ABC and 123: A Learning Collaborative: February 2010

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Checking In & Looking for Children's Birthday Party Ideas

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Hi Everyone!

You probably noticed that we haven't been around much this week, it's been an impromtu winter break for us at ABC & 123! But we're back and looking forward to March, when we'll be celebrating our one year blogiversary. A lot has happened in one year and we are thrilled by how much our community has grown in such a short time. We're looking forward to sharing many more great learning activities and lessons with you!

To help us turn one, we'd love to gather together your best children's birthday party ideas, decorations, activities, and birthday themed lessons and center activities.

Party planning is always a challenge and we'd love the help our readers out by sharing all the creative things we've know you've done. Please send us your links or a email us a short description & attach any cooresponding photos you have: abc123learning(at)gmail(dot)com.

We're also on the look out for activities on the following content areas: rhyming, syllables, phonemic awareness, green, Ireland, St. Patrick's Day, and spring.

We can't wait to feature you and are looking forward to visiting your blog to check out your submission! As always, we'd also love to hear your suggestions and requests. Are you looking for ideas on a specific subject? Let us know!

Lastly, we want to remind you that we still have a giveaway going on for Wow Wow Wubzy's newest DVD release, Go for the Gold. Don't forget to enter by 3/2! The more entries we have the easier it is for us to get exciting giveaway opportunities for you in the future!

Happy Weekend!
The Katies

Monday, February 22, 2010

Learning to Measure Length

Welcome to Math Monday! New to ABC and 123?
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Mouse Grows, Mouse Learns put together a Math Box devoted to practicing measurement.

The Activity Mom has shared with us an activity for measuring yarn worms.

Handprint and Footprint Art Blog submitted a craft idea for teaching toddlers about measurement using their own footprints.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Fun With Letters: The Letter R

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R is for Rubbings
Apples and Jammies decorate R's by rubbing crayon over tracks and textures.

R is for Rainbows
Confessions of a Homeschooler put together a wonderful group of Rainbow themed activities such as:  Roll a rainbow, color by numbers, alphabet matching cards, and more.

Turning Ordinary into Extraordinary did several R activities over the past summer: chenille rainbows, a rainbow in a jar, rabbit tangrams, and more.

The Shafer Family used water to paint a rainbow and a rain resist picture.

Refined Metals Academy put together rainbow crayons.  They also have a lap book dedicated to learning about things that are Round.
Pocketful of Posies read Planting a Rainbow and followed it up with a cutting activity.

Mama Jenn sent us a great selection of Rainbow links:
Rainbow painted using pencil erasers

Rainbow made using ribbon scraps

Rainbows made using buttons

Rainbow sun catcher

R is for Rabbits
Always Something to Learn used rabbits to introduce the letter R.  They used stuffed rabbits to practice more, less, bigger, smaller, etc. 

Thanks to Pocketful of Posies for sharing their Rabbit book, craft, and tangram.

R is Ribbon Collages, Rolling Pins, and Painted Rocks
The kids at Fifth Street Academy had fun with R!

R is for Ripped Paper, Rockets, and Rainbow Colored Rice
Counting Coconuts put together a colorful ripped paper R that would also be great for fine motor practice. And I can only image the fun explorations that would come from a huge tub of color mixing rice.
Thanks to Ideas from a Future Teacher for submitting this link.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Science Centers and Activities

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The Crafty Chic Mommy has put together a Magnetic Muffin Tin exploration.  She explains the procedure and materials necessary for this activity.

Quirky Momma put together a timely lesson, using trains and blocks, to teach about earthquakes after the devastation in Haiti.
Whimsical Ways takes us on an amazing tour of her science center which includes: health science materials, science counters, discovery jars, sort trays, and more.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Teaching Word Families

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When children begin to learn to read patterns are important.  Patterns are taught through rhymes, otherwise called word families. For example, if a child easily recognizes the word can it is likely they will quickly learn to read the words man, pan, Dan, etc.  As educators, when we teach word families we significantly improve a child's reading vocabulary and their ability to feel successful.

The Have Fun Teaching Blog has free word family worksheets.  On this link you will also find word family small group centers including families such as: AD, AN, AT, AY, EAT, ED, EN, ET, IGHT, ING, IP, IT, OLD, OP, OW, OY, UT, UN, UCK, UNNY.

Mrs. Mayer Gracefield, a Kindergarten teacher, explains the importance of teaching Word Families.

Piece of Cake shares many great tips on teaching kids to read with word families.

Teaching Spelling shares an All in the Family word family game.

Mama Snail has put together a fantastic post to lead you through the process of putting together handmade word family work boxes and using the manipulatives to teach word families.

Quirky Momma's Phonetic Flip Chart would be a fantastic way to work with your emergent reader on word families.

Quirky Momma also explains how she taught the -AT family of words.  In her post she discusses Progressive Phonics.

Reading Rockets has a specific lesson called Meet the Word Families.

Teaching word families with songs is also very effective.  If you happen to have links to any fun word family songs we would love to see them!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Go For the Gold

This giveaway is now closed! Congratulations to our winner chosen by, comment #1! Amber, That's Me will be getting a copy of Wubbzy's new release!

Update: This giveaway has been extended and will be open for entry until March 2nd at 10 PM EST.

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Quality Kid's Crafts shares a template for putting together an Olympic Torch craft.

Alpha Mom put together Olympic gold medal cookies.

Take a look at Kids' Turn Central for a list of Winter Olympic online resources for kids.

Put together a chenille snowboarder craft to celebrate the popular sport.

Create a 3-dimensional ski jump diorama.

Give your child a set of numbered cards to practice their numbers while rating the athletes performances.

Print off Olympic themed coloring pages for your children from Lucy Learns.

Check out the printable word search, and other pdfs, to support your lessons about the Winter Olympics.

Do you remember Wubbzy?
The cute and quirky bendy-tailed star of the Nick Jr. TV series Wow! Wow! Wubbzy!, is pumped up and ready for the Winter Olympics too. In the newest installment of the DVD series from Anchor Bay Entertainment, starring Michelle Kwan as Michelle Kwanzleberry and Tiki Barber as Touchdown Tiki, Wubbzy is going for the gold!

Wubbzy and his pals start getting geared up to compete in the big event, the Wuzzleburg Wacky Dash, and Michelle advises them to prepare, practice, and have fun! While Wubbzy, Widget, and Walden all devise shortcuts they hope will help them reach the finish line the fastest, Daizy helps her friends – and young viewers – learn that slow and steady wins the race! This 82 minute DVD “Go for Gold” shoots for the stars with a high-energy, fun-filled collection of athletic-themed episodes that will get kids and families laughing, singing, and moving along. In addition to the show, this DVD includes coloring pages, activity pages, and music videos.

The fun news?
Go for Gold is available nationwide TODAY, February 16th!

The fantastic news?
We've been given a copy of Go For Gold to give to one reader of ABC & 123. To be entered to win leave a comment on this post before Tuesday, February 23rd at 10PM EST. For an additional entry become a follower or subscriber of ABC & 123 and let us know about it.

Thanks to Grand Communications for offering our readers a chance to win this new DVD. We have posted pieces of this press release, without compensation, because we think it is a helpful resource for you. Enjoy the Winter Olympics 2010!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Musical Monday: Singing With Your Kids

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I think we've all probably heard that singing to your baby is beneficial--that it stimulates his or her brain by creating a multi-sensory environment. Music experiences help children build vocabulary and listening skills, as well as facilitate language acquisition.

I've even read recently that there is research to support the idea that singing helps strengthen our immune systems! An apple a day and a song a day may just keep the doctor away!

And even though I know all those things about how music makes you smarter, I don't really sing with Juliet for that reason. I do it because it's just plain fun. (Although, I'll take the extra smarts any way I can get them!)

I love the idea of passing down treasured songs from my own childhood to Juliet. All those songs that my Dad put into my head and heart when I was a child are just now bubbling to the surface--I'm remembering things I haven't thought about in years. And with those songs come memories and emotions and STORIES. Stories of places I traveled to, people I met, and experiences I had. I am able to share these with Juliet as we sing songs together each evening.

It makes me smile to think that one day Juliet will be sharing these same songs with her children and that she will have her own stories to share--stories that we are building together now.

I've shared a list of 100+ songs to sing with your child and also how to incorporate music into your child's daily routine. Today, I wanted to share some ideas for making song time a little more fun (for when you need a break from just sitting there and singing!)

Let your child sing.
Sometimes I just say, "Hey, why don't you sing to ME tonight." Sometimes this works and sometimes I get a very polite, but firm, "No thanks, mom." I can't guarantee the results, but it is worth a try!

Take turns singing lines.
Sing the first line and let your child sing the next. You follow with the next, and so on.
Leave out one word and pause--waiting for your child to fill it in.
For example, "Oh, I come from ___________ (Alabama) with my _________(banjo) on my ______ (knee). Let your child fill in the blanks--Juliet thinks this is VERY fun.

Sing it WRONG!
This idea was suggested to me from Chronicle of an Infant Bibliophile. She says that she will sing a song and deliberately say the wrong word--her son loves to jump in and correct her with the right lyrics! For example, "The itsy bitsy bullfrog..." "NO! Spider!" etc. The possibilities for this game are endless. She mentioned that this was a fun car game for her family to play together. I can't wait to try it with Juliet.

Sing it kitty, puppy, or birdie style. (Or any other animal, for that matter!)
We like to sing our favorite tunes in our animal voices such as, "Meow, meow, meow, meow, meow, meow, meow" (That's Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star for those of you that don't speak kitty) and "Cheep, cheep, cheep, cheep!" (That's O Susanna for those not fluent in birdie.)

Add your child's name to the song.
You can insert your child's name at any point in almost any song. Replacing names is the easiest, "Old McJuliet had a farm" or "Juliet pounds with one hammer, one hammer, one hammer" work well. But you can also add names where they don't appear in the original song, "You are my Juliet, my only Juliet, you make me happy, when skies are gray" (You are My Sunshine). It's also easy to replace the word "you" with your child's name, "Oh, Juliet can't get to heaven, on roller skates, because she'd roll right past, those pearly gates" (Oh, You Can't Get to Heaven).

Turn it into a dance party.
Sometimes, Juliet will jump up and just run up and down the hall and flail her arms (her version of dancing) while I sit and sing. It makes me laugh and definitely adds a bit of fun to the moment. We find ourselves giggling more than singing, but I think that's okay.

Let your child act out the songs.
I've never actually told Juliet to do this, but noticed that she sometimes does this on her own during one of her dance sessions. When I was singing the "fly in the buttermilk, shoo fly, shoo!" part of Skip to My Lou the other night, she suddenly threw her body down on the floor and began rolling around and flapping her arms. It took me a few minutes to realize that she was pretending to be a "fly in the buttermilk." A few days later, when we were singing it again, I said, "Oh, wow! Are you being a fly in the buttermilk?" And she said, "No, mom. I'm LYING in the buttermilk." Turns out she thought I was saying lie in stead of fly this whole time. I think she still thinks that, actually.

Change your volume from normal, to loud, to soft.
Sometimes I'll sing parts of a song really loud and then suddenly switch to very, very soft. Juliet thinks this is crazy fun. She'll join in, but mostly just on the loud parts.

Add some tickles.
One of my favorite ways to make song time more fun is to add tickling to the mix. Juliet has come to expect being tickled during Skidamarink right when I say, "I love you!" She gets a big belly tickle.

Add sound effects.
Some songs just beg for sound effects. Pop Goes the Weasel comes to mind right now. You can make a popping sound with your mouth or smack your hands together in a loud clap. Keep an open eye and you can find ways to add all sorts of sound effects to songs. Just tonight, we were singing Baby Beluga together and at the "see the water squiring out of your spout" part I made a loud swooshing noise and reached over and tickled her belly.

So, that's what we do. What about you? How do you make singing fun with your children? We'd love to hear your ideas!
Thank you so much to Vanessa at Silly Eagle Books for this third and final post in her Musical Monday guest post series!  We have really appreciated her great wealth of knowledge and willingness to share her resources.  To read this post with content links, and to see Vanessa's book suggestions and activities, be sure to check out her blog!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Sharing the Love: Valentine Themed Cards, Crafts, and Cooking

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With Valentine's Day next weekend, we thought it was a good time to share all the love inspired learning crafts and cards you've been doing.  We love seeing all the ways you show the people in your lives that they are special!

Please add your links below and try to visit as many participants as possible.  Don't forget to share some comment love☺

To get things started here are some ideas we've found:
Crystal at Always Something to Learn, and her daughters put together this Valentine Countdown, with fun activities for each day.

Katie and her kids put together popsicle stick frames and took a picture of themselves with a Valentine poster to make special cards for area nursing home residents.

Put together a paper mosaic heart valentine with inspiration from Katies Nesting Spot.

At the "Hoppy Home" they put together adorable pipe cleaner love bugs as part of an annual tradition.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Tips for a Successful Science Fair Project

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The late winter months are traditionally science fair season. Millions of children across the country will begin dreaming up experiments and projects to enter in school science fairs.

5 Tips for a Successful Science Fair Project

1. Pick a realistic project to complete: All too often kids pick science fair experiments and projects that are difficult to complete, leaving parents with a frustrated child, and students with no project to turn in. When brainstorming possible projects with your child, walk them through the logistics of completing the project so that you can flag any difficulties at the onset.

2. Start early: A science fair project can be a student’s first attempt at time management. Work with your child to plan out when he or she is going to work on their project to meet key deadlines.

3. Keep a record: It is obviously critical to record the data and information collected during the experiment, but you also might want to keep a photographic record that your child can use in their final display board. Pictures are worth a thousand words!

4. Follow the rules and requirements: If the rules stipulate no live animal displays, soil samples, hazardous materials, glass containers or animal products, don't choose a project that demands such items to be displayed for judging. Always refer back to the rules and requirements of the project to ensure your child won’t be penalized or disqualified.

5. Get the judges’ attention: If you’ve spent countless hours working on a science fair project, make sure that your project gets the attention it deserves with a great display.

5 Presentation Tips for Youngsters

1. Practice out loud: Practice may not make perfect, but it sure does help. Aim for giving the presentation out loud to a family or friend in advance of the real date. Reading it to yourself off the paper doesn’t count!
2. No ifs, ands or buts: If you lose your place or get nervous, just pause a second, take a breath and restart your sentence. Avoid the tendency to fill in presentation gaps with speech bloopers such as “um,” “er,” and “uhh.”

3. Keep an eye on your body language: Awkward shifting and hand gestures can be distracting to your audience. Practice your speech in the mirror or videotape it to see just how much you move while speaking.

4. Look ‘em in the eye: Ensure you make eye contact with your audience several times during your presentation. Eye contact keeps people interested and engaged in what you are saying. Plus, this small gesture will make you seem confident and look like a pro.

5. Don’t let a poor visual ruin your presentation: Make sure any visual, like a poster, is attention grabbing and complements your presentation. If you need tips on creating a poster, check out ArtSkills for a step-by-step guide on quick and easy poster creation.

Thank you to ArtSkills, a family owned company specializing in posterboard accessories, for sending us this helpful resource for putting together a spectacular science fair presentation. The company’s website is the go-to resource for poster making, featuring an exclusive design tool and ever-increasing gallery of poster layout ideas.    The example posters have been used with permission from Vault Communications.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Valentine Themed Learning Activities

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Katie's Nesting Spot suggests Conversation Hearts for a math sorting, counting, and graphing activity.
Tired, Need Sleep put together a printable count and clip game great for practicing basic counting this heart day.

Use something simple you already have in your home, playing cards, to make a Valentine memory game.

Using a pile of conversation hearts as story starters for creative writing, or have children add to a collaborative round table story by using key words of a conversation heart.

At Muffin Tin Mom, see how Michelle put together this simple sight word file folder matching game.

Katie has also put together a post of Valentine activities worth checking out: Heart Attack (writing / life skills), Secret Cupid (life skills), Hidden Hearts (reading/life skills), and Converstation Starters.
What heart themed learning activities have you put together for use with your students this week?
Please link to your posts below! (Please Note:  We will be featuring a Valentine Cards and Crafts link on Friday, so please save artsy-craftsy suggestions until then).

Monday, February 8, 2010

Incorporating Music Into Children's Daily Routine

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Today's Musical Monday is part 2 of our feature written by Vanessa from Silly Eagle Books.  {If you check out this same post on her side all of the song titles are linked to YouTube.}

Last week, I shared a GIANT list of 100+ songs to sing with your child (and the books to go along with them). Today, I thought I would give some tips on how to incorporate these and other songs into your child's daily routine by sharing how Juliet and I do it. Hopefully, this will give you a good place to start and allow you to customize it and make it work successfully for your own family.

How do I choose the songs?
With such a huge list, where do you start? I recommend starting with what you love. Did any of the songs on the list jump out to you? Did you think, "Hey! I haven't thought of that song in years!" or "I loved that song as a child!" Go with those! Your enthusiasm for the song will go a long way in getting your child exciting to sing it, too. (And it doesn't hurt that you already know the tune!)

For me, I jumped at the chance to sing the California Gold Rush song Sweet Betsy from Pike, Toora, Loora, Loora, and the Red River Valley because I remember my dad singing them to me as a little girl.

After you've checked out and enjoyed a few familiar tunes, take a risk and choose one you don't already know. I have been overwhelmed at how many beautiful songs I have gone my entire life without ever hearing! Two that we experienced, learned, and fell in love with together are Froggy Went a Courtin, and All the Pretty Little Horses (I know! How did I miss that one?) We loved Froggy Went a Courtin' so much that we added the book illustrated by Feodor Rojankovsky to our home library. The illustrations are just incredible.

Once you've picked a few new ones out, it's time to figure out the tune! All of the books on my list have the actual music somewhere in the book. If you play an instrument, you can pick out the tune. (I did this on the piano for a lot of the lullabies in Lullabies an Illustrated Songbook.

Don't worry if you can't play the piano! YouTube is the perfect resource for learning the tune to almost any song. You might find some odd versions and videos out there, but at the very least you can pick up the tune.

How do I use the songs?
The easiest way to incorporate these songs is just to add the books to your book pile. Do you usually read books together before bed? Try singing a few together during that time. Maybe start with a song and end with a song or alternate between a regular story book and a song book.

As you get more comfortable with this, consider setting aside a special "singing time" that you take part in everyday just as you have a special reading time. For us, it's right after Juliet takes her bath. She gets out of the tub, gets her pajamas on and we sit down in the hallway and sing through a few songbooks. It's easy to do because we've attached our singing time to something we do together everyday-- getting ready for bed--but you could make yours at whatever time works for you. Maybe you are morning people and like to start the day with a few songs? Or maybe right before nap time is a good time to snuggle up and sing together.

Sounds great, but one little problem. I can't sing!

First of all, let me assure you that I cannot sing either. I have never been and never will be asked to sing in public. But the great thing about singing with kids is that they don't care at all about how good or how bad your voice is! They just love that you sing. I'm serious. Is you kid around? Burst out singing Skip to My Lou at the top of your lungs and see what they do. I guarantee that after the initial shock wears off, they will be jumping around, clapping and singing with you in less than 10 seconds.

We've learned that the more we sing together, the more these songs stick in our memories. By intentionally making time for music in our routine, we've discovered that we break out in spontaneous song more and more throughout the day and have even found ourselves making up songs of our own.

If you take the time to plant the seed of music in your child's heart, it will send down roots, and begin to grow. In no time at all, you'll get the privilege of hearing a tiny, little voice floating up from the backseat singing something like, "O, give me a home! Where the buffalo roam! And the deer and the antelope play!" and asking questions like, "Why does your Bonnie lie over the ocean, mommy, why?"

So, which songs are you going to choose? I'd love to hear about the songs you love and any suggestions you have for ones we don't have on our list!

Friday, February 5, 2010

Open Up to Possibility

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If you believe you can change the world, you just might.
This featured YouTube clip, created by a video team inside the walls of one school, is a reminder for all of us that the future is the children. It is a great encouragment for us to keep on keeping on in our daily teaching, learning, and loving!

Are you teaching your children and students to dream big and to make an impact?
Imagine all they can do to change the world?

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Thematic Thursday: Cocoa Cafe' Thematic Center

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For today's Thematic Thursday we wanted to share a thematic learning center with you and include several suggestions for skills to develop through this activity.  If you have set up a thematic center in your home or classroom we'd love to share it in a future post.  Send us your pictures, a link, and a list of skills your center supports.

Welcome to the Cocoa Cafe'

Thanks to Kelly from Doing Life Together for sharing this with us. 
You will want to check out Kelly's post for information about where she found this idea, the materials she use to set up her center, and  more pictures. 

Social Skills
~Working Together
~Listening: Taking orders
~Manners: please, thank you, pardon me, etc.

Math Skills
~Counting: count out cups, marshmallows, straws, etc.
~Money: identifying coins, counting coins, taking money, making change
Obviously, these skills will depend on children's ages and ability levels
~Comparison Skills: Talk about more and less
~Sequencing: Offer different size cups and have children organize the cups by size

Language Arts Skills
~Writing: Write a menu for the cafe'
~Creative Writing: Come up with clever drink mixes and names
~Come up with a name for the Cocoa Cafe'
~Make advertising signs for the shop
~Write receipts for the cocoa customers
~Follow up the play time with a journal or creative story using the Cocoa Cafe' as the setting

Social Studies Skills
~Ecomonics: Introduce the assembly line process to children. 
Give each child a different job for putting together a complete cup of cocoa.  Talk about how many cups of cocoa a can be put together in the same amount of time with group assembly versus individual assembly.
~Talk about supply and demand.  Discuss how pricing may impact sales in the Cocoa Cafe'

If you set up your own Cocoa Cafe' learning center we'd love to see pictures.  In fact, send us your pictures and we would be happy to put together a post showing them all off!  If you think of other great skills to practice using this play center we would love to see your ideas in the comments.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Get a "Taste" of Reading with Super Why

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The creators of Super WHY have just announced they've added a new episode to their line up.  They have put together the information in this post to encourage parents and teachers to think about authentic activities from everyday eating opportunities for teaching literacy skills. 

Super WHY is an award-winning literacy series from Out of the Blue Enterprises.  Each episode is aimed at engaging vieweds in entertaining and interactive alphabet and word games.  I (List Maker Katie) find this program to be especially beneficial for encouraging imagination, spelling, vocabulary, and comprehension activities.  Hopefully it is also instilling a life-long love of reading!

Hip Hip Hooray! Super WHY whips up a whole new reading-powered adventure when the Super Readers soar into the pages of a cookbook for the very first time! Super WHY and the Cookbook premiered January 29 on PBS stations from coast to coast (check local listings).

Whyatt wants to bake his little sister a special birthday cake - but he doesn't know how. So Super Why and his friends soar into a new kind of book - and get the information they need from a rhyming chef with a silly sense of humor as well as a recipe for fun! In the end, Whyatt learns how to create the perfect birthday for Baby Joy.

Here are some awesome tips to help you cook up your very own yummy reading adventure:

~Encouraging preschoolers to read recipes, signs and more helps them navigate their world and gives them a real reason to use their new-found literacy skills.

~Asking questions will expand their creativity as well as reinforce comprehension. It can also inspire them to write their own signs, recipes or stories!

~Pick out a simple and tasty recipe with your budding Super Reader. Ask them to point out all of the letters and words they already know in the ingredients

~Write a grocery list together, sounding out the words as you go along

~At the supermarket, have your kids help read the signs so you can find the ingredients you need

~As you cook, read the recipe out loud every step of the way

~Before serving your delicious treat, create colorful place cards for each member of the family, assisting your preschooler in writing out the names. Have fun – and bon appetite!

Disclosure:  ABC & 123 has not been compensated for this post.  Grand Communication sent us this information regarding the new release and we felt it was valuable information to pass along to our readers.