Animals Theme (mostly for 18 mths) Free Math Flashcard Printable

It’s been a rather fun month of doing all things animal-related with the kids!  It’s a relatively easy theme to do and there are plenty of resources in the library and on the Internet so it’s no rocket science.

1. Vocabulary input
I just flashed (sounds wrong.  But it’s not.) Animal Flashcards to the little one.  Z really likes flashcards and I could do this round after round and he’ll not get bored.  These cards cover both English and Mandarin.  I bought these flashcards from Popular at about $7.90/set.

blog flashcards

Animal Flashcards from Popular Bookstore



Books on animals

Books on Animals






2. Reading (non fiction)
Managed to scrounge up this Wildlife Factsheet, which I bought at a flea market for $3? Finally came into use!  Thought I’d read both fiction and non-fiction material to him. A bit dry but you get to learn some interesting facts.

3. Reading (fiction)
The library is a trove of animal-themed books.  I had a few suggested titles but I couldn’t find them in my library.  No matter!  Every 5 children’s books is one on animals anyway.  I particularly liked:

  • Little Bee by Edward Gibbs (English GIB -[BA])  because of it’s repetitive nature.  “Little bee, little bee, why do you flee?  Because there’s a hungry frog chasing me!”  And then the animals change, but those few action words do not.  After a few readings, K could read it on her own.  I love such books which set the kids up for success in reading.  🙂
  • Tell Time with the Very Busy Spider by Eric Carle (English CAR -[BA]) is a perennial favourite.  I don’t know why kids like Eric Carle’s books but I guess they do like the weird, blocky kind of illustration.  The movable hands on the clock helps the preschooler tell time too.
  • Another Night at the Museum by Milan Trenc (English TRE) is the second book after the familiar Night at the Museum. This one focuses more on ocean animals.  And I learnt what a coelacanth is!
  • Princess Poppy: Puppy Love by Janey Louise Jones (English JON).  Anything with Princess in the title appeals to K at this stage.  So we’ll be checking more Princess Poppy books out.  The story is set in a quaint farm town, which I thought is interesting for K.

4. Phonics
I’m starting Z with the letter ‘A’ –> the “ahh” or “air” sound.  I just go “air” “air” “alligator”and sometimes he will imitate me.  In fact, he might actually think that when I emphasize the beginning sound, it’s part of the word!  Now he says, “mm” “mm” “bike”  because I used to say “mm” “mm” “motorbike”.  I guess he found it convenient to drop the middle syllables. A fun art activity to reinforce the ‘a’ sound was making an alligator with the letter A.  You can print out a template here.  Added some googly eyes from Daiso.  The kids love them!

Cuz the mother's art and craft is so meh... but idea is there.

Cuz the mother’s art and craft is so meh… but idea is there.


5. Neobear
Coincidentally, I got my hands on this new toy in time for the Animal theme – the Neobear Animal game.  I’m not too big on ipad games and would prefer giving my kids physical toys to play with (even McD’s rubbish toys are preferable to shoving them with an ipad / iphone!) BUT I’m not extreme enough to deny my children ALL ipad games and I have stumbled across some gems which I have bought!  Neobear Animal Game is one of my better finds, I think.  The Neobear Animal Set comes with 96 animal cards (covering mammals, reptiles, insects, amphibians, molluscs, fish and birds).  They have printed the English and Mandarin names of these animals behind each card for parents’ easy reference.  The magic happens when you download their app from the AppStore / Play. When you place the card in front your device’s camera, the animal pops up in 3D and can make noises and move!  The realism is quite uncanny and the kids are definitely enthralled with seeing the animals in 3D form.

Neobear Animal Set

Neobear Animal Set

Of course, as with most materials, if the parent or adult can give additional input, the child will benefit much much more than from merely seeing and playing with the cards. The knowledge input can be very simple to the kids but I think talking to them about the animals – what they observe about the animals, how many legs do they have, what does the monkey’s tail help them do… etc.. the child can learn so so so much more.  And if I don’t know about the animal?  I guess reading up beforehand helps me broaden my knowledge as well.  LimpehZ says I cannot teach science cuz I’m terribad at it but WHO else will undertake such a self-sacrifical endeavour… ???  *flick my hair*

For a demo of how this works, 

You can get your set here!

6. Alphabet Matching Set (click on the link for a separate post on how to use this material)
I just remembered I had this set this morning and pulled it out for the kids to play.  After doing A-C, doing the “air” “air” “alligator”, “buh” “buh” “butterfly”, Z got distracted and started swiping the cards and wooden letters.  Of course K did most of the matching, which is good revision for her.  Plus, she gets to play crazy, pull-her-hair-out teacher to her inattentive, disruptive brother.  Now she knows what my job was – still is.

On theme!  Animal Alphabet Matching

On theme! Animal Alphabet Matching

7. Excursion
And of course, on a theme like animals, what better way to bring the learning to life than a trip to our very own local zoo!  We visited the River Safari for the first time and was pleasantly surprised at the many exhibits there – though most were swampy, ugly and terrifying fish (if I were to meet them while swimming).  I did play a trick on K though. Knowing her favourite Disney princess is Ariel, I told her I was going to show her a mermaid.  Her eyes lit up, like, for reals?!!  Ariel the Mermaid?!?! Then I brought her to see the manatees and she was like.. oh….. that’s a mermaid??  So mean right??  Haha.. but I think she forgave me because she did say the manatee was her favourite animal she saw that day (not the cuddly wuddly pandas, surprisingly!) Maybe next time, we’ll go back to the main zoo to see the polar bear and koalas!

Huge Scary Fish!

Huge Scary Fish!

blog river safari 2

I’m too cool.. No photos please.

blog river safari 3

Why is the panda baby soooooo smalll??

8. Math 
I made some number flashcards with alligators.  11-20 alligators in a set.  You can download them for FREE!

Follow us on our A-Z journey by subscribing via email at the top right of the page or like us on our Facebook page (I HOPE we can get there before Z goes to school next year… but I think… we’ll be fortunately if we can cover half :P)  we’ll see how it goes anyway!

P.S.  I have VERY limited sets of Neobear on the shop now.  Get yours here if you want it delivered in the next 2 days!
And get your Alphabet Matching Set here.

What’s After Learning Letter Sounds?

[This post contains some links to my shop.  I’m going to show you a couple of ways you can use this material, found here.]

Alphabet Matching Cards

Alphabet Matching Cards

Are you a phonics reader?  Was it taught or caught for you?  During my time (sounds so ancient), I think we weren’t explicitly taught phonics.  Whatever phonics we did utilize, if at all, was learnt incidentally.  It’s hazy in my mind now how I learnt to read.  I think it was the mere exposure many times to a particular word (sight words) or eventually, one just figures out the pattern by trial and error.  After going through the Montessori course, it’s a bit clearer now how to move beyond learning individual letter sounds and I’d like to share a bit, if language learning is your thing!

When children first enter N1 or N2, one of the first formal curriculum they will encounter for language will be phonics – letter sounds.  The school may use various phonics tools like Zoophonics or Letterland, and/or employ really singable and memorable songs like Ants on the Apple etc.   The key point is to help the child learn the sounds each letter makes.

In addition to Ants on the Apple/Zoophonics/Letterland, there are a few activities to start the child writing (yes, spelling!) and reading.  I’ll list and explain some activities and materials used in the Montessori Pink Scheme in language learning as we go along.

  1. Sandpaper Letters 
    To help the child trace and develop muscular memory of the shape of the letters, the teacher introduces the child to the sandpaper letters.  She will introduce the sound, e.g. ‘p’.  Then she’ll ask the child to trace the letter.  This is to give the child tactile experience of “writing” the shape of the letter.  K’s school, and I suppose many others, will further reinforce their letter sound knowledge through drawing and art and craft.  I admit I’m a little surprised that they take 1 whole year to learn 26 letters (and not very well still, cuz K still can’t write very well).  But yes, actually, it makes sense that these little minds do take that long because it is a lot to master.  26 different sounds and shapes and they all look pretty similar!  If your child takes longer than that, please don’t worry or rush them and remember it is hard stuff for 3-4 year olds.

    If you are interested, you can make your own set of sandpaper letters for really cheap!  It just takes a bit of work and time.  First, buy some medium grade sandpaper.  I was kiasu and bought the roughest possible.  K made quite a fuss when I asked her to trace the letters.  Haha… Cruelty to small, tender hands?  Print out the alphabet in A5-size (or whatever size you like).  Cut them out.  Flip the letters and trace them onto the sandpaper.  Cut the sandpaper letters out.  Mount them on card stock or construction paper.  For a more detailed tutorial on how to make them, see this post from our very own .

    DIY sandpaper letters

    DIY sandpaper letters

    Or, you could get one of these letter frames and ask your little trooper to trace the frame.  That could work as well!  Your child can also match the letters to the corresponding frames.

    K tracing the frame of K.

    K tracing the frame of K.


    K tracing K on the flipside of the card, which shows the standard way of writing.


    Matching wooden letters to the corresponding cards

  2. Large Movable Alphabet 
    Montessori schools also use a material known as the Large Movable Alphabet which is a set of individual wooden letters that the child can feel and touch.  They learn to match the moveable alphabet to the corresponding sandpaper letters as a follow-up activity.  Montessori’s method always follows the principle of introducing the child concrete to abstract representations of a concept.  Since print is abstract, she tries to concretize it by letting the child handle and play with wooden letters – to touch and manipulate.

    Matching Large Moveable Alphabet and Sandpaper Letters

    Matching Large Moveable Alphabet to Sandpaper Letters

    You’d be a carpentry genius if you try to DIY yourself!  I’m not, so I bought 1 set myself and had another gifted to me by dear friend Mummy J!  But if you don’t mind not having the neat wooden frame that houses all the letters so beautifully, there are many cheaper options available, example, those plastic letters with magnets at the back or this Matching Alphabet set.  Basically any set of letters that can be moved around will do!  I like the 3D effect and the weight of wooden letters.  If not, you can even print and cut those letters out yourself.

  3. Segmenting Words into Letter Sounds (Using Moveable Alphabets)
    This next part is when your child is already very familiar with the individual letter sounds.  Now, we’ve got to help him/her break words down into the sounds and then put the sounds together again.  This is the beginning of reading!  Exciting eh?

    So I show K a picture card (or toy or object) and we talk about it.  What is it?  Where do you find it?  Of course, we pick easy 2-3 letter regular phonetic words which are familiar to her.  Regular words mean if we segment the sounds, they can be sounded back together e.g. jam.  ‘Apple’, though a familiar word, is NOT a regular word because air-pe-pe-le-eh put together does not sound like “apple”.  So I ask K, “What sounds can you hear from the word ‘jam’?”  I repeat the word many many times and if it’s the first time we are sounding the word, I may even have to segment it for her.  On good days, she can pick out the sounds quite easily.  On distracted days, I’m talking to a flighty bird and hitting my head against a wall.  She manages to pick out the sounds and I realize that she’s good at hearing the beginning sound and getting better at the ending sounds, but she’s not too good at hearing the vowels yet – which is quite common, I guess.  Then, I arrange the sounds in the correct order and we read out each sound again.  I then blend the sounds for her to hear – je-air-mm, je-am, jam.  We do no more than 3 words a day.  And I try to repeat those same words till it comes more naturally for her.  We have been stuck at words with vowel ‘a’ for the longest time, since maybe last September and we are moving very slowly onto the ‘e’ words.

    Sounding out the sound and searching for the letters.

    Sounding out the word and searching for the letters.


    Found all the letters!

    The point is after they get so good at segmenting words into sounds, they can do spelling tests just by hearing the words!  Of course, this only applies to phonetic, regular words and not sight words, like ‘dinosaur’, to which, there aren’t many shortcuts unfortunately.

    There we go!  3 or more different ways to use this educational toy over a pretty long stretch of time.  The Large Moveable Alphabet is used throughout Pink, Blue and Green Schemes (all the way to 5-6 years old where they learn longer words and combination vowels).  Quite worth it right?  Only problem with this (and other letter sets) is that there is only 1 letter of each.  How then do you form longer words or words with repeated letters?  e.g. ‘bee’ or ‘add’?  Print/write your own and make multiple copies of each letter!  K’s school has jotterbooks where the child sounds out the letters, then paste each letter to form a word.  The teacher lets them draw and articulate what the word reminds them of or means to them.  Such a great idea to help the child contextualize words and not just rote learn all these words in what seems like a vacuum.

    Final word.  I’ve tried pushing, I’ve tried taking a more relaxed approach in teaching K to read.  Definitely, without a doubt, relaxed is better.  Introduce these activities gently and slowly to your child.  If he/she shows no interest, finish up and put it away, pull them out again a few weeks later.  Eventually, he/she will catch on and when they are ready to read and when they want to learn, you’ll be ready for that window!  In addition, read, read, read to your child!  It’s, without a doubt, a great time of bonding.


Book Reviews – on Love

Last year, I borrowed a whole bunch of books from the library and have been meaning to do some kind of book review.  I thought it would be useful if you want to read these books with your children too!

End of last year, I went through a phase of K saying, “I don’t want Mummy to love me.”  See the full, sad story here.  So I sought to correct her erroneous thinking by purchasing many books which basically say that it’s perfectly normal and nice to love mummy and have her love you.  Hah… So self-serving right? These books made for some quite nice and cuddly mother-daughter moments.


  1.    [EnglishRYD -[BA]
    Won’t You Be My Hugaroo and Won’t You Be My Kissaroo by Joanne Ryder
    I really liked this one. “Won’t you be my Hugaroo? I’ve got so much to share with you.” I love rhymes in books cuz they make for such easy reading with the regular rhythms and rhymes. K could also recite some parts after reading umpteen times to her, so that was a nice bonding activity. Plus you get to squeeze her and hug her without her pushing you away. There’s also another one called “Won’t You Be My Kissaroo.”  So much feels…. okay, moving on.
  2.  EnglishRYD -[BA]
    Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney
    This seems to be everybody’s favourite book so I just had to get this one.  But honestly, I didn’t like this too much, maybe because it was too long, and not snappy enough.  Its a running conversation between 2 rabbits as to who loves the other more, e.g. I love you as high as my arms can stretch.  Obviously the Papa Rabbit will win in this I-love-you game.  I guess through the book, you get to learn and teach some body parts so it’s still useful.  K seems to like this tho!  So I do end up reading and re-reading this to her.
  4.   EnglishRIC -[BA]
    Daddy Loves Me by Marianne Richmond
    K’s absolute fav, as expected!  Very easy to read, just 3-4 words per page!
  5.  EnglishRIC -[BA]
    Grandma Loves Me by Marianne Richmond
    Quite a sweet book!  Another rhyming book which talks about how Grandma brings the kiddies on adventures just by reading with her in her favourite chair.

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