Learning to Write Letters and Numbers With Glow Sticks

preschool writing practice - learning to write letters and numbers

Preschool writing doesn’t have to always take place on paper with a pencil or crayon, right? Right!  Here’s a fun and tactile way for learning how to write letters and numbers.

We used two tubes of dollar store glow sticks, some packaging tape and some paper to form letters and numbers that my preschooler is learning how to write.
glow stick letters and numbers supplies

Preschool Writing Made Fun

We drew the letters and numbers on some cardstock paper. You can use any kind of paper and don’t worry if the exact size of your written letters and numbers matches the glow sticks. The writing is just a guide for them to follow.

Have your child break the glow sticks to make them glow, then place them on the paper to form the letter or number.

break the glow sticks to make letters and numbers

Take the packaging tape and secure the glow sticks to the paper.

packaging tape to secure glow stick letters and numbers to paper

Use the bracelet/necklace connectors to make rounded letters and numbers.

connectors

They don’t look so pretty like this, do they? Lots of tape and some ho-hum figures. But just wait…
here we glow

We went down to our basement where it was nice and dark, and my little guy set up his letters and numbers.
ready to glow

Then we turned out the lights.

glowing letters

glowing numbers

At bedtime, he took them up to his room to enjoy before he fell asleep.

glowing letters and numbers decorate his room at night

I encouraged him to touch the glowing letters and numbers to get a tactile sense of how each one is formed. Experiencing preschool writing with as many senses as possible, and with his whole little four-year-old body, was the goal of this activity.  I couldn’t get a photo of this, but he was jumping over the letters/numbers and back while they glowed in the dark as well. It was a fun activity that I am sure we will do again and again.

If you are looking for a writing curriculum for your homeschool, please visit our sponsor, Bravewriter.

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Practicing Writing Strokes for Preschoolers

practicing writing strokes for preschoolers

Preschool Writing Activities

This is great fun for preschoolers to practice writing the lines and curves that make up the letters of the alphabet.  Use black paper, and sidewalk chalk, soaked in water, to make the colors more vibrant.

wet chalk on black paper

We are about to embark on a focus of learning to really write letters well with my 4 year old. Up until now, he’s been copying from things he sees, can write his first name, but we haven’t really focused on it unless he asked me how to specifically write something.

preschoolers practicing handwriting strokes

I drew different types of strokes and swirls and lines on my paper, some taken from our Handwriting Without Tears preschool book. He would not have stayed interested for nearly as long if I had pulled out that workbook, but brightly colored chalk on paper? The possibilities were endless!

preschool writing practice

My 7-year-old daughter got involved, too, creating a stack of masterpieces. This is good for her as well, as she has some fine motor delays that affect her handwriting.

preschool writing strokes

These preschool writing activities were inspired by Anna at The Imagination Tree and Tammy at Housing a Forest. Stop by and see what they are doing with wet chalk drawings.

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Review: More Starfall

    My kids have long been fans of  Starfall, a free website for preschoolers and early elementary aged kids that teaches reading and language skills. Starfall also has additional content on their More Starfall component, which consists of more games and activities and expands on the skills taught on their orginal site.

The More Starfall program costs $35 for a one year subscription. So what do you get that is different than the original, free Starfall?  That’s what we’ve been exploring.

Firstly, you get math. That’s something not on the original Starfall. More Starfall covers a wide range of math concepts from identifying numbers to basic geometry concepts, measurement, addition and subtraction as well as multiplication and a couple of division activities.  While there is a wide range of skills covered, some of the topics have a lot of content and others have only a couple of activities. For example, the division component only has two activities.

The math skills begin with  number identification and rote counting, forwards and backwards. They work their way up from there to activities for times tables up to the number 9 , well suited to the level of math my 8 year old is doing.

The math games are cute and catchy. There are dancing potatoes that add numbers, bee-bopping chickadees that demonstrate subtraction, a bubble popping game that counts backwards from 100 to 0.

In addition to the math activities, my preschooler really enjoyed the songs and rhymes feature and you can set the songs to play on a continuous loop, so we’ve done that while we’re working a puzzle or playing something else nearby.

There are more phonics and reading options on More Starfall. You can see some of the stories available in the photo below. If your child is receptive to learning to read the phonics and stories on the original Starfall, then this would provide more options. This seems to be one of the meatier parts of the program, with lots of options and a variety of stories.

 Some things are the same on both the original Starfall and More Starfall: the calendar features and the ABC chart, for example. Those are both features my kids have used and loved on the original version. It would be nice to see all new things on More Starfall and perhaps, as the site is developed, they will add more new content.

The range of activities seems rather wide. There are things like color identification, which seemed more suited for toddlers. But the math and phonics components are really the bulk of this program and make it well worth exploring.  The price is great. I haven’t found anything out there that is even close to providing content like this for only $35 a year.

My review in a nutshell…
If you have a child about ages 3 to 8, who enjoys learning on the computer with colorful graphics, has benefitted from the original version of Starfall, then More Starfall would be a good option. If you have found, like I have, that math options via affordable computer/web-based programs are limited, then More Starfall is worth checking out. The math, in my opinion, is the biggest strength of the program, simply because there aren’t other programs that have this in that price range. The phonics and reading content of More Starfall is valuable as well.  There are other programs that do that, but they are stand-alone programs for that subject only.

I received the More Starfall program for free for one month for the purpose of trying and reviewing it.  The opinions expressed in this post are my own. For more information about my disclosure policy, click here.

To read more curriculum reviews, visit my Reviews Page and my Reviews Pinterest Board.

PBS Kids Lab Brings Advanced Technology to Kids’ Learning Games

Love Bug, upon arrival at PBS Kids Headquarters, enthusiastically greets Big Bird.

There are a lot of free things out there that you can use to teach your kids stuff.  In fact, combing through them all just might qualify as a part time job.   A few are true gems.  The PBS Kids website, for our family and so many others, has always been one of those gems.

So imagine how excited the Creek kids were (and me, too) to spend part of the day at PBS Headquarters in Arlington, Virginia recently.  Along with some other awesome bloggers and their offspring, the talented folks at PBS showed us how PBS Kids is using new technology to enhance learning.

PBS Kids was celebrating.  And it was a big, darn deal.  They were launching a new site, PBS Kids Lab.  We are talking major, interactive stuff:  new games that work not only on PC’s and laptops, but on tablets, smart phones, and interactive whiteboards.  The games target kids ages three to eight and they can do things like  use a microphone to manipulate a Curious George counting game.  They can play another game with the famous monkey that utilizes a video camera. By jumping around, they are manipulating bouncing balls and counting them as they go.

The Queen Bee and Firefly try out the Cat in the Hat's Sketch-a-mite game on an interactive whiteboard

The list goes on with so many more games, to include all the favorite PBS characters, including Fizzy’s Lunch Lab, Sid the Science Kid, Dinosaur Train, Super Why, The Cat in the Hat and more.

The PBS folks reminded us that all of these new games are research based, as well as correlated with educational state standards.  Now I’m the type of homeschooler who doesn’t worry too much about state standards. They’re nice and all, but I don’t believe in one-size-fits-all education and that’s another post for another day.  What did impress me, is the amount of time and energy that PBS puts into research, into planning their shows around specific skill-based items for kids to learn.  Your child needs to learn to tell time, to count by tens, to create patterns, to add and subtract?  No problem, there’s a (PBS Kids Lab) ap for that.

Jeremy Roberts, Technology Consultant to PBS, demonstrates the Monkey Jump game, where the player, via web cam, controls Curious George's movements, thus producing objects to count.

Take a look at their page of games.  The tabs across the top allow you to filter it by skill, age, which device your child will play on and even which PBS show it will feature.  So if my 7 year old needs to work on addition and I want him to use my mobile phone so that, say, he can work on this while we are waiting for his sister at her ballet class, the PBS Kids Lab website will generate a list of games that fit those three criteria.

The PBS Kids Lab games are free, just like those on the original PBS Kids website.

Moms love PBS characters, too. JavaMom and I pose with Super Why and Curious George.

Disclaimer:  I was invited to a blogger preview at PBS Headquarters to learn more about PBS Kids Lab.  I was not required to write about this on my blog or compensated in any way for this review.  I did however, receive a very cool Cat in the Hat red and white striped hat.  It is mine and I do not have to share it with my children. They took all my stickers and Super Why tatoos. But the hat is mine. All mine. 

Learning Letter Sounds: Our Letter Pockets

This is our Letter Pocket Board, made from a tri-fold display board that can be purchased at any office supply or craft store, inspired by The Activity Mom.

I took 13 long, white envelopes, sealed them, and cut them in half.  I wrote the uppercase and lowercase letter sets on each one in colorful markers and attached them to the board with double-sided tape, leaving the open end of the envelope at the top.  This makes a little pocket, into which small pictures can be slipped.

My four year old, The Queen Bee has a bucket of little pictures.  She chooses one, says the word and figures out what sound it starts with, finds the letter and into the pocket it goes.

This has also helped her with the order of the alphabet.  If she couldn’t find the letter Ll for example, we sang the ABC song as we pointed to each letter on the board until we got to the letter Ll.  Although, by now she is pretty efficient at find her letters and sounding out all of her words.

Some things I’ve used in the letter sounds bucket include:

The printable cards I found at Prekinders.

Cutting up greeting cards.

Christmas photo cards are especially fun.  She loves to figure out the names that each friend and family member  begin with.

You can also cut out pictures from magazines and junk mail.

Other uses we’ve discovered for this versatile activity:

  • Figure out what letter a word ends with, put the picture in the corresponding pocket.
  • Figure out multiple pockets each picture could go in.  For example, a picture of a friend could go in A for Amy or F for friend or S for smile, which is what she is doing in the picture.
  • Letter of the week:  I give her a pile of pictures, many that start with our letter of the week. She sorts them, making a pile of all the ones that start with our letter of the week and a pile of pictures that don’t.  Then she gets to put a whole pile into one pocket, all at once. What satisfaction! She then figures out where the remaining pictures go.

The only suggestion I have, if you try this project, is to cut a groove in the front part of the envelope so it is easier to slip the pictures in.  At first, my daughter struggled a bit with this and we had a few letter envelopes pulled partway off the board, and a few picture cards tucked in behind the envelopes amongst the sticky tape.  With practice, though, she’s gotten the hang of it.

I’d love to hear any other ideas you may have for possible uses of our Letter Pocket Board.