Learning the Arabic Alphabet through Play

Standard

As H’s interest in letters and reading has really emerged this past year, I’ve been finding ways to extend her learning beyond English and French, into Arabic so that she can start preparing to read and learn the Quran.

Here are some of the games I’ve developed (all on the fly with using supplies we already have) to help learn and revise letters. Hope they can benefit families and teachers who are looking for more play-based options to supplement learning of the Arabic alphabet.

  1. Guessing Game – I asked H to close her eyes and pick a block out of the box. She told me which letter it was. If she couldn’t remember it correctly, I told her and she repeated after me. I made a mental note of the letter so we could focus on it more later. She decided to start lining up the blocks and then independently proceeded to review them. A great extension activity to be used with these blocks is while the child has their eyes closed, help them run their fingers over the letters to trace them and see if they can guess which letter it is. Because the letters are embossed into the block, this works really well and helps engage other senses (not just sight). We used our existing Uncle Goose blocks for this activity, but feel free to use these DIY Arabic Rocks, or draw the letters onto any other tactile medium of choice like duploblocks, lids, tree cookies and yes, even flash cards).
  2. Scavenger Hunt – Anyone who follows this blog knows how much H loves searching for things. In fact, she created her own scavenger hunt for her brother just yesterday (I will share it in a future post). I thought this would be particularly fun for her to do. To make this activity, I just took a blank piece of paper and quickly wrote out the Arabic alphabet (although I’m sure you could find much prettier templates online or make one yourself). I hid the blocks all around our playroom and then called H and Y to find them. H really enjoyed this activity and used the template to mark off the letters she found. Each time she (or her brother found the letter) she had to say the letter out loud and put it back in the box. At the end, she was missing a letter according to her paper so we reversed the process- each time she removed a block from the box, she said the name of the letter and double-checked her list. We discovered she had originally mixed up two similar letters. All of this helped reinforce her letter recognition. As with the last activity, you can create and use your own Arabic alphabet resources. Some more ideas include magnets, playdough cutters or stickers.
  3. Spatial Connections– When it comes to learning in general, I hate limiting myself and my children to linear or chronological approaches. While it’s an easy way to rote memorize things like the alphabet, I want my children to recognize the letters, even when they are not in order (or context). I have been very intentional about H learning the letters in a random order. To supplement this, one day when we were sitting on the couch, I just started writing Arabic letters randomly all over a lined page. H had to say the name of the letter I was writing. When we were done, she had the idea to go through the alphabet (in order) and draw lines between the order of the letters (like connect the dots). This was such a cool original idea, and extra memorable because it was an idea she developed!
  4. Chalkboard and Punctuation – We have a chalkboard wall in our house. Randomly on a Sunday last month, I decided to clean it. I thought that H had gotten a decent handle on identifying the Arabic alphabet (in it’s standalone  since the way the letter looks changes depending on where it appears in the word) so I thought I could move on and teach her a little bit of punctuation. I explained it to her and then wrote different sounds on the board. Her job was to use the red chalk and circle the sounds I was saying. My sister-in-law was over at the time was impressed that H was able to do this, as was I, because it was the first time I had tried to explain it to her and alhamdulillah, she caught on so quickly. Even Y, who likes to be a part of everything we do, was trying to copy the sounds.
  5. Sensory Search– As I was writing this blog post, this idea came to mind. I have a water table in the playroom right now filled with water beads. I’m going to hide the Arabic Alphabet rocks in them so that when H is scooping and squishing, she can happen upon them. I can imagine her excitedly running towards me saying “Mama, I found a Jeem“. If you have any kind of (dry) sensory materials (rice, beans, lentils) in a container, you can hide little pieces of paper or brightly coloured foam with the letters on them. If you want a more natural feel, you can use wooden shapes (I found these at the dollar store). I’ve  even seen people create search and find bags using taped ziplocks or bottles which are perfect as an on-the-go activity.

Do you guys have any fun games or activities that your families have come up with to learn or review the alphabet?

Advertisements

Fall Musings

Standard

Things have been more quiet over here as we adjust to our new normal. After spending summer with both kids full-time, it is very different to have H in full-day school and to have Y in the throes of toddlerhood.

Routine has become a huge part of getting through each day and through the week. It makes me a little sad because there isn’t as much time for spontaneous play (we still do what we can). But we aren’t able to delve as deeply or as entirely as we once did.

Y’s foray into loose parts continues. Whether it’s playing with random loose parts after dinner …

Or playing with a jar of pom poms …

There is something so novel, yet so familiar about watching him work.

His love for books and being read to and his natural desire to connect lead us to be away from home every day, except for the days when the hermit in me says I just want to be alone. And then my house implodes. Because keeping a toddler home (almost) all day is just asking for trouble…

So far, this fall has not witnessed any pie making, or leaf collecting, although we do play outside nearly every day after school.

Instead, laughter and yelling, shrieks of joy and hot tears, the pitter patter of little feet running across the hard floor and crunching leaves (or snow) seem to fill my days.

And the only pumpkin we’ve seen or touched was just for H during her field trip.

9d929583-0775-41b7-806a-5541a068c41a

The increasingly normal blurring of summer, fall and winter here in Calgary, provide us with sun, leaves and snow and calm starlit nights.

They play dynamic between H and Y shifts. Here, H creates “Lost” posters in case Y ever loses his beloved Dinosaur.

The last leaf has almost fallen from the tree in our backyard.

This time always passes too quickly.

But not without H turning the big 5.

 

Rings and Things Revisited

Standard

When we went to India on a family vacation almost three years ago, I had purchased a few boxes of child-sized bangles to distribute to H’s friends on Eid. H, who was a toddler at the time, found the boxes when she was investigating my closet one day and the beautifully arranged sets became a collection (read mess) of multicoloured, different sized metal bangles. I decided to hold on to them because I figured I would be able to use them at some point in the future.

NThis week when I was home with Y and trying to get some time to finish vacuuming, I pulled out the bangles for him. He started exploring them.

 

And then, toddler that he is, he started squeezing the metal bangles between his little fists.

 

I didn’t want to reshape all the bangles, so I decided to get him the paper towel holder I had given him to play with last year when he was eight or nine months old. You can read about his past experience playing with rings here.

FF980DDC-A9BB-476D-96D6-118ECC910B9D

It was intriguing to see how skilled Y has become. Now a toddler, Y was able to manipulate thin, small bangles and get them on and off the holder without help. Last year, he was only able to move big rings back and forth.

 

I was curious to see how long Y would keep at this. I extended his play by showing him how to take turns: I added some and waited him to add some. Then, as I expected, he started removing bangles and eventually picked up the holder and moved it around the room, complicating his series of actions. He would add a bangle, pick up the holder set it on the edge of the bed, move the bangles up and down and then bring it back to the floor and repeat the sequence. Toddlers are famous for their desire to transport things.

 

*Mind the chaos on the bed. In my house, the price of having a clean floor is to have a disastrous bed. But check out those vacuum lines.

The next day I added another piece of “equipment.” I have a rotating spice rack in his room that we use with loose parts from time to time. I was showing him how to hang bangles on the various hooks- it reminded me of tree decorating. But Y, found his own way to play with it. He would add the bangles to the top rack and then push them through the gaps until they would fall to the bottom. The sound of such delicate metal on thicker metal was making the most beautiful sound, like windchimes.

4DB46D12-7C37-4C7D-AA75-815E1EB54836

Giving him these two seemingly random things to play with allowed him to investigate and problem solve while working on fine motor and gross motor skills. And I finished vacuuming.

A loose parts kind of morning – toddler edition

Standard

This has been one of those weeks when nothing has gone as planned. The kids have been sick, no one has gotten a decent  stretch of sleep, our dishwasher and laundry machine are out of commission and it’s hitting me that H is going to be on her way to school in a few short weeks.

All that being said, it’s been a lazy day lounging around the house (finally!) This morning, I saw Y play with all sorts of toddler-friendly loose parts. It’s exciting for me to see him sit for longer and longer periods of time as he manipulates things more intentionally and brings back fond memories of H at this age.

Some of the loose parts related play he was doing this morning:

He was feeling the heaviness of rocks and how this affects the way they fall, adding to his understanding of gravity.

F90DD124-AD76-4E3D-859E-37C8259EB1B0

He was placing balls into cups.

FA1245C6-B8BD-476B-87D3-6B7CD1550E3F

He was fitting rocks and small animal figurines into an old wet wipes container.

C8F7DB5D-E148-4E41-82F1-9C421EA8AC88

He was filling items into an old egg carton.

He was hiding and finding rocks.

He was playing with hair curlers.

It’s also been interesting to see how he interacts differently with the same materials he has played with earlier.

Here he is interested in nesting these hair curlers and marvelling at the sound they make when he pulls and pushes one out of another.

E91C37DE-F14D-48FB-A56F-87546ED4F168

Earlier, he was fascinated by how they would roll.

He’s always been drawn to H’s collection of (small-sized) loose parts. Now that he’s over the “everything must go in my mouth as soon as I see it” phase,  I have started to feel comfortable letting him play with glass pebbles and beads. I know he will try to stick them in his mouth when he gets bored or is teething but soon, I suspect I will be able to give him dedicated times to this.

 

Ramadan 2018: Post 7- Learning Arabic Rocks!

Standard

I had an idea a while ago that I was hoping to do sometime in Ramadan to surprise H with. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, we’ve been dabbling with the Arabic alphabet for the past few years, but this year, I’m trying to reinforce what she already knows through various different games so that she can move on to start formally learning how to read the Quran.

So far, she has seen the Arabic letters in print (books and posters), on screens (often accompanied by a song) and on these cute wooden blocks I used to sell. (Note: I still have them in a variety of languages, other than Arabic so please contact me if you’re interested- the Farsi and Hindi ones are especially beautiful!)

I love the idea of a tactile resource so a few weeks ago, I finally decided to print the Arabic alphabet on rocks! I used paint pens I had previously purchased from Michaels.

image

How cute would these be to make as a gift for someone? Slip them into a canvas bag and give a child in your life a unique and functional play resource.

image

And because I like open-ended items and play things that can be used in multiple ways, I decided to paint moons and stars on the back of some of the rocks. I did this so that H could play a variation of Tic-Tac-Toe, a game she discovered a few months ago and loves playing on a dry-erase board.

image

Someone could just as easily paint or draw whatever might capture the interest of their child: animals, geometric designs or just leave them in their beautiful, natural state. I love the variety of colour, shape and size!

H found these photos on my phone last week (before I had a chance to add them into her Ramadan Calendar) so we decided to play with them. She was so excited!

image95.jpeg

And she went about ordering the alphabet (though as you can see, she doesn’t yet know that Arabic is written and read from right to left).

image

Y loves playing with them too. He turned ONE 10 days ago and loves filling and dumping things.

image

P.S. I hope you appreciated my carefully crafted pun!

P.P.S. I confess that I ran out of rocks! I still need to complete the other half of the alphabet.

 

Beads as loose parts

Standard

Many educators and parents view using beads as a natural step towards crafting and jewelry making. While H does enjoy making bracelets and necklaces with beads, perhaps what she loves more is to play with beads as loose parts. Her collection of beads has easily grown into the hundreds.

image

Loose parts, at least as I refer to them in my blog posts, are essentially open-ended items, meaning they are objects (often a collection of objects) that can be used and played with, in a number of different ways.

Her love for beads started with sorting them. She would easily spend an hour sorting beads by different properties. For example, she might first sort them by colour, arranging them into distinct piles on the floor. Then, when I would come back to check on her, she would be arranging them by shape/form. Sometimes, she will arrange them using multiple properties or subjective categories like “beautiful,” often coming up with names for the categories based on  their attributes. Some examples of this include referring to parts of her collection as “butterfly beads,” “Christmas lights,” “keys,” “maracas,” “cactus,” and “raspberries.”

Often, she would try to house her organized beads in ice cube trays, but because she didn’t have enough compartments to reflect all the different categories, sometimes, she would combine categories (“this section is for red and green”).

One day as she was painting an empty styrofoam egg carton (it was for 18 eggs), I suggested she may be able to use that with her beads.

image

Sometimes, H uses the beads as characters, giving them voices as she treats them as characters. This was a very distinct theme for her in the fall when she would play with plastic pop arty beads (the different shaped plastic/rubber beads click together so that string isn’t required to make jewelry).

image

Building on the idea of using beads in dramatic play, she sometimes uses them as props for little figures in small world play, often acting as food, jewels etc.

image

More recently, H has started using beads in combination with sensory materials like playdough to create things (not just to process). Here she is making sprinkle ice cream and chocolate chip and sugar cookies.

Last week, in collaboration with me, H used beads as a medium to create pictures. We started by creating what looked like a minion, a bird (kind of looks like a pigeon) on a branch, and a birthday cake.

Then, H worked independently. From literal representations (here is “a garden with flowers and grass and butterflies like a real garden”)

image

…to more abstract complex ones (“I want to make a human with a silly face, a hijab, a bindi on its head over here [points to forehead], earrings and makeup on her lips.”)

image

Sidenote: when H was creating the work above, I was not with her. I was putting Y back to sleep so this piece was conceptualized and executed exclusively by her. She even documented it herself (took the photo to share her work with me). It was an empowering moment for her and a proud moment for me. One of her favourite parts about making pictures with beads is destroying it after. She takes much joy in mixing everything together.

This morning, I had an idea for another activity: using beads to “colour” in existing pictures, more specifically mandalas. This idea appealed to her. I will include a photo once we get around to it.

For more information on loose parts, you may wish to consult these books, full of inspiring ideas and beautiful photo examples. Note: they may be available through your local library as well as in e-format.

There are some cool “loose parts” groups on Facebook as well as profiles on other social media platforms. Most recently, I’ve been benefitting from this podcast series on loose parts. You can also search for other “loose part” entries on my blog as it’s a common theme for us.

I hope that this post has helped broaden your perspective on the role of beads in early childhood play.

 

Infants, Grasping and Emergent Curriculum

Standard

For many new parents, it’s one of the sweetest, earliest memories when their baby holds their finger. Thanks to the grasp reflex, babies are primed to wrap their palms and fingers around whatever is placed in their palms. As they grow, they lose this reflex and grasping becomes more intentional.

image

I remember noticing Y’s fondness for grasping things that provided some kind of holes. Infants often start by grabbing into gasping rings but it became very noticeable to me when he was repeatedly drawn to items with multiple holes.

image.jpeg

I decided to intentionally provide materials he could weave his fingers in to promote his interest in a safe way.

One of the first things I did was hanging up a belly dance scarf within arms reach for him to explore during a diaper change.

image

Then again with H as I looked on.

image

Because of the small coins on the scarf, I didn’t feel comfortable leaving him alone to play with it for long periods so I started thinking of what else I could create.

I remembered an idea from the book Loose Parts 2: Inspiring Play with Infants and Toddlers where embroidery hoops were used with different textured materials. So I decided to use a mesh bag that previously housed babybel cheese as my fabric of choice. I left the tag on because infants are drawn to tags.

In addition to creating this toy for him, I also became more mindful about our environment and started thinking about things we had at home that he was drawn to grasping that perhaps weren’t independently accessible (artwork, towel holder ring etc).

I’ve been ruminating over how I can make his bedroom and the children’s play space more inviting and engaging. I will share the process and results of this in a future post.

Observing Y the past few months has been especially satisfying for me because while I have quite a bit of experience using emergent curriculum (planning play environments and learning opportunities for children based on demonstrated interests, needs and abilities), it’s mostly been with preschool-aged children. To witness the amazing progression of skill in infants is really something special and these days, I find myself more drawn to creating meaningful play opportunities and environments for Y.

In the 3.5 years that have elapsed since H was this age, my knowledge and understanding of play and development has not only deepened, but I’ve been able to connect to likeminded parents and educators which continues to serve as inspiration. This along with getting to live out my learning firsthand is a reason to get excited!