SchoolFamily Voices

Join our bloggers as they share their experiences on the challenges and joys of helping children succeed in school.

Help Your Child Become a Sentence Builder

Once children know letters, they can’t wait to use those letters to make words. When they know words they can then construct a sentence. Children learn that a sentence is a group of words that when combined, make a complete thought. Understanding sentences is a gateway to reading and reading comprehension.

Here are two fun ways to help your young child turn those words she recognizes into sentences:

  • Practice making sentences orally. Start simply, such as cat, the, sat.  She should be able to say “The cat sat.” Help her if she needs it. Once she can do simple ones, increase the difficulty. Give her four or five words she knows, out of order, and ask her to put them in a sentence—for example, "be, fish, in, swims, pond, a." She should be able to say “A fish swims in a pond.”
  • When reading a story together, have her pick two or three random words she knows. For example, when reading Clifford the Big Red Dog, by Norman Bridwell, she might pick the words "the, street, red." Then help her construct a sentence, unrelated to the story, using those words and adding more. An example could be “A big red bench is on the street.”

Once your child can easily build sentences orally, try this:

  • You will need some small index cards and a dark marker or crayon.
  • Have your child find a sentence from his favorite book.
  • Print the sentence by putting one word on each index card. Don’t forget to add the capital letter in the beginning.
  • Have him match the words on the cards to the words in the book.
  • Then mix up the cards and have him put the sentence in order.
  • When the sentence cards are in order, ask him to point to each word, left-to-right, as he says the sentence.
  • Do that often with some favorite sentences from books.
  • Consider affixing some magnetic tape and hanging the word cards on the fridge so he can create random sentences whenever he’s inspired.

Simple activities like these help young children recognize word order and sentence structure. Understanding sentences lets a child go to the next step—that sentences put together make a story!

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Fine Motor Skills That Support Early Education

Good use of fine motor skills contributes to early school success. Fine motor adeptness involves the smaller muscle groups throughout the body—for example, muscles in the hand and fingers must work in unison to strengthen drawing and writing. Small muscles in the throat, tongue and lips must work together for clear speaking and singing. Pronunciation, coloring, printing, cutting, and pasting are some critical skills for staying on grade level during a child’s early years of school.

Between the ages of 4 and 6, help your child learn to master these fine motor skills:

  • Speak clearly to the teacher, other adults and fellow students
  • Sing appropriate age-level songs
  • Say simple rhymes and poems
  • Zip a zipper
  • Button a shirt, pants, or coat
  • Build with blocks and Legos
  • Hold scissors properly
  • Cut on a thick, straight line
  • Put together simple, larger piece puzzles
  • Begin to color within a defined boundary
  • Start to print letters
  • Begin to cut and glue objects to paper (for example, cut a yellow circle for the sun and paste it to a blue “sky” paper)

Between ages 5 and 7, ideally your child will have developed enough fine motor skills to do these activities:

  • Tie shoe and sneaker laces
  • Zip her own coat
  • Print her name using one capital letter and the rest lowercase
  • Have a standard pencil and crayon grip, using the thumb and fingers, not a fist
  • Begin to show hand dominance (either left or right)
  • Write numbers 0-50, in sequence
  • Write partner letters (capital and lowercase, Aa, Bb, etc.)
  • Begin to print letters on the lines of lined paper
  • Color within the lines of a picture
  • Cut out recognizable shapes

Some easy ways to strengthen fine motor skills at home are:

  • Have him help you cut out coupons from newspapers or magazines or from ones you print from the Internet
  • Roll pieces of clay or modeling compound into long “snakes” and twist to form letters or numbers
  • Practice cutting on thicker objects like card stock, thin box tops, or cereal boxes
  • Squeeze and count with a soft ball or tennis ball to strengthen hands and fingers

Strong hands, fingers, and lips can help your young child experience early school achievement. Attention to fine motor details helps the progression from understanding a task to successfully completing it.

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Phonemic Awareness: An Important Step to Early Literacy

It has been a hectic yet rewarding experience completing the first week of my new assignment as a literacy coach for my school district. This new job involves traveling to five elementary schools and supporting teachers as they implement our district’s new literacy initiatives.  One of the core educational concepts for young children that I will be stressing in kindergarten and 1st grade is something I call the “triangle base.”  Preschool and early elementary students need to develop certain skill sets before they can master reading. Experience has taught me that there are three important skills that when combined together comprise the “triangle base.” The skills are:

One-to-one correspondence. In reading, it means that the child is verbally saying what he is seeing in print.

Patterns. This means recognizing and understanding both visual and auditory patterns. (An example of a visual pattern would be a picket fence. An example of an auditory pattern can be found in the famous B-I-N-G-O song that children love.)

Rhyming. This promotes phonemic awareness, which is a crucial prereading skill.

These three important core skills form a solid base upon which most other educational skills can be built and sharpened. Today I want to expand on why phonemic awareness is so important. The simplest definition of the term is the ability to hear sounds in spoken language. However, it is more complicated and sequential. There are five basic steps in this skill:

  • Beginning sounds (first letter)
  • Ending sounds (last letter)
  • Medial sounds (in the middle vowels)
  • Blends (pl in plant, sw in swing) and digraphs (sh, ch, th, wh, ph, as in the words "shop" or "bath")
  • Substitutions and deletions (for example, a child knowing that if you take away the c from the work "cake" and put a t in its place, the new word is "take." Or, if she knows the word "plate" and you delete the p, the remaining word is "late").

These skills are cumulative. A child cannot do step 5 if she is not proficient in the other four steps before it.

Understanding this progression of phonemic awareness should help you assist your child in enhancing his reading development.

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3 Easy Ways To Practice Handwriting Skills

Kindergarten and 1st grade are the critical times when a child is mastering handwriting. So much of good letter formation depends on your child’s fine motor development. Muscles in the hands and little fingers need to connect to their eyes and brains, developing and maturing eye-hand coordination.

Here are three fun, pre-paper activities to help your young student develop good, legible letter and word printing:

Air writing
This is an activity I do often with my 1st graders. Standing next to your child, facing in the same direction, ask her to say a letter. Then, both raise your writing hand, index finger pointed out, and “print” the capital and lowercase letter in the air. When she can easily do this with letter partners, try simple words.

Tactile writing
Fill the top of a small gift-sized box halfway with sand or salt. With the index finger of his writing hand, have your child trace partner letters you vocalize. As he gets good with letters, practice simple words. Once he can easily trace letters and words with an index finger, use an unsharpened pencil. Using the unsharpened pencil allows him to “feel” how the word is formed when using a writing tool.
“Broadcast” writing
“Talking out” the strokes of letters and words will give your child another way to remember how they are formed. For example, for capital h, help her say “straight line down, straight line down, bridge across the middle.”   For capital or lowercase s, “sss” around and curve like a slithery snake.

Children love these activities, as it gives them a chance to be successful printers before facing the challenge of writing on lined paper.

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Five Home Routines for Kindergarten Success

Kindergarten is a big step for your young child! Here are five easy ways to help her become better organized for a successful and smooth home-to-school transition.

  • Create a school night bedtime routine. To the extent possible, stick to a bedtime hour and planned routine on every school night. For example: bath or shower, story, a drink of water, and in bed by 8 p.m. Whatever works best for you family, do consistently on school nights.
  • Allow time for a nutritious breakfast. If time is short, one delicious and fast example that combines carbohydrates and protein could be a slice of whole wheat toast with peanut butter, sliced banana on top, and a glass of milk.
  • Keep backpacks, shoes, lunchboxes, and other items in the same place. For example, have her keep her backpack on a low hook on the back of the bedroom door. Keep her lunchbox in a basket on the kitchen counter, and her shoes in the same spot on her closet floor.
  • Have a designated, quiet homework spot with good lighting. Keep a small basket or shoe box nearby with necessary supplies to get homework done. (Crayons, pencils, scissors, and a glue stick.)
  • Encourage independence. Teach your child how to tie his sneakers so he can tie them at school. Let him practice cutting, with a pair of child’s scissors. Start on old catalogs, coupons, junk mail, etc. Put a small brown laundry basket and a small white or tan one in the bottom of his bedroom closet. Have him put his dirty light-colored clothes in the white basket, and dark-colored clothes in the brown basket. So when it’s time for laundry, the clothes are automatically sorted.

Practicing these five simple routines can help your child become better organized, more independent, and experience greater success at school!

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10 Tips To Ease the Back-to-School Transition

Ideally, summer vacation has been relaxing, less stressful, and more laid back for your child. But now that August is halfway through, is she ready to gear up and start a new school year?

Here are 10 easy ideas to help your child boost confidence, brush up on skills, and ease back into a school routine.

For students about to enter kindergarten:

  • Practice alphabet recognition. Review the letters as partners (both upper and lowercase together). Teaching the letters as partners is easier—your child essentially learns 26 letters at once, rather than 52 if they are taught separately. Keep practicing until he can identify them randomly out of sequence, as well as in sequence.
  • Make sure she can legibly print her name. An easy way to practice this is to use a highlighter—any color except yellow, as yellow is too light. On a piece of white paper, print your child’s name, starting with a capital letter first and the rest lowercase. With a sharpened pencil, have your child trace her name inside the highlighted letters. The highlight provides a clear border for her to see how the letters are formed. The pencil can easily be seen inside the highlight color. Gradually eliminate one or two of the highlighted letters until she can easily print her name without them.
  • Practice counting orally to 20. Practice both forward and backward, as that will help him understand simple addition and subtraction.
  • For safety reasons, make sure your child knows his full name, address (street number and name, town, and state), and a phone number where you can be reached.

For 1st grade students:

For students entering 2nd grade:

  • Practice counting forward and backwards to 100. This is a great activity to do in the car.
  • Help her distinguish the sounds of long and short vowels and understand that adding the silent (magic) “e” at the end changes the vowel from short to long. Can becomes cane, kit becomes kite, etc.)
  • When reading stories together ask her to identify characters, setting, and the main idea of the story to check comprehension. Help her go back and reference the story, if needed.

Simple review and practice of basic skills helps your child gain confidence and get ready for a new school year, all while having some late summer fun with you!

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Sorting and Classifying Help Develop Strong Math Skills

Sorting and classifying are early elements of math.  Understanding patterns in general is the beginning of algebra. Young children can be taught to sort by color, shape, size, etc. They can learn to manipulate and create patterns. Practicing these skills can give your child a solid base for more challenging math.

Here are five simple ways to help your preschool or kindergarten child practice and become fluent in these basic mathematical skills.

  • Make it part of everyday life. Let your child help you unload and sort groceries from the bags. For example, put all soup cans together in one pile. Put pasta or fruit in another.
  • Incorporate sorting with cleanup time. All the blocks go into the yellow basket, all the puzzles on the shelf, etc. 
  • Play a matching game. Take a penny, a nickel, dime, and a quarter. Tape one of each at the top of separate pieces of construction or plain computer paper. Give your child a pile of mixed coins and let her specifically match each to the coins taped on the paper.
  • Play a sorting game. Separate Legos, for example, by color, size, or shape. Use colored blocks to make different patterns (yellow, blue, red, green, yellow, blue, etc.).
  • Have them sort their own laundry. When my children were in kindergarten, I put a small tan and a small brown laundry basket in the bottom of their closet. All the light-colored clothes went into the tan basket. All the dark-colored ones went into the brown basket. It was a great way to keep discarded clothes off the floor—and a big help when it was time to do laundry!

When doing these activities, be sure to talk together about why things belong in a certain group. By incorporating language while handling objects, children are able to describe the rationale of why the objects belong together for multisensory learning.

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Two Fine Motor Activities To Develop Math Skills

Using fine motor activities involving hand and finger movements is a great way to get a young child to practice and remember number concepts.

Here are two easy ways to mesh fine motor and simple math readiness skills for your kindergarten or 1st grade student.

Activity 1
You will need four items: index cards, any color marker, glue, and salt (or sand or sugar)


  • Use one index card for each number.
  • Write the numbers 0 to 10 with the marker in the middle of the card. Make the numbers large enough to be seen easily, about 4 to 5 inches.
  • With the glue, make a glue line to cover the number.
  • While the glue is wet, sprinkle the sand, salt, or sugar over the card. 
  • Set the cards aside to dry overnight.
  • When completely dry, shake any excess salt off the cards.
  • Have your child close her eyes and trace the number to identify it.
  • When she can easily “feel” and recognize 0 to 10, repeat the process for numbers 11 to 20.

Activity 2

You’ll need index cards or strips of construction paper, a handheld hole punch, and a pencil.


  • Write a simple addition sentence on the card or paper strip, leaving a line at the end for the answer. For example 2 + 3 = __
  • Using the hole punch, direct your child to squeeze the correct number of holes under each number—two holes under the 2, three holes under the 3.
  • Have him count the total number of holes to find the answer to the addition sentence, and then print the numeral 5 with the pencil on the solution line at the end.
  • Adding math to fine motor activities subtly reinforces facts while strengthening the small muscle groups of a young child’s hands and fingers.


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10 Things To Practice for Kindergarten Readiness

When I first began my teaching career, kindergarten was a half-day program and primarily focused on play and socialization. Wow, have those days changed!

Today, many kindergartens are on a full-day schedule and are much more academic and structured. Kindergarten readiness is not the simple transition into elementary school that it once was. Common Core State Standards and children’s preschool experiences make modern kindergartens the true start of a child’s elementary school experience.
If your child is entering kindergarten, here are 10 simple things you can practice beforehand to help him face the challenges of a modern kindergarten classroom.

  • Practice upper- and lowercase letters as “partners.” That means learning “Aa, Bb, etc.” together, rather than all capitals. And practice until he can recognize them out of sequence.
  • Hear and recognize rhymes. This promotes phonemic awareness and is a precursor to reading.
  • Start to recognize the sound of letters in the beginning of words. For example, knowing that “bunny” starts with “b” and “sun” starts with “s.”
  • Write his name, using one capital letter and the rest lowercase. One way to practice this is for an adult to print the child’s name with a highlight marker (any color but yellow, since it’s too light) then have him trace inside the highlighted letters with a pencil.
  • Count numbers 0 to 20, and recognize those numbers in and out of sequence.
  • Encourage playing well with others. If possible, arrange play dates, visits to local parks with other children, or library group story hours.
  • Know and be able to draw four simple geometric shapes: circle, square, triangle, and rectangle.
  • Know the days of the week, starting with Sunday.
  • Be able to draw a simple person, with recognizable arms, legs, and facial features such as eyes, nose, lips, ears, and hair.
  • For safety reasons, young children should know their full name, address, and telephone number.

Having knowledge of these simple skills can help your child transition into kindergarten with ease and with confidence.


> Kindergarten Social Changes: What To Expect

> Kindergarten Academics: What To Expect

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Practice the Magic "E" With Young Readers

Young students usually first learn simple “cvc” words—consonant, vowel, consonant. These are simple three-letter words such as cat, pet, hid, hop, and cub. Three-letter words help a young reader learn as he sounds out the beginning sound, middle vowel sound, and ending sound then blends the sounds together to form a word.

Once a young reader can easily blend and sound out “cvc” words, use this simple way to double her vocabulary: Introduce the Magic “e” wand. The Magic “e” is the silent “e” at the end of “cvc” words that changes the vowel sound to form a new word. It’s been my experience that students love being a Magic “e” magician, and here’s how you can do this at home. You’ll need five items: a pack of small, blank, index cards; a popsicle stick; glue; colorful glitter; and a black magic marker.


  • Take one index card and cut off the right side, about an inch from the end. You should have a small 1-inch x 3-inch rectangle
  • In the middle of that small rectangle print a lowercase “e,” about an inch tall. Discard the remainder of the cut card. Help your child put a glue line on the “e” and sprinkle it with colorful glitter. Shake off excess glitter and glue or tape the “e” to the top of the popsicle stick. Put aside to dry.
  • Use the marker and some full index cards to print some “cvc” words, leaving about an inch space at the end of the word. Make sure to print in lowercase letters. Some examples are can, cap, pet, hid, pin, hop, not, cub, and tub.
  • Review that vowels have a short and long sound. In cvc words the vowel is always short. Explain that the silent “e” at the end of the word changes the vowel from the short sound to its long sound. 
  • Hold up a word card and have him say the word can, for example. Then let him hold up the Magic “e” wand, at the end of the word, to change the word to cane. Practice with other words such as, hid to hide, cut to cute, tap to tape, hop to hope, etc.

Understanding vowels can be challenging for beginning readers. Manipulating the Magic “e” wand is a hands-on way to help a child remember this important aspect of phonics.

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Ways To Help Your Child Become an Early Reader

What makes a child become an early reader?

As a 1st grade teacher, I’ve helped many young children learn to read. In the process, certain patterns have emerged. It’s more than decoding sounds and words—it’s feeling excitement about a good story, learning about things of interest, or realizing that a book can take a reader to extraordinary places or create wonderful adventures!

I’ve also noticed that some children come to school better prepared to tackle the challenges of reading than others. These are the children who get “hooked” on reading, and easily read on (or significantly above) their grade level. Simple things can make these children read earlier than others, and it starts at home.

Some parents have successfully employed interesting strategies to help their children become early readers. These include:

  • Reading to children every night and asking pertinent questions
  • Letting your child see that you read for pleasure, to model good reading habits
  • Making sure their child can easily hear and create rhymes
  • Spending time together at the local library
  • Setting time limits on video games, TV, and computer time
  • Combining reading with drawing and writing activities

Incorporating just two or three of these strategies into your family’s busy life will make a tremendous difference in helping your child become an inspired early reader.


> Teach Your Child To Love Reading

> The Five Steps to Phonemic Awareness

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Use Pennies To Teach Common Core Math Skills

Young children love pennies. So make them part of math comprehension. Use pennies to help young students practice math skills in a simple yet memorable way. Here are four easy ways to use pennies to help reinforce important Common Core math curriculum skills.

For preschool to kindergarten: Place pennies in a straight, horizontal row. Start with five across. Have your child point to the pennies as he counts them. This reinforces an important math skill called one-to-one correspondence. In other words, he’s actually saying what he’s seeing. Increase the pennies by one until he can easily point to and count 20 in a row.

For kindergarten and 1st grade: Use pennies to practice simple addition and subtraction while subtly incorporating word problems. For example, Mom gave Sarah five pennies. Her brother gave her seven more. How many does Sarah have in all?
Or, Kevin had 20 pennies. He bought an eraser at the school store. It costs 12 cents. How many pennies does he have left? Using the correct number of pennies to solve the equations helps your child visually understand what addition and subtraction mean.

For 1st and 2nd grade: Use groups of pennies to help your child determine even and odd numbers by “pairing up” by 2’s to show even number groups, and “one left over” to show an odd number group.
Also, use groups of pennies for skip counting. Start with a large pile of pennies. Have him put the pennies in groups of 2, 5, or 10 and skip count the small groups.
Use pennies to determine “difference” or “how much more, how much less?” This is a game for two players. You will need a pair of dice and a pile of pennies. The first player to roll the dice counts the dots then lines up that many pennies in a horizontal row. The second roller counts his dots and lines up his pennies directly underneath the first row, in alignment with the pennies above. The second player will either have more, fewer, or an equal amount of pennies. Then players determine who had more and how much more. Who had less and how much less?


Using pennies is a great hands-on way for young students to make “cents” of math!


> Improve Subtraction Skills With a Fun Pennies Game

> An Easy Game To Help Kids Practice Important Math Skills






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Common Core Review for Kindergarteners and 1st Graders

Right now most school districts are six to eight weeks into the new school year. That’s a long time for a kindergarten or 1st grade student! It’s also a time when many schools are scheduling first parent conferences.

Here are some of the Common Core State Standards learning skills that young students (and parents) may be experiencing for the first time, in homework or school worksheets, specific for kindergarten or 1st grade students.

Kindergarten English/Language Arts:

  • Following words, left to right and top to bottom on story pages
  • Retelling a story with key details
  • Recognizing some common “sight” words (for example, the, of, my, do, is, are)
  • Using a combination of drawing, dictating, or attempting to print to begin writing stories

For a kindergarten child in math:

  • Counting by ones and tens to 100
  • Identifying objects in groups as “greater than,” “less than,” or “equal to”
  • Correctly recognizing basic shapes
  • Begin to correctly recognize and write numbers from 0-20

1st grade English/Language Arts:

  • Recognize what makes a sentence (capitalization, punctuation, etc.)
  • Use drawings and details in a story to describe character, setting, or events
  • Begin to understand the “main idea” of a story
  • Participate in collaborative conversations about stories, books, etc., according to class discussion rules

For 1st grade math:

  • Understanding place value of tens and ones (for example, when seeing the number 52, knowing that the “5” means 5 “tens” and the “2” means 2 “ones”)
  • Be able to order at least three objects from length (shortest to tallest or tallest to shortest)
  • Tell time to the hour on both analogical and digital clocks ( and to the half-hour by the end of 1st grade)
  • Use parts of circles, squares, or rectangles to understand halves and fourths (quarters)

This is a general framework to help you understand some of what your kindergarten or 1st grade child is expected to master, or what he or she may need to practice. Follow my blog, throughout the school year, for additional skills and clarifications on Common Core State Standards.

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Ideas To Increase Fine Motor Skills in Young Students

My post last week outlined the connection between gross and fine motor skills and activities to improve gross motor success. This week, my focus is on fine motor skills, and simple activities to help your kindergarten or 1st grade child improve these more subtle skills.

Fine motor skills use the smaller muscle groups such as hands, fingers, toes, and lips. These skills are critical in dressing, handwriting, cutting, board games, and expressive communication.

Here are five ways to help your child improve their fine motor skills.

  • Zip and button. Find different sized zippers around your house, and have her practice opening and closing them. Some examples could be found on coats or jackets, pillows, boots, etc.  Button up buttons. Vary button sizes with different shirts, jackets, etc. to practice the “push and pull” of buttons.
  • Practice how to tie. Use ribbon, string, shoelaces, etc from objects around your home. First tie knots, then tie bows. Teach him how to tie his shoes!
  • Build together with blocks or Legos. While improving fine motor muscles, building with blocks also helps young children see patterns, learn about balance, and see how things fit together. It also helps refine eye-hand coordination.
  • Hole punch designs. Help your child draw a simple picture on white paper, such as a large balloon, star, circle, etc. Then let her punch holes with a handheld single hole punch around the design. While strengthening hand muscles, this also creates a clear border for coloring inside the design.
  • Sing together! In the car, at home, or any other appropriate place, sing favorite songs together. Some great songs I’ve used in my class are “The Clean-up Song,” from Laurie Berkner’s Buzz, Buzz CD and “Kindness” from Steve Roslonek’s Little Superman CD.

Increasing fine motor dexterity in young children helps build their confidence, and being a confident young student leads to school success.

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Practicing Gross Motor Skills Can Improve Learning

For the most part, all learning is sequential, which means that we build on known skills to acquire new ones. This is especially true for young children, who are developing gross and fine motor dexterity.

Gross motor skills involve the large muscle groups such as torso, legs, arms, and feet. Fine motor skills use the smaller muscle groups, such as hands, fingers, toes, and lips. Both are critical in learning. For example, if a young child has trouble catching a ball, he might not be able to print his name.

Strengthening gross-motor skills will lead to improved fine motor skills, which are important for early school success.
Here are five ways to help your kindergartener or 1st grader practice gross motor skills:


  • Ride bikes together. If your child still has training wheels, gradually help him become less dependent on them. If possible, try riding bikes to school together, rather than driving or taking the bus. Or take advantage of any nearby bike paths or parks. (Don’t forget helmets.)
  • Balance on a curb or low beam. When walking outside together. help your child balance on a curb, low beam, short wall, etc. Hold her hand until she can easily balance on her own when walking on a slightly elevated surface.
  • Practice hopping, skipping, and jumping. Once your child can easily do all these movements, increase the difficulty. Create “obstacles” to move around, such as skipping around the tree, jumping over the hula hoop, or playing Hopscotch.
  • Practice running backward. Most young child can easily run forward. Running backward is harder to master, yet will strengthen opposing muscle groups for better balance. Make sure it’s an obstacle-free, flat, grassy or soft place for her to practice.
  • Do jumping jacks together. This simple activity can help increase his balance and coordination while strengthening bone density.

Good gross motor skills are a natural segue to improved fine motor skills. Next week I’ll share some activities to promote fine motor tasks.


> Simple Activities Can Improve Fine Motor Skills

> More Activities To Improve Gross Motor Skills

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Activities To Help Kindergartners Understand Numbers

Two Common Core math skills that your kindergarten child will be required to know by the end of the school year are:

  • Count to 100 by ones and tens
  • Counting forward within the known sequence (instead of having to always start at 1)


Here are three simple activities that you can do with your kindergartener throughout the school year to practice and easily make these skills automatic. Many young students can count by rote, but have no concept of what the numbers mean. By practicing number sequence and “counting on” from any given number, you can help your kindergarten student understand the relationship between numbers and quantity.

  • A great way to practice counting, while reinforcing what the actual number represents, is to use pennies. Start simply, by having him put 10 pennies in a row. Have him start counting, left to right, by using his index finger to point to the space right before the first penny and say “zero.” Then point to the pennies while counting 1, 2, 3, 4, etc. When he can easily do that, increase the pennies by 10 to make a second row. Have him start at the 0 space and continue 1 through 20. Keep adding rows of 10 until he can easily count from 0 to 100. Always including the zero space helps him understand that the number 0 represents no object.
  • Use the pennies to help count by tens as well. Once he can count one-to-one and 0 to 20, start have him practice saying “10, 20” while looking at the two complete rows. After counting by ones for each new row, have him practice counting by tens as well, until he can easily say 10, 20, 30, 40 …to 100.
  • Counting forward within the known sequence simply means “counting on” from any beginning number. First, help him practice orally counting 0 to 20 in correct sequence. When he’s mastered this, start with the number 5, for example, and have him continue on with 6, 7, 8, etc. to 20.
  • Once he can easily count forward to 20, from any starting number, increase the difficulty by 10 (0-30 then 0-40, etc.). Do this until he can start at any pervious number and count forward to 100.


> Kindergarten Math: The Common Core Standards and 4 Geometry Activities

> More Tips for Kindergarten Readiness

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5 Ways To Help Young Children With Back-to-School Anxieties

As August approaches, most young students are excited about starting a new school year. They are ready to go. However, some children experience anxiety about going to school. This can affect the entire family. Morning routines can be interrupted and getting him on the bus or dropped off at school can become an ordeal.

Why does this happen? There could be various reasons:

  • Fear of separating from a parent or caregiver
  • Concern that the work will be too hard
  • Fear of missing what’s happening in the family, when they are away at school
  • Worry about responsibilities outside the classroom—for example, getting lunch in the cafeteria
  • Fear that other children might tease or bully them

Here are five easy ways to help your young child ease school anxiety:

  • If the problem is separation from a loved one, try a technique that worked extremely well in my 1st grade classroom. Have the student bring a photo of a family member,  sibling, grandparent, or even a special pet. By keeping the photo on the desk or table, the student was able to have family close by for comfort. Ask your child’s teacher if this is allowed.
  • If possible, bring him to his new class before school starts. Let him see the space and, if the teacher is there, meet his new teacher. Check out the lunchroom and recess areas as well.
  • If you know of another child or children who is going to the same class, see if you could set up a playdate so your child will know at least one familiar face.
  • Have him practice letter recognition and letter sounds, number recognition to 50, writing his name, and other basic skills for academic confidence.
  • Label jackets, lunch boxes, backpacks, etc., so that your child can easily identify her own belongings. This eliminates worry about finding her own things at the end of the school day. (Safety note: Be sure to label items on the inside, as you do not want a stranger to be able to call your child by name.)


Recognizing and acknowledging your child’s fears will help you both look for easy and workable solutions…and keep your morning school routine running smoothly!

> A Stress-Free Morning Routine

> 10 Ways To Help Your Child Successfully Return to School

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More Tips for Kindergarten Readiness

Last week I shared four strategies to help you prepare your young child for kindergarten. Here are four more quick and easy ways to make the transition from summer to kindergarten both smooth and productive.

  • Help him practice and master basic social skills. Basic social skills can be something as simple as looking at someone when being spoken to, or when speaking. Practice taking turns and sharing materials, tools, and toys. Work on self-control and cooperating. Try easily transitioning from one activity to another. Be sure he always says “please” and “thank you.” These social skills will give your child a solid foundation at school for successfully interacting with adults and peers.
  • Help her recognize and write her full name. Take a standard-size piece of white paper. Turn it horizontally. Make three straight lines, left to right, across the paper with a ruler. Make the first line about three inches from the top, then make one in the middle, and the last one about three inches from the bottom. On the top and middle lines, using a pink, green or blue highlighter, print her name, using one capital letter and the rest lowercase; for example, Charlotte Kelly. (A yellow highlighter won’t work, as it’s too light.) Then have her trace her name, with a pencil, inside the highlighted letters. This gives a solid boundary in which to practice the letter formations. On the last line have her practice writing it all by herself. Keep working with the highlighter base until she can easily write her name without it
  • Look and listen for visual and auditory patterns together. Recognizing and understanding patterns is an important skill for young children. It is needed to promote critical thinking in both reading and math.
  • Recognize basic color words. The ability to recognize basic color words (red, green, yellow, purple, blue, black, and brown) is helpful for a child to complete independent work. An easy way to practice this is make a “Color Word Pizza Wheel.”

These simple activities will ensure that your child is well prepared to start the wonderful adventures of kindergarten.

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Help Get Your Child Ready for Kindergarten

Starting kindergarten does not have to be a stressful time for a child—or for parents. However, it will probably involve some big changes like going to a new facility, riding the bus for the first time, eating lunch in a big cafeteria, etc. How do you know if your child is prepared for the challenges that kindergarten may present?

Here are four easy ways to answer that question, and some simple activities to promote kindergarten readiness.

  • Make sure your child is well rested. Two weeks before your child starts school, put her to bed 5 minutes earlier each night, and get her up 5 minutes earlier each morning. By the time school starts, she’ll be on a good sleep schedule and rested for school.
  • Keep school supplies simple. All that is needed is an eight- or 16-count box of crayons, three sharpened pencils, one pair of scissors with blunt-ended blades, one eraser, and a small case or pouch to hold everything.
  • Help him easily separate from a parent or caregiver. A good guide to practice this is by reading The Kissing Hand, by Audrey Penn, or Grover Goes to School, by Dan Elliott. Both should be available at your library.
  • Practice following directions. Play a two- or three-step “following directions” game. Start the game simply with only two directions. For example, say, “Please get an apple from the bowl, and then put it on the counter.” Once two directions are mastered, increase the game to three. “Please get an apple from the bowl, put it on the counter, then come back and give me a high-five.” Play often, and vary directions. The sillier the directions, the better. Games like this help your child stay focused and learn how to follow sequential instructions.


Next week I’ll share four more simple, yet very important tips to help your kindergarten child start her school year on just the right note.


> Kindergarten Social Changes: What To Expect

> Kindergarten Academics: What To Expect

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A Letter "Puzzle" Game for New Kindergartners

There are simple things that parents can do to easily prepare their child for kindergarten success. Summer is a wonderful time to help young children get ready for September, by doing a fun academic activity each week.

In the next few weeks I’ll share with you kindergarten Language Arts or math activities that align with Common Core State Standards.

A reading/foundational skill for kindergarten is to recognize and name all uppercase and lowercase letters of the alphabet.

Here is a simple activity to help your child learn this skill.

You will need:

  • 26 index cards
  • A black or brown crayon (I use a crayon, rather than a marker, so the ink does not bleed through the other side)
  • A pair of scissors



  • On the left side of the card print one capital letter. On the right side of the card print the same letter in lowecase, leaving a 1- to 2-inch open space in the middle.
  • When the printing is complete, you will need the scissors. Working with one card at a time, make a different and distinctive zigzagged, curved, or shaped cut in the middle of each card, between the uppercase and lowercase letters. You are essentially creating an individual puzzle piece for each partner letter.


To play the game:

  • Help your child match the upper and lowercase letter puzzle pieces together. When together, line them up from A-a to Z-z and practice saying the letters. To increase the difficulty, randomly pick letter pairs out of sequence to identify. Let him play often until he can easily match and recognize both upper and lowercase letters.


These cards can be stored in a ziplock bag to be used again and again. They can also be taken to the beach, park, or pool for a quiet activity after swimming or playing.


> Get Ready for Kindergarten

> Kindergarten Academics: What To Expect

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

Yes - 31.6%
Sometimes - 25.4%
No - 37.4%

Total votes: 4919
The voting for this poll has ended on: June 25, 2016