We came across this wonderful Mother several months ago on Instagram. “Mom to an amazing boy with Down Syndrome [2 yo] & step daughter [12 yo], artist & lover of educating little minds 💘”.
Her craft activities with her son blew me away. The creativity of them and the effort she goes to construct such wonderful activities for him amazed me. She is currently creating activities for #letteroftheweek.
Having a child with a disability, there is a lot of predetermined expectations and a lot of thinking about what they won’t be able to do in the future. With the support of several Down Syndrome groups and homeschooling parents sharing their stories online, we have strived to provide Damien with the tools he needs to become successful. At home we have set up a Montessori-inspired environment to encourage him to become eager to learn and we have truly watched him blossom.
Hanging across two walls in Damien’s room is a colorful, homemade banner with each letter of the alphabet. It is hung at the point in which the top of his finger can touch each letter. Just about every day we sing the alphabet song, pointing to each letter as we sing. Within a couple months Damien could accurately identify a few of the letters on command. This was all the reason I needed to begin our letter of the week journey. We began at 25 months of age and are currently finishing up the letter H and have found several enjoyable and successful toddler activities for learning the alphabet.
There are a handful of activities we do each week that really seem to help Damien grasp the letter.
LETTER OF THE WEEK DISPLAY
At home we have a dry erase board in the main area of our house where we display the letter of the week with related picture cards and images beginning with that letter. Each week Damien helps me say ‘goodbye’ to the previous letter by helping me take down the pictures and erase the board. Then we discuss our new letter of the week as he watches (or draws below) while I write our new letter and hang our new cards. At the beginning of the week I also prepare a visual lot of related letter images, shapes, books, animals and toys for Damien to play with and then they transfer to a shelf in another area of the home.
Each week on a sheet of construction paper I draw up an outlined image of the letter and draw large circles inside. I will give Damien a dot marker or other paint stamping object for him to learn the shape of the letter and encourage him to tap where the circles are. Some weeks we use his toy dinosaurs to stamp on the paint, some weeks we use a coiled up washcloth, if I can find an object related to the letter of the week I use it. This activity usually gets done more than once. Damien now loves it and knows exactly what to do when he sees the dot letter papers in front of him.
Water, rice, beans, sand, play dough, water beads, dirt – anything works for Sensory bins and for us – the more colorful the better. We often use colored rice or beans for our sensory bins and place related objects to search for in the bin. Damien really enjoys hiding the objects again and quickly pulling them back out with excitement!
FINE MOTOR ACTIVITY
Keeping a two year old engaged in a sitting task for more than 5 minutes is no small task. Developing those finger muscles is often best achieved through play related activities. Any type of pushing or pulling, manipulating hard and soft objects, feeling different textures helps those little hands so I look for creative ways to include this in our weekly activities.
READING & PHONICS
Children learn best by repetition. Throughout the week I will emphasize the sound of the letter in our conversations and purposely choose books that include that letter. I emphasize the sound and the way my mouth moves to create the sound – I will sometimes even point to my mouth to grab Damien’s attention (techniques learned from Damien’s speech therapists). While reading or even out and about if I see the letter I will make sure to point it out. Sometimes, depending on Damien’s level of cooperation and interest we will choose a book to make a related piece of art. Usually this involves coloring, painting, stickers and sometimes hand-over-hand gluing objects.
I try to keep my expectations realistic and keep this journey as stress free as possible. If we don’t get to a sensory bin or one of the activities – that’s ok. The world around us and our day to day lives provide us with ample opportunities to encourage learning. Does a 2 year old need to know their alphabet – no. The tasks and direction associated with it, and the time we spend together, are the most beneficial parts at this point. Damien can however, consistently identify approximately 10 letters at this point and on a good day about 16 or so. He knows what letters are and that they are important to learn about, he knows there is a sound, shape and sign that is associated with each letter. Ultimately, my goal as a parent is to raise a child who is eager to learn.
Check out her Instagram page to see all her wonderful craft creations:
Guest Blog @ Relaxed Parenting by Sierra from the USA.