September 25th: SK Showcase and Weekend Links

I’m curious to hear if any of you in the SK community participated in Turnoff Week.  I can’t say we completely turned the screens in our home off this week, but we did cut way, way back on TV and computer time.  Watching my girls spend more time at the table coloring and creating and more time in the playroom making up games challenged me to consider that we don’t “need” the TV and computer time in the ways I thought we did!

This week’s Showcase comes from Julia of Julia Janzen.  She wrote:

Here’s a little something I did with my 3 year old this summer: Photojournalism for Toddlers.

Katie – the photojournalist


Her view of daisies


Julia explains, “It got us outside, we were able to appreciate some really beautiful trees, plants and neighborhood in general.  If you don’t have a camera for your child you could always buy a little one use camera, or a little more on the green side, buy a used camera at a yard sale, or thrift shop.   For a little older kids I think it would be a lot of fun at birthday parties or family gatherings to give kids cameras and just let them go for it!”

Thanks for sharing this practical way to introduce little ones to the art of photography, Julia!

And now, your (fall-inspired) weekend reading:

Simply Practical

The Mother Load: 5 Quick Dinners for Busy Weeknights (fall tends to bring a flurry of activity to families, doesn’t it?)

Simply Delicious

Under the High Chair: 7 Inspiring Recipes for the Thanksgiving Table
Playful Learning: Apple Picking, Apple Recipes & Apple Inspiration

Inspired Projects

maya*made: nature crowns and cuffs
red bird crafts: finding fall box: remake
Ordinary Life Magic: Crow Puppets

Inspired Images

SouleMama: the colors this season

Inspired Words

Brain, Child: Two Hearts Beat as One (okay, so this may not exactly be autumn-inspired, but I adore Catherine Newman and her writing, and I had to slip this in.  And it is in the Fall 2009 issue of Brain, Child, so that counts, right?)

Next week is Free-Range Kids week here at Simple Kids!  I am looking forward to your thoughts!

Preparing for Our Free-Range Kids Book Talk

frkOn October 1st, Simple Kids will host our first ever community-wide book talk. I’ve chosen Lenore Skenazy’s Free-Range Kids: Giving Our Children the Freedom We Had Without Going Nuts with Worry for our first book discussion.

Each day next week, I’ll be sharing posts inspired by the “free-range” philosophy, and on Thursday we’ll come together to share our thoughts on the book itself.  Here is how the book talk will work:

1) If you are a blogger, please publish a post any day next week with your thoughts on the following questions:

a) Which passage or chapter did you find to be the most profound, informative, or eye-opening?
b) Were there passages/chapters with which you do not agree?  Why?
c) What impact has reading Free-Range Kids had on your parenting philosophies and choices?  Were you inspired to make any changes to your approach to parenting?  Did you feel affirmed in any of your parenting decisions?  Explain.

If you are not a blogger or would prefer not to post your thoughts on your own blog,  please prepare your answers to share in a comment on next Thursday’s post.

2) On Thursday, please publish the link to your post discussing Free-Range Kids in the Book Talk post which will be published here at Simple Kids.

3) To encourage a spirit of community discussion, I would ask that once you have published your comment and/or link to your own post, please visit the discussion links posted before and after your own.

This book had a powerful impact on some of my beliefs about parenting.  I am so interested to hear the thoughts and reactions of others!  I look forward to hearing what you have to share next week.

What We’re Reading Wednesday: September 23rd

Filling our homes with books allows us the freedom to turnoff the screens in our homes – even if it is just for the week. The book review team is back this week with three fantastic recommendations:

Baby and Toddler

from Meghan (Out of the Woods)

house-in-the-night-coverHave you heard yet about The House In the Night by Susan Marie Swanson?  This book is the 2009 winner of the prestigious Caldecott award (aka It Must Be Awesome).  I am obsessed.  Both the text and the illustrations by Beth Krommes are utterly enchanting and perfect for getting you and your little one swept up in the glory of a starry, fall evening.

I recommend this book for the infant/toddler category for three reasons:

1. The book is entirely illustrated in black, white and yellow and provides an excellent opportunity for young ones to focus, instead of getting lost in pages packed with bright colors.  I knew it would be perfect for my nine-month-old daughter when I noticed her point to the fireplace on almost every page of Goodnight Moon.  The color yellow represents The House’s main character—light—and just as I thought, my girl goes right for the bright spots of color every time. Krommes is a printmaker, and her illustrations are done in the style of wood engraving.  You will love her landscapes of rolling hills, inviting cottages, fields awaiting harvest and yellow sun and stars.

2. The text is very simple (only one phrase per page) and is full of basic words that your toddler is likely working on, such as home, book, bird, sun, moon, song, etc.  The pages are full of opportunities for image and word recognition, as they are teeming with animals, toys and musical instruments.

3. Best of all, this is the perfect book for children who are developing a fear of the dark. It explains very simply how light from the sun reflects off the moon at night and comes into the little one’s room, along with the shining of the stars.  It explains that her home is full of light, even if the lamp is turned off, pointing out pets, plants and parents as comforts better than any lightbulb.

And I recommend this book for parents, because it will captivate you as well, with its intimate and tender details, its depiction of home and family, and its masterful illustrations. You’ll want to study every page.

Early Elementary

From Jean-Marie Maier

mercyrescueMercy Watson doesn’t want to sleep alone in her dark, scary room, so she sneaks into Mr. and Mrs. Watson’s bed and snuggles between them. Typical behavior of a preschooler you say? Only problem is Mercy isn’t a preschooler. She’s a fun-loving pig with an affinity for warm, buttery toast.

Just when Mercy is deep in a dream about a plate piled-high with delicious, hot-buttered toast, she and the other dreaming Watsons are awakened by a “Boom!” The bed is falling through a second floor hole. And although Mr. Watson tells everyone to stay where they are, Mercy dashes off to find…help?  No!  Some of that dreamy, hot-buttered toast!

What happens next? A scare. A wild chase. And firemen are called to the scene. Mercy’s insuppressible love of toast turns her into the unwitting hero, or as the Watsons like to call her a “porcine wonder.”

Mercy Watson To The Rescue by Kate DiCamillo is an action-filled, fast moving story that completely delighted me and my 5-year-old daughter. We shared lots of chatter, giggles and toast. We would also recommend the other books in the Mercy Watson series.  They are perfect for beginning readers ready to give chapter books a try. Each book has so much to offer: easy to read text, vibrant illustrations, quirky characters and lots of humor and silliness.

And if you’re gearing up for Halloween, check out Mercy Watson Princess in Disguise. It features a trick-or-treating Mercy, many of the same familiar faces and, of course, stacks of delicious, hot-buttered toast.

Upper Elementary

By Elizabeth (Finding Him Bigger)

crookedkindofperfectThere’s nothing like having a dream and not quite being able to reach it. Zoe, the 5th grade protagonist in Linda Urban’s A Crooked Kind of Perfect, knows this disappointment well. She dreams of playing the piano in Carnegie Hall, complete with a ball gown, gloves up to her elbows, and ruby slippers. Because for her a piano is everything she is not: glamorous, sophisticated, and worldly.

Unfortunately, instead of a grand piano, Zoe plays the organ: a loud, awkward instrument, nothing like a delicate piano.

In learning how to play the organ and preparing for a competition she’s not even sure she wants to compete in, Zoe learns a great deal about herself and her unconventional parents. She makes an unlikely friend and realizes that people aren’t always as they seem. Some of their quirks might actually be strengths. In fact, what seems crooked to one person and perfect to another might be just that: a crooked kind of perfect.

So when Zoe’s performance in the competition seems anything but perfect to her, she learns that sometimes you just have to keep going. She tells her dad, “You can’t jut get up and walk away every time you mess up. You’d never get anywhere.” That’s a lesson that’s good for all of us to learn.

My 10-year old daughter and I both enjoyed this book very much, and it has sparked some wonderful conversations in our home about perfectionism and expectations. Most upper-elementary aged girls understand Zoe’s feelings of wanting to fit in with their peers but not always being able to. A Crooked Kind of Perfect by Linda Urban is a delightful book from which they’ll find encouragement and inspiration to be themselves. It inspires confidence and self-assuredness, even for moms like me, and reminds all of us that what seems perfect has mistakes in it too. But when we focus on the positives, those mistakes hardly matter at all.