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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 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.

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

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:

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:


Income Tax for Daycare Providers

With income tax season upon us it may also be a good time for us to evaluate the effectiveness of the record keeping strategies we’ve put into place. This is of particular importance for home-based business owners.

Income Tax for Daycare Providers


While the deadline to file income taxes is not until April 30th, child care providers are required to provide receipts to all daycare families no later than February 28th. One receipt must be submitted for each child in a family.

A common question that  is asked at the CCPRN office this time of year is what information should be included on receipts. In addition to the child’s name, his/her parent or guardian, the duration of care  or tax year, and amount received, each receipt should also state the child care provider’s name, address and social insurance number (SIN).

Wondering what expenses to claim as a daycare provider?

Child care providers are entitled to claim expenses that relate strictly to their child care services, such as accounting, legal and other professional fees, advertising costs, entertainment, equipment, groceries, insurance, interest, office expenses, outings, rent, repairs and maintenance, subscriptions, supplies, telephone, training and travel.

In cases where a vehicle is used in a daycare, providers can also claim such expenses as fuel costs, insurance, leasing cost, parking fees, repairs/maintenance, washing, and plating and licensing.

Of course it is easier to keep track of all expenses when personal costs are separated from business fees. If possible, open a separate business bank account and credit card. All records must be kept for 7 years.

If you would like to learn more tips on daycare record keeping and income taxes, there are still  spaces available in our upcoming Income Tax workshops. We’re offering it on 3 different dates with 2 different locations to suit you. Register online at

Information above has been provided by Claire at

For further information on income taxes go to:


Signature - Jo

Share the Care Tips: Pictures

Share the Care is a special feature of our blog where we hope to share some little tips and tricks that have worked for our caregiver members.

Today’s post will be the first in this feature…

Some home child care providers place a digital picture frame in the front entrance way to greet their daycare families.

It’s not only a great way to showcase some of the daily activities that their children take part in each day, it’s also an inviting way to welcome them. Especially for those little ones that are a bit timid and need some extra encouragement upon arrival.

Displaying pictures of your daycare children engaged in different activities can get them excited to join their friends in play.

So if you have a little one who is a bit reluctant in the mornings, why not give it a try?

If you wanted to take it a step further, you could overlay words over your images explaining the activity to parents and even what learning/development is taking place.

You can do this with many different kinds of photo editing software. I like to use because it’s so intuitive (and free!).

*Don’t forget to have your daycare parents sign a photo consent form before taking pictures of their children.

How do you break the ice when children arrive at your home? We’d love to know – please comment below!

Have another bright idea that you’d like to share? Drop us an email 🙂

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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