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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

  • 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

  • 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.

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

Enjoy!

Signature - Jo

There’s a need for home-based daycare. Here are four ways to improve it

~ as published in the Globe and Mail.
The death of 2-year old Eva Ravikovich and her parents’ lawsuit charging the Ontario Ministry of Education with failing to adequately protect children in illegal child-care settings has cast a spotlight on independent home child care and sparked an important debate about how to ensure the safety and quality of care for our children.

Home-based child care providers are ready to work with parents and the Ministry to provide top-quality child care. However, we need a child care system that encourages partnership and empowers everyone to ensure that our children’s early years provide the best foundation for optimum child development.

A safe, reliable and high-quality provincial child care system does not have to be costly or complicated.

Independent home child care providers are most working parents’ choice for child care. Parents choose it because this setting provides a more personal, loving, home-like environment where there is a greater flexibility and children benefit from the close bonds they need. Home child care also provides personalized options that are suited to parents’ ethnic, cultural, dietary and other child rearing philosophies.

In order to find and choose the right setting however, parents must understand how to define the type of child care they need, where to find it and how to express these needs to their child’s caregiver.

Home child care is woven within the fabric and culture of each unique community. This includes care provided in a family’s own home by nannies or relatives and care provided in other homes by relatives and home child care providers. By its very nature, home child care adapts itself very differently in rural and remote settings, in suburbs and in urban downtown cores.

Independent home child care providers are accountable for the quality of the care they provide. They are motivated to be part of a system that recognizes their uniqueness and empowers them to provide the best possible care. However, to provide the highest quality care possible, they also need provincial child care health, safety and welfare standards, with an emphasis on developmental learning.

This system is affordable and would be easy to manage. It can be affiliated with existing provincial programs such as the Ontario Early Years Centres and above all, it should encourage co-operation between all stakeholders. We are all working towards the same goal.

We must all work together to build an affordable, high-quality child care system that will ensure our children’s early years provide the foundation for a lifetime of growth, development and positive achievements. This can be done in four steps:

Step 1: Establish provincial early learning and care health, safety and welfare standards for home child care.

Step 2: Share these standards with parents and independent home child care providers through a province-wide public education campaign.

Step 3: Establish a provincial registry of home child care providers to unite them and connect them to the appropriate provincial support and resources. Core features should include basic caregiver qualifications, training and membership in a support network such as the Child Care Providers Resource Network (CCPRN), ongoing training and resources for parents and all home child care providers.

Step 4: Set up a voluntary system of accreditation built on a common framework which will ensure that all independent home child care providers provide optimum high quality care. This program would assure parents that their caregiver is committed to meeting standards and continuously improving the quality of the service they provide. Accreditation can promote a standard of care based on and exceeding the Day Nurseries Act while incorporating the E.L.E.C.T. (Early Learning for Every Child Today) framework.

Ontario’s children are our most precious resource and our future. Every single one of them has the right to the best possible care. Parents often use their hearts to make decisions about where to place their children, but they also need the knowledge to research options and make an informed choice.

There is room for all types of child care within our society and it is absolutely possible to develop an excellent, transparent and publicly managed system of child care in Ontario. This system does not need to cost taxpayers billions of dollars or levy a huge administrative burden to government.

Let’s focus on co-operation and empowerment to improve the child care system in Ontario. After all, aren’t those the same principles we use to raise our children?

Brenda Burns is president and Doreen Cowin is executive director of the Child Care Providers Resource Network of Ottawa-Carleton (CCPRN).

 

Eye Spy Games

Eye spy games are a natural fit for young children and there are so many varieties to keep it fresh and exciting. These games foster a child’s curiosity, visual discrimination and language skills. Some promote fine motor manipulation, print motivation and sensory exploration.

Eye Spy Bottles

The beauty of creating eye spy bottles  is that you can choose smaller items that you wouldn’t normally give very young children to play with.

Recycle your plastic bottles or containers and fill them with all kinds of fun things. Pictured above (from left to right): oil and water with small plastic beads and food colouring – hair gel and googly eyes – oil and water with food colouring – tiny pasta (or beads with miscellaneous items hidden inside). Seal the lid with a glue gun (and consider taping  it closed with electrical or duct tape for extra security).

Eye Spy Boxes

These rugged little eye spy boxes were made from old cassette cases and are an ideal size for small hands to manipulate. Simply fill with small items (themed or by colour) and seal with packing tape! Consider making alphabet themed boxes for your preschool and kindergarten aged children.

Eye Spy Sensory Bin

You can even make an eye spy game by hiding related items inside your sensory bin. The possibilities are endless.

A very special thank you to CCPRN Board Member Laurie Boucaud for this picture of her bug themed sensory bin.

Eye Spy Pictures

Consider taking pictures of assorted items or of your sensory bin to create custom eye spy pictures to use at a later date. Simply print and laminate for a fun game that can be used again and again. This tool can be enhanced for older children by including a checklist of items to find.

Eye Spy Book

Eye spy books are a great option for incorporating literacy into fun! This is an ideal activity for quiet time as well.

I spy bags 2

Eye spy bags require some sewing skills, but if you have a sewing machine equipped with a walking foot, all you need is a small piece of clear plastic vinyl, fabric, and items to hide inside. These themed bags were filled out with flower arranging beads from the dollar store.

Your children can have so much fun with these homemade toys they won’t even know they’re learning!

Happy spying!

Signature - Jo

Daycare Science: Vermicomposting

What child doesn’t love to play with worms and dirt?!

Shelly Wright, a CCPRN home child care provider member is not only encouraging this kind of play, she’s using it to promote learning about life cycles and healthy environmental and nutritional practices.         And she’s doing it just in time for Earth Day coming up on April 22nd.

Being an avid gardener, Shelly purchased an extra compost bucket for this special project. The small bins from the City of Ottawa’s green bin waste program (available at Canadian Tire stores) are ideal for housing worms because they keep the light out but still allow for air to enter through the tiny holes on the lid. Using this kind of container, allows Shelly to store her composter indoors and use it year round.

vermicomposting 1

To start vermicomposting, Shelly put about 2 cups of earth from her garden into the bucket with some shredded newspaper and about half a dozen red wriggler worms*. She recommends placing just a small amount of food scraps into the bin every other day or so and adding egg shells to neutralize the acidity. It’s important to avoid putting in meat, dairy or animal waste.

Shelly involves the children by asking them cut the food scraps into small pieces with plastic knives and placing them into the bucket. They give it a stir and check up on the worms’ progress regularly.

Vermicomposting 2

Vermicomposting is just a small component of the many earth-friendly concepts that can be introduced to your children.

Children can observe and participate in using worms to create earth – which leads to using the fresh soil to plant seeds – then watching the seeds turn to vegetables we can eat – recycling the vegetable scraps to feed the worms – which in turn creates more earth!

 Shelly also put together a simple sensory bin on the composting theme to further enhance her daycare children’s learning through play.

Vermicomposting 3

She included dry soil, fake worms from the fishing section of her hardware store, pretend food, a magnifying glass, a bottle of water, spoons and cups for the children to play with indoors.

Vermicomposting 4

For more information about vermicomposting, check out these helpful sites: http://espacepourlavie.ca/en/vermicompostinghttp://thewormfactory.ca/

Thanks for sharing Shelly and for inspiring us to do the same!

Signature - Jo

* It is important to purchase red wriggler worms.  Here in Ottawa we have been able to buy them from Arbour Environmental Shoppe,  but it has recently closed its Bank Street location. So in the meantime, you can check where to order from here: http://www.cityfarmer.org/wormsupl79.html

 

Just in time for the long weekend: a Rona Card

Planning to do any home improvements this weekend? Or maybe a little gardening?

CCPRN now has a card to save you 5% on most of your purchases at Rona!

It’s a win-win for everyone because at the end of the year, Rona will make a donation to CCPRN!

Click on the image to print your copy of the card and present it to the Commercial Sales Counter at the front of the Rona store:

It is valid at the 1880 Innes Rd and 585 West Hunt Club Rd locations!

 Feel free to share this blog post and pass on the savings to all your friends and family all year round!

Good luck with whatever your next project might be!

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