Websites can be a great way to encourage kids to be creative, to write, to learn, etc.
Families Near and Far was created with military families in mind, which is only one reason why I love it.  However, military families are not the only families that live far apart!  For example, in my immediate family (including in-laws... and keeping in mind that we are the only ones in the military), we cover Rhode Island, Georgia, Tennessee, Colorado, and New Mexico.  That doesn't include our cousins in South Carolina, Florida, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Mississippi.  This site can be a great way to get family members far away to stay connected!

On Families Near and Far, you can create a family page and each child can create his/her own page.  Therefore, you can have them share what is going on with them and every other family member can see it.  You can: post pictures, create art, make music, write a letter, post a comment, send pictures/art/music, etc.  There are activities for pre-school kids, older kids, and information for parents!  Check it out!
 
You want your child to learn matching... but you also need to fold the laundry and put it away.  There's a great way to combine both activities!  Pull out all of the socks and have your little one try to match them.  You may first need to show him/her a pair of matching socks and teach them that when they are exactly the same, they are called a match.  

You could also have the kids sort the clothes before folding them!  Put all the t-shirts, shorts, underwear, and socks in separate piles.  You could also have them sort by color BEFORE you do the wash.  This may help you sort out the loads before loading them in the washer.  There are so many great learning opportunities - even when it comes to laundry.  (Plus, then they are helping with chores - score!).

Is your child working on listening comprehension?  Ask for something specific in a pile of clothes.  This will keep your child occupied while you fold laundry
 
Now that Memorial Day has passed, most kids are on summer break!  Here is a great outdoor game that you can make for your little one.  This is just some old fashioned fun, but we can always add language to it!

Collect up plastic tumblers, tennis ball cans, or empty plastic bottles and set them up as bowling pins.  Then, select a ball to use as a bowling ball.  Allow your child to bowl outside (or inside if it's raining).  If you have a long hallway, then it would make the perfect bowling alley (especially for little ones who may not be able to aim well).  

You can talk about what is happening:  the ball is rolling, the pins are falling, you are chasing the ball, etc.  It can also be a great way to learn to take turns and invite some of the neighborhood kids over.

If you are feeling really brave and your "pins" have tops, then you could add some paint (washable, of course) to the inside of your "pins", put the top on, and let your child shake and roll the pin to let the pins be colored.  Again, you can be talking about action words the entire time!
 
Crafts are always a great way to get kids talking.  They need to tell you what they need, anticipate the next step, ask for a specific color, request items, describe what they made, tell the function of what they made, etc.  Here are some links to some great Memorial Day crafts.  This is not an exhaustive list... this is simply what I found with a quick search:

The following are from:  www.enchantedlearning.com
Star Wreath
Craft Stick Flag
Patriotic Windsock
Patriotic Pot

The following are from: www.dltk-kids.com
3-D Star Paper Craft
Stained Glass Craft
Patriotic Tissue Flowers and Vase

Memorial Day Coloring Pages from www.apples4theteacher.com
 
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If you missed the first blog post about Memorial Day, then click here to get caught up!  We are talking about Memorial Day and coming up with activities that we can use with our kids to teach them about the holiday - it's more than just sales and barbecues!

How much you teach your kiddos about Memorial Day will largely depend on their age and maturity.  It may also depend on if you live in an area with a lot of military or not.  You will have to make that determination.  Here is a book all about Memorial Day!  Print off the pdf version here!

I have specifically made the pages with varying levels in mind.  Therefore, you may not use all the pages.  It really depends on your audience.  Print it off, talk about the text and pictures, put it together and read it each day.

 
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Here is a great simple and easy printable to use with your kids.  Stars are, of course, one of the symbols of the United States.  They are on our flag (50 of them), the seal, the President's seal, etc.  

Click here for the pdf version that is easier to print out.  Simply write in what you want your child to work on and send it home!  You can add:
  • Articulation words
  • Articulation phrases
  • Articulation sentences
  • "wh" questions to work on
  • Items to describe
  • Attributes to work on
  • Prepositions that need work
  • Print and paste pictures to name

Truly the sky is the limit on this one!  Please feel free to print as many times as you would like!  Also, share this with your friends and co-workers!

 
As a military spouse, I think that Memorial Day is a holiday that should not be overlooked when we are teaching our children.  However, some of the concepts of Memorial Day can be kind of hard.  Here are some ideas to make Memorial Day concepts more understandable to children.

First off, what is Memorial Day?  It was originally named Decoration Day and was created to remember the fallen soldiers of the American Civil War.  It now is used to remember all fallen soldiers.

I always like to start off teaching the vocabulary to the kids.  The kids need to be able to understand the concepts that will be taught.  One great way is to pre-teach the vocabulary to them.  Remember our TVAK strategies (Tactile, Visual, Auditory, Kinesthetic).  Try to incorporate as many of those as you can!

Soldier - a man or woman who works for the military (Army, Navy, Airforce, Coast Guard, Marines, Merchant Marines)
Uniform - a piece of clothing that someone has to wear for work
Flag - a symbol of the United States
Memory - thinking about a certain person or time
 
When kids first start learning language, they begin by labeling objects - cow, truck, plane - and making requests - more, milk, book, etc.  Remember the age-old rule:  1 word by age 1, 2-word phrases by age 2.  At what age should they begin to be able to tell you the FUNCTION/USE of an object?  This skills usually begins to emerge around 36 months.  They may first begin by telling you related information about the object.  If so, then reaffirm their answer, but also tell them the function and have them repeat it.  The following conversation may occur:
  • Mom:  What's this?  
  • Child:  Spoon?
  • Mom:  What do we do with a spoon?
  • Child:  Cereal
  • Mom:  You are right.  We use a spoon when we are EATING cereal.  Can you say we use a spoon to EAT?
  • Child:  We use a spoon to eat.

You could also start to expand your child's understanding by naming other things that you use a spoon to eat:  ice cream, soup, pudding, yogurt, etc.
 
I love this time of year.  We live near a large Amish community and now that the weather is nicer, produce stands pop up everywhere!!  It is so nice to have fresh fruits and vegetables grown by local people.  That got me thinking about a fun activity you could do with your kids!

Vegetable prints are fun for kids.  Simply slice a vegetable (or fruit) in half, put some paint on one side, and let your kids use that as a stamp on their paper.  They can see how each fruit and vegetable is different on the inside and how they look different on the paper.  If you don't want to give up a whole half of your fruit/vegetable, then you could always just make a slice out of the middle.

Now, how do you make this activity into a language learning activity?  There are lots of ways!  You could:
  • have your child say the name of the vegetable and come up with what letter it starts with and write that down
  • compare/contrast the different vegetable/fruit prints that were made
  • have your child smell/touch/taste the fruit/vegetable to help describe or compare the different fruits/vegetables (obviously, let them taste it BEFORE putting paint on its surface)
  • have them stamp 1 of one piece of produce, 2 of another, 3 of another, and then it becomes a counting activity
  • talk about what makes a fruit a fruit and what makes a vegetable a vegetable

Have fun exploring and painting with fresh produce this Spring and Summer!
 
Not sure what to get someone for their birthday?  Especially a child?  Wish your child got less toys (that just clutter up your house) for his/her birthday?  Why not "register" for what YOU want your child to receive?  My brother-in-law's birthday is coming up and I had no idea what to give him.  My sister-in-law cleverly sent out a list (with links) of what my brother-in-law needed/wanted.  That's brilliant!  It made me start to think... what if we registered or created wish lists for our children's birthdays/Christmas?  I recently attended a friend's son's birthday party.  He was so excited with each of his presents, but all I could see was the amount of toys piling up!  That same mother said to me today, "I love it when people give us books as presents."  Hmmm... again the wheels started spinning.  

Amazon.com has a way to create a "wish list".  What if you went online and found the things you wanted your child to receive (educational games, books, movies, etc) and emailed it out to family?  That may reduce the number of dolls and cars that fill up the toy box and instead fill the book shelves with things you want to introduce your children to.  Another great idea is to get onto a website like Usborne Books (great educational and FUN books), find what you want, and send out the links so people can click and purchase.  You may also want to ask for a subscription to a children's magazine (the gift that keeps on giving monthly).  Super Duper Inc and Linguisystems have great books and games that work on your child's speech goals.  The possibilities are endless.

This will save you money (because you aren't buying those books, etc that you want your child to have) and others will feel good that they are giving your child something that he/she wants/needs.  It's a win-win!