Tag Archives: picture books

Fun in the Fall

Fall is my favorite time of year, and it always goes by way too fast. If you’re like me, and the new school year of lessons, projects, and activities have kept you busy, here are a few ways you can take a moment (or a day) to step back and enjoy the season with your children:

Crafts:

My kids love crafts – and I do, too! While you may have thought of doing leaf rubbings, here are a few sites with even more ideas:

Family Fun – On this site, you’ll find thanksgiving cards, a leaf mobile, and more great ideas for fall.

Busy Bee Kids Crafts –  Crafts on this site include an autumn tree collage, pumpkin lollipops, a paper bag scarecrow, and apple stamping.

The Crafty Crow –  with links to other craft sites, at The Crafty Crwo you’ll find directions for creating a leaf picture alphabet, melted crayon autumn leaves, a plastic bottle owl, and marbled shaving cream autumn leaves.

At Danielle’s Place, you’ll find plenty of turkeys for Thanksgiving, including  several paper plate turkey and a turkey potholder.

 

Picture Books:

When the weather becomes a little cooler, it’s the perfect time to snuggle up together with a good picture book. Here are a few of our fall favorites:

Time to Sleep by Denise Fleming

Fall Leaves Fall by Zoe Hall

Red Leaf, Yellow Leaf by Lois Ehlert

In November by Cynthia Rylant

Countdown to Fall by Fran Hawk

 

Our family also has a few favorite activities we love to do year after year. They include: pumpkin picking, apple picking, attending fall festivals, having backyard picnics, and flying kites. This fall, we’re also going to explore a corn maze and cook up some yummy desserts. What does  your family  do to celebrate fall?

A Pig Parade and a Cupcake

This summer, my children participated in our library’s summer reading program. To win all of the prizes, younger kids had to read 80 picture books (that was a lot of books!). Needless to say, we made multiple trips to the library looking for new books to read. Some we read were pretty good, and some were not so good. And two of the books that we read really surprised me. They were A Pig Parade is a Terrible Idea by Micahel Ian Black and Cupcake by Charise Mericle Harper.

While I figured A Pig Parade would have be one that the kids would enjoy, it actually turned out to be so much fun for me to read aloud. While it doesn’t tell a story, it does tell you why you shouldn’t try to have a pig parade. Discussing everything from the majorette uniforms to the music  to the floats and balloons, the book offers convincing arguments for avoiding a piggy production. It has some bigger vocabulary words, making it a very entertaining book for older children and adults.

The second book that surprised me was Cupcake. This one features a cupcake that thinks he is very plain. All of his decorated brothers and sisters are quickly chosen (and eaten!), while he is left behind. As I’m reading  along with my kids, I was thinking this was one of those books that was going to be very hard to get through. It was obvious what the moral was going to be, and it seemed so “cheesy” (or rather, “sugar-coated?”), that I wasn’t sure I wanted to finish the book. However, we needed to read 80 books, so we kept going.

Well, about half-way through the book, the cupcake meets a candle that is also plain. The candle has the idea of putting different things on the cupcake to dress him up a little.  The things he chooses are so funny — pickles, smelly cheese, even a squirrel! By this time, we are all laughing, and then my daughter guesses what the ending will be — the candle will hop onto the cupcake. But she has guessed incorrectly, and the surprise ending brings even more laughs. No lesson — just fun.

So, if you’re looking for an afternoon read to enjoy with your kids, give a pig and a cupcake a try!

Celebrating America…with Books!

The Fourth of July is one of my favorite holidays. When I was growing up, it meant picnics with family and friends, swimming in the lake,  and lighting fireworks. And for my kids, it’s still a special time for eating watermelon and setting off firecrackers. But even more importantly, it’s a time to remember our heritage, a time to treasure our freedom, a time to reflect as a family on all that it means to be an American.

There are a lot of great books about the 4th. If you’re looking for some to share with your children, check these out:

 

For Kids:

America the Beautiful by Katherine Bates and Wendell Minor

America: A Patriotic Primer by Lynne Cheney and Robin Preiss Glasser

A is for America by Devin Scillian and Pam Carroll

Fireworks, Picnics, and Flags: The Story of the Fourth of July Symbols by James Giblin and Ursula Arndt.

Looking for Uncle Louie On the Fourth of July by Kathy Whitehead and Pablo Torrecilla.

Fourth of July Mice! by Bethany Roberts

Independence Day by Trudi Strain Trueit

Happy 4th of July, Jenny Sweeney! by Leslie Kimmelman and Nancy Cote

Fourth of July Fireworks (Our Holiday Symbols) by Patrick Merrick

A Fourth of July on the Plains by Jean Van Leeuwen

Fireworks and Freedom: A Fourth of July Story and Activity Book by Carol Amato and Ann Koffsky

Hurray for the 4th of July by Wendy Watson

America Is…by Louise Borden and Stacey Shuett

American Patriotism by Kerry Patton, Kathleen Hawkins,  Rachel Simmons and Paul Vallely

Patriotism (Character Education) by Lucia Raatma

 

For Parents:

The American Patriot’s Almanac: Daily Readings on America by William Bennett and John Cribb

How to Raise and American Patriot: Making it Okay for Our Kids to Be Proud to Be American by Marijo Tinlin

How to Raise an American: 1776 Fun and Easy Tools, Tips, and Activities to Help Your Child Love This Country by Myrna Blyth and Chriss Winston.

 

Photo by wintersixfour

Back to Junie B.

Until recent activities made life quite hectic, I often read stories to my children at the table as they ate their lunch. Sometimes I would read a couple of picture books to entertain the younger ones, or sometimes I would choose longer books, reading a chapter or two at a time.  One of our early favorite was the Junie B. Jones series by Barbara Park. We went through all the books our library had and enjoyed every one.

At the time, my youngest, Luke, was probably about three years old. He sat for the stories  and seemed to enjoy them too. But it never occurred to me that now, three years later, he didn’t really remember them. That is, until we were in a used bookstore about a week ago.

Searching the shelves for books to read, I found a stack of Junie B. Jones. “I remember this one,” I said.

My daughter Cassie picked up another. “This one was really funny too.”

“And this one was my favorite,” I answered, holding up yet another.

Luke just looked at us. “Do you remember these?” I asked, and he shook his head. So we bought a few of them before we headed home.

That night, we decided to read for 1/2 hour. We read the first Junie B. Jones book and got about half-way through it. Of course, I had to change my voice for each character. And speak very loudly when Junie B. is yelling. But that’s all part of the fun. (There are some words that parents may want to watch out for — Junie B. uses the words “stupid” and “hate” sometimes, so when I’m reading aloud, I change or omit them altogether.)

We finished up that book the next day, then started in with the second one. Within a couple of days, we had read all the books we had purchased. Luke looked a little concerned.

“Don’t worry, ” I told him. “I’ll get some more from the library.” When I brought home four more, he was excited.

I went into the kitchen to wash some dishes, and he came in too, carrying the books. “Mom,” he said, “may you read me some more of these sometime?”

What a great question! I had to smile.  “Yes, I may,” I said. So no matter how busy our days become, we are back to Junie B.

Time to Sleep

When my oldest son was very young, I discovered the picture book Time to Sleep by Denise Fleming at the library. It was such a fun book that we purchased our own copy and used it every year.

Time to Sleep follows a number of animals as they realize that winter is coming.  The leaves are falling and the days are shorter, so Bear decides he must tell Snail that it’s time to hibernate. Snail, then, must tell Skunk, who in turn must tell Turtle, and so on until Ladybug hears the news. The story comes full circle as Ladybug goes to Bear’s cave and wakes him up to tell him… it’s time to sleep.

We made the story even more fun by creating a craft to go along with it. Here’s what we did:

Using felt squares found at the craft store, I made each of the animals depicted in the story. I cut out two pieces of the basic shape of each animal and sewed the sides together (leaving a small opening). My son then stuffed them with fiberfill, and I sewed them shut. We added googly eyes and noses to the animals that needed them.

Next, we found a cardboard box about 12″ deep. I turned it upside down and cut a hole in the bottom of it.

Then, we read the story again. As each animal went to “sleep,” my son put them in the hole in the box. The last one to go in was the ladybug. Not only did we have a good time reading the book and making the craft, but my son learned about hibernation and had hands-on reinforcement each time we read the story. We actually used the same book, box, and animals with all of my children (I don’t know how they lasted so long), and it was fun to reminisce each time we got them out.

For us, Time to Sleep was really time for fun!

What’s Going On In There?

This summer, our library presented its annual children’s summer reading program. After reading for 10, 15, and 25 hours, children could win prizes such as passes to a local water park or ice skating rink, free ice cream from Chick-fil-A, and more. Although it didn’t sound like a lot of time, we got a late start, and those first 10 hours of picture books for my youngest added up to about 80 books we had to read! Every time we went to the library, I felt as if I was clearing a lot of their shelf space. 🙂 While I tried to find books we hadn’t read before, I came across some favorites as well, on of which was What’s Going On In There? By Geoffrey Grahn.

In this book, things are not always as they appear. In each double-page spread, the pages on the left are used for the text, and the pages on the right for the illustrations. There you’ll find a building with windows, with a silhouette of a person, animal, or object in each window. The fun, then, is to guess what’s going on — to guess what the people or animals are doing. With a turn of the page, the reader discovers what’s really going on, and it’s usually not what you were thinking.  What looks like people pulling saltwater taffy is really astronauts preparing to launch their rocket; what appears to be students taking a test is actually a swimming class.

This book is a fun one for all ages. Younger children (and parents!) will be surprised by the revelations, and older children will have fun guessing. The author/illustrator has even provided the reader with some clues: look closely at the outside of the buildings where you see the silhouettes for hints of what’s inside.

As I Watch

As I Watch is another picture book I’ve had the privilege of illustrating. Written by Chitra Sounder and published by Guardian Angel Publishing, this simple yet beautiful book describes the life-cycle of a butterfly.

Designed especially for the youngest readers, As I Watch follows the development of the insect from egg, to larva, to caterpillar, to chrysalis, to butterfly and back to egg again. It’s a great starting point for a unit study about butterflies or insects in general. The illustrations are done in oils and realistically depict the tiger swallowtail butterfly.

If you have young children and are interested in doing a unit study on butterflies, here are some other online resources you might find helpful:

EnchantedLearning.com – This site has so much information for young butterfly enthusiasts! While you may need to pay a small membership fee to access all of the worksheets, it’s well-worth it. They’ve even organized all of the information into a hypertext book, covering topics such as butterflies and moths, defense mechanisms, classification, butterfly gardens, and butterfly anatomy. You’ll also find printouts featuring the lifecycle.

ParentingOurKids.com – Among many other resources, this site also offers butterfly lesson plans. Some of these are complete lessons in themselves, while others are links to worksheets and puzzles. All would be good additions to your unit study!

TheHealthyHomeschool.com – Here you’ll find all you need to know about how to plant your own butterfly garden.

Glorious-Butterfly.com –  – While this site isn’t particularly a schooling site, you’ll find some great ideas for butterfly study here as well. The lesson plans focus on the monarch butterfly, its development, and migration.

InsectLore.com –  This site sells the life cycle kits for various insects, including butterflies. For about $20.00 you can get a kit with a coupon for live caterpillars.

Enjoy a butterfly study with your children — and watch the wonder of nature together!

Balancing Craft

butterfly 1This was my last week doing crafts with the kindergarten/first grade class at our co-op. It was bittersweet — while it was a bit of work planning and preparing the crafts, it was fun to watch the children work on them, and it was so good to see my son Luke enjoy making them and showing them off to his siblings.

For this last formal class, we read the picture book Mirette on the High Wire by Emily Arnold McCully. The story takes place in France in the late nineteenth century. Mirette’s mother, a widow, rents out the rooms in her home to traveling performers. One of the performers who comes to stay is the Great Bellini, a tightrope walker. Mirette wants to learn to walk on a rope, too, and Bellini finally agrees to teach her.

Our craft for this story was the Balancing Butterfly craft found on EnchantedLearning.com. Here’s how we did it:

Supplies:

  • Cardboard butterflies
  • Sculpey clay
  • Pencils
  • Pennies
  • Tape
  • Markers

To prepare, I made a butterfly pattern with a piece of cardstock. I found that a butterfly with a wingspan of about 3 inches worked well.

Next, I traced the pattern and pre-cut the butterflies for the students using thin cardboard I had on hand. EnchantedLearning recommends using old cereal boxes.

The students then…

1. Decorated their butterflies with markers. We talked about patterns again, and how they could make patterns on their butterflies.

2. I also provided each student with some sculpey clay. They worked the clay with their hands to soften it before rolling it into a ball. Then they flattened one side on the surface of the table to make it stand evenly.

3. I then let them choose a pencil, and they stuck the unsharpened end down into the clay so the pencil was standing upright.

4. Next, they tried to balanbutterfly2ce their butterflies on the eraser end of the pencils. They could balance them if they placed the center of the butterfly on the eraser.

5. Then we added pennies to the wings. We taped one penny near the top of each wing. This changed the center of gravity to a point closer to the head of the butterfly. The butterfly would tip, but it still balanced on the pencil.

This simple craft was a hit!  They played with them that morning, and then my son played with his some more when we got home. My daughter Lillie then made one for herself, and she plans on making more with her cousins this weekend. Give this project a try, and watch the butterflies soar!

The Little Red Lighthouse Craft

alighthouseThis week, our kindergarteners and first graders at co-op read The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Grey Bridge by Hildegard Swift and Lynd Ward. The craft we did with this book took a little while to prepare, but it was a lot of fun that provided some good practice for their fine motor skills.

For the activity, the children created their own lighthouses using popsicle sticks. If you’d like to make a lighthouse with your child, here’s what you’ll need:

  • 40 popsicle sticks cut in half, or 80 half-size sticks
  • Red acrylic craft paint
  • Paint Brush
  • Paper towels
  • Container with water (to clean the brushes)
  • Newspaper
  • White school glue
  • Cardstock
  • Something round (about 2 ” in diameter) to use as a pattern, such as jar lid
  • Hot glue gun and glue stick
  • Yellow paper or foam
  • Scissors

If you are working with a lot of students (we have 11 in our class), you may want to do the first few steps yourself to save time. However, if you’re working with only your own children, you can show them how to complete each step themselves.

1. First, cover your table top or work area with newspaper.

2. Lay out the sticks on the paper. Using the red craft acrylics, paint one side of each popsicle sticks red. Allow the paint to dry (acrylic paints dry quickly, so if the paint isn’t very thick, a few minutes should be enough. You can also speed up the drying process by using a hair dryer).

3. If you are using whole sticks, you’ll need to cut them in half. Do this yourself, as it’s a difficult task for children. You can cut them in half with a large pair of scissors. Some of the sticks might split a little, but they can still be used.

4. Now, show your child how to “build” the lighthouse by placing two sticks parallel to each other on the paper, adding a drop of glue to each one, and then placing two more parallel sticks on the glue going in the opposite direction. Continue gluing and alternating the pairs until all of the sticks have been used.

5. To make the top of the lighthouse, draw a circle on the cardstock. Use the jar lid as a guide and trace around it. Cut out the circle. Then, cut one slit in the circle, going from the edge of the circle to the center. Stop cutting at the center of the circle.

6. At the slit, pull one of the straight edges you just cut under the other, forming a cone shape. Glue the edges with hot glue so that the glue dries quickly and the shape holds. Using the hot glue again, glue the edges of the cone to the top of the lighthouse.

7. To complete the lighthouse, cut a small circle from yellow cardstock or foam and glue it onto one side of the lighthouse as a “light.”

Snowman Picture

snowmanThis week, our kindergarten/first grade class read the story Katie and the Big Snow by Virginia Lee Burton. Our craft was a simple but fun snowman picture. If you’ve been experiencing wintery weather lately, give this craft a try.

Supplies:

  • Colored cardstock (any color will do, but we used a dark turquoise color)
  • White cardstock
  • Glue Stick
  • Elmer’s glue
  • Googley eyes
  • Crayons, colored pencils, or markers.
  • Pen
  • White acrylic craft paint
  • Styrofoam plate
  • Water in a container
  • Two small-medium paint brushes
  • Paper towels
  • Newspaper
  • Scissors
  • 3 objects with circular bases, 3 different sizes (i.e. a mug, the lid to a jar, etc.)

To prepare, draw 3 circles of different sizes (small, medium, and large) on a piece of white cardstock using the 3 objects with circular bases. Older students can do this step themselves.

Next, draw a hat (or several different hats if you want to give the student a choice) on the piece of white cardstock. Older students can draw the hat themselves.

Now draw a triangle for the snowman’s “carrot” nose on the white cardstock. Again, older students can draw the nose by themselves.

Have you gathered all of the supplies? Now you’re ready to create your snowman!

1. To begin, color the hat and triangular “carrot” nose with crayons, colored pencils, or makers.

2.  Next, cut out the hat, carrot nose, and 3 circles.

3. Using the glue stick, glue the circles onto the colored cardstock, placing the largest on the bottom, the medium-sized one in the middle, and the smallest on top, forming a snowman.

4. Next, glue the carrot nose onto the face of the snowman. Glue the hat onto the head of the snowman.

5. With a pen, give your snowman a smile. You might also want to draw on arms or buttons.

6. Now it’s time to add the snow! Cover your table top with newspaper. Next, pour a small amount of white paint onto the Styrofoam plate. Dip one brush into the water and then in the paint to dilute it a little bit. Now, hold that brush over your painting and begin tapping the handle of it with the handle of your other brush. The paint will spatter all over your painting, forming the snow flurries.

7. As a final step, glue on the googley eyes using Elmer’s or school glue (this step comes after painting the snow so the eyes won’t get paint on them).

When you’re finished, put it in a safe place to dry, and you can soon hang up your snowy day picture!