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)
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.
We 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.
- 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.
- Colors– Sort by color into smaller containers.
- Language– Use adjectives to describe how water beads look, feel, etc.
- Letters- Use the water beads to “hide” plastic letters, then go on a letter hunt.
- Estimation– Choose a small container and estimate how many water beads will fill it up. Then find out!
- Counting- Take turns grabbing handfuls and counting how many you can hold.
- Addition and Subtraction- Math is more fun when you have wiggly water beads to add together or take away.
- Patterns- Make a pattern with the colors. It is difficult to make the beads line up, but that is part of the fun!
- 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.
- 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.
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?
What is even better than paper towel art? Paper towel learning! Just write with markers on a paper towel. Then use an eye dropper filled with water to “explode” the words into art. I think this would be a great way to get reluctant writers to practice handwriting. Watching water transform their words is built-in motivation. And how easy would it be to set your kiddo up with a paper towel and marker to practice her spelling words at breakfast?
Use paper towel writing to practice:
- his own name
- sight words
- spelling words
Rooster’s Off to See the World by Eric Carle is a second-grade reading level book. It is a wonderful read aloud to younger kids, especially when read with other Eric Carle favorites. It tells the story of a rooster who wants to travel and asks several animals to come along with him.
(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.)
- Practice math- Do verbal or written story problems following along with the story. 1 rooster + 2 cats+ 2 frogs+ 4 turtles+ 5 fish = how many animals in all? When the animals leave, write the subtraction problems. (first grade- Solve word problems that call for addition of three whole numbers whose sum is less than or equal to 20)
- Read with voice- This book makes a great read aloud. Try out different voices for each of the animals. Pay attention to words the author uses such as purred, snapped, or complained. (second grade-Acknowledge differences in the points of view of characters, including by speaking in a different voice for each character when reading dialogue aloud.)
- Alternatives to said– This activity goes along with reading with voice. Make a list of all the words used instead of “said.” Talk about why the author used these different words. See if your child can use some of the new words in her writing.
- Act it out- Use puppets or yourself to act out the story. Maybe you could be the rooster and your child play the part of the other animals.
- Write the sequel– The story ends with rooster dreaming about a trip around the world. Where would he go? What would he do? Have your child make up the rest of the story and you can write it down.
- Text to self connection- Ask your child to explain when he has felt like the characters in the story- excited for a trip, lonely, or homesick. (first grade- Describe people, places, things, and events with relevant details, expressing ideas and feelings clearly)
My girls love finding Easter eggs, so I had the idea of hiding puzzle pieces in them instead of candy. This might be a fun way to give kids a new puzzle on Easter. Or it can just be a fun non-treat egg hunt you can have around your house any day.
Confession: my original idea was to hide regular puzzle pieces in the eggs, but they didn’t fit. 😦 Never fear! This Melissa & Doug alphabet puzzle worked perfectly. Plus it had the added learning component of identifying the letter found in the egg and then finding its spot in the alphabet.
- Place puzzle pieces in eggs and hide around the room (or outside).
- Bring in the kids and let them look for eggs!
- After finding an egg, the kiddo needs to run over to the puzzle and put in her piece before she hunts for another egg.
- To make it fair for younger players, you might want to have kids take turns finding eggs and adding pieces to the puzzle. One kid can’t go find a second egg until everyone has found their first egg and so on.