Category Archives: 1 Year Olds

Fun Fine Motor Activity

You may remember a previous post on fine motor skills.   Here’s another idea from I Can Teach My Child to add to your list of activities to strengthen and fine tune this skill.  I didn’t even know that they made window crayons.  So cool!  After further research I found out they also have washable window markers.


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Finger Plays and Action Songs

Why are finger plays and action songs so great, other than the fact that you don’t need any supplies, they’re free, great for any age and fun?

  • help kids practice following directions
  • lengthens attention span and develops listening skills
  • practices ordering, sequencing, number concepts and rhyming skills
  • builds vocabulary

Some fun finger plays and action songs to try are:

  • The Itsy Bitsy Spider
  • Five Little Apples (The Activity Mom has posted this one)
  • There Was a Little Turtle
  • Five Fat and Speckled Frogs
  • Where is Thumbkin?
  • This Old Man
  • Five Little Monkeys
  • If You’re Happy and You Know It

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McDonald’s, Kentucky Fried Chicken and a Pizza Hut

What is meant by the term environmental print?

Environmental print is print found in, well, your environment!   The familiar shapes, colors and images of signs and lables help your child recognize and read some of their very first words. When your child sees those golden arches, they know it says McDonalds. This is very powerful for a young reader! Make a point of talking about it whenever you’re out in the car, at the grocery store, at Target or anywhere!

Nilla Wafers environmental printJif environmental printHoney Maid environmental print

Now that I know, what can I do?

Collect environmental print as a family. It can be a ton of fun for the family to collect environmental print together. You can work together to find an example for every letter. If you get stuck, visit Hubbard’s Cupboard for some examples. Save those candy wrappers at Halloween time, too!

Make a book. Lots of our environmental print relates to food. Collect the fronts of cereal boxes, can labels and any other food label you can get your hands on. Then have your child glue these to a piece of paper. Make a page that says, The (family name)’s like to eat … and place this in the front. Staple the pages together and you have a new bedtime story!

Sort. Sort your environmental print by letter name, beginning sounds, ending sounds, syllables, family favorites, you name it.

Take photos. Make it a family outing one day to go and take pictures of signs like stop, yield and exit. Then you can make them into a book, sort them, make doubles and play memory, the possibilities are endless!

Puzzles. Take the fronts of food boxes or enlarged pictures of environmental print and cut them into pieces. Have your child reassemble them.

“I Can Read” bag. Have your child decorate a brown paper lunch sack. Then put pictures of environmental print in it that your child can read. Your child will feel empowered when they show you, other family members and friends the words they can read. Be sure to add to this bag periodically.

Make your own. Make your own environmental print by labeling items in the house. Have your child design the labels and then post them on the item. Increasing the print in your home will boost those early literacy skills.

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Nonfiction isn’t boring!

My child only wants to check out nonfiction books from the library. Is this okay?

Yes, this is definitely okay. When we think of books and young children we often only think of fiction stories. We tend to think young kids just won’t “get it” when it comes to nonfiction. Of course a child (and an adult) loves a good fantasy, but many children also enjoy nonfiction. Children are so curious about their world and soak up information like a sponge, so nonfiction text is a perfect fit! Nonfiction text also has the added bonuses of increasing a child’s vocabulary, building prior knowledge, developing critical thinking skills and being especially enticing to reluctant readers.

Also, let’s face it. Much of the reading in your child’s future is going to be nonfiction from high school textbooks to the newspaper to the 20 page article your college professor gives you to read for class discussion. If you get them interested at a young age, it won’t be so daunting when they’re older.

Worried about actually finding nonfiction text that’s appropriate for a young child? Today publisher’s are actually very mindful about making sure they publish books on a range of topics at varied reading levels. I’ve even seen some nonfiction books with three word sentences! You just have to look.   Also, remember to look beyond the book. Newspapers, magazines, and websites all have a high percentage of nonfiction material.  If your still stuck.  There’s an annual award for the best nonfiction book  for children. The National Council of Teachers of English has the Orbis Pictus Award for Outstanding Nonfiction for Children.

Some nonfiction books that are my personal favorites:

  • Frogs by Nic Bishop
  • Lady Liberty: A Biography by Doreen Rappaport
  • Nubs: The True Story of a Mutt, a Marine & a Miracle by Brian Dennis and Mary Nethery
  • Listen to the Wind by Greg Mortenson

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I Spy Water Bottle

Okay, I love this idea of an I Spy Water Bottle from Science Mommy.

You probably already have everything you need for the project around your house, too.   I can think of tons of ways to extend this.

  • Play “I Spy’ and look for objects with certain beginning sounds, syllables, ending sounds, or rhyming words.
  • If you’re feeling really adventurous you could do this project on a larger scale.  Bury items in the sandbox or a large tub of sand and have your kids hunt for treasure with small sand shovels.  When they find any treasure, they have to tell you something about it.  Example:  They find a rock.  They tell you, “This rhymes with sock.”
  • If you have a large plastic swimming pool, you could go fishing.  Take your objects and hot glue paper clips to them.  Then drop them in your filled swimming pool.  Make fishing rods using a ruler with string tied to the end and a strong magnet at the end of the string.  Then go fishing!  Before each round of fishing announce what types of “fish” you want.  (Fish that start with letter B, fish that rhyme with dog, etc.)  Practice catch and release and throw any fish back that don’t fit the criteria for the round.
  • In my classroom I used to make bottles similar to these only I filled them with alphabet beads and a water and oil mixture.  To make this type of bottle, fill the bottle about 3/4 of the way full with oil.  Then drop in alphabet letters.  You could use Science Mommy’s idea and work with the letters in your child’s name.  Just make it to fit your child’s academic needs.  Then fill the bottle the rest of the way full with colored water.  Screw on the lid and tape it shut.  We don’t want any spills!  If you want to be really fancy you can add glitter.   You could also do a family size “I Spy” bottle with a large 2 liter soda bottle using either rice or the water/oil mixture.  Here’s a “lava lamp” that I made for my infant son.  (We aren’t quite ready for letters yet, but he loves looking at the shapes!)

If you’re looking for something a tad more durable, check out baby soda bottles from Steve Spangler Science.

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Foster a love of reading

How can I help my child learn to read?

The best way to help your child learn to read is to first help them develop a love for reading. Don’t force it! If you make reading tedious, your child is not going to enjoy reading.   This will start a vicious cycle.  If they don’t enjoy reading they most likely aren’t going to be that interested in doing it.   We all know practice makes perfect!   Have you ever found yourself re-reading the same sentence for the third time. It was probably some piece of writing that didn’t interest you. So make reading fun for your child and they’ll be a better reader.

Here are some fun ways to encourage reading:
Audio books. Audio books are great for comprehension! Pop these in on a long car trip and it’s fun entertainment for the entire family. You might also consider getting the audio book and the actual print copy. Have your child listen to the audio book as they read along in the print copy. This reinforces the words being read aurally. You can often find these as a CD/book set already.  If there’s a book your child really wants to read that doesn’t come in a set, get the two parts separately and make your own.

Family members record books. Have different family members record themselves reading a book or have them read a book to your child via webcam.

Family Pets and Stuffed Animals. It can be intimidating to have to read a book out loud to an adult, especially if you know they are going to correct every mistake you make. So encourage your child to practice reading to the family pet or their favorite stuffed animal. They’ll be much more relaxed because everyone knows Fido can’t read so he definitely can’t say you read that word incorrectly. If your child really gets into this, dedicated programs with trained reading dogs are often found at your local library. Check with them or on the Internet to find these opportunities locally.

Magazines, Newspapers and Comics. Let your child read all forms of print. Kid-friendly magazines, newspapers and comics are all forms of print and may just be the format to hook your child on reading.

Library card. Allow your child to get their own public library card. Getting to check out your own books on your own card is a big deal for a kid and a sure way to foster reading. Also, don’t force your child to only check-out books they can read by themselves. Sure, it’s great practice to get a book or two that is at their reading level, but their interest may also be sparked by a more difficult book. Let them get one of these books and then use it as a read aloud book before bedtime.

Nonfiction. Nonfiction isn’t evil. We’ve been trained to think that kids only like storybooks. Kids do love a good story, but they are also naturally curious about their world. Nonfiction is a great way to hook a reluctant reader. Publishers are doing a much better job nowadays of publishing nonfiction text that is at an appropriate level for younger children. Ask your librarian to help you find these.

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Peter, Jack, Jill and Little Bo Peep

Are nursery rhymes really that important?

YES! Nursery rhymes really are that important! These silly poems and songs never go out of style. The natural rhythm and pattern of nursery rhymes are appealing to kids and naturally teach the concept of rhyming as well as build the vocabulary of children from infancy on up.  Both are essential skills for learning to read!  Vivid images of Peter’s wife in a pumpkin shell or a lamb at school provide humor and encourage a young child’s imagination. As an added bonus, a great number of nursery rhymes include counting or other basic math skills!

Now that I know, what can I do?

Finger plays. Many nursery rhymes lend themselves to finger plays, which help a child improve their hand-eye coordination and memory skills.  The “Itsy Bitsy Spider,”  “Where is Thumbkin?,” and “This Little Piggy” are just a few examples of well-known nursery rhyme finger plays, but you can also make up your own for some of your child’s favorite nursery rhymes.

Reinforce counting and other math skills. Use nursery rhymes like “Hickory Dickory Dock,” “One, Two Tie My Shoe,” and “This Old Man” to reinforce counting to 10. Many nursery rhymes also teach position words (over, under, behind, etc.), a very important but highly overlooked and often difficult math skill for young children. A great book to check out is Mother Goose Numbers on the Loose by Leo & Diane Dillon. This book uses well known and lesser known nursery rhymes to explore the world of Mother Goose through numbers.

Use them to teach the alphabet. Many nursery rhymes have alliteration in them. “Peter, Peter Pumpkin Eater” is a great example to use to teach the letter and sound of “P.” Other nursery rhymes with alliteration include “Wee Willie Winkie,” “Baa Baa Black Sheep,” and “Sing a Song of Sixpence.”

Rhyming. Sing or recite nursery rhymes and discuss the rhyming words. Once your child is familar with a nursery rhyme, try reciting it by leaving out a few of the rhyming words. See if you child can fill in the missing words. For example:

Hey diddle diddle
The cat and the _______ .
The cow jumped over the moon.
The little dog laughed to see such sport.
And the dish ran away with the _______.

Draw and write about nursery rhymes. To activate your child’s imagination have them draw a picture of a favorite nursery rhyme.  Then have them point out special details that they drew that may or may not be in the rhyme. Use this illustration to write a story about the characters in the nursery rhyme.   Have your child dictate to you or write a story about what Little Miss Muffett did after that spider or what it would be like to be in a tub with a butcher, baker and candlestick maker.

Act out the nursery rhymes. Use your child’s dress up box or everyday household items to act out the nursery rhymes. Not only does this improve your child’s memorization skills but it also allows your child to learn through play. Puppets, homemade or store bought, would also be a fun way to act out nursery rhymes.

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