How Reading Can Boost Children’s Working Memory

About two weeks ago, I took my son to the local library for a story time program. As I was walking, I passed by the book, The Working Memory Advantage: Train Your Brain to Function Stronger, Smarter, Faster by Tracy and Ross Alloway. This title immediately caught my attention because I love reading books on how to use the brain to its fullest capacity. I checked the book out and started reading it that night.

I learned so much from this book. One detail that stuck with me was the power of working memory. Did you know that it is more important than IQ? As always, I want to share what I learned with you and its benefits to young children.

Let’s Get Started!

One of best ways to improve working memory is to read. Working memory is one’s ability to process information. This means focusing on the information or making decisions about it. A person with great working memory can manipulate information and reformulate it.

Let’s apply this to children. If a child is in school or participating in an extracurricular activity with a group, working memory can help them inhibit distracting information, like their classmates whispering near them. It will also help them keep track of where they are in a multistep task. Furthermore, children with good working memory can access information, like numbers or words, to complete an assignment. It allows children to hold information in their mind and complete tasks quicker.

Other Ways Working Memory Helps Children

  • It helps children think fast on their feet.
  • Take smarter risks
  • Make smarter judgement calls
  • Adapt to new situations
  • Stay motivated to achieve long-term goals
  • Follow a moral compass like doing the right thing in social situations

Working Memory is Better than IQ

Have you noticed that many people with below average IQ scores became great business men and women, bestselling authors, or innovative inventors? IQ is not the best predictor of lifetime success, especially not in our current times.

Thanks to search engines like Google, we no longer need to rely on knowledge such as facts, dates, and names. These types of facts are associated with IQ. Intelligence today is measured by being able to put those facts together, organize the information, and do something constructive with it. IQ is what you know and working memory memory is what you can do with what you know.

The facts below about working memory versus IQ may be shocking to you…

  • A good working memory is the best advantage in school and is related to good grades.
  • Kids with good IQ scores don’t necessarily have good working memories.
  • An average or even high IQ does not necessarily give children the tools for success in the classroom and beyond.

So let’s see how reading can help children improve working memory

Reading requires working memory because you recall information, anticipate what is coming next, and interpret words and sentences. Challenge your child and boost their working memory by reading more difficult books and stories.

For Children Ages 2 to 5

  • Read aloud to children and challenge them by reading new stories.
  • For 2-3 year olds, ask them facts about the story.
  • This will make them use their working memory to review what they know about the story.
  • If you read to children at early ages, you’ll be surprised at what they can analyze and make sense of.
  • Ask your 4 year old to give their opinions on the motivations of the characters.
  • For example, ask your 4 year old the following question: Why do you think the character ignored their friend?
  • These types of questions will help your child stretch their speculations.
  • For 5 year olds, if they can read, ask them to read simple and short stories on their own occasionally.
  • If the 5 year old cannot read, ask them to picture walk.
  • Picture walk means to look at the images of the story and predict what it is about.
  • Bonus Tip: For children ages 6-10, read harder material to them.
  • In doing this, you will stretch their minds and the easier books they read on their own will seem less difficult.

I highly recommend purchasing or borrowing The Working Memory Advantage: Train Your Brain to Function Stronger, Smarter, Faster by Tracy and Ross Alloway from the library. It will open your mind to the brain’s many possibilities!

I hope this helps!

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Saltwater to Freshwater Science Experiment

Gratefulness

Each night before bedtime, my son and I say a prayer. In every prayer we are thanking God for our many blessings such as a home, food, toys, water etc. As a parent, I try to instill in my son gratitude, appreciation, and gratefulness for his many blessings.

I do remind him that there are people in this world who don’t have homes, toys, and clean water. The first time I explained this to him, he was in disbelief. This led to discussions about people who are homeless and suffer from poverty.

The Problem

One day he was drinking water after being outside playing. He thanked the Lord for ‘good clean water.’ I told him it is great to be thankful because there are some people who don’t have clean water. We talked about the water crisis in Flint, Michigan after their water source was changed. This change contaminated the water, which led to elevated blood lead levels in the city’s children. It also caused hair loss, itchy skin, and skin rashes.

Let’s Put on the Thinking Cap

Whenever my son, Cory, hears about a problem, he thinks and asks questions about solutions. After doing research, we learned that Earth is covered with 70 percent water. Almost all of Earth’s water is salty in the oceans and we can’t drink it. Only about three percent of the water is drinkable fresh water. Most of this drinkable water is frozen in the Arctic and in Antarctica. Therefore, only about 1 percent of the world’s water is available to drink.

Possible Solution, Maybe

Cory wanted to explore how we could turn saltwater into freshwater to drink. He thought this will provide clean water to Flint, Michigan.

We talked about the three properties of water, which are liquid, solid, and gas. We learned how a liquid turns into a gas and solid. Afterwards, Cory asked we could turn gas into liquid. We started doing some research and found the Saltwater to Freshwater Experiment.

This experiment answered his questions about turning gas to water and finding a POSSIBLE SOLUTION to provide freshwater to those who don’t have it.

I will show you how we did this in our kitchen.

Let’s Get Started

Materials Needed:

  • Salt
  • Water
  • A pot
  • A glass bowl

Directions:

  • Put water in a glass
  • Pour salt in the glass of water
  • Mix the water and salt
Mixing the water and salt together.
  • Pour the water in a pot
Pouring the saltwater in the pot.
  • Put a glass bowl in the middle of the pot
Glass bowl is in the middle of the pot.
  • Boil the water and put the lid upside down on the pot
Pot lid turned upside down.
  • Observe what happens
  • You will see water dripping in the glass bowl
  • Turn your stove off and wait until the pot cools
  • Take the glass out of the pot and let the water cool

Watch the video below to see how condensation makes water.

saltwater-video-
This is the amount of water we made from condensation.
  • Drink the fresh water and enjoy.
My son drinking the freshwater.

Happy Learning and Problem Solving!

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Simple Number Recognition Game

One day my son was playing with dice from a Monopoly game and play foam numbers. All of a sudden I hear him say, “Mommy, I made up a game!”

When I hear the word “GAME,” I get excited. I think games are the best way to learn because they incorporate the three basic learning styles: Auditory, Visual, and Kinesthetic learning.

I sat on the floor with him and he gave me directions for the game. After playing the game with him, I realized it would be perfect to help kids with number recognition. Since we had a great time playing the game, I would like to share it with you.

Let’s Get Started!

Materials Needed:

Directions:

  • Spread the numbers on the floor (1-20 if possible).
  • First roll the dice
  • Then count the number of small dots on the dice.
  • The number of dots you count represents the amount of (play) numbers you hide around your home.
  • If you roll a six then you have to hide any of the six numbers.
  • The other person will find those six numbers and identify them.
  • Make the game more difficult by using a timer.
  • The person looking for the numbers will have to find the numbers within a certain amount of time, like 2 minutes.
  • Next round have the other person roll and hide the numbers
  • That’s all there is to it!
I rolled the number 3 so I had to hide three numbers. My son found and identified all three numbers I hid around the room.

I hope you like this game!

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A Fun Way to Teach Kids to Tie their Shoes

The Beginning

Learning to tie shoe laces is a life skill that most people conquer as a kid. When my dad taught me to tie my shoes, I knew that was a big accomplishment. I remember purposefully untying my shoe in school, so my classmates could see my new skills.

As parents, we all have to teach our children this skill. I expected to teach my son around the age of five or six. However, due to his curiosity, I started introducing the concept to him as a two and a half year old.

Answering a Request

One morning, my son saw me tie my shoes and asked if he could do it. Instead of saying, “You will learn once you get older,” I showed him the first three steps in shoe tying. I held the two strings up, positioned them to make the letter x, put one string under the other, and pulled them both to make an initial tie.

We practiced this for a week until he finally knew these initial steps. Whenever I needed to tie my shoes, unless I was in a hurry, he would do those initial shoe tying steps for me. Then I became inconsistent in teaching him the remaining steps until two years later.

My son has a pen pal, named DJ, who lives in another state. They write letters to each other regularly. DJ’s mother texted me one day to ask if my son, Cory, can tie his shoes. I told her that he can do the initial three steps.

A Little Motivation

This text provided motivation to teach my son to tie his shoes fully. However, I needed to know if he was ready. He told me he was ready to learn.

I decided to use a creative learning method called Chain Linking to teach my son this skill in its entirety. Chain Linking is associating information with pictures and a story. In other words, I made up a fun story to describe the steps in tying shoes. Chain Linking created a desire in my son wanting to practice tying his shoes.

He learned the skills within a week at four-years-old. If you think this is too young, then check out this article about a two-year-old who could tie shoes.

Also I did not use the two bunny ears method that many parents use. I decided to teach my son the way my father taught me as a first grader.

The Story

Below is the Chain Linking story we used when Cory first learned to tie his shoes, called the Kingdom’s Shoe Tying Boy. You will also see a video of him tying his shoes while I am telling the story.

Once there was a boy who lived in a huge kingdom. He was the only one that could tie shoes. He was paid a lot of money to tie the king’s shoes. The boy took the king’s shoelaces and made the number 11. Then he made the letter X, put one string under the other, and pulled them. Next he made a loop and took the other string and choked his thumb. The boy pulled the string through the big hole, grabbed it, and he pulled!

IMG_1477

Below are some questions many parents have about kids learning to tie their shoes.

What age should a child be able to tie their shoe?

Most kids learn to tie their shoes at the age of five. This is when many kids start kindergarten and need to know how to dress and undress themselves independently. I personally did not learn until the first grade as a six-year-old. In kindergarten, I remember wearing shoes with velcro straps.


How do you tie laces for beginners?

I personally did not use a “beginners shoe tying” method to teach my son to tie shoe laces. We just took each step one at a time. Before practicing, we set a limit for the number of times my son would practice. For example, one day we said he would try three times. Most times, he wanted to try more than that. However, he knew he could stop at the number we set.

We used the steps featured in the video you saw above to learn.


How do you tie shoelaces so they don’t come undone?

I taught my son to double knot his shoelace. Once he ties his shoes, he takes the two loops or bunny ears and make an additional knot. This works well for us.

I hope this article was helpful for you!

Happy Shoe Tying!

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Make Your Own Snow for Kids

About a year ago, my son and I went outside and played in the snow. We took our snow sled and joined the other kids in the neighborhood to slide down the hill. Afterwards, we had a fun snow ball fight, made snow angels, and created snow mountains. We had a blast!

A couple days later, the sun melted the snow. We were happy to see the sun but a little disappointed because we could not have fun in the snow. Spring was making itself known in our city.

We didn’t want to let go of the fun we had with snow, so we decided to make our own. My son and I did this activity a little over a year ago and I forgot about it.

It wasn’t until my best friend, Donna, asked me if we had ever made our own snow. I told her “yes” but forgot to share it with others through this blog.

I live in an area where we get snow every year. However, Donna’s children hardly see snow, so this was the perfect activity for them.

About two days later, Donna sent me pictures of her son and daughter making snow. She said this activity kept them busy for two hours!!!!

Making your own snow is a great hands-on activity for kids. I will show you how below. All you need is two ingredients that you most likely have in your home.

Let’s Get Started

Materials Needed:

  • Baking Soda
  • White Conditioner (some people use shaving cream as an alternative)
  • Container or Pan to make and play with snow
  • spoons (optional)
  • Action Figures (optional)
  • Cookie Cutter (optional)
  • Sticks (optional)

Directions:

  • Start mixing 1/2 cup of conditioner and 3 cups or baking soda.
  • We did not measure when we did this activity.
  • We kept adding more baking soda and conditioner until we got the consistency we liked
  • Make play time more fun by doing pretend play with action figures in the snow
  • Donna gave her kids cookie cutters to make various shapes in the snow.
  • Have your kids create artwork in the snow with sticks from outside.

Below are pictures of the fun our kids had making snow!

Donna’s daughter making a wonderful snow creation.
Donna’s son having fun mashing the snow.
My son starting to make snow by putting baking soda in the pan.
My son made a snow pie.

Have fun with this activity!

6 Games that Make Clean Up Fun for Toddlers

As parents, one of the first life skills we teach our children is to clean up. When one has a clean environment, they tend to think and feel better. Ensuring that a child cleans up after playing can be a challenge for some parents and kids. Therefore, I have created six games that will make clean up time fun for toddlers.

Let’s Get Started!

Eat Monster

Create an “Eat Monster” with bags or bins. Let your child pretend the bags or bins are eating toys or whatever needs to be cleaned up. Below is how we played…

  • Make a mouth out of the opening of a box or bag you would like the toys to go.
  • Pretend the box or bag is hungry and wants to eat the toys.
  • If you have a bag, use your hand to open and close the opening with your hands.
  • If you have a bin with a lid, move the lid up and down to represent the monster’s mouth.
  • While your child is picking up the toys, the monster should say, “I AM HUNGRY AND I NEED TOYS TO EAT!”
  • Your child will hurry to put the toys in the monster’s month.
  • They will most likely have fun and laugh during this activity.

Create a Slide

  • If you have toys that belong in a bag or bin, get curled paper, newspaper, cardboard (folded), or poster card and place it in the bag or bin.
  • If you have a bigger bag or bin, it would be better to use newspaper, cardboard, or poster board.
  • Have your child put the toys at the top of the bag or bin and slide it down the paper, newspaper, cardboard, or poster board.
We created a slide with paper and put it in a bag. My son slid magnetic letters down the slide.

Race Against the Count or Clock

Tell your child they have a certain amount of time to clean up. Challenge them to beat the clock!

  • Tell your child they have 55 seconds to clean up their blocks
  • Count to 55 and see if your child has beaten the clock or the count.
  • Count in different languages if you are teaching your child to be bilingual.
  • If you see your child struggling to complete the task, count a little slower to give them a better chance to win.
  • You may also help your child clean up, so both of you are racing against the count or clock.

Race Against Each Other

Most of us want our houses or rooms to be neat and tidy, why not make it a friendly competition?

  • Start the race by grabbing a toy.
  • Tell your child to say, “Ready, set, go!”
  • Both of you will hurry to clean up the room.
  • The person who cleans up their area first, wins!

Sorting

Many times while cleaning up, we have certain bins, bags, or places we want toys to go. Why not expose or reinforce sorting during this activity?

  • While your child is putting toys in certain places, identify what is similar about those items.
  • For example, all the toys are used for building such as colorful Legos or hard wooden blocks?
  • You may also identify what is different about two areas.
  • Does one area contain building toys such as magnetic tiles while the other has soft toys like stuffed animals?

Music

Music is a great way to motivate kids to do a tasks. Try these ideas below…

  • Play the “Clean Up Song” while your child is cleaning up.
  • Create your own clean up song with your child.
  • Bang on a box and create a “Clean Up” chant while the children are cleaning up.

Incorporate these games during clean up time and make it fun. It will bring enjoyment to this task.

If you want more games, check out our post, Games/Activities for Kids and Parents to Make your Morning Routine Efficient.

Happy Cleaning!

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18 Toys that Encourage Creativity and Imagination

Toys that encourage creativity are a big part of childhood. My son used them to play, problem solve, build, and even to learn to read and write. However, not all toys are equal. There are some that will encourage your child to use their creativity and others that are limited in this area.

Toys where children are required to push a button are called closed-ended toys. They are fun but limit the child’s creativity and problem solving skills. A toy that plays a song after a child pushes a button teaches them cause and effect. This type of play is simple and straightforward.

However, if a child plays with blocks, they can build a tower, ramp, road, house, etc. It can also be used as an instrument or put together to formulate letters and numbers. Blocks can also be incorporated in pretend play. For instance, my son and I built a hospital and did a role play where he was the doctor and his stuffed animals were the patients.

Creativity and imagination are important in children’s lives because it will help them grow socially, intellectually, physically, and emotionally. It also aids them in expressing their thoughts, feelings, and ideas. I have observed children planning and conversing with each other on how they will play with open-ended toys such as puppets and Play-Doh.

I have also noticed that open-ended toys are cost-effective. We tend to keep these toys for longer periods of times because they grow with the child. When my son was younger, he made simple towers with blocks. Now that he is older, his towers are taller and more complex.

So, if you want to encourage your child to be creative and keep them busy in a positive way, try these toys below.

Have fun with these toys!

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Foam Explosion – Elephant Toothpaste

One day my son, Cory, watched the Youtube personality, Ryan. He saw Ryan and his mom do the elephant toothpaste experiment. After watching, he said, “Mom, I want to do that!” So I watched the video with Cory and immediately started to write down the materials and directions.

We had everything needed for the experiment except dry active yeast. I purchased the yeast from Amazon because I figured Cory would want to do this repeatedly. The next day, the yeast came and we immediately started to make the elephant toothpaste.

The first time we did the experiment, we saw an explosion but the cup we used was too big. We decided to use a smaller cup because we wanted the chemical action to overflow out of the cup. The second time was “epic” according to my son.

I will show you how we did the experiment below. Your child will want to do this repeatedly so get ready.

Let’s Get Started!

Materials Needed:

  • Two cups
  • ½ cup of Hydrogen Peroxide
  • 1 squirt of Dawn dish soap
  • 5 drops of food coloring
  • 15 ml of warm water
  • .25 oz Fleischmann’s Active Dry Yeast (1 packet)
  • Goggles to protect eyes
  • Gloves to protect hands

Directions:

  • Tell your child that they will create a fun foam explosion called Elephant Toothpaste.
  • Put on goggles and gloves
  • Put hydrogen peroxide in one of the cups
  • Add five drops of food coloring in the cup
  • Put a squirt of dish soap in the cup
  • In a different cup pour 15 ml of water.
  • Add the active dry yeast packet to the water and mix.
  • Pour the water and yeast mixture in the cup with the hydrogen peroxide mixture
  • Watch the awesome foam explosion!
My son adding food coloring to the hydrogen peroxide.
Mixing the water and active dry yeast.

Watch the video below of our experiment!

elephant-toothpaste-video

Have fun with this experiment!

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Addition Bowling Game Part 2

Last week I told you about the Addition Bowling Game for Kids that my son, Cory, created. This game involved using Cory’s bowling play set to practice addition. You may also use paper cups if you don’t have a bowling play set. This activity allowed my son to review adding one and two digit numbers.

Cory created a second spin-off game that allowed him to practice adding three-digit numbers as well. I was impressed in the effort and thought he put into this game. I will show you how to play below…

Let’s Get Started!

Materials:

How to play:

  • On a piece of paper determine the point value for each pin.
    • For example, the first red bowling pin in the set was worth 100 points and the second red bowling pin was 200 points.
    • Below is a list with the point value of each pin in our game.
    • Please note: if you don’t have bowling pins use paper cups. You should attach the point value to each cup.
I wrote the point value of the bowling pins as my son created and dictated them to me.
  • On a piece of paper, draw separate columns and put each player’s initial at the top to keep score
On the left is the point values and the right are two columns to record our score. As you can see, my son Cory knocked over one blue pin for 300 points.
  • Set up the ten pins or cups in a scattered fashioned.
My son set up the bowling pins in a scattered fashion.
  • Have the first player roll the first ball towards the pins
  • Have the first player roll the second ball towards the pins (the bowling game comes with two balls)
  • Take note of the number of pins knocked down and their point value.
    • For example, if a player knocks down one blue and one yellow pin, their score would be 1000 points. (One blue pin = 300 ; One yellow pin = 700)
    • Add 300 + 700 for a total of 1000 points.
  • Record the score in that player’s column on paper.
  • The next player will roll and repeat the previous seven steps.
  • My son added both our bowling scores for all the rounds.
  • It was a great way to practice three-digit addition.
  • Below is a video of my son calculating our score.
IMG_1506

Have Fun with this Activity!

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Addition Bowling Game for Kids

In our household, we have something called “Creative Time.” This is when my son chooses an activity or a game he and I can play. This is my time to follow his lead in whatever creative project he wants to do.

This time, he pulled out his bowling game and said, “Let’s play!”

While playing the game we incorporated addition so my son could practice his math skills. If your child is not doing addition yet, use this game to practice counting and number recognition. Like all games we play, we had a blast!

I will show you how we played below!

Let’s get started!

Materials:

How to play:

  • On a piece of paper, draw separate columns and put each player’s initial at the top to keep score
  • Set up the ten pins
My son set up the pins.
  • Have the first player roll the first ball towards the pins
  • Have the first player roll the second ball towards the pins (the bowling game comes with two balls)
  • The number of pins a player knocks down is the person’s score that round.
    • For example, if a player knocks down eight pins then their score is eight for that round.
  • Record the score in that player’s column on paper.

  • The next player will go and repeat the previous five steps.
  • My son added both our bowling scores for all the rounds.
  • It was a great way to practice addition.
  • Below is what my son wrote.
M is for mommy. The score was 26 to 24. I won the game but it was really close. The second to last number under the C column is 10 and NOT 16.
  • Have your child count the number of pins knocked down for each round if you want to do number recognition instead of addition.

My son created a spin-off addition game. You will hear about that next week!

Stay tuned!

Have Fun with this Activity!

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