Friday, July 29, 2011

Write Your Heart Out

These little pocket sized notebooks are on sale this week at Walgreens for .19 with the in-coupon ad. I'm not a couponing expert. I depend on other bloggers to do that work for me! I don't know if this deal is only in St. Louis, but if you get a chance, snatch some of these up. The coupon is good for 3 per shopping visit. I thought I'd share 3 things you could do with these little notebooks. They have the notebooks, the top flip notebooks, and the mini composition notebooks to choose from.

1. Play restaurant. These notebooks just scream, "Take orders on me!" How fun would this be for your little waiter to tuck in his apron. Even a scribbler can write his orders out-- or even draw pictures.

2. Scribble it up while waiting. If you are stuck in a waiting room or even a lengthy grocery store line, this tiny notebooks pass time like crazy. Just don't forget to give your child a prized writing utensil to accompany the notebook. For my son, it's a pen that clicks. I recently gave Logan a notebook like this an a clickable pen while we were at a doctor appointment. The entire time I talked to the doctor, all I heard was "click. scribble. scribble. click. click." The doctor finally looked down and said, "My, he is proud of that pen!"

3. Make a diary. I stole this idea off my grandma-- but it's not like she has a blog. She should. It would rock. But I'd have to be there every day providing tech support.
So, when I was in fifth grade, my Grandma gave me a pocket sized notebook that she had covered with fabric and added decorations. It must have been the perfect size for fifth grade secrets because it's the only diary I have from childhood that is written in consistantly.

And let me tell you, folks, I wrote the really important things like this page

February 5, 1989
Dear Diary,
Today was one of the best days in sunday school. Mean old Mr. Eddie was pretty nice. The room was a total desaster but the girls and I cleaned it up and made the boys behave.

(Author's note: Mr. Eddie is really not mean or old. He's my facebook friend now, so I better be careful what I say about him!)

Go check for this deal at your local Walgreens. It's under 20 cents and it could be a great investment in your child's writing!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Books for the Big Apple

Two weeks ago, we had a Big Apple Adventure Themed Vacation Bible School at church. I taught in the Preschool Bible Story room with my friend, Dana. Her husband made us this awesome backdrop and taxi for our puppet shows.

Each day we had a puppet named Maxi, the taxi driver, introduce the Bible story. This was Dana's genius idea and the kids were so enamored by Maxi. The littlest ones wanted to give him high fives or hugs after the story every day. Even the 5 year olds had trouble remembering at times that he wasn't real. Logan loved, loved, loved VBS. His favorite thing was the new concept of "line leaders". He is obsessed and now asks to be the line leader everywhere we go in the house. Since Tyson is so much slower than him, it usually works out! He also loved the stories, songs, singing on the stage for family night, snacks, and of course, Maxi. I thought it would be fun to check out some books about Maxi's hometown, New York City!
I started my search for good city books at a really cool blog called Storied Cities. Storied Cities is different from most book review blogs because she focuses on a narrow niche. She exclusively reviews stories that are set in cities. This allows her to expose her kids to books that look like the world around them. How cool is that? For my kids, though, it has the opposite effect. It allows us to "go" to a place in the world that doesn't look like the world around us.
On Storied Cities we found books like:
The Night WorkerThe Night Worker by Kate Banks. Alex gets to accompany his dad to a job site in the city. The workers work all night-- surrounded by skyscrapers and starlight.
We recommend reading this one by flashlight.
The Teddy BearThe Teddy Bear by David McPhail Perfect example of the type of book you'll find reviewed at Storied Cities. Not necessarily about the workings of a city but set within a city. A little boy loses his teddy bear which is retrieved by a homeless man. The man carries it for a year and loves it. It is spotted by the boy on a park bench a year later. The boy faces the difficult choices of keeping his bear or letting the homeless man keep it. Such a deep book for kids of this age-- yet somehow they are able to relate.

Corduroy (40th Anniversary Edition)Cordoroy by Don Freeman. We made the obvious connection to Corduroy after reading The Teddy Bear by David McPhail. In this classic story, Corduroy the bear explores a department store at night and then gets to go home with Lisa, a little girl who buys him the next day. I figured Corduroy's department store is somewhere near a big city, right?
Alphabet CityAlphabet City In this Caldecott honor book, all the letters of the alphabet are hidden are the city. We had a lot of fun searching for the hidden letters and talking about things we see in our own neighborhood and things we might see in a larger city, like NYC.

Uptown [With Hardcover Book]Uptown We stumbled on this book in the library today. It's a book that describes the culture of Harlem. Great illustrations, great cultural references. It provided a lot of talk about Maxi the Taxi driver's neighborhood at lunch today. Who knew Max was from Harlem?

We love journeying to new places through the pages of books. What book journeys have you taken to a new geographical location?

Here's where I'm linking this week:

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Back to School Collage

A great book for back to school activities is  Follow the Line to School. . After reading this book, we created a back to school scavenger hunt in our backyard using yarn. We loved this book so much, we wanted to create some other back to school activities to extend the learning. Plus, our back to school scavenger hunt left us with a huge messy wad of yarn. We decided to create a back to school craft!
Back to School Craft, Back to school activities, Back to school ideas, photo

We used our wad of yarn to create a back to school yarn collage. First we cut out pictures of school supplies. There are many, many back to school ads with these pictures available right now! Then we glued the pictures to a piece of construction paper. I snipped the wad of yarn into pieces and we dunked it into a watered down glue mixture. After it was gooey (or gluey?), we strung our yarn around on top of our school supply collage.
Follow the Line to School
We loved the art work in Follow the Line to School and it inspired our line collages. Here's a quick glimpse into the book. You might want to pick it up during your back to school shopping!
photo, back to school ideas, back to school activities

I also thought this school glue paint  at Almost Unschoolers would be a great back to school craft and would go great with the Follow the Line books. Since we picked up Follow the Line through the house at the library, we may try out this project next!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Back to School Book Activity

You can make back to school fun and exciting for your kids with some back to school books and back to school activities. One school-themed book you might enjoy for this back to school season is Follow the Line to School by Laura Ljungkvist.

back to school, outdoor activities, Follow the Line to School. Follow a line as it weaves  left to right across a page, highlighting  letters, words, and numbers as it goes. This book is a wonderful artistic introduction to a full day at school. 
The artwork is gorgeous. There is so much to look at one each page, yet every illustration is clear. The line moves left to right across a page, highlight letters, words, and numbers as it goes. The potential for vocabulary development is available every time you re-read the book. I feel like it's one of those books you can read with your child as he grows.

Book Activity:

After reading Follow the Line to School, I created a yarn scavenger hunt on our back deck. I began by weaving yarn all around the deck. If you have a nice level backyard (I do not), you could just use spots in your yard. At various points around the deck, I attached a clothespin on the yarn. This allowed us to play the game in several different ways.
back to school ideas, back to school activities, outdoor activities, image

When your kids are 1 and 3, it takes a little practice to figure out how to walk and hold on to a line at the same time. Our first time around we just walked around following the line. It was actually quite a hit all on it's own.
back to school ideas, back to school activities, photo. back to school scavenger hunt, early literacy, reading

Before we went around the line path again, I clipped the letters to Logan's name in order. As we found a letter, he got to unclip it and name it.
back to school, outdoor activities

After finding all the letters, we put them together to spell his name. He loved putting his letters in the right order!
back to school ideas, back to school activities,

Finally, we did a little review of the book Follow the Line to School. I wrote a back to school "clue" on the front of each card. These clues were descriptions that I copied right out of the book. Like, "Pick out a book and hear a story." On the back, I wrote the correct location at school. Like, "Library"
back to school ideas, back to school activities, photo. Follow the Line to School Book Activity, early literacy, reading

At each stop, I read the clue and Logan guessed the place at school. He was actually pretty good at it, since we had just gone to Bible School... and we've read the book a lot this week.
back to school ideas, back to school activities, photo. follow the line scavenger hunt, early literacy, reading

If it wasn't HOT here, we would have enjoyed the book outside but we were ready to head back in after this.
If you want a fun back to school idea for your child, play this school clue game. You don't want your kid to be "clueless" about the first day of school.

I'm thinking this will be an often repeated activity. Any suggestions of other things I could put on my line?

Monday, July 18, 2011

Interactive Children's Books

When I was a kid, pop-up books and coloring books were all the rage in interactive book reading. . While pop-ups and coloring books are still hugely popular, at least in my house, kids living in today's digital age, have even more options. Navigating the choices of print and digital interactive book choices can be daunting for parents.

Interactive books are a big hit with my three year old. We've enjoyed Press Here by Herve Tullet-- see our review. We also loved Roly Poly Egg, which we won from Tiger Tales-- see our thoughts on the book. Jean Marzollo's I Spy books are also a favorite treat. Unfortunately, Logan has already figured out that I Spy books are the perfect books for delaying bedtime.
Tyson (18 months) is in the lift the flap book stage. He loves the Usborne book series, That's not my... He really likes That's Not My Dinosaur . He also still loves cloth books that you can pull strings, stick and unstick with velcro, or play with mirrors.
Last week, we won a new interactive book from a giveaway on Red Ted Art's Blog.  We got an autographed copy of Laura Ljungkvist's newest book in the Follow the Line series. I have to admit, I wasn't familiar with her series. But after reading this book which follows a day at school, I wanted more of her books. The artwork is gorgeous. There is so much to look at one each page, yet every illustration is clear. The line moves left to right across a page, highlight letters, words, and numbers as it goes. The potential for vocabulary development is available every time you re-read the book. I feel like it's one of those books you can read with your child as he grows.
I found this interview with Laura Ljungkvist at The Book Chook I love that she creates her artwork with her daughter and uses her daughter's artwork in her books. How cool is that?
The Book Chook must be a fan of Ljungkvist, because I found other Follow the Line reviews on her blog as well. Check them out here. I know I've already put one on hold at the local library.
Review of other Follow the Line Books

Come back tomorrow for a play activity inspired by this book. And on Thursday I'll have a craft to go with it as well.
I also got a new toy which is going to allow me to utilize more ebooks with the boys. Can you guess what that is?

I'm linking this up:

Sunday, July 17, 2011

The Table Across the Room

Last weekend we attended a wedding of a sweet couple. They were that couple that just fits well together. You wish them a lifetime of happiness that you somehow already know they will have. (And I'm not just saying nice stuff because the bride told me her sister reads my blog-- Hi, Renee's sister-- they do seem like an amazing couple).
As I was sitting at the table relaxing chasing my boys through the banquet room, I noticed a table across the room. Since the groom grew up in my hometown, the faces were familiar. We stopped at the table to talk.  As I made my way around the table, something struck me. All of these people had made an impact in my life-- many as teachers.
My elementary art teacher was sitting at the table with her husband. Not only did she survive teaching me elementary art (I think I was fine-motor challenged as a child), she and her husband were active members in my church. She set an example at both church and school.
Then there was my GA leader. (Girls in Action, which probably means nothing to you unless you grew up Southern Baptist). She taught me about the world and those in it who were in need. She taught me how to love the people in my neighborhood and to serve them well.
My 10th grade Sunday School Teacher and his wife were sitting at the table too. They are still one of the nicest couples I know. He volunteered for  a class of 10th grade students who were more interested in flirting than learning God's word. He invented out a "Sunday School Homework Challenge". I remember one thing for sure, I won the challenge! I remember something else, though, I spent more time my sophmore year of high school reading my Bible than any other year of high school.
Oh, and let's not forget the dreamy Steve Zoll. He was aforementioned art teacher's son. He was a teenager when I was a little girl and I may have had a small crush. Every single one of my friends had the same crush. We were all going to grow up and marry Steve Zoll. We didn't worry about the details of that, nor did it bother us one bit that that our teenage babysitter was already dating him (sister wives?).  I'm not sure if that counts as impact, but it's humorous-- at least to me.
My amazing co-teacher, Dana.
This weekend I am "recovering" from an exhausting week of teaching Vacation Bible School. I spent Monday through Friday morning teaching Bible Story to preschoolers. Yes, my blog was neglected. My housework? Neglected. My sleep schedule? Also neglected.
But throughout the week, when I became tired of juggling mommy work and bible school teacher work, I tried to think about that table across the room. I imagined being at that table when some of my friend's kids get married.  I tried to pay  forward just a few of  the blessings that others have already poured into my life.
So, if you are a teacher-- at school, church, or home-- please, have a seat at my table. Relax with a cup of coffee, or indulge in a piece of red velvet wedding cake. And let me say, "Thank You" for what you are doing. There may be kids who never get a chance to say "thank you". Today, though, I want you to know, your job does matter. Your gift is appreciated. You are valued.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Winner: WTE-- 3 Book Set Giveaway

Congratulations to Comment #4- Cal's Cats Micah Pearson for winning the 3 book set giveaway from!

Please contact me at with your contact information. Thanks to everyone who entered.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Building Language With Dump Trucks and Dirt

It's my boys' equation for fun--
dirt + big trucks + rocks + water = FUN

After visiting the construction zone in our own backyard, the boys were ready to try out some messy play.
My husband is always working on project to make our yard bigger, flatter, healthier... I don't know what all... so we raided his stash of sand, gravel, dirt, rocks. We also dug up some dirt out of the yard! (He's so going to love this post.)

We hauled dirt and rocks using the dump trucks and then we started sorting it.  We used a sifter to sift sand and gravel.

We put each one into a circle and then labeled with sidewalk chalk.
We also found some big rocks.We put those in their own circle. We tried hitting the big rocks to see if we could make some of them into gravel.
We sorted out dirt. Then we wondered what would happen if we added water to the dirt.

This muddy water was the highlight of the day.  Well, cleaning up and running around the yard naked was also a highlight. Sorry neighbor.

Literacy Beginnings: A Prekindergarten HandbookSection 2 of Literacy Beginnings by Fountas and Pinnell discusses building language. They suggest providing children with experiences on topics that interest them. They explain how teachers can model language while the children are playing. For instance, we were able to learn new vocabulary like sand, gravel, rocks, dirt (some old to Logan but new to Tyson). I was also able to model descriptive language like small and large or rough and bumpy.

During our play, I modeled wondering about making mud. In school and in life, children will need to be able to seek information.
"School is all about seeking information and communicating it to others, which prepares students not only for future job performance but also for the sheer enjoyment of learning in one's personal life. If the investigations or inquiry projects they undertake as prekindergarteners are interesting and authentic, children will be more motivated to work for deeper understanding and to report it in a way that will be understandable to others (not just "for the teacher") "- Literacy Beginnings p. 76
Fountas and Pinnell explain that this type of play is intentional vocabulary instruction. Instead of choosing an unrelated word of the day, try integrating new vocabulary into your child's play.

Mike Mulligan and His Steam ShovelOf course, around here, every play time needs a good book to go with it. So after a bath and a snack, we read  Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel

(We've had this book for a while but Logan thought the steam shovel on the front was a monster so he didn't want to read it at first.)

I'm linking up here:

Shibley Smiles

play academy

It's Playtime at hands on : as we grow

smart summer button '11

Pre-K Pages