Saturday, July 26, 2014

The Week In Review–July 26, 2014

Highlights of the Week

Mystery Project

  • Smarty is enjoying her two weeks of “staycation”. My husband is staying home with her, so she can attend 2 weeks of a swim class. They both slipped into a “wake up late, start the day slowly” mood, and enjoy their unstructured days.
  • Smarty’s Papa planned a big project for them to do, and you can try to guess from this picture what that might be.
  • I was very busy at work, but my highlight of the week was meeting several of my bloggy friends from Kid Blogger Network who were in town for a big blogging conference BlogHer.

What My Child Is Reading

Reading on the Table

Smarty loves to read in unusual places. She is a “bathroom reader”, but she also loves reading sitting on top of tables. I don’t think she read anything new this week, still rereading yethttp://www.planetsmarty.com/201the-week-in-review-july again Percy Jackson and her favorite parts of Harry Potter.

Places We Are Going

Redwood Forest Ranger Walk

Last Sunday we went to one of our local state parks, and we were there just in time for a guided ranger walk. It was very interesting to learn more facts about California pride – redwood trees. Smarty asked one thousand questions during this walk, and everyone kept telling her how smart she is. I always feel awkward in these situations – on one hand, I know that every child needs positive feedback, but, on the other hand, she already has a somewhat inflated opinion of herself, and this positive feedback just adds fuel to this fire.

Most Popular Post

My very popular post 12 Amazing Engineering Projects for Kids has finally lost its lead this week to August Books for 2 and 3 Year Olds. It’s my third month of doing this series, and it’s enlightening to see that people are most interested in book picks for that age and then for 5 year olds.

August-Books-3-Year-Olds

Your Turn

How was your week?

Friday, July 25, 2014

6 August Books for 4 Year Olds

This post is part of the series in Book Recommendations by Age and Month of the Year. This post has August book recommendations for children who are about 4 years old. Each book is paired up with additional resources that you can use to extend the story further.
August Books for 4 Year Olds with Extension Activities
My daughter is now 7 year old and 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. In this post I am featuring books that we read when Smarty was 3.5 years old.
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. Get Busy, Beaver!

Get Busy Beaver
Smarty saw the Hoover Dam in our landmarks collection and was very fascinated by it. We learned more about how dams are made, which also led to learning more about beavers and their homes. We read several fiction and non-fiction books about beavers including Get Busy, Beaver! by Carolyn Crimi. It’s a charming story about a dreamer who doesn’t respond well to Fast, fast, fast! and Chop, chop, chop! requests from his family. I know one beaver like that in my own family! We tried (not very successfully) make a dam in our sand and water table outside, but Adventures in Mommydom had a better idea in her homeschool science study of beavers – her kids built a dam inside out of pillows and blankets.
build-a-beaver-dam-activity

2. The Brother Grimm’s Fairy Tales

Brothers Grimm
We were stopping in Germany on our virtual journey around the world during that August 2010. Smarty’s Papa is from Germany, so she enjoyed learning a little more about it. Since we couldn’t find a good book about modern Germany or a non-seasonal book about Germany, we were reading through some of milder fairy tales of the Brothers’ Grimm and did other hands-on activities to go with Germany mini country-study.
PVC German Castle

3. The Greedy Triangle

The Greedy Triangle
Whether your preschoolers have already mastered their shape or still learning them, they will enjoy The Greedy Triangle by Marilyn Burns illustrated by Gordon Silveria. Marilyn Burns masterfully weaved together a math lesson and a character building story about wanting to be someone who you are not and eventually discovering your strengths. At the beginning Smarty was spooked by a Shape Shifter character in the story, but he was not doing anything evil, so she eventually warmed up to the book, especially since it introduced several new shape vocabulary words to her. I tried to do an art project with her for this book, but she was feeling very minimalistic that day. Teaching Mama’s son, on the other hand, created this fun triangle character out of pre-cut shapes:
Greedy Triangle

4. The Kissing Hand

The Kissing Hand
Many children start preschool in August or early September. They might have natural worries about leaving the world they know and separating from their loved ones. I could have chosen any number of excellent books dealing with the first day jitters, but The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn is my favorite. This book is so well known that I won’t summarize it here. We still have a nightly kissing hand ritual with my 7 year old, and you can give your child a kiss to take with them by making this fun Kissing Hand Craft from No Time for Flashcards.
Kissing-Hand-craft

5. Rabbit Food

Rabbit Food
Do you have a picky eater? I was one myself and have one now. Smarty does NOT like most vegetables, just like Bunny John in this funny tale of picky eating. It does get better with age – now I eat everything, and Smarty is expanding her diet as well. But in this story Uncle Bunny gets a picky eater to dig into veggies by making sure he is properly hungry. How does he do it? Read the book to find out. You can also try to lure your picky eaters by beautifully prepared food – for example, this Tulip Garden from Kiddie Foodies looks harder to make that it actually is (the post offers a tutorial on how to make it).
Tulip_garden_main

6. Ruby Bakes a Cake

Ruby Bakes a Cake
By August 2010 Smarty was able to read early readers by herself. She was 3 years 9 months old then and she really enjoyed Ruby Bakes a Cake by Susan Hill. In the book Ruby Racoon consults with her friends on her cake recipe. Smarty giggled excitedly imagining how this cake would taste. I recently found a perfect extension activity for this book – a tasty science activity from Inspiration Laboratories – making a cup cake in the microwave and then trying to change the recipe and see how the results are affected by the changes.
microwave-cake1

More August Books Recommendations

More Booklists For Kids?

Follow my Pinterest board Best Children Books Booklists.

Your Turn

What is a favorite book of your preschoolers right now?

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Helping Children Know Their Heritage

I’m very excited to be a part of the Read Around the World Summer Reading Series from the Multicultural Kid Blogs. You can travel around the world through different books and explore different countries and cultures. I chose a book to share that really appealed to me as a first generation immigrant – a book about remembering and honoring your heritage.
Books to Talk About Your Roots
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!

The Blessing Cup by Patricia Polacco

The Blessing Cup
Patricia Polacco is one of my favorite picture book authors, especially for older kids. She is not afraid to tackle very difficult themes in her books, and her illustrations have an amazing level of details. We read several seasonal books by Patricia Polacco that are set in Russia – I especially want to recommend Uncle Vova’s Tree for Russian Christmas and Rechenka’s Eggs for Easter. The Blessing Cup book and its sister The Keeping Quilt explain Patricia Polacco’s interest in Russian culture. Her family on her mother’s side came over from Russia somewhere in the early 20th century. The story of The Blessing Cup gives an account of this personal Exodus.
Read-Around-the-World-Russia
Patricia’s ancestors lived poor but content in a small Jewish village in mainland Russia enduring occasional pogroms fully supported by Russian tsar and his government. The book basically starts with one of those events and with burning of Jewish synagogue which prompted my 7 year old to think that the book is set in times of Holocaust and the Nazis (she learned about Holocaust from The Story of the World). Alas, anti-semitism in Russia and in the rest of Europe did not start or end with Holocaust, and it’s very disturbing to see it raising its ugly head now in the “enlightened” countries such as France. But… I digress. The good part about The Blessing Cup that it’s not a story of horror and suffering, but a story of hope and friendship that came from an unexpected place. Patricia describes how a Russian doctor helped her family, gave them shelter, nursed her father back to health and eventually sold his own heirloom to pay for their passage to America. This story reminds us how connected we are and how small miracles can happen every day, especially if we reach to others for help.
What about the Blessing Cup itself? You will learn about it when you read the book! Despite some scary moments, it is also OK to read as a read-aloud to younger children, but it will be better understood by kids age 6 and higher.

The Blessing Cup Story Extension

Some time ago I won Horizon Pottery Wheel set in a giveaway at P is for Preschooler. The reviews at Amazon for this product are pretty damning, but it isn’t as bad as they would lead you to believe. This pottery wheel is now for sale on Amazon for only $10, and it’s a good price to get it. I do agree with review statements that clay that came with a set was of poor quality – it was dried to brick consistency when we opened the box – luckily we had some Crayola Air Dry clay left to try our wheel out. Once we had workable clay, the wheel worked fine. It has an A/C outlet, but comes without an A/C adapter or batteries – again, luckily, we had an extra A/C adapter available. Smarty was really excited to try her hand at real pottery and did reasonably well for the first try.
Pottery Wheel
Some of the reviewers said that the age range for this toy needs to be bumped up, but I think even older kids would need a lot of practice to produce better pottery on any wheel. Pottery is a tricky business, as we now found out, but Smarty loved the experience, so we will watch some YouTube videos and try it again soon.

Family Heirlooms

Heirloom
Reading The Blessing Cup story made me think about our own journey to America, since my husband and I are both first generation immigrants. He came here from Germany to work with an intention to go back in a couple of years (that was more than 10 years ago!) and still has family and possessions in Germany. My parents and I came here as refugees with a couple of suitcases. My biggest hairloom is this set of earrings that belonged to my grandmother. She was a Russian marrying a Jew (and her aunt who raised her approved the marriage, by the way). I am hoping that my daughter will eventually inherit these earrings from me with a story about her roots in Russia and Belarus and a story of my journey to America.

Your Turn

Do you have a family heirloom? What is it?

More Countries and Culture Posts?

Follow my Geography Pinterest board and Hands-On Geography series
Check out the rest of Read Around the World Summer Series at Multicultural Kids Blogs.Read Around the World Summer Reading Series - Multicultural Kid Blogs

Monday, July 21, 2014

July Science Ideas for Kids

Do you have a child who is more interested in science than in arts and crafts? In this post I am sharing several great science and engineering ideas that will delight your kids.
Planet Smarty Pants: July Science Ideas

Science at Planet Smarty Pants

Making a bouncing ball
Smarty had a “science week” in her Y camp last week. She loved her field trip to California Academy of Science in San Francisco and to local The Round Pizza where kids could see how pizza is made. Camp counselors also showed kids several science experiments including homemade bouncing balls. Smarty came home and begged me to make one with her. First she wanted to just randomly mix the materials and see what happens, but I explained to her that for this experiment it is actually quite important to know how much of what you need.
Silly Putty
Honestly, this experiment looks a lot messier in real life than it does on other people’s blogs! It also seems that you need to get ratios exactly right. At least we ended up with silly putty and not with slime, and Smarty had a lot of fun with this chemistry experiment for kids.

Science From After School Participants

Now let’s see what others did this week:

1. Ashley from Life with Moore Babies was a guest on Enchanted Homeschooling Mom where she gave a tutorial on making sun catchers from gelatin. I’d say that this takes messiness level a notch higher than bouncing balls and is definitely a parent-led project, but kids can help with making their DIY sun catchers (also known as window clings) colorful and glittery and deciding where to put them up.
Gelatin Sun Catcher
2. Mary Warner, a guest at In the Playroom contributed a tutorial on making classic plastic wrap parachutes.
Parachutes from In the Playroom
3. Navigating by Joy introduceds a complex matter of atom composition through food. These atomic pancakes look like so much fun!
Water-molecule-pancakes
4. My co-host The Measured Mom shared a great post about planning science activities for children 3-7 years of age and introducing scientific method.
how-to-plan-science-activities-for-kids-ages-3-7
5. There’s Just One Mommy made a DIY water wall with her kids. I tried to talk Smarty into making one, but she said that this is “for little ones” Open-mouthed smileI think it’s so much fun for kids of any age, especially if they play together.
DIY Water Wall from There's Just One Mommy
6. I love child-led projects. Inspiration Laboratories described how her son wanted to invent a bouncing ball dropping machine and how she met him halfway in this creative challenge. That’s really what it means to encourage your child thinking without taking over an entire thing. Definitely recommend checking this post out.
Inventing a Bouncy Ball Machine

More  Science for Elementary School?

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2014 After School Link Up Hosts

Share Your Summer Learning Week

School might be over, but lifelong learning never stops. We would love to have you link up your School-Age Post (Ages 5 and up) about your summer learning including Crafts, Activities, Playtime and Adventures that you are doing to enrich your children's lives. 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.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

The Week In Review–July 19, 2014

Highlights of the Week

  • Watching-World-CupLast Sunday we watched Germany win the World Cup in soccer and celebrated their victory.
  • I picked up a very intense project at work, we’ll have to see what it will do to my blog life.
  • Smarty’s theme in her Y Camp was Chemical Chaos with a field trip to SF Academy of Science museum and a trip to Round Pizza to see how pizza is made. She loved this week of camp!
  • We had a playdate with one of her best friends and his younger sister. The kids didn’t see each other for a while but picked right where they left off – it’s great to see that this friendship is still going strong. Hoping that they are put in the same class this year (they were in different classes last year).

What My Child Is Reading

Reading 101 Kid Activities
Smarty is mostly rereading her favorite parts of Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson series… again! She also went through two first chapters of 101 Kids Activities book by Holly Homer and Rachel Miller trying to decide what she wants to do. So far nothing really spurred her to action, but I have high hopes for the next two chapters (Games and Science). Our weekly books are placed in my Amazon affiliate widget.

Places We Are Going

Castle RockAnother highlight of the week was that we renewed our California State Parks Pass with the goal of going on hikes more often. We found the way to make hiking more interesting for Smarty by adding special photography stops on the way. Last Sunday we went to our closest and most favorite state park – The Castle Rock.
Favorite Memory from This Week
Rock Climbing
Me: I slept like a log last night.
Husband: You were a very loud log.
Smarty: Maybe it was a log with a frog on it.

Most Popular Post

Yes, 12 Amazing Engineering Projects is still most popular, but my newer post The Gift of Doing Nothing saw some traffic this week driven partially by Teach Mama sharing it on her Facebook page.
Gift-Doing-Nothing

Your Turn

How was your week?

Friday, July 18, 2014

6 August Books for 2 and 3 Year Olds

This post is part of the series in Book Recommendations by Age and Month of the Year. This post has August book recommendations for children who are 2 or 3 years old. Each book is paired up with additional resources that you can use to extend the story further.
August Book Picks for 2 and 3 Year Olds with Extension Activities
My daughter is now 7 year old and 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. In this post I am featuring books that we read when Smarty was 2.5 years old.
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. Rainbow Fish

The Rainbow Fish
It’s still summer! Perfect time to read stories set in the mysterious underwater worlds. My daughter loved Marcus Pfister’s Rainbow Fish series that slip some value lessons in beautifully illustrated stories. Here is a round up of amazing Rainbow Fish art projects for preschoolers from my blog including our own take on this character.
Rainbow-Fish-Projects-For-Kids

2. A Day at the Airport

A Day in the Airport
Many families are flying this summer. It’s so exciting (and can be a little scary!) to be in the airport for the first time. Richard Scarry introduces a charming world of the airport that might be a little outdated, but that makes it even more interesting to read this book. Older kids can compare and contrast Richard Scarry’s airport to the airports they know. They can also make this adorable cardboard airport from One Time Through for themselves and for their younger siblings – the post has a detailed tutorial.DIY-Airport from One Time Through

3. Where Are You, Blue Kangaroo?

Where are You Blue Kangaroo
2 and 3 year olds are giving up their toddler habits, but they are hopefully keeping their favorite stuffed friends. A Blue Kangaroo from Where Are You, Blue Kangaroo is very worried about being left behind by his easily distractible owner, so he decides to make sure it doesn’t happen. An entire Blue Kangaroo series by Emma Chidester Clark is adorable and worth a read. And if you are interested in building responsibility in toddlers and preschoolers, Teachers of Good Things has some great advice.
Teach Toddlers Responsibility

4. My Preschool

mypreschool
My daughter started in daycare when she was a little over 2, but we were moving her to a “real” preschool in August 2009. She was a little apprehensive about that as many other kids are. Preschool is such a big step, and it’s good for children to know what to expect. My Preschool gently goes over the events of a typical preschool day and reassures children that Mom or Dad will come back for them once this day filled with fun activities comes to an end. If you are preparing to send your child to preschool for the very first time, you might want to think of a fun way to make this first day special. Teaching Mama offers 4 ways to celebrate the first day of preschool – I love this ABC pancakes idea!
ABC Pancakes from Teaching Mama

5. Elmer

Elmer
We loved Elmer series by David McKee. It sends such a strong message about individuality, friendship, and respecting individual differences. I think each child should read this series and then reread Elmer books in elementary school, especially while trying to fit in. The Imagination Tree shows us how a recyclable milk jug can transform into an amazing craft if you apply some imagination and creativity. It is certainly a parent-led project, but her Elmer is beautiful, durable, and can make a great gift.
Elmer-elephant-milk-jug-craft

6. Penguin Post

Penguin Post
Again, I am including a longer book for young kids who can sit still for a while. My daughter and I both enjoyed adorable Milo from Penguin Post by Debi Gliori. We read it many times discussing the packages that Milo delivers. There is also a fun twist in the end of the book. This book will be especially appreciated by the children waiting for a new sibling. A great extension for this book is playing post office. It can be a free play set up by your children or you can get your children to practice their letter recognition skills as they play with this great pretend play with letters from No Time for Flash Cards.
Alphabet Mail from No Time for Flash Cards

More August Books Recommendations

August Books for 4 Year Olds – coming up next week

More Booklists For Kids?

Follow my Pinterest board Best Children Books Booklists

Your Turn:

What are your favorite books about starting preschool?

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