Friday, March 30, 2012

Time for a Hug

What time is it?
Young children don't have to worry about time like we adults do.
Don't you think that would be glorious? We check our watch or iPhone constantly because our lives are run on such a tight schedule. Image being able to ignore the constraint of time for a day.
Definitely glorious.

Young children do enjoy the consistency and routine of a daily schedule. Their bodies adjust to meal and nap times. They count on things happening in the same order.
What happens when that schedule can't be followed? When meal time is later than usual, when nap has to be skipped?
Not so glorious.

Time for a Hug by Phillis Gershator and Mim Green tells of a child's day from morning till night. Tick-tocking through the hours, following the routines that they know, and always including time for a hug. Shouldn't we all put that on our schedule?
It moves in a gentle rhythm with rhyming text, two good reasons to share it aloud.

Wash our faces,
comb our hair,
choose the clothes
we like to wear.
Eat from a bowl,
drink from a mug--
What time is it?
Time for a hug! 

Math Extension Idea:
Daily Schedule Poster
On a large piece of poster board, list the hours of school (or a typical day at home if that applies) down the left hand side of the board.
To the right of each time segment, write what happens at that time and show a photo example.
8:00 - Arrive at school (picture of a child hanging up their school bag and jacket in their cubbie)
8:00-9:00 - Free Play (photos of children at various centers around the room)
When children become concerned about what's happening next, or how long until it's time to go home, you can direct them to the Daily Schedule and walk through the rest of the day.
You can also prepare this on a magnetized board and give each child a magnet of their own to move down/across the schedule as the day progresses.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Duck and Goose

Making a new friend can be tricky.
Sometimes, it takes a bit of a fuss and some apologizing before two individuals see their way clear to becoming good friends.
This is true for Duck and Goose.

Duck & Goose by Tad Hills is a great read aloud because it rings so true for preschoolers.
The "finders-keepers" rule is clearly stated. "I saw it first," said Duck, "I touched it first," said Goose.
Sharing space is difficult. "Scoot over, I don't have any room!" complained Duck. "You are much closer to me than I am to you," replies Goose.
In the end, they realize that the large polka-dot "egg" they have fought over is actually a ball and they come to an agreement. "It may not be an egg, but it is lovely," said Duck. "Oh, absolutely, Duck," Goose agreed. "It's a keeper."
The bright, colorful oil paintings showcase the "egg," Duck, and Goose against a muted background. Their eyebrows say it all!

Observation Extension Idea:
It's easy to mistake something that looks a lot like something else. Learning to look closely can not only save us some trouble, it's a great way to learn about things.
Choose an egg and a ball (a ping pong ball is a similar size and color) for observation.
Ask the children to describe each one and write their words on a chart labeled EGG and BALL.
Have them use their senses to investigate how these things are similar and different. (How do they move? Is one heavier than another? What is inside?)
With older children, you can use a Venn diagram to organize characteristics. Critical thinking is engaged when children ask questions and make discoveries.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012


Sometimes you just love a book because it makes you laugh. Take a look at this cover and try not to smile. See what I mean?
When you need a dose of silliness, this book is the remedy.

I Ain't Gonna Paint No More! by Karen Beaumont and David Catrow tells the story of a young boy who just can't keep from expressing himself artistically.
His mama catches him decorating the house and promptly puts him in the tub while she cleans up the mess. He rescues his art supplies and promises not to paint...but then, "So I take some red and I paint my HEAD!"

The rhyming verses lead the listener to guess what comes next. At the turn of the page, a new body part is revealed, covered in paint.
It's just fun.
I dare you to read or sing it to a group of children and not giggle along with them. Really.

Art Extension Idea:
Obviously, painting of any kind is a great follow-up to this book.
Paint standing at the easel, sitting at the table, or lying on the floor.
Use brushes, sponges, or hands.
Give lots of time and space to the process.
If the thought of that much paint is paralyzing, hand out dry paint brushes. They can "paint" their bodies as you read through the book again.

Monday, March 26, 2012


In some places in the world, March is a month dedicated to rejoicing in the renewal of the earth and the first signs of spring.
Around here, March is about one thing. Basketball.
It's not just for the grown-ups. Children are decked out in team colors. They're caught up in the excitement and they know who's in the Final Four.
So what's more fun than Basketball? How about Basketball played by Dinosaurs?

 Dino-Basketball by Lisa Wheeler incorporates two favorite themes (sports and prehistoric beasts) into one fast paced, rhyming story. In addition to the action of the game and the vibrant, energetic illustrations, there's always something new to learn. The use of basketball terms and dinosaur species can extend vocabulary and encourage discussion.

"The game begins at breakneck speed.
Two points for Stego! Clippers lead.
Allo answers off the dribble.
Diplo take it up the middle--
T. rex charges from behind.
Steals the ball. It's Meaty time!
He drives the ball up to the hoop.
Lobs to Raptor--Alley-oop!"

Check out this book during March Madness and extend the fun of basketball through read aloud.

Gross Motor Extension Idea:
The game of basketball requires many skills not yet developed in preschoolers. You can make a similar game that is more appropriate for your age group by using a laundry basket set on the floor and smaller, junior sized basketballs. If you want to add a challenge, you can add a masking tape perimeter around the basket for the children to stand on to "shoot".  Several children can practice making shots at the same time. Cheer their efforts and celebrate every 3-pointer!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Books within reach = Reading

Every child should have access to an abundance of books. Whether on loan from the library or a personal stash collected from book stores and yard sales, a stack of their very own is a special thing.

Where: Bedrooms, bathrooms, kitchens, anywhere in the house that a child can sit awhile.
What: Baskets, buckets, or shelves can all be used to organize reading material.
Why: An attractive display at a child's eye level is a great way to encourage interactions with books and reading in general.

Placing books facing forwards, rather than simply exposing the spines, may take up more shelf space, but it allows children to view the book cover and makes choosing a book easier for a non-reader.
Why do you think they display books that way at in the most prominent areas of the bookstore? Sells many more of those titles than the ones "hidden" in the shelves.

"Sell" some book choices to your little ones today by making them easy to see and easy to reach.

Click here for an attractive and floor-space saving DIY bookshelf for your child's room or your classroom.

Martha Stewart Living

Friday, March 23, 2012

A Trip to the Beach

Our local schools are on "Spring Break" beginning today! Some of us are just happy to be staying home and slowing down a bit. Others are taking off to the beach for a week of sand and sun. Even if you're not going to the beach yourself, you can enjoy some great books about that favorite vacation spot.

Today's selection, How Will We Get to the Beach? by Brigitte Luciani, is an engaging story that is also a guessing game. Roxanne packs up for a day at the beach.  She takes "the turtle, the umbrella, the thick book of stories, the ball, and of course, her baby." However, when her car won't start and she has to try another type of transportation, something won't fit and must be left behind. Can you guess what it is? This happens again and again until Roxanne finally finds a way to the beach that lets her take all five items along.
The lovely watercolor illustrations by Eve Tharlet  provide the visual clues that help young readers play along with the guessing game as each page is turned. The concepts of color and counting are also included in this delightful read aloud.

Math Extension Idea:
Materials: Paper, markers, pre-cut pictures or scissors and a selection of magazines, glue
Procedure: Using numbered paper from 1 to 5 (or if children are able, ask them to write the numerals).
Cut pictures from magazines and catalogs that you might pack for a trip to the beach (swimsuits, sunglasses, sand pails and shovels, snacks, etc).
Ask each child to choose five items and glue them to the numbered paper. 
Share them at group time to see who chose the same type of item.
Graph the results in a simple bar graph.
Talk about those numbers and the terms "more" and "less".

Thursday, March 22, 2012


I've been working in a class of 2nd and 3rd grade school children these past few weeks. Our theme study has centered on animals, specifically amphibians. Salamanders are part of this group of animals and fascinating to learn about.
In the book, The Salamander Room by Anne Mazer, a little boy thinks about how he might keep a small orange salamander that he found. His mother asks, "Where will he play?"  The little boy responds, "I will carpet my room with shiny wet leaves and water them so he can slide around and play."

As the story continues, the little boy tells his mother how he will provide food, water, and playmates for the salamander, transforming his bedroom into a perfect home for his new pet. The shadowy paintings look like sunlight through the forest canopy. Beautiful illustrations by Steve Johnson capture the quiet, magical metamorphosis.
This is a wonderful science based read aloud for young children. It speaks to the natural world and needs of the amphibians, as well as the responsibilities of pet ownership.

Science Extension Idea:
You may not be ready to adopt a pet salamander like the little boy in the story, but you can create a type of "salamander environment". Building a terrarium in the classroom with your children is a great hands on activity. You can review the pages of The Salamander Room as you add moss, stones, plants and water to your container.
Click here for a great website that gives you step by step instructions to creating an ecosystem of your very own!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012


Pirate themes are popular with preschool boys (and girls).
I'm not sure what about Pirates is so fascinating. The eye patch? The parrot? Maybe all that fighting?
One thing I know that preschoolers love about pirate stories is digging for buried treasure.
Digging is a favorite activity, and just about anything can constitute treasure for the under five crowd.
Tough Boris by Mem Fox is a pirate story that includes all the above and a little bit of heart as well.

 Colorful illustrations by Kathryn Brown, and the briefest lines of text, tell the story of Boris and his pirate life. It also tells the story of how even a greedy, fearless pirate cries when his pet dies. Without going too far, it opens the door to conversations about sad feelings and how we all share them, no matter who we are.

Language/Writing Extension Idea:
After reading Tough Boris or other pirate-themed books, have a group meeting about pirate "rules" in the classroom.
Click here for a great way to help children voice their thoughts about rules for Pirate Play. Turn those thoughts into print, and let everyone vote. It makes Pirate Play appropriate for preschool!

Monday, March 19, 2012


I tried a new recipe for dinner tonight with less than satisfactory results. Always a disappointment when that happens. My family would prefer breakfast for dinner most nights and they would all vote for pancakes as part of that meal. It's always a hit so why do I keep trying something new?
Pancakes, Pancakes by Eric Carle is the story of young Jack who wakes up hungry and wants pancakes for breakfast. With no frozen varieties handy, his mother asks him to help gather all the ingredients necessary to make the breakfast of choice, no small feat.

This book is similar to a "Little Red Hen" tale as the process of making the pancakes takes many steps; from gathering wheat and threshing grain, to milking the cow and churning the butter. Children and adults alike may be amazed at the work it takes to make pancakes!
The bold, layered collage illustrations are the trademark of Eric Carle. They are delightful to view and integral to the story, providing visual cues to the unfolding tale.

Cooking Extension Idea:
Pancakes of course!
Click on this link for a simple homemade recipe for plain pancakes and some additional flavors as well.
Electric skillets are a great alternative to stovetop cooking at school. Have children wear an oven mitt to keep their arms safe when pouring batter and flipping the pancakes onto the skillet. It's a great confidence builder, fine motor skill practice, and yummy too!

Sunday, March 18, 2012


We went out of town to a family wedding this weekend. It was lovely. The bride looked beautiful and we all clapped when they kissed. None of my children were in the wedding party this time (whew), but it was still a much anticipated event. It was a learning experience once again as we sat through the parts of the ceremony, and participated in the reception.
In Lilly's Big Day by Kevin Henkes, the main character is so excited about the prospect of being a flower girl for her teacher's wedding, she doesn't even realize that he has never asked her to perform those duties. Lilly longs for the spotlight and attention that the job promises and she is disappointed to find that her teacher's niece has landed the role.

However, she accepts the position of flower girl assistant and completes her responsibilities fully! If your child is a first time flower girl or ring bearer, this is a great book to help them prepare for the big day. If not, it still makes for a wonderful read aloud. The watercolor cartoons show Lilly practicing and her parents worrying, their expressions are perfect.
This picture book has a bit more text than others I have recommended for the preschool audience. It may be a bit more of a challenging read aloud for children under four, but is such a good story that I hope you'll give it a look.

Dramatic Play Extension Idea:
Simple props: A flowered headband or a swath of tulle (or any gauzy or lightweight fabric), silk flowers, a tiny basket, dress up shoes, vest or jacket, and a small pillow.
Space needed: A short walkway that can be covered with a length of rolled paper.
Procedure: After reading Lilly's Big Day, introduce the children to the new items in the dramatic play center. Ask if anyone has ever been to a wedding or a part of the wedding party. Discuss how people walk (slowly, sometimes with a step and a stop) in a wedding, you can refer to the story for this as well. Have fun pretending to be in a wedding ceremony just like Lilly.
Thank goodness that in a classroom wedding, there can be numerous flower girls and ring bearers!

Thursday, March 15, 2012


The daffodils and crocus are blooming in my yard and the flowering trees are already spreading color outside my windows. I love fresh flowers. I love them best when they're growing rather than cut and boxed from a florist.
Flower Garden by Eve Bunting is a story about growing flowers, but it's much more than that. It's a story of a father and daughter who carefully plan and take all the steps needed to produce a beautiful window box for a birthday surprise. The illustrations by Kathryn Hewitt are warm and beautiful like the story.

The rhyming verse and pace of the story make for a perfect read aloud choice. Be ready to make a trip to your local nursery and plant a flower garden yourself after reading!

Art Extension Idea:
Flower Pounding Art - a twist on pressed flowers.
Use fresh flowers (or weeds like dandelions) to create floral inspired artwork that's unique and lasts. Gives big muscles a workout too as the flowers are gently pounded with a mallet or wooden block.
This technique also works for all types of green leaves in the spring and summer. Frame the finished piece for a lovely reminder of fresh posies all year long.

Family Fun

 Click here for directions.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012


Mean Jean the Recess Queen runs the show on the playground until a spunky new student named Katie Sue comes along.
Some people think this story is too simplistic, too good to be true. I think that it's great to show children that sometimes an act of kindness, extending the hand of friendship, can make a big change in people.
Will it always work? Maybe not. Is it worth the try? Absolutely.

The bright acrylic and collage illustrations and the bouncing rhyme keep this story moving towards a problem-solving conclusion. It begs to be read aloud and followed up with a discussion on why Mean Jean tried to rule recess and how Katie Sue won her over. Standing up for yourself and using your words are also good points shared in this story.

Gross Motor Extension Idea:
Jump Rope Rhyme (most preschoolers are not ready to jump rope, so this is a fun action rhyme)
Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear, turn around,
Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear, touch the ground
Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear, show your shoe
Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear, that will do!
Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear, go upstairs-
Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear, say your prayers-
Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear, turn out the lights-
Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear, say good-night!
The children jump rope while they chant this rhyme, or they just act out the
actions as the words come up in the rhyme. An example: when they say go
upstairs, the child pretends to climb the stairs.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Art Resource

We don't usually think about art projects with our kids on sunny days.
We tend to consider sunny days being made for playing and learning outside. Gathering every ray we can while breathing in fresh air and releasing pent up energy.
Preschool Art by MaryAnn Kohl is a fantastic resource for both rainy days and sunny days. While it's not the newest book on the shelf, it is full of basic art lessons that introduce different mediums for exploration and discovery by little hands. It gives ideas for painting, drawing, construction, collage, and sculpture. Over 200 art-related ideas that concentrate on the Process of the activity instead of the finished Product.

The emphasis on process is especially important for preschoolers and young children.  More opportunities for learning occur when the process of making art, the actual doing, is valued and celebrated over a completed project.
So if you're stockpiling ideas for the next rainy day or ready for some sit down time after an afternoon in the sun, I recommend this title to you!

Click here for a fun sunny day art activity from Preschool Art.

Check out all the great resources on MaryAnn Kohl's website!

Monday, March 12, 2012


In a hurry to grow up? Most little ones are. Striving to keep up with siblings and friends, they yearn to be the biggest.
This timeless story first published in 1947,  is still relevant to young children today with beautifully updated illustrations. A little boy works alongside his mother as the seasons change, wondering if he is growing. He sees the puppy and chickens growing into their adult form, but just can't see evidence of his own growth.

The Growing Story is just one of the gems written by Ruth Krauss during her career as a children's author. Illustrator Helen Oxenbury is one of the most recognizable illustrators of current children's literature, famous for her board books. Together, they bring beauty and a sense of wonder to the "everyday" in this book.

Music Extension Idea:
The song I Wonder If I'm Growing is performed by Raffi in the album named The Singable Songs Collection in the year 1996.

I wonder if I'm growing
I wonder if I'm growing
My mom says 'yes, I'm growing'
But it's hard for me to see

My mom says 'eat your sandwich
It will make you grow up tall'
But when I eat my sandwich
I'm hardly bigger at all

I wonder if I'm growing
I wonder if I'm growing
My mom says 'yes, I'm growing'
But it's hard for me to see

My mom says 'Wash your hands now
Then you can go and play'
Hey, I can reach the tap now
For the very first time today

And I think I must be growing
Oh I know I'm really growing
My mom says 'yes, I'm growing'
And now I know it's true

Friday, March 9, 2012

It's Hip to be Square

A perfectly simple book about a perfect square. As you turn the pages, it becomes much more than four equal sides and four matching corners. See how it transforms shape and color as the week goes by.
Perfect Square by Michael Hall.

I love the cover with its embossed title. Little fingers will want to brush over it, drawn to the water colored lettering. I love the square shape and size of the book, perfect for a lap. I love all the paper craft ideas and the verbs that describe the action . Torn. Poked. Shredded. Snipped. Crumpled.

Art Extension Idea:
Paper Collage
Materials:  Paper samples cut into manageable square pieces , scissors, hole punchers, glue, tape, and black crayons
Procedure:  Give each child a large piece of white paper as a background. Let them choose colored paper pieces to cut, tear, wrinkle, punch, etc. before adhering them to the background paper.
The process of manipulating the materials and experimenting is the important thing. The end product is not!

Thursday, March 8, 2012


Chances are good that you're already familiar with Pinterest.  You've probably made boards for recipes, hairstyles, and home decor. Have you checked out the educational side of Pinterest?
If not, take a look at the following link to see how you can use Pinterest as a teacher.

Even if you're not a teacher, there's a wealth of fun ideas out there to do with your children. Some of them even include a good read!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Bedtime Battle

At times, there is nothing sweeter than the nighttime routine of getting your child ready for bed. Warm pajamas, cozy read aloud time, prayers, and goodnight kisses.
Other times, there is nothing more frustrating than the relentless stalling tactics. Drinks of water, trips to the bathroom, covers tucked back in, and favorite stuffed animals found.

Little Hoot by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Jen Corace puts a spin on the typical bedtime dilemma.

Little Hoot just wants to go to bed like all his friends, but his parents insist that he stay up late.
Young listeners may be surprised to hear that Little Hoot wants to go to bed, but will this story convince them too? A charming reversal of the bedtime battle for parents and children.

Family love is evident in this sweet story. It makes for a perfect read aloud at naptime or bedtime.

Language Extension Idea:

Wide Eye Owl

There's a wide eye owl (make fingers in large circles and cup over eyes)
With a pointed nose (use fingers to make a triangle & point out for nose)
2 pointed ears (use fingers for ears)
and claws for toes (wiggle fingers like toes)
he lives way up in the tree (point up to tree top)
and when he looks at you (point at kids)
he flaps his wings (use arms for wings, and flap)
and says whooo whooo (continue flapping wings)

Tuesday, March 6, 2012


Ninjas are pretty popular with children today. Disney has a television show about them, Lego® has a complete line of construction sets dedicated to them, and there are several Halloween costume variations on the ninja theme. 
Having a young son, I get to live with a "ninja in training" sometimes.
Shirts are wrapped around the head, leaving only enough space for the eyes to peer through.  Household items become ninja tools for surprise attacks and the furniture is mostly for training purposes.
You might think I'd shy away from books about ninjas...but then I found this one.

Wink, The Ninja Who Wanted to be Noticed by J. C. Phillipps is a fantastic book for those who love the ninjas and those who don't.  One of the best things about this book is that it never talks about "fighting".  It is both very peaceful and very entertaining.
Wink tries hard to succeed in ninja school by being the most stealthy and silent student, but then he wants everyone to notice just how stealthy and silent he is!  How can he use his talents and be happy too? Sometimes, the thing we really think we want isn't what we want at all. 
This wonderful story about a flamboyant ninja is funny, touching, and hopeful, and it deserves to be noticed.

Art Extension Idea:
Print Making from J.C. Phillipps herself!
Click here to check out the "how to" from her blog post. 
Frame the finished print with a beautiful piece of origami-style paper.
Even preschoolers can make simple prints. Give it a try.

Monday, March 5, 2012


My son was so excited to go sledding today as we experienced our first real snow of the season. Finally. In March. No matter, you can't deplete that kind of enthusiasm with talk of spring and Easter right around the corner. He donned the appropriate snow gear and was on our hill, making tracks with his boots in record time.
Red Sled by Lita Judge has all that excitement encased in an almost wordless picture book with beautiful pencil and watercolor illustrations.

The winter landscape and expressive animals, along with a few onomatopoeic words, tell the joyful story of a sledding adventure. Young children will delight in the simple sharing of the book and can add to the story as they look and listen to repeated readings.

Gross Motor Extension Idea:
Indoor Sledding
Since they haven't gotten much use outside this year in our area, you might want to bring those plastic sleds (toboggan or circular style) indoors to play with.
Attach a short piece of twine or ribbon to the sled, allowing it to be pulled across the floor.
Pile up the stuffed animals and take them for a ride (just like the story!)
Use pillows, cushions, and blankets, to build hills and valleys to maximize the ride for those animal riders.
For the grown-ups who want a workout themselves, give your child an indoor sled ride! It's sure to bring some extra "wheeeee" to the play.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Good Night

I choose a read aloud book based on both the story and illustrations. It's not always easy.
Books for young children should require both pieces to be top quality. The illustrations need to lead their eyes, making a clear connection to the print that is being read, and filling out the story they hear through their ears.
The House in the Night by Susan Marie Swanson is a lovely example of such a book.

The scratchboard illustrations by Beth Krommes create a night-time world of black and white with touches of gold illuminating the moon and stars.  It won the Caldecott Medal Award for 2009. The book is based on a traditional nursery rhyme that builds on the familiar in a child's world and moves into the fantastical. It concludes with the cozy, relevant items well known to a child and makes for a great bedtime real aloud.

Art Extension Idea:
Traditional scratchboard projects are a bit tedious for little hands to complete. You can get a similar look with crayon resist or rubber cement resist.  Check out a cool watercolor/resist art project from The Artful Parent blog.
Click here
Courtesy of The Artful Parent

Friday, March 2, 2012

Dr. Seuss

Today is the birthday of the famous author/illustrator Dr. Seuss.
This day is celebrated in schools and libraries all across the land. Children are dressing up in character and there are a lot of green eggs and ham being served at meal times.
Dr. Seuss wrote 44 books for children, sold over 200 million copies, translated into 15 languages. Most people can name at least a handful of favorites.

I must now confess, I am not a fan of Dr. Seuss books. I don't really care to read them aloud and I don't love the illustrations. That's just me, you might collect them all!
Check out the fun activities in your area today and celebrate Dr. Seuss and his famous books.

Cooking Extension Idea:
Try Green Eggs and Ham today!

Check this site for a step by step recipe.

Thursday, March 1, 2012


When planning errands with very young children, the rule of 3 applies. Never, and I mean never, try to incorporate more than three stops per day. This does not include drive-thru windows. They only count for a quarter of a stop because no seat belt/car seat buckling, getting shoes back on, or hands and faces being wiped to leave the car is involved. 
This delightful book, When Dinosaurs Came With Everything by Elise Broach, imagines a day when dinosaurs come as the freebie (instead of the standard sticker or lollipop) at the end of every errand stop for a young boy and his mother.

The attitudes of both child and parent change as the story unfolds.

     "No stickers today," said the nurse. "Just dinosaurs. With a shot, you get two."
     "I want a shot," I said.
     At the shoe store, the sign read: BUY TWO PAIR, GET DINOSAUR FREE!
     My mom decided my shoes would last a while longer.

An entertaining story, this one will be requested for many repeated readings. 
If only Dinosaurs really did come with everything...moms would never have to beg or bribe young children to get back into the car for one more trip.

Sensory/Fine Motor Extension Idea:
 Click here for a recipe for the dough!

Make your favorite batch of play dough.
Then, mix in some washed and dried, used coffee grounds (or sawdust).
Set out a glob of the mixture and bury a dinosaur figure into the dough, then shape it like an egg.
When dry, let your child crack it open to reveal the dinosaur inside.