Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Fathers and Children: A Book Review, Giveaway, and Activity

The bond between a father and his child is a special one.
Fathers are teachers, playmates, and best friends. Fathers are a source of stability, security, and guidance.
As I pause to reflect on what would have been my father’s seventy-ninth birthday, I realize how great my father’s impact was on the person I am today. He wore many hats as he guided me from childhood to adulthood.
Daddy donned a baseball cap as he organized family wiffle ball games played in the backyard of our Berryville home.
He wore a chef’s hat as he taught me how to create a delicious meal for a large family of 7.
He wore a construction hard hat as he transformed the shell of our Midland house into a home—not only building strong walls but also creating strong bonds of love and a sense of belonging.

Now that my father is no longer with me, I understand how important it is to fill my own hat rack with hats of every shape, size, and purpose. I realize that every moment we spent together, no matter how seemingly insignificant, created a hat for me to add to my own collection.
Thank you, Daddy, for building a wonderfully full hat rack.
In memory of my father, I created today’s activity—an opportunity to shine the light on the moments that help shape a child. I selected a book that represents the many roles a father plays in the lives of their children as the springboard for this activity.
My Father is Taller than a Tree, written by Joseph Bruchac and illustrated by Wendy Anderson Halperin, is a book that explores the many hats that all fathers wear. The book highlights tender and memorable moments experienced between fathers and their children. Those moments are as varied as the father-son duos represented—raking leaves, an errand run, a visit to the local park, and many more.
Told in rhyme, the story meanders through those meaningful occasions. With their soft-toned palette, Halperin’s illustrations blend perfectly with the Bruchac’s words that glide across each page spread. Together they provide a cozy and comfortable story that is perfect as a bedtime story.
Just as the story used for my last book review, My Father is Taller than a Tree will definitely provide a learning experience for both parents and their children.

The Details:
Recommended ages: 3-7
Word count: 198
Average words per two page spread: 14
Extra value: Provides a springboard for discussions on what a child views as important.

 This activity is loosely structured. The focus is on developing parent/child activities that create a positive memory for both the child and the parent.
Book: My Father is Taller than a Tree (available on Amazon)
Printout of tree (provided)
Colored copy paper in 2 colors*
Repositionable adhesive
*Hint: It is not recommended to use basic construction paper. The paper may pull apart as the leaf clusters are removed from the tree. Colored copy paper or colored card stock work better for this activity and can be reused.

 1. Read and discuss the story.
2. Create a list of 5 to 7 things that your child likes to do with you.
3. Create a list of 5 to 7 things that you like to do with your child.
4. Randomly cut 7 of each color paper to place on the tree. One color will be used to record your child’s activity choices. The other color will be used to record your activity choices.
5. Write the activities on the paper cutouts, as shown.
6. Apply repositionable adhesive to the back of the papers and place them on the tree.**
7. Over the next two weeks, take turns selecting and completing activities from the tree.

**This activity can be easily modified to reflect changes of the seasons. In the fall, use orange, red, or yellow paper. As the activities are completed, scatter them at the bottom of the tree to resemble piles of leaves. In the spring, add lighter shades of green, adding the leaf clusters to the tree as the activities are completed.

*This giveaway will include a free copy of MY FATHER IS TALLER THAN A TREE (Joseph Bruchac and Wendy Anderson Halperin), as well as another surprise. The registration will last from the posting of this blog post until midnight, August 13, 2013. One winner will be randomly selected from all entries. The book will be shipped from Amazon within approximately 2 weeks following the close of the giveaway. The giveaway is open to residents of the United States with a United State’s mailing address. The winner’s name will be posted on the blog, unless the winner chooses not to have his/her name posted.

Giveaway Update: Congratulations to Lynn and Linda as the winners of this month's giveaway.


Sunday, July 28, 2013

Book Review and Giveaway Two: Winner Announcement

The second book giveaway is now complete. Congratulations to Katie B. and to Pam!
Your copies of When a Dragon Moves In and a special surprise for each of you will arrive at your home shortly.
Thank you to all of those that participated in this book review giveaway.
Please check back for another review that will soon be added to this blog.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Book Review and a Giveaway, Too-WHEN A DRAGON MOVES IN

When A Dragon Moves in, written by Jodi Moore and illustrated by Howard McWilliam, is the perfect bedtime story for those dragonfire-warm summer nights.

The Details:
Recommended ages: 3-7
Word count: 397
Average words per two page spread: 25
Extra value: Encourages use of imagination, great for identifying details

WHEN A DRAGON MOVES INto your world, be prepared for a day packed with adventure. This is quite evident when a dragon moves into a little boy’s sandcastle during a family excursion to the beach.
When the child’s family is too busy to play with him, the boy creates his own version of companionship—a marshmallow toasting, raft floating, sandwich gobbling dragon.
They have fun.
They explore.
They get into innocent mischief.
~All the things that dragons and little boys are meant to do.
This wonderful summer-themed story will most definitely edge its way into fall, winter, and spring story time requests. The pacing of the story is bouncy quick. The meaning behind the story, however, is everlasting.
While the target audience of the book is children ages 3 through 7, the lesson learned from the story will apply to the grownups that read the story to their little ones—Take time to travel through the world of imagination with the children in your life. Who knows—even you might find a dragon at your doorstep.
The activity I have created to go with this book falls right into the above-stated category. So, climb into your imagination and explore the possibilities of a dragon moving into your home.
On the hunt for dragon treasure

This activity is loosely structured. Have fun with it. Modify it. Let your little ones guide the direction each step takes. Not only will both of you have fun, but your little ones will also practice critical thinking skills.
Book: WHEN A DRAGON MOVES IN (Jodi Moore, Howard McWilliam)
Footprints (painted footprints for family members, printed dragon footprints)*
Shark's teeth or seashells
Jewels (rainbow colored cereal used, but many other options)
Various beach gear inside a beach bag

1. The night before the main activity, read the story as a bedtime tale. Discuss what dragons like and how real they are.
2. The next morning set the stage for the dragon discovery. Place footprints in various places throughout the house. Place a beach bag where your little one will see it first thing in the morning.

3. When your child finds the prints in the kitchen, discuss why the dragon was there. For example, dragons get hungry. Was he looking inside the pantry for some food? Or—did he want to toast some marshmallows?

4. When your child finds the prints that lead to the back yard, explore the reason he went there. Did he leave any of his dragon teeth and scales in the sandbox?
5. As your child finds more prints, have him talk about whose prints they are and why they are there. For example, Mom’s prints in front of the closet may mean she might have been putting clothing away earlier in the day.*

6. Talk about where dragons like to sleep—cozy caves where they can protect their treasure. Continue the dragon hunt until the treasure is found.

*A few days prior to the activity, have some painting fun by making paint footprints of the members of your family. Allow each member to paint their prints with their favorite colors. These can be used for a variety of activities—color recognition, size sorting, counting, etc.

This book is available on

*This giveaway will include a free copy of When a Dragon Moves In (Jodi Moore and Howard McWilliam), as well as a surprise. The registration will last from the posting of this blog post until midnight, July 27, 2013. One winner will be randomly selected from all entries. The book will be shipped from Amazon within approximately 2 weeks following the close of the giveaway. The giveaway is open to residents of the United States with a United State’s mailing address. The winner’s name will be posted on the blog, unless the winner chooses not to have his/her name posted.

GIVEAWAY UPDATE: The second book giveaway is now complete.

Congratulations to Katie B. and to Pam!


Sunday, July 7, 2013

Sand Pail, Shovels, and Sunglasses

Four things to do with sand pails, shovels, and sunglasses—none of them at the beach.

It’s July and your home is overflowing with summer gear. The kids are begging for something to do. If a trek to the beach is out of the question, check out the list of activities that puts the summer gear to good use. Not only will your little ones have lots of fun, they will also practice some of those much-needed skills they learned in school. These activities reinforce rote counting, color recognition, fine and gross motor skills, the ability to compare sizes, and categorizing skills.
1. Sorting Fun—Can you sort the sand bricks?
2. Sand Pail Relay— Who can fill their sand pail first?
3. Water Play—How many scoops does it take to fill your sand pail?
4. Scavenger Hunt—My sand pail is red. What color is yours?

Activity 1—Can you sort the sand bricks?

This activity is a quick way to assess your child’s knowledge of colors.

Ages: 3-6
Time to complete: 20-30 minutes

Matching sets of sand pails and shovels, in several different colors
Matching sunglasses (optional)
Assortment of building blocks in various colors*

*Depending upon manufacturer, several different combinations of building brick colors are available. I used the colors that matched the sand pails from our local dollar store.

1. Prior to the activity, arrange the sand pails, the shovels, and sunglasses, as shown. Place a pile of building bricks in front of the sets of sand pails.

2. Tell the children that they are going to be color detectives. They will wear their detective glasses to find which colors go into each of the sand pails.
3. Children then sort the items by color, creating a set for each color, as shown.

4. Take it further by ‘accidentally’ dropping the wrong color into the sand pail and ask the children to find the incorrectly sorted block. Children will love catching your mistakes when they discover the wrong color inside the sand pail.

Hint: Some of the sunglasses have several colors on them. When the children sort the sunglasses, ask them which part of the sunglasses match the sand pail and shovel.



A great way to for the kids to exercise as well as practice their balancing skills, this summer relay is easy, inexpensive, and fun.
Ages: 4-7
Time to complete: 20-30 minutes


Matching sets of sand pails and shovels.
Assortment of building blocks in various colors

**This activity can be completed by 1 or more children. Adapt the instructions to meet the needs of your group.
1. Divide the children into two groups. Have them sit in a line behind a pile of building blocks with a matching colored shovel beside the pile of blocks. Make sure that each pile has the same number of blocks.
2. When you signal go, the first child in the line stands and places a building block on the shovel. He then walks with that block to the end of the room and drops the block into the sand pail. He returns to the line, handing the shovel to the next child in line.
3. Repeat step 2 until all of the blocks are in the sand pails. The first team to finish wins.

Add to the challenge:
Instead of conducting the activity with the colors already sorted, place the pile of building bricks in the middle and have the children sort on their own as they complete the relay. If you choose this option, be prepared for a bit of chaos—and more laughter, too.


This fun outdoor activity is a good way for your child to review rote counting, as well as have some splashy fun on hot summer days.

Ages: 3-6
Time to complete: 20-30 minutes

Several sand pails of different sizes
Small outdoor pool (optional)

*Variation: Sand can be used as a substitution for water.

1. Before heading outdoors, have your child select at least three different sizes of sand pails from the beach gear. This provides a great springboard discussion about how shapes affect how much water or sand will actually fit into the pail.
2. Take the pails and shovels outside.
3. Fill the largest pail with water.
Ask: How many of the small pails of water do you think it will take to fill the medium pail? *If you are using your outdoor pool, use that as the water source and conduct the activity with the medium and large sand pails.
4. Fill the medium sand pail with water by filling and counting the number of refills needed.

As you are already outdoors, take this opportunity for a mini-lesson on volume. Ask: Will the water in the big sand pail fit into the medium sand pail? Help your child pour the water from the big pail to the medium pail? Ask: Why do you think it didn’t fit?


This color-themed scavenger hunt will keep your kiddos busy and thinking when the afternoons are too hot to head outdoors. They will enjoy playing color detective and finding various items to fill their sand pails.
Ages: 4-7
Time to complete: 20-30 minutes

Matching sets of sand pails and shovels, in several different colors
Toys and household items that will fit into the sand pails

1. Tell the children that they are going to play color detective.
2. Have the children select a matching set of sand pails and sunglasses.
3. Send the children on a scavenger hunt to find items that are the same color as their pails and sunglasses AND fit into the sand pail.
This activity not only reinforces color concepts, it also practices size estimation skills. Some children may realize that they can squish a stuffed animal to fit into the sand pail—a great way to start a discussion on density.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Fireworks and Hummingbirds~So Different Yet So Alike

Sometimes doing a little bit of nothing with the kiddos can easily add up to a lot of somethings.
On this Independence Day Eve, take a break from the hurry scurry picnic and firework preparation, relax, and watch the tiny bundles of energy--better known as hummingbirds, as they enjoy their evening meal. This video can easily be enjoyed for what it is—the amazing way that Mother Nature designs her masterpieces. Yet, the short clip can also provide a springboard for discussions. Similar to the activity that compared snowflakes and rainbows, hummingbirds and fireworks have many similarities and differences.
Discussion suggestions include their size, how they move, their colors, when we see them, nature or manmade, how close you must be to see them, etc.
After seeing how many of the tiny wonders flock to the feeder in my back yard, you might even want to add one to your yard.

***Please check back for a July-themed set of activities.***