Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Mitten Weather

Thumb in the thumb hole, fingers all together.
This is the song we sing in mitten weather.

It's the time of year that we begin wearing heavier layers to keep warm. Talking, singing, and reading about layering our clothing will help children understand how to stay warm. This time of year brings out many new vocabulary words.

As a simple activity, make a paper mitten in each colour from construction paper. Children can help you tell the story, "Red Mitten, Red Mitten" which models Eric Carle's story Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?"

Monday, November 29, 2010

Fostering creativity in children

Here is an interesting story...

The Little Boy
Adapted from Helen E. Buckley

Once a little boy went to school. He was quite a little boy and it was quite a big school.

One morning, when the little boy had been in school a while the teacher said, "Today we are going to make a picture". The little boy was happy. He liked to make pictures. He could make all kinds: lions and tigers, chickens and cows, trains and boats. He took out his box of crayons and he began to draw.

But the teacher said, "Wait, it is not time to begin" and she waited until everyone looked ready. "Now", said the teacher, "We are going to make flowers". The little boy was happy. He liked to make flowers so he began to make beautiful ones with his pink, orange and blue crayons.

But the teacher said "Wait, I will show you how." She drew a flower on the board. It was red, with a green stem. "There, now you may begin", said the teacher.

The little boy looked at the teacher's flower, then he looked at his own flower. He liked his flower better than the teacher's, but he did not say anything. He just turned his paper over and made a flower like the teacher's. It was red with a green stem.

On another day, the teacher said, "Today we are going to make something with clay". The little boy was happy. He liked clay. He could make all kinds of things with clay: snakes and snowmen, elephants and mice, cars and trucks. He began to pull and pinch his ball of clay.

But the teacher said, "Wait, it is not time to begin". She waited until everyone looked ready. "Now, we are going to make a dish," said the teacher. The little boy was happy. He liked to make dishes. He began to make some that were all shapes and sizes.

But the teacher said, "Wait, I will show you how". She showed everyone how to make one deep dish. "There, now you may begin," said the teacher.

The little boy looked at the teacher's dish. Then he looked at his own dish. He liked his better than the teacher's, but he did not say anything. He just rolled his clay into a big ball again and made a dish like the teacher's. It was a deep dish.

Pretty soon the little boy learned to wait, to watch, and to make things just like the teacher.

Then, it happened that the boy's family moved to another city. On the first day at his new school, the teacher said, "Today we are going to make a picture." The boy thought about how much fun it would be to draw a picture, and he waited.

The teacher didn't say anything. She just walked around the room. When she came to the little boy, she asked him if he wanted to draw a picture. He said yes and asked her what he should draw. She said he could draw anything he wanted to. He asked her what colour he should use. She said he could use any colour he wanted to.

The little boy looked at his blank paper and thought hard for several moments. Then, he picked up his crayons and started to draw.

Can you guess what he drew?

For more information on children and creativity, please visit:

Children and Creativity

Process, Not Product

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Sparkle Box!

Are you looking for a great website with free resources that you can use with children? I suggest you try

I have given you link to the literacy page on stories, rhymes, and reading, but there is lots more for you to browse once you get to the website.

Please post a comment if you find something worth sharing!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Storytelling for Babies and Toddlers

"Children need lots of experience listening to many kinds of stories such as stories about people's real life experiences, and stories that are made up. Stories that are never written down as just as valuable as stories told from books. Experience with stories helps children understand how words go together, both in sound and in print, to help build meaning".

Source: Macaulay Child Development Centre, From Lullabies to Literacy

We all know that younger children have smaller attention spans. Expecting an infant or toddler to sit through a long fairy tale is setting oneself up for failure. Instead, try developmentally appropriate stories to HELP THEM develop their attention span.

Stories for babies can be as simple as nursery rhymes such as "Hickory Dickory Dock" or "Jack and Jill". You can also tell your baby what you are doing while you do it, "First we'll get the diaper, and then we'll put it on".

Stories for toddlers can be repetitive songs or stories such as "Eensy Weensy Spider" or "Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?" Alternatively, you can tell stories about when your child was born and how you felt, something you did or liked when you were very young, or when you learned to do something such as tie your shoelaces.

Friday, November 19, 2010

What is Print Motivation?

Print motivation is an interest in and enjoyment of books. Researchers suggest that children who are more fluent and positive about reading came from parent-child pairs who viewed reading as fun and encouraged questions and humour while reading. Children who learn that reading can be fun despite its challenges may be more motivated to persist in their efforts in learning to read.

Family influence carries a lot of weight in literacy. A study of parents reading with toddlers found that when the interaction with the parent in negative, it carries over to the activity of reading. Children will avoid reading because of the negative experiences they associate with it (Bus et al., 1997). This tells us that it is important to promote a fun, positive, and stress-free environment when sharing books with our children.

A child with print motivation enjoys being read to, plays with books, pretends to write, asks to be read to, and enjoys visiting the local library.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Early Childhood Brain Insights

This blog provides information on the importance of brain development in the early years and how easy it is to provide for your children. Check it out!


Monday, November 15, 2010

STORY EXTENSION: 10 Little Rubber Ducks

10 Little Rubber Ducks by Eric Carle is based on a news story that the author saw in a newspaper about rubber ducks falling off a container ship during a storm. Each of the 10 rubber ducks in the story follow their own unique path.

Here are some activities you can use to extend this book:

- Put rubber ducks into you water play area

- Sing 5 Little Ducks at Circle Time - provide a felt board in your reading area with 5 little ducks and a mother duck

- Encourage counting and matching by asking children to match the number of loose ducks to the number of ducks on enveloppes.

Click here for more ideas!

Do you have an idea you can share in the comments?

Friday, November 12, 2010

Let's Pretend...

The connection between pretending and literacy is strong. When pretending, children learn to use imaginary objects or simple objects to stand for real objects (e.g., a child may pretend a broom is a horse, or pretend that a paper towel roll is a fire hose).

In addition, children learn that words are symbols that represent what we want to communicate when first learning to talk. It's similar to learning to read in that a child must understand that letters are symbols that represent the sounds in words.

Children learn reading skills when we encourage them to “make believe”. For example, when children pretend play, they learn how to use their imagination. This will be an important tool for your child to use when they are older and they begin to read chapter books that don't have pictures.

Research has also found that children who pretend on a regular basis have a better understanding of stories, develop more complex language skills, get along better with their friends, solve problems more easily, develop better self– control, and are more creative.

Did you know that children start pretending between 13-18 months? They begin by pretending on themself. You may notice a child at this age who will feed themself with cup/spoon and pretends by making eating actions and sounds. Alternatively, you may notice your child pretending by sleeping on doll’s bed/pillow, sitting on doll’s chair, or dressing themself with doll’s clothes!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Understanding Remembrance Day

Tomorrow is Remembrance Day. We will honour those who have risked their lives and those who give so much to serve our country. To help your young child understand Remembrance Day, read books. Soldiers fight for peace. Talk about what peace means with your children.

Here are some good books to read for Remembrance Day:

- A Poppy is to Remember by Heather Patterson

- In Flanders Fields: The Story of the Poem by John McCrae by Linda Granfield (suitable for older children)

- The Peace Book by Todd Parr

The poppy is worn over the heart as a symbol of tribute and support for war veterans. Here is a song and a poem to teach your children:

Poppy Song
(Tune: BINGO)

There is a flower that we wear to show that we remember:
P-O-P-P-Y, P-O-P-P-Y, P-O-P-P-Y
and poppy is its name-o.

Little Poppy

Little poppy given to me,
help keep Canada safe and free.
I'll wear a poppy as red as can be,
to show that I remember those who fought for me.

Remembrance Day facts

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

10 Tips for Talking Together

1. Read and talk about books with your children.

2. Tell your children the names of things and describe how they look, feel, smell or sound.

3. Take turns talking about the things you do.

4. Take turns talking about the places you go.

5. Take turns talking out the things you see.

6. Tell stories together.

7. Talk about how things are the same and different.

8. Give reasons for what is happening.

9. Take turns talking about feelings and opinions.

10. Take turns talking about the future and what may happen.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Stories are Gifts...Share!

This past weekend, I was pleasantly surprised when I picked up a drink at Starbucks for two reasons:

(1) the Starbucks Peppermint Mocha is back!

(2) the cup is a vessel for tasty drinks and LITERACY!

Above is a picture of the sleeve on my cup. It is so wonderful because it reminds us that people can be brought together through simple conversation. Conversation is where literacy starts. Children do not learn to use and understand language on their own - they learn by listening and speaking to their parents and other people around them. Conversations make meaning from everything we see in the world.

When we spend time taking turns talking about the people, places, and things in our world, we are teaching our children new words (vocabulary) to add to their sentences, how to talk about the past and the future, and how to concentrate and stay on topic!

Research is clear—learning becomes easier when children have strong vocabulary skills and strong oral skills.

In today’s fast-paced world where electronics are everywhere we turn, there are many forces that can keep us from having daily conversations with our children. Sit down, get cozy, and talk with your child over a nice warm hot chocolate. Tell them something real about your childhood. The cup below says,

"My sister and I would just stare up at the sky, trying to see where the snowflakes were born."

10 Tips for Talking Together

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Resilience (part 2)

"Developmental neuroscience is telling us that we have a special window to enhance the development of self-regulation between the ages of three and five when the part of the brain that supports executive functions is undergoing a critical growth spurt" (Posner and Rothbart, 2006).

Yesterday I wrote about resilience. After posting, I found another reference to the importance of developing this skill in children.

According to Every Child, Every Opportunity: Curriculum and Pedagogy for the Early Learning Program (A compendium report to "With Our Best Future in Mind: Implementing Early Learning in Ontario),

"Over the past decade, scientists have begun to acquire a much better understanding of why it has been so difficult to change educational trajectories, and it turns out that the explanation to this phenomenon has little to do with IQ; rather, the reason lies primarily in the child's ability to self-regulate: to monitor and modify emotions, focus or shift attention, control impulses, tolerate frustration, delay gratification, do-regulate in social interactions" (p. ii - Blair and Diamond, 2008).

Charles E. Pascal, the Special Advisor to the Premier on Early Learning, stresses the principle that early development launches children's trajectories for learning. On pages 4 and 5 of the Every Child, Every Opportunity, he explains the concept of self-regulation and its relevance in the early years.

As a parent or educator, one way to promote resilience in your children is by reading picture books with them. Highlight storybook characters' resiliency abilities by commenting as you read.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010


"Resilient" people have been shown to have happier relationships and are less prone to depression, more successful in school and jobs, and even live healthier and longer lives (from "The Resilence Factor" by K. Reivich and A.J. Shatte). Research shows that children can start to develop resilience skills as early as 2-3 years old, so why not start early?

In Spring 2008, Ontario's Ministry of Child and Youth Services published a document called Realizing Our Potential: Our Children, Our Youth, Our Future. This document identifies several strategic goals for our province. Goal number 4 is as follows: Every Child and Youth is Resilient.

Resiliency is also highlighted in the Full-Day Early Learning-Kindergarten Program. Page 2 indicates that the program aims to provide each child with the support they will need to develop self-regulation. Self-regulation is a critical skill in resilience.

Resilience is not something we are born with - it is developped through practice. Some critical abilities associated with resilience include:

- emotional regulation
- impulse control
- causal analysis
- realistic optimism
- empathy
- self-efficacy
- reaching out

One way for children to learn these abilities is to see them modelled through the adults in their lives. In order to be good role models, we must develop our own resilency abilities. Please follow the links below to find out more about how you can do to support resilence in children. Start with Reaching IN...Reaching OUT (RIRO) is an evidence-based program that teaches resiliency thinking skills to young children so they can Reach IN to face life's challenges and Reach OUT to others and opportunities that encourage healthy development.

Resilence in Development: The Importance of Early Childhood

Play and Self-Regulation in Preschool

Developing Self-Regulation in Kindergarten

Resilence Bounce Back

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Fine Motor Skills (3 1/2 - 5 1/2 years)

Below is a list of developmental milestones related to fine motor skills for 3 1/2 - 5 1/2 year olds. Please see yesterday's entry if you are looking for information on younger children.

Your child from 3 1/2 to 4 1/2 years.

Typically can:
- Put large jigsaws together
- Cut with children's scissors
- Paint with a paint brush on large paper
- Manipulate clay
- Draw a person with three parts
- Fold paper

Emerging skills:
- Buttons and unbuttons buttons
- Cuts on line with scissors
- Carries cup without spilling liquid in it
- Strings small beads to make a necklace

Your child from 4 ½ to 5 ½ years.

Typically can:
- Draw a person with most parts included
- Copy, square, circle and rectangle
- Building 10 cube tower
- Do seven- to eight-piece puzzle
- Hold pencil between thumb and forefinger
- Use same hand consistently
- Draw letters and numbers
- Cut and paste
- Wash hands and face
- Dress if he or she has plenty of time
- Print name
- Feed self with little mess using fork and spoon

Emerging skills:
- Ties shoelaces and bows
- Does up buttons and fastners
- Copies triangles

SOURCE: Invest in Kids: What a chilg will be depends on you and me: A resource kit for a child's first five years

Developmental Milestones (Ages 3 Through 5)

Monday, November 1, 2010

Fine Motor Skills (birth - 3 1/2 years)

In order to be able to write, children need to develop their fine motor skills. Here is a developmental continuum which describes a predictable sequence of fine motor development.

Your child from 6 to 18 months.

Typically can:
- Place 10 cubes in a cup
- Grasp items with thumb and forefinger
- Target small objects
- Stack three to four blocks
- Turn page of a book
- Scribble
- Fill and empty containers

Emerging skills:
- Folds paper
- Attempts Simple Puzzles
- Copies simple lines drawn on paper

Your child from 1 ½ to 2 ½ years.

Typically can:
- Take lids off jars
- Fit jars and squares inside of each other
- Draw vertical line
- Build tower of five blocks
- Complete simple puzzle

Emerging skills:
- Clutches pencil with whole hand
- Holds brush and paints on paper
- Uses small scissors to cut
- Strings beads
- Imitates folding paper in half

Your child from 2 ½ to 3 ½ years.

Typically can:
- Copy a circle from a drawing
- Build a tower of nine blocks
- Place round, square and triangular blocks in a form board
- Complete easy puzzle
- Copy bridge of blocks from model

Emerging skills:
- Handles scissors and cuts out
- Copies a cross
- Pulls up a zipper but can not do buttons
- Screws lids on jars
- Carries liquids in a cup
- Puts on shoes by can not tie laces

TOMORROW: 3 1/2 - 4 1/2 years & 4 1/2 - 5 1/2 years

SOURCE: Invest In Kids: What a child will be depends on you and me: A resource kit for a child's first five years.

For activity ideas, explore the websites below.

Developing Fine Motor Skills

Activities for Fine Motor Skills

Activities to Develop Fine Motor Skills