Friday, December 12, 2014

✯Books Boys Love✯

Normally boys gravitate to non-fiction books about snakes, bats, sports, volcanos,etc. It was easy to supply them with those. Finding great fiction that they'd love was harder. After years of teaching, I gathered this list of fiction books the boys in my kindergarten and 1st grade classes loved. 

*For a list of books dads love to read aloud go here.
*For my entire list of fiction books organized by theme go here.

The David books by David Shannon, No David, David Gets in Trouble, etc.

Harry the Dirty Dog by Gene Zion and Margaret Bloy Graham
Hello, Robots by Bob Staake
Go, Dog. Go! by P.D. Eastman
Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss
I Stink by Kate McMullan and Jim McMullan
Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak         
                                  ✯Wild Things Comprehension Page
Arthur's Pet Business by Marc Brown (a series)
Me and My Cat by Satoshi Kitamura

      *Anything by Dav Pilkey was always a hit
Kat Kong by Dav Pilkey
Dogzilla by Dav Pilkey
Dog Breath by Dav Pilkey
The Adventures of Super Diaper Baby by Dav Pilkey (a series)
Captain Underpants (books 1-5) by Dav Pilkey (a series)

Scaredy Squirrel by Melanie Watt (a series)

Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney (A bit hard for K and 1st, but any book boys love, carry around, and obsess over--I'm going to let them have) (a series)

Hi! Fly Guy by Tedd Arnold (a series)
Shark vs. Train by Chris Barton
The Amazing Spider-Man (Little Golden Book) by Frank Berrios
Spider-Man versus the Green Goblin (I Can Read Book 2) by Susan Hill
Walter the Farting Dog by William Kotzwinkle (a series)
Sloppy Joe by Dave Keane and Denise Brunkus
Morris the Mankiest Monster by Giles Andrae and Sarah McIntyre
This Monster Needs a Haircut by Bethany Barton

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Throw a Polar Express Party for Toddlers

We love this classic Christmas story. The book is beautiful, the movie enchanting. Little bitty ones may not get the message or have the patience to sit through the entire book or movie, but it's still a fun theme for all ages. 

We threw this party together in just a couple hours for a few toddlers and their parents. It was super easy and lots of fun. 

Two big tips when planning a party for toddlers: Be flexible and keep it simple. The kids ranged in age from 16 months to 4 years old. If they didn't like the cocoa, or didn't want to watch the movie, or didn't want to make the craft that was ok. We had toys and books out for them to play with and explore. And we had plenty to eat and drink for the adults.

Polar Express Party Ingredients:
  • The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg (book or movie)
  • Pajamas
  • Cocoa
  • Bells 
  • Christmas treats
  • Toys
  • A simple Christmas craft

Christmas treats: Moose Munch and cookies (Nutter Butters and Milanos) dipped in chocolate with red and green sprinkles. Plus, each child got a bell to take home, just like the boy in the story.

If you do chocolate covered treats do toddlers have lots of wet wipes on hand! 

The Cocoa Bar: whipped cream, peanut butter chips, Butterfingers, crushed candy canes, coconut, crushed toffee and of course hot cocoa. 

For the youngest ones we let the cocoa cool down and added more milk. You could also do warmed up chocolate milk. We used unbreakable Christmas cups with straws for them as well. 

Our Simple Craft: Trees cut out of fun foam and stickers. We also had glitter glue for the older kids and parents to add sparkle. 

What a fun night! The kids played a lot and watched only bits and pieces of the movie, but they'll have plenty of opportunity to watch the movie and read the book with deeper understanding in the years to come. The Christmas trees came out super cute and will be fun reminders of these precious years. Only the oldest child liked the cocoa, but the littlest ones couldn't care less about that. 

Printable Postive Thinking Posters

Teaching Positive Thinking (and Reading)

Positive Posters Print all 13 posters here.

I made these posters to teach positive thinking and stop all the whining and complaining. Reading the posters, talking about what they meant and practicing the ideals behind them helped the attitude of the entire class. I loved hearing them say these encouraging words to each other and to themselves when they were struggling.

AND it had an added bonus: After a couple of days, the kids were reading the posters!

I would hang one poster up for an entire week. We read it together on Monday and talked about what it meant. Then we'd go over it every time we sat down for a story, or class meeting. By the end of the week many of the kids could read it on their own. When I got through all 13 posters I started over again. By the end of the year most of kids could read all the posters and their attitudes improved tremendously.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Work Order Signs

Visuals to help children know how to complete their work. Especially helpful for those little ones that always want to cut first!

Use these signs to let the kids know what order their assignments should be done in.
Cut them apart, laminate and post whichever ones you need when you need them.

Print all SIX Order Signs here.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Christmas Songs on YouTube

The Muppets
Visit The Muppets channel on YouTube for more Muppet Christmas videos.

Santa Songs:

Santa Clause is coming to town with lyrics.

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer with lyrics.

You're a Mean One Mr. Grinch with lyrics.

You're a Mean One Mr. Grinch without lyrics.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Yes Day

Questions and activities to go with the book, Yes Day by Amy Krouse Rosenthal


Before reading the book:
What do you think this books going to be about?
Look at the boy on the cover. How does he feel? Why do you think he's so happy?

After Reading:
Is Yes Day a good idea?
Why would it be a bad idea?

Why do you think the parents gave this boy a Yes Day? (explore the end pages with the children for all the ways grown ups say "No.")

Is pizza for breakfast a bad idea?

Is a food fight a bad idea?
Where would be a good place to have a food fight? Where would be a bad place? How could you make sure no one gets hurt during a food fight?

What would you ask for on Yes Day?

What should the grown ups always say "No" to?



  1. Make a class list of Yes Day requests. 
  2. Make a T-Chart of Yes Day requests, some that would be appropriate and some that wouldn't be. 
  3. Role-play various Yes Day scenarios. Discuss the good and bad that might happen with each request. What would happen if the kids asked for…
  • No chairs in the classroom
  • No teacher
  • A kid to be the teacher for the day
  • Recess all day
  • Do all the writing in markers
  • Pour the glue all over the table

Toddler Unit: Learning My Name

The one and only rule for teaching your child their name is to always, always write it correctly. That’s means the first letter is capitalized, the rest of the letters are lower case. 

Writing and learning in all caps may seem easier at first--but it’s incorrect and they will have to unlearn it when they begin school. The books your child will be learning to read will not be written in all caps. If they can’t recognize lower case letters they will struggle when they start school. 

However, it’s also important for them to be able to recognize their name in multiple forms, including all caps, all lowercase, cursive, and in a variety of fonts. 

*Do not worry if your young child is making letters backwards or upside down. These are developmental skills that almost all kids struggle with at the beginning. It only becomes a concern at about 2nd or 3rd grade if they’re still flipping letters and numbers.  

Build a Connection to Their Name
  • Practice spelling their name out loud. 
  • Sing the letters of their name. I sing the letters in my son’s name to tune from Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. It doesn’t fit exactly but it’s close. 
  • Practice how to respond when someone calls their name. For example: look at the speaker, answer with,”Yes” or “Yes, ma’am.”
  • Point out their name wherever you see it. Whether it’s a character in a book, or someplace in the house you’ve had to write it down. 
  • Get your child to recognize their name in various forms--typed, handwritten, painted, etc.
  • Count the letters in their name. Make sure they know the name of each letter.
  • Do the same with their last name once they’

Create their name using:
  • Pipe cleaners
  • Finger paint
  • Beads or beans
  • Craft feathers
  • Dry erase marker--on white board, mirror, refrigerator, tiles, windows, etc.
  • Make a homemade name puzzle like this one from Happy Hooligans
  • Paint it with water on the sidewalk.
  • Write it in bubble letters with sidewalk chalk outside, and let them color in the letters.
  • Paint or write the letters of your child’s name on flat stones. Kids can rearrange the stones to spell their name. 
  • Using wooden letters (like these from Melissa and Doug) press the letters of your child’s name into play-doh or clay.
  • Help your child make their name in M&Ms, cereal, Reese’s Pieces, etc. Then eat it!
  • If your child is into cars or blocks, use those toys to “write” the letters of their name. 
  • Write your child’s name with marker and let them paint over it with a paint brush and water.
  • Write your child’s name with pen and let them cover the letters with stickers. You can do this in giant letters on poster board or just with paper and normal size letters.
  • Write their name with highlighter and let them trace it with pencil or pen.

Glue Writing
Write your child’s name with glue then let them decorate it with:
  • Sequins
  • Yarn
  • Pom-poms
  • Seeds
  • Sand
  • Glitter
  • Torn up paper
  • Rice
  • Noodles

Spell Their Name With:
  • Alphabits
  • Magnetic or felt letters
  • Play-doh
  • Letter buttons
  • Alphabet pasta


Thursday, October 16, 2014

Our Favorite Board Books for Babies and Toddlers

My little guy loves books. We read every day, and always before bed. He's learning to turn the pages and will sit with his books by himself for a long while. They're also great to take along in the car and to restaurants. Here are some of our favorite board books:

Joyce Wan Books
Beautiful, bright illustrations, sweet text. My son loves these. This is just a few of her books.
You Are My Cupcake by Joyce Wan
Hug You, Kiss You, Love You by Joyce Wan
We Belong Together by Joyce Wan
Are You My Mommy? by Joyce Wan

Heads, Tails and Noses by Kidbooks
Cute, colorful and easy to read, but what my son and I LOVE about these books is that they have felt pieces that stick out from each page making it easy for him to turn the pages. 
Owl's Forest Numbers
Jumbo's Jungle Colors
Daisy's Dinosaur Opposites
Pinky's Farm: Moms and Babies

These books make learning to turn pages a snap. 

Interactive Books
Books with actions you can do together or pages for the toddler to lift flaps, push buttons or pull tabs.
Tickle Time by Sandra Boynton
Clap Your Hands by Lorinda Bryan Cauley
The Wheels on the Bus by Jerry Smath
Mickey Mouse Clubhouse Colors All Around by Disney Junior
Mickey Mouse Clubhouse Toon Car Road Trip by Disney Junior
Mickey Mouse Clubhouse: Lights On, Lights Off!  by Disney Junior
Pop-up Peekaboo: Things that Go
Pop-up Peekaboo: Woof! Woof!
Pop-up Peekaboo: Farm
Pop-up Peekaboo: Colors

Bedtime Books
The Going to Bed Book by Sandra Boynton
Pajama Time by Sandra Boynton
Little Owl's Night by Divya Srinivasam
Down in the Woods at Sleepytime by Carole Lexa Schaefer
Kiss Good Night by Amy Hest
Good Night America by Adam Gamble
It's Time to Sleep My Love by Nancy Tillman

Reading every day--even at this age is vital--but how many babies sit still for an entire board book? On those high energy days we choose books with the fewest words. They are still learning book skills, such as holding the book up-right, turning pages and word boundaries. These are bright, colorful books with illustrations little ones love.

Books with one word per page: quick to read and
great for asking questions and pointing to things. 

BabyLit Books
Love, love, love these. What a great way to introduce your little ones to your favorite classics. Each book teaches an age-appropriate skill such as colors and numbers.
Huckleberry Finn A Camping Primer by Jennifer Adams
Pride and Prejudice A Counting Primer by Jennifer Adams
Frankenstein An Anatomy Primer by Jennifer Adams
Wonderful Wizard of Oz A Colors Primer by Jennifer Adams
Moby Dick An Ocean Primer by Jennifer Adams
Jungle Book An Animals Primer by Jennifer Adams
Alice in Wonderland A Colors Primer by Jennifer Adams 
Jane Eyre A Counting Primer by Jennifer Adams
Romeo and Juliet A Counting Primer by Jennifer Adams
Anna Karenina A Fashion Primer by Jennifer Adams
Dracula A Counting Primer by Jennifer Adams
Wuthering Heights A Weather Primer by Jennifer Adams
Sense and Sensibility An Opposites Primer by Jennifer Adams
Jabberwocky A Nonsense Primer by Jennifer Adams
Sherlock Holmes in the Hound of the Baskervilles A Sounds Primer by Jennifer Adams
A Christmas Carol A Colors Primer by Jennifer Adams

Cozy Classics
My son loves the photos in these books. The doll characters are charming. 
Tom Sawyer by Jack Wang
Huckleberry Finn by Jack Wang
Pride and Prejudice by Jack Wang
Moby Dick by Holman Wang
Les Miserables by Jack Wang
Emma by Jack Wang
War and Peace by Jack Wang
Jane Eyre by Jack Wang
Oliver Twist by Jack Wang
Great Expectations by Holman Wang (coming out May 2015)

Les Petits Fairytales
One to two words per page, but you can easily expand them by retelling the stories in your own words and discussing the illustrations.
Beauty and the Beast by Trixie Belle
The Little Mermaid by Trixie Belle
Snow White by Trixie Belle
Cinderella by Trixie Belle
Sleeping Beauty by Trixie Belle
Rapunzel by Trixie Belle
Goldilocks and the Three Bears by Trixie Belle
Little Red Riding Hood by Trixie Belle

More Beautiful Favorites:
On The Night You Were Born by Nancy Tillman
Tap Tap Bang Bang by Emma Garcia
Tip Tip Dig Dig by Emma Garcia
Toot Toot Beep Beep by Emma Garcia
Little Blue Truck by Alice Startle
Pigeon Books by Mo Willems Anything by Mo Willems you can find in a board book is great.
      Pigeon Loves Things That Go!
      Pigeon Has Feelings, Too!
The Going to Bed Book by Sandra Boynton
Moo, Baa, La La La by Sandra Boynton
Blue Hat, Green Hat by Sandra Boynton
Doggies by Sandra Boynton
Gossie and Friends by Olivier Dunrea (board book gift set)

Tiger Tales
      Old MacDonald Had a Farm
      Hey Diddle Diddle
      Twinkle Twinkle Little Star and Other Nursery Rhymes

*check back as I am currently adding to this post*

Silly Boynton books are always a favorite.

Always check Dollar Stores and Dollar sections at places like Jo-Ann's and Target. We've gotten many wonderful board books there. 
Some of the fun books we've found at Target's Dollar Spot.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Road Trip Tips with a One Year Old

We’ve taken dozens of road trips with our little guy the past few months. Dozens. Some went great, some went horribly, horribly wrong. Some were with both of us, and--the horrible, horrible one--were just me driving. One 6.5 hour road trip turned into almost 10 hours. 

I was prepared to stretch out the trips: take lots of breaks, let our new walker get out and walk, drink lots of coffee. But I didn’t expect him to be so miserable for so many hours. 

Road Trips are incredibly boring for little ones. They can't really see out the window, they're not into listening to books on CD, they're stuck in his carseat for hours. It's very hard to keep them entertained when you're focused on the road. 

Over the course of these road trips I’ve gathered tips and tricks that makes it easier on D. Which makes it easier on me, and safer for all of us. 

Tip #1
Go To The Park First. This is a MUST before going anywhere long distance. This has made all the difference in our long car rides. I took him to the closest playground for 15-20 minutes before we set out. This has become such an important step we’ve automatically added it into our travel routine. A little fun, a little exercise ensures he will sleep for up to two hours in the car. This is a huge stress reliever for mom.

Tip #2
Find Parks Along The Way. This has also been permanently added into our travel time. We’ll do this around lunch time, or halfway through an 8 or 6 hour trip. I pull up the map on my smartphone, look for a green splotch near our route and hope for hope best. You can also search for nearby Elementary schools. These are public grounds anyone is allowed to use. Still, it's probably best to go after school hours or on a weekend out of respect for the kids and teachers. We’ve found amazing playgrounds this way. Even if it’s not a great playground, the kids don’t care. Just being a new place where they run, stretch their legs and climb makes is a wonderful treat. 

I used the map app on my smartphone
to locate parks just off our route. It's hit or miss,
but we have found several lovely parks. 

We found this little park somewhere in NC.

Even in the light rain, we had fun climbing,
exploring and stretching our legs. 

Tip #3
Go To The Park Even In The Rain. Seriously. It’s worth it. Take jackets, towels, a change of clothes. Whatever. It works, I swear. 

*What Didn’t Work: The playground at Chik-Fil-A. Ugh, that was awful. That was the first park my son asked to leave. The toddler area consisted of games on a wall that were either broken or too high for him to reach. There was nothing fun or energy-releasing about that playground. I don’t eat chicken so I really don’t know if all the playgrounds are this bad. Or the ones at McDonalds either for that matter. I imagine they are more fun for older kids. And they’re hard to find when you’re on the road. Local parks are noted on the map app on my smartphone, so it’s an easier and safer choice.

Tip #4
Keep A Basket of Toys Within Reach. I got this idea from my friend when we were sitting there one day brainstorming ways to make the road trip easier for D. In fact, Tip #4.5 should be Brainstorm With Your Friends. I grabbed an empty storage basket from our pantry and tied it securely to the armrest next to D’s carseat. (Later I bought a car storage organizer like this Diono Travel Pal.) I filled it with things he loved, like his Super Grover Remote Control, a few dollar store board books, a Mickey, a Donald, a Goofy, etc. I also put in new toys, or toys I’d hidden and he’d forgotten about. This worked so well the basket has become a permanent fixture in our car. Toys and books are easily switched out and he puts his bottle in it when he's finished, which is much better than throwing it around the car. 
*Safety Tip: Use soft toys and cloth books when possible. Just a fast break can send thing flying around. 

The basket is tied with a simple ribbon to
the arm rest.  

Toys and books are easily within reach. 

Tip #5
Keep A Basket of Toys Within Your Reach. When he got bored with what he had, I reached back and handed him something new. I kept this basket on the seat next to me. It wasn’t toys though. It was filled with real life objects--every baby’s favorite. Stuff that was safe for him obviously, stuff he’d never seen before, and stuff--when possible-- with buttons to push on it. 
A sampling of what I handed him: 
Sunglasses. He’s obsessed with sunglasses right now. 
Dad’s hat. 
A stud finder with a button on the side that beeps. 
A kitchen...what is that? A baster brush or something. It’s rubbery and fun. 
A USB converter plug. The plug legs pop in and out. A reusable K-Cup. 
A notepad because he doesn’t eat paper anymore. He can tear out every page for all I care. (No crayons though. He does still eat those. Plus I wouldn't want to lose one in the car and have it melt.) 
A small roll of twine. He had fun unwinding it and making a mess. Did I care if he unwound the entire thing? Nope. I did keep my eye on him while he had this, but he’s never wrapped anything around his neck. 

A few things I handed back to D during the trip.
Just be sure you're able to keep a close eye on them.

Tip #6
Video. I used to be a little weirded out by all the kids I’d see watching TV in the car. Surely they’re addicted. Surely there are better ways they could spend their time in the car. But I was wrong. I am totally on board with kids watching TV in car. Anything that makes driving safer is perfectly ok with me. We don’t have a DVD player for the car, so I got an iPad holder that hangs on the headrest in front of him and downloaded a couple Disney movies from iTunes. Extra Tip when using an iPad: Keep their shoes on. Otherwise they'll keep turning it of with their feet.

I got this great iPad holder by Carseat Cinema

*What Didn’t Work: Videos. He’s one. He just didn’t care. However, by the time he was 14 months he would watch up to 20 minutes of Finding Nemo. When you’re driving alone it’s not easy to turn the iPad on and off, so this isn’t a great tip. But I love the iPad hanger I got. I’m sure it’ll be great in the future. 

Tip #7 
Snacks. We had his snack cup with the rubber lid within reach, filled with goldfish, yogurt melts or cheez-its. We also put his bottle (way safer spillage-wise for the car) in his toy basket. 

*What Didn’t Work: Snacks. Not a big eater. I’m sure this will change in the future, but unless it’s cheez-its he just doesn’t care. 

Tip #8 
Make a Playlist: D loves this. It's amazing how the screaming and whining stop when he hears his favorite songs. We listen to a lot of music at home and in his classes, so I know what songs he likes. His playlist starts out with Hot Dog! from Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. About 10 songs in, I added the songs from his bedtime playlist--songs that make him fall asleep every time. Some of D's favorites: The Muppet Show Theme Song, Be Our Guest from Beauty and the Beast, In Summer by Josh Gad from Frozen, Mickey Mouse Club March by The Mouseketeers, Twinkle Twinkle, Little Star by Jewel, Hallelujah by k.d. lang, Beautiful Boy by John Lennon, Animal Crackers in My Soup by Shirley Temple. 

Monday, August 4, 2014

Books and Songs on YouTube Can Increase Reading Skills

YouTube Videos for Early Readers

*Always preview YouTube links before showing them to your kids. Check the video for words changed into inappropriate words as well as foul language in the comments. I don't know what's wrong with people. *Also beware of ads placed on some of these videos as they can also be inappropriate. **ALWAYS PREVIEW!

Songs on YouTube

Songs with visible lyrics are great for getting kids reading. Print out the lyrics for them to read while they sing too! You can find some of my printable lyrics under the Learning to Read Through Songs tab.

Disney Sing Along Songs Channel These are great. And FREE! There are about 15, here are two:

  • Muffin Songs Channel Some have lyrics, some don't. Some phonics songs, some classic songs.
  • Schoolhouse Rock Channel Some of these will definitely be over the heads of the little ones, but my first graders LOVED the Noun and Adjective songs
  • KidsTV123 So many cute learning songs for kids 2 to 7. Everything from alphabet and shapes to Brushing your Teeth and Countries of the World.
  • HooplaKidz Lots of really cute songs here, some with lyrics, some without. (Although I really hate it when something specifically for children is purposely spelled wrong. Pet peeve.)
*For More Check out the Songs to Increase Reading Skills tab.

Books on YouTube

Wemberly Worried by Kevin Henkes