Free At Home Activities for Ages 2-11 (General and Special Education)

Last week was by far the craziest week.

As parents and children adjusted to the new “normal”, I’ve seen many parents looking for activities to do at home with their children.

As a Reading Specialist, I wanted to help create educational activities for all types of learners so students could continue to practice their skills while at home. A few months ago, I collaborated with Eventech Corp and children’s book author, Christopher Gordon, for dyslexia awareness by creating a video (click here to see it). We enjoyed working together so much that we decided to put our thinking caps on again to help parents.

Together, we have created FREE fun and educational activities for general and special education children ages 2-11.

Once an individual signs up, he or she will receive a daily email for 14 days with the following:

*daily themed reading passage

*toddler/preschooler activity (alphabet, numbers, shapes)

*list of stay at home activities for toddlers/preschoolers

*educational activities for lower elementary (K-2)

*educational activities for upper elementary (3-6)

*fun activities for all ages

*accommodations sheet for the educational activities

Don’t wait! Sign up here to start getting these FREE emails .

 

E-Learning: Setting Kids Up for Success

I spent five years in middle school classrooms and one year as a literacy coach before making the transition to being a virtual teacher. I’m currently in my third year as an online English teacher with EdOptions Academy by Edmentum, and also an online tutor with Little Reading Coach.

Making the transition from a brick and mortar classroom to a virtual one can be overwhelming in the beginning, but once a student gets the hang of things life gets much easier.

Below are ways for helping kids of all ages make the transition to e-learning environments.

Know what platforms are being used. Kids use multiple learning sites, platforms and textbooks every day in a brick and mortar school, and the same applies to the online environment. For each class, make a list of all websites, textbooks, etc. with log in information (usually a username and password). This will automatically turn into a handy cheat sheet so you can avoid the stress of looking for important information (like trying to remember 600 different passwords). Feel free to use my version here.

Make a schedule. Learning at home means a very different routine for some kids, which in itself can be stressful. If your school doesn’t have a specific schedule for your child to follow, create your own. Here are some suggestions I have given my virtual families over the last few years:

Focus on one subject a day. This works well for kids who feel very overwhelmed or struggle to work well independently without a teacher standing in front of them.

Spend 1 hour on each subject. This schedule works for kids who just need a routine in place. It helps to keep the schedule the same every day. Have it written down on a white board or piece of paper so it’s within sight while a student is working. I also suggest having the student set an alarm on their phone or computer to let them know when 1 hour is up. (I say 1 hour because it will take kids longer to do work at home depending on the subject).

Have an alternating schedule. I like this one best for elementary and early middle school kids. Mondays and Wednesdays could be Language Arts and Social Studies, Tuesdays and Thursdays could be Math and Science and Friday’s could be specials/electives.

Have a learning area. Designate a place where a student will be doing their work. This could be at a kitchen table, desk, etc. Make sure all materials are in this area (chargers, paper, pencils, books, etc.).

Make a to do list. This is by far my favorite piece of advice. Before your student starts working every day, have him or her make a to do list of all the tasks that need to be accomplished. Make it as specific as you can and encourage your learner to check things off as they go. For instance, if your student needs to watch 2 videos, answer questions and write a response, write the title of each video on the to do list. This breaks down the tasks for kids and even though it may seem like a lot, encourage them to take their time.

Communicate with teachers. Star this. Write it on the schedule you create. This is by far the the number 1 best way to be successful with online learning. If your learner has a question, email the teacher. If your student is confused about instructions, email the teacher. If your learner is falling behind on the work, email the teacher. Communication is the ultimate tool to help kids. Don’t be afraid to be the annoying parent/guardian because once your student gets into the groove they will feel more confident and capable of learning from home and the emails will lessen.

Take breaks. If you’re creating your own schedule factor in break times. Staring at a screen is physically and mentally draining. Make sure your learner is walking away from the screen frequently. Take a bathroom, drink or snack break. 

Be an actively engaged in your learner’s education. As a parent/guardian, you may need to be a more involved in the day to day assignments, depending on the age of the learner. Be in the know about what is going on with expectations from the school. I strongly suggest joining local Facebook groups, or creating a group text with other class moms to help one another stay up to date.

Breathe. The first few days are always the hardest. As an online educator, I promise things do get easier. Just remember you can always reach out to the teacher or school for any help.

 

Little Reading Coach offers online reading and writing tutoring for students in grades 3-12. For more information click here.

 

7 Toddler Easter Basket Ideas

The Easter season is officially here! The weather is slowly getting warmer and signs of spring are beginning to pop up.

Easter basket ideas start to go through my mind as soon as I see the display in Pottery Barn Kids (by far one of my favorite set ups they do all year). Molly is deep into the toddler stage of life and some days I feel like her attention span lasts about 15 seconds. I like purchasing products that I can use with Molly and that she can play with independently.  Below are some Easter basket ideas of products that always seem to grasp Molly’s attention for a good few minutes.

Flashcards. I love it when educational products can be made into a game, especially for toddlers. My mom got Molly three sets of flashcards for Christmas and Molly has truly fallen in love with them. She has Shapes & Colors (Memory Match), Numbers 0-100, and Alphabet cards.

When Molly wants to play with others, we use the Shapes and Colors pack to either match colors or shapes. She can get very excited with this especially when she realizes that she’s “winning”. For independent play, Molly will take any of the packs and look at the cards and points to things she recognizes and says the letter, color, shape, or number. Flashcards

What I really like about these products is how they will be utilized differently as Molly gets older. I know that one day she will go through the numbers pack on her own and say each number correctly, especially as she moves into preschool and kindergarten. Also, by having her play with flashcards so young she will hopefully feel comfortable using them with others or on her own to practice addition, subtraction, sight words, multiplication, etc.

The flashcards we use are from Staples, but you can purchase them at the Dollar Store, Etsy, or make your own.

Usborne Books. I’m completely bias and have no problem admitting to that. I LOVE these books! The last few years I have gotten Molly That’s Not My titles for Easter because she loves the kinesthetic aspect of these great books.

Usborne Easter Books

I was an Usborne consultant when I first started this blog three years ago, and continue to stay up to date with the newest releases on their social media and through my amazing book lady, Everyone’s Librarian (follow her on Instagram and Facebook).

The company offers an incredible selection of works for kids of all ages on pretty much any topic you can think of. The quality of the products are superb and truly grow with children.

For more details about these fantastic books check out my previous blog posts Wipe- Clean Collection, Touchy-Feely and Sight Words in One Book, Literacy in the First Year, Toddler Literacy, and Preschool & Kindergarten Literacy. To purchase books click here.

Bubbles. I swear the number one activity for babies and toddlers are bubbles. Molly gets beyond excited if she even sees bubbles and wants to play with them constantly. One of the greatest inventions for bubble loving kids are bubble wands. Not only do these bad boys shoot A TON of bubbles out, they also tend to light up, make noise/play music, etc. They are the total entertainment package.

Molly has had an Ariel one for a while now, and she will request to play with it pretty often. It’s super easy to refill with bubbles, is long lasting, plays “Under the Sea” and lights up. She’s had it for about 2 years and the thing is still going strong.

The Disney Store currently has a few different options right now just in time for spring and summer.

Card games. Growing up, I spent hours playing cards with my grandma and sister. I love that playing cards teaches so many life skills (taking turns, being a good loser). I would suggest starting slow with Go Fish or Old Maid.

Cards can be purchased from toy stores, the Dollar Store, etc. My current favorite is a 6 in 1 pack from Amazon. It has the traditional favorites for ages 3+ making it the perfect Easter basket addition for toddlers.

Coloring books and crayons. I think this is one of the most traditional and classic gift ideas for children, that is also inexpensive. Coloring books come in all varieties makingBig Crayons them a versatile gift. When Molly was first learning how to color, we used jumbo Crayola crayons and that really made a difference. Now that she is older she can use regular size crayons, and she is currently obsessed with colored pencils.

One of my personal favorite coloring activity pack is actually from Party City. It’s a goody bag option and we bought them for Molly’s third birthday. It comes with mini markers, coloring pages and stickers all in a cute plastic case. They have every single character you can think of and they are priced really well. Check them out here.

Play Doh. I will admit that I was hesitant to bust out this classic toy with Molly. I was raised where Play Doh was an outdoors only activity, and since she discovered the stuff this winter, I had to cave and let her play with it inside.

While Molly likes to squish and smash the doh, she also really enjoyed cutting it with plastic scissors. I wanted to up our Play Doh game and I came across a really great accessory kit from Melissa & Doug that includes rollers, scissors, sculpting tools and more. This beauty is currently available on Amazon (click here) and makes a great basket addition.

New music. Toddlers are in the rhyming stage of life. They are learning nursery rhymes, singing the months of the year, and loving music. I often find Molly just bursting randomly into song (currently anything Frozen) especially in the car. Molly will often request to listen to Trolls since I put the soundtrack on my phone, and in my car we listen to Disney princess songs.

Whether you keep it old school with purchasing a CD or you stream music, downloading/buying some kid tunes are a great option. Disney has some great choices, but there are a TON of others too. If you were a 90’s kid like me, you probably remember Wee Sing, which is all available on iTunes.

 

Toddler Literacy Skills: Doing More Than Just Reading Aloud

I’ve read aloud to Miss Molly since I was pregnant. During her first year I always had books with us in restaurants, family parties, etc. I was beyond excited when she first started singing the ABCs and asking me to read to her.

We are now in the toddler literacy phase, which is very different from baby literacy. The Reading Specialist in me is on high alert with how Molly is progressing learning her letters, sounds, rhyming, etc. I am beyond grateful that her school has a truly amazing curriculum (they even use Project Read).

However, she doesn’t let me finish reading a book to her anymore. When I do get her to read with me, I do a lot of interacting with her. I’ll ask for her to point to a letter, answer questions about pictures, etc. But sometimes I do worry that I’m not doing enough, and realized that I need to do more than just read aloud.

Puzzles

Molly has a few puzzles that she really enjoys playing with, but I wanted her to Puzzle Linespractice recognizing letters and order of the alphabet, so I purchased this letter puzzle from Six Corners Educational Toys. Not only do I love the pop of colors, the puzzle is super lightweight and the pieces fit in very snuggly (no lose pieces!).

But, my favorite aspect of this puzzle are the easy drawing instructions for each letter. There are numbers and lines for kids to trace with their fingers while they put pieces in the correct slots.

I was really surprised with this feature and showed Molly how to do it. She immediately proceeded to sing and attempted to trace letters.

Molly Puzzle

Magnet Drawing Board

Last year my best friend’s mom gave Molly the Vtech Write & Learn Creative Center. Vtech Creative CenterShe has loved this toy from the beginning, and has started to interact with it differently as she’s gotten older. She started with the magnets, then began drawing shapes, and now writing letters on the magnetic drawing board. This weekend she even told me she was going to practice writing her sight words and did for several minutes.

There are a bunch of different activities for kids to do with the buttons, but Molly prefersMolly Writing Letters just to draw and erase her work so she can be independent. I do plan on exploring the buttons when Molly is a little older to really see what this center can do.

Magnetic Letters

As soon as Molly was able to walk, my mom bought her magnetic letters for the fridge. Molly has always loved playing with the magnets when she visits my parents and seems to make a game out of it every time.

A few weeks ago, Molly went to a children’s play place where they had a pretend school room. She made a beeline for the magnet letters and actually had to be pulled away from the easel at one Molly Magnet Letterspoint.

I recently purchased this really awesome magnetic letter set from Amazon (click here). It comes with a great magnetic board and an incredibly organized case of letters. Molly found the box and emptied it before I was ready to introduce the new “toy” to her, so I unfortunately did not get a chance to take any pictures.

I’m always on the hunt for new ways to support Molly’s early literacy skills at home. Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest are amazing resources to see what other parents and early childhood educators do to help toddlers with these skills.

Writing Right: A Story about Dysgraphia Book Review

As I’ve mentioned before, I have a love/hate relationship with social media. Over the weekend I was scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed, when I came across a very interesting post in a dysgraphia parent group about a teenager who wrote a children’s book about dysgraphia. I immediately took a screenshot to remind myself about the book and I am beyond glad that I did so.

Writing Right: A Story about Dysgraphia, by Cassandra Baker, is a phenomenal children’s book about the realities of a little boy with dysgraphia.

Before I launch into why I love this book so much, I have to share a little bit of background. Cassie wrote this book to earn her Gold Award with girl scouts because she grew up with family members who were affected by dysgraphia. Having been a girl scout a long time ago, I completely respect and admire this young lady’s passion and desire to share information with families.

As soon as readers open the book we are greeted by our main character, Noah, who has dysgraphia. He tells readers that he has great ideas, but his handwriting is messy and he has trouble getting his thoughts on paper. He does not write as quickly as his classmates and he wishes he had a writing robot.

Even though Noah has great ideas, when he works on a project it doesn’t come out like it looks in his head and he gets very frustrated. He even yells at his mom and rips his poster in half. His mom clearly sees his struggles and reaches out to the teacher, and together they come up with a great plan. Noah can use his mom’s computer to help with homework and he also goes to an occupational therapist.

With lots of practice, patience, and hard work, Noah improves his ability to express himself in writing. So much so that he even writes his own story!

There are so, so many aspects of this book that I love. The first is that it’s written from Noah’s point of view. The simplicity of his explanations and his honesty are absolutely spot on and relatable to children. The struggles that he faces are truly ones that children also experience, adding to that realistic factor.

As a parent and a teacher, I also love how Noah’s mom reached out to his teacher and came up with a plan. By working as a team, they were able to find out what would not only help Noah in the short term, but what would help in the future as well. This is the ideal type of teamwork parents and teachers hope to experience when working together to help a child in need.

I was also a HUGE fan of the in-depth look at OT from a child’s perspective. I have seen some OT’s come up with super creative and fun activities for students at all age levels, and it’s clear that Natalie, the OT in the story, is one of those amazing individuals who really “get” kids. She has Noah practice cutting, using different writing utensils and more in order to help him.

However, I think that my absolute favorite aspect was the end of the story. Not only do we see progress for Noah, but Cassie also includes super important information about dysgraphia. While the picture book is meant for children, these notes are clearly meant for adults, making this a true family text.

As a Reading Specialist, I am always looking for works to recommend to families and this one will definitely be added to my list. If you’re an educator, a parent or a child affected by dysgraphia in some way, this book is a must read.

To purchase the book click here. 

Multi-sensory Writing: It Makes a Difference

Students today write a lot more than we realize.  They constantly compose emails, text messages, captions for social media, and more. We live in a time where written expression is used constantly, and to thrive in today’s society, students are expected to participate.

Little Reading Coach believes in using a variety of methods for teaching writing. However, before students can write paragraphs and essays, they must first be able to understand the parts of speech that make up a sentence, which is why LRC starts at the beginning and gradually works students up to writing extended pieces.

Framing Your Thoughts (Sentence Structure) is a multi-sensory program by Project Read that LRC utilizes to help students master the art of writing. Using symbols, visuals, and hands-on interaction, this program provides writers with a different approach to learning how to structure effective sentences.

This type of program is ideal for students with dysgraphia, dyslexia, ESL/ELL, etc.,  as well as those who don’t seem to grasp learning to write in the traditional way. It breaks down sentence writing into parts of speech, and encourages students to diagram sentences using the specific symbols in the program. This deconstruction allows writers to “see” what makes a complete sentence and how to use the various parts of speech correctly and effectively.

Personally, I have used this program when I taught literacy support for 6th and 7th grade, and saw a tremendous difference in my students’ writing. The symbols and visuals allowed them to see why a sentence was a fragment and how to fix their mistakes. I have also used this program when tutoring middle and high school students who were reading on grade level, but needed some additional writing support. LRC offers multi-sensory writing for grades 3-12.

For more information about Little Reading Coach click here.