Category: English / Language Arts

Family Field Trip: Grocery

Want to upgrade your weekly shopping trip from family struggle time to — at least on a good day — an educational experience? We have four easy-to-use ways to keep your children (fingers crossed!) calm, curious and connected on your next trip to the grocery store.

Shopping list:
Before you head to the store, work together to create a shopping list. For toddlers, ask questions about what fruit, vegetables or other foods they want at the store. Two-year-olds and up can help make the list, either by saying items they want for adults to write or by drawing items. Then, when you head to the store, use the list like a set of directions. All of these actions build language arts skills!

Location, location, location:
On your way to the store, talk about what part of your community the store is in. Is it north? Right around the corner? Downtown? In town? All of these terms help your child explore geography, which is a part of social studies. For preschool and beyond, you can use maps to talk about location. You can use kid-created maps, paper maps or apps with maps.

Family Style Dining

Want to take the fun from the store to the table? Check out our post on family-style dining by clicking this picture!

Going on a food hunt:
As you shop, talk about the colors, shapes and location (under, over, beside, above) of each food item on your list. For toddlers, simply sharing those descriptions helps build math and science vocabulary. For preschool and beyond, you can invite your child to help you find each item with a grocery store version of “I Spy.” “I spy a white vegetable. It’s as big as your head and next to the broccoli.” Cauliflower is more fun if it’s part of a game!

Delicious AND nutritious?:
Build your child’s health skills by discussing what is healthy about items on your shopping list. Here are some easy ways to help your child explore food and nutrition by age.

  • One- and two-year-olds: Ask if a food is new or one they’ve had before. Then, use words together to describe the color, texture or time of day for each food. “This apple is shiny, red and gold. Would you want to eat this for a snack or with a meal?”
  • Preschoolers: Talk about which foods are more nutritious (vegetables, lean proteins, fruit, whole grains are all great options) and which are perhaps better for treats (nearly the snack aisle!). “Those carrots and plums are really healthy, so we can eat them all the time. If we get these cookies, let’s make sure to just have one each. Sweet treats like these have a lot of sugar.”
  • Pre-K: Discuss the link between a food and their individual health. Encourage your little one to consider which drinks, foods and serving sizes are healthiest for them.

Taking the time to encourage children to help plan your trip, staying engaged during travel time, and talking about foods gives you the chance to make the most of your grocery trip. As parents, we also love taking that time to connect. It makes a chore a little more fun, and helps us explore our children’s favorite flavors!

Do you have any tips on making grocering shopping with little eaters more fun? Share them below!

 

Cover image by Flickr user USACE Europe DistrictCreative Commons license.

Bedtime Books to Move Mini-Readers from Day to Night

Beyond helping children gain basic literacy skills, reading can be a huge piece of building warm and loving family bonds. From babies to preschoolers, reading is an important piece of family connections and establishing routines. One of the most important book traditions that we can establish with our children is bedtime book time. Taking time every single night to read a book helps your child settle their busy brain and relax into a blissful sleepy time.

We conducted a very informal survey to find out which books have made a lasting impression on Hoosier families and got some great ideas:

  1. Good Night Moon – Written by Margaret Wise Brown and Illustrated by Clement Hurd
    This wonderful book about a mother rabbit putting her baby down to sleep was hands down the winner in our informal poll. Everyone loves how the words flow and lilt as everything in the room is told “good night.” Good Night Moon is a timeless treasure!
  2. Llama Llama Red Pajama – Written and illustrated by Anna Dewdney
    A cute story from the Llama Llama series came is also beloved. Mother Llama puts her baby down to bed but Baby llama still needs her – a dance familiar to anyone who has managed the long haul of toddler bedtimes. The rhyming words and soothing repetition make this one a got-to bedtime book.
  3. Guess How Much I Love You – Written by Sam McBratney and illustrated by Anita Jeram Rabbits are popular characters for sleepy children’s’ books – maybe because they are so cute and cozy – and this very sweet book provides a lovely touchpoint at the end of a day. A parent rabbit and fluffy baby telling each other, over and over and over, how much they love one another in increasingly meaningful ways. Many moms and dads like to repeat the sweet messages to their own little ones as they read.
  4. Good Night Owl – Written and illustrated by Greg Pizzoli
    When a strange noise disturbs Owl’s rest, he has to investigate! This newer, beautifully illustrated book is as popular at baby showers as it is at bedtimes. The 2016 book recently won a Geisel Honor Books Award from the American Library Association, making it both family and librarian-approved.
  5. Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site and Steam Train, Dream Train – Both written by Sherri Duskey Rinker and illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld
    Have a little one obsessed with vehicles of all kinds? These books, written in poetic and colorful language, offer the perfect way to wind down for kids who love anything on wheels. Indeed, as these books make clear, sometimes we need to make sure large machinery is properly put to bed as we help our little ones head to dream land.
  6. The Going to Bed Book – Written and illustrated by Sandra Boynton
    This book is short and sweet, perfect for babies and young toddlers – and it introduces the math concept of opposites like big and small. The sing-song story follows silly animals as they go through their bedtime routine. From brushing teeth to being rocked to sleep, the calming, rhyming story is perfect for bedtime.
  7. It’s Time to Sleep, My Love – Written by Eric Metaxas and illustrated by Nancy Tillman
    From the illustrator of the popular On the Night You Were Born, you can expect the same beautiful illustrations and heartfelt message. This is another lovely selection if your little one love cuddly time or you want to increase your bond, giving your family a great opportunity to relax and share how much you love one another.
  8. Dream Animals: A Bedtime Journey – Written and illustrated by Emily Winfield Martin
    This lovely bedtime book comes in both board book and standard story book printings — and either way, it offers beautiful illustrations of boys, girls and fanciful creatures who carry these diminutive dreamers to fantasy locations. Light on text, but heavy on dreamscapes, each page offers a chance to talk and notice the illustrations together.

We hope you and your little ones enjoy these books and that everyone in your home can get good night’s sleep! (We know how difficult that can be in these early years, but we also hear that it gets easier. We can dream, right?)

We’d love to hear your suggestions too – please feel free to share your family’s favorites in the comments below.

Cover image by Flickr user Lars PlougmannCreative Commons license.

Preparing Your Child for Kindergarten

The time has come; your child has turned five and soon will be heading off to begin a new journey into kindergarten. This life event can be exciting and scary for both you as the parent and your child. As a Pre-K Program Manager, a common question parents ask me is “What does my child need to know for kindergarten?”

After working in an early childhood setting for more than 11 years, I have watched many children transition into kindergarten. Yes, your child may know how to spell his name, count to a certain number, or know his phone number. However, I think there are two key traits that you can help develop in your child to be ready for the big day.

SOCIAL SKILLS

Involve your child in some type of social environment, whether that’s child care, pre-school, pre-K, or play groups. These types of group settings will help support your child in preparing her for the social environment of kindergarten. This is where your child can learn how to communicate, listen, and take turns. These environments can also help your child come out of her shell and be willing to speak up for help when she may need it.

SELF-CONTROL

This trait can be difficult at age five – goodness; sometimes it’s difficult for adults! Nonetheless, your child should have a good sense on how to transition into different activities, follow rules, and respect property and materials.

SOME TIPS TO MAKE THE TRANSITION EASIER FOR YOU AND YOUR CHILD:

CONNECT WITH YOUR CHILD’S SCHOOL

Call the school and see if there is a day to visit and meet the teacher. Many school corporations offer kindergarten round-ups or jamborees. These events can provide guidance on enrolling your child, but they also provide some great interactions for your child. He may be able to step on a school bus, tour his new classroom, meet his teacher and make new friends.

GET A HEAD START ON YOUR CHILD’S NEW ROUTINE

Begin your child’s morning routine about a month away from the first day of school. Change of routines can be tough for anyone. If you begin early, it will hopefully be less hectic when the important day comes.

READ UP!

Read books about the first day of school to your child as the day approaches. When I was a pre-K teacher, I began reading books at the end of the year to prepare the students for their next journey. The Kissing Hand by Audrey PennWemberly Worried by Kevin Henkes, and Miss Bindergarten Gets Ready for Kindergarten by Joseph Slate are all books that I had on rotation during this time period. These are great books to start the discussion with your child about how they are feeling with the transition to kindergarten.

Children begin kindergarten from all different backgrounds and experiences. You as a parent know your child the best and need to make sure you’re her strongest advocate. Throughout your child’s education, make sure you are engaged, focused, and a participant in your child’s schooling.

Closing the summer learning gap

In the blink of an eye, the school year is over and another summer is before you.  The majority of us out there are working parents, and we often have a hard balance to achieve in the summer: keeping kids safe, enriching their learning, and seeing that they have an enjoyable time.

If you’re like many parents, you secured a spot for your child at a local day camp or child care facility.   As a concerned and engaged parent, you may be wondering how your child will fare in the two months spent away from the formal education they received at school. Will they have an educational experience that will fill the gap of school?

Research shows all young people experience learning loss when they do not engage in educational activities over the summer, and most students lose almost two months of grade level equivalency in math computation skills 1.

While these stats are startling, you can do your part to help your child lessen these kinds of summer losses. Knowing these gaps exist is your first line of defense when it comes to helping your child.  Instead of relying on the summer camps and child care to help fill the gaps, you can help fill the gap by doing your part at home.  Parents are in fact their child’s original teacher, right?

The thought of trying to facilitate your child’s learning is probably the last thing on your mind after a long day at work. However, it may involve less effort than you think.

TIPS TO KEEP YOUR CHILD ENGAGED OVER THE SUMMER

Below are some simple strategies that you can use at home with your child:

  • Limit screen time. Set limits on how much television, computer, video game, and tablet time your child may spend, based on the amount appropriate for his or her age.  Encourage games and websites that are educational and interactive. The Minnesota Parent Center offers a page of links with websites that are parent-approved, safe, and educational.
  • Use practical applications to teach. Participate with your kids in everyday activities. Help your kids set up a lemonade stand. Let them help you cook dinner or bake a dessert.  Put them in charge of tasks while grocery shopping, such as keeping track of coupons or finding the lowest-priced item.
  • Encourage exploration and adventure (even if it’s only in your backyard)! Ask open-ended questions to spark your child’s curiosity.
  • Take your child places in your community. Local parks, museums, theaters, libraries, or zoos help children learn about the world around them.

As you can see, many of the strategies are things you are probably doing anyway. Why not capitalize on the experiences and turn them into teaching moments for your child? The benefits will be long lasting.

A wise man once said, ”Education is not the learning of facts, but the training of the mind to think.” Albert Einstein

Here’s to a summer of experiences and learning that lasts a lifetime!

 

1 National Summer Learning Association: http://www.summerlearning.org/?page=know_the_facts

Cover image by Flickr user Penn StateCreative Commons license.

Can my two-year old read?

We have all seen advertisements of babies and young children reading words off flash cards with proud parents beaming in the background.  While there are varying opinions on the effectiveness of these programs, the truth is that very young children are beginning to gain the skills necessary to be readers.

Adults in children’s lives can be integral in helping children to work on these skills.  How many young children can recognize the golden arches of McDonalds or the cowboy hat in the Arby’s sign? Guess what?  Connecting symbols with meaning is a huge step toward reading.

HOW DO I ENCOURAGE MY CHILD TO BE A READER?

When you are in the car with your children, ask questions about familiar signs and symbols.  If you see a stop sign, you can repeat the word “stop” and spell it. That will help children associate meaning with letters.

Make a photo album with your child of his or her favorite things with the word underneath the picture so they associate the word with the item.  It is through this association that children will eventually associate letters with sounds, sounds with words, and, finally, words with meaning.

SO…WHAT’S THE ANSWER? IS MY TWO-YEAR OLD READING?

The answer to the question above is yes! Your two year old is born curious and hard wired to learn language.  So, he or she is a born reader!

Cover image by Flickr user Dan Hatton, Creative Commons license.