Nonna's Favorite Quotes:

Nonna's Favorite Quotes: "The best way to make children good is to make them happy." — Oscar Wilde, author and poet

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Eye-Hand Coordination Activities Part 2

We discussed gross motor skills activities in the last post. Now, as promised, here are four simple things you can do at home to help your children develop their fine motor skills.

You'll need: Playdough, clothespins, pasta and paper, along with scissors and a glue stick.

These exercises are designed to improve the fine motor skills, hand strength and dexterity of preschool and kindergarten children. They encourage the hand muscles to be used in a way that makes it easy to develop a correct pencil grasp. It is extremely important for young children to move through the different stages of pencil grasp development in order to learn to write. Click on the link below to learn more about pencil grasp development.

Pencil Grasp Development


Playdough:  Playdough is your child's best friend. They can roll it, stretch it, squeeze it, pound it, squash it, mold it and cut it! 

Working with Playdough, or clay, is excellent for developing coordination, as well as strengthening the hand and wrist muscles.

Clothespins: Use the kind that you have to pinch to open. Place various light objects in a box or bowl or just lay them out on the table or floor. Your children use the clothespin to pick out certain items. (Example: Pick up all of the red things. Pick up all of the round things.) Always encourage your child to use their thumb and first two fingers to pinch open the clothespins.

You can also uses clothespins like building blocks. Your little ones can join them together to make just about anything they can imagine. And how about a puppet show! You can cut out pictures of family members or animals, etc. and hold them with the clothespins to make puppets.

Pasta:  Cook up a half pound of spaghetti (don't overcook it) and let it cool. (Move it around occasionally as it cools so it doesn't stick together.) Place a pile of spaghetti on the table or in a bowl in front of your child. Give them a pair of kids scissors and let them go. Have your child pick up the spaghetti with one hand and cut little pieces off with the other.

Encourage your child to hold their scissors correctly. Show them how to place their thumb in the upper hole, and their first two fingers (index and middle) in the lower hole. Have them practice picking up and holding the scissors.

Paper:  Do your children love to tear things up? Mine did. So put your child's tearing skills to good use. Have your child tear sheets of colored paper into various sizes and shapes. Then have a glue stick handy for them to paste these pieces onto another piece of paper to make a picture or a greeting card.

You can also get out the crayons or markers and have them draw on their creation too. And as long as you have the glue stick handy... rub the glue stick on selected parts and sprinkle on some glitter!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Eye-Hand Coordination Activities

Three important things that a preschool child must develop in preparation for Kindergarten are
  • strong bodies,
  • strong hands, and
  • the ability to pay attention.
Good eye-hand coordination makes accomplishing these things a lot easier. Here are four simple gross motor activities that will help your child develop good eye-hand coordination.


1.  Catch the Ball

This is a great activity for eye-hand coordination and all it requires is a ball. (You can also use a pair of rolled up socks!) Start with larger balls for toddlers and as they progress, use smaller and smaller balls.

  • Tired of chasing after missed balls? Here's a great idea I found online. Put the ball in a net bag (like the ones onions or potatoes come in), and then hang it from your porch or door frame. Your child can throw the ball and catch it all by themselves.
          Hint: Use a soft ball so when your child misses the catch, it
          won't hurt when it bops them on the head!

  • Your child can also throw a ball against a wall or fence and catch it as it bounces back. Simple but effective.

2.  Bop the Balloon
Blow up a balloon and have your child keep it in the air by "bopping" it before it reaches the ground. When one balloon becomes easy, try keeping two in the air!    Then three...


3.  Pop the Bubble
Blow bubbles and have your child pop them before they reach the floor. Start out with bigger bubbles for toddlers. As children get bigger, the bubbles can get smaller. 

4.  Kick the Ball
Kick a ball back and forth. As with previous activities, start out with a larger ball.  Vary this activity by having your child kick it to a specific place or between two objects.

Next... "Small Motor Skills Activities"

Thursday, November 24, 2011

A Tribute to Soldiers

A Thankful Thanksgiving

by: Roger J. Robicheau

The America we witness today has seen much sacrifice
This sacrifice for many, has meant a total giving of life for liberty
Do all truly realize what the human cost of freedom is
All citizens should understand what has kept us whole

Should it not be the duty of each American to know this
To become familiar with the reasons of why we exist today
The notion that "that’s the way things are" is ludicrous
When a firm explanation is so easily understood

We’ve survived because of faith, determination, and great sacrifice
The backbone of this country is the strength of its good citizens
Each true American is worth more than all the gold found in history
Selfishness does not rule their home, nor does it drive their thought

And don’t just look at our military as a magnificent force
Rather look at each member of our soldiered family with pride
"Ready, willing, and able" have been the finest of each generation
Whether in Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq, or any other place of danger

Whenever an American military presence moves into action
Behold the continuation of an outstanding tradition
Formed through freedom, it bravely faces all adversaries
And the flag under which it stands will always fly in freedom

We are and always will be one nation under God
He is the strength we have turned to time and time again
If we did not have Him, we would have perished long ago
God Bless America is more than a song, it is our national prayer

Finally, I wish each fine American a thankful Thanksgiving Day
May you truly realize what we are, and pray to Almighty God for continuation
Be ever thankful for our Armed Forces, and give them the total support they need
And please pray for all American families who have paid the price for freedom

©2002,2005Roger J. Robicheau

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thanksgiving Poem for Children

Thanksgiving Observance
by Author Unknown

Count your blessings instead of your crosses;
Count your gains instead of your losses.
Count your joys instead of your woes;
Count your friends instead of your foes.
Count your smiles instead of your tears;
Count your courage instead of your fears.
Count your full years instead of your lean;
Count your kind deeds instead of your mean.
Count your health instead of your wealth;
Count on God instead of yourself.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Grandma Me

This was sent to me by a friend after the birth of my first grandchild, Lina. There was no author listed so I don't know who to credit for this sweet recollection of experiencing your first grandchild.

Who can ever imagine the sense of grandmotherhood? Who can ever picture herself in a rocking-chair granny?  Mommy, yes. Grandmother? Certainly not I. My children went to Lamaze and happy little parenting classes, but who tells us what it will be like?

Like all grandparents, I was given a warning of some months about the event, but who can be prepared?

The first person to clue me into the world of grandparenthood was my friend Isabelle. We were lunching, and somewhere between the salad and the coffee, I broke the news. Yes, I was very thrilled. Yes, I was ready. Yes, I understood what it would mean.

Isabelle listened and then sat back and smiled knowingly.

I was bewildered by her smugness.

"You only think you know," she said sagely. "Wait. Just wait. No matter what you expect, you won't be prepared."

She was right. I wasn't prepared when the call came at 4 A.M. that the baby would be born within hours.

I rushed to the airport, caught the 7 A.M. plane, and ran for a cab to take me to the hospital. I did not telephone from the airport to learn what happened (I could not bear to hear about this birth from an impersonal voice on the telephone.)

I went immediately to the maternity-floor waiting room, where all our family was assembled, and I heard those wonderful words. "It's a healthy girl born ten minutes ago."

So. Ten minutes old and already this little girl was arriving ahead of me.

Moments later, in her father's arms, the baby came to meet us.

To my shock and amazement I burst into tears. But not just ordinary, run-of-the-mill tears. This was old-fashioned, heartrending sobbing. For in that moment I was touched by every life that had preceded this new one.

My father, dead before even my son was born, was there. So, too, were my grandparents, great-grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins. In a great, convulsive tide I was swept back to my beginnings - child, young wife, mother.

I was filled with the enormity of that sense of belonging, all of us, each to the other. We are bound by our own inexorable, nonending saga. We are the human story. We are us. And now she is us. And only God knows what lies ahead of us - and all life.

No wonder I cried inconsolably.

No wonder my friend could not describe it.

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Power of Pretend

Have you ever watched your child pretend? My grandchildren do it all the time. They pretend to be their preschool teacher or swim school instructor, or characters from their favorite book or children's television show. They can take any ordinary object and turn it into a car or a phone or an animal. It's amazing.

As a parent it is important to provide a pre-school child with many stimulating experiences. Read to them, talk to them, take them to new places and see new things. Then that child will take these experiences and turn them into imaginative play. This enables them to effectively make sense of their world. Young children learn by using their imagination.  Studies have proven that preschool children who spend more time in pretend play are more advanced in general intellectual development and have the ability to concentrate for longer peiods of time.

There's a great deal of difference between how we learn as adults and how young children learn. Children pretend in order to comprehend the world around them.

The process of pretend play builds necessary skills in important developmental areas. The following was taken from a piece written for called "The Importance of Pretend Play."

  • Social and Emotional Skills
    When your child engages in pretend (or dramatic) play, he is actively experimenting with the social and emotional roles of life. Through cooperative play, he learns how to take turns, share responsibility, and creatively problem-solve. When your child pretends to be different characters, he has the experience of "walking in someone else's shoes," which helps teach the important moral development skill of empathy. It is normal for young children to see the world from their own egocentric point of view, but through maturation and cooperative play, your child will begin to understand the feelings of others. Your child also builds self-esteem when he discovers he can be anything just by pretending!
  • Language Skills
    Have you ever listened in as your child engages in imaginary play with his toys or friends? You will probably hear some words and phrases you never thought he knew! In fact, we often hear our own words reflected in the play of children. Kids can do a perfect imitation of mom, dad, and the teacher! Pretend play helps your child understand the power of language. In addition, by pretend playing with others, he learns that words give him the means to reenact a story or organize play. This process helps your child to make the connection between spoken and written language — a skill that will later help him learn to read.
  • Thinking Skills
    Pretend play provides your child with a variety of problems to solve. Whether it's two children wanting to play the same role or searching for the just right material to make a roof for the playhouse, your child calls upon important cognitive thinking skills that he will use in every aspect of his life, now and forever.
So what can you do to encourage pretend play at your house? It's very simple. Start by providing ordinary objects that will trigger your child's imagination and then give them room to play.

Here are some ideas of what to provide: 
  • Boxes and blocks are always a good idea. (I've always said I could have saved a lot of money by giving my kids the boxes instead of the toys.)
  • Unbreakable dishes, bowls, pots, utensils, etc.
  • Lots of stuffed animals.
  • Old clothes and hats for dress up.
  • A card table with a blanket or sheet over it makes a great cave or playhouse.
  • Dolls or action figures
  • Some type of "house". This can be any kind of doll house, or Sesame Street Neighborhood, or car garage, etc. Children can play for hours making up scenarios.
Now sit back and watch your children as they play. You'll be amazed at the storylines and the vocabulary that they use. A word of warning... be prepared to see yourself in what they will say and do! Sometimes they will open your eyes to some behaviors and words that you might want to change or omit in the future.  

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Find the Turkey Maze

Here's a fun Thanksgiving maze for your kids. Help the Pilgrim find the Thanksgiving turkey!

To print: Double click on the maze to open picture and then choose Print Picture. Enjoy!

Friday, November 18, 2011

"God's Special Mothers" - by Erma Bombeck

In the mid-70s, shortly after I discovered that my son was deaf, my sister-in-law, Kathy, sent me this piece written by Erma Bombeck. I've kept it all these years and still read it over when times get tough. I would like to share it with you all today. If you know a "Special Mother" please pass it on to them.


Most women become mothers by accident, some by choice, a few by social pressures and a couple by habit. This year nearly 100,000 women will become mothers of handicapped children. Did you ever wonder how mothers of handicapped children are chosen?

Somehow I visualize God hovering over earth selecting His instruments for propagation with great care and deliberation. As He observes, He instructs His angels to make notes in a giant ledger.

"Armstrong, Beth, son, patron saint, Matthew."

"Forrest, Marjorie, daughter, patron saint, Cecelia."

"Rudledge, Carrie, twins, patron saint...give her Gerard. He's used to profanity."

Finally He passes a name to an angel and smiles, "Give her a handicapped child."

The angel is curious. "Why this one, God? She's so happy."

"Exactly," smiles God. "Could I give a handicapped child to a mother who does not know laughter? That would be cruel."

"But has she patience?" asks the angel.

"I don't want her to  have too much patience or she will drown in a sea of self-pity and despair. Once the shock and resentment wears off, she'll handle it. I watched her today. She has that feeling of self and independence that is so rare and so necessary in a mother. You see, the child I'm going to give her has his own world. She has to make it live in her world and that's not going to be easy."

"But, Lord, I don't think she even believes in you."

God smiles. "No matter. I can fix that. This one is perfect. She has just enough selfishness."

The angel gasps, "Selfishness? Is that a virtue?"

God nods. "If she can't separate herself from the child occasionalyy, she'll never survive. Yes, here is a woman whom I will bless with a child less than perfect. She doesn't realize it yet, but she is to be envied. She will never take for granted a 'spoken word.' She will never consider a 'step' ordinary. When her child says 'Momma' for the first time she will be present at a miracle and know it! When she describes a tree or a sunset to her blind child, she will see it as few people ever see my creations.

I will permit her to see clearly the things I see... ignorance, cruelty, prejudice... and allow her to rise above them. She will never be alone. I will be at her side every minute of every day of her life because she is doing my work as surely as she is here by my side."

"And what about her patron saint?" asks the angel, his pen poised in mid-air.

God smiles. "A mirror will suffice."

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Thanksgiving Poem

Here's a printable Thanksgiving Poem for your little ones to color.

Double click to open picture then right click and choose Print Picture.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Reading Comprehension / Following Directions Activity

Here are two more Activity Sheets for your preschoolers. These are designed to work on reading comprehension and following directions. To download and print: double click on the sheet and then click on Print Picture.

Discuss why Jack and Kathy feel the way they do.

Reinforces numbers and shapes.

Friday, November 11, 2011

"Look Mom, I'm an Illustrator!"

Here's an activity that combines reading comprehension with drawing skills.

You can create a poem or story yourself, or you can take something from an existing book. Insert the text on the page. Then you can omit all pictures or insert some pictures to use as clues. The idea is that your child become's the illustrator. Staple all of the pages together and you have a book! 

If you want to start with my examples just double click on the first one and then click on Print Picture. (For the first two you will also have to click on Preferences and change the orientation to Landscape.)

You can also use a nursery rhyme and see what they come up with!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Learn to Sign the Alphabet

Here's a video clip from the Bonus Material section of "Nonna and Me ABCs" DVD. Follow along and learn how to sign the alphabet.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Increasing Your Child's Attention Span

Do you have a preschool child who has an attention problem? You can help increase your child's attention span by providing fun activities that allow the child to focus for extended periods of time. Here's an easy, useful activity to help you accomplish this.

Have your child listen to a story and then tell the story back to you.

Before you start:

Find a quiet spot with no distractions. No TV, radio, pets or other children in close proximity. It doesn't take much for a child with an attention problem to become distracted, so make it as easy as possible for the child to focus. If you know the child has a specific interest, or likes a particular type of story, find a book or base your stories around that.

What to do:

You can read a book, or have them listen to an audio book from the library, or you could record yourself reading a book and have them listen to that. If only listening, have the child lie down and close their eyes. If it's a longer book, tell the story in shorter parts. Build the length of time they have to listen by choosing longer and longer stories. Don't expand the length until you see that they are able to focus on the shorter ones first. With younger children you can start with nursery rhymes or poems.

Additional Activities:
Make copies of pictures in the book and have your child put them in the correct order.

*  Copy and cut out pictures of the characters in the story and let the child use them like puppets when telling the story.

If your child likes to draw, have them draw pictures about what happened in the story.

This activity is easy to do and, if done consistently, serves as an effective tool to increase a child's attention span.  It also provides important one-on-one time between parent and child. Give it a try!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Nonna and Me "ABCs BINGO"

Here's a new letter game that Nonna and Me will be introducing soon on our website. It's called ABCs Bingo and it's designed to teach preschoolers to identify uppercase and lowercase letters.

The game will come with eight bingo game boards imprinted with lowercase letters, and a deck of 52 uppercase letter cards. Children take turns picking an uppercase lettercard from the deck. If it matches one of the lowercase letters on their game board they get to keep the card and cover the correct lowercase letter on their board. If it doesn't match, it goes on the discard pile. The first child to cover all 6 letters says BINGO and wins the game. (Cards in the discard pile can be reshuffled and used again if no one has won when the deck runs out.)

We've been testing this out on 3+ year olds and they love it! They suggested some interesting changes that we've incorporated into the design of our game. (Kids are so smart!)

We're interested in some feedback from you. Is this something you think you would be interested in purchasing for your preschooler? Let us know.

Example of ABCs Bingo Game Board

Individual uppercase letter cards

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Dance, Ballerina, Dance

Children move.  They move to get from one place to another, they move to express their feelings, and they move because it feels good!  When you structure these movements, it's called dancing.

Children learn to move before they learn to speak. This pre-verbal communication is important for children to express their emotions. It's easier for a young child to learn movement patterns than to learn speach patterns. That's why small children can communicate through Sign Language before they learn to talk.

The experience of learning to dance helps a child develop physically, emotionally, socially, and cognitively. People were always aware of the physical benefits, but are now starting to appreciate the importance of the emotional, social and cognitive benefits as well.

"Students who regularly participate in dance lessons typically tend to perform better academically than their nonparticipating peers. "Family Talk Magazine" estimates that students who have a background in dance tend to achieve significantly higher SAT scores and do better in math and science competitions."

The following is taken from "Standards for Dance in Early Childhood" that appears on the National Dance Education Organization website.

The Benefits of Dance

Physical Development:
Dance involves a greater range of motion, coordination, strength and endurance than most other physical activities. This is accomplished through movement patterns that teach coordination and kinesthetic memory. Dancing utilizes the entire body and is an excellent form of exercise for total body fitness. Young children are naturally active, but dance offers and avenue to expand movement possibilities and skills.

Emotional Maturity:
Dance promotes psychological health and maturity. Children enjoy the opportunity to express their emotions and become aware of themselves and others through creative movement. A pre-school child enters a dance class or classroom with a history of emotional experiences. Movement within a class offers a structured outlet for physical release while gaining awareness and appreciation of oneself and others.

Social Awareness:
Dance fosters social encounter, interaction, and cooperation. Children learn to communicate ideas to others through the real and immediate mode of body movement. Children quickly learn to work within a group dynamic. As the ongoing and sometimes challenging process of cooperation evolves, children learn to understand themselves in relation to others.

Cognitive Development:
Young children will create movement spontaneously when presented with movement ideas or problems that can be solved with a movement response. Movement provides the cognitive loop between the idea, problem, or intent and the outcome or solution. This teaches a child to function in and understand the world. The relationship of movement to intellectual development and education is an embryonic field of study that has only recently begun to be explored.

It is essential that early childhood educational experiences  provide children with dancing, along with drawing and singing. Dance helps children develop literacy... to a young child, verbal language and movement are connected. Dance provides the translation of movement into eventual words.

So dance, ballerina, dance!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

"A is for Apple" Poem

Here is a cute poem I created to teach my grandchildren the ABCs and their sounds. They like it when I use visual clues (like sign language or pantomine) to go along with the words.  

You can download and print this poem. Right click and then click Print Picture.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Reading Really Matters

I am always urging parents to read to their children. When I read articles that say that many children start school having never been read a story, I'm appalled!  Literacy experts point out that these children are at great risk of being left behind at school. Research shows that children who are read to regularly, before they start school, are the children who are most likely to succeed. It appears to be an important predictor in terms of educational success. 

And it doesn't seem to be associated with economics... it's not just children who come from poor backgrounds. Experts agree that this has become a growing trend in our society. Some blame television. Kids are spending too much time in front of the TV and not enough time reading a book. I read an interesting quote from Pie Corbett*. He said, "The TV does the imagining for you – and it doesn't care whether you're listening or not."

(*Note: Pie Corbett is an educational writer and a poet who has written well over two hundred books. He is a well-known teacher, famous for promoting creative approaches in the classroom.)

My son and daughter-in-law are very selective in the programs that my grandchildren watch. There are some fine programs for preschool children on TV these days, but too much of a good thing is not a good thing. 

Parents need to get the message loud and clear... READING REALLY MATTERS!

If you're not doing it now, it's not too late to start. Read books, recite nursery rhymes, read fairy tales. Don't depend on Disney to teach your children.

At "Nonna and Me" we encourage parents to watch our video, listen to our CD, and read our books along with their children and initiate discussion on what they see and hear. The following guidelines and sample questions (taken from Reading To Kids) are designed to help you initiate these discussions and will improve your children's story comprehension.

1. Predicting Outcomes
   • Based on the title, what do you think book is about?
   • What do you think will happen next?
2. Making Inferences and Grasping Implied Ideas
   • What kind of person is the King? Why?
   • What lets us know that the boy is scared?
3. Appraising Soundness of Ideas
   • What plan did the mice have? Was this a wise, or unwise idea?
   • Can you think of a better way to solve Ted's problem?
   • What would you do if it were you?
4. Comparing Similarities and Differences
   • How is Sally different from Susan?
   • What are two things that the children have in common?
5. Distinguishing Real from Make-Believe
   • Could these things really happen?
   • What kinds of things on this page are make-believe?
6. Seeing Cause and Effect Relationships
   • What caused Bobby to ask that?
   • Because Ellen did that, what happened?