Saturday, February 28, 2009

Messy (and clean) fun

Sometimes, holding a pencil is just too much for a little one. Crayons and markers are nice alternatives, but if a child is just not there yet with fine motor development, then you may need to think more creatively.

Children can learn to "draw" in many ways that bypass the fine motor requirements of grasping a writing instrument. On a hot day, they can "paint" with water and sponges on a concrete driveway or sidewalk. The letters don't last long, allowing for repeated fun in the same place. Or try this alternative--shaving cream on a place mat. In this case, I formed the letter in the shaving cream first, my daughter traced it a couple of times, then "erased" my letter and formed the letter on her own. We had a blast!

We've done the same thing with shapes as well. I like it because it gets the placemats nice and clean. You could easily do the same thing on the walls in the bathroom during bath time. What else might be fun? Whipped cream? Pudding? I'd love to hear more suggestions for ways to "write" without writing. Enjoy!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Game Time

Children often learn the alphabet song pretty easily without clearly realizing the letters are all actually being said by name. Elemenopee? Here's a simple game that can help solidify letter identification for children and teach alphabetic order as well. This is best played with one adult or older child and two younger children. All the materials you need are a set of alphabet cards that includes lower and uppercase letters. Deal out a manageable number of cards to each player, keeping them face down in a stack. With my two four year olds, that's five cards.

Each player turns up the top card of their stack. The person with the card that comes first in the alphabet gets to take all the cards. At first, kids will have trouble identifying which letter comes first unless there's a A or B in the group. So, start singing the alphabet song with them, and point to the letter that "wins" when you get to it.

Of course, there are many variations possible with this game. Change the winning letter to the last one. Make it trickier. If the person with the card doesn't hold up her hand when it is sung, she doesn't win.

The whole goal is just to have fun, practice letter identification, turn taking and sportsmanship. Enjoy!

Friday, February 6, 2009

Big kid, little kid

I received a suggestion from a friend asking that I describe an activity that would foster both reading and relationships among siblings. Well, not in so many words, but that's the direction I'm going with it.

Let's suppose you have a pre-reader (we'll call her Frannie) and an early reader (we'll call him Will) in your home. There are several activities your children can do together that will introduce reading and phonemic awareness concepts to little Frannie while cementing those same concepts for big Will.

Nursery rhymes make great read alouds for siblings to share. Since Will probably has many of the rhymes nearly completely memorized, the reading task will not be too challenging or intimidating for him. Reading the same rhymes over and over to Frannie will help Will build his reading skills and speed while delighting his sister.

In turn, Frannie will be learning about the sounds that join together to make words. Nursery rhymes are a delightful way to learn how to identify the first sound in words "Wee Willy Winky" or listen for rhymes "Hickory, Dickory, Dock." Making up hand motions to go with the rhymes can add to the general fun and silliness all around.

Another activity for Will and Frannie involves scissors again. Use your computer and a basic word processing program to make a table of letters in different fonts. Here's an example, you'll want to make yours with more or fewer letters depending on your children, their level of patience, and your tolerance for messy paper clippings all over. Make sure that you include multiple forms of letters (check out the various lower case a's in the example screen shot).

Leave enough room between the letters for little hands to cut the letters apart. Then teach your children how to mix the letters up, then sort them. You'll need to do this activity with them the first time or two. After some practice with you, your children should be able to work together while you relax and catch up on Facebook. Ha! JK! You'll be making dinner while simultaneously doing a load of laundry and searching for something (I'm always searching for something).

First they can just sort the letters into A's, B's, C's, etc. Then you can have them separate lower case from upper case. My children like to find the "baby" for the "mommy" letter and match them up in pairs. When one set is mastered, you can move on to new letters, make the fonts trickier, or more letters to the mix.

I hope this is helpful, and I'd love to get any suggestions or questions you may have for a future post!