What Do We Do All Day? http://www.whatdowedoallday.com Books and Activities for Kids Tue, 30 Sep 2014 14:18:08 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0 16 Magazines for Kids http://www.whatdowedoallday.com/2014/09/magazines-for-kids.html http://www.whatdowedoallday.com/2014/09/magazines-for-kids.html#comments Mon, 29 Sep 2014 10:11:14 +0000 http://www.whatdowedoallday.com/?p=11135 My kids love getting magazine subscriptions in the mail. I like it too because when I pull out the latest edition of Click or Ladybug from the mailbox I know my kids will be quietly occupied for 30 minutes to an hour.  I’ve written before about why I think magazines are good for kids, and... Keep Reading →

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My kids love getting magazine subscriptions in the mail. I like it too because when I pull out the latest edition of Click or Ladybug from the mailbox I know my kids will be quietly occupied for 30 minutes to an hour.  I’ve written before about why I think magazines are good for kids, and their literacy benefits, and now it’s time to give you our favorite recommendations.

16 great magazines for kids. These make terrific gifts.

Magazines also make excellent gifts because they keep on giving all year long. My kids have gotten several magazine subscriptions over the years.

Recently I asked on our Facebook page  (you should join us there!) what magazines their kids loved. This list is a compilation of both our favorites and yours. All of these choices are also free of advertising! If you have a favorite, please leave a comment and share with us. I’m always looking for new reading material for my children! (Note: covers and titles below are affiliate links)

NonFiction Magazines for Kids

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Click. The folks at Cricket publish (in my opinion) some of the best magazines for kids. Click is a science oriented publication for kids ages 3 and up. My older son was an early reader so he was reading Click independently by age 5, but I do have to read it aloud to my current 5 year old. The information, however, is well suited to younger kids. There are short articles of information as well as stories, all with plentiful illustrations. Reading is not passive and many pages ask kids to participate by asking questions. Each edition also includes a craft or game to cut out.


Ask, a science magazine for kids ages 7 and up, is the next step up from Click. I’m quite impressed with the thoughtfulness of the material. I learn quite a bit myself! Each edition has a central theme and includes short facts along with more in-depth articles. My 9 year old loves this magazine and always reads it cover to cover. No doubt he will soon be moving on to Odyssey, their science magazine for kids 10 and up.


Ranger Rick was one of the few magazines I got as a kid. Yes! It’s been around that long! It’s my favorite magazine about wildlife. My kids used to get this magazine (it was a gift and the subscription ran out… boo) and one of the things I liked about it was that it could be enjoyed by kids of different ages. For preschoolers you can go with Ranger Rick Jr. (which was called “Your Big Backyard” back when we subscribed to it).


We’ve never subscribed to National Geographic Little Kids, but others have recommended it. It has games and activities to keep kids engaged, as well as information presented in stories and very short format “articles”. For ages 3-6. I understand the NG magazine for older kids does include advertising, should you wish to avoid that (like I do).


Faces is an excellent magazine that educated children about other cultures and people around the world. Each edition focuses on a specific culture, taking an in-depth look at the people, traditions and role in global society. So much better than a fashion magazine, don’t you think?

Fiction Magazines for Kids


We are all familiar with Highlights For Children from the doctor’s waiting room, yes? A general interest magazine for kids, it includes activities, crafts to try, stories, and quizzes. Highlights High Five is a version for younger kids.


Someone on Facebook mentioned Chirp and I realize the reason I haven’t seen it is because it is Canadian. So, for my friends Up North, this may be a good choice for you! Ages 3-6


Ladybug and Spider. If this list appears heavy with selections from the Cricket publishing house, that’s because Cricket magazines are my absolute favorite. I plan on having my kids continue with at least one non-fiction and one fiction selection until they are out of my hair out of the house. These two magazines, with rhymes, poems, stories and more are for ages 3-6, and 6 and up, respectively. And, of course, Cricket itself is for ages 9 and up.


Humpty Dumpty Magazine is a mix of fiction and non-fiction articles, crafts, puzzles. We’ve never subscribed to it, but it has been recommended by others and was a Parents’ Choice Awards winner in 2012. Have you ever seen it? What do you think?

Magazines for Babies and Toddlers


Babybug is a wonderful first magazine for kids ages 0-3. It is a small size, with heavy, rip-resistant pages. We never had a subscription to this one (sadly), but I used to check them out from the library. Very simple stories, colorful illustrations, rhymes and interactive text make this a lovely choice for parents to read to their little ones.


I’ve not seen Highlights Hello but others have recommended it as a perfect first magazine for babies and toddlers. Ages 0-2.

I would be remiss in not mentioning the LEGO magazine! So many of you on Facebook said you get this magazine and it is FREE so I went and signed my kids up for it. Of course, it’s one giant advertisement for LEGO, but sometimes that’s okay. I look forward to checking it out.

Do your kids get magazines? Which ones do you recommend? 

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How to Have the Perfect STEM Play Date http://www.whatdowedoallday.com/2014/09/stem-activities-playdate.html http://www.whatdowedoallday.com/2014/09/stem-activities-playdate.html#comments Thu, 25 Sep 2014 10:18:56 +0000 http://www.whatdowedoallday.com/?p=10602 Play and learning are natural partners. Kids’ activities that promote STEM (Science Technology Engineering Math) concepts do not have to be complicated and simple STEM projects are perfect for play dates so friends can learn and play together. One of my older son’s best friends is another boy his age who lives in our building.... Keep Reading →

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Play and learning are natural partners. Kids’ activities that promote STEM (Science Technology Engineering Math) concepts do not have to be complicated and simple STEM projects are perfect for play dates so friends can learn and play together.

STEM activity for the perfect play date.

One of my older son’s best friends is another boy his age who lives in our building. They are great friends but I would venture to say that their ways of working and learning are very different. Sometimes this means they have trouble agreeing on an activity if we are having an indoor play date. When one of our recent impromptu play dates (impromptu play dates is the best thing about apartment living) was about to take a turn for the worse it was miraculously saved by a simple STEM activity: paper airplanes.

During the play date I remembered I had an unopened Klutz Book of Paper Airplanes (note: all product links are affiliate links) in the closet. I had originally bought it as a birthday gift for a party we ended up being unable to attend. It was the perfect distraction for the boys.

Folding paper airplanes as a STEM activity

Watching the boys work together reminded me of the lessons I learned making paper boats with Kiddo. During that activity I was focused on the craftiness aspect of paper engineering. I had never considered the perfection of paper airplanes in teaching STEM concepts before. Best of all, the boys’ collaboration benefitted from their different learning styles.

My son is very exacting and likes to follow instructions to the letter (sometimes he is so precise, it drives me bonkers!) while his friend is a more creative and crafty type. My son could help with the exacting folds and interpreting the instructions, the neighbor was excited about crafting and both enjoyed zooming planes around the apartment.

Here’s are some of the skills I witnessed the boys working on:

  • engineering
  • troubleshooting
  • team work
  • following instructions
  • geometry
  • fine motor

Working together on paper airplanes. A STEM activity

My kids have worked on paper airplanes before, but nothing was ever as successful as working with this Klutz book! One thing I loved about this particular paper airplane book is that the planes were categorized not just by difficulty but by how they fly, such as “stunt planes” or “gliders”. There are detailed instructions for folding but also several pages devoted to how to fly the planes and troubleshooting if things go awry. It also includes good quality paper.

Once the planes were folded according to the instructions, the boys needed to troubleshoot if the planes did not fly exactly as planned. The book included suggestions such as adjusting the elevators and ailerons on the planes, or aiming the planes from different angles or heights.

They ended up making 3 different planes and it was great to see them have a non-Pokemon centered play date! (Not that there is anything wrong with Pokemon!)

Kids love this STEM activity

Note: This is not a sponsored post. I bought the Klutz book myself. I have used affiliate links.

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8 Banned Books Your Kids Should Read http://www.whatdowedoallday.com/2014/09/banned-books-your-kids-should-read.html http://www.whatdowedoallday.com/2014/09/banned-books-your-kids-should-read.html#comments Tue, 23 Sep 2014 13:49:32 +0000 http://www.whatdowedoallday.com/?p=11121 In celebration of Banned Books Week, I encourage you to read or check out at least one title from this banned books list. I admit, that I do not readily understand the need for parents to censor their child’s reading. Even when my kids enjoy books I hate, I don’t tell them no. I have even... Keep Reading →

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In celebration of Banned Books Week, I encourage you to read or check out at least one title from this banned books list. I admit, that I do not readily understand the need for parents to censor their child’s reading. Even when my kids enjoy books I hate, I don’t tell them no. I have even more difficulty when adults take steps to restrict other children from reading books by challenging a book’s very presence on library shelves.

Banned books for kids. Books I loved as a kid and books my children love now.

Indeed, banned books provide wonderful teaching moments. Does a book deal with difficult topics? Does it promote a world view that is not inline with the way you see things? Talk about it with your child. Open the door and encourage your children to keep an open mind and think critically about what they read. They (and you) will become more discerning readers and empathetic citizens as a result.

Below are 8 books which have faced challenges or been outright banned from libraries. Which ones have you read? Note: titles and covers are affiliate links.


I read the beautiful Bridge to Terabithia as a kid and I still list it as one of the books that has stayed with me. Two 5th grade friends, Jess and Leslie, create an imaginary world they call Terabithia. One day a tragedy leaves Jess alone and he must rely on all he learned through his friendship with Leslie to work through his grief over her death. Parents have trouble with a children’s book that has death as a central motif, and some claim the book promotes witchcraft. However, children need books that help them deal with big emotions, and the author always found the accusations that the book was anti-Christian somewhat odd as she herself was the child of missionaries and the wife of a minister. Patterson’s The Great Gilly Hopkins is another frequently challenged book that I think is worth a read. Ages 8 and up.


The Giver. It is rather ironic that a book about the dangers of restricting information would be challenged and banned, yes? 12 year old Jonas lives in “The Community” in which sameness is valued and everyone’s life is pre-determined by the elders. Jonas learns the truth, however, when he is designated as the next “Receiver of Memory”, the only person who is allowed to learn about the past and the outside world. There are some heavy issues in the book, but the message is clear: freedom for people to learn and follow their own path, despite pain and chaos, are more valuable than ignorance and safety. That’s a lesson I want to teach my kids. Ages 10 and up.


Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry. Here’s another book I read as a child that had a profound impact on me; I remember being moved by it, even 30 years later. Published in 1976, (and on my list of must read books fro the 1970s) this is the story of a family deeply affected by racism. It’s not a pretty story, and it’s about the shameful way people can treat each other. I remember reading it and feeling as though, as a child growing up in a sheltered (even though progressive) environment, that my eyes had been opened, but that there was possibility for positive change. Isn’t that what we want for our kids? Ages 10 and up.


In the Night Kitchen. I will admit that the reason parents want to ban this book makes me roll my eyes. Nakedness. Seriously! I don’t want to seem disrespectful but does not that seem a tad ridiculous? As an adult I found this book sort of weird on the first reading, but the more I read it the more I love it and understand how it speaks to children and their anxieties. While he dreams, Mickey floats (nekkid) through the air and into a bakery when the cooks are preparing a cake. Mickey becomes the hero when he secures the missing ingredient (milk) so the cake can be finished by, and eaten for, breakfast. The whole book is surreal and adults will be able to see references to cultural events that kids won’t see. I recommend reading it to your kids and if they like it, keep reading it. Ages 4 and up.


A Light in the Attic. I admit I was confused as to why in the world this book would be banned, so I had to do a little Google search to verify. Indeed, school libraries have banned this book because parents have complained that some of the poems promote the occult and that a poem with the line “someone ate the baby” would encourage kids cannibalism. (Seriously! For real!) I’m pretty sure reading poetry has never resulted in the eating of babies. As you know, I am a big believer in the power of poetry to bring joy to daily life. Read these awesome poems with your kids. Ages 4 and up.


And Tango Makes Three is based on a true story about two male penguins (yes, penguins) at Central Park Zoo in NYC. The penguins form a bond and when they seem sad that they have no egg in their nest, a zoo keeper gives them an egg. Roy and Silo care for the egg until it hatches. A note in the back expands on the actual events. The heart of the book is that a family is a group of people who love and care for each other and cannot be defined by restrictive conventions. Granted, the book is not for everyone, but let’s leave the book in libraries for those of us who like the message — or for those of us who want to read a cute story about penguins. Ages 3 and up.


The Agony of Alice. Phyllis Reynolds Naylor’s Alice series, which I included in my list of must read books from the 1980s,  has made her one of the most challenged children’s authors of all time because she write honestly about Alice’s “agony” of dealing with the transition into tweendom — socially, biologically and emotionally. Alice’s mother has passed away and she lives with her brothers and father, who don’t always “get” her, but who love her. There are 25 books in the Alice series (I have not read them all!) chronicling Alice’s journey through middle and high school. This is a terrific series for girls (and also for boys, I might add). Ages 10 and up.


The Adventures of Captain Underpants. Sure, Captain Underpants relies on silly, gross humor to entertain kids and keep them reading, but so what? I’ve written before about why I let my kids read potty humor. My son loved these books about two boys with an overactive imagination. Some of the complaints about this series include accusing it of disrespecting school authority figures, but I don’t think parents want their kids to blindly follow whatever adults say. In addition, school is a source of anxiety for kids (whether it’s academic or social, mild or severe) and I think it’s good for kids to have a way of thinking about school in subversive, non-traditional ways. That said, I do leave these books for my boys to read independently; I’m not very interested in reading them out loud. Ages 5 and up.

This list only touches the surface of books that parents and other adults have tried to keep out of the hands (and hearts) of children. Other popular books include the Harry Potter series, several Judy Blume books, and even A Wrinkle in Time. You can learn more at the American Library Association.

We can all agree that not all books are appropriate for every child at any given time. Certainly, some titles are best appreciated when kids are older. However, let’s encourage inquiry, thoughtfulness, and a curious approach to the world by leaving all books on the shelves.

Celebrate the freedom to read. 

For more books we love, banned or not, check out the index of all my book lists.

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8 Ways to Use Poetry to Calm Your Kids and Bring Joy to Your Daily Life http://www.whatdowedoallday.com/2014/09/poetry-calm-kids-joy-life.html http://www.whatdowedoallday.com/2014/09/poetry-calm-kids-joy-life.html#comments Thu, 18 Sep 2014 10:00:03 +0000 http://www.whatdowedoallday.com/?p=11079 I am happy to report that our home has experienced an explosion of poetry, a “poetry renaissance”, if you will. Back in April, I started the Poetry Reading Challenge and it would not be an overstatement to say that it changed our lives. As I reflect on how we have infused our daily life with... Keep Reading →

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I am happy to report that our home has experienced an explosion of poetry, a “poetry renaissance”, if you will. Back in April, I started the Poetry Reading Challenge and it would not be an overstatement to say that it changed our lives. As I reflect on how we have infused our daily life with poetry it became clear to me that poems often have a calming effect on the kids.

Poetry calms kids and can bring joy to daily life.  8 ideas to try plus resources to help.

Now that is not to say that our home is not a model of peace and tranquility. I do have two boys ages 5 and 9. So I don’t want to get your hopes up for perfection. However, I want to encourage you to include poetry in your kids’ daily literacy diet. Yes, even if you are one of those people who “hates poetry”, or “just can’t get into poetry.”

The following are 8 ways poetry has improved our lives, acted as a calming activity, and helped the kids to stay focused:

1. Make poetry visible. I do this three ways. I hang poems on the wall, leave poetry books lying out and have poetry word magnets. You can see we still have the poems from April tacked up above our dinner table. And note, I didn’t bother to stage a pretty pic, so ignore the messy table.

Poetry on the wall inspires kids!

2. Read poetry everyday. Yes. Every. Day. It’s much easier than you think. Do you have a stack of books by your child’s bed where you read bedtime stories? Stick a poetry book on top and read a poem before the books. It only has to be one. You can read the same one every night if you want.

3. Memorize a poem. This is a biggie, and the following points below are all related to the idea of memorization. I’m looking now at you, mom or dad. If you, the parent, don’t have a poem memorized, do it. It’s easier than it seems. Go ahead and pick something short. Anything you want, even a silly poem! You may even remember a poem you memorized as a child but thought you forgot. I can remember several poems I learned when I was young, including “The Owl and the Pussycat” and “Jabberwocky”. I also have an arsenal of Shakespeare from my acting days, which comes in handy when I want to impress my kids. (Oh, who am I kidding, they are more impressed by “Jabberwocky”.)

4. Create a ritual around reciting the poem you have memorized. I have found reciting poetry comes in very handy when I am brushing my 5 year old’s teeth. But it might work well for bath time, or setting the table, or any other number of mundane, but otherwise boring tasks you force your child to do your child does.

5. Have your kids memorize a poem. This is much, much easier than it sounds!! My kids memorize poems much more quickly than I do! All that teeth brushing during “Jabberwocky”? My 5 year old can recite it now, too. Here’s a tip. Don’t tell your kids to memorize a poem if they will think it sounds like work. Simply read the same poem every day (see tip 2, above) and they will memorize it in no time. Our next mission is to memorize “Casey at the Bat”. My kids love this poem and I plan to read it once at dinner, working on a stanza each day. (You can even see it there in the photo, above!)

6. Make up poetry spontaneously. This is especially fun with limericks. When reciting well-heard poems during teeth brushing doesn’t work, I make up a limerick. My son particularly likes it when they are about him. Tip: they don’t have to be good. My limericks are embarrassingly bad. Who else will hear them? (Well, besides the neighbors who share the bathroom vent.)

7. Recite poetry in the dark. Does this seem weird? Poetry paints visual images. Turning off the lights can allow kids brains to focus more closely on the words and imagery of a poem. I find this particularly helpful with my younger son, who has always struggled with falling asleep. After we turn off the lights, we lay down and recite “Poem in your Pocket” but you could find another calming bedtime poem that would work just as well.

8. Invest in poetry books. I don’t necessarily mean you have to spend money. You can invest in the time it takes to walk over to the library and browse the poetry section (Dewey Decimal 811) for a quality anthology to borrow. Read from it with your kids every day and leave it lying around your home (see tips 1 and 2).  See below for suggestions of favorite poetry books.

Poetry Book Suggestions:

(Note: book titles are affiliate links)

  • Poems to Learn by Heart
  • A Family of Poems: My Favorite Poetry for Children
  • The Random House Book of Poetry for Children
  • Read-Aloud Rhymes for the Very Young
  • National Geographic Book of Animal Poetry: 200 Poems with Photographs That Squeak, Soar, and Roar!
  • Here’s A Little Poem: A Very First Book of Poetry

Poetry Book Lists:

More Poetry Resources:

... and may poetry calm your kids and bring joy to your home, too!

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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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