Nearly every store is decked out in pink and red and hearts: yes, Valentine’s Day is tomorrow. And, if you are like me, you drawn to the bags of conversation hearts. Why? I’m not really sure. Is it the allure of the cute messages on them? Or maybe the fact that we can only buy them for approximately 6 weeks every year? Perhaps it’s the chalky residue they leave on our fingers? No? Yes?
Whatever the reason, I know I’m not the only one who buys them year after year (they keep reappearing, right?). So, here’s an effort to make them useful. . . I present to you
Teaching Your Child With Conversation Hearts!
(because we all need a reason to indulge once in a while, right?)
Yes, dear parents, it CAN be done! Here are some suggestions for your:
Conversation Hearts and Math
Go ahead, stick your hand into that bag of yummy conversation hearts and pull them out! Then, show your child how to separate them based on their color: put all the green ones together, all the pink ones together, all the white ones together…etc. Tell your child that “You are sorting the hearts by putting all of the same colors together.” Recognizing this first similar trait is the basis of more complex mathematical concepts.
Yay! Conversation hearts come in a fixed number of colors! Let’s capitalize on this and use them to teach patterns.
Start simple: use two colors, any colors—better yet, let your child choose the colors available to use: pink and yellow; green and white; colors don’t matter—enthusiasm does!
Set the pattern up
For the youngest (3-year olds and those not previously exposed to the concept of patterns): start simple! An easy ABAB pattern is the basic to learn, and can offer the most enthusiasm for understanding!
(ABAB=color one, color two, color one, color two, repeat) green, yellow, green, yellow…
For the older child who understands the pattern concept, consider these harder patterns:
ABBABBA: blue, orange, orange, blue, orange, orange, blue…
ABCABCA: yellow, blue, green, yellow, blue, green, yellow…
You will know when your child has mastered one skill and is ready to move on to the next—the key is changing up the colors but remaining with the same pattern. Try it: you will be amazed at how quickly your preschooler (ages 3-5) will catch on! Children at this age are tiny sponges—eager and ready to learn through “play!”
More or less than?
Learning the difference between quantities in groups (such as more than or less than) is a more sophisticated concept for young children. Once your child has mastered the concept of rote counting (verbally counting each object one at a time), line the hearts up in two lines—one with more than the other. Help your child count the hearts in each line.
Compare the number in each, and use the appropriate words: “This line has 6 hearts. This line has 3 hearts. This line with 6 hearts has more than this line with 3 hearts.”
**Setting the lines of hearts up one by one beside each other will help your child to visually understand this concept, and will enforce the words “more” and “less.”**
Any time you give your child “two” of something and “one” of another is a great opportunity to reinforce “more than/less than” with your child. For example, you might give your son two pretzels and one block of cheese: separate them and count them in front of him: Tell him “two is more than one.” Starting this regularly at an early age exposes your child to basic math concepts, and can easily set a great foundation to more complex mathematical concepts.
Conversation Hearts and Literacy
T-Charts can best be explained as a very simple “Yes or No Chart:” the item either “has” or “doesn’t have” what you are looking for.
Pick a letter, any letter—if you want it to be relevant to your child’s name as you seek to teach it to him/her, pick a letter that is in his/her name.
Make a “Yes/No Chart” to distinguish between two letter concepts. (The first few times you do this, a “Happy face” beside Yes and the letter chosen, and a “Sad face” beside No can help your child remember which word).
Then, place a letter at the top:
- Pick up a conversation heart. Point to the letter at the top of the chart. Look at the conversation heart.
- Determine this: Is the letter at the top of the chart on that heart? If yes, place it under Yes. If no, place it under No.
- Repeat for as many hearts as you want to use.
Other variations (for older preschoolers who are familiar with identifying the letters of the alphabet–i.e. they can name and identify letters):
1. Write his/her name on paper and place it at the top of the chart. Pick up a heart. Determine whether ANY of the letters on each heart is in the name. Place under Yes or NO, as needed.
2. Ask your child to tell you something he/she “loves,” and write it on paper and place it at the top of the chart. Pick up a heart. Determine whether ANY of the letters on each heart is in the name. Place under Yes or NO, as needed.
See, you can teach with conversation hearts!
So, on this wintery day or weekend, snuggle up to your little ones, play and learn! (Okay, and eat a few sweets too!) Have fun!
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