Have You Finished Your Candy?

Thursday, July 29, 2010

A Reverse Psychology Picture Book

How many of us can empathize with frustrated Mama Pea who can’t get her Little Pea to finish his dinner before he has dessert? I became a fan of Amy K. Rosenthal recently, and was happy to find her humorous take on mealtime battles at our library.

Dinner Distractions

There are any number of reasons B claims to be finished with dinner before he’s had much of a meal: others getting up from the table, a visitor’s arrival, a toy or activity calling his name, hopes for a few more baskets to score before the sun goes down, or the prospect of a tempting dessert on the horizon. We’ve never tried to enforce a “clean-plate” policy because we want B to respond to his own cues for hunger and fullness, and in general he is a healthy and adventurous eater. If he wants to give up on his meal before it seems like he’s eaten a healthy amount, I’ll usually keep it aside and see if he’s hungry again in a short time. When there is a treat ahead, I may give him a minimum to finish to be “strong and healthy” before he gets the goodies. That’s when I find myself sounding like Mama Pea.

Making the Frustrating Funny
Little Pea
Little Pea is the story of a young pea who enjoys many activities with his parents but does not enjoy dinner: candy. Mama Pea issues an edict – he must eat five pieces. Each bite is accompanied by a exclamation such as, “Blech!” The first time we read it, B was a little incredulous that anyone, even a pea, could dislike eating candy for dinner. What scrumptious treat does Little Pea receive after finishing his five bites? Tasty spinach! Yum! Did B close the book and ask for a bowl of spinach? No, but I appreciated the cognitive dissonance it created for him. It gave us a chance to talk about both what’s healthy for our bodies and why it’s important to listen to mom and dad’s directions. Amy K. has two other satirical stories: Little Hoot (an owl who won’t stay up late) and Little Oink (a pig who won’t get dirty). We’ve already put in our requests for those at the library.

Appropriate for: Toddlers, preschoolers, primary grades.

Linking up with: Feed Me Books Friday at Gretchen Reads 24/7


Good Clean (Teeth) Fun

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Taking a Bite out of Anxiety

It’s no surprise that dental visits don’t top the list of fun summer activities for most kids, and B is often anxious and wary of unfamiliar experiences, so I started my preparation for the dentist’s office weeks in advance. I requested a few books from the library featuring friendly dentists, and I tried to add tooth exams to the routine when the doctor play-set was out. Both helped B feel more prepared and even brought some laughs to the experience.

Who’s the Patient Here?

We don’t have battles over oral hygiene with B; in fact, he’s quite particular about his routine. We brush in the morning when we get dressed and again after bath time. The before bed routine also includes floss and fluoride rinse, both of which he happily complies with. However, coming at him with shiny, noisy, and possibly sharp tools is quite another story. On his first visit to the dentist he was very cooperative about letting her “count” his teeth with a gloved hand. But when the tools came out at a later visit, all he was willing to share was a tight-lipped frown and a vigorously shaking head. This time I was determined it would be different. When I came across a doctor’s mask dress up accessory at Michael’s craft store in the dollar bin, I snatched it up. My theory: donning the mask and doing some exams of his own might make it less intimidating when B was in the chair.

Brushing Up on Dental Terminology

Of the dentist-themed books I checked out from the library, A Trip to the Dentist, by Margot Linn, was the stand-out favorite for both B and me. We also checked out Harry and the Dinosaurs Say “Rahh!” and Vera Goes to the Dentist. My complaint with the other two is that while all works out ok in the end, both introduce the concept of being fearful of the dentist and then show why the fear was unnecessary. Harry conquers his fear by imagining that his dinosaurs come to life and scare the dentist, Vera initially runs away from the dentist, who has to chase her down and convince her to return. I’d rather avoid the fear to begin with. A Trip to the Dentist introduces readers to the dentist’s chair, staff, and tools with a silly guessing game and flaps to reveal the answers. You can imagine the giggles that arise when you ask what the dentist will use to polish Annie’s teeth and the choices include a sponge, a bucket and mop, and a dust cloth along with the tooth polisher. The illustrations are simple pencil and pastel drawings, and make the tools and experience friendly and welcoming. Linn also wrote A Trip to the Doctor, and we may be picking that one up too!
Appropriate for: toddlers, preschoolers

Linking up with:

Come Play at the We Play link up
Tackle it Tuesday
What My Child is Reading this Week


Feed Me Books Friday is HERE!

Thursday, July 22, 2010


I’m thrilled to host Feed Me Books Friday this week as Janna of The Adventure of Motherhood focuses her energy in some other directions temporarily. Have you been reading about how busy she’s been? Next week, head over to link up with Gretchen as she takes a turn at hosting.

Being Helpful is Rewarding

As parents, we try to encourage helpful behavior by imparting a feeling of pride rather than using bribery. While a little treat (edible or otherwise) is always a fun reward, we don’t want it to be the only reward, so we focus on how nice it feels to help someone and also on enjoying the fruits of our labor. Fortunately, so far B really enjoys being helpful most of the time. In fact, there are times when I might get a job done more quickly without him (like cleaning the bathroom) but I don’t want to quash his eagerness to be a part of the project. Daddy is great about including B in projects around the house, and he’s learning to be proud of his fixes and improvements.

Mowing with Daddy
Measuring to help Daddy install floors

He really likes to be a part of food preparation lately; I find if he helps make dinner, he enjoys “presenting” it to the rest of the family and tries new things more easily. One way I’ve included him and gotten a little number practice at the same time is by letting him press the numbers on the microwave – I get a little creative so that he has to find more numbers: if I want to cook 3 minutes I’ll ask him to press 2-5-7 or something else close.

Helping with lunch
Helping with dishes

He’s also taken a liking to washing dishes – usually I let him be the rinser while I wash, but any water play is fun. Usually he decides to “help” so that I’ll be “done faster” and can play with him. While the time involved isn’t necessarily shorter, it helps keep him busy and makes him feel important.

Encouraging Cooperation
Manana, Iguana
You’re probably familiar with the story of The Little Red Hen, who wants to bake some bread but can’t find any friends who want to help with all the preparation involved. When her bread is ready, she enjoys it by herself because she doesn’t want to share the fruits of her hard work with her lazy friends. While it’s a pretty good cautionary tale, I am much fonder of a recent find, Mañana Iguana, by Ann Whitford Paul and Ethan Long. In this up to date version, Iguana and her friends Conejo (Rabbit), Tortuga (Tortoise), and Culebra (Snake), want to throw a party. Similarly, the friends are not very helpful with preparation like writing invitations, making food, and decorating. Their excuses bring some humor to the story: Conejo insists he would do things too fast, “no one would be able to read my writing,” Tortuga worries he would do things to slowly, “the food would not be ready,” and Culebra answers every request with the title phrase, “Mañana, Iguana, when I grow arms.” My preference for this version of the story comes from the twist at the end. After Iguana enjoys the guests and the party without her lazy friends, she is too tired to clean up and she falls asleep. Conejo, Tortuga, and Culebra realize the error of their ways when they see their exhausted friend, so they clean up while she sleeps. She wakes in the morning find a clean home and repentant friends. Happy that they learned to be more helpful, she shares the leftover food with them.

Lessons to Learn

Mañana Iguana has several lessons to teach if you choose to extend upon the reading. We discussed how big projects (like a party) take time to get ready and you can’t put it off till “Mañana.” I emphasized the way Iguana felt when her friends weren’t willing to help her. Toddlers and preschoolers are usually pretty self-centered and need a little guidance to develop the social skills of empathy and cooperation. I appreciated that Iguana’s friends took action on their regret for not helping. We’re trying to teach B that saying “sorry” is good, but doing something about your mistake or misbehavior is even better. The story is also peppered with Spanish vocabulary, including the days of the week, if you enjoy some linguistic exposure (a glossary is included as well, but not needed with the illustrations and context).

Appropriate for Toddlers, Preschoolers, Primary Grades

Do You Have a Favorite “Lesson” Book? I hope you’ll share what you've been reading lately!


More Bang for Your Book-Buck

Monday, July 19, 2010

Fitting Imagination, Reading, and Play in Your Carry-On

With so many folks traveling in the summer (myself included) I like to share tricks I’ve learned for keeping my preschooler busy whether it’s in the back-seat, on an airplane, or in the living room waiting for guests to arrive. Top That! Publishing has a huge selection of magnetic play and learning books that I love! We own On the Farm, Wild Animals, and Let’s Build, Each includes a story on board book quality magnetic pages as well as a fold out scene for imaginative play and an attached case to hold the 20 play scene magnets.
Wild Animals Magnetic Story & Play SceneOn the Farm Magnetic Story & Play Scene 
Let's Build Magnetic Story & Play Scene
Fantastic Features of These Books:

  • Wordless 3-panel play scene encourages imaginative, open-ended play that does not require direct adult participation for non-readers.
  • Magnetic pages allow play on the move (though they’re not super strong – if you drop them on the floor of the car, the magnets will fall off).
  • Text of stories introduces contextual vocabulary, and then matching magnets help children identify and interact with new words.
  • Manipulation of magnets and placement in scenes encourages physical dexterity and fine-motor-skill development.
  • All pieces can be neatly stowed in attached case, helping to prevent loss and frustration.
I’m starting to feel like this review is bordering on sounding like an advertisement, which it’s not. I have no connection with Top That! I did go check out their website to look at some other products, but my links are my normal Amazon affiliate links. I’m hoping the reps at Top That! enjoy my review and might send me something else to share with you, but that may be wishful thinking...

Your Child Makes the Story Complete

In each book, the text of the story identifies where items or characters are located and the actions that are taking place. Your child uses the magnets to complete the illustrations so that the pictures correctly illustrate the text. That’s not to say you couldn’t add whatever magnets looked nice, but B is in a stage that he has realized text has meaning, and he’s emphatic that I read it carefully with him and make sure we choose the correct pieces. When I’m not able to participate closely (i.e., I’m driving) he can open up the play scene and make up his own story. Sometimes he narrates has he goes, and sometimes he creates the scene then describes it for me afterward.


Myriad Possibilities

I usually try to limit our packing to one play set when we travel, but at home they sometimes come out all at once. The wild animals have visited the farm and a cow has shown up on the building site – that’s part of the creativity! The Funny Faces series looks adorable and I’m intrigued by the Play and Learn Series, which includes text and magnets that introduce concepts such as shapes, numbers, colors, and first words. I may have to order a new one before our next trip, because as we know, something new is twice as entertaining!

Appropriate for: toddlers (if they’re supervised and past the stuff-in-mouth stage), preschoolers, primary grades.

Don't forget: Feed Me Books Friday will be hosted HERE at Little Sprout Books this week! I hope you'll come back and link up!

Linking Up With:


No Sweeter Way to Learn

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Curious Fingers

Just in the last couple weeks, T has arrived at that stage where other people’s faces become fascinating. Anyone holding him is likely to be groped as he explores eyes, noses, mouths, and his current favorite: ears. I’ve been trying to appeal to his curiosity by naming the features for him, touching his fingers to my eyes then his, while saying, “eyes” or “Mommy’s eyes, T’s eyes.” It’s one of the simplest, yet easily overlooked ways of building vocabulary when we name and narrate. Even from infancy, babies are building their receptive vocabularies and just storing their knowledge away until they develop the ability to express themselves.
Patient B gets "explored" by T

Head to Toe

Beyond the facial features, I’ve also been using dressing and diaper time to name other parts like feet, toes, tummy, hands, etc. When B is helping, I make some intentional mistakes (like calling his fingers toes or his belly-button his nose) and then I enjoy B’s laughter as he corrects me. It’s a self-esteem boost to have your jokes laughed at, even by a 4-year-old. There’s something about bare baby skin that just begs to be kissed, so when we’re naming parts in the bathtub or on the changing mat, I often have to sneak a few kisses in too. That reminded me to pull out one of our favorite board books from B’s baby-hood, Counting Kisses.

Counting Kisses
Counting Kisses: A Kiss & Read Book
I’m a fan of Karen Katz in general, but I have to say Counting Kisses is probably my favorite from her collection. The enjoyment of kissing baby parts goes without saying, but I also love that the kisses in the book are bestowed by many different members of the family so everyone can share the love. I like the exposure to numbers in this book more than other counting books because giving the prescribed number of kisses (“7 loud kisses on a pretty belly button”) associates a concrete action with the number. I’ve expressed my affinity for bedtime books before, and while kisses are good any time of day, the story takes a sleepy baby from cranky and fussy to cozy and loved in bed. The bright illustrations are warm and capture many special family moments, including Grandma holding baby in the air and Mommy and Daddy each kissing baby’s sleepy eyes. Even the family pet gets in on the love!

Appropriate for babies, toddlers, preschoolers.

Linking Up With:
Read-Aloud Thursday

Feed Me Books Friday hosted this week at Smith Stories
Meme’s the Word (on Saturday)

Don't Forget: Feed Me Books Friday will be hosted HERE next week (July 23)! Please come back and link up!


For the Younger Sprouts

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Baby Books Need a Fair Share
I noticed I’ve posted almost exclusively about the books we read with B, and felt a little like I was leaving T out. Fear not, T gets lots of reading too, but I think I write more about B’s books for a few reasons. First, B’s books are more often new to me as well. Most of T’s books are hand-me-downs from B, and even the ones we check out from the library are often repeats of those B checked out. While I still love them, they aren’t quite as “novel.” Second, B is better able to express which books he enjoys most, which inspires me to write about them. Third, we often end up including T in the books we read with B, and the activities that follow (as you can see from many of my pics.) But I decided that I’d focus on T’s age group this week and share a couple favorites.

Who Doesn’t Love Peek-a-Boo?

Peek-a-boo is one of those games that crosses generations, classes, and continents. Every baby is tickled by it, and conveniently, it serves as a handy tool in developing the cognitive concept of object permanence for infants. We play peek-a-boo under the covers on the bed, behind the high chair, under the t-shirt getting dressed in the morning and undressed at night, and anyplace else we need a quick diversion for T. And B is an enormous fan of hide-and-seek, which is really just the big-kid version of peek-a-boo, right?

Get Your Hands on This Book
Begin Smart Hello, Baby!
My favorite thing about Hello, Baby! (part of the Begin Smart series) is that it is so friendly to little hands. Many peek-a-boo books have flaps that are just too flimsy to stand up to curious babies, and I feel strongly that part of learning to love books is being able to explore them without restrictions. It’s a board book, but beyond that, every other page has a sturdy foam core (can you see it in my photo?) that allows for a hole that “peeks” to another page without sacrificing the strength and integrity of the peeking page. The text is super simple: variations of Hello, Baby! Where’s Baby? Here’s Baby! and Peek-a-Boo! The illustrations are simple drawings of baby faces, hidden and then revealed by a blankie, a hat, a bib, etc. The publisher recommends this book from birth to six months, and T certainly enjoyed it at that age, but he is continuing to enjoy it beyond that because the game is still fun and he love being able to manipulate the pages and put his fingers through the holes! The other fun thing is that the simple text allows B to “read” to T. Even if he doesn’t get the words just right, he makes the pictures make sense. We received gifts of two books from this series, which groups their books into 6 month intervals from birth up to 2 years. I checked out their website after discovering 64 listings on Amazon. I don’t have the cash to spring for the whole series, but we’ll be looking some up at the library and adding our favorites to our wish-lists. The website has some good tips on early literacy if you’re an info-lover like me. For now, T’s favorite thing to do is turn pages, over and over again, and this book is perfect for that. How did your kids first “interact” with books?

Appropriate for: babies

Linked Up With:

What My Child is Reading this Week
Come play at the Childhood 101 We Play link up


Sleep Stories

Friday, July 9, 2010

There Were Four in the Bed…
At the risk of being controversial, I am going to admit: I’m a co-sleeping mom. Neither of my boys were the kind of infants that you just swaddle up and lay in the bassinet to drift off to sleep. In fact, I would be inclined to consider that type of baby a complete myth if my mom didn’t tell me my brother was that way. I tried to climb out of bed for each feeding, but found myself asleep in the rocking chair. Daddy tried rocking, walking, and soothing so maybe they’d learn to fall asleep without me, but mostly they screamed. I tried lovies, music, fans, and routines. Then I gave in and did what felt right in the first place, I tossed the blankets and pillows, snuggled my baby up to my breast, and slept. There was a time when I wondered if B would ever sleep on his own, but at just over a year, he transitioned with minimal effort. That fact convinced me that I wasn’t making an enormous mistake by allowing T (and myself) the same comfortable sleep scenario. We aren’t a co-sleeping family, at least not regularly. We’ve made exceptions for vacations and the occasional bad dream, but B normally sleeps best in his own room. Sometimes Daddy nods off when he’s putting B to bed, and spends an hour or so there. Sometimes he’s with me and T. Sometimes he’s in the extra bed on his own. It works for us. I’ve expressed concern that my husband might feel “kicked-out” of our bed, but he assures me that he’s happy seeing the boys sleep comfortably and admits he’d be enjoying the same arrangement if the roles were reversed.

Daddy, T, and B getting ready for bedtime stories in B's room.

B tries out T's crib (not to sleep though).

Comfortable is a State of Mind
Biggest Bed in the WorldWhen we came across The Biggest Bed in the World at our library, I had to bring it home for a bedtime story. In it, Lindsay Camp tells the story of a Mommy and Daddy whose bed just keeps getting fuller and fuller as their family grows! At first, Dad feels cozy with his family cuddled together in bed, but as more and more children come along (7 altogether) it gets too crowded. Dad tries several humorous solutions before building the biggest bed in the world. In it, they can all tuck in comfortably; but unfortunately the biggest bed in the world is too big for their house. With the whole family inside, it falls through the floor, slides down a hill and floats them out to sea! When they return home, they go back to a regular size bed and Dad insists that all children sleep in their own beds. But once he is on his own, Dad finds he can’t get comfortable enough to sleep, and realizes that sacrificing a little space is worth the comfort of sharing a cozy sleep with his family.

If you’re trying desperately to convince your little one that their bedroom is the best place to sleep, you might want to hold off reading this book until you’ve finished that battle. However, when we read it with B, we talked about sleeping where you are comfortable, and that worked for him. He’s comfortable where he can stretch out in his bed, and where he has his nightlight and his fish tank to watch. Right now, T is comfortable sleeping with Mommy because he still wakes up to eat at night. B knows that he can come to our bed if he is sick or scared, and we will help make him comfortable; and he loves to come cuddle there in the mornings! I’m going to risk controversy again when I say I think it was a positive emotional experience for B to share our bed until he was ready to sleep on his own. I’d recommend The Biggest Bed in the world to parents who co-sleep with one child, to those who want to explain why the baby is co-sleeping but an older child isn’t, or to those who just want to enjoy the humor, exaggeration, and fun illustrations.

Appropriate for: toddlers, preschoolers, primary grades.

Linking up with:

Feed Me Books Friday (at Aspiring Mom2three this week)

Meme’s the Word (on Saturday)


Story Time at Behavior Boot Camp

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Do Rules Relax Too?

With summer in full swing, is anybody feeling we’ve relaxed a little too much? Have you let more of your routine go than you’re comfortable with? For me, it is a balancing act I’m just learning to perform. Maybe when B was younger the routine didn’t seem so necessary, or maybe when I worked outside the home (in a school), summer break was summer break and I didn’t question it. But this year, I have mixed feelings. Some days, I see no reason to hatch a plan or commit to anything besides enjoying the sunshine and following B’s lead when it comes to activities. Other days, I start to crave the predictability of a schedule and I get a little stir crazy.

Bye-bye Bad Behavior

A friend of mine recently commented that she felt her children needed a “behavior boot camp” to wipe out bad attitudes and talking back. She found success in just a couple days of reminding her kids of her expectations. I think sometimes a behavior backslide is at the root of my desire for routine. We let the routine go, then maybe we bend some of the rules, and B has trouble knowing what to expect and acting accordingly. I have no desire to be uber-scheduled or living by my day-planner (I don’t even own one). My new plan for balance is this: summer days will continue to be joyfully free, unplanned, and spontaneous, but we’re going to take lazy out of the equation. When we get up in the morning (or sometimes just before bed) B and I will discuss our plans for the day. We’ll have something to anticipate and look forward to, as well as expectations to adhere to. I think it will make the days happier for both of us.

Travel Trauma

If your summer plans include travel (we have several small trips planned), routines can be hard to come by and behavior an even bigger challenge. Laying out plans and expectations are even more helpful away from home, and that I can say from experience. When B knows what the day holds, dealing with the less fun stuff (car rides, waiting in line, etc) is mitigated by the anticipation of the fun stuff (visiting attractions, seeing friends and family). New experiences also tend to cause a bit of regression in all of us, but especially preschoolers and toddlers – it’s hard to act like a big boy when anxiety is making you want to crawl in mommy’s lap. Getting a heads-up on the people or places you’ll encounter may help the day go more smoothly for your little one. It works wonders for B.

Please Say Please! – It’s a Book, It’s a Game!
Please Say Please! Penguin's Guide to Manners
Please Say Please! Penguin’s Guide to Manners is a fun book that can help your child remember and practice her manners and social development skills. In the story, Penguin has invited several friends to his house for a dinner party. On each page, the reader is presented with a scenario, “When a chimpanzee wants more to at,” and a possible animal behavior, “she should grab what she wants. Gimme, Gimme!” Followed by the question, “Is that right?” The answer is no every time, but you can make a game out of suggesting an appropriate behavior before you turn the page for the author’s suggestion, “please pass the bananas.” This is a great way to reinforce the expectations at your house and discuss that other people or situations may require different behaviors. The author Margery Cuyler, covers 11 dinner and social gathering behaviors, including trying new foods, talking with one’s mouth full, and greetings and good-byes. B got a lot of laughs out of the “bad” animal behaviors, and did a great job of correcting them.

Appropriate for preschoolers, primary grades.

Linking up with What My Child is Reading this Week

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