Category Archives: Reading and Writing

Letter Puzzles (and on sale!)

I was just doing some birthday shopping and noticed a sale on one of our favorite learning tools.  I thought I’d hop on here to share real quick.

Nab ItI came across Nab-It in the store about a year ago and it has been such a valuable tool.  It is actually a game but I honestly have not even read the instructions and haven’t yet played the game as intended. I’ll get around to learning that soon hopefully.  We’re having enough fun with the pieces right now.

The game consists of 4 sets of letter puzzles, each a different color and each in their own drawstring bag. Each puzzle piece has a letter on both sides. Your little one will get used to looking on both sides for the desired letter. We have used them to practice the alphabet, spelling words, word families, and blends.

Amazon has Nab-It for sale right now.  If you’re in the market for a fun preschool tool that will double as a fun game when your little one is older, this would be great!

**photos from Amazon**

Reading with Inflection

Back when I taught middle school kids I was so surprised that mood was completely lost on so many students.  They read in a monotone, word by word manner. No wonder they found it boring!

I definitely don’t want J to get stuck in that rutt.  Reading is way too much fun for monotone.

So I was THRILLED when we discovered Mo Willems at our local library.  His books are perfect for teaching and practicing inflection, even for the beginner or intermediate reader. And it doesn’t hurt that he is hilarious for both child AND adult.

We are in a book! [Book]We especially love his Elephant and Piggie series. In fact I liked “We are in a Book” so much that I decided to go out and buy it and I’m becoming quite the snob in books I deem worth my money.  “BANANA!!!” has become a source of laughter all throughout our day (you’ll have to read the book to find out why).

There are so many great things about these books. They are simple enough that J can read them all by himself but the story is still good enough to keep both of our attentions. So many of the beginning reader books are boring! These books aren’t marketed as beginning reader books, but I think they work great for that… or maybe for intermediate readers. I’m not an expert in early readers! If your child has a good base of sight words and a basic understanding of phonics, I think they will manage the Elephant and Piggie books well.

We can also read them together, each taking a different role so that we get to act the book out. J even wants us to imitate the faces as we read/act.

Should I Share My Ice Cream? [Book]He has learned what think bubbles are and is getting great practice at reading with inflection which I just love. It’s so fun to hear J imitate the emotion and read happily, sadly, with disappointment or surprise, disgust, greed, embarassment, or even dismay, all depending on the story. That is such great practice! Willems does a great job of showing the emotion on the characters faces as well as changing the font to get the mood across (tiny font or gigantic font, italics, wiggly font, etc). Even my 3 year old can figure out it out, many times on his own!

And of course he’s getting great practice at how to interpret the punctuation as he reads. Often J can pick up the purpose of the punctuation or font type on his own from the context of the story. There have been times that he’s asked why the font was so tiny or why the exlamation mark and the question mark are together.  Another plus! The books encourage him to take the initiative so that he gets it right.

And did I mention that these books are funny? J and I just giggle the whole way through. I love that he is getting such great practice reading AND enjoying every second. I’m so thrilled that Willems wrote so many books in this series. We’ve probably read at least 10 different Elephant and Piggie books and have lots more to check out at the library.

Oh and his Knuffle Bunny series is really cute too. That’s actually the series that got us hooked on Mo Willems. Parents especially will find this series humorous. “Blaggle Flaggle” mom and dad, “Blaggle Flaggle!”

 **Willems also has a the Cat the Cat series (seems to be ideal for very early readers since he uses lots of repetition and use of the same word family throughout the book) and the Pigeon series (that will be next on our list to read through).

Great Library Finds for Fall

Sometimes our library visits are well organized, I’ve searched for books ahead of time, placed some holds, and researched authors.  Other times, it’s a random treasure hunt.  I love when you just happen to find great reads roaming the shelves! I have a feeling both of these authors will be place on our favorites list.

Fletcher and the Falling LeavesFletcher and the Falling Leaves by Julia Rawlinson is wonderful.  Fletcher, an adorable little fox is concerned for his good friend when it begins shedding…. leaves.  He tries to come to his friend’s rescue to no avail.  Then he discovers that his friend still has beauty to share.  Fletcher is simply adorable.  The artwork by Tiphanie Beeke captures the story perfectly.  I love it!

South by Patrick McDonnell: Book CoverSouth by Patrick McDonnell is a picture book, perfect for a toddler or preschooler “reading” on their own or for mom and dad to join in.  A tiny bird sleeps through the last moment of fall, and finds alone when all his bird-family have flown south.  A friendly cat saves the day as they make the trip towards southern warmth together and the tiny bird reunites with his family. No words, just pictures.  A story beautifully told.

Enjoy storytime and then go outside and play in the falling leaves!

Activity for Perfect Square by Michael Hall

Michael Hall’s Perfect Square  is so cute, walking us through a happy little square’s journey.  On each page the square gets cut, torn, or crumpled and becomes something beautiful.

This book so easily transitions into a fun art activity, I just couldn’t resist!  I cut out 6 different squares, one for each color presented in the book.  I used a tissue box to trace the squares.  This size worked well for a 3 year old. Smaller pieces would’ve been more difficult for him to work with.  You will also need a marker, scissors, glue and large white construction paper (maybe a few pieces if your squares are big).

We walked through each page of the book, cutting and tearing as instructed. Then J glued down his own creation, trying to mimic the pictures in the book.  Most of the pictures he could complete on his own.  The fountain and bridge did require a little mommy-help.

J's version of water, mountain, bridge, park, fountain, and flowers

It does take awhile to complete each piece of square-art shown in the book.  I was actually surprised that J remained fully involved to the end.  I even tried to skip a page, worried he’d lose interest.  Well, he quickly pointed out that I missed a page and that he just must create that square

This is a great activity if you’re working through the shapes. It works best for square-day; it would likely cause some confusion on circle-day! :) It’s also a great review of colors since each page highlights a different color.

Homemade Sunbleached Puzzles

I came across this brilliant idea for sunbleached puzzles.  They were so easy to create and great entertainment (and practice) for a puzzle-lover. It was also a great little lesson in the sun’s effects.

I set out foam bath letters and numbers on dark construction paper and left them to sunbathe awhile on the deck.  J enjoyed watching the process, impressed by the magical results! We then brought it all inside to start putting it all together.  You can make this activity more difficult by adding extra foam letters to the choices.

This is great practice at letter recognition.  It’s also great way to help them learn how to spell their name, memorize their phone number or address. 

The link above used magnetic letters and shape blocks to create their puzzles.  You could also cut your own shapes out of colorful foam.

Becoming an Artist: The Dot by Peter Reynolds

At our last library trip, we happened across the cutest story! 

The Dot, by Peter Reynolds, is a story about a little girl who thinks she can’t draw until her teacher proves her wrong.  She’s inspired to keep trying and eventually inspires others too. 

This was the perfect book for J.  He is such a perfectionist that he often chooses NOT to do something if he thinks that he won’t be able to do it “right”.  This book fulfilled its purpose and inspired my little guy to become an artist!

After reading the book, we decided to create our own art museum of dots.  I pulled out markers, crayons, map pencils, water colors and cardstock.  J was thrilled.  He was confident.  He became an artist and loved it!  He even wanted to sign his work, just like the little girl in the story.

After all his pieces dried, we hung them in his room.  We now have an in-house art museum featuring my favorite artist.

Fun Bubble Wrap “Exam”

This activity is great for so many ages.  Who doesn’t love bubble wrap!!  I must admit that I even still love popping the bubbles just like my 3 year old.  This is also a great way to trick your child into showing off what they know, without them realizing what you’re up to.

Prep:  All you need is a sheet of large bubble wrap and permanent markers.  I filled in the bubbles with numbers, words, shapes, and letters. 

 During the activity: I called out something on the sheet and J found the correct bubble to pop.  Simple as that.  I will say that he did have some trouble popping some of the bubbles so about half-way through, I pulled out a toothpick and let him pop them bubbles that way.  He thought this was just as fun (probably because he doesn’t get to play with toothpicks too often).

You could adapt this for any age to practice whatever they are currently learning from colors and shapes to addition or multiplication, rhyming or grouping.

Age attempted: 3 years

**ETA: I came across the blog where I originally found the idea.  Check out The Activity Mom’s version**

Dot Marker Phonetics

I had the dot markers out this week.  I remember thinking these markers were so expensive and wondering if they were worth it.  Well, in our house they’ve gotten lots of play time and J still loves them.  They were some of the first markers that I let him use actually (see J’s autumn tree here).   

I made up this quick color sheet for J to use with the markers.  He had to match the sound of each letter (or object) to it’s corresponding color.  So he painted a green guitar, a purple panda, etc.  I had him match the sounds and make a guess first, then he could check his answer by looking at the color names written on the marker to see if he was correct.  He actually really enjoyed this activity and thought he was basically just coloring.  He had no clue he was learning too :) 

Here’s the before (the pictures are just clip art):

Here’s the after:

 Age attempted: 34 months

 

Sticker Igloo

This igloo craft was a lot of fun to make and I think it turned out really cute too!

 

What you need:  blank label stickers (I actually used mailing labels and cut them down to size), construction paper, scissors, glue, black marker

What you do:  Have your little one build a wall on the construction paper, using the labels.  Once they’re finished, turn the paper over and draw a semi-circle on the back.  Either have them cut out along the line, or you do the cutting for them.  To create the door, cut out a second semi-circle and have them color a black door, then glue on top of the larger piece.  After gluing his igloo together, he added some snow to his picture. 

This was honestly supposed to go with a winter unit I was going to do with J… but 3rd trimester exhaustion has set in so the unit didn’t happen.  I ended up cutting out the upper and lower case letter I, letting him fill those in with “ice blocks” and decided reinforcement learning was enough this day!  J was quite proud of his final work of art. 

This idea is from the Frugal Family Fun Blog.

Great Benefits to Nursery Rhymes

Don’t underestimate the age-old success of nursery rhymes!  I think sometimes we get caught up in the new and improved that we forget the great benefits to the tried and true.

Nursery rhymes are definitely tried and true. 

They are great for infants through to preschoolers (and probably beyound).  The beauty with nursery rhymes, is it doesn’t take much effort to entertain our little ones with these.  Very little prep work involved AND great benefits.  The sing-song effect is very calming. They offer a great variety of vocabulary (and our little ones are learning from what we say whether we realize it or not!). Hearing the rhyming words over and over teaches detailed awareness of the language. They learn to listen for the sounds that make up a word (phonemes) which helps them learn how to work with the language.  And they are doing all of this without worksheets or lessons.  They are learning and we don’t even realize it.

Ways to include nursery rhymes in your day:

  • Read compilation books with the best of the best nursery rhymes written.  
  • Recite them outloud while driving in the car, going on a walk or changing their diaper (they are great distractions for even the tiniest babies).
  • Use hand motions and act them out.   
  • Sing them.  
  • Use them to encourage your toddler during clean up. 
  • Find rhymes that coincide with topics of interest or unit studies (ex: Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush would work well when teaching basic hygiene; The Itsy Bitsy Spider works with lessons on bugs)
  • Add a nursery rhyme to your letter, color, or number of the day lessons (Little Boy Blue for blue day; Jack and Jill for J-day) 
  • March to the beat of a nursery rhyme (a great way to practice rhythm!)Do all of the above and do it consistently.  Consistency is the goal. 

But isn’t it funny how sometimes the easiest things are the things we forget about?  At least that’s me.   I’m counting this post as a reminder for myself :)

So here are a few popular rhymes in our house to get us started:

  • Humpty Dumpty
  • Row Row Row Your Boat
  • Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star
  • Jack and Jill went up the hill
  • This is the way we wash our hands
  • Old McDonald
  • Ring Around the Rosie
  • It’s Raining, It’s Pouring
  • Rain, Rain Go Away

Ok, this list is looking pretty typical, huh? I’m no nursery rhyme expert. I’m not even sure everything on the list counts as a nursery rhyme. I just use what I know.  Sometimes I even forget the words and make something up that rhymes!  My poor child will never know the real words for Lullaby and Goodnight but oh well.

Here’s some popular websites where you can print out both words and pictures for nusery rhymes, or even hear them with animation. 

There are tons of books that compile nursery rhymes. J got A Treasury for One Year Olds as a gift that we still use now.  The series offers a new book for each year, though we haven’t gotten any of the others. The older books apparently also include popular stories too. Of course there are cds you can buy that include nursery rhymes.  We don’t personally own any, but my mom plays some for the grandkids and they love them.  You could also record your own (see this post on recording stories on cd yourself).

This is something you can try right now!