Tag Archives: education

Preparing to Go Back to School

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By: The Kumon Team

August is a good month to prepare for the new school year while still savoring the joys of summer. If you’re like most parents, juggling fun and learning isn’t always easy. Summer vacation is meant to give children a break from their long days of school, but it doesn’t mean students should stop learning completely. Children who continue learning over the summer have a much easier time adjusting to the full-time school schedule in September.

While summer fun is at an all-time high, use the month of August to get them back into a routine that is more closely aligned with the fall schedule. You can set a specific time for reading a book each day and make it fun by establishing “together time.” For instance, you can ask your child to read a book that matches a summer activity you shared, such as going to the beach, riding horses, or camping. Enhance these special learning moments by taking the reading session outdoors on a picnic or under a tree. To show interest in what your child is reading, and to learn more about his or her interests and reading style, try to schedule the reading time before dinner so that conversation at mealtime is filled with questions about the story.

As the school year comes into focus, your child may have some concerns and hesitation. From new teachers to new friends, new schools to new schedules, the anticipation of school starting up again can cloud the excitement of the awaiting opportunities. You can help your child adjust to back to school by listening and forming a strong connection with your child. Doing this reinforces the idea that your child isn’t going through this alone and that the people closest to him or her understand the mixed emotions that come with new beginnings. August is the perfect time to turn back-to-school blues into back-to-school bliss.

Interested in Kumon’s programs? Check out all available NYC programs and locations here!

An Educational (and Delicious) Family Outing: The Farmers Market!

October is a wonderful month to visit the farmers market. Just when you think things are slowing down and harvests are coming to an end, Mother Nature starts showing off. With an array of apples, winter squashes, and pumpkins, it’s an excellent weekend activity with the family. Here are a few ways to make the farmers market both fun and educational for the entire family.

Photo: Jane Feldman

Photo: Jane Feldman

Sample and taste. The farmers market is a great place for kids to familiarize themselves with different kinds of fruits and vegetables—and even sample them! Most farmers are willing to share a taste if you ask. Encourage kids to pick things up and see how they feel. The farmers market is much more relaxed than the grocery store and touching the produce is not frowned upon. Vegetables become more interesting when you can pick them up and hold them. Is it heavy? Is the surface rough or smooth? Can you eat the whole thing or do you have to peel it? The learning opportunities are endless!

Variety is the spice of life. Use the farmers market to your advantage by getting one of everything! Can’t decide what kind of apples to buy? Get four or five different kinds and then have a taste testing party later on. Explore the difference between sweet and tart. Which one is the juiciest? Make up a ballot and have your kids vote for their favorite in each category. This can be done with a variety of items such as pears, peaches, potatoes, onions, mushrooms, and peppers. When kids get to choose which one they like best, the yellow peach or the white peach for instance, it’s easier to get them to try new foods.

Try something new. Pick a new fruit or vegetable to try. Ask the farmer what it tastes like. How does it grow? Does it come from a tree or a plant, or the ground? How is it prepared? What other fruits or veggies go well with it? The farmer may even have recipe recommendations. Make it a game, an adventure, or an exploration! Only get one or just enough so that the whole family can have a sample. Then, back in the kitchen, you can cut and prepare it together. Kids are much more willing to try new things if they have helped to pick it out and prepare it. Discovering new food is fun!

Play with your food.  The farmers market is the perfect place to teach kids how produce is sold and practice math skills too. Give each child an age appropriate amount, for example $2 for little ones for one or two pieces of fruit and perhaps $5 to $10 for older kids to get enough for the whole family. Let them read signs and figure out how much each item costs. Have them watch as the item is weighed and help them figure out if they can get more or need to put some back. These real life skills will take them far and help them understand the cost of food.

Everyone’s doing it.  On Friday, October 24, you can help set a world record at The Big Apple Crunch, a citywide event promoting healthier eating. The main event takes place at noon at the Union Square Farmer’s Market, but you can participate at any of GrowNYC’s Greenmarkets or Youthmarkets, or even host your own event! Find out more at bigapplecrunch.org.

Bonus Tip! Go as early as possible. There will be less crowds and the farmers are fresh and ready to talk. Plus, even though there’s lots of food, going to the market at lunch time is not the best idea. The crowds are more dense and everyone is way too hungry before lunch to make it fun. By going early in the morning, everyone has just had breakfast, so you can nibble and enjoy samples, but not feel too rushed.

4 Must-Have Educational Apps for Kids!

(Some rights reserved, Brad Flickinger via Fickr Creative Commons)

(Some rights reserved, Brad Flickinger via Flickr Creative Commons)

Most parents today didn’t grow up with smartphones—but their kids are growing up in a world that nearly revolves around technology. Some people have spoken out against this dependence on phones, tablets, and computers, but there are many others who tout technology as a lifesaver—especially when it comes to kids. If you’ve ever taken a three-hour car ride with a toddler, you know exactly what we mean! It seems that we’re cultivating Generation Z—a generation so involved with science and technology that they’re already developing revolutionary anti-flu vaccines at the age of 17!

Of course, a big factor for the successful use of technology with kids is how they use it at a young age. There are an endless number of fun and educational apps that not only let little ones swipe and play, but also teach them shapes, colors, reading, and math. So if your kids can’t get enough of playing on your phone and/or tablet, consider downloading one of these three educational apps for hours of learning and entertainment.

tynker appTynker
When we were growing up, it was unclear as to the direction in which technology would take us, and whether or not investing in a computer-related course would result in a stable career. Today, there’s no doubt as to the importance of computer-related knowledge, and some governments have even begun mandating the teaching of coding to kids 
as early as primary school. If you don’t have time to enroll your child in a computing class, try out Tynker, an app that helps kids learn to code by providing them with a tangible system and a way to enjoy the things they’ve coded in real time.

Reading Ravenreading_raven_app
For younger children who have yet to learn how to read, 
Reading Raven can be a wonderful tool. Not only does this app teach kids how to pronounce and read the alphabet, but it also eases them into learning how to read simple words and phrases with the integration of fun learning activities. The app comes with stellar recommendations from homeschooling blogs, but it can be a great complement for preschool work too. This app provides a great way for parents to sit and work on reading exercises with their kids, and is a fun complement to your regular reading exercises.

Read Me Stories – Children’s Booksread me stories app
Once your kids have a better grasp of language and can read simple stories on their own, it’s important to supply them with fresh reading material. In the past this would have entailed numerous trips to the library or book store, but modern technology allows us to have a nearly limitless supply of books through our tablets and phones. The 
Read Me Stories app is constantly updated with new books you can purchase for $1.99, so your kids will never tire of reading.

iTrace
While kids watch their parents type away daily on their computers and will have no problem picking up this vital skill, it’s still important for them to learn basic handwriting. iTrace helps them do just that—it’s the most comprehensive app for teaching kids handwriting skills, so kids can learn to form letters, practice their names, write out favorite words, and more! More perks of the app? It’s friendly for lefties and you can print paper worksheets right from the iPad app, so kids can practice off-line as well.

Are you a fan of any other educational apps? Are there apps you’ll always rely on for your kids’ education? Let us know on our Facebook page!

Packing (and Picking) Healthy Back to School Snacks

Photo: Jane Feldman

Photo: Jane Feldman

Packing snacks is often a last minute to-do during a hectic morning routine. Most people dash to the pantry, grab something quickly, and throw it in their child’s book bag just before heading out the door. But snack time is an important part of the day that deserves a few more moments of your time. The right snack will do exactly what it’s supposed to do—nourish and satisfy kids and give them the fuel and focus they need to make it until lunch.

Avoid putting your child on an energy roller coaster while at school with processed snacks—full of sugar and refined carbohydrates, which turn immediately to sugar in the body. These snacks may provide a temporary energy boost, but they also cause a major sugar crash, leaving kids lethargic, unfocused, and moody. Fresh fruits and vegetables, on the other hand, maintain blood sugar and provide the necessary energy to ensure kids’ success.

So save the granola bars and crackers for weekends when the mental demands aren’t as high and physical activity is increased. This goes for big kids too (a.k.a. adults!). Instead, here are a few great ideas to add to your basic repertoire of baby carrots and celery sticks. They’re all great to have on hand for after school snacks too!

Fruit Kabobs. Kids love fruit right? Choose a few of their favorites (melon, grapes, strawberries, etc.) and mix in a few veggies to make a kabob! Vegetables such as tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, and peppers are all great options. Especially baby bell peppers—they’re particularly sweet, in season, and at their colorful best in the fall. And a great tip—instead of bamboo skewers, use popsicle sticks to make a safer fruit kabob.

Photo: Jane Feldman

Photo: Jane Feldman

Dipped veggies. Fill a small container (a 2 oz. baby food jar is a good size) with your child’s favorite dip—hummus, guacamole, pesto, salsa, or a creamy dressing. Then, cut veggies into short bite-sized pieces and pack them tightly in the container so that the ends of the veggies are in the dip. This makes the snack easy to eat and also saves you from keeping track of two containers.

Funny fruits. Have a little fun and play with your fruit! Instead of using post-its, write notes or jokes, draw pictures or smiley faces, or just say “I love you, now eat me” on bananas, oranges, nectarines, and clementines. Jokingly draw an arrow pointing to the nub end of a banana and write “Open this end.”  Draw black lines on an orange for your young sports fan with the phrase, “Slam dunk your day.” Anything fun will do!

Cinnamon sticks. Toss thin slices of apple or pear into a plastic baggie or container and sprinkle generously with cinnamon. The extra touch of spice goes a long way! It’s simple and easy and can be prepared and kept in the fridge for a couple of days.

Nature’s candy bar. Open a medjool date—keeping it together on one side like a clam shell—and remove the pit. Fill the date with nut butter (if allowed at school), sunflower seed butter, pumpkin butter, soy butter, or coconut butter (also called coconut manna or coconut creme). Other great filling ingredients include raw almonds or dried coconut. For a special treat, add a few chocolate chips or a square of dark chocolate. Squish together and enjoy.

Don’t forget the water! Give your child a special BPA free water cup or thermos with his or her name on it. Find one with a squiggly straw or a fun shape—there are options with footballs, dinosaurs, cartoon characters, and more! Kids are much more apt to drink water if they have special cups that are fun and personal.

Healthy families snack together. If you want your child to eat more fruits and vegetables, you have to eat more too! When preparing back to school snacks, pack them for the entire family—if your child is getting fruit kabobs, pack them for mom and dad too. When your kids see that you’re excited and looking forward to the snack, they will be too. You can even make a fun game out of it, and have your child pick each day’s family snack. This goes for stay-at-home parents as well—if your snack is made ahead of time, you’re more apt to eat it rather than grabbing a chocolate bar or bag of chips on the go.

Children Approach Museums with Excitement and Know-how!

Claire’s Creative Museum Adventures Brings Children’s Art Education to NYC’s Museums and Galleries!

Are you a NYC family wanting to expose your children to the fascinating world of art around you that they can enjoy?  Do you have friends or family members traveling through NYC seeking a truly memorable cultural experience together?

We all know that New York City is known for its culture and the arts.  It’s world-class museums and galleries provide an extraordinary opportunity to learn!  So how can your child take advantage?

Creating unique professional artist or theme-based visits that are educational AND entertaining is not an easy feat!  First, children tire easily.  Even getting to the artwork can be intimidating in large museums, especially those like the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  And how do you know where to begin?

There are ways to demystify not only the museum, but also the art processes, while making them easy to understand and fun to learn!  Following a few simple rules can help.

For many museums, just getting to certain galleries can be a hike.  First, know where you are going before setting out.  You don’t want your child to see it as a chore if you have to cover too much ground.  Pick a small section each visit to explore more fully.

Next, select just a few pieces that are in close proximity with each other, which provide ample learning opportunities based on one theme. Locating the artists with something in common helps to bring home specific ideas, without wearing out your child.

Many artists may seem too sophisticated to share with kids.  Not so!  Breaking down the art processes of artists and making them easy to understand and fun to learn can be exciting!  Of course ages and special interests are important to consider for each visit; Explaining color theory to a 4 year old by using the Impressionists may be too much, however, Ellsworth Kelly or Roy Lichtenstein is a great start.  Balance and line exploration using Calder’s mobiles, or even metal-working with pieces from David Smith and John Chamberlain, is a pragmatic way to teach.

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Kids don’t want a lecture!  Since there is no teacher like doing, actually making artwork in front of a piece of art is instrumental for kids!  Knowing what materials work best, and which ones are appropriate in a public space, is also not easy.  That’s often where experts come in.  You may not feel comfortable bringing in recycled materials to discover El Anatsui’s magic, however, you can never go wrong with pencils, colored pencils or wire for your first endeavors as a parent.

Be sure to switch it up:  construct, collage or create colors with separate visits.  Since a child’s attention span is short, each project needs to be divided into simplified steps, and include more than one simple hands-on project.

Some great first galleries I would suggest are the modern painters at the Met.  There are beginning discovery lessons in line, shape and color here like no other!  Then those lessons can be applied to more artists, once digested.

Keep it simple and fun.  You want your child to be eager to not only go to see art, but excited by the process…  and if you become a learner with your child along the way, you’ll see them making connections and coming to their own conclusions you would never have thought of!

Don’t miss out on the amazing educational opportunity to discover art with your child by using your city’s resources.  You may also wish to take advantage of an experienced and engaging tour leader to illuminate your experience.

By Claire Munday, Founder of Claire’s Creative Adventures, LLC for kids ages 2-12.  Museum and Art Adventures uses NYC’s modern, contemporary and multicultural art resources to go beyond school curricula to “demystify” artists and their processes. Children (and their accompanying adults) are introduced to modern and contemporary artists as well as diverse cultures, based on current exhibits from the myriad of NYC museums and galleries, providing all of the supplies, education and entertainment while actively engaging the children in the fantastic world of art from museum arrival to departure… Click here to book your next tour or class!

 

 

5 Classical Pieces to Share with Your Kids

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Listening to music with your kids benefits their development and allows you to connect and communicate with them, even before spoken language is learned! As infants and toddlers, it stimulates their brains, soothes nerves, and inspires creativity. When your children get a bit older, music is particularly helpful with verbal expression, emotional expression and auditory development.

Encourage imaginative thinking by creating music-inspired art or making a storyline to follow the music. For example, in our classes, our students listen to live classical music while drawing with crayons in response to what they hear! You can support verbal and emotional expression by giving your kids a music vocabulary. Begin with simple language to describe musical terms: is the music high or low (pitch), slow or fast (tempo), loud or soft (dynamics) happy or sad (emotion)? Graduate to trying to identify particular instruments and composers.

It’s easy to see why early introduction is so important when you look at all the parts of the brain activated when listening to and playing music:

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Remember: you don’t have to be a musician to introduce classical music to your kids confidently. You just have to love the music you are sharing! Here are my picks for five fantastic must-hear pieces of music to share with your family:

click on the links below each song to listen to and learn more!

1. In the Hall of the Mountain King (Edvard Grieg)

Heavily used in film and television, this song from Norwegian composer Grieg’s Peer Gynt is familiar to lots of non-musicians. The accelerating tempo keeps you listening on the edge of your seat in suspense and is perfect for creating music-inspired art or a storyline!
Featured instruments to listen for: Bassoons, Basses, Cellos, Violins, Clarinets, Cymbals
View on YouTube | View on iTunes | About the Composer

2. Arabesque No. 1 (Claude Debussy)

Debussy’s mesmerizing composition is ideal for relaxation, daydreaming, and naptime. To me, the trickling piano notes sound like a waterfall gently flowing into a babbling stream. Ask your kids to describe the types of nature scenes, animals, and people they imagine when hearing the music.
Featured instrument to listen for: Piano
View on YouTube | View on iTunes | About the Composer

3. Flight of the Bumblebee (Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov)

This orchestral interlude from Rimsky-Korsakov’s opera The Tale of Tsar Saltan is very fast and short- most performances last only about a minute and a half! A great way to use this composition is as a “clean-up” timer. See if your kids can clean up before the music ends.
Featured instruments to listen for: Violins, Flute, Clarinet, Horns
View on YouTube | View on iTunes | About the Composer

4. The Habanera (Georges Bizet)

You’ll easily recognize this aria from Bizet’s opera Carmen– it is one of the most popular and most beautiful of all time. In class, we use the setting of the opera (Seville, Spain) as inspiration and snap castanets and dance flamenco-style in response to the music. Teach your kids some basic flamenco moves- hand clapping, foot stomping, wrist twirling – and get dancing!
Featured instruments to listen for: Strings, Flutes, Horns, Bells, Triangle, Cymbal
View on YouTube | View on iTunes | About the Composer

5. Aquarium (Camille Saint-Saens)

The shimmering glissando in this movement from Saint-Saens’ Carnival of the Animals is completely entrancing and calming. It’s one of our favorite classical pieces to play in class! Before listening, ask your kids what they might see in an aquarium. (Fish swimming, sea grass swaying, coral, shiny rocks, bubbles rising, etc.) This is perfect for naptime and creating music-inspired art.
Featured instruments to listen for: Piano, Violins, and Flute
View on YouTube | View on iTunes | About the Composer

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Carina Zimmerman is one of the co-founders of TLB Music, a children’s music studio and indoor playspace located on the Upper East Side. She is also the author of The Bird Feed NYC, TLB’s blog filled with family-friendly music to share, free printables for kids, NYC history, product recommendations, and nostalgic photo collections.

Follow TLB Music on Facebook and Twitter
Follow The Bird Feed NYC on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest

 

“Music & The Brain” source

Keep Your Kids Reading During The Summer!!

Our kids work so hard all year, let’s keep it up over the summer. As an educator, I have been making this statement for years, but now it is my turn to do the work with my son. Here are few questions to ask youself to get ready for the summer!

Is your library organized?
If your children can’t find books they like, they will not read! I organized my son’s books using baskets and put them into categories.  It takes a short amount of time and it is totally worth it!!!!

Library

Do you know what your child’s reading level is?
The best way to find out your child’s reading level is to ask his or her teacher, or have a reading specialist perform an evaluation. Once the reading level is determined, make a basket of books that your child can read to you, or on his or her own! Tip: to find books at his or her level you can use Scholastic book wizard, or a great app called Level it!

Leveled Library

What time will you read with your child or will her or she read independently?
Set a specific time to read everyday!  I usually like to read with my children before bedtime. First, I have my son read me a leveled book and then I let him choose a book that I will read to him.

DAD READING WITH CHILD

Do you know that reading is all around you?
Make sure you use your neighborhood and all around your house to read!!!  Your child can read you signs, labels, lists, game titles. This is a great way to learn sight words and use them in a real life setting!

Sign

Lauren Bernstein is the executive director of Lauren’s Little Learners in Livingston, NJ. She specializes in individualized instruction for students ages 3-10 in in reading and writing.

 

 

3 Fun and Educational Activities You and Your Child Can Do at The Beach

Spending a summer day, or even a whole vacation, lounging on the beach can be a great way to kick back and relax with your family.  However, the beach is also full of opportunities for you and your children to learn about astronomy, geology, and chemistry.  By trying out a few fun science activities, you can keep your children learning, even while they relax and have fun in the sun.

kidsat beach.images

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Choosing Books for Newborns, Infants and Toddlers

Books for Newborn through Toddler Stage
There is so much to keep in mind when choosing a book for a baby from the newborn stage, to infant stage, to toddler: What stage is Baby at in terms of his visual perception? What is he doing motor skills wise? How long is his attention span? As a children’s book editor and writer, I felt pretty well-prepared when it came to finding books for my own baby. But, despite my unique background, I still struggled with finding just the right books. Here are some of my top picks for Baby from newborn to toddler, based on my previous experience in the professional side of children’s book publishing coupled with my “real-world” experience:

Newborn to 6 months:
When my son was just a week old, he was very far from being ready for a chapter from Ulysses, but that didn’t mean he couldn’t appreciate being read to. I knew that newborns love hearing the sound of their mothers’ voices but still, it felt pretty awkward in practice. Over the weeks, I tried to pick books that had the high contrast patterns, bright, primary colors, or black and white images that I knew babies at this stage would prefer. Fun fact: Newborns also like looking at human faces. Here are some of my favorites for the very, very earliest readers:

Books for Newborns to Toddlers

  • Mrs. Mustard’s Baby Faces by Jane Watternburg
  • Baby: Faces! (Baby Chunky Board Books) by DK
  • Black on White by Tana Hoban
  • Guess How Much I Love You? by Sam McBratney and Anita Jeram

Infant: 6 months to a year:
At this time, my son was reaching out to touch things that looked interesting to him, which is why touch-and-feel books were fun to read. He also enjoyed the element of surprise that lift-the-flap books deliver. Still, his attention span was pretty low, so I made sure to choose shorter books with simple text and a good rhythm or rhyme to it. I also liked reading him books that had cute, lovable characters; books that addressed topics that are familiar (such as bed time), or that were fun to read out loud and that sound silly.
Books for Newborns Through Toddlers

  • Where Is Baby’s Belly Button? A Lift-the-Flap Book by Karen Katz
  • Pat the Bunny Touch and Feel by Dorathy Kunhardt
  • Goodnight Moon Board Book by Margaret Wise Brown
  • The Going to Bed Book by Sandra Boynton
  • Moo Baa La La La by Sandra Boynton
  • Click Clack Moo by Doreen Cronin, Betsy Lewin and Randy Travis

One Year Old
By his first birthday, my “little man” was starting to put pictures together with the words that describe them and vice versa, so I read him books that contained images of objects that he encountered every day. Here is where simple, brightly colored books with photographic images came in. He gravitated towards books about farm animals, pets, images of toys (ball, bike, doll), and cars. Sturdy books with tactile elements like sliders or pull tabs were also good for this age as his motor skills became more developed. I learned the hard way to avoid pop up books or thin lift-the-flap books as children at this age (like my boy) tend to wreck them at the first reading. Books that talk about emotions were good for this age as well. And, as my son got a little older, books where he got to come up with the answers himself.

Books for Newborns to Toddlers

  • Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? Slide and Find by Eric Carle
  • Baby Touch and Feel Puppy Love (Priddy Books)
  • Yawn by Sally Simes
  • Llama Llama Mad at Mama by Anna Dewdney
  • Peek a Who? by Nina Laden
  • My Big Animal Book (My Big Board Books) by Roger Priddy

After a Year…
As my son nears his second birthday, his book choices really run the gamut. He still reaches for some of his favorite baby books and really enjoys books with tactile elements (especially ones that he can rip out!). But I try to follow his lead. Since he loves talking about cars and trucks I have bought him books featuring cars and trucks. He also is really into our dog and dogs on the street, so I buy him books about dogs as well. It’s fun to take him to bookstores and to see what catches his eye. Here are our current favorites:

Books for Newborns to Toddlers

  • Who Are We?: An Animal Guessing Game by Alexis Barad-Cutler (me!)
  • Where’s Spot? by Eric Hill
  • I am a Dump Truck by Josephina Hill
  • Lift the Flap Things That Go (Baby Genius)

Good luck building your own library for Baby!
BaradCutler_120915_38-M_f_improf_361x402
Alexis Barad-Cutler is the co-founder of Brunchwithmybaby.com: a site that features kid-friendly places to eat, play and explore in New York City. Alexis is a children’s book editor who has ghostwritten over 30 books for children of all ages. Who Are We?: An Animal Guessing Game (Scholastic), is her latest children’s book. She also writes about motherhood on her blog: iampregrs.tumblr.com.