5 Toys to teach Alphabet Letters and Sounds (Phonemic Awareness)

 

letters sounds phonemic awareness alphabet

The new preschool year has just started.  Some of you may be thinking, how can I help my child learn to read at home?  What are the most important skills they will need for kindergarten?  They need to know their letters and the sounds.  This is so important and the basis for taking the next step when learning to read.  There are so many toys on the market, but how do you know if they are good?

I have rounded up some of my favorite toys to help teach letters and their sounds, also known as phonemic awareness in teacher talk.  These toys are a great way to practice and have fun while doing so.

5 Toys to Teach Letters and Sounds

letters sounds phonemic awareness alphabet

Fridge phonics magnet letter set.  This toy was around 12 years ago when my oldest was toddling around, and is still one of the best.  It has nice big letters, easy for little hands to grasp.  Press the letter and they can hear the sound and how it’s used in a word.

 

letters sounds phonemic awareness alphabet

Learn the Alphabet Dough Mats.  Kids use dough to form each letter right on the mats.  This helps to boost letter recognition & fine motor skills as they create!  The set comes with 26 mats.

letters sounds phonemic awareness alphabet

Alpha Catch Phonics Game.  This is a great game to involve some physical activity.  You take turns tossing the ball and say the letter or sound, or both!  The same idea can be used for sight words.

letters sounds phonemic awareness alphabet

Uppercase Alphabet and Number Dough Stampers.  Kids love playdough.  This activity reinforces their letters and numbers, while having them practice fine motor skills.  Ask them to find a particular letter, make the sound, make a pattern with two letters, the options are endless.

letters sounds phonemic awareness alphabet

Alphabet Marks the Spot.  The kid alphabet version of Twister! Call a letter or sound, kids run to the spot.  Watch them get all twisted up!  You would start with letter names, progress to sounds, and then a word that starts with the sound.

This should help on the road to preparing for school.  Check out my link on how to encourage reading with your little ones!

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5 Tips to Encourage Reading

 

5 tips to encourage readers

 

I am a reading specialist and special educator by profession.  I have spent many years working with small groups of children, trying to encourage them as readers.  Most of these children are 2 or more years behind with their reading.  As a reading specialist and special educator I have received a TON of training on how to teach reading, how readers learn, and the science of reading.  The fact remains that the best way to learn to read, is to develop a love of reading.  Today I am going to offer 5 tips to help encourage a love of reading at any age.

5 tips to encourage readers

  1.  Introduce new and engaging books.  Libraries have plenty of choices.  But have you thought to look at garage sales, consignment sales, or trading with friends?  Try and make a weekly trip to your local library to constantly have a rotating collection of stories.
  2. Create special experiences that involve reading.  My children look forward to Daddy reading time each evening, where they cuddle up in bed and listen to him read a chapter book.  My toddler loves when we lay out a quilt and pull up a bin of books to read and look through.
  3. Children should be encouraged to self select books.  Yes, even your toddlers.  Keep the books at their eye level, where they can pull books out and decide what they want to look through.  Reading should be done both independently and supported.  Toddlers learn about concepts such as turning pages, direction of print, by looking through books.  It is important to allow toddlers to explore books and develop an interest in reading.
  4. Children should hear and see a variety of people reading.  This includes different members of your immediate household.  It also includes other family and friends you may be visiting or trips to the local story time at the library.  Children should understand that reading is important to everyone around them.
  5. Create a special reading nook.  It doesn’t have to be fancy, but don’t you love a place to cozy up to a story?  Maybe you have a few special blankets to cuddle when reading, or a special little chair next to a basket of favorite books.  Make it inviting and comfortable.  Check out some of my pins for creative reading areas 

5 tips to encourage readers

How have you encouraged reading in your home?

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5 Steps to the Ultimate After School Routine

5 steps to the ultimate after school routine

The new school year means a new chance to create an after school routine.  Every day little guy and I head outside to wait for the big, yellow school bus.  We are super lucky that the stop is in front of our house.  It is extra awesome that there are about 11 families that use our stop.  So it basically means a giant playdate in my yard and driveway each afternoon.

Little guy eagerly waves at the bus, and all the kids come tumbling down the steps.  This usually turns into kids running everywhere and asking who’s house they can play at that afternoon.  It also means every parent reminds their child that they have their afternoon routine to get through.

If the weather is super awesome, or in the winter if darkness comes way to soon, we may choose to delay the ultimate after school routine.  It has taken many years of adjustment trying to figure out what works best for our family.  And honestly each year the after school routine changes a bit.  But so far this years’ is the best so I am excited to share with you!

 

1.  Get the kids inside

Like I said, since our house is at the bus stop it is hard to get them inside.  But once I do, the backpacks are tossed on the ground, the baby is crawling everywhere, the dog and cat are running around, and there is lots of talking.

All of this can make my head spin, but I try not to start yelling “Pick up your backpack” or “Start your afternoon routine.” Often there is something that happened which they can’t wait to talk about, or the opposite occurs and there is radio silence.  Both are okay.

bus stop after school

2.  Feed them!

School schedules are crazy and this year my one child eats at 10:20 in the morning.

This means they come home hungry and cranky.  I know personally I become hangry when I don’t eat, I think my kids are the same way.

Although they won’t admit it, they are much more pleasant with a full tummy.  I encourage a snack with some protein and carbs, for some quick energy and to sustain their energy.

Breakfast cookies, now after school cookies, can be a great option.

breakfast cookies after school snack

3.  Chill out time

We are lucky enough to have lots of friends in the neighborhood.  I really believe in letting kids run around after a very long day at school.  Recess has been cut so short in our district, our kids just need to get up and move.  Plus all the benefits of getting kids moving really helps with concentration for school work.  So it’s playdates at rotating houses for about 45 minutes.

swings after school playground

 

4.  Unpack backpack and complete homework

So it’s time to tackle school paperwork and homework.  In our county there is minimal homework, as the belief is that after a long day of school work kids should have time for other activities.  With that being said there is always reading and usually a small number of math problems.  For older kids studying for quizzes and tests occurs as well.

We have a basket for each child where important papers are placed.  These are items to be signed and any work samples I would like to save.  We have several homework stations throughout the house that are stocked with needed supplies.  Read this article to see why multiple stations may be beneficial to your child.

homework station with paper, pen, computer

5.  Chore cards

Finally they have to complete one chore before earning free time.  We have tried many chore charts.  They never work for long.  So this summer I came up with chore cards.  On each card is written a different chore, and each child gets seven for the week.  They can choose which they want to complete each day.  At the end of the week my two oldest switch piles for the upcoming week.  This has eliminated me having to yell about helping around the house.  They know if it doesn’t happen, then electronics are not an option.  And that is really motivating.

chore card after school routine

I hope this ultimate after school routine helps to get your family on track for more peaceful afternoons.  Less yelling and more talking is always a good thing!

 

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National Book Festival- Children’s Guide

The 17th Library of Congress National Book Festival kicks off September 2, 2017 at the Washington Convention Center.  This annual festival is an awesome event.  If you have never made it downtown with your kids, you should definitely consider going.  Meeting your favorite author is pretty special, and you may just get to hug some of your favorite characters.

There is so much to do, and I have created a plan that can help you tackle most of the event.

Follow these 5 tips for a truly spectacular experience:

 

Download the 2017 Children’s Guide

Once you print out the guide sit down with your child and make a list of your must do activities.  You can then add activities that would be nice, but if missed would not cause any extra tears.

Scavenger Hunt

Completing a scavenger hunt in any new situation is a fun way to really get the lay of the land.  Some things to collect on this scavenger hunt include finding an author from your home state at the Pavilion of States.  Another is to find all three Waldo cutouts and then complete a Waldo postcard to enter a contest.  Try and find Dog Man, Ned the Newshound, or Clifford the Big Red Dog and snap a picture.

Author Talks

When listening to a favorite author, remember that some do book signings before their talk.  Check the schedule.  If you are hoping to ask the author a question after the talk, sit near the center aisle.  As soon as the talk is finished, get in line for the microphone because they get big quickly.

Play Eye Spy with the official poster

This year’s poster was created by Roz Chast, who is a cartoonist.  There are lots of details and it’s fun to try and find some of the sillier ones.

  1.  Find all the books with boots on.
  2. How many animals can you find?
  3. How many books do not have any hair?
  4. How many colors of books are there?

Visit the Pavilion of States

Grab a passport and try to get stamps from each of the states.  Along the way learn about some great books from different areas of our country.  Collect a prize at the Junior League booth.

Now go print out the guide and make your list.

Check back for Part 2 of this series, with more tips and tricks for the festival.

 

 

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