Friday, April 18, 2008

Printable Connect the Dot Puzzles

A Fun Way to Help Kids Learn Numbers and Letters

Dot-to-dot puzzles are a great way for children to learn number recognition and improve their pencil use. Finding great connect the dots to print from home can be trickier than finding coloring pages, but there are some wonderful resources available online. Printable online connect the dot games are also available from many popular Nick Jr., Disney, and PBS kid shows. This guide will help you find the best printable dot-to-dots for your child's learning level.

One of the great things about dot-to-dot puzzles is that they come in a variety of levels of difficulty. Children can start with very simple puzzles that only include the numbers 1 to 5, or 1 to 10, and gradually move up to more complicated pictures with as many as 100 dots. Some add an extra level of challenge by counting by 2s or 5s. Dot-to-dots also come in upper and lower case alphabet variations to help with learning letters.

I have a four year old with an insatiable appetite for dot-to-dots. From my experience, these are:

The Best Websites for Printable Connect the Dot Games

This website has a nice variety of connect the dot games of various levels of difficulty: from 1 to 5, 1 to 10, to 30, 40 or 50. They also have some that count by 5s, or use the alphabet. It is also the only site I've discovered that have spelling dot to dots. The child connects one letter to the next in order to spell a simple word. While my child isn't ready for these yet, I know she'll enjoy then when she's ready.

The printout doesn't quite fill the whole page, but the numbers are still clear and easy to read and follow, even for young children.

This site provides a nice long list of dot-to-dots, including many seasonal and holiday themed ones. Most are more advanced games that go to higher numbers. There are a few that stop in the 20s, but there are no simpler ones for children who are still beginners with their numbers. Alphabet versions are also available.

A word of warning about this site: there is an annoying audio ad that plays when you enter the site, so keep that in mind if you click in from work or someplace public.

There is a large selection of printable ABC dot-to-dot puzzles in both upper and lower case letters available here. There are also number dot to dots from a complexity of 1 to 9 up to 1 to 45. Two games are available that count by 2s.

These pages print out the best, with games that fill a whole page and nice, big numbers.

Nick Jr., Playhouse Disney, and PBS Kids

If your child has a favorite character, or show, finding character themed connect the dot games may provide an extra level of motivation to them to learn those numbers. These sites do have dot-to-dot puzzles, but don't make it all that easy to find them. The quality of the pictures and the printing, however, is far superior to any of the other sites mentioned. Also, these sites are updated often. If a favorite character isn't mentioned here, just wait awhile; new printable pages will become available from time to time.

Nick Jr. conveniently has all their pintables in one place: Under 'Learning', and then 'Numbers and Counting' there are connect the dots for Dora, Go Diego Go, Wubbzy, and Wonder Pets.

Playhouse Disney also has a page just for their pintables: There are 15 shows listed, and by clicking each one you can see thumbnails of the available pages. Currently available are Charlie and Lola, and Mickey (It's a picture of Daisy Duck).

As for PBS Kids, right now they only have printable connect the dot games for Clifford: There is an online Dragon Tales themed dot-to-dot game that can be played by clicking on the numbers in the right order. However, your child won't get any practice using a pencil with this method if that's one of your goals.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Sonoma Traintown Railroad

The Sonoma Traintown Railroad Park is a little scale model railroad world. Located in the city of Sonoma on Broadway, between Napa Road and MacArthur Street. It is a family attraction that is sure to thrill any small train enthusiast. In addition to the train, there are old-fashioned carnival rides, a few train displays, snack bar and gift shop. The cost to ride the train is $4.25 for anyone over 15 months of age. Those under 15 months are free. The carnival rides require tickets (many require two) that run $1.25 each or 10 for $10.00.

The main attraction is a train ride aboard the small Traintown rail line. The cars are open with low bench seats. The ride lasts for twenty minutes and only one train runs at a time. Sonoma Traintown has several small train engine replicas that take turns pulling the train. The miniaturization doesn't end with the engine and cars. Scaled down tunnels, trestles, buildings and figures appear all along the train tracks.

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Monday, April 7, 2008

What Will Be Here

The California Bay Area is full of really wonderful attractions and places for both adults and kids. As a new mom, I was always on the lookout for things to do with my toddler, but sometimes it was hard to tell just from a website what ages an activity was best for. We ended up spending money for admission to attractions that were too advanced, too dull, or otherwise not what we'd hoped.

On the flip side, we learned about some really wonderful and fun activities for our kids by talking to other moms. It seems there are some great secret spots for kids hidden around the bay area. I would have loved a guide that gave me honest reviews of various attractions and what ages of kids would best enjoy them.

I'm not an authority on every single thing for kids to do in the bay, but we've visited many places, and continue to do so. I hope my lists and reviews help you and your children find something fun to do together.