Celebrating High Chair Philosophers

What do sippy cups have to do with STEM learning? Definitely more than you might think, says Elisabeth McClure, recent Cooney Center fellow and lead author of STEM Starts Early, a 2017 report produced by New America and the Cooney Center. Every day, early learners lay groundwork for more advanced science, technology, engineering, and … 


Can Typical Educational Games Support Learning Within Curriculum?

The potential of digital games for education is enhanced by the fact that digital games are everywhere. In 2008, the Pew Internet and American Life Project found that 97 percent of those ages 12–17 played computer, web, portable, or console games, and 50 percent of them reported daily or near-daily gameplay. Another Pew … 


Introducing the Diversity Sauce Podcast

Recently, with support from the Joan Ganz Cooney Center, the Kids’ Inclusive and Diverse Media Action Project (KIDMAP) relaunched the former Diversity in Apps podcast under a new name: “Diversity Sauce.” Twice a month on Diversity Sauce, we discuss the latest on diversity and inclusion, and interview key players in the children’s media … 


Grow Jack’s Beanstalk in Your Classroom!

When I do one of my fairy tale units with my students, I tell them the story of “Jack and the Beanstalk” and use fun props. My magic beanstalk that grows to the ceiling is my favorite prop! This prop idea came from another preschool teacher that’s a genius, and whom I absolutely adore. I wonder if she knows my students have been loving and adoring her beanstalk prop for years now?

Continue reading Grow Jack’s Beanstalk in Your Classroom!


Make a Play Mat! Build Letter Knowledge!

My Little Reader has been really into Tonka’s Chuck Trucks lately. They have a Chuck Truck show on Netflix, which is the driving the force behind this current obsession of his.
I needed to keep him busy one day while we had a repair guy at the house and so I whipped out some big paper and some art supplies and we made a play mat together for his trucks and cars.
I decided to give the activity an “Alphabet City” theme so we could work in some letter-knowledge practice as well! He loved it!

Continue reading Make a Play Mat! Build Letter Knowledge!


6 Beach Books + Literacy Skill-Building Activities!

Anybody else planning a trip to the beach this summer? Ocean? Lake? Pond? A DIY beach in your backyard? Or how about a make-believe trip to the beach?

Some beach reading can bring extra fun to your trip while also giving your children practice with those essential emergent reading skills!

  • Phonological Awareness
  • Alphabet Knowledge
  • Vocabulary
  • Print Awareness
  • Narrative Skills
  • Motivation

Continue reading 6 Beach Books + Literacy Skill-Building Activities!


Creating Captive Readers

I have been anxiously anticipating the newest edition of Jim Trelease’s Read Aloud Handbook . The waiting has reminded me that I need to be reading and reading and reading with my kids. But if it’s not bedtime, then sometimes My Little Reader is resistant to sitting down with a book (he would rather be playing Legos). So I’ve been trying to get creative with reading to him in moments where he doesn’t have much else he could be doing. I’ve been trying to catch him as a captive audience. And in this digital age we’re living in, that’s tough!

So here are some ideas of places you might find your child to be a captive reading audience.

1. In the bathtub. Rub-a-dub-dub, they can’t easily escape from the tub. I figured that even if my son was playing with his toys in the tub, he still might catch some of what I was reading him. And it turned out that he became more interested in the stories than his toys.

2. The bathroom. We have to do “sit time” every day with our son right now. I could just send him in there to sit by himself. Or I could steal those moments to sneak in a story while he’s still and stuck!

3. Appointments and waiting times. I know the go-to these days is the smart phone or Ipad to entertain in these moments. But what if you just happened to “forget” to bring those one day? Or you loaded them up with some awesome storybook apps?

4. The car. I don’t utilize my car enough lately. Now I can’t read while I’m driving. But my kids will almost always sit and look at a book while they’re strapped down in the car. Keep the car stocked with some high-interest books. For my kids that would look like comic books and favorite character stories. Maybe some look-and-find type books.

5. The table. Have nothing to talk about at the kitchen table? Or maybe you’re like our family and you need to keep the bickering to a minimum. Whip out a book and start reading. Sure, it sometimes makes it hard to eat your own meal. But when the kids finish eating and clear the table you can finish your own dinner in quiet solitude… maybe with your own book to read!

6. While they are doing a favorite activity. My Little Reader will absolutely listen to a story if a slide up next to him with a book while he’s building with his Legos. Especially if it’s a Lego City story. I know not all activities allow this, but what about while they’re painting or coloring, playing with dolls, or putting together a puzzle?

7. Cleaning time. Hopefully your kids help out around the house and you (and/or your spouse) are not stuck with all the chores yourself. My kids have daily and weekly chores they help with. And chore time might be a lot more pleasant for us all if I pulled out a books and took the time to read to them while they dusted or folded laundry. They have to do it anyway, might as well make the most of the moment! Who knows, they might come to look forward to cleaning time!

8. Create special reading moments. Maybe new traditions or fun surprises that your child might then associate with books in the future – like a reading picnic. I think I might try some breakfast and lunch picnics in the yard this summer with books! We even have little tents I made last summer that would make this extra fun. How fun would it be for them to wake up and find a picnic and stories waiting for them at breakfast!

Have ideas for finding moments to read to your kids as a captive audience? Please share in the comments; I need all the ideas I can get!


Pen Pals! A Great Way to Keep Them Writing This Summer!

Enjoy this flashback tip I shared last summer!

My lovely cousin, Holly, asked me if my kids would like to be pen pals with her kids over the summer and I hastily replied, “Yes!” Holly is a teacher and knows what good writing practice this will be for our kids. I’m thankful for her initiative, as this was one of those things I was wanting to do this summer, but wasn’t sure I was going to get around to starting.

Our kids have never met, and so this is a great way for them all to get to know each other. It’s also fun for them all to get real mail in the mailbox. And coming up with interesting things to write about, or clever letter-writing ideas, will be cool too!

Holly’s kids sent fun little pen pal boxes to mine to get it all going. My kids were psyched to open their package and start using their stuff. My older son did great with reading his letter he received, and my daughter got to writing back immediately (my littlest one was most excited about coloring in his new coloring book)!

My kids of course wanted to pick some fun things out too, and we sent those off to their pen pals last week. I found I fun little “All About Me” worksheet (thank you Pinterest) for my kids to fill out and include in their package they sent. It was a good prompt for them, as they were suffering from a bad case of What-should-I-wriiiiite-itis the day we sat down to write our first pen pal letters.

We’re already planning to find some fun postcards to send while we’re on vacation later this month. Photos from summer activities will be fun to send as well. I’m hoping we can get creative and keep it fun. Any writing practice is great, and pen pals are a great way for kids (especially little ones) to understand some of the purposes of print.

Share your creative pen pal writing ideas in the comments. How/what are your kids writing this summer?