Must See Monday (November 29, 2010)

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Weekends are catch-up time for me: I catch up on my writing, I catch up on my laundry, I catch up with my husband, and if I have any time left over, I catch up on all the fabulous posts that accumulate in my reader during the week. Every week I find awesome crafts, fun books, and super giveaways! Last week was my inaugural edition of Must See Monday, and this week I have more to share with you after my holiday weekend catching up! (This weekend most of my catching-up was with family and friends – chores will have to wait!)
Welcome to our Wonderland has a Christmas Book and Activity a Day project going on. I haven’t committed to following along every day, but there are some great ideas so far and coming up!
Teach Mama has a fun advent craft/activity to make and do. We’ll be adding the activity slips to our purchased felt calendar, but you could start from scratch if you’re feeling extra crafty! Or add these ideas to one of the calendars featured at the giveaway below! (We’re still counting down with our candy-surprise calendar as well!)
The always creative Vanessa at Silly Eagle Books shared a host of ideas for gifts kids can take part in making. Not only are they personal and inexpensive, but sure to be treasured by those who love your kiddos!

Get great ideas for making gift baskets inexpensively from An Oregon Cottage. I discovered it via Feels Like Home and added it to my bookmarks – great for the holidays, or birthdays and occasions throughout the year.
This Thanksgiving made me really want to focus on gratitude throughout the year, rather than just for the holiday. I’m very intrigued by the book In Every Tiny Grain of Sand, shared by the children’s book blog at
On a similar note, I am looking for ways to foster my attitude of gratitude. The Happiness Project suggests “measuring” the things we want more or less of in our lives.

At 12 Crafts till Christmas, you can enter to win do-it-yourself advent calendar kits. There are four, but my favorite is the cone garland!
Science-at-Home has a giveaway for a kids’ Collector’s Kit. There are several other great suggestions of “presents for geeks” too!
Reading to Know has a Christmas book giveaway that could score you 3 Christmas stories! I know I can never have enough!
Also from Teach Mama, a magnetic poetry giveaway! I had magnetic poetry on my fridge in college – did you? I can’t wait to try it out with my boys!

Last week’s Feed Me Books Friday is still open if you want to add a book you enjoyed over your holiday. Time to put away the Thanksgiving crafts and get ready for Christmas!Come back tomorrow for a super easy (and inexpensive) Christmas card idea!


Feed Me Books Friday: Early Edition

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Tomorrow, we’ll be celebrating Thanksgiving at Grandma’s house, and we’ll be spending time with other branches of our family for the rest of the weekend. My book pick for the week will be the many family photo albums and scrapbooks that come out each year. We will laugh, reminisce, and share some nostalgia. A sense of belonging is vital to emotional development, and what better way to foster it than by creating and reliving wonderful family memories?

If you need an activity to occupy your little ones while you prepare dinner (or when they’ve lost interest at the table) you might want to check out the latest offerings at We Give Books. I received and email this week reminding me to head over and read a book with B so that another is donated to a non-profit literacy campaign. What an easy way to give! And they’ve added some holiday themed reading selections to enjoy! Or, check out the Thanksgiving crafts I shared yesterday!

One more item to share with you – B adored his October countdown calendar, and we were already planning another when I saw an email from Parenting magazine with suggestions for using leftover Halloween candy. We created a countdown to Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years! Each holiday got its own color scheme, selected by B, and he punched and adhered the numbers to the tissue. I assembled the paper cups on a cardboard backing and filled them with candy before gluing the tissue on. He is enjoying a surprise each day and never bothered to notice or ask where all the Halloween candy went!

Wishing all of my readers a blessed and beautiful weekend of gratitude, and if you’re here in the states, Happy Thanksgiving!

Have a book to share this week? Link it up here! If not, hope you'll be back to share next week!


Preschool Prep for Thanksgiving

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Gratitude and Giggles

While many of us moms are making lists, cleaning, shopping, and even beginning to cook for Thanksgiving, many of our little ones are giddy with anticipation of visitors or travel and anxious for something to do. Without candy, gifts, or colored eggs, some children find Thanksgiving a little hum-drum. But since expressing gratitude and a sense of satisfaction and happiness go hand in hand, Thanksgiving is an important time for all of us to be reminded (or taught) about the importance of gratitude. That doesn’t mean we won’t have some fun with those silly-looking turkeys and some messy projects!

Historically Speaking
The Story of Thanksgiving
Who started Thanksgiving? That’s the kind of question B comes up with. When our routine changes or things are out of the ordinary (no school, decorations, extra projects) he wants to know why. It’s important to choose a story that’s appropriate for a preschooler to make it understandable and appealing. We noticed there was a Charlie Brown Pilgrim show on TV the other night – watching for just a few minutes revealed it wasn’t for B. While there were some interesting historical facts, there was a major emphasis on the illness and death that besieged the Pilgrims. While the depth of their suffering probably played a role in the enormity of their gratitude, that’s much too abstract for a preschooler to understand. Instead, we consulted The Story of Thanksgiving, by Nancy J Skarmeas (and part of a “Story of…” collection we enjoy). This board book introduces the quest for religious freedom, the challenges of the journey, adjustments to the new land, relations with Native Americans, traditional Thanksgiving foods, and the concept of giving thanks for the things we have been blessed with. After reading, we made a story bead bracelet using the instructions from Little Page Turners I shared yesterday.

Gobble… Giggle… Gobble
Setting the Turkeys Free
The turkey is such a universal symbol of Thanksgiving in our country, and such a colorful and funny looking bird, that art opportunities abound. One story that just begs for are project is Setting the Turkeys Free, by W. Nikola-Lisa. The narrative tells the story of some turkey art in progress. The narrator explains how to make a turkey with a paint handprint, and then decorates it with toothpick legs, and some sparkles and decorations. Next he creates a backdrop for his turkeys with a pen, some woods, and some clouds in the sky. Unfortunately, a fox appears and frightens the turkeys (and the narrator). His efforts to protect the turkeys are fruitless, and as a last resort he takes down the pen and releases his turkeys to escape to safety. The thwarted fox retreats, but the narrator misses his turkeys, so he lures them back by adding some dry corn kernels to the pen for them to enjoy! The illustrations are done in oils and collage elements that your child is sure to want to emulate. Discussion of the story is an opportunity for cognitive practice in problem solving, and your child will enjoy some fine motor development if you get out the paints.

 With inviting narration and illustrations, how can you not? B was eager to make some turkey handprints, but insisted we leave out the fox because he was “too scary.” B also enjoyed the paint experience so much that he wasn’t much interested in the collage aspect, but he did want to add some corn kernels for the turkeys to eat!

Wanting What We Have
One is a Feast for Mouse: A Thanksgiving Tale
One of my favorite quotes, the origin of which I do not know, is “We don’t need more to be thankful for, we need to be more thankful.” It hangs on a simple construction paper cut-out on my refrigerator. It’s something I think we all need to be reminded of regularly. I started keeping a gratitude journal a few months back, and I am certain it has positively impacted my outlook, attitude, and interactions with others. When I came across One is a Feast for a Mouse, by Judy Cox, at our library, I expected it to be a silly Thanksgiving giggle like the story above, but it turned out to have a lovely lesson. The story begins when Thanksgiving dinner is over, the family members are occupied in other areas of the house, and a mouse notices one “luscious” pea all by itself under a plate. The mouse decides to creep up to the table and take the pea back to his mouse hole, “because one is a feast for a mouse.” But, before he leaves the table, he notices some cranberries (he takes just one) and some olives (again just one) and just one carrot stick, and his pile of goodies grows. He adds just a bit of mashed potatoes, a little gravy, the meat left behind on a turkey drumstick, and some bites of unfinished pumpkin pie. What he doesn’t notice as his loot grows is the cat coming to investigate. You can imagine the meeting of the mouse and the cat is not a pleasant one, and the accompanying clatter and mess alert the family. The mouse is relieved to escape to his hidey-hole, even without his goodies, until he notices that one “toothsome” pea which had rolled across the floor to a corner. He retrieves it and enjoys it with great relish, uttering, “Give Thanks! One is a Feast for Me!” There’s plenty of humor in the mouse’s attempts to balance all his goodies and his encounter with the cat, but the mouse’s lesson on the dangers of greed is not to be missed!

As I looked for a gratitude project to do with B, I was looking for something more than a list of the things we are thankful for. In my mind being more thankful is about having a greater appreciation of what we have, rather than thinking of a longer list. The idea for this paper bag gratitude turkey came from instructions on Kaboose, but I modified it a little to support the emotional development I was aiming for in my gratitude lesson.

  1. To begin, you’ll need a brown lunch bag, 10 or more 3 inch squares of paper (any color), crayons, markers, or paint, a rubber band or twist tie, scissors, a plastic spoon, and optional googly eyes and felt facial features, and glue if you opt for these decorations.
  2. Mark stripes about 1 inch thick or so and about 5 inches long all the way around the top opening of the bag (including the sides). Color the stripes in the feather colors of your choice, then cut between them and color the reverse side (include dry time if you choose to use paint.)
  3. On one paper square, write something your child is thankful for. It should be a big idea, rather than something like, French toast. We chose “our family.” Crumple the square slightly and put it inside the bag.
  4. Gather the bag just below the “feathers” and secure with a rubber band or twist tie. (Not too securely)
  5. Lay the bag on it’s side so that feathers stick out in the back, and cut a small slit in the edge of the bottom of the bag. Slide the handle of the spoon through the slit with the rounded bottom of the spoon facing out. The bowl of the spoon becomes the turkey’s face and the handle becomes the wattle.
  6. Notice that the turkey doesn’t sit up very well or look very perky with its minimal “stuffing.” Go back to your stack of paper squares and record some reasons your child is thankful for the chosen subject, or some specifics about their thankfulness. Add a square for each reason. We added things like, “playing golf with Daddy, kisses from T, when Mommy is the helper at preschool, and having dinner at Grandma’s house.”
  7. Open up the bag and add your slightly crunched reason squares to fatten up your turkey. Reclose, fluff feathers, and enjoy how much some added appreciation improved your project!
    Appropriate for toddlers, preschoolers, anyone in need of a little more gratitude.

    If you missed yesterday’s post, check out the inaugural edition of Must See Monday, where I share my favorite finds of the week!

    Come back tomorrow for an early edition of Feed Me Books Friday, or stop by after the hustle of the holiday – the linky will be up all week!


Must See Monday!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Weekends are catch-up time for me: I catch up on my writing, I catch up on my laundry, I catch up with my husband, and if I have any time left over, I catch up on all the fabulous posts that accumulate in my reader during the week. Every week I find awesome crafts, fun books, and super giveaways! I decided to share some with you on Mondays after my weekend catching up!

Thanksgiving paper quilt: Simple but meaningful craft from Let's Explore that you'll want to display all year long.
Parents Magazine offers a cute printable placemat. Great for keeping little ones busy at the table or while you make dinner!
Make a Thanksgiving storytelling tool from Little Page Turners. These story beads are not only fun to make (and maybe wear?) but they're a helpful tool!

Great preschool gift suggestions from Feels Like Home. The post indicates they're geared for girls, but most suggestions are universally great!
A list of motivating ideas for literacy from Childhood 101. Proud to say we can check off all ten!
Check out the list of Thanksgiving books at Hope is the Word. This post is part of a great meme, Read Aloud Thursday, and there are links to previous years' Thanksgiving lists as well!

A gift set giveaway at Tiger Tales. Could be for your family or could be a gift for a child on your list! Ends 11/30.
Scholastic Prize Pack Giveaway at Brimful Curiosities. Fun variety of books in this prize pack! Ends 12/6.
Scholastic Board Books at Mom Tried It. Great for the baby/toddler set! Ends 11/23 - hurry!
Katydid and Kid has two great giveaways this week: Klutz Books (11/28) and Scholastic DVDs (11/30)

Tomorrow (Tuesday) I'll be posting about a couple Thanksgiving books and crafts, and Wednesday will be the early edition of Feed Me Books Friday for those who aren't too swamped with the holidays this week to post their favorite books!


Feed Me Books Friday: Family Fishing

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Catching Some Fun

B loves any activity that means he gets to hang out with the big guys, so he was thrilled when Daddy suggested a whole weekend of REAL fishing at a REAL river. I emphasize real because B does a lot of role-playing, which includes pretend fishing. Daddy brought home a Spiderman fishing rod from a trip to the sporting goods store a couple years ago already. It has a plastic fish on the end of the line, and B has used it to practice casting out of his treehouse, into the pool, and sitting in the bed of the truck in the driveway. When we arrived at the river and Daddy set up the lines, B didn’t have a lot of patience for letting his line attract a bite, but he did enjoy doing some casting with a REAL fishing pole!

Some Kid Expertise
A Good Day's Fishing
The book I picked to set the mood for our fishing weekend was actually one we’d borrowed before from the library. It is a fun blend of fiction and non-fiction from a boy’s point of view. If you have a fishing family – or think you might want to give it a shot, check out A Good Day’s Fishing, by James Prosek. When I decided to check out the book again in preparation for our fishing weekend, I checked to see if there were any similar books by the author and discovered that Prosek is actually an accomplished fisherman who has written several books for adults, and illustrated several of them with the same beautiful watercolors you’ll find in his picture book. The text is written simply and progresses as the child searches through his tackle box for the item he needs. As he identifies tools in the box, he also identifies some of the fish these specialized tools are made to catch. Some of the items he discovers (like a rotting sandwich) add humor and make the narrator a realistic young boy. In good picture book form, the missing item is located on the last page of the story, and it will bring a smile to your face, but I think I’ll leave it to you to discover. Definitely some cognitive development if you focus on all the fishing vocabulary (if that is indeed your focus, be aware these are mainly fly-fishing tools). I was after the preparation and rehearsal tool – getting our cognitive schema in line for our weekend activities – and it totally fit the bill.

Appropriate for: preschoolers, primary grades

A programming note: I’ll be posting about some of our Thanksgiving reading choices on Tuesday next week, so be sure to stop by to check out our books and a couple crafts. I won’t be posting on Thursday or Friday (I’ll be enjoying the holiday – hope you will too!) But I will put up a linky on Wednesday, and you are welcome to add an early post or drop in over the weekend if you have some time. I’ll be sure to visit after the bustle of the holiday. If you choose to take the week off, hope you’ll be back in December!

Please share your book recommendations by linking up, and visit some of the other links to find some great suggestions!


What Makes a Book Good?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Do You and Your Child Agree?

I’ve been reveling in T’s newfound interest in listening to books and it got me wondering – Do the qualities that make a book interesting and engaging to a one-year-old also have value for a toddler or preschooler? Or does a really good book have a whole slew of different qualities that appeal to various age ranges? I think the latter is most often true. The books we have come to love as “classics” are appealing on many levels, which is what makes them cross not only age ranges, but generations. As T begins to pay more attention to the selection of board books in our house, B has found a renewed interest in some of them. Perhaps what draws them to these books is as unique as each of them, but the fact remains that some books continue to be attractive at any age.

The Current Favorite

This Little Piggy (Spanish Edition)
The book T not only brings to me, but will listen to repeatedly (though often in reverse order or skipping pages) is This Little Piggy, by Teresa Imperato. I’m quite sure he is most attracted by the squishy little pigs embedded in the pages and the little oval holes they peek through as they count down. He also loves to interact with the book and mimic my actions. After I read a page, I’ll count the piggies and point to each one. He now imitates the counting every time we open the book by pointing and tapping each of the pigs. Is he really counting? Of course not, but he is developing the cognitive concept of one-to-one correspondence and the fine-motor skills to single out each piggy. The text is rhythmic and written in rhyme which is a treat for even the littlest ears. What I realized when B sat down to read with us and do some fill-in-the-blank rhyming is that each page places the pigs into a different fairy tale or nursery rhyme which proves very useful for a preschooler!

The Developmental Value of Fairy Tales

While some fairy tales include an underlying moral, many are questionable (Goldilocks) and most nursery rhymes are just nonsense (Song of Sixpence). However, education and cultural norms are dependent on the assumption that children have some familiarity with the most classic fairy tales and nursery rhymes. Children will find references in literature and media right on through the college years. A lack of familiarity might mean missing an allusion or misunderstanding a metaphor. I’m not trying to say preschoolers need remedial classes in nursery rhymes, but with scripted curriculums, TV and computer use, and a host of commercial characters competing for attention, it isn’t surprising that some children begin school never having heard of The Pied Piper or Old King Cole. So when we read This Little Piggy, we also talk about the fairy tales and nursery rhymes the text hints at, and we substantiate our guesses with examination of the illustrations. So what B benefits from and enjoys is different from that which T benefits from and enjoys. But the fact that it is valuable and enjoyable to both of them makes me call it a good book!Appropriate for babies, toddlers, preschoolers.

Ageless Quality

What all kids need (and this is me getting on my soap-box) is an adult to read AND talk with them. If hearing stories read aloud was enough, audio books and digital book readers would suffice. But hearing isn’t enough. When an adult reads to a child, when they discuss and interact with each other and the story, they learn more than what’s on the page.

What makes a book a “classic” in your eyes? Would your child agree? Can you share any books that appeal to different age groups in different ways?


(Purple Socks!)

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Why We Love Boynton

If you’re a Little Sprout facebook fan you may have noticed that earlier this week I got excited that T wanted to be a part of B’s bedtime story. (If you’re not a facebook fan yet, go click that “like” button in the right sidebar!) This excites me for two reasons: First, as much as T likes to look at pictures, carry books around, and pet the touchy-feely ones, he hasn’t shown a whole lot of interest in stories up till now. Second, if they’ll both snuggle in and listen to a story, bedtime will be soooo much more pleasant and easier to handle. So yesterday, T brought me a book and willingly sat in my lap and listened to THE WHOLE THING! Which book did he find so intriguing, you ask? One of Mommy’s favorites too: Moo, Baa, La La La, by Sandra Boynton.

Irresistible! (And Good For You, Too!)

We have a wide selection of Boynton board books, because they are super fun to read AND have super developmental and literacy-building qualities. All (or at least all I’ve encountered) are rhyming and rhythmic, which help pre-readers memorize, predict, and become involved in the story. Just a few of our favorites (in no particular order):

Moo Baa La La La
Moo, Baa, La La La: T’s recent pick. As you can guess, the focus in this one is animal sounds, but some humor is infused by the 3 singing pigs. This contradiction adds both comedy and a cognitive challenge as babies and toddlers begin to process categorization and generalization.

Barnyard Dance!
Barnyard Dance: This one was actually B’s early favorite. Could have had to do with the fact that I usually read it with him on my lap and bounced along with the cadence of text and performed along with the motions of the dance with his little arms and legs. It is a great vocabulary development opportunity as well as a chance to work on fine motor skills. You can also read my full review and game suggestion.
But Not the Hippopotamus

But Not the Hippopotamus: This one is a series of couplets, each of which is punctuated by the line: “But not the hippopotamus.” Plenty of laughs in the actions and illustrations, and pre-readers will be chiming right in. Extra twist at the end for a giggle!

The Going-To-Bed BookThe Going to Bed Book: One of the best-loved books in our house. Was a nightly part of bedtime for B for a long time. Daddy actually memorized it after reading it so many times, so he was able to “read” it to B over the phone while away for work. Nice for rehearsal of bedtime routines, like bathing, tooth-brushing, and pajamas. After some mid-book silliness, the conclusion is peaceful and relaxing – just what a bedtime book should be.

Snoozers : 7 Short Short Bedtime Stories for Lively Little KidsSnoozers: Speaking of bedtime books – this one is a tabbed collection of bedtime selections. We often read the whole thing (it is after all, just a board book) but sometimes add just one of the little poems or mini-stories after finishing another book when B is asking for, “just ONE more???”

Oh My Oh My Oh Dinosaurs! (Boynton on Board)Oh My Oh My Oh Dinosaurs: A fun romp with rhymes, opposites, and vocabulary, with great illustrations to go with the language!

Hippos Go BerserkHippos Go Berserk: A count-up and count-down story for numbers and number-correspondence practice. Who could help but love a berserk hippo party in the middle?

Doggies (Boynton Board Books (Simon & Schuster))

Doggies: Also an early favorite of B’s. It’s a simple counting book, but as the dogs increase, so does the silliness of making all the different barking noises!

 What's Wrong, Little Pookie?
What’s Wrong Little Pookie: Little Pookie is a recurring character for Boynton, but this one is a favorite of mine because it is great for bringing out the giggles when we’re experiencing an unexplained funk. Pookie’s mommy tries a long list of suggestions to figure out his bad mood before he reveals he forgot what he was upset about to begin with – sound familiar?

Blue Hat, Green HatBlue Hat, Green Hat: Anybody notice my post title is my favorite line from this book? B found it hilarious in toddlerhood. The animal characters put on items of clothing in various colors, but each time, the turkey puts his item on incorrectly, resulting in an “Oops!” I would read the text for the appropriately dressed animals, and B would respond with the “oops!” (which was sometimes difficult between belly laughs). At the end of the book, the turkey finally gets his clothes on correctly, and the purple socks appear, (which are not mentioned elsewhere) but he stands poised to dive into a pool fully clothed! Oops! More belly laughs. What is great about this one is that the pictures match the simple text exactly, so B has “read” it to me many times, and has tried to read it to T (despite T’s inattention). Now that T is showing a little more interest, I’ll have to encourage B again!

Are you a Boynton lover too? Do you have a favorite? Or is there another author that you just can’t get enough of? I’d love to hear about it!

Link up any book recommendations of your own and stop by and visit a few others!

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