Tag Archives: learning hands on

Expressive Language

Hands on Learning Games: Use Wordless Picture Books to Improve Your Child’s Expressive Language

Does your child have difficulty expressing himself? Often children with delayed language development have a meager vocabulary to draw from when speaking. They may have a lot to say, but don’t know what words to use.

Being able to speak fluently requires numerous skills. Your child needs to have a rich vocabulary of words, as well as be able to recall those words quickly.  He needs to be able to understand his listener’s point of view, so that he can add important information if necessary. And lastly, he also needs to know how to organize his thoughts so that what he says is coherent and makes sense.

In previous posts I’ve mentioned several ways your child can improve her expressive language skills: creating stories from a fun trip, playing the command card game, -even creating a strategy guide for their favorite video game.

In this hands-on learning game, your child will use wordless picture books to build her vocabulary, improve her memory, and practice her sequencing skills.


Your favorite wordless picture book. There are plenty to choose from, but here’s a list of great wordless picture books to browse.

How to Play:

1) Flip through the book and decide whether or not you will focus on nouns or verbs. This depends on what you want to accomplish with your child, as well as which the book lends itself.

If the book has a different character for each page (similar to “The Farmer in the Dell” or “Brown Bear” –which is not wordless but still a great choice) then you would choose to focus on nouns. If the book has one main character, then you would choose verbs.

2) Assign one word to each page. You can ask your child to think of the word by saying, “What is that?” or “What are they doing?” When your child answers, condense that answer to one word, and repeat it as you point to the picture. If your child has difficulty naming the picture, tell them the correct word.

3) After 2 to 3 pictures, ask your child to name the noun or verb for each page. You can choose to use the pictures as a clue if your child is younger or has moderate to severe language delays.  Otherwise, you can simply close the book and ask them to name the words that they heard.

Don’t worry if this is difficult for them in the beginning; help them out if necessary by giving a hint (first letter, first few sounds in the word). It’s better for your child to be successful with hints than fail with no help at all.

TIP: You can have your child name and remember pictures in groups of 3, so that they never have to remember more than three pages at a time. If this is too easy for your child, you can have your child remember 4 at a time, or require that they remember all of the pages.

You would do this by: first having your child remember the first 3 pages, then add on one page, asking your child to remember all 4. Continue adding on a new page until your child knows all of the pages in the book.



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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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Expressive Language

Hands on Learning Games: Teach Your Child Words that Describe Space (Over, Inside, Below,etc.)

Often children with weak language development have great difficulty using words that describe where they or other objects are in space. You might find your child saying "inside" when she meant to say "outside," or substituting under for over.

Children easily confuse these words -called concepts of space- because it is difficult for them to form a mental image of what they represent. These are words have no meaning in and of themselves; they have to be followed or preceeded by another, more descriptive word.

One of the ways you can help your child understand and remember what you mean is to play games that help him visualize what these words mean. Here are 2 games you can play with your child to help them master concepts of space:

Twister Fister

This is a variation on the popular game "Twister." However, instead of getting all tangled up on a game mat, your child will fit themselves inside, under, over, etc. impossible spaces.


- One set of cards with descriptive words on one side. Suggested words are: inside, outside, over, under, around, next to, beside, on, and  in.

- On the other side of each card, paste a picture of an object that's appropriate for that word. Then make an X to demonstrate where the child should place themselves.

For example, one card can have "under" written on one side, with a picture of a table on the other side. Under the table you would draw a large red X.

How to Play:

1. Put the set of cards on the table. Make sure that the side with the word is face-up.

2. Let your child choose a card from the pile. If they can read, they should read the word on the card. If not, you can read it for them.

3. They may then flip the card over and see what their task is. Explain to them if necessary that the X tells them where they should go.

Demonstrate if necessary. Be sure to emphasize the key word: "This is UNDER. Sit UNDER the table."

4. Your child can play this game with a partner. Deal the cards out between the two children. The child who finishes their cards the first is the winner.

TIP: You can make this game harder by making a separate set of cards with only the key words on it. Your child chooses a card, and then has to find (on her own) an item where the action can be carried out.

The Farm Game

This is a classic Montessori game that you can play at home. In it, you use a farm set to teach your child space concepts. You don't actually have to use a real farm set; you could make one out of cardboard, or you could substitute another setting, such as a police station, fire station, doll house, or other playset. You could also make up your own playset using blocks or Legos.


-Play animals or people

- Playset, as explained above.

- cards with space words written on them (see above game for detailed list)

1) Set up the playset. Your child may arrange things as he sees fit, but just make sure he has items that are appropriate for each action.

2) Have your child draw a card. She then chooses an animal or a person, and decides where to place them. For example, if she draws the word "under," she can take the horse and place them under a toy tree.

3) Your child continues drawing cards and choosing animals or people until all cards are used up.

TIP: You can make this game a little more complicated by making up a little story as your child goes through the game. For example, you could say, "One day the little brown horse (your child then has to take the horse) was outside in the fields (she then has to place him outside in the "field").

"It started to rain, so she ran and stood under a tree." You and your child can take turns telling the story, if your child is able, or you can just let your child choose the animal or the action, if she likes.


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Gross Motor

Hands on Learning Games: Top 7 Games to Improve Your Child’s Gross Motor Coordination


Does your child struggle coordinating his eyes with the rest of his body?

Children with gross motor issues often expend a great deal of effort performing even simple actions like skipping, catching a ball, or jumping rope. And while most children are able to perform these activities without thinking, each activity strains a child’s memory as much as their muscles.

Consider a simple game of dodge ball, for example. In order for your child to successfully throw a ball at another child, she must coordinate several actions at once.  She needs to accurately gauge the speed at which the other child is moving, as well as guess which direction the other child might take.

At the same moment, however, she has to guess the angle and the speed at which to throw the ball. If you add in the fact that this all has to be done within the space of a few seconds, then you can probably imagine how frustrating this might be for a child whose gross motor skills aren’t up to par.

In fact, good gross motor skills (or lack thereof) are one of the ways children judge each other’s overall capability and success. A boy who can’t kick or catch a ball, and a girl who trips constantly while jumping rope, are unfortunately looked upon as less of a “boy” or “girl” than their more competent peers.

Being good at various types of athletic activities also gives kids a way to channel their natural competitiveness, showing how “cool” they are in a very public venue. After all, who gets more publicity and adulation than the school’s top athletes?

And while it is true that some children seem to be born with wings on their feet, your child doesn’t need to learn to fly in order to improve their gross motor skills. Here is a list of 7 activities you can play with your child (preferably without an audience!) that will help them master the basics:

1) Walking on the line. While this is a standard game in Montessori schools worldwide, it’s also an easy game you can play at home. Simply place a piece of masking tape on the floor in the shape of a half circle. It should be long enough for your child to go at least 30 steps.

Have your child practice walking forward, backwards, and sideways on the line. Once your child masters that, you can have her practice carrying things while on the line: for example, a tray with a glass full of water, or a lighted candle. You can also vary the game by playing music, fast or slow, depending on what skill you want your child to master.

2) Use a balancing beam. In order to play this game, you needn’t buy an expensive balance beam. You can make one easily enough with a plank of wood, and two bricks or concrete blocks. A low wall is also a good choice – and you won’t have to worry about storing anything, either.

Practice the same sorts of activities as above, gradually increasing the height of the bricks as your child becomes more proficient.

3) Place rope loops on the floor. You can use ropes, or small hoops for this game. Encourage your child to practice first walking in and out of each loop without falling. Then, have them pick up the pace, using music if that’s easier for them to follow.

Once they master walking, try having them jump, skip, or hop in and out of the loops.

4) Roll a ball with their feet to a partner. Have your child sit down on the floor. Explain to them that the object of the game is to kick the ball to their partner, without touching the ball in any way. If they are able to kick the ball straight to the target area (have the partner spread their feet apart), then they get a point.

If the other person misses the ball, then they get another point. Mix things up a bit by putting a time limit on the game.

5) Practice various jump rope activities. Games such as jumping over a wriggling rope, hopping over a slightly raised rope, and plain jump rope are great ways of helping your child strengthen her gross motor skills. Spice things up a little by singing a few jump rope chants.

6) Monkey bars are a great way of strengthening the upper body and arm muscles. You can encourage your child to use their own muscles, but provide support for them by holding them midway between the knees and the feet. This gives them the security of being held but still allows them to practice holding on and swinging themselves from one bar to the next.

7) Schoolyard games such as kickball, dodge ball, and high jump are also good ways of practicing more complex motor skills. The bonus: your child will be less embarrassed to play them at school if he gets to practice (again, in private-go to a park a distance away from your house if necessary) in a less stressful environment.

These games are actually great for the whole family. Why not make a family sports day once a week, and let your whole family have a chance to exercise, and spend quality time together?



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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: Best 4 Ways to Find Time to Work With Your Child

Hands on Learning Games: Finding time to work with your child

You know you need to spend time working with your child.

You've even gone so far as to schedule it into your calendar. Somehow, though, life steps in, and by the time you've cleaned up the Cheerios on the rug and the mess made by the 3 year old in the bathroom (who couldn't read the "we aim to please-please aim too please" sign), the day is over, and you're dead tired.

Another day has passed, and you feel like kicking yourself: how are you supposed to teach your child and deal with life too?

Fortunately, with a bit of planning, you don't have to make the choice between working with your child, and tackling the never-ending stack of laundry. By following these 4 tips, you'll have plenty of time to work with your child, and keep up with the rest of life's demands.

1) Think of every moment as a teachable opportunity.

A lot of parents assume teaching your child means sitting at the table with a basketful of materials. That's a big mistake. Sure, learning can and does take place during these sessions, but why ignore the literally hundreds of opportunities a day your child has to practice his skills?

A pile of laundry is a great chance for your child to practice numerous skills.

  • Sorting: Have your child dig out her clothing from the pile. Then have her sort out the socks, pants, shirts, etc. into baskets or piles on her bed.
  • Fine Motor Skills: Letting your child practice folding towels and pants will not only help improve his fine motor coordination, but will strengthen his motor memory as well.
  • Listening Skills: When you tell your child where to put the clothing away, she must interpret and carefully execute what you say. Use one step directions in the beginning, gradually building up to 2 step and then 3 step instructions.

2) Know what your child's goals are.

If you keep track of what skills you want your child to accomplish, you'll have an easier time incorporating learning time into your daily routine.

Write down 2 or 3 simple goals in a place where you are likely to see them several times a day, and keep looking at them. Doing this will make it easier for you to remember what you're doing, so that you can stick it into your day to day activities.

3. Involve the whole family.

When I was teaching my foster daughter colors, I wrote the names of the colors on index cards, and put them up on the refrigerator. I also colored a section of the index card with the appropriate color.

Then I told everyone-husband, kids, and friends, that we were working on the colors red and blue. When my oldest daughter made a strawberry jelly sandwich for lunch for my foster daughter, she pointed out the color.

When we chose clothing in the morning, she pointed to all the clothing that had blue in it. When my 7 year old supervised toy clean up, he told her to pick up only the red clics.

4. Be proud of what you accomplish. I sometimes have to remind myself to be happy with whatever I accomplish that day. Moms have  a tendency to feel guilty about the fact that they could have accomplished so much more, if  x,y, and z hadn't occurred.

Don't do this. It's not only not counter-productive, it's simply not true. Just tell yourself out loud that you did the best you could today, and pat yourelf on the back for what you did accomplish. And if you didn't do anything, don't let that stop you from trying again tomorrow.

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Fine Motor

Hands-on Learning Games: 6 Fun Games to Help Improve Your Child’s Fine Motor Coordination

The end of school is in sight, and while your children are itching to put away their school books and head to the pool or the park, you're hoping to sneak in a little bit of learning during summer break.

Getting your children to cooperate may seem like an impossible task - unless you try these fun hands -on learning games that will have even your older kids giving it a try:

1) Sugar cube transfer

A simple pair of kitchen tongs, two cups, and sugar cups, are all you need for this game. Your child uses the kitchen tongs to transfer the sugar cubes from one cup to the other. If your child can't resist eating the sugar cubes, you can use small Legos instead. You can also make this game harder by using tweezers instead of tongs.

2) Nail cutting

Kids love this game because it turns what is often a mildly uncomfortable experience into a chance to show off their cutting skills. Trace your child's hands on a plain piece of paper, making sure to draw in the nails and the nailbeds.

If you're using a computer you can get fancy and color in the nails, or you can just make several copies of each hand and print that out. Cut out the hands (you can cut out several pages at one time).

Next, give your child a pair of nail scissors or nail cutters, and show her how to use them. Provide a plastic plate for her to cut over, and show her how to dispose of her "nails" in the garbage.

3. Sorting rice

This one is not just fun, but practical as well. Buy a bag of rice, and pour some onto a plate. Show your child how to recognize the rice that is discolored (more than is usual for for rice), and provide a container for her to put it in. Let her put the "clean" rice in a separate bowl.

4. Polishing money

Children especially enjoy watching a dull copper penny transform into a shiny, new coin. Prepare a solution of 3 tablespoons of vinegar or lemon juice in a cup, and add 2 tablespoons of salt.

Have your child place the penny inside, swirl the cup with the penny inside around gently. Let your child take out the penny, and dry it off carefully with a soft cloth. Although it's not technically polishing, kids still enjoy carefully wiping the pennies clean.

5. Bead sorting

This is a good use for all of the beads you may have lying around from an old jewelry making set. If you don't already have one, you can easily buy one at the dollar store.

Mix up all the beads, and let your child use the container they come in to sort them. There are all sorts of ways to sort the beads-by color, by shape, and even by the size of the hole inside.

6. Smearing plasticine

Plasticine is quite different from play dough. It is harder, and less pliable when cool, but when it's warmed up from playing it can be easily manipulated.

First warm up the plasticine by rolling it into a ball, and kneading it for a minute or two. You'll see and feel the difference when it softens up. Then, give your child a piece of paper with a shape drawn on it, and place a glob of plasticine on top.

Show your child how to smear the plasticine on his paper by starting from the middle of the glob and smearing it outwards. It will take some work, but it's great for helping strengthen those finger muscles. Your child can experiment by adding different colors onto the original, creating tie-die like swirls and patterns.

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Hands-on Learning Games: Teach Your Child the Months of the Year in Less Than a Week

Is your child struggling with memorizing the months of the year? Often children with a delay in language development have difficulty with concepts involving time. Younger children have trouble with using words like “yesterday” and “tomorrow” appropriately; you may find your child asking you when yesterday’s baseball game will be.

Older children, even well into middle school, may struggle with knowing what day of the week comes before Sunday, or what month a particular holiday falls out on. You may find that even your tween struggles with remembering the order of the months of the year.

This hands -on learning game will help your child learn the months of the year, as well as improve her sequencing skills, which are at the root of her difficulties with concepts involving time.  It can also be adapted to suit children and teens of all ages.


-Print out two copies of a paper with name of the month on top and the picture associated with it on the bottom. Take one copy of each month, and cut it in half. That will leave you with one set of pictures with both the name of the month and its picture, PLUS a set of labels with the name of the month, and a set of labels with only pictures.

Examples of pictures for each month include: January-New Year’s Day, February-Valentine’s Day, March-wind, April-flowers, May-rain, June-last day of school, July-Fourth of July, August-hot day, September-first day of school, October-Halloween, November-Thanksgiving, December- winter, or holiday.)

* You can use your child’s picture for the month their birthday falls out on. Also, if you can’t think of a picture, simply let your child pick out a picture that they like.

How to Play:

1. Choose a large space to work at so you will have plenty of space to spread out the materials.

2. Place the copies with the months and the pictures cut out to the side. You don’t need them yet.

3. Place the page for January on the table before your child. Say the name of the month clearly, and point to the picture (no need to name the picture).

3. Do the same thing with the next month.

4.  After 2 or 3 months, mix up the pages, and ask your child to put them back in order. If she can read, she should name the months after she has placed the pages in order. If not, then you can say the names of the months and have her repeat after you.

5.   Continue until you’ve completed all the months of the year, making sure to stop after every 2-3 pages. You have a choice whether or not to require your child to remember previous pages. It really depends on how hard or easy it is for your child. So, for example, if your child can easily remember months 1-2, then when you do months 3-4 you can ask them to order the pages from months 1-4, all at once.

If this is hard for your child, you can have them do only months 1-2, then 3-4, and so on. As they get better at it you can slowly increase the number of months they remember at one time.

7.  Continue until your child can recite the names of the months in order forwards and backwards.

TIP:  Younger children can simply match the cut out pictures with the complete pages. In that case as they place the picture they can call out the name of the month that goes with it.

Children who can read can sequence the names of the months only. This would be step number 8.

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