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!

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Thankfulness: A Thanksgiving Project!

Saying thank you is a wonderful way to build social skills with your child. Whether your child received a gift or had a wonderful visit with someone, a homemade thank you card is the way to go!

Fold some paper in half - construction or computer paper is fine … or look for cool card stock papers, available at your local craft store. Show your child how cards typically open, book-style, and show them how words go in a left-to-right progression.

Then, go on a letter search - use all those catalogs that are coming in the mail! Help your child find all the letters to make the words "Thank You!" and get some cutting practice in … so good for small motor practice! Your child can arrange the letters on the card, practicing that left-to-right progression again, an early reading skill :) When thats done, help brainstorm what to say.

Thanksgiving time is also a great time to practice these skills! Get your child in the habit of looking for things to be thankful for - it can be a lifelong thing! And … so many other skills come into play with a project like this!

First, you and your child will use language and planning skills to come up with a list of things to search for that your child is thankful for. Then, hone small motor and visual discrimination skills while searching for pictures and words that fit your list. Get out your scissors and cut, practicing small motor skills. Now, make a placemat of things that your child is thankful for. It could be laminated for use at the table on Thanksgiving - and beyond!

Your child will delight in finding photos and words that represent things he or she is thankful for! (And get lots of practice at so many things!) You could even make it a counting project … add a new thankful thing each day :)

Have fun!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Making Friends: Books to Read

Such a big part of the early years is moving beyond the world of self into the world of friends. Just as we learn many other concepts, our young ones need "friend behavior" modeled and practiced to get started.

Make time for interaction with other children - get out, go for walks, stop and check out areas where your children might spend some unstructured time with others. It doesn't have to be a special dance or sport or art class - although these can be great fun, too! The important thing is that your child gets a chance to mingle and learn what is expected behavior with friends and what isn't! Practice makes …
well, maybe not perfect, but better :)

As another strategy, read to your child from consciously selected books about friendship. There are so many wonderful books that allow children to see characters whose feelings mirror their own, giving them voice. For little ones, the Rainbow Fish books by Marcus Pfister are great, as are the Bear books by Karma Wilson. They have simple language and engaging illustrations, just right for teaching things like sharing, making friends and caring for our friends.

For older children, Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes is a personal favorite. Children can see what bullying behavior looks like and sounds like, and will vow never to be like that! Chester's Way, another Henkes story, is also fantastic for friendship themes like taking turns and having more than one friend.

For a comprehensive list of books on making friends, click on:'s%20books%20on%20friendship.pdf

Reading about these themes opens the door for discussion - never let an opportunity get away to help your child develop these much needed social skills.

Above all, have fun with it!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Great Halloween Reads!

Halloween is a fun time - and a fun time to read some GREAT stories!!

Two of my favorites to look for:

Too Many Pumpkins!
by: Linda White / Megan Lloyd

This story teaches on so many levels! Work on sequencing with the story of pumpkins growing, from splattered pumpkins to sprouts to vines, etc. Show how it becomes a circular story, with the seeds at the end of the book. The pumpkins' growth, despite not being wanted or cared for, is displayed through the book's interesting artwork and wonderful words.

There is also the deeper story of the book's main character moving from an isolated, unhappy life to having an entire group of neighbors who join her for Halloween festivities. "Too Many Pumpkins" is a consistent favorite with little ones up through primary grades.

Pumpkin Jack
by: Will Hubbell

Kids love this book! Any child who has had to throw out their pumpkin after Halloween will appreciate the way Tim disposes of his pumpkin - in the garden. It has great lessons about the after cycle of the pumpkin's life ... From a Jack-o-lantern to a mushy mess to a snow-covered mound. Then, in the Spring, new life brings Jack (and many others!) back to the garden! Great illustrations and  descriptive metaphors that kids can understand make this a book to treasure.

Have fun reading!!