Author Archives: Lisa Tanner

Flying a kite isn't only fun, it's very beneficial!

5 Interesting Ways Your Child Benefits from Flying a Kite

Have you flown a kite with your child yet this spring? My kids got kites for Easter from my mom, and we’ve spent a couple of lazy afternoons trying to keep them in the air.

Flying a kite isn’t only fun, it’s also beneficial. In addition to the obvious gross motor skills, your child is working on several key areas. But before we dive into those benefits, let’s talk about what you’ll need for a successful kite flying adventure.

Before Setting Out to Fly a Kite

Of course you’ll need a kite! The cheap ones from Walmart work just fine. But, if you have younger kids, be sure to get the diamond shaped kites.

Those are way more aerodynamic than the round ones, so your child will have an easier time flying.

You’ll also need a safe place. We head up to our upper field, because there aren’t any power lines or kite eating trees :D.

Make sure it’s a windy day. We wait until our flag is flying fairly horizontally before heading out.

Water is also essential, especially if it’s a warm day. Bring a couple of bottles along so you all stay hydrated.

Once you’re at your ideal location, help your kids get their kites up. My littles enjoy just running while holding onto the string, while my middles and big actually do quite well at getting the kites in the air. While they’re flying, your kids will be learning the following skills:

1. Understanding of Aerodynamics

Different shaped kites react differently to the wind. If you have a couple of different shapes, let your kids experiment with them and describe the experience with each.

Regardless of kite shape, your child will be feeling the wind interact with the kite and the string. As they move, the kite moves. The more they fly, the better handle they’ll get on how to play the kite in the wind to keep it up.

If your child likes to run to launch the kite, she’ll also be learning about wind direction and speed–both important to aerodynamics.

2. Problem Solving

Kite flying doesn’t always go as planned! Sometimes the kites take a nosedive, the string tangles, or a little sibling comes over and pulls on the string.

When these problems occur, children must stop and assess the situation. Sometimes they need to ask for help. Other times, they can solve the problem themselves.

Problem solving is one of those soft skills that’s so important in life!

3. Concentration

With all the digital stimuli in the world today, kite flying offers a chance for children to concentrate on something real. There are no screens. Its just you, the kites, and the big blue sky.

Concentrating on keeping it flying will help your child extend his attention span. You can slowly increase the amount of time you’re out.

4. Self-Confidence

When my three-year-old got his in the air for the first time, he was thrilled! He quickly learned that he could do it, and didn’t want any help after that.

As your children fly a kite, they’re gaining confidence in their own abilities. It’s an amazing feeling to be in control of something way up in the air. And you feel like soaring right along with it!

5. Attention to Detail

When the kites get high in the air, tracking them takes more attention. As the wind switches direction, your child will have to make adjustments to keep it up.

While winding in the string, your child will have to watch to make sure no weeds snag the kite and make a hole in it.

All of these tasks require attention to detail and observation skills.

Let’s Go Fly Some Kites

Pick a day this spring, and go fly kites with your kids. You’ll all benefit from the exercise and fresh air, and you’ll also benefit in the five ways described above.

Next on our to-do list?

Making our own kites. I’m looking forward to it!

Do you and your family enjoy flying kites? I’d love to hear about your experience in the comments.

 

Have you ever turned your living room into a mock bowling alley for kids? It's easy, fun, and educational.

Benefits of Bowling in Your Living Room

Don’t worry, I’m not talking about actually turning your room into a bowling alley, or having your kids chuck heavy bowling balls towards your furniture. But, your kids can learn so much by setting up some cups and trying to knock them down with a ball.

How to Set Up a Pretend Bowling Lane

If you’re ready to give it a try, you’ll need to set up a bowling lane. Here’s what you need:

  • 10 plastic cups
  • 1 playground style ball (that has a bit of weight)

That’s it! Of course you can also get fancy and use masking tape to mark your lanes. But that’s definitely optional.

How to Bowl

Find a location in your living room that has some space. You may need to scoot some furniture aside. We just slide our coffee table over to one side of the room, leaving an empty path straight down the middle.

As one end of your space, set up your plastic cups bowling pin style:

Then, have your kids form a line at the other end. One at a time, they get the ball and bowl it down towards the cups. They get two chances to knock down as many cups as they can.

Now it’s time to reset the pins and let another person take a turn.

It keeps my kids busy for at least an hour! 😀

What Kids Learn in Your Homemade Bowling Alley

While they’re busy having a great time, your kids are learning and practicing many skills. Here’s a look at a few of them.

Math

Younger kids can practice counting to ten each time the pins are set. They’ll also practice seeing the pattern. Each row increases by 1.

So the first row has 1. The second 2. Then 3. And finally 4.

As the first ball knocks down pins, you get to practice subtraction too! How many pins are left? How many pins got knocked down?

Vocabulary

Pins. Bowling ball. Alley. Lane. Strike. Spare.

There are plenty of words associated with bowling. As your kids play, you can introduce new vocabulary words to them.

“Yay! You knocked down all the pins on your first ball. That’s a strike!”

(And if you have kids familiar with baseball, you can talk about how a baseball strike isn’t good but a bowling strike is good. Words can have more than one meaning!)

Taking Turns

It’s not always easy to take turn. Especially when there’s a ball involved. Kids get to practice this essential life skill when bowling in your living room.

Encouragement

Learning to offer encouraging words is important. Let your kids practice good sportsmanship and congratulate others on good turns, and share an encouraging word with someone who didn’t quite get it.

Physical Activity

Kids sit plenty today, especially when it’s muddy or cold outside. Having another active play game that’s perfect for indoor play will help get everyone up and moving. Here are some other active indoor ideas for you:

10 Variations of Hide and Seek

Active Indoor Games for Families

Sight Words Driving: An Active Reading Game

Have you ever bowled in your living room?

Did you kids love it as much as mine do? I’d love to hear about it!

Photo Credit: Daniel Alvarez Sanchez Diaz via Unsplash

Why do I play car games with the kids? It's so much easier just to turn on the radio and relax. But, engaging the kids has such a better outcome. Click through to read what I've learned.

Why I Play Car Games with My Children

If you’ve read the blog for any length of time, you know that I’m a huge fan of car games for kids.

I enjoy playing them, but it wasn’t always my favorite thing to do. So I wanted to explain why I emphasize them so much.

Because, when I get in the car, do you know what I really want to do?

I want to relax, listen to some talk radio or an audio book, and just enjoy some peace and quiet.

But, even though I could make the kids sit quietly along the way, I’ve learned the hard way that it’s not the best thing to do. Because then when we get where we’re going, they’re ready to engage and interact.

They’re ready for attention. To tell me about what they saw or drew on the way.

And I’m ready to do whatever it is I went there to do.

The kids get loud. They get whiny and impatient. And I get mad.

All because I wanted my way in the car. I wanted it to be about me and what I wanted.

So I don’t usually do what I want. Instead, I make the choice to engage. To be present and build memories.

And everyone does better because of it. Even me.

Finding Balance

On the other end of the equation, I don’t want my kids to feel like they should always be entertained. I want them to have quiet time and thinking time.

So we don’t play car games every mile of the journey.

They have their color books and colored pencils. I have a stack of kids’ books on cassettes that we listen to.

They spend time looking out the windows.

And yes, sometimes I hand over my smartphone and let them play games so I can kick back and listen to Dave Ramsey.

But, I always try to keep an eye on the feelings in the car. If the kids are starting to argue, or they’re getting restless and bored, a game can usually turn things around before it gets out of hand.

So I’m always ready with an idea or two.

It Doesn’t Take Much

Most of my car games aren’t fancy. They don’t need special items or supplies. And most aren’t really even that competitive.

But the kids don’t care. They just want to spend time with me. And feel special.

That’s what car games do. They help kids and parents take time that’s otherwise wasted, and turn it into something special.

That’s why I play car games with them, even when I’d rather just sit.

Do You Need Ideas for Car Games?

If you’re hoping to build some memories in the car, be sure to check out my posts on Car Games for kids. You can find a list of them all on this post. They’re material free, so you won’t have any clutter to worry about.

And you’ll always be prepared with a game when you need one.

Here’s to peaceful car trips. wonderful journeys, and a lifetime of memories!

Photo Credit: Kevin Lee via Unsplash

It's been about a year since I started Tanner Learning. What were the top posts of 2016? Click through to see!

Top Posts from Tanner Learning in 2016

It’s been almost exactly a year since I launched Tanner Learning. I’ve enjoyed blogging here about educational activities families can do that bridge the gap between learning and fun. Now that I’m taking time to reflect on the year, I wanted to share the top posts from 2016.

These top posts help me see what kind of content you’re most enjoying. Taking time to analyze these stats helps me create the best possible blog for my readers.

Top Posts from Tanner Learning in 2016

If you missed any of these posts, be sure to click on the pictures to be taken to the original.

10. Adapting Telestrations for Early Readers & Writers

You don’t have to miss out on this awesome game just because your kids can’t read all the words yet. Here’s how I adapt the game for my early learners. It’s still a fun game, and we actually get to play it now instead of leaving it on a shelf for years while they gain more skills.

9. 10 Learning Activities with Bubbles

Do your kids love bubbles? Here are 10 different learning activites to try with your kids.

Most kids love bubbles! The activities in this post will give you some starting points for turning bubble time into learning time.

8. 7 Christmas Car Games for Kids

Christmas car games for you to enjoy this December.My car games posts seem to be well received, and this one was no different. Here are seven seasonal games to enjoy during your Christmas road trips.

7. 8 Ways to Incorporate Sensory Play Without Effort

Sensory play doesn't have to be complicated! Here's 8 simple ways to incorporate it.My child with a disability taught me the importance of sensory play, but all of my kids enjoy getting into their learning with all their senses. This post highlights simple ways to increase the amount of sensory play going on in your house.

6. 5 Social Studies Car Games

Social studies car games

Social studies in the car? Yup! Here are five fun games that incorporate key elements of social studies and history.

5. 10 Learning Activities with the Memory Game

I love playing games with my kids! And we love discovering new ways to play, because playing by all the rules all the time is pretty boring.

These activities get the game off the shelf and your kids busy learning. While having fun. That’s awesome!

4. 5 Expert Tips to Make TV Time More Educational

5 Expert Tips for Making TV Time More Educational. Who says TV time always has to be brain numbing? Click over to discover five fresh ways to wake up your brain during tube time.TV time happens around here more often than I’d like, especially as my due date gets closer and my energy is depleted. But, TV time doesn’t have to be a brain sucking activity. Here are five simple ways to make viewing more educational for kids of all ages.

3. 5 Cookie Cutter Learning Activities

cookie cutter learning activitiesCookie cutters get played with a lot around my house! Which makes me happy because I really don’t like keeping things that only get used once or twice a year.

Here are five learning activities that use the cute shapes you have hanging out in your drawer.

2. 10 Variations of Hide and Seek

Are you getting bored with regular Hide and Seek? Check out these variations to spice up playtime a bit.Plain old hide and seek can get boring. Good thing we can mix things up a bit! Here are ten different variations for you to enjoy with your kids.

1. 7 Simple ELA Car Games

7 Simple ELA Car GamesAnother car game post, this one focusing on English-Language Arts (ELA) skills. This batch is my family’s favorite–we almost always play at least one of these every time we get in the car!

What Was Your Favorite Post from 2016?

Did my top ten posts of 2016 include your favorite? It didn’t include mine (10 Simple Ways to Unleash Creativity in Your Child.)

I’d love to know what types of posts you enjoy seeing, so I can continue delivering content that you want to read.

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Help your toddler gain important literacy skills with these fun games and activities.

6 Ways to Build Toddler Literacy Skills

A toddler’s brain is ready to learn. They’re like sponges, soaking up so much information about the world around them. Little ones learn best through play. So here are six fun activities designed to build toddler literacy skills. Your child may not realize she’s learning, but her brain will be!

1. Hide the Letter

My absolute favorite toy for teaching the alphabet is a foam letter mat. We’ve used ours so often over the years. If you don’t have one, I highly recommend purchasing one. Here’s what they look like:

You can find one on Amazon by clicking on the picture above (aff. link). For playing with toddlers, you want a letter mat with these specifications:

  • Letters pop out of the frame
  • Large tiles (12*12 instead of 6*6)
  • Pieces snap together to form boxes

My toddlers (and preschoolers and early elementary kids) love just free playing with this toy. It’s great exposure to the alphabet. Here’s my current youngest just playing with some letters from our mat. The letters are large and chunky, and perfect for little hands to hold onto.

Build toddler literacy skills through play!

When it’s time for a guided game, I have the kids remove the letters.

Then, I have them go in the other room and I hide all 26 letters. When I’m done, I call the kids back in and ask them to find letters.

As they find each letter, they have to also find the frame it goes in. This helps them learn to closely look at each letter’s shape. I say the name of the letter they found, and help put it together if needed. Then they find another one.

Once all the letters are returned, we assemble the mat and sing the ABC song before picking it up. There are tons of activities you can do with this mat, so feel free to get creative!

2. Read Aloud

I’m sure you knew this one would be on the list! That’s because reading aloud is a fabulous way to build toddler literacy skills. It works great for older kids too!

Pick a book, snuggle up with your child, and get reading. But, don’t feel limited to reading the actual words on the page. You can if you want to, but I’ve found my toddlers don’t always have the attention span for that.

Instead I:

  • Point out pictures and work on vocabulary
  • Practice turning pages
  • Talk about what’s happening on the page
  • Summarize the story
  • Use the pictures as a building point for telling my own story
  • Make fun noises for all the vehicles, animals, and other things we see

The kids love reading together, because even if they pick the same story over and over again, we can change it up. It’s lots of fun!

3. Sing Silly Songs

Songs are a huge part of literacy development, because they’re so easy for kids to memorize. You can sing silly songs on the road, before bedtime, or in the bathtub. You don’t need any materials, so you can sing them anywhere!

Here’s a post I wrote on the benefits of singing silly songs. It also has my recommendations for some songs.

Toddlers can easily join the fun, even if they can’t talk yet. They can bounce to the rhythm, laugh at mommy being silly, and clap. While they’re playing, their brains will be taking in a different way to use words.

4. Name Play

Your toddler’s name is important. In fact, a child’s name is typically one of the first words they learn to read independently. Help you toddler become familiar with his name by:

  • Saying the name in a high voice, a low voice, and a gruff voice. See how many different ways you can say it.
  • Playing rhyming games with his name
  • Writing his name on pictures he draws
  • Having a special shelf to put toys or books that’s labeled. Point to this label each time you clean up. “It’s your name. Your things go on your shelf. Let’s look at the letters in your name.”
  • Singing the letters in your child’s name: S-I-M-O-N that spells Simon!
  • Building his name out of play dough

Just find ways to incorporate the name and the letters into your everyday play.

5. Point Out Logos

Just like many ancient civilizations used picture symbols to represent words, our companies today do the same thing. Toddlers can begin associating symbols with words quite early on in their life. It’s a great first step to reading.

After all, when you read, you just associate a symbol (letter) with a sound. Then you put them together to make a word.

So point out logos when you’re on the road. As your toddler gets a bit older, let her help pick out items at the grocery store. You can point to the symbol representing the brand you want, and let her help get them from the shelf.

As you go into each store, look at their logo. Pretty soon your child will remember that Wal-Mart has a yellow sun, Target has a red target, and the gas station has a shell. You can even make it a game to see who can find the logo first.

Then find logos in the newspaper and let your child color them. It’s a great activity when you need a few minutes of time.

6. Talk

Talk to you toddler about what you’re doing. Don’t feel like you have to dumb it down–use words even if you know your toddler doesn’t understand yet. That’s how we build vocabulary. By listening to others talk.

So share what you’re cooking for dinner. Talk about each step. It can feel sort of like a monologue at first, but as your child grows the conversation will become more of an actual conversation.

Talk about the clothes you’re setting out for tomorrow, and why your child needs to wear warm clothes. It’s the middle of winter after all! 😀 In the car, talk about the road signs and the traffic signals. Point out the bus stopping to pick up kids or the man walking the dog on the sidewalk.

Just talk.

Let your child play and create some narrative. “Oh, you’re making me soup in your kitchen! I’m so hungry, it’ll taste delicious! Do you think you could add a little pepper for me?”

Don’t worry about sounding crazy–it might feel weird at first, but your child will benefit!

Building Toddler Literacy Skills Isn’t Difficult

But, it does take time. Spend a few minutes each day purposefully working on these early language skills. Your child will be a better learning because of it!

What are your favorite ways to build toddler literacy skills? I’d love for you to share in the comments.