Friday, November 30, 2012

Book Review: Press Here

Press the yellow dot on the cover of this book, follow the instructions within, and embark upon a magical journey! Each page of this surprising book instructs the reader to press the dots, shake the pages, tilt the book, and who knows what will happen next! Children and adults alike will giggle with delight as the dots multiply, change direction, and grow in size! Especially remarkable because the adventure occurs on the flat surface of the simple, printed page, this unique picture book about the power of imagination and interactivity will provide read-aloud fun for all ages!
Illustration Style: The only illustrations are colored dots of varying size. Little children can follow simple directions such as: "PRESS HERE AND TURN THE PAGE." Rubbing and tapping on different colored dots will help children learn colors. Shaking, tilting, and moving the book to the right moves the dots around the page. Children will enjoy following the different directions and seeing what happens. This is a great interactive book for children!
Activity: Experiment with colors! Talk about the color wheel and discuss that the primary colors are the foundation for all the other colors. By mixing paints, let your your child try combining colors and see what new colors the different combinations make. You can also show your child how to make a color darker or lighter by adding white or black.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Shadow Puppets

Now that it's getting darker and colder outside it's important to have some fun indoor activities to keep your little ones entertained.  A fun playgroup activity you can try is a shadow puppet theater.  They're so easy to make!

Here's what you'll need:

-Black Construction Paper
-Popsicle sticks
-Tape or glue
-Large sheet of white paper

Draw some animals or fairy tale characters onto the black construction paper.  If you don't have black paper or want to cut your characters out on thicker material you can use card stock and paint it.  Tape or glue the figure onto a Popsicle stick and let it dry.  

Make a puppet show theater by hanging up a large white sheet of paper between two chairs or any tall pillars you have around the house.  You can also use a white sheet if you have one.
Want to incorporate a snack into your playgroup shadow puppet theme?  You can use animal crackers on toothpicks for some edible fun.  See if your kids can guess which animal it is by looking at the shadow.

Here's some fun fairy tale characters you can use, or just have fun drawing some of your own animals!   

Monday, November 26, 2012

Time Out 101

There are a number of universal laws that exist in this world. Some of these include Murphy's law, the law of gravity, and the fact that children will misbehave. That's part of being a child and we as parents realize that it is absolutely inevitable. However, just because misbehavior is normal does not mean that it is acceptable. We want our children to learn self-discipline and that there are consequences when they misbehave. One way that many parents do this is through the use of "time out". Here are several tips for disciplining your children and teaching them:
Make sure both you and your spouse are the disciplinarians. You don't want to ever give your child the impression that one of you is the good guy and the other is the bad guy.

Have a set time-out spot. Or have several. And make sure you choose a spot that you are okay with them not liking. For example, don't make the crib a time-out spot. You don't want them to associate where they sleep with where they feel that they are in trouble. They will quickly come to resent that location, and the crib is definitely not somewhere that you want them to resent.
Don't make empty threats. Too many parents use the "If you do that one more time..." ultimatum, but they never follow through. The child continues to repeat the behavior and the parent continues to repeat the threat. Your child will quickly learn that you aren't going to follow through.

Don't yell. This can be one of the hardest things to avoid doing, especially when an entire Costco-sized bag of grapes has been smooshed into the living room carpet. Screaming may be the first thing you want to do, but don't do it. You do not want to train your children to be afraid of you. You want to teach them that there are consequences for their actions and that they did something wrong. Use a firm voice and tell them exactly what they did wrong and that it is not okay.
If you want toys picked up or something done that you have already asked them to do, give them a warning. Not two or three or ten warnings, one warning. After that, follow through on whatever consequence has been assigned to failure to obey. (Example: Tell them you will count to three and if the toys still are not picked up by the time you get to three, they will be going to time out. Count, and if the toys still aren't picked up, put them in time out.

Tips for more effective and successful time-outs:
  • Go down to his level
  • Make eye contact
  • Tell her that she did something unacceptable
  • Explain why he is sitting in time-out and that he needs to stay there until you come and get him
  • The length of the time-out is determined by your child's age: 1 minute X his or her age. A timer would be useful here and serves as a good visual indication for the child to watch the time go by.
  • At the end of the time-out, the child must apologize. Have her tell you why she was in time-out in the first place. She should then tell you, give you a hug and a kiss, and go apologize if she hurt someone else and give that person a hug and a kiss too.
  • If he leaves the time-out area, simply pick him up and place him back in time-out without making eye contact. Sometimes, you might spend the entire time doing this. But they will learn quickly, and will eventually know to just sit there quietly until the time-out is over.
The most important thing with teaching your children is to stick to your guns. You love your children and you don't want them to be sad or upset, but in order to teach them about consequences, you need to make rules and enforce them the first time. To do anything else is a disservice to you and to your child.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Book Review: The Napping House

Everyone knows the cumulative rhyme “This Is the House That Jack Built,” but The Napping House by Audrey Wood is close on its heels in the race for posterity: “And on that granny / there is a child / a dreaming child / on a snoring granny / on a cozy bed / in a napping house, / where everyone is sleeping.” Included in the napping house menagerie is a dozing dog, a snoozing cat, a slumbering mouse, and a wakeful flea who ends up toppling the whole sleep heap with one chomp! Don Wood’s delightfully detailed comical illustrations are bathed in moonlight blues until the sun comes up, then all is color and rainbows and a very awake household.
Developmental skill: Sequencing is a math-emergent skill, putting things together in a natural order, helping with foundational math and science skills.

Acrivity: Have your child make up a story using dolls, puppets, and stuffed animals. Help your child make a state to perform their play to friends and family members. Take pictures of the storyline, then print the pictures. Have your child put the story in the correct order.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving is only one day away!  What are you doing to celebrate?   

At Playgroup we made our own Turkey crafts and played some fun games in celebration of the holidays.  We also asked the kids to write down some of the things they were thankful for.  

This is a great way to show your kids all the wonderful things they have, and to learn what it is your kids are truly grateful for.  Here’s one of the fun crafts we worked on with the kids!
Thanksgiving Cardboard Turkey:

What you’ll need:
  • A Toilet Paper Roll
  • Colored Feathers
  • Craft eyes
  • Glue
  • Any other decorative material


1) Draw an outline for your turkey onto the cardboard roll.   You can just draw a circle for the head and a square for the tail on the other end.

2) Fold down the extra cardboard flaps on the sides for wings.  You can trim them to look like wings, or just cover them with feathers. 

3) Get creative!  Glue on the feathers, bobble eyes or anything else you want on your turkey.  The important thing is to have fun!

You could use this activity to make more than just turkeys. Be creative with the use of colors and make a whole flock of different birds! The kids loved making the turkeys, and since the base is a tube the turkey can stand up by itself.

The feathers were great fun to play with, especially for the little kids. They would hold out their hands while another person would run a feather across their fingers.  This is great sensory play and a fun way to get even the youngest kids involved.

Next to being with family, the most memorable thing about Thanksgiving for me is all the delicious food we can eat.  To go along with this our book for story time was all about eating.   The kids were able to see what the different animals ate and talk about the different foods they loved to eat.  Some of the animals ate only meat; others only ate fruits and vegetables.  It was fun to ask the kids which animals ate both meats and vegetable just like us! 

Have fun spending time with family and eating some delicious food tomorrow! 

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

20 Must-Do Fall Activities

Here are a list of twenty fun things you can do with your children during the fall (and sometimes winter) holiday seasons.

1. Go apple picking

2. Indoor apple picking (for all those times when the weather refuses to cooperate)

3. Make candy corn treat bags

4. Make homemade photo frames

5. Apple taste-testing - don't forget the dips, sprinkles, and toppings

6. Decorate a window for fall

7. Make a gratitude activity jar

8. Make marshmallow pumpkins

9. Visit the pumpkin patch

10. Craft up some fun and festive finger puppets

11. Make an adorable owl family of cardboard tubes

12. Go for a beautiful autumn hike, if the weather permits

13. Paint a fall tree

14. Visit and explore a corn maze

15. Go on an autumn treasure hunt.

16. Drink hot apple cider

17. Go on a hay ride
18. Paint or carve pumpkins (even if it's not Halloween)
19. Play in the fall leaves
20. Go on a nature walk
Ideas taken from: http://innerchildfun.com/2012/09/20-must-do-favorite-activities-for-fall.html
Images taken from: http://innerchildfun.com/2012/09/20-must-do-favorite-activities-for-fall.html

Monday, November 19, 2012

6 Tips for Raising Grateful Children

How many times in a lifetime do we hear the reminder: "Don't forget to say please and thank you"? During the month of November, we feel a lot of push and are reminded often that we need to express our gratitude. But we should be grateful and give thanks during the other 11 months of the year as well.

But what does it mean to give thanks? Saying thank you is certainly part of good manners that we should be teaching our children, but to be truly thankful is something more.

It is important to stress the importance of gratitude each and every day. Here a few ways to do that. If you have any others you have used or that you know have worked, please share them in the comments.

Be a gratitude role model. When you spend every night writing down the things you are thankful for in your journal, you're bound to pass along the "hint" to your children. Stating those blessings out loud and expressing how grateful you are for them only reinforces this type of modeling. "I'm so happy you are part of my life. "Your dad is the best dad in the world." "I'm so grate I get to spend my day with you." "You are such a sweet sister. Thank you for being so nice to your brother."
Simplicity matters. Keep things simple. When you don't have a lot of extra fancy things, you're children are more likely to notice and appreciate the little things in life.

Teach actions. Saying thank you is all well and good. But in these crazy times of social networking and very little real connection between people, it is that much more important to teach children to actually show up and express their gratitude. have them write out their thank yous in a journal every day. Call instead of emailing. Give cookies to the school janitor.

Talk about the world. Talk about how much the flowers need the rain, about how we get our food, about the effort put into their dad's Sunday morning pancakes. Talk about what matters with your children. Help them to see the world from a different perspective. Help them understand that things on the other side aren't always how they appear, and that we must be thankful for what we have and not yearn for what others have. Help your children see life from all sides. Be grateful for it all.
Give thanks. For all children, writing or drawing a picture of what they are grateful for is a wonderful way to get them thinking about being grateful. For the ones not quite ready for that kind of daily devotion, a simple bedtime ritual works wonders. Ask your child what she is grateful for today. Set an example and share your own idea or two with her as well.

Make cards. Every now and then, buy some blank cards and let your children go nuts decorating them however they see fit. Send the cards to people in your lives that need a lift. Thank you cards are a lost art that some of us really wish we could get people to spend more time on. Make a card. Give thanks daily. Spread joy weekly.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Review: Goodnight Moon

This adorable little book, written by Margaret Wise Brown and illustrated by Clement Hurd, is a perfect bedtime story for your little one. This book was written as much for wiggly toddlers as for adults who are winding down for the night. The cadence and rhythm of the words manage to convey the image and feeling of drifting off to sleep.

In a great green room, tucked away in bed, is a little bunny. "Goodnight room, goodnight moon." And to all the familiar things in the softly lit room -- to the picture of the three little bears sitting on chairs, to the clocks and his socks, to the mittens and the kittens, to everything one by one -- the little bunny says goodnight.
In this classic of children's literature, beloved by generations of readers and listeners, the quiet poetry of the words and the gentle, lulling illustrations combine to make a perfect book for the end of the day.

 Activity: Make your own moons! Cut out moon shapes (circles, crescents, and gibbous) with sponges, and use them with washable paints to make sponge paintings. You can also take two paper plates, paint them yellow, sprinkle glitter over the wet paint, and then cut one of the plates into a crescent shape when the paint is dry, to create all three moon shapes. To complete the effect, punch holes in the tops and let your child hang them up in their room somewhere. You can also hang them at different lengths from a dowel rod or a sturdy drinking straw to make a moon mobile.