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Infant - Month #30

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Teach Me to Read! - Part 1

By Mary Perrin, edHelperBaby

  Developmental Milestones
           At age two and a half, most children can identify the alphabet's tune and sing at least part of it.  As part of the developmental process, it is very common for children to skip letters and/or mumble sounds that are in tune with the song but are not clearly enunciated.  It is important to sing the song slowly enough with children so they can pick up on each letter sound to enhance their phonological awareness.  Memorizing the tune and letters can be a very fun and exciting time. The next step of the process will be for children to begin recognizing that the letters they are singing correlate to a graphic design or symbol.  Making this connection is one of many crucial steps toward becoming a fluent reader.       

       At this age, your child's attention span may be very short.  Providing a fun way of learning that uses as many modalities as possible will help maximize the time you have toward accomplishing your learning objective.  A combination of gross motor skills (which could include something as simple as bending up and down to pick up objects), fine motor skills (cutting, coloring, manipulation of small objects, etc.), and mind-bending activities will help keep your little one engaged for longer periods of time.


  Creating the Learning Environment
           Magnetic surfaces are great places for allowing your toddler/preschooler to explore a multitude of learning concepts.  Steel entry doors, refrigerators, and other places around the home might be initial possibilities.       

       You might also consider painting an area on a wall, wooden toy box, or other child-friendly piece of furniture with magnetic paint.  Depending on the strength of the magnets you intend to use, you may need to purchase multiple cans and apply many layers to obtain the desired strength.  The beauty behind this type of product is that you can apply the paint as a primer and then paint over the surface with the wall color you have already chosen which will allow you to create a virtually seamless magnetic board.       

       Another possibility which lends itself very well to those of us who'd like to establish more of a quick and simple approach to a learning area would be to purchase and install a good size piece of sheet metal.  You can quickly install this by using wall anchors and a few screws on a low enough section of the wall where a child can sit and reach all sides with ease.  Create a border around the sheet metal to protect little fingers from cutting themselves on the sharp corners and sides.  This can easily be accomplished by framing out the sheet metal with molding that can be purchased at your local home improvement store.  With little to no investment, you and your child are bound to explore in a whole new and exciting way.


  Something Different Activity

       Follow the link and download the Trace and Place printable.  Follow the directions for cutting the pieces and use the uppercase letters for the paper alphabet in this activity.  They are the perfect size and also can provide great support for investigating lower case letters in future activities.       

       This is an alphabet recognition game where the child matches paper cutout letters to magnetic letters and sings the alphabet song.  The goal of this activity is to develop a deeper understanding of how the letters of the alphabet are represented by particular symbols and specific sounds.       


       Magnetic letters

       Uppercase alphabet letters individually written on pieces of paper slightly larger than magnetic letters       

       Learning Process:
  1. Position yourself in front of the magnetic surface.  Turn all magnetic letters toward the child, but hold onto the paper alphabet letters.  Sing the ABCs together slowly with your child before beginning.  See how far the child gets before having a difficult time recalling the letters.  You might only display those letters he/she was able to master orally.  (Then as your child begins to get acquainted with the activity and more familiar with the remaining words of the song, introduce more letters.)
  2. To begin, ask your child to find the letter magnetic letter "A."
  3. If able to identify the A, have your child place the A in the upper left hand corner of the magnetic surface.  Continue to find each letter until he/she is unsure of what to look for next.
  4. If unable to find the letter A or another letter, use the paper letters in your hand to provide support for identifying the letter.  For example, show the letter A and ask your child to find the matching letter A on the floor.
  5. Once the child locates the letter, place the paper A behind the magnetic A on the magnetic surface.  Help your child place the letters upright and in the proper order.
  6. After each letter, repeat the alphabet so your child can attempt to recall the next letter in the song.
  7. Work from left to right across the board to model the flow of reading and writing.  You might also try to begin to make a new line when you hear a break in the song.  For example A-G would be on the first line and H-P on the second (if space permits), and so on.  This will help break the song down so there will be enough time to point to each letter and recite the alphabet as he/she contemplates the next letter in the sequence.
  8. You may choose to focus only on a few letters each session.  Continue the process until your child is able to recognize and provide proper placement of all the letters in the alphabet without assistance.


  From a Parent's Perspective
           My daughter was able to sit long enough through this activity to get A-L up on the board in one session.  I was pleased with her willingness to learn and her ability to focus for such a long period of time.  As we continued to work on this concept throughout the week, I built in a few variations for obtaining the letters she required.  The second time we played with the letters, I allowed her to start where she left off the last time, and we progressed to Z so she could see what the entire process was supposed to look like.  The third time we started completely over; however, this time I placed the letters about ten feet from where we were first sitting.  We followed the same process as before, but this time she ran to go get the next letter in the sequence.  This little bit of up/down activity allowed her to stay focused even longer.  She was able to get A-R completed.  I really wanted us to finish the entire alphabet, so we switched roles and she got to be the "teacher" and I got to be the kid who ran to get a letter.  Sometimes I purposely got the wrong one so she would need to redirect my thinking.  She was pleased with her new role, and we were able to get through all twenty-six letters with ease.  Since doing this together many times, I have noticed her playing with the alphabet letters on the magnetic board on a more regular basis.  Giving her the tools and showing her how to use them has opened up new doors for creative and imaginative play, even as we continue to master letter recognition and placement.


Your Child, The Author
By Tabetha Frick, edHelperBaby

           Reading and writing go hand and hand.  Your child's gross motor skills at age two will not enable them to manipulate a pen or pencil perfectly to create letters, but it does not mean you should not let them try.  The more scribbles you allow your child to make the more comfortable they will become with holding and using the object.       

       For his or her "First Book," give your child several sheets of paper and ask them to draw or even cut out pictures and paste them on the sheets.  Then, allow them to write words on each page to create their own story just like their favorite book.  Finally, curl up and let your child read their story to you.  You never know it just might become the favorite bedtime story.  I am sure it will be on your family's bestseller list!

Introduce Music to Your Child at an Early Age – You’ll Both Benefit!
By Laura Delgado, Ph.D., edHelperBaby

           The question of when to introduce music to your child is really one that is best answered by research.  While research suggests that introducing music to babies while they are still in the womb does not improve their intelligence, a study conducted in the United Kingdom found that babies do tend to prefer the music to which they were exposed prior to birth for up to a year afterward! What does this mean in practical terms for the average parent wondering whether to play Mozart or the Rolling Stones for her baby? Play whichever you prefer when your baby is very young and the chances are good that your baby will like what you like.  Just remember that baby's ears are extremely sensitive to sound, and that the music, whatever it is, should be played at a level appropriate for his ears! Additionally, many experienced parents can attest to the value of soothing classical music at bedtime.  Just as good ol' rock-n-roll revs up your heartbeat and makes you want to dance, it may very well tempt your baby out of a slumbering mood.

     As children get older, however, and enter toddler-hood, they do begin to develop their own preferences.  There are a large number of performers who market themselves directly to toddlers and preschoolers.  The best thing about these performers is that often they actually appeal to Mom and Dad, too! In fact, some of the same groups that you enjoy may actually have some children's songs floating around out there (They Might Be Giants, anyone?).  Many parents of toddlers may assume that the only place that they can listen to "kiddie songs" with their children is in the car.  There are two main problems with this idea, however: first, you are likely to go mad, as any parent who has been exposed to long-term "kiddie car song exposure" can confirm, and second, your child will be denied a favorite activity that naturally accompanies listening to music, i.e. dancing! Try actually listening to what you like in the car occasionally for instance, news, Top 40, etc., and save your child's music for the living room.  Push back the furniture, roll back the rug, and crank up the CD as a toddler's ears are somewhat more resilient than a newborn's.  Shy children may be a little more reluctant to "cut a rug" at first, but this is where you come in to set the example for your child.  No one's looking, so demonstrate some old favorites like The Swim or The Monkey.  Your child will be delighted as who does not enjoy seeing a parent acting silly? The best part is your child is getting fabulous exercise without even realizing it. For some children, exercise is easily had. Some families are blessed with big backyards, or lots of acres.  Other families live in apartments or in cities, though, so outside time is harder to come by.  Dancing wildly could be just what the doctor ordered.  Before long, your children will be singing along to all of their favorite songs.  There is a born performer in most children but with some we just have to dig a little deeper.

     Of course, there is a place in the family for classical musical appreciation as well, but your children will be toddlers/preschoolers for such a short while! Teach them to love music and movement on their terms now, and you will create a lifelong love of music that can pave the way for "more serious" study later on.       

Number Recognition
By Amber Kleefeld, edHelperBaby

           At two and a half years old, your toddler may be able to recite the ABCs and even identify certain letters.  As with letters, your child's recognition with numbers out in the world will take some scaffolding on your part.  Here are some fun ways to familiarize your toddler with numbers.
  1. Weigh his toys.  Find a digital scale and put your child's favorite toys on it and note which numbers appear on the screen.  Count from one to that number aloud and encourage your child to count with you.
  2. Hopscotch!  Using sidewalk chalk, draw out a hopscotch board with numbers on your driveway or sidewalk.  Call out the numbers as you and your toddler hop on them.
  3. Create a timeline.  On a long sheet of paper (or many sheets taped together) glue photos or draw pictures of the people in your child's life.  Under each photo, write the age of that special person.  Associating people with numbers makes them more meaningful to your child.  When someone has a birthday, celebrate the changing of his or her number on the timeline.

Appreciating Nap Time
By Amber Kleefeld, edHelperBaby

           Depending on your toddler's temperament, you may very soon be losing those precious moments during nap time.  Whether you are a stay at home parent who experiences the calm of nap time daily or the working parent whose nap time treasure is found only on weekends, it is vital to use this down time wisely.  Mixing business with pleasure is the way to go!  If you try to get as many chores done as possible, you will be far from rejuvenated when your two year old child wakes.  Break your child's nap into 10-15 minute intervals alternating work and rest.  If you plan so that you are doing something relaxing when he wakes, you will not be rushing to finish when he wakes but ready to greet his sleepy face with a smile.  Here is a sample "Nap Time Parent Itinerary:"
  • 3:00  You are exhausted!  Grab a glass of water and a small snack and put your feet up for a few minutes.
  • 3:15  Write checks for bills, walk them to the mailbox and recycle or file any associated papers.
  • 3:30  Read your favorite section of the newspaper.
  • 3:45  Sweep up the myriad of food crumbs from the kitchen counters and floor.  Put dishes in the sink or dishwasher.
  • 4:00 Work on a Sudoku or Crossword puzzle.
  • 4:15 Sort any toys and books left in the common rooms into small piles that your toddler can easily transport to his room when he wakes.
  • 4:30  Put on some headphones and rock out to your favorite songs!  When your toddler wakes, you will be smiling!


Junior Publicists
By Tabetha Frick, About my child Katie and Adam

           Katie used to love to develop story lines and Adam used to love to draw.  One day, they got together and decided to create their own little publishing company.  They are now thirteen and fourteen, but I still have some of their very first joint effort books and newspapers.  I look forward to laughing over them with my future grandchildren.

Enjoying Music as a Family
By Laura Delgado, Ph.D., About my child Therese, Nicholas, Mary-Catherine, Michael

           My husband and I discovered all of the popular children's performers with our first child, and we quickly determined which ones we liked.  We stocked up on CDs and DVDs which is a great thing to have, as our children can see other children singing and dancing, plus it is kind of neat for them to actually see their favorite singers performing, and we have been using them ever since.  Our kids love to dance.  They love listening to all types of music, since we usually have music playing in our home, and my oldest daughter, who is seven, is just as likely to request something off my husband's iPod, as she is to request a kid's performer.  Some children's performers are very adept in their songwriting and have written songs whose primary goal is to help children express certain emotions, like anger or sadness.  For our younger children, these songs in particular have been very helpful as we try to teach them how to deal with feelings that can often seem very big for very small kids.

Signs! Signs! Everywhere a Sign!
By Amber Kleefeld, About my child Aidan

           Discovering meaning in signs, symbols and color is one of the earliest seeds of literacy for children.  Our son, as most toddlers his age, is particularly excited when he sees signs that represent places we frequent as a family.  The symbol of an orange rocketing into space found on our favorite juice bar, the library symbol of a person reading and even the big red bulls eye of that favorite discount store are all noteworthy in my son's chatter from the backseat.  He has also become our safety guide by telling us when the red hand says stop at the crosswalk.  He has begun to associate colors with certain ideas as well.  Our little man knows what color the shopping carts are at every major store in town and tells me as we cruise through the clothing, that black shirts are too sad and red shirts are too loud.  He might not be reading yet, but he is soaking up so much information which are building blocks for his future reading experiences.

Where Did It Go?
By Amber Kleefeld, About my child Aidan

           When Aidan goes to bed for nap time, it is usually after a small struggle, a small stack of books and perhaps even some crying.  The next couple of hours are crucial for regaining my calm and sanity but I also have a great deal to do.  As a teacher, there is always a stack of papers to grade or a week's worth of lessons to plan. Instead of cramming it all in during naps and being frustrated when Aidan wakes before I am finished, I tried an alternating business and/or pleasure schedule during his weekend naps.  I found the back and forth to be refreshing!  It was difficult to leave the work behind but I found it easier if I broke down my work into portions that I could complete in fifteen minutes.  Another challenge was time management.  It sounds silly but I set up a sand timer. You can find the timers on the Internet or in teacher stores and you do not have to worry about a ringer waking up the baby and it keeps me on task.  I knew that was a key component because I have often put off the chapter I want to read in my new book to wash one more dish.  When Aidan woke, I was not finished with everything but I had completed the small tasks I set for myself and I had a few moments of rejuvenation as well!


     Weekly activity for toddler (18-24 month)
Twist and Turn
Blowing Bubbles with Babies
Teach Me to Share
What Are You Thankful For?
Pin the Nose on the Pumpkin

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