STEM books for toddlers and preschoolers

stembooks

It’s never too early to start teaching children about science, technology, engineering, and math. These are some of my favorite STEM books for kids ages 2 to 4. I’m sure they would be enjoyed by older kids as well, and in many cases their recommended age range is much older than 4, but AJ is almost four and these are all books she has enjoyed over the past two years. They would all make great holiday gifts for any toddler or preschooler.

Star Stuff: Carl Sagan and the Mysteries of the Cosmos. A biography of Carl Sagan, focusing on his curiosity as a young boy, and ending with the Voyager missions. AJ got this book for her 3rd birthday and would beg every night, “Can we read Carl?” She really identified with the young Carl. This is just a great children’s book: informative, lyrical, wonderful illustrations, and great at inspiring curiosity and imagination. As I do with all books that I read to AJ, I change the wording at times to make it easier for her to understand, and I elaborate in some places to offer further explanations. This book makes it really easy to do that.

Making a Friend. This book contains very few words, yet it can teach so much. At first glance, it does not appear to be a science book at all. It’s about seasons, a child who builds a snowman that becomes his friend, and what happens when the snowman melts. The theme of the story is “What you love will always be with you.” But! I found this book to be an excellent way to introduce the water cycle, as well as phases of matter and conservation of mass.

Amazing Machines series. Includes five books: “Amazing Airplanes,” “Roaring Rockets,” “Terrific Trains,” “Flashing Fire Engines,” and “Tremendous Tractors.” These books offer a very educational and factual take on popular children’s subjects. They really explain in detail how each machine works, and in rhyming verse that’s fun to read and listen to. I actually learned some things from these books.

Introductory Calculus for Infants. AJ loves this book right now, and I love hearing her say “Mommy, can you read Introductory Calculus?” To her, it’s an alphabet book– it goes through the letters of the alphabet with a math concept for each letter. The overarching story features a character named ‘x’ who is an outcast among the other letters until ‘f’ shows him that together as f(x), they can do anything. I try to explain the math concepts to AJ, and of course it’s not like she is really learning anything about calculus here. But the story does teach a lesson about friendship as well as reinforcing the alphabet, and she is still getting something out of it. At the very least, when she takes a calculus course in about 13 years, it won’t seem so scary because she’ll have fond memories of reading about calculus with her family as a little girl.

Good Night, Galaxy. This is basically a vocabulary book of astronomy terms with very simple explanations thrown in. It uses no more than a sentence to explain each concept, but it does introduce some good terms like pulsars and black holes, which you could then explain further. I like it because it’s short and easy to read when we don’t have time to read a longer book, so it’s great for bedtime. And it’s a board book, so you can leave it in the hands of a baby or toddler without it getting destroyed.

My Body series. This is a set of four books: “My Brain,” “My Bones,” “My Digestive System,” and “My Heart and Lungs.” These are the best books that I could find about the human body that the youngest children could understand. I still had to do a lot of verbal text editing while reading it to AJ when she was 2, but the text is simple and provides examples that were easy for her to grasp. They include activities you can do with your child to teach them more about each body system. Two-year-old AJ used to love saying at mealtimes, “The food goes doooown the esophagus to the stomach, then the small intestine and large intestine!”

Over and Under the Snow. In this book, a girl goes cross-country skiing with her father and learns about the animals that live in the subnivean zone, the “secret kingdom under the snow.” The illustrations show what’s happening both over and under the snow, and make this such a cozy book to read in winter. AJ requests this one a lot. I think it really encourages children to think about the unseen and unknown in nature, and in general to look beyond the surface of things.

My Very First Space Book. This book is freaking adorable. The illustrations are detailed and factual (and include a cameo of Carl Sagan and Neil deGrasse Tyson), the language is easy for children to understand, and it’s at just the right level to introduce children to astronomy and space exploration. It should definitely be every child’s first space book.

 

Parenting is an extroverted activity

Before I had kids, I never really knew that parenting is an extroverted activity. I was woefully misinformed in general about what parenting is really like and how much my parenting experience would be affected by my personality. But INTPs have a limited amount of talking and listening we can do every day before getting cranky, and I get pushed past that limit every day. I use up at least 50% of my daily word allotment just repeating the phrases “wash your hands,” “you’re being too loud,” “brush your teeth,” “stop that,” and “do you want to go to time out?” I use up 50% of my daily listening allotment just listening to screaming. 

Even when everything is going well, having kids requires a lot of talking and listening. Young kids need a lot of things explained to them, they need you to repeat everything five times before they will acknowledge it, they need to be read to, they want you to sing songs with them. Even babies need a ton of talking from their parents because that’s how they learn. (You’re supposed to say 2100 words per hour to your baby for maximum IQ benefits, according to Brain Rules for Baby by John Medina. I did so with my first child, but she used up all of my words so my second child thinks I’m mute.) And that’s just at home. When you take your kids to the pediatrician, school, daycare, extracurricular activities, and birthday parties, there’s a plethora of other people who you need to make small talk with, discuss your child’s progress with, and listen to politely while they spew meaningless words into your ears. Meanwhile, when you are at any of these places, your kids will be trying to have a conversation with you, because they don’t understand that you can’t have two different conversations with two different people at the same time.

The extroverted demands of parenting have many far-reaching effects. For one thing, the amount of talking and listening I have to do with my kids takes away from my capacity to talk to and listen to anyone else, like my husband. I usually use up my entire talking and listening quota before he gets home from work, and when he walks in the door I often greet him with, “Don’t talk to me about anything. I’m at my word limit.” When he says “I love you,” I grunt and grudgingly think, “I love you too, but please shut up and don’t make me say it right now.” Fortunately he is understanding, because he reaches his word limit daily, too. Every evening after our hours-long marathon of wrangling the children through dinner and bedtime, we collapse on the couch in mutual silence for an hour or so before we can have an actual conversation with each other.

A lot of important conversations get put off because I just don’t have the energy to push any more words out of my mouth or process any more words coming in my ears. If my husband tries to talk to me about something important, my frustration at reaching my word limit often manifests as impatience and anger towards him. And I have to use more words to explain that I’m not actually mad at him, I just need silence. We never have enough energy to talk about everything that we need to talk about as well as things we want to talk about. We have to pick and choose. I have a mental list of four different things I need to discuss with my husband right now, and we probably won’t get to all of them in the next 24 hours. 

One unforeseen consequence of my limited capacity for listening is that I can no longer listen to anything with words for recreation. Ever since becoming a family of four greatly increased the noise in my life, I can’t listen to the radio, podcasts, audiobooks or even music with words. Whenever I am within earshot of any of these things, my brain feels torn in two and I become mentally fatigued. It makes me very overwhelmed and flustered. Which is really a shame, because listening to podcasts and audiobooks is a stay-at-home parent’s last opportunity for hands-free intellectual stimulation.

Since listening is already difficult, I have no patience at all for strained listening. I can’t stand it when my daughter talks to me in mumbles, nonsense words, or whispers. Or when my husband shouts something from the other side of the house. I refuse to listen to anyone unless they are standing in front of me and speaking clearly. It even stresses me out when the volume on the radio is just a little bit too quiet, and my ears must impart an extra half-second lag before it reaches my brain. God forbid if anyone should try to talk to me while there’s music playing.

My daily word requirement is actually not as bad as it could be, given that I spend most of the day with only 10-month-old Buddy, who is an introvert. AJ, my extreme extrovert, is in preschool most of the time; staying home with only me to talk to all day is as much torture for her as it is for me.

I had always planned on going back to work as a teacher when my children are older. I’ve always enjoyed teaching, and it’s one of the few professions compatible with the geographic limits of my husband’s career. That is, I used to enjoy teaching other people’s children, before I had my own– when I could go home to a silent apartment at the end of the day and not have to talk or listen to anyone else for twelve hours. Now that I have kids, there’s no way in hell I will be able to spend all day talking and listening to other people for a living, and then go home for several more hours of talking and listening to my family. And the weekends. Oh, how I hate weekends now, those long days of endless family togetherness and noise.

The Gilmore Girls’ Myers-Briggs types

In my last post I wrote about the Myers-Briggs types of Gilmore Girls characters, as seen in the original series. I have quite a lot to say about Lorelai and Rory.

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Lorelai: ESFJ. She’s very social, focused on relationships, stubborn, and has an opinion about everything. She cares very much about the appearance of things, music, and pop culture. She takes things at face value and doesn’t dig deeper to find hidden meanings. She doesn’t have abstract ideas or much desire for learning and self development. Continue reading

Gilmore Girls characters and their Myers-Briggs types

Earlier this year I binge-watched Gilmore Girls during long feedings and late nights with my newborn son. I had watched some of the seasons in high school and college because it was popular with my contemporaries, and it was fun because Rory was the same age as me– we both graduated from high school in 2003. Watching it again this year, I realized that I don’t actually like the show. The characters are obnoxious, they talk way too much about pop culture references that I don’t care about at all, and there’s not much substance or character development. But I kept watching, and I’ll be watching the Netflix revival later this week, because those aren’t the reasons I watch TV shows.

When I watch shows or movies, I watch them solely to analyze them. I analyze everything from continuity of the actors’ hair and makeup, to when sets are re-used and supposed to look like a new location, to factual errors, to discrepancies in backstories and timing of events, to whether the floor plan of an interior set is consistent with the facade of the exterior set, to how many articles of clothing are in a character’s wardrobe and which pieces are re-used. But I especially love analyzing characters’ Myers-Briggs types. The problem with that is fictional characters are almost never consistent with MBTI, which makes them both hard to type and hard to like.

I’ve seen other sites that analyze Gilmore Girls characters’ Myers-Briggs types, but I don’t agree with any of them. Really, there’s no right answer because the writers of this show obviously didn’t know about MBTI when they created these characters, which is probably why I find this show so annoying. But here are my best guesses. Continue reading

You know you’re an INTP mom when…

  1. You don’t tell your kids to clean their room because then you would have to clean yours.
  2. You hate baby talk, and prefer to talk to your baby the same way you talk to any other human. You’re constantly asking people to please use real words and complete sentences when they speak to him.
  3. You’ve made Punnett Squares for your family for every observable trait. You know the probability of all of your kids being left-handed.
  4. You don’t like talking to other parents because they always want to talk about kids.
  5. Your kids are always running late for school, and it’s usually your fault.
  6. When your child is upset or fussy, you almost immediately know what he needs because of your extraordinary intuition, perception, and analysis.
  7. You’ve read twenty times more academic articles about child development and pediatric medicine than parenting books or blogs.
  8. You censor your children’s books for factual inaccuracies, grammatical errors, and educational value.
  9. Your children have more books than toys. You collect books for them that they won’t be able to understand for years.
  10. Your child frequently goes to preschool with peanut butter on her face from the day before. You can’t remember the last time you gave her a bath.
  11. While other moms talk about not having enough time for their beauty routine after having a baby, you never had a beauty routine to begin with and have always spent as little time on your appearance as you do now.
  12. You can always understand what your one-year-old is trying to say, even when no one else does. You’re so good at deciphering toddler speech that you often know what other toddlers are trying to say before their parents do.
  13. Every few months you decide you’re going to be totally organized and keep your diaper bag stocked with everything you could possibly need for outings with your baby. After a few days, you decide it’s a waste of time and a symptom of hyper-consumerist over-parenting to carry a diaper bag at all. Also, you forgot to buy diapers again.
  14. You choose baby clothes based on how easy they are to put on. All of your baby’s outfits consist of one article of clothing with no more than one zipper or three snaps.
  15. You are constantly analyzing your children to figure out their Myers-Briggs types.
  16. You started decorating your baby’s nursery while you were pregnant, but then you lost interest and now she’s three years old and still has bare walls and only two pieces of furniture in her room.
  17. Your 2-year-old can correctly identify photos of a nebula and supernova; knows the difference between a rocket, satellite, and space probe; and can name seven different species of whales.
  18. You hope your kid won’t be invited to any birthday parties, because then she’ll want you to throw one for her.
  19. You dread long holiday weekends because you can’t stand the noise and commotion of spending so many days in a row with your spouse and kids.

Self-perception and others’ perception

I once got into an argument with a coworker, an ESFJ. She had said something I found offensive, I explained why, we discussed it and made amends. At the end of the conversation she said this was a new experience for her because, “I’ve never had anybody not like me before.” That sentence stunned me. She really believed that out of all the people she had ever encountered, not a single one disliked her.

It seems pretty common for ESJs to believe that they are universally, or at least overwhelmingly, liked. They can have this confidence not only because their personality allows it, but also because it’s probably mostly true. The ESTJ and ESFJ personality types are dominant both in terms of proportion of the population and their status in American culture. Our culture idealizes these types, specifically ESFJ for women and ESTJ for men. People generally tend to like others who are similar to themselves, and SJs are definitely in the majority numbers-wise.

In addition, Judgers are generally less attuned to others’ perception of them than are Perceivers. Whereas Perceivers are input-oriented, taking in the maximum amount of information from their surroundings at the expense of action, Judgers will only take in as much information as they need to form an action or response, and then are less open to new possibilities. So it stands to reason that Judgers are more likely than Perceivers to believe that others have a favorable opinion of them, because people tend not to openly show dislike of a person, and it may take careful observation of their facial expressions, tone, and body language to figure out what they’re really thinking.

Since Sensors focus on sensory information, I suspect also that they may be more likely to take others’ perceived opinion of them at face value. Whereas iNtuitives focus on what can’t be seen, and are more likely to assume that others have unspoken underlying thoughts, Sensors may assume that others’ outward expressions accurately reflect their inner feelings.

It seems entirely foreign to me that a person could go through life thinking that everybody likes them. I have gone through life thinking nearly the opposite. I assume that most people don’t like me, because as an INTP I am very different from most people, and because I have encountered relatively few people who I genuinely like beyond a first impression. Because I am always taking in information and analyzing sensory information for deeper meaning, in social interactions I tend to interpret any negative cues as an indication of deeper dislike. I am very sensitive to tone of voice and the unspoken messages in other people’s words. (Ironically, I’m not so adept at controlling my own tone of voice, and I often seem to convey messages differently from the way I intended.)

(On a side note, while people generally don’t tell you to your face that they don’t like you, they usually do tell you when they don’t like somebody else. I’ve found that it’s pretty common for someone to say “I don’t like people who [fill in the blank]” without knowing that I also [fill in the blank].)

I wonder how life would be different if I went about life assuming that everyone liked me. Sometimes people who have that kind of confidence (or overconfidence) think they can do no wrong, and use it as license to say things that are rude or offensive, believing that anybody who was offended would say so. I’ve encountered a few people like that. But I also think that if I believed others always had a positive opinion of me, I would have a more positive opinion of myself, and be less eager to mold myself for the sake of pleasing others.

That time we all got the rabies vaccine

To try to get out of my blogging rut, I thought I would share more of my experiences and stories from everyday life. I usually think this type of blogging is boring to read, but it seems to be what most bloggers do, so why not.

Last summer when we lived in Colorado, my husband and I saw a bat flying around our house late one night after AJ was asleep. We chased it around for awhile until it disappeared, then KJ did what he always does: he googled the shit out of it. He read about how bats are the number one source of human rabies transmission in the U.S., how they can squeeze under doors and through tiny gaps a quarter of an inch wide, how they can bite people while sleeping without them ever knowing, and their teeth make such tiny puncture wounds that you could never know you’d been bitten. Rabies is nearly 100% fatal, has an incubation period of anywhere between a week and a year, and is 100% preventable if you get the vaccine before symptoms appear. We decided that we would all need to get vaccinated, unless we could capture the bat and have it tested for rabies. Continue reading