Becoming Reading Ready: 6 Steps to Develop a Strong Early Reading Foundation in Newborns to Three Year Olds

On average, children learn to read between the ages of five and seven years old.  However, reading doesn’t just start at some magical age; as a parent, you need to make sure that you are helping your child to become “reading ready.”  Below are six ways to encourage and develop your child’s love of, and foundation for, reading, starting right from birth.

Reading Ready from Birth to 1 Year Old:

1)  Talk, sing, recite rhymes and do finger plays with your baby.  By just listening to you speak, your child will learn spoken language and begin to build a strong foundation for reading.  Just remember, that as you talk and sing, make it as conversational as possible.  Look you baby in the eyes when speaking, and allow your baby to have a response time before moving on to the next idea.  Even though your baby may not exactly respond, it gives him time to process what has just happened, another good skill used when reading.

2)  Start setting aside time every day to read together.  Children as young as six months old can begin to enjoy books.  Even if they don’t follow the story just yet, they will love to hear your voice and look at pictures.  Just noticing the direction in which you turn the pages gives them clues about how to read.  Read picture books with your baby snuggled in your lap, and point out the things you see.  This helps develop word association, and puts them on the path to being reading ready.  Bedtime is an ideal time for reading together because it allows some winding down time so your baby can get ready to sleep.

3)  Allow for independent “reading” time for your baby.  Amidst the toys on the floor, provide board books and soft books for your baby as well.  Sure, the books will be chewed and banged around, but they will also be looked at.  This allows your baby to explore books in her own way and imitate how you read.

1 to 3 Years Old:

4)  Continuing to read every day is important, but at this age, allow your child to pick the books you read together.  Yes, you will probably read the same books over and over and over again, but repetition is part of learning.  When your child becomes familiar with a book, have him start finishing the sentences, or have him tell you what is going to happen next in the story.  And when reading new books, allow your child to name objects in the book, or make predictions about what will happen next based on the pictures he sees.

5)  Take trips to the library.  Kids love experiencing new things, and at the library there are literally thousands of new books to choose from.  Make it an event, don’t just go, pick out a book and leave.  Stay a while and really explore the different types of books to choose from, and maybe even stay for story time.  It is good for children to hear books read by other people as well as yourself.

6)  Continue to encourage, but not force, independent reading time.  You can do this by keeping books in her bedroom, or in a special reading nook.  Make sure there is a comfortable bed or chair next to the bookshelf so she can cuddle up with a book, and that there is good light or a reading lamp.  I always like the idea of reading buddies as well.  Reading buddies can be stuffed animals that the child can snuggle with and read to.  I enjoy b

Ready to Learn

When kids head off to school, they should be ready to learn.  Teachers spend hours of their own time developing curriculum, preparing lesson plans, and gathering materials.  Between the first and last bell of the day, there is limited time.  Seven hours might seem like a long day, but to get everything in is challenging.

This is why kids need to be ready to learn when they get to school.  When the students are ready, the teacher can move through lessons at a better pace with less disruption.  Here are 5 ways you can help make your child ready to learn at school.

1. Teach your kids manners and respect.

Teachers deal with 20-30 kids in a classroom, and it is hard. However, it is harder to teach Math or Reading if they also have to be teaching manners and respect.  Sure, teachers will reinforce these lessons, but they should be taught and practiced at home on a regular basis.  If your child is disrespectful to the teacher or to the classmates, it takes away time for the academic lesson being taught.  This has a negative effect on the teacher, as well as the rest of the class.  It is the parent’s job to raise their children to be decent and functional human beings; it is the teacher’s job to raise their students’ academic abilities.

2. Make sure your child does their homework.

If a teacher assigns homework, it is for a reason. Just as teachers will reiterate lessons of manners and respect taught in the home, homework is a way for parents to reiterate academic lessons taught at school.  Homework is like extra practice to ensure kids fully grasp the concept of the lesson.  Work done at home, without the guidance of the teacher can be a good indicator of how well students understand certain concepts.  This information helps the teacher to adjust lesson plans according to how well the class is understanding the material.  You don’t need to hover while your kids do their homework, just make sure they do it.  And it never hurts to give it a quick look-over after they have finished to make sure it was done correctly.

3. Make sure your child gets a good night’s sleep.

Not enough sleep can cause fatigue. Fatigue can cause a slowing down of brain functions, thought processes and motor skills. It can even make your child emotionally unstable, quick to get anygy, or cry. Even though kids seem like they have the energy to stay up all hours of the night, they actually need more than a solid 8 hours every night.  School age kids need roughly 10 hours of sleep. A good night’s sleep will help their minds to be attentive and receptive during school.

4. Feed your child a good breakfast.

Bottom line is if your child is distracted by how hungry they are, they will be less functional in school. If your child wakes up super early to get on the bus, make sure they eat a good, plentiful breakfast before they get on.  If your child likes to sleep in, make sure they wake in time to eat.  If you are unable to have breakfast at home, many schools have a breakfast program, so make sure they get to school on time for that.  Food is fuel for the mind and body.  If your kids don’t fuel up, they won’t be able to function properly.

5. Understand that you and your child’s teacher are a team.

Parents and teachers need to work together to further a child’s emotional, social and academic development. When you support the teacher, and they support you, your child views each in an equal manner.  It is when kids get home, and their parents allow them to blow off school work, allow them to skip school, or even talk bad about a teacher that kids view their teachers as inferior.  This can lead to disrespect and disruption in the classroom.  Just as both parents need to be on the same team, so do parents and teachers.  Work together with respect and understanding.  Demonstrate through your actions that your child’s teacher is a person of authority, and deserves respect.  I know this is similar to the first point, but it is a big one.  Teachers cannot do their job well if they are constantly getting pushback from parents and students.

Lazy Days of Summer

I’m having a lazy summer, and I like it.  No, I love it.  My boys are in a sweet age of life where they can be independent, but their lives don’t revolve around the world outside our house.  I even pulled them out of Karate for the summer. I did this partly because we were going to miss a bunch because of vacation, but also because I didn’t want to be somewhere for 2 hours twice a week. In the mornings they can make their own breakfasts, so I’ve been able to sleep in a bit. Then they go off and play either in the basement or outside until lunch.  So I’ve been able to catch up on reading and writing.  But most days, I’ve just been a little lazy.  Why? Because I can right now.

I know what’s coming.  School is right around the corner, and things will get busy again.  The calendar will fill up with back to school nights, school activities x2 since my youngest is starting Kindergarten, and after school activities.  Apparently 3rd grade is the year that they open up all the after school clubs.  Art club, Spanish club, Running club, etc., and I’m sure my kid will want to try them all!   And no one can predict what summers of the future hold.  Maybe next summer will be like this one, but maybe my kids will want to join a summer sport with their friends… All I know it that now I have time to do nothing, and it is coming to an end shortly.

When the school year starts, I will once again be watching my 2 year old niece (my sister is a teacher), but will also take on my 7 month old nephew (my SIL is a teacher too).  Then, eventually a second brand new niece will be added after the holidays!! I’m so excited about getting to watch and spend time with them, but I know I will be busy.  I’m already thinking ahead as to how I will meal plan the weeks for my own family, and have time to get my workouts and writing in each day.

So for now, while the summer lasts, I’ll be lazy, and I’ll enjoy it.  I’ll keep our days clear of solid plans.  I’ll let the kids decide what, if anything, we will do for the day. We can stay up late reading or having a movie night because there’s nothing to do the next day.  And so the dishes might sit in the sink for the day while I write or read instead.  Maybe I’ll vacuum, but maybe not. Laundry will get done when I hear complaints of no underwear.  But the time for being lazy won’t last long, so for now, I am just enjoying it.

Getting Your Kids to Eat

I’ve written about eating healthy foods before, and I’m sure I’ll write about it again in the future.  Over processed foods are everywhere, and they are heavily advertised to appeal to our kids.  Sure, the processed foods are quick and easy, and they can save you in a pinch.  However, they are terrible for you and your kids!  The problem that we parents have is that when we do cook a healthy meal, our kids usually turn their noses up at it.  So how do you we get your kids to eat real, healthy foods?

 

A friend of mine, Melissa D. McPheeters, has written a great little guide to getting kids to eat the nutritious foods you make.  It is called Kids Eat, and it is a quick read that is full of honesty and tips that actually work!  I already incorporate most of her tips into our meal times, which is awesome!  But I also have a few more tricks/tips I’d like to add.  Here are my tips for getting your kids to eat what you make.

 

1. The No Thank You Bite

I use the crockpot a lot.  We are busy, and it is a fabulous tool that allows me to cook a nutritious meal without much effort.  However, when food comes out of a crockpot, it is all mixed together, and that can be weird looking for kids.  I always give them a serving and I make them take a “no thank you bite”.  The purpose of this is to make the kid try it, but then also give them the opportunity to tell me they don’t like it.  If they don’t like it, I don’t make them eat it anymore, but I thank them for trying.

Here’s the kicker though, many kids won’t actually taste one bite.  They swallow it so quickly that they don’t give it a real chance.  So, my rule is that you have to take as many bites as you are old before you can tell me you don’t want anymore.  So my 5yo has to take 5 bites before he can tell me no thank you, and my 8yo takes 8.

I do make an exception for foods that they clearly HATE.  For example, my 8yo cannot eat mashed potatoes. They literally make him gag when he puts them in his mouth.  But since taste buds change and develop as you grow, every once in a while I will serve them to him.  If he takes one bite and gags, I don’t make him take all 8.  On the other hand, let’s say we have broccoli, and it’s not his favorite, but he can still eat it, so I make him take all 8 bites.

 

2. Present a Diverse Plate

When serving up a meal, I don’t just put one thing on my kids’ plates.  I give them a variety of foods. There is the main meal, if that doesn’t have veggies in it I give a side of veggies, some fruit, and sometimes a starch (tortilla shells or chips with tacos, homemade fries with burgers, etc.).  So, if after they take their “no thank you bites” of their main meal, they still have several other things on their plates for them to take “no thank you bites” from, or eat completely.

By presenting them with a variety of foods to try, you can expand their pallet as well as easily tell them that THIS is what is for dinner.  Many parents will go out of their way to make another meal for their kids, but to be honest, that’s not doing them any favors.  Kids will always choose junk over nutritious foods, so put a variety of nutritious foods on their plates, and they will eat something.

 

3. Let Them Pick The Veggies

I have started a new thing with my kids.  When we go to the grocery store I let them pick out a new veggie and fruit to try.  I don’t buy a lot of it, just enough to try.  Then I find a recipe for the best way to serve it, and we have it for dinner that night.  This “game” has gotten them excited about trying new foods.  It has also introduced us to some veggies I wouldn’t have normally bought.  Some taste tests were a bust, but others have now been added to our regular grocery list.  When you get your kids involved in the decision process, they feel more in control, and are willing to try what THEY have picked.

Rain Check

Summer is here!!!  And we are all looking forward to all of the outdoor time for our kids.  However, where I live, it’s been raining for pretty much the last 3 weeks.  Rain can really put a damper on all of your summer plans.  We’ve already had to take a rain check for a few of our plans. The kids are forced to be inside with you all day, and just the thought of it give us a touch of anxiety.  Not to worry though!  I have a few ideas on how we can combat the craziness while being stuck indoors!  Here are 7 activities you won’t need a rain check for.

1. (Rain) Check in with your kids

Before you start wracking your brain about what to do, see if your kids have any ideas. Sit down with your kids and have them write down several ideas of what THEY would like to do when you have to put a rain check on the outdoor activities.  Put all the suggestions in a jar and literally save them for a rainy day!  Pull an activity out as needed, and let the fun happen.  I also do this for winter break when it is sometimes too cold to get outside.

2. Science and Crafts

Search the internet for fun crafts and Science experiments you can do with your kids at home. Science experiments offer fun and education to entertain the summer mind. You can get ahead of the plan by ordering Science boxes for all ages that will be sent to your home with all the materials needed! Craft time is a great way to get kids to express their imaginations.

3. Art

Create art!! Whether it’s sculpting with clay or playdough, coloring in a coloring book, or painting, you and your kids are sure to have a good time!! Just grab the art supplies, turn on some good music, and see where it takes you!

4. Dance

Have a dance party! Good music can always brighten a gloomy day!  Simply turn on the tunes and get moving!  If you and your kids really want to step it up, take some time to pick out specific songs for a playlist, and get creative with the choreography and costuming!

5. Cook and Bake

Get in the kitchen and cook! You’ve got to teach your kids to cook for themselves at some point, so why not on a rainy day?  Pick a recipe that they would like to try, or guide them in helping you prep and cook the dinner you planned for that evening.  The more you get your kids involved in cooking and meal prep, the more willing they will be to eat the foods you make.

6. Movies and Reading

Turn your T.V. room into a movie theater! Pull out the pillows and blankets, turn out the lights, and pop some popcorn.  Rainy days always make me want to curl up and watch a good movie, so why not make it fun!!  If you’d like to spend less time in front of a screen, use the pillows and blankets to create a comfy space to read books with your kids!!

7. GET OUT OF THE HOUSE!!

Just because it’s raining doesn’t mean you can’t leave.  There are plenty of indoor play places (Pump It Up, Sky Zone, etc.) you can take your kids to where they can expend energy.  You can also hit up a local museum (children’s museum, science, history, planetarium etc.) Explore and learn while in a new environment.  Museums and indoor entertainment venues too expensive or far away?  No problem.  Your local library is free and will most likely have some sort of story time or activity for your kids!  And worst case scenario, you and your kids just get to check out some books!  When my kids were little (5 and younger) they even enjoyed taking a trip to the local pet store just to look at all the animals.  Even a causal trip to browse around your Target, Walmart or Meijer can be enjoyable as long as you preface the trip with the fact that you are not buying anything.

Weekend Getaway

As parents, a weekend away from the kids is few and far between.  But it is always highly anticipated!  The thought of being alone with your significant other, with no one’s food to cut up, or noses (among other things) to wipe, sounds AMAZING!!  But, then there’s the planning, and that’s what get me.  A weekend getaway is great, but I still have to make sure my kids will have everything they need.

So you’ve found a sitter. Now what?

Finding a sitter for a weekend getaway seems like the hard part, until you are about to leave.  It’s usually a few days before I leave that I get all anxious and start feverishly jotting down notes to leave for the sitter.  If I leave on a Friday, I’ve got to write down school schedules, and addresses for after-school activities.  I write down “tricks of the trade” for dealing with specific behaviors or tests my kids may throw at the sitter.  I clean the house so the sitter isn’t coming into a dirty place. (The house is never really that dirty, but you know how it is when guests come over.)  I make sure the trash cans and dishwasher are emptied and ready to be filled.  I also meal plan and prep.  Since the sitter is coming into my home, I feel that I should have food ready to heat up.  They are already taking care of my boys, so I should at least make meal times a breeze.  It’s exhausting and stressful to me because I’m always feeling like I forgot to do, or explain, something.

Weekend getaway = 3x the packing

Then there are the times when we get to drop our kids off at someone’s house.  It’s slightly easier for me because I don’t have to prepare my house, but I now I’m triple packing.  I pack myself for my trip, and I pack for each boy.  They help, but I make sure they have enough clothes, pjs, underwear and socks.  I make sure they have all their toiletries and vitamins.  Then the toy negotiation happens.  They pick a pile of 1,000 toys to bring and I negotiate them down to a manageable number.  And when we drop them off, I try to go over bed times, and sleeping situations with them so they know that the same rules from home apply here.

Sunshine and Rainbows

Weekend getaways are amazing, and I greatly look forward to spending time with my husband and no kids.  When I get there, I’m relaxed and ready to have a good time.  It’s just the days leading up to it that I’m anxious, busy, and pretty grumpy.  And that’s where I am now. But tomorrow, it will be all sunshine and rainbows!

Avoiding The Summer Slide

Summer is coming.  We can’t wait for vacations and more free time!  We are looking forward to long days and warm nights.  Our kids yearn for the freedom of no school!  However, as parents, we should be thinking about the “Summer Slide”.  The “Summer Slide” (or slump) refers to the forgetting of what kids learned in school.  Since summer is so full of fun, activity and leisure, Reading and Math skills take a back seat.  The progress made in the previous school year begins to slide back a bit.  However, there are some things we can do to help keep our kids from sliding back!

 

1. Keep a summer routine.

Sure, you may not need to wake up as early as you would during the school year, but routines are important.  Kids thrive in a setting where they know what to expect and what is expected of them.  So keep a calendar of things you will be doing, and keep a regular morning routine.  This will help their minds be settled in knowing what is to come, and they can better focus on other tasks.  And while summer bedtimes might be pushed later, it is also important to keep a set bedtime so that kids get enough sleep.

 

2. Read daily!

Reading is so important!!! Even reading aloud to your child (reader or non) can help to develop their vocabulary.  So join a summer reading program through your local library.  Read a story before bed every night.  Give your kid a blanket or hammock that they can use to read outside.  I have made a deal with my eight year old that he can stay up as late as he wants during the summer (as long as we don’t have plans the next day) as long as he is reading.

 

3. Write daily.

Reading and writing go hand in hand.  Even though it is summer, kids should be practicing their fine motor skills as well.  Maybe you buy a notebook for your child so that they can keep a little summer journal.  Or for beginners, have them practice writing their names in chalk or on postcards. Have your kids write your grocery list, to-do list, or calendar.  Practicing writing will allow their skills to improve rather than slide.

 

4. Use Math often!!

Help your child run a lemonade stand so they can use and count money.  Give them a budget for shopping for souvenirs so they can add up and count their money.  Have them help you cook. Measuring ingredients is a fun Math activity.  And for older kids, you can ask them to help you double or half a recipe (fraction addition). With younger kids, simply counting things can help them.  Count the cookies you give them for snack.  Count the number of blue cars you see driving by.  You can also do simple addition with toys, “You have 3 LEGOS, but how many will you have if I give you one more?”  Math can easily be worked into your daily activities.

 

5. Keep their curiosity engaged!

Kids love to learn in a hands on way.  Playing is learning, and while free play is super important, so is some structured play.  Science experiments can be fun, engaging and educational! And it doesn’t have to be a big production.  A volcano or rocket experiment can be done with just a plastic bottle, baking soda, and vinegar.  Even a simple slime recipe can be turned into a lesson about absorption and chemical reaction!  You can find every day experiments all over the internet, or you could subscribe to a science box and get a new batch of experiments sent to you every month of the summer!!

 

Summer should be a time for freedom and fun, but we can’t be letting our kids completely slide back on the skills they worked so hard to develop.  Keep them learning and growing all summer long!!

What I Want My Kids To Know

As parents, we spend every second of our lives teaching lessons.  We teach manners, actions, and words.  We teach concepts and creativity, independence and attitude.  But in the everyday routine of it all, sometimes I feel like I have forgotten some things.  So here is what I want my kids to know above all else.

 

1. Always choose to be kind.

Your words and actions have an impact on everyone around you.  If you are kind, you can help brighten someone’s day. Kindness spreads like fire, so be that spark that sets off a blaze of kindness. I see your actions at home; I see how you help your brother, and think of nice ways to make him happy.  This fills my heart with so much pride, love and happiness!  I know that you are well on your way to being a kind, caring adult. Just remember to always choose kindness.

 

2. You have a voice.

Your thoughts and feelings matter, so use your voice to express yourself!  Share your opinions, stand up for what you believe in, and be true to yourself.  If you don’t like someone hugging you, tell them not to.  If you want more of something, ask for it.  If you have a question, ask for an answer.  Your voice is your tool for communicating everything about you, so speak confidently.

 

3. Never stop learning.

Keep your curiosity about the world around you strong.  Science and technology are forever advancing, bringing us new information.  Keep your mind sharp, and yourself open to new information, even if it challenges something you think you already know.  Just remember, there is always someone else who knows more than you do, so never miss an opportunity to learn.

 

4. You will never be alone.

Besides your dad and I, you are surrounded by people who love and support you unconditionally.  Your extended family is large and full of love for you.  Your grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins will always be near (or at least a phone call away).  If you are going through a tough time, and need someone to listen to you, all you have to do is ask.  We all love you so much, and will always be here for you.

5. Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t, you’re right.

There is enough negativity in the world, so don’t bring more of it onto yourself.  Try new things, and don’t be afraid to be bad at them.  If it’s something you enjoy, work hard to get it right.  Go for your dreams without fear of failure; failure is a part of life.  Being positive and learning to work through your failures and mistakes is what makes us grow and leads us to success. Know you can achieve anything that you work hard for.

6. Your hugs mean everything to me.

As you are getting older, the time of snuggles is slipping away.  You no longer wish to be held in my arms while you fall asleep, and that’s just a part of life.  But when you come up to me, and wrap your arms around me, my heart just fills up!!  I love you so much, more than you will ever know until you have your own kids.  I admire the person you are growing up to be. I respect the need for distance as you grow. But I adore the five seconds you take out of your day to give me a hug.

Let Them Fail

We’ve all heard of the different types of parenting (gentle, tiger, and helicopter parents).   But there is a new type that is gaining more and more attention. This would be the snowplow (or bulldozer) parent.  These parents to anything and everything in their power to clear any and all obstacles from their child’s road of life.  This includes (but is not limited to) the recent celebrity college scandal where several celebrities have been caught bribing admissions of Ivy League schools, or paying off test takers in order for their children to get into a top-notch school. The celebrity scandal is much about the ability of the rich to pay to get anything they want, but it is also indicative of this snowplow parenting trend.  Parents don’t want their kids to fail.  And while the reasoning is understandable, what parents aren’t understanding is that KIDS NEED TO FAIL.

 

Failure is what teaches so many life lessons:

-How to deal with the emotions of disappointment.

-How to find the gumption and determination to try again.

-Critical thinking and self-evaluation skills to try a new approach.

-Perseverance through failure after failure.

-It fuels desire and drive to improve and accomplish.

-How to be ok with delayed gratification.

-Hard work is necessary to succeed.

Then, after failing and trying again (and again), when your child succeeds at something ON THEIR OWN, they will learn pride.  When parents clear their child’s path of life’s obstacles, they rob their children of valuable life lessons.  And when kids grow up not learning these lessons, they are ill-equipped for the challenges that life will inevitably throw at them.  Sure, a parent can “drive their snowplow” to get their child into college, or to graduate college. They may even “bulldoze” their child right into a job.  But what happens when their child is rejected in a relationship?  What happens when that child has an extremely tough situation to get through?  How will they know how to cope and persevere when they’ve never learned how?  Allow your kids the opportunities to make and learn from their own mistakes.  Let them fail.  If you don’t, you are failing them.

Needing Self-Care

Pouring From an Empty Cup

Parent: A job that requires your attention 24/7.  A job that requires you to give your all to someone else.  A non-stop ride of emotion; pure joy, pride, anger, frustration, embarrassment. A job that requires self-care.

The saying goes, “You can’t pour from an empty cup.”  When parenting you are constantly needed, and it can drain you physically and emotionally.  Sure, the kids go to bed at night, but many of us use that time to catch up on chores.  You need to practice a little self TLC on a weekly, if not daily basis.  Self-care is not selfish, it is necessary to keep yourself going!

Filling Your Cup

Self-care is different for everyone.  Are you an introvert or an extrovert?  Your personality type will determine what type of activity will rejuvenate you.  Maybe your self-care is getting together with your friends.  Maybe it’s taking some time to be alone.  Or maybe it’s a date night with your spouse.  No matter what it is for you, self-care should leave you feeling replenished, relaxed and happy.

 

For some of us, we have been so focused on other people (our kids) for so long, that we might have forgotten what makes us happy.  Take a moment to think about the things you used to do when you found yourself with a little extra time on your hands.  Here are some ideas to fill up your cup!

  1. Take a long bath or shower
  2. Do your nails (or go get them done)
  3. Go get your hair done
  4. Take a long drive and listen to music (or book, or favorite pod-cast)
  5. Read a book
  6. Sleep in or go to bed early
  7. Go see a new movie
  8. Write/journal
  9. Color/paint/create art
  10. Have a nice date night with your spouse
  11. Go out dancing (or dance in your home)
  12. Workout
  13. Take a long walk outside
  14. Take a weekend trip with your friends