It is a happy talent to know how to play.
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Can you remember being a child? Do you ever remember climbing a tree or making a fort? Or do you remember pretending to be a cowboy or Indian? Your imagination was limitless. The sky could be purple and the grass blue. The world could be filled with lollipops and candy canes or anything else you imagined.
Children love forts, tree houses and hiding spots. Forts might mess up the living room when your kids use all of the cushions or sheets to make a fort, but, remember, for kids it isn’t as much about the fort as the amazing places they can go, things they can imagine, and adventurers they can have in their fort. They are pretending. And guess what? Pretending is an important part of being a kid. It’s actually a very healthy and necessary part of childhood. It allows children to be creative, come up with solutions, and role-play.
Our advice: Pull out the sheets and make a fort with your kids. If you’re lucky, they might even invite you in if you can summon up a creative character or spell binding story. Maybe you can even muster up the energy to build a tree house or fort out back for your kids. But remember what is most important is allowing your kids to pretend and be silly and explore the world of real and make-believe from the safety of their home. So encourage building forts and silly creatures, characters and things from real life and made-up stories from when you were a child.
Kristin Fitch is the Editor and co-creator of ZiggityZoom.com, a fun and educational website for children and parents, which reaches close to a million parents and teachers a year. Guiding the direction of ZiggityZoom, which provides educational games and hundreds of free educational printable worksheets, Kristin instituted and put together a National Kids Advisory Board of top experts.
She also collaborated to create a new Kindergarten Readiness Initiative that will make printable educational resources, guidelines, expert articles and checklists available to parents, teachers and preschools at NationalKindergartenReadiness.org in order to help prepare our country’s children to be ready for elementary school. Kristin is the co-author of a new book called Parenting without a Paddle: Navigating the Waters of Parenthood, an inspirational guide for parents.
What is so refreshing about Kristin is that she combines her positive, can-do attitude with her passion to help families reach higher goals. She encourages both parents and kids to stretch themselves in a fun, exciting, and real way. She is the new face of education in our country.
Vote for Kristin over at Babble- in education (parenting author) click here.
As parents we all want the best for our children and one way we can help our children succeed is to teach them to read and encourage them to read. Reading is a skill that they will use for a lifetime and being a strong and avid reader opens up information, knowledge, history and worlds like no other. Here are several ways to encourage your child to read and have fun learning.
1. Read Often to Your Children
It is important that we read to our children regularly from the time they are babies.
When your child is a baby you can read and sing to him. Consider reading rhyming books and picture books. Young children enjoy picture books that have sturdy pages and big pictures.
It is important to read the same books over and over again with your child, as well as introduce new books. As your child grows, she will be able to tell you what will happen in the stories you have read to her many times. When your child is of preschool and kindergarten age, you should introduce your child to additional books that are age-appropriate for their reading level and introduce books on topics or characters they have shown interest in.
Encourage your child to read every day. You can also encourage her to read by showing her the things you read throughout the day: the newspaper, a magazine, or book. As your child is able to read by herself, consider having her read aloud to you. You can also have her read into a tape recorder and replay it to herself. This will strengthen her reading and verbal speaking skills.
2. Story Telling
Make up new stories to tell your children and let them add to the story. At first, ask if they want to give you an idea of the story (character, setting, etc), and as they become more comfortable let them try telling their own stories.
Another idea is to create cards with different parts of a story on them (beginning, middle and endings) and let each family member pick a card and make up a story using that beginning or finish with the ending. If someone picked “In a far away land long, long ago” he would tell a story by starting with that sentence.
Encourage your kids to draw a picture and then tell a story about the picture. Try using a blank sheet of paper or try this Blank Story Template instead.
3. Bring Books to Life
One way to get kids excited about books and reading is by making stories come to life. If you have ever taken your child to storytime at a local library or bookstore you may have been fortunate enough to watch a veteran story teller mesmerize the kids. We can all become master story tellers with practice and by using props. Before you read the story, gather up a few props related to the book. As you begin to read the story over-exaggerate and use different tones of voice and sounds to tell the story as you narrate it. Also show the props or use them as you get to that part of the book.
- Change the Scene. Try telling your kids a classic tale they have heard many times but tell it in a different place. See if they notice the change. If they do, see if they can tell the story using an entirely different scene or setting.
- Another way to make reading more fun is to take the book with you and read to your kids at the park, the beach or in their tree fort. Sometimes it is all about, location, location, location.
- Act it Out. Think of Charades and let kids act out a scene from their favorite book, using dolls and toys or in dressup outfits. This is a fun way to show kids that books and stories are fun and can be very exciting.
4. Encourage Creative Thinking/ Using Your Imagination
Remember that you can encourage your child to learn through reading for enjoyment and by using their imagination even when they are not reading a book. Here are several ways you can encourage a creative thinker.
Set up a simple puppet theatre for your kids to act out a story or fairytale.
Play games in the car or at the dinner table, such as “What Else Could This Be?” To play the game, select a item from around the house and pass the item around to each family member and let them answer “what else could this be?” (or be used for). An example is a plastic jar with a a lid. While it might be for storing food, it could be used as a bug home or as storage for markers.
Find ways to be creative with art, stories, food, and inventions. Give your kids a box of recycled boxes, tubes, tape, and found objects and see what they can create. Another fun way to strengthen imaginations is to look up at the clouds and find animals and object shapes in the clouds. The idea to to get your kids thinking in interesting ways.
5. Use Technology to Help Kids Learn
Today there are hundreds of ways to use technology to introduce our kids to letters, reading, and improve our child’s reading and educational skills. We recommend you read reviews on any software, application, device, educational website or game prior to using it with your child. Another thing to consider is selecting a program that is age-appropriate and based on your child’s current educational level (ex. learning letters, beginning reader, etc).
LeapFrog has introduced many exceptional educational systems to the market and one we like is the TAG reading system. Kids use a pen-like device to move over the words and the pen tells them the word they are on.
Disney Digital Books offers interactive books online for kids with audio and also has a dictionary for words kids if they do not know the meaning. The site has books about favorite Disney properties and characters. The site is a paid subscription site.
Tumble Books is a site with hundreds of interactive books for kids of all ages. They have a library of books from many different publishers, including many literary favorites. Many schools give access to their students to this site.
Starfall is a site for preschool through 1st grade with free educational games and books.
Kabongo is a site with interactive games for kids with the feel of a children’s playworld. It is currently free to try it out.
iPhone or Android Phone Learning Apps for Kids
Word Magic- an iphone app that allows kids to spell simple words. It is a game for kids that know their letters and are beginning to put letters together.
iStory Time Kids Books by The Reading Bug- is an app worth trying out for your kids. $.99 to download
Bob Books for iPad- this app takes Bob books, which are for beginning readers, and uses sight words and brings them to your smart phone or iPad. $2.99 to download.
Young Reader- a Quick Reader eBook. This app is geared to kids 8-13 to encourage reading and proper reading skills and learning. They have over 130 books loaded. $3.99 to download
By Kristin Pierce Fitch
Kristin is the Editor of ZiggityZoom.com a fun educational site for families. She has written many articles on parenting and education and her parenting book comes out in January 2011 that she co-authored with Sharon Pierce McCullough. Kristin has creative content featured on Parenting.com, Babble.com, Mamapedia.com, DrGreene.com, Etsy.com and more.
Before a child starts Kindergarten, they should learn to follow directions. They will have a much easier time transitioning to the classroom if you, as parent, have helped them learn to listen and follow simple directions. Both your child and his teacher will greatly benefit from this exercise and there are many fun ways to help develop this skill.
Ways to help your child learn to follow directions:
- Teach your child to make eye contact when spoken to.
- Give very simple directions, using few words.
- Give your child a moment to process what you said.
- Make sure you have your child’s attention.
- Ask your child to repeat the direction back to you.
Fun things to do to develop the skill of Following Direction:
- Play Simon Says. This requires good listening and direction-taking to win the game.
- Play Boardgames. Simple board games for preschoolers include simple directions. Explain the directions and help your child learn the game so he can follow the directions.
- Make up a Treasure Hunt or Scavenger Hunt game. Make sure the directions are very simple, so your child has a good chance of finding the treasure.
- Print simple worksheets for preschoolers, as these often have basic instructions, such as circle the right number of objects beside the numbers given. You will have to read the instructions, no doubt, but read them slowly so that your preschooler can understand and follow the direction.
- Make up Silly games to reinforce direction-taking. For example, you could say “Let’s play I am the Robot”. Each person gets to take a turn giving 3-5 word directions. “Go to the kitchen” “get a plastic fork” “draw a triangle” … you get the point.
Whatever you choose to do, keep it fun and remember the goal is to reinforce, listening and being able to follow through.
by Sharon Pierce McCullough