Phoneme 11: Soft C

C Phoneme (20)

After a bit of holiday hiatus, we’re back with a new phoneme, this time not a letter pair but the soft C sound as in cinnamon. We focused on just a handful of words, with lots of enjoyable games and crafts in the process. I also put much more emphasis on reviewing flash cards of our theme words this time around. Travis isn’t reading yet, but he could sight read most of the words by the end of our unit, and is learning to sound out a word that’s placed in front of him. So without further ado…

Words of the Week:

  • Circus: We kicked things off by staging a grand old circus of course! Stuffed animal friends walked a high wire act and did acrobatic flips into a ring. C phoneme (5)Then we made two circus games, a mouse hole roll and a penny toss. Mouse Hole (8)It’s too bad the circus wasn’t in town, or we would have taken in a show as our field trip. As always, we love circuses that feature human performers, not animals.
  • Circle: You can tailor this word to your child’s age and ability. Little ones just learning their shapes will benefit from a hunt for circular items around the house. That idea is a bit old hat for Travis, so we turned it into a “pirate treasure hunt” for circles. When I phrased it that way, he raced around with glee! C Phoneme (13)My intention was to gather items we could put in a pile, but he spotted some I wouldn’t have thought of, including the knobs on the dresser and other circular furniture or decorations. C Phoneme (12)Once we’d finished, he exuberantly asked for a triangle treasure hunt – why not? For fine motor skills, trace some of the circle objects you found.C phoneme (14)
  • Cinderella: This was a new story for Travis, so we read a version of the fairy tale, and watched the movie as well. It was a fun opportunity to introduce Travis to a classic!C phoneme (4)
  • Cymbals: We have a miniature drum set with a cymbal attached, and Travis loved learning to do rimshots and bashing out favorite songs. C Phoneme (8)We also scooped up a pair of tiny hand cymbals from the toy store, perfect for smashing together. Conveniently, the cymbals are circles too!
  • Cent: I always like when our alphabet or phoneme play brings us back to coins, since Travis learns more about the idea of money at each interval. To play with our cents, we cracked open his piggy bank and talked about the four denominations of cents in U.S. currency, and then sorted them out into pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters. C Phoneme (17)He then turned it into a game of store, telling me in cents how much each item cost. A great little math and currency lesson.
  • Centipede: It wasn’t the right time of year to seek out these little critters outside, but we read about their hundred (or 30, or 300) legs in several books, such as The Big Book of Bugs by Yuval Zommer and Usborne’s Beginners Non-Fiction Bugs book.C Phoneme (19)
  • Ceiling: What better way to remember to look up and pay attention to the ceiling than to adorn it with glow-in-the-dark constellations?Constellation Cards (9)
  • Cereal: Don’t stop at just eating the stuff – we had a whole cereal-themed afternoon one cold day! First, we tested out magnetic cereal. The instructions in the game said we’d need a cereal with a high iron content (100% RDA or more). This concept sounded completely bizarre since our cereals from the health food store tend to be about 4 to 10% daily iron. Well sure enough, cereal from the regular grocery store went as high as 100% iron, so I thought it would be fun to show Travis the difference. Magnetic Cereal (1)Unfortunately the game didn’t work for us: even using our strongest magnet wand, the high iron cereal didn’t budge! Magnetic Cereal (3)I would be very curious what cereal the online testers had used. Ah well, leftover cereal made for a great sensory bin. Magnetic Cereal (4)Then we used the boxes for cereal race tracks and recycled jet packs.Jet Pack (11)
  • City: We started off building a city with skyscrapers from Travis’s blocks. C Phoneme (10)Later we decided that our city needed a parking lot for all the cars – which turned into a letter match parking lot activity that was a huge hit. Parking Lot (11)If you’re able, follow up with a field trip to a real city, whichever is closest to you!C Phoneme alt.JPG

Phoneme Week 7: FR

FR week a

As with the SH phoneme, summer has us moving slow, meaning we spent about a month working our way through fun FR words and activities rather than a week. Travis latched on right away to the rather odd “fruh” sound, telling me that frog has a fruh, but tree doesn’t! I love seeing him grasp the concept of phonemes. We traced our F and R Alphabet Wipe-Clean Cards and then embarked on some learning fun.

FR week (8)

Phonics Book of the Week: Frog on a Log. This silly phonics book actually doesn’t have a single other FR word aside from the frog in the title (it rhymes many -og words instead), but FRog is repeated throughout, making it a quick sight word for Travis. And how could we pick any other book, since frogs were our main theme? Read on!

Guiding Theme: FRog

To jump right in to the frog main theme, I taught Travis how to play leap frog. We also pulled out rubber frog bath toys, who joined in bathtime for nearly 2 weeks before he tired of them!

FR week (3)

We listened:

We Made:

  • A Paper Plate FrogPaper Plate Frog (9)
  • A Feed the Frog. Travis loved first painting a tissue box green, but when this didn’t make it quite great enough, we added green construction paper with glue the next morning. Feed Frog (3)Glued-on googly eyes complete your little frog. Then have fun feeding your frog plastic insects or spiders. Feed Frog (5).JPGTongs make the game great for fine motor skills.Feed Frog (2)
  • Also check out old frog games of ours, including a DIY Frog Pond and Frog Rock.

We Learned:

  • Usborne’s Beginner non-fiction book on Tadpoles and Frogs was the perfect reader for our science of the week on a frog’s life cycle. If you’re ambitious, you might consider buying a grow-a-frog kit!
  • For math of the week, we had fun measuring the leaps of frogs! We pulled out a large sheet of butcher paper and took turns leaping (i.e. throwing) the frogs. FR math (2)We marked a lily pad wherever one landed, and then used a ruler to see how many inches each frog had jumped. Travis had so much fun that he was busy drawing lily pads and tossing frogs long after the activity was officially “over.”FR math (3)

We Visited:

  • A local nature preserve was the perfect place to look for frogs. We spotted this big fellow outside…Audobon (1).JPG …as well as some in their rehabilitation room. Spotting tadpoles helped reinforce what we’d learn in our science of the week about the frog life cycle. Meanwhile, we soaked up plenty of FResh air while we were there.FR week (7)

We Ate:

Other Words of the Week:

  • Frame: We pulled out the chalkboard paint and had a blast painting a simple wooden frame. This craft would make a fantastic gift. Perhaps for a FRiend?Chalkboard Frame (6)
  • Fraction: Make fraction plates! Keep it simple for a preschooler, but you can also talk about fractions as you divide food all week – pizza slices into eighths, for example, or a sandwich in half.Plate Fractions (5)
  • Free: This was my personal favorite word of the unit, since it led us to come up with ways to have free (or nearly-so) fun. Examples from our summer bucket list of free enjoyment included: a car wash;car wash (1).JPG browsing a farmers market;FR week (19).JPG blowing bubbles;FR week (11) taking an inch hike (look for things that are one inch or less, surprisingly harder than you’d think!);FR week (22) having a shaving cream throw-down (free if you steal Daddy’s canister);FR week (26) and a picnic in a park.FR week (28)
  • Freeze: A perfect word for a hot summer month. First we simply FRoze a tray of ice cubes – and then had fun thawing it! FR week (17)You can also play a good old-fashioned game of freeze dance.
  • Fresh: We had fun exploring the properties of fresh vs. salt water. This is also the perfect chance to introduce kids to the wonders of fresh homemade bread – fresh pretzels were the perfect yummy example. Then – perhaps the most magical moment of our FR unit – we picked fresh berries at a local farm!FR week (18)
  • Friend: Here’s the perfect chance to talk about the meaning of the word friend, since preschoolers are beginning to form early bonds and playing together instead of parallel play. One cute book to read is That’s What Friends are For by Florence Parry Heide. So have a playdate this week, and while you’re at it, sing the silly song Be Kind to Your Web-Footed Friends.
  • Frown: We took advantage of homemade playdough to make frowny faces. I added FReckles too! Making faces, whether in playdough, clay, or marker is a great vocab builder for expressions, emotions, and facial features.FR week (31)
  • Frost: Even though it was wildly out of season, Travis loved watching clips of Frosty the Snowman. FR week (24)Then we made homemade frost on our windows!

Phoneme Week 6: SH

SH (b)

Apologies for the long lag since our last phoneme – we more properly had an SH month, to accommodate timely trips to shores and ships. Of course we started out by tracing S + H on our Usborne Wipe-Clean Alphabet cards. This sound was a fun one to explain and to say: “Shhhh!”

SH (1)

Phonics Book of the Week: Shark in the Park was a fun intro to the sound, also featuring the words SHarp and SHeep. Although there were not many SH words, the book includes lots of repetition so Travis latched on right away. By the next morning he was guessing that shadow and shade also contained an SH!

Guiding Theme: SHell

To start the fun, we pulled out three different sizes of pasta shells just to play with. This was great fun for sorting and scooping.

SH (11)

Of course there was also lots of beach combing to search for real shells to take home!Beach Wind Chime (1)

We Listened:

We Made:

We Learned:

  • For science of the week, we focused on the word SHadow; as a perfect coincidence, there was a great explanatory story in our July High Five about what makes a shadow. Then we were off on a shadow hunt outside and experimented with finding them in front of us, behind us, and beside us. SH (18)We also traced a shadow puzzle.Shadow Puzzles (6)
  • For math of the week, talk about the word SHort. We compared items in our home as an easy intro to what makes something short versus tall. Blocks are great, as are dolls or figurines or anything else you have at home that provides a short and tall comparison.SH (a)

We Visited:

  • The SHore, (obviously!), to see shells. If you’re lucky (or if there is an aquarium nearby), you may also spot SHarks! SH (3)Or hermit crabs in SHells.SH (4)

We Ate:

Other Words of the Week:

  • Ship: I set the stage for this word with a read of Usborne’s On a Pirate Ship. We continued the fun with their Build Your Own Pirate Ships sticker book.SH (2) Although recommended for ages 4 and up, Travis had no trouble at all with a little guidance, and was thrilled with each creation! Then it was time to craft a popsicle stick pirate ship: Popsicle Ship (4)We finished with a real pirate ship adventure – thank you summer vacation!Vineyard (19).jpg
  • Shore: Other than the above-mentioned shore visit to collect shells, we read Shine-a-Light Secrets of the Seashore and Seashore from Usborne’s non-fiction Beginners collection.
  • Shine: Here’s your perfect week to enjoy Usborne shine-a-light collection. There are 13 to choose from, and we did many reads of On the Train and Apple Tree. To chase away nighttime shadows, we then made a Tissue Paper Night Light; don’t forget to shine your flashlight around the room and see if you can make any SHadows.SH (8)
  • Shoes: Set up all your shoes and play shoe store. The best part of this game was trying on silly shoes.SH (6)Dad’s boots are so fun!SH (7)
  • Shapes: Now’s the time to pull out any shape toys you have – in fact, since so many of our shape toys have been retired to the “baby bin”, it was a fun excuse to dig through and play with old favorites. For more preschool-aged fun, we read Usborne’s Lift the Flap Shapes.SH (10)
  • Shampoo: For purely tactile fun, we made Instant Sensory Snow out of shampoo. Then let your little one try their hand at sudsing up their own hair during bath time this week!Instant Snow (3)

Phoneme Week 5: CK

CK a

We had great success with the phoneme this week! Travis not only latched right on to the C-K words we discussed, but whenever we were talking and he heard that hard CK-sound in our speech, he’d ask if the word had a C-K, sometimes wrong (i.e. Mark) but sometimes correct (i.e. clock). I loved that he was listening for it!

We started tracing C and K on our Usborne wipe-clean alphabet cards.

CK (5)

Phonics Book of the Week: Croc Gets a Shock, is a silly and fun read, and happened to contain several other words that were big hits of the week, including: cloCK, quiCK, cuCKoo, and tiCK-toCK.

Guiding Theme: cloCK

To kiCK things off, we pulled out all of our clock toys:CK (2)

How very timely that we had a special visitor in town fixing an heirloom clock as well!

clock master

We Read:

  • Usborne’s fantastic Telling the Time book, featuring delightful characters from the Farmyard Tales series. Travis loves turning the hands on the clock!
  • Tick and Tock’s Clock Book by Debbie Rivers-MooreCK (4)

We listened:

CK (12)

We Made:

  • After listening to “Hickory Dickory,” we made our own Hickory Dickory clock. Write the numbers of a clock face in marker on a paper plate. Add a printed template of a mouse (which your child can color in) and scamper him about the clock.CK (13)

We learned:

  • For science of the week, we focused on the word chiCK. Start off with a read of Usborne’s informative non-fiction volume Eggs and Chicks. Watch a quick video online of a chick hatching, then delight your youngster with this surprise: Glue a yellow tissue paper chick under a brown construction paper egg. CK science (2)Make a slit in the egg with scissors, and your tot gets to help the chick hatch!CK science (3)
  • For math of the week, we continued the clock fun with a paper plate clock, simply featuring pipe cleaner hands that Travis could move around. He also loved running around the clock with his whole body, and pausing at a number! “I stopped on 5 o’clock!”CK math (2)

We visited:

  • A clock museum! This was easily the highlight of our CK fortnight. We had to travel over an hour out of the way to get there, but it was so worth it for Travis’s glee. He described every clock we saw, and the sounds were amazing – clocks ticking in counterpoint, chiming at odd intervals. While there, he fell in love with cuCKoo clocks, which made Croc Makes a Shock all the more fun. Unfortunately I could not take photos inside – here he is out front!CK (24)

We Ate:

Other Words of the Week:

  • Truck: First, separate your trucks from your cars, which will be a good lesson in sorting and vocab building. We made a huge truck town for our vehicles with stiCKy tape. CK (6)Half the fun turned out to be ripping up those roads and loading the tape into our garbage and dump trucks! CK (9)Then our trucks went to the mechanic shop (i.e. our tool bench), and even drove through shaving cream! Enjoy a read of Usborne’s Big Book of Trucks, Richard Scarry’s Book of Cars and Trucks and Things That Go, and Little Blue Truck by Alice Schertle.CK b
  • Duck: Listen to songs like Six Little Ducks, then read classics like Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey or Duck and Goose by Tad Hills.
  • Block: If you haven’t just pulled out blocks to build with lately, now is the time! As I’m sure you can guess, we had to build a cloCKtower!CK (27)To continue the fun, we made jell-o building blocks and sponge blocks!DIY sponge (2)
  • Knock: Give your kiddo the giggles by telling silly knock knock jokes. If you don’t know good ones, you can search online for kid-friendly fare. The one that gave Travis the giggles:

Knock knock.

Who’s there?


Lettuce who?

Lettuce in it’s raining!

  • Back: Use your child’s back as a blaCKboard! This is a great relaxation activity if done soon before a nap or bedtime. Have your child lie on their tummy, and trace shapes, numbers, letters, or anything else your child requests with your finger. I like to spell out Travis’s name, or draw him shapes, and he can guess what it is. Add lotion for a soothing treat!CK (20)
  • Dock: If you live near a dock of any kind – a wharf, a marina, a lake, an oceanside town – go visit on a sunny afternoon!port jeff (4).JPG
  • Black: Draw or paint all in black for your art lesson this week. Wear any black clothing you have. Try and find black foods to eat – black olives were a surprise hit!CK (23)
  • Trick: We decided to have fun with magic tricks! Although a bit young for it, that didn’t stop Travis from loving Usborne’s kit of Magic Tricks to Make and Do – he immediately took to waving the wand, shuffling the cards, and sorting through the props. CK (16)He loved watching me perform simple tricks, like self-attaching paper clips. Then we made coins disappear!Coin Trick (3)
  • Lock: Lock toys and puzzles are great for little fingers, so pull out any that you have.CK (19) Travis also loves playing with old sets of keys around the house, using them to manipulate all our real locks. Good thing mama knows how to reverse the damage!
  • Brick: Tell the story of the Three Little Pigs this week but make sure to emphasize the briCK house, and why it was so important to the outcome of the story.CK (29) Then go on a brick hunt around town – brick houses, brick walkways. Travis loved yelling out “Brick!” as we drove around and spotted the material. CK (28)What a perfect coincidence that our local children’s museum had a brick laying pattern activity.CK d
  • Chick: In addition to the science of the week mentioned above, we made an adorable chick snack – tint marzipan yellow with food coloring, and press onto bow-shaped pretzels. Add a little dot of sprinkles for eyes.Chick Pretzels (6) If you’re able to pipe on orange frosting beaks, yours will look even more like chicks! Then I put together pipe cleaner chicks for him to hop around; wind a pipe cleaner around your fingers, then glue on googly eyes, a triangle beak, and little feet from orange construction paper.CK (21)
  • Stick: Because we played with sticks recently for the ST phoneme, this time we went with glow stiCKs! What better activity for a dreary rainy day than to light things up with a few of these from the party store! Travis loved that he could snap the thin neCKlace ones himself. CK (11)Then we made Glow Stick Balloons! We did consider using sticks to make a sun cloCK at the beach, but the weather did not cooperate.
  • Rock: Just in time for Memorial Day, we painted patriotic rocks. Patriotic Rocks (6)Other simple activities would be to set off on a rock hunt, and perhaps turn a few into pet rocks once home with pom poms and googly eyes.
  • Sick: Kids all seem to love playing with doctor kits! So take turns being the sick patient this week, or treat a sick dolly to some TLC!CK (17)
  • Kick: For your exercise this week, get out there and kick around a soccer ball. And by this point, you’re probably as exhausted from CK week as we were!CK c

Phoneme Week 4: ND


For our fourth letter pair in our phoneme journey, we started out tracing N and D on our Usborne wipe-clean alphabet cards. This was sort of an odd sound to explain to a child, a sort of -und pronunciation. Perhaps because of that fact, it wasn’t as exciting a phoneme for Travis, and he was less interested in the flash cards that accompanied our week. But here’s what we did for fun and learning anyway!

ND (5)

Phonics Book of the Week: Underpants for Ants, a hilarious gem from Usborne’s phonics collection. In addition to uNDerpants, you’ll find the words: haND, caNDle, haNDle, graND, and woNDerful.

Guiding Theme: baND

ND (3)This turned out to be a happy coincidence as the suggested guiding word from Letter of the Week, since Travis’s favorite thing in the world is music! We set the stage by playing two songs to get in the band mood: “Oh When the Band” and “Seventy-Six Trombones.” You can march to Sousa music, or perhaps even draw to Sousa music, having your child draw slower or quicker according to tempo.ND (4)

  • We Made:

  • We Learned:
    • For science of the week, we talked about a different word, wiND. Explain to your child that wind is moving air, and have fun experimenting! We discussed how tornadoes are one of the fastest types of wind, and made a tornado in a jar! Tornado Jar (5)
    • Our math of the week also focused on a different word – caNDy. What child wouldn’t want to count candy colors? You can sort them into separate piles by color, first. Travis seems to lose track of things when I ask him to count higher than 4, so we didn’t even bother with lower numbers this time. After some prompting, he was able to get the correct number of bears on index cards. ND (22)
  • We Visited:
    • A bluegrass band for Mothers’ Daymom day (13).JPG

Other Words of the Week:

  • Land: Listen to “This Land is Your Land” – a patriotic song to add to your baND’s repertoire, of course!
  • Sand: This word was arguably the biggest hit of the week. First we simply scooped sand in an indoor sandbox, always a favorite game. ND (19)Then we made a sand and ice comet and sand art. If it’s nice outside, look for sand ant hills. Indoors, you can draw on sandpaper with chalk.ND (23) Finally, we built a sandpaper sandcastle, an activity we’ve done before, but nearly a year ago. Sandpaper Castle (1)It was neat to do this now, with Travis much more in charge of where each piece of his sandcastle went on the paper!Sandpaper Castle (4)
  • And: We read two books prominently featuring this word in the title: Above and Below and Town and Country. These two books really emphasize the and!
  • Hand: I tried all week to convince Travis to paint with his hands, to no avail! At the very least, cuddle up for a silly read of Dr. Seuss’s Hand, Hand, Fingers, Thumb.
  • Pond: Go for a gorgeous pond walk of course! Pond (1).JPGWe continued the fun at home by making pond play dough:Pond Playdough (11)
  • Fond: We made photo prints of special relatives in Travis’s life, and discussed how we can be fond of people and things – like music and bands of course. This would also be a great chance to put together a family tree.ND (30)
  • Bond: What things are able to make a bond that holds items together? We had fun exploring both glue and magnets, to see what had the strongest bond. ND (27)Then snuggle up and talk about how there can be a bond between two people as well!ND (29)
  • End: Give your child a fit of the giggles at storytime by starting all the bedtime books at the end one night this week. Travis thought this was very silly, and then I asked him to help me go back and start at the proper beginning.ND (25)
  • Bend: Your body can bend of course! Get in some exercise of the week by bending down to touch your toes in a yoga pose or two. Then pull out that classic toddler activity, bending pipe cleaners through a colander.ND (24)
  • Send: You can make an easy gift to send to someone special with this coaster set. The pop it in the mail and send on … who better than to graNDparents?Coaster Gift
  • Lend: Even if you’re a regular at your local library, talk some time this week to explain to your child how lending works. Since we’ve often borrowed books, we made this week’s trip special by taking out a movie, a true treat!
  • Find: You’ll have a blast with Usborne’s Big Book of Things to Find and Color. I purchased the book thinking it would be a bit advanced for Travis, but he surprised me making some terrific fiNDs, i.e. the empty bird cages on one page in particular. ND (7)We also read Find the Puppy, a book that’s meant for the littlest little ones, but which even preschoolers get a kick out of. Then play good old-fashioned hide and seek and fiND each other! Now where could Daddy be…?ND (12)
  • Wind: In addition to our science of the week, we just played around with wind in general! For example, if we set up a fan, what would blow and what wouldn’t.ND (13) Could we also scatter tissue paper across a tabletop with our breath? ND (14)Then head outside and hold up tissue paper into the wind – Travis loved the way it twisted and turned! ND (15)For a neat art project, drip a little liquid watercolor onto a piece of paper. Blow through a straw to scatter the watercolor into gorgeous patterns.ND (16) We tried to make wind chimes although they weren’t very sturdy!
  • Grand: Two great songs feature this word, so be sure to give a listen to You’re a Grand Old Flag and The Grand Old Duke of York.ND (17)
  • Sound: Talk about the sounds you hear all week – then delve into some of Usborne’s great sound books, such as First Book About the Orchestra and Garden Sounds. ND (6)To finish our focus on the word, we made a string telephone to explore the properties of sound!String Phone (3)

Phoneme Week 3: ST

ST (25)

We started out in the usual way, tracing an S and a T on Usborne’s wipe-clean alphabet cards, and juxtaposing them so Travis could see the two letters together. He liked that the S+T sounds is equivalent to “stuh!”

ST (5)

Phonics Book of the Week: Mole in a Hole. Now wait a second, there’s no ST in that title! This week I had to veer slightly off track since Letter of the Week‘s phoneme curriculum don’t always match up with the titles in Usborne’s Phonics box set. However, Mole in a Hole contained lots of perfect ST words: STick, STart, STone, STore, STuck, and STop. So we did numerous reads, and Travis started to sight read some of these gems.

Guiding Theme: STamp.

ST (2)

We started off playing with all the stamps we own, including alphabet stamps, some with pictures, and animal footprints! Then there is the other kind of stamp – postal stamps! – meaning we played games of post office galore. Travis even got to help pick out real stamps at the post office and use a few at home!

ST (11)

We of course had to truly decorate a letter, stamp it, and mail it.

  • We Read:
  • We Made:
  • We Learned:
    • For science of the week, we used a different ST word – STop! Stop germs, that is. This adorable visual on how quickly germs spread was probably Travis’s favorite activity all week.ST science (1)
    • For math of the week, we also used different ST words – STone and STick to be exact. Use any beautiful finds from a nature walk to create a simple pattern for your child. For example, set out: pinecone, stick, stone, pinecone, stick, stone. Your toddler will have fun deciding what comes next, while playing with his or her treasures!ST math
  • We visited:
    • The post office of course, to really mail a package!
  • We Ate:
    • STew
    • STir -fry
    • STrawberries

Other Words of the Week:

  • Stop: Aside from stopping those germs, we made a red stop sign and a green go (STart) sign and did a freeze dance to music. ST (16)You can also make a stop sign with the word writ large for your child, and set up a town with cars and roads.ST (19)
  • Star: We listened to an old favorite, Twinkle Twinkle Little Star and read about super stars in the Big Book of Stars & Planets. If you’re looking for star crafts, check out some of our oldies-but-goodies like Glitter Star Jars or the Numbered Stars Flashlight Game.
  • Station: We took a quick ride one weekend on our local station line! Of course we also had to listen to Down by the Station, and to read about a different kind of station – a space one that is! – with Shine-a-Light On the Space Station. We capped it all off with a visit to Grand Central Station, where Travis was ecstatic to see buffers, platforms, conductors, and other items he’s learned about in books.station (2).JPG
  • Steam: We played with steam in two ways: First, I ran a hot shower to fog up a mirror for Travis, which he absolutely adored, and let him paint away the steam with a foam paintbrush. ST (13)Supervise closely, as you’ll likely need to stand your child on a bathroom counter for this. Then we experimented by watching ice turn first to water and then into steam vapor.Ice Steam (5)
  • Sticker: Play with any and all stickers this week! If you’re looking for a great starter sticker book, those from Usborne are fantastic, with a line of text or explanation on each page, and with available in almost every topic imaginable. Travis completely filled in Building Sites and Nature over the course of our week! ST (7)We also toyed around with variations on the word “sticky” by pulling out an old favorite game – a collage of random craft materials on sticky contact paper.ST (21)
  • Still: Need to calm your child down? Emphasize the word still this week! I encouraged Travis to hold still with child’s pose, which is great for relaxing kids prior to nap or bedtime.ST (22)
  • Story: Of course we read stories (including Tell Me a Story), but we also experimented with storytelling this week! First, we made beautiful “story stones”, a great way to teach even pre-readers about the order of words within a story. Then we played two more storytelling games, using fill-in-the-blank style activities.Fill In Story (4)
  • Stone: Don’t be fooled by the word ‘rock’ in several blog posts this week; while Travis and I did these activities, I made sure to use the word STone instead. Projects included a Rock On stone sculpture, storytelling stones, and a campfire made of sticks and stones – don’t forget the make-believe s’mores!ST (23)
  • Stem: Upcycle any stems from a STore-bought bouquet (or those found in nature) with this cute flower picture.Flower Making (4)
  • Store: Finally, head to the store just for fun this week… You don’t even need to buy anything; a mall excursion provides entertainment and atmosphere just from STrolling around. Travis got to ride in a “police cart”, see all the stores, and enjoy the treat of a smoothie (whoops, should have made it a strawberry one!)ST (20)

Phoneme Week 2: EE


As with the OW sound, we started off two weeks of focus on the EE sound by tracing the letter E on our Usborne wipe-clean alphabet cards. This week wasn’t as exciting for Travis, since E+E rather obviously just says eeeee, but the double-e is so common I thought it was worth highlighting early in our phoneme journey.

EE (4)Phonics Book of the Week: Bee Makes Tea We started off with a read of this book. Because it plays with all variants on the “ee” sound (as in tea, sea, me), it wasn’t packed with words to highlight, but you’ll still have great ones to point out like quEEN, chEEse, glEE, nEEd, thrEE, and spEEd.

Guiding Theme: trEE

Sandy (7).JPG

To introduce the theme, we started off with a gorgeous family walk in the woods to see trees. It was a beautiful chance to feel tree bark, to point out the difference between big trees and little trees, and to see the spring buds popping out!

  • We Read:
  • We Made:
    • A Sound Tree. This poster served as a guiding image for our entire two weeks on EE, adding words as we went. Travis loved the enormous roll of butcher paper I pulled out to draw the tree; as a neat bonus, because we colored it in over floorboards, the wooden boards gave our tree the image of bark!EE (7)
    • Painted Bark: We took a cue from Aboriginal bark painting and used a collection of found bark for this fantastic art project, painting in traditional colors of black, brown, white, and yellow. I showed Travis a video first of Aboriginal artists at work, which got him so excited! Dots were hard to replicate!EE science (4)
    • Four Seasons Tree PicturesTissue Paper Tree (6)
  •     We Learned:
    • For science of the week, we set out to explore trees, and specifically tree bark! Visit any place near you where you can take a gorgeous walk in the woods, and test out tree rubbings of the bark. Talk to your child about how bark is the skin of the tree, and find as many different varieties as you can.EE science (5)
    • For math of the week, we didn’t use trees but another EE word – fEEt! Measure with feet, and by that I mean both kinds. We had fun not only using rulers (teaching that 1 foot equals 12 inches), but also our real feet. For example, how many Travis feet did it take to measure something, versus a mommy foot, versus feet on a ruler.EE (19)
  • We Visited:
    • An Arbor Day festival to plant a trEE! I specifically chose these two weeks for EE just for this purpose. Travis got help Smokey the Bear shovel dirt around a new tree planting.arbor (1)
  • We Ate:

Other Words of the Week:

  • Bee: In addition to our phonics book, we had a very bzzzy week, making a Beehive Card, a Bubble Wrap Bee Hive, and a Buzzing Bee Noisemaker!Beehive (5)
  • Seed: We had a few seed adventures gone awry, notably an attempt to grow grass seed on a sponge that only ended in mold, and an exploring seeds game that alas didn’t work out quite right. But Travis still learned about seeds! We planted a seed at an Earth Day festival, where I also pointed out the word wEEd since so many (lovely!) dandelions were growing in the field.crossroads (12).JPG
  • Knee: Have a super silly rolling pin race using just your knees! Then you’ll have to sing Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes, of course. We just happened to find a very adorable version of the song for trees, which worked out nicely for our guiding theme!EE (16)
  • Green: We colored and painted all in green; made a collection of all the green toys we could find around the house, ate Green Guacamole, and read an abridged version of the classic Anne of Green Gables.EE (9)
  • Sleep: Children seem to love games of putting stuffed animals or dolls to sleep, then waking them up, so play any variant of that (waking up mommy and daddy is fun too!). Or read Sleeping Beauty, which helpfully features other EE words like needle and queen.
  • Deep: My best recommendation for this word is to read How Deep is the Sea – your child will go bananas when they see the included poster stretching ever deeper deeper deeper, until it’s taller than they are!EE (1)
  • Keep: This word inspired our good deed of the week: I made a collection of old toys and books, and let Travis pick which he might want to keep before we donated the rest to a local charity. Many places schedule pick ups, but I think it’s worthwhile to donate in person if you can, so your child understands where the items s/he didn’t keep are going.EE (22)
  • Sweep: Well, since Travis loves to sweep, this word was a no-brainer. Play with a toy dustpan and broom set as much as your child desires!EE (17)
  • Feed: I’m still trying to convince Travis to self-feed, so it was the perfect week to read How to Feed your Cheeky Monkey, in hopes of persuading him to pick up his own fork. He’s got the cup down anyway, cheeky boy…EE (3)
  • Geese: How perfect that when we detoured to a nearby playground this week, the field next to it was filled with geese! We sat on a bench to eat a snack and talk about the geese, what sounds they make, and migratory flying.EE (20)
  • Jeep: Read Sheep in a Jeep, which features lots of great EE words… Then you can go on a jeep scavenger hunt (or look for sheep, depending where you live!) every time you drive around town.EE (10)
  • Beep: After you read about those sheep in a jeep, have fun with the word beep. We made a race car with a wheel/horn so Travis could make-believe beep!EE (5)
  • Feet: Why should hands have all the fun? First we got good and messy with sensory bin play. Then we talked about what we wear on our feet – shoes of course! – and set up a home shoe store, a cute idea from High Five magazine. We also read Dr. Seuss’s The Foot Book (don’t worry, feet as opposed to foot is inside the book plenty) And finally, we needed to paint with our feet!EE (11)
  • Teeth: This is your week to talk about how to keep teeth healthy. Try a fun project like a Happy Tooth/Sad Tooth Collage.Happy Tooth (5)

Phoneme Week 1: OW

OWFirst things first, Travis traced O and W on his Usborne Wipe-Clean Alphabet cards so that I could establish these two as our focus for the coming days. I introduced the two letters together, teaching him that o + w says “ow”. This is a fun one, since of course it is also the word we say for an owie!

OW (1)

Phonics Book of the Week: Cow Takes a Bow. Start off your week by reading this book, underlining everywhere your child spots the o-w pair next to each other. Travis loved it right away. This silly story features a cOW who goes off to the circus and finds herself playing the part of the clOWn. The book includes a nice variety of other OW words such as brOWn, tOWn, dOWn, nOW, frOWn, hOW, wOW, and of course bOW. We re-read the story every third night or so, at which point Travis was sight-reading many of our words of the week.

Guiding Theme: flOWer

Flower (4)

We started off in the simplest way possible, with flowers in a vase, making the OW phoneme just right for these first few weeks of spring! Travis loved helping to arrange the flowers, and then adored playing with leftover stems and leaves, so it turned into a fantastic nature lesson, too.

  • We Read:
  • We Made:
    • A Flower Collage, to get him excited about the word! I’m sure I confused my checkout clerk at the craft store when I told her no one was getting married, but that I was buying a wedding flower magazine for a craft with my son. Believe it or not, Travis loved going through and finding the best bouquets to cut out, which was great safety scissors practice too! Flower (1)Once we had a huge pile of flower pictures, we used a glue stick to craft a gorgeous “Flower Show” on green construction paper. Travis loved deciding where each picture should go, and was very into mixing colors and big flower/small flowers!Flower (2)
    • A Word Flower Garden. Adults, cut flower shapes from construction paper and glue to a separate piece of construction paper as the background. Each petal contains a word “family”, which we filled in as the week went on… although some of our families were loosely defined, in order to fit every key word onto a petal.OW (16)
    • Newspaper FlowersNewspaper Flowers (9)
    • Paper Towel FlowersPaper Towel Flowers (9)
    • Cupcake Wrapper FlowersCupcake Flower (7)
  • We Learned:
    • For science of the week, we learned about the property of transpiration, through which color travels from the stem of a flower to its petals.OW science (6)
    • For math of the week, we simply did lovely spring flower counting! Set out flower pots or other containers with labels numbered 1 through 5 (go higher depending on your child’s age or ability). Next, count out flowers correctly into the proper bin. It’s a simple exercise, but you’ll have a lovely spring flower display at the end.OW math (4)
  • We Visited:
    • The Macy’s FlOWer Show! As soon as I saw the ad in the paper for the show this week, I knew I had chosen the right phoneme. The show featured lavish bouquets on carousel horses, and Travis was thrilled since we’d just completed so many flower projects at home.Macys (9).jpg
  • We Ate:

Other Words of the Week:

  • Cow: We played with all our barn and cow toys at home, and in addition visited cows at a local farmed animal sanctuary. OW (28)In addition to our phonics title, we read the silly book Click Clack Moo: Cows that Type by Doreen Cronin. If you’re lucky, you might even see a plOW while you visit the cows!OW (30)
  • Down: Cow falls down in our phonics story… So we further played with the word by rolling things down tubes and cushions. Get creative – what else will roll? Maybe even your toddler!OW (6)
  • Shower: Another perfectly timed word, since we are having many April shOWers this time of year! We listened to the song of the same name all week, and looked outside every time we had another lovely April rain shower. As another fun idea, see if you can entice your little one into his or her first shower. Travis was never brave enough to get in, but loved playing on the side with a bucket and toys.OW (3)
  • Towel: Speaking of showers, you’re going to need to dry off after, so what a nice coincidence that towel fits the theme of the week. I left our towels out a few days for fun “indoor beach” play, which is always a hit.OW (26)
  • Owl: We read Owl Babies by Martin Waddell, and also visited the owls at a local nature preserve that rescues injured animals. If your child is a bit older, consider a neat science project like dissecting (sterilized) owl pellets, which you can purchase online. Usborne’s Beginners Non-Fiction series contains an Owls volume, which is a great read for kids 5 and up; younger kids adore That’s Not My Owl.OW (8)
  • Frown: A felt circle and face shapes from a recent Koala Crate were the perfect way to talk about the word frown, as well as the emotion behind it.OW (2)
  • Brown: We read Dr. Seuss’s silly Mr. Brown Can Moo, and colored and painted in the color brown this week. OW (14)
  • Town: Consider a cute project like the Press-Out Paper Town from Usborne. Consisting of a Town Hall, flower shop, grocer, and cafe, the project filled a fun hour, assembling the buildings and talking about the other structures and people that make up a town. OW (12)You can also emphasize the word this week as you drive around town!OW (10)
  • Bow: With cow taking a bow in our main title from the week, we needed to put on a show of course! Pull out costumes and use props, and when it’s over, be sure you take a bow.OW (21)
  • Crown: Wondering what costume to wear before you take your bow? We put together this simple heart crown and had a kingly performance!Heart Crowns (4)
  • Gown: If you have a child who likes to play dress-up, pull out any of the gowns in mommy’s closet for your costumed play, too. (I use the term “gown” loosely here – any fancy dress will do!). Travis liked using mine as props and scenery!OW (22)
  • Clown: Kids love clowns, even if I find them creepy! The videos from Bimbi the Funny Clown got huge belly laughs.
  • Vowel: Finally, I touched briefly on the fact that 5 letters get a special name: vowels. Travis thought the concept was neat, which hopefully serves us well in phoneme weeks to come…OW (32)

Phonemes/Sound of the Week


Travis and I recently completed a fun Letter of the Week journey, spanning from September 2016 to March 2017. He is so interested in letters and words that I’ve jumped into a sound/phoneme of the week program, though it wasn’t my original intention to start this young! I hope you will find inspiration in the ideas I’ll post along the way, for learning and playing with your own children.

For each phoneme, I’ll focus on one title from Usborne Books & More’s Phonics Readers box set. With the book of the week as our guiding text and in loose combination with the ideas presented in Sound of the Week from Brightly Beaming Toddler, I’ll set up games and ideas to accompany each letter pair. In addition, we’ll use the Wipe-Clean Alphabet Cards from Usborne each week to do some (very elementary!) tracing of the two letters that make up that week’s phoneme.

A few caveats: First, Trav is not yet 3, and I obviously don’t expect him to be reading by the time I finish 20 or so weeks of this “curriculum.” Rather, I adore exposing him to a love of language and to the magic that happens when letters combine and take on meaning. Having a guiding sound – and words that go along with it – helps me to introduce new games, concepts, and toys each week that keep our playtime fresh. This program is ideal, therefore, for parents or caregivers who are at home with a toddler the majority of the day, or for parents intending to preschool their 2, 3, and 4 year olds.

Second, I’m posting the phonemes in random order, so there is no correct way in which to schedule the weeks. You might find that some of the sounds and accompanying words lend themselves to certain seasons (e.g. save “SH” for when you can go to the SHore and collect SHells in the summer!).

Finally, because I want his brain to absorb and process all this new info, I’ll be spending closer to 10 days to 2 weeks on each letter pair, versus the one week we spent on single alphabet letters.

That’s enough preamble! Overall, the idea here is not to impose a curriculum on Travis; it is to learn through play, and to feel joy together each day. Pick and choose the parts that work for you, and above all remember to enjoy.