A few of our favourite winter themed books and lots of play ideas and activities have been loaded on to the website. We took a nice break over the holidays but are back into the swing of things finally. It's been a bit of a sluggish start to the year, so we still have a couple of books to add. If you've been following us on Instagram, you've seen them all already. Let us know if you've had a chance to try any or what your thoughts are on the books. We love hearing from readers!
Before Morning by Joyce Sidman is a beautifully illustrated picture book that is in the form of an invocation poem. We were in awe of the art work and tried our own little scratch art version. All the snowflakes inspired us to make some colourful coffee filter snowflakes. We also did some Montessori style snowflake counting the fun floating snow decoration shown above (using cotton balls and string).
Check out the activities in more detail on our Before Morning activity page HERE.
Over and Under the Snow is another really beautiful book. It looks at life above ground and shows us what is happening under our feet. It would a great book to accompany any studies on hibernation. We played around a bit with animals over and under the snow in our sensory bin filled with cotton. We also built a bear den and collected what we would need for the winter from our garden. We also made a few fun lift the flap pictures to show which animals kept their eyes open most of the winter and which ones slept.
See more on Over and Under the Snow HERE.
Oops! by Leo Timmers is a fun and quirky little book. It is a great way to practise or even introduce some prepositions (over, above, beside). We acted out the book with our animals toys. After that we did some role play and took care of the poor elephant from the story. He is all clean and bandaged up now!
A more detailed list of activities for Oops! can be found HERE.
Snow by Sam Usher is a story about a boy who is in a hurry to get outside and play in the snow with everyone. We did a print matching activity, inspired by all those snowy footprints. We also used some letter shapes to match the book title and practise some letter sounds.
See more about the activities for Snow HERE.
I wish I was a Montessori type minimalist. It is kind of my dream. In reality, I am just a bit too chaotic for it. I try my best to keep our 'stuff' to a minimum but unfortunately my kids are huge fans of building toys, which means there is always a painful obstacle course strewn across our floor. In my life before kids though, I was definitely closer to a minimalist. Mainly because I am pretty cheap! My partner and I decided though, early in our relationship, that rather than tear our hair out trying to come up with new gifts on birthdays and holidays, we would invest that money in 'experiences'. Dinner out (because we rarely do that) or a holiday. Living in England meant we could hop over to some new place in Europe for the weekend, frequently. So experiences won over new stuff all the time.
Fast forward to our present day two-child existence and saving money for experiences isn't as easy as it once was. Sure, in the past I could wear jeans with holes in the knees for years and hope maybe I looked cool (really I was cheap). I could get away buying a few key pieces of clothes each year, because I wasn't a sprouting little person in need of an entirely new wardrobe practically every season! Kids cost money though! My goodness they cost a lot of money. I am not even talking about the $1000 strollers or $100s on classes or 30 birthday parties a year. Just the day to day upkeep of them is crazy.
When it comes to the stuff though (and I mean the toys and the gadgets and the constant I want, I want, I want) I really work hard to be selective. It means fighting some daily battles and feeling guilty (I don't want to be a guilty mom but I ALWAYS feel guilty about something) but in the long run I think it is worth it. We don't give in to every want and whim. We don't buy a million gifts, we buy a few well picked ones.
My youngest (who is almost 3) is still too young to really understand birthdays and Christmas. He enjoyed the last ones but didn't realise he was going to be getting presents. So it was all just grateful reactions. My 5 year old though, he knows what it is all about now. We are really working on gratitude with him but it is a hard age. My friend has this and I saw this on TV and look over there oh my goodness it is my favourite thing in the whole wide world. He must be really sick of hearing me say, "We'll add that to a wish list for your birthday!". He doesn't get it. Yet.
I know one day he will get it and it will be worth the effort.
For Christmas this year I planned a city break. We got a hotel room downtown and I booked tickets for the CN Tower (despite gagging at the cost of what I assumed would probably be only a 20 minute visit!) and the aquarium. We picked a hotel with a kids pool, playroom and pet bunnies (my youngest has not stopped talking about the bunnies!). We went to the theatre and saw a show. We wandered the Christmas markets at night and marvelled at the lights and shop windows (which I am so glad they still do because I remember looking at them when I was a child). We let them eat donuts before bed (we're pretty strict with sugar, again - mom guilt - when everyone around us is always indulging and my kid's licking an apple with a glum face).
I know my kids are probably a bit too young to really remember the details of this weekend. But it will be our tradition and we will talk about it and pictures will help jog memories and I think they will remember the feeling. That holiday feeling of us having special time together as a family. I think they will remember that feeling a lot more than they will remember opening yet another pack of LEGO on Christmas morning. So I will keep fighting those daily I want, I want battles so we can build up a collection of family memories.
So which side of the fence do you fall on? Experience over stuff? Or are you like me and kind of battling to sit in the middle?
Teaching history to young kids is a funny thing. How much detail do you go into? How much will they remember? How do you answer uncomfortable questions that arise? These thoughts all popped into my head recently because of the upcoming events in the UK. In a few nights people across England will celebrate Bonfire Night and we like to keep our British born kids up on what is going on at 'home'. While the 5th of November is a huge night in the UK, it's not very well known around the rest of the world. For those non-English readers, it can be summed up as a celebration of the night Guy Fawkes failed to blow up Parliament and kill the King.
When I first moved to London, the event (which is celebrated with huge bonfires and fireworks) came and went and all I really picked up on was that a guy tried to blow up the government. And now we blow things up to celebrate. I found it hilarious and bizarre and very British. Of course I was missing the part about celebrating the fact he was stopped, not that he attempted it. Honestly, I think most people forget that part.
It holds such historical importance in fact, that it is part of the national curriculum in the UK and is more often than not a theme that is taught for a good 6-8 weeks in primary school. Usually in Year 3. So 7 year olds. And I am pretty sure they come away from those 6 weeks of learning, with about as much as I came away with. Slightly wrong information about men trying to blow up the government.
So it makes me think. Should we share everything with our kids?
I remember thinking the same thing when we attended a funeral of a dear friend and brought our kids along. One of our friends questioned why we were bringing the kids and informed us that she would never do that to her kids (teach them about death). My response was along the lines of, "Why would I hide real life from them? It might not be pretty but I'd rather be the one to expose them than someone else."
That same sentiment applies to anything really. Whether it is an historical event or dealing with a topic that might raise uncomfortable questions. I will never hide things from my kids because they are too young to deal with it. I might tailor how much they need to know depending on their age. I will certainly ensure that I focus on the good parts and that they don't end up feeling scared by it. I will make sure that they learn from it and know that they can always come to me with questions no matter how uncomfortable they are. Because I want to be the one helping them understand the tough stuff (why did those men want to blow people up?).
So as we approach this holiday and we go out in the back garden to light sparklers together, I will explain to my kids that a man tried to put an end to a government he disagreed with. We will talk about how he was stopped and also why he felt so strongly about something. There will probably be a thousand a one questions about this as usual. I hope each year they take a bit more with them.
I will also be sure to include our favourite personal memory of Guy Fawkes night - when we flew back into London from a holiday in Spain. We forgot what night it was and as our plane lowered in the evening sky, we gazed out our window and saw a sea of small light explosions. It's funny how the brain reacts to things that are unfamiliar because we were really speechless at first. It looked a bit like war had broken out, from that high up. The lower we got and the more we processed it, we realised the date. We enjoyed the beauty of the display from a place in time we are unlikely to ever be again.
Our Halloween book choices and activities have been filling up our Instagram feed this month. Have you had a chance to check them out? We have now posted them all on the website so you can come back for them any time. This is just a peek at some of the fun we have had.
We started off with Goldfish Ghost by Lemony Snicket. Using some leaves from our garden, we painted spooky ghosts on them to hang up as decoration. We also tried some scissor practise for toddlers, with chalk drawing and googly eyes, inspired by the ghosts in the story!
See our Goldfish Ghost activity page HERE!
Little Boo was probably our favourite new find this season. It is such a sweet story, you have to check it out. If you are a teacher or homeschooler, this book would be great for examining life cycles of plants. We looked at pumpkin seeds, did some sensory play with all the pumpkin goop, made our own cardboard pumpkin and wrote about things we can't wait to do when we grow up!
See our Little Boo activity page HERE!
J is for Jack-O-Lantern turned out to be way more than just an ABC book. There are loads of interesting facts in there which make it appropriate for older readers while the ABC factor is great for younger ones.
We decided to make some play dough jack-o-lanterns and did a shadow and light investigation with our pumpkin templates.
See our J is for Jack-O-Lantern activity page HERE!
Our final read was probably the spookiest of them all! A few household objects come to life which might scare some younger readers (but is a really fun read for anyone who can handle it). To offset any fear, we made light of objects coming to life by adding adorable little eyes to furniture around our house.
See our Rules of the House activity page HERE!
New book alert! Who isn't a sucker for new children's books? We sure are. Especially in this day and age when they are finally starting to represent so many more people in this world (who have previously been absent!).
There are really too many to choose from, so here is just a little round up of some of the books we can't wait to get our hands on. All book descriptions come directly from publishers and were not written by us. Let us know if you pick any up and how you enjoy them!
After the Fall (How Humpty Dumpty Got Back Up Again)
Hello! I'm Deb,
a book-toting mother of two and an elementary (primary) school teacher. I love making stories engaging and interactive for kids.
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