Random Awesomely Fun Night

While my husband was out for the night, my kids and I were left to our own devices to entertain ourselves.  After waking from their naps, we found our gigantic packages of paper products that we just bought from a warehouse store.  We had an idea, we could build towers with them! What came from this thought was hours of entertainment that night and the next morning….

I had no idea that we were going to extend this activity to the level that we did, so I didn’t start taking pictures until later.  First we built castles and towers, of course.  We also set up the paper towels and bowled and put all of the products together and swam in them.  We also built a fort…

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My Goals and Guidelines for My Class

SONY DSCI planned out the activities that I am doing this month and wanted to share them with you.  But first, I thought that I would share some of the goals and guidelines that I had in mind when planning.  My classes are unique in that they are caregiver and tot, ages 18 months to five years old, and they focus on literacy.

My Goals:

  • To be able to provide different resources to the caregiver that they may use at home, such as literacy activities, crafts, book ideas, etc.
  • I also wanted to do a class that could be an alternative to a child that may not be ready for preschool or whose parents might not want their child to go to preschool yet, if at all.
  • I planned some activities at a level where a parent needs to guide or assist a child.  I thought doing things this way would be the most beneficial to the child and caregiver.  The caregiver would pick up tips on how to administer literacy activities and the child would be exposed to a higher level of vocabulary and learning.
  • I want to do some activities several times so that the kids get familiar with the activity and lesson and become more independent.  For example, I found small pocket charts at the dollar store.  I am going to have kids sort words that begin with the letter “s” the first week.  A different week, I am going to use all of the same materials and sort the objects with a different beginning letter sound.
  • I want to do activities that can be easily replicated at home without having to buy too many materials (and the cheaper, the better), therefore, I want to reuse materials whenever possible.  I have a ton of activities using toilet paper and paper towel rolls, dollar store finds, etc.
  • Most of the activities that are planned are literacy-based, however, some themes lend themselves well to science and math, so there are a few of those included as well.
  • The timing is tricky.  The class is one and a half hours long.  We need to fit two circle times (beginning and end), free play, snack, and a craft into this time.  Therefore, we are going to have about twenty minutes to do centers.  Depending on the class size that may only come out to three learning centers and a sensory center!

So, these are the guidelines for which I am planning for my class. Enjoy!

Building Self-Esteem Videos Via Sesame Street

I have been on kind of a self-esteem and confidence boosting kick lately! And it continues…I was watching Sesame Street today, well I guess I should say that my kids were watching Sesame Street and they played a video that I thought was so inspiring!  It is called “Count Me In” and it is on the subject of believing in yourself.  Not only is it a catchy song, but it shows a very diverse group of people with diverse interests and has a great message to boot.

I added a couple more videos on this theme from Sesame Street and some of their lyrics.  My daughter and I watch the videos from Sesame Street all of the time!  That show constantly impresses me and here are a few examples of why….Enjoy!

“Count Me In”

“I am special

I’m outstanding

I can win

so count me in”

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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.

And the Winner is….

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I picked up a book the other day and it had a medal on it.  The medal said that the book had received a Theodor Seuss Geisel Honor.  I had no idea what that meant.  It didn’t look like any Dr. Seuss book that I had ever seen.  It got me thinking.  It would be helpful to know just how a children’s book earns different honors and awards.  I decided to check it out and here is what I found….

Award Name

Who gets it?

Who gives it?

How often?

Some past winners…

The Randolph Caldecott Medal -The artist of the most distinguished American Picture Book for Children published in the United States during the preceding year American Library Association,Association for Library Service to Children Division Every Year -“The Lion & the Mouse” by Jerry PinkneyThe Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick
Newbery Medal -The most distinguished American children’s books published the previous year American Library Association,Association for Library Service to Children Division Every Year -“Dead End in Norvelt” by Jack Gantos“Moon over Manifest” by Clare Vanderpool
Michael L. Printz Award -The best book written for teens, based entirely on its literary merit American Library Association, YALSA Every Year -“Looking for Alaska” by John Green“American Born Chinese” by Gene Luen Yang
Coretta Scott King Award -The outstanding African American author and illustrator (2 awards a year) of books for children and young adults that demonstrate an appreciation of African American culture and universal human values American Library Association Every Year -“One Crazy Summer” Rita Williams-Garcia, author“Dave the Potter: Artist, Poet, Slave” Bryan Collier, illustrator
Theodor Seuss Geisel  Award -The author and illustrator of the most distinguished American book for beginning readers published in English in the United States during the preceding year American Library Association,Association for Library Service to Children Division Every Year “Tales for Very Picky Eaters” written and illustrated by Josh Schneide“Are You Ready to Play Outside?”  by Mo Willems
Robert F. Sibert Award -The author and illustrator of the most distinguished informational book published in the United States in English during the preceding year. American Library Association,Association for Library Service to Children Division Every Year -“The Wall: Growing Up behind the Iron Curtain” by Peter Sís
Margaret A. Edwards Award -The author, as well as a specific body of his or her work, for significant and lasting contribution to young adult literature. American Library Association, YALSA Every Year Lois LowryWalter Dean MyersJudy Blume

Sources of information:

So, next time you are checking out a book and it has a nice big medal on it, hopefully you will remember this post! Enjoy!

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Making Books Available to Your Children

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I should probably be embarrassed by the mess in this picture, but I can’t because I love to see my baby READING!

I am just going to say it-I never liked school!  I think that some of my teachers would have a heart attack if they found out that I became an educator.  I was hardly ever interested in what I was learning, I didn’t like doing any work, and all I wanted to was talk to my friends or stare out the window all day.   This lack of interest in learning, really hindered me for a long time.  I want different for my children.  I want them to enjoy reading and learning.  Is this possible?  We shall see!

I truly believe that a lifelong learner, starts with a love of reading.  Reading feeds into every aspect of learning.  My strategy for encouraging a love for reading is to immerse, but not force, my kids with books.  We basically have a book bin in every room of our house.  At first, potty training consisted of me reading five books to my daughter before she realized that she didn’t have to go (Arg!).  We have books in the bathtub, car, kitchen, and of course the living/reading room.  This method has been very successful in our house.  Both my son (who is a year and a half) and my daughter (just turned 3) consistently “read” books on their own.  My son will point to just about everything on the page and whisper words in his own language that he has and my daughter will recite what she remembers hearing from the book.  I don’t think that I can ask for more than that!  All that I have really done is made books available to them and read to them when asked, which is daily.  I hardly ever ask them if they want to read a book.  We do read books every night for our bedtime routine.

I went to check on my daughter during her nap, and this is what I found.

I went to check on my daughter during her nap, and this is what I found.

If you are interested in trying this immersion method with your children, here are some words of wisdom (ha!)…

  • Store books in a way that is easy for the kids to reach and easy to clean up
    • Book bins are great because in a bind, you can just throw the books in them, instead of having to put them on a book shelf
  • It is ok to let them experience the books on their own
    • When you see your child pick up a book, you don’t have to run over and read it to them to encourage their reading.  Let them turn the pages, look at the pictures, and discover the book on their own.
    • You could even grab a book and model how you read!
  • Have comfy/cozy spots for you kids to take the books once they have picked one
    • We have kids-sized chairs and pillows around and I usually catch a kid snuggled up reading on them
  • Stock your home library with books that you will be ok with if they get ripped.  You never know what is going to happen with kids.  A nice reading moment can soon turn into a wrestling match with a sibling.  Books can get ripped, spilled on, who knows!
    • Check when your local libraries are having their used books sales.  My husband and I, stock up like CRAZY at those things!  The books are not always in the best of shape when you get them, but who cares.  At our library, on the last day of their sales, they will do a $5 a bag to try to get rid of more books-Crazy good deal!
    • Keep the special, awesome hard-cover books for special occasions or to read with you or until your child can handle a book respectfully
  • Load up each book section with a large selection of books
    • Go through your library and spread out “like” books
    • Spread out books by the same author, sound books, ABC books, etc.
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I had to hide to take this picture of my son reading. Love it!