Godzilla and Scrooge Play Nice

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Can a 4-year-old and an 18-month-old be playmates? It appears it is possible, but may be accompanied by some scuffles and lessons learned. In the last couple months, T has achieved a level of mobility and attention span that has made him a more interesting (and interested) playmate for B. Trouble is, sometimes B has the patience of a saint and good naturedly adapts his game to T’s focus and activity level, but sometimes he doesn’t. Not that he should have to. But is it unreasonable of me to wish I could submit requests for peaceful playtimes in order of priority?

As toddlers are wont to do, T very much enjoys knocking things over, emptying things out, and otherwise exerting control on the world around him. Often, these kind of physical activities appeal to B as well and my only concern is where to draw the line on rough-housing. But when T “exerts control” on the train track B assembled or the “garden with a bird’s nest” B built with trio blocks, T begins to resemble Godzilla.


I must begin by assuring you, B is not Scrooge-like in general. Most of the time, he is kind and generous to his brother and anyone else around. He insists upon equality and fairness for T in turns on the slide, craft supplies on the table, or cookies on the plate, usually. But there are moments, often preceded by the Godzilla behavior noted above, that B becomes downright Scrooge-ish. Suddenly (and always temporarily) T cannot touch, get near, or even look at anything that B might consider playing with now or in the foreseeable future.

Trying Not to Intervene
I try not to jump into the squabbles right away because I want them to learn problem solving skills and strengthen their relationship (and because I do have other things to accomplish in a day). The main reasons I do find myself refereeing: when toys involved are large enough that Godzilla begins wielding them as weapons or when Scrooge gets so emotionally wrought that he lashes out physically. Most often, a temporary separation is enough to redirect T’s attention and/or help B remember that even a bull-ish playmate is more fun than playing solo.

The Bright Side of Sharing
The Boy Who Wouldn't Share
A fun book for helping children hone the social-emotional skill of sharing is The Boy Who Wouldn’t Share, by Mike Reiss. Written in playful rhyming couplets, the text tells the story of Edward, a boy who refuses to share anything with his sister Claire. He hoards toy after toy until at last he is trapped beneath them. The humor of the rhymes is further emphasized by the bright and exaggerated illustrations of David Catrow. When mom arrives with a treat, she gives it all to Claire since Edward is no where in sight. Which brings us to my favorite line in the book:
“And Claire, who did not hold a grudge, helped him out and gave him fudge.”
 After which, the spat is resolved and brother and sister enjoy the day playing together. There is more to the moral than Edward’s discovery that being greedy left him trapped and fudge-less. What anyone could stand to be reminded of is Claire’s lack of grudge. While I don’t hesitate to encourage sharing, it is more important to me that both boys learn that playtime may have its ups and downs, but grouchy moods are fleeting and there’s always more fun to be had.
Appropriate for toddlers, preschoolers, primary grades.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on sibling playmates! And I do love your book suggestions too!


Hanging on Your Every Word

Friday, February 18, 2011

All Three of Them…

T’s verbal skills are taking their time to manifest themselves. I know the age range of “normal” development is a wide one, and I know that he demonstrates his cleverness in a variety of other ways, and I know that each child develops in his or her own unique way. However, I am a read-aholic, book-collecting, literature-degree-holding, language-arts-teaching mother of an outrageously verbal first child. Can you understand my preoccupation with words? Usually after much cajoling but occasionally in a direct address, T will refer to my husband as “Da-da.” (Why do dads always get to be first?) T’s second word is really just a vowel sound with meaning, but leave him in his shoes or jacket much more than 30 seconds through the door and you’ll hear “aahh!, aahh?” (His version of off.) And finally the most recent development was last weekend, when he began parroting the phrase “Hop, hop, hop!” while reading a book at Grandma’s. While it warms my heart that any book would be the impetus to express some more language, I can’t help wishing we had a little bit more 2-way communication going on.

Inviting a Response
Doggies (Boynton Board Books (Simon & Schuster))
Perhaps T’s lack of appreciation for most books, coupled with my eagerness for some verbal interaction, makes me enjoy barking my way through Doggies, by Sandra Boynton, over and over again. It’s a counting book, but it’s so much more. The bulk of the text is variations on a bark: woof, arf, ruff, grr, yip, etc. What a unique way to conceptualize numbers! Children are exposed to both a visual and auditory representation of each number. The five dogs shown on the page correspond to my “bow wow wow wow wow!” A Boynton book is not complete without humor, and I’m sure you can guess how a cat fits in a book of 10 dogs. Doggies has been in our library since B’s babyhood, and Mommy’s silly barking was a big hit with him back then as well. Like T, he enjoyed participating in the story by mimicking some of the sounds I made. Back then, I was already aware of the literacy foundation being laid by his involvement in reading and his association of pleasure with books. What I have only come to realize with T’s experience is that this unassuming counting book can also play a role in social development skills of conversation and turn-taking. I’ll never get tired of barking, as long as one of my little guys is barking back.
Appropriate for babies, toddlers, anyone who loves to bark!
Do your children have a book that seems simple on the surface but has come to mean something more? Hope you’ll share about it by linking up and/or leaving a comment!


To the Moon and Back on Valentine’s Day

Friday, February 11, 2011

A Book to Love All Year Round
We’ve read some Valentine stories about giving and receiving cards, about parties and gifts, about making friends and showing affection. We’ve also read some informative Valentine books about the origin and history of the holiday. Both types were enjoyed by B, and they continue to be requested reads as the (early) preschool party and the actual holiday approach. The book I chose to share with you in honor of Valentine’s Day is probably familiar, and it is not really a Valentine themed book at all, but perhaps you haven’t considered its potential for developmental growth…

How Big is Big?

B practices measuring skills.
This is actually the central question in Guess How Much I Love You, by Sam McBratney. The child uses similes (as big as, as high as, etc) to express his love for his father, and the father redefines and expands upon the comparisons emphasize his love and entertain his little boy. Many a parent and child have enjoyed the playful competition as Little Nutbrown Hare and Big Nutbrown Hare try to out-do one another. As parents, we can all appreciate that there is truly no measure of our love for our children, but hopefully, that doesn’t stop us from trying to tell them.
Guess How Much I Love You

The Art of Comparison
Comparing and generating similes are pretty complex cognitive skills, but using the playful examples found in Guess How Much I Love You may help you and your child begin to consider other comparisons as well.

  • You might enjoy more concrete comparisons (the slide is as tall as my dad).
  • You could get creative while staying literal (the plate is as round as a tire).
  • Or you could take a cue from the Nutbrowns and play with the abstract (a smile as pretty as a blooming flower).
    Comparative language and simile are hard to teach in isolation, but will come naturally to children who hear them in everyday language and enjoy them in literature. Share a little love and bolster your sprout’s vocabulary at the same time this Valentine’s Day!
    Appropriate for: everyone!

    Do you have a favorite comparison for “I love you as ( ) as ( )? I’d love to hear it!

    You may notice I've switched to inlinkz this week. As much as I've enjoyed LinkyTools, my blog is a hobby for me that does not afford me a subscription for now. If you have any trouble with the link up, let me know!


Feed Me Books Friday: Sensory Stimulation (and other great vocabulary…)

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Never Out of Style

Some of our favorite board books have been languishing on the shelves or in the book bins since B has been voraciously devouring “fresh” books from the library each week with a newfound passion for the unfamiliar. However, thanks to T’s continued (albeit slow) progress toward literary appreciation, we’re enjoying a re-introduction to some beloved titles. I’m discovering that as much as I enjoy some of the books we’ve borrowed (and often renewed) there is a reason I purchased many of the board books we own. The classics are classics for a reason, or for many reasons. And board books are ideal because they are so durable and inviting!

Leave the Dictionary on the Shelf
We're Going on a Bear Hunt (Classic Board Books)
Our latest renewed affection is for We’re Going on a Bear Hunt, by Michael Rosen and illustrated by Helen Oxenbury. If you’re unfamiliar, the basic story line is thus: Father and children head out into the wilderness to find a bear. Must conquer much challenging terrain. Find bear and hurriedly retrace steps to hunker down safely at home. While the suspenseful trip home and climactic barring of the door generates some fun adrenaline, it is not the plot that makes this story so engaging. Rosen’s treatment of the traditional song makes it enjoyable for readers and listeners alike. The rhythm and repetition of the text is buoyant and fun, begs for pre-readers to join in, and perfectly punctuated by the alliterative sensory descriptors chosen for each geographic challenge. The family travels through “swishy swashy” grass and trudges “squelch squerch” through the mud. The descriptive words are great for building vocabulary and for enriching cognitive concepts of each place being described.

More on the Menu

Opportunities to expand on We’re Going on a Bear Hunt with art, literacy, and games are plentiful, but here’s a few of my favorite suggestions:

  • Define and internalize those fun descriptive words by applying them to food (and then playing with it)! Think squelch squerch pudding, swishy swashy carrot tops or herb bunches, splash splosh ice cubes into water, creating a puff of blizzard blindness with a hoo-woo through a straw into some loose flour, stumble-tripping over pretzel “sticks” and walnut “rocks,” and grains of rice tip-toeing in an empty margarine tub or yogurt cup. You can find a pdf file of the words flash-card style at schoolsnet.

  • Practice retelling and ordering the story using pictures and/or key phrases. Great activity for flannel board, but also fun for book-making. Kizclub has printable graphics and matching word strips.

  • Focus on the spatial vocabulary highlighted in the repeated lines, “we can’t go over it, we can’t go under it, oh no, we’ll have to go through it!” Discuss what kind of obstacles we might try to go over, under, and through. Schoolsnet has matching word and picture cards for practice if you need inspiration.

Appropriate for babies, toddlers, preschoolers, primary grades.
What books to you return to again and again? What makes you come back?

Please link up your book recommendations or activities, visit some others you find here, and if you just can’t get enough, check out more book-lovers at Read.Explore.Learn!

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