Post Tagged with: "projects/crafts for you"

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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QR codes – reading fun for the whole (nerdy) family

QR code GKreadingOK, this is a great tip but it might be a bit… er… nerdy. But then, so am I. And so is my kid, who wears it like a badge of honour.

You’ve seen these QR codes, right? They’re on ads, posters, marketing material. Maybe you never knew what they were.

They’re like bar codes, but readable by anyone with a cellphone. You take an app like RedLaser (iPhone or Android) and scan the QR code, which reveals a hidden message, website, phone number, URL, etc.

So I was thinking it would make an excellent scavenger hunt to get kids reading.

You create some goofy, fun, positive or even utterly meaningless messages and print them out. Then you hide them around the house and give your kid your phone. Hilarity ensues. Well, maybe not hilarity – but certainly reading.

One scavenger hunt game could include messages like, “Look under the couch” and then the QR code hidden under the couch would read, “Look in your left shoe by the door,” and so on until the kid finds a new book on his pillow or something.

Or you could print one up and stick it in your kid’s lunchbox (his friend has a phone, you know he does). Now your kids kind of cool and you’re the cool mom who know about technology.

If you’ve never tried reading a QR code before, download the app and try this one I just made up:


You can make up your own QR codes at Kaywa. Or even better, have your kid make some up.

The idea for this post came from this smart and funny blog I’ve been following for years, Ironic Sans (if you know your typography, the title is funny).

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Fun new, brain-challenging jigsaw puzzle

Ji Ga Zo puzzleThey’ve finally come up with a new, addictive, fun and brain-saving type of jigsaw puzzle that kids will actually enjoy.

It’s difficult – if not downright impossible – to explain exactly how Ji Ga Zo works. You have to try it for yourself, and you’ll understand. (Which is why I asked Hasbro to send me one – I couldn’t figure it out from the literature and now I know why.)

Here’s what Ji Ga Zo (worst. product. name. ever.) is:

1) A puzzle that you create from your own photo.

2) A game in which you (or your kids) have to find pieces with specific icons on them and locate where they go using a grid (the “acorn” goes on A-15).

3) A game that teaches “orientation” since every piece can be fitted into the puzzle rightside-up, upside-down or sideways—and only one of those options is correct for each piece.

Ji Ga Zo puzzle, icon board

This is the icon board. Kids have to find the pieces that match up to these icons, and put them in place.

4) A puzzle that can be reused over and over again, with any picture you choose.

It’s a little hard to believe, isn’t it? I’ll try to explain it.

First, you choose a photo you’d like the puzzle to be. It can’t be just any photo—faces work best, and even they need to be close up and high-contrast. You put the Ji Ga Zo (how I hate that name!) in your computer and follow the very simple instructions to create an “icon board” for your specific photo.

You print out the icon board, which is a grid containing 300 one-centimetre squares. Each square contains an icon: it could be a house, a duck, an exclamation mark.

Then, you create the puzzle by finding the appropriate icons and fitting them onto your puzzle space according to the icon board… this sounds ridiculously difficult. In fact, it’s very easy—it’s just really, really hard to explain.

Ji Ga Zo (seriously, Hasbro, you couldn’t have called it Re-puzzler because it’s reusable or Griddle because it’s a puzzle with an icon grid? And these are just off the top of my head!) is very addictive and quite soothing. Harkens you back to those days when you and your mom would sit in the kitchen doing a puzzle, something we rarely take the time to do these days. And because it’s a puzzle of your child’s face, you’re more likely to want to continue making it until it’s done. And so is your kid.

The puzzle pieces are very sturdy and fit nicely together. There’s none of the wiggle-wobbling and coming apart so common to cheaper puzzles.

And you can make it easier for younger kids by sorting the puzzle pieces according to colour. Really young kids can simply help you find the pieces, which they’d find really fun. Slightly older kids can find pieces that are sorted by colour and try to find them on the grid. Older kids can do the whole thing, with or without your help.

The image itself is going to be sort of abstract. It’s not going to be a great representation of your child’s face, because it’s actually made up of shadow and light. Again, you have to see it to understand. And if you don’t have a photo you want to use, the game comes with a few including the Mona Lisa.

So here’s what I recommend. Don’t hesitate to buy Ji Ga-whatsit. It would be good for a birthday present for a party your child’s going to, or a present from gramma for your own kid. And it’s definitely got some great learning components. And it’s fun.

Once I find out from Hasbro how much it costs and where to buy it, I’ll let you know. In the meantime, I’m thinking of offering a contest to rename this thing…

Update: Hasbro got  back to me… $24.99. Name’s staying.

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No time for literacy activities? Harness the power of two

Literacy game - "crumple"

What kid can resist a game of "Crumple"? Crumpled up pages reveal silly riddles.

If you aren’t able to find time to read to your child or offer him literacy activities—use the power of two—you and another parent.

You know that kids who are read to every day are more likely to develop a love of reading. But that’s 15 minutes that tends to slip right by and before you know it, your child is asleep and you haven’t managed to read together like you’d hoped.

Here’s what you can do—team up with another parent and schedule time to do some literacy activities with your child and their child.

If you’ve got a toddler or an infant, chances are you regularly get together for coffee with another parent. Next time, plan to build a five-minute literacy component into something you’d be doing anyway. Use the first five minutes you’re in that café to prop your friend’s child on your lap and read her a couple of books. At the same time, she’ll be doing the same for your child. (Or each read to your own children—whatever works.)

Then, the rest of the coffee break can be about other things. But the point is, you’ve read with your child and she has read with hers. And better still, the kids saw each other reading, which will reinforce that this is a nice thing to do.

If your child is older, use the power of two to motivate you and remind you to do some literacy activities. Schedule regular weekly playdates—one at your house and the next week, one at their house. Talk to the other parent and brainstorm a simple literacy game, craft, activity that the kids can do—if only for 15 minutes—right at the beginning of the playdate. When they come to your house, the kids will find a craft or a game set out on a table. Let them find it themselves and it’s pretty likely they’ll start doing it. (I don’t know many kids who can resist stuff set out on a table, especially if the parent is just leaving them to it.)

Here are some suggestions:

* Put some crayons and blank paper on the table. Pre-make a paper airplane with a message inside it, “Hi Scott!” and explain that these are “message planes” that fly back and forth across the room with messages to the other person.

* Put a sentence on the table that is all mixed up. When they piece the words together, they’ll discover a secret message: “Your playdate snack is under your bed!”

* Play “Crumple.” Put a bunch of crumpled-up pieces of paper on the table. As they unravel each one, they’ll find a joke—on the back of the paper is the answer. (“What kind of hair do oceans have? Wavy!”) Here are lots more silly kids’ jokes.

It takes a bit of planning, but with the power of two, you’ll have a day off the next week as the other parent puts together a fun activity for the kids at her house.

For other fun literacy crafts or activities, search this blog or click on the tags for five-minute ideas or 15-minute ideas. There’s lots of stuff you can do that is fun, quick and easy and costs nothing to put together.

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Take 30 seconds for literacy this holiday

Think about literacy.

Take 30 seconds during the holidays – today – to reflect on how you can help your child become a better reader, enjoy books more and have greater access to books.

Just taking the time to focus on literacy will bring your child one step closer to enjoying reading more.

Here are some ideas to help you answer the question:

“How can I help my child enjoy reading more?”

* Extend your child’s bedtime – as long as he’s reading, he can stay up a bit later.

* Take your child to the library.

* Buy a great book and put it on your child’s pillow for her to discover tonight.

* Buy yourself a good book. When kids see their parents reading, they’re more likely to read themselves. (Have you read Andre Agassi’s new biography Open? Even if you don’t like sports, biographies or Andre Agassi – you will enjoy this great, fast and engaging read.)

* Read with your child tonight, even if he’s already reading by himself.

* Buy books at Goodwill or another second-hand store.

* Rent your child the movie of a famous book. Buy the book too.

* Suggest that the grandparents purchase a magazine subscription for your child.

* Buy your child a booklight. Let him use it tonight after lights-out.

* Get your son a fact-based book like the Guinness Book of Records or one with lots of adventure like Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief (the graphic novel has just come out).

* Get your daughter a book with lots of great characters and developed relationships, or one with a wonderful, empowered heroine like Eloise.

* Don’t ever give up. Every second you spend with your child on reading is quality time and an investment in his future.

Image: Wikimedia Commons, by this author.

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Save the Words

Won’t you adopt a word?

You don’t normally think of the Oxford English Dictionary people as silly, but they’ve developed a project that’s pretty goofy, and it’s something you can do with your kid to get her thinking about language.

They’ve rounded up hundreds of words that don’t get used much any more. Words like gumfiate (to swell), lambition (licking) and vellicle (something that pinches or holds fast).

They’ve taken all of these nearly extinct words and knitted them into a virtual quilt, which you’ll find here.

When you move your mouse over the words, they’ll call out to you: “Pick me! Pick me!” They want you to adopt them.

You can find a word or two that you like and click on them. That will bring up its definition, and a form that allows you to “adopt” it. (Like all adoptions, you first have to register. Unlike human adoptions, it’s free.)

Adopting a word means pledging that you’ll try to bring it back into the mainstream. You’ll use it in conversation and in writing, and you’ll explain it to people.

Save a Word is meant to be a fun concept to get people thinking about words. It’s a great resource to use to talk to your child about the fact that words evolve and how our language has changed.

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Promote literacy: four important activities

There’s a fourth promoter of literacy.

You know that I’m always going on about the three most important things you can do to turn your kid into a great reader:

1) Read to her every day.
2) Have lots of books scattered throughout your house.
3) Let her see you reading.

Research tells us that if you do those three things, you’re more likely to have a kid who loves to read.

A Grade 1 – 2 teacher at my son’s school told me about another one: The number of books she reads/looks at/has read to her.

Mr. Remisch told me that kids who “go through” books at a fairly good clip tend to be lifelong readers. It makes sense; it’s kind of an extension of #2—exposing her to books, having them around her.

Mr. Remisch has a wonderful plan to get the kids in his class to “get through” a lot of books. He uses an incentive.

The kids in his class will write down the title of every book they read, along with as much as they can or want to say about the book. When they get to 30, they’ll get a certificate.

For a six-year-old, that’s a pretty solid incentive. In fact, just keeping track—or having your teacher keep track—of the books you’re reading is enough to keep a kid reading.

In this exercise, Mr. Remisch isn’t concerned as much about the quality of the reading material, as the quantity. He’s not trying to make kids read specific things, here; he’s trying to expose them to books. Lots of books.

He’s setting the stage for later years, when the quality of the reading material will become more important.

He doesn’t want kids going home and staying up until two in the morning, reading all 30 books in one week, so he’ll probably set a limit of three books a day.

And he says it is important that the child understand what she’s reading, so there will be some discussions about the books. And for every, say, dozen or so books, he’ll ask the child for a bit more detail.

A reading incentive chart with a nice reward is a great way to expose your child to books and get her reading.

Here’s an earlier article we wrote on Reading Reward Charts.

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Mother-Son bookclub part II

Our mother-son book club met again this week.

It’s a great example of parents taking their children’s literacy into their own hands. And anyone can do it – you can do it.

The boys drew, read, wrote, ate,
chatted, answered quiz questions
and had an amazing time.

Once again, the evening was total chaos… and I wouldn’t have changed a thing. There were boys writing, boys reading, boys drawing maps of faerie sightings in their neighbourhood, boys eating cupcakes, boys talking (in very loud voices—ok, shouting) about books, boys presenting at the front of the room, boys running around and overall, boys enjoying and sharing their experiences with books.

There were about half a dozen moms wondering what the heck was going on. (The one dad remained very calm, taking it all in stride.) The moms all had the same expression on our faces. It said: “This is chaos!”

Yes, it was chaos. It was wonderful chaos.

It was the way boys often need to learn, to connect, to delve into books, to share. Touching things and doing things and running around occasionally and eating snacks—while they were learning.

Every boy there walked away knowing that for a month, while they were living in “The Spiderwick” world—there were a dozen other boys in exactly the same world. And that’s the whole point of the bookclub.

Our itinerary:
Amongst the chaos, quite a lot was accomplished.

The book this month was The Spiderwick Chronicles (Book I), about three siblings who move into an old house and discover a secret world of faeries and goblins.

Two families hosted; their boys created a quiz about the book and its characters. They called out questions and the audience members answered.

They also gave out hand-outs: one asked kids to draw a map of their neighbourhood, showing where faeries and goblins could be found; another had kids draw their own “field guide” book cover; another gave the first three lines of a poem and had the child create the final line; still another taught “deductive reasoning.” So there was something at both ends of the spectrum, for kids who prefer drawing and kids who prefer writing.

Joulie handed out our special shrinky-dink I.D. badges that we’d created last month. They looked fantastic and the kids were excited to see their creations turn out so well.

And then Joulie created special I.D. cards for each child, which she’s brought home to laminate. (Yes, Joulie is our neighbourhood supermom who not only has a shrinky-dink machine, but apparently a laminator as well!) Each card has a photo of the child, which Joulie must have taken last month, wearing a fake moustache. I completely missed that she did that – when does she do these things?!

We read out a couple of the stories the kids started last month. Remember the envelopes, on which each child wrote the beginning of a story – we each took one home to continue the story. They were handed out yet again, for the kids to develop the story a bit further at home.

There was a lot going on, all the time. The boys could draw or read or write or eat or answer trivia questions—sometimes all at once. It was so great, I can’t even tell you.

You’ve got to start up a kids’ book club in your neighbourhood. (Just don’t ask to borrow Joulie, ’cause you can’t have her.)

Next month:

Our book selection for next month is Big Nate: In a Class by Himself.

In December, we’re doing The Red Pyramid, which is a really big book so we’re giving two months’ notice. We’re also suggesting that parents check the audio version of the book out of the library (you can get the CDs or download an MP3) because the book will be a bit too ambitious for some kids to read.

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Back to school 2010

By Julia Mohamed
It’s nearly back-to-school time! Time to go from running wild and free to becoming a studious student once again. Here are a few ideas to help make the transition as smooth as possible:
Goal Journal
Have your kids contribute to a nightly journal. Begin now, with their anticipations and goals for the upcoming year, and continue to use it as the year progresses. It will help get them into the routine of writing again, and it’ll be great to look back on it later in the year. They can do all of the writing, dictate to you, add some pictures or make it a combination of everything.
Great sites
School means reports and essays. Here are great, kid-friendly websites where kids can search for the answers to questions on just about anything.
Homework Helper
This site offers categories like “Science, History, World, Sports and exercise.” From there, kids can drill down until they find answers to questions they have on just about anything. Includes facts and information on Canada, plus a “World” category.
It’s a non-profit website and each category uses a specialist in the field to write the information and answer kids’ questions. If you can’t find what you’re looking for on the site, you can ask their experts a question and they’ll e-mail you back. They’ll also send parents links to kid-friendly websites.
Published by Pearson publishing, this site offers information and facts on lots of different subject areas, for kids K to 8. It also has an online atlas, dictionary and encyclopedia and some online games and quizzes (for instance, hangman, Star Wars quizzes, an interactive periodic table, Sudoku, how to write a book report and much more.)
Funschool Kaboose
Funschool Kaboose is a Disney site with great information, games and crafts for kids from preschool to grade 6. It also features sections for parents and educators.
Stock up on school supplies
Before heading out, prepare a list of the school supplies you need. Why not make it a scavenger hunt? Be sure to be specific when you’re writing your list: Number 2 pencils, blue and red ballpoint pens, a calculator, white erasers, a one-inch three-ring binder, etc. Refer to our article, Supermarket Scavenger Hunt for details on how to create the perfect hunt!
Reading – every night
Keep reading to your child every night. Create a reading log for your kids. A simple chart with headings including “Date,” “Title,” “Author,” “Number of Pages Read,” and “Amount of Time Spent Reading” can help keep track of how much they read. For every milestone, give your child a reward. Here’s a past GKR article on Reading Reward Charts.
If you only get a chance to do one thing from this article, check out the websites Julia found – they have a great wealth of information your kids will appreciate when they start getting into essay writing time.
Julia Mohamed is a freelance journalist.
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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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