JM & Her ButterflySummer is a golden time to enjoy outdoor activities with your child. Look at your backyard as full of opportunities to explore words and ideas. Here’s an example from daddy Don. He and his daughter kept a daily account of their Monarch hatchery on the back porch.

Although Don didn’t intend it when he wrote, he is my guest blogger today. Don’s words and photos tell his delightful story.

“The caterpillars were hatched from eggs which the Monarch butterflies deposit on milkweed and other host plants. We take the leaf with the eggs and put it in a smaller container until they hatch. We transfer the caterpillars to the ‘tent’ (a bed canopy from IKEA $20) and replace the milkweed (in gallon containers) as they eat the leaves down. When the time comes, they climb to the top of the canopy, assume a ‘J’ shape and form the chrysalis. They incubate for 6 – 10 days and emerge as Monarch butterflies. My daughter is totally into it.

Thank you, Don, for sharing your journal and your daughter’s butterfly encounter. It’s a fascinating experience; early learning at its best. I recommend these butterfly storybooks:

  • Ten Little Caterpillars, by Bill Martin
  • Waiting for Wingers, by Lois Ehlert

In How Handwriting Trains the Brain, Gwendolyn Bounds  reveals that writing by hand is a fading art, yet new research shows it can benefit children’s motor and thinking skills. “Researchers are finding that writing by hand is more than just a way to communicate. The practice helps with learning letters and shapes…and aids fine motor-skill development.”

Writing matters. Include writing fun in your home. It is a part of play that engages the brain in learning.

How can parents make writing by hand a part of play at home?

Here are ten ways to incorporate writing play into your everyday living:

  1. Hide notes for your child under pillows & in lunch boxes
  2. Write simple signs together for blocks, dolls, and toys
  3. Set clear guidelines on where and when your little one can write
  4. Stock tubs with a variety of sizes and colors of paper
  5. Provide tubs of pencils, colored pencils, and washable markers
  6. For little ones just beginning to hold writing tools, take turns making lines and shapes together
  7. Write with chalk on a chalkboard, and sidewalk chalk on concrete outside
  8. Write on a white board
  9. Use a bucket of water and old paintbrushes to “paint” letters on the wall or driveway with water.
  10. Use playdough or modeling clay to make letters, shapes, and funny animals together

How Handwriting Trains the Brain: Forming Letters is Key to Learning, Memory, Ideas, The Wall Street Journal, October 5, 2011

As we increase communication with keyboards big and small, studies reveal that writing by hand is key to learning, memory, and ideas. In the Wall Street Journal, Gwendolyn Bounds, reports that drawing and writing by hand are essential in early childhood learning.

Researchers at Indiana University led a study illustrating how writing by hand engages the brain in learning. They found that children who practice printing letters by hand have both heightened brain activity and increased vocabulary.

Handwriting requires sequential strokes to form a letter. It is those finger movements that are important for thinking, language, and working memory. In fact, Virginia Berninger, a professor of educational psychology at the University of Washington says studies confirm  “children write more words, faster, and expressed more ideas when writing essays by hand versus with a keyboard.”

Imagine that!

In our playroom, we have tubs of paper, pencils, markers, dot paint, and craft supplies. When your child begins to play with writing, sit next to her and write along with her. Make it fun. Draw and write stories together. Use lots of color and imagination. Writing with your child during playtime is a creative way to show how writing by hand works. Her brain will love it!

To be continued. Watch for part two!

How Handwriting Trains the Brain: Forming Letters is Key to Learning, Memory, Ideas, The Wall Street Journal, October 5, 2011