Tag Archives: summer

Grow a Reader this Summer!

20 Apr

Have you already started mapping out your summer plans?  If you have kids who haven’t learned to read yet, consider using this summer to teach them!  All you need is a few minutes every day and this fabulous book, Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons by Siegfried Engelmann. In approximately the duration of your child’s summer vacation, you can teach them one of life’s most valuable – and fun – skills!

When my son (now 6 ½) was 3 ½, I wanted to start teaching him how to read.  He knew most of his letter sounds, and he would sit still for any length of story I would read him.  It seemed like the right time to get going.

But where to start?  I didn’t know the first thing about how to approach it.

At the recommendation of some moms I know, I bought the book mentioned above.  It’s a very specific method of teaching reading to children.  (The book states that it’s designed for 4- or 5-year-olds, but can also be taught to bright 3 ½-year-olds.)  Its huge size seems a bit daunting at first, but the layout is very easy to follow.

Just do one lesson a day (or every other day, whatever your child can handle and your schedule allows).  Each lesson is presented with exact instructions, down to a teaching script so you know what to say with each task.

Every lesson includes writing practice, and the whole thing only takes about 10-20 minutes to complete.  By the time you reach lesson 50, your child will be reading an entire paragraph!  This amazing book completely takes the guesswork out of this process.

One thing you MUST do before you start teaching your child with this book: read the parent instructions.  It is imperative that you have an understanding of how the lessons work before you begin teaching, or you will stumble around and lose your child’s interest – which we all know is the kiss of death!

An added way to make the lessons fun (and to incorporate a bit of math, too) is to make a chart of squares numbered 1-100.  Each time your child finishes a lesson, they can put a sticker or a stamp in the square for the lesson they completed.  Once they’re done with all 100, they earn a prize.  Or you can give them a prize after every row of 10 – whatever works for you!

My son reads extremely well now.  He’s become a real lover of books, and can read anything we throw at him.  Knowing how to read has given him  independence and confidence to start him on a path to success in school, which is something that will serve him well for the rest of his life!

That's my boy!

I’m now using my well-worn copy of the book, with its many wrinkled pages and a taped-up cover, to instruct my 4 ½-year-old daughter.  She’s coming along great!

If you’ve never taught someone the skill of reading, you’re in for quite an experience.  It’s tedious, frustrating, and sometimes seems impossible, but the end result is an accomplishment that both you and your little one will cherish.  Summer vacation is a perfect time to do it!

Roundtable Discussion – Boredom Busters

23 Jun

A couple weeks ago, Lori wrote a great blog about Boredom Busters (click here to read it).  I loved it – I always enjoy peeking inside another mom’s head to see what cool ideas they use to keep their kids entertained.

I wanted to expand on Lori’s list a little bit, and encourage everyone to throw in their two cents.  Summer is the time when all of us need a hand in filling the long days!

What are some creative, free OR inexpensive things you do with your kids?  Here’s my list.  I think I’m going to print it out and let my kids pick one every day until we’ve done them all!

  • Summer reading club at the library
  • Read It Again kits at from the library
  • Learn a new skill (for my 5-year-old, we’re going to work on tying shoes and cartwheels)
  • Spraygrounds
  • Arlington Museum of Art (it’s free, they only ask for donations)
  • Bowling (we signed up for kidsbowlfree.com – you just pay for shoes)
  • Roller skating (the Arlington Skatium on Cooper has a “cheap skate” night for $1.99)
  • Levitt Pavilion concerts
  • Summer movie series at Studio Movie Grill or Cinemark (cheap tickets)
  • YMCA (my kids love going there while I exercise, and we often swim there together)
  • Keep a summer journal
  • Make giant bubble wands
  • Angry Birds sidewalk chalk & water balloon game (found here)
  • Make lemonade
  • Start up correspondence with a pen pal
  • Go on a scavenger hunt (even in your own house!)
  • Have a picnic (even in your own house!)
  • Go outside, sit on the shade, and blow bubbles
  • Bake cookies
  • Make puzzle planks (found here)
  • Use a cookie cutter to cut out shapes in slices of watermelon
  • Have a family jam (everyone play a different instrument!)
  • Go fly a kite
  • Play follow the leader, freeze/melt, head, shoulder, knees, & toes, or I Spy
  • Fill up a box with objects around the house that all start with the same letter
  • Explore outside with a magnifying glass
  • Make a living room fort
  • Cut out pictures from old magazines and make a collage
  • Paint a picture outside
  • Play dress-up
  • Play with playdough
  • Do a puppet show
  • Trace your bodies on giant pieces of paper and draw in some clothes
  • Have a water balloon fight

Traveling with Kids

22 Jun

All summer long, parents will be traveling with their kids.  Automotive or air travel can bring a family closer together and be a really positive, fun experience with kids, or it can be a complete and total drag (we’ve all been trapped somewhere with a screaming kid at some point- NOT fun!)

Every year, our family takes a road trip to the coast, which entails being in a car upwards of twelve hours (with plenty of breaks along the way!)  On the trip this year, I turned around and flew with my youngest to Austin for a 24-hour period to watch my Godson complete his First Communion.  Overall, it was a very pleasant experience and I’ll tell you what worked for me.

Any travel takes planning.  The more I plan, the more I feel prepared.  This time around I made a ton of lists (I know, I know, I’ve already broken one of my resolutions for the new year, but I just didn’t see any way around it).  I made lists for what I needed to do to prepare for the trip as well as a running list of what I needed to pack as well and what would need to be purchased.

I organized the way the car was loaded.  I made sure the kids had snacks and drinks that were accessible to them at all times.  For the older two kids, I filled baskets with things to keep them busy on the long trip.  For my 5 year old, I packed activity books with markers, sticker books (Usborne makes some awesome ones), regular books for reading, her school work, an MP3 player with headphones, and a book of mazes.  For my three- year old, I packed tons of little trinkets she could play with (a mini lunch box filled with dinosaur figurines, mermaids, etc,), a mini etch a sketch, dry erase activity books, lift the flap books, and a TAG pen with books (and ear buds to attach).  For the baby, I loaded the seat back pocket nearest him with baby toys, a scarf, touch and feel books, etc.

When the going got tough and I needed some quiet time, I would pop in a DVD movie.  (In fact, a friend of mine very generously loaned me a complete system that attaches to the backs of the headrests).  It was a life saver on the way home!

I also purchased a few decks from Usborne books, one of which is called 50 Travel Games and Activities.  The kids enjoyed taking turns drawing from that deck and playing new games together as a family.

As far as traveling with my youngest (11 months), I had to get creative at times.  He had a blast for almost an hour playing with an empty water bottle!  When we were at the airport, I made sure he walked/crawled around as much as possible before we would get on the plane.  I packed a carry on with a small inflatable ball, which I blew up while waiting in the terminal, and we would literally play “fetch” with it.  I packed lots of clean healthy snacks (like dried fruit) in the no spill snack cups that he could reach in and help feed himself with.  I made sure he had a sippy cup with water in it (just in case), but he ended up nursing both times on take off and landing, so we did not end up having any trouble with his ears popping.

On the actual plane, I used the mystery box toy Jen had made.  It completely entertained him for an hour.  He would pull one toy out; discover it for a few minutes, then move on to something else.  There was a scarf inside, which was a big hit too, because we could play peek a boo and hide the other toys with it as well.  Because I had worn him out so well in the terminal, he slept the entire leg of one flight.

In the carry on I also had lift the flap & touch and feel books, as well as a travel pouch of tissues (I figured if I got really desperate, I would let him pull them out one by one and/or tear them to shreds), a glowing spinny toy we got at the circus, a Cheerios board book (it’s really cute- there are cut outs in the book where you put actual Cheerios and the baby can eat them while you read) and a few baby toys he hadn’t seen in a long time.  (I tried to think ahead and put away things he really liked for about a month before we traveled, so he’d be really excited to see them).

In the past, I have exchanged books and toys with friends of mine (meaning I would lend them things to take on their trip that would be “new” to their kids and they have done the same for me).  That’s nice because then you don’t have to go out and buy anything and typically other moms have a ton of things that your kids love to play with.  Jen also has a really cool Hang Man puzzle by Melissa and Doug whereby the letters and hangman pieces are tethered to the board with bands.  It would be great for road trips.  I’ll be looking for one in the near future!

Feel free to share what works for you!

And We’re Off: How I Spent the Summer of 2011

14 Jun

To understand my complete and utter delight at how this summer is shaping up, you need the backstory on Summer 2010—the single most difficult season I have ever endured.

We’d just come off a dreadful year of junior high, which my now-15-year-old daughter with autism plainly loathed.  Another student had bitten her four times; my husband and I had lost confidence in the staff, both their teaching skills and their ability to shield our daughter from harm; what’s more, Paige refused to go to school and, physically, I couldn’t make her.

So in June 2010, I simultaneously pulled in and reached out.  Pulling in for me translates into limited social contact and lots of “head time,” where I mull different possibilities of what to do, help to see and paths to take.  (“Head time” gets very noisy, as you might imagine!)  Reaching out meant seeking input from my contacts in the DFW autism community, several of whom held my hand through the often-convoluted process of securing school-based and publically funded services.

I worked like crazy.

Laid bare our situation to strangers.

Prayed nonstop.

Fast-forward a year to Monday, June 13, when Paige happily hopped on the bus for her first day of summer school.  Which went great!  (Her teacher emailed me last night with the full scoop. The day was truly fabulous.)

My personal goal for this summer is to live in the moment—to enjoy the fun times and learn from the tough ones.  Also, I plan to remain mindful and grateful for how far we’ve come as a family from a year ago.

Here’s hoping your summer is fabulous, too!

Lazy List of Boredom Busters

8 Jun

With summer right around the corner, I’ve got my calendar out and the planning has begun!  I got this brilliant idea from my close friend, Jean Marie Lopez, for putting together a list of fun/interesting things to do.  Why have a list?  Because it’s an easy way to find something to do in a pinch, like when it’s raining outside or the kids are whining the ever annoying, “I’m bored.”  (I’m not at all saying that I am committed to doing every single thing on this list.  I just like knowing I have a quick place to go to find something fun- instead of straight to the TV or computer, which could otherwise easily become my default).

I included my kids in making my list.  Here it what we’ve got so far:

(Items with an * next to them are FREE, items with a ** I plan to blog more about- so stay tuned!)

  1. Visit Dinosaur Valley State Park
  2. Participate in the library summer reading program*
  3. Indoor or outdoor obstacle course *
  4. Make playdough **
  5. Play in the sprinklers *
  6. Get an Arlington Parks & Recreation Passport and visit a park we’ve never been to *
  7. Go on a nature hike *
  8. Watch a movie at the Omni theater
  9. Make friendship bracelets
  10. Paint a canvas
  11. Make an A frame tent
  12. Find a Geocache **
  13. Hide a Geocache **
  14. Go letterboxing
  15. Do a science experiment
  16. Teach the kids to play four square **
  17. Visit Don Misenheimer splash park*
  18. 10 Terrific Weeks (Usborne Book program)
  19. Made homemade popcicles **
  20. Visit the Dallas Zoo
  21. Go to the Lakeshore Learning store
  22. Attend a concert at Levitt Pavillion *
  23. Have a backyard scavenger hunt *
  24. Have a messy day*
  25. Take the kids to Krispy Crème
  26. Recycle crayons **
  27. Go to the $1 movie
  28. Take care of the Webkinz
  29. Board game
  30. Complete a 1000 piece puzzle
  31. Learn a new song on the piano *
  32. Write a letter to a pen pal*
  33. Let the kids be mom for an afternoon*
  34. Visit the bookstore
  35. Ride the carousel at the mall
  36. Explore Internet Linked books online (Usborne books) *
  37. Visit PetSmart *
  38. Teach the kids to play kick ball *
  39. Visit Howard Moore Play Pool
  40. Bake a cake from scratch
  41. Draw a card and play one of the 50 games (Usborne books)

I’d love to know what you’re putting on your own list!  Feel free to share ideas!

Cinemark’s Summer Movies for Kids

2 Jun

Starting this week, come to any of the metroplex Cinemark locations for kids’ movies this summer.  All movies are $1 each, or you can get 10 movies for only $5 if you purchase the tickets in advance!

Click here to find the schedule of a theater near you.

Make Your Own Frozen Yogurt Pops

1 Jun

I came across this recipe a few years back in Jessica Seinfeld’s book, Deceptively Delicious.  A friend of mine had recommended the book for my picky eater.  There are a TON of great recipes in it, a few of which I use regularly.  The idea of this recipe book is to discover new ways of hiding fruits and veggies in other dishes, thereby amping up the healthiness of the dish.

Every summer, I make these frozen yogurt pops.  They are quick and simple, healthy and delicious.  The kids can even help in the process!  Don’t worry if you don’t have popsicle molds.  You can always use ice cube trays (just remember to cover them with plastic wrap) and stick toothpicks inside for sticks.

INGREDIENTS:

2 cups plain lowfat yogurt

2 cups frozen berries thawed in the microwave for 1 minute (I always use fresh berries and they work fine)

½ to ¾ cup of confectioner’s sugar

DIRECTIONS:

Combine the yogurt, fruit, and sugar in a blender or (large) food processor and process until smooth.  Pour into popsicle molds and freeze.  (Deceptively Delicious notes that each popsicle is only 100 calories, and contains less than 1 gram of fat!)

They taste delicious on those hot Texas summer days!  If you prefer more of a popsicle as opposed to a yogurt you can always just pour juice into a mold and freeze.  My mom used to let us freeze Kool Aid in ice cube trays for a fun and tasty summer treat!  I think I’ll even try to use the juicer this summer and freeze some of our favorites for popsicles!

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