A Disaster Turned into a Teachable Moment; learning with beans!

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Have you ever had one of those days where your to do list has no end and everything seems to be taking double the time it is supposed to? Mine was one of those days. My seemingly quick task of soaking the beans we were eating for dinner that night turned into a bean free for all when the bag burst and they spilled all over the kitchen floor. Taking a moment to breathe I noticed two helpers ready to clean.


Getting children involved in everyday chores and activities is a great way to create a family where everyone chips in and helps each other out. My little ones are always eager to help and very understanding when I make a mistake (sometimes I think I should learn compassion from them). I knew the day I had ahead of me but I also know the type of children I want to raise. I took this as a teachable moment and put everything else on hold.

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Armed with plastic cups my children raced to pick up as many beans as they could. I asked them to try and count out loud as they picked up each bean. Once all the beans were picked up we sat down and began to count out the contents of our cups. This activity began as a simple clean up and turned into a wonderful math activity.

My two year old can count to twelve, I used this time to push him to count to twenty. I also focused him on pointing to each bean as we were counting. These are very simple skills that make a huge difference in number sense and school readiness. My four year old is a bit more advanced so i used this opportunity show her how to group by fives. We also counted all the way to fifty which reinforces the skills she already has and introduces higher numbers to her at the same time.

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My daughter also loves learning with her younger brother because she feels as though she is the expert and has something to teach him. This is a huge teaching strategy! Whenever I feel she has not mastered something and will not listen, or will get frustrated if I try to teach her again, I focus on teaching my son with her at my side. More often than not it gives her the extra push she needs to master the skill and she feels empowered at the same time.

Continuing with our bean exploration, my daughter noticed one bean was very wrinkled and bumpy while the others were smooth. I asked her why she thought that was. What could have made it that way? Her response was that maybe it was going to start to grow into a plant like Jack And The Bean Stalk. WHAT a great response! I was so excited she was able to connect a story we had read to real life (text to self). I was also excited she understood that this bean could become a plant if given the things it needs.

With our science caps snugly placed on our heads we began to discuss what seeds need to grow. From our past experience with farms and planting she was able to come up with soil, water and sunlight. A great way to begin a discussion like this would be:
“A seed needs many things to start to grow and turn into a plant. What types of things do you think may help a seed turn into a plant?”
Within five minutes we had placed beans in a watery paper towel ready to sprout by hanging them in a baggy on the window.

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All of this learning is very unconventional and random. In the classroom this spur of the moment teaching would be frowned upon, however I have learned that teaching as a mother is all about taking these small opportunities and rolling with it. These moments are what give our children the prior knowledge they need for deeper learning and more intensive lessons later on when they are in school. All in all these activities took twenty minutes out of our day, however my daughter was still talking about it at the dinner table when my husband came home. Often times meaningful moments are not calculated but very sporadic.

What moments in your day have you made into a teachable moment? We would love to hear all about it!

Nicole Rowley