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SchoolFamily Voices

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

Family-Friendly Games for School Vacation (that Keep Learning Skills Sharp)

After the hustle and bustle of the holidays it’s great to relax with some family games that will keep learning skills sharp.  Here are two family-friendly games that are easy and fun to play:

Game 1 “Find the Match”

  • Needed for the game:  Sets of matching objects, such as earrings, shoes, socks, cups, crayons, spoons, etc. (Start out with about six sets, then add more as the matching becomes easier for your child.)
  • Directions:  Have your child close their eyes.  Randomly scatter the objects on a tray or table top.  Have your child find the objects that are exactly the same, and put them together in pairs.
  • To increase difficulty:  Put two similar objects with a subtle difference, such as two socks with a slightly different pattern, in the mix.  Have your child explain why they don’t belong together.

 

Game 2:  “Act out a Rhyme”

  • Needed for the game:  Small index cards or slips of paper and a pencil.  
  • Directions:  This can be played with up to six players. Adult writes two rhyming words on the card; for example, hat and cat or pen and hen.  A player picks a card and says “I’m looking for a word that rhymes with hat.”  The player then acts out the rhyming word as other players guess the rhyme.

 

These two simple games help sharpen visual, auditory and tactile skills while having family fun!

 

 

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The Impact of Too Little Unstructured Playtime

This past Monday night I chose to be the voice of my young students.

In front of school committee members, the superintendent, and 300 or so parents of my school community, I spoke on behalf of all East Providence elementary school children. I asked administrators to reverse their decision to change recess, and to keep our recess exactly as it has been. After a three and a half hour meeting…I am still unsure of the outcome!

It appears now that recess will be a structured event, orchestrated by the classroom teacher. Yet, another piece of the day that someone is telling children what to do.

This is not just happening in my school community. It’s happening everywhere in a child’s life, in every town across America. Between sports, music or dance lessons, crafts, etc. children are programmed and over scheduled.

Creativity and spontaneity are fast becoming extinct. The satisfaction of a child’s enthusiastic “I did it!” has been replaced by the often asked, “What do I do now?” No wonder some children lack self-esteem. Confidence comes from solving problems, and taking pride in a job well done. It is not something that can be taught. It must be experienced!

Let’s reverse this current trend and give an important part of childhood, free unstructured play, back to our children!

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First Day of Kindergarten Mommy Angst

 

The first day of kindergarten is undoubtedly near the top of the “parenting memorable moments” list. My oldest is going into her junior year in high school and I still remember her first day of kindergarten like it was yesterday.

So many vivid memories about this time of transition. What I remember in the days leading up to the big day is my daughter matter-of-factly informing us that she was NOT going to Kindergarten this year. I also remember doing everything they say to do on back-to-school checklists like visiting the school, shopping for back to school supplies, and reading books that ease transition. I think we wore out the “The Kissing Hand” in the weeks leading up to the first day of school.

On the morning of the first day, I remember the dress my daughter wore with the tights she insisted on wearing, despite the fact it was 90 degrees. Our whole family went outside to play in our driveway and wait for the bus. I remember working so hard to mask the anxiety I felt that a) she would NOT get on the bus and b) that my baby was going to the big elementary school. As the bus pulled up I hugged her, kissed her hand, and went to pick up my camera … and dropped it. My husband and I both fumbled to pick up the camera and when we looked up, my daughter had boarded the bus and was heading for a seat. The kind bus driver must have seen the horror and panic in our eyes because he called her up by name (I was very impressed) and asked her to pose for a picture for mom and dad. To our amazement, she smiled confidently at the camera, waved goodbye then took her seat as if she had been doing this forever. So much for not going to kindergarten. Next I remember my husband convincing me not to hop in the car to follow the bus and lurk in the bushes to make sure she got into school safely.  Good move, but it took a lot of will power. 

But what I remember most about the first day of kindergarten was the heaviness of heart I felt all day long. I swear, the time from when she left to the time she got off the bus, felt like 3 ½ days instead of 3 ½ hours. No amount of cuddling with my son, walking outside, or baking muffins in anticipation of her return could ease the ache. Now, I swear I am not a helicopter mom (I think my friends would concur) but the thoughts of her being in this big building with older kids and me not knowing where she was at any given time felt like someone had put a ton of bricks on my chest.  

When she got off the bus she was all smiles and gave me a big hug. Not an “I missed you so much mommy” hug but an “I am happy to see you but it was not big deal” hug. What I expected next was  to sit down to our special first day of school picnic lunch and hear all about the details of her time away from me. What I got was one word answers to desperate questions. What I wanted to say was, “Come on, throw me a bone… tell me some detail about your day. Anything!”  But instead, I retreated and let her play.

Sometimes our kids teach us. This was one of those times.  My daughter taught me that often after a big day you just want to retreat and find peace in your routine. She taught me that I needed to back off and let her unfold the details of her day on her terms, not mine. 

I am happy to report that we both survived the first day and first week of kindergarten. The pride I felt that she was thriving at school and becoming independent eventually eclipsed the separation angst. And then I blinked, and she was going into her junior year in high school!

How did you do on your child’s first day of kindergarten? Would love to hear your stories!

 

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Foster a Love of Science this Summer!

 

I love the fact that the unstructured nature of summer gives kids a chance to explore, discover and experiment. When my kids were little they would spend hours in the woods in our backyard exploring, building, creating things with nature, and mixing up what we affectionately called stink stew! Remembering this makes me realize that summer is the perfect time to introduce your kids to the wonders of science. Often kids are turned off to the traditional approach to experiments and science in school.  Summer presents you with a chance to turn those kids around. 

Here are some ways to encourage your kids to love science:

 

  • Round up some old small appliances, goggles, and tools. Spread a sheet in your lawn and let your kids take apart the appliances to figure out how they work.
  • Let them loose in the woods with bags, a magnifying glass and  a notepad. Suggest that they explore, collect, compare, and record.
  • Backyard swimming pools are an experiment waiting to happen. Do the  sink and float experiment. Have them try to build water vehicles and submersibles. 
  • What could be better than stargazing in the backyard in summer time? Teach your kids about constellations and planets.
  • Start a science club in your neighborhood or help your kids organize a small science fair. 

 

If you are feeling a bit intimidated because you fear your lack of science know-how, have no fear! There are tons of great science websites out there. Here are a few of my favs:

https://www.braincake.org [special note on this one: This website is geared to girls and it is awesome! We need more girls in STEM fields so why not start them early?]

https://www.tryscience.org/home.html

https://science.howstuffworks.com/

https://www.exploratorium.edu

Here are some of the science resources on our site:

https://www.schoolfamily.com/school-family-articles/category/346-science

https://www.schoolfamily.com/print-and-use-tools/category/35-science-worksheets

Have you done any fun science experiments with your kids or have they come up with any on their own this summer? Do you have a favorite science website or blog?Tell us about them!

 

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The Summer Before Kindergarten

Getting ready for Kindergarten was top on my mind on my way to work this morning.  You see, I was at a cookout last night with a bunch of families who had soon-to-be kindergarten kids and many of the conversations centered around back-to-school. Yes, it was the first official day summer and yes I did mean back-to-school. Schools in my town have only been out for two days and already parents were deluging these poor five and six year-olds with questions...

"Are you excited for kindergarten?"

"Do you know who your teacher is yet?"

"Are you going to work on your letters this summer?"

And my personal favorite:

"Are you learning to read yet?"

*cringe* I know these parents were well-meaning but these questions provoked anxiety in me, let alone a recent "pre-school graduate."  So a plea: whether you have a child going into kindergarten in the fall, or meet one at a cookout or the beach, please don't talk about school. Please, please let these kids be kids and enjoy the wonders of summer. 

As are parent, are there things you can do to get your child ready for the big school over the summer? Absolutely. But your child doesn't have to know that in the back of your mind you are thinking, " How can I prepare my child for kindergarten?" The possibilities of fun activities that involve learning are almost endless.  Some basic ways to sneak learning into summer are:

 

  • Cuddle and read to your child every chance you get.
  • Play games on a blanket in the shade.
  • Practice tying shoes and zippering jackets. (A self-sufficient kindergartener is a happy kindergartener.)
  • Explore nature and start collections.
  • Paint, draw, build, and create. 
  • If you are going on long car rides, play games or give your kids some some fun printable activities
  • Play. Play. Play. Imagination is so important to school success and emotional well-being. 

 

But please, steer clear of talking about school until right before the school year starts. 

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Basic Educational Benchmarks for Your Four, Five, and Six Year Old Child

Parents often ask me what young children should be able to accomplish before entering nursery school, Kindergarten, or First Grade. Following is a basic list of important skills any young child needs for school success. National standards, reading and writing programs, early math programs and teaching experience helped me compile this basic list.

By the age of four, your child should be able to:

  • Recognize some letters of the alphabet, primarily letters that appear in their name.
  • Be able to count from one to ten.
  • Be able to count objects to match numbers from one to ten.
  • Be able to hear rhyming words.
  • Be able to recognize and identify eight basic colors. (Red, blue, yellow, green, brown, orange, purple, and black.)
  • Be able to recognize four basic shapes. (Circle, Square, Triangle, Rectangle)
  • Be able to recite their full name, their age, and address for safety reasons.

By the age of five, your child should be able to:

  • Identify, in order, capital and lowercase letters of the alphabet.
  • Recognize all the letters in their first name. For this age group it could be written in all capital letters, but I strongly suggest using one capital and the rest lowercase. I suggest this because it makes for an easier transition to the printed word.
  • Recognize and identify the eight basic colors, and know four color words. (Red, blue, yellow, and orange)
  • Be able to identify two words that rhyme.
  • Recognize a triangle, circle, square, rectangle, and rhombus (diamond shape.)
  • Be able to count and recognize numerals zero to twenty.
  • Be able to count objects to match numbers one to twenty.
  • Be able to recite their full name and age, address, parent’s name, and phone number. (Again, for safety reasons)

By the age of six, your child should be able to:

  • Be able to identify capital and lowercase letters, out of order.
  • Recognize the letters in their first and last name. For this age group letters in their name should always be written with one capital letter and the rest lowercase.
  • Be able to count orally to 50, or higher.
  • Be able to count objects to match random numbers 1-50.
  • Be able to write the numerals 0-30, and count forward and backwards from 0-20.
  • Recognize a triangle, circle, square, rectangle, rhombus, and hexagon.
  • Be able to recognize the words for the eight basic colors. (Red, Blue, Yellow, Green, Brown, Black, Orange, and Purple)
  • When given a word ("cat") be able to say a rhyming word ("hat.")
  • Be able to recite their full name, age and birth date, address, phone number, and parent’s name.
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Simple Activities to Improve Your Child's Listening Skills

Good listening skills are essential for school success. If your child’s listening skills could use sharpening try these three easy, quick, and fun activities. These games can be played in a 10-20 minute period of time and will help your young child become a better listener!

  • Have your child close their eyes. Start by saying, “Listen carefully.” Make a noise using a familiar household sound. For example, run the vacuum, ring the doorbell, turn on some music, fill a pan with water, etc. Have your child identify the sound. If he or she can’t identify the sound give them a hint. For example, “This is what you hear when I’m getting ready to cook spaghetti.”
  • Play a “directions” game. Again say, “Listen carefully.” Start with a two-step direction, such as, “Hop to the refrigerator then skip back to the chair.” Or if you are outside you might try, “Jump to the tree then hop over to the swing.”
    When your child can do a “two-step” direction with ease, increase the difficulty by adding another step. For example, “Run to the tree, hop to the swing, then come back and give me a hug.”
  • Read a favorite rhyme or story, and substitute an incorrect word. Start by saying "Listen carefully." “The three little kittens, they lost their scarf…?” and let your child say the correct word. Or, pretend to forget a word and let your child say it for you. “Once upon a…I forgot what the next word is. Can you say it?”

By starting each listening game with the words, “Listen carefully” your child will soon identify this as a signal requiring his or her full attention. As you can imagine this can apply and be helpful in other situations, such as when you are at the mall and you say “Listen carefully, stay by my side.”

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What Gross Motor Skills Should Your Child Master by the Age of Six?

Gross motor skills impact bigger muscle groups, like the arms, legs, feet, and torso. They are the first motor skills a child develops.

Mastering gross motor skills helps your child develop a sense of balance and spatial awareness. Good gross motor skills nourish the mind/body connection needed for learning. 

Between ages four and five, your child should be able to demonstrate most of the following gross motor skills:  

  • Ride a tricycle or bike with training wheels
  • Walk on a line
  • Hop on one foot for ten to fifteen seconds
  • Skip
  • Run forward easily
  • Kick a ball
  • Throw a ball
  • Catch a bounced or gently thrown ball
  • Climb the ladder and ride down a slide
  • Walk up and down stairs using alternate feet

Between ages five and six your child should be able to demonstrate most of the following gross motor skills:

  • Begin to ride a two-wheel bike without training wheels
  • Balance on a low balance beam or street curb
  • Skip around objects
  • Hop with ease
  • Jump with ease
  • Jump rope
  • Pump a swing
  • Be able to do skating and sliding motions
  • Run around obstacles
  • Run forward and backward easily
  • Catch an object while moving or turning
  • Do Jumping Jacks
Good, old-fashioned play and simple activities can promote development of these important skills.

 

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A Simple Card Game to Promote National Math Standards

“Roll for a Card” is a fun game that I have played with my own children and students to sharpen early learning skills. It's fun, easy, and takes about 15-20 minutes to play.

Items Needed: One die from a pair of dice, and a deck of playing cards. (Use the cover design side of the cards, not the number side.)

Players: One adult, one child, or up to four players in total. You can play this game at a table, on the floor, on top of the bed covers, at the beach, on a picnic blanket, or any flat surface where you and your child are comfortable.

Directions:

  • Put the cards in a pile face down, in the middle of the players. The first player rolls the die and counts the number of dots on top. She takes that many cards from the center pile, to start her own pile of cards.
  • Additional players roll the die, count the dots, and start their own pile of cards.
  • The game is over when all the cards are gone. The winner is the player with the most cards in their own pile. (You may have to help your child count their total number of cards. If they do need help, simply put one card down for each number you count. This is reinforcing one-to-one correspondence yet again!)

This simple game helps your four-to-six year old understand four crucial beginning math skills named in national education standards.

They are:

  • one-to-one correspondence (seeing the number 6, for example, and correctly counting out 6 objects)
  • understanding grouping (separate piles of similar objects)
  • understanding quantity (how additional rolls of the die increase the size of the card pile,) and understanding the concept of “more and less.”

 

Note from School Family: Lots of helpful articles in our Building Math Skills article archive.

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Improve Your Young Child's Drawing and Handwriting Skills

In my last post I shared some simple activities that can help your young child improve cutting skills. Today's games are very effective in improving your child's drawing and handwriting skills.

  • Fill a shirt-sized cardboard box top with sand or salt. (Don’t use sugar because your child might be tempted to eat it!) Have your child practice writing letters of the alphabet with her index finger, making sure to practice both uppercase and lowercase letters. Once your child masters the letters, give her an unsharpened pencil to use in the sand or salt. She can trace her name and simple words. You can write a word in the sand or salt and have her copy it underneath your model. This is a great rainy day activity!
  • Use a highlight marker to print letters, names, words, etc. on a piece of paper. (Use any color high lighter except yellow. Yellow is too light.) Have your child write inside the highlight color with a pencil. This gives your child a distinct border in which to work, yet allows him to clearly see his own writing.
  • Take an old cookie sheet. Fill it with a thin layer of shaving cream. Give your child a Q-Tip or unsharpened pencil and let her draw and print in the shaving cream. (This is a fun bathtub activity!)
  • Use your driveway or sidewalk as a giant slate, and let your child use colored chalk to create pictures. This is an excellent way to enhance fine motor skills in a larger setting and the pictures will last until the next rainfall!
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Simple Activities Can Improve Fine Motor Skills

Early school success is often based on the mechanics of a young child’s fine motor skills. These skills are needed for cutting, coloring, pasting and printing.

In these next few weeks I’ll share some tips and activities that can help your child develop and streamline the fine motor skills needed to perform assigned tasks.  Here are four, fun suggestions to help improve cutting skills.

  • Some children find cutting difficult.  Often this is because paper is too thin for a child to know how cutting feels.  One way to overcome this is to roll some modeling clay into long strips, about a half-inch thick.  Then let your child cut the strips into small pieces.  The thickness of the clay allows your child to sense how properly using scissors “feels.”
  • Another way to practice cutting is to save the Styrofoam trays used to package hamburger or chicken.  Thoroughly wash them in hot, soapy water.  Once they are rinsed and dried, your child can cut pieces or shapes from the Styrofoam.  The thickness of the Styrofoam allows a child to have better scissor “control.” For added fine motor practice, he can paste or glue the pieces onto colored paper for a collage.
  • When children want to cut from coloring books or school papers, they often find it difficult to stay on thin, black lines.  Use a highlight marker to trace over the line.  This gives your child a wider border that is easier to see.  I tell my students that the line is the “road” and the scissors are their “car” and they need to keep their car on the road!
  • Use the coupon section of the Sunday paper.  Let your child cut out coupons for you to use at the store.  Have him cut out many different coupons, even if you are not going to immediately use them.  It’s great practice, and gives real purpose to the activity when you actually redeem them at the store.
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Foundation Skills for Young Learners

The New Year is a time for reflection and resolution.  We tend to get rid of what doesn’t work in our life, and fine-tune what does.

Parents want to know how to maximize their young child’s early learning success, without putting them under too much pressure.

My experience has taught me that when you help your young child learn three core skills, you are on the road to rapid learning and school success.

I call these skills my “Triangle Base.”  They are:

  • The ability to hear sounds in spoken language. (This is called Phonemic Awareness.)
  • Understanding one-to-one correspondence. (In both math and reading.)
  • Understanding patterns. (Visual and auditory.)

Here are three easy and effective ways to practice these skills:

  • The most effective way to practice Phonemic Awareness is to rhyme! Read nursery rhymes or Dr. Seuss books to your child. Make up your own rhymes while driving. Rhyming is a powerful tool to prepare a child for letter sounds and decoding words. The more that your child can hear and say rhymes, the better prepared he or she will be to read.
  • In reading, one-to-one correspondence is simply saying what a child is seeing. In math one-to-one correspondence means seeing the numeral 7 for example, and being able to count out seven objects. A parent can help their child practice these skills by putting their index finger under words they are saying, while they point to it.  For math, roll a die and let your child count out pennies to match the number of dots on the die.
  • To practice visual patterns go on a “pattern hunt” in your house or yard. Look for patterns in floor tiles, wallpaper, curtains, rugs, etc.Your child will become a pattern detective! Listen for auditory patterns in music, such as the “EIEIO” in “Old MacDonald.”  Listen for patterns in stories that you are reading, such as “I’ll huff and I’ll puff and I’ll blow your house in!” in the “Three Little Pigs.”

Understanding these three core skills can lead to good comprehension in both reading and math.  While these are by no means the only skills needed for learning, they form a solid foundation for early academic success.

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Do Parent-Teacher Conferences Make you Nervous?

I was talking to a friend yesterday whose oldest child is in kindergarten.  She was telling me that she just sent in the form for her daughter's parent-teacher conference and that she was nervous -- despite the fact her child is doing great. Nervous? I didn't get it. She said that it dredged up her school days. Said that she used get nervous, despite the fact she was a good student, when her parents went to a conference about her. Funny how these feelings can carry over. 

I have always loved going to my kids' parent-teacher conferences, whether I received good news or not. For me, it's a chance to connect with my child's teacher and get a better sense of what's going on at school (fill in all the gaps of what my kids are not telling me)! Right before conferences, I always sit down with my kids and ask them how they think things are going at school, what they like most and least, what they are most proud of, and if there's anything they'd like me to ask the teacher.

Regardless of whether a parent-teacher conferences make you anxious, or how your child is doing in school, it's good to go in with a list of questions. Our Print and Use Tools section has great set of printable questions to ask your teacher.  Also found this article about how to talk to your teacher about your child's progress helpful.  

So do you get a twinge of the back-to-school nerves at parent-teacher conference time? What do you like most/least about the conferences?

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Help Your Child Learn to Read

Free Stock Photo: Illustration of a blank white book.

Just came across this blog from Literacy News that I thought had some excellent advice for parents of young readers. As a parent, it's tricky sometimes to know what your role is when it comes to teaching a child to read. This blog offers some good, concrete tips for parents who want to help their children prepare for reading success.

What kinds of things do you do at home to help your child learn to read? How is your child being taught to read at school? At what age do you think a child should learn to read?

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Math Games to Help Your Child Understand Numbers

Saying numbers and knowing what numbers mean are two different and distinct mathematical skills.

Your child might be a champion counter, yet not be able to identify the number “8″ out of numerical sequence. He or she might be able to recognize the numeral “12,” but be unable to count out 12 objects. Knowing how to match numbers to objects is basic, mathematical one-to-one correspondence.

Practicing one-to-one correspondence helps your child make the connection between seeing, saying, and knowing.

Here are three easy activities to help your child practice one-to-one correspondence in math.

  • Put a small pile of pennies on a table. Say, or show a number between one and twenty. See if your child can count out the number of pennies that you named. If he can’t do it by himself help him count out the correct amount.Have him put the pennies in a straight line, pointing to each penny, as he counts in sequence.
  • Take the Ace (to represent one) through 10, of one suit, from a deck of playing cards.Line the cards, left to right, from the Ace to the ten.Below the card have your child place the appropriate number of pennies.Once your child can easily do this from one to ten, mix up the cards and place them out of sequence.  Practice until your child can match the pennies to the numbers shown on the cards.
  • Play “Roll for a Snack.” Use a small snack cup or plate. Take one die, from a pair of dice, and have your child roll it. Count out a goldfish cracker, raisin, Cheerio, or favorite small snack for each dot on the die.Continue rolling and counting until the cup or plate is full.Who knew that counting could be so delicious?

(To increase difficulty use two dice and add the dots.)

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Pizza Wheel Activity: Teaching Color Words

It’s a colorful world and knowing basic color words are key for your child’s school success!

Here’s a simple to make, and simple to use activity for some color word fun:

With a ruler and a pencil divide a white paper plate into eight sections, like you would cut a pizza. Or, simply print out the  ready-to-color copy of Connie's Color Word Pizza from the Print & Use Tools section.

With a crayon or marker color each “slice” with one of the eight basic colors that children need to know; red, orange, yellow, blue, green, purple, brown, and black.

On a clip-type clothes pin (the kind your child has to “pinch” open) write a color word, using markers.  For example:Write “red” using the red marker, “blue” using the blue marker, etc. Be sure to use lower case letters.

Have your child clip the pins on the edge of the plate, matching color words to the correct color slice.

Once your child can easily match the correct colored pin increase the difficulty.

Write all eight color words, in black marker, on new clips and challenge them to match the word to the color. Help, if needed, until they can do it independently.

You can store this game in a large zip-lock bag, to be played again and again.

This is a great fine motor activity that teaches your kindergarten or first grade child basic color words, while increasing eye-hand coordination.

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Kindergarten Separation Anxiety: Mom's Fault? Think Not.

Kindergarteners. First day of school. Separation Anxiety. Do all three go hand in hand? The author of the article Separation Anxiety Seems to be on the Rise,  says yes absolutely – when it comes to this generation. He asserts that separation anxiety is a growing problem that is directly related to today’s parenting styles.

“The problem, I am convinced, is parents, not kids. It’s a given that today’s parents — mothers especially — have far more difficulty separating from their children than did parents of a generation or more ago. This is due in part to the nefarious nouveau notion that the Good Mother does as much for her kids as she possibly can and is at her kids’ beck-and-call.”

Wow. Let’s all take a collective deep breath.

Couldn’t disagree more. I think that parents today are more driven to educate themselves on parenting. With so many resources available like websites and books, parents are better informed on how to deal with behavior and school issues, like separation anxiety. Traffic to our site and articles like Get ready for Kindergarten prove that parents are arming themselves with practical parenting information.

And what about the kids of the informed parents? “Kids today” go to preschool, have more extra-curricular activities and do more for kindergarten readiness than ever before. The result? More confident kids… less difficulty separating.

Are there exceptions? Sure. Would the same type of kids who are having trouble separating now have had separation anxiety 25 years ago? Probably. 

 So what do you think? Love to hear your thoughts!

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Time for a Rhyme

Children learn how to talk instinctively. It is a natural process. It occurs through interaction with family members, caregivers, or even playmates. However, this is not the case with reading. Reading must be learned.

Learning to read combines visual and auditory skills. For example, as a child recognizes a sound, he or she should start to visually associate that sound with the appropriate letter.

Where does a parent, as their child's first teacher, begin this "learning to read" process?

Reading aloud to your child is essential! The more you read to children, the more sounds they will hear. The more sounds children hear and distinguish, the better they listen. And, the better they listen, the quicker they will learn to associate those sounds with the printed word! It's all about building skills in logical sequence.

Hearing sounds in spoken language is called "Phonemic Awareness." It is a critical pre-reading skill. A great way to practice "Phonemic Awareness" is to have your child listen to, and identify rhymes.

Get out those old "Mother Goose" books and read lots of Nursery Rhymes to your child! Some rhymes that children love are: "Little Miss Muffet," "Jack and Jill," "Hey Diddle Diddle," "Hickory, Dickory Dock," "Baa Baa Black Sheep," and any others that might appeal to your child, or ones that you loved hearing when you were a child.

Have some fun with them! "Act out" a rhyme, or substitute your child's name in the rhyme. (Mike be nimble, Mike be quick, Mike jump over the candlestick!)

Or, change the action. (Jack and Jill went down the hill...) Be as creative as imaginable. Your child will never tire of hearing you read these classics!
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Simple Tools for Sharp Listening Skills

In this digital age an old-fashioned, child-friendly cassette tape player can be your four-to-six year old's best friend!

Do you have to be away on a business trip, and miss your child's bedtime story?

  • Record your child's favorite book on a tape. Let him follow along in the book, as he listens to you read. It's the next best thing to being there!



Do you love getting books for your grandchild, but miss reading to her because you live miles away?

  • Before you mail that book, record the story on a cassette tape and include it in the package. It's a great way to stay close, even though you are far away!


Is your first grader having trouble remembering spelling words?

  • Let her record words in this order: Say it, spell it, and say it again. She can listen, then write, then self-correct until she confidently can spell all her words.


Want to improve your child's reading fluency and expression?

  • Tape him reading a story. He can then hear himself as others hear him. My students love this activity, and want to do it again and again!


So, search those yard sales for child-friendly tape recorders with built-in microphones and colorful push-buttons.

Or, get a new, inexpensive CD/Tape combination recorder and player. Color code the buttons with colored dot stickers (green for play, red for stop, yellow for rewind, etc.) for easy operation by your child.

Simple tools make learning fun!
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Getting your Preschooler Ready for the Real World of Kindergarten

Cindy GoldenThis is a guest post by Cindy Golden from www.omacconsulting.blogspot.com. Cindy is a Special Education Supervisor with the Cherokee County, Georgia School District. She has been in special education for the last 26 years. Cindy is the author of a popular blog: www.omacconsulting.blogspot.com which focuses on the education and parenting of students with autism. Cindy also has a book on autism that should be published soon.

Remember when your baby was born? You looked in that tiny face and promised to love, protect and provide for him or her forever.

You knew that as your little everything grew, he or she would try to push away, struggling to become independent while continually glancing back to make sure you were there should challenges prove too scary. For instance, remember that first day of preschool as your child stared through fear-filled eyes at the tears welling in your own? Preschool. It was a big mountain in a little life.

And now?

Another mountain called kindergarten, full of new challenges and demands.

How will your child handle this steep mountain? Can your pride and joy climb it without getting too battered and bruised? And how can you best help?

The transition from preschool to kindergarten is not an easy time for parents. Loosening protective reins is hard. It's difficult watching your little ones become more independent, getting ready to join the big kids in kindergarten.

This period is also a challenging time for children; however, you can make it easier for your child. The following suggestions are sure to help.

The one word you need to keep in the forefront of your mind is "preparation".

Preparation: Prepare your child by making sure he or she possesses important skills that will help in kindergarten. These are not prerequisite skills, but they will help your child become more independent, thus making the kindergarten transition easier.

You should begin by teaching your child to:
o put on and take off a jacket or coat
o care for their toileting needs
o wipe their noses and mouths
o ask for help
o zip and unzip their bookbags
o put on, take off and fasten their shoes
o brush their hair and wash their hands
o rise early in order to get dressed for school
o stay awake all day without needing a long nap
o open food containers
o wait patiently (an important skill when functioning in a large group)
o take turns
o listen to and follow multiple step directives

Trained in helping children transition to the world of school, the kindergarten teacher is an expert who will assist your child in doing many of these tasks; however, the more you prepare your little one prior to entering kindergarten, the easier time your child will have during this first year.

You can be your child's hero. Just help him or her learn how to accomplish the above tasks, and both you and your child will be better ready to make that first step into the Real World of Kindergarten.

Lots more about Kindergarten in our archive of Kindergarten articles. You might also enjoy this article, Get Ready for Kindergarten
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Do you allow your children to watch TV or play on the computer before doing their homework?

Yes - 31.6%
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