I received complimentary product from The Innovation Press to facilitate this post. All opinions and ideas remain 100% my own. Want to make learning punctuation for kids fun? Read on for a great book and activity to do just that…
At my oldest daughter’s parent-teacher conference this year, I had only one question. She is an early reader and was clammoring for “harder books to read.” When I raised this with her veteran teacher, she suggested helping her master nuances like comprehension, inflection and punctuation before pressing forward. As soon as she said it, I knew she was right. And I knew the perfect book to share with my daughter back at home: Semicolons, Cupcakes, and Cucumbers by Steve Newberry. Just reading it makes learning punctuation for kids fun… and pairing it with this easy to make sensory bin, really brings the message home through hands on play.
How to Make Learning Fun… Even After Preschool
When my oldest started kindergarten, I immediately noticed a stark contrast in the contents of her backpack everyday. There was a lot more paper coming home in it – and not paintings and fun hands-on activities like in preschool. Sure, there were still a few of those, but mostly, it was full of worksheets every day. And while she may now be a year older, just because she can now read and write, doesn’t mean she doesn’t still enjoy learning through play and hands-on activities.
So when her teacher suggested advancing her reading skills by improving comprehension, inflection while reading aloud and recognizing punctuation, I knew the perfect book to share with her… and it inspired this super fun, punctuation sensory bin to play along with it.
Personified Punctuation for Kids
In Semicolons, Cupcakes and Cucumbers by Steve Newberry, punctuation is personified… literally. The four main characters in the book are Period, Question Mark, Exclamation Point, and Comma. Semicolon makes a guest appearance at the end. And the entire story is told via dialogue between the characters, who only speak in sentences with their representative mark.
Period speaks in basic statements. Comma talks in lists. Question Mark asks only questions, and Exclamation Point is always really excited. What better read aloud to teach punctuation for kids?
Punctuation Pasta – Retell the Story
After reading the story outloud a few times, we decided to color different shaped pasta and hot glued them to craft sticks to represent the different characters and retell the story. We used Elbow pasta for Comma, Ditalini for Period, Ziti and Ditalini for the Exclamation Point, and Elbow and Ditalini for Semicolon. In hindsight, I wish I would have also grabbed Large Elbows to use for Question Mark.
You can also use these punctuation for kids character sticks with sentence strips like these printables from The Kindergarten Connection.
My favorite way to color pasta is in Ziploc Freezer bags. Add 10-15 pumps of hand sanitizer, 30-40 drops of food coloring for really vibrant color, and mix it together in the bag. Then add your pasta and shake, shake, shake! Once the pasta is fully covered, spread it out on parchment covered baking sheets and let it air dry for 2-4 hours.
It dries faster and smells a lot better than vinegar coloring methods too. My preschooler helped me make this batch before lunch, and it was ready to play with by the time my kindergartener came off the bus!
Punctuation for Kids Sensory Bin & Writing Activity
After retelling the story, my 6 year old was eager to write her own sentences. We added the rest of the pasta to a clear storage container, and she loved just running her hands through it all. It made for a great brain break while she brainstormed her punctuation mark-filled story.
To help reinforce what each punctuation mark means and how it influences your inflection while reading outloud, as she wrote, she glued in pasta from the bin. It made for awesome visual and textural clues when she later read it aloud.
She was determined to get every punctuation mark in there… semicolon was a challenge, but after revisiting the book for inspiration, she did it!
For more awesome book-inspired activities from The Innovation Press, check out our Magical Animal Classification Science Journal for Kids inspired by the Zoey & Sassafras series by Asia Citro. You can find all of our book-inspired activities for kids here, and on our Read! Read! Read! board on Pinterest. And be sure to catch our monthly contributions for #PictureBookoftheDay on Instagram too.