Monday, September 28, 2015

Rock On!

Have some fun with rocks - and let your little ones explore and learn! We took some stones that were flat on at least one side, and used a paint pen to make upper-case letters on them. Then, we put them out on a table, and . . .

First, there was lots of interest ... and lots of questions!

"What are these? What do we do with them?" We didn't ask our little ones to do anything in particular with the rocks, but soon they were searching for their name letters and lining them up, calling friends over, and trying out new combinations :)

They noticed that some of their names started with the same letter, and that they had to share letters to make friends' names.

Next, maybe they'll want to play a match game - we'll need more rocks!

How about numbered rocks to line up in order ... or addition rocks! We could try shapes and patterns one day, too!

Have fun!

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Books to Love: "Bear Snores On" by Karma Wilson, illustrations by Jane Chapman

Kids LOVE the Karma Wilson Bear books ... This was the first one I discovered and it was an instant hit with my little ones! (There are more!!)

This terrific read-aloud will get your kiddos involved in the story right away with the use of engaging illustrations, by Jane Chapman, and the rhythm of repeating lines. Right from the start, the story builds ... As each new animal joins the story, seeking shelter in the cave, the words get more interesting and the print sizes up and down, from whisper-tiny to shout-out-big! As each new element is added to the sleepy scene, the same phrase caps it off - but it will get louder and louder, as your little friends join in!

Use this book to teach sequencing and pause to recall what happened first, next, and last. Use it to teach concepts of print and have your kiddos point out the words, left to right, one by one. Ask about the characters and make a list of all the animal friends. Try a child-led retelling, for comprehension assessment, using all the sweet pictures. Talk about friends sharing what they have, and meeting new friends. 

Most of all ...
Have fun!

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Little Ones With Big Feelings

When we try something new, we sometimes have feelings of fear, anxiety, or just uncertainty. Little ones just starting school may have these feelings, too, but aren't sure how to express them.

Parents and teachers can help by naming those feelings with them and giving them a funny face, like an emoticon, to label those butterflies-in-the-tummy times. Giving children tools to express themselves can sometimes help avoid those meltdowns created by big changes, and make for a much happier adjustment to school.

Use a little drawing to launch a chat about what your kiddo is feeling. Ask them to think about what face they'd like to have - and then work out a plan with them of how to get there. Maybe arranging a first day walk-to-school partner, or enclosing a family photo in their lunch boxes would help :) Getting your little one talking about feelings encourages them to share fears and dispel any unfounded ideas they may be internalizing.

Try this to get them giggling: Sing a little song with them to help them voice what's going on inside ...

If you're happy and you know it, show your smile, if you're happy and you know, show your smile, if you're happy and you know it - then your face will surely show it, if you're happy and you know it, show your smile! 

Then ...
If you're sad and you know it, make sad eyes ...
If you're mad and you know it, make a face ...

They will be in charge of coming up with some very silly faces :-o

When they complete that all-important first day, make sure you do a happy face check-in. Just another way of getting ready for school!!

Have fun!

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

An apple is not just an apple

Early childhood educators look at things every day through the eyes of their kiddos, in order to help them learn. They know that there are lessons in every single thing a child encounters ... and that helping them see the world so full of possibilities, at an early age, will help make them into life-long learners. Parents can do this, too!

It's not even so much about what the objects are, but what you can explore with them :) Even something as simple as - APPLES! Grab a bunch of apples next time you are in the market ... it can lead to activities full of math, science, and art skills!

First, have your children count the apples into a bowl - one-to-one correspondence work. Next, they can arrange them in a row, from largest to smallest - size and order. Then, use different colored apples to make a row of green, red, green, red or ... green, yellow, red, green, yellow, red - all kinds of patterns. Cut one apple into four equal pieces - fractions. Count them out into equal groups - simple division. (You can do all the above activities with construction paper apples, as well, if you're out of real ones!)

Now, examine the seeds to see how they are encased, how many there are, what size and shape they are, etc. You're doing science! Try a search engine to find pictures of the apple trees that produced these apples - see the different stages of growth! Your children will be excited to see how their own apples came to be! Even setting out a slice and watching it decay over time can be a cool lesson - but, maybe a little gross ... so, kids will like it!

Explore art with apples! Use half of an apple dipped in a yummy caramel or cream cheese sauce to make stamps on a paper plate - see what shapes they look like. (You can also do this with paint - orange paint stamped with apples make great pumpkins! Just don't eat the apples, then!) Let your children come up with ideas ... they will find ways to use the apples that you never even thought of :)

Read "Ten Apples Up On Top!" Your kiddos will love the silly illustrations and get in plenty of counting practice while reading. You can make your own counting book by taking silly-face pictures and cutting apples out to put on top of those faces, one per page ...

Early childhood educators have always known - an apple isn't just an apple! Explore ...

Have fun!

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Water Painting Fun!

The last days of summer are coming fast ... running out of things to do with your little ones?

If you have some water in a bucket and an old (or new!) paintbrush - find a surface like a sidewalk, driveway, or concrete steps, and see what happens. Fun for the pool, too!

They may want to paint the whole surface. They may begin to make shapes or squiggles ... all great for motor planning and control!

You can model a little, if you want ... in a parallel playing sort of way :) Draw a letter - maybe the first letter of their names. Something about wet letters gets their attention. Use different sizes of paintbrushes for different effects.

You can also make chalk shapes, letters, numbers .. and, then paint over them. Any "mistakes" quickly evaporate and then, they can do it again! This would be great practice for back-to-school - getting familiar with names, shapes, numbers, etc. - in a very no-fuss, enjoyable way :)

Have fun!

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 many easy ways to inject a little group fun - sidewalk chalk, bubbles, rock and popsicle stick building projects ...

Have fun!