Monday, June 18, 2012

Are You Ready to Play Outside?

We had lots of book inspired fun this week with Are You Ready to Play Outside? by Mo Willems as part of the Summer Virtual Book Club!  

In this Elephant and Piggie book, the two friends are excited to go outside and play together.  When it begins to rain.  Piggie is very dismayed and complains that now they can't have any fun.  Luckily, some cute worms stumble onto the pages.  The worms are having a wonderful time in the rain, splashing and playing together.  Piggie decides that perhaps she can have fun outside, too.  When it stops raining, Piggie is disappointed, but Gerald saves the day by spraying water on her with his trunk.   This book teaches wonderful lessons about enjoying ourselves no matter our circumstances.  And on an even simpler level....playing outside in all kinds of weather is AWESOME! 

My sons love to read the Piggie and Elephant books together.  We brought the book OUTSIDE and they took turns reading parts and shared the story with their little sister. 

After reading the story, we did 3 fun activities.


FIRST we went on a hunt for WORMS to play with!

Once we found our worms, we were ready for learning and exploration.   We talked about why worms loved the rain, how they helped our plants grow, (and why they could survive when one of the children accidentally cut one in half while we were digging).  We measured them and observed them with magnifying glasses.

Then we were ready for our WORM RACES!!!

We drew a large circle on the driveway and poured water in it, so the worms would be safe and stay wet! 

We placed the worms in the center of the circle.

Then we watched our worms move!  One little guy was super fast!  The kids cheered "Go worm, go!" like we were at a game.  They really got into it!

After our races, the kids carried each worm back to the safety of the backyard where we had "recruited" them from for the races.  


After playing in the dirt, the kids pretended to be Gerald the Elephant and sprayed each other with these fun water cannons. 

Wormy Dirt Pudding

We dried off and came in to make this worm themed snack together. 

Ingredients: Chocolate Pudding (follow directions on box), Oreo cookies, gummy worms

Of course we went back OUTSIDE to eat them!

We are thrilled to be part of the Summer Virtual Book Club with these fabulous Bloggers!

Toddler Approved

Are you participating in the Summer Virtual Book Club?  

Make sure you link up below.  Then you can add this button to your own blog! If you don't have a blog, leave your ideas in the comments, if you'd like.  I would love to hear about what great Mo Willems inspired activities you did with your little ones.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

The Five Little Ducklings

We are participating in Readathon 2012 sponsored by MeMetales and PBS Kids.  This week's theme is ANIMALS.  Three books are available for Readathon 2012 participants to borrow for free this week!  One of them is this adorably illustrated version of  the traditional story, The Five Little Ducklings.  My children and I had fun doing 3 activities  inspired by this eBook version.

Duck Craft that Really QUACKS! We had a wonderful time creating and playing with our ducks!  We were inspired by Penny Carnival's version.  You can find full directions on how to make your duck quack here.  I had never seen these before, so it was fun for me, too!

 To create our ducks, I raided our art supplies and pulled out lots of materials for the children to choose from.  I gave them no model to follow.  I just asked them to make their cups look like a duck.  I did have to help my 3 year old cut her duck bill, but everything else was from their own imaginations.  

When they were finished, I added the "QUACKER" and taught them how to make it work!

Don't you just love how different each one turned out?

TORTILLA DUCK "QUACKERS" For snack, we made these yummy crackers.  I have made these for many years.  They are so easy and so much fun!  You can make them to match any party or book theme!  And the best part is that my kids were able to do this all by themselves, except placing them in the oven and pulling them out.

1-Gather your supplies.  You will need a cookie cutter,  tortillas, cooking spray, salt, baking sheet, and parchment paper.  Preheat the oven to 425.  That's it!

2-Cut duck shapes out of the tortillas, using the cookie cutter.  Place shapes on baking sheet covered with parchment paper.

3-Spray with cooking spray and sprinkle with salt.

4-Bake for 7 minutes.  Cool slightly and enjoy! These can be stored in an air tight container.  But I have never had any leftover to store!

 ****We always save the tortilla pieces leftover for enchilada casserole!

SENSORY NUMBER DUCK POND  I created a rubber duckie pond with blue water and blue and white sensory beads for the kids to explore. They had fun just playing with the ducks, beads and water.

We want to avoid the Summer Slide in Math, too.  So I wrote a number 1-5 (to go along with the 5 Little Ducklings) on the bottom of each duckie.   Then I differentiated the activity for each child.

*My 3 year old told me the name of the number on the bottom of each duck and sorted the ducks by colors and sizes.

*My 5 year old  picked up two ducks and added the numbers written on the bottom together.

*My 7 year old is beginning to learn multiplication, so he multiplied the two numbers together.

It was great to have an activity that they could all enjoy together and still learn at a "just right" place for them. 

Thank you, MeMetales, for giving us the opportunity to participate in such a great cause!  For more information about Readathon 2012, please click here.  MeMetales is donating one meal through the Food for Good program for EVERY person who registers.  I hope you will consider joining us!

***Due to my participation in the Readathon 2012, I am receiving the featured books. In exchange, I will be sharing book inspired, fun activities with you each week!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Summer of One Thousand Books

Our family has created a summer bucket list.  In addition to lots of fun day trips, art projects, and volunteering in our community, we set a goal to read ONE THOUSAND BOOKS this summer.  There are ten weeks of summer break, so that translates to about 14 books a day or 100 a week.  

 To help us reach our goal, and stay inspired, we are participating in several wonderful Summer Reading Programs.

1-Mommy and Me Book Club was invited to participate in the Readathon 2012 sponsored by PBS Kids and Meme Tales.

 Please go and sign up for this wonderful program and help your kids avoid the Summer Slide.  

*When you sign up for Meme Tales, you get 20 FREE Downloads of children's eBooks. 

*Every week, for 6 weeks, your children will get access to 3 new theme-based eBooks from Meme Tales.    You can access these on your computer, iPhone, or tablet and borrow them for the whole week! 

*Mommy and Me Book Club (and many of my very favorite Kid's Lit Bloggers) will be sharing activities inspired by these books, so you can extend the learning experience.

*For EVERY child that registers for the Readathon 2012, MemeTales will donate one meal to Food for Education!  So not only will you be helping your own children, you will be feeding hungry children! #readforgood

2-As mentioned in a previous post, Mommy and Me Book Club is participating in the Summer Virtual Book Club!  On Monday, our Mo Willems linky will go live.  I can't wait to see what everyone has created!

3-We are also part of the Educator's Spin On It Summer Reading Book Exchange.  It is kind of like a pen pal, but WAY COOLER!  We choose a favorite book, create fun activities to go with the book, and mail all the supplies to do those activities and the book to a friend!  Mommy and Me in a Box.  How fun is that?  We are putting the final touches on our box, and will mail it off this weekend!   We are sending one of my favorite books...and we have never featured it before on our blog!

What are your family's reading goals for the summer?  I'd love to hear about them!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Elephant and Piggie Books

I know, it seems like blasphemy for a writer of a children’s books blog to type those words, but it is true.  That is not to say that I do not love Dr. Seuss.  I adore him!

But right now, I am the mom of a five year old learning to read.  Having taught MANY children to read over the years, I declare EMPHATICALLY that the  

“Elephant and Piggie” book series by Mo Willems

are the BEST books available for engaging the newest readers.  

I am writing this post in hopes of introducing a few of you to this amazing series.  If you are not familiar with the Elephant and Piggie books, head straight to your library and check out all they have. You won't be disappointed.   I am always surprised by the number of Don't Let the Pigeon Drive The Bus fans who don't know about these. 

The Elephant and Piggie books are early readers by Mo Willems that feature two unlikely best friends who learn and grow together.  There are currently 17 books in this series.

So, why do I think they are better than anything else out there, including the great early reader contributions by Dr. Seuss?

1- The Elephant and Piggie books are short. -Pigs Make Me Sneeze has 188 words on 57 pages.  The Cat in the Hat has 1629 words on 61 pages.  For a new reader and his enthusiastic parents, the books can be completed in a time frame that manages to maintain the interest of both the young reader and the doting listeners (before mom and dad become the “doZing” listeners).  They are the PERFECT length! 

2- Willems has perfected the use of the speech bubble.  My son loves speech bubbles!  They help him recognize which character is speaking.  They help him know if the character is speaking LOUDLY, because the word bubbles are LARGER.  He knows if they are speaking softly, because the word bubbles are smaller.  This helps him read with expression, THE VERY FIRST TIME THROUGH!  He doesn’t stumble through in a monotone voice, like he does with some other early readers.  He knows when to use a grumpy voice, give a happy cheer, or whisper quietly.  Just from the speech bubbles and font size. I never really understood the power of the speech bubble in early literacy, until I was introduced to Mo Willems.  

2 ½-Did I mention the use of speech bubbles?  Speech bubbles lend themselves beautifully to shared reading, an important part of reading instruction.  My son and I each choose a character in the book and read all of his or her lines throughout the entire book, similar to reading a play.  In fact, we have often used the Elephant and Piggie  books as scripts for puppet shows or plays.  (Any other early literacy specialists out there know that RETELL is also an important part of reading instruction).  


3- The books use real words.  This makes it easier to use context clues and phonetics to figure out unfamiliar words.  ‘Jertain’ and ‘Zizzer-Zazzer-Zuzz’ are certainly fun and silly to say, but context clues are useless to figure them out and can frustrate the newest readers.

4-Speaking of context clues...the PICTURES are so clear and simple, so concrete. Yet somehow they convey the meaning of the story so perfectly, that it is easy for a child stuck on a word to look at the pictures and determine what the word should be or the emotion with which the words should be expressed.  How do you do that, Mo?  How do you get one simple line across a pig’s eye lid to say so much? 

5-The Elephant  and Piggie books are quite simply put.... hilarious!  Laugh out loud funny.  Tears in your eye funny.  Appropriately funny.   My children and the adults in our family giggle every time we read the “Piggie and Elephant” books, whether it is the first time or the 37th.  (There is no need to pander to bathroom humor or jokes above the kids’ heads).  We all think the books are truly funny.  

6-According to the official Mo Willems website, each book is reviewed by early childhood reading specialists before publication!  (Something I didn’t know before working on this article).  I feel even better as a parent knowing that not only does my gut tell me this is good, quality, children’s literature, the “experts” agree as well.  

7-Most Elephant and Piggie books teach valuable lessons, without being too preachy.  Friends are better than toys. (I Love My New Toy).  Being outside is fun in all kinds of weather  (Are You Ready to Play Outside?).  Asking politely can make things better. (There’s A Bird On My Head).  There isn’t always just one right way to do something. (Elephants Can’t Dance).    Lots of Dr. Seuss books do teach valuable lessons, too.  But it is hard to find in his early readers.  I am not quite deep enough to find the moral of the ABC Book, the Foot Book, or Hop on Pop.   

8-Most importantly, I love the Piggie and Elephant Books because they give my son CONFIDENCE as a reader.  He can pick one up and know that he can read it with fluency and expression.  He knows he will laugh.  He knows he will enjoy himself.  And what can any parent want more for their son, then for him to LOVE to read.  

***I want to be clear that I do honor Dr. Seuss as a Founding Father of all that is good in children’s literature.  There would be no Mo Willems without Dr. Seuss and his legacy.  I have laughed at his silly absurdities with my kindergarteners and my own three children.  I have read his inspired lessons about Sneetches with “stars upon thars” with my fourth grade students, who were struggling to fit in or to include everyone.  I have even been inspired myself as a young adult, during a particularly difficult time in my life, by one of his lesser known books I Had Trouble Getting to Solla Sollew.

But for new readers, I think Mo Willems has Dr. Seuss beat.  Once my son is ready, he will be able  to read Dr. Seuss to himself.    But for now, I will read Dr. Seuss to him and HE will read  Mr. Willems’  Elephant and Piggie books to me.   He reaches for them each day...and we never tire of them.  Thank you for your wonderful books, Mo Willems.  Thanks for helping my son LOVE to read, and for helping the job of teaching him to read be such an enjoyable experience.   

***Mo Willems also has another early reader series, the Cat the Cat books.  We love those as well for most of the same reasons we love Elephant and Piggie!  And of course we love his famous Pigeon and his Knuffle Bunny and Leonoardo and Amanda and.......many more friends.  

On June 18th, 2012, Mommy and Me Book Club and over 20 other bloggers will be sharing our favorite Mo Willems books and activities to go along with them during the Summer Virtual Book Club.  We will even have a place for you to link up your favorites!  I hope you will join in the fun.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Commotion in the Ocean

This week's activities were inspired by Giles Andreae's book Commotion in the Ocean.
It was our last week of Mommy and Me of the school year.  (But we will be doing book inspired play dates all summer with all 3 of my children)!

Gathering: Ocean sensory bin

We were inspired by a cute ocean themed sensory bin at The Picky Apple and made our own with ocean themed items at our house.  

Circle Time

We read Commotion in the Ocean during  circle time.  This is a fun book that features many different animals that live in the ocean.  Each animal is given its own page and witty poem to describe its features.  The poems are short and funny.  The book kept our preschoolers attention, which is a big deal considering they were all wearing swimsuits and excited about swimming! 

We did the traditional finger play "Fish Story."

"One, two, three, four, five -
Once I caught a fish alive.
Six, seven, eight, nine, ten -
Then I let it go again.
Why did I let it go?
Because it bit my finger so.
Which finger did it bite?
The little finger on the right."

Art: Paper Towel Roll Octopus
One of my favorite blogs is Mom to 2 Posh Lil Divas.  When I saw this adorable octopus, I knew it would have to be our craft to go with Commotion in the Ocean! 

 Snack: Blue Ocean Yogurt Snack with Fishies and Cookie Sand

We were inspired by these cute fishy snacks at Welcome Baby.  The kids loved them! 

Activity: Swimming
One of our Mommy and Me friends invited us to swim in their pool.  It was the perfect way to end a wonderful year together!