Early Reading Tips from Dr. Emily Levy of EBL Coaching

I am so excited to feature a guest post today from Dr. Emily Levy, founder of EBL Coaching, a tutoring program that specializes in one-on-one home & on-site instruction for students in
grades preK-12 in NYC and NJ. Millie is coming along with her reading skills and we'll be headed down the same path with Viv soon enough. Hope you find these tips as useful as I do!
photo credit: EBL Coaching
Thoughts from Dr. Levy:
Building the foundation of reading when children are young arms them with the skill set to become avid, enthusiastic readers as they grow older. Try these tips for helping your child develop early reading skills:  
Teach sound/symbol relationships 

At a young age (prior to starting Kindergarten), teach your child that each letter has a corresponding sound. To help him make this connection, try connecting each sound to a key picture. For example, p makes the sound /p/ like pizza and s makes the sound /s/ like sun. You can integrate a fun arts and crafts project for extra reinforcement by having your child create a large flash card with the name of the letter on the front of the card (you should write the letter for pre-writers) and the key picture on the back. Your child can draw a picture of a colorful pizza on the back of the p card and a picture of a glistening sun on the back of the s card. Hang up the cards around your house or lay them out on the table during meal times to practice connecting each letter to its corresponding sound and key picture.

Play phonemic awareness games

Phonemic awareness is the ability to hear, recognize, and manipulate sounds in words. Before they can learn to read, children must understand that words are made of individual sounds and that these sounds can be manipulated to form new words. ‎One phonemic awareness exercise you can try with your child is a segmenting/blending game. For example, tell your child, "I will say two sounds and I want you to tell me what word is formed when you blend the sounds together." You might say the sounds /a/ and /t/ and your child should tell you that the word "at" is formed. After forming several two letter words, increase the challenge to three letter words. For example, you might give your child the sounds /c/-/a/-/t/, /p/-/i/-/g/, or /f/-/u/-/n/ and ask him what word is formed with each of these sound combinations. ‎You can also play a rhyming game where you select a word (like "fan") and go around the room, asking everyone to come up with words that rhyme with it.

Read aloud!

Starting when your child is a baby, read to her on a daily basis. For toddlers, you can read sensory-based books, like Pat the Bunny, where she can see, smell, and feel objects in the story while you read. For children who are a bit older, engage them in the text by asking questions as you read, like "Why do you think that happened?, "What might happen next?" or "How do you think that made the character feel?" Teaching children at a young age to be active readers is a valuable skill that will help them as they progress through school.

‎Practice writing 

 Start by having him practice writing letter strokes and eventually move into actual letters. Try using an easel or white board and help your child write top-to-bottom straight and diagonal lines, then crossed lines and circles. Model each one first, practice the strokes together, and then encourage him to write them on his own.

When he is ready, teach him specific lingo for forming each letter. For example, when he writes the letter p, he should say "down, up, and around" as he forms the letter. When he writes the letter s, he should say "around and around." Try having him write these letters in the sky with his finger, in a cookie tray filled with colored sand or salt, or even with shaving cream (if you don't mind the mess).

Keep it fun

When reading to your child or teaching him to read to you, keep it fun! Try sitting inside a pillow-and-sheet constructed "tent" when ‎reading scary stories, eat a new food when reading about its taste and texture, or have your child illustrate a story that you make up.

Be sure to give your child positive reinforcement and encouragement for even the smallest reading milestone. Enjoy the quality time you share with her when reading and make sure she enjoys the process. Arming her with a strong reading foundation will help bring her success for years to come.


A Spring Photo Shoot with Samantha Ruby Photography

Last Sunday, on what was arguably NYC's first truly beautiful day of the spring season, we met up with Sam of Samantha Ruby Photography in Central Park. It's been a while since we've had professional photos taken of our family, so this was a real treat. The girls are finally getting to the point where they like smiling for the camera again (well, to a point...), so the timing felt right, too. 

Sam put us all immediately at ease with her warm and friendly personality, and she even showed us a little hidden nook of Central Park that we didn't know existed. Inside the entrance on Central Park West and 103rd Street, we headed up a hill to find the most gorgeous view of the skyline... I mean, I couldn't have found a better backdrop if I'd walked the park for days. As you'll see from the photos below, it couldn't have been a better place to hang out for a bit and take some photos.

I'm so pleased with how the photos turned out, and I couldn't recommend Sam more highly. She was great with the girls, completely down to earth and really knows her way around a camera. 

And I've got some exciting news! Sam would like to offer anyone reading this post $25 off a 45-minute family session if they book before June 1st. Just mention Baby Meets City and you'll be good to go. 
Here's to preserving memories -- enjoy!


Not Scrubbing My Bath Tub = Pure Joy with HomeJoy

As the old saying goes, there's a first time for everything. Well, last week, I had my apartment professionally cleaned for the first time. And as the other old saying goes (and I may be paraphrasing here), "What the heck was I waiting for?!"
As part of Homejoy's #MoreSpring campaign, I was able to try out the cleaning service for 2.5 hours. From start to finish, the process was seamless and easy. While booking online, I was able to describe my home and exactly what I'd like cleaned beforehand. On the morning of the cleaning, Homejoy was in touch via text with the cleaning person's name and phone number, in case I needed to reach her for some reason. Then, they followed up via text afterwards to make sure I was pleased with my experience. Yay for unobtrusive customer service!
Any reservation I had about welcoming a stranger into my home was put immediately at ease when I met Homejoy's cleaning professional. She was courteous and ready to get to work as soon as she arrived. And thank goodness for that. I've thought about having the apartment cleaned in the past, but never felt completely comfortable with the idea, as strange as that sounds. So happy I got over it, because my clean bath tub is still sparkling!

Now, on to the exciting part. Homejoy is just as happy as we are that spring has FINALLY arrived, and they'd like to celebrate by giving YOU a $25 discount on your very own Homejoy cleaning experience. All you have to do is make your appointment through the link below and the $25 will automatically be deducted from your final payment:


[Please note: the code will only be applicable for two weeks, starting on the date of this post.]

How about worrying less about dust and getting outside to experience this gorgeous new season? I'm pretty sure it takes a village to clean my apartment, and am so glad I had a little help, just in time for spring cleaning.

Disclosure: I received payment and services from Homejoy for this review. All opinions herein are my own.


Spring Break, Through the Lens of Instagram

The girls have been on Spring Break from school since the Friday before Easter, and while part of me is happy to have them head back to school tomorrow (!), I have to say I really enjoyed the change in routine. I've been in a "winter never ending" funk in more ways than one, so a break from our busy schedule was a welcome change. We also headed down to visit my parents in Georgia, so the combination of warmer weather and family time was just what the doctor ordered.

And quick sidebar: it hasn't been consciously planned, but I have been doing a lot of sponsored posts lately. And while they're all products I love and initiatives I endorse wholeheartedly (and mama needs to help support her family), I'm also excited to share some downtime down south.

Enjoy, and Happy Spring... I feel like it's FINALLY here!


The Winter Hat is Off! Spreading the Love: Nexxus Therappe Shampoo & Conditioner

So along with spring cleaning, spring shopping, the Easter Bunny and warming temperatures (I'm being optimistic...), I'm also treating my hair to a much needed rejuvenation in honor of this new season. It hasn't really seen the light of day in months because I've either had it under a hat outdoors or in a ponytail at home... it's a sight for sore eyes, and not in a good way. Millie mentioned the other day that I might consider a hair cut, if that tells you anything. Thanks, dear!

While I debate a new 'do, I'm taking a few steps to get my hair back in healthy shape, thanks to Nexxus New York Salon Care. The line, which is newly reformulated, is available at Walgreens and Duane Reade. How convenient! I've been using Nexxus Therappe Shampoo, Humectress Conditioner and their new Encapsulate Serum for the last week, and I can already see a change in my hair. The regimen is enriched with 100% Elastin protein and Caviar Complex, which is a whole lot of fancy words for "Yippee, my hair is no longer a brittle mess!"

And here's the even better news: head to your local Walgreens and Duane Reade during their Beauty Must-Haves event to receive a coupon for $2 off all Nexxus New York Salon Care products. They'll be handing them out while supplies last, so don't delay (the coupon will be good between now and June 24th).

I gotta say, it's nice to treat my hair to a little love, and even better than I can get salon-quality products at my local drug store. Self-care is so important, and there's no question it includes your hair! Enjoy, friends.

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post from Lunchbox, and I received compensation. That said, all opinions are my own.


Embracing Spring with OshKosh B'Gosh

Disclosure: I participated in an Influencer Activation on behalf of Influence Central for Oshkosh B'Gosh. I received a promotional item to thank me for my participation.
So while technically it may be spring, we've only had a few moments of it thus far this season... and Easter has already come and gone! We're trying not to get too down in the dumps about it around here, especially since we just escaped to Georgia for a few days where the temperature was pleasantly in the 70s most days. And because we KNOW it will eventually warm up! It will, right?
With that said, spring shopping is a must, and we've partnered with OshKosh B'Gosh to highlight some of their selections for the season. At ages 5 & 3, the girls are really starting to have an opinion on what kind of clothes they like, which can be both humorous and frustrating. Luckily, Oshkosh B'Gosh meets all of their requirements: Lots of colorful pastel colors, especially pink. Check! Comfortable material that isn't scratchy or irritating to the skin. Check! And I should mention the brand meets my qualifications on quality and affordability, too. Comfortable play clothes that are stylish yet classic can be hard to find, but Oshkosh B'Gosh really symbolizes all of these things for us. As a result, we'll be coming back again (especially with coupons like the one at the bottom of this post)! Known traditionally for their iconic all-American denim, there's a lot more to this company than overalls.
Throwing on a little Taylor Swift, the girls had a mini photo shoot with some of their new clothes for spring. Wish I'd taken video!

While we shopped online, there are definitely advantages to actually going to the store and experiencing the brand firsthand. Looking for an Oshkosh B'Gosh store near you? Check out their handy store locator, and by all means, take advantage of the coupon posted below. Happy springtime shopping!


Big Apple Books: Star Sisters & the Best Seller

I've really enjoyed seeing the progression of Millie's reading this year, and the types of books she likes being read to at bedtime. And while it might make me a little sad that she rarely requests Goodnight Moon or The Napping House anymore, I love the fact that she still gets excited about reading books at night -- and I hope that will always continue. These days, we've progressed to short chapter books, which she just LOVES, mostly because I think it solidifies her almost 5 1/2 year old "big girl" status.
Speaking of which, we're so excited to have discovered the Star Sisters! Written by Jennifer Blecher, the series takes best friends Coco & Lucy on a variety of adventures after they discover two magical necklaces. In Star Sisters and the Best Seller, their adventure brings them to NYC, which was all the more fun. Along every stop the girls make in the book (the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Central Park, Fifth Avenue, etc), Millie would say "I've been there! or "Hey, I know that place!" I love that Blecher was able to replicate the magic of NYC from a child's perspective. 
In the adventures that follow (there are 4 books thus far in the series), the Star Sisters are along for an extraordinary ride, all with the goal of helping those they meet along the way. I highly recommend!
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