Practice first-name recognition for better literacy

Kidaptive Tips and Tidbits:

What’s in a name? A great opportunity for your child to test their developing theories about literacy skills!

FirstNameRecongitionA child’s first name is often the first word they reliably recognize in print. Children become especially focused on the first letter of their name. In fact, you may notice that for a while your child thinks that any word that begins with the same letter as their first name is their first name, or even that their name is equivalent with the first letter alone. This is normal!

To help your child understand and recognize the rest of the letters in their name, write their name on a piece of paper and say the letters aloud while pointing them out one at a time. Then have your child compare their name to other words that begin with the same letter by writing those words above or below your child’s name. Help your child to identify the letters in the other words while referencing the spelling of their own name. Ask questions like, “Are these two letters the same?” Or, “Elephant has two e’s in it. How many does “Ethan” have?” Over time, your child will begin to remember more letters in their name: the first few, then most, and eventually all of them.

This activity is not only fun and easy to do while waiting at the dentist’s office or sitting at the hairdresser; it also provides a chance for your child to build a stronger foundation for spelling and writing later on!

We would love to hear your thoughts on this activity, as well as suggestions on future topics to cover! Please leave a comment.


Notecard numbers: Help your child identify and write numbers

Kidaptive Tips and Tidbits: 

Did you know that children can understand many basic number concepts even in infancy? Number symbols, however, are a cultural invention (similar to written letters) whose meaning must be learned.

BoxYou can help your child draw on their existing math skills and develop the ability to identify and write numbers with the following activity. Not only will it demonstrate how well your child understands symbolic representation (the concept that an image can stand for an idea), but it will also help them take the next steps in applying it. Try it out in your daily routine, perhaps after your child gets home from preschool or before they get ready for bed!


  • 2-3 small objects (toys, crayons, rocks, etc.)
  • a small box, such as a shoebox or empty cereal box
  • a notecard
  • a pencil

1. Put the objects in the box and count them with your child.
Work with your learner to put the items in the box and count them; help only as much as necessary.

2. Have your child record the number of items in the box.
Give your child the notecard and ask them to write something that will help them remember how many items are in the box. Children generally graduate from drawing pictures to making hash marks or dots to finally writing numerals. Whatever they write or draw, encourage them to reflect on their symbols and their own thinking by asking questions. You can start more broadly with, “Tell me about your drawing.” Then ask, “What does your drawing show you about the things in the box?” or “What part tells you about the number?”

3. Put the notecard and box away for 5-10 minutes.
Put the notecard and the box in a safe place and go on with your routine, whether it’s eating a snack or brushing teeth. You’ll want to wait long enough so that your learner doesn’t simply remember the number of items, but no so long that they lose interest, before bringing out the box again.

4. Give your child the notecard and ask how many items are in the box.
Have your child use their notations on the card to figure out how many objects are in the box. If they get it right, give them a high five and review what the card told them. Ask, “Why did it work?” If they get it wrong, celebrate how close they got and what the card told them. Ask, “Why didn’t it work?”

This activity can (and should) be done again and again! It allows your child to play with number symbols at whatever level they can, but it also gives you an opportunity to challenge your learner by introducing different numerals and higher quantities of objects or by turning the activity into a basic addition or subtraction game. Feel free to make it your own, and then watch as your child’s abilities improve!

We would love to hear your thoughts on this activity, as well as suggestions on future topics to cover! Please leave a comment.

5 steps to improve problem-solving skills

Kidaptive Tips and Tidbits:

Problem solving is a process that involves the coordination of many other cognitive skills, such as working memory, attention control, and knowledge about the problem topic. The ability to solve problems is essential for success both in and out of school. Fortunately, parental support and modeling can go a long way in helping kids develop problem-solving skills.

Photo by Andrew Dawes, available under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic license:, photo: the next time your learner runs into a problem, whether it’s a ball that has rolled behind a shelf or a block tower that won’t stay up, try these steps:

1. Help your child to identify the problem.
Say, “I notice there is a problem,” and have your child help you to name what the problem is.

2. Help your child to brainstorm solutions.
Ask, “How might we fix this?” and allow your learner to practice coming up with a variety of solutions to the problem. If your child struggles to come up with ideas, ask, “What can I do to help?”

3. Suggest that your child try one of the solutions.
Part of problem solving is trial and error, so if the first solution doesn’t work, try another! Help your child to narrow down the solutions until they find one that works.

4. Remind your child of the steps they took to solve the problem.
Recalling the problem-solving process, from identifying the problem to finding a solution that works, will help your learner to internalize the steps so they can work towards more independent problem solving later on.

5. Congratulate your child on solving the problem.
Say, “I knew you could figure it out!” Your encouragement helps reinforce the positive feelings your child gets from solving a problem and makes them more likely to tackle future problems!

We would love to hear your thoughts on this activity, as well as suggestions on future topics to cover! Please leave a comment.


Let’s pretend: Exploring the world with narrative play

Many studies have shown a connection between narrative development, or learning to tell stories about real or imagined experiences, and early literacy. More recent research has found that narrative development can also serve a broader purpose of helping people organize, interpret, and understand the world around them.

BoywithPlayDrillshutterstock_29080645Children as young as three show early signs of narrative development through their descriptions of events, imaginative inventions, and play. In fact, there are many similarities between socio-dramatic play (which involves acting out scripts and scenes adopted from familiar stories) and narrative, including fictional characters, invented “realities,” and linked events.

Of course, connecting these aspects into a coherent story is still hard for preschoolers. You can help guide your child’s “narrative play” by:

  • Incorporating thematic play into everyday chores (e.g., when clearing the table, you can be workers at a restaurant)
  • Encouraging play based on books or movies
  • Suggesting the use of figurines to represent objects and characters
  • Asking questions that relate to narrative coherence, including questions about motivations, outcomes, or relationships between events

These approaches encourage children to reinforce and build on existing knowledge, focus on a central topic, and make connections between events (and characters’ reactions to events) by organizing them into relevant pieces of a whole. In other words, not only is this narrative play fun, but it also helps your learner develop important thinking and reasoning skills so they can make sense of the complex world around them!

We would love to hear your thoughts on this activity, as well as suggestions on future topics to cover! Please leave a comment.

Cozy corner for your child’s emotions

Kidaptive Tips and Tidbits:

BoyCrying-shutterstock_78635254Imagine that you’re gripped by emotion. Imagine it’s an emotion that you don’t like, but you don’t know what it’s called or how to make it go away.

Preschoolers experience a wide range of feelings but don’t always know how to express them. Identifying and responding to one’s own emotions is an important component of emotional literacy, which has been shown to help children handle frustration better, get into fewer fights, and be more focused.

To help your child build emotional literacy, check out this tip from one of our resident preschool teachers on how to create a “cozy corner” for your child to experience their emotions safely at home:

1. Tell your child that you’re going to create a special space for them to use when they’re feeling upset. Have your child help you create a cozy space using their favorite pillows, blankets, and stuffed animals. It can be in a corner of their bedroom or a corner of the living room—wherever your child will be most comfortable.

2. Whenever your child gets upset, offer the cozy corner as a place for them to calm down. Say something like, “I can tell that you’re upset right now. Do you want to spend some time in the cozy corner?” Help your child to understand that the cozy corner is a place they can go whenever they’re feeling angry, sad, or frustrated and that they’re invited to leave it whenever they’re feeling better.

3. At first, you may need to help your child identify times when the cozy corner is a good idea. However, your child will eventually recognize when they want and need space for their emotions. It’s important to remember that the cozy corner is never a place for a time out or punishment. Instead, it should be an empowering place where your child is allowed to experience their emotions safely.

Once your child has come out of the cozy corner, you can have a conversation with them about what upset them and what, if anything, you can both do differently next time!

We would love to hear your thoughts on this activity, as well as suggestions on future topics to cover! Please leave a comment.

Flex your child’s brain muscles!

Kidaptive Tips and Tidbits:

Have you ever wondered what gives us the ability to adjust to ever-changing features in the environment and to see things from a different perspective? Research shows that cognitive flexibility is related to everything from social skills to early arithmetic, and there is a consistent developmental progression as children get older.

You can help your child develop the flexibility they need to be creative, thoughtful, innovative learners simply by posing problems that challenge them to think outside the box:

1. Invite your child to draw a picture of an object.
Encourage your child to make the drawing as realistic as they can. Four-year-olds might start with a simple flower, while five-year-olds might try more complex subjects like people or animals.

2. Challenge your child to draw a version of the object that doesn’t exist.
If your child drew a flower, for example, you might ask them to draw “a flower you invent,” “a strange flower,” or “a flower with something funny, weird, or pretend about it.”

3. Feel free to offer suggestions if your child needs a hand.
If necessary, you can offer prompts like, “What if you changed the shape of the flower?” or “What if you made the flower look more like an animal?” Kids tend to make simple changes at first, like getting rid of the the flower’s petals. As their thinking gets more complex, they might change its spatial dimensions or combine it with another concept.

4. Ask your child what it is that makes the flower unrealistic.
Once your child is finished drawing, have them point out and explain what makes the drawing funny or weird!

This activity will challenge your child’s preconceived notion of a concept and engage them in flexible thinking about a concrete object. Plus, you and your learner will experience how creativity and art can be connected to complex intellectual skills. And the better they get at this kind of flexibility, the more creative they’ll be!

We would love to hear your thoughts on this activity, as well as suggestions on future topics to cover! Please leave a comment.

Letter recognition: ABC’s and beyond

Kidaptive Tips and Tidbits:

BoywithNumbers-shutterstock_68951728It’s no surprise that letter knowledge at an early age is a strong predictor of reading skill later on. But did you know that children learn letter names better, and more strongly connect letters to reading, when letter names are taught with letter sounds?

That’s because a letter name doesn’t have any intrinsic meaning. Although your child is great at learning words that stand for things in the world, letter names only stand for sounds. (Knowledge of the sound structures within spoken language is known as phonological awareness, and this principle, combined with the letter names, sounds, and symbols, forms the foundation of written language.) Playing with magnetic letters, reading alphabet books, and singing the ABC’s are great ways of introducing letter names and sounds.

However, it’s important to remember that letter names are a cultural invention, so they aren’t learned naturally through exploration and play—making your guidance essential! So the next time you’re with your child and you see a “B,” for example, engage in a conversation about it: “That’s a B. It makes a ‘[b]‘ sound, like in its name, ‘beee’. Can you think of something that has a ‘[b]‘ sound?”

By introducing the letter name in the context of familiar sounds and connecting it to objects, you can supply the meaning your learner needs to actually learn the letter name. And in the process, you can facilitate the connection between letter recognition and phonological awareness that is so fundamental to reading in later grades!

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