Aug 22, 2013

Learning with Animal Flashcards

Recently, I picked up this pack of flashcards in the $1 section at Target.

Over the past few weeks that we have been focusing on zoo animals, I have taken this pack out maybe once, twice at the most to show to Kingston. Each time I did, he showed great interest in them. When I worked in daycare, we were always printing out pictures of animals and other items to laminate and show to the kids. I think it is really important for baby to also be introduced to things that they do not generally see in day to day life. So, yesterday we sat down with these flashcards and worked on several different learning concepts. 

Animal Identification: 

The first activity that we did was identifying all of the animals. These flashcards are double sided, so this took us quite awhile. I was thrilled to watch how excited he was to participate! He eagerly listened and observed as I held up each card from the pile and showed him the animal that was on both the back and front. The cards that he was extra interested in, he would take from me and closely examine making his grunting "Uh" or "Um". It was really cute! 

Animal Sound Recognition: 

After we identified each animal, we worked on animal sound recognition. K loves to hear me make the animal sounds for him. He can even identify a couple animals based on their sounds now. For instance, if we are in his room and I say, "quack, quack, quack", he will crawl over and bring me his wooden duck. This activity was similar to the previous one, except I only held up the animals that had corresponding sounds. I said the name of the animal, the sound it made, and generally did a corresponding hand movement. For example, "The Bee says bzzzzzzzz", then I buzzed and pretended I was a bee tickling his cheek and neck. He got a kick out of this. He loved when I made bear sounds and gave him a bear hug and when I did my elephant impression the most! 

Following Directions:

Next, we worked on following simple commands. This is something I am constantly working on with Kingston. It is a skill that we usually take for granted, but that is so very important in life. I will say to him, "Can you bring me this please?" or "Can you find this for me?" So, for this activity, I simply pointed at an animal, told him the name, and asked him if he would give the flashcard to me. Teaching him to follow this simple direction reinforced his listening skills, worked on hand eye coordination, and exercised his fine motor skills (those thin cards are hard for baby fingers to pick up!). After he handed me each card, I would clap my hands and exclaim, "Good listening!" We did this until I had all of the cards in a neat little stack. Then I handed them to Kingston and let him make them messy again for the next learning activity.

Seek and Find:

For this activity, I posed, "Let's find the (blank)". Then I would search through the cards and hold up the corresponding animal. I would say, "We found the (blank)!" and then clap my hands and hand him the card. It was a little bit like the reverse of the following directions activity. This way, he got to be in control (as much as an 11 month old can be in control!) while he partnered with me to find the cards and then be in charge of keeping the cards. Keeping the cards really consisted of just throwing them over his head and laughing, but that was fine (and funny!). I tried to be as lax as possible and let him have as much fun as he wanted. I was prepared to clean up and move on the second he gave me the signal that he wasn't feeling it. Since he seemed to be avidly interested still, I came up with a final activity for him to do!

Animal Recognition:

It is no secret here that Kingston has three favorite animals: puppies, bears, and birds. While we were doing the other activities, I observed how many times he actively found those three animals and examined them. Every time he heard me say one of their names, he would look to find them. So for this activity, I put all the other cards away and left out those three cards. First I let him play with them for a little bit. He would pick one up and I would tell him the name and he would give it a kiss, hold it really close to his eyes, or throw it back down. After a couple minutes, I laid them out and told him, "Kingston find me the bear". I was blown away when he reached out and found it. He did the same for both the puppy and the bird! We did this over several times. After awhile, I could tell that he was mentally tired and he was just picking up whatever he wanted and throwing it at me. At this point, I left him alone to play with the cards (I will definitely have to buy a new set and laminate them since these three cards have now been through the ringer!).  

Here is a video of his animal recognition skills! 

I was extremely proud that he was able to recognize his three favorite animals. I feel like that is a huge accomplishment for a baby his age! Learning with a baby is never foolproof though. When I tried to show his Aunta the next day, he literally handed me the opposite of everyone I asked him to. Then today he did it several times again! 

I personally love flashcards! My mom used them with us when we were little, and I have acquired quite the collection of different themes for Kingston to learn with. They are great when they are just one component in a vast array of other learning opportunities. K is really into them and they are proving to really help with his recognition skills of both names, sounds, and images. An added bonus to flashcards is the infinite number of learning activities and games that can be done using them. As I was completing these simple baby friendly activities with Kingston, I was already fast forwarding to ideas for using them later on in our schooling. They are definitely a great addition to a curriculum, especially when they are on sale for $1! 

Did you learn with flashcards when you were a child? Do you use flashcards with your kids?  

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