About brainytot

Welcome to BrainyTot, the back-to-what’s-natural blog where we share ideas for nurturing optimal brain development in our little ones during those all-important first years. Along with learning ABCs and 123s, acquiring emotional skills and enjoying plenty of developmentally appropriate body movement ensures a child is ready to learn.

Tips for Teaching Preschoolers High-Frequency Words

Drill and memorization have no place with preschoolers.

We sometimes underestimate what very young children can pick up on. While learning is important, free play is equally important to our little learners. Not only that, but many kids learn, without even knowing it, through free play.

Tips for Exposing Your Preschoolers to High-Frequency Words in a Kid-Friendly Way

1. Make a sight word display at their eye level using a corkboard or a pocket chart.

2. Display SnapWords®  sight words cards in this area and then leave them there like you would a decoration.


3. Be sure to locate the display in an area where the preschoolers play, and they will be drawn naturally to that area to look at the colorful words and images.

4. Follow their lead. If they point to a word, tell them what it is. If they walk away and play, let them go. If they ask about another word, tell them that word and comment on what is going on in the picture.


5. Rearrange the words from time to time so that they are not always in the same spot. Group them in pairs so that a phrase is formed such as “come here” or “sit down.” This will make an impression on the children that words actually mean something. You don’t have to teach this concept, the children will simply take in this information on their own.

6. Make coloring materials available to the preschoolers so they can draw pictures of their favorite words if they want.

7.  Numbers & Colors are a great place to start with preschoolers. Lay out the cards and let the child match objects to their colors or let them count the correct number of objects they have in front of them.

1112 1111

9. When you eat a meal, ask children to identify which color words are on their plates, or, have them choose three color cards and make up a funny lunch with foods in their chosen colors. Let them color their funny lunch on a paper plate that has not been plastic- or wax-coated.

What To Do When Learning Doesn’t Stick

We’ve all encountered children who just couldn’t seem to remember what we taught them – or who seemed unable to learn to begin with. Instead of labeling the child unable to learn, what can you do to help learning stick?


DO take the time to find out how the child remembers most easily.

DO ask persist in asking questions until he or she begins to really pay attention to how they remember things they do remember. Ask: “How did you remember that?” “What kinds of things are easy for you to remember?” or “How did you remember this just now?”

DO look at the lesson you are teaching and scrutinize it carefully

    • Is it predominantly using symbols? (Example, learning to spell words, learning math facts, learning math procedures? Learning history facts? Phonics rules, etc.)
    • Is it all verbal? In other words, are you teaching it orally? (You talking; him/her listening). Is he/she reading about it in a book?
    • Are there ANY hooks for learning, meaning, and remembering at all? Or is it you teach while he or she takes notes or watches or reads about it?
    • Is this the routine: You present the material, kids listen (take notes, read about it in the book) you assign homework, they do homework (or not), you ask them to review, then you test them.

If this pretty much sounds familiar, let’s just take a moment to see how learning happens when it happens naturally.

Here’s how learning happens in the brain.

All learning begins with sensory input, but not all input is created equal. Teaching verbally, listening, reading, and memorizing are only stored in the brain short term. The brain’s of our little tots are not wired to store these types of experiences in long term memory without activating other senses and parts of the brain.


How can you activate different parts of the brain?

Smell is closely related to context  and memory that it would be worthwhile and fun to experiment using scent on purpose while learning something boring or difficult. Then when you want to know what your child remembers, diffuse that scent again and see what happens.

Story is one of the most influential ways to help children learn and remember. This is because when you tell a story with learning concepts in it, the child’s brain is triggered in all the places it would be if he or she were in the story experiencing the action, seeing the sights, moving, or feeling emotions. Stories are a powerful way to communicate ideas that otherwise can be boring and hard to understand.

Metaphor is an extremely effective tool. Much like stories, they show rather than tell. Choose something that is very well known to your child, something he or she can see, and use that to explain a new abstract concept that is loosely related. For example, network of roads is like the circulatory system.

Color and Pattern and anything else that is visual such as pictures are captured instantly in the brain. What a child sees he or she will remember far more readily and permanently than what they hear. Show, don’t tell.


Location is also a great way to secure learning and make it stick. Don’t do all your teaching with students sitting in the same exact spot for every lesson. Instead try mixing it up. How many times have you been trying to remember something and you think to yourself, “I remember I was standing right next to the front door, I was holding my cell phone in my hand, and my sister called me…” and with any luck as you remember those connected events, the idea you were trying to recall comes back to you.

Context is important for a child. Never give them an solitary detail and ask him or her to just remember it. Build it into its environment, show how it is part of a pattern. Rather than memorize something from a book, go to the source as often as possible and give hands-on experience.

Belief is the strongest factor in learning. Your belief in a child and his/her belief in themselves. For this reason, it is crucial you use your best teaching tools and that you learn as quickly as possible what your child’s learning strengths are. There is no question about whether they can or cannot learn. The child will have success as long as you believe in and respect their individual learning style. 

3 Reasons Why You Should Teach Sight Words to Preschoolers

Why teach sight words to preschoolers? ddd

1. You will prevent possible failure: By taking action early, it is likely that you will be able to create a path of success for a child and therefore prevent any possible failure, labeling, and confidence loss. Some might ask, “But what if my child would have done fine without early intervention?” However, the problem is that we do not know for sure which child is going to struggle, so to be sure that they don’t, we introduce words early in developmentally appropriate ways before formal schooling beings.

2. You will ensure success by teaching to their strengths: If you teach sight words to preschoolers using methods and materials that make use of their primary ways of learning, you will provide them with a background that will ready the child for any kindergarten requirement. At this age, it is important to teach using body movement and visuals since many tots cannot memorize plain words. Our SnapWords® sight words with pictures, images and body movement, learning will seem like play for young children.


3. You will provide relevance for what they learn in kindergarten: Using SnapWords®sight words with pictures, you will be able to reach the beginners who struggle with the little details of learning to read, such as letter names and sounds. Many children learn best from whole to part and without that, they get lost in the details. By providing a child with an arsenal of words with meaning, they will “get” what reading is! The child will understand from the beginning that reading is not just sounds put together, but instead is extracting meaning from those words.

4 Key Elements That Help Preschoolers Connect With Learning

Recent years haveelements1 brought an increased emphasis on teaching school content at a younger and younger age. While this is not the primary work of little ones, there are great developmentally appropriate ways to introduce letters, sounds, and numbers to toddlers. The really young learn most readily through pictures, stories, music, games, and a whole lot of hands-on play.

Toddlers learn best in a natural environment that allows him or her to absorb information without even realizing they are learning. Specific elements that work well when teaching toddlers are:

1. Song
If you want your little tot to learn a specific procedure, put it to music. For example singing “This is the way we wash our hands, wash our hands, wash our hands. This is the way we wash our hands so early in the morning.” This melody works great for replacing “wash our hands” with what ever you are currently teaching. Encourage the child to mimic what you are doing while singing the song, this way you are modeling the correct way to do a particular job, and your child will be practicing his or her skills as you sing.

2. Visuals
We’ve all heard that a picture is worth 1,000 words and this holds true when teaching your little ones. Pictures and images make use of visual memory where the picture and all its details are stored intact. Memorable images often can be recalled later in life in minute detail, carrying with them any learning concepts that were embedded in them. For even more learning, a visual with a song or story can double the effectiveness of your teaching.

3. Story
Children are born storytellers, and think of their lives in terms of story. The story line or plot is the glue that holds all the elements of the story together. If you want your toddler to remember a sequence of events or steps in a procedure, make up a story that links all the pieces together.Combining a story line with images can make for an even more powerful learning experience.

4. Touch
Tots learn about the world through their senses—sight, smell, touch, sound, and taste. They pick up cues about natural characteristics of objects in their world; they learn about things that are soft or hard, heavy or light, smooth or rough, hot or cold, and sweet or sour. They take in so much that becomes basis for more learning later in life. The more full-bodied the sensory background, the wider the store of previous knowledge and comprehension the child will bring to school.


Now that you know some of the elements that help little tots connect with learning, what learning tools will help this specific age group use these elements?

The Effects of Movement on Development and Learning

“Learning, thought, creativity and intelligence are not processes of the brain alone, but of the whole body.”

– Carla Hannaford, Ph.D. 

Connections between the brain and body
In our society it is widely believed that intelligence is measured by one’s analytical skills which is reflected by an IQ score. High IQ = smart; low IQ = not so much. We also act as if the body exists to carry the brain from place to place, with the actual learning process happening only in the brain. We believe in exercising the brain, but don’t tend to view body movement as valuable to the learning process. However, that is not the case.

Kids especially benefit from body movement. It is essential to the learning process to allow children to explore every aspect of movement and balance in their environment, whether walking on a curb, climbing a tree, or jumping on the furniture.

Body movement does a lot for our minds, such as:
 is integral to our intellectual processes from the moment of conception
allows us to take in information through our senses
then anchors this information in our neural networks
is necessary as we build the skills we need to express our knowledge throughout our lives

Hebrainonlegsre’s how it works
We absorb information about the world through our bodies.The body is like a huge magnet for learning, which comes to us through our eyes, hands, ears, taste buds and noses.

This information is stored in various regions of the brain:

  • Occipital Lobe is the visual area which receives visual information regarding shape, color movement and which also relates current input to previous input.
  • Temporal Lobe is the auditory area having to do with sound, pitch, rhythm, the interpretation of speech, gravitational sense, balance, vibrational sense. The temporal lobe also is the area for the sense of smell.
  • Parietal Lobe is the area for the senses such as touch, pain, cold, awareness of our bodies in space, shape, texture, orients where objects are in relationship to the body, and interprets sensations of taste (sweet, salty, bitter, etc.).
  • Frontal Lobe is the area that controls muscles from all over the body, learner motor movements, skilled movements, the scanning movements of the eyes, and the place where thoughts are translated into speech and where inner talk (gratification, self-control, cause and effect, etc.) takes place.

A rich learning experience will combine images that include shape patterns and color (from the occipital lobe), tones and words (from the temporal and frontal lobes), emotional experiences or connections (from the limbic system), and movements (from the basal ganglion).

Movement begins to create networks in the brain, which is the same type of communication that happens in the brain when a child is learning. One encourages the other.

When we speak of a true multisensory learning experience, this is what it looks like and why it is significant for learning – the more regions of the brain that are stimulated in the process of learning, the more effective the activity will be.

How to Make a Nature Inspired Tambourine

It’s almost summer! That means outdoor play and warm weather fun. While summer is a great time for relaxation, it is important that you keep your child learning throughout the next couple months.

One way we recommend accomplishing that is through music, and what better way to create music than with your own tambourine decorated with items that can be found in your own backyard!

Music benefits anyone of any age, but it especially benefits children. Whether that is listening to their favorite song, banging on some pots and pans, or making their very own instrument. Those noises can impact self-esteem, creativity and movement – just to name a few.

Now that we know the facts, let’s have some fun!

What you’ll need:
2 Paper Plates
Hole punch
Pebbles/Pine cones/Beans
Any other decorating materials you find outside!
(We used flowers, leaves, vegetables, and chives)


First, outside look for small objects that can be used to give the tambourine sound, such as pebbles or pine cones. If you don’t have any of those available to you, we used dried beans and they worked great.


Once you’re back inside, you can hole punch your paper plates, add your rocks or pebbles to the inside, and staple the two plates together.


Now, it’s time to decorate! Let your child’s imagination soar. They can decorate both sides of their new tambourine. On ours, we used leaves and vegetables (carrots, peppers and potatoes) as stamps to put paint on the tambourine. Then, we used glue to apply flowers and leaves we found outside.


After the plates are decorated, you can weave whatever you’d like through the hole punches. We used chives, but tall grass, ribbon, or yarn are good alternatives for this part.


Now you have your finished tambourine! It’s time to make some noise!

Nurturing brain development

Welcome to BrainyTot, the back-to-what’s-natural blog where we share ideas for nurturing optimal brain development in our little ones during those all-important first years. Along with learning ABCs and 123s, acquiring emotional skills and enjoying plenty of developmentally appropriate body movement ensures a child is ready to learn. The great news is that babies pop from the womb with their brains already wired for learning; we just need to know the best ways to encourage this natural process.

Recent years have brought an increased emphasis on teaching school content to younger and younger children. While this is not the primary work of toddlers, there are wonderful developmentally-appropriate ways to introduce letters, sounds, and numbers to toddlers.  The really young learn most readily through pictures, stories, music, games, and a whole lot of hands-on play.

Read what the experts have to say about emotional skills such as listening, choice-making, and thinking ahead. And visit our learning pages to find engaging alphabet resources, numbers learning materials, and supportive games and activities to use with your child. To read what is happening in the brain during these early months and years, read the sub pages under emotional intelligence, brain basics, and brainy body movement.