We don't watch a lot of tv in our house. In fact, the only tv we have is in the basement and gets no channels (we only use it for dvds). I'll admit to occasionally plunking the kids down in front of the laptop to watch some trains or an episode of Peppa Pig (and they're increasingly interested in Grandma's tv with satellite and Netflix), but in general, they have gained all their knowledge of popular cartoons from the books we find at the library.
This week's favorite hard-bound cartoon series is Bob The Builder. The books are, essentially, just panels from the show, so they seem very 'realistic.' And through the adventures Bob and his crew have, my kids are learning about teamwork, kindness, ingenuity and hard work. They play "Bob Builder!" with some frequency - puttering around the house in their hard hats and tinkering with plastic tools. They claim to be building porcupine tunnels, mending fences and making cat houses. They can't wait until they are old enough to use real tools and build real projects. What fun to see my kids exercising so much creativity, all because of some books we read.
I highly recommend that you check out this series - especially if you want to limit tv time. There's nothing like some snuggling on Mommy's lap with a good book to unglue the kiddos from the tv set.
Our favorite book from the stack we brought home from the library this week is Bunny's Lessons by Harriett Barroux. It's a simple story without much text, but the pictures are cute and, most importantly, it's a wonderful tool for teaching kids about emotions. When Bunny's boy plays with other friends, Bunny learns about jealous. When Bunny's boy leaves him behind, Bunny learns about lonely. When Bunny's boy plays the tuba, Bunny learns about loud. As Bunny experiences and deals with his feelings through interacting with his boy, our kids can learn how to describe and deal with their own emotions. My kids asked to hear the story again, and I will gladly slip it into bedtime reading every night this week. We talk about why Bunny is feeling the things he feels and remember times that we've felt the same way. It's simple, but effective, and may wind up in our book pile again soon.
I haven't always been an emotional person. Before I had kids, almost nothing made me weepy. Now that I have kids, I find myself teary-eyed all the time. And this week's featured book, The Pine Tree Parable, by Liz Curtis Higgs, definitely brought a tear to my eye.
We're trying to raise our children with an understanding of God and Jesus. And while they seem to have a general idea of God as the Creator and as someone deserving of our praise, it's very hard to explain to children the sacrifice that the Lord made for us. This parable does an excellent job of putting into child-friendly terms just what that sacrifice meant. Each page of the story is beautifully illustrated and also contains a bit of scripture at the bottom which mirrors the action taking place in the scene.
Beyond the parable of Christ, this story can stand on its own very well as a simple tale of giving from our plenty to help those in need. This time of year I am in constant wonder that I am surrounded by so much 'stuff' while so many struggle to fill their basic needs. I complain to myself about stepping on our piles of toys, then think of the children in countries all around the world who have no toys at all. This book is a wonderful reminder to us all, young and old, of the great satisfaction that comes from sacrificial giving, even if it is difficult to do. I'm hoping that my children, young as they are, will hear this story and be able to apply it just a little to their lives - even if it only means helping me box up a few of those toys to donate to needy children this Christmas. I hope, too, that you will find this simple story as inspiring as I did.
So I hear that some of you have had a little snow lately! We haven't yet (though I hear it could happen tonight), but we're sure ready for winter. We've been reading all kinds of Christmas books lately and the kids are SO excited. Our pick for book of the week this week is Snowmen At Night by Caralyn Buehner.
If your kids are anything like mine, they may tend to personify inanimate objects. My kids get distressed when stuffed animals get 'injured' and they worry about whether their toys need a bath. So I can only imagine what might happen when children like this see a snowman melting. Well, Snowmen At Night helps take the sting out of watching an icy friend slowly melt away. Through lively, colorful pictures and clever wording, this book describes all the exciting winter activities in which snowmen partake that leave them just a little rough around the edges come morning. My kids loved the idea that snowmen can be so much fun - and they enjoyed the sampling of winter activities that await them as well.
We give this book a hearty thumbs up and hope that you, too, will enjoy some cozy reading time snuggled under a nice soft blanket this winter!
I know we haven't officially passed Halloween yet, but the kids and I have already read all the Halloween books in the library (that weren't too scary) so we've moved on to Thanksgiving. I'm amazed at how many truly lovely Thanksgiving books there are. Here are a couple of our favorites:
Thanks for Thanksgiving by Julie Markes is a very sweet book of Thanksgiving rhymes. The verses are short, but the pictures are playful and endearing. The book follows a pair of children as they count their blessings on a Thanksgiving day. This book is great bedtime reading for little ones. My two year old asked me to read it twice in a row.
The Thanksgiving Door by Debby Atwell is another precious book. This story reinforces the 'meaning of the holiday' as a family who owns a restaurant welcomes into their private Thanksgiving feast an elderly couple who has burnt their own dinner. At first grudging, the family learns to embrace and e
The past couple of weeks we've been reading lots of fall-themed books. And since Halloween and Thanksgiving really are just around the corner, we've been focusing on those topics a lot.
The Runaway Pumpkin by Kevin Lewis is one of my favorites. Its lilting rhymes and rhythms are a lot of fun to read, and the colorful pictures are very engaging for squirmy youngsters like mine. And who doesn't love a book that ends in pumpkin pie?
Arthur's Halloween by Marc Brown is a great story for children who might be a little spooked by the holiday. In this story Arthur, who's very timid about the scary aspects of Halloween, winds up making a very mature and empathetic discovery in the end. It's a familiar tale (the Berenstain Bears tell it almost exactly the same way), but has a surprisingly generous twist at the finish.
And last but not least is Dora's Thanksgiving. My boys are a little Dora crazy at the moment, and they beg to have this book read repeatedly at bedtime. They love to feel like they are a part of Dora's family and that they are welcomed at her Thanksgiving table. And I love that my kids are learning a wee bit of Spanish as we read.
We've pretty well cleaned out the fall section of the library the last few weeks, and these books are tops with us. What are some of your favorites?
Our pick for book of the week this week is Mama Zooms by Jane Cowen-Fletcher. In our household, we try very hard to teach our children to be accepting and loving. And we want them to know that physical differences are part of what make us unique. There is far too much bullying in the world now (well, any bullying is too much) and we don't want our children to be part of it. To that end, we love to read them books about how people are different and why that makes them special. Mama Zooms is an excellent book for this purpose. It takes us through all the adventures a little boy has with his mother who happens to need a wheel chair. He describes all the ways his mama 'zooms' him through the day and how precious his time with her is. My kids not only adore this book, but they now think of wheel chairs as being very 'cool.' We still teach them to be grateful for all the things their bodies can do for them, but we also want them to know that physical limitations don't limit who they are. Mama Zooms is a beautiful story and I love reading it with my children.
That's right. This week we have two Books of the Week. I've been doing a LOT of reading lately and have found a lot of books to adore. And since I couldn't come up with anything I don't
love this week, I thought I'd share two books!
If there's a parenting book out there, I've probably read it. I've read books on getting kids to sleep. I've read books on getting kids to eat healthy foods. And I've read book after book after book on disciplining children. It's not that my kids are totally out of control - in general they're really very sweet. But we had a whole bunch of kids really close together and sometimes discipline just gets lost in trying to keep our sanity. So I'm always looking for a quicker, easier solution. Parenting With Love and Logic
by Foster Cline and Jim Fay isn't necessarily faster and easier, but it is gentler. Kids need to know how much Mommy and Daddy love them. And when we're yelling at them or punishing them (sometimes simply our of our own exhaustion and frustration), it's hard for them to understand our love. This book teaches us how to use natural consequences and empathy to allow our kids to develop their own natural discipline and responsibility. I won't lie - it's a hard concept to 'get.' I'm going to have to read the book through a couple more times and really work on digesting the ideas before my kids will see much of a change. And some of the ideas seem better suited to the 5+ age group (mine are all under 4). But this book gives me hope. Maybe there's a way to teach my kids to make good decisions and
let them know how much we love them.
I'll keep you posted on our progress (or lack thereof) as I get more familiar with this concept. In the meantime, though I do recommend checking this book out. It is far and above the most gentle and most logical of all the parenting books I've read, and it even offers examples and solutions for lots of common parenting problems. They even have a facebook page
for answering questions and giving updates.
Have you tried out the Love and Logic method? How did it work out for you? Have you found another method that worked better? Have you read and of the other
I've been doing lots of crafts with the kids lately to pass the time and keep them from getting cabin fever. Since I'm not terribly creative on my own, I've been relying heavily on the craft books we've found at the library. Many of the books feature products that are either expensive in terms of materials, or much much too complicated for my toddler and preschooler. I just discovered, however, Christmas Decorations Kids Can Make but Kathy Ross. Not only are all of these projects super simple and inexpensive to make (most use items regularly found in your home), but the end results are adorable! I bookmarked just about every single page! I am so looking forward to making these crafts with my kids to use around the house and to give away as gifts. I know they're going to have a blast and won't get frustrated by complicated instructions. And I love that I won't go broke on craft supplies.
We've got a fresh batch of library books this week and our current favorites are the Fancy Nancy books by Jane O'Connor. Our pick for number one is Fancy Nancy Spectacular Spectacles. Not only does this book teach kids 'fancy' words - like spectacular - but it also makes wearing glasses seem like a privilege, not a chore. As someone who hated wearing glasses for most of her life, I certainly appreciated this fresh take on glasses as fashion accessories. It's likely that our preschooler will need glasses before long, so he definitely empathized with the characters in this book. And to top it all off, the pictures are bright and entertaining, which was engaging to my younger children as well. So get a little fancy and add Nancy to your reading list this week!