Teaching Reading to Preschoolers–Resources for Ordinary Parents Like Me!

I participated in an Influencer Activation on behalf of Influence Central for Rosetta Stone. I received a product and a promotional item to thank me for participating.

As a mom who is starting to homeschool, I sometimes regret my choice not to pursue early childhood education as an undergrad. I feel so clueless sometimes! Sure, I’ll be ready when my kids need grammar lessons or Shakespeare tutelage (I was an English lit major, after all!), but I feel a little lost and overwhelmed in the early years. (That seems a little backwards, right? Who stresses over preschool!?)

Thankfully, I believe strongly in play-based learning, and I find myself agreeing with child-led philosophies such as Charlotte Mason and Unschooling.

With that said, I’ve been a bit nervous about some of the big learning milestones–like algebra, chemistry, and learning to read.

Of course, even in my ignorance I know that reading to your child is one of the most beneficial things I can do to prepare her for reading on her own. If nothing else, it increases a child’s vocabulary and his/her love of books. Luckily, my preschooler is obsessed with books. We often have to issue “you can’t read books all day!” reminders. Our best reading time is after I put my little sister down for her nap. My four-year-old and I snuggle on the couch and read chapter books (this week’s choices were Winnie the Pooh, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and several “Jack and Annie” (The Magic Treehouse) books.

A few months ago, I stumbled across this “How to Teach Your Child to Read Early” post from Planet Smarty Pants. When my daughter started to show signs that she was ready to go beyond letter sounds, I put Natalie’s post to good use.  We’ve been working through a few of the free printable options, and I think it’s safe to say that my four-year-old is officially reading!  Or, to be more specific, she’s grasped the concept of decoding (the process of transferring printed words into a sound) . She’s known her letter sounds for quite some time, so it was just a matter of showing her that the letter sounds can be put together to form words.

She can now sound out (decode) basic three-letter words, which is basically the preschool equivalent of climbing Mount Everest. (At least in the eyes of this proud mama!) Who knew hearing words like pop, top, red, cat, and pig would ever make my heart melt?

Reading Resources for Early Readers

(This picture was not staged. They were actually reading the dictionary.)

So where do we go from there? I asked on the Nothing if Not Intentional facebook page for advice on whether we needed a “whole language” approach, phonics, or something in between. For the most part, people recommended a combination of methods, which I hear is called “balanced literacy.” If these words are as foreign to you as they were to me, check out this explanation.  In the course of asking for advice, several people recommended The Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Teaching Reading and BOB books.

Last but not least, we’ve been experimenting with different online programs that offer phonics activities for preschoolers. We did a few searches and ended up with a few websites that were duds. You never know what you’re going to find through a search, right?  Around this time, I was asked if I wanted to try out Rosetta Stone’s new online reading program. Um, YES! Yes, please! My four-year-old has been using this program at the end of quiet time. She loves the “Picture It” option, which focuses on one of her strengths–listening comprehension. The other options take a little more effort from her, and I’ve noticed that (left to her own devices) she’ll return over and over the “Picture It.”

Teaching reading to preschoolers

I love the program buys me a few minutes to transition out of work mode (transition time isn’t just important to toddlers, folks!), AND she’s learning while I work.

This is definitely a program that will grow with her as she advances. In fact, since this program is for kids ages 3-7, she’s at the younger end of the spectrum.

Teaching reading to preschoolers

If you’d like to download the demo for the first level of the program, you can do so here!

What other resources would you recommend for ordinary parents like me? I’m all ears!


Sand and Seashells as a Travel Souvenir and DIY Ornament

I’ve been waiting to share this idea with you for almost a year! I saw sand ornaments on Etsy last winter, and KNEW that I wanted to take the idea and turn it into a memorable, adorable, and incredibly frugal travel souvenir. However, since they are essentially DIY Christmas ornaments, I felt the need to wait until Christmastime to share!

Sand and Seashells: Travel Souvenir and DIY Christmas Ornament!

Like most kids, my girls like to collect shells (among other fun things) when we go to the beach. This year, when we traveled with my parents to Puerto Rico and with Nate’s sister and family to Cancun, I made sure that some of the smallest shells they collected made it home with us. I also filled our trusty ice cream bucket with a bit of sand and lugged the sand home to make the ornament feel more authentic. But of course it’s perfectly acceptable to raid your sandbox for sand too!

Turn your seashells into an inexpensive souvenir/Christmas ornament!

(One disclaimer: if the beaches you frequent are protected and preserved, please find seashells elsewhere!)

Affiliate links included below.

To make this seashell and sand Christmas ornament, you will need:

  1. Sand
  2. Seashells (we used about 15 small shells and rocks)
  3. Clear glass or plastic ornament balls
  4. Heavy-duty ornament hanger.

Kid-Made Christmas Ornaments: Sand & Seashells

We used glass ornaments like these, but they turned out to be very heavy. The little metal hangers were definitely not strong enough to hold them on our tree. Ribbon would be a better choice.

Kid-Made Ornaments: Sand and Seashells

However, by using plastic ornament balls (like these), you minimize the damage if the ornaments fall.

As is typical of this page, this activity was oh-so-easy! And a sweet reminder of the time our family got to spend together this year on vacation.

This kid-made ornament is part of an awesome (IMO) blog hop hosted by Mama Miss. For this series, we are all sharing kid-made ornaments that are inspired by books!10 Days of DIY Christmas Ornaments

I wish I could say that I have a great beach book for kids to recommend, but this ornament is inspired by family travel (in general) and (specifically) the travel books I have on my wishlist for my girls–Lonely Planet’s Not for Parents Travel Books.

These books are still a little advanced for my girls (I believe they’re recommended for ages 8 and up), but they sound so fun!

From Amazon on the Not for Parents Travel Book:

“Everyone knows which is the world’s highest mountain, but do you know which country banned chewing gum? Or what’s the world’s stinkiest fruit? Or who invented roller skates? Or which building leans more than the Leaning Tower of Pisa? Or where can you eat fried spiders as a snack?”

And from the How to be a World Explorer:

How to be a World Explorer will teach you all you need to know about venturing through all the landscapes on Earth. How do you cope with extreme cold? How do you find water in the wild? How do you escape from quicksand? How do you navigate by the stars? How do you build an igloo? How do you fight a bear? It’s all here!

Sounds to me like a cool way to weave together adventure, geography, travel, culture, and silly fun!

You can find all of the literature-inspired, kid-made ornaments on Mama Miss!

Check out today’s features:

Polar Express Ornaments

Scratch ‘n Sniff Watercolors

Ornament Journal

Turn your seashells and sand into an easy, DIY Christmas ornament and inexpensive souvenir.