Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Llama Llama Learns to Read

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Being able to identify the alphabet is the stepping stone to recognizing sight words and independent reading. It's always wonderful when books can tie into these important skills. So when Penguin Books sent us the latest Llama Llama book, we fell in love! Practicing the ABCs doesn't have to be boring or redundant. See how I used this book to draw my little learner into working with the ABCs.

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A Note from the Publisher: Anna Dewdey passed away in September, 2016, at the age of fifty from cancer. A teacher, mother, and enthusiastic proponent of reading aloud to children, she continually honed her skills as an artist and writer and published her first Llama Llama book in 2005. Her passion for creating extended to home and garden and she lovingly restored an 18th century farmhouse in southern Vermont. She wrote, painted, gardened, and lived there with her partner, Reed, her two daughters, two wirehaired pointing griffons, and one bulldog. Anna was a warm-hearted, wonderful, wise soul who will be forever missed, but whose spirit lives on in her books.

Llama Llama Loves to Read is a darling addition to the Llama Llama series. Over the course of his day, Llama Llama gets help to practice his letters, reads stories, goes to the library. And by the end of the day, little Llama is on his way to becoming a reader. Get your copy  here. After reading the book, we did a fun alphabet activity that fits right in with the theme of the book.

Items Needed:
ABC Matching Printable
laminator (optional... this is the one we use)
ABC magnets

1. Ahead of time, print out the ABC matching printable available below. You may want to print out two copies to use with each of the activity variations.
2. It is suggested that you laminate printable pages for durability if they are going to be used more than once or with several children.
3. Set out the activity in the variation you choose on a tray or inexpensive cookie sheet to create an invitation to learn. Invitations to learn are eye-catching set ups that garner a child's curiosity about the activity. I like to set them up on trays/cookie sheets because it helps to keep small pieces somewhat contained.

Activity Variation #1
After printing and laminating pages, cut out each Upper/Lowercase letter card. Place at a learning center with alphabet magnets. Encourage young learners to match the magnets to their corresponding letter card.

Activity Variation #2
After cutting out letter cards as in Variation #1, split each card in half (separating the upper and lower case versions. Children can then match the uppercase letters to their lowercase partners.

Click the link below to download

Here are some other great ways to help children learn their ABCs:
Take the alphabet outside with this fun Llama Llama related activity.
Go on a letter sounds scavenger hunt.
Hop through the alphabet with this board game for kids.
Practice letter shapes with buttons.
Play an alphabet matching game with milk caps.
Make sight words out of clothespins.
Go on an alphabet hunt.
Have a letter sounds race.
Trace letter shapes with legos.
Match pictures with letters they start with in a first letter sounds activity
Practice building sight words with this car phonics game.

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Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Bedtime Routines for Kids: 10 Tips for Success

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Sleep is probably one of the toughest issues we face as parents. So many different issues come up... one last drink of water, having the right stuffed animal, it's too hot/cold, too light/dark. Seems like these funny little ones can think of hundreds of reasons to prolong going to sleep. So how do we handle this as parents? Over the years, I've found that having a consistent bedtime routine has been crucial in getting my children to sleep with very little fuss. Find out how to build a bedtime routine that works for your family below.

(This post contains Affiliate ads to recommend products. I make a small percentage to keep this site running when you purchase. More here.)

We recently got a copy of Jonathan London's new book, Sleep Train, to review from Penguin Young Readers. It's such a sweet book with lulling rhymes and dreamy illustrations that follows a little boy's journey to sleep. It's the perfect book to incorporate into children's bedtime routines.

Do you need help getting your child on the Sleep Train? Use these tips below to create a successful bedtime routine for your family.

Keep on Schedule
To start off, find out how much sleep your children need for their current stage of development. You can find that information out here. To determine what sleep and wake up times work best for your child, you can keep a sleep journal in a notebook. Note what time they start to get tired, irritable, or rub their eyes. Go back 30 minutes and that's the time to start your nighttime routine.  You can also keep track of any sleep issues that present themselves in the sleep journal. These can be sleep apnea/snoring, night terrors, bad dreams, bedwetting, etc. These issues may be ones to address with your child's doctor for help and treatment.

Clean and Comfy clothes
Daily baths aren't something that works for every family. However, I've found that even a quick 10 minute shower does wonders to help kids relax and unwind. After they're clean, they put on comfy pajamas. Try to stick with nonsynthetic fibers to allow breathability as they sleep. Long sleeved cotton pajama sets with pants are great for cool months. And t-shirts with shorts keep kids cool in warmer months.

Limit technology after bathtime, or for the 30-60 minutes before bed. The National Sleep Foundations suggests this technique to allow children's brains to reset from the stimulation that technological devices provides.This stimulation prevents the brain from being able to fall/stay asleep.

Read a Book
One of the cornerstones of a strong bedtime routine is reading. You can read picture books to younger children or have older readers read aloud to you. Reading a book before bed helps children to calm down, focus, and relax. Snuggling together over a book allows children to reconnect with their parents after a long day of daycare/preschool/school. Read about the other benefits here. Check out this ultimate list of picture books for kids and this list of great chapter books for older readers.

Last Call
Prevent those bedtime requests for a little snack or "one last drink of water" by having a set snack time. Avoid too much liquids and foods that are too heavy. Many may opt to do this in conjunction with reading a book.

Bathroom Checklist
Brush teeth. Go potty. Wash hands. Not only does this provide children with reinforcement of good dental hygiene, one last pit stop negates any need to get up out of bed for a bathroom trip soon after being tucked in.

Snuggle Up
Bedtime can often bring about feelings of loneliness or insecurity for children as they are tucked in their beds, alone in their rooms. Help them to find a favorite stuffed animal, doll, or blanket to snuggle with. Sometimes, children may need a little extra reassurance. It's times like these that they can be given one of mom or dad's shirts to snuggle with. Sometimes just the scent of their mommy/daddy can help them to feel more safe and secure.

The Right Noises
There's something about white noise that can help people of all ages to fall asleep and stay asleep. There are white noise machines that you can buy. But I've found that a fan on the floor (to avoid cool drafts) can provide a great source for white noise to help drown out ambient sounds from outside and around the house.

Ceremony of Love
I have a "routine" that I go through with each of my children when I tuck them in. For both, we say prayers and talk about what we're thankful for that day. Then comes the eloquent dance of hugs, kisses, special handshakes, secret phrases, etc. For each child, it is different and directed by them. Then I tell them something wonderful about them. I feel it's important that those moments before they drift off to sleep are filled with nurturing, closeness, and feeling good about themselves.

Stick With It
Sleep routines can be hard to get started, especially if you live a busy lifestyle or have reluctant sleepers. But consistency is key. And some kiddos will try to wear you down. They'll ask for another drink after they've already had one. Or beg for "just one more book". Although, it's up to parents to analyze what needs their child has with these demands, I will say that "giving in" will only set precedence for similar requests.

You can find other resources on children and sleep here:
Storytelling: Bedtime Routine for Reluctant Children

And then some candid posts here and here.

Are you a co-sleeper? Get reassurance here.

You aren't alone in your sleep struggles. Please feel free to message me at any time.

Disclaimer: This post and its contents should not be construed as medical advice. These suggestions should only be used on children that display developmental ability and readiness for such techniques.

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Thursday, April 12, 2018

Second Year of Kindergarten post

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As a parent of a child who has had to repeat a grade, it can be a tough issue to tackle. Children's books on this topic are hard to find. So when I heard of Rebecca Eisenberg's new book, My Second Year of Kindergarten, I knew it was something I wanted to share with all of you. I'm so very grateful she sent me a free copy to preview and share my thoughts on with you.

So what do you do when you find out your child has to repeat Kindergarten because they just aren't ready to head on to First Grade? My Second Year of Kindergarten speaks to children on their level and points out all the bonuses of repeating a year so they can further develop. At the back of the book are tips parents can use to talk with their children about this. The author also has a Reader's Guide that you can download to further help children prep.

  • Remember that this is not a failure on you or your child's part. Sometimes kiddos just need a little bit more time to grow and develop before they're ready to move on in today's fast-paced educational system. Some flowers just need more time to bloom.
  • Talk with your child about the benefits of this opportunity. They get to meet new friends, learn and practice their skills, and have another year get better at the basics.
  • Don't shame. There is going to be enough of that on your child's part within themselves. Instead, encourage them to be the best they can be.
  • Remember that hold backs aren't always academically related. Sometimes they are based on the individual child's social development. These skills can be developed through social interactions with other children, practicing peer scenarios, and through parent modeling of proper social skills.
  • Reference and utilize the resources in the My Second Year of Kindergarten Reader's Guide here.

In today's educational system model, there is a lot of prep that parents have to do to get their kiddos ready successful in Kindergarten. So I thought I'd put together a 4 month calendar of activities that parents can do with their children to prepare them for kindergarten... Whether it's the first or second time around. Check back in soon for an ebook full of ideas for parents to prepare their children for kindergarten.

Find more resources about My Second Year of Kindergarten below:

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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the author. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
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