Category: Learning At Home

Letter Recognition Activities for Preschoolers

Letter Recognition Activities for Preschoolers

It’s hard to believe I’ve been involved in education for nearly two decades now. I’ve gone from working one-on-one with struggling students to a classroom teacher, from tutoring small groups to teaching “mommy and me” sign language and early literacy classes. Again and again, I come back to working with preschool and primary grade students (and their parents) because it’s a crucial time to instill a love for learning that lasts a lifetime.

In our Facebook group and in my one-on-one chats with parents, I’ve noticed one skill comes up more often than others: learning letter names and letter sounds.

In my mind, the best early literacy activity is simply reading aloud to our kids. There is no program or app that has a better track record than the powerful connection of a caring adult, a good book, and a willing child.


Click here for our favorite read aloud resources.


However, in my experience both as a teacher and a mom, some skills do need a little extra direct instruction. When it comes to teaching letters to toddlers and preschoolers, I will always recommend hands-on, FUN learning activities.

From an early age, our younger daughter showed us that she preferred choosing her own activities. By rotating her toys and setting out invitations to play every afternoon, she has become confident at directing her own learning.

What is a parent’s role in teaching letter names and letter sounds?

It’s simple, really.

Filling your home with books, stocking your toy closet with open-ended toys, and understanding how your child learns best will go a long way toward early literacy success.

So which books and toys are best for letter recognition?

Read on!

Letter Recognition Activities for Preschoolers | ABC games, learning letter names, learning letter sounds, early literacy, tactile activities, learning through play

(Reminder: Rolling Prairie Readers uses affiliate links at no additional cost to you. You can see our full disclosure policy here.)

By nature, most young children are hands-on learners. Our five favorite TACTILE (touch) letter recognition activities are:

Wooden Letter Puzzle

Magnetic Letters

Foam Letters

Letter Stamps

ABC Cookie Cutters

My older daughter (a visual learner) also loved these two-piece letter puzzles and our ABC books:

My younger daughter (an auditory learner) loved this CD and our sign language DVDs/CDs:

Finally, some of our favorite letter recognition activities come out in our seasonal play. Leftover plastic eggs are great for making homemade ABC games!

 


Download our plastic egg activities here.


It is my sincere hope that this post has sparked some ideas for letter recognition activities that you can do at home! If you need MORE ideas, I would love for you to join our Facebook group or schedule a one-on-one chat with me.

 

Join our FREE Facebook group just for parents!

Learning Math at Home in a FUN Way

Learning Math at Home in a FUN Way

We tend to focus a lot on early literacy around here, but I also believe math readiness is just as important for our young children. Whether your child currently loves math or not, we should try to make learning math FUN at home! 

For years, I’ve heard stories (tall tales?) about the battles over math flashcards between my husband and his mom. She would literally chase him around the dining room table, trying to convince him to sit down and practice. To this day, he shudders whenever I say the word “flashcards.”

Learning Math at Home in a Fun Way | math play activities, card games, number sense, hands-on activities, learning through play, place value, learning math for kids, learning styles

 

Learning Challenges

In all my years of te

 

aching (both as a classroom teacher and as a homeschooling mom), I’ve realized no two children learn the same. Very often, we hold a child responsible for his/her own learning challenges. We might call them inattentive or lazy, rather than look at the curriculum or teaching style.

Over the last two years, I’ve watched my own daughter struggle with mastering her math facts. Her issues mainly stem from a lack of confidence and feeling pressured when being timed. To counteract her negative feelings, we spend a lot of time talking positively about math.

Learning Styles

Equipping our children to deal with math challenges often starts with learning about growth mindset. Discovering a child’s learning style can also help us (and them!) find specific, tailored strategies to attack the problem in a fun, fresh way.

Teaching my daughter (a visual learner) how to quickly draw a picture or make a diagram while solving word problems has made a world of difference. For the longest time, she thought she had to do all the work in her head!  

My other daughter is an auditory learner. She has quickly picked up her math facts, just by listening to her sister practice with me each day. We also listen to a lot of skip-counting songs while we’re in the car.


Want to learn more about learning styles? Click here!


Starting Early

I’ve realized that all children deserve a solid math foundation in the early years. Rather than starting with workbooks at the age of 3 or 4, we can bring in fun math games and activities. Young children often do best learning through play!

14 Simple Ways to Make Learning Math More FUN at Home | Tips and Resources for Parents of Preschoolers and Primary Grade Students

Here are some of my favorite ideas for learning math at home in a fun way!

(Reminder: Rolling Prairie Readers uses affiliate links at no additional cost to you. You can see our full disclosure policy here.)

  • Math Games

UNO is a great game for number recognition! You can also use the cards for all kinds of “mix and match” learning activities.

Rack-O is fun for sequencing.

Pass the Pigs is fantastic game to practice adding!

Set is one of our favorite family math games. Everyone can play, from the 6-year-old to the 40-year-old. It’s great for sorting and problem-solving!

  • Math Play Activities

    • Cooking is a great way to learn more about math–both measuring ingredients and talking about fractions. If you are looking for an easy recipe for your kids to create, why not try making homemade playdough? Our favorite recipe calls for mixing dry ingredients together before adding in the hot water, so your children can help in a safe way.
    • Playing store can be a fun way to learn more about money–sorting coins by “type” and counting them by 1s, 5s, 10s, and 25s.
    • Grocery shopping and going to restaurants (or recreating the experience at home in your play kitchen) can introduce the idea of budgets and making change. For older kids, you can talk about percentages in choosing a tip for a server.
  • Math Books

It should come as no surprise that we LOVE math-themed books in our house! Here are some of our favorites:


See our must-have math toys here!


We also make learning math FUN by:

  • celebrating silly holidays like Pi Day
  • polling friends & family on Facebook (favorite color, favorite fruit) and then making a graph with the data
  • playing Todo Math on our iPad
  • creating STEM projects (check out our Pinterest board)

Join us in June for our "Making Math Fun at Home" workshop.

Want to learn more about doing math at home?

If you are:

  • the parent of a child ages 2-7
  • passionate about your child’s education
  • committed to making learning at home as FUN as possible, and
  • interested in child development…

then our Making Math Fun workshop is for YOU.

Learn 10 important math skills your children need to know for early math success AND fun ways to practice those skills at home.

This workshop will be part of our June line-up over in our Flourish Family Membership. You can add your email address below for more details, or click here to get registered!

Toy Rotation Tips for Kids

Toy Rotation Tips for Kids

A few years ago, one of my online friends remarked that our family must live in a toy store. If you follow us on Instagram, you might think that’s true! But what else would you expect from an early education advisor who believes in learning through play? It’s true that we have hundreds of toys in our collection, but since we did preschool at home with our kids, I consider each purchase an investment in my girls’ education. My friend was floored when I told her that our family of four (and all of our toys) resided in a very small, two-bedroom apartment. For five years, the only way to contain the kid clutter and maintain our sanity was our toy rotation system.

Toy Rotation Tips for Kids | learning through play, toy rotation ideas, parenting tips, weekly toy rotation, play spaces, toy rotation system

Toy Rotation Tips

  • Toy rotation for babies happens naturally as your little one develops new skills. You’ll find your baby outgrows toys at a pretty rapid rate–but don’t get rid of them too quickly! You may be able to use a “baby” toy differently down the road.
  • Rotating is most effective toys is most effective for families with toddlers and preschoolers. You reduce clutter and make play spaces more appealing with fewer toys available at a time. Bonus: your child learns how to tidy up without a lot of help from mom!
  • Setting up your toy rotation system might take a few days. Try not to mind the mess while you’re working–you will save so much time and stress down the road, I promise.
  • Children don’t need access to every one of their toys all at once. After a few weeks of toy rotation, you will see stronger attention spans, more creative play ideas, and increased confidence when it comes to cleaning up after play.

See our 13 recommended learning toys here!


Toy Rotation Tips for Kids | learning through play, toy rotation ideas, parenting tips, weekly toy rotation, play spaces, toy rotation system

Step by Step Process

  1. Set aside a day or two to complete this project.
  2. Purchase a few bins to store toys when not in use. I love the TROFAST boxes from IKEA because they stack nicely and help you contain the chaos. You’ll also want some quart-size and gallon-size zipper bags.
  3. Gather ALL of your child’s toys in one room. If you can do this without your child, great! If not, just be prepared for a big mess. Remind yourself it will be worth it in the end!
  4. Purge the toys your child has outgrown, the toys you can’t stand, and the toys that are broken/missing pieces.
  5. Sort your child’s toys into groups or categories. (See below.) You may find you have WAY TOO MANY of one type and see a category that is lacking. That’s okay. You’ll be more intentional when shopping for gifts in the future!
  6. Choose one toy from each category to start your toy rotation system. Arrange those toys in your designated play area. Everything else will go into toy storage.
  7. Decide which items you want to leave in their boxes and which toys can be fit into zipper bags. (I really only saved boxes for toys I thought I might want to resell in the future.)
  8. Organize your storage area and talk with your kids about the new toy rotation system. Decide how often you’ll want to switch out toys and if your kids will be involved in the choosing. (I was pretty flexible about letting my kids trade a toy for another in the same category during the week because it didn’t happen often.)

Toy Rotation Tips for Kids | learning through play, toy rotation ideas, parenting tips, weekly toy rotation, play spaces, toy rotation system

Toy Rotation Categories

Once you have gathered all of your child’s toys, it will be easier to choose categories that work for your family. Here are some ideas for you:

  • games & puzzles
  • building toys (blocks, LEGO, etc.)
  • transportation
  • fine motor/visual toys
  • imaginative activities (dress up clothes, play kitchen)
  • arts & crafts
  • educational toys

Note: some of your toys will fit into multiple categories. (THAT’S GOOD!)

When we first started toy rotation, I usually grabbed one toy from each category. As we got more comfortable with our system, I got much more flexible about mixing and matching. As you can see in the images, one of our favorite activities was the color bowl, a mish-mash of toys that had nothing in common except for their color. I was amazed by the creative ways that my girls started to play and how LONG they would stay engaged and focused on one activity.

Toy Rotation Storage

As I mentioned earlier, we lived in a small, two-bedroom apartment when our girls were younger. We had a HUGE closet in their room that I turned into a toy storage corner. The rule was that the girls couldn’t take their toys out of the closet without permission, and they were really good about it. (If they weren’t, I would have put the toys up high, moved them into MY closet, or found an alternate location.)

You can see in the image above, I had a bookshelf in the closet to hold all of the toys that were self-contained in boxes and containers. All other loose pieces were contained in zipper bags and shoved in the TROFAST boxes stacked in a tower. (Each category got its own box.)

I used a variety of baskets, bowls, and containers to display the “out” toys in the play area. I found great, inexpensive baskets at thrift shops and bought all the green plastic containers at Dollar Tree. Having small, open containers made it easy for the girls to:

  • see which toys were available
  • move toys around to different play areas in the apartment
  • clean up when play time was over

Once you have all your toys organized, you may be wondering how to utilize them for SMART play.

Consider one of our personalized learning plans! Individualized education is my passion, and I love working with parents. 

I cut through the parent overwhelm (so many ideas on Pinterest!) and target your child’s next skills with a variety of simple and fun, hands-on learning activities in one of four categories that you choose: gross motor, fine motor, literacy & language, or science & math.

Your family’s personalized learning plan begins with two questions:

  1. How does your child learn best?
  2. What does your child need to learn next?

Click here to schedule a call with me to get your learning plan started.