Preschool Years at Home

Laughing, Loving, and Learning Together

Critical Thinking and Chocolate Chip Cookies

on August 14, 2012

We’d planned to wrap up our ocean theme study today, but plans changed abruptly when Baby Bear had a run-in with the baby gate. The gate won. Baby Bear emerged with a golf ball-sized knot in the middle of her forehead, and we spent the morning at the pediatrician’s office. Thankfully, she seems to be OK, aside from a big bruise and a headache, but by the time we got home, half the day was gone …. along with our “plan.”

Naps, pool time, and chocolate chip cookie baking (Little Bear’s reward for leaving the pool …) filled the afternoon. But by evening, Little Bear was asking when we were going to “do school.” She wanted to do something that involved working together, so I pulled a couple of our new critical thinking books off the shelf.

We started with Can You Find Me?, a book of word and picture puzzlers designed to help prekindergartners build thinking skills across the content areas. Two of tonight’s challenges required her to listen to a series of verbal clues, then pick the picture that best matched the clues. The final one required her to look at four animals — a chicken, a cow, a fox, and a zebra — and determine which one was least like the others. She completed all three exercises with ease and confidently explained the rationale behind her answers. She declared that she loved this book, and she was not at all happy that Mommy only let her do the first three pages. Mommy’s only complaint is that this $16.99 book has only one puzzle per page. I too love the content, but will have to “ration” out the activities to make the book last longer than a few weeks.

Our next pair of activities came from Mind Benders Book 1 (PreK-K). This one is not as visually appealing as the first one, but it guides children through a logical problem solving sequence. Tonight, for instance, Little Bear had to match three characters with their homes using two factual statements. The first statement told her which character lived in the widest house. The second character told her which character did not live in the smallest house. Using those two statements, she completed a yes/no matrix to determine where all three characters lived. Given that she’s just 4 years old (and a young 4 at that), I was not at all sure that she would grasp the matrix concept. She grasped it immediately, however, and solved the second puzzle with no assistance. Once again, she wanted to know why we had to stop after just two puzzles, and once again, my only complaint is that this book includes only 44 activities. To extend the life of the book, I’m planning to give her a supply of Y/N bingo chips and let her use those to complete the matrixes instead of actually writing in the book. Hopefully, she’ll be content to work through the same puzzles several times over the course of the year.

Wrapping up our evening’s fun, I pulled out our Beyond123 BambinoLUK Starter Pack. We’ve got several brain training activities books to go along with this European classroom staple, but tonight, I just wanted Little Bear to learn how to set up the work tray and use the self-correcting tiles. We went through three matching activities of progressing difficulty before she decided she’d had enough. She liked this product, but didn’t love it quite as much as the books. Fatigue probably played a part in her waning interest, and I’m hopeful that she’ll want to use this tool more tomorrow after a good night’s rest. Her biggest complaint seemed to be that she had to follow a series of steps and follow them in a specific order to get the “correct” end result. From a parent’s perspective, I thought the product was well-designed, easy to use, and versatile. I want the girls to have fun while they’re learning, but I don’t mind exposing them to the occasional product that forces them to slow down and “follow the rules.”

Overall, I’d give all three of these products a 5-star rating and would recommend them without hesitation. I’m just hoping that Little Bear doesn’t finish half our planned PreK curriculum before Labor Day!

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