ABCs for Young Children

Have you ever wondered what might be the best order to introduce letters to young children? There is no standard for which order to teach the alphabet. Some educators use a letter-of-the-week method that may or may not be based on letter frequency, while others follow the alphabet in order.

ABC Literacy

Very young children may already have some print knowledge. Typically they are motivated by the letters in their own name. When introducing the alphabet to young children, here are some things to consider in your planning.

The two greatest predictors of reading success are knowledge of letter names and letter sounds (phonemic awareness) in the early years. Once children begin to have an understanding of these concepts, they can grasp the relationship between sounds of speech and letters (alphabetic principle).

It is easier to predict the sound of some letters than others. When a letter’s sound can be extracted from its name, it is easier to build an understanding of the alphabetic principle. The name of the letter E, for example, can be heard in its sound. However, when W is spoken, it does not sound like its name: ‘double-u.’ So when choosing which letters to first introduce to your group, consider letters that have an obvious correlation between letter name and letter sound such as: A, B, D, O, T, V, and Z.

There has been much debate about whether to introduce uppercase before lowercase letters. One could argue that most print is in lower case and therefore children should be taught how to read these letters first. But when it comes to learning to print, it is easier for young children to reproduce uppercase letters. These letters are larger and can be more easily reproduced with their predominantly straight lines. With limited pencil control, young children can print large letters with vertical and horizontal lines more easily than smaller ones with curves and diagonal lines. Begin with letters that have vertical and horizontal lines such as H, L, I, and E.

To help you decide what order to teach your children the alphabet, here is a look at what is age-appropriate:

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  • Toddlers can learn to sing the alphabet song and should be read to daily. This age group enjoys simple, rhyming stories and songs.
  • Encourage toddlers to recognize the first letter of their name.
  • At two years of age a child may be able to produce vertical strokes, and horizontal ones by two and a half years.
  • Expose toddlers to print and model adult printing for them.
  • Encourage the development of the fine motor control needed for printing through scribbling, manipulatives and play dough.


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  • Preschoolers may be able to learn to recognize and name some of the letters of the alphabet. To strengthen their understanding of this, focus on beginning letter sounds of a word. For example blue, berry, brown, bag.
  • They can develop dexterity and pencil control through colouring, tracing letters, and completing simple mazes. Children this age may scribble, create mock letters that are unrecognizable, or string random letters together to represent words. Typically at three years old a child can draw circles, print a cross at age four, and a square at age five.
  • Continue to expose children this age to increasingly complex stories. Ask them questions about the stories to encourage development of their narrative skills.

Keep in mind that writing tools for young children should be small. Short, thin crayons are recommended over thicker ones.

Literacy is a journey that takes time and cannot be rushed. Encourage print motivation (an interest in reading) by providing a child-centered environment that is rich in literacy. Incorporate the interests of the children into their learning.

Each child develops at their own pace and there are many cognitive and fine motor skills needed before the process of reading and writing can begin. As educators, our role is to set a strong foundation for success and foster a love of reading in the early years.

Signature - Jo

References: Lucy Hart Paulson, Ed.D, CCC-SLP Communicative Sciences and Disorders University of Montana. Taken from Niagara Speech Services Emergent Literacy Conference 2015.

How Does Learning Happen in Dress-up Play?

“Problem solving and critical thinking, communication and collaboration, creativity and imagination, initiative and citizenship are all capacities vital for success throughout school and beyond.” ~ How Does Learning Happen? P. 15  


Photo by Jenna Sparks Bradbury 

Playing ‘dress-up’ can lead to the mastery of self-help skills in young children. But when a child puts on a costume to become someone else, the play becomes more complex – this is known as associative play. Dramatic play—or associative play— is so rich in social, emotional and cognitive development that it’s not to be overlooked in any child care setting. To illustrate this, I’ve linked dramatic play to the 4 goals for children outlined in the How Does Learning Happen? Ontario’s Pedagogy for the Early Years document.

  1. “Every child has a sense of belonging when he or she is connected to others and contributes to their world.”

Through pretend play, children can foster a sense of connectedness with each other; each contributing to a group concept. When they pretend to take on a different role such as that of a family member, for example, they gain a deeper understanding of the person they are portraying and develop empathy. This kind of social interaction not only fosters cooperation, but also helps children to form relationships and gain a sense of belonging.

  1. “Every child is developing a sense of self, health and well-being.”

Dress-up play allows young children to try out different characters and even gender roles. In pretending to be someone else, they develop a greater understanding of themselves too. Children begin to take turns, assign roles to each other, develop relationships and even learn to control impulses; also known as self-regulation.

Developing the physical dexterity needed to zip up a jacket or fasten a button enhances a child’s self-help skills, leaving them with a sense of pride, accomplishment and competence.

  1. “Every child is an active and engaged learner who explores the world with body, mind, and senses.”

Children engaged in dramatic play are focused and involved in problem solving, and creative and innovative thinking. They imitate what they know; pretend play not only requires the ability to recall what they’ve seen but also the ability to recreate those situations on their own. With time, the dramatic play becomes more complex, requiring increased imagination, decision-making, and critical thinking skills. Observations of such play provides educators with a window into how those children perceive the world.

  1. “Every child is a capable communicator who expresses himself or herself in many ways.”

Children take turns conversing during pretend play. They develop vocabulary skills by trying out new words that they’ve heard in daily life. Children collaborate on how things should be done or which costumes should be worn. Their language development is not limited to speech, they also use body language and experiment with the power of persuasion.

Adding dress-up props to your daycare facilitates dramatic play; an important component in preparing the children in your care for success.

CCPRN has been fortunate enough to have Lydia sew some dress-up props for sale to our caregivers. For more information, ‘like” her on Facebook under: Misses Dressup.

Pretend play doesn’t have to be limited to the playroom. Consider bringing those dress-up clothes outside where the possibilities are endless…

Signature - Jo

Beyond the Nature Walk: Extending the Learning

Here in the Nation’s Capital we are all spending a lot more time outside after a particularly cold winter.

At last.

The long awaited sunshine has us all soaking up the sun, eagerly tending to our yards, hitting the parks, going for leisurely walks and bike rides once again.

Nature Blog Post

Winter’s blanket finally melted away to reveal the first glimpses of colour poking from the ground. Children stop to marvel and often return home with pockets overflowing from found items – or what could be considered nature’s little gifts to these natural collectors. As caregivers and parents we can use a child’s natural curiosity to extend their learning even further.

Here are just a few ideas to use up those little treasures collected on your walks:

Assorted items

Sensory: Place your treasure hunt items into a sensory/discovery bin or a bottle with water to create an eye spy bottle. Place items into a heavy-duty Ziploc bag with clear hair gel and strong tape. Then tape to a window to create a sensory sun-catcher.

Crafts: Provide loose parts and craft supplies for children to create open-ended art. Items can include pinecones, acorns, feathers, stones, sticks, glue, paint, googly eyes, small pom-poms, and even dough for endless possibilities.

Salt (or Cornstarch) Dough Pendants and Key Chains: Press items with texture into small round pieces of dough. Press a hole into it and let dry. Tie string to the pendant for hanging.

Collage: Glue items to paper to create a collage. Or stick them to mac tac to create a window sun catcher.


Art: Create pet rocks by painting them and adding googly eyes. Glue pressed flowers to the rocks for a gift for Mom.

Nature Blog Post Pet Rock

Literacy: Create story stones by gluing images to the rocks to guide storytelling. Paint the letters of the alphabet onto each stone. *Optional: Paint one side in uppercase letters and lowercase on the opposite side OR paint one set of rocks in uppercase letters and one set in lowercase for the children to match.

Numeracy: Paint rocks for counting or patterning games.

Leaves and Feathers

Leaf Sun Catcher: Sandwich leaves between two layers of mac tac and place in a window. This can be done with flowers as well.

Leaf stamping: Paint leaves and press onto fabric or paper

Collage: Glue leaves to a page to create a picture or collage.

Leaf Man Book

Pinecones and Acorns

Colour Matching Game: Separate acorn nuts from their cups and paint them in matching colours. Young children can match them by colour.

Classification: Paint acorns in various colours for children to sort by colour or create patterns with. Add tongs for more challenging fine motor practice.


Rhythm Sticks: Paint thick sticks in bright colours to make your own music sticks to tap together.Nature Blog Post

Mobile: Create a nature-themed mobile by hanging found treasures from a branch. Or decorate a branch with coloured feathers, ribbons, and yarn to hang in your playroom.


And because I love picture books so much, I’ve included a list of a few of my favourite ones to add to your nature theme programming:

  • A Tree is Nice, by Janice May UdryNature Blog Post Books
  • Diary of a Worm, by Doreen Cronin
  • Leaf Man, by Lois Elhert
  • Not a Stick, by Antoinette Portis
  • The Giving Tree, by Shel Silverstein
  • The Tiny Seed, by Eric Carle
  • The Very Hungry Caterpillar, by Eric Carle
  • There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Shell, by Lucille Colandro
  • We’re Going on a Bear Hunt, by Michael Rosen
  • Or how about the old classic Fairy Tale: Jack and the Beanstock!

Et en français:

  • Une si petite graine, de Eric Carle
  • De la graine à la plante, de Melvin et Gilda Berger
  • Edgar la patate, de Don Oickle et Sue Skaalen
  • Simon fête le printemps, de Gilles Tibo
  • Après la pluie, le beau temps, de Cécile Gagnon et Joanne Ouellet
  • Mon rayon de soleil, de Mie-Francine Hébert et Steve Adams
  • Le jardin imaginaire de grand-papa, Andrew Larsen et Irene Luxbacher

For more information on bringing nature into your daycare, check out our Getting Back to Nature, post. Thanks for reading!

Signature - Jo

Getting Back to Nature

Fall is the perfect time of year to celebrate nature and all of its glory. Many of us head outdoors to savour Autumn’s colours and the remaining days of sun before the really cold weather moves in.

But what if we allowed our children the gift of nature every day – rain or shine? Even in the cold and snow.

What would happen if our kids played freely in the forest, the meadow or the walking trail and witnessed each season’s changes first hand – up close and personal? 

Back to Nature 1

My colleagues and I recently had the opportunity to attend a Nature and Early Learning Conference with keynote speaker Marlene Power, Executive Director of Forest School Canada to answer those questions. During the conference, each one of us was taken back to that magical sense of wonder we experienced in nature as children.

When kids are exposed to and become familiar with natural settings, they form connections that reap immeasurable benefits. Repeated exposure to that environment allows them to build a relationship with nature – connecting them to something greater than themselves.

Natural spaces foster a sense of adventure, discovery, and wonder in all of us – but especially children. Outdoor play becomes about imagination, collaboration, dialogue and children directing their own learning process (emergent curriculum).

Back to Nature 2


At the forest and nature school here in Ottawa, children are encouraged to play freely outside, in a natural setting. They learn to navigate varied terrains, in all different kinds of weather. They develop a respect for nature and learn to map out their understanding of the forest. Other interesting observations from the Forest School is that outside, skills and abilities become more important, leaving materialism and social hierarchies with less currency. Imaginations take over and the children reinvent uses for found items. The ideas, physical skills and stamina developed from spending time in the forest enhance feelings of competency and esteem in the children attending.

“The evidence suggests that viewing, interacting with, and living in natural environments can have multiple effects on ‘reducing stress, increasing patience, increasing self-discipline, increasing capacity for attention, increasing recovery from mental fatigue, or from psychopysociological imbalance,’ (Russell et al., 2013, 9. 482)”

“Environmental education is linked to better performance in math, reading, writing, and listening and better critical thinking skills (Bartosh, 2003; Ernst & Monroe, 2004)” … “Play and exposure to green spaces can also reduce children’s stress levels, protect their emotional development, and enhance their social relations (Kuo & Taylor, 2004; Ginsburg, 2007; Weinstein et al., 2009; Children & Nature Network, 2012).”

~ Taken from Forest School Canada’s website.

Children can interact with nature inside too. Consider bringing the outdoors in for even more benefits!

Back to Nature 4

Here toddlers and preschoolers added found treasures to salt dough for an open-ended art activity.

For many more fabulous ideas on bringing nature into your daycare, Humber College and The Back to Nature Network produced an excellent guide called ‘Ready…Set…Wonder


Signature - Jo

Professional Development Opportunities for IPCs and RECEs

Def of Learn

This month, the College of Early Childhood Educators (CECE) introduces its Continuous Professional Learning (CPL) program for Registered Early Childhood Educators (RECEs). It stems from the College’s Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice, stating that “Early Childhood Educators value lifelong learning and commit themselves to engaging in continuous professional learning to enhance their practice.” The program is designed to encourage child care professionals to engage in social networking, self-study or study groups, and planned professional discussions with colleagues.

CCPRN is proudly hosting bi-monthly meetings for a brand new Professional Development Study Group. Join other Independent Professional Caregivers (IPCs) and Registered Early Childhood Educators (RECEs) at the CCPRN office to develop your professional portfolio and discuss best practices, professional readings, and current issues facing the child care industry.

The first meeting will be held on Tuesday, November 11th, from 7-9pm to discuss the new document: How Does Learning Happen? Ontario Pedagogy for the Early Years

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Join Laurie Boucaud and Michelyn Maloney in this exciting new professional development opportunity and help us build a strong social network within our community.

Registration is required at There is no charge to attend. Prior reading of the document is mandatory.




Resource Packages

This summer we reached out to our members and Facebook followers to ask what kind of resources they’ve been looking for. Then our little CCPRN worker bees went to work developing new and unique die cut packages to sell. So if you’re looking for some fresh new resource kits in time for Fall – you’ll be impressed by these new ones!

Resource Packages Froggy Gets Dressed

Coming soon: Felt sets based on the Froggy Gets Dressed book by Jonathan London – a funny way to look at putting on all those extra layers once again. Use these props to visually enhance your storytelling and then have your children play with the set to retell the story themselves.

Resource Kits Little Cloud

Felt packages based on the Eric Carle Book Little Cloud are a great addition to your weather theme.

 Resource Packages Halloween Costumes

Halloween Costumes play kits were designed by Sharon Cunningham of Story Time Felts for your little ones to play with and dress up the felt dolls.

Resource Packages Farm Kit

A farm theme is a natural fit around Thanksgiving and it can be used to enhance so many different learning concepts. This very special limited edition farm felt kit was created by former CCPRN President Andrea Gingras. She embellished each of the die cut pieces by hand. The attention to detail in each piece is really quite something. These kits are a bit more expensive than our regular ones but they are absolutely gorgeous and come with an extensive handout of farm stories, circle time songs and rhymes.

For crafting purposes we also have the following seasonal paper kits for Halloween, weather, and Fall:

Resource Packages Paper Weather Resource Packages Paper HalloweenResource Kits Paper Fall

These kits and more are for sale at the CCPRN office. Call and book a time to come into the office to browse through all of our resources! * Please note: kits are subject to availability.

Signature - Jo

Book: Show Me a Story

Show Me a Story Book

I recently discovered this book that inspires new storytelling ideas and techniques. Show Me a Story, by Emily K. Neuburger, is jam packed with ideas to spark the imaginations of young and old. Inside you’ll find Story Starters and suggestions for encouraging imaginative play for children of all ages. Setting a fancy table for a royal meal, transforming a cardboard box, and going on a walk in search of 5 interesting things are wonderful invitations for open-ended imaginative play – just to name a few.

Show Me a Story offers many ideas for home made props for storytelling too. As an added bonus, the Story Starter prop ideas are simple enough to get your school-aged children involved in their creation.

Show Me a Story - Story Stones

Story Stones

Print images and glue onto stones, wooden blocks, or even wooden disks.

Story stones can also be used to retell a favourite story, like the classic There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly, for example.

There Was an Old Lady 1


Here the old lady was made out of paper mache using a basket as the base. Then an image of each animal that she swallowed was glued onto a stone.

Another one of my favourite suggestions in the book Show Me a Story is to set the scene for a story within a jar. Or try creating a scene on a mat or blanket on the floor.


Show Me a Story - Story Jar

Storytelling and invitations for dramatic play foster the imagination, language, and narrative skills of young minds. CCPRN has purchased the book Show Me a Story for anyone interested in borrowing this great resource from our library. It is also available for purchase through Chapter’s online.

Happy reading!

Signature - Jo

Nutrition and Food Safety for Young Children

Feeding children can sometimes be challenging but proper nutrition is essential to their development.

For the pickiest of eaters, exposure to new foods is key. Children may need to be exposed to an unfamiliar food up to 8 times before they are willing to try it. When introducing a new food, serve it alongside foods the children are already familiar with and like. Maintain a positive attitude and model sampling new foods in front of them. Best practice is to offer no disappointment or praise when a child refuses or tries the food.


Allowing children to choose how much they would like to eat (if at all) is best so it’s important to offer a variety of healthy foods and textures. When possible allow children to serve themselves by offering a buffet or assisting them to pass dishes around the table.

Canada’s Food Guide recommends that toddlers and preschoolers eat the following each day:

Children aged 2-3 years: 4 servings of vegetables and fruit, 3 servings of grain products, 2 servings of milk/milk products and 1 meat product

Children aged 4-8 years: 5 servings of vegetables and fruit, 4 servings of grain products, 2 servings of milk/milk products, and 1 meat product

Note that one serving is considered the typical amount a child of that age will eat in one serving, and is not necessarily a portion size.

In order to achieve these nutritional goals, aim to include all of the 4 food groups at each meal and foods from at least 2 food groups for each snack. This can be as simple as serving raw vegetables with hummus for dipping. Add a glass of milk to add a third food group!

healthier choices include:

– choosing wholegrain for more fiber

– steaming or baking foods instead of frying

– selecting foods that are unsweetened, low in sodium and fat

– choosing at least one dark green and one orange food per day – these options are high in essential vitamins (folate and vitamin A)

For more information on ~feeding children, 

~ food safety, visit: (I love their food storage chart)

~ the NutriStep (Nutrition Screening Tool for Every Preschooler), check out:

Thanks for reading!

Signature - Jo

Storypark and ELECT

I want to share with you a new website that child care professionals can use to document and preserve observations of their daycare children – in a safe, fun, and organized way. With this exciting new tool, daycare providers can create an online portfolio for each child, capture special moments in a child’s day and then share it with that child’s parents. This collection of recorded observations – or stories – not only makes a keepsake for families, but can also be used by care giving professionals to plan play-based curriculum, reflect on their practice, and develop partnerships with parents.


Once registered with the Storypark website, users are given unique usernames and passwords to protect each child’s information and maintain their privacy. Caregivers post stories to the site and parents receive an email alerting them when a new story about their child has been added. They can then log in and check it out at their convenience. Parents have the option to comment or even share the story with friends and family.

Storypark Vim at work looking at stories

Each child is given their own profile in which their stories are saved, creating an organized collection of observations in chronological order. In cases where a story contains more than one child, the caregivers can easily save and share that story with several families at one time. This tool is also a convenient way for providers to share information in situations where parents share custody of a child.

Early Learning for Every Child Today (ELECT)

Because Storypark is a tool used to record observations over a period of time, it supports and enhances any child care provider’s work within the ELECT framework. Sharing a snapshot with a short anecdote about a child’s day is a great way to open the lines of communication and promote parent engagement (one of the six ELECT principles). Sharing these moments and insights about a child empowers parents to be actively involved in their child’s development and gives them the opportunity to support learning strategies at home.

Child care professionals can use Storypark as a resource to track each child’s development and mastery of new skills. By observing the development and interests of a child, caregivers can plan learning activities with those interests in mind. Documenting these observations is useful for planning curriculum that furthers meaningful play-based learning concepts centered around the interests and learning goals of the children. 

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Storypark is a great resource for caregivers to demonstrate their professionalism, validating their important work with children. There is a small fee to use this service, but it can be offset as a business expense for operating a home daycare business. CCPRN members will also receive a discount for using this software!

On March 31stStorypark is offering a free information session by webinar. You can either attend this by logging in from your home, or joining us at the CCPRN office from 7 to 9pm. There will be a home child care professional currently using the Storypark platform at the office to answer your questions as well as an online demonstration. Registration is required for either option.

For more information about the benefits of Storypark for parents and caregivers click here.

To sign up for your 30 day free trial of Storypark click here.

Thanks for reading,

Signature - Jo

‘Winter Heat’ Children’s Activities

Julie’s been heating up winter with her play-based learning children’s events. Here are just a few of the activities she had waiting for the little ones when they arrived at the CCPRN office earlier this week.

Winter Heat Build a Snowman 2

Children had so much fun building snowmen made from Styrofoam balls. This was a great activity for those gross motor skills, improving hand-eye coordination and sorting large and small.

Next up was a mitten colour match game. Toddlers got to practice their pincer grasp while sorting and matching the coloured clothes pins with the coordinating mittens.

Winter Heat Mitten Colour Match

Those little fine motor skills got even more exercise from hanging mittens on the clothesline. Caregivers discussed the different kinds of patterns found on the mittens such as plaid, diamond shapes and stripes.

Winter Heat Pics Clothesline Mittens

Kids of all ages love to manipulate goo and these extra-large Ziploc bags keep the mess inside for lasting fun! Inside were die cut foam snowflakes, beads, buttons, and the secret ingredient… hair gel!

Winter Heat Sensory Bags

Julie brought the outside in and filled our sensory bin with snow and these beautifully coloured balls of ice. Children delighted in playing with the cold snow as they discussed colours and hot versus cold!

Winter Heat Sensory Bin

To make the ice balls, simply put a good dose of food colouring inside some balloons and then add about 1 or 2 cups of water. Tie them off and place them outside to freeze (or in your freezer). Note that the balloons can take up to 2 days to fully freeze.

At the end of the event, the children enjoyed a snack while Julie told the story “Polar Bear Polar Bear.” They watched in awe as that silly polar bear changed colours throughout the story.

Polar Bear Polar Bear

There are still spaces available for some of Julie’s upcoming Winter Heat events so if you haven’t already, be sure to sign up!

Stay warm!

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