Monday, July 27, 2015

I Found 5! A Fun and Easy way to Practice Letter Identification

a before kindergarten child pointing to a letter on her shirt


Letters are all around us. On signs, products, our clothing! One of my favorite ways to work on recognizing letters is to have children look for the targeted letter in their environment. Then when they find it, do a special dance and make a mark on one of their fingers. When all five fingers have a mark (usually a marker dot), we give each other a high-five.


It's a motivating and quick game that can be played just about anywhere when you are out in the community. You can even do it when you are looking at books together. Or looking at a menu!


marking a dot on a finger for finding a letter in the environment

Pick a letter that is motivating or meaningful. We picked E since Big Sister's name starts with E. I usually play the game with a focus on all capital or all lowercase letters, but it's up to you when you are playing with your child!


Here is what we found at our house and it took only a few minutes to play:

finding a letter on a moviefinding a letter on a game boxfinding a letter in a book



finding a letter on a food containerfinding a letter on a shirt


In all honesty, it has taken me longer to type this post than it did to play! She was very proud when she found each letter E and loved taking the last picture.


Tips for Success

  • for the first time you do this, pick a letter you know she'll do well with! That way next time, she already knows how to play and can spend more time and energy looking for the letters
  • use a light colored marker so that you can wash it off easily (blue takes multiple hand washings and scrubbing!)
  • you can mark capital letters on one hand and lower case letters on the other for some variety!
  • take pictures (like we did) and send them to a family member. Grandparents love to see what their grandkids are learning and then your child will be able to explain what she did which reinforces the activity!
  • this activity can work with numbers, too! Think license plates and aisles at grocery stores! So fun!

The most important thing to remember is to make learning fun. This treasure hunt for letters fits the bill! What will you look for?!



a before kindergarten child finding a letter on her shirt





Disclosure: Some of the links in the post above may be “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Please know that I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Reading Wands - Easily Practice Reading from Left to Right

a before kindergarten child following along while adult reads



The skill of reading from left to right is not a natural skill. As a matter of fact, in different parts of the world they read in different directions, top to bottom and right to left!

This skill develops as a part of tons of experience both watching another person demonstrate the skill as well as practicing purposefully moving hands and eyes from the left side of a page to the right side.

A good way to start working on the concept is to point to the word at the beginning of the line in the books that you read. Just use your finger and touch the first word. Very easy!


Need something more than that? You can design a Reading Wand (way better than a magic wand!).


A Reading Wand can be something you and your child design together or can be something that you create as a surprise for your child!


Set It Up!

Get together a few materials like popsicle sticks or tongue depressors, goggly eyes, sequins, glue and papers (you can grab your cutting basket you created earlier!).

materials needed to create Reading Wands


You Can Do It!

The end of the stick is where you should focus all of your decorations! That way it draws your child's attention to what you are pointing.
a before kindergarten child creating Reading Wandsa before kindergarten child creating Reading Wands


Lay out all of your craft materials and have fun! I have found that my child is most engaged in activities that I plan if I participate with her (she does just fine being creative when she decides she wants to do crafts).

a before kindergarten child reading along with an adult using a Reading Wand


When you use it during reading, slide the Reading Wand along the words. It's a simple, child created way to draw attention to the words on the page as well as the direction you move when you are reading!


Make It Just Right for Your Child

Whatever your child is interested in would make a good object to glue on that stick. Think character stickers, colors, etc...! If your child isn't interested in crafts, make just one. If your child loves crafts, make a bunch!

Here are ours:

a set of completed Reading Wands


Tips for Success
  • maybe glitter isn't such a good idea! Ha! We'll only use those on books that we own!
  • we have been reading chapter books, so some of our extras became bookmarks
  • if you have extras, you can give them away to friends! Just tell them what they are supposed to do with them!

What else can you do with your Reading Wands?

a before kindergarten child reading along with an adult using a Reading Wand

Disclosure: Some of the links in the post above may be “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Please know that I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Monday, July 20, 2015

10 Ways to Count to 10

10 m and m candies used to practice one to one correspondence and counting skills


Counting to 10 and one-to-one correspondence (the ability to accurately point to an object while you count it) are important pre- kindergarten skills.

But just counting to 10 can get super boring and isn't really practical! How often do you just count? (besides those times when you are counting '1 - 2 - 3! Ok, time out!' and you feel like you are just counting to yourself!!)


So, have your child count for a purpose.


Here is a list of 10 ways to count to 10 that are meaningful and actually could happen in everyday life:

1. Count 10 block for each person and build towers. Who will build it taller?

2. Count 10 crayons and make a beautiful picture. Who can we send the picture to? (this is working on coloring and name writing skills, too!)

3. Count 10 beads and make necklaces or bracelets. Where can we wear our jewlery?

4. Count 10 cars for a race or 10 cars in a parking lot. Which car goes faster?

5. Count 10 grapes as a part of your snack. Is 10 enough or do you need more?

6. Count 10 cards (or sets of cards) to play a memory game. How many matches did you get?

7. Count 10 books to check out from your library. Find some books on counting! (Try 10, 9, 8 by Molly Bang, here's an activity to go with it here!)

8. Count 10 stickers then make a picture with them. Turn your pictures into cards and send them to a nursing home to cheer someone up!

9. Count 10 hops when playing hopscotch! Lots of counting practice here! How far will you get? (for another hopscotch skill check this idea out!)

10. Count 10 M & Ms, marshmallows or cookies for dessert. Can you create a design with your snack?

a pre kindergarten child using candies to count to 10a pre kindergarten child using candies to count to tena pre kindergarten child designing with candies after counting to ten


She created a few designs with her candies and then couldn't wait to gobble them up!

Have fun with these simple and relevant ways to count to 10!!

one to one correspondence with m and m candies



Disclosure: Some of the links in the post above may be “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Please know that I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Creating a Cutting Basket for Cutting Practice Anytime!



There will be lots of cutting activities to do in kindergarten! If your child is struggling to use scissors, he will spend more time frustrated with the physical part of the task (and will perhaps end up ripping the paper) instead of learning and practicing the academic skill the teacher is targeting.

For some families, having a Cutting Basket just out on the table would be a very, very bad idea! In our home, we have to limit access to the scissors since Little W is almost 2 1/2. Although, when he has found some scissors, he has made good choices...so far!

So, a Cutting Basket can be available all the time or just when you put it out for your child. You know what's best for your family! We have a tub that is filled with old scraps of paper, a few pairs of scissors, glue and paint chip samples.


Some other good items for a cutting basket could be:

  • construction paper
  • scrapbooking paper
  • card stock
  • tissue papper
  • foam sheets
  • paper plates
  • paper napkins
  • paper towels
  • paper bags
  • old circulars from the grocery store
  • junk mail
  • coupons from the paper
  • old magazines
  • pages from the printer that you are using
  • unused coffee filters
  • colorful muffin tin liners
  • old greeting or holiday cards
  • drinking straws
  • crepe paper
  • yarn
  • ribbons
  • thread
  • easter grass
  • basket filler (that crinkled stuff)
  • old gift bows
  • fall leaves
  • gift wrap paper scraps
  • felt
  • fabric
  • etc...
Really, I'd just look around the house and grab a handful of things I don't mind the kids cutting up!

Don't forget to put in large piece of paper and a glue stick in there too so they can use their imaginations to make wonderful pieces of art!!

One tip that I've seen is to to connect the scissors to the cutting basket with a ribbon so that they don't travel throughout the house! But as always, keep your eyes on your kiddos!


Now, go have fun creating a Cutting Basket for your home!


Disclosure: Some of the links in the post above may be “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Please know that I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Spelling and Writing Your Name a before kindergarten skill

practicing writing name


Every paper that your child hands in will need to have their name written on it, so your child will get lots of practice! But if she doesn't know how to spell it or have an idea of how to write it, it can start the activity off on the wrong foot.

The kindergarten teachers I've spoken with have indicated that their preference is for children to know the letters in the correct order as well as knowing that the first letter is a capital letter and all the rest are lowercase (unless your child has a capital in the middle somewhere!).


Spelling Your Name

So, first we need to spell it and spell it quickly or fluently.

I love songs! And although I am not a great singer, I love to sing! We make up songs about everything in our house - putting on our shoes and socks, our children's whole names, brushing our teeth, cleaning up, and on and on!

Here are some simple songs to familiar tunes that you can use to practice spelling your child's name:


3 Letter Names to the tune of Three Blind Mice

4 Letter Names to the tune of Are You Sleeping

5 Letter Names to the tune of BINGO

6 Letter Names to the tune of This Old Man

7 Letter Names to the tune of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star

8 Letter Names to the tune of Them Bones

9 Letter Names to the tune of the Mickey Mouse theme song


Put your child's name into one of the songs and finish the song with phrases like "that's my name" or "that's me!" or "is how we spell my name" etc..


Writing Your Name

To practice writing, you could do something boring like write your name 10 times. No thanks! You could make it a little more fun and have her write it in rainbow colors or spell it out in stickers and write it under the stickers. That's ok if she'll do it.


I like to make activities purposeful. I think something like "when would I really need to write my name?"

  • Well, on a present I would need to see my name to know it's for me. So have your child write on tags then you put them on little presents (a snack could be a present... I'm not saying go out and buy a ton of stuff!). New stickers.  Individual markers. Trinkets from a party store. Etc...

  • What about at dinner and putting out name table settings? Your child could create place settings and have that be a part of her chore when she sets the table.

  • Create a picture and sign it. Don't all famous artists put their names on their art work?

practicing writing namepracticing writing name

practicing writing name

  • Make labels for the inside of books. "This Book Belongs to _____________"


Since setting the table is one of Big Sister's chores, we made table setting cards.


Set It Up!

Cut some card stock (a light color since your child will be writing on it) into quarters. Then fold it into four long, skinny columns. See the picture:

creating a name place card

creating and folding a name place card


Then on the bottom quarter write your child's name so she can copy it. Since Big Sister's name is so long, not only does it give her practice writing but it shows her about how big each letter needs to be in order to fit.

creating and folding a name place card


Make It Just Right for Your Child:

After she writes it the first time, flip it upside down and write her name again on the bottom quarter. Have her write it again so that it ends up on both sides of the name card (and facing the correct direction!).

creating a name place cardcreating a name place card


Then fold it to create a triangle and secure the ends where you wrote her name. You can use tape, glue or staples. We tried all three, they all worked fine!



To work on writing letters in general, you could have her write each person's name. All you have to do is write the names on the bottom sections and let her copy them! This would be a great activity to do if you were going to have visitors stay for a meal! She could create one for each person.

creating a name place cardcreating a name place card


Tips for Success!
  • Let your child use any writing tools she wants
  • After the names are written, use stickers, glitter, sequins, etc... to decorate the name cards
  • Show your child that their work was purposeful by talking about how you know where to sit at the dinner table because of the wonderful, awesome, beautiful name cards (pick the adjective that would be the most meaningful to your child)



In the past I've used this activity with children to help them with name recognition. So, for Little W, we'll put out the name cards and have him find his own!


There are lots of things you can do with these name cards, be creative! Have fun!

practicing writing name



Disclosure: Some of the links in the post above may be “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Please know that I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Hopping! A Before Kindergarten Skill

kindergarten child hopping on a hopscotch board


It's so funny to watch my almost 2 1/2 year old hop, or rather bounce his body up and down while his feet stay firmly planted on the ground! This is a skill that will develop between now and the time he turns 3.

So why am I putting it in my "B4K - Before Kindergarten" series? Well, apparently there are quite a few kids entering kindergarten that don't hop well and it is a skill that kindergarten teachers need students to be able to do so that they can plan activities and games. If they have to teach hopping that takes away time to teach the academic skills they had planned to teach.

So, practice hopping at home! If your child can do it already, great! Pass this post along to someone you know who has a 2 1/2 to 3 year old! If after practicing for a while, your child is struggling please contact an Occupational Therapist who can look into why this is difficult for your child as there could be underlying coordination, strength or balance issues.


Set It Up!

Draw a hopscotch game on the sidewalk or driveway, or find one in your community (I know lots of playgrounds have them!). I color-blocked mine in orange, yellow and green so that I could work on colors with my son. I also did the numbers since counting to 10 is also a before kindergarten skill! I love multi-tasking!

chalk to draw a hopscotch board for a prekindergarten childhopscotch board drawn for a prekindergarten child



You Can Do It!

Did you ever play hopscotch the "right" way when you were a kid. I don't think I ever did! Here are the rules for traditional hopscotch. Get an object to toss and toss it on the first number. Then hop over that number and go all the way to the end and come back.

When you get to the square with your object in it, bend down and pick it up, hop in that square and then back to the start. The next time you go, toss it into the second square. The time after that toss it into the third square. And so on...

The first person to step on a line or toss the object in the wrong square or touch two feet down is out.



Make it Just Right for Your Child!

prekindergarten child hopping on a hopscotch board

Ok, so we totally don't play that way! We just hop to the end and back, going until we are bored or too tired to hop! With Big Sister, we counted and focused on hopping in different ways (one foot in each, two feet in each, one foot all the way and the other foot all the way back, etc...) and with Little W we went ahead and named the colors as he "hopped" (walked/ran) on each one.

toddler running on a hopscotch board


Tips for Success:
  • Make the squares about the size of a tile so your child doesn't have to hop too far (or make them bigger to work on big hopping!)
  • If it's raining (or otherwise not an outside kind of day) use the tiles in your home or use painters tape to mark out a hopscotch board on your floor.
  • Put different types of information in the squares. We did numbers but you could also do letters or sight words or shapes or different questions they have to answer (you'd read the questions to them!), feeling words or actions to act out or animals that they could make the sound of or ... well, you get the picture! Almost anything can be in the squares!



Have fun hopping! What will you put in your hopscotch squares?

kindergarten child hopping on a hopscotch board



Disclosure: Some of the links in the post above may be “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Please know that I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

One quick and easy game to Teach Good Sportsmanship

kindergarten child playing a sportsmanship game


We all want our children to display good sportsmanship behaviors whether they win or lose. But how do you teach it when they are devastated that they just lost a game or when they are super excited that they just won?


How do you go from this:


before kindergarten (prek) child upset about losing a game




To this?
before kindergarten (PreK) child not upset about losing a game



After playing games with many children over the years, I have found there are a few things that work (most of the time!):

  • First, before the game starts remind them that it's just a game and that you are playing for fun.

  • Second, review the expected behaviors whether they win or lose.  Remind them of what they can say if they win (good game, that was fun, thanks for playing) as well as what they can say if they lose (that was fun, I'd like to play that again, you played well). You may even want to review what not to say!

  • Third, demonstrate the expected behaviors.  In this game, I make sure that I am not overly excited when I win or disappointed when I lose. I emphasize the fact that I had fun. But I don't want to underestimate the fact that it is fun to win...because it is! Balance is important!

Another important thing to practice is finishing the game even if you know that you will lose. For example, I remember one night it took more than 10 minutes for Big Sister to make the only possible move she could make on the checkers board that allowed me to jump her last piece and end the game. We made her finish the game and we made her be the one to move the piece. Now, when I won, I didn't make a big deal of it and I praised her for her choices. 

We focused on how she played and how much she learned (and reminded her that I have like 30 more years experience playing than she does) and how as she plays more, the better she'll get. I want her to be disappointed about losing, that will drive her to try harder and learn better strategies. But mostly, I want good sportsmanship behaviors regardless of the outcome of the game. 



To practice these skills, I developed the quick and easy Lose-Win Game. Because so little time is involved in winning or losing this game, the emotional part is removed almost completely. Or at least you can get over losing more quickly!



Set It Up!

materials needed for a game to teach good sportsmanship skills

Print out a copy of the game (here). Cut out enough game cards for everyone to draw one card. There will be one "Win" card and the rest will be "Lose" cards. Fold each game card in half. Also grab a paper bag or old gift bag and toss in the folded game cards.



You Can Do It!

To play the game have all the players sit in a circle and discuss the things you could say when someone wins. Write it down or draw a picture of those statements.  Then discuss all of the things you could say when someone loses. Write those down too!

Before you each draw a card from the bag, pick a "win" comment and a "lose" comment. Then let each person take a card from the bag, keeping it folded until everyone has had a chance to get one. Then the person with the "Win" card goes first. He says his "win" comment. Then each player gets to say a comment as they put the game cards back in the bag. And that's it!

Quick, easy and if played multiple times, can really drive home the idea of keeping a positive attitude whether you win or lose the game.



Make it Just Right for Your Child!

I've had kiddos who have difficulty winning and not rubbing it in the faces of the other players. In these cases, I've had to practice what the winner says to the other players.



Tips for Success:
  • practice, practice, practice!
  • play at least a few rounds so your child will win a few times and lose a few times
  • point out when others use good sportsmanship behaviors (at sports games or on TV or even members of the family when playing games)
  • play real board games and practice the comments at the end of the game
  • here's the link to the game one more time if you need it: here


For some exciting games that you can play at home with your kids, I'll be talking soon about Family Game Night...so stay tuned!

before kindergarten (PreK) child playing a good sportsmanship game


Disclosure: Some of the links in the post above may be “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Please know that I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
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