You Put Ketchup on What?

Monday, June 28, 2010

Kids' Eating Habits

For the most part, B has been a pretty adventuresome and often voracious eater. We count ourselves lucky and I still knock on wood. I know many other moms plagued by the picky habits or allergic limits of their children’s eating habits: only pasta and rice, chicken nuggets for every meal, scanning every label and quizzing every restaurant for peanuts, wheat, or eggs, avoidance of all things green, dipping all food in ranch dressing or ketchup. Sound familiar to anyone? T’s appetite has not been as adventuresome as B’s so far, but he’s super independent and interested in table food, so I’m hoping as his ability to chew and his dexterity improve, he’ll follow his brother on the path to broader dietary horizons.

A Book for Picky Eaters

Mrs. Pig's Bulk BuyThough we haven’t had to work hard to convince B to try new things, we had fun talking about the picky eating pigs in Mrs. Pig’s Bulk Buy, by Mary Rayner. I recommended it immediately to a couple friends who do have picky eaters, and I’m now sharing that recommendation with you. Read it with your child as a nudge toward trying new things or as a cautionary tale to avoid getting stuck in a food rut.

Ketchup Gets a Little Tiresome

The little piggy children in Mrs. Pig’s Bulk Buy are big fans of ketchup. They like it on EVERYTHING. Mrs. Pig gets a little frustrated when her children cover everything she works so hard to cook with ketchup. (Can we blame her?) So she comes up with a plan in the vein of that tried and true parental trick: reverse psychology. On her next shopping trip, she purchases 6 enormous jars of ketchup, and from the time she returns home, that is all she serves.
 As you can imagine, the piggies are excited at first, but it is not long before they are begging for something else to eat. Satisfied she has taught her piggies a lesson, Mrs. Pig goes back to cooking tasty meals for them – and they aren’t so eager to drench them in ketchup. The author attributes the rosy skin of pigs to Mrs. Pig’s ketchup experiment: “all piglets have been like that ever since,” and warns the reader against becoming too fond of ketchup or “who knows, you just might turn really bright pink yourselves.”

How do you deal with picky eaters or food ruts in your house?

Appropriate for preschoolers, primary grades.

Linking Up With:

What My Child is Reading This Week

Tackle it Tuesday


You Can Take the Moon with You

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Packing Up

Around our house, we take a lot of imaginary vacations. Usually our destinations are places we’ve visited before as a family, but sometimes B picks out places from books or movies. He received a small, hand-me-down, rolling suitcase from our neighbor a couple years ago, and he loves to pack it up for our imaginary trips and other pretend games. Sometimes it’s full of clothes, but other times it is full of books, play power tools, or plastic food storage containers pilfered from the kitchen cabinets. It always intrigues and amuses me to hear B’s rationale behind his packing choices.

Trip Preparation

We just returned from our first summer getaway, and have a couple more planned in the coming months. We’re opting for shorter, nearer, more affordable trips this year, because it allows us to stretch our enjoyment (and our dollar) over the whole summer. Whether you’re traveling across town or around the globe, you’ll enjoy reading See You Soon Moon in preparation for your trip. Packing up and leaving home can be hard at any age, but for the toddler or preschooler entrenched in their familiar routines, it can be a major cognitive challenge. A book like See You Soon Moon can help address questions and soothe discomfort.

A Travel Story for Your Sprout
See You Soon Moon
Donna Conrad’s See You Soon Moon is told from the perspective of a little boy preparing for a trip to Grandma’s house. You and your child can read about his preparations: “I think I’ll take my blanket,” and trepidations: “I’ll miss you swings,” as well as the trip experience: “the car is jiggling me up and down.” From the car window, it appears to the little boy that the moon he bid goodbye to at home is instead following him up the hill, around the lake, and along the highway. The trip is uniquely illustrated by Don Carter with dimensional oil painting. Upon arrival at Grandma’s the little boy greets her and discovers the moon is there too – a comforting and familiar feeling in a less familiar place. B loves to go on trips, but we always bring along some familiar objects to make our stay more comfortable, and what easier way to feel connected to home than to remember that we’re all going to bed under the same moon? How do you make trips more comfortable for your little ones?

Appropriate for toddlers, preschoolers, primary grades.

I’m linking up with Feed Me Books Friday and Meme’s the Word (on Saturday).


Read Your Way to a Happy Father’s Day

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Daddy's special time with T and B

Celebrating with Books
If you’re a regular reader, you’ve probably noticed I like to buy books to mark special occasions: vacations, birthdays, holidays. Father’s Day is no exception. My mom actually started the tradition in our family. The year my oldest was born, she gave me a “mommy” themed book for mother’s day, and my husband a “daddy” themed book for father’s day. I’ve enjoyed keeping it up, partly because I look forward to the collection we’ll be able to look back on and peruse, and partly because (I admit) it’s a great excuse to shop for books!

Daddy's Special Stack
My husband does most of the bedtime reading at our house, and it’s always a special treat to pull out the books that have extra daddy love, including Daddy Kisses and Daddy Hugs from our board book days. Daddy also loves to be silly, and we enjoyed my mom’s gift of My Father, the Dog for its daddy connection as well as its humor.

Funny and Loveable
My Father the DogMy Father, the Dog, by Elizabeth Bluemle, is a light-hearted comparison of how the narrator’s father is like the family dog: he enjoys getting the newspaper, he likes to sleep on the couch, but best of all, and he cares for and protects his family, among other similarities. I love that it’s silly and fun to read, but still imparts the warm fuzzies at the end.

My husband is an amazing father, and I value the unique skills and attitudes dads bring to parenting. We’ll be making dad a project this weekend and making some new memories. How will you honor dad?

Appropriate for toddlers, preschoolers, primary grades.

I’ll be linking up with Feed Me Books Friday and Meme’s the Word on Saturday.


Who Does Your Child See in the Mirror?

Monday, June 14, 2010

You Are What You Wear…

I’ve written before about B’s love of dress-up and pretend play (Paper or Clothes, What Will You Wear?). As much as I love and encourage imaginative play, the laundry of multiple wardrobe changes gets a little tiresome. A friend compared his total of 5 outfit changes during his birthday party to hosting the Oscars!

 Start at the Top

The latest brilliant addition to our pretend props: a hat collection. B just received some gently used hats from my aunt (a preschool teacher) and now he can change personas in an instant – at the drop of a hat, even! (Couldn’t resist that one!) He’s enjoying being an imaginary policeman, pilot, engineer, sailor, mail carrier, and chef!

 Your Child is the Star in this Book

What will I be? (Mirror Mirror)Seeing B taking on the different occupations reminded me of a book that hasn’t been off the shelf in a while, Mirror, Mirror, What Will I Be? By Chris Inns. We picked this up at a discount store, but it’s always entertaining. There is a circle cut out of the center of each page, through which you can see a mirror on the back page. As your child looks in the mirror, her face becomes part of each character, including a cowboy, a rock star, a diver, a superhero, and an astronaut. Each is gender neutral, and facing pages have a cute rhyme about the character’s actions. This is a board book, and B enjoyed it as a baby simply because of the mirror inside. In fact, we took it for entertainment on car trips several times. As he developed the cognitive ability for fantasy play and recognized the characters more, he worked harder and making his reflection fit just right in the space for the face, and he enjoys the rhymes much more now too. Mirror, Mirror What Will I Be? is a great jumping off point for conversations about occupations and inspiration for pretend play.
Appropriate for babies, toddlers, preschoolers.

What are your favorite pretend games?

I’m linking up with What My Child is Reading this Week – check out some other good reads and link yours up too!


Enjoy it at 2, at 12, at 52

Friday, June 11, 2010

Not Really a Children’s Book

So I normally write about books I read with my boys – books that help them learn and grow and books that help me teach and share, and this is not exactly the kind of book we’d keep in the book bin next to the couch. However, I have no doubt we’ll read it again and again, and I am so in love with it I had to share! Your Birthday Book, by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, is an interactive record of your child’s life, revisited each year on (or around) his or her birthday. I stumbled across it while browsing on Amazon, it arrived just before B’s birthday, and our “exclusive interview” was the talk of his birthday party! (The party that drained away my blogging time, as I mentioned in my Grown-Up-Boy post.) The description from the back of the book:

“This is not anything like a baby book. It’s a birthday book! It was born from the simple idea that birthdays provide the perfect annual opportunity to preserve a sweet moment in time as your child changes from year to year. From toddler hood to young adulthood, this journal contains space to stick birthday photos, fun and thought-provoking interview questions to ask your kid, and a time-capsule envelope for stashing away odds and ends.”

But a Really Special Child’s Book

Your Birthday Book: A Keepsake JournalYour Birthday Book is filled in a few pages at a time, once a year; we can handle that, right? The timing of my discovery of this book could not have been more perfect – the first 3 years of the book are mostly devoted to parent entries and picture spots, but then the interview pages begin! I am in love with the “exclusive interview” featured for each year.
The questions are sure to generate priceless responses. Some repeat from year to year: “Who is the last person you kissed?” and others are more age-relevant: “Where do you find spiritual fulfillment?” (at birthday 17). Additionally, there are spots to record memories from the birthday itself, a space for a photo, an envelope page for keepsakes, and bonus question pages to further engage your child in discussion.

Memories in the Making

I completed the “exclusive interview” with B the day before his birthday, then left the book open to that page on the table during the party. Our family and guests loved reading his answers to the questions, and I can only imagine how much we’ll enjoy reading those same answers, and others as years go on, at his 18th birthday party. My favorite response so far, when asked what he thought of when I said the word “love,” he said, “everybody that we know in this world.” Wow. This idea also really resonated with me as I began working on my own childhood memory blog, animo memoria, in the Mommy’s Piggy Tales project.

I Love Birthdays

I’m also peppering this post with a few pics from B’s party. He had a blast, as did the other 10 kids and 20-some adults. Birthdays are a big deal in my family, and I’m so pleased to add another special tradition to our celebration. Do you have any special birthday traditions?

Appropriate for: everyone!

Linked up With:

Feed Me Books Friday

Meme’s the Word (on Saturday)


On Becoming a “Grown-up-Boy”

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Tackling Fears

My oldest, B, had his fourth birthday recently (which is why my posts have been a little neglected – sorry friends!) He has decided that a 4-year-old is a grown-up-boy and he is not a “little boy” anymore. In fact, while interviewing him in his birthday journal (found it browsing Amazon – I’ll be posting about it once I get his b-day photos up), I asked him what he is scared by, and his response was, “I’m brave.” While I love that he feels that way about himself, it’s not exactly true… My little guy is troubled by noisy places, dogs, and dark rooms. The latter is one we’re working on a lot; I don’t argue that the dark can be scary, but I’d like him to realize he’s capable of turning on the light and making himself feel better, rather than winding himself up into a nervous tizzy. It would be ever-so-helpful if he could be a little braver about walking down a darkish hallway (in our own house) to the bathroom while I’ve got my hands full with dinner, baby, etc.

A Hazardous Imagination

One of the most entertaining cognitive developments in the preschool age range is the ability to engage in fantasy play. Unfortunately, the ability to distinguish fantasy from reality usually comes along a little later. Once, B was pretending to be visiting an aquarium. We were just sitting down to dinner and I asked him to join us. He responded that he couldn’t get to the table unless I made a hole for him to pass through from the aquarium. I pretended to cut and open a door, and as I did so, a wave of panic washed over his face. He went scurrying into the kitchen, where he cowered in tears. He seemed genuinely afraid, and told me he ran away because when I opened the door I let sharks out all over our house! With some comforting and assurances, we did make it to the dinner table, but I learned a lesson in the power of imagination. A parallel social-emotional development is the perception of the unfamiliar as potentially scary. There are certainly benefits to this development – a healthy dose of fear of the unfamiliar is protective. Dark makes most anything unfamiliar because we are less able to visualize our surroundings, so dark becomes scary.
As I said, we’ve been working on reaching for the light switch without panic. Other strategies have included keeping a flashlight by the bed, nightlights in the bedroom and bathroom, glow stars on the ceiling, leaving the light on in the fish tank, and even glow in the dark pajamas! Of course my favorite tool is a good book.

 Reading Our Way to Bravery

Switch on the NightThere are lots of books dealing with fears, particularly of the dark, and many geared especially to bedtime (when dark fears crop up most). I am especially fond of Switch On the Night, by Ray Bradbury, because it puts the power in your child’s hands to not only conquer the fear, but learn to appreciate the dark. The book begins with an introduction to a little boy who does not like night. He combats the dark with “lanterns and lamps and flashlights and candles and chandeliers,” and he never leaves his house at night. One night he is visited by a little girl called Dark who notices he is lonely because all the other children are playing outside. Dark explains that the switches the little boy is afraid of don’t turn off the lights, they switch on the night. She also introduces him to some of the more enjoyable night features he can switch on, like crickets, frogs, the stars, and the moon! The illustrations are detailed pencil drawings that beg to be studied, and they really make the night seem magical. By the end of the book, the boy has thrown away all his lights and can be found out on a summer night playing with the other children. We originally checked this one out from the library, but I liked it so much I ordered our own copy so that we can pull it out one in a while when we need a reminder that the dark is not necessarily scary.

Appropriate for (some) toddlers, preschoolers, primary grades.

Linked up with:

What My Child Is Reading

Tackle It Tuesday


Summer Fun for a Pre-reader

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Sounds of Summer

I’m not a classroom teacher anymore, but Memorial Day hits and I’m still ready for summer! We had lovely weather this past holiday weekend; we enjoyed outdoor play, swimming, barbeque, and family fun well into the evening. Our patio small-talk was accompanied by the sounds of B and a friend playing tag on the lawn and another harbinger of summer: the chirping of crickets! When B first noticed the sounds of crickets last year, he found them a little disconcerting – I think mostly because he couldn’t see where the noise was coming from. We got out a book we already owned but hadn’t yet made a real life connection to: The Very Quiet Cricket, by Eric Carle.

Intro to the Insect World
The Very Quiet Cricket
The book begins when a tiny cricket hatches from an egg. He is welcomed by a bigger cricket, who chirps by rubbing his wings together, but the little cricket is unsuccessful when he tries to return the greeting with a chirp of his own. On each page, the cricket meets another insect, including a locust, cicada, spittlebug, and others, each of whom make different sounds. The poor little cricket is frustrated again and again by his inability to communicate with the other bugs he meets, and finally decides to enjoy the quiet of the Luna moth. As day comes to a close, he meets another little cricket and tries his chirp one last time… with success! A lesson in perseverance, should you choose to read it that way. Our version is a board book with a battery operated "chirp" sound activated as you open the final page - extra fun. It also helped B connect the outside sounds with the story of the cricket. 

Let Your Pre-reader Chime- (or Chirp-) In!

The text of this book is perfect for pre-readers because rather than being decodable, it is predictable. Repetition abounds, both in form and syntax. Each page reads the same way:

  • A greeting: (Good afternoon!) verb: (screeched) insect: (a cicada),
  • Progressive action with preposition: (Clinging to a branch of a tree).
  • “Chorus”: (The little cricket wanted to answer, so he rubbed his wings together, but nothing happened, not a sound.)

The “chorus,” or repeating text, will likely be the first thing your little one picks up on, especially if you pause for fill-in-the-blank style participation. For example, you read: “The little cricket wanted to answer, so he…” and your child responds: “rubbed his wings together,” and you read, “but nothing happened…” and your child responds: “not a sound.” As the book (and the insects) become more familiar, your child may be able to recall more on her own, including the greetings and actions of each bug.

Repetition Getting Old? Here’s Why You Should Keep it Up:

Parents often tire of reading repetitive books even when preschoolers love them. (This is one you’ll be able to read with your eyes closed before long, which is sometimes handy!) However, repetitive books are ideal for the preschool set for two reasons: they appeal to their developing cognitive skills of recall, order, and sequence, and they help establish a connection between text and meaning which is an important early literacy skill. So, think of your preschoolers favorite repetitive books like the dish you can order at your favorite restaurant without looking at the menu: it may be predictable, but it’s comforting and always satisfying.
Appropriate for babies, toddlers, preschoolers.


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