All posts by daym

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?

Summer Boredom Buster: Make Your Own Board Game!

For some parts of the country, school is just letting out for the summer. In other parts, like where I live, we’re already almost four weeks into summer break! So that means the inevitable summer boredom is creeping in a little. Who am I kidding? My kids were complaining they were bored the very first day of summer! No joke!

On one of those first “I’m bored” days I whipped out a Lego board game idea I found on Pinterest. It was an extremely simple game of rolling dice and moving along a very simple board where you gathered or lost Lego blocks till you reached the end. As I played this with My Little Reader, we were brainstorming various ways we could improve on the game. One of my older kids came and joined us and the more we talked about it, the more she wanted to make her own board game. Then My Little Reader wanted to make one too!

So the next day we pulled out cardboard and our big roll of paper, crayons, markers, stickers, and got to work. I sat down to help My Little Reader, and was really excited to implement all our great ideas into our own board game. He had other ideas. He had come up with an entirely new concept (one that I barely understood), and he could not be swayed to use any of my ideas. My assistance ended up being utilized merely for coloring and writing.

But it was OK, because My Little Reader was having a ball and getting to be creative, use critical thinking skills, tinker and design, and imagine his own little story. Because that’s what a board game ultimately is, right? It’s a little story you (or your pawn) ventures through, and the adventure changes a little each time.

I wrote the words on the game spaces for my son, but he dictated it all and oversaw the process (he’s kind of a bossy pants). It was great print awareness practice, as he used words to design the game the way he wanted. Then as we played the game, he got to see the words he came up with being read and used over and over by the game players. Games are great tools for demonstrating the power and purpose of words and print. “Steal another player’s treasure” or “lose a turn” can carry great significance toward winning or losing. Especially to a competitive preschooler!

My Little Reader had a ball with his board game! We have all played it many times. He takes great pride in his creation, and loves to see us all having fun with it. This was a spontaneous activity that kept my kiddo busy for quite a while, and helped him practice some of those valuable literacy skills while he was having all that fun!

How are you keeping the summer boredom at bay in your family?

Read About Robots, Make Robots

… We’ve been doing just that all month long! There are too many fun robot books to not have a robot-themed unit! I’m so excited about this one, I’m creating a full literacy-pack that will be available on the Teachers Pay Teachers site… eventually. Just as soon as I find time to complete it… aaaaand figure out how the heck to post it into my store (I’m a serious newbie there).

I’ll share some of the fun with you here, and I encourage you to grab some robot books to read with your kids or students. You don’t even have to suggest a craft or activity to follow these books – the kids suggest and ask for it themselves! I mean, what kid doesn’t want to make a robot?

Here are the stories we read:

We played some robot games after each story, and these games helped us practice some essential early literacy skills like rhyming, vocabulary, and alphabet knowledge.

Then we created! Each class project serves as catalysts for further story discussion, it gets the kids’ creative juices flowing, those imaginations start dreaming things up, and then they end up with a fun little reminder of that week’s story to take home with them!

Here are a couple of the projects we made:

Inspired by the art in Robot Zombie Frankenstein, we pieced together colorful geometric shapes, cut from foam, to make our own unique robots. The end pages in Robot Zombie Frankenstein beg for a project like this to be done after you read the book!
This week we are turning ourselves into robots with these fun robot templates I created that we simply added our photo to! So fun! Each student gets to share about what kind of robot they are – we have learned about various kinds of robots from our reads! We had some “Robot Zombie Frankensteins,” and we had some “chef robots.” 
Do you have a favorite robot picture book? Would you mind passing it along in the comments? I’ve got some little readers itching for more great book recommendations on this topic!

A Thrifty Way to Make Craft Supplies Accessible

We have a wonderful armoire that we got from a yard sale. My husband added some additional shelving to the inside, and now we use it to neatly house all the wonderful art and craft supplies that help nurture my kids’ creativity.

Well, when I say “neatly,” I mean neat from the outside… when the doors of the armoire are closed. When you open the doors it looks like this:

My kids often struggle to find basic supplies like scissors, glue, and crayons (despite my numerous and varied attempts to organize this cabinet). I’m always having to help them dig, or sometimes they just don’t even bother trying and give up on crafting for a different activity. 
I want to make creativity easy for my kids to do and enjoy. This storage idea kind of happened by accident, but I love how it turned out. 
Several months ago I bought a magnet board really cheap at IKEA. What I had planned to use it for didn’t work out. Then I saw an idea on Pinterest for spray painting aluminum cans and storing crayons and markers and such in them. My wheels started turning and I figured I could add magnets to the cans, and stick them to this magnet board that I didn’t really have a use for anymore. 
The result was that I ended up with a great way to make our family’s frequently used craft supplies accessible to my kiddos, and it barely cost me a thing!
I decided to use chalkboard spray paint because it would give me an easy way to label what each can was for (I primed my cans first with some extra primer we had laying around our garage). 
I found that more than just one magnet was needed to be able to load the cans with supplies and have them stick to the board without slipping. You can find magnets like these at craft stores like Michael’s and Hobby Lobby (remember those weekly 40% off coupons). 

The idea worked out great. We attached the magnet board to the side of the armoire, and it’s just so handy! Honestly, I myself love being able to grab a pair of scissors without even opening the cabinet. I love that My Little Reader can reach all the stuff he uses the most and take the crayons or markers over to the table to use whenever he wants without calling to me for help. And putting it all away is so easy, just stick them back on the board!

These cans could also work great on a refrigerator! I still haven’t decided what supplies will go in some of my cans. I might have a few that I rotate what’s kept in them, kind of like we do with our toys. This way my kids can be surprised and inspired every week or so with some fun craft supplies that they forgot we even had!

A good read often inspires a fun craft at our house. So I’m glad I found a way to make the crafting just a little bit easier for my kids! 
Do you have a handy way you store your art and craft supplies? Share in the comments!

Finding Space for Reading

Summer never feels like a time when things slow down and life is a little less crazy. Our summers are busy, for the kids and for me. When I see these book lists on Pinterest titled things like “10 Best Beach Reads,” I laugh. What mom is able to actually read at the beach (If you are a mom that does get to read at the beach, please don’t tell me, or I might cry)? I’m always busy making sure my kids don’t get pulled out to sea by a rip current.

… Or I’m burying kids in the sand!

Not only does extra reading hardly ever seem to happen, but I struggle to maintain the little bits of regular reading time we normally observe. Travel and late bedtimes mean we sometimes miss our bedtime stories.

My Little Reader hasn’t done much napping this summer and I only just realized today that no nap means we haven’t been reading our normal pre-nap stories.

My kids love to stay up and read with their book lights at night, and even that has been falling by the wayside as they are so often zonking out as soon as they hit the pillow, as of late.

When there are lulls in their days and they get bored, I have seen my kiddos pick up books and read… from time to time.

They begged to do the summer reading program at the library, and have happily been picking out books that interest them on our regular trips.

They are slowly learning to read for the pure pleasure of it. So all is not lost.

But as we creep toward the start of another school year, and I look toward days containing some kind of routine again, I realize that I need to really be intentional with our reading times. I need to guard our established reading routines, perhaps reinstate some that have been lost, and I hope to work more reading time into our routine wherever I can. We will be homeschooling in the fall, so I’m excited about getting creative with how we find time to read, and simply having the control over our routine to give reading the prioritization that I crave.

Finding space for reading turns our to be easier said than done, even for those of us that understand its value and enjoy books. So how to you find space to read in the craziness and busyness of summer?

Our bedroom floors are always covered in books, so we’ve at least got that going for us!

Making A Personalized Storytelling Game

Ever play one of those story-making games with you kids? You know, the ones where you take turns drawing a card with a random picture or word on it? Each person has to use what’s on the card they drew to add onto the story. It can get pretty silly. We have a couple versions at our house, and the kids really enjoy them. We giggle lots when we play.

A couple weeks ago I gave my boys cameras to use, and let them go wild taking photos that we could make into our own, personalized storytelling game. I had to give them ideas of what kinds of things to photograph to get them going. The photos we ended up with were still rather interesting, but the whole point was that it was their personal game, so I tried to stay pretty hands off with their photo taking. And honestly, the sillier the pictures, the more fun the game is.

I printed the photos at our local drug store and the boys were so excited to give our version a try! We didn’t mount our photographs on paper or label then or anything (I’m lazy), but you could, of course. We just used the photos themselves as the cards. We put them in a pile face down and took turns drawing. There was lots of laughing, and we ended up with a pretty crazy story.

You could vary the game some different ways:

Give the kids a specific theme of items to photograph for the game – an items for every letter of the alphabet or something like that.

You could give them some guidance in what they photograph by sending them on a list with specifics on a variety of objects you want them to find and photograph, kind of like a scavenger hunt (something fuzzy, something bigger than yourself, something that makes noise, etc). It would be fun to see how the items compare to one another, if you have more than one child photographing.

If there are two children playing, you could have them take their photos separate from one another and let them be surprised by what the other ends up taking photos of. Let the photos be revealed to each other as they play the game!

Adding labels to your homemade photos/cards would add literacy value to your game. Or if you want your kids to practice reading some specific words, you could put some text only cards in your deck with those words on it, and using those words in this fun storytelling game might help your child become more familiar with the word and more fluent in reading it. Your child’s spelling words might work well too (obviously, nouns are the kind of words that work best in this game)!

Remember, narrative skills are a key pre reading skill needed to move into being a successful reader. This game is a great narrative skill builder!

Try it out. Play it with friends, play it at dinner… Laughing together bonds people together. So what could be better than giggling together and having fun over some great, meaningful literacy practice?