By Shannon Cannon

      As a student teacher in a first grade, I watched a classroom full of little 6 year olds sitting in front of small chalkboards writing nonsense words like "BA" and "DI" for 45 minutes each day. The object was to teach them the sounds of the letters and how they fit together to make words. The result was a classroom full of little 6 year olds who learned that reading was boring and learning sounds was one of their least favorite parts of the day. The last thing you would want to teach a young child. Since then I have met many teachers who have understood the idea of teaching children by helping them to see how much fun learning can be. This concept is especially true in teaching preschool children.

      Preschoolers love to play, especially if mom or dad are playing with them. Here are a few activities you can use to play with your children and help them see how fun learning can be. They are organized in a "letter of the week" so that you can emphasize the beginning sound briefly while you are doing each activity. Put a huge piece of newsprint up on the wall in the kitchen and draw the letter of the week larger than life. Then draw several pictures of objects that begin with that letter. It's kind of like a giant pictionary game. Leave the paper up for a week or so and do everything you can think of that starts with that letter; songs, games, foods, books, field trips, etc. Children will learn the sounds of the letters little by little and the best part is they won't even notice they are being taught.

      Have some fun getting started with these activities for "A" week:

      • Make a quick and easy snack with apples: Dip them in peanut butter or caramel dip or make some baked apples. Recipe for Baked Apples Yield: 6 servings 6 lg Baking apples 12 T Brown sugar 1/2 t Cinnamon 1 1/2 t Butter 1/4 t Nutmeg 1. Wash and core apples, then remove a 1 inch strip of peel around the middle of each apple. 2. Place apples in a 2 quart square baking dish. 3. Mix sugar, and spices in a small bowl. 4. Fill center of each apple with mixture and dot with 1/4 t butter. 5. Add enough water to baking dish to cover the bottom of the dish. 6. Bake uncovered, at 350 degrees until apples are tender. Baste with glaze occasionally. Serve warm, covered with some of the baking glaze and real whipped cream. 1/2 c of raisins can be added to the sugar and spice mixture. Tip: McIntosh or Granny Smith apples are great for this.

      • Make balls out of aluminum foil, or try different shapes like airplanes, anchors or animals (snakes, giraffes, birds, etc.). Or wrap a piece of cardboard with aluminum foil and engrave your own hieroglyphics to tell a story.

      • Play the "All, Some, and None Game". Put several apples together in a bowl or basket one at a time while counting them. Mention that ALL the apples are in the bowl. Then take some out and show how SOME are in the bowl. Finally take the rest out and say that now there are NONE in the bowl. Have the children practice ALL, SOME and NONE by putting the apples in and taking them out of the bowl.

      • Gather 3 or 4 different varieties of apples from the produce section (Macintosh, Granny Smith, Gala, Jonathan, Golden Delicious, Red Delicious, etc.). Cut the apples into bite-size pieces, with each kind of apple on its own plate. Make sure you label them. Then blindfold one child at a time and have them taste each of the different kinds of apples and decide which is their favorite. If you use too many different kinds of apples it will be harder for young children to remember what they each taste like. Don't forget their final decision; it can come in handy the next time you buy apples.

      • Chop up the apples in small pieces and place them outside in a spot where you have seen ants recently. Talk with the children about what you think will happen to the apples. Watch over the next couple of hours to see if the ants find the apples and what happens to them. If you can't find ants, call me; I'll share.

      • Play "Follow the Leader" by marching around the house singing,

"The Ants Go Marching".

The ants go marching one by one, Hurrah! Hurrah!
The ants go marching one by one, Hurrah! Hurrah!
The ants go marching one by one, the little one stops to suck his thumb.
And they all go marching down -- to the ground -- to get out -- of the rain.
Boom, boom, boom,
Boom, boom, boom, boom.
Two by two, the little one stops to tie his shoe.
Three by three, the little one stops to climb a tree.
Four by four, the little one stops to shut the door.
Five by five, the little one stops to jump and dive (Or jive).
Six by six, the little one stops to pick up sticks.
Seven by seven, the little one stops to go to heaven.
Eight by eight, the little one stops to rollerskate.
Nine by nine, the little one stops to drink and dine.
Ten by ten, the little one stops to say, "The End."

      • Read the story of "The Grasshopper and the Ant" and ask the children what things they might like to store for the winter. Maybe let them watch "A Bug's Life" and talk about which parts are like the fable.

      Remember that the object in all of this is to have some fun with your children and help them learn a little at the same time. If the kids are getting bored or lose interest, drop what you are doing and head for the sandbox.


Few things in life are more fun and rewarding than curling up on the couch with your kids and a good book. If you truly want your kids to learn to read well, then READ TO THEM EVERY DAY! There is no better way to teach your kids that reading is fun and interesting.
Click here to see a list of ALL the books we have read to our children.

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