learning and kids

Gift Recommendations For Kids/Bilingual Babies

It’s that time of the year! Here is a list of gift ideas for your kids. I am big on hands-on learning experiences. Children should be given the opportunity to explore and discover when they are not outdoors. They are easily hooked onto gadgets, so whatever you can do to provide engaging opportunities that do not involve an ipad or iPhone, the better.

Stem Bridge Building from Lakeshore Store- for elementary aged kids – For the kid builder, consider giving them something that challenges them, but also makes it fun. There are 8 picture cards and bridge building materials included. Children pick a card and try to create the bridge with the materials in the box. This helps kids problem, solve and compromise. They can work alone or with a partner, or a few friends.


Me Reader Kit-found on Amazon and Costco!- great for toddlers, pre-k-2nd grade kids- This is a gift given by a dear friend. L- loves this book set. It is a modern version book on tape/CD listening center. There are 8 color-coded books that match a recorder. The reader chooses the book you want, and presses that color on the recorder. The narrator starts reading the book to your child. When the narrator is done with the page, the reader hears a bell and they know to turn the page. On the top of the next page is a colored square. The reader presses that same color on the recorder and the narrator reads the next page. After a few tries, Lucas caught onto the color coded system for reading the books.

I can’t tell you how beneficial these books are to pre-readers/early readers. They are listening to model reading, they can point to the words as the recognize them. The stories are short and cute. My son can sit there for a long time and just listen to the stories over and over. I’ve seen other ones at Costco such as Frozen and Thomas The Train.

Osmo – If you are looking for an I-pad gift consider Osmo for children ages 3-11. This game hooks up to your I-pad. Young children can learn the alphabet, build words, work on matching games, and it offers coding and number activities. We don’t have one yet, but we are considering it for our son. Here is their website, you can also find them on Amazon.   https://www.playosmo.com/en/


Dollhouses- Kidkraft has great choices. They are wooden dollhouses that last a long time and they have quality roomsettings to add to the dollhouses. They are a bit pricey, I attached some Amazon choices as well. Amazon has Hape, which is also a great choice! What better way than to het your kids interested in imaginative play than through providing a setting for them.





Lil Libros are great beginner books for bilingual children. My son loves to read them over and over. I’ve shared then on my blog before. We recently purchased El Chavo. If you are raising a bilingual baby, consider these books. Their website is linked here. https://lillibros.com/ They can also be found at Target and Amazon. LilLibros-Announcement_large[1].jpg

They have a Loteria for children. We don’t own this because I bought a different version for my son a few years ago. This is a great way to make Spanish learning fun.


Spanish File Folder Game-Lakeshore- I am considering this game for my pre-reader. If your child is on the verge of reading in Spanish, this game looks like it will help your bilingual baby work on his/her conversational skills. You can find it here. https://www.lakeshorelearning.com/products/language/spanish-ell-materials/spanish-file-folder-game-library-pre-span-stylewhite-space-nowrapk-k-span/p/FF374

Here are some of my top picks. I hope you find them helpful.




bilingual learning · Children and letter writing · homeschooling · learning and kids · literacy development and children

Make Learning Fun!

Once your child starts school (as in pre-k) the pressure is on! Children are learning their alphabet and colors at a much younger age. Whatever you do, don’t measure your child against his/her peers. Each child learns at a different rate and when it comes to reading children technically have until the end of second grade to master reading. Did you know that in some European countries children are taught to read in second grade and not Kindergarten like in the U.S.

It’s so important for our children to play and spend as much time outdoors as possible. Dramatic play and discovery is important in the elementary years.  Hands on learning is the best type of learning in my opinion.

My son is in K and his teacher gave me a list of words he should know. I looked at it and laughed. There is no way I am doing boring flash card drills with my kid.  He loves homework and wants to learn to read. He is always asking me to read labels and titles for him. I tell I’m he will read when his brain is ready. He is curious about letter sounds and learning words. I notice he loves to paint, so I gave him a few words and he painted the words on paper. He had a lot of fun and enjoyed figuring out the sounds. It seems like a better way to teach words rather then putting them on a flash card. I don’t know if we will do it everyday, but it is a great way to integrate art and literary. So before you run to the store and buy flash cards consider tapping into your child’s interests to teach them new things.



homeschooling · learning and kids · story time

What Would Danny Do?

What Would Danny Do? is a book that teaches children how to make good choices. Meet Danny a 7/8 year old boy that has to make good choices when encountering challenging situations. The author does a wonderful job of giving scenarios that are relatable to children and depending on your child’s answer, you can read a good choice or a bad choice. The choices are realistic and really help children think about the cause and effect of situations. It’s also very funny. Children see themselves in the various scenarios. I also love this book because it’s about a little boy. It is hard to find books that have boys as the main character.

Enjoy reading with your kiddos. Buy it I promise it will be well worth it.



learning and kids · literacy development and children

Back To School Tips For Parents

It’s that time of year again, we are gearing up for back to school routines and schedules. It is tricky to go from relaxing summer days where kids have a flexible bedtime, late dinners, or hey let’s go get some ice cream and push bedtime. That being said the transition from summer to the school year can feel hectic and unpleasant at times. If you haven’t already started a bedtime routine start now!

Start putting your kids to bed earlier and get them up early for breakfast, changing their clothes, and brushing their teeth.  Get them out the door and take them around the block or to the park just so they get the feel of the routine. You will get resistance the first few days, but I guarantee you, it will save you a lot of headaches when school starts. I posted about a visual summer schedule. Now create a school morning schedule. It will minimize you repeating directions and getting impatient. It will also give your child a sense of accomplishment, so don’t forget to acknowledge their effort with a high 5, a sticker, or a special treat at the end of the week.

I work in education so I am fortunate to have an early pick up time for my son. That being said, I do put him in after school programs twice a week. His school has a lot of great choices. I try to pick an activity he will enjoy. He does gymnastics twice a week. It’s a good way to get his energy out. I think kids need more time than 15-20 minutes of daily recess. I say tap into your child’s interest. Let them explore new interests as well. If your child does not attend after school programs and has a sitter, I am a firm believer in down time (if they are under the age of 7 years old) I know your kid is bouncing off the wall! Because they are over stimulated from all the movement, learning, and expectations. In school they are expected to listen and sit still and walk up and down the stairs and sit in a LOUD cafeteria for lunch. It’s a lot! I’ve worked with kids for over 15 years and I can tell you that they are tired. Rest time does not include a smartphone or iPad. They can read a book, color, or draw. They can even lay in bed and just stare at the wall. My son still naps. I have to see how this school year goes before his nap is taken away. He is happier with a nap.

You can start with homework right away, if your child is not the resting type. Your child does not get homework?! Ask the teacher how you can support your child at home, head over to Barnes and Noble and pick up some grade appropriate workbooks. For K-2 kids, I suggest 30 minutes a day of homework excluding daily reading with an adult. Studies show there is no benefit to homework in grades K-2. Everyday doesn’t have to be a homework day either. Monday can involve a learning game, Tuesday complete a traditional homework sheet/workbook, Wednesday is arts and crafts day, Thursday have your little one build something with blocks or magna-tiles then they have to explain their creation. Have them make signs for their creation. Friday is free choice. Maybe they help you cook. This takes a lot of pre-planning, but it will be a great “homework” experience for them.

Here are some back to school resources: Any of the games below can be rotated as homework!

A leak proof lunch box! It keeps things hot and cold. You can find it on Amazon


I love everything Leapfrog

Teach your pre-k/k kids spelling and reading with picture support

This link is for arts and crafts. It’s called Maker Space. Next time you do art with your kids make it purposeful.


learning and kids · summer and kids

The City Is Your Child’s Playground

Summer in the city is yes! very hot, but it’s also a great playground for children. There are countless places to take them. I like to combine my son’s summer with a scheduled camps with a bit of fun. Here are some fun places I like to take my son in the summer:

Central Park– choose a playground to go to, they are all great, then take your child over to Alice’s Teacup. They will have a blast.

Union Square Playground– It has a very modern layout and it’s gated, so the layout is very convenient.

Museum of Natural History– You can spend the entire day there. Take your own lunch or go to Shake Shack across the street.

Brooklyn Bridge Park– They have a playground, a pool, and a picnic area, not to mention the best ice cream shop and pizza! Check out Lombardi’s and Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory.

Brooklyn Botanic Gardens-  They are free every Tuesday

Brooklyn Children’s Museum– It’s a wonderful space and they layout is very easy to watch the kids while they play and discover.

Prospect Park– Zucker Natural Exploration Area- This is a hidden gem in the park. Children climb through hollow trees and pump water.

bilingual children · bilingual learning · homeschooling · learning and kids · literacy development and children

Cooking=Math, Reading, and Science

I try to do a few activities with my son during the week. They are usually arts and crafts and cooking related. One week we made blueberry bars. It’s the easiest recipe ever. The hard part is making the bar look like the one in the recipe picture. I’m not the best baker, but I try. I learned about this recipe in Against All Grains book. It’s a simple recipe and in the process I learned how to make blueberry jam. It’s easy and I can’t believe I didn’t learn this sooner. My son enjoyed spreading the jam on the almond flour dough. I did a lot of the heavy work, but the point is we do the activity together. He learns about measurement, how to read a recipe, and the importance of portions in Spanish. It’s a fun way to learn new words such as “una cucharra” or “una taza.” He feels very proud of himself for knowing Spanish. Here is the picture of the blueberry bars. I don’t want to show my horrible baking. This is better. IMG_4649 (1)

bilingual children · homeschooling · learning and kids


I try to do a few activities with my son during the week. They are usually arts and crafts. This week we made pizza using an almond flour pizza dough recipe. It’s the easiest recipe. I have to say this is more for me than for him. I’m fine with him having regular bread, but for the sake of not making two meals we used almond flour dough. He really enjoyed adding the ingredients and rolling the dough. He learned words such as masa and ingredientes.  This is a great opportunity to teach him kids about the joys of cooking and healthy eating.

We used Simple Mills Pizza Dough. You bake it for about 15 minutes then take it out and add the pizza ingredients, then put it back in the oven. It tastes best fresh out of the over.

bilingual learning · homeschooling · learning and kids · literacy development and children

Reading Detective Kit

I am currently working with children on not only having strong comprehension skills, but also making sure their fluency and word problem solving skills are strong and consistent. I decided to put a “kit” together. Students can use this as a reference while reading at home with a family member. Here is what my kit contains:

  1. reading marker-it’s a highlighted strip that children can put over a sentence and not get distracted by the other sentences.
  2. reading strategy bookmark- students can use it while reading when they approach a difficult word.
  3. retelling hand– students use their hand to retell a story by identifying the character, their actions, problem, and solution.
  4. story sequence sheet– students use linking words to talk about what happens first, then, next, after, and lastly.
  5. questioning– Students discuss stories by asking I wonder . . . why, how, when in relation to the story.
  6. main idea and details-students use a graphic organizer to talk about non-fiction stories.

Kids enjoy using tangible materials that help them become stronger readers.

learning and kids

Adult-Child Conversation: Giving Your Child An Edge

Oral language plays a very important role in developing vocabulary and reading comprehension skills for young children. The more you read, talk, and expose your children to language, the more vocabulary knowledge they develop. What is important is that it is “authentic language exposure.” In other words, flashcard drills are good, but that’s not what develops a child’s language. Instead going to the grocery store and talking to your child about what you are going to buy, “oh look there are the oranges” (as you point and grab an orange). This is what authentic language looks and sounds like.

The New York Times recently posted an article, “Language Gap Study Bolsters a Push for Pre-K” discussing the language gaps between upper class (median income $69,000) and working class families ($23,900). Past studies show that children of wealthier parents have heard millions of more words in comparison to children of working class families. Current research conducted by Ann Fernald a psychologist at Stanford University found that 18 month-old children from wealthier families can identify words “dog” and “ball” faster than children of lower income homes. Additionally by the age of 3, children of wealthier famlieis hear 30 million words than children from low- income households.

In a separate studie done by Fernald, she records the vocabulary of 29 children from low-income households. Fernald differentiates between words overheard from television, adult conversation and adult-child conversation.  Children of 19 months heard as little as 670 ‘child-directed’ words compared to their peers who heard 12,000 words.  This is about double the amount of words. Although there are many great television programs and apps out there for children, nothing compares to carve giver-child conversations and interactions.

Educators and administrators are taking an active approach and pushing for Pre-K in all elementary schools.  Schools are also working closely with parents. They are providing workshops for parents on parenting, play, literacy, and English classes. These are great free resources for parents to take advantage of.

So next time you go to the grocery, make a list with our child and point out the fruits and vegetables you see while shopping.

Please click below for the full article

learning and kids

What is Outside The [sand]Box?


Hello and Welcome!

I’ve created Outside The [sand]Box as a forum to share my knowledge of child language learning with both parents and educators alike. It’s a place where I will discuss topics such as literacy development, the importance of phonics, language acquisition, and raising fluent bilingual children in the home.

With over 10 years of experience inside and outside the classroom, I truly enjoy helping kids achieve higher language skills. And part of that is staying on top of current educational research. So my aim with this blog is to share my experience with bringing children and their parents closer to their language goals. It’s taken me some time getting this blog together and here it is! Thank you for reading and joining me on this journey! I look forward to reading your comments.

Please join the discussion by leaving comments! I will have new posts on a bi-weekly basis. Don’t forget to share my blog with all your friends!


Leticia C. Sanchez