Embracing Motherhood Why Teaching in the Zone of Proximal Development Matters

Why Teaching in the Zone of Proximal Development Matters

Teaching in the zone of proximal development is important because so many times, children are presented with material that is either way too challenging (and they get frustrated) or way too easy (and they lose interest). In either case, no real learning is taking place. Teaching in the zone of proximal development means that the teacher (a parent is a teacher too) is presenting material that is just challenging enough so that it is interesting, engaging, and only requires the teacher/parent to give a little nudge.

The Zone of Proximal Development Explained

The zone of proximal development, often abbreviated as ZPD, basically measures the difference between what a learner can do on his or her own and what he or she can do with guidance.

Zone of Proximal Development

Zone of Proximal Development (Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons, Decoatzee,2012)

In this mindset of teaching, the learner is the center of the equation..not the curriculum, not the standards, and not the grade level expectations. It’s all about finding out where the child IS, what the child is interested in and motivated by, and then providing just a little nudge in the right direction to help him or her get to the next level. Then the cycle continues and repeats over and over again.

Scaffolding

Scaffolding is a key component of teaching in the zone of proximal development. Much like scaffolding will support a building as it’s being built, a teacher (or parent, peer, etc.) supports the learner as he or she is learning something new. When the learner is ready to complete the task independently, the supports are removed, and he or she is able process the new information without any assistance.

Scaffolding doesn’t need to happen with just a parent or teacher, it can happen with a peer as well. This is why I love, love, love having so many children! They teach and learn from each other! And quite honestly, they seem to enjoy learning more from each other than they do from me. 🙂 *Here’s a cute (although blurry) video of Ruby and Ophelia reading together that I think is a beautiful example of teaching in the zone of proximal development with scaffolding.

Lev Vygotsky

The theory of teaching in the zone of proximal development and using scaffolding is credited to Soviet psychologist Lev Vygotsky (1896 – 1934), and I wanted to talk about him for just a minute because he’s a pretty fascinating guy.

Lev_Vygotsky

Lev Vygotsky, 1896-1934 (Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons, Pataki Márta, 2013)

When I was getting my teaching degree, Vygotsky was mentioned in nearly every class because so much of our current philosophies of teaching are credited to him. But in Vygotsky’s lifetime, his ideas were considered quite controversial and didn’t even become widely accepted until the 1970s in western society.

He became ill from tuberculosis at the age of 25 and died from tuberculosis at the young age of 37, just when he was beginning to flesh out his ideas about children and how they learn. Truth be told, critics argue that he barely even mentions the terms “zone of proximal development” or “cultural-historical theory” (two of the things he’s widely credited with) throughout his entire six volume collection.

Vygotsky was intrigued by how we process higher cognitive functions associated with memory, attention, decision making, and language comprehension. His research focused on the three following areas:

  1. How we use objects to help us with memory and reasoning
  2. How children acquire higher cognitive functions during development
  3. How development is shaped by different social and cultural patterns of interaction

I think some of the most interesting aspects of his theories center around children and how they learn. Here are some of the highlights:

  • Internalization: By interacting with their environment and observing others in it, children learn social norms and cultural traditions that help to shape who they are.
  • Children Learn Through Play: When children play in their environment, they are using their imaginations to make sense of abstract thought, which is a function of higher level thinking. They often times use objects from their environment as props (like a stick for a horse). Through playing house and other such role playing games, children practice social and cultural norms and then internalize them. (Tools of the Mind is a method of teaching preschool that uses Vygotsky’s theories as the foundation for their play centered preschool program. Read about how I encourage imaginative play with my children here.)
  • Social Cognitive Theory of Learning: 
    • Zone of Proximal Development: The range of tasks that are within a child’s cognitive ability to learn with assistance.
    • Instructional Scaffolding: The process of adjusting the amount of support based upon the needs of the child.
    • Collaboration: The person doing the scaffolding can be the teacher, a parent, a sibling, a peer, or anyone who has more knowledge than the learner in the area being learned. This sort of apprenticeship style of learning occurs as the learner is completely immersed in the task with someone more knowledgeable.
  • Language Acquisition: In his most influential book, Thought and Language, Vygotsky explains how children acquire language by interacting with their environment. He explains how language acquisition starts as an external social tool with the goal being communication with others. Then, during the toddler years, children develop inner speech, or self talk, that is expressed out loud and used to self regulate and self direct. Eventually, the inner speech becomes silent as children use it internally. (I talk more about this in my blog titled Oral Language Development: More Important Than You Think.)

Stephen Krashen’s Comprehensible Input

I can’t talk about the zone of proximal development without mentioning Stephen Krashen! While studying language acquisition as part of my Master’s degree program, I learned about linguist Stephen Krashen who created the input hypothesis. This hypothesis is very similar to the zone of proximal development in that it states that learners (specifically children learning a 2nd language) progress in their knowledge of language when the input is slightly more advanced than their current level. Krashen called this “i + 1” where “i” is the learner’s interlanguage and “+1” is the next stage of language acquisition. As a teacher, this helped me to see that the goal was to provide my English language learners (and all students really) with comprehensible input that was one level above their current understanding.

In Conclusion

Teaching in the zone of proximal development, scaffolding, and keeping the input comprehensible are just fancy ways of saying to teach in a way that’s:

  • Not too easy,
  • Not too hard,
  • But juuuuuust right!

This concept is certainly beneficial for teachers, but as parents, we actually have the time, patience, love, and devotion to really implement it with integrity. By getting down on the floor, playing with our children, thinking about where they are, thinking about how to take them to the next level, and finding ways and the time to make it happen, we are teaching them how to be independent, engaged, motivated, and on task. By stimulating their minds with content that is “just right”, they will not only be learning and developing those budding neurons at a rapid rate, they will be something even more important…they will be HAPPY!

*Check out my blog How to Set Learning Goals for Young Children to see tips for how to apply the zone of proximal development into your daily life and Examples of Learning Goals That I Use with My Children to see how I have done it.

Embracing Motherhood 9 Things I’ve Learned from Being a Grandma

9 Things I’ve Learned from Being a Grandma

By Guest Blogger Diane Napierkowski

Author Bio: Diane is a mother of five who home schooled her children and is passionate about learning, teaching, seeking the truth, living a healthy lifestyle, and spending time with her family. When not working as a Quality Engineer, she can be found supporting her husband in their family run fundraising business at Great Lakes Promotions.

9 Things I’ve Learned from Being a Grandma

  • I never knew my love would grow so much. There’s a disconnect with being a grandparent compared to being a parent. As a grandparent, you don’t see the children every day, you don’t wipe their noses, fix their hurts, etc. As a parent, I thought my heart was full, but when I became a grandparent, it grew even more. There is never a limit to the capacity of your heart. My grandchildren continuously surprise me and melt my heart when I least expect it.
  • Grandchildren CRAVE your love. They need you, their hearts long for you, and it touches you so deeply. Their love is 100% genuine.
  • Grandchildren grow up fast. The moments you have with them are finite, and you only see them now and then. The moments you have together are special, but there are so many special ones that you miss along the way. Realize that life is a short journey in which your lives overlap for a time.
  • Grandparents get to fill in the spots instead of covering all bases. As a parent, everything must be in balance, but as a grandparent, you can be ridiculous! You can buy them a crazy toy that they might not even like, splurge on ice cream before dinner, and let them stay up way past bedtime during an overnight knowing that these things are the exceptions, not the rules.
  • There are still many things that are the same as when you raised your own children! Don’t be intimidated by new technology, and remember that hugs and kisses still pack a 100% punch.
  • Your kids are still your kids. See your children as little again. Pick up the pieces and give your own children the things you forgot to give them or the things you were too busy to see way back when. Realize that your children are reliving their childhoods through their children. Grandchildren are a medium for any healing that needs to occur.
  • Be HONEST! Be painfully honest. Show your true self and cleanse your heart with them. Be authentic. Deepen their hearts with the gift of who you really are.
  • Be vulnerable. Open up your heart, admit your faults, and let them see your flaws. Grandchildren are the most forgiving.
  • Encourage your grandchildren to love their nuclear family. Let them be refreshed and empowered by them. Strengthen and support their love for their parents and siblings.

Life is a journey, not a destination. You never arrive, but grandchildren are the Grand Canyons, the Yosemites, and the geysers of Yellowstone along the way.

Grandma Di with Elliot and Ruby

Grandma Di with Elliot and Ruby

How to Engage Your Baby with Reading

How to Engage Your Baby with Reading

Reading is the single best activity you can use to engage your baby, stimulate your toddler, teach your child, engage your teen, and enjoy as an adult. The earlier you can establish a love of reading, the better and more long lasting it will be. A child who loves reading will be able to unlock an amazing world of wonder and discovery. Here are some tips and tricks that have helped us to raise four children who love reading.

1. In Utero

The bond between a mother and child is so special and so unique – two beings occupying one body, two heartbeats beating within the same space, and two bodies being nourished simultaneously. As soon as 24 weeks, a baby can hear his or her mother’s voice and becomes accustomed to it enough to respond to it over a stranger’s after birth. In the 1980s, psychology professor Anthony James DeCasper and colleagues at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro discovered that soon after birth, a newborn prefers a story (in this case, Cat in the Hat) that had been read repeatedly in the womb over a new story. (Read the article here.)

Pregnant with Elliot and Walking with Ophelia

Pregnant with Elliot and Walking with Ruby

There is a certain cadence and prosody to reading that a newborn can resonate with as you read to him or her in the womb. This may be a natural part of his or her development if you have other children, but if not, don’t feel silly about getting comfortable in the rocking chair and reading the same book over and over again to your belly. I always read, “Oh Baby, the Places You’ll Go,” when I was pregnant for my firstborn, Ruby, and it brought tears to my eyes every time. After that, the babies in my belly got read to as I read to my other children as they shared a lap with their new growing sibling.

2. Bonding  Time

Now, this may not seem like a part of the reading process, but it’s all connected. Reading is a very bonding experience, and your children’s bond with reading will be connected to their bond with you. For the first three months of life, your baby is figuring out life outside of the womb in a fourth trimester that is every bit as important as the other three trimesters of pregnancy.

Newborn Ruby

Newborn Ruby

They need you to figure them out, they need you to hold them, they need you to fall in love, they need you to help them adjust to this world of lights, voices, air, food, and you. I typically don’t introduce reading during this phase. Instead, I am just hyper focused on connecting with them in whatever ways come naturally. I am aware that new babies can only see about 8 to 10 inches in front of their faces and so I try to keep my face in that range so that we can get to know each other. Just smiling, cooing, talking softly, holding, cuddling, rocking, nursing, and sleeping are the most important activities during this time.

3. Introducing Books

As babies reach the end of their fourth trimester, usually when they are about three months old, they will be able to start following moving objects with their eyes. This is a good time to start introducing them to books.

Reading with 3 Month Old Julian

Reading with 3 Month Old Julian

I like to pick a couple of board or cloth books to keep in their toy bin and read them often. I love to use books during tummy time. To be honest, I don’t really know if I’ve ever introduced books at this young of an age with my other children, and I was kind of shocked to see Julian so enraptured by this little counting book.

4. Build a Library of Books

Check out my blog: Best Books for Babies for my recommended list of books that my babies have loved if you’d like a place to start. Basically, you want to find books that you will enjoy reading over and over and over again. If you love the books you are reading, chances are your baby will too!

19 Month Old Ophelia's Favorite Books

19 Month Old Ophelia’s Favorite Books

Next, you’ll start to discover books that for one reason or another, your baby really loves – when that happens, buy more just like them! While it’s fun to go to the library and check out a selection of new books, it’s important to have some books that you always keep at home. These are the best ones to read during bedtime routine and to keep at an accessible level so your baby can find them and explore them at his or her own leisure.

5. Reading Routines

There are certain times I always like to read to my babies. I usually love to just nurse my babies to sleep, but when this stops happening (at about 6-8 months with Ophelia and at about 18 months with Julian), I like to incorporate some books (usually three) into our bedtime routine. I also love reading before nap time and then again when my babies first wake up.

Bedtime Reading/Nursing Chair

Bedtime Reading/Nursing Chair

Before we begin reading, I make sure to “set the stage”. I have a nice comfy rocking chair next to a little table with a basket full of books that my baby loves, a soft lamp, and anything else we might need like milk or a pacifier. Then we get cuddled up with a nice soft silky and get to reading.

6. Repetitive Reading

Babies love things that are simple, repetitive, and familiar. But how do you make a new book familiar? Well, you have to start somewhere! Find a time when your baby has been fed, changed, and is in a happy and responsive mood, and then introduce the new book. If your baby doesn’t seem engaged, just try to get through it as quickly as possible. If you find something about the book that holds your child’s attention, spend some time talking about it. You don’t need to read the words from the book exactly. (“Do you like that kitty? That looks like our kitty, _______, doesn’t it? What does a kitty say? Meow! Do you want to pet the kitty? Pet her gently! Nice kitty.”)

After you’ve read through the book, put it aside and bring it out again the next day, and the day after that, and the day after that until it becomes familiar. If after reading the book several times, your baby still does not seem interested, then abandon it and choose something new. When your baby is older, he is going to blow you away when he crawls over to the basket of books that you have read so many times and starts flipping through the ones you have read over and over together.

7. Expressive Reading

When reading with little babies, they will not understand the words that you are reading, but they will comprehend the cadence, prosody, tone, intonation, and expression. I like to read with exaggerated expression in whatever way will elicit a positive response. In doing so, I sometimes make up words that are not in the text that will be best suited for such a response. For example, when I’m reading with my little ones, I like to call special attention to emotions and really act them out.

8. Interactive Reading

Get your baby involved by letting her turn the page, lift the flaps, fill in the blanks, and answer questions. Pause at key words so she can give it a go. As my babies get familiar with the books we are reading, I like to pause at either the last word of the page or at a word that they have shown an interest in trying to say. Then, I give them a chance to say the word, and then I repeat it back. (As your child starts to form words, you’ll often just hear the beginning sound of the word. You might not even realize that’s what’s going on, but when you hear her make the same sound every time, you’ll know!) This also works really well with any book that has a flap. Give your baby a chance to say the word that’s under the flap either before they lift it or right afterwards. Giving a nice long pause is very important. If you always do it, they will learn that you will wait for them to say the word.

9. Enjoy Yourself

The most important thing is to have fun with it! If you are enjoying yourself, your baby can tell and will respond positively. But if you’re looking at the clock thinking, “How long do I have to do this for?” your baby will also be able to tell. If you’re having a hard time getting into it, think about what would make it fun for you. Bring a special snack of cookies and milk along to nibble on while you read, make sure you’ve got a comfortable spot for reading set up, get some books that you enjoyed when you were a kid, just do whatever it takes to make it a fun experience full of love that will build positive memories for the future.

10. Don’t Force It

With our four children, I definitely notice that some have more of a patient and quiet personality and love cuddling up for hours on end reading books, while others have a much shorter attention span and would rather be active and moving around. This might be due to personality differences or it could just be because of the time of day. The important thing is to not force it. If you get everything ready to read and they squirm to get down or start fussing, then abandon it for another time. If you keep being persistent in your efforts, you will find the right moments to read. With some children, it just might happen at a higher frequency than others, and that’s ok!

In Conclusion

By working to establish a love of reading with your babies, they will learn to love books before they can even grasp what that really means, and they will carry this love of reading into their toddler, child, teen, and adult years. In the meantime, you will create some amazing memories while you do what you do best and what they need most, which is hugging, snuggling, cuddling, and providing lots and lots of love.

*Reading with your baby is just one way to help build oral language. Check out my blog: Oral Language Development…More Important Than You Think! for more ideas. You also might like my blog: Best Books for Babies.

10 Ways To Build Your Child’s Confidence

10 Ways To Build Your Child’s Confidence

By Guest Blogger Regina Due

Author Bio: A parenting writer, Regina empowers women through her writing and parenting tips. If she’s not writing, you can catch her surfing the web for what’s new at Fertile Mind.

Building a child’s confidence is a job that starts at a very young age, but is as crucial as picking the right school system for him. If you want to make sure that your child will be a confident, happy kid, these top ten tips will help.

  • Establish a physical bond with your child early on. A close physical bond can help your child feel safe in the world during their formative years. Using something along the line of a baby carrier that supports skin-to-skin contact can help with this once youre past the newborn age.
  • Allow them to fall down and fail occasionally. Believe it or not, kids will learn that failure isnt the end of the world if you let them make mistakes. In fact, showing them that its important to try again will make them realize that failing is a part of life. They will feel more comfortable with taking risks, which in turn will make them more confident in their ability to recover easily.
  • Teach them to stand up to bullies. By explaining to them that its okay to stand up for themselves, youre teaching them that its okay to rely on themselves to do the harder things in life. Many parents have noted positive changes in confidence after they enrolled their children in self-defense classes, too.
  • Be responsive to your child during your child’s early years. When a child cries out for food or milk, its because they need you. Being responsive to your childs needs and cries shows your child that you view them as precious, and as a priority. What can be more confidence-boosting than that?
  • Be positive. Kids thrive under positivity, and parents that are regularly healthy and happy will make children feel happier, too. Its hard to deny that seeing happy people also happens to be confidence-boosting for adults, too.
  • Call your child by his name. Oh, what an amazing impact just saying someones name can have! Children who hear their names on a regular basis often have a better sense of identity, and also have a tendency of feeling like they matter. You can never go wrong with saying your childs name. After all, dont you like it when your parents called you by name instead of Here, kid!
  • Encourage your child to discover his or her own talents. A child who sees that they can do great things is a child who will always be a bit more confident than his or her peers. It doesnt matter if his talent is art, sports, or even video games, either. By encouraging your childs exploration and praising their good work, youre showing them that theyve got value in their talents, and that will build their confidence more than anything else.
  • Praise your child whenever he accomplishes something difficult. Tossing empty praise at a child can do more harm than good, but that doesnt mean that you should never compliment your kid when he actually achieves something difficult to do. When your child actually has to work for praise, that praise will mean a lot more. It also will give them a more realistic outlook on life, too.
  • Teach your child to accept other people from different backgrounds. If you want your child to feel confident in a world that may or may not accept her due to circumstances out of control, make an effort to show them that you and those around you accept and appreciate people of different backgrounds. Teaching them to accept others will make them feel more confident around people of other backgrounds, regardless of how old they are.
  • Keep an eye out for bad influences. Whether its just the possibility of hanging with the wrong crowd in school, or something much worse, a childs exposure to bad influences can definitely eat away at his or her self-esteem. Curbing negative people and lessons in your childs life can be difficult, but it can seriously help them mature in a confident, healthy manner.

It’s important to realize that confidence is something that is built up over time. Be patient with your child, and also make a point of it to reinforce their confidence every single day. With hope and hard work, it will pay off in the end.

Embracing Motherhood Wellness Formula is the BEST Way to Beat a Cold!

Wellness Formula is the BEST Way to Keep Sickness at Bay!

Being a mother of four little ones, I cannot afford to get sick. That’s why at the mere hint of a cold, I start to take my Wellness Formula capsules. In doing so, I have been able to avoid all illnesses for the past 3 years (when I discovered Wellness Formula).

Unfortunately, this time around, I ran out of my magic pills right when I needed them most. I really didn’t think too much of it at first. The fact that I have not been sick in so long has given me a sense of over confidence about my immune system. I put off ordering more and instead went to work on my usual sick routine of making some bone broth soup, eating lots of fresh garlic and ginger, and supplementing with vitamin C and vitamin D-3. I even had some bee propolis around that I took as well.

Well flash forward to the day after I stopped taking my pills, and I felt MISERABLE! My head was pounding, my head was stuffy and clouded, there was so much pressure and pain in my ears, my nose was runny, I had a horrible cough, and because I hadn’t been sick in so long, it just hit me really really hard.

Since it was going to be two more days until my fresh shipment of pills from Amazon arrived, so my mother brought me over some of her Wellness Formula Tablets. I took some right away, and they stopped the progression of the cold in right its tracks. Unfortunately, these magic pills aren’t so good about reversing the progression. When taken at the first hint of an illness, they give your immune system the strength to stop things before they get started, but once a cold has settled in, it’s a bit harder to get rid of.

I made a solemn vow to myself to never ever again take for granted the magic that is in these pills. Even though I had just ordered a bottle, I went online and ordered another one and then every other product they made..my back up stash. After seeing most of my children sick with this terrible cold, I thought, “Boy, I wish they made a kids version!” And lo and behold when I typed in “wellness formula” and “kids”, I found out that they do!

Here are all of the products they make, where to get them, prices, quantities, recommended dosages, and my notes about each one of them.

Where to Get It

  • Wellness Formula Capsules 
    Wellness Formula Capsules

    Wellness Formula Capsules

    • Recommended Dosage: 2-4 capsules per day for wellness maintenance and 6 capsules twice a day at first signs of illness
    • Notes: If you’re not sure what to get, get these. The capsules are about the size of Tylenol, and it’s the best value. When I take these and the illness is particularly strong or advanced, I’ll take 6 capsules every three hours until I can feel my symptoms subside. As my symptoms stop progressing, I’ll scale it back to the recommended 6 tablets twice a day.
  • Wellness Formula Tablets 
    Wellness Formula Tablets

    Wellness Formula Tablets

    • Recommended Dosage: 1-2 tablets per day for wellness maintenance and 3 tablets twice a day at first signs of illness
    • Notes: These tablets are bigger and more potent, so you need fewer of them, but they are HUGE! I cannot swallow pills this huge, so I have to crush them up, mix them with water, and try not to puke as I swallow it because it tastes gross! But lately, I even have trouble swallowing the capsules (darn esophageal spasms) so these tablets have become my preferred source of Wellness Formula. Sometimes with the capsules, I can burp up the taste much later, but crushing these tablets gets them into my bloodstream much quicker and I can feel them taking effect right away!
  • Wellness Formula Chewable Wafers 
    Wellness Formula Chewable Wafers

    Wellness Formula Chewable Wafers

    • Recommended Dosage: 2 wafers four times daily for adults, for children 14 and up 1 wafer four times daily, for children 9-13 1 wafer three times daily, for children 4-8 1 wafer two times daily, and for children 3 and under, it says to consult your physician.
    • Notes: This is great for kids (and/or adults who don’t like swallowing pills). I didn’t even know these existed until now, and I am very excited to start giving them to our 5 and 6 year old the next time they start getting sick. We just opened our package and so far so good! They taste great and the kids love them.  *I will update this post to report how they work! These would also be great to keep in your purse or car to take whenever you start to feel a little under the weather. There are far less ingredients in these wafers than there are in the capsules and tablets however. The vitamin A is also significantly lower (from 5,000 IU to 500 IU). The ingredients in these wafers are exactly the same as the product called Children’s Wellness Formula Chewable Wafers.
  • Wellness Formula Liquid
    • Recommended Dosage: 1/2 teaspoon three times a day at first signs of illness (or one time a day for maintenance)
    • Notes: I have never purchased this, but I think it would be a nice thing to keep in my purse so that I can take some on the go no matter where I am if I start to feel ill. There are far less ingredients in this compared to the capsules and tablets, however, so I’m not sure how effective it would be.
  • Children’s Wellness Formula Liquid 
    Children's Wellness Formula Liquid

    Children’s Wellness Formula Liquid

    • Recommended Dosage: 1/2 teaspoon three times a day at first signs of illness (or one time a day for maintenance)
    • Notes: This is not recommended for children under one (probably because of the honey and risks of botulism), but I ordered this for my 1 and 2 year old who I know won’t eat the chewable wafers. It tastes about as unpleasant as Zarbee’s Cough Medicine (which is a great natural product to treat the symptoms of a cold), so I know that my little ones won’t be too thrilled about it, but I know I can get them to take it if I have to. I just baked some of my healthy oatmeal cookies and added a few drops into the batter for six of them, and I feel like this is the easiest way to get them to take it of all!

Why It Works

Instead of dealing with the symptoms you get AFTER getting a cold, this Wellness Formula gives your immune system the boost it needs to deal with the illness BEFORE it even begins. Watch this really cool animation to see how the flu virus invades your body.

Basically, a virus will hijack normal healthy cells, unlock them with little “keys”, and trick the cells into replicating more viruses. Only one virus needs to enter a cell to make millions more viruses. But humans have a 100 trillion cells, and when your immune system sees the virus, it will attack and kill it. It’s just about keeping that perfect balance in harmony and keeping your immune system as strong as possible.

Things like getting plenty of rest and sunshine, keeping stress levels to a minimum, drinking plenty of water, eating a healthy diet void of processed foods and rich in nutrient dense foods like bone broth soup are all things that will do wonders for your immune system. But when any of these factors are lacking (like when you’re not getting any sleep because you’re up in the night with sick kids), then this boost of over 30 powerful ingredients including antioxidants, herbal extracts, vitamins, and minerals will give your immune system the support it needs to fight the incoming virus! Check out more about how it works here.

List of Ingredients

Click here to see the package label from Source Natural. I’ve copied the list here so that you can see at a glance all of the goodness that’s going on. To the right of each ingredient is the amount found in 6 capsules and in parentheses is the percent of how this rates with what you need daily.

  • Vitamin A (as palmitate 4,000 IU & beta-carotene 1,000 IU) –  5,000 IU (100%)
  • Vitamin C (from ascorbic acid and zinc ascorbate) – 1,300 mg (2,167%)
  • Vitamin D-3 (as cholecalciferol) – 400 IU (100%)
  • Calcium – 40 mg (4%)
  • Zinc (as zinc citrate and ascorbate) – 23 mg (153%)
  • Selenium (as sodium selenite) – 60 mcg (86%)
  • Copper (as copper citrate) – 150 mcg (8%)
  • Sodium – 10 mg (<1%)
  • Garlic Bulb – 360 mg
  • Propolis Extract – 295 mg
  • Echinacea purpurea Root Extract – 270 mg
  • Elderberry Fruit Extract – 240 mg
  • Aromatic Solomon’s Seal Rhizome – 120 mg
  • Horehound Aerial Parts Extract – 100 mg
  • Olive Leaf Extract (10% oleuropein) – 100 mg
  • Andrographis Aerial Parts Extract (10% andrographolides) – 100 mg
  • Isatis Root Extract – 75 mg
  • Eleuthero Root Extract – 75 mg
  • Elecampane Root – 70 mg
  • Citrus Bioflavonoid Complex – 60 mg
  • Boneset Aerial Parts Extract – 60 mg
  • Boneset Aerial Parts – 300 mg
  • Goldenseal Root Extract – 45 mg
  • Angelica Root Extract – 45 mg
  • Astragalus Root Extract – 45 mg
  • Isatis Leaf Extract – 40 mg
  • Elecampane Root Extract – 30 mg
  • Mullein Leaf Extract – 30 mg
  • Pau D’Arco Bark Extract – 30 mg
  • Cayenne Fruit – 30 mg
  • Ginger Root Extract – 30 mg
  • Grape Seed Extract (Proanthodyn™) – 10 mg

Other Info

  • If you read through the reviews on Amazon, you’ll notice that in 2013 and 2014, there are a lot of people complaining about the formula changing. Basically, it looks like a lot of the expensive ingredients were scaled back. A lot of people say that this is why it doesn’t work as well, but I still think it works great. This is also why I think that if it’s just not working, take a little more.
  • Don’t stop taking Wellness Formula the second you start feeling better after a brush with illness. I like to at least take half of the recommended dosage until I’m a day or two past it.
  • Unfortunately, it is not recommended for women who are pregnant, plan on becoming pregnant, or breastfeeding. I’m not entirely sure why that is, but some herbs like olive leaf extract could reduce milk supply and andrographis aerial parts extract may cause miscarriage. I have taken it while breastfeeding and had no problems with my milk supply, but I would encourage you to share any questions you have with your midwife or doctor and let me know what you find out!

In Conclusion

Being sick is no fun. Now that I’m currently sick after years and years of keeping illnesses at bay, I can definitely attest to that! I have since ordered every Wellness Formula product and hope to not let illness strike me (or my family) again. Back in the day when I was a teacher, I used to swear by Airborne, which is still okay in a pinch, but no where NEAR as effective as this Wellness Formula. This is hands down the best thing you can do (after sleeping, getting sunshine, yada, yada) to prevent illness from taking you down. So many people swear by this product. Just take a minute to read the plethora of positive reviews on Amazon. I’m sure once you try this, you’ll be a believer too.

* I also have a few other favorite wellness supplements that you might enjoy learning more about!

Embracing Motherhood Best Teaching Apps for Preschoolers

Best Teaching Apps for Young Children (Ages 0-6)

With these apps, a few good YouTube playlists, some simple flashcards, and a library card, you can teach your little ones to read, write, do basic math, and basically know everything they need to know for kindergarten. Children’s brains are primed and ready for learning at a young age…much earlier than we would think. They crave stimulation, they love learning, and they need to be challenged in their zone of proximal development. All of our children have learned to read at a young age, and technology definitely played a role. (*I do think it’s important to set limits and have routines in place with technology use.)

In my opinion, most of the good apps out there are designed specifically for iOS devices, and I have made a note for each app that can only be used on an iOS device. I know the price tag on Android devices can be tempting, but if you want to have access to the most and the best apps, I highly recommend getting an ipad (like this ipad 4 for $345 or an ipad mini 1 for $235) over any other tablet.

It can be somewhat challenging to teach a youngster how to use a touch screen at first. If your child is struggling with the concept of a touch screen, one of the things I have done is opened up the Starfall site on a computer and had the children touch the screen (pretending that it was a touch screen) while I controlled things with my mouse (hidden away of course). The best thing to do though, is to just sit down and play the games together. I recommend doing this anyways with all new games until they are familiar enough with them to play them on their own.

So without further adieu, these are the apps that I have used to teach my children the fundamentals of reading, math, and more.

1. Starfall ABCs (Free)

If you only get one app, get this one! It covers all of the letters of the alphabet (names and sounds) in one fell swoop. (Unlike ABC mouse that focuses too much on one letter at a time in isolation.) When you click on a letter, it shows both the upper and lowercase versions while saying their names. When you click on the letters, they say their letter sound, and then you click the green arrow to progress through a series of examples showing things that start with that letter along with simple and engaging animations.

Starfall ABC App

Starfall ABC App

The simplicity of the app is absolutely beautiful, and I love the way kids have to click various things to progress things along. Unlike a YouTube video (which can be great too), this gets kids engaged every step of the way. I love how there are little sparkles around where the child needs to touch (or click on a computer). It’s a very good way to teach children how to use touch screens.

Other Starfall Apps:

  • Starfall (Free): This is basically an app giving you access to the entire Starfall website. If you have a membership ($35/year and something I highly recommend), then you’ll have access to everything on the website (including the content of every app). But even without a membership, you can get limited access which will give you a pretty good idea of what’s on the site. I personally prefer using the entire site on the computer and paying for the apps.

    starfall app

    Starfall App

  • Starfall Numbers ($4.99): The layout of this app is very similar to the ABC app. There are numbers 1-20 (plus 25, 50, and 100) plus 7 interactive learning activities that have to do with counting, weight, money, and addition. When you click on a number, it says the number, and shows its quantity. Then you press the green arrow to see a series of examples showing that number. This app does an amazing job of teaching number names and quantities which are the foundations of math just as the ABCs are for reading.

    starfall numbers app

    Starfall Numbers App

  • Starfall All About Me ($1.99): Children get to design their character to look like them and then select categories such as, “Where do I sleep? What will I wear? Who am I? What is my pet? and Which is my toy?” My kids LOVE playing this game because they are very connected to the personalized content. I love the sentences where you have to fill in the blank with a single word that is personified by a corresponding image. It is a great pre-reading strategy!

    starfall all about me

    Starfall All About Me App

  • Starfall Learn to Read ($1.99): This is basically a collection of mini books sorted by vowel patterns. Each book starts with a little clip of how to pronounce the focused letter sound, and then you select the green arrow to progress through the pages. There’s a little ear you can press that will read the text out loud. For each page, you can tap the screen to facilitate some sort of movement. There are also eight “mini-lessons” on the bottom that teach additional reading skills.

    starfall learn to read

    Starfall Learn to Read App

  • Starfall I’m Reading ($1.99): This app has tons of books sorted by genre with plenty of interesting titles. Unlike the website version, this app automatically reads the text while highlighting what is being read in red.

    starfall I'm reading app

    Starfall I’m Reading App

2. Endless Alphabet ($4.99)

This app (and the other Endless apps) are designed for a bit of an older child than the Starfall apps, but I love introducing my children to higher level content with some guidance. This app does a wonderful job of teaching not only letter sounds, but how letters come together to form words, and what those words mean.

endless alphabet alphabetical order

Endless Alphabet App

When you open this app, you’ll find a variety of vocabulary words sorted alphabetically. After you select one, you first have to spell it by dragging the letters to their shadow (each letter is personified and makes its sound as you move it), then the meaning of the word is acted out by cute little characters that look they have been hand drawn on lined paper. This is very entertaining app, and all of our children have loved it!

Other Endless Apps:

  • Endless Reader (Free with in-app purchases): All words are sorted alphabetically, and just like in Endless Alphabet, you drag the letters to make a word.  Then you put the word (and sometimes other words) into a sentence, and the cute little characters act out the sentence. This is a fabulous app and teaching tool to help children learn how to read. I love it! It comes with six free words, and then it costs $5.99 to buy the Reader Pack 1 which has 20 words, $11.99 to buy each additional Reader Pack of 1-4, 5-8, or 9-12, or you can pay $29.99 to buy all of the packs.

    endless reader app image

    Endless Reader App

  • Endless Wordplay (Free with in-app purchases): This game really focuses on spelling because (unlike the other Endless apps) you have to spell the words in order. Each spelling lesson focuses on a certain pattern and the words you spell come to life with a cute little animation. You progress through each lesson on a large board that makes progression fun. It comes with 9 free words, then it costs $6.99 to buy the starter pack of 90 words, $11.99 to buy the remaining words, or $14.99 to buy all of the words. *This app is only available for iOS devices.

    endless wordplay

    Endless Wordplay App

  • Endless Numbers (Free with in-app purchase): When you click on a number, you first have to drag the number to its shadow (as you drag each number, it comes to life and says its name), then there’s a simple addition problem, and a cute little animation that shows the number. It comes with five free numbers, then it costs $6.99 for a starter pack of numbers 1-25, $11.99 for the remaining numbers, and $14.99 to buy all 100 numbers.

    endless numbers

    Endless Numbers App

  • Endless Spanish (Free with in-app purchase): This app is set up like Endless Reader where you select a word from an alphabetical list, drag the letters to spell the word, and then put the word (and other words) into a sentence that comes to life as cute little characters act out the sentence. It comes with six free words, then it costs $5.99 for a starter pack and $11.99 for all words. I love introducing young children to other languages when their brains are super open to it. *This app is only available for iOS devices.

    endless spanish

    Endless Spanish App

3. Easy Music ($3.99)

Just like learning to speak, learning to read, and learning how to do math, there is a logical progression to learning music. This app teaches notes, pitch, rhythm, and melody using beautiful landscapes and peaceful sounds. In one section, you can practice these music skills and in another you can make and record your own musical ensembles.

easy music app

Easy Music

Other Edoki Academy Games:

  • Montessori 1st Operations ($3.99) – Using simple graphics and easy to maneuver interactive features, this app teaches basic addition, subtraction, and doubles and halves. There are three different methods of practice in each category that are very good at teaching the core concepts. Every problem you get right gives you a point and you use your points to build a monster.

    montessori first operations

    Montessori 1st Operations

  • Zen Studio (Free, $1.99 to unlock all templates): Using a grid divided into triangles, you swipe your finger across either a boundless canvas or guided templates using a variety of colors to make different pictures. Relaxing music accompanies each stroke of the finger.

    zen studio main page

    Zen Studio

  • Crazy Gears ($2.99) – A puzzle game that allows you to manipulate colorful gears, chains, rods, and pulleys to pull yourself through each level. Each reasoning challenge was carefully designed to lay the foundation for careers in things like mathematician, computer scientist, and programmer.

    crazy gears

    Crazy Gears

  • The Sight Word Adventure ($1.99) –  Using 320 sight words (based on Dolch and Fry lists) spread across five levels in 10 different mini games (that focus specifically on hide-and-seek),this app is great for giving repeated exposure to sight words.

    the sight word adventure

    The Sight Word Adventure

  • Busy Shapes ($2.99) – This is really designed for a toddler and does an excellent job of teaching shapes, their relation to other objects, colors, and is a good intro for learning how to use a touch screen.

    busy shapes

    Busy Shapes

4. Montessori Crosswords ($2.99)

This game is GREAT for teaching phonics! You can choose from one of 44 sound clusters (i.e. short a, long e, oo sound, etc.) or from the other four word series of increasing phonetic difficulty (simple words with three sounds, words with consonant blends, words with digraphs, or words of any complexity).

montessori crosswords app screen shot

Montessori Crosswords App

When you choose a category, a picture pops up next to the number of boxes needed to spell the word. The word is spoken and the alphabet is listed below (all of the vowels are blue and the rest of the letters are red). The letters needed to spell the word are highlighted, and the other letters are faded. You drag the letters to spell the word and it is sounded out and read out loud. As you transition to the next word, you get to tap the screen and interact with some fun animation. My kids don’t usually enjoy playing this game on their own. It is more of a teaching tool that we sit down and use together.

Other Montessori Apps:

  • Montessori Numbers ($2.99): This app is great for teaching the association between numbers with the quantity they represent. It also helps to teach the decimal system and place value. There is even a place to trace numbers. *This app is only available for iOS devices.

    montessori numbers

    Montessori Numbers App

  • Word Wizard ($4.99): A talking movable alphabet in this app allows you to experiment with phonics and word building. It has three spelling activities that increase in difficulty, 184 built in word lists (about 1,800 words), and you can add your own words to create unique spelling quizzes. *This app is only available for iOS devices.

    montessori word wizard

    Montessori Word Wizard App

  • Writing Wizard ($2.99): This is a WONDERFUL letter tracing app that keeps kids engaged the whole time. As you trace uppercase letters, lowercase letters, numbers, and words a fun moving rainbow trail emerges. There are a lot of letter tracing apps out there, and this is one of my favorites!

    montessori writing wizard

    Montessori Writing Wizard App

5. Talking ABCs ($2.99)

This is a great app for teaching letter names! Every letter that you select is molded into a creature that starts with that letter. It is surprisingly mesmerizing to watch.

talking abcs

Talking ABCs App

When you press play, it brings you to the letter A, then you can swipe to the left to go through the whole alphabet or go back to the main menu. It also has four different games (find the letter, find the animal, spell a word, and puzzle) and an autoplay feature that will automatically progress through all of the letters. You can also get this app in Russian. *This app is only available for iOS devices.

6. Metamorphabet ($3.99)

This is an app that will not only teach the ABCs and alphabet vocabulary, but is something that will unlock a certain whimsical wonder in the mind of all users young and old alike.

metamorphabet

Metamorphabet App

The adventure begins with all of the letters on the main screen. When you select a letter, say A for example, every tap of the finger brings about another action. After several movements, the letter name is said and with each subsequent tap it moves a little more and one by one more vocabulary words are revealed such as antlers, arch, and amble. To go to the next letter, you click on the star in the top right hand corner to go to the next letter or you can click the shapes in the top left corner to go back to the main screen. Metamorphabet contains NO in-app purchases. *Available on iOS devices and PCs only.

7. Storybots ABCs (Free…)

This is basically just a collection of all of the Storybots ABC songs. Each song is about one minute long and cute little robots sing about each letter of the alphabet. In the app, you can select a letter from the main menu, or just progress through the letters alphabetically.

Storybots

Storybots App

You can also download this app that will give you access to all of their learning videos. The only problem is that these apps were free when I downloaded them awhile ago, but now it seems that you have to pay a $4.99/mo. membership fee which I don’t think is worth it at all. In doing so, so will get access to all of their printables too though which is nice. If you don’t want to pay the membership fee, just check out these playlists on YouTube…for free! *These apps are only available on iOS devices.

8. Dora’s Skywriting ABCs ($3.99)

If your child likes Dora, these apps will be a winner for sure! If not, you might want to skip them. 🙂

dora abc

Dora’s Skywriting ABCs App

In the uppercase, lowercase, and uppercase and lowercase letter games, you use Tico’s airplane to get nuts and trace the letters. Writing letters is more of an advanced skill, so this might be better for the older preschooler. I really like the letter and picture match game the best. In this game, you have to find the pictures that start with the featured letter. *All of the Dora apps are only available on iOS devices.

Other Dora Apps:

  • Dora’s Rhyming Word Adventure ($2.99): In this game, you match pictures that rhyme. Besides rhyming words, there are first sounds, last sounds, and inside sounds to match in different levels.

    dora's rhyming word adventure

    Dora’s Rhyming Word Adventure

  • Dora Hops Into Phonics ($2.99): To play, you have to match pictures with words, change one letter to make a new word, and then make Dora hop across the lily pads. There are also cute little game break games to play along the way.

    dora hops into phonics

    Dora Hops Into Phonics

  • Dora’s Dress Up Adventures ($2.99): In this simple app, you can change the background, dress Dora, and add a variety of props. For kids who enjoy Dora, this is really fun.

    dora's dress up adventure

    Dora’s Dress Up Adventure

  • Dora’s Ballet Adventures ($2.99): This is basically like a really interactive book. The words are highlighted as Dora reads them, and you get to do all sorts of actions.

    dora's ballet adventure

    Dora’s Ballet Adventure

Honorable Mentions

For the remaining apps, I didn’t want to do a full on review, because I think that the six apps and their affiliates that I’ve covered above are more than you’ll ever need, but these are apps that we have downloaded and enjoyed as well.

In Conclusion

If you use these educational apps in moderation as a teaching tool for your children, it can greatly enhance their learning experience. Teaching your child at home doesn’t have to be overwhelming and you don’t have to wait until they are in kindergarten to teach them how to read. Please check out my free reading program series to get an easy to follow step-by-step guide to teach your child how to read at a young age.