Summer Reading Bingo

Shawn came home and found me in my element: hunched over poster board, using my big ruler, Sharpies in varying colours and widths strewn about. He asked what I was doing and after I told him, he laughed and accused me of taking my "clipboard of fun" to the next level. Advanced Clipboard of Fun, if you will.

I don't even care.

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I made an awesome Summer Reading Bingo Card for Grady and he loves it. When he woke up the next morning and found it hanging on the wall he was so excited to get started. We've already made one big run to the library for books and he's managed to knock off nine squares (there's 100 in total) in less than a week. 

Summer Reading Bingo is something I thought up to keep Grady interested in reading during summer break. Grady's school is closed for two full months and that's a long break. I don't want him to lose the momentum he gained, or his enthusiasm for reading. I also want a visual reminder for myself so I can measure how much I'm reading with Grady. With life getting so busy this summer, I don't want Grady's reading to suffer. The visual reminder of how many books we've read together, and how many we have left to go before school starts, will (hopefully) help me stay on top of summer reading better than if I'm relying on my memory. 

Want to play with us? All I did was make a 10x10 grid on poster board and fill it with topics featured in kids' books. Some are easy (Pete the Cat, Iron Man, trucks, etc.) and some will require a trip to the library (ballet dancers). When we read a book featuring one of the 100 topics on the bingo card, Grady gets to colour in the square. He only gets to colour in one square per book (so Pete at the Beach can either knock off the Pete the Cat square, or the beach square, or the cat square, but not all three squares). 

When Grady gets a bingo (ten books in a row), he gets to choose a treat from the list below the grid. The treats are an assortment of things we already had planned for the summer (don't tell him that) like going out for ice cream cones, sleeping in the tent, staying up late, and things like that. 

At almost six years old, the bingo card method ties in perfectly with Grady's need for control (he decides what we're reading and what treat he's earning) and the visual aid is perfect for his personality (he likes to see his progress) and where he's at developmentally. 

How do you keep your kids interested in reading over the summer? 

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Thank You Teacher Gift - Customized Pencils

We're stumbling toward the end of the school year with a calendar full of spirit days and classroom events. The thought of adding one more thing to my to-do list is daunting but I wanted to give Grady's teachers a gift from the heart. Grady's first year of school has been more positive than we could have hoped for, largely because of his teachers. Teachers are my heroes. I say that without an ounce of humour. I could not teach 22 five-year-olds and maintain my sanity. 

I realize that teachers probably accrue a lot of stuff, and my desire to give a heartfelt gift doesn't outweigh their desire to not be buried in things. I wanted to find the perfect balance of meaningful and useful. 

I used 1/8" metal hand stamps, a black ink pad, and a rubber mallet to make custom pencils for Grady's teachers and I love how they turned out. With that being said, this was not a fun craft to do with an almost-six-year-old. It requires too much dexterity and the risk-reward ratio was off. My fingers got whacked a few too many times is what I'm saying. 

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We added a card with sincere messages from both of us (I may have cried a little while writing mine) and a coffee gift card. It may not be the most elaborate or fancy teacher thank you gift but it checks all my boxes. 

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Do you do teacher thank you gifts at the end of the year? What do you give?

Kid Craft: Reading Sticks

We read with Grady every day but Grady doesn't know how to read yet. To be clear: we don't expect Grady to know how to read. We do, however, want to support his reading comprehension. We want reading to be enjoyable. We want to do whatever we can to help him learn easily but apart from making reading part of our daily routine, we weren't really sure how.

Grady's teacher recently introduced me to reading sticks. They're simple pointers the kids use to identify letters, syllables, and simple words as they "read" with her. They're brilliant. Grady can't look at a sentence and read all of the words yet, but he can use the pointer and consistently follow along, word for word, syllable for syllable, as I read to him. It makes our reading time more interactive (I'm not reading to him, we're reading together) and he's becoming more confident in his reading abilities. 

Reading sticks are an easy kid craft. Popsicle sticks are a great size and then you just need something fun for your pointer (pompom, sequin, sticker, googly eye, etc.). Grady's excited to make them (I let him use GRADE ONE GLUE!!) and that translates into him being excited to use them. We've made a bunch and stashed them in various places so at any given moment we can whip out a reading stick and do some learning.

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How do you support your early reader? We've got two weeks of spring break and I want to keep the reading momentum going.

You're Not My Buddy

I check in with Grady every night as we're doing his bedtime routine. We talk about his day. What he did at school. Who he played with. What he ate. What he'd like to eat tomorrow. It's mostly small-talk but I want him to be in the habit of talking to me so when he's faced with bigger stuff down the line he'll know I'm always ready to listen.

Last week he was giving me the rundown of his day (liked the cheese sandwich in his lunchbox, did not like the crackers I gave him for recess, read a couple books at school, tooted about 20 times,) and he told me that a kid on the playground told him he couldn't play with him.

I saw red.

Grady wasn't even upset, he was just relaying the information like all the other tidbits he'd already delivered. I kept my cool in front of him but after he was asleep, I was livid. I was crafting emails to the teacher in my head. I was ranting on Twitter. I was full on mama bear.

And then I took a breath. I decided that if Grady wasn't upset, I wasn't upset. I'd keep an eye on the situation and continue to check in with Grady, but I wouldn't make it a thing.

And it wasn't a thing. It was one random comment from one random kid on the playground.

Yesterday I dropped Grady off at school. He lined up with his class. He waved to a couple friends. And then a classmate said good morning to him. Grady looked him straight in the eye and said, "you're not my buddy."

My heart sunk but the bell rang and the kids filed into the school before I could do anything.

I stewed all day. I asked friends for help. I asked Twitter for book recommendations on friendship and kindness. I carefully thought out what I would say to Grady and how I would approach the situation. He doesn't have to be friends with every kid at school but he does have to be kind. I'm not interested in forcing him to be friends with anyone he doesn't want to be friends with but I will drill kindness into him every day until I die.

Last night I casually asked why he had told that boy he wasn't his buddy. I was expecting tears and defensive stories about rude behaviour (the biggest transgression you can make in Grady's eyes). Grady nonchalantly answered, "because I don't know his name."

The kid isn't Grady's buddy because Grady doesn't know his name. There was no malice in his comment, just pure 5-year-old logic.

Our conversation turned out to be completely different than the one I was expecting to have with him. Which is a good thing. Keeps me on my toes. (And reminds me to stop jumping to conclusions.)

And now Grady knows how to introduce himself to kids he doesn't know. And I now know that I need to take a step back from schoolyard politics before I get an ulcer.