I was aiming to work a little bit here and there all summer to update the website. In reality, I spent a lot of time in the pool with my kids and didn't think much about this website at all. It felt great.
Once school was back in session however, I worked every minute possible trying to finish up everything. Although I had been sharing ideas on Instagram daily since April (and rather sporadically before that), it isn't really a user friendly search tool. I wanted to share the activities and books in a more useful way.
So it is finally ready! You can search by book in alphabetical order on the main page or look through alphabetical themes (trucks or underwater etc) by hovering over the tabs at the top of the page.
If you want us to review or cover any specific books, please get in touch. We are happy to do that! We are aiming to update the website monthly with our daily Instagram ideas...but let's not get too far ahead of ourselves just yet!
Summer and water go hand in hand, so we have been looking at some of our favourite books with an underwater or ocean theme. The website is now updated with the activities, so you can find them again easily! The Octonauts are big in our house and have taught us more about creatures under the sea than anything else. Some fun ideas to go along with the books include making ocean mosaics, catching alphabet fish in a net, creating habitat sensory trays and tracing your favourite creatures!
Read more about the Octonauts' activities on our book page HERE.
Julia Donaldson is another firm favourite in our house. We were lucky enough to see Tiddler performed on stage in London a few years back. Some activities we did to go along with this story-telling fish include making story-telling rocks, new vocabulary cards, LEGO and Duplo fish and learning roman numerals along with the clock in Tiddler's classroom.
Read more about our Tiddler activities on our book page HERE.
Requins by Owen Davey was a library find. This is a french version of his popular English version. The illustrations are enough to keep you entertained, even if you don't speak a word of French! Some activities we did to go along with this beauty include drawings based on the book, DIY puzzles and large scale chalk drawings of the large beasts found on the pages.
Read more about our Requins activities on our book page HERE.
Summer time...it means something quite different as a work-at-home mum compared to a work-at-school teacher! I will be honest and say that I was a bit worried leading up to it! I thought up loads of things that we could do from amusement parks to play dates to splash pads and museums. We'll certainly visit the library weekly.
So far though, we've just lazed about. Hung out in our garden. Dug in the sandpit. Gone bike riding. Played at the playground. Had entire days in our pyjamas. Swam in grandma's pool. Built coach forts. I have a feeling it will pretty much continue like this too!
So I find it funny when there is this flurry of articles going around all about living a slower life and letting kids be bored. Like this one here. And this one here. Obviously there are a lot of people out there who do the opposite. I'm glad to say I'm already living the slow life!
How about you?
Llama Llama Red Pajama somehow flew under the radar for me. I only discovered it when the author, Anna Dewdney, unfortunately passed away. It still took me until very recently to read it. Which is such a shame because I absolutely love it. I think I might even say it is my new favourite book. I was laughing out loud reading it to my kids, because I AM MAMA LLAMA!
Sleep is such a funny thing. As a kid you never want to go to sleep. As a young adult you stay up super late or all night with no real repercussion. You reach your late 20s/early 30s and you are now nicely settled into an early bed routine (maybe that was just me? I don't know) and properly appreciate a good sleep. Then you have kids and you miiiiiiiiss your sleep. I don't think I've slept for 8 hours straight in 5 years.
It is my own fault. I know that and I am not complaining. I did not want to sleep train (good for you if you did, we all make choices that work for us). We had the babies in the room with us for a long time. I breastfed all night long. Like every hour. For a long time. To be fair, once each kid reached around 1 year old, they were both pretty great sleepers. It is just all those things that come up and make them temporarily bad sleepers again. Like teething. Illness. Developing asthma. Getting rid of a dummy/pacifier. Transitioning to a bigger bed. Moving siblings into a room together. Moving house. Potty training. Nearby construction. Hot weather. Cold weather. Learning about monsters...the list could go on.
Aside from all the bumps in the road of sleep, there is the monumental task of actually getting them to drift off. I know some friends who after reading books, stick kids in their beds and walk out of the room. Job done. I know some who lay and cuddle kids for an hour until they fall asleep. I suppose in our house we fall somewhere in the middle. We could probably be a bit better at bedtimes. We probably let the kids drag it out longer than necessary. Part of me doesn't want to rush bedtime because they are only little for such a short time. Of course I have days where bedtime seems never ending so I leave the room and end up with little llama's screaming mummy, filling me with guilt as I pour a large glass of wine!
So it's those days, the off ones where bedtime isn't a smooth as it could be, that inspired me to focus on bedtime books this week. We've read them a million times but have never really done more with them. Maybe, just maybe, a little learning linked to these books about peaceful bedtime routines could help us out. We shall see.
Listed below are the books I am aiming to cover this week and a brief breakdown of some activities I thought would link nicely to them. As usual, I will post our activities on Instagram with more detailed descriptions of each task.
1) Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown
I thought we'd start with some simple fun stuff. We love to play 'spot the mouse' in this book, so I'm going to create a 'spot the alphabet' hunt around the house for E. I thought a nice activity for both kids to do together is to remake the book within their own room - so take pictures of their room, then print them and create a similar story to read at night. Since F has been doing a lot of rhyming in school lately, we can pull out rhyming words from the story. Then I also want to look at the clocks on each page of the book and work out how long it take the bunny to sleep! If we feel scientific, we might even talk about how the moon rises on each page.
2) Mortimer by Robert Munsch
This book seems perfect for a little problem solving task. I want F to think about why Mortimer does what he does. Then I want him to think of what the family could do differently. Next, for both kids I thought it would be fun to write a new song for Mortimer (need to prepare myself for them singing it at bedtime though!). Then I thought we could even make music to go with it.
3) Llama Llama Red Pajama by Anna Dewdney
When little llama starts to freak out, he does some great actions I thought my little guy would have fun copying. I might even go so far as have him use actions to retell the story and get big bro involved. As with many of these books, there are wonderful rhymes, so will work on those with F some more. Since F often claims he is scared on his own at night, I thought it would be a good idea to look at fear related to the dark and what little llama is scared of in the story.
4) The Going to Bed Book by Sandra Boynton
For a bit of fun and vocabulary building, I want to have E try on big/medium/small clothes. The animals in the book follow a nice little routine, so I want to discuss our own routine and see if the kids want to change anything or add to it. For a bit of physical activity I want them to try out each exercise the animals do (probably not right before bed though!). We might try a bit of yoga or stretching at bedtime, depending on what they decide they'd like to do. I also want to highlight how the animals HANG UP THEIR OWN TOWELS!! Maybe that will inspire my kids try hanging things up. Just once even. Doesn't even have to be hung up. Let's just aim for not on the floor. That would be dreamy.
5) Bedtime for Peppa
So this obnoxious little piglet has made her way back into our lives. F went through a Peppa phase when he was little. It lasted 6 months and I haven't been happier for a phase of his to end! Now E has discovered her. We are trying hard to stick to books and not TV, which make her a little more bearable. To be fair, they often have really nice social stories about home life that kids relate to. This one in particular lays out the bedtime routine really well. To finish our bedtime book theme, I want to make a bedtime checklist together that involves how long each activity should (reasonably) last, decide how many books we can read or how long mummy/daddy stay in the room, how many songs are sung etc. Then we can make it up in a visual way for us to use each night. I'll be sure to report back if it works out!
Anyone else have tips for what works in their house? I am open to suggestions!
What the world needs now, is love, sweet love. No just not for some, but for everyone. Those words were first sung in 1965 by Jackie DeShannon but they couldn't be more true today. I can't even begin to comment on all the hate in the world right now. I just don't understand why anyone would choose to live filled with hate. So let's focus on the love. This month is Pride Month and to me, that means LOVE! Pure and simple love.
My son started school this past year and wow - he certainly hears a lot of interesting things from other kids. Unfortunately it isn't always the nicest stuff. That is what life will be full of though and I know my job is to make sure he recognises the unkind stuff and counters it with kindness. I know most of what he says comes from an innocent place and provides us with great learning opportunities. I'm lucky to have friends with an array of skin colours - so it never even occurred to me that he would suddenly start picking up on that. I almost died the day he told one of my closest friends that their skin looked like poo. He was three at that point. I apologised profusely. I was flustered. I turned red. I know my friends don't think I taught him this, but then I hadn't taught him what was more appropriate.
At age 3, his comment about skin colour was merely an observation. Also, the world of a 3 year old (at least my 3 year old) revolves around poo! So making a comparison to it shouldn't have surprised me. From that day on though I realised the importance of talking about how our choice of words can make people feel. We discussed trying to put ourselves in other people's shoes (which is really hard for kids this age - they are still very much egocentric). He might not be able to fully grasp it, but it doesn't mean we can't discuss it and work on it.
Skin colour is out in the open. It is there for kids to see and comment on and they will comment! They comment on everything! However other things are not always out in the open and ripe for little mouths to point out and question. What someone's family looks like. Who someone's parents are. What someone likes to do or doesn't like to do. Those are things I feel I need to discuss before they arise in the school yard. I want to make sure my kids are loving towards everyone, not just accepting. I want them to appreciate everyone's differences, not just be okay with them. I want them to be proud to be different from the people around them and also celebrate everyone else's differences. That is surely part of what Pride Month is, yes?
I want my kids to understand that all families and all people are different (but really the same!) in such wonderful ways. Books can be such a great way to start conversations about the diversity around us (after, of course, surrounding yourself by amazingly unique people). So I rounded up a bunch of books that have been recommended to me by various friends. I'm embarrassed to say I didn't own any of these yet, but was happy to find a good selection in our local library. I will certainly be purchasing our favourites from the group as soon as possible.
The best thing about reading these books so far has been watching my kids' reactions. Meaning - there was no real reaction. Everything is 'normal' to them at this age. I want to make sure when someone at school tries to tell them what is 'not normal', that they can stand up and say nonsense! I hope I can instil strength in them to be open minded and intelligent enough to stand up against any form of hatred.
So here are some of the books that beautifully illustrate the kind of world I want to live in. The kind of loving world I am teaching my kids to help create.
The Family Book by Todd Parr
The Sissy Duckling by Harvey Fierstein
King & King by Linda De Haan and Stern Nijland
Stella bring the family by Miriam B. Schiffer
Families, Families, Families by Suzanne Lang
Molly's Family by Nancy Garden
I will be posting all of our activities related to these books during the week on our Instagram account, so please do keep an eye out!
Happy Pride Month to everyone.
Links below to Instagram posts with more details on each activity we did!
The Family Book - activity 1
The Family Book - activity 2
The Family Book - activity 3
King & King - activity 1
Molly's Family - activity 1
Families, Families, Families - activity 1
The Sissy Duckling - activity 1
I've always been inspired by books. I used to love planning units for school that were based on books I loved or that the kids loved. They spark my own creativity. I've always said that I am not personally very creative, but give me something to work from and I have loads of ideas. So this week I finally picked Steam Train, Dream Train as my inspiration behind our play at home. I had been putting it off since there is so much in the book that my kids love. First of all trains. Big hit. Second of all, construction vehicles. Huge hit. A train car full of sand. Tick. An ice cream train. Tick tick tick! Basically all of our favourite things in one story. I don't want to simply review all the activities we did during the week, because I feel like I'm just repeating what I've already posted on Instagram. If you'd like to read about each of our activities in more detail, please visit our account by clicking here.
I love the ending of this book so much. It has that Toy Story feel to it. It made me think about what my children did or didn't believe in. It made me think about what memories they will have of their childhood. It made me wonder if they will think back and feel a bit of magic in them. This book makes me feel that childhood magic in me and it made me want to try and create a bit of that. So, taking inspiration from the book I thought I would set up their toys each morning doing something different. Day one was easy, I had all the toys out on the train table. I don't think the kids really got it though, as they are used to me having things set up for them to explore in the mornings. It just looked like an invitation to play with trains. So I realised I needed to get a bit more creative the next day.
So on day two they found the above picture at the end of their bed when they woke up. Some of the stuffed animals were having a story read to them. My 4 year old was still sceptical, asking me why I put them there. I denied it but he wasn't convinced. That just made me want to up the game. It also made me a bit sad that by 4 (okay, almost 5) he wasn't a 'believer' anymore!
Day three - they awoke to a group of toys having a snack together. A bit of coffee, an apple and an ice cream. I wasn't up with them that morning so I didn't see their immediate reaction. Later that day though we were all playing together and I saw the ice cream wrapper on the floor. I asked who had been eating ice cream and my 4 year old said 'the hulk'. I was so happy! He was either starting to believe it or just appeasing me.
I'm going to keep it up for a few more days. At the end I plan to revisit Steam Train, Dream Train and see if they connect the idea. Or at least make them wonder. What are those toys up to at night?
I'd love to hear other people's ideas for how they add a bit of magic and wonder to their kids' lives. I suppose just books alone do that though!
I started this blog to motivate myself to create more interesting and meaningful play for my kids. I suppose it was also to get myself to document more of what my kids do at home day to day. Looking back over the past two months, I think I have done just that. It certainly makes my days busier and more hectic, but in a good way. When I was a classroom teacher, my life was insane! I was at school from 7am until 4pm most days. I rushed home for a short play, then dinner and bedtime routine. Once bubs was settled, I would sit up marking and/or creating resources all night. Saturdays were devoted to kids but Sundays were once again planning/resourcing/marking. I spent hours creating fun learning opportunities for other people's children. It felt like I could never catch up with my own life and the time with my kids didn't always feel like it was 'quality'. Hence our decision to move back to Canada and for me to stop teaching (for a while).
When we first got to Canada, there were a lot of other things keeping us busy. We had to sort out our living situation, unpack, complete multiple renovations, catch up with old friends, visit relatives, sort out health care, schooling, find jobs etc. Just getting 'life' working seemed to take months. Actually, about half a year!
I have digressed, as usual. I just wanted to say that I'm happy with the direction this blog has taken. I'm sure everyone starting a blog has a number of hesitations and direction changes as they move along.
I used to love planning school lessons and units around books. I wasn't quite sure I could make it work at home, but I think I'm getting there. Usually an idea pops into my head as we are reading books together before bed. After they are asleep, I will sit and plan some play activities to follow up with over the next few days and then revisit the book again to really link the ideas together. The other way I've been planning is using a current interest of theirs and then visiting the bookshelf or library to find books that relate.
My toddler is a huge fan of all things on wheels at the moment - especially construction vehicles and emergency vehicles. And trains. And planes. Okay, anything on wheels. Lately he has been going around and putting out fake fires, which always makes us giggle. Out of nowhere he shouts, 'Fire!' and then uses his arm like a hose and makes a 'shhhhhh' noise of water spraying. So I thought I would plan some stuff around that. We really lucked out last weekend when we went to an event where all the city works vehicles were there and the kids got to climb inside them all (fire trucks, diggers, garbage trucks, you name it). They also got all sorts of cool little handouts like plastic firemen hats, activity books and build your own fire trucks.
So to start my fire truck theme, I set up an invitation to play. I included lots of things to manipulate like letters, wooden blocks, little people, various fire trucks, tissue paper fires, a library book we got about fire stations, the build your own fire truck from city event and of course the fire hats. Since my older one was home, the play took a turn towards building. They put fire out by smashing the blocks down and then rebuilt them over and over. It is funny how differently my toddler will play when he is alone and when he is guided by his sibling's influence.
Later on I got out our string activity book which has a fire truck page (picture above). They did that together really cooperatively. We also worked through one of the fire activity books that was handed out on the weekend. There was a lot about fire safety in it, so I am planning a bit of hands on fire safety. I am hoping to build a fire together outside and discuss how to keep safe around it. This will be good preparation for being around camp fires this summer! I'm also planning a few outside games with our water pump/squirters. Not sure what I will build yet, but something that resembles a fire that they can aim for and knock over. I'm sure it will turn into some wet sensory play all on its own. For a more physical activity, I want to set up a fire person challenge - a little obstacle course that will involve climbing a ladder at the end. Finally for a quiet activity aimed at my toddler I want to try and sort out some objects into groups of 'hot', 'cold' and 'warm'. The in-between category is pretty tricky for him, so I thought this was a perfect time to review it with him. Of course I'd like to throw in some kind creative/messy arts and crafts, but that idea is still in the works.
As usual I'll be posting all my ideas on Instagram, so please do check it out for updates! I hope loosely explaining my planning process helps someone else in a small way! I'm always interested in seeing and hearing other peoples ideas and how they come up with them. That is probably why Instagram and Pinterest are such guilty pleasures!
London holds a special place in my heart. Both of my children were born there and many great friends remain there. Last weekend marks one year since we left, so I thought it was a good time to pull out all our favourite books about London and take a little walk down memory lane. Kids have such a funny sense of time - a year, a month, a week, an hour. My 4 year old is sort of getting a better grasp of it but it is still hard to explain just how long a year really is. I suppose I am not much better. It feels like a life time since we left but also like yesterday.
Whenever I strike up a conversation with a stranger (like today in the library with a fellow mum), my 'sort of' newness to the area comes up. Then of course London comes up and always the same question - "Why did you leave?". That is a pretty hard question. I love London. It is such an amazing city and there was so much to do with kids there. We lived in a lovely suburb. I could walk absolutely everywhere (I don't drive). We could pop over to Europe for the weekend. I could go on and on.
Unfortunately we weren't close to any family and as we added to our brood, we started talking about moving 'home'. My kids could grow up with cousins and grandparents around them and that meant a lot to me. Also a teacher, I didn't really want my kids in the English school system. Don't get me wrong - I know a million brilliant teachers over there. It is more because of the constant change from the government, the pressure from inspections and the impossible workload put on teachers.
So that was it. We discussed it and kind of just did it. I started selling off our household items. We began the application process for residency for my other half. I booked a shipping container. We arranged flights. Then it sort of just happened. I was so sad leading up to the move, that it was like living in a blur. My youngest turned 1, just three weeks before we left and it was such a bittersweet celebration. Luckily we had a 2 week trip to France and a wedding of a good friend to attend before the actual move to Canada. That helped ease the transition a little bit.
It was still super tough though. When we arrived in Canada, it took months for my 4 year old to stop begging us to return or to tell me how much he missed his friends. You can plan all the activities in the world to distract a kid, but that won't stop them from feeling lonely. It broke my heart. It made the transition harder. Luckily little ones make friends quickly and soon move on. We have new friends and new jobs and have settled into life. Most importantly, I have more time with my kids, which was a big part of the move.
Sitting here a year on, we turn to books now to keep London and its memories alive in our kids' minds. We will go back one day with them, but for now we'll flip through the pages of these lovely books. Each page let's us tell our own family's story. Each page helps us reminisce.
Keep an eye out on our Instagram page for some of the activities we do that relate to each of these London books.
My son loves making books at the minute. Nearly everyday over the past month, he comes home from kindergarten with a book he made. On weekends he makes books. Before bed, he makes books. He has made books about seaweed. He has made books about sand. He has made books about dinosaurs. Lately, he makes books about Dogman (by the author of Captain Underpants - Dav Pilkey) even though he hasn't read it yet. Sometimes the books have pictures and words. Sometimes just pictures. Either way, I love them. He is always so proud of them and I really want to encourage that pride with anything he makes. I also want to encourage any connection and love he has with/for books and reading!
I had been trying to think of a way to take his current book making obsession and create an activity for us to do together. Last weekend we ended up at Home Depot, of all places, and a great idea popped into my head.
Mark making or putting pen/crayon/pencil to paper, whatever you want to call it, was never something my boys had much interest in when they were young. If we talk about table activities - then mine love crafts and painting, cutting and pasting, gluing and sticking, but are/were not huge colouring fans or 'mark making' fans. My 4 year old started kindergarten and still wasn't interested. A tiny piece of me worried a bit, as much as I told myself not to. A few months into kindergarten though and he was writing up a storm. His letters are hard to read and all over the place with size and shape, but that part really doesn't worry me. He likes writing. That matters. He enjoys it. That matters.
I thought with my younger one perhaps I needed to present more opportunities to draw and colour. I was on the ball with early letter recognition (see my last post about having the alphabet in about a hundred places in our house) but maybe I didn't pull out the pencil enough? Who knows...it is all trial and error with parenting because each kid is so different.
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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