Category Archives: Activities

Building Literacy in the Kitchen

Between prepping meals, eating meals and cleaning up after meals, my family spends the majority of our waking time in the kitchen.  Our kitchen also opens into the hearth room which adds to the number of hours spent in this area.  So, this got me thinking about what one could do in the kitchen to help promote literacy development in our youngsters.  The ideas kept flowing, so I thought I’d share some of the better ones with you!

Salt or Sugar Writing

Tactile learners will enjoy practicing letter or word writing with their finger in a shallow container of salt or sugar.  When they are done, store the sugar or salt in a labeled Ziploc bag for future use.

ABC of Spices

Have you had some spices in the back of the cupboard for years?  Pull them all out (Throw out the ones that don’t have a scent anymore!) and let your child put them in ABC order.  Not only will it provide a literacy opportunity for your child, but it will also organize your life.  I’ve had my spice cabinet alphabetized for years.  It makes cooking so much easier.

Menu Creation

For over a year now, I’ve created a weekly dinner menu and posted it on one of my favorite blogs, This Week for Dinner.  I’ve found that it has decreased our grocery bill and has helped me to create more balanced meals.  Creating a menu for a day or week is a great activity to do with your kids.  This especially works well with picky eaters.  If you allow the kids to have some input into planning the menu, they generally will try more foods.  Pull out some cookbooks, and pick out some new recipes out to try.  You are not only helping your child make food choices, but you are helping them develop their reading and writing skills.  Kids could post the weekly menu on the refrigerator or display it on the table for the whole family to see.  Then, get the kids to help you create a grocery list to support the menu!  Oh, the real world writing possibilities!

Tasting Passport

A tasting passport is an extension of the idea above.  Create a passport complete with your child’s picture.  On each page your child can draw a picture of a new food or cuisine they have tried.  Younger children can label each picture using inventive spelling.  Older children can write about each tasting experience.  The goal is to see how many passport pages your child can fill.  What a great way to get picky eaters to try new foods.

Muffin Tin Reading Games

Last year, I posted several muffin tin literacy games that use a muffin tin and a few other supplies.  It is my most popular post to date.  If you haven’t seen it, check it out.

Pancake Letters and Sounds

For an extra special breakfast, make pancakes shaped like letters.  Then, during breakfast, have your child brainstorm words that begin with the sound each pancake shaped letter represents.

aWhy not share the book, Pancakes for Breakfast by Tomie DePaola during this special morning time too.

A variation of this to idea and use it when baking bread or pretzels.

Spaghetti Letters

Let your youngster form letters using strings of cooked spaghetti.  This is a simple activity for your child to do while you are prepping something in the kitchen.


Have your child create placemats for tonight’s dinner.  Simply give your child some paper and crayons/markers and a literacy starter.  Here are a few ideas to get you started.

  •  Draw your favorite scene from a book you read today.
  •  Pick a letter sound and draw or write as many things as you can think of that begin with that sound.
  •  Divide your placemat into three sections.  Draw a picture of the beginning, middle and end of a story we read today.
  •  Write a note to each family member and then decorate it.
  •  Create and decorate a name poem for each family member on their very own placemat.

M- Memory keeper

O- Outstanding cook

M- Master hugger

Don’t forget some of the common, simple and easy ideas such as using magnetic letters on the refrigerator to spell words.  The refrigerator is also a great canvas for displaying your child’s work.  Or, how about pulling out the cereal box and reading the nutritional label.  How do you help develop literacy in the kitchen?

Please check out the linky party page to see where this post has been linked to for the week.


Puppet Shows

Before my first son was even born, my extremely talented mom had made him a puppet theater.   She found the old tv cabinet in a vacant building where it was destined for the dumpster.  With a few materials and a lot of imagination she transformed it into a wonderful puppet theater.  Check out her blog, Zoom In, for step by step directions.  My son is now 17 months old and absolutely loves to play with his puppets behind it.  As he grows, I know that we will do countless retellings of stories as well as many from our own imaginations.

Utilizing puppets and puppet theaters is an excellent way to develop literacy skills including retelling, fluency and expression, writing, comprehension and vocabulary development.  You can tap into those learners who are auditory, visual and/or kinesthetic learners.  The more modes of learning that we use, the better our comprehension!

You don’t need a fancy puppet theater to perform your masterpieces.  You can simply use your couch and let the kids kneel behind it to perform.  Puppets don’t need to be fancy or expensive either.  In fact,  The Chocolate Muffin Tree blog did a fantastic job of compiling 18 Creative Ideas for Making Puppets.  It’s a wonderful resource showcasing how you can make puppets from paper bags, boxes, wooden spoons and more.  You can also check out my puppet show Pinterest board for more great ideas.

Pop some popcorn and settle in for your next puppet show!

Be sure to check out the linky party page to see where this post is linked to this week.


Watching my 16 month old’s oral and listening vocabulary develop over the last few months has been absolutely amazing. I know that developing a strong oral and listening vocabulary leads to an even stronger reader. Vocabulary knowledge is strongly related to reading proficiency and ultimately school achievement (Beck, I.L., McKeown, M.G., & Kucan, L., 2002).   Repeated encounters with a word over time help to build understanding of the word.    So, I take as many opportunities as I can to read, talk and play with my son.  There are an abundance of ideas for vocabulary development for every age.  Today we are going to look at some of the best vocabulary development ideas.

Word on the Street Junior

Out of the Box graciously sent me a requested copy of Word on the Street Junior to review.  I was immediately impressed with the game after playing it one time.  Players are divided into teams which helps to promote cooperation, negotiating, and group decision-making.  Each team takes turns selecting a category card (examples: another word for big or, something that is folded ).  The team brainstorms words that would fit into the category and then decides on a word to play.  They then spell out the word pulling each letter a lane closer to the edge of the game board.  The first team to pull eight letters off  the board wins.  The game promotes vocabulary development, spelling practice, strategizing, and working together.  On top of that, it’s great fun!  The game is recommended for ages 8 to adult and retails for $22.99.

Talk, Converse, Gab, Chat

Talking with children is probably the cheapest and one of the most effective ways to develop a child’s incidental vocabulary.  So, how can you generate some great discussions?  Let’s take a look at a few scenarios.

The Car

We’re on our way to grandma’s house.  Can you tell me the directions to get there?  What landmarks will we pass along the way?

We’re entering a construction zone.  What construction vehicles and equipment do you see?  How are these items utilized?  Why do we have to slow down while driving through a construction zone?  What might happen if we didn’t slow down?  Can you think of other times when we need to be cautious?

The Grocery Store

Tonight we are going to have a fruit salad with our dinner.  What ingredients should we add to our salad?  How can you tell if a fruit is ripe?  Can you think of a fruit to buy that we would need to peel?  Is there a fruit with a skin that we could eat?  This sign says that the produce is organic.   What is a benefit to buying organic foods?

The Dinner Table

What was something that happened today that made you feel giddy, grumpy, proud or curious?

Tell about a new discovery you made today or a new word you learned.

Let’s make up a story.  I’ll start.  Once upon a time…  Now, you add the next part.  Continue going around the table having each person add to the story.

Books to Share About Words

Reading with your child is also another inexpensive activity to promote vocabulary development.  Here are two books that focus on the magic of words.

Donovan’s Word Jar by Monalisa DeGross is a chapter book about a boy who collects words in a jar.  When the jar becomes full, he searches for new ways to collect his words.  However, he learns that it’s more meaningful to share his words with others rather than just collecting them for himself.

Max wants to collect something after everyone admires his brothers’ stamp and coin collections in Max’s Words by Kate Banks.  So, Max decides to start collecting words.  Pretty soon the word collection grows so much that he’s not sure what to do with all the words.  Then he discovers that all of those words would make a great story.

Learning School Vocabulary Lists

Unfortunately, many schools still have students look up vocabulary words in the dictionary and write the definitions down on paper.   This is such an ineffective exercise!  Dictionaries are written to use the least number of words possible to define a word.  Not very helpful for a child trying to learn the meaning of a new word.  There is one dictionary that I feel does a better job of giving a more extensive description of each word.  It’s the Collins COBUILD Student’s Dictionary.  There are things you can do to help a child with a school issued list of words that are much more helpful for learning new words.

  • Make meanings visual.  Create webs, concept maps or pictures.
  • Make it personal.  Connect words to prior experiences or act them out.
  • Try them out.  Use the words in conversation and writing as much as possible. Define the words in kid-friendly language.

One activity that fits this bill is called four corners.  Take a piece of paper and fold it in half and then in half again.  Open the sheet back up.  In the top left corner, the child writes the vocabulary word.  In the top right corner, the child creates a visual depiction of the word.  The bottom left corner is used for a kid-friendly definition of the word.  In the bottom right corner, the child uses the word in a sentence.

Do you have vocabulary development activities that you have found to be helpful when working with students?  Please share your ideas.

Check out my linky party page to see where I’ve linked up to this week.

Author/Illustrator Profile: Eric Carle

Eric Carle

Eric Carle has to be one of the most beloved authors/illustrators of all time.  He was always a featured favorite in every school that I worked in by classroom teachers and art teachers alike.  There are also a slew of ideas floating around cyber world that piggyback off dhis work.  Today we will look at some of my favorite, a great clip about his work and a few great finds of extension activities.

Carle has illustrated over 70 books, many of which he has also written.  He uses hand painted paper from which he cuts and assembles collages to create his easily recognized illustrating style.  My top three favorite Carle books are Draw Me a Star, The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Pancakes, Pancakes!  Here is a video clip from Eric Carle about his newest book, The Artist Who Painted a Blue Horse.  He talks about the importance of nurturing children’s  curiosity and ideas.

In 2002, the Carle family opened the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Massachusetts.  One day when I can get to the east coast, I will definitely be making a visit.

There are oodles of ideas for extension activities related to Carle’s work.  Let’s take a look at a few of my favorite literacy activities.

1.  Puppets for The Very Hungry Caterpillar

I created this caterpillar from a green sock and painted some red eyes on it.  I then cut out all of the foods from the story out of construction paper and laminated the pieces.  Finally, I bought a small butterfly finger puppet and presto I had the beginnings of a puppet show retelling.

2.  Letter Collages

The Imagination Tree created tissue paper letter collages and then framed the letters.  What a cute idea!

Letter Collages from the The Imagination Tree

3.  Author Study

The Scholastic website has a very helpful author study on Eric Carle including an interview with him.

4.  Felt Board for Little Cloud

Time for Play walks you through creating a DIY felt board.  Felt boards are inexpensive and great for a variety of literacy uses including retellings of stories.

Little Cloud Felt Board from Time for Play

5.  Story Patterns

Kidzclub has some great story pattern printables for Today is MondayFrom Head to Toe,  and Papa, Please Get the Moon For Me.

Interested in more ideas of all things Eric Carle?  Head over to my Eric Carle Pinterest board.

*Please check out my linky parties page to see where I’ve linked up to this week.

Books Beyond Repair

A few weeks ago we looked at utilizing a book ambulance to repair books that get damaged.  Sometimes though, books are just too far gone for repair.  So, what to do with these beloved books?  Today, we’ll look at a few ideas for recycling books beyond repair.

1.  Magnets

My little one removed a few of the lift-the-flaps from some of his books.   Since lift-the-flaps are made with heavier paper, they work great for creating refrigerator magnets.  Simply place a self adhesive magnet on the back of the flap and you have an instant cute magnet that can be utilized to post your child’s creative projects.  If you were using a picture from a lighter weight page, I would recommend laminating your image  before placing the magnet on the back.

2.  Pennants

I saw this cute pennant banner on Pinterest that utilizes book pages.

3.  Gift Bags

Take a simple solid color gift bag and decorate it with images cut out from books.  Now, you have a unique gift giving vessel.  Why not give a book as a gift!

4.  Puzzles

Here is another Pinterest idea from No Time for Flashcards.  I love the idea of using a book cover cut into puzzle pieces.

5.  Placemats

Images are cut from books and then placed on wrapping paper.  You could also use construction paper or cardstock.  Though I didn’t get it done for this picture, it’s super important to laminate your placemat before use.

6.  Gift Tags

Cut out an image from a book to create your own gift tag for that just wrapped gift.

What creative things have you made with books beyond repair?

See my linky party page for sites that I’ve linked up with.

Outdoor Literacy

From time to time, I plan to highlight books geared towards caregivers that help to promote literacy with children.  I’m super excited about today’s book.  15 Minutes Outside- 365 Ways to Get Out of the House and Connect with Your Kids by Rebecca P. Cohen is a goldmine of simple ideas to promote outdoor togetherness with your children during every season of the year.  In this age of technology, we tend to spend more time indoors and less time outside exploring nature.  Boy, are we missing out on some great benefits of the outdoors such as sunshine, fresh air and physical activity.

Cohen offers 365 ideas of activities to do with kids outside.  Though the book’s primary purpose isn’t about developing literacy outdoors, she does offer several suggestions for doing just that.  In January, she encourages you to keep a nature journal or do some star-gazing with a guide-book such as The Kids Book of the Night Sky by Ann Love and Jane Drake.  In April, try gathering sticks and twigs to create your ABCs or words.  As fall rolls around, let your kids do their homework outside or collect some vegetables or herbs from a garden and then follow a recipe to create a dish.

I was inspired to brainstorm some other outdoor activities that could promote literacy.  I hope that you will try some of Cohen’s ideas or find some inspiration below to enjoy the outdoors with children during every season of the year.

1.  Digital ABC Hunt

Arm yourself with a digital camera and hunt for letters in nature.   Develop your pictures (black and white looks best) and create word art such as your child’s first name, your family’s last name or an inspirational word.  My mom created the art below to spell out our family’s last name.  She framed each letter and then attached a magnet to the back of each frame.

2.  Jump Rope Rhymes

Jumping rope is great physical exercise.  Sing a rhyme while jumping and now you also have a great literacy workout.  The book, Anna Banana Jump-Rope Rhymes by Joanna Cole has over 50 pages of rhymes to chant.  How about this one that predicts the first letter of your future sweetheart?  I remember having great fun with this type of rhyme when I was young.

Strawberry shortcake, cream on top.

Tell me the name of my sweetheart.


3. Act Out a Story

There are so many great adventurous picture books that can be acted out in your backyard, in a park or on a playground.   We’re Going on a Bear Hunt by Helen Oxenbury and We’re Going on a Lion Hunt by David Axtell are two repetitive tales that beg for some action movements outside.   Children can pretend to swish through the grass, splash through the water, squish squash through mud and tiptoe through a cave all while searching for a bear or lion.  Your youngsters could even create their own version of a We’re Going on a __________.  Hmmm…   Hello Toes!  Hello Feet! by Ann Whitford Paul is another great action story.  Hopping, clumping and clomping, leaping, skipping, jumping, stamping, shuffling and creeping are just some of the great words your child will learn the difference between in this super cute tale.  This book is great for vocabulary development.


4.  Paint Your Words

Time to study spelling words again?  Gather a bucket, some water and a paint brush (the big painter kind- not the little watercolor brushes) and head outside.  You can “paint” your words on the sidewalk or if you have brick house that works even better.  If it’s really warm outside, your words will disappear like magic.   Of course, sidewalk chalk also works great for this activity.

5.  ABC Scavenger Hunt

Go on an alphabet scavenger hunt.  Search your neighborhood for things that begin with each letter of the alphabet.  A-alley, B-bark on a tree, C-cumulus clouds, D– dog and so on.

6.  Read and Write Outside

When I was a 2nd grade teacher, my kids loved to take their independent reading books outside, sit on the playground equipment and read.  On the next warm sunny day, why not find a cozy spot outside and unwind with a good book.  Maybe you could even do this after a walk to your nearest library for some new reads.  Or, you might even try taking your journal outside and do some writing.

7.  Create Stationery

Gather some art supplies (cardstock or heavy construction paper, crayons, paint and a clipboard) and head outdoors.  Create stationery (cards and letter writing paper) to send to friends and family.  You could do a crayon rubbing of tree bark or paint a scene of your backyard.  Stay outside or head back indoors to write a letter or card to someone special.

8.  Sight Word Hide and Seek

Write sight words or vocabulary words on individual cards.  Hide them throughout the yard.  Now you are ready to seek them out.  Have someone call out a word and then try to find the hidden word.

Though I checked out 15 Minutes Outside from the library, it’s one title that I’ll be adding to my “books to buy” list!  Do you have a favorite literacy activity to do outdoors?  Please share your ideas.

Linking to:  ABC and 123, Playing with Words 365, No Time For Flashcards, I Can Teach My Child, The Magic Onions, Mama Pea Pod, Sunny Day Today Momma

Send a Little Love

Last Monday, Growing Book by Book showcased some fun read-alouds centered around love, caring and sharing.  Today, we are going to look at four valentine writing ideas to help cultivate your little one’s writing ability.

1.  Themed Writing Center

Introducing a themed writing center is one way to rejuvenate a tired center that may not be getting a lot of use.  For Valentine’s Day, why not add the following materials to your child’s writing center.

  • red, purple, and pink paper and envelopes in a variety of sizes
  • glitter gel pens and/or red pencils or pens
  • stickers or make your own scratch and sniff stickers
  • red, purple, pink and white pom poms, pipe cleaners and/or googly eyes
  • Valentine themed word chart (This helps your child spell words without constantly asking for help.)
  • mini mailbox

2.  Postcards

I love to get mail that isn’t a bill or a credit card application.  How about sending a postcard to a special someone?  A little creativity and a 32 cent postcard stamp will get you on your way.  The front of this postcard was made with cardstock stamped with heart cookie cutters dipped into paint.

3.  Touch Your Heart Card

You will really touch grandma’s heart with this handmade card.  For the front of the card, have your child draw or cut out a picture of a heart.  Next, have them put their fingerprint right in the middle of the heart.  On the inside of the card, have the child list things that are special about the card’s recipient.  Sign and date the card and you are ready for one special delivery.

4.  Flower Heart Face Card

I love to browse through gardening catalogs and daydream about my fantasy garden.  One of my favorite catalogs is White Flower Farm.  As I was browsing the pages of beautiful annuals and perennials, I came up with this idea to recycle the catalog once I’m done with it.

Draw or cut a heart and glue to the front on a folded piece of construction paper.   Next, cut out lips, eyes, nose, ears and hair from flower pictures.  How about tulips for lips or clematis for eyes?  Arrange the face cut-outs and glue down.  Now, your child is ready to write a sweet message on the inside.

I hope you are inspired to do some writing with your kids.

Linking to:  No Time For Flashcards, I Can Teach My Child, Sun Scholars, ABC and 123, Playing With Words 365, JDaniel4’sMom, Sunday Showcase , Chocolate Muffin Tree, NurtureStore, Preschool Powol Packets and Living Life Intentionally