Sunday, July 25, 2010

Fun Ways to Teach Your Child how to Write their Name

The first step to teaching your child how to write is strengthening the small muscles in the hands and wrists that are used in handwriting. This process is often referred to as building fine motor skills. You can encourage fine motor development by having your child use art supplies like crayons, paints, markers, glue and scissors. Lacing activities, stringing beads and cheerios, playing with playdoh, scooping sand or rice, and activities like pouring and stirring are also great fine motor activities.

When you feel your child is physically ready to write, why not try some of these creative ways to write the letters of their name - Remember to keep it fun! Young children learn best when they are taught using a multi sensory approach, involving as many senses as possible. Try a few of these hands-on letter formation and name writing activities for beginning writers and your child will have all the skills she needs as a beginning writer.

  • Write the letters and ask your child to copy them.

  • Let your child practice writing on a dry erase board, chalk board or Magnadoodle.

  • Use special crayons and markers designed for use on windows and in the bath.

  • Make Alphabet Cookies using the letters of your child's name

  • Write your child's name with large letters on a piece of paper. Give your child a variety of dry pasta such as macaroni, shell pasta, wheels and alphabet pasta and a shallow dish of glue. Have him put glue on the pasta and place it along the lines of the letters of his name. Spray it with spraypaint when it is dry.

  • Have your child use fingerprints to trace her written name. Give your child a variety of finger paints and have her put her fingertips in the paint. Then she can do a succession of fingerprints along the lines of her name.

  • Using old magazines, go through the pictures and headlines with your child. Have him find and cut out the letters of his name. Also have him find and cut out pictures of objects that start with each letter of his name.

  • Put some shaving cream or whipped cream in a shallow pan or cookie sheet. Have your child trace the letters of her name in the dish using her fingers. Use sand, salt, flour or paint for a different effect. When your child is in a bubble bath or helping you to do the dishes, have her write her name with her finger in the soap suds.

  • Air Writing. Have your child write letters in the air first. These large muscle movements will help your child process what she is writing and make it more likely to stick. As she writes the letter, have her say the letter name or the directions for writing the letter. For example, for the letter T, she might say, “Start at the top, go straight down. Pick up your pencil and cross it.”

  • For a non-messy alternative to finger paint, put a bit of finger-paint inside zipper bag. Remove the air, seal the bag and double the seal with some masking or duct tape. Your child can practice tracing letters on the outside of the bag, manipulating the paint with no mess or cleanup!

  • Cut letters up with Play-Doh

  • Write your child's name on a piece of white paper using a white crayon. Watercolor the entire paper and their name will "magically" appear on their paper!

  • Line a box with plastic wrap and fill with soil ( a tissue box). Sprinkle grass seeds to spell your child's name. Keep them in a sunny spot, water, and watch them grow! Let your child trim the grass with scissors as the letters grow.

  • Print letters of their name onto card stock and have your child trace or color it, cut it out, and string it onto a necklace.

  • Sponge paint with the letters in your child's name. Encourage your child to say the letters as they stamp them on the paper. Repeat the letters several times during this activity. Very young children just make their first initial, older children stamp all the letters in their first name, and older children who have mastered their first names do their last names as well.

  • Have children cut out the letters in their names(we used our sponge paint letters). String them to a paper plate that has been cut in half and decorated.

  • Have your child cut several circles out of construction paper. On each circle, write one letter of the child's name. Mix up the circles and let your child practice spelling their names. Glue in place onto construction paper to create a caterpillar.

  • Write child's name on heavy cardboard or craft foam. Write the letters of child's name on clothespins. Store clothespins in a Zip lock bag for children to practice the letter order in their names.

  • Write the child's name in black marker on a piece of sentence strip and then staple a few sheets of tracing paper (cut to the same size) over top the of it. The children can see their name written in black marker under the tracing paper and can trace over it onto each sheet of paper.

  • Pre-program paper with each child's name. Cut apart names and have child glue letters back in order on a sentence strip.

  • Rainbow Tracing: I used my computer, set print color on grey, and printed in large print each child's name. Child traces over name several times using different colored markers or crayons.

  • Toss Name Plate Game: Tune( Muffin Man.) Do you see your name on the plate, your name on the plate, your name on the plate. If you see your name on the plate - pick it up. You're great!

  • Picture/Name Match: Match each child's picture to the printed name. Start with each child identifying their own name - then have them move into identifying and matching friend's names.

  • Pre- programmed your child's name using the computer with print set to 200 and decorate with crayons, color, glue, glitter, pasta, cereal, stickers, etc. They turn out really nice.

  • Tactile Names: Using fabric paint, paint your child's name on a felt strip. Your child can finger trace name, pencil rubbings, etc.

  • Bottle Cap Names: pre-program individual bottle caps with each letter of child's name. Place in zip lock baggie with child's name written on each baggie. Child spills out contents and arranges bottle caps to spell out name.

  • Have your child make either hand print, or footprint on a coloured piece of construction paper. Place a small picture of the child on the paper and write the child's name in large letters in the bottom center of the page. Then cover with clear contact paper and you have their own individual place mats.

  • Name tray puzzles are good fun. Each puzzle is individually made in the name of your choice. They have easy to grip handles and are a fun way for children to learn how to spell their names. They are also a great learning aid for teaching colours, letters and developing hand-eye coordination.

Celebrating Birthday's at School

Children in a New Zealand school have been banned from bringing cakes to share on their birthdays, due to new government healthy eating guidelines. As a teacher, I have had 14 years of birthdays (x30 children/per year!!) and as I have moved schools, states, countries and even hemi-spheres to teach, each and every school seems to have different rules and outlooks on celebrating your birthday at school with a cake. There are many pros and cons to what ultimately seemed such a lovely experience for a child in their school years gone by. Today's class teacher needs to not only be a teacher, but a personal pediatrician to all the children she teaches as SO many children have specific dietary requirements. Does this mean that the children who can have cake without any effects should miss out? I remember a lengthy staff discussion on this topic... a staff member pointed out that she herself had intolerance to specific foods and had done since being a child. She also went on to say that her parents had explained this to her as a young child, so she herself knew when to say no to party cake or treats at school. This she said was just part of her life style and no different to children who live with other conditions. I remember a childhood friend who was allergic to chocolate(yes that's right - chocolate can you imagine!) and at Easter time she would receive a marshmallow bunny from the Easter Bunny and her mum would give the teacher a small Mellow Bunny on the last day of school when traditionally we would all come back in from morning tea and the Easter Bunny would have hopped in and left an egg. Children are aware (or should be) of their allergies if they are THAT severe and know what they are / are not allowed to eat. Not everybody needs to miss out if it is handled well. Below I have my teacher hat on and have posted a few suggestions that help celebrate your child's birthday at school without too much fuss or disruption to the teacher's program or class.

Talk to the Teacher about the Birthday Party
Before making elaborate plans for kids birthday parties, you must speak to the teacher. Schools are creating rules and guidelines for birthday parties to help organise events and keep them from becoming outlandish. Class teacher's have crowded curriculum these days and often children have specialist teacher's towards the end of the day (music, French, sport etc) so check well in advance that the date suits the teacher. Allergies are a consideration as well. be sure to discuss with the teacher what you plan on bringing in and she/he can make you aware of the allergies within the group. ALWAYS make sure you have sufficient cake to go round.
Think Individual Thoughts
Rather than bringing a cake to school, think of serving the children individually. Large cookies or cupcakes are much easier to handle than a sheet cake that would have to be cut and served. Sheet cakes also present problems for teachers who must deal with the inevitable bickering amongst students over who gets the edge pieces and who got the pink flower versus the yellow one.

Always Include Napkins
When you go to serve your treats, you’ll be listed among the teacher’s mortal enemies if you forget napkins. Bring colourful birthday napkins for serving and cleaning up crumbs, but as those flimsy napkins arn’t especially effective at wiping up icing or other sticky messes, include a roll of heavy duty paper towels as well.

Stay and Help
Arrive just prior to the time with the treat and then stay and help serve and clean up.

Easy Step By Step
  1. Talk to your child’s teacher about birthday party policies.
  2. Plan to serve individualised servings of the treat.
  3. Include napkins and any other plastic utensils necessary.
  4. Stay and help with the clean-up.

Some of the schools I have worked in have not allowed cake/treats to be brought in. Below I have some suggestions of other ways to celebrate your child's birthday at school:

  • ask the students to donate a NEW book to their class as an alternative to bringing in treats to share. They sign the inside of their book with their name and birth date.
  • if you're lucky enough to have a summer birthday replace cake with ice-blocks (bought/handmade) that can be eaten outside under a shady tree. A lovely way to end the day for the class.
  • give the kids a pencil, rubber, small play dough pot or something school related
  • Have a great big box wrapped up in 30 layers of paper with each child receiving an organic lollipop each time the music stops. Once the last layer is opened have a big birthday card for the birthday child signed by all his/her classmates. I did this in one class and the parents prepared the game at home and brought it to school all ready to go, it was great fun. I had a standard card that I used and just inserted a photo of the birthday child on the front, very quick and simple.
  • stickers (always a winner!!)
  • have the birthday celebration just before morning tea and arrange with the teacher to come in and make fruit kebabs with the children earlier that morning. Your child will also love the fact that you have spent the morning at school with them on their birthday!
Sugar-free Cupcakes
Make cupcakes with honey or maple syrup instead of processed sugar. A basic cupcake recipe with honey includes 1 cup honey, 1 1/2 cups applesauce, 1/2 cup butter, 2 eggs, 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1 cup raisins and 3 cups whole wheat flour. Mix the dry ingredients together and the wet ingredients together, and then combine everything. Mix well and bake the cupcakes in a muffin tin at 350 degrees for 10 to 15 minutes. After the cupcakes cool, frost them with a homemade whipped cream frosting (sweeten the whipped cream with maple syrup instead of sugar while you are whipping it).

This topic has been talked about and discussed over and over in classrooms for years. Like so many things in life it depends on individual schools, classes and children. A very good friend of mine, and ex-colleague from my years teaching in New Zealand had this to say:

I've been teaching a while now he he 10 plus years and have taught both in Decile 1 and Decile 10 schools... so have seen and experienced both sides of the argument.In the Decile 1 school, there was no ban on bringing cakes to celebrate birthdays... in saying that there weren't many that did or could afford to bring in something. When they did bring something in, it was usually bags of lollies and/or a bought cake.... money that lots of those families could not afford. Those that could not afford to bring food in often felt embarrassed on their birthdays that they had nothing to share.In the Decile 10 school, cakes etc were banned. I initially thought this was WAY over the top and took away from the 'giving' 'sharing' and 'fun' side of the class... BUT I have changed my opinion and now agree that cakes/lollies etc don't belong in the class for a few reasons....

1. It became extremely competitive... parents were always trying to outdo the last cake that was brought in.. it got ridiculous! bigger, more expensive, flashier etc just got way out of hand.

2. Children were putting too much pressure on their parent sot provide something for the class on their birthday.

3. ALLERGIES!! These days on average I would have at least 4 children in a class with some type of food allergy... meant that then parents felt like they had to provide an alternative for those children.

4. Learning time!! Sharing a cake would take a good 10-15 mins of the children's learning time..

I think that a birthday cake etc can be something that is shared with family and at a birthday party. Singing happy birthday to a child in class and making them feel special for that day is enough I reckon :-)

Creative Healthy Eating For Children

When I first moved to London in 1997 one of the first things that struck me was the amount of ready made, processed food that was available. I remember thinking at the time, why can't I just buy a freshly made sandwich anywhere?? Once I started teaching I was even more shocked (to say the least!!) at the meals served to the children at lunchtimes. A constant range of turkey twisters, fish fingers and chicken nuggets seemed never ending on the menu. Not only did this strike me as unbalanced in terms of food variety in a child's diet, but also extremely unhealthy. While I was teaching in 1995, chef Jamie Oliver attempted to improve the quality and nutritional value of school dinners throughout British schools— a goal which ultimately led to a broader campaign (called Feed Me Better) to improve school dinners throughout Britain. I remember vividly to this day watching Jamie do his Chicken Nugget Experiment at a primary school and thinking - I will never let my children eat Chicken Nuggets! (Which I have to say anyone who knows me knows this is true) I am happy to say that Jamie's effort in Britain had a huge impact on School Dinners and that there are now very strict guidelines and balanced menus in place for schools to follow. All meals are now freshly made and in many cases use organic produce. Jamie's latest attempt is to revolutionise School Dinners in the United States of America. I watched the show on Friday night and have attached a link to the Chicken Nugget Experiment that Jamie did with American students.

We as parents play a big role in shaping our children’s eating habits. When we eat a variety of foods that are low in fat and sugar and high in fibre, our children learn to like these foods as well. It may take 10 or more tries before your child accepts a new food, so do not give up if your child does not like a new food right away. You as parents have an effect on your children’s physical activity habits as well. You can set a good example by going for a walk or bike ride after dinner instead of watching TV. Playing ball or jumping rope with your children shows them that being active is fun. With many parents working outside the home, child care providers also help shape children’s eating and activity habits. Make sure your child care provider offers well-balanced meals and snacks, as well as plenty of active play time. This is also important when children are visiting Grandparents who tend to indulge Grandchildren with too many sugary foods!!

Healthy Eating Starts with Parent Role Models - Tips for parents

Actions speak louder than words, so it is unlikely that words will have much impact on your child's eating habits unless you practice what you preach.
Here are a few healthy eating habits parents can role model for your children:
Never skip meals - especially breakfast
Take moderate portions
Try new foods yourself — but don't force your children to try them
Turn the TV off while you are eating
Limit junk food in the house
Drink water and milk instead of soda
Learn new strategies for managing stress that do not include eating
Eat fruit for dessert
Include vegetables and fruits with meals and snacks

Children who eat nutritious foods do better in school, but coming up with healthy back-to-school lunch ideas that children will actually eat can be a challenge for many parents. A healthy school lunch combines nutrient-rich foods from several food groups to supply protein, fat and carbohydrates to sustain energy and concentration for several hours. The composition of the meal makes a difference in how long it will sustain a child throughout the day. A balanced meal consisting of carbohydrate, protein and fat gives children energy and prevents a drop in blood sugar for several hours. In general, a meal including a variety of foods from several food groups will provide the most benefits to a child, educationally, nutritionally and physically. I just love the site they have excellent healthy lunchbox ideas (with pictures for the visual learner that I am!!) So get creative and have a go at making some of these lunchbox ideas for your little one. As you know I am all about letting kids cook, even more so about learning how we grow food, where it comes from, the different names given to foods, how we use our senses with food...the list is endless.

Fruit and veg seem to be a real bug bear with young children at some point in time. I'm sure you have some great tricks that you have used in recipes to disguise the vegetables!! Growing you own vegetables is a great way to get children interested in eating them, visit the local Farmer's market on a weekly basis and get your child involved in choosing a variety of healthy vegetable's. Remember to teach your child the names of vegetables and fruits.

After a recent visit to our local Farmer's Market the boys and I got busy reading Oliver's Vegetables and then painted with every possible vegetable we could!! Before the boys had afternoon tea I had prepared a surprise for them - a muffin tray full of the fruits that are in the story of The Very Hungry Caterpillar. Get creative when you want your children to eat fruits and veg.... find a book about the food and read it to the kids while they munch on a healthy snack!

From Cow To Ice Cream

What an eventful day we had..."The process of milk from the cow to the bottle and everything in between!" We spent the day at the beautiful Maleney Dairy where we did a tour that was just perfect for young children. We spent the beginning of the tour in the baby animal pen to pat the baby goat and calf. Master 2 and Master 4 were so excited as they also had the opportunity to feed the cows and goats out of bottles. We were then shown how hand milking is done using their cow 'Sweetpea'. We then headed to the milking sheds where the boys were able to put their thumbs in the suctions cups to feel the suction of the milking machines and the highlight of the tour... having a ride on the milking turntable!! (Why does everything always come back to trains with my boys!)
We then went to the factory so see where the milk is processed and bottled and finally put into the trucks for delivery. Again of course anything that involves large, moving vehicles in the boy's eyes is a winner. We had a lovely end to the tour with some taste testing of the very popular yogurt! (Yummy) As you know I'm all about hands-on experience for young children, and what better way for children to understand how milk gets from a cow into their ice-cream or milkshakes than experiencing it first hand. On our drive home Master 4 was very keen to go over the days events and to point out as many foods he could think of that contained milk. I knew I had the book "From Cow to Ice Cream" at home and that it was a wonderful opportunity to make home made ice-cream with the boys for afternoon tea. (and a Sunday treat!!)
Milk can become homemade ice cream in five minutes by using a bag! This homemade, creamy treat is a delight for kids and adults alike.
What you'll need:
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 cup milk or half & half
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
6 tablespoons rock salt
1 pint-size plastic food storage bag (e.g., Ziploc)
1 gallon-size plastic food storage bag
Ice cubes

How to make it:
Fill the large bag half full of ice, and add the rock salt. Seal the bag.
Put milk, vanilla, and sugar into the small bag, and seal it.
Place the small bag inside the large one, and seal it again carefully.
Shake until the mixture is ice cream, which takes about 5 minutes.
Wipe off the top of the small bag, then open it carefully. Enjoy!

A 1/2 cup milk will make about 1 scoop of ice cream, so double the recipe if you want more. But don't increase the proportions more that that - a large amount might be too big for kids to pick up because the ice itself is heavy.

Flavour combinations are almost limitless. Don't be afraid to add your favourite fruits or nuts! Below are some suggestions for flavour variation that we use in our house!

Toasted Coconut
Add ½ cup lightly toasted shredded coconut.
Optional: add ¼ teaspoon almond extract.

Add ¼ cup crushed peppermint crisp or aero bar.
Optional: add a few drops red food coloring and/or 1/8 teaspoon mint extract.

Peanut Brittle
Add ½ cup crushed peanut brittle.

Mint Chocolate Chip
Add ¼ teaspoon mint extract and ¼ cup semi-sweet mini chocolate chips (or shaved chocolate). Optional: add a few drops of green food coloring.

Cookies And Cream
Add ½ cup (about 8) crumbled chocolate cookies.

Chocolate Chip, Coconut, and Strawberry
Add 1/2 cup shredded coconut, 1/2 bag of milk chocolate chips, and frozen/fresh strawberries.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Fun Painting Ideas

Master 2 would give anything for me to leave him at Kinder with his big brother when we drop him off. I have to say I find myself bribing him with the chance to "paint" once we get home if he will leave! (Which I have to say is not easy, and yes he throws the wonderful 2-year-old tantrum in frustration that I'm removing him from somewhere he loves!) Like most 2 year olds Master 2 would paint all day, every day if given the chance. Below I have listed some Fun Painting Ideas that we use at home.

Koosh Ball Painting

Hang a long piece of paper on your outside fence. Place pans of paint and Koosh balls on the ground. Encourage the children to throw the Koosh balls at the paper. This makes a great design and is a lot of fun. If possible have the children do this activity

Outdoor Water Painting

On a hot summer day give your children outdoor paint brushes and buckets of water. Let them paint the fence, walls of the cubby, or anything else they think needs to be painted.

Kelly Crystal Painting

Sprinkle jelly crystals on a piece a paper. Let the children move a piece of ice over the jelly crystals. Watch as the jelly crystals turn to liquid and makes a yummy smelling picture.

Outdoor Chalk Creation

Give children pieces of chalk to draw on the sidewalk or ground. After the children have created their masterpieces give them buckets of water and paintbrushes. They can then paint over their drawings and watch them disappear.

Golf Ball Pool Painting

Cut out a large piece of paper and put it in the bottom of a plastic pool. Place golf balls dipped in different paint colors on the paper. Together the children can hold the edges of the pool and roll the golf balls around. This makes a great design when you are done.

Coloured Water Fence Painting

Hang a long piece of bulletin board paper on your outside fence. Give the children bottles of coloured water and let them squirt the paper. This is a lot of fun and a great way to see how secondary colors are made. For example spray blue and yellow water on the paper to make a beautiful green design.

Splatter Fence Painting

Hang a long piece of bulletin board paper on your outside fence. Give the children buckets of paint and paint brushes have them flick the paint onto the paper. Watch out this can get pretty messy. If you can have the children wear their bathing suits.

Fly Swatter Painting

Hang a long piece of bulletin board paper on your outside fence. Have the children place fly swatters into pans of paint and then swat the paper. This is always a favourite activity.

Sand Box Painting

Give the children spray bottles with colored water. When the children spray the sand it will change colour until they shovel it up. This always amazes the children.

Sun Catchers

Cut the inside out of a paper plate for each child. Place clear contact paper with the covering removed over the hole. Have each child stick pieces of bright tissue paper all over his contact paper. When the child is done place another piece of contact paper over the tissue paper. Hang the sun catchers from your ceiling or windows.

Lid Sun catchers

Punch a hole at the top of different sized clear lids. Allow the children to spread glue over the lid and then cover it with bright tissue paper for a stunning sun catcher. Or mix corn syrup and a lot of food coloring, paint the lids with this mixture and let dry for a rainbow sun catcher. With both of these sun catchers thread a ribbon through the hole and hang in front of your window.

Corn Meal Sun

Cut a large circle out of poster board Have the children paint it yellow with a paint and glue mixture. While the paint and glue mixture is still wet sprinkle the sun with corn meal.


Help your children paint their own paper plate yellow. After the paint has dries glue yellow crepe paper around the edges and glue sunflower seed in the center. If the children want they can attach a green stem.

Sunflower Hand prints

Use your children's hands to make a summery sunflower picture.
Paint the child hand yellow and place it on the paper. Continue to make hand prints until you have made a complete circle. Then let the child use her thumb to make brown seeds in the center. Use green paint to make a stem and some grass.

Blueberry Painting

Give your children blueberries to look at, touch, smell, and taste. After the children have observed the blueberries add a little water to them and cook them in the microwave for one minute. Have the children help you mush them up. Use the blueberry juice to paint a beautiful blue blueberry picture.

Shadow Tracing

On a sunny day take some chalk outside and let your children trace each others and your shadow. When the outline is complete fill the shadow in with facial features and whatever you are wearing.

Car Track/Train Track Painting

Put different coloured colours of paint on paper plates. Let your child push a small car or

train back and forth in the paint and then make tracks on the paper.

Balloon Painting

Blow up balloons and rub them on to paint (best to put paint on paper plates) then roll balloons onto paper. Children love seeing all the colours merge together.

'Substitute Brush' Ideas...
Q-tips or cotton swabs

Cotton Balls





Twigs or sticks



String or yarn

Printing/Stamping/Stenciling Objects
Fruit or vegetables


Cookie cutters

Wood blocks


Textured Fabric

Lace Doilies



Body Puff Loof




Plastic lids from containers (to make circles)

Wheels from toy cars

Other Painting Tools
Blow Paints

Squirt bottle

Eye dropper

Old or Cheap Toys

Paint Variations
Water color

Tempera Paint

Poster Paint

Paint Sticks

Wet Chalk

Add Water to Thin Paint

Add Flour or Starch to Thicken Paint

Add Sand

Add Glitter

Add Fake Snow

Add Dirt

Add Whole Spices (Like Cloves or Peppercorn)

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Best Board Games For Kids

Why Play Family Board Games?
Families are always on the go. Sit down meals are becoming a rarity in homes because of sports, club activities, school activities and employment. We have introduced Family Board Game Night in our house. It evolved out of the need to set aside time with Master 4, when Master 2 was in bed and, when both Mum and Dad were home. We try to make this a weekly event and often couple it with Master 4's favourite dinner! (Meatballs and rice, followed by his allowance of marshmallows earnt from his Teeth Cleaning Chart throughout the week!) This has certainly become a favourite part of the week for Master 4. Although technology is increasing rapidly and more and more activities are happening on the computer, a simple board game always brings back the old school feeling of entertainment. If you have noticed your family time has been drifting, purchase a classic or new board game to gather the family on a quiet evening. There are so many benefits to playing boardgames with your children.The more time you are able to spend with your family, the better suited they become to life. "Family Game Board Night" is not only a tool for getting your family back into a routine of togetherness, but a way to teach social skills that will help them all of their lives. So, the next time you go shopping, pick up a few classic board games, and maybe some new board games for variety. Picking one night out of the week to spend some family time together is a lovely way of bonding.

The benefits of playing board games include several aspects of a developing child. He will learn to improve his social skills, becoming aware of others around him and learning to interact. A simple game of cube or a puzzle requires the child to exercise his problem solving skills. Something that is also recommend for children with short term memory problems. The child is required to take turns, thus practicing patience and proper social behavior. In situations where the group needs to decide who goes first, they learn about the decision making process. Another very important lesson children will learn from playing board games is the use of fair play. An uneducated (board game) child is prone to cut corners and slide a lie or two in order to finish the game as a winner. Great responsibility falls on the adults to teach them otherwise. The way they assimilate this lesson at the early stage of life, will have most definitely have its consequences during adulthood.

Sportsmanship is lacking on scholastic sporting fields, too. Parents ream coaches, referees, umpires or other game officials or worse yet, physical confrontations have become common place. Sportsmanship has to be taught, so take advantage of demonstrating proper sportsmanship to your children when playing board games. By setting a good example, you are creating an important standard for your child to uphold. Even when tantrums occur each day, you can explain that it is unacceptable behavior. You can also indicate the steps that should be taken to correct the lack of proper conduct by sports figures. For example, if a player argues with their coach, they should get fined. If a player touches a coach or another player, the offending player should be suspended. These are all life decisions that define the way a sports figure is perceived.

Most board games for children are based on chance; a roll of the dice determines the winner. Children take their games very seriously, and will be very happy when they win, and sad if they happen to lose. It is at this point where proper guidance by an adult is imperative, in order to associate his experience in the game with real life situations. Teaching the child to deal with winning is not all that difficult, yet important. One should use the winning occasions to better talk about the less fortunate ones.
Some games implement the use of maths and problem solving skills. Equate for example, a word version of scrabble, requires kids to use their math skills in order to win the game. Games like Up words and Balderdash help kids improve spelling and increase their vocabulary. Cueldo, on the other hand requires sleuthing and problem solving skills. There are many other examples of games which end up being an investment in your child's development rather than an expense. What better way to learn than by having fun!

Below are some of my favourite picks for family board game night. As children approach 5, they have more sophisticated thinking skills and can begin to incorporate and exercise their number, letter, and word knowledge in literacy-based games. By 6, children may prefer more cognitively challenging games like checkers, which require and help develop planning, strategy, persistence, and critical thinking skills.

Scrabble Junior: This is the younger cousin of the tremendously educational and challenging Scrabble, which we all know and love. Using large yellow letter tiles, players match letters to words already written on one side of the board. The reverse side has an open grid where older children can create their own words.
Learning highlights: Fosters literacy and language skills.

Boggle Junior: The prelude to Boggle — one of the best learning games for older kids — is Boggle Junior, in which players link pictures to letters and words. The game comes with 6-sided letter cubes and numerous picture cards that have the name of the object spelled below. Players place a card on a blue tray and use 3- or 4-letter cubes to copy the item's spelling. Older children can hide the written words and spell the word just using the picture.
Learning highlights: Teaches letters, words, spelling, and matching skills.

Zingo: One of this year's "hot" games, this Bingo-style matching game relies on a player's ability to spot pictures (of a dog, say, or the sun) and match them quickly to the words and pictures on his play card. As in Bingo, the first one to finish a complete line of items wins.
Learning Highlights: Encourages matching skills and quick thinking.

Monopoly Jr: As they do in its senior sibling, players roll dice to move around the game board and buy real estate. The game is shorter and uses smaller dollar denominations so kids can figure out winnings and penalties more quickly.
Learning highlights: Develops math, color recognition, reading, reasoning, and social skills.

Dr. Seuss’ ABC: This game is more fun if you’ve read the book by the same name a million times to your kids. The twisty-turny game of super stretchy alphabet fun!
Get ready to twist, turn and s-t-r-e-t-c-h! Can you put your hand on the letter E—while placing your foot on the letter K—AND still put your ear on the letter Q? You’ve got to be super-stretchy to meet the challenge! In this silly game of physical challenges and alphabet fun, kids spin the Thing 1 and Thing 2 Tornado Tube to deal out letter-to-body-part challenges. Then it’s time to get down on the colorful, over sized Dr. Seuss alphabet mat and stretch and turn and twist to put your body and brain to the test!
Learning Highlights: Teaches letter recognition (both upper and lowercase).

Cranium’s Balloon Lagoon: a wondrous carnival of fun for kids! The game is incredibly simple, but it's also fun. You spin the colourful merry-go-round to choose an activity, start the musical timer, and jump into one of four exciting Balloon Lagoon activities: fish for letters at Letter Lake, match treats at Snack Hut, spin a picture puzzle at Tumble Tides, or flip frogs at Frog Pond. With each success, kids collect balloons and move closer to victory.
Learning Highlights: exciting sights and sounds make spelling, matching, and counting fun - so kids learn as they play.

Guess Who:It’s the flip n' find face guessing game you know and love, with more choices than ever. Set up and play in seconds. Narrow down your guesses with yes or no questions like, “Do you have brown eyes?” or “Are you wearing a hat?” Once you have the answer, make your guess. Use the two character sheets included or go online to download even more characters. Then slide the sheet of characters into the game tray and guess away.
Learning Highlights: developing descriptive language

Connect Four: This classic kids' board game of Connect Four is reminiscent of Tic Tac Toe, with some changes. It is played vertically, and the aim of the game is to get 4 checkers in a row first, while preventing your opponent from doing the same. This is a wonderful board game for your kids as well as for you.
Learning Highlights: patterning and counting skills, fine motor skills - placing chips in slots.

Twister: This all time favorite classic Twister is an excellent icebreaker! There is a mat with different colored discs on which a hand or a foot has to be placed. Spin the spinner which gives instructions on what colour disc is to be selected on the mat, as well as whether a hand or a foot has to be placed on the disc. Twister is an excellent kids' board game.
Learning Highlights: Colour recognition, gross motor skills

Froggy Boogie: A memory game that doesn't involve finding pairs but remembering, for each of 9 frogs, which of their 'pop-outable' eyes will allow your frog to jump to the next lily pad in the race around the pond ... and which will stop your turn. Dice determine which coloured frog you investigate each time. Great components, great theme. It works really well for younger ones (ages 3-5), but older children can join in and enjoy it. It plays with up to 6 players, but is best with 2 or 3 so that turns come around fast.
Learning Highlights: countingBold

Chutes and Ladders: This board game is another great game for a family with young children. There is no reading required but there are a few small game pieces that could pose a choking hazard for very young children. The object of this board game is to be the first person to the top of the board without getting slide back down to the bottom by a chute. Go up the ladders and slide back down the chutes!
Learning Highlights: counting, number recognition

Candyland: This board game is a great game for the family who has young children. Candyland is for ages three to six but is still a favorite of many adults. The object of the game is to be the first person to get their colorful gingerbread man around the board and reach the Candy Castle first. There is no reading required so this game is great for young children.
Learning Highlights: colour recognition, counting and number recognition, story sequencing

Operation JR: This board game is a silly game of skill. Each player is a doctor who must operate on a patient with a lot of weird problems. Each player must take turns removing problems without causing the buzzer to sound. Operations is for ages 3-6, Be warned that this board game has a lot of small pieces that would pose a choking hazard to very small children.
Learning Highlights: Fine motor skills, social skills

Here are some of my favourite Board Games that can be used as follow up activities after reading the book.

Goodnight Moon Game: is a collection of six matching and memory skill-building activities of gradually increasing difficulty featuring charming illustrations from the children's book classic. At the beginner's level, children match cards to identical images on the game board. They then graduate to games involving memory skills, while also matching images that are similar but not identical. Once you've matched and memorized to your child's content, cuddle up together to read Goodnight Moon. No reading is required to play the games.

Brown Bear-Panda Bear, What Do You See? Game: is based on his wonderfully illustrated children's book. This exciting game introduces children to the magic of story creation, while helping memory and sequencing skills.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar Game: In this game children go on a journey of learning and transformation seeing their caterpillar develop from an egg to a beautiful butterfly. As children guide their caterpillars through the game, they practice color recognition, counting and fine motor skills

Animals Colors Bingo Game: Kids act things out in this fun-filled game of animals and bright colors. Players collect Colour forms animal markers and Colour forms color markers. The first player to collect all the Colour forms markers wins the game. Improves young children's language skills, color recognition, visual acuity and gross motor skills.

Rooster's 123 Numbers: Inspired by Eric Carle's Rooster's Off to See the World book children join the rooster and his friends on a fun-filled adventure learning the meaning of numbers. This game introduces players to number recognition and counting in a fun and simple way. Once young players are comfortable with counting animals the double sided game board introduces them to simple addition and subtraction

The Very Busy Spider Game:Players work together to create a spider web in this fun, interactive and cooperative game.Players spin to move their way around the board, landing on colored and fly spaces. Each time a player lands on a colored space they draw a line to create a spider web.A wonderful way for children to develop their hand-eye coordination, math and social skills.

We're Going on a Bear Hunt: board game based on the award-winning illustrated children's story. Going on a bear hunt is more fun than ever!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Teaching Proper Manners to Your Child

I have a real thing about manners, not only in my home but also when I'm teaching. I am often surprised at the lack of manners that many children display, or more often that their parents don't see as significant in their child's development. Teaching your children manners is very important. For children to be successful in life, they need to have social skills as well as academic skills. And if you help young children learn polite and caring behaviour, they will continue to use good manners and become more socially aware as they get older.Here are some steps that will help you in teaching your child proper manners:

The Very Beginning
Teaching children to behave properly starts from the very first moment they start to talk. Start with the basics such as teaching them to say thank you and please. Always remember children follow what their parents do so whenever the child hands you something say thank you and if you want them to stop doing something such as shouting say please yourself as well. Similarly, your child will follow your example and do the same.

Consistency and Repetition
Reminding them constantly of manners is an important step in their learning. If they ask for something, ask them to say please first. If you give them something and they forget to say thank you, remind them to say thank you. Always do this politely.

Set an example
Parents are role model for children. If you do something, your child will follow you exactly so always show proper manners yourself such as when you sneeze say excuse me or when you yawn remember to cover your mouth.

Phone manners
Teaching your child phone manners is very important as well. Teach them to be polite while on the phone for example, 'Dad is unavailable at the moment. May I take any messages?' Soon you will notice business associates, friends and relatives complimenting you on your child's proper manners.

Eye contact
Teach the kid to make eye contact when speaking up and speak clearly. Mumbling and looking here and there is not the appropriate way. Also, being rude or misbehaving with an adult is also improper and the behavior should be punished.

Teach your children, as soon as they are old enough to understand, to greet people by name. Learning early on to look someone in the eye and say “Hello Mr. Kelly”—instead of “Hi” mumbled at the ground—is a valuable lesson for the future.

Table Manners
Table manners for children should be the same as they are for adults, with one exception: young children should be permitted to be excused from the table, if the meal is an extended one. Expecting a young child to sit quietly through a protracted meal when his food is gone is an unreasonable demand on his patience and ability to sit still without wiggling, fiddling, and noise making to help pass the time.

Teach your children not to interrupt. This is part of learning to respect other people's rights. It is up to you to teach your child to wait for a break in the conversation to speak. The mother who invariably stops and says, “What is it, dear?” when her daughter interrupts is helping her to establish a habit that will do her a disservice all her life.

Fair Play
Fair play among children is really just good sportsmanship and respect for others. It includes the practice of kindness, taking turns and sharing. One of the best ways to teach fair play is by example. Parents who take turns, treat their children with kindness and share with others will be teaching their children fair play, just by their actions.

Shaking Hands
Teaching your child to shake hands is a good way to get them used to greeting people appropriately. Practice with them. Show your child how to shake hands and exchange greetings by looking you in the eye and greeting you by name.

Out and About
Children need to learn that good manners are used everywhere, not just at their grandparents. Table manners, please and thank you, polite greetings, and respectful conversation are called for at home, at friends' homes, in restaurants, at school, and even in the mall. If children learn to make good manners a habit at home, they will use them everywhere.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Maths Through Play

Play is the natural way in which children learn. It is the process through which children explore, investigate, recreate and come to understand their world. Play is an activity in which everything that a child knows and can do is practiced or used to make sense of what is new.

Maths through Play
To many adults, the words Maths and Play have absolutely nothing to do with each other. For many of us, maths was a torture, something we had to do, and something we didn’t understand and couldn’t do. Play on the other hand was something we loved. Young children are learning maths all the time through a wide variety of play experiences. From the time they are born, babies are surrounded by sense impressions. Shapes in particular are of
immediate importance: babies react instinctively to the arrangement of shapes which make up the human face. In the home, in parent and toddler groups, and pre-school settings, children have many opportunities to enjoy and learn Maths through Play. “Play is an effective vehicle for fostering Mathematical concepts and developing positive attitudes to mathematics.

Maths in the Home
Maths is everywhere in the home. With the support of parents, children can grasp many mathematical concepts through their play.

Children will begin to:
• know and understand early maths language of measurement, shapes, spaces,
positions, early numbers, order and patterns
• know the sequence of numbers
• begin to understand positional words, e.g. in, on, outside
• show an awareness of time
• be aware of shapes in their environment
• be aware of 1-to-1 correspondence
• acquire new vocabulary
• learn number rhymes and songs, e.g. one, two, buckle my shoe etc.
• be aware of conservation

When we say a child “knows her numbers” what we often mean is that she can recite the names of numbers in ascending order. This is quite useful to be able to do, but it means very little in itself. Children need to come to know what the number system really means. They can be helped to do this through play. One of the first things they have to learn is about conservation – that 3 is always 3 no matter how it is arranged or presented, whether it is the number 3, the letters for three, 3 bricks, 3 buttons on a coat or 3 Billy Goats Gruff.
Before a child can understand numbers for things that can be seen – 3 miles, 3 years old – s/he needs real objects which can be seen and handled with a chance to check that the count is right each time. Young children have many mathematical experiences in their home environment.

For example:
• they learn about money as they go shopping with parents
• become aware of numbers as they count the stairs to bed
• start to understand the concept of time as they become familiar

with the routine of their day– wash, dress, breakfast etc.

A child’s daily life offers many practical opportunities to learn about
number, shape, space, sorting and matching. For instance:
• setting places at the table – a cup for me, a cup for you
• playing with water
• steering the pram
• helping to sort the washing, matching socks, big shirt/small shirt
• tidying up – putting similar items together
• matching lids to saucepans

Here are a few ways in which you can use play to learn mathematical concepts.

Sand and Water
• Using sand can develop mathematical concepts and language,

e.g. heavy, light, empty, full, big, and little
• Conservation – how much will it hold
• Make shapes and patterns
• Provide boxes and materials of different shapes and sizes to compare weight and quantity
• Look at the differences between wet and dry as a means of looking at weights

• You can help to promote mathematical language such as – heavy, light,

empty, full, long, short, big, small in relevant contexts
• Look at your home environment to develop language, especially positional words

– small object in front of big object, behind, in, on

The use of dough can help to develop a mathematical understanding for pre-school children.
• Develops mathematical language – short, long, fat, thin
• Make shapes of different dimensions – flat shapes,3-d shapes
• Create opportunities to compare things that float with things that do not

Imaginative Play
• Simple activities like letting your child set the table for dinner can help develop counting

skills,e.g. getting out three pieces of cutlery.
• Involve your child with household activities. After washing, allow your child to sort clothes

into different colours, or different types of clothes, e.g. t-shirts and socks.
This will help to develop a child’s knowledge of shapes and colours.

Books and Rhymes
Enjoy stories and rhymes with your child that has a mathematical element, e.g. “One-two, Buckle my Shoe” This can also help to develop literacy skills by showing your child that the print reads from left to right. Let your child count out items in the books – how many animals are on the page, how many items are blue. Using rhymes can also help develop your Child's awareness of sequencing.

Physical Play
• Develop fine motor skills through physical activity, e.g. Sorting out a jigsaw,
threading beads
• Block play or playing with toy cars can help to develop sequencing by encouraging your child

to sequence according to size, colour, use (e.g. bike, car, and truck)
• Playing with different sized blocks can help to develop an understanding of weight and

• Tidying toys away allows children to sort into different sizes and colours.
• It can also develop mathematical language – first, second, third, how many are blue, which

is largest / smallest.

By planting seeds you can help to develop your child’s understanding of time and the life cycle of plants. Watch as the plants grow and even measure your plant – develop language such as taller. Teach your child about the different times of the year to compare colours, flowers, smells.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Art with Salt and Ice

After a recent visit to Seaworld, Master 4 has been very interested in Polar Bears. As many of the stories we read have Polar bears living in Arctic conditions he had many questions on the trip home as to why the environment as Sea World wasn't made correctly for the Polar Bear?? Ahh the minds of a 4 year old. Needless to say this has taken us on a bit of an ice journey this weekend with some fun science based learning.

This activity allows children to create their own colourful ice sculpture by using rock salt and food coloring on a solid block of ice. The entire activity is like a mini-science lesson because it teaches kids the physical reaction of salt on ice.

It's great for teaching problem-solving and encouraging kids to be persistent. In addition, it teaches them the concept of solids transforming to liquids. It also promotes hand-eye coordination and allows kids to use their fine motor skills. And finally, it encourages language development, because children are excited by what they see happening and want to talk about it. This is an open-ended activity, so there’s really no right or wrong way to do this project. Kids will not feel anxious about whether they are “doing it right.” It’s really great for building kids’ self-esteem.

What you need:
Cardboard milk carton
Rock salt
Eye droppers
Food coloring

  • First, fill half of the cardboard milk carton with water and allow it to freeze overnight into a solid block of ice. You can do this activity outdoors or indoors, but if you do it inside, you’ll first want to cover your table with plastic. For kids around four or five years old, you can encourage their problem-solving skills by bringing the cartons of solid ice out onto a table and telling the kids, “OK, we are doing this activity, but it’s up to you to figure out how to get the ice out.” If they give up and say, “We can’t do it,” then encourage them to be persistent and work together on how they might be able to accomplish it. Two or three year-olds won’t have developed the motor skills to be able to take the ice out of the cartons by themselves, so you’ll need to assist them. Once the block of ice is out of the container, take the blocks of ice and stand it upright in a pan or plastic container (to capture the water from the ice block as it melts). Talk to your child about the chemical reaction that ice has when salt is sprinkled on it. Allow your child to sprinkle rock salt onto the top of the block of ice.

  • Next, let them choose different colours to squeeze onto the tops of their block of ice with eye-droppers. The food colouring will run through the cracks that the salt makes in the ice and will create a really beautiful ice sculpture. For younger kids, handling the eye-dropper will be a challenge, so they should be shown how to use one and encouraged to keep trying until they succeed. Encourage your child to discuss what they see happening when they add food colouring to their ice sculpture. Remember that an ice sculpture is only temporary. You may want to take a digital photo of each sculpture before it melts away.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Baby Bumblebee

There’s a BUZZ in the air at our place after I took the boy's to The Ginger Factory to see the Super bee Live Bee Show. Master 4 and Master 2 loved the action of a living hive and watched on with great interest as the bee-keeper revealed the secrets of the honey bee. They were able to sneak a peak inside a real live bee hive where they watched the buzzy bees hard at work. The end of the tour was a delicious tasting session that included different tasting honeys. On our way home I needed to go to Spotlight and as always the boys and I ended up looking at all the different materials. The delight on their faces when they saw this stripey Bee material was priceless. Needless to say we left with the material and ventured home into the garden!

Busy little Bees were buzzing all around today as I tackled the weeds and the boys happily role-played in the garden. As we live in Queensland and the weather is harsh on flowers, unfortunately looking for pollen to take back to the hive was restricted to the potted flowers! The boys certainly took in a lot at the show as I watched them playing and chatting together.... " Rub your wings against the pollen and we will fly it back to the hive." buzzed Master 4. The funniest part of the play was when I looked over and saw them both rubbing their feet on the flower pot pretending to put pollen on their feet to take back to the hive!!There are so many wonderful activities that you can follow up with from a visit to the Bee Show or simply from just looking at a Bee in the Garden.
I read the boys The Very Greedy Bee - A greedy bee guzzles nectar and gobbles pollen, and won't share with anyone. He won't even let a tired ladybug rest on his flower. One day the bee comes upon a meadow full of juicy blossoms. He goes from flower to flower, slurping up all he can, all the while growing fatter and fatter, until he is unable to fly home. He is scared, especially when he sees two eyes glowing from the long grass, but then discovers that they are fireflies, and they offer to escort him home. At last they reach the bank of the stream, and he is assisted across by a team of ants with a big leaf. When the bee finally arrives home safely, he offers to share his best honey with his new friends and his fellow bees. A great
book to reinforce sharing and family values.

This was an easy craft activity using a piece of bubble wrap that I cut into the shape of a hive. The boys painted on the raised side with yellow paint and then turned it over and pressed on the wrap to make the hive pattern. I then gave them lots of busy bees to paste onto the hove and of course a Queen Bee! This was a really fun activity and looks great.

Make a Kazoo With a Toilet Paper Tube

Make Kazoos by placing a circle of wax paper over one end of an empty toilet paper tube and securing it with a rubber band. Show your child how to use the kazoo to make buzzing sounds. Talk with your child about the sounds they can make with their kazoo. Are the sounds similar to bees buzzing?

Toast and Honey

Make toast with your child and let them put honey on it. Where possible, find honey that has a honey comb inside the jar so your child can see what a honey comb looks like.

Flower Garden
Get some potting soil, paper cups, and marigold seeds. This is a great opportunity for your child to plant seeds and then watch their plants grow and bloom into flowers. Planting anything with your child allows for a wonderful dialogue to open up - What is the dirt called? What shape is the seed? What does a plant need to grow?