Just Write About It…

Writing is a very important skill for children to master. Writing involves creativity, comprehension, fine motor skills, sometimes the ability to follow directions, reading, and so much more. Writing is one of the five early literacy practices helping prepare children for school.

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Here is a simple activity you can do with your child to incorporate writing into your day.

  • Supplies:
    • Paper
    • Crayons, Markers, or other item for coloring
    • Pencil
    • A favorite book

For my example, we read the story Orange Bear Apple Pear by Emily Gravett. It is a simple story with four words: orange, bear, apple, pear. The author uses the words in fun ways through her illustrations.

Image result for orange bear apple pearAfter we read the story, I asked my group of children to think of four words. They could use any four words. When they had a little trouble thinking of words, I asked them to name their favorite color, fruit, and animal.

We moved to the table. I gave them each a large piece of paper, and I told them to use their four words to write a story and draw a picture to go with it.

The most important part of this activity was letting the children be creative and work on their own. The hardest part of this activity was letting the children be creative and work on their own. Yes, you read that correctly. As adults, we have a tendency to want to make our children’s work perfect or help them the entire way. For this project, it’s important to let them figure it out on their own. Let them sound out the words and “kid spell.” Let them draw an animal the way they “see” it.

We did this with a mixture of age groups from 3 to 8 years old.

This mixes a little bit of process art (letting them create on their own) with a little bit of product art (there’s a specific end result with a few instructions). You will be surprised what your child comes up with!

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Homemade Monday: Just like Michelangelo…

Try this the next time your child wants to color or paint.

Find a table or chair low to the ground. Something that is only two or three feet off the ground. Cut a paper grocery bag open or use a large piece of paper. Tape the paper to the under side of the table. img_0080

Show your child a book about the artist Michelangelo. Show him a picture of the ceiling at the Sistine Chapel. Explain how it took Michelangelo four years to paint it and he did the ceiling work while he was on his back. Ask your child how it might feel like to do something like that.

Now you will need to find some classical music.img_0081 I like using soundtracks to movies. Something like Fantasia or Harry Potter. Have your child slide under the table on his back. Let him color or paint to the sound of the music on the paper. The music will help create a peaceful atmosphere and keep your child coloring longer.

Take a few minutes to color with your child. Talk about what you are drawing. You may need to use a pillow for your child’s head or back.

 

Homemade Mondays: Mirror Games

Mirrors are a simple way to entertain your child and help their development, too! Mirrors help strengthen social/emotional development, image tracking, body awareness, bonding, focus, and object permanence. They are a great way to practice writing skills as well as your child grows.

img_9581You will want to use a non-breakable, child safe mirror for these games.

For your preschoolers and school-age children, use a dry erase marker to have them practice writing their name, sight words, vocabulary words, and spelling words. Have them practice words that interest them. They can practice writing letters of the alphabet or their numbers. They can even draw pictures–ask questions about what they are drawing to help increase their vocabulary.

For younger children, use the mirror to play peek-a-boo. Point to different parts of baby’s body like the nose, ears, eyes, hand, etc. Say their names out loud. Make a face and ask baby to imitate your face. These are great games to get siblings involved by letting them hold a hand-held mirror.

For more fun activities with mirrors, check out Mirror Play for Infants and Why Babies Love Mirrors.

Here are some great books for you to read with your child about playing peekaboo!

Sing a Little Song, Recite a Little Rhyme: Part Two

Over the next few months, we will be sharing our staff’s favorite songs and rhymes. These can be heard during storytime at many of our locations. (Here’s part one in case you missed it.)

Singing and rhyming are great ways to develop sound awareness for children. This sound awareness can lead to better reading as children develop a better understanding of the sounds that make up words!kt8aqxgtr

So, here are a couple of rhymes and songs you can sing with your child when they wake up in the morning or after naptime, in the bathtub, when it is time to change a diaper, when it is time for bed, in the car…and remember, you do not have to be an American Idol to sing a song to your child.

Magic Finger
Magic finger in the air
Magic finger in my hair
Magic finger on my hips
Magic finger on my lips

Hello Song
(to the tune of Hot Cross Buns)
My hands say hello, my hands say hello
Every time I see my friends, my hands say hello.
(then feet, ears, head, whatever the your child wants!)

Two Little Feet
Two little feet go tap, tap, tap
Two little hands go clap, clap, clap.
Two little fists go thump, thump, thump,
Two little legs go jump, jump, jump!

For more fun rhymes, make sure you visit your local storytime.

Homemade Mondays: Fabric Scraps

Have you ever left the baby wipe container sitting out where your child can reach it only to find all of the wipes scattered all over the floor? Or perhaps the tissue box was left on a table within the reach of your toddler and now it looks like it may have snowed on your living room floor? Here is an inexpensive (virtually free!) and quick way to solve this problem–at least when you remember to keep the tissues and wipes in a hard to reach img_9577place.

Peek-a-Boo boxes are a great way to let your child have fun pulling out scraps of fabric or scarves from a box without using up all the tissues or wipes. I found these great little treat boxes after the holidays for pennies, but you can use a Kleenex box (the kind with a hole on top not on the side) or an old baby wipes container. Simply stuff the box with scraps of fabric or lightweight scarves.

You can use scraps of fabric to play matching games as well as build vocabulary. I found fabric swatches at a local fabric store. They usually have them in the upholstery section precut. Often times they are free (just ask before taking). img_9576I cut the fabric in to two pieces. For toddlers and preschoolers, hide one piece of the fabric in a bedroom or living room or other child-friendly space in your house. Show your child its matching piece, and then send them around the room to look for its mate.

You can also use the fabric to talk about texture, size, color, and shape. Ask questions about how it feels using words like soft, stretchy, heavy, light, and rough in addition to color or shape names.

 

Five Activities for the Fall

It’s starting to feel like Fall around here. The air feels cool and crisp. The leaves are turning beautiful shades of yellow, orange, and red. You can find pumpkins and mums everywhere. So I want to share some outside of the box games you can play with your children right now.

img_95311. Friendly monsters. This is an easy project using materials you already have at home. I used felt and cut out random shapes and pieces. You could use old cereal boxes for a sturdy base. You could use construction paper or old fabric, feathers, pipe cleaners–whatever you might have on hand. Then the fun begins. As your children design the monster faces talk to them about what they look like and why. Ask your children to tell you a story about their monsters. Have fun with this activity. Let your child be creative. If you can record them telling you about their monster or write down the story.

 

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2. Where the Wild Things Are. After reading Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are, use up your craft supplies and create your own wild thing. Ask your child questions relating to the story to help with story recall. Ask your child what it would be like to be Max. Talk to your child about the wild things in the story. Ask your child what would it be like if they went to their room and dreamed of a faraway place with “wild things.”

 

3. Stacking Pumpkin Towers. This is a great STEM activity. You will need toothpicks and img_9529-2some kind of gummy candy. We used pumpkin candy. Give your children the materials (making sure to tell them to be careful with the toothpicks), and then let theme have fun trying to build the tallest tower. If their tower falls, let them figure out what went wrong. Guide them with clues. This is a great activity to teach problem solving. You can also include counting and measuring.

 

 

img_95304. Pumpkin Hammering. This is a great game to use a pumpkin if you do not want to carve it or if you have an extra pumpkin. Using plastic nails or large push pins and a plastic hammer, let your child hammer the nails/pins into the pumpkin. Add rubber bands around the nails or pins to create shapes. Talk about what shapes you created. Ask your child to identify the colors of the pins or the names of the shapes.

 

 

 

5. Fall Leaf Prints. This is a work of art for your refrigerator. It works best with watercolor paper, img_9549but you can use regular paper as well. Have your child gather three to four leaves–different shapes work well, if possible. Place the leaves flat under the paper. Rub the side of a white crayon over the paper pressing hard where the leaves are. (For younger children, you could do this before the children come to the table to make it a surprise.) Then let your child use watercolors to paint on the paper, allowing colors to mix. Watch your child’s face as the leaf shapes appear! And I recommend reading Fall is Not Easy by Marty Kelley.

Don’t forget to stop by the library and tell us which activity was your favorite this month!

Sing a Little Song, Recite a Little Rhyme: Part One

The next couple of week we will be sharing our staff’s favorite songs and rhymes. These can be heard during storytime at many of our locations.

Singing and rhyming can have a very positive impact on young children. Singing helps break up the syllables in words, which makes identifying the parts of words easier. Rhymes help children hear the sounds that make up words, which makes reading easier as children are able to identify parts of words quicker. For instance, say the words “Twinkle, Twinkle little star, How I wonder what you are…” out loud. Now sing those lyrics out loud. Chances are you slowed down a little bit to sing the lyrics. This made hearing the parts of the word simpler. It also allowed you to hear the rhymes better.

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Fun fact: If children can identify all of the words in a word family (-at, -an, -ig, -it, etc…), they will know more than 500 words! How cool is that?!

So, here are a couple of rhymes and songs you can sing with your child when they wake up in the morning or after naptime, in the bathtub, when it is time to change a diaper, when it is time for bed, in the car…and remember, you do not have to be an American Idol to sing a song to your child.

Sunshine, Sunshine
(use a scarf to “dance” around your child–a Miss Elizabeth original)
Sunshine, sunshine warms my nose,
Sunshine, sunshine warms my toes.
Sunshine, sunshine warms my chin,
Sunshine, sunshine makes me grin.
Sunshine, sunshine at my side,
Sunshine, sunshine time to hide.
Sunshine, sunshine warms my head,
Sunshine, sunshine goes to bed.
(can be used with bubble, flower, raindrop, and snowflake)

A Hunting We Will Go
(change out the words mouse/house, dragon/wagon with your own fun rhyming words)
A hunting we will go, A hunting we will go
We found a mouse, and put him in a house
A hunting we will go.

A hunting we will go, A hunting we will go
We found a dragon, and put him in a wagon
A hunting we will go.

Stay tuned for more fun rhymes this month!

 

Homemade Monday: Puzzle of Opposites

Here’s a new way to look at any of those wooden/board puzzles you might have in your toy chest, closet, or playroom floor your children are tired of putting together.

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Instead of putting the puzzles together based on the actual picture on the front of each piece, write and/or draw opposite pairs on each piece and the board onto which they fit. Turn the pieces so they are face side down. Then your children can match the opposites.

Float or Sink?

The key to teaching your child throughout the summer months is to sneak in learning experiences while they are having fun. For instance, whether you are swimming at the pool, splashing in a water table, or simply getting ready for bath time, why not play a game of sink or float?

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First, you’ll need to gather together a few items. Make sure you have a mix of light and heavy objects. Also, try using two of the same materials in different forms. In my example, I used a ball of foil and compared it to a flat piece of foil. (In my example, we just used a bucket with water tinted a light shade of blue just to see it better.)

Once you have your objects, let your child guess what will happen with each object. Will it sink or float? Don’t forget to ask why! This is a key component as you expand their vocabulary. You can just sort the items in piles.

Now for the fun. Let your child start dropping the objects in the water. Talk about what he or she thought might happen versus what actually happened. Talk about why the objects sunk to the bottom or floated on the top.

By sneaking in a few fun activities while your child is enjoying his/her summer, you are helping to shorten that summer slide and get him/her back on track faster when school rolls around again.

Don’t forget to comment below with the objects you tested!

 

Practicing Pinching

It’s important at an early age for children to exercise their hand muscles. Those are the muscles that will help them grip a pencil, hold and grab objects, use scissors, open packages, etc. Below if a fun activity you can do on a rainy day or even on the front porch on a sunny day to help exercise and strengthen those muscles.

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You will need the following items:

  • Clothes pins or tweezers/small tongs
  • pompoms of varying sizes
  • two containers

Label the containers BIG and SMALL. Mix together all of the pompoms. Let your child start picking up the pompoms with the clothes pin or tongs by pinching it. Release the pompom in the correct container.

This activity teaches opposites, strengthens the pinching (fine motor) muscles, and helps increase vocabulary. You can talk to your child about the different sizes and colors of the pompoms, substituting words like large, tiny, huge, etc. for big and small.

As a variation, you could use objects you find outside like leaves, flower petals, stones and pebbles, sticks, etc.