Monday, May 28, 2012

Reading, Writing, and Recording Garden Data and a Gardening Linky Party

This summer we planted our first little garden! We live on the side of a very large hill with a very wooded backyard. Finding a flat spot with enough sun was a big challenge. After several years of clearing brush and hauling dirt to fill the backyard, we finally ended up with the perfect spot. (I should clarify that my husband did all of the manual labor involved!)

We eat a lot of fresh produce but most of it comes from my dad's garden. His garden is big enough to clearly spot from space, I think!

Having our own garden allows the boys to more closely observe the growing process. There is so much learning that can take place as our garden grows. We can investigate using science. We can use math skills as we record progress. And of course, we can mix reading and writing in to our gardening.
As we prepared our green bean seeds for planting, I decided to create a way for the boys to record the progress of the bean plants. We created a little book as our recording method. We are still in the process of creating our book but I created a sample of how the book might turn out. Logan contributed page one!

I created this little book as a free printable for you so you don't have to remember our entire plan. You can download it for free by clicking on the photo above! (Some of our photos look a little different from the printable because I tweaked it as I went along). Click on the picture for the free booklet. Directions for folding a little book can be found here.

Page One:
 Look at the seed. Describe how it feels. Draw a picture of the seed.  Use piece of string to measure the seed. Tape the string on page one. Record the date.
Also on Day one, put a few of the seeds to soak in water. Put a few seeds in a plastic bag with a wet paper towel.

Page Two:
 Observe the seeds that have soaked. Describe them. Draw a picture of the seed. Use a piece of string to measure the seed. Tape the string on page two.Record the date.
Also on Day 2, plant the soaked seeds in a clear jar with soil. (I'm not sure how this will work because it might not have enough drainage? But I saw it somewhere? Pinterest? So we will try it).

Page Three:
Day three will be the day your beans sprout. This may not be a consecutive day. Look at the sprouts. Describe the sprouts. Measure with a string. Tape the string to page three. Record the date.
Also observe the sprouts in the soil.

Page Four:
Once you have a plant that is tall enough to measure, record the height of the plant by measuring with string. Tape the string to the book. Record the date.
When ready, transplant outside.

Page Five:
Continue to observe the plants. Draw a picture. Use a piece of string to measure the height and tape it in the book. Don't forget to include the date.

Page Six:
Record the date of your first pick. Draw a picture of the bean or of yourself eating the beans!

Hopefully I will be able to update our progress as our garden grows!

This is a blog hop. This hop is for anything related to growing with kids - flowers, plants, gardens, veggies, etc! It will run from 5/28/12 thru 6/4/12. Feel free to link your blog posts and/or go check out some other great gardening ideas.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Zoo Books for Early Readers

Summer break is here for most of our local schools! While the kids are excited, parents may be worried about how to entertain their kids. Parents also often worry that their children will forget all of their knowledge from the previous school year. To help prevent the summer slide while keeping your children entertained this summer, I'm putting together a series of book adventures here at Ready. Set. Read! On my book adventure page, I'll have suggestions of fun family outings and tons of book suggestions to take with you on your trip. A trip to the zoo is often a family favorite activity. There are many opportunites for learning at the zoo.  I have put together book lists about the zoo for babies and book lists for books and zoo activities for preschool. However, a trip to the zoo if a family event, so here are a few zoo themed books for early readers (kindergarten - 2nd grade reading levels).
zoo activities for preschool, preschool themes, books about the zoo
Summer break is here for most of our local schools! While the kids are excited, parents may be worried about how to entertain their kids. Parents also often worry that their children will forget all of their knowledge from the previous year. To help prevent the summer slide while keeping your children entertained this summer, I'm putting together a series of book adventures here at Ready. Set. Read! On my book adventure page, I'll have suggestions of fun family outings and tons of book suggestions to take with you on your trip. A trip to the zoo is often a family favorite activity. There are many opportunites for learning at the zoo.  I have put together book lists about the zoo for babies and book lists for books and zoo activities for preschool. However, a trip to the zoo if a family event, so here are a few zoo themed books for early readers (kindergarten - 2nd grade reading levels).

If I ran the zoo, dr. seuss, books about the zoo If I Ran the Zoo by Dr. Seuss Every zoo trip is better with a classic Seuss tale. This book will take your kids' imaginations beyond your zoo trip! In this story Gerald McGrew imagines what it would be like if he ran the zoo. He imagines all kinds of fantasy creatures from silly make-believe places. This is one of my most favorite Seuss books. It's length generally makes it better suited as a read-aloud for older preschoolers or early readers.

my visit to the zoo, aliki My Visit to the Zoo by Aliki
In contrast to Dr. Seuss's fanciful zoo, My Visit to the Zoo is a fact filled book about real zoos. This book highlights zoos efforts to provide proper habitats for animals, rather than just locking them in cages. This book is a the story of a young child who visits the zoo, but it provides information equal to a nonfiction book about zoo animals. Each animal is labeled clearly. In fact, on the monkey page, there are several different types of monkeys like Colobus Monkey, Lion-tailed Macque, King-tailed Lemur, Pygmy Marmoset. The book explores different features of different animals as well as where they live. This could be a fun book to take along with you on your trip to see how many of the animals you can find in your zoo.

Twas the day before zoo day, Catherine Ipcizade 'Twas the Day Before Zoo Day by Catherine Ipcizade
In this story, the zookeepers are trying to get the animals ready for opening day at the zoo. The animals, however, are being rebellious. They are spitting. They are burping. They are spraying water. Will the zoo be ready for opening day?
To me, this book's rhyming text wasn't as fab as some of the other authors on my list. My four year old son, however, LOVED the burping and spitting as well as the mentions of animal poop. Plus, it's a great book to read the day before your zoo day. It also features children arriving on a school bus. It could be a great pre-field trip book!

What a tale, brian wildsmith What a Tale by Brian Wildsmith
This early reader book may be one of the first zoo themed books your child can read independently. The book shows several animal tails along with a descriptive word about the tail. At the end of the book, the reader discovers the animals to whom the tails belong. For a bonus lesson using this book, consider teaching the homophones tail/ tale.

wild about books, judy sierra Wild About Books by Judy Sierra
This hilarious and imaginative book uses rhymes to tell the story of a librarian, Molly McGrew, who by mistake drove her bookmobile into the zoo. Instead of leaving, she sets up a zoo library. This book has humor that adults will love as well as introducing kids to the excitement of zoos AND the excitement of reading!!

zoozical, judy sierra ZooZical by Judy Sierra
Zoozical is by the same author and has similar humor as Wild About Books. This book is set at the zoo in the winter, which makes it different than most zoo books. Children may be wondering, "What happens at the zoo all winter?" Well, this is an imaginative look at the zoo in the winter. In this story, the winter doldrums have settled at the zoo. A baby hippo and a little kangaroo start hip-hopping around grumpy animals. Soon everyone's mood is improved as they learn they are all talented hip-hoppers and performers. The animals use their talent to put on a musical, or as they say, a "zoozical".

Do you have a favorite zoo themed picture book? For zoo activities for preschool to go with these themes, check out my preschool themes pinterest board! I'd love if you'd follow while you are there.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Zoo Books for Babies

Last weekend I spent a few hours holding my sweet nephew. He is 5 weeks old and already such a little learner. His blue eyes open and his head turns when he hears a noise. When he hears his mommy or daddy talking, he arches his back to get a better look... and about wiggles out of my arms. He carefully studies faces and seems to be mimicking a wide open mouth or a tongue sticking out. At this age he is ready  for his mommy to read repetative rhymes and to sing him sweet poems and songs. (She's such a sweet little momma, that's just what she does for him!) Soon he will be sitting and grabbing and pointing to pictures in books. He will start babbling and talking. He will begin to mimic the sounds around him. Almost certainly, he will start making animal sounds, grabbing for pictures of animals, and scooting after any puppies or kittens that cross his path. Most young children love animals of some sort.
Spending time with the littlest boy in our family reminded me of some of my favorite zoo themed books for babies and toddlers. If you take your little one to a zoo this summer, make sure to throw a few of these into the stroller basket! If your babies are past the age of cooing and drooling over zoo themed books, check out my zoo activities for preschool or preschool themes, which includes ideas and book lists for many preschool themes.

books about the zoo for babies, preschool themes,  zoo activities for preschool

Goodnight Gorilla, Peggy Rathman Goodnight Gorilla As the zookeeper says goodnight to the gorilla, the gorilla steals the zookeeper's keys. The story follow the zookeeper around the zoo as he says goodnight to all of the zoo animals and as the gorilla lets all of the animals out of their cages. Of course, the zookeeper never realizes he is being followed by a zoo of animals. The animals follow him home and into his house. What a surprise he has when he says goodnight to Mrs. Zookeeper. This is a wordless picture book. It is so fun for young babblers to make the sounds of the animals as you say goodnight. As your little one grows, watch for him to start saying a sweet goodnight to each of the animals.

1,2,3 to the zoo by Eric Carle Count the animals as they ride the train to the zoo in this wordless counting book. This is a great book for those little learners who are beginning to make animal sounds. 
From Head to Toe, Eric Carle From Head to Toe by Eric Carle This story, which is all about animal movements, allows children to stomp, wiggle, and clap with the animals. I like this book for babies because of the large clear pictures of zoo animals on each page. However, the text is best for the older baby or preschooler who can follow simple directions.
Dear Zoo, Rod Campbell Dear Zoo by Rod Campbell Looking for a new pet? In this story, a child writes the zoo to find a new pet. The zoo sends several animals to the child before discovering the right pet. This is a fun lift the flap book. The young baby will love watching you lift the flaps as you say the names of the animals or the sounds of the animal. The older baby will love to manipulate the flaps.
Me Baby You Baby Me Baby, You Baby (Thank you to Sugarcake Diary for the suggestion)
This is such a sweet book! In this story two families wake up early for a visit to the zoo. As the mothers tote their babies through the zoo, they describe the animals, their actions,and their parent/animal relationships. I love that this story features two babies of different races enjoying the same experiences in loving family relationships. This book uses repeatative text. It seems many children can say "baby" as a first word so don't be surprised if this is the first book that your child joins in reading
. Hello Baby, Mem Fox Hello Baby! by Mem Fox Perhaps there should be a law that every newborn should have at least one Mem Fox book in his or her library. It could be added to the hospital check-out form. "Car seat installed in car? Mem Fox book in child's library?" 
This is a sweet story about baby animals. In this repeatitive question/response book, the reader asks the baby are you a...? And then responds "no". In the end, the reader finds that she is reading to her precious treasure... her own baby! With illustrations by Steve Jenkins, you can't go wrong adding this book to your zoo book collection. And guess what? It's available in Cheerios boxes this spring. If you have a baby at your house, I know you are buying Cheerios!

This post is part of my zoo book adventures series. Check out the Zoo books for Preschoolers post. Coming next week... Zoo Books for Early Readers!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Printable Masks to accompany Polar Bear, Polar Bear What do you Hear?

Last week I mentioned Polar Bear, Polar Bear What do you Hear? by Bill Martin as one of our favorite zoo themed books for preschoolers. If you haven't read this particular book, at the end the zoo "animals" are all children wearing animal masks and making the animal sounds. The boys love to play "dress up" so when I found these printable animal masks, I knew this would be a fun way to follow up the book, Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What do you Hear? These are from the Big Book of Animal Masks which you can order at
Printable Animal Masks for Polar Bear Polar Bear What do you Hear? by

After reading the book, we laid out all of the masks and played a game of verbally labeling the animals and their sounds. This was great for Tyson who is 2 years old and has a speech delay. Tyson loves animals so animal words are generally within his control. If he can't say the name of the animal, he can usually make its sound. He can always locate the animal if I label it. Naming the animal and locating the animals let Tyson feel like a rockstar! I would say, "Can you find the animal that says "grrrr"? When he located the bear, I would ask him to tell me the animal's name. And before we even made the masks, the boys knew how to use these large animal faces.
Polar Bear Polar Bear What do you Hear? Printable bear mask by

After we did some animal labeling, we tried on the masks. These printed out so nicely onto card stock and were easy to assemble. Aren't they adorable?
Polar Bear Polar Bear What do you Hear? Printable snake mask, animal masks by

As a reading specialist and a mom of two young boys, I can use these masks for a variety of play and learning. We can use them to reenact and retell stories. The masks also work well for children to use in their creative free play. My boys were kept entertained as they tried on different masks and let their imaginations run wild! In fact, I peeked in on their play time and I heard Logan telling Tyson, "I'll be the Walrus and you be the Walrus's Grandma." When provided with a few "props" their imagination takes them places I couldn't dream up for them.
I think these masks could be used with so many different themes. Do you use masks in your pretend play?
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Disclaimer: I was provided a free download of this product. This is my honest opinion of the masks. No other compensation was given for this post.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Road Trip Activity Baskets

Last week I started a new series called Road Trip Reading. It's a  series of posts that share road trip games.  The purpose of these road trip games are to bring literacy activities on the road with you this summer.  For the next few months, I'm going to try and pop in here on the blog and share some of our road trip reading tips. I've also started a Pinterest board for all things Road Trip Reading. Stop by for an idea or leave your Pinterest information below and collaborate with me in creating the board! 
Last week, we prepared for the road trip by writing packing lists. This week's road trip reading tip is to pack a basket/ tub/ tote of travel supplies. 
Most parents try to pack along road trip games to keep kids entertained on long car rides. Why not sneak in some literacy friendly objects to help your child learn a little along the way?

photo, car trip games, road trip games, road trip with kids, games for road trips

Road Trip with Kids:  Traveling with Toddlers

This was my basket for my 2 year old.  He enjoys repetition so I tried to keep it fairly simple.  I included some toys, his favorite doll, Woody. I also included games where he had to drop lids into a can and drop erasers into a container. I infused literacy into this basket by including paper and clipboards and a variety of writing tools-- crayons, markers, and pens. Pens are a crazy big deal in my house! I also included a magnetic writing pad to give him variety in writing surfaces. I included notepads and a variety of stickers. I gave his prewriting fingers a workout with pipecleaners. We could shape those into objects and tell stories with the objects as well!

photo, car trip games, road trip games, road trip with kids, games for road trips

Road Trip with Kids: Packing for Preschoolers

I packed tons of road trip games for my four year old. Maybe too much? He was in the very back seat of the van and I wanted him to be able to choose activities that interested him. I packed a dry erase board which was good for coloring. It was magnetic so we also used it for magnetic letters and gears. I also included various stickers, notepads, and blank paper. I included magazines and a few books. I had brought extra books along in a different bag as well. He enjoyed doing workbooks and sticker books as we drove. He also loved his Melissa and Doug lace and trace cards as well as his Leapster. Mostly, he doesn't leave home without the ol' Leapster Explorer!

These boxes kept the boys happy and pretty quiet all the way to Branson and home again. My kids are not big on sleeping in the car so having something to keep them entertained is nice. 

Have you created Road Trip Games for your kids? What are your road trip with kids must-haves?

Ps. In the interest of full disclosure, we also had a portable DVD player that Logan kicked back and enjoyed for about an hour of the trip. I'm all about modern technology making our travel easier ;)

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The Sunday Showcase, The Learning Laboratory, Made by Little Hands Monday, Montessori Mondays,  Book Sharing Monday, Hey Mom! Look What I Did, Kids Get Crafty, It's Playtime, stART, Thrifty Thursday,  Kids Co-op, 

Friday, May 11, 2012

Zoo Books for Preschoolers

Where are your adventures taking you this summer? We are looking forward to trips to park, the pool, various museums and the zoo. I have created a page on Ready. Set. Read called Book Adventures which suggests books to take along on any journey. This summer I am updating my lists and linking them to posts with more in-depth reviews. By the end of summer, we hope to have many book adventures and many great books to share with you.
One of our first outings this summer is the zoo. In St.Louis we have a wonderful (and free) zoo. I am sure we will go at least once a month this summer. I love to provide the books with books by theme that we are studying. We're going to need a lot of books for our trips.I am breaking this list down into three groups: zoo books for toddlers, zoo books for preschoolers, and zoo books for early readers. Since my boys fall into the "preschoolers" category, I am sharing some of our favorite preschool zoo books first. The zoo is a wonderful preschool theme and these books allow many opportunites for zoo activities for preschool.

zoo activities for preschool, zoo books

Inside a zoo in the city, Alyssa Satin Capucilli, preschool zoo unit Inside a Zoo in the City by Alyssa Satin Capucilli Illustrated by Tedd Arnold
To me, nothing says "preschool book" more than a rebus picture book. Inside a Zoo in the City piggybacks on the familar text of "A House that Jack Built". In this story of animals wake up in their home, get on a bus, and go to their day job at the zoo. The story ends with the animals "working" inside a zoo in the city.

brown bear brown bear what do you see?, Bill martin Jr., Eric Carle, preschool zoo theme Brown Bear, Brown Bear What do you See? by Bill Martin Illustrated by Eric Carle
How do you mention zoo animal books and not mention Bill Martin's classic books? With rhyming and repetative text, this book introduces a variety of animals to young children. The bold pictures with one animal  per page make this text a great choice for younger readers as well. The repetative text would make it a great first reader for early readers as well.

Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What do you Hear?,  Bill Martin Jr., Eric Carle, Preschool Zoo theme Polar Bear, Polar Bear What do you Hear?, also by Bill Martin, is the perfect version of this story for a zoo unit. The animals in the story are all zoo animals. The story ends with a zookeeper listening for the noises that children are making in the zoo.

Curious George Feeds The Animals by Margaret and H.A. Reys
Curious George is always a helpful monkey when preparing children for an adventure. In many of his books, he visits a location, causes a little mishap, and learns a lesson about visiting that particular place. In Curious George Feeds the Animals, George visits the zoo and shares his snack with the animals. He finds out from an  angry zookeeper that the snack could make the animals sick. George feels awful. His luck and his mood changes when his snack is used to locate a missing animal. This is a great book to use when talking about the rules in visiting a zoo. It could also be great for starting a lesson on what types of foods each animal might eat.

Never EVER Shout in a Zoo, Karma Wilson Never, EVER Shout in a Zoo by Karma Wilson would also be a good book to read before visiting a zoo. In the story, a little girl shouts in a zoo and sets off a chain reaction of animals escaping and chasing after her. Sounds a little scary? Don't worry. The tone of the book and the illustrations make it funny and not scary. This book is perfect for my four year old who often says, "Rules are rules, right mom?" He  loves the line in the story, "Don't say I didn't warn you!" If you still aren't convinced this book is nothing but scary, it has a happy ending!!

My Heart is Like  Zoo, Michael Hall, preschool zoo theme My Heart is Like a Zoo by Michael Hall
I like My Heart is like a Zoo because it brings an almost poetic feel into the zoo themed books.  It is also a great way to weave art into a zoo unit. In this story, a young boy "zookeeper" explores his feelings by comparing them to attributes of animals. The illustrations feature one animal per page.  The animals are constructed out of heart shapes.

where's walrus, stephen savage, zoo preschool theme Where's Walrus? by Stephen Savage
Where's Walrus?  is a wordless picture book that portrays the plight of a walrus escaped from the zoo. Walrus escapes his small pool at in the city zoo. He leaves the zoo and travels around the city. A variety of hats help Walrus blend in with his surroundings as he tries out life as a fashion model, bricklayer, firefighter and more. But when the hats come off, Walrus is "discovered"-- not only by the zookeeper, but he is also discovered to be a very special Walrus. This book is fun and funny. It's different than a lot of books that are available for this age range. It will entertain kids and parents alike.

The Dancing Clock, Steve Metzger The Dancing Clock by Steve Metzger
The dancing clock is another great story about an animal who makes his escape from the zoo. Milo, a snow monkey at the zoo, wants to join the dancing animals on the clock, but he is locked behind his gate with the other zoo monkeys. He is so enraptured with the clock, he refuses to even play with the other monkeys. Finally, he makes an escape. He happily dances with each of the animals until the music ends and he is left all alone on his clock. He realizes the bronzed animals aren't warm or friendly like his monkey friends.  Milo learns an important lesson about true friends.

Do you have a favorite book that you read before visiting the zoo? What books do you take along on your zoo outings?