Category Archives: arts

Advent-uring together

Where has the time gone?

As a full time working mom again, I need greater focus to go through the daytime schedule juggling work and family priorities (drop offs, pick ups, meetings). But I also relish the me-time, especially when I’m travelling, something I didn’t quite get when I was home 24/7. When I was away for ten days on an overseas trip, I was completely reassured that B is in good hands even though we both missed each other, grateful that our transition and support planning has worked out. What can’t ever be replaced though is TIME together. Our weekday mornings and evenings now just feel so rushed!

Speaking of time (or the lack of), I’m keen to carve out some quality mom-and-B time as we count down to the Christmas and New Year holidays.  Last year we learnt about the gift of Christmas, that the season is not just about gifting but also the act of giving, and Jesus — God’s ultimate gift of life.  As B had just turned two, he learnt Christmas carols, art and craft, how to pray for others and joined us in his first community service visit. Now that he’s three, we’re trying to be more intentional to cultivate his faith. We started by including him in our weekly cell group fellowship this past Friday night. We hadn’t consistently done that earlier because the group meets (too?) late.  B was so excited before and after – though I’m not sure if it was due to extended time playing, hanging out with mommy and friends, or the extra special late bedtime 🙂

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Meanwhile, I’ve also been compiling ideas to try this Advent season, though as usual, my wish list is far longer than in reality:

1) Devotional: Reading the bible is now a regular bedtime routine. B actually takes his beginners bible out and asks (insists!) on a story or two every night.  As we’ve read through the Old Testament and most of the New Testament stories, this December, we’ll move to the One Year Devotions for Preschoolers book that we got from a friend.

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B’s beginners bible and a sample page from the preschooler’s devotional

2) Truth In The Tinsel: Designed for 3+ years, we’re trying it now as B has been introduced to the kids bible (see above) and can stay engaged on a home project over several days (see what we did for Teachers’ Day).  Also, the Christmas tree is quite bare as I did a bit of spring cleaning and I’m sure B will happily oblige to add his art and craft stuff to it. The idea is to read a passage of Scripture, make a Christmas ornament and talk through the related narrative every day. The story or activity can be adapted as needed – to match B’s level, attention span, and our time together. We did a “trial” to replace the star for our tree, loosely based on a sample page from the e-book:

Our new Christmas star using foam and paper stickers
Making a star using foam and paper stickers
Sample page - Star
Sample page – Star

3) Advent Calendar:  Last year, I recycled B’s artwork to make a wall calendar with clear plastic pockets to mark the 24 days till Christmas. Each day, we prayed for specific family, friends, those in need, our country and world, ending with the fruits of the spirit in our own lives. This calendar has since been used as a fun Letterland upper and lowercase matching game — I love craft that we can just repurpose.

2013 advent prayer calendar
2013 advent prayer calendar

HOWEVER, I’d love to make a new advent calendar which could double as a festive decoration too.  Here are two DIY ideas that I like and find age-appropriate for toddlers: Toilet Paper Roll House and Scrapbook Gift Wrap Paper calendars. These could contain simple clues (for Truth In The Tinsel), scripture verses (from daily devotion), or just a list of fun yet meaningful activities or items each day.

4) Christmas books:  This year, I hope to check out the titles in this reading list as we’ve found quite a few (still) available at the public libraries in Singapore.  B also received a beginners Christmas piano song book from his aunt in California and we look forward to incorporate that into our regular home music sessions 🙂

Unwrapping the gifts from  California :)
Unwrapping the gifts from California 🙂

Even if you don’t celebrate Advent but are keen to get some crafty time with the kid during the holidays, feel free to try these out, visit my pinterest board for more ideas, and of course share what you’re doing with us too. Happy Advent-uring!

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Hole in the bottom of the sea

B and his classmates have been busy preparing for their Term 3 musical showcase – based on Jessica Law’s adaptation of “Hole in the Bottom of the Sea,” with a bit of Camille Saint-Saëns’ “Aquarium” thrown in for the sea effects. Hubby saw B perform live for the first time, and was quite proud of our little “crab!” This renewed B’s interest in sea life which was a nice break from weeks of vehicles and space talk at home. As we had previously done a diorama together, this time we tried a simple book-based craft using Marcus Pfister’s The Rainbow Fish series.

Here’s how we did it:

Borrow the book(s) from the library and read them!

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There are many books in the series, but we chose “Rainbow Fish To The Rescue” as it had a meaningful storyline (about sharing, caring and inclusion) AND it had a shark – which coincided with his school play

Print/draw fish templates for the lil one to colour. We used the fish colouring handouts from a play we attended. I let B choose his own colours and material. I guess he wanted to recreate the book’s actual look and feel as this is what he came up with – colourful crayons, blue/green watercolour paint, and glitter for the shiny scales:

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B’s more self aware now, and is still TRYING to paint inside the lines cleanly. He told me “mama, so messy!” but I said “No worries. We’re cutting the fish out and it’ll look great!”

I got him to broadly cut out the fish, then let him work on his sea animals puzzles while I trimmed the little fishies and prepared the box – drawing inspiration from a craft I found here.

Ha, I think you can tell which one mama did
Ha, I think you can tell which one mama did
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Puzzles help to reinforce and break the monotony of waiting (or painting too long!). While I finished the cutting, B “revised” his 1-10 numbers and Chinese names like 沙鱼 (shark)

Unlike our previous “fixed” diorama, I wanted this to be moveable so I cut horizontal lines (<1 cm width) to slide water bottle caps with the fishes tied and taped at the bottom to give the effect of “swimming.”  Any medium size box will do.  I just flipped our DIY bus/train on the side for this – recycling rocks!

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Top view of the box (jagged lines ‘coz I was doing this super quick!)

Finally, B punched holes, cut pieces of scotch tape and string, and threaded them through each fish.  I helped to tie and fix them to the  top of the box. WP_20140921_006

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Favourite things for our favourite teachers

I first learned this poem by Usman Awang as a young student in Malaysia.  As it turns out, the school’s Parent Support Group asked me to add a video message in Malay to our teachers tribute this year, so I read excerpts from this to them. As we celebrate Teachers’ Day (and for some of us, “enjoy” our kids’ day off), let’s remember the wonderful teachers who serve as our kid’s moms, dads and friends, who gently and patiently guide them along this journey of life.

Selamat Hari Guru
I’ve said it before, B’s been blessed with great teachers since he started half-day preschool and subsequently, extended to full day childcare this year. In our own random emergent discussions, we came up with these ways to thank them: “read books”, “give stickers/flowers/cars (of course),” “sing/video” and “eat mooncakes” (hmm).

So … we decided on three projects:
(1) A video greeting: Recorded at the Singapore Garden Festival

(2) Customised, hand-made thanksgiving trees: Given by the PSG on behalf of all parents and students to every teacher and staff

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(3) Personalised bookmarks of B’s favourite things for his favourite teachers:
We decided on bookmarks as B loves to read, it complemented the special bookstore voucher (thanks, NoQ!) included in the PSG gift bags, and allowed B lots of fun, easy customisation.  It took us a few sessions as he kept wanting to add to it yet couldn’t sit and craft for more than 20-25 minutes each time.  I’m so proud of his excitement and commitment to see it through!
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Here’s how we did it:  Cut out leftover, unused gift wrap in the desired bookmark shape and quantity. We stuck to rectangles as it’s easier for B to cut somewhat cleanly.  On coloured card stock, stamp out the teachers’ names, working with your kid to identify the right letters (upper/lowercase), align and stamp in order! Cut them out,  add double sided tape and stick them on top of the gift wrap paper.

WP_20140831_007At the back, we incorporated B’s favourite things: Art, stickers, cars 🙂 See if you can spot them all!

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This artwork was done at Botanic Gardens. Actual veggies were cut, painted and stamped for the flowers. He finger/brush painted the rest and also tried painting a toilet paper roll tied with a rubber band to make the grassy “effect”

B insisted on adding his face, so we used extra copies of his mugshot, sticking again with double-sided tape so that it doesn’t get too wet or messy.  After that, we lined them up in the pouch and laminated them.  I cut them out, let him punch the holes and thread the ribbons through, applied silicone glue to seal the ribbons – and viola!

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Thanks for helping B grow, dear teachers!

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The Magic Three

My darling B:

You are now 33 months. Just 3 months to go before you turn 3 years old! Everyone warned me about the terrible twos, but the year turned out to be pretty terrific instead. Hopefully I don’t jinx the remaining months 😮 You had your moments of wild, irrational flail-on-the-ground tantrums, but through it all I kept the 3 Ts in mind:  Tank up on love, Transition gradually, and Timing matters!

In light of your and mama’s developments this year, here are 3×3 things to celebrate about you!

3 THINGS I LOVE ABOUT YOU

1) THIRST FOR KNOWLEDGE: You love reading. You bring books  to our bed in the morning, want to read at mealtimes, and negotiate the number of stories for bedtime.  You are ever curious. You’ll ask “What happen, mama?” when I’m reading the news or listening to the radio. The library is like your second home where you can occupy yourself flipping through books or telling stories to friends (imaginary or anyone nearby). Your face lights up as you associate what you read with what you see in real life. When your gears start spinning, you turn to me to say “Remember the [book/event/person/item]?” and a wonderful process of discovery ensues. When you see text, you track the words with your fingers as you “read.”  You like to call out numbers, upper and lower cases that you recognise from Letterland phonics, and even Chinese characters.  It’s truly a delight to watch you learn!

Watching the night sky from our balcony got him intrigued about space so we’ve borrowed many books about it (like this one).  Here he’s simulating the moon rotating around the earth 🙂

2) A SONG IN YOUR HEART:  Since you started carrying a tune, you  haven’t stopped making music. Even as a baby, you’d often hum and move to the rhythm and beat.  These days, we don’t need alarm clocks because you wake us up with your singing at 7a or earlier! You make us laugh with silly adaptations and lead your friends in rousing renditions of songs from Majulah Singapura to Wheels on the Bus to “一步一步走啊走”.   This year we tried some structured music learning at home, and we’ll continue to look for ways to help you hone this gift now and beyond.

3) PASSION FOR VEHICLES: Be they in the air, on the road, on water, in print, real or toy, rides or stickers – you like them all! You  observe routes, recall directions, names of roads and who stays where. Your pretend play is getting more creative too. You manipulate everyday things at home, LEGO and wooden blocks, toy vehicles, tracks and figures to form construction sites, accident and rescue operations, traffic jams on the highway, neighbourhood multi-story carparks – all with sound effects and commentary.

One activity you initiated is to lay out your vehicle flash cards and we take turns to find the right one as we play “I Spy” and 这是什么?”

Sometimes I need to set time limits so you don’t get too obsessed (i.e. kick a fuss when it’s time to stop or leave). But this shows me  you’re capable of focusing and innovating on what interests you. If only we could figure out how to replicate this for other stuff  😉

3 AREAS YOU’VE GROWN IN

1) (SELF) HELPER: Although I still prompt you to eat faster or finish up, I’m thankful that you continue to help yourself at meal times and have a healthy appetite, drink well, (mostly) eat greens, fruits and are willing to try variety – Asian, Western, Middle Eastern, mild herbs and spices. You even ate durian!

Since we started our first sticker chart on toilet training, you also have less accidents and better control.  You let us know when you want to pee and poop instead of us asking or taking you regularly.  There’s still occasional overnight bed wetting and leaks (esp. when you’re too excited or shy) but you’ve made great progress that we’ve moved on to a new chart for wearing/undressing clothes and shoes.

Out with the old, in with the new sticker chart

Lastly, although you need reminding, you do help to clean up after play, unload dirty clothes into the laundry bag and bring your dishes to the kitchen after meals. Well done!

2) FINE MOTOR SKILLS:  Thanks to your current preschool, you’re constantly encouraged to experiment and express yourself through art and craft. Mama is so thankful for the amazing teachers there!

Our little artist at his first school exhibition

Although there’s less opportunities for us at home together, I cherish the times when we play simple number and finger games and do crafty activities that build your fine motor skills.  Of course, you still treat glue like paint, colour all over the page, use brushes, pencils, markers and crayons like stamps, wield the scissors and chopsticks with two hands when your fingers are tired… But you’re getting there. Just persevere and keep up the great work!

Our art wall is constantly full even though mama recycles often

3) THE GREAT OUTDOORS:  We now do more things outside and for  longer before you ask for a “抱抱“!  You’ve always been a cautious toddler and not a big fan of being under the hot sun.  Yet as you grow, you now scoot with more confidence and speed, are eager to get wet and play in the sand (caveat: area must be “clean and cool” enough), jump in the pool at your weekly swim class, pedal the tricycles at school and ride your balance bike to deliver items and messages from place to place.  I only wish you’d wear your safety helmet more often so mama doesn’t worry … too much.

Getting out and about

So here’s to you, my little big baby, who’s becoming a big little boy. Love you to the moon and back!

We are Singaporean

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Public transport too crowded? Make your own!

My boy is crazy about transportation and the people and activities around them.  Which boy isn’t at this age?  If given the choice, he’d always want to take the public bus or MRT.  He can even say and/or show you the picture (if you say the word) all the different types of cars, buses, trucks, diggers, rescue vehicles … in CHINESE with surprising accuracy! When we had free Saturday mornings, we’d visit the fire station open houses (Central or Bishan for us), where the highlight for him was to sit in a REAL fire engine.

Real emergency vehicles ROCK!
Real emergency vehicles ROCK!

So this Children’s Season, I brought him to two new places – The Land Transport Gallery and the Police Heritage Centre. Both had kids activity booklets and tours, with the LTA Gallery offering more interactivity – stickers, stamps, exhibits and videos. Overall though, the places were just okay because of one major omission = no opportunity for kids to RIDE in a real or model vehicle!

Sample activities in each book
Sample activities in each book

Mama decided to take things into her own hands and make a wearable and portable public bus and MRT for B 🙂

This MRT isn’t crowded at all!
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The wheels on Bus 145 go round and round

Here’s how we did it: Find a suitable, sturdy box.  Cut out a large square from the top and the bottom – big enough to fit your kid’s head on one side, hips and legs on the other.  Secure the insides with masking tape.  On separate paper (I recycled the back of B’s white drawing paper art works), draw out the images of the front and side bus/train views with markers, et al.  I didn’t find any templates, so I just googled SBS bus and MRT train, and hand drew them from the screen 🙂  Once done, stick each drawing (bus/train section) on each side of the box accordingly with double-sided tape.  Find a broad rope or string to hang the arms over.  Use a penknife to cut slits at the top, just big enough to fit the rope/strings through.  Ideally use ONE long piece and thread them through all the slits before tying them neatly.  This will enable you to adjust the length depending on the size and height of the kid.  Except for the drawing (outlining), your tot should be able to help with almost everything else!

My little helper couldn't wait to play with it
My little helper couldn’t wait to play with it

 

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Reduce, reuse, recycle – into a Chinese scrapbook

We love books. We did our first DIY personalised journal in English when B was 18 months and asking more about family, interests, activities and people. I even added a section about preschool before he started. But we never got around to doing a simpler one in Chinese because the thought of ME writing originally in Chinese?  Yikes! 

Reading his first DIY book
Reading his first DIY book

Until now. Having just completed Mandarin Tots at Bibinogs, we both learnt many new words that I wanted to reinforce and keep relevant for him.  Also, while cleaning up the guest room (converted into playroom) and living room before the grandparents return, we found stacks of B’s art pieces, old spiral notebooks and magazines.  So… Time to reduce, reuse and recycle again!  And finally tackle our first Chinese scrapbook together.

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B reading through his very own DIY 读卡书 🙂

Here’s how we made it:  Browse through newspapers and magazines and cut out pictures for your chosen theme or alternately, based on vocabulary he’s learning at school. Print the characters out in large font if you don’t have enrichment class material such as flash cards. Invite him to read (or repeat) the words, match them to the right pictures, helping to cut where possible.  If you have old artwork or cardstock, resize them for your notebook before gluing both pictures and words on it first.  Finally stick them all on the (reinforced) spiral notebooks with double sided tape.  If you don’t have used notebooks, punch a hole on the sides to bind the “book.”

Reduce, reuse, recycle!
Reduce, reuse, recycle!

In our case, we did lots of cutting and glue-ing to work on B’s fine motor skills. He’s also more keen to read Chinese when the books are interactive (flaps, pull out tabs, stickers) … and now, when he’s actually had a hand in making it!

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All children are artists

“Every child is an artist.
The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up. – Pablo Picasso

When B was about 4 months, I attended my first early years parenting talk which shaped the environment that he grew up in. In his first 2 years, we did lots of art and craft together involving  colourful, sensory, tactile, messy play with repurposed household items, nature and art materials. In fact, we’d often encourage other friends to join us, and hosted quite a few messy artsy-crafty playdates at our outdoor balcony area.  B loved it!

B's first art playdate @ 6 months
First art playdate at 6 months

After B turned 1.5 years, we trialed a few art classes that introduced different techniques, styles, materials, et al. He liked the more freestyle, mixed media sessions and not when someone had to help or told him how to “do art” (i.e. proper use of watercolours, brushes, etc). He’s just your normal stubborn independent tot, I guess.

First (trial) art class at 18 months

So we joined a local parent accompanied toddler art meetup group instead, where we had messy fun indoors and outdoors, learnt a few artsy things, and collected enough pieces to start our own “art wall” at home by the time he turned 2.

Our art wall!
Our art wall after 2 years

Continuing this arts exposure was one of my requirements when selecting his preschool.  Soon after he started nursery, B had a chance to showcase his work at his first art exhibit this weekend!

First art exhibit at 2.5 years
First art exhibit at 2.5 years, entitled “Building A City of Dreams”. The structures are “homes for my family” and “roads for cars.” His sold for S$88!

I hope B’s interest in art will continue to grow, and that he’ll have the dexterity and patience to learn and improve along the way. Of course, I don’t expect him to be a professional artist when he grows up but I’m glad art has given him a universal language to express himself and interpret the world around him; and also given us a fun, creative way to reinforce what he learns from a very early age.

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Flashback Friday to the good old days

There was no class today so mama and B spent the whole day together. It’s been a while since we had such a fun yet fruitful time, as B started nursery and we were on-and-off sick this month.  While I miss our homeschooling days last year, I’d forgotten how busy it can be if you really want to fully engage your kid.  Can’t wait for school to start again next week, grateful for good teachers, friends, and a preschool / child care center that doesn’t have a long holiday break like many international or MOE-calendar ones out there.

Letterland review
Letterland review
Art: Finishing the DIY craft from our National Museum visit
Art: Finishing the DIY craft from our National Museum visit
Drama: Outing to Central Library followed by Spot The Difference (awesome play) and lunch
Fine motor skills: Tracing, threading, sorting, counting, pretend play with DIY home manipulatives

And of course, our daily “music with mama” sessions, free play indoors (i.e. cars and blocks) and outdoors (i.e. playground) when mama was busy or needed a break 🙂

Pheew, TGIF!

Our first sticker ch(art)

We introduced B’s first sticker reward chart last month and it’s become an ongoing work of art and lesson in self-control for all of us.  The sticker chart tackled two areas that I felt were within B’s reach but he wasn’t consistent and/or disciplined enough about:

1) Self feeding and sitting down for meals (snacks not included) – I was so excited when B would use his spoon or fork to eat porridge, yogurt, oats/cereal, fruits around 16 months.  He’d eat pretty much everything in his first 2 years.  Alas, that didn’t last 😦  Now there are times when a mealtime battle looms, sometimes for a reason (sick), sometimes for no reason (aka #terrific2s). Besides stickers, I’ve tried reducing  snacks, reasoning with him, even a “join us, eat what you can.” When B eats slowly and gets picky, he still needs prompting and bite-sized food to make it easier (and faster), but all this has helped without  needing a rotan!  Yet.

2) Going to the potty – B started gradual potty training around 18 months. We first introduced potty books and a standalone potty, then wore trainers at home, moved to a kids potty seat (on the big seat) by 2 years as he was tall enough then. We’re now seeing increasingly diaper-free days and he’s comfortable standing up or sitting down to pee, when the boy urinals are too high (or there are none). The sticker chart is helping to minimise accidents outside, transition to diaper free in school, and when he needs to do his big business coz for some reason, he doesn’t like to sit and poo!

For both areas, I try not to make a big deal out of it and affirm the positive, though I admit, I’m not a patient mom…. As he’s young, I didn’t want us to be too fixated on any “final big reward” so I kept the design fun and open, with him having the freedom to choose and add stickers to celebrate his accomplishments. It’s nice to hear him say “Mama, I pee, so now get sticker!” or “I am big and strong!” (after eating) as he enjoys and understands what this sticker chart means.

Hmm ... where shall I put my sticker?
Hmm … where shall I put my sticker?

Here’s how we did it: For my vehicle loving boy, I chose a design that would appeal to him – hand drawn, copied and adapted from here. I explained what, why and how – even got B to help paint the background while I wrote out how the system would work (with tiny images for our non-reader to see). We stuck it at height level along the corridor between his bathroom and our dining area. As he adds his stickers, he’s also adding to his work of art aka the sticker chart!

B squirting out watercolours for the background
B squirting out watercolours for the background
Our first sticker chart art (as of today)
Our first sticker chart art (as of today)

 

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Let’s go to Letterland!

Since B started N1 (nursery) in January, he hasn’t stopped singing about Letterland.  To find out more, we borrowed some Letterland library books. But it wasn’t till this weekend, when a few of us “lucky” parents attended a workshop by the school, that I finally understood what B’s been going on about every week … !

Let's go to Letterland!
With Letterland, children are taught the shapes and sounds of letters by assigning them to imaginary pictogram characters living in a fictional land. Letterland engages children across all learning methods (visual, kinesthetic, auditory, speech) with songs, stories, actions, hands-on activities and even online software.  The stories also creatively and thoughtfully explain the reasoning behind sounds, shapes, reading and writing direction for individual letters, blends and digraphs.  This makes it easier and more intuitive when kids progress to word building, reading and writing. Overall, Letterland is a comprehensive synthetic phonics and story-based system. When first introduced, the songs also link back to the alphabet names so that kids who already know their alphabet won’t get confused.  Thumbs up for a  fun, memorable AND informative approach.  Read here for more.

Since the workshop, I’m re-motivated to support his Letterland learning at home. We’ve done various letter-related activities, e.g. collages, playdough, flashcards, tracing with feelers (glitter glue, sandpaper, ink, any tactile item that starts with the same letter). And of course, Letterland library books. Here are the early years ones:

Letterland library books
Letterland library books (baby/jp section)

Our most recent DIY project was this large Letterland tree aka a big wall pocket poster (at B’s height) to reinforce the characters and letters in both upper and lowercase. For now, we use it for letter recognition and identification as B tries to match them correctly as he sings and says the right sounds:

Dippy Duck says 'd..., d...'
Dippy Duck says ‘d…, d…’

Here’s how we made it:  Cut out some old artwork in small rectangles for the base and use double sided tape to stick plastic pockets on (you can use card organiser / collector sheets from Popular). Print out Letterland letters and characters (official downloads from here), laminate and cut out individual letters and add blu-tak to the back so they stick easily.

Making our Letterland tree
Making our Letterland tree

Most phonics systems can be taught from ~18 months on, or earlier if your child has interest (see our first attempt with zoo-phonics). While phonics isn’t the only way to learn to read, and shouldn’t be something you “force” on any kid, it’s quite effective if you’ve got a child who’s interested in words from the books and print (s)he’s exposed to everyday.  Even if you’ve no time for lots of crafty, highly engaged projects, enhance your preschooler’s learning with BOOKS and if needed, educational material from online distributors like NoQ, Elm Tree or the many free downloads and printables online. A wonderful world of words to feed their knowledge and imagination lies ahead once they “crack the code.” Happy reading!

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