Elora’s Spring Flowers Birthday Cake

Last December, we celebrated Elora’s 5th birthday in Los Angeles, so while this springtime cake may not seem like an obvious choice for a winter birthday, it was actually perfect. ūüėČ

easter dessertsThis Jelly Belly Flower Cake from the always fabulous Glorious Treats has been in my mind since I saw it, and Elora loved it to too, so that’s what I planned. I ordered the Jewel Collection Jelly Bellies before we left for California, and also packed my trusty cake turntable, angled spatula, and Wilton gel colors¬†(they add color without watering down the frosting, which regular food coloring tends to do). (Thank goodness for free checked bags!)

easter desserts

My secret to making very decorative cakes a do-able endeavor is to — gasp! — use a cake mix. Honestly, no one’s paying that much attention to the cake itself, and if they were, cake mixes are tasty, and if nothing else, predictable in terms of texture, etc.

easter desserts

easter dessertsI will say that slicing over half a pound of tiny Jelly Bellies was a labor of love. Dear helped, and when we ended up with more Jelly Belly flowers than absolutely necessary, I simply slapped more flowers on the cake. Why not, right?

easter desserts easter desserts easter desserts

We all enjoyed it, and, most importantly, my little birthday girl was celebrated with the cake she’d anticipated and talked about for so long.

easter desserts

easter desserts easter desserts

easter desserts easter desserts easter desserts

Hop on over to Glorious Treats for full instructions.

Disclosure: Compensated Affiliate. 

Print Awareness and Reading Aloud: 6 Ways to Increase Language Development During Story Time

As children enter the preschool years, they enter the stage of emergent literacy, a stage that’s predicated largely upon print awareness. Print awareness involves a child’s recognition of letters as units that somehow carry meaning. Reading Rockets puts it this way: “Children who have an awareness of print understand that the squiggly lines on a page represent spoken language.”

Reading aloud is an exceptional way to built print awareness. Here are a few ways to make story time with your children even more beneficial (and no less fun):

boost print awareness

 

Check out Jane Mount’s super-cool art, found via Young Gold Teeth.¬†

 

1) Point to the words as you are reading.

This simple act reinforces the notion that the words you are saying are connected directly to the printed words on the page rather than merely to the pictures, strengthening the connection between oral and written communication.

2) Pause so that children can finish familiar sentences.

When children¬†finish familiar sentences on their own out loud, their confidence in relation to reading is boosted; they think,¬†wow, I can do this! even before they are actively starting to try to read. (Just watch their little faces beaming.) In this way, print isn’t something scary, but fun.

3) Read the same books repeatedly.

This allows children to learn the language of a book so that they can finish sentences, and also reinforces the notion of the permanence of print: The same thing happens each time the story is read, in the same way, with the same words.

4) Explain unfamiliar words.

When new words are encountered, explain what the words mean. Alternatively, wait until the story is over and then go back and ask the child to explain the unfamiliar word. You may be surprised to see how much they pick up from context, and discussing words in this way models thinking about words and underlines the idea that individual words are attached to specific meanings.

5) Discuss the story with your child.

Keep it fun, no need to get too “reading comprehension-y” on them. But you can ask them what they think will happen next or what part they liked the best or how certain parts made them feel (bonus: refining their emotional intelligence).

6) Ask them to find certain letters. 

This depends on where the child is on the print awareness spectrum, but a child who is just beginning to connect the spoken (or sung) alphabet to actual printed letters will benefit from pointing to all the Ds, for instance. Keep in mind that children tend to learn the letters of their name earlier than other letters, a phenomenon known as own-name advantage, so start with these.

For more tips, see:
Print Awareness During Read Alouds
Book and Print Awareness: Getting Ready to Read
Suffolk Library: Print Awareness

For more like this on See Mommy Doing, see:
7 Ways to Boost Language Development Simply By How You Respond
How and Why to Correct Your Children’s Grammar
Best Children’s Books: A List of Our Current Favorites

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Sources:
‚Äď Turnbull, K., & Justice, L. (2012).¬†Language Development from Theory to Practice¬†(2nd ed.). Upper Saddle River, New Jersey.¬†

 

How and Why to Correct Your Children’s Grammar

When we understand the mechanisms behind how children learn and refine their language skills, we can leverage that knowledge into ways to enhance their language development.

The competition model of language development, which posits that “language development draws heavily on the input children hear” ¬†is one theory that we can use to help children develop strong language skills. According to this model of learning, “children acquire language forms that they hear frequently and reliably….” (Turnbull & Justice, 2012, p. 62).

children's grammar

Putting aside for the time being all the esoteric debate about prescriptive versus descriptive grammar and Standard English and dialects, etc., let’s assume that you want your children to speak English “properly.”* Knowing that, according to the competition model, your children will acquire forms of language that they hear frequently, it’s important that they, yep, frequently hear, examples of¬†proper Standard English grammar. (I’m just going to call this “good grammar” from this point, though the phrase is politically charged.)

For sure, they will say things that are incorrect. But as they are exposed to language more and more, incorrect forms are replaced by correct forms. Put succinctly:

In the competition model, multiple language forms compete with one another until the input strengthens the correct representation and the child no longer produces an incorrect form. (Turnbull & Justice, 2012, p. 62)

So this is why we need to correct their grammar:¬†You’re providing the input they need to acquire good grammar. And I hate to say it, but this kind of input is becoming increasingly rare. However, we don’t want to be grammar police with our children either.

Here’s how to gently and effectively encourage our children to learn and employ good grammar:

1)  Model good grammar. 

Since the input children receive is such a huge, if not the biggest, determiner of the kind of language they will speak, it’s crucial that they receive a very healthy dose of exposure to language that is full of proper usage. It’s best if these examples are woven into the language we speak with them, what is read aloud to them, even (perhaps especially) what they watch. So we should be aware of the quality of input and provide plenty of opportunity for exposure to a high standard of language.

2) Correct through gentle repetition.

Correcting grammar doesn’t have to be tiresome to either the parent or the child. In fact, it’s probably best to keep grammar correction low-key and pleasant so that it doesn’t become associated with negative feelings. For example, when a child says something like, “I goed to the store with Daddy,” you can simply repeat the correct form, but within the context and flow of the conversation: “Oh, you went to the store with Daddy?” This input strengthens the correct form. In some situations, sentence construction makes it impossible to model in this way. Take the dreaded, “Me and him went to the soccer game.” In keeping with gentle correction, try something like, “Oh, that sounds so fun. But we say ‘Noah and I went to the soccer game,’ okay? Who won?” The kids tend to take it in stride, and it really makes a difference.

It’s never too early to consider our children’s language development. They start listening to us even while in the womb! Language development is truly a human miracle and in so many ways the foundation for learning and therefore a heavy influencer of success in many aspects not only of communication, but of life itself. My personal belief, and I know there are many who would agree, is that equipping our children with the use of good grammar is giving them a skill that will only serve them well. Let’s do it!

For more along these lines, see 7 Ways to Boost Language Development Simply by How You Respond.

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*See, I can’t even help putting that in quotes because of the class I’m taking now about grammar. It reminds me of the feeling I had in my children’s literature class at Berkeley, which, when looking forward to it, I had some kind of dreamy notion we’d talk about Sendak and Lobel and maybe the evolution of children’s stories from nightmarish fairy tales to something more palatable to a modern sensibility. But no, no, no, that class, in addition to requiring us to buy the professor’s mammoth guide to children’s literature (which we never used) ¬†just made me want to stand up and shout : “I’m sorry I’m white, okay????!”¬†I did, however, read¬†Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry¬†in that class, for which I’m grateful.

 
Reference:

‚Äď Turnbull, K., & Justice, L. (2012).¬†Language Development from Theory to Practice¬†(2nd ed.). Upper Saddle River, New Jersey.

5 Reasons to Include Children in Organizing Projects

Earlier this week I was bitten by an organize-the-children’s-art-supplies bug that¬†would not let me not do it. So I dove in in that irreversible way that involves emptying entire shelves and drawers onto the floor. The process took all day. We sorted, we made a list, and then I went to go buy containers while the kids napped. After dinner, their treat was to stay up and help me organize. And they totally loved it.

five reasons to organize with your children

I was honestly surprised by how they responded. They kept telling me, “Mommy, I love you. Mommy, thank you so much.” I realize two things were probably going on: They were happy to be included in what Mommy was doing, of course (as 3- and 5-year-olds still are), but something about the organizing itself was filling up their little hearts.

Although I involved them in the process without too much deep thought, their reaction to helping me made me realize the value of involving the children in organizing projects:

1) They find things they forgot they had. Two things in our home are kind of like Christmas: When I come home from shopping at a consignment sale and when we rotate or organize the kids’ toys. While Danny and Elora were helping sort through their art supplies and toys, they got really excited about things that were too jumbled up for them to access or even remember they had. “Discovering” them breathed new life into things we already have.

organizing with kids-2a

2) Sorting in a real-life setting is educational and practical.¬†Sorting is an important activity for young children. It teaches them to look at things and consider what’s the same and what’s different and how to categorize things in various ways. Sorting is a building block for both math skills and language development. Sorting through helping with a real-life organizing task melds an educational activity with a practical skill — and that’s very high on the the list of the kinds of activities I want to do with my children.

organizing with kids-1-2a

3)¬†They can practice working together.¬†In the already pleasant atmosphere of them helping me and me helping them, the kids were primed to work with each other nicely and were able to practice manners and collaboration: “Danny could you pass me that crayon?” and “Oh, sorry Elora, excuse me.” I was able to model teamwork with them and they were able to apply it immediately both with me and each other.

organizing with kids-5a

4) They feel loved.¬†Their outpouring of love to me made me realize that by letting them help me they must really be feeling loved by me. It’s easy to attribute this to the fact that I was including them in something I was doing, but I also think there was something more going on. I think that by taking the time for them to see me taking care of their things, and including them in my process, they knew that their things — and by extension, they — were important to me.

5) Appreciation and an incentive to keep things neat. By seeing how much work and how long it took for us to organize their things, they realize the labor and consideration it takes to organize. And by involving their time and energy, they feel invested in the project. This leads to a healthy kind of pride in a job well done (you should have seen them beaming at Daddy when they showed him what they did) and, moreover, a huge incentive to keep their things neat.

organizing with kids-6a

Whether I do it myself or involve them in the process, I can see the effect that organized surroundings have on the children. They are calmer, less “lost” in terms of deciding what to do or play with, and much, much more apt to put things away where they belong. Involving them in the act of organizing makes the process even more valuable than the end result, and I hope to remember to do this more often.

Have you observed similar effects when organizing either for or with your children? Share in the comments.