What Do We Do All Day? http://www.whatdowedoallday.com Books and Activities for Kids Fri, 29 Aug 2014 10:34:38 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.2 Children’s Books Set in New York City http://www.whatdowedoallday.com/2014/08/childrens-books-set-new-york-city.html?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=childrens-books-set-new-york-city 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?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=math-youtube-channels 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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Gross Motor Activity: Scooter Slalom http://www.whatdowedoallday.com/2014/08/gross-motor-activity-scooter-slalom.html?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=gross-motor-activity-scooter-slalom http://www.whatdowedoallday.com/2014/08/gross-motor-activity-scooter-slalom.html#comments Wed, 20 Aug 2014 10:35:11 +0000 http://www.whatdowedoallday.com/?p=10604 This gross motor activity was a spontaneous creation one morning this summer when I took the boys out to the park extra early because they were driving me extra crazy. We like to call it “Scooter Slalom”, even though I suppose technically it’s not a slalom course since there are no flagged gates involved. But nevermind... Keep Reading →

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This gross motor activity was a spontaneous creation one morning this summer when I took the boys out to the park extra early because they were driving me extra crazy. We like to call it “Scooter Slalom”, even though I suppose technically it’s not a slalom course since there are no flagged gates involved. But nevermind that. It kept me sane, and that’s what counts.

Gross motor activity for kids. Make a scooter slalom.

I didn’t set out to turn a normal scooting session into a gross motor activity that challenged their coordination, balance and control any more than most days, but that’s how it evolved and I so I thought it would be worth sharing with you.

What you need: (It’s all pretty obvious, but still…)

  • Scooters, skateboards or bikes
  • Sidewalk chalk
  • A paved slope (or flat — whatever)
  • High energy kids

The boys and I all drew a variety of shapes and lines on the path with sidewalk chalk and the object was for the boys to use the marks as a course. The shapes didn’t necessarily have certain designations, but sometimes the boys decided “now go around all the circles” or “cross through the center of the X’s” or “now do only blue lines.” Primarily the goal was to hit all the marks from start to finish, but your kids can determine their own rules. After all, my goal was to be as uninvolved as possible!!

Drawing a scooter slalom outside with sidewalk chalk

It turned out to be fairly challenging and great for their gross motor skills, teaching them that they had to slow down at certain points, or work harder to keep their balance at others. It really kept them busy, both charting the path (I relinquished my chalk as early as possible!) and traveling along it via scooters.

All in all it was a pretty good morning.

More super duper low tech gross motor fun you can have at the park:

Rolling down a hill

Sidewalk action path (via Matty Angel)

5 ways to play tag (via Pleasantest Thing)

Color dot hop (via Learn Play Imagine)

 

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Back to School Bookmarks to Color http://www.whatdowedoallday.com/2014/08/back-school-bookmarks-color.html?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=back-school-bookmarks-color http://www.whatdowedoallday.com/2014/08/back-school-bookmarks-color.html#comments Tue, 19 Aug 2014 10:00:57 +0000 http://www.whatdowedoallday.com/?p=10586 These free, printable bookmarks to color are just in time for back to school. As part of her series of coloring pages for this blog, children’s book author and illustrator Melanie Hope Greenberg created these school themed bookmarks for kids to color, print and cut out. We like to make our own bookmarks, some of which... Keep Reading →

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These free, printable bookmarks to color are just in time for back to school. As part of her series of coloring pages for this blog, children’s book author and illustrator Melanie Hope Greenberg created these school themed bookmarks for kids to color, print and cut out.

School bookmarks to color. Free printable.

We like to make our own bookmarks, some of which have graced the pages of this blog. We’ve made bookmarks out of beads, postage stamps and even made these ribbon clips that won’t get lost or rip delicate pages. Now we can add these cute printable, coloring page bookmarks to our collection.

Download and Print –> (By clicking this link you agree to our terms of service, see below*) School Bookmarks

Tips:

  • Print bookmarks on card stock for sturdiness.
  • For added flair punch a hole in the top and add a ribbon or tassel.
  • Kids can write their names on the back for a bit of personalization and handwriting practice

School bookmark in book.

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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Over a Dozen Great Audiobooks for Kids http://www.whatdowedoallday.com/2014/08/audiobooks-for-kids.html?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=audiobooks-for-kids http://www.whatdowedoallday.com/2014/08/audiobooks-for-kids.html#comments Mon, 18 Aug 2014 10:00:12 +0000 http://www.whatdowedoallday.com/?p=10575 Although we read A LOT, aside from the occasional audio picture book, we haven’t spent much time listening to audiobooks. Until this summer. Back in July we took a trip to the Jersey shore, and since there was no train, I was looking at 2 hours on the Greyhound. Normally, I read aloud when my kids... Keep Reading →

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Although we read A LOT, aside from the occasional audio picture book, we haven’t spent much time listening to audiobooks.

Until this summer.

List of good audiobooks for kids

Back in July we took a trip to the Jersey shore, and since there was no train, I was looking at 2 hours on the Greyhound. Normally, I read aloud when my kids get squirrel-y but I get motion sickness in cars and busses  so I suspected audio books might be the answer. I brought both a few CDs and downloaded some audiobooks from the library using the Overdrive app. It worked brilliantly and I could hear the kids giggling while I lay back and enjoyed the scenery.

When we returned from our holiday I discovered that my kids were hooked on audiobooks, and we started listening to them at home. I love that audio books can satisfy kids’ need to hear stories repeatedly without my having to read the book ad nauseam.

Many of these books are on other book lists of ours (click here to see the index of all our lists) and one of the reasons is that I prefer to read a book aloud before I put on the audio book. I don’t have any general philosophy behind this, it’s just that I like to read aloud and I don’t want to miss anything! I don’t usually concentrate on listening to the audio books along with my sons — although in our small apartment I can certainly hear them — so I don’t generally pick out new material.

All of these audiobooks are appropriate for ages 5 and up (in my opinion). Note: book covers and titles are affiliate links.

Great Audiobooks for Kids


A Bear Called Paddington was a very recent read aloud of ours. Stephen Fry narrates both audiobooks, but only More About Paddington was available for download through our library. Fry is a wonderful narrator and hits just the right tone for Paddington’s delightful adventures.


Kenny & the Dragon. The spectacular Alan Cummings narrates DiTerlizzi’s adaptation of Kenneth Grahame’s classic story, The Reluctant Dragon. New Kid asked for a lot of clarification as to the vocabulary in this one, but he listened to it three times, so it was definitely a hit.


Toys Go Out is one of my favorite of all chapter books to read aloud. I mention it all the time! (See: list of read aloud chapter books for 4-6 year olds) There are three books in the Toys series, but only one audiobook. Hopefully, that will be corrected soon!


Mr. Popper’s Penguins. My 5 year old has listened to this story at least a dozen times.


You all know that My Father’s Dragonis my very favorite first chapter book read aloud for young kids. If you follow me on Facebook, you also know that my 5 year old STILL requests it, even though I have read all three books more than 5 times. Now that he can listen to the audio book, it frees me up to enjoy other read alouds!


The Chocolate Touch. My son only listened to this story through the headphones, so I never actually heard the narrator, but he laughed out loud many times. He was familiar with the story, both because his Kindergarten teachers read the book to the class, and because we read it at home.

I’m going to introduce the next few titles but making the bold assertion that you can not go wrong with anything written by Beverly Cleary. My son has been listening in rapture all summer to Cleary’s books. He simply cannot get enough. I finally checked out the entire Henry Huggins collection and the Ramona Collection so he would have all the books at once.


Neil Patrick Harris narrates all the novels in the The Henry Huggins Audio Collection. I adore all of the voices he gives the kids on Klickitat Street, especially Ramona’s!


The Ramona Quimby Audio Collection is narrated by Stockard Channing. I’ve only read one, Beezus and Ramona, aloud and I might have spent the next few weeks reading all the Ramona books from beginning to end had it not been for this great collection.


The Beverly Cleary Audio Collection consists of the author’s lesser known, but no less entertaining, books. The set includes a variety of narrators.


The Ralph S. Mouse Audio Collection includes all three books in the series that begins with The Mouse and the Motorcycle.


Magic Tree House. I am not the biggest fan of reading Magic Tree House books aloud. I read a bazillion of them with my oldest son and I do not want to repeat the process. I have moved on. Thank goodness for the audiobooks. My 5 year old has begun requesting them and so I have been downloading them from the library. I am not going to re-read them thankyouverymuch. I encourage you to do the same.


I am calling Stink: The Incredible Shrinking Kid the wild card of this list.  It’s a bit of a random recommendation and I downloaded it on a whim because my older son loved reading these early chapter books when he was younger. (See our list of early chapter book series about boys) Nancy Cartwright is a very entertaining narrator and now my younger son can listen to the books he likes to flip through from our bookshelf.

I know that many people enjoy subscription-type services for audiobooks. I am much too cheap for this, but I am also fortunate to have access to 2 of the largest library collections in the country and I recognize not everyone may have equal opportunity to find these CDs and downloads in their library. If you use a subscription service, I’d love for you to leave a comment below with your experience and recommendations for others.

What audiobooks do your kids love?

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8 Science YouTube Channels for Kids http://www.whatdowedoallday.com/2014/08/science-youtube-channels.html?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=science-youtube-channels http://www.whatdowedoallday.com/2014/08/science-youtube-channels.html#comments Thu, 14 Aug 2014 10:33:20 +0000 http://www.whatdowedoallday.com/?p=10563 Although our DIY summer science camp has been primarily hands on, and we are a mostly screen-free home, I thought I’d let you in on a little secret. Sometimes we watch a few educational YouTube videos. Obviously I am a great advocate of books, but there are a lot of terrific science videos out there to... Keep Reading →

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Although our DIY summer science camp has been primarily hands on, and we are a mostly screen-free home, I thought I’d let you in on a little secret. Sometimes we watch a few educational YouTube videos.

8 Science youtube channels for kids. Learn at home or school.

Obviously I am a great advocate of books, but there are a lot of terrific science videos out there to supplement your child’s STEM education. Plus, sometimes — when your kids are with you 24/7 during the hottest months of the year, you need a little breather!

Science YouTube Videos

Sick Science. Science giant Steve Spangler has a few YouTube channels and they are all worth checking out. Sick Science! specializes in simple but awesome at home science experiments.

MinutePhysics covers a ton of topics and my kids especially like the ones related to space. However, they also enjoyed this video answering the very important question, “is it better to walk or run in the rain?”

MinuteEarth is also a hit, the topics are slightly more, ahem, grounded than MinutePhysics.

Brusspup has crazy science illusions. The videos vary in quality, with the more recent ones being the best. My kids were fascinated by this circle illusion!

Bill Nye the Science GuyYou may be watching YouTube, but you can still go retro with old Bill Nye the Science Guy episodes and clips. Bill Nye appears in many recent videos, too, but it’s fun to watch these again with my kids. A list of clips is here,

VeritasiumFor kids who like to switch topics, Veritasium is a fun channel to explore. The videos are varied, there are interviews, test your knowledge challenges and science explanations. Got a dare devil? Encourage him to watch this video about rocket science.

Periodic Videos. There was a time when my oldest son was obessed with the periodic table. This channel has a video for each element, plus loads of extras. We particularly like their slo mo videos. Also: check out the hair.

I cannot end without sharing my son’s absolute favorite YouTube channel: Cornell Lab of Ornithology. He is a bird nut and could watch these videos for hours if I would let him.

Of course there are many other science channels on YouTube, but in the interest of keeping this post manageable, I’ll stop here. Do you have any others to recommend?

This wraps up our DIY Summer Science Camp collaboration with Coffee Cups and Crayons. I hope Megan and I have inspired you to give science learning at home a try. Science learning doesn’t have to be complicated. After all, if this theater major mom can manage science with her kids, anyone can!
See all our DIY Science Camp ideas!

On this blog: Ice cube on a string,  Solar ovenHomemade compass, Balloon rocket race, Leak proof bag, Simple science lab, Simple machine play with a pulley

At Coffee Cups and Crayons: Mentos geyser, Dancing raisins, Liquid layers, Homemade silly putty, Magic milk, Exploding baggie, Walking water, Rock candy

Follow our Pinterest board for science learning all year ’round:

Follow Erica • What Do We Do All Day?’s board Science Activities for Kids on Pinterest.

What science projects are you doing this summer?

Simple summer science projects for kids

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Favorite Children’s Books of the Year (so far) http://www.whatdowedoallday.com/2014/08/favorite-childrens-books-year.html?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=favorite-childrens-books-year http://www.whatdowedoallday.com/2014/08/favorite-childrens-books-year.html#comments Mon, 11 Aug 2014 10:07:25 +0000 http://www.whatdowedoallday.com/?p=10546 I love to keep on top of the new children’s books that are published every year. My library hold list is usually filled with books that are still “on order”. For the past few years I’ve shared our favorite picture books of the year in a series of lists every few months. I’m a little behind... Keep Reading →

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I love to keep on top of the new children’s books that are published every year. My library hold list is usually filled with books that are still “on order”. For the past few years I’ve shared our favorite picture books of the year in a series of lists every few months. I’m a little behind this year, but, hey, anytime is a good time to share the best kid books of the year, right?

New children's books of 2014 that are the kids' favorites.

As I’ve said before, my favorites lists are not always the books the critics liked best (although there is always cross-over). They are the books my kids enjoy and ask for repeatedly. That’s a success in my book (cheesy pun).

Click here to see our MASTER INDEX OF BOOK LISTS, with lists of books for all ages and interests.

I hope you get a chance to check some of these titles out next time you go to the library! (Note: as always, title and book covers are affiliate links.)


Froodle is the absolute winner of the year (so far). The first time we read this story my 5 year old could not stop laughing! He wanted the book again and again. I think he liked it so much because he can identify with the desire to be silly and different from everyone else. All the birds in the neighborhood have their own sounds, they are well regulated and everyone knows his role. Then one day the Little Brown Bird decides not to make his regular peeping sound. One by one the birds discover the glory of trying something new, even — at last — the stubborn crow.


The Most Magnificent Thing. Ashley Spires’s charming story would fit right in on my list of books to inspire little inventors. I’m hoping it gives New Kid a few ideas about tinkering, because other than our simple pulley I haven’t been all that successful in inspiring his inventive curiosity lately. With the help of her assistant dog, a “regular girl” decides she is going to invent a most MAGNIFICENT thing. She has a lot of false starts. Nothing seems to be turning out the way she wants and it’s so frustrating for her! However, she takes a walk, comes back and looks at her inventions afresh, and finally figures things out. I adore the “lesson” in the book, that success comes only after “failure” (something we learned recently in science camp). You know: trial and error. The book is not at all preachy and Spires’s illustrations are a delight.


Hi, Koo!: A Year of Seasons. With our new found love of poetry, the boys and I have been enjoying this book of haiku about the seasons. There is a bit of whimsy in both the pictures and poems that is quite appealing. Murth’s signature illustrative style is just as dreamy and wonderful as in his other books.


The Mermaid and the Shoe is another tale I could add to our list of mermaid books. Little Minnow is one of King Neptune’s 50 daughters, but she is the only one who has yet to learn her talent. One day she finds a shoe and sets out to discover its purpose. Her journey introduces her to things she has never seen, and when she returns home to tell her story her father explains that her talent and purpose is to ask questions, explore and tell her stories. My 5 year old loved this book and I like the idea that while her sisters excel at activities the mermaid’s talent is using her mind to answer questions!


Have You Seen My Dragon? What could be more glorious to a NYC kid than the idea that a dragon is on the loose? But unlike some books set in NYC, kids outside will love this one. Intensely detailed drawings take readers on a journey all over the metropolis with a boy looking for his dragon. Kids will love spotting the dragon experiencing the delights of the city as they count from one to twenty. Finally, in Chinatown, the boy locates his friend.


Matilda’s Cat. Anytime Emily Gravett publishes a new book, it’s a good bet you will see it on one of our book lists. She is one of my “must read” children’s book author/illustrators. A girl dressed up in a cat costume tries to find the perfect activity to do with her cat. The text is sparse and kids will enjoy the playfulness of the irony between text and illustration. Each illustration begins “Matilda’s Cat likes…” and then we see Matilda enjoying the activity while her cat looks on, skeptical. Then at the end we discover what the cat actually likes. I won’t spoil the surprise, but it will give you a warm fuzzy feeling.


The Bear’s Sea Escape is the sequel to the French picture book, The Bear’s Song. Chronicle Books sent us a copy of this gorgeous, oversized book and my youngest son immediately took to it. Seek and find books are always a bit hit. Papa Bear and Little Bear are off in search of a place to sleep during the winter. They travel over rooftops and into a department story but when Little Bear heads off with a boy Papa Bear’s hunt to find him takes him through the city, train stations, ships, the sea and to a tropical island where it might just be warm enough to finally get to sleep. My son loved searching through the elaborate illustrations to find the bears.

What about you, do you search out the newest children’s picture books?

You can always follow our quest for new books on our Children’s Picture Books Pinterest board. Or, subscribe to our newsletter to see my “On the Holdshelf” pick of the week.

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The Pulley: Simple Machine Project http://www.whatdowedoallday.com/2014/08/pulley-simple-machine-project.html?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=pulley-simple-machine-project http://www.whatdowedoallday.com/2014/08/pulley-simple-machine-project.html#comments Thu, 07 Aug 2014 10:35:50 +0000 http://www.whatdowedoallday.com/?p=10523 Engineering is a big part of science, so a simple machine project with my 5 year old was the perfect addition to our DIY summer science camp. I had originally planned an afternoon of building with a bag full of goodies to inspire tinkering, but it turned into a playful session with a pulley. The... Keep Reading →

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Engineering is a big part of science, so a simple machine project with my 5 year old was the perfect addition to our DIY summer science camp. I had originally planned an afternoon of building with a bag full of goodies to inspire tinkering, but it turned into a playful session with a pulley.

Simple machine project at home with a pulley. Such fun for kids.

The pulley is one of the 6 simple machines. (Before you head off to Google… the others are lever, wedge, wheel and axel, inclines plane, and screw.) The pulley is a delightfully entertaining first engineering science project for young kids. I absolutely loved how long New Kid stayed engaged with such a simple (pun!) activity. I like to think he was learning a lot, too!

What you need:

  • Wheel
  • Rope or string
  • Something to tie onto the rope
  • A curious kid

I had two different sizes of wheels (I found them in the hardware store, but any wheel with a groove will do) in our inventor’s bag along with some long rope. My 5 year old was immediately drawn to the wheels but I was the one who suggested we thread the rope through the grooves and turn it into a pulley.

I hung it from a hook in our window and we tied a stick to one end. I just happened to have a jar of sticks in the window (I know, that’s sort of weird) and it seemed like a good idea. It acted as a sort of make shift handle and also prevented my son from pulling the rope all the way off the wheel.

Simple engineering for kids. Play with a pulley.

I can’t believe how long New Kid played with this simple machine. He loved pulling it back and forth, trying to reach the other end, etc. We tried both size wheels and also tied a stick to each end, not just one.  If you look closely, you can see that he decided to give a finger puppet shark a ride.

Who knew a pulley could be such fun? Stay tuned for more simple machines projects!

The classic way to use a pulley, is of course, with a bucket! Later on, we tied a bucket to the string and, standing out on the fire escape, we lowered a bag of cookies to our neighbors in their backyard. I see more special deliveries in our future!

Don’t forget to head over to Coffee Cups and Crayons to see what Megan and her kids are concocting this week in Science Camp!

See all our DIY Science Camp ideas!

On this blog: Ice cube on a string,  Solar ovenHomemade compass, Balloon rocket race, Leak proof bag, Simple science lab

At Coffee Cups and Crayons: Mentos geyser, Dancing raisins, Liquid layers, Homemade silly putty, Magic milk, Exploding baggie, Walking water

Follow our Pinterest board:

Follow Erica • What Do We Do All Day?’s board Science Activities for Kids on Pinterest.

What science projects are you doing this summer?

Simple summer science projects for kids

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Simple Play Activity: Throw Rocks http://www.whatdowedoallday.com/2014/08/simple-play-activity-throw-rocks.html?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=simple-play-activity-throw-rocks http://www.whatdowedoallday.com/2014/08/simple-play-activity-throw-rocks.html#comments Wed, 06 Aug 2014 10:18:32 +0000 http://www.whatdowedoallday.com/?p=10515 Simple nature play is sometimes the most entertaining things my kids can do. Remember when my kids were fascinated for hours with thin ice? Even messing about with acorns keeps their attention. One of my kids’ favorite things to do is throw rocks into water. I bet your kids love it, too. There’s a lot... Keep Reading →

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Simple nature play is sometimes the most entertaining things my kids can do. Remember when my kids were fascinated for hours with thin ice? Even messing about with acorns keeps their attention. One of my kids’ favorite things to do is throw rocks into water. I bet your kids love it, too.

Simple activities for kids are also the most entertaining.

There’s a lot of pressure on us bloggers to constantly come up with original ideas. I’m not very good at originality, most of the ideas I share with your are not that complicated (that’s sort of the point, actually) and many a day goes by when all I do is let my kids entertain themselves (that’s also the point, actually). Personally, I’d rather sit down for an hour while my kids throw rocks in the water or roll down a hill than make a paper plate craft (well, I’d rather do most things than make a paper plate craft – that’s just not me).

Of course I can’t help but say “be careful” and when we do this in the city (yup, you can experience nature in NYC) I add the caveat to watch out for others. But for the most part, I just sit back and watch.

Wonderful, simple, entertaining free play outdoor activity.

I could go on about how this simple play activity also teaches a bit of science learning about things like gravity, force, trajectory, etc, but that’s not really the point (just a bonus!).

You wouldn’t think watching your kids throwing stuff would be relaxing, but it is!

Do your kids like to throw rocks into the water?

Don’t forget out book list for little rock lovers:
Kids who love rocks will love these books.

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Easy Reader Books That Are Actually Easy http://www.whatdowedoallday.com/2014/08/easy-reader-books-that-are-actually-easy.html?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=easy-reader-books-that-are-actually-easy http://www.whatdowedoallday.com/2014/08/easy-reader-books-that-are-actually-easy.html#comments Mon, 04 Aug 2014 09:53:40 +0000 http://www.whatdowedoallday.com/?p=10484 Do you have an emerging reader? Have you ever noticed how many of the so-called easy reader books are not actually easy? My 5 year old is currently deep in the beginning stages of reading books. Whereas with my early reading oldest child, I was concerned about finding advanced books with subjects appropriate for a 4 year... Keep Reading →

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Do you have an emerging reader? Have you ever noticed how many of the so-called easy reader books are not actually easy? My 5 year old is currently deep in the beginning stages of reading books. Whereas with my early reading oldest child, I was concerned about finding advanced books with subjects appropriate for a 4 year old, now I am looking for easy readers which are actually easy.

Easy reader books and series for kids learning to read. These are actually easy.

To start with, I’ve noticed that all publishers have different standards for levels! Plus, even within the same publisher and level the degree of difficulty can vary. And forget about easy readers with licensed characters. Those are the worst. My son chose a Star Wars level 1 book and it included words like “shoulder”, “symbol” and “organization”. Um, those are not beginning-to-read words.  I want books that will build my son’s confidence in his ability to read, not frustrate him!

More: Click here for a list of easy readers that won’t make you want to poke your eyes out.

So, I have been on the hunt for easy books. It’s a painstaking process, but I hope you find this list useful for your beginning reader. (Note: all book titles and covers are affiliate links.)

The Easiest Easy Reader Books


Ball. This is one word book. Now you may be asking yourself what is the purpose of reading books with only one word. One word: Confidence. After New Kid read this book he had a huge grin on his face, not just because the book was amusing, with it’s comic book-type layout, but because he felt a sense of accomplishment. Learning to read is not just about decoding letters and sentences. The word, “ball” is used to express emotion, convey action and reveal character. By reading this book, kids synthesize text, story, illustration and understand that words convey pathos, climax, and dénouement. This is crucial for reading comprehension.


Hug. A baby gorilla is searching for his mom, using a single word, “hug”. Like Ball (see above) the single word is important, and even a single word can convey dramatic structure and emotions. The more beginning readers can feel connected with a story, they more likely they are to read it. Also included are the words, “Bobo” and “Mommy.”


Orange Pear Apple Bear. Like Ball and Hug, this isn’t necessarily meant as an easy reader, but I used it as such. Emily Gravett is a favorite author of ours and this book uses the same 4 words in different sequences until the end, when a 5th word, “There!” is used. I like that my son could use the illustrations to decode words he didn’t recognize (orange, pear) and he had to pay attention to read them in the correct order on each page. My son can see the same word over and over and still need help with it. In this case, he had to figure out “pear” repeatedly and that was good practice for him. Plus, the book is just plain funny and clever.


The Flip-a-Word books are not so much story books but an exercise in recognizing word family patterns. Each book includes three word families. For example Quack Shack, looks at -ack, -ick, and -ock words. As kids flip the pages, they see the same pattern revealed in a page cut out. At the end of each section the words are reinforced through simple phrases. Some of the pairings are a little silly, which my son loves.


Up, Tall and High is another book with a very limited vocabulary. The book consists of three stories in which birds humorously contemplate three states of being (three guesses!). Fold out pages add extra interest and this book is also great for reading aloud to toddlers and preschoolers. We’ve also been using Ethan Long’s Clara and Clem books from Penguin’s Young Reader series.


Cat the Cat, Who Is That? I love this series from Mo Willems. There is something so charming about the repetition. Only Willems can make a story so simple (saying hi to a slew of animals with names like “Duck the duck” and “Fish the fish”) yet still bring a smile.

Easy Reader Books – A Slight Step Up


See Me Run. Meisel has two “I Like to Read” about dogs going about their doggy business. Very simple words and lots of repetition made this a good choice for my son who balks at words more than four letters. There is action, a bit of suspense (what will the dogs dig up?) and a lot of humor that kept him interested. He didn’t even try and get me to take over reading after 2 pages.


More so than most publishers, I find Harper-Collins’ “I Can Read” books at the “Shared My First Reading” level, the most reliable source of appropriately leveled books for my emerging reader. I never read Biscuit with my older son and sort of rolled my eyes at the thought. Do not make not the same judgmental mistake as I did! They have great repetition and words that kids can actually sound out.


Elephant & Piggie. These books are so popular I hardly need go over any plot points with you. Most parents I talk to started out reading Willems books about Gerald the Elephant and Piggie aloud to their preschoolers, but they are actually written to be easy readers. (The same phenomenon applies to Seuss, have you noticed? Although I prefer Willems a gazillion times to Seuss.) I like that the books are longer than other typical earlier readers, although the text is nice and sparse so pages go quickly. Once your kid is hooked on Elephant and Piggie there are at least 20 more to keep him reading.


Mittens series. Mittens is the feline equivalent of Biscuit (see above). Each book has a bit of a mystery: where is Max? what’s that noise, etc. that encourages my son to keep reading and brings a smile to his face when he comes to the answer or can predict ahead of time what it is. There are a few longer words that he needs help with like “scratching” but since the mystery keeps him going, he doesn’t get frustrated.


What Will Fat Cat Sit On? A comment on this post below reminded me that I had meant to put at least one Jan Thomas books on this list. These books are absolutely hilarious for read aloud storytime, but their simple, rhyming text made them terrific early reader books, too. Plus, they are super duper funny!
Do you have an emerging reader? What books do you find useful?

More easy reader book lists:

Follow Erica • What Do We Do All Day?’s board Easy Readers on Pinterest.

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