Friday, May 24, 2013

Early Literacy Fun - Singing



“You want me to sing in front of my child? You must be joking!” Not to worry, it really is not as intimidating as it sounds to sing in front of your kids. Be silly. Have fun. They don’t care if you’re tone deaf so long as you are having a good time together! Singing helps children to develop phonological awareness by stretching out the sounds of spoken language. Story songs can help them to develop narrative skills as well. Songs also are a great way to pass along your cultural heritage through folk songs and other traditional music. Here are some simple ways to sing with your child.

  • Listen to music during road trips and sing along together. It doesn’t even have to be “kids” music, anything you can sing along with is great.
  • Make up songs about daily activities such as brushing teeth, making lunch and going to bed. You can base them on traditional tunes or make up some all your own!
  • Make a drum set out of old plastic storage containers. See how the sizes and shapes make differences in the tone when you bang on them.
  • Check out a kids’ music CDs from the library (J CD 780s)
  • Share your favorite folk songs. Lullabies are especially nice before bed and when waking up from a bad dream.
  • Make a tambourine with rice by sealing two plates together with the loose rice in between, or make rain sticks with beans in used paper tubes and sealing the ends closed.
  • Check out books based on songs or that have CDs with music included. Our libraries have books based on the work of John Denver and Peter, Paul and Mary to name a few.
  • Sing songs with fun and active motions, like “If You’re Happy and You Know It” and “The Hokey Pokey”. The motions are good for gross motor development and also help them remember the words to the song.
  • Listen to instrumental music together. Even without words music is a powerful instrument for sharing cultures and the sounds of language.
  • Have a dance party with music of different tempos, some really fast, others slow. See who can come up with the best dance move!

Friday, May 17, 2013

Early Literacy Fun - Writing



Who says two year olds can’t write? Sure, most two year olds are not writing what we would recognize as letters, but their toddler doodling is developing the fine motor skills and symbolic thinking necessary to turn those scribbles into letters, words and eventually whole stories all their own! Writing also helps develop letter knowledge and print awareness - the understanding that the printed word carries special meaning and enables one to be understood. Here are some fun and easy ways to bring more writing into your child’s life.


  • Have crayons and scrap paper available to write with during play time.
  • Bring sidewalk chalk outside to write on the driveway or sidewalks around your home.
  • Use a stick to write letters and shapes in the sand or dirt while at the beach or on a hike.
  • Use shaving cream or pudding as finger paints and write letters and words into them.
  • Add some magnetic alphabet letters to the front of the fridge to play with while you are cooking.
  • When you finish a craft project take time to ask your child what they made and write their description on the piece along with their name.
  • Have your child write their own name when sending out cards or letters to friends and family. Even if it’s illegible, they will feel proud to have done it.
  • Bring crayons and notepads with you when making trips to places where the kids might have to sit and wait for a while.
  • Give blank notepads as stocking stuffers or in birthday goodie bags to encourage your children’s scribbling.
  • Use blank paper folded in half and stapled to make little books for your child to write their own story in.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Early Literacy Fun - Playing



Fred Rogers said that “Play is the work of childhood”. Through play children learn cause and effect, social skills, and of course hone their creativity and language skills. Dramatic play gives children the opportunity to practice their narrative skills as they play act different situations and characters - be it a princess, doctor or cowboy. Play can also help develop both fine motor and gross motor skills - and playing together helps to build those essential relationships between child and caregiver. Here are some easy ways to play with your child today!

  • Create a dress-up trunk for dramatic play out of hand me down clothes and fun finds from the thrift store.
  • Used canned goods to play store together. you can make a shopping list maybe even use an old checkbook to write a check for what you “buy”
  • Building blocks are a fun way to discuss shapes, colors and learn about cause and effect. How high can you build a tower?
  • Create a sensory bin out of a storage bin with water, sand or even cooked pasta noodles, plastic toys and items from nature to play with.
  • Try this easy recipe for homemade play dough then use it to shape into letters or animals to spell words and tell stories.
    • 3 cups flour
    • 1.5 cups salt
    • 6 tsp. cream of tartar
    • 3 tbsp. oil
    • 3 cups water
    • Pour all ingredients into a large pot. Stir constantly over medium heat until a dough ball forms by pulling away from the sides. Knead dough until the texture matches play dough (1-2 minutes). Store in plastic container. Should last for at least 3 months.
  • String Fruit Loops, Cheerios and Lifesavers on a string for a fun snack that also builds fine motor skills.
  • Act out the story from one of your favorite picture books.
  • Set up a scavenger hunt around the house and set out clues for the kids to find using shapes and simple words leading to a treasure or treat at the end.
  • Play classic card and board games together like Old Maid, Uno and Candy Land.
  • Make a game out of sorting recyclables or dirty laundry! The kids learn useful classification skills about colors and textures, and you get a little extra help with the housework.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Early Literacy Fun - Talking



Talking with your child is one of the easiest ways to help develop their language skills. It doesn’t require anything more than your attention and your voice. You can start talking with your child well before they can even talk back! Talking together helps to develop phonological awareness (understanding the sounds of language), vocabulary, and builds relationships with caregivers. Here are some simple ways to incorporate more talking into your time with your child.

  • Narrate your activities as you go through your day. Talk about what you’re eating at meals, the colors and textures of clothes as you get dressed, the steps in diaper changing and other hygiene activities.
  • Incorporate nursery rhymes into your play time, such as “Pat-A-Cake” and “This Little Piggy”.
  • When talking to children who aren’t using words yet, pause to give them a chance to respond. Eye contact, smiles, gurgles and babbling are all responses too, even though they aren’t words. Giving them a chance to respond helps them learn the rhythms of spoken language.
  • Talk about the scenery while on a road trip. Point out the mountains and mesas, the different types of trees and wildlife and even the colors and styles of the other cars on the road.
  • While out running errands talk about what you are experiencing/seeing. What color is a banana or an apple? What shape is a box of cereal? What is the texture of the new sweater you are buying?
  • Share riddles and jokes together. “Why did the chicken cross the road?”. Warning: Knock knock jokes and puns are addictive at this age.
  • Play guessing games like “I Spy” while in the car or on a rainy day at home. I spy something that is green, or I spy something that is soft. What do you spy?
  • Talk about feelings when a child is upset. Giving names to their emotions helps them to better deal with what they are feeling. Go beyond happy, sad and angry to give them better words to describe just what they are feeling. Are you scared? Anxious? Pensive?
  • Talk about the parts of their bodies during bath time and diaper time. This will help give them the words to understand for potty training and other self-care tasks, as well as help you understand their pain when they are feeling sick.
  • When watching television or a movie with an older preschooler, sit and watch it with them and discuss what you see to help add meaning and understanding to what might otherwise just be a jumble of fun pictures.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Early Literacy Fun - Reading



Reading is a cornerstone of education and communication in our world today. Children that start school with the foundational skills to be ready to read are less likely to fall behind their peers and more likely to be successful in academics throughout life. Reading together helps to build all of the six pre-reading skills: letter knowledge, phonological awareness, print awareness, narrative skills, vocabulary and print motivation. It also helps to build those caring relationships with one another that are vital not only for learning but for life! Here are some fun ways to incorporate reading into your daily life together.


  • Read environmental print like road signs, cereal boxes, shampoo bottles and leaflets.
  • Have books available for your child to explore on their own. Board books and cloth books are great. Even though they aren’t really reading yet, just exploring the books, turning pages and even chewing on them are all steps towards reading on their own down the road.
  • Read chapter books together with pre-schoolers. Even though they can’t read these on their own yet children need not wait until their school years to enjoy a chapter book. Try sharing one of your favorites from childhood!
  • Try some wordless picture books. Though there are no printed words to read in these books, there are still stories to be shared. Wordless picture books allow children to create their own stories based on their experiences.
  • Listen to a book on CD together when on road trips.
  • Bring more environmental print into your home by labeling things like walls, doors, chairs and tables.
  • Give books for Christmas and birthday presents to show your child that books are special and fun.
  • Model reading for your children. Let them see you reading books, magazines and newspapers at home.
  • Create a book nook in a playroom, bedroom or family space with soft cushions to sit on and easy access to books.
  • Don’t be afraid to repeat what you’ve read. Kids love novelty, but they also love repetition. So if they have a favorite book they request often - read it again, and again, and again.
  • Make your own books featuring your neighborhood, family, friends and favorite activities.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Pet Love



Harriet Ziefert celebrates creativity and the bond between pet and owner in her new book My Dog Thinks I'm a Genius. When a little boy paints a masterpiece he's certain that his dog thinks he is a genius. Little does he know that his work of art has inspired his pooch to do some creative painting of his own! When he comes home and his dog isn't waiting for him, what will he find? What has his dog been getting into alone in his art studio? Check out this enjoyable new picture book from Harriet Ziefert to find out!

This book is a great tie in to a free painting or coloring day during craft time! It's great to give kids the opportunity to just be creative now and then, and not have a project with specific instructions or a coloring sheet with line to color inside of. Free coloring and painting is also good for building fine motor skills and laying the foundation for writing later on.

Friday, January 4, 2013

The Quilt Walk


Sandra Dallas is a local Colorado author and her new book, The Quilt Walk, is her first book for juvenile audiences and does not disappoint. It tells the story of young Emmy Blue, her family, and their journey from western Illinois to the gold-rush boom town of Golden, CO in the mid-1860s. While saying their good-byes to loved ones in Illinois, Emmy's grandmother gives her a small package with a warning not to open it until they are across the Missouri River. When she opens it, her heart sinks. It is pre-cut pieces for a log cabin doll's quilt. Emmy Blue hates to quilt, she tries to think of any excuse she can not to finish her quilt.

Will she complete the quilt and maybe even learn to love quilting? Will her family make it safely to Golden? What adventures will she encounter while in the wagon train? Anyone who likes the Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder, playing Oregon Trail on the computer or with an interest in Colorado history is sure to enjoy this book. It's a great book for a family read aloud or for independent reading. Check it out!

Monday, December 31, 2012

Resolve to Read, Talk, Sing, Write and Play This New Year!

No doubt one of the biggest responsibilities of parenthood (or for that matter nannyhood, grandparenthood or being a teacher) is making sure the children in our care receive a good education. One of the cornerstones of that education is literacy. Teaching a child to read can be intimidating, but it needn’t be. There are some very simple and easy things you can do at home now with your young children even before they get to school that will help lay the foundation for reading and educational success. It’s a simple as talking, singing, playing, writing and reading together.
  • TALK - Talking to our children lays the foundation of language and we don’t need to wait until they can talk back to do it. Verbalizing observations as your ride around in the car running errands is a great way to involve a baby or toddler.
  • SING - Singing helps us to hear our language in a different way, breaking up the sounds and elongating them to a tune, helps to develop phonological awareness. Songs can also make stories more memorable, like “Little Bunny Foo-Foo”, which cultivates narrative skills.
  • PLAY - Fred Rogers (aka Mr. Rogers) once said that “play is the real work of childhood”. Through playing children learn cause and effect, problem solving skills, and yes, language boosting skills that will help them with reading down the road.
  • WRITE - Getting our ideas down in written form is a huge part of human communication, be it hand-written or typed. Dots, lines and scribbles on paper become letters and images that represent stories. We learn through watching others, and from writing ourselves, that words are important and valuable in relating to others.
  • READ - This is perhaps the most obvious of the five practices, but it always bears repeating. Reading together not only supports all of the skills necessary to become a successful reader down the road, but it can also be a great way to bond with your child.


Thursday, November 1, 2012

Fall is in the Air



Fall is certainly in full swing now with harvest festivals, Halloween, Thanksgiving and pumpkin flavored, cinnamon scented everything everywhere! Here are some great fall book titles to share with the kiddos in your life.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Monster Mash

This week in my story times at work we are doing a Monsters theme for Halloween. Monsters are notoriously scary to younger kids (and even some older ones, for that matter), yet there are a lot of really great children's books featuring monsters! I made a real effort to choose monster books that encourage and empower kids, through teaching empathy and other tactics for de-scarifying (yes, that's a word now apparently) the things that go bump in the night.



My Favorite Monster Books

Make Your Own Monster



Sometimes just the act of creating the thing that can be scary is empowering in itself - but making a monster and then tearing it to bits can also be good for some kids - you can try either with this craft! In any case the coloring and peeling off the stickers encourage the development of manual fine motor skills necessary for writing down the road.

Materials: Multiple colors of construction paper, crayons, shape stickers, googly eyes