What We’re Reading Wednesday: September 16th

Four fantastic selections from the WWRW Review Team this week!

Baby and Toddler

from Kelly (Notions and Threads)

rockabyefarmBefore my son, Ari was born, I envisioned rocking him to sleep every night in my arms. Fourteen months later, the unused rocking chair is collecting cobwebs on our front porch.

Wanting to encourage another try at this soothing nighttime routine, I went searching for a book to show Ari the merits of rocking. I found Rock-a-Bye Farm by Diane Johnston Hamm, a delightful tale of a very busy farmer at bedtime. One of my favorite parts of the book is the beginning when he rocks his own baby to sleep before tucking in his animals. I love the message that a dad in his work overalls gladly ends his day putting his baby to sleep.

I was also drawn to the dreamy, yet whimsical illustrations by Alexi Natchev, which have been updated since the book’s first publication in 1992. You’ll love how patient and inventive this farmer is as he makes his rounds before rocking himself to sleep on his front porch. Sure, of course you’d rock a tiny mouse to sleep in a wooden cradle, but how do you rock a cow to sleep? A horse? This farmer’s challenges makes putting a tireless toddler to sleep look easy. On the page where the farmer rocks a large brood of hens in his apron, my son likes me to whisper, “back and forth, back and forth” while swaying him gently side to side. This may be the closest we get to rocking in my house, but at least we have an engaging new bedtime book.

Preschool

from Amy (Girlfriends Get Real)

tellmesomethingI discovered the book Tell Me Something Happy Before I Go to Sleep this summer while I was searching the internet for new books to add to our home library. This book written in 1998 by Joyce Dunbar and Debi Gliori is a story of a little bunny that cannot fall asleep.

Willa is afraid to have bad dreams. Her older brother Willoughby helps her to fall asleep by reminding her of happy things. He reminds her of all of the things that are waiting for her in the morning.

“What do you see in the corner?” asked Willoughby.
“I see my basket full of toys,” said Willa.
“What do you think they are doing?” asked Willoughby.
“I don’t know,” said Willa.
“They are dreaming, dreaming of tomorrow, and the games you are going to play.”
“That’s very happy,” said Willa. “What else?”

I have a daughter that prays about dreaming happy things before she drifts to sleep every night. This book captures all of the happy thoughts through the story and the beautiful illustrations that can help your child drift into dreamland. If you are looking for a wonderful bedtime story, this is the perfect book to read to your child.

Early Elementary

from MJ (turnitupmom)

Those ShoesThis week’s selection, Those Shoes by Maribeth Boelts, is a perfect fit for any child who has ever felt pressured to buy the latest fad in order to belong.  It’s also for any parent who has ever struggled with how to talk to children about wants versus needs.

The story begins with Jeremy longing for a pair of new black sneakers: I have dreams about those shoes. Black high-tops.  Two white stripes. We immediately discover, however, that Jeremy’s grandma is in no financial position to buy what he wants, only what he needs.  And what he needs are warm winter boots.

After a humiliating school incident in which Jeremy is forced to wear Velcro baby shoes from the school’s donation box, he and his sympathetic grandma search several thrift shops for a used pair.  When Jeremy finally finds them, they’re too small.  Of course he buys them anyway, limping to the bus stop and praying that his “too-small shoes” will stretch.

One day, Jeremy notices that his best friend, Antonio- the only one who didn’t laugh at his baby shoes- is wearing taped-up shoes.  Despite his disappointment and embarrassment, Jeremy knows what he must do.  In a spirit of generosity, he surprises Antonio with a gift- those shoes.

This sweet and sincere ending tugs at the heartstrings, suggesting that what we really need are loving relationships and good friends by our side.  It’s a story that builds empathy and understanding as we grapple with the fine line between our wants and needs in a gotta-have-it society.

Upper Elementary

from Diana (HOLES in my Shiny Veneer)

“That’s just how parents are,” Henry explained wisely as he ate the cheese off the top of his slice and wiped his greasy hand on his jeans. “They like to talk about how they used to do things or about how they plan to do things someday, but parents aren’t very good at right now.” From Any Which Wall by Laurel Snyder

tlccontentUgh, such an indictment for all parents!  I found this quote in a review, and it led to a post on my blog and an open thread discussion on another blog before my library even got Any Which Wall in.  Snyder is a stay-at-home mom to two toddlers, struggling like the rest of us, which makes this masterpiece all the more incredible of a read to me.

Any Which Wall is a special book, one that begs to be added to the family library instead of just being borrowed from the one downtown.  Written as a tribute to Edward Eager’s “Magic” novels, it would be the perfect family read-aloud on a rainy day: the narrator with her clever-but-not-too-clever asides explains that this is a tale of “common magic”, that ordinary magic just waiting to be found by kids who have too much time on their hands and are willing to open their eyes to the unusual.

Susan, Henry, Roy, and Emma are the four protagonists who find a wall dropped into the middle of a cornfield on a previously boring summer day.  Once they figure out the basic rules of this particular magical wall, they find that it can take them to anywhere and anytime.  Over the course of the book, they each choose a destination and have adventures in Camelot, with Blackbeard’s son, on the American prairie, and in present-day New York. In spite of the mention of cell phones and e-mail, their adventures have a timeless feel about them and it’s obvious that Snyder is a lover of childhood adventures from Anne of Green Gables to Mrs. Piggle Wiggle.

Yet Any Which Wall isn’t just a collection of magical journeys.  The children, of course, learn about themselves and each other in their time travels.  Parents will appreciate such lessons as:

“I can only be what I am,” said Merlin.  “And I’m happy, I suppose, because I don’t try to be anything else . . . It’s a lot of work to pretend.”

So yes, the morals are there (as in any classic kid lit), but I think the young reader will be too caught up in the adventures and the magic to be put off by them.  They certainly will make good talking points after a family read aloud, though.  I can’t wait for that rainy day to share Any Which Wall with my two.

From the Archives: Bathtime Meditations

Today I’m revisiting the Simple Kids archives to share one of the first articles I wrote after taking over Simple Kids last spring.  We have added so many new readers to our community since that time!  Now that the summer season has drawn to a close and many families have settled into familiar rhythms and routines, I thought it would be timely to revisit a universal aspect of parenting: bathtime.

bathtubfunphoto courtesy of Ernst Moeksis

Bathtime is an important part of our evening ritual. For both of my daughters, time in the tub signals the end of the day, and they know the pouring and splashing and washing and rinsing will soon give way to pajamas, storytime, and lights out.

Now that my girls are older, I bathe them together every night.  This works nicely for me because they love to play together in the tub, and I find I can bring a magazine, book, or my daily docket for the following day to keep me occupied as I sit closeby to supervise the bathtime play.  While this does offer some much-needed wind-down time for me, it occurred to me a few weeks ago that bathing the girls could also provide me with just a few minutes to be mindful in my end-of-the-day connection with my girls.

What does a bathtime meditation look like?  Here are three ideas to get you started:

1. Prayer

As I bathe each daughter, I might say a simple prayer like, “Thank you, God, for these sweet little feet.  May they carry her to exciting places to do life-changing things someday,” or “What a blessing this chubby cheeks are to me.  May her smile be an encouragement to everyone she encounters.”

Even if you aren’t a participant in organized religion, you might think of ways to speak positive thoughts over your children as you spend a few mindful minutes bathing them.

2. Gratitude

Whether your child is six weeks or six years old, I think it is important to model gratitude.  You might say something like, “I’m so thankful we got to go to the library today!  We have so many new books to read!” or “I am so thankful for the visit from Grandma and Grandpa.  They love you so much.”

As your children get older, encourage them to offer their own words of gratitude and appreciate for the day.  The things my four year old comes up with to be thankful for always bring a smile to me.

3. Affirmation

This is particularly important to me at the end of the of a day that has been filled with more tears than giggles and more correction than encouragement.  My oldest daughter went through a phase where one hundred was absolutely the biggest thing she could imagine, so I might say something like, “You know, I love you ONE HUNDRED!”  Or I might tell my toddler, “Even if you marked on every wall in every house on every street, I would still love you so very, very much.”

Sometimes we get silly and say things like, “I’d love you even if your elbows looked like your knees and you had horsey breath!” and “If your hair looked like a rainbow and your nose looked like a blueberry, you’d be my most favorite rainbow-haired, blueberry-nosed person in the whole world!”

Now certainly, there are evenings when I really do just lose myself in the glossy, perfectly put-together pages of Real Simple or enjoy a few precious minutes with pen and paper and no one trying to grab them from my hands.  But every now and again, I pause and remember to turn the time spent kneeling beside the tub into a mindful, intentional, reflective celebration of my daughters and our day.

What makes bathtime special for you and your children?

20 Activities Under $10

I am excited to share this guest post from Christie – the very creative and clever Aussie mum and writer of Childhood 101:


As part of the Nuffnang Coles Myer Group challenge, I set myself the task of spending my $10 giftcard at a Coles Supermarket to find a minimum of 10 fun activities that Mums can easily do at home with their children. Can it be done? Of course it can!

So what did we buy?

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Some flour, salt, rice, 2 bottles of food colouring, shaving cream, 2 lemons, a potato and an onion (and we also acquired a couple of lovely Coles catalogues that are free and very useful for all sorts of activities!) I spent a total of $9.91 and by adding a few basics from the recycling box I created not 10 but 20 easy activity ideas!

Activity #1: Food colouring can be used as a great tool for beginning painters.

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It is non toxic and washes up easily and has a nice vivid colour. As it is thin and drippy, I put the colouring into a butter tub on a sheet of paper towel. That way Immy could dip her brush in and out, saying “Dip, dip” as she did so, without flicking it all over the room.

Activity #2: If you don’t have a small paintbrush, cotton buds work well when painting with food colouring.

Activity #3: For older children: (with more hand strength and co-ordination) dilute food colouring with water into spray bottles for painting outdoors. Hang large sheets of paper (or fabric) on a fence and squirt the paint on. It’s great fun.

Activity #4: Combine a little water with food colouring and make ice cubes to do some ice painting, its lots of fun especially on a warm day.

Activity #5: Add food colouring to your water play and use clear jars and containers. This adds an extra dimension to the water play as your toddler is more easily able to see it as they pour from container to container.

Activity #6: Regular readers will remember that I am a fan of rice play as a wet weather alternative to the sandpit.

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I coloured the rice with the food colouring by adding a few drops at a time and stirring with a wooden spoon until I had the desired depth of colour. I then spread the rice onto a baking tray for a little while to let it dry out.

I put down a large tablecloth on the ground to help define a play space. It also makes clean up much easier as you just collect up the edges of the cloth to gather any spilt rice into one spot. Immy played with the rice together with some plastic containers and kitchen utensils; spooning and stirring, transferring rice from container to container.

Recycling tip: Scoops from infant formula and from washing powder are great for rice play.

Activity #7: As an alternative, hide small toys or household items under the rice for your child to find. Give them a strainer to sift the rice and find the goodies.

Activity #8: Treasure hunt in a bottle

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I have seen versions of this activity on a number of blogs and decided to give it a go. I am glad I did as Immy has been revisiting the treasure hunt bottle over and over again for days now.

Hide small toys or household items in a clear plastic water bottle and fill with rice (I filled ours about 3/4 full). As Immy does not yet have many tiny toys (due to the choking hazard of her still mouthing small items), I had to think creatively about what to put inside. Our bottle contains a peg, a key, some coloured shapes cut out of craft foam, a coin, a button and a little chicken.

This would be a great ‘in the car’ activity as you could make a number of small bottles with different objects.

Activity #9: For older children, make the treasure hunt trickier by using small items of one colour and the same coloured rice.

Activity #10: Fruit and vegie printing

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An oldie but a goodie, fruit and vegie printing is easy for even the youngest child and is lots of fun. I cut the onion and each lemon in half and cut our quite long potato into thirds. To make shapes on the potato I used metal cookie cutters, pressing them in and then cutting around the outside with a small knife.

Again we used the food colouring as our paint. Pour a little of the food colouring onto a kitchen sponge or some paper towel in a plastic container for the pieces to be pressed onto and then print away.

Activity #11: Collage with flour and water glue and pictures from the Coles catalogues.

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I mixed a little flour with some water into a thick paste to use as glue. Flour and water glue is perfectly adequate for sticking together lightweight papers.

I wasn’t sure if Immy was ready for collage as we had never tried gluing before but she loved it. She first spread the glue over her paper and after I showed her how to push a picture onto the glue she had it down pat.

Activity #12: For us, the collage experience was just about Immy getting the idea of spreading glue and then sticking things down. You could however add an additional element to the learning potential of this activity by asking your child to find certain items from the collection of pictures. For example, “Can you find an apple?” or “Can you find something yellow?”

Activity #13: Add a little food colouring to your glue to help your child see where they have spread it.

Activity #14: Make a salt dough or no cook playdough.

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We tried the uncooked playdough recipe and I found that it required a lot more kneading than the cooked version that I have used before. I added the juice of half a lemon to add an additional sensory element to the play.

Activity #15: Mixing Rainbow Salt Crystals

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I saw this activity over at Kids Craft Weekly and thought that it would be a fun one to try as Immy loves stirring. Just drop a few drops of food colouring into some salt and then stir the salt until all of the crystals are coloured. We did this one outside to reduce the likelihood of mess if the salt was spilt. Immy really enjoyed stirring and stirring and then pouring the salt from container to container. Kids Craft Weekly shows how you can use the salt crystals to make pictures or store the coloured salt in shakers for use on craft projects.

Activity #16: Shaving cream in the shower

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A few months ago Immy started to dislike having showers (she really is a bath girl like her Mum!) So DH would spray some of his shaving cream onto the tiles or shower screen for her to play with. It is a nice sensory experience for toddlers though obviously they need close supervision to make sure they don’t put it in their mouths. Some nights there is even a friendly face already in the shower to greet Immy as she gets in!

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Activity #17: Shaving cream colour mixing (the messy version!)
Spread some shaving cream onto a baking tray (not too much as it really does go a long way). Allow your child to spread it out and then add a few drops of food colouring for them to mix in. We started with yellow and then added a little of the red.

Once finished you can take a print onto some paper but it really is only temporary art as the foam flakes off once dry.

Activity #18: Shaving cream colour mixing (the UNmessy version!)

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Pop some shaving cream and some drops of food colouring into a ziploc bag (this is a recycled one from a recent delivery), zip it up and then get squeezing and pummelling, both great gross motor skills. Talk to your child about the changes happening as the colours mix. We taped our bag to the window and it looks really cool with the sunlight behind. I can imagine a whole line of them in different colours.

Activity#19: For older children, use your Coles catalogues for some origami. Try Origami for Kids for everthing from drinking cups to hats to animals.

We made a paper plane and Immy had a great time chasing it around the yard.

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Activity #20: Let your toddler have fun ripping and tearing your used catalogues. Ripping and tearing develop both fine and gross motor muscles and toddlers love ripping stuff!

This post was originally published on August 31, 2009 at Childhood 101Childhood 101 aims to explore all the things that go into making a memorable, healthy childhood, with lots of ideas, tips and information for families.

Christie is an experienced Early Childhood Teacher and a Mum and has worked with families of children from 0-8 years of age.  She has also trained early childhood staff for preschool and long day care about the Emergent Curriculum approach to early education and using art materials with young children.