All posts by Modern Boca Teaching Mom

MBMom’s Top 10 Reading Tips for Baby & Toddler

From our educational contributor: Modern Boca Teaching Mom

OK Modern Boca Moms, we all know that reading is one of the most important skills our children will learn in their early years. However, reading is not a set of isolated skills that children learn when they go to school.

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Learning to read is a fluid process that begins at birth. It starts with early literacy, which is what children know about reading and writing before they can actually read and write. Each new activity and experience encourages connections that children will potentially use throughout their lifetime.

So, how do we introduce early literacy in a natural and fun way?

Here’s Modern Boca Teaching Mom’s Top 10 list of developmentally appropriate activities that promote language and literacy for babies and toddlers:
  1. Talk. Talking to babies is imperative to language development. Describe the world around them. Use your senses. Talk about feelings and emotions, too.
  2. Music. Play and sing all types of music in your home. Music helps children develop rhythm and patterns, as well as phonological awareness. Try attending a local (wink wink, Musikgarten by the Beach) music class with your little one. You can also find books that combine reading and music, such as The Wheels on the Bus and If You’re Happy and You Know It.
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  1. Read. No explanation needed here, right? Actually, there’s a little more to it than you think- you do not have to read Good Night Moon hundreds of times a day! You can read what you enjoy too! The truth is, that when your child visually sees you reading a book, magazine or even instructions, it is a positive interaction with reading. (Monkey see, monkey do…)
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  2. Recite nursery rhymes. Even though many of them may not seem relevant to life today, children naturally respond to rhythm, rhymes and patterns in language.
  3. Participate in call and response activities. Huh? Basically, you want to model appropriate conversational skills. So when your little one babbles, coos or speaks, try to wait before you respond back- this shows that communicating with others involves speaking, listening and taking turns.
  4. Visit the library. Libraries are a huge part of our community. Our Boca libraries are not only beautiful to look at, but they also provide opportunities for your little one to meet the librarian, select their own books, use a library card, etc. In addition to checking out books, many libraries offer lots of free programs and activities for infants and toddlers.
  5. Act out finger-plays. You can find so many finger-play resources on the web; in different languages too! Adding physical actions to these cute little songs works on gross and fine-motor skills and coordination. (Again…music and reading go hand and hand.)
  6. Tell stories without a book. Storytelling is an ancient art and the good thing about made-up stories is that you can make them up as you go along. Babies usually find your voice of a caregiver calming and soothing. Older infants and toddlers will be able to recognize some of the words in your story and develop their own images in their mind!
  7. Read wordless books or create your own using small photo albums and talk about the pictures. This is great for building vocabulary! It shows your child that we can tell lots of stories by describing pictures and looking at details.
  8. Take your little one everywhere! Do you have any books about farm animals? Turn that book into real life and bring your kiddo to the petting zoo. Does your child love books about transportation? If so, take a ride on the Tri-Rail.  By providing your child all sorts of meaningful experiences, they will in turn be able to connect those experiences while reading. (Again, another opportunity to create you own experiential book like we did at Butterfly World!)
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There are so many ways to encourage early literacy in your home and there’s just not enough time in the day to do them all.

Just remember, your overall goal is for your child to develop a life-long love of learning. Every little thing you do or place you go, will only benefit your child…and don’t forget there’s nothing better than cuddling up with a good book and bonding with your little one!

When I look back at tip #3, it makes me wonder what books are other parents reading countless times a day? Leave your comments below!

About the writer: Kristine Keshishian, M. Ed. founder of Embracing Education, truly believes that education begins at birth and parents are a child’s teacher for life. No matter what educational philosophy one identifies with, we can all “embrace our children’s education” from early on to grow life-long learners!  

What is the WHOLE CHILD?

From Modern Boca Teaching Mom…

Like many of you Modern Boca Moms out there, I’ve been taking my little one to various local programs and classes since she was just a few months old. Now my journey to find a fabulous preschool has begun and I’m hearing a very pertinent phrase in early childhood being used so frequently and at times loosely. I am compelled to write about these two words that you will hear countless times in regards to so many young children’s programs: “WHOLE CHILD.”

In many mission statements, flyers and conversations with early childhood educators, you’ll find phrases like “We teach the WHOLE CHILD” or “to benefit the WHOLE CHILD,” but what does it truly mean?

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Well, common sense will tell you that the WHOLE CHILD probably has something to do with all aspects of the child, which is true. But this phrase means so much more, and once you have a better understanding of it, you will feel more confident in choosing the program or facility that best fits your little one.

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Let’s begin by looking at a child as a WHOLE human being. Humans grow, learn, change and feel. Teaching the WHOLE CHILD is an approach that makes us look at each child for who they are as an individual– physically, mentally, and emotionally. Being healthy, safe, engaged, supported and challenged; that’s what a whole child approach to learning, teaching, and community engagement really is. Most of the developmental milestones your child has achieved or will be working on falls into one of these four categories:

  1. Physical Development (i.e. fine and gross motor skills)
  2. Social & Emotional Development (i.e. interaction and play)
  3. Thinking Skills (i.e. problem solving)
  4. Communication Skills (i.e. language/vocabulary)

In reality, these areas overlap, as development in one area is reinforced and enhanced by growth in others. Many of the qualities we aim for when exposing a child to a “WHOLE CHILD” experience are:

  • Initiative
  • Integrity
  • Imagination
  • An inquiring mind
  • Self-knowledge
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Ability to feel and recognize truth on different levels

Programs based on early literacy, movement, sensory activities, social groups and of course the arts are all working towards educating your child as a WHOLE.


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When it comes to choosing a program school site that encourages the growth of the “WHOLE CHILD,” you can ask some of the following questions:

  • I see a lot of information on your curriculum, but how do you incorporate arts and music?
  • How often will my child have the opportunity for free play and how is it initiated?
  • How are feelings addressed when there is a conflict/incident with another child?
  • How do you encourage positive interactions between peers?
  • Can you describe an activity that my child will participate in that allows for critical thinking?

Exposing our little ones to activities, programs and facilities that enhance their overall WHOLE being is a great way to give your child a strong foundation, sense of the world and a sense of self.

It will also make the whole transition to preschool A LOT easier on the whole family!

Do you have any recommendations for great activities or places that benefit the WHOLE CHILD? Comment below!

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Making Memories with Your Family at Butterfly World in South Florida

I’ve lived locally for quite some time and had never been to Butterfly World in South Florida until recently.

With approximately 20,000 butterflies on display and over 150 species, it is a site to see!

Butterfly World in South Florida

Butterfly World in South Florida

The butterflies were absolutely lovely and there were so many of them! So many different colors and various sizes from as little as your thumb to as big as both of your hands! With the main exhibit created like a rain forest, it’s hard not to get lost among the mist and foliage and of course the magical butterflies that encircle you.

Luckily, there are promotions and coupons for entry, which makes the cost much easier on the wallet. (Plus, children under two are FREE!)

But, why pay for something that your baby won’t remember?

It’s true that little ones do not typically begin making memories until about two or three years old, but as parents we can provide them with experiences.

How about creating a DIY book titled “Our First Trip to Butterfly World?”

You can do this with just about anything that you would like your child to remember…that first trip to the petting zoo or a summer road trip. All you need are some brochures, magazine pictures, real photos or printed images from the computer.

You can place the pictures in a cheap 4×6 album or in plastic baggies (which you must staple and tape the edges), add some text and “poof” there’s your memory book!

No need to upload photos and send away for a book that you’re nervous about your little one tearing up– these types of books are durable, memorable and cheap!

Click here for a step by step guide to make an easy memory book:

We are great at taking photos with our phones and posting the pics to social media, but whatever happens to those pictures? Do they ever become concrete or are they just a memory saved to a SIM card?

Children learn and grow from the experiences we provide them. Can you think of an experience that you would like to have made a memory book for? Comment below!

 Tips for visiting Butterfly World in in South Florida:

  • Go early to avoid the heat. Doors open at 9 am.
  • I used my stroller, but it would be much easier wearing a baby carrier, only because of the many doors between exhibits.
  • Sunscreen is a MUST for you and your little one. The exhibits are quite shady and screened in, but I actually burned a little bit.
  • Don’t forget to look for coupons or promotions, otherwise it can be a pricey outing.

Learning to Embrace Teachable Moments…

Benefits of teachable moments

From our educational contributor: Modern Boca Teaching Mom-benefits of teachable moments.
As the summer continues to fly by, I am truly awakened by how much my life has changed in the last year. Instead of browsing the Sunday advertisement flyers looking for the best deals on folders and glue sticks for back-to-school, I’m perusing the web for “first birthday party ideas” and deals on diapers.
Benefits of teachable momentsOK fine, neither one is that glamorous.
But, for those of you who do not know me, I’ve pretty much prided myself and based much of my identity on being a teacher. I started volunteering at a preschool when I was fourteen and have been in the education field ever since.
Now as a mommy to my amazing baby girl, I find that I’m still creating lessons, speaking in my teacher voice, and reading lots of stories, but this time it’s for my OWN CHILD. As I write this my eyes begin to fill with tears. Being L’s mommy is the most incredible and rewarding experience I’ve ever known…and yes, the salary is even less than what I made as a teacher, but I’m OK with that.

Benefits of teachable moments

Back in my teacher days…

Going back to how I’ve always identified myself as a teacher, that title came with many expectations- to behave in public (what if a parent sees me?), always being ‘in the know’ with educational theories, curriculum and politics (apparently people really are interested in education), and of course giving advice to family and friends with children.

Benefits of teachable moments

Since my title has become teacher AND mom, I find that I’m held to even higher expectations- which can be intimidating at times, after all I am a first time mom!
However, I do believe that being a teacher does give me a different perspective as a mother. I do feel that the teacher in me still lives and is still yearning for the opportunity to educate.
As an educator of young children, I was always trying to find ways to sprinkle in the learning when the kids least expected it. Children are naturally curious, so even when I’m doing the most mundane task, I know deep down that my baby has never experienced this before and would like to observe and be a part in whatever it is that I’m doing.
Benefits of teachable moments
Which leads me to finding teachable moments.  A teachable moment can happen almost anytime, anywhere – in the grocery store, going to the beach or preparing dinner.

Benefits of teachable moments

Chances are that many of the valuable moral lessons that you learned as a child were not consciously taught at all. They were rather learned in the midst of casual moments in your real life. It is now my mission to bring learning into my baby’s life and share those moments with other parents.
Real life is not something strategically planned out and executed, so why should learning be?

Now, we want to hear from you MBMoms! What has been your biggest ‘teachable moment’ so far as a mom? Comment below!

Kristine Keshishian, M. Ed. founder of Embracing Education, truly believes that education begins at birth and parents are a child’s teacher for life. No matter what educational philosophy one identifies with, we can all “embrace our children’s education” from early on to grow life-long learners!  Check out her upcoming fall class calendar HERE.