Posts tagged ‘toddler’

December 9, 2013

Calm, wintry nights

After seeing the chaos of Black Friday reflected in the news, I pulled my children close and reminded them that we don’t have to be like that. My oldest (who just turned eighteen) said, “Isn’t it ironic that the day after we give thanks, we trample people to death to get a better deal on something we probably could have afforded anyway?”

But it’s easy to get caught up in the hype of Christmas—stores start piping in the music shortly after Halloween. This year a few stores snuck Christmas ornaments on shelves next to cornucopias and Indian corn. I bet they sold more than a couple, too, because Christmas is like pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving—yes, you just stuffed yourself and probably should wait, but why? There’s the pie right there…

But there is a certain joy in waiting.

Of quieting your heart in expectation of what is to come.

To me, that’s what the season between Thanksgiving and Christmas is, quiet expectation. Expectation reflected in the manger scene by our front door—Mary and Joseph near an empty cradle, waiting.

That expectation is also reflected by the pile of books under our Christmas tree. It waits for dinner to be done, dishes to be cleared, hot cocoa to be marshmallowed, and the fire to be crackling. Then the children gather around Daddy and he reads one story each night between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

My favorites are the calm, quiet stories. Here are a few on the top of the pile:

Quiet Christmas coverTitle: The Quiet Christmas Book (New this year!)
Author: Deborah Underwood
Illustrator: Renata Liwska
Genre: picture book
Ages: Listening 3 yrs and up; Independent 8 and up

If you haven’t yet discovered Deborah Underwood, you’re in for a treat.

Her characters are gentle natured woodland animals getting ready for Christmas, but without the hustle and bustle of other books.

Check out the book trailer below!

onewintrynightTitle:  One Wintry Night
Author: Ruth Bell Graham
Illustrator: Richard Jesse Watson
Genre: picture book
Ages: Listening 3 yrs and up; Independent 8 and up

Gorgeously illustrated story about a boy hearing the Christmas story for the first time.

littlefirtreeTitle:  The Little Fir Tree
Author: Margaret Wise Brown
Illustrator: Jim LaMarche
Genre: picture book
Ages: Listening 3 yrs and up; Independent 8 and up

Another sweet book. A little tree wishes to be part of something—anything—and winds up being part of something he never could have imagined.

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How about you? Which Christmas books make your family’s must-read list?

July 19, 2013

The Journey

Kathy Higgs-Coultard, Director of Michiana Writers' Center

Kathy Higgs-Coultard, Director of Michiana Writers’ Center

By Kathy Higgs-Coulthard*

When my son, Christopher, was little we used to take frequent walks. Or, more accurately, I would take walks and Christopher would ride along—first in a snuggly (think papoose), then stroller, then wagon. I chose the destination, the route, and the purpose of the trip. Often, our trip was designed to be educational in some way: To the pond to capture tadpoles or to the weeping willow to picnic and read. But eventually Christopher grew less and less content in the role of passenger, until the day came when he insisted on walking.

At first that seemed like a win-win. He could walk and I wouldn’t have to pull the wagon. I decided one of our first excursions would be to the park about a block from our house. The excursion would fit perfectly in the after lunch, before nap slot—five minutes there, about a half hour of playtime, five minutes back. No agenda, just playtime. We sunscreened up and trotted out the door.

Christopher was so excited to be in the lead that he made up a song about going to the park. Wish I’d had a video camera with me (partly so I could share it with you, but mostly so I could use it to blackmail him if the need arises later in life). So, he’s singing “Park, park, PARK, park, PARK!” and  then he stops at the end of our yard and climbs on a big rock, jumps off, climbs back up, repeat. I lure him off the rock, remind him of our destination, and we’re off again, singing.

Until we get across the street. The frogs are thrumming up a storm. Christopher’s eyes light up and he bolts for the cattail forest. Twenty minutes later we emerge, mud-crusted and carrying a new (temporary) travel companion named Ribbit. I look at my watch—naptime is quickly approaching, but it’s okay. We’re really truckin’ now, singing “Park, PARK, park.”

Until two houses from the park. The neighbor’s yard is covered with sweet gum pods. If you’ve ever seen one, you’ll understand Christopher’s fascination—the spiky seed pods look like creatures from another planet. Christopher nearly drops Ribbit as he scrambles to fill his pockets (and mine) with pods. Of course the neighbor comes out laughing. She provides a bucket and Christopher completely fills it. We’re so close to the park I can hear a child squealing “Higher, higher!” presumably as someone pushes him in a swing. I thank the neighbor for her bucket and lure Christopher back to the road, singing “Park, park, park.”

Until we reach the park gate. The squealing child and his daddy are leaving and Christopher has to show them his treasures—his “sweet gummies” and his froggy. The little boy says he wants some and before I can say a word, Christopher is leading them down the street away from the park. Both children are singing “Gummy, gummy, GUMMY.”

In some regards the afternoon was a wash. We never did reach the park. Naptime was very late and only accomplished by allowing Ribbit to sleep in a bowl by Christopher’s bed. But when I really think about it, this trip was the most worthwhile one we’d taken so far. So what if we didn’t swing at the park? Christopher had changed the purpose of our trip, and in so doing, had gained a pet, a new friend, and several dozen spiky seed pods. But the real treasure was the sparkle in Christopher’s eyes the next day as he asked me if we could go on another walk.

A few of my favorite books about the discovery nature of child-directed play:

itsrainingitspouringTitle: It’s Raining! It’s Pouring! We’re Exploring!

Author: Polly Peters

Illustrator: Jess Stockham

Genre: Picture book

Ages: 3-7 years

Celebrates the joy of imaginative play as three bored children face a rainy day. Fun rhyming text, playful pictures. Love that Dad and Mom work together making lunch!

notaboxnotastickTitle: Not a Box (And the companion book, Not a Stick)

Author: Antoinette Portis

Genre: Picture book

Ages: 1-6 years

What child doesn’t like to play with an empty box? Especially if the box is big enough to climb in! Inspired by the author’s memories of sitting in a box as a child, this book explores the power of imagination as a child transforms his ordinary box into a spaceship and flies to another planet.

preschoolersbusybooktoddlersbusybookTitle: The Preschooler’s Busy Book and The Toddler’s Busy Book

Author: Tish Kuffner

Genre: Nonfiction

Ages: Adult

Although the point of my blog post is that kids need times to direct their own play, a parent can only take hearing “I’m bored” so many times before they cave in. Instead of turning on the TV, try some of the activities in these books.

*You can read more about Kathy here. Kathy normally blogs on the second Monday of the month. Except when the months go by so quickly that I accidentally schedule her post for August instead of July and don’t notice until she politely asks where the post might have gone. In case you were wondering.

September 13, 2012

Is your child’s sippy cup half full or half empty?

I have a great interview today with Jeff Mack, the author/illustrator of Good News Bad News. He has some awesome advice for parents about how to use his book to help kids learn how to find the positive in a negative situation and how to see that the pros and cons are all interconnected. Plus, a fun story about a creative way in which a mother and daughter bonded through the love of a book.

It’s not just about the reading! Find out ways you can connect with your kids through these great books, and let me know in the comments if anything has worked well for you lately!

From Indiebound.org: “Good news, Rabbit and Mouse are going on a picnic. Bad news, it is starting to rain. Good news, Rabbit has an umbrella. Bad news, the stormy winds blow the umbrella (and Mouse!) into a tree.

Title: Good News Bad News
Author: Jeff Mack
Genre: Picture Book
Ages: Infant, Toddler, Preschooler

Q and A with the author:

Were you more of a good news kid or a bad news kid or both?

I was a lot of both. I was an intense kid who would work for hours on a project without a break. My mom used to bring home cardboard boxes from the grocery store, and I would try to turn them into pinball machines with working flippers and rubber band bumpers.  I wouldn’t quit until I got them to work. When I did, everything seemed like good news to me. But if I got stuck and couldn’t figure out a certain mechanism, it felt like really bad news. My frustration spurred me to turn that bad news into good news. I suppose I’m still a little like this when I’m writing and illustrating books today.

Any advice for parents of a bad news kid?

I think kids often copy what they see and hear from their parents. If you want them to recognize the positive side of things, consciously model positive attitudes and notice if they start adapting that point of view. Also, take the time to learn more about their pessimistic perspectives rather than discouraging them from showing negative emotions. There are many valid ways to view the world, and some negative feelings have the power to inspire positive changes. That’s what happens at the end of Good News Bad News when Rabbit and Mouse swap attitudes and become better friends as a result of their newly-found empathy.

In your school trips or other interactions with kids, have you met children who relate to some of your main characters or have otherwise gained insight from your books (even if they don’t see it quite like that)?

At school visits, I often find I gain as many insights about being a kid as the kids gain about being an author. However, I just received an email from a mom who enjoyed reading my Hippo and Rabbit books with her daughter. They both connected with the comical way the characters deal with slightly scary situations like spiders and swings. (Rabbit tends to be overly bold for his modest size while Hippo is a bit timid for his extra-largeness. She told me they invented voices for the characters and got into the habit of seeing things from their quirky perspectives. Since then, they’ve been talking like Hippo and Rabbit in all kinds of random places like the grocery store or the swimming pool. As the author, it feels great to hear that my ideas have caught on as a game that these two readers can share and use to become closer as a family. I think Good News Bad news has the potential to produce even more positive effects like this!

Any conversation ideas that parents can have with their kids after reading the books to help them see how to make good news out of bad news without lecturing them?

Kids learn better when they’re having fun. So turn the conversation into a game. When something positive happens, trace its cause back to something that seemed like bad news at the time. For example “Good news! You discovered a new favorite ice cream flavor! But that’s only because of some earlier bad news: they were sold out of your formerly favorite flavor.” Then trace that bad news to the good news that preceded it: “We’re going to get ice cream!” Seeing good news and bad news as part of an on-going chain of events is surprisingly catchy. Plus, it may offer a little distance from the emotional impact of the bad news. Later, when something disappointing happens, kids may have an easier time seeing that the bad news may literally be setting the stage for something positive in the future.

June 7, 2012

You don’t have to wear your glove on the correct hand to read these books

Is there anything better than standing in the outfield? The sun on your back and a glove in your hand? If you are a baseball fan, you might not think so. But I think I recently found something slightly better. And that is standing in the outfield, the sun on your back, telling the five-year-old next to you that their glove is on the wrong hand and they should probably switch it over before the batter swings, even though the likelihood of the batter connecting with the ball–much less hitting it to the outfield, even though the outfield in this case is about 18 inches behind second base–are, frankly, low.

I just completed my first (of what I hope will be many) season of assistant tee-ball coaching. It was really the most fun thing a person can do with a few free weekend hours. And so in honor of that, I’d like to suggest a few of my favorite baseball books for all ages, starting with the newborns and going all the way up to the adults. Yep, I’m including you all this time because it wouldn’t be practice without the people in the stands.

Title: Home Run!
Author: David Diehl
Genre: Board Book, Sports
Ages: 0 – 3

The David Diehl sports books were some of my son’s favorite early books. They were the first he learned to “read” by memorizing the words on each page and he was excited to turn the pages and shout out what he remembered. (This one already made the blog, so you can read more about it here if you like.)

 

TitleBaseball Saved Us
Author: Ken Mochizuki
Illustrator: Dom Lee
Genre: Picture Book, Sports
Ages: 2 – 10

I’ve blogged about this book already, but this is a great one for young kids and preschool kids and even elementary students. They will each get something a little different out of it. It’s a very versatile book: the youngest readers will hear a great baseball story and be introduced to some harder topics they will only really understand later. Older readers could use this to talk about more serious historical and ethical issues, especially in a teacher-led discussion. In fact, you could use this book in a middle school class and have the kids do their own picture book on an historical event. That would be interdisciplinary awesomeness! 🙂

 

TitleFantasy Baseball
Author: Alan Gratz
Genre: Fantasy, Sports
Ages: Upper Elementary and Middle School

I’ve never read this one! But I bought it recently and am excited to. Have you read it? Let me know what you think. He’s a local author and he’s got other baseball books out there, including Samurai Shortstop, if you are interested in more.

 

Title: The Art of Fielding
Author: Chad Harbach
Genre: The Great American Novel (I read recently that this is now a “genre” which I thought was both hysterical and accurate. This books certainly fits within that genre, Moby Dick references and all)
Ages: Adult

I loved this book. It’s a great read for anyone who likes literature and baseball. And if you had to pick only one of the two, I’d probably buy it for a literature-lover before a baseball-lover, although the whole book really does revolve around the sport.

Enjoy your summer, your baseball, and your books!

February 24, 2012

is your child an alien? and “Is there life in outer space?”

Every parent has times when they are pretty sure their kids are aliens. If you want to teach them about aliens–or space, and planets, and scientific discovery, then here’s a great book for your little alien.

Title: Is There Life in Outer Space?
Author: Franklyn M. Branley
Illustrator: Edward Miller
Genre: Science, Nonfiction, Early Reader, Picture Book
Ages: 3 – 6


The Wizard of Why is pretty sure there are aliens. After all, aliens show up in lot of books and TV shows, and they’re pretty much true, so there must be aliens. And they are cute and green, with antennae and robot friends. (Although he was quick to tell me recently that Mars could not have aliens because it was too hot in the daytime there.) And since my least favorite thing as a mother is squashing his dreams about the world, I was excited that this book tackled the issue for me. And even better, it does so in a realistic, scientific way, but leaves a lot of room for the imaginative preschooler.

It’s a great introductory science book with fun pictures and a lot to talk about. So many early science books are just terrible–in an attempt to speak to younger children, they end up dumbing the issues down so they don’t many any sense. Or so they make science seem so completely, awfully boring. But this is a great one that talks about when people thought there were aliens (such as War of the Worlds) and what scientists have done to discover (or not discover) them. It’s a fun book, and my son, who loves aliens, and is still pretty sure they exist and might visit any minute, loves the book, too.

What about you? What things does your child like to dream and read about?

February 9, 2012

Meet my family

Everyone else has WAY cooler blog names for their family than I do. Ironic Mom Leanne Shirtliffe calls her twins Thing 1 and Thing 2. Kathryn Apel, children’s writer and author of This is the Mud, interviews a young writer named Squashed Cupcake. And Chase McFadden blogs at Some Species Eat Their Young while referring to his four children as Slim, Perpetual Motion, The Hellcat, and Tax Break #4.

After a lot of brainstorming with my husband, I’d like to introduce my family. Although it’s only fair to note that my husband did NOT agree to his own nickname. Tough luck on that one.

Middle School Crush: My husband, whom I met in seventh grade, likes to fuel my enthusiasm for my own writing with comments such as “what was your book about again?” And a personal favorite, said not too long ago as I was plotting out my chapters on sticky notes all over the walls, “Is that really helpful, or is it like rearranging deck chairs?”

The Wizard of Why: My 3-year-old makes me realize how much I don’t know about the world with all the questions he asks. Things we’ve talked about in the past 24 hours:

  • whether or not robots live in outer space
  • why robots don’t “live”
  • why some robots don’t have faces
  • why trains don’t need steering wheels (this was upsetting)
  • why large cats with sharp teeth eat meat and what exactly meat is (also upsetting, but not as much as not steering trains, partially because he doesn’t believe me about the meat)
  • why a T. Rex eats “real meat” and why that may or may not be made from animals (this was a heated discussion)
  • why an hour is 60 minutes and why a minute is 60 seconds and how long that all takes exactly
  • why the dashboard of my car tells me how much gas we are using
  • why some cars use a lot of gas
  • why using too much gas is bad for the planets like Earth
  • why Gyroscope’s birthday comes before his, even though Gyroscope is younger

Well, I think there was more, but you get the picture. Plus, to say we are obsessed with the Wizard of Oz is a huge understatement. We are coming up on the one year anniversary of that obsession, so that will be a good 25% of his life. So that’s the reasoning behind that one.

Gyroscope: Gyroscope, who is almost one, hasn’t stopped moving since he entered our lives, which he did as quickly as he does everything else (a mere 3 hours after announcing his intentions and a short 30 minutes after we crawled (he and I, that is) into the hospital). Favorite activities include: playing with anything the The Wizard of Why is currently playing with, crawling on the dining room table, standing on his head in a downward dog position.

So–even if you don’t have a blog, what would be your blog names for your family?

February 3, 2012

Bright orange soup gets “Sam I Am” approval from 3yo

It’s another installment of The Family That Eats Together Fridays!

Here’s the way I usually make a new dish: I look up a bunch of recipes online and get the general idea of the process. Am I sautéing, roasting, or boiling? (Side note: if there is any debate, I always choose to sauté or roast over boil as it’s way more flavorful.) Is there a general order in which people put ingredients? Is there a general trend to flavors–do a lot of the recipes have similar herbs and spices? And then I usually make it up with a combination of what I like and what I have on hand.

Last week I had a five-pound bag of carrots to use up. I also had a jar of my favorite ginger, which I always keep in the fridge because I love to cook with ginger, but not so much that it makes sense to keep the fresh stuff on hand. Plus, this stuff is delicious and really easy to use. So after looking up a bunch of carrot-ginger soup recipes, here’s what I did.

1. Chop a large onion and sauté in coconut oil. (It’s unlikely to be a good soup if it doesn’t start with sautéing onion. You could use any other oil or butter here, but I’m on a coconut oil kick right now. Plus, coconut-ginger is a great combo of flavors.)

2. Squeeze in some garlic paste. (I would have normally put in fresh garlic here, but I was out. Oftentimes, I will put in both.)

3. Put in two heaping tablespoons of ginger.

4. Put in about 2 pounds of chopped carrots and sauté a little first.

5. Add in a bunch of vegetable broth, a little less than a quart.

6. Cook for a while, at least until carrots are really soft, but soup is always better the longer it cooks–I love to make soup early and then let it simmer for hours. Yum! Or even cook it in the morning and reheat it at night. Also yum!

7. I used my favorite kitchen tool, the blender on a stick, and made it nice and creamy and bright orange. You could also put it in a regular blender, but BE VERY CAREFUL. Don’t fill it up very full, and hold the lid on TIGHT. Trust me, I have exploded hot soup all over the kitchen before, and it is not fun. (It’s even less fun when you do it at your dad’s house, just FYI.)

8. Add some milk at the end to make it creamy. Coconut milk would have been perfect, but I didn’t have any. I also didn’t have any cow or goat milk, so I used rice milk, which was just fine.

The soup was incredibly delicious! My husband raved, I raved. My 3-year-old didn’t eat a lot, but he ate some, and after trying it, he said, with the same emphasis I use when reading Green Eggs and Ham, “Say! I DO like it!” And then we went through the whole routine of eating carrot soup on a boat and on a train…

January 30, 2012

how long is an hour if “a second is a hiccup”?

I am not proud of this: But whenever my son asks “how long is that, I’m never quite sure how to answer. As in, I tell him there’s an hour before bedtime and he asks “how long is an hour?” Or I tell him that we need to wait 15 minutes for something and he asks “how long is 15 minutes”? So everytime, even though I hate doing it and even though I know it is not at all helpful to him, I give him a television comparison. 15 minutes is the same as one Dinosaur Train. 30 minutes is two Dinosaur Trains or half a Sesame Street. And hour is a Sesame Street. Of course, this doesn’t help at all because he has no sense of how long these things are. It’s also unhelpful because the relative nature of time is hard to explain to a three year old. Even if he had some idea of how long Dinosaur Train lasted, those 15 minutes surely go by faster than 15 minutes at the dentist. Once or twice, I’ve opened my mouth to try to explain that, but then I bite my tongue. I often find myself having to remember that he’s only three.

So I was really excited to see this book! It explains the concept of time in a way kids can understand. And while he still likely has no idea how long an hour, month, or year is, this book has given us some kind of common language with which to talk about it and visualize it.

Title: A second is a hiccup
Author: Hazel Hutchins
Age: 3 and up
Genre
: Picture Book, Nonfiction, but in a fun, fiction-y sort of way

Some things you could do with this book that would be really fun: get near a clock that ticks loudly if you have one. If you don’t, you could sit by a large clock with an easy-to-read second hand, but the ticking noise would probably be easier for a child. Then practice counting seconds: you could count to five, every time the hand moves. Or you could follow the script of the book and make a hiccup sound for every tick. Or even more fun: give mom a kiss every second! I’m sure you can think of lots more ways to practice noticing the seconds tick by!

What about a minute? The book suggests a minute might be “one small song / Chorus, verses, not too long”. So why not try it? Sing a few songs with your little one and a stop watch? Or while watching the second hand go around? Or if you are getting to that point in the day when you really want the kids to get some exercise, how about another one of the book’s ideas–60 hops to make a minute?

What about you? Any ideas to teach time to the little one? Or are you waiting so that on those days when you are tired, you can put them to bed at 6:30 instead of 7:30 and hope they don’t notice the difference? 🙂

January 13, 2012

The fourth robot-pig: getting creative with “Watch Out for Wolfgang”

Recently while at the library to pick up a few hold items for myself, I gave my three-year-old about 30 seconds to pick up a couple of picture books (I know, top-notch mothering right there), and he was really excited to pick out this one. I was too, even after we read it once, twice, a hundred times.

And even after we discussed the implications THOROUGHLY of what it means to be a robot and be taken apart. (He does NOT like reading about machines that break. It freaks him out in a profound way. This anxiety is increased when the machines have eyes and ears and are friendly characters in a book.) His anxiety about the book translated to an obsession with it and he read it over and over until he loved it. He was excited to show it to his dad, and even more excited to say “and now is the scary part!” (It’s not actually that scary, unless you have a thing about machines being taken apart. Which we do.)

This re-writing of the three little pigs, with three little robots and a robot recycler named Wolfgang, is a great book with awesomely gorgeous illustrations. And the activity I’m going to share with you below was not my idea at all. My son made the whole thing up.

Title: Watch out for Wolfgang
Author/Illustrator: Paul Carrick
Genre: Picture Book, Fairy Tale Retelling
Ages: 3 – 7

Summary and activities to do with the kids:

This is a great book to share with your kids for so many reasons. First, the fact that it’s a retelling of the Three Little Pigs makes it a great way to discuss how the same story can be told in different ways. Even older kids would benefit from making comparisons to the swinier version. The second reason it’s totally awesome is that the third pig (robot) is not a savior because he’s hard-working, he’s a savior because he’s “different”. In a totally great way.

But here’s a fun activity that my son made up: we added a fourth robot.

He first took a flip coloring book with lots of robots in it. He chose the perfect robot for the story. He said that he wanted his robot (Glabby, a boy name in case you weren’t sure) to be like Rod, the first of the three robots in the story. He also said that Glabby’s factory (they build factories instead of houses) was a baking factory, which I secretly thought was brilliant.

Then we read the story and at each page we held up Glabby’s picture next to the illustrations and I made up and read aloud a paragraph about what Glabby was doing. It was so much fun! Glabby, since he was like the first brother, did get recycled by Wolfgang. But since they are all saved in the end by the third robot, Glabby did okay.

But it was so much fun! I would love to hear if any of you try this with your own kids! It doesn’t have to be this book, and it doesn’t have to be a robot, but maybe pick a story your child knows well and see if they can invent a character to add to the story. Have your child invent certain important facts about the character, and then when you read the book, read in their character. My son was so excited and proud of the new story with his inventions in it.

And then let me know. Do you think you will try it? With what book? And if you did try it, how did it turn out?

December 8, 2011

cook-it-up-and-eat-it-up

If the holidays aren’t a time for cooking, I don’t know what they are for! And my 3-year-old seems to have sensed the vibe, because he’s been spending an average of 30 minutes a day in his play kitchen recently.

He loves to cook, and I love cooking in my own kitchen while he putters away in his mini-version right next to me. As I simmer away the tomatoes and onions, he chops his velcro and wood fruit, mixes them in his mini pans and sticks them in the oven. Then he brings it over to me for a taste or insists that I sit down for a more formal meal.

And it’s even more fun when he gets up on his “learning tower” to cook along with me. So when we got this cookbook to review from OwlKids, we were both really excited. My son was very proud to show his dad that he has his very own cookbook, and it’s provided us with fun, great times together, and some really good food.

Title: Eat it Up!
Author: Elisabeth de Mariaffi
Genre: Nonfiction, Cookbook
Age: 3 and up!

What to do with the kids:

These are simple, easy, and yummy recipes. Let your kid pick one out: the pictures will allow even kids who are too young to read to choose for themselves. Then take them to the store (or a farmer’s market if it’s summertime!) and let them help buy the ingredients.

The first recipe my son chose, much to my surprise, was the meat pie. I don’t eat red meat, and I don’t usually cook with it at home, so we used Field Roast Apple Sage sausages (which are meat-free, soy-free, and dairy-free and absolutely great). It was delicious! It was even better smothered with some Apple Butter. Hey, it’s the holidays, right?