Feed Me Books Friday: Bears!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

They’re Everywhere!

It’s B week in preschool, with bears for a theme. In a happy coincidence, Daddy brought back a bear souvenir from his last business trip, we got lots of pictures of bears on our weekend trip to the river, and there is no shortage of great bear books to read! Classics that come to mind include Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What do You See?, We’re Going on a Bear Hunt, Corduroy, The Berenstain Bears, and of course Goldilocks and the Three Bears. The one I chose to share with you (and highlight here at home) is one you should become familiar with, if you’re not already.

You’ll Never Know Until You Try…
A Visitor for Bear (Bear and Mouse)
Ever run into resistance from your little sprout to try a new food, activity, or even article of clothing just because it was unfamiliar? Of course not, me either. (HA! I wish!) Pick up a copy of A Visitor for Bear, by Bonnie Becker, and you’ll not only enjoy the lovely illustrations, humorous surprises, and charming friendship, but you’ll also have in hand a subtle lesson that we shouldn’t dismiss the unknown as undesirable. In this enjoyable read-aloud, Bear is so determined that he dislikes visitors that he posts a sign outside his door. The sign does not deter Mouse, however, as he persists in attempts to be invited in to tea. Despite being shooed out over and over again, with further locks and barricades each time, Mouse continues appearing (“small, and gray, and bright-eyed”) in the cabinet, in the bread drawer, all over the kitchen! Kids and grown-ups alike will delight in Bear’s futile attempts to get rid of Mouse; his humorous exclamations, like “Vamoose!” “Begone!” and “Insufferable!” will incite giggles and provide a language lesson! Out of exasperation, Bear agrees to let Mouse stay for tea if he promises to leave afterward. Then he finds that he enjoys Mouse laughing at his jokes and being attentive to his stories, prompting him to tear down his No Visitors sign, assuring Mouse it’s only for salesmen, “not for friends.”

Learning from Bear

I think there’s a reminder here to all of us that sometimes we get so wrapped up in having things go our way, or the way we planned, that we might miss out on something wonderful and unexpected. Toddlers and preschoolers thrive on routine and predictability in their lives, but a little push to their social-emotional development to adjust and adapt to change is a positive lesson. One we could all benefit from now and then. Enjoy the giggles during the reading, then keep Bear’s realization in reserve next time you’re trying to cajole your little one (or yourself) into trying something new. What habit would you like to shake up in your family?

Appropriate for toddlers, preschoolers, primary grades.

If you have a book recommendation for the week, please include a link back here and add it to the list below!

P.S. Did you notice I added the facebook "like" button on the right sidebar? If you're a facebook fan, "like" Little Sprout Books to get extra reading recommendations and tidbits about our book experiences!


Five Books Feature

Monday, September 27, 2010

A fellow blogger I am always inspired by, Vanessa of Silly Eagle Books, has crafted a way to free up some time for the baby due any day now, introduce some other blogs she enjoys, and feature great books all at the same time! (Can you see why she inspires me?)

She's featuring a different blogger and 5 noteworthy book picks each week - not necessarily a Top 5, but rather stand-outs in some way. I am humbled she has chosen to feature me in her series, so please stop over at the 5 Books Feature today and show Vanessa some comment love! And, if you connect with any of my picks, I hope you'll come back here and let me know!


Feed Me Books Friday: Friendly Fun

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Wanna Play?

For most children, the invitation is unnecessary. They begin with parallel play as toddlers, and as they grow and mature socially, they find playmates more enjoyable. Playmates may be found in a sibling, our neighborhood, children we meet at the park, the library, preschool or other classes, or sports activities. Frequent playmates become friends, and the social-emotional development continues as bonds form. But for many children making their first friends, the habits of parallel play or play with a parent leave them with some bossy behaviors or strong opinions about the right and wrong ways to enjoy an activity. How do we teach our children to be good friends?

Good Models, High Expectations, and Meaningful Chats

There’s no doubt B learns the most simply by watching what goes on around him. He’s a very observant kid. Most children are aware of adult interactions and these become their first model for their own interactions. In that sense, the best things I can do to teach B about friendship are model kindness and compassion, and surround myself with others whose actions I respect and admire. I think we can take learning about friendship beyond what is simply absorbed by sharing our expectations and chatting about experiences. And, of course, I always think a good story or picture book is a lovely way to engage a child and begin the conversation. With B starting preschool this month, I wanted to prepare him for meeting new friends, and the school theme for the week is friendship, which gave me two good reasons to pull together some of our favorite books about friends.

Kindness, Commonalities, and Acceptance

Children who have been accustomed to ruling the roost (especially oldests like my B, or onlies) can sometimes have trouble adjusting to playing cooperatively with peers. His ideas of how certain games should be played or the “correct” way to pretend can be pretty rigid. Two books that encourage getting along with others are The Crayon Box that Talked and Little Quack’s New Friend– both occupy real estate on B’s bookshelf. The Crayon Box that Talked, by Shane DeRolf, follows a box of crayons from its squabbles on the shelf of a toy store to its purchase and later use by a little girl who gets the crayons to work together on a beautiful picture. After doing so, the crayons realize that each of them is different, but they all contributed something valuable. I like to relate this to allowing friends to play different roles in a game or activity: they may not all play the same way, but they each contribute something. Little Quack’s New Friend , by Lauren Thompson, is part of the Little Quack series, and my favorite so far. Little Quack and his siblings are approached by a frog that wants to play, and initially, each of his siblings refuses based on something that makes the frog different from them (he’s green, tiny, doesn’t quack). But Little Quack is happy to have a playmate, and they head off together. As the siblings watch Little Quack and his froggy friend have fun, each in turn decides they’d rather play than sit and watch, and soon they are all playing together. I like using this story to encourage B to be open to new friendships and new activities. The sounds of each activity (including “boinga poinga,” and “plunka splunka”) contribute light-heartedness and make the book fun rather than a heavy-handed lesson. Both of these would have easily crossed over into my post on uniqueness last week. And Big Little Elephant, from last week’s post, would also be a great book to focus on friendships. Finally our latest library find on friendship was Hi, Harry! The moving story of how one slow tortoise slowly made a friend, by Martin Waddell. Harry the tortoise begins the book in search of a friend, but everyone he meets is in too much of a hurry to play or get to know him. Feeling a little dejected, Harry tries to befriend a mushroom, a rock, and even his own reflection! He is happily surprised when Sam Snail asks to be friends. He finds that Sam is just the friend he’s been looking for because they have so much in common! They enjoy slow races, Heads-in and Heads-out, and turning around and around together. The story demonstrates how finding things in common helps build friendships. It’s the kind of encouragement a little one might need when he’s feeling hard-pressed to establish friendships in a new environment.
Hi, Harry!: The Moving Story of How One Slow Tortoise Slowly Made a FriendThe Crayon Box that Talked Little Quack's New Friend 

Appropriate for toddlers, preschoolers, primary grades

How do you help your child be a good friend? Please share!

If you have a book recommendation for this week, link it up! And, pay a visit to a blog I enjoy, 5 Minutes for Books! They’ve got a fall festival of children’s books going on this week, with some excellent recommendations and great giveaways!


Feed Me Books Friday: Noticing Differences

Thursday, September 16, 2010

I am Special.

In case you were wondering, B’s start to preschool this week was fabulous. He adores it. Can’t wait to go back, and certainly doesn’t want me to tag along. Makes me proud and weepy all at once! The theme for the week was “I am special,” which included about-me crafts and getting-to-know-you activities. I decided I’d use some of our library choices to reinforce the theme at home. We have had a few conversations (often in the middle of a grocery store I’m afraid) about people who look different from us in some way. B has asked about overweight people, disabled people, even a wrinkly elderly man and a woman with an outlandish outfit. We talk about how differences make us special and unique, that they are not something to be ridiculed or feared. So far, I feel like his questions and comments arise out of genuine curiosity as opposed to criticism, but he is definitely aware that being different can be a source of discomfort. While on vacation, he refused to make the walk from the hotel pool back to the room without a shirt on “because people might look at me and think I’m strange.”

Unusual is OK.
Big Little Elephant
To spur the social-emotional development of valuing differences, I love a book that we came upon by chance on one of our library visits. Big Little Elephant, by Valeri Gorbachev, tells the story of a young elephant looking for playmates. When he comes upon a frog, a turtle, and a heron playing together, he is thrilled to join them. However, they soon realize that diving in the water and jumping rope are just not safe for small creatures when an elephant is involved. Sad Little Elephant is encouraged by his parents to find different activities they can enjoy together, and Little Elephant realizes his size and abilities can help his friends enjoy kite-flying on a windless day and pretending to be firefighters. We talked about the social dynamics: how Little Elephant felt when the friends decided he couldn’t play with them, how the friends felt when they realized how special Little Elephant really was, feelings of exclusion and belonging. It’s a lovely story to use in discussing unique qualities or just to encourage positive interactions among friends.

Unique is Not Ridiculous
You Look Ridiculous, Said the Rhinoceros to the Hippopotamus (Houghton Mifflin sandpiper books)
Sometimes feeling different leads to a desire to take on the traits of others. This is the plight of the hippopotamus in You Look Ridiculous, by Bernard Waber. The story begins as the hippo is informed by the rhinoceros that she looks “ridiculous.” She is initially surprised, but when the rhinoceros matter-of-factly points out that she is lacking a horn, she laments her previously unknown fault and sets out to ask the other animals of the jungle if she is indeed ridiculous looking. Each animal she meets points out a trait of its own that she is lacking (the lion’s mane, the elephant’s floppy ears, etc.) and her feelings of inadequacy multiply. Some of the animals say things like, “if you want me to me honest,” or “no harm intended,” but their comments are hard for poor hippo to handle. We used her distraught reaction as a discussion point, and I asked B if hippos were supposed to have things like turtle shells or long necks, which elicited both giggles and good discussion of liking ourselves the way we are. In the end, hippo has a dream that she is transformed to possess each of the unique traits of the other creatures. While she is initially thrilled, her excitement fades when she glances at her reflection and discovers she looks truly ridiculous. She wakes from her dream thankful and happy to be in her own skin.

A Collage Waiting to Happen

We hadn’t even finished You Look Ridiculous before I was formulating a plan for an art project involving the mash-up of animal traits hippo was longing for. While we got to see one illustrator’s version at the end of the story, I still thought B would enjoy the silliness of putting the parts together, so I started my search for animal pictures. In my admittedly brief research, I was most impressed by the selection and variety of printable animal coloring sheets at First School. We printed two hippos: a before and after, or unique and ridiculous versions. I also printed a lion, an elephant, a rhinoceros, a giraffe, a monkey, and a turtle. The hippo in the story also wishes for leopard spots, but we just drew those on.

B cut out the hippo bodies, and I did the cutting of the features from the other animals.

Then B glued the two hippos to a large piece of construction paper and added all the other animals’ features, as well as some color. He thought the mixed up creation was hilarious. He even wanted to show it to T to make him laugh, though I doubt T has absorbed enough about hippos to know there was anything out of the ordinary! We had a lot of fun with our mixed up animal, but we also had some good conversation about how nice she looked just the way she was. We also discussed why some of her features were important to her way of life, like small flat ears she could close underwater. This book and activity made for a very balanced mix of developmental discussion and simple laughs and fun. We had so much fun with the mixed up animal creature, we may print some more animal pages and make some more silly friends!

Appropriate for toddlers, preschool, primary grades.

How do you handle questions about differences with your child? What do you do to affirm their confidence in their individuality? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

Link up your book recommendations for the week below, and please link back to Little Sprout Books. (Consider adding the button!)

Have a great weekend in your special and non-ridiculous way!


Apples, Apples, Everywhere

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Two Apple Projects, One Apple Book, and a Gift
Between Back-to-School season and the arrival of harvest time, it seems apples are in abundance in the stores as well as the blogosphere. See in particular, Little Page Turners and Welcome to our Wonderland. B had an apple project to complete for his first day of preschool, so, inspired by all the apple reading and crafting going on in my Google reader, I pulled out a story I’d been holding on to for fall to get us in an apple-y mood.

Reading about Apples, Cooking, Geography
How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World (Dragonfly Books)
I am a baking hobbyist, so when I saw the title of How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World, I was intrigued. The story begins with the premise that baking an apple pie is quite easy and requires just a few simple ingredients. However, an adventure ensues when the local market is closed and ingredients must be found elsewhere. The narrator advises the reader (who is represented in the illustrations by a young lady) that she should travel to Italy, Sri Lanka, and France, among other places to procure the best of each item required for baking. The last stop is Vermont for apples, followed by milling flour, churning butter, evaporating seawater for salt, and other not so simple tasks. Finally the pie is baked and ready to share with friends. A recipe for apple pie is included at the end, and maps of the journey decorate the front and back interior pages. There are so many opportunities for cognitive development in this book – following directions in a recipe, learning about food production, (wheat to flour, milk to butter, etc.) and learning about the world around us and local specialties. I’m excited to go find the sister book, How to Make a Cherry Pie and See the U.S.A.!

Apple Project #1

Using the super-simple and kid friendly recipe from How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World, B and I started on our pie project.

We measured and mixed the pastry (with our fingers – fun!).

Using pre-sliced organic apples from Costco was a shortcut – I peeled the slices, then he used his plastic “knife” to chop them into bite size pieces before mixing with cinnamon-sugar.

The pie was filled and baked, and we shared it with our friends: Grandma, Papa, and Great-Grandma (on grandparents’ day)!

Apple Project #2

Feeling apple-y, we moved on to our second apple project, which was to be completed prior to B’s first day of preschool. At summer registration, each child was given an apple to decorate and bring to school to add to the class tree. The apples were about 6”x8” printed on glossy cardstock. B chose to use stickers to put his name on his apple, then added 4 red felt circles with brown stems and green leaves a la glitter glue. He also gave the apple a face with googley eyes and a yarn mouth.

The Gift
Planting a Rainbow: Lap-Sized Board Book
I’d seen mention of meet-the-teacher gifts on a couple blogs. I have to point out, I was never the recipient of a first-day gift in my teaching days, but I know middle school is different than preschool, so I did a little searching. I found plenty of crafts – some cheesy, some adorable, but few I had the time or energy for on the day before school started. (Yes, this was a last minute thought.) Then I found a post on 2CleverBlog about gifting a book to your teacher – right up our alley! The suggestion is that the child gives his teacher a book that connects to something he did over the summer, thereby introducing himself and connecting with the teacher. Perfect! I had recently picked up a copy of Planting a Rainbow after being introduced to it over at Red Ted Art! We checked it out from the library and enjoyed it enough to purchase, so it turned into our teacher gift and I’ll purchase another copy for B and T to remember our summer garden. B’s teacher was pleased by the gift (and his note) and B had a fantastic first day.

How To Make an Apple Pie and See the World is appropriate for preschoolers, primary grades.

Come Play at the We Play link up!

I’m also linking up with the Book Lover’s Blog Hop at Story Time Under the Stars and

The Back to School Link Party at ABC and 123

Come back to Little Sprout Books on Friday for Feed Me Books Friday!

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