Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Bugs, Bugs, Bugs…


My daughter loves bugs, worms and snails. She loves reading about insects and she is not in the least squeamish about handling them. She always tries to feed her insects and snails by preparing them “tasty salads” and cannot understand why they always try to scoot away from her.  I have to say that I don’t necessarily share her enthusiasm. I dislike spiders most, but big bugs don’t really make me happy either, especially if they look Insect World like cockroaches. But I am trying to suck it up for my daughter’s sake and encourage her interest in living things. I do draw a line at her desire to bring bugs inside, and hope that her wish for the spider in her room so she can watch it spin its web will not come true. One of her favorite books recently is Insect World from A Child’s First Library of Learning. Seriously, this series is awesome – I think they should reprint it. I am learning a lot of new things about insects from Anna now.


When I asked Anna which bug is her favorite, she said immediately, Firefly! So I thought that it would be nice to make one. In fact it was kind of “2 in 1” craft – first we made a butterfly with a coloring page and a craft stick. Anna reluctantly went along after I promised to her that in the evening this butterfly will “magically” transform itself into a firefly. And it did… with a help of a glow stick and a rubber band. Very exciting craft, especially since it officially delayed bedtime by about 30 minutes :) This craft could also work with fictional books like The Very Lonely Firefly.

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Monday, March 28, 2011

How to Create a “Masterpiece”

Art Treasury
As long-time readers of my blog know, my daughter is not very "artsy-craftsy”. She’d rather read – anytime, anywhere, anything. But we’ve been reading some good books about art and drawing lately, and she’s been interested in trying something on her own. We are both loving The Usborne Art Treasury by Rosie Dickins that I brought from the library. It has two page spreads for 22 different artists and styles. One page spread has an information on the artist, style and a little bit about an artist. Then the next Mar26_Paint1 page spread has a project. The very first project in the book is Van Gogh, and Anna was immediately taken by the idea of adding glue to the paint to make it thicker. She practically begged me to do this project first. I did several things to help her be successful with her masterpiece:
  • 1. Not rushing it - we did it on a Saturday morning when both she and I felt rested, energetic and relaxed.Mar26_Paint2
  • 2. Using good acrylic paints and thick cardstock paper helped Anna to feel that this project is really special.
  • 3. I sketched landscape features and painted division lines between colors, so she could remember which color will go where.
  • 4. I gave her many brushes, so she could paint different colors with different brushes. This helped to keep colors bright, since 4 year olds are not known for thorough rinsing and drying of their brushes .
  • Mar27_Masterpiece 5. Focus on fun parts – like using a plastic fork and the other end of a paintbrush to make swirls in the paint.
  • 6. Quit while you are ahead. At some point I gently separated Anna from her masterpiece before she could “improve” on it any further.
  • 7. Frame and display to encourage more artistic expression – Anna is all excited about the perspective to have her own art gallery eventually :)
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Saturday, March 26, 2011

What My Child Is Reading – March 26, 2011

As always, it was a busy reading week. Two big chapter books are still Tonight on Titanic that Anna keeps reading on and off and Jenny and the Cat Club. We also read a variety of fiction and non-fiction.

You Read to Me

We own the original You Read to Me by Mary Ann Hoberman, and Anna was thrilled when I got Fairy Tales sequel in the library. We read it together as designed, and it was interesting to see how her reading-aloud fluency took off. There was time when she was switching to reading silently and unwilling to read aloud, but now she reads with expression and good speed even when the book is new to her. I also really like the stories themselves – very creative take on classic fairy tales.

A Bad Case of Stripes

Anna: I recommend this book because the girl looks very colorful and strange.

Me: I saw A Bad Case of Stripes by David Shannon on many blogs before, and finally caught it in the library. To be honest, I wasn’t sure whether the story was scary or funny. Daughter, however, decided that it was funny, and was not even put off when the main character merged with her room. The story does send a good message about being yourself even though I keep thinking that so many problems could be avoided by simply having uniforms in schools.

Archaelogists Dig for Clues

Anna: I recommend this book because kids are digging and finding things from the past. I learned how to make a needle. My favorite part is when they dug up a skeleton.

Me: … And then she made me read Archaelogists Dig for Clues by Kate Duke to her (she already had it on her shelf for two weeks). It took about an hour, since the book is quite long and there are a lot of cartoon bubbles on each page. But it is a really great introduction to archaeology, and I learned quite a lot from it myself.

Squeaking of Art Anna: I recommend this book because it makes me think of my own art. My favorite page is with children playing because I want to learn all their games.

Me: Squeaking of Art by Monica Wellington was definitely my own favorite of the week. Imagine going to the museum that has some of the most well known works of art, but they are subtly modified to be more suitable for the eyes and tastes of young children. They are also neatly arranged into categories – landscapes, portraits, abstract art, and each category is explained. The book also offers some engaging questions about the pictures. Anna and I spent hours looking at the book and talking about the pictures. I am planning to buy this book soon, because I am sure that it will “scale up” nicely as Anna grows older.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Week In Review – March 25, 2011

Anna is 4 years 5 months old. It was a very rainy and gloomy week, and we all have a bit of a cabin fever by now. We even had a very unusual event – hail. Unfortunately, Anna was in school when it happened. Hopefully hail didn’t kill her herbs that are taking their sweet time to sprout. Appropriately enough, Anna’s theme in school was weather. It was one of those weeks when I had more plans than energy to actually execute them at home. On the positive note, Anna had a blast with papa – preparing another garden patch for her future watermelons (they sprouted successfully!) and simply playing with him. It’s fun to watch these two cuddling and laughing together.
Math and Logic. Anna loves laying her hands on my iPod when she gets a chance. I was excited to download a very first free iPod game created by my “real life” friend Cat. It’s called Sticker Sudoku, and it’s a really neat introduction to Sudoku. It’s pretty challenging for Anna, but she seems quite taken by the game. In fact, she rejects all my attempts to explain her some strategy points insisting that she wants to do it on her own.
Arts and Crafts. It was somewhat more “artistic” week in the house. We got Melissa and Doug stamp pad and tested it by trying out some fingerprint art from Ed Emberley’s Fingerprint Drawing Book. Anna had fun with this activity at first, but got tired from copying the designs pretty quickly. Unfortunately, she is not a person who quickly transitions from a guided activity to “free form” – she was disappointed when her creatures didn’t look quite like the ones in the book. Still it was an interesting project to try.
Meet the Orchestra
Music. We read an interesting book this week called Meet the Orchestra. The book described the orchestra instruments pretty well, but didn’t have a CD with it. DSO website came to rescue and we listened to all the instruments described in the book. Then I tried to get Anna interested in watching a little bit of Fantasia 2000, but she deemed it the famous “Sorcerer’s Apprentice” too scary and asked to turn it off. We discussed which instrument she would like to play. She said, Cymbals, because they are the easiest to learn.
Play. Every day Anna complains that she didn’t have enough time to play with me. Her idea of playing together usually consists of having me choose what we are going to be doing. The things that in her mind qualify as “play” are usually throwing balls, tickling and pillow fights. I personally think that she needs more exercise! Our best playing time this week was building and playing Titanic.
  • Mar21_Rocket Quote of the week: Anna: How do we know that George Washington really lived?
  • Me: Because we have a lot of things written by him and by people who actually knew him and even have his portraits.
  • Anna: But maybe we just know him because his face is on a dollar bill?

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

We Play Titanic


Our current listening selection in the car is Magic Tree House – Books 17-24 (it just happened so that this particular compilation was available from the library). Anna was extremely fascinated with the first book in these group – Tonight on the Titanic. I doubt that she would have chosen to read a book without listening to it first, but once she listened to the story she asked for both a book and a non-fiction research guide. She quickly read through both of them and asked very Mar21_Titanic1many questions. Mostly she was interested in why everyone  thought that this ship cannot sink, why there wasn’t enough lifeboats for everyone and why people couldn’t “just swim to safety” if they had life vests. She was also interested in whether people on Titanic had flashlights, and this sent us to the computer to see when flashlights were invented. She said that the story is pretty sad, but she was up for “correcting the errors of the past” and Lifeboat drillbuilding her own Titanic. As you can see, it’s pretty safe – with a lot of life boats and even a police boat nearby to save everyone. She called the police boat “Carpenter” – this is how she read “Carpathia” in Titanic Research Guide. Anna brainstormed several ideas of placing lifeboats on top  of her Lego Titanic, but eventually gave up on them – just like real Titanic builders. But she made sure to conduct a lifeboat drill and even saved the table from Titanic to have a feast later.

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Monday, March 21, 2011

A Rainbow Theme Day

The Rainbow and You

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Theme Days

Smarty’s preschool has themes every week, so I have not done a “theme day” at home in a while even though Smarty really enjoyed them. To be honest, it’s not easy to pull them off while working full time, and daughter is usually too tired in the afternoon to really enjoy them. However, last Wednesday I decided that we would have a rainbow day (or, rather, a rainbow late afternoon) in honor of St Patrick’s Day.

A Rainbow Xylophone


When I picked up Smarty from school, we started with a rainbow snack from various fruits and followed with a science experiment. I first thought of doing a density rainbow, but decided in the end to do it when Smarty is older and understands this experiment  better. So we just went with a colorful rainbow xylophone. Smarty was delighted to mix food coloring and try different melodies on her xylophone, but I think we would need a taller and narrower glasses to really hear a difference in tone.

Rainbow Painting


It was a warm day, and we went outside to paint a rainbow heart on the paper heart dollies that were left over from Valentine’s Day. Smarty was delighted to be able to try new Crayola watercolors, and they are so much better than cheap variety. She enjoyed trying different colors on her hearts, but quickly switched to her favorite medium – stones. Eventually, she was done, and we watched Sid the Science Kid episode about rainbows. In the episode they used a prism to produce a rainbow, but we looked at the rainbow on CD surface instead.

Rainbow Toast


We even managed to have rainbow for dinner by making rainbow toast. Smarty was very happy to get her hands on food coloring twice in one day and whip up some edible “paint”. Suddenly plain toast was magically transformed into something more desirable, and she ate two pieces of it.

A Book About Rainbows

The Rainbow and You Book

Of course, the theme day would be incomplete without a book. We read The Rainbow and You by E.C. and R.R. Krupp. Illustrations worked really well for our theme day, but the story itself got a little too detailed for a 4 year old in the last third of the book. I found it interesting that both this book and Sid the Science Kid episode described a rainbow with seven colors. In many children’s books we saw rainbows with six colors, which was unusual for me, since “Russian” rainbows have 7 colors as well. Daughter chose to read the book many times since then, and I spied her writing ROY G BIV and drawing her own rainbows one day.

More Resources for St Patrick’s Day

Saturday, March 19, 2011

What My Child Is Reading – March 19, 2011

Anna has been reading a lot on her own lately, and often I don’t have a lot of “visibility” into her favorites. So this week we played a game. I asked her to be a librarian and “recommend” some books to me. She was quite up for the challenge, so I will share her recommendations with you and add some of my notes too.

Diary of a Spider

Anna: I recommend Diary of a Spider, because I read it so many times in my school. It’s about a spider and what he is doing on different days of a year. My favorite part is when his grandpa came back from a trip to Paris. I was happy that he came back.

I understand why Anna insisted that she needs to get Diary of a Spider by Doreen Cronin from the library. She clearly sensed a “double talk” in the text and pictures, but couldn’t “decipher” it without an adult. She asked very many questions on every page, especially on the page that talked about “strained relationships” between spiders and flies.

Jenny Linsky

Anna: This book is about cats, and I like cats. I hope to own the cat one day. My favorite part is when the other cat found Jenny’s special scarf. I also like it because it is a chapter book.

This book by Esther Averill was recommended by Storied Cities. I only read the first 10 pages of the book to get Anna started, and she read the rest of the book on her own. I might still read it for myself when she is finally ready to release it from her bedside shelf of favorites.

Penguin Post

Anna: I recommend this book because it’s about delivering mail and other packages. He went to different animals to deliver packages. My favorite part is when the egg started to crack and he could go home.

We read Penguin Post by Debi Gliori about 2 years ago, and I thought (correctly) that Anna would enjoy it even more now. It is a very lovely story about responsibility and being a big brother.

Our Bodies

Anna: This is my very favorite! I adore this book! Please buy it for me and also the Animal Friends too. I love learning about our bodies and animals. I just love learning so much! Did you know that we have a small thingy in our throat that helps us talk? This book told me!

I stumbled upon A Child’s First Library of Learning by accident when I came to watch Anna swim one day. A book about plants was in a basket of used books, and I flipped through it marveling on how much information it conveyed in easy to digest format. It was almost like reading many “Let’s Read and Find Out” books at once. I got Animal Friends in the library, and Anna was immediately enchanted. In fact, she put up quite a fuss when I didn’t want to give it to her for her own reading right away and wanted to stretch it between several reading sessions. Now I am considering buying these books for our personal library, because they are amazing.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Week in Review – March 18, 2011


Anna is 4 years 4 months old. We had a lot of fun together this week despite the time change that we collectively hate. Anna is a night owl who loves to read herself to sleep. We were trying to get her to put down her books earlier, but it doesn’t pay off since then she talks and signs and stirs until 10:30 pm anyway. Then, of course, she is super tired on school days when she needs to get up at 7:30. Her school had a special event where a snake farmer brought live snakes to the classrooms. According to her teachers, Anna was all over the snakes and volunteered to be “a tree” for a python. I hope we will get some pictures of this. Now she is asking if she can get a snake for a pet.


Reading. Anna loves non-fiction books and she remembers what she reads pretty well. It’s too funny when your 4 old suddenly tells you something that you didn’t know before – for example, that sunflowers can grow taller than a giraffe! She loves all her first encyclopedias, and I will share another series she loves tomorrow in my What My Child Is Reading post.

Mar14_WorldScience and Social Studies. One of many things that I love about my daughter is that she is so curious about everything. She always loves to help out in the kitchen and our conversations skip from topic to topic – what happens to yeast in the oven, what vitamins are in pepper, will her poop turn green if she drinks milk colored with food coloring. She is also always listening to our conversations, so this week we were talking a bit about earthquakes, nuclear power and why engineers sometimes make mistakes thinking that they invented fail-safe systems.


Quote of the week: I want to be an astronaut, because I want to play with my food (thank you, Big Space Shuttle). I also want to be President because I will get to have two desserts (thank you, Madam President). And I want to be a scientist, because I want to invent amazing medicines that nobody invented before. Maybe I will invent a medicine for wrinkles, so you and papa can stay pretty (might be a bit late for us then, but this is very thoughtful indeed :))

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

More Prehistoric Play

Who Were The First People

Based on some comments in my first post on Prehistoric Times I brought over an Usborne book Who Were the First People. Anna’s interest in the topic was quite high, especially because I didn’t let her just grab a book and read it on its own. Instead we’ve been reading a couple of pages every day learning more about how people lived long-long time ago. I think she is still expecting to get to the point where they invented guns, because she is convinced that they had to have guns to protect themselves and to hunt animals.


Observe the easel in the background – I was hoping to make some “cave art” with Anna. She, however, was a lot more interested in hunting and taming animals from her outdoor farm set. All my explanations about spears fell on deaf ears – it had to be a gun yet again, and this time the gun making process involved wrapping some pipecleaners around a stick. Then the hunting began only to be interrupted unexpectedly by our gardeners. There was some crying, since daughter hates her games to be stopped in the middle. Mar13_Hut

I really wanted to try my hand at constructing a prehistoric hut (without using glue). After several unsuccessful attempts I found a solution in using Tinkertoys, pipecleaners and rubber bands. A barbecue Playmobil guy has settled in the hut. Well, at least he has fire… and an airplane to escape in case of emergency.

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