Tag Archives: Hands on learning


Hands on Learning Games: How to Help Your Child Learn Word Families

child reading

Being able to hear the individual sounds in words is a critical reading skill.

When experienced readers see a new word, they search the word for patterns that are familiar to them from other words that they know. They know that words with the same vowels and ending letters usually rhyme, and they can use this information to help them decode a new word.

For example, imagine your kindergartner comes upon the word “spine.” She must do several things:

1) Realize that this is a new word, and look at each letter carefully.

2) Ask herself if she knows any other words that are like this one.

3) Think of all the words she know, searching for those that end with the “-ine” sound.

4) Use the new words, like nine or fine, and try and pronounce the new word like those words.

5) Read the sentence again to check if that pronunciation makes sense for their sentence.

This is a pretty complex process, and your kindergartner or first grader might get a little confused at any one of these stages. You can, however, help him be a more efficient reader by giving him a “bank” of rhyming words that he can later use to figure out new words.

This game is great for helping children build up their own personal store of rhyming words. It can be played alone, or with another child if they take turns.


Pictures of various rhyming words .Here of some of the most common rhyming patterns:

-ack         -ap         -est     -ing   -ot

-ail           -ash        -ice     -ip     -uck

-ain           -at         -ick      -it      -ug

-ake          -ate       -ide     -ock    -ump

-ale           -aw        -ight    -oke

-ame         -ay         -ill        -op

-an            -eat        -in        -ore

-ank          -ell          -ine      -ink

Store the pictures for each set of word endings in an envelope with the ending written on the outside.

How to Play the Game:

1) Choose two word endings.

2) Put all the pictures in front of your child, and mix them up.

3) Have your child pick one card, and name it.

4) Instruct your child to find a picture card that matches with the card they have.

5) Continue matching the cards until all cards are used.


-You can make this game harder by adding 3 or even 4 word endings at a time.

- You can make this game even harder by choosing only 2 picture cards for each category.

-If your child is reading, you can add cards that have a new word on them, and have your child find the picture card with the same word pattern.

-You can cut out pictures all together, and use word cards instead. Buy or make letter cards in red and blue. Have your child choose two word cards with the same pattern. Let them build the words: the letters that are unique to that word should be built with the blue letter cards. The letters that are the same for both words should be built with the red letter cards. Each word card should be built directly under the same word.

Let your child continue until they’ve covered all of the word cards. They can also copy the words into a notebook after they build them, using two different colored pens.


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Listening games

Hands on Learning: A Twist on the Traditional I Spy Game

Remember how kids played I Spy before the days of Walter Wick?

Usually played on long highway rides during summer vacation, in those days it was you, a few siblings, and a sharp pair of eyes.  The object of the game was to find a particular object – a license plate with a particular number, a certain car model, or a landmark.

This listening game is like I Spy with a twist: instead of looking for a noun (car, doll, book) your child will look for an object that fits the description you give.

Let’s say, for example, that you choose the word “thin.” Your child’s job will be to find an object that fits that description. In doing so she not only learns new vocabulary words, but she learns to listen carefully and discriminate between the word thin and other words that are similar, such as “small” or “narrow.”


-index cards with descriptive words written on them

List A                          List B                                  List C

big           hot             broad      heavy               bitter        fragrant

small      cold            narrow     light                 sweet         odorless

rough     short          thick         soft                   sour             flat

smooth   tall             thin          hard                  salty          curved

How to Play:

1. Place the cards face down on a flat surface.  If your child is familiar with I Spy, explain that this game is similar to I Spy.

2. Ask your child to pull one card, and read it aloud for them.

3. Tell them to look around the room (or several rooms), and to try and find something that’s like the word on the card.

4. If your child is unfamiliar with a word or has difficulty, simply find an item in the house and show them how the word they drew fits.

TIP:  You can make this game harder by giving your child a set time to find the item in the house. If your child’s language skills are really weak, pair them with a sibling or a friend, and allow them to work as a team to find objects.

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Hands-On Learning Games

Learning While Shopping With Your Child

Today I'm at http://notjustcute.com, with a guest post on "5 Tips to Improve Your Child's Learning Skills While Shopping."

In it, I explain how you can help your child boost critical learning skills like visual and auditory memory, with just a few easy - and fun - games you can play together with your preschooler.

So visit http://notjustcute.com, and let me know what you think in the comments section!

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Help Your Child Blend Words with this Hands on Learning Game

Is your child struggling to blend words together? Hands on learning game for Things That Go

Blending words is not what you think it is.

Knowing how to blend words is an essential reading skill. But if you thought blending words means seeing the letters c-a-t and sounding them out until you said the word "cat," then you'd be only half right.

Children who are able to blend words successfully also have another critical skill: they are able to recognize what a word is after seeing just a few letters. In the word "cat," for example, a good reader will know what the word is after the she sees the letter "a." While technically the word could have been can, car, or cap, a good reader will use context (and pictures, at this age) to tell her what the meaning is.

Good readers do more than just blend letterstogether.

In fact, most good readers never read an entire word, letter by letter: they recognize the word in its entirety after a few letters, and them on to the next word.

As studies that tracked readers' eye movements show, this allows them to read quickly, and fairly accurately, since they constantly check the meaning of the word from the context of the sentence as they go along.

Being able to determine what a word is when seeing a part of it is due to having good visual closure skills. You can help strengthen your child's visual closure skills by having them build puzzles, solve I Spy's or other hidden pictures, and by playing Spot the Difference games. A great site for hidden pictures is http://www.highlightskids.com/hidden-pictures, especially since you can adjust the level of difficulty.

Here's your free hands on learning game.

In a previous post, I gave you a free sequencing game for Goodnight iPad, a modern child's spoof on Goodnight Moon. In this post I've included a hands on learning game from the same online book site, based on the book "Things That Go."

The game is a great way to build up the skills that help your child blend words together.

Hands on Learning Game -Things That Go

Want 3 extra hands on learning games based on the same book?

By the way, if you're a subscriber, check you e-mail. I just sent you a bonus game based on the book, PLUS a few new ways to play the game included in this post. If you're haven't subscribed, subscribe by Monday Feb. 16 and I'll make sure you get your hands on one too...

Instructions on how to play are in the PDF of the game.

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Hands-On Learning Games

Hands on Learning Games: Use “Goodnight iPad” to Teach Your Child Sequencing Skills

Improve child's expressive language with Goodnight iPad

Use this great online book to improve your child's memory and sequencing skills.

(Update: This book is no longer available on wegivebooks.org. However, you can still borrow it from your library or buy a copy on Amazon).

As I was browsing the web a few weeks ago I stumbled across a great site for online children's books: wegivebooks.org. There are over 160 online books to choose from, and unlike other sites I've found, many of the books are classic or popular children's books.

Books, for example, like "Llama llama in Pajamas" or "The Snowy Day" sit happily alongside my favorite version of "The Little Engine that Could."

Perhaps the nicest thing about this site - other than the fact that it's free - is that you can choose to donate a book to one of their literary partners, which is a nice way of sharing the fun of reading with those who really need it.

One of my favorite books on the site is called "Goodnight iPad." A spoof on "Goodnight Moon," it's a poke at our 24/7 connectivity to technology. In it, a grandmother sits in a rocking chair trying to find a little bit of peace and quiet, which of course is impossible due to the various beeps, clicks, and dings from iPads, gameboys, and other household electronic necessities.

Grandma decides to take things in her own hands, and starts dumping everything out of the window, to the great distress of every one in the family except the baby, who was until then wandering around the house like a lost puppy.

The illustrations are great; close enough to the original but with a humor of their own. Both you and your kids will love it, and maybe it will inspire you to unplug the family for an hour or so, and get some much needed downtime.

I had such fun reading this book that I decided to use it as the basis of a hands on sequencing game for the modern child:

Goal of the game:

The point of this game is to help your child strengthen her memory and her sequencing skills by reading the story and sequencing the pictures provided below.


- Read the book at: http://www.wegivebooks.org/books/goodnight-ipad?auto_launch=1#

- The pictures available for free download below from Scribd

Hands on Learning: Goodnight iPad

How to play the game:

1. Read "Goodnight iPad" to your child. As you read each electronic item, have your child find the picture of it and place it in order on the table.

2. After you've read 3 items, mix up the items, and have your child put them back in order. Make sure she names each one aloud as she places it in it's place.

3. Continue doing this until you finish reading all the items in the book. You will add 3 new items to the old ones at a time. Each time you finish adding new items, your child will sequence both the new and the old ones.

4. When you finish, mix up all of the pictures, and see if your child can put them back in order again.

5. Now turn the pictures over so they are not visible. See if your child can name the items, in order. If they have trouble doing this, then let them peek at the picture for a second or two, and then name it.

TIP: Children who are more advanced can skip the pictures, and just write the first few lettters of each item down as  a hint.

You can also make this game harder by having your child sequence all of the items both forwards and backwards.


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Expressive Language Miscellaneous

3 Everyday Activities You Do Everyday That Can Improve Your Child’s Expressive Language Skills

One of the hardest things about helping your child improve their expressive language skills is getting all the materials you need to work with your child ready to go.

You can teach your child through everyday activities around the house

As a mom of 7, I know that sometimes by the time you find the game, set it up, and get ready to play, it might already time for dinner and baths! That's why I'm always looking for opportunities to build in learning that don't require any extra work- just a little bit of mental planning.

In previous posts, I wrote about improving your child's learning skills at the park, or while shopping with your child. Now I'd like to give you some easy games you can play with your child right at home.

I use these games with my own kids, and teach them to parents just like you. So dig in, and leave a comment below!

1. Help your child learn to state categories of common objects

There are plenty of sorting and categorization games out there. Most of them require that your child sort actual objects, or pictures of objects, according to the correct category.

That's a great activity, but it's really just the  beginning. Your child also needs to be able to name the category as well. A lot of children, however, find it difficult to do this with pictures; it's too abstract.

A better bet: you can teach your child the same thing as you and he clean up his room together. First sweep everything on the floor into a big pile. Then have your child separate everything out into several smaller piles: one for clothing, one for toys, one for books, and one for garbage if need be.

Once your child is about halfway through sorting, you'll be able to cue him to focus on categories as he puts his things away. For example, when he picks up a sock, say, "Oh, that's a sock. That's clothing. Put it with the rest of the clothing." Gradually as your child picks up other items, you can ask them to tell you what it is - clothing, toys, books, or garbage.

You can do the same thing when you bring  home groceries from the  store. Letting your child help you put everything away will also help her improve her visual memory, as well, since she has to remember where everything goes.

The trick to making this work is to have your child put away most of the items in a category before he starts on another category. That way, when he puts things away, you can remind him "Oh, that's a vegetable too. Put it with the rest of the vegetables."

Later when everything's put away you can point to the vegetable bin and say, "Here's where we put all the __" letting your child fill in the blank. Do the thing with the other food items: dairy, frozen foods, and so on.

2. Encourage your child to use her descriptive skills by describing lost objects.

How many times has your child lost something, and needed your help to find it? Our usual response is to just go and help our kids find it, or to have them check the last place they had it.

Instead, try asking your child to describe what the object looks like, where it was last, or what they were doing, using more details. So for example, if your child says "I can't find my flashlight!" Ask your child to tell you more: "What color was it? Can you tell me what it looked like so I can help you find it? Was it small or big?"

Even if you already know what it looks like, you can often feign ignorance with younger children, and get them to explain themselves.

For older children, you can encourage them to talk about what they were doing when they had the missing item, by rephrasing what they've said, and saying, "and then what did you do?"

3. Encourage your child to explain why they want something.

It happens probably a dozen times a day or more: your child wants something from you. But whether you plan to give your child the item or not, it's a good idea to ask your child why. That forces them to use words to express themselves, and helps them attach their feelings to their needs. This is a form of sequencing that's critical for kids with weak language development.

And by the way, did you notice these are all great activities for improving your child's sequencing skills?

Would you like to see more activities like this? Let me know in the comments below.

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Learning the Alphabet: What to do when your child has trouble learning their ABC’s


My youngest started learning the alphabet a few weeks ago, and within the first week I realized how difficult it is for him.

I've been on the lookout since he was a baby for language issues, ever since I noticed he had great difficulty making eye contact with others. Although I initially put it down to age and perhaps developmental immaturity, as he got older it was hard to ignore the fact that he would spend some of his time staring into space, looking completely out of touch with the world around him.

That behavior, combined with non-stop crying in his early months, did worry me. He already has two siblings with language issues - one mild, that eventually resolved itself after a bit of intensive work in the early years, and one severe.

Since he related well to others (he's a very loving boy) I knew it couldn't be PDD, but was most likely a language processing disorder. I figured out that the extreme crying was due to allergies - not too difficult when your nursing infant breaks out immediately after you eat a forbidden food. I also delayed some of his shots, however controversial it may be.

(My 8 year old had a moderate reaction after the MMR, and afterwards it was obvious that he'd forgotten a ton of stuff. Before the shot, at 14 months old, he could count up to 10, knew all the names of every external body part, knew all of his colors, both primary and secondary- you get the idea. Afterwards, he couldn't remember anything. I had to teach him everything again, and though he's very bright, he's never regained that level of brilliance).

As time passed I also realized he had some sensory issues, which in addition to the language issues probably caused him to blank out. I created a sensory program for him, which took care of that.

But I was still worried about the future. Fortunately, I had great success with a special program I created to improve language skills. You can find examples of these games here and here - though not the full program- on this site. I started wondering if I could create a baby version of the program for him. He'd already spent a lot of time sitting on my lap while I worked with clients, and so he was already familiar with what to do. I played around with the program, and voila! I saw an dramatic change in his behavior within a few weeks.

We completed everything up until the last level, and boy am I thankful I did! I can just imagine where he would be if I hadn't...

But of course he's still having trouble with learning his ABC's, so I invested some thinking cap time while doing dishes, and this is what I mulled over:

Generally when kids have trouble learning their alphabet, there are a couple reasons why:

1) Poor auditory memory- they can't remember what they hear. So even though you may have learned the letter b five times in a row, the info doesn't make it into your child's long-term memory. I knew this couldn't be the problem, because we'd already completed the level of the program that works on this.

2) Poor visual memory - a lot less common that the first. Basically it means your child doesn't remember what he sees. Also not possible, since the level he completed covers this as well.

3) Failure to converge the eyes, or other visual processing issues. I have seen this in a significant number of children, and I suspect it's something we'll have to get checked out at some point. Unfortunately, you can't start working with children with these issues until they are about 6 or 7. So while we're checking out glasses, and intensive intervention on this will probably have to wait.

4) Inability to connect the sound if the letter with the visual symbol. This is different than number 1. It's actually a sequencing issue. Bingo - I knew then this was his problem. This was of course the last level that I hadn't yet done with him :(.

So I guess it's back to the drawing board. I'll be spending the next few weeks rewriting this level of the program (originally designed for 6 years and up) for tiny tots.

But for those of you who'd like to get a peek at what we'll be doing, here's one of the first activities we've done:


Who Are You?

The book "Who are you?" by Stella Blackstone

Black and white copies (or color if you want to splurge) of each of the animals listed in the book, plus one of the little boy at the end.

About this game:

In this game, you'll ask your child to repeat back to you the names of the animals in the  book, in order. You also want your preschooler to be able to pair the rhyming animals together: for example, cat and bat, and whale and snail.

This book is a favorite in our house; we've had it for about 7 years and every child that's come through has enjoyed it.

It's also perfect for practicing sequencing skills:

First of all, the pictures are simple, clear, and boldly done.

Second, the repetitive nature of it makes it easy for young children , even those with special needs, to remember.

Third, there's a picture hint on each page, such as the tail of the cat or the head of the bat, that serve as visual clues that help your child remember each animal. And lastly, the rhyming words help your child remember pairs of animals.

How to play:

1. Read the book to your child, pointing out the pictures of each animal as you go along. Make sure your child becomes familiar with the names of the animals. It's okay if he doesn't know the names of all of them (they are all fairly common, except for bat) - he'll learn.

2. Be sure to point out the picture hint on each page. It's located on the page that says,"Who are you?" and gives your child a clue of what animal is on the next page.

3. Now take out the cut-outs of the animals. Read the book again with your child, at an easygoing pace. As you name an animal, place it's cut-out in front your child. Be sure to put pairs of animals together.

4. When you've completed 2 pairs (4 animals), put the book aside. Name the animals in the cut-out pictures, and then mix them up.

5. Say to your child, "Uh-oh! I mixed it up. Can you fix it?" If your child has trouble, give them a hint by making the sound of the animal, or saying part of the word.

6. Continue reading the book, stopping after every pair to rearrange the pictures, and asking your child to fix them.

TIPS: You should play this game at least twice, preferably three times, with the third session taking place a few days after the second.

If this was too easy for your child, increase the number of pictures he has to reorganize at one time. You could try having him do 4 at a time, for example. Or, you could get rid of the cut-out pictures altogether, and let your child name the animals for you after you close the book.

Again, you could have them name either 2 pairs, or 3, depending on how they do. You could name one animal, and have them name the one that rhymes with it.

If this is too hard for your child: Make two copies of the cut-out pictures, and have your child match one set to the second set. Or, they can match the cut-out pictures to the ones in the book.

Good luck, and have fun!


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Parenting children

Parenting Tips: An Easy Way to Teach Your LD Child the Stuff They Need to Know

How to sneak a little learning in - the easy way

Sometimes parents ask how I manage to teach so much to my LD children.

“How do you find time to work with clients, run a house full of 9, and work with your children?” they ask.

The truth is, it’s not easy! I plan topics monthly to learn with the kids, and then break that down into weekly lesson plans. We don’t homeschool, but I do have about an hour a day set aside to do “table work” with them. Those are activities that I want them to do that are either in my lesson plan, or relate to learning skills like auditory memory or expressive language, that they are weak in.

Still, I can’t say that I always cover everything I want to. Some days they get involved with one activity, so everything else gets pushed down. Other times technical difficulties get in the way, like I ran out of ink, couldn’t find the resource that I wanted, or like last Thursday, when I sat down to go through a song with my youngest- the computer speaker died. And sometimes it’s such a beautiful day that we drop everything and decide to go to the park.

That’s why I try and focus on everyday learning as well: whenever I see a learning opportunity, I try and involve my kids in meaningful, hands-on activities that will help them understand what we’re learning.

Today we folded and packed envelopes for my daughter’s upcoming wedding. As I folded and they placed the invitations in an envelope, I explained to them what letters are, and how they get to where they’re meant to go.

I focused on sequencing with the 6 year old, by asking her periodically to repeat the steps the letter takes on its way to its destination. She also learned some new vocabulary, such as “sender,” and “receiver.”

How the Mail Gets Delivered

The 4 ½ and 3 ½ year old learned some new words as well: letter, mailman, post office, address, and mailbox. I don’t expect them to remember everything at once, but since we’ll be mailing the envelopes later on in the day, and working on other activities, they’ll pick it up in a few days.

Then I remembered that we have a song that was a favorite when I was a kid, called “The Mail Must Go Through.” So after we folded envelopes (and put in another load of laundry, tidied up the bathroom, and thought about what to make for lunch – no meal plan, I’m not that organized :)) – I put it on. I let it play several times (good thing I like that song!) until they were familiar with it. Then I stopped it after a key word – “go”- and let them fill in the blank.

After that I used the presentation below to help them improve their auditory memory skills:
The Mail Must Go Through Presentation


Then in the afternoon I read them a book about mail (you could read “A Day With a Mail Carrier” with your child if you like).  We again focused on our new words as I read the story. When I came to a sentence with one of the new words, I stopped, and let the kids fill in the blank. If they had a hard time, I pointed to the picture to give them a clue.

I also remembered seeing this make your own letter box a while back, so even though I don’t have time right now to make it look fancy, I found a hanging file folder lying around and after rummaging in our art supplies (plus I cheated- I printed out some fancy paper), and put those in, adding some colored pencils and a few lone markers. The box will be a great way to store all of our letter making supplies.

It’s not as pretty as I would like, but after labeling it “We send letters” it does the job. The kids were excited to write to their Grandma and Grandpa, and everyone learned a new concept.

Mission accomplished!

Here are some more related hands on learning games we'll be doing the next day or so:

TIP: Here's another game, plus some extra resources you can use if you want to do these activities with your child:


If you have an older child who’s interested in more details about how the mail gets delivered, visit this site, written by a mailman: http://www.mailmantips.com/mail.htm


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Listening games

Hands on Learning: Guess-the-Sound Shakers

Listening Games: Guess-the-Sound Shakers

Good listening skills are critical in childhood. They form the basis for your child’s ability to learn and communicate with others. But did you know that good listening starts with the ability to distinguish between different sounds?

While most of us take for granted the ability to understand what we hear easily and quickly, for children with weak language development it can be quite difficult. Younger children might mix up words that sound alike, while older children might have trouble pairing words with the same beginning or ending sounds. In the long term, this difficulty also makes it harder for your child to learn how to read and write effectively.

You can help your toddler or preschooler improve their listening skills with this easy to make hands on learning game. It helps build your child’s listening skills at one of the most basic levels – discriminating between different sounds- in an engaging manner.


-    8 small containers (film containers are best, but in this day of digital cameras, they might be hard to find. You could ask a film developing shop for some, or you can substitute plastic salt shakers)

-    2 sheets of construction paper, one red and one blue (if the canisters are not opaque)

-   4 different types of materials to put inside (possibilities: salt, sugar, sand, pea gravel, dried beans, rice-anything that makes a sound is fair game!)

-   Glue gun

A shoe box or other container to store it in.

8 picture stickers, 2 of each kind

Make it:

1. If your canisters are not opaque, you’ll need to cover the container so that the contents aren’t visible. You could spray paint the outside (quickest, but a little messy), or you can cut a piece of construction paper so that it fits inside or outside the container. Hot glue it on so that it stays put, and so that little hands aren’t tempted to peel it off.

You should have 4 red containers and 4 blue containers (or whatever 2 high contrast colors you choose).

2. Add the material. Each material should be placed in two containers, one red and one blue.

3. Hot glue each container closed. If you’re using a salt shaker, seal the holes of the shaker as well.

4. On the BOTTOM of each matching container, place a matching sticker. So on the containers that contain sand, you’ll put matching stickers of turtles, for example. This is called control of error, because it lets your child know if the two are match, without her having to ask you. More fun for them, less bother for you J.

Play it:

1. Place the red containers on the right side of your child, and the blue ones on the left.

2. Let your child take one container from the right side. Have him shake it, encouraging him to listen to the sound carefully.

3. Next, have him choose a container from the blue containers. Encourage him to shake it, and compare the sound to the other container.

4. Ask him, “Are they the same?”

5. Have him check the bottoms of the containers to see if the stickers are the same. If they are, praise him verbally. If not, have him try again.

TIP: You can make this game easier or harder, by varying the types of materials you put in the containers.

So for example, you can put in 4 very different types of materials (easier) or 4 similar types of materials (harder).

You can also increase the number of canisters.



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