Reading and Writing

Reading, Writing, and Language Early Learning Activities

How to Steal a March 8: Play Turns Letters into Familiar Friends

Like numbers, letters can be challenging unknowns for kids when they arrive at school but early play turns letters into familiar friends.alphabet letter fun for kids

When young children arrive at school, their biggest challenge will be learning to read, this is figure out what the lines and squiggles on a page mean. It’s a huge task and it will affect them their entire life. We all want kids to succeed at it. We can help smooth some of the bumps in that road by giving them opportunity to become familiar with letters thru play. That way, when a child encounters letters at school, the brain can say, “Oh, I’ve played with these before. Two hands have felt their shapes, and I can even call some of them by name. I’ve heard some of their sounds. This isn’t so bad.”

Have you ever had to go somewhere you hadn’t been in a long time and couldn’t remember the way for sure? That sense of relief you felt when you finally saw a few landmarks you knew is what a child feels when s/he recognizes a few letters in the sea of lines and marks that make up letters and words. That’s why play with letters is so valuable.familiarity with letters

What are some activities so play turns letters into familiar friends?
As you can probably guess, reading books is tremendously important. From exposure to lots and lots and lots of books, kids make the connection that the marks on a page have meaning. In a simple book, you may be able to show your child a few words. “Oh, look at this. Here is a page of things that are red. See, this is the word ‘red’ written down.” Pointing with fingers is allowed.
Foam and magnetic letters are more than toys. Even if kids don’t know the names, the brain is recording the specific shapes. Occasionally, you can say the names of some of them and make the letter sound.

Names are some of the first words kids recognize. Show them their name written down and help them trace over a letter or two. When out on a walk, at the store, or in a favorite restaurant, notice some names. Are any letters the same?familiarity with letters

When your child is playing with playdough, roll out some letters. Hmmm, speaking of rolling, roll out some cookie dough and bake up a batch. Letters can be yummy to eat and what a tasty way for play to turn letters into familiar friends.

These are only a few suggestions for play experiences with letters. The words ” to steal a march on someone” are used to say someone has an advantage. Finding ways for your child to play and have fun with letters gives your child that march, that advantage. How can you support letter play for your child?


How to Steal a March #2: Reading Books to Kids Builds Brain Power

One of the most important activities you can do at home before children go to school is to read books because reading books to kids builds brain power. Books are superfood for brains.

reading to kids builds brain power

How much reading do you have to do in a day? While some jobs are mostly hands-on, many ordinary tasks involve reading. Any important road signs you read on your way to work? Your phone may beep to remind you to do something, but you likely check text messages countless times a day. Picking up a few groceries involves reading. Now toddlers and preschool kids aren’t yet reading, but the challenge of learning to read is far, far easier on kids that have experience with books.

Let’s make a quick switch from words to numbers. If you read 5 books a day to your child a few times a week, that’s 25 books. In just a month, that’s 100 books and in a year, 1000. By the time your child gets to school, you have downloaded 5000 books into the brain’s computer. That’s like a library already there in your child’s brain. No wonder learning to read is so much easier for kids that have had lots of books from home.

reading books to kids
Have you heard the saying of “stealing a march on someone?” It means to gain an advantage. Kids who have had opportunities with books before they get to school “steal a march” on those who haven’t. There’s no doubt being a good reader is a tremendous advantage. Being a poor reader is a tremendous disadvantage and it can follow kids for a lifetime. So much so, that some research reports that government bases the size of prisons on the reading scores of third-graders. While this may not be accurate, it certainly underscores how difficult it can be not to read well.

In a day, we don’t have to wait until bedtime to read books. Try a wake-up story. Listen to a story in the car. Share a book while waiting in line at the bank. Waiting for the cookies to bake is just enough time to enjoy a book or two. In the bath, the book has to be an imaginary one; “Once upon a time, there was a dinosaur in the tub…”reading books to kids

Kids books are expensive, so also visit your local library and neighborhood garage sales. Reading books to kids builds brain power. How do you include them in your child’s day?

Lion and Lamb: March Opposite Fun Play-of-the-Day

Today’s play-of-the-day is March opposite fun. Learning opposites isn’t a black and white challenge, it’s really quite complicated.learning opposites

Opposites aren’t only one thing or the other, like on-off or black-white. They often depend on the context. For instance, the temperature outside can feel too warm if you are wearing a parka, hat, snow pants, and mittens or too cold, if only wearing flip-flops and a swimsuit. The temperature hasn’t changed but how we describe it will be based on how it affects us. The relationship of objects also influences opposites. A preschooler is small compared to a teenager, but big beside the new baby.

In order to figure out how opposites work, kids need lots of opportunities and experiences. There are some great stories and books about opposites and even some songs. Did you ever sing The Duke of York? There are actions kids can do with the opposite words:

There was a Duke of York, he had ten thousand men.
He marched them UP to the top of the hill and
He marched them DOWN again.
When they were UP, they were UP,
And when they were DOWN, they were DOWN.
And when they were only HALF-WAY UP,
They were neither UP nor DOWN.

For the word UP, kids stand as tall as they can and for DOWN, they crouch way down near the floor. For HALF-WAY , just scrunch down a little. Some kids will be able to pop up and down and sing at the same time but some will only sing or do the actions.

A quick opposite game is STOP-GO. At the word GO kids can run, hop, wiggle, bounce or whatever there is room to do. When you, or another child being the leader, says STOP all the others must freeze and be as still as they can be. Kids can play this opposite game inside or outside.


Where appropriate in the day, can you and your child have some March opposite fun?

February Friendship #4: Kids Can Be Friends with Books

Kids can be friends with books, and that’s another very important one to have. This is friendship month and we can share some great books with kids. Eric Carle is one of my favorite children’s authors. A fairly recent one is Friends. This is the story of a two friends. To get together one of … Continue reading February Friendship #4: Kids Can Be Friends with Books

Kids Imaginary Journeys – New Year’s Word #9: J for Journey

What fun with kids imaginary journeys! Today’s new year’s resolution word goes on a journey with children’s author and Storytime Pup creator, Bill McManus. This is an on-line interview with Bill about both real and imaginative journeys. No need to pack, come enjoy the trip. To start, I’d like to ask: What journeys did you … Continue reading Kids Imaginary Journeys – New Year’s Word #9: J for Journey

Children’s Dragon Books: Same and Different with “Not Your Typical Dragon”

Welcome to Dinovember and some dragon fun activities—after all dragons are like dinosaurs and we’ll start with some children’s dragon books and stories. Since we’ve done some dinosaur activities before we thought we’d try something a little bit different. Dragons. Dragons can be pretty scary, although Mike the Knight’s dragon Sparkie, is quite friendly. Toothless … Continue reading Children’s Dragon Books: Same and Different with “Not Your Typical Dragon”

Fall Book Magic: Fall Books and Stories for Young Children

Magic You Can Do Right At Home! Reading and sharing books and stories to kids is so powerful for brain development it’s almost magic and what could be better than some fall book magic? Here are some wonderful ones to share with your child. Before reading Anne O’Brien and Susan Gal’s awesome book, see how … Continue reading Fall Book Magic: Fall Books and Stories for Young Children

Children’s Books About the Olympics and Medals for Reading

One way to get in the spirit of the Games is to share children’s books about the Olympics and win a medal for reading-well, listening to adults read. Kids ask questions and while we watch the Games, they will want to know why. There are lots of books for older kids, but not many for … Continue reading Children’s Books About the Olympics and Medals for Reading