February 13, 2018

Why I am Not Bored with Board Books

Have you ever heard someone look through a board book and then say, "Wow!  I should be writing kids books!  All you have to do is put one word and picture per page and then it's a book!"  It's true, some board books are just not great!  But some are really great!  Let me share with you why I am not bored with board books.  (This post contains affiliate links).

best board books


This is the obvious reason to love board books.  Some kids are more destructive than others, and while board books will take a beating, they will hold up much longer than paperbacks!  You can see that the above books have been well-loved by four kids, but after a few surgeries, they are still going strong.

Just because it's a board book doesn't mean it can't tell a longer story!  If you have a favorite book, but you're worried it will get destroyed by little ones, see if there is a board book version.

board books

Which would a toddler better respond to?  
Option 1:  "Now Janie, don't push.  Janie, don't push.  We shouldn't push Janie!"  
Option 2:  Colorful picture of a dinosaur being taught that it's okay to push a swing, but not okay to push our brother.  It's okay to push a button, but not okay to push our friend.

best board books

Sometimes I just can't express exactly the love I'm feeling for the little one on my lap.  But after we read a book like "I Love You Through and Through", we both have all the feels!

loving board books

Just because it's a board book doesn't mean my older kids won't like it.  At my house, ages 2 to 10 have had great laughs this week over the "Yummy/Yucky" book!

best board books

Even the littlest one on my lap begins counting with me or names shapes and colors as we read a concept board book.

I love to put our interactive board books in my quiet bag for church.  Usborne's "That's Not My Books" have different textures and a mouse to find on each page.  The "Cheerios Play Books" are for use with a bag of Cheerios (which is also an item in my church bag).  

There are so many board books we love!  Here are three of my favorite board book authors:


best board books


Best Board Books


Best Board Books

"Children are made readers on the laps of their parents," so it would make sense that our home library would start with board books!  We are almost done with the baby stage at our house, but I think our board books are here to stay!  What are your favorite board books?  

You may also enjoy these posts:  
Simple Indoor Toddler Activities
Early Childhood Learning Part 2: The Exploring 3-Year-Old

February 1, 2018

Simple Valentine's Fun From the Dollar Store

By February, we are really starting to get cabin fever at our house!  I feel kind of like a circus performer actually.  My Beanie Baby will come up to me multiple times a day and say, "Now what Mom?  Now what?"  I'm apparently not producing activities fast enough!  One way I produce activities is by pulling out our holiday tote.  In it I keep our holiday books and learning/play holiday items.  Nearly everything in my Valentine's box is from the dollar store.  Some activities are for learning and some are just for fun.  

preschool Valentine's activities

Here are some simple Valentine's activities using stuff from the Dollar Store:

Heart Foam Stickers

  • Name Building
  • Sorting (letters/words, sight words, vowel sound, by size, by color)

Valentines learning activities

Conversation Heart Foam Stickers

  • Sorting
  • Making Patterns
  • Representing Numbers

At home Valentines learning

Heart Table Scatter
  • Sorting
  • Making Patterns
  • Use with Math Mats
  • Bingo Markers
  • Letter Learning (I write letters on them with a sharpie and use for letter sorting and games)
  • Sensory Play (Probably my most loved toddler activity is giving a bowl of small items and adding scoops, tongs, ice cube tray, extra bowls, and just letting her play).

Preschool Valentine's activities

Valentine's sorting activity

toddler Valentine's activities

Preschool Math Mats

Heart Cookie Cutters

  • Order by size
  • Match (buy 2 sets)
  • Make cookies
  • Tracing

Valentine's size sorting

Heart Magnets

  • Play with the magnets while I cook dinner
  • Put them in a line
  • Sort them by color
  • Show me 3 magnets...show me 5...show me 3 pink

Valentine's fun from the dollar store

Heart Doilies and Stickers

I love to just set out supplies and let my littles create.  Mostly they decide to make Valentine's for people who are special to them.  

These are the supplies I usually lay out:

  • Water color paints (The doilies are fun to paint)
  • Construction paper
  • Foam heart stickers (stickers are great fine motor practice)
  • Scissors, glue sticks, gel pens
  • Hole punch (Great for fine motor practice, but really frustrating for littles who haven't developed the strength to squeeze it)

preschool process art

Toddler Table Time

Preschool Valentine's Art

Toddler projects from the Dollar Store

Be sure to check out my Early Childhood Learning Series where you'll find more activity ideas and skills practice divided by age.  Posts can be found here:

Early Childhood Learning Part 1:  The Playing Toddler
Early Childhood Learning Part 2:  The Exploring Three-Year-Old
Early Childhood Learning Part 3:  The Pre-Kindergartener

Enjoy your February!

You may also be interested in these Valentine's activities from my TpT Shop:

Valentine's cutting, gluing, pre-writing practice
Valentine's Preschool Skills Practice

Valentine's reading worksheets
Valentine's Day Color by Code BEYOND CVC WORDS
Simple at home Valentine's activities for preschoolers, name practice, sorting, patterns, early childhood Valentines' activities

January 23, 2018

Early Childhood Learning Part 3: The Pre-Kindergartener

I have spent a bit of time in a kindergarten classroom, both teaching, and volunteering as a mom.  And from those experiences, I bow down to kindergarten teachers!  You see, a kindergarten class is full of 20-30 kids who for the first time are experiencing being at school, five days in a row.  For some of them, it is their first time ever being at school.

This is what a moment in my son's class looked like:  Teacher asks students to go work on a letter sorting worksheet.  A few kids got right to work, and finished quickly.  Early-finishers either found something to do or made trouble.  Others were slowly getting started.  Then there were a few kids who didn't even know how to hold scissors correctly.  Many needed help taking the cap off the glue stick, and a few kids couldn't hold a pencil correctly, let alone write their name.  Oh, and let's not forget the kid in the corner who had finished and was now reading a "Magic Tree House" book to himself.  All the while, teacher is going about trying to help everyone and put out fires as she goes.  Now, there is something to be said about classroom management and differentiated instruction, but that's not the point here.  I don't think there is ever such a big gap in abilities as there is in a kindergarten classroom.  And yet, a kindergarten teacher is required to teach a lot of things!  Then she scarfs down some lunch, resets the room, and does it all over again for another 20-30 students.

*Long sigh.*  That was a long story.  But the reason I told it is to explain why I think teaching pre-kindergarten skills to 4-year-olds is so important.  Why not do all we can to help a kindergarten teacher out and set your child up for success!  Whether your child will go to public school or not, I feel like these are useful and age-appropriate things for 4-year-olds to learn.  You'll notice that several of these things were mentioned in my post about 3-Year-Old Learning.  The difference now is that for fours, I work on mastering these skills, where threes were just being introduced to the them.

pre-kindergarten skills

Scissor, Pencil, and Glue Skills
With 4-year-olds, I keep working on cutting and gluing practice, writing name, and forming letters and numbers.  By the time a child is kindergarten age, my goal is for mastery of these skills:

  • Independently able to remove and replace glue stick cap.
  • Uses the correct amount of glue in the correct place 
  • Holds scissors correctly
  • Can cut around basic shapes
  • Holds a pencil correctly (pinches with fingers instead of with fist)
  • Can independently write name without looking at name card
  • Can write many letters and number 1-10

Mastering Letters and Sounds
One of my biggest focuses is helping 4-year-olds to learn all of their letters and sounds.  One of the things that helps me the most in this process is to continually assess.  I need to know which letters a child knows, and which ones she still needs to work on.  I use this form to keep track.  Sometimes I will let a child be involved in marking the letters off, and other times I will just keep track for my own records.  I use a variety of methods to work on letters and sounds, still trying to keep it fun and create learning through play.  

free pre-kindergarten assessment printables
Preschool Assessment Pages Freebie
Pre-Reading Skills
A four-year-old may or may not be ready to learn how to read.  But at this age, I make sure to work on pre-reading skills.  Some of these skills include:
  • Knowing that we read from left to right
  • Knowing the difference between a letter and a word
  • Knowing that words tell a story
  • Knowing about author and illustrator
Pre-reading printables

Pre-Reading Skills Pages

Beginning to Read
Some fours have mastered all of the letters and sounds, they can even name the beginning sound in a word.  For those who are ready, I start teaching how to sound out CVC words.  I try to let the child guide the pace and provide a variety of engaging ways for them to begin sounding out words.  In fact, I created my Help a Child to Read packets as a tool for those who are ready to move on while others are still working on letters and sounds.  While I am not stressed about every child being able to read fluently by kindergarten, I don't hold back those who are ready.
learn to read CVC words

short a CVC words practice
Learn to Read CVC Words Short a

Learn to Read CVC Words BUNDLE


Preschool math is so fun!  It can go with the holiday or the theme and really feels more like play.  These are the math skills I work on with 4-year-olds: 
  • Identifying shapes
  • Counting and telling how many
  • Representing a number with objects
  • Sorting
  • Completing a pattern
  • Counting to 20
  • Simple addition and subtraction (for those who are ready)
  • Names of coins and what money is for
  • Graphing

I found that 4-year-olds really enjoy non-cookie cutter art.  If you want a group of 4-year-olds to create an art project that will look just like yours and just like everyone else's, then you'll have to do it for them!  And what's the fun in that?  While we did do some cookie-cutter projects, it was always fun to do art projects where they could add their own style to it.  This consisted of providing a variety of materials and an idea, and then letting them roll with it.  In this painting project, I demonstrated a few different ways to use the paintbrush and a fork, and then let her paint whatever and however she wanted to.

4-year-olds love science experiments!  But the great thing is that at this age, they can be SO simple!  How can we melt this ice?  What will happen if I put this candy in water?  Will this sink or float?  Preschool science is all about making predictions and then seeing what happens.

If you have been working on these skills and your child is not completely proficient in all of them by kindergarten, try not to stress!  Moms have enough to stress about.  Keep working at it, keep assessing and being aware of what your child knows and what she still needs to learn.  She will get there! Remember that each child is different. In case you missed the other posts in this series:

Early Childhood Learning Part 1:  The Playing Toddler
Early Childhood Learning Part 2:  The Exploring Three-Year-Old

January 17, 2018

What are R-Controlled Vowels?

Picture this.  A child has become quite confident in reading CVC words.  She goes along reading page after page in her book with no problems.  Then she comes to the word car

c    aaaaaaaaa    r


What's a caaaaar she wonders.  She could read cab and cat and can, but all of a sudden, car has stumped her.  Why?  The word car contains an r-controlled vowel.

R-Controlled Vowel:  When the letter 'r' comes after a vowel, it changes the way the vowel sounds.  

Some examples:  er (her)     ir (bird)     ur (fur)     ar (star)     or (for)

Here are some tips for teaching r-controlled vowels:
  • A way to explain this concept to children is to call them "Bossy R Words".  The letter 'r' is SO bossy, he tells the vowels how they are supposed to sound!
  • I don't include bossy-r words with the rest of the short vowel CVC words.  In fact, I don't teach them until after I teach consonant digraphs.  (See my sequence for teaching reading). 
  • Find some way to highlight the ar in the word so that every time the child sees the ar, their brain will tell them, "Oh there's something different when ar is together."  I use these posters when I am teaching Bossy R words.

  • Teach one vowel at a time.  For example, explain that every time i and r are together, they say /ur/ like in fir.  In another lesson, address  or words, etc.

  • Some children start to pick up on r-controlled words without even having a lesson on them.  Others need a lot of repetition.  After I have taught the concept of bossy r, if a child stumbles on a bossy-r word when reading, I just use the cue, "This is a bossy-r word."  Then the child can usually remember what bossy-r does and can sound out the word.  Below are some of the bossy-r pages I use.

  • There are some exceptions that don't follow the pattern of r-controlled words.  Some exceptions are:  bear, are, our
Bossy R Words really are a lot of fun to teach!  You can find these Bossy R resources in my TpT Shop.

Bossy R No-Prep Printables

Vowel Pattern Posters