Archive for August, 2011

August 24, 2011

Bad Dreams, Nightmares, Scary Things, Oh My!

We’re going to need a king-sized bed soon. While the little one is already sleeping through the night, the 3yo has yet to do that. Okay, not that he’s never done it, but it does seem rare. Recently, nightmares have meant that not only is he getting up, he’s getting up and coming to sleep with us. And they seem like pretty scary nightmares–lots of stuff about tornadoes and the earth opening up. (Note to self about letting a 3yo who already lives in tornado country watch the movie Wizard of Oz.)

It’s really pretty awful when your 3yo says to you “Are you going to bed yet? If you stay up, will you keep an eye out? If you go to bed, it’s okay. But if you are up, will you keep an eye out?” I mean, it’s horrendous enough that he has to ask us to “keep an eye out” at night for his “scary things”, but when he adds that it’s “okay” if we don’t because we want (“selfishly” is implied) to sleep, too, well that’s just guilt-inducing. It’s almost enough to make me stay up all night long with a lantern and some HGTV. Almost.

After a week or so of this, my husband issued a challenged. “I’m not worried about this because I know you are going to fix it.” Emphasis on “you”. At first, I gave him the eye roll. The “I’m not in this alone and you are welcome to help out you know” eye roll. But then he really put the moves on–he tried flattery. When my husband tries flattery, which he only does when desperate and when he’s sure sarcasm is not working, it’s almost guaranteed to work. Almost.

But this time it did. “You always solve his problems,” he starts off, warming up. “You’re SO GOOD at this.” He knows he almost has me, so he goes in for the kill. “You are SUCH a GOOD MOM.” Okay, okay, okay. I mean, please, do I have to do everything around here? (Said with mock martyrdom.)

My first instinct was to go with the nocturnal animal angle. I’ve been talking a lot about the nighttime with 3yo since this has started, and the only time he’s been interested in a positive way was when he learned that some animals stay up at night and sleep during the day. In fact, while driving in the car recently, I said that I thought some mice stay up at night (I wasn’t sure about this, but since owls eat mice it sounded reasonable), and my son says that he bets the kind of mice that stay up all night have really big eyes. I used to teach science. I was SO proud of him and this hypothesis based on previous observations of nocturnal animals.

So I went online to look for books about nocturnal animals. I found a couple but a lot of them were scary-looking. They were really going for the gore. I settled for these two, which have minimal gore and horror but both do mention animals eating other animals. Not sure if I want to introduce that concept as part of an attempt to make the bad dreams go away.

I also found a lot of great nighttime and bad dream books. My 3yo was instantly fascinated by them, especially The Berenstain Bears and the Bad Dream, which was partially because his Granddad and Grandma have an almost infinite collection of Berenstain Bear books that he was recently introduced to at their house and partly because it was third-party proof from such reliable sources as Brother and Sister Bear themselves of this “bad dream” business that mom and dad had been talking about that he was TOTALLY not buying.

We immersed ourselves in these books for a few days. He would fall asleep with the books on his stomach, open to the page of the space aliens attacking Brother Bear in a dream. Ironically, that didn’t make him have more dreams, but actually seemed to help. He talks much more openly about his dreams now and even had his first good dream recently (about Cinderella!).

I believe books and good soup can solve any problem, and while I’m sure this is not solved, we are a long way from where we were a week ago. Below are the books we used and a little bit about them.

Title: The Berenstain Bears and the Bad Dream
Authors and Illustrators
 (they both did both!): Stan and Jan Berenstain
Genre: Picture Book
Age: 2 – 7

 

Summary and Review:  Brother Bear is into Space Grizzlies but when the toys give Sister a nightmare and the movie gives Brother one, too, all four bears end up in bed talking about bad dreams and how they SEEM real, but they aren’t.

Title: The Berenstain Bears In the Dark
Authors and Illustrators:
 Stan and Jan Berenstain
Genre: Picture Book
Age: 2 – 7

Summary and Review: Sister Bear is afraid of the dark but she learns that she can control her mind and not let her imagination get carried away. I love the pictures in this one that show scary shadow monsters and then the pile of clothes and furniture that created them.

Title: The Dark, Dark, Night
Author: M. Christina Butler
Illustrator: Jane Chapman
Genre: Picture Book
Age: 2 – 7

Summary and Review: This was my favorite and my son loved it, too. Gorgeous, gorgeous pictures and a cute story with a great punchline. The animals are each afraid of the pond monster, who keeps getting bigger the more animals that walk with them in the dark. But they realize that the pond monster is actually just their own shadow (something that older kids will be able to deduce and younger kids will easily see when you point it out on the second reading.)

Title: Can’t You Sleep Little Bear?
Author:
 Martin Waddel
Illustrator: Barbara Firth
Genre: Picture Book
Age: 2 – 7

Summary and Review: It’s a classic; it’s gorgeous, and it’s a wonderful story. The prose is nice to read and the message about the beauty of the natural world and the power of love is perfect for those children who, like Little Bear, are afraid of “the dark all around us”. I especially like the combination of fear and the implied attempt to just get one more minute before bedtime. Very real.

Title: Good-Night, Owl!
Author/Illustrator:
 Pat Hutchins
Genre: Picture Book
Age: 2 – 7

Summary and Review: This is a super-cute book with fun illustrations and it introduces the theme of animals who are awake in the day and the night which is something my son has really latched onto in his attempt to understand the darkness. Owl is trying to sleep, but all the day animals keep making noise and waking him up. He doesn’t sleep very well, but don’t worry, he gets the last laugh!

Title: The Owl Who Was Afraid of the Dark
Author:
 Jill Tomlinson
Illustrator: Paul Howard
Genre: Picture Book
Age: 2 – 7

Summary and Review: This book is gorgeous and the story is simple with a repetitive prose that I really like in a picture book. Baby owl is afraid of the dark, but when he asks people about the dark, they all give him different descriptions. The boy things dark is “EXCITING” because there are fireworks. An old lady says it is “KIND” and a girl says it is “NECESSARY” (for Father Christmas to come). Baby owl likes fireworks and Christmas, but still doesn’t like the dark until a black cat takes him on a tour and shows him a beautiful view of the city rooftops under the stars at night and owl recognizes “my world!”

Title: Where Are the Night Animals
Author:
 Stan and Jan Berenstain
Genre: Science, Nonfiction
Age: 2 – 7

Summary and Review: This book is a nice cross between a story and nonfiction. It has great illustrations and gives a great idea of what goes on at night. It introduces the term “diurnal” as well as nocturnal” and has a nice appendix at the end that shows what the nighttime animals do during the day.

Title: Night Animals (Usborne Beginners)
Author:
 Susan Meredith
Illustrator: Patrizia Donaera and Adam Larkum
Genre: Science, Nonfiction
Age: 2 – 7

Summary and Review: I like this book a lot. Simple photos and drawings, large print and sort words for early readers. Great way to introduce this concept of nocturnal animals. Not scary at all, but does include an illustration of an owl swooping down on a mouse and a leopard eating a dear. Makes me consider buying other books in the Usborne Beginner series, even though I’m generally skeptical of text-book like books. They do come with a website, which is just the most horribly structured thing you’ve ever seen. If you want to spend time flailing through a site that looks like it was designed before the internet, they have some cool printout and coloring pages, but my guess is you’ll do better on Google.

Activity with the kids:

The goal of these books for us was to separate what was not real (scary dreams about Space Grizzlies and Pond Monsters that are really your shadow for example) from what is real (the beauty of the stars and the animals that are awake and living in the night). Reading these books and talking about these with your kids should help them build a good framework on which they can hang their own ideas, separating them into dream and reality increasingly by themselves.

What about you? If you made it this far in this long post??  Do you have any good tricks for nighttime fears? Have you read any of these books? Please tell me below in the comment section! I love hearing from my readers!

August 22, 2011

right now I’m all about homemade soup, but I remember the workplace and BOSSYPANTS

I have a confession to make: I love being a mom. I love being a wife, even (in whispered tones) a housewife. I love staying at home. I love making dinner for my family. I love being in charge of my children’s day. I love showing my husband what they’ve learned.

I love the look in my husband’s eyes when he sees my 3-year-old zoom down the street on his bike–only a few days before that he had been so tentative, but I worked with him, I challenged him to let up on the brakes–pedal three times in a row, I said, then four, then five. My husband is impressed and looks at me, raising his eyebrows and questioning to see if I, too was seeing this for the first time or if I had something to do with it. I smile and he knows: I worked hard for that. Every time, every new thing, he gives me that eyebrow raise. Every time, I give him that smile. “Our boy is growing up,” I say. That was only a couple of weeks ago and today I had to take the bike away for going too fast, for not listening when I yelled “stop.” They go so fast–cycling and life.

I love family dinners, every night. Asking my son to tell his dad what he learned today. Not on a school day, but on a mom day.

I love it when I cook something good and my husband loves it. I love it when I cook something bad and he tells me the truth. I love paying at the grocery store, watching the fresh food slide by, knowing that our stomachs will be filled it it, knowing that I am taking care of the people that I love.

Sometimes I feel the need to defend myself. Writing a book, being a mom; neither are exactly financial success stories. Was my liberal arts degree really necessary to teach beginning bike-riding and supervise violin practices?) People who choose one job over another may think on their choice (sometimes my husband will wonder out loud why he’s a doctor and not a pianist), but this is more a mental exercise, a momentary imagining. It isn’t the emotionally, politically, and socially laden debate of the working versus not-working mother.

But working moms or not-anymore-working moms or moms who never worked or moms just starting to work–we have to think about our decision every day. (Or maybe we don’t? This would be news to me.) But I would argue (I am arguing actually) that society expects that we voice our decision out loud. Often. (And preferably with regret–regret at missed time with the kids if we work or regret at a wasted dream if we don’t.) If we work, we are supposed to justify it by saying “it keeps me sane” or “I’m setting a good example for my kids” or my personal favorite “a happy mom makes a happy family”. If we don’t work, we are supposed to say that it’s our “favorite job” as if it’s a job and not just who we are.

My husband works.  He works a lot. Way more than 40 hours a week. And he has two kids. And he loves them very much. And yet I’ve never heard him say that he does it to keep sane, to set an example, or to be happy for the sake of the family. He does it because he chose to be a doctor. And I’ve never heard anyone question that.

It really pisses me off.

Oh sure, I have professional goals. But that’s not what I’m talking about right now. Right now? If I’m being totally honest? I just want to go to the zoo, take car trips to the space museum and the aquarium, listen to really horrible-sounding violin lessons, teach someone how to draw the letter “A” or how to say “red” in Spanish, and make lots of really good, homemade meals. I want to feed my family, to keep them healthy and to support them. I don’t care if it’s cheesy or out-dated, I want to be the “wind beneath” everybody’s wings.

It’s important to note that I am using “I” statements.  By no means am I saying this is what everyone should do. (It’s stupid that I even have to say that, but I do. Read the news–any of it.) I, like most women who are tired of thinking of themselves as an issue to be debated, can get worked up about this. Which is why I like to have a good laugh about it all. And for this I highly recommend Tina Fey’s memoir about being a girl, a woman, and a working mom, Bossypants.

Title: Bossypants
Author: Tina Fey
Genre: Memoir, Humor
Age: Old

Review and Summary: Disclaimer. This is not a parenting book. The chapter on how she was running from working with Oprah on 30 Rock to a Sarah Palin impersonation on Saturday Night Live to picking out her daughter’s Peter Pan birthday cake was my favorite. Because yes, all three of those things are equally important.

August 19, 2011

Learn words, make food with a cabra, a burro, and the campesina in THE CAZUELA THAT THE FARM MAIDEN STIRRED

When my son wants to watch a movie or TV show, he usually requests “English Shrek.” Sometimes he will ask for “English Sesame Street.”

This isn’t because I have British-accented versions of these movies around. Rather, my son is, for better or worse (likely for worse), stuck with a former middle school teacher as a mom. And while I don’t make him sit at a desk and raise his hand (I didn’t even really make my middle school kids do that), we do tend to to do some dorky things.

One of the things we like to do is read Spanish. With all the data out there on how language learning starts young, it frustrates me that schools here don’t start it until they are older. So we do what we can with my limited knowledge and gringa accent. There are bribes, of course, as any good teacher or mom would implement. The usual Spanish bribe is that we read Spanish books for awhile, practice our vocabulary, and then he gets to watch a video in Spanish. Sometimes we use a language learning video and sometimes (when he wins) 🙂 we watch one of his movies in Spanish. (Which is why he is particular about requesting “English Shrek” on his own time.)

We dropped this habit for awhile but have picked it up again recently, and it was just in time for my mother-in-law to give us this phenomenal book.  I have only one question: Are all great bilingual books about rice pudding?

Title: The Cazuela That the Farm Maiden Stirred
Author: Samantha Vamos
Illustrator: Rafael Lopez
Genre: Picture Book, Bilingual
Age: 2 – 9

Summary and Review:

 This is a beautiful book with gorgeous prose that goes along with the colorful pictures. It’s the story of a whole community–animals and the farmers along with them–who get the ingredients together for a rice pudding. With each page, another Spanish word is added, which makes it really easy for even a young child to read along and learn the vocabulary.

Because there’s no way to describe this better than the author wrote it, here’s a sneak peak:

“This is the butter /
that went into the CAZUELA that the farm maiden stirred.

This is the goat /
that churned the cream /
to make the MANTEQUILLA
that went into the CAZUELA that the farm maiden stirred.”

etc. You get the picture. (Mantequilla is butter.) On the next page, goat is cabra and cream is crema.  Each page introduces two new words.

And at the end? A recipe for rice pudding. A literal recipe, for those of you for whom the poetic recipe in Arroz con Leche didn’t really work.

Follow-up with the kids

Just reading this will give your child an introduction to a new language and a new way of saying things. You can ask them to read the Spanish words for another level of participation. There is a glossary at the end of the book to remind yourself of the words and practice them. And, of course, you could make the rice pudding! And while you are making them, you can practice your new vocabulary. “Let’s pour the azúcar!” you can say while you get out the sugar. And then you can eat. That’s the best follow-up activity there is!

We plan to make it this weekend to celebrate my husband’s birthday, but don’t tell him!

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August 18, 2011

high school is hard and here are THIRTEEN REASONS WHY

When I think about teasing in school, there are two incidents that come to mind immediately. The first one was 4th grade, when I got glasses. I was SO excited about my glasses and a girl called me “four-eyes”. She was my friend and I think she was just trying to tease me and say something funny. I took it as a compliment. My teacher took it as an insult, though, and talked to her about it. I thought that was ridiculous.

About two years later, I was in the middle school girls’ bathroom when two more girls came rushing in. One was in tears. Sobbing hysterically; I thought someone might have died. When I figured out what was wrong, though, it turned out that one of the boys had called her flat-chested–I forget the terminology he used, but he got the point across. I had no idea how to respond. I really, really, had no idea why she was upset. Because one of the boys said her boobs were small? Really?

That should give you a good picture of me. That’s the nerd I was in middle school (yeah, right, like I’ve changed…)  :), and let me tell you, there are a lot of advantages to traveling socially-unaware through middle and high school in between the cliques and the put-downs.

This book is about someone who wasn’t as lucky. This is about someone who travels right in the middle of the social circles, who tries hard to fit in and who gets trampled on again and again. This is about someone who couldn’t take it anymore. Specifically, it’s about a girl who kills herself and leaves behind a set of tapes explaining why.

Title: Thirteen Reasons Why
Author: Jay Asher
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Age:  Young Adult, 13 and up

Summary and Review:

Now, nothing is wrong. 🙂 I’m not sure why I’m writing about two books about death right in a row (see my last post about the wonderful story each little bird that sings), but that’s just what I picked up recently. I’ve actually been avoiding this book for awhile now but saw it at a bookstore and decided it was time to read it. It sounds horribly depressing, but it isn’t. And even though the main character and one of the two narrator voices is actually dead (she killed herself before the book begins), it isn’t really about death. It’s more about high school and how we treat each other in high school.

The book is told from the point of view of a boy, one of the thirteen recipients of the tapes. He finds the tapes on his doorstep one day and starts listening. In horror, he realizes the voice he hears is of a girl he knew, a girl he was almost friends with, a girl he wished he had been closer to, narrating her experiences in high school as he walks along the paths she used to walk and visits the sites she used to visit.  He hears about the boy she kissed, the rumors about her that weren’t true, the way she was treated by her peers.

If you are at all interested in YA literature, you’ve heard of this book. It’s as good and as important a book as people say it is. It should be required reading for anyone who has anything to do with high school–especially the teachers who might not remember as acutely as the kids just how much the little stuff hurts.

I do wish I got to know the two main characters a little bit more, but I also liked that I could fill in some of the blanks about their personalities myself. And while I’ve heard others say that the girl who killed herself doesn’t leave a lot of room for sympathy, I disagree.  Yes, she is bitter. Yes, she sounds condescending. But I’m sorry–she’s a teenager, and a depressed, suicidal teenager at that. She’s not beyond blame–that isn’t the point of the story. She’s just the one that couldn’t handle it. The fact that you might not like her only adds to the story–the others didn’t like her much either, but they should have treated her with more respect. It’s a powerful page-turner, and I highly recommend it.

As a mother, I really liked the way the author brought the boys’ mother into the picture. He is clearly a good kid, and she trusts him, but she knows he is lying about what he is up to tonight and whether or not he is okay. But she gives him his space, she allows him to do what he needs to do–miss dinner, stay out late, and listen to the tapes–all without knowing what is going on. And he trusts her enough to ask her to bring him the tapes, even though he knows she will know something is wrong. The malt that he drinks at her suggestion meant so much to me, thinking about my own son in the future, going through a tough time, not able to tell me about it, but able to trust me enough to bring me into the picture for a bit, and to have a milkshake in my honor.

I think this book is an important read for all of us, whether we’ve been there or not. It’s great for high school students to understand the effects of their actions. It’s great for teachers and parents to understand the gravity of the situations their children might be facing–at times adults can trivialize the problems of youth–read this and you will never do that again.

August 16, 2011

Life, death, and EACH LITTLE BIRD THAT SINGS

One of the hardest things about being a parent is watching a perfect, innocent baby grow up in a world that is neither perfect nor innocent. My heart wrenches as he asks the tough questions “does the fish break when the dinosaur eats it?” or “when will the bug be undead?” But learning about the cycle of life is something that everyone must do, and I’m lucky that so far my son has only had to learn it when it comes to the food he eats and the bug his friend stepped on.

(It’s especially hard because my son seems to have inherited my tendency to over-empathize with anything and everything. As I read this book on the airplane, I had tears streaming down my cheeks. And, as my husband will attest to, that’s not a spoiler, because I often cry when I’m reading or watching a movie, whether it’s happy, sad, or just is.) 🙂

But when you do have to tell the tough truth and talk about the tough issues, there is absolutely nothing better than a good story. Something that gives meaning to the world, something that tells you that you are not alone. Something that says you will be okay.

I am so glad that I found this book. Or did it find me? It seemed to jump off of the table at a small independent bookstore when I was on vacation. The message in the story–that we should celebrate life to its fullest is one that everybody should hear. It’s a story that anyone would love, whether they are seeking solace from a recent loss, or just picking up a book to enjoy.

Title: each little bird that sings
Author: Deborah Wiles
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Age: Middle Grade, 9 and up

Summary and Review:

I love, love, love this book. I love the wacky character names (Dismay the dog, Declaration the friend, Comfort the narrator and main character). I love the extended family of interesting characters all crammed into one house. I love the small town and the closeness that brings to the community. I love the unique setting–the funeral home where the main character lives with her family. And I love the younger sister, Merry, the toddler who asks of almost anyone she sees who stops to rest for a minute (or longer): “Dead?” The one word question is funny when she’s wrong and poignant when she’s right.

The main character is a girl, and I think this will appeal to mostly girl readers, although she is very tomboyish. One of the main plot hurdles the character encounters is also girl-related, when her best friend betrays her confidence and their friendship in a hurtful way at a time when she was needed the most.

The narrator goes through a lot in this book, and she learns a lot along the way. It’s the best of middle grade fiction–tackling a topic that an adult book would handle poorly. It’s a reminder of why I like this genre: any adult fiction in which this many characters die (I’m not giving away much here–they do run a funeral home) would be depressing, dark, and take itself WAY too seriously. But this book doesn’t need any pretense. It’s about life, from friends and family, picnics and tuner sandwiches, dogs and cousins. And so, so much more.

It’s a well-deserved National Book Award Finalist.

Follow-up with the kids (SPOILER ALERT – SPOILER ALERT)

If you are reading this just to read it because it’s such a great story, there’s a lot you can talk about. Why does Declaration turn on Comfort? If you told the story from Declaration’s perspective, what might she say? Why does Comfort hate her cousin so much and what helps her to change her mind?

You could also talk about Comfort’s relationship with Great Great Aunt Florentine and compare it to any of the relationships your own children have with older relatives.

From a writing perspective (and here’s where the spoiler comes), talk about why the dog has to die. What does that add to the story. Why is the dog’s death (and here I’m giving my own opinion) so much more powerful to Comfort–and even sadder perhaps–that the people who die? I might hypothesize that it’s because it’s unexpected–living in a funeral home, she’s used to dead people. It’s also untimely–the dog died in an accident, the people of old age. The author alludes to a comment by an editor in her acknowledgements that implies that there wasn’t a dog in the first draft. How do you think the first draft might have been different? Is your budding author working on a story that might benefit by adding a character, canine or not?

If you are reading this book specifically to help a youngster think about death, talk about where Comfort got to by the end of the story. She realizes that the only thing to do is to keep on living and enjoy life. Why is that so hard to do sometimes? And why does death help us realize that?

At the end, tears or no, this is a happy story. It just sometimes takes some sadness to get to the truth about happiness.

August 4, 2011

My son draws two ears, but JEREMY DRAWS A MONSTER

I picked my 3yo from school the other day. His teacher handed me a piece of his artwork and said how “good” he was at drawing. Despite the dubiousness of this comment, I immediately glowed with pride. The artwork was a picture of SkippyJon Jones, who at that point I had not heard of. When my son pointed to the picture proudly, I assured him that yes, it was a fantastic rendition of this SkippyJon Jones character and later when I found out who SkippyJon was, I think I still agree.

Basically, my son drew a blob with two pointed ears. When the teacher complimented him on it, he said it “wasn’t very good”, which is, unfortunately a standard line of his. (I don’t need to be a Tiger Mom because my son does that work for me.) The teacher encouraged him that it was great and drew two eyes on the picture to satisfy his perfectionist tendencies.

Talent or no, I love that my son is learning how to draw and that his drawings are starting to resemble actual things. He drew a fantastic picture of my husband  for Father’s Day that I’m pretty sure is the best thing ever made. By anyone. Ever.

Title: Jeremy Draws a Monster
Author/Illustrator: Peter McCarty
Genre: Picture Book
Ages: 2 – 7

Do you have a kid who likes to draw? If so, this is a great book that encourages drawing creativity and shows where your art might take you. It also, though, cautions against staying inside and drawing all day long. Sometimes, after all, it’s great to play with your friends.

August 2, 2011

A perfect outing, perfect illustrations, and A PERFECT SQUARE

The only thing my son likes more than finding books at the library is typing on the library computer. So after every storytime, we head to the catalog computer and he decides on a word to type as the keyword for his search. I spell it out and he searches for each letter. Recent searches have included “baseball”, “train”, “dragon”, “fairy tales”, and “mermaid”.  We write down the call numbers and end up taking home a pile of theme-related books.

But undoubtedly while searching for our books, other books catch my son’s eye and he takes them off the shelf. Books with a dinosaur or dragon on the cover. Books that are pink. Books that are sparkly. Books with a baseball on them or in them. Books that are in front of his face when he gets another book. Pretty much anything will grab his eye and he will eagerly want to take it home.

There’s a lot that is good about this, but one decided downfall which is that some of the books are awful. I mean, really bad.

And so here’s what I usually do. Surreptitiously, lest my 3yo find out I’m sneaking books into his book pile, I grab (mostly at random) books that the librarians have displayed on top of the shelves, or on their display shelves, either new books or books they particularly like. I always trust the librarians and they are always right.

They were definitely right about this one.

Title: Perfect Square
Author/Illustrator: Michael Hall
Genre: Picture Book
Ages: 0 – 7

Summary and Review:

This is a wonderful book with a simple, short, and fun prose and absolutely gorgeous pictures!  It’s the story of a square who gets ripped, torn, and cut, and in doing so, forms itself into a myriad beautiful designs, a different one each day.  It teaches your child about shapes, art, beauty, and the importance of not being confined into a box.  Literally.

Follow-up with your kids:

This is a great one for craft time.  It will be really easy for you to get some paper of different colors and cut the paper into perfect squares.  Then ask your children to rip or cut the squares into smaller shapes and make a picture out of their cuttings. You could certainly copy the ones in the book, and if your child needs a lot of structure that would be a good place to start. But encourage them to make their own; making your own shapes and celebrating your individuality is part of the lesson in the book, anyway!