Parent profile: Karen Smith

Karen Smith may have traded her first grade teaching position for stay-at-home mom status, but she never stopped being a teacher. Now her class consists of 3-year-old Evan and 1-year-old Nathaniel.

Not only is Smith having a lot of fun teaching her sons, they are having a lot of fun learning. Here are some of her teacher-approved games you can use with your kids to put them at the top of the class.

Anything hands on. Play Doh is great, says Smith. “I help my son use rolled up Play Doh to make letters. Sometimes I will give him a fork and knife and he can practice cutting with the Play Doh.” Smith says shaving cream is another great medium for kids. “I cover a cookie sheet with shaving cream and my son uses his finger to write his letters in it.” Paint is another Smith favorite.

Go the extra mile. “Evan has a floor carpet that has a big road on it. I sometimes sit on the floor with him while he plays with his cars. I ask him where his car is driving to. He uses his imagination to make up stories as he plays.”

One man’s noise is another man’s music. Smith says her 1-year-old is happy if you pull out the pots and pans and just let him bang. “He also loves to put his blocks in and out of them. This is great for teaching sorting.”

Find and seek with refrigerator letter magnets. A good one for multi-taskers. Challenge your child to find letters on the refrigerator while you cook.

Old favorites: We like Candy Land because not only does it teach colors and my son learns how to take turns, but he also learns that things will not always go his way and he won’t always win. Chutes and Ladders is also good for teaching patience and to try again.” Smith says another favorite is Hi Ho Cherry-O, which teaches basic counting skills and works with fine motor skills.

Go Fish for a new way to learn letters and numbers. For a new spin on an old favorite, Smith says she makes her own Go Fish cards using alphabet cards. “You’ll need two sets so you will have doubles.” Rules are the same as the original. When letters get boring, it is time to move on to numbers.

Share your great parenting tips with other parents. E-mail Jean Dunning

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