{fill in the blank} Easel Stories

early writing activity for kids My daughter got this Melissa & Doug easel from Santa and she loves it but at our house we share most everything and her brother got a chance to play with the easel with this Fill in the Blank Easel  Story.  Writing , spelling and reading all come together with creativity and storytelling in this fast to set up activity. If you do not have an easel you can enter for a chance to win one from Melissa & Doug below or use a big sheet of paper on the wall. The reason I am suggesting the wall or an easel is because when kids write on vertical surfaces likes these their arms, wrists and hands naturally go into the proper position for writing. This makes it easier for many kids that struggle and doesn’t hurt those who aren’t either.

  1. Gather your materials. You will need some dry erase makers, a dry erase board / easel and a big imagination.
  2. Start by writing out a simple story on the easel with dry erase markers.fill in the blank easel stories early literacy Here is mine – Once upon a time there was a ________ named _________. He was brave, smart and ____________ . One day he found a magic ____________ and it started to ____________. He thought that is was amazing and ran to show his ___________. when he got home his magic ____________ disappeared! He looked for it everyday but never saw it again.
  3. Invite your writer to come fill in the blanks.  Have them read it out loud.fill in the blank early writers activity
  4. Fill in the blanks. fill in the blanks spellingMy son kept asking me how to spell things. Here is what I do when he asks. I will ask him first to sound it out. If he is struggling I will help. Generally I ask that he uses his 6 year old spelling for everything. Spelling is developmental and if we skip stages in development there can be struggles later on. Invented spellings are a really important step. Kids aren’t misspelling things they are just spelling them at their level of development. As your child progresses feel free to correct them little by little. My son can read well and simple words like dog, hat, car are ones that I would not hesitate to correct his spelling but words like furious, sword or friends I am still encouraging him to sound out and spell at his level. Interestingly he spelled sword correctly later in the lesson.fill in the blanks sounding out and spelling
  5. He didn’t like my ending so he edited it. ” When he got home his magic sword would shock people.” fill int he blanks stories and spelling activity
  6. When he was done writing he proudly read it back to me.fill the blank stories for kids

Watching my son write this really showed me how hard white boards can be for new and struggling writers. Many need the friction of a chalkboard to help them form letters correctly. This easel has a black board on the other side and if you aren’t lucky enough to win it in our sweepstakes you can make your own dollar store ones like we did.

Enter For A Chance To Win

deluxe standing art easel from Melissa & Doug

Fill out the form below. Please only one entry per household. SWEEPSTAKES NOW CLOSED

Deluxe Wooden Standing Art Easel and Companion Set from Melissa & Doug

Official Rules
This sweepstakes is open to American residents 18 years or older. To be eligible for the sweepstakes you must enter your name and email in the google form embedded in this post. 1 winner will be drawn at random, using Random.org, after the sweepstakes closes on January 14th 2013 at 8:00pm PST. The winners will receive the Deluxe Wooden Standing Art Easel and Companion Set , valued at approximately $115. After the winner is notified he or she has 48 hours to respond with their mailing address to ship their easel and companion set to ,or another winner will be chosen at random. No purchase necessary.The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning. Any information gathered through the sweepstakes including email and postal addresses will not be used in anyway other than contacting winners and shipment of winnings. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW.
 
I am a blog ambassador for Melissa & Doug and am compensated for my work. The sweepstakes prize is provided for the winner free of charge from Melissa & Doug.

Thanksgiving Doodle Mats

My kids love dry erase activities and these mats were fast to make and they both enjoyed creating with them. They would be perfect for wiggly kids at the  Thanksgiving dinner table before pie is served or on the long road trip to Grandma’s .  With both the dinner plate and Mayflower scenes you can use different prompts and questions to extend the drawing. I have included suggestions below in the tutorial.

  1. Gather your materials. You will need some inexpensive canvases or another hard board for a backing, some construction paper , double stick tape, scissors and contact paper. For the Thanksgiving dinner mat I used the plate and fork from Melissa & Doug’s Make-A-Meal Sticker Pad because it’s just so cute and we’d been playing with it earlier so it was fresh in my mind. 
  2. For the Mayflower mat start by cutting out a boat. I could have sworn I had brown paper but no, so I colored some white brown with a marker. Cut some sails, and land as well.
  3. Piece together and secure on a sheet of blue paper with double stick tape.
  4. Cover with contact paper.
  5. For the Thanksgiving dinner mat cut out the plate and fork and tape to a sheet of construction paper.
  6. Cover with contact paper.
  7. Time to create.  I handed my son the Mayflower one and asked a few questions . ” How do you think you would feel seeing land for the first time after such a long journey?” ” What would you pack if you were leaving your home forever?” ” How do you think the Native Americans felt when they saw the huge ship?”
  8. My daughter joined us and started creating her Thanksgiving dinner. I asked her ” What would you like for Thanksgiving?” I got a big old ” Candy!” as the response. She drew spaghetti and ice cream.  With older children you could divide the plate up and ask them to draw foods from each food group, draw a silly Thanksgiving with just their favorite foods or what they usually have at Thanksgiving and talk about traditions.
  9. They happily created and erased over and over. We use socks that can’t find their mates for erasers. 

 

I have had a hard time over them years finding Thanksgiving books that I felt were fun and educational. These books however fit the bill and are sure to work at your house too. Click through for full reviews of these books and a couple other Thanksgiving favorites.

Despicable Me 2 – Halloween Fun For Kids

One of the best parts of Halloween is getting a chance to dress up in costumes and dressing up shouldn’t just be for kids, it should be for minions too! When I was asked to help spread the word about Despicable Me 2 coming to theaters this summer I knew exactly what sort of activities I wanted to do. These activities are perfect for Halloween parties or to prepare your little ones for all the unusual costumes they might see. They can play with the minion and see that he’s the same under every single costume we made him and on Halloween night there is nothing to be afraid of it’s just a person under that scary costume too.  The simple memory game can be made in a snap and would be a cute quiet game for a Halloween party.

Dress Your Minion For Halloween!

  1. Gather your materials. You will need some yellow , black and white construction paper, yellow, black , brown and metallic markers, double stick tape, contact paper, scissors, heavy card stock ( full page sheet) and dry erase markers in various colors.
  2. Start by drawing and cutting out a minion.
  3. Cut some black construction paper for it’s goggle band.
  4. Cut out a circle of white paper and outline it in the metallic silver. Add a brown eye with a black pupil. Add yellow at the bottom.
  5. Using the double stick tape tape the band and eye on. Color the boots and gloves black.
  6. Tape everything on to the card stock.
  7. Peel the backing off your contact paper and put the minion face down on the sticky side.
  8. Press, fold the sides and trim edges. Now you have a dry erase minion!
  9. Dress him up for Halloween using the dry erase markers.  We turned him into a princess, witch , butterfly, vampire and messy monster.
  10. Everything wipes clean beautifully!

You can also use him for talking about emotions and have your little ones draw his emotions, or dress him up for upcoming holidays too!

Easy Memory Game

I hear from a lot of parents how playing memory with their child is terrible and my first question is always ” Did you play with all the pieces?” When toddlers and young kids are learning games break them down a little and make them more accessible. This is why I love making my own memory games.

Using the Despicable Me 2 Halloween Temporary Tattoo Printables  I made this game in a snap!  *** Please email me for the printables and I will send them to you asap ***

  1. Gather your materials. You will need the printables  ( 2 copies)  from Despicable Me 2. Some orange card stock, black card stock , double stick tape and scissors.
  2. Cut all your images and card stock into squares. Remember that you want the squares progressively larger so the minion paper is the smallest, orange middle and the black paper is the largest.
  3. Tape the minion to the orange paper and then the orange to the black paper.  Make 4 pairs for toddlers, 6-8 for preschoolers and 10 + for school age kids. 
  4. Flip and play!

After you play and learn (kids are always learning) with these adorable Despicable Me Halloween activities don’t forget to mark your calendar because Despicable Me 2 hits the theaters this July!  Check out some other fun FREE Despicable Me Halloween printables including treat bag toppers and pumpkin carving stencils.

 

About the film

Universal Pictures and Illumination Entertainment’s worldwide blockbuster, Despicable Me, delighted audiences around the globe in 2010, grossing more than $540 million and becoming the 10th-biggest animated motion picture in U.S. history. In Summer 2013, get ready for more minion madness in Despicable Me 2. Chris Meledandri and his acclaimed film making team create an all-new comedy animated adventure featuring the return of Gru (Steve Carell), the girls, the unpredictably hilarious minions…and a host of new and outrageously funny characters.

Visit the official website

Watch the teaser trailer for Despicable Me 2

Like Despicable Me on Facebook

I was compensated for my participation in this campaign. The crafts are my own creations.

Design Your Own Jack-O-Lantern

I have a slight obsession with dry erase these days. It makes sense though, dry erase projects allow children independence and a less frustrating experience if they are unhappy with what the’ve written or drawn. For our house this is a godsend. My son is a reluctant drawer and writer. He will look at me and say ” I’ll just do abstract!” and part of that is because he is also a perfectionist and it’s frustrating when things aren’t as neat as he wants them to be. The dry erase helps him explore in abstract or not.

    1. Gather your materials. You will need some orange and green card stock, a hard piece of cardboard or canvas , scissors and some clear contact paper.

  1. Start by drawing a basic pumpkin shape on your orange paper. 
  2. Cut it and a green stem out and place on your canvas. cardboard.
  3. Cover with clear contact paper.
  4. Create!  I made the faces to show readers all the possibilities for teaching about emotion with this craft .
  5. My son just created , ths tricky thing about dry erase is his creations were gone before I could get pictures!

Halloween Books

Pumpkin Eye by Denise Fleming is a wonderful Halloween book for kids who are old enough to feel like Halloween is a spooky night, but still too young for anything graphically frightening.  The text is short but rhymes beautifully and grabs your child’s attention almost as effectively as the illustrations do. The story is all about Halloween night and the sights and sounds on one street as the night goes on. Both my kids have been grabbing for this book off our shelf when I ask which book they want to read . If it can be a favorite for an almost 5 year old boy and a 15 month old girl I say it will probably be a hit at your house too.

Big Pumpkin by Erica Silverman is a staple in most preschool classrooms. It’s a cute story about a witch who is desperate for pumpkin pie but her giant pumpkin is too big for her to pick up! Luckily she enlists the help of a ghost, vampire, mummy and bat and with a little teamwork they save the night! The rhyming text is almost like a song and kids love it! It’s possibly my son’s favorite Halloween book and I love that it’s the smallest creature who uses it’s brain not brawn to solve the problem.

Patty’s Pumpkin Patch  by Teri Sloat is a great alphabet book and story in one. Readers follow a pumpkin patch from planting the seeds until after Halloween when they gather the seeds for the next planting.  I really like how this book combines an alphabet book with both upper and lowercase letters corresponding to some animal or insect in the story . I also like the easy rhythm of the rhyming text and the engaging and detailed illustrations . All in all I think this is a great fall book!

3D Word Search

When children are learning to read playing games with their developing skills is a great way to practice while playing. This giant 3D word search can be used so many ways. For my almost 5 year old I put in simple words he could recognize or easily sound out.  I also helped him by making all the words a consistent color and horizontal only. With younger children it can still be a fun game simply looking for specific colors or letters. With older ones you can make words multi colored, going every which way. The learning isn’t just in the searching either, using the dry erase marker to carefully circle the letters or words is fantastic writing practice and the foam letters are a sensory experience too.

  1. Gather your materials. You will need a sturdy backing like a inexpensive canvas or even some cardboard, contact paper ( which will make it wipe off) foam letter stickers ( two packs) and scissors. Also a dry erase marker to play with.
  2. Start by covering your canvas or card board with clear contact paper. This makes the surface friendly for dry erase . I found that a baby wipe worded the best to get the marker off after we played.
  3. Start making a column of letters.
  4. Decide on some words to pop in. Like I said in the preamble you can customize this to your child’s specific stage of learning.
  5. Add the words mixed with some random letters.
  6. Invite your child to play. I meant to make a list of the words I included but forgot and it turned out we didn’t need them. You may want one though.
  7. Oops he circled the o but it was no biggie because it’s dry erase!

I was fascinated by which words he knew by sight and which he sounded out. He loved this and I can see myself making a few more over the next few months for sure.