Ellen Booth Church
Early childhood educator, keynote speaker, writer and product consultant.



Articles and Speeches

Ellen has been writing for Scholastic's Parent and Child and Early Childhood Today magazines since their inception.


Go to www.scholastic.com to find many of her articles.


Click here for an article on inspiring a Love of Learning!


Currently she working with Uncle Jim Mayer on the music based IM4U Social and Emotional Learning Program for young children. Click here for more information.

IM4U Learning Website

A NEW ARTICLE ON KINDERPILLAR.COM
By Ellen Booth Church

Recent research of the developing brain shows that there is a strong connection between the brain and the body. In fact, studies show that activities, which use the small muscles of the hand, actually help with your child’s brain development. Here are some interesting brain-building activities you can share with your child do at home.

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 Brain Facts to Use at Home
Small muscle movements encourage the development of spatial-reasoning skills. These are the same skills your young child will need to learn how to read. For example, it is your child’s ability to mentally manipulate shapes and orient them within a context. As children learn to recognize letters and numbers, they are using these skills to see proper formation and orientation of these “symbols”. But before your child can do this with letters and shapes they need to understand these spatial relationships in terms of a variety of objects and processes in her environment.
In addition, studies show that activities that ask children to manipulate their fingers can boost cognitive development in young children by enhancing the connections in the brain.

 • Bake with your child. The process of mixing, measuring, and washing ingredients to bake fruit muffins or breads requires your child to use small muscle and coordination skills. The circular motion of mixing and stirring is similar to writing the circular based letters and numbers!

 • Share Nursery Rhymes and Fingerplays. Old favorites such as “Jack and Jill Went Up the Hill” and “The Itsy Bitsy Spider” encourage your child to use her hands to create movements with her fingers and hands. While these may seem like just a “fun” thing to do…they are actually building the same section of the brain that your child will use for reading and writing.

 • Play a Delicious Counting Game.You can use your child’s favorite cereal or small crackers for a finger-food game. She will be using small muscles to play the game but at the same time she will be using core math skills at the same time.

To play:
o Pour some of the cereal or crackers into a bowl for the counting game.
o Ask your child to open one hand and use the other to carefully pick up and place three “pieces” in it. She can count as she places them there. Ask, “How many do you have?”
o Have your child place two more pieces in her open hand. Ask, “Now how many do you have?”
o Next tell your child that she can take one away (and eat it if she likes!). Ask, “Now how many do you have left?”
o Continue the game adding and subtracting cereal or crackers until all are eaten!

• Pick It Up Game. An important hand skill is called “pincher grasp” and it is essential to your child’s ability to hold a pencil and write. Simply put, the pincer grip is the grasp used by the index finger and thumb to pinch a shoelace, a cereal puff, or a pencil. It seems like a small thing but it is huge for writing letters. It is also fun to play with. Invite your child to experiment with pincer grasp asking your child to pick up things such as cereal pieces, cotton balls, pom-poms with a pair of tweezers or chop sticks!

 • String Things!Stringing small objects on yarn or string is another way to build hand coordination and pincher grasp. You can use cereal “O’s” on yarn or string to make cereal necklaces! Buttons and large beads are also fun to string. The manipulation of small objects actually increases brain connections.

 • Puzzles, Blocks and Dominos, Oh My!Provide puzzles, dominos and small building blocks for more brain-based small motor activities at home. Studies have shown the process of picking up and balancing small blocks and other building toys builds memory centers of the brain.

 • Paint with fingers, cotton swabs, sponges and yarn. Share a finger and hand skill building art projects that are more based on the process than the product. Provide your child with simple washable paints and a wide variety of “tools” for getting the paint around the paper. For example they can experiment with finger painting, painting with cotton swabs or yarn. Each of these uses different hand muscles and techniques and not only build the brain but also support her creative thinking. You might have a mess at the end of the project…but it will be YOUR child’s very precious creation…and there is nothing messy about that!


Click here for a link to the blog post.

Here Is Another Blog to Read
http://www.kinderpillar.com/blog/

“Look What I Did!”-The Science of Kids and Toys- Guided by Ellen Booth Church

How many times have you heard your child say, “Look what I did…Look what I found” with delightful amazement? The discovery of an interesting flower, rock, or button may seem inconsequential to adults but can become the basis for great opportunities for thinking, problem solving and fun.A walk in the trees, a pile of rocks, a button box, or a stack of empty boxes…what do these all have in common? They are all the rich “treasures” of childhood ready to be discovered and explored by your child.

 Choose Open-Ended Building Toys
Children can turn anything into a toy. In fact sometimes the things we think are not all that interesting…such as the box the toy came in… actually can be of more interest after awhile. Why is this? It is because most toys have a direct purpose and use but the box is open-ended. Children can get tired of a toy but anything can happen with a box! It can be a cave, a house, a hat, a car or a treasure chest. Flexible and varied use is one of the key elements to look for in purchasing toys for your child. A toy that can be used in many different ways will last longer and build your child’s brain. Look for building toys that invite your child to explore, create, take apart and build again. Each time your child uses building toys he or she is creating a new world that requires an awareness of symmetry, balance, structure and stability.
The famous American architect, Frank Lloyd Wright once said that he always kept a set of wood blocks in his office and he continued to explore them throughout his illustrious career. You are never too old for blocks!

 Good Toys to Choose:
• Wood blocks of many different sizes and shape. (must be a large and diverse collection)
• Duplo, Lego and other “fit together” building toys
• Gear toys
• Large cardboard blocks for building kid-size structures
• Toy animals, people and vehicles to use with the structures

 Choose Science Exploration Toys
Children are natural explorers. Toys that help your child observe, compare, and experiment are essential “tools” for learning. Children see the world around them as uncharted territory needing to be discovered. What did you like to explore as a child? Children naturally explore that which is around them. For me it was a combination of the stream in our backyard and our walks in City. One setting was quite rural and the other very urban. It was fascinating to see the similarities and differences. I used to enjoy finding new seedlings poking up out of the ground in the back yard…marvelling at their delicate leaves and stems coming out of the ground. I will never forget the day we were walking in the City when I discovered a persistent seedling pushing its way up through the pavement of the side walk! How could this be I wondered? How could something so fragile move something so solid? Happily, my siblings were curious too and when we got home we experimented by planting several bean seeds under a variety of surfaces…rocks, paper, cardboard, metal,cotton, etc. We carefully watered them and amazingly those little seeds got through most of the surfaces we chose. Ah… the power of nature.
Each time your young child explores a new toy she is using the essential science skills of observation, prediction and experimentation…she just isn’t using those words to describe the process! When children explore they naturally “notice” something (observation), wonder about it (prediction) and explore their wonderment (experimentation). These experiments build your child’s scientific, critical and creative thinking skills. Studies have shown that these “process” skills are what make the facts children need to learn in school have more meaning and use.

 Good toys to choose:

• Unbreakable magnifying glass
• Magnets of different sizes
• Prisms and viewers
• Bubble solution with different wand shapes
• Science Kits

 ~NOTICE~
How can you encourage this heart of discovery in your child? Start with “noticing” things yourself. When you are out and about with your child remember to stop periodically to just notice what is around you. If you see something interesting…point it out. Invite your child to notice it too. By engaging in “Noticing”…you will be providing your child with a good model for the art of stopping, looking and listening.
 • Ask: “What do you see? What do you notice?” Critical thinking is developed when you ask your child to examine the “precious treasures” that she finds. Invite her to describe what she sees. Encourage her to look at it from different angles and viewpoints. This is the essential beginning step of “Observation” in the scientific method.
Of course, a toy is only as good as how it is used. Much of what is learned from a toy has to do with your personal interaction with your child and the toy. Children need encouragement and stimulation. The questions you ask and the ways you participate are essential to building thinking skills. This does not mean showing your child how to use the toy. It is about watching and supporting your child’s exploration with good questions and support.
Here are a few examples:

 ~WONDER~
Most children don’t need to be encouraged to wonder. That skill comes naturally. In fact, sometimes we can get tired of all the “why” questions children ask. But you can support their wonderment by stopping and listening to their questions. Best of all, you don’t always have to know the answers. Ask your child what she thinks. Be willing to say, “I don’t know” and “Let’s find out”. Don’t forget to ask some of your own questions. You will be demonstrating your own curiosity and developing hers.
• Ask questions such as: “What do you wonder? What do you imagine? What do you know? What do you what to find out?” Good open-ended questions such as these validate your child’s sense of wonder and give her some sense of direction with her wondering. By asking what she already knows…you naturally lead to what she wants to find out.

 ~EXPLORE~
Of course, “explore” is probably your child’s middle name! Young children want to touch and try everything they see. Often at this age children need to touch to find out. It is important to provide safe materials and place for her to experiment with her “treasures”. Shells, rocks, buttons, boxes are all great themes to explore at home. Your child might want to start a collection. I still have my rock collection from childhood… and it has GROWN!
• Ask, “How many ways can you?” Flexibility of thought is an essential ingredient of exploring with creative thinking and problem solving. And it all starts with an open-ended question. Invite your child to explore “how many ways” she can use a particular “found treasure”. 

So the next time your child shows you something she just created or found, instead of saying “That’s nice, honey” or wondering what to say… try one of these ideas or questions to keep her creative and critical thinking going.

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Keynote for the Coalition for Infant and Toddler Educators (CITE)


 

At the heart of every good environment for infants and Toddlers is YOU…the caregiver. You can use the acronym for CITE to guide you in the four steps to creating an open-ended and challenging environment for your infants and toddlers.

 

C: Communicate and Converse:

I: Interact

T: Tickle

E: Explore and Expand

 

Let’s look at each of these guidelines for creating an educationally stimulating environment.

 

COMMUNICATE and CONVERSE

  • Narrate childrens' play
  • Use parallel talk to describe what children are doing
  • Repeat select words (such as “in” & “out”) you want to emphasize.
    • Create opportunities for both free play and adult/child interaction
    • Follow the child’s lead as you mimic his/her actions
    • Use your body and facial expressions to say, “I am interested in what you are doing!”
      • Inject humor into play interactions
      • Pretend to make mistakes, and “play dumb”. Nothing is more empowering for children then the ability to correct YOU!
      • Hold the book upside down; pretend to use it as a hat…be silly!
        • Issue investigative initiations by stretching childrens normal way of play. It is almost as if you are saying, “If you can do that, can you do this?”
        • Challenge children to do things in new ways. If he can hold one ball, what happens when you offer another? If he can hold two, what happens when you offer a third?
        • Put a favorite toy just out of reach and place another one nearby. Can the child use one toy as a tool to get the other?
        • Tie a string onto a favorite toy and put the end near the child? Can he find a way to pull the toy closer?

 

INTERACT

You are the Infant and Toddler Environment

            A Keynote for CITE Annual Conference 2011

  • Create opportunities for both free play and adult/child interaction
  • Follow the child’s lead as you mimic his/her actions
  • Use your body and facial expressions to say, “I am interested in what you are doing!”
 

TICKLE

  • Inject humor into play interactions
  • Pretend to make mistakes, and “play dumb”. Nothing is more empowering for children then the ability to correct YOU!
  • Hold the book upside down; pretend to use it as a hat…be silly!

EXPLORE AND EXPAND

  • Issue investigative initiations by stretching children’s normal way of play. It is almost as if you are saying, “If you can do that, can you do this?”
  • Challenge children to do things in new ways. If he can hold one ball, what happens when you offer another? If he can hold two, what happens when you offer a third?
  • Put a favorite toy just out of reach and place another one nearby. Can the child use one toy as a tool to get the other?
  • Tie a string onto a favorite toy and put the end near the child? Can he find a way to pull the toy closer?

Keep the spirit of CITE alive in every thing you do with your infants and toddlers. In doing , you will be building the essential problem solving and thinking skills that prepare them for a future…in which we have no idea what it will hold!

 

Ellen Booth Church

 

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5 to 6: Stand By Me


By Ellen Booth Church

Without being conscious of it, your child trusts that you’ll support him no matter what. Even at this stage — when 5s and 6s start to become more independent than ever — he still needs to see that you’ll always be there for him.

Supporting your child and demonstrating your own trustworthiness will lead him toward becoming trustworthy himself. But while on that path, you’ll need to deal with the ways his growing sense of independence leads him to test the trust connection he has with you. For example, you may have already noticed that your 6 year old likes to see what happens when he does something he knows is off limits. It could be something simple like ignoring your request to clean up or something more significant such as refusing to hold your hand as you cross the street . .  .(READ MORE)

Grade 1-2

Let's Investigate!

Spark interest in science with these seven steps to successful studies.

By Ellen Booth Church

" . . . The process of science learning is what really counts with young children, not the content. There are seven basic steps that will help you teach your child about scientific discovery and how to examine problems logically. These steps are similar to those used in the scientific method, but they emphasize the skills that are most relevant for young children: (READ MORE)