Show Love, Develop Fine Motor Skills

Valentine’s Day is a great opportunity for both parents and childcare providers to engage children in activities that will improve their fine motor skills. Fine motor skills are the coordination of small muscle movements which occur e.g., in the fingers, usually in coordination with the eyes. These skills are vital to our everyday life and impact our ability to do all sorts of things ranging from being able to pick up small items, being able to button a shirt to drawing and writing in the classroom. However, these skills are not innate to humans and need to be developed over time and craft projects are an excellent way to do so.

Drawing and Tracing: If your program will be celebrating Valentines’ Day try creating “mailboxes” for each child made of cardstock, brown paper bags, or recycled boxes. Have the children decorate their mailbox with crayons, colored pencils, markers, or even paint. Provide stencils for them to trace hearts, flowers or other shapes onto the mailbox.

Using tools:  Have children make their own Valentines to give away with colorful construction paper and safety scissors. Encourage the children to decorate their Valentines with glitter, stickers, stamps or paint.  This would be a great opportunity for children to practice picking up and manipulating small objects.

The basic arts and crafts of Valentine’s Day offer great fine motor skills practice to children and a lot of fun at the same time! While they create their tokens of affection, you can show your care by encouraging them to develop the skills they need for the rest of their lives.

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February 9, 2012 at 2:38 PM Leave a comment

Celebrating the Vietnamese New Year in Fields Corner

Fields Corner Children Thrive celebrated the start of the Year of the Dragon on Saturday, January 21st.

Over 60 Vietnamese families with young children with Autism joined Mayor Thomas M. Menino at Dorchester House Multi-Service Center for games, arts and crafts, a traditional Dragon Dance, and the chance to receive “lixi”, a small gift of money meant to bring good luck in the new year.

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Fields Corner Children Thrive sponsors a monthly support group for Vietnamese families with children with Autism.  For more information, contact Marika Michelangelo at Dorchester House.

Photos courtesy of Oriole Bui.

February 9, 2012 at 2:05 PM Leave a comment

Wordless Books and Reading

Here at ReadBoston, we’re strong advocates for reading aloud to children. In fact, research says that, “the single most important activity for building the knowledge required for eventual success in reading is reading aloud to children.”  In order to develop a love of reading, children need to hear stories, many stories, read aloud.  And, hearing books read aloud is fun, exciting and helps children connect with the magic and wonder of stories.

One way we love to read to babies, toddlers and young children is to use wordless books. We recently created a list of our favorite wordless books that adults and children can look at together to create their own stories to go along with the illustrations. Wordless picture books are a wonderful way to introduce young children to concepts they will later apply when learning to read, such as building vocabulary, comprehension skills and sequencing of events in a story.  Wordless books are also great for English language learners and adults whose first language is not English- families can “read” wordless picture books as a way of creatively sharing stories together.

Click here for a list of some of our favorite wordless picture books.

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We’re on Twitter! @ReadBostonMA

February 1, 2012 at 9:00 AM Leave a comment

Read, Read, Read!

At Jumpstart, we are constantly asking ourselves an important question: what more can we do for our preschoolers?  While visiting some Jumpstart sessions this week, I saw some fantastic reading strategies, language and literacy activities, and conversations around choice-time courtesy of Boston’s Community Corps (our older adult corps of volunteers).  But we all agreed that there is more we can do to make our four hours per week with these kids even more meaningful.

Recently we’ve been thinking a lot about our Reading CenterThe Reading Center is an option for kids to choose during choice-time, but is all too often never chosen at all.  We know how important early reading skills are, and know that we need to take every opportunity that we can to expose children to reading.  In thinking about what more we could do to sell our kids on the Reading Center, I came across some great ideas and resources, including some creative Reading Center set-ups from one of our very own Jumpstart Sites!

  • Jumpstart at Emerson College came up with these thoughtful and creative set-ups for their Reading Center:

By thinking creatively about their set-up, Jumpstart at Emerson College has made the Reading Center exciting and engaging so their kids will be more likely to make the choice to read with their Jumpstart friends.  Ideas like this make reading more of an experience than just reading words on a page–it becomes and engaging activity that kids can get excited about.

  • Reading Rockets also has pages and pages of tips and tricks for parents, teachers and even school administrators.  One of my favorite parent resources was “10 Things You Can Do to Raise a Reader–” this is a great list of quick, easy, every-day activities and reminders for how parents can get their kids off on the right foot when it comes to reading.  I also loved the “Themed Booklists” and the how-to on setting up a “Classroom Library,” because they reminded me of a lot of the things we are constantly thinking about at Jumpstart, and prove that there is a lot more that can go into teaching a child how to read then just handing him a book.

Do you know of any more great reading resources?  Share them here so we can come up with even more ideas to get our children invested in reading!

January 30, 2012 at 12:49 PM Leave a comment

COMING SOON: STEM Resources for Preschool Teachers

How often have you heard preschool teachers talking about their STEM activities or the STEM skills in their curriculum? Probably not very often but preschool teachers are engaging children in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math activities every day. They don’t refer to their activities as STEM activities but they are. A common misconception is that STEM activities are for older kids. What does STEM look like for preschoolers? The STEM Sprouts Teaching Guide will show you! Through a project funded by National Grid, Boston Children’s Museum has created the STEM Sprouts Teaching Guide, soon to be available on the Museum’s website http://www.bostonchildrensmuseum.org/.

This is what you’ll find in the guide:

  • What is STEM is all about?
  • Brain Building 101
  • Asking Good Questions:  Focus on “What”
  • A Day in the Life of a Preschooler
  • Massachusetts Guidelines for Preschool Learning Experiences
  • STEM Activities for Preschoolers

In addition there will be eight downloadable tip sheets on Science, Technology, Engineering, Math, Seeing, Touching, Hearing, and Smelling/Tasting each with the following information:
• How can so much fun teach STEM skills?
• Activities to try
• What to tell children
• What to tell parents
• The brain-building connection
• Books to learn more

For more information about the guide, contact Beth Fredericks: fredericks@bostonchildrensmuseum.org

January 26, 2012 at 4:03 PM Leave a comment

Economic Success Starts Early

A new report from the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center, the State of Working Massachusetts 2011, shows that our state’s economy is strong, despite recent years of recession, with lower unemployment rates, higher median wages, and lower poverty rates than the national average.

What’s the biggest factor in our state’s success relative to the nation?  A well-educated workforce.

  • Massachusetts has the largest percentage of workers with a bachelor’s degree or higher of any state in the country, at 43.9%  (slide 4 in the link above).
  • Higher education leads to better jobs with higher salaries.  Wages for workers with higher education levels, particularly a bachelor’s degree or higher, have grown faster than wages of workers with lower educational attainment (slide 5).
  • Education also offers some protection against unemployment, even in a poor overall economy.  In 2010, Massachusetts workers with a bachelor’s degree or higher had significantly lower rates of unemployment than those with less education (slide 6).

It’s good news – but there’s a catch: the gap between high and low wage workers is growing. 

Over the last 30 years, the gap in hourly wages for low and high income workers has increased by nearly $10.  At the same time, low income household income hasn’t risen very much, and the real value (taking into account inflation) of the minimum wage has decreased.

What does this mean for kids? 

Not surprisingly, even though Massachusetts ranks 9th in the country for states with the lowest poverty rates, poverty among children is rising.  In 2010, 14.3% of all children in the state (roughly 200,000 children) lived below the poverty line – up from 13.1% in 2009.

What should we do? 

The data shows that higher education equals higher income.  We need to start early, giving all kids, particularly those facing economic and other challenges, access to high quality early education and other support services right from the start.  High quality early education and care in the early years is crucial to ensuring that kids reach their full potential in the future, providing support over the first few years of life when the brain is forming a strong foundation for all future learning and skill development.

What can you do?

Volunteer – There are countless opportunities to make a difference in the lives of young kids in your community.  Check out Jumpstart and Horizons for Homeless Children or your local YMCA.

Advocate – Young children need you to speak out on their behalf.  Check out Early Education for All/Strategies for Children and reach out to your local government officials to let them know early education is important to you

Be a Teacher – Young children learn everywhere.  Check out Talk Read Play to learn about activities you can do at home and in the community to support children’s learning.

January 12, 2012 at 4:18 PM Leave a comment

5 Tips for a Stress Free School Registration!

Registration for the 2012-2013 academic year has officially begun! 

If you know someone with a child who will be 3, 4, or 5 years old by September 1, 2012 that would like to enroll their child in Kindergarten for the upcoming school year, encourage them to register by February 3, 2012 to for the best chance of being assigned to a school of their choice.

With the recent changes to the residency requirements, the registration process is now easier than ever.  Here are a few tips to keeping the process stress free:

1.  To decrease your wait time, pre-register online at www.bostonpublicschools.org/register.

2.  Make sure to bring all the necessary, up-to-date documents.  For a list of required documents and answers to commonly asked questions, visit: www.bostonpublicschools.org/residency.  Keep in mind that…

  • Deeds may be downloaded from www.suffolkdeeds.com.
  • For online bill payment, a print out of the statement may also be acceptable if it includes the name, home address and date.
  • The BPS Landlord Affidavit Form is available at any Family Resource Center or online.

3.  Plan ahead! Learn about your school options ahead of time by visiting: www.bostonpublicschools.org/whataremyschools

4.  If you are bringing young children with you, bring snacks and activities so that they don’t become restless.

5.  Use the off business hours to your advantage. The Family Resource Centers are now open till 7pm on Wednesdays and the East Zone FRC will also be open from 9am-1om on Saturday, January 21st and Saturday, January 28th.

January 5, 2012 at 3:57 PM Leave a comment

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