Monday, March 17, 2014

Early Literacy Challenge 13: Playing in the Sandbox

Our kids love playing, digging and building in the sandbox. We moved ours this spring so it is right outside our patio door. This is great because we can get the dishes done while watching our kids play. It is really fun to listen to them talk while we play in the sand. A is constantly showing us his sand castles and M is having a lot of fun filling up buckets. We can't wait for the weather to be even nicer so we can start spending more time in the sand box. Both my husband and I love playing in the sand too because it is so relaxing to just dig, pour and build without worrying about anything else. Sensory activities like this help our kids build knowledge about space, size and shape.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Early Literacy Challenge 12: Singing Special Songs

My husband and I have been singing songs to our kids since they were babies. We have a special tune that we sing. A lot of preschools use it to sing hello or goodbye to the kids. I learned it when I was working as a preschool teacher for toddlers. These are the lyrics of the song:

Hello (child's name),
Hello (child's name),
Hello (child's name),
We're so glad you're here.

I sing this to every child in toddler story time before we start with Open, Shut Them. The toddlers love it because they get to decide if I sing it to them and it makes them feel special and welcome. It also helps me learn the kids' names. I still remember kids who I see randomly at the grocery store because I sang that song to them so often.

My kids love this song too. We change the lyrics at home.

Sweet boy A,
Sweet boy A,
Sweet boy A,
We love you very much.

Sweet girl M,
Sweet girl M,
Sweet girl M,
We love you very much.

M, currently 18 months, hums the tune to the song at night when she is soothing herself to sleep. A sings the song to M when she is crying. We sing the song in the car to our kids when they are fussy. We make up new lyrics about things our kids like, like combines, tractors, lady bugs, dogs, cats, etc.

Combines harvest corn,
Combines harvest corn,
Combines harvest corn,
And put it in a grain cart.

It is great. You could do this with any sort of song that you want. I also sing about the kids' names to the tune of B-I-N-G-O.

There is a boy who I adore and A is his name-o A----
A----, A---- and A--- is his name-o.

I sing the same song for M with her name and just switch out boy for girl in the song. I sang these special songs to them when I was driving in the car alone when I was pregnant. I think they were born knowing the tunes to the songs and how special they make our lives.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Early Literacy Challenge 11: Singing in the Car

My kids love listening to music in the car. They mostly ride around with my husband, but whenever they are in the car with me, I have to stop listening to NPR (because I don't want to freak the kids out) and listen to music. They love anything that we listen to and so as they have gotten older, we have had to be a little more picky about what we listen to with them (no more Kanye, which was A's favorite when he was a newborn).

Right now, their favorite song is "Ho Hey" by the Lumineers (A calls it "Hee Ho"). When we drive across town, A insists on hearing that song over and over again. Luckily we like it too, despite hearing it a million times. A has the song memorized. There is something very sweet about a 3 year-old singing at the top of his lungs, "I belong with you, you belong with me, you're my sweetheart".

Here is a great link to the benefits of listening to music with your kids while driving around and other things you can do with your kids in the car to build early literacy skills: Reading Activities in the Car.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Early Literacy Challenge 10: Baking Cookies Together

Today I baked cookies with M for the first time. I pointed to the recipe card for each ingredient and read it out loud as I got everything out of the cupboard. Each time I said something, M would say, "Yeah", in agreement that of course we need that item to make cookies. We measured all the ingredients out and I told her how much we needed for each ingredient. Every time I put something new into the bowl, M would take a turn trying to stir it. I let her sample each ingredient with a little spoon. She especially liked the flour and chocolate chips. Cooking with your kids is such a great way to pack a lot of early literacy skills into one activity, plus it is a great way to bond.

ECRR Early Literacy Practice: READ & TALK
Early Literacy Skills: introduction to math, narrative skills, reading, vocabulary

Find out more about early literacy from the Colorado Libraries for Early Literacy (CLEL) website. They have great information about the ECRR 5 Practices and 6 Early Literacy Skills, plus lots of good ideas for developing early literacy skills with children.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Early Literacy Challenge 9: Bedtime Stories

Microsoft Clipart
I know this seems like a simple one- bedtime stories. We read to our kids every night before putting them to bed. We have worked reading into our bedtime routine and the kids never want to go to bed without a story. Lots of nights, my husband and I split the kids up and we each do one of their bedtimes. But, the really fun bedtimes are when we all do it together. My husband and I take turns reading on our son's bedroom floor and one of us chooses the books (me, my husband or one of the kids). We are all heaped together and listening to the story. I like it when my husband reads and he likes it when I read. Bedtime stories are one of my favorite parts of the day. I still remember my parents reading to me and my brother and sister every night and I am so glad my husband and I are repeating this memory with our kids.

ECRR Early Literacy Practice: READ, TALK, SING, PLAY & WRITE (we hit all these on any given night depending on the books we read)
Early Literacy Skills: social & emotional development, print motivation, print awareness, phonological development, letter knowledge, dialogic reading, vocabulary, narrative skills, etc.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Early Literacy Challenge 8: Trains!

Our kids have been fighting over the trains for about a week now. They are obsessed. So, I tried to put together all our train toys, props and a few books in a basket in our living room so it would be ready for them to investigate whenever they want. Of course, we have engineer hats since our kids love hats.

M really loves Freight Train by Donald Crews right now. It is one of the most perfect books for toddlers. She loves reading it and then we play trains. While we play, we talk about the colors of the toy trains.

I put up our Freight Train flannel board on our activity wall to complete the little "unit". I made the Freight Train flannel board as a birthday present for A when he turned two. I got the idea from Storytime Katie. The template is on KizClub and you can just print it off and laminate it as a story prop, which is what I did for the library and my toddler storytime.

Normally I am not this organized, but it was pretty easy to throw together since I already had the all the stuff.

ECRR Early Literacy Practice: PLAY, TALK & READ
Early Literacy Skills: print motivation, imagination & playing pretend, narrative skills, vocabulary, learning colors, matching (with the flannel board to the illustrations in the book), size, science (magnets on the trains), background knowledge, social & emotional development

Monday, March 3, 2014

Early Literacy Challenge 6 & 7: Aquarium & Pet Store Field Trips

Early Literacy Challenge 6: Aquarium Field Trip

Recently, my husband took our kids to the aquarium. Our son had been there when he was about 18 months, but M had never gone. They both loved it. Jason was able to talk with them about different types of fish and the ocean. A loved the turtles and M loved the sharks. They both liked touching the sting ray. A said it was "squishy". M loves all animals, so she was enthralled by this new experience. We love traveling as a family and experiencing new things. The aquarium was a great opportunity to expose the kids to some background knowledge and vocabulary.

ECRR Early Literacy Practice: TALK
Early Literacy Skills: vocabulary, background knowledge, comprehension skills, social & emotional development

Early Literacy Challenge 7: Pet Store Field Trip

The much cheaper version of going to the aquarium is visiting the pet store. A and M love this field trip. We walk around the store looking at the birds, rodents, fish and turtles. Okay, my husband has to go with them to the rodent aisle because I won't go there. My whole family thinks little mice are cute, except for me. Of course, A loves the turtles, just like he does at the aquarium. M loves birds and pretty much everything in the store. We get to talk about animals and what they eat, how we take care of them and where they come from. This is a great field trip that exposes our kids to a lot of vocabulary and background knowledge, plus it is FREE (except for whatever pet item we are purchasing that day).

ECRR Early literacy Practice: TALK
Early Literacy Skills: background knowledge, vocabulary, social & emotional development