As a foster carer to 5-year-old twins, I am always looking for ways to help improve their education. As they are slightly behind their classmates in school I am always looking at new toys, books and anything else educational to help them, especially during the long Summer holiday while they are not at school (education is very important and should not be forgotten during holiday periods).
So, over the past few weeks we have been using a mixture of books, flashcards, toys, games, electronic devices and apps (and will continue using them through the 6 weeks school holiday and beyond).
Oxford Reading Tree Songbirds Phonics by Julia Donaldson
Oxford Reading Tree Songbirds Phonics Activity Books by Julia Donaldson
DC Superheroes Phonics Books
Top That Phonics, Spelling and Words Wipe Clean Flip Charts
Handwriting Activity Books
Wipe Clean Phonics and Number Work Books
Usborne Phonics Reader’s (12 book set)
Jolly Phonics Picture Flashcards
Letter Formation Flashcards
Toys and Games
Rainbow Phonics Magnetic Letters
Orchard Toys Match & Spell
Orchard Toys Shopping List
Orchard Toys Crocodile Snap
Lacing & Threading Beads
Galt Toys Fun Buttons
Learning Resources Lights & Sounds Buzzers
Electronic devices and games
Hot Dots Let’s Learn! Jolly Phonics
Reading Eggs App
We also had some help from I CAN, the children’s communication charity, who offer some great resources on their website; we have used their Chatter Matters DVD, Chatting with Children cards and Ready Steady Talk! book.
The boys love books, they have hundreds and have 2 bedtime stories every night. We have now added some phonics reading books which feature a lot of rhyming and repetitive phrases. The Usborne Phonics Readers are their favourites featuring 12 books with titles: Big pig on a dig, Goose on the loose, Fat cat on a mat, Toad makes a road, Ted’s shed, Fox on a box, Sam sheep can’t sleep, Mouse moves house, Frog on a log, Shark in the park, Ted in a red bed and Hen’s pens.
The Songbirds Phonics pack by Julia Donaldson is the complete set of 36 books covering stages 1-6. These are written in the same rhyming and repetitive manner as the Usborne books but progressively get harder to read as they go into each stage. We also got the set of 8 activity books to accompany the reading books so they can practice what they have learned and the books have reward stickers to encourage them.
Both sets of books include tips on how to support your child’s reading.
The boys also love the Top That Phonics, Spelling and Words Wipe Clean Flip Charts and the Wipe Clean Phonics and Number Work Books. With these they can practice pen control, handwriting, phonics, rhyming words etc. The flip charts have three panels per page and they have to match 3 rhyming words. The work books allow them to write in the books to practice different activities and can be wiped clean afterwards, ready for use again. We found these charts and work books in Poundland and they have gone down great.
The Jolly Phonics flashcards are excellent. There are 60 double-sided flashcards featuring 43 main letter sounds cards and 17 alternative spelling cards. These help children learn letter sounds, how to form letters, read words, write words and learn alternative spellings of words.
The Letter Formation Flashcards are great. They are a set of cards that are used in conjunction with a water pen (no mess!) and teach children the correct way to write letters. As they are used with a water pen they are ready to use again once the water has dried.
Toys and Games
We use lots of toys and games, too many to mention here, but does include things like wooden train tracks to encourage pretend play, dexterity skills (including pencil grip) and communication. As we have been focusing on speech, language, communication and learning to read we have used Orchard Toys games to encourage listening, memory and turn taking skills (the Shopping List game is great for this and is fun for all the family), Junior Learning Rainbow Phonics magnetic letters for spelling and phonics along with letter formation, lacing beads and buttons to help with dexterity and fine motor skills, play money to help with counting and dexterity and the Learning Resources Lights and Sounds Buzzers have been great in conjunction with games to help with turn taking and encouraging to answer questions.
It was also suggested to cut down a pencil to about an inch in length to encourage correct pencil grip and this simple idea is working very well. Before trying that I had bought small pencils, jumbo pencils, pencils with grips, triangular pencils etc. all said to encourage correct use but the shorter pencil has had the best effect.
Electronic devices and games
There are lots of electronic devices and gadgets on the market to help with education and we have tried a few.
We started using the LeapFrog LeapStart system last year and it is getting much more use now. It is an interactive learning system that works with the LeapFrog activity books and cover a wide range of learning activities (depending on what books you purchase).
The LeapFrog Epic is a children’s android based tablet that is locked down with LeapFrog’s pre-approved content. It is great for playing learning games, learning how to use tablets and computers (a must in this day and age), and can help with pencil grip by using the stylus. It is easy to use and very robust with the rubber bumper.
The Hot Dots Let’s Learn! Jolly Phonics set has to be my favourite, it is very easy to use and promotes listening skills while teaching phonics sounds, words and vowels and helping children learn to read. By looking at pictures and matching letter sounds to the picture it is great for phonics and learning to read.
With the iPad, we have been using some great learning apps. We have used some free apps such as Numberjacks and Alphablocks for helping improve letters and numbers skills. We are also still using a subscription based app call Reading Eggs to encourage reading with the use of phonics, letter sounds and games. The Reading Eggs system is excellent apart from a couple of niggles, the ant (which seems to be the main character has what sounds like an Australian accent – this really needs to be changed to a British accent and the app has a bug which causes the sound to disappear (only on the iPad, PC version seems ok). The accent issue the children don’t really seem to notice but the disappearing sound is frustrating as the app has to be closed and then reopened. That said, the app is definitely helping improve their reading skills and their progress is monitored with regular progress reports informing of what sounds, letters and words they have learned.
We have also been using a website, Maths Chase, that helps children with their maths using games, and is a completely free site. This is a fun site that allows children to easily learn times tables, along with division, addition, subtraction and more by playing number games. It is suitable for Reception to Year 4, and beyond, and really is a lot of fun and easy to use. Children can learn at their own pace and it gives them the confidence in their own abilities – no more “I can’t do it!” before even trying.
Education should never be forgotten, especially during school holidays. Children are always learning things and if done in a fun way they can learn, have fun and have quality family time as well. With the boys starting Year 1 after the holidays, I am always looking for things to help them improve their education in a fun way, so if you know of anything that would be benefit please get in touch.
Don’t forget education during the holidays, kids don’t need to be in school to continue with learning.