First Letter in My Name Collage

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This game is not only great for building an awareness of letters and a child’s name (often the first word your child will be able to write), but it also builds vocabulary and self-awareness.

First, I had ten pictures printed up of Veronika. I thought she might be mildly interested in seeing herself, but the game turned out to be quite eye-opening. As I showed her each picture and said, “Who’s that?” she proceeded to tell me everything she saw in the picture except herself. She used words for everything from our cat in the background to what she was holding (“quack!” “lion!”) to what she was wearing (“heart! “coat!” shoes!” “socks!”).

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But she never said “me” or “Veronika” no matter how I prompted her.

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Once we’d gone through the photos, I arranged them in a V on the floor. “V for Veronika!” I said. Again I pointed to her while saying her name.

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And still she insisted on narrating the rest of the pictures to me! I know she knows her name and her reflection in the mirror, so it was fascinating to see that she was least interested in this aspect of the pictures. At least we learned a little about the letter V!

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For a more permanent version, tape the photos up to the wall, and your child can return to the visual again and again.

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Learn Language Through Play

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Veronika is adding so many new words daily, so I’m constantly thinking about ways to build her vocabulary as we play. Here’s a round-up of a few ideas we enjoy!

One option is to set out toys that lend themselves easily to open-ended play. Blocks, for example, are obvious candidates to talk about color and shape. But the more ways you play with them, the more your child’s vocab will expand. First we built towers, using words like taller and shorter, or “building up” and “falling down”.

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“All the way to the top!” she says as we build, one of her first full sentences.

But then those same blocks become something else. “Let’s build a farm!” I said. Now we could talk about all the animals in the farm, or the word “fence”.

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Don’t be afraid using fancy synonyms, like “enclosure”!

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Now she was “inside” the farm, instead of “outside”.

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Another idea to encourage words is to keep toys just out of reach. Now she has to ask for something by name.

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“Hot tea!” she says, when she wants her tea set down. Don’t forget to encourage “please” and “thank you”. Veronika proudly asked for her little garden of felt veggies next, also ripe with opportunities for new words (carrot, radish, turnip).

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Although a bit advanced, I’m also looking for ways to build up her verbs, which tend to come a bit later than nouns. For this game, we colored in pictures of a few ocean animals first, which in and of itself added to her vocab (crab! dolphin!).

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Then I talked to her about how each animal moves, whether clapping like a seal or sidling like a crab.

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Older toddlers will probably really enjoy acting these out!

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Don’t be afraid to add “science” words, too. One of my all-time favorite games for this age is a toddler volcano, a simplified version of the baking soda and vinegar models for bigger kids. In this version, just use a mound of playdough as the volcano. Poke an indent into the center and fill with baking soda. Vinegar makes the magic happen.

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Veronika was soon parroting back words like “volcano” and “explosion” to me. “Lava” might not really mean anything to her now, but this is how it all begins.

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A final great trick to build vocab? Invest in a beginner Brain Quest deck.

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Although billed for ages 2 to 3, I love to read to the Veronika from the deck more like it’s a story. By the time she’s a little older, she’ll be answering the questions.

Ping-Pong Pop Up Bath

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The kids have just started to take a bath together, a big milestone around here now that Veronika is okay to sit in deeper water. This bath game is one that a toddler and kindergartner will both love!

Simply fill the tub, add soft ping-pong balls (or golf balls), and watch them pop up! No matter how the kids pushed, the balls always popped back to the surface.

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This is pure simple fun. Push it down…

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…watch it pop up!

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We tried it with one ball at a time, or with multiples, which got a big laugh.

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Veronika also discovered she could put them in our rinsing cup and pour them out. The balls might have bobbed below the surface for a moment, but they always popped right back up again!

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Consider this game any night you want to make bath time feel special with almost no effort.

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Power-Up Pancakes

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For a kid who recently learned all about circuits and electricity, getting to use an appliance for his own snack today was a big thrill. Add to the electric fun of this recipe by decorating it with a “light bulb”!

First, we needed to reheat a pancake. I showed Travis how to slot it into the toaster, and then carefully press down the button. Of course in doing so he completed a circuit!

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To top the pancake, slice the sides from a pear. I asked Travis which one looked most like a light bulb to him, and we used orange marmalade to “glue” his selection on to the pancake. (Alternatively, use apricot jam or any other “light” colored jelly).

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Slivered almonds made the perfect decoration for shining light along the sides and bottom of the bulb.

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