Discovering Science with your Preschooler

By ARTICLES

By Karen Nemeth, Ed.M

 

Young children are natural scientists. Everything is new and amazing to them. They love to explore and try new things. Lucky for them, there is plenty of science happening right in their own home and you can help them learn all about it! The great thing about playing with science is that children learn problem-solving skills and practical knowledge about how things work. You can also add some language learning, as you teach your child the vocabulary words in Spanish or English or both. So, a little bit of science experience brings a lot of valuable learning.  Here are some fun ideas you can try in your kitchen.

 

  1. WATER: Put a towel on the kitchen floor and put out some big and small bowls of water. Add some different kinds of materials and objects for playing with the water. Observe with your child what happens when you dip a sponge in the water. Then try a napkin. Then try dipping a plastic bag or small dish. You might take these activities for granted, but your preschooler will be fascinated to discover that some things soak up the water and other things don’t. You might even experiment with some kinds of foods. What happens when you put some cereal flakes in the water? Or some apple? Then you can have an interesting conversation about what happened, what keeps the water out, and what lets the water in. You might even try fancy words like “absorb”, “repel” (does not let the water in), “sink”, and “float”.

 

  1. TRANSFORMATIONS: Let your child be your baking assistant. Engage your child in talking about how the ingredients change when you mix them together. To a young child, it almost seems like magic that you put wet batter in the oven and a few minutes later, a cake comes out. To you, it might be a simple process, but this is how children learn about “transformations” in their introduction to science. You can talk about the smells, the textures, and the tastes. You can show your child how the different measuring and mixing tools work. You can count, and talk about why you use a lot of flour but a small amount of salt. And, if you don’t mind a bit of mess, you might even give your child small amounts of the ingredients to play with and make their own “recipe”. Hands-on learning is always best for young children.

 

  1. SOUND: Did you know that the kitchen is a great place to learn about the science of sounds? Toddlers and preschoolers love to make “music” with pots and pans, plastic bowls, soup cans, and cereal boxes. Add a few metal and plastic spoons and you can start your own kitchen band with your child. With all this fun, there is also a lot of learning. You can talk with your child about what makes things sound loud or soft. Ask your child to talk about the differences they hear among metal, cardboard, and plastic things. Your child will discover how hollow things make different noises than solid things. Ask your child which things make higher-pitched sounds and which things make lower-pitched sounds. And, it’s a great way for your child to experience rhythms and patterns. That’s a lot of learning!

 

  1. TEMPERATURE: There’s one science topic that’s part of every kitchen: temperature! It is an important safety lesson to learn what hot means in the kitchen. With safety in mind, there are many other ways to explore the science of temperature. If you cook food, it gets hot. If you wait a few minutes, the heat goes away and you can eat the food. Sometimes we blow on food to help it get cooler. You can talk about and touch or taste things that are hot, warm, cool, or cold. For example, if you are making soup for lunch give your child a small amount of soup at different temperatures. Do they like to eat cold soup? What can they do if the soup is too hot to eat? You might experiment with freezing and melting. Take some ice cream right out of the freezer, and put some in a cup. Then check on how it looks every few minutes as it melts. Or pour some water or juice in small cups or ice cube trays and watch what happens when you keep it in the freezer. These are practical lessons that we all need to understand about food, but these are also amazing science activities for your young child.

 

Early science learning doesn’t have to be about memorizing facts or complicated experiments. These fun activities can give you many things to talk about in whichever language you choose. When you support your child’s curiosity about things in their everyday world, you are building a wonderful foundation for future learning and helping children develop confidence and competence along the way.

Flags

By ARTICLES

Here we have a collection of flags from the Latino Hispanic countries in the Western Hemisphere.  Choose a country or ask your child to choose one, print out its flag, and ask your child to color it in. Or print them all out and see if your child can learn to recognize the flags without seeing the name of the country. Maybe they will want to do a little research on some of the countries.

While your children are coloring, you can ask them some of the following questions, depending upon their age:

  • What shapes do you see in this flag?
  • How many different shapes?
  • How many of each shape?
  • What color crayons do you need to color the flag?
  • How many different colors do you see?

Here are some questions for specific flags:

  • How many stars on the flag of Venezuela?
  • What animal is in the middle of the Mexican flag?
  • What is the motto of the Dominican Republic?
  • Which two country’s flags look most alike?

These questions will involve a little research:

  • Why is there a sunny face on the flag of Uruguay?
  • Why is there one star on the Puerto Rican flag?
  • Why are so many flags red, white, and blue?
  • Why is there one red star and one blue star on the flag of Panama?

Enjoy!

Click on each button to download the flag

Hispanic Heritage Month Book List

By ARTICLES

Those who grow up as part of two (or more!) cultures often get the best of both worlds, but also have to deal with challenging experiences. These books explore in fact, fiction, and poetry, the joys and sorrows of children who are living with one foot in the Latin world and the other foot somewhere else.

You can take these books out of your local library or buy them online. We have added links to the Amazon page where you can make a purchase or go to another site you like to use.

Reading Recommendations for Kids Ages 0-12

For 0-6-Year Olds

Gathering the Sun: An Alphabet in Spanish and English

By Alma Flor Ada, illustrations by Simón Silva

Age Level: 0-3

Using the alphabet as a pattern, paintings and brief poems explore rural life in Mexico presented first in Spanish and followed by English. From A to Z, brilliant illustrations and fluid poems evoke the plants, the natural world, and the emotional impact on the lives of farm workers.

– Review edited from Amazon

 

Sweet Dreams (My Family/Mi Familia series)

By Pat Mora, illustrated by Maribel Suarez

Age Level: 3-6

It’s bedtime, and Grandma has come to tuck everyone in. One by one, she kisses her grandchildren good-night in a loving refrain that reminds them of all the other friends, critters included, who are closing their eyes and falling asleep. The soothing text and gentle drawings make this the perfect way to end a busy day. Bilingual text.

– Review edited from Criticas

 

Liliana’s Grandmothers

Written and illustrated by Leyla Torres

Age Level: 3-6

Liliana’s grandmother Mima lives up the street, does yoga exercises, and likes crossword puzzles. Liliana’s other grandmother, Mama Gabina, lives in South America, enjoys gardening, and likes to dance around the house. The meals they cook are very different, the stories they tell are different, but one thing about them is the same: they both love their granddaughter. And Liliana adores them. Leyla Torres’s watercolors show all the warmth and homeyness that are intrinsic in special family relationships.

– Reader review

 

For 6-9-Year Olds

My Diary from Here to There

By Amanda Irma Pérez, illustrated by Maya Christina Gonzalez

Age Level: 6-9

While the rest of the family proclaims excitement at their imminent move (“They have escalators to ride!” says one of her five brothers), Amada confides her fears to her journal: “Am I the only one who is scared of leaving our home, our beautiful country, and all the people we might never see again?” Amada Irma Pérez shares the story of her journey to the U.S. as a young girl and Maya Christina Gonzalez’s fluid illustrations spill color across the page. Bilingual text.

– Review edited from Publisher’s Weekly

 

The Upside Down Boy

By Juan Felipe Herrera, illustrated by Elizabeth Gomez

Age Level: 7-8

“The Upside Down Boy” is the sequel to “Calling the Doves” and award-winning poet Juan Felipe Herrera’s engaging memoir of the year his migrant family settled down so that he could go to school for the first time. The new school bewilders Juanito, and he misses the warmth of country life. Everything he does feels upside down… But a sensitive teacher and loving family help him to find his voice and make a place for himself in this new world through poetry, art, and music.

– Review edited from barnesandnoble.com

 

Jalapeño Bagels

By Natasha Wing, illustrated by Robert Casilla

Age Level: 5-8

When Pablo must bring something to share for his school’s International Day, he considers several items from his family’s bakery. But his mother’s Mexican pan dulce, empanadas, and chango bars don’t do the trick. His father’s bagels and challah bread are appealing, but not quite right either. Then the boy helps to make the family specialty, Jalapeño Bagels, joint creation from the cultures of both parents, and decides that it is the perfect contribution: “…a mixture of both of you. Just like me.”

— Review edited from School Library Journal

 

For 9-12-Year Olds

Portraits of Hispanic American Heroes

By Juan Felipe Herrera, illustrated by Raúl Colón

Age Level: 9-12

This visually stunning book showcases twenty Hispanic and Latino American men and women who have made outstanding contributions to the arts, politics, science, humanitarianism, and athletics. Gorgeous portraits by Raúl Colón complement sparkling biographies of Cesar Chavez, Sonia Sotomayor, Ellen Ochoa, Roberto Clemente, and many more. Complete with timelines and famous quotes, this tome is a magnificent homage to those who have shaped our nation.

– Review edited from School Library Journal

Yes! We are Latinos

By Alma Flor Ada and F. Isabel Campoy, illustrated by David Diaz

Age Level: 9-12

Juanita lives in New York and is Mexican. Felipe lives in Chicago and is Panamanian, Venezuelan, and black. Michiko lives in Los Angeles and is Peruvian and Japanese. Each of them is also Latino. Thirteen young Latinos and Latinas living in America are introduced in this book celebrating the rich diversity of the Latino experience in the United States through free-verse fictional narratives.

– Review edited from Kirkus Review

Step Up to the Plate, Maria Singh

By Uma Krishnaswami

Age Level: 9-12

Nine-year-old Maria Singh longs to play softball in the first-ever girls’ team forming in Yuba City, California. It’s the spring of 1945, and World War II is dragging on. Miss Newman, Maria’s teacher, is inspired by Babe Ruth and the All-American Girls’ League to start a girls’ softball team at their school. Meanwhile, Maria’s parents – Papi from India and Mama from Mexico – can no longer protect their children from prejudice and from the discriminatory laws of the land.

– Review edited from goodreads.com

 

Check out these web sites for bilingual books, music, and apps:

https://canticosworld.com/

https://www.lecturabooks.com/

The Importance of Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month

By ARTICLES

By Mariana Diaz-Wionczek, Ph.D

Hispanic Heritage Month is here! The occasion gives us a whole month to celebrate our roots and instill cultural pride in our kids. Did you know that feeling proud of their heritage gives children higher self-esteem, which in turn, impacts other important aspects of their lives, including academic performance, an improved professional path, and increased overall happiness? Well, it does! Also, children who learn about their ethnic and racial background are more respectful of others and open to differences.

What is Hispanic Heritage Month?

Starting on September 15, the celebration runs for a full month, ending on October 15.  The month-long celebration invites us to honor the native heritage and contributing culture of Latino Hispanics in the United States. It is also an opportunity to recognize the contributions of Latino Hispanic individuals, many of whom have played an important role in the growth, vitality, and culture of our country.

Did you know…

  • President Lyndon Johnson first approved the celebration in 1968, and it was only one week long. It was expanded to a full month in 1988 by President Ronald Reagan.
  • September 15 was chosen as the opening date because of its significance for multiple Latin American nations.
    • It is the anniversary of independence of Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua, which all declared independence in 1821. 
    • Additionally, Mexico, Chile and Belize celebrate their independence days on September 16, September 18, and September 21, respectively.
    • Columbus Day or El Día de la Raza, which is October 12, falls within this 30 day period.

Ethnic pride starts with the family, so make sure you share stories and traditions with your kids!

Goldilocks Does Math: Using Storybooks to Teach Everyday Math

By ARTICLES
Herbert P. Ginsburg, Ph.D.
Is the Jacob H. Schiff Professor Emeritus of Psychology and Education at Teachers College, Columbia University.He has conducted basic research on the development of mathematical thinking, with particular attention toyoung children, disadvantaged populations, and cultural similarities and differences.He has drawn on cognitive developmental psychology to develop a variety of materials for young children, including a mathematics curriculum (Big Math for Little Kids), storybooks, both traditional and digital, tests of mathematical thinking, computer based assessment systems, and math software. With DREME colleagues, he is currently creating materials, video-based and other, to help teachers, parents, and students in higher education to gain insight into children’s mathematical thinking and how knowledge of it can serve as the foundation for early mathematics education. He holds a B.A. from Harvard University and his M.S. and Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina,Chapel Hill.

Most parents and young children (from roughly 2 years of age) love the experience of reading a storybook together.  Watch how Rita Sanchez reads Goldilocks and the Three Bears with Sophia.  They are at the point where Goldilocks discovers some chairs in the bears’ house.

Sophia was totally captivated by the story, as was Rita, a lively reader.But did you notice that Rita and Sophia were doing “informal math”?Sophia began by counting the chairs.Then Rita asked her to point to the relative sizes of the chairs—the smallest, and then the biggest, and finally the medium sized.Sophia identified them all, without difficulty. 

That’s the end of the video, but Goldilocks contains even more everyday math.The bears are small, medium and large in size, and so are their bowls of porridge and beds.Also, each bear gets a chair, bowl and bed corresponding to its size: small for Baby, medium for Mama, and large for Papa. 

All this is everyday math: 

  • First, counting is a common activity among preschoolers.Young children love to count and do it as they go up the stairs or play with their toys. 
  • Second, figuring out the relative sizes (small, medium, and large) of chairs, bowls and beds is also math, the math of measurement.Little children are fascinated by size differences.They often line up objects in order of size.They usually want to get the biggest, not the smallest, and frequently compare the size of their dessert with their sibling’s.This can lead to some arguments!
  • The third math concept is more complex.The bigger the bear, the bigger the chair, bowl, and bed.We see this kind of pattern everywhere: the farther the trip, the longer it will usually take; the more you eat, the more stuffed you feel.This matching of sizes is a simple type of “algebra.”

So one way to foster your child’s math learning is to read picture books together.Read counting books and shape books.But also read storybooks that touch on other aspects of math.For example, Albert Is Not Scared (part of a series) is about how Albert the mouse learns not to be scared to go on amusement park rides that go up and down or left and right.The topic is spatial relations—a part of geometry.

Non-math picture books, like Hop on Pop by Dr. Seuss (usually considered to be a book that teaches reading), may also contain everyday math.Whatever books you choose to read, try to identify the everyday math and talk with your child about it (“What happened when Pat sat down?He sat on the hat!”). You’ll have fun and you will help your preschooler learn to love both math and reading and also be prepared for kindergarten.

Some books for you

A great list of prize-winning math picture books can be found at http://www.mathicalbooks.org/

You can get a summer reading list at

https://dreme.stanford.edu/news/children-s-books-foster-love-math

Also, Some recommended HITN English/Spanish bilingual math books are as follows:

“The Disappearing Picnic,” English by Judith Stamper, Español por Patricia Abello, and illustrated by Rafael Mendoza. HITN, Inc. 2018.

“What a Mess!,” English by Mary Lindeen and Judy Schmauss, Español por Patricia Abello, and illustrated by Rafael Mendoza. HITN, Inc. 2018

The Rainy Day,” English by Lynelle Morgenthaler, Español por Patricia Abello, and illustrated by Rafael Mendoza. HITN, Inc., 2018.

References

Albert Is Not Scared, by Eleanor May and illustrated by Deborah Melmon.Kane Press, 2013. (This is one in a series.)

Hop on Pop, by Dr. Seuss.  Random House, 1963.

Communicating with Your Child’s Preschool Teacher

By ARTICLES

By Karen Nemeth, EdM

When my daughter was very young, her pet bird died in the morning just before I rushed out to bring her to school. Later that day she told me she did not have a good day at school. Then she handed me a note from her teachers. This kind note informed me that my daughter had been in trouble several times that day, acting out or not paying attention. The teacher wrote: “Finally, at the end of the day, when I spoke to your child about her behavior, she told me that her parakeet had passed away. Now I understand why her behavior was so different today. Please let me know whenever something important happens in your child’s life. I can’t help if I don’t know.” That’s when I first learned the real importance of communicating with the teacher.

Teachers understand the value of building relationships with families. Families know things that will help support their child during school. Teachers know things that can help families, too. When you work in partnership with your child’s teacher, you bring together the best of both worlds. This is even more important for young children because they may not be ready yet to fully communicate about their own experiences. The more you work together, the easier it will be to communicate with each other, even if you don’t speak the same language.

If there are language differences, you can ask the school to provide an in-person interpreter or a phone interpretation service. School personnel are usually aware that it is not a good idea to use students to help with interpreting in such conversations. This puts too much pressure on them as they do not have the experience or technical knowledge to translate difficult topics.

Here are some ways to communicate with your child’s preschool teachers:

  • Share information to help your child feel comfortable and secure
    • Let the teacher know if your child isn’t feeling well or if they didn’t get enough sleep. Preschool classrooms often have cozy corners where children can get a little quiet time if needed.
    • Tell the teacher if your child had a sad or upsetting morning before school so they can be prepared to comfort your child and help them transition to a good day at school
    • Share the excitement if something nice happened with your child so the teacher can share in celebrating a happy time.
    • Always tell the teacher when your child learns something new or shows a new skill. Learning at home is just as important as learning at school and the teacher will be happy to support your child’s progress.
    • If you and the teacher speak different languages, you might use email or text messages so each of you can use translation apps. It can also be helpful to include pictures.
  • Read the information the teacher sends home to you
    • Schools may give you information on paper, in email, or by text messages. You can tell the school which way you prefer to receive information and be sure to tell them what language you need.
    • You may not need all of the information that comes home from your child’s school, but you should pay attention in case there is something that has a deadline or needs a response. You can be sure these requests are meant to help your child have a wonderful preschool experience.
  • Practice learning with your child at home
    • Research shows that young children really benefit when they experience the same learning activities at home and at school.
  • Be honest with the teacher if you or your child is experiencing any stress or difficulty
    • Your child’s teacher cares about your whole family. They will want to know if they can offer any support or comfort that will help your child continue to enjoy school.
    • Most preschools have contacts with a variety of services and support systems and they may be able to assist you in finding the help you need.
  • Be ready to listen
    • If a child is having difficulty in school due to learning or behavior issues, the teacher will want to consult with you. With young children, it is so important to understand any problems as early as possible so help can be given. It might be difficult, at first, to learn that your child is having trouble. The best way to make things better is to work cooperatively with the teacher.
    • Preschool teachers work very hard, just like the rest of us do. School rules are designed to keep an orderly format to the day and to protect teachers from burnout. If there are school rules that are hard for you to follow, have a conversation with the teacher to work things out so both sides can work together for the good of the child
  •  Share your talents
    • It means so much to a child when their family members visit and participate in their preschool program. If you are able to visit during the day, ask the teacher about volunteer opportunities. You might read stories in any of the languages you speak, or help with the school garden, lead the children in songs or dances, or participate in school trips.
    • If you are not able to visit the school during the day, there are other ways that you can be a valuable helper. Ask the teacher if they need help cleaning or fixing toys and books. You might have traditional stories and songs that your child would love to see at school in English or other languages used by your family. You might make a video or voice recording of the song or story to send to the class.
    • Family members who are far away sometimes visit classrooms via video chat programs to share stories or sing songs together.

When parents and teachers work together, they pave the way for happy preschool years and success throughout the school years.

You can read more about this topic in “Families and Educators Together: Building Great Relationships that Support Young Children” by Derry Koralek, Karen Nemeth, and Kelly Ramsey from NAEYC (2019).

https://www.naeyc.org/resources/pubs/books/families-educators-together

By Karen Nemeth, Ed.M.

Encouraging Conversations with Your Primary-Grade Child (K-2)

By ARTICLES

By Karen Nemeth, EdM

Every young child’s day is filled with learning at school and in their neighborhood. Research shows that conversations you have with your child help them remember and use what they learned in school. These conversations are helpful whether you speak English or any other language.

A child with a strong foundation in their family language is likely to be successful at learning English as they grow. That’s because conversations in the home language are filled with details and explanations families use when they talk together. Here are some great ideas to help your child talk with you about what they are learning in school so you can continue the learning as you experience your neighborhood together.

First, find out about what your child learned in school today:

  • Ask your child a specific question such as “What song did you sing in school?” or “What did you draw or color or make in school today?” or “What was the best story your teacher read to you today?”or “What did you do with numbers today?”
  • Participate in the school’s text messaging or email service. These are usually available in many languages. Teachers often send messages about what children learned in school that day.
  • Read the school newsletters and notices. Ask for translated materials if you need them so you can read all about what’s happening in your child’s day.

Then, find examples of that school learning in your neighborhood and encourage your child to talk and learn more about those new ideas:

  •  Talk about the stories your child enjoyed at school, then visit the library to find the same stories to read together at home – or stories that have the same kinds of characters.
  • Ask your child to teach you the songs they sing at school. Search for them on your smartphone so you can discuss what the song is about.
  • If your child practiced writing words or letters at school, make a game of trying to find those words or letters in the neighborhood.
  • If your child made some kind of art or craft at school, talk about the colors they used and find those colors in your neighborhood. Try making some art at home with crayons, paints, or markers.
  • If your child is learning about adding numbers together, let them help you count up the items you need when you stop at a store. For example, you might say you have two eggs at home but you need five eggs to make flan. Two plus what equals five? If you want to buy an apple for every member of your family, how many apples will you need?

With so many interesting things happening in the neighborhood, there will always be something to talk about and to learn about together! When you help your child practice what they learn outside of school, you are strengthening their understanding and getting them ready for the next step. If you speak English at home, use English together. If you use another language, have great conversations in your home language.

You don’t have to be a teacher to support your child’s education. You just have to be interested in having conversations about everyday things!

Bilingual Parenting

By ARTICLES

By Mariana Diaz-Wionczek, PhD.

Bilingualism is a beautiful thing!  Being able to speak two languages builds many bridges and widens our view of the world… and it all starts at home, with you speaking to your children in your native tongue. The most important thing is to expose children to Spanish as much as possible in a way that is organic to their day. The more they are exposed to it, the more they will learn it – so talk to them, sing to them, read to them, play games with them, watch TV and movies with them… in Spanish! The knowledge base they acquire at home will develop into more formal skills later on.

Here are some tips for raising bilingual children:

  • The earlier you start speaking to your child in your native language, the better… but it’s never too late to start!
  • A child who is learning two languages will have a smaller vocabulary in each language at first than a child who is learning only one.
  • Bilingual kids may mix the two languages because they’re learning them at the same time, not because they are confused. As adults, being able to go back and forth between languages is actually a skill, and a natural way of talking.
  • Introducing your child to literacy in Spanish will strengthen his or her skills later on. Besides talking to them, try teaching them how to read and write in Spanish.
  • Even if you don’t speak Spanish perfectly, there’s a lot your child can learn from you. Don’t be afraid to practice with her!
  • Correcting your child will improve her skills, but don’t overdo it. It is more important to praise her for her efforts in both languages, which will raise her confidence.
  • Media and technology are your allies, but don’t think that they alone will teach your child another language. Share screen time with your child and talk about what you’re watching, doing, and playing.
  • And, connect with your family back home; they will love being in touch with your kids and your kids will love it right back.
  • The more exposure your children have to Spanish, the more they will learn and feel comfortable speaking it. Make sure they spend time with extended family and friends who also speak Spanish, so they appreciate the value the language has for your community.
  • Consider registering your child in a dual-language program, where children receive instruction in English and Spanish. (https://duallanguageschools.org/)

Here are just a few of the advantages to being bilingual:

  • Being bilingual actually makes you smarter and improves many cognitive abilities, especially the brain’s executive function: a system that directs the attention we need for planning, solving problems, and performing demanding mental tasks.
  • Having the ability to switch between English and Spanish makes your children more aware of what’s going on around them, as they have to figure out what language to speak in any given situation.
  • And being bilingual in this world may just help your children find a better job when they grow up!

Activities

By ARTICLES

Click on the images to download the instructions.

MEXICAN PAPEL PICADO

FRIDA KAHLO SELF PORTRAIT

TISSUE PAPER FLOWERS

Cinco de Mayo

By ARTICLES

The “Batalla de Puebla,” or Battle of Puebla, took place on May 5, 1862 between French troops and the Mexican Army. The victory against the French was cause for celebration because their army was the strongest in the world, yet Mexican troops managed to defeat them!

In Mexico, the holiday is celebrated mainly in the state of Puebla. In the United States, the occasion has become the very popular Cinco de Mayo holiday, a celebration of Mexican culture and heritage.

What do you do with your children to celebrate Cinco de Mayo?

For great family fun, how about making one of our crafts with your kids?

MEXICAN PAPEL PICADO

FRIDA KAHLO SELF PORTRAIT

TISSUE PAPER FLOWERS