Sunday, July 29, 2012

Simple Ways To Help Prepare Your Child for Kindergarten

photo by anieto2k
Whether your little one is going off to kindergarten this fall or the big day is a year or two away, it’s nice to know she’s on track and prepared for success. Preparing her is easier than you may think.
You can send her off to big kid school with confidence by taking time to help her practice skills in each of seven areas experts have identified as key aspects of early childhood development: Language Development, Learning and Thinking, Beginning to Read, Beginning to Write, Numbers and Counting, Physical Development, and Social and Emotional Development.
Educators use these buckets to help decide if a child is ready for kindergarten. Yours will undoubtedly be ready to tackle the big milestone with some simple, yet consistent help from you, other family members or your sitter!
Language Development
What you can do:
  • Have frequent conversations with your child. No baby talk  Use complete sentences and lots of good description.  Encourage her to use words to express her feelings and reactions to the world around her.
  • Play games that require listening and following simple directions.
  • Read stories with easy-to-follow plots and interesting characters to talk about.
  • Sing songs and read stories or poems with rhyming words.
Learning and Thinking
What you can do:
  • Help make small collections, such as rocks or toys, and have her sort them using different criteria, such as size, shape, and color.
  • Do simple puzzles together. Tired of yours, trade with a friend or make your own using photos, pictures from magazines or print-outs.
  • Let her help you sort and fold the laundry, matching socks and other clothes by size or color.
  • Play “I Spy” to practice color and shape recognition.
  • Show her how to string beads to make patterns… and beautiful necklaces!
Beginning to Read
What you can do:
  • Set a time every day to read to your child and talk about the letters and words, characters, and what happened first, next and last.
  • Have her put into the correct sequence photos of herself or family members at different ages.
  • Buy magnetic letters and let her play with them on a cookie sheet or other magnetic surface.  Practice the sound each letter makes.
  • Have her cut out letters from magazines to spell her name and other simple words she knows.
Beginning to Write
What you can do:
  • Help her practice writing her name, ABCs and numbers 1-10. Use different tools to make it fun – colored pencils, chalk on the sidewalk, and finger paint.
  • Together keep a summer journal. She draws a picture of something she did each day, and with your help writes a word or more to describe it.
  • Let her help with writing grocery lists or making cards for friends. This helps her to see the different ways we use writing in our daily lives.
  • Make labels for belongings, such as an art box, notebook, or cup.
Numbers and Counting
What you can do:
  • Go on treasure hunts to collect things to use for counting.
  • Use coins or items around the house to experiment with adding, subtracting and the use of “more” and “less.”
  • Together look for and point out numbers in her world, such as addresses, page numbers, recipes, and price tags.
  • Read stories and sing songs about numbers, such as “Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed.”
Physical Development
What you can do:
  • Help develop large muscles by playing with balls, hula-hoops and bean bags, and riding a bicycle or tricycle.
  • Build simple obstacle courses to practice jumping, walking a straight line, and climbing.
  • Help develop fine motor skills by practicing with child-safety scissors. She can cut out shapes you draw on paper or pictures from magazines.
Social and Emotional Development
What you can do:
  • Create an “About Me” notebook for your child. Together add personal information, such as her name, age, address, favorites, and names of family members. She can decorate it with drawings that tell more about her.
  • Build independence by rewarding the things she can do for herself, such as brushing her teeth, washings hands, getting dressed, and zipping a jacket.
  • Play school to help her practice saying goodbye, meeting new friends and packing up to come home

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Buying a Backpack for Back to School!

The calendar reads July.  It’s 100 degrees outside and your ears are still ringing from 4th of July fireworks so, of course, it’s time to think about “back to school”.  I’m sure if you check your email box and your Sunday circulars, you already have seen the sales.  I’m never one to pass up a bargain so one of the first things you may consider buying that all important backpack.
If you were a teenager in the 80′s and  ‘90’s chances are one of your shoulders is slightly lower than the other. Why? Because carrying your school backpack over one shoulder was the fashion back then. Lugging a heavy backpack over one shoulder every day for years is sure to have a negative impact on your posture.
Backpacks are an essential part of school life – they are an effective way for students to transport their books and other essentials to school. However, when used incorrectly, they may cause injury to joints and muscles. According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, improperly used backpacks can lead to severe back, neck, and shoulder pain, as well as posture problems. If backpacks are too heavy and are work incorrectly, they can result in serious, sometimes lasting, musculoskeletal problems for children and teenagers.
Experts recommend that children carry no more than 10 to 20 percent of their body weight. If your child has to carry a heavy backpack on the rare occasion, injury is unlikely; it’s the continuous wear and tear over their school careers that causes the most damage. When choosing a backpack for your student, don’t just go for something that’s fashionable or cute, try to consider the following:
Choosing a backpack • Waist strap • Lightweight • Wide, padded shoulder straps • Two shoulder straps • Padded back
Using a backpack The best way to ensure good posture and avoid injury is simply to use the backpack properly. This means that your student should always use both shoulder straps. Place the backpack on your student’s back when it is full. Now tighten the straps so that the weight is distributed evenly. The backpack should be positioned in the middle of the back. Using a waist strap reduces the pull on the shoulders by distributing weight to the hips. This is especially helpful on days when your student has a heavy load. Check the backpacks of younger students regularly to ensure that they are only carrying the essentials. Encourage your students to go through their backpacks regularly to remove any unnecessary items.
Telltale signs your student’s backpack is causing problems: • Students lean to one side when walking with a backpack • Students complain of back pain, neck pain or headaches • Students lean forward when walking with a backpack
Alternatives to backpacks If your students complain of back pain consider alternatives to the backpack. You can get a bag on wheels so that your student doesn’t have to carry a backpack or get a second set of textbooks to keep at home. Strengthening your student’s core muscles will help to support the heavy backpacks. You can ask your student’s gym teacher for exercises that help, start swimming or yoga or download exercise videos from the Internet.

How to make a study guide

It’s still the “dog days” but many High School and College students have summer reading assignments to do before classes start up again.   Well folks….it’s time to get up and get cracking on them.  Something that may help get you on track is to make a study guide.  Making a study guide means that you are organized and ready for the coming school year. This is a great way to practice for the rigours of college and work life when large workloads will overwhelm the unwary. Making a schedule means you never miss an assignment or forget a test and scheduled downtime can be enjoyed without that guilty feeling that you should be studying instead.
Choose your subjects wisely
Ensure that you take subjects that keep your career options open, but don’t put too much of a burden on you. It’s better to do a few things really well than a whole heap of stuff badly. Write down your subjects in order of difficulty. Always do the tough subjects and assignments first; that way you will have the easier tasks to look forward to.
Choose your medium
Find a way to make a schedule that works for you; use a smartphone app, make a poster in your room, use a whiteboard or make a spreadsheet on your laptop. Whatever you decide to do, it must be easily accessible, visible and adaptable. You will be updating your study schedule all the time, so make sure that you can do so easily.
Time yourself
Take a textbook from each subject and read a page. If you have subjects that require you to calculate answers or solve problems, time yourself on those too. Knowing how long it takes you to complete a page in the textbook will help you to accurately assign time to each task. You can now estimate how long it will take you to work your way through your textbook and assign time accordingly. A tutor can help you better manage your time.
Fill in assignments
This is a crucial step. No matter how hard you work, doing your assignments at the last minute is bound to end in disaster. Filling in the assignments will remind you when they are and how much time you have for each one. Fill in tests and exams as well.
Update regularly
After the first couple of weeks, re-evaluate your study schedule:
  • Is the medium you chose working for you?
  • Is it easy to make changes?
  • Do you forget to check your schedule? How can you make it more visible?
  • Do I need someone to help get me organized?
  • Do you need to allocate more or less time for tasks?
Tweaking your schedule will help you to improve it until you have a model that works best for you. Learning to expertly manage your workload is a valuable life skill that will reduce the stress and tension of not only your academic career, but your professional one too. Remember to take time out to socialize, relax and exercise. These activities are essential in combating stress and helping you to have a great year. Good luck!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Crickets, Books, and Bach: Develop a Summer Listening Program

Put together a summer listening program for your child. Listening is an engaging way to learn, so your child, may love listening to books and other written documents. Have them listen to music, stage plays, comedy routines, and other works. Point out background sounds such as the way the peppy tune on a sound track adds fun and humor to an adventure tale. Learning to listen is particularly helpful to children with learning disabilities.

An LD OnLine Exclusive!
Summer reading is as much a seasonal pastime as baseball and fireworks. Many parents put together a selection of books that are meaningful, educational, and engaging—books to nourish and stimulate young minds during these few freewheeling months.
Parents should consider assembling a summer listening list, too. When we think of literacy, we tend to think first of reading and writing. That's because for centuries, printed text has been the dominant means of recording and sharing information. Yet for most children, listening is really the first entry point into language—the cornerstone of learning and of cognitive development. In an age when kids are regular users of personal multimedia technologies, the importance of learning to listen and listening to learn is as great as ever.

The importance of learning to listen

Listening is an engaging way to learn, a primary approach to developing or strengthening reading strategies, and, in some cases, a necessary means to access information and knowledge. Listening media, such as audio books and text-to-speech, can be especially helpful to children with learning disabilities, such as those with dyslexia and attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) , who struggle with print-based learning, and central auditory processing disorder (CAPD), who may struggle to listen.
For such students well-chosen listening experiences can open up new vistas of learning, providing access to information and ideas previously 'hidden' in books and supporting the reading process itself. Such opportunities provide a powerful supplement or alternative to a reading program focused around printed text.
Research has shown that combining reading and listening through the use of audio books or text-to-speech programs improves the literacy skills of struggling readers, including those with learning disabilities. Reading comprehension, listening comprehension, phonological awareness and blending, and naming skills have shown to be improved with a combined reading-listening program. Listening while reading helps children learn the patterns of language, the obvious 'code' of letters and words on the page as well as less obvious codes, such as tone, nuance, and implied meaning. Brain imaging technologies show that when we listen, different parts of the brain are engaged than when we read—or even when we merely hear something. Listening can provide whole levels of information that are essential to determining the value and validity of a source. Teaching children to listen to tone of voice not only helps them develop reading skills but can help in the development of their social and conversational skills, too. (For more information, see Plato Revisited: Learning Through Listening in the Digital World by David Rose& Bridget Dalton, published by RFB&D.)
In addition to skill-building, children with learning disabilities may also find it easier to listen to books—more understanding is conveyed through voice than through words on the page. For example, in an article for LD Online, Ben Buchanan, a child with dyslexia, describes why he likes audio books so much: "When I listen to a book on tape, it is easier to understand jokes or puns, and other forms of humor in the book because I am not distracted by other words or things on the page (like a picture or other writing or a food stain). It is easier to understand more parts of the book when it is a book on tape because of the way the person says the words—they provide clues to the mood of the characters."
For children with Central Auditory Processing Disorders (CAPD) , structured listening experiences can support efforts to improve listening skills, especially when flexible media such as digital text or recorded text are used. C APD interferes with a hearing child's ability to make sense of information taken in through the ears. Children with CAPD may struggle to listen in noisy places, make sense of what they hear, sustain their attention on long spoken passages, and process nonverbal auditory stimuli, such as music. Children with CAPD may benefit from multi-sensory approaches, including listening while information is presented visually.

Assembling a summer listening program

In assembling a summer listening program, consider trying a variety of listening experiences. Read works that are written to be read—fiction and nonfiction prose—as well as works that are intended to be spoken—such as speeches, stage plays, musical theater, radio plays, and comedy routines. Point out the differences in each style, the rat-a-tat dialogue of a comedy routine or the long loping phrases of a novel. Listen to readings that are enhanced by music and sounds. Note the way that keys rattling and wind howling make a ghost story even creepier. Point out how the peppy tune on a soundtrack adds fun and humor to an adventure tale. (Of course, any summer listening program will want to include music all by itself—a little Beethoven, Beach Boys, or Beck to liven the program.)
Different media formats have their own advantages and disadvantages. Try them all. The National Center for Learning Disabilities (NCLD) suggests setting aside a little time every day to read to your children. For younger children, NCLD recommends that parents 'practice letter-sound correspondence, do lots of rhyming and clapping out syllables, and explore the relationship between oral language and print.'
Audio books are also an option that may have some advantages compared to one-on-one reading. For example, the use of audio books, especially with a headset, may help certain children concentrate more on their listening. They also have the option of slowing down or replaying certain passages, stop and reflect, and skip around within the 'text.' This gives the child control of her listening and allows her to adjust it to her particular learning needs and preferences. The child may be too embarrassed to ask for such help or may simply not think of it when listening to a parent or teacher. Children who may struggle to follow long spoken passages, remember key details, or process verbal and nonverbal information, including music, will benefit from having the opportunity to control how they listen.
Audio books in specialized formats are widely available to those with qualified print disabilities through organizations such as RFB&D and Bookshare; commercial audio books are available through public libraries and book retailers.
Another option is to use a computer to read aloud digital text in a synthetic voice. The best Text to Speech (TTS) tools can read digital content 'on the fly,' vastly expanding a child's options for reading.' Options include digital books, Web pages, email, and Word documents, including the child's own writing. Like audio books, digital text with TTS gives children control of their listening. They can adjust speed, voice qualities, and other factors to find what's right for them. More importantly, when digital text and sound are blended, additional support features can be added to enhance the learning experience. Digital texts can highlight words on the screen as they are read aloud, making it easier to follow the text and to link particular sounds with the words on the screen. Also, headphones can be used to minimize outside distraction and enhance concentration—a helpful feature for children with CAPD, ADHD, and other learning disabilities.
The drawback to using digital text with TTS is that TTS is still a poor model of oral language. No computer will read text with the same feeling and vibrancy that a human does. Words may be produced in a stream, with frequent mispronunciations and awkward phrasing. Still, TTS can be effective and liberating for many struggling readers and listeners. Give it a try.
Finally, don't forget the chirping of crickets … and the roar of motorcycles … and the splish-splash of children playing in the water. Point out the sounds of summer to your children. Raise their awareness of just how important active listening is. Listening is not simply an alternative—a lesser companion—to reading. It's a critical literacy all its own.
For more information about Learning Through Listening, including research, lessons, and ideas, visit

About the author

David Gordon is director of publishing and communications at CAST, a nonprofit organization that pioneers inclusive educational solutions based on Universal Design for Learning.

Gordon, D., (2007). Crickets, Books, and Bach: Develop a Summer Listening Program. Exclusive to LD OnLine.

Friday, July 13, 2012

6 Ways to encourage a love of reading in preschoolers

How To Raise A Bookworm 

Jul 09, 2012 1:47 AM by

It’s never too early to fall in love with reading. Help your little bookworms develop a lifelong love of reading with these simple tips.
mom reading chapter book with daughter

Read together every day

Encouraging a love of reading begins with making reading part of your everyday life. Children love to snuggle on the couch and listen to a good story. In fact, they may enjoy hearing their favorites over and over again. Don’t worry! This isn’t a waste of your time, even if you think your ears may bleed if you have to listen to The Cat in the Hat one more time. Repetition is a natural part of learning and helps reinforce your preschooler’s comprehension and vocabulary building. Choose a wide range of books to read to your child from nursery rhymes and timeless classics to lift-the-flap and touch-and-feel stories. The more you and your child interact with the book, the more everyone gains from the experience.

Play pre-reading games

Help your little ones get excited about reading by playing pre-reading games together. You can play some of the excellent store-bought games available like Cariboo, Zingo or Very Silly Sentences. Or make up your own games with alphabet puzzle cards, foam letters, lacing letters, alphabet magnets and more! Little children learn the most when they can get their whole bodies involved in the fun so try activities that keep them moving. Hide alphabet cards around the house and give your preschooler five minutes to find a group of letters. Draw your names in the sandbox. String necklaces with letter beads and name the letters as you go. Your kids will have so much fun, they won’t even realize how much they’re learning!

Write stories together

Spark your child’s creativity and encourage a lifelong love of reading by helping your little ones write their own storybooks. Children are the most creative storytellers, so grab the crayons and paper and let the fun begin. If your child is too young to write the story him or herself, have your child dictate the words while you write them down. Afterwards, let him or her illustrate each page with colorful drawings. Make sure to bind the story when you are finished (staples or ribbon will do the trick!) so that you can read it again and again.

Show your love of reading

Children learn best by example. At this age, they are like sponges absorbing the world around them. Want to teach a love of reading? Model the behavior yourself. Show your children how much fun reading can be by spending some of your free-time curled up with a good book or magazine.

Use your public library

Libraries have come a long way since our childhood. Nowadays, the children’s section in your public library is as entertaining as your local play area. With so many fun and educational toys, puzzles, books and games, your children will love coming to the library. Be sure to take advantage of storytime where your children will hear new stories, sing songs and do crafts. Afterwards, give your preschooler his or her own book bag to fill to the brim with new reading treasures for the week ahead.

Establish a family read-aloud

Bring the magic and power of literature into your home. Instead of turning on the boob tube at night, try establishing a family read-aloud. Little ones can play with Lego blocks or draw pictures while they listen, while older children may enjoy just focusing on the story. Consider picking longer chapter books so that your kids will look forward to a new installment each night. GoodReads has an excellent selection of fun family read-alouds that everyone in your family will enjoy.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

8 reasons to make time for family dinner

By Sarah Klein,
 Don't let scheduling conflicts interrupt the tradition of sitting down to dinner with your family.
( -- Soccer practices, dance rehearsals, playdates, and other scheduling conflicts make family mealtime seem like a thing of the past. Suddenly, we're feeding our kids breakfast bars during the morning commute, sneaking 100-calorie packs at our desks, and grabbing dinner at the drive-thru window.
Despite the feeling that there's no time for such luxuries, 59% of families report eating dinner together at least five times a week -- an increase from only 47% in 1998, according to the Importance of Family Dinner IV, a report from the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University.
If you're finding it difficult to get together with your family at the dinner table, here's a little inspiration.
Supper can be a stress reliever
Believe it or not, if you have a demanding job, finding time to eat with your family may actually leave you feeling less stressed.
In 2008, researchers at Brigham Young University conducted a study of IBM workers and found that sitting down to a family meal helped working moms reduce the tension and strain from long hours at the office. (Interestingly, the effect wasn't as pronounced among dads.) Alas, the study didn't take into account the stress of rushing to get out of the office, picking up the kids, and getting a meal on the table.
Kids might learn to love their veggies
A 2000 survey found that the 9- to 14-year-olds who ate dinner with their families most frequently ate more fruits and vegetables and less soda and fried foods. Their diets also had higher amounts of many key nutrients, like calcium, iron, and fiber.
Family dinners allow for both "discussions of nutrition [and] provision of healthful foods," says Matthew W. Gillman, M.D., the survey's lead researcher and the director of the Obesity Prevention Program at the Harvard Medical School.
It's the perfect setting for new foods
A family meal is the perfect opportunity for parents to expose children to different foods and expand their tastes.
In a 2003 study in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, children were offered some pieces of sweet red pepper and asked to rate how much they liked it. Then, each day for the next eight school days, they were invited to eat as much of the pepper as they wanted. On the final day, the kids were again asked to rate how much they liked it.
By the end of the experiment, the children rated the pepper more highly and were eating more of it -- even more so than another group of children who were offered a reward for eating the pepper. These results suggest that a little more exposure and a little less "You can leave the table once you finish your broccoli!" will teach kids to enjoy new foods, even if they don't like them at first.
You control the portions
Americans spend more than 40% of their food budget on meals outside of the home. Eating out can be convenient but it's also caloric -- portion sizes in restaurants just keep growing! The average restaurant meal has as much as 60% more calories than a homemade meal. Studies show that when we are presented with more food, we eat more food, possibly leading to our expanding waistlines.
Healthy meals mean healthy kids
Studies have shown that kids who eat with their families frequently are less likely to get depressed, consider suicide, and develop an eating disorder. They are also more likely to delay sex and to report that their parents are proud of them. When a child is feeling down or depressed, family dinner can act as an intervention.
This is especially true of eating disorders, says Dianne Neumark-Sztainer, Ph.D., a professor at the University of Minnesota's School of Public Health, who has studied the impact of family meal patterns on adolescents. "If a child eats with his or her parents on a regular basis, problems will be identified earlier on," she says.

Family dinners help kids "just say no"
Eating family dinners at least five times a week drastically lowers a teen's chance of smoking, drinking, and using drugs. Teens who have fewer than three family dinners a week are 3.5 times more likely to have abused prescription drugs and to have used illegal drugs other than marijuana, three times more likely to have used marijuana, more than 2.5 times more likely to have smoked cigarettes, and 1.5 times more likely to have tried alcohol, according to the CASA report.
"While substance abuse can strike any family, regardless of ethnicity, affluence, age, or gender, the parental engagement fostered at the dinner table can be a simple, effective tool to help prevent [it]," says Elizabeth Planet, one of the report's researchers, and the center's vice president and director of special projects.
Better food, better report card
Of teens who eat with their family fewer than three times a week, 20% get C's or lower on their report cards, according to the CASA report. Only 9% of teens who eat frequently with their families do this poorly in school.
Family meals give children an opportunity to have conversations with adults, as well as to pick up on how adults are using words with each other, which may explain why family dinnertime is also thought to build a child's vocabulary.
Put a little cash in your pocket
In 2007, the average household spent $3,465 on meals at home, and $2,668 on meals away from home, according to the national Consumer Expenditure Survey from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
When you take into consideration that the $2,668 spent on meals away from home only accounts for about 30% of meals (according to historical data), that's about $8 per meal outside of the home, and only about $4.50 per each meal made in your own kitchen. You do the math!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

What Teachers Want Your Child to Know

What Teachers Want Your Child to Know

The social and emotional development milestones teachers expect of children.
By Karen Levine
via Reader's Digest website

Teachers have academic goals for each grade, of course, but many parents aren’t aware that there are also some important expectations for our children’s social and emotional development. If your child meets those expectations around the same time as others in her class, she’ll likely do better. If she doesn’t, she may have trouble keeping up with the rest of the group. Knowing what teachers expect from grade to grade will help you figure out whether your child might need some extra help and how to work with her teacher to provide it.
Kindergarten: Getting in Step
Emerging independence For some children, kindergarten marks the first big separation from their family. They have to be able to cope with the events of any given day — both disappointments and triumphs — on their own, put the urge to see Mom or Dad or a familiar baby-sitter on hold, become more self-reliant and learn to turn to adults other than their parentss for help.
Learning to be part of a group Sitting in a circle, standing in a line and working with other kids to build a block town are part of a typical kindergarten day. These activities are not as easy for children as they seem to the rest of us. They require many social skills, such as being able to compromise and to control the impulse to shout or jump up whenever they feel like it.
Staying on task In preschool, kids can start coloring a picture and move on to building with blocks when their interest wanes. But in kindergarten, they begin learning to stay with a task until it’s finished. Very short, focused activities, such as tracing numbers or telling a story, are designed to help kids do that.
First Grade: More Serious Stuff
Stronger task focus The ability to complete a task is even more important now than it was in kindergarten because in most schools first grade is the year instruction in reading and understanding numbers begins. This requires an ability to focus on serious work that may not always be fun. Even smart children may fall behind if they can’t focus in this way or become easily frustrated.
Responding to authority First-graders are expected to listen when it’s required, wait their turn and do what their teacher asks. The atmosphere in kindergarten is more lenient. But first-grade teachers have much more academic work to cover. For kids, that means more sitting down, more listening and more self-control are necessary.
Seeing their place in the world First-graders are beginning to see themselves and their families in a wider context and recognize differences and similarities. At this stage, your child is likely to discover a passionate “best” friend who is “just like” him. Bear in mind that these intense friendships may last anywhere from an hour to a year.
Second Grade: Learning to Think
Becoming more abstract and conceptual Second-graders are just beginning to think in an abstract way. Rather than always manipulating objects in order to do math — counting marbles, for example — they should begin to think about numbers in their heads.
Problem solving Most teachers expect second-graders to start using problem-solving skills: being able to think about a problem, come up with possible solutions, evaluate them and choose one to try. Teachers assume children will use these skills both in academic work like math and in dealing with other kids. Those who are good at problem solving usually get along much better in school.
Third and Fourth Grade: Good Work
Academic polish By now it’s no longer enough for your child just to complete a task; how good a job she’s done is also important. Teachers want to see work that’s neatly written, math that’s been checked for errors, and reports that are well organized and well presented.
Planning ahead Children start learning to keep track of long-range assignments in late third grade and fourth grade. A spelling test every Friday means doing a bit of studying each night. A report due in two weeks means mapping out a step-by-step plan. As most parents learn, this ability doesn’t come as naturally to our kids as procrastination seems to. Often we don’t recognize how much they need our help to develop thinking-ahead strategies.
Cultivating camaraderie Children begin to have a strong sense of themselves in relation to the group, as in “I’m a sports kind of kid, and so are my friends.” Trouble may arise if your child has difficulty finding something in common with his other classmates.
Fifth and Sixth Grade: Peer Power
Peer pressure By this age children have developed a huge need to conform, so peer pressure can have a big impact — both positive and negative — on school performance. Many children become so distracted by social issues that academic responsibilities take a back seat or get lost in the day-to-day social shuffle.
Changeable moods Typically students are happy one day, miserable the next, love school one day, hate it the day after. A best friend changes to a worst enemy overnight. All this moodiness takes a toll on life in school just as it does on the family at home — for some kids worse than others. Many teachers rely on a fairly structured class environment to counterbalance kids’ internal chaos, with quizzes every Friday, homework every Tuesday and Thursday, and so on.
Study skills Being able to study effectively for tests, apportion study time appropriately and keep track of long-range assignments are now highly important. Can students always do it? Of course not.
Being organized In many schools these grades mark the beginning of departmentalization. Students may start to move around from classroom to classroom and have more than one teacher for different subjects. Many kids react to this shift by becoming even more disorganized and distracted than they were before: forgotten homework, lunches, jackets and shoes (yes, shoes!). They may also panic about tests that they forgot to study for. Make a special effort to stay on top of your child until you’re sure she’s got the hang of the new routine.

Online Reading Games For Kids


Whether you're looking to fight summer brain drain or are just looking for a way to sneak in learning when you give your kids screen time, these online reading games tackle phonics, sharpen vocabulary use and encourage reading. From free online games from well-known sources of education like PBS Kids to games featuring your child's favorite Looney Tunes characters, check out these free online games your kids will love (but will actually teach them to read)!

Preschool reading games

1 stars like Caillou and Jay Jay the Jet Plane make reading fun with free online games that use phonics and spelling, geared towards refining your children's reading skills. The site also features games by the electric company that are geared towards kids six to nine years old.
2 reading games for kids ages three to six years old. Phonics, spelling and vocabulary are the focus in these fun games for your youngest learner.
3 offers educational iPhone apps like Preschool: 15 in 1, sightwords and ABC Magic Phonics to make it easy to keep your preschoolers occupied on your iPhone or iPad on the go -- and get them on the track to learning.
>> Discover 7 ways to foster reading skills in baby

Online reading games for kids

Scholastic, the trusted source for books and educational materials, isn't all about books. The company's website offers free online reading games for kids, like the I Can Read game.
5 offers games focused on language arts skills, including reading, writing and typing. You can keep kids occupied on the go, too, with the website's mobile version on your cell phone.
6 was created as an online learning took for kids grades K to five, focused on the at-risk student. Games are designed to not only help kids sharpen their reading skills, but have fun in the process to keep their interest.
7<img style= isn't just for preschoolers. The site also has free online reading games that focus on reading for older kids.
8 is the perfect way to give your kids from Kindergarten through third grade face time with Bugs Bunny and the entire Looney Tunes gang while encouraging them to read. Focused on phonics, this online environment is free to try, but requires a monthly, six-month or annual subscription.
>> Before your kiddo hits the classroom, learn how to get a head start on Kindergarten reading

Reading games for tweens and teens

9 isn't just for social butterflies. With Facebook apps, you won't mind if your tween or teen gets addicted to reading games like Scramble and Word Twist.
10 isn't only good for searching -- it's a portal for fun. Tweens and teens will love what they learn when tackling word game challenges like Text Twist and Scrabble-style games like Paradise Island.
In addition to letting your children play online reading games for kids, reading every night with your youngster is the best way to help him brush up on his reading skills. Can't get to the library or bookstore? Head online to your child's favorite author's website, like Beverly Cleary, author of Ramona books, Percy Jackson, author Rick Riordan, or the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series to read digital books, excerpts and play free online games featuring the author's famous characters. Because when you uncover free online games your kids will love (but will teach them to read!), your kids will be so focused on fun they won't realize they're learning

Free Games For Kids

Feb 05, 2010 10:21 AM by
Even your kids have discovered the treasure trove that is the Internet, and they want to have their fun online just like the rest of us. But while you might enjoy spending an afternoon catching up on your favorite blogs, your kids are probably just looking for a few good games. Help them out by steering them to some of the best free online games that are appropriate for them to play.
Your best bet is to start at reputable Web sites and check out the games featured there. The longer you can keep your child within the relatively safe world of Disney, Nick Jr., and PBS Kids, the better. Here's a quick look at some of the options from these and similar sites.

Fisher Price Games

Fisher Price claims to have games for infants, toddlers, and preschoolers, but don't count on your baby playing quietly on her own. These games are designed for the two of you to play together, to help encourage interaction with your child. They are cute, though, and designed to entertain a small child on your lap.

Sesame Street Games

You can find plenty for toddlers and preschoolers at Sesame Street Games. If you have an Elmo fan, you're in luck, because the furry red monster stars in many of these activities. You'll still need to be an active participant, but you may actually enjoy some of these games. The first hundred times, anyway.

Nick Jr. Games

Games at Nick Jr. are designed for the youngest players, but they will still need your help. Most kids don't have the dexterity to manipulate the mouse, and even the games designed for kids' ages 2 to 4 can be a little confusing. But, at this age, computer time is really more of a joint activity, anyway.

Disney Channel Games Online

You'll find over 120 games here, conveniently categorized by show or movie. Disney puts an enormous amount of research into these games, so your job is easy: look for the title of your child's favorite show, and check out the game offerings. Most of these games are best for late elementary kids and older.

Real Arcade Games

Older kids will enjoy these arcade-style games played on the free downloadable player. One caveat: you will undoubtedly need to limit your child's time on these games, because they are ridiculously addictive.
Online games can be a great way to pass the time when the weather is cold or rainy. But as with TV time, limit exposure to what you think is reasonable. And think of computer time as a way to interact with your child, rather than an electronic babysitter.

6 Ways to encourage a love of reading in preschoolers

Jul 09, 2012 1:47 AM by

Monday, July 9, 2012

Preparing for College
Getting ready for tertiary college is a process you should start late in your high school career. Learning to be independent and study on your own, how to think critically and be motivated to succeed are all valuable skills you need to master prior to leaving College.jpghigh school. During the summer before you leave to go to college or university, there is much you can do to ensure that you are ready.

Brush up on skills you did not do well on in the final exams. If your math, science or English skills need work, it’s best to brush up during the summer vacation. Getting a tutor is the most effective way to do this. A tutor can work at your pace and provide help in the areas that you need to improve rather than covering stuff you already know. A tutor can really help to shore up your foundations in preparation for college. Remember that college and university curriculums move at a blistering pace. You will have so much more work to do than you did in high school and there will be no time to play catch-up. Working through the summer also keeps you in study mode and will make the transition to college seamless.

Study Methods
You must be able to study independently and consistently. There is just far too much work to cram before exams and students who have not got great study habits will soon find themselves floundering. If you need help with your study methods, consult a tutor. Tutors will help to find a study method that suits your way of learning and your personality. Tutors can also help with ways to improve your memory, create study schedules and monitor your progress.

Cooking skills
If you are eating in the cafeteria, then you have little to worry about. However, if you intend to do some of your own cooking, it’s a really great idea to master a few basic dishes over the summer. Ensure that you know how to make easy, quick, delicious and nutritious meals that are cost effective. Along with your cooking skills you should also need to brush up on cleaning and laundry.

Get set
Get a credit card for emergencies, a first aid kit and a list of important phone numbers like hospitals, doctors and dentists in your new area. Contact your new roommates and get to know them prior to moving day. Log on to and check out all your new teachers.

And go
Travel to your college town prior to moving there. Download the GPS maps and walk around town to orient yourself. Make notes of important places like shops, coffee shops etc. Do the same with your campus. Knowing where you are going is really a huge help when settling in.

Stress, Learning and Kids

Mom's Homeroom ™Stress, Learning and Kids -- Mom's Homeroom -- © Corbis/SuperStockBy Elaine Porterfield

It's time to put pencil to paper on the math test, and suddenly your third-grader can't recall any of her four times tables ... or the sevens. Her breathing gets shallow, her shoulders tighten and her body floods with stress hormones.

Later, when she hands you the test with fully a third of the problems left undone, all she can tearfully say is, "I couldn't remember anything. There wasn't anything in my mind."

Ah, stress. At its best, it can help kids reach new levels of performance — to play an instrument at a recital better than they've ever done in practice, or to swim a race faster than they ever have before. "We cannot eliminate stress from our lives," says Adelle Cadieux, Ph.D., a pediatric psychologist at the Helen DeVos Children's Hospital in Grand Rapids, Michigan. "And it's not that stress is all bad. In fact, it is kind of good for us to have some stress."

Positive stress helps kids grow and learn and develop, physically, academically and even socially, Cadieux says. And it can come from unexpected sources. "Having a birthday party, even though it's fun, can cause stress — 'Who is going to come?' 'Will they like the games?'" Cadieux says. She adds that learning how to deal with stress and keep it in perspective is an ideal growth opportunity.

But when stress doesn't let up or feels uncontrollable, it can have a negative impact, Cadieux and other experts say, causing a cascade of ill effects that can cause a child's brain to simply shut down, making both learning and performance tough.

That means when your child attempts to solve those multiplication questions on a test, stress can keep her from being able to easily retrieve key facts from her memory, says Dr. Andrea Weiner, a child and family therapist and childhood social and emotional skills expert.

"All kinds of research show stress can affect us physically," explains Weiner, whose latest book is entitled More Than Saying I Love You: 4 Powerful Steps That Help Children Love Themselves.

"When we feel anxiety, we are being overwhelmed by stress hormones — that fight-or-flight feeling," she says. "We're now dealing with being overwhelmed. We almost feel like we can't think straight."

Weiner says that over time, constant, unrelieved stress profoundly affects a child's ability to learn and retain information by blocking the brain's ability to move facts and ideas from short-term to long-term memory. "They can't concentrate or focus," Weiner says.

Chicago-area psychologist and physical therapist Elizabeth Lombardo, Ph.D., sees plenty of stressed-out kids suffering academic issues because of their anxiety. Children today face stress on a level unknown by their parents, she believes.

"We've all heard about parents trying to get their kids into 'the right' preschool so they'll get into Harvard," says Lombardo, who specializes in helping adults and children overcome stress to have happier lives. She's constantly struck by how many high-level activities are stuffed into the lives of kids these days — not just rec league soccer, for example, but select soccer with traveling meets. Not just school band, but youth symphony. Not just games with friends, but state spelling bee competitions.

She understands the impulse of parents to load up their kids with opportunities to learn and improve, but questions how they sometimes go about it. "They love their kids and want them to have the best advantages," Lombardo says. "The problem is that the way we're doing it is not always helpful. How many extracurricular activities can you shove into 24 hours?"

And for many kids that means stress, which can cause the exact issues parents are trying to avoid: impaired learning and general unhappiness. Even when they enjoy activities, trying to learn and keep up with several at once can simply overwhelm them, Lombardo says. It can also affect their sleep, which in turn can affect their memory.

"When we are stressed, we don't get enough hours of sleep. And obviously, stress affects how much sleep we get," Lombardo says. "But it's vital to memory — storing memories, grabbing memories and recalling them — and this obviously affects academic performance."

When stress-related problems crop up, parents need to examine their children's schedules and their own expectations and determine whether there's a disconnect. "I think it's important we take a step back — is the motivation behind [activities] positive?" Lombardo says. "You need to do problem-solving, listening. You, ultimately, are the parent."

Listen to the messages your child is sending you — and not just the verbal ones. Are sleep problems cropping up? Irritability? Is your child expressing more anger than is warranted in a given situation, or simply more anger in general? If so, maybe it's time for a talk.

Ask if there are any problems with peers, and be alert for the possibility of bullying. Flat-out ask your child if there are too many activities in his life, or if the activities are still enjoyable, Cadieux says. Use your common sense: Are the activities ramping up demands faster than you sense your child is comfortable with or able to keep pace with? Is a youth coach asking too much of the kids? Trust your gut. There's no shame in quitting an activity for a time and coming back to it later, when your child's development may be a better match for the physical and mental skills required, Cadieux says.

It always bears repeating, says Lombardo: Make sure your child has plenty of unstructured physical activity, like walking, bike riding, jumping rope, dancing around the house or simply hitting the playground with a friend. If this means you'll have to do the activity with your child, great — you'll both benefit.

With younger children especially, keep a tight, tight rein on the use of social media, Weiner says. Younger kids do not need to text, and they do not need to be on Facebook. Impulse control is still very much developing through elementary and middle school (and beyond, as any parent of a teenager can tell you!). In addition, model stress control by turning off your own cell phone, television and computer for at least one hour in the evening.

And don't forget to use your listening skills to figure out what's at the heart of a problem. Kids, even younger ones, can tell you revealing details if you let them talk, Lombardo says, giving an example: "If I'm stressed out and don't believe in myself, why should I study for this really hard test if I'm stupid?"

A statement like that gives parents the opportunity to help a child develop less drastic, more accurate thoughts, she says.

"Brains are magnificent and will come up with evidence for our beliefs," Lombardo says.  "'Nobody wants to play with me or pick me for dodge ball.' 'Nobody likes me.' 'I wear the wrong clothes.' 'I'm not tall enough.' I help parents to teach [their children] how to question their untrue thoughts. We look at these thoughts like we have a lie detector test — 'How do you know it's true?'"

Parents should then challenge a child to come up with alternatives to the untrue thoughts, Lombardo says. "Tell them, 'Give me three reasons people would want to play with you.' It might be, 'I am a nice person.' 'I'm good at the sport.' 'People usually play with me.' This allows the child to have new, truer thoughts and less stress."

Is My Child Dyslexic? 9 Warning Signs

Is My Child Dyslexic? 9 Warning Signs By Jenny Paradise
During the years of learning to read and write, it is common for kids to mix-up new words and letters. Young minds routinely twist a “b” into a “d” or a “g” into a “q”—it's a natural part of the learning process. But when could these innocent slip-ups signal a deeper issue, like dyslexia?
According to the International Dyslexia Association (IDA), 1 in 10 people show symptoms of this learning disability. Signs such as slow or inaccurate reading, poor spelling, difficulty writing and mixing up similar words can be common in tired, overworked adults, but what about our children? Here are some red flags that could signal your child is struggling.
  • Difficulty learning to speak. The occasional swap of “aminal” for “animal” may sound cute, but consistent trouble communicating, after repeated practice, could signal a problem.
  • Trouble learning letters and their sounds. Phonemic issues, or having trouble associating words with the sounds they make, is one of the most common indications of dyslexia.
  • Difficulty organizing written and spoken language. Words and letters are often jumbled in the minds of dyslexic children, making it much harder to read and write.
  • Trouble memorizing number facts. Phone numbers and addresses can be tricky to learn at first, but if repeated practice doesn't make the numbers stick, it could indicate a disability.
  • Difficulty reading quickly enough to comprehend. If your little reader is reading too slowly to understand the material, that is a red flag.
  • Trouble persisting with and comprehending longer reading assignments. Understanding what you read is crucial to classroom success, and a disability may be keeping your child from getting the information he needs.
  • Difficulty spelling. Since dyslexic kids frequently confuse the letters in a word, such as reading “own” as “won,” they will have much more trouble spelling than their peers unaffected by the disability.
  • Trouble learning a foreign language. It is much easier for a child to pick up the fundamentals of a new language, so if your little one struggles to become bilingual, it may be a sign of a deeper problem.
  • Difficulty correctly doing math operations. Issues remembering basic number facts and sequences—referred to as dyscalculia—is sometimes brushed aside as common forgetfulness.
Not all children who suffer from these issues on occasion are dyslexic, but if your child is plagued by any of these problems, he should be tested for the condition. Reading, language, and writing tests, administered by a professional, is the only way to confirm a dyslexic diagnosis—and let you know it's time to work on solutions that will ease his frustration.

Monday, July 2, 2012

What’s your summer parenting style?

Should summer break be about R&R, hitting the books, or something in between? Identify your summer style – and how you can make it work to your kids’ advantage.

By Jacquie Goetz Bluethmann

What’s your summer style?

School’s out! Go ahead, take a deep breath and bask in the glow of another school year completed. But then what? As summer kicks in — and you find yourself juggling childcare, financial, academic, and entertainment concerns — which of these four summer parenting styles will you follow in the weeks between now and the first day of school?

Read full article

Parenting Cyber-Kids: Knowing How to Monitor Their Online Activity


Posted: March 15th, 2012 by Michele Borba

Tips  shared on the TODAY show to help parents monitor their  kids online behavior to boost Internet safety and curb inappropriate online activity.

Read full article