Now that Caroline is 4 years old, we’ve been doing more focused learning activities at home (specifically some preschool friendly letter activities).
It’s been difficult to find the time, since she’s in preschool two mornings a week, and has an activity once a week, but I think it’s something that is important to do.
I am a big fan of not pushing learning on our kids at a young age (in fact we even like play based preschool), but at the same time, it is important for them to have mental stimulation in their day.
Learning the childhood basics like colors, shapes, the alphabet, etc. is actually pretty important. Whether you are doing preschool, home preschool, or no preschool at all, these things should be taught.
In addition to knowing this foundation of learning is important, we noticed that Caroline was acting out a lot, and also having a hard time getting to sleep.
As a result, we incorporated several things to her daily activities:
- A block of mental stimulation (a focused learning activity)
- Physical stimulation (outside playtime- even in the rain)
- Mama specific playtime (since we have a new baby at home, she benefited from the one on one focused attention)
- Independent playtime (we all benefit from the time we get to ourselves)
- And lots of family time (playing all together, just her and her new brother together, etc.)
Caroline has been wanting to learn how to read since she was about 2.5 years old. She won’t let me work with her much and gets easily frustrated, however, even though she knows all of her letters and sounds.
Letter tracing has also been a struggle, as she is a perfectionist and gets very upset when she does it even slightly incorrectly. She then pretends to not know how to do it at all, which frustrates everyone.
So, we took a break for awhile. But then, she was given an amazing gift for her 4th birthday.
It inspired me to get back to doing just a few minutes a day of letter practice!
The gift she was given, was the LeapFrog Mr. Pencil Scribble and Write.
As with all LeapFrog items, this is an interactive tool that makes learning fun. Caroline was really enjoying it, so I decided to take it a step further and create a tracking system for her.
This way, she did everything… all the letters, all the numbers, and all the shapes, and she was able to demonstrate what she’d learned.
My super organized 4 year old, loved the idea and took it a step further!
A Preschool Friendly Letter Activity
To begin with, let me tell you about the LeapFrog Mr. Pencil device!
On this learning device, there is a pen and a screen to practice writing. Children can choose any uppercase letter, lowercase letter, numbers 1-10, or shapes to practice writing.
It starts by showing how to write it, then has the child trace. It shows them where to begin and end with their writing strokes.
I loved the idea of having them use an interactive tablet that gives immediate feedback, all while still getting practice holding an actual pen shaped item.
Once they master the tracing, Mr. Pencil lets them know they did a good job! It then shows a picture that starts with the letter, or for numbers it has that many objects show up on the screen for the child to tap.
It’s a great learning device!
Teaching Letter Tracing
I challenged Caroline to go through every single letter (uppercase and lowercase), numbers and shapes.
She traces it on Mr. Pencil, and then marks off when she’s done on a folder that I made.
She does this while I clean up the dishes from breakfast. Every morning.
It only takes her a few minutes.
On school or activity days, I have her do 1 item. On days we stay home, I have her choose 3. She can go in any order she likes, as long as she does new letters/numbers/shapes each day.
Tracking and Rewarding Progress
This time, I made her a folder to track her progress. When we do it again, however, (which we will do it all again at some point), I will be making a printable sheet for her to keep track on and record her progress (see below for the free printable).
All I did was have a page for uppercase letters, a page for lowercase letters, a page for numbers, and a page for shapes.
Next to each item, there is a place to mark off that it has been completed.
My original idea was to have her put a stamp or a sticker next to the item she’d completed.
Caroline wanted to take it a step further, however. She had a brilliant idea!
She’d started with numbers. Her idea was to put one stamp on the number 1, two stamps for number 2, 5 stamps for number 5, etc.
I loved this idea so much!
We did this method for the numbers.
For shapes and letters I had her write what she’d just learned in place of a stamp. In this way, I could see how she was actually doing with writing.
Demonstrating Knowledge Learned
As we progressed into this activity, we did a lot of knowledge demonstration.
Caroline would practice first with Mr. Pencil.
Then she would practice on paper.
Then, if she needed help, I would give her a few on paper to trace.
We’d have her practice several times on her own.
Then, she’d write it on the folder.
It worked great. We now have a fully completed folder with all of her progress written down!
Her completed work looks a bit messy, but it’s all there, and I am SO proud of her for doing this entire folder in about 1.5 months!
Occasionally her perfectionism came through and she’d just start scribbling instead of trying.
She would do one little thing slightly incorrect, and it would throw her into a frenzy where she no longer wanted to try at all. She’d start scribbling and pretending she didn’t know how to do it at all–> as evidenced on the folder LOL!
Even with those moments, however, she managed to get through this entire folder of work. I am so incredibly proud.
Now that the Mr. Pencil activity has been completed, we purchased a preschool workbook through Amazon.
She loves it so much she did about 10 pages of work this morning alone!
We’ve always done a variety of fun activities at home. I try my best to keep learning activities fun as well.
Caroline’s always enjoyed it. She had her alphabet learned by 1.5 years old simply because she wanted more and more practice!
Free Printable to use With Mr. Pencil
For some fun ideas for toddlers, check out these posts: