As a mom (and teacher), I strive everyday to engage, nurture, and expand the mind of my little one.
Here you will find the books, music, and activities most useful to me in my endeavors.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Kid Kabob Recipe

Considering how much time - everyday, all day - toddlers spend eating or snacking, it's clear that food is pretty darn important. And providing a variety of foods that are high in protein and nutrients, well, that's pretty darn important, too. When it comes to feeding my little monster, I have two priorities: Meals that are easy to make and fun to eat.

My dear friend Missy, momma to Emmett, sent me this recipe just the other day, and I am passing its simple brilliance and yumminess on to you ...

Just skewer frozen chicken pieces or nuggets (thawed in microwave for a minute) with squash or zucchini (or whatever veggie your toddler will tolerate) and a can of biscuits halved. Bake in oven according to biscuit instructions and top with a little melted butter and honey (or let your toddler dip them).

Did you catch the fact that these kabobs include biscuits? You know the truly delicious kind you POP out of their cute little can? 'Cause she had me at "biscuits," if you know what I'm saying! Kid Kabobs, nothing; I'll be eating a kabob or two myself!

Thursday, July 30, 2009


written by Allan Alhberg
illustrated by Bruce Ingam

Previously I thought "Once upon a time ..." was only meant for the beginning of a story.

Previously I had no idea that fairy tales and nursery rhymes were so interconnected.

Previously I didn't think about what happened before the story started.

But now I have read - and reread and reread - Allan Alhberg's book, Previously. It's so ridiculously clever and fun and interesting and thought-provoking! Not bad for a picture book, huh? It was the title, more than the cover art, that drew me, like a magnet, across the youth section of the library. I checked it out, brought it home, and I've since renewed it two times. I now have it ordered and on its way to my house ... because Natalie really needs another book in her collection :)

Anyway, Previously is ...

The story of Goldilocks collides with Jack and the Beanstalk which runs right into Jack and Jill ... after a few other storybook visits, it ends with Cinderella, links back to the woods through which Goldilocks ran, and comes to a very satisfying end ... all while working backward! It's a crazy ride, and it's as enjoyable for adults as it is for toddlers.

Teacher Thought: This story has proven to be a great discussion tool. Before reading this book, I didn't really think to focus on the past with my toddler. I often previewed what we'd be doing that day, but now I also take the time to review what happened. For example, I'll ask Natalie what she was doing before she fell, which helps her make a connection. We also go through each of the day's events as part of our cuddle/bedtime routine. Sometimes I'll ask her what we did before an event rather than working through the day from beginning to end. Talking about what happened before can really develop a toddler's understanding of time and cause and effect relationships.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Teachable Moments: Foam Letter

My daughter knows all the letters of the alphabet*. I attribute her letter recognition success to something quite simple: a set of foam letters. Foam letters that are meant to be used in the bathtub, but ours have never made it upstairs. Foam letters given to Natalie for her first birthday. Foam letters that we have been "playing" with and learning from for an entire year now. That's quite a return on the investment, and I absolutely LOVE that in a toddler toy! What appears to be a simple bath toy to some, I see as a very powerful teaching tool. It also happens to be my most consistent approach for letter recognition practice.

Here are a few of my favorite Foam Letter Activities - all tested on my very own baby girl*, who happens to be able to name all 26 Upper Case letters.

There's the extremely obvious, pick a letter and name it. Toddler grabs a letter from the pile, mommy (or daddy) names the letter, letter gets set aside and repeat. But don't get stuck in a rut with this simple, effective activity.

Perhaps you envision this as a quiet activity. Sitting side-by-side on the floor. Getting through all 26 letters before your toddler tires of the experience. Wouldn't that be nice? If that's not your reality (whose reality is that!?), seize the moment to get through at least a few letters by making it a game … it's what happens between the letters that ups the fun factor …
  • Throw the next letter and have your toddler “fetch” it - I swear, I don't mean that to sound as canine as it does. Whether she is just starting to get around or loves to run, this is great!
  • After your toddler names the letter, have him toss it into a bin or run and put the letter on a table across the room.
  • Have your toddler help you hide the letters all around the room and then go on a scavenger hunt to find and then name each one. This is a good re-purpose for that Easter basket, too. Natalie loves this!

Teacher Thought: There's also strong research to support the importance of movement in early literacy and learning.

Don't forget these options – with less focus on letter recognition ...

  • Sort 1: Is it a Letter or a Number? We make two piles … neatly or with enthusiasm
  • Sort 2: What color is this letter? We name the colors and make piles for each.
  • Tactile: Look closely at our foam letters and you're sure to see teeth marks. I am guessing that foam feels good on sore gums. I also really love that Natalie has discovered that some letters have "holes" in them and her fingers can fit through. This is great cognition for future letter writing.

I consider these to be beginning foam letter activities. Give these a try, and I'll share some more advanced skills in a later post. Yes, there's more. There's so much more you can do with these letters!

I should also mention that these activities - obviously - work with other letter formats. But I have found these foam letters to be extremely durable, just the right size, and drool-friendly!

*A disclaimer of sorts - all toddlers develop in their own special way. My daughter knows the letters of the alphabet but still struggles to use a spoon and fork with proficiency and often resorts to using her fingers. There's no judgement here, no competition; just me sharing my thoughts :)

Does your toddler have a set of foam letters? If so, how do you use them?

Monday, July 27, 2009

Two Cheers for Two Flowers

I will be the first to admit it. I judge a book, or in this case a CD, by its cover. I am not going to apologize for this because I have found that my first impressions are usually not wrong. And just look at this CD cover!

I will also admit that I find most of my kids music either online or at the library ... mostly at the library. I check-out one "new" CD everytime we go, and I have had a lot of success with that practice.

Most recently, I found Danielle Sansone's Two Flowers, and I adore it! After reading about her here, I think I adore it even more. She's a mom of two ... and I will soon be a mom of two, too!

But seriously, her music speaks for itself. This disc is great for snuggling, mellowing, bedtiming, and I would suggest it (or gift it) to new moms with really little ones - it's that soothing.

Her style can only be described as eclectic (lucky for me because I love this word); every song offers a little something new, different. But I would classify her sound as somewhat bluegrass. The snippets available through her website are just not enough. You need to hear an entire song to really experience the sweetness of her lyrics, the complexities of the instruments, and the variety of her vocal tone. Sometimes she reminds me of Natalie Merchant, other times I swear I'm listening to Sarah McLaughlin or even Norah Jones. I could listen to this CD every day, and that's saying a lot for kiddie tunes!

Our favorites:
Track 5: Sleep So Sweetly
Track 7: Blanket
Track 8: The Sleepy Mile - Natalie also goes crazy for this one because it features Danielle's daughters. There's something about the singing voice of a little girl that Natalie really loves.

You can find a direct link to this CD in my sidebar.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Making Progress

See those fabulous red words just beneath my header? Those are a big clue to the kind of information I'll be posting - starting next week. Psssst ... they are actually hyperlinks that will take you to my posts based on the label I give each one. So if you get to my site and only want to read about Music, just click that word and it will take you to all my posts about, you guessed it, Music! I have officially gone over to the "dark side" ... I am digging into html coding ... bawaahaaa!

I am a bit giddy ... mainly because it's almost midnight and lack of sleep is making me slap-happy ... reminds me of my days of sleepovers ... ummmm, time for bed!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Under Construction

I am trying something new ... ummm, why not, right?

And it is VERY MUCH

Under Construction ...

Please Check Back Again Soon :)