Owl Books

owl books

Anything a kid is interested in is a great topic for reading.  I have an owl-obsessed daughter.  I did a quick subject search at my local library and came up with these great books.  Some are silly and funny.  Some are filled with facts (and really above her comprehension level).  Yet, all of them were interesting to her because they were about her favorite subject.  Don’t be afraid of non-fiction books for preschoolers!

Owls by Gail Gibbons- Everything you ever wanted to know about owls told in simple language with labeled illustrations.  The best non-fiction book on owls for kids!

The Littlest Owl by Caroline Pitcher- The smallest owl is teased by his three older siblings, but he doesn’t give up until he flies.

I’m Not Cute! by Jonathan Allen- A young owl is very annoyed that other animals call him cute when he thinks he is a “huge and scary hunting machine with great big wings.”  Very funny story!

Owlet’s First Flight by Mitra Modarressi– Cute rhyming book about a little owl’s first flight around the farm.

Little Hoot by Amy Krouse Rosenthal- A little owl wants to go to sleep, but his parents want him to stay up late.  They try to stall him with extra playtime, bedtime stories, and a glass of water.  Funny story with cute illustrations.

Owls by Emily Rose Townsend- Easy reader book with one sentence per page.  Great way to introduce non-fiction reading!

All About Owls by Jim Arnosky- Another good non-fiction book for kids.  Contains lots of information about owls.

Whoo Goes There? by Jennifer A. Ericsson- Owl is listening for a mouse to eat, but he hears other animals instead.  Lots of fun sound words and kids can guess the animals.

White Owl, Barn Owl by Nicola Davies- A girl and her grandpa set up a box for a barn owl to nest in.  Fiction story with lots of owl facts, too!

Owl Babies by Martin Waddell- Three owlets are scared when their mother goes out hunting.

Stuffed Animal Alphabet

stuffed animal alphabet

I’m always happy to find a way to use our plethora of stuffed friends.  We’ve made a stuffed animal zoo, and now we are using them to learn letters.  This game helps with phonics and letter recognition.  All you need are animals and letters.  We used a foam alphabet mat, but you could easily write letters on index cards or use letter flashcards instead.

For each stuffed animal ask:

  1. What animal is this?
  2. What letter does it start with?  (If they need some help offer other words that start with the same letter)
  3. Can you find the letter and place the animal on top of it?  (Again, depending on ability level you might need to give some clues about what the letter looks like or its place in the alphabet)

Then read an animal ABC book and see if you had the same animals!

Water Paint

water paint

 

How do I keep the kids entertained while I mow the lawn?  Water painting.  All you need is a bucket of water, paintbrushes, and a fence.  It’s free and it’s fun and it doesn’t make a mess.  Plus kids can practice all kinds of things:

  • letters
  • numbers
  • counting
  • patterns- use the fence pickets
  • math problems
  • sight words or spelling words
  • shapes
  • and my daughters’ favorite: splattering

It isn’t the same as practicing handwriting with a pencil and paper, but that’s the point.  Sometimes kids need a break from the routine.  Novelty makes learning fun.  Who wouldn’t want to practice their spelling words outside with a paintbrush in the sunshine instead of at the kitchen table?

Top Ten First Day of Kindergarten Books

first day of kindergarten books

My oldest daughter be going to kindergarten this week (sniff, sniff) and we have been reading lots kindergarten books to prepare.  Here are our favorites (in no particular order)…

Planet Kindergarten by Sue Ganz-Schmitt– This is the perfect book for a kid (or parent) who loves space.  Everything about the first day of kindergarten is related to a space mission.  The teacher is the commander, the classroom is a capsule, and classmates are crewmates.  Hilarious story with very cute illustrations!

Kindergarten Rocks! by Katie Davis– Dexter’s big sister tells him all about kindergarten and helps him find his lost stuffed animal on the first day.

Mom, It’s My First Day of Kindergarten! by Hyewon Yum– In this story the mom is nervous about kindergarten and her son had to reassure her that everything will be fine.  The illustrations show mom small and blue when she is anxious and big and colorful when she feels fine.

Miss Bindergarten Gets Ready for Kindergarten by Joseph Slate– This rhyming book shows the teacher and her twenty-six students (from Adam the alligator to Zach the zebra) getting ready for kindergarten.

Look Out, Kindergarten, Here I Come! by Nancy Carlson– It is a simple story about a little mouse who is excited and then a little nervous about kindergarten.  It is written in both English and Spanish.

The Day My Mom Came to Kindergarten by Maureen Fergus– Just as the title says, Mom comes to kindergarten… and embarrasses her daughter because she doesn’t know the rules.

Tom Goes to Kindergarten by Margaret Wild– Tom the Panda is nervous about kindergarten so his parents stay with him the first day.  Then they want to come back because it is so much fun!

The Night Before Kindergarten by Natasha Wing– Cute book that is written in the style of “The Night Before Christmas.”  My daughter thought it was funny that the teacher had to ask the crying parents to leave.

The Berenstain Bears Go To School by Stan & Jan Berenstain– Sister Bear is nervous about going to kindergarten in the Bear Country School so she meets her teacher and checks out her classroom.  On the first day of school she has lots of fun building blocks, painting pictures, and looking at books.

Kindergarten Countdown by Anna Jane Hays– This rhyming book counts down the week before kindergarten with numbers and days of the week.

15 Ways to Learn with Play Food

learning with play food

So you’ve got a little kitchen set for your kiddo.  Here are some ways to learn with all that plastic food (you know, instead of just tripping over it)….

  1. See if your child can name all the pieces of food.
  2. Select food and have a pretend picnic.
  3. Set up a pretend restaurant.  Take turns being the customer and waiter/waitress and cook.
  4. Arrange food in rows and go shopping with a basket.  Pretend to check-out and use real money.
  5. Sort food by color.
  6. Sort food by food group.
  7. Pick out two or more foods that start with the same letter.
  8. Look for shapes.  Which foods are spheres?  Are any flat like a circle?  What about a cylinder?
  9. Find and count certain foods.  How many eggs are there?  How many oranges?
  10. Compare quantities.  Are there more yellow foods or green foods?  How many more lemons than tomatoes?
  11. Use food to represent addition or subtraction problems.  I have four apples, then I give two to you.  How many do I have now?
  12. Play “I’m thinking of a food.”  Use adjectives to describe a piece of food to each other and take turns guessing.
  13. Play a memory game.  Place a few foods in front of your child.  Then have her close her eyes and take a food away.  Ask which one was removed.
  14. Put a food in a sack and see if you can guess what it is just by touch.
  15. Go on a food scavenger hunt.  Write down a list of foods to find (something to eat for breakfast, a vegetable, a food that starts with the letter B, etc.) and then see if your child can find them all!

Yarn Art

The girls decided it would be a fun game to cut up yarn.  I’m not sure how the came up with idea or how they stayed interested in it for so long.  It kept them occupied and it was great cutting practice for my three-year-old, so I was happy.  I was slightly less enthusiastic when my living room was covered in bits of yarn.  Hmmm…  What to do?  Well for starters we played my fun game of “Who can pick up the most yarn in her baggie?”  Then we made some art.

Big Sis used some steady hands to make lines and shapes with the Elmer’s glue.  Then she carefully found pieces of yarn to place on her glue lines.

yarn lines

Little Sis also had a great time plopping glue on a paper and then sticking yarn on.  She wasn’t as concerned about getting it on the lines….

yarn art

We also practiced some sight words.  First I wrote the word with glue and Big Sis placed the yarn on the lines.  Then we switched and she got to write with glue.  You could do the same with letters, numbers, or shapes.

yarn sight words

Ten Ways to Learn with Cardboard Boxes

building with boxes

If you can learn with cans, why not boxes?  We collected empty cardboard boxes for a few weeks to make “box blocks.”  For boxes that didn’t close on their own, I taped them shut.  The kids really got excited about adding to our box collection.  And we were able to see just how many boxes our family uses…and have a talk about the importance of recycling!  That is a learning experience in itself, but here are some other things you can teach with boxes…

learning with boxes

Common Core Standards appear in italics.  They correlate with specific standards in different grade levels.  These standards are used in almost every school in the country.  Click the Common Core tab above to learn more.)

  1. Colors- Talk about the different colors on the boxes, then divide them into groups or make a rainbow.
  2. Size- Compare sizes of boxes.  Put them in order from smallest to biggest.
  3. Counting– How many boxes in all?  Count how many you can stack in a tower.
  4. Addition and Subtraction– How many cereal boxes plus fruit snack boxes do we have? (first grade- Represent and solve problems involving addition and subtraction)
  5. Geometry- Talk about 2D vs 3D.  Use the word rectangular prism.  How many rectangles make up a box?   (kindergarten- Identify shapes as two-dimensional or three-dimensional)
  6. Measurement- Use a ruler to measure boxes length, width, and depth. (second grade- Measure and estimate lengths in standard units)
  7. Classification- Sort the boxes into groups based on color, size, or type of food.   (kindergarten- Classify objects into given categories; count the numbers of objects in each category and sort the categories by count)
  8. Reading– Beginning readers might be able to read some of the labels using the picture as a clue.  If they know it is a pizza box, see if they can pick out the word “pizza.”
  9. Letters- Try to make letters or even words out of the small boxes.
  10. Creative building– Design your own sculpture with box blocks!

Or combine all the above into a scavenger hunt.  Scatter the boxes around the room and then shout out things to find.  “Find a green box and bring it to me.  Which box would we use to eat breakfast?  Find the largest box.  Can you find the letter T on a box?”  This is great way to get kids moving and learning at the same time.

cardboard box horse
cardboard box scultpure

Letter Sound Game

phoneme game

Tired of playing “I Spy?”  Try “What Letter Makes This Sound?”  It is an easy while-you-wait game that you can play in the doctor’s office or restaurant.  One person makes a letter sound and the other person guesses the letter.  Easy.

Adult- “What letter makes this sound?” (make /b/ sound)

Kid- “B!!”

Then switch it up and let the kid ask the question.  Or make it more difficult and ask “Which two letters together make the /ch/ sound?” Or how about which two letters can both make the /s/ sound?”

This game should really be called the Phoneme Game.  (That’s a fancy way to say the individual speech sounds that make up a language. Also- I have been reading too many Fancy Nancy books.)  Phonemes are the building blocks of words.  Phonemic awareness will help kids “sound out” words in their reading and writing.  This game will also give kids who need help with speech an opportunity practice saying phonemes.

A warning from my college reading professor:  Be careful to only say one phoneme at a time.  It’s more difficult than you think.  For example, people have a tendency to say “wa” (making a /w/ and /a/ sounds) instead of the pure /w/ sound.

 

Ten Ways to Learn With Water Beads

10 Ways to Learn with Water BeadsWe recently discovered water beads.  You see, there is this thing called “Pinterest” that has all sorts of ideas for kids.  You should really check it out. 🙂  So I ordered some from Amazon (a 2-oz pack of Jelly Beadz), but I hear you get them even cheaper at dollar stores or floral supply stores.

Water beads are awesome.  They start out tiny and very hard, then you soak them in water for a few hours.  They soak up the water and become large and gelatinous.  That is a cool word.  But not cooler than water beads.  Seriously.  As fun as it is to feel then between your toes (try it!), you can also LEARN with them.  I know.  Mind blown.educational water beads

  1. Fine Motor Skills– They are SLIPPERY!  It takes a steady hand and pincer grip to pick them up.  Or try scooping them up one a time with a spoon.  We even tried chopsticks.  I think it is impossible.
  2. Colors– Sort by color into smaller containers.
  3. Language– Use adjectives to describe how water beads look, feel, etc.
  4. Letters- Use the water beads to “hide” plastic letters, then go on a letter hunt.
  5. Estimation– Choose a small container and estimate how many water beads will fill it up.  Then find out!
  6. Counting- Take turns grabbing handfuls and counting how many you can hold.
  7. Addition and Subtraction- Math is more fun when you have wiggly water beads to add together or take away.
  8. Patterns- Make a pattern with the colors.  It is difficult to make the beads line up, but that is part of the fun!
  9. Capacity– Kids will naturally want to fill up containers, so throw some measuring cups and let the kids explore.  They can see firsthand how many 1/4 cups it takes to fill up a cup.
  10. Hypothesize and Experiment- Do water beads bounce?  Can you squish them?  What happens when you put them in salt?

And speaking of experiments, Creekside Learning offers a free printable science observation worksheet that is perfect for older kids.

*Disclaimer- Water beads look a lot like candy.  I wouldn’t use them with babies or toddlers who like to put things in their mouths.

learning with water beads

 

Preschool Author Study

Eric Carle author study

So you’ve got a kid who likes a book.  Awesome!  Now go to the library and check out three (or five or ten) more books by the same author.  BAM!  You are doing an author study.  That was easy.

Author studies are great because if you are choosing books by an author your child already likes, so he will probably discover MORE favorite books.  You are encouraging a deeper connection attachment to reading. By discussing and comparing the books, you build critical thinking skills.  At the very least you are reading and learning an author’s name.  🙂

We chose Eric Carle because we were going to a Very Hungry Caterpillar puppet show.  Eric Carle is a familiar author, but I still found lots of books that I had never read before.  I think it is a good idea to chose an author/illustrator for preschoolers since it is so easy to see how the pictures are all in the same style.  Some other favorite preschool author/illustrators are Lois Ehlert, Donald Crews, David Shannon, and Sandra Boynton.

Obviously an author study for the under 5 set is going to look a little different than with school age kids.  You won’t be discussing the author’s use of imagery in his writing style.  Well, maybe you can.  Here are some preschool-appropriate ideas to try with your author study:

  • Talk about the jobs of author and illustrator.  Point out the author and illustrator’s names on the cover and title page.
  • Go to the author’s website to see a picture or video of the author.
  • Talk, talk, talk about books.  Which one is your favorite and why?  How are the books alike?  Are there any characters that appear in multiple books?
  • Write a letter or draw a picture to send to the author. (Your preschooler can dictate the letter and you do the writing)
  • Act out your favorite book with puppets.
  • Write your own book in the author’s style.  Use the same characters or setting, or continue the story of a favorite book.  (Again, you’ll have to do the actual writing)
  • Draw or paint or picture inspired by the illustrations.
  • Make a chart to compare the books.  We did an easy checklist that asked- Were there people in the story?  Animals?  Was there a problem in the story?  Did you like the book?