Wednesday, June 23, 2010

American Flag Recognition - Free Toddler 'Curriculum'

(Image courtesy of

You will need:
*Wee Sing America

Desired Results:
*Child should be able to recognize and describe the United States flag.

Prerequisite to:
*Recognition of various other types of flags.

Phase 1; build interest and recognition of flags in general. When Chicklet was 3 1/2 years old she started getting excited about flags. Now it's quite easy to get a toddler excited about something, just point it out every time you see one and they will become pretty well obsessed with it. So for phase 1, which I did not even know was phase 1 of anything at the time (lol!), I would just point out flags galore out the window as we drove to and from anywhere and everywhere. As expected, Chicklet began to get all excited every time she saw a flag. Don't rush it. Just enjoy getting excited over flags with your tot. When your tot begins to point out flags before you can even spot them, it's time to move on to phase 2.
Phase 2; introduce the concept of different "kinds" of flags. One day I asked her, "Do you know what kind of flag that was?" She stared back at me with a deer-in-headlights look, of course. She had no idea there were different "kinds" of flags. Flags were just fun colorful flappy things on tall sticks to her. I could see she was about to get frustrated that she didn't know the answer to the question so I cheerfully explained it to her very simply. I told her that the flags with red and white stripes and a blue square with white stars were American flags! She just stared at me, perplexed and uncomprehending. I asked, "Did you see the red stripes?" She said "yeah" hesitantly. I replied that that was wonderful! Let's sing a song to help us know which flags are American flags! I turned on Wee Sing America, song #9 "There Are Many Flags", and began singing along with the CD while making sure my face was toward her. I enunciated the words clearly and made sure she could see my lips as I sang it to help her make out the individual words.

"...Then hurrah for the flag, Our country's flag!
It's stripes and white stars too!
There is no flag in any land,
Like our own Red, White, and Blue!"

So goes the chorus. A good song to help a toddler remember the colors and patterns on the US flag. Then every time this song came around on the CD I would get all excited about it, "Chicklet guess what?! It's the FLAG SONG!" and turn the volume up. Pretty soon she started singing along, getting crazy excited when it came on.
Phase 3; develop knowlege of correct lyrics. We would listen to the Wee Sing America CD every time we were in the car, and at home we would sing it ourselves. Singing it without the CD, just one on one with her, enabled me to correct misunderstood lyrics. I would recite a line a few times over, not singing it, just recite a line she'd had trouble with. Out of the blue. She would listen and start to smile as she realized that what I was reciting were the words to her new favorite song. Then she would burst out singing and I would sing along with her, facing her so she could see my lips, and pronouncing the lyrics clearly and correctly. No need to rush. Don't go overboard with corrections on the lyrics. You don't want to make the tot dislike the song because they are frustrated that they can't seem to get it right. Just recite and sing it correctly and clearly and occasionally if there's a word or phrase they repeatedly have trouble with you can say it to or with them a couple times to help them remember. But not every time unless they seem to be wanting help. Praise them when they get it right, even if they only got one new word in the phrase right and all the other words are still mumbled, jumbled, or wrong, praise the child for getting the one word right. Praise them with a huge smile and a hug. You are so proud of this accomplishment- show it. The child will want nothing more than to learn ALL the words right to get more glowing praise from you. Don't rush it, let the child lead. If the tot is singing the song, cheerfully join in.
Phase 4; apply song to flag recognition. Once the tot gets a key line correct, apply it to the next American flag you pass. When Chicklet got "stripes and white stars too" correct, I pointed out the next American flag by saying, "Look! It's an American flag! It's got stripes and white stars too! Do you see the stripes? Do you see the stars? What color were the stripes?" to which she replied that the stripes were red and white. This let me know that she had visually locked onto the right flag and connected it with the lyrics she had been learning. When she got " our own Red, White, and Blue" correct, I then pointed out the next American flag by saying, "Look that flag is red, white, and blue! What kind of flag is it?" and she would visually lock onto the flag and gleefully yell out something about it having "white stars too!" Eventually she would answer my question with, "It's a 'MERICA flag!" When I knew she could recognize the US flag by sight, I stopped giving her the lyric prompts when asking about the flag. I would simply ask, "What kind of flag is that?" and she would reply correctly.
Phase 5; opening the door to the concept of other flags having purposes and meanings too. Eventually I asked her, "What kind of flag is that?" and it was NOT a US flag. She knew it was not a US flag but did not know what she was supposed to describe this flag as. She ummmed for a minute before smirking at me sheepishly and asking what kind of flag it is. :) When your child knows what is and what is not a US flag, then you can begin to point out other kinds of flags. Do not overwhelm them by pointing out every different kind of flag you cross paths with. If they ask, yes tell them, but your plan should be to pick 1 or 2 new kinds of flags to point out. When you point out a new flag, make sure to do it when you have the time to pause and examine this flag. Point out distinguishing features of the flag. What color is it? What symbols and designs are on it that tell you what it's for? If you know what the symbols mean, then explain that to your child. They understand way more than we give them credit for.
This past weekend we had the opportunity to introduce a few new flags to our little American Flag expert. :) We went to a parade on Saturday and there went the US flag marching by side by side with our state flag. So we pointed out the state flag and some of it's prominent features to her every time it was marched past us. Before this, we had been at the carnival and one of the food wagons had pirate flags hanging from the front. I pointed out the pirate flags to Chicklet breifly on our way past and then on our return trip she pointed them out to me, stating that they are pirate flags.

If you can find a kid friendly song that describes key aspects of the flag you wish to teach, you can adapt this concept to any flag from any country, business, fairytale, etc. In fact, you can use music to teach many things more easily. Children learn things so well when music is applied!

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