What on earth is Kindergarten Readiness and does my child have it?

What on earth is Kindergarten Readiness and does my child have it?

by Jesse Buckner

Preparing your child for Kindergarten can be overwhelming. Many parents feel a rush of conflicting emotions about seeing their child so grown up and ready to enter “real school.”  There are millions of different articles with lists of skills your child should already have mastered before entering Kindergarten – the dreaded “Kindergarten-readiness.” What does that even mean? 

The good news: you’re most likely already teaching so many of these readiness skills without realizing it! As a former Kindergarten Teacher, I can shed some light on the skills that are most important and will best prepare your child for Kindergarten.

If your child attended Preschool, they most likely had more than one adult available to help with their day-to-day needs in the classroom. In most places, it’s not the same for Kindergarten. In Kindergarten, the average ratio of kids to teachers is 24:1. Being independent and self-sufficient is KEY!

Remember – they are only 5 years old and may only be capable of doing a certain amount of things independently. If they can’t do a few of these skills before starting school… THAT’S OKAY! All academics and social-emotional learning is taught and reinforced throughout the Kindergarten year. Knowing the skills below will prepare your Preschooler and help them to feel confident and self-sufficient on their first day of Kindergarten.

Self-Care and Social-Emotional Skills:

Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) is the process through which kids develop self-awareness, self-control, and interpersonal skills that are critical for their success in school, work, and life. 

  • Be able to open different snack packages and know how to open and close their water bottle
  • Use the bathroom (including washing their hands) without any assistance – knowing how to dress and undress themselves
  • Be able to eat their lunch in 20 minutes – (you would be surprised how difficult this is for a lot of kids!)
  • Zip their coats without assistance – in the winter months, put on their snow pants and snow boots independently 
  • Know how to ask for help when they need it 
  • Understand how to be patient and wait their turn – be able to raise their hand and wait to be called on
  • Try to problem solve on their own – persist when they encounter something challenging
  • Clean up after themselves – keeping their belongings organized
  • Be able to ask another kid to play with them – know how to play well with others
  • Follow simple instructions/directions
  • Demonstrate respect for their classmates and their teacher by using their manners
  • Express their feelings appropriately by using their words
  • Use safe hands and bodies – both with themselves and others
  • Know some calm down strategies – (ex: take deep breaths, count to 10, remove themselves from frustrating situations, etc.)

Academic Skills:

  • Cut on straight and curvy lines
  • Hold a pencil – using the proper pencil grip
  • Identify and name most of the letters in the alphabet – both capital and lowercase
  • Recognize and write their first name
  • Count to 10 or higher
  • Recognize and name basic shapes – such as: square, rectangle, triangle, circle, star
  • Recognize and name the colors in the rainbow
  • Understand directional words – such as: in front of, behind, beside

Are there more academic skills that your child could know, or might know already? Of course! However, practicing self-care and social-emotional skills with your child before entering Kindergarten sets them up to be successful in all areas of learning. 

Check out Head Start’s early learning outcomes framework for a more detailed breakdown of what children (ages birth to five) should know and do in the central developmental domains. 

Of course, be sure to keep things fun and lighthearted – don’t worry, your child’s teacher will make sure they are successful in Kindergarten! If you ever have questions please reach out to your child’s teacher – they are there to ensure your child’s success as well!

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Los Pollitos Dicen: The History of the Classic Lullaby

Los Pollitos Dicen: The History of the Classic Lullaby

For generations, mothers have sung the Spanish lullaby “Los Pollitos Dicen” to their newborns.  The simple, yet powerful lyrics of this lullaby tell the tale of newborn chicks ( “pollitos”) calling for their mother when they are cold or hungry.  The song has permeated culture so deeply that today it is common for Latina moms to refer to their babies as “pollitos” as an homage to the song. 

Perhaps it’s the thought of fluffy yellow chicks with eyes half closed, stumbling about, peeping for help that makes the song so endearing. Or perhaps it’s the image of the mother hen kneeling down to envelop her chicks under her wing to keep them warm, that makes the song so sweet.  Whatever the reason, this story of newborn love will always be the perfect song to lull a baby to sleep. 

Many lullabies and nursery rhymes have been around for so many generations that we no longer know who wrote the original. For years, the author of “Los Pollitos Dicen” was also unknown. It was writer Rienaldo Marchant who stumbled upon the identity of the songwriter during his time teaching language and literature workshops in Pichidegua, Chile. It was there that a local farmer pointed out to Marchant the home of Ismael Parraguez, the author of this now classic song.  

After some research, Marchant was able to confirm that Ismael Parraguez, born in 1883 in the Libertador Bernardo O’Higgins region of Chile, was indeed the original author. Mr. Parraguez first published the song in his book “Poesías Infantiles” or “Nursery Poems” in 1907.

The song quickly became popular not only in Chile but across all of Latin America.  Generations later, it’s been translated into English, French, Portuguese, and many other languages. 

And just like a mother’s love for her “pollitos” is ever-lasting, so “Los Pollitos Dicen” lives on for generations to come.    

Check out the Canticos Spanish app for toddlers “Canticos Bilingual Preschool”, which includes animated videos with a version of “Los Pollitos Dicen” in Spanish and in English. You can also find these and other children’s songs on our YouTube children’s channel, which includes many videos to foster bilingualism. Los Pollitos is also available in book form, to read to children any time of day.

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3 Fun Ways To Add Learning to Bath Time

How to Teach Manners While Having Fun

By Nuria Santamaría Wolfe

Bath time can be more than a time to splash around, it can be an opportunity for your little one to soak up some learning. For multitasking moms everywhere, here are four fun ways to make bath time a great time to build literacy skills. 

  1. Sing: You sing in the shower so why not start them on the tradition with bilingual songs to help them grow their vocabulary? We love Little Sailor – a nautical theme song that you can use to ask your child to name objects around him or her.  Point to toys and other items in your bathroom to introduce your little one to new words. 

The easy verses and catchy tune will have both of you singing along.  Watch our video here and sing along with the lyrics below. Modify the lyrics to make it your own. 

Little sailor who went to the sea, sea, sea 

to find what he could see, see, see.

And the only thing that he could see, see, see

was the bottom of the sea, sea, sea.

And a diver! 

Little sailor who went to the sea, sea, sea 

to find what he could see, see, see.

And the only thing that he could see, see, see, was the bottom of the sea, sea, sea.

A mermaid!

And a diver!

Little sailor who went to the sea, sea, sea 

to find what he could see, see, see.

And the only thing that he could see, see, see

was the bottom of the sea, sea, sea.

A shark!

A mermaid!

And a diver!

 

…and on and on until you’re ready to set out and dry off. 

  1. Read: Ah the joy of reading in the tub! As adults, we know how relaxing this can be. Introduce your little one to the wonderful habit of reading in the tub.  You can do this in a few different ways:
  • Read to them: Bring a stack of books to read while you sit next to the tub.
  • Let them read: Use waterproof books to let them read on their own.
  • Listen to audiobooks: Turn up the volume and enjoy a good book together.  Check out all Canticos books available in the Canticos app in Spanish and English.
  1. Write: Once your little one is ready to write, get them to practice in the water.  Here are a few fun tools to use:
  • Foam letters: Stick them to the side of the tub and combine them to make words.
  • Bath crayons & paint: Let them practice writing letters and words and then easily wash them off once it’s time to get out of the tub. 

So next time your kid is getting ready to splish and splash, don’t forget that it’s also a perfect song for them to sing, read, and write!

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How to Teach Manners While Having Fun

How to Teach Manners While Having Fun

By Nuria Santamaría Wolfe

Manners matter. We all want our kids to be well-mannered citizens of the world and teaching them to be so shouldn’t have to be boring. 

While manners include everything from saying “please” and “thank you” to offering compliments and exhibiting proper etiquette at the dinner table, the easiest place to start teaching manners is with greetings. 

Proper greetings like “Hello” or “Good morning” are the first step for your little one to establish a relationship with a new friend or to make a great first impression with her teacher at the start of the school day.

Here are a few tips to help your little ones practice greeting phrases:

  • Use Songs: There are so many bilingual songs to choose from but our favorite is the very simple but very fun “Hello, good morning”.  Watch our Little Chickies greet each other and greet the day in our catchy sing-along video here, and check out our YouTube education channel for more tunes. 

They can learn these phrases in English and in Spanish…so they can greet twice as many friends!

A simple “hello” in someone’s native language goes a long way to establish a connection with someone. Nothing makes a person smile more than knowing that a stranger is trying to speak to them in their own language.  Learning to say “hello” in multiple languages can be fun! 

Sing in English. Sing in Spanish. Sing in Spanglish! 

Sing every morning to salute the day with joy and to establish the behavior. 

  • Role Play: Use your child’s favorite stuffed animals and throw a pretend tea party or birthday party.  Ask your child to greet each animal as he/she arrives at the party with phrases like “Hello” and “Thanks for coming.” 

You can respond with your most sweet bunny voice with “Hi. How are you?.” and with the most majestic wave of your elephant trunk with a “Nice to see you”. 

Act out shaking hands, paws, trunks, etc. and giving snuggly hugs.  Switch roles to allow your child to role play as his/her favorite lovie. 

Soon your little one will get the hang of it and start to realize how nice it feels to greet and be greeted with a warm welcome.

As you try these creative ways to help your little one learn the concept of greetings, don’t forget your own manners and express gratitude for their effort. “Thank you” and “Gracias” are among the sweetest words they can hear from you. Try the Canticos Preschool App in Spanish and English for more fun ways to expand your child’s bilingual vocabulary.

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5 Superpowers to Cultivate in Our Kids.

5 Superpowers to Cultivate in Our Kids.

By Susie Jaramillo

I believe we each have our own “superpowers” or strengths that make us unique and special.  As parents, we want to pass on our best traits and cultivate our children’s own super powers. 

I’ve thought a lot about my own superpowers and how I can best prepare my children with their own. 

I was never very good at math. My dyslexia and lack of short-term memory may have had something to do with that! I’m not much use in science either: the telephone is still a mystery to me (and I mean the old-fashioned kind, never mind smartphones). Therefore, my ability to cultivate those qualities in my kids have been relegated to my husband. 

So, as an entrepreneur, a creative professional and a Latina mom who wants to see her kids do good in this world, what could be the superpowers I could help them cultivate? 

Here are the 5 superpowers I use to infuse every part of the Canticos brand.  These are the same 5 superpowers I instill in my children.  I share them with you in hopes they can inspire the values that you cultivate in your own children. 

Imagination and a love of creative play.

Cultivate an organic love of learning and creative exploration. If they can imagine things, they can build things. If they can learn to project and construct narratives around those projections, they can learn to communicate and help bring new ideas to life. This is the kind of thinking that will be valued in work places everywhere and will lead to a more constructive adulthood.

An appreciation for roots and a second language. 

I regularly seek out ways to expose my children to my language and my culture. Why? Because bilingualism is truly good for their brains. I also want my children to be proud of their roots, and gain confidence from their ability to navigate between cultures. I want them to be able to share with their relatives and bond with others through this shared culture. 

This will better prepare them to bond with people from other communities as well, that might be foreign to their own, and create a sense of openness that will be very valuable to them long term.  

Sense of humor.

Humor and intelligence go hand and hand; the one thrives off of the other. But humor can do so much more. The ability to laugh at oneself or at a situation is one of the healthiest things one can do.  

To appreciate the humor in any given context and laugh about it, is a crucial part of stress management. It’s also a wonderful bonding tool for lasting friendships, an ice breaker for when tensions are high, and a crucial ingredient for creating an enjoyable life. If I can teach my child how to be happy, and make others smile along the way, I will have done my job well.

An appreciation for music and rhythm.

Experts talk about the value of music and its influence on memory, pattern, spatial intelligence, social activity, creative thought, etc. The benefits seem endless.

For me, music is logic. It’s math transformed into a universal language that everyone understands. It tells us in an abstract way that things have a reason for being, that there is harmony in the world and that somehow, it all comes together and makes sense. The ability to create music develops a healthy and lasting confidence. And last but not least, really great music can lift your spirit and change the mood of a room.

Sense of empathy & warmth.

If I can instill one value above all others, it is a sense of generosity of spirit. That one should seek to understand and empathize with playmates of all sizes, shapes, backgrounds and cultures. That hugs are good and that nurturing yields results – whether it’s a project or a person.  At the end of the day we are all on this planet together and it is crucial that we take care of each other as best we can.

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A Sweet Canticos Themed Birthday Party

The Sweetest Canticos-Themed Birthday Party

By Nuria Santamaría Wolfe 

Birthdays are an excuse for parents to spoil their kids just a little more than on a typical day.  This is exactly what talented painter and baker, Cake Wars winner and Latina mom Alicia Becerra did when her daughter asked for a Canticos themed birthday party inspired by our ‘Las Manañitas’ book and bilingual song.

The celebration included a “Pin the Crown on Sammy” game, a handmade Solecito/Lunita piñata, hand painted cookies, as well as a party outfit inspired by Kiki Chickie.

The celebration featured Alicia’s famous hand painted cookies, which have been featured on the Food Network, Parents Magazine, BuzzFeed, and many others. 

Check out more beautiful photos from the sweet celebration here.

If you want to create your own Canticos-themed fiesta, check out our Birthday Kit, easy to download, print, and decorate for your perfect celebration of bilingualism

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Canticos Learning Talk with Little Mice/Ratoncitos

Canticos Learning Talk with Little Mice/Ratoncitos 

By Nuria Santamaría Wolfe 

Kids love to read and reread books. Why not take that opportunity to build-in other activities to make the most out of reading it each time? 

Here are some tips to help you maximize the bilingual benefits, learning and fun with the third book in the Canticos book series: Little Mice/Ratoncitos – Based on the popular nursery rhyme in Spanish, “Cinco Ratoncitos de Colita Gris” (Five Grey-Tailed Mice).  This book follows little mice on their mission to eat as much cheese as possible before they get caught by the cat. Kids will enjoy this easy-to-read book with colorful characters and fun lift-the-flap surprises that help them learn the names of shapes in English and Spanish.

  1. Talk

Use the book to talk about animals like mice, and have your little one explain to you what they eat. This is a great opportunity to discuss predators and prey.  

  1. Sing

The descriptive lyrics lend themselves to acting out the actions while the song is sung. Encourage children to shake their mouse ‘tail’ and ‘nose’ as they munch on all the imaginary cheese they can find. Want to keep practicing? Check out Canticos’s library of songs and videos on our preschool app in Spanish and English.

  1. Read

What’s more fun than reading a great story? Reading it twice, in two languages.

Novelty book: Read the story once in English. Flip the book and read it in Spanish. Open the book across to see all spreads at once and: 1. Lay it flat on the floor to see the whole story at once or 2. Stand it up and connect the ends into a circle to sit inside and be surrounded by the story.

Board book: Pick one language to read the story through. Start again in the second language. 

  1. Write

Depending on your child’s ability, practice drawing shapes or writing the names of them like “square” and “circle.” Lift the flaps to find the English/Spanish translations. 

  1. Play

This is a great book to teach little ones the names of basic shapes. Encourage your little one to look around the room and point out items with specific shapes. “I spy with my little eye…a triangle!” Have fun and know that they are strengthening their bilingualism through play.  

Make it a game! Award one point per correct item named. Award points generously and have fun!

Find more resources in our Parents resource center here.

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5 Tips To Develop Avid Bilingual Readers

ENGLISH | SPANISH

Top 5 Tips To Develop Avid Bilingual Readers

By Fabi Harb

Encouraging your kids to develop good reading habits will not only be beneficial for them academically, it will also provide them with a lifelong skill to be successful in their adult years. As parents, it’s up to us to make reading, in both English and Spanish, a fun part of their bilingual education. Today I will share 5 easy tips to help you raise bilingual children at home:

  1. Add reading to your everyday life

Instilling a passion for books goes beyond reading stories to and with them. Be the example! Let them see you reading a book, a magazine or an eBook every day. This will show them that reading is a powerful tool, especially if you alternate between English and Spanish books or only read books in your target language. 

Keep books everywhere at home and even in your car! If you make reading a part of your daily routine, your child will most likely look forward to this daily activity.

  1. Turn reading into an enjoyable experience

If reading seems like homework to your kids, they will most likely find it tedious and boring. However, if you turn reading into a game, the learning experience will become more enjoyable.

There are easy games you can play with them, in both languages, such as asking to guess a word you have in mind: “I’m thinking of a word that rhymes with _________. Can you guess the word?” You can also switch roles and your child can ask you the questions.

  1. Be encouraging and patient

Every child is unique and learns at a different pace. Some may pick up reading quickly while others may need more time. Calmly correct your children for missed words and praise them for how well they read a passage or a sentence. In this instance, consistency is key!

  1. Repeat the story, build vocabulary

There might be a story that your child loves and asks you to repeat time and time again. While it may seem tiring, take advantage of this opportunity to incorporate new words and help develop a greater vocabulary. Once your child knows the story, ask him to share it using his own words!

  1. Don’t forget about writing!

Reading and writing go hand-in-hand. Ask your child to create a list of various items around the house. Once the list is complete ask him to read the list back to you. Work on any misspelled words or mispronunciations while remembering to praise the effort!

To instill a love of reading, in both languages, among your children, you can find these and other tips on ReadConmigo.org. Read Conmigo, a bilingual literacy program sponsored by Infinity Insurance, provides several resources to help your child become a stronger reader. After signing up to our bilingual program, you’ll have access to dozens of free bilingual books as well as other educational apps in Spanish and fun activities for the little ones in the family.

About the author:

Fabi is a first generation college graduate who received degrees in Business from Pepperdine University and UCLA.  She is Infinity’s Multicultural Marketing Manager and Director of the National Read Conmigo bilingual book program which mails free bilingual books to families looking to encourage a love for culture and bilingualism in the home. As an immigrant, born and raised in Mexico, and a mom to three amazing kids, she believes in empowering our youth to grow and give back to our community while never forgetting the beauty of our roots and culture. 

Readers can find more tips at ReadConmigo.org and @readconmigo. For any questions or comments, you can email Fabi at [email protected].

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Teaching Spanish at Canticos

ENGLISH | SPANISH

Teaching Spanish at Canticos

By Sophia Espinoza

At Canticos, we believe in starting little learners on a second language early, because it’s been proven that multi-language acquisition is easy and has lifelong cognitive and socio-emotional benefits when begun at a young age.

Little ones are like sponges and they can learn quickly and easily with the right tools. We believe that the most effective learning is  fun, hands-on, and joyful, especially in early childhood learning experiences. All of our products use research-based methods in playful learning and bilingual education to maximize engagement and second language acquisition.

Our pedagogical approach is proven. We follow many of the guidelines from the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development’s Underlying Principles of Second-Language Acquisition:

  • Learners are active parties in acquiring language.
  • There is individual variability, and learners acquire language at their own pace.
  • Language is best learned in a stress-free environment.
  • Learners have intuitive knowledge of language. The ability to use language often occurs before being able to verbalize it.
  • The learning experience/environment should be meaningful to the learner.
  • Language learning occurs when there is interaction with the digital and/or physical environment.
  • Language development is continuous.
  • The learning environment should be compatible with the student’s own way of learning.

We have built our app to deliver on all of these principles in the most accessible and fun way. Our app was designed to playfully teach children a variety of 21st century skills in English and Spanish, including foundational literacy, foundational math, feelings, everyday vocabulary, fine motor skills, and creativity. We use different teaching approaches in the different activities in the app:

Immersion

Children are exposed entirely to their new language, with little to no support in their native language. This approach, though challenging at first, is very effective for learners of all ages. 

To optimize the language learning experience your child has with the app, we recommend you lock the app in Spanish mode if they are a native English speaker, and vice versa if they are a native Spanish speaker. This allows them to be immersed in their new language across all their activities. The app is designed to be intuitive so even if they don’t understand at first, they will quickly pick up the instructions and vocabulary in their new language.

Bilingual

Bilingual education uses both the new and native language together to build language skills. Rather than just teaching one language, both are taught simultaneously, which primes learners to make connections between the language they are familiar with and the new language they are learning. This whole-language learning process is excellent for teaching vocabulary in groups around a theme, e.g. the colors.

Some experiences in our app are bilingual and are customized based on each learner’s native language. For example, our videos are played to children in their native language first, followed by the new language. A combination of bilingual and immersion experiences eases children into a new language, making it easier and less overwhelming than immersion alone.

For more information on the Canticos app, please visit our website.

For more ideas on how to encourage your pollito to learn Spanish at home, see the Canticos blog.

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Canticos Learning with Little Elephants/Elefantitos

Canticos Learning with Little Elephants/Elefantitos

By: Nuria Santamaría Wolfe

Canticos books keep on giving. There are so many ways to learn and have fun with our bilingual books, while helping your child to become bilingual in Spanish and English.

Here are some tips to help you maximize the bilingual benefits, learning and fun with the second title in the Canticos book series:  Little Elephants/Elefantitos – Based on a traditional Spanish tune, this book features the popular song “Un Elefante Se Balanceaba…”.

In it, a growing number of elefantitos balance on a spiderweb, much to the annoyance of the spider. Counting with each additional elephant, children become familiar counting 1, 2, 3, 4, 5…until all the elephants fall down! Similar to “Monkeys Jumping on the Bed,” this song will have your little ones laughing along as they learn number association in this classic children’s song.

  1. Talk

Use the book to talk about animals like elephants and spiders (their sizes and weights, the sounds they make, etc.) and numbers (counting up to 5, 10, etc.). This is a great book to teach little ones to count. Lift the flaps to reveal the name of each number in English and Spanish.

  1. Sing

This song is so fun to sing! The repetitive lyrics lend themselves to singing faster and faster as more and more elephants climb onto the spider web and the anticipation grows. Will the spider web be able to hold one more elephant? The big ‘Oooops’ at the end is our big finale (and cue to start again). 

Not a Spanish speaker? Don’t know the tune? No problem! 

Check out the sing-along video here, part of Canticos’ larger Emmy-nominated YouTube cartoon series, to see the lyrics and to hear the correct pronunciation.

  1. Read

What’s more fun than reading a great story? Reading it twice in two languages.

Deluxe book: Read the story once in English. Flip the book and read it in Spanish. Open the book and stretch all pages open to see how the spider web connects across all spreads and: 1. Lay it flat on the floor to see the whole story at once or 2. Stand it up and connect the ends into a circle to sit inside and be surrounded by the story.

Board book: Pick one language to read the story through. Start again in the second language. 

  1. Write

Practice tracing or writing numbers, depending on your child’s ability, using the number (“1”) or word (“one”). Ask: If you were the spider and an elephant climbed on your web, what would you do? Have your child write or draw the answer.

  1. Play

Get little ones stomping their feet as if they were imitating elephants marching along to the beat of the song. As the song speeds up, they march faster and faster. Or ask them to practice their trumpeting as they raise one arm to the sky as if it were the long trunk of an elephant. Or practice building a spider web tapping the right index finger to the left thumb followed by the left index finger to the right thumb, switching them several times as in Itsy Bitsy Spider. Have fun and know that they are strengthening their bilingualism through play. 

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