Wednesday, June 30, 2010

US History – Independence Day

The Story of America Birthday
Anna is very excited about upcoming Independence Day. Our street celebrates it by a kid-oriented block party that has a lot of good food, bouncing structures, contests for kids and fireworks in the end. Last year she was deathly afraid of fireworks, but this year she is cautiously curious and is looking forward to the event. To learn more about Independence Day we read The Story of America’s Birthday by Patricia The American FlagPingry – she has   a collection of board books like this on different topics, and we read the one about Easter before. I thought that the book was written well enough for a preschooler set, but Anna didn’t like the fact that the Americans made English king angry and then there was a war. Interestingly, flag books suddenly were back in favor since she learned all the words and could read them independently, and she made a lot of comments about American flags. Now she lobbies hard to put one on the house, since we support America, and the flag in my room is too small.
Considering her interest in American symbols, I thought that making a 4th of July winsock would be a good idea. I saw one last year on Our Homeschool Fun. Well, all I can say is that our project didn’t go well at all, mostly due to my poor planning and Anna’s total lack of interest. I wanted to use ribbons instead of tissue paper, and found out rather quickly that I June28_Winsock2have very thick white ribbons and very thin red ribbons.  Then Anna decorated winsock body with stickers all the time wondering how she is going to put this winsock on her foot even though I showed her a completed project first and dumped half a tube of glitter glue on it and around it before I could yell (yeah, I yelled) Stop!!! I had to stop the project at that point to let an unfortunate winsock dry and to do emergency cleanup. I know that it would be good to go back and complete this project, since I am trying to teach Anna that we complete what we started, but so far I’ve been lacking motivation to do so. I wonder if you ever leave guided projects incomplete?
To see more History/Geography for young children, visit a weekly history/geography linky at Children Grow Children Explore Children Learn.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

We Play With Playmobil

image June28_WePlay

Anna is finally interested in dolls – mostly in her Playmobil dolls. Every day during her quiet time (it used to be nap time, now it became time for staying in her room and playing by herself) she constructs various scenes with her Playmobil sets and a couple of small dolls. This particular scene cracked me up because of those two “stunt actors” hanging off the tractor in the back. Anna also explained to me that this is “Farm Fresh” delivery – we are getting a box of local produce twice a month, and I suppose she imagines it to be delivered by a big group of people in a truck.

Come over and play at Childhood 101.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Science Sunday - Touch

I can tell by touching

From time to time we chance upon a science book that fits Anna’s development age perfectly. When we read My Five Senses, she found it too simple while My Own Five Senses was over her head. I Can Tell by Touching is just right, and has a good story and a good vocabulary of sensations one can experience through the sense of touch. I can see how she incorporates what she reads June27_Touch2 through observations she makes unprompted, especially when she is out of the house. For example, she always touches these flowers on the way to the park because they are the fluffiest and softest flowers around, and she observed that grass is soft and prickly at the same time, so it’s a tie. Sometimes it takes a while to get somewhere with all the touching, the holding, the talking about things she finds interesting, but I know that at these moments her little mind learns most.

The book had a small experiment in the end June27_Touch1that explained how our hands are more sensitive than other parts of our bodies. We took turns touching each other and trying to guess what it was and then played “mystery bag” recognizing objects by touch. Anna always enjoys games that have an element of surprise, so she had a great time with this activity. I hope to do more sensory play with her in the summer when  we can take some of the messier activities outside.

For more science for young children, visit Science Sunday at Adventures in Mommydom.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

The School Of Tomorrow – iApps


I don’t have a lot of mom friends “in real life”. My best mom friend happens to be my coworker whose son is 5 now. We talk a lot about our children’s interests and how best to nourish them. We talk about what happens when they go to school. I joke sometimes that Sal will be our “test case” since he starts kindergarten this fall. He reads, writes, draws beautiful pictures and very passionate about technology. I remember him as a not-yet-three year old playing independently on Starfall, building various characters and using a mouse as casually as we do. We are not giving Anna as much exposure to computers yet, but watching her play on my iPod I am telling myself – these devices will revolutionize education as we know it, and it would be silly to deny her access to them. iPad and tablet PCs (when they finally materialize) will rule our children’s world. A lot of classic education is built on memorization and beautiful handwriting, but will those skills be relevant in 21st century? Some of the science fiction dreams of our childhood did come through – we can carry a lot of knowledge in our pocket and ask any question through a few clicks. The real challenge of parents and teachers will be to teach kids how to ask those questions, to teach them to question the answers, to integrate information quickly, to process a lot of data. Both me and my friend are excited to take on this challenge through introducing best of what technology has to offer to our kids fairly early (we both also believe in not introducing any electronic edutainment before the age of 2). However, as I browse iTunes site, I am often frustrated to the point of tears with how difficult it is to find anything unless you know what you are looking for. The number of applications is exploding with many people trying to make a quick buck in the new market place. I found some gems that work for us like Teach Kindergarten, ShapeBuilder and iWriteWords, but I often ask my friend for her advice. That’s why I am excited to tell you about her own brand new website called very appropriately iKids. If you have any of iDevices, hop over and see if any of those applications will appeal to your kids or to the kid inside you.

Question: What kind of iApps or computer games are favorites with your kids? Do you allow them to play as much as you want or limit their time?

PS. I am not an iTunes affiliate at the point of writing this post. I don’t like non-financial and non-government websites asking me to provide them my social security number. I think it’s identity theft waiting to happen, and I hope that Apple will reconsider their affiliate registration process shortly.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

What My Child Is Reading – June 26, 2010

I came back from my business trip at 3:30 am on Friday morning. As usual daughter was asleep surrounded by books and had books on every possible surface in her room. We had a chance to talk a little about her favorite books yesterday, and she asked me to read some of them to her. So here we go:

Toot and Puddle IndiaToot & Puddle are back in favor – my husband got two of them in the library. Anna especially liked Tour of India, and I agree that it’s one of the better books that was written based on the show. I was a little disappointed that she got to read it now, since I was hoping to read it during our India week, but maybe we will check it again, because she clearly enjoyed it. The other book, Get With the Beat would probably work much better as a movie, but she still liked it as well.

What do people do all dayWe have What Do People Do All Day in our home collection, and Anna liked some stories from it last year when I read them to her. Now she suddenly returned to this book for independent reading and it’s her latest “read before bed and fall asleep with” book. I think some of the stories are still over her head, but the illustrations are rather engaging, and she really likes the stories about the mail delivery and bread baking.


Incredible You

 Incredible You is another book that we have in our own library. It is written by a well known self-help author Dr Wayne W Dyer. I read a couple of his books for adults long time ago, and decided to get this book when I saw it in Scholastic catalog. I am not a big fan of illustration style, but the book itself is rather good, and I like the fact that Anna often chooses to read it. It has some very simple but effective advice and focuses on sharing our love and our passions with the world – exactly what I would like my daughter to know how to do one day.

Princesses are not perfect

Our opinions split on Princesses Are Not Perfect, which I got from “new books” shelf in our library. Both my husband and I both really liked this book, but Anna had some comprehension problems, since the story is not simple. I made myself a note to revisit the book in a couple of years – I liked its main message, Nobody is good at everything. I only wish that it would also somehow stress that it’s OK to try new things – when princesses mix things up a bit in the book, the change ends up rather badly. Anna said that the book is silly, because princesses are perfect, and they should be good at everything. Can’t you tell that I have a little perfectionist in the making here?

What are your children reading? Please link up and share – the linky is open all week. I apologize for not being able to visit all the participants from the last week, but I am hoping to catch up this week. You will also get an extra entry for CNS Stores giveaway too!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Week In Review – June 25, 2010

 June25_Scooter This week was essentially a week of “life school” for Anna. It’s been a while since she and papa spent a week without me. They both did well despite the fact that Anna got an ear infection the day after I left. Antibiotics helped her quickly this time, and the rest of the week was rather uneventful. My husband signed her up for a library reading program in the beginning of the week. The goal is to read 40 books over the summer, and he already recorded 22 books over 5 days. No lack of reading motivation here – in fact, Anna keeps saying that reading is what she likes best, and it’s probably true. But she also really took to her new scooter. She got it from our neighbor’s son, and she loves it a lot more than her tricycle She is still getting a hang of it, but I could see today that she is very enthusiastic about riding it. She also said that she and papa practiced math, mostly through baking. She knows now what 1/2 and 1/4 means, and I got a very tasty cake as a special “welcome back” present. Her new plan for life is to become a baker.

I am certainly glad to be home. I am hoping that I overcome a jet lag this weekend, and the life will settle back to our normal schedule quickly.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

I Love to See Online Friendships Taking Off

As I am taking off to the skies today for a long track back home, I want to take a moment to review some great events that happened for me in online world recently.

June3_MariAnn I wrote about it already, but I am still thinking of a pleasure of meeting Mari-Ann from Counting Coconuts when we visited Bermuda earlier this month. When I visit other blogs, I often think of the people behind them and their day-to-day lives. It was the first time when I met a fellow blogger after getting to know them via their blog. And I have a goal of meeting another fellow blogger the next month too, but I will keep it a secret for now :)image

I was also delighted to find my blog featured on Raising Playful Tots Index, especially since I was not familiar with this blog before. I have to say that as a semi-specialist in web-based marketing I have to give Melitsa and Nicole big points for their brilliant marketing strategy – their blog gets a lot more exposure since we are all writing about them, but it also very much deserves it. It’s also exciting to be in the company of truly terrific blogs many of which I know and love.


Finally, Debbie at Children Grow, Children Explore, Children Learn gave me a blog award for best blog friends. I am honored, since I really consider her a friend who is able to provide a “been there done that” perspective on many things that worry me. I enjoy all the bloggers on her list, but I will spread the love and give this award to people who inspire and challenge me:

I hope everything goes well on the way back and I am really looking forward to seeing my family again!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Geography Track – Tel Aviv


azrieli towers I am still on the road visiting my colleagues in sunny Tel Aviv. It’s a beautiful city even though it doesn’t have the same rich history as Jerusalem does. It grows and changes so quickly. I visited it several times over the last ten years, and it’s almost like seeing a child growing in front of your eyes. Tel Aviv is growing taller. A lot of modern towers sprang up in the middle of the city and in the nearest suburbs, and my coworker told me that they plan to build 50 more this year.

There is a big difference with, say, Manhattan – soldiers or policemen checking bags and sometimes  documents every time you enter a big store or a hotel. Tel Aviv had to learn how to stay safe over years of terrorist attacks that took innocent lives. But those senseless acts of violence didn’t dampen Israeli spirit. The streets are full of people at any time of day and night, the restaurants are serving great food from all parts of the world, and people seem to be able to live more in the moment tTel_Aviv_Beachhan in US. I always enjoy seeing my Israeli coworkers – they are positive, energetic, strong and find moments for fun even when they have to work long hours under a lot of stress. Visiting them reminds me that I don’t just work to earn money. I also enjoy the friendships that formed over years and should take more pride in the technology we create even when it’s less perfect that I would like it to be. Even though I slept here very little and worked a lot, I come back refreshed and energized – almost as if I had another vacation. No other business trip has the same effect on me, but visiting ancient land of Israel always does. I just hope that some of this enthusiasm still stays with me after about 18 hours of flying back home tomorrow.

For more geography and history visit History/Geography at Children Grow, Children Explore, Children Learn.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

A Giveaway from CSN Stores

Just before I departed on my vacation CSN Stores contacted me with another great opportunity. Essentially they gave me $100 to spend as I see fit. Well, I thought that it will be great to share this generous offer with my readers, and to give CSN Stores more exposure. So I am offering $50 gift certificate to my readers, and I am going to spend another $50 on the product of my choice. What will it be for me? I haven’t decided yet, but I just love their toys and games. What it will be for you? It’s up to you to decide. Here is how to enter:

  • 1. Visit CSN stores and share your choice with me.
  • 2. Follow me or tell me if you already do.
  • 3. Twit or blog about this giveaway.
  • 4. Participate in What My Child Is Reading linky this week (published June 19) and next week, then add another comment giving you an additional entry.

The giveaway is open to US participants only. The winner will be announced on July 1st.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Science Sunday – Dinosaurs Again


I am trying to focus our science on Anna’s current interests. She still talks a lot about dinosaurs, especially after visiting Museum of Natural History. So I got out one of those packages with foam capsules that was featuring dinosaurs. Anna already did the capsules (of safari animals, I think) with Babushka and Dedushka in New Jersey, so she was a pro. I made water rather warm to speed up the process and she used tongs to get her dinosaurs out. Then we tried to identify them using a set of dinosaur cards that I got at Target last year. I wasn’t sure how well it will go, but she was very interested in trying to figure out which dinosaurs she has.June12_Dinosaurs1 T-Rex is still her favorite, and it was too funny to listen to her holding T-Rex card and a foam T-Rex and telling T-Rex: Let me tell you more about you – you are very big and you are the largest meat eater that ever lived (she read it from the back of the card). Then I pointed to her the place on the card with information about dinosaurs’ diet and she sorted everyone into plant eaters, meat eaters and omnivores. This sorting was completely initiated by her, and she stayed on the task until all the cards were sorted. By the way, I didn’t know that some dinosaurs (smaller ones) were omnivores – I also learned something new during this sort.

Our friend came over for a barbecue that night, and Anna pointed out to a bald spot on our lawn and told him, You know, I think it’s a dinosaur footprint. I predict that it was a meat eater, and you will predict that it’s a plant eater. Then we will be acting like paleo… paleontologists. Who knows, maybe she will be… one day.

To see more science projects from young learners, visit Science Sunday at Adventures in Mommydom.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Happy Father Day


There are very few things that my husband and I disagree on, but one of them is blogging. He doesn’t want his pictures to appear online, so instead I put a picture of his daughter in this post. Everyone says that she looks exactly like me, but I see a lot of him in her. They both love talking, don’t like messes and strive for perfection. They both love hugs and kisses (on their own terms). They both can be stubborn and argue non-stop for what they think is right. They both seem to have an inborn sense of fairness and desire to set up and follow rules. And even though sometimes these two loved people in my life butt heads, they love each other to pieces. Anna is very used to having her papa available since he is the one working part time and taking care of her while I am in the office or traveling for business. But she really misses him when he is not home. In a way, she is a lot more used to separate from me than she is used to being away from her papa for more than a day. That’s why I can travel now with an easy heart even though I would have really loved to be at home for our anniversary and Father’s Day (what was I thinking setting the wedding date for June 17!) I know that Anna is in best possible hands – in the loving hands of her daddy.

PS – Happy birthday, my papa, and happy Father Day! You gave me so much when I was growing up, and I find a lot of you in me too. I still enjoy your opinions and your advice (as long as we are not talking politics :)).

Saturday, June 19, 2010

What My Child Is Reading – June 19, 2010

We read some great books this week due to generosity of Tiger Tales publishing house and to our visit to the library. Here are the best picks.

The Fairy Ball

I was not at all surprised that The Fairy Ball was a solid leader this week. This book came in Tiger Tales package together with another adorable book from the same series –The Birthday Party. Both books are beautifully illustrated, but The Fairy Ball is absolutely problem-free while in the other book the birthday picnic gets rained upon. I think I mentioned before that my daughter loves everything to be problem-free, and I also don’t think that we ever read such a lovely fairy story before. I highly recommend both books and my opinion is not biased by the fact that we received them for review from Tiger Tales.

This Little Piggy

I admit that I was surprised by Anna’s second favorite from Tiger Tales package. When I thought this book, I felt sorry that we didn’t have it two years ago when she was one. It contains all the popular action rhymes (I am a little teapot, Itsy-bitsy spider, etc.) and it’s beautifully illustrated. I thought, however, that my 3.5 year old is “too old” to like this book. I was obviously wrong, since she brings it with her to bed every night and sings the rhymes to her baby doll.

And Shira Imagined

Before leaving for my UK and Israel visit I brought home And Shira Imagined from the library. This book was recommended by Fairion at Lionden Landing. We both enjoyed it a lot. I liked the format of the book – how the pages split between something that happens in modern Israel and something that happens in Shira’s imagination. It also has a very neat twist in the end. Even before I left Anna read it several times on her own, and now, I hope, she can imagine her own scenes with me in them :)

T Math

Tyrannosaurus Math was recommended by Almost Unschoolers – it nicely weaves Anna’s favorite dinosaur into a math story. Some of the math is too advanced for a 3 year old, but Anna liked the ending of the story that showed T Math finding practical application for his math skills. The book doesn’t mince words about T Math and his family gobbling up other dinosaurs, but for some reason Anna is always rooting for meat eaters in the books and movies that we watch.

What are your children reading? Please link up and share. By the way, a giveaway from CSN stores is coming up, and you can get an extra chance to win by participating in WMCIR linky this and next week. The linky is open all week.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Week in Review – June 18, 2010

preschool corner

Anna is 3 years 7 months old


I am writing this review on a plane carrying me to UK. This week started with Anna being really sick – probably she got the same virus that both of us brought from our cruise. We are blessed with a fairly healthy child, and it was very hard for me to see her feverish, lethargic and weak. This picture is taken when I tried to get some Pedialyte into her, and she was fighting against it. Luckily, rehydration worked, and she was even able to start her summer camp on Monday. I am happy to report that she feels a lot better now, and I hope that she will enjoy her special time with papa.

Reading. I am afraid we are running out of bookshelf space in Fancy Nancy Sees StarsAnna’s room again. It doesn’t help that she usually reads about a dozen books at the same time and insists that they have to be where she wants them to be. She always craves new books even though she has her favorites. She enjoyed this Fancy Nancy book a lot – she could read it easily, but it’s by far not the same Level 1 as, say, Biscuit books. We have some fights over long words (like planetarium) – she tends to skip the words that she doesn’t recognize instantly. She is able to read them fine if I make her stop and sound them out.

June14_Measurement Math. Once Anna felt better, we could spend a few minutes here and there revisiting measurements (an episode from Sid the Science Kid helped too). I pulled out a measurement tape, and she wanted to know how many T-Rexes will fit in our picture (about a quarter, maybe?). I also measured her with a tailor tape, because my mom plans to make a sweater for her. It led to an interesting hands-on discussion how in Europe where we come from the length is measured in centimeters and in inches.


Science and social studies. We had dinosaurs in various forms for science – Anna is still very much fascinated with them. I will write more about it in my Science Sunday post. We read books about our flag for history, but this topic didn’t really engage her too much. And she watched a lot of Sid the Science Kid – it’s the only thing that she wants to watch.


Fine Motor Skills. Not a whole lot of art happened here. She grudgingly made a Father’s Day card (I hope she won’t forget to give it to her papa on Sunday), but spent a little bit of time playing with playdoh. She still has no interest whatsoever in writing, but her new preK teacher has assured me that the situation will be much different a year from now. I guess we’ll wait and see.

Creativity/Problem Solving. I love to see “flashes of brilliance” when Anna makes things completely on her own out of available materials. On her first day in a new classroom she told me that there is a house there with babies and high chairs. So during her quiet time she made her own high chair for her doll by turning one of her wooden chairs upside down and propping it against the shelf. She also trapped a hapless “baby” in a “high chair” with a pile of books that she plans to use to teach baby how to read. I thought I have a picture of this, but I guess it’s still on my camera back home.

For more weeks in review, visit Preschool Corner at Homeschool Creations.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

StArt – The Best Pet Ever

The Best Bet Ever Book and Making Pretend PetsThis post was updated in May 2014 with new graphics and resource section. 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 Best Pet Ever Book

 The Best Pet Ever
We were very excited last Friday to receive a big package from Tiger Tales. They generously offered us to review their new releases. All the books were very well produced. In a way, the package came on a perfect day when Smarty was very sick with a nasty virus. All she wanted to do is to lie on the couch and listen to stories, and I read her all ten books in a row. Over several days, some books emerged as her favorites. The Best Pet Ever by Victoria Roberts, illustrated by Deborah Allwright is  an especially sweet book. I was almost disappointed that in the end the main character gets a real pet, because we enjoyed reading about her efforts to make her own pets.

Make Your Own Pet Balloon.

Make a Pet Balloon
Usually I have to initiate a story stretcher with Smarty, but this time she didn’t need any invitation. She immediately picked on the idea of creating her own pet out of a balloon once she recovered from her virus enough to be interested in any story stretchers at all. It’s not clear from the story what kind of a pet this balloon pet is supposed to be. Smarty immediately decided that hers will be a horse and she named him Mike. It was too funny when she mounted her balloon and exclaimed, “Giddy up, horsie! We are homeward-bound!” Seriously, I have no idea where she comes up with expressions like that:)

Pet Balloons Today

This post has been written when my daughter was 3. She is 7 now, and we had several pet balloons staying with us since. One even got to have a birthday party and, unfortunately, popped in the middle of festivities. Here is Smarty’s latest pet balloon:

Your Turn:

What kind of pet would your child has or would love to get?

Making Pretend Pets:

Follow my board Preschool Language Arts.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Geography Track – US History Part 1

F is for Flag
I have decided to spend our June geography time on US in preparation for Independence Day. Unfortunately, this week Anna was less than on board with this theme. We read two books, F is for Flag and Red, White and Blue, but she said that both of them were boring. I think she was upset that she was not able to read them herself because of all the dates and names that are unfamiliar to her. I thought that Red, White and Blue is definitely better for older children, but even I learned a thing or two from reading June14_RedWhiteBlue it. Anna did answer comprehension questions correctly – like what is the difference between the first flag and the flag of today or why we have 50 stars on the flag, but somehow the whole thing clearly bored her to tears. She enjoyed her red, white and blue snack even though we had a big fight about the amount of whipped cream she is supposed to have on it. I hope that she is going to be more interested in The Scrambled States of America that I am saving until my return from travels. 
Speaking of travels, I am on my own personal geography track starting today. It’s all work-related, but I am flying first to UK and then to Israel and returning back to the States late next Thursday. I love to write “live” posts, but I think I have enough “canned” material, so I can keep blogging on the road. I can’t wait to be back with my family though!
For more ideas on history and geography for young children, visit History/Geography at Children Grow, Children Explore, Children Learn.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Race to 100 – Get Moving

Race to 100 from Afterschool for Smarty Pants  This post was refreshed on February 7, 2014 with new graphics, text and links.

Introducing New Concepts Through Games

I find it easy to fall into a teacher’s role even though I am not a teacher by trade. In fact, daughter once told me reproachfully, Don’t teach me, Mama. Play with me! She resists anything that looks like a test to her – in fact, she even deliberately gives wrong answers sometimes and watches for my reaction hoping that I will “give up”. She is a lot more receptive when I suggest a game to her, especially if this is a game that doesn’t require her to do any writing or drawing.

One Hundred Board for Preschool?

I understand that introducing 100 board at the age of 3 and a half might look really early to some, but Smarty was always an early learner, and she already recognized two digit numbers and was able to count to 100. However, my earlier attempts to get her to count on from a certain number to another number using a hundred board were not successful even though we spent some time looking at it. Or, rather, Smarty was ignoring me while I tried enthusiastically to explain 100 board patterns.

How to Play Race to 100 ?

Race to 100 Setup 
1. Download a set of action cards from Teach Mama and print them (I also modified a few of them a little bit).
2. Each player rolls a dice, pulls an action card, reads an action on the card (my daughter could read them on her own) and repeats the action as many times as the roll of the dice indicates.
3. A player moves a game piece on a hundred board, and reads a new number out.
4. The first player who reaches 100 wins.


Race Outside
Despite being in a cranky mood, Smarty really got into this and was giggling happily when she got “flap your wings” and “wiggle” cards. Suddenly a “boring” 100 board was not so boring any longer, and she called out the numbers without any effort and any “pretend mistakes”, since she didn’t think about this step as a focus of this game.

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