Instructions - Early Reader Pack

Early Reader Pack - Instructions

The Active Reader brings skills development and early literacy into your home using play-based, experiential learning. What makes The Active Reader unique? It’s grounded in three proven, multi-sensory learning strategies that set your child up for life- long success.

Instructions - Early Reader Pack

1. Letters

We focus on lowercase letters because the majority of words are written in lowercase. We do include the capital letters in the corner on the front of the card.

• How it works: The directional arrows are the natural and proper way to write each letter, so encourage your child to trace the letters with their fingers.

• Why it’s successful: This tactile form of learning helps children process and retain language more effectively.

2. Keywords and Pictures

These help your child connect the letter to words and objects they are familiar with.

• How it works: The letter is connected to the first sound in the keyword. For example k – kite – /k/. Encourage your child to repeat the name of the letter, the keyword and the sound the letter makes. The letter with a symbol between the slashes indicates how that letter, or combination of letters, sounds.

• Why it’s successful: The transitions among the name of the letter, the keyword and the sound of the letter helps your child make smooth and automatic associations among the three components.

3. Multi-Sensory Activities

Activities are connected to each letter card.

• How it works: From jumping to organizing to opening and closing, young learners immerse themselves in their learning environment.

• Why it’s successful: The multi-sensory activities target our learning pathways – visual, auditory, kinesthetic, tactile and taste. Your child uses multiple senses to process information during each activity. This is important because the child will be using multiple pathways to learn new things.

4. Reading Resources

We’ve associated each letter with a children’s book or nursery rhyme, which gives your child the opportunity to connect with language in a traditional way.

• How it works: After you and your child complete all the activities on the card, find a quiet spot at home and build a comfy reading nook. Use the next 30 minutes to read one of our suggested children’s books or sing along to a nursery rhyme that we’ve recommended. Talk about the pictures and words with your child, and ask and elicit questions about the resource.

• Why it’s successful: Reading and singing to your child helps develop basic literacy skills and nurtures a lifelong enjoyment of books and storytelling. The more exposure a child has to language, words and literature, the better prepared they’ll be for school. And it’s fun!

Activity Icons

Putting it all together

Say the letter name. k

Say the keyword. kite

Say the sound of the letter. /k/

Child traces the letter on the front of the card with one or two fingers.

Talk about the activity words.

Complete each activity with your child.

Read our suggested children’s book or sing the recommended nursery rhyme together.

Baked Apples with Dried Fruit

Canadian Living |

1 cup apple cider
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 tablespoon butter
baking apples (such as Golden Delicious or Idared)
1/2 cup mixed chopped dried fruit (such as apricots, figs,prunes and/or whole raisins)

  • In small saucepan, bring cider, sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg to boil; stir in butter. Set aside.
  • Core apples almost to bottom, leaving base intact. Pare off 3/4-inch (2 cm) wide strip around core at top; trim base to level, if necessary. Stuff dried fruit into each apple cavity. Place in 8-inch (2 L) square glass baking dish; pour cider mixture over top.
  • Cover and bake in 375°F (190°C) oven, basting twice, until tender, about 45 minutes. Uncover and bake until sauce is syrupy, about 20 minutes.

Makes 4 servings

Mixed Berry Crisp

Canadian Living |

1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 170 g pkg each blackberries, raspberries, blueberries
 1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 cup large-flake rolled oats
 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup cold unsalted butter

  • Preheat oven to 350°F. Mist 6-cup casserole dish with cooking spray.
  • Filling: In large bowl, stir together sugar and cornstarch. Add blackberries, raspberries, blueberries and vanilla; toss to combine. Transfer mixture to prepared casserole dish.
  • Topping: In bowl, stir together oats, flour, brown sugar, cinnamon and salt. Grate butter into bowl. Using fingers, rub in butter until mixture resembles fine crumbs. Sprinkle topping evenly over berry mixture.
  • Place dish on baking sheet and bake until topping is golden and edges are bubbling, 50-55 minutes. Cool in pan on rack.
  • Serve with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Makes 6 servings

Quick Chocolate Chip Cookies

Canadian Living |

2-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
 1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter
3/4 cup 
granulated sugar 
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract 
large eggs
2 cups (12 oz package) chocolate pieces 
1 cup chopped walnuts

  • Preheat oven to 375F.
  • In a small bowl, combine flour, baking soda and salt.
  • In a large mixer bowl, beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extract until creamy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in chocolate pieces and nuts.
  • Drop by rounded tablespoons onto ungreased cookie pans.
  • Bake for 9-11 minutes or until golden brown.
  • Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.

Makes about 48 cookies

Date Squares

Canadian Living |

1-1/2 cups large-flake rolled oats
 1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup packed brown sugar 
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2/3 cup unsalted butter softened 
2 tablespoons cold water
1/2 cup chopped almonds

3 cups chopped dried pitted dates 
1 cup boiling water
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 pinch salt

  • Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a 13 x 9-inch (3.5 L) cake pan with parchment paper.
  • Crust and Topping: In food processor, pulse together oats, flour, brown sugar, salt and baking soda until oats are chopped, 5 to 10 pulses. Pulse in butter until crumbly; pulse in cold water until mixture comes together. Remove one-third of the oat mixture for topping; toss with chopped-almonds.
  • Date Filling: In bowl, combine dates with boiling water; cover and let stand for 20 minutes. Stir in cinnamon, nutmeg and salt; mash with fork until smooth.
  • Assembly: Press reserved oat mixture into prepared cake pan to make crust; spread filling over crust. Sprinkle topping over filling, pressing lightly.
  • Bake in 350°F (180°C) oven until light golden, 35-40 minutes. Let cool in pan on rack before cutting into squares.

Makes 30 servings

Elastic Band Instruments


  • Box. Either a tissue box with a pre-cut hole or a shoe box or other sized box in which you can cut a hole.
  • Box cutter
  •  4-6 rubber bands of different thicknesses
  •  Paint, paper, stickers, etc. to decorate
  • Tape


1. If you are using a tissue box, remove the plastic film from thehole and skip to step 2. If you are using a box without a pre-cut hole, use a cup or lid to trace a circle in the centre of the box. Using the box cutters, cut the circle out. This will be your sound hole.

2. Paint or decorate the box.

3. When the box is dry, wrap the elastic bands around the boxso the elastics pass over the sound hole.

4. To prevent the elastics from moving while your child plays with them, tape them down at either end of the box.

5. Play your guitar!

Pinecone Bird Feeder


  • Large, open pinecone
  • String
  • Birdseed
  • Peanut butter
  • Plastic knife
  • Resealable plastic bag


1. Collect large, open pine cones in your neighbourhood.These can also be purchased at a craft store or on Amazon.

2. Using the plastic knife, ask your child to spread the peanut butter onto the pinecone. Allow the peanut butter to get into all the holes and crevasses.

3. Fill a resealable bag with birdseed and drop the peanut butter-covered pinecone inside.

4. Seal the bag and ask your child to shake it, moving the birdseed around the pinecone. Encourage them to continue to shake the bag until the entire pinecone is covered in seed.

5. Cut a piece of string about 10 inches long. Remove the pinecone from the bag and tie the string around the top of the pinecone for hanging purposes.

6. Your feeder is complete! Hang it outside where your child can watch the birds coming and going.

Figs in a Blanket

Canadian Living |

3 cups chopped dried light-coloured Calimyrna figs 
2 teaspoons grated orange zest
1 cup orange juice
1/4 cup water
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
pinch salt

2/3 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt

  • Preheat oven to 350°F. Line two rimless baking sheets with parchment paper.
  • Fig Filling: In saucepan, bring figs, orange zest, orange juice, 1/4 cup water, cinnamon and salt to boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to low; cook, stirring occasionally, until figs are softened and mixture is thickened, about 10 minutes. Transfer to food processor; pulse until smooth. Scrape into bowl; cover and refrigerate until chilled, about 1 hour.
  • Blanket: In large bowl, beat butter with brown sugar until fluffy; beat in egg and vanilla. In separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt; stir into butter mixture to form smooth dough. Divide into quarters; form into rectangles. Wrap in plastic wrap; refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  • Assembly: Prepare two sheets of waxed paper, 15 inches long. Roll out one dough rectangle between waxed paper into 12 x 5-inch (30 x 12 cm) rectangle. Spread 1/4 of the fig filling over top, leaving 1-1/2-inch (4 cm) border uncovered along top and bottom long edges.
  • Lifting by the long edge of the waxed paper, gently fold bottom long edge toward centre of filling. Fold long top edge toward centre to overlap bottom edge, pressing gently to seal. Refrigerate until just firm, about 15 minutes. Repeat with remaining dough and fig filling.
  • Trim any ragged ends from dough; cut each log crosswise into 1-1/2-inch (4 cm) pieces. Approximately 6-8 pieces per log. Arrange, 1 inch (2.5 cm) apart, on prepared baking sheets.
  • Bake, one sheet at a time, in 350°F (180°C) oven until light golden and slightly puffed, about 15 minutes. Store in airtight container for up to 5 days.

Makes 24 - 32 servings

Handprint Mould


  • Salt Dough: 1 cup flour; 1/2 cup salt; 1/2 cup water
  • Parchment or waxed paper
  • Rolling pin
  • Straw
  • Ribbon or twine
  • Circular object, large enough for the toddler’s hand such as a lid
  • Paint brush and paint (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 300°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

2. Salt Dough: Mix ingredients together and knead. When soft, roll out to 1⁄4-inch thickness.

3. Mould the dough into a circle using your circular object. Remove all excess dough.

4. Assist your child in placing their hand on the dough and pressing down firmly.

5. Use a straw to create a hole in the top of the mould for the ribbon or twine.

6. Place the mould on the prepared baking sheet and bake at 300F for 60 minutes. Let cool for several hours.

7. When the mould has cooled, invite your child to decorate it using paint, glitter or other materials.

8. Thread the ribbon or twine through the hole and hang.



  • Materials from nature that are flat (leaves, ferns, flowers,grasses, etc.)
  • Pencils and/or crayons
  • Paper
  • Tape


1. Gather items from nature such as leaves, bark or flowers.

2. Tape them down on a flat surface in a design that appeals to your child and place paper on top.

3. Rub the side of the crayon gently on top of the items and allow the shapes of the objects to reveal themselves.

4. Display your child’s artwork – on the fridge.

Shortbread Jam Bars

Canadian Living |

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
 1/4 cup granulated sugar
pinch salt
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup all-purpose flour
8 teaspoons strawberry or raspberry jam

  • Preheat oven to 325°F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper.
  • In bowl, beat together butter, sugar and salt; stir in vanilla. Stir in flour until just combined.
  • Divide dough in half. On lightly floured surface, roll and form each half into 8-inch log. Arrange, 2 inches apart, on prepared baking sheet.
  • Press handle of wooden spoon lengthwise along centre of each log to create 1/4-inch deep groove; refrigerate for 10 minutes.
  • Fill grooves with jam; sprinkle edges with sugar.
  • Bake until golden brown, about 25 minutes. While still warm, slice into 1/2-inch thick bars.

TEST KITCHEN TIP: In place of strawberry or raspberry jam, substitute with your family favourite. We’re quite fond of apricot for these buttery bites.

Makes about 30 bars



  • Toilet paper or paper towel roll
  • Elastic band
  • Clear glue
  • Tissue paper
  • Sequins
  • Parchment paper
  • Crayons or markers


1. Decorate the outside of the roll.

2. Rip a piece of parchment paper large enough to cover the top of the roll and spill over the sides

3. In the centre of your parchment paper, trace a circle that will fit on the end of the roll; this will be your lens.

4. Ask your child to decorate the circle drawn on the parchment paper by gluing on tissue paper and sequins.

5. When the glue is dry, fold the parchment paper over the roll so the decorations fit inside the hole of the roll. Secure the parchment paper with an elastic band.

6. To use the kaleidoscope, encourage your child to point it toward the sun and look through the bottom end, admiring all of the beautiful colours they can see.



  • Brown paper bag
  • Markers or crayons
  • Stickers
  • Scissors
  • Streamers
  • Masking tape
  • Twine

1. Ask your child to decorate the outside of the paper bag using markers or crayons, and stickers.

2. Cut the streamers into equal lengths and place masking tape along one end of each piece.

3. Open the bag and allow your child to tape the streamers inside and along the opening of the bag.

4. Cut a long piece of twine that can act as the string to hold the kite.

5. Poke a hole in the bottom of the bag with scissors and thread the twine through the hole. Tape the end to the inside of the bag.

6. Go outside and encourage your child to hold the end of the string and run, letting their paper bag kite fly behind them.

Saucy Lemon Pudding Cake

Canadian Living |

1 cup granulated sugar
 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
 1/4 teaspoon salt
eggs, separated
2 teaspoons lemon zest
1/3 cup lemon juice
1/3 cup unsalted butter, melted
 1-1/4 cups milk
2 teaspoons icing sugar

  • Preheat oven to 350°F. Mist 8-inch square baking dish with cooking spray; place in roasting pan.
  • In bowl, whisk together sugar, flour and salt.
  • In large bowl, whisk together egg yolks, lemon zest, lemon juice and butter; whisk in sugar mixture, alternating with milk, making two additions of sugar mixture and one of milk.
  • Using electric mixer, beat egg whites in clean bowl until soft peaks form. Whisk one-third into lemon mixture. Fold in remaining whites until no streaks remain. Scrape into prepared baking dish. Pour enough hot water into the roasting pan to come halfway up sides of baking dish. Bake until top is golden and puffed on top, 35-40 minutes.
  • Remove baking dish from water bath; let cool on rack for 15 minutes. Dust with icing sugar and serve with berries.

TEST KITCHEN TIP: For individual pudding cakes, mist 6 to 8 ramekins with cooking spray. Follow recipe, filling ramekins 1-1/2 inches deep; reduce bake time to about 30 minutes.

Makes 6 servings

Mess-Free Painting


  • Paint in a variety of colours
  • Paper
  • Resealable plastic bag to fit the size of the paper (or plastic wrap and tape)

1. Place small dollops of paint all over the piece of paper. The amount of paint you use will impact how much it spreads (sometimes less is more for a beautiful, abstract outcome).

2. Carefully place the piece of paper inside the resealable plastic bag and seal. (Or place the paper between 2 sheets of plastic wrap and tape the edges onto a flat surface so no paint escapes.)

3. Set up your child in front of the paper and invite them to use their hands to spread the paint around the paper. They will enjoy the feeling of the paint under the plastic.

4. When your child is done, gently remove the plastic layer and set the paper aside to dry.

Blueberry Yogurt Muffins

Canadian Living |

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cups granulated sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 cup plain yogurt
1 tablespoon grated orange rind
 1/4 cup orange juice
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1-1/2 cup fresh blueberries

  • In large bowl, stir flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and nutmeg.
  • In separate bowl, whisk together eggs, yogurt, orange rind and juice and oil; pour over dry ingredients. Sprinkle with blueberries; stir just until dry ingredients are moistened.
  • Spoon into greased or paper-lined muffin cups, filling to top.
  • Bake in centre of 375°F (190°C) oven until golden and tops are firm to the touch, about 25 minutes.
  • Let cool in pan on rack for 2 minutes. Transfer to rack and let cool completely.

TEST KITCHEN TIP: Using frozen berries? To stop them from turning the muffins blue, don’t thaw them. Toss the cup going into the batter with a teaspoon of all-purpose flour just before adding.

Makes 12 muffins

Nature Press


  • Materials from nature that are flat (leaves, ferns, flowers, grasses, etc.)
  • Parchment paper
  • Two flat, heavy items such as books
  •  Blank paper
  • Toothpicks
  • Wood glue

1. Go for a walk and collect flat items from nature such as leaves, ferns, flowers and grasses.

2. At home, find two flat, heavy objects such as two books.

3. Place the items you collected between two pieces of parchment paper and place them between the two books. Leave the items there to dry for at least a day.

4. When the items are flat and dry, remove them from the parchment paper.

5. Invite your child to arrange the items on the blank paper.

6. Dip one end of the toothpick in the glue and apply a small amount to the back of the items. Apply as little glue as possible and distribute it evenly.

7. Turn the items over and stick them to the paper. Apply light pressure to each item and hold for a few seconds.

8. Set the artwork aside to dry.



  • Square pieces of paper


1. Show your child how to fold the paper and allow them to fold and unfold freely.

2. Try folding a simple triangle and encourage your child to follow along.

3. Begin by laying the square paper flat on the table. Turn the paper so that when you look down at it, it is in a diamond shape.

4. Bring the bottom point up to meet the top point and fold flat.

5. Ask your child to name the shape.

6. Experiment with other shapes you can make with the paper.



  • 1 cup white flour
  • 1/4 cup salt
  • 2 tablespoons cream of tartar
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 teaspoons food colouring
  • 1 tablespoon oil


1. Combine all ingredients in a pot and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly for 3-5 minutes.

2. When the dough forms a ball in the centre of the pot, place on a well-floured surface and knead until smooth.

3. Roll the dough into a ball and store it in an airtight container.

Pouring Station


  • Rubber bin (low enough so your child can sit on the ground and reach in)
  • Variety of small plastic containers such as cups, lunch containers, juice jugs and measuring cups
  • Water
  • Food colouring (optional)


1. This activity can be done inside with lots of towels and garbage bags, but it’s way less messy to do this outside!

2. Put the bin on the ground and place the containers inside.

3. Fill half of the containers with water. Add food colouring to some containers if using.

4. Encourage your child to pour the water from one container into another. Give them open time to play as they wish.