DIY Lift the Flap Book

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If your toddler is at all like Veronika, then a) any lift-the-flap books you have in the house are dearly loved and b) the flaps have all been torn apart! Here’s a simple hack to make your own lift the flap book. All you need are post-its and board books.

Any kind of “First Words” book works particularly well for this game since there are lots of individual pictures to cover up. Technically, though, you could play it with any book on your child’s shelf!

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For variety, I left some of the post-it notes as full squares, and cut others into smaller squares or rectangles.

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Now simply let your child turn the pages (working those fine motor skills) and talk about the pictures he or she discovers as each post-it is ripped off (working those language skills)!

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A note of caution: You might want to avoid books that make noises. Veronika was so sidetracked by a cat meowing that she lost interest in the flaps for a while!

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But once she discovered the post-it notes could be pulled off, they were a hit.

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Plus she figured out they could double as “stickers“.

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This was a simple and novel way to engage a reluctant reader at storytime, and I highly recommend it.

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Drive Home Reading

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This activity is the advanced version of an alphabet parking lot I made for Travis back when he was in pre-school! Now he’s fast learning his sight words in Kindergarten, and I was so proud watching him drive up to the “parking spaces” I created today.

Lay out a long sheet of craft paper and draw rectangular parking spaces. I filled the spaces with common sight words, using only about ten words to start. I set out an assortment of Travis’s cars and called him over.

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“I love this game!” he said, remembering the alphabet version. I took over as the announcer, asking, “Can the orange car drive to the parking spot that says ‘in’ please,” and so on.

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It only took him a moment to scan through and find each word, which showed me he’s growing quite comfortable with these sight words.

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Of course we needed to park a silly Lego in the final space.

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He loved it so much, he immediately asked, “Can we play again!” So I quickly created a second parking lot adjacent to our first.

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He very seriously drove all the cars over. I added a few slightly tougher words, now, including “down” and “here”. That didn’t slow Travis down here in the slightest!

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Soon every car was parked. He even wanted a third round, which I didn’t have time for! I promised him a new lot, soon.

Flashlight Word Game

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Travis can make his way through a few early phonics books, and although I’m not quite ready to call him a “reader”, I know he’s on the cusp. This cute bedtime game can hopefully tip him towards that edge!

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I wrote out a list of sight words on brightly colored construction paper, and taped them in a pattern along our playroom wall. (Note: you can also make this an “upstairs” game for right before bed, but since I knew we’d want to play after baby sister was asleep, I kept the game downstairs).

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There are several ways we played the game, all of which boost Travis’s sight reading! In the first version, I shined the flashlight on a word and he had to read it.

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Then it was his turn to challenge mommy! He shined the light, and laughed if I pretended to have a hard time with a word.

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For extra literacy fun, have your child first read the word, then put it in a full sentence. This is great for sight words like ‘for’ and ‘four’, or ‘two’ and ‘to’.

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Finally, you can play a sort of reverse version, calling out a word and then having your child find it with the flashlight.

Little sibs might want to play, too, and can look for letters instead of reading full words!

 

Make a Story Time Fort

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It’s hard to get Veronika to sit still with a book, especially at bedtime when we try to fit in a story between dinner and bath.

But not so when I made this fort! She was content inside for ages with a pile of books.

To make the fort, move your sofa from the wall to create a space large enough for you and your little one (alternatively, you can make the fort under a dining room table). I layered the floor with cozy blankets and pillows.

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Drape a sheet over the back of the couch and secure with shoes or books. Then head inside!

Veronika scooted it in and was immediately delighted.

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I gave her a pile of books, and soon she was thumbing through them and “reading” to herself.

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Of course then it was time to join her and read a few books for real.

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You can even add a flashlight to highlight pages or words. Once the book was through, I retreated to the side of the fort and let her take over, crawling on the pillows, enjoying her books, and reaching up for the beautifully draped ceiling.

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We probably would have stayed in longer except the cat eventually ruined the “roof”!

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Environmental Print

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In the final week of summer, Travis undertook a multi-part assignment to search for the print all around us: on food labels, on street signs, on toys, etc. Such words, known as “environmental print” can be great first sight words for pre-readers, and can encourage kids to learn!

So after concentrating on a letter a day for a little while, the idea now was for Travis to spot and notice full words.

Travis made a collection over a few days, pulling labels from food boxes at home and noticing signs around town.

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Great early sight words include STOP on a red hexagon, the “One Way” of a black and white arrows, or stores your child knows by name.

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Next up, I asked Travis to sort the print we had found. We had two main categories: street signs and food labels. Feel free to add multiple categories though, depending what your child has seen!

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A further great exercise was adding them to the pages of his Alphabet Dictionary.

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This was great both for recognizing the opening letter of each word and for sounding it out. He rightly noted that Fig Newmans could have gone on the “F” page or the “N” page!

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Finally,you can make a few “puzzles” by cutting some of the larger labels into pieces.

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If you are able to make copies of photos or have double of certain food labels, you could even turn it into a game of Memory.

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How else could your child play with “environmental print? Please share in the comments!

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Sight Word Tower

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It doesn’t seem possible, but summer is over and school starts tomorrow! That meant it was time to culminate Travis’s summer sight word practice with one final fun activity.

I wrote each word from our index cards onto the top of a paper cup.

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I challenged Travis to build the cups into towers – any way he chose! – but as he worked, he had to say the word on that cup.

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Not only was this a neat building challenge, but I was able to pinpoint which words still gave him pause.

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The activity is so simple but so beneficial, we’ll keep these cups on hand for the school year!

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Plus it became a race to see if he could blurt the correct word before the resident menace (baby sister) came over to knock down his towers.

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Alphabet Dictionary

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As with playing Letter Detective, here’s an activity you can do with your child over the course 26 days. We ended up taking a short-cut (read on for why!) but Travis really enjoyed the process.

To start, I made a “book” with a printed letter of the alphabet glued onto colorful construction paper for each page. Hole punch these and tie together with yarn.

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Each day, Travis drew something beginning with the assigned letter on its page. Then we went through stacks of fun stickers and added anything that started with that letter.

“A” received an apple drawing, as well as apple and alligator stickers on the first day.

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He was so excited to get a second chance to comb through the sticker packs on day #2, and found bananas, bunnies, and buses for “B”.

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Plus drew a “bagel”!

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After a few days of focusing only on one letter per day, I realized Travis was frustrated finding stickers he couldn’t use yet. So instead, I laid out all the printable pages for him, and a whole pack of stickers, and made it a free-for-all.

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Well wouldn’t you know he loved it! “Thanks for buying all these stickers!” he declared, happily stickering all over, occasionally asking me where one belonged.

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Based on the sticker themes in our set, we had some letters that received lots (S for stars, T for trains) and some with relatively few.

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We got a little creative; our E page was covered in “emotions” from emoticon stickers.

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Another idea is to supplement with pictures cut out of magazines. One way or another, Travis was very proud of his “dictionary.”

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It was a great phonetic addition to the tracing and modeling we’ve done throughout the summer.

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I would say this boy is kindergarten ready!

Sight Word Bean Bag Toss

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Travis is struggling a bit with the 40 sight words we’re working on over the summer, and grows impatient just sitting and looking at flashcards. So I switched things up! For this game, I used just 12 very basic words and then moved us outside and turned the sight words into a sport: beanbag toss, that is!

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I made a 3 x 4 rectangular grid out of chalk on the patio and wrote in the 12 words.

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I handed Travis a beanbag and told him that the goal was to toss it into a square. For each one he landed in, he had to shout out the word.

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It was helpful for him that I took turns, too. He could hear me reiterate any word that he might have already landed on, making it ever more familiar. Or sometimes I aimed for ones I knew were particular tricky for him, like ‘the’.

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By the end, he was quick with some he has struggled over previously, like ‘up’ and the ‘in/is/it’ trio. We’ll be playing this one again!

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Book Swap

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Reading is now a nightly part of Veronika’s routine; here at two months old, she finally has a real “bedtime”! But the same few baby books can become old hat rather quickly, even after only a few weeks. We’ve had a heavy rotation of black & white-themed books for Veronika for a while, so it was time to swap in some new ones.

No need to head to the store and spend all your money for this activity. Make your library your best friend, and check out some of the classics. Some old favorites from when Travis was little include: Little Blue Truck; Peek-a-Who; the That’s Not My… series from Usborne Books, and Eric Carle’s My Very First Book of Colors.

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What’s good for your baby in their developmental stage right now? Bold colors, bright contrasts, and simple story lines.

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Many libraries also have suggested reading lists for babies. These can be a great way to search among the board books, if you don’t know where to start.

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Veronika seemed to feel special when I sat her down in my lap for storytime with the new books.

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And big siblings can be big helpers reading books, especially ones with flaps to open or lift.

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What’s on your infant’s reading list? Please share in the comments, and happy reading!

Advent Christmas Books

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We didn’t have a proper advent calendar for Travis this year, but here’s a neat idea I nabbed from Parents magazine. Each night of December leading up to Christmas, set one holiday book under the tree for a special storytime.

The first night that Travis noticed a tissue-paper wrapped item under our tree, his eyes popped with delight. It soon became his favorite part of our bedtime ritual, rushing up after dessert to discover what awaited under the tree.

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There’s no need to buy 25 holiday stories! You no doubt have a few at home, but supplement the list with picks from your local library.

Some of our books were hits and some were misses (the pickings grew a bit slim at the library towards mid-December), but that didn’t lessen Travis’ delight tearing through the tissue paper each evening.

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Save favorites for the final week before Christmas. In our house that includes The Polar Express, Twas the Night Before Christmas, and The Snowman.

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Other books, ranging from the silly to the sweet, included:

Little Blue’s Christmas

The Animal’s Santa

Where is Baby’s Christmas Present?

Gingerbread Christmas

Santa Shimmy

and Christmas Parade

What holiday books are favorites in your household? Please share in the comments!