Want to help your kid make some new friends this year? Here’s a pretty cool thing that I did for my daughter over the last Christmas break. It’s something you could plan to do on weekends, weekdays after school or on the next school break.
Whether it is the acquisition of new skills or the adjustment to life changes, we know that children feel most comforted by routine and repetition. The idea of knowing what comes next can feel incredibly reassuring, especially around new or different concepts. We have found that the use of visuals work well for all children, including those with special needs.
Visuals, in general, are great tools often used by special educators, therapists and anyone working with (or parenting!) a child with special learning needs. Sometimes children need less talking “at them” and more concrete ways to wrap their mind around a particular concept. Many children with special needs are highly visual and are better able to process information when they can see it. A short picture story can tap into that strength, thereby better supporting the child and his/her needs.
I have a 4-year-old, and when I saw the opportunity to review this book, I jumped at it. The bright colors of the cover, and the title intrigued me, and since Matty Jay is really into picture books right now, I thought we would be perfect candidates to review this colorful story written by Hannah C. Hall and illustrated by Bill Bolton.
Would a worm go on walk? Would a piglet play piano? Would a lion be a lifeguard? Well, no, because that’s not how God made them!
Matty and I loved the silliness of each animal question, and I really appreciated the alliteration, especially since this is the early reading season for him. The message that God gave all the animals — and us too — unique qualities and special strengths is a good one.
But hands down, the illustrations sell this book. The bright colors and silly depictions — like a ladybug applying lipstick and a possum at a ballet bar — are really engaging for young eyes and minds. Plus, if you have early readers, this would be a fun one for them to attempt on their own.
I definitely recommend this book for your toddlers, pre-schoolers and early elementary kiddos. If you’re interested in getting one for free, leave a comment below (on the jenniandjody website, not on Facebook), and you will be entered to win your very own copy.
(In accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.)Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway. Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post. Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway.
If you have won a prize from our sponsor Propeller/FlyBy Promotions in the last 30 days, you are not eligible to win. Or if you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.
Out of all the different ways that we can help our kids succeed in school, the number one thing that parents can do requires nothing more than a free library card and time. We can read to them.
In 1983, the U.S. Department of Education was concerned about low academic performance scores, so they funded a Commission on Reading who spent two years combing through thousands of research reports conducted over the previous twenty-five years, and in 1985 they published their findings in a report titled Becoming a Nation of Readers. Amidst all of their digging, they discovered that reading out loud to kids is the number one most important thing we can do to help our kids become successful learners.
“The single most important activity for building the knowledge required for eventual success in reading is reading aloud to children,” the report said. “It is a practice that should continue throughout the grades.”
I’ve Seen It First Hand
I homeschool all my kids, so I have had the privilege of watching them learn to read. (Well, the first five that is; the four year old is just starting.) And I’ve noticed reading happens in different ways for different kids. A few of my kids were early fluent readers, reading simple chapter books independently before Kindergarten. But a couple of them did not take to it so easily.
Hi, I’m Sam. I’m 11 years old, and I’m Jenni’s son. My mom asked me to write a blog post on re-growing food scraps. This is something I like to do because it’s fun and easy and leaves room in your garbage can. I am passionate about gardening, so my mom got me a book called Grow It Again. Most of my tips come from this book. Although a few come from my own experiences. Growing food from the fruits and vegtables in your home is a great activity for families to do together. If you´re interested in the tools I use, yu should first check out Gas Mowers: Best Push & Self-Propelled Mowers Compared before anything else.
I’m going to show you how to grow food again in three different ways:
- Take it from the top
- Seed time
- From the ground up
Take It From The Top
I will show you how to grow two different foods in this category: pineapples and carrots.
Let’s start with carrots.
Step one — Take a small, shallow container, and place a layer of stones at the bottom.
Step two — Cut the off about 2 ½ inches from the top of the carrot. Kids should have an adult help.
Step three — Place the carrot tops in the container with the rocks, and pour a thin layer of water in the carrots (about half an inch high).
Carrots seem to sprout best with a few carrot tops in the same container. Space them one to two inches apart.
Every other day, change the water.
Once you start to see tiny little green stems (check with a magnifying glass once a week), plant the carrot tops in soil in their own containers, and then water two to three times a week.
They like to live in partial sun.
Now for pineapple. Pineapple is one of my personal favorites, but it takes a long time to grow.
There are a few ways to grow pineapples, but the one I’m going to teach here is the one I have had the most success with.
Step one — Cut off the top of a pineapple. (Have an adult help.)
Step two — Cut all the flesh of the pineapple off, and keep cutting until you see tiny black dots on the rim of the pineapple top.
Step three — Peel all the leaves off from the first inch and a half.
Step four — Leave the top out on the counter to dry for about four to five days in room temperature.
Step five — Plant in potting soil in a large pot, and in a few days it will start to root.
Water every time the soil gets dry.
If you follow the steps, you will probably grow a healthy plant, but don’t expect a pineapple any time soon. It takes about two years before you see a blossom and about another seven months to produce a pineapple.
I’m going to show you how to sprout seeds that are difficult to grow, but if you follow these steps you will be able to grow them just fine. The three plants I will show today are oranges, apples, and avocado. I’m going to start with oranges because I live in Florida, and that’s one of the most common crops here.
Step one — Take a small round plastic container or plastic cup, and put just a few stones at the bottom.
Step two — Fill it the rest of the way with soil and crushed egg shells for nutrition.
Step three — Take about three seeds from a ripe orange, and place them about an inch or two apart in the soil (the farther apart the better), but make sure the seeds are not too far into the soil.
Step three — Moisten the soil just a little.
Step four — Take a plastic sandwich bag, and put it over the container. Then wrap a rubber band around it to keep it in place
Step five — Leave it in a sunny window indoors.
Step six — Check every week to make sure the soil is moist, and in about three weeks, when you see sprouts, take the bag off.
Keep the seeds in a pot until they are strong enough to handle the environment.
Apples cannot grow in Florida because they need to go through a process called winterization, but when planting the seeds you can fake it!
Step one — Take out the seeds.
Step two — Put the seeds in a wet napkin.
Step three — Put the napkin in the refrigerator.
Step four — Check every day.
Step five — When it roots plant in soil.
If you live where it does not snow, you wont have any success with growing apples, even if you winterize the seeds in the fridge.
Avocados are fun but difficult If you like a challenge, this is the plant for you!
Step one — Take out the avocado pit, and peel off the skin. Have an adult help.
Step two — Take toothpicks, and stick them into the avocado seed around the circumference of the seed. You want to put in 3 or 4 toothpicks. If the seed splits in two, it’s ok just tie the two halves together with a string.
Step three — Place the seed over a 4 to 5 inch cup filled with water. Make sure the bottom of the seed is in the water.
Step four — Once the root is three inches long, place it in soil, and water it three to seven times a week.
Be careful with the roots. They can be broken very easily.
This plant likes full sun.
From The Ground Up
In this category I am going to teach you how to grow two plants: garlic and ginger.
Garlic is also one of my favorites. It’s fast, easy, and fun!
Step one — Take a small, shallow container (about the size of the carrot container), and place a layer of stones.
Step two — Peel about three garlic cloves, and place them in the stones so that they are standing up. Make sure the pointy end of the clove is facing up.
Step three — Fill the container with about a ¼ inch of water, and leave it in a sunny windowsill for two days.
Step four — Plant in soil.
Clip the tops of the garlic every week. They get big quickly.
The tops are good in salads and are very healthy.
You can grow the garlic in the container with the water for a very long time. That was one of the things I did.
Ginger is fairly easy to grow, so it is something I would say you should try.
Step one — Get a container like the one you put the garlic in. Place a small layer of stones at the bottom and then fill it almost to the top with soil.
Step two — Place the ginger root flat on top of the soil.
Step three — Put soil around the ginger but leave its back out because ginger prefers it that way.
Step four — Water the soil just a little, and keep it in a sunny window. Within a few days it should root.
Water when the soil gets dry.
Transplant when the container gets too small.
Give the plant part sun.
They will eventually grow shoots. Some may die, but new ones will replace them.
They grow quickly. In about a month, the plant will be about three feet.
Don’t eat the shoots.
Every parent wants their kid to be motivated to learn, but we all know that school is not always so motivating. As an adult, I figured out that I love history, but there was something about the rote memorization of facts and dates and those dry text book chapters that made history one of my least favorite subjects in school.
School (the standard American way) can suck the motivation to learn out of most kids at one point or another. But when a person is really interested in something, even a dry textbook can become interesting.
One way to motivate our kids to learn is to be on the lookout for things that genuinely pique their interest. When we find something, we can help them dive in as deeply into as they want to go.
- Make a trip to the library and let them pick books on the topic
- Set up field trips to explore something in a hands-on way
- Introduce them to experts on the topic
- Watch documentaries about it together
- Help them build collections that relate to their interest
- Help them memorize a boat load of interesting facts about their topic
I’m sure most parents don’t set out to overindulge their kids. I know I don’t, but sometimes it happens when I’m not paying attention. Overindulgence comes from a good place — it is born out of our deep love for our kids. We want to meet their needs and to make them happy and comfortable. We want to nurture them, and rightfully so — nurturing is foundational to parenting.
But did you know that we can overindulge our kids by OVER nurturing them? When we do things for our children that they can and should learn to do for themselves, we are over nurturing them. Every loving parent crosses this line occasionally, and when it happens once in a while, it simply sends the message to our kiddos that we love them and want to celebrate them in various little ways.
But when the occasional overindulgence becomes the norm, it can spell huge problems for our kids later in life.
Psychiatrist Thomas Szasz wrote, “The proverb warns that you should not bite the hand that feeds you. But maybe you should, if it prevents you from feeding yourself.”
When we do things for our kids that they should learn to do for themselves, we train them to be helpless and teach them be incompetent.
So what should our kids learn to do for themselves? Everything!
I remember once, as a younger mom, seeing a woman who had had her baby later in life and marveling at how she doted upon this little girl. The child was nearing a year old, and she had her strapped into a bouncy chair while she spoon fed her baby food.
From infancy, our goal should be gradual independence. So we help our little ones practice sitting up, and then we encourage them to stand, while we hold there hands. As soon as we see them grasping things with their thumb and forefinger instead of raking with four fingers, we begin offer small pieces of food for them to feed themselves.
Soon we teach them how to undress and dress themselves and how to clean up their toys. Two and three year olds can do simple little chores like folding wash cloths or putting their folded shirts into their shirt drawer.
As kids get older, they learn to make their beds, do dishes, take out the garbage. Our goal with housework should be to eventually teach our kids how to do everything we do as well or better than we do it.
When we are prescribing over-the-counter meds to our 10 year old, we can explain what we are giving them, why we chose that medication and how we determined the dosage.
Our kids can learn how to find experts who can answer their questions, make phone calls and leave detailed messages. They can learn how to make reservations, book airline tickets, cook for themselves, get directions, do their laundry.
Of course, we have to be mindful of their developmental level, but when we assume strength and competence in our kids, we gradually teach them to become capable, independent people. On the flip side, when we do things for them that they can learn to do for themselves, we are assuming that they are weak and incapable, and over time, we will train them to become helpless and incompetent. And who really wants that outcome?
It’s “You Can Do It Wednesday,” and today we are focusing on early elementary aged kids, but this tip is actually great for the whole family.
An important part of child development, especially in the elementary years, involves learning new concepts. Through discussion of the story, young listeners begin to understand plot concepts. The inflection in the reader’s voice and emphasis on certain words and phrases helps clarify meaning in ways they could miss just reading on their own.
A friend of ours who teaches middle school English noticed that a large percentage of her students were not yet able to have a vicarious reading experience. In other words, they were not able to see that “movie in their mind” that most of us get when we read. This can make reading a difficult and boring task.
But we have found that daily out loud reading from a young age can help kids develop that skill earlier.
Got a wiggly kid who struggles to sit through a chapter book as you read? Grab some blank paper and colorful markers, and let them draw while they listen. When their right brain is occupied with drawing, their left brain is free to listen.
Don’t worry if they are not following along at first. Just stop often and talk about what is happening. It takes time to be able to listen and comprehend. So be willing to catch them up and offer frequent little plot developments. In time, they will be on the edge of their seat, waiting to hear what will happen next.
Out loud reading is not just helpful for your young elementary student, it’s good for you too! Research has shown that reading aloud is chock full of benefits for the young and old. Want to birth new brain cells? There are a variety of ways to do that, such as learning a new language and learning to play an instrument. Reading aloud is another way to stimulate brain cell production.
There are many other things that out loud reading does to benefit our brains. Here are a few of the big ones:
- Helps gain greater comprehension
- Sharpens focus
- Increases vocabulary
- Challenges use of intonation
- Improves listening and reading skills
Got any kids who struggle with dyslexia? Out loud reading can help! Here’s an article that explains why.
So, grab a cup of tea, gather your kiddos of all ages (and especially those early elementary kids) and enjoy some family reading time. In the process, you are birthing brain cells and your bambinos are reaping some great benefits of their own.
A great book to check out on this topic is the Read-Aloud Handbook, by Jim Trelease, also known to some as the “Read Aloud Bible.” It’s full of great tips and information. Happy Reading!
This week we have been talking about the great benefits of reading aloud to our kiddos. If you missed any of these posts, head back to Day 1 and scroll to the bottom for a complete list! To wrap it up, I thought you might want some ideas to jumpstart your read aloud library.
What to Read?
Regardless of their age, look for great stories. Look for stories that are as enjoyable to you as they are to your kids.
E.B. White, the author of Charlotte’s Web, Stuart Little and The Trumpet of the Swan said, “Anyone who writes down to children is simply wasting his time. You have to write up, not down. Children are demanding. They are the most attentive, curious, eager, observant, sensitive, quick, and generally congenial readers on earth…Children are game for anything. I throw them hard words and they backhand them across the net.”
That being said, keep the bar high. Choose books with rich vocabulary and descriptions that paint a vivid picture. It takes time for kids to see that “movie” in their mind as they listen or read a story, but the better the story, the more likely that skill will come.
Got wiggly kids? Grab some blank paper and markers, and let them draw as you read. The drawing will occupy their right brain and free up the left brain to listen to the story.
When Should We Start Reading to Our Kids?
Some would say we should start reading to our babies as soon as they’re born, but I think we should start even before that. A study was done at the University of North Carolina in which 33 pregnant women were given a passage from a children’s story to read to their unborn babies. They were asked to read it three times a day for the last six weeks of pregnancy. Fifty-two hours postpartum, the babies were each given a nipple to suck as they listened through headphones to a woman’s voice (not their mom) reading three different passages. The researchers measured the babies’ sucking rates and found that the babies showed a preference for the passages that their moms had read during pregnancy.
When Should We Stop Reading to Our Kids?
Remember the recommendation from the U.S. Department of Education Commission on Reading that we talked about yesterday? If you didn’t get a chance to read it click here. They said reading aloud to children “should continue throughout the grades.”
Reading to my teens has been one of the most bonding and rewarding times for us. It’s a time for deep diving when we talk about what makes people tick and what we hold as the core values that drive our decisions.
Tom Sawyer’s brilliant (albeit mischievous) ploy to manipulate his peers into paying him for the “opportunity” to whitewash his aunt’s fence sparked a great discussion with my kids. We talked about Tom’s genius and his ability to manipulate people and situations and how he had a choice to use those gifts for good or for bad. We talked about how Tom Sawyer could have been a great entrepreneur, and we contemplated what causes a person to choose well or not choose well.
When we read The Giver, we talked about the pros and cons of socialism and how this conversation is extremely relevant to changes in our own society. We talked about aspects of their society that we admired and aspects that seemed oppressive.
In the teen years, when so many things are competing for our kids’ attention, reading aloud can offer intimate moments with them that we might not otherwise find.
Check back on Friday. We are going to offer suggested reading titles for kids of all ages. In the meantime, leave a comment below telling us some of your favorite read aloud selections.