?

That means I don’t necessarily push them to their maximum learning potential during Kindergarten (although, in all future school years, I do!) In other words, I don’t give them the hardest work they can handle. I give them FUN learning opportunities, challenging enough to be interesting, but never to the point of frustration. That will come later {wink} once they have already established a love for the outcome of the challenge of learning.

It also means we spend time every day doing FUN, hands-on activities TOGETHER, instead of me parking them in front of a stack of boring worksheets…even when they can read well, and even when they CAN do their work independently. (Some independent work is helpful, of course, but it shouldn’t replace the interaction between you and yours that will make learning feel FUN for your little ones.)

Showing off her edible butterfly life cycle

Showing off her edible butterfly life cycle

So please…don’t turn your children off to learning their very first year of “real school.” Introduce them early to the incredible JOY that comes with learning new concepts and discovering new information. Then, as they get older, you can “buckle down to more serious work,” but the thought patterns will be in place so that they’ll enjoy that serious learning. (I do, however, recommend employing visual and hands-on learning, when possible, at every age and grade.)

Remember: It’s not about YOU. Your goal isn’t to show off how much your children know. School should be about them, and this year you have an opportunity to either turn them off to school completely, or unlock the potential for a lifelong love of learning.

Don’t worry. Your children will learn TONS this year. It’s what they do best! Why not let them enjoy it?

Enjoy learning together!