Sunday, 7 June 2015

Learn through play: The guide to teaching a letter/sound of the week

I am asked (quite often!) how I go about organising and planning my "letter of the week" program. I love answering questions and helping other Mums (and a few Dad's!) organise a 'learn through play' guide to teaching the alphabet at home. I work on a two year cycle with my children, one year focusing on letter/sounds and the other year working through the ABC Jesus Loves Me program.

Today I am sharing how I organise my program and also sharing a few tips and helpful hints for those who are keen to help their children learn the alphabet through play.

Helpful hints:
1. I aim for at least 10-20 activities per letter/sound.

2. Don't set a time frame for completing activities for each letter (who needs more stress?!)

3. Focus on the sound the letter makes rather than how we say it. This will help with children learning to read later on.

4. I do all my organisation at night when the kids are asleep or during their 'rest time' during the day.

5. Remember the aim of learning through play is to HAVE FUN. For you and your children.

When I brainstorm activities for each letter I try to find AT LEAST ONE from each of the following categories:

1. Imaginative play: Dress-ups, playing
x-ray technicians, playing 'shops' with money (see picture below) or pretending we are medical staff and turn our loungeroom into a waiting room etc.
2. Active learning: Skipping, jumping, turning, twisting, ball games, cricket, pillow jumping, crawling, balancing on one leg (see picture below), hopscotch or swimming etc.

3. Music: Make our own guitar or shakers, use our piano, sing, dance with streamers, go outside and find things that make noise, make music with our body (whistle, clap, sing, laugh) or study a song and decorate your house etc.
4. Craft: Make animals, use cheap craft kids from K-Mart, use Pinterest to find fun and simple crafts, make pipecleaner glasses, collect interesting boxes and containers and build towers/robots, turn a box into a car, use masking tape to create a road on your carpet, use a box to make a train track (see picture below) or dye pasta and make necklaces etc.
5. Sensory play: Jelly, coloured rice, sand, kinetic sand, shaving cream baths, spaghetti noodle play/baths, cloud dough, different types of playdough, sensory tubs filled with beans/nuts/cereal/leaves, gloop, water play, slime, balloons etc.
6. Writing/drawing/letter identification: Use stencils, dry erase activities, tracing, scissor activities, use objects or blocks to form letters or make a no-mess bag or a squishy no-mess bag to form letters in etc.
7. Read: Visit the library and collect books that start with the letter of the week or find books around the home, read daily, use fun ways to encourage early reading, or find a way to bring a book to life (picture below: eating green eggs & ham in a box from the book "Green eggs & Ham").
8. Experiments: Make a real volcano, salt & ice play or a coke explosion experiment.
9. Painting: Use cotton tips, toothbrushes, sponges, pegs, foil, leaves, sticks, flowers, string, fruit/vegetables, noodlesice-painting cubes, with your feet, no-mess painting, water painting, butterfly painting or puffy paint etc (see picture below).

10. In the kitchen: DIY Ice-cream in 5mins, find cookie cutters of objects that start with your letter of the week and make sugar biscuits (picture below: car, chicken, cat, circle for ''c'' week), make fruit skewers, dinner prep, a birthday cake, honey joys, fairy bread or cupcakes etc.
11. Around the house: Sorting, vaccumming, washing-up (see below), sweeping, collecting etc.
12. Playdough: Nature playdough, pasta playdough, beach playdough, chocolate playdough, use beads, buttons and anything you can find, make it an opportunity to learn about length, etc.
13. Teaching tools: TV and computer (limited), books, library, the park, sticky window art, an overhead projector (see picture below) or the garden etc.
14. Out of the house: A trip to the zoo, to the local indoor playground, a park, a pet shop, go on a ride on a train (see picture below)/taxi/bus, a restaurant, a cafe, a bakery/butcher, the local fire or police station, a friend's house, to the pool or ice-skating rink etc.
15. Bible: Study a bible verse, a story, a parable or a person from the bible. For example: If 'C' is the letter of the week then Creation would be a great biblical focus.

What an honour it is to help our children learn through play!

Learn through washing up

Water play is so important! At the moment it is one of Miss 2's favourite things to do.
I let her wash up any dirty items I have and then I give her objects such as balloons, a wooden spoon, & two cups in warm, bubbly water.
Here is some of what she is learning:
* To pour water from one cup to another
* To learn what happens when you push a balloon under water
* To 'find' lost items at the bottom of the soapy water.
* To stir and mix
* To watch (with amazement) what happens when water runs over a balloon... it spins!
* To use a tea towel to wipe up any splashes she makes on the floor.
* That her hands wrinkle when they are in the water!
* To slowly drip water from her wooden spoon onto other objects.
* To break apart and blow bubbles!
* To blow bubbles from one end of the sink to the other!
* Use a wooden spoon to push around balloons in the water.
What FUN she has!

Monday, 30 March 2015

A 5th Frozen Birthday Party

Just like every other family with little girls, our household has been Frozen crazy this year. And unlike a lot of other parents, I am not sick of it yet which perhaps has something to do with the fact that we only just let the kids watch it for the first time a few weeks ago. 

Miss 5 has been planning this Frozen party for months (though it feels like years!). Both her and Miss 3 have been so excited and have helped me in anyway that they could with planning for the event! 

Seeing as though we are saving for an overseas holiday I needed to make sure I stuck to a strict budget of $100-150 all up including food.
Here is a look at our 'Frozen' party...

I found a free Olaf printable to use on the front door... isn't he cute! I went to Spotlight and asked if they had any Frozen posters that I could have for FREE and yes I walked out with a few of them (YES I was that Mum... asking for a freebie and then waiting in line for 20-30 minutes just to secure it for the party!)! Even though they weren't great posters I cut them out and got creative to make them a little more useful. I cut the 'Frozen Spectacular' out and stuck it on the door.
We decorated our lounge room with paper chains and then hung paper snowflakes from them. We made our own paper chains and snowflakes out of paper we already had which made it another FREE decoration.

We printed off a FREE Elsa papercraft and an Anna papercraft to use as decorations on the party table.
I also glued clear sparkly glitter on white styrofoam trees as we used these to decorate the table.
I lined the edge of the hallway skirting board with cut-outs from the FREE poster I snagged at Spotlight.
Miss 4 had a hair cut recently which meant her hair wasn't long enough to make an impressive 'Elsa' hair-do which she had requested (oops!) so I bought her a gorgeous hair piece from All The Small Things.
The outfit cost under $15 on ebay.
We had a photo booth station using a printable from etsy. I got some really cute snaps of the kids goofing around with these- so cute!
We had a pin the nose on Olaf which I drew by hand on cardboard I already had.
Troll slime with Frozen characters, paddle-pops and googly eyes.
We also decorated biscuits, played 'Frozen' statues and pass the parcel and of course we just had to sing along to 'Let it go'.

I made gift bags using white bags, frozen character print outs, ribbon and tuelle.
 I made 'build a snowman kits' for the children to take home.
 I also printed out and laminated bookmarks. Find these here.
 Lots of fantastic Frozen themed food!

And an Elsa Ice-Cream bar. YUM!

 A gorgeous Mumma Cakes DIY cake kit helped me create this masterpiece...
Miss 5 had an INCREDIBLE time.


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