Building His Imagination…Through Reading

BUILDING HIS IMAGINATION…..THROUGH READING! | Reading time is great bonding time for our family. Titus is at the stage where he likes to pick out his own book to read. We’ve filled up his bookshelves quickly, thanks to his monthly book from the Dolly Parton Imagination Library (you can opt in to receive free books here).

We normally have one book we read each night and change it weekly. We’ve gotten creative using different verbal and facial expressions through the characters of each story! His favorite books lately have been Llama Llama Red Pajama and the classic Good Night Moon.

When reading with Titus, we identify colors on pages and describe images and the different representations of characters. We point at pictures on the page and then let him do the same thing. We’ve started keeping books in each room of the house so at any time, we can take a few minutes and read. All of these strategies help us Read and Discuss Stories with Titus and help him build the neural connections he needs to learn to read and start kindergarten well prepared!

We look forward to taking Titus on his first trip to our local library; it will definitely take reading time to a new, fun level!

By Candace and Terry Martin

Point and Learn

POINT AND LEARN | Young minds are learning and growing each day as they are experiencing the world around them. Whether it is seeing a butterfly for the first time, or identifying the names of their favorite
transportation vehicles, children are fascinated by what they are learning. No matter what age, the
pointing and talking is valuable to build communication skills. For instance, with babies, pointing can be
used to learn the names of objects in order to support language as receptive learning is
acquired first. As toddlers’ vocabulary expands, they will begin to point on their own and adults can
have a conversation with them about what they see.

My three-year-old son is able to point and has learned to name what he sees. When he was younger, I supported his language by pointing out various objects, images, words, and numbers, and reinforcing the name of what we saw. In the earlier years, he would look and babble, but I know that he was listening. Whether it is a book or a song, it is important to point out and ask questions that will develop vocabulary skills. Even the simplest songs that your children enjoy hearing are providing meaningful repetition that will become a part of their memory for years to come!

One of my son’s favorite songbooks was “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” and I would point to the words as I
sang them. Not only was he learning to track the print with his eyes, but he was learning how to
match the words with the sound of the song. I would ask questions such as, “Where is the star?” “What
color is the star?” I would provide the response when he was too young to give an answer, but as he got
older and started pointing on his own, he was able to share. Though the skills of Talk, Sing, and Point
seem simple, they are critical to the development of language skills. So the next time, your little one
grabs a book or wants you to sing a song, be sure to help them point and learn along the way!

–By Airreia Pierce | Visit Airreia’s website | Follow her on Facebook

Games That Move!

GAMES THAT MOVE | Two under two is a lot of fun, but it’s also a challenge when attention has to be divided. At 22 months, Eleanor can get frustrated when I need to tend to her newborn sister, Claire. We’ve
found ways to explore through movement and play to give Eleanor an activity to do while I can’t
be on the floor playing with her.

For example, when I’m feeding Claire, Eleanor and I will sing a song that includes gestures and
movement, such as “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes.” Her favorite is “Teddy Bear, Teddy
Bear.” I sing the lyrics and she does the corresponding dance moves. Not only are these songs
silly and make her laugh, they also help her remember the names of body parts and gestures.
Claire also enjoys hearing the songs!

Another activity we do is the classic game, “Red Light, Green Light.” She loves running around
the kitchen and stopping quickly when I say, “red light!” It’s a great way to get energy out and it
allows us to Explore Through Movement and Play even when my hands are tied.

By Lizzy Tahsuda

Counting Fun

COUNTING FUN | Lately, Titus has been playing with his blocks, toy cars and dump truck. During playtime, we always play music and we can tell that Titus loves to hear the beat and he quickly catches on to patterns and rhythms. Listening to Gracie’s Corner song, Count to 100, makes counting fun and interactive. We also count as we climb up and down the stairs!

We Group and Compare his blocks by colors and sizes. He does a great job figuring out how to make the blocks fit each other which is helping his problem-solving skills. We make sure to talk to him and use specific positioning language. For example, the blue block is above the purple block. We sort his toy cars by their different types. Then we discuss quantities such as having more cars than trucks or vice versa. This may sound like a lot of work, but we really want Titus to develop a strong foundation to learn math – everyone can be a math person when they start with Count, Group and Compare!

By Candace and Terry Martin

Supporting Sleep Can Maximize Love, Manage Stress

SUPPORTING SLEEP CAN MAXIMIZE LOVE, MANAGE STRESS | Have you ever noticed the difference it makes in how you talk or respond to your child? Frowns, loud voices, long silences, or frequent irritation can cause young children to feel unloved, and rebellious, and sometimes even have behavior challenges. However, when met with warm hugs, big smiles, calming tones, and gentleness, young children can feel unconditionally loved. There are many situations involving children that can be handled differently from the perspective of how parents are responding. Naps and bedtime, for instance, can either be positive or a nightmare!

My three-year-old enjoys daily naps since he was born! While not always easy, I have realized that positive guidance is most helpful in supporting his napping and nighttime routines. First, using a consistent routine, not only helps my son to predict what is next but becomes less stressful for me. Secondly, reading and singing have also been a part of the calming process to prepare for sleep. Sometimes he tries me by wanting to keep reading more books to stay up, but telling him firmly and lovingly why sleep is good for him, prevents me from giving in to a power struggle. I simply remind him, “Your mind and body needs rest to help you grow and relax” all while gently massaging his head and his hands. I smile, use a calm tone, and form the words, “I love you,” as he quietly says “I love you too” before drifting off into dreamland.

I have heard so many stories that are filled with stress on both the parents and children all while preparing for a nap or nighttime. I can confidently say, “Love gently and it will help little one’s sleep.” Perhaps, Llama Llama’s mama was right. She consistently showed love and reassured her little one that she was still there until Llama Llama went to sleep. So, the next time you are preparing your little ones for their nap or going to bed at night, choose positive guidance – this truly will Maximize Love, Manage Stress for your child and strengthen the parent-child bond.

–By Airreia Pierce | Visit Airreia’s website | Follow her on Facebook



Book Was Her Second Word

BOOK WAS HER SECOND WORD | Eleanor loves to read. “Book” was her second word! We’ve been reading with Eleanor since she was born and we try to go beyond just reading the words. We discuss the story and how it might relate to her life: “The caterpillar is eating strawberries. You had strawberries for breakfast!” We
also look for opportunities to count: “How many balloons do you see?”, and search for recurring
characters: “Where is the mouse on this page?” At 21 months, she grasps the storylines and will
even “read” to us by reciting what she remembers.

Eleanor recently received Goodnight, Gorilla from Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library. At first, I
wasn’t sure if she would like it. The pictures are colorful, but most of the story must be
interpreted through the illustrations. She doesn’t have any other books that have pages without
words. To my surprise, it has become one of her favorites! The first couple of times I read it to
her, I would describe what was happening. Now, she tells me what is happening! Sometimes it’s
accurate, and sometimes she uses her imagination.  I love how it inspires her to be creative.
I’m currently on the hunt for more books that are open to interpretation! Find out more about how to integrate Read and Discuss Stories into your caregiving approach.

By Lizzy Tahsuda

Find out more about why picture books are powerful!

Let’s Talk

LET’S TALK | This month we’ve practiced Talk, Sing and Point in a number of ways.

Titus LOVES the song, “If You’re Happy and You Know It”. As soon as we start singing he is already clapping his hands. He also enjoys playing peek-a-boo. When playing this, we point out body parts like “touch your head, cover your eyes”.

When picking up Titus from daycare, we ask him how his day was. We describe what we see when driving in the car, name the different foods he has at each meal and at times incorporate sign language.

At 13 months, it’s amazing to watch Titus grow and change daily. Now that he’s very mobile and we are in a new home, he is always discovering new things. He watches us closely as well so we make sure to repeat words and be specific about the actions we are doing.

By Terry and Candace Martin

Playful Moves

PLAYFUL MOVES | Children do not need reminders to move, but they do need opportunities to intentionally move through play! My son recently turned three but has developed an interest in basketball. He sees his dad play basketball and often imitates certain moves. Even when his dad is not around, he wants to play basketball! Through these simple replays, he is remembering, imitating, modeling, imagining, and physically moving. His dad has taught him how to hold the ball, bounce, and shoot. Though the basketball goal is higher, he made the connection that he needed to be taller to reach the goal by asking me, “Mommy lift me up.” He also likes to grab his favorite “basketball shoes” he calls them when he plays because he sees his dad wearing them.

Children use these imagination and role-playing skills as they Explore Through Movement and Play.
Often by finding specific activities that your child enjoys, you can follow up with future related activities
that may help to work on similar skills. For example, since I see that he enjoys basketball, even when we
are at home, I like to incorporate other materials to work on using the same skills in movement and play.
One material I have used are socks and a laundry basket. He must run to grab the sock balls and throw
them in the laundry basket. We have also used scrap paper balls and the trash can as well to also
encourage similar movement. The possibilities are endless as long as you find what interests your child
and allow children to have fun while they are moving and playing!

–By Airreia Pierce | Visit Airreia’s website | Follow her on Facebook

Little Helping Hands

LITTLE HELPING HANDS | On December 2, Eleanor became a big sister! While most days she loves baby Claire, she is still getting used to sharing attention. She loves to help with things, so we have found opportunities for her to help with the baby. She will bring Claire blankets, throw away diapers, and turn on the baby swing. She is so proud of herself, and these activities have helped her embrace the big sister role!

She recently has started helping us with laundry, which encourages counting, grouping, and comparing! We sort Eleanor’s clothes from Claire’s and compare the size differences between them. Claire’s clothes are so tiny! Eleanor loves to count socks and we work on matching them in pairs. Who knew a mundane chore could be so fun! Finding these simple, everyday activities to talk about numbers and practice grouping and comparing is an important building block for basic math skills your child will need as they enter school. Learn more about Count, Group and Compare here!

By Lizzy Tahsuda, mom of two

Feeling the Love

FEELING THE LOVE | As we think of ways we incorporate the basic, Maximize Love, Manage Stress, into our daily life, many things come to mind. Titus turned one last week and the toddler stage is in full force. Here area a few examples of our caregiving strategy:

  • He has started walking; so we encourage him to take steps and when he gets frustrated and falls, we cheer him to get back up and try again.
  • We cuddle with him and give him hugs & kisses every morning when he wakes up and at night before bed.
  • Playtime gives us a chance to unwind and enjoy family time. We also practice sharing during playtime; Titus will pass his toys to us when we ask and after we say thank you, we give it back to him.
  • As first time parents, finding a routine is next on our list to check off. We’ve started working on this by getting up at a certain time each morning, having a bath time routine and reading bedtime stories.
  • Lastly, when we let Titus try certain foods; his facial expressions will tell us right off if it’s a hit or not. We describe the foods he eats and tell him good job when he tries something new or eats all of his food!

Maximize Love, Manage Stress really is the foundational Basic, providing support for all the other Basics to grow in your caregiving approach.

By Candace and Terry Martin

Photo Credit: Julie H Photography

From ABCs to Reading

From ABCs to Reading | Have you ever wondered why a young toddler can begin to identify words in their everyday environment when going to a grocery store or riding in the car? This is because of the importance of
using environmental print to build early emergent reading skills! Early learners learn the value of print
directionality (reading left to right), letter recognition, and the formation and shapes of letters. Through
repetition, these learners are storing in their memory the words that they are learning and using a skill
known as recall and recognition.

One simple activity that can be done at home is creating an environmental print book or wall.
With my two-year-old, I used his closet door to add the letters of the alphabet. Each week, I would
introduce a new environmental word and use an experience with the word to help him make an
association. For example, he loves to eat Cheerios cereal, so we used cheerios in a fine motor activity to
glue cheerios on the initial of his first name. Afterward, he went to his letter wall, and found the
matching first letter of "Cheerios” and placed it under the letter C. You can also choose to add the child’s
name and picture, and other members of the family’s names along with their pictures as well. This letter
wall with environmental print should be personalized just for your child and what is important to him or
her. It makes learning letters and reading fun for young children! Not to mention, this builds their
confidence that they can read!

Putting environmental print on a wall might be a challenge. As an alternative, this activity can easily
be adapted to create a book of print that can be read. You can use a photo album and add the letters of
the alphabet from A to Z. Then begin to find environmental print labels that your child cares about and
add them to the book. This book can be added to their library, and they can begin to read this book on
their own.  This activity is a great starting point for the Basic – Read and Discuss Stories. Being able to talk through the letters children recognize while reading will nurture early emergent reading skills will support better readers in the future!

–By Airreia Pierce | Visit Airreia’s website | Follow her on Facebook

Lights, Language, and Learning!

Lights, Language, and Learning – Our family recently went to the Greensboro Science Center’s Winter Wonderlights! Eleanor’s favorite animal to visit at the Science Center are the penguins. She loves to imitate their waddle and thinks it is hilarious when they jump into the water. Since Winter Wonderlights is mostly outside, we didn’t get to see the actual penguins, but Eleanor loved the light-up dancing penguins!

At 18 months, she is talking constantly. Sometimes you can understand her, and sometimes it sounds like gibberish (although she is certain of what she is saying – ha!). While walking around the exhibits, Eleanor proudly pointed to and stated all the things she recognized, like “star” and “tree.” She also learned new things as we pointed them out to her. It’s amazing to watch her brain work as we explain something new. Sometimes she repeats the new word immediately and other times she’ll surprise us days later by seeing the same thing and naming it without being prompted. I can’t wait to participate in more holiday activities this year and share even more with her!

Learn more about the Basic – Talk, Sing, and Point

-Written by Lizzy and Colin Tahsuda

Moving to His Own Beat

Titus has mastered crawling, pulling up and we believe he will take his first steps anytime now. Being mobile is a new exploration stage; the floor is his best friend and provides us many opportunities to Explore Through Movement and Play.

Titus has always enjoyed music. He has his own playlist that we listen to daily! Titus loves clapping to the beat and making his own noise aka singing! The noise we love to hear the most is his giggles!

He has a music activity board that features sounds of drums, piano and guitar, can switch to three different languages and covers the alphabet and counting. The interactive feature and bright lights encourage Titus to make his own sounds and beats! He has smooth dancing bop!

Titus will be one next month! Not sure how time went by so quickly but we are excited and can’t wait to party, play and dance together!

Learn more about the Basic – Explore Through Movement and Play

by Terry and Candace Martin

UNCG Professor’s Research Offers Tips for Parents and Children

Megan Fields-Olivieri is Assistant Professor of Clinical Psychology at The University of North Carolina at Greensboro and a mother of two young children. Dr. Fields-Olivieri has specialized training in early childhood mental health, and her research focuses on child emotion, and how it influences both language development and parent/child communications. Since 80% of a child’s brain development occurs from birth to age 3, the work of Dr. Fields-Olivieri intersects with The Basics Guilford in two important ways. First, the Basics emphasize the importance of language development through concepts like Talk, Sing, Point or Read and Discuss Stories for example. Secondly, these concepts also zero in on parent strategies to Maximize Love and Manage Stress.

Because emotion is the language of a baby, emotion and language are interconnected communication systems. As children’s brains are developing with language skills, their emotional capacities to self-regulate are also developing, yet our culture doesn’t often consider the impact of emotion on language development (or vice versa). For example, emotions may directly impact how well the important ‘serve and return’ language exchange between caregivers and infants/toddlers operates.  

Dr. Fields-Olivieri described previous studies, conducted by other researchers, finding that toddlers that have more negative emotions or may be considered “difficult” tend to have worse language skills or develop their language skills more slowly. Curious about why this might be, Dr. Fields-Olivieri and her team have examined how toddlers’ emotions might influence- or be influenced by- parent-toddler verbal communication. They found that toddlers’ positive emotions seem to encourage parents to verbally communicate with their toddlers, whereas parents tend to be less responsive to negative emotions like crying or whining than they are to language attempts. However, parents’ verbal responses to negative emotions appear to help toddlers shift from communicating with negative emotion to communicating verbally. 

At the heart of this early childhood research happening right here in our community is work that may help parents understand how to better respond to a child’s negative emotions and to deal with their own stress. Dr. Fields-Olivieri wants parents to remember several strategies:

  • Remember that frequent, intense negative emotion expression is expected and developmentally appropriate in the toddler period. Think of it as a developmental milestone just like learning to walk or talk! 
  • The middle of a tantrum is not the time to teach your toddler about emotions or emotion regulation strategies– no one, especially toddlers, has the capacity to listen and learn well when they are very upset! 
  • What can you do in the moment, then?
    • First, take a moment to calm yourself down. Take a few deep breaths or use another strategy that is helpful for you.
    • Next, briefly acknowledge your child’s feeling or the situation that seems to have triggered that feeling (even if you think it’s silly!). Try something like “Wow, you’re feeling so sad about that” or “You really wanted the blue cup”.
    • Remember it is possible to acknowledge or validate your child’s negative emotions AND hold firm boundaries. You can say something like “It’s okay to feel mad. It is not okay to hit.”
    • Remember that it is not your job to “fix” your child’s negative emotions. Sometimes the best thing to do is to be a calm presence for your child, and ride out the emotional wave with them.                                 
  • Take advantage of calm moments (without a meltdown) to connect verbally with your child. This can include talking about emotions using books and stories, or talking about past or future events in their life that may cause negative emotions. 
  • Don’t be hard on yourself – remember that anytime you get your child to engage in a back and forth conversation, you will be building their language skills – don’t worry what you actually talk about!  
  • Remember that every child is unique and develops both emotional and language skills at different rates, so there is no “one size fits all” strategy. Be creative and flexible in communications with your child- and have fun!

Want to learn more about this research? Visit TALK Lab (

STEM Skills Start Early

Start Building STEM Skills Early

Construction paper and teddy bears are good for counting and sorting! How? Let me explain. My two-and-a-half-year-old son started being interested in learning his colors. We would start by identifying colors in his natural environment and the colors on his clothes. One day, he began playing with the teddy bear objects and asking their colors. This simple observation led to helping him visually discriminate between colors and learn the color names. I used the same colors of construction paper to match the teddy bears that he played with. I then laid down each piece of paper side by side on a table and let him decide where to place each teddy bear by looking at their colors.

As children are comparing by color, it is important to resist the urge as parents to do it for them or quickly correct. Encourage and celebrate them when they can match correctly, let them figure out when it is not correct, what is different? Your role is to facilitate. Ask questions such as “What color looks the same as the object?” This can help them visually process and self-correct if they get it wrong. Another role is to build their language. Math literacy skills are equally important is reading ability. They can learn key vocabulary words like “compare,” “same,” or “different.”

Even if you do not have teddy bear objects, any multi-colored item can be used in this simple activity. You can try using colored cereal, large beads, toy cars, blocks, or any other item that you have at home. Most of the time finding objects that you already have and using them to teach important skills is most convenient. Giving children experience with Count, Group, and Compare provides an important foundation for building lifelong STEM skills.

By Airreia Pierce | Visit Airreia’s website |  Follow her on Facebook


Guilford Basics