Physical Objects to Explain The Abstract

January 27, 2011

 We planned a family day at the park on our usual Sunday family fun day:)  My husband does not like waiting so we all hurry to get ready to go. My husband is done first so he started to work on a project while waiting for the rest of us to be ready. When I finish, I notice my daughters scrambling so I sneak in some sweeping as I wait for my daughters to finish getting dressed.  My daughters finish up, unbeknown to me, and go upstairs since they see mom and dad working on something else. At this point, each one of us is ready, waiting for the others, and moves on to another activity. This goes on for over an hour.

My husband announces that if we are not all in the car in the next ten minutes he is not going! We all scramble in the car. After some frustration, we realize we could have left an hour ago had our communication been effective. Nobody knew the others were ready.

Now I don't typically resort to using tickets but I decided just for once to try to create a physical element to represent each person's readiness level. Each person got a ticket with his or her name on it.  Once a person is ready to leave, he indicates his readiness by putting the  ticket on the kitchen counter.  Now each person can  check the family status of readiness at a quick glance. We only did it once to realize the importance of proper communication.

There are numerous other ways that physical objects can be used to represent abstract ideas. It can be a challenge to communicate or teach something that is not tangible; things like feelings or attitudes.  You can try to put them into words to start and then later give a more visual description.  The associate between your feeling and a tangible object give the abstract a workable state of being. 

A great example of using physical objects to represent abstract ideas is represented in the book Have You Filled a Bucket Today: A Guide to Daily Happiness for Kids, written by Carol McCloud. The idea behind it is that  you fill someone's bucket with love.

Comments: 3

Thinking Outside The Box

February 10, 2011

When I taught Academically Gifted (AG) or advanced classes in the public school system, we were trained to help our students to think outside the box.  We asked our students to solve problems in untraditional ways utilizing multiple strategies.  Teaching children at home should be no different.

Ask your child to give you various uses for an object.  If they are only able to state the object's main use encourage them to find other creative ways to use the item.  Give your own example to promote understanding of the task.  For example, you could state that y ou use a straw to drink, but you can also use a straw to suck air out of a bag to make it aritight for freezing; to blow bubbles in a bath; to form a square...and so on.  Select items that could have multiple uses such as a cup, stick, net, pail, or blanket.

It is imperative that we challenge our children to think in unique ways.  It will expand their minds and train them to effectively think outside the box.

Comments: 2

Games, Games and More Games

April 18, 2011

My kids, husband and I love playing family games: Pictionary, Monopoly, concentration and Yatzee to name a few.  Over the years I have come to realize that playing games teaches children many useful skills. 

I remember when I was teaching pre-algebra and a number of my students had a difficult time adding numbers on a number line.  When adding up to a given number students would count the number of spots on the number line instead of the jumps between numbers.  So for instance when given 2 + 5, they would start at the number 2 and then they would count five spots on the number line--2, 3, 4, 5, 6.  Their conclusion was that 2 + 5 = 6.  What they couldn’t grasp was that they didn’t need to start counting by including position 2.  I remember thinking to myself haven’t these kids ever played Chutes and Ladders, Monopoly or just about any other board game out there.  This skill was so basic and yet many students could not perform it. 

Here is my simple solution—and it fits right in with what I have been preaching since I started this site—play more board games with your kids.  Learning is fun.  Play games that teach kids to move items on a board, count money or tally points at the end of the game.  You’ll be surprised what other important skills they develop.  It’s a great way to get the whole family around the kitchen table too.     

Comments: 2

Top Ten Back To School Things To Do

August 19, 2011

My children are starting school soon and I’m planning every detail of our morning, pick-up, after school, homework, evening ritual and bedtime. My thinking is to be proactive and plan before hand so the school year starts on a positive note.

Here are some things I put on my “to do” list

  1. Get school supplies. Most school websites have a list and some office supply stores carry lists for the neighborhood schools.
  2. Schedule the flu shot for yourself and the kids.
  3. Review bus, class, and bell schedules, as well as school policies. 
  4. Research and plan for extracurricular activities for children if it’s applicable.
  5. Plan an approach to getting children to sleep at the proper time. My girls have been staying up too late. I plan to  gradually set their bedtime earlier over a period of two weeks so they acclimate to their new schedule.
  6. Discuss the following issues: bullying, making friends, the value of education & learning, and finally the importance of good communication.  Let them know you are always ready to listen and be available to them. 
  7. If you children are new to the school, let them tour the school and meet their teacher. If your school has a social event, attend.
  8. Clothes shopping if necessary.
  9. Help children get and stay organized.  Provide a designated area of your house for homework and storing school materials.
  10. Prepare a list of healthy lunch choices in advance. This will make shopping and planning easier. 
Comments: 3

Back To School - Part II

August 23, 2011

These are my first five safety tips for Back To School.

  1. Children should have their home address and phone number memorized
  2. For extra assurance, keep a note in children’s bags containing their home address and phone number.
  3. Keep your children’s names off their backpacks, jewelry, and clothing. If a stranger sees their name, he could use the information to manipulate children into thinking they know the stranger.
  4. Children should memorize their bus number if they take the bus. For children who walk to school, remind them to avoid talking to strangers. For more safety tips on traveling to and from school, go to
  5. Keep backpacks as light as possible so children don’t injure their backs from carrying heavy loads

Here are additional Back To School issues discussed in the following articles:

This site has great tips on how to deal with bullies. Scroll down the page to find these tips at

Lesson Plan

September 28, 2011

I recently moved out-of-state and started a new job.  It has been a busy transition and I'd like to apologize to any of my regular readers for my inconsistency in posting.  My plan is to start my regular postings on Mondays and Thursdays.

This is my first time teaching full time since my kids were born.  My worry is that my parenting will suffer now that I am working.   The other day my daughters didn't want to eat their broccoli.  I was so tired I almost just let it go.  Will one day without veggies hurt them?  Maybe not but it will throw off my consistency in making them eat a balanced meal.   Instead of forcing them to eat broccoli, I told them to imagine the broccoli as trees.  My sister chimed in that the kids could pretend they are giraffes eating leaves off a tree.  My children, niece and nephew all begged us to hold  the broccoli up in the air while they stretched their necks to reach the leaves.   I'm sure you can imagine the children wanted to continue eating broccoli and they each ate three full servings of broccoli.  Amazing that such a simple activity could motivate children to do what you want them to do.

Comments: 5
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