To create a print-rich home, the basics are all you really need.
Books, paper, pencils, crayons...
- Pencils: For young writers, short golf-style pencils are best for learning proper pencil grasp. Erasers are optional, because my kids prefer to use erasers like these or these anyway.
- Crayons: Crayola is pretty much king, but we also like these Flip Crayons from Handwriting Without Tears, or these natural crayons from Clementine Art.
- Paper: Big unlined paper is great for early writers. You could buy rolls of it, so writing space is unlimited. Once kids can write letters well, go for wide "primary" lined paper like this. I like the paper with a blank space for coloring, since young writers still may express themselves better with pictures.
- Books: This topic is really too big for one bullet point! The main idea here is to buy, borrow and make as many books as possible. Put them in every room in your house, and organize them so they're always accessible. Build a library that's varied and interesting. Choose books related to kids' interests, then add books that make them laugh, expose them to new ideas, celebrate your family's culture, and illustrate important values. When in doubt, I consult my favorite reviewers for inspiration: The Reading Tub, The Children's Book Review, KidsReads, and Planet Esme are just a few.
- Products that are open ended and useful for multiple ages and stages of development. I try to avoid toys that can be played with in only one way. These are some of our faves... Action figures, Lego, dolls, puppets: Kids tell elaborate stories through the process of pretend play. (Melissa at Imagination Soup shares more ideas and a terrific toy buying guideline here.)
- I also like things that are well designed and that look nice. Teacher friends, don't freak out on this one. I know there are plenty of very ugly and very useful literacy products. I know that you can't judge a book by it's cover. But here's the thing. In my unscientific observations, I've noticed that we tend to leave the pretty toys out where they are more likely to get played with. Some "trendy" companies like Mudpuppy, Eeboo, Melissa and Doug, Plan Toys, Chronicle Books, like (Taro Gomi's Activity Books), Crocodile Creek, and B Toys are all popular because they make items that feature the work of artists, many are created using natural materials vs. plastic, AND they are conducive to open-ended, creative fun for kids. Obviously beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so the point is to pick products that you think are beautiful, and make sure your kids love them too. Then leave the favorites where they're in plain view and accessible.
- That said, some products are just great, and I don't care if they're primary colored, battery operated, non-trendy plastic: For example, we love Fisher-Price, and these are one of the most well-loved, often used toys in our house. This post explains more.
- Finally, some of my old classroom materials are popular at home as well. These, these, and these are all fun and educational at school or at home.
What are your guidelines for choosing literacy products? I'd love to hear your favorites!
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