Parent/Child Activities (Ages 3-8)
These activities are for parents and children to do together. Our children’s foundation of language begins at home it’s up to us as parents to model literacy for our children.
Reading aloud with your child is one of the most special moments you can share together. In addition to role modeling, you will be remembered for taking the time out of your busy day to spend a few minutes reading with them. As your child grows older, your good habits become theirs.
Kids Read Aloud
Even children as young as three “read aloud.” They narrate scenes from stories you have read to them. While this is not reading per se, it certainly is a precursor to reading and should be encouraged. When your child has a little more schooling and begins to read on their own, encourage them to read aloud to you. They will delight in being able to tell you a story.
Remember those ABC magnets you used to play with as a child? You can find them at any discount, “Mart,” or dollar store for around $1. Place them on the refrigerator low enough that your child can reach them. If your child is small, encourage interaction with the letters so that can begin to familiarize themselves with the letters and sounds. If your child is older, use the letters as a message board, spelling out simple phrases he/she can look forward to reading each day. “Go for it!” would be a great way to start the day.
You can buy ABC flashcards at any store but why not make your own? Use a pack of 3X5 index cards and draw simple pictures that correspond with the letters. “A” is for “Apple.” Don’t worry about your drawing skills. If you draw the pictures and your child colors them, the team project will be such a hit that your child will overlook your stick figures.
As children become more literate, encourage them to read what’s around them. Signs are great place to start. In addition to encouraging their reading skills, you will also inadvertently be teaching rules such as “Slow — School Zone” and “Check Cashing Policy.” When my oldest daughter was five years old, she wowed Office Depot workers by reading their entire “Return Policy” out loud. The whole store erupted in applause for her. She was just doing what she always did — read aloud!
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Parent/Child Activities (Ages 9-12)
While our children are getting older, this is the time to embrace their capacity for learning and language. Developmentally, they are able to comprehend so much more and enjoy being challenged. These activities will allow them to think creatively and rise to the challenge.
Continue reading out loud to your child. While they may no longer sit in your lap for a story time, you can still read aloud to them by highlighting interesting passages of material you are reading. “Katie, did you know that Jennifer Lopez was abducted by aliens? Here listen to this.”
Kids Read Aloud
When children reach 4th grade, their desire to read out loud diminishes. Continue to encourage them read out loud by asking them to read about things that interest them. If your son is reading a book about insects, ask him about the book. Encourage him read you a passage. If your preteen daughter is reading about Britney Spears, ask her to read about some mystery fact that you didn’t know about Britney. The point is to get them to communicate and listen to language.
There are many kits available on the market for refrigerator poetry. You can have fun with your child by creating your own. All you need is some blank paper, a stack of magazines, and sticky back flexible magnets. Cut out interesting words and attach a magnet to the back. Use the blank paper to create articles (the, a, an) and other words necessary for the formation of sentences. The magazines are a great source for creative adjectives and nouns. Arrange a new poem everyday. The results are hilarious.
I like to play this game with my teen and her friends. When they come over for a party, we play language invention. Each person in responsible for creating a word and its accompanying definition. Then, throughout the night, I challenge them to use their words as frequently as possible. “Frever” means “friends forever” and the girls still use the term such as at the end of an email. Frever, Dianne
My oldest daughter traveled with me over the summer and I encouraged her to journal. We went to a bookstore with an unending supply of journals and she picked one she really liked. At the end of the week, she journaled highlights of that week’s events. She read some of it out loud and I was amazed at her eye for detail and her penchant for writing. Journaling doesn’t have to be reserved for travel, you can journal any time anywhere. What is now a journal was once a diary. To encourage journaling, read passages from famous journals/diaries such as “The Diary of Anne Frank.”
Scrapbooking has enjoyed a renaissance, with companies emerging devoted solely to the almost lost art. Scrapbooking is a good way to preserve the past but it also teaches kids to cherish their memories. Like journaling, scrapbooking is a good way to tell the story of one’s life. Important people and events are highlighted in fun, bright and colorful pages. Kid-friendly scrapbook kits are out there. Have a scrapbooking party and invite your child’s friends to cherish their memories.
I have always enjoyed the art of the letter. There’s nothing like getting a hand-addressed letter in the mail with a handwritten note inside. With the advent of word processing and email, handwriting a letter has almost become a thing of the past. Introduce your child to the art of letter and note writing by encouraging a snail mail pen pal.
Limericks are some of the most fun poetry I have come across. I was introduced to limericks in the fourth grade and my friends and I would make up new ones every day. Limericks have been around for hundreds of years and are a form of humorous verse. They often begin with “There was a…” or “There once was a…” and end with a humorous punch line. The first two lines rhyme with each other, the second two lines rhyme with each other, and the third line rhymes with the first two lines. Here is an example:
There once was a lady named May
All she did was feed cats all day
They came by the dozens
Each one brought their cousins
Now the neighbors want May moved away!
Haiku is the beautiful, simple poetry of Japan that began in the late 19th century. Traditional haiku follows the form of three metrical lines, first line — 5 syllables, second line — 7 syllables, third line — 5 syllables. Haiku does not rhyme. Much haiku centers on every day events. Try it with your children.
Orange tufts of cloud
Nectarine sinks below earth
Quiet, mocha night
Winding his way on branches
Sleeps until change comes
This is a kid’s classic! You take the consonant sound from the beginning of the word, move it to the end, and add “ay.” For example, “igpay atinlay” means “pig latin.” Now try forming all of your sentences that way. Here is a cool link for a pig latin translator: http://users.snowcrest.net/donnelly/piglatin.html
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Word Play Travel Games
Long trips can be even longer when no one agrees on what kind of music to listen to, siblings argue over how much space they have, and it just seems to take forever to “get there.” I like to use time in the car to engage my children’s minds in word play. Here are a few of our favorite games.
This is simple and even my three year old is starting to participate. We usually play rapid fire, giving each person about three seconds to come up with a response. A word is spoken out loud, for example, “Train.” Everyone playing has to come up with a rhyming word and no words can be repeated. We get creative using words like “refrain” and “explain” to rhyme with “train.” If a person cannot think of a word by the end of the time allotted or if a word is repeated, that player is out. The last player “standing” wins.
This one is fun!
License Plate Bingo
The fifty states are put in random order on a sheet of paper in a bingo pattern. I usually use a blank grid have everyone fill in their states. There are 25 squares. Having an incentive like small goody as a prize. As cars pass by, players mark their squares off. The first one to make five across, up & down, or diagonally wins.
This is one of my favorites because even the driver, if careful, can play. Reading signs that you drive by, you must call out letters starting with “A” and ending with “Z.” For example, “A” as in “Wal-Mart.” “Z” as in “School Zone!” All players must have seen the sign for the letter to qualify. This game goes at a rapid pace, especially in a populated area with lots of signs and billboards. Hard letters are J, Q, V, X, Y, and Z. Sometimes, a player who is ahead can fall behind because of a difficult letter. We also allow license plates to count. Talk about reading comprehension!
We play this much like Rhyme Time. Homophones are words that sound the same but have different meaning such as “bear” and “bare.” Homonyms are words that are spelled the same but have different meanings such as “tire” as in “I need to fill the tire on my bike with air” and “tire” as in “I tire easily. I need a nap.” Synonyms are words that have similar meanings such as “ghost” and “spook.” Antonyms are words that have opposite meanings like “Up/Down,” “Front/Back,” etc. It’s fun and it really forces you to think.
Inside Out Language
“Out Inside Language an example this is.” Or in other words, “This is an example of inside out language.” We mix up words and talk to each other that way. This often causes us to erupt in hilarious fits of laughter as things sometimes come out rather twisted. Jon Spelman, a fantastic storyteller, told a story this way at the National Storytelling Festival Can too do it you!