I recently purchased a childhood favorite, Hi! Ho! Cherry-O! for my daughter. Originally intended for a fun before nap activity, it easily turned into a math lesson. After each spin she had to SUBTRACT one or more pieces of fruit from her tree. I wasn’t afraid to use this word. At first she looked at me when I used this “fancy” word, but I continued on letting her figure out what I meant when I said, “Oh, you need to SUBTRACT 3 green apples from your tree!” She figured out what I meant; she had played the game before. But my 3 ½ year old certainly hadn’t heard the word SUBTRACT. Now she has. How about the word COMPARE? I certainly could use this math word on our next game to notice the differences and similarities between my fruit tree and hers.
Taking an opportunity to teach something is what we call a teachable moment. In yesterday’s game, I could have just said TAKE AWAY but why not introduce a new word? It wasn’t a formal introduction. There wasn’t a lesson plan in my pocket. It was just an opportunity to teach my child something she may not know yet. That’s my job. I’m her Smart Mama.
We come across teachable moments all the time. A few months ago my morning ritual of checking the temperature on my iPhone brought on a science lesson that ended with a new daily routine of my daughter’s to tell Mommy & Daddy the high and low of the day. We talked a little about how we use numbers to tell how hot or cold things are, just like when mommy takes her temperature when she’s sick. This little lesson also brought a new fascination of watching the weatherman give his report. Again, was a science lesson on temperature what I had planned for that morning? No, but I took advantage of a moment. We didn’t go into Celsius and conversions or anything too complicated for me to understand, we just explored the basic concept of using numbers to describe the weather.
I can’t even explain the multitude of teachable moments existing in the grocery store. I remember telling the parents of my former 3rd grade students how a visit to the supermarket is the perfect opportunity for a reading, math, science and social studies activity. With a paper and pencil in hand, a 3rd grader (obviously not a my 3 year old!) could tabulate the cost of the purchases. At the same time my preschooler reviews counting when we count the number of apples I place in the cart. I also try using directional words, such as, turn LEFT, go STRAIGHT, or RIGHT as I push her around the store.
Identifying and using teachable moments are an essential component of Smart Mama-hood! Look for them at breakfast, at the park, dinnertime, bath time and more! Now go be a Smart Mama and find a teachable moment TODAY. Can’t wait to hear what teachable moments you stumble upon!