Friday, June 29, 2012

Little, Big, Biggest

Clifford's Puppy Days
By Norman Bridwell

Read It
Clifford--another household favorite--was not always so big.  He started out as a little puppy.  In this story, Emily Elizabeth learns how to take care of Clifford when he is a small puppy. Some of her toys are too big for Clifford. Some places are too big for Clifford. Emily Elizabeth works to find small, safe places for Clifford--a small bed, a small soup bowl for a bathtub, and small play places. Then one day Clifford finds a small hiding place when Emily Elizabeth's aunt comes to visit. They search the house and no Clifford! With Clifford so small, will Emily Elizabeth be able to find him? Read the story to find out how Clifford makes it home safely.

Enjoy It
Any story about a puppy is fun! This one is especially appropriate for our family, as our oldest has been learning to take care of Little Brother and keep him safe. We have to talk a lot about being gentle and careful. After reading this book, we had a story to reference about people (or puppies) that are small and how we have to find special small things to play with them. For example, sometimes our two-year-old tries to play catch with Little Brother. Now we can say, "Oh, remember how Clifford was too small to play fetch? Little Brother is too small to play catch. We have to wait till he grow BIG like Clifford did." Stories offer great opportunities and connecting points to help kids learn and understand. What kind of lessons can your family draw from this book?

Make It Come to Life
Talking about Clifford being small and growing big made for a great time to talk about big and small things all around us. Teaching children to order things by size is a great pre-mathematics skill. So I decided to find some images of Clifford on Google and print them out in different sizes. Then we ordered them by size and talked about little, big, and biggest! These are great words to help your toddler add to his or her vocabulary set. After we put the Cliffords in order, we had fun looking around the house for big and small things. You can also learn synonyms like giant, huge, enormous, large, mini or tiny. See the pictures below to see what big and small things we found. Happy sizing!

First we read the book again.

Then I set out all the Cliffords.  I mixed them all up so Big Brother could put them in order by himself.

I asked him, "Can you find the smallest Clifford?"

After we glued the small one on I asked him, "Now which one is the smallest?" Next we glued that one on.

Until we got to the biggest!

Finally we found big and small things around the house.  Here is Little Brother playing with a big ball!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012


By Christine Anderson

Here is a bedtime post as everyone gets tucked into bed.  At our house lately, we like to read this book before bed along with The Bunnies Are Not in Their Beds that I blogged about last week.  Our two-year-old refers to it as the book where Melanie does not listen to her mommy; the bunnies didn't listen to Mamma and Daddy either . . . I am seeing a theme here in his favorite books. 

Read It
Bedtime! is Christine Anderson's first book to have published, so this book may be harder to find at your local library than others.  In the story, Melanie is busy building very important towers and elephant houses and does not have time to get ready for bed like her mother says.  Melanie's mom decides that someone should get ready for bed, so she proceeds to let the family dog, Bart, take Melanie's place.  When Melanie catches on that someone else gets to enjoy the good parts of her bedtime routine--like special pajamas, goonight kisses from Daddy, and favorite bedtime stories--she decides her block building is maybe not so important.

Enjoy It
Bedtime can be a stressful part of the day--Mom's and Dad's energy wanes, kiddos get wound up or grumpy, and nobody wants to end all the fun the day has held.  Yet, bedtime can also be one of the tenderest times of the day.  You get to snuggle up with your kiddos, read a story maybe, hear about the parts of the day they enjoyed, and usually, when all settles down you might hear a sweet "goodnight" or "I love you" peep out of your little one's mouth.  Every parent lives for those moments, and sometimes bedtime is the only time of day where we get a chance to slow down and really savor what it means to be family.

Make It Come to Life
So maybe you will not do a craft or fieldtrip or activity to go along with this book.  Possibly you will just check the book out from your libray and add it to your nightly routine for a while.  You can talk about Melanie's nightime routine and compare it to your family's and see if maybe you can, as a family, think of something special to add to your bedtime routine that everyone can look forward to.  At out house, we've been enjoying what we call "Toddler Radio" on Pandora.  Actually, the station we usually tune in to is called "Family Folk Songs."  Listening to this at home and in the car is a FREE way to here a smittering of family-friendly and fun-for-kiddos songs.  The Laurie Berkner Band is a frequent play on this station, and a great bedtime song we have learned from this artist is "Goodnight."  Click here for the lyrics, then go to her site and have a listen (or download it from iTunes or buy the  Victor Vitoalbum from Amazon). We have started singing this one at bedtime and it is fun to have your child choose which animals to sing about--you can sing the ones from the song and then add more depending on how long you want to sing goodnight to each other. Happy sleeping!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Triple Tuesday

I have decided to share books in sets of three each Tuesday that center around one theme.  The theme for today?  The zoo!  Summer is a great time to explore all of the exotic and interesting animals that make their home at the zoo.  At our local zoo, the Kansas City Zoo, we get to travel from Africa, to Australia, to Asia and back home all in one day!  I have to say, Africa is probably my favorite!  I love to see the giant giraffes, the zany-striped zebras, and the hippos hunkered down in their mud-holes.  Below I review three books that have give my kiddos and I an opportunity to meet (and even hear!) those animals, and more, at home when we are not at the zoo.  And then when we do get a chance to visit the zoo, it makes the experience that much more entertaining and educational.  Happy zooing!

Simple First Sounds: Noisy Zoo
We love noisy books at our house right now, as my ten-month-old is loving to imitate sounds. His older brother received this book as a gift for his first birthday, and it has been well worn. We all love to make the sounds together, making our house sound much like a zoo; and, raising boys, the feeling of living in a zoo is not all that unfamiliar. The Noisy Zoo is written like a science textbook, and since I prefer narrative and literature, this style took a little geting used to; however, young ones can learn about the animals' body parts, habitats, and distinct characteristic. What I enjoy about this book is that it engages young babies with the sounds and colorful photographs, while also growing with the child and teach older ones new animal vocabulary and facts.

Dear Zoo
Our local librarian introduced the fun book Dear Zoo: A Lift-the-Flap Bookto us during story hour last year. A child narrator writes to the zoo asking for a pet. Young readers turn each page "opening" a package from the zoo, but the animals are just not suited for being pets--the giraffe is too tall, the lion too fierce, and on it continues. Will the zoo find the right animal pet to send? Read for yourselves to find out!

Alphabeasties and Other Amazing Types
This fun new find is full of flaps and rhymes and pop-ups and beasts! Each page uses unique type sets to create animals and pictures out of letters. Learning letter recognition is hard with so many fonts and typefaces out there. That is why I love the concept behind this book--the playful poem at the beginning says it all: "Blocky or small, thick or tall, Roundish slope-y, fancy or dopey. Letters lok different in all different places, That's because they have different typefaces!" So when your child turns to the "P" page, he or she will find an orderly line of penguins all fashioned from fat p's and skinny p's thick p's and short p's, sans serif p's and bold face p's--it brings an entirely different meaning to "P is for penguin"! How fun to learn about animals and letters at the same time. Check outAlphabeasties: And Other Amazing Types at your local library to see what I mean--words alone cannot do this book justice. 

Monday, June 25, 2012

Flutterby, Butterfly!

Waiting for Wings
By Lois Elhert

Our family's spring and summer this year have been an incredible time for getting out into nature and exploring.  Both of our boys are at a good age now for small nature treks, and our two-year-old is in that stage where everything he sees brings a contagious awe, wonder, and excitement--Mom and Dad are happy to have that rub off into their lives of adult stress and worries.  We have had so much fun seeing all nature around us come to Life, blossom, and grow.  The other day we had a buck wander into our yard close enough to see his furry antlers growing; the cloud formations in June have been perfect for imagination (read It Looked Like Spilt Milkfor more fun with clouds); and on our most recent nature walk we stumbled upon some very hungry caterpillars!

When we came back home, we had the most suiting book to read, called Waiting for Wings,to learn more about those caterpillars and what kind of wonderful creatures they will turn into once they have little stuffed bellies and a cozy little chrysalis to call home. 

Read It
Lois Ehlert writes this story in rhyme, beginning with eggs on a leaf, to caterpillars, to beautiful wings flying to land in a garden that has been waiting for them.  Vibrant collage illustrations make the butterflies look as if they will lift off the page in flight, and a beautiful index of butterflies and corresponding caterpillars ends the book.   

Enjoy It
Science and literature are in perfect union in this book--Ehlert's trademarks are beautiful illustrations and pages filled with learning.  For ages three to seven, children will love looking at the colors, spying for eggs hidden on leaves, and turning the different-sized pages that reveal more and more butterfly wonders.  This book makes for a perfect companion to learning about metamorphosis, the life cycle of butterflies, and creatures and habitats of nature. 

Make It Come to Life
Buy this book or check it out from your local library and then go on your own nature walk to see if you can spy eggs, caterpillars, or butterflies around you.  Click here to find out how to make coffee filter butterflies like these that we made. 

This website has great information, coloring pages, and photos about butterflies and their life cycle.  Also, check out this amazing video from YouTube or read another great book The Very Hungry Caterpillar--we like the board book version!  Happy reading and exploring!

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Summer Classics at Home - 100 Days of Summer in Kansas City - Summer 2012 - Kansas City, MO

Gotta LOVE the summer!!  It has been a beautiful June in Kansas City so far.  And with June 20 being the first day of Summer, this weekend is officially the first weekend of the best season of the year!  Check out this blog post from for some great and easy ideas for perfect summer fun!  Enjoy!

Summer Classics at Home - 100 Days of Summer in Kansas City - Summer 2012 - Kansas City, MO

Friday, June 22, 2012

Happy Weekend!

So Big! A Sesame Street Book

Here is a sweet and simple post before I sign out for the weekend!  Sorry for the late post, we had birthday festivities for our (now) ELEVEN-year-old!! 

Read It
Elmo is a favorite of every household I think.  Here is a great Elmo book for those who want a great read for babies!  Elmo is so big, exploring the world around him--reaching up high, touching his nose, saying new words, and wiggling his toes.  The last page has a fun pop-up Elmo to surprise baby at the end.  This is a great read for six- to twelve-month-olds.

Enjoy It
You can tell a committee of people who study and research child development wrote this book--every page makes causes baby to pause and interact.  My ten-month-old and I enjoy reading together a lot, but I have never seen a book catch his attention more than this one!  The words rhyme, and everything Elmos does or tries my little buddy can imitate.  It is so fun to watch him try new sounds and reach up high like Elmo!

Make It Come to Life
Maybe some of you are familiar with the "So Big!" game that my Parents as Teachers professional taught me when my first son was born.  It is a fun game for babies like peek-a-boo that helps them to develop social skills and hand-eye coordination.  You can read here about more games to play with your baby.  In the "So Big!" game, you ask your child, "How big is ______?" filling in the blank with his or her name.  Then help her raise her hands above her head and say, "SO BIG!" Eventually your child will raise her arms all by herself--it is so fun to see your child learn and respond to the question, to see how proud she is of being big and how much fun she has playing with Mom or Dad.  This game pairs perfectly with Elmo's So Big! book. 

On one of the pages, Elmo shakes a rattle in a band, so my little buddy and I got out our musical instrument box and played along with Elmo.  Babies love to shake rattles or instruments to make noise and become excited when they learn the cause/effect process of their actions.  Help baby sing along with the band by making different sounds and encouraging baby to imitate you.  This is a great way to begin developing language and social skills: babies can practice making sounds and love to interact and play this way.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

The Bunnies Are Not in Their Beds

The Bunnies Are Not in Their Beds
By Marisabina Russo

Read It
A must have in any household with children is a stack of good bedtime stories.  Our family added The Bunnies Are Not in Their Beds to our nightime routine.  First the bunnies are tucked snugly away in bed while Mamma and Daddy settle in to enjoy the quietude.  But uh-oh!  Some noise from upstairs interrupts the silence.  Mamma and Daddy sneak upstairs to spy on the bunnies, then settle them back down for bed.  Back and forth they go until finally everything is silent . . . maybe.  Read this fun story with your children tonight at bedtime to find if the bunnies finally go to sleep!

Enjoy It
Marisabina Russo's illustrations make this book feel like a modern-day Goodnight, Moon--and the text even brings a hush at the end like that old classic story.  I love the syncapated rythm of this book and how that rythm depicts quite well the gentle tug-of-war between the excitement and play of bunnies--I mean children--and the sleepiness and rest every evening brings. 

Make It Come to Life
Next time bedtime rolls around, grab a teddy bear or some train tracks, and snuggle up in your pajamas with your little ones and this book; talk about your family's bedtime routine and compare it with the bunny family's.  Maybe you can put on a pot of tea and have a slice of cake before bed like Mamma and Daddy bunny do.  Whatever routine lulls you to sleep tonight may you have sweet dreams of bunnies in their beds!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

A Farm Is Not a Farm Unless It is Noisy

The Noisy Noisy Farm
By Stephanie Stansbie
Illustrated by Veronica Vasylenko

Read It
This book is fun and noisy (literally) indeed.  Kitten wakes up to a silent farm and wonders what happened to Rooster.  She sets off enlisting the help of all the animals to figure out where Rooster has gone and what must be wrong.  Along the way we meet Duck and Sheep and Cow--each with something to say to help find Rooster.  Every page has a button for kids to press as they are learning about new animal friends and the sounds they make, and they will be tickled to hear and meet the surprise farm character at the end.

Enjoy It
Both of my kiddos have greatly enjoyed The Noisy Noisy Farm.  My oldest son (I call him Jefe because he is two-years-old and IN CHARGE) loves to push the buttons--actually since reading this book, if he sees a circle in any other book he pushes it hoping it is a button.  My youngest is at the age where he mimics every sound he hears, so what better time to read a book where we can learn (and hear!) animal sounds.  His favorite in this book is the duck.  I think The Noisy Noisy Farm ranks as one of my favorite farm books that I have read.

Make It Come to Life
Living in Kansas City makes it easy for us to observe farms or farm animals most places we go--not that cows are roaming the city streets, but farms characterize much of the landscape just outside the city limits.  Depending on where you live, make it a point to point out animals and farms and barns as you are out driving with your children.  You can talk about the animals' colors, the sounds they make, where they live, what they like to eat, and how they help humans; you can talk about the barn, the shape of it, the color of it, who works there, and what farms can provide us like milk, corn, or eggs.  If you don't live near any farms, collect farm animals from your children's toys or stuffed animals and help them make a farm at your house!  Singing fun songs about farms like "Old MacDonald" or "B-I-N-G-O" can also make farms come to life in your little one's imagination.  If you do reside in Kansas City, check out the Deanna Rose Farmstead--it is FREE (Mon.-Thur.) and full of farm-life interactions for all ages.

I would love to hear what kind of farm adventures you and your family have had!  Leave your comments or farm book suggestions below!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Los tamales de Ana

For today's book, I am sharing something from Se Habla Spanish, another blog that I write for.  I hope you enjoy this bilingual post!

My boys and I rarely get to the library between naptimes and eating times, but last week we made it and I am so excited to share what we found! Taking a two-year-old and a ten-month-old to the library has to be short and sweet, so often times I find myself pushing the stoller through the aisles at a trotting speed, to keep up with my two-year-old, quickly grabbing books off the shelves that catch my eye. Usually that means we are in for a surprise when we get home, because who knows what Mommy snagged!  

Enjoy It
Los tamales de Ana proved to be a great bilingual grab. Our local library does not have a specific section with bilingual books, so anytime I find one I like to check it out. Bilingual books are a great way to learn Spanish and new vocabulary--you can read the English story and become familiar with it, then read the Spanish part using the context to understand and learn new words and phrases.

Read It
In the story, a young girl named Ana, makes tamales for Christmas and dreams of what each new year will bring as she grows older and gets to have more responsibilities making the traditional Mexican dish. Zepeda writes the imaginative text in the future tense, and Ward's vibrant illustrations make those imaginations come to life. So not only do you get to practice your Spanish future tense (or learn it for the first time!), you also get to dream with the character Ana about the wonderful traditions involved with making tamales.

Make It Come to Life
You can watch the video I posted of one of my Spanish classes making tamales with my friend Aida. After that, try this tamale recipe from Rick Bayless--one of my favorite chefs that has as his mission teaching people what authentic Mexican cuisine means. Then go check out Los tamales de Ana, grab your 501 Spanish Verbs book, and talk about what you are going to do in the future! See below for a little guide on the Spanish Future Tense.

Spanish Future Tense

If you want to speak in Spanish about things that will happen in the future, just learn a few verbs and then add these endings depending on the subject. Remember the subject pronouns are:

Subject Pronouns

yo (I)
nosotros (we)
tú (you, informal)
vosotros (y’all)
él, ella (he, she)
Usted (you, formal)
ellos, ellas (they)
Ustedes (you all)

Future Endings


So, for example if you want to say “I will eat tamales,” you would use the verb comer (to eat) and put it with the yo (I) ending é.

comer + é = comeré

“Yo comeré tamales” = “I will eat tamales”

Monday, June 18, 2012


Tiny Little Fly

By: Michael Rosen

Illustrated by: Kevin Waldron

Your household may, like ours, have some pesky summer visitors--houseflies.  I find myself getting very annoyed with these small, buzzing creatures.  But then my kiddos and I found this fun book at the library that helped turn our frustration of flies into fun with flies. 

Read It
A little fly enters the story and buzzes his way into the day of several animals who try to catch the little fly--first an elephant, next a hippo, and then a tiger.  You will have a blast following the meddlesome path of the tiny little creature and seeing its effect on the three larger-than-life African animals.

Enjoy It
I love so many elements of this book.  First of all, the illustrations are perfect.  Kevin Waldron's mix of pencil, gouache, and digital tecniques visually entertain and flawlessly capture the futile attempts of the animals to catch the little fly.  Even the typeface chosen aids in telling this silly tale.  Waldron illustrates spunk and fun into each page--even the pesky fly, who leaves Elephant, Hippo, and Tiger in a tangled-up, muddy mess, winks his way into likeability because of the endearing illustrations.

Our local library emphasizes early literacy for young children through a program called Every Child Ready to Read.  The program includes toddler story hour, online resources, and a section in the library where librarians set aside great books that help to develop early literacy skills in children.  Through this program I have learned about six literacy skills to look for in the books I pick out for my kiddos and I to read: Print Motivation, Print Awareness, Vocabulary, Narrative Skills, Letter Knowledge, and Phonological Awareness.  You can read more about these six skills at the Johnson County Library website

When we read Tiny Little Fly together, I happily found many details that encouraged literacy.  For example, the story rhymes which develops Phonological Awareness; the story is fun, a part of Print Motivation; the story follows a pattern that is easy to catch on to, so little readers can help tell the story and develop Narrative Skills; the story introduces the names of the animals in the story, building Vocabulary; the story uses fun onomatopoeias like STOMP! and SWOOP! written in a different typeset which encourages Print Awareness.  We enjoyed this book so much, we are going to look for other books by Michael Rosen to add to our favorites list.       

Make It Come to Life
Another great feature of the book is that you can use it as a starting point for learning so many things!  After you read the book, you could check out more books about flies and bugs--one of my favorites from childhood is Golly Gump Swallowed a Fly.   You could also introduce some fun or silly songs to your children's reperatoire like: The Hollow Trees version of "Shoo Fly" on The Hollow Trees album.  Or what about going to your local zoo, and learning more about African animals like the tiger, hippo, and elephant in the story?  If it is a hot day perfect for crafts inside try this handprint elephant or maybe instead of this toilet paper roll bee, you could make a fly! 

Go read Tiny Little Fly today and share what ideas you come up with!