Literacy Zone: Books About Bugs

Check out some of these Buggin’ Out Books  for your child to read while they are exploring bugs:

Buggin’ Out Books

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Toddlers and Reading: Use Description, Not Drilling

Sam recently bought alphabet flash cards because he wants his 18-month-old daughter Abby to learn to read. But are flash cards and other learning toys that emphasize memorization a good way to prepare a toddler for reading?

Mother and daughter reading

Memorization is NOT the key to reading

Parents see many advertisements promising that their child can become the next Einstein with the right combination of learning toys and DVDs. It’s easy for parents to get caught up in the hype that new, better products make smarter children. And because so many of these products emphasize memorization, it can sometimes cause families to think that a focus on memorization is what’s important.

Complex language is what’s important

In fact, using flash cards is not an effective way to help toddlers build language and literacy skills. Flash cards emphasize memorization rather than the communication and language skills that really foster early literacy. Memorizing is often mistaken for learning. But rote memorization is a lower level skill compared to skills developed through using complex language during meaningful conversations with young children about ideas and feelings. Rote memorization may make sense for older children—for example, when learning math facts—but young children’s brains simply are not ready for it.

Don’t underestimate talking and listening

Talking, listening to and telling stories, and hearing new vocabulary words are really the keys to early literacy. Abby needs to build these important skills before she is ready to recognize letters and words. And she works on them every day by telling stories, hearing her parents and teachers introduce new words and complex language, and listening to them read aloud from books and other materials. These daily interactions help her make the connection between words on a page and spoken language.

Meaningful interactions that use complex language can be very simple. Abby’s parents and teachers encourage early literacy when they pay attention to what she does and make comments that connect to her experience. For example, Sam can talk about what Abby eats at dinner:

Sam says, “Abby, I see you ate all your chicken. Chicken is good for you.” 

He then extends his arms, flexes his biceps, and says, “It will help you grow big and STRONG!”  

Throughout the day, he can describe a variety of emotions, like surprise, excitement, or sadness, as appropriate, and he can give Abby the context she needs to make sense of the new words she hears. For example, he can repeat the words Abby uses or use words in place of her gestures:

Abby points to the cracker box and says “cra.”

Sam asks, “Would you like some crackers? [handing her the crackers] Are these the crunchy crackers that Abby wants?”

By using a rich vocabulary to describe their everyday lives, Sam can say the words Abby will soon be ready to use herself.

Literacy learning: What infants and toddlers know and can do

When we understand that children learn at different ages and stages, we can set realistic goals for our youngest children. Such goals lead children to develop early literacy skills that will last a lifetime.

  • Children between the ages of 18 and 24 months begin to recognize and react to the sounds of language. That’s why toddlers start paying attention to rhymes in songs and identify sounds different animals make. Recognizing that a cow says “moo” and a dog says “ruff, ruff” is learning in context.   
  • Children 18 to 24 months old begin to develop “imitative reading.” For example, when Sam reads a favorite book to Abby, she often finishes the phrases. Sam says, “Brown bear, brown bear, what do you . . . “, then stops so Abby can finish the phrase, “see.” This behavior shows that Abby’s language capacities are developing as expected for a child her age. Such seemingly simple activities build connections in Abby’s brain and help her develop the skills she will need to communicate and learn to read.

For more on infant and toddler development see: Healthy Beginnings: Supporting Development and Learning from Birth through Three Years of Age.

Try this!

  • To help your child develop a rich vocabulary try using new and interesting words to talk about something familiar (for example, automobile instead of carlovely instead of nicehumongous instead of big, dice instead of chop).
  • Read your child’s favorite books and let her fill in familiar sounds (like animal noises) or phrases (like familiar rhymes).


Source: Adapted from the Rocking and Rolling column by N. Darling-Kuria, 2012,

“What Do We Mean by Reading Readiness?” Young Children 67 (1): 54–55.
© National Association for the Education of Young Children — Promoting excellence in early childhood education- See more at:

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Summer Fun

Summer is half-way over but we hope you are having a blast enjoying the warm weather and activities!


Two boys (4-5) playing in swimming pool


  • The first day of summer is known as the summer solstice and in the US it falls on June 20 or June 21 each year, depending on when the sun is furthest north of the equator.
  • People in the Southern Hemisphere have their longest day of summer in December.
  • Solstice comes from two Latin words sol and sistere. Sol means sun; stitium is the verb which means to stand still.
  • The first day of summer has been celebrated for centuries by people around the world.
  • The names of the key summer months have Roman origins. June is named after Juno, who was the wife of Jupiter. Marc Antony named July after Julius Caesar and August was named after Caesar’s nephew, known as Augustus.
  • Even though this is the longest day of the year, it’s not the hottest, due to something called seasonal temperature lag, which means that it takes a while for the oceans to let their stored summer solstice heat back into the air. That’s why it tends to be hotter in July or August than in June.
  • One of the more annoying parts of summer are the mosquitoes, which have been around for 30 million years. It’s said they can find warm-blooded mammals from 100 feet away.
  • France’s Eiffel Tower can grow by more than 6 inches in summer due to the expansion of the iron on hot days.
  • The word honeymoon has associations with summer. The Pagans used that name for the first full moon in June because they drank fermented honey (mead) as part of summer wedding celebrations.
  • July is the month where most ice cream is sold in the US. That’s why it’s National Ice Cream Month. Americans eat about 5.5 gallons of ice cream per year on average.
  • Ice pops were invented by accident in 1905 by 11 year old Frank Epperson. He mixed soda and water and left the mixture out overnight with the stirring stick still in it. Since the temperature was low, the mixture froze. He patented the idea in 1924.
  • Watermelon is not a fruit, but a vegetable.
  • Many people enjoy throwing Frisbees in summer, but they were originally designed as pie plates in the 1870s. Students started throwing them in the 1940s.
  • The first Summer Olympic Games were held in 1896 in Athens. Women were first allowed to compete in 1900.


Activities-TagMaking sandcastles on the beach

  • See a movie at the drive-in
  • Walk on the boardwalk and listen to the boards creak under your feet
  • Blow bubbles
  • Run through the sprinklers
  • Play tag, hopscotch, or one of your favorite childhood games
  • Go to a theme-park or fair and ride a the Ferris wheel or roller coaster
  • Play miniature golf
  • Win a prize at the fair
  • Catch fireflies
  • Build a sandcastle
  • Pick berries and peaches at a farm
  • Buy a treats from the neighborhood ice cream truck
  • Roast marshmallows over a fire and make s’mores
  • Make fresh squeezed lemonade
  • Visit a farmer’s market
  • Have a barbeque
  • Nap in a hammock
  • Picnic in the park
  • Swing on a porch swing
  • Sit under the stars and find constellations
  • Watch the sunset from a tall building
  • Pick wildflowers
  • Swim in a lake or the ocean
  • Go on a site-seeing bike ride
  • Go fishing
  • Camp in the woods or your backyard
  • Play tennis or sand volleyball
  • Host a Frisbee or croquet tournament
  • Have a stay-cation or take a one-day road-trip
  • Host a family  & friends dance
  • Go to a local baseball or soccer game


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Summer Fun



What fun things are you up to with your family this summer? Check out our Summer Fun Post on the 11th for some great activities!

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CW Celebrates: International Chocolate Day

It’s International Chocolate Day and we have compiled some GREAT things about Chocolate:

Chocolate doesn’t make children hyper. source

Health Benefits of Chocolate: source

Theobromine, a natural cacao extract, is clinically proven to remineralize enamel. It is said, by experts in the dental field, to be a safe and better alternative to fluoride. source

Celebrate with some chocolate!

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CW Celebrates: Happy Birthday America!

Happy Birthday America

To help you and your family celebrate the Fourth, we have found some fun and safe activities to do with your children.

Balloon Fireworks: Create these exciting attention grabbers to display then use as a fun party game. Take regular balloons (red, white and blue) and a funnel. Pour paper confetti or glitter through the funnel into the balloon. Once the confetti is and the balloon is one-quarter full, blow the balloon up using a hand pump. Display the balloons as decoration then when it is time for the children to set off their fireworks, take them outside and give each child a balloon and let them set off their ‘firework’ using a sharpened pencil. A variation of this is to hang the balloons on a board and to have the children use darts to try and pop the balloons. Such fun!



Sparkler Pretzels: Create this fun dish with your children using pretzel rods, chocolate or almond bark, and sprinkles! Parents: Using a double boiler, melt the almond bark or chocolate. Once it is melted, dip the pretzel rods into the mixture, covering about one-third to half of the pretzel. Kids: Once the pretzel is covered with chocolate or almond bark, be careful not to touch that end of the rod. Take colored sprinkles and pour onto the melted chocolate creating a colorful sparkler! The children can pretend to use their Sparkler Pretzels like actual sparklers by writing their names in the air!



Bike Parade: Have your own neighborhood parade with decorated bikes. Take colored crepe paper and weave it in and out of the bike spokes. Add embellishments to the handle bars like garland or a feather boa with colorful pom-poms on either handle. You could even string some noisemakers to drag behind the bike as they ride!



Straw Rockets: Create a safe rocket for your kids to enjoy on the fourth! Take a sheet of colored paper and roll it around a drinking straw. Take the paper closed, so that it makes a loose tube around the straw. Tape up the sides of the paper and then take one end of the tube and fold it down. Secure the tip with tape, making sure that no air can escape. Using another piece of paper, cut 4 triangles out to be rocket fins. Fold one side of each triangle about a half inch and tape them to the open end of the rocket. Once the rocket is assembled, have them try it out! What do they observe about their rocket? Have extra paper, tape, and straws handy for your kids to fix and manipulate their rocket.


Patriotic Flowers: Create a festive bouquet! Gather some daisies or chrysanthemums from your local store, red and blue food coloring, cups, and knife and cutting board or scissors. In each cup, pour about an inch of water and add many food coloring drops to the water. Use a knife or scissors to slice the flower stems in half length-wise, leaving about two inches of sold stem below the flower head. To dye the flowers, stick one side of the stem into the cup of red water and the other side of stem into the cup of blue water. Leave the flowers in the water to soak up the color. When the flowers are double-dyed to perfection, take them out of the water and use as decoration!



Check out some more patriotic activities and snacks to make with your children from our Flag Day Post!

Have a blast this holiday and stay safe!

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Buggin’ Out!

Our theme this month will take us on an exploration of all things insects! Not only will the children “hunt” bugs in their environment, they will have the chance to explore the world of insects and spiders. Our exploration of spiders and other creepy crawlies will lead the children to find out why they differ from insects. We will take a close look at insects on the ground, under rocks, in the air and even in water! This month is sure to bring the outside world of insects and bugs into our imaginations as well as our classrooms! Let’s Bug Out!


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Literacy Zone: Books About Water

Check out some of these All About Water Books for your child to read while they are exploring water:

All About Water Books

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All About Water!

June is here and we are beginning a month long exploration of water! Our exploration will not only include some intensive water play, but we will learn all about the different types and properties of water. With the temperature soaring outside, we thought it might be the perfect time to get a little wet! The children will be involved in a number of different water experiments, observing how water moves, looks, and changes form. Summer thunderstorms will add great excitement to our water exploration. The children will focus on what lives in water and some of the differences between rivers and oceans as well as a simple introduction to the concept of water cycles. We are planning a wet month to cool off for the summer!


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Literacy Zone: Books About Gardening

Check out some of these Down To Earth Books for your child to read while they are exploring flowers and gardening this month:

Down To Earth Book List

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