How To Bring A Book Alive – Experiments And Games

El used to attend an enrichment centre, and I quite like some of the activities where the children would conduct science experiments or engage in games related to a book.

One famous book, I’m going on a bear hunt, was used by the teachers to create an exploration for the children. They made the children walk through a puddle of water (a basin of water was placed there), walk through tall grasses (streamers were used), and then wandered into a dark cave (lights were switched off). The children were led through the entire room. Experiential learning takes place, and the students had fun.

There is another story about a crow who searches for water, only to find water in a narrow beak jar. The teacher wore a mask of a crow, and then tried to drink water from a jar. True enough, she could not reach the water. Then, she guided the children to place pebbles into the jar, and true enough, the water level rose and the beak could finally reach the water.

On another occasion, there was a story about a little pig who was a postman. It delivered letters for the other animals. The teachers made a card box to resemble a mail box, and children had to deliver letters. They had to hop through a path, and climb up a few steps to deliver a letter.

One more lesson that I could remember was to teach the children about fishing and magnets. The children went around the room to attract fish with a magnetic fishing rod. There is a good example here about a simple activity of fishing with magnetsyou can do at home. They had also used little nets to catch fish toys. They also learnt the concept of density, where certain items float, while others sink.

Fishing with magnets by billaday

Fishing with magnets by billaday

I enjoyed the lessons more than my son did, as he was pretty non-responsive then, but then again, he was very young then. Perhaps if there was more room for quiet time, he might have enjoyed them more. However, the school did a good job of incorporating science and other activities into the story telling.

Unfortunately, I don’t have the time and energy to try to bring these books alive, apart from the use of my voice when reading books with El. I am not sure whether his current school teaches science.

Obsession With Dinosaurs

El in his Stegosaurus costume for his book week

El in his Stegosaurus costume for his book week

A few months back, El was obsessed with dinosaurs. It started innocently, when I had a little pull out book, and it introduced a few common dinosaurs to him, such as the T-Rex, triceratops  and stegosaurus.

A parent in his weekend class told me that she had brought her son to the Singapore Science Centre, and he liked the dinosaurs even though he was scared. We brought him there, and I kept imitating the dinosaur sounds and actions to make it less scary for him. He loved the dinosaurs, and the love affair started there.

I was at a book sale, and I picked up a dinosaur book. We happened to have a dinner with some relatives, so I brought it along to entertain him. Boy, he was totally amazed by the book. I went through the dinosaur names (really tough), and there were colourful pictures, each showing the sizes, and the type of diet they had. A young girl was sitting beside me, so I also showed her the book and she liked it as well.

From then on, he started learning the names, the pronunciation, and he went on youtube to search for dinosaur abc. He has this inexplicable urge to learn everything in alphabetical order. Perhaps it was the Zoophonics that started this craze.

He must have watched the video a hundred times.

Then came along book week in his preschool, with only 1 week notice! How on earth was I going to rent a dinosaur costume that he was willing to wear? There was no time to order anything online. In the end, I decided to make one.

My friends gave me ideas on how to make it work. So I got a jacket and his school cap, used velcro on foam triangular cutouts, and stuck on them to form the spines of a stegosaurus. I think his teachers loved it, and he liked it too.

A few months later, his father brought him to an exhibition at Plaza Singapura. I did not go, and so I asked him about the dinosaurs.

Me: what 4 dinosaurs did you see today?
El: andesaurus, pterosaur, and… And i-don’t-know-saurus.


It’s A Jungle Out There

I bought El, my elder son who is turning 3, a book where you can join the dots according to the numbers. It was a cheap book and I got it from a supermarket on my way home one day.

Bumble Bee collecting pollen

Bumble Bee

He was joining some numbers, and asked me what the picture was. I told him that it was a bumblebee. He thought for a while and said, “I think it is a honeybee, not a bumblebee.” Hence I went to google, and golly, he’s right. Honeybees are slender, with uniform black and yellow stripes, and bumblebees are more pudgy and hairier. See this website about honeybee vs bumblebee.

After that, he traced a creature that had spots, and again he asked me what it was. Maybe it’s a snake. No, it should be a salamander, he said. I didn’t even know how salamanders look like, except that they have four legs. His lines were haphazard so it was hard to tell from the picture whether the reptile had legs. However, there were big spots on the animal. Google showed me a salamander with a black body and yellow spots, just like that drawing.

Spotted Salamander on Leaf

Spotted salamader, photo by Tom Tyning.

Looks like I need to read up more on his favourite topics. I guess I better find out what a newt looks like. It took me some time before I discovered how to tell leopard, cheetah, jaguar, cougar, puma, mountain lion, and panther apart. Jaguars are mainly from central and south America, and they are more muscular compared to leopards. Cougar, puma, mountain lion and mountain cat are the same animal, just that they are known differently in different regions. These words come from Spanish, Portuguese, and Quechua among others.

Cheetah is the fastest animal. Its body is quite different. Leopards have rosette shaped markings, a ring with black inside, while cheetahs have solid spots. Leopards can be found in Africa and Asia. Panthers? They are either black jaguars or black leopards.

I’m having a wild guess that Germans really love these animals, to the extent that they name cars, army tanks, and sportswear after these creatures.

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