Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Drafting Tube Blocks - FREE

I am lucky enough to have a client who is a mechanical engineer and another who does CAD drafting, along with another that has a brother who is an engineer. So, I have a ready supply available of these HEAVY duty cardboard tubes that drafting paper comes on. 

Any architecture or engineering firm will most likely be willing to give you these for FREE, just call and ask.

These come in various lengths and are thick and sturdy, so they can stand up to the very destructive 2 year old boys I currently have with me.

I took the tubes and cut them with a standard saw blade on my chop saw at 1 inch intervals. I think I will color code them by size and mark the inches on each one. I think they will take earth tone natural stains well, to keep with the Reggio philosophy of more natural elements.

I purposefully did 20 units at 1" for numeracy teaching and exploring. 

How many did you get on your arm?

I did 1"-10" for counting and graduating, matching, estimating, unit measuring, and graphing teaching. 

Which one does that match?

I did more 2" and 3" for skip counting, fraction and multiplication teaching.

I cut several at 45 degrees and they really seemed to like those for toppers.

They started to figure out the logic/reasoning and physics pretty quick.

I kept the length at a max of 10 inches. This makes them difficult to use in any "stick" manner like a sword or bat. Not that they can't be used to hit, but it would be awkward and lack force.

A finer saw blade or slower cut would have made them less ragged. I didn't clean up the edges. You could with a wood rasp, but I found that the rough edges helped the pieces to stick together better. It also provided an extra sensory experience and fine motor activity as they picked at the edges.

6 tubes provided enough to fill a laundry basket. I will probably add an extra 2 tubes worth, but want to see how they play with them to determine the sizes we need before I make any more.

And if they get mutilated, well, there are plenty more where these came from, for FREE. Yay!
Tags: blocks, tubes, toddlers, preschool, daycare, child care, gross motor, fine motor, center, kindergarten, homeschool, frugal, 

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Silhouette Christmas Ornaments

Shrinky Dink silhouette Christmas ornaments craft

While the children will be making various handprint and crafty items this week before Christmas, I wanted to do something for the parents that would be a lasting memento. 

Silhouettes are back in fashion, and I thought that would be a great idea to start with.

For the process:

I already had a pack of Shrinky Dink film. 

I took profile pics of the kiddos.

Knowing that my film is 8 1/2 X 11 inches, I manipulated the pics in my word processing drawing feature to comfortably fit within a 1/4 page space with enough extra for the hole at the top and the frame at the bottom.

I printed out the pics, placed them under the Shrinky Dink film, and outlined with a black Sharpie marker. [Don't scrimp and use a low-end marker.] I then removed the film from atop the photo on to a piece of plain white paper.

I took an oval piece from one of the children's shape matching games and used it as a template at the bottom to make a frame for their name and the year. I free handed the inside line about 1/4 inch.

I wrote their name and the year into the frame. I liked the satin look for the front of the ornament. If you want the shiny look for the front, I would print out the name and year in mirror and copy onto the ornament. 

I colored in the profile outline and the frame with a broad tip permanent marker going in one direction. If you go back and forth then it will start pulling the ink and make a gummy mess. Make a clean, slightly overlapping line and leave it to dry.

Once the first layer is dry, do a second layer of black permanent marker in the opposite direction. It will give a linen-like look to the finished piece. 

If necessary, let dry and do a third coat. Just because it shrinks down dramatically, doesn't mean that any missed or thin ink spots won't show. Get a good coverage before shrinking.

Use a standard hole punch to punch a string/hanger hole at the top of the film.

Bake at 325 degrees. I won't give a time, just to say it takes a couple of minutes. You need to watch them carefully and once they are FULLY flat, count 30 seconds and remove to cool. I was fearful the entire time watching them as they curl and bubble up and look like a freakish mess and that there is no way possible that they could end up flat and looking decent. They do! Just let them do their thing.

Once thoroughly cooled, I sprayed the inked side with a satin enamel. You could also use Modge Podge or another sealer, but I wanted something I could spray so that it wouldn't possibly mess up the pic with brushing something on.

I had some cording that fit perfectly through the hole. 

shrinky dink silhouette Christmas ornaments

They turn out relatively small. The shrinkage rate on my Shrinky Dink paper is suppose to be 50%, but they seem really small for a 1/4 sheet. They went from 4 1/4 X 5 1/2 to 1 5/8 X 2 inches.

I really like them. I hope the parents do, too.


Thursday, December 8, 2016

Cheese Steaks for Children

I had a French bread loaf and decided to use it for cheese steak sandwiches. Cheese steaks for preschoolers? Heck yeah!

I made them open faced for easier/neater handling by scooping out the middles of the bread slices.

I diced red, yellow and orange peppers and sauteed them in olive oil until caramelized.

The meat was about 4 lbs. of steaks cooked in the crockpot on low overnight with two cans French onion soup and water to cover. I froze half for another day.

I put the peppers and meat together and lightly diced it all with my chopper.

After putting the meat mixture into the center hollow of the bread slices, I topped with a 5 cheese Italian blend and broiled until melted and just browning.

Cheese steaks for children daycare menu

This was a new recipe, so I wasn't sure how it would go over. Two of the little ones didn't eat much of it, but they ate more than I thought they might, being my pickier eaters. The others finished off 2-3 half slices each and gave them an excellent rating.

With the meat already cooked, this is a quick meal to put together, and with the abundance of peppers, rich in nutrition.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016


Why no juice for young children

There are many health reasons why children should not be drinking juice. Children should be drinking milk with meals and water at all other times. We tend to place our taste preferences for juice or soda/pop onto our children, when they are quite content to drink water. Children learn to like the foods and drinks that they are consistently given by their caregivers. 

There are several issues to consider when you provide your child juice:
  • It helps create an addiction to sugar
  • It is a known cause of obesity and failure to thrive
  • A child under 5 does not have the gastric maturity to adequately handle the concentrated acids
  • It produces a glucose imbalance that can cause health issues
  • It can increase yeast production leading to ear infections and other illness
  • It creates a "sugar high" so that when the child crashes, they feel a need for more juice/sugar
  • It has little nutritional value unless fresh squeezed
  • It can fill up the child, replacing nutritional food
  • It erodes tooth enamel and can lead to cavities and tooth loss
  • Most juice contains pesticide residue that can accumulate within the child and cause harm
  • Citric juices are so caustic they use them as paint remover, most doctors did not even discuss citric juices in my research, assuming parents would not be giving them to young children
While NO JUICE is recommended, if you are going to give a child juice, it should be given after age 3, preferably age 4, since that is when a child’s digestive system is mature enough to completely handle the concentrated acids and excessive sugars juices contain. 

Dr. Tobias Nobrigot:

"Previous studies suggest that the less complete absorption of the carbohydrates in apple and pear juice is commonly attributed to two factors: the imbalance of fructose and glucose—in both apple and pear juice that ratio is approximately two to one—and the presence of sorbitol. White and purple grape contain no sorbitol and the fructose/glucose ratio in each juice is approximately one to one. This study indicates, among other things, that young children gradually develop an ability to absorb the sugars in apple and pear juice. The three year old group handled apple juice nicely but was still digesting the pear juice incompletely. By five, all four juices were being digested properly." 
Fruit juice contains four forms of carbohydrates: sorbitol, fructose, glucose, and sucrose. Not only is sorbitol hard for some children to digest, but juices with a high ratio of fructose to glucose have also been shown to be rough on young gastric systems. Apple and pear juice, in particular, are both high in sorbitol and have a fructose-glucose imbalance.

Fruit juice, which is consumed heavily by children, is not a whole food and adds little nutritional value. Juicing removes the fiber, and unless the juice is freshly squeezed and consumed immediately, most of the nutrients are lost. Commercial canned or bottled juices are mostly sugar (even if you buy unsweetened) and most likely contain pesticides. Excess sugar can make your child more susceptible to illness.

Excess sugar also means that the body is in a state of unbalance blood sugar levels due to the lack of complex carbohydrates. Once the blood sugar level peaks and falls, then children are back asking for more juice, and if given, will keep perpetuating this unhealthy cycle. One of the reasons Type 2 diabetes is on the rise in children.

Doctors say that juice is just as bad as soda.

Researchers say that when a baby's bottle or cup is filled with juice — even the 100 percent, all-natural, no-sugar-added stuff — parents might as well be pouring Pepsi.

A growing body of science is linking sweet drinks, natural or otherwise, to a host of child health concerns, everything from bulging bellies to tooth decay.

Drinking large amounts of juice can also decrease the appetite. If a child drinks a lot of juice, they may not have an appetite for the food they really need.

A child who drinks a lot of fruit juices may be susceptible to yeast overgrowth, as with any high sugar intake. This can lead to chronic nasal congestion, eczema, or throat and ear infections.

Fruit juice consumption by infants and young children has increased over the past 30 to 40 years because of increased availability, convenience, marketing and children’s preferences. Sweetened beverages are preferred over unsweetened drinks even by neonates, as well as young children. By one year of age almost all children drink fruit juice. Concerns about children’s excessive consumption of fruit juice have been raised by a number of professional groups. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the American Academy of Periodontics have expressed concerns about tooth decay and fruit juice. The AAP Committee on Nutrition has expressed concern about sorbitol, a naturally occurring, but nonabsorbable sugar alcohol present primarily in pear juice and apple juice; they cautioned that the "excessive use of fruit juice" may result in gastrointestinal symptoms, such as chronic diarrhea, abdominal pain or bloating . The role of juice carbohydrate malabsorption (especially fructose) in chronic nonspecific diarrhea in children has been recognized for some time.
Among children referred for evaluation of failure to thrive, excessive fruit juice consumption was reported as a contributing factor in nonorganic failure to thrive in eight children, aged 14 to 27 months. In some children, an association between excessive fruit juice consumption and short stature was reported, while in other children, a relationship between high intakes of fruit juice and obesity was found.
The concentrated acids in fruit juice also eat away at the enamel of young teeth, cause significant tooth decay. If giving juice, it must not be in a bottle and should be chased by water.

If your children are drinking fruit juice, you can wean them by diluting one-third white grape juice with two-thirds water. You can slowly cut the juice out altogether. Pure water is the best drink for children.

Another issue regarding juice is the presence of pesticide residue toxins. The USDA pesticide data program has identified carcinogens, hormone disruptors, neurotoxins, developmental/reproductive toxins and bee toxins in juice. Here are links to see what is in the most commonly given juices to children: Apple juice, orange juice.

There is no nutritional or health reason to provide juice to children. Children learn to like what they are served. That should be milk and WATER. Juice is not helpful to a child's body, it is actually harmful and something that taxes the body to handle.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Teaching Twos - Science

teaching toddlers science

Please remember that this is child-led learning through play and movement. No drills, worksheets, etc. I'm going to present them in a series of subjects:

I feel like much of childhood is living in the scientific method: systematic observation, measurement, and experimentation; and the formulation, testing, and modification of hypotheses.

They observe, they test, they assess, they try something else, and keep evolving their beliefs through data collection and analysis.

Basically, childhood IS living science.

Just as all children are born artists, they are also all born scientists. We do them a grave disservice when we limit their ability to observe and experiment.

What do two year olds learn about science?

One of the first concepts is gravity. They drop items simply to see them fall. They quickly learn through throwing things up in the air that what goes up will come down.

Force and resistance are learned as they fall, bump into things, and throw things. Even something as low-key as a bead chase teaches gravity, force and motion.

bead chase and physics learning

Playing with inclined planes, changing the angles, changing the items rolled down, all work on force, motion and resistance concepts.

toddlers incline plane and science

As they mature in this concept, they begin to manipulate force and resistance, and to play with forces. They learn if they use more force, they gain more distance. If they use more force, they dig up more sand. If I use more force, they go higher in the swing. If they use more force when pushing their friend, it leads to problems. We explore force and motion a lot with our pulleys and pendulums play. The twos love them.

pulleys and pendulums toddler and preschoolers physics learning

It always fascinates me when they come up with something like this, where the two's started playing with centrifugal force with the large bowls. They even taught a 4 year old something new. Exploring science concepts within play is natural. They got them moving, then they started adding in other bowls, balls, and items to see how it worked. Many small figures went flying across the room, which they thought was a total hoot.

centrifugal force preschoolers


Yes, art teaches chemistry. Color mixing, making play dough, exploring the viscosity of shaving cream, adding herbs into play dough thus changing the feel and smell, is all chemistry related.

toddler color mixing chemistry learning

toddler color mixing

Helping to make food teaches a lot of chemistry.

Yeah. This.

make mud toddlers learning states of matter science

States of matter. Dirt going to mud. Solid to liquid. The boys really understand this one.

toddlers bubbles states of matter science learning

Bubbles popping and disappearing really works on manipulation of all three states of matter. Learning through play.

Probably discussing and helping with food making is the best introduction to this concept. Observing how cheese melts and becomes gooey, playing in the sensory bin with ice and water, discussing the steam rising on the pasta pot. It's not a set concept at all, but just an introduction through observations that will make sense later.

They are also naturals at experimenting with solutions and mixtures, and exploring viscosity, and our outdoor environment is well suited to that.

Since we are outside a LOT, and we garden, the weather isn't just a circle time blip here. We discuss the weather daily in relation to its importance to US. It's sunny again today, so the ground is too dry, so we need to water the plants. It's cold out, so we need to wear our jackets. It rained, so we need to wear our boots. The clouds are dark and cover the sky, so it looks like it might rain. The frost on the ground means the end to our tomatoes. Watching the wind blowing the leaves off the trees and feeling it against their bodies is a physical and visceral immersion into weather.

Biology & ecology
We discuss how our animals need food, water, and shelter just like us. The children here are never allowed to chase any animal. The wild bunnies and squirrels will often come fairly close for observation. The kitty patiently teaches the two's how to be gentle and responsible when around animals.

pets in the preschool classroom

In the spring we incubate eggs and hatch chicks, that end up in my farm's coop making eggs for us to eat. It is an awesome lesson in many biology concepts. We study an egg theme and life cycle theme.

hatching chicks in the preschool classroom for biology learning

2016 we had ducks, instead. The two year olds were FASCINATED. For children that are usually go, go, go, they would stand or sit around the duck enclosure for up to an hour, just watching them.

ducks in the preschool classroom for biology learning

We also have tadpoles from the farm pond every spring.

tadpoles in the preschool classroom for biology learning

While the two's aren't able to understand deserts, mountains, and other biomes not within their realm of reference, they can understand that different parts of our outdoor environment provide different living conditions for different plants and animals. 

They know that some bugs live under the bug boards where it is moist and shady. They know that some bugs, different ones, live on our squash plants in the sun. They understand that the squirrels live in the trees and the bunnies on the ground. 

I can, however, create artificial biomes to introduce some expanded diversity of creatures and environments.

creating biomes in the preschool classroom for biology learning

Physiology & anatomy
I start teaching body parts as soon as they can talk. It's one of the first rounds of vocabulary they get down. At two, we move on to more advanced body parts, and bodily functions. We talk about healthy foods and how certain foods help us to do certain things. They begin to learn about their muscles, heart, five senses, that they are growing, how they can get sick, and how to take care of their bodies.

Entemology & bugs

We have a very diverse outdoor environment. We have access to a wide variety of bugs, and the children are encouraged to explore them. Worms. They LOVE the worms and know where to dig them up. They also know they have to put them back where they got them so they can go back to their worm family.

importance of outdoor environment for preschool biology learning in the outdoor classroom

Botany & mycology

We have a large organic garden. The two's help start plants, assist with garden chores, harvest, and even prep items like cherries for eating or freezing.

We also have a very diverse plant and tree population. The children are encouraged to explore the flowers, leaves, herbs, and fruit within the environment with all their senses.

Data collection and interpretation
A LOT of this is going on within them, as they assess, interpret, re-direct, assess, interpret, etc. They are just two, but we still talk about how many we planted, how many we harvested, if we have more pumpkins or more carrots today. We talk about why there are more rolly pollies under the board today than yesterday. We talk about how it is hotter today than yesterday. We talk about why the worms like to live in the leaves, but not in the sand.


Not much, but the two's can find the moon if it's out, tell you if it is a circle or crescent moon, and we talk about how the moon changes and moves over us. They know about stars and we talk about the sun being a star. We talk about living on a ball called earth and that it is a planet.

Geology & archaeology
Again, not much, but I have collected rocks from my travels that they can wet down and see the stratification and coloring. We have limestone with fossils laying around. We also have rock collections I've bought. We talk about dirt, rocks, stuff in rocks, and sand being smashed up rock.

They learn that there is interesting stuff down below the grass and dirt to explore.


Children are natural scientists. Their understanding of scientific concepts comes, in a large part, fluidly from exploring a dynamic environment. The problem is when the environment is sterile. When children are spending days in an unnatural environment, on playgrounds full of only mulch with metal and plastic play structures, without even a stick to dig with, their scientific learning is stunted. Environments need to be engaging to all the senses with unlimited opportunities to explore scientific concepts.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Teaching Twos - Math

teaching toddlers math
Please remember that this is child-led learning through play and movement. No drills, worksheets, etc. I'm going to present them in a series of subjects:

If you haven't read my Early Math post, it has some excellent sources for why math introduction is as important if not MORE IMPORTANT than early language learning. We think nothing of talking to our babes in the womb and speaking to them from birth, but we often view any other form of early teaching as harmful. This simply isn't true. 

Learning through play and movement, observations in life, and experiences are how children learn in a developmentally appropriate manner. Of course they shouldn't be expected to do worksheets and drills. Those aren't even developmentally appropriate for a 2nd grader, though school systems choose to often teach them in this manner. 

Early math introduction has far-reaching benefits for children, and many cross-over aspects into reading and other subjects.

There is no expectation on the part of the child here. The expectation is on me to provide the teaching, the exposure to the concepts. The child either embraces it, ignores it, masters it, manipulates it, or just stores bits of it away for later. Often much later. But the point is that the information is there for them when they want or need it and more of it is retained, earlier, due to the exposure through casual, fun opportunities.

Rote Counting

This is what people often view as math learning. Number order and number recognition. This is such a blip on the radar of math learning, though. 

Rote counting is done daily here with our 0-10 chant. They love it. Rote counting is done more for introduction of number vocabulary, patterning/sequencing, and the concept of consistency, rather than getting them to be able to count, at this age. 

Since we begin in infancy with numeracy introduction, the 2's know their number names. Can they count? Not really. They have numbers they like and usually put them in numerical order. Mr. R likes "1,2,5!" Mr. H likes "1,3,4!" Usually they can pop up with the next number in a sequence, and they recognize some numbers. We say things like, "One, two, threeeee, GO!" to help with beginning counting. They are often observed counting in play.

One-to-one Correspondence

From birth we teach one-to-one correspondence. This is SO important for math and reading. We spend a little time on rote counting, but we spend a LOT of time counting THINGS. Numbers by themselves have little meaning, it is numbers as representations of quantities that have meaning, and that concept is as vital as the concept that words have meaning. We count things as least a dozen times a day: animals on a page, cups on the table, rocks in a bucket, balls we pick up, grapes on a plate, etc.

teaching toddlers math

Shapes & Geometry
We work on identification of: circle, square, triangle, heart, star, crescent, with diamond, rectangle and oval added in as needed. Shapes are not something we actively work on, but casually discuss in environmental and book experiences. Just like colors, they seem to just pick them up. 

Even more casually, I introduce 3D shape vocabulary, keeping in mind that they are TWO. The moon is a circle. They lack the abstract thinking to interpret it as a sphere, so for now, it is a circle or a crescent.

More actively, we work with shapes. Often this is not a shape learning activity, but a geometric manipulation activity and/or logic/reasoning activity. For instance, at 2 years and 3 months, the three in the picture below, all born within days of one another, are able to do tanagrams, shape sorters, shape puzzles, Wedgits, etc. that work with shapes, but work with much more than just learning shape identification. Even puzzles are working on perspective, movement across a plane, translation, rotation, etc.

teaching toddlers math

We also actively work with coordinate geometry terminology: up/down, back/forward, in/out, etc. I call this positional work. We do this as physial activities, casual observations, and purposeful book work. such as, "What is BELOW the bird?"


If I ask the 2's to get one or two of something, they can do that. We are working on more/less, a lot, big/small high/low and various other quantification concepts. 

Much of this type of learning is done in the sandbox and water table and playing with loose parts. Filling, pouring, dumping into a bigger or smaller container, trying to fit items into other items, all teaching proportion, volume, weight, length, height, concepts.

Even jumping off of things, stepping between pavers, reaching up for items, all teach measurement and proportion concepts.

Logic & Reasoning

Logic and reasoning are in play throughout the day. When I ask, "Is that okay?" I can see their young minds running through the reasoning. "Do you need to spend some time in time out?" "No." "Then what do you need to do?" Off they go making a better choice. Much of their logic and reasoning comes through playing with loose parts. We have a ton of stuff in our outdoor play area/classroom that they can use as they will. They often come up with uses for items that I never would have or could have thought up. Much of logic and reasoning comes from simply enabling them to experience a vast amount of different situations and the outcomes of their decisions pertaining to those situations.

teaching toddlers logic and reasoning

Patterning & Patterns

At 2, pattern learning is continued from infancy as a physical and musical activity. We are currently working on "Pat-pat-clap, pat-pat-clap, 1-1-2, 1-1-2, pat-pat-clap, I Love You, 1-1-2, 1-1-2."

Last month it was "Jump-down, jump-down, jump-down, spin around. [repeat]" They would jump up then squat down, and turn around after three rounds of that.

There are patterns sprinkled throughout our play and routine. "1-2-3 GO!" is even a pattern. The order we put out beds, is a pattern. 

teaching toddlers geometry math


They have their counting bears to color group as an acitivity center choice.
We also do this in pick-up, "Put all the cars away. Now, put all the baby doll stuff away." It may not seem like a mathematical activity, but it is purposefully intended to be such. They begin early on seeing that like goes with like and making inferences about grouping. This is also a science aspect - characterization, identification of traits.

teaching toddlers colors logic and reasoning

Beginning Computation

This is casual through observation. "Oh, look, you have three, 1-2-3, and he has three, 1-2-3. TOGETHER you have 1-2-3-4-5-6!" "He has one, can you give him another one so that he has two?" "You have one car and one more car, so you have two cars. one and one more is 1-2."

Not enough attention is paid to the early introduction of math vocabulary and concepts. Not just my opinion, finer minds than mine are saying this. Children learn many of these through their play, and we can scaffold that learning to a higher level through purposeful teaching. We can also provide them with a much broader base of concepts and vocabulary through casual observations of their activities.

I think I do a pretty good job at this. 

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Teaching Twos - Language

teaching toddlers language

I had an interview recently and was explaining how I teach. She asked, with what I perceived as a large amount of derision, "What can you teach a TWO YEAR OLD?"

Yep, SHE was about to be schooled. 

Please remember that this is child-led learning through play and movement. No drills, worksheets, etc. I'm going to present them in a series of subjects:

Vocabulary, vocabulary, vocabulary
2-year-olds pick up about 10 new words a day, when provided with 10 new words a day. Each child has different words that s/he will be drawn to, so I need to expose them to many more than that. The favorite word for them all yesterday was flamingo. Since it is estimated that an average person only uses 700 unique words on any given day, and a child has a vocabulary of 14,000 words at age 6, it can be implied that only through targeted efforts at vocabulary introduction does this happen. The main source for this is READING. Each book introduces a child to another person's vocabulary and voice. Given that there is a DIRECT correlation between time spent reading and future grades and adult success, reading is the key aspect of teaching 2-year-olds language.

Parroting/mimicking/repeating of words is key to rapid vocabulary acquisition. We work on this from birth. A newborn will stick its tongue out if it sees someone do it. That's how it starts. We start with parroting of movements, move on to parroting of sounds/babbles, and on to words. A child that will parrot words will pick up twice as much vocabulary in half the time as a child that doesn't.

To expand vocabulary, we will work with our monthly/weekly preschool themes to prep vocabulary they will need for those in the following years.

Sentence structure
The little ones are 2 years and 2 months old now. This week we have been working on pronouns. Previously they all used their names and said things like, "John do it." "Daddy truck." "Mommy go." Now they are speaking at up to five word sentences, and have thrown out a couple of pronouns. So it's time. So instead of me saying, "No, that's Randy's truck. Give back." I'm saying, "No, that's his. Give him his truck back." In just a week the use of pronouns by the 2's has greatly increased. This is a conscious directional shift in how I speak to them, with a specific goal in mind. A few weeks ago they were not ready for this shift, now they are. 

In parts of the world where eye contact is discouraged, enunciation is much better and mastered earlier than here in the west. [Just read this, but can't find source.] For us westerners, it is rude to not have eye contact when speaking, however when the eyes are on eyes, the mouth movements are missed. I purposefully teach the children to look at my mouth when learning new words. I say the word in a specific tone that keys them to parrot me, and put my finger to my chin to indicate them to watch my mouth. 

I will have them parrot a few times, until improvement is made, or they look away, indicating end of interest. I always end with a, "Good job!" and high five.

Enunciation is key to being understood, so the sooner we get good enunciation of the words they know, the quicker we get better communication and fewer tantrums from communication frustration.

While many would consider the ABC song language acquisition, I do not. For me, it is mathematical sequence. It teaches order and the concept of consistency. The language component is simply the vocabulary introduction of the letter names.

ABC recognition means little to me. It doesn't matter to reading if a child knows an "A" is an "A", it matters that they know that "A" says "aaa." Most of my former 2-year-olds knew their phonics for both upper and lower case by 3, and learned the letter names by 4. This meant that they were often reading some at 3/early 4, without knowing their letter names.

We learn phonics through acquisition first of sounds. Not just letters and their partner sounds, but also digraphs and blends. We'll spend a week focusing on the CH sound for instance with casual references to the letters shown. We start at 2 to make clear the concept that letters make sounds. At 3 we work on sounds making words, and by 4 we move to words make sentences, make paragraphs, make stories, etc.

We also work on phonics through reading of alphabet books. I emphasize the phonics element, since the letter name is usually the focus of the book. It's easy with books like Dr. Seuss's ABC.

While reading, we work on many of the pre-reading skills
- Left to right convention
- Recognition of print as meaningful words
- One-to-one correspondence of words 
- Repetitive readings to encourage comprehension, sequencing, filling in

When we do reading, it is ALWAYS interactive. The children get to play out the story in some way. In Goodnight Moon they pop balloons, meow like kittens and do a lot of other movements and sounds. For any book that has a repetitive phrase, like Pete the Cat, then they say that phrase whenever I pause and look at them. If you haven't done this type of interactive reading, it's easiest to start with books meant to be interactive, like From Head to Toe by Eric Carle. However, any book can be made interactive. 

The one way we do letter name recognition is the first letter of their names. Since I put it on their work, and they have their names on their cubbies, I make a point of introducing the first letter of their names at 2 years old. 

Observational skills
A huge part of comprehension is paying attention to and remembering details. When we read, I always ask them to find different little elements within the pictures. With repetition, they become use to looking more closely, paying attention longer, remembering elements, connecting the story to the picture, and gaining a clearer understanding of the content. What this leads into is greater comprehension once they start reading, and a better ability to visualize the story once the pictures are removed in chapter books.

This is not done just in fine work like a picture book, this is a skill that we focus on at a large scale as well. The 2's will point out the moon, a pear in the tree, a spider web over the garden, an ant on a tree, etc. They are more observant through practice, and while the goal is to be better readers, having attention to detail and a broad visual perspective have many excellent advantages.

Language acquisition begins in the womb. So many pieces of the language puzzle are in place, ready to go, when a child hits 2. Twisting and turning the pieces until they make sense, go together, and create a beautiful picture of meaning, is a large part of the skill set learning for twos.