Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Thanksgiving Calendar

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, and I want my kids to be as excited about it as I am.   Last year,we did a Thanksgiving Calendar.  If you're looking for a Thanksgiving project that will help your children learn to be excited all year long, this would be a great one to try.

Materials for your Thanksgiving Calendar

Large piece of butcher paper

How to make your own Thanksgiving Calendar

At the beginning of the November, I drew a large calendar on a piece of butcher paper, and pinned it to the wall.   I marked Thanksgiving day with a circle.  Each day in November, we reviewed what holiday was approaching.  Since we were living in a country that does not observe Thanksgiving, I felt a special urgency to make sure that my preschoolers were aware of it.

My then three-year-old, chose something that he was thankful for, and I drew a picture of it on that day's square.   Originally, I thought he would draw the picture, but that was a stretch.   After my attempt at drawing, I would encourage him to thank God out loud for his chosen item.

This activity did build excitement for the coming holiday, and after a month of practicing, it became natural for my son to just announce, "I'm thankful for . . ."

Monday, October 22, 2012

School Sparks Worksheets

One day I was seraching for a quick activity to entertain my three-year-old, and I happened into the gold mine that is  On this site retired pre-school teacher, Renee Abramovitz shares insights that she's gained in an entire career of teaching little ones.  She gives a thorough explanation of the knowledge and skills that constitute kindergarten readiness.  As a former secondary teacher turned current mom of pre-schoolers, I was thrilled to have this information outlined so clearly.

  In addition, she provides worksheets for free!  Both of my kids (ages 2 and 4 now) will sit and do work sheet after worksheet.  The only draw back is that printing the lovely color sheets can get pricey.  My brilliant husband, seeing how much the kids were enjoying the worksheets,  suggested that we laminate the sheets so that could they could be done with dry-earase marker or grease pencil, then used again another day.  I was all set to go to the office store to print out a number of worksheets when, Mrs. Abramovitz  put out her new book, 461 worksheets for only $28, and tons of advice for parents along the way.  It's fantastic deal.  I ordered our copy almost immediately and picked up a personal laminater from Wal-mart.  The laminator was the pricey part of the project, but I definitely think the expenditure was worth it.  The evening we laminated, the kids were grabbing the sheets out of the machine.

Here's how we've used School Sparks book of worksheets so far.

 Fine Motor and Counting.

  I knew we wanted to work on writing/fine motor, so I pulled out all the fine motor worksheets, and we laminated them.   My four-year-old will do all the fine motor practice pages in one sitting, and sometimes repeat several before he begins to lose interest.  My two-year-old will do the first three or four.  I love that they can practice over and over, and they think they're just having fun. We also did the counting counting sheets.  My two-year-old works on the first page, while my four year-old works on the more advanced pages.  We only pull these out every few weeks, so it's an exciting new way to count every time.

Reading Skills. 

 The worksheets are printed on good sturdy paper.  However, not even card board would stand up to my little boy's strong hands.  So, we laminated the reading tools as well.  We just started the Dolch sight words, following Mrs. Abramovitz's method, and so far he's doing well.  We also played around with the word makers, and I can tell we'll enjoy those as well. 

I had never realized that rhyming was an important pre-reading step.  We pulled out the rhyming cards this weekend, and there was alot of complaining about putting them away.  We're having a little trouble with it though, so I want to get some books from the library to supplement before we try again.

A nice little side feature of the word makers.  The pictures on the card match the pictures on the strip.  This is a great pre-school organizer, and actually serves as an activity in itself for my toddler.

And there's more!  

Here is our book minus all the hours' worth of materials above. Since some of the worksheets work just as well as parent-child activities, I'm leaving them in the book for now.  The worksheets are graded, meaning you should start with the first, and work progressively in order.  I put an index card with each child's name in each section of the book to mark our place.  Every so often, we'll sit down and work through a page or two.  I find that using the worksheets in this way not only provides instruction for my child, but it's a handy assessment tool to help me know what areas I should be addressing at other times.

Thank you, Thank you! to Renee Abramovitz and her team for providing such a wonderful resource at such a low cost.  As a mother of pre-school children, I will always be grateful.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Project Paper Clip

Last year I was privileged to cross paths with a truly brilliant "reception" teacher.  Reception is kind of like preschool in the British system.  I casually mentioned that my son was struggling to grasp the pencil correctly.  Her attention focused, and she started asking questions.  I told her that he said it hurt.  She told me that his hand muscles were too weak, then rattled off a list of fine motor skill activities that would help him strengthen his hands.  We weren't able to afford the elite school where she teaches, but that bit of insight was priceless.  Ever since, I've been on the look out for projects that interest my son, and cause him to use  his pincer grasp.   His writing grasp has shown huge improvement, and he'll usually hold the pencil correctly for a while before regressing to clasping it with his whole fist.

 A few weeks ago, we read a book that featured Bert making paper clip chains.  That caught my little nerd-in-training's interest.  I grabbed a box of paper clips at the grocery store.  This afternoon I pulled it out, and sure enough, it was a hit with both my four-year-old son and my two-year old daughter. During the course of about ninety minutes we progressed from randomly hooking paper clips together to making a intentional chains and patterns, to "fishing".   All things lead to fishing these days. . .