Free Christmas Stories, Books, Flashcards, Videos, and Coloring Pages for Babies, Toddlers, and Preschoolers
Unless otherwise noted, all stories, flashcards, and coloring pages can be downloaded in .pdf format. Feel free to use them at home, church, or in other settings. Merry Christmas!
Christmas Stories and Books
Christmas Coloring Pages and Activities:
It was a child who began the first Christmas celebration, and it is children who keep it alive in their own special ways. Christ manifests His presence in each child who celebrates His birth. May He also touch your life and home this Christmas.
Babies are one of nature's most perfect learning machines. With just a little insight, a baby can be stimulated and kept content. Starting early in your baby's development can do wonders for their mental growth in later years, and give them a large head start over other kids their age.
Tips and Warnings
Article courtesy of WikiHow.
The specific signs of dyslexia, both weaknesses and strengths, in any one individual will vary according to the age and educational level of that person. The five-year-old who can’t quite learn his letters becomes the six-year-old who can’t match sounds to letters and the fourteen-year-old who dreads reading out loud and the twenty-four-year-old who reads excruciatingly slowly. The threads persist throughout a person’s life.
The earliest clues involve mostly spoken language. The very first clue to a language (and reading) problem may be delayed language. Once the child begins to speak, look for the following problems:
The preschool years
Kindergarten and first grade
In addition to looking for indications of problems in speaking and reading, here are some indications of strengths to look for and applaud in your child:
Many of these indicate strengths in higher-level thinking processes.
Excerpted and adapted from Overcoming Dyslexia: A New and Complete Science-Based Program for Reading Problems at Any Level http://www.readingrockets.org/article/70
Concern: Learning two languages in childhood is difficult and can result in delays in language development.
Response: Children who have regular and rich exposure to both languages on a daily or weekly basis from parents and other caregivers exhibit the same milestones in language development and at roughly the same ages as monolingual children.
It is important to remember that there are large individual differences in children learning to speak—some acquire their first words or use complex utterances much earlier than other children. Delay in the emergence of these milestones does not necessarily mean that there is something wrong; in most cases it simply means that the child has taken longer to reach this stage. The same kinds of differences are characteristic of bilingual children.
Concern: Bilingual children have less exposure to each of their languages than monolingual children. As a result, they never master either language fully and, compared to monolingual children, don’t become as proficient.
Response: Bilingual children can acquire the same proficiency in all aspects of their two languages over time as monolingual children, even though they usually have less exposure to each language. They acquire the same proficiency in the phonological and grammatical aspects of their two languages as monolingual children do in their one language, provided they are given regular and substantial exposure to each.
Bilingual children may have somewhat different patterns of development in certain aspects of language in the short term. Vocabulary is one of those areas. Sometimes, young bilingual children know fewer words in one or both of their languages in comparison with monolingual children of the same age. This is probably because bilingual children must store words from two languages, not just one. As well, because bilingual children learn words in each language from different people, they sometimes know certain words in one language but not in the other. When the vocabulary that bilingual children know in both languages is considered together, they generally know the same number of words and have the same range of vocabulary as their monolingual peers. Most importantly, when and if differences like these occur, they are short term and disappear with time.
Generally speaking, bilingual children’s overall proficiency in each language reflects the amount of time they spend in each. Thus, a child who has just returned from a visit to a grandparent where only one of the languages was used, may prefer to use only that language for awhile and, thus, may appear to have lost some proficiency in the other language. This is usually a short term, temporary shift in preference that is corrected once the child is exposed to the neglected language. It is important not to overreact to these temporary fluctuations in proficiency since they are usually temporary.
Parents can best ensure that their children achieve full proficiency in both languages by providing rich experiences with each, and especially with the language that might otherwise not get strong support in the extended community. It is important in this regard that parents who do not speak the majority language of the community continue to use their native language, so that they expose their child to varied and rich ways of using language.
Concern: Young bilingual children can’t keep their languages separate; they use both at the same time.
Response: At some stage, most bilingual children use sounds and words from both languages in the same utterances or conversations, even though the people talking with them are using only one language. Some parents and early childhood educators are concerned when they hear this because they believe that it means that the child is confused and cannot separate the two languages. Research shows that this is not true. The main reason for children mixing their languages in these ways is because they lack sufficient vocabulary in one or both languages to express themselves entirely in each language. Thus, they borrow from the other language. This is an effective communication strategy in most families because parents and other adults who care for bilingual children usually understand both languages and may mix the languages themselves when talking with the child.
Research has shown that the most proficient bilinguals mix their languages in the most sophisticated ways without violating the rules of either language. It is normal for children growing up in these communities to mix their languages extensively because they are simply learning the patterns of communication that are common in their community.
Every Day a Learning Experience
Being a new mother, I wasn’t sure what to do with my baby girl, Arwen, for the whole day. She is an alert child, and was quite active even as a small baby. For a couple of months I would put her on my hip and take her around the house with me throughout the day, but before long that had me bored, and unfulfilled in my care of her.
I was determined to ensure that my daughter would be smart and not behaviorally challenged. I read a few books on teaching children during what they call the “window of opportunity,” from ages 0-5. I was amazed to learn how parents can teach their children so many things, provided that they are consistent and use appealing methods. I began looking for materials with which to teach Arwen —flashcards, books, and other educational materials—and some materials I personally made.
I started teaching Arwen when she was three months old. After my initial fervor died, and I wasn’t seeing much progress as a result of what I was teaching her, I found myself discouraged. It seemed that she wasn’t reacting to the "schooling" I was giving her. I figured that perhaps she was too young to be learning words, numbers, and other things that I was trying to teach her.
However, I continued, and after a few months, I started noticing that she was responding positively to aspects of my teaching that she recognized, which I had repeated to her many times over. Then one day just before she was seven months, after having shown her flashcards for quite some time with no apparent results, I showed her the word “clap” and without me saying anything she clapped her hands. I was completely stunned. I had hoped my efforts would pay off, but actually witnessing her response was incredible, especially at such a young age.
Arwen is my first child, so every new venture in her progress is a wonderful experience for me. Perhaps I won’t be in such a perpetual state of elation with my next children, but for me this sign of progress was an encouragement to keep teaching her new things.
Now I try to turn everything into a learning experience. I’ve read that the best way to teach children, besides making learning fun, is to make their life a rich learning environment. And she expects me to! Every time I pass a poster or word that I have posted for her, she gets so excited and expects me to make a big deal out of it and explain it to her.
Sometimes I worry that I can’t keep up with her learning capacity, but I’m willing to keep trying to the best of my ability. I’ve experimented with ways to teach her things and have started to write them down in my notebook, so as to remember them for when she’s older. Here are some teaching opportunities I’ve been taking with her daily:
With the things I teach Arwen, I try to make learning fun, so that in the future she’ll look forward to her schooling as opposed to dreading it. Sometimes, however, she is not in the mood to learn, and wants to play by herself, which is also a part of her development, so I’m cautious to not overdo, and make sure I give her times when I’m not teaching her, too.
I hope these ideas can be helpful to other new moms who are maybe looking for ways to pour into their little ones while they’re still babies.
Article courtesy of Motivated magazine. Used with permission.
Helping Babies to Grow Up Reading
Taken from Grow Up Reading
The developmental changes in babies from birth to 24 months are substantial and dramatic! At birth, babies rely on crying as their primary means of communicating and interacting with the world. As they grow, babies begin to use gestures, vocal and facial expressions, exclamations, babbling, and finally words to communicate with others. Good language skills help children grow into literate adults who can read and write proficiently.
Parents can help babies become successful learners and readers by developing the following early literacy skills starting at birth.
Oral language skills: Babies learn language in stages. During the first four months, babies are primarily on the receiving end of language. During the next four months, babies begin to initiate and imitate sounds. By eight months, a baby responds to her own name, distinguishes emotions by the tone of voice, responds to sound by making sounds and uses her voice to express joy and displeasure. By 12 months, a baby is paying increased attention to speech and responds to simple verbal commands. She is starting to use simple gestures such as waving “bye-bye” or shaking her head “no.” She babbles with inflection and uses exclamations such as “uh-oh,” and may say a few words such as “mama” and “dada.”
One-year-olds can typically say six or seven words (although many speak none at all, while others might speak up to fifty) and understand close to seventy words. There is usually a five-month lag between a child’s understanding of words and his or her ability to speak them. Between 12 to 18 months, a child’s vocabulary slowly, but steadily increases. Most children’s vocabulary explodes once he or she can say about four dozen words. By the age of two, children typically learn the meaning of eight new words a day.
The more parents talk and read to their baby, the more rapidly their baby’s vocabulary develops. According to early childhood experts, language skills grow faster in children whose parents use positive rather than negative feedback.
Phonemic awareness: Being aware of phonemes—the smallest, unique sounds that make up words—is the basis for learning to speak and to read. Babies are quite skilled at detecting differences in sounds. This is why children are “wired” for learning multiple languages in the early years.
Babies become aware of phonemes and learn to differentiate the sounds that make up speech through interactions with parents and other caregivers. Help your baby develop phonemic awareness by talking and reading to your child every day.
Encourage your baby’s babbling, which helps him to learn language. At about two months, babies begin to coo, using vowel sounds like “aaah” and “oooh.” At five or six months, babies begin to practice sounds with consonants (b, d, j, m, n, and w are the most common). One-year-olds begin to combine vowel and consonant sounds into words.
Comprehension: Comprehension is central to the process of reading. While comprehension is reinforced in the later years when an older toddler and preschooler can follow the pictures and text to understand the meaning of a story, it is important to talk about what is happening in the books you read aloud to your infant. According to Jim Trelease in The Read-Aloud Handbook, “Listening comprehension feeds reading comprehension.”
As your baby listens to you read, point out clues about the story in the illustrations or relate a picture to something in your baby’s life. By using strategies like these, you stretch your baby’s thinking skills and encourage greater comprehension.
7 Ways to Be Your Baby’s Favorite Toy
Compiled from parenting.com
There’s nothing wrong with store-bought playthings, but here are fun, stimulating things you can do better:
1. Reinforce the “Aha!” Think of your baby as a budding scientist and watch for moments of revelation: the smile in the bath that means “Yes! I get the rubber duck when I’m in the water!” The waving arms that translate as “When Daddy makes that face, I’m going to be tickled!” Fulfill your infant’s simple expectations and share her joy at being right.
2. Hold your baby upright when he’s alert. Infants see most clearly when they’re vertical, not horizontal. So prop him up in your lap to show him new objects, and hold him up to look over your shoulder when you take him on a tour of his brand-new world.
3. Develop facial as well as verbal dialogues. Well before babies can even baby talk, you’ll see your infant attempt to replicate your facial expressions. Make different faces and watch how her interest perks up. “Listen” and respond to her expressions.
4. Rock ‘n’ roll. To satisfy your baby’s craving for motion, waltz him around the room, swing him gently to and fro, bounce him slowly up and down, sit in a swivel chair and see how he takes to a spin in your lap.
5. Encourage tasting. Think of her mouth as a sensuous space probe, gathering data about her personal cosmos. Avoiding objects too small, sharp, or grimy, let her lick that soup spoon, gum that cup, or chomp on a bread crust.
6. Read aloud. Don’t worry about “big words.” Nursery rhymes, books—the more variations in language a baby hears in his favorite voices, the more captivated he’ll be. Choose some books with lots of repetitive language, which babies like for their predictability.
7. Sing—with or without words. Forget the lyrics to your favorite lullaby? Hum it. Musical notes without all those consonants and vowels are a simpler and often more soothing form of stimulation.
Babies' Areas of Development
Taken from Grow Up Reading (website)
Emergent literacy: Use proper vocabulary when you talk to your baby. For example, say “toes” instead of “piggies.” This helps your child learn the rules of language with minimal confusion.
Babies use gestures to communicate before they can talk. Encourage your baby to use simple gestures and signs (such as clapping for saying “please,” or touching their chest to say “thank you”), which can increase a baby’s understanding of language and accelerate language development.
Help your baby hear the different sounds that make up words (phonemic awareness) by saying or singing nursery rhymes. Rhyming words share similar sounds—”dock” and “clock” in the classicHickory, Dickory, Dock, for example. Nursery rhymes place rhyming pairs of words in prominent positions to naturally draw a child’s attention to these sounds. By hearing pairs of rhyming words, babies begin to understand that words are made up of separate sounds, a critical reading skill.
In addition to reading traditional picture books, use interactive books: books with flaps, textures, smells, and sounds to encourage exploration and stimulate your baby’s senses. Point to images on a page and name them; this helps increase vocabulary. Also talk about what is going on in the story; this helps develop comprehension skills.
Use dialogic reading when you read aloud. The basic premise of dialogic reading is adults and children having a conversation about a book. Ask your baby “what” and “why” questions about the story, pause, and then answer your questions. Introducing this type of reading and questioning early will help your child become more comfortable with the process of dialogic reading when he or she is actually using words.
Cognitive development: Play with toys that react, pop up, make noise or move to help your baby understand cause and effect. Between 9 to 12 months, most children will begin to play independently with toys and enjoy toys that react or make noise. Babies this age will begin exploring objects in many different ways (shaking, banging, throwing, and dropping) and begin to use objects correctly (shake a rattle, drink from a cup, listen to a phone).
Play peek-a-boo games. Young babies have not developed a sense of object permanence—the understanding that unseen objects still exist. Start by hiding your face behind a blanket and then peeking out at baby. Put a scarf over your head and let your baby pull it off; hide objects underneath boxes and let your baby knock the box over to retrieve the object.
Motor development: Give your baby plenty of freedom to move around on the floor. Young infants need to spend time on both their back and stomach in order to develop the muscles for the significant motor development that takes place in the first 15 months. Spending too much time in an infant swing or seat will hinder development of motor skills.
Continue with lots of floor play as your child grows and begins crawling and walking. Add climbing challenges such as cushions, ramps, and tunnels to refine gross motor skills.
Games that further develop hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills include building and knocking over block towers; covering and uncovering containers; taking toys apart and putting them back together again; picking up balls or objects in motion; turning knobs and pages of a book; scribbling and finger painting; and making shapes out of clay.
Social and emotional development: Play finger and hand games like pat-a-cake and peek-a-boo; encourage your baby to imitate these gestures. Gesturing is a way babies communicate before talking. When you respond to your baby’s gestures, you reinforce his efforts to communicate.
Sing songs with your baby. Music stimulates the cognitive and emotional areas of the brain.
Encourage dramatic play through imitation of your actions in everyday activities—household chores, hobbies, entertaining, etc. Tell your baby what you are doing and prompt him to imitate you. Pretend play helps refine motor skills and foster a sense of accomplishment.
Read books about daily routines such as brushing teeth, washing hands, putting on shoes, and taking a bath. These books encourage children as they prepare to learn and master these actions.
Keys to Toddlers and Preschoolers
Do you want to channel your child’s unbounded energy and curiosity into positive and rewarding learning experiences? Keys to Toddlers and Preschoolers is a parenting guide with scores of fun, practical learning activities and suggestions to keep your ever on-the-go little one occupied for hours. More importantly, learn how to prepare
your child for life’s challenges and changes, and lay a foundation of faith that will guide and support him or her all through life.
Keys to Baby
Do you have a baby, or is a baby about to enter your life? Do you want to be better prepared for parenthood? Are you looking for practical advice to help you raise a bright and happy baby? Do you want to establish a deep and lasting bond with your child?
Keys to Baby opens the door to that world of wonder and mystery that Baby lives in. Discover the amazing person your baby is and can become through love, understanding and guidance.
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