Feed the Alphabet Monster

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I love being able to repurpose things that would otherwise end up in the trash.  And if you have children in your house, chances are the two items needed for this activity are plentiful:  bottle caps (from milk and other drinks) and a baby wipes container!   I shared this bottle cap sorting activity a few years ago and recently found a stash of bottle caps leftover as I was cleaning out a closet.  I decided to make this Feed the Alphabet Monster activity to help Little Brother practice identifying lowercase letters.        

The title of the post was inspired by Toddler Approved’s Feed the LEGO Monsters post.  :)


Here’s what you’ll need:  a plastic baby wipes container, bottle caps, and 1″ stickers.        


IMG 9176 500x333 Feed the Alphabet Monster     IMG 9178 300x450 Feed the Alphabet Monster  These 1″ labels are perfect for the tops of bottle caps!  Just peel and stick!    
IMG 9180 500x333 Feed the Alphabet Monster  1.  Write letters (either capital or lowercase) on the stickers.      
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    IMG 9462 300x456 Feed the Alphabet Monster 2.  Have your child place “feed” the caps to the monster one at a time while saying each letter.  
  IMG 9471 300x450 Feed the Alphabet Monster       IMG 9468 300x445 Feed the Alphabet Monster         IMG 9478 500x333 Feed the Alphabet Monster I love that this activity can be easily packaged and stored in the wipes container!     
    Check out more ways to recycle and browse our Alphabet Activities Pinterest Board:  
Follow Jenae {I Can Teach My Child!}’s board Alphabet Activities on Pinterest.

Paint with Tops

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A few weeks ago we made homemade spinning tops (which the boys are still having a blast with).  We found yet another way to have fun utilizing them:  paint with tops!!  Besides being a fun art project, this activity is also great fine motor practice as your child learns to spin a top.


We chose to do this activity outside, just in case the paint was to fly.  And I would definitely recommend it…especially if you have little ones who love to get LOTS of paint on the top.


Here’s what you’ll need:  tops (add to the fun and make your own with our tutorial), washable paint, paper, and a tray (we used the top of a shallow box).


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Just dip the marble (on the bottom of the top) into the paint and then spin on a piece of white paper!  We had three different tops with three different colors.



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 A top in motion!

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This was the result!  I love how unique this art project is!

 What unconventional material have you and your kids painted with recently?

Mixing Colors with Water Balloons

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This was a super fun art activity for a hot summer day!  We had a great time mixing colors with water balloons!  We used water colored with liquid watercolors within each balloon to create secondary colors once they were popped and mixed!


Here’s what you’ll need:  liquid watercolors (you can use food coloring, but it might stain clothes/hands), water balloon pumper, primary colored water balloons, water, and a dish tub or plastic container.  


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This is the type of liquid watercolors that we use.

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 1.  Inflate the water balloons using each individual color inside the coordinating color of water balloon.  We have this water balloon pumping station and love it because of the tie-not feature (it totally saves our hands from having to tie a million water balloons).  :)

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 2.  Find a place (outside) to begin the color-mixing fun!

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 3.  Have your child choose two colors of balloons…

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 …and pop them in whatever way he/she would like.  Stomp, squeeze, or throw!

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 4.  Swish the water around to see what color the two balloons create.

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 Little Brother thought that this activity was pretty cool.  :)

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5.  Dump out the contents each time into a larger container…

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 …and see what happens when all the colors are mixed together!

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 Be sure to check out our Sum Splat learning activity also featuring water balloons!  

X-Ray Playdough

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We are having a blast learning about the human body!  As we have been learning about the various systems, the boys were especially intrigued with the skeletal system.  We came up with this fun and interactive way to learn about the body system responsible for supporting our bodies, giving us our shape, and protecting our major organs!


We can feel our bones, but we can’t see them unless we are looking at a special picture called an X-Ray.  In this activity, the Q-Tips act as bones to create our own X-Ray pictures!  This would also be a great activity when learning about the letter X.


Here’s what you’ll need:  black play dough (you can make your own with black food coloring), Q-Tips, Skulls (laminated), and outlet covers.  


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1.  Gather your black playdough or make your own.



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2.  Print off the skulls and laminate them.  Use a hot glue gun to attach them to the outlet covers.  (Note:  If you think the skull might scare your child, feel free to use a cotton ball or even a picture of his/her face).  



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3.  Cut your Q-Tips into various lengths.

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4.  Let your child get started playing!  Show him/her some photographs of the skeletal system and try to reproduce the major bones using the Q-Tips and play dough!

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This was Little Brother’s skeleton!

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Big Brother and I created this skeleton together!




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Be sure to check out more fun ways to learn about the human body!


20 Tips for Creating a Language Rich Environment for Your Toddler

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Guest Post by Katie of Playing With Words 365

We know that exposure to print and letters/letter sounds is imperative for literacy development. A quick Google or Pinterest search for terms like “preschool literacy” or “toddler literacy” will provide you with millions of literacy activities. With all the emphasis on these types of activities, you may be surprised to learn that a very important predictor to a child’s later literacy skills requires just you, your child, and some conversation.  Within this post, you will find some great tips for creating a language-rich environment for your toddler.

The Power of Our Words

There is a plethora of research that indicates that children with strong language skills in the preschool and early school years will have strong literacy skills later in life. Specifically, these studies tell us this:

    • The quantity of words spoken to a child in the first three years of life is strongly associated with a child’s language skills, vocabulary size and IQ later in life. Quantity is especially important in toddlers aged 12-24 months for vocabulary development.


    • Quality of words is also so important on vocabulary development. Especially in toddlers aged 24-36 months, who benefit from hearing more sophisticated vocabulary.


    • Children exposed to more positive feedback and statements in relation to negative feedback in the first three years of life had the highest language skills at age three and beyond.


    • Children who were engaged more in conversation by their caregivers or teachers knew more colors, letters and shapes at age three than children who were engaged less in conversation in those first few years of life.


    • Conversations and narratives about past and future events are especially important for preschool children aged 36-48 months.


    • The size of a child’s vocabulary in kindergarten predicts his ability to learn to read.


    • Children learn language and vocabulary when they are directly spoken to, not so much from passive exposure like from watching TV.


    • Children learn language in everyday moments and through PLAY.


So, we know that more exposure to language in the first several years of life correlate to overall stronger language and literacy skills later in life. The question is, how to provide our children with a language rich environment in which to learn, especially in the first few years of life? Today I’m going to share some tips with you to do JUST that!



Creating a Language Rich Environment

It is absolutely amazing watching children learn to talk. They start out with babbles that morph into single words that they soon learn to string together to form sentences. By age three, we can actually have conversations with these little people! And the more amazing thing is that these children are learning language in the everyday moments of life! I’m talking about meal times, diaper changes, dressing in the mornings, and in their everyday play. These sometimes boring and mundane activities for us adults are actually the ones that matter most. Here are some tips on making those everyday moments count, especially with little ones. Click on the link to read more tip in more detail.

1.  Slow down and be truly present in your interactions as much as possible. Put down the phone, close the computer, and be present with your body and mind, as much as possible.



2.  Talk to your child throughout everyday activities



3.  Follow your child’s lead in everyday activities. Believe it or not, this can be challenging sometimes!



4.  Whenever possible, get down at your child’s level to communicate with him/her.



5.  Don’t just focus on your child’s words; watch your child (especially pre or non verbal) for his nonverbal communication cues. This is especially important for children who are not yet communicating with any/many words.



6.  Interpret your child’s messages (both verbal and nonverbal).



7.  Respond meaningfully to your child’s communication attempts within your child’s Zone of Proximal Development.



8.  Try to keep your language positive. Balance the inevitable “no’s” “stop’s” and the “don’ts” with LOT’S of positive talk! I suggest 5-6 positive comments for every negative.



9.  Talk about what you are doing and what he is doing during your everyday routines. During diaper changes, meal times, bath times, etc.



10.  Ask questions, but not too many. Balance your comments to questions at around 4 or 5 comments to each question.



11.  Expand on what he/she says. If your toddler says “car!” expand his words and tell him “Yes! A blue car!” Stress those new words.



12.  Provide your little ones with opportunities to communicate throughout their day.



13.  Read, read, and read some more! Ask questions, talk about the pictures, stress new words and have FUN.



14.  Invest in quality toys that do NOT require batteries! I have some tips on picking toys here.



15.  Consider a toy rotation.  Children are more likely to stay with one toy for longer periods of time, allowing a more rich learning experience, when less toys are within reach.



16.  Play with your child. I know this sounds like a given but when was the last time you got on the floor and played with your child? Children learn through their play and play is your perfect opportunity to jump in and follow their lead to respond meaningfully!



17.  Stop counting, and start communicating! Sure, incorporate letters and numbers into your daily life but don’t make those the focus of those early years (especially the first three years).



18.  Start SINGING! Singing is awesome for speech and language. Itsy Bitsy Spider, Wheels on the Bus, even Let it Go (ha…if you aren’t sick of it yet!)



19.  Stay active! Head to the park or outdoors as children often learn language while on the move.



20.  Limit screen time. For two reasons: 1) research shows vocabulary is best learned through direct conversation and 2) time spent on the screen is time spent NOT doing other things, that are better for their development.




When Talking Isn’t Enough

Sometimes, you can do everything “right” and still have a child who struggles in the area of speech and language development. In fact, my own son has a mild speech delay and I am a speech and language specialist! If your child is displaying any Red Flags for speech and language delays, I suggest you have your child seen by a certified speech-language pathologist in your area. You may also be interested in checking out my How to Help Your Child Talk series, where I share tips on how to interact with your child t best support his speech & language development (many of which I’ve shared above, and many more coming in the weeks ahead!) If you’d like to learn more about speech and language development, you may want to check out my Speech and Language 101 page as well.

I’d love to hear how YOU get the conversations going in your house! What fun things do you do to introduce new vocabulary and allow opportunities for meaningful conversation?


KatiePWW365 150x150 20 Tips for Creating a Language Rich Environment for Your ToddlerThis guest post is from Katie Yeh, M.A., CCC-SLP, a pediatric speech-language pathologist who blogs at Playing With Words 365 where she shares information about speech and language development, therapy ideas and tips, intervention strategies and a little about her family life too. She’s Mom to three kids ages 5, 3, and 8 months. She is passionate about educating, inspiring and empowering parents of children with all abilities. In addition to her own blog, Katie is a regular contributor to The Friendship Circle’s Special Needs blog.