Sunday, April 29, 2012

* Help Get Your Kindergartner Ready To Write

Helping your kindergartner or pre-kinder aged child get ready to read and write is not as scary as it sounds. Your kids will get excited about reading and writing because they seem to be hard-wired to do it naturally at this age. You do not need a degree in early childhood education or special workbooks to help your preschooler transition from a pre-reader and pre-writer into a little reading and writing master!
Good news, you probably have everything you need in your home already. You will just need to be supportive and patient - easy.

My own daughter "C" (age 5) is wrapping up her final year of preschool and will be heading to kindergarten this fall. Her literacy skills are growing stronger each day. She isn't reading yet and that's okay, although she has a few classmates who are. My older daughter "E" (now age 9) wasn't reading yet at this age either, now she stays up half the night devouring books. I can remember distinctly one afternoon when a friend of hers was over for a play date and he picked up a book and read it fluently from cover to cover. I was shocked and felt like a failure as a mom (and former teacher no less!) Then I reminded myself that all kids learn at their own rate and will do things when they are ready. It's not my job to push my kids but to just provide the kind of environment that nurtures and encourages them to progress at their own rate. A similar thing happened to me when "E" was learning how to walk and a play group friend of hers was walking up and down stairs without any adult help, guess what - "E" learned how to walk up and down stairs just fine!  I wish I had read this article on Mom's Homeroom about getting your child "Ready to Write" when I felt discouraged. If we spend all of our time as parents comparing our kids to other kids all we will do is stress ourselves out. 

Reading and writing at this age isn't just about memorizing words, it includes differentiating colors, sizes, shapes, and using context clues to comprehend everything from the sign on their favorite toy store to the label on their juice box. 
Quick quiz:

* Do you have scrap paper or writing paper available for your child to "write" and draw pictures on?

Your child is building muscles in their hands and fingers that will continue to grow as they write in school. They are learning how to make symbols, shapes, and lines that will combine to make letters. If they're making letters, they will start to sound them out and learn how to put them together to make words. They will start writing simple first words like: their own name, mom, dad, cat, etc. 

* Do you have plenty of children's books available to read out loud to your children?
(Hint: your local library is a great free resource!)
* Do you read aloud to your child every day?

Good, they are gathering context clues from the illustrations and watching the way you turn the pages and read a book from the front to the back, left to right, and seeing the size and shape of the words on the page.

* Do you have cereal boxes, cracker containers, etc. on your kitchen counter at breakfast?
* Does your child accompany you to the store to shop for food? 
* Does your child accompany you on walks around the neighborhood?

Great! They are looking at street signs, and studying shapes and colors of words and symbols.
Making shopping lists and crossing items off the list (even if it's just simple pictures) is a fun way to experiment with reading and writing.

Did you pass my quiz? Of course you did. 
Your child will show a natural interest in using the words and writing in his or her own world. 

This is one of "C"s "comic books."
She fills pages with wavy lines as the writing and uses stickers to make the pictures.
I remember making stories this way as a young child. 
It is common for children at this age to scribble lines of "writing." 
She may even try to "read" her scribble stories to you, it's a great way to encourage your budding reader/writer. You can encourage your child when they do this by saying, "Good job, you're reading!"
This will help your child start to see himself or herself as a reader. Do this when they pick up a book or magazine and "read" it to you, even if they're just making up words as they go if you celebrate and reward their efforts they will be encouraged to keep trying. 

My daughter "C" also enjoys making small books for her dolls. 
It is not uncommon to find her working quietly at her desk and later discover a pile of tiny books or magazines complete with stapled spines, simple illustrations, and wavy line "writing."

If you read and write with your child at home, it becomes something fun and imaginative instead of just another school activity or assignment. Here are some more simple ways to encourage your little pre-reader and writer in your home. 

Set up some stamps - it's a fun way to experiment with symbols and shapes on paper. 
If you have a set of alphabet stamps it's a great way for your child to experiment with making simple words (or even non-sense words, that's okay too!) They will start to learn which way letters go. 
You can even staple a few sheets of blank paper together to make a simple book or journal for your child to write, draw, or stamp inside.

Try a weather calendar. Simple charts like this weather calendar teaches your child how to draw symbols. This simple calendar is hanging on our kitchen refrigerator for my daughter to record the weather each day by drawing a picture. 
She learns about symbols and how to read a calendar (pretty sneaky huh?) 

Record memories. I also keep simple journals where I ask my daughter to draw a picture and I write down what she tells me about it -- it creates a keepsake and record of her drawing and writing and is a another kind of "book" in her life. I'm showing her that books are important and that her ideas and drawings are valuable to me as well. 

By encouraging your child's natural pre-reading and writing in it's many shapes and forms they will blossom and grow into lifelong learners and lovers of reading.

Pink and Green Mama

This blog is part of an incentivized online influencer network for Mom's Homeroom. 
Mom's Homeroom is brought to you by Frosted Mini-Wheats. 

Monday, April 23, 2012

* Playful Ways To Help Your Young Child Develop Fine Motor Control

I thought I would write a post today about helping young children develop fine motor control. Gross motor skills are the large movements you perform with your body and include things like balance, walking, running, etc. Gross motor control seems to get all of the glory with childhood milestones - first roll over, crawling, and first steps. Fine motor skills are the ways we use our hands, fingers, and arms. How we manipulate objects and use tools like pencils and scissors. Did you write down fine motor skill milestones like the first time your child used their pincer grasp? The first time your child picked up an object between their thumb and forefinger or transferred an object from one hand to the other? Probably not.

All children develop at different rates. My daughters have always shown a natural and early(!) tendency to have excellent fine motor control. I'm guessing there is a large genetic component since I've always enjoyed working with my hands and my parents and grandparents have as well. But, I also think there is an environmental factor influencing my children as well. Our home has always been filled with what I would call "fine motor friendly" play activities. It is what I enjoy doing with my girls. We enjoy creative things like playing with play dough, coloring, and stringing beads. We put together puzzles, play in our sensory boxes, and sort and organize toys (I'm an organization nerd too!) 

When your young child engages in playful activities that boost their fine motor skills, you are helping them develop their pre-writing skills. By providing your child with multiple experiences and opportunities to develop their hand, arm, and finger muscles you are helping them get ready to write, cut, and button buttons - important life skills. 

Today I'm going to share some playful ways to boost fine motor control with the special children in your life. Whether you're a parent, grandparent, teacher, or other childcare provider - these are some successful and kid-friendly ways to sneak in some fine motor development for small children. Did you know that children develop fine motor skills at different rates? Some kids are well developed by age 2 while others may still be struggling in kindergarten or first grade. 

One of our favorite family activities is coloring and drawing.

This photo of "E" was taken when she was about 18 months old. 
It's her first time drawing with chunky crayons on a big pad of drawing paper.
I waited to introduce the crayons to her until she stopped putting everything in her mouth. 
We were just scribbling and exploring. I quit when she wanted to, I did not push her. 
I kept it low-key, it was a creative play activity. 
Coloring with chunky crayons, soy based crayon rocks, or other writing materials 
(like markers, pencils, etc.)  is a mini work out for those tiny muscles in your child's hands and fingers. 

Drawing with stubby and small bits of chalk and crayons forces the hand to grip with fingertips,
this helps to build different muscles than a traditional pencil grip.

Transferring and mixing colored water (food coloring plus water) 
in little cups, cupcake tins, or in this case up-cycled frozen mini quiche trays
with an eye dropper or pipette builds hand-eye coordination and pincer grasp practice.

Manipulating small objects like this marble and golf tee balancing activity
is also great for fine motor development. 
(see link to my highlighted post for directions)

String beads on pipe cleaners or bits of yarn.
This is fun to do with circle shaped cereal as well!

Chenille pipe cleaners can also be poked into an empty kitchen shaker.

Sort small objects like these beads (buttons, cereal, tiny rocks, or shells) 
We like to use egg cartons and mini ice cube trays. 

Older children can still enjoy sorting but you can incorporate numbers and counting 
to turn it into a math game as well. 

Tiny erasers are fun to sort and count and come in  many different themes and styles.

For an older child (preschool on up) you can set up an activity tray like this one.
It has strips of paper to practice cutting with scissors.
A hole punch with strips of paper (those whole hand squeezing muscles are tricky!)
Pencils and a pencil sharpener to practice gripping and turning. 

Wax covered pieces of yarn called Wikki Stix or Bendaroos
are fun to play with and manipulate. 
Here you can see the way my daughter outlined a coloring book picture with them. 
They are virtually mess free - bonus! 

My daughters enjoy building with toothpicks and mini marshmallows. 
It requires hand eye coordination, dexterity and you get a little sweet treat
to nibble while you create and have fun! 

By incorporating fine motor activities into your child's playtime you will help boost your child's success in pre-school and kindergarten classrooms. For more ideas, visit my friends over at Mom's Homeroom and check out this article for a comprehensive list of activities that help your child's fine motor control

Pink and Green Mama, MaryLea

This blog is part of an incentivized online influencer network for Mom's Homeroom.
Mom's Homeroom is brought to you by Frosted Mini-Wheats.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

* Secret Sister Hideout - Closet Tunnel Between Children's Rooms

Two months ago, Geoff and I decided to cut a secret passageway
for the girls between their two closets. 

Yes, we cut a hole in the wall of our house to make a secret tunnel.
Yes, it IS the coolest thing ever (according to our kids and their friends.)

Pardon my crummy photos, I was mostly the helper for this project
and only remembered to take a couple of quick photos as we were working.

We started by cutting out a square of drywall in "C"s bedroom closet wall. 

Then, we went around to "E"s closet wall on the opposite side
and cut the same size hole through her drywall. 

There was one stud in the middle. 
Geoff carefully cut it away and used it to block the hole at the top of the square.

Then, we made a quick run to Lowes and got a couple of nice pieces of unfinished white pine.
We decided to keep it simple and not paint the wood, 
you could but we like the natural wood color. 

Geoff nailed and screwed the board into the opening and 
used his mitre saw to cut natural wood trim to finish the openings on both sides. 

The girls love their tunnel.

They crawl through it and trade secrets.
So many giggles.

They like to drag pillows and blankets in there with flashlights
and hide out with the closet doors closed.

Right now they have an elaborate doll house set up in there for their 18" dolls. 
It only took a couple of hours 
(including the time to run to the store) and the girls love it. 

Everyone who comes to our house now has to go visit the (not-so) secret tunnel!

Pink and Green Mama

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

* Kid-Friendly Stuffed Animal Storage Solution

Our kid-friendly stuffed animal storage solution. 
We went from this!

I ordered a zippered bean bag slip cover from Pottery Barn Kids
and we stored our stuffed animals inside. So easy. 

Whenever they want an animal, they just unzip the case and dig one out!

Pink and Green Mama

Sunday, April 15, 2012

* All About Me Profile Self Portrait Art Lesson

"E" (age 9) was recently assigned to make a collage about herself 
as part of a school assignment.

I showed it to "E" and she had her own idea of how she wanted to make it.

We started by using a lamp to make a shadow of her profile against a sheet of paper 
taped to the wall - I traced it lightly with pencil and she cut it out. 
She picked turquoise blue, her favorite color.

Then she used google images to find pictures of a bunch of her favorite things
and we printed them out and she cut them all out and started to arrange them 
on a sheet of blue construction paper. 
The glued the cut paper profile on top of the collage and used markers to add details. 

"E" loves snails. 

Jelly Beans. 
Asian-style Gardens. 

Crocheted Snails. 
Rocks and Minerals. 

and of course... Art!

She made these letters on a sheet of white paper and cut them out
and glued them on top of her profile.

Her proud mama thought she did a great job and wanted to share her project with all of you.

I think it would be a great classroom lesson as well. 

Pink and Green Mama

Friday, April 13, 2012

* Doll Suitcase Surprise Birthday Gift

My mom recently celebrated her birthday.
To make it extra special this year, I wanted to do something to remind her of her childhood. 
She was the youngest of 7 children and loved to play dolls 
with her sister under the apple tree in their yard.

They each had a Betsy McCall doll,
my mom's doll was a brunette her sister's was blonde. 

Mom still has her original Betsy McCall doll 
wrapped in tissue, sitting in a lonely drawer in her room. 
My mom also still has her Ms. Revlon doll that they used as the "mom."
I thought she needed a more special way to save her dolls. 

Then, I glued a copy of this photo from the 1950s of my mom and her sister
playing with their dolls under the apple tree to the inside lid of the doll suitcase.

Then it was time to fill it with some goodies! 
I found a reproduction Betsy McCall doll with blonde ringlets online.

I also located a wonderful Etsy artist named Alice who made
me a miniature Betsy McCall wardrobe for my mom's suitcase.
We worked together to pick the designs and the fabrics -
it was so much fun for both of us
and REALLY hard to not tell my mom what I was up to!

Her shop is called Grandma's Bliss, go say "hi" and tell her I sent you!

She did a great job and the clothes are beautifully made.
Thank you, Alice!

Tiny robe and PJs. 

Little skirts, tops, and sweet pink flannel jacket.
My mom was so surprised when she opened her gift - 
the girls were really excited about it too!

Now her Betsy McCall doll has a little sister/playmate again!

The girls also made their own homemade gifts for my mom.

"E" is really into origami right now so she made this adorable
bookmark for my mom. I ran it through my Scotch Thermal Laminator.

And "C" made this adorable "Cats Have Been Fed!" card
for my parents to use at their house.

Her naughty cats have this little game of waking up my parents (separately) 
and faking them out to tell them they haven't been fed yet -- 
now my parents leave the card out on the counter
after they feed the cats so they know they've already been fed!

My mom on her 3rd Birthday -- she looks like a little Betsy McCall doll!

Happy Birthday Mom! 
We love you. 

Love this photo I took of my girls with my mom on her birthday -- framing it and hanging it up!

Pink and Green Mama

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