ChildUp is a company which provides education and resources for parents who seek to raise successful, balanced and happy children. Their program is grounded in the principle that the brain is a learning machine, and that the best young pupils perform well not because they are inately "gifted" but because they were better prepared at an early age than their classmates.
ChildUp offers both online parenting classes and early learning tools, and also maintains a blog of hand-picked articles highlighting the importance of parental involvement in the development of bright and happy children.
I had the opportunity to review the ChildUp Early Learning Game Card series - specifically Teach Your Child to Count to 10 - Math & Logic 1 and Teach Your Child to Count to 20 - Math & Logic 2.
Both card packs are intended for boys and girls age 1 to 5, and each contains 48 Child's Cards and 16 Parent's Cards. The Parent's Cards describe the ChildUp Early Learning Method and include early learning and parenting advice, and the Child's Cards help children learn to count while discovering four different series of animals.
More information on Math & Logic #1:
Helps parents to teach:
- Numbers from 0 to 10
- Numbers as quantities and symbols
- The first steps of addition
- Math and logic skills
- Learning and cognitive skills
- Listening and memory skills
- Attention and concentration skills
- Language and social skills
The Child's Cards in this pack are divided into four series, each of which features a different group of popular animals and contains 10 "regular" number cards (with the numbers 1-10, represented in symbolic form on one side and amount form on the other), 1 animal card (showing the animals depicted in the series on one side, and information on each animal on the other side) and one "0" card (showing the number 0 on one side and the animals' empty environment on the other side).
The red series features domestic animals (dog, cat, horse, etc.), and each card only shows one type of animal. The orange series features african mammals and each card shows 1 animal of one type and (n-1) animals of a second type. The green series features birds and each card shows an even/close to even division of two types of animals. Finally, the blue series features aquatic animals and each card shows three types of animals.
The Parent's Cards suggest (as a primary activity) first showing the front of a card to your child and counting all the animals together and then showing the back and repeating the number. The goal of this exercise is to help children count and associate numbers as symbols with their corresponding amounts. The cards also suggest other appropriate learning activities at this level, such as counting objects in day-to-day environments and using the cards to learn about and categorize animals in different ways (e.g. by the sounds they make, how they move, where they live, etc.)
More information on Math & Logic #2:
Helps parents to teach:
- Numbers from 10 to 20
- Odd and even numbers
- First additions and subtractions
- Categorzing, sorting and comparing
- Math and logic skills
- Learning and cognitive skills
- Memory and problem solving skills
- Concentration and self-control skills
- Language and social skills
Similar to Math & Logic #1, the Child's Cards in this pack are divided into four series, each of which features a different group of animals. In this pack, however, new animals are featured and each series contains either 10 or 11 "regular" number cards and 1 animal card, and only one of the series contains a "0" card.
The blue series features 8 mammals and 2 marsupials and includes odd numbers from 1 to 21; the brown series features reptiles and includes even numbers from 2 to 20 (plus the 0 card); the purple series features 8 insects and 2 arachnids and includes higher numbers (up to 25) and the pink series features mammals and includes all numbers from 10 to 20. Most of the cards in all series depict two animal types, however a few in the blue series depict one type alone and the first in the pink series shows all 10 types together.
The Parent's Cards in this pack also suggest (as a primary activity) the amount / symbol association exercise described previously (i.e. count animals on one side and then repeat the number on the other side). The cards also suggest numerous more advanced counting, adding, sorting and grouping activities, using both the cards and objects in day-to-day life.
First of all, I've come across a number of opinions from both sides of the formal/no formal camp - i.e. those who feel that "formal" education is mandatory at an early age, and those who feel that education should come primarily (or exclusively) in the form of free play over the first 2-3 years. My own intuition and experience have led me to believe that while free play should have predominant focus for toddlers and preschoolers, more structured, parent-led education can certainly be beneficial as well. To realize these benefits, however, I feel it's very important to be in tune with your child - which means selecting "study times" when the child is happy and alert, being willing to go with the flow and veer away from a desired "lesson plan" (if/as applicable) and knowing when it's time to stop. Bottom line - play time (structured or not) should be enjoyable for a child!
The heavies outta the way, on to my actual review. :)
First of all, some basics. The cards are quite sturdy and hold up well to fairly rough play. Our daughter S (21 months) has certainly subjected them to the gamut of toddler activity - throwing, stomping, grabbing, biting and crunching - and despite all this, they're showing very little wear. (That said, we do try to encourage her to play nice so she can continue to enjoy them for a long time!)
Another nice thing is that the illustrations are bright, crisp and colourful. Here is an example number card (front and back) from Math & Logic #1:
And here is one of the animal cards from Math & Logic #2:
Our daughter LOVES her cards! She wants to play with them regularly and they hold her interest for quite awhile - generally 15-20 minutes or longer. At this point, I like to do a combination of free play and guided learning and, to my earlier point, keep a close pulse on her mood and attention level. When we do guided play, I prefer to use the Math & Logic #1 cards right now, however when she's playing more independently I alternate the sets to maximize her interest. She is currently keen on finding/naming animals and is especially drawn to the animal cards and associated "0" cards.
In terms of counting skills, over the last few months S has progressed from calling everything "two" to rhyming off numbers until about 14 with ease. I'm confident that the ChildUp cards have played a key role here, as they have given her the opportunity to hear these number sequences many, many times. We're still working at associating each number with its corresponding amount and symbol, however. She's good at 0, 1 and sometimes 2, however she'll often point to an image with, say, 3 or 4 animals and count much higher. :) But all this will come, and we don't want to push her too much at this point to "get it right".
Here's a video of S and I having a "mostly guided play" session together which demonstrates some of her current abilities and tendencies.
These cards have the inate potential to be extremely versatile. As I mentioned earlier, they can be used to learn counting, number symbol/amount association, animal names and facts, adding, subtracting, sorting and grouping, and there are many variations possible on how these skills can be taught/reinforced. The Parent's Cards include some great suggestions, but numerous other techniques could certainly be envisioned as well. Due to this, I feel these cards could, indeed, continue to be both beneficial and interesting to children all the way from 1 to 5 years of age.
The one bone to pick I have with the Child's Cards pertains to Math & Logic #2 in particular. I don't love that the series within this set aren't internally or externally consistent - i.e. that each features entirely different collections of numbers, and that only one contains a 0 card. I'd prefer something like two series odd (1-19) and two even (2-20), or perhaps even all four from 11 to 20 (and then they could be used in conjunction with the Math & Logic #1 cards). I'd also like to see one whole series here feature just a single animal per card. All this could just be me, however; others may be all about the variation that's been included in this set.
A little more on the Parent's Cards. I feel that both sets do a great job overall introducing the Early Learning Method, describing the fundamental approach to using the cards and providing practical learning ideas. That said, I do have a few suggestions which I feel would make these cards even more valuable:
- Convert them into a booklet. I don't see a specific benefit to having this section in card format, but a downside is that they can get out of order quite easily (inevitable with a resourceful toddler! ;)
- Cite references. A few of the cards mention studies and/or study results; citing specific references here would provide more credibility and allow the parent to find out more (if desired).
- Provide (loose) guidelines around when a child is developmentally ready to begin some of the more advanced activities suggested. (The cards do suggest that children are ready to start learning how to count by/before 1 year of age - but when are they ready to start learning basic addition and subtraction, for example?)
- Enhance the "how to use these cards" section as follows:
- Suggest how/when to use each specific series (or use all together)
- In addition to the instructions for teaching numbers and counting, include similar plans for teaching basic addition and subtraction.
Overall, I highly recommend the ChildUp Early Learning Game Cards to parents who believe in the potential benefits of early education and are in search of tools to help their children get a head start.
ChildUp Early Learning Game Cards can be purchased either directly from the ChildUp website (note - you need to register for an account to order) or from Amazon. Cost is $7.99/set plus taxes & shipping. Order from the website now and take advantage of their Back to School Promo: FREE shipping until September 30th! While you're there, you can download their Early Learning Game Apps for iPhone/iPad - free from the App Store!
One lucky Manager to Mom reader will win both sets of ChildUp Early Learning Game Cards (Math & Logic #1 and #2) of their own!
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Disclosure: The prize is being provided to the winner by ChildUp. I received no financial compensation for writing my review or offering this giveaway, although I did receive the sample items free of charge. This is my completely honest opinion above and may be different from yours.