Sunday, January 25, 2015

Apology accepted!

Teachable moments occur in the course of each day ... Sometimes,  the most important, authentic social learning comes from these moments.

Little ones are not born with the ability to know how to apologize. They benefit from you modeling how to do this, so that it becomes natural for them, and then can happen spontaneously in the future. When something happens between friends, siblings, or classmates that calls for an apology, look for your child's ability to stop and say the words or make the gesture. If they aren't able or ready, show them explicitly how to do this :) Just as we model other activities, we can teach accountability, apology, and work on empathy.

Teach your children that apologies are necessary and should be direct and specific. Model this with yourself, as well. When something goes wrong, as it sometimes will, and the teacher (or parent) makes a mistake - possibly attributing blame to the wrong person or misunderstanding a situation - use it as an opportunity to model, as well as to truly apologize.

All of the children who have passed through my classes know "even grown-ups make mistakes." Getting down to eye level, directing my attention to the small person involved, and saying specifically why I am sorry ... "I'm sorry I thought you were talking, when you were actually working so quietly ... can you forgive me? I'll try to look more carefully next time." This shows that child and all observing exactly what an apology should look like and sound like.

I think forgiveness also comes easier to those who know how to apologize. Once your child starts to see the impact of their actions, intentional or not, they also are better able to see their place in the group, and feel the power of forgiveness. A team dynamic in your home or classroom will help your child in many aspects of their lives.

So, have fun - and apologize when necessary!


Sunday, January 18, 2015

Numbers, numbers, everywhere!

So, your children are ready to begin counting?! First, you want to start with one-to-one correspondence ... touching each object as you count and associating the oral number with a bunch of objects. As you are counting blocks, touch and say, "one, two, three - I have three blocks!" You should see your child copy this behavior, after some modeling. Then, play games to see who has how many - I have three cars, how many do you have?

After children understand that groups of objects can be assigned a word (numbers), show them what numbers look like! Show numbers in text and play a find the number game. There are many counting books available, with fantastic illustrations, to help generate interest! Whatever your child is interested in, there is probably a book that shows counting and numbers related to it! Eric Carle's wordless book, "1, 2, 3, To the Zoo!" is a favorite to start with. Look for Dinosaur counting books, books with fairies, etc., ... there is something for everyone! "Over in the Meadow" and the "Five Little Monkeys" books are favorites for rhyming songs with numbers. 


When your child is ready, look for numbers in other printed material, such as newspaper flyers and mailers, and make separate collages of each number - work on one number at a time. Use Legos to "build" the number and talk about how it is formed. Play some silly finger plays like "Five Little Monkeys Swinging in a Tree" to reinforce the number names, too!


When you're ready for hands-on number making practice, use the different letter forming fun tricks mentioned in former posts! You can also find heavy-duty plastic paper protector sheets for 8 1/2 by 11 paper and make some templates to slip in. Then, practice with dry erase markers to your heart's content :) Some children like to practice using a Rainbow Write technique, which is to form the number with a pencil very nicely, and then go over it for repetition with many colored pencils. 


Take it step-by-step and only introduce the next step when your child is ready. Frustration is the last thing you want your child feeling! Have fun!

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!