Tuesday, January 31, 2012


Grey Rabbit's 1,2,3  by Alan Baker is a counting book that introduces the numbers 1 to 10.  It does so with softly drawn illustrations and a surprise at the turn of each page as we guess what it is that Grey Rabbit has made out of clay.

I like the connection of the rabbit making things to be counted. Math skills can be introduced and supported with physical activities.
Young children need to touch the items they are counting to understand what the numbers mean. It's a different skill than simply memorizing the sequence from 1 to 10, or even recognizing the written numerals.

Check out additional concept books by Alan Baker at your local independent bookseller or your local library.

Art/Fine Motor Extension Idea:
This is the best playdough recipe hands down. Make some today.
Use it to create "things" to count together as you touch them.

Playdough from the book, Mudworks, by MaryAnn Kohl

1 Cup flour
1/2 Cup salt
2 Tablespoon cream of tartar
1 Cup water
1 Tablespoon oil, don't need it but it can make the dough nice
Food coloring, optional

Mix all ingredients except color in a saucepan.
Cook over medium heat, stirring until mixed and stiff.
Let it sit and cool, but it is fun to work with slightly warm playdough.
Store new playdough in the fridge in an air tight container.

Optional Steps:
Divide dough into balls and knead color into dough.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Community (Helpers)

Firefighters, police, and a whole cast of "Community Helpers" join the pretend play of a brother and sister team in this sweet tale by author Christine Kole MacLean and illustrator Mike Reed. 
The little boy is far too busy doing "important" jobs to stop for a hug, but Mom insists that "Even Firefighters Hug Their Moms".

While there are many non-fiction books that give a lot of information about the different occupations within a community, this read aloud with it's warm illustrations is a great introduction for that discussion.
The theme of imaginative play is an important one. This type of play advances cognitive development and builds social skills. Unfortunately, it is becoming less prevalent for young children today thanks to technology and more "realistic" toys.

Dramatic Play Extension Idea:
Use household items as props to support imaginative play. You don't need to buy anything!
Follow your child's lead and be willing to turn the living room into a zoo or a hospital for an afternoon.
Build a simple fort/cave using the kitchen table and a big blanket. 
Have fun as your child explores new roles and be sure to get a big hug for a job well done.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Parent Resource

Do you know how many children's books are published each year? You might not believe it, but the answer is around 20,000. Out of that enormous number, how many do you think are great books? How can you weed through that amount of literature with the limited hours you have available to find the gems?
Here's one resource I use to help narrow the selection and save myself time if I already have a topic in mind.

Paperback: 480 pages
Publisher: Algonquin Books; 1 edition (June 6, 2003)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1565123085
ISBN-13: 978-1565123083

Esme Raji Codell is an author, librarian, blogger, and champion of quality children's literature. This excellent resource is organized by topic and provides lists of books for a wide range of ages.
Her sense of humor and passion for reading will help you make selections that are appropriate for your audience (your own children or others). While this resource is already several years old (don't discount a book because it isn't this year's model), you can find more recent selections on her blog.

Time Saving Idea:
Visit your local library and take a look at the reference shelf in the children's department. There are other resources that can help you choose books by age, interest, reading level, and more. Choose the best books for your read aloud time without taking all your free time.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Just Say "Yes"

Saturdays are great!
No school. No work. No schedule of activities.
It's almost as good as a "Yes Day".

Well, that's not exactly true. There is the obligatory room cleaning and sheet changing on Saturday, and the occasional weekend homework assignment. It's not truly a "Yes Day", but it's still pretty great at our house.
This full of fun account of one child's day is a great read aloud by Amy Krouse Rosenthal. Each page poses a question and the following page answers via illustration.
Just say "Yes" to a good book today!

Writing Extension Idea:
Ask you child to brainstorm some of the requests (crazy or not) they might make on a "Yes Day". Write what they dictate to you, or encourage them to write the list themselves if they're ready. Post it on the fridge and mark the calendar for a special date. Seeing their requests in writing shows the power of print and connects it as a real and relevant tool for communication.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Construction Vehicles

It seems that every little boy (and some girls) between the ages of 2 and 4, become fascinated with construction vehicles of every kind.
I remember many trips when my young son would suddenly yell from the backseat, "Stop the car!" because he wanted to see the construction trucks on the side of the road.
For those vehicle loving preschoolers, this is a perfect bedtime book.
A read aloud session at the end of the day helps to slow down busy bodies and brains, preparing them for a much needed rest. That goes for the grown-ups too!

Fine Motor Extension Idea:
Before bedtime arrives, have your child use building blocks or an empty shoebox to make a "garage" for the array of construction vehicles, trucks and cars that need to be "tucked in" for the night.
It makes for a quick clean-up routine that's satisfying as well.

Thursday, January 26, 2012


It's raining again here. Rain is water. Water is an essential element of life and the topic of today's book.

All the Water in the World by George Ella Lyon is a great introduction to the water cycle. It's a science book that you want to read again and again.  Vibrant digital illustrations and the use of a variety of font styles and sizes keep each page interesting.

The rhythm and rhyme make it appropriate for preschoolers while older children can make the connection to the global concerns for water conservation.
Community Service Extension Idea:
Most American children never have to worry about having clean water to drink. For many children in other countries all around our world, that is not the case. EDGE Outreach is working to change that and you can help.
After reading All the Water in the World, take a look at a world map and show your child where they live. Choose one of the many countries where clean drinking water is not readily available to children and explain how you can help by donating old shoes. Let your child help you clean out the closets and box up old shoes to take to a drop off location.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

ABC Books

I don't usually like ABC books. They're fine as a list of words that begin with each letter of the alphabet in alphabetical order, but they're not a fun read aloud. In fact, they can be pretty boring.
Here's one that is so visually arresting, I don't even mind about the lack of a story.

I love the white space on each page that brings your eye to focus on the one beautiful photographic image. The pictures are so vivid, the animals seem close enough to touch. Conversation about textures and how different animals "feel" will immediately result after a look at the pages in this book.

Field Trip Extension Idea:
A trip to the Zoo or the library to find more nonfiction animal books will stoke the fires of interest and knowledge about the animals on our planet. If you go to the Zoo, take along a digital camera and let your child snap the pictures. Their perspective may surprise you and you can create your own animal book at home!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Chinese New Year

Did anyone wish you Happy Chinese New Year today?
Reading Fortune Cookie Fortunes by author/illustrator Grace Lin is one way to celebrate!
This bright and happy book centers on family and is a good choice to introduce a fun new food experience. What is a "fortune"? Do they really come true? How do they get those pieces of paper inside a cookie to begin with?
Lots of questions to stir up a discussion about Chinese tradition and culture. Hungry for more? Check out other Grace Lin titles at your local booksellers and libraries.

Cooking Extension Idea:
Check out this fun recipe you can make with your little ones after reading Fortune Cookie Fortunes.

Sunday, January 22, 2012


Once you get past New Year's Day, January has a way of slowing down and can feel a bit dull. We begin counting down the days for the long semester of school and fantasizing about summer vacations.
Here's a great book to bust up the boredom and bring some color into your read aloud.
Blue Chicken by author/illustrator Deborah Freedman is a beautiful new book about a helpful little chicken and a bottle of blue watercolor paint.
Those with young children know that these "helpful" acts really can lead to a lot of cleanup afterwards, but all's well that end's well. Enjoy sharing this story from cover to cover, as even the endpapers help to tell the tale. 

Art Extension Idea:
Materials: Watercolor paints, paper, brushes, water. towels (for clean up!)
Procedure: Take another look at the illustrations in Blue Chicken. Experiment with the color blue. How many shades can you see on your paper? Can you make splatter patterns like the little chicken did? Talk about wide brush strokes and droplets of paint. Vocabulary words abound!
Be sure to have plenty of materials and time to allow for some great discovery learning and artistic expression.