Looking for a game to play with your preschooler? Here’s a new one for you to print and enjoy together.

Are you familiar with the classic game Snakes and Ladders? If so, you are well on your way to knowing how to play this game. The primary difference is that, for this game, rather than having snakes and ladders, if a player lands on a yellow framed square, they move to the matching rhyme square. Confused? Don’t worry, I’ll explain.

What You Need

  • The ABC Rhyming Snakes and Ladders Game board printed out
    • Alternatively, open the image on a tablet or iPad and use that as your game board.
  • 1 six-sided die
  • 1 playing piece per person – I encourage you to use plastic pawns from a board game. Alternatively use very small toys, buttons, or even coins. (Beware of choking hazards.)

How to Play

  • Place everyone’s playing piece on the “START” square.

    Direction of play on the game board
  • Have the first person roll the die and move their playing piece accordingly.
    • For example, if they roll “4”, have the person move their playing piece to the fourth square which has the pig on it.
  • Players take turns rolling the die and moving their playing piece to the appropriate square.
    • Further details: Once everyone has had a turn to roll and move their playing piece, the first person gets to roll again. If the first person rolls a “5” on their second turn, they will continue counting from the fourth square with the pig on it until they reach the umbrella.
  • If a player lands on a square with a yellow frame around it, such as the boat, they move to the matching rhyme, in this case, the goat. Only squares with yellow frames have matching rhymes. The player moves to the corresponding rhyme regardless of whether they are moving forwards or backwards. (These moves are equivalent to snakes and ladders.)
  • The goal of the game is to reach the “FINISH” square first.

Educational Elements in ABC Rhyming Snakes and Ladders

Rhyming Matches
  • Rhyming – Listening to the distinct sounds in each word is a challenging skill for many children. It is also an important pre-reading skill. When playing this game with your child keep in mind that learning to rhyme is difficult for a 3 year old and may still be challenging for a 4-5 year old if they have not yet been taught about rhymes. Have patience as you model and teach the skill. Say the words slowly and emphasize the rhyming sounds. Once your child has a handle on rhyming, learning to read will be a little easier.
  • ABC Order – You may have noticed that the letters on this game board are not in alphabetical order. This is intentional. Children are incredibly smart. It is not uncommon for a child to memorize the letters in alphabetical order rather than learning to distinguish each letter by shape.  Mixing up the order of the letters gives an extra challenge and a chance for the parent to see how many letters their child can recognize by sight. I encourage you to take a moment to look at the letters on the board together.
  • Pictures – I have included a picture for each letter. These pictures serve as reminders for the child of what sound the letter makes. Sound out the name of the picture with your child to help them distinguish the sound of the letter at the beginning of the word. Grasping that each letter makes a sound and that those sounds can be combined into words will go a long way in preparing your child to start reading.
  • Counting / Turn-Taking / Waiting – These are three of the hidden developmental bonuses of playing a game like this. Every time your child rolls the die and moves their playing piece, they are practicing counting. Every time they have to wait for their turn, they are sharpening valuable social skills.

Like this free resource? Be sure to tell your friends about it and join my email list for access to other free printables.

 

Need To Move!

Preschool story by S. J. Little

Story entered in the Spring Fling Kidlit Contest 2021: https://ciaraoneal.weebly.com/spring-fling-kidlit-contest https://sites.google.com/view/springflingwritingcontest/main

Max word count: 150

Story word count: 150

GIF source: https://media.giphy.com/media/xTka04cLCQGJ1NsQbS/giphy.gif

Robert the caribou calf yawned and opened his eyes.

As he rolled out of bed, he said, “Something is different.”

At breakfast, he asked for more grass.

“You’re hungry today!” his mother declared.

When he played with his trains, his tail began to twitch.

While watching cartoons, his ears began to swivel.

As he coloured a picture, his hooves began to fidget. He had to move!

“Mom, can I play outside?”

“Yes, you may.”

Robert dashed to the door and hurried out.

Warm sunshine touched his face. Grass peeked around decaying leaves where snow had been. Everything was turning green.

Robert galloped round and round.

He paused to smell the rich dirt as a worm wiggled through.

Hearing a melody, Robert looked up at the tree. “Welcome back, Mr. Robin!”

Sniffing the fresh air, Robert pranced through the yard.

Now he knew why he needed to move.

“Spring is here!”

Picture of a bread machine paddle with title: "Marvel of the Bread Machine"

 

My Bread Machine

Recently, I was given a bread machine. I was thrilled to try it out.

Making homemade bread sounded appealing to me, especially when my favourite bread store closed. However, the thought of making bread by hand with all the kneading and learning the timing of waiting for it to rise, seemed daunting. It appeared to me a challenging art to be perfected, not to mention a workout.

This machine promised to handle all that for me. My job was to dump in the ingredients and push “start.” Its job was to magically turn those ingredients into a loaf of fresh bread.

I skimmed through several recipes before settling on one to do first. A basic whole wheat loaf.

I pulled out the ingredients. Yup, I had everything. I brought the bread pan to the table. Somehow I needed to attach that little paddle in the bottom. It took me a couple of tries before it slid into place. No screws or pins, just a little paddle sitting on a shaft. How would such a little thing be able to do the work that I, as a full-grown human being, found intimidating?Ingredients in a bread machine

Well, apparently it would work, so I started measuring the ingredients. First the water, then the flour. Following that, the rest of the ingredients were dumped on top. I’d heard that it’s important to keep the yeast from touching the water and salt so I was careful to keep them separated.

That was it. All the ingredients were in. I re-checked the recipe to make sure I hadn’t missed anything. All good. Time to put the pan into the machine and figure out how to turn it on.

I closed the lid and plugged the machine in. Would it really turn such a small mound of ingredients into a full loaf of bread? There was only one way to find out.

I opened the manual and discovered that all I needed to do was press “Start”. So, I pushed the button. Right away I could hear the machine start working. It was rather noisy.

It pulsed and then whirled for a long time. Then it stopped and was silent. Again it whirled, then went silent. The indicator light told me which stage it was in: knead, first rise, second rise, and then bake. Finally, after a couple of hours, it reached the bake stage. The outside of the machine warmed up. I held my breath.

Just over four hours after I hit start, the machine beeped. I hurried to it!

It was done! I unplugged the machine and opened the lid. With oven mitts, I pulled out the pan and shook a golden fresh loaf onto the cooling rack.

There it was. I couldn’t help but marvel at it. Somehow that boxy machine and its little paddle had turned the ingredients into delicious fresh bread.

Living the Little Moments Well

As I pondered the marvel of the bread machine, I wondered what I could learn from it.

Perhaps one of the clearest allegories has to do with the impact I have on people’s lives. Whether it be children, family, neighbours, colleagues, or whoever else I have in my life, the little moments eventually add up to having a big impact.

That bread machine paddle was small – I could hold it in the palm of my hand. Yet, as it went around and around and around, it had a huge impact. Sometimes it just pulsed, sometimes it rotated to the right and sometimes to the left. Little by little, it mixed the dough just right. 

Sometimes I wonder if I need to be the next Billy Graham to tell people the Good News, or I feel like I have to be some super-neighbour.

The bread machine shows me that I don’t have to do something huge to impact others for great good. Rather, I need to live the little moments well.

What is it about the little moments that hold such value? Acting in love.

As Paul reminds us:

“If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.” (1 Corinthians 13:1-3 NIV)

Indeed, Paul instructs us to: “seek to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you, so that you may behave properly in the presence of outsiders and not be dependent on anyone.” (1 Thessalonians 4:11-12 CSB)

I am to aim to live the little moments of life well rather than focusing on the big ones while neglecting the little ones.

The Order Matters

There is one more key to be mentioned. The bread maker gives a critical clue regarding how such little moments can have so large an impact. The order of things matters.

I have observed that every bread machine recipe starts with putting in the water and/or milk. While I have not been told such, I believe I can safely conclude that putting the flour in first would cause the machine great trouble.

What can I learn from this? Is there something that must always come first in my life? Indeed there is.

I am to love God first and foremost and seek Him above all else. (Matthew 22:37-38, Matthew 6:33) When I do so, every little rotation will have meaningful impact.

When I fail to put God first in my life, like failing to add water first in the bread machine, I will have great difficulty making anything worth keeping. In fact, I may totally break down because the pressure is too great and I cannot rotate at all.

Does leading a quiet life mean I should keep to myself and never be bold for Jesus? No.

Paul tells us:

“Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.” (Ephesians 5:15-21 ESV)

Therefore, as I go about my day today, may I make it my goal to live wisely. What does that look like? It looks like putting God first and doing my best at what He has given me to do. Being intentional to do the little things well, with love. As the bread machine has shown me, that is how to have a big impact.

Interested in reading another allegory about the impact we leave on people’s lives? Check out The Time of Blossoms

Many preschool theme pictures

 

Having been asked about preschool themes to teach, I’ve compiled a list of various themes that can be used with a preschool child at home or with a whole class at a preschool or childcare centre.

I’ve attached a free printable pdf of my list of themes at the bottom of this post.

How long should you use a theme?

That depends on your situation and your children. I’ve taught in preschools that use one theme a week, though sometimes a big theme is extended over two weeks or more. Other preschools will choose to combine two themes and keep them for an entire month. The best length for you will be affected by how engrossed you are in the theme and how often you teach or do crafts regarding the theme. Also, pay attention to your children’s interests. If you know your children love animals, you likely could use an animal theme for longer. Other times, however, changing up the theme every week will keep the children more engaged.

What aspects can be affected by the theme?

You can embrace your chosen theme as much or as little as you want. Here are some areas you could choose to incorporate your theme.

  • Circle time:
    • The first place most people think of incorporating a theme is during the teaching time, referred to by preschool teachers as circle time. Themes can be incorporated through songs, stories, activities, and direct teaching. Using visuals is beneficial whenever possible.
  • Crafts:
    • There are endless craft ideas available online to go with nearly any theme. A quick search on Pinterest will show you a few. Keep in mind, theme-focused crafts are often product-oriented (i.e. the child is given a specific example to replicate). There are benefits to product-oriented crafts, but don’t forget to include some open-ended art as well. For “Autumn” you could give your child a blank paper and yellow, orange, and red paints to use however they’d like. For “Transportation” you could allow your child to drive cars through paint and make tracks on their paper. (Cleanup for this one is trickier!) For other open-ended ideas check out Beyond the Paintbrush then put on your thinking cap to tie them into your theme.
  • Books:

    • If you have a local library, books are a great way to incorporate a preschool theme. Is “Under the Sea” your theme? Search for books about fish, sharks, and the ocean. Some themes have countless fantastic books, for other themes it’s harder to find suitable books. Here are some books I’ve enjoyed with my preschoolers, sorted by theme: Books for Preschoolers and Toddlers
  • Decoration:
    • Some preschools will totally transform their classroom with theme-based decorations (bulletin boards, posters, etc.). It’s a lot of work! Others rarely change their decorations. A happy compromise, in some cases, could be having one theme-decorated area or bulletin board that you change based on the theme. If you don’t have posters, consider putting up crafts the children made or printing colour sheets corresponding with the theme. However, don’t feel bad if you don’t decorate by theme. It is not essential.
  • Games/Gym:
    • Get creative during gym time. With preschoolers, a simple game such as this one “4 Sides Preschool Gym Game can be adapted to countless themes. Alternatively, if learning about Space, grab some hula hoops and pretend to fly to the moon together.
  • Field Trips/Outings:

    • Some themes work well to be taken outside the home/classroom. Are you learning about bugs? Go on a bug hunt around the yard or neighbourhood. Are you studying transportation? See how many different types of transportation you can find on a walk around the block.
    • Visit the zoo, aquarium, pet store, science center, or a farm, if your area has them.

Preschool Themes List:

Any season:

  • All About Me
  • Alphabet
  • Numbers
  • Shapes
  • Colours
  • Safety
  • Community Helpers
  • Science
  • Space
  • Music
  • Emotions
  • Five senses
  • Healthy Eating
  • Healthy Habits
  • Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
  • Transportation/Things that go
  • Mighty Machines
  • Wheels
  • Ramps
  • Bible
  • Multicultural
  • Circus
  • Superheroes
  • Princesses and Pirates
  • Fables/Nursery Rhymes

Animal:

Here is a fantastic action song that could go with nearly any of these animal themes: If You Want To Be A…

 

  • Zoo Animals
  • Desert
  • Jungle
  • Safari
  • Birds
  • Pets
  • Bugs
  • Farm
  • Dinosaurs
  • Baby Animals
  • Under the Sea
  • Winter Animals
  • Forest Animals
  • North American Animals
  • Reptiles and Amphibians

Fall:

If your program begins in September, remember to keep these first few weeks simpler as you and the children settle into routine.

  • Welcome to School
  • Leaves
  • Apples
  • Harvest
  • Forest Animals
  • Fruits and Vegetables

Winter:

  • Winter Sports
  • Winter Olympics (when it’s on)
  • Winter Animals
  • Snowflakes
  • Snowmen

Spring:

  • Bugs
  • Flowers
  • Baby animals
  • How Plants Grow

Summer:

  • Beach Party
  • Fun in the Sun
  • Teddy Bear Picnic
  • Summer Olympics (when it’s on)

Special days:

  • There are many holidays that can also be used as themes, but I’ll let you make your own list of those.

 Click here to download your free printable pdf of the Preschool Themes List

 

What other themes would you add to the list?

Grandpa and preschool boy

 

By S. J. Little

Written for #50PreciousWords – a writing for children contest (details at viviankirkfield.com). The goal is to write a story for children with a max word count of 50 words.

Story word count: 50

Inspired by a true Covid-19 lockdown story.

“Hi Grandpa!” Charlie waved.

Through the video call, Grandpa’s eyes twinkled. “I have a mission for you. Find white mountains.”

Taking Grandpa along, Charlie searched the house.

His car mountain was green.

The white baskets weren’t mountains.

Wait! On the mailbox… White mountains!

Charlie spied a package. “Thanks!”

Grandpa beamed.