What Do We Do All Day? http://www.whatdowedoallday.com Books and Activities for Kids Wed, 17 Sep 2014 10:38:17 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0 34 Play Dough Activities for Fine Motor http://www.whatdowedoallday.com/2014/09/playdough-activities-fine-motor.html http://www.whatdowedoallday.com/2014/09/playdough-activities-fine-motor.html#comments Tue, 16 Sep 2014 10:10:08 +0000 http://www.whatdowedoallday.com/?p=11088 Play dough is great for fine motor work! Originally I had not intended to write a post about play dough activities but as today is National Play Dough day (Seriously. For real!), and I had these photos from a recent play dough session with with my 5 year old, it seemed like a fun idea. Perhaps this list... Keep Reading →

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Play dough is great for fine motor work! Originally I had not intended to write a post about play dough activities but as today is National Play Dough day (Seriously. For real!), and I had these photos from a recent play dough session with with my 5 year old, it seemed like a fun idea. Perhaps this list of items will inspire your children’s free play.

Play dough ideas for add in objects that extend fine motor work beyond squeezing and sculpting.

Long time readers (you are totally awesome) are aware that my youngest still struggles with his fine motor work. Setting out a batch of play dough with small objects is an invitation for him to engage all those small motor muscles that are so important for handwriting skills.

On this day I decided to make my very first batch of cooked play dough! Can you believe it? How very ambitious of me. I’ve always made no-cook play dough in the past, but WOW, the difference is huge. Cooked play dough isn’t actually all that hard and it is way, way better. I may never take the lazy way out again!

Here’s the classic cooked play dough recipe that we used:

  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 1/2 cup salt
  • 2 tbsp cream of tartar
  • food coloring

Mix all ingredients in a saucepan over low heat until the water is absorbed and it forms a ball. Remove from pan and let cool. Knead until smooth.

I made two colors (blue and green – as you see). No need to wash the pot in between batches!

Play dough ideas for fine motor work.

While just a ball of play dough is good for fine motor just from squeezing and shaping it, my son is not very interested in simply sculpting the dough, so I entice him with a variety of small items. I’ve found lots of inspiration from things lying around the apartment. (One of the benefits of not being neat and tidy.) Here is a list of ideas for things you can add to your child’s play dough play.

Toys for Play Dough

  • jacks
  • marbles
  • LEGO
  • small toy animals or vehicles
  • blocks
  • all those millions of small goodie bag fillers your child gets at birthday parties!

Craft Items for Play Dough

  • buttons
  • pipe cleaners (cut up or whole)
  • googley eyes
  • beads
  • sequins
  • rubber stamps
  • popsicle sticks

Play dough activities and objects to help fine motor skills.

Nature Items for Play Dough

  • rocks and pebbles
  • sticks
  • acorns
  • chestnuts
  • shells

Household Items for Play Dough

  • caps left over from dried out markers
  • paper clips
  • straws (cut up or whole)
  • small cookie cutters (I prefer very small cutters like the ones you see in the photo because they really require the pincer grasp)
  • bottle caps (metal or plastic)
  • scissor (cutting play dough is much easier than cutting paper)
  • outlet covers
  • old keys
  • toothpicks
  • clothespins
  • nuts and bolts
  • small game pieces like checkers or Scrabble pieces

Fine motor play dough activities and idea.

Sensory Objects for Play Dough

  • cinnamon sticks
  • cloves
  • dried pasta
  • dried beans

What did I miss? How do your kids play with play dough?

More play dough ideas your kids will love! Happy Play Dough Day!

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10 Funny Books to Read Aloud http://www.whatdowedoallday.com/2014/09/funny-books-read-aloud.html http://www.whatdowedoallday.com/2014/09/funny-books-read-aloud.html#comments Mon, 15 Sep 2014 11:45:05 +0000 http://www.whatdowedoallday.com/?p=11084 This list of funny books to read aloud is primarily (with a few exceptions) composed of books that can be found elsewhere on my book lists, but a few days ago a fellow parent and I were chatting about how much fun it is when our kids laugh out loud when we are reading. I... Keep Reading →

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This list of funny books to read aloud is primarily (with a few exceptions) composed of books that can be found elsewhere on my book lists, but a few days ago a fellow parent and I were chatting about how much fun it is when our kids laugh out loud when we are reading. I thought maybe it would be useful to share which books made my kids roll with laughter. I don’t mean a giggle here and there, or a smile and a chuckle. These are the books my kids truly found hilarious.

10 funny chapter books to read aloud to kids. Click through for the entire list.

10 Funny Books for Kids

My kids are now 5 and 9 and they both enjoyed all of these books. I will admit that sometimes my 5 year old looks to his older brother as to when he should find something funny, but with these titles I could see that he genuinely laughed of his own accord. However, every family is different and you may find several of these books are better for kids older or younger than your child.  (Note: book covers and titles are affiliate links.)

Need more suggestions? Click here for our index of book lists.


I shared The Adventures of Nanny Piggins with my facebook audience (join us there to keep abreast of our current read alouds!), but not here on the blog yet. It is one of the funniest books I’ve read in a long time. This popular Australian import is a series about three siblings whose father is so frugal he hires a pig to take care of them. Nanny Piggins is no Mary Poppins, however.  The enthusiastic circus pig thinks school is overrated, chocolate is a food group and takes the kids on “marvelous adventures.” This is a great book for kids (and adults) who enjoy Roald Dahl, and over-the-top, subversive humor and plain, good fun. If you prefer moral didacticism, move on.


8 Class Pets + 1 Squirrel ÷ 1 Dog = Chaos is perhaps the book that elicited the most laughter in our house ever. The story begins when a dog chases a squirrel into a nearby elementary school. The squirrel runs from classroom to classroom leaving chaos in its wake. Each chapter is narrated in the first person by the various class pets that inhabit the classrooms. The pets range from hamsters to snakes to fish to birds and getting their different perspectives on the ruckus is extremely entertaining to say the least.


The Hoboken Chicken Emergency. With a nod to my neighbors in New Jersey, you have to admit that any book which couples “Hoboken” and “Chicken” in the title has got to be hilarious. When there are no turkeys to be found anywhere in Hoboken for Thanksgiving dinner, Arthur returns home with a chicken. The problem? The chicken is 266 pounds. Hijinks ensue. I read this aloud to my sons and they loved it.


Winnie-the-Pooh. I recently read the Pooh stories out loud to my 5 year old and I was surprised at how how much he laughed. I’ve never thought of them as funny, I guess because when I read them to my older son when he was around 4, he never laughed. But my younger son’s giggles at the scrapes Pooh gets himself into made me see the story as quite a little droll comedy of manners.


A Bear Called Paddingtonleft both my boys (ages 5 and 9) in stitches. This is another classic book, like Pooh, that I hadn’t remembered as funny, but oh the scrapes Paddington gets into! For weeks my 5 year old could not take a bath without referencing the way Paddington flooded the Browns’ house. During the final chapter, he was literally jumping on the bed with laughter as Paddington bumbled through his magic show. (Yes, I’m not very strict when it comes to jumping on the bed. That’s what happens when you live in an apartment.)


Sideways Stories from Wayside School. I like reading this book about a wacky school environment to the kids. I think it’s good to allow them an outlet for thinking about school in a non-traditional (dare I say “subversive”) way.  While my 5 year old did laugh along, the humor was more suited to my 9 year old. Both kids who love the silly and ridiculous and parents who appreciate well-written, humorous books will find something to charm them.


Ramona the Pest. It took me a really long time to introduce my kids to the mischievous and throughly lovable Ramona Quimby, but it was love at first read. Come to think of it, my boys first met Ramona in Henry Huggins (another laugh out loud read). Ramona is constantly getting into trouble but the wonderful thing about this series is Cleary’s masterful ability to capture the inner life of a child, in a way to which all children can relate. I would even argue that these books teach us empathy through laughter.


Mr. Popper’s Penguins. This Newbery Honor book from 1938 is still as funny today as it was then. Mr. Popper and his family adopt a penguin sent to them by a famous explorer. The brood grows to 12 penguins and the laughs begin. We first listened to this as an audiobook when my youngest son was almost 4 and he enjoyed it immensely, especially the scene in which the Poppers flood the basement with water, then freeze it so the penguins can slide around their home.


Owls in the Family is a short chapter book about boys growing up in Saskatchewan in the 1950s. One of the boys adopts a pair of great horned owls. The owls, added to the family dogs, the pen of rabbits and gophers (in which the owls miraculously co-habit) bring hilarious chaos to the boys’ lives. We have read this book aloud 3 times now 4 times and I expect we will read it again.


Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing is the first in Blume’s Fudge series about Peter Hatcher and his 2 year old kid brother, “Fudge.” Older siblings everywhere will relate to Peter’s exasperation at his messy, loud, trouble making brother, especially since Peter seems to get the lion’s share of blame.

Funny books for kids. Click for all 10 books.

What about you, what are some of the funniest chapter books you’ve read to your kids? What have I overlooked? Please share in the comments. I would love some new suggestions!

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Train Coloring Page {Perfect for Parties} http://www.whatdowedoallday.com/2014/09/train-coloring-page-perfect-parties.html http://www.whatdowedoallday.com/2014/09/train-coloring-page-perfect-parties.html#comments Fri, 12 Sep 2014 09:59:50 +0000 http://www.whatdowedoallday.com/?p=11073 This train coloring page is perfect for the child who thinks that no party is complete without a train. The latest coloring sheet in our monthly coloring page series from children’s book illustrator, Melanie Hope Greenberg, doubles as a fun party favor or activity. Stick one in a goodie bag, or leave them out for kids who... Keep Reading →

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This train coloring page is perfect for the child who thinks that no party is complete without a train. The latest coloring sheet in our monthly coloring page series from children’s book illustrator, Melanie Hope Greenberg, doubles as a fun party favor or activity. Stick one in a goodie bag, or leave them out for kids who want something quiet to do.

Free, printable train coloring page for kids by children's book illustrator.

Download and Print –> Train Coloring Page (by clicking link you agree to our Terms of Service* see below)

If you live in the New York City area, be sure to stop by one of the following events and meet Melanie Hope Greenberg. Hear her read from one of her books, and pick up a signed copy (you know, for that train party you are going to!).

  • DUMBO ARTS FEST in front of Superfine 126 Front Street Brooklyn Sat/ Sun Sept 27 & 28 12-6
  • ATLANTIC ANTIC in front of Gumbo Sept 28 11-11:30 am; 493 Atlantic Ave Brooklyn

See all of Melanie’s coloring pages:

Free coloring pages for kids

Meet the illustrator:

Melanie Hope Greenberg is an award winning author and illustrator of more than 15 children’s books. Her cheerful, vibrant illustrations can be found in books such as Good Morning, Digger, Down in the Subway and A City Is. Her very popular Mermaids on Parade  was selected as a Bank Street Best Book, and for the Texas Reading Club and PBS Kids Summer Reading Lists.

Melanie also visits schools to talk about the process of creating a book. Learn more about her internationally recognized art work at her official website.

Melanie signs all copies of her books purchased through her Amazon vendor link. {You can also click on a cover below and scroll through the third party vendors to find Melanie’s vendor linkPlease note: book cover links are affiliate links.)

*Terms of Service: this coloring page is used with permission from Melanie Hope Greenberg and is for non-commercial use ONLY. You many print out as many copies as you like for personal, library or classroom use. If you would like to share this coloring page, you MUST link to this blog page. It is expressly forbidden to link directly to the coloring page pdf file. 

Follow our coloring pages and printables Pinterest board:
Follow Erica • What Do We Do All Day?’s board Coloring Pages & Printables on Pinterest.

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Handmade Journals and Books about Writing for Kids http://www.whatdowedoallday.com/2014/09/handmade-journals-and-books-about-writing-for-kids.html http://www.whatdowedoallday.com/2014/09/handmade-journals-and-books-about-writing-for-kids.html#comments Wed, 10 Sep 2014 14:09:37 +0000 http://www.whatdowedoallday.com/?p=11062 The kids are back to school and it’s time for another book art project with my partner in bookish awesomeness, Ana from Babble Dabble Do. As you know, I try to encourage my kids to exercise their writing skills in playful ways, including using journals for fine motor work, or making a hobby book. Ana... Keep Reading →

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The kids are back to school and it’s time for another book art project with my partner in bookish awesomeness, Ana from Babble Dabble Do. As you know, I try to encourage my kids to exercise their writing skills in playful ways, including using journals for fine motor work, or making a hobby book.

Recycled journals made from children's art work. Plus, a list of books about writing to inspire kids.

Ana has created a very simple bookbinding project for kids that will also help you upcycle all those gorgeous pieces of art they have been creating on a daily basis since they were old enough to wield a brush. The other thing I like about it is that I could use up pages from all those half empty composition notebooks I have lying around!

One crafty note: I used brads to bind the books, but Ana used a different method. I won’t give away Ana’s secrets, so you’ll have to head on over to her post to get the full instructions (super easy, I promise) after you take a look at what we created.

Handmade journals from children's art.

 

Although this project is intended to be a kid-made journal, I actually did it by myself. There are two reasons. The first is that if I had attempted to upcycle art my kids in front of them, they would have thrown a fit. No matter that the artwork has been collecting dust in the back of the closet for 3 years! It becomes precious when mom decides to mutilate it. You all know what I am talking about. However, if I do this all behind the scenes, no one cares in the least. Second,  I plan to give these journals to my kids as gifts. A handmade journal makes a great gift, don’t you think?

Of course, I would never leave you with a book art project without including some inspiring books to read! Check out the selections below. You can also take a look at my favorite writing journals for children.

Books about Writing to Inspire your Kids:

These are all chapter books, for 5 picture book selections, visit Babble Dabble Do. (Note: book covers and titles are affiliate links.)


Moxy Maxwell Does Not Love Writing Thank-you Notes. Plucky Moxy has to write 12 thank you notes in order to get permission to attend a star-studded Hollywood bash. Instead of simply sitting down and writing them, she concocts a clever, but sort of complicated plan that goes awry, but it is for a different reason entirely that she must miss the anticipated party. There is some good humor in this book and I like how the non-traditional chapters can give kids an example of how writing stories can be creative. Hilarious.


A Beginning, a Muddle, and an End: The Right Way to Write Writingis the sequel to another book, The End of the Beginning, and even though it is a short chapter book I think the concepts are sophisticated enough that I would recommend it for ages 8 and up. The word play and puns also keep the target audience firmly in the upper elementary age group. The story follows Avon the Snail as he attempts to write a story. He struggles a bit but gets some help from his friend Edward the Ant. Together they tackle big questions about writing, such as, “what makes a good story?” Charming.


Katie Woo: Star Writer. Katie Woo is spunky Chinese-American girl who is the heroine of about a gazillion early chapter book series. In the “Star Writer” series, Katie tackles a different kind of writing in each book, from writing fiction, to journal writing and poetry. These book are a sort of hybrid between storytelling and non-fiction, with tips and tricks about writing in the sidebar. Fun.


Harriet the Spy. Don’t forget about this classic book about a girl who keeps a spy journal. When her journal is stolen and her peers learn about the unflattering things she wrote about them she finds herself an outcast. What makes Harriet so wonderful is that she is a real person. She is not always (maybe not even often) pleasant to everyone, she makes mistakes, but she is smart and resourceful. Awesome.


The School Story. Andrew Clements excels in the “chapter books about school” category and so it was no surprise when I discovered his book about writing. 12 year old Natalie has written a manuscript and since her mother is a publishing agent it seems natural she would ask for her mom’s help in getting published. Natalie doesn’t want to ask her mom for special treatment so her friend Zoe convinces her to submit it under a pen name. This is a really wonderful book, with a plot that will keep kids turning pages as Zoe and Natalie navigate a grown up world while trying to maintain their secret identities from people they know. Delightful.

I’d love to hear from you. Are your kids writers? What do they like to write? How do you encourage them?

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12+ Books for Kids Not Ready for Harry Potter http://www.whatdowedoallday.com/2014/09/books-for-kids-not-ready-for-harry-potter.html http://www.whatdowedoallday.com/2014/09/books-for-kids-not-ready-for-harry-potter.html#comments Mon, 08 Sep 2014 10:10:42 +0000 http://www.whatdowedoallday.com/?p=10947 Every child should read Harry Potter, but not every child is ready to read the entire series in one go. I mentioned in my post about how to choose chapter books for kids that the age of the protagonist is a good general guideline for the age of the reader. Harry Potter is 11 in... Keep Reading →

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Every child should read Harry Potter, but not every child is ready to read the entire series in one go. I mentioned in my post about how to choose chapter books for kids that the age of the protagonist is a good general guideline for the age of the reader. Harry Potter is 11 in book one and 17 in the final book.

Books for kids not ready to ready the entire Harry Potter series, either because of reading level or age appropriateness.

I also don’t think Harry Potter is the best read aloud for 5 year olds, which seems like the age that a lot of parents start reading the books to their kids. (Every family is different, I make no judgements!) I have chosen to let my kids discover and read the books on their own rather than read them aloud, but that’s just a personal preference. (Maybe I should write a whole post about that!) I don’t have an answer to the best age to start reading the series, that will depend on your child’s interest and tolerance for potentially scary events.

However, for kids who are not ready for many of the darker themes in Harry Potter or the reading level of the later books, this list of chapter books will come in handy.  Some of these books are good for kids not ready for the 1st Harry book and some are better for kids who can read the first three, but not beyond. All of them have a heavy dose of magic and a share a few elements with J.K. Rowling’s splendid series. (Note: book covers and titles are affiliate links.)


The Magic Half (2 books in the series — so far) is by the author of the popular Ivy + Bean series. Miri is sandwiched in between 2 sets of twins. Her family has just moved to an old house and one day after being sent to her room for inadvertently injuring one of her older brothers, she finds part of a set of old glasses. When she looks through it she is transported back in time to 1935 where she meets Molly, an orphan living with her rather sinister relatives. Miri and Molly must work together to help Molly escape “back to the future” and when they do they discover the most surprising thing of all! (I simply cannot give it away!) Molly’s cousin, Horst, reminded me of  Harry’s cousin Dudley!


Beyond the Pawpaw Trees and The Silver Nutmeg by Palmer Brown have recently returned to print. Anna Lavinia’s father left home to chase a double rainbow and left behind a mysterious silver key. Anna Lavina sets off “beyond the paw paw trees” that populate the walled garden of her home in search of her dad and the meaning behind the key. Her journey starts with a marvelous train ride which leads to a place full of wondrous inhabitants (sound familiar?). In the sequel, The Silver Nutmeg, Anna Lavinia travels to an upside-down mirror land where instead of gravity, there is “the tingle” (!). While the magic lies in the environment rather than in the protagonists, Harry Potter fans will enjoy these books that are also reminiscent of Alice and Oz.


Matter-of-Fact Magic Book Series Ruth Chew wrote about 30 books in the 70s and 80s. Several have been republished in the last year and more are currently in the works. They are closer to the reading level of an early chapter book than most of these titles so can be independent reads for ages 7 and up, or read alouds for 5 and up (again, it all depends on your child). I have only read 2 of the books in the series so far but each story is a stand alone (no character cross over — so far) and the plots revolve around normal children discovering strange happenings in their neighborhoods – like magic trees or enchanted fudge from friendly neighbors who turn out to be witches.


The Worst Witch (7 book series) Like the Harry Potter books, this series takes place at a  boarding school for magic kids. In the introductory novel, Mildred begins her first year by getting a black cat and a broom. Poor Mildred, however, is not exactly the most skillful, coordinated witch in her class and her cat is a tabby! She mixes up potions and spells causing all sorts of chaos (and fun, of course). This is fun for kids and is also at an easier reading level than the Harry Potter books.


Tuesdays at the Castle begins a 3 book series about a living castle. Every Tuesday the castle adds a new feature; it could be a room, or a turret. Celia spends her time exploring and mapping the castle. Celia’s brother is off at wizard school and when their parents travel for his graduation, the castle comes under attack. The castle aids Celia and two of her siblings as they try to keep the marauders at bay. The idea of a living castle is wonderful. I’m not sure I’ve even encountered such a conceit before (or at least I can’t think of another book that does the same) but it does rather remind one of the magic world of Hogwarts, although I’ve never thought of Hogwarts as “alive.” The story continues with Wednesdays in the Tower and Thursdays with the Crown.


A Question of Magic. I quite liked E.D. Baker’s The Frog Princess series and this stand alone novel is a retelling of the Baba Yaga legend, a magic tale often neglected in the world of contemporary literature. Like Harry, Serafina is taken by surprise when she discovers her magic identity. Serafina finds out that her great-aunt is Baba Yaga and that she has been summoned to step into her aunt’s shoes! She reluctantly takes on her new role, in which she must truthfully answer one question from a stranger and live in a house that stands on chicken legs. There’s a bit of humor from the talking skulls in her new home and also some very light romance in the form of Alek who wants to rescue her from being Baba Yaga. (Reading level: best for kids who can read HP book 1 but are not ready for the rest of the series.)


Bliss (3 book series) is at a reading level of the first few Harry Potter books, so if your kids are chomping at the bit to read HP book 4 or 5 distract them with these three books about a family with a magical cookbook. Harry Potter has his book of spells and so does the Bliss family, only all the Bliss spells are recipes for enchanted baked goods (now that does sound like bliss!). When the parents go out of town, a mysterious relative comes to visit and the children aren’t sure whether or not to trust her with their secret. After the cliff-hanger of an ending you will want to follow up with the sequels, A Dash of Magic, and Bite-Sized Magic.


The Wonderful Wizard of Oz hardly need any introduction! These are must-read books for kids and kids can read all 14 books in a row without having to be concerned that the age appropriateness of the text will advance as it does in the Harry Potter series. All of Baum’s Oz books are in the public domain and there are some bad versions out there. Be sure to read the books with the original text and illustrations. I you like ebooks you can find them all for free at Project Gutenberg (make sure to read the copies with illustrations).


Half Magic. (7 book series) This classic series should be read by everyone. A group of siblings discover a coin that grants only half a wish. The children must work together to make complete wishes and then navigate the unexpected outcomes. Delightful.


Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher: A Magic Shop Book. The Magic Shop Book series reminded me of Olivander’s shop in Diagon Alley. Jeremy is not a wizard, but the eccentric shopkeeper insists he take home a mysterious box. Inside the box is an egg which hatches into a small dragon, and now Jeremy must quickly learn how to take care of it. The dragon cannot stick around forever, though, but tending him as helped Jeremy discovers new ways of navigating the perils of tween-dom. There are several books in the series, all with children who suddenly come face to face with something magical.


I recently read The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles out loud to the kids and both boys (ages 9 and 5) absolutely loved it. Three siblings travel to a magical land with the help of their “scrappy caps” and a wise Professor. Along the way they meet some fantastical creatures, some of whom do not want them to arrive at their destination. As in HP, there is a villain who turns out to be not quite villainous after all.


Early chapter books, Stuart Goes To School and Stuart’s Cape are by the author of the popular Clementine series. When Stuart is anxious about being the new kid, his mom makes him a cape out of old neckties and it turns out to have magical properties, although things don’t always go quite the way Stuart wants! These two short books make great read alouds when your child is still much too young to listen to even the first Harry book.

What are your thoughts about the age appropriateness of reading all the Harry Potter books at a very young age? Do you have any further book recommendations to add to this list? Share your thoughts in the comments!

Need more book recommendations? Click here for the MASTER INDEX OF BOOK LISTS FOR KIDS.

This post contains affiliate links. 

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Game of the Month: Story Cubes http://www.whatdowedoallday.com/2014/09/story-cubes-game.html http://www.whatdowedoallday.com/2014/09/story-cubes-game.html#comments Thu, 04 Sep 2014 10:00:43 +0000 http://www.whatdowedoallday.com/?p=10623 You may have seen the popular Story Cubes game on the shelf at the toy store, or buzzing along in your Pinterest feed, and I’m here to say that if you haven’t played this literacy game, it’s time to correct that oversight and that is why Story Cubes is our Game of the Month. (Note:... Keep Reading →

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You may have seen the popular Story Cubes game on the shelf at the toy store, or buzzing along in your Pinterest feed, and I’m here to say that if you haven’t played this literacy game, it’s time to correct that oversight and that is why Story Cubes is our Game of the Month.

Story Cubes is an excellent game for literacy and imagination. A total brain workout.
(Note: affiliate links are included in this post.)

We’ve had Rory’s Story Cubes for several years, but it wasn’t until recently that the boys really started playing it. I think how you approach this game depends a lot on the personality of the child. My older son, while he is a great reader did not express much interest in playing the game at first and I think that is because it requires him to use his imagination in a way that was hard for him. He is very systems-oriented. My youngest son, however, took to it right away when I got it out again last month.

Of course, my older son did not want to be outdone and the motivation of seeing his brother “do better” than he was a great motivation! (No need to expound on sibling rivalry here, you get the idea.)

How to play Story Cubes:

Story Cubes consists of 9 dice, each with 6 different instructions. The enclosed instructions offer many ways to use the cubes, from regular game play to overcoming writer’s block. I won’t expound on them all here, but the essence of the game is to roll dice and use the images to spark storytelling, which can be done individually or cooperatively.

Tips for playing with kids:

  • Do not judge (neither the kids nor the grown-ups!)
  • Do not require consistency of plot, character, etc. Just let things develop!
  • I have found the best time to use the cubes is at mealtime. At the end of the day when the boys (and I) are cranky, rolling the dice can get them thinking about something other than wallowing in their grumpiness.
  • The compactness makes it a great travel game!

Skills exercised when playing Story Cubes:

  • Literacy and storytelling/writing
  • Imagination and creativity
  • Cooperation
  • Listening

Story Cubes is a total brain workout (even for grownups)! Have you ever played it?

There are several versions, but we only have the original:

Rory’s Story Cubes
Rory’s Story Cubes Actions
Rory’s Story Cubes – Voyages

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Literacy at Lunch: Tongue Twister Lunch Box Notes http://www.whatdowedoallday.com/2014/09/tongue-twister-lunch-box-notes.html http://www.whatdowedoallday.com/2014/09/tongue-twister-lunch-box-notes.html#comments Tue, 02 Sep 2014 10:05:02 +0000 http://www.whatdowedoallday.com/?p=10561 My kids and I like to practice tongue twisters. They are a silly, fun distraction when we are out and about and make a good alternative to screen time when the kids get antsy waiting for a bus or an appointment. Lately I’ve been seeing lunch box note printables going through my Pinterest feed and... Keep Reading →

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My kids and I like to practice tongue twisters. They are a silly, fun distraction when we are out and about and make a good alternative to screen time when the kids get antsy waiting for a bus or an appointment. Lately I’ve been seeing lunch box note printables going through my Pinterest feed and I thought it might be fun for my kids to have a tongue twister to share with their friends in the cafeteria every day.

Tongue twisters help with phonemic awareness. A silly way to include literacy at lunchtime!

Attempting tongue twisters always, always make the kids laugh so they are a good ice breaker for that first scary week in the cafeteria. Plus, you may not realize how great tongue twisters are for a child’s literacy development. They not only help with pronunciation, but phonemic awareness. Just think of it as literacy at lunch!

On a whim I decided to make it a tongue twister lunch box note printable for the blog. I’m no graphic artist, so these are in a very simple format.

Download and print (by clicking the link you agree to our Terms of Service, see below*):

TONGUE TWISTER LUNCH BOX JOKES

Slip one in your child’s lunch box each day. Of course you may want to add a caveat that these should not be attempted if the kids have food in their mouths. Then again, you won’t be there to witness it!

More:

*TERMS OF SERVICE: This free Tongue Twister Lunch Box Notes printable is for personal use only. If you would like to share this printable you MUST link to this webpage. It is strictly forbidden to link directly to the pdf file. On the other hand, you may print out as many copies as you like. Enjoy!

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Children’s Books for Hispanic Heritage Month http://www.whatdowedoallday.com/2014/09/childrens-books-hispanic-heritage-month.html http://www.whatdowedoallday.com/2014/09/childrens-books-hispanic-heritage-month.html#comments Mon, 01 Sep 2014 10:14:51 +0000 http://www.whatdowedoallday.com/?p=10653 Every kid will love these children’s books for Hispanic Heritage Month. It’s so important to me that my kids read books that reflect a diversity of experiences. Latino culture has had a huge impact on life here in the US so it stand to reason books reflecting that culture should be part of every child’s reading education. Picture... Keep Reading →

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Every kid will love these children’s books for Hispanic Heritage Month. It’s so important to me that my kids read books that reflect a diversity of experiences. Latino culture has had a huge impact on life here in the US so it stand to reason books reflecting that culture should be part of every child’s reading education. Picture books are a great way to introduce a new culture to kids, to expand their understanding of the multicultural world they live in, and to expose them to books that reflect themselves and their friends.

10 children's books for Hispanic Heritage Month. Picture books every child will enjoy.

I have several other lists that you may also find useful during Hispanic Heritage Month (September 15 – October 15), one is a guest book list you can find at Tiny Rotten Peanuts (formerly Artchoo!); Picture Books for Hispanic Heritage Month, and another is a list of our favorite Latin American folktale picture books. I hope that you find time to read some of these books, not just during the upcoming month-long celebration of Hispanic heritage in the US, but any time of the year. (Note: book covers and titles are affiliate links.)


Niño Wrestles the World is great fun! My youngest son is really into all things “fighting” right now (much to my consternation!) and this Pura Belpré Award winner was a huge hit with him. Using his vivid imagination, Niño wrestles uses his stellar moves, like the “tickle tackle” and the “puzzle muzzle” to best alarming intergalactic opponents, but when it comes to his biggest challenge, “Las Hermanitas”, Niño pulls out his very special moves. Niño is imagining himself as a “Lucha Libre” wrestler. An endnote describes this type of theatrical wrestling popular in Spanish-speaking countries.


Marisol McDonald Doesn’t Match / Marisol McDonald no combina. Marisol is a favorite character of mine. Red-headed half-Scottish half-Peruvian Marisol bounces off the page with great enthusiasm and loves her mismatched life. When her friend, Ollie, challenges her to “match”, Marisol finds she is unhappy with life as a conformist. This is a great story that emphasizes the importance of embracing and accepting one’s uniqueness. (Text is in both English and Spanish.) It’s also on my list of picture books with diverse characters. A Pura Belpré Honor Award Book.


Waiting for the Biblioburro is based on a true story of a traveling library in Columbia. The story focuses on the experience of a young girl waiting for the tell-tale clip-clop of two burros who bring books to remote villages. This is definitely a story that will make you smile and kids will love to compare their own experiences with bookmobiles and libraries to the “biblioburro”. I particularly love the folk-style illustrations.


Last year I received a review copy of Tito Puente, Mambo King/Tito Puente, Rey del Mambo. The swinging, jazzy text tells the story of Puente’s life from the time when he was a small child banging out catchy rhythms on pots and pans through his time in the Navy, at Julliard, all the way to the end of his career when he was recognized with 5 Grammys. Swirling illustrations take the reader on a colorful journey. There is a biographical note at the end.  A Pura Belpré Honor Award Book.


Pancho Rabbit and the Coyote: A Migrant’s Tale, is an allegory in which Pancho sets out to find his father who has not returned after years working as a migrant laborer. He meets Coyote, who promises to help him on the journey in exchange for food. When the food runs out, Rabbit’s father saves him from  being eaten by Coyote, but he then learns that all the money his father earned was stolen. The pair return home to an uncertain future, and a possible return to the north to work. Author Duncan Tonatiuh tackles an important issue with sensitivity in a way kids can understand (I’d say ages 5 and up). There is a clear message about the importance of family bonds and love. A Pura Belpré Honor Award Book.


I Love Saturdays y domingos is a wonderfully uplifting story about a girl who spends Saturdays with her English-speaking grandparents and Sundays with her Spanish-speaking abuelos. She describes the joys of each visit and the reader instantly sees the parallels  and how much the family loves one another. In the end, everyone comes together for the little girl’s birthday. There are a lot of Spanish words and phrases but no glossary (at least not in my library copy), but English-only readers will have no problem understanding the story.


Tomás and the Library Lady is based on the true story of Tomás Rivera, who went on to become the first minority chancellor at the University of California. As the son of migrant workers, Tomás listens every night to stories his grandmother tells him. Then one day, a librarian opens up a whole new world for him. This is an inspiring story of the power of education and reading which will ring true for all children, no matter what their backgrounds.


Love and Roast Chicken: A Trickster Tale from the Andes Mountains. I wanted to make sure I included at least one folktale to whet your appetite since my kids and I adore folktales. (See my list of 14 Latin American Folktales) This is a hilarious trickster tale featuring a wily guinea pig, “Cuy”. In an effort to avoid being eaten by Tío Antonio the fox, Cuy manages to convince him that he needs to brace himself under a rock in order to keep the sky from falling. Thus, Cuy sets into motion a series of tricks until Tío Antonio decides the only way he can avoid Cuy’s tricks is to keep far away from him. This book (like all trickster tales) was a favorite of my son.


Fiesta Babies. There’s no reason not to share Hispanic culture with babies, too! The lively, rhyming text and illustrations feature aspects of Latino culture like music, fiestas, food and of course, besos and abrazos. I really appreciated that illustrator Amy Cordova recognized that not all Latinos have the same skin color! Includes a short glossary. A Pura Belpré Honor Award Book.


Angels Ride Bikes: And Other Fall Poems / Los Angeles Andan en Bicicleta: Y Otros Poemas de Otoño is a bilingual collection of poems that is part of a four book series spanning the seasonal year. Each short poem in free verse is in both Spanish and English, presenting snapshots of a diverse group of children enjoying autumnal life to the fullest.

Do you have any more children’s books for Hispanic Heritage Month to recommend?

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Children’s Books Set in New York City http://www.whatdowedoallday.com/2014/08/childrens-books-set-new-york-city.html http://www.whatdowedoallday.com/2014/08/childrens-books-set-new-york-city.html#comments Mon, 25 Aug 2014 10:22:49 +0000 http://www.whatdowedoallday.com/?p=10617 Today’s list is all about great children’s books set in New York City. The anniversary of 9/11 is quickly approaching and whether or not your children are old enough to understand the import of that event I encourage you to share with them the awesomeness of NYC with these fun children’s picture books set in New... Keep Reading →

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Today’s list is all about great children’s books set in New York City. The anniversary of 9/11 is quickly approaching and whether or not your children are old enough to understand the import of that event I encourage you to share with them the awesomeness of NYC with these fun children’s picture books set in New York City.

I’m raising my kids in New York City and I love being able to read books to them that reflect their experiences growing up in a diverse urban neighborhood, but these books can be enjoyed by everyone, whether you live in the city, country or suburbs.

Children's books set in New York City. Click through for entire book list.

There are a lot – I mean A LOT of children’s books set in NYC. I would venture to guess it is the most illustrated city in children’s literature. This book list is by no means comprehensive, and no doubt it is missing a few of your favorite Big Apple titles. I do feel a bit traitor-ish not including every book set in this great city, but how could I? My hope is to introduce some new-to-you books set in New York City, but by all means leave a comment telling me which ones you would have put on the list! (Eloise, anyone?) (Note: book covers and title links are affiliate links.)

Picture Books Set in New York City


Laundry Day is a celebration of the diverse, multicultural population that makes living in New York City such an exciting experience. One day a length of red fabric floats down and lands on a young shoeshine. He looks up to see miles of laundry lines criss-crossing the tenement-lined alleyway. Making his way from apartment to apartment by way of the fire escapes, he encounters the friendly inhabitants from various cultural backgrounds, including a Chinese grandmother, four young Polish girls, a harried Irish mother, an African-American prospector, and others. Each neighbor expresses their admiration for the fabric, using a cultural reference (and new foreign word) but it is not until he reaches the roof, that the shoeshine finds its owner.


The Man Who Walked Between the Towers tells the story of funambulist (there’s your word of the day! Philippe Petit’s 1974 feat. The dizzying views and magnificent skyline in the illustrations is accompanied by quite a poetic, but spare text. The book ends with an acknowledgement that the towers are no longer standing, but the overall tone of the book is optimistic and a tribute to both the towers and the daring ingenuity of Petit. 


What Happens on Wednesdays. I absolutely adore this book and when I met the author (who also wrote Toys Go Out!) at a book fair I expressed sadness that this book was out of print. She said (as any author would), “Tell the publisher!” So that’s what you should do!! But while we wait for it to come back into print, head over to your library and check out this marvelous tale of a young child’s daily Wednesday routine in her Brooklyn neighborhood. I love how both parents are equal partners and illustrator Lauren Castillo (also one of my faves!) hits all the right notes in her details of the nabe’s inhabitants. Even if you couldn’t care less about NYC, you should read this book. Truly. You will love it.


Molly, by Golly!: The Legend of Molly Williams, America’s First Female Firefighter. The NYFD will forever be linked with 9/11 so why not read a book about the very first female firefighter, who just happened to be a heroic cook in a firehouse during the winter of 1818. Molly is a true heroine, placing the lives of others above her own. Lots of historical detail bring this little known figure to life. This book is also on my list of biographies about African-American women.


Herman and Rosie was one of my favorite books of 2013Herman and Rosie are two musicians, but they are lonely, just waiting to meet someone they can call a friend. There is a lot of delectable detail in the book, both in the descriptions of the characters, and also in the drawings. It’s truly a love story – of the city, of music, of life.

More: Click here for an index of all our book lists. 


Brave Girl: Clara and the Shirtwaist Makers’ Strike of 1909. NYC was (and is) the location of much social change in the United States and this book tells a valuable story of the history of women workers and the importance of fair labor practices, which still resonates today. Clara comes to NYC dirt poor but full of grit. She works a miserable, backbreaking job at a garment factory. An extraordinary individual, she taught herself to read and led the largest walkout of women workers in U.S. History, despite being beaten and jailed for participating in labor strikes. Also on my list of picture books about women in history


When Blue Met Egg is also on my list of favorite picture books of 2012. Illustrated with winsome cut paper collage artwork, Ward’s debut picture book is about a little bird who takes good care of a snowball that she believes to be an egg. Parents might feel a bit nostalgic for a time long ago in health class when they were asked to believe an egg was a baby.


City Hawk: The Story of Pale Male. When you think “New York City”, do you think “wildlife”? I thought not. It just so happens that the city is filled with wildlife other than pigeons and rats. Pale Male is a well-known red tailed hawk living at the edge of Central Park. There was even a PBS movie made about him and his mate who took up residence on the balcony of a chic 5th avenue apartment building. Their nest caused quite a kerfuffle, sparking protests and government intervention. There are several books about Pale Male, but start with this one.


Keats’s Neighborhood: An Ezra Jack Keats Treasury. Keats’ most famous book is The Snowy Day, but he wrote many other books about the diverse children that populate the borough of Brooklyn, NY. I’ve always felt Keats’ mixed media collages perfectly capture the vibrancy of urban life and the wide range of experiences that kids growing up on sidewalks and in apartments have. Se also: 21 picture books with diverse characters.


At Night is a small, quiet book about life on the rooftop of a walk-up. It’s a view that I had never experienced before moving to the city, but is such an integral part of urban living. When she has trouble sleeping, a young girl takes her pillow up to her rooftop garden where she enjoys the cool night air and the views of the bridges and lights. This is a great bedtime book.


The Tree is a fascinating science and history book. It follows the the 250 year story of a single elm tree in Madison Square Park, from its beginnings as a seedpod, through its determination to grow during both turbulent and calm years of the city’s history. Each double page spread includes a time line of historical events and the book emphasizes the co-existence of nature and society as both evolve side-by-side. 


Chinatown. William Low’s gorgeous saturated illustrations share the vivid experience that is NYC’s Chinatown. Spare text takes us on an intergenerational tour of the lively neighborhood. The narrator imparts the wisdom of his grandmother as he describes Chinatown from a variety of perspectives, such as shop windows, dense apartments, crowded sidewalks, subway entrances, and of course, the New Year celebration.


When You Meet a Bear on Broadway is a quirky tale about being lost and separated from one’s mama. Only the one lost is not the child, but the bear. First the narrator establishes some ground rules as to what to do when you meet a wild animal in the city (always be polite, for example) and then the girl asks the bear a number of questions so they can set out on their way to find his mama. They search through the city until they come to the park, where they discover the perfect way to find a mama (I won’t give it away).


Tell Me a Mitzi is a classic I remember well from my childhood. It consists of three stories. In the first, Mitzi wants to visit grandma but since her parents are asleep, she gets her brother ready all by herself and gets them into a taxi, only to realize she doesn’t know that address. The middle story will be familiar to moms everywhere who have to take care of everyone else when they are sick… until she gets sick herself. In the third story, the children and their father turn a presidential motorcade upside down over a piece of gum. All the stories are charming vignettes of daily life, sweet without being saccharine, and set in the city without screaming “Look at me! I’m an important landmark!”


ABC NYC: A Book About Seeing New York City and 123 NYC: A Counting Book of New York City are wonderful books suitable for toddlers on up. While they are marvelous teaching tools for kids learning their letters and numbers I like them because they encourage the reader to look a little closer at the world around them. All of the locations are identified in the back of the book so whether you live in the city or are just an armchair traveller, you can put the photos in a city-wide context.


Every New York parent has a subway-loving tot. I attribute my kids’ early knowledge of the alphabet and numbers to our regular rides on the subway. Our beloved copy of Subway is worn thin. Every page has several pieces of tape holding it together. As soon as this book was published (2010) I snapped up a copy since I knew my boys would love it. With its snappy rhymes, copious use of the MTA (Metro Transit Authority) icons and the spot on scenarios (what parent hasn’t ridden the the subway just because their kids wanted to?), this is a book every subway-riding kid will want to snuggle up to.


New York in Pajamarama is a seriously awesome book which uses an “Ombro-Cinema” technique to create the illusion of movement. Included with the book is a sheet of acetate imprinted with narrow black lines. When reading the book, kids slide the acetate across the book’s illustrations.  The movement of the acetate across patterned lines imbedded in the illustrations makes the book come alive.The nature of this illustrative magic is perfect for creating the dynamic movement of city life with its sparking lights, racing taxis, rustling leaves in Central Park, frantic shoppers and dizzying skyscraper-induced vertigo.

Click here to read our post about this book, see a video of how it works, plus a cityscape art project.


Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale is a book you have likely heard of and perhaps already read to your kids. What you may not know is that the first two Knuffle Bunny books are photographed exclusively in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Park Slope, with its characteristic brownstones and wide sidewalks bordering the beautiful Prospect Park.


I wasn’t intending this list to be a list of picture books to directly teach kids about NYC (rather books that happen to be set in NYC), yet I can not resist including A Walk in New York, with its retro-inspired drawings depicting a boy and his father touring The Big Apple. The pair take in all the sights and the diversity of people as they make their way through the city (aka Manhattan), starting at the NY Public Library. Lots of little informative blurbs give kids insight into the scenes.


Tar Beach. This is an interesting book to me on so many levels. At a family picnic on a hot summer evening on the roof of their Harlem apartment, a young girl imagines coasting through the starry sky on a blanket with her brother over the George Washington Bridge (you would be surprised at how many books there are that feature flights over NYC, I could make a list just about that!), which her father helped build. The girl’s optimistic dreams of her own future and the possibilities ahead of her do not gloss over the hardship that her family faces. Ringgold’s gorgeous illustrations are quilts come to life. You will also find this book on our list of books about summer in the city. 


A City Is is a book of short poems about urban life in NYC. The late Norman Rosten was the first poet laureate of Brooklyn and illustrator Melanie Hope Greenberg brings life to his words with colorful vignettes that take readers on a visual tour through the city during the course of a year. Incidentally, Greenberg designs coloring pages for this blog, and you can download (for free, of course) her New York City Coloring Page.


The Castle on Hester Street is a notable read for many reasons. First because Jewish immigrants play such an important role in the history of the city, but also because the idea of NYC as a place of opportunity is still firmly rooted in our consciousness. Grandpa Hester’s storytelling is filled with fanciful details about immigrating to NYC with a singing goat, and selling jeweled buttons from a pushcart. He sees his past through joyful rose-colored glasses. Grandma, on the other hand, describes their immigrant experience through more practical lenses, but no less joyful.

So tell me, which favorite New York City picture book did I fail to include?

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Math YouTube Channels for Kids http://www.whatdowedoallday.com/2014/08/math-youtube-channels.html http://www.whatdowedoallday.com/2014/08/math-youtube-channels.html#comments Fri, 22 Aug 2014 10:05:40 +0000 http://www.whatdowedoallday.com/?p=10565 My older son’s favorite subject is math. Although I’m no slouch, mathematics is not my greatest skill and I know I will not be able to help him much as his school math lessons get harder. Math does not seem to be a subject that lends itself well to videos. Most of the math channels on YouTube... Keep Reading →

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My older son’s favorite subject is math. Although I’m no slouch, mathematics is not my greatest skill and I know I will not be able to help him much as his school math lessons get harder. Math does not seem to be a subject that lends itself well to videos. Most of the math channels on YouTube that we’ve come across are very, very, very dry and are just like watching a teacher demonstrate problem solving in class. Instead, these videos are FUN.

Math YouTube channels and videos that are actually fun!

With one exception, most of these are for older kids, but parents will probably enjoy watching them too.

Math YouTube Videos:

ViHart. There is only one word I can use to describe ViHart’s videos: addictive. If you haven’t already watched “mathemuscian” ViHart’s videos you are in for a treat. The mathematical concepts can be pretty sophisticated, but her animations make them very watchable. My numbers nerd adores them, and after watching the hexaflexagon video, this Flex Mex one had him giggling.

The videos on the Ted-Ed channel are not limited to math but they have a few good math videos if you search for them, including this one which explains why there are an equal number of whole numbers as even numbers even though only ever other number is even. (Yes, I’m confused just reading that sentence.)

Khan Academy. Last spring my 9 year old started on the Khan Academy program. He is a very self-motivated student (unlike my 5 year old) so it works well for him. The videos they have are very useful, but they are sort of dry so I suggest they be used with the online program and not as stand-alone unless you are looking for a very specific mathematical explanation. They have videos on every subject under the sun.

Schoolhouse Rock. I am not even joking here! Didn’t you learn stuff with these awesome songs when you were a kid? The official Schoolhouse Rock channel has a fee, but you can find them all for free somewhere on YouTube simply by searching “Schoolhouse Rock”. Here’s one of my favorites: Zero the Hero

Numberphile. Sometimes these videos are too “talky” for my kids (especially my younger son), but there are so many that you will surely find something. Ever wonder about the link between pi and The Simpsons? Want infinity explained? Do your kids like chess and sudoku and wonder about the math? Here’s one which gives you the secret to a perfect game of Connect Four.

Mathantics is a bit more visually interesting for kids than most of the “whiteboard math” videos that you find. There are a lot of topics for elementary math skills.

Do you use YouTube for extra-curricular learning? Just for fun? What are some channels you recommend?

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