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Connie McCarthy is passionate about her work as a teacher of young children. She has devoted her entire career to making sure that her students do well at school, right from the start. Connie has an undergraduate degree in Elementary Education, and a Master’s Degree in Special Education. She has been teaching first grade in East Providence, R.I. for 23 years, where she received the distinction of “Highly Qualified Teacher” by the Rhode Island State Board of Regents. Connie also taught nursery school for four years, and published numerous articles on early education in East Bay Newspapers in Bristol, R.I. She’s also been published in PTO Today Magazine. She lives with her husband, Brian, and has a daughter and a son, both young adults. Connie enjoys reading, writing about elementary education, and taking long walks with friends. During summer vacations, she likes to travel with her husband. She also loves reading readers’ comments on her weekly blog posts.

Kids' Holiday Gifts: Give the Gift of Learning

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With Holiday shopping upon us, parents often ask me for suggestions of games or toys that will enhance their child’s learning.  Here are some simple, inexpensive educational toys and games for 4-8 year olds.  These help young children develop and strengthen core skills.

For Reading Skills:

  • Alphabet Bingo
  • Word Bingo
  • Scrabble Junior
  • Monopoly Junior
  • Small CD player with headphones and books with CDs.

All of these reinforce letter and word recognition.  In addition, they enhance skills such as following directions, word building and listening. Monopoly Junior does double duty, helping to reinforce reading and math skills in one game.

For Math Skills:

  • Dice and a deck of playing cards
  • A piggy bank full of mixed change
  • A set of Dominoes
  • Number Bingo
  • Uno Junior

All of these are great for promoting one-to-one correspondence (counting the correct dots on the dice, for example,) simple addition (adding dots on the two sides of the domino to find a total,) playing card games (like “War” to learn the meaning of more than, and less than,) visually matching and recognizing numbers, recognizing coins and learning coin value.

For Fine Motor Skills:

  • Checkers or Connect Four (A vertical checker game)
  • Lite Brite
  • Child art sets (crayons, markers, paper, paints, scissors, etc.)
  • Legos
  • Etch-A-Sketch

These games and toys help strengthen small hand and finger muscles.  This is a necessary skill for writing, cutting, and coloring in school.

A great hidden bonus in playing board games is the natural social interaction that takes place. This social interaction, such as taking turns, winning or losing graciously, and cooperating, etc. are crucial for school success.


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Do you allow your children to watch TV or play on the computer before doing their homework?