What Do We Do All Day? http://www.whatdowedoallday.com Books and Activities for Kids Wed, 26 Nov 2014 13:41:42 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0.1 Fun Field Bag Supplies for Kids http://www.whatdowedoallday.com/2014/11/field-bag-supplies-for-kids.html http://www.whatdowedoallday.com/2014/11/field-bag-supplies-for-kids.html#comments Wed, 26 Nov 2014 10:50:42 +0000 http://www.whatdowedoallday.com/?p=11552 Do your children have field bags? I’ve got some fun ideas for field bag supplies for kids. My oldest son has a deep love for birding, we love nature activities and we’ve gone out on many long rambles in our urban park. My boys LOVE having a field bag of goodies to tote along with them outdoors. It makes... Keep Reading →

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Do your children have field bags? I’ve got some fun ideas for field bag supplies for kids. My oldest son has a deep love for birding, we love nature activities and we’ve gone out on many long rambles in our urban park. My boys LOVE having a field bag of goodies to tote along with them outdoors. It makes them feel very important and official even though they may not be backpacking or camping in the “real” woods!

Field bag supplies for kids. Great for nature walks.

My mother delighted the boys by making them each a small canvas field bag. They personalized them with buttons and badges. Then for Christmas one year we purchased simple supplies that any urban park explorer would be proud to tote along on a hike. (This post contains affiliate links.)

They love their field bags so much!

Fun Field Bag Supplies

The following is a list of our favorite nature walk supplies for kids:

1. Headlamp. Truth be told, we don’t go on many night walks. Primarily, these are used indoors to great delight, and every kid should have one!

2. Magnifying glass.

3. Pocket field guides. We like these Nature Study Guides; we have the Winter Tree Finder and Berry Finder, but there are many different pocket field guides available.

4. Water bottle. No question, the Klean Kanteen is the best water bottle. Made from stainless steel, with no plastic lining. My kids’ field bags are too small for water bottles. I’m considering getting them each a shoulder sling, but so far I’ve been toting the water bottles along in my own backpack.

5. Binoculars. My son has a pair of Nikon Trailblazers. My advice for buying binoculars if you are inexperienced (like I was) is to go to a specialty store and have your child try them out.

6. Bird Log to record essential important sightings! This has been a fun addition to our birding walks.

7. Butterfly net. Granted, this bug net doesn’t exactly fit in the bag, but it sure is fun to bring along.

8. Audubon Bird Call. I’ve heard some advice that birders should not use bird calls excessively so the boys are careful to use them only sparingly.

9. A combo whistle-compass-thermometer.

Not pictured:

Hand-me-down digital camera.

Pen or pencil.

Every serious birder has his own Sibley Bird Guide!

An assortment of local trail maps. You can usually pick these up at a tourist center or information booth.

I realize  some of these field bag supplies for kids may not be precisely essential for a walk in the park with mom. However, having it all sure makes a nature walk more fun. Plus, I’ve often found when the kids are ready to head home before I am, that a little peek in the bag is often just the right distraction to keep them interested in the great outdoors.

What do your kids take with them on nature walks?

What to put in a child's field bag.

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Game of the Month: Ticket To Ride http://www.whatdowedoallday.com/2014/11/ticket-to-ride-board-game.html http://www.whatdowedoallday.com/2014/11/ticket-to-ride-board-game.html#comments Tue, 25 Nov 2014 10:50:31 +0000 http://www.whatdowedoallday.com/?p=11546 My son received the Ticket to Ride board game last year as a gift, and it quickly became a favorite family game and perfect for my game of the month series. We’ve played it again and again and you don’t even need to have a train obsessed child to enjoy it. (This post contains affiliate links.) Ticket... Keep Reading →

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My son received the Ticket to Ride board game last year as a gift, and it quickly became a favorite family game and perfect for my game of the month series. We’ve played it again and again and you don’t even need to have a train obsessed child to enjoy it.

Favorite family game - Ticket to Ride.

(This post contains affiliate links.)

Ticket To Ride has won a number of international awards. It’s also a Parent’s Choice honor game. It requires players to put their strategy and planning skills to the test. The rules are complex, but surprisingly easy to understand. I recommend the game for kids age 7 and up. See below for tips on playing with younger children.

Notes on Playing Ticket to Ride

  • Ticket To Ride takes about 30 to 60 minutes to play. You also need a large playing space for the oversized board.
  • Each player receives a set of train cars. The object is to claim various train routes that criss cross the country.
  • At the start of the game, players draw “tickets” with routes available for claim. Each route has a different point value.
  • During each turn players either claim routes or draw colored cards which all them the possibility of claiming a route in the future.
  • Points are assigned based on the types and number of routes claimed.
  • In order to claim a route, players must strategize as to whether to claim a route immediately, or keep their cards to use during a future turn but risk losing the route before that can happen.
  • Bonus: Kids will quickly learn place names across North America.

Tips on Playing with Younger Kids

My oldest son has always had such an easy time playing strategy and detail-oriented games I’ve always wondered if my experience was similar to other parents. Now, with my second child I can safely say, that I’ve seen both sides. My just-about-six year old second son has a much more difficult time with games that require patience. That said, playing Ticket To Ride with younger kids at the table is still possible. Here are my tips:

  • Play on teams. This is a standard strategy of mine. My younger child plays with me, that way I can help him strategize and make sure he does not fall too far behind. (He is NOT a graceful loser.)
  • Ditch the points. In fact, we don’t rarely keep score no matter what game we play. My sons find it stressful and we don’t have to worry about making mistakes in the scoring.

Ticket to ride board game is fun for the whole family.

Ticket to Ride Game Variations

There are several versions of Ticket To Ride. The original takes players on cross country routes across North America. Other locations include Europe, Asia, India and the Nordic Countries. If you decide to purchase a game featuring one of these other locations, be sure to make sure you are getting a complete game. Some are are only extensions.

Extension Packs: In addition, we have the 1910 Extension Pack of Cards. I prefer the extension cards because they are a larger size and easier to handle. These cards give new routes to play. I purchased these after it became clear the game was a winner, and it proved to be a good investment.

Have you ever played Ticket to Ride? I’ve heard Ticket To Ride – Europe is even better!

Ticket to Ride board game Ticket to Ride expansion pack 1910

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20 Nonfiction Books for Kids Who Love Facts! http://www.whatdowedoallday.com/2014/11/nonfiction-books-for-kids-who-love-facts.html http://www.whatdowedoallday.com/2014/11/nonfiction-books-for-kids-who-love-facts.html#comments Mon, 24 Nov 2014 10:57:30 +0000 http://www.whatdowedoallday.com/?p=11532 Kids love nonfiction books. Even reluctant readers will often sit down for hours with a good, fun fact-filled book for kids. My own two boys love all the fact books on this list. We have copies of our own, but my children almost never leave the library without a nonfiction book for kids of some... Keep Reading →

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Kids love nonfiction books. Even reluctant readers will often sit down for hours with a good, fun fact-filled book for kids. My own two boys love all the fact books on this list. We have copies of our own, but my children almost never leave the library without a nonfiction book for kids of some sort.

Nonfiction books for kids. Books that are chock full of fun facts!

In fact, at every school book fair one of the kids has bought a nonfiction book. They just eat them up. I’ve divided these fact intensive books into two categories. Conveniently (and not coincidentally) these two categories correspond with the age of my own two fact hungry boys. However, there is some cross-over, so check out the recommended age or take a peek inside if you are unsure which books will be right for your nonfiction books loving child. (Book cover and titles are affiliate links.)

More book lists you may enjoy:

Nonfiction Books for PreSchool and Lower Elementary Kids


National Geographic Little Kids First Big Book of Why. What kid doesn’t ask a ton of why questions! I adore this series from National Geographic. The large hardcover books are easy to hold in a lap and full of gorgeous photos. The why answers in this book cover everything from the human body to space. Plus! My favorite part is that the book encourages kids to apply the knowledge with easy to do activity suggestions.


National Geographic Kids First Big Book of Space. I could make a separate entry for all the “First Big Books of…” series. It is truly an outstanding series of non-fiction books for kids. The books all grow with the child.  Each double page spread includes both basic and in-detail facts, perfect for 3-7 year olds. In addition, questions like, “If you could send a spacecraft somewhere in space to take photographs, where would you send it?” encourage kids to apply their new knowledge. Other books in the series include the following:

  • First Big Book of Animals
  • First Big Book of the Ocean
  • First Big Book of Bugs 
  • Little Kids First Big Book of Dinosaurs


Jet Plane: How It Works. David Macaulay’s books for older kids (and grown-ups) are so legendary, I’m quite delighted he now has a set of early readers so young kids can enjoy his great explanations of how machines work or architectural feats are constructed. Shall I tell you that my kids enjoyed the one about the toilet, most of all? See all of them:

  • Eye: How It Works 
  • Toilet: How It Works 
  • Castle: How It Works

Nonfiction Books for Upper Elementary Kids


5,000 Awesome Facts (About Everything!) (National Geographic Kids). I believe we’ve had this book checked out of the library for 6 months. My older son can not get enough of it. He LOVES it and remembers every detail.


National Geographic Kids Ultimate Weird but True: 1,000 Wild & Wacky Facts and Photos. Who doesn’t like random and totally bizarre facts? There are also 6 compact versions of Weird but True books, with 300 facts each, including my favorite one focusing on history: Ye Olde Weird but True: 300 Outrageous Facts from History.


National Geographic Kids Quiz Whiz: 1,000 Super Fun, Mind-bending, Totally Awesome Trivia Questions. At the risk of sounding like a National Geographic advertisement, I will recommend yet ANOTHER book series from them. What can I say, the NG people really know their stuff. Be prepared, however, to be the recipient of many quizzes after you put this book in the hands of your child.


The Way Science Works. DK publishing has loads of these large, illustrated, encyclopedia type books. The format includes copious photographs and explanations that kids can delve into.


How to Be a Genius. Wouldn’t we all love to know the answer to that question!!! My older son also loves the companion book, How to Be a Math Genius. The book explains the facts behind how the human brain processes and stores information, as well as including a plethora of puzzles, brain teasers and activities to keep growing minds busy (and learning).


G Is for Googol: A Math Alphabet Book and Q Is for Quark: A Science Alphabet Book. Don’t be fooled by the “alphabet book” style of these books. They are not books for preschoolers! From A is for Algebra to Z is for Zzzzzz (I’m not giving that one away!), there are some intensive, yet approachable explanations for kids who love their S.T.E.M subjects.


National Geographic Kids World AtlasI realize there are no history-specific books on this list. That’s due to the particular bent of my sons’s interests. However, my older son does love geography and pours over maps. We have a wall map tacked over our dining table, but that doesn’t stop him from picking up his atlas (which he bought at the school book fair) for some more intensive studying.

Nonfiction fact books for kids of all ages.

So tell me, do your kids love facts and trivia? What are their favorite fact-filled nonfiction books?

 

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One Simple Tip To Stop Yelling http://www.whatdowedoallday.com/2014/11/stop-yelling-tip.html http://www.whatdowedoallday.com/2014/11/stop-yelling-tip.html#comments Fri, 21 Nov 2014 12:51:23 +0000 http://www.whatdowedoallday.com/?p=11517 Shhhh. I have a little secret (two, actually). Well, it’s not much of a secret to my upstairs and downstairs neighbors. Fortunately, they are also parents of small children, and quite understanding. It is kind of an embarrassing secret since I am such a big proponent of positive parenting. You’ve figured out by now that... Keep Reading →

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Shhhh. I have a little secret (two, actually). Well, it’s not much of a secret to my upstairs and downstairs neighbors. Fortunately, they are also parents of small children, and quite understanding. It is kind of an embarrassing secret since I am such a big proponent of positive parenting.

A simple trick to help parents stop yelling at the kids.

You’ve figured out by now that my secret is yelling. (Well, you probably knew that as soon as you read the title.) But I have another secret. It’s the secret way I remember to stop yelling. (Note: this post contains affiliate links.)

The boys are very high energy (nothing wrong with that), easily distracted (as are all kids), and also fight a lot (like most siblings). In short, they frequently drive me bananas. Oh we have “family kindness tokens” and practice daily gratitude, and I prep myself for the after school crazies, but we all have our particular weaknesses.

I do not want to yell. I hate yelling.  It’s also a completely ineffective way of dealing with children. Now, this is not a post about alternative discipline techniques. Yelling is not discipline. Yelling is just me demonstrating my lack of communication skills and my failure to take a moment to breathe and take stock of the situation. (In any case, I’m more a proponent of connecting and forming a relationship with my kids than punitive punishment and reward discipline systems.)

I’ve learned a lot about how to communicate with the kids, especially from the books How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk and Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids: How to Stop Yelling and Start Connecting, so it’s not as if I don’t have strategies.

The thing is. When I am in the thick of things, I forget.

I forget not to yell. And then I beat myself up for my failure. (Never a good thing.)

I know that sounds lame. I’ve tried visual reminders around the apartment, but after a day or so, they just became part of the scenery.

However, one trick I started a few weeks ago has been working. Not that life is perfect now, but I have noticed a pretty significant improvement in how I handle the after school chaos.

I put a reminder on my phone. Yep. Every day, right before I pick up the boys, I hear a little chime, or feel a vibration in my pocket. There’s something about the physical action I have to take to pull out the phone, and click “dismiss” (or snooze, if I feel a particularly tough afternoon coming on) that makes the reminder stick in a way all those passive reminders didn’t.

Just a little nudge to be a calmer person.

I was telling a friend of mine (actually we were having a good laugh about it) about my phone reminder and she told me she has a small object she keeps in her shoe! Every time she stomps her foot when she is upset, she feels a pinch of pain to help stop her in her tracks. Literally!

So, after that I felt quite normal with my phone reminder. Ha!

Do you have a parenting communication issue you struggle with?

Other no yelling tricks you could try:

Visual reminder to stop yelling (via Dirt and Boogers)

Changing your space to stop yelling (via Lemon Lime Adventures)

Change your viewpoint to stop yelling (via Psychology Today)

How to stop yelling at the kids. One simple tip.

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Thankful Coloring Pages to Start a Conversation http://www.whatdowedoallday.com/2014/11/thankful-coloring-pages.html http://www.whatdowedoallday.com/2014/11/thankful-coloring-pages.html#comments Thu, 20 Nov 2014 10:39:26 +0000 http://www.whatdowedoallday.com/?p=11510 Yesterday’s gratitude wall would be a great way to use these adorable, printable thankful coloring pages from Melanie Hope Greenberg.  Print this page out, along with Melanie’s Thanksgiving place cards and your kids will have 8 different designs to use for either thankful cards or place cards at the dinner table. Download and Print –> (By... Keep Reading →

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Yesterday’s gratitude wall would be a great way to use these adorable, printable thankful coloring pages from Melanie Hope Greenberg.  Print this page out, along with Melanie’s Thanksgiving place cards and your kids will have 8 different designs to use for either thankful cards or place cards at the dinner table.

Printable thankful coloring pages for Thanksgiving.

Download and Print –> (By clicking the link you agree to our terms of service* see below) THANKFUL COLORING PAGE

A great idea is to have these cards on hand for the kids to color while everyone is waiting for the celebratory Thanksgiving meal. In fact, you can turn them into conversation starters using the ideas below.

Thankful card variations:

  • Kids and grown-ups can write down what they are thankful for.
  • Kids and grown-ups can write down questions to ask during dinner.
  • Use them for Thanksgiving charades! Write down common Thanksgiving items. Drop cards in a hat and play charades!
  • Write down a brief Thanksgiving memory to share during dinner.

***Read Melanie’s recent article at Huffington Post! It will make you feel thankful for where you live!***

More:

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.

You can learn more about Melanie’s school visits where she talks to kids about the process of creating a book.

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. 

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Thankful Tradition: Gratitude Wall #PirateThanksgiving http://www.whatdowedoallday.com/2014/11/thankful-tradition-gratitude-wall.html http://www.whatdowedoallday.com/2014/11/thankful-tradition-gratitude-wall.html#comments Wed, 19 Nov 2014 10:15:41 +0000 http://www.whatdowedoallday.com/?p=11497 This “Share Yarr Tradition” conversation is sponsored by Pirate’s Booty. It is a tradition in our home every November to discuss the things in our lives for which we are thankful. I try to also turn it into a creative exercise. It all started one year with our Thankful Tree, in which my then 3... Keep Reading →

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This “Share Yarr Tradition” conversation is sponsored by Pirate’s Booty.

It is a tradition in our home every November to discuss the things in our lives for which we are thankful. I try to also turn it into a creative exercise. It all started one year with our Thankful Tree, in which my then 3 year old and I hung paper leaves on branches. One year we crafted painted thankful leaves out of recycled newspaper and scattered them all over the wall. This year I did something a little different: we created a gratitude wall.

Thankful tradition for Thanksgiving. Create a family gratitude wall.

I kept it very simple with a stack of index cards and a jar of our favorite colored pens. You could get a little fancy and use these darling printable thankful cards.  Each night at dinner we discuss what we are thankful for that day. I encourage the kids to think of things both small and large. After all, it’s okay to be thankful for pencils AND our good health.

Creating thankful cards, a family tradition.

Letting the kids pick out seemingly small things also teaches them to find joy in ordinary moments (even after school treats) as well as being grateful for the extraordinary.

Those of you who have been with this blog for a while (and I am thankful for you!) will know I am grateful for books. This scene, of my older son and his voracious love of reading is one I am incredibly thankful for each and every day. (Although I may prefer he eat his Pirate’s Booty at the table instead of the couch!!)

Thankful tradition and after school snack.

My kids are so very, very different and I am certainly equally thankful for my super duper high energy little guy who loves to dance and act silly, even when eating his after school snack! You can’t tell from this photo but he was bouncing all over that bench! Whew!

Thankful tradition and snack time with the kids

At the beginning of the month, my younger son balked at having to to write the cards. He struggles with fine motor and feels self-conscious about his handwriting. I didn’t pressure him, but wrote down his words for him. I am thankful that he is now participating, even though sometimes he still struggles.

Start a thankful tradition with a family gratitude wall.

After dinner we put them up on the wall and it’s so nice to have a visual reminder of all the good things in life, even bacon.

Create a family thankful wall to practice gratitude.

I just want to say I am thankful for Pirate’s Booty for starting this conversation! Sharing our favorite activities through blogging has been a real joy for me and it’s wonderful to have both reader and sponsor support. If you watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade ever year, be sure to look for the first ever Pirate’s Booty float! Pop over and enter for a chance to win: a treasure-filled Thanksgiving Day grand prize trip: 4 tickets to the 2015 parade, round-trip tickets to NYC, 3 nights hotel stay, $750 in spending money and a $150 Macy’s Gift card. Take it from me, any trip to this fabulous city my family calls home will be a great one.

Do you have a particular tradition this time of year?

Thankful wall family tradition.

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post. That means I received compensation for my writing. All ideas, activities, opinions and photos are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

 

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Fine Motor Activity: LEGO Head Rescue http://www.whatdowedoallday.com/2014/11/fine-motor-activity-lego.html http://www.whatdowedoallday.com/2014/11/fine-motor-activity-lego.html#comments Tue, 18 Nov 2014 12:49:08 +0000 http://www.whatdowedoallday.com/?p=11476 I must admit, this LEGO head fine motor activity that my son has been doing every day with therapy putty for the last few weeks has me laughing every time. There’s just something so funny about LEGO heads to me! Is that weird? I have written before about my youngest son’s struggle with his fine... Keep Reading →

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I must admit, this LEGO head fine motor activity that my son has been doing every day with therapy putty for the last few weeks has me laughing every time. There’s just something so funny about LEGO heads to me! Is that weird? I have written before about my youngest son’s struggle with his fine motor skills. The biggest challenge is his handwriting, but we also work on increasing his fine motor strength and dexterity, which is what this activity is meant to address.

LEGO activity to build fine motor skills

They key to doing fine motor work at home with my son is not to let him think he is doing therapy. If he knew my motivation he would cross his arms and walk away. That’s why this particular exercise works so well. Plus, it’s just fun to play with putty. (Note: this post contains affiliate links.)

What you need: (in no particular order)

  • An assortment of  LEGO minifigures. You probably already have those!
  • Therapy Putty. I purchased a CanDo Theraputty set and it has been working really well for us. I like that there are different strengths from which to choose.
  • A sense of humor.
  • A LEGO loving kid.

Fine motor activity for kids with LEGO

Instructions: (although you probably figured it out already)

  • Remove LEGO minifigure heads (is it just me, or are LEGO faces angrier these days?). You can do this yourself or ask your child to do it. It depends on the mood of New Kid how I proceed. Sometimes I prep the activity for him so it’s waiting for him when he comes home from school.
  • Flatten a ball of putty, scatter heads and fold them into the putty.
  • Encourage your child to find the heads and return them to their bodies. (This all sounds a little macabre, doesn’t it?)

Fine motor activities with LEGO minifigures

Variations

  • Hide all body parts in the putty. We’ve done this, too. You could use a different color putty (The CanDo Theraputty comes in a set of 6 colors. Each color is a different strength.) for each body part or hide a complete set of parts in each color. Or mix it up each time to keep it fresh.
  • Hide small LEGO pieces in a putty ball and challenge your child to build something with the pieces.
  • You can also do this with play dough, although the putty provides much more resistance. For play dough ideas see 34 items to use with play dough to practice fine motor skills.

Fine motor activity with LEGO and putty.

So far, my 5 year old has not gotten bored with this fine motor activity at all. I try to do it at least once a day to help increase his hand strength. You can see in the photos that there is a lot of pushing and pulling and maneuvering of his fingers so I’m assuming it helps with dexterity, too.

LEGO head fine motor activity with therapy putty.

Do you have a fine motor activity that your child particularly enjoys? I’m always looking for new ideas!

Fine motor activity using therapy putty and LEGO minifigures.

Note: LEGO®is a trademark of the LEGO Group of companies which does not sponsor, authorize or endorse this site.

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Children’s Books Parents Actually Buy (and 3 They Should) http://www.whatdowedoallday.com/2014/11/childrens-books-parents-actually-buy.html http://www.whatdowedoallday.com/2014/11/childrens-books-parents-actually-buy.html#comments Mon, 17 Nov 2014 10:44:59 +0000 http://www.whatdowedoallday.com/?p=11469 I recommend a lot of books during the course of a year! Except for my month off in July, I published a new children’s book list every Monday. (See the index of all my children’s book lists here.) At the end of the year I am fascinated to see which recommended books parents actually decide... Keep Reading →

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I recommend a lot of books during the course of a year! Except for my month off in July, I published a new children’s book list every Monday. (See the index of all my children’s book lists here.) At the end of the year I am fascinated to see which recommended books parents actually decide to buy for their kids.

Popular children's books parents buy for their children.

I always encourage parents to visit their local library. It’s the most cost-effective way to read a wide variety of books to your kids. However, I am still a big advocate of owning books if you can afford it. Children who grow up with books in the home have higher rates of literacy. Reading is Fundamental offers details on the research behind that claim. If you’d like to help put more books into the hands of disadvantaged children, you can support one of the organizations on this list of charities that give books.

(Note all book covers and titles are affiliate links. I can see which books are purchased through these affiliate links, but only within a short window after clicking on a link. Rest assured, I do not have access to WHO purchased the books. Buyers remain completely anonymous.)

MOST FREQUENTLY BOUGHT BOOKS

One of my read aloud book lists is so popular I could have just copied and pasted that list into this post. In the interest of variety, however, I have instead included the top three from that list and then moved on to other books.


Three Tales of My Father’s Dragon leads the pack by a mile. No other book even comes remotely close, and I am tickled pink about it! Why? Well, because this is my number one recommendation for a first read aloud chapter book. Some parents picked up the first book, 1949 Newbery Honor Book, My Father’s Dragon, but I others went for all three.  I feel truly honored that parents trust my recommendation and I love getting emails from moms (and dad! — though no dads have written to me as of yet) thanking me for introducing them to this book.


8 Class Pets + 1 Squirrel ÷ 1 Dog = Chaos is another book that has appeared on several lists, most recently Funny Chapter Books to Read Aloud. It actually quite surprised me that this book got the second spot because it is not very well known. This story, with each of its chapters told from the point of view of a different class pet, is truly hilarious.

The Toys Go Out series is a universally admired trio of a trilogy of charming, cheerful, funny books about the adventures and misadventures of several stuffed toys and a bouncy ball. What’s not to like about a book in which a buffalo toy purposefully gets smeared with peanut butter so he can visit his friend Frank, the washing machine? These are terrific read alouds. We’ve also enjoyed the audiobook version, and older kids will enjoy reading them independently.

MOST POPULAR BOOKS – THE RUNNER UPS

The following books were not on my most popular book list but they were still big hits with parents and kids! They are listed in no particular order.


Phineas L. MacGuire series was a bit of a surprise to me, although it is certainly worthy of inclusion on this book list. First seen on my science themed chapter books, this four book series about a 4th grader and his adventures with science experiments is fantastic. If you don’t believe me, read this review from a librarian.


Zapato Power series. I am personally very excited to see this early chapter book series as a top seller! I love this series and its Latino hero. Each book has a small mystery that Freddie solves with the help of his super charged sneakers. It is on my list of 35 multicultural early chapter books.


Fractions = Trouble! and 7 x 9 = Trouble! were both on my math chapter book lists. I think they appeal to parents looking for children’s books because the main character struggles with math. However, even if your child is a whiz at math, the idea of having to work hard to achieve a goal, and finding creative ways to learn is something all kids are familiar with.


Princess Posey series is a lesson in “don’t judge a book by it’s cover or title”. I really dislike the marketing trend of girly-girl pink sparkly book covers. Nevertheless, I found this series to be engaging and perfect for early chapter book readers. It addresses complex emotional issues in an approachable way — and those are things boys like to read about, too. I put it on my list of early chapter books with girl protagonists (not “early chapter books for girls”).


Charlotte’s Web. I tend to exclude very well know books from my book lists. My feeling is that if you all have already heard of the book (and Charlotte’s Web is on EVERY “best books for kids” list ever made), I don’t see any reason to include it. The same is true for Harry Potter! However, I did once put this on a summer reading list. My son’s 1st grade teacher is currently reading this aloud to the class. On our walk home from school, my son tells me what happened in the chapter that day.


Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle was on my very popular list of chapter books to read aloud to preschoolers. Right now my 5 year old is working his way through the series in audiobook format. During mealtime I ask him about Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle’s cures and he loves to recap the story.


Marty McGuire‘s inclusion in the top books is another delightful surprise! There are three books so far in this early chapter book series about 2nd grader Marty, who is a terrific non-princess role model for kids. I put her on a few lists, including one of least popular lists, chapter books about the theater (why is there love for the theater?).


Captain Awesome to the Rescue! is an early chapter book series, perfect for kids just moving on from easy readers and want to feel like they are reading “real” books. Large font and plentiful illustrations keep young readers breezing through the series, which currently includes 12 titles.


Magic Tree House has a rather unfair advantage, seeing as how, at the last count, there were 45,675 books in the series. OK, maybe I exaggerate. Nevertheless, it continues to be extremely popular and anything that keeps kids reading is a win-win in my book. (pun)


Mercy Watson to the Rescue is the first book in the incredibly popular, funny and wry series from Kate DiCamillo. Full color illustrations about a pig with a huge personality and very little brain power make this beginning chapter book a winner to read aloud, but early readers will enjoy the humor on their own, too.

Books You Don’t Buy, But You Should

(I use the word “should” with a bit of humor.) Did you notice how all of the above books that parents actually buy their kids are chapter books? It’s not that parents don’t buy picture books, but that since the variety they purchase is much greater, no single picture book made it to the top of the list. However, there is one book that I was very surprised to see didn’t make it into the top 15.


Press Here is my number one recommendation for a book to give to children 4 and under. It is an incredibly engaging and unique gift with the power to delight every child. Almost no one bought this book! Does that mean you already have it? Haven’t gone to any birthday parties? I jest, of course, but it is a marvelous book that is well worth adding to your home library. If you already own it, take a peek at its sequel, Mix It Up!


Where the Mountain Meets the Moon is the book I wish was on this list. I have recommended it several times and mentioned that it is my very favorite chapter book for kids. Minli’s family lives in poverty and Minli sets out on a quest to find the Old Man of the Moon and change her family’s destiny. Along the way she is accompanied by the Jade Dragon and her journey is filled with twist and turns of fate. Lin deftly weaves together Minli’s quest, her father’s stories and wonderful illustrations to create a memorable tale. Find it on my list of chapter books to give as gifts.

Have you bought any of these books for your kids? What books do you recommend your fellow parents actually buy? 

A list of popular children's book that parents buy for their kids. Good gift ideas.

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Top 10 STEM Gifts with Books to Match http://www.whatdowedoallday.com/2014/11/stem-gifts-and-books.html http://www.whatdowedoallday.com/2014/11/stem-gifts-and-books.html#comments Thu, 13 Nov 2014 10:59:00 +0000 http://www.whatdowedoallday.com/?p=11386 STEM learning is a big deal in our home. My boys are math and science oriented and I like to encourage their imagination in that respect so their focus doesn’t stay on “just the facts”. Every year I create a book and toy combination gift guide and this year I am focusing on STEM gifts.... Keep Reading →

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STEM learning is a big deal in our home. My boys are math and science oriented and I like to encourage their imagination in that respect so their focus doesn’t stay on “just the facts”. Every year I create a book and toy combination gift guide and this year I am focusing on STEM gifts. That’s Science-Technology-Engineering-Math.  The good news is that all of these ideas can be considered good options for STEAM learning, too. (A is for Art and design.) STEM gifts for kids. Book and toy combinations for science, math, engineering and tech. Parents love the idea that a gift for the kids can have play, imaginative and educational value. We also want toys that kids continue to play with weeks, months or even years after the wrapping paper has been recycled. I’ve taken care to choose STEM games and toys that will grow with your child. The choice of an accompanying book is designed to extend the activity and encourage creativity. If you are looking for math specific gifts, be sure to take a peek at my Math Toy, Games and Books Gift Guide. For more book ideas, our list of books to inspire inventors and engineers is full of suggestions. (Note: links below are affiliate links.)

 

 

LEGO Bricks & More Builders of Tomorrow Set. Even if your child has a zillion LEGO sets, he probably still needs one of these basic brick sets. All the special sets have so many tiny and specific pieces, my kids find it hard to build anything from their imagination without these basic bricks. We actually added two of these sets to our collection so the kids could engineer whatever they wanted. The LEGO Adventure Book, Vol. 1: Cars, Castles, Dinosaurs & More! includes step by step instructions for lots of ideas to inspire kids.

 

PicassoTiles® 100 piece set Magnet Building Tiles are nearly identical to MagnaTiles, but less expensive. Every parent I have ever talked to has said that colorful magnet tiles are one of their kids very favorite toys and they have played with them for years. Pair it with If I Built a House, about a kid who dreams about his elaborative, inventive house, to spark a child’s design creativity and STE(A)M imagination.

 

Tinker Crate >>

I am a recent convert to the glorious goodness that is in the monthly subscription box, Tinker Crate. You can read about our experience making a motor in last week’s post. Honestly, a gift that lasts all year long is the best kind and monthly, 3, 6 or 12 month subscriptions are available. For those in between days, get the kids a copy of Naked Eggs and Flying Potatoes: Unforgettable Experiments That Make Science Fun by our favorite go-to science guy, Steve Spangler.

 

Robot Turtles Game is big news in the board game world. It’s been featured on major news sites and was the most backed board game in Kickstarter history. Since being picked up by ThinkFun, the price has become affordable and has it’s now a top selling game. Robot Turtles teaches young children about basic programming without ever using an “on button”.  Since this game is best for preschoolers through 2nd grade, pair it with the picture book, Boy and Bot, about the friendship between a boy and his robot, and how they learn to “fix” each other.

 

 

Elenco Snap Circuits SC-300 Physics Kit is a must have set for every child. We have gotten so much use out of ours. We got it several years ago for my older son, and now his younger brother is starting to explore it. Inspire your kids with The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, the true story of how a boy brought electricity to his village in Malawi.

 

Gravity Maze. This is THE game I am getting the kids this holiday season. If you follow our game of the month feature, you know we have closets full of games. I recently gave away a few preschool aged games to make room for this challenging logic building game and marble run. I can’t wait to play it with the kids. Gravity by Jason Chin is an amazingly beautiful book that will have kids eager to explore the force that keeps us grounded and wonder what would happen without it.

 

I just learned about Deluxe Roominate and it is completely awesome! I would have adored having this as a kid! Kids use interlocking, modular pieces so kids can design an build their own furniture. It also comes with electrical circuits so kids can build windmills, lights, carousels, and more. There are several different sets available and pieces are all interchangeable. I especially love the Roominate Chateau. So cool. I really think both boys and girls will love this. Pair it with Marvelous Mattie: How Margaret E. Knight Became an Inventor, about a 19th century girl who started inventing things at the tender age of 12.

 

Every year I eye the MindWare KEVA Contraptions as a possible gift for the boys. These super cool sets encourage kids to put their engineering skills to work building chutes, funnels, curves and tracks for ball runs. The New Way Things Work is a book that will grow with your child and peak their interest in how machines are put together.

 

Qwirkle Board Gameis one of our family favorites. I featured it in our game of the month series. It teaches logic, patterning, spatial awareness and strategy. It’s a MENSA select game so you can feel super smart while playing it! This was a hard one for which to find an appropriate book! I’m choosing Growing Patterns: Fibonacci Numbers in Nature because it teaches about mathematical patterns is appropriate for both younger and older kids. It also has gorgeous photos.

 

Klutz Book of Paper Airplanes was the basis of our experience with the perfect STEM play date. We’ve tried several paper airplane tutorials, but this was the absolute best. The paper is good quality, the instructions are clear and there are great extensions and ideas for exploring the engineering of paper airplanes. Kids will enjoy reading The Fabulous Flying Machines of Alberto Santos-Dumont and learning about he first pilot to lift off and land a completely self-propelled plane.

 

STEM gifts for kids with books for . Great educational gift idea.

BUT WAIT! THERE’S MORE! If you’re looking for a mom-approved gift that your children will actually love and play with you will want to stick around. I’m collaborating with more than 75 other moms to bring you gift guides that cover every age and interest of your children. You can find all the guides sorted on our main gift guide page (or by clicking on the image below). 

 

Gift guides for kids. 

In addition you can find tons more ideas on our collaborative Pinterest board. Follow Erica • What Do We Do All Day?’s board Gift Guides for Kids on Pinterest.

   STEM toys and books for kids.

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9 Super Duper Easy Holiday Crafts for Kids http://www.whatdowedoallday.com/2014/11/easy-holiday-crafts-kids.html http://www.whatdowedoallday.com/2014/11/easy-holiday-crafts-kids.html#comments Tue, 11 Nov 2014 13:48:43 +0000 http://www.whatdowedoallday.com/?p=11294 Long time followers of this blog (wave!) know that I am not a huge holiday crafter. It takes most of my holiday energy just to get up our gingerbread house (from a kit, thank you very much) each year (which we usually do after Christmas!). Most of the time I’d rather pick up a holiday... Keep Reading →

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Long time followers of this blog (wave!) know that I am not a huge holiday crafter. It takes most of my holiday energy just to get up our gingerbread house (from a kit, thank you very much) each year (which we usually do after Christmas!). Most of the time I’d rather pick up a holiday book to read. So, as you would expect I prefer EASY crafts to get the family into the spirit of the holiday season.

Easy holiday crafts for kids

The best part about many of these easy holiday crafts is that they do not need to be done in accordance with a holiday deadline. Can’t get everything done before Christmas? No problem! Most of these can be saved for an ordinary winter day. Those January and February days can go on forever!

Take your pick from these simple ideas:

Carve out a few apples to make candleholders.

Kids can exercise their fine motor skills and poke cloves into oranges to make yummy smelling pomanders.

Printable Christmas tree ornament coloring page that you can turn into a cut and paste craft.

Use up all those paper snowflakes and make a winter-y wreath.

Recycle old holiday and Christmas cards into paper spiral ornaments.

Print and color these interfaith holiday ornaments.

My absolute favorite holiday craft is to make ice wreaths. I get quite into this activity and last year during the polar vortex I was completely obsessed!

Decorate tzedakah boxes to teach kids about giving.

Make a bird feeder out of oranges to care for the birds during the cold, winter days.

Of course you will want to read a few books to wind down. After all, crafting can be exhausting! Try selections from these lists:

Now, it’s your turn! Share your ideas: What is the easiest holiday craft you do with your kids? I might even try it this year!

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