A recipe for sequencing success

GirlandMomCookingIf you’ve ever made spaghetti, you know there’s more that goes into it than just pasta and tomato sauce. And while you might say it’s your grandmother’s famous spicy meatballs, there’s one more key ingredient: sequencing! Sequencing, or planning, involves following the correct order of steps to accomplish a task, and a recipe is a great example of sequencing that many of us use every day.

So the next time you’re following a recipe for a delicious dish, invite your child to help you! First, show your child the recipe and explain that it is a set of instructions that tells you what ingredients you need and what you’re supposed to do with them. It also tells you which ones come first and which ones come later. Have your child gather all of the ingredients and arrange them on the counter. Then show your child how you refer to the recipe to know what to do next, using words like “first,” “second,” and “last” to model the order of events.

When the food is ready, remind your child of the steps that they helped you complete and ask them questions about the order of the steps. For example:

  • “Did we add the tomatoes first or the onion?”
  • “What did we do after we shredded the cheese?”
  • “What ingredient did we add last?”

Asking kids to think about why things happen in a given order is also beneficial because it helps them to understand that sequences aren’t simply arbitrary and makes it easier to remember specific sequences (like boiling the water before you add the pasta). By reinforcing the importance of following a recipe in cooking, you can help your child understand how following a specific sequence of events applies to just about any situation, even well beyond the kitchen!

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Bean bag toss: Help your child work through challenges

Has your child ever taken a long time to tie their shoes or struggled to read a story out loud? And if so, did you quickly swoop in to help? Research shows that when parents show patience with their children’s inabilities, the children are actually more likely to be patient with themselves. Parents can also encourage kids to work through challenges by celebrating their efforts and pointing out when hard work brings about good results. This week’s 10-minute activity provides an excellent opportunity for your child to practice working through a challenge and for you to practice supporting them in a way that’s most beneficial to them. All you need is a few pieces of paper, tape, and a bean bag!

Tell your child that you’re going to play a game, and have them stand in one spot while you tape the pieces of paper to the floor, with some closer to your child and some farther away. Then challenge your child to toss the bean bag so it lands on a piece of paper. If your child misses, encourage them to try again. If necessary, move the pieces closer or use bigger pieces of paper and start the game over. If your child makes it, encourage them to aim for a piece of paper that is farther away. As your child gets better at the game, make the locations and sizes of the papers more challenging.

No matter how accurately your child throws, remember to celebrate their efforts as they play. You can say things like:

  • “I like the effort you’re putting into this game. Now let’s figure out how you can throw the bean bag so it lands on that piece of paper.”
  • “All right, that piece of paper was easy for you! Let’s try something a little more challenging.”
  • “I like the way you tried all kinds of strategies until you finally got it.”
  • “It was a difficult target to reach, but you stuck to it and kept trying. That really worked!”

Research shows that kids who are willing and able to work through challenges tend to tackle more difficult activities overall and persevere longer than those who are unwilling or unable to do so—setting them up for a lifetime of learning!

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Practice patterns through rhythm

Kidaptive Tips and Tidbits

Photo courtesy of StockFreeImages.comRecognizing, following, and creating patterns is an important skill that prepares kids for early math learning and other important cognitive tasks, like problem solving and spatial reasoning. Patterns can exist almost anywhere, from colors that we see to rhythms that we hear. Engaging your child in a rhythm game allows them to explore patterns in a multi-sensory way, and because it doesn’t require any materials, you can play it anywhere—whether you’re hanging out at home, waiting at the doctor’s office, or enjoying an afternoon at the park!

Tell your child that you’re going to create a pattern of sounds and it will be their job to repeat it back to you. Start with a simple AB pattern. For example, you might clap your hands and then pat your lap. (The pattern would be clap, pat, clap, pat.) If your child struggles with the pattern, say, “Listen one more time,” while you slow down the pattern for them to hear. As your child gets more confident with the game, you can make the patterns more complex:

ABC: Clap, pat, stomp, clap, pat, stomp
AABB: Pat, pat, stomp, stomp, pat, pat, stomp, stomp
ABB: Clap, pat, pat, clap, pat, pat, clap

You can also try practicing the same patterns with different movements and sounds, like an AB pattern where you jump and click your tongue instead of clapping and patting your lap. You can even offer to let your child be the pattern creator while you imitate!

Patterns present themselves in a variety of ways in the world around us, but rhythmic patterns allow your child an opportunity to embody the pattern itself and don’t require any specific tools—making them extra fun and flexible! Ready, set, clap!

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A better way to help your child retain new information

Kidaptive Tips and Tidbits

What do meeting important deadlines, following a conversation, and performing mental arithmetic all have in common?  They all require working memory, a function that allows us to store small amounts of information at a time to help us complete a cognitive task.  Research shows that children’s working memory capacities are smaller than those of adults.  However, we can actually adjust the way we provide information to our kids to fit the limits of their working memories!

The next time you’re teaching your child something new, structure your sentences in a way that presents familiar concepts first and new information last.  For example:

  • If your child is curious about where rain comes from, you can say, “It rains when the clouds have too much water in them,” rather than “When there’s too much water in the clouds, it rains.”
  • If your child wants to know what night is, you can say, “Night happens when the sun is shining on the other side of the Earth,” rather than “Night happens when the other side of the Earth is facing the sun.”

Introducing the familiar contexts (clouds and sun) first gives your child the opportunity to access their background knowledge, while presenting the new concepts (clouds holding water and the sun shining on the other side of the Earth) last requires your child to remember those concepts for a shorter period of time before making sense of the whole sentence.

Children love learning new things, so let’s encourage their development by presenting information in a way that makes them most likely to remember it!

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Think inside the box: An exercise in perspective taking

Kidaptive Tips and Tidbits:

Did you know that perspective-taking skills play a key role in children’s ability to demonstrate sensitivity in relationshipsinterpret and react to unwritten social rules, and make sense of other people’s behavior?  Try this playful, 10-minute activity to help your child improve their ability to take another person’s perspective!

Before you start the activity with your child, find a box that usually contains a familiar food item and fill it with something unexpected, without letting your child know. For example, you might replace the contents of a box of animal crackers with a pencil.

1. Show your child the box and ask them what’s inside.  
They should say animal crackers.  Now show them that it’s actually a pencil inside!  Ask your child if they remember what they thought was in the box when they first saw it.  Although the answer might seem obvious to us, many kids will say that they thought it was a pencil.  This is normal!

2. Suggest playing with a sibling, friend, or other parent.  
Ask your child what the other person would think is in the box.  If they say animal crackers, reinforce their answer by saying something like, “Because Maria hasn’t seen the pencil yet, has she?  She just saw the box, so she expects animal crackers!”  If your child says the other person would expect to see a pencil, say something like, “Let’s think about that.  Maria came in and saw the box.  What does the box say is inside?  Did Maria see the pencil?”  Breaking it down this way will help your child understand the process of seeing the experience from another person’s perspective.

3. Vary the materials you use to solidify your child’s understanding.  
Evidence suggests that children can learn to perform the activity with a single box and a single object well, but they might not be able to generalize to other situations, so try the exercise with a cracker box and paper clips, or a cookie tin and an eraser!

4. When appropriate, add another level of difficulty by using a blank box.  
Instead of using a familiar snack box, try using a leftover gift box, brown paper bag, or shoe box covered with paper.  This encourages your learner to think about what could be in the box, as well as understand that the other person might have guesses that are different than their own.  Because there are no “expected” contents, your child has to consider more variables at the same time.

Finally, encourage your child to have fun and to enjoy thinking “outside of the box” (at least figuratively!) and outside of their own perspective!

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Puzzle power: Piecing together spatial reasoning

Kidaptive Tips and Tidbits: 


Puzzles are a fun way to pass the time, but did you know that they also help kids work on mental shape manipulation, which is important for future success in mathscience, and problem solving?Mental shape manipulation, an aspect of spatial reasoning, is the ability to predict the transformation of two- and three-dimensional shapes in one’s mind.  The variety of shapes and colors that puzzles offer, as well as the immediate feedback they provide, make them a natural fit for practicing this skill.Research shows that with adult help, children can start developing mental shape manipulation skills as young as three years old.  In particular, using spatial language (e.g. corner, topedgebetweenupside-down) to guide their play helps kids understand the spatial concepts themselves.  For example, instead of saying, “I see you’re putting this piece here,” you might say, “I see you’re putting this piece above/below/next to the corner piece.”

You can also help your child by scaffolding the way they approach the puzzle.  For example:

  • Ask your child questions that will help them solve the puzzle: “I see a lot of red on this piece. Do you see any other red in the puzzle?”
  • Offer observations about your child’s efforts: “I see that you’re trying to place the curved piece there, but it doesn’t seem to be fitting that way.”
  • Help your child come up with a plan to solve the puzzle: “Let’s find all of the pieces with a straight edge first.”
  • For a child who needs extra help, turn the puzzle pieces in the proper direction before having them place the pieces in the puzzle.  Let more advanced spatial reasoners figure out how to rotate or flip the pieces on their own.

By talking your child through the activity and drawing their attention to spatial concepts, you’ll help them develop strategies for completing puzzles on their own, which they can apply to other spatial reasoning tasks later on!

We would also love to hear your suggestions on future topics to cover!  Please e-mail them to feedback@kidaptive.com.

Delay of gratification: A little imagination goes a long way!

Kidaptive Tips and Tidbits:

SuperheroGirl2Sometimes asking your child to wait for something feels like asking them to perform superpowers.   The ability to delay gratification can be a tough skill for kids to learn because it requires them to give up an immediate reward in order to get a more valuable one later on.  However, research has shown that delay of gratification can be encouraged and even taught by using cognitive strategies specifically designed to help kids combat the emotional desire to get what they want right now.

This is where those superpowers come in! First, find or construct a “superhero” cape for your child. When it’s time to delay gratification, get out the cape. Tell them, “This is a Superman (or Superwoman) cape. And Superman has special powers. He’s a superhero with lots of patience and he knows how to wait really well.”

This simple activity helps children by encouraging them to imagine themselves as someone who can tackle the frustration of having to wait; in fact, one study found that it tripled the amount of time children could wait for a reward! Even if you don’t have a cape handy, research shows that simply encouraging children to pretend works wonders. Your learner is a natural-born player, and pretending allows them to use their best skills to be more successful at a difficult task.

Once mastered, the ability to delay gratification is a superpower that will continue to help your child soar long after they’ve outgrown their cape!

 We would also love to hear your suggestions on future topics to cover!  Please e-mail them to feedback@kidaptive.com.


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