The Benefits of Dirt and Mud Play — and the Easiest DIY Mud Kitchen Ever

The Benefits of Dirt and Mud Play —  and the Easiest DIY Mud Kitchen Ever

Our almost-four-year-old daughter is raising polar bears and panda bears in the bushes in our front yard. And, she feeds them sweet potatoes that she makes from the wood chips surrounding said bushes. She’s been raising these animals for more than a year, so we decided she needed some proper kitchen tools to help her along! Last Christmas, we bought her some stainless steel and aluminum cupspans, pots, spatulas, and spoons, and last spring, we made the simplest DIY mud kitchen that has ever been made. Why did we go to such lengths to encourage this play? Besides simply being an amazing creative outlet (I mean, think about the imagination required to keep those polar bears alive for so long!), did you know there are many, many other benefits to playing in dirt and mud? Read on for some of those benefits, as well as basic directions to our super simple mud kitchen! Continue reading “The Benefits of Dirt and Mud Play — and the Easiest DIY Mud Kitchen Ever”

An Unexpected Restaurant Bag Win!

An Unexpected Restaurant Bag Win!

Towards the end of the summer, we took a family trip to Sequoia, Kings Canyon, and Yosemite National Parks. If you’ve never been, those 3 national parks are just as breathtaking as you might imagine them to be… And giant sequoia trees are indeed gigantic. So much bigger than the redwoods we see somewhat regularly close to our home! But, this post isn’t about that trip… Instead, it’s about another new and very simple addition to my restaurant and waiting room “go” bag — watercolor paints!

Last spring, I wrote about how we always have a tote bag close to the door, loaded with various books and activities for the girls, easy to grab in case we are heading somewhere where they may need to wait or be entertained for a bit. We usually take it with us to restaurants, but we also grab it for doctors’ offices, siblings’ practices or classes, and car repair shops. A few weeks ago, I mentioned that I’ll be adding our Alphabet Go Fish game to this “go bag” rotation, and today, I’m here to let you know that watercolors are amazing to toss in, too! Continue reading “An Unexpected Restaurant Bag Win!”

A Fun Game for Letter Recognition

A Fun Game for Letter Recognition

Back in July, I wrote a post full of suggestions for fun, natural ways to combat the summer learning slide. In case you missed it, I’ll give you a spoiler alert — none of my ideas involved worksheets, book reports, or comprehension quizzes! And that post struck a chord with you all! I received so many comments, messages, and emails full of appreciation for the ideas and thanks for the reassurance that parents (unless explicitly directed by a teacher or learning specialist, of course) really don’t need to do anything out of the ordinary to keep learning going through the summer!

And now, I’ve got an addition to that post: Alphabet Go Fish! This is another game to add to your collection, this time one that might help develop or keep early literacy skills. Do you have Alphabet Go Fish in your home or classroom game collection? If not, remedy that now! Continue reading “A Fun Game for Letter Recognition”

Picture Books to Inspire Letter Writing

Picture Books to Inspire Letter Writing

If you saw my post last week about combatting the summer slide, you may have noticed that we’re encouraging the girls to send letters and postcards to friends and family, and that we’ve started a Conversation Journal (a notebook of letters back and forth) with our oldest. As a way to inspire writing these letters, we’ve also been reading lots of picture books told mostly (or completely, in many cases) through epistolary form. Friendly letters, persuasive writing, thank you notes, even a few business letters– these books have it all! At the bottom of this post, I’ve also included a few wonderful novels written in letter format, for those of you with older readers who may be looking for more! Continue reading “Picture Books to Inspire Letter Writing”

What We’re Doing to Combat the Summer Slide

What We’re Doing to Combat the Summer Slide

Parents, have you heard about summer learning loss, the summer slump, or the summer slide? Does what you’re hearing make you worry about what you need to do with your children over the summer to ensure they start a new school year fresh and ready to go? Are you trying to do ALL THE THINGS to make this happen? Read on for a little info about summer learning loss, as well as what we’re doing in our house to keep skills up in fun and natural ways! Continue reading “What We’re Doing to Combat the Summer Slide”

A Read-Aloud Tip AND a Book Recommendation!

A Read-Aloud Tip AND a Book Recommendation!

Do you ever start a read-aloud and realize that, while it seemed to be a perfect set-up/story/time/etc for you, it just wasn’t really right for your audience? I’m guessing the answer is yes… If it’s not, then can you share all of your secrets with us? For the rest of us, rest assured that you’re not alone! I’d been wanting to write about rethinking your read-aloud expectations for a while, and then when I came across Too Many Frogs! by Sandy Asher, illustrated by Keith Graves, I thought this might be the perfect picture book to illustrate this point. Continue reading “A Read-Aloud Tip AND a Book Recommendation!”

Read-Aloud Conversation Starters

Read-Aloud Conversation Starters

Last week, I wrote about a simple way to help your children get so much more out of picture book read-alouds than they might be getting. (You can read more about that here). Today, I’ve got 5 really easy conversations starters that you can use with your children before, during, and after read-alouds, whether picture books or chapter books, to both deepen their comprehension of the book and build your connection over that book. Continue reading “Read-Aloud Conversation Starters”