Intriguing ways to get kids reading

I love reading now. I don’t remember choosing to pick up a book as a kid and to be honest I don’t remember learning to read. But I must have.

My little one is in reception and he’s doing really well with his reading, but encouraging him to read is another matter. He knows how to but doesn’t want to, which is a shame because the things he could read if he was willing to give it a try.

So instead of having a battle every time we are going to read together, we’ve started devising new fun ways to read. Now be warned this does make reading time a longer process but he enjoys it.

Road track reading

I made a track out of our k’nex roller coaster kit with the car on and each word he read the car would move along the track. He could finish reading when the car got to the finish line and sometimes he got a little treat. When this lost its interest we moved onto….

Skatepark reading

This time J would set up his ideal skatepark, and at the end of each page he would get to show me a trick on the skate park.

Planet jumping

We’ve been looking at different planets recently, so we set out the planet cards (in order) and then at the end of every page he could make a Lego man jump onto the next planet card. The challenge was to get the Lego man to the sun.

Writing the story on paper

One day I just wrote the story (well some of the story) onto yellow paper (his favourite colour). He enjoyed this, I think it worked because there were no distractions just pure and simple reading.

Tricky word challenge

One day I wrote out all the words that he might find tricky (from the current book we were reading) on a large bit of paper, I also numbered each of the words 1 – 6 and played a game before reading. We each had a some Duplo bricks and we had a dice. You have to roll the dice, and whatever number the dice lands on you have to try and read the word with the same number. If you get it right you add that many bricks to your Duplo tower and it’s the first person to 10. This was great fun.

Minecraft jumping

I set up six letter tiles and at different stages I also placed a fidget spinner. After each line he read the minecraft man moved along to the next tile. At the tile with the fidget spinner he was able to show me a trick. It was J who suggested that the minecraft man should say the letter that he lands on.

There is a slight transporty theme to all our reading challenges, which is fun. I like including things that he’s interested in at the time so that he is more engaged. We do each game for about a week and then move on so that boredom doesn’t set in. I know it probably seems like a lot of work, but it is worth it because we both enjoy practicing our reading.

I’ll have to get my thinking caps on for more intriguing reading fun.

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Being thankful.

We’ve heard them over and over again. Those words that feel like they are ripping your brain to shreds because they’ve been spoken over and over and over again… ‘Mum can I have….’ Well my little one takes asking to things to a whole new level.

It’s not just can I have… it goes on for days. ‘When I get this…’ ‘when you buy me that…’ ‘Mum please can you get me’. It’s constant and it’s annoying. The way he goes on you’d think he never gets anything or has no toys to play with. I’m probably not putting it into words very well, how painful it is. But last week it got to me.

I know he doesn’t have the life experience to know how blessed he is. I also know that all he knows is what he has and he’s also a completionist like me, so if you buy him a toy like Minecraft Lego, of course he wants all the other kits.

But I want him to become someone who is grateful for what he has, and to be a person who is thankful.

“Clinical trials indicate that the practice of gratitude can have dramatic and lasting effects in a person’s life,” said Robert A. Emmons, professor of psychology at UC Davis. “It can lower blood pressure, improve immune function and facilitate more efficient sleep.” Quote from today.com

Having a thankful attitude changes something in you, it switches your perspective and helps you see the world differently. When my little one isn’t thankful he’s upset, moody and not content.

‘But what about when there is something horrible going on…’ I hear you cry. Yes life isn’t all roses and fairy cakes (or whatever the saying is) but I do think it’s a good practice to even in the hardest of times find something to be thankful for, even if it’s something tiny.

I’m sure my husband won’t mind me saying but about a year ago he was finding things tricky, he was feeling lost and like life wasn’t on his side. He couldn’t see the good things in front of him. So I encouraged him to write a thank you diary. So everyday now he finds 5 things to be thankful for, and it’s really helped him to see the good things to help him look at his day through a different lens and be positive. A friend of ours who is a music therapist says that ‘a thank you diary is the best form of therapy’.

So with this in mind and with my brain feeling torn apart by the constant pecking of ‘can I have’, I went into action.

I asked J to choose a note book – I have lots at home. We designed the front cover of ‘J’s Thank you diary’ then turned it over and on the back wrote ‘J’s wish list’.

So in the front of the book we write one thing we are thankful for from that day. He’s at an age that he can actually write this. But we’ve been asking him to find something he’s thankful for every day since he was 2 and he’s just said it out loud, but we could have written those down.

Then in the back, we sat down together and found pictures online and stuck them in the book of the things he would like, once we’d concentrated it down there were actually only about 5 things, it just felt like more because of the dripping tap effect. Our rule with the back of the book is, once it’s in there he doesn’t need to ask for it again, because if we want to buy him a present or it’s his birthday and we or others need ideas we know where to look. He is allowed to add to the list should he wish to, but he doesn’t need to go on about it. And do you know what, it’s worked. I think him writing down his ideas just meant there was a place to file them instead of him feeling like he had to all the time talk about them in case they got forgotten.

I also think the practice of gratitude at the same time as asking for things (because let’s face it we all want things) just puts the need for things in its right place not a dominant place.

We do talk about how blessed he is and we do talk about others who don’t have as much as us and we also talk about how we can help those who don’t have as much and put it into action.

I’m hoping this is a practice he will continue in his life.

Some other ideas to record things your thankful for…

• A thank you jar – decorate a jar together and have strips of paper ready and every night write down something you are thankful for. Then every now and then have a look through those wonderful thank yous.

• A thank you garden – cut up petals and write on your thankyous’ and then every so often add them together to make a flower. How big can your garden get?

• Over dinner time think of something to be thankful for and then share that, it could spark a lot of dinner chat.

Have fun creating your thankful ideas and thank you for reading!

Plastic Easter Eggs

Don’t panic I’m not talking about getting rid of chocolate! That could never happen in my house. But this year I bought a few packets of plastic eggs and I’ve amazed myself at how much I’ve used them we’ve used them in many different ways.

You can buy these eggs in loads of places, but of course I bought mine from Poundland. I bought a pack of 10 large and a pack of 18 which included smaller ones too. In fact they had an amazing Easter range this year and I’ve lost count of how much I’ve spent. From eggs, bunny crayons, felt egg decorating and cute pom pom bunnies. (I promise they are not paying me to say this!)

You can fall into the trap of only using these eggs for an Easter egg hunt, but there are so many ways you can use them and we’ve loved it here at home and the many toddler groups I run too.

1. Tuff Trays

This one we used butter beans (dried) and mung beans and material for the pond. The eggs were brilliant as the kids loved opening and closing (great for fine motor skills) and also they made great scoops for the mung beans and the chicks. The rabbits and chicks also fit inside so that brought great fun too!

This one was for J. I don’t tend to spend too long on setting out Tuff Trays for him in case he doesn’t touch it. But he liked this one. I added spoons and cups to this one.

One surprise I added to all the trays I made, was felt eggs inside. So when they first opened them out popped an egg.

This is just so you can see the felt eggs. This is great for little fingers too as they try and push them back in!

I didn’t take pics of the tray I did for my under 3’s group. But it was just a tray full of the eggs and rabbits and they all had great fun opening, closing (and trying to open and close) the surprise of a rabbit inside never got tired!!

2. Easter Egg Hunts

I did use them for one Easter egg hunt. We invited some of J’s school friends round for an Easter party and egg hunt. Absolute chaos in my flat but the kids loved it. They ate lots of cake and choc, worked together as a team to find the eggs and then had a disco! Brilliant.

The hunt was for over 4’s so I wanted a bit of a challenge. We drew a giant egg on say yellow paper and then cut it into four pieces. Each piece went in a yellow plastic egg.

The kids were divided into colour teams and they had to find their colour. Once they had all four eggs they had to put together their egg puzzle then they could have another plastic egg which contained 4 mini chocolate eggs. This worked really well as some get really into the finding and some don’t. Which in the past when I’ve just put out chocolate eggs someone finds all the eggs and then leave non for those who aren’t so much into the finding.

3. Snack Time

Again sorry no pics 🤦🏼‍♀️! But on Good Friday we had a long long journey but train to Heathrow airport to meet up with some family who were arriving in the UK. So I wanted to add a bit more joy to snack time.

I used an egg box and in each slot put a plastic egg. I did sneak some chocolate into one of the eggs, but there was popcorn, dried pineapple and raisins.

His face when he asked for a snack and I pulled out an egg box was classic. Also it also made others peoples journey a little more fun because of J’s reaction!

4. Reading and Numbers

Now I bet you didn’t think I’d add that into my list!

Our homework from school was to learn our numbers from 1 – 21. So I wanted to make it a little more enjoyable for him. So in came the plastic eggs.

If you crack open the hinges you can then twist the top and bottom. So on one side I wrote either a 1 or a 2 and then wrote other numbers on the other side.

So at dinner time (our best fun learning time) he could twist the eggs and then he’d have to tell us what number he made.

I also made eggs to help support reading and tricky words.

This was his favourite type – there is a word on the outside of the egg, which we would help him read. Then you open it up to find the letters on bits of paper, which he had to put in the right order. Interesting when the word was ‘Was’ and you can put it back to front and make another word.

Another way we did it was with twisting again…

We’re working on diagraphs so I made an egg for beginning sounds and the different sounds you can make. These are now sitting in a bowl on our table so whenever it takes his fancy he can have a go.

5. Role Play

Eggs for your play kitchen. Make some felt eggs put them in a egg box and there you have some pretend eggs.

I’m sure there are loads more ideas you can use them for, but these are the few we have done over the last few weeks.

I have one Easter Party where they will come out again and then maybe next year I’ll think of more ideas!!

Book Month – Part 5

My LO has been really poorly this week tonsilitis, ear infection and now on an inhaler poor little thing. So let’s just say we’ve all been a bit exhausted! But amazingly it hasn’t quenched his thirst for exploration. He’s been really interested in flowers so we did book Month a bit differently and read books based around flowers rather than me choosing a book.

We came upon this because my wonderful hubby buys me flowers every week, and one morning I came into the front room to find J intently studying a flower.

He was fascinated! So we looked up online about the different parts of the flower.

So I scoured my book shelf for books about flowers and surprisingly I didn’t have many. Of course we have lots of books that have pictures of flowers but only 2 that specifically mentioned them.

Any suggestions for the future?

What I did come up with was…

It’s not written by Dr Seuss but in the same style. It loosely explains the process of making honey, which definitely involves flowers. You can also watch the Bee movie which is fun and again explains the process, but don’t expect too much science! And of course we had honey on toast.

Our second book was…

There are questions in there about ‘why do flowers smell nice?’ ‘Why do trees loose their leaves’ and ‘do trees breathe?’

We made this little book about the parts of the plant (I’m sorry I can’t remember which site it’s from, but if you google parts of the plant there are loads).

This was one of our activities that were handy when the Calpol had kicked in!

We also tried an experiment of putting flowers in different coloured water to see what would happen.

For some reason it didn’t work. But we had fun anyway!

He now has a bunch of flowers in his room and his minecraft world is currently being littered with red flowers.

Another book which is BRILLIANT is…

There are no words in this book only incredible pictures which spark the imagination and have helped us to write a story about Jelly Fish called the ‘Jelly Fish Backflip’ (don’t ask I still don’t understand!). It’s a beautiful coffee table book.

So we couldn’t do much this week, I would have like to collected some flowers and do some flower pressing and I’d also like to have done some flower dissection, but illness took over.

This is the last post of Book Month. We have loved it, I didn’t make a big thing of it. J probably didn’t know it was happening, but we have loved exploring new books, it seems book Month has been very based on our world from ‘Tidy’ by Emily Gravitt and books about space and flowers. And who can forget Robot Week!

I’m definitely just going to carry on bringing books to life in ways that makes reading more enjoyable, educational and enduring!

Book Month – Part 4

Space week was a little bit like a collapsed star – the first week just disappeared because for some reason we were sooo busy but eventually something happened, but it wasn’t as successful as previous weeks.

It all started with a book from Twinkl (an online store of resources for people working with children). It’s a Twinkl original so you can’t get it anywhere else, so I know this is a bit mean. It’s called ‘Back to Earth with a bump’

It’s a great, because it is Augmented Reality (AR). So on certain pages you put your phone over the pages (you have to download the Twinkl app) and out of the page pops the little boy holding his bear, or the planets moving around the sun. It really got J interested in the Solar system. It was also another way for him to engage with the book.

Other books we read…

We love this series of Ed Hart books with Albie.

We also read a few non fiction books from the library about the solar system, which were fascinating. Although J prefers Mars Rovers!!

So down to the activities…. or should I say activity.

I made a space Tuff Tray, which he didn’t touch 🤦🏼‍♀️. The sandy stuff is quinoa and seeds. Then the foil is just put over some boxes. I printed off some planets too.

I did order a decorate your own solar system but didn’t realise it was coming from China, so we’ll just have to do that another time.

I did have a long list of things I wanted to do…

Decorate the solar system

Make Space Rock Cakes

Make a Rocket

Make moon sand

but he’s also been poorly so everything went awry!

Book Month – Part 3 Robot Week!!

We have loved Robot week. We started with the book ‘Robot Rumpus’ by Sean Taylor.

This is one of J’s favourite books, so much so recently on a car Journey we were both able to tell each other the story without the book! The book is about two parents who leave their child in the care of 7 robots with the line ‘what could possibly go wrong?’ as they close the door!

So our week of Robot activities started…

Firstly we had some friends round and they helped J build a basic robot, then the next day I set out a Robot Factory tuft tray.

There were lots of random bits we put on the tray – circuit boards, light bulbs, wall plugs, screws and strimmer wire (yes I do have lots of random things in my house!) and in the end we were able to make our basic robot have a bit more life!

J then wrote another story about a little boy called Joe Joe (we read Horton Hears a Who – Dr Seuss) who loses his toy robot and then a police robot finds it and brings it back. So we’ve been making this into a comic strip.

One evening I left on the table some robot magnets I made ages ago (hence they are a bit beaten up) and to my amazement he made all the robots without my prompting.

These are really easy to make. I used the robots from this blog and printed them onto Magnet paper.

Then just cut them up and put them on your fridge or baking tray and there are endless combinations of robots unless you have a perfectionist as a child and then there are only the set combinations! I made these for J when he was about 2 and they are still fun!

You may or may not have access to Twinkl (a resource website – I use it mainly for work but there are some great things on there for J). Well we used their robot writing sheets to practice his letters and a grid sheet to design a robot. So I guess if you had the time or inclination you could just design your own.

Other books about Robots we read this week…

So all in all a good robotic week!

We also had World Book day (rescheduled due to the snow!) all my fears were confirmed as he refused to wear the outfit, so I’m glad we didn’t spend any money or time! But also pleased we are still celebrating books in our own way!

Book Month – Part 2

Well after all of my huffing and puffing about World Book Day, it was snowed off anyway. So it was a good job we celebrated it in our own way.

We’ve had a lovely week reading lots and doing fun things to do with our book of the week.

As I said last week our book was ‘Tidy’ by Emily Gravett. Such a lovely book.

Beautiful pictures and a lovely rhymical story and to add to that it includes hoovers and diggers! (This is a good thing if you love them as much as J does.) But there is also a more meaningful undertone to this book about looking after our planet and protecting our woodlands and not cementing over everything to make way for galumphing great tower blocks and houses!

Reading it this week really brought it home to J the impact of what happens to build houses for us.

But we didn’t just read, we had extra fun too…

The world

After our little chat about looking after the world had a look at what our world looked like, we used an atlas but Google Earth is also great fun too.

Then we set about painting the world and I was so impressed by the outcome.

We used paint dabbers – easy and slightly mess free (if you don’t slam them down and then find all the splats on your wall).

The woods

I tried to bring a little of the woods to our front room in the sensory tray. The book talks about autumn coming and the leaves falling, and the diggers come in and dig up all the trees so this is what I tried to recreate.

I used a mixture of quinoa and pumpkin seeds with sunflower seeds for the base. Then added in some sticks, acorns and pine cones. There were some diggers and scoops to add to the fun. We left it out for a few days so he kept coming back to it.

Where is my rabbit?

Something that I thought would take the whole month was writing a book, but he got it done in one evening. Can I just add this was his idea.

It’s a lovely book called ‘Where is my rabbit?’ and is very similar to Monkey Puzzle, but I’m sure Julia Donaldson won’t mind! He is 4 after all. But he told me the story whilst I wrote it down and then I typed it into Book Creator, which is a great app. He was then able to add images and draw a lovely rabbit wearing trousers and wearing a hat. Now this is amazing because I have an active bean that doesn’t really like to draw – but give him an iPad and we get masterpieces.

He was also able to add some voice over too. It was such a special time doing this together and it something we will treasure. I must have read it a hundred times already.

Other books with the same theme

We also had a read around with some similarly themed books.

Starting with ‘The Lorax’ by Dr Seuss – brilliant, brilliant book one of our favs.

’10 things I can do to help my world’ by Melanie Walsh. I think the title says it all. But it was a challenge to me too.

‘Christopher’s Bicycle’ by Charlotte Middleton a lovely book about recycling things to make gifts for others.

So all in all a good first week. We might get chance to make a painted forest tomorrow, but we’ll see.

Next week is ‘Robot Rumpus’ by Sean Taylor. This is a fab book and have already read it loads and loads. But we had to have a robot week!

Book month! Part 1

I have spent a lot of time moaning about World Book Day this week. Anyone who knows me has probably started avoiding me because I’ve been on my soapbox all week.

Now don’t get me wrong, I love books. J and I love reading together; it is one of the highlights of our day, snuggling down on the sofa and reading the chosen books for that day. We go to the library and get out 20 books each time and get through them all each week. We’ve even bought J a reading light and now he also reads a book before bed by himself.

But what I’m struggling with is dressing up for ‘World Book Day’ – it seems to be a huge pressure for people. I’m a creative person and still find it massively pressured. Mainly because I could spend hours making an outfit and then J wouldn’t wear it at all! Or go and buy one and again he doesn’t wear it. Not only that my husband is a teacher and so we have two outfits to think of (I’m very aware that most of you have 2 or more to make, so I know that I’m not alone in this!) I know the purpose is to get children engaged in books, but mostly children dress up as characters from films – I checked out a stores website for their world book day outfits and out of 12 outfits only 4 were actual book characters! But enough of my rant because believe me I could go on!

So this morning I decided to stop moaning and be the change I want to see. So in our house we are going to have Book Month. We will choose one book a week (on top of our normal books) read it and choose activities to do from the book, and really try to engage with the books and inspire creativity and hopefully some learning.

Our first book is….

It’s a beautiful book encouraging the reader to look after our world.

Amazingly it also includes two of J’s loves — hoovers and diggers — so it’s a winner. Tonight at bedtime we had such a lovely conversation about protecting animals and replanting trees after they’ve been cut down.

I’m desperate for J to grow up loving books and reading. He already has a thirst for knowledge, so I want to support him in every way I can.

This morning I read an interesting/terrifying report from thebookseller.com

‘New report reveals 58% of parents of 3-4 year-olds struggle to read with their children every day’

I understand that there are a million reasons why this happens. being too busy, not loving reading themselves, lack of confidence with reading and so on. But hopefully our book month will not only inspire J and myself, but others too. So I’ll stop moaning about dressing up and start championing books! I’ll also share all our activities as we go along.

Playing Libraries

I love going to the library, mainly because it means we get a fresh hit of books to read each evening. J enjoys going because he always manages to get the librarian to let him stamp the books at the end of our visit. We also love reading together, and J is also getting into reading, so I’ve been trying to find ways of encouraging more of a love of books.

At our last visit to the library, J asked if we could buy a date stamp and yesterday in Poundland we found these stamps. I know they are not date stamps but they have a similar action and date stamps are not very cheap and it might be a one time game!

So it pushed me into action and I’ve made a whole set of library cards, borrowing record slips and even a scanner (I might need to work on my scanner though!)

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I made the scanner out of a yogurt pot and some card, but you can probably come up with something better.

I’ve since laminated the library cards, hopefully this will make them last a little longer. And yes the QR code works too.

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I will spend time with J sticking the borrowing record cards in our books, so he can choose which ones go in our library. I just used a small bit of glue to stick them in.

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I personally can’t wait to play libraries hopefully he will too!

Let me know if you want copies of the cards and slips.

 

The ‘H Free running crew’

We are being introduced to the world of digraphs here. Now when I learnt to read this wasn’t a common thing in fact I didn’t really know the word existed until my husband became a nursery teacher!

Well now my little one is learning to read. So digraphs and split digraphs are becoming much more part of life!

Currently he’s finding ch, sh, wh and th tricky. There are loads of activities out there on the internet, but I wanted something a little more personal so that J would connect with it and he’s into free running at the moment, so meet the ‘H free running crew!’

This is Charlie and he likes chasing people.

This is Whitmore (there are not many wh names – that I could think of anyway) and he likes whistling.

This is Shelly and she likes shimmying into a spin.

And last but not least this is Theo and he likes walking on thin things.

Our best time to learn new things is whilst we are eating dinner together so these will come out whenever we’re not having a tired tear filled meal time.

Another activity I made was painting by sound…

(Yes it got J’d before I could explain how to do the activity!)

This is our sound monster. You have to use the right colour for the sound. We will use paint Dabbers as J isn’t much into colouring, but if you have a little one who enjoys colouring with pencils or pens, you can use them too. The great thing about this is again it could be completely personalised and you don’t have to be an artist to draw a very simple picture that has large spaces to colour in.