Sunday, July 26, 2015

Books to Love: "Wet Dog!" by Elise Broach, illustrations by David Catrow

Every time I pull this book out to read, my kiddos go nuts over the pictures, even before I can say the title. Everything about this book makes you smile. David Catrow's fluid, detailed illustrations draw in the reader, and the use of rhyme and rhythm in Elise Broach's storytelling makes them want to join in ... and, they do!!

There are repeating lines that become group chants and the excitement grows as the story unfolds and your little ones start to anticipate what will happen next. Predicting and sequencing the appearance of each story element will add to the fun - and is a great comprehension tool!

This is a great read for the hot, summer days - you can almost feel the droplets of water as the wet dog shakey-shakes off :) After reading, go back and find all the delicious, descriptive ways that show how hot the main character is ... There are so many, you will lose track.

Make sure you spend some time poring over each new setting, as it is introduced. The details are amazing! There will be some recall at the end, as you and your little ones put the pieces together for the culminating scene. This fun book will quickly become a new favorite. :)

Have fun!

Friday, July 24, 2015

Social Skills: Play!

Have fun in the summer - and, use the time to make sure you are exposing your child to new, playful social situations, to prepare the way for school :)

Make a trip to a park or community pool ... or, just take a walk down the street to meet other children  for your child to spend some unstructured playtime with. Playgroups or play dates are also a good option, as long as there is plenty of free interaction between children. To get started, pull out some water toys or set up sand construction tools ... all you really need is some plastic cups and shells or pebbles. Then, let your child imagine what to do with things they find - and share with a new friend! Playtime is their "lab" for discovering what works and doesn't work when forming friendships and working together on projects.

Getting in some non-screen, active time will help your child develop skills such as decision making, planning, sharing - all skills needed in a group setting, like school. The ability to make choices on their own, and to share toys or play cooperatively, are developed over time, in natural play settings. Little ones develop these skills through trial and error, so let them explore :)

In today's world, there are many choices for children's activities that are technology-based, which do not always involve daily interaction with peers. While these may be a favorite part of your child's day, they can detract from building social skills, if used too often. Interactive play time also helps develop your child's speech and language skills, as well as their dexterity in handling objects and art materials.

The more variety your child is exposed to, both through experiences and with handling different toys and art materials, the more they will continue to grow! Keep it simple - there are so any easy ways to inject a little group fun - sidewalk chalk, bubbles, rock and popsicle stick building projects ...

Have fun!

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Making Friends: Interview Chat

Little ones don't always know how to start making friends ... or conversation. Give them an assist with a brand new microphone for "interviewing" - home made or dollar store bought :) If you're going with home-made, invent your own from recycled materials around your home. We used a cardboard roll, some silver foil, and stickers.

If you're not looking to DIY, check around at the dollar stores to find one that is durable - I have a toy microphone that is all plastic, non-electronic, and echoes your voice, mimicking a real microphone for a fraction of the cost.

Now, help your child come up with some practice questions, such as "What's your favorite toy? What movies do you like? Do you have a favorite animal or pet?" Ask your child what they would like to know about a friend and practice setting up questions.

Model this behavior with your child by playing an "interview" game to help them know how it works, to prepare for when they are ready to try it themselves. Then, next time you are in a social situation with some other little ones, set them free to make new friends and find out all about them.

Have fun!

Open-Ended Recycled Art

One of the coolest ways to spend a summer day (or any day!) is to do some art with recycled materials :) If you're like me, these days your recycling bucket fills faster than your actual trash ... So try a little trash to treasure creativity! Some of those items sitting right now in your recyclable bucket will inspire your child's imagination. Make sure to start off with absolutely no plan in mind ... just bring out some materials that could be interesting and let your children explore.

If you need a launching point, try examining an egg carton together and do some verbal brainstorming with your little ones. "What could we make with this? What animals have bumps like this?" Maybe they will want to paint and personalize the outside and use it to collect cool stuff on a nature walk. Then, see what other ideas they have! Egg cartons can become so many things -  bugs, caterpillars, finger puppets ... there is no limit to what your children might think of. (If you do a search online for egg carton crafts, you will find all sorts of ideas.) Your child might be inspired to make a whole collection of insects or other animals by dividing the carton up (adult help needed for cutting) and using markers, googly eyes, and pipe cleaners.

Boxes are another source of unlimited creativity. Use empty cereal or cracker boxes to make a whole town, farm, or big city to play with. Cover boxes with craft or construction paper and your child can personalize with details, such as doors, windows, and even signs for businesses. Lay it down. add wheels, and it becomes a vehicle.
The important thing is to let your children take ownership of the activity, with limited prompting and assistance from you!

Cardboard tubes are cool - there is always something to make with them! Paper towel rolls can be telescopes for pirates or adventurers. Smaller tubes can become binoculars with a little imagination, string, and some markers. Your children may want to connect some tubes and make tunnels to send some bouncy balls or tiny cars through.

Don't overlook your junk mail, either. Your little guys can use recyclable newspapers and magazines to practice cutting things on lines, and then gluing those cutouts or papers into collages of favorite things or mosaic designs. Toy store fliers and catalogs are particular favorites for little ones :)

Have fun!

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Father's Day Fun Gift

For Father's Day this year, I am borrowing this idea from a past Mother's Day post, and changing it up just a bit!

Everyone loves a gift that they can actually use ... here you go! And, it's so easy!!

Have your child make a handprint on a nice, sturdy piece of paper - preferably in a color that Dad would like to have displayed on his desk! We're using some leftover card stock in a nice, medium blue. Make sure the color paint you choose is a nice contrast to the color of the paper.

When it's dry, cut around it in a round shape (use a plastic lid or china saucer as an outline), leaving enough space to also get a name and date on the paper, near the handprint. If your child is able to cut already, then trace the line for them and let them cut away!

Use markers to finish with your child's name and the year, written by them if they are able or by you, if they are too small yet. When all is complete, you can have it laminated at a local copy store, if you have this service available to you, or use clear contact paper to finish it off.

Add a little poem - feel free to grab mine and adapt.  You'll melt their hearts:

Mug mats or coasters make a great gift for dads or grand pops - usable, personal, and easy to keep clean! Slip them inside a handmade card and you'll be all set for Father's Day!

Have fun!

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!