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Jumping Bean Phonics

May 29, 2015

What You Need:

  • Five pieces of large thick paper (oak tag or cardboard work well)
  • Index cards or construction paper
  • Markers or crayons
  • Masking tape

What You Do

  1. Start by writing the following consonants on the index cards or construction paper: B,C,F,H,M,P,R,S,D. Review the sounds these letters make with your child and ask him to say them aloud, so you’re sure he’s familiar with the sounds each of the letters makes.
  2. Next, take out your five large pieces of thick paper. On each sheet, write one of the following ending blends: -at, -ig, -og, -an, -it. Tape each sheet to the floor (leaving a bit of room between each).
  3. Start by looking at the ending sounds on the floor and saying them together.
  4. It’s time to jump! Tell your child that he’s a Mexican jumping bean, and that his job is to find a partner. Then explain the rules of the game: each time you give your child an index card with a letter on it, he’ll try to jump onto as many word matches for it as he can find. (You can use a timer if you’d like, to make things more challenging.) For example, if he had the letter “m”, he could jump on "–at" to make “mat”, or he could jump on "–an" to make “man." But if he jumped on "–it", he would lose his turn, because "mit" is not a word (it’s mitt!). The goal is to make as many words as possible, before the timer rings, or the player makes a mistake.

This game is a great way to bring home the idea that words are made up of several sounds put together. And it works just as well outdoors, with chalk on a driveway, rather than construction paper taped to an indoor floor.

It may be tough for your child at first, but it will get easier. And all that moving keeps things silly, which makes for low pressure and high energy fun. So if you want to help your child with reading, gather some paper, break out the markers, and get a jump on it!

Play with Words: A Pretend Bakery Game

May 27, 2015

What You Need:

  • 1 toy blender or large mixing bowl and spoon
  • Markers
  • 2-3 foam sheets (can be found at any craft store)
  • Safety scissors
  • Construction paper
  • Paper or plastic plate
  • Pretend money

What You Do:

  1. Set it Up. Using the foam sheets, help your child write each of the 26 letters of the alphabet on the foam, leaving two finger spaces between each letter. Make at least one extra for each of the vowels in the alphabet (A, E, I, O, U). As she’s writing the letters, have your child say each letter name aloud and remind her of the sound(s) it makes. Now get out those safety scissors! Ask her to cut the letters into squares. (They should look like Scrabble game pieces.)
  2. Make a Menu: In this game, your child will pretend to run her own bakery, but instead of cooking with flour and sugar, she’ll be mixing letters together in her blender or bowl to make words. No bakery would be complete without menus. Give your child some construction paper and markers, and ask her to write down the items she has available, so her customers can order what they want. She should use the following list:
    • cat
    • hat
    • tip
    • sip
    • bed
    • red
    • hop
    • top
    • hut
    • cut  
  3. Mix it Up!: Have your little chef get out her toy blender (or a large mixing bowl and spoon) and put all of the letter tiles inside. As the customer, it’s your job to shout out your “order.” When she hears the word, your chef should mix her ingredients, then look inside the bowl for the letters in the item you’ve ordered. For example, if you order “cat”, she should search for the letters “C” “A” and “T”, then lay them out on the plate and tell you your order’s ready. If you arrive at the counter to find that she’s spelled the word correctly, pay for your purchase and thank the chef. If the word has mistakes, tell her, “That’s not exactly what I ordered” and help her figure out how to correct it.
  4. Stay Hungry: Reading takes practice, so make sure to build on what your child has learned so far, rather than just doing one word at a time. Place another order, sticking to something in the same word family. For example, if you’ve just tried “cat,” move on to “hat”. Repeat this process for each word on the menu. Once your child has mastered everything on the list, help her dream up new words to add to her menu, for example, “bat” or “mat”.

This is a really fun way to help kids practice their letters and sounds. So get those ingredients ready, and cook up a good reader!

Helping Young Children Cope With Frustration

May 26, 2015

One of the best lessons that you can help your young child learn over the years is how to cope with frustration. As they move through school, children will be asked to do increasingly challenging tasks that are at or beyond the limits of their capabilities; they will inevitably encounter frustration, both in academic and social arenas. In fact, the gulf between successful and unsuccessful children will not necessarily arise due to differences in intelligence and skills, but rather due to differences in ability to handle setbacks and persist in the face of frustration.

Preschool children do not have very much experience dealing with frustration, as all of their needs have always been met by their caregivers. They haven’t yet acquired all of the language skills that they need to express themselves verbally, and they also lack the brain development that enables adults to label and regulate emotions and how those emotions are expressed. In order for children to develop both the verbal and social/emotional skills that they need, it’s important that they be encounter situations that involve a small, manageable amount of frustration.

Preschoolers can get easily overwhelmed, and need a lot of assistance in terms of breaking down problems into manageable parts, a key step in handling frustrating situations. Children that do not learn how to deal with frustration early in life may encounter later problems, such as lack of confidence, anxiety, anger, trouble with friends, and difficulty trying new things. If they do not know how to tolerate and cope with frustration, children will always expect others to solve their problems and will give up in the face of the first sign of difficulty.

Keep calm. When you see your child become frustrated, try not to mirror that frustration in your own voice or behaviors. Instead, focus on staying calm and talking your child through the situation in a gentle voice, guiding her to mirror you. Acknowledge that she is frustrated, but stress the importance of continuing to try to do something that she finds difficult.

Set challenges. Look for opportunities to challenge your children. Routinely ask them to do things that are slightly beyond what they have been capable of doing in the past. Do not jump in to help them. If you see them struggling, instead of immediately helping, try to prompt them by offering hints to make the situation easier. If they are really having difficulty and do not seem to be making any progress after a few minutes, break the task down into small steps. If necessary, guide them through or even do the first step for them, and then back off again. Your child should be hearing the following phrase quite often: “Try it yourself first and if you can’t do it, then I’ll help you get started.”

Wait for it. Help your child learn the important skill of delaying gratification. Preschool children do not yet have the brain development or experience to effectively cope when they have to wait for what they want, so you have to give them practice developing this skill. As much as it is practically possible, have them wait for what they want, even if it’s just for a minute or two. Talk to them about how to distract themselves while they are waiting for something.

Encourage independence. Make sure that your child is given many opportunities to play with other children in situations where close adult supervision is not required. Adults should be responsible for ensuring children’s safety, but other than that, try to let children work out problems among themselves. When children play independently, they learn how to deal with frustration in ways other than letting adults solve their problems.

Foster effective communication. Do not teach your child that expressing frustration inappropriately, such as through screaming or hitting, is a good way to get your attention, even if it is negative attention. Ignore these behaviors if they’re not causing serious harm, and give lots of positive attention for times when your child handles a potentially frustrating situation in a healthy manner. Point out specifically what she did effectively.

Rely on routine.
Keep your child’s world as predictable and routine as possible. If children feel confident and secure in general, they will be able to handle minor setbacks and frustrations.

Talk with the teacher. Use your child’s preschool teacher as a resource. Ask for suggestions about how the preschool deals with frustration in children in general, as well as for specific tips about helping your own child. The more that you can be consistent with what the preschool is doing, the easier it will be for your child to internalize the lessons that you are both trying to teach.

Be a role model.

Tips for Dining Out With Kids

May 22, 2015


Make Reservations

A seemingly never-ending wait to be seated can turn your chipper child into a whining, inconsolable mess. When you call, it’s a good time to mention that you’ll need a high chair or booster seat if available. Many restaurants only have a few of them on hand, so they might agree to hold one for you.

Look for Special Deals

Plenty of restaurants run promotions where kids eat for free or nearly free on designated days and times. Not only does that put a dent in the bill, but it usually means other kids will be present, and you won’t be the only one bringing kids to the party. Always call ahead to verify that the deal is still in effect.

Order à la Carte

Oftentimes, individual items or side dishes are substantial enough to satiate your little foodie. Some restaurants will do half portions too; it doesn’t hurt to ask. If you like to dine out on a regular basis, these choices can add up to significant savings. And smaller meals can be crucial if you teach your kid to always finish what’s on his plate.

Go Early

If you go before a restaurant’s peak hours, you can get in and out with minimal fuss and maximum attention from the kitchen and wait staff. This can also be a cost saver, as some restaurants offer early bird specials and bargain bites during happy hour.

Separate Youngsters

If you’re bringing more than one child, at least in the early stages of dining out, keep them separate, with an adult between them. This reduces chances of your little guests being silly or picking a fight with one another.

Let Your Kid Order

Preschoolers are old enough to do this with a little coaching. This will give your child a sense of independence as well as a vested interest in the food he’s chosen. Plus, he will reap the added benefit of learning how to communicate what he wants in a clear, poised manner.

Raising Honest Kids: 5 Tips

May 21, 2015

Children’s main source of knowledge on the topic of honesty is you. No, not your lectures or your punishments. It’s how you embody honesty that really counts.

Praise Honesty

Another way to show that you value honesty is to praise and reward children for telling the truth and acting with integrity. Most important, you need to show your children that you value honesty over winning. You may not realize that you are valuing winning over truthfulness when you overpraise achievements far more than acts of integrity. But if your child tells you the truth about disobeying or about a low test grade, the way that you react will pave the way for your child’s understanding of honesty.

Don’t Overreact

Remind yourself that when children lie, it is not a sign of sociopathy, criminal behavior, or moral ineptitude. Instead, it’s a sign that they’re just trying to get out of trouble, get what they want, or show their independence. All of these desires are normal ones in healthy children — and adults, for that matter. So when your child tells an obvious lie or you find out about his dishonesty, make sure that you stay calm and think about why he did it before responding.

Determine the Motive

Up to age 4 or so, children’s lies cannot really be viewed as true dishonesty. Their falsehoods are instead an attempt to revise the situation. For example, your child may know that grabbing a toy from a sibling was wrong, and therefore deny it. The child isn’t intentionally trying to trick anyone — except for himself — about what actually happened. These early lies are actually signs of maturity.

After age 4 or 5, however, children may lie in order to receive a reward, to avoid punishment, to avoid a parent’s anger, to gain an advantage, or to improve their own self-esteem. They may also lie to protect their own privacy, or that of a friend. Finding this motive can help you to have a sit-down discussion with your child about honesty and its importance.

Give Appropriate Consequences

Giving harsh consequences for lying may not necessarily teach your child anything. Instead, make the punishment fit the crime. For example, if you catch your child copying someone else’s answers on a homework assignment, have your child write to his teacher explaining what he did and why he won’t do it again. If your child lies about having broken a window, help the child make amends for both the broken window and the broken trust caused by the lie.

Although you can’t singlehandedly force your child to tell the truth, you can emphasize to your child the importance of honesty through both your actions and your words.

Number Sense

May 19, 2015

What You Need:

  • Deck of playing cards
  • Up to 4 players

What You Do:

  1. Ask one of the players to be the dealer. Have him give each player 4 cards.
  2. Place the remaining cards face down in the center of the table.
  3. Have the first player turn over the top card and set it face up to start a discard pile.
  4. Have the other players look at their cards and if they have a matching card, they must also put it face up in the discard pile.
  5. Continue playing until only one of the players has cards left, or the deck runs out. Alternatively, the first player to get rid of his cards can be declared the winner.

Decorate Your Own Locker Mirror!

May 18, 2015

What You Need:

  • Frameless 6" x 6" mirror
  • 4 flat glue-on magnets, each about 3/4" in diameter
  • Craft glue
  • Flat glue-on “jewels” or sports symbols, or even artificial flowers

What You Do:

  1. Your first step will be to “magnetize” the back of the mirror. Have your child turn it over so that the reflective front is facing down, and the dull, flat back is up. Help her glue on four magnets, one in each corner of the mirror.
  2. Give the magnets at least half an hour to dry—more if the glue directions require it.
  3. While you’re waiting, place all decorations on a flat table, and invite your kid to mess around. The goal is to make a frame around the edge of the mirror. You child can decorate her mirror however she likes. The possibilities are endless! Have her lay out her arrangement before gluing it down, so that she can adjust as needed before securing everything to the mirror.
  4. Once your child has found an arrangement she’s happy with, and the glue on the back of the mirror has hardened sufficiently, have your child glue everything down with craft glue.
  5. Give everything time to dry fully.
  6. When you’re done, your child will have a unique and practical locker decoration. It’s a great way to make her feel like she has her own space at school—something that can be very comforting and is often very hard to come by in middle school and high school. Don’t be surprised if friends ask where she got it … and how they can get one, too!

11 Ways to Celebrate Your Child’s Birthday at School

May 16, 2015

School birthday celebrations can be fun, academic, and still leave your child beaming with birthday bliss!

1. Build-Your-Own Birthday Treats – In kindergarten and first grade, following a simple recipe helps kids learn sequencing, processes, and following directions.

2. Watch a Birthday Video – Bring in the DVD of your child’s favorite storybook, or a video that connects with what the class is studying.

3. Host a Game Day. Bring in your child’s favorite reading or math game for the class to play. If the game that is best for small groups, plan to share the game during a scheduled math or reading “center time.”

4. Give a Gift. Let your child choose a gift for her class. It could be a book for the library, a word game for center time, or a toy for the pretend play area.

5. Throw a Book Party. Read your child’s favorite book and bring in a related activity or treat.

6. Write a Birthday Story. Bring in a blank book and have the class create a story about your child’s birthday, including themselves as characters. Your child will get a memento of her school year, and the class will enjoy the process of seeing themselves written into a story.

7. Birthday Math. If your child loves math, work with her teacher to incorporate a birthday theme into math. Bring in birthday manipulatives to use in an addition or subtraction lesson (candles to add to a birthday cake, or mini cupcakes to “subtract”).

8. Oh Goody Grab Bags. Instead of cupcakes, pack goody bags with pencils, erasers, and other treats.

9. Collect Autographs. On your child’s birthday, bring in a white t-shirt and fabric paint or markers. Have each child sign the t-shirt with their name and a birthday wish. This can also be done with a white pillowcase or the cover of a notebook.

10. Plan an End-of-Year Birthday Bonanza. If your kid’s birthday is during summer break, connect with other parents of kids who have birthdays during school vacations to plan a celebration during the last week of school. If you’re celebrating summer birthdays, encourage the kids to reflect on their year and make predictions about who they’ll be when they come back in the fall.

11. Throw a Season Mix-Up Party. If your child’s birthday is in summer, bring summer to school in the middle of winter. Plan activities that compare winter and summer, and celebrate with summer activities.

5 Teacher Tips You Can Use at Home

May 15, 2015

The best teachers know that all kids are complete individuals. While yours might drive you up the wall, chances are that she has some amazing qualities as well.

Use a Reward Chart

Smart teachers use visual aids to keep kids’ behavior in check. Whether it’s a warning chart, a punch card or a reward chart, kids can easily see their status and use it as a motivational tool to get work done and behave in class.

Give Positive Feedback

You’ve probably heard your child’s teacher gush to you during a parent-teacher conference, but you’re not the only one who gets kudos. Good teachers know that praise is often more effective than punishment when trying to elicit good behavior from a rowdy student, a rule that works well in the home.

Expect Excellence

One way that teachers get the best out of kids? By expecting nothing less. When kids act up, they’re told firmly that a teacher expects better and that’s that. This way, kids learn to govern themselves based on the standard set by the teacher. You can do the same at home by focusing on expectations, rather than disciplining poor behavior after the fact.

Get Involved

Of course teachers are actively involved in their students’ academics—it’s their job. But the best ones know that taking a personal and vested interest in each child means better overall success. Here’s the thing: Of course you’re personally interested in the raising of your child. But how vested are you really? Are you content to sit and surf the web while your child tries to figure out her math homework solo? Or are you side by side, keeping her on task and answering questions? By getting involved in your child’s schoolwork and making yourself available, you’ll know what she’s studying, where she excels, where she struggles and how to help.

Mix Business and Pleasure

The business of raising a child is no joke. But take a tip from smart teachers and make sure that you mix in a little pleasure with all that business. Whether you take a silly break after encouraging your child to have some quiet time, you practice writing by working on some funny jokes or just breaking the routine with an ice cream cone, your child gets the chance to associate good times with some of the more routine stuff

10 Ways to Solve the Bedtime Battle

May 14, 2015

Kids’ Sleep Needs. When a child doesn’t get enough shuteye, it can lead to behavior problems, irritability, weakened immune system, moodiness, trouble concentrating, shortened attention span, clumsiness, tantrums, and hyperactivity.

1. Routines Work

Nighttime routines are important, as they give kids a sense of security and let them know what to expect next. Over time, a solid routine can reduce power struggles and make a child more cooperative during bedtime. A good routine is all about rhythm, so don’t be afraid to tweak until you find one that works for your child.

2. Short and Sweet

Naps are an essential part of a preschooler’s day. And if you eliminate them you run the risk of having a cranky kid on your hands. “Young children need daily naps until they reach the age of five.” However, if your youngster is not sleepy when bedtime arrives, shorten his naps by about 30 minutes.

3. Let’s Get Physical

Kids should get one hour of exercise every day (not too close to bedtime). Daily physical activity can help youngsters rest better during the night because it improves their overall health, burns excess energy, relieves stress, and boosts their immune systems.

4. I’m Warning You

Give your child a five minute heads-up before it’s time to get ready for bed. This allows him the opportunity to finish anything he’s doing and mentally prepare to hit the hay. Begin your child’s nighttime routine one hour before his established bedtime so he can have enough time to brush his teeth, bathe, get into his pajamas, and listen to a story.

5. Snack, Please

If dinner is served at 5:00 p.m. and your child’s bedtime is at 9:00 p.m., give him a small snack such as a graham cracker and a glass of milk before he brushes his teeth to keep him from waking up hungry during the night.

6. Just Say “No” to Caffeine

Typically, parents don’t mind giving a child a small sip of tea, hot cocoa, or cola. But products such as these contain caffeine and can cause sleeplessness, so they should be avoided before bedtime.

7. Calm Down

Pre-bedtime activities should be calm and quiet. High energy activities such as sports or dancing, as well as the sensory stimulation of television or loud music immediately before bedtime can interfere with a child’s ability to wind down, which makes it more difficult for him to nod off. Some appropriate nighttime activities include playing with play-dough, blocks, books, and puzzles.

8. Offer Rewards

Children love to be rewarded for their good works. So every night after your preschooler completes all of his bedtime tasks, let him put a sticker on a chart. At week’s end, reward him with something simple such as a new set of stickers or a coloring book.

9. Optimize Bedroom for Sleep

Television sets and video games in your child’s bedroom can distract from the room’s intended purpose—to get a good night’s rest. So keep these items out of your child’s sleeping area. The temperature should be comfortable, and the sound of soothing music or white noise in the background such as the hum of a fan or air purifier can gently lull your child to sleep.

10. Banish Bedtime Monsters

The fear of monsters under the bed is real for many children. And since monsters (in a child’s mind) only lurk in dark places, don’t disregard your youngster’s fears by forcing him to sleep in a pitch-black room.

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