Mommying BabyT

Mommy T's adventures; bringing up Baby T

Tag: early childhood learning

A Sailor went to sea sea sea: Learning about sea creatures

Babies and children’s minds are like sponges. The more you place them in suitable or conducive environments the more they learn and absorb. Look how cheekily I used the pun of a sponge on a blog post about sea creatures, but hey it is so apt here. With #babyT I did see how early exposure to flash cards helped him develop a rich vocabulary even before he turned 1.  He also enjoys reading books along with us and has picked up a lot of words and concepts from them. However, as he approaches 2, I saw how his appetite for learning was not getting satiated with just books or flashcards. He was asking for more stimulation and for learning to appeal to all his senses. Learning by touch and “doing” seemed to be the order of the day.

I am not the mother who plans out her child’s daily activities, much as I would like to. I am simply not that creative enough nor “crafty.” However, I did realise the need for structured play and learning as babyT was growing. He was no longer content with just being handed a toy or sat in front of the TV.

Structured play, or “play with a purpose,” is any activity that offers your preschooler a specific learning objective. It could be learning a certain life skill like teaching the months of the year or working on important physical abilities such as gross and fine motor skills.
(Source: verywell.com) 

He wanted to be guided through it and explained so as to make sense of what he was seeing. I used this insight to set up a learning environment for him to teach him all about sea creatures. This set of sea creature activity aimed to involve most of his senses and also included some amount of formal learning using books and similar resources.

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Here’s what our sea creatures activity included:

  1. Sensory Tub
  2. Sand play
  3. Seashell colour sorting
  4. Books & flashcards
  5. Stickers
  6. Wooden magnetic fishing board
  7. Rhymes & songs
Sensory tub

This was by far the star of the show. This was also pretty simple to fix up once I had all the ingredients at home. I filled up a tub with water beads and added tons of water (filtered, potable water) and left this concoction overnight. The next morning just before our play I added accessories in the form of plastic models of sea creatures, little rocks and stones, colourful shells, some twigs and leaves for seaweed, and ICE CUBES just for some textural fun.

BabyT was surprised when he entered his playroom and saw the sensory tub laid out on the stay dry mat we usually use for all our activities. After taking all the sights in he then ventured to dip his hands and explore the sensory tub and all its contents.

He indulged in splashing about in the watery mess, squeezing the squishy water beads and holding the cold ice cubes in his palm until they were too cold for his tiny hands. He then began fishing the sea creatures, saying their name out loud and then placing them on the mat outside. He used his beach kit to play with the water beads and poured them about in the tub, sieving them and watching the water drops trickle down and the beads remain in the sand sifter.

He was a bit intrigued about the twigs, leaves and stones he found during one of his exploratory missions in the sensory tub. And I reminded him of the corals and rocks and seaweed that he saw in one of our books on the sea. (See below)

Eventually, he sat down inside the sensory and kicked about, thus getting a top to toe sense of the water beads and the sea creatures in it. He even proclaimed that he was Sailor Sammy, a character from his favourite book “Boats Sail Away” BabyT did get a lot of water beads down his shirt and inside his diaper but nothing that a warm bath after our play couldn’t clean.

Sand Play

BabyT has been on 2 beach holidays already and has played in the sand. So he understands the concept of sand but I wanted to create a linkage between the sea and sand. I bought him this kinetic sand play kit off Amazon. Kinetic sand behaves in a very peculiar manner, but it is so soft and soothing on the skin.

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BabyT and I both spent a lot of time running our hands through the sand and he even eventually began stomping on it and kicking it about too. The kit also comes with a few moulds which can be used to make animal shapes out of. Good for fine motor development and identifying how shapes can be formed.

Seashells Colour Sorting

Ever since babyT indulged in a sorting activity months ago where I asked him to match flash cards and animal shapes, he has been hooked to sorting of any sort. Kids, I tell you! So I just have to say the word sorting and he throws away whatever he is doing and runs to me. I should use this for positive discipline sometime maybe.

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For the sea creature activity, I also bought these colourful seashells. They are actually intended to use as decor in indoor aquariums or pots. We used our set of stacking rings as colour coordinated jars to sort the shells into.

This activity is great for learning colours and hand-eye coordination.

Books & Flashcards

Our favourite part. BabyT loves books and makes sense of the world around majorly through books. Ask him what his favourite toy in his playroom is and he will say “Book” 

These were some of the books babyT loved to learn about words and images to do with the sea and sea creatures.

Our love for flashcards is also proven over and over again. Before I begin any activity or new learning for babyT I do run a search for flashcards in the theme. I loved these flashcards which I got from Amazon. They are simple and give a realistic image of what the sea creature looks like.

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I use flashcards to supplement learning & vocabulary. For example, I used the oyster card (as shown above) to tell him how oysters make pearls and I showed him my pearl necklace. He was overjoyed to feel and touch them and know that they were made by a creature living in the sea.

Read more about our love for Flashcards here & here.

Stickers

I hate stickers. There I said it! I hate them because kids (and adults) love peeling them off eventually and then they leave ugly marks on wherever they had been stuck.

But then someone on my Instagram introduced me to reusable stickers. (By now you must know that anything reusable piques my interest) So I got these reusable stickers by Melissa & Doug for babyT. It came as a booklet with multiple scenarios and sticker sheets. This one with the ocean in the backdrop was perfect for our Sea Creature Activity.

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All the sea creatures that you see here are the stickers. I peeled a tiny bit of the corner from the sticker sheet and let babyT peel the rest of it off and then stick it on the ocean base. At first, he stuck all the creatures one on top of another. I didn’t stop or interrupt him. But I did peel a few big stickers like the shark and stuck it up higher on the sheet. That gave him the idea to spread the rest of the stickers across the base.

He has since removed and stuck the sea creatures back several times. This is one sticker sheet that I loved too.

Wooden Magnetic Fishing Game

I love wooden toys. I have said this many times. And when a toy exists in wood form, there is no surprise that I will grab it and add it to our collection.

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I bought this wooden magnetic fishing game from Little Fingers at Work. The fishing stick has a magnet embedded on one end and the little fish have a screw in their mouths which sticks to the magnet. BabyT did not quite understand the concept of fishing but he loved pulling the fish high up and out of the board.

Songs & Rhymes

Up until babyT was a year old or slightly more we avoided any form of screen time. However, as he got older and more active it was difficult for me to get things done and mind him too. It was then that we began slowly introducing screen time. We only do rhymes and songs (without any special effects) on the casting device. And whenever we do play anything on the telly for him I do make sure someone, mostly me, is around to explain things to him and help him make sense of what he sees. It’s never a one-way street. This helps immensely in gaining positively from screen time.

So coming back to the point I was trying to make – any learning activity is incomplete without the accompanying songs and dance and fanfare. And this is how we discovered babyT’s favourite, most obsessed over rhyme “Baby Shark Doo Doo” (facepalm, sometimes I regret screen time. lol) I am not going down this rabbit hole alone, here’s me trying to put this song into your head now. 😀

Catchy right?

And then there was this song too. A personal favourite. I love it for its gentle rhythm.

Jokes apart, babyT did learn about the baby shark family and all the creatures that live under the sea. Like I mentioned earlier too, I made sure I sat with them the first few times (or a 100) we watched these 2 rhymes and helped him identify the sea creatures and objects in the backdrop too.

This helped close the circle on all the learning around the sea creature activity. Sensory tub, books and flash cards all tied together into a visual for him with the rhymes and videos.

For now, we have packed away most of the sea creature activity resources, save some books and the rhymes of course. Did you know the baby shark family has also adopted Tara shark and Nana and Nani shark into their clan? Sigh. That’s the level of obsession. It’s cute though.

Hope you are inspired to try some of these activities for your children. Which one do you think they would most enjoy?

Review: Quantum Cards by Brainsmith

BabyT has been an early talker and his vocabulary consisted of 20 odd words by the time he was 1. He could identify most vegetables, fruits, animals and birds. No, he was not born with this skill. It was something he acquired. How did we do this? Books, a lot of them. But largely it was do with Flash Cards. Our positive experience with Flash Cards convinced me that this was a great way to learn for babies. It stimulated the right skills and so learning happened very quickly. And when I heard of Quantum Cards by Brainsmith I was stunned to see that this was a well researched and thought about product. I was sure flash cards would do #babyT a world of good. But more than that I was intrigued to know how Brainsmith did their Flash Cards differently.

I wrote to Brainsmith and asked if I could use and review their products. They responded quite positively and enthusiastically and the very next day I had the cards in my hand. I was sent the cards titled as Mammals. Now my first thought when I saw the pack was that the concept may be too advanced for babyT at 16 months. But I decided to trust Brainsmith when they said that these cards were suitable for children  from the age of 8 months.

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As with most things, I let babyT open the package himself. He gets quite excited whenever there is a courier package that arrives at home. His orders are to “Kaat” the box and let him rummage through the contents. This gets him quite enthused to use the product (most of the couriers are for him anyway. When did we moms ever buy anything for ourselves right?)

How we started using the Quantum Cards:

  1. We followed the instructions that Brainsmith recommends. To flash each card in front of the child who is to be seated facing you. While doing so you must announce the name of the object or person on the card face.
  2. The whole process should be done quickly say within 15 to 20 seconds. If the child is able to speak, pause between each card to let them repeat the name.
  3. Repeat the process a couple of times per day.
  4. Follow one set for about 3 weeks and then move on to another set of cards.

#BabyT picks up names and new words fairly quickly and within 3 to 5 flashes of the card knew at least half of the animal names – His early picks were Maatayk (Macaque Monkey), Paanda (Panda), Mooch (Moose), Owrus (Walrus), Beear (Beaver) Within another week or so he had picked the rest of the names – Kwala (Koala), Buu Whale (Blue Whale), Kaaroo (Kangaroo), Jaapu (Giraffe – I have no idea why its Jaapu), Fai Fossh (Flying Fox).

I then decided to venture deeper. Now this is the speciality of Brainsmith’s Quantum Cards. They are encyclopaedic and contain a lot of information about the animals on the back side of the card. This information covers the habitat and living conditions of the animal. It also gives inputs about what their primary diet consists of and their habits.

I did realise that some of this information may make no sense to babyT right now. However I picked the simpler ones such as what they ate and where they lived and went with it. For example, he learned that the Maatayk (Macaque monkey) eats fruits, bugs and eggs. He knows that the West African Giraffe lives in Appeeka (Africa.)  and eats leaves and tree twigs. ((Sometimes when daddy is really late from work, babyT says he had gone to Appeeka. I am happy that he knows that Apeeka is really far away and so it takes a long time to get back from. hahha)) BabyT also tells us that the Boo Whale (Blue Whale) lives in the water.

Other ways I supplemented learning with Brainsmith’s Quantum Cards:

  1. Our backyard is lush in Bamboo plants. I got the gardener to bring us some bamboo leaves and showed babyT what Pandas eat. It was nice for babyT to touch and feel the bamboo leaves. He now says Bamboo excitedly when we talk about the Panda card.
  2. Showed him very short YouTube videos of these animals from the National Geographic Kids channel. I don’t think babyT will see a real live Walrus anytime soon. Some screen time when it is educational and supported by adult intervention and supervision is justified. BabyT was really delighted to see these animals come to life on the telly. He enthusiastically picked out all the cards when the matching animal turned up on the TV.
  3. Played Where is …? with the cards.
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    Spread the cards out in the playroom and asked him to go fetch them when I said the name of the animal.
  4. I bought matching animal figurines for him from Hamleys. Sadly I found only the Giraffe and Macaque monkey of all things. But he loves holding and hugging them both. The figurines from Hamleys are very real and look exactly like they do on the cards.
  5. At random times in the day, even if the cards are not around us I ask him questions about the cards.  Say we are reading a book about the ocean or seas and we spot a walrus, I ask him about it and what it eats and how it looks. BabyT loves imitating a walrus with its two teeth sticking out. 🙂
  6. We make sure whoever comes home, has a session with the cards. So if it is grandparents or friends visiting, babyT fishes out his cards and tells them all that he knows about his mammal friends.

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What I love about Brainsmith’s Quantum Cards:
  1. Great quality cards. BabyT has bent, sat and folded the cards in a million ways. But they don’t really get bent too badly. This is because the paper itself is of a superlative quality.
  2. The images are so artistic and professionally drawn. Brainsmith says all the images are licensed and hand drawn and painted. The fine work shows and is a true reflection of what that object must look like in real life.
  3. The cards themselves are huge. The images therefore are large and contrast well against the clean, white background. This helps create a visual impact on the mind. It stimulates visual learning. When the different senses are used to learn, the learning is more permanent.
  4. The information provided behind each card is succinct and will suit younger children as well as older ones. I am sure we will keep finding new elements about each animal as babyT grows up.
  5. Each set contains 10 cards which is good for a one time learning activity. Other flash cards sets that I have, had like 20 to 30 cards and even I found it too boring to go through them all. I also love the summary card which has images of all the mammals on it. BabyT loves reading and pointing the animals out on his own here.

My ratings for Brainsmith’s Quantum Cards:

  • Ease of use: 5/5
  • Appearance: 5/5 I love the illustrations and the colours. They are classy and appealing. At the same time they contribute to learning.
  • Value for money: 4/5 It is a little expensive at Rs. 699 for a set. However the quality is unmatched.  You can buy a combo pack for a discounted price.
  • Meets its objective: 10/5 hahah .. I do know my math. I am very impressed with the results. And I would highly recommend it to you.

Do you need to use Quantum Cards for your little ones? Yes, you do. I have seen the value that a set of Flash Cards brings. I would love for you to experience the same. Do let me know how your experience was or if you have already used Brainsmith Quantum cards and what you thought of them.

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