Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Reading Treat: Very Hungry Caterpillar Fruit Salad

Celebrate Eric Carle's birthday this week (July 25, 1929) by making a beautiful fruit salad with your little ones!

The Very Hungry Caterpillar, by Eric Carle, is a favorite of children all over! This adorable book has the recipe right in it's pages, so sit down and read it again with your child to get started. Make sure you have a paper and writing tools ready, so you can help your child spell each ingredient ... getting some letter and number practice in while you do! (Only the first five fruits should be added - after that, you might get a bellyache like the caterpillar!)


When you have your list, check off what you have in the kitchen and then make a trip to the produce/grocery store. Your child will want to help find the ingredients, weigh them, and purchase - great lessons all the way around!

Make sure to wash all the fruits before using and cut up (with supervision or adult intervention) into small chunks. Add a little citrus, orange or lemon, to keep it fresh.

Now, enjoy your Very Hungry Caterpillar Fruit Salad as a treat or as part of your meal!

Have fun!


Sunday, July 20, 2014

Mail Call!

Mailing letters is so exciting for your little ones ... and so is getting mail in return! Even in this age of electronic everything, the simple act of making a card or writing a note and putting it in the mail can be fun ... and be a great literacy activity for your child!

Grab some paper, stampers, markers, stickers ... whatever your child would like to work with. Let them exercise their small-motor skills cutting or folding. Talk about what they would like to share, brainstorming ideas, and come up with a short list of topics. This discussion helps your child begin to organize their thoughts, establishing an order of operations for getting thoughts on paper.

Let your child do as much of the writing as possible. Sometimes a picture or illustration makes a great prompt for telling about an activity or trip. Depending on their age and skill level, your child may be able to write some words, or dictate to you what they would like to say. Enclose the picture or your child's illustration to complete the message. Don't forget to have them sign it!

This could be a great summertime activity ... writing from home, or postcards from vacation! Make sure to ask questions in the letter, and to request return mail, if possible - you might want to send a few out, hoping for some to find time to respond :) Take a trip to the post office and pop it in the box - talk about how the mail takes it's own trip!

Get started - and, have fun!

Monday, June 23, 2014

Mindful Fun in the Summertime!

I've been reading a lot about mindfulness lately ... being in the moment isn't always the easy way to do things, but the benefits are amazing!

Whatever generation you are raising your children in, there have always been distractions from being able to live in the moment and teaching your children with simple things, daily things, that are organic and part of your day. Whether it is housework, laundry, careers, parents, health concerns ... all of these take our attention and use up part of our brain ... and now, it's also screen time. I'm guilty! I probably don't go an hour without looking at either my phone or my iPad.

If you fit this profile, try this ...

As you go through the day, check out what is happening right in front of you. When you're making toast, watch as the butter melts on the bread - have your child notice the heat and what happens. Have your child set the table, counting out forks and spoons as they go. Practice pouring with your little ones and see how quantities fit into different sized and shaped containers. Be mindful of the lessons your child is exposed to through these everyday activities. Build vocabulary by talking and questioning through these "lessons."

Apply the same mindfulness to your summer fun time! Toes in the water - notice how it makes your skin change, how the water droplets can make a rainbow, what the bubbles in the sand are from... Pre-swimming lessons - breathe deeply, see how the air puffs out your body, feel how the air pushes out, float on the surface ... Garden play - watch a bug work, see the buds appear, spread the dirt out and examine the crystal and shiny rock pieces... slow down and smell the roses :)

Look for opportunities as you go through each day to bring focus to the activities at hand. Each simple activity gives your child the opportunity to develop language skills, social skills, and motor skills. It helps them connect experiences and knowledge. Practicing mindfulness in your own life shows your child, through modeling, how to do this themselves. And, it's good for you!

Have fun!

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Letters make Words!!!

Learning that letters match sounds is an early reading skill - one that must come first in order to have a foundation to build on :) As your children grow, however, they will get interested in putting those letters together.  When they discover that LETTERS MAKE WORDS, it's time for the next step!

When your little reader is ready for this next step, introduce some fun word-making and word recognition into your day! Use activities that will keep them excited about learning ... like these:


  • Take a colored tray and pour in some salt - have your child trace letters for simple three-letter words, blending the sounds as you go.  Show how a word family can be made by changing the first letter. Just rub out the letter and change it.  Dry erase boards are also fun for this!



  • Make a flip book from spiral bound index cards. Cut the index cards, while still attached to the spiral,  into two sections - the left side about one-third of the page and the right side two-thirds. Put single consonants and consonant blends on each page of the left side and common word family endings on the right side. Experiment by flipping and trying to make words :)



  • Use your old alphabet blocks to create sight words ... just program some index cards with words on your list and let your budding readers match up for practice!



  • Then, take or make some blank wooden (or cardboard) blocks and turn them into sight word blocks. Use a Sharpie and your best handwriting (or your child's) to fill each side with common sight words. Use each word more than once to make it more user friendly. Your child can use them to build short sentences - it will be a big hit!


Above all, have fun with it! When it's fun, it works!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Snowy Days!

Snow and January go together here in the Northeast U.S. - and the kids love to get out and play in it, making snowmen, snow angels, snow forts, etc. 

If it's too cold, then it's time for some inside snow play! Grab a basin of clean snow from outside to play in and make sure to get the mittens on … let your little ones mold the snow into mini versions of the snowmen they wish they were making outside! Be quick - it won't last long :) 

When you're done with the cold stuff, make a paper snowman! First, cut three different sized circles from cardboard (a discarded cereal box works great!) and then let your children use them as stencils to trace around and cut circles from white construction paper. This is great for some small-motor exercise, as well as sizing lessons (small, medium, large). 

Make a snow scene, with your snowman as the centerpiece and use cotton swabs dipped in white paint to create your own storm! (I had some snowmen cutouts available, so we took a shortcut!) Decorate your snowman with markers, scraps of fabric, buttons, whatever you want …
Have fun with it, and stay warm!



Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Christmas Time: Gift Giving

This holiday season, let your children experience the joy of giving. You can try to teach them … or you can step back and let them learn!

Spark some interest in some of the great organizations that are gathering gifts for the less fortunate. Let your children know that they can help make the holiday special for someone else … elves come in all shapes and sizes! Let them know that they can be "helpers" to spread the Holiday Spirit.

Then, find or work together to make a container that will become a focal point for gathering loose change (and good thoughts!) during the next few weeks. You might take a holiday tin or a special basket or decorate a gift bag … whatever you decide to do will be great!

Next, have your children check around for change in pockets, junk drawers, cars, and the sofa cushions :) It will be amazing how the change adds up! When you go to the store or come home from a day's outings, help your little ones to "find" the change and put it in the container. When you're ready, take that change to the bank or grocery store change counter. If you're not near one of these, or just looking for practice counting coins, you can separate and roll them up yourselves!

You will have enough saved up to go shopping, big or small, for someone who might not have much for the holiday. My little ones always like to pick something for someone their own age, but take your child's lead! Remember to reflect on the giving :)

While you're waiting for the coins to pile up, create some one-of-a-kind sparkling ornaments to share along with your gifts. You'll need some chenille sticks or florist wire, some jingle bells or small buttons or charms, and beads of any and all colors and shapes.


At one end of the wire/pipe cleaner, attach an anchor of some sort - we had some jingle bells, so we used them. Then, let your child create a masterpiece, adding things until its about one-third full. Twist the remainder into a loop for hanging and you have a beautiful ornament/door hanger to give away! (Make another for a great gift for grandparents or someone special!)

Have fun!!

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Christmas Time: Trim a Tree

When it's time to get in the spirit of Christmas, little ones like to make some fun themselves!! Let them experiment with these cute trees, making ornaments, magnets for the fridge, or even gifts ... handmade gifts are always well-received :)

To get started, you'll need some tree shapes cut from fun foam - you can pre-cut your own or pick up a pack at fabric/craft stores. Have on hand some plastic beads, shiny stickers or sequins, sticky foam pieces or cute colored buttons. Teach your child, using a white glue squeeze bottle, how to make small "baby" dots of glue and then have them pick a few places where they want to place a "decoration." Keep adding until each tree is just the way your little one wants it! When complete, they should be left to dry on a flat surface.

While you're waiting for them to dry, get in some counting practice - count up the ornaments on each tiny tree. Use leftover beads or buttons to play a pattern game … lay out a two or three part pattern and see if your child can continue it with "what comes next?" Then, if you're making your tree a gift, design a gift tag or a card to put it in. Gift giving teaches lessons about sharing and thoughtfulness that are wonderful to pass along to your children. Spending time with them and sharing experiences is the best gift of all!

When the trees are dry, decide whether you want to punch holes or glue on ribbon loops to hang your trees up as an ornaments or holiday decorations, or attach magnets to the back to hang on your fridge. Either way, you have some cute new crafts made by your fabulous kiddo artist!

Have fun!