Tag Archive | problem solving

Language Development That’s Beyond Comparisson

Remember that Sesame Street song, “One of these things is not like the other, some of these things are kind of the same….”?  Why was it a staple part of the program?  Because….being able to identify & express similarities and differences has much bigger implications than may appear.  This skill helps to strengthen memory, develop higher-order thinking skills, increase comprehension and helps promote thinking & communicating with clarity and precision.  Also as children grow, being able to compare and contrast will enhance their writing skills.  Today’s post provides and example of how to begin developing this skill with your toddler.

Here’s one activity we did today from the Leaping Lilies curriculum

 This week’s Theme: Dinosaurs

Activity DescriptionLet’s Talk: Use dinosaur figurines to engage your tot in conversation.  Encourage your tot to articulate the similarities and differences between the dinosaurs.

This Activity’s Main Area of  Development: Language Development

Specific Skill: Compare and contrast

O&M’s Ages (at the time of posting this): 2 years + 5 months


  • Vocabulary (Review some vocabulary before-hand)

– Review vocabulary that is specific to dinosaurs.  We did spikes, horns, claws, scary, friendly.

– Review ‘same’ and ‘different’.




  • Provide an Example (Show your tot how to compare and contrast)

– Modelling (meaning you do it first) is a good way to give an example.

– Doing one together can provide a guided example (they have help vs. doing it independently).  This is what we did (see video below)



  • Try it Independently (Encourage your tot to discuss the similarities and differences on his/her own)

– Gently correct mistakes and remind them of vocabulary. For example, if your to says the wrong colour or says something is the same when it really is different, you would just quickly review what the words mean.

– If your tot needs assistance, you can give clues.  Ex. (“I see this one has big sharp teeth.  Does that one have the same teeth?”)

– Let your tot choose the dinosaurs he/she would like to talk about.


Here are the girls’ attempts at comparing and contrasting independently.  It was fairly challenging for them so I gave them assistance (usually in the form of a question).

In case you can’t understand M in the video below: To contrast she notes the colours.  To compare she says they are both dinosaurs, they are both scary (and one is not happy).


This video starts out with M asking O which one she likes.   In case you can’t understand O in the video below: To compare she says they have long teeth, long arms and long claws.  To contrast she notes the colours.


The girls already compare and contrast things often when it is in relation to their life such as, “that girl has the same colour coat as me”, etc.  This also occurs frequently when reading books – click here to see a post about making connections between storybooks and self.  This idea of comparing/contrasting two things to each other vs. comparing/contrasting themselves with something is new and will continue to improve with practice.

Click here to see language development posts for 15-18 months

Click here to see language development posts for 18-24 months

Reggio Provocations Explained

The Reggio Emilia educational philosophy (established in Italy) is one that is quickly gaining momentum in countries world wide – and for good reason. I spent three years working at a kindergarten school that followed the Reggio philosophy which is where I gained a thorough understanding and love for it!  The Reggio approach has many wonderful facets but today I will focus solely on Reggio provocations.  If you are interested in the Reggio approach to early childhood education, I encourage you to take some time to read this.

On alternating Fridays I blog about parent/teacher

hot topics & interesting info or Q&A


 Today’s Topic: Reggio Provocations

Provocations (as They Relate to Reggio Emilia)

  • What are Reggio provocations?

First, it is important to note that there is no set or specific objective to be achieved.  Simply put, the sole purpose of a provocation is to elicit some kind of response. Then, based on the response given, new materials, questions or opportunities are introduced to further explore a topic.


  • What is so valuable about Reggio provocations?

The idea of learning by means of provocation (rather than ‘being taught’) is valuable because there is:

  1. Genuine Interest – Children have a lot of control over the direction of their learning
  2. Genuine Experience – Children learn through touching, moving, listening and observing
  3. Natural Curiosity – Children are encouraged and provoked to explore materials, relationships and environments with as few limits as possible
  4. Genuine Self-Expression – Children can be afforded endless ways and opportunities to express themselves
  5. Authentic Tasks – Children are engaged in work that is purposeful and meaningful to themselves and others.  They are more likely to retain the knowledge (and more importantly) the skills that they acquire, because their desire to do the tasks is intrinsic; therefore they identify problems themselves and eagerly want to solve them.
  • How can I set up Reggio provocations?

While setting up Reggio provocations requires careful thought, they can be simple, inexpensive and the possibilities are infinite!

  1. Initial Topic – Observe and question your tot about a topic of interest.
  2. Choose MaterialsMaterials can include anything; books, natural materials, art supplies, collections, tools, blocks, light, mirrors, water; the list is endless.
  3. Set-Up – Set up should be visually appealing and intriguing – inviting exploration. First, consider where you will set up.  What kind of space is required?  Next, choose a way to display your materials; consider the type of containers or holders you will use – they should be interesting and compliment your materials.  Last, define the workspace using trays, mats, table cloths, paper, etc.  When you define a work area, children naturally move towards it.
  4. Observation – Observe your tot interacting with the provocation you have set up.  What is interesting?  What is said?  What is asked?  What is being done? Take notes.
  5. Extension – Based on your observations, add new materials as needed.  Respond to your tot’s interests by supporting his/her efforts to “do” something.  (This inevitably leads to some sort of ‘project’)
  • Can I see examples of Reggio provocations?

Of course!  The example below is a brief overview of this post (if you want to see the full thing).  However, that post does not include the extension, which is crucial and is noted below.









  1. Initial Topic – The girls had been talking a lot about catching butterflies with nets, going for walks and going to the playground so I decided to present my materials using spring themed containers, holders and colours.
  2. Choose MaterialsI chose the materials to be textiles related to bathing because our theme this week is ‘bath time’. I also added some art supplies (stamp pad, markers and paper on the wall)
  3. Set-Up – I chose a space with natural light in an open area.  The items used to display the materials were engaging.  I defined the work space with the green tape on the wall to add another dimension and to provide a larger-than-usual canvas.
  4. Observation – The girls were VERY interested and much was done, (click here to see the initial response) but the element of this provocation that generated the most interest was the decorative tree and even more specifically, the decorative eggs in the tree.
  5. Extension – As a result of the observation, the next day, I introduced plastic eggs to the table.
New materials added (plastic eggs) as a result of the previous day's observations

New materials added (plastic eggs) as a result of the previous day’s observations

This led us to two projects: (Keep in mind that the girls are 2 years + 4 months)

Project #1 – Creating ‘Surprise’ Eggs – While exploring all the materials, one of them decided that they wanted to put something into the plastic eggs to make a ‘surprise’.  I asked them what they would like to put inside.  The unanimous response was “chocolate”.  I told them we didn’t have any chocolate.  Rather than choosing to solve that problem, they came up with a different suggestion.  “I make a picture, put in eggs. Please get me paper.”

Problem 1 – I used suggestive language and said, “Here is your paper, this is quite a big paper to fit into a little egg”.  They quickly decided to cut the paper.  Then they drew pictures which I labelled for them.

M cuts her paper into smaller pieces

M cuts her paper into smaller pieces

O's labelled pictures

O’s labelled pictures









Problem 2 – There were 4 eggs that needed to be divided equally.  They chose one at a time until gone. (“M 2 eggs & O 2 eggs”, was said) – They’re teaching themselves math!!!

Problem 3 – The drawings were still too big to fit into the eggs.  “I cut, use scissors”, said M.  As she began to cut, O said, “No! M, break picture my made” – so cutting was no longer an option.  With A LOT of prompting and questioning by me (my final prompt was, “How do we get our clothes to fit into our drawers?”), they came to the conclusion that we could FOLD the drawings.  Then they placed them into the eggs and gave them to guests that visited later that day.

Folding the paper so it will fit into the eggs

Folding the paper so it will fit into the eggs

Putting the surprise into the egg.

Putting the surprise into the egg.









Project #2 – Decorating Eggs – They decided they would like to decorate the plastic eggs and tried using marker on them which kept coming off on their hands.  They asked me about a book we recently read inwhich the characters decorated eggs.  I explained that they were real eggs.  “I decorate real eggs too”.

Problem 1 – I tried having a conversation about how eggs are fragile and break open easily and that we needed to find a way to make them hard.  In the end, they just had no ideas and no way of knowing how to make an egg hard.  So I told them that we would cook them in boiling water.  I asked them to choose the pot that was most appropriately sized to cook the eggs in.   I showed them the bubbling water which amazed them! “Steam, very hot”, they said.

Choosing the appropriate sized pot

Choosing the appropriate sized pot

Watching water boil - NOT BORING with these two!

Watching water boil – NOT BORING with these two!










Problem 2 – They wanted to decorate them right away but obviously they were too hot.  “How can we make them colder?”, I asked.  “Put it in fridge”.  Done.  I asked them how they wanted to decorate.  They told me they wanted to paint the eggs so I chose this opportunity to introduce them to water paints, which they have never used before.

M using water paints for the first time

M using water paints for the first time

Learning how to use water paints

Learning how to use water paints










"I like red"

“I like red”

M is pleased with our decorated eggs

M is pleased with our decorated eggs













Problem 3 They wanted to eat them for lunch.  How do we get the eggs out of the shell?

Peeling eggs - fine motor skills at use!

Peeling eggs – fine motor skills at use!

Eating eggs with our lunch!

Eating eggs with our lunch!









They really liked the water paints…so now I might set up a provocation table related to water paints with flowers and a Claude Monet book, etc.  It is important to note that even though the projects shown were short-term projects, they can take as long as is needed.

  • In Summation

This was a lengthy post, I hope you found it helpful and worthy of your time.  That being said, I would like to leave you with this idea:  I liken Reggio provocations to planting seeds.  You provide a seed and your child’s knowledge, curiosity and creativity will cause it to flourish in beautiful ways; often in ways that you could never predict or imagine.


P.S.  Last Chance!!!

This weekend is the last opportunity to take advantage of our anniversary sale (20% off all of our curriculum).   Use the code: CTM20 at check-out and bag yourself a bargain!! This offer will end March 29, 2015.


 Click here to visit our shop

Clothes Make the Monkey

Today’s activity is a fun way to practice problem solving skills!  As you will quickly see, working on problem solving with your baby promotes a lot more than just thinking skills!  Other benefits include:  language development (conversational interaction), social learning (working collaboratively) and emotional learning (increased independence).  As our babies gain confidence in their ability to solve problems, they will be more eager and prepared to explore and interact with the world independently (and with success)! :0)


Mondays and Wednesdays I choose one activity we did today from the Reaching Roses curriculum and share our experiences (starring my twin babies)

 This week’s Theme: Clothing

Activity DescriptionSilly Me!: Get a toy doll or stuffed animal. Dress the toy by putting clothing on in incorrect places (Ex. socks on hands), have your baby correct you.

This Activity’s Main Area of  Development: Cognitive

Specific Skill: Problem solving

O&M’s Ages (at the time of posting this): 21 months + 3 weeks

1. To warm up, we read a book about hats and sang some songs from the activity plan (about getting dressed).

2. Here are the videos of the main activity:



  • The Shirt! (This shows what to do if your baby does not have the words to express herself.  O&M don’t know the word chest so I ask O to show me where to put it – they both said “head” so I modelled how to say what they wanted to say but were unable to say – “pull it down over your head”.  Then I added “on to your chest and belly” – because that is the actual answer to the question)


  • The Shorts! (Remember to repeat what your baby says in order to model correct pronunciation.  This is also a good example of how to work through a problem if your baby doesn’t get the correct response right away.  Rather than simply saying ‘no’, show an example or explain why that line of thinking is incorrect)

…….Two stuffed animals later…..


Today’s activity was also a great opportunity to insert the activity plan’s secondary vocabulary

(put on, take off)

A Match Made in Farmland

Welcome back, I hope you all had a lovely weekend!  Today’s post in another topic I’ve been wanting to share; how to do puzzles with babies!

Mondays and Wednesdays I choose one activity we did today from the Clever Clovers curriculum and share our experiences (starring my twin babies)

 This week’s Theme: Farm Animals

Activity Description: Puzzles: Complete farm animal puzzles together.

This Activity’s Main Area of  Development: Cognitive

Specific Skill: Matching

O&M’s Ages (at the time of posting this): 17 months + 1 Week

1. Our warm up activity was signing, as usual, using the farm animal figurines as props.  They really like it and I’ve noticed they are trying to actually sing along more.  I hear the occasional word but it is mostly babbling with a kind of “singing” voice.  It’s nice to see this progression…..karaoke, here we come! (anybody who knows me, knows I love karaoke!)

2. The first thing I do with the puzzles is review the animals and sounds.  This can be helpful because even if your baby knows how to recognize all of the animals in one setting (ex. on tv, in real life, as toy figurines, etc.) the same animals in cartoon (in a book or a puzzle piece) might not fit the exact image they recognize. – They might look different to your baby.

3. My girls find puzzles challenging.  They need a lot of support to complete puzzles successfully so the first thing I do, is take away all the pieces.  Then I choose one, show it to the baby (while naming it) and ask the baby to find it on the puzzle board.  This makes the task as easy as possible because the baby only has one thing to try to do (find the animal that I asked).  After the baby finds the animal, then I give her the puzzle piece so that she can place it in.  If she needs help putting it in, I help with that too.  So cute – around 1:00 minute, if you listen closely, you’ll hear M say “cock-a-doodle-doo” to the picture of a rooster.


4. In case you are wondering why the above video only features M, it is because O either didn’t want to cooperate or genuinely couldn’t find what I was asking.  (It’s hard to tell with O because she is the kind of person who often doesn’t like to do things because she is being asked to).  There have been countless times where it seems like she doesn’t understand and then if I go away and come back, she will have it completed – with extra bells and whistles!……… then there are times where she actually doesn’t understand….so she keeps me on my toes, for sure.

Anyway, I included this video of O to show how to add more support if your baby is having difficulty.  First you will see me name the incorrect things she points to (I don’t just say no, I name it and ask again).  Next you will see that she is distracted by the other pieces, so I take those away.  After that, you will see me ask if she needs help (I tell her where it is).  And lastly, I help her place it in correctly.  With all of the support, she is able to complete the task and she is happy about it.


5. Here is another method I use to try to explain matching.  I put the puzzle pieces directly next to the spot where they need to be placed.  This is another technique you can use to offer support.

…..O had a bit of a meltdown because M was sitting on her hand, then M started crying and I decided it was time for a nap!


As they continue to grow and learn, I will gradually take away the support….and eventually I will move in the other direction to make puzzles even more challenging for them.  I hope this helps you!