A Year of Pretend Play at the Library: Part One

Playing is learning. This probably isn’t news to the people who read this blog, but it bears repeating because it’s easy to forget. Kids play all the time at home, and it can become something that happens in the background that we don’t think about. At the library, we place a priority on play. We make it a point to invite kids and grownups to play together. If asked, I could go on and on about the ways that pretend play, in particular, helps kids develop early literacy skills, but my goal with this post is to show off some of the fun pretend play themes I’ve had at my library over the last year. So here goes! :)


Narrative Skills:

img_4257.jpgWe celebrated Picture Book Month with an Enchanted Forest theme. Kids could dress up as fairy tale characters or use the stuffed animals to tell their own version of familiar stories. The story cubes could spark a creative retelling that mixes up all sorts of fairy tale elements. I made these myself by covering some wooden blocks with construction paper and tape, but you can also buy story cubes or story sticks aimed at preschoolers to encourage storytelling.


Social Skills:

img_4985.jpgIn the grocery store, the ice cream shop, and other community based play spaces, kids can imagine themselves in various roles. They can take turns being proprietor or a customer, seeing the interactions from different roles and developing empathy for experiences outside of their own.



img_4905.jpgIn the Fix It Shop, we named the tools. In the Sense Lab, we encouraged the use of descriptive language as kids explored the world with their senses. Our Space Station offered various science words. Don’t underestimate kids’ willingness to learn complex vocabulary if they are interested in the topic!


Print Awareness:

img_5551.jpgIn the community based play spaces (World Café, Ice Cream Shop, etc), the menus and other signage are examples of the way that we interact with printed words as we life our lives. Understanding just how much we rely on printed language is an important part of learning to read.


Print Motivation:

img_5727.jpgKids and caregivers are always encouraged to learn more about the topics with books. Learning to read is hard work, and if kids are interested in the topics they are reading about, they be much more motivated.


Letter Knowledge:

img_4413.jpgExploring shapes and sorting objects based on likes and differences is a first step to letter knowledge. Our grocery store featured pictures of letters made out of food, and the Sense Lab encouraged sorting objects based on how they feel.


Phonological Awareness:

img_5842.jpgSinging songs and chanting rhymes help kids hear the sounds of words more clearly than in regular speech. We included the words to a rhyme in our Ice Cream Shop and our Space Station to add an opportunity to build phonological awareness while at play.

Stay tuned for an upcoming post about my library’s pretend play space relates to early science skills!

A Visit to Clifford’s World


Everyone knows Clifford the Big Red Dog.  He has been around for over 50 years–first as a very popular series of picture books and then as a television show.  Now he’s an interactive museum exhibit too.

This exhibit, designed by the Minnesota Children’s Museum, happens to be at my old library (the one I grew up going to) for the summer, and we stopped there briefly when we visited recently. My six-year-old could have played for hours in Clifford’s World just like she has in the Our World exhibit at the MN Children’s Museum.  She served us lunch at the restaurant (while I pointed out the sign that talked about teamwork) and delivered mail all around Birdwell Island (which gave me the opportunity to point out the other signs about being kind, playing fair, and more).

clifford1It’s hard not to like Clifford.  He always has good intentions even if things don’t always go right the first time.  He might be a lot bigger than the preschoolers who love him, but he’s not so different from them.

The exhibit will be back in Minnesota in September at the Rochester location of the MN Children’s Museum and in the Twin Cities in October.  It’s well worth your time if you have a young Clifford fan in your family who would enjoy exploring Birdwell Island and seeing a nine foot tall Clifford statue up close.

Reading Hands Can with one hand

handscan2I am very pleased to say that Hands Can by Cheryl Willis Hudson is now available in paperback.  This picture book was first published ten years ago, and it has become a preschool favorite.  The bright colors, simple rhyme, and real-life photographs make it a good choice for 2-6 year-olds learning about their bodies and celebrating all the cool stuff they can do.  Not to mention it is great for talking about what it is like to have one hand with little kids.

That might seem like an odd thing to say because there are no one-handed kids in the book, but I have found this book to be a great jumping off point as I talk to kids because they tend to be most curious about the basics.   For example, these are real questions I have gotten from kids:

  • “How do you hug?”
  • “How do you put pajamas on?”
  • “Can you hold hands?”
A peek inside Hands Can
A peek inside Hands Can

Most adults can see obvious answers to these questions, but younger kids (under age 7 or so in my own personal experience) have a hard time working through these questions without guidance.  This is where Hands Can comes in.  I like to take each activity photographed in the book as a brainstorming session.  From the very first page with the little boy waving hello, I ask for other ways we say hello.  Kids can give creative answers.  After all, we might use our voice, our eyes, one hand, or maybe two if we are very excited.  I might demonstrate how I tie my shoes when we get to that page or have them come up with ways to accomplish other tasks with one hand or some other physical restriction for an exercise in problem solving.

In the spirit of answering questions about what I can do, I thought I would answer the one question that doesn’t really get asked: “Is there anything you can’t do with one hand?” Most people probably assume there are lots and lots of things I can’t do, but there are surprisingly few.  It took me a while to come up with these, but here are three things that are difficult (not impossible) to do with my prosthetic arm (and my work-arounds) :

  • Grinding pepper.  For a long time, I just bought ground pepper so that I didn’t have this problem, but my husband is a bit of a foodie who likes things like freshly ground pepper, which means that peppering my food becomes a much more difficult task than it had been in the past.  Usually I just ask for help, but I have been coveting the battery operated pepper grinder at my mother-in-law’s house.  Technology, for the win! 
  • Ziploc bags.  These are difficult because my prosthesis does not grip tightly enough to hold the bag while I am zipping it closed.  To get around this, I can secure the bag against something and zip.  In a pinch, I have been known to use my teeth.  It isn’t classy, but it gets to job done.
  • Headphones/ear muffs.  I can put on headphones or ear muffs well enough, but I feel like I look a little silly when I do it because my fake arm doesn’t bend all the way to my ear.  Fortunately, I really don’t use either of these things very often.  As you might imagine, I was an early adopter of ear buds.

For more information see my FAQ about my fake arm or this article in Book Links magazine about the books I use to talk about my disability.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.  A portion of any purchases made from these links may benefit this blog.  Thanks for your support! :)

Early Science Skills (Picture Book Preschool)

I grew up with the idea that science was a collection of facts I needed to memorize to get a decent grade.  Since it seemed that science facts were always changing, I always gave myself permission to forget everything after the class was over.

Little did I know that all these years later, I would get super excited for Science Friday every week and eagerly read books like Head Start on Science to share my new interest with my daughter.  I don’t want her to see science as a process of memorizing and forgetting like I did.  I want her to really get the dynamic nature of scientific research at a much younger age than I did.

Of course I think the answer lies in books.  :)

There are many, many great books for kids that introduce science topics, but even before you start looking at specific ideas, you can start with skills.  Head Start on Science outlines these skills for preschoolers and primary graders: Observation, Comparison, Classification, and Communication.

There are about a million picture books that fall under Observation, but Who’s Hiding? stands out an unusual book that asks kids to look closely at the animals in the illustrations to answer the questions about them.  Where’s Walrus? follows a walrus who has escaped from the zoo as he tries to hide from the zookeeper.  Little kids love a good seek and find, and the ability to pick out details will serve them well in science.

Stars by Mary Lyn Ray is a beautiful picture book perfect for encouraging kids to wonder at the natural world, but it’s also an example of Comparison.  Look around, what do you see that might be star-like?  That’s Not a Daffodil is the story of a young boy watching a plant grow.  At first it looks like one thing, then another.  In the end, it is a flower.

Let’s Count to 100 is an interactive picture book that will have kids counting and classifying the 100 objects on each spread. Observation and Classification at their best!

Blue Sky and Green are concept books that explore the great variety that we can observe in just one thing–and the many ways to describe it.   After observation, after all, comes Communication, and we need the vocabulary to be able to do it.  These books are great places to start.

See all the Picture Book Preschool posts here.

Disclosure: Amazon.com links are affiliate links. A portion of purchases made via these links earns a commission for this blog. You can also shop in the Picture Book Preschool Amazon Store. Thanks for your support!

On the first day of school

Today I dropped my daughter off at her new preschool classroom.  I hovered in the door way along with several other parents until a teacher shooed us away.  “They’re going to be fine.  Go!”  she smiled at us, but she spoke firmly enough that we all scattered.

My daughter, of course, was already making friends.  She waved at me with a nonchalance that made me sad and proud at the same time.  It seems too cliche to say that I can’t believe she’s going to school, but honestly, a lot of parenting seems a bit cliche.  It’s all been done before.  My reluctance to leave my daughter in a big, scary (to me) public school when she seems way too little to be there without me?  I’m not the first to feel like this, and I won’t be the last.

Despite any hesitation on my part, I know my kiddo will be fine.  She’s ready.

Speaking of back-to-school, here are some inspiring words on the value of public education from John Green because we should be less stupid together.





Rock In, Folk Out: Introducing Music to Small Children (Guest Post)

This is a guest post by local musician & music teacher Peter Kenyon about his experiences teaching a music class at a Montessori preschool.

I feel that I can truthfully say that I am still in close contact with my inner child. This is a good and bad thing. I find myself being affected by life’s offerings and reacting in much the same way as the children around me. If a large truck drives by, I react with a “Woahhhhhh!!!” exclamation by accident, with my students or son voicing the same proclamation. If a scary event happens in a movie, I tend to jump and give an exaggerated scream of terror, something that the accompanying child(ren) would also do. The good aspects of my connection to my inner child tend to make me get through to and show companionship with children.

However, these moments of being easily impressed and scared don’t bode too well in adult contexts. Shouting excitedly and pointing at a shrimp cocktail platter while at an art gallery opening party isn’t necessarily the definition of decorum. I think life seems more fun when people look at you with a slight scowl. They obviously don’t work with or have children. And if they do, I feel sorry for those kids.

All that inner child connectedness being said, one day two years ago, while working at a Montessori preschool, I was sitting with children in a music class. Now, the music teacher subscribed to the traditional  “Let’s Sing Nursery Rhymes and Songs About Colors with an Acoustic Guitar” mentality that you see the world over, and I was bored after ten minutes.  It was Safe, tried but not necessarily true methods of music teaching.

On this particular day two years ago, sitting in the Safe music teaching session, I started formulating ideas for my own music class. Primarily I thought “How could I hold children’s attention for the entire span of a lesson? How could I get small children to talk about music outside of a music setting?” And “Is there a way that small children can compose their own music?”  These questions were just the beginning of the music class I created to supplement the already established acoustic performer.

Over the one and a half years I taught this class, I taught Rock, Jazz, site reading, film scores, found instruments, Elvis, Surf Rock, Reggae, noise, the list goes on and on. The class had its ups and downs, lessons that worked and lessons that didn’t. But in the end, I did find a way to reach my three goals of Keeping Attention, Enthusiasm Outside of Class, and Original Composition.

I find that when parents are actively seeking advice on how to introduce music to their children, I suggest that they do some of the following things that I found out through my music class experience:

Immerse children in fully engaging activities or LOUD performance. This does not necessarily mean play loud music, per se, but that works, too. What I mean is immerse children in an experience that they simply cannot turn their attention away from.

  • When I taught Elvis, I was a tour guide for Graceland, Elvis’ lavish home. I planted items within the classrooms of the school, such as a mic stand and microphone, a picture of a jumpsuit, a small television. The mic stand was Elvis’ recording studio, the TV was Elvis’ personal television, and the jumpsuit picture was taped up in a cubby to simulate Elvis’ closet. I then led the class as a group from one section of the classroom to another, showing each “room”, including showing the bathroom, saying that that was where Elvis met his demise . . . on the toilet. This was gold to the kids. They still remember the name Elvis and that he was the King of Rock n’ Roll.
  • I wanted to show the kids Tom Waits, because I thought that they would be interested in his theatrics and vocal style. So I performed a five song set of his material, starting with “What’s He Building in There?”, a creepy spoken word piece. I turned off the lights for five seconds, then turned on a bare light bulb and placed it underneath my chin, while speaking in his same raspy drawl. After this song, I placed the bulb on a drum and picked up two maracas, and started singing “Baby Gonna Leave Me”. Each song upped the ante on dynamics, with me banging on an actual floor tom, snare, and cymbal, along with me screaming in Tom’s Cookie Monster voice for “Big in Japan”. The kids were at first scared, but interested. They were head banging by the end of the set. Nobody talked for the full thirty minutes. And these are three-year-olds we’re talking about.
  • I wanted to teach the children about different small percussion instruments. It was Easter time, so they had to find instruments that I had placed in our indoor play area. I called out “Find the tambourines!” “Find the maracas!” They knew the names of nine different instruments and how to play them by the end of the lesson.

Don’t stick to one genre. The Safe music method likes to use Folk as the overall genre to teach music to small children. What’s funny is that even when I tried to teach Folk, donning a theatrical role as a hippie dressed in Indian garb and leading a parade around the playground singing John Lennon’s “Give Peace a Chance”, the children still lost interest after ten minutes. When the music was louder and electronic, the children stayed focused and attentive.

I do recommend starting off with Folk, however, when first introducing music to your children as toddlers. There are a plethora of children’s artists, but Raffi takes the cake as my personal favorite. Nobody holds a candle to him in terms of singing traditional nursery rhymes and original compositions. He has a personable, humble touch to his music. Even as an adult, I become emotionally invested in his songs. Plus, he doesn’t come off as a creepy children’s artist, of which there are also a plethora. Here’s a video sample of Raffi in concert:


  • Around the age of two, start changing things up. Keep a steady collection of Raffi, The Beatles, Elvis, new age, techno, noise, everything. But keep the music up-tempo. Two- and three-year-olds really love to dance.
  • If you want to bring attention to a certain artist, I’d show them The Beatles. Their melodies are so captivating to small children. Plus, after the initial folk upbringing in toddlerhood, they bridge the gap between children’s music and louder rock. Songs like “Yellow Submarine” and “Octopus’ Garden” mix well with the louder tracks like “Helter Skelter” and “Revolution”.
  • Five-year-olds love heavy percussion and distortion. I’ve found they love Nine Inch Nails.  Steer clear of any songs with dirty language, of course, but NIN have a plethora of instrumental material. I’ve found that I’ve gotten the most response from these two tracks: “The Day the World Went Away”  and “The Mark Has Been Made”, mainly for their use of dynamics. Kids love the interplay between quiet and loud. The distortion and emotional effecting on the instruments hold children’s attention. They tend to ask “What’s that sound?” with each added instrument.
  • All ages, including one-year-olds, love loud sing alongs, like Queen’s “We Will Rock You” and “Yellow Submarine”. Stuff that they can belt at the top of their lungs sticks with them, and you’ll see them singing those songs at all hours of the day.
  • Play different genres each week in the car while out and about, on pick ups from school, waiting for Mom or Dad in the car while they make a bank transaction. One week, play rock n roll. The next week, play techno (if you’re into that sort of thing). The next, folk. And discuss the properties of the music. Ask with rock “Are the drums fast or slow? Loud or soft?” With folk “Is the guitar electric or acoustic?”
Ladybug in the Instrument Petting Zoo at Rock the Cradle 2011

Introduce instruments. Show children pictures and videos of musicians performing. They’ll most likely mime performing instruments as they listen to music, causing an interest in actually wanting to play an instrument to spark. Start instrument playing at the toddler level, and let children of all ages know that common household items can be instruments, too. Bring out pots and pans, boxes, toilet paper rolls, rubber bands. Ask them to play along to loud music and see if they can keep a beat or melody.

Learn the lyrics. Having a child learn the lyrics to a song promotes enthusiasm. There was always a peak of enthusiasm whenever a Winter or Spring Concert was coming up, since they had to memorize lyrics, melodies, and rhythms.

Encourage them to make music. The most I’ve ever seen children enthusiastic about music is when they’ve written the music themselves. The final aspect of my class was to have four different classes pick a topic of their choosing (they came up with Nature, School, Family and Speed). Then, I asked them to draw pictures related to their topic (the class with Nature drew pictures of boats, trees, camping, the class with speed drew pictures of monsters taking down buildings, police cars chasing people on motorcycles). Each child showed the class their picture and said something about it. I wrote down what they said in a notebook. I then put each child’s sentence about their picture into an arrangement of sentences for each class in a way that made sense. These became the lyrics to their song. Each class then decided on an instrument and a tempo to accompany their song, including whether the beat would be straightforward, like a march, loud or soft. I then recorded each song and gave each class a CD with their song on it. The classes then learned their songs by heart and sang them to an audience of 200 people at their Spring Concert. Each child knew the line that they had contributed, and whenever they heard it or sang it, they blushed or looked extremely proud. You can listen to these songs and read the lyrics here.

Like I said, these are merely some suggestions for how to introduce music into your child’s life. Follow some of these, follow all, follow none. But this is what I took away from the wonderful experience of sharing my deepest passion with a group of 100 awesome kids.

Just please don’t stick to only acoustic based children’s folk music past the toddler age. I’m begging you, and your children are begging you. Jazz it up a little. Introduce a little noise to the musical palette.

Peter Kenyon is a local musician and music teacher in the Twin Cities. His current project is a band called Patch, which you can find at www.patchband.com.  He also works as a nanny and is a father of an adopted one-year-old boy.

Disclosure: Amazon.com links are affiliate links.  A portion of purchases made via these links earns a commission for this blog.  Thanks for your support!

Creating a Play Space for Preschoolers (Guest Post)

This is a guest post by Jennifer Zimmerman about how she set up a Montessori and Waldorf inspired space for her kids to learn and play.

When my son Owen was approaching preschool age, we moved into a new home. This motivated me to really think about his new bedroom and how I wanted him to use it. I also  thought a lot about his future schooling and which educational philosophies would be a good match for his personality and needs. I looked into both Montessori and Waldorf education. I liked different things about both philosophies. I liked how Montessori encouraged self-help skills, independence and allowed the child to choose learning materials that fit their abilities and advance at their own pace. Yet, I also felt myself attracted to how Waldorf focused on the arts, encouraged pretend play and immersed children into a magical fantasy world. I favored Montessori for Owen, but I still wanted to incorporate a few things from Waldorf. I set out to create a fun and playful environment that had many opportunities for self-directed learning and exploration.

I loved the Montessori reading nooks, and so I created one by using a short and wide bookshelf to partition off a small area of his room. I hung a reading lamp on the wall and placed cozy pillows and stuffed animals near his rocking chair inside the nook. I placed his books on the bookshelf in easy reach so he could choose which ones to pull out and read. In this photo you can see his partitioned off nook. Just behind the shelf is where his cozy reading spot was:


In another area of the room I hung a mirror close to the floor at my son’s level. The low hanging mirror is a common Montessori item, but this is also where some Waldorf influence came in. I hung some dress up clothes on hooks near the mirror, as well as some colorful play silks for pretend play. Play silks are an open ended toy which Waldorf really encourages.


Open ended toys are toys that are gender neutral and do not have a specific purpose. Their purpose is up to the child to imagine. Play silks are square or rectangular pieces of real silk that usually have been dyed different colors. A play silk can be tied on the body as a skirt, a hat, a cape, wings, or a doll sling. They can be used as water, land, or sky with small toys, as a doll blanket, or simply waved around in the air during active play. Another example of an open ended toy is a push cart. The cart can be used by babies learning to walk, by toddlers transporting toys, as a stroller for dolls or stuffed animals, as a dump truck, or many other things according to what the child wants to imagine that day. Waldorf toys are quite spendy, so if you are on a budget like me then you must get creative about obtaining them. Waldorf-like toys can be purchased at thrift stores or homemade. There are many websites that give directions on how to make Waldorf toys if you are crafty. I bought the play silks as blanks for around five dollars each and then dyed them myself. I bought a push cart at Ikea for just under twenty dollars. This multipurpose toy, which can be used for many years, was well worth the price.

Next, I placed some Montessori-inspired educational materials on low shelves. These shelves should be short enough for children to reach, and wide enough to hold quite a few materials. The materials are objects and toys that allow children to practice life skills. Things like stringing beads and shape puzzles are placed in bowls or on trays on the shelves. There are many websites that show how to create these materials yourself. This concept melded very well with Waldorf’s idea of having natural objects around to be used as open ended play things. I found many real wood bowls and plates at thrift stores, some even shaped like tree leaves, and filled them with objects from nature such as pine cones, rocks, and nuts. Owen had a small table and chair that he could bring his materials over to play with them.

One area where Waldorf and Montessori are in complete agreement is the play kitchen. A play kitchen is a place that is ripe for pretend play for any preschooler, and also teaches important life skills to satisfy the Montessori side of things. Along with Owen’s play kitchen, we also found him a small play hutch made out of real wood at a thrift store. The hutch has real glass doors and contains real ceramic dishes, real metal pots and panscookware and silverware from Ikea. Learning to handle fragile items at a young age is an important aspect of Montessori education, and Waldorf stresses using natural materials for everything that comes into contact with the child. If a dish breaks, cleaning it up also becomes a learning experience that the child can be engaged in. They can use their child sized broom and dust pan to help clean it up.  Owen not only plays with real glass and ceramic kitchen items, he also eats and drinks from them. As a result, he learned about these materials early in life and is very careful with them. In fact, I accidentally break more dishes then he does.


In Owen’s closet I placed a large shelf that holds his folded clothing. There is also a bar at his height with some of his clothes hung on it. This is another Montessori philosophy. Children are encouraged to choose their own clothing from a young age. Having the clothes out on shelves instead of stuffed into drawers makes it much easier for little hands to find what they need without making a big mess. Dressing oneself is another life skill that Montessori teaches. Waldorf encourages that clothing be made out of natural materials such as cotton or wool, and they discourage any commercial or fictional characters on clothing. This is one of those somewhat odd things about Waldorf (there are many!) but one that I personally try to live by.

ImageWhat we didn’t have room for in Owen’s room was an art station. Art, music and dancing are a very important part of a Waldorf education. We stored Owen’s art and music supplies in a tall shelf with bins. The art bin could easily be taken out and carried to the kitchen where Owen was encouraged to paint, color and draw. Owen preferred abstract paintings and I learned that if I gave him three complementary colors he would produce some pretty cool looking art work.

Owen is six years old now, and he has been joined by his little sister Isla who just turned 16 months. We just recently moved again and I now face the task of setting up a bedroom for each of them, and a small play area that they can play in together. Thanks to their  Montessori and Waldorf inspired toys, it is not hard to create a play room that a six-year old boy and 16-month old girl can play in together. They both love their play kitchen. While Owen ties play silks around his neck as capes, Isla uses them to wrap up her dolls. They both push their dolls and stuffed animals around in their cart, and Owen even gives Isla a ride in it every so often. They do art work together and Owen reads books to his little sister. Owen ended up attending a traditional school as he didn’t make it through the lottery system to gain entrance to the Montessori public school in our city. Waldorf was never an option for him, mostly because it is private and very expensive, but also because some aspects of their philosophy do not mesh with his personality or our personal beliefs. However, I think what we did take from both systems was very beneficial for him, and will also be beneficial for Isla as she grows.

Jennifer lives with her family in St. Paul, MN.  You can read more about Owen and Isla on her blog, Kinder Tales.

How We Learn

For those of us who are out of school, our learning process isn’t so different from a preschoolers.  We follow our curiosity.  We ask questions, find experts, and figure things out.  We are rarely lectured.  We probably aren’t studying or giving ourselves exams either.  The closest I come to a lecture these days is watching TED Talks, and those hardly resemble the lectures I remember from my college days.

As I listened to the American RadioWorks documentary Don’t Lecture Me, I cheered the changes they documented in some college instruction that seems to focus on helping students make connections on their own rather than simply take in information.  It reminded me of what I read recently in Mind in the Making, which was about early childhood development.  Maybe all education should be like preschool.

“To promote children’s curiosity, be careful not to jump in too quickly to fix things they’re struggling with, since working with the ‘confounding’ situation is where critical thinking is promoted. Instead, where possible,  help them figure out how they can resolve it for themselves.”

The book is a great resource for parents or educators who are interested in practical ideas for promoting skills their children need but don’t necessarily learn in school, like critical thinking, focus, self control.  I found the advice about encouraging a growth mindset (which included parents modeling failure and persistence) very valuable.  Follow that up with this discussion on MPR’s Midmorning* about character education in our schools for a fascinating perspective on how important these social skills are.  They talk about many of the skills that Mind in the Making outlined as key to early childhood education, but they had different words for them.  Dedication to one’s goals despite setbacks became “grit.”  Curiosity and optimism became “zest.”

Whatever you call them, these are traits (skills?) that I want to give (teach?) my daughter.   These are our values, and I have a strong interest in the sort of education that recognizes their importance.

Here are some tips from Mind in the Making for parents and educators trying to promote these essential skills.

See more posts about science, religion, and secular family life on my Secular Thursday page.


*I have no connection to MPR or Midmorning. I just listen to it a lot, and I end up blogging about what I hear.

Disclosure: Book referenced was a library copy.  Links may be affiliate links.

How to Cat-sit (Picture Book Preschool)

We are cat-sitting, so it seemed like a good time to revisit one of Ladybug’s favorite books: Take Care, Good Knight by Shelley Moore Thomas.  In this story three little dragons take care of their friend’s cats.  Their friend left a note with instructions that included pictures, but the little dragons can’t read and they try to guess from the pictures what they should do for the cats.  Hilarity ensues.

For us the book was a way of talking about what cats like and don’t like.  The little dragons learn that cats do not like swimming, for example, and I had Ladybug come up with things that cats do like.  But you might also have kids try to interpret a set of instructions with just the pictures like the little dragons did.  Find other ideas here from the United Way’s Ready for School Initiative.

See the author read the story in this video:

Also, here are some tips from Cats International for those considering introducing a cat to a household that includes kids.

You may also be interested in my previous Picture Book Preschool post.

FCC Disclaimer: Take Care, Good Knight reviewed from personal copy.  Amazon links are affiliate links.

Sidewalk Serendipity (Picture Book Preschool)

(Picture Book Preschool is a series of posts about the books and activities my three-year-old and I are doing to prepare her for kindergarten.)

One Monday afternoon a couple of weeks ago became about sidewalks whether we wanted it to be or not.  Ladybug was glued to the living room window as a construction crew replaced a section of the sidewalk.  She was full of questions about each step of the process.

I don’t know of any picture books about sidewalk construction, but one of our favorite books by Rita Gray seemed similar enough.  Easy Street talks about road construction for kids in simple, rhythmic text.  The focus is on the layers of the street, and we compared the action of the book to what we saw out the window.  The end-note gives more information about road construction, specific to asphalt.  There are some fun ways to teach kids about asphalt that involves chocolate, but our focus was on the layers in the sidewalk and the street so our activity wasn’t quite as sweet as asphalt cookies.

It still involved food, though:

This was our version of the layers in the road.  There is flour on the bottom for the dirt.  Dry beans in the middle for the gravel, and we “paved” our road with crackers.  The layers aren’t totally flat, but I try not to be a perfectionist with Ladybug when we do projects like this.  The point is to have fun and maybe learn something, not to be critical about her attempt to flatten our pretend road.  :)

I got the idea to do this activity from this website, but I just used materials that we had on hand.  See more ideas in this video:

Who says construction books are just for boys?  Maybe Ladybug will be a civil engineer when she grows up. :)