What We’re Reading Wednesdays: James and the Rain

What a fun day here at Simple Kids!  We are launching What We’re Reading Wednesdays – a weekly feature in which members of the Simple Kids community offer reviews of some of the best of children’s literature.  The series begins today with this review from Emily:

james-and-the-rainAs I was sorting and cataloging books for the list a few weeks ago, I began creating my own must-be-checked-out list.  With my background in education and childcare, I was already familiar with quite a few of the books.  I was surprised, however, with how many that were brand new to me!

The first book I want to share with you is James and the Rain written by Karla Kuskin and illustrated by Reg Cartwright.  The title and beautiful cover drew me in, and because it was available at my local library, that’s where I began.

I’m actually really sad that I didn’t know about this book until now!  I would have used it on every single rainy day when I was teaching.

The basic premise is a young boy, James, takes a walk in the rain where he meets a menagerie of animals that share their favorite thing to do in the rain.  It is a counting book as he meets one cow all the way up to ten cats, and children could practice one-to-one counting by pointing at the pictures.  Also, each page builds on the last, including all of the animals, so older children could practice counting past ten.

The text is written in a rhyming and chanting manner, making it fun to read and to listen.  In the course of my studies, we talked a lot about the importance of “word exposure” for children, and how it’s important for their vocabulary for them to hear a wide variety of words even if they don’t understand the meaning of them all.  Well, I’m going to steal Tsh’s phrase and assure you that this book is indeed “twaddle-free”! The language is rich and delightfully descriptive.  Also, the illustrations are just gorgeous.  The kind I enjoy looking at over and over again.

My favorite page is the one where James meets four birds:

“Well,” said the birds, “when it rains we soar

up to the clouds and a little bit more.

We seek and we search

soaking our skins

to try to find out where the rain begins.”

Do yourself a favor and snag this lovely book on your next library trip.  You won’t be disappointed!

Simple As That: Come on, get a little muddy!

023_edited-1

“The world is mud-luscious and puddle-wonderful.”  — e.e. cummings

So that we may coax our little bed of sweet potato vines and delicate lavender plants through the scorching July days, my girls and I head out early each morning to soak everything with water.  Each of them are fairly adept with the garden hose, so I’ve been allowing them the independence to saturate that bed on their own while I dead-head and tend to what is left of our spring flowers.

Last week, the hose lingered a little too long in one corner of the vine bed and before I knew it, the girls had created one glorious mud puddle.  No plants were in danger of harm, so I let them splash and dig and experience the mud for a bit.  I even remembered to grab my camera so that I could capture the glory of it all.  As I circled them snapping off shots, my oldest daughter invited me to, “Come on, Mom!  Get muddy with us!”

024_edited-1

At first I resisted – it was just so terribly, well, dirty.

But then I reconsidered.  When was the last time I had stomped in some mud?  Didn’t the cool mud look awfully inviting?  Sure, it was messy, but nothing a little spray down with the garden hose couldn’t remedy.  So I dug in my toes and agreed with my daughters.  That squishy, mooshy, globby, ooky mud was delightful.

027_small

Simply delightful.

When was the last time you allowed yourself the freedom to get a little muddy?

(By the way, speaking of simple delights, I wanted to make you aware that every Monday, FishMama of Life as Mom is hosting Camp Wannalaffalotta where she shares tons of inspiration for summer fun!  And if you prefer making messes in the kitchen instead of out in the garden, you won’t want to miss the Life as Mom Birthday Cake Round-Up this Thursday!)

July 10th: SK Showcase and Weekend Links

We’ll do a different take on the idea of “Showcase” this week!

Emily (who generously compiled our recommended reading list) approached me with an idea, and I am excited to share it with you.  She has so enjoyed checking out and reading the books on our Unsung Favorites list that she wanted to share some book reviews highlighting these books for our Simple Kids community.  I thought this might become a helpful and informative feature here at Simple Kids, and so next week I’ll be rolling out What We’re Reading Wednesdays!

I wanted to open up an invitation to the SK community for anyone who might like to join Emily in showcasing some of our favorites in children’s literature. I would be looking for a team of three to five people who would write up reviews on a rotating basis.

Are you passionate about quality children’s literature?  Would you like to share your enthusiasm here at Simple Kids?  If so, please send me an email at simplekidsblog at gmail dot com with a little information about yourself as well as a writing sample (can be a sample book review or a piece of writing you have published on a blog or in another online media venue).

We have been so busy just being in summer this week that my online reading has fallen by the wayside.  Here are just a few quick reads for the weekend:

Simply Practical

Vita Familiae: Mommy Travel Hacks
Steady Mom: Preschool Play Chart

Simply Delicious

smitten kitchen: mediterranean pepper salad

Inspired Projects

No Time For Flash Cards: Mini Art Museum
Adventures with Kids: what can we do with balloons? (this is more games than project.  maybe I need a games category in our weekend links?)

Inspired Images

Mom in Madison: Get a Little Wild

Inspired Words

The Eckenrode’s: The Rhythm of Summer

What were your favorite reads this week?

Simple As That: Simple Outdoor Water Play

bucket

One of the easiest, most sure-fire ways to engage kids in simple outdoor play is to add a little water to the mix.  The aisles of the local big box store will offer you a variety of pools, sprinklers, and slippery-slides that certainly can be lots of fun if you have the money to spend and the space to enjoy them.  But what if you only have a stretch of sidewalk, a balcony, or a porch for close-to-home outdoor time?  Or perhaps you would rather save your pennies for a big trip or a little staycation time?

One classic idea my mother-in-law shared with me is to let the kids “wash dishes” outside. This is a great go-to activity whether you have acres of space or just little spot all to yourself.  All you need is a couple of buckets, pails, or big bowls, some dishes for washing (you’ll probably want to choose the unbreakable variety), and some water.  Add a dot of dish soap to one container of water and reserve the other container for rinsing.  What a simple way to enjoy a little time in the shade – washing, rinsing, splashing, talking, laughing, and playing.

What does water play look like in your outdoor space?

photo courtesy of peasap

July 3rd: SK Showcase and Weekend Links

Sometimes igniting the creative spark with our kids involves scissors, glitter, tissue paper, and glue.  But the kitchen provides a wonderful avenue for creativity, too!  For today’s showcase, I wanted to share an Earth Day project Jennifer and her kids did in April.  Even though the celebration of Earth Day was months ago, it is a topic that can continue to educate and inspire all of us!

To celebrate earth day, we did a bunch of crafts and read several books.  One of the kids favorite activities we did was make Earth Day Cookies.  We do baking once a week as a family and we spend a lot of time measuring and pouring and mixing; taking time to focus on math concepts or healthy ingredients…but not for our Earth Day Cookies.  It was all about the end product.

We invited 6 neighborhood kids over to take part.  A lot of the kids were young so to keep them interested until the end, I bought a sugar cookie mix and split it in two batches and then added blue food coloring to one batch and green to the other batch.  As we rolled the blue dough into circles we talked about how our earth is round and looked at a globe as reference.  Next step was to turn our globes into maps – first I took the kids to look at a map and compare to a globe.  All the same information is there, just in a flat format…then the kids used their palms to squish the balls into flat circles.  Now it was time to add the continents.  The kids took the green dough and formed it and squished it into the earth.  We talked about how the surface of the earth is covered by about 70% water and 30% land.  Then into the oven they went.

As the cookies were baking, we read Dora Celebrates Earth Day.  It is a fantastic little book printed on recycled paper.  Really kept the focus on the Earth while our cookies were baking.

When the cookies were done we iced them with white icing at the top and bottom to represent the north and south poles.  I have to admit that the cookies were gone before I got a chance to take a photo of this step.

earthcookies11

earthcookies21

earthcookies31

It has been almost 2 months since we celebrated Earth Day and the kids still talk about that day, making the cookies and some of the things we talked about.  This project was a true hit in our home!

It’s a holiday weekend here in the States.  No matter where you are, may you spend the coming days indulging in the simple pleasures of family life!

And now for your weekend reading:

Simply Practical

Simple Mom: 10 Great Authors in Children’s Literature (another chance to share your favorites!)
Simple Nest: Storing Summer Gear Together in One Place
The Mother Load: Fun Ways to Make Outdoor Living a Family Priority
USA Today: In summer, kids need real play time

Simply Delicious

The Artful Parent: Blueberry Pie and Turnovers
Under the High Chair: Chocolate Banana Pancakes and signs of hope
Simple Comfort Food: Quick and Easy Doughnuts (link via TasteSpotting)

Inspired Projects

luvinthemommyhood: the placemat to bib tutorial!
the long thread: 50 Summer Crafts for Kids and Summer Reading Craft #2 – The Very Lonely Firefly
kiddio: Sweet, Simple Fairies
Vanilla Joy: Pipe Cleaner Stars

Inspired Images

Earth to Holly: What’s Your Treasure?
Our NY Life: Belleview Park
Secret Agent Mama: 4 Words

Inspired Words

Momopoly: Perspective
turnitupmom: Children and Water: What They Teach Us
MyLifeIsG – very uplifting website!  Link via Simple Savvy