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.


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.


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.

3 Questions

Have you ever asked your child what his/her day was like? What is his/her response typically? Is it “fine” or perhaps “I didn’t do anything” or maybe even “I don’t know.” Well, I read an interesting blog post today about the three questions you should ask your child every night before bedtime. And these three questions will hopefully cure those “I don’t know” answers–but it may take a little time.

At the end of each day, as you are tucking in your little one, ask him/her these three questions. Put down your phone. Turn off the television remote. You may be surprised by the answers.

  • What is something that made you smile today?
  • What is something that made you cry today?
  • What is something that you learned today?


Children need three things as they develop: attention, bonding, and communication. These three questions help you give your child just that. You are giving him/her the one-on-one attention and focus they crave (even if they don’t say so). You are bonding with your child and learning about them in those little moments. And you are communicating with them…talking and discussing things. By talking to your child everyday, hopefully, you can teach them to talk to you about all things…happy, sad, confusing, scary, etc.

Reading Just 20 Minutes a Day…

Today’s post comes from a tidbit posted by Reading with Infants, Toddlers, and Preschoolers. Children learn new vocabulary by being exposed to new words, exploring new worlds, and experiencing new ideas.

IMG_3643Let’s do the math: If you read with your child for 20 minutes a day, you will have read 7,300 minutes over the course of a year. Let’s assume an average rate of 200 words per minute. Your child will have heard 1,460,000 words by the end of the year.

Multiply that by 5 years (birth to kindergarten) and your little one will have heard 7,300,000 words before entering grade school.

These are words your child may never have heard in his or her own environment and were likely coupled with images, concepts, and creative ideas your little one may also not have encountered.

Simply stated, reading is the easiest, and most entertaining (in our opinion), way to prepare your child for school – and life.

Be sure to visit the Reading with Infants, Toddlers, and Preschoolers Facebook page for more great tips on reading with your child!


Vocabulary: Word Knowledge

Parents and caregivers make the difference by just modeling the importance of reading, surrounding children with books, and engaging in the learning process. By doing these simple things, children have a better chance at succeeding in school and throughout each aspect of their lives. For the next couple of weeks, we will be posting the six literacy skills and strategies you can use to practice each skill at home with your family.


We will begin with VOCABULARY, or simply put, words:

  • Talk with your child about what is going on around you.
  • Talk about unknown and interesting words. Create a word of the day challenge.
  • Read together, discussing the story and pictures.
  • Point out words that have similar meanings.

Don’t be afraid of using “bigger, fancier” words. Let your child hear unusual words to help expand their word knowledge. Use a dictionary often.

To help develop word knowledge and vocabulary, the most important thing you can do with your child is READ. Here are some great books for children Kindergarten through Grade 3:

Previously by Allan Ahlberg
Big, Bigger, Biggest by Nancy Coffelt
Mom and Dad Are Palindromes by Mark Shulman
The Boy Who Loved Words by Roni Schotter
The Case of the Incapacitated Capitals by Robin Pulver

Greek and Latin Root Words

Prefixes, Suffixes, and Greek and Latin Root Words. Sounds scary. Sounds difficult. In reality, knowing the origin and breaking down larger words can help children learn new vocabulary quick and easy.

Look at the word autobiography. If we break it down into smaller parts, it is easier to determine its meaning without having to look it up or guess. Auto– is the Greek root meaning “self,” bio- is the Greek root meaning “life,” and graph is the Greek root for “written.” Piece it together and an autobiography is written by a person about his own life. Take away the root “auto” and a biography is written about a life.

An example of a prefix would be “un-,” which means not. So breaking down words like unsaid, unequal, undone, and unclear it’s easier to see that these words actually mean not said, not equal, not done, and not clear.

When children are learning to read, it is important for them to have a background knowledge of these prefixes, suffixes, and root words so they can comprehend the vocabulary words they are reading. It’s one thing to read the words on a page, but the second part to reading is comprehending.

Here is a fun way to practice prefixes, suffixes, and root words using paint chip samples from the paint or home improvement store. Just write the “root” on the top of the card, and using the other colors, write words that come from those roots. You can punch a hole in them and create a book of words. Whenever your child comes across a word using a specific prefix, suffix, or root, add it to the card.


Homemade Monday: Make a Book

We’ve talked about great books to read with your children in the last four months. And there will definitely be more lists to come; however, it is just as easy to make your book and the benefits outweigh the energy and little cost it requires to make.


So why make your own book? It goes along with the idea of repetition, shape/color/object recognition, motivation, and bonding. If children are helping co-author the book with you, they will be more likely to recognize the shapes or objects in the book. If they are able to choose the topic, there is more motivation to want to read it–over and over again. And if they are reading it over and over again, there is repetition–a key skill in the early literacy process.

Making your own book requires just a few things: pictures, markers or crayons, glue, paper, and a stapler or rings to bind it. Next, you need to choose a topic. This can range from going on a walk and taking pictures of things you see together to cutting out pictures from a magazine to letting your child draw the pictures (or illustrate). If you are going to take pictures, try letting your child take a couple photographs or at least let them point to the things they want to have photographed. If you are going to cut out pictures from a magazine, let your child try using the scissors–guide them, but let them do the work. This helps build small muscles and leads to better handwriting. After you have your pictures, glue them on construction paper or cardstock. Make sure you label each page with a specific word or sentence–depending on the age of your child. Then staple the book together or punch holes in the pages and keep them together using a ring from the office supply store.

The possibilities are endless. Some suggestions though…if you are doing a shape book, take pictures of familiar places and then have your child point out specific shapes in the pictures. Outline them and label the page with the shape name. Go on a nature walk and take pictures. Ask your child what each picture is about and write down what he/she says. Write a sentence leaving out one word. Let your child fill in the blank and then color a picture to go along with that sentence. Use old greeting cards, paint samples, wallpaper books, junk mail, cereal boxes, book covers (free at the library!!), or pictures from those books from your collection that are falling apart to save them from the trash.

Here are so more tips for creating your own homemade book.

And don’t forget to show your local librarian what you made!!

Homemade Monday: Write a Letter

Looking for something creative to do while on Winter Break? Why not write a letter? There’s nothing like running to the mailbox to find a letter from a friend or relative!


Stop by the library and pick up a couple books to inspire your writing. Sitting down at a table, on a couch, or on the floor with your child to write a letter to someone special is a great way to give him or her attention, bond and communicate: the three most important things a child needs.


Blending, Chunking, Segmenting, OH MY!

Learning to read can be frustrating. Letters can make multiple sounds. Some letters don’t make any sounds in certain words. Words can look the same but have different meanings. Words can look different but sound the same and mean something different. Reading can be difficult, but it doesn’t have to be. Sometimes the only way to know a word is to memorize it; however, as beginning readers, decoding words is easier and often times it can be more fun! Today I am going to list three different methods of “decoding” words that young children can use as they begin to read: blending, chunking, and segmenting.


  • I’m going to start with segmenting first. Segmenting is the idea that a word can be divided into segments. For instance, in the word “cat” we would say there are three sounds: /c/ /a/ /t/. It’s one of the most basic ways to read a word: sounding out each letter sound. I met a kindergartener today who taught me to use my arm as a way to segment a word. Starting with the top of my arm, I would say /c/, then I would move to the inner elbow to say /a/, and then I would touch my wrist to say /t/. The arm has no real importance except that it gives children a place to touch as they break apart the word. It’s similar to using the Eyes on Words popsicle stick.


  • Next comes blending. Blending is putting those letter sounds back together to form words. So once we have split up /c/ /a/ /t/, we can then put them back together to form “cat.”


  • Our final skill is chunking. Chunking is using prior knowledge of letter sounds and words to identify parts of a word we might already know. For instance, the word “stop.” This could be chunked two different ways.
    • I know the chunk “st,” so I just need to figure out what “op” is. Once we have done that, we can blend them back together to form “stop.”
    • I know the word “top,” so I just need to blend it with the /s/ sound to make “stop.”

We use these skills on a daily basis without realizing the fancy names for them. The fancy names aren’t important. The important part is to use the skills. This blog has some great ideas on how to work with your child: MakeTakeTeach. These skills can be used while reading sight word books, nonfiction books about a favorite topic, or a favorite picture book.