Sunday, November 23, 2014

Our favorite cookbooks for kids

I am joining again with other kid bloggers for November edition of Poppins Book Nook. The topic this month is To the Kitchen, and I am going to share how kids and books mix in the kitchen for us.
Books in the kitchen - best cookbooks for kidsDisclosure: I am an Amazon associate and this post contains affiliate links. For full disclosure, please click here and thank you for supporting my blog! Clip Art for Poppins Book Nook is by Melon Headz

Reading About Cooking

I always enjoyed the picture books that talk about cooking and feature recipes in the end. Over years, we read many of those. I placed our favorites in my Amazon affiliate widget

Cooking with Cookbooks

While reading all these books with recipes is fun, they don’t necessarily translate into learning to cook. For once, most of the books feature desserts, which we make once a week, if we are lucky. For twice, we often read together after dinner and not before it. However, learning to cook is an important goal in my list of parenting goals and therefore I am always looking for kid cookbooks during library sales and garage sales. Here are two of our favorites (both acquired at library book sales).
Klutz Kids CookingKlutz Kids Cooking is printed on thick glossy paper that is able to take spills and can be consulted directly while cooking. Recipes are neatly divided into Breakfast, Lunches/Snacks, Dinners and Salads, Desserts. Some popular non-edible recipes (play dough, face paint, etc) are thrown as a bonus chapter. The recipes are kid-friendly and accompanied by detailed pictures.  The book (as most kid cookbooks) still assumes grown up participation.
Paula Deen My First Cookbook
Paula Deen’s: My First Cookbook is not as sturdy, but I found the recipes to be more “practical”, and I like that all of them are made “from scratch”, even homemade bread. There is a special section for holiday specials as well as a section about cooking for your parents (with an adult still supervising for younger kids). I see this book to be a more natural first step to independent cooking, but I think we still have a year or two to go before we entrust Smarty to use a stove or an oven without supervision.

Why Reading Cookbooks Is Important for Kids

Learning-to-Cook Even if you are an accomplished cook making recipes from memory or looking them up, I believe it’s important to have cookbooks in the house and to introduce kids to cookbooks:
  • The vocabulary is more defined, which is helpful for beginning or reluctant readers.
  • Kids learn to use abbreviations, fractions, and metric conversion intuitively while doing practical jobs such as measuring their ingredients.
  • There is some math involved when a recipe needs to be scaled up or down.
  • Children feel more involved and have a better understanding how the food comes to our table, especially if parents discuss it with them while preparing meals together.
  • Picky eaters might be more encouraged to try new foods if they select the recipe themselves and help prepare it.

Cooking Around the World

What I love about cooking is that it’s an excellent way to explore the world through researching and preparing ethnic dishes at home. We did it in the past as part of our hands-on geography explorations and also through participation in Around the World in 12 Dishes project. Unfortunately, lately we’ve had too much going on and I had to drop out of 12 Dishes, but we learned some new recipes along the way. And it’s even better when a book and a dish can be linked together, as we did with our Italy study when Smarty was in preschool.

read-and-learn-italyYour Turn

Do you have a favorite recipe book – for kids or for you?

More on Kids in the Kitchen

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Poppins Book Nook
Here are the Poppins Book Nook participating bloggers:
Enchanted Homeschooling Mom ~ 3 Dinosaurs ~ To the Moon and Back ~ Planet Smarty Pants ~ Farm Fresh Adventures ~ Growing in God’s Grace ~ Chestnut Grove Academy ~Learning and Growing the Piwi Way ~ The Usual Mayhem~ Preschool Powol Packets ~Monsters Ed Homeschool Academy ~ Adventures in Mommydom~Teach Beside Me ~ Life with Moore Babies ~ Kathy’s Cluttered Mind ~ Are We There Yet? ~ Our Crafts N Things~Hopkins Homeschool ~ ABC Creative Learning ~ Joy Focused Learning ~ P is for Preschooler ~ My Bright Firefly ~A Mommy’s Adventures ~ Inspiring 2 New Hampshire Children ~ World for Learning ~ Ever After in the Woods ~Golden Grasses ~ A glimpse of our life ~ Journey to Excellence ~ Happy Little Homemaker ~ Little Homeschool Blessings~Raventhreads ~ Tots and Me ~ As We Walk Along The Road ~ Stir the Wonder ~ For This Season ~Where Imagination Grows ~ The Canadian Homeschooler ~ School Time Snippets ~ Peakle Pie ~ A Moment in our World ~Every Bed of Roses ~ Finchnwren ~ At Home Where Life Happens ~ The Library Adventure ~ Embracing Destiny ~Day by Day in our World ~ Our Homeschool Studio ~ A “Peace” of Mind ~ Thou Shall Not Whine ~ SAHM I am  ~Simple Living Mama

Poppins Book Nook Giveaway

Feed Our Small World:A Cookbook for Kids Giveaway! Every month the Poppins Book Nook group will be offering readers a chance to win a brand new storybook or product that ties in with our theme for the month. This month one lucky entrant will win a copy of the book Feed Our Small World: A Cookbook for Kids for the theme of To The Kitchen!
Entrants must be 18 years or older and reside in a country that receives U.S. Postal mail. This giveaway is brought to you by the company Enchanted Homeschooling Mom who is owner and founder of the Poppins Book Nook. By entering this giveaway you are also acknowledging that you have read and agree to all of the Rafflecopter terms & conditions as well as Enchanted Homeschooling Mom's disclosures found here . just enter the Rafflecopter below to win:
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Saturday, November 22, 2014

Week In Review – November 22, 2014

Highlights of the Week

  • Smarty is enjoying her week in Florida with her Papa, aunt, and uncle.
  • I spent my free evenings going through various closets and decluttering.
  • We reached the verdict on the first phase of the trial (guilt), and now started on the second phase (sanity). There is hope that this trial will end before Christmas. In the meantime, I keep balancing my job, my blog, and my jury duty.

Places We Are Going

Busch Gardens A visit to Florida is now a yearly tradition for my husband and Smarty. They meet up with my brother-in-law near Tampa and spend a week shopping, swimming, and going to The Busch Gardens. There was no swimming this time around as Florida weather was unusually chilly, but Smarty is still enjoying her trip and all the extra attention from her German family. She also loves The Busch Gardens, especially since the park was so very empty during this visit.

Best Memory of the Week

Christmas Picture
We took pictures for our Christmas card before my husband and Smarty left and I looked through them one evening this week enjoying all outtakes and thinking how fortunate I am to have this little “accident” in my life. Looking forward to having my daughter and my husband back with me on Sunday night!

Most Popular Post of the Week

Yet again with a big gap, it was a week of 12 Engineering Projects for Kids. My second most popular post was 12 STEM Ideas for Kids Age 5+

Your Turn

How was your week?

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Winter Holiday Books for 4 Year Olds

This post is part of the series in Book Recommendations for Kids by Age and Month of the Year. It has December book recommendations for children who are 4 Years Old. Each book is paired up with additional resources that you can use to extend the story further.
Winter holiday books for 4 year olds with extension activities
My daughter is now 8, and she is a very fluent reader. Very often I hear the same question, What did you do with her when she was little? Well, we read a lot, and I maintained a diary of our reading activities in weekly What My Child Is Reading entries in my blog. I decided to make these reading diaries more useful and create a new series on my blog where I will share our best books for each month for ages 3, 4, 5, and 6. Moreover, I will pair each book with an extension activity – sometimes with ours and sometimes with activities from my creative friends from Kid Blogger Network. For the month of December I decided to focus specifically on the holidays that our family celebrates during this month – Christmas and Hanukkah. In this post I am featuring books that we read in December 2010 when Smarty was 4.
Disclosure: I am an Amazon associate and this post contains affiliate links. For full disclosure, please click here and thank you for supporting my blog!

1. A Baby Born in Bethlehem

A Baby Born in Bethlehem We are a secular family, but we want our daughter to understand and respect religious beliefs of others. This is why our Christmas reading always include some books that focus on Christ’s birth. A Baby Born in Bethelehem is a book from our own library, and we always pull it out before Christmas. I like that Martha Whitmore Hickman stayed very close to the Biblical account, and my daughter enjoy dreamy illustrations by Giuliano Ferri. Usually, we play Nativity story with Smarty reenacting her favorite parts of the story (she loves the visit from Three Wise Kings, because they bring presents).

2. The Littlest Christmas Tree

The littlest christmas tree
In comparison, The Littlest Christmas Tree by R.A. Herman is a very secular book. The tiny tree wishes for someone to take it home and decorate it. However, the time is ticking away, and nobody is interested. The cover sort of gives away the happy ending of this warm story beautifully illustrated by Jacqueline Rogers. Any craft involving mini Christmas trees (pinecone trees, pipecleaner trees, etc.) will work, but this paper plate laced Christmas tree from I Heart Crafty Things looks beautiful and requires lacing – great fine motor practice for those preschool fingers!
Paper Plate Christmas Tree

3. Let It Snow (Toot and Puddle)

Let it Snow
My daughter enjoyed all Toot & Puddle books by Holly Hobbie, and she absolutely loved Let It Snow. Two great friends are together again and trying to find a perfect present for each other. They put both thought and effort into selecting their gifts – a great lesson for my daughter who even now thinks that she can “whip up” a good gift in 15 minutes. There is also a good discussion about special meaning of homemade gifts in this book, and a good extension activity would be to make some homemade gifts. My daughter at that age was more interested in “practical” gifts than in artwork gifts, and in her preschool they made a scrub similar to this lemon-lime sugar scrub gift from Classy Clutter. Adventures in Wunderland has a wonderful roundup of gifts in a jar – making any of them would be a great joint activity for parents and their older preschoolers.
Sugar Scrub Gift in a Jar

4. The Baker’s Dozen

The Baker Dozen
Since my husband is German, Smarty is lucky to celebrate St Nicholas Day on December 6. According to Northern European tradition, the original St Nick is visiting children on December 6 bringing sweets. The Baker’s Dozen book moves action to colonial times of Albany, New York and introduces us to a baker who is very prosperous and exact in his dealings. However, he lacks generosity and never gives his customers anything extra. His luck changes when a mysterious visitor asks for 13 cookies for the price of 12, and the baker refuses. The story is somewhat long for youngest readers, but the illustrations by Wendy Edelson are gorgeous and can be admired for a long time. An obvious extension activity for this book is making cookies, especially iced cookies. This particular edition of the book comes with a recipe and a pattern for St Nicholas cookie. There are so many yummy cookie options to choose from in this gorgeous Christmas Cookies round up from Kids Activities Blog.

5. The Nutcracker Ballet

The Nutcracker Ballet
Now moving on to my own childhood tradition from the former Soviet Union – watching The Nutcracker ballet either on TV or live in our Opera and Ballet Theater in my native Minsk. I took Smarty to see The Nutcracker for the first time when she was 4, and we’ve been going every year since. I already have tickets for our visit this year. Every year we read The Nutcracker Ballet by Vladimir Vagin. I have to admit that the story described in the book is based, I think, on specific Russian production, since San Jose ballet has a completely different story line. Thankfully, the music is still the same, and discussing different takes on the music gets more interested every year as daughter is better able to appreciate the details in the costumes and choreography. Ballet itself is our “extension activity” for this book, but you could listen to it on CD while making this easy clothespin Nutcracker craft from Crafty Morning.
Nutcracker Craft

6. Light the Lights!

Light the LightsI am half Jewish, and we celebrate both Hanukkah and Christmas in our house, both with emphasis on family and friends and not on religion. Light the Lights! is a book that could be written about our family. There is no suspense in the book, just a look at normal family life from a child narrator’s point of view. Growing in the country where both holidays were “discouraged”, it’s reassuring to know that we live in a society where different traditions and blended traditions are accepted as normal. My daughter is equally excited about Hanukkah and Christmas and is hoping that this year she is entrusted to light the candles on the menorah independently. When she was 4, she designed and build this craft stick menorah completely on her own.

More December Books Recommendations

More Booklists For Kids?

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Your Turn

Do you have a favorite Nativity book?

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Can Do Thanksgiving

As any parents, we are trying to teach our daughter to help others. This post is about getting her to take more active role when we, as a family, are making decisions on how to serve.
Getting kids more involved while giving to charities
Disclosure: I am an Amazon associate and this post contains affiliate links. For full disclosure, please click here and thank you for supporting my blog!

Preparing for a Food Bank Drive

Thanksgiving and Christmas offer plenty of opportunities for giving, and we participate in many of them through Smarty’s school and my workplace – donate to shelters, shop for children in need, give money to charities. As Smarty gets older, all these activities are becoming more meaningful to her, and we are trying to get her to make as many decisions on her own as possible, especially when she contributes her own money saved from allowance and money gifts. So when her school announced a food drive to contribute to our local Second Harvest Food Bank, I suggested the following arrangement to my 8 year old:
  • For each dollar she contributes to the food drive, we will contribute $3.
  • She will look through supermarket flyers and select nutritious food to buy – the food that we will donate to the food drive. This led to a good discussion about what our food bank needs most.
  • She will write the shopping list and will do all the shopping while I will provide transportation and supervision.

Great Thanksgiving Book About Giving to Others

Can Do Thanksgiving
While discussing our food drive, we read again a wonderful Thanksgiving book The Can-Do Thanksgiving by Marion Hess Pomeranc illustrated by Nancy Cole. The topic of hunger and homelessness is approached sensitively in this book through the eyes of a girl who contributes a can of food to a food drive and writes her name on it in hopes of finding out where her can goes. She then helps out at a shelter’s Thanksgiving meal and discovers that kids of her age are coming to this feast. Smarty, of course, asked if we could help out in the shelter kitchen as well, but we have my parents coming over for Thanksgiving. However, I will look to see if we can get more involved in our local food bank that accepts volunteers.

Kids Will Feel Needed If They Are Really Helping


I took Smarty shopping for Giving Tree before, but she was not really “engaged” in that effort, since, after all, not a lot was needed from her. The wish was already made, the present did not need to be wrapped. It was just a trip to the store like any trip to pick a birthday present for a friend but even with less opportunity to choose or think. This food drive was different. Smarty was absolutely engaged in choosing food to buy, writing a shopping list, and calculating the total. Then we came to the store, and she forgot all about her shopping list with all the other options on the shelves. She managed to keep herself to the items that the food bank was asking for, but she went way over her initial budget of $20. She ended up spending $40 – also a good lesson on what happens if you don’t stick with your shopping list. But at least this going over budget was for a good cause, and she contributed her own $10 to it.
After we came home, Smarty built this can tower to show Papa her choices before taking them to school the next day. Now she is asking me if we can contribute extra $$$ to the food bank following the same 1:3 approach. We can certainly do that as well Smile

Your Turn

How do you involve your children in serving others?

More on Volunteering

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Monday, November 17, 2014

How to Teach Geography to Young Kids?

We celebrate Geography Awareness week in US this week, and I want to share today our approach to teaching geography at home and my favorite geography resources for young kids.
How to teach geography to children age 5-10
Image courtesy of Jaci XIII, Creative Commons 2.0:

Why Geography Is Important?

Geography through Games
We live in a very interconnected world. It’s up to our children to solve serious problems that our civilization is facing including climate change, dwindling natural resources, and global diseases. They cannot do so without understanding world's diversity, both in terms of its landforms and its cultures, otherwise even the most noble efforts are doomed to failure as proven again and again by age of colonization. I don’t want my daughter to limit herself to immediate knowledge of her neighborhood and her city, even though it’s very important as well, but I want her to see a bigger picture, to know where our food is coming from, where things that we consume are produced and how her actions influence not only her immediate environment, but also the wider world.

Geography on Planet Smarty Pants

Map based geography (i.e. coloring maps) can be boring or incomprehensible to young children who don’t have any sense of scale yet, but even the youngest preschoolers can enjoy books set in different countries or help make dishes around the world. We have done both in our house, since our daughter was about 3. Check out my hands-on geography series on how we are introducing different parts of the world to our daughter including, of course, our own cultures.
Christmas traditions in Russia

My Favorite Geography Resources

I always love reading geography-related posts from other Kid Bloggers. Here are the ones that I particularly enjoy or discovered lately.

1. Kid World Citizen

Becky who writes at Kid World Citizen is an amazing Mom Blogger. Part of her family is biological, and part is adopted from different regions around the world. Not surprisingly, Becky is a gold mine when it comes to teaching kids about different countries around the world. Check out her latest post on weaving around the world!

2. Multicultural Kid Blogs

Multicultural Kid Blogs is a collaborative project by many talented and passionate parent bloggers who are dedicated to the task of raising global citizens. You can learn a lot about the world by following this blog and finding interesting projects to do with your family. For example, you can make Christmas ornaments inspired by different cultures around the world.

3.  Art Curator for Kids

Art Curator for Kids is a blog that I have discovered recently following the links to After School Link Up. Cindy has great art appreciation lessons and printables, and she is running a great series on Art Around the World in November.

4. What Do We Do All Day

Erica who runs What Do We Do All Day seems to be a perpetual guest on my resource lists. She has book lists featuring diverse characters from different countries and origins. With Christmas coming soon, don’t miss her list of multicultural Christmas books.

5. Crafty Moms Share

Carrie at Crafty Moms Share puts a lot of thought and effort into raising her daughter with awareness of different culture.s I love her Fairy Tales from Different Cultures series and her ability to pair up a craft with most of the tales. It’s amazing to see how the same fairy tale changes depending on its origin.
Fairy Tales in Different Cultures

More Geography Resources?

Follow my Pinterest board Geography
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Your Turn

How do you teach your kids about the world diversity?

Geography resources for elementary school, age 5-10
Image courtesy of Jennifer Morton,Creative Commons 2.0:

2014 After School Link Up Hosts

After School Link Up

Share Your Learning Week

We would love to have you link up your School-Age Post (Ages 5 and up) about your after school activities with kids age 5+ including Crafts, Activities, Playtime and Adventures. When linking up, please take a moment to comment on at least one post linked up before yours and grab our after school button to include a link on your post or site! By linking up you're giving permission for us to share on our After School Pinterest Board or feature on our After School Party in the upcoming weeks! Don't forget to follow along and join our After School Enrichment Community.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

DIY “Frozen” Watercolors

Here is a simple screen free activity for the afternoon inspired by Asia Citro’s book 150 Screen-Free Activities for Kids. It truly took us only 5 minutes to start creating with these crystallizing watercolors, and the results were amazing.
Disclosure: I am an Amazon associate and this post contains affiliate links. For full disclosure, please click here and thank you for supporting my blog!
5 Minutes to Set Up - Frozen DIY Watercolors

150 Screen Free Activities for Kids

150 Screen Free Activities Book with Bookmarks from 8 Year Old I was delighted when Asia Citro from Fun at Home With Kids asked me to join a blog tour for her new book 150+ Screen Free Activities for Kids. Asia is a master in creative sensory play, and her ideas are extremely popular in my kid blogger feed. Asia kindly sent me her book for review, but initially I was a little skeptical on whether her screen free ideas would engage my 8 year old who is normally a lot more interested in reading than in any sort of craft activities. I couldn’t be more wrong. My daughter went very carefully through the book marking the pages with multi-color bookmarks and exclaiming, I really want to do this! many times.
Total immersion into Screen Free Activities Book
I was amused to see that she was particularly attracted to some of the messiest activities in the book – perhaps exactly because she didn’t get to do a lot of those when she was younger. In fact, she had commented to me, Some activities in this book say that they are for babies and toddlers, but I still like those things. I still like textures, and I am still drawn to locks (this is a reference to specific activity in a DIY toys section of the book that she is lobbying her father to help her make). I love her enthusiasm, and I also love that, as an older child, she can do many of the activities in this book on her own outside when the weather is warmer. In the meantime, I suggested an activity that appealed to me, because it required very little prep time – Crystallizing Watercolors.


Supplies-for-DIY-Frozen-Watercolors The recipe for these watercolors is very simple. One less common ingredient for them is Epson Salt, but we happened to have it already from making Sparkling Bath Stones. I don’t want to divulge the exact recipe, but normal salt and Epson salt are mixed with a bit of water. The color can be added with either liquid watercolors (I think the color would have been more intense) or food coloring. We chose to go with food coloring.

Painting with Crystallizing Watercolors

Painting with Crystallizing Watercolors
Smarty chose to use only primary colors for her paintings. First she tried to paint a Christmas tree, but colors made with food coloring are usually very light, so she quickly switched to more “process-oriented” art of blending colors with the goal of making backgrounds for future Christmas cards. One troubleshooting tip – our watercolors contained some salt crystals that didn’t fully dissolve in water. This added some interesting 3D effect to the paintings, but the real fun starts when the smooth color dries out. It then crystallizes in a beautiful frost-like pattern and the big crystals sort of take away some of the effect. Next time we will try to make sure all crystals are fully dissolved. And I am sure that there will be the next time, since Smarty wants to make more cards using these watercolors. In fact, she wants to give her best friends cards with the painting on the front, and the recipe for these watercolors in the back.
Crystallized Watercolors

Do I Recommend 150+ Screen Free Activities to Older Kids?

Absolutely. Watching my daughter reading it and discussing it with me made me realize that older kids are not “beyond” process and sensory art – in fact, they can enjoy it on an entirely different level with more independent experimentation than younger kids. If even my non-arty child was so delighted by this book, many other children will probably feel the same.

More Recipes for Play?

From this blog:
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Your Turn

Did you try homemade watercolors?

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Week In Review – November 15, 2014

Highlights of the Week

  • We had gorgeous fall weather and took advantage of it on the weekend.
  • I had 2 trial-free days this week and could catch up with home and work duties.
  • We received a notification that Smarty qualified for California Gifted and Talented (GATE) program.


Newspaper We had our parent-teacher conference this week and received Smarty’s first trimester report. Everything is going very well, and Smarty’s teacher had a lot of positive things to say about our daughter. She stressed that Smarty loves challenges and is able and willing to push herself further by creating her own word problems or writing more than required. It’s amazing for us to see how her writing exploded this year – perhaps all this fine motor skills practice over summer helped her strengthen her fingers. It’s fun to read her work, especially this creative newspaper project that her gifted subgroup did while studying text features.
There was only one area of improvement that her teacher pointed out. To put it simply, it’s ability to listen to multiple view points and not to correct her classmates when their conclusions or reasoning are incorrect. To be honest, this is an area where I am struggling too as an adult, but I have a better filter between my thoughts and my mouth. Smarty has no filter yet, and she can sometimes say mean things without meaning to. Any advice on that would be highly appreciated!

After School

Screen Free Activities
Disclosure: I am an Amazon associate and this post contains affiliate links. For full disclosure, please click here and thank you for supporting my blog!
Smarty spent a lot of time reading and playing with her Lego friends this week, but one afternoon we managed to do a fun project from 150+ Screen Free Activities for Kids by Asia Citro. I will have a blog post about it on Sunday. I have a hunch it’s not the last project we do from this book, since Smarty found several things there that she would really like to try.

What My Child Is Reading

Reading Smarty finally got into the first series of Warriors by Erin Hunter (it comes in two 6-book series, and Smarty accidentally read the second set first). The books are rather long – in Smarty's world it means that it takes her about 2 hours to read one book. Not surprisingly, we are buying most of the books for her on Kindle nowadays, otherwise our book collection would overload our house. However, I snagged the first set of Warriors on the library book sale – it was a great deal for 50 cents a book!

Places We Are Going

Hiking The weather was gorgeous this past weekend, and our friends joined us on the hiking trip. It’s a lot more fun for Smarty to hike with friends her age – they explore and make up their own games as they walk. Smarty’s friend and classmate A (a boy in the picture) also qualified for GATE, so they will be spending even more time together in an after school GATE program provided by our school district.

Favorite Memory of the Week

Pile-of-Leaves-Portrait Smarty might be very intelligent and all, but I am SO glad that she is focusing on what matters – like on making sure she jumps into a leaf pile at least once every fall :)

Most Popular Post of the Week

12 Amazing Engineering Projects certainly rocked this week, because Teach Preschool shared it with her almost 1M Facebook followers. November is shaping up to be a great month on my blog, and I always enjoy new readers and commenters, so thank you for visiting :)

Your Turn

How was your week?

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