Archive for category: Active kids

Baseball books for a baseball kid

Baseball books for a baseball kidMy son had run out of books. Already read the new Rick Riordan. Finished his school-assigned books. Bored of reading.

I needed to rekindle his interest in reading, but how?

I looked to his main hobby–nay, obsession–baseball.

I’d already done something I thought was pretty darned clever. I found a couple of novels written by former baseball player Cal Ripken Jr. (Super-sized Slugger and Hothead). My son loved them because not only were the protagonists his age and baseball players, but the novel was written by a baseball player so it was authentic. It spoke his language.

He read them and loved them. But after that, I was tapped out.

So I went to the library and asked the librarian if she knew any baseball novels.

She did. In fact, one of her favourite books as a young girl was E. L. Konigsburg’s About The B’nai Bagels. It’s the story of a kid whose mother ends up being his baseball team’s manager. (Awwwkward.)

She put that one one hold for me and while it was working its way toward my library branch, she ferretted out a couple more: Haunting at Home Plate by David Patneaude and Throwing Smoke by Bruce Brooks.

My son loved them!

So there’s the idea for you. Think about your kid’s hobbies and then talk to a librarian. It can be kind of hard to Google these things, because you’ll get all manner of how-to books, instructionals… but those librarians, man, they know stuff. Tell them what your kid’s into and before you know it she’ll find you something amazing.

That’s what happened for me.

 

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Fun, active (and profitable!) literacy game

Dollar_sign_(reflective_metallic); from Wikimedia CommonsMy niece told me about a game that her friend’s mom used to set up to get her kids more interested in reading.

She would scatter letters around the room. Each letter had a price on it.

“Easier” letters like E might be worth a penny or five cents, whereas “harder” letters like Q or Z might be worth a quarter.

(Are you seeing where this is going?)

The kids would run around the room, collecting the letters; they would then put them together into words or phrases.

Then they’d add up the “money” they’d earned and… cash them in, using their parents as the bankers.

My niece said the game succeeded in making her friend much more interested in words and in reading.

And, presumably, in banking.

Here’s another case in which a mom successfully bribed her daughter into reading.

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Stuffed letters are great for literacy

Letters for GabbyMy picture book, Gabby, is coming out this September.

I’m excited! The illustrations are by Jan Dolby and it’s published by Fitzhenry & Whiteside.

I’ll be doing some readings in schools, book stores and at Word On The Street to publicize the book.

I sewed and stuffed some fabric letters to use during the readings. It occurred to me that letters like this are also great for new readers, since they can hold them and make words out of them. Making letters and words tactile for kids is a terrific way to get them reading.

There are lots of ways you can do this without making your own fabric letters (trust me, it’s a lot of work). You can use Scrabble tiles, foam letters from the dollar store, letter dice from a game like Jr. Boggle or Alphabet Scoop, or you can cut out letters or words from magazines.

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Keeping kids reading all summer

dock sepia; Image: kiwiowner, Wikimedia Commons

Image: kiwiowner, Wikimedia Commons

Studies show that kids who read during the summer jump back into school with a head-start.

Kids who take the summer off (reading, that is), often tend to find September a bit of a struggle.

So for all kinds of reasons, it’s good to keep your kid reading during the summer.

Some of my best memories are of going to the tiny library near our cottage and loading up with a week’s worth of books.

But what if your kid isn’t a super-voracious reader?

Here are some tips:

* See if your library has a summer reading program. Here’s an example. They typically bundle reading incentives into the program – it works! And if you live in Canada, here’s a link to TD’s summer reading club.

* Plan on a quick trip to the library at least once a week. Even if your kid takes out one book, it’s worth it.

* Use books on CD (or MP3) to replace TV time.

* An ebook by the dock? Why not? (Just don’t drop the Kindle in the water…)

* Outdoor time can be reading time. Check out this outdoor literacy suggestion for active kids.

* Alternative reading material counts! Comic books, magazines, ebooks, books on CD… all better than mind-numbing video games.

* Buy your child a book, wrap it up, and hide in in their bed as a bedtime surprise. It’s not a school night, so sure you can stay up and read for a while longer!

* If you’re really serious about breaking some rules for a good cause, include a flashlight with the book you give your child. They’ll figure out pretty quickly that it’s fun to “fool your parents” into thinking you’re sleeping, when you’re really reading in bed with a flashlight. (Of course, you’re one step ahead of them.)

 

 

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Literacy opportunities are everywhere

Mandarin oranges signYou don’t always need books to help your kid read better.

When my son and I go for a walk, there’s always something weird, funny or unintelligible to read, correct or figure out.

Example. We went on vacation and on the buffet we saw this sign. (Click on the picture for a larger image.) I called my son over and showed it to him – I didn’t say anything. He said, “hey,  that should be Mandarin!” And together, we showed the buffet lady and we all laughed about it.*

It was a great opportunity to get a bit playful with words, while at the same time showing my son the way to approach typos (and the people who make ‘em) – while it can be helpful to point out someone’s typo,  it’s not cool to be judgmental or become some kind of self-appointed “grammar cop.”

Another time we were playing some miniature golf. As you go around the course, sometimes you have to wait for others to finish their hole. Rather than just wait, I would point to a sign and ask my son to rearrange the letters in the sign to form new words.

OK, it sounds nerdy, but it’s actually a pretty funny game because you wouldn’t believe some of the stuff kids come up with! There are no “rules” to the game – you can use all the letters, or just some of the letters – you can even add some letters if you see a phrase you’d like to create.Mini golf sign

The idea is just to take signs that you otherwise might not pay any attention to, and create new meaning from them

The next time you’re out with your kid, even if it’s just walking to school, take a look around you at all the reading possibilities. Every little bit helps.

*If you have a kid like mine, you’ll know immediately why a sign that says “mandrain” is hilarious. Even the buffet lady thought that one was funny – and then she immediately removed the sign.

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uKloo: the perfect literacy game for early readers

uKloo - fun literacy game for early readersThis could be the perfect literacy game.

So simple and so brilliant.

It has all the elements you could want in a game that encourages reading: it’s fun, it offers an immediate reward for reading, it’s easy for parents to quickly learn and set up and it has lots of “reading helpers” to make sure kids are successful.

uKloo will get your kids reading. It’s as simple as that.

uKloo (“you-clue”) is essentially a treasure-hunt game. You may even have done this yourself with your kids (I’ve recommended the idea – #6) but there’s no work for you to do, other than hiding the clues.

How to play

You hide cards around the house. The child picks the first card and reads, for instance, “look in your mom’s sock drawer.” When he gets there, he’ll find another card: “Look under the mat beside the bathtub.” Under the mat will be another card… and so on, until he gets to the “reward” card.

There are lots of wonderful things about UKLOO:

The “reward” is left up to you. If you believe in offering treats you can make the reward a Hershey’s kiss or some other candy. If your kid loves Lego, maybe he’ll find a Lego character at the end of his journey. Or a book. Or a loonie. Or a card that says, “good for one trip to gramma’s.” You can use whatever you feel will motivate your child, and whatever fits with your family’s values.

Children are set up for success. The game comes with a poster (which you stick up on the fridge or a nearby wall) that helps the child work through the words on the cards. Nouns, verbs and prepositions are listed with a picture to show the child, for instance, what “under” and “behind” mean. If the child can’t figure out a word, he can check the poster for help.

The game has three levels, depending on your child’s reading level. For instance:
Level 1: Look in your shoe.
Level 2: Check in the bathtub.
Level 3: Search behind the pillow on the couch.

As your child becomes a better reader, the game grows with him. Or, siblings can play alongside each other, using different levels.

uKloo was invented by Doreen Dotto, who was having trouble getting her kid to read. That was when he was in grade two. Today, the kid is an English major in university. Just sayin’.

uKloo sells in independent toy stores for $14.99 or on the company’s imperfect website, here. Now, Doreen, how about creating a version for older kids who are reading but still love to play fun reading games and find rewards in their shoes?

Here’s a video (1:18) of the game in action. (Spoiler alert: the kid finds the reward card.)

 

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Play on Words – literacy action game

Cards for literacy activity

By Nancy Miller

Here’s a fun activity that can take five minutes, or roll out to 10 or 15.

The goal here is to have fun with words — and encourage your kid to get reading!

Play on Words
This activity uses three major learning styles:
• visual: they see the words.
• aural: they hear the words.
• kinesthetic: they act out the words

Here’s how to play:
1. Ask the child to say his name and what he likes to do. For instance:
“My name is Fraser. I like to swim.” (or ride my bike, or run, etc.)

2. Write down the answer in large letters.

3. Then together, pretend you’re swimming hard (lie across a chair and kick your feet while stroking with your arms; diving… make sure there’s lots of action!)

3. Read the words aloud, pointing to each word. Read the words together.

You can also extend the learning:
*Do the actions again. Then ask your child to pick out the words that go with that action.
*Keep a record of the words.
*Later you can also cut out pictures to go with the activities; this is excellent for reinforcement.

Variations
Other times, pretend:
*Animals; “My name is Fraser. I am a lion.”
*Vehicles: “My name is Fraser. I am a train.”
*Sports: “I like to play baseball.”

This will work with whatever your child’s interests are.

This activity is a shortened version of a longer learning-to-read program. If you would like more information on the program, please contact: Nancy Miller at millerneighbour@rogers.com.

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Supermarket Scavenger Hunt

By Julia Mohamed

The next time you go grocery shopping, make it a more educational, enjoyable and literate experience for your kids with a Supermarket Scavenger Hunt!

1. Give each child a list of items to gather. Be as specific as possible (include a brand name, size, etc.) For instance, you might put:
□ One 18 oz jar of Kraft Crunchy peanut butter,
□ Three small green zucchinis,
□ One loaf of Dempsters 100% whole wheat bread.

It helps if your list is divided into categories, such as produce, meat, canned foods and, of course, snacks. That way, the kids will be in one specific area of the store at a time and you can keep an eye on them more easily.

For older children, throw in a few challenging items, such as ethnic foods. For instance, One jar of Red Shell Teriyaki sauce.

2. As each child brings you items, check to make sure they’ve picked out the right ones. If not, send your troops back out into the field.

3. Reward your kids with a healthy treat!

You can continue this activity when you get home. Include them when you’re making dinner by asking them to read out the ingredients in your recipe to you.

You’re going to have to go grocery shopping anyway, and you know it’s always a hassle. This great game is fun, it gives the kids a bit of freedom, and it gets them reading. A win-win! (Just do keep your eye on them, eh? I don’t want to be getting any letters from parents saying their kids were lost for days in the zucchini aisle…)

Julia Mohamed is a freelance journalist. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

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Brain-training exercise

Brains – especially young brains – benefit from exercise.

Here’s an exercise that Bernadette Tynen (the brain researcher) does with her students. She says that if you do it with your child once a week, it will help to make his thinking more flexible and creative.

She gives the child an object. It could be a stuffed animal, like a snake or a gorilla, or it could be a hat or a scarf – any kind of object. Then she asks the child to tell her what could be done with the object.

At first, the child may say, “you can sit on it,” or “you can put it on your head,” and his thinking may stall there.

You can prompt him by saying, “what else could it be used for?” and he may start to come up with less conventional uses: “You could wear it as a bracelet,” or “you could use it as a frying pan,” or “it could be a garden decoration.”

In Tynen’s documentaries (“Make Your Child Brilliant”), it’s astounding to see how quickly children change their thinking from the usual, normal ways of looking at an object, to finding truly creative and out-of-the-box ideas for things.

We know that brain-training exercises like this help the young brain become more agile, which helps with future learning. Plus, it’s fun!

I tried this with my son – I gave him my glasses case. Within a few seconds it became a hat, something you could balance or float, a toy… I was laughing my head off at the crazy and wonderful things he came up with. Playing with your kid like that is better than TV, I tell ya.

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Likes video games, running

There are lots of fun literacy activities for active kids.

I was talking to a mom yesterday who said she has two sons – one of whom isn’t a good reader. He likes video games and is quite physically active.

Here are some fun suggestions:

* Write a simple sentence on a long piece of paper. Cut it up into words and place them around the room. Time your son as he runs around, finding words, and making a sentence from them. (Remind him to use clues like the period at the end of the sentence, and the capital letter at the beginning.)

* Sink Scrabble tiles into a large bowl of rice. As he finds the tiles, he makes words.

* Show him how his Nintendo DS can be used for messages.

* In the summer, toss letters into the pool. He can dive for letters and make words by the side of the pool.

* Give him 8 Scrabble tiles (for instance, E L R E T I A S). Get him to make as many words as he can in two minutes, using those letters. See if he can make more the second time around.

* Make everything a fun contest! Time him, or get him to compete against someone else or simply beat his own score.

For more active-kid literacy ideas, check out this post on kinesthetic learning.

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