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When my foster daughter came to us, she had a lot of trouble holding a crayon, coloring in the lines, and drawing with a pen or a pencil. I used a bunch of techniques to teach her about drawing, but this (and some other hands-on learning games) was really great for strengthening those finger muscles.

Not only did she have fun, but I had all of her siblings demanding a turn also! It was cute to see her 2 year old brother and 3 year old sister so intent on their work.

They stuck to it even though it was clearly hard for them; probably because it gave them a legitimate reason to play with water. I didn’t mind so much, because the mess is minimal (wait until they start washing out their own dishes- then you’ll have a better idea of what I mean!)

Even though she ended up having to share this game as soon as we took it out of the kitchen closet, I still began seeing improvement in the first few weeks, and within about two months she was generally able to color in the lines most of the time.

You could extend this game and make it even more interesting by using different colors of water, and letting your child seeing what happens when they mix two of them. We haven’t gotten to it yet, but we’ll get to it sometime!


-child-sized food tray

-2 or 3 pipettes or eyedroppers (you can find this at the pharmacy, or a well-stocked toy store in the science section)

-food coloring

– 2 very small containers such as egg cups, children’s tea cups, or tea light holders

How to Prepare the Game:

1)     Place both containers on the tray.

2)     Fill one of them about 2/3 full of colored water.

3)     Place a pipette or eyedropper on the tray. Provide a small cloth for spills.

How to Play the Game:

1)     Show your child how to use the pipette or eyedropper.

2)      Let them practice transferring the colored water from one container to the other.

3)     When your child finishes filling one containers, show her how to turn the tray so that the full container is now on the LEFT side (this helps prepare her for the left-to-right progression of writing).

Originally posted 2011-02-09 01:37:22.

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Does your child have trouble expressing himself, or explaining what he’s learned in daycare or school?

This is a simple way to improve your child’s language development, and boost his expressive language skills. It doesn’t require any special materials, and teaches you how to make an activity you already do – reading to your child – into an activity that boosts your child’s expressive language skills.

After a week or two, you’ll see major improvement in your child’s ability to understand and think critically when reading a book.

Here’s what you do:

Days 1 -2: Teach your child to use the pictures to understand the story.

On the first 2 days you’ll be reading your child’s favorite book, but with a twist. First, ask your child to tell you the name of the book. That’s an easy one, of course. Next, have them show you where on the front cover it says the name of the book. If they don’t know, point it out, being particular to read and point to each word separately.

This teaches them important information about how to read a book, but they will also learn to recognize the words. Do the same thing with the name of the author. You can also show them that inside the book it says the name of the book, and the author.

As you go through the book, there are 2 types of questions you’ll be asking: questions about the pictures, or questions about what’s written. As you flip through the pages, ask your child to tell you a little bit about the pictures.

What does she think is happening? How does she know? Ask her to tell you what she sees in the picture makes her think that – a happy face, scary pictures, etc. Guide her through the pictures first, helping her to use the pictures to predict what the story will be about.

Days 3-4: Help your child notice words and think critically about what she hears.

As you go through the book, you are going to draw your child’s attention to two aspects of the text: the words themselves, and what is being said.

When you talk about the words themselves, you’ll point out things like whether one word rhymes with another, or you might explain what a new word means. For example, in Where the Wild Things Are, the word mischief is introduced.

You can see if your child can guess what it means, referring her to the pictures as a clue, and then ask her if there was ever a time when she made mischief of one kind or another.

When you focus on what is actually being said, you’re looking at the bigger picture. For example, in Where the Wild Things Are, you can ask your child, “Why did Max’s mother call him a wild thing? Why was he lonely? Did he really go to another place?”

You can also extend this even further, asking your child what they do if they feel like making mischief – how do they handle it? Do they sometimes feel lonely?

Of course you don’t need to do all of this at once. Take your time to introduce ideas as you go through the book several times, each time deepening the level of the questions you ask your child. Your child will have gained valuable thinking skills that are critical to being a good reader – all in the space of a few bedtime readings.

TIP: Check out this post to find out how you can use wordless picture books to improve your child’s expressive language skills.

Originally posted 2011-07-24 21:51:13.

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