Tuesday, October 3, 2023

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Brain-Building Activities for Preschoolers + Early Childhood Development College Course from CCEI Parent Company, StraighterLine

I have always had a fascination with how the brain works and how children learn, so I was very excited about the opportunity to review the course Early Childhood Development through a partnership with ChildCare Education Institute (CCEI) from its parent company, StraighterLine 

Today, I'm going to share some awesome brain-building information and activities from the course and then give you an overview of the course also.

I want to start out with two huge myths in educational neuroscience. I have heard so many teachers and adults express different variations of these ideas, so I want to start out by getting rid of them right away!

MYTH #1: Children's brains stop growing after they are three years old.

While there are a lot of variations on this idea, the fact is that children's brains have plasticity, which means they can grow and change throughout childhood. One of my favorite examples shared in the course was a young man who started having seizures after he was four years old and had to have the entire left hemisphere of his brain removed to stop them. This was done over two major surgeries which happened when he was seven and ten. His recovery took a long time, but the right side of his brain eventually "re-wired" itself to be able to take care of functions like speech that are usually controlled by the left side of the brain.

Additionally, the course pointed out that synaptic formations don't even stabilize until after the age of ten.

If you consider your own experiences, you would know that you learned, grew, and discovered many things after you turned three. I really wish we could convince all teachers and parents that older children are capable and can even be excited to learn new skills and behaviors!

MYTH #2: The right and left hemispheres of the brain each have their own specific jobs, and some people are just "right-brained" or "left-brained."

This myth often comes up when parents, teachers, or sometimes even children make excuses for why they cannot learn something. The fact is that both sides of the brain communicate extensively for all major tasks that a person engages in. Some activities might involve one side of the brain more than the other, but both are used and increased communication across the two hemispheres often correlates with faster learning!

The story I shared above about a boy having half his brain removed also demonstrates this principle.

As children grow and develop, new neurons and synapses are established in the brain to help children learn. What kinds of activities can help preschoolers develop these cognitive skills? I'm so glad you asked! Here are seven that any parent or preschool teacher can implement:

1- Ask your children to compare things. You can do this when you play, eat, or even during lessons. Ask about which toys or food items are bigger, smaller, taller, wider, heavier, longer, etc.

2- Let your children practice ordering and organizing things. When your kids bring you three books, ask them to put them in the order they'd like to read and then ask why they organized them as they did. Take turns lining up from tallest to shortest or shortest to tallest. 

3- Let your children experience natural change. Grow a plant and compare it to pictures of each stage of growth. Watch caterpillars grow to butterflies and make charts showing how caterpillars change to chrysalis and then to a butterfly. 

4- Encourage your children to draw pictures that show perspectives. If they draw your yard, ask what's at the far end. Is it a tree or mailbox or animal? Encourage them to place that at the far end of their drawing. Talk about background and foreground, and ask them to tell you what's in the background of their pictures.

5- Let your children experiment with ramps and hills. After they roll marbles, cars, and balls down it, encourage them to figure out why different items rolled faster. Actually, let your children experiment with a variety of natural processes like speed, water flow, gravity, etc.!

6- Invite your children to draw conclusions and explain and justify their answers. Questions like "Why do you think that?" or "How could you show that to a friend?" invite them to reflect on their own thinking, which is a form of metacognition.

7- Ask questions like "How...?" and "Why...?" How and why questions encourage children (and adults, lol!) to think beyond easy and/or obvious answers. It requires their brains to connect what they're experiencing and thinking with prior knowledge, which contributes to improved cognitive thinking and memory formation.

Would you like to print the image above? These activities are really easy to incorporate into any schedule. As you practice asking questions like these and letting your preschoolers have similar experiences, you are helping their brains build synapses and skills that will enable them to grow into life-long learners! Click here for an easy (and free) printable pdf!

These brain-building activities for preschoolers are a tiny part of the Early Childhood Development course from StraighterLine, parent company of CCEI! Let me tell you a few more things about it so that you can decide if you'd like to take it too!

Early Childhood Development from StraighterLine is a 3-credit hour online college course that provides an overview of Educational Psychology and the scientific study of behavior and mental processes with an emphasis in perspectives and strategies that teachers need to stay flexible in the classroom.

My favorite sections in the course include brain development, cognitive approaches to learning, memory, metacognition, attention, and motivation. Other large sections include cognitive and language development, behavior and social development, exceptional learners (including both learning disabilities and gifted learners), planning, instruction, technology, teaching, and managing a classroom

The course is organized in 6 topics, two of which are exams:

The course also includes 20 assignments, which vary to include quizzes, reflective writings, and the two exams. You can see the list here:

All the assignments can be "retaken" if you are not satisfied with your score. Both the midterm and the final include a detailed study guide and are "open note." There is a time limit (1 hour and 40 minutes) to answer the 50 questions. The final requires an online proctor, which you can schedule through the system.

Most of the course material is offered through an online textbook (Educational Psychology by John W. Santrock) easily accessible through StraighterLine. Options to take notes, highlight sections, and add comments are all super easy to find. Some videos and other short readings are available through the course "home" page when you log into StraighterLine.

The entire course is extremely user-friendly! I absolutely love how you can access it 24/7, any day, any time of the week. They have very friendly support staff and teachers too! If you are looking for a super convenient way to take online college courses, I highly recommend starting here!

Early Childhood Development is a 3-credit online college course filled with research-backed tools and resources to help anyone working with young children. Understanding the science behind child development is crucial to teaching young children, and this course includes not only that science, but hands-on practical ways of using it!

Early Childhood Development is one of five foundational Early Childhood Education courses that StraighterLine offers as part of their Early Childhood Education Career Pathway Program to help you jumpstart a career in Early Childhood Education!  The other four courses are Foundations of Early Childhood, Teaching Students with Exceptionalities, Classroom Management, and Language and Literacy.

These courses, as well as the hundreds of courses offered through CCEI, also work great for continuing ed or professional development!

Once you complete the course, you can easily transfer it to more than 2,000 partner colleges and universities StraighterLine has relationships with! As I mentioned above, it's a 3-credit course! I wrote about more of the details for courses from StraighterLine and CCEI here!

I highly recommend the course for anyone interested in teaching children or for parents hoping to understand how their children grow and learn better.

This article is sponsored by ChildCare Education Institute. All opinions are mine--you know I only recommend products and companies I love!

Happy Educating,

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Have you seen HEEP? It is a preschool homeschool curriculum! Learn more here!

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