January 20, 2012

Tips for Introducing Letters

The way you introduce letters to your child will vary greatly depending his or her age and developmental level. Here are some things to consider.

Letters don't need to be introduced alphabetically. In fact, there are good reasons to consider presenting them other ways.

Tip 1:  Teach new letters as they become relevant, such as "o" during the month of October, "p" when you bring home a pumpkin, "v" when Valentine's Day arrives, or the digraph "th" at Thanksgiving.

Tip 2:  Teach letters according to what they look like. Introduce letters with straight lines (or "sticks") first (L, I, T, F, E, H, Z, X, N, M, V, W, Y, A, K), followed by those with curves (O, Q, C, G, U, J, S), and finally those with both straight and curved parts (D, P, B, R).

There is plenty to learn about and with each letter you teach. The big picture includes sounds, formation, encoding and decoding.

Tip 3:  Understanding sounds in words is an essential per-reading skill. Introduce the sound of a letter even before presenting it's form.

Tip 4: Play with sounds by rhyming and blending. You can also separate and put together beginning, middle and ending sounds.

Tip 5:  Practice forming letters in playful ways such as writing them in the air, in sand, rainbow writing, and building them with blocks, play dough, your bodies or hands, or other manipulatives.  

Tip 6:  Connect the letter to its corresponding sound.  Put letters and sounds together to form words you know, that are relevant to other studies or themes in your day, and to form names. You can make word puzzles with Legos or out of cardboard.

Tip 7:  Go on a letter hunt.  Driving in the car or walking down the street are great times to hunt for letters.  This is called using environmental print.  The letters on cereal boxes, shampoo bottles, and the remote control are all examples of environmental print.  A print-rich environment (which may include labeling items in your home or classroom) is a great tool for early literacy.

January 12, 2012

Bubble Wrap: Pop or Print

Before you begin:  If you don't have any bubble wrap at home, you can look for it at recycling centers or possibly ask for a donation of used bubble wrap from department stores. Otherwise, it can
be purchased by the roll and sometimes the sheet at Target, Wal-Mart and the like.

The best and most obvious choice is to pop it!

Instruct your child to keep the bubble wrap away from faces and especially mouths, as well as anything hot of course, or something that could become clogged like the toilet or sink. Then again, in that case you might choose not to plant the idea in their heads!

Let your child hold a piece of bubble wrap about 1'x1' and pop it as they please. Talk about how it sounds, feels, and looks before and after it is popped. Allow them to pop it with fingers, elbows, feet, toes, and knees. If you like, turn on music and allow them to pop to the beat as
they parade around the living room.

Bubble wrap is also a wonderful way to do print-making. Print-making is when you transfer an image from one surface to another via an ink medium. The plate or screen -or in this case, sheet of bubble wrap- is called the matrix. The prints are called impressions. A group of prints made at the same time is called an edition.

In addition to bubble wrap, you will also need paper and paint and potentially a brush or sponge.

In a prepared space (i.e. the table or patio floor covered with newspaper, your child covered with a paint smock, and all pets secured in a separate room) allow your child to apply tempera paint to the textured side of the bubble wrap.
They may use their hands or a brush, and cover as little or as much of the bubble wrap as they choose. You may, depending on your child's understanding, wish to explain that painting more of the bubble wrap will make a bigger picture at the end. Feel free to experiment with multiple colors as well.

When the bubble wrap is painted, help the child lay the paper on top of it, and model how to press the paper onto the bubble wrap, creating the impression. Allow your child to press the paper to the wrap using a flat hand with a sliding motion.  Help your child slowly and carefully peel off the paper.

Wha-la, a bubble print!

You can reuse the matrix (bubble wrap) without adding more paint and compare the impressions, reapply paint and try again, or clean the bubble wrap and try again. Enjoy the process!

Tip: A great way to display child art in your home without having it take over your home is with a bulletin board. Obtain a bulletin board that you would be proud to hang on your wall. A picture frame-like quality is nice. Use this space for new art and old favorites. The keeps art in good condition, makes it easy to rotate pieces, and instills a sense of pride in your child for his creative work.


A print is made in the likeness of it's original. Similarly, we are made in the likeness of God. He is the artist, the creator; we are the art, the created. We are not the same as God, but we carry his likeness in our mind, body and spirit. We are his wonderful art!

"For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well." Psalm 139: 13-14

January 10, 2012


Image by: Marcy Davy
Joy Before You is for parents, teachers, and anyone who spends time with young children. It is here to offer you play-based learning opportunities and ideas for the little people in your care, and hopefully a source of encouragement and joy for you.

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