Kindergarten to Second Grade

Your child will soon encounter a much bigger world to explore. These activities will help your growing learner grasp school basics like reading and writing and 'rithmatic.


Excitement and apprehension -- feelings shared by you and your child during those first few months of school. Now, more than ever, you are sharing with others the responsiblity for helping your child grow.

Here are some of the milestones your 5- to 8-year-old will soon encounter:

  • Trying to please you and teachers
  • Learning self-control -- or at least getting better at it -- but still getting upset
  • Thinking aloud during play
  • Wanting desperately to win
  • Explaining things
  • Making "best friends."
+ enlarge image An old phone book can help ring your child's bell for reading.

When kids incorporate reading and writing materials into their everyday play, they're on the path to becoming successful readers. These activities help your child experience the benefits of reading and the printed word.

Here are a few ideas to get you started on a good selection of print props for your youngster:

  • Old phone book -- keep it near a toy phone
  • Cookbook or recipe cards -- in a play kitchen
  • Grocery ads, receipts, and coupons
  • Maps and atlases -- find cheap ones in used book stores

Let the kids help you make the following props for play:

+ enlarge image Playing chef with an old cookbook can inspire a hunger for reading.
  • Menus -- use pictures from magazines.
  • Driver's license -- glue your child's photo to a 3x5-inch file card and add name, birthday, and other information. For safety, keep this card for home use only.
  • Personal phone book -- with phone numbers of your child's friends and relatives.
  • Floor mat -- cover a map with clear, self-adhesive vinyl.
  • Computer -- use a shoe box with pasted-on letters as a keyboard, and a large box as a monitor. Give your child a variety of pictures from magazines to create the "screen" using another box.
  • Signs -- hang a "Bakery" sign on a table and provide smaller tent signs that read "cake," "muffins," and "cookies."
+ enlarge image Read more complex books together, to encourage listening skills.

Your school-age child will soon discover that more and more of her day is spent listening to others. Becoming a good listener takes time and practice. Try a few of these ideas with your youngster each day.

  • As you read stories, ask your child to respond whenever you say a particular word. For example, "I want you to cluck like a chicken each time I say 'hen.' "
  • After watching a TV program together, see how many details he can remember. "What did the firefighter say you should never play with?" "Why was the fish laughing so hard?"
  • Give your child increasingly complex directions to complete a task. Start with "Take the cans out of the grocery bag and put them on the shelf." Over time, work up to "Take the cans of corn and put them on the top shelf, the cans of tomatoes and put them on the middle shelf, and the cans of peas and put them on the bottom shelf."

Every child needs to learn simple addition and subtraction to the point where the answers come without thinking. Knowing these basic "math facts" helps your youngster progress more easily to more complex math concepts.

One of the best ways to teach math facts -- and the most fun if you participate -- is with flashcards. You can make a set yourself or buy a set. The important points to remember are (1) start with simple problems and (2) stop before your child gets bored or tired.

+ enlarge image Print your child's name in large letters, and add items that start with those letters.

One stage in learning to read is making a connection between each letter and the sounds it represents. That's the basic idea behind phonics. Here's an activity that helps reinforce the learning she'll be doing at school.

Draw large block letters on 12x12-inch pieces of poster board. Cut them out. Start with a few letters, such as the ones in your child's name.

Choose one letter and help your child locate small items that begin with that letter sound. For example, glue buttons and beads on a letter B. Or, make handprints with tempera paint on the letter H.

At first, you can name the object for a letter. Later, ask your child which of two objects starts with the letter's sound. Finally, have your child find the objects.

+ enlarge image Using magnetic letters on your fridge, highlight a new word each day.

In addition to learning the sounds that letters make, your child should be learning to recognize simple words at first glance. Here's a game you can play every day.

Purchase a set of magnetic letters. You can find these at larger toy stores or shops that sell educational materials. Find pictures that represent simple words: dog, cat, Mom, Dad, girl, boy, cat, bat, and so on.

Each morning, create a new word/picture combination on your refrigerator. Have your child look at the picture, then "read" the word. Leave the word/picture combinations up for a few days, then take away the picture. See how many words your child recognizes.

Counting objects and recognizing the number in a group are among the most basic math skills. Here's an activity you can use to reinforce your child's abilities in both areas.

What You Need:

  • 55 dried beans (or buttons or other small objects for counting) placed in a bowl
  • A 10-car "train" made from an egg carton. Cut the bottom of the carton into two strips of five cups taped end to end.

Instructions:

Tell your child that you're going to play a counting game in which you "load the railroad cars," but that each car must have a different amount put in it. Point to the cup on the left and say, "The first car gets one bean." Model the activity for him so that he sees how to say the number "one" as he picks up one bean and puts it in the first cup. Model the activity again for the next cup; as you pick up a second bean, say "two" and put it in the cup.

Have your child start from the beginning. Tell him he is to put 1 bean in the first car, 2 in the next car, 3 in the next car, and so on, up to 10 beans in the last car.

As your child progresses, give him loading instructions in the form of basic math facts. "The first car needs 2 plus 3 beans. The second car needs 5 minus 1 beans."

+ enlarge image "Point to the rectangle."

Learning to recognize shapes isn't just an activity for preschoolers. The ability to find a common shape among several objects is one key to learning to read; we recognize many words by their "shape." To help your child get better at recognizing shapes, try this:

Draw a simple shape (like a rectangle) and have him see how many examples of that shape he can find in your home. Encourage him to look beyond simple matches. For example, a place mat might be a rectangle, but so is the center leaf of the oval dining room table.

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