Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Lego Club Magazine

For children who aren't naturally keen to pick up a book, finding the right motivation to read can be quite difficult. Recently I discovered a FREE magazine for children from Lego. If you know a Lego lover, this magazine is sure to be a hit. The magazine features comics, colouring pages, pictures of children with their Lego creations and steps for building something from Legos.

To subscribe, just go to and click on the Lego club link shown above.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Playdough Recipes

I recently found this amazing website that offers a LARGE variety of play dough recipes. Playdough is an amazing material. Children love exploring its texture by poking, squeezing, patting, pushing, rolling, cutting, and so on. Children can develop fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination by playing with this interesting substance. In addition, think about all the wonderful vocabulary they can learn with proper scaffolding. They can some of the many complexities of language including prepositions like "on top", "beside", "behind", "under", or even labels for their creations like "dog", "table" or develop their understanding of familiar concepts, "What sound does a dog make?", "How many legs do we need on your chair to make it sturdy?"

Check out some playdough recipes here!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Look At Me!

This post features a new home made book I created as a "make and take" activity at parent support groups. This book has many features that are appealing to young children:

Mirrors - Babies love looking at pictures of other babies, but they enjoy looking at themselves even more! Mirrors are a great way of helping children become self-aware.

Shapes - Children will learn about a variety of shapes by looking at their relection in the shapes. Learning the names of shapes will help you child take their first steps to becoming a math wiz!

Repetition - We all know that children learn best though repetition. This book was written with simple text to help children understand the relationship between what we say and print.

"Look at me! I'm in a square."
"Look at me! I'm in a circle."

TIP: You can buy mirror paper at your local art supply store on a large roll.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Get Ready for a Shock!

Recently, I picked up this book as a potential read for a book club for child care providers. Since I've picked it up I can barely put it down. It challenges some major assumptions that parents and caregivers can make about "what's best for children".

One of the most interesting chapters for me was the one called ``Why Hannah Talks and Alyssa Doesn`t``. As an Early Literacy Specialist, I often tell parents of young children to read, sing and talk with their children. Well, this chapter really opened my eyes to what new research is telling us. For a while I had been under the impression that talking alone would make a difference in the vocabulary development of young children. Though I was well aware that children learn best through interactions, I had no idea that the vocabulary achievement gap is based on how parents RESPOND to their children, including how immediately they do so.

Everytime a baby looks to their caregiver, babbles, or reaches for a toy, there is an opportunity for a caregiver to respond to the baby. Also, it should be noted that the timing of the response is just as important as the response itself. From the time that a baby gestures towards an interaction with a caregiver, that caregiver has 5 seconds to respond or they have missed a learning opportunity.

If you would like more information on this book, please visit this link. From what I`ve read so far, I believe that it`s something that every parent and caregiver must read.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Seven Days in a Week

Adults use time to mark and measure time, but for children the task is not as easy. Little evidence exists indicating that calander activities which mark extended periods of time (a month, a week) are meaningful for children below first grade (Friedman, 2000). Before children can make use of a calendar, they need to be able to understand that time is sequential (first comes Sunday, then Monday, and so on).

There are many relevant resources that exist in your child's world that can help them understand the sequence of a week. You can use picture books, songs, and even photographs to help your child understand how to mark and measure time in their own world.

Some books that discuss the concept of a week include:

The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle: A hungry caterpillar eats various foods on each day of the week before turning into a beautiful butterfly.

Hannah and the Seven Dresses by Marthe Jocelyn: A little girl wears a different dress each day of the week until her birthday comes and she can't decide which of the 7 to choose.

Cookie's Week by Cindy Ward and Tomie de Paola: A mischievious cat gets into trouble each day of the week.

Big Week for Little Mouse by Eugenie and Kim Fernandes: A little mouse spends a week getting ready for a special event.

Today is Monday by Eric Carle: Different animals eat their way through the days of the week.

The song Everybody Happy by Sharon Lois and Bram is another great resource to use when teaching your little one about a week.

Everybody Happy:

Today is Monday, Today is Monday
Monday the washing’
Everybody happy? But I should say:

Today is Tuesday, Today is Tuesday
Tuesday the ironing’
Monday the washing’
Everybody happy? But I should say:

Today is Wednesday, Today is Wednesday
Wednesday the gardening’
Tuesday the ironing’
Monday the washing’
Everybody happy? But I should say:

Today is Thursday, Today is Thursday
Thursday soup
Wednesday the gardening’
Tuesday the ironing’
Monday the washing’
Everybody happy? But I should say:

Today is Friday, Today is Friday
Friday Pay Day!
Thursday soup
Wednesday the gardening’
Tuesday the ironing’
Monday the washing’
Everybody happy? But I should say:

Today is Saturday, Today is Saturday
Saturday is shopping!
Friday Pay Day!
Thursday soup
Wednesday the gardening’
Tuesday the ironing’
Monday the washing’
Everybody happy? But I should say:

Today is Sunday, Today is Sunday
Sunday - Resting!
Saturday is shopping!’
Friday Pay Day!
Thursday soup
Wednesday the gardening’
Tuesday the ironing’
Monday the washing’
Everybody happy? But I should say:
Everybody happy? But I should say!

You can also create a large calander for your child using pictures of them doing activities on each day of the week. For example, on Monday, it could be a rainy day (like lately!), Tuesday is baking cookies, and so on.

Can you think of any books, songs, or activities that help children learn the days of the week?

Friday, April 22, 2011

Tips for Struggling Readers

If your child has difficulty sequencing syllables and recognizing sound units within words, try this ... 

Write your child’s first and last name on a piece of paper. Use a red marker to write the vowels. Glue a pom-pom under each syllable. Have your child say their name, and touch the pompom as they say each syllable.

If your child has difficulty using vowels and consonants to make words, try this ... 

Use a set of magnetic letters and an aluminum cookie sheet. Have your child manipulate the letters to form a word. If you don’t have magnetic letters, use index cards for the activity. Have your child make as many words as possible in 1 minute, using just the letters n, f, d, s, and a.  

If your child has difficulty hearing vowel sounds, try this ... 

On a table, line up a set of index cards with these vowel teams on them: oi, oy, ou, ow, oo. On a different set of index cards write words that contain these vowel sounds, i.e. boil, toy, couch, low. Have your child determine which of the vowel teams each word should be placed under. Try and have 2 -3 words per vowel team. Note that /oo/ can have 2 sounds, such as moon and book. Make sure you keep the words consistent with the sound.  

You could also try these vowel teams: 
o ee, ea, ai, ay, ie, and oa. Again, make sure you keep the word examples consistent. ea has 3 sounds (eat, bread, great). ie also has 2 sounds (piece, pie). 

If your child has difficulty understanding the meaning of what they read, try this ... 

Write the text of a story on paper, leaving room for illustrations. Ask your child to draw new picture for the book. Or have your child write stories or short sentences and then illustrate them. Staple them together and turn them into mini-books. Have he or she read them back to you. 

Here are some Mini-books that are ready to print: (these ones give you the option of printing with text only, so that your child can draw the illustrations). 

Town Mouse Country Mouse 

The Ugly Duckling

Goldilocks and the Three Bears

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Shape and Sound of Letters

Phonics is back!

In the 60s, when my parents learned to read, they used the “Dick and Jane” basal readers. These focused less on teaching the individual sounds in a word, and more on teaching sight words to be memorized. Just like fashion, this method of teaching reading went out of style, and Phonics has made a comeback.  


Phonics is making the connection between the letters on a page, and the sounds that are heard. Even though there are 26 letters in the alphabet, there are 44 sounds! This is because each letter may make more than one sound. 

Around the age of 4, most children have mastered the alphabet song. However, many children need up to 2 years to learn the shapes of all the letters. Here are some tips for teaching your child how to write their letters, and learn the sounds that go with them. 
  • If your child is in preschool, teach an uppercase set of letters first. They are easier to distinguish than lower case letters.
  • By kindergarten, your child should start to focus on learning the lower case letters.
  • Start with simple letters. For instance, t, s, a (short sound, as in tap), m, i (short sound as in pig), r, and d are good to start with.
  • As you’re reading with your child, have them point out words that start with the same letters or end with the same letters.  
  • Research has shown that it is also helpful to show your child a corresponding picture to go with each letter (Ehri, 1992). If they are practicing the letter /s/, have them draw a snake, or a sun – whatever they associate that letter with.

A Time Line of Alphabet Recognition 


- Exposure to letter names 
- Recognizes his or her own name 


- Recites most letter names 
- Labels most letter shapes (uppercase and lower case)

Grade 1 

- Knows all letter names and shapes