Spotlight On: Author and Illustrator Eric Carle

carle photoI feel like I’m not worthy of creating a post on such a legend as Eric Carle, but here I go.  I love Eric Carle!  I remember reading his books as a child, learning all about him throughout college, and using his books as a teacher and mother.  I remember in college watching a video of him creating some of his works.  He was taking small pieces of different colored tissue paper and carefully creating a collage.  When finished, he had a creation that was uniquely his.  One can quickly identify Eric Carle’s work by its vibrant colors and simple-looking illustrations.

Eric Carle was born in the United States, but moved to Germany at age six.  He returned to the U.S. at age twenty-three and worked his way up in the area of graphic design/artistry. He was soon approached to collaborate with Bill Martin Jr. and viola-“Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What do you see?” was created!  Since then, he has written and/or illustrated more than 70 books, most of which have become best sellers!  One of his most treasured was one of the first that he wrote and illustrated, “The Very Hungry Caterpillar.”

Here is a video of Mr. Carle discussing the collaboration between him and Mr. Martin Jr.-Very interesting!

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DUPLO Brick and Book-Busy Farm

duplo farm

Our family was lucky enough to receive the Duplo Brick and Build kit for Christmas.  My kids adore it, so I thought that I would share a review with you.  In each kit, your child gets a book and several different Duplo pieces.  As you read the story, there are different figures or objects that your child can put together that correspond with the story. For example, Santa brought us the Busy Farm version in which my daughter puts together a pig, horse, sheep, and rooster as the story unfolds.  My daughter just turned three and this is perfect for her.  The Duplo pieces are large, the directions are clear, and the animals are very easy to create.  With a bit of strategy and effort, my daughter can have the satisfaction of creating something all by herself.

The Rooster that your child can create

The Rooster that your child can create

The book is a ten-page, rhyming, simple board book.  It is a VERY simple story, if you can even call it a story, but it helps to review the names of animals and what sound each animal makes.

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Pretend Play: Grocery Store

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Our Store

This is my first attempt at creating a pretend play environment for my kids in our home.  As I have said in a prior post here, I need to keep things cheap.  This entire grocery store cost me about $30, although we had a coupon and gift certificate for the shopping cart.  I primarily used recycled and reused materials.  I started collected materials long before I put the store together.

My kids love, love, love this store and play with it practically everyday!  There are also soo many educational qualities to it.  I have a previous post on the benefits of pretend play here.  With the grocery store there is the use of imagination and role-playing, the introduction of money and addition and subtraction, healthy food choices, and life skills such as taking turns.  Also, it is a great way for kids to learn environmental text.  They can “read” the different labels that they are familiar with, such as Cheerios.

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My daughter shopping. I would love to say that I cleaned up for the picture, but I thought it was better to show what it usually looks like. I am sure that I can figure out a way to keep the items upright on the shelf at some point.

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Preschool Class Themes: Winter-Part One

winter animals in winter

I am getting sooo excited for my upcoming classes!  I have lined up all of my themes for the next 16 weeks, starting in January.  I thought that I would share some of the winter-themed ideas that I am planning to do to help promote early learning for my preschoolers.

First, I wanted to find some winter-themed songs.  Here are a few:

Snow is Falling all Around

(Sung To: “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star”)

Snow is falling all around,

Falling, falling, to the ground.

I catch snowflakes on my tongue.

Building snowmen is such fun.

Snow is falling all around

Falling, falling, to the ground.

Dance Like Snowflakes

(To the Tune of Are you sleeping)

Dance Like Snowflakes

Dance Like Snowflakes

In the air

In the air


Whirling, Twirling snowflakes

 
Whirling, Twirling snowflakes

 
Here and there

 
Here and there

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Pretend Play: Creating a Post Office

I love the idea of creating a life-like mailroom for my kids.  A Mailroom or Post Office is unique in that it combines pretend play with learning to read and write.  I haven’t made a mail room in our house yet, so I thought that I would create a wish list of what I would like to use in the future in our house and/or classroom.

First, I thought that I would share some of what I look for in setting up a make-believe environment:

  • I have to be cheap.  I, personally, need to be able to cheaply purchase or create the environment.  That being said, this is a wish list so I may feature items out of my price range to ask for Christmas or to replicate in my own way.
  • My space is a bit limited.  Therefore, I would like the environment to be somewhat portable.  I would like the option of packing it up and storing it away or taking it to the classroom.
  • Also, I have a very high tolerance for messes, however, I would like the environment to be easy to tidy up, if needed.
  • I have included some more of my ideas and a bit of research on an earlier post here

postal uniform2

Here we go….I would love for my children to look the part.  I found two uniforms here and here that, at the time of posting, were about $25.

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The Ideas Behind Pretend Play

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I absolutely love pretend play for toddlers, preschoolers, and beyond.  I think that it helps children explore the world in a safe environment.  It also helps in many other ways, such as fostering their imagination, cooperative play, learning life skills, and scientific questioning.  This category will feature different ways that I use pretend play in our house and many ways that I would love to use it in the future. The following backs up my claim that pretend play is amazing.

THE RESEARCH: Psychology Today Article

I read an interesting article in support of pretend play from Psychology Today.  The article looks at the benefits of pretend, or make-believe, play in children from one and a half to seven years old and considers it to be a “vital component to the normal development of a child.”  I recommend taking a look at it, but if you don’t have time, I understand so I listed some of the advantages mentioned below.

  • exposes children to different vocabulary and language structure
  • helps children express their feelings
  • uses problem solving skills with other children and adults
  • exposes children to empathy and communication
  • helps children learn to be flexible
  • fosters imagination and curiosity
  • promotes creativity in fact…
    • “Root-Bernstein’s research with clearly creative individuals such as Nobel Prize winners and MacArthur Foundation “genius” grant  awardees, indicated that early childhood games about make-believe worlds were more frequent in such individuals than in control participants in their fields”
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My kids making dinner with chalk. Yum!

MY THOUGHTS

There are so many different ways to use pretend play with your children.  It can range from setting up some train tracks to creating a life-like environment in your home.  Here are some thought on the latter….

  • Start by thinking about the places your child loves to frequent. The Post Office, the supermarket, the salon, etc. are great ideas because your child already has some knowledge on these locations. Plus it is easy to collect materials that will make your pretend play experiences authentic.
  • I feel the more realistic you can make the play, the better.  Every little detail helps.  It helps to go through whatever environment you are going to reenact to plan out your pretend environment.  For example, look around your post office if you are going to set one up for your child.  See if there are any brochures or signs that you can use or replicate.
  • The more details the better also.  If you are creating a supermarket, include coupons, a list, and/or even bags to put the veggies in (just use an alternative to plastic).

I am so excited to further exploring ideas for pretend play!  I am also so excited to use some of my ideas in my classes.  I highly recommend you try to use it with your child-who knows maybe they will be a Nobel Prize winner one day!  Enjoy!

I miss my independent bookstore!

This holiday season is making me reminisce for the good ol’ days when I would drive up the street to a small, independently-owned, local bookstore to look for holiday gifts!  I remember walking into the small establishment and being greeted by  a person that was committed to helping me find the right book for the occasion.  Most of the time they were helpful and right on with their recommendations.  I could usually be persuaded to pick out something for myself, that I would never have picked on my own.  I would spend forever gawking at their selection of books and displays.  I MISS THOSE DAYS!

It really doesn’t feel like that long ago.  First, we supported the local bookstores, and eventually most of them disappeared.  Then, we supported whatever bookstores were around, and THEN THEY STARTED TO DISAPPEAR!  Our local toy store (OMG-That better not disappear!) has a selection of children’s books.  It is a very good option to have and I use it often, but it isn’t the same.

Currently, our family has to drive at least thirty minutes to get to the closest Barnes and Nobles.  We went out there a couple of weeks ago and it wasn’t a good experience.  The store wasn’t kept up well and it was very hard to find anyone to help you, even at the help desk.  The store definitely lacked the charm and personal attention that our old neighborhood store possessed.

I remember how our old neighborhood bookstore would have all kinds of different events for adults and kids.  They would celebrate book themes and authors, have parties for new books being published and so much more.  Barnes and Nobles does offer a weekly, free, story-time that sometimes includes a snack and/or a craft, which is nice, but again, not the same.

“You don’t know what you got ’till it’s gone” could not be more true in this case.  If I had known that all of the independent bookstores around us were going to disappear one day, I would have visited them much more often.  I feel like I took them for granted!  I would have taken in all of the sights and smells (yeah, smells) of the books and appreciated them SO much more than I did.

Now, when my husband and I go on vacation, at least once a decade, we always check out the local bookstores.  Each one has it’s own personality and characteristics.  We almost always try to do something to support the store in some way, which usually means we purchase a book.  We have to!  It’s our responsibility as readers to support the local shops that we have left or they will all become extinct.

Some information:

  • Here is a link to some information on the industry and the struggles that it faces.  The statistics don’t seem too grim, for now.  It also has information on opening up your own bookstore. 
  • IndieBound is a web site where you can search for local bookstores.  What a great tool!  I found the nearest bookstore is 20 miles away.  I am going to go!  I had never heard of it before.
  • Here is the link to IndieBound where you can find your closest bookstore.

IPad Application Recommendation: Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed

5 monkeys

One of my favorite songs to sing growing up was “Five Little Monkeys.”  My mom told me that I used to sing that the “monkey fell and broke hims head.”  How cute?!?! Now that I have kids of my own, of course I am going to introduce them to the song and show them the book of the song that has been retold and illustrated by Eileen Christelow.  Many of you may be familiar with the book, however, did you know that they have a really cool iPad app to go along with it?  I just blew your mind didn’t I!

When you first open the app, the five monkeys appear just as they are in the book.  You are given three different options, read to me, read it myself, and auto-play.  The read to me option has a narrator and you, or really your child, will swipe the page when it is time to turn it.  While the narrator is reading, the word that they are on changes to a different color.  This is a very helpful tool for pre-readers.  Throughout the book, your child has the ability to click on the different pictures and words will appear.  For example, when you click on the water, the word “water” pops up and the narrator says water.  The narrator part of this tool is fun and often helpful but it can be a bit confusing at times.  Let me explain, when you click on one of the monkey’s, the narrator may say two, because it is the second monkey, but it depends where you are counting from.  It is helpful to have the narrator read the word, so your child can hear and see the word.  During the read it myself option, your child can click on any of the words and the narrator will read it.

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My daughter loves this app.  She asks to “play” it all of the time.  She has fun using the auto-play and just sitting back and listening to the story.  She also likes making the narrator read all of the words.

I recommend this fun and educational app especially since it connects to a well-known song and book that your child may already be familiar with. Enjoy!

Resources:

  • The app costs $2.99.  Here is a link to the itunes page.
  • Here is a link to the Oceanhouse Media Website who produces this app and others like it.
  • Check out my review on Elmo Loves ABC’s app here!

“Don’t Let The Pigeon Drive The Bus” By: Mo Willems

pigeon bus

I have to admit that I have loved this book for quite some time.  The first time that I read it, I couldn’t stop laughing, I thought it was so cute and funny!  The book features simple language and illustrations.  It begins with a bus driver telling the reader not to let the pigeon drive the bus while he is away.  When done correctly, a book that speaks directly to the reader can be a really fun and engaging experience for the reader.  In this case, the reader is responsible for following the driver’s instructions to not let the pigeon drive the bus, no matter what the pigeon says or does.  The pigeon tries really hard to change the readers mind. He is very convincing.  He begs and pleads.  The author obviously has experience with begging kids, because the way that the pigeon begs is SPOT ON!

I read this book to my daughter and she like it.  She hasn’t fallen in love with it like I expect her to at some point.  I’m pretty sure that she sides with the begging pigeon and feels bad for him (go figure!).

Overall, I recommend this book for preschool to elementary school aged children.  It is a really fun read!!

Web Resources:

  • Here is a website for the book that has  links to the awards, sequels, and more information.
  • Here is an animation of the book with a child narrating (This would be really fun to do once the kids get a bit older)

Finding Fun Ways to include Literacy: During the Holiday Season

In our house we don’t do the Elf on the Shelf, our elves send activities and trinkets to our doorstep almost every day.  Yesterday, the elves left two blank cards with envelopes, stickers, and pens.  There were also instructions for our kids to write their own letters to Santa.  The kids were really excited!

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It looks like he is really writing

At this age, it is both important and fun for kids to “act out” the different components of literacy.  Here they are able to “write” a letter about something that they are interested in-getting presents!!  My daughter quickly and excitedly took to the task.  She read us her letter as she wrote out the words.  Then, we transcribed what she wrote so she could see what the correct words look like.   We explained how we use certain letters to make words, so Santa can understand what it is that she wants for Christmas.  My son, being only one and a half, only used the stickers.  My daughter and husband helped him write what he wants, or at least what we think that he wants 🙂

My daughter was really concentrating...

My daughter was really concentrating…

We write to communicate and what better way to communicate with someone, than write a letter to someone!  We write a lot of letters in our house.  It is so much fun for my daughter to see that she can tell someone something by changing her spoken words into written words and than they can write her back-how exciting!?!?

Ta-Da!  Her finished product!

Ta-Da! Her finished product (can you tell which side she wrote?)!

We took the letters to Santa’s mailbox, so he could get them just in time for Christmas!  This was a REALLY fun family project!

Mailing Their Letters!

Mailing Their Letters!