As a teacher, I'm only too aware of the need to develop problem-solving and thinking skills in children. It may seem unbelievable to some, but there's been a recent wave in education in the last few years where it has become apparent that too many years of 'chalk and talk' has created a generation of young adults who (apparently) can't process the important facts and have difficulty identifying the ways to solve problems.
And to be perfectly honest, it's not nonsense. Children have to be given opportunities to discover; just the same as they have to see play modelled in order to recreate it themselves, they need to be shown how to break a problem down into manageable steps and then piece it back together bit by bit to create a workable solution. In schools we have various ways to do this, identifying that Thinking Skills are a part of the Key Skills Framework and building techniques into lessons, as well as brain gym and creative thinking exercises where possible.
I happen to think that igniting that questioning process and stoking the embers is a really important part of pre-school development as well, and just the same as parents provide opportunities for developing reading, writing or 'rithmetic, then they should as well for thinking.
I've been sent a copy of the above book to review and have found it really interesting. The author, Robert Fisher, taught for over twenty years in schools in the UK, Africa and Hong Kong, and as a professor at Brunel University, there's a fairly good chance that he's going to be an excellent person to compile a book like this.
'Brain Games for Your Child' provides over two hundred games to help children build their thinking, number, language and social skills. There are games that focus on music and art, treasure hunts, card games, word and number battles that are games to be played by all the family. With a range of old favourites as well as new games, what is common to all the games is interaction with other people, enabling children to develop and enhance their communication skills, gaining a response to their queries and providing them with the opportunity to process what they've learnt with support.
I thought it would be a good idea if I mentioned a few of the games suitable for 3-6 year olds, although there are sections on 0-3 years, 6-9 years, and the older child. The section starts by reminding parents of the six things for a growing brain to function well: good food, drink, oxygen, physical exercise, rest and stimulus. In fact, each section of a different age starts with tips and information on that age phase, for example; 'try to use interesting and descriptive adjectives when you tell a story…'. Each activity listed also identifies the key skills enhanced through the game.
- Balancing Act: (this involves the whole body and strengthens the pathways that link the two sides of the brain) balance a variety of objects on his/her head, challenge them to walk the whole length of the garden or hallway. [Key skill: physical co-ordination, self-control]
- Blindfold Games: sit the child down with a blindfold on and creep around the room making small noises like whispering his/her name. He/she needs to point to the sounds heard. [KS: reasoning and visual memory skills]
- Matching: Provide him/her with a selection of similar objects to sort into piles, or their own socks to pair! [KS: questioning, reasoning about cause and effect]
- What is it?: Find some pictures of things your child knows in magazines, cut out the pictures and paste them onto a separate piece of paper. Hide each one in an envelope. Pull the first picture out of the envelope just far enough to the child to see a section and ask 'What is it?' Give clues, identify what they can see, help them make informed guesses by revealing a small section more until they guess. [KS: perception, prediction and language skills]
- Musical jars: Use approximately ten identical glass bottles or jars, a selection of different 'drumsticks' and a jug of water. Fill the jars to a different depth and experiment with the different drumsticks to make different notes. Discuss the pitches and encourage him/her to create their own musical water melody. [KS: musical and auditory discrimination]
There are so many more ideas in this book including story telling ideas, rhyming games, memory games, drawing ideas, deduction games and so many more. I'm not going to list them all because then there'd be no point in reviewing and promoting it! Some of the ideas in the book are common sense, but sometimes we need them pointing out to us as parents to be reminded of them; something can seem obvious and non beneficial to us, but then we're not pre-schoolers are we? However, there is a wealth of activities in Brain Games For Your Child that aren't obvious and are really good ideas, using everyday household objects.
'Brain Games For Your Child' is available from Amazon for the bargain price of £9.60 (RRP £15.00) in paperback or £9.12 on Kindle.
I would recommend investing in this book because it's become a little bit of a Bible for activities in our house, and will last for years! On the Amazon page, there is a 'click to look inside' option to help persuade you of its worth.
I was sent a copy of this book for the purpose of this review, my opinion is honest and unbiased.