Reading Fun that Makes Children Laugh!

Kids love to giggle, and they love to be silly! So why not harness that and get in some reading time, too?

Riddle Rhymes by D.J. Panec is a fun book that encourages interactive reading with parent and child. The parent reads the riddle, which shows a photograph clue, and the child answers with a word that rhymes. When you turn the page together, you can find out if your child solved the riddle correctly!

My kids were instantly hooked on this book and after reading it several times together, they were practicing it on their own. Very sweet!

This can also be used in a classroom setting for a cooperative read-aloud or practice for an emergent reader. Or if you have a reluctant reader in the home or the classroom, this might be a book to catch his/her interest!

Best Ages: pre-k – kindergarten (read aloud), 1st-2nd grade (independently read)

Quilting & Math, Literature and Social Studies

I can barely sew a button back on when it falls off my husband’s shirt, but many of the women in my family are experts with a needle and thread. My grandmother quilts and has gifted us beautiful quilts we will always treasure. We also have an heirloom quilt that was pieced together by the quilting bee at my aunt’s parish when a trunk of hand-stitched quilting blocks was discovered in a relative’s attic. These blocks were determined to be sewn by my great-grandmother before the Great Depression.

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The heirloom quilt that was pieced together decades after my great-grandmother first stitched the blocks.

The precious quilts made by my family made this particular book jump out at me when I saw it displayed at our public library a few weeks ago!

The Quilting Bee by Gail Gibbons tells the history and modern-day process of quilting in a fun, engaging way. The illustrations are bright and include many styles and types of quilting. Best of all, this book can easily fit into many content areas for the elementary classroom:

  1.  A literature unit on pioneers for books such as Sarah, Plain and Tall, Little House on the Prairie or Addie Across the Prairie.
  2. A social studies lesson on the Oregon Trail, as many of the quilting patterns and blocks were created and used by settlers who traveled west in the United States during the 19th century.
  3. A math lesson relating to topics of symmetry, geometry and shape recognition or tessellations.

And The Quilting Bee can also be incorporated in early childhood or preschool classes to touch on the topics of history, colors or teamwork.

Best Ages: pre-k – 3rd grade

For Parents:

  • If you have any family quilts, take them out and show them to your children. Or talk about their favorite blankets and how comforting it can be to have a special covering for going to sleep.
  • Visit a county fair or stop by a local craft/sewing store with your child. Show them the materials people use to sew today, as seen in the book.

For Teachers:

  • For older students, use this free lesson to have students will measure and fit together quilt pieces to make their own creations. Or check out this teacher’s idea for creating tissue paper quilt blocks.
  • For younger students, hand out this free printable of addition/subtraction practice that forms a quilting block. Students then color in the quilt block according to the key.

 

Dog Safety for Kids

My daughters, like many children, absolutely LOVE dogs. Although we don’t own a dog, we have many friends and family members who do, and our girls always look forward to playing with and petting the dogs when we visit those homes. But my kids’ natural curiosity and enthusiasm about dogs doesn’t translate to an innate understanding of how to respect and interact with dogs safely. (Ever seen a kid yank on a dog’s tail, try to ride a dog, get in a dog’s face when they are sleeping or eating? Yep, my kids have tried to do all that and more!)

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My oldest daughter and I pose for a photo with my cousin’s lovable Saint Bernard, Molly (March 2014).

So how do we encourage our kids to enjoy these wonderful pets while staying safe?

Teaching some basic precautions can go a long way. And if you’re not sure where to start, or you think your children or students could use a refresher, I highly recommend the book May I Pet Your Dog? by Stephanie Calmenson. This book teaches dog safety in a way that is easy for children to understand without stirring up an unhealthy fear of dogs.

What makes the book extra fun is that it’s told from the perspective of a dog talking to a little boy. My daughters really enjoyed reading this book and I appreciated the clear presentation of dog safety guidelines. Some of those guidelines include:

  • Do not interact with an unknown dog if his/her owner is not there.
  • Always ask to pet someone’s dog before touching them or getting too close.
  • Be considerate of dogs who are sleeping, eating, caring for puppies or chewing on a bone, toy or stick.
  • Be gentle and be kind – remember that dogs have feelings, too!

(Taken from pages 30-31 in May I Pet Your Dog?)

Do you have suggestions for helping kids learn how to interact safely with dogs? Please leave a comment!

 

Best Ages: pre-k – 2nd grade

 

Spring Crafts for Kids

My children love to paint and color! We have art time at our house nearly every day. With a two-year old and a four-year old, I try to keep our crafts simple and use supplies that are inexpensive and easy to clean up. I’m sharing them here because sometimes it can be hard to think of something simple to do when you have extra time at home or in the classroom.

And if you’d like a book to go along with any of these spring crafts, check out my post on a  fun springtime read. 🙂

These are 4 spring crafts we have done in our house over the last couple of weeks:

#1 Paper Plate Umbrellas

  • Cut a paper plate in half, then create scalloped edges.
  • Use construction paper to make a “J” shape and tape for the umbrella handle.
  • Allow child to decorate. (We used small pieces of tissue paper and practiced glue skills.)

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#2 Silly Bunnies

  • Cut out a bunny shape from a piece of construction paper. Next, make a set of paws and feet. Allow child to paint or color the bunny.
  • Make 4 thin strips of construction paper, approximately 3-4 inches long and 1/2 inch wide. Fold each strip fold accordion-style.
  • Tape or glue the paws and feet to the strips and then to the bunny.
  • Add “extras” to decorate the bunny or simply draw in a face using marker. My children used googley eyes, pom poms and we even stuck a cotton ball on the back of the bunny for a tail. 🙂

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#3 Tin Foil Painting

  • Cut a large rectangle from the back of an old cereal box. Cover with tin foil.
  • Use acrylic paints to create a scene or “abstract” spring painting – give your children/students green, yellow, pink, blue and/or purple as cheerful spring colors.
  • If desired, tape yarn or string to the back to hang and display.

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Note: I remember doing this as a child and I loved it! The ones my kids painted turned out so nicely although the picture quality doesn’t reflect it too well. My apologies!

#4 Easter Cross with Sponge Painting

  • Cut out cross using brown construction paper and heart using pink or red construction paper. Glue Heart to the center of the cross.
  • If desired, write a phrase or Bible verse inside the heart using Sharpie. Some examples are Jesus is Risen, Happy Easter, Jesus Loves Me.
  • Cut up a sponge and demonstrate how to dip the sponge in the paint and then dab it on the paper to create a textured look.  They may not end up doing it (one of my kids did and one didn’t) but even using a slightly different medium for painting can be a fun experience!

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Interactive Board Books II

Young children love to interact with books as you read aloud to them. These books are especially helpful for little ones who have trouble settling down to read together… and interactive board books make fun gifts for baby showers and birthdays!

Here are 5 interactive board books that my children liked reading during the last month:

Follow the Trail: Trucks by Dawn Sirett

This is a distinctive book in the interactive character because it has raised, shiny trails that allow children to kinesthetically engage with the book. My preschooler really liked this one! It is also well-designed with great information.

 

Daddy, Look What I Can Do! by Mack

Originally written and published in Dutch, this is a classic lift-the-flap book that our family liked because it addressed dads, and we’ve already enjoyed lots of board books that address mom. 😉 One on side of the page are amazing nature photographs of wild safari and jungle animals, with a sketched illustration of the baby animal on the next flap. My children liked lifting up the flaps to see what each baby was showing its father it could do.

Red Light, Green Light by Yumi Heo

A fun take on cars, this book highlights common traffic signs from the United States with lift-the-flaps that babies and toddlers love. My two-year old loves this board book!

The Small Seed by Judith Nicholls

Explore science and plant life with your little one! The Small Seed teaches about the stages that a seed goes through until it become a beautiful sunflower, with touch-and-feel pages to help solidify the concepts.

Who’s That? Arctic Animals by Tad Carpenter

A bit more sophisticated than a lift-the-flap book, each page begins with the question Who’s that?, followed by clues related to the arctic animal featured on the corresponding page. What my daughters liked is that all the animals are “hiding” in their habitats and they could find them after listening to the clue and opening the fold-outs.

Best Ages: 0-4 years

Visit this post for 5 more interactive and engaging board book ideas from Sunshine Readers.

 

 

 

Gardening with Children

Well, spring has officially arrived! We’ve been enjoying some gardening books as we wait for the right time to plant our annual grape tomato plants. This is a great way for our family to practice a bit of a green thumb while living in a large city. My husband and daughters enjoy each part of the process: going to the gardening center to purchase supplies, planting the seeds and tending to the tomato plants throughout the summer. This is a special daddy-daughter activity that I particularly appreciate because I love fresh tomatoes! 🙂

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Planting tomato seeds in April 2015.

Do any of you plan to garden this year? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!

As you prepare to garden – or choose to pass! – here are 3 fun gardening books to enjoy with your children or students:

Planting a Rainbow by Lois Ehlert

This beautiful book shows how plants grow using straightforward language for young children. A medley of colors are shown in the illustrations and some pages include labels of common flowers. The pages turn in a lovely way to create a rainbow. This would be a great book to incorporate to a thematic study on gardening or plant life.

Lola Plants a Garden by Anna McQuinn

One of my favorite picture books for young children is Lola at the Library. Here is a companion book by the same author-illustrator team. Lola and her mom work together to plant a garden and decorate it, too. Then all of Lola’s friends come to enjoy the delightful garden!

Bumpety Bump! by Pat Hutchins

Follow along with a girl and her grandfather as they go through the garden with a wheelbarrow! My favorite part was seeing the roots of the various plants and bushes in the illustrations; my children and I were able to point to them and discuss how plants grow.

Best Ages: pre-k – 1st grade

 

Learning About India: Family and Clothing

My preschooler fell in love with the book My Dadima Wears a Sari by Kashmira Sheth after checking it out from the library. The story tells two granddaughters who wonder why their grandmother – or Dadima (pronounced DAH-dee-mah) – only wears saris even though her children and grandchildren wear western clothing now that they live in a western country.

Dadima explains the many things she can do with a sari, the traditional clothing for women of India, and then shows her granddaughters her most precious saris. The girls try some on and feel a connection to their grandma and their family’s culture.

The illustrations are beautiful and the relationship between Dadima and the two children is heartwarming. My Dadima Wears a Sari is a delightful read-aloud and provides insight to another culture.

Best Ages: kindergarten – 2nd grade

For Parents:

  • Ask your child what types of clothing he/she likes to wear every day and if there is a particular outfit he/she prefers for a special occasion.
  • Print and color this free page of a woman wearing a sari. (This educational site has lots of other free coloring pages of traditional clothing from countries around the world.)
  • Watch the beginning of this dance at an Indian wedding, featuring children wearing saris and dancing to Indian music. Discuss the video with your child, including the style of clothing, music and dance. How is this similar or different to how your culture celebrates a wedding?

For Teachers:

  • Discuss the importance of clothing in our everyday life. Review appropriate clothing based on weather and setting (school, home, church, party, etc.).
  • Show the first 1-2 minutes of this dance at an Indian wedding, featuring children wearing saris and dancing to Indian music. Discuss the video as a class, touching on the style of clothing, music and dance. How is this similar or different to how your students’ culture celebrates a wedding?
  • Use this free Hot and Cold Weather Clothing Sort with your students. Compare that clothing to the clothes you saw the characters wear in the book.
  • Find India on a map and review some basic information about India from National Geographic kids.

Exploring Our World with Dr. Jane Goodall

Isn’t it incredible that God has given us an orderly world and given some people the incredible capacity to study and further understand that beautiful world?

One such person is Dr. Jane Goodall. Her interest and work in animal studies and environmentalism have inspired many people to take greater responsibility in taking care of wildlife and our earth’s natural resources. You can share her story with your students or children by reading the book Me… Jane by Patrick McDonnell. He tells the story of Jane Goodall’s growing up years in a lovely, simple way. The illustrations earned the book the Caldecott Honor and uniquely included some of Jane’s childhood notes/illustrations in addition to a photo of her as a young adult for the ending. My children really liked reading this book – and so did I!

Check out my post Snowflakes and Science for another excellent children’s biography of a scientist. Sharing these life stories of scientists with children, who already have a natural curiosity, helps to encourage their spirit of inquiry and exploration.

Happy reading! 🙂

Best Ages: pre-k – 1st grade

 

Study Your Heart

Hear Your Heart by Paul Showers teaches children about the importance and function of the heart in our bodies. The illustrations include easy-to-read diagrams to show how blood flows in and out of four chambers of the heart, what veins and arteries look like in our bodies and more. The author also explains that heartbeats vary by age and activity, and that your heart is actively pumping blood all the time, even while sleeping!

My daughters really enjoyed reading this book and completing the suggested activities. We pumped our fists as a tangible connection to the work our heart, as a muscle, does every minute of every day. We listened to each other’s heartbeats using an empty toilet paper roll. Finally, we tried various physical activities and monitored how they increased or decreased our heart rate.

What a great learning resource!

Hear Your Heart is a helpful addition to a unit on science, health or non-fiction books. Enjoy! 🙂

Best Ages: pre-k – 1st grade

For Parents:

  • Use an empty toilet paper roll to listen to your child’s heart beat and allow them to listen to yours.
  • Try various exercises that are listed at the end of the book and then listen to your heartbeats again. Did your child notice his/her heart beat faster after physical activity?
  • Print off and color in this free human heart coloring page from Crayola.

For Teachers:

  • Check out this great idea for a visual demonstration of how the human hearts takes in blood and pumps it out. You will need a bucket of water and a tennis ball with a hole in it to show your class how our hearts work.
  • Play a clip of the Magic School Bus episode “Inside the Human Heart.” (This may be available through your school district or even available at your public library – it is at ours!) Otherwise show this online educational video clip (approximately 6 minutes) about the human heart with an animated red blood cell that acts as a host.
  • Brainstorm your classroom’s favorite sports/physical activities. Remind them that being active keeps their hearts healthy! Then divide students into pairs to play a matching game with sports and equipment (pre-k and kindergarten) or this Olympic Winter Sports matching game (1st-2nd grade).

 

 

A Sweet Story of Friendship

Since my daughters were each born, I have been praying that they would be good friends with each other. I also hope that they will cultivate meaningful and supportive friendships with children their age as they grow and develop. As Anne in the well-known novel Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery states in Chapter 8, many of our hearts long for “A bosom friend–an intimate friend, you know–a really kindred spirit in whom I can confide my inmost soul.”

I have had the honor of having such friends in my life, past and present, and I sincerely hope to see my children have the same throughout their lives.

One children’s book that tells the sweet story of such a friendship is Penguin and Pinecone by Salina Yoon. My daughter received this as a gift for her birthday from a friend, who told us that it is one of their family’s favorite books. Since then, we have read it too many times to count! The story is easy to follow and relatable for people of all ages, as a friendship is forged and the two must consider what the other needs. It shows children the power of love and sacrifice and kindness.

In the fall, my daughters found pinecones on two family outings – once during a snack break on a bike ride, once during trip to a family friend’s cottage up north – and they immediately connected them to our oft-read story Penguin and Pinecone. So we gathered pinecones, brought them home to paint them and enjoyed the book again..

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Happy reading! 🙂

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Best Ages: pre-k – 1st grade