Feed Me Books Friday: You Can’t Teach Funny

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Happy April Fool’s Day!

Knock knock!

Who’s there?


Chicken Who?

Chicken with a bathtub! AH HA HA HA!

If that joke sounds familiar, you’ve probably enjoyed the humor of a preschooler. They are beginning to understand that certain things make people laugh (like jokes) but they don’t yet have a full grasp of exactly why those things are funny. Have you ever tried to explain sarcasm, an idiom, or an oxymoron? Somehow the more explanation is required, the less funny it is! So if you can’t teach funny, then how do they get it? Like so many other important skills, the best way to hone a child’s sense of humor is exposure, experience, and practice! Read funny books together, practice making up jokes (like the gem above), talk about what makes you laugh, and ask why they laugh at the things they do.

Laughter at the Unexpected
Guess Again!
My little guys are pretty young to understand or appreciate April Fool’s Day – though Parenting magazine had a fun list of kid friendly pranks I might pick from… But we did talk about the difference between tricks intended to make someone laugh and tricks intended to make someone laughed at (and why we would avoid the latter). And since we were talking about laughing, we perused the bookshelf for some funny books. B loves silly rhymes, mixed up pictures, and jokes, so it wasn’t hard to find some good examples. The one I decided to share with you was a recent library find: Guess Again, by Mac Barnett. The book employs rhyming, riddle-like clues and illustrations with silhouetted details to lead readers to think they can guess the identity of the item described. Instead, the turn of the page or lift of the flap reveals a cleverly illustrated but totally unexpected answer that is sure to elicit chuckles from listeners. One silhouette featured sitting among rows of carrots possesses “floppy ears [that] are long and funny.” You would guess a bunny? Of course you would, but you’d be wrong. The silhouette is revealed to be a playful Grandpa Ned, doing a headstand with floppy socks hanging down from his toes. Amusement at the absurd or unexpected is one of the earliest cognitive developments toward a sense of humor (think about eliciting baby giggles by putting a shoe on your head). B found Guess Again HILARIOUS and now even though he knows the answers to the riddles, he still enjoys a loud guffaw when he reveals the ridiculous solution.

Appropriate for toddlers, preschoolers, primary grades.

Looking for more April Fool’s fun? Carrie at Reading to Know is hosting some April Fool’s giveaways I’m looking forward to entering!

I’ll also be linking up this weekend at the Ultimate Blog Party at 5 minutes 4 mom. It will be my first time participating – hoping to meet some new bloggy-friends! But of course I am most grateful my faithful Friday link-up pals – looking forward to your posts!


Feed Me Books Friday: Activities for Observing the Seasons

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Even When Spring is Being Stubborn
I’ve lived in the same city for 25 years, and we’ve never had clearly defined seasons. Much as I’d like to think a date on the calendar means it’s time to bring out the spring wardrobe, I know better. Doesn’t mean I’m not disappointed that the first week of spring has been gloomy, rainy, and colder than the several weeks prior that were supposedly winter! So how do I explain to B that spring is more than just a flower on the calendar square?

Look Around!

Though we may not live where crocus in the melting snow signal spring’s arrival, or red and orange leaves blanket the ground in the fall, we can still find outdoor indicators of the seasons if we look closely. We’ve been noticing buds appearing on the trees during our neighborhood walks, and B has compared color, shape, and even scent! He noticed late last week that the tree in our front yard is now full enough of buds and tiny leaves that he can hide behind it again without being spotted through the branches. The urn of lilies I received from the boys for Mother’s Day last year spent the winter on the patio, and with no encouragement what-so-ever from me it is full of lush new green growth. Choosing a particular tree, bush, or field to observe as the seasons change is an excellent way to help children become aware of weather, life cycles, and the passage of time.

  • Join your scientific observation with scientific expression by drawing or painting the object of your attention several times a year.
  • Develop language and vocabulary skills by drafting a list of descriptive terms for the object, then comparing and contrasting the descriptors that apply during different seasons. (The tree may always be tall, but it is only sometimes full or fragrant.)
  • Photograph the object you are observing each month on the same date, and create a time-line of seasonal changes. Older children (and more organized parents) might even photograph once a week to observe more minute changes. A collection of such photographs would make an attractive calendar display or computer screensaver.
  • Ask an imaginative child to consider how the object feels about the season and weather changes. Use as a writing prompt for older children or take dictation.

Just Ask!
Where Is Spring?
If you’re not sure where to start with your hunt for spring, pick up a copy of Where Is Spring? by Yang-Huan. Orginally a poem written in Chinese, Yang-Huan lyrically describes the sights, sounds, and feelings of the arrival of spring. Illustrations by H.Y. Huang and A. Yang add to the airy and fresh feeling of the book. Each page highlights different spring details, and on several pages the text becomes part of the illustration as it flows down river, meanders through a field, or blows on the wind. The simple storyline begins with a boy looking for spring, and he relies on his kite overhead to “ask around,” and assist with the search. Each response offers a different poetic personification of spring, such as “mopping the sky bright and blue,” “putting new clothes on the fields,” and “smiling on the faces of flowers.” The language and the pictures are just beautiful and you’ll enjoy seeing spring arrive in the pages of this book even if it hasn’t arrived at your house yet.

Appropriate for: toddlers, preschoolers, primary grades.

What signs have you seen of changing seasons? Are you recording them in some way?

Look Around


Feed Me Books Friday: Time is Flying

Friday, March 18, 2011

Ever Regret Being Anxious for Time to Pass?

I’ve been eagerly anticipating the arrival of Spring and warmer weather and going barefoot. But then I catch myself and realize time is slipping through my fingers and I wish I could slow it down. B’s preschool experience is soon to give way to kindergarten. (Ack!) T is more and more little boy and less and less baby every day. So some days I wish I could pause, other days, I’m counting down to summer. But enough about me…

Keeping Track of Time

The cognitive concept of time is hard for little ones – just ask anyone who’s ever uttered the words, “just a minute” to a toddler. Minutes, hours, days, months, seasons, past, future: each more abstract than the next for a child living in the present. Simply discussing and acknowledging the passage of time is the first step to internalizing the concept. It’s easy to take notice of changes in the foliage, animal behaviors, and holidays. B continues to be fascinated by the calendar and countdowns, so he was pleased to bring home a library book all about the various ways to observe the changing season and celebrate Spring.

Chronology, Culture, and Crafts
A New Beginning
Wendy Pfeffer’s A New Beginning: Celebrating the Spring Equinox is the kind of non-fiction book that combines just enough illustration and intriguing detail to keep kids engaged while they learn the salient facts of the topic. In this case, Pfeffer’s topic is Sping, and she effectively explains both scientific and historic aspects of the season. The book begins with a poetic description of the arrival of spring, and then explains the science behind it in both clear narrative and helpful illustrations. Next, traditions and celebrations from several cultures are highlighted in chronological order.

  • Learn about the connection between Chinese New Year and the arrival of Spring.
  • Plant wheat for the Persian celebration of No Ruz. (I’m thinking wheatgrass on the windowsill.)
  • Consider the origin of April Fools’ Day in and Indian tradition.
  • Marvel at Mayan calendar-keeping.
  • Enjoy warm, round pancakes to symbolize the sun during Russia’s Maslenitsa. (We like the 10 grain pancake mix from Winco!)
  • Honor the berry as a harbinger of Spring like the Cree. (We planted blueberries this year!)
  • Study the symbols of Jewish Passover.
  • Even discover how rabbits and colored eggs came to be connected with the Christian holiday of Easter. (Can’t wait to try natural egg dyes this year!)
Instructions for several crafts and recipes complete the book, and I know I’ll refer to it again next year – there are too many fun options to try out at once. Several of the traditions do not take place on the equinox, but in anticipation of it before or celebration afterward. B is in a phase of being very curious about the habits and traditions of others, so books like this are a great way to encourage his exploration of diversity.
Appropriate for: preschoolers, primary grades.
**The construction of this post was interrupted by a 4 year old who couldn't sleep. I found myself sitting on his bed singing him a favorite lullaby: Evermore written by Sandra Boynton and illustrated by Alison Krauss. It speaks to both my longing for spring and my nostalgia for time.**
Link-up note: my apologies to anyone who had trouble linking last week. First, I got my dates mixed up (sorry Maggie!) then a coding glitch initially made the entered links invisible (thanks Shonda). If you have a chance to go back and visit some of the links from last week, their authors could use a little extra love!

Did you see my post on Saturday for the March Read-Along at Helping Little Hands? I shared a fun flap-book and craft.

Are you looking forward to the change in season? Are you feeling it in your weather yet or is it just another date on the calendar?


March Read Along: Anybody Hungry?

Friday, March 11, 2011

For a Story, a Craft, or a Snack?

Helping Little Hands is hosting a smorgasbord of reading this month. Have you checked out all the great books and activities yet? I’m pleased to be joining in the fun and sharing a entertaining books and easy craft.

A Mouth Full of Surprises
What's for Dinner?
Lift-the-flap books are popular with the youngest babies (as long as they’re sturdy) but bigger kids enjoy the interactive aspect too. What’s for Dinner, by Ann Garrett and Gene-Michael Higney engages young listeners with rhymes, bright animal illustrations, and large flaps representing the mouth of each animal. The poem on each page identifies the animal as well as a snack the animal enjoys, which is revealed in the illustration by opening the mouth flap. Animals include a cat, a walrus, a frog, a bat, and a shark. Both the poems and the illustrations are full of humor, such as the cat “playing with her food,” which is a rat who is munching some cheese of his own. The final page is features a kid, whose snack has a funny reference of its own: a hot dog is not a dog at all! B enjoys repeated readings of this one, and he’s learned to contribute some of the under-the-flap sound effect words, like gulp, slurp, and crunch. The flaps and pages are both heavy cardstock, but I wouldn’t leave this one in the unsupervised hands of an inquisitive toddler (like T).

Feeding Your Face

The giggles that ensued from the silly snacking in the story prompted me to put together a simple munching craft with a free printable, a paper lunch bag, and some clip art. Visit DLTK’s Growing Together for a long list of printable paper bag puppet parts. We started with a frog, but you can also find a cat and a bat, and the hippo could be pretty easily adapted to a walrus. Haven’t found a shark, but we could probably design our own. (Unless anybody wants to suggest a place to find one?) While B colored and cut out the puppet pieces, I found a clip-art fly from Microsoft and printed it out as well. When we assembled the puppet, we could “feed” it the fly! You could also use other animals to create new snackers; perhaps a bird munching a worm or a pig crunching some corn? Kids learn about animal behaviors while getting some fine motor practice in the assembly process. You could even extend this craft to a nutrition lesson by printing out some examples of food and discussing which are healthy choices to “feed” your puppet.

Appropriate for: some toddlers, preschoolers, primary grades.

Thanks, Polly, for including me in the read-along. If you’re a new visitor to Little Sprout Books, welcome! Visit this week’s Feed Me Books Friday post for a spring garden book and activity, and link up your own book recommendation while you’re there!


Feed Me Books Friday: Put a Little Spring in Your Step

Thursday, March 10, 2011

And a Little Green in Your Garden 

Spring is almost here, can you believe it? I feel like Christmas just whizzed by and yet March 20 and the Spring Equinox is just around the corner. I’m delighted in the sprinkling of warm days we’ve been experiencing, and the boys are loving spending lots of time outside. Last weekend, we stopped at a home improvement center and as we walked through the garden section, I spotted pots of blueberries. I’ve always wanted to grow them, so we brought two young plants home with us and B and T helped me plant them on Tuesday. Hoping we can keep them protected if we have any more cold-snaps roll through. We also picked out some seeds to start indoors. B wants to grow pumpkins this year, and I want to grow zucchini. He also wants to grow sunflowers again, as he very much enjoyed tending them last summer.
(Photo courtesy Bad Alley on flickr.)

Sowing the Seeds of Responsibility

Since we haven’t yet committed to adopting a family pet, tending the garden is B’s greatest endeavor in being responsible for another living thing. Doug Cushman does a great job of balancing the cycle of responsibility and reward in Mouse and Mole and the Year-Round Garden. Each page is peppered with factual tidbits about plants, animals, seasons, and weather, so there is no shortage of learning to be had. Mole is the knowledgeable and responsible character, and he teaches a willing and eager Mouse what must be done in the garden each season. Together, they not only complete the garden chores but enjoy seasonal activities as they pass the time waiting for their harvest. Gardening, whether it is a plot in your yard, a planter on the patio, or a pot on the windowsill, is an excellent opportunity for developing the cognitive skills of cause and effect and understanding natural processes as well as emotional skills of nurturing and responsibility.

Frost-Free Gardening

If you’re itching to get a start on your garden like us, you may want to start some seedlings indoors so your plants will be closer to harvest when you plant them outside after the danger of frost has passed. Or, perhaps you’ll keep your garden indoors to enjoy. Either way, the March issue of Family Fun Magazine featured two projects you and your little gardeners will “dig.” First, a window planter just for seedlings (or tiny plants) that uses a trading card protective sleeve makes the sprouting process literally transparent and takes up next to no space. Second, a counter-top garden assembled from re-purposed water bottles is intriguing and low-maintenance, as it waters itself! One note about the projects: at the time I looked them up on the website, the instructions for the water bottle planters were included with the description and photo of the window planter and vice versa. Hopefully, the editors will make the switch, but you may want to visit both links to get the complete picture of each project.
(photos from familyfun.com)

Appropriate for: preschoolers, primary grades.

Anybody grown blueberries before? Words of wisdom for my garden? Suggestions for seeds to start now? I’d love to hear them!

I’ll be posting a special book and craft activity on Saturday to be featured at Helping Little Hands. Hope you’ll check it out!


Feed Me Books Friday: The Book I Can’t Believe I Don’t Own

Thursday, March 3, 2011


not duck feet, but a boy can wish...
As I looked through Dr. Seuss titles for my Read Across America post Wednesday, I realized that a title that we don’t own definitely needs to be added to our shelf. I know I owned it as a child, and I’m a little surprised I gave it up, but perhaps it went to one of th cousins? It will be arriving Tuesday thanks to my AmazonMom free Prime membership. (That’s less of a plug for Amazon than a confession of my great challenge to limit my book purchases.) What, you may ask, is this desired book?

A Comical Lesson in Critical Thinking

I Wish That I Had Duck Feet (Beginner Books(R))
Dr. Seuss also went by Theo LeSeig when he authored books he did not illustrate. I Wish That I Had Duck Feet is one of these books and thus is not one of the first thought of or found when searching for Dr. Seuss. In my opinion, it’s a hidden gem. The narrator of the story begins by wishing he had duck feet for the fun he could have in the water, but after some consideration realizes there may be some not-so-desirable effects as well (in particular, a not-so-pleased mom). So continues the pattern of the book, as he considers the pros and cons of various animal features: deer horns, a long trunk, a whale spout, a tail, and even a combination of several features. While each seems enticing at first, he soon realizes that he is better off being himself. Children will love the humorous pictures and the imagined scenarios of each animal option. The “be proud of who you are” lesson and cognitive model of critical thinking are the icing on the cake. The value of being yourself is implied similarly in another book we enjoyed, You Look Ridiculous, but I Wish That I Had Duck Feet focuses on the function and value of the physical features, rather than just the appearance. I’m excited for the arrival of this one on my doorstep – both because of the connection to my childhood and also because I’m looking forward to using it to help B understand pros and cons.

Appropriate for preschoolers, primary grades.

Did you get a chance to see my Read Across America post and the Cat in the Hat cupcakes?  Did you celebrate? Do you have a favorite Dr. Seuss (or Theo LeSeig) book? Got another book to share? Comment away and link up!


Happy Birthday Dr. Seuss!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Read Across America is an event that is near and dear to my heart for obvious reasons: I majored in literature in college, taught language arts and literacy, adore reading with my boys, and voraciously devour anything in print! B has a rather enormous collection of Dr. Seuss books thanks to Mommy’s aforementioned love-affair with text and Daddy’s appreciation for nonsense and silliness. Daddy’s favorite is probably Mr. Brown Can Moo, Can You? He’s excellent at the sound effects. Mommy’s favorite is hard to pick between I Can Read with My Eyes Shut and Oh the Thinks You Can Think. I have a fondness for the light-hearted but genuine message of each. B can’t commit to a favorite. It depends on the day, but it seemed only appropriate to enjoy Happy Birthday to You! in honor of Dr. Seuss and it is one of B’s top picks.

Celebration Time!
We began our celebration in preschool a day early (since B's program only meets two days per week) with a cute striped hat project and a reading of There’s a Wocket in My Pocket. The creation of all the nonsense words for the purpose of entertaining rhymes emphasizes the importance of recognizing rhymes for preschoolers and understanding the letter and phonics patterns present. (But it’s really fun to read aloud too! *wink*) All the kids in their hats were adorable – so what if they didn’t all get the red-white pattern! My privacy-minded readers will appreciate the blurred faces in this shot of the class, and the rest will just have to understand. For the official birthday, we’ll celebrate with green eggs and ham for breakfast. (I’ll update with a photo if they come out remotely appetizing.) We’ll enjoy some more of our Seuss collection and other favorite books. And what better outing for Read Across America Day than a trip to the library? It just so happens to be preschool story day, and I’m hoping for some Seuss-inspired fun there too.

Green Eggs and Ham Breakfast
B was leery at first, but gobbled them up!

Who wants a Cupcake?
We love our library staff, and B has many friends that we see regularly at story-hour, so I decided to whip-up a little birthday treat to share. I intend to create Cat in the Hat cupcakes in the morning before library time – hopefully it will be both a fun celebration activity and a cool treat to share. I’ve got some inspiration for marshmallow hats from Sugar Swings and smaller scale lifesaver hats from Kara’s Cupcakes, but I’m toying with a creation involving ice cream cone hats… will certainly post photos if successful.
Chocolate cupcake baked in ice cream cone.
Oreo cookie "head" attached with frosting.
Paper hat and face.
The Cat in the Hat Knows A Lot About…
Happy Birthday to You!
Reading. When the National Education Association created Read Across America in 1997 to motivate young readers and encourage adults to make reading to children a priority, selecting Dr. Seuss’s birthday to mark the event only added to the significance. Dr. Seuss books are among the most widely recognized, easily readable, thoroughly enjoyable, timelessly collectible books to be had. The flagship of our celebration, Happy Birthday to You, is appropriate any day of the year. Whether your birthday celebrations are small family affairs or complex extravaganzas, you’ll enjoy the birthday adventures in Katroo, escorted by the Birthday Bird. In classic Seuss-style, the language and imagination are over the top, but the underlying message is at once simple and profound. The focus of the celebration in Katroo is “If we didn’t have birthdays, you wouldn’t be you.” Besides enjoying hotdogs on spools and mustard-off pools and the Birthday Pal-alace, readers are encouraged to shout out loud, “I am what I am! That’s a great thing to be!” And that is a message I think anyone could use, any day of the year.

Appropriate for everyone!

Will you be celebrating Read Across America? What are your plans?

Check out more fun projects and ideas at Obseussed!

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