learning to read

What’s Inside Your Pumpkin? A Show and Tell Activity

After scooping out a pumpkin, here is a way your child can show and tell about it with this What’s Inside Your Pumpkin activity. More fun but less gooey. It also makes a book your child can read, even if there aren’t any words.

what's inside your pumpkin

Before starting this activity, you and your child need to explore what’s inside a pumpkin. The best way to do this is by scooping one out. We did this earlier and left the seeds and fibers out overnight to make it easier to separate and give the seeds a little time to dry. You can also put the stuff in warm water and sort of wash out the seeds. Kids need to help scooping one out so they can experience for themselves what’s inside.

scooping out a pumpkin

Besides some seeds and hands-on time in a pumpkin, this activity needs two pieces of thicker paper, one a pale orange or yellow color and one bright orange, lots of glue, and pieces of yellow or orange yarn.

Big hands can cut the two pieces of paper into the shape of a pumpkin. Leave a bit of stem at the top to staple the pages together. Also, print the title on the orange paper, What’s Inside a Pumpkin? Some children might be able to copy a few of the letters or write their name on the page.what's inside your pumpkin

On the second sheet of paper, kids get to glue the pumpkin guts or brains. The yarn is like the fiber strands. The seeds are the real ones from scooping out the pumpkin. Gluing the yarn isn’t easy because it will sticky to fingers. Getting the seeds to stay on the paper needs quite a bit of glue. A paint brush is a great tool for this.

Once the glue has dried, staple the two pages together. Now, kids can ‘read’ their book. They will know the title from memory. When they lift up that page and turn to the next, they can show and tell what they found.what's inside your pumpkin

Contrary to what it looks like, reading doesn’t start with the words on a page. Reading starts with the words we already know and use, no matter what language we speak. Reading is based on meaning. Having the experience of scooping out a pumpkin to see what’s inside gives kids a connection. They may not have a clue about the letters but they sure have the meaning. The yarn and the seeds are taking the place of the words and kids are reading them. You can write the word seeds beside the real ones to show kids the link between the funny squiggles and the real things.what's inside a pumpkin

These two What’s Inside A Pumpkin pages are your child’s very own book. Wouldn’t you say now the effort to get the seeds from the pumpkin was worth it?

Unwrap Learning to Read, Christmas Books for Kids

Even Santa Takes Time to Read to Kids

Learning to read is a powerful skill we all want for kids. Would you like to give them the gift of making learning to read much easier? Not an expensive gift in terms of money, but there will be a cost of your time and effort. But even Santa knows it’s quite a gift.

Santa reads to kids

To make the challenge of learning to read easier, it’s tremendously helpful if kids have a good grasp of language. When we sing to kids, read stories, have conversations with them and others, and say nursery rhymes we are downloading language into the brain. The brain creates language circuits and builds a bank of vocabulary.

Each time we open a book and say the words on the page, we are showing kids a little bit of how to read. Eyes have to look at something. Kids eventually figure out we are looking at the funny squiggles and these strange marks are meaningful. Just like getting all the connections in the brain for talking takes a long time, so does getting the connections for reading. But we can help brains do this by reading lots of books to kids.

Christmas books for kidsHow much time does reading a story take? Only minutes. With wee little ones, at first we may only get a few seconds for one page before they wiggle away, but all these seconds and minutes add up. In a week, could you read 25 books to your child? Quite possibly, because that’s only 3 or 4 a day. Well, in a month that makes about 100 books! Now, in a year that’s over 1,000!

You have just fed your child’s brain a library of books and wow, does that make learning to read a whole lot easier. And it wasn’t hard.

Christmas books for kidsThere are some wonderful Christmas books. Besides the favorites and traditional ones, each year adds a few more special choices. Two books on my Christmas list are Eric Carle’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar’s Christmas 123 and How to Catch Santa by Jean Reagan. Kids can count and look for the caterpillar on every page. Kids all over the world try and stay awake just to see Santa.

What stories do you think Santa likes to read?

The Power of Stories with David Ward & Maurice Sendak

Not only are our brains prewired for stories, it seems as if our hearts are too. Yesterday’s post talked about the support for learning to read that reading books and sharing stories can give to child . But stories have a magic that can touch our hearts and tap into our emotions. A story can bypass the “No-to-Everything” of a toddler, the “but-I’m- my own-boss” of a preschooler, even the “my-parents-are-so-dumb” of an adolescent. Stories can weave the past, present, and future all together, going beyond time and space. Maybe that’s why they are so powerful.

Happy 85th Birthday, Maurice Sendak
Happy 85th Birthday, Maurice Sendak

One reason why children’s brains develop so fast at this age could be because of the enormous challenge of all they things kids have to learn. Kids need to develop a basic knowledge of their bodies and how to make the parts work together. Emotions and feelings are on the inside making them even harder to figure out. Language requires lots of learning. Play is one of the ways that children learn and stories that they hear, or sometimes, tell themselves, are another.

LearnandPlaywithMrsALIVE_2012-08-27.mp3For a child who is afraid of monsters, the story about how daddy throws his stinky socks under the bed and the monsters all run away, can solve that problem. Having stories about kids who find it hard to cope with a new baby brother or sister can also help. There are stories about moving,  being scared to go to school, dealing with teasing, parents who are divorcing, and kids having two homes, two moms or two dads. There are stories about ADD, autism, and other special needs or situations.

Goggle recognizes the importance of stories and had a delightful goggle-doodle animation of Where the Wild Things Are and other books by Maurice Sendak. Stories for kids often have fun and humor, something needed for a positive outlook. Recently, parent, author, teacher, story-teller, and college professor David Ward, shared his thoughts about the power of stories on my Learn and Play with Mrs. A radio show. During our conversation he mentioned that one of the most important elements to include in a story is hope, even or perhaps especially, for children. Have you used stories to help your child learn and grow?

The Power of Stories for Early Learning

Did you know that human beings are hard-wired for story? Our brains crave stories as a brain-food and they are a powerful tool for all kinds of teaching and learning. As parents and caregivers we can use stories with children as another way to support their development. On my radio show Learn and Play with … Continue reading The Power of Stories for Early Learning

Kindergarten Readiness – Making Mother’s Day Cards

Tomorrow is Mother’s Day. Making a Mother’s Day card is much more than an old, traditional activity. By drawing, coloring and even just copying the words, the child is participating in a very grown-up task, that of communicating in a written form.  A key concept for learning to read is that pictures and letters are a … Continue reading Kindergarten Readiness – Making Mother’s Day Cards