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.

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.

Tall Blocks, Small Animals

Books become more meaningful when you can expand the story to a hands-on activity. Here is one extension activity you can do with very little supplies.

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You’ll need to read the book Tall by Jez Alborough. (Hint: Stop by your local library and pick up a copy if you don’t own it.) Tall is about a few jungle animals who help a little monkey feel taller than he really is. This is a great book with very few words. You can use the illustrations to talk about what is happening on each page.

Next, get out the blocks or the LEGOs. You will also need a couple small animals or action figures. Now let your child’s imagination go wild. Let he/she build towers as tall as can be (just make sure no one is on the other side in case it falls!). When he/she is done building, place the small animal on top of the tower. Just how tall can the tower be before it falls over? Experiment with different shapes.

This is a great opportunity to talk with your child about the tower he/she is building. Ask questions like how tall do you think it can go before it will fall? What kind of tower is it? Why is the animal or action figure climbing so high? What is it the animal is trying to see?

Try to avoid yes/no questions as they require no other answer. To help expand your child’s vocabulary and comprehension of the story, you want to ask open ended questions.

Credit for activity idea: Teach Preschool.

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.

Out of this World Summer Fun

This summer you can go on an outer space adventure without ever leaving the comfort of your house and yard!cartoon girl in spaceship

Before we begin, you will want to pick up a few books about outer space and astronauts from the Library. Click the subject links below for some fun books to read.

Now the fun begins! Take a little time a read through one or two of the books you have chosen. Talk about the illustrations (don’t be afraid to use the word illustration). Ask your child what it would be like to fly to the moon. Or what he/she thinks space is like.

Next get two giant sponges (the kind used for washing cars). Rubber band them to your child’s shoes. Let them walk around the house. Ask them what it feels like. This is to simulate walking on the moon or on another planet!

Pick up some astronaut ice cream. You can usually find this at a local museum or toy store. Let your child try a couple bites. Explain it is freeze dried. Try other freeze dried fruits from the grocery store.

Pour flour in a large Tupperware container or baking sheet. Drop a rock on to the flour. When you pick it up, explain that you have just made a crater. Talk about what it looks like. Let your child drive little cars or rocks through the flour for fun.

Or make your own moon sand! Materials Needed: 6 cups play sand (you can purchased colored play sand as well!); 3 cups cornstarch; 1 1/2 cups of cold water.

Don’t forget to comment below with some of your favorite out of this world activities!

Homemade Monday: Spelling Words

I stumbled up on this fun idea today while checking out a blog/tumblr. This blog has nothing to do with literacy, but the writer posts fun photos. And it fits in so well with our Start Smart initiative.

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We will probably debate the effects of technology on children for years and years to come, but in the meantime, let’s agree moderation is key! But this post isn’t about the good and bad habits that form from using technology. This post is about a fun idea you can use with your preschooler, Kindergartner, and even first or second grader!

All you need is a laptop or computer. Check out the post by Emphasis Added for more details!

 Tonight we played a game – “Type on the Computer Game.”  
(Riveting.  For real.)

It started as a desperate attempt to distract the girls from a series of ridiculous squabbles- but it quickly proved to be one of my more successful diversions ever.

Hazel is suuuuuper into words & letters, right now.  She wants to know how to spell every word that pops into her head.  It is nonstop….yet endearing.   This march to literacy has been my favorite mama-milestone yet.

As Simon & Felix worked on dinner, Hazel & I sat together on the couch.  My computer perched on her lap.  She gave me a word (first one:  stroller).  We worked together to figure out the letters and I let her hunt and peck them out on the keyboard.  She’d then think up the next word and we’d repeat the sequence of action.  Tonight, Hazel learned to hit the Shift Button after each word and how to employ the backspace when lingering on a key too long.  We even dabbled with Caps Lock when spelling their names.

She belly laughed at least a dozen times during the activity (usually when finding an out of reach letter on the keyboard) – a perfect reminder of how much joy little ones seem to find in every task they undertake.

This was her list.  And the name she gave the doc.  It took us probably 20 minutes to get it all typed up.  I know this exchange could be easily dismissed as nothing more than…um, typing….but I wanted it documented here as a peek into the mind of my 4 yr old.

 What words does your child ask you to spell often?