Saturday, November 19, 2016

Sight word fun!

Sight words are one of the first steps to early reading success - those common words we see when we read, that we need to know "in a snap" in order to read more fluently. Special practice for those sight words can be turned into FUN TIME for you and your child!

When your child starts learning these words in school, make practice FUN and varied, so they begin to enjoy reading right away!

Make a memory game: Grab some index cards, cut them in half, and have your child write each word twice. Use cool markers, lots of colors, whatever makes it more fun and interesting. Set up a game board by turning a few words at a time (2 cards for each) upside down in rows - make sure they're mixed up! Focusing on a few words at a time, looking for matches, will help your child get fluent in reading these words. When they're ready, add more to make it more challenging :) Sight word cards are also available as sets in many office or school supply stores.

Letter tiles: Use your old Scrabble letters or pick some up at an office supply or teacher supply store. The game BananaGrams also has the same sort of tiles. Play with them by making cards up (or using the ones from your Memory game), and challenging your child to find all the letters that make up that word, placing them in the correct order. After they get the visual matching, take away the cards … have one player read the word out loud and the other find the letters, without a visual guide. Great

Stamps and magnets: Use Playdoh to roll out letter shapes or look for letter stamps to press the words into the dough. Stamps and stamp pads would work the same way! Magnetic letters on the fridge or on a cookie tray are an easy, no-mess way to practice, as well.

Sensory options: Try some sensory play to get your child interested - tracing letters and words in shaving cream, pudding, salt, sand, etc. gives them a tactile experience that may help to solidify the learning. If messy is not your thing, put your choice in a Ziplock bag and trace through this squishy bag with a fun effect!

E-practice: There are also many apps available for iPads and iPhones to practice sight words. Just search for sight words and look at the variety that come up. I like a version called K-3 Sight Words, because it has an audio self-check, after your child reads what is basically an electronic flash card.

Try these posts for more ideas:

Most of all ... Have FUN!

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Moving and Shaking Outdoors

There is nothing that can take the place of good old-fashioned outdoor play!

Rolling in the grass, climbing in trees or on playground equipment, and balancing on low walls or curbs all help your children develop the balance and gross motor skills they need for so many daily activities. Movement of the body and development of those core muscles may even help with their stamina and ability to focus and attend to tasks. These actions can also give little ones the sensory experiences that they don't get enough of in today's plugged-in world :)

Allow your child to make choices and try things that push them a little out of your comfort zone. Explore new playgrounds or see opportunities for exploration in a daily walk through the neighborhood. Outdoor or active play gives your children areas to try out new skills. Choose a safe environment, but with room to explore and move freely, and let your children set the tone.

Let your kiddos strengthen their growing muscles by pulling up or hanging upside down on playground equipment or sturdy tree limbs. Let them try out some hanging ladder-style bars - even making it a little way across will seem like a great accomplishment ... and then help them set goals for how they will improve through the summer :) Balance on a curb, or sidewalk edging.

Even though your children may be great walkers or even runners, crawling is still great exercise for your little ones. Group or single play obstacle courses are fun to set up, change up, and explore! Crawl around or under some backyard chairs or tables, hop over some garden stones, walk along some patio blocks ... you get the picture!

Remember rolling down grassy hills? So much fun! Make sure your kiddos get to experience barrel rolling down hills and across grassy areas - it is good for their bodies to exercise and get the stimulation that occurs naturally through these simple activities.

When you're all worn out, lie out on some cool grass, look through some leafy trees - there are lots of moments that can be great for conversation with your little ones - unplugged, relaxed, and open ended :)

Have fun!

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Math with water!

One of the BEST things about summer is that you can get wet and messy ... and, then just clean up outside!

Playing with water as an open-ended activity can present your child with many different learning opportunities - and lots of fun! The math lessons and practice with language concepts will take place organically :) while fulfilling so many of the core learning concepts that we want kiddos to explore.

I like to have an inflatable baby pool on hand, but any kind of tub or container that holds water will do!

First, make sure you have different sized containers available for pouring and measuring. Model how to pour from one to another, or just let your kiddos figure it out. They will soon see that some containers can handle more water and some less ... and what happens when you pour from larger to smaller and vice versa. There is no better teacher for this type of measurement than hands on experience!

Next, play with a variety of objects to establish a sink and float lab. Provide some interesting household objects - plastic dishes, spoons, corks, colanders and funnels, etc. - and show how some will sink and some will float. Let your little ones try different things and put them in categories ... another math skill!

Float a few rubber duckies (or whatever small floaty toys you have handy!) in the water and count them out as you go. Matching objects with the numbers that represent them is an early skill to hone, and you can sing as well ...
"One little, two little, three little duckies ..."

Then, start to play a game that uses positional words - over, under, next to, etc. - and let your child take the lead, coming up with new ways to display the ducks (or balls, or boats, or whatever). This practice with verbalizing the positional concepts will help your child become more familiar with the words for each.

Let them come up with new ways to play - filling up and draining the containers, splashing and pouring, floating different toys - all will teach new lessons, and make for hours of fun! Don't forget to provide some clean paintbrushes to paint on hot sidewalks or decking, making shapes, lines, and even beginning to practice letters and numbers :)

A tub of water + lots of fun = tons of authentic math learning!

Have fun! 

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Math Games with Ladybug Wings!

Make a cute ladybug game to practice math with your little ones -  you can play it over and over! You'll be getting in lots of small motor work during the creation of the game, and then, math skill practice with such concepts as one-to-one correspondence counting, matching numerals and the objects they represent, odd and even, etc.

First get some black construction paper to make the body. Use something round, like a cereal bowl, as a stencil to trace around. Model holding the bowl and tracing around, then hand off for kiddo practice :) When that's done, add a small semi-circle at the top for the ladybug's head! Make sure your little guys add some eyes and antennae - whatever materials you all choose! (We did googly eyes and some mini pipe cleaner pieces!)

When you're all finished with the body, help your kiddos use the "stencil" again to cut a big round red circle for the ladybug wings. After tracing and cutting it out, help your little one fold or draw a line down the middle to cut it apart into two wings. Glue them on, overlapping a little bit, so they stick out a little - like real wings do!

Now, comes the game part! Cut out some round black dots to place on the wings. Roll one or two dice and count out how many dots are rolled.

Then, try to put them all on the wings, one on the left wing, one on the right, etc. ... but remember, ladybugs have the same number of dots on each wing! Does the number you rolled work out, or do you have a "leftover"?

Take the dots off and roll again. Each time, practice matching numbers to objects, for counting practice. For a change, use dice with numerals, or cards with numerals instead, to reinforce matching the number with objects that represent it.

Try to remember which numbers work and which don't ... when your kiddos are ready, introduce even and odd ("the odd one out"), as concepts to explain how sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't, in math!

Laminate your ladybug, or put it in a plastic sleeve, to use a Dry-Erase Marker for dotting - for replaying ease! Remove the eyes and antennae while you're laminating, or look for alternative decorations that will lie flat :)

Have fun!

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Take Science Out for a Walk!

Sometimes you just have to pack your stuff and get outdoors! As Spring approaches, look for new ways to explore the backyard, playground, or sidewalk. Grab a basket or tote and throw in whatever "science" tools you have around ... Magnets, magnifiers, measuring tools, a sieve or colander, transparent colored or clear lids or containers. Grab a block and a car for even more fun! Somehow, making a Kit makes it more official - and fun!

Let your little ones take the lead - see what they're drawn to and slow down the pace to "notice" everything about it. It might be bugs or spiders, it might be plants or trees - lessons are all around you! If they need a little nudge, model your own observing style ... they'll want to know ... "What are you looking at?"

Prompt them to explore with "I wonder..." statements, and then let them go with it!

  • Take some little cars out to the playground or backyard and see which ones go faster down the slide. Build your own slide with a long piece of wood and change the angle to make the car go faster or slower.
  • Use your magnifier to get a close up look at all the different colors and parts of a bug (the non-stinging variety!) Your kiddos will be amazed at the details they see. Help them take a picture with your phone and enlarge it for viewing. Bring a sketch book with crayons or colored pencils, so your child can record like a scientist :)
  • Measure everything you see - with a ruler or against something familiar - sneakers or fingers make a great non-standard unit of measure. How many fingers tall is that flower? How many sneakers long is that bench?
  • Do a magnetic or non-magnetic study! Have your child see you try a magnet with something magnetic - it's magical! Then, something non-magnetic ... they will want to join in and find out for themselves!
  • Take samples of dirt from different areas and check them for differences ... are they the same color? Texture? Wet or dry? Sift some sand and see what different sizes those grains of sand really are - are there stones left behind?

Let your little ones play in the dirt and the mud - it will open their mind to scientific thinking and making conclusions.

Have fun!

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Word Problems and Graphing with Goldfish!

Learning math through playful word problems can be super fun - with the right props! Use whatever you want for counting ... reading books about fish inspired us to use pretzel goldfish ... which happened to be in the kitchen cabinet!

To get started, grab a pair of dice, some paper fishbowls, and some yummy goldfish and get ready to play! It doesn't matter which flavor you use - player's choice :)

Players take turns rolling a die and counting out the number of fish into their own bowls. Then, they each take a second turn as you state the problem - "Tommy has 4 fish and he gets 3 more. How many does he have all together now?" This use of typical word problem language, while your child can directly visualize the scene, eases your child into making those connections.

When you have played a few rounds this way and the kiddos are understanding, take it to a new level .... make some fish vanish! Roll again, but this time, it is to take away or subtract! "Sarah had 5 fish, but she ate 2 - how many are left?" Players can keep rolling until all their fish are gone :) Decide on your rules beforehand - ending on an exact roll was one of ours!

If you have rainbow goldfish, you can also practice some math skills by setting up some columns and sorting out the four different colors - then graphing them and using "most" and '" fewest" to describe the amounts. Proper math terms are good to know :)

All of these math skills are goals for any early childhood curriculum - but always, always make it fun - yum!

Sunday, February 28, 2016

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!