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We did this yesterday.You will need two colors of finger paint: red and green. Let your child put the red all over their hands and make “stamps”on a large sheet of paper. Then, let them put the green on their fingers and draw leaves and stems.

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In an attempt to perfect the knowledge of a Russian alphabet in my (now perfectly) bilingual almost-three year old, I came up with this game:

Firstly, we cut letter shapes out of colorful paper. If your child is a toddler, you will probably need to hold his/her scissors, while they are cutting. Make sure the scissors are toddler-safe. Then, we move the letters into groups, which we sort by color. This way, we end up with a pile of green letters, a pile of blue letters, a pile of yellow ones, etc… Then we make words, putting the letters from each pile together.

Lets take our yellow pile, for example. Lemon is yellow. Squash can be yellow. ¬†So, using this logic, we take our yellow letters and spell the names of yellow objects. Then, we move to the red pile and spell words, like “strawberry,” or “tomato.”

Finally, we group our words together. We move all of the “fruit” words into a group and we move all the “vegetable” words into another group. Someties, we take this one step further and “make a salad” or a “soup.” We think about the ingredients for the dish and move the names of those ingredients together on the table.

Since toddlers are notorious for having short attention spans, this game can extend over three hours. We make some letters, we play with the trucks, we make some words, we play with our brother and sister, we make some more words, we throw a little tantrum. ūüôā This game teaches fine motor skills, color recognition, shape recognition, letter recognition, object recognition and conceptual thinking.

When we are done, we put all of our letters in a box, so that we can continue playing this or a different letter game later.

 

Easter is coming. If you are contemplating the use of food coloring to dye Easter eggs, think again. It’s been linked to a multitude of health problems. In Russia, where I am from, Easter eggs are dyed using onion peels. This is my grandma’s basic recipe. You can use less peels than this recipe asks for to get less intense color.
For red or brown eggs:
5 cups of water
2 tbsp. of white vinegar
The papery peel of yellow onion skins (about 8-10).
1/2 dozen eggs
Firstly, use an enamel or teflon-coated pot. Tin, iron or aluminum pots can change the color of the dye.
Place the water, vinegar, and onion skins in a pot and bring to boil. Lower heat, cover, and simmer for 45 minutes. Add the eggs into the pan with the onion peels. To ensure even coloring, make sure that no eggs are overlapping and that the dye covers the eggs well. Bring to a boil over medium heat, cover, and simmer for about 15 minutes for dark red or for about 25 minutes for deep brown. Put the eggs into cool water. Once they are cool,  take a little olive oil l and polish them with a paper towel to make hem look perfect!
If you’d like a fun basket of all kinds of colors, here are some other natural dye recipes I have expermented with over the years:
For blue eggs, try purple cabbage leaves. Use the leaves of 1/2 a cabbage and 6 cups of water for 1/2 dozen eggs. Add 2 tbsp. of vinegar.¬†Follow the “onion peel” recipe from above.
Spinach makes amazing green eggs. Use 2 cups of spinach leaves per 1 quart of water. Add 2 tbsp of vinegar. Follow the “onion peel” recipe. to make pale green eggs, pre-boil the eggs and leave them in spinach juice for about an hour.
Try ground turmeric or curry for golden yellow eggs. Add enough spice to the water in which you are boiling the eggs to make it deep yellow. Boil the eggs like you normally would. Usually, it’s about 3 tbsp.
Coffee makes dark brown eggs. Make a pot of coffee and some hard-boiled eggs. Leave the eggs in cooled coffee for about an hour.
Buy some dark grape juice and leave the hard-boiled eggs in it for about an hour to make your eggs lavender color.
Cut two beets into cubes, add 6 cups of water and boil some eggs in it, like you normally would to make hard-boiled eggs. The eggs would be dark red.

I jut finished reading Teach Me to Do It Myself: Montessori Activities for You and Your Child by Maja Pitamic.

I believe every parent of a preschooler should have this book. It presents simple activities that you can do with your preschooler to help encourage his/her cognitive development.¬†If you consider yourself not too creative and imaginative, the book will give you tons of ideas of learning by playing interesting games with your child. If you are already full of ideas for fun and productive play, the book will give you more. ¬†The instructions are brief, clear, and well illustrated. The activities are fun, and generally don’t require a lot of prep on the parents’ part. The recommended materials are easily found in most homes.

There are five chapters with activities you can do at home or in a classroom setting: Life skills, Developing the Senses, Language Development, Numeric Skills and Science Skills. Each activity has a picture next to its description, a numbered list of directions, a list of  what you will need as well as other, similar,  activities to try. In the back of the book you can find worksheets to accompany some of the activities shown in the book: everything is simple, concise and well-organized. I highly recommend this book.

 

First of all, to help with future reading, it’s a lot easier to learn letters as phonetic sounds, as opposed to as letter names. ¬†Secondly, you need to figure out if your child learns better by hearing, by making things or while moving. Or maybe he or she learns in another special way? Once you know your child’s learning preferences, you’d be able to better teach them. My son loves to be in motion. He also learns through feeling: he likes to literally touch what he is learning. This means that we learn on the go and we learn while building things that we can touch. We walk and sing a “letter song, while we are walking. ¬†We build garages for his toy cars in shape of a letter “G” ¬†for “garage.” Sometimes it’s letter “B” -“big garage.”

Here are some of my suggestions.  Feel free to comment with yours:

1. Write letters on index cards and hide those all over the house. When your child finds a card, ask: “What letter is this?” and, “Which word starts with this letter?”

2. Make letters out of play dough together. Make letters out of paper. Make letter out of bread. Cut letters out of vegetables. Making letters is better for kiniesthetic children, that learn better by doing. I have one of these, so we make a lot of letters!

3. Create a special song for each letter and sing it throughout the day. Like: ¬†“A is an Apple, B is a Boy.” You can group two-three letters into each song. Melody is wonderful for getting things into the brain. I credit my knowledge of English to American songs: they really helped me learn the language (I also speak Russian, Hebrew and French.)

4. Create something that helps your child to associate a particular letter with the particular object. Take “W,” for example. Yesterday we made a pretty W by cutting it out of green and red papers, sticking those on top of each other and saying that “W is a watermelon.”
You can take a cucumber and cut a nice “C” on it’s skin with a knife.

5. Make sure you learn letters every day at a set time. If you make the process fun, your child will eagerly anticipate both the ritual and the lesson.

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