How we learn phonics at home

One of the things I like best about teaching Piglet at home is the simple enjoyment of being together.

We sit, together.

We listen, together.

We trace and write, together.

We celebrate his successes, together.

And we also celebrate, together, my amazement at how a little four year old guy can be so motivated, and figure things out on his own.

We’re six months into the year and I thought it’s time for a phonics update. In the series of phonics posts to follow, I’ll be sharing:

  • How we learn phonics at home
  • Tips on teaching your child phonics at home (yes, you can!)
  • Games you can play to bring phonics to life.

If you want to know more about the programme we’re using, read about Jolly Phonics and my last post on making a Sound Book with Jolly Phonics.

How often do we do phonics? Well, apart from other literacy activities like reading aloud and having conversations about everything you can think of (seriously!), we do 20-30 minutes of phonics every day. That may sound like a long time but the activities are varied so there’s no time for boredom to set in.

Here’s what we’ve been doing and how we’re learning phonics at home:

1) Letter recognition.   Since January we’ve been reviewing all the letter sounds Piglet learned last year.

Twice a week we go through the Jolly Phonics letter sound flashcards. We play games to make the review interesting, like seeing who can remember the actions first. We used to revise the flashcards every day when Piglet started phonics around age 3 but now he doesn’t need more than an occasional review.

Jolly Phonics flashcards (cursive)

Jolly Phonics flashcards (cursive)

We also aren’t singing the Jolly Songs for each sound anymore as we did so much of that last year, but they still come in handy for one or two digraphs Piglet keeps forgetting.

2) Letter formation.  After the flashcards are put away, Piglet traces with his finger some of the letters he’s made.

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Piglet loves the tactile feeling and feels a sense of accomplishment as he reviews his own work. This in itself motivates him to do more. No extrinsic reward (eg. stickers) is needed.

Then we work on the relevant page in the Jolly Phonics Workbook. Piglet colours the picture and practises writing the letters.

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The picture takes some time to colour in if he makes a thorough job of it, so that gives me a few minutes to finish lunch prep in the kitchen. See, it’s hit and run sometimes – that’s how we roll here!

Occasionally Piglet wants me to colour together with him (read: spend one-on-one bonding time with him) so I do that and postpone kitchen work awhile. When the picture’s done, I make sure I’m back to show him how to form the letters with the pencil before he gets into it himself.

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Piglet works quite independently most of the time. He’s fast and I have only a few minutes before he calls out “Finished!” and we move on to the next thing. I’m not too particular about whether he’s traced the letters with 100% precision as it’s more important for now that he gets the strokes right generally.

We’ve completed all the Workbooks (1-7) minus some of the more complex exercises like finding words in the dictionary. These I plan to continue later in the year when his blending and segmenting skills are more established.

3) Blending.   After colouring the picture and forming the letters, we blend the words in the Workbook, taking care to fill in the sounds in the missing spaces.

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We also use the Blending Cards. I absolutely love these cards because of the grey dot below each letter sound.

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Piglet points to each dot as he says the sounds one by one. The dots remind him that digraphs are two letters that make only one sound. That helps him to blend the sounds and pronounce the word without getting confused with the number of letters.

The best thing about using these Blending Cards is that they enable a young child with a basic knowledge of phonics to discover new words on his own, with just a little adult assistance.

There are quite a number of cards in Groups 1 to 7 and Piglet can blend between 20-30 cards in one sitting. We’ve finished blending the words in all 7 groups so we’ll be using Readers next.

After blending, we move on to segmenting.

4) Segmenting.  We’ve been playing this game that I printed and laminated.

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We started with three letter CVC words (consonant-vowel-consonant words) earlier this year before moving on to four letter words.

We divide the consonants and vowels and arrange them right side up before playing.

Piglet names the picture aloud, listens for the first sound, then selects the letter and places it on the chart. He then listens for the second, third and fourth sounds until he has spelt the whole word.

It’s like magic to see him spell!

5) Tricky words.   We haven’t been particularly diligent with tricky words (irregular words). Right now Piglet has learned 15 words and we review these every day so that he knows them well.

When I read aloud to Piglet, I sometimes point out the tricky words he knows. Piglet can now spot easy tricky words like “the” and “was” in books and he is beginning to have a better awareness of the written word in books, on cereal boxes and biscuit tins. Occasionally he will say, “Mama, this is ‘I’. I know ‘I’!”

That’s it for now. Just five areas how we learn phonics at home using Jolly Phonics: Letter recognition, letter formation, blending, segmenting and tricky words. Sometimes half an hour just isn’t enough!

 

If you want to teach your child phonics at home, get some teaching tips, or just see how we’re doing in the Big Circle of Life, follow us on Facebook for updates or just check in once in awhile. Thanks for reading!

When Mama isn’t enough

Piglet: Mama, do you love me?

Me: Why yes, Piglet.

Piglet: Are you sure?

Me: Oh yes, with all my heart.

Piglet: Really? Really?

Me: Yes, dear. Really.

Piglet: How much do you love me?

Me: One hundred and ten percent!

Piglet: What’s that?

Me: I love you. One. hundred. and. ten. percent.

Piglet: What does that mean, Mama?

Me: It means, “More than more.”

He pauses. Then smiles. Then runs off to do what four year old boys do best.

That’s right, Piglet. I love you more than more.

 

 

****

Like any other four year old, Piglet loves extra cuddles at bedtime.

But every child is different just as no two snowflakes are identical, and when Piglet was only three years old he surprised me with an endearing goodnight greeting as I tucked him in.

It was this:

Piglet (to me): Goodnight, palak paneer.

(Palak paneer is a vegetarian North Indian dish consisting of spinach and paneer in a thick sauce made from puréed spinach and seasoned with garlic, garam masala, and other spices – Wikipedia.)

Me (to him): Goodnight, roti canai.

(Roti canai or roti prata is a type of Indian-influenced flatbread found in Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore – Wikipedia.)

Needless to say, Piglet was delighted with my response and this special goodnight exchange still features occasionally on some evenings with a few winks thrown in for good measure.

But this week another recurrence of palak paneer and roti canai during our bedtime circuit made me reflect on Piglet’s recent question, “Do you love me?” and our conversation that followed.

It struck me suddenly how my answer was both true and false.

True, because I really do love Piglet more than he can imagine. More and more.

False, because every day I can recount instances in which my love for him has been far from perfect, muddied here and there with the likes of a glare for dilly-dallying over dinner or when my patience is worn thin stretched out by other needs.

And so one morning during our breakfast of oats and cranberries and honey I fessed up to Piglet.

I told him how much I really do TRY to love him one hundred and ten percent but there was no way I could do it perfectly no matter how hard I tried.

He looked at me, not quite comprehending.

So I said again, “Piglet, you know I love you.”

He nodded.

“But I’m like you,” I went on. “I make mistakes. Like the time you spilled the water and I got angry? You know, I wish I didn’t make mistakes. But I do and I always will. You make mistakes, don’t you? But that doesn’t mean you don’t love me, right?”

He got that.

This only-four-year-old got that.

And we got on to talking about what really mattered.

Because what REALLY matters in the big scheme of things is not so much Piglet or me or our failures, but the God Who Is Above It All.

Not that our mistakes don’t matter, but that God can redeem them.

He can help us make it right.

He is a God of second chances.

And you know what, Piglet? God our heavenly Father never makes mistakes.

He will always love you perfectly. One hundred and ten percent perfectly.

I’m trying my level best, Piglet. You don’t know how much it hurts to think of the ways I’ve let you down. But when I’m in that place that makes you feel you can’t make me understand what you need, you can cry to God and ask Him to help me understand.

You can tell Him how mad and sad you feel.

You can always be sure He will do the best for you.

Oh, I’m so glad God is carrying you in His everlasting arms.

He can do what I cannot.

He can go where I cannot go.

His hand is upon you day and night.

He can make all things work together for good for those who love Him.

He will never leave you or forsake you. EVER.

His plans for you are perfect.

Know my God, Piglet.

And walk with Him.

 

“And He will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6)

(Piglet: 4yo 4mos.)

 

Review: Happikiddo at Quill City Mall

I am not a shopping fan.

The very thought of going shopping with four kids and then not finding what I need puts me off.

So when Happikiddo invited me to the launch of their biggest store in Malaysia on 15 April 2015 and to write a review, I obliged with more than average expectations.

Apart from my personal considerations of time and logistics of traveling with a large family, there are a number of points on my checklist when it comes to shopping – store location, size and layout, product range and budget (because, four kids!).

Location

Photo source: Happikiddo

Photo source: Happikiddo

The brand new Happikiddo store is conveniently located in the heart of Kuala Lumpur at Quill City Mall. Just a short drive along Jalan Sultan Ismail and you’re there. I was there on a Wednesday afternoon after lunch and parking was a breeze. No hassles or confusing turns upon entry and exit.

Size and layout

The new store has a floor space of over 6,000 square feet. That’s good because the bigger the size, the bigger the possibilities. It’s brightly lit, with well organised aisles. Apart from only a few tight corners, there’s sufficient space overall for a small-sized stroller to move about and in between.

Photo source: Happikiddo

Photo source: Happikiddo

Product range

Happikiddo prides itself as a one-stop parenting store – and for good reason. It offers over 100 international brands with more than 10,000 products. There’s baby food, educational toys, feeding essentials, toiletries, travel gear, apparels, books, even nursery furniture.

According to Happikiddo’s founder and Managing Director, Elaine Chew, Happikiddo’s mission is to make parenting “fun and interesting with a refreshing twist”. The store therefore offers “cool kids’ stuff” and “trend-forward products hand-picked by mums for mums”.

Touring the store, I was impressed with the wide range of products available and also at the quality of the items for sale. The store offers imported brands that are exclusively sold there such as RICE from Denmark, WABA Fun from Sweden, Steiff from Germany and more.

You’ll find all sorts of feeding items that are BPA-free, from baby chopsticks to milk storage bags to multi-function food scissors that cut, mash AND pick up food. Some of the brands I like – BEABA, Kidsme, First Years.

BEABA

Look at these cool bibs and foodie bags.

Bibs food bags

You’ll also find plush organic toys by MiYin and a wide range of lovely, lovely wooden ones by Anamalz and Hape.

MiYin Anamalz Hape

A wide range of really nice play pretend toys for babies and young children.

Play pretend toys

The nature-loving mama in me spent the longest time in the store gazing at Schleich. Beautifully crafted.

Schleich

Strollers, classy nursery furniture and other sleeping solutions.

Strollers Nursery furniture

Up-to-date sports equipment for the happy and healthy rambunctious boy and girl.

kids sports equipment

Good quality, long-lasting swim wear for kids by CHEEKAABOO.

CHEEKAABOO

As a cloth diapering mama, I was glad to see my favourite brand of cloth diapers there (GroVia) as well as a pretty range of bamboo wipes, but was a little disappointed at the limited range of cloth diaper brands available. According to Happikiddo, there will be some in-store surprises this year so I’m hoping more brands will find their way in. Any effort to reduce the usage of disposables (which aren’t really “disposable”, environmentally) helps.

GroVia

Happikiddo also offers a whole variety of carefully selected items for mothers, from trendy and comfortable nursing wear to breast pumps and organic lotions by popular brands Blue Oak Valley and Tanamera.

Mums goods

Racks of chic clothes for children, from onesies to ballerina tutus, sweet dresses to glittery shoes for girls.

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An extensive range of baby food, organic and non-organic.

Baby food

You’ll also find miscellaneous but really helpful items like nifty cleaning brushes for those hard-to-reach bottle nooks and crannies, and toilet seat covers! Get these if you think it’s too much trouble to line a public toilet seat with toilet paper before Junior sits on it. (Wait, you DO line the seat, don’t you?)

toilet seat covers

I laughed when I saw natural cockroach and lizard repellent! (These Happikiddo gals think of almost everything, don’t they?) Really helpful items to avoid poisoning the air and occupants in our homes. I’m not sure how effective these are but they might be worth a try, no?

There’s even non-toxic nail polish somewhere at the cashier but I didn’t snap a pic.

My conclusion on product range? Happikiddo is the place to go for high-end, quality and super cool products for babies, children and mothers. You natural-loving, environmentally-friendly and chic mamas will like this place. Note that their products are “trend-forward”. I didn’t find the old fashioned terry nappies (lampin) and nappy hooks I was looking for so it’s back to my regular baby shop in SS2 for those.

Budget

You pay for what you get, so prices here range from medium to high.

Family cafe

Happikiddo at Quill City Mall also features a family café with a warm and inviting atmosphere, named Big Daddy Little Chefs. After all that browsing and shopping, one can work up an appetite!

Photo source: HappikiddoPhoto source: Happikiddo

The café offers a thoughtfully-created menu comprising local and fusion dishes that cater to the needs of all ages. Check out its offerings.

Big Daddy Little Chefs menu

Porridge with blitzed kampung chicken says something good about this Cafe!

Dishes are served using pretty melamine tableware by RICE, a chic and socially-responsible Danish homeware and accessories brand.

You can choose to sit at the bar, or at the adult-sized tables, or settle down with toddlers at tables suited to their height. The high chairs are clean, comfortable and inviting too.

Our older kids love chess and checkers so I’m guessing this table will suit them just as well!

Our older kids love chess and checkers so I’m guessing this table will suit them just as well!

Big Daddy Little Chefs also has a well-equipped play area to keep children occupied while you eat. In it are assorted baby toys in a low basket, a toy cooking station, an interesting variety of toy trucks and other vehicles in a lovely sensory play area containing citrus woodchips from Korea. These woodchips have “a natural scent” and are touted to be anti-bacterial, anti-mozzie and provide healing for various ailments such as such as sinus, asthma, eczema. (Woodchips can do all that?) Perfect for natural-loving parents who shudder away from plastic-ridden play areas with TV entertainment (no screens for my toddler, thank you!)

Photo source: HappikiddoPhoto source: Happikiddo

Big Daddy Little Chefs also runs baking workshops occasionally, and caters to birthday parties and celebrations of all budgets.

Store contact details

Happikiddo currently has four stores in the Klang Valley, including Mum Over The Moon – a sister brand which offers the latest products for mums and mums-to-be.

  1. Happikiddo Citta Mall. Lot No. F23-F25, 1st Floor, Citta Mall, Ara Damansara, Petaling Jaya.  Tel.: +603-7859 9330
  2. Happikiddo Quill City Mall. Lot No. 2.26 – 2.31, 2nd Floor, Quill City Mall, 1018 Jalan Sultan Ismail, Kuala Lumpur.  Tel.: +603-2602 1596
  3. Happikiddo Publika. Lot No. 9 Level UG 1, Publika Shopping Gallery, Solaris Dutamas, Jalan Dutamas 1, Kuala Lumpur.  Tel.: +603-6206 1830
  4. Mum Over The Moon. Level G3-49, Publika Shopping Gallery Tel.: +603-6211 2258

Happikiddo’s website at www.happikiddo.comis currently undergoing a revamp and will be ready soon. Check them out on Facebook (www.facebook.com/Happikiddo), Instagram (@thehappikiddo) and Twitter (@happikiddo).

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post, however all opinions are my own.