Monday, October 27, 2008

Early Literacy Ideas That Don't Cost a Dime

In fact, these tips won't cost you anything! Using everyday items in your house, and found objects you can easily create some quick and fun activities for your kids.

Here's some tips for fun and learning on a shoestring budget (or for those of us saving for that new pair of shoes we 'soooo' need).

a) Let your child play with letters and pictures cut out from newspapers, magazines, and flyers ... and you're helping the environment by using some of those flyers that would just be landing in the recycle bin anyways.

b) Encourage your children to use real life literacy items in their play. For example, grocery receipts, empty boxes, and coupons for playing store or a small notepad for taking 'orders' at a pretend restaurant or junk mail and old greeting cards as mail for the postman.

c) For a sensory experience, spread glue in the shape of large letters on a page. Sprinkle with sand, shake off excess and let dry. Let your preschooler 'trace' the letters to get a feel for the shapes of the letters. Encourage tracing in the correct formation (left to right, top to bottom).

d) Make your own games such as match up by cutting out squares and writing a letter or word on one card (depending on child's age) with a corresponding picture on the other. Preschoolers can even help draw the pictures.

Is handwriting a trivial skill?

We all know it's important to introduce early literacy to young children. Many experts advise that we read to our children at least 20 minutes a day. It's seem obvious that a child who is read to will develop a larger vocabulary and have a greater chance of being engaged in book reading as they grow. But what about printing?

Why Handwriting is Important

Handwriting is important for a number of reasons:

- if printing is challenging for a little learner than valuable mental resources are being used for what may be perceived as an arduous task. This takes the focus off the higher level literacy skills such as writing, attention to content, elaboration of details, and organization of ideas.

- poor handwriting can effect note and test taking, classroom and homework - almost every area of academic school performance

- if a child views handwriting as a challenging task they are less likely to be motivated to write

- handwriting in the younger years is linked to early reading and spelling achievement. When a child learns to print, they are also likely learning the letter sounds. They areas of handwriting, reading and spelling are linked.

So what can parents do to help their little learners?

Without a huge time investment, 10 or 15 minutes a day can really help prevent later writing problems. Early habits are hard to break so it's important to start them off on the right foot - I guess that should be hand!

Here are some helpful hints:
-encourage printing from top to bottom, left to right
-teach children to print with one continuous stroke when applicable
-emphasis the consistency of the letter formation rather than the size of legibility
-start with large motions, such as forming letters in the air with their whole arm
- teach similar formed letters together i.e. c, a d.
- separate reversibles such as b and d. Children seem to do better when they have mastered one of the reversibles before introducing the second.
-use arrow clues
- aim for speed in addition to legibility. Once a child can form the letters correctly and from memory then you can work on the speed

The information above came from an article at written by Louise Spear-Swerling, entitled "The Importance of Teaching Handwriting"

Lee-Ann O'Neill is the mompreneur behind The Little Stamp Company, which produces Learn to Print 'Signature' stamps for little learners to stamp, trace and learn to print their names.... Correctly !

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Drivin' around in my automobile

Ever feel like you spend alot of time in the car with your little ones? Driving older ones here and there, running errands, taking them to classes, you know the drill. I know I've spent alot of time in the car when I'm humming the Wiggles as I make dinner - yikes!

Rather than popping on that high tech DVD player to satisfy the boredom of the five point harness, here are some fun and easy games to play in the car with our little learners.

1. Pick a letter and see if they can count how many "A's" (for example) they can see on signs as you drive.

2. Have them try to find the letters of their name, or any other word, on license plates. Remember that one as a kid?

3. Guess the password - give rhyming clues so your child can guess the right word. "It rhymes with can, and starts with the 'fff' sound.

4. Recite favourite nursery rhymes together, have them do the actions (keep your hands on the wheel Mom!).

5. Make silly changes to rhymes they already know - Row, Row, Row your car, gently down the street.....

These ideas can also be used on days when we're not guzzlin' the gas; on neighbourhood walks, on the bus, in the mall; at the doctor's office.

Maybe the next time you're stuck in a traffic jam, your little one will be a bit more tolerant with these helpful hints :)

Monday, October 20, 2008

Now I know my ABC's...

So what comes next? Your son or daughter has mastered singing the song - what else can you do to familiarize them with the letters of the alphabet?

Using something as non-threatening and familiar as their names is a great way to get children to make that move from letters in a song to words on paper. Understanding concepts like letters and words is a big leap for some pre-schoolers and kindergarteners. By utilizing their names parents and educators can introduce a variety of literacy concepts to children in fun, imaginative and interactive ways.

Here are some ideas that I've tried with my kids...

- play "I Spy" looking for letters from their name on signs, books, products, toys while in the car or waiting at the doctor's office, while shopping, in line at the grocery store, etc.

- Sing songs with the child's name. I.e. Replacing BINGO with KATIE, longer or shorter names require a bit of creativity in your singing cadence! Any name in a nursery rhyme can be replaced with your child's (Matthew be nimble, Matthew be quick, Matthew jump over the candle stick)

- Incorporate your child's name into silly songs or fun poems

I have a friend whose name is _____
And we have fun together.
We laugh and play and sing all day
in any kind of weather.
(color) is my hair. (color) are my eyes.
I'm _____ years old and just the right size.
My name is _____ and as you can see I'm very happy to be me.
The Little Stamp Company
Personalized Name Stamps in
a large dotted font, just right
for little printers!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Welcome - First Time Post!!

Welcome to Big Ideas for Little Printers. My hope is that this blog develops into a great resource for parents looking to find fun, easy and engaging activities and ideas for your little ones.

Most of the ideas posted on the site will focus on early literacy and provide you with ways to incorporate language either spoken, read, or written for and by your little ones.

This blog is a natural extension of my company, The Little Stamp Co., which creates personalized stamps for kids to stamp, trace and learn to print. The stamps are customized with a large connect the dots font combined with funky ink colours so little printers can stamp their names on colouring pages, artwork, thank you and birthday cards and more - no more boring worksheets!

The idea for Little Stamp Company ( developed when my daughter, now almost 6, was 3 years old. She was keen to learn how to spell and print her name. I was continually 'printing’ her name, Mackenzie, in dots so she could trace the letters. It repeatedly took a long time to “dot” Mackenzie’s name so I thought – why not create a fun stamp? I searched and searched for a suitable stamp and eventually the concept of our 'Signature' stamp was born. Now, Mackenzie's younger brother, Kian, is proudly learning to print with his own 'Signature' stamp too!

I look forward to sharing ideas with you, and welcome any early literacy tips and strategies you use with your kids that you'd like to share :)