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If I had to choose one favorite part about teaching in a Montessori classroom, it would probably be seeing the spark in a child’s eye when she first realizes she can read. The delight of a child in decoding the seemingly mystical code of written language is like nothing else.


While most young children do not need to practice academic skills at home, early reading games can be a really fun way for you to share in this experience.

Here are five simple games to try:

1. Beginning sound scavenger hunt

Before your child can successfully read, he has to be able to isolate sounds. A scavenger hunt is a fun way to practice this skill, and you don’t need any supplies—just you and your child!

Say to your child, “I wonder if you can find something in the house that starts with B.” Say the phonetic sound of the letter, not the letter name. Repeat the sound a few times and then send him to search for something starting with that sound. Every child is different, but this is generally a good game for a 3 or 4 year old.

A fun and slightly easier variation is ‘I Spy.’ Gather 5-6 little objects on a rug or table. Each object should start with a different sound—for example, a toy pig, an apple and a ball. Then say “I spy something starting with ‘P.’” Say the “P” sound, not the name of the letter, and let your child find the pig.

2. Secret message game

This game is so simple, yet I have seen many Montessori children fall in love with it and play it daily!

Cut some blank slips of paper, get a pencil and tell your child you want to show her a game. Tell her you’re going to write a secret message just for her. Write it on a slip of paper, give it to her, and ask her to read it silently. Then ask her to find the object with that name and place the label on it.

Start with easy words like box, cup, mug and doll before moving on to more challenging household objects like plant, drum and window. Here is a great list of phonetic words if you find yourself stuck.

3. Commands

This is basically like charades. It’s a fun rainy day game because it combines reading with movement. This can be played with you and your child, two children taking turns, or simply your child by himself.

Write different action words on small pieces of paper or cardstock. Make sure to start with phonetic actions like run, sit, hop, hug, jog, sob, jump, skip, stand, stomp and clap. Ask your child to choose a paper and perform the action while you guess what it is. Take turns!

As he masters the phonetic words, you can add more complicated words or even phrases like ‘get a glass’ or ‘dance a jig.’ If he likes, your child can also think of actions and add his own command cards to the box.

4. Color labels

Apart from ‘red,’ most color names are not phonetic and can be tricky for children to learn, so playing a game is a great way for them to practice.

For this game, cut little slips of paper and write a color on each—use black ink for each label, as color coding them would make this too easy. Begin with just three labels and start with the easiest colors to sound-out—red, black and a third, perhaps your child’s favorite color.

Practice sounding out each color name with your child. When she’s familiar with the three labels, she’s ready to begin to play.

Fold the labels in half and put them in a little basket or box. Ask your child to choose a label and find something in the room of that color. For example, if she chooses a label that reads ‘red,’ she places it on something red. When she’s proficient with those colors, it’s time to add another!

5. Bingo

Bingo is one of the easiest board games for children to learn, so why not use it to practice reading?

You could make your own board, or use one of the many versions available online. You can say the word for your child to find, hold up a picture, or hold up the word for different variations.

If you try these games at home, the most important thing is to keep it fun!

If your child is getting frustrated, the game is likely too challenging for his current level. Start with easy sounds and words and do not correct your child if he gets it wrong. Just make a note to yourself that he might need more practice with a certain sound or word.

Reading games are a great way for children to get extra practice with their new skills, but their biggest purpose is to spark curiosity and wonder.

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Jessica Simpson celebrated her baby shower this weekend (after getting a cupping treatment for her very swollen pregnancy feet) and her theme and IG captions have fans thinking this was not just a shower, but a baby name announcement as well.

Simpson (who is expecting her third child with former NFL player Eric Johnson) captioned two photos of her shower as "💚 Birdie's Nest 💚". The photographs show Simpson and her family standing under a neon sign spelling out the same thing.

While Simpson didn't explicitly state that she was naming her child Birdie, the numerous references to the name in her shower photos and IG stories have the internet convinced that she's picking the same name Busy Philips chose for her now 10-year-old daughter.

The name Birdie isn't in the top 1000 baby names according to the Social Security Administration, but It has been seeing a resurgence in recent years, according to name nerds and trend watchers.

"Birdie feels like a sassy but sweet, down-to-earth yet unusual name," Pamela Redmond Satran of Nameberry told Town and Country back in 2017. "It's also just old enough to be right on time."

Simpson's older kids are called Maxwell and Ace, which both have a vintage feel, so if Birdie really is her choice, the three old-school names make a nice sibling set.

Whether Birdie is the official name or just a cute nickname Simpson is playing around with, we get the appeal and bet she can't wait for her little one to arrive (and her feet to go back to normal!)

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Mamas, if you hire a cleaning service to tackle the toddler fingerprints on your windows, or shop at the neighborhood grocery store even when the deals are better across town, don't feel guilty. A new study by the University of British Columbia and Harvard Business School shows money buys happiness if it's used to give you more time. And that, in turn could be better for the whole family.

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As if we needed another reason to shop at Target, our favorite store is offering some great deals for mamas who need products for baby. Mom life can be expensive and we love any chance at saving a few bucks. If you need to stock up on baby care items, like diapers and wipes, now is the time.

Right now, if you spend $100 on select diapers, wipes, formula, you'll get a $20 gift card with pickup or Target Restock. Other purchases will get you $5 gift cards during this promotion:

  • $20 gift card when you spend $100 or more on select diapers, wipes, formula, and food items using in store Order Pickup, Drive Up or Target Restock
  • $5 gift card when you buy 3 select beauty care items
  • $5 gift card when you buy 2 select household essentials items using in store Order Pickup, Drive Up or Target Restock
  • $5 gift card when you buy 2 select Iams, Pedigree, Crave & Nutro dog and cat food or Fresh Step cat litter items using in store Order Pickup
  • $5 gift card when you buy 3 select feminine care items using in store Order Pickup, Drive Up or Target Restock

All of these promotions will only run through 11:59 pm PT on Saturday, January 19, 2019 so make sure to stock up before they're gone!

Because the deals only apply to select products and certain colors, just be sure to read the fine print before checking out.

Target's website notes the "offer is valid using in store Order Pickup, Drive Up or Target Restock when available".

The gift cards will be delivered after you have picked up your order or your Target Restock order has shipped.

We won't tell anyone if you use those gift cards exclusively for yourself. 😉 So, get to shopping, mama!

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This month isn't just the start of a new year, but the start of a new life for those due in 2019. If you're expecting a baby this year you've got plenty of celebrity company, mama.

Here are some fellow mamas-to-be expecting in 2019:

Alexa and Carlos PenaVega 

The Spy Kids actress and mom to 2-year-old Ocean will soon have to get herself a double stroller because PenaVega and her husband Carlos are expecting again.

"Holy Moly!!! Guys!!! We are having another baby!!!!" captioned an Instagram post. "Do we wake Ocean up and tell him??!! Beyond blessed and excited to continue growing this family!!! Get ready for a whole new set of adventures!!!"

Over on Carlos' IG the proud dad made a good point: " This year we will officially be able to say we have 'kids!' Our minds are blown," he write.

Jessa Duggar and Ben Seewald

In January Counting On Jessa Seewald (formerly Jessa Duggar) announced via Instagram that she is pregnant with her third child with husband Ben Seewald.

We love that she was able to make the announcement in her own time, not worrying about speculation about her midsection. She's been over that for a while.

[Update: January 18, added PenaVega]

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