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Category Archives: Language and LIteracy

Sight Word Bathtub Basketball

My son started school this year. A huge milestone for us all. It has been an emotional few weeks settling in to this new routine and for the most part it has been quite stressful. He comes home from school in very bad moods and is absolutely starving. I’m sure most children are very similar so to add homework into the mix this week has been interesting to say the least.

I know lots of people disagree with homework in Kindergarten especially and I can see where they are coming from but really, the homework that is coming home is a home reader and sight words. It’s not pages of worksheets and projects. It’s a little book and some words to look at.

As parents, we should all be reading to our children every day anyway. Mem Fox recommends that children be read a minimum of 3 books every day. Obviously some days that’s not going to be possible but it’s really not a lot of time out of your day.

The sight words on the other hand I thought might be an interesting challenge. So I decided to make a little bit of fun out of it. Enter Sight Word Bathtub Basketball… Bit of a mouthful I know!

Bathtub Basketball

I have been getting into the routine of getting Mr 5 into the bath pretty much as soon as he gets home (after he’s had something to eat). I find that it relaxes him for the afternoon and gets rid of any pent up stress from the day. I put into the bath some epsom salts and lavender oil. These things help with his relaxation and also are supposed to help with sleeping (I’m not convinced but I’m not prepared to give it up either!). Bath time is a fun time in our house. We like to put food colouring into the water for an added sensory experience.

On Monday I pulled out some ping pong balls that I had put away and wrote each of the sight words that Mr 5 had brought home that day on a ball and put them in the bath with the bath basketball hoop that we’ve had for a long time. He loved saying the words on the ball as he threw them into the hoop. I didn’t pressure him at all but made it into a fun game! Best part… Homework and bath done! You could mix it up with some different coloured ping pong balls as well…

Get creative with your kids homework and it won’t be a chore for them. Yes it’s hard at the end of a long day but with our help it doesn’t have to be boring and repetitive!

By the way, we had coloured the water yellow on this particular day. It doesn’t look good in the photo but it’s not what you’re thinking… ūüėČ

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Letter to Santa

I thought I would share this activity with everyone as Christmas is on its way and writing a letter to Santa is something my girls look forward to this time of year. ¬†You can send your letter and use the service provided by Australia Post (details below) or you can reply to your children‚Äôs letter pretending to be Santa ūüôā

I sit individually with both girls and write our letters. Lara tells me what she would like to write and I write it for her then she draws pictures for Santa. Olivia who is learning to write, writes some words herself and adds her pictures.  Once the letters are written the girls decorate them using pens, pencils, textas or paint.

Australia Post provides for Australian residents where you can post your letter in a red post box and Santa will reply. You can also down load Santa letter templates either coloured or black and white.  For more information see http://auspost.com.au/personal/letters-to-santa.html

Once your letters are written, addressed and stamped we walk down to the local letter box and post them. It is not long before Santa sends a letter back which is a very exciting day at our house!!

This is a great activity to do with children as it promotes language and literacy, creativity and imagination.

Fruit on a Straw!

I got this great idea from a friend who served them at a party. I watched my girls dive straight into them and gobble them up eating many fruits they refused to at home. I decided to have a go and get the girls involved in making them hoping this would encourage them to eat more fruit and so far it has worked!

What you need:

Fruit cut in to bite sized pieces

Straws –¬†I cut them in half

With the children’s¬†help thread the fruit onto the straws and serve. It’s that simple ūüôā

It is a great activity to encourage children to try new things, builds fine motor skills and patterning skills. Also builds conversations and language skills as you can discuss the fruit you are using, the colours of the fruit and talk about food likes and dislikes.

The Benefits of Bubble Blowing

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We all love bubbles. They are pretty amazing aren’t they. The way they start as just some liquid and form a wonderful colourful floating sphere that floats away and pops in mid air. Just watching bubbles is both rewarding and relaxing and something all children seem to love.

Did you know that blowing bubbles can have a calming effect on children?

The exercise of blowing the bubble encourages children to practice deep breathing which has calming effects on the body. So next time your kids are having a bad day, are tired or irritable (they all have them). Instead of fighting a losing battle, get out the bubble mixture, get them blowing bubbles and have some fun. You’ll both feel better, more relaxed and able to face the day.

There are plenty of store bought bubble mixtures that don’t cost a great deal but if you prefer to make your own, here is a recipe from the Questacon website in Canberra.

  • 3 parts dishwashing liquid (Morning Fresh works well)
  • 7 parts hotwater
  • 1 part glycerol (or sugar)

The glycerol helps the bubble to last longer, by preventing them from drying out. Glycerol is available from pharmacies and some supermarkets. If you cannot get any glycerol, use sugar instead.

Mix the ingredients very thoroughly. The batch used by the Maths Squad was mixed for around half an hour. If you are making a large amount, try an electric drill with a paint-stirrer attachment, or even a bent piece of coathanger wire. Otherwise a flat stick works fine.

Some other benefits of blowing bubbles:

  • Blowing bubbles is a great turn taking activity for children who have trouble taking turns
  • Great for encouraging language in children. Before you blow the bubbles, encourage your child to say “go” when the bubbles pop, model the word “pop”
  • The activity of blowing bubbles is also good for strengthening muscles in the mouth. Children who have delayed speech may benefit from this.

Cloud Dough

I’ve mentioned before that Thomas is a little particular about getting his hands dirty. Through persistence though, he now will happily paint and get paint on his hands (he wants to wipe it off pretty quickly), he like to do hands prints and will play with playdough although this isn’t really an interest. When I saw this cloud dough on the Imagination Tree¬†blog, I really wanted to try it. I had no idea what it would feel like and if Thomas would enjoy it.

The only way I can describe it is that it’s similar to sand but softer. Give it a try – you’ll love it! It’s a little bit messy but we played with it inside. It can be easily swept up.

It’s a simple recipe with only 2 ingredients you have at home and it’s easy to make with kids.

Recipe: 

1kg flour (any kind – we used plain flour)

1 cup vegetable or baby oil

Mix together with your hands until well combined.

I thought I would put trucks with the cloud dough initially because I thought this would motivate Thomas to play with it. This is a good strategy to use with kids if you want to introduce something new or something they’re not really interested in, combine it with something that really engages them.

First of all Thomas pushed his diggers through the dough. Using an object in sensory play is less threatening for children who don’t like different textures as they can get used to the texture without putting their hands in straight away.

Then he started “making it snow” by letting it run through his fingers. He enjoyed “burying the diggers” and then finding them under all the snow.

After a while, he got quite confident with the dough and was putting his whole hand in and moulding it into “snowballs”.

Which he put into the backs of the trucks.

It was a very successful sensory activity. There are so many other props you could add to the cloud dough, such as:

  • Little people
  • Gem stones and rocks
  • Shells (as in the Imagination Tree’s post)
  • Leaves and sticks
  • Animals
  • Cooking equipment – patty cases, spoons etc
  • Sand moulds
  • Wooden letters
  • Paddle pop sticks
  • the list is almost endless…

I’m looking forward to using this again and seeing where the play takes us…

Worms!

About 6 weeks ago we set up our own worm farm in our back garden. My husband laughs at how excited I was and continue to be with the process he especially laughs at the thought of me handling the worms as I am not big on creepy crawlies.  I think  the overall idea started when the girls were helping in the garden and were excited to see the earth worms. I did a bit of internet surfing and found information about to setting up and caring for a worm farm.

I loved that not only is it an educational experience for the kids but a great way to recycle food scraps that would otherwise end up as land fill. In return you get worm wiz (worm wee!) which can be used as a liquid fertiliser on the garden. You can also use the worm poo (castings) as manure mixed with potting mix in potted plants or sprinkled around you existing plants. It takes about 3-6 months for the worm farm to be up and running so you can start collecting the castings. Saying that we have learnt a lot from our little wriggly friends in the short time we have had them.

The girls love peeking into the farm and seeing what the worms are up to. We have spoken about what the worms eat and the girls put left over scraps into our worm food container.   They are both keen to hold the worms and enjoy having their hands tickled by the wriggly wet creatures (Liv’s exact words) we have carefully pulled a worm out and put it on a piece of paper and watched how it has wriggled and dances around the page. We talked about his shape, colour, whether he is a boy of a girl and talked about where worms like to live. You don’t need to have a worm farm to do this activity as it can be done with earthworms found in every garden.

So to take this interest a step further we have done some worm painting today. This activity¬†uses string to¬†paint with rather¬†painting worms as my sister Louise thought.¬† ¬†ūüôā

What you need:

Paper

String or wool

Poster paint

Water

Put some paint in a container and mix in a little water to make the paint the consistency of thickened cream. Wet the string and place it in the paint. I used gardening string and once it was wet it frayed a little this added to the effect but next time I think I will try it with wool.  Keep one end of the string out of the paint to use as a handle. Once the end of the string is wet with paint you can wriggle it along the paper to make wriggly worm lines and patterns.

             

During this activity we had lots of conversations about the colours mixing together, the patterns the string was making and the way that worms move.  Not only does this activity encourage communication, language and colour awareness , it develops fine motor control by using different methods and materials to paint with.

‘Once Upon a Time’ story box

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Thomas is really into listening to ‘told’ stories at the moment. He loves his Nanna telling him stories about his friends and things that he’s done, nothing in depth just nice little stories that start with “once upon a time”…

So I have created a ‘Once Upon a Time’ story box using a box we already had (gathering dust) and into the box I put a few items from around the house. The idea is that Thomas can choose an item from the box and then we can tell a story about it.

What you will need:

  • A box or bag of some description.¬†The box was one I already had as I said but you could use a gift box. You could even use something like a library bag. Put your own spin on it…
  • Items to put into it.
  • Your imagination
What to do:
Choose a space and time when you and your child are happy and relaxed.
Ask your child to choose an item from the bag and start your story “Once upon a time”…
Most of all enjoy!

Some ideas from our box- a car, a ball, a picture of a cow, a butterfly toy, a piece of plastic fruit, and a colourful scarf. The items can change over time and your child can begin to collect their own items to put in the box as they become familiar with it. Other ideas might be leaves from the garden, photos of people or places the list is endless. Use your imagination…

An example of a story using the picture of the cow:

“Once upon a time, there was a cow. The cow’s name was Daisy. She lived in a field and ate grass all day long.”

If your child is older, you can tell a longer story or start to get them to tell the story. It could become a nice little bedtime ritual – and I’m sure there will be some funny little stories told that will bring a smile to your face for years to come :-). Make sure you write them down!

Apart from learning language skills in particular new words, sentence structure and how language is used to create a story, children will be learning to use their imaginations, make decisions for themselves and the most important thing they will be enjoying quality time with you.