Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Back to School

It's the first day of August and school is looming large on the horizon.
How can that be? We just celebrated the first day of summer break a few weeks ago!

The truth is most children look forward to the beginning of a new school year.
Reuniting with friends. Establishing familiar routines. Increasing their independence.

If your child is new to preschool this year or feeling shy about returning, today's book is a perfect read aloud.

It's Time for Preschool! by Esme Raji Codell.

Full of color and movement, this book shares the full range of activities that make up a productive day in preschool. Informative and engaging. Reassuring and exciting.

Illustrator Sue Rama uses watercolor and digital collage to create eye-catching double page spreads.

Esme Raji Codell is one of my favorite authors. Take a look at her other titles for young and old alike.
Spoiler alert - she has a new picture book coming to bookstores later this month!

This book is also a great read for the first day of school!

Sunday, July 29, 2012


We've been watching the Olympics for the past few days and plan to watch many more hours of coverage in the days to come.
Inspiring. Incredible. And most of them look like they've barely left childhood.

Even young children are aware of this amazing event as it impacts their lives in small or large ways.

If you've been searching for a book to share, you've probably found the list of children's picture books with the Olympics as a theme is a short one.

There are informational books about individual sports and a few books written by the star athletes themselves. The difficult thing to find is a "good story" that incorporates the Olympics in some way.

Koala Lou by Mem Fox is a wonderful tale about the need for a mother's love and the great satisfaction that comes from being sure of that love. It also happens to include the "Bush Olympics" as part of the plot.

Mem Fox is one of my favorite authors. Her stories come from moments in her own life, events and things that have touched her in some personal way.  She also has a great website where she shares so much more than a simple bibliography. You can check it out here.

Not only is it a favorite story for young listeners around the globe, Ms. Fox lists it as her own favorite from her extensive list of published titles!

Young Koala Lou begins to feel less important to her family and decides that winning the Bush Olympics is the way to be someone special once again.

Enjoy the Olympics and some great reading with your own children this week!

Cooking Extension Idea:
Mini Olympic Pizza
Click here for a step by step tutorial on making your own. Thanks to Sun Hats and Wellie Boots for a great idea!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

What colors do you see?

Children are such good observers. They take the time to really look and see things that grown-ups typically hurry by and ignore.

Children are also good questioners. They know how to ask "why" and never fear the thought of looking foolish for having asked.

While both of these qualities can seem frustrating when you have a time constraint or need a few moments of quiet, observing and asking are two of the most important ways young children learn.

 Baby Bear Sees Blue by Ashley Wolff is a concept book about colors. Baby Bears questions his mother and observes the world around him to see the colors in the answers she provides.

The patience of mother bear and the exciting discoveries of baby bear make this a warm and enjoyable read aloud.

The illustrations are vibrant and bold. A mix of block printing and watercolors provide strong images with heavy black lines, and soft, blended edges in the background.

This gentle concept book is a great read aloud for "teaching" colors, but more importantly, it reminds us to take the time to really look at our world with fresh eyes.

What colors do you see?

Science Extension Idea:
Scavenger Hunt for Colors
Help children group themselves into pairs and give them a small container to collect items from around the room. Assign each group a color card and ask them to fill their container with items that match their assigned color.
Provide assistance as they move around the room.
Come together as a group and share what was found. Have a large piece of colored paper for each group to place their items on.
Discuss how they chose the items. Ask each child to bring something from home the next day that would match their assigned color. Take a look outside for an additional Color Hunt.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Losing a Tooth

Losing baby teeth is a milestone for young children.

It's exciting and frightening.

Will it hurt?  Will I look funny?  Can I still eat my favorite food?  When will it EVER come out?

Answers to those very questions can be found in the newest book of the Bear series, Bear's Loose Tooth. Author Karma Wilson shares how Bear and his friends experience the anticipation and anxiety of a loose tooth.

This is another darling read aloud full of characters who care about each other and offer the most reassuring advice in a time of uncertainty.

The rhythm and rhyme of the text is naturally appealing for both reader and listener. Children can quickly "read" the short phrases after a few visits with the book.

Even the "tooth fairy" is a part of the story, leaving a tasty treat rather than money. 

The illustrations by Jane Chapman are both playful and realistic. The woodland creatures are cuddly without looking like stuffed animals.

If you haven't read the other books about Bear, run to your library and check them out now! Just click here to find the entire series on Karma's website.

Fine Motor Extension Idea:
Brushing Teeth
Materials: dolls, toothbrushes, toothpaste, small cups, water, towels
Procedure: Fill small cups with water. Set out dolls, toothpaste and brushes. Children can practice applying toothpaste to the brushes and "brushing" the dolls teeth.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Growing Things

We've been enjoying the benefits of our backyard garden.
Fresh tomatoes and peppers. Sweet berries. Spicy herbs.

My children and I marvel each year how such wonderful things can emerge from the simple seeds and tiny starter plants placed in the garden soil.

It's miraculous.

Seed Soil Sun by Cris Peterson is a book about that very miracle. How three simple ingredients, mixed correctly, turn into a bounty of food.

The photographs by David R. Lundquist are vivid and beautifully composed. They help to clarify the great amount of information packed into a single paragraph on each double page spread.

While this is a bit much for a read aloud to a group of preschoolers, I would recommend it in small doses over the course of a few days.
It will certainly encourage many conversations and questions about food.

For a science based informational book, it is a pleasure to read again and again.

Science Extension Idea:
Planting seeds.
No matter how many times we do this, it is always exciting to see those tiny sprouts burst through the potting soil.
It provides a hands-on science experiment that gives us practice in observation (checking on the progress daily), planning (when the sprouts are two inches high we can take them home), and care-taking (watering, turning the planters).

Saturday, July 14, 2012


Isn't it amazing what you can do with a piece of string?

Tie. Measure. Connect. Knot. Wrap. Knit. Weave. Sew. Loop. Crochet. Cut.

Just how long can a long string be?! by Keith Baker is an engaging romp through the day using just a piece of string and creative thinking.

The artwork is lovely with it's pastel hues. The illustrations show movement and texture as the string is used again and again for so many interesting things.

I think the best thing about this story is the idea of many "solutions" for a single "problem".
It's popular to repurpose and reuse items today. This book plants a seed for that thought.

Read how the simplest of materials can make for an afternoon of discovery and fun, then ask your audience for their own ideas!

Fine Motor Extension Idea:
Materials: Yarn, scissors, sensory table or large tub, envelopes
Procedure: Cut longer lengths of yarn (12 inches or more) and place them in the sensory table along with several pair of children's scissors. Allow children to work together as they cut the lengths into smaller and smaller pieces of string.
They can collect their work in envelopes to take home or use them for art projects at a later date.

Monday, July 9, 2012


The weather is hot.
The earth is dry.

I don't usually think about rain.
I dislike storms.
But lately I've been hopeful when I see a darker cloud.
Maybe just a little shower?  Maybe a big downpour?

Are you wishing for rain?

Come on, Rain! by Karen Hesse is a story of anticipating and enjoying one of nature's gifts.

A little girl looks for rain.

"Come on, rain!" I say, squinting into the endless heat.
A creeper of hope circles 'round my bones.
Come on, rain!" I whisper.
"Come on, rain!" I cheer, peeling out of my clothes and into my suit...
She leads her friends in a celebratory dance as the rain cools and refreshes them after a long dry spell. Their mothers join them, in unusual adult abandon, as they rejoice together.

Come on, rain!

Fine Motor Extension Idea:
Water Painting
This fun activity requires few materials and creates no lasting artwork. It's especially fun for toddlers and preschoolers on sunny days.
Materials: Buckets, Old Paint brushes - large, (think house painting rather than the usual children's size), water source to fill the buckets.
Procedure: Fill buckets with "paint" (water). Give brushes and buckets to children and allow them to "paint" on the sidewalks, bricks, garage doors, etc. Help them watch their painting evaporate and disappear. Can they make a big painting before it begins to dry? How long of a line can they paint before it begins to fade away?