for You by You
by S.M. Ford
(Mother of 2 girls, Grandmother of 3 boys, and an avid scrapbooker!)
Want to creatively keep your young children busy? Try these ideas, and not only will your children be entertained, but they’ll have the opportunity to expand their own creativity, as well.
Action Songs and Poems
Sing action songs. “The Wheels on the Bus” or “Head and Shoulders Knees and Toes” have great appeal even to babies, especially when you involve them in the action. Toddlers quickly learn to imitate the motions you show them. Many ages enjoy listening to silly songs. If you don’t know many songs, discover the variety of good DVDs, CDs, and CD/tape book combinations at your local library or bookstore. Many books include ideas for the motions.
Recite action poetry. Rhymed poems are easy to remember, i.e.“Pat-a-cake,” and sometimes even teach a simple lesson: “Five Little Monkeys” teaches children not to jump on the bed. If you don’t remember nursery rhymes from your childhood, children’s books and magazines are a good source. Don’t forget the classic Mother Goose rhymes!
Creative Materials and Art
Have creative toys available. Blocks that fit together or stack, connecting beads and rings, and puzzles give your child the chance to make and build. Toys where only her imagination is the limit are especially important and can keep a child occupied by herself.
Let them sew. Start with sewing cards where he can weave “thread” through holes in cardboard or wood. Create your own cards with cardboard and a hole-punch. Use shoelaces or yarn with taped ends for the thread. Fabric scraps, felt, buttons, and yarn can be glued to make a fun creation, as well. As your children get older, allow real needles (large size) and thread.
Supply more than the basics of crayons and paper. Coloring books, marker books, washable markers, sticker books, and paint-with-water books are great starters. Water paints or finger-paints take more of your supervision time, but all of these materials can give kids wonderful outlets for creating. Also offer colored or construction paper, safety scissors, tape, glue sticks, stencils, etc.
Don’t forget modeling clay or dough. You can even make it at home. Let those small hands shape, squish and form. Provide simple tools from your kitchen: cookie cutters, plastic silverware, rolling pins, molds, and straws. You may even have more unusual tools such as a garlic press to make strings, or a meat mallet to make patterns. An egg slicer is fun too. Consider using a plastic table cloth on and under the table to protect the furniture and floor. Supervise at first to make sure children use the dough appropriately.
Make a dress-up box or basket. Scout your closet or garage sales for shirts, hats, dresses, scarves, vests, gloves, purses, bags, and more. Let your child combine these items to make fun costumes for hours of pretend play.
Make or purchase puppets. Stuffed animals may get to play roles in your child’s productions, too. The stage can simply be a blanket strung between two chairs, the back of the couch, or a large box with an opening cut out. Be prepared to be the audience.
Read to your children. From board books to novels, the more you read to them, the more likely they’ll become readers later. At the library, encourage them to pick out their own books. Readers can entertain themselves anywhere, anytime.
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Traditional Play Dough
Mix all ingredients, adding food coloring last. Stir over medium heat until smooth. Remove from pan and knead until blended smooth. Place in plastic bag or airtight container when cooled. Will last for a long time.
by S.M. Ford
The weather’s bad. The kids are tired of playing in the house. You’re tired of having them inside. You’ve run out of ideas to keep them happy and occupied. They’re fighting and fussing. You’re counting the hours until bedtime, but thinking they’ve had plenty of TV. Why not change everyone’s attitude by planning a Rainy Day Campout?
First, decide where you’re going to go. Will you turn one room in your house into the forest, the lake, the mountains, the ocean, the desert? Things to consider when making your decision:
- Nature or ethnic music you might have to help set the scene
- Souvenirs from a real trip for added reality
- Artwork by the children that could be used for scenery
- Food in the house for an appropriate dinner menu
- Real camping gear you could use: inner tubes, beach chairs, camping stools, picnic basket, cooler, etc.
If it’s still quite early in the day, you might want to plan simple art projects in another room. Think of things the kids can draw or make that will fit the setting. Or make construction paper trees to hang on the walls. Are there props the kids can find in their toys and rooms? Perhaps you’ll want them to make signs for the campground: “Outhouse” or “Restrooms,” “Trail to Summit,” “Picnic Area,” “Swimming Area – No Boats,” etc.
Next, get the kids involved. “How would you like to go on a Rainy Day Campout? I thought we’d go to the redwood forest. I’ll get the tent and the food ready. You kids need to pack for the trip.” Tell them they need:
by Max Elliot Anderson
As a child, I never liked to read. When I mention this to someone who knows me, I can anticipate the reaction. Their mouth drops open in disbelief, followed by a gasp. “You’re kidding!” often follows. That’s probably because I’m also the author of a number of action-adventures and mysteries especially written for other boys who may be facing similar difficulties.
Even as an adult, reading for enjoyment continues to be a problem for me. I find it ironic because my father has published over 70 books. Several of these were children’s books, and I never read any of them. I grew up in a family of seven children. We had avid readers, nominal readers, and me. Still, I managed to finish high school and graduated from College with a degree in psychology. But I have always been more interested in, or stimulated by, things visual. I do read in order to gather information, but not for pleasure.
I used to think that a reluctant reader was simply someone who hadn’t found the right book yet. But the causes may go deeper than that. The word reluctant is defined as opposed in mind, unwilling, disinclined, struggling, or resisting. At the outset, it’s important to understand our terms. Parents must be certain that, if facing a struggling, reluctant reader, there aren’t any problems with vision, neurological issues, or other medical conditions that might hamper reading. These should be diagnosed by professionals, but here are some things to look for.
Difficulty with vision is a big one. The transposing of letters or numbers may indicate a vision problem. You might notice that your child sees 14 when the actual number on the page is 41. The same can happen with small words. Does the child use a finger to keep his place on the page? I always did this as a child. Does he have a short attention span, or hold the book too close to his eyes?
Does he have good posture while reading, or does he move his head from side to side during reading, rather than moving his eyes? This may indicate binocular trouble because both eyes aren’t working together. Again, I suffer from this. One of my eyes sees distant objects better, while the other sees closer items with more clarity. A child with this problem may slouch in the chair, or turn his head to one side in order to favor the eye that can see the book best.
In addition to vision, a child may suffer from ADD (attention deficit disorder), ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), dyslexia, or other learning disabilities. It’s only my opinion, but I think many of the hyperactivity problems, found more often in boys today, could be greatly mitigated by allowing them to run off much of that energy for an hour outside, or in some other physical activity.
Based on my own background, I expected that reading difficulties came from what I had experienced. Readers would struggle because they were intimidated by large blocks of words on a page. Or they were likely to be more visual than linear, as I am. My research took me through nearly two hundred children’s books. I found that some were just silly. Others seemed too unrealistic, while quite a few were simply slow and boring. I wanted exciting, realistic, and very visual things to be happening.
Recently a study was released which noted that nearly 80 percent of children 6 and under, read or are read to in an average day. But it went on to say that children spend an average of 49 minutes with books in that same average day, compared with 2 hours and 22 minutes sitting in front of a television or computer screen.
My research into reading difficulties began about eight years ago. I truly wanted to understand why it was that I grew up as a reluctant reader. I found some interesting patterns in several of the books I selected for research. In many cases they defied a person like me to get into them. The style was boring, the dialog was sometimes sparse, or when it was used, seemed too adult. As I looked around for books written especially for boys 8 – 13, I found The Hardy Boys, and a few others.
An attractive book to a reluctant reader is one that is larger in size than most. The type in these books is also larger, with lots of white space, on high quality, bright, white paper, inviting even the most reluctant reader to come in, kick his shoes off, and stay for awhile.
My work with reluctant readers often allows me to speak in schools. One of the first questions I like to ask is, “Is there anyone here who doesn’t like to read?” A few hands go up, and then others follow. There may be two or three girls who raise their hands, but predominately it’s the boys who respond.
Next I ask, “Why?”
“Books are boring,” one will say. Another suggests, “They’re too slow and nothing happens,” or, “I’d rather do other things.”
“Like what?” I’ll ask.
The answers always include watching television, playing video games, and spending time on the computer. This is interesting since research by others arrives at the same conclusions.
For the purposes of exploring reluctant or struggling readers, let’s say that you’ve had your child tested, and we can rule out vision or medical problems. What is your next step toward getting him interested in reading?
This suggestion may seem odd at first, but parents, teachers, and librarians are reporting that they’ve found success by starting with audio books. In some cases, this is used while also holding a copy of the same book. A child is able to both see and hear the words at the same time, and practice following along.
Don’t be afraid to select a book that is below grade level. You may also want to experiment with comic books, or graphic novels. The most important objective is to find something he’s interested in and wants to read about. This could include the sports page in your local newspaper, or magazines like Sports Illustrated for Kids, Ranger Rick, Highlights, and others.
Some have found success by using electronic readers like Kindle. Your child is already comfortable with a computer, or video games. The e-reader allows him to change the font, make it larger, change colors, and even look up words in some cases.
It’s easy for parents to forget the power they have over their children’s behavior. If your child avoids reading in every way possible – choosing video games, or the computer over reading, you might set those activities aside as rewards. You can say, “After you’ve read for thirty minutes, or an hour,” for example, “then you may spend time doing those other things.”
Read aloud with your child, and make sure he sees you model that reading is important in your life. This has added influence if the dad is involved. Get rid of distractions. Again, in my case, I find it difficult to concentrate if there are other noises around. This is compounded if there are lyrics in a song on the radio, or stereo, voices coming from the TV, or from nearby conversations. Set up a quiet, comfortable reading place. Above all, make reading fun.
Have your child try reading to a dog, a cat, a doll, or some other stuffed animal. In this way, children aren’t intimidated or judged by an adult. At the same time, you can monitor their progress. Also look for high interest, low vocabulary books called Hi-Lo.
Not only is it important for books to be constructed in order to be more user friendly for struggling readers, there should be lots of humor, dialog, and heart-pounding action and adventure, plus chapters ending with a cliffhanger.
In addition to all the above reasons, when I’m asked if reading is really all that important, I add that readers are the leaders others will follow.
and Everything In It’s Place!
by Ashley Pettit
Can you remember the last time you saw the carpet in your child’s room… was there a rug under all of those toys? It’s not as hard and scary as it seems to get your child’s room cleaned up. Here is a step by step plan to get organized and keep it that way!
Start with making 4 piles: Keep, Toss, Donate, and Sell
Note: Do this without your child, as they will LOVE every toy and won’t be able to part with things they didn’t even know they had.
Keep: all toys that your child regularly plays with.
Toss: all toys that are broken, faded, or unsafe (lead).
Donate: all toys that your child may be too old for or of small value ($).
Sell: all toys that may be of large value ($) that your child no longer plays with or is too old for. You can make a good profit selling the toys online or at a garage sell. Get all of your friends together and have a toy bizarre.
Toy recycling is great for lower income families and helps reduce the garbage in landfills.
Once the “keep” inventory is smaller and more manageable you will be able to sort it into “like” piles. ex. Lego’s, Dinosaurs, Games, Dolls. It is easiest for children to put toys away in places that have a home. Make a home for each “like” pile. You can make these out of old shoe boxes, hampers, or plastic organizers from your local discount store. Label each home so that there is no confusion on where the toys belong. For smaller children, draw/print pictures of the toy on the label next to the word. This will also help them with word association.
Note: Include your child – they will learn by doing, so don’t clean up and organize your child’s room for them. They’ve got to put it away to remember where it is!
Encourage your child when they are done playing with a toy to put it in its home before a new toy is brought out. Each time your child is given a gift, purge an old toy and replace it with the new shiny one. This will keep the clutter down, so that each toy still has a home.
This will teach your child the importance of being organized and you will gain quality time with your child.
Cheap Organizer Ideas
- Old Boxes- covered in wrapping/contact paper can match any décor
- Baby Wipe Tubs – Great for keeping hot wheels, plastic figurines, and the little pieces to games! They snap shut tightly and you can decorate them if you wish to make them more attractive.
- Behind the Door Shoe Holders-Perfect for out of site organizing; fits flash cards, small puzzles, stamps and stencils
- Spray Painted Egg Cartons- make great jewelry and Barbie shoe holders
- Old Drawers – Have an old dresser that’s falling apart? Save the drawers and use them as under bed storage. You can even paint/stain them to match your furniture. Use to store books, art and craft supplies, or out of season clothes.
by Phillip Chipping
knowonder! stories are meant to be read aloud by a parent to their younger children. Of course, older children who already read well also love to both read and listen to them.
The reasons why it’s so important that you read to your younger children is covered in this article.
Why Read Aloud Stories Are So Important
Read Aloud stories facilitate that reading in different ways than pictures books. Picture books keep a child engaged predominantly by the pictures. Read Aloud stories, on the other hand, require the child to practice and develop some very important traits: listening comprehension, imagination, concentration, and more.
One of the other great benefits of Read Alouds comes at bedtime. When you read a bedtime story to your kids, it’s almost impossible to do it with a picture book and expect your kids to stay in their beds and not look at the pictures.
But knownder! stories do just the opposite. We like to call them “imagicnation” stories. When your child lays down in bed and you begin the story, tell your child, “now close your eyes, listen to the words, and see the pictures in your head. That’s the magic inside your imagination!” Turn it into a fun game. Imagicnation time! You will be amazed at how well they do this. Not only does it promote active imagining, focusing, listening and concentration, but it also helps them settle down and fall asleep easier. Kids of all ages (even 12 year olds) love to take part in this kind of storytime, whereas they wouldn’t be interested in looking at the same picture books as the 3 year old sibling.
And of course, one of the best benefits of being involved with your child’s life in this manner is that you are being a great parent. You are taking a proactive approach and being personally involved in your children’s lives in a way that will be cemented in the minds and hearts as some of their fondest memories for years and years to come. The emotional, social and economic development that will spring from this simple activity makes it one of the most important things you can do for your child.
by Phillip Chipping
I have long believed that comic books and graphic novels are a great tool to encourage reluctant readers. An interesting article was posted here in the Vancouver Sun today on the topic. It tells of the benefits and gives a couple of recommendations, as well.
I’d love to have you chime in with any graphic novels or comic books you know of and can recommend. I know there is a lot of smut when it comes to this genre, especially as you get in to the stuff targeted at teenagers and adults. So what is good? What is appropriate?
My own boy is a very reluctant reader and this article has encouraged me to step up my search for good graphic novels. I’ll be updating comments here as I find resources, myself.
Thanks for your help and involvement!
In today’s story, Grandma Gertie’s own awesome adventures inspire her granddaughter to overcome some of her own fears.
Here’s an activity that will help your children overcome some of theirs!
1. Make a list with your child of all the things you are each afraid of.
Are you afraid of bugs?
What about heights?
Worms? Spiders? Snakes?
Explain to your child that it is natural to experience fear. Being afraid of things oftentimes helps us stay safe.
If you weren’t afraid of scorpions, bees, spiders and snakes, for example, we’d probably get stung and bitten a lot more!
Some fears, though, can be overcome. In overcoming them, or at least learning how to deal with them, your confidence and self-worth grow. Especially when done in a safe environment, with a parent.
2. Talk it over.
Ask your child if there are any fears on their list that they would like to overcome. Talk about ways that you can overcome those fears and make plans to do it together.
3. Do it!
Worms is a great example of a safe fear to overcome. Go out in the yard together and see what you can dig up. Get dirty and have fun!
Afraid of heights or falling? Do a “trust-fall”, where a big brother or dad catches the child as they close their eyes, fold their arms and fall straight backwards.
Remember, don’t push your child to do something they’re not comfortable with. Keep it safe and fun. And don’t forget to overcome some fears yourself! Leading by example is always the most powerful way to teach.
by Jane Cleere Johnson, Editor for knowonder!
Perhaps that title sounds like it should be in the fiction section of this magazine. If it sounds like a story title, it is! It all began when I was expecting my third child in three years.
My oldest, Amy, was two years old, and the baby was seven months old. I was ill. You know the kind of ill, where you hope your sweet husband cleaned the toilet bowl because you are going to be spending a lot of time in there leaning over the porcelain throne? I could barely move without a typhoon sized wave of nausea washing over me. My two year old wanted, needed, and deserved to be active.
But there I was lying on the couch, hoping the baby Becca-boo, would just sleep a bit longer so I could rest in my debilitated state. I’d read to Amy. We’d sing the alphabet song together. She’d watch Sesame Street. But she needed to be up and around, moving and learning. I didn’t even let her go out into our fenced backyard because I was too ill to get up off the couch. So, one day, or probably in the middle of the night, after getting up with the baby, I had a great idea. (more…)
by: Phillip ChippingFounder of knowonder! and father of four totally awesome children
OK, so I’ll be the first to admit – I am not some high-credentialed, Harvard-educated professor who can impress you with the importance of his words just by how many letters come after his name. The only letters that come after my name are DAD. But I figure those are the most important, (second only to MOM) and I also figure they give me just enough real-life experience to qualify me to write down some of my thoughts on a topic that I feel extremely passionate about: Reading and Literacy.
Did you know that the single-most important thing you can do for your children is to read to them (and with them) for twenty minutes, every day? That’s a bold statement, but as I’ve been researching the topic, I have found amazing statistics and research that convince me it is true.
Consider just a few of the benefits, especially when you start your children at an early age (the recommendation is to start at birth):
- Listening skillls are built
- children learn to sit still and focus
- comprehension and understanding of events (cause and effect relationships) is enhanced
- vocabulary is increased as children discover new words
- a child’s ability to guess meanings of new words grows
- children become more confident because they know they are cared for and loved and becuase they can express their thoughts and needs
- imagination and creativity are encouraged and fed
- children are better-enabled to make friends and good relationships because their communication skills are increased
- learning in all subjects becomes much easier because the brain is literally being wired to learn and take in new information
- and family bonds are strengthened and reinforced, creating an atmosphere of love, trust and communication in the home (which you will be very grateful for when your kids are teenagers!)
If you stop to think about it, it’s pretty obvious that all those things would come as a result of reading with your children every day. What I failed to realize, though, was the sum-total of adding all those pieces together. What is that sum-total? A child who is better-prepared for the world. A child who will excel in almost anything he chooses to do. A child who will earn more in her profession because she read more when she was young and still enjoys reading today.
If you want your child to succeed in life, both socially and economically, commit to giving your children twenty minutes of undivided attention, every day. By reading to your children every day, you empower them with the tools, skills and confidence to not only succeed in life, but to enjoy life.
Here are some of the key statistics and findings I’ve discovered:
“Forty percent of American children enter kindergarten lacking at least some of the skills needed for a successful learning experience. For too many children, the preschool years have left them without the language skills necessary for literacy acquisition.” (Reading Across the Nation: A Chartbook, a study published in Nov. 2007)
“For every year you read with your child, average lifetime earnings increase by $50,000. You make a $250,000 gift to your child from birth to age five by reading aloud, just 20 minutes a day!” (http://www.readingfoundation.org/parents.jsp)
“A kindergarten student who has not been read aloud to could enter school with less than 60 hours of literacy nutrition. No teacher, no matter how talented, can make up for those lost hours of mental nourishment.” ((Source: U.S. Dept. of Education, America Reads Challenge. (1999) “Start Early, Finish Strong: How to Help Every Child Become a Reader”. Washington, D.C.)
“We have learned that for 90% to 95% of poor readers, prevention and early intervention programs…can increase reading skills to average reading levels. We have also learned that if we delay intervention until nine years of age, approximately 75% of the children will continue to have difficulties learning to read throughout high school.” (G. Reid Lyon, Director, National Institute of Child Health and Human Development)
“The effort to teach children to read should begin at birth, and every available resource should be focused on achieving this goal, that at least 90% of all children will read at grade level by the time they enter fourth grade. Right now, in the average school, only about 55% do so.
If we fail to achieve this goal, the cost in later scholastic intervention, in social welfare costs, in crime and incarceration, and in lost economic production is a thousand times greater. And that ignores the loss of self-esteem, the loss of happiness, and the loss of personal potential in the individual lives of literally millions of children.” (http://virtual-institute.us/90%25.htm)
Even the President of the United States recently stressed the importance of this issue when he said, “In the end, there is no program or policy that can substitute for a parent – for a mother or father who will [...turn off the TV, put away the video games,] read to their child. I speak to you not just as a President, but as a father, when I say that responsibility for our children’s education must begin at home. That is not a Democratic issue or a Republican issue. That’s an American issue.” (Speech by President Barack Obama to the Joint Session of Congress, Feb. 24, 2009.)
I strongly encourage you to learn more by going to http://www.readingfoundation.org, or simply typing “read 20 minutes every day” into your favorite search engine. The attention this issue is receiving from various organizations (from your local PTA to the national government) is more than enough to convince me. There is a wealth of knowledge and resources available on the subject.
I admit, I have not read to my children as much as I should have, but thankfully, they are still young and I have committed to change my behavior and share with them the wonderful world of words that I love.
I invite you to join the cause, not for the sake of the US economy in some far-off future, but for your own child’s well-being. Do it for your children so they can enjoy life to the fullest, so the world can be theirs to explore and learning will be a joy and lifelong pursuit. And one day, when you see them sitting on the couch with a young child on their lap and an open book in their hand, you will know you taught the lesson well.
Phillip J. Chipping