Word families- With Balls and Toilet Rolls!

Teaching Word Families

Word families are groups of words that have a common spelling pattern – they have some of the same combinations of letters in them and a similar sound. Words like cat, hat, and fat are a family of words with the “at” sound and letter combination in common.

Children progress as better readers when they can identify chunks in words like word families (e.g. Words ending with -at, -in) In teaching word families, children learn how to blend sounds (like c-at, b-in). It helps them to decode words faster, improving their word recognition skills as well as spelling skills. Reading books with lots of rhymes like Dr Seuss also helps develop their phonological awareness.

Materials you need:

Just some toilet rolls and plastic balls! You can also use pong pong balls or golf balls! Print out the words and pictures and stick them on.

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Other concepts you can teach using this activity:

Numbers (matching 1 to one)

Ordinal numbers (matching 1st to first)

Phonics sounds (Matching a letter-sound to the correct picture)

Vocabulary (Matching words with pictures)

Math addition (Matching addition sums/subtraction sums to the answers)

Shapes (Matching spelling to the correct picture)


My little girl’s interaction with the materials

Before I could introduce to my curious little preschooler what the activity is about, she grabbed one of the colourful balls and placed it above the toilet roll and said, “Mummy, look this is an ice-cream cone!” I was amused and tickled at her little ingenious idea! So I played along with her and said yes, we are going to make some ice-cream cones for our little treats today!


I said I will show her how to make the ice-cream treats, and read out the words one by one on the paper rolls. Prior to that, I had read to her “Cat in the Hat” by Dr Seuss, and she could recall some of the -at words from the book. I started blending the onset (beginning sound) and the rime (-at) for her. Then in our second round of reading the words, I asked her to pick out the right ball that matches the correct word. She also repeated the word after we finished making the ‘ice-cream cone’.


With practice and repetition, your child will be able to see the word patterns in the word families, and effectively decode the words for pronunciation. This activity is visually stimulating and hands-on for little readers!



The Kindness Jar- ways to encourage kindness

Teaching Kindness 

Teaching my child how to be kind to others is probably one of the most important character lessons to me. Being kind to others can span from being thoughtful to others, having empathy for someone else, feeling compassion for the less fortunate and lending a helping hand to those in need. Children actually are born with an innate desire and instinct to empathize and be considerate toward others.

The rewards for children who extend kindness to others are tremendous. Research has also shown that children who helped others tend to feel good about themselves. They are able to anticipate what others feel or think (perspective-taking) and learn to help others by using their problem-solving skills. In doing so, they also learn social skills, learn to work in teams and build friendships which are all core to their social development.


There are many ways you can encourage kindness at home or in school:

1. Talk about kindness
Share with the children what it means to be kind to others. List examples and seize teachable moments or opportunities for your child to learn how to be kind. For very young children, be specific about the ways they can be kind to others by listing down the kind acts as examples.  Read books about kindness. There are many books out there who has characters learning how to be kind and exhibit stories where it pays to be kind. Stories can be one of the best ways to inspire your child!

2. Appreciate uniqueness of others
Discuss how each person is unique in his or her own way. They can be different physically, have different ways of doing things or different personalities. Show your child some leaves and ask your child to pinpoint how different each leaf is, or explain how we have different thumbprints and that’s how God made each and everyone of us special. Imagine a world where every flower or person is the same! That would be boring! We are to respect and appreciate the uniqueness of others and accept that it is perfectly alright if someone else is different from us.

3. Making kindness a rule in the house or school
Put up visual reminders at home or school to encourage your child how to be kind! Come up with short catch phrases like “A little kindness goes a long long way!” and use them as quick easy reminders for your children whenever an opportunity to be kind pops up during the day! Also, be quick to catch them doing kind things or saying kind words, and it will reinforce positive behaviour in children!

4. Model kindness
Be a role model especially for young children. Do kind acts and show them how to be kind to their friends by explicitly telling them to share, to hug someone who is crying, etc. And make sure you do the same and is consistent with your interaction with other family members too 🙂 Not an easy feat for any parent, especially when you are tearing your hair out with all the kids running around!

5. Celebrate kind deeds!
Be quick to catch them doing right! Praise and rewards like the kindness jar sure motivates them to want to be kind over and over again! Over time, children will progress from having these extrinsic motivation to being intrinsically motivated to help others for the reward of seeing others happy!

How to use the Kindness Jar

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You simply need a jar or plastic container, and fill it up with pom poms or coins, or penne pasta!

Here are 10 examples on how your child can be kind:

1. Help Mummy to put away the toys

2. Help out with simple chores like wiping the table, clearing the plates after a meal

3. Make a card for someone’s birthday

4. Hug someone when they are sad or crying

5. Assure someone everything will be alright when they have a problem

6. Offer someone a tissue when they cry.

7. Give someone a plaster when they fall down.

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8. Tell someone “I love you” or “thank-you”.

9. Appreciate the ideas of others by saying, “Great idea!”

10. Share your toys or food with a friend to make them happy!

Once they fill up the little jar with pom poms, you can reward them by doing something kind for your child  in return! 




10 Activity Ideas for Goldilocks And The Three Bears!

Based on the much-loved tale of Goldilocks and The Three Bears, we have come up with 10 perfect activity ideas for your little preschooler at home or children in your classroom. Your children will love reading this classic and doing these activities as fun extensions!


Skills covered in these activities:

A. Fine motor skills such as weaving

B. Math skills such as counting, comparing sizes, and one-to-one correspondence.

C. Language skills such as using adjectives, antonyms, word recognition and narrative language for pretend play. 

Go read the fairy tale and immerse your child in these wonderful 10 activity ideas!

1. Antonyms (Opposites)

Allow your child to learn about opposites such as hard, soft, cold, hot, rough, smooth, by using this sensory bin as touch game. Fill a basket with objects of opposites, and watch how your child use her senses to differentiate the opposite properties. This is also a great sorting activity!

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2. Counting using One-to-one correspondence

The number 3 is mentioned repeatedly throughout the story- 3 bears, 3 beds, 3 chairs and 3 bowls. The book is a great context for your child to learn counting, using one-to-one correspondence in this counting game. The number chart helps your child to visually understand comparison of quantities for each number and concepts such as “more” or “less”. Simply use some bear biscuits and a number chart and your child will be delighted to try it out, and gratify herself with a nice treat after!

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3.  Weaving Bear

This is a Montessori-inspired practical activity! Cut out a bear figure and use a one-hole puncher to make holes for your child to weave through! It trains your child’s fine motor skills and concentration. My girl had tons of fun toying with the shoe lace and pulling it up and down through the holes!

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4. Pretend Play!

Having this sensory bin will definitely appeal to your child to do some pretend play and role-play. Re-enacting the story is made fun with these concrete, hands-on props! Pretend-play is great for your child to practice skills like story-sequencing, recalling events, using a narrative script as well use of new language words from the book. My girl was parroting the repetitive phrases/ language chunks as she re-tells the stories with lines from the story like ” This porridge is too hot! This chair is too hard!” Its wonderful to see how the story comes alive in my preschooler’s pretend play script and dramatization with the props!

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5. Comparing Sizes

To teach concepts of big, medium and small, I came up this matching activity with picture cards of varying sizes. My little preschooler loves assigning the right size of objects to each respective bear character and indirectly learning how to arrange objects according to size. You can also introduce matching with word cards like “Big” “Medium” “Small”.

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6. Role-play using Magnetic Characters

This is another way of getting your child to do pretend play or role-play. Simply put magnetic strips behind the characters and the props and your child is ready to engage herself with some story-telling on the magnetic easel board.  Great activity to occupy your child!


7. Contextual words

Create this simple sensory bin , where picture cards are hidden in rice, beans or pom poms! Learning new words becomes fun and sensorial when your child gets to dig out the right picture card to match the word. Learning new words never get this fun!

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8. Scavenger Hunt

Get your child busy searching  for objects around the house by going on a scavenger hunt. These words are extracted from the story and I printed them out to make word cards. Get your child to take a photo of the object with a camera, print it out and get your child to match the photo with the word!

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9. Readers’ Theatre

Readers’ Theatre is a great way to dramatise the story with a group of children! Get ready some scripts, masks for the main characters and you can have a theatre show right there!

10. Read, Read, Read!

Your little one will never tire of reading this book over and over again! These book-activities are sure to get your child craving for more readings! Your  child is sure to pick up new concepts from each new reading, and you will be surprised how quickly your child can internalise new words when learnt contextually from the book!


 This blog post is published in The Preschool Survival Kit Magazine distributed to all preschools in Singapore. 

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Sensory Bin with Picture book characters & Props

Goldilocks and The Three Bears- Book-based Activities

This is our second week into book-based activities on Goldilocks And The Three Bears. By this time, my girl is so familiar with the story plot that she can narrate the sequence of events with her own words, and I thought it will be an appropriate time to introduce a sensory bin with some props and handmade characters for her to immerse herself in role-play and imaginative play!


Benefits of Pretend Play!

There are so many benefits to your child doing pretend play! It facilitates:

  1. Imaginative thinking and discovery
  2. Abstract thinking and problem-solving
  3. Application of Life Skills
  4. Social Skills development
  5. Learning “Theory of mind” where they do perspective-taking
  6. Confidence in communicating their ideas and thought ( through story-sequencing & narrative script and use of new words acquired

There are many types of pretend play like dress up, imitation of adults and adult life, acting out stories, role-play or using materials to create play.

Her Pretend Play!


She was smiling with a look of surprise on her face when she approached the sensory bin. She was elated to meet the characters which I made from paper-cut outs and toilet paper rolls. She immediately started naming the characters- Papa Bear, Mama Bear, Baby Bear and Goldilocks. as she explored the sensory bin, she also noticed I poured some rice and beans for her to interact with. Since the bears loved porridge in the story, she took on the role of Mama Bear and started cooking porridge for the bears. She particularly was engrossed with pouring and transferring rice into each bowl using the scoop. This is one good example of using fine motor skills in the process of pretend play.


After cooking, she decided that she must set the table for the bears. She arranged the bowls and assigned each bowl to each bear according to sizes. She also allocated one spoon to one bowl which allows her to apply the Math skill of one-to-one correspondence. She also used adjectives like “biggest” and “smallest bowl to describe the size of the object. She re-enacted the whole scene in the book where the bears tried the porridge and exclaimed ,” It is too hot!” “It is too cold!”. This kind of re-telling using her script narration hones her language skills of story sequencing and sentence construction. 

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With the episode of Goldilocks trying out the chairs, she cleverly places the character Goldilocks over the prop, and was amazed that it fitted perfectly! She then positioned Baby Bear over the chair with the soft cushion. Upon realising that the cushion there probably signify that the chair is soft, she then changed the character to Mother Bear. She was doing recalling of the story, which is the script she wanted to enact. In her second telling of the story on another day, she actually swapped the characters to sit on the chair as she re-invented the storyline to create a twist. She said the baby bear likes to sit on soft chairs and so Mummy bear let him.

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Try creating a sensory bin based on your child’s favourite picture book! The experience for imaginative play is very enriching!


Goldilocks & Three Bears- Counting Bears

Learning Counting with little bears!

This is another extension activity based on the much-loved book “Goldilocks and the Three Bears.”


One of the main concepts we can draw from this story is the Math concept of quantity in counting. The number 3 is a repetitive number mentioned in the story- 3 bears, 3 bowls, 3 chairs and 3 beds. So to reinforce my girl’s counting skills, I came up with this simple thematic activity of having her to count bear biscuits on a number chart, and then having her to eat it all up upon completion of the activity!

To prepare the learning tray, simply print out or draw squares to represent the quantity for each number. The number chart aids the visualisation and comparison of the quantities for each consecutive number. You can get bear biscuits or any small treats for the little one to enjoy.

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My little girl was really motivated to get started upon seeing her favourite snack! She placed the first bear biscuit on the chart with number one and I counted with her. She practiced her one-to-one correspondence skill by placing one biscuit one at a time as she counts. For young preschoolers who are beginning to count, you will have to model the counting with them. Over time, they will be able to assign one number to one object. This chart also aids their visual discrimination of the varying quantities, and concepts of more or less.

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My little preschooler sure had a Beary good time with the little bears!


Teaching Vocabulary Using Sensory Bin

Learning vocabulary in context of picture books

In terms of vocabulary, I have always been a firm believer of learning new words in context. Picture books are great for offering contextual cues such as pictures/illustrations and sentence and story prediction, for children to pick up contextual meaning of the new words. For emergent readers, they may initially rely heavily on contextual cue to aid word identification, which is why it is important for parents and teachers to provide ample practice for children to internalize the new words with hands-on activities. Nonetheless, picture books are great tools to engage and capture the interest of the child. And re-reading the book with attempts from the child to read the newly acquired sight words can boost your child’s confidence in becoming a competent reader!

One example of teaching sight word recognition is this simple sensory bin with sensory materials and pictures for your child to match with the words. We have read Goldilocks and the Three bears and I picked out some of the high frequency noun and adjective words such as bear, girl, bowl, hot, cold.


Materials you need:

1.sensory box
2. For sensory purpose, fill the box with beans, Pom Poms, rice or other small contents
3. Sight wordsheet (Velcro stickers-optional) with picture cut-outs.

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My girl’s learning experience

My little babe was immediately drawn to the sensory bin with the picture cards partially hidden among the beans. She played quite a while, discovering the feel of the beans to the touch of her fingers, and digging for the picture cards. At one point, she exclaimed,” Mummy it’s like playing hide-and-seek”!

Moments later, I demonstrated to her how to use the learning tray. I read out the words on one sheet, and had her draw out the correct picture to match with the sight words. She loves hunting for the pictures and sticking it on the Velcro in each allocated box.

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I simply love how easy and fun word identification can be when we just inject a little sensory element into a simple game! Try it out! 🙂

Teaching Opposites (Antonyms) with Touch Game

Based on the popular fairy tale- Goldilocks & the Three Bears, we love the use of antonyms such as “hard” & “Soft” that Goldilocks used to describe the polar opposites of the texture of the bears’ chairs and beds.  To help my girl internalise the new adjectives, “hard” and “soft”, we came up with this favourite Montessori-inspired activity- The touch and texture game. This is suitable from curious toddlers 1 year old right up to 3 years old where they use their senses to learn about their environment and the objects around. This game specifically heightens their sense of touch as well as pick up new words in a sensorial manner.

It is so simple to set up! All you need are objects you can find around the house!

Materials you need:

1. A basket to put all the objects in

2. 2 containers such as disposable boxes.

3. Labels for “Hard” and ” soft”

4. Hard materials can include: pebble, stone, cup, spoon, small bowl, etc!

Soft materials can be cotton ball, socks, cloth, bean bag, sponge, paper etc!

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Steps for the Touch and Texture Game

1. Sit with your child and take out one hard and one soft object from the basket.

2. Demonstrate by pressing your fingertips on the hard object and say “hard”, then place it in the container with the label “hard”.  Repeat the same procedure for the soft object.

3. Invite your child to repeat the process and encourage your child to say out the adjective to describe the texture of the object. The opposites are placed there to help your child understand the concepts of opposites.

4. If your child merely just want to feel the objects, allow them to explore with freedom. Go through the objects of her interest and guide her by talking to her about the objects and how it feels to the touch.

5. Once your older child is able to sort the objects successfully, to reinforce, you can ask the child to point to you which object is soft or hard. He or she will be able to recall the sensorial experience she had a day or two before and is more confident in ascertaining the texture of the objects sometimes even without touching them.

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Here my little girl is having so much fun feeling and sorting the objects according to their properties. She held each object in her palm and tried squeezing it, stroking it, pressing it to feel its texture. For some objects , it turned out to be a little deceptive as I could tell it was surprising to her that a sponge actually feels soft when she presses it. IT was a wonderful discovery process for her learning about the characteristics of the objects! And when we re-read Goldilocks story again, in the episode where she described the chairs and beds as soft and hard, she could list out the other objects from the activity that were hard or soft!

You can definitely use this method for teaching other opposites like hot, cold, rough, smooth.

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