With the help of Writers Republic, I have self-published the first story book of the I AM A CHILD trilogy! It’s Hot Off The Press: FEETSPEAK!
I wrote these three stories several years ago with a muse on my shoulder guiding me with ideas, verbiage, imagery, and, significantly, a common thread ~ the resilience of children faced with tragic circumstances.
The kindness and care of loved ones, the understanding and flexibility of community as well as the beauty and solace of nature contributed to the healing process of each character.
Before I tell you how each of these three elements play a part in the story of FEETSPEAK, I want to share with you why I wrote these stories.
Why I Wrote These Stories
Thirty years teaching Early Childhood and Elementary school children from all over the world on at-risk campuses confirms my belief in the uniqueness of each child.
Many of these children suffered life-altering tragedies from loss, displacement, hunger, and neglect. Their ability to overcome these challenges with their resilience continually astounded me, as a child who grew up in a comfortable, middle-class environment.
They inspired me to create the stories in the I AM A CHILD Trilogy.
So, briefly, this is what the story of FEETSPEAK shares with you, Readers….
All children are born into an ancestral heritage, rich with tragedy, joy, and a touch of magic.
No two stories are alike, yet encouraging an appreciation for cultural diversity, creative problem solving, and ecological respect as well as protecting the timely development of the contemporary child are daily challenges faced by parents and educators.
In FEETSPEAK, a young child, traumatically mute after her parents are killed during a rainstorm, communicates by selecting different shoes to wear.
Living near a pond and its creatures on the Midwest Plains with her maternal grandmother provides Cinnamon with comfort and understanding.
However, when an engaging French family with a young girl her age moves into the house down the road, Cinnamon must learn other ways to share her thoughts and express her feelings with her new friends.
Soon to enter First Grade, will she be ready to participate and learn in this totally new environment?
You may now be wondering ~ how do those three elements: loved ones, community, and nature influence the healing process of a traumatized child? Please note my stories are just that ~ stories of fiction. Of course they are idealized, but in my experience, these three factors in people’s lives can be extremely influential and effective.
The Loved Ones of FEETSPEAK
My young heroine shares her story surrounded by her loving family. She lives with her grandmother. She frequently visits her uncles and aunt.
Her close neighbors become constant friends and company. Their kindness, acceptance, and care provide the six-year-old child with new experiences to help her explore other places outside the quiet world she has escaped into.
Some of these “other places” are very new and, somewhat, uncomfortable to her, but her family and friends, as well as the community members she encounters help her overcome her reluctance to engage.
An Understanding Community of FEETSPEAK
When a variety of life’s circumstances enter and disrupt Cinnamon’s routine existence with her family and friends, she slowly begins to understand the necessity of living outside her sheltered world. She even begins to enjoy the diversity of the experiences.
Meeting new community members like doctors, teachers, shopkeepers, and entertainers, among others, open up different vistas for communication. She is definitely intrigued, although hesitant. The community continues to engage with her in spite of her uncertainty.
And, perhaps, the most powerful of all the environmental elements is the constancy of Nature.
The Constancy of Nature in FEETSPEAK
I spent many hours ~ I LOVED it!~ researching the flora and fauna of the several environs described in the story, FEETSPEAK, as I did in the other two stories of the I AM A CHILD Trilogy.
Most of the story takes place during the Spring, Summer, and early Fall with one Wintry exception. The majority of the setting takes place on the Plains of the USA’s Midwest and special care was given to a little pond near the small wheat farm Cinnamon lives on with her Grandmother.
A respectful graciousness is shared by all the characters in the story for the beauty and gifts Nature gives.
Country living is shown to be bountiful, yet challenging. A willingness to work and respect the land is threaded throughout the story of FEETSPEAK.
A brief exploration of the USA’s Blue Ridge Mountains and the maple woods of its Northeast are, also, part of the scenery.
Part of my publishing package with Writers Republic includes a whimsical, engaging website, which gives me opportunities to Blog about FEETSPEAK and include many Book Study activities.
My Author’s Website
This website is extremely easy to navigate. The Navigation Bar includes an animated Home Page ( it’s delightful ! ), an About the Author (ME!) link, an About the Book link with a summary and buttons to click for places to purchase and view book pages, my Blog link, and a Contact Me link for all your questions, comments, concerns, and requests.
FEETSPEAK is available in hardback, paperback, and digitally.
I’ve already posted several Blogs (surprise!) and there’s LOTS more to come. Read on….
As an educator, one of my VERY FAVORITE teaching opportunities involved a Book Study. Teased by my teammates for going on and on with activity after activity focused on ONE class-read novel, I just handed them the FAT Unit I created that went on and on into the wonders of a well-written novel.
“The possibilities,” I’d remark with a grin, “are ENDLESS!”
And it is with the same enthusiasm, I have created and developed MANY activities for you and yours to explore and choose while reading FEETSPEAK.
Some, not all, of course, of the Book Study activities include:
learning new Vocabulary Words
analyzing Comprehension Elements
using Graphic Organizers
investigating Characters and their Traits
exploring the Power of Colorful Descriptors
transferring Verbal Imagery into Drawings
cooking up a Recipe or five…
Believe me ~ there’s MORE!!
The Blogs I have published so far:
HELPING YOUR GRIEVING CHILD.
The next Blog is FEETSPEAK’S STORY SEQUENCE.
Most activities will be a digital download.
Well, I hope you enjoyed reading this Info~Blog for Hot Off The Press: FEETSPEAK! as much as I enjoyed writing it. It’s my latest (and, maybe, my greatest) “endeavor” !
This is the CLAMDiggers’ Enrichment Program Overview!
A child can teach an adult three things: to be happy for no reason, to always be busy with something, and to know how to demand with all his/her might that which s/he desires. ~Paulo Coelho
I am very excited to share CLAMDiggers: a 52~week, cross-curricular, enrichment, and interactive program I developed from my teaching and learning experiences with children, ages 8~11 years-old.
They always encouraged and inspired hands-on activities with readily available materials. Producing projects, such as games, books, sculptures, puppets, skits, paintings, food, keepsakes, etc. enhanced not only the learning process propelled by children’s love of an engaging read, but also, stimulated their creative skills in critical thinking, problem solving, visual & spatial reasoning, etc.
In the Beginning…
CLAMDiggers was originally developed as a classroom enrichment program and/or an after-school activity club for children, ages 8-11, integrating fiction and nonfiction literature with craft-making, role-play and artistic expression.
However, given the changing landscape of education, I tweaked and edited each Unit’s activities to make them more tech-friendly and accessible. Their priority remains as an interactive, hands-on learning experience.
Initially formatted for a classroom teacher, I re-worded Activity Directions into an Upper Elementary Independent Reading Level. The Lesson Plan is written as a guide for teaching reading comprehension within the thematic trade book selection list.
An Educational Overview
CLAMDiggers is designed to build Cognitive Skills through Critical Thinking.
While promoting the ongoing development of a child’s eagerness to explore the accomplishments of creative production through manipulative experiences, CLAMdiggers:
cultivates an appreciation for appropriate children’s literature using a thematic approach
addresses cross-curriculum objectives throughout each lesson for analysis, synthesis and evaluation
inspires creative production using a variety of art media
provides opportunities for extension and enrichment within the framework of each session
increases an understanding of the global community on both physical and cultural levels
The impact of CLAMDiggers is immediate and expansive, as each child internalizes the confidence to express imaginative responses.
This labor of love of mine is assembled into seasonal / monthly / weekly collections (Summer, too) and formatted to correspond with educational guidelines. Each session includes:
An Introduction with an Instructional Sequence
The Unit’s Introductory Overview includes a suggested Instructional Sequence for integrating the fiction and nonfiction, Thematic Literature, grade-level trade books listed with the Haptic Activities included.
Master Materials & Literature Books Lists
The Unit’s Master Materials List is a complete inventory of each Activity’s necessary supplies for completion. Substitution ideas are, also, included. The Unit’s Thematic Literature List is compiled of titles I successfully used in the classroom. Children predictably and positively responded to these 10-12 reads. There are spaces for you to lists your choices as well.
A Lesson Plan with Curriculum Objectives
Each Lesson Plan generally focuses on ideas for utilizing a variety of Comprehension Elements within the Literature reads. It, also, provides the Objectives the specific session will address. These Curriculum guidelines are designated in abbreviations: LA (Language Arts), MTH (Math), SS (Social Studies), SC (Science), HLTH (Health), A (Art), M (Music) & PE (Physical Education). The Activities/Projects are listed as well.
Activities/Projects with Directions, Illustrations, Templates & Extensions
Directions for the Activity or Project have been sequentially tested for understanding. I know how LITERAL children can be, especially with Hands-On tasks. Some illustrations and templates may be included for, hopefully, easier modelling and tracer accessibility. Extension ideas at the conclusion of each Activity/Project will give you and your child more possibilities for enrichment.
Seasonal & Monthly Studies
Each Seasonal collection of Literature Study & Activity/Project options includes opportunities to:
celebrate Nature’s seasonal changes
investigate weather patterns
observe the sky’s phenomena
explore a variety of animals
Monthly Units have a collection of mini- poetry posters to introduce a focus on the content of the different lessons within each weekly session. They may include connections to:
celebrate holidays & special occasions
examine historical events
research social environments
create plays & games
apply critical thinking skills for problem solving
use imagination for expression
Here’s Condensed Contents List of the CLAMDiggers’ Seasonal & Monthly Main Ideas:
JANUARY: Nature in Winter/Snow/Civil Rights/Hibernation
FEBRUARY: Asian New Year/Valentines/Friendship/US Presidents
MARCH: Dr Seuss & Imagination/Windy Weather/A Wee Bit O’ Green/Spring Into Spring/Humor
APRIL: Fairy Tales/Clouds & Rain/Earth Day Everyday/Arbor Day: A Celebration of Trees
MAY: Mothers’ Day/Baby Animals/Bicycles & Safety/Neighbors in the Neighborhood/Let’s Have a Picnic
JUNE: The Sun/Fathers’ Day/Backyard Summer Fun/Going on Vacation
JULY: Independence Day/Summer Nights: Moon & Stars/Tall Tales & Legends/Fun in the Water: Oceans, Lakes & Rivers
DECEMBER: An Early American Christmas/Oh! Christmas Tree!/ Santa & His Reindeer/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa/New Year
Weekly Unit Components
Each weekly unit, or session includes the following components:
front & back covers
a contents list
introductory sequence overview
master materials activities list
thematic literature book list
one-four activities with sequential instructions & extension ideas
Crafts, Literature & More
You can utilize CLAMDiggers’ enrichment program in a variety of ways:
a Home-School enrichment program
an hour after-school club session introduced with a teacher-read trade book and guided activity
a several hours mini “workshop” with your child or several children partner-reading several trade books, electing a teacher-read book and producing activity (ies)
an on-going classroom, thematic DEAR with an independent and/or partner-student read, promoting a book-share, a teacher-read encouraging comprehension and culminating in project production with usage for evaluation
center-based tasks to include student-generated comprehension assessments in conjunction with activity production
cooperative group preparation of book and project presentation
multi-grade level student partnerships for book-shares and activity production
extra-credit or homework assignments to encourage parental involvement
Laminating a pocketed folder with brads or providing a notebook with dividers will help your child or children keep lessons and materials organized. A permanent black marker will enable them to title the cover.
Book Reviews & Comprehension activities with Project Directions can be part of the folder’s contents.
Encourage your students to anecdote the Directions with questions & thoughts. It will help generate Critical Thinking and, hopefully, facilitate Brainstorming and Creativity for Extension Activities .
Whether selecting a few weekly units individually and/or a monthly bundle (which will include a 30-page booklet of Graphic Organizers for Reading Comprehension, Brainstorming & Writing), CLAMDiggers’ enrichment program for Upper Elementary Learners will be available ~hopefully~ for purchase on Mz. Bizzy Lizzy Biz’s Teachers Pay Teachers Shop several weeks before the Month’s due date. September’s Monthly/Weekly Units are first. Access to the Monthly Poetry Posters will be in the Shop as well. Here’s the link to my Shop:
Planning the Family Literacy Circle During Your Pregnancy
Sometimes the smallest things take up the most room in your heart.~ from Winnie the Pooh by AA Milne
WOOHOO!!!! You’re a parent! A mommy! And in less than 9 months your outer body mommy-hands, arms, legs & feet (not to mention your chest) will be filled with a small, soft, beautiful life. That sleeps, eats, yawns, coos, and, well, you know what else the precious little darlin’ does…..
But for now, your little seedling of life is safely tucked away….for the next 36 weeks, giving you time to plan.
When you have some awake-time during these first few months (I, like other moms, was constantly in need of a nap), you’ll probably dream about:
Who your baby will favor in looks? Eye/hair color? Your dimples? Daddy’s cleft chin? Grandma’s curly hair? Grandpa’s long, slender body? Your sister’s smile? Your brother’s freckles? Your cousin’s big feet & hands? Your Great-Aunt’s nose?
What will your baby’s personality be like? Your mom’s love of gardening? Your dad’s love of fishing? Your aunt’s love of books? Your uncle’s love of travel? Daddy’s love of humor? Your love of long walks on the beach?
It’s, also, okay to worry about, well, what pregnant parents worry about. Don’t scare yourself. Take care of the 2 of you with good nutrition, fresh air and lots of laughter, rest & pampering.
You are planning the Family Literacy Circle during your pregnancy.
Begin the Family Literacy Circle with “Dear Baby of Mine……”
Starting a journal during this time will make a wonderful memory gift for you to give your child later in life. Reading some of these entries will answer questions your child will have about when s/he was “growing in your tummy.” Here are some thoughts you may want to include in this keepsake:
names you are considering for your baby and why
a list of your favorite songs, stories, rhymes, books
activities you want to share with your baby
places you want to take your baby
things you are doing to prepare for your baby’s arrival
special traditions your family celebrates, especially birthdays
important lessons you want to teach your baby
little bios of all the people your baby will meet
Your feelings and reflections, especially when spoken out loud to share with your baby, will begin the literacy circle of bonding. Connecting with your little swimmer this way helps you to prepare for your growing family through language-the first MAJOR step in forming the Literacy Family Circle.
BLB Shop may have just the journal you are looking for ~
The Waiting Womb Journal : 36 Gestation Meditations
Dr. John Medina, a brain scientist, stated in his book, Brain Rules For Baby , you should leave your little embryo/fetus alone during the first 4-5 months of your pregnancy. S/he can’t hear you until then, anyway. Of course, not to contradict the experts and/or cause harm to your unborn child, but most mothers (including myself) start chatting with Baby as soon as they find out they are pregnant.
I guess the “disclaimer” here would be…. your baby’s brain is not actually listening/understanding what you’re saying during the first half of your pregnancy.
Dr. Medina does go on to say scientific research has tested and evaluated several activities parents can do to help with their baby’s brain development during pregnancy.
Helping with the Growth & Development of Your Baby’s Brain
Here are Dr. Medina’s “Four Things Proven to Help Baby’s Brain”:
Eat LOTS of fruits & veggies
Make sure your prenatal vitamin has folic acid
Take iron which is necessary for your baby’s proper brain development & normal functioning
Eat foods with omega3 fatty acids found in oily fish like salmon, cod, haddock & sardines
Disclaimer- scientists don’t know why pregnant women have “random cravings” (I personally had to have ice cream every day after my DAILY intake of Mexican food. I was unable to eat my favorite food- peanut butter because it gave me heartburn, which I had never experienced until pregnancy)
Baby’s Birth Weight
Your baby’s brain size is related to the birth weight of up to 8 pounds (so, a 10-pound baby doesn’t mean a larger brain)
Snacking on the right foods will secure that desired weight (for me – it kept headaches away, which I experienced during pregnancy if I didn’t eat when I /we were hungry….and had never experienced until then. I put away a hefty sum of granola bars, especially during the last trimester).
Look into swimming, dance, stretch, and/or yoga classes especially formatted for pregnancy
Walk as much as you can everyday and breathe deep
Moderate exercise helps during labor
Don’t over do it because you can overheat your baby
Moderate exercise can, also, reduce stress
Some people, as part of their genetics, are more sensitive than others to stressful situations- if that is you- keep it to a minimum
Your stress hormone- cortisol- slips through the placenta & enters your baby’s brain
Avoid too much stress – especially during the 3rd trimester – because it can “profoundly influence your prenatal baby’s development”
I’ve dedicated a section in this blog to “Stress Tamers”
Your First Trimester with Your Baby
Be who you are and say how you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.~ by Dr. Seuss from The Cat in the Hat
In Kathy Kinsner’s May 16th, 2016 article, “Bonding With Your Baby Before Birth” for the website http://www.zerotothree.org , she tells us your baby’s brain starts to form just three weeks after conception. It continues to develop in many different ways throughout a lifetime.
During the beginnings of your baby’s brain development, it starts storing information – new skills and memories- to keep and use during her/his life.
Infogrades Infographic: “Guide to Pregnancy: Week to Week” lists some helpful data on what is happening to you and your baby during this first trimester:
Grows from the size of a sesame seed to the size of a lime
Develops brain cells at a rate of over 100 per minute
Begins to form major organs
Starts to wriggle inside your womb
Produces pregnancy hormones
Feels your body (and emotions) rapidly changing
Needs to nap because you’re more tired than usual
Needs to eat lots of fruits & veggies
Literacy Plan During Your First Trimester
Although most experts will tell you to leave your little embryo in peace for the first four to five months of your pregnancy, there are several Literacy Planning and Brain Development Support can activities you can do:
Visualize & start to prepare Baby’s room
Write a letter to your newest little family member
Start your daily 2 mile walk & find different, non-strenuous places to explore
Relax & drift into a light nap
Visit the children’s section in your local library & look for books you’ll want to share with your baby
Write down the titles & remember some of your childhood favorites
Call some of the surrounding elementary schools, learning centers and/or churches to see if they’re having a children’s book sale.
Check out this book list in BLB’s Resources to help you plan your Family Literacy Circle’s library:
Fill your house with stacks of books, in all the crannies and all the nooks.~Dr. Seuss
Exercise Benefits for Both of Your Brains
Unitypoint.org’s infographic “Get Moving, Baby!” is filled with specifics regarding the effects of exercising during the 3 trimesters of pregnancy. You should always check with your obstetrician before beginning a workout plan even it is listed as specific for “Pregnancy”.
Here are some Exercise Benefits:
helps with your sleep & daily rest
increases your energy levels
improves your mood
eases aches & pains, especially in your back
reduces your risk for pregnancy complications
prepares your body for childbirth
“Walk This Way”
I found this short article in the February 2017 issue of AARP magazine’s section Healthy You (yes, I’m of the age) titled “Walk This Way”. Author Sara Altshul suggests a variety of “motivational” strolls & their benefits:
The Family Time Walk
Talking, laughing, debating, planning, and/or holding hands together while stepping outdoors for a mile or 2 is very healthy for you and yours. It can calm your overactive brain as well as restore your attention span.
The Tree Hugger’s Walk
Nature walks through parks and on forest trails can be healing. Researchers found it improved lung & heart functions. You can always park yourself on a bench or under a tree for a shaded rest.
The Meditation Master’s Walk
You don’t need to be seated on a meditation mat to reap its goodness. Allowing your mind to rest in a quiet, peaceful way has the ability to ease high blood pressure, digestion woes, anxiety, depression & insomnia.
The Socializer’s Walk
Joining a “walk group” with friends and/or other waiting mommies is not only fun, but also, helps keep you and your baby on a healthy track. One study showed group walks can lower blood pressure and reduce cholesterol.
The Philosopher’s Walk
Deep thinking during your daily stroll is a great brain booster. It improves your memory and reasoning skills. “Brainstorming” opportunities and solutions to troublesome problems are additional perks to this type of meandering.
For me – a nice, long walk on the beach combines several of these “types” of walks. Must be why everyone always feel so GREAT after one of them!
Onward to Your Second Trimester with Your Baby
How are we doing? I LOVED this part of my pregnancy! Feeling your baby’s first “kick” is magical and powerful! Bonding with your baby with chats, songs & laughter is SO important for your baby’s brain development. By the end of this trimester, your baby has millions of brain cells!
Dr. Medina of Brain Rules and Infogrades Infographic: “Guide to Pregnancy: Week to Week” share some useful data on what is happening to you and your baby during the critical second trimester:
Grows from the size of an avocado to the size of a coconut
Has its own fingerprints
Develops ears & can hear by 20 weeks
Becomes sensitive to smells, temperature & bright light
Responds & prefers your voice
Wriggles, yawns, hiccups & burps
Feels more aches especially in back, ankles & feet
Your belly button might pop out
Has more energy than in the first trimester
Eats lots and lots (Thanksgiving dinner is a fun food fest!)
May crave certain foods
Literacy Plan During Your Second Trimester
Studies have found your voice has a calming effect on your baby because when you speak, his/her heart rate slows down. Daily chats, reads and songs boost your baby’s brain power.
Listening to language is a HUGE Literacy step inviting your baby into the verbal world. Your baby’s brain needs to hear the different tones, pitches, vibrations, accents & basic sounds commonly spoken every day.
Although your voice is the most familiar and soothing to your baby, make sure Daddy, siblings and other loved ones talk, read, and sing with Baby, too. Your baby will connect their voices as a bond of love, comfort, and security.
The Power of Oral Language in Literacy
How do we bring our new, little acrobatic gymnast into the Family Literacy Circle? Communicate with daily oral language.
Chats & Conversations
Baby’s Family: Daddy, brother, sister, grandparents, aunts/uncles, cousins, other loved ones, and pets
Special Occasions: traditions, holidays, celebrations
Your favorites: places, activities, things, memories
Baby’s Name Choices (my baby actually kicked on a specific name when I read the list of choices)
Books, Stories & Songs
Read from your Pregnancy journal
Read some of your favorite childhood books
Read rhyming books you have just for your new baby
Read some of your favorite recipes
Have loved ones read to your baby
Create stories about your adventures
Create family-memory stories
Create stories with invented characters
Sing songs & lullabies
Talk and sing to your baby every day. Find time during the day or in the evening right before you go to sleep to read and/or tell a story to your baby. You will notice her/him physically reacting to your voice(s). S/he might even remember some of the rhyming and rhythmic verses and stories you’ve read while in utero. Babies have been known to remember music as well.
Beware of Stress Producers
You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think. ~ from Winnie the Pooh by AAMilne
The word stress was coined over 50 years ago by researcher Hans Selye. a Doctor of Medicine & Chemistry. He was studying the effects of “noxious agents” on people.
Dr. John Medina cites Three Different Types of Toxic Stress in his book, Brain Rules for Baby that will hurt your baby’s brain development:
Too Frequent happens every day and is continuing & unrelenting stress, such as -an overly demanding job, chronic illness, no social support, poverty
Too Severe is a loss of control during traumatic circumstances in one’s life, such as – marital separation, divorce, death of a loved one, especially a spouse. loss of a job, criminal assault
Too Much for You is an overwhelming feeling of despair & depression brought about by unexpected or overpowering events.
Staying in the “Happy-Go-Preggo” World
One of the easiest and most effective things you can do during a stress attack is massage that big, beautiful baby carrier of yours. It decreases excessive baby jumping (I thought my ribs were permanently stretched). Your baby will jump or kick during sudden loud noises. A gentle belly rub will help lessen prenatal complications and lower a premature birth rate.
Here are Seven Simple Stress Busters during pregnancy suggested on the website Sparkle People. Here’s the link:
the lack of sleep (crankiness) due to the discomforting expansion,
the sometime nagging worries (what if…),
the wait (Good Grief! Another MONTH!!!),
the anticipation (I’m SO ready),
the preparation (do we have enough…)…….
NOT trying to stress you out here…… Stress isn’t good for you AND it hurts your baby’s brain development.
20 Stress Tamers
So, here’s a little freebie I created for you to put on the fridge when even your favorite snack doesn’t help. If “OMG! How Am I Going to Get Through This!!!!!” is taking a hold of your usually happy-go-preggo day, read through this list of 20 Stress Tamers. Then, choose one , several or all suggestions to help calm yourself (and your little angel). You can do the list in a sequence, small grouping, or if you’re having a particularly “Enough Already!!!!” day, repeat the entire Tamers list until you’re once again – “happy-go-preggo”.
And remember, as we remind ourselves in the nation of TeacherLand- “stressed” spelled backwards is “desserts”.
Literally…The Home Stretch (or the Third & FINAL Trimester)
In the middle of every difficulty lies opportunity. ~ A. Einstein
YIPPEEEEEE! Now for the FUN months!!! Here’s what’s happening to you & your little swimmer, I mean, diver:
Grows from the size of an eggplant to the size of a pineapple
Can smell your perfume
Smiles during calm music & scowls at loud, raucous music
Practices breathing air
Begins its descent into the birth canal at 36 weeks
Can hear & feel Baby’s heartbeat
Can count Baby’s kicks
Can see & feel Baby’s movements
Needs more rest & Stress Tamers (especially foot & back massages)
Needs to practice birth-breathing
I know you’re tired, but walking those 2 miles EVERY DAY is SOOOOOO VERY GOOD and important for you & your baby now.
Literacy Plan During Your Third Trimester
Your baby is responding more and more to you and his/her loved ones’ voices. Continue speaking, reading, (especially rhyming verses) storytelling, singing & humming with your baby. You’ll be resting more these last few months, so make sure you have a stack of Baby’s books, joke books & magazines, as well as your journal, doodle/drawing paper, pens, pencils & colors near by. Although my rib-swinger and I were very found of classical music during this time; my visiting family & friends tried not to fall asleep mid-sentence. But, baby & I were calm, relaxed, and breathing deeply.
YOU GOT THIS!!!!!
Want to share your pregnancy stories? Have some helpful tips & info? I would love to hear them.
Fill out the Contact Me form if you have a question and/or concern, but don’t want to subscribe…..yet.
Otherwise, fill in the BLB Exclusive form as a FREE subscriber!
Our children will teach how to love, how to forgive, and how to be full expressions of our deepest selves, if we only let them. ~Ann Ruethling & Patti Pitcher
When I first “organized” this series on The Family Literacy Circle, I thought “Nurturing the Family Literacy Circle with Your Newborn” would be its own post. However, after completing the research, I knew one post wasn’t going to be enough.
Your baby’s first year is HUGE ! Continuing with the Literacy Circle is one of the most important gifts you can share with your newest family member.
Learning to control the physical world with her/his body is your baby’s primary focus: eating, grabbing, rolling over, sitting up, babbling/talking, crawling, walking, climbing, “toddling”. These skills are gained through imitation and repetition. You can see your baby’s personality begin to emerge while “working” on these accomplishments.
How To Make a Nurturing, Literacy-Friendly Home
Cynthia Aldinger, founder of Lifeways North America & author of Home Away from Home , coined the phrase “Living Arts”. Creating a supportive and caring home has 4 major elements, according to Ms. Aldinger:
Domestic Activity– Model the work necessary to keep a home safe, healthy & secure. Include your child(ren) so they have opportunities to imitate what is being done and, then, participate with the family.
Domestic Activity’s Literacy Value: oral language, sequential order, following directions, cause & effect, problem/solutions, details
Nurturing Care – Share your life experiences while focusing on your child(ren) as major contributors to the family’s history.
Social Ability – Build confidence in your child(ren) that will help grow & nurture relationships with others outside the family’s sphere, such as friends, schoolmates, clubs, teams.
Social Ability’s Literacy Value : inference, prediction, character, settings, generalizations
Your Newborn’s BrainPower
Did you know ?
Newborns have about 100 BILLION brain cells at birth
75% of your newborn’s brain develops AFTER birth
Your baby’s brain DOUBLES in size within her/his first year
Your newborn can feel pleasure, fear & distress
Your newborn’s 5 senses quickly develop once outside the womb
His/her hearing is not fully developed, but s/he recognizes & prefers mother’s voice
S/he recognizes mother’s smell at birth
S/he is sensitive to sounds, light & temperature
S/he can distinguish light from dark, but not different shades of color (pastels), which will develop later
Your newborn’s sensitivity to bright light does not affect his/her need to sleep 15-17 hours a day. During the first few weeks, s/he usually doesn’t know the difference between night and day.
How Smart Is My Baby?
Dr. John Medina, a brain scientist & author of the book, Brain Rules For Baby , shares a few facts about intelligence:
No intelligence gene has been isolated
IQ (intelligence quota) measures one’s ability to take IQ tests
Researchers can’t agree on what IQ tests measure
IQ can change throughout one’s life & is affected by stress, age & cultural environment
Family life affects a child’s IQ
He, also, says the human intelligence has 2 “essential ingredients”:
The ability to record & keep information-the memory
The capacity to use that information – reasoning & problem solving
You and your loved ones can support & nurture your newborn’s brain development in several ways.
How To Boost Your Newborn’s BrainPower for Literacy
Babies enter the world with a lot of love and trust. Bonding between parents and child is a major key to the healthy growth and development of your baby’s brain.
Rahima Dancy, an internationally- known early childhood educator & author of You Are Your Child’s First Teacher and Susan Sloop from the University of Illinois Extension (I combined the lists) offered some suggestions:
Touching, cuddling & rocking your baby a lot promotes brain growth and a sense of security & well-being
Responding quickly to your baby’s cries or fussiness with a soothing & calming voice builds positive brain circuitry in her/his brain as well as emotional security
Giving your newborn some peace & quiet time so s/he will adjust to her/his physical life
Spending time face-to-face & being attentive with your baby gives her/him the confidence to explore, discover & learn about the world BUT DO NOT overstimulate or force physical development
Talking, humming & singing with your newborn stimulates his/her brain for understanding speech, producing language, & gaining skills for reasoning as well as planning
Your Newborn’s Oral Language Development & Literacy
Yes, talking, singing & humming with your newborn helps develop language & literacy. Believe it or not, s/he is communicating with you, too!
Another way to communicate with your newborn is through sign language. “Between 6 to 8 months, babies’ long term memories are developmentally ready to retain the words they hear and the signs they see.” (White & Harper: Signs of a Happy Baby 2017)
Pathways.org, who is supported by the American Academy of Pediatrics’ findings, provides some great information on early childhood growth & development abilities & milestones.
Quiets and/or smiles in response to sound and/or voice
Turns head towards sound and/or voice
Shows interest in faces
Makes eye contact
Cries differently for different needs: hungry, tired, uncomfortable
Chuckles, gurgles & coos
Talk about everything you are doing: washing your hands, getting dressed, cooking food, feeding baby & family, putting away toys
Use short sentences
Stress important words
Speak slowly & vary your tone
Use pictures and/or objects to help your baby understand
Read books (more on that later)
Reacts to sudden sounds and/or noises
Listens and responds when spoken to
Begins to to use consonants when babbling: da da; ma ma; ba ba
Makes different kinds of sounds to express feelings
Notices toys that make sounds
Uses babbling to get attention
Hum, chant, rock & bounce in a rhythmic way
Give your baby a rattle to shake while you sing and/or listen to music together
Use a mirror to play “who” & “where” games
Play “Peek-A-Boo” games
Make sure your newborn has musical toys
Give your newborn toys with a variety of textures
Baby Talk: The Communication of Crying
You’ve probably noticed your infant:
playing with saliva (spit spray is fun)
raspberry-tongues (always a favorite)
blowing bubbles (they LOVE to do this)
vocalizations (yells, shouts, growls, howls)
cah-rrrryyyy-ing ( yes, it’s baby talk)
A few words about the Communication of Crying – As a new mother, I was nervous about “understanding” the different cries my baby “spoke”. Very quickly, I learned to recognize what his cry-speak (just made up that term) was communicating. My Mother-Sense alerted me to what he was loudly “saying”. Believe me, they’re not ALL distress signals. Your tired-self will clue you in. And, you, like I, will be amazed at the variety of wails.
Here’s What I Discovered
The Distress Calls were no-brainers for me, as with many parents. My body went into immediate, reflex action. The other cries’ solutions came with a trial-and-error approach. No one wants to hear a baby’s mournful moans, but, sometimes, s/he is just expressing a feeling and/or thought of the moment. Listen closely to your little one and you will be able to distinguish the difference between a cry for help and a cry of frustration. It’s the language of babies-your baby- so, interpreting his/her cries will strengthen the bond between you. “Yay! S/he gets me!”
Here’s How I Discovered What To Do
Distress Calls or Pain: hunger, indigestion, teething, injury, sickness Mother-Sense: hair-raise on the back of my neck, increased heartbeat, stomach-clench, cool sweat, drop every & any thing to address the call, uh- alarm
Annoyance Alerts: diaper duty, clothing adjustment, sucking &/or attention need, toy access desired Mother-Sense: respond & assist in a timely manner or escalation is imminent
Grumble Yowls: dissatisfaction, discomfort, irritation, moodiness Mother-Sense: distract with silliness or fake crying, change of scenery-going outdoors works great, everyone has days like this
Whimper Whines: confusion, tiredness, boredom, mild frustration, lonely, sound exploration, maybe some aches due to growing pains Mother-Sense: wait a short while to see if Baby will self-soothe (IMPORTANT), if not- talk to Baby calmly, offer toy to distract, give teething biscuit or ring, pick up & rock when big tears occur
Disclaimer: I am not a child expert – just a loving parent & elementary educator. well, that was more than “a few words” now, wasn’t it ?!
Literacy Needs Playtime
Watching your baby play is one of the most fascinating and revealing activities you can do. Listen to his/her babbling while at play. You may recognize some of your tones and expressions (in babblese). Not only will you learn how & what your baby is learning, but also, what keeps his/her interests. Seeing glimpses of your baby’s emerging personality and the way problem solving happens is a treasure. Try not to interfere too much when you hear groans or wails of frustration. These, what I call “growing pains”, are helpful to your baby’s brain growth & development.
Kallokyri’s “Importance of Play”
In June 2016 Anastasia Kalokyri created a whimsical infographic : “Facts About the importance of Play in Early Childhood” for shoptwinkie.com.
Within the 8 Stages of Play, from birth to ages 6 & 7, she describes several stages of your newborn’s play.
During Unoccupied Play from birth -3months, your baby’s movements seem to be random without a clear purpose. However, researchers have found these movements are an important first step in the early stages of play.
Constructive Play, which also begins at birth, starts with infants putting things in their mouths to see how they feel & taste.
Beginning at 3 months your newborn may not notice others sitting & playing nearby. During Solitary Play your baby is exploring the world by watching, grabbing & rattling objects.
How Play Affects A Child’s Development
Here are some other facts Ms. Kalokyri shared:
How s/he learns & works out who s/he is
How the world works & how s/he fits into it
Helps build confidence
Helps to feel love, happy & safe
Helps to develop social skills, language & communication
Helps connect & refine pathways in her/his brain
Helps him/her learn about caring for others & the environment
Helps her/him learn physical skills
Playing with your newborn is a very important part of her/his literacy development because it stimulates brain and oral language growth & development. Remember to encourage quiet, solo playtime in your newborn because it is just as important to her/him.
Games, Toys & Literacy
Playing games with your newborn is a wonderful way to bond and stimulate brain health. Learning through our 5 senses is the human way to make contact with the physical world.
Choose toys that encourage creative and interactive play. Toys made with bright colors and a variety of textures, especially wood , wool, cotton, help your baby connect with the real world.
Talking, humming & singing during play is a great way to boost literacy. Oral language is an important building block when nurturing the Family Literacy Circle. encourage loved ones to participate.
When your baby is tired of playing & needs some quiet time, s/he may: begin sucking, wrinkle face, stare vacantly, yawn, squirm, cry.
Developmental Play for Your Newborn
Because games, toys & books are the POWER tools of your baby’s Literacy World, I researched several different sources to help bring this information to you. It was encouraging to read the repetition within the variety of authorities, scientists & specialists. Here are a few I used and combined their findings.
Dr. Glade Curtis, a pediatritian, and Judith Schuler, MS, co-authored 2010’s Your Baby’s First Year. They help parents understand how they can help their baby’s first year of growth & development with a week-by-week approach.They divide play into: stimulate vision, talk & sing, and vocabulary & language.
Of The Hearth.com cited ZerotoThree.com & Maternal Child Nursing Care as sources to help her create her “Developmentally appropriate Play for Babies ” chart. It is divided into 4 types of play: visual, auditory, tactile & kinetic.
I created tables to share the information. Remember to continue and build on each activity every week.
Developmental Play for Your Newborn (Birth to 1 Month)
SEE & PLAY
HEAR & PLAY
TOUCH & PLAY
GRAB & PLAY
*Show bold-patterned objects
*Show pictures of loved one's
*Talk & sing to baby
*Play soothing music
*Hold, caress & cuddle baby
*Rock baby in a rocking chair
*Look closely into baby's face
*Look closely into baby's eyes
*Sing nursery rhymes
*Play lullaby CDs
*Put baby on his/her back
*Take baby for a stroller walk
*Move simple bright pics and
see if baby tracks
*Show bright toys close
*Vary the tone of your voice
*Say baby's name often
*Keep baby warm
*Wear baby in a carrier
*Show pictures of loved one's
*Read anything aloud
*Dance with toys while you sing
*Give butterfly kisses
*Gently shake a rattle
*Show bright toys close
*Take baby on a house tour, pointing out objects
*Place baby on tummy with bright toys
*Roll a ball while baby is in your lap or in a carrier
*Hang a mobile above baby
*Describe what your doing when doing chores & caring for her/him
*Play with baby & a mirror
*See if baby will grab colorful rings
*Make funny faces
*Take baby outside & point out trees, plants, sky, clouds, etc
*Touch baby"s parts & name them
*Shake toy keys & move them
Developmental Play for Your Newborn (2-3 Months)
SEE & PLAY
HEAR & PLAY
TOUCH & PLAY
GRAB & PLAY
* Make room bright with high contrast colors
* Tell baby what you're doing while dressing him/her
* Give baby a gentle massage
*Use an infant swing or bouncer
*Show baby bright toys & slowly move them right/left
* Laugh when baby laughs
* Comb baby's hair with a soft brush
*Place baby on tummy with a mirror
*Show baby bright toys & slowly move them up/down
* Dance with toys while you sing
* Help baby touch different textures
*Place baby on tummy with toys
*Show baby bright toys & slowly move them in a circle
* Play CDs with nature sounds
* Play "Little Piggies"
*Utilize toy bars
*Show baby a small doll in the mirror
*Make up a story to tell baby
*Point to one of your body parts & then touch baby's same part
*Utilize infant mats
*Show baby how to shake a rattle in the mirror
*Talk to baby about using 4-5 word sentences
*Hold up a variety of toys to see which ones baby reaches for
*Wave bye-bye with baby in the mirror
*Ask baby short questions: "Are you ready to eat?"
"Do a gentle horsey-rock
*Hold a toy in each hand to see which one gets grabbed
*Read wordless books with bright, simple pictures
*Expose baby to home sounds & different outdoor sounds
*Blow on baby's fingers
*Gently move baby's arms & legs in a swimming motion
Copy of Developmental Play for Your Newborn (4-6 Months)
SEE & PLAY
HEAR & PLAY
TOUCH & PLAY
GRAB & PLAY
* You might need to remove mobile or place out of baby's reach
* Expose baby to classical, jazz & pop music as well as different languages
* Look for toys with multiple sensory feels
* Bounce baby in lap while holding in a standing position
*Make a family & frequent friends photo display
* Tell stories about the people in the photo display
*Show baby the real person next to the photo & touch the person
* Make sure loved ones are playing on the floor with baby
*Hang prisms to "catch" rainbows
*Talk about the colors of the prism rainbows
* Place your hand in the prism rainbow & then baby's hand
* Place prism in baby's grasp
* Blow bubbles
* Pop blown bubbles
* Touch & hold blown bubbles
*Catch a blown bubble & place on baby's hand
*Play peek-a-boo in the mirror
*Look in the mirror with baby & make faces
* Introduce wooden & plastic kitchen utensils
*Put kitchen utensils on baby's play mat with baby
*Place some fruits & veggies in a variety of shapes & colors in front of baby
*Talk about the fruits & veggies shapes & colors
*Pick each one up & place in baby's hand using texture & temperature words
*Place a few fruits & veggies in baby's reach
*Have baby see you make a bubble bath
*Drop some toys to hear different splashes
"See if baby will imitate your drop & splash play
*Hold a bath toy in each hand to see which one gets grabbed
*Show baby a few books & see which one gets chosen
*Change your voice when talking about different images in the book
*Talk about the different textures of books: board, cloth, plastic, felt
*See if baby will hold book & read to you
It might be fun to record some of the changes you see in your baby’s play. How’s the babblese progressing? Any new sounds? Preferences? I’m sure you’ve noticed a few books your baby likes to hold & eat.
Reading with Your Newborn in the Family Literacy Circle
Reading to a Newborn? Really?
Remember, you’ve already introduced reading to your baby-in utero. Reading aloud to your newborn has many benefits:
presents a perfect bonding opportunity: snuggle & read
watch & learn what interests your baby
interaction teaches your baby reading is fun
teaches your newborn new vocabulary & ideas
encourages different sound expressions for oral language
In 2014, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended reading to newborns. Evidence supports the fact your baby actually understands what your are reading, unless, of course, it’s The Theory of Realitivity or War and Peace .
Your baby’s brain is still developing; and reading stimulates the brain’s growth & development. Reading books with your Newborn nurtures the Literacy Circle, preparing and developing the habit of lifetime reading.
When & Where Do I Read to My Newborn ?
Yes, your baby is spending most of her/his time eating. sleeping & trying to master the physical world. Reading can be done during the day and for a few minutes at a time. Make it part of your daily routine.Try “weaving” some pages or a short book throughout each day and/or evening:
when your newborn wakes up in the morning or from a nap
right before a nap or nightly bedtime
repeat some of the rhymes you’ve read during bath time
Or you can change up the reading routine:
while you are waiting in a restaurant, doctor’s office, the car
choose different places to read: the floor, at the table, on the bed, outside in the hammock, on a park bench
have loved ones read to the baby
How Do I Read to My Newborn ?
Read with expression, changing your tone & pitch
Read slowly, pointing & describing the images
Pause in-between the pages so your baby can have time to look
Look to your baby for clues on interest /focus
Maybe you need to share a different book or read at another time
Re-read favorites often
Give your baby a chew toy while you read
Be interactive with your baby during the read: ask questions
What Kind of Books Should We Read to a Newborn?
There’s no substitute for books in the life of a child. ~Mary Ellen Chase
So many books! So little time! Fear not!
Many of my Third graders continued to read wordless books as source of enjoyment to themselves & others. They created vocabulary-rich stories around the pictures.
Parent & child development sites will give you “tried & true” recommendations. Siblings, relatives & loved ones will share their favorites, too. Mommy & Daddy can probably recite their favorites from memory.
Your child will let you know which books are the “preferred” reads. You’ll hear them being shared with friends, dolls, pets & stuffed animals in another year or two..
Some experts say select books with black & white images for babies under 6 months of age. Just a thought… Some other suggestions for book choices are:
Books with large, simple pictures
Thick, sturdy board books
Cloth & soft, vinyl books
Remember books will first be explored in your baby’s mouth. Make sure your baby knows s/he is more important than the chewed & shredded book. It is well-loved!
Here’s a list of several of my “tried & true” board book choices from the BLB Resource Library:
Go to your local library, elementary school library and/or bookstore to “check” them out.
A Little P.S. Note
While researching more sources, tips & ideas to add to this Family Literacy Circle Series, I came across Elizabeth of Frugal Mom Eh!’s post ” 20 Things to Do with Your Baby Before They Turn One.” Here’s a few suggestions for the 0-6 months window:
Capture your newborn’s hand & foot prints. Looking at my adult son’s newborn “prints” still brings a gulp to by heart.
Learn and/or compose some songs to sing to your baby. Remember “rhyme, rhythm & repetition.”
Take TONS of pictures. You’ll be amazed how much your little one changes in a matter of days. Seriously!
Go swimming in water if weather permits. Your baby will sigh with the memory.
Fill in that Baby Milestone Book while your emotions are present. You will absolutely LOVE re-reading it. Your growing child will love hearing about it, too!
Baby Milestone Book suggestions: bottle to high chair food, baby bath to bath tub, cradle or bassinet to crib, baby food to finger food, major movements, favorite toys & showing teeth
Need a Baby Milestone Book ? BLB Shop has one you may like.
Baby’s First Year of Firsts : A Memory Keepsake Book
I’m sure you have some wonderful tips & ideas to share. Are there any questions and/or concerns you have about your newborn’s first 6 months-regarding Literacy, of course? Isn’t it amazing how our everyday lives affect our children’s? Fill in the Contact Me form below, but you don’t want to subscribe….yet. I’d love to hear from you!
Otherwise, fill in the BLB Exclusive form as a FREE subscriber!
The only time I ever felt qualified to be a parent was before I had kids. ~ Father in comic strip “Baby Blues”
Infancy, the first year of a child’s life, comes from the Latin for “without words.” Watching your infant’s glee when s/he begins to independently roll over is one of many physical feats s/he is working hard to master. Pulling up, sitting alone, and crawling opens your baby’s world in a new way.
Now, learning to walk is what all these efforts your infant is guiding him/her self towards. How your baby achieves these physical goals can give you some understanding of her/his personality.
Rahima Dancy, who authored You Are Your Child’s First Teacher offers some insightful observations.
Does your baby:
Constantly “work” at moving his/her body along OR is s/he content to stay in a seated position?
Seem to understand falling is part of the process & “forge” ahead OR become discouraged & seem hesitant to keep trying?
Use her/his arms & hands to reach for things OR just pick up things close by?
Howl & continue with his/her efforts OR stop & whine?
Praising and encouraging your striving infant will definitely help, but remember- it is her/his body that s/he needs to conquer. Sooner or later, the will to JUST DO IT overcomes the frustration and “growing pains.” Your infant’s growing brain is an important part of this process.
Curious about what the brain does? I found an interesting brain image listing some of the separate brain functions scientists have discovered. The “corpus callosum”, the Latin word for the brain, is divided into 2 parts – the right side & the left side.
The Right side of the brain is labeled the Creative and controls:
the left side of the body
gross motor skills (large body movements)
visualization: the big picture, images & symbols
long term & visual memory
“outside of the box” & spontaneous thinking
feelings & encoding (creating secretive messages)
The Left side of the brain is labeled the Logical and controls:
Which brain-side rules you? Some people’s brain-sides have equal control or an interweaving of skills from both sides. For example, I love language , but numbers-not so much.
Gifts of the Brain
In Dr. John Medina’s book Brain Rules for Baby , he shares 5 of the intellectual gifts with their characteristics your baby has nestled within her/his brain:
The Visionary: Desire to Explore
loves & needs to experiment, test & “tinker”
asks extraordinary questions about ordinary things
sees connections between unrelated ideas, problems or questions
asks “what if” “why not” “how come you’re doing it this way”
does not value “right” answers over challenging questions
The Planner: Self-Control
loves to plans & problem-solve
has the ability to shut out distracting thoughts
sets goals with the foresight to complete them
The Creative: Power to Invent
copes with puzzling situations
sees new relationships between “old” things
thinks up ideas & things not currently existing
engages in healthy “risk-taking”
Stirs positive and/or negative emotions in others
The Orator: Influence of Language
communicates using a variety of vocabulary & sounds
understands the social meanings of words
born with the ability to learn & speak any language
The Mime: Silent Messages
interprets nonverbal communication
uses facial expressions to communicate
uses body gestures to communicate
Some brain gifts are stronger than others in each person. Sometimes a little “exercise” will encourage and strengthen quieter gifts. Which ones do you feel particularly “gifted” with in your life? How will you nurture these gifts in your infant?
Nurturing Your Infant’s Brain Growth & Development
Remember your infant will grow & develop in her/his own way at his/her own pace. S/he will progress in a sequential, or orderly, way & build on the skills s/he has already learned.
Depending on your baby’s personality, s/he may focus on only one task/goal at a time. So, if s/he is working hard on walking, language may be slower. Once the walking goal is met, you may hear an increase in babblese.
My son walked very early ( at 8 months) and didn’t start speaking until much later. He was enamored with his physical world and how he was able to “grasp” it!
Dr. Margot Sunderland, a child psychotherapist & author of The Science of Parenting, wrote ” your baby’s frontal lobes are in front of her/his brain. Their many important functions give us the following abilities:
to pay attention
to plan & problem-solve
to manage stress
to control impulses
Those frontal lobes need a lot of stimulation from relationship interaction to increase social, emotional & intellectual growth & development”.
Dr. Sunderland goes on to offer several strategies & techniques for nurturing the growth & development of your infant’s brain:
talk to you infant ALOT, using “normal” , yet simple language
always make eye contact & smile
use words with body gestures for everyday language: eat, drink, I love you, hug, sad, happy, hurt, mad, scared
Talk to your infant during the day when s/he is with you. Pretend you are his/her Tour Guide to a new world. S/he is ready to learn & be a part of your world because you are the most important part of his/her world.
Brain Boosters for Your Infant
Talking & playing with your infant are necessary to help his/her brain grow & develop. Child research supports this interaction as a major key to a healthy & responsive intellect.
Words of Caution: Dr. John Medina listed a few major Early Learning Stunters in his book, Brain Rules for Baby:
Keep the TV, video games & computer off
Keep your baby physically active
Keep giving your baby lots of face-to-face interaction
In July 2016 Mom of 11 Kids posted an infographic: “Seven Ways to Boost Baby Brain Development”. They are simple, daily activities you will do without much “to-do”:
Play peek-a-boo & other hiding games
Play patty-cake & other hand games
Read together every day
Play with toys that teach, like blocks
Get messy with water, mud, puddles
Sing songs & verses together with repetition, rhythm & rhyme
Teach as you eat different foods – taste, touch, smell, colors, shapes, cold, sweet
These brain boosters build vocabulary as well as oral language. Both are strong literacy elements. Don’t forget to ask questions. You might get your first nod and/or head-shake.
How To Use Oral Language for Your Infant’s Literacy Growth
Continuing with Dr. Sunderland’s techniques for brain growth, she has specific strategies for parents to use when communicating with their child(ren):
Watch, wait & listen after giving your infant a toy
Copy & comment on her/his responses
Use comments & choices instead of commands
Use lots of facial expressions & touch
Go Out into Nature Everyday for At Least 20 Minutes
It will calm your baby
It positively impacts your infant’s brain wave patterns
It lowers the frequency of stress
The variety of textures, sights, sounds & smells are wonderful for your baby’s senses. Tasting can be , well you know……
My children ALWAYS loved being outdoors, regardless of the weather. When my son was an infant, I would settle him under the trees while I hung up his daily dozen diapers. His babblese was joyful and expressive!
Yes! Your Infant Is Talking to You (in Babblese)
Responding to infant’s language is one of the most important things people can do to encourage & increase more talk. Having conversations with your infant is a major pathway to literacy.
Oral language has 2 parts: Expressive Language – actual speech and Receptive Language – hearing & understanding what you hear. Between the ages of 9 and 12 months, you may see & hear a steady increase in both what your infant is saying and understanding.
Remember each child learns in her/his own way. Some are listeners, some are talkers; some have a lot to say, some have a few special words; some love to talk, some not so much. Know any grown-ups like that?!
FYI-here’s a chart (love making these!) with some Expressive & Receptive Language milestones your infant may have met:
Infant Oral Language Milestones (7 - 12 Months)
AGE IN MONTHS
By 9 months
*4+ sounds in babblese
*Takes turns in vocalizations
*Begins using hands to communicate wants/needs (reaches to be picked up)
*Consistently responds to own name
*Looks at familiar objects & people when named
*Follows some routine directions when paired with gestures
*Not fearful of everyday sounds
By 12 months
*Says 1 or 2 words
*Begins speech sounds
*Babblese has "strings"of speech
*May nod "yes"
*May shake head "no"
*Babblese has the sounds & rhythms of speech
*Understands up to 50 common words-baby, bottle
*Responds to simple directions- "come here"
*Follows your gaze & points
*Notices when hurt
If you and your loved ones are looking into your infants eyes and talking to her/him every day, oral language will continue to grow. Playing with your infant is a great time to have conversations. Encourage loved ones to participate daily.
Literacy Needs Playtime
Your infant is probably no longer in an Unoccupied Stage of play (Kalokyri’s “Facts About the Importance of Play”), but comfortably immersed in the Solitary & Constructive Stages of play.
Having mastered some movement goals-sitting up, pulling up, crawling- means your Infant is ready to discover his/her world. Make sure your home is a safe place for your crawler (and those babies can pick up some speed!) to explore. Get low on your hands & knees (with padding, of course) for a dust bunny view (I mean…..).
Try not to “teach” too much, but help her/him find out what’s making the world around him/her come into his/her experience. Again, instead of you all the time, have older siblings and/or loved ones attend to your infant’s fussiness or frustration when it happens – and it will! Taking your grumpy cub outside is usually a great soother and/or distraction.
When playing with your infant, remember to See & Play, Hear & Play, Touch & Play, and Grab & Play. Involving as many of the 5 senses as you can during playtime encourages literacy through language, interaction and experience. Building on the skills your baby knows will give her/him confidence to try new activities and make the physical world more familiar and exciting.
The Game Play of Literacy
Interactive games are your infants (and most children’s) favorite ways to play. They promote language, discovery, surprise, fun & laughter. Games using hands and feet bring giggles. Hiding games bring loud laughter (and hiccups). Make sure to maintain eye contact. Use rhyming & repetitive language.
Interactive Game Ideas
clapping to rhymes & songs
song & dance
The Power of Music
During your pregnancy and your newborn’s first 6 months of life, I’m sure you used the power of music to soothe, calm & entertain the 2 of you. Lullabies, classical music, new age, jazz, and, even some soft rock were/are great ways to communicate with each other.
Now, you may notice a little rhythmic wiggling when certain songs & music is played. Using music as a fun way to “teach & play” with your infant. Try some of these musical activities:
Sing songs with rhymes, like “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” in the tub.
Sing songs with body play, “Itsy Bitsy Spider”.
Sing songs using your infant’s name while doing activities together, like “This is the way we…”.
Use toys as instruments while you sing songs, like “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star & Mary (or baby’s name) Had A Little Lamb”.
Sing or hum (make up some words) while you dance with your baby.
You can, also, sing while creating interactive games with toys. It is lots of fun! Listen to how siblings & other loved ones talk, sing and play with the “new baby bird in the nest”.
Games with Toys as a Power Strategy for Literacy
A few words about toy selection- Gender Stereotype Freedom. Make sure all kinds of toys are available for your baby. Girls need to know about cars & trucks -how else will they learn to drive & maintain them. Boys need to know about dolls -how else will they learn to care & nurture their own children. Believe it or not, this can be a literacy opportunity-stretching both sides of the brain.
In my Home-Care & Day-School for children (yes, it’s going to be more than a few words-but this is true-life data), my toddler girls loved playing with cars, trucks, blocks. Think engineers, architects & designers. My toddler boys loved playing with stuffed animals, kitchen sets, dollhouses. Think veterinarians, chefs & designers. Not to mention what great partners they will be in a marriage. I’m just saying……
Does your infant have TOO MANY TOYS? Think your infant is feeling overwhelmed and/or overstimulated to the point of boredom?????
Try putting away some of the toys. Hold several choices in your hands to see which ones s/he reaches for. After a few weeks, bring out the “new” toys and see if s/he has an interest in them.
Babies usually enjoy playing with toys that:
Have different textures
Are very bright & colorful
Have knobs, pushers, etc (reaction toys)
Can be banged on to make music
Can be easily grasped
Can be chewed on
Check out the Six Games with Toys activity list with directions I created for some play ideas:
Don’t be too surprised if that $100 toy you absolutely had to have because you knew it would be your baby’s favorite toy is ignored for the box it came in. Your home is packed with “toys” your baby will love and play with all the time.
Your Home Is A Toy Land
Although there was a playroom in my Home-Care/Day-School, the toys were always dragged out of the playroom and into the living room and/or dining room.
Couches & chairs became stages, platforms, building sites & race tracks. The kitchen table – the same- with additional puzzles, papers, play-doh, & crayons.
So, I tucked toy bins in these areas for clean-up time. Those filled carriers, then, were stacked in the playroom at the end of each day.
Scarves, towels, socks, & pieces of colorful, textured fabrics become capes, hats, doll blankets, animal tents, meadows, ponds, puppets, beds, & rooftops-once they pass the taste test, of course.
Putting on & taking off hats, socks & shoes can entertain your older infant for quite a few minutes-over & over & over again. Day after day after day….
A favorite Toy Land spot-the kitchen!
Baby’s Kitchen Play Land
Keep in mind – play is your baby’s work. Where ever you are, s/he wants to be near. My baby’s food was handmade as well as our daily bread (I love to cook!). I spent quite a few hours a day in the kitchen. I discovered, as did my baby, the kitchen is a full of toys.
When my son began his search-and-see, I made sure the bottom kitchen cabinet had large bright plastic & wooden spoons, measuring cups, a colander, some pots & pans with their lids, plastic mixing bowls, & some storage containers with lids. His clang- bang music was quite a dinner bell!
Sturdy empty boxes in a variety of sizes , especially those large, appliance ones, are worth the trees that donated their lives to make them. Be ready to cut out some windows & doors. Creativity & exploration will last longer than the boxes will!
Sounds like lots of messes every day, you say?!?
Creativity + Discovery = A Learning Mess For Literacy
Personally, I would be considered a Master Messer. Not in a destructive way, but messes are part of the “creative & productive process.” Making a mess and, then, cleaning or putting things away teaches cause & effect, freedom of expression, etc. The way I see it-” making a mess is part of success!” For me & children, anyway…..
When children are busy having fun & learning – be ready & hope for- a mess. Listen & participate in the language of exploration, sequence, cause & effect, details, etc. All the “story” elements are present. The Story of Discovery!
Of course, some are bigger than others…..
Try these messes on for size:
Water play in the tub: splash, squirt, pour, fill, sink, float, full, empty & bubbles (say the words to match the action)
Water play in the sink (see above)
Water play outside in the pool, water bucket, wagon, wash tub
Fill &Dump with water, toys, sand, dirt, mud (stay very close)
Finger-painting- find an edible recipe, like one made with cornstarch
Scribble with large pieces of paper & fat crayons (talk about color, shapes & pictures/stories)
Paint with a large paintbrush & colored water
BTW-Those plastic kitchen utensils make great water toys , sand, mud & dirt toys, too. A word of caution– use big rocks, pebbles are too temptingly taste-worthy!
Sing a “Clean -Up” song. Wipe your baby down & maybe change clothes. Have a drink & a snack. Settle in for Book Time!
Book Time & Infant Literacy
Children are made readers on the laps of their parents. ~ Emily Buchwald
“Brain Wonders” is a joint project by Boston University Medical Center, Erikson Institute & Zero To Three (see link).
Their 2003 study on Early Literacy supports, not only the “new understanding of early literacy development”, but also, “its critical influence in shaping brain development.”
The research states:
Language, reading & writing (early scribbling in infants) develop at the same time , making them interconnected.
This development process that begins in the first 3 years of life is continuous.
Real life settings through positive interactions with people, books, stories, paper & crayons are important factors in literacy skills development.
Please note: early literacy does NOT mean early reading. Trying to teach infants & toddlers to read before they are developmentally ready can cause more harm than good. The frustrations and failures will have a negative impact on their motivation to read.
How To Create Your Infant’s Love of Books & Stories
Believe it or not, chewing on a book page is part of early literacy behaviors. So, plastic, vinyl, cloth & sturdy board books need to be part of your infant’s hands, feet & mouth-on library.
Place them in the crib, playpen (if you use one), tub, diaper bag & a floor bin/basket for ready-access. Don’t forget to put a few books in the kitchen play-cabinet- fruits & veggies, breads & milk, pasta shapes & kitchen tools.
Include books with bright colored real-life images of everyday, familiar objects & toys, shapes, colors, animals, other babies’ faces & faces of loved ones, including pets.
Handmade books will become well-loved. Get your camera ready for “Baby Book Time Publication”. Click & slip photos into a mini-foto book with plastic sleeves. Here are some Book Titles:
My Family At Home
Other Family & Friends
In My Bedroom
In the Kitchen
Play Time Outside
If your infant has become a curious crawler, make sure you have a basket of books as part of his/her path. Cloth, plastic & sturdy board books will suit your infant’s “taste” at this time.
How To Read Wordless Books
Bright, bold colored picture books without words are a wonderful beginning into her/his discovery of the book world. You & loved ones can make the “stories” personal & suitable for your young learner.
Whether you’re inventing a story to go with the pictures or just talking about the actual pictures, think about using these few tips:
Make sure there are no more than 3 images per page
Trace the images with your finger and, then, your baby’s finger
It’s okay to skip pages if your baby’s interest seems to lag
Talk about the images using short, simple sentences
Try to use rhyming words: cat, hat, mat, bat
Sing the book
Wordless picture books will inspire a story for many years into your child’s life, even after s/he becomes a reader of words. It will amaze you how many different stories can be told about the same pictures as s/he gets older. And the story being told can depend upon who & when it’s being told. If only stuffed animals could talk…….
Picture books without words encourage many literacy development skills, while answering the following questions:
What is happening in this picture? comprehension/understanding
Why is this picture important to the story? vocabulary, oral language
What makes you think this picture is important? inference. drawing conclusions
What do you think will happen next? prediction
Well if you’ve made it to the end of this post-
Thank You so much for reading!
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A person’s a person no matter how small. ~ Horton Hears A Who by Dr. Seuss
Can you believe your tiny, cuddly Newborn, though still pretty new, especially to you & yours, is already A YEAR OLD!?!
Have a fun party? Take LOTS of pictures for that interactive Literacy book?
Crawling? Walking? Running? If not yet, your Pre-Toddler will soon be moving faster it seems than, at times, the speed of light!
Physical Mobility & Sensory Exploration with these newly acquired skills is the name of his/her action plan! And when those gleeful giggles & babblings become quiet, “UH-OH”……
S/he is SO ready to get hands & lips on all those previously unattainable & exciting discoveries. Cabinet doors are the most inviting. Pulling up on everything is fair game. Grabbing & mouthing anything within reach is a given (think pet food on the floor….). Childproofing is a definite MUST! My little cub could be found foraging in the refrigerator unless he was asleep!
Wondering Why I Name This Age Group “Pre-Toddler”?
My Pre-Toddler seldom crawled on hands & knees. He preferred the “bear-crawl”, cub that he was,or moving on his hands & feet together. He was upright & run-walking before 12 months. A mixed blessing for me -immature access, but easier on my back!
Not all babies are toddling by the first year. Some personalities love to sit and, if the mood strikes them, crawl. Some crawlers are very happy, and very fast, moving on hands & knees for quite a while into their mobility development. They’ll pull up and, maybe, even stand solo for a while. But, to travel, crawling is preferable.
Some Pre-Toddlers will pull out of a walkers’ hands to get down on the ground. For a lot of babies, a walking/running comfort-zone is usually by 24 months, or 2 years old.
Then, there’s the “attitude”…..
Briefly, Pre-Toddlers are too busy happily traveling, exploring & inspecting the premises. Scrutiny, confusion & willful decisions are too time consuming. This mental & emotional probing, I feel, belongs to the emerging & resolute Toddler. More on the teeny adolescent in the next, upcoming blog: “Managing the Family Literacy Circle with Your Toddler”.
Have You & Your Pre-Toddler……..
been counting fingers & toes? #This little piggy…
been naming body parts? #Hands, shoulders, knees & toes…
been swimming at a big pool? #Rec center
been to a petting zoo, park and/or playscape? # neighborhood map
been on a playdate with other children? # Mothers’ Day Out
been exercising with your baby? #Airplane take-offs & landings
Are You & Your Pre-Toddler……
playing together without screen time?
reading together for a period of time everyday?
having fun together being silly & goofy?
talking about the shapes & colors of things?
singing & dancing together?
Are you and/or loved ones remembering to document your baby’s Milestones in that beautiful baby book someone gifted to you?
The article, “It’s All Connected” posted on the website, Sesame Street in Communities states the brain creates 700 new connections EACH SECOND in the first few years of your baby’s life. By the age of 3, your child’s brain is 80% as big as an adult’s.
Important fact to remember~
No two brains grow & develop at the same rate.
Interactive movement using the 5 senses is critical to your pre-toddler’s healthy brain growth and development. Yes, taste-feeling is still a natural response at this age, so monitor closely because everything is “fair game”. Seriously.
Indoor & outdoor exploration is exhilarating for your baby, especially now s/he is moving with some independence. However, as Dr. John Medina of Brain Rules cautions, “over-stimulation can be just as hazardous as under-stimulation.”
Building Your Baby’s Brain Power
Grover, a Sesame Street character, narrates a video-book for children, ages 2-6, on the Sesame Street in Communities site. YOUR AMAZING BRAIN shares these tips:
The brain is your body’s first organ to absorb nutrients.
Brain food for kids are – salmon, eggs, peanut butter, whole grains, oats, berries, beans & colorful veggies.
Use all the 5 senses when- reading, coloring, talking, listening, moving & playing games.
Repeated physical activities – banging, throwing & choosing help develop the reasoning skills of cause & effect, compare & contrast, and predictions. (from “It’s All Connected”)
Remember – some babies pour ALL their energy & curiosity into Movement & Manipulative Mastery. In other words- “No time for talk! Gotta go! Places to see! Objects to taste!”
So. if you are waiting anxiously for Baby’s first words-other than babblese- it might be a while. And it’ll be worth the wait. Just keep stimulating your pre-toddler’s brain with meaningful oral language.
Learning The Language of Speech & Literacy
The only place you find perfection is in a dictionary ~ Old Saying
New, advanced research is helping scientists understand more about the mysterious workings of the brain and how we, as humans, learn language.
In Dr. Sandra Crosser’s article, “Enhancing the Language Development of Young Children” contributed to the website, Early Childhood News.com , she states the young child’s developing brain is very flexible, or open to new knowledge. The critical time for learning language occurs before the age of 8 or 9.
If your infant has been hearing the same sound combinations repeatedly, the brain forms a response map to those specific sounds. So, then, a child “usually” tends to understand and speak the language of her/his environment with reasonable fluency by the age of 3. Clarity, on the other hand, will sometimes come and go with “baby” and permanent teeth.
However, the rate that children learn and speak language is strongly influenced by his/her surroundings. Trauma, neglect, stress, or abuse can interfere with normal language development.
How Is Normal Language & Speech Learned ?
Communication is interactive experience between two people. It involves listening, understanding & expressing.
There are several theories offered by Dr. Crosser’s article to help explain how children learn to understand and, then, speak their native language.
The Nativist Theory states that children are born with the desire to make sense of the world and can understand the different sounds in any language. By 12 months their babblings will only use familiar sound combinations.
Social Learning Theory says children imitate words & language patterns they hear by watching & listening to the familiar people in their environment. They repeat sounds that are rewarded with smiles & praise, dropping sounds that are not rewarded.
Finally, the Interactionist Theory proposes that children need more than their inborn traits and desire to speak. “They need to speak and be spoken to. Neither one, alone, is enough.” (Bohannon & Bonvillian, 1997)
Personally, I think, depending on the child, and her/his environment, a combination of all these theories contributes to language & speech development. But, I’m not an expert linguist or speech pathologist….
What Are the Signs That My Baby Is Learning Language?
Remember~each child learns at her/his own pace. Some pre-toddlers are too busy exploring their physical world to talk about anything. Some are very ready and motivated to talk, talk, talk. These are personality traits NOT signs of intelligence.
Babblese , a baby’s first language, is a sure sign your baby is learning language. Keep talking with your baby about everything, looking directly into those beautiful eyes and responding to the responses you’re receiving.
Dr. Harvey Karp, a pediatrician, who has authored several successful parenting books, offers this explanation for the physical side of speaking:
To “say” words, you have to perfectly coordinate your lips, tongue, throat & diaphragm. The first bunch of words are gestures. The second bunch of words are invented. The third of words are learned from you.
Some experts support the practice of teaching & using sign language (hand & arm gestures as words) to encourage language skills. Sign language, which strengthens the same area of the brain used in speaking, can bridge the communication distance between listening & speaking. (White & Harper: Signs of A Happy Child 2017)
A Listening & Speaking Development Chart
In the ” Language Acquisition” world, the words Receptive & Expressive describe the major players. Receptive is how language is being received, or understood. Expressive is how language is being expressed, or spoken. Here’s another one of my charts:
Pre-Toddler Oral Language Milestones (12-24 Months)
AGE IN MONTHS
By 15 months
*Combines sounds & gestures
*Imitates simple words & actions
*May use 4-10 words
*Consistently follows simple directions
*Shows interest in pictures
*Can ID 1-2 body parts when named
*Understands 50 words
By 18 months
*May use 10- 20 words (mostly nouns) for favorite things
*Responds to ?s
*Continues to produce babblese
*Repeats words overheard in conversation
*Understands early direction words-in/out/on
*Understands & responds to simple directions
*Points at familiar objects & people in pictures
*Responds to yes/no ?s with a nod or head shake
*Enjoys music, rhythm & tries to dance
By 21 months
*Uses words more than gestures
*Consistently imitates new words
*Names objects & pictures
*May have a vocabulary of 20-50 words
*Understands some emotion words-happy/sad
*Understands some pronouns-me, you, my
*Can ID 3-5 body parts when named
By 24 months
*Uses at least 50 words
*Begins to use 2 word phrases
*Uses gestures & words during pretend play
*Understands more than 50 words
*Understands action words
*Can follow 2 step-related directions
*Enjoys listening to stories
How You Can Help Your Child’s Language & Speech
Studies show that children at 16 months can speak an average of 40 words, but understand over 300 words. However, children can experience a “language burst” around 18 months or later. (White & Harper: Signs of A Happy Child 2017)
According to new (2016) research provided by the American Academy of Pediatrics, “every additional 30 minutes a day children under the age of 2 spent using handheld screens, like smartphones & tablets, meant they were 49% more likely to have speech delays.”(Time Books:The Science of Childhood “Tips for Toddlers” p.29)
Many people of many different cultures & languages, including ours, use a style of speech called “parentese” when speaking to very young children. (Gelman & Shatz, 1977; Pine, 1994)
Parentese is NOT baby talk. The speaker:
uses a slightly higher than normal pitch
exaggerates vowel sounds
speaks in short, simple sentences
stresses/accents certain words
pauses between sentences
Other Tips for Your Child’s Language Literacy
Annabelle Humanes stated in her March 2016 article, “A Few Simple Little Things You Can Do to Increase the Amount of Language Your Child Hears, and In Turn, Help Them Learn” for The PiriPiriLexicon that researchers have found children who can say the most words by the age of 24 months were the children who heard the most child-directed speech at 19 months (during that “language burst”).
Talking with & to your child (interactive) is not the same as talking at your child (commands & discipline).
Here are her helpful tips:
Describe & label EVERYTHING. Repeat.
Tell stories, using your imagination about every day objects.
Ask questions, wait for a response & answer it, especially if your child doesn’t (or can’t)reply.
Be positive, repeat what they say & add to it.
Use simple but real language-no baby talk (googoogaga).
Pair gestures with your words.
Stop & Listen.
Just a note from me: Don’t be afraid to play with sounds. Be silly. Make up words & try to give them a meaning. This activity not only exercises their speech patterns & physical skills, but also, encourages their creativity. Besides all that, it’s biggley, tiggley & giggley fun!
Need more info? Check out this list in my Resource Library:
What I Learned About Language, Playtime & Literacy
Children learn as they play. Most importantly, in play children learn how to learn. ~ O. Fred Donaldson
Decades ago when I had a Home Day School for infants through 8 years, interviews with parents & child(ren) were part of my “acceptance” process. A few parents, not many, were curious about the structure, or schedule of the day.
“What time was art/reading/numbers/puzzles/ etc?”
“Is there a nap or quiet time?” “When & for how long” “My 2 year old doesn’t take naps……(oh yeah ?!)”
“Will my child have instruction time ? What will s/he be taught & for how long throughout the day?” (7am-5pm ?!)
My responses to these questions were, basically- “Your child will receive enough structure in a few years when they attend kindergarten. Although all these activities are available, your child must make those choices. I encourage coloring/drawing, making puzzles/play-doh sculptures & building with blocks every day. Your child will play outside a lot because they LOVE to be in nature. I do, however, read a story during the daily ‘Quiet Time’ after lunch. ”
Very few of those few parents wanted their child to attend.
I learned SO MUCH about children during those years (and I had a degree in Education). Listening to children’s literacy grow through interactive language with each other & with their toys (tools, really) is absolutely fascinating. I never had a child who didn’t want to hear a story read. Observing & listening with the occasional, necessary interaction will give you great insight into what they are reacting to and absorbing from you, others, and their environment.
“Old School” Becomes “New School”
Interestingly enough, “Old School” thinking has returned as today’s “Modern School” thinking regarding the Importance & Power of Play in Childhood Growth & Development.
In fact (Gopnik, Alison: The Philosophical Baby 2009) “psychologists and neuroscientists have discovered that babies, not only know more and learn more, but also, imagine more and experience more than we would ever have thought.”
In the “Hurray for Play” section of Dr. Medina’s book, Brain Rules, he states open-ended activities during play partnered with (monitored, of course) free play increases:
Whether indoors or outdoors, children play to learn and make sense of the real world. They will choose ToyTools to help them explore and discover how to understand their environment.
The Wonderment of Nature Play
Except for toy vehicles for outside use (low-riders, wagons, scooters, bubble lawnmowers), my Home Day School children stayed very engaged using Nature Toys: grassy hills, rocks, nuts, pine cones, seedpods, sticks, leaves, flowers. Amazingly, they even found fossilized shells, large & small, to include in their play!!!!
Speaking of playing outside, unless the weather is very hot, bitter cold or pouring down rain, my children & I bundled up to go into Nature for however long we (mostly me) decided. Summer weather is especially fun because water play is a HUGE favorite! Lots of different household items can become water toys: spoons, bowls, cups, colanders (a good one). But, toys are optional because water itself is a GREAT toy. Ahhhhh! Such is the life of ducklings!
Simple Nature walks around the neighborhood is oxygen-food for the brain & body. It will, also, give you the opportunity to engage children in the Language Literacy growth of new vocabulary. Although I used this time to introduce different words, I preferred to ask questions. This allowed them to ponder and discover answers independently – an important step for critical thinking. Nice food for thought during Quiet Time…..
Pre-Toddler Developmental Toy ~ Tools & Activities
Right now at 12 months, your Pre-Toddler is enjoying Solitary Play. Around 18 months, or so s/he might begin to play along side others without interacting with them, also known as Parallel Play. However, as a child nears the 2 year old mark, the pronoun “mine” becomes an expression of property rights. Constructive Play (Explore & Discovery through the Senses) continues to develop & grow. (Kalokyri, “Facts About the Importance of Play in Early Childhood” June 2016)
Although role play is a frequent & popular part of Child’s Play, there are developmental activities to encourage Literacy Growth & Development cited in the article, ” 20 Fun Activities for a Toddler, 12-18 Months”on the website chicklink.com. Here’s a few of them, along with the skills these activities encourage:
sorting into container with holes / skill: hand-eye coordination
hiding hand-sized objects in sand, torn paper, etc / skills: sensory, language, gross motor
painting with water, brushes, sponges & fingers on construction paper / skills: creativity, sensory, fine motor
using sticky notes to create object flaps for peek-a-boo book play / skills: fine motor, vocabulary
blowing games using bubbles, whistle, straw in water / skill: speech muscles
making a cardboard house / skills: LOTS
Growth & Development Toy Ideas for Your Pre-Toddler
Rahina Dancy, author of You Are Your Child’s First Teacher, supports choosing these toys to encourage growth & development in your child. They :
represent the real world
are aesthetically pleasing
have large components
encourage exploration & discovery
open & closing containers with lids
balls for kicking & throwing
bubbles for blowing & chasing
Your Home As One Big Playhouse
As toy tools dribbled out of the playroom (HA HA) & their boxes, landing (and hiding) in every nook & cranny of my Home Day School, the only source of irritation for me was an unprepared barefoot discovery (OUCH). Puzzles, play-doh, crayons & paper managed to stay on the table (safety issues-little ones & “because I said so”- not afraid to use that one). I was definitely outnumbered in the work / play domain of my children.
Couch cushions & pillows (sometimes with draping sheets) became a variety of structures. The kitchen, with its utensils, plastic bowls & pots / pans (with their lids, of course,) became the music room & its instruments. Dining room chairs & table became an obstacle course. Thank goodness the bedrooms were upstairs. The playroom was just a holding tank for unused toys. The bathroom wasn’t particularly inviting for play….only serious business went on in there.
WHAT’S A TEACHING MOTHER TO DO ?!?!?!!!!!
Believe me, in my public school classroom, children picked up (part of their jobs). They liked & appreciated an organized, neat environment. Even their desks (well, most of the desks-mine not included) were arranged for quick materials access-no digging needed. But I digress…
Every Toy in Its Place & A Place for Every Toy
Organizing is a pleasure for me and an important learning activity for children-young & old (maybe not teens). They enjoyed it, at first (most of the time for them / all of the time for me).
Rahina Dancy, author of You Are Your Child’s First Teacherprovides support for this project. “Giving each toy a ‘home’ or place teaches:
sequential thought processes
order in the larger world arena
work habits (putting things away where they belong).”
Felicia Sklamberg, a clinical specialist in pediatric occupational therapy, added, “Babies are easily overstimulated, which makes a catchall toy box overwhelming.”
And so, we created toy baskets, bins & boxes. Nothing fancy that required additional funding-wooden boxes, fruit baskets, milk crates, etc. Some parents even donated some bins for the cause.
Here’s The Scoop !
Nature’s Treasures (some of these might need to be washed before coming into the house)
Art Basket: pencils, crayons, markers (for older kids only- too many young, rainbow-colored lips), finger paint, water colors, brushes, sponges, stickers, paper, play-doh, cookie cutters, alphabet tracers, old magazines, scissors, glues, craft stuff
Puzzles Box: including a smaller, lidded container for wandering pieces (a good rainy or too hot/freezing day activity)
Motor Vehicles Garage
Legos & Duplos
Work Tool Box: hammers, screwdrivers, etc
Dress-Up Trunk (still a box)
Talk & Media Mix (a must-have): phones, microphone, walkie/talkies
“Role” Play Basket (a must-have): dolls, action figures, animals, puppets
Book Box (oh yeah!)
Ready to go indoors? Park the vehicles and store the outdoor toys in their own plastic, outside storage (a large clothes basket). The children “enjoyed” hosing & soaping them down, though I put them in the dishwasher for a sterilizing blast, as needed-usually once a week.
Older children are great supervisors & helpers for this end-of-the-day exercise. Here’s a little ditty to go with Clean Up Time:
It’s Clean Up Time! Clean Up Time!
Let’s go, Everybody! Clean Up Time!
Toys in baskets, boxes & bins!
We know where they’re landing (or going /sleeping /resting) in!
If you put this practice into play, I’m curious to know if & how this works out for you & yours. Let me know in the Contact Me form at the end of this post (just have to talk about books, of course).
Time for Book Talk & Literacy with Your Pre-Toddler !!!
There are many little ways to enlarge your child’s world. Love of books is best of all. ~ Jacqueline Kennedy
For many children at this age, books are a very important ToyTool for them. If reading a book with loved ones has been a pleasant, common, every day experience, they will continue to want easy access to meaningful ones they can enjoy again & again.
Teaching Early Literacy & Behaviors are skills that will continue to benefit your child as well as your Family Literacy Circle.
Dr. Judith Schickedanz, a professor of Education at Boston University & author of the book: Much More than the ABCs, was the first to describe early literacy behaviors of very young children. How children interact with & respond to books are building blocks of the literacy growth & development.
She lists these categories with their skills as links to language, reading & writing process of Literacy:
the physical handling of books- chewing & page-turning
the interaction with books – looking, recognizing, pointing & laughing at pictures of familiar pictures
the understanding the pictures & story of books – talking & imitating about events / actions
the reading behaviors of stories – talking to the story, babbling imitations of the story & running fingers under the printed words
Book Reading Habits & Routines with Your Pre-Toddler
Besides being a great bonding experience and increasing her/his knowledge of the world, reading with your Pre-Toddler has many Literacy Building benefits (Hamilton Reads/Ontario, “The Early BIRD Program Manual”). You are helping your child to:
learn early book-handling habits-holding it the correct way & turning pages
Choose books with a bit more text that tell a simple story.
Talk about the pictures instead of the text if child is squirmy.
Connect the story & pictures to real life.
Reading for Meaning/Understanding with Your Pre-Toddler
Reading for pleasure is one of life’s rewards, once you know how to read. Understanding what you read gives that pleasure meaning.
When reading with your pre-toddler, especially after s/he reaches 18 months, try to follow this sequence with a few interactive questions about the story:
read & talk about the book’s title & its cover (what do you think this book is going to be about)
do a “picture-walk” from the beginning pages to the last page (now, what do you think this story is going to be about)
track your finger under the words & encourage your pre-toddler to do it, too
point to the pictures that have words to match (can you point to the dog)
ask prediction questions before turning the page (what do you think will happen next)
encourage him/her to ask questions about the story (do you want to ask me about something in the story)
ask some questions at the end of the story (what do you think will happen now; did you like the story; what did you like about the story; does this story sound like something else you know about)
Of course, you don’t need to ask every single question I’ve included. Sometimes your pre-Toddler will just want to hear the story (hand-over- your-questioning-mouth signal).
This is the reading sequence I used with my beginning, reluctant, and, even, my independent readers. Conversations greatly increase the understanding of what is being read, as well as the vocabulary being used to tell the story.
“I Want Us to Read This Book !”
A house without books is like a room without windows. ~ Heinrich Mann
First of all, the stories need to be “short”. Books with rhyming words are usually favorites. Pre-Toddlers over the age of 16 months enjoy “me” books. After 24 months, make-believe books are understood & fun to read. Here are a few suggestions from Brain Wonders of the website, zerotothree.org:
sturdy board books that can be carried
books with real-life photos of children doing every day things, like eating, playing, moving, sleeping
simple books about animals
beginning alphabet books
hello & goodbye books
good night books for bedtime
You can, also, make a book:
of words your pre-toddler is saying with pictures
of drawings s/he has made, writing words &/or a sentence about it
Children’s natural love of animals & the sounds they make (which children love to imitate) inspired me to create a little, make & take downloadable book entitled :
Animal Talk : Exploring 20 Common Animal Sounds
You can find it in BLB Shop or click on the link below to check it out:
Reading a wordless picture book is one of the most enjoyable ways to share a story. Listeners get to tell the story using their creativity, imagination & perceptions. It’s a GREAT way to build the literacy skills of listening, oral language, vocabulary, words with picture connections, and understanding the flow elements of a story. I absolutely LOVE them!
“But you don’t have to take my word for it!” ~ Levar Burton on PBS’ Reading Rainbow
Click on the link below for a list of some of my favorite Wordless Picture Books for children, ages 0-3 years.
Characters and moral development, as well as spiritual reflection and moments of joy, are crucial for fully developing the nature of each child. ~ Michael Gurian PhD Nurture the Nature
And how is your little angel doing? Flying, Landing?
Climbing up & down? Up & down? Stairs? Furniture? You? Trees are next (OMG)!!!!
Doesn’t need or want help walking (holding your hand ANYWHERE can be a struggle)? Running, and, oh, yes, the newest favorite- JUMPING, JUMPING, JUMPING ?!?
S/he has worked very hard during the last year or so to master upright movement (I DO IT!!!- is a favorite phrase now-more on that later).
Balance & coordination are improving, so prepare for some physical risk-taking. Think tricycles ( we called them low-riders), lots of throwing (FORE!!! INCOMING!!!!), and galloping (yes, like a herd of wild horses). With sound effects….
So ~ have you re-baby-proofed your home? S/he is a lot taller and more-much more-mobile now. Still loving to get into EVERYTHING!!! Cabinets, drawers, hampers, refrigerator doors, and, yes, toilets. Moving a chair to reach a door knob and/or latch can be expected in the near future. So, time to upgrade those knobs, handles & latches.
“No, no, no!” is pretty much meaningless. Exploration is being driven by confident mobility and boundless curiosity. YES !!!! It’s a good thing ~ a GREAT thing, actually.
Understanding Your Toddler’s Brain
If you’re like me, you’re thinking the brain’s the brain. I, however, did a little research to help me (and you) understand our most powerful & mysterious “organ”.
Dr. Bruce D. Perry, an American psychiatrist with a PhD in Behavioral Sciences, has written several books on children in crisis. Here’s what he taught me, thanks to the article – “Using Play to Build the Brain” @ gooeybrains.com.
Our brains grow from conception in a sequence/order, beginning with the most basic areas first. Then, the other more complex areas start to develop. Each area (there are 4 broad brain areas) needs to grow in a healthy, functioning way before we can move on and focus on building the next area- in order.
Ready to Know More?
The most basic building block in the brain is the brain stem, which keeps the body functioning-heart rate, temperature, sleep & fear states, etc. It develops in us as infants during 0-9 months of age.
Between 6 until 24 months of age, the midbrain is developing. This area helps to build movement, or motor skills- both gross & fine. Our 5 senses are, also, combining and fine-tuning at this time within our bodies.
The limbic area is all about emotions. We can gain the skills of tolerance, empathy, belonging & social relationships during the ages of 12 to 24 months.
The most complex area of the brain is the cortical area. Developing between the ages of 3 until 6 years of age, this part of the brain controls concrete (factual) and abstract (creative) thought. Language skills, imagination, morality & respect are gains at this time of growth.
Since the brain grows & develops each of these sections in order, don’t ask or expect your toddler to do something s/he is not ready to do. S/he is a “work-in-progress”. Remember each child develops in his/her own time/rate.
Keep reading for a few tips you don’t have to be a brain specialist to use.
Encouraging Your Toddler Brain’s Growth & Development
Did you know by the age of 3, your child’s brain is 80% as big as an adult’s brain?
Keep in mind your toddler continues to experience the world through all 5 of her/his senses. You & loved ones can encourage your toddler brain’s healthy growth & development everyday with a few things you are probably already doing. Dr. Gurian, a brain scientist, family therapist & author of Nurture the Nature, provides these guidelines for parents:
Nutrition: eating right means avoid junk food or sugary snacks & try not to have long lag times between meals
Rest: increasing sleep might help ease cranky/whiny behaviors
Discovery: exploring nature is an easy way to use all 5 senses
Readiness: teaching every “little” thing is “big” to your toddler, so not too much at once and only when s/he is developmentally ready
Independence: hovering will interfere with your child’s need to develop, play & learn as an individual
Behaviors: providing lessons in “right & wrong” whenever you can
Now, just a few thoughts about video screens : television, computer, tablet, game console & phone……
Your Toddler’s Brain & Screen Time
More & more early child development studies are supporting the negative effects of too much screen time. Dr. Gurian and other developmental brain specialists shared some of the recent findings:
It can affect: behaviors, sleep, future obesity & mood development.
It can increase behavior problems: even after 1 hour of educational programs-is your child more aggressive, more passive and/or more lethargic?
It can translate into lower reading & short term memory scores.
When I had my Home School, the TV was never on until the end of the day for PBS’ Reading Rainbow, Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood & Sesame Street. The children, ages 1-5, wandered in & out of the room during Reading Rainbow & Sesame Street, watching for 2-3 minutes at a time. Mr. Rogers, however, held their attention for much longer periods of time. Often, they responded to his soft, calm questions earnestly, sitting very still and focused……
As my child grew up, television privileges were a sure-fire way to achieve behavior adjustments. It usually took about a week or so (withdrawal period-seriously) before my lovable, communicative & creative son returned.
Environment Matters in Brain Growth & Development
Once your Toddler has mastered many mobility skills (first building block), s/he will continue to use that movement & begin working/playing on the next building blocks. Early childhood authorities generally agree your young one is working on these 4 areas of growth & development at the same time:
Physical-gross motor skills (the big muscles of crawling, walking, climbing, etc) & fine motor skills (hand-eye coordination of holding, coloring, cutting, throwing, catching, etc)
Language & Speech-understanding & expressing thought (vocabulary, sentence structure, etc)
Cognitive, or reasoning, develops later, usually beginning around 3 years old.So, now, you (and I) understand why our toddlers (and we) suffered misunderstandings…..
According to Dr. Margot Sunderland, a child psychotherapist with more than 30 years of experience working with families, creating an engaging environment for your growing child needs to involve all 5 of the senses, movement, social interaction & thought-at the same time. The benefits to your child’s brain health are:
lower levels of stress chemicals
decreased anxiety in an anxious child
new brain cell growth
“What I’m Trying So Hard To Say!!!”
If I accept the sunshine & warmth, then, I must also accept the thunder & lightning. ~ Kahlil Gibran
One minute your dimpled darling is full of giggles, hugs & kisses and within seconds (it seems), your red-faced toddler is crying, yelling & (yikes!) biting with an almost-full set of teeth. Try to remain calm because your puzzled frustration is small (maybe) compared to the large tantrum going on now (AGAIN!!).
A major contributor to this repetitious scenario is your toddler’s inability to speak in words. Those articulation muscles are not keeping up with what your child is able to think & understand.
Although s/he understands A LOT of words, your Toddler continues to work on the actual physical components of speech:
Articulation- how we make sounds
Voicing- how we use our vocal cords
Fluency- tone & rhythm
Your toddler’s slower, physical ability to express may not be keeping pace with what s/he is thinking & understanding. However, here’s a little chart on what may be happening and/or what is to come.
Speech & Language Chart of Growth & Development
Age in Months
Receptive / Understanding
Expressive / Speaking
By 30 months
*Follows 2-step directions
*Consistently understands basic nouns, verbs, pronouns
*Understands "mine" & "yours"
*Can point to many body parts when asked
*Consistently uses 2-3 word phrases
*Knows & says own name
*Produces direction words, like in, out, on, off
*Begins to name requested objects
*Can say 400 words
*Participates in simple. take/turns conversation
*Repeats words heard in conversation
By 36 months
*Understands opposites like hot/cold, big/small
*Simple understanding of colors, space, time
*Recognizes how objects are used
*Understands "why" questions
*Understands most simple sentences
*Produces 4-5 word sentences
*Answers simple "who, what, where" questions
*Answers more "yes/no" questions
*Can say almost 900 words
*May begin telling stories about experiences
*Able to express some simple feelings
*Sings favorite songs
*Likes to make up silly words
*Talks aloud to self & in imaginary play
Special thanks to North Shore Pediatric Therapy 4 Kids Infographic: “Speech & Language Milestones” and Katie’s October 2012 article: “Your Child’s Speech & Language-24-36 Months @ Playing with Words 365 for sharing their information.
And by age 3, WHOA!!! Be prepared for an explosion of brain-fueled questions, answers & anything else needing to be expressed. You’re going to be amazed !!!
You Can Boost Your Toddler’s Language Literacy
The ability to think, reason & problem solve grows out of language. ~ Rudolf Steiner
You can help grow your mini Powerhouse’s ability to speak, using some of these tips collected from The Early Bird Program Manual, “Boosting Your Toddler’s Speech & Language” @ the piri-pirilexicon & Dr. Harvey Karp’s The Happiest Toddler on the Block :
Point out interesting sights & sounds at home, outside, on errands, trips
Use simple, but real language-no baby talk
Repeat words a lot, so your child will remember them
Describe everything your child is interested in
Ask questions in a questioning way, but don’t push for an answer
Sing songs, especially rhyming ones
Let your child hear you talking to other people, pets, birds, etc
Stop & listen
Be positive & fun
Rhyming, interactive poems are very enjoyable to your Toddler. Remember “Itsy Bitsy Spider” & “Hickory Dickory Dock” ?
I have create 5 games using 5 short, simple rhymes to play with your child to encourage speech while having fun:
Toddler Talk : 5 Interactive Body & Picture Play Rhymes
I am not afraid of storms, for I am learning how to sail my ship. ~ Louisa May Alcott Little Women
Yes, the Family Literacy Circle would not be complete unless the “personality” of your toddler is included. Believe it or not, this part of the growth & development is very important to understanding how learning is taking place as well as the communication being shared.
Dr. Harvey Karp, a pediatrician & author of The Happiest Toddler on the Block, offers a humorous & unique approach for meeting the challenges of your “cave-kid”.
Many toddlers are a blend of easy, cautious & spirited, depending on their mood of the moment. Dr. Karp provides 9 behavior traits for parents to observe while trying to solve the “problems” s/he is gleefully creating. They are:
Activity – Does your child enjoy playing quietly OR is s/he fidgety & constantly moving?
Regularity – Do you have a daily, predictable routine?
First Reaction – How does your child react to new situations?
Adaptability – How does your child handle change or unexpected events?
Intensity – Is your child mild/gentle OR boisterous/passionate?
Mood – Is your child usually happy/easy-going OR grumpy/easily frustrated?
Persistence – Does your child “go with the flow” OR fight all the way?
Attention Span – Is s/he focused during play OR easily distracted?
Sensitivity – Is s/he unaware of small changes OR reactive to them?
Karp estimated 40% of toddlers are easy-going/flexible, 15% are cautious/sensitive & 10% are spirited/challenging. He goes on to say that about one-third of toddlers don’t fit into any category.
My toddler was very spirited, could be cautious with some flexibility sprinkled in, but most of the time, he “steam-rolled over limits”. YAY…… What an eye-opener for adolescence-to-come!!!
What’s A Parent To Do ?!?!?
I’m not saying those few years were easy because I understood what was going on with my Mighty Mite……. However, there were a few strategies that worked for us, most of the time……
Having a Home School, my children & I relied on 3 of my Four Rs: Routine, Repetition & Ritual. Relax-not so much….
If you’re interested in some schedule-planning tips…..
Even though your 2 year old toddler continues to play along side not with, others, s/he may imitate some of their play movements. Parallel Play builds non-verbal & observation skills.
S/he will begin to notice patterns in the world, identify things that match & label, sort & organize things using color words. I observed toddlers at this age lining up their toys according to size & color or putting them in groups.
Around 2 1/2 years old, you may overhear your toddler engaging in fantasy, or pretend play. S/he might play simple games that require taking turns. S/he is preparing to be interested in Cooperative, or Associative Play, which usually occurs as a 3 year old.
The article, “Using Play to Build the Brain” @ gooeybrains.com, included an infographic by Bruce Perry, a leading psychiatrist at the Child Trauma Academy, explaining the developmental skills children gain through play. Here’s my version.
Encouraging & Nurturing Your Toddler’s Imagination
Imagination is more important than knowledge. ~ Albert Einstein
Listening to Pretend Play is one of the most enlightening ways to gain a glimpse into your child’s heart, mind, and spirit. It is fascinating! Even with minimal dialogue, his/her gestures, facial expressions & body language will communicate what s/he is saying during the serious work of play.
In the past 40 years, there’s been a revolution in our scientific understanding of babies & young children. Long before they can read or write, they have extraordinary powers of imagination and creativity, and long before they go to school, they have remarkable learning abilities. ~ Alison Gopnik “The Start of Thinking” for Time Magazine’s The Science of Childhood
Ann Ruethling & Patti Pitcher, who co-authored Under the Chinaberry Tree, observed that creativity is necessary to imagine new solutions with new ways of living to solve the world’s problems. They offer suggestions that really work for engaging your budding critical thinker.
Allow time for your child to experience hours of fantasy & outdoor play with very few toys that have only one answer & are prepackaged.
Allow your child to be bored without rescuing him/her because it stimulates creativity.
Always have materials to make things available at home, like string, sticks & boxes.
Limit structured daily time because it closes opportunities for open-ended play.
Make messes & mistakes
For centuries, children have created their toy-tools out of whatever they can find around them. They model for us-who have forgotten- how to synchronize work with play !
Your Toddler Is A Toy Maker
My parents , who raised 5, yes 5 giggly girls, love to tell the story of the rocking horse we received one Christmas. “Red” was a large, wooden, hand-painted, red horse, accented with black detail. He had heavy, coiled springs attached to a frame and lived in our living room for almost 10 years until the youngest had her last ride.
The huge box Red arrived in received most of the attention-for days-until it couldn’t stand anymore.
With nothing more than a little imagination, boxes can be transformed into forts or houses, spaceships or submarines, castles or caves. Inside a big cardboard box, a child is transported to a world of his/her own, where anything is possible. ~ National Toy Hall of Fame
Your toddler enjoys playing with a variety of toys. Until around 3 years old s/he will continue to “mouth” them. The list is simple:
push & pull toys
large & shaped blocks
cars & trucks
tricycle or low-rider
small & large balls
dolls & stuffed animals
table, chairs & play dishes
Bubbles, Bubbles, Bubbles ! A Perfect Toy!
Do we ever “outgrow” our love of bubbles?!? Hmmmm, let’s see… bubble baths, bubbly drinks, bubble gum, foam, froth, frolic…
Bubbles are fascinating fun, especially to your toddler. Chasing them can engage him/her for a while, especially if those bubbly “toys” make a landing before popping.
Oh yes, and popping them is fun, too! Big ones, small ones, wiggly ones, windy ones!
Learning to make & blow bubbles is a proud moment for her/him. Added bonus-speech muscles are being worked & new vocabulary is being learned.
Besides being introduced to a few scientific facts & skills, your child is, also, learning about:
cause & effect
imagination & creativity
Here’s a wonderful “bubble” website you can link to connect on:
You may have tangible wealth untold. Caskets of jewels and coffers of gold. Richer than I you can never be – I had a mother who read to me. ~ Strickland Gillilan
Your toddler’s brain is like sponge, soaking up enormous amounts of information. However, s/he needs constant repetition because s/he forgets most of what s/he is absorbing.
What Research Has Discovered
Reading is a crucial part of bonding and brain development. Although s/he is not understanding many of the words yet, his/her future depends on the number of words heard when spoken & read. (Dr. Michael Gurian, author of Nurture the Nature, 2007)
The first three years of exploring & playing with books, singing nursery rhymes, listening to stories, recognizing words & scribbling (more on this topic later on in this blog) are truly the building blocks for language & literacy development. (“Early Literacy” @zerotothree.org/BrainWonders, 2003)
When parents & loved ones show their young children how positive the reading experience is while sharing books, they play a powerful role in their children’s reading achievement. (Strickland & Denny, 1989)
Children who have had many loving, enjoyable reading experiences before coming to school “feel the joy of making sense of the mystery of print”. (Cullinen, 1989)
Research has discovered, reading favorite stories again & again (be ready to purchase several copies of several, well-loved books-I did), is very important to the literacy development of children. After repeated readings, children will “respond more frequently to questions in more complex ways”. (Teale &Sulzby 1987)
Discovering Your Toddler’s Favorite Books
Does your toddler carry around some of his/her books?
Have you noticed her/him reading them to stuffed animals & dolls?
Good job, Parents! Reading & books are part of your child’s life.
Ready to introduce more books into your Toddler’s library?
Choose books with simple, realistic life images; touchy/textured parts & look-and-see discovery flaps. S/he will begin turning the pages back & forth. Soon, s/he will noticed the print and ask you what it says.
Here are some suggestions from “BrainWonders & Sharing Books with Babies” @zerotothree.com:
books with simple stories
rhyming books that can be memorized
books about: shapes. sizes, numbers & the alphabet
books about: animals, vehicles, playtime
books about saying hello & goodbye
Need a few actual book titles? Check out these book lists in BLB’s Resource Library:
Draw a book with your Toddler watching. Make books with photos. Including your Toddler’s life in these photo books is fun and a great ways to build language, literacy & self-esteem. Here’s some ideas for (Baby’s Name) Helps At Home:
Cooking in the Kitchen – Mommy mixes in a bowl / I can mix in a bowl; I put water in a pot / Daddy makes pasta; etc
Cleaning Around the House – Mommy & I dust; Daddy & I vacuum; I help Mommy & Daddy wash, dry, fold & put away clothes
Playing Together – We read together; we sing & dance together; we build together; we walk the dog together
A Few Words About Literacy & Wordless Picture Books
Sharing wordless picture books with your Toddler is a great way to encourage the growth of important Literacy skills. It builds oral language, vocabulary, comprehension & listening skills. Since you are creating the story, be sure to include a beginning, middle & end.
Spend time looking at the cover and talking about the book’s title. Enjoy the pictures, point out a few things, and stay on one page as long as your Toddler is interested. Here is a Wordless Picture Book reference list from BLB’s Resource Library:
How to encourage Your Toddler’s Literacy with Reading
You’re never too old, too wacky, too wild, to pick up a book and read to a child. ~ Dr. Seuss
Interactive reading- talking with your child about the story while the story is being read- encourages language development. Questions about the pictures & the story engage your Toddler’s attention. Comments & predictions will soon follow.
Your 2 year old Toddler may want the story s/he has heard before to be read exactly like you’ve read it the previous 10 times. You may hear him/her reading this same story to pets & toys.
S/he will not only be pointing & identifying objects in the pictures, s/he will begin identifying the actions, too. S/he may want to hear longer and more complex stories read at different times.
When reading a book with your Toddler, encourage good reading habits by using this sequence:
reading the title/author/illustrator
looking at the book cover, ask your child to make a prediction about the story before opening the book
occasionally asking your child “what is happening” by looking at the pictures, especially if s/he seems “fixed” on a picture
tracking the words as you read
occasionally asking “recall” questions – what/how/do you think
using expression as you read/changing voices for characters
reading the story again
enjoying the story with your child & make it entertaining
NOTE: If your wiggly Toddler is not interested in reading a book together, please do not push it. S/he will bring a book to you soon. Just make sure s/he sees you & loved ones reading & writing. Yes, maybe, s/he is more interested in writing…..
A Writer or Artist In Your Family Literacy Circle?
Your Toddler’s fine motor skills are becoming more defined. S/he is able to stack block towers, string beads, hold a spoon when eating & turn the pages of a book.
Include your child when writing short messages- phone, greeting cards, love notes. Show your child the difference between writing & drawing. When you write the grocery shopping list, include some drawings- apples, milk jug, macaroni.
Make sure fat pencils, crayons & sidewalk chalk are available for your Toddler to use at home.
If your child likes to draw on paper, you can make a very special “book” together. After her/his drawing is completed, ask about it. Write the sentence, or words, on a sticky note. Ask if you can write it on the front or back of the picture. Make a collection of these in a book you can read together.
Your Toddler’s oral and written expressions are important ways to build growth in literacy. There are no rules-just opportunities!
If you’ve read to the end of this (WHEW!) long post about your child’s BIG year, I have a little something for you & yours. Click, download & print on the link below for some PlayDay ideas with your Toddler.
I am talking about your three year-old, NOT you…..
Well then (BIG sigh), your Post-Toddler has arrived.
S/he appears less frantic & can sit still for longer periods of time when engaged in an interesting activity. S/he is using words more & “body” less when expressing feelings.
S/he is showing more interest & patience with exploration & discovery. Notice how s/he is spending more time observing & imitating others.
That is why I named this stage of growth & development: Post-Toddler. Still some Toddler-stuff present, but outbursts & frustrations are less frequent. Unless s/he is tired, sick, hungry, and/or just having one of those days (don’t we all?!?).
And sometimes those “growing pains” can be….well, you know…
Some “Changes” You May Be Seeing
Body & Movement Skills
appears taller & leaner
puts on shoes & dresses with some help
feeds oneself with a spoon
throws overhand & tries to catch
jumps & climbs
pedals a trike or low-rider
holds a crayon with thumb & first 2 fingers
enjoys manipulating play-doh/clay, sand & water
YOU CAN: show your child how to hop, tiptoe, waddle, slither
Brain Growth & Expression
understands “now”, “soon” & “later”
asks who, what, where & when questions
shows an interest in alike & different
identifies the colors red, blue, yellow & green
talks in 3-5 word sentences
may stumble over some words, but is NOT stuttering
YOU CAN: add small, new bits of information to your child’s sentences
Emotional & Social Development
follows simple directions
makes choices between 2 different things
enjoys making others laugh & being silly
enjoys playing with other for short periods of time
wants adult attention & approval
likes looking at “when you were a baby” pictures
YOU CAN: ask for help with simple household tasks
Now that wasn’t your three year-old a year ago, was it?
Need more info? PBS Parents is a great site loaded with specifics. Click on the link below.
Your Post-Toddler’s Language Literacy continues to develop & grow.
S/he can enunciate most consonants & vowels with a few consonant blends, too, like “tw” & “kw”.
With over 300 words in his/her expressive vocabulary, s/he is talking A LOT more – to you, toys, pets, nature. Although your child, at this stage, still thinks each word has only one meaning, s/he is, also, spending much of the day asking A LOT of questions.
Think “who, did what, when & where”. These questions/answers are actually the building blocks of reading comprehension’s Main Idea. You are finally discovering what is in that hard little head of hers/his.
Your 3 year-old believes there is an answer to every question asked (isn’t there?!?). Even “Magic !” is a reasonable answer to him/her.
Be ready, though, s/he may answer your question with a question. Or water the dog to make it grow…..
Dr. Harvey Karp, a pediatrician who wrote The Happiest Toddler on the Block, suggests using “Okay?” at the end of ideas, directions, etc. This simple word shows your child you, not only, have an interest in her/his point of view, but also, hope s/he agrees with yours……possibly…..
How You Can Continue to Encourage Your Post-Toddler’s Language Literacy Growth
Iowa State University Extension & Outreach’s Info-Sheet on Developmental Milestones, “Ages & Stages at 3 Years”, offers these suggestions:
Use directional words, such as “in/on/under” when explaining &/or answering.
Use comparison words, like “big/little, same/different, front/behind”.
Sing songs, rhymes, sounds, words & simple sentences.
Ask your child to tell you a story.
Have many back-and-forth conversations, using short sentences, asking questions & listening.
Talk about colors, shapes & numbers everyday.
Take a Nature Walk. Look for & talk about shapes, sizes, colors, textures, smells & sounds.
Teach your child to memorize his/her first & last name.
Play Power = Brain Power
A mind once stretched to a new idea never returns to its original size. ~ Oliver Wendall Holmes
Play is the essential tool we use, as humans, to develop our 5 senses, gross & fine motor skills, receptive & expressive language, as well as emotional & social skills.
It, also, influences the amount of brain cells we produce.
Exploration, curiosity & determination are the necessary paths we use to discover how to understand our world, whether large or small.
Nothing child-like about it!
It’s a survival skill we use everyday and all day long. Well, most of us anyway…..
Currently, your Post-Toddler’s brain continues to develop in 2 areas: the Limbic, or emotional part of the brain & the Cortical, or thinking part of the brain.
Emotional/Social growth begins around 12 months and continues until 48 months. This stage of development can be encouraged with play involving teams: winning, losing, taking turns & sharing.
The growth of concrete & abstract thinking begins around 36 months and continues until 6 years old. Play involving humor, language, arts & games will encourage this stage of development.
Serious Play Is Hard Work
And hard work can not be successfully accomplished without serious play….
So, if you equate play with fun ~ it doesn’t always work that way. Play is the action, or process used during creation, exploration, & experimentation until we reach the destination, or discovery.
A bit wordy, I know, but synchronizing work with play is “how I roll”.
I combined Kristina @ Planes & Balloons’ 2016 article, “Some of the Many Benefits of Play” with Perry, Hogan & Marlin’s 2000 article, “Curiosity, Pleasure & Play: Skills Developed Through Play” to create an info-table explaining the impact of play on your child’s brain development.
Play & Your Child's Brain Development
Emotional & Social
Additionally, your child’s desire & ability to Role Play, I feel, is developed within all 3 of these brain areas. Creativity & self-expression may influence the particular role s/he is “playing”. Is s/he fantasizing, imitating, and/or coping ?
Be Your Child’s Play Promoter
Although your Post-Toddler still enjoys playing beside others & watching them play, soon, s/he will have the tools to play WITH other children.
The ability to share, take turns and cooperate continues to grow & develop with each passing day.
Remember, some people are more socially-driven than others.
In 2016 NourishBaby displayed Shoptwinkie.com’s infographic, “The Importance of Play in Early Childhood”. Learning through discovery will happen if you:
don’t take over (Here, let me….)
ask questions (How are you going to….)
allow him/her to find the answers independently (Oh, I see…….)
Interactive Talk & Play
If your child enjoys interactive language while playing, another part of the material included script suggestions for supporting the different stages in your child’s play:
What will you need ?
Let’s think about what you are going to do.
Tell me how you will start. What will happen then?
I wonder what this is.
What do you think that is for?
Why do you think that happened?
Tell me how it all started.
Can you remember what happened when….?
How did that feel?
Can you guess what will happen next?
What do you think will happen if you….?
What do you think will happen if you don’t….?
Providing A Defined Play Space At Home
Not all parents want to turn their homes into a giant playground. Many children enjoy having a “space of their own”. This “office of play” is part of your child’s growth & development.
Keep an ear out though. Too quiet for an extended period of time and you may need to “step into the office….”
Creating an area with sturdy (so you can sit in them, too), child-sized chairs & a table encourages your child to sit and focus on independent play. Building with blocks, having a tea party, working puzzles, making a race track or construction site, creating art, and even reading a book can become a part of your Post-Toddler’s learning.
Any amount of time, even a minute or two, during which children sit and entertain themselves with one thing helps them grow. ~ Felicia Sklamberg, a clinical specialist in pediatric occupational therapy at New York University Langone Medical Center
With Open-Ended Toys & Free Play
Open-ended toys are really the discovery tools of learning & growing. By definition they are “things” that can be used in a variety of ways to encourage:
Does your child like to stack block towers, sort objects by size & colors, and/or put a 3-6-piece puzzle together? Play outside with large wheeled toys, all sizes of balls, and/or sticks & rocks ?
Are you wondering what other kinds of toys will encourage your child’s brain health, growth & development ?
Will these toy-tools encourage discovery within the Family Literacy Circle ?
“Yes” to all questions?
Here’s a list of some other open-ended, free play tools (with their skill sets), your 3 year old will probably enjoy :
music for song & dance
play-doh & clay
any large-wheeled toy
medium & large blocks
nesting & stacking toys
crayons, paint/brushes, glue & paper
community helper hats & tools
tents & teepees
castles & houses
barns & fences
street signs & stores
puppets & dolls
habitat animals: farm, jungle, forest, water
building blocks with a variety of colors, sizes & shapes
construction toys (needed to be put together)
And BOOKS, BOOKS, BOOKS !!!
Make it a rule never to give a child a book you would never read yourself. ~ George Bernard Shaw
By now some of those well-loved books might need to be replaced with a second copy. Some of those “baby books” may need to be tucked away for another time & place.
Are you taking your Post-Toddler to a StoryTime at your local library, play group, elementary school or rec center? If so, observe what kinds of books are holding your child’s interest.
Many 3 year-olds love to hear stories about other places and people.
Pull some age-appropriate books from the library shelves in the children’s Picture Books, or Easy Books section.
Sit down & spread them out. See which ones will get “checked out” for home reading.
Have your 3 year-old try these 10 books on for size:
DON’T LET THE PIGEON DRIVE THE BUS! ~ Mo Willens
THE OLIVIA SERIES ~ Ian Falconer
A FISH OUT OF WATER ~ Helen Palmer
WHOEVER YOU ARE ~ Mem Fox
THE MIXED-UP CHAMELEON ~ Eric Carle
GREEN EGGS AND HAM ~ Dr. Seuss
CARS AND TRUCKS AND THINGS THAT GO ~ Richard Scarry
THE INCREDIBLE BOOK EATING BOY ~ Oliver Jeffers
BLUE HAT, GREEN HAT ~ Sandra Boynton
GO, DOG, GO ! ~ PD Eastman
Be forewarned – I had to replace most of these books at home and in my classroom…….several times….
On – The – Go Reading Nooks With Your Post-Toddler
Reading should not be presented to children as a chore or duty. It should be offered to them as a precious gift. ~ Kate DiCamillo
If you have been steadily reading to your Post-Toddler since s/he was in-utero, you probably have a little bookworm in your home.
Some children love being read to until they can hop off the cuddly lap of story-land.
Catch ‘Em & Read:
before or during quiet time
under a tree outside
in a hammock outside
in the tent or teepee
under some covers with a flashlight
Some children would rather hear a story-telling instead of a book-story. “Stories can and should be part of your household routines & schedules. They can be as short or long as your listener’s attention.” Lisa Lipkin, Bringing the Story Home
Non-Book Literacy Stories
Make sure to include the story elements: beginning (characters & setting), middle (action & problem), ending (solution & prediction)
Ask & answer interactive questions throughout the story
Invite your child to contribute to the story-telling
Capture your child’s attention while on a drive or a walk, in a waiting room or line, at the bus or train stop, during bathtime or before bedtime
Use fantasy, humor & family history as part of the story
Dress-up in role-play clothing & ask your child to tell you a story about the character you are
Include simple props & toys for settings, characters & dialogue
Every Time We Read A Book…..
Whether the book is fiction or non-fiction, here are some tips for building literacy while reading aloud at this age & older:
Encourage solid pre-reading habits- daily reads, book handling, word tracking, time & order (first/middle/last), retelling with complete sentences.
Ask interactive questions while reading a story- what will happen next/how does the character feel/has this ever happened to you.
Read slowly & wait for her/him to turn the pages.
Answer your listener’s questions.
Make up rhyming words with some of the simpler words.
Use the story’s pictures to make up more stories.
Let the listener “read” the story.
I Think My Child Is Ready To Read…..
The first time my son (at 3 years-old) said, “I can read this book to you!”, my wide eyes glistened with anticipation. I couldn’t wait to hear my little genius read ME a story….at 3 YEARS OLD!!!!!
Sure enough, he proudly held the book and carefully “read” each page of The Little Red Car, one of his favorite boardbooks.
He didn’t miss a word. I clapped with glee!
Over the next few weeks, he read & read this book to me….faster & faster. I guess he was becoming one with the little red car.
One day I asked him to point to the words as he read them…….uh huh…..
Smiling, I never said a word, and he continued to read the story to me everyday for the next few years.
We, also, continued playing colors, shapes, letters, sounds & word-picture rhyming games.
Learning, knowing , and applying the concepts of same & different shapes is a major step for success in letter recognition. Seeing the same & different shapes in the world prepares your child to make sense of “visual discrimination”.
BLB Shop has a collection of Interactive Color & Shape games created to prepare your child to recognize these pre-reading concepts:
I became more consistent tracking words with their pictures when I read simple sentence stories.
What Are Pre-Reading Behaviors?
Is your child showing you some of these Pre-Reading behaviors :
Makes comments about language & unusual words
Makes up word games
Creates & plays with words using rhyme
Invents “silly” words
Plays with sounds
Plays with magnetic letters
Likes to read alphabet books
Sings the alphabet song
Points out “environmental print”, like the S in a stop sign
Knows it is the print that is read in stories
Hmmmm, Not Quite Ready….How Can I Help ?
Bookoola Ink from Australia produced a wonderful infographic, explaining what your child needs to know before learning to read:
Rhyme the sounds that letters make
Track / follow objects with eyes
Talk with an increasing vocabulary
Build things using fingers & hands independently to hold books & turn pages
Do puzzles to differentiate sizes, shapes, lines & directions
Look at books frequently for discovery & fun
Listen to someone read every day
The 5 Must-Know Skills for Reading Readiness
First of all, how is your child’s vocabulary progressing ? S/he has learned most words indirectly through your daily conversations, interactive read-alouds, both fiction & nonfiction as well as movies/screen time. Build his/her vocabulary for understanding in these 4 areas:
Listening Vocabulary are words we hear & understand when hearing directions & a story
Speaking Vocabulary are words we use when we talk about our day & ask/answer questions
Reading Vocabulary are words we understand when we read, retell stories or create story from pictures we see
Writing Vocabulary are words we use when we write & draw pictures to tell a story
All About Learning Press, Inc has a concise list with tips for your eager-to-read child. Do be sure your Post-Toddler is comfortable and consistent with these skills:
Motivation to Read
Enjoys being read to
Pretends to read or write
Often asks for read-aloud time
Is enthusiastic about books
Thinks reading is fun
Realizes print on a page are words with meaning when spoken
Holds book correctly
Understands the direction that books are read-front to back
Knows print is read top to bottom
Recognizes sentences are read from left to right
Understands story sequence
Can retell a familiar story with accuracy
Answers simple questions about a story
Asks questions during read-alouds
Understands the meaning of words being read
Relates to the words being read in some way
Understands both verbal & visual information
Can sing the Alphabet song with help
Recognizes upper & lowercase letters
Begins to associate letters with sounds
Can hear & identify different sounds in spoken words
Can rhyme words
Knows a sentence has multiple , individual words
Can blend sounds to make a word
Can identify the beginning & ending sound of a word
How Do I Teach the Alphabet
If your child is is ready, you might want to begin with her/his name. You can try to use upper & lowercase letters, but for beginning readers & writers, uppercase letters are not only easier to differentiate & recognize, but also, easier to write.
Read lots of engaging alphabet books ~ here’s a few my children & I have enjoyed:
ABC ANIMAL RHYMES ~ G. Andreae
ABC AT HOME ~ A. Hawthorne & D. Zawada
CHICKA CHICKA BOOM BOOM ~ J.Archambault
DR. SEUSS’ ABC ~ Dr. Seuss
MY FIRST RHYMING PICTURE ABC ~ B. Miles
BRUNO MUNARI’S ABC ~ B. Munari
MISS SPIDER’S ABC ~ D. Kirk
THE PHONICS ABC ~ K. Dare
ALPHABET CITY ~ S.T. Johnson
FARM ALPHABET BOOK ~ J. Miller
Playing alphabet games is another way to continue the learning process. It is a process, so let your ABC learner set the pace. Several five-minute lessons each day may be good. So will skipping some days.
Don’t forget to repeat, maybe with a different lesson for review.
Let your child select the letters. Unless ABC order is insisted upon by your Post-Toddler, here are a few sequences to consider:
Many of my Reluctant Readers learned to read NOT by reading books, but through their own writings. They were always ready to read their own words instead of another’s words.
Their stories, surprisingly, with a few prompts, usually included all the elements of a fluid tale: beginning (characters & setting), middle (problem & solution), and ending. Another follow-up story was always in the tank, so to speak. But, I’m getting ahead of myself here….
Drawing, painting, coloring & writing are all very powerful expressions. For parents & educators, they offer magical windows into the heart, mind & soul of anyone, especially a child.
But holding & controlling a paintbrush, crayon and/or pencil is a developmental feat for your young child. It takes a lot of practice with some determination, usually.
Fine Motor Skills Mastery
The mastery of fine motor skills, paired with the ability to create images in your head, is an incredible accomplishment for anyone, especially a child.
I am always amazed when watching a child in the creative zone!
In 2011 Katie Norris @ Mommy with Selective Memory and her friend Susan Case, an experienced Kindergarten teacher, created a GREAT list of Activities to Develop Fine Motor Skills :
pouring elements using funnels, tubes, colanders
sorting small objects
pushing objects through a slot
picking up marbles
building with blocks, logs, legos
lacing with lacing cards
grasping & placing puzzle pieces
arranging a variety of objects
picking up & placing stickers
playing with play-doh: pulling, pressing, stretching, rolling, pounding, squeezing, pinching
beading with yarn & string
marking with fat pencils, fat crayons, sidewalk chalk
cutting with safety scissors
Writing & Drawing : Same But Different
Although your child is using the same physical skills to write & draw – the brain has other ideas. Your Post-Toddler needs to understand that writing & drawing are different.
Print carries a message. Show your beginning writer the many ways to use writing:
names & addresses
Put big dots with a connecting line in a column on paper. Encourage your Post-Toddler’s “scribblings” for making a list of :
Write in large, traceable letters what the words are underneath or beside each entry.
Bookoola Ink from Australia produced a wonderful infographic, explaining what your child needs to know before learning to write:
Imagine – make up stories when painting & creating
Scribble & Draw – make marks & shapes to communicate messages
Climb – need strong arms & body muscles to sit up & write
Someone to show me how important writing is everyday
What Is Pre – Writing
Learning to write in a legible way can be very challenging (see a note from your doctor). Muscle control is key as well as grasp & flexibility.
Doodling & pathway lines are good ways to prepare your child’s fingers & hand for handwriting. There are pages you can find at teacher stores & on line with fun ways to get to the “treasure”.
Anna Luther @ CincinnatiChildrens.org has a few pre-writing activity suggestions for your 3-year-old:
Name Tracing with your child using a highlighter on paper; try using upper & lowercase letters
Cutting Practice out of magazines & catalogs; glue on paper & write the simple names underneath
Play Doh Rope Letters formed on top of a large chosen letter you have written on paper
Dot – To – Dot Letters written on paper for your child to connect
Please remember to keep in mind every child grows & develops at his/her own pace. These ideas are suggestions for creating Literacy opportunities when your child is ready. And s/he will let you know as long as the activities are available & FUN!
Isn’t this an exciting time for you & your Post-Toddler?
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While we try to teach our children all about life, our children teach us what life is all about. ~ Angela Schwindt
WOW! Can you believe your baby is ALREADY 4 years old ?
And how DIFFERENT your child is from only a year ago ?
Way too energetic, busy & imaginative to spend time with …..tantrums (most of the time….)?
Becoming a problem solver right before your very eyes?
Humorous? Very chatty, using LOTS of new words?
Wants to play WITH others?
I mean…. just the PHYSICAL accomplishments alone are HUGE:
runs, hops, jumps & SKIPS (really worked hard on that one skill); leaps & balance are next…..
catches, throws & BOUNCES (whoa!) a ball; kicking & hitting on the horizon
pedals & steers a trike or lowrider; downhill racing….yikes!!!!
unzip, unsnap & unbutton clothing (yay?)
uses spoon, fork…….& knife (serrated butter) to feed, not propel, yet…….
SOOOOO, your (baby)child is performing these daily tasks solo with A LOT of pride:
washing (with soap) & drying hands (on a towel….when reminded)
using utensils to eat (skillfully)
dressing in clothes ?!? (another whoa……)
Kindergarten is right around the corner (YIKES)…..
Speaking of “Very Chatty”…..
Did you just hear your child say….”actually” and/or “as a matter of fact” ?!?!?
Here’s a fun & interesting activity ~ count how many times your four-year-old asks “WHY?” in a day, afternoon, hour….
I remember thinking to myself ~ after offering a reasonable, age-appropriate response to my little builder’s “why ?” ~ he is still asking “why”….
And “because I said so” never worked….
Oh, I did say, on several, well more than several occasions, “well, why do you think…..” and had my “mind blown” more than a few times as well !
“How?” questions are, also, favorites of the four-year-old inquiring & expanding mind.
Speaking of questions – asked & answered – you may want to find out which “wh-” questions your small inquisitor can understand & answer. for example, ask this series of related questions several hours after the fact:
What did you eat for snack?
Where did you eat your snack?
When did you eat your snack? ( a little more challenging because the concept of time is still developing)
How did you eat your snack?
Who did you eat your snack with ?
Why did you eat your snack ?
Building on what is known to acquire more answers is, in my opinion, what your “I AM FOUR!” child is exploring, discovering & constructing. Being able to verbalize so many thoughts & questions her/his brain has been working on for several years is especially gratifying. So, prepare to become the go-to Fountain of Knowledge for your preschooler.
These questioning marathons are wonderful opportunities as skill- builders:
responding in conversation-mode
creating more complex sentences
sharing what is learned with others
critical thinking (more on that later)
following sequential directions
storytelling- imagined & real
comprehending stories read/told
listening for important, relevant information
understanding new vocabulary
The Listening & Speaking Language of Literacy
Yes, right now, your four-year-old not only understands 3-4 THOUSAND words. s/he can, also, speak 1500 words…in complex sentences.
Don’t worry if you overhear your growing child “talking to her/himself”. S/he is just practicing conversation skills.
You may even hear him/her using a simpler sentence structure when speaking to younger children ! Amazing, huh ?!?
A word about enunciation – s, ch, sh, z, j, v, th, & zh are still difficult to produce and will probably continue to be for the next few years.
Is s/he creating words when a word needed for expressing a thought isn’t in his/her vocabulary? How wonderful is that? Playing with words is a great building block for reading. Keep those words in an “I AM FOUR!” dictionary.
There are many ways to help increase your child’s vocabulary:
Read aloud – often.
Use new, “big” words during daily conversations.
Make sure s/he understands the meanings of new words. Ask.
Add descriptive words to your stories & your child’s stories.
Create picture/word charts or word walls. review.
Use themes to grow vocabulary: Halloween, seasons, animals, foods, etc
Identify objects using color, number, same/different, size (big/little)
Introduce quantity comparison words, like empty & full, more & less
Teach positional & directional concept words
What Are Directional & Positional Concept Words ?
Both lists of these concept words answer where or how objects & people are placed or arranged.
Directional & Positional concept words add dimension & more precise descriptors to your child’s vocabulary. They, not only help define his/her world, but also, bring a greater understanding of order into it.
You can teach these vocabulary words everyday as part of your conversations with your child.
Make it into a fun, interactive game using toys. Take turns putting the block in front of the bear and, then, behind the bear. Place the car near the ball and. then, far away from the ball.
Click on the link below to download & copy a list of these beginning concept words.
If your child is struggling to learn these spatial concepts, here are a few teaching tips from Carrie Clark, a speech pathologist @ speechandlanguagekids.
Teach by demonstration & object, one pair of concept words at a time, ie up & down
Hand your child the object, telling him/her to hold it up in the air or down on the floor
Ask a yes/no question while you demonstrate: Am I holding the (object) up in the air? Down on the floor?
Have your child tell you whether s/he is holding the (object) up in the air or down on the floor.
If the pair of concept words are too confusing, choose a different pair or just begin with one word of the pair.
Are You Following Directions ?
I cannot tell you how many 100s (uh-1000s) of times I asked this question as a classroom teacher ! OMG!!!!
Even when repeating the directions and, then, having students parrot back those same directions successfully, the follow – through lacked success….. Really- “Put your name on your paper.” Some of my FIFTH graders were not doing this, even with a prompt! GOOD GRIEF!!!
Perhaps some early childhood intervention will help prepare your pre-schooler for the onslaught of directions that will be part of the daily elementary school routine for every activity. AND from a variety of teachers.
Developmentally, your four-year-old is not only understanding & usually following 3 step directions, but also, those directions do not have to be related.
Sidebar ~ when giving directions, try to say “please” & “thank you”. It is a good opportunity for modeling manners & showing appreciation.
Does your child struggle with this skill?
Click on the link below for access to The BLB Resource Library’s :
Play gives children a chance to practice what they are learning. For children, play is serious learning! ~ Fred Rogers
By the age of four, 85% of your child’s core brain structure is formed. This core brain structure is the basis for future health and academic success.
Studies continue to pour in regarding the critical role free play has in the growth and development of the brain, as well as physical and social skills.
In 2007 the American Academy of Pediatrics reported that play stimulates brain growth in the areas of:
A research team at the University of Arkansas linked play to increases in cognitive & thinking skills at infancy, 3 years of age & again at 4.5 years of age.
Various studies have linked higher learning skills to playing with blocks.
Pretend play increases language & vocabulary skills in both speaking & understanding.
Play promotes, not only, the mental health of your child, but also, his/her physical health:
gross & fine motor control
The social development of your child during play is HUGE! (more on play stages & types later) Play, not only, teaches your child how to play, but also, how to play with others. Cooperative play promotes:
communication skills of listening, cooperating & negotiating
Free play isn’t just something children like to do ~ free play is something they NEED to do.
The Price of Free Play
In 2011, Dr. Peter Gray, a Boston University psychology professor, published an article in the American Journal Of Play regarding the importance of play. Gray and other play experts have noted the relationship between the decline of free playtime and the rise of depression, anxiety & suicides.
As the average amount of time spent in highly structured play, such as organized sports, play dates, enrichment classes, etc, rises, so do these mental health issues.
Passive leisure spent on screen time, such as television, video games. texting, etc, is, also, impacting the mental health of our youngsters’ growth & development in a negative way.
How to encourage Quality Play Time
Oompah.com of “naturally brilliant toys” created a wonderful infographic with these simple, every-day tips you probably already include within your child’s play-scape.
Use everyday opportunities / schedules are not necessary
cooking a meal
setting the table
making home repairs
walking around the neighborhood
listening to music
get on the floor
put together new puzzles
teach how to take turns during games
take an interest in your child’s games
Add “loose parts” to encourage creativity during play
make blankets, logs, ropes, buckets & boxes available
items that can be moves, changed, combined, manipulated
pitch a tent in the backyard
play & splash in the rain
plant a garden
make nature art
build a fort
go on a nature treasure hunt
There’s Play & Then, There’s Play
Your preschooler is beginning to play WITH others more. S/he is learning the interactive lessons of give, take & cooperation ~ the Social stage of play.
Did you know within each of the stages of play, there are different types of play ~ around 16 according to A Playworker’s Taxonomy of Play Types by B. Hughes? Your child has been engaged in a variety of play “types” since birth. With the help of the website, thehealingpathwithchildren.com , I have listed 14 of them in alphabetical, NOT developmental order.
Check out this “Table of Play”.
DEFINITION AND/OR CHARACTERISTICS
using words, suggestions & gestures
mime, charades, jokes, play acting, singing, whispering, pointing, poetry, ball games
using self-expression & imagination to make & change things with an element of surprise
“We all can dance,” he said, “if we find the music we love.” ~ Giles Andreae Giraffes Can’t Dance
Does your “BIG” 4 year-old, who is trying to figure out the meaning of everything, want everything s/he sees on TV, in stores, at school, and, of course, anything his/her friends have in their possession? See the relationship between the two?
New studies show most preschoolers prefer to play with objects that will teach them the most. This spontaneous, “active learning” of play gives them greater experiences about how those objects work. Alison Gopnik The Philosophical Baby 2009
Oompah Toys.com’s infographic “Playtime!” includes a toy list for Highest Quality Playtime. These toys are open-ended, which means they encourage creativity & imagination. They, also, offer multiple opportunities for a variety of pretend play scenarios.
Here’s their list (with some additions) of what kinds of toys & tools encourage what types of play:
books (see my Resource Library for some suggestions)
strategy & board games (click on the link below for some ideas)
Welcome to the Family Literacy Circle’s Kindergarten Series
This year is a HUGE one for your 5-year-old ! Kindergarten is one (yes, another one) of your child’s milestones. Many preparations for changes are needed for a successful launch into his/her first, big school year.
Five of the major Literacy Acts influencing this new Play are: Language Skills, Play Power, Choosing a School, Reading Skills , and Writing Skills. So, I am dividing this incredibly important year into a series of 5 separate blog posts.
You should listen to even the smallest voice; someday it could be the one that makes a difference. ~ Crystal Marcos
ACT ONE : Language Skills
Your lively, spirited, and VERY curious 5-year-old child is SO ready to embrace the wonders of the world ! Those tools s/he has so diligently been working on and with are beginning to show some mastery. Frustration levels are lessening and confidence levels are rising. S/he is even amazing him/herself. “Look what I can do !” & “Wanna see me……?!?” are frequent expressions now.
Within just one year, from age 4 to age 5, s/he has experienced tremendous growth in his/her gross & fine motor skills (moving & grasping) , language skills (understanding & speaking), cognitive skills (thinking & learning), and social skills (feeling & relating).
Here are some “new ” Motor & Social Skill developments you might be seeing during this incredible year:
Gross Motor Skills
throws a ball overhead
jumps over low objects
rides a 3 wheeler with skill
skips ~ a thrilling moment
catches bounced balls ~ another thriller
can change the direction, speed & quality of movements
Fine Motor Skills
shows a right or left hand preference
controls & uses a fork & knife
dresses oneself with little help
can manage zippers & buttons
can lace shoes, but not tie yet
cuts on a line with scissors
uses pencils & crayons in a more exacting way
is eager to try new things & take risks
makes decisions for oneself
notices the feelings of others
likes to feel grownup, especially when relating to younger children
has a basic understanding of right & wrong
understands & respects rules
enjoys giving & receiving
wants to collect things
needs to have a “hide-away” place for alone time
Encouraging Your Child’s Motor & Social Skills
Iowa State University’s Extension & Outreach program suggests these teaching & learning opportunities:
Gross & Fine Motor Skills
using a broom
pouring from a pitcher
playing “Follow the Leader” with skipping, galloping, hopping
tossing a ball at a target
helping to ride a bicycle with training wheels. if your child expresses an interest
cutting out coupons
setting the family table
providing that comfortable “hide-away” place
helping him/her understand strong feelings
giving her/him words to cope with strong feelings
praising specific behaviors specifically
Loving & Learning Language (with Some Deletions)
Believe it or not, your 5-year-old can understand between 4000 & 5000 words AND will gain 3000 more words within the year. Many new words will be learned through new experiences with new books, particular areas of interest (animals, plants, community helpers), and category names (weather, planets, cooking).
S/he has a speaking vocabulary of between 2200 and 2500 words with few pronunciation or grammatical errors. S/he is constructing 5-8 word complex & compound sentences, including conditional “If” statements!
I know you might be thinking, “Do we even say that many different words when speaking to him/her ?!?”
And now you’re saying, “Where did you hear / learn that word (or those words)?!?!?”
Your directed speech to your child may not contain a big variety of words, but s/he is listening to and watching a LOT more language than your expressions from a LOT of different sources. Think ~ other people, young & old, everywhere…….
If your child listens to what s/he hears, understanding what is being said may, or may not be part of his/her language experience. Remember spelling certain words around certain ears…..
You’ll know what s/he knows as the words (like them or not) come tumbling out of your “babe’s mouth”……
The Difference Between Understanding & Speaking Skills
Understanding Language Skills
follows 3-step directions without cues*
makes sense of what is said at home & at school (most of the time)
comprehends short stories & answers question with accuracy
makes direct requests, using cause & effect reasoning
A major perk at this time of your child’s speech & language development is his/her ability learn a second or third language ! This will improve how quickly your child understands and, then, applies new information as well as using it in creative ways.
Encouraging Your Child’s Language Skills
During the last 5 years (and even before that- in utero), you have been engaging & interacting with your child. This is why his/her language skills are developing so nicely.
The “Ages & Stages” content for a 5-year-old in Iowa State University’s Extension & Outreach program and I suggest continuing your productive work with these teaching & learning opportunities. They will encourage your child’s language growth in listening, understanding & speaking :
Listening & Understanding Skills
talk with your child as s/he learns & practices new tasks
ask your child to create new & different endings to familiar stories
help your child memorize his/her address & phone number
discuss community helpers & their jobs
have your child give you directions on how to do something
ask your child to tell you a story
encourage your child to recount an adventure and/or outing
urge your child to use her/his 5 senses when describing an experience and/or object
engage your child in a conversation using questions
have conversations that promote your child’s curiosity
Carrie Clark, a speech pathologist, has LOTS of wonderful resources, tips, ideas & games on her website to promote your child’s growth & development in her/his language skills. Click on this link:https://www.speechandlanguagekids.com/
Speaking of Language & Literacy….
Understanding and using language to speak are building blocks for the reading component of Literacy. The beginning skills included in Phonological Awareness are followed closely by Phonemic Awareness and, then, Phonics.
During your child’s 4th year, s/he really showed an enjoyment for rhyme (can, fan, man, pan, ran) and alliteration (Freddy found forty fossils).
Between 5 & 6 years old, s/he can learn to:
recognize and produce rhyming words: bug, hug &_______?
clap and count syllables: cat (1), rabbit (2)
blend a beginning sound with a rime: /m/ /at/ (mat)
identify a beginning sound: in “dog” /d/
This last component bridges into the Phonemic Awareness realm of The 41 English Sounds. More on the Land of Phonemes the Family Literacy Circle post for age 6.
“J” Is the First Sound in ………….
Wondering how your child’s Phonological Awareness skills are progressing?
Jen, a K-12 Reading specialist, & Kathi, a K-6 Literacy coach are “hellotwopeasinapod”. They have combined their expertise and graciously freebied a great Phonological Awareness Assessment, which, also, tests Phonemic Awareness. This diagnostic will help you identify what your child’s skills are.
This verbal & audio assessment comes with teacher directions and is aligned with reading curriculum expectations. It includes rhyme, syllable counts, & Phoneme objectives. Use it as a discovery tool every few months to help you & your child know which skills are mastered and which skills need review.
Click on this PDF link below for this thorough diagnostic tool:
Remember Phonemic Awareness is the ability to hear & manipulate individual sounds. Your child may not be ready to distinguish, identify & play with all 41 sounds yet, but s/he will as the year progresses.
Phonological Awareness Skills Teaching Sequence
Language & Speech research agree on the following recommended order for teaching children these skills. The latter parts of the skill sequence are the beginnings of Phonemic Awareness. Dr. Rhea Paul, an expert in Psycho-linguistics, has published many books in this field. Here are her recommendations:
Dividing words into syllables
Combining syllables into words
Identifying words with the same beginning sound
Identifying words with the same ending sound
Counting the individual sounds in words
Identifying the different sounds in words
Blending individual sounds into words
Manipulating sounds in words
Identifying the sounds each letter makes
This may all “sound” like a bunch of “hair-splitting mumbo-jumbo” to you, but being able to play with word sounds is a critical part of how your child will make sense of the words s/he is reading.
Teaching your child these skills doesn’t need to be a “sit down and do” affair. Informal, everyday, anywhere practice is a very productive way for learning the sounds of words. Oral interactivity is the only material needed.
Okay….So, Where & When Do I Teach These Skills?
You can practice Phonological Awareness skills with your child while standing in a line, sitting in a waiting room, shopping for groceries, driving in the car, watching your child bathe, picnicking in the park, eating meals/snacks, reading books, looking at environmental print, reading cereal or juice boxes, playing in the pool, and/or walking the dog.
And How Do I Teach These Skills?
Carrie Clark, the speech pathologist @speechandlanguagekids offers some tips and ideas:
Rhyming words : point out rhyming words when reading rhyming books; make up rhyming word lists together
Dividing words into syllables : clap, stomp, jump & count syllables together and/or alone
Combining syllables into words : say syllables of words with pauses in between & ask your child to put them together to make the word; start with 2 syllables
Identifying words with the same beginning sound : help your child come up with a list of words with the same beginning sound (like in his/her name or favorite toy)
Identifying words with the same ending sound : help your child come up with a list of words with the same ending sound (like in his/her name or favorite toy)
Counting the individual sounds in words : start with a short word (dog) & divide the words, slowly, into its individual sounds (d…o…g); ask your child to count the different sounds
Identifying the different sounds in words : have your child choose a word, divide it into each sound, and repeat it to you
Blending individual sounds into words : say the separate sounds of a simple word (c….a….t) & ask your child to say the word
Manipulating sounds in words : remove the first letter of a word ( say the word “cup” without the “kah” sound); substitute letters in words (take off the “m” in “mop” & put in “t” to make the word……”top”)
Identifying the sounds each letter makes : reverse sound and letter (what letter has the sound “muh” / what sound does the letter “t” make); point out letters & print in books and everywhere
Click on Carrie Clark’s website link (speechandlanguagekids) found in the Speaking Skills section of “Encouraging Your Child’s Language Skills” for more tips & ideas.
I hope you found some useful Language Skill tips & strategies to help you & yours prepare forthis eventful step in your family’s lives. Let me hear how you are ….
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And Now for the Second Part of the Family Literacy Circle’s Kindergarten Series…
Play continues to be a significant part of your child’s growth & development. Free Play, which is highly recommended by brain & child experts as well as children themselves and Pretend Play, which is the natural-occurring form of daily learning, are both important parts influencing the Brain’s wiring for Thinking & Learning skills as well as Creative & Social skills.
Even the toys, or tools, your child chooses to include in his/her play are essential. They influence creativity & imagination everyday.
ACT TWO : Play Power
Free Play, Toys as Tools, and Pretend Play all are important parts of your 5-year-old’s ability to problem solve, brainstorm & understand her/his immediate world as well as explore & discover new & different ones.
You can encourage how your child participates in & learns from these ongoing adventures in a variety of ways.
Guidance without too much interference will strengthen in your child’s decision-making abilities, confidence & independence.
Of course, there will be times when issues of safety (and sanity ) have definite boundaries…. I mean, risk-taking has its limits in the REAL world…..
Yes, Your 5 Year Old Is A BRAINIAC !
Teach a child how to think, not what to think. ~ Sidney Sugarman
Her/his brain is almost the size of an adult’s. It will continue to develop for the next 20 years. And just a “heads-up”…. you’re in for some REAL brain-wave excitement in about 10 years time….
Some these Cognitive, or Thinking & Learning Skills your child may be displaying are:
creating more imaginative ways to complete a task
asking more analytical questions while weighing the choices
understanding & using concepts like: big, bigger & biggest; first, middle & last; yesterday, today & tomorrow; first, then & next; more, less, same; before & after; above & below
asking & answering a variety of questions, including “how many”
inventing games with simple rules
identifying basic colors of blue, yellow, red, green & orange
beginning to understand how to sort & classify objects by size, shape or type
showing interest in cause & effect
Promoting Your Child’s Brain Growth & Development
Your continued interaction with your child, not only strengthens brain cell connections, but, also, builds skills in language, cognition & socialization as well as self-help skills. Specifically:
Encourage independent problem solving; however make suggestions & decide on solutions together
Suggest your child use all 5 senses for more in-depth observations
Allow for an extra “get ready” window to promote independence during time-sensitive preparations
Promote Literacy through drawings, pictures & lots of questions
Make sure your child plays OUTSIDE a lot, especially with other children because, yes, s/he is preferring activities that involve others
Free Play and The Brain
When my children become wild and unruly, I use a nice safe playpen. When they’re finished, I climb out. ~ Erma Bombeck
Whether alone in her/his “hide-away” place or playing with peers, child development and brain experts agree on the significant power of free, unstructured play.
During free play, children express their emotions & feelings, which helps them to identify who they are.
Unorganized play without lots of rules promotes the development and growth of creativity, flexibility , and adaptation to future challenges.
Sergio Pellis, a neuroscientist from Alberta, Canada, observed that “the brain rewires itself under the positive stress of play, as children figure out how to navigate the world and each other.”
As part of a peer-play group, children learn to share, resolve conflicts, make decisions, and be assertive.
“If You Play with Me, I’ll Be Your Best Friend….”
Your 5-year-old wonder has moved quite comfortably into the Social stage of play partnered with the Expressive stage of play. S/he enjoys playing with others in his/her age group, seeking and creating opportunities to engage in this type of play.
S/he is interested in exploring new playgrounds, parks and friends’ houses. Community play-spaces can have a positive effect on youngsters, making them feel more connected to their neighborhoods.
Swinging on playground swings & trying out new jungle gyms are especially enjoyable to your 5-year-old. You may notice her/him initiate conversations & play in a familiar way with other children, even though they’ve never met.
Free, physical play is SO important for your child’s development of his/her body awareness. It stimulates growth as well as strengthens her/his fine & gross motor skills. S/he may bring toys to the play area and invite some peersto play with them. Together, of course !
YAY ! What A FUN Toy !
Your child’s toys should stimulate & engage his/her imagination, communication, collaboration, creativity, and cognition, as well as her/his gross & fine motor skills.
You’ve heard the saying, “Necessity is the mother of invention”. It may have been created while watching children at play. Believe me when I tell you, I have seen & heard children create amazing worlds with little and/ or nothing but their incredible imaginations, a few pebbles, sticks, leaves, and a pile of dirt……
So, What Are Some Brain~Food Toys ?
Open-ended toys, or play tools can used in many, many ways, depending in your child’s imagination or learning-needs.
Here are a few ideas child development experts suggest for your child’s growth in these areas:
board games for pre-readers, like Chutes & Ladders, Connect Four
card games, like Uno, Go Fish, Old Maid
memory & match games
puzzles with 15-20 pieces
large & small wooden/plastic blocks
Arts & Crafts
play-dough & clays
scissors & glue
pencils. crayons, washable markers & watercolors
drawing & construction papers
high bouncing ball (utility rubber ball)
bicycle with training wheels
Dramatic & Pretend
puppets, dolls, stuffed animals
action & animal figures (Play-mobiles)
trucks, cars, train sets/race tracks
pretend walkie-talkies, phones & cameras
dress-up clothes & costumes
LARGE cardboard boxes
I know I repeat myself, but at my Home Day School, I observed my children create everything from blocks, rocks & sticks. And there were HUGE crates of toys readily available in their playroom !
Powerful Pretend Play
The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge, but imagination. ~ Albert Einstein
At the age of 5, your child is becoming more & more project-minded. S/he is planning play scenarios that include buildings, different roles, materials & tools with the drawings to implement them. A script may not be in writing, but the appropriate dialogue is in place…..with assignments for each person, animal & object.
Not only are your child’s Pretend Play plans “elaborate”, they will be enacted for long periods of time with new (and improved) details added each time.
Feel like your child is ready to try some new & different Pretend Plays ? Visit my Resource Library for a Pretend Play website collection: Pretend Play Power : 8 Helpful Websites.
How You Can Contribute to Your Child’s Pretend Play
During Pretend Play, especially with others, your child is engaging in problem solving and building new understandings about the world , other people & oneself. New ideas are tested, many questions are asked (and some answered), and discoveries through exploration are numerous.
Although your 5-year-old has some definite ideas & plans regarding his/her Pretend Play, you can make some “suggestions” on what s/he might want to include into the setting. Ask questions, like “How will you….., What if the……, When will you….., Where are the……?” to promote details, cause/effect and expansion.
Six (or Seven) Simple Pretend Plays
As children we LOVED to play House, Mommy, Daddy, Baby, Cook, etc. Dressing up in our parents’ old clothes & accessories, including humongous shoes delighted us for hours, days, months, and, yes, years.
You might like to view a collection of 6 Simple Pretend Play ideas in a quick-read, table format, so I cheerfully created one (LOVE those info-tables). I included materials you will find around the house in the attic, basement, recycle bin or closets; at yard sales (gold mines); or neighborhood discount stores.
Six (or Seven) Simple Pretend Play Scenarios & Material Lists
To promote additional Literacy skills in these 6 Pretend Plays, I created signs, bin labels, hat symbols, forms and lists to accompany each scenario. They are gathered together in a DIY Collection Manual : Prop~Templates for 6 Simple Pretend Playscomplete with Construction Instructions as well as Tips & Idea Suggestions. Here’s the link to this product in BLB Shop:
This is Part Three of Your Family’s Literacy Circle Kindergarten Series
Preparing your 5-year-old for Kindergarten can be a daunting task. There are so many questions and concerns parents have regarding the groundwork needed for your child to enter in this totally new learning environment. Academic & social skill abilities usually top the list of worries.
Is my child really ready to enter Kindergarten?!?
ACT THREE: Learning & Teaching Styles
When one teaches, two learn. ~ Robert Heinlein
Hopefully, this post will address some of your concerns. It explores the different Learning Styles of your child as well as the variety of Teaching Styles available to help you & yours decide on the best learning environment for your Kindergartner.
Your Five-Year-Old Wonder Child
Remember last year…around 12 months ago… when your child was 4? Toddlerland was in the distance with fewer & fewer bouts of frustration….S/he was building & planning & talking about it….a lot, but, still experienced some….well, you know.
Did you notice the closer s/he came to his/her 5th birthday, some pretty big changes were beginning to occur? Or should I say evolve? Like a larger understanding & speaking vocabulary? Completing tasks without being told and, maybe, in a “different” way? Longer focus & concentration? Some serious debating going on?
Hmmm… let’s see what else you’ve observed in this young child, who is now only a baby to you and anyone else your age….
Does your child:
show eagerness to learn new things?
like to solve problems & puzzles in creative ways?
use her/his imagination when doing most activities?
ask a lot of “analytical ” questions?
consider a variety of options before making a decision?
enjoy challenges that require “long-term” thinking?
like to participate in a variety of new experiences?
prefer activities that involve other children?
S/he is DEFINITELY a 5-year-old, bursting with exuberant enthusiasm and an abundance of creativity.
Kind of….weird…and oh, so, refreshing…Not that this stage of growth & development doesn’t come with its own set of challenges…. But you got this! Your parenting teaching skills are preparing for this next HUGE adventure…..
I Got This, You Say ????
If your child is displaying some, if not all, of those above mentioned characteristics, here are some of the learning skills with confidence building blocks you have successfully and diligently put into play:
given her/him chances to make simple choices
helped him/her complete something new without too much interference
fostered creativity with new experiences with tools & adventures
exhibited patience during your child’s activity involvements
recognized her/his achievements
encouraged his/her progress
PBS Parents’ Child Development Tracker/Approaches to Learning offers a more in-depth study of your 5-year-old’s growth in these areas. Click on the link below:
I recently (today) read an article in my daily feed regarding people’s learning styles. It was debunking the theory, stating there was no significant data to support using this as a teaching tool ~ even though 90% of teachers continue to inventory their students as a basis for diversifying their lessons……
As an educator, I tried to design my lessons with the 3 major Learning Styles in mind. However, I found most Early & Primary students are Hands-On, or Kinesthetic, learners. Most students showed a preference for listening or seeing. Again, a lot of Visual learners.
Even as learning teachers going to workshops/ professional development seminars, we preferred “Make & Take” sessions instead of lectures with power points. The “hand-outs” served as our “hands-on” tools, which we used for…..
What IS My Child’s Learning Style ?
Anywho ~ there are numerous informal inventories you can do to help you “discover” your child’s Learning Style as you prepare for his/her “Going-To-Kindergarten” journey. Your observations are probably enough, but here are a few ideas I gathered from a variety of simple surveys:
My child learns best when:
watching someone else
listening to someone
touching or building
When in a new place, s/he :
notices the people & sights
listens to the new & different sounds
moves around a lot, wiggles & taps
While waiting somewhere, s/he:
looks around, reads or doodles
talks or listens to others
walks around, touching things
My child enjoys:
reading & drawing
talking & singing
running & building
When I read to him/her, s/he:
loves to point to & talk about the pictures
repeats the words I am saying
fidgets & squirms
S/he remembers things more easily when:
pictures are involved
verbal repetitions are made
movement is present
When my child writes or draws, s/he:
worries how it looks
talks to self
pushes hard on the pencil/crayon
S/he needs a learning environment that is:
free from clutter & lots of movement
free from a lot of noise
free from sitting still too long
Now, your child probably does ALL of these things at some time or another. Think in terms of “most of the time”. First choice is a Visual Learner, second choice is an Auditory Learner & choice three is a Kinesthetic Learner.
Want a few more characteristics? Visit the link below for Dr. Molly Pennington’s 2015 article:
Does My Child’s Learning Style Equal Intelligence?
First of all ~ Major NO !
Intelligence is one’s ABILITY to learn, solve and/or create. Learning Style is the WAY one prefers to learn, solve and/or create. Some experts say these are “personality traits” instead of learning styles and intelligence. Your call.
I think being aware of people’s “learning” preferences is an effective way to teach AND learn. I wonder if that’s a smart, er-intelligent way to approach life…..
As a matter of discussion, there are “multiple intelligences”, according to several experts.
In particular, Howard Gardner’s Frames of the Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligence, states there are at least 7 (8, if you count Naturalistic). SOOO, how about a Table of these “Smarts” & their characteristics?!?
Gardner's 8 Multiple Intelligences
Word Smart: Verbal-Linguistic
words & language
read, write, tell stories, speak other languages
books, writing tools, journals, word games, puns, tongue twisters, multimedia
There are a few strategies you can put in place to assist with your child’s learning skills. You may need to mix it up depending on the subjects s/he is trying to understand.
Left Brain Needs
a quiet, well-lit space with an individual desk
structured, independent work
step-by-step with exact details
some assistance with defining Main Ideas & Inferences
Right Brain Needs
a softly-lit group work space
open-ended, group work
manipulatives & experimentation
And there are a FEW things your 5-year-old needs to know how to do before entering a Kindergarten classroom that have little to do with his/her smarts…..
Ready (or Not) for Kindergarten Class
You don’t remember the times your parent held your handle bars. You remember the day s/he let go. ~ Lenore Skenazy
If you enter “Kindergarten Readiness Skills” in a search engine, you will receive a LOT of responses. My advice ~ choose one written by a Kindergarten teacher. S/he not only is a voice of experience, but tips & strategies will, also, be included on how to fill in some gaps your child may have before the BIG day.
So, some of the lists are quite lengthy…. Education.com lists 10 Kindergarten Readiness Skills with some tips & strategies. I’ve combined it with other ideas, which you can access in the BLB Resource Library. Just click on the link below for Kindergarten Readiness Skills: A Parent & Child Checklist:
In addition to a healthy number of Literacy skills your 5-year-old needs in preparation for Kindergarten, s/he will be, well, bombarded with a KAZILLION classroom & school routines. To be fair, these can change according to school district policy, campus policy and/or teacher preferences.
Karen Jones, an elementary educator with 12 years experience & a parent came up with this lengthy, but accurate inventory of “Routines & Procedures”. Sit down with a snack & a tall drink while you check out this list…..
One of the most popular Primary classroom activities with children is the Daily Calendar. Students gather as a group around a colorful board to interactively participate while learning some life skill concepts, such as time, weather & vocabulary. I have created one for you & yours ~ My Calendar Corner ~ in BLB’s Shop. Just click on the link below & let me know what you think:
The best teachers are those who show you where to look, but don’t tell you what to see. ~ Alexandra K. Trenfor
As your child’s first teacher, you are very aware of how s/he learns, successfully. Kindergarten is a critical year and can set the stage for many years to come. Expectations & curriculum may vary with school/district policy, but most schools, regardless of classification, want your child reading, writing & problem solving with math computations before entering First Grade.
Here are a few of the 10 Factors to consider when selecting a school for your child, according to publicschoolreviews/2017:
Finding a Good Fit
Will the school provide a specific, rigorous course of study ?
Will the school accommodate my child’s learning style and/or special needs ?
What is the level of social contact with peers ?
How do scheduling & extracurricular activities fit with our family’s ?
Choosing a Focus
Does the school offer a second language study ?
Does the school offer opportunities in the Fine and/or Performing Arts ?
How important is Science & Math ?
Is new & innovative Technology used as part of the curriculum ?
Looking At Basic Campus Effectiveness
Great teachers & staff
Engaged, visible children
Active parent participation
Visiting the School
Meet teachers, staff & principal
Talk to other parents & students
Check out a PTA meeting
Have A Few More Questions ?
Speaking of questions, readingrockets.org has an article, “Four Steps to Selecting a School for Your Child”, written by the US Department of Education & other websites offering an EXTENSIVE list of questions to address your concerns. You can even download a booklet. Connect with the link below:
There are lots of options including Homeschools, Private Schools & Online Public Schools. The options I will offer in this post are Neighborhood Public Schools & Alternative, or Non-Traditional Schools, which can be considered private.
As an parent & educator, I found the regular availability of Free Play, or Recess was just as important to learning as Nutrition & Academics. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, as well as other studies, children, who had indoor or outdoor Free Play/Recess as a regular part of their school day:
were more attentive & more productive in the classroom
developed the thinking skills that are positively linked to learning & academic performance
created fantasies to help them cope with difficult situations
There are several types of Neighborhood Public Schools to consider:
the one around the corner or across the street from your home that your child(ren) can walk or ride their bikes to
a Charter School that may offer an unique, smaller class-size, learning environment and are free from many traditional public school regulations
a Magnet School that exists outside of “zoned school boundaries”, but is part of the local public school system with alternative methods of instruction
Read below for several other Alternative Schools with unique approaches to educating minds.
Is A Non~Traditional School Right for My Child ?
Several effective methods of teaching do NOT include lectures, homework, report cards or formal assessments. I have only listed these 3 : Montessori, Steiner, and Reggio Emilia, but there are more.
The goal of early childhood education should be to activate the child’s own natural desire to learn. ~ Maria Montessori, M.D.
Children select learning activities independently each day.
Learning tools are tactile.
Teachers observe, not direct.
Classes are grouped for 3-year movement.
Methods are usually found in preschool & elementary schools.
Several hundred US public schools utilize Montessori practices.
As an educator in Primary & Intermediate classrooms, I discovered one of the most important ways to ensure a student’s success was the parent’s involvement with his/her child’s school activities & academic engagement. Putting habits and expectations in place during this first year will lay the foundation for self-motivation and responsibility in the future (until adolescence…..). You will see a resurgence, usually, during Senior-itis & college, hopefully.
Your child will benefit by your involvement in his/her education at school. Send him/her ready for school by:
Making sure s/he is well-fed & rested
Checking s/he is dressed appropriately
Has the necessary school supplies
Has completed homework and/or projects
I created a mini~picture “Ready For School” poster help your Kindergartner each school morning & evening before. Post it at eye level in your child’s room or by the front door. Click on the link below to print the PDF:
In spite of my child “doing nothing” at school everyday (because I always asked) for 12 years, or let’s just say the last 8 years of K~HS, he was able to graduate from college with honors and go on to graduate school…..
Fear not, Liz Evans @simplesimon&company offers some creative, answerable questions to ask your child each day after school. Click on the link below:
This is Part 5 of the Family Literacy Circle’s Five ~ Part Kindergarten Series
Developing & engaging the Writing Skills of your 5-year-old is this post’s focus. This complex set, yes set, of skills has several components, beginning with the growth & development of your child’s fine motor skills. This can take some time, routine, exercise & patience. As a preparation-overview for helping your child with his/her writing skills, check out the sections: “Writing Activities & The Brain” as well as “Pre-Writing Readiness” in my post, Building Your Family Literacy Circle’s Reading & Writing with Your “I AM FOUR!” Just click on the link below:
THE FINALE~ACT FIVE : Encouraging Your Kindergartner’s Writing Skills
You may give them your love, but not your thoughts, for they have their own thoughts. ~ Kahlil Gibran
Written expression offers an exciting opportunity for your child to see how the worlds of creativity are imagined & invented.
If drawing has been, and continues to be, part of her/his communication, letter formation & words will be easier to approach.
There are many different sensory activities that can encourage this key part of his/her Literacy growth & development.
By the end of Kindergarten, your child’s writing skills should include:
writing upper & lower case letters
writing her/his first & last names in a legible, readable way
using letters & sounds to spell common, frequently-used words in a legible, readable way
using letters & sounds to attempt spelling less common words in a legible, readable way
writing several sentences without a lot of help from an adult
writing responses to topics studied in school, or elsewhere
writing about a book s/he has read
writing about some of his/her life experiences
Did I just hear a large chorus of OMGs?!?
The expectations in Kindergarten are now what YOU were expected to know at the end of First grade…. Read on for the Common Core’s current list of objectives & expectations for Kindergarten…..
The USA’s Common Core Writing Expectations
From 2011 to 2012 many states & territories of the USA reviewed, adopted & began using the K-12 Common Core Standards for Language & Math in their schools. By 2018, 41 of the 50 states were using these Standard Expectations. Some states revised & re-worded the Common Core; some states continued to use their own set of Standards. For more specific information, click on the Common Core link below, or visit your state’s website:
There are lots of FUN activities to share with your child as Fine Motor developmental tools and/or to use as warm-up exercises for pre-writing.
It is important to remember that drawing and writing, though similar, are not the same. Painting, scribbling & drawing are important steps in the growth & development of writing. Scribbles, in particular, are the early attempts of writing words & thoughts.
A child’s eye sees letters as a combination of curved & straight lines as well as shapes. Drawing letters can be a start, but the end result should be automatic when writing letters. Drawing to form an image uses a different part of the brain than writing letters to form words.
BLB’s Resource Library includes a page on locating sites with activities & exercises for developing Fine Motor Skills in children, ages 4~6. There are, also, some sites offering free, downloadable, practice skill sheets for tracing, cutting & letter-writing. Here’s the link:
Your child’s beginning, “purposeful” writing may look like scribbling….It is, but it ISN’T to your child. Just ask. You’ll receive several sentences describing what the “writing” is saying. There may even be some random letters and, or symbols included, but they won’t represent accurate sounds to words.
In the next stage of writing ~ Letter Strings~ your child will chose legible, random letters and write them in the correct progression-left to right. S/he will read the writing back to you from top to bottom. However, the letters s/he has chosen do not correspond with the sounds in the words written.
The final stage before your child is actually connecting letters & sounds into words is when s/he copies the words s/he sees, known as Environmental Print. S/he usually doesn’t know what the words are and they don’t form a sentence.
These important stages, when encouraged and praised, will lead to your child’s ability to construct meaningful words into sentences.
Keep reading for some tips to encourage these important early stages of writing.
Call Those Scribbles ” Writing”
If your child enjoys drawing and attempts to “write” about her/his pictures, take that as a positive sign! Those “scribblings” are meaningful. You can encourage your child to make those “words” say something with an interactive conversation. When given a specific answer, write it down on the picture (with permission, of course).
You can, also, have your child help you write lists and notes. Be sure to take and send them once “written”. Write notes to each other.
Make sure to include fill-able writing forms in your child’s Pretend Play scenarios.
Use colorful sticky-notes to label things around the house. Point and use these words in your interactive writings about events, routines & descriptions.
Your child can tell you sentences to write and, then, have him/her make a drawing to go with the sentences. Make a collection book of these writings to read together. SO FUN!!!
If s/he enjoys tracing letters, numbers & shapes ~ YAY!!! If you see random letters (some from her/his name) included in his/her descriptions ~ WooHoo!! Time to set up a Writing Nook.
Setting Up A Writing Nook for Your Budding Writer
First of all, make sure your child’s writing space includes a hard surface like a lap-desk, clipboard and/or table. Organize some of these materials in containers on a shelf or stacked crates:
Once your young writer knows most of the alphabet with their letter sounds, s/he will using that knowledge to spell words during written composition. Try not to correct too much. Instead, help him/her learn how to use a sight & vocabulary word chart/cards, word family lists, and a simple picture dictionary as well as word-sound stretching.
Using these skills will help your child meet the high expectations that are currently part of your Kindergartner’s Writing Goals for the year: writing fiction & nonfiction stories (the narrative), writing a book review ( the opinion), and writing directions (the informative, or how-to)……
I heard that collective GASP!!!! Believe me, many educators were/are part of that concern…..but that is a whole ‘nother convo-post.
Back to the ” informative” part of this section….
So, YES ~ 3 main types of writing (several varieties are part of the “main types”) with several (usually about five) complete, related sentences on a topic, using minimal adult/teacher intervention are the Common Core Writing expectations by the completion of Kindergarten……
YES…5 Different Pieces of Writing….
The Narrative can be a personal, nonfiction story about an event in your child’s life. Think celebrations, holidays, vacations, younger/older siblings & relatives, friendships, growing experiences, etc. The other piece of story-telling your Kindergartner is expected to compose is a simple fictional piece, complete with a setting, characters, events as well as a problem to be solved.
The Informative can be a How-To, or Instructional sequence describing the way to make or do something. Think how to ride a bike, how to brush one’s teeth, how to make a breakfast cereal bowl, how to build a sheet-tent, etc. The other part of this expectation has to do with sharing learned, nonfictional facts about a subject. Think bears, apple trees, community helpers, parts of a flower, holidays, seasons, etc.
An Opinion is usually written about books being read as a class, by the teacher and/or independently by your emergent reader.
Graphic organizers can help with this process. I created a few as a PDF for you to use. Just click on the link below to download & print:
And as rigorous as this sounds, many 5 (soon to be 6)-year-olds are able to accomplish this. The growth from beginning Kindergarten (think Pre-K) to the end of Kindergarten (think Pre-First) is HUGE and amazing!!!
However, some writers are reluctant, especially at this level….well at any level, really…. As a PUBLISHED author~it’s called a Block….
This Is TOO HARD!!!!!
You can make anything by writing. ~ C.S. Lewis
Several factors can contribute to your child’s reluctance to putting the pencil-to-the-paper:
S/he is not confident with his/her knowledge of what the letters are, how the letters look, and/or how to form the letters on the paper.
S/he is struggling with grasping a writing tool and, then, using it to form the letters on paper.
S/he becomes frustrated when trying to choose what to write about.
Continue practicing the alphabet with fun, hands-on activities. You can find some ideas from a number of websites. BLB’s Resource Library has a page to help with that. Just click on the link below:
If Fine Motor skills are part of your child’s struggle with writing, click on the several links provided in the “Strengthening Those Fine Motor Skills” section of this post.
Remember to show your child the importance of writing throughout the day as you write notes, lists, calendar appointments, etc. Your interactive writing with your child is, also, very instrumental in the actual writing process of literacy.
HEY!!!! I CAN Write Words & Sentences!
Letting your reluctant writer set the pace for her/his learning is one of the keys to putting that pencil (or any writing tool)-to-the-paper. Instead of specific lessons, blend writing into everyday activities & especially during play, like labeling things, making signs, filling out Pretend Play lists & forms.
One of the easiest ways to start the writing process is to begin with a drawing your child has created. Label parts of the picture with post-its, describe what the picture is telling, give the picture a title, and, then, write some simple sentences together.
Another fun way to get the writing “juices” flowing is to use the rhyming activity the Word Families encourage. Use those words as a basis for a song to be performed on the Family Stage in Concert or as a verse to be shared during a Poetry Reading with other family poets.
Need a few Writing Tool Kits to include in your child’s Home Writing Nook?
BLB Shop can help! Just click on the links below to check them out:
Probably one of the most powerful ways to engage your “budding” author is through the Interactive Journal. This personal – written dialogue between you & your child can be quite a surprising way to learn as well as discover thoughts, feelings & knowledge. It is a very successful Literacy tool for writing (and parenting…..).
Need some other ideas, tips and/or suggestions? The post from Creekside Learning lists as for First through Third, but there are some FUN ideas you can use with your Kindergartner. Click on the link to read:
Yes, like last year, this year is another HUGE one for your 6-year-old. First Grade is filled with incredible LEAPS & BOUNDS! Your child’s growth & development intellectually, physically AND emotionally is almost approaching “light year” speed.
Five of the major Literacy Arenas influencing his/her ground-breaking discoveries are: Learning & Language Skills, Creative Arts & Play Shills, Inquiry Power, Reading Skills , and Writing Skills. So, I am dividing this incredibly important year into a series of 4 or 5 separate blog posts.
PART ONE : Learning & Language Skills
Children always learn, but not necessarily what you want them to learn. ~ Dr. L. Katz
Somewhere during the summer, before your 6-year-old enters First Grade, you’ll notice your somewhat-round child became all arms and legs. No way are last year’s clothes & shoes going to fit! This growth will continue for a few years ~an average of 2 to 2.5 inches per year. Remember the thumbprint-measure at the end of new shoes.…. Ignore the “This is TOO BIG for ME!” comments…. And cross your fingers to prolong another wardrobe upgrade before next Summer…..hopefully, Fall……
Must have been all the new physical skills~fine & gross motor~ s/he kept practicing all Summer…. running & jumping & skipping & hopping & skipping & skipping & hopping….EVERYWHERE!!!!! Oh.. and, purposely, rolling & spinning ’round & ’round…..
Indoors found him/her drawing lots of pictures & cutting out lots of pictures to accompany lots of newly written stories….drawing & cutting & gluing (“Teacher says ‘Just a dot, not a lot’ “) & writing….Yes, s/he needs more paper & magazines & glue…..
Although the hand-eye coordination is improving….s/he will probably fall out of chairs several times in the next year and baby teeth will fall out of her/his mouth. Pencils can become “teething sticks”. As a First Grade teacher, I was asked to “pop-out” many front teeth and scooped up many “plopped-on-the-floor” bodies…
BIG NEWS FLASH!!!! S/he is TYING her/his own shoes laces!!!!!!
How does s/he have enough energy to ask SSSSOOOOO many questions?!?!?!?
Your Budding Brainiac
Even at rest, your soon-to-be First Grader spends hours upon hours pondering the great questions of the Universe and her/his place in it. The Age of Reason has arrived in your child’s brain development, stimulated by the opportunities received at school to learn new concepts and ideas.
Curiosity encourages exploration and discovery. PBSParents offers a few tips on how you can help build these Learning Skills:
Allow him/her to make simple choices, such as what to wear, what to eat for snack, where to eat out for a meal, which shoes to buy (of the several options you’ve okayed), what present to buy for whom (within your budget).
Give your child some support when needed to finish a new task or activity, but don’t take over or rush him/her to complete it.
Encourage creativity in your child’s expressions by offering new material & experiences without influencing her/his decisions.
Praise achievements, progress & eagerness to take risks (safely, of course).
“Inside the First Grader’s Brain”
Although I have taught many First Graders ~ and what an absolutely FASCINATING bunch they are ~ I, myself was curious to know what makes those incredibly interesting 6-year-old brains tick. Hank Pellissier, founder of the Brighter Brains Institute, contributed an article in June 2018 to greatschools.org with the above title.
Scientifically, this is what is happening inside your First Grader’s brain:
The sensory lobes that recognize & analyze challenges are maturing at a rapid rate.
There is rapid brain growth in vocabulary, grammar & pronunciation.
Your child is probably “leaping” from magical thinking to logical, rational mental processing.
S/he may become fixed on rules & regulations.
You can “nuture” your child’s logical mental processing & satisfy his/her Rules & Regulations focus with a small activity game I created : “Choose A Category”. You’ll find it in BLB Shop by clicking on the link below:
Keep reading for some suggestions on nurturing this brain stage.
Pellissier’s Parenting Your First Grader’s Brain Tips
Included in his article are some tips (with some comments from yours truly) on how you can help your child’s brain during this stage of growth & development:
Set high expectations ~ they will be welcomed, met & exceeded
Provide a relaxed & emotionally secure environment ~ so effective for his/her explosive world of intellectual adventures
Contribute PATIENCE during her/his dramatics ~ enrollment in the Creative Arts, especially music will help temper some of these behaviors-6-year-olds can be quite a “serious” bunch and “talking about feelings” is still too confusing for them….too busy emoting
Make SURE s/he runs & plays outside EVERYDAY for at least 30 minutes ~ non-negotiable, rain or shine, in addition to school recess
Focus your child’s attention with board games & limit TV/video games time ~ yes. yes. yes- you will notice BIG behavior changes
Include lots of vocabulary exploration because s/he can acquire 10 NEW WORDS A DAY, plus now would be a good time to expose your child to another language ~ I retained lots of another language I learned as a child as well as many First Grade ESL students exit into mainstream
Encourage your young reader to pay attention to ALL letter sounds in words ~ s/he can’t WAIT to get to the next word……
SO MANY QUESTIONS !!!!
Children must be taught HOW to think, not WHAT to think. ~ Margaret Mead
Or you can click on this pdf link to download, copy & print “A Short List of Critical Thinking Question Stems” I created to get you started: A Short List of CT Questions
And What Is Critical Thinking?
“Critical thinking means making reasoned judgments that are logical and well-thought out. It is a way of thinking in which you don’t simply accept all arguments and conclusions you are exposed to but rather have an attitude involving questioning such arguments and conclusions.” ~ study.com
You will notice your VERY curious & engaged 6-year-old studying things intensely. S/he will, then, describe a thing (or 20) using its characteristics, and, then, find similarities & differences between a variety of things. These are his/her growing & developing cognitive skills at work!
These “working” words will show up at the most surprising times……correctly,too!
Favorite First Grader phrases include:
“You’re not the boss of me!” (I still use that one…)
“I didn’t do it!” (use that one, too)
“S/he told me to……”
“S/he did it, too!”
And tho’ your First Grader “hates” tattle tales, s/he is quite the tattler…. such talkers….
The rate your child is learning to understand and speak new words is growing, quite literally, by leaps & bounds ~ about 3000 within the school year! S/he is even talking ABOUT words, not just using them during expression.
S/he is starting conversations, using defining & describing words more frequently, staying on topic, taking turns during the conversation, and ~ this is a jewel~ giving directions to others. S/he is, also, able to re-state ideas using different words if what was expressed is not understood by the listener.
And how did all this happen, you may ask?? Some of those high expectations coupled with lots of “world” knowledge being shared in school are definitely factors influencing this language growth.
The “Common Core” Standard Expectations for Language
By the completion of First Grade, your child is expected to show mastery in quite a few grammatical conventions as well as a number of other areas in the English language. I’m just going to list some general ones, because, quite frankly, college graduates haven’t mastered some of these……really….., so, maybe, this is why these Standards are being implemented in so many states’ public school districts.
There are 10 “command”, or mastery expectations for speaking & writing, but I’m just listing a few of the main ones :
common, proper & possessive nouns
singular & plural nouns with matching verb agreement
The National PTA has written a “Parents’ Guide to Student Success” regarding the Common Core Standards. It lists the main Mastery expectations for ELA Literacy & Mathematics as well as some ELA Literacy Parent Involvement at Home tips for your First Grader:
Read books together with your child & help him/her sound out difficult words.
Act out stories together from books, TV and your child’s imagination.
Pick a “Word of the Day” every day, beginning with a different letter. Have your child write the word & look for other things beginning with the same letter.
Have your child sign up for a Public Library card & visit the with your child every week, checking a variety of books ~ fiction, nonfiction, poetry, plays.
Literacy Language Lifters
Here are a few additional suggestions for promoting your First Grader’s listening & speaking skills:
Continue playing with language through rhymes, songs & word games, especially when new nonsense words can be created
Invent meanings for those new nonsense words
Increase verbal directions from one & two-step to three-step
Ask your child to repeat those directions back to you
Promote the understanding of game rules
Include Time (before/after) & Distance (close/far) concepts in your interactive conversations
Ask her/him to repeat stories that have a series of events to relate in order
Continue asking the “wh” questions for comprehension: who, what, when, where, why
Introduce your child to a different language ~ s/he will absolutely LOVE learning words in another language AND 6-years-old is an optimal time in his/her language development for this skill.
Learning Another Language Benefits
There are more than a few advantages to having a access to another language. Learning another language increases your child’s literacy, analytical,and problem-solving skills. It boosts your child’s confidence, self-image, and tolerance.
According to pandatree.com, a multilingual teaching website, your child will experience 15 or more benefits. Among them are:
speaking, understanding & connecting with more people.
stimulating his/her brain growth.
boosting first language abilities
training one’s ear for music
increasing out-of-the-box thinking
And in my experience as an educator~ all my students thought it was great fun and were always eager to learn MORE!
So, if you would like to teach your child a few common vocabulary words and phrases in another language ~ say Spanish~ BLB Shop has just the product for you and yours: Let’s Learn A Little Spanish has 10 mini-lessons with easy-to-use instructions. Just click on the link below:
Just a little postscript: Your First Grader’s Learning & Language Skills is the first part of this 4, maybe 5 part series for First Graders. Play, Inquiry, Reading & Writing are in the mix as well. Stay tuned!
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First Grade is encouraging lots of new vocabulary words -seems like everyday a few more are expressed with accuracy- in your serious, yet exuberant learner. S/he loves using them during play.
And, although s/he seems to prefer structured, play-by-the rules activities, free, unstructured play time is just as important, as always, for your child’s healthy growth & development.
PART TWO : Play & Creative Arts Skills
Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world. ~ Albert Einstein
Have you noticed your 6-year-old is becoming more aware of others and prefers playing in groups (with a new best friend everyday)?
Are his/her self-control skills improving?
Is s/he willing to share and work out problems with others more frequently-withOUT adult supervision- (even though tattling is still an issue)?
Does s/he LOVE showing off her/his talents?
Is his/her Pretend Play becoming more elaborate with the desire to use REAL objects NOT toys-food, clothing, vacuum cleaner ?
Are blocks, Legos, paints, poems & songs in the Top 10 List of her/his favorite things to do?
Lesia Oesterreich, a Human Sciences Specialist at Iowa State University Extension & Outreach, offers a few ideas to continue encouraging the growth & development of your child’s Creative Arts & Play Skills at home:
To help promote an understanding of rules: make connections by playing simple table games like cards, dominoes, tic-tac-toe & some board games like Candy Land, Chutes & Ladders, Qwirkle
To show how to work together: solve jigsaw puzzles, plant a garden, make a snack, perform household chores
To encourage a sense of accomplishment : provide opportunities to weave, build models, cook, make crafts, practice music, present plays & puppet shows
However, if your child attends a public school without the benefit of daily recess…...
Structured vs Non-Structured Play Time
Although your youngster is becoming quite fond of the predictability of routines both at home, school & after-school activities, child development experts continue to agree on the value of daily, unstructured play time. Click on the link below for a great article on this :
If you think your child is not getting some unstructured play time during the school day, you might want to check with the district/state guidelines.
l found it very disappointing that as of March 2018, according to an article written by Irena Schunn for the Capital News Service (“Virginia Makes Play Time A Priority in Elementary Schools”), only 8 states in the USA REQUIRE elementary schools to provide daily recess (not counting PE).
Speaking of PE, the Council on Physical Education for Children and the National Association for Sport & Physical Education, both agree that PE does NOT have the benefits of good, old-school recess:
Recess allows ” elementary children to practice life skills such as conflict resolution, cooperation, respect for rules, taking turns, sharing, using language to communicate, and problem solving in real situations.”
Oh Yeah-we could all use some recess, I’d say…..
Then, there’s the “hindering of children’s Executive Functioning”……and this is a biggie in your child’s growth & development.
And what is “executive functioning”? Hint…..it may or may not be part of a CEO’s job description…. But, seriously……
The formal definition: “The executive functions are a set of processes that all have to do with managing oneself and one’s resources in order to achieve a goal. It is an umbrella term for the neurologically-based skills involving mental control and self-regulation.”
Here’s an in-depth explanation with a list of what these functions are and do:
Ellen Wexler’s 2014 article, “Study: Too Many Structured Activities May Hinder Children’s Executive Functioning” was contributed to the site educationweek, with several unsettling findings.
Researchers have found that working to achieve goals using the self-directed executive function -planning, decision-making, manipulating information, and switching between tasks- develops mostly during childhood.
Too much time spent in structured activities, according to a study by psychologists at the University of Colorado & the University of Denver, interfere with children’s, specifically 6-year-olds, ability to make decisions, work towards goals, and regulate their behaviors.
In other words, children NEED to spend time deciding what they’re going to do with their time.
SOME time is NOT a free-for-all…..EGADS!!!!
And I Do This How????
I’m NOT advocating dis-enrolling your child from his/her favorite soccer team, dance class, art session, music lesson, or theater group. On the contrary, ONE, not several, of these extracurricular activities is a wonderful opportunity for many reasons (which I will get into later on in this post…You Know IT~).
First of all, the benefits for “free time” are: cultivating independence, encouraging imagination, boosting creativity & strengthening problem solving skills. (K. Ginsburg MD, pediatrician @ the Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia)
Instead of turning on the video-sitter, try these non-structured~no rules or guidelines other than safety, of course~ activities:
Whatever the weather (within safety reasons): GO OUTSIDE ~ splash in puddles, make snow sculptures, capture bugs, hike, climb & swing in trees, ride bikes & scooters, construct forts & houses, stir up some stone soup, gather leaves, hop & skip around.
Yes, the scenarios are becoming more involved ~ with engaging others, with creating “plot” layers, with inventing props. You could have a budding playwright, set designer, actor, director and/or screenwriter on your hands.
You might want to set your phone on video……
Although his/her imagination is “running wild”, understanding the difference between real and make-believe is taking hold. Using real objects while doing real activities during “pretend” play is becoming more important.
BLB’s Shop has a colorful PDF product for 6/7 Pretend Plays complete with props, signage, & templates ready to download & print. Just click on the link below:
BLB’s Library has a resource to help you & yours with a more complex approach to Pretend Play. It offers 6 Scenarios involving more characters engaged in more involved activities with performance ideas & tips. Just click on the link below:
Creative activity could be described as a type of learning process where teacher & pupil are located in the same individual. ~ Arthur Koestler
Whether you are homeschooling or enhancing your child(ren)’s education at home, there are many ways to include play as a learning strategy.
The National Association for the Education of Young Children states young learners need to begin their days with time to :
“develop self-regulation; language; cognition; social competence; opportunities to explore the world safely; emotional control; symbolic & problem-solving abilities; emerging skills……play is the engine that drives their learning”
I had planned to include a TON of information regarding this, but, instead, I’ll supply links to the articles I found written by experienced, primary educators. There are many! Here’s a few listed alphabetically by author, not importance:
Some Play~Pretend, Free, Open-Ended, Structured, Non-Structured, etal~, though, can be influenced by the imaginations of centuries-old minds~think Fairy Tales….
Can That REALLY Happen in Real~Life???
Fairy Tales are indeed alive & well in your 6-year-old’s vivid imagination. Think~ Tooth Fairy visits!
A major experience in a First Grader’s life is the losing of his/her baby teeth, especially those two front teeth. As a first grade teacher, I had to “help” out many of those dangling pearls, mainly for fear the children would swallow them.
One of the best, and most endearing, as well as imaginative, class-books we wrote was entitled, “What the Tooth Fairy Does with My Tooth”. From giving it to babies to crushing it into fairy dust (crushing?! OH NO!), each child had an interesting perspective on what happens to her/his tooth.
Here are a few engaging Tooth Fairy Tales to share with your “toofless~wonder”:
Bear’s Loose Tooth by K.Wilson & J. Chapman is a rhyming (YAY) story about a young bear experiencing his first loose tooth while he & his forest friends are eating lunch. He wonders how he will eat without it. The illustrations are soft, yet bright forest colors.
Tooth Fairy’s Night by C. Ransom is a Step-Into-Reading book your child will enjoy reading with/to you. The text shares the tooth fairy’s daily evening rituals & travels. The illustrations are colorful & cheerful renderings of her starry nights.
Loose Tooth by L.M.Schaefer & S.Wickstrom is a funny, My First I Can Read book about a young boy trying to get his stubborn, loose tooth to come out (NOOO not the string on a doorknob!!!!). The illustrations are comical in a cartoon-style.
But, on a more serious note about those make-believe tales…..
To Tale or Not To Tale……
Tales of all kinds are part of all cultures~fairy tales, folk tales, tall tales. Many have been verbally handed down to new generations from thousands of years ago. These tales hold within them legends of bravery, trickery, good and evil. Aesop, a Greek storyteller who lived 2600 years ago, engaged his listeners with talking animals that taught life lessons.
I, like millions of other children, was raised with fairy tales told by the Grimm Brothers and/or adapted by Disney (loved the music!). Whether read to me or seen on the big screen, these 1000s-of- year-old tales, full of wonder & magic, engaged my imagination, and, still do.
However, not all children are fans of this genre. My son preferred the whimsy & humor of Dr. Seuss (an absolute FAV of mine) and stories with talking animals.
Child experts agree most fairy tales (except maybe The Three Little Pigs & Goldilocks’s visit to The Three Bears’ cottage) shouldn’t be shared with children under 6-years-old.
What do you think?
The Fairy Tale Debate
Lisa Lipkin, a New York-based storyteller & author of Bringing The Story Home: The Complete Guide to Storytelling for Parents~a very informative read~ shares her Pros & Cons in “The Fairy Tale Debate”:
Yes! Yes! Yes!
Fairy tales have resourceful characters, who figure out how to outwit the villains & their dastardly deeds.
The “hero” characters make good choices in spite of the odds.
The tales show: faithfulness to a belief or character; kindness & patience are rewarded; and teamwork brings success.
The imagery in fairy tales is fantastical with enchantments, talking animals, and super-human courage.
The villains, who are scary & evil, do cruel & heartless things.
Sometimes, those villainous deeds~full of greed & spitefulness~go unpunished.
There are ominous forests full of secrets, spells & magic.
Some of the phrasing in fairy tales is scary & foreboding.
Heroes & villains use gratuitous violence.
Men & women are stereo-typed~think beautiful, helpless princess needs to be rescued by a handsome, white knight…..
Goodreads has several parent reviews of Ms. Lipkin’s book.
Harvey Karp MD, a pediatrician & author of the humorous book, The Happiest Toddler on the Block, shares a few ideas ( with my two cents) on how to read & anecdote those “questionable” fairy tales:
In the beginning of the story, interactively engage all the senses when describing the characters, using the pictures, expressions, questions, & prior knowledge.
During the middle of the tale, talk about the “lesson(s)”~there is always a few~ you want to teach and/or have your child realize as part of the lesson.
Towards the ending~it’s usually happy~ make sure to include an emphasis on the little helper characters~think the mice in Cinderella~ and use your voice as a tool for understanding the roles of the different characters.
Wait a while before introducing stories with children at-risk~think “Hansel & Gretel”, “Bambi” (I got so hysterical, my mom & I had to leave the theater), “Little Red Riding Hood”, etc.
Love Fairy Tales, but want to challenge those stereotypes with your child(ren)? Joanna Parkes shares a great PDF using drama to do just that:
Expressions of creativity~ ART~ can be recognized in many forms.
Bringing to life any abstract, imaginative thought with one’s physical being is, to me, a method of art.
Whether using a paintbrush or a cooking utensil, the inventive energy of an artist becomes a reality.
Your youngster will use this energy to explore, discover, and, then, interpret her/his world in a unique & inspired voice. Nurture, nurture, nurture it.
If you’ve got a perfectionist or a reluctant artist in your midst, a good book might help him/her relax into the world of art. I gathered a few reads into a book list available in BLB’s Library. Click on the link below:
Welcome to Part Three of The FLC First Grader’s Series
Your 6-year-old is asking MORE questions than s/he usually does.
And even though s/he LOVES rules and boundaries in his/her expanding world, those very important inquiries are giving you clues to the puzzles being solved in her/his broadening brain.
Your First Grader’s Inquiry Skills are growing. They are becoming an important part of his/her brain development and academic success.
A “How-To……” book of instructions for everything in life right now would be just fine with her/him!
PART THREE : Inquiry Skills
It is not the answer that enlightens, but the question. ~ Eugene Ionesco
There is a philosophy that an answer can be found within the context of its question…..or at least its beginning is….
Your First Grader comes home with many new & wonderful ideas to share. S/he LOVES explaining how explorations became discoveries.
And, THEN, “what if…..?” Oh, the imagination of the inquiring mind!!!!
This state of inquiry, however, is not satisfied with thinking about things.
Your 6-year-old and his/her longer attention span likes to learn & problem solve by doing: experimenting, planning, building, collecting, and, maybe even , performing magic tricks just to solve what “appears” to be unsolvable.
You can promote these Critical Thinking questions. BLB’s Library has several ideas for you to use in an interactive resource:
Although it can be time-consuming, I found a KWL chart to be a very valuable exploration & discovery tool. Used interactively, it provided me, and my students, with knowledge already in place~no wasted time on redundancy~ and ownership of what was to be learned ~ with a few prompted questions, ideas, & vocabulary clues from me.
When Do We Use A KWL ?
You can use this tool with your child in a variety of scenarios:
to enrich & reinforce a variety of science, social studies & geography topics being taught in school
to increase reading comprehension elements in fiction & nonfiction reads at home and for school
to use as a home-management builder in a number of arenas: chores, safety, nutrition, clothing/weather, etc.
SO~I’ve created something a little different that includes a Resource section in this discovery chat titled KQRL. Here’s a downloadable 8.5×11″ PDF template you can print, laminate & re-use during you & yours’ Inquiry Investigations: KQRL Template
Wondering what science, social studies & geography concepts your First Grader will be learning in the classroom?
Your child’s school district can provide you with a list of objectives & expectations. Ask her/his teacher for assistance and explanations.
Science Explorations in First Grade
Your child will engage his/her 5 Senses to observe, ask questions, and, then, record what s/he is learning. Entering data on graphs (pictographs & bar graphs), hand-drawings as well as written words are products used to show what s/he understands.
This is a “general” list of science concepts your child may (or may not) be learning throughout his/her year in First Grade:
Forces in Motion: push & pull, balance, magnetism, electricity
Changes in States of Matter (solid, liquid & gas)
Properties of Liquids
Sound Production & Travel
Properties of Air
The Universe: day & night sky, moon, stars, sun
Weather: seasons, temperature measurement
Properties & Uses of Earth Materials: soil, rocks, minerals, water
Creativity is inventing, experimenting, growing, taking risks, breaking rules, making mistakes, and having fun. ~ Mary Lou Cook
PBSParents offers some very useful suggestions on how to explore science concepts with your child in everyday scenarios. And just for you, I created a table -YIPEE- to help with that!
Home~Grown Science Explorations & Discoveries
PHYSICAL SCIENCE INVESTIGATIONS
EARTH SCIENCE INVESTIGATIONS
LIFE SCIENCE INVESTIGATIONS
Forces in Motion: trikes, bikes, scooter, wagon; playground equipment
Matter: solids, liquids, gases
Sound:different machines in the air/on the ground
Properties of Air: balloons, paper airplanes, Frisbee, kites, leaves
Light/Dark: day & night sky elements, moon phases, shadows, shade, self-reflection in water
Weather: clouds, temperature, precipitation
Materials:different rocks, soil varieties, waters(lake, pond, brook, river, mud puddles)
Different Plant & Animal Ecosystems
Stages of growth in plants & animals
In the Car
On the Bus/Train
Forces in Motion: Push / Pull
Sound: Machines at work
Light/Dark: self-reflection in window, vision adjustments to sight, building sights, day vs night sky visibility in different environments
Weather: cloud formations in open sky, visibility during precipitation at different speeds
Materials: landforms, bodies of water
Different Plant & Animal Ecosystems: city/country, desert/plains/forest/seaside
In the Kitchen
At the Market
Forces in Motion: push/pull of different utensils, float/sink of different food elements
Matter: changing states from solid to liquid to gas
Liquid Properties: changes with heat, cold, mixtures
Properties of Air: forces of air when applied to different foods, like meringues
Weather: on foods' stability, spoilage, growth in the garden
Materials: how rocks, soil, water affect foods
Human Body: nutrition, food groups, menu/recipe combinations, extra foods
Plant & Animal Ecosystems: growth, food sources, omnivores/herbivores/carnivores
Life Cycles: plants from seed, growth/harvest, preparation
I don’t know about you, but, there are questions children ask that defy an explanation…..So, instead of trying to give reason that might not be understandable or accurate, a more “scientific” approach will probably satisfy those questions. Wonder, inquire & investigate along with your child, encouraging him/her to explain why s/he thinks the way s/he does. Yes~answer a question with another question.
Ready to Set Up A Home~Grown Science Lab ?
Your Primary learner LOVES to investigate his/her Inquiries!
I’ve created 4 of them for you & yours, addressing several of the objectives found in the Physical, Earth, Life & Ecology Sciences. Each contain several investigations with sequential activities for observations, predictions, explorations, experiments & discoveries appropriate for children, ages 5-8. You can visit these “Labs” in BLB’s Shop by clicking on the links below:
Your First grader will, also, be learning about the diverse cultures & countries of the world. Using the Inquiry approach to these studies is a great interactive way to engage her/his learning.
Navigating the World Through Investigations
I found Social Studies & Geography an easy way to integrate reading & writing. Not only are they inter-related, they are incredibly relevant & engaging for most children. Who doesn’t want to explore his/her home country, ancestral roots, holiday traditions, and, then, navigate the way there?!
Here’s a general, sequential inquiry map several fellow teachers & I used in our classrooms before the curriculum timeline rules changed. It’s a thematic approach that blended & covered all required objectives, including some Math, Health & Science expectations. We began at the beginning~the Home.
Family & Home
Where do you live: apartment, house, duplex, trailer, shelter?
Can you draw a map of the inside of your home?
Who is part of your family at home?
What are the needs of most families?
How do families meet those needs?
Are chores & shared responsibilities part of your family?
What other buildings are in your neighborhood?
How is an apartment complex like a neighborhood?
Do your friends and/or relatives live nearby?
Is there a park or playscape in your neighborhood?
Are these other places in your neighborhood: school, gas station, restaurants, markets?
Can you draw a map of your neighborhood, using a few symbols & a compass rose for directions?
The Communities in A Town or City
What is a community?
How are neighborhoods & communities the same? Different?
Do you know where these buildings are in your community: retail shops, restaurants, fire & police stations, schools, churches, hospitals, clinics/offices, athletic fields, cinemas?
Who are the community helpers in these places?
How do you know ( uniforms, special jobs)?
When do you need these community helpers?
How do some of them keep communities safe?
What are “goods” and “services”?
Which community helpers provide services? Goods?
What is the difference between a town & a city?
Do you know how many people live in our town/city?
How many of these places have you visited: concert hall, opera house, theater, museum, historical sites, sports arena, transportation hubs ~ bus terminal, train station, airport?
How did you travel to those places?
Where can you find a major waterway in our town/city? What is its name?
Have you ever traveled to a different town or city?
Was it in our state or a different state?
Can you locate our town/city on this map?
Widening the Scope
A teacher is a compass that activates the magnets of curiosity, knowledge, and wisdom in the pupils. ~ Ever Garrison
What is the name of the state we live in?
Is a state larger or smaller than a city?
Are there only towns & cities in our state?
Do you know the names of some other towns or cities in our state?
Do you know the names of any other states?
Have you ever traveled to any other state?
What did you see/do there?
Where is it on this map?
How did you travel there?
Can you locate our state on this map?
What are those other names a part of on the map?
What is famous about our state?
These states are all part of a what?
What is a country?
Do you know the names of any other countries?
What is the name of our country?
Why is our country called “The United States of America”?
Click on the link below to download, copy & print a PFD I created for celebrating USA Symbols, Citizenship & National Holidays:
There is another, more in-depth way to encourage your child’s Inquiry Skills. It’s a technique called UbD.
Big Ideas & Essential Questions
An idea is “big” if it helps us make sense of lots of confusing experience and seemingly isolated facts. It’s like the picture that connects the dots or a simple rule of thumb in a complex field. ~ Grant Wiggins
Your child’s classroom teacher may, also, (or maybe not) be using a learning technique called UbD~Understanding by Design ~ especially during science, geography & social studies units, which are, then, coordinated thematically with fiction & nonfiction reads. Projects & knowledge are student-driven through exploration & discovery guided by questions the students have formed regarding the subject.
The “Essential Questions” will usually help define the “Big Idea”, which is usually a general, or abstract statement.
When forming the Questions, keep these insights in mind:
They have no right or wrong answers
They promote inquiry to help learn the Big Idea.
They encourage critical thinking, curiosity & real life problem solving.
Basically~ What do you see? What do you think about what you see? What do you wonder about when you see it? How & where can you find out more?
Need more info and tips on how to provide your child with inquiry-based explorations? George Lucas Educational Foundation’s Edutopia is a great site to visit. Just click on the link below:
And NOW….The Final Post in FLC’s 5~Part First Grader’s Series….
Enriching the FLC with your First Grader’s Writing Skills has its challenges and rewards…..
Wish you (or someone) could record all those wonderful new ideas & vocabulary words your incredibly bright First Grader is sharing?
Writing them down would take more than a considerable amount of time…
However, encouraging the source of all that growth to write down all those ideas & words shouldn’t be too difficult…Should it ?!?!?
Part FIVE: The Hard-Won Skill of Writing
Teach children what to think and you limit their ideas. Teach children how to think and their ideas are unlimited. ~ Sandra Parks
What favorite story, or stories do you tirelessly read again & again?
Which author do you trust to transform dull, dry facts into fascinating information?
What cookbook(s) and/or manual(s) do you refer to constantly with easy-to-follow directions that always bring great results?
Do you have a favorite editor and/or critic whose opinion you value, even when you don’t share the same view(s) about certain topics ?
You are one of the reasons why writers write !
Not only do writers love to write (on most days), they, also, write to share ideas, important events & teach. They want to share & communicate their experiences, feelings & information. They love to ask questions & solve mysteries or problems.
As a writer, you tell your story as only you can. Whether reflecting, explaining, judging, exploring, learning, interpreting, problem solving, and/or taking a stand, your words are your words are your words…
As a parent & writer, encourage your young scribe to see & use the power of Written Expression for his/her self and/or to share with others. How ~ by modeling with everyday examples.
Soooo…Are You A Writer ?
Does your child see you write ?
Not only do you show your child how writing helps with daily life, it, also, helps to have a variety of the printed words scattered throughout the home: magazines, cookbooks, manuals, newspapers, cartoons, advertisement slicks, comics, posters, dictionaries, and. of course, many different kinds of books.
Is your child writing everyday ? I’m sure s/he is trying to read EVERYTHING in sight….oh yeah….
Yes, Your Child Needs to Write Everyday
Some time during the day , engage your child is some type of writing activity. It can be a Free Write about anything s/he is interested in exploring, feeling good or bad about, and/or asking for more information.
Practice, practice, practice ~ and remember to encourage your writer to slow down, otherwise….
Try to make it a “routine” event. You may want to collect these writings into a box and/or scrapbook :
Give him/her a personal calendar to record special dates, like holidays, celebrations, birthdays, vacations, play-dates, field trips, memories, etc.
Have her/him write Thank-You cards , notes & letters.
BLB Shop has a Writing Literacy Tool~Lists, Labels & Love Notes– to help engage your young writer. Just click on the link below:
Make sure s/he has a “Storybook” spiral for writing those creative tales with different, colorful writing tools.
Add another “Info & Data Collection” notebook with Topic Tabs for research finds & new information.
Here are some other suggestions from a First Grade Teacher @ primaryjunction.net:
Create a Family newspaper to record weekly activities, articles & upcoming events. You may want to include a comic strip, an advice column with some want ads & an advertisement or two.
Enlist your child to help write shopping & to-do lists.
Play word games like Wheel of Fortune & Hangman while waiting in an office.
Make sure to Publish, Display & Share completed stories, posters, reports, etc.
One of the BEST ways I discovered to engage children in writing is with an Interactive Journal. Prepare yourself for some “eye-openers !”
Your Child’s Favorite Writing Activity
Whether you and/or some other family member participates in this very effective writing activity, the results will prove to be insightful, entertaining &, at times, hilarious.
A simple lined or unlined journal provides numerous opportunities for you & your budding author to share feelings, information, reflections, memories, problems and interactive solutions to life’s daily moments.
Usually written before “lights out”, your child will not only tell you about his/her thoughts, but also, ask you some interesting questions. You, then, answer the question(s) while s/he sleeps, respond with some comments & ask some questions of your own ~ which may, or may not, be answered.
This form of writing is a powerful communication tool and will, definitely engage your young writer. Include drawings with a variety of text lettering & messaging for emphasis & amusement.
So, What Are the Writing Expectations for My First Grader ?
At the beginning of First Grade, your Summer-of-Growth Kindergartner can decide (without your prompting) when to read & when to write (even though they occur simultaneously)…
S/he is able to sound out the “big” sounds & write them down when trying to spell words while writing thoughts.
S/he is even trying to use capital letters & punctuation ~ amazing, huh?!?
At the end of First Grade, s/he is probably printing very legibly when expressing thoughts in stories, journals & notes.
S/he will frequently spell familiar words correctly AND begin sentences with capital letters as well as end those sentences with a punctuation mark (most of the time….when s/he remembers to do so…).
How did this happen, you may ask….
Your First grader is writing in the classroom ALL DAY LONG ~ in all subject areas ~ math, science, social studies, health. S/he writes during trips to the Media Center, Art, Music & occasionally in P.E.
Here’s a wonderful example of a classroom Writing Workshop, posted by Chandra, a primary teacher & parent, on her website teachingwithcrayonsandcurls:
AND, if your school district follows the Common Core, here are the Writing & Language expectations for your First Grader. Keep in mind, some of these objectives began in Kindergarten & will continue in the years to come.
The Common Core’s Writing Expectations
Language & Writing, as well as Reading, are heavily linked together within the Common Core’s Expectations & Objectives for First Graders.
“With the guidance & support from adults” s/he will be writing & editing opinion pieces, informative, or explanatory text and sequenced narratives, or stories.
Each form of writing has a specific process for your young writer to follow. S/he is expected to include reasons to support opinions, facts to support informational topics, and sequential details to support stories.
During the writing & editing process, s/he needs to “demonstrate command” of “standard English grammar”. Some of these include:
printing all upper & lowercase letters with accuracy
using common, proper & possessive nouns
using singular & plural nouns with verb agreement
using past, present & future verbs with accuracy
S/he, also, is expected to “demonstrate command” of “standard English capitalization, punctuation & spelling” (at grade level).
Here’s a Parent-friendly version of the Common Core’s ELA guidelines for First Grade. Just click on the link below:
You can help your First Grader’s growth & development with some of these specific Writing Literacy Skills at home.
How Do I Build Some of These Skills at Home ?
These are some of the Writing Skills you can help your child master at home:
You child should be able to read his/her own writing ~ need some handwriting practice sheets? AtoZ is a great website to explore for teacher tools. You can custom-make sheets to match your child’s handwriting needs while writing spelling words & sentences. Just click on the link below:
Hope these ideas help, especially with the FOUR FORMS OF WRITING!!!! Not talking about Lists, Labels, Letters & Love Notes…..
Those 4 Forms of Writing
Regardless of which Form your child is writing, each one should start with a Main Idea, or Topic sentence & end with a Conclusion sentence.
Each Form of writing should have a beginning, middle & an ending.
Informative writing should include 3-5 facts about the Topic. Narrative writing should include at least 3 interesting events within the story. Opinion writing should have 3 or more reasons to support the opinion. How-To writing needs an order of specific steps for someone to follow.
BLB Shop has an easy-to-use, step-by-step Primary Writing Toolkit to help you help your child with these specific Forms of writing. Just click on the link below:
Is your youngster still struggling with her/his Writing Skills? Read on….
YIKES! My Bright Child Hates to Write!!!!!
There are several reasons why your young creative child may be reluctant to write. Hand strength, or the lack of it, could be the cause. Tuning up those Fine Motor Skills can help. Try weaving baskets, forming pottery, working wood, playing a musical instrument, building models, and creating jewelry . BLB Library has a Resource listing several websites with LOTS of other ideas:
And once you feel your young author has sharpened her/his pencils, but needs to SEE images before writing about them, BLB Shop has a great Story Starter Tool for doing just that. Just click on the link below:
Can you tell I like to write ?!?!? I hope you have found some useful information regarding this extremely important Literacy Skill. Yes, it is complex and, sometimes, frustrating ~ even for those of us who love to write. But it a VERY necessary component of life!
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Upgrading the Family Literacy Circle with Your Second Grader
In Second Grade ALREADY!!!!! Prepare for Academic Acceleration in Learning & Language Literacy Skills. Listening & Speaking Vocabulary become increasingly…complex. Reading & Writing expectations approach independence. And the ongoing Research Projects….
Yes, there’s a TON of Academic Acceleration happening during your 7 year-old’s Second Grade year! And, yours truly is here to try & offer some helpful strategies & tips for “dealing” with this “BLOW OUT” year, which, BTW, will set the tone for next year’s “I Totally Got This !” Third Grade year….
So, Faithful Reader, I’m, again, writing a 5 ~ part Series. This time for Upgrading the FLC with Your Second Grade: Language Skills, Celebrations (Part 2), Research Skills (Part 3), and the ever-ongoing Literacy Skills of Reading (Part 4) & Writing (Part 5).
This is Part One :
Upgrading the FLC with Your Second Grader’s Learning & Language Skills
Your Second Grader’s Learning & Language Skills
There are no seven wonders in the eyes of a child. There are seven million. ~ Walt Streighttiff
Notice anything different about the way your 7 year-old looks? Some of that “baby-ness” may be slowly melting away as his/her motor skills continue to mature. S/he may even grow a few inches taller. Ready to take the training wheels off that two-wheeler?
Not only is his/her curiosity continuing to increase, the abilities to investigate & analyze the mysteries of the world are growing as well.
Those limitless questions are part of the excitement s/he is feeling about the exploration and discoveries of new environments as well as all those social situations. (OMG ~ did s/he just ask me THAT question?!?)
S/he is beginning to prefer playing with friends instead of adults, although family outings are still very enjoyable.
Once answered, s/he is eager to share the new knowledge s/he has learned with others, making your child a perfect candidate as a Peer-Mediator for a school-wide program called “PMII”, or Peer-Mediated Instruction & Intervention.
Yes, I’ve Heard About That Program
As a Peer-Instructor, s/he may act as an assistant during classroom instruction, cooperative learning, and/or peer-tutoring.
S/he may, also, be asked to help as a peer-supporter with social skills connections, such as easing reluctant students into group-share situations (cafeteria, recess, activities).
One of the most successful roles s/he will participate in is as a peer-interventionist during conflict resolution scenarios. As an educator of the young, I can tell you these youngsters work wonders with their peers as situational problem solvers without the company of an adult or teacher. Here’s a sample of an effective dialogue a Peer Mediator may use. This PDF includes strategies with options as well as typical student conflicts.
However, because your Second Grader is beginning to show concerns about what others (especially peers) think of him/her~ growing self-criticism & some confidence-shrinking may become an issue occasionally. And then, there’s the Worry-Wartness symptoms….
What’s to Worry About?
That malady called “Peer Pressure” is beginning to take hold now. Longing to be part of a group, your 7 year-old does not appreciate having attention called to his/her actions and/or accomplishments…. unlike the last few years…..oh dear…
Your child may worry about things that never seemed bothersome in the past, like clothes (“Too babyish!”), homework (“I’ll NEVER get all this done !”), physical irritations (“I think I have a deadly disease!”), bedtime (“I know there’s something hiding in my closet…”).
According to Hank Pellissier, founder & director of the Brighter Brains Institute, many Second Graders ” HATE making mistakes, not finishing tasks, and losing at anything. They have to be first, correct, punctual, best & perfect.” Sound familiar???
He further states that all this particular area of angst is part of your child’s brain growth. Understanding concepts like time, space, direction, distance & time are influencing the expectations s/he has on the completion of activities.
You Can Learn from Your Mistakes
You must never feel badly about making mistakes…as long as you take the trouble to learn from them. For you often learn more by being wrong for the right reasons that you do by being right for the wrong reasons. ~The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster
I came across this great piece of helpful information when trying to boost a child’s confidence, especially when s/he is feeling insecure during the learning process. It is an anchor chart, Jen of Runde’s Room discovered created by a group of elementary school teachers. I did some editing, so please feel to use it with your little WorryWart:
So, of course, a safe, reliable, predictable & reassuring environment is necessary for maximum learning to occur. Keep those routines in place!
Your Child’s Classroom Learning Environment
Although having high expectations for your child may seem a bit harsh, they are, in fact, a match for those s/he and her/his classroom teacher has already put into play. Your Second Grader loves a good challenge ~ even thrives on it ~ as long as the limits are not too stressful. Rigor is a part of the curriculum.
The Second Grade classroom is filled with SEVERAL libraries: fiction readers ~ Picture & beginning Chapter trade books; nonfiction readers ~ earth, physical, ecology & life science concepts; social studies concepts ~ world culture, community helpers, economics, historical biographies, & atlases; math concepts ~ measurement, computation, fractions, money, geometry. There are bins of manipulatives, tools, instruments, notebooks, writing supplies, art supplies, etc. Center nooks are usually in place : reading, writing, science, math, social studies, a large, interactive calendar, maps, and, maybe even, a globe.
Your Child’s Home Learning Environment
Your Home Learning Environment probably shares many of the same elements. My Resource Library has some information for you regarding Your Educational Home Environment. Here’s the link:
And, then, there’s your Brain’s favorite Learning environment ~ the Great Outdoors! Nothing like fresh oxygen!
Your Seven Year-Old’s Brain
Call for brain power. ~Barbara Jordan
Outdoor play is critical to all children’s growth & development. They need to walk, run, jump, twist, turn, spin & play. Not only are 7 year-olds ready for free physical play, they are, also, ready get those training wheels off their speed racers, skateboard (YIKES) and participate in organized sports as well as back yard games. You remember these, right?!
Hide ‘n Seek
Red Light, Green Light
Mother/Father/Granny/Granpa/Auntie/Uncle, May I ?
Multiple Tag Games
In a recent article “Why Kids Need to Spend Time in Nature”, written by Danielle Cohen & published on the Child Mind Institute website, research supports what we humans, have known all along.
As educators, we all agree indoor recess is just not the same as being outside on the playground. Being outdoors is beneficial, not only to your physical health, but also, to your mental wellness.
“Most of the studies agree that kids who play outside are smarter, happier, more attentive, and less anxious than kids who spend more time indoors.”
Here are links to the complete article with an additional link for Ideas:
Lots of research, also, suggests students who engage in physical, outdoor play are able to learn more easily in academic environments. Dr. John Ratey, a Harvard Medical School psychiatrist & author of the book, Spark : The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain states exercise elevates a brain-building chemical he calls “Miracle-Gro for the Brain” because it encourages its growth & development.
And there are lots of indoor Brain exercises you can do.
Inside the Brain Activities
Second Grade requires students to participate in a more rigorous learning environment. Their Critical Thinking skills are engaging them in more complex reading, longer writing compositions, and greater problem solving concepts.
Because they are improving their brains’ processing skills, creating & presenting research projects become a significant part of their everyday classroom expectations. Technology will be used for these investigations, but…..go easy on Screen Time….it’s a Brain ~ Eater, but more on that in Part 2…..
Memory & rational brain areas are growing, giving them more impulse control, independence & planning power. Three-step directions should be easier for your child to follow ~ clothes in the hamper, bath with soap, pajamas on. Oh, and brush teeth & hair….guess that’s more than 3….
Numerous brain scientists & nutritionists agree ~ there are certain foods, when part of our daily diet, actually help brains grow, develop & function more effectively. I created a little PDF reminder you can put on the fridge next to your grocery shopping list. It’s a broad, general list, so Go Julia (Child) ! Brain Foods Poster
Many lists I read, listed Oatmeal, Blueberries & Eggs as the top 3 foods, especially for children. Hmmm…sounds like Breakfast & Cookies…… And because I LOVE to cook, especially with children, I adapted a few recipes using these ingredients for you to make and eat with your child (ren). They’re in a PDF, recipe card format with front & back covers, so you can download, copy, print & cut apart to include as a section in your kitchen recipe box or notebook :
Upgrading the Family Literacy Circle with Your Second Grader
Notice how many different activities your Second Grader is curious about exploring, and, maybe, yes, maybe, even, trying ?
Is s/he bringing home lots of celebration ideas ? 100th Day!?!
And you’re ready to jump in ~ ALL in !?!
But you see some hesitation and, then, some reluctance, surprisingly enough, when it wasn’t even your idea….
Uh…it’s not you…
Your seven, soon to be eight year old, may be experiencing a bit of.. ah…gulp.. an identity crisis…(EGADS! ALREADY?!?!)
Seven can be a difficult time for your child’s self-assurance. Not really a baby-baby, but not really a confident eight year old either (think how independent you were in Third Grade).
Unfortunately some Second Graders are already concerned with what their peers think of them and how they “fit in”…..(OMG!!! NOT YET!!!)
Encouraging and engaging your child with a celebration or 20 will help build his/her confidence, self-esteem, and, most importantly, critical & risk-taking skills. I’ve come up with some (ha!) ideas that might help move the process along….
This is Part Two :
Upgrading the FLC with Your Second Grader’s Celebrations
Where Is My Bright, Confident Child?
Don’t educate your child to become something or someone, educate them to explore and celebrate who they already are. ~ Vince Gowmon
If your seven-year old appears to be a bit shaky at times regarding who s/he is, it may just be a “bad hair” day….or not.
Second grade can definitely be overwhelming for some children. It seems like the expectations are either too high or too numerous to fulfill successfully.
All the new content in school may be coming at your child too quickly for him/her to process in a solid way. Learning strategies for reading comprehension, math problem solving, writing elaboration is only the beginning.
And, if that’s not enough…..there’s research and science fair projects…..but I’ll get into that arena in my next post….”Second Grade Research”.
Oh yeah… and the 3000 new vocabulary words s/he is expected to learn, understand, and, maybe even use, is huge. Some of them are pretty big, too ~ think…..”analyze, transform, reflect, collaborate…” to mention a few…
I did create a product with activities to help your child learn those WOW Words. Just click on the link below:
Share this experience as special You & Me time or pull out your scrapbook/memories to work on the “hobby” together.
Happiness Is Having A Hobby
Creativity is intelligence having fun. ~ Albert Einstein
“Find something to do or…..” was a very effective catchphrase my mother used as an anti-boredom technique.
There were always colors, papers, scissors & glue to encourage idle hands as well as building tools, pretend play clothes, puppets, etc. Designing paper dolls, paper puzzles, costume additions, etc filled many rainy or too-hot-to-play-outside days.
I usually had my nose in a book ~ historical fiction was/is a fav. I, also, loved to cut out articles & pictures to organize into notebooks ~for future reference, of course.
We seldom got bored during outdoor play….. Lots of things to collect & make out there.
Hobbies ~ I have numerous ones ~ are fabulous avenues into who you are explorations & discoveries. Expose your child to the limitless possibilities.
Studies have shown hobbies & collections can benefit your child in many ways. Hobbies can increase focus, time management skills & self-awareness. Collections are great for teaching organization & detail. The website altiusdirectory listed some important ones :
help develop motor skills & bilateral coordination
encourage self-discipline & personal accomplishment
act as educational tools for critical thinking & cognitive skills
build creativity, imagination & guessing skills
engage in goal setting, decision-making & problem solving
grow into career paths
continue to be lifelong interests
Need a few Hobby & Collection ideas ? BLB’s Library has a Resource for you:
Oh, and video games,television & web-surfing are not hobbies, though I will watch my favorite shows WHILE doing a hobby.
Smile….You’re on Candid Camera
Turning off Screen Time (while eyes are glued to it) is an invitation to the creation of a House of Horrors with the sound effects magnified through rock concert-caliper amps…..yes, oh, the HORROR!!!!!
The worst & best consequence I could dole out as a parent was NO SCREEN TIME. Within a week, I watched my child transform from a , uh, growling meanie to a cheerful, nice person. Seriously….it was kind scary and oh, so enlightening.
PBS & other educational programing-only (I wasn’t a Monster Mom) – did little to soothe the savage beast……at first….
Current & past studies confirm the negative effects too much screen time has on your child’s growth & development in ALL areas ~ physical, mental & emotional.
Stepping Away from Screen Time
Dr. Michael Gurian, a family therapist, brain scientist & author of the book, Nurture the Nature , offers a few guidelines for how much media is too much:
Notice your child’s social behaviors ~ unrealistic screen & virtual relationships? isolation from others? withdrawal from interactions?
FYI ~ The National Parks Service offers an AWESOME Junior Ranger program packed with a variety of interests, like fishing, bats, archaeology, caves, historic preservation and MUCH more. Here’s the link for more info:
You can, also, create some screen time filming, and, then, watching a variety of Pretend Play scenarios, explorations, vacations, holiday gatherings ~ you know ~ good ol’ Home Movies !
Children find everything in nothing. ~ Giacomo Leopardi
Who doesn’t love a good movie !?! Believe me ~ I am a MAJOR fan !
As children, my sisters, friends & I loved to build stages for our variety acts & alternative environments when preparing our role play scenarios. Our parents were always entertained and encouraged sequels.
Your Second Grader’s improved learning & memory skills are encouraging a lot of growth in her/his creativity. Toys without specific instructions & boundaries will engage your child’s imagination & cognitive skills.
Pretend Play is beginning to look & sound like a Reality Show with its detail, dialogue & “sets”.
This downloadable freebie has several Invitation Templates for your child’s Pretend Play scenarios:
Or, maybe, you have an aspiring Social Butterfly and/or Party Planner on your hands…. After all, who doesn’t love a PARTY!?!?!
Oh Yeah ! Let’s Partaaay!
Does your child love to go to parties? Is his/her Pretend Play involve making parties (think tea parties, swim parties, sleepovers) & inviting others?
Your Party Planner may have a career plan in her/his future….for now. It may be time to take your Social Director to the next level.
Talking & fantasizing are definitely the beginnings of what is called ~in your seven-year old’s mind~ the pre-planning stages. You can help reality set in with a brainstorming, Q&A session, especially when the Budget enters the equation:
Who is the party for & Why?
When & Where?
Is there a Theme?
How Many People will be invited?
What Kind of party is it: brunch, lunch, dinner, snacks only, dessert, buffet?
What kind of Food & Drinks will be served ?
Entertainment: games/contests, prizes, music?
Cost / Budget?
Here’s a pair of PDF templates (Party Organizer & Budget Worksheet) to get you & yours started : Party Planner
And your child is stretching out: neighbors, school & community.
Celebrating Your Child’s Out~of~the~Door Places
Since Kindergarten you’ve been hearing “My teacher says…” “At school we….” “S/he’s my friend at school…” Your youngster is, hopefully, a proud & eager participant in all things School. Get out your pompoms & join in !
This “School Rocks !” PDF , fill-in-the-blanks, mini-poster freebie will let you know why your Second Grader is so enamored with her home-away-from-home :
How well does s/he know the neighborhood & community? Has s/he been studying maps at school ? Make one together that starts with your home & branches out to nearby places you visit together, including shops, the library & fire station.
The study of Community Helpers has been part of your child’s classroom since Kindergarten. This PDF freebie will give you some clues about how familiar your Second Grader is with his/her town, city, state & country. An interview sheet is included in case s/he wants to find out more about specific community workers : Community Helpers
So, speaking of the USA…..
Celebrating Major USA Holidays
There are 10 Federal, or Public holidays we, as a Nation, celebrate together. They are days to recognition & honor our accomplishments throughout the history of the USA.
Usually included as a 3-day weekend, many businesses, especially banks, some state & federal offices, the post office & maybe, your child’s school will close to enjoy the long weekend.
Those 10 Federal Holidays are:
New Year’s Day ~ January 1
Martin Luther King Day ~ third Monday in January
Presidents’ Day ~ third Monday in February
Memorial Day ~ last Monday in May
Independence Day ~ July 4
Labor Day ~ first Monday in September
Columbus Day ~ second Monday in October
Veterans’ Day ~ November 11
Thanksgiving Day ~ fourth Thursday in November
Christmas ~ December 25
Here’s a 6-page, PDF freebie with Family Activity Ideas for celebrating each of these Holidays plus 5 more including Valentine’s Day, Earth Day, Mothers’ Day, Fathers’ Day, and Halloween : 15 USA Holidays
We, also, as a Country of many diverse cultures, celebrate the many different countries’ customs & heritages so many of us brought with us when we arrived to live here.
Celebrating Our Multiculturalism
The future of our world lies in the hands, hearts, and minds of our children. ~ David Decker
Many schools across the USA hold an International Day for families & friends to share their different customs, foods, heritage, clothing, handwork & language.
Some schools celebrate their diverse cultures with an International Night. Families set up tables & booths to showcase their different customs, foods, heritage, clothing, handwork & language as a mini community festival.
I taught on a campus with so many international children, we hung flags from the hallway ceilings, representing each one. We were like a small United Nations !
BLB Shop has a 77-page PDF product ~ USA Multicultural Celebrations ~ with information, book lists, activities & recipes for you & your family to experience while celebrating our Multicultural Nation. Just click on the link below:
Of course, there are 100s of festivals across the USA, including 10 Major Global Celebrations. These special days are celebrated by millions of people.
Ten Major Global Celebrations
These ancient Holidays are shared by millions & millions of cultures around the world. Most are based on religious beliefs. However, not all who participate in the festivities are necessarily followers of the religion.
How many of them do you know?
COUNTRIES MOST LIVE IN
Americas, Europe & Oceania
Easter & Christmas
North Africa, Asia & Middle East
Ramadan & Eid al-Fitr
Diwali & Holi
South & Southeast Asia
Vesak & Obon
USA, Israel & Europe
Passover & Hanukkah
To learn more about these celebrations, check out the Resource in BLB Library : Ten Major Global Celebrations. It includes information on traditions & symbols with a book list for each culture :
Did you know there are days on the calendar for celebrating peanut butter, spaghetti, dragons & daydreamers ? Months & weeks have specials celebrations, too, like Frog Month & Pizza Week. Holiday Insights on the site The Spruce is LOADED with Family Fun Celebration Ideas. Here’s the link: