Books

Space Mini Unit

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About

We spent about 1 1/2 weeks learning about space, with a special focus this time on space exploration. Two years ago we mainly focused on the planets, which was fun to repeat with my 3 year old. But, my 5 year old had a much greater interest in rockets and rovers and such, so I grabbed a lot more books this time for him.

Books

Stories:

*The two favorites of my 3 year old. Most other books were more for my 5 year old.

**These were just okay. Interesting for one read, but overall not as engaging.

Reference Books:

Note that we did not sit and read every page of any of these books, but flipped through and read what interested the kids at the time. My son also enjoys flipping through books like this with lots of pictures on his own even though he cannot read yet.

*We used this book for the information about the planets. We did not really cover too much about constellations and stars this round.

Projects & Activities

CREATE A CLAY SOLAR SYSTEM

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Shown here are the books The Planets and Space!

My free Solar System Cards are also pictured here.

We used a clay recipe from Nature’s Art Box, but I’m sure store-bought clay or salt dough would work great! We used biscuit cutters to make different sizes, then once they dried we used watercolor paint to design them. Both kids loved this activity, and then they. had their own solar system to play with.

SOLAR SYSTEM SENSORY BIN PLAY

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For a space sensory bin we used black beans, black and white glass gems, balled up aluminum foil (for meteors). Then we put our clay planets and toys in the bin. The kids play with this and tell stories but also use scoops and fine motor tools to play around.

MARS & CURIOSITY FOCUS

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Shown here are the books What We See in the StarsSpace!Curiosity: The Story of a Mars Rover, and Life on Mars.

We made homemade bright red play dough (here’s the recipe I use), built the Curiosity out of LEGOs, and just did a lot of reading and pretend play.

SPACE SHUTTLE & ROCKETS

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Shown here are the books Moonshot and Exploring Space.

Obviously my son was particularly interested in rockets — what kid isn’t? So, we used our books and watched videos comparing different rockets over the course of space exploration history. We used these Space Shuttle Nomenclature Cards and books to learn about the parts of the space shuttle.

I have about 20 different space shuttle drawings all over my house right now! And we built different rockets out of LEGO Duplos as well.

The R is for Rocket printout is from the Playful Learning Space Unit (Member’s Lounge access only).

SPACE SHUTTLE CRAFT

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Not surprisingly the kids wanted to make more of a craft-based space shuttle (not just illustrate their own on paper), so we looked up ideas together and liked this one with the fire hanging down from the rocket. We taped the rockets to their ceiling fan and had fun watching them take off!

THE MOON LANDING: 50TH ANNIVERSARY

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Shown here are the books MoonshotExploring Space, What We See in the Stars, and Space Exploration.

The Printable Space Exploration History Cards are free. We also found the book A Brief Illustrated History of Space Exploration at our library which helped put the timeline of space exploration in context.

With the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon Landing coming up this year, it was fun to have my son so interested in learning more about this mission. He particularly loved learning about the astronauts and the mechanics of The Columbia and The Eagle. Again we watched some videos — the footage of the Saturn V rocket launch is pretty astounding and worth checking out!

MAPWORK: NASA LOCATIONS

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Shown here are the books Moonshot and The 50 States.

The black and white state cards are from Target.

The NASA facilities location map I got from here.

My son likes maps so I thought it would add some context to his understanding of the U.S.A. to pinpoint where the Kennedy Space Center, Jet Propulsion Lab, Johnson Space Center, and Langley Research Center are.

SOLAR SYSTEM SCAVENGER HUNT

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This Solar System Scavenger Hunt is free – I created it awhile ago. This past week we used it by hiding the printed planets around the house, then the kids had to find them, name them, and check off the list until we found them all. This is really fun and engaging, and works well for young children. It was a fun way for my 3 year old to learn the planets a bit more.

BLACK HISTORY MONTH + SPACE EXPLORATION

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Shown here are the books Mae Among the StarsCounting on KatherineHidden Figures, Herstory, and Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History.

Our point of inspiration to even begin a space-themed unit was Mae Jemison and Katherine Johnson. I had checked these books out for Black History Month, but my son in particular was so enthralled I thought it warranted further exploration.

Katherine Johnson has even inspired him to go deeper with his math lessons! He asks to do math every day now!

OTHER ACTIVITIES

We learned about what it’s like to be an astronaut: A Day on the International Space Station, and Astronauts were two books that helped.

We listened to some music included on the Voyager Golden Record.

We also talked a lot about gravity and played games to demonstrate.

We watched several videos from NASA: rocket launches, the design of the Mars Curiosity rover, a tour of the International Space Station. Lots to enjoy online!

Additional Resources

Feel free to take a peek at our Space Unit from two years ago! We repeated some of these things this year too, like a meteor count and scavenger hunt.

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Links to All Printables

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Space Play: My Picks

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Books · Uncategorized

Books to Inspire Outdoor Play & Learning

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“Nature offers us a sanctuary, a place where, we can find peace and wonder…. For children it is the greatest playground of all, with all its diverse structures, smells, textures, its creatures of all shapes and sizes, its abundant plants, some edible, others toxic. Nature offers a myriad of opportunities for risk taking, for a wealth of learning and amazement, and for freedom, separate from the adult world.”
(from Play the Forest School Way by Peter Houghton & Jane Worroll)

IN THIS POST

I’d like to share a few details about the books that I have lately been drawing inspiration from—books that inspire us as parents to get our children outdoors, and books that provide some wonderful ideas on HOW to actually do that, especially if it does not come naturally or easy.

THREE CATEGORIES OF BOOKS

For clarity, I have organized my stack of nature books into three categories:

  1. Books on why nature engagement matters, which are books to enjoy reading cover to cover
  2. Books with action-steps and specific ideas for creating outdoor play environments  in your own backyard, engaging with the natural world, and cultivating independence in nature
  3. Books for nature study, which means providing a closer look at the natural world, things you may observe and want to explore further as you get out in nature

So, with that, here we go…

1. WHY NATURE ENGAGEMENT MATTERS

Last Child in the Woods

Much has already been said about this book. If you haven’t already read it, I’m sure you have heard of it. This would be my number one pick for a nature-inspired book to read cover to cover. Most other books in this same category will reference Richard Louv at some point. It is just a great place to start if you have never before really considered nature engagement as a daily, practical thing for your family.

How to Raise A Wild Child

This book draws from many of the same themes developed in Last Child in the Woods, and Sampson admits to it. I do think this had a little added focus on experiential discovery, and the role of the parent in guiding our children to fall in love with nature. I will say the latter part of this book gets a little repetitive, so some friendly skimming may be involved.

Balanced and Barefoot


Angela Hanscom comes to the conversation with an occupational therapy perspective — in the book she discusses the effects of restricted movement and lack of outdoor playtime  on overall sensory and motor development in children. This book reveals the therapeutic importance of uninterrupted independent outdoor play. I was stunned, enlightened, and inspired reading this. This book would be an essential read for anyone in the occupational therapy field or parents of children with various disabilities and/or chronic illness.

There’s No Such Thing As Bad Weather


News flash: Sweden does the “kids in nature” thing way better than anyone else. This can be a bit depressing, in a way. What this book has going for it is it’s readability–it is lively, insightful, and engaging. This is from a mom figuring it out. There are “tips” at the end of each chapter that summarize how the Swedes do it and also a few interspersed practical tips (like what kind of clothing to buy) that do allow for this book to have a something to walk away with. That way you are not just sitting there thinking “I don’t live in Sweden, so what the heck can I do about it?”

Honorable Mention:

  • The Nature Fix  — This is a great read for analyzing the science behind the human’s connection to the natural world, but it is not focused on children–though, the final chapter does bring in this topic a little bit (and of course references Richard Louv). This book is neither diagnostic nor prescriptive and should not be compared to Last Child in the Woods–it is not trying to do the same thing. It is more an interesting take on modern day science as it relates to human health and nature.

2. ACTION STEPS: BOOKS WITH SPECIFIC IDEAS & TIPS FOR OUTDOOR PLAY AND LEARNING

First I want to share on online article that has great inspiration and a nice checklist for creating an outdoor play space for children:

Wilson discusses the value of loose parts in outdoors playgrounds and the difference between a manufactured play space versus a natural one. At the end of the article is a “Checklist for Evaluating an Outdoor Play Setting for Young Children” which I found to be really helpful when I started drawing up my plan for our own yard play space. This gave me some great new ideas!

Play the Forest School Way


This book has a wide range of ideas for nature play. Many of these activities you may have already seen on Pinterest, BUT the attention to detail provided here is so wonderful and helpful. It can be especially useful for those of you that have nature exploration groups or do more of a classroom style learning outdoors. That said, the ideas at the beginning for games and crafts are absolutely doable for my 4 and almost-3 year old, and I plan to do several with them this spring. An essential book for a nature-engaged family.

A Year of Forest School


This book is a new companion book to Play the Forest School Way with lots of similar but new ideas! This book is grouped by seasons, which I really appreciate.

The Nature Connection


This book has a myriad of hands-on activities and observational exercises aimed at children 8 to 13. It certainly is for the whole family though! With a 4 and almost-3 year old I’m obviously not going to have them go through this workbook and do all the activities and write down their observations. However, I draw so many great ideas for WHAT and HOW to observe nature. Clare Walker Leslie is basically my hero. She really brings the nature thing down to an everyday level that is so inspiring.

The Backyard Play Revolution


This book has specific practical ways to transform your own backyard into a natural play kid-friendly area, with lists of ideas for loose parts and how to build up your supply. The author even provides suggestions for alternative materials–for example, when sticks from a forest are not easily accessible, what can you use instead? The book contains ideas for what to do with a rope or old tire and how to hunt for items at garage sales that can be used in your backyard for open-ended play. So fun!

Nature’s Art Box


Nature art ideas! So many great ideas with loads of photos so you aren’t left with any questions as you read the instructions. The age range here is wide, but many of the projects would need adult supervision for littles. I will say a couple of the projects seemed like something I would never do, but overall I really enjoy the ideas here.

Vitamin N


A follow up to Last Child in the Woods. So, honestly this book can be super overwhelming! There are so many ideas: 500, actually. So, my strategy here is to just kind of read through it a bit at a time if I am in the mood and pick ONE thing that sticks out to me as something I can do. I appreciate that this book focuses not solely on the individual family but tries to find ways in which we can come together as communities and improve the state of “nature-deficit disorder.”

OTHER NOTABLE BOOKS:

  • The Stick Book – Many ideas here are pretty intuitive to me here but this is a nice thing to flip through if you are in a bit of a rut for play ideas. Lots of photos to show you the ideas–I showed this to my 4 year old and he wanted to create everything in here!
  • I Love Dirt – This book is not just about dirt play! It is about getting outside, quieting down, paying attention to the natural world, and asking questions. The book provides prompts for families to get outside and to explore in such a gentle and meaningful way. I appreciate that this book is less about “doing something” in nature and more about using all our senses to really be present while we are outdoors.
  • Last Child in the Woods is mentioned above for a book to understand the “why?” behind nature engagement: but, at the back of the book is also a massive list of ideas for connecting more with nature. Lots of practical tips that cost nothing and will inspire more and more nature engagement. Don’t be overwhelmed by massive lists like this: pick one thing at a time that sticks out to you and do that.

3. TAKING A CLOSER LOOK: BOOKS TO ENHANCE & INSPIRE NATURE STUDY

Nature Anatomy


This book is just a true gem, more field-guide style of a book than on a how-to book. But this can be a great place to start with questions about the natural world & things you see on nature explorations. Right now this is more of a book for me than my kids. I pre-plan what pages we look at together based on what topic is particularly interesting to them at the moment.

How to Be a Wildflower


I dare you to flip through one page of this book and not fall totally in love with Katie Daisy’s artwork. It’s beautiful and inspiring. Not a book to read cover to cover and not really something my children will care about at the moment. This also only have a few pages of “tips” for nature engagement—it’s mostly just a beautiful thing to behold. A coffee-table style book for nature-loving mamas.

Hello, Nature


This book is Nature Anatomy meets adult coloring book. I do not see this having any direct meaningful connection for my kids (4 and almost 3), but I personally am enjoying it. It inspires nature study, some pages are informative and some are more open-ended prompts. Most pages provide invitations to doodle and draw: something an older nature-loving child would adore! Not just for adults.

Later in April there are activity cards similar to this style being released that look fun!

Nature’s Day: Out and About


This pairs with the book Nature’s Day but comes with specific prompts for activities and things to look out for by season. There are several activities for each of the four seasons. Overall this is quite simple, and for that aspect I appreciate it! This book, just like Hello, Nature invites you to write in it.

Outside Your Window: A First Book of Nature


This is a book to inspire young kids to discover the world around them in all the seasons. It’s not a picture book to sit and read with your kids all the way through because it’s too long, but you could pick out a season at a time to enjoy and study further. It feels more like Nature Anatomy meets a poetry book, actually.

The Natural World


This book is a large & awesome reference-style book with a wide range of topics (covering the whole world) and beautiful illustrations. This is not something my kids just flip through to explore often since it is quite extensive, but if we are looking at a specific topic in nature I can usually flip through and find something relevant to what we are learning and read that specific page.

OTHER NOTABLE BOOKS:

  • Nature All Year Long (This book is a wonderful 12-month guide to “What’s going on in the natural world right now?” I LOVE this book! Again — not a great book for my kids to enjoy, but I personally like pulling it off the shelf when I start to plan out seasonal activities or learning themes.)
  • The Curious Nature Guide (Another one from Clare Walker Leslie which pairs nicely with nature journaling. I appreciate that the focus on the natural world involves being present. Clare Walker Leslie helps inspire me to engage all my senses.)
  • The Handbook of Nature Study (This is a supremely helpful reference for me as we continue to learn about the natural world as a family. I do think you can find all of this information on the internet: but personally I prefer having a physical book to peruse)

…AND FOR THE KIDS!

Be sure to check out my picture book lists for inspiring a love of the natural world in your read aloud time with your kids.

Books · Uncategorized

Selecting Preschool Books

*Updated January 26, 2019

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The Logistics

I wanted to give a run down of how I go about selecting books for each of our Letter Units and provide all the book lists I regularly reference.

We are following The Peaceful Preschool, so of course I always use their book list to start with. They usually have 2-3 books for each Letter Unit.

Typically, two weeks before we start a new Letter Unit I begin reserving a number of additional books from the library that go beyond The Peaceful Preschool. These books are themed around a Letter of the Week. It may be just that the book I reserve is appropriate for that corresponding letter of the alphabet and I want a new fun book for us to read, or that I have a specific themed topic in mind that my kids might be interested in (e.g. C is for Camping).

I do not always directly connect letter unit books to activities: most are just for reading.

I initially reserve a LOT of books from the library but also immediately return a LOT!! It’s hard to really know if a book someone else recommends will be one I like or that I think will be age-appropriate for my kids until I actually have it in my hands. It’s also very rare that I will purchase a book without having seen it first from the library and read it with my kids to be sure they enjoy it.

Generally speaking, I tend to gravitate towards nature-inspired stories as well as living books. BUT, of course we do also go for a few look-and-find type books and other simple tv-character stories that might not be on anyone’s award-winning list. I have no problem with these books, but I do limit the amount of these types of books we have in the house to maybe 2-3 at a time.

So, with that in mind, here’s my list of go-to resources when I look for books.

The Peaceful Preschool

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The Peaceful Preschool Book List (free download on their website)

The books from this curriculum are almost all books that have stood the test of time. They’re classics for a reason. We just finished Letter R right now and there have only been one or two books from this curriculum so far that my kids did not really enjoy.

Honey For A Child’s Heart


Honey For A Child’s Heart is a book about books! It has an annotated list of books by age and topic that is absolutely incredible. I cannot say enough about how great this book is. I went through this once and pulled out book titles that might fit in with a specific letter-of-the-week theme, but also revisit it often to look for seasonal-related books.

Living Books

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Simply Charlotte Mason has an awesome list of Favorite Read Alouds for Ages 3-5 — many of these books crossover with The Peaceful Preschool curriculum, which is part of why I adore that curriculum so much.

What is a “living book”? — This idea was originated by Charlotte Mason. It basically means the story has a true narrative that is engaging and alive. There’s nothing “dry” about it. And it’s not dumbed-down or gimmicky. The best way for me to tell if a picture book is a living book is whether or not we can find a way to retell the story in a fun and engaging way, either through pretending to be the characters ourselves or building small worlds with toys or figurines. The story opens up imaginative possibilities rather than limits us.

A-Z Unit Book Lists

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I often reference the following lists to find books based on Letter Unit themes. For example, we took the “Make Way for Ducklings” unit from The Peaceful Preschool further by having an entire week of D is for Duck, so I found some other books to read on this topic by reviewing the following lists:

Reviewing these book lists in advance of a Letter Unit also helps me get an idea of what themes I might explore with my kids in upcoming weeks.

You can see all the books I use by Letter Unit by viewing each Letter Unit page individually.

Note that sometimes I get nature books that are *older* that where my kids are at but keep them for the pictures & general learning (these tend to be more science-driven than story-driven), and I also keep some that may skew *younger* than preschool because I have a 2 year old who still enjoys some board books.

Alphabet Books

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These are a few of my personal favorite whole-alphabet books:

Read Aloud Revival

Most of you are probably aware of these amazing book lists, but if not, here’s Read Aloud Revival‘s free book lists month-by-month. Sometimes I reference this to find books that might fit within our Letter-a-Week theme (and not just stick to whatever Month the book is in).

Sarah Mackenzie also recently published The Read Aloud Family, which is a wonderful read (even if you already consider yourself a read-aloud family), and includes a thoughtfully curated book list for different age groups at the end. This is worth owning!

Chapter Books

50 Chapter Books for Preschoolers — this is a great list for those of you delving in to chapter book territory for the first time.

The Read Aloud Family also has a great selection of chapter books for littles.

Our favorite chapter books right now are Winnie the Pooh, The Three Tales of My Father’s Dragon, and Beatrix Potter.

Classic Tales

Fairytales By Age (this list comes from Beyond the Rainbow Bridge — an excellent and inspiring Waldorf education read!)

We absolutely love classic tales. Most of our favorites are the Paul Galdone versions.

Cynthia Rylant also has some great retellings of some classic Disney fairytales.

Another great option: Heather Forest Sing Me A Story

Story collections:

Eventually I would like to have a treasury of Grimm’s fairytales when my children are older, but not enough of those are age-appropriate at this point.

Nature Inspired Stories

love of nature books

This page has my LONG list of favorite nature-inspired books for children.

I’ve put together book lists for each of the following themes:

  • Nature Anatomy
  • Birds
  • Insects, Spiders, Worms
  • Camping
  • Pond Life
  • Trees
  • Food From the Wild
  • Woodland Fantasy
  • The Spirit of Adventuring
  • Celebrating the Four Seasons
  • Animals in Winter

Poetry

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I incorporated a poetry tea time in to our days awhile ago, and while we have rotated a few poetry books on and off from the library, the following are the ones that we own and regularly turn to:

Reference Style Books

I generally don’t like have too many reference-style books around because I prefer to just read stories. That said, there’s just a few books that I have really enjoyed owning to regularly explore together as we encounter a variety of topics. Occasionally my son will explore these on his own, but mostly it comes by way of my initiation.

The Latest Greatest Picture Books EVER

Like many of you, I do enjoy the newest publications out there, mainly because there are so many great books today that feature stories that broaden cultural horizons, help recognize privilege & grow empathy towards marginalized communities. Books like the following are ones that immediately come to mind:

To find recent publications I usually just pay attention on Instagram or literally Google “Best Picture Books of 2018” or something equivalent.

That’s Not Too Many Books, Right?!

I will say that my 4 year old LOVES books. He will get excited about any book I bring home. Every book we’ve read from The Peaceful Preschool he wants to re-read 3 times before doing any activities. And then he’ll want to read 3 more books when we’re done. My 2 year old is not the same. She may change her tune, but I suspect when I do The Peaceful Preschool with her, I will probably not get so many books at a time and rather focus on getting her to read enjoy the main 2-3 books from the curriculum.

My hope is that this blog post is a helpful resource to you, and know that I do not intend to overwhelm you or make you feel that you HAVE to get a ton of books at a time! Go with what works for you.

Happy reading!

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Books · Letter Unit Activities · Uncategorized

Classic Story Extensions for Preschool

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OVERVIEW

“Fairy tales don’t condone poor behavior; they simply relate what occurs. Children learn very early that there are good people, bad people, kind people, cruel people, and assortments of behavior in between. And children have room in their lives for all sorts of miracles…. an active imagination [is] a token of the liberty of childhood.” (Gladys Hunt, Honey For A Child’s Heart)

Over the past 2 weeks it worked out that we could fit 6 classic stories into our regularly-scheduled Letter Unit activities: 3 stories fit in with letter G (Gingerbread, Goat, Goldilocks) and 3 stories fit for letter H (Hens and Houses). This post summarizes all that we did for each story.

This is not meant to serve as a perfectly planned-out curriculum: it’s simply a picture of what we actually did. I hope there’s something useful here to you!

I adore Paul Galdone’s versions of the following classic stories — both for the storytelling and the illustrations:

Gladys Hunt notes: “Children have been enjoying Galdone’s renditions for generations” (Honey for a Child’s Heart), and I couldn’t agree more. The audiobook versions for each of these are also excellent and worth finding! Galdone has a number of other classic stories beyond what I chose, but I stuck to just these six because: (1) they fit in with our Letter G and Letter H units, and (2) these are specifically mentioned in Honey for a Child’s Heart.

We also love the Heather Forest song versions of several of these stories on her Sing Me A Story album:

  • The Little Red Hen
  • The Three Billy Goats Gruff
  • Mr. Bun (similar to The Gingerbread Boy)

Honorable mention to Jan Brett’s version of Goldilocks and the Three Bears! A gorgeous book.

Alright, here we go…

THE GINGERBREAD BOY

IMG_9368.jpg Obviously: Bake a gingerbread boy! My kids helped with the whole baking process plus worked on forming the letter G (I gave them extra dough to just play with & smash and roll and cut — and they made a huge floury mess).

We enjoyed eating our gingerbread boy during our poetry tea time and read the poem “The Three Foxes” from When We Were Very Young.

*Bonus activity to burn off the sugar high from gingerbread: take turns pretending to be the gingerbread boy and chase each other around! I’m serious.

 IMG_0514.jpg In the story the old woman uses raisins to make the buttons for the gingerbread boy. We counted out some raisins into a numbered muffin tin with jumbo tweezers for a fine motor skill & simple counting exercise. Then… we snacked on some raisins!

THE THREE BEARS

IMG_0010.jpg We retold  the story using our Goldilocks peg dolls (available on my Etsy shop) [note: currently sold out but I’m making more] and dollhouse furniture.
IMG_0009.jpg Big, medium, little sorting activity. We had a huge line of items on the floor that I couldn’t capture in a picture well so I just set up this little sampling. The kids really had fun with this, hunting around toy bins.
IMG_0027.jpg For our poetry tea time we had big, medium, and little bowls of porridge (recipe via The Peaceful Preschool)!

We also read the poems “A Good Little Girl” (A.A. Milne) and “A Good Boy” (Robert Louis Stevenson)

IMG_0012.jpg We acted out the story in a little play house in the woods we have on the camp property where we live. There’s three of us so we just took turns being Goldilocks (my 2 year old needs prompting for this but she’s all in).

THE THREE BILLY GOATS GRUFF

IMG_0106.jpg We read The Three Billy Goats Gruff and G is for Goat (the cutest little A-Z book ever).

We also made a G using grass my son cut (see below) — the kids applied glue to our Letter G printout (from The Peaceful Preschool) with a Q-tip first and then placed the grass.

We also adore the Heather Forest song version for The Three Billy Goats (from Sing Me Story)

Here are our goats: big, middle, little … and we use a dinosaur for the troll!

IMG_0746.jpg TRIP TRAP rhythm stick song: The Three Billy Goats (simplified version) via Jbrary by Dana and Lindsey. I don’t try to memorize these songs in advance when we do them: I just watch the video with my kids and we learn it together and repeat it. We also don’t have real rhythm sticks: we just use unsharpened pencils that I got at the Target Dollar Spot. We also used the rhythm sticks to make the trip-trapping rhythm on our wood bridge.
IMG_0108.jpg Cut some great green grass. A free and zero-setup scissor skills activity! Seriously: this will occupy your scissor-loving kiddo forever.
IMG_0107.jpg Small world sensory bin & invitation to play. I used rocks, blue-dyed rice for water, and grass we collected in the morning from the scissor activity above. We retell the story together but also listen to the audiobook or the story song version.
IMG_8035.jpg Act out the story on a bridge: There’s nothing more satisfying than stomping your feet across a bridge pretending to be a trip-trapping billy goat!

HENNY PENNY

IMG_0497.jpg Act out the Henny Penny story in sequence. The repetition used in this story is so great for memory recall & story sequencing. I think it helps to have the animals for storytelling, BUT don’t spend money for just one story: you could also print out some animal pictures and put them on popsicle sticks and hold them up as you tell the story.

Here’s our Foxy Loxy, Henny Penny, Cocky Locky, Ducky Lucky, Goosey Loosey, and Turkey Lurkey.

IMG_0499.jpg What’s Missing?” game: who did the fox eat? I set up this tunnel from our train track set, called it the fox’s cave, then had my kids close their eyes while I hid one of the birds in the cave and then asked them to open their eyes and tell me who the fox ate. A really simple setup for a game that enhances object + word identification and skill using visual clues for association & identification. You could even hide them in order that the animals appear in the story to enhance the recall of the plot sequencing
IMG_0494.jpg Spell out book-related words using our movable alphabet. These are a free printable from my F is for Farm unit (you can get the full PDF here). We also looked at the hens, roosters, ducks, geese, and turkeys in our lovely Farm Anatomy book.
IMG_0493.jpg In the story an acorn falls from the tree to hit Henny Penny in the head. We counted out acorns on to our number cards. These number cards are from The Peaceful Preschool curriculum and we use them every week.
IMG_0513.jpg Practical life skill activity: dust pan use to clean up acorns.

This wood tray is from Target

IMG_0523.jpg We threaded oak leaves (oak trees make acorns!) in to our stick loom for a fun fall-themed nature study + fine motor skill handcraft activity. We’ve been using our stick looms a lot lately so it was fun to loosely connect it to Henny Penny on the day we read it 🙂

THE LITTLE RED HEN

IMG_0735.jpg Storytelling for The Little Red Hen.

We read through the story together one time with no aids. Then, the second time through I brought all the storytelling aids out: hen, catdog, & mouse, and then a divided tray with wheat seeds (it’s actually pearled barley), wheat plant (a grass plume from our yard), flour, and bread.

The other book pictured is is Alain Gree’s book The Farm which has this awesome page called “The story of bread” that helps reinforce the story of the little red hen making cake from wheat seeds.

We also love listening to and singing along with Heather Forest’s version of this tale (from Sing Me Story).

IMG_0733.jpg Sensory play and scooping & pouring. After baking bread (see below) the kids just played with all the wheat seeds, plants, flour, bread, and bread dough. The kitchen floor was an insane mess when it was over, but they were so engaged and loving it. They were scooping and pouring and smashing to their hearts’ content all morning.
IMG_0734.jpg Wheat learning: wheat seeds (it’s actually pearled barley), wheat plant (a grass plume from our yard), flour, and bread.

I gave my son a tray of the wheat seeds to practice forming the letter H. I love love love our tray for sensory letter writing — it’s deep so it doesn’t spill out easily and small so they form the letters in a reasonable size.

Book pictured: Food Anatomy (the bread pages in this book were also super fun to look at!)

IMG_0737.jpg The kids made their own bread!!

I use the master recipe from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes A Day — it’s literally impossible to get bad bread even if you have zero baking skills! It’s SO EASY. It’s a no-knead dough with only 4 ingredients and take two seconds to prep. The kids can mash the dough and form it in to ANY SHAPE and it will bake perfect and delicious.

IMG_0759.jpg For poetry tea time on this Little Red Hen day, we read two fun hen poems: “The Little Black Hen” from Now We Are Six and “The Clucking Hen” from A Child’s Book of Poems. And, we had some snacks-that-come-from wheat!

THE THREE LITTLE PIGS

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The Three Little Pigs is a perfect H is for House story! We read that book and How A House is Built by Gail Gibbons, and then I set up an invitation to build houses out of straw, sticks, and brick.

This also served as an invitation to retell the story as we went house by house and huffed and puffed to blow the houses down!

Supplies:

  • Three pigs & a wolf
  • Bricks: red stacking block pieces + red play dough
  • Sticks (stack them like Lincoln logs — I didn’t want to use actual Lincoln logs because I thought that would be too hard to blow down!)
  • Straw: I just cut up some ornamental grass plumes from our yard
IMG_0679.jpg Blow pigs off the table with a straw (we used pigs from our Pass the Pigs game since they are little and light)

Blowing through a straw helps strengthen the mouth muscles needed for proper speech. Plus, it’s fun!

IMG_0804.jpg Form the letter H using sticks & bricks! H is definitely easier than G 🙂
Books · Uncategorized

Seasons Picture Books

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Below is a list of fourteen of my favorite picture books that celebrate and show all four seasons. There are a lot of one-season-specific books out there that are equally wonderful, but there’s something so charming to me to have all four seasons represented in one book. We own most of these–I’m that obsessed!

Inside Outside by Lizi Boyd

The illustrations are perfection. This is a story told in pictures only that takes you through all 4 seasons. It has the appearance of a handcrafted book (complete with die-cuts!). We have had this book for years and never get tired of it. Lizi Boyd is my hero.

Seasons by Alain Grée

I’ve recently become OBSESSED with all things Alain Grée! Bold & engaging illustrations and LOTS to explore as the book takes you from Spring to Winter.

Circle of Seasons by Gerda Muller

This book is out of print, but I found it thrifted on eBay. There ARE 4 separate board book versions of this for Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter … BUT, I really love having the one-volume book to read through in one sitting.

ALSO NOTE: the board books do NOT have words but the Circle of Seasons one-volume version does!

Tree by Britta Teckentrup

What’s not to love? Bold illustrations with several fun die-cuts on each page. You view one single tree as it changes through the seasons. I LOVE how this starts with winter, takes you through spring, summer, fall, then winter again, and then spring again — it’s easy to see & feel the full cycle.

Lots of fun little things to hunt for on each page: the spider is our current favorite. And the words are lyrical and rhyming — something young ones can memorize before they can read.

Recently, some Instagram friends put together these absurdly wonderful picture book retell activities for this book. Go check them out.

Around the Year by Elsa Beskow

This little gem has one poem for each month, plus others for days of the week, months of the year, etc. Short but sweet. My absolute favorite to read with the kids as soon as we turn the calendar to a new month!

When Green Becomes Tomatoes by Julie Fogliano

THIS BOOK. I love it! The book is divided in to the four seasons with 12-15 poems for each season. Each individual poem is titled by date and perfectly conveys the wonder & beauty of each season.

AND the illustrations are by the always-stellar Julie Morstad! We use this every week for our poetry tea time.

The Year at Maple Hill Farm by Alice Provensen

A lot of text to these pages but who doesn’t totally love farm animals?? This shows seasonal changes by dividing up farm animal life month by month. Fun to read just a single month at a time or read it through and track various animals.

Toot & Puddle by Holly Hobbie

Toot’s adventures at home track through all of the seasons while Puddle is off adventuring on his own. My personal favorite is “March meant maple syrup” because we tap trees for syrup every winter too! There’s joy to be had in winter!

Seasons: A Book of Poems by Charlotte Zolotow

“Charlotte Zolotow is a legend in children’s books” (Gladys Hunt, Honey for a Child’s Heart)

Another out of print book! There is a newer anniversary version of this called Changes: A Child’s First Poetry Collection (see below) but note that these do not have the same poems as this older copy. I prefer the illustrations in this one as opposed to “Changes” but that one is still lovely!

The poetry in this collection is all by Charlotte Zolotow and perfectly evokes how a child views each season. My kids can feel themselves in these poems rather than feel that an adult is telling them about the seasons.

Changes: A Child’s First Poetry Collection by Charlotte Zolotow

Originally I thought this book was just a reprint of the above Charlotte Zolotow collection, but the poems are actually not all the same (there’s only a couple crossovers)! I will say I like how the poems & corresponding illustrations span the entire page so my kids can track one single poem and view the corresponding picture while we read (rather than get distracted by lots of other illustrations across the page).

Sing a Season Song by Jane Yolen

Jane Yolen … of the Owl Moon variety!!

The illustrations and the poetic rhyming verse take us on a journey through each of the four seasons while celebrating the natural world. Seriously: the illustrations of woodland animals in this book are stunning and engaging. Not too much text per page so this works well for my toddler!

My Four Seasons by Dawid Ryski and Amy Visram

This book was recently published and has such gorgeous minimalistic illustrations. I basically want to frame each page. This tracks one family through the seasons engaging in their favorite activities. I love that this book has a balance of city living + engagement with nature.

Frog and Toad All Year by Arnold Lobel

And absolute all-time favorite. There was a period of time when ALL we read was Frog and Toad and ALL we listened to in the car was Frog and Toad! This one in particular has 5 stories that track through the four seasons. LOVE this, forever. Seriously get the audio versions of Frog and Toad if you are a fan. It’s Arnold Lobel himself reading and they are wonderful!! I sell Frog & Toad peg dolls because we love these characters so much.

Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt by Kate Messner

This book tracks the care of a garden through all for seasons!! It’s filled with a sense of simplicity and peace, which I totally adore. It pairs the work of the gardener to the work of the earth quite beautifully.

 

Books

Books for the Homeschooler

**Updated 4/23/18

There are a TON of homeschooling books and resources out there and much of what you’ll read depends on your goals & dreams, but I thought I’d share the ones that I’ve read and drawn inspiration from.

Nature Books

Books to Inspire Outdoor Play & Learning : Blog Post
  1. Books on why nature engagement matters, which are books to enjoy reading cover to cover
  2. Books with action-steps and specific ideas for creating outdoor play environments  in your own backyard, engaging with the natural world, and cultivating independence in nature
  3. Books for nature study, which means providing a closer look at the natural world, things you may observe and want to explore further as you get out in nature
Nature Journaling Books

*See this blog post for my specific watercolor resources I use to nature journal!

Nature Collections Books

Homeschooling Books

Small Beginnings :  A Homeschool Starter Guide for the Early Years

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Teaching From Rest : A Homeschooler’s Guide to Unshakable Peace

The Read Aloud Family : Making Meaningful and Lasting Connections with Your Kid

The Life Giving Home : Creating A Place of Belonging & Becoming

For the Children’s Sake : Foundations of Education for Home and School

Charlotte Mason Companion : Personal Reflections on The Gentle Art of Learning

The Early Years : A Charlotte Mason Preschool Handbook

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Honey for a Child’s Heart : The Imaginative Use of Books in Family Life

Beyond the Rainbow Bridge : Nurturing Our Children From Birth to Seven

Smooth and Easy Days : Simply Charlotte Mason

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