MEGASKILL NINE: COMMON SENSE
Common sense is not so common. A reason children may not be using common sense is that it is not a sense we are born with. It is built through experience & practice.
Unlike a subject such as reading or math, common sense has no curriculum. The best we can do is to find areas in which common sense is needed & then figure out ways to give children practice acquiring it.
When you have common sense, you try to see more than one point of view. When you have common sense, you have perspective.
The Careful Eye–ages 4-9
Look around the room & ask children to name everything they see. This activity builds observation skills.
Put several objects on a table. Ask youngsters to look hard & then close their eyes. Remove one or two of the objects. Let children name the things you took away. Turn this game around & ask your children to play it on you.
Memory Stretching–ages 4-9
To encourage information gathering, try questions like these:
Does your back door swing in or out?
Do you put your right or left sock on first?
Who’s the slowest eater in your house?
What did you have for breakfast? For dinner last night? Go back meal after meal to see how far you can remember.
Ask your children to make up questions for you to try to answer.
Ask “guessing” questions & let children ask them of you. How wide is this room? How long is the driveway? Get out the yardstick & check these guesses.
Guess how much different things weigh. A typewriter? A book? Mother? Brother? Put them on the scale & check.
These activities help children make judgements based on what they know to be facts or guesses.
Checking is common sense practice, & it can be taught in a straightforward way with a series of questions.
Have we checked to see, for example, that:
There’s gas in the car before starting out on a trip?
There are no cracks in the eggs that we buy at the supermarket?
The seams are tightly sewn in clothes we’re planning to buy?
There are no cars coming before we start across the street–even if the light is green?
We can get children in the habit of doing these checks. With all the checking in the World, there will still be plenty of surprises, but some of the everyday, unpleasant ones can be avoided this way.
Show youngsters the good side of a wormy apple. Ask, “Is this a good apple? Can you eat all of it?” Then turn the apple around. It shows children they have to know both sides of the question. It’s a trick with a valuable lesson.
Using Clues–ages 4-8
Begin by saying, “I’m thinking of something–an object–that is in this very room.” Then give hints, one at a time. Tell about the object’s size, colour, or use. Example: If you are thinking of a saucer, you could say, “It’s the size of a big pancake,” “It’s blue & white,” & “It is used under a cup.” After each clue, let your child try to guess the object.
Asking Questions–ages 9-12
Common Sense also means seeing things from other points of view, putting ourselves as best we can in other people’s shoes.
Read the following scene with your children. Before reading the bank of possible answers, think of what you might answer. Ask for your children’s answers & the reasons why they picked them.
The boy next door. Leah was only nine, but she really liked Michael, the boy across the street. The boy’s family had been away for a year in South America. In the month before their return Leah had crossed off each day on the calendar. She told that to her friend Margo. Finally the big day arrived. There they were. Leah & Michael said hello shyly. Margo was there, too, & what do you think she said?
- “Boy, did Leah miss you!”
- “Leah’s been counting the days.”
How Time Flies–any age
Give children some common sense about time. Draw a large circle. Mark off this circle into twenty-four equal parts, one for each hour of the day. Pick any day. Start by shading in the hours spent in sleep, then the hours spent at school or on the job. What’s left? Time alone or with friends? Time spent in travel? Time spent on homework or chores? Time watching the TV? Time for meals? Time for hobbies?
Take your time circles & see what you would change if you could. What’s your ideal day?
See what little changes you can make to bring your current days more in line with your ideal ones.
Money Common Sense–ages 4-6
Giving children practice with money is important. I have this attitude about wasting money: I don’t like it.
To teach children how to make change, put pennies, nickels, dimes & quarters (or the equivalents in your own currency) in different sections of an ice cube tray or an empty egg carton. Hand children a quarter & let them give you that amount back in different coins. Use this with other combinations. (Be sure to wash hands after touching the money.)
Gather together some household bills. List each service & the amount owed. Put the name of the bill on the left side of the paper. Put the cost on the right side.
Fold the paper so that the cost side is hidden. Ask your children to predict the amount owed for each bill. Write down the guesses next to the items. Then unfold the paper to show the actual costs.
Eat Well for Less–ages 4-9
Help children practice math by planning nutritious family meals that cost less. Use newspaper grocery ads.
Make up a menu of meals for two days, with your child taking charge of the choices for one meal. Judge with your child the amount of food needed. Total the prices for the planned meal. Divide by the number of people who will be eating. This gives the cost of the meal per person. Together check your cupboards & refrigerator before going to the store.
Clothes for Less–ages 10-12
Pretend you each have $250 to spend on clothes. Pretend you have absolutely nothing to wear. Make up a complete winter wardrobe from top to bottom. Use newspapers & catalogues. Compare “purchases”. How well did you do?
Talk about the advantage of buying clothes & other items out of season.