Thursday, August 30, 2012


It’s back to school time!  Along with returning to school comes learning to cooperate in a classroom setting.  A fun book that helps children reflect on their behavior is Mine-O-Saur, by Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen.  Children are usually interested in dinosaurs and the author uses this interest to create a character who alienates his friends because he can’t share.  The  illustrations by David Clark add to the playfulness of this book while also helping children picture how it looks when they don’t share.  This short story can have a long lasting impact on helping children learn how important it is to share.  We enjoy learning from this book!

*Why do you think the character’s name is Mine-O-Saur?
*How do the other children feel about Mine-O-Saur?
*What does Mine-O-Saur learn about sharing?
*What are some ways you can share with others?

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Butterfly Treasure Box

Are you looking for some ideas for young girls for birthday gifts or need some early Christmas shopping?  Usually crafts in our home are the “home-made” variety.  We keep lots of construction paper, ribbon, foam, glitter, pipe cleaners, glue sticks, etc. in baskets to encourage imagination.  And, our family has had lots of fun, creative play with those items.  However, our daughter received the Melissa and Doug Butterfly Treasure Box that was a huge hit!  It was a fun item to go along with our butterfly books.

This is a well constructed, easy to understand kit that makes a very pretty butterfly shaped box that can hold various items.  I think the simplicity of ease resulting in a project that can be used again and again held a lot of appeal.  We’ve decided that we’ll be giving some of these away as gifts this year too!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Incidental Reading

Learning to read is exciting for children!  We keep bookshelves of age appropriate books, make seasonal reading displays, and frequently check out books from the public library.  We read books together, listen to books, and take picture walks.  All of these are fun ways to explore books together.  We also try to incorporate incidental learning of reading. 

Here are some easy ways we’ve found to help build reading vocabulary:

*We turn on closed captioning while we’re watching television or videos.  Television time is minimal in our home, but we feel that seeing the words on screen helps with reading.

*We label playroom items by categories.  Canvas baskets house toy collections so we put a label on the front so that, even from an early age, words were associated with items.

*Family photo albums are labeled with family member’s names and places of interest.  Photos are frequently viewed which results in names being quickly memorized for reading.

We’re always looking for ways to make learning fun.   We’ll continue to share our ideas as we add to our learning collection!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Floor Puzzles

Do you and your children like to put together puzzles?  We’re always looking for good quality puzzles so they can be used over and over again.  Floor puzzles are great for those rainy days when a more quiet gross-motor kinesthetic activity is needed. Melissa and Doug Farm Friends Floor Puzzle is one puzzle on our playroom shelf that we’ve used many times.  After it’s put together we spend some time on quality conversation talking about the animals, naming them, and making up stories about what might happen on the farm.  Sometimes we pull out some of our farm animal books to further the discussion.  We hope you enjoy puzzles too!

*What's your favorite animal?
*Can you give names to the animals?
*What do you think is happening on the farm?

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Math For All Seasons

We’ve been looking for more nonfiction books to add to our home library.  We found Math for All Seasons, by Greg Tang, to be a fun way to add a book about math (pun intended!).  Cleverly written rhyming math riddles and a companion visual page help young children (author recommendation for ages 5-8) with problem solving.  For children who learn visually this book is especially fun.  The illustrations are bright and clear, and the math question in the riddle is written in a different color font than the rest of the rhyme.  As suggested by the title, there are math riddles for the seasons and various holidays.  This is a book that can be picked up for a few minutes to solve a few riddles or to read in its entirety.  I also think this book could serve as a mentor text by encouraging children who enjoy math to write their own riddles.  We hope you have fun solving these math riddles!

*Which is your favorite riddle?
*Which picture did you like best?
*Was there a riddle that was more difficult for you?
*Can you think of your own math riddle?

Monday, August 13, 2012

My Great-Aunt Arizona

My Great-Aunt Arizona, by Gloria Houston, is one of my favorite books, probably because it expresses my love of teaching.  Although Great-Aunt Arizona taught in times past, Houston’s story remains timeless because it catches the essence of what teachers want for their students.  Miss Arizona teaches her students about the far away places they will go while she dreams of those far away places.

This book is a great one to read as children start back to school.  The beauty of Gloria Houston’s voice shines through in this tribute to her great aunt. I think a parent’s conversation about this book can open children’s minds to begin to recognize what teachers are doing in their classrooms.  We hope you enjoy Great Aunt Arizona’s story!

*How is Great Aunt Arizona’s childhood different than yours?
*Why do you think Great Aunt Arizona became a teacher?
*How does her classroom look compared to yours?
*What things do you think your teacher is doing to help you this year?

Friday, August 10, 2012

The Kissing Hand

The Kissing Hand, by Audrey Penn, is one of our favorite books! Chester Raccoon doesn’t want to go to school and leave his mother.  She gently reassures him by showing him the secret of the kissing hand.  Chester returns the favor by sharing the kissing hand with his mother.  The story will warm your heart! The reassuring love of a parent for his/her child makes this a timeless message.  This is the perfect book to read as your child has a change in his/her life requiring a separation from a parent.We love to read this book as school starts each year.  Enjoy this book with your family!

*Why do you think Chester doesn’t want to go to school?
*Why do you think Chester’s mom shows him the kissing hand?
*Would the kissing hand make you feel better?

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Miss Bindergarten Gets Ready for Kindergarten

Miss Bindergarten Gets Ready for Kindergarten, by Joseph Slate, is a delightful book to read to children approaching Kindergarten.  The colorful, detailed illustrations by Ashley Wolfe  can be enjoyed in a picture walk before you and your children read this book.  This is a book that appeals to visual and auditory learners. 

Miss Bindergarten, the teacher, prepares for her class as the students also prepare to arrive.  What makes this book so fun is that there are twenty-six animal students whose names correspond to each letter of the alphabet. Adding to the fun is that each sentence about the students has rhyming words.  The cadence of this book makes it one that can be enjoyed over and over again.  We hope you enjoy this kindergarten adventure!

*Who is your favorite character?
*What rhyming words do you hear?
*What’s your favorite thing in Miss Bindergarten’s room?

Read more children's ABC books here!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Look Out Kindergarten, Here I Come!

As summer vacation comes to an end, it’s fun and reassuring to read books to help children transition to a classroom. Look Out Kindergarten, Here I Come!,  by Nancy Carlson, is a book that carefully explains how Henry (a mouse) gets read the first day of Kindergarten.  His mother helps him each step of the way, providing reassurance for Henry (and the listener).  We found this a good book to help answer questions before Kindergarten.  It’s also a great book to help children in any primary grade to read before school. Remembering how he/she learned what to do in Kindergarten can also provide reassurance as a new grade is approached.

*What’s your favorite part of Henry’s first day of Kindergarten?
*What do you think Henry learned on the first day?
*What questions do you have about your new grade?

Friday, August 3, 2012

Blokus Junior Game

Are you looking for a strategy game that will challenge your child?  We found that the Blokus Junior Game is a fun way for children to begin understanding strategies in a visual manner.  Small green and red two dimensional blocks are configured in various ways and placed on a grid.  The object of the game is to place as many of your pieces on the board as you alternate turns with another player.  The winner is the person with the fewest blocks left.

Paper patterns are also included in the game set so that your children can copy the pre-made patterns.  As your children understand more of the game, they can just use the plastic grid to make their own designs.

We like this game as a family because it changes each time you play it and really makes players aware of visual strategy.  As learning becomes more visually oriented we think this will build visual skills.  We hope you enjoy this game as much as we do!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

A Year Full of Holidays

A Year Full of Holidays, by Susan Middleton Elya, provides reading material about holidays as a little girl, Nell, celebrates her birthday in August.  She asks when her birthday will return so her parents tell her that there are monthly holidays that will help her pass the time.  We found this book to be a good way to understand the passage of time and how we celebrate various holidays.  Simple, memorable illustrations by Dianna Cain Bluthenthal add to the text by providing visuals that are easily understood by a child.  An added bonus is that the story is written in rhyme.  This is a book that is picked up various times during the year for a re-read as we approach holidays.  Enjoy!

*What month is your birthday?
*What’s your favorite holiday?  What month is it?
*What picture would you draw for your favorite holiday?