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.

Sunday, March 28, 2010


Natalie was reading books in the other room.  She had been quietly turning pages for about 15 minutes when I heard her say, "Mommy, take off my shirt, my pants, and my diaper."

She made her way into the room where I was just putting the baby down for a nap and repeated her request while counting off each item of clothing on her little toddler fingers.

"Mommy, take off my shirt (index finger), my pants (middle finger), and my diaper (thumb)."

I was puzzled by this request and asked her, "Why do you want to take off your shirt, your pants, and your diaper?"

Again, she demanded - in a very polite yet persistent way - that I take off all that she was wearing ... because she wanted to be nakey!  Well, duh!  But WHY?

"I want to paint like those kids."  Huh?

"Those kids in that book."  Ummm ... you better show mommy what you mean.

She took off running and I followed ... to the bookcase where I found  a proudly smiling toddler and a photography book opened to this page ...

Aaaaah, now it all makes sense!  And how could I refuse her request?  She was inspired by something she saw in a book.  She wanted to try painting in very little clothing.  It does look like fun, doesn't it?!

And so ...she got semi-nakey and painted to her heart's content. 

We compromised and left the diaper on because I was able to point out that two of the kids in the book are wearing their diapers.

Finger painting was not what I had planned for our afternoon.  But we had so much fun ... and she even got an unexpected middle-of-the-day bath after some of that paint managed to get all over her belly - just like in the photograph :)

This experience was such a good and needed reminder to let my toddler take the lead sometimes.  To follow her whims and wants and ideas.  To take something from a book and make it real.  To get nakey and messy :)

What inspires your toddler?  What was the last unexpected thing you did together?

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Fun on the Go Box

Sick and tired of diaper bag full of "distractions" for my toddler ... especially now that the diaper bag is also for the newborn ... I created our very own "Fun on the Go" Box.  The box lives in my car - and stays there.  I can just grab it when needed ... like for dining out or waiting in the doctor's office.

The Box was once the packaging for store-brand floor wipes (like Swiffer) - nice repurpose, huh?! :)

Inside (aka the Fun) you'll find a baggie of crayons, flash cards, several small books, stickers, and tiny notepad.

What would you put in your toddler's very own Fun-on-the-Go Box?

Monday, March 15, 2010

Night Light Stories

NOTE:  I am reposting this information ... because this is a site you really should visit!  I especially enjoyed their latest poem, Captain Destructo.

I am also very excited to announce an upcoming series of children's books written by the husband-wife team behind NightLight Stories!


As much as I love to cuddle up with a good book, there's something truly magical about having a story read to you. During my years in the classroom, I always treasured the times my students gathered around to hear my voice read the words of a favorite chapter book. Sharing that special time with my own toddler is not only a daily treat but also holds lasting memories for me. And, I wish, so much that my sweet husband would read aloud to me; I love the sound of his voice.
And all of that is just a fraction of the reason that I adore Night Light Stories.

"Night Light Stories is a podcast featuring original children's stories." The stories are funny, entertaining, and great for kids of all ages. Another unique aspect of Night Light Stories is the re-occurring star character, the author's pet ferret Mojo.

The site currently includes 10 episodes, each episode is an original story written by an experienced teacher and mommy ... with some help from her husband. The latest, The Watermelon Seed, is a darling dialogue between a young boy and his grandmother via letters ... over the course of his mother's pregnancy. The story features a soothing rhyme pattern, facts about what plants need to grow, and time transitions over the seasons. In the end, the young boy is introduced to his new baby sister. Too cute!

Aside from the creative content of the stories themselves - which makes this blog well-worth visiting, the podcasts are produced with obvious skill and attention-to-detail. Love that!

As if the stories aren't enough, t
he text of each episode blog post includes useful and engaging features:

  • Words of the Day, aka "juicy words" - really great new vocabulary with words and simple definitions

  • Activity Ideas - ideas for extending a child's story-listening experience.

  • Comprehension Questions - leads for discussing the story with your child and helping him recall details
and ...
Bright Birthday Wishes - the author provides you a creative way to wish someone a happy birthday. All you have to do is send an email to have an announcement made at the end of each podcast episode and on the blog. What child (or adult) for that matter wouldn't love that?

Teacher Thought:
There are three modalities of learning: Seeing (visual), Hearing (auditory), and Touching (tactile). Listening to stories - via podcast - is an excellent way to develop a child's ability to process information auditorially, a skill that is extremely helpful to all students in a classroom. This skill is invaluable and is much different than sitting on a parent's lap and following along with a book.

Give Night Light Stories a try; you won't be disappointed!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Placemat Lesson 2

I try to use my toddler's afternoon snack time as a learning time ... rather than giving into her requests for Elmo or George. I also find that she eats healthier if we are engaged in an activity together rather than plopped in front of the tube. If I blog about it, I am more likely to form a habit ... and perhaps it will inspire your own placemat lessons :)

This is a perfect rainy day - can't-get-outside - kind of activity ...

Take a "virtual" walk through your neighborhood using paper, crayons, and whatever drawing abilities (mine are limited) you possess.

I must give credit to the game CandyLand ... and the little man playing pieces included in the game.  NHV loves those little plastic men, so we decided to take them on a walk!

I started by drawing a road/sidewalk.  

I then asked my toddler, what do we SEE when we go for a walk?  

As she answered that question (I asked it over and over), I drew in the details that she mentioned ... a tree, a puddle, sticks, leaves, a car, a house, the sewer grate, our mailboxes, a school bus - to which we added "tudents" and a "diver," ...

Then it was time for the little men to take a walk.  

First, NHV walked them around and told me what each man was looking at - recalling the details we had drawn/discussed.  

Then, I gave her simple requests like, "Put the yellow man near the tree."  "Walk the blue man to his house."  "The red man needs to check his mail."

Simple, fun, ... learning!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Seuss Activity #2 - Ten Apples Up on Top

For our second Dr. Seuss Book Activity, I chose a familiar book - one Natalie and I have read and enjoyed many times ...

Ten Apples Up on Top

For counting to10, this is a great book!  And my toddler loves the simple animal characters. 

The idea of stacking apples on your head is pretty funny, too!

That's how we started this activity.  I handed NHV an apple and told her to try stacking it on her head.  She giggled like crazy and gave it a try.  Of course, it fell off and plopped on the ground and bruised ... but she sure had fun!

Since stacking an actual apple didn't quite work, we stacked paper apples on a photograph of NHV's (and baby sister's) head.  I just printed a sheet of apples on red paper, cut them out, and put a tiny roll of tape on the back of each one.  She "stacked" and re-stacked using fine motor skills. and counted all along the way.  

We talked about which girl had more apples stacked on her head, and a discussion about sharing ensued. In the end, we tried to put the same number of apples on each head.

Here's the sheet-o-apples I made in PowerPoint:

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Dr. Seuss - Activity #1

Happy Birthday, Dr. Seuss!

In celebration of Dr. Seuss' Birthday and Read Across America, NHV and I are reading a Seuss book everyday this week.  Along with each book, I've put together a quick toddler-friendly activity to share with you :)

Today we read "One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish" ... or to be more accurate, we read just over half of this delightful but rather loooong book.  We don't actually own this Seuss book; I picked it up at the library just for the occasion.  

The text starts out rather simply with a predictable rhyme scheme but gets complicated with so many words having the same sound. However, we really enjoyed the illustrations and found lots of meaningful opportunities to count. 

After reading (most of) the story, I put a page of fish in front of NHV and asked her to count them.  
One fish, two fish, three fish, ...

Then I picked up a crayon and asked her, "What number is this fish?"  She started out with 1, 2, 3, and then out of nowhere skipped to 16.  Back to 4.  And finally 20.  I went with it because my goal was for her to say a number and then see it written.  Mission accomplished.

The fish were printed on white paper, so we grabbed the crayons and colored each one a different color.  I liked the repeated shape for this because it gave her a chance to kind of experiment with her method of coloring.  Most of the fish were covered with a few circles of color but she also tried back-and-forth scribbles.

I also printed the same sheet of fish on three different colored papers ... red, blue, and yellow.  We attempted a few patterns starting with alternating red-blue.  NHV did fairly well with that one, so I upped the ante a little and tried yellow-yellow-blue-yellow ... as you can see in the photo, she was struggling and tired by this point ... we'll have to try that one again another day.

Here's my "sheet-of-fish" - you should be able to click to enlarge it and print ...

Tomorrow's activity ... Ten Apples Up on Top!

Monday, March 1, 2010

Read Across America

 "You're never too old, 
too wacky, too wild, 
to pick up a book 
and read to a child."

Tomorrow - March 2nd - is National Read Across America Day.  It also happens to be Dr. Seuss' birthday ... no accident or mere coincidence here.

This is a day designated to celebrate reading and the impact Dr. Seuss books have had on generations of young readers.

This is also a great opportunity to read a book (or a dozen) with your toddler.  And why not make it a Dr. Seuss book?  I am certain there's at least one (or a dozen) living on a shelf in your house right now!

If not, you could always turn to the great-and-powerful internet ... 

The official Seussville website.

YouTube Videos, like ...

Or, be inspired by these Seuss-themed Muffin Tins; I especially love this one.

NHV and I plan to celebrate this special day ... all week long ... with five of our favorite Seuss books.

Be sure to check back tomorrow for a peek at  our Seuss Activity-of-the-Day :)