Friday, November 30, 2012

Free Infant Stimulation Flashcards

Did you know that stimulating your baby's VISION is a great way to stimulate her BRAIN?

Newborn babies are born with retinas that are not fully developed. Your retina helps you differentiate color in the world around you, but a baby's immature retina can only detect high contrasts between black and white, or light and dark objects. Those sweet baby pinks and blues you picked out to decorate the nursery? Your little one just sees them as one great big pastel blur!

So what can you do? You can provide your baby with lots of black and white images to enjoy, such as these: FREE PRINTABLE FLASHCARDS

From there, simply click the yellow BrillBaby tab as shown here:

And then scroll down to the bottom of the page.

If you prefer, durable glossy versions of the infant stimulation cards are available in the forum shop for $15.

Babies crave input to stimulate their brain development and the brain builds itself by forming connections. Of all the five senses, vision takes the longest to develop but it also has the highest impact on the brain. The more visual stimulation your child receives...the more her neural network will expand and connect. A well connected brains results in a smart baby! With continual stimulation, your baby's retina, optical nerve, and visual parts of the brain will blossom from the use of high contrast images.

 Happy Teaching!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

DIY "Right Start" Abacus & Soroban

Lately we have been practicing more skip counting with the kids using Little Math and reinforcing the lessons with our abacus. We also use some youtube videos, as well. There are a few learning playlists available on my channel, including skip counting, at While you can count with any manipulatives or household items, what I like about the abacus was that there is no mess to clean up afterwards. However, the abacus just didn't seem to be as effective as it could be. I decided a long time ago I should paint it, but I finally buckled down and took a few hours out of my morning to actually do it. I used one of the kids' paintbrushes and it's definitely a mediocre, amateur paint job. I suppose I could have just replaced the beads with colored beads from a craft store, but I used what I had on hand didn't cost me a cent out of pocket.

It started out looking like this-

I originally started to paint it with the beads on, I was feeling lazy and didn't want to go through the hassle of trying to take the thing apart. However, right away I could tell that it was going to be a pain and was better off taking it apart. Turns out, it only required a screwdriver and about a minute to easily disassemble it. Plus, this allowed me to separate the beads to paint the lighter colored beads yellow and the darker colored beads blue. I slid them on bamboo barbeque skewers to dry and spray with a clear coat. I could have used any color paint I suppose, but I chose RS colors in case I decided to use their iphone/ipad app or official workbooks in the future things would match.

Using the supplies you have around the house will save you money if that's important to you, but using spray paint versus a brush will speed up the process a lot and save the frustration of multiple coats to cover the red, for example. I happened to find some spray primer in the shed AFTER the fact and it would have really helped to get the paint to stick easier, I wish I had found it sooner.

The results of this paint job were profound and instantaneous! I highly recommend dismantling a rainbow abacus you may have at home to paint or slide on new beads. It really helps my kids learn to think in 5's and 10's and it also helps ME teach more effectively when sliding the beads around for skip counting. It is sooooo much easier to count on this thing now! The kids' interest in math has risen dramatically from just a few coats of paint. It was time well spent and I only regret not doing it sooner. It's perfect to let my daughter use to help her solve equations in her early learning math workbooks. It's so sturdy that I have no qualms about letting the kids play with it until their hearts content and today Lily was happily "teaching Daddy."  Here is the finished product:

So, go be inspired and take apart your abacus that is just collecting dust and slap some paint on it! You'll be glad you did.  


Just the other day I decided to do this again, this time modifying a M & D into a Japanese soroban. It's not ideal, but they are traditionally just a bit too small for my son's hands right now as he is still building up his fine motor skills more and more everyday (he's almost 3).  I had to enlist my husband's help as a handyman but of course I did all the painting. They were infinately easier to paint with spraypaint! And although it's difficult to tell in the picture, they look soooo much prettier compared to first one where I used a paint brush. Here's the finished product-

(I have no idea why this is posting sideways)I painted the beads to match the bead colors. You can download their e-book and practice on the webbased program for 10 minutes daily at no cost. Simply create an account and then add multiple students in it so each child's progress is tracked separately for the timed tests on each level. However, do NOT get their "free, you only pay shipping, too good to be true" abacus. It's JUNK. Check it out!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

My Top Software and DVD Recommendations for Baby & Toddler Reading

If you are looking to teach your little one to read but don't know where to begin, here are my top recommendations to make it as EASY as possible. I taught both of my kids how to read as during their infant/toddler years and they were able to sound out novel three letter words by ages 15-18 months old. You can begin teaching reading from around age 3-6 months and up.

1. CORE CURRICULUM - 10 Minutes Daily

Little Reader software is hands down this THE most versatile reading program around. If I could only have one program, this would be it. It offers tons of vocabulary (3,000 words), pattern phonics, is customizable and infinitely expandable. Basically, you just sit down with your child for 10 minutes a day and go through the interactive lessons on your computer or Ipad. Read the storybooks together which correspond to the software, and use the sticker labels to put up around your house. It's a pretty comprehensive program.

Regardless, the more CONSISTENT you are and the more you LAYER the learning, the quicker you will see results. Having said that, I applied the "immersion method" to literacy. I didn't just use software...I used software, books, flashcards during most mealtimes, youtube videos, DVD's, etc. and the whole process was very quick and painless as a result of the constant reinforcement.


I had my kids watch about 3 minutes of youtube phonics songs 3-5 times a day for a month or so and they learned all of their basic letter sounds.  You can use the phonics playlist here on my youtube channel  or this one from Super Simple Songs .

You do NOT need to buy all of these programs below, but its nice to have a couple and rotate them. Your library may carry some, so check out your local branch. When your child has mastered the material, let them graduate and move on! Retire it and learn something else with a new DVD.


 I LOOOOOVE pretty much all of the leapfrog videos. They teach phonics, blending, even math concepts. Be sure to get the flashcards too for reinforcement or print your own here.

Top picks for teaching letter sounds are Phonics Farm for the under 2 crowd and Talking Letter Factory for 2+. The whole set is an awesome investment and your child will learn so much more than anything shown on broadcast TV.  Every close friend and client I know with older toddlers and preschoolers report that it look their child 1 month to as little as 1 week to learn their letter sounds with Leapfrog! I am a huge fan of their Tag pen, too that reads aloud to the child.


My Montessori House videos are great because they have *tons* of blending examples. I especially love their demonstrations of silent e words in level 2 (kit/kite, rob/robe, and so on) and all of the wonderful unique shapes they teach on the shapes and colors DVD (the words are also blended sound by sound on screen).

Preschool Prep

Preschool Prep videos tend to be simplified and slower, I like them because there is no storyline really, just fun, memorable characters. They are easy to follow and great for really little ones especially although any child can use them.

Their Meet the Sight Words DVDs 1, 2, and 3 are super for kids learning their most common sight words and their easy reader books are very, very good too. I am a big fan and I think I own everything they've ever sold!

Your Child Can Read

This is the sequel to the ever popular "Your Baby Can Read." Your Baby Can Read Reviews are all over the internet, but BrillKids Little Reader covers all of the YBCR words (a few hundred) and many, many more (a few thousand). So if you have it laying around, go ahead and use it, but I wouldn't go buy it because there the programs directly overlap. Now, Your CHILD Can Read? It's full of really cute phonics songs. The pace is pretty quick, it covers *tons* of word in each DVD with lots of sentences and song lyrics being flashed on screen. It's entertaining and informative, but will need to be watched many times before it all sinks in.  Overall, it's really good and we love it!

You can also look into using free online resources such as and depending on your child's age. Overall, just immerse your child in literacy opportunities and you will be shocked at how quickly they learn!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

How to Find Solfege Nursery Rhymes in Little Musician

Can I just say I <3 BrillKids Little Musician?
It helped give my kids perfect pitch, how could I not!

I fell in love with Little Musician when it first came out-- you can read and watch the very detailed full review here. Now I want to share how to make the most out of using the program's solfege nursery rhymes. Lots of people either miss this aspect entirely or don't know where to find them. They are a hidden gem you should not overlook. Solfege is the time tested universal language of music and NO other program offers anything like this--it's awesome!

From the main Little Musician screen: go to PLAY EDIT > MUSIC NOTES > CHILDREN'S SONGS.

Start with one or two songs and learn them by heart. You will probably have to play them very slowly initially but soon you will be able to zip along at full speed! Don't get frustrated if you can't keep up, just use repetition until you and your child can. Don't forget you can change the tempo manually all the way down to a snail's pace to be even slower than the "slow practice" version preset. Once you learn them by heart, sing them in the bath, at breakfast, in the car, and on and on and on.... :)

Here's some screen shots to walk you through.




Okay, that's all for now. Stay tuned for the next installment of LMs ideas. :) This is the 2nd time I've moved my blog this year so it's EMPTY again (waah!). Be sure to  resubscribe if you want to get the latest updates if  you were previously subscribed at my old blog. Thanks!

New to Little Musician? Take the two week FREE TRIAL of Little Musician and other BrillKids programs, save 10% on all purchases with discount coupon code BKAFF40902. Happy teaching!  

KidStart Spanish Review

Hi Guys! Here's my review of Reading Amigo, as originally posted on my old blog and migrated here.

It's a very cool program! And Ricardo Cuevas over at Reading Amigo is a fellow early learning parent and member of BrillKids, one of my absolute favorite early learning forums. If you have any questions about the program he is super friendly and helpful, as is the customer service department who responds in inquiries very quickly.

I had the opportunity to try out Reading Amigo with my kids, a new program to help teach your child to read in Spanish. We were excited to try this set as we have a decent collection of kids DVD’s with Spanish audio options but very few that teach reading, which I believe is one of the most vital parts of learning a new language.

From the KidStart Spanish Website:

How the Program Works

Your child watches the videos and will start to associate written words with their related action scenes.

Your child will hear the spoken words from the video and will start to associate sounds with written language.

By saying the words the child will reaffirm the connections between the visual, and audio imagery in the child’s mind.

By touching and playing with physical objects as we our interactive tools such as our Ipad and Iphone application your child’s mind will once again reaffirm and cement the newly acquired language. The complete path is completed between the audio, visual imagery, and the related motor skills.

The DVDs and flashcards teach words and phrases from the following subjects:

• Greetings
• Body Parts
• Household items
• Classic Children’s Music
• Barnyard Animals
• Foods
• Shapes
• Active Children’s Music
• Places
• Activities
• Colors
• Latin Landmarks
• Phrases
• Exotic Animals
• Review

What I like best about this program:
  • Overall, it is just really cute! It has a catchy and fun vibe to it, the music is lively, the colors are vibrant, and the kids are enthusiastic. It was designed from the perspective of a native Spanish-speaker. This is reflected in many of the words, song choices, and culturally significant landmarks shown.

  • The words are spoken clearly in multiple voices with underlining arrows to highlight left to right reading patterns. They are also repeated twice in succession to make sure it sinks in.

  • The children featured in this video are young children and babies, not just babies, so it will appeal to children across a wide age range.

  • It offers true to life footage of kids, animals, and objects intermixed with cartoon animations and various background. This variety appeals to multiple learning styles to help capture and maintain a child’s attention.
  • The quality of flash cards in this set is fantastic!  The color coding makes them super easy to organize and the surface is very glossy so they can be wiped clean. I have used other reading programs that use thick, slide-out word cards. The reading Amigo cards are much better because they’re far more durable and toddler friendly. Not only are those difficult to flash rapidly for right brain learning, my son unintentionally destroys them while trying to slide the words in and out because they bend so easily. He has ruined pretty much the entire set! So these are much better.
  • New words are introduced in every DVD but there is a significant amount of consistency and repetition of the songs throughout the DVD’s. Particularly when learning a second language, learning entire songs clearly requires more exposure than single words. In that respect, intermixing new words with familiar songs throughout the series is a great learning strategy.  Learning entire song lyrics by heart helps children develop their sense of sentence structure as well.  The frequent songs are a great way to break up the words with lively music and maintain interest.
  • The font in the “Book of Opposites” is HUGE, making it visible for even tiny babies, which I love! It can be difficult to source books with font that is truly big enough, but the text size in this book is ideal and comfortable for all ages. With my kids, I notice even as they get a bit older they simply prefer larger font. When I was transitioning my daughter from flashcards to books, she seemed to find small print intimidating, so this is especially great for giving babies and toddlers a gentle transition in that area.
  •  My son especially loves the corresponding App included with the program. The picture and audio quality is excellent and my kids naturally repeat the words while  intuitively flipping through the program. The images are sharp and spoken clearly, first displaying the image and then the dimming it to show the word over the picture. My kids love i-things so it’s a great tool for reinforcing the material from the videos.
Overall, my kids (ages 2 and 3) really love the program  and as a parent, I am thrilled that they are practicing their Spanish while having fun! The songs are their favorite part of course. Our babysitter is a native of Bolivia and the first thing she commented on was how culturally authentic the program is, which certainly impressed me! The kids are already singing along and have learned lots of new words. It is quality programs like Reading Amigo that are helping change the way young children learn. This program is ideal for native speaking families and families learning Spanish alike–our family gives it two thumbs up!