“The Zoo is Fun!”

Logo used until 2011
Logo used until 2011 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What a fantastic day at the zoo!  I packed up the kids, the wagon, a picnic lunch, and headed out for Woodland Park Zoo.  Before we even got past the first exhibit, Parker exclaimed, “The zoo is fun!”  Most of the animals were out in view, which allowed for many questions about why the animals look a certain way or do what they do.  We were able to observe feeding time for several animals, as well.  It was fun to talk with Parker about the animals and their habitats and to answer the several hundred questions he asked.  I loved watching Brandon’s reaction to the different animals, too.  He seemed indifferent to many, but smiled at the meerkat exhibit, squealed when he saw the elephants, and roared at the lions.

I felt this was such a valuable experience for both of my boys.  Parker is at a point in his development where he is able to ask specific questions regarding the animals’ food, actions, and habitats.  He’s very curious and this was an opportunity for me to turn our day trip into a daylong science lesson. Brandon, on the other hand, is learning to identify animals and what sounds they make.  He was able to see, firsthand, the animals that we see pictures of and talk about at home.  I believe it made a difference seeing the animals in person and helped him improve his vocabulary and language. By going to the zoo, my boys can learn about the world around them. We’ll definitely return in the coming months.

For the Love of Reading

It’s exciting to witness Parker’s reading development!  He’s not quite three years old and reading!  He calls out words like bank, zoo, east, and west while in the car.  He reads sections of his books to us and his younger brother.  He identifies words in the books that my husband and I read.  Although he surprises us every day with what he can read, I think we gave him, and continue to give him, an environment that has facilitated his skill development.

The U.S. Department of Education lists various activities to do with your children to encourage literacy development and I was pleased to see that we already do quite a bit of what they suggest. We have read to Parker from day one and surround him with a literate rich environment.  Children’s books, adult fiction and nonfiction, magazines, letter magnets, and foam letters in the bath fill our home.  We point out and talk about signs in the community.  Parker loves to be read to from both his books and ours.  Frequently, he asks us to read out loud from the books we are reading.  We read to him while he’s in the bath. In fact, he’s chosen to listen to the first two Harry Potter books and

The Chronicles of Narnia
The Chronicles of Narnia (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

the Narnia series.  Looking through magazines with Parker from an early age has been fun because we use them for vocabulary building.  We’d either point to a picture or ask him to name it, or we’d ask him to point to a particular picture.  It was so fun and rewarding to see that adorable smile on his face when he knew he was correct. Parker loves to sing the Alphabet Song and we play with how fast or slow we sing it.  He thinks it so funny to hear Mommy sing the ABC’s as fast as she can.  One game he likes to play is where one of us chooses a letter and then we take turns naming words that start with that letter.  The list goes on and on.

The idea is to continuously play with words and sounds and encourage our children to play along.  Show them how important reading is.  Not just from books, but in all elements of our lives.  Help instill the love of reading and get them hooked at an early age, and there’s no telling where their skills will lead them.

Beginning to Write

Writing (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As a middle school teacher, I still see kids with immature pencil grips. I wonder how they got to this point in their school career with this grip and the messy handwriting that seems to go along with it. I then wonder how I can teach my sons how to write while holding their pencil correctly and without stress and frustration. In my quest for answers, I found a useful book called The Write Start: A Guide to Nurturing Writing at Every Stage, from Scribbling to Forming Letters and Writing Stories by Jennifer Hallissy. The author is an occupational therapist who offers thorough explanations of the stages of writing and activities to promote the use of a correct grip. She even provides step-by-step directions of a correct grip.  I can now encourage my preschooler to move his little fingers a certain way, much to his chagrin.   I’ve also tried some of these activities with him and have seen a difference in his ability to complete the task without the frustration that he sometimes feels.  He doesn’t even know that playing with Play-Doh, finger painting, and using sidewalk chalk are getting his hands ready for handwriting.   It’s been exciting to watch his writing develop from nondescript scribbles to defined circles and lines.

Talk, Talk, Talk

Talk, talk, talk.  Sometimes I feel as though I’m talking to myself.  I remind myself that talking to my young children really is to their benefit, even though Brandon (age 13 months) may not respond much with his own words.  My husband and I use everyday language and vocabulary without watering it down, and we expose them to different perspectives and ideas.  It’s important to let the kids hear my husband and I have conversations, too, to learn the social aspect of conversation.  Betty Hart and Todd Risley conducted a longitudinal study looking at how much kids were talked to in the very early years and their vocabulary development and future academic success.  The results were impressive.  From their website, http://www.lenababy.com/Study.aspx:

“With few exceptions, the more parents talked to their children, the faster the children’s vocabularies were growing and the higher the children’s IQ test scores at age three and later.”

“The data revealed that the most important aspect of children’s language experience is its amount.”

“Differences in the amount of cumulative experience children had … were strongly linked to differences at age three in children’s rates of vocabulary growth, vocabulary use, and general accomplishments and strongly linked to differences in school performance at age nine.”

The gist is this, as Peg Tyre wrote in The Good School: How Smart Parents Get Their Kids the Education They Deserve, “The more children are spoken to, the more they themselves speak.  And the more they speak, the greater their vocabularies.  The greater their vocabularies, the better their reading fluency and reading comprehension is likely to be.”  I see this abundance of vocabulary and impressive reading skill in my almost three year old, Parker.  He speaks in complex sentences, uses advanced vocabulary, and shares amazing, imaginative ideas.  I attribute this to the constant conversation he has with the people around him and being read to from not only the children’s books that he enjoys, but also from our higher level texts that we read aloud.

So talk to your children.  Talk a lot. Talk out loud while you’re at the grocery store, post office, or in the car.  Point out what you see and describe it.  Ask your children questions.  Help them develop answers, if necessary.  Engage your children in conversation on a regular basis.  Your child’s increased intelligence and later success may depend on it.

The Fascinating World of Mammals and Insects Wins Dr. Toy’s Best Vacation Product Award

It is nice to see our work has been selected by a toy expert known for choosing products focused on child development and learning. BrainFood Learning has been recognized for its work on the first two videos released in the “Fascinating World of..” series. Dr. Toy Best Vacation Product

The Fascinating World of Mammals and The Fascinating World of Insects have been awared Dr. Toy’s Best Vacation Products Award.

Dr. Toy’s Best Vacation Children’s Products Awards were developed by noted child development authority, Stevanne Auerbach, Ph.D. (a.k.a. Dr. Toy), as a valued service to consumers who desire to purchase safe, affordable, educationally-oriented, and stimulating toys and play products for children for vacation time at home or on the road. “As a childhood specialist for more than 40 years,” says Dr. Toy, “I have seen the continuous, essential need for more year-round resources for consumers to identify and choose the most appropriate products for all children.”

Products are carefully selected from among many hundreds Dr. Auerbach reviews at toy fairs, catalogs and through many sources, and by using extensive criteria developed over many years (including safety, age-appropriateness, design, durability, play value, cultural and ethnic diversity, transition from home to school, educational value, learning skills, creativity, understanding community and world, good value for price, and, naturally, fun).

Dr. Toy reports that in the years the innovative on-line magazine, Dr. Toy’s Guide, has been available, “thousands of visitors daily from around the world have accessed its information.” It was the first web site to evaluate toys and children’s products and now the site is newly updated. The report is being released, according to Dr. Toy, to “encourage parents and teachers to focus on the value of play during the summer as essential to the overall learning process.”

About the Fascinating World of Insect:

The Fascinating World of Insects advances a child’s education by showing amazing video footage along with narration describing insect features and abilities. This format is designed to expand a child’s vocabulary as the video content grabs the viewer’s attention and the vocabulary is absorbed and is appropriate for kids of all ages. Each insect is clearly identified and shown in their natural habitat keeping children engaged. More advanced children will enjoy learning larger concepts such as metamorphosis.

The video is the perfect companion for trips to the zoo, park or even the backyard and is perfect for home and school and answers some of these questions: How do bees make honey? How is the light from a firefly different from that of a lightbulb? How does a caterpillar become a butterfly? Insects featured in this animal video include grasshopper, ladybug, rhino beetle, firefly, mosquito, honey bee, water strider, ant, praying mantis, dragonfly, and butterfly. A multi-section review reinforces information presented earlier. The beginner level reviews show insect flash cards and parts of an insect. The more advanced levels quiz children on insect facts and broader scientific terms related to insects.

About the Fascinating World of Mammals:

This new and innovative video series builds confidence in science through fun and interesting content with amazing content along with narration describing mammal features and abilities. This format is designed for all ages as it helps to expand a child’s vocabulary as the video content grabs viewers Each mammal is clearly identified and shown in their natural habitat and as child grows will learn larger concepts such as echolocation and many interesting facts about mammals from Africa, Asia and Alaska.

This is a useful guide in preparation for a trip to the zoo or wildlife park.   The vidoe helps to answer questions like: How does a beaver build a dam? Which mammal wears velvet? Which animal is the only flying mammal? Mammals include beaver, kangaroo, moose, dolphin, lion, giraffe, elephant, bat, chimpanzee, and bear and is ideal for home and school. The beginner level reviews show mammal flash cards and what features are common among all mammals. The more advanced levels quiz children on mammal facts and broader scientific terms related to mammals.

A Child’s Review of the Fascinating World of Insects

At BrainFood Learning we always look forward to feedback about our animal videos. The feedback usually comes from parents or grandparents of young children after watching our animal DVDs.  However, we received a nice letter from an eleven year old after she and her siblings watched the Fascinating World of Insects DVD. This type of review affirms our belief that our animal videos appeal to kids across a broad age range. We are excited to see that this age range extends from 2 up to 11 years of age. The review is below.

The Fascinating World of Insects: I loved everything about this film! The voiceover was great, both voices were really friendly. I thought the big words were really cool, I learned a lot of new words today! I loved the pictures, they were really big and colorful and you could really see what the insects look like up close. The video clips were so amazing; I really enjoyed watching all the insects up close. I learned a lot with this video, I think it’s really educational. Teachers should definitely use this video in the classroom. The quiz at the end was a really good idea. When kids watch this, they will be able to refresh their memory of all the new things they learned! My favorite part was the music! The music was so cute and happy it was really cute; Kids are going to love this video!


Peyton (Age 11)