Like that time we were at the doctor’s office and she picked an ocean book from the office library to take home. She was “reading” the book in the waiting area with me and suddenly she exclaimed, “It’s a manatee, Mama! Manatees have tails, and they eat seaweed.” I looked at the words on the page and it was as if she was reading it. I couldn’t believe my eyes. “My kid is a genius,” I thought. The same thing every mom thinks when her child does something amazing (every day). It turns out there’s an episode of Isla’s favorite show (“Diego”) that’s all about manatees, which means she knows more about them than I do!
One of the (many) hard parts of parenting is, for me, figuring out ways and finding time to teach our kids at home. Isla’s in preschool only part-time so it’s important for us to reinforce the things she’s learning. We found out early in the year that her class will focus on the alphabet and her teacher stressed to me that it’s important for kids to really understand, not just memorize. Just because a child can count to 10 or recite the alphabet, that doesn’t mean he or she truly understands what it means or can apply it in real life. This all led me to a fun, easy daily project we could do at home.
We call it “Letter of the Day.” You’ve heard of such a thing, I’m sure!
We started out by picking one letter every morning and then asking Isla to help us sound out words that begin with that letter. We’d write them all down for her and draw pictures and she’d color them. It was a fun way to focus on our letters and apply them to objects she already knows. But over time our letter pages got lost in the shuffle and I wasn’t certain she was retaining what she was learning from day-to-day, so the project faded away.
Then I got an opportunity to work with Elmer’s® brand here on the blog and I came up with a fun way to make our Letter of the Day project more productive. I ran to Target, and for less than $10 picked up a few Elmer’s products: a Foam Tri-Fold Display Board (currently available in store but not online), Disappearing Purple Glue Sticks and Board Mate Reusable Stencils.
Here’s how our new and improved Letter of the Day project works:
Every morning (that Isla doesn’t have school), we pick one letter. Then we find the big and small stencils for that letter and any shapes that begin with that letter. Together we trace the letters and shapes onto colored construction paper and I write down and draw words, animals and objects that start with our letter.
As we’re going along coloring and tracing, I’m constantly asking, “Now what’s the letter today? Do you remember?” And together we sound it out again and again and I try to reinforce the letter and the words. Her favorite part, though, is the gluing. Of course! Once I’ve cut everything out she glues the paper onto the tri-fold display board and then we go over the letters and words again and sound them out. When she’s had enough (after about 10 minutes) she closes up the tri-fold and says, “Okay, mama, I’m done. I need chocolate!” Because that one time I rewarded her with chocolate and she will not let me forget it! Not my best idea but I’m calling it a win anyway.
My favorite thing about the display board is that we get to go back and look at all of the letters from previous days. We did the letter “M” on our second day and Isla always goes back to the manatee picture I tried to draw. (Don’t judge me, I was an English major.) She loves that manatee and remembers that manatee begins with the letter M. We reinforce it every day and she is so proud of herself as she points to everything and identifies the letters and names of the objects or animals. She even shouts out little fun facts that I write on the board, like “Manatee has a tail!” or “S is for Sister, like Isla!” The other day she pointed to the words at the top of the board, which read, “Isla’s Alphabet” and said, “Isla! That’s me!” I love that seeing it every day has helped her recognize her own name!
After breakfast on the third day, Isla said to me, “Time for letter of the day, Mama!” That was music to my mama ears. To know Isla is not just learning, but enjoying the process is everything I had hoped. It’s a small, inexpensive idea with a potentially big impact, and it offers us a few uninterrupted minutes to spend together on a shared project. There is no greater joy as a parent than sharing these moments together and knowing my daughter is learning something valuable along the way.
Thanks, Elmer’s® brand, for sponsoring this blog post! (This idea and any thoughts expressed in this post are all mine. I promise.)
UPDATE: Special offer for my readers: Get 10% off Elmer’s Board Mate display boards, foam core boards, and Board Mate board accessories, using the Target Cartwheel app!