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The following is an excerpt from the book Ready to Learn:
How to Help Your Preschooler Succeed
by Stan Goldberg, Ph.D.
Published by Oxford; February 2005; $28.00US; 0-19-516754-6
Copyright © 2005 Stan Goldberg, Ph.D.

Dear Dr. Goldberg,

Jessica can't identify colors. Have her repeat the name of each primary color until she has them memorized. Thank you.

How boring, I thought. I could show her different colors in a book or on objects and, eventually, through memorization, she might learn the names of colors, but in the process view learning as something difficult and dull. But I knew "drilling" was not how my daughter learned. Instead of following the well-meaning teacher's advice, I looked for detours. I knew there were four strategies that helped her learn.

1. Use items that are concrete and visual.
2. Actively involve her in the process, rather than just telling her something.
3. Make the learning activity enjoyable.
4. Use repetition, but in a way that isn't boring.

Here's how I incorporated each of the four strategies. I bought one hundred balloons of various colors (visual and concrete). We sat down on the living room floor and I asked her to tell me which balloon I should blow up (active involvement).

"Red, Daddy," she said. I blew up a red balloon and, with a great theatrical movement, placed it under a pillow.

"But Daddy," she said with wide eyes, "It'll go bang if Mommy sits on it."

I smiled and said, "Yeah, Jessie, won't that be funny?"

She laughed and now became excited about sabotaging our house (enjoyable). She'd call out the color of a balloon, I'd blow it up, and then she'd place it behind plants, in the oven, in the garbage, on top of plates, inside the refrigerator, under tables, and even inside the toilet bowls. After one hour, one hundred balloons were hidden throughout the house (repetition), and my daughter now flawlessly knew primary colors. What was proposed as a boring activity at which I knew my daughter would fail, instead transformed into something so enjoyable and successful she still remembers it 20 years later. The task took longer to accomplish than if Jessie had a more mainstream learning style. But not only was my daughter successful, she excelled in preschool during activities requiring the identification of colors. Whenever the teacher read to the children and questioned them about the color of something in a picture, Jessie would yell out the correct answer before the teacher had even finished asking it.

Just as with the balloon activity, a number of "detours" can be developed for pre-schoolers with learning differences. They are neither difficult, nor boring. In fact, most children receive them more enthusiastically than traditional teaching approaches. Given a choice of repeating the names of colors or sabotaging their house with different colored balloons, which activity would any child choose? The earlier these detours are used, the more likely they can prevent or minimize learning problems children may encounter in kindergarten.

Reprinted from the book  Ready to Learn: How to Help Your Preschooler Succeed by Stan Goldberg, Ph.D.; Copyright © 2005 Stan Goldberg, Ph.D.; Permission granted by Oxford University Press; For more information please visit the publisher's website at

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