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A LETTER A DAY CAN KEEP KIDS' SKILLS SHARP

School may be out for 4s and 5s, but learning's "in" now, and all summer long. Use everyday experiences to stimulate your children to expand the skills they've developed the past nine months.

Sometimes, kids need to hear and see a concept dozens of times before it really sticks. Pat Roche, a teacher from Atchison, Kan., suggests parents declare an alphabet letter of the day and do interesting activities with that letter. Here are some hands-on variations to try.Salt write: Pour a thin layer of salt onto a tray. Help your child form the letter/word of the day with her finger. "Erase" and repeat several times.

Letter shopping: Have your child look for the letter of the day on food boxes and labels in your cabinets.

Sound hunt: Walk through the house or neighborhood with your child and name objects that begin with the sound of the letter of the day.

Letter/sound collage: Help your child find and cut out pictures of words that begin with the sound of the letter of the day in the newspaper, magazines and junk-mail ads. Glue the cutouts on a piece of paper.

Rainbow write: Print the letter of the day on a piece of paper, using large letters. Let your child trace over the writing with crayons or watercolors, saying the letter each time.

Food write: Use Cheerios or Froot Loops-type cereal to arrange in the shape of the letter of the day. "Air trace" with index finger above the letter while saying it several times. Then eat!

Color words: When your child starts forming words, print a word for a color on a piece of paper. Your child may draw or cut and glue pictures of objects that are that color. Print the object's name under some of the pictures. Read them together.